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The Moon's Journey Stage Three--Walking the Hot Coals

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 29 Jun 2003, and now archived in the Forum Library.

Khatruman  29 Jun 2003 
This is the third and final part of an alternate major arcana journey inspired by an idea in Rachel Pollack’s The Forest of Souls . Part one was posted as the following thread: The Moon’s Journey Part One The main character, Selene, is represented by the Moon trump. With the first seven guides, stage one, Selene journeyed out of the world of the Moon, her illusory fearful reality which paralyzed her into a night world of inaction, into the world of the Fool, eyes upward and ready to leap into the unknown. The second stage which was posted as The Moon’s Journey Part Two , broke her from her fear and turned her to the Hermit, the wanderer who shines a light into inner darkness. It is time, now that the fear is acknowledged and beaten back, to peer into the darkness and confront it. As fears most often do, the clawing darkness began at the very foundations of childhood:

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white
And there the sun burns crimson bright
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends
Past the pits where asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes, we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go
For the children they mark, and the children they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

--Shel Silverstein

True fabulists remember the terror of childhood. We adults, especially educators and psychologists, in modern times have had an affinity for constructing bright, cheery childhood stories and characters. We have our Barnies and Teletubbies, our Disney and Wiggles smiling with primary colors and bouncy cheery music. But the fabulists understand the dark corners of childhood. One look at the original folk tales of Cinderella and Snow White, Little Red Cap and Hansel and Gretel, show the potential danger that hides in the turn of a corner, the loss of a parent and stepping in of another, the lurking witch women and wolves in the woods. Writers such as Maurice Sendak, with his Wild Things and Shel Silverstein with his goofy, but often grotesque rhyme, understand that to ignore the twisted darkness by shining bright smiling light in children’s faces only can serve to horrify more when, in the dark bedroom, a hand of comfort has inexplicably become a sinister groping paw. Better to let the child see it, dance and rhyme with it, than try to paint it away with plastic smiles.

I remember reading an interview with Maurice Sendak some time ago where he discusses the Wild Things of his children’s stories. I remember him discussing how we adults tend to forget that childhood was a time of menacing terrors. We watch children play, and hear them cry over what we see as silly anxieties, but we have forgotten the child’s mind that can be overwhelmed by inexpressible fears, nightmares as deep as black holes. In our adult minds, we think by gently laughing and dismissing them as nothing, we disconnect our comforting role in their world. How can my parents help me face these monsters if they laugh them off? As with the anecdote of the visit to the dentist I used back in the first guide, the Temperance, telling them it isn’t real, whether it’s the pain or the fright, sets up a lie, or a distrust of either the parent or themselves. It makes it no less real though.

Selene has been shown how to be serene with the Universe, a feeling of being centered in and connected to it. But the center is still she; she has replaced being the center of its wrath to being the center of its love. All the Universe swirls around her, though now it bright pastels. The Hermit, though he looks here as benevolent and holy as a priest, is a loner, a journeyman. He has not set her down to her destination to let the world come and feed her all its Glory. He holds the light into his very heart and beckons Selene to see the very heart of the matter, to confront her ghosts. 

Khatruman  29 Jun 2003 
In a documentary on the making of Oliver Stone’s controversial movie Natural Born Killers, actor Robert Downey, jr. talks about the scenes involving the initial meeting of the two main characters, mass murdering couple Mickey and Mallory. It involves Mallory’s home life, and it is filmed as a TV situation comedy. Rodney Dangerfield is her father, a foul-mouthed, slovenly, crude and satirical lout who strongly implies he is forcing sex on his tortured daughter, all of this over a canned laugh track and applause, theme music and titles reminiscent of I Love Lucy. It begins with the scripting in title of the show"I LOVE MALLORY" surrounded by a heart (a la "Lucy"), and continues with Dangerfield leering at and groping his daughter as he commands her to go shower so he can come up after to see how clean she is, the irony of the show title and the creepiness of the audience’s laughter makes the viewer want to cower away and contort one’s face just as helpless Mallory does.

Downey suggests that the creepiness of this scene reflects what many Americans grew up dealing with. Smiling, perfect families, laughter and saccharine music, brought to you by Maxwell House coffee, blared from the TV screen as a background thread to the abuse and incest that went on around them. To a child growing up in that polarity, the unreality of the rayon tube projection behind the disturbing reality of tortured emotion must have really freaked them out, suggests Downey.

