Sunday, October 20, 2013

SDSG: Deviant Moon Tarot & Tarot Shadow Work

Tomorrow morning, Michael and I are heading up to the Boston area for a few days for our slightly belated honeymoon, so this will be my last post for So Dark, So Good.

I saved my favorite dark Tarot deck for last.  This is the Deviant Moon Tarot, a deck full of strange lunar figures that remind me a little of Bosch's artwork.  The artist, Patrick Valenza, used textures and imagery from actual graveyards in the making of this deck.

Reactions never seem to be neutral about this one - people are either very quickly and strongly drawn to it, or they'll tell me some version of "That's insane!" "I can't even look at that!" 

I'm in the 'love it' camp - this deck seems to access disturbing feelings and dreams and the unconscious mind in a way that no other I've worked with can.  The images are evocative and strange, while still being accessible and readable.

The Death card is one of my favorites - curiously, like the Tarot of the Dead, this version of Death is also pregnant.  The dark bodied figure indicates that this is dark moon energy, and she wears a skull.  Beneath her foot is a smaller dark figure on its knees, also wearing a skull.  Both skulls are smiling, and far from being grim, there is something playful about what is going on here.  I always get the sese that the smaller figure is Death's child, asking to be picked up or maybe even to return to the womb, before the birth of something new displaces it.

In the distance, there is a rather grim factory cluster, and the grass seems a sickly brownish-green.  Nearby there is a shore marking the beginning of an inky black sea - I choose to see this as the Cauldron of  the Ancestors, from which we come, filled with the essence of those gone before us, and where those who have died return to.

In this deck, I see Death as a Mother, in her destructive capacity, and not something to fear.

The book I chose to share today would be very interesting to work through using the Deviant Moon.  It is Tarot Shadow Work: Using the Dark Symbols to Heal, by Christine Jette.  Ms. Jette utilizes Tarot in a way that is both psychologically sound and spiritually wise.  In Tarot Shadow Work, she offers a long term project of working through one's 'shadows' (defined as inner conflicts, unexpressed emotions, and qualities we have suppressed or been convinced we should suppress).  As such, Shadow Work isn't about getting rid of our shadow selves, but rather to understand them and integrate them into who we are. It is a way of looking at light and dark not was good or bad, postive or negative, but more as Yin and Yang, conscious and subconscious, expressed and suppressed.  In removing the fear and hatred from our shadow shelves, we are able to heal them.

Tarat Shadow Work only includes about 6 spreads - each spread feeds into the next one, and each is meant to be left on a Shadow Altar the user creates and contemplates over a span of a month or so, with several activities and journalling opportunities working through each section slowly and deeply.  Ms. Jette incorporates art, ritual, play, dreams, and several other methods into this exploration and moves the user from identifying their shadows, to getting to know them, to reframing them as their beneficial aspects, to integrating them into the rest of one's life.

This is all truly challenging work, and suggestions are also offered about how to know whether or not this is even a good idea in the users life, or if leaving coping barriers in place might be best.  Because of the intricacies and intimate challenge of theactivities in this book, I decided not to work a sample exercise here and instead to look over a few cards in terms of how its shadow self might manifest.

For this book, only the Major Arcana is used, so that is what I'm using here, however it would be a really useful exercise to identify the shadow and the light in each card.  This is, I think, subtly different that working with reversals - often a reversed card is treated as if it is the opposite of it's upright interpretation.  A shadow version of a card would have to do with the unhelpful or undesirable qualities of the card - so that if the Sun denotes honesty and success, its Shadow would not be dishonesty and failure, but rather might be the sort of burning honesty that hurts, and success that blinds other effort.

We can figure out our Shadows by considering those traits  that make us nervous, or afraid or angry or flat out go into denial about regarding ourselves or others - ne way or another we try to push them away and disown them.  They're the Tarot cards we instantly dislike or groan about when they appear.  This can happen even when someone compliments us - we aren't 'supposed' to be like that, so we argue when someone praises us for it.

