Out of the darkness comes the light …
…the void from which the Big Bang sprang to bring forth our Universe
… the womb in which we turn and grow before emerging
… the Winter Solstice’s darkest moment that holds then tips us toward the light
These are poetic words, but living through dark events is messy without neat beginnings and ends. The Solstice moment comes and it’s still damn dark in January for us in the Northern Hemisphere. The trip out of the birth canal squeezes our skulls and rubs off the skin of our cheeks. The Big Bang was a fiery hot cataclysm. The movement between dark and light can be a time of testing.
The new moon (exact at 1:34pm ET on Sunday, January 2) brings us a guide for our current times of testing that we may groan to see: The Devil.
The Devil I first met is from the Christian, particularly Catholic, tradition. They are the opposite of God’s light, a dark being of pure evil with a power to entrance and trick. Sexuailty, the sensuous, and love of earthly things were forces of the Devil used to ensnare even the most devout. The split between the God of Heavenly Light and the Devil as Lord of Dark Misrule has grown wider and wider over the centuries. That which was dark and mysterious or sensual and earthly was to be not only feared but eradicated or at least controlled.
Groups of humans projected the Devil’s qualities onto other groups of humans—women, people of other faiths, people with darker skin, the earth itself, for example—and the splitting became part of the culture, worked its way into institutions, took hold of our minds. We began to create the Other: that which was not us, which was evil, which was to be feared and reviled.
Is the Devil that we are supposed to follow on our soul’s path this moonth? No, but we can’t ignore this Devil we’ve created either.
Because this Devil—whether in another or in ourselves—is alive in our culture and creating mischief and, yes, worse than that. When we try to keep that Devil locked away, they find ways of escaping that wreck more havoc. Our addictions, climate chaos, racial inequity are the ways the Devil breaking out of lockdown is manifesting.
So we have to let the Devil come from the dark and be in the light of our lives. We might start by considering what we make Other: nature, our neighbor, strange desires, implicit bias. These Others that bother us are often projected onto the people in our lives so we can ignore them in ourselves. To work with this aspect of the Devil, you might think about someone who really annoys you, that person that really “gets your goat.” (yes, I’m punning on the Devil’s association with this stubborn creature). Then consider how you might sometimes, occasionally, just a little bit be like them. This bothersome aspect is something unowned within yourself.Pulling a Tarot card or two to get more details on this part of you and how you might integrate it into yourself could be a helpful practice.
In this way, the Devil is a guide and friend to us for taking back the power you’ve used to repress being fully who we are. As the calendar turns from one year to the next, we are invited to make resolutions, create vision boards, dream big dreams, but for so many of us these New Year’s plans fall by the wayside, are not achieved. Ignoring the Devil within and without is a source of this shortfall.
Because when we push into the dark a voice of doubt or dismiss a desire as too strange, for example, it manifests subconsciously or unskillfully to undermine us. When we ignore what is happening in the wider world, external forces put up boundaries beyond our ability to climb no matter our willpower.
The virus keeps bedeviling us with this lesson. In places where we can access the vaccine easily, we might think we are done with pandemic problems—that was the situation where I live this spring—but the virus will find a new way to live in those without access. I heard a health expert say the other day, “An infection anywhere is an infection everywhere.” Yes, this Devil virus is giving us a lesson that there is no Other. We haven’t learned how to live out yet and so it comes again.
In Rachel Pollack’s Shining Tribe Tarot, the Devil stands in a doorway like a guardian. The passage behind the figure is like a birth canal. If we want to be reborn into the new year, into our next becoming, into our dreams and desires for the future, we have to acknowledge this Devil and perhaps even collaborate with them to maneuver through this passage.
A model for collaborating with this Devil is Inanna, the Witch of Earth of the Dark Goddess Tarot (more traditionally known as the Queen of Pentacles).
Deck creator Ellen Lorenzi-Prince tells us that Inanna is complex. She rules both love and war, is the both the storehouse of the grain and the seed itself that will grow. She desires sex. She descends into death. When she comes back from the underworld, she brings life. Her complexity is what makes her fertile.
Her partner in this image, based on a 22nd BCE stone seal, seems to be emerging from the underworld. We might even look at him as a Devil figure, but not the figure from splitting dualistics traditions. This is a figure at one with all: natural processes, his own desires, his partner Inanna. She joins with him—they dance together—and they bring forth abundance. Ellen’s advice for when this card appears is: Make magic in partnership with natural forces.
Our passage card of this moonth invites partnerships that need not be limited to couples or romance or even the human: Three of Pentacles. In the iconic Rider Waite Smith image, a skilled artisan is showing off their work of creating a cathedral to others, which appears to be being well received by the others in the image. This card is seen to be about work well done being celebrated. The Shining Tribe version of this card is the Three of Stones.
This card shows a vibrant figure on a raised triangle that brings them close to the glory of sun and moon. The triangle points downward to the earth. Birds fly up while a snake slithers down. There is a constant exchangebetween above and below, the earthly and the celestial, the dark and the light. This is the foundation of the figure’s success. The creatures of the image are not so much celebrating the figure as having their own success, being their own full selves so that the whole is radiant. The success and beauty of one is contagious in the best of ways. The collaboration makes life better for all.