IV The Emperor is the tarot’s archetypal representation of the Father. He is stern, the lawmaker and enforcer, the keeper of power and strict discipline. Many tarot decks depict the Emperor as a throned leader, severe in posture and distant. He is often shown looking away from the viewer (see the Marseilles Emperor). It gives him an aspect of aloofness. One feels that coming to him with a fear will elicit only a distant sneer and dismissal of that fear. It is nothing, he seems to say. Yet on the TV, it is the Beaver (or perhaps it is Opie or Ricky) who has a heart to heart with Ward (or is it Andy or Ozzi?), his loving dad, during the last segment of the show, who offers him advice that just makes it all so simple neat and packaged, all within 24 minutes (allowing for commercial breaks), and all so disturbingly unlike real life.

In the Portal Emperor, one is drawn to the floating diamond, perfectly cut at severe angles, cutting and refracting the light of the sun, which is eclipsed by the black gateway. The ground is sectioned into criss-crossed black sections. A path of latticed white squares leads to a crystal box, before which is a glasslike pole with a red orb atop it. It reminds one of a podium one is to stand before, to face the perfectly cut, ice-white diamond of the Emperor and state one’s claim.

As a child, I found the most torturous punishment was to face my father after I had done something wrong. It might be coming home and looking at the plaque above the dining room hutch. It was called "In the Doghouse" and on hooks their hung wooden puppies, each with the name of one of us children. There was one hook that normally remained unused. It resided in the doghouse. However, occasionally, one of our dogs would be hung "in the doghouse." The metaphor was clear, and it remained only for that child to go up to the bedroom and have a father to child talk.

Only this wasn’t Ozzie to Opie, and there was no pat on the back, thanks Dad, and cut to the Ivory soap commercial, 99 and 38/100 percent pure. The talk wasn’t of assurance, and the fatherly answer, but the interrogation on what possessed my simple mind to conceive of whatever it was that I had done. Why did I do it? It was terrible not to have an answer. I didn’t know, and saying that I didn’t know solved nothing, was only met by a long drag on a cigarette, a face turned away and a dismissing shake of the head. I did want to be smart and grown up and logical like dad, to be correct, but I didn’t know how to do it, or why I didn’t do it. And what I didn’t understand was that he had forgotten I was a child.

The abuse can be strong and violent, and it is terrible when it is. But the Emperor doesn’t always signal that misuse of power. Sometimes the abuse is the neglect of affection and empathy. When Selene stands in the spotlight and looks out at the terrifyingly large and stark crystal and sees her fragmented reflection in the facets and wonders what is wrong with her not to be the perfect refraction of her father, the black lump of self hatred growing in her heart weighs heavy as coal. This is the first pole of her fear she must face, but there is another side to this also 

Khatruman  29 Jun 2003 
"she is susceptible
he is impossible
they have their cross to share
three of a perfect pair...
he has his contradicting views
she has her cyclothymic moods
they make a study in despair
three of a perfect pair...

one, one too many
schizophrenic tendencies
keeps it complicated
keeps it agggravated
and full of this hopelessness
what a perfect mess..."

--Adrien Belew, King Crimson

In Natural Born Killers, Mickey frees Mallory by beating her father with a crowbar and drowning him in a fish tank. The scene is played with cartoon-music soundtrack, as Mallory gleefully pronounces his death. Next, it is the mother’s turn. As she sleeps, she is awakened to realize that she has been bound in the bed and, through her eyes, we see Mickey is pouring kerosene over her. The viewer is as shocked as she is as to why she must also die. Mallory leans in, ready to light the flame, and growls, "You never did nothin’!"

The perfect pair, The Emperor and the Empress. Yet, in this journey, it comes out that the Emperor appears first, followed by the Empress. Usually, it is the Empress’ mothering that nurtures the journeyer, followed by the Emperor’s power and law which govern and mold the journeyer. I find it significant that Selene meets the Empress only after facing the Emperor, one of the reasons I see this part of the stage, which sets the issue, as a journey to face the route of Selene’s fears. It is the eclipsing power of the Emperor who belittles and degrades her, and the mother who comes after to nurture, to attempt to heal the wounds.

III The Empress is the image of the fertile human mother, earthy and growing, flowing hair and flowing dress. She brings comfort and empathy. She is the partner to the Emperor, and Selene perhaps should be able to rely on her to comfort her from the Emperor’s onslaught. But if she is his partner, shouldn’t she be able to protect her from it? Yes, she can salve the wounds, but why does she do nothing to stop them? These are the questions that haunt Selene. When the wounding didn’t stop, when the Emperor continued, young Selene looked to the Empress for comfort, but looked inside for answers. She found none but those that placed her as unworthy. Her mother’s comfort seemed to tell her that she deserved this. One can only accept and attempt to lessen the pain by crawling inside and living in her dark world. The world became one of hatred and despair.