I: The Magician
So let's look first at the Magician.  He's all hands, and each one is busily handling something important - the four  elements of the Minor Arcana.  He's got an audience watching him deftly dealing with all this and there is a waning crescent moon in the sky.

Jette refers to this dilemma as Lack of Focus vs. Focus. If this is one of your shadows, it may manifest as scattered energies, or focused energy being used to manipulate and deceive.  The Magician is engaged in sleight of hand, a con artist.

If this is your shadow you may have a fear of being lied to, or of being thought of as manipulative.  You may cringe when people expect you be a competant multi-tasker, or praise you for taking action on your own behalf.

Maybe your inner critic calls you a flake, someone with no follow through and then turns around and criticizes you whenever you don't wait for someone else to change things and instead take matters into your own hands.  Maybe you feel like a show off every time someone compliments you for your success.  These are all signals that this may be a Shadow for you to work to heal.

 X: Wheel of Fortune

Isn't this a great card?  A woman in red takes payment from the figure on the stool, about to turn the crank on the Wheel and reveal his fortune.  A sort of monkeyish demon watches over the scene.  The Wheel has various symbols, and frankly none of them look very pleasant.  The figure getting his fortune told pre-emptively looks terrified - wanting to know, afraid to know.

Jette refers to this Shadow as Blame vs. Change.  The Shadow of the Wheel of Fortune is a tendency to blame 'fate' for everything that happens, to decide you have no control over anything at all.  It can manifest as victimhood ("why do bad things always happen to me??") and to getting bounced around everytime things change.  It can exhibit as a lack of good understanding of cause and effect which leads to risky behaviors and a failure to plan ahead.  Sometimes it operates in resisting the idea that your own effort results in success, and instead insisting t hat it is only 'luck' or something that was 'meant to be'.

If the Wheel of Fortune makes you nervous... if the idea that your destiny may be shaped at least in part by your own actions - or, conversely, if people who live a fate-based life really intensely bother you, this may be a Shadow for you to work with.

 XXI: The World

The last card I'm going to look at today is the World.  This is generally regarded as an unabashedly positive card, so the very idea of thinking of it in terms of being a Shadow maybe challenging.

The World has to do generally with completeness - finishing a phase in wholeness and beginning another, like a granduation or a promotion, or the Buddhist idea of Enlightenment.

But what if you have a lot of inner critic noise telling you you aren't meant to be whole? That this sort of self-contained peace is self-centered and selfish (what are you? The center of the Universe??)? That's the Shadow, turning something positive into something you feel an urge to negate and suppress.

Jette calls this the dilemma of Chasing Rainbows vs the Challenge of Living Here.  That reminds me of the song from Hair, "Easy to Be Hard" where someone can get so caught up in helping on a global level, that they forget to be good to those close to them.  That's one way this can manifest as a shadow.  It can act as wishful, all or nothing thinking - where you aim for 'World Peace' and if you can't have  that there is no point in even striving to have personal peace.  Sometimes, the expectation that anything less than perfection - a perfect environment or a perfect psyche can become so unacceptable that a person goes into complete denial that anything is ever less than perfect.  Illness and pain is denied, fixable challenges go unfixed because doing so would be to admit they needed fixing.  If the World looks too big or too perfect - if this card is intimidating, then this may be an area manifesting as a Shadow for you.

That's it for me - I hope you'll check out a few of these books and deks, and enjoy playing a little bit with this exploration of what can be good about the dark.  Don't forget to go enter Pagan Culture's giveaways - there is more to come and it is a delightful mix of handcrafted goodness!


  1. Luck and joy on your Honeymoon and I came back just to say, you are the only person I've ever come across who enjoyed Yes' 'Relayer'. How wonderful! And yes, it is cathartic. I use it for writing and all that noise chases away anything else going on in my head, so I can concentrate on the text I'm producing.

  2. Have a blast in your honeymoon trip. Save some memories, write some yummy tales in your head, and bring us back some.

    I'm definitely in the "Love It" category for the Tarot Deck, too. My goodness, the imagery is STRONG! It would be terrifying if we didn't accept that the universe is light and darkness.

    Thanks for being such an awesome So Good, So Dark partier!