I’m going through a Dark Night of the Soul. It’s seasonally appropriate during the dark time of the year, though I find I’m facing the darkness of winter again while going through a “Tower” moment. If you’re not conversant in Tarot-reader lingo, the “Tower” is generally shorthand for, “life-altering disaster.” The Tower is one of the cards in the Major Arcana.
Before I get too far– this post is part of the “Darkness into Light” Tarot blog hop. The previous blogger is Chloe McCracken and you can check out her post, or there’s a link to all the posts at the bottom.
Tarot and Personal Spiritual Work
I teach workshops on spiritual, esoteric, and personal transformation topics. One workshop I offer is “The Devil, the Tower, and the Star,” which helps participants to work through current/past Tower moments. My work with the Tarot is less about doing readings, and more about working with the archetypes for deep transformative work.
So I definitely have tools when lightning strikes and the Tower is burning down around me. However– having tools to work through an experience doesn’t mean I’m not going through the stress, the impact. I can teach these tools, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t own up to going through my own dark nights where I doubt everything. My self, my work, my spirituality. I wonder, “Why me,” the same as anyone else. I wonder if I can survive it, wonder if I can pull myself up by my bootstraps yet again.
Because…I am very tired of hauling myself up by my bootstraps.
The Devil, the Tower, and the Star
Let’s talk about these three cards. My Tarot mentors at Diana’s Grove referred to the Devil card as contracts we signed, stories that we agreed to. These contracts bind up our identity, our life force.
I looked at those three cards and thought…the Tower falling is supposed to ultimately be a good thing. The Tower is a symbol for structures that keep us safe and insulated but that really doesn’t serve us. I saw the Tower as structures built out of contract after contract, story after story. It becomes a symbol for the old patterns we’ve bound ourselves into that are more cage than protection.
Then, the Tower is destroyed in lightning and fire. The Star is the waters of starlight pouring down, it is unbound life force, healing, inspiration, and hope.
I think of it as, we’d never have seen that luscious starlight pouring down if we were stuck in that Tower. So while the ashes are burning down behind us, if we look, we can feel those waters, let that starlight pour into our heart and replenish us, and then we can do what we will with that energy. We aren’t bound by the old contracts.
A “classic” Tower moment is losing a job. I was laid off once from a job I hated. But I was stuck in that, “I can’t afford to not have a job, but I hate it,” position. My department getting downsized led me to the work I’m doing now–leadership, writing, artwork. Would I have ever gone down that path without getting laid off?
Other Tower moments are a major breakup or having a group blow up. Tower moments break up old structures–and it’s usually not pretty.
However, if you can look at those terrible life-shaking moments, you may see where this also broke the chains that bound you.
Two years ago my fiance left me without warning after stealing from me and leaving me in an apartment with months of unpaid rent and utilities. I’m still paying off debt incurred from his actions. Days after he left I thought I might die. Not because I was in love–not after all the cheating, stealing, and emotional abuse.
But because I didn’t know if I could pull myself up by my bootstraps again. The financials were dire, and I thought, why keep fighting?
Why we Require Shock
However costly his leaving was, him being gone unshackled my hands. I tend to think, in for a penny, in for a pound. With him, I felt that I’d covered up his indiscretions so many times, done so much to make our relationship work, that I felt like I couldn’t back out. That would mean that the years I’d put into making it work had been a waste.
If he hadn’t left, I’d have kept trying to fix things. Sometimes the known, comfortable situation feels safer than the unknown–even if it’s hurting us.
I’m so glad I’m not bound by that particular contract any longer, that I’m not stuck in the “story” that I had to make things work. I’ll never thank him–but, I’m glad he’s gone. I didn’t have the strength to end things. Suddenly I was free and could move on.
It took a while for the light to come back. I was only just starting to feel the glimmer of hope. This summer I published my first book, and I have others coming out. Just when I thought that I was eking past that Dark Night and the wreckage of that Tower from two years ago…
Two weeks ago I was in a car accident. Nobody was seriously hurt, but the accident totaled my car. The other driver took an illegal left, though there may be no way for me to prove it. I’m waiting to hear if I’ll get any financial compensation. If I don’t, I’m stuck without a car and without any way to get one.
It really hasn’t set in yet that I could have died. The police were shocked I walked away from the accident with only a bump on the head.
Here’s how my panic over this financial gut-punch leads to my current Dark Night of the Soul. The limited amount of income I’ve had in the past years has come from from traveling and teaching and selling my artwork. I had to cancel my teaching engagement this weekend. I currently live in a rural area. I’m really sunk without a car.
On one hand, I’m aware this is a Tower moment that might open the way to something else…but, I’m also still caught in the emotional undertow.
My dark night is about the deeper question–should I keep trying to follow my calling of teaching leadership, ritual facilitation, personal growth work, and writing and painting?
I’ve sacrificed a lot in order to follow my spiritual calling. I‘ve managed to hang on by the edges of my fingernails the past years by living simply, trying to make the work I do to start bringing in more income.
I was already running out of time–my current living situation won’t last forever and I’ll have to start paying for an apartment again. And yet, without a car, I can’t even get a local retail job, much less something that works with my skillsets as a graphic designer, consultant, or even temp secretary work.