In looking at the Portal Empress, one sees immediately a difference from the Portal Emperor,. The world here is green with hills and the bank of softly rippling water. On the bank is a red bloom, above which is the female symbol. This is the essence of femininity, the earthy green and the flowing waters. The bloom of red, the center of her sexuality, symbolic both of her genitalia and her menstrual cycle: "she has her cyclothymic moods" the rhythm of the menstrual cycle. And he, the Emperor, with his contradicting views. The central portal in the Portal Tarot reminds one of the same shape in the Death Portal. A transformation is needed, some kind of death. Behind the Portal is a tree, but there is a block in front of the tree, a translucent pane and an orb that floats with the sun shining at the heart of this tree and this pane. She cannot go through yet. She needs the transformation; she must make the change. She is the third who must remake this imperfect pair and forgiveness will be her transformation. 

Khatruman  29 Jun 2003 
The unanswered question that burned in her heart for years, why mother allowed it, why she gave only comfort afterwards, not prevention, is met by her next guide: The Priestess. Here is the transformation into the mystery. The female figure of religion, the higher being. II The High Priestess often represents the mystery of spirituality, the inner voice. She sits between the pillars of light and dark, holding sacred scrolls, looking passive and aloof. Behind her is the curtain through which to enter into the mystery itself, and at her feet, the crescent moon. She looks at Selene passively, unemotionally, but looks she does. Where is the answer? Where is the protection? Inside, she answers silently, right inside you.

The Portal Priestess is awash in blues and greens. All is again water, as the water that one can glimpse through the curtains of the Waite Smith High Priestess. There is a platform, yellow and vaguely reminiscent of a sun. An archway like a golden ring stands before her. The translucent pane of the Empress becomes a mirrorway to the orb, seeming to reflect and suggest that she is the orb, she is the center. Perfect blue shafts, tinged in green, triangulate into the sky. Step through and find your answer inside. Traci Darin formulates it as thus: "Gaze at her and her silence begs a question—her answer is already your truth. When she appears, ask yourself what your inner voice is telling you, that you won’t trust." It is hard to trust the inner voice, to hear it through the din of other voices around it. Many voices haunt us: the voice of "shoulds" and "shouldn’ts", the voice of others degradation, our own self doubt. These are voices that try to command us. The inner voice quietly instructs us. It is a true teacher, like a book, an event, an instructor who guides. We choose to take the instruction, or to leave it, to drink the proverbial waters that our horse minds are lead to. Should we choose not to listen, the voice fades. That is how it is different from the other inner dialogue, it leaves it to us to take it up.

Selene understands now that it was not her mother’s role to prevent, but to be there for comfort, empathy, a touch and a hug. The true power had to come from within. And there is where the challenge lies to overcome the fear of the Emperor’s power, she must find that greater strength which lies within her. 

Khatruman  29 Jun 2003 
From the first time that I had seen the Waite Smith VIII Strength card, I was fascinated. The image one would get if asked to create an image which would symbolize strength would be one perhaps more like Hercules, a man of great muscular energy. And indeed there are some early tarot decks which turn the Strength card into an image of Hercules defeating the Nemean Lion. That image, though it perhaps might adequately depict the stereotype of strength, did not survive. It is the woman with her hands tenderly holding the beast’s jaws, with a serene mien, who has survived as the image of true strength.

Think about it. Honestly, can a mere human defeat the beastly lion? As a teacher trying to convince students of the value of education I am often confronted with the teens who focus on sports, physical superiority. I speak of the fact that each creature in this world has at least one attribute that sets it apart. Gazelle has her speed. Elephant has her size. Porcupine has his quills. Skunk has his stink. Are we humans dominant over them because of our physicality? There are animals that can overrun us, overpower us, outnumber us, out poison us. Where is our strength? It is inside us, our minds, our understanding, our courage.

The Osho Zen tarot has a wonderful interpretation of the Strength card, it is called Courage, and it has the image of a flower growing out of the crack in a stone wall. When I first saw this image, I immediately remembered an image I had seen and contemplated years earlier. I was waiting at the stop light on a four-lane highway on the way to my job. There was a white concrete median at the center of the highway, separating the directions. On this particular day, I noticed many wildflowers growing out of each crevice or crack in the median or asphalt. I looked at how they flourished and thought, "My God, what tenacity life has, what courage to grow wherever there is the possibility for growth, however small." I used courage, but talking about plants and their tenacious growth doesn’t necessarily define courage, but rather symbolizes it for we humans. True courage is knowing the danger one faces in doing something, but doing it anyway.