At the very bottom of the image buried deep in the earth is a … is it a figure? … is it a seed? It could be the seed planted after meeting the Devil as the guardian at the doorway of becoming. It could be the seed of Inanna tended by her and her partner. It could be the seed of your dreams and goals envisioned at Solstice or New Year’s or on a January new moon day.
The seed is the foundation of this image of success because it springs from the underworld powers of the dark, integrates this power, and partners with natural forces to bring forth something aligned with personal desires but also meeting the needs of the Whole.
You can invite the same power into your New Year’s, new moon, and/or January planning for the year ahead following a flow inspired by the cards of the moonth:
~ Name a “seed” you’d like to grow. (You can start with one and do this process again for other seeds.)
~ Reflection and/or use divination tools (Tarot, oracles, dreams ….) to meet the Devil at the doorway that is the birth passage for this seed. Let them guide you to understandinding what could bedevil and challenge you as you grow the seed. What is within that could challenge you? What rejected parts of yourself do you need to integrate to grow the seed? What is without that could challenge you? How can you work with and adapt to these challenges? As you acknowledge and come to understand these forces, you can use this knowledge to create a realistic plan for growing your seed.
~ Name the partners who will help you grow your seed. Think creatively about involving human, divine, and natural beings as your partners. Make part of your plan be reaching out to them.
~ Begin the work with a strong vision but also an openness to adjustmentdepending on forces beyond your control in the wider world.
~ Make a list of steps and/or put actions and activities on a calendar that will grow the seed. Check and update this list regularly.
~ Celebrate all the little successes along the way.
If you would like support for a soulful start to the year, you are invited to join us for the second half of our Winter Solstice-hinged e-retreat where we meet a Solstice—or New Year’s or New Moon—Seed of the Newand tend its first spiral of becoming in the returning light of January. The theme of our first week is How We Break is How We Grow where we reflect on authenticity, self-compassion, and joy. Daily emails start up on January 3rd and our first virtual circle is January 9th.
I see all of the themes of this moonth gathered together brilliantly and beautifully in the Minoan Tarot’s version of the Devil: Ecstasy.
Here she is popping up on a Wisdom Wander to collaborate with a Lady Slipper
The challenge Ellen Lorenzi-Prince said she faced as she created this deck with images drawn entirely from the ancient culture of Crete known as Minoan was that there were few images of strife to use as models for the Tarot’s challenging cards. The Minoans certainly experienced strife. There were earthquakes and shipwrecks, but their art is centered elsewhere. Ellen writes:
[They] did not exalt kingship, war, nor death, nor did they conceive a vast distance between goods and humanity. Instead these people celebrated the presence of the Goddess, the beauty of the natural world, and their own sexuality and creativity.
There is no Other to be a Devil so Ellen made Ecstasy the Devil and showed us a priestess dancing. In her surrender to the dance she goes into trance and becomes one with the rhythms of the music and the forces that propel her. Her “hat” is actually a snake coiled around her head that is her partner in transformation coming from the dance. Ellen says her message is: Let every moment you make build power.
Ecstasy is a teacher of movement, flow, and beauty. She comes with a message to expand our understanding of what the Devil calls us to integrate from our rejected parts. Sometimes what we reject is the wonderful within, our unique brilliance, our ecstatic potential. Like with our difficult parts, we often project these on to others. So repeat the exercise above about people “who get your goat,” but focus on those people who lavish praise on, who you admire, who you want to be around. Name their specific qualities and then with reflection and/or card work recognize how these qualities live in you. Then give a little dance like our ecstatic teacher flowing with these inner riches.
Each January since 2015 I have been apprenticed to these images from ancient Greek culture as a teacher and guide and now a wonderful, surprising thing has happened! I’ve been asked to be the ritual facilitator for a tour of Greece designed by Tarot creatrix Rachel Pollack for this September. Here is bit of description from the Global Spiritual Studies tour page going up in the next few days:
Rachel Pollack’s vision of a 21st century journey into the Eleusinian Mysteries, the most important religious rites of ancient Greece, has expanded into a year-long process of preparation in the place where you live, a 10-day pilgrimage to Greece, and integration of the wisdom gained from the journey.
As we journey through the year and on pilgrimage to sites associated with the Mysteries and the myths of ancient Greece, we celebrate our own personal journeys of descent, search and rebirth. Through ritual, visualization, story-telling and tarot, we honour the Mysteries of our own lives, those times when loss has been followed by the joy of resurrection, the joy of awakening.
Wanna come?! I’d love to have you :). If you are interested even just in exploring the possibility, let me know and I’ll let you know when the tour page is up.
And last but not least, here are the moonthly questions/reading for reflection and card play:
POWER: What power is arising out of the dark (literal or metaphorical) that it would benefit you to integrate into your life?
SEED: What seed can be fertilized and nurtured by this power?
PARTNERSHIP: Who/what to be in partnership with to grow this seed in moonth and year to come?
I do offer this as an e-reading in my collaborative initiative format for $23. Sign up with PayPal or email me about sending a check. When I receive notification, I’ll be in touch to let you know about when to expect to receive your reading by email. I generally have openings to do these readings on Mondays and Saturdays.