Moonthly Musings and Reading: The Power of Grief to Transform


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

The arrival of the new moon stamps the moonth with an initiating energy that shifts and develops through a cycle of growth, fullness, and descent that we can follow to practice lunar living in a solar world. Each moonth I look to the Tarot’s astrological correspondences for the new moon to find three cards (a Major, a numbered Minor, and a court/people card) to guide musings on soul tending as well as creation of moonthly questions for reflection/reading. The reading can be done any time, but ideally between the new and full moons. Revisit the cards you pull periodically up until the next lunation to gain new insight as the light changes. This new moon arrives on September 25th  (exact at 6:48am ET, time zone converter) . The full moon arrives November 8th.

Path: Death

This moonth we are invited to walk the path of Death and gain its wisdom lessons.

Death may be the most infamous and unwelcome card in the Tarot pack. To keep clients from jumping to the most dire conclusions, Modern Tarot readers quickly say the card doesn’t mean physical death and highlight positive aspects of transformation. But there are times when Death does bring physical death or significant physical losses, and we have to cope with its consequences. Especially in this time leading up to Halloween, Samhain, All Saints and Souls Days, and Día de los Muertos, sitting with the great transitions of Death in our lives can be fertile for tending our souls.

From Tarot Roots of Asia

Out of my own pathwalking alongside Death, I wrote at the October 2019 new moon about how to meet its presence:

We don’t have a choice about Death’s place in our life, but we do have a choice in the relationship that we make with Death. So much of the language of Death is filled with the metaphor of battle, but when we make Death our enemy, we will fail. We will never conquer Death. But we can learn from its dark transitions. 

The forest can show us how to meet these transitions. Even at the height of summer’s growth, the forest floor is filled with fallen trees feeding insects with their rot, growing fungus and fern, supporting a profusion of the next generation of beings. And in fall everything comes down. The leaves surrender to earth and become the next layer of soil. The seeds are down, too, seeking a place to plant themselves in the dark and prepare for next season’s emergence. An old forest is so alive with Death. An old forest teaches us that Life and Death are intertwined. A walk in the forest then can give us a glimpse of Death’s mystery because we can sense its existence within the Life we know. 

This understanding of Death comes from my encounters with the flowing of Old Europe’s Great Goddess who moves us through birth, growth, death, and regeneration. And from learning about the constant presence of the Igbo Goddess Ala who is the Goddess of the Ground that both brings forth crops and receives the dead; She holds all.

These Goddesses from different cultures show us Death balanced with Life. There is loss and certainly personal grief but Death is part of the natural cycle that supports transformation from one form into another.

But today we live in times of imbalanced Death.

The reports of imbalanced Death come at us in a firehose of information:

This distressing example shows just part of the larger pattern of Death seeming to outpace Life at this time.

Death is coming in an avalanche and its scale is hard to absorb. How do we even find the strength to take in the truth of all the Death around us? The passage and posture cards show us a way through.

Passage and Practice: Five of Cups/Water

The passage of this moonth through the Five of Cups/Water invites us to acknowledge—not ignore—the pain of personal and collective Death along with the reality of the grief it brings. 

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

The iconic Rider Waite Smith image shows a despairing figure facing three spilled cups. The weight of emotions are palpable in the dark cloak and bent necks. The figure experienced a personal loss or is bowing before the recognition of imbalanced Death’s avalanche. When this happens, grief’s sorrow has its own momentum that can not be denied. If not allowed to flow, pent up grief can damage body and soul.

Behind the figure, two full cups remain unseen. Many interpretations of this card set up a dichotomous choice: the figure must grieve or the figure find a way to turn to the full cups behind. But there is an integrative way to look at the image. Even as we honor the fullness of pain, we can cultivate an awareness of what supports us. We can remember who has our back: friends, family, the ancestors, the Divine, the Beloved Dead themselves.

Practice can support us through this time and to find the integrative way, including these (that could be done individually or combined):

~ Create time and space for being with your grief and out of the daily demands. This could be a designated time (from 15 minutes to a retreat of days or a week) where you are responsibility free and unplugged from devices where you let yourself be with your feelings. Knowing that there is an endpoint can be supportive of entering into the difficulty of the emotions. Remember that in times of acute or new grief, feelings will not always stay within their boundaries. So be gentle with yourself when there is an irruption of grief beyond your control.