Robert Burns poem "To a Mouse" contains the oft-quoted line about the best laid plans of mice and men often going awry. It is a point made in the poem’s situation where a farmer accidentally plows up a mouse’s winter shelter and apologizes to the mouse for doing so. He turns it into that point about how no matter how much planning we may do, something may come along and smash our plans to bits. However, that is not the concluding point he makes in the poem. In the next stanza, he says to the mouse that he is luckier than we humans are, because he will simply begin building again, that is all it knows: no house, need house, build house. We humans have our consciousness to grieve for the past, worry for the future. It is not a courageous thing the mouse does in rebuilding; that is just the necessity of the matter. We humans show courage in moving on past the hurt, to have consciousness in regards to what happened and what might happen and still do it anyway. Does the daisy know that growing on that wall leaves it vulnerable to defeat? No. Perhaps we shouldn’t let that consciousness stop us either.

Selene is conscious of the overwhelming force of her Emperor, conscious of the power it held and lorded over her. As a child, she ran for the protection of the Empress, expecting protection, but becoming confused when it offered only comfort. Now, she has transformed the Empress force into the Priestess force, which comforts one in the knowledge that the answer lies inside, the protection is within. Now, this new guide offers her the courage. Yes, it is a lion; yes, you are physically less terrifying, but there is another power you have: love.

The Portal Strength card shows again the waters that Selene has been traveling. A path of stones leads to a rectangular stone platform, and above that dais is a stone-like wheel, like a huge gear, weathered and strong, and before that dais is placed: a red rose. She lays the very essence of her femininity at the feet of the ancient relic, seeking not to conquer it, but to love it. In the center of the stone wheel, which vaguely resembles the sun both in shape and yellow coloring, floats a cross, like a key to something. Selene’s portal lies within the center of the stone wheel, within its very jaws. She must show the strength, the courage to step through to retrieve this key. She doesn’t do it through threat of power, but through the offer of love, the red rose. With this offer, she is able to transform the ominous figure of the Emperor from a fearful entity to a radiant guide. 

Khatruman  29 Jun 2003 
As through the new realization the Empress has become the higher spiritual force of the High Priestess, so the Emperor becomes the spiritual force of The Hierophant. The similarities in the image of the Waite Smith IV Emperor and the V Hierophant are striking and obviously deliberate: both sit on thrones, both are older male figures, both have figures flanking them, both are rigid as law. But the Hierophant represents a higher form of law, the law of the spirit. Where the Emperor commanded power and law over the material world, the Hierophant teaches the law of the spiritual world. Where Selene saw fear in the image of the powerful Emperor, she sees comfort now in the image of the Hierophant. She had thrown herself in a world of nightmare, illusory chaos in the pale world reflected by the Moon. Now she sees that law doesn’t oppress her, but gives stability to her. The spiritual is no longer a chaotic horror; the Hierophant offers a law to control the unsubstantial spirit.

There is a wonderful paradoxical definition of faith in the Old Testament of the Bible: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen." What makes it an ideal definition is the central paradox… something that is hoped for doesn’t exist, and is therefore not substantive, something that is not seen is not evident. As a true paradox it is spot-on correct while being contradicting. Faith involves believing in something despite the fact that there is no proof of its existence. That belief is a very powerful thing and drives the very religion. All religions ask the follower to accept something that goes against rational thought. A baby born of a virgin? Someone who can die, yet return three days later? Someone who can stop time? Move a mountain? By taking faith and ignoring rationality the mind must change its own rationality, must change the very reality of the world and now center it on that religious understanding. Selene is being offered a new center to base her previously fear-driven world.

The Portal Hierophant is bursting with images. A flowering radiance bursts forth from the center: A central star radiating reds, yellows, greens, teals, in kaleidoscopic brilliance. Behind it lies a glasslike pyramid, as if the prism which refracted the light. Behind it an indigo circle encasing pure black, the blue/gray sky behind that. Three silver rings are chained before the archway of two golden rings, flanked by two golden childlike figures encased in crystalline eggs: one faces the entrance, the other faces away to the destination. A silver disk lies on the pathway within, which rises and meets the light that burns white and unseen in the path. Beyond this path, which seems to end, abruptly past the archway, one can make out again in the distance the chain of silver rings and the silver disk. To get to them, one must make the leap of faith into seeming nothing. Here is where you were, the hierophant seems to say, and here is where you may go. "I begin you on the path, but it is your own leap which must send you to your destination." Through all the guides, Selene has now the tools to control her fear, see the reality, and have the courage to leap beyond where she is. She is ready for her destination. 