Now–you might think, published author = raking in the dough. Did you know 3500 print books are published every day? That doesn’t count eBooks. My books are starting to sell, but it’ll take a while–and having more books out–before I start bringing in actual revenue.
Sacrifice and Fear
I have given up so much in my life, so many conveniences that people think of as basic, in order to live lean so I could do the work that calls to me. In working to make myself affordable for local Pagan groups to hire me for workshops, I’ve ultimately paid more out of pocket to travel and teach than I ever have made back in class stipends.
I just can’t do it any more. I can’t keep on going and wonder, am I ever going to be able to afford going to the doctor again? Can I afford the gas money it would take to be able to go out on a date? Can I afford food?
I’ve started to wonder, is it all worthless? Did I give up years of my life for nothing?
Even worse, I wonder, am I teaching people a bunch of crap? When I teach personal growth classes and lead rituals, I work to help people open up to their desires, to wanting, to reaching for the dreams and hopes they haven’t dared give name to. I work to help people identify what kind of work would bring meaning to their lives.
I’ve done my best to live that, to reach for my own dreams with both hands. And I’ve hung on, I’ve sacrificed a lot to make this work.
The Devil’s in the Contracts
The other day my mom’s words that fell on me like a hammerstroke. “You might have to put your dream on hold.” And all I could think was, no. NO. No, I will not put my dream on hold again. No, I will not put myself back into those chains and contracts.
I think of all the people shackled by the contracts they signed in their own blood, putting their dreams on hold. “I’ll just do this for a few years, and then I’ll live my dream.” And five years turned into ten years turned into twenty years.
I reject the chains of shame and “should” and “We’re supposed to.” I want to live in–and I work to build–a world where we get to do work that calls to our souls, where we get to live our dreams.
Yet, getting hit by that car brought reality into my windshield.
I don’t know what’s worse–wondering if I’m going to have to give up my dream, or wondering if I’ve been teaching a lie, a fancy dream that nobody can actually fulfill.
I need that unveiled light of the Star, that healing and life force, the waters of beauty and love. I need to remember why I bothered doing this work at all. The only thread of hope I’m really holding onto right now is a dream I had about six months ago.
Tarot and Dreams
Dreams and Tarot share similar mythic, archetypal symbolism. I often teach people exploring Tarot to look into their dreams.
I had a dream in June relevant to my current Dark Night.
I’m running late, racing to get to an airplane in New York. I manage to get onto the plane. Then we’re flying over the pitch-black sea over the Atlantic, along the East Coast. Around Georgia, some people throw me off the plane, and I fall from the sky down into the black waters.
I begin to swim, but the waves keep going over my head, the waves are high, nauseating. I don’t have words for the horror and fear, I’m swimming in the terrifying dark. I don’t know how many hundreds of miles I must swim but I keep going. I wish for someone to help me. Or even just someone to witness what I’m going through. I keep swimming.
It seem that I wake up on a beach in Florida, and I’m found by Pagans who take me to the Pagan conference I’d been traveling to. Though I was swimming for days, I’m only one day late for the conference. Everyone there is glad I’m ok and talks about how I broke the
“Hex.” A notable Pagan leader is running a workshop and mentions that in the weeks I was swimming, several anthologies have come out that have my published works in them. One is an anthology on how I broke the “Hex” of the people who were on the plane who tried to kill me.
Dream Prophecies and Symbolism
On occasion, I have dreams that come true, but usually the symbolism is difficult to discern at best. It’s rare for a dream to just come directly true. In this case, symbol mixed with reality.
Right now, those waves are over my head. However, it has come to pass that several anthologies with my writing plus several standalone books are all coming out at about the same time–right before I’m supposed to be teaching at several Pagan conferences in February. I did teach in New York recently, though I drove. My mom will move to Florida once her house is fixed up; there have been delays but it’s looking like maybe spring.
If I read the dream correctly, late winter/early spring may see things easing up.
Tarot, Dark Nights, and Returning Light
Right now, I’m holding onto just a thin beam of light through the clouds. Just a couple of days ago, my book Dreamwork for the Initiate’s Path was released, and you can read the first chapter available as an excerpt.
My Dark Night is not over, my mind is full of questions. I know that I must renegotiate a “contract” I hadn’t realized I’d made–the contract that I’d sacrifice everything to serve community. That “contract” I chose has helped to place me in this situation. I must find a way to take care of my own needs or I cannot do this work. There are things that I started thinking of as luxuries that are actually basic necessities, and I got into “contract tunnel vision.” I was so focused on my calling that I managed to convince myself that I could live without certain things–like health care. I took that to a dangerous place and thought it was ok.
And it’s not.
I know the light returns. I’ll climb out, though I’m unsure how. For me, it’s less about doing a Tarot reading than understanding the progression of the archetypes. The contracts are broken, and the light–somehow–returns. Until then, I’ll use this dark time of year to seek answers while I slog through dark waters to shore.
Tarot Blog Hop
Next in the Yule Tarot Blog Hop is Christiana Gaudet. You can see the entire lineup of Tarot bloggers at http://sungoddesstarot.blogspot.com/2013/12/yule-tarot-blog-hop-masterlist