~ When you are spending time with your grief, have supportive images behind you (a Tarot or oracle card you find supportive, photos of the ancestors and beloved dead, or images of some of the great grievers of history and myth like the Goddess Demeter or Gilgamesh from ancient Sumeria are some examples). Know that they have your back.

~ Fill a bowl with water to represent your grief feelings. You could cry into the bowl. You could imagine all the difficult emotions pouring out of you and into the bowl’s water. When you are done filling the bowl with your grief, take it outside and pour it on to the Earth. As you do, remember how the Earth is a great transformer and acceptor of all things. Trust the Earth will transform your grief into new life.

~ Commune with your ancestors through meditation, creating an altar, or learning about the  traditions they might have practiced.

Posture: King of Cups/Water

An encounter with Death and acceptance of the grief it brings changes us.  When we truly walk this path, we will be broken open and learn how to give of ourselves from this broken open place. When we do we can serve like Kings in the realm of Water, which holds emotions, intuition, and the unconscious.

From the Haindl Tarot

In the Haindl Tarot, the King of Cups/Water shows the Norse God Odin hanging from a tree  after sacrificing an eye to bring back the Runes, an alphabet for practical and spiritual messages. Writing about the Haindl’s Odin, Tarot teacher Rachel Pollack describes how his upside down position signifies a returning to and honoring of the Earth. She continues:

In returning to the Earth, he shows humanity finding its way back to harmony with the natural world. … The World Tree, in Scandinavian Yggdrasil, does not only hold the physical planet, called Middle Earth in Scandinavian cosmology. It holds the nine worlds, reaching from Asgard, home of the Gods, to Helheim, the world of the dead. The “ecology” of [the Odin image] recognizes that as spiritual beings we live in all these worlds, not just the middle, but also Above and Below. 

In this image we are offered hope and a direction for restoring the balance of Life and Death. We can shift our orientation back to harmony with—instead of domination of—the natural world. We can remember that we exist as just one aspect of the ecology of the whole visible and invisible world.

This honoring of the balance of Life and Death is not something foreign to humans. This honoring lives in the spirituality and practices of indigenous cultures today and exists within the heritage of all cultures. Old Europe’s Great Goddess, for example, inspired those who worshiped her in Neolithic times, on ancient Crete, or at the edges of Medieval Europe to live in harmony with the natural world.

Broken open by our grief and inspired by the existence of current traditions and ancient heritages of balance, our hunger for making a shift grows into a powerful force. And the good news is that it is within our power to make this change.

The results of imbalance Death outlined above are human created so they can be human resolved. We can come into a new relationship with nature and let our broken open hearts flow with compassion. We can come together to bring Death back into Balance with Life. It’s simple really.

Of course, simple is not always easy.

Confronted with the challenge of our task, we can remember Odin’s ecology of the visible world we walk in existing alongside the invisible world of the ancestors and the Divine Ones. We won’t be doing this work alone. When we invoke and honor the invisible sacred, the power of those you call on out of your belief and traditions can flow from their worlds into ours.

I’ve got no proof to offer you, but I say they are cheering us on, waiting to be enlisted, ready to send their love and power our way. And when I turn to my Beloved Dead and the Great Goddess, I feel them near and it brings me joy. And more joy in the world would certainly help to right the balance.

In this threshold time, I hope that you will feel the flow between the worlds, between the living and the dead, between grief and solace to gain a gift of wisdom from Life and Death all mixed together.

Reading of the Moonth

These questions are offered for reflection and to spark practice throughout the moonth. Pulling Tarot and oracle cards in connection to these questions is appropriate, but not absolutely necessary. You might carry a question with you on a walk for example and observe what is happening in the natural world as a way to find insight into the answer to the question.

BALANCE: What can I do that supports the balancing of Life and Death this moonth?

THE BEYOND: How can I open to and support a loving flow between the visible and invisible worlds (feel free to substitute a specific name here of ancestors, the Goddess, or a deity with whom you have a relationship, for example)?

FUTURE: What future will I be creating as I work with the invitations and themes of the moonth? 

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. I do these readings in the order that they come in during my reading days (generally Monday and Saturday).

If you are looking for more resources about the transforming power of grief and tending a loving flow between the living and the dead, visit the Soul Path Sanctuary Library

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