Khatruman  29 Jun 2003 
I get to the point here where the mystery of the journey can not much longer be sustained. I have set out this story as an unfolding of the steps coming as they do. Rather than giving you the entire reading at the beginning, and explaining it throughout, I have revealed each key as it was turned. However, being that the journey uses the twenty two keys of the Major Arcana, and that I am now on the last two, it becomes similar to watching the final selection in a beauty pageant. When the first runner up is announced, she is often engulfed in the cheers and immediate announcement of the winner. Any of you who have been card counting know the two cards left. And explaining card twenty of Selene’s journey leaves one contemplating also the final card.

I had half expected that the journey of the Moon would most symmetrically end with, of course, the Sun. Were one to orchestrate the cards consciously, one would be drawn most temptingly to place the Sun in position XXI, as the World is the final destination of the Fool’s Journey, he begins foolishly, ends worldly. After I shuffled for this reading, not even consciously choosing the journey I was to take, and turned up the journeyer as the Moon, I thought it would be too amazing if the final card did end up being the Sun. Even we tarotists who understand the unexplainable rightness of our readings often doubt that it will come out as perfect as it does.

As I did the reading, I was also thinking as a storyteller. If position XXI ended on the Sun, it would be too "pat", too seemingly contrived. Would people believe its reality if it turned out as expected. Selene begins lost in the illusory world of the Moon. Where should she end up? Out in the Sun, of course. But is that satisfying?

Many people who know me have heard me criticize a certain movie. It is Sleeping with the Enemy, starring Julia Roberts as a woman escaping an abusive marriage by a control freak husband. She contrives an elaborate scenario to fake her death and escape him. Though it works at first, the husband does find out she is still alive. Thinking about it, Roberts’ character’s journey is in many ways similar to Selene’s journey that I have mapped out here. She escapes a nightmare reality and goes through a series of guides to finally escape her fear, personified in the husband. Her escaping and the anxieties she goes through in the movie to this point are wonderful, painting a true portrait of the terror that a woman who is abused must go through and the difficulty in escaping it.

However, when the husband finally finds out exactly where she is, I have a huge problem with the movie. It turns from being a thoughtful portrait of a woman escaping that fear which controlled her, to a cardboard, two-dimensional chase scenario with Roberts giving her obligatory screams and running through a dark house where the husband could be lurking around any corner. There is nothing wrong with a simple thriller, but this movie promised to be something much more thoughtful. In the end, Roberts holds a gun, calls the police, reports that there is an intruder in the house, pulls the trigger, and that’s that… they live happily every after, smiling in the sun, no worries, no fears, just Cinderella living in Prince Charming’s castle. I always found that to be offensive to any woman living in the fear of an abusive husband, saying, "Aww, honey, all it takes is to get a gun, and KahBlooey!!! Your problem is solved!!!" Does that solve all the emotional scarring, the guilt, self-doubt, the feeling of actual love for the abuser, and just make everything magically go away? It doesn’t come off as real.

Similarly, I had these mixed emotions regarding this reading. With every card I turned, it seemed just perfect that it would end on the Sun, so I was afraid that I would find the reading to be wrong if the Sun came up at any time before, which odds say it most likely would. However, as it wasn’t turning up, and the reading was getting close to conclusion, another fear took hold. What if the Sun does show up last? Would others think it was all my contrivance? Deus ex Machina (Latin for "God in the Machinery"), an ancient dramatic contrivance where a plot becomes complicated and dark and, all of a sudden, something like the very hand of God sweeps down and solves everything, and the audience comes out feeling truly unsatisfied.

I read an article by writer Flannery O’Connor, regarding her story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" wherein she explains why it is that there is often in her stories something very surprising happening in her climactic scenes, a bible salesman steals a young girl’s prosthetic leg, an old woman who’s been pleading with an escaped murderer to save her, then finally accepts her fate and sympathizes with the killer touches his shoulder and he wheels around and shoots her dead. She felt that a story should surprise, yet delight the reader if it is to have a reality to it. Some action should occur which at first disturbs the reader, but when the reader continues to think about it, it makes sense and satisfies more than the expected.

That The Sun came up as Card Twenty in a way seems to be the expected ending. The last two cards of the journey do together represent the conclusion. Selene, having fearfully ventured from her world of horrid nightmare illusion, the projection of the pale reflected light of the Moon, emerges into the very source of that light, the Golden Sun. XIX The Waite Smith Sun shows us a joyful naked child, holding a banner of triumph, riding a white horse in the golden rays of the sun, sunflowers lining the background. All is new life, new hope, triumphant joy.

