Monday, 12 September 2011

Mark Ryan | Choosing Oracles

Mark Ryan

The art of choosing, studying and applying any type of oracle for meditation or Counseling is a very personal and individual experience. 

Our relationship with the images in the tarot for example is a complex and mysterious interaction of the human psyche and the archetypal images that speak to the subconscious. The images of the Major Arcana of the Tarot reflect either profound states of the human condition or  types of universal personality traits found within all humanity. It is how we relate to and perceive these images and our emotional responses to them that is one of the keyelements present in the process of divination.

Also present is the need to crystallize and focus on the issue at the heart of the question, sometimes referred to as The Grail Question and the finally the process known as synchronicity. This element of meaningful chance is the unbiased guide that throws down the cards in a random but seemingly meaningful way to the observer.

As a boy growing up in Yorkshire our weekend family outings consisted of visits to Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest. Our summer breaks were spent in Scarborough and Robin Hoods Bay. I grew up with a natural affinity for the ancient woodland legends so when I first started my tentative exploration of The Wildwood Tarot ethos it felt comfortable and easily accessible.

I think this is very important in the choosing of a Tarot system for personal use as our cultural and personal clutter can sometimes cloud our perceptions if we don’t have an intimate subconscious relationship with the meaning encoded within the symbolism. So it is vital that the prospective purchaser of any oracular system takes time before shelling out hard earned money to familiarize themselves, as much as possible with a system that they can both relate to and access on the deepest levels.

This may be achieved by asking friends who are interested in esoteric matters which system they use and what they recommend. Asking the advice of the salesperson in a reputable specialized bookstore may give you some valuable insight and ideas to play with. In fact some stores have open packs so the prospective buyer can look at all the cards and decide which complete set their requirements or speaks to them readily.

Once you have decided and begun to familiarize yourself with the imagery and concepts within the system the real work and adventure begins.

I do not believe Tarot can foretell the future. The future is a splintered hologram of probabilities and possibilities. We act with will. Whether it is conscious or unconscious we are responsible for our own actions. One of the major ways Tarot can help us make wise and responsible decisions is by helping us see deeply into the heart of an issue and reveal the basic inner conflict or motivations within ourselves. 

Some new theories regarding Dark Matter, Quantum Mechanics, holographic time and Morphic Fields suggest that our reality is a constantly fluctuating sea of particles interacting on a subtle subatomic level that can be altered by the simple act of trying to observe it! If this is so the very act of laying out the cards changes whatever pattern may have been possible and if you follow the advice of the reading, make it probable. But it is the individual that makes the final decision and gives the action will.

In fact I have been fascinated to watch the new concepts, whether within biochemistry or physics grow ever closer to the esoteric doctrines which they were originally intended to explain! What hope simple archetypal imagery or pagan ritual when science creates its own totem animals such as Schrodinger’s Cat and puts forward Rupert Sheldrake’s brilliant concept that animals are psychically connected to a Morphic Field of energy with it’s own memory and consciousness that helps them migrate effortlessly across vast distances? 

So the concept that every individual action is pre-ordained by some omnipotent, sentient, moral power begins to wear thin. As Carl Jung said: “Theoretical considerations of cause and effect often look pale and dusty in comparison to the results of pure chance.”

In The Wildwood Tarot  we utilize the ancient concept of the bow and arrow as the symbol of human skill, willpower and responsibility. The bow being the tool fashioned by human hands and of itself without power. The drawing of the bow symbolizes the harnessing of latent energy inherent within the wood, and the arrow represents the thoughts, desires or creative process that requires focusing and aiming with positive intent. Within the act of drawing and releasing the arrow  there are many opposing and random forces or energies and the skilled archer learns to hold these energies in a state of stillness and balance until the final moment of release that sends his will towards the target. 

The Celts, the Indian tribes of North America and the Samurai understood this concept well and wrote spells or curses on medicine arrows. These ancient cultures understood the notion of controlling and harnessing the mental process and turning it into a physical act. They also understood the concept of sentience within nature and their responsibility to the beasts of the plains and forests, on which they relied for food and other materials. 

These complex, interrelated concepts were day to day survival issues for the prehistoric tribes that roamed the Earth during the iron age and they may well have lots to teach us yet about the relevance of mans place within the chain of nature. Pre-historic man revered and respected nature and celebrated it’s power with cave art and complex Earthworks whose ritualistic purpose we  know little of and can only guess at today.

One basic trait remains constant within humanity however and that is the desire to explore and comprehend the unknown, including the mysterious working of the spiritual inner labyrinth. This has lead to the development of many esoteric doctrines that help put both the known and the unknown universe into some kind of order that can be dealt with on a human level.  This experience of understanding and relating to a universal reality requires patience and stillness but  there is little doubting the relevance and profound reality of the process.  

The rituals surrounding this process are as important as the action itself. The concentration and acknowledging of the thought or desire gives the intellect a stillness and an awareness that helps focus the will and steady the aim. So with tarot the ritual of shuffling and laying out the cards is a moment when the inner clatter of everyday functioning should be still and silent allowing the inner voice the space to ask the real question. Synchronicity will usually bring forth an unbiased but relevant insight into the inquiry and the nature of the inquirer. 

The understanding of the various symbols and systems available within the tarot ethos is
as much a matter of personal taste as cultural and psychological prejudice. Some find the obscure mystic rigors of the kabala completely impenetrable. Others resonate to Egyptian symbolism and doctrines. The reasons for this are complex. Some claim profound past life connections reaching into the present for such preferences, while others have a fixed and unswerving loyalty to a purely psychological solution. The answers are, by their very nature enigmatic, intangible and very personal.

In The Wildwood Tarot we have decoded and reasserted some of the archetypal imagery related to pre-Celtic, European mythology based on the ancient annual nature cycle known as The Wheel of the Year.  This system utilized the natural flow of the seasons and elements within the year to act as the backdrop to understanding the world the ancient peoples inhabited. 

Much of this mythos still survives today in legends and traditions such as Robin Hood, The May Games and Hallowe'en. Many of the pagan rituals and sacred deities simply got absorbed into later Christian festivals. Those that could not be safely assimilated were demonized or banished into secret and hidden folklore. Although, even Druidic practice survives during The Midwinter Solstice, thinly disguised as the Christmas Tree and the Yuletide Log, other more arcane concepts such as guardianship of the dead and many aspects of pagan folklore related to the Goddess were simply suppressed. 

Those who resonate with ancient British and European symbolism and find these concepts easily accessible will enjoy the history and wisdom contained within The Wheel of the Year  mythos and identify with the archetypes and totem animals that inhabit it. This nature based cycle follows the equinoxes and solstices through the seasons and places the corresponding archetypes within the major and minor Arcana in festivals and cross quarter days. Those who follow shamanistic traditions will also find echoes within this tarot pack relating the totem beasts and the magical aspects of the animals of the forest. The Wildwood Tarot is an unbiased mirror of the inner human psyche, based in ancient forest folklore and rich with shamanistic wisdom and history. In writing and developing this system I learned allot about myself and the shamanic mysteries and I sincerely hope The Wildwood Tarot  will serve others in the same manner.

So! When considering the purchase and study of any oracular system take your time and choose carefully. But more importantly remember; there is no magic in tarot, and in the final analysis we are masters of our own destiny. Act with responsibility regarding that destiny; understand your own talents and spiritual requirements and act with focused willpower to achieve your goals.

That is the essence of real magic!

1 comment:

  1. Some of us regard the so-called "pagan ways" as being very much about ancestors; paganism answers the questions of "who are we" and "why are we who we are - what makes us us, as opposed to what makes those people over there them?"