Moonthly Musings and Reading: To walk the path between certainty and uncertainty


For Seekers – Moonthly Renewal – Practices for Soul & Spirit – Sanctuary

Who is this self-satisfied guy sitting before his big table of goblets?

a 1909 card scanned by Holly Voley and retrieved from Sacred Texts. Deck available from US Games

Could it be the Vladimir Putin of last week imagining a quick takeover of Ukraine before resistance could build?

Or, if we cast our minds further back, we might be reminded of Vice President Dick Cheney right before the 2003 US invasion of Iraq saying, “We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” And the war would be short.

These were their wishes—but not our reality.

The current phase of this war between Ukraine and Russia is just beginning. The horror of that war can still be conveyed and perceived at human scale: with footage of an obliterated building from which a body is carried; in the heart-wrenching story of a child’s death; through the blurred image of a Russian soldier’s body abandoned on a bridge.

The Iraq war death count is so great in number that we might be numbed to its reality. We know 4,491 U.S. service members were killed. The number of civilian deaths is disputed, but  the Iraq Body Count project documented 185,000–208,000 violent civilian deaths through February 2020.

The origin of this misery is the smug certainty of leaders so intent on grabbing all the “goblets” for themselves that they ignore perspectives that would challenge their plans and surround themselves with people who share their views. 

The violent pursuit of their certainty unleashes tidal waves of uncertainty in which the world is tossed.

This is what I saw when I pulled this moonth’s passage card for the new moon arriving today/Wednesday, March 2 at 12:35pm ET.

Tarot practitioners often say that there are no good cards or bad cards, but with some cards we, too, fall into seeing only the challenge or the gift. The Nine of Cups is one of those seeing-the-gift cards. Who doesn’t want to celebrate having all your cups filled?

But Pamela Coleman Smith, the artist responsible for the images,complicates the card’s surface meaning with the strange table, the rather defensive posture, and ambiguous expression on the figure’s face. She opens the door for a more complex reality to exist so that when we are thrust into such a reality we can recognize it, find ways to move within it, and even continue to grow our souls.

When I began to meditate on the Nine of Cups on Monday, I focused on the danger of certainty, on how it limits our thinking and strangles creativity. I was excited to name uncertainty as a gift of these times to be cultivated. I was ready to quote the Belgian-Russian scientist Ilya Prigogine: “The future is uncertain—but its uncertainty is at the very heart of creativity.”

Then I took a break and turned on the news. A reporter at the Polish border was asking a Ukrainian teenager wearing glasses and pink hat with what seemed like rabbit ears when she would go home. She shrugged and said she didn’t know: “When the war is over.” Her life was uncertain.This uncertainty was in no way a gift. 

I also was reminded of the cost of the uncertainties created by other wars. The uncertainty of life in Syria experiencing a civil war driving families to step into the uncertainty of tiny rubber boats to seek refuge in Europe. The uncertainty of the doctors at Baghdad’s Children’s Welfare Teaching Hospital as to whether they will have the supplies and medical equipment to treat the children under their care even today after the war has “ended.” The uncertainty of Afghan women left to face life under the Taliban.

My own Nine of Cups certainty about uncertainty as THE way faded. 

Then I began to truly feel my way onto the path of this moonth: The Moon card itself. 

The moon’s light invites us to a different kind of sight. Less distinct than the sun’s illumination, what is revealed in moonlight lacks clear edges. What is in the distance is indistinct. And what we think we see on a full moon fades when the dark moon comes. We are called to constantly adjust as we walk the path of the Moon.

Our adjustment happens between the two pillars of the Moon card. These could be the pillars of Certainty and Uncertainty. When we think we know for certain that we are right or know what is coming, it would be beneficial to test our assumptions. To gather different perspectives. Think about the repercussions of our actions. When we are confronted with uncertainty, we can meet the worry and fear that arises. Acknowledging the difficult emotions, we can use their energy to move forward but not be controlled by their flow. We can dare to be brave in the face of uncertainty.

Certainty and Uncertainty may be the forces pushing us forward in the lunar landscape, but they are not the “inner light” that keeps us true to our own soul’s path. That inner light comes from our core values flowing from a connection to the Greater Than Ourselves that we have forged through practice and commitment.

Our guide for tending that inner light on the Moon’s winding path this lunar cycle is The Knight of Cups. All knights are devoted to a cause that is greater than themselves. The Tarot’s knights serve and seek to expand the gifts of their element. The suit of Cups associated with the element of water offers us emotional range, creative connection, intuitive wisdom, and Love.

Yes, these knights are dreamers, but they also take the action necessary to make the dream real through creating art in the form of poems or dance or song; they offer healing practices to those in the stress of uncertainty; or facilitate meetings where all ideas and emotions are expressed, for example. Yes, they are lovers with a romantic streak, but their love is not limited to a romantic partner. Their watery, expansive selves feel the connection to even those they do not know. They do know that to love is to act for the good of the Whole—and they invite us to follow.