In The Portal Sun, a Golden Sun burns brightly in the sky, wreathed in burning red and gold circles, flowering shapes, golden rings, circular shapes dominate, signifying completion, the very sky glows in gold. Selene has made the leap of faith offered by the Hierophant, and is rewarded with Golden Sunshine. She lives happily ever after? Not quite. There is the final card to go, and those who have in the back of their minds which card has not appeared yet may be as surprised, disturbed, and thoughtful as I was when it was revealed. 

Khatruman  29 Jun 2003 
All you create
All you destroy
All that you do
All that you say.
All that you eat
And everyone you meet
All that you slight
And everyone you fight.
All that is now
All that is gone
All that's to come
and everything under the sun is in tune
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

--Roger Waters, Pink Floyd

I am reminded of this lyric as I was wrestling with this ending. It is the final song from Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon. The song explodes with pounding drums, a resounding organ, a wailing gospel choir, building to an almost spiritual revelation and finishing, almost, with that lyric, "and everything under the sun is in tune" as the music builds to a finale, but then comes the kicker:

"but the sun is eclipsed by the moon,"

and the music fades to a simple heartbeat, the same heartbeat that began the album, bringing it full circle. Pink Floyd used a similar technique in its other highly successful concept album, The Wall. The storyline of a rock star who’s life experiences, losing a father in World War II, an overprotective mother, a derogatory teaching system, and a wife who was unfaithful, send him into building a virtual wall around his true self, creating an unfeeling tyrannical figure bent on a Hitler-like Final Solution. He is put "on trial" in the end and forced to have his wall torn down. After the destruction, there is a sweet quiet peace of music about all the happiness in the rubble of the destroyed wall. The music goes on and abruptly ceases in the middle of a spoken sentence. If one listens to the very beginning of the album, it is the end of that very sentence that begins the album, thus suggesting that the cycle continues, the wall will be built again, and only have to again be destroyed.

If Selene’s journey is a journey from her illusory world of the Moon, she in some way represents the nightmarish illusion of each of our realities projected onto the world through the filter of experiences that have caused us to see the world that way. As many understand who work in tarot, people come to tarot readers not when things are going just wonderfully and they just want to see how much more wonderful they can be; they come because of a concern, a fear, a question. It usually involves wanting to know what lurks around the next corner, and how to prepare for or avoid it. They have a sense that something will go wrong, an illusory problem, and they hope that tarot can either prove them right or prove them wrong. We all feel Selene’s fear to some extent, and we search for a way to rid ourselves of it. We want to be rid of the pale shadows of the night moon and live in the golden rays of the sun. We want the problem solved as Julia Robert’s character solved it in Sleeping with the Enemy, one shot, and it’s happy ending. Few of us have known life to work that way.

XV The Devil is the most disturbing and powerful card of the tarot. It is hard to put any positive spin on this card. It is the proof to outsiders that tarot itself is evil. It must be explained with deep assurances by the reader to any querent who might have it drawn in a reading. At best, it is often interpreted to be a warning of what to avoid, a way to recognize a difficulty, temptation, or so forth, so that one can successfully avoid or end it.

So how do we take it as the final card of this journey?

In The Portal Devil, there is a river of molten lava, flowing all below what looks like a great, slitted eye. The sky is blood red and the sun sets on the horizon to the left. A yellow orb is in the center of this great eye, and a narrow plank leads directly to it. It looks difficult to walk, thin and unsupported, and if one should fall from this path, the consequences look devastating. It isn’t a promising path, but it is a path nonetheless.

I am reminded what I have heard of recovery from heroine addiction. Those who have been addicted to heroine and have broken the addiction say it never leaves them. A day does not go by where they do not think of heroine, do not crave it. They take each day as it comes, look not far up the path or down to the possibility of shooting up again. They take each day as a step, and give gratitude to themselves and God for making it through that day.

So perhaps the message is the same message as that given by the original guide that brought Selene out of the Moon’s shadow in the first place: Temperance. In fact, the Devil card comes after the Temperance card in the original Major sequence, and is interpreted as offering the balance to accept the aspects that the Devil represents. There is no promise that there won’t be any pain, that it won’t hurt. Selene will be better for having made the journey. She will see the sunshine, but the Sun will set, the Moon will return, the cycle will continue, and though the path is narrow, and destruction lurks below, it is the step you take in front of you that matters, not worrying about how many steps there are, how many possibilities of failure, but that you make each step the best one and be grateful that this step was well made. "Put one foot in front of the other…." The journey of a thousand miles continues with each one step. 

Khatruman  29 Jun 2003 
I hope this journey felt complete in some way, and has offered insight. I am well aware that there may exist several mistakes in prose or unintelligible ideas in the posts. It took me several hours to write the journey, and most all of it is first draft. I may be brave enough later to amend or correct confusing ideas and prose, but right now, I am exhausted of it. It was a journey which I didn't know would be so involved but it was worth it for the insights it gave me.

As always, I welcome any feedback in posts or in PM, and, if you are reading this post, I thank you for coming this far on my journey.


Mimers  30 Jun 2003 
Amazing ending. I read it through and I have to say that I have thouroughly enjoyed this journey. Thanks for all the hard work.

I have one reaction that I will share. The ending with the Sun and the Devil. (I don't have cards in front of me and am going by the images in my mind) I felt that now that Selene has found the courage to face her nightmare, and discover her power within, the sun is the freedom that it gives her. The child in the sun card looks so free. Then with the devil at the end, I could see how she is now free to enjoy the everyday pleasures in life. The Devil in a positive way can mean that now Selene is free to 'feel' the pleasures in life.??? What do you think?


Khatruman  30 Jun 2003 
Originally posted by Mimers
Selene has found the courage to face her nightmare, and discover her power within, the sun is the freedom that it gives her. The child in the sun card looks so free. Then with the devil at the end, I could see how she is now free to enjoy the everyday pleasures in life. The Devil in a positive way can mean that now Selene is free to 'feel' the pleasures in life.??? What do you think?
Yes, I can definitely see that there!!! As a matter of fact, what was toughest about this reading is that there was so much I could see, and so much I left unsaid, first of all, to let others see connections, as you did, and second of all, I would never have finished it.. :D.

Yes, she does have that liberating freedom. And I think it is important that this freedom involves the positive light to face pleasures, and even pains. I like that it doesn't give the snow job that being healed of these fears means that they magically disappear, but they can be there, and still one can have the sunshine in life to face them well.

Thank you for your insight, and supporting this journey. I owe you a couple Gargle Blasters }) 

Alissa  30 Jun 2003 
This has been an amazing journey to follow and thank you so much for sharing this with us, Khatruman! It's really made for fabulous insights, I must say.

And, believe it or not, I think the ending with the Devil can be seen as something different, perhaps ....

The Devil is shocking. The Devil can represent the experience of ego-death. I do remember reading in "78 degrees..." of Pollack's advice to go *through* the process of the Devil card, to embrace ego death and to have the courage to burn away all that has gone before as illusionary, and start a new.

The Devil states, "I am!" It compels us to focus on our own states of existence in the right *here and now*. What is holding us down, what chains encumber us? And which ones are our own manufacture?

Selene may be able to complete her journey by taking all that she has conceived herself to be and sending it up into a holy flame of destruction....

It makes for a unique ending indeed! ;)

Great work! 

firemaiden  01 Jul 2003 
Fantastic Khat. Quite a lot of food for thought here, munching, munching... 

Ravenswing  03 Jul 2003 

I've been waiting this final installment... I wanted to read it straight through without any cliffhanging :) .

So now, if my printer cooperates, I'll be able to read your adventure story at last...

I'll post thoughts on it as soon as I get through it. Thanks for the journey. And showing us that the arcana in "natural" order isn't the only trip around....

fly well
write more

skytwig  06 Jul 2003 

This has been such a journey in itself, hasn't it? Not just for Selene and for us, but for you.... What an exquisite 'lesson' in Tarot.

This reveals why Story has been such an intimate part of life, why we seek it, why, for centuries, it has been the heart, the sacred heart, of many societies. Story stirs our souls to a depth that is not always 'nameable'... the elusive Truth.

Changing the path, as you did in experiment, forced a reconsideration of, not only "the" Story in Tarot, but our conception of each card! What, for instance, does it, could it mean when a path of Tarot ends in the Devil card? For me, it meant digging into my understanding of the card and REAFFIRMED my belief that there are no BAD major arcana - only our misconceptions! As well as societal influences that arise in centuries of religious theory..... and for me, it must ONLY be theory or I lose something sweet.... wonder, delight, Innocence (which are precious aspects of my Spirituality).

I liked Alissa's observation:

Originally posted by Alissa
The Devil is shocking. The Devil can represent the experience of ego-death. I do remember reading in "78 degrees..." of Pollack's advice to go *through* the process of the Devil card, to embrace ego death and to have the courage to burn away all that has gone before as illusionary, and start a new.

The Devil states, "I am!" It compels us to focus on our own states of existence in the right *here and now*. What is holding us down, what chains encumber us? And which ones are our own manufacture?