Where is the Knight leading us? If we are traveling through Major Arcana’s progression, we find the Knight leading us from the pillars of the Moon to the sunflowers of the Sun.

From The Gaian Tarot

As so many of us are learning this week, sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine. In a video that has gone viral on social media and also carried in traditional media, an older woman confronts a Russian soldier in the street (quotes are from a transcript of the exchange);

“What the f*ck are you doing here?” You’re occupants, you’re fascists! What the f*ck are you doing on our land with all these guns?”

She then takes seeds from her pocket and says, “Take these seeds and put them in your pockets, so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here.”

The soldier replies: “Right now, our discussion will lead nowhere. Let’s not escalate this situation. Please.

She has the last word with: “You f***ing came here uninvited. Pieces of sh*t.”

I’m in awe of this powerful crone. Her weapons are seeds, her voice, and her commitment to her country. Her certainty here inspires. Looking with symbolic eyes she is calling for life to come from the death that is exploding her country. This is a fierce kind of Love, one possible to see only under the strange and mysterious light of the moon.

But along with my admiration from this woman, I also feel sorry for the soldier. He can’t answer why they are there. He seems not even to understand the enormity of the situation. In this exchange, he is bureaucratic more than brutal. I have read that so many of these Russian soldiers are 19 or 20 years old and barely know where they are and have no understanding of why. They have no vision or values to guide them. They are uncertain.

The shifting light of the Moon allows me to hold both of these figures and all of my complicated reactions at the same time. The solar yellow of the sunflowers calls me to imagine a future where flowers bloom.

Really… flowers? War rages in Ukraine, the window for addressing climate change is closing rapidly, and transgender youth are under attack from politicians trying to score political points  by playing with their lives. Is this really time to imagine flowers blooming? To imagine peace? To imagine what a world independant on Russia’s fossil fuels would look like? To imagine young people experiencing gender euphoria?

Yes, we must imagine these futures now or they will never come to be. 

I may have shared Poem by Muriel Rukeyser with you before. It is a touchstone poem for me ing times of great challenge so I’ll share it again. Remove the first and last lines and this is a poem written for this century.

I lived in the first century of world wars.

Most mornings I would be more or less insane,

The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,

The news would pour out of various devices

Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.

I would call my friends on other devices;

They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.

Slowly I would get to pen and paper,

Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.

In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,

Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,

Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.

As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,

We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,

To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile

Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,

Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means

To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,

To let go the means, to wake.

I lived in the first century of these wars.

Muriel Rukeyser’s writing of this poem did not stop wars—she wrote it in the 1960s and the wars have kept coming—but it serves as a constant call for the renewal of our visions of peace, of love, and of reconciliation. The call still echoes today.

Today’s moon-washed day is the day in which the next vision is born.  We have no time to waste in imagining the next wave of renewal because waves begin far out in the ocean’s unseen depths. Once formed the wave travels below the surface for a long way before it breaks on the shore.

That the world we are in now seems far from what our Knight of Cups selves can imagine calls for a larger, not smaller, vision. This vision held within us of a better world can guide on the path between Certainty and Uncertainty. This vision challenges the narratives offered that we are certain to fail and shakes off the paralysis of uncertain times. Echoing Rukeyser, the vision calls to reach beyond ourselves and our limitations. To wake into the circle of our next becoming as individuals, communities, and a planet.

And when we wake, this is when the work begins. We won’t just make wishes like the Nine of Cups figure. We will work for what we want  to make real. 

And now we come full circle and return to the Nine of Cups where we began to look finally at the gift aspect of image through the Nine of Rivers, the Shining Tribe Tarot’s version of this card.

The meaning and message of the card derives from a creation myth found in the Kabbalah in which the light from the beginning of the universe that God placed in vessels to be contained shatters them. Each one of us humans then comes to hold a piece of the shattered light. When we shine forth this light what is known as “tikkun olam,” restoration of the world, occurs. Of this work deck creator Rachel Pollack writes:

Restoration requires that we help others by sharing our truth and action. For many contemporary Jews, Tikkun Olam has become a symbol for commitment to social change. The water is dark because we do not yet know what will come of it. We cannot predict the results of healing, either our own or the world around us. We need to act for the sake of a redemption that will be a mystery until it unfolds before us. 


CERTAINTY: What am I certain of that it would be beneficial to question to support my soul’s growth?

UNCERTAINTY: What can support me to navigate the uncertain times in which we live?

GUIDING LIGHT: What core value/vision can I center myself in to move through these times and contribute to the renewal of the world? 

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.


Just as I was posting this I received an email from White Awake, an anti-racism organization working with white people to dismantle white supremacy—I’ve done a few of their trainings—with resources for widening perspectives on the narratives being offered on the war on Ukraine. This video by commentator Krystal Ball of Breaking Points examines how and posits why the war in Ukraine is being covered differently form the ones in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. I’ll post our resources as I take a look at them.

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