Especially the statement of "I AM" - for does not the Devil represent our basic, unfettered Truth, our Passion (Strength card) and our inhibitory freedom? Isn't that, after all, a goal.... to exist responsibly, respective of all life, yet fully? To simply BE, without the rules and regulations that Society and Religion place upon us?

The Devil is a Christian concept and does not bode well with me. Poor Lucifer has taken alot of hits, simply because he was an Archangel who had other ideas...... no one truly knows if there is a Devil, yet many of us insist that he is behind all evil.

Shadow is shadow. Where there is Light, there must be Shadow. Selene faced her Shadow side, her 'demons', if you will and, as i see it, she learned not only how to embrace it, but to encorporate it into her 'flesh'. She no longer had to run, hide, or fear. She knew the Darkness and accepted that it was a part of her.

That is what many of us who have been abused as children learn to face ... it ain't going away! We may drown it in addictive behaviors, lose it in mental illness, or kill it by suicide, but we who decide to face it, find that the Dragon is a depth of Self that we almost disowned, that, in Truth, is quite Dear and Spectacular. We learn, in so embracing 'the monster' within our psyches, that we are Richer, Deeper, Wiser, Softer, more beautiful, not because we were abused, but because we transmuted that experience to our Highest Good!

Thanks Khat. You are a beautiful writer, very brave, and certainly loyal to your committments..... Your students are very fortunate to have you in their lives.... We are fortunate to have you, via the Magick of cyperspace, in ours!

:) skytwig 

Mimers  06 Jul 2003 
Originally posted by skytwig

Thanks Khat. You are a beautiful writer, very brave, and certainly loyal to your committments..... Your students are very fortunate to have you in their lives.... We are fortunate to have you, via the Magick of cyperspace, in ours!

:) skytwig

I couldn't have said it better myself. I found myself anxiously waiting for the next part to come out so I could see how the cards would be interpreted in Selene's journey.

Thanks again for sharing with us Khat!


Khatruman  08 Jul 2003 
Originally posted by skytwig
Shadow is shadow. Where there is Light, there must be Shadow. Selene faced her Shadow side, her 'demons', if you will and, as i see it, she learned not only how to embrace it, but to encorporate it into her 'flesh'. She no longer had to run, hide, or fear. She knew the Darkness and accepted that it was a part of her.

That is what many of us who have been abused as children learn to face ... it ain't going away! We may drown it in addictive behaviors, lose it in mental illness, or kill it by suicide, but we who decide to face it, find that the Dragon is a depth of Self that we almost disowned, that, in Truth, is quite Dear and Spectacular. We learn, in so embracing 'the monster' within our psyches, that we are Richer, Deeper, Wiser, Softer, more beautiful, not because we were abused, but because we transmuted that experience to our Highest Good!
That was brilliantly put, skytwig. Thank you. It is exactly what I saw in this reading. As I was going through it, Selene represented, to me, all those shadow aspects of our selves. The "damage" we have sustained in our upbringings.

I see so many people facing problems from something that has happened in their pasts. We see the present through the filter of past experiences. Our reality is manipulated by our experiences. Sometimes this is quite debilitating.

The overall message I see here is that to "cure" it is NOT to make it just go away. And I believe many fail because they expect a cure where everything is fairy tale perfect.

But as I am prone to pointing out myself, even the fairy creatures aren't all pretty wings and sweet smiles. Accept the shadow part of yourself, work with it, let its strength make you even more powerful.

Thank you for your wonderful commentary, and for following the journey with me. As far as my teaching: every day is a challenge to be better than I am, to help them improve and for me to maybe be a part of their journey.

Thank you again also, Mimers. Have another Gargle Blaster ;) 

isthmus nekoi  08 Jul 2003 
Khat, thanks for posting this ^_^ I haven't read all the posts yet but I'm glad you brought up the fact that childhood can be a terrifying, contradictory place. Too too often childhood is over sentimentalized and leached of its darkness. 

Khatruman  12 Jul 2003 
Originally posted by isthmus nekoi
Too too often childhood is over sentimentalized and leached of its darkness.
How absolutely true, and on the reverse, too many see the problems they have as irreversable since they were imprinted in youth. Or they see the solution as some unattainable ideal, which they are bound to fail at.

I think the ending of the Devil reminds us always that there is a shadow side, and we would do best to deal with it, embrace it, and work beyond it.

Thanks for posting!! :D 

The The Moon's Journey Stage Three--Walking the Hot Coals thread was originally posted on 29 Jun 2003 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

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