The Lightning Struck Tower and the Star of Hope

It has been a sad and worrying week. Some of my loved ones are going through a terrible time; it is hard to see those you care about in crisis.  It’s got me thinking about grace under pressure and how we deal with those times when our world crumbles.

Being a tarot nut, I so often turn to its wisdom, in good times and bad. This week has drawn my attention to two Major Arcana cards whose energies feel very present at the moment. The first is the Tower and the second the Star. At first glance, they look the complete antithesis of each other but I always think of them as a pair who work together to bring movement and healing.

The Tower’s imagery is pretty dramatic and alarming. Traditional images often portray a tower struck by lightning, the structure crumbling and its inhabitants falling to the ground. It doesn’t take years of studying tarot to know that this card speaks of those sudden, shocking happenings in our life that rock our foundations and bring us to our knees. When things happen that change everything; when we find ourselves standing amongst the rubble that had once been the dependable structure of our life, we meet the Tower in all it awesome power. It can feel like the most unwelcome visitor.

Despite its troubling reputation, the Tower can also bring liberation. Sometimes its energies are just what we need when some area of our life has become stagnant or when we are ignoring things that desperately need to change. I think quite often the Tower turns up when we have been resisting these much-needed changes; when we repeatedly ignore life’s subtle hints that all is not well, it is as if the pressure builds and something has to give. If we really need to engage with that place of transformation and we don’t go willingly, then often life will take us there regardless. If we look a little deeper and are honest with ourselves, what feels like a nasty surprise or a sudden shock can reveal that a push to transform had actually been simmering away beneath the surface for some time.

The Tower comes to bring life-altering momentum; it comes with powerful revelation; it comes to smash apart our illusions; it gives us the opportunity to dismantle the psychological walls we build around us that are no longer a shelter but a prison. It introduces us to new ways to see and experience the world, ourselves and others. It might feel horrendously tough to be flattened by its unstoppable force but it does present us with the opportunity to make sure our foundations are good and true, that we might rebuild on a stronger footing. Of course, the Tower is not always a full- on wreaking ball; it can come as a sudden revelation that blows you away; major paradigm shifts are Tower moments. Whatever form it takes, you can be sure the old structures will fall away and suddenly you are left looking at a new landscape once obscured.

After the Tower, the Star is a soothing balm. The Star is a card of healing renewal, of hope; it is the calm after the storm. Tower moments can be so painful that our trust in life is shaken; the Star is the return of that trust. The Tower can be utterly disorientating, what we thought we knew about ourselves and life can shatter – all signposts gone, all recognisable landmarks obliterated – but the Star reminds us that we all have an inner compass, a guiding presence that will bring us through the darkest times. There is a beautiful quote from Virginia Woolf’s book Orlando which I have long-loved and which for me speaks so beautifully of the way the Tower and Star interact to bring growth and healing to our lives:

 

Change was incessant, and change perhaps would never cease. High battlements of thought, habits that had seemed as durable as stone, went down like shadows at the touch of another mind and left a naked sky and fresh stars twinkling in it.

If you meet the Tower, hold on to this quote; know that something new is being born; trust the process; nurture yourself as best you can and as the rubble falls about you, keep looking for that naked sky full of stars.

Tarot images from the Druidcraft Tarot by Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm – artwork by Will Worthington

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Your Spiritual Team

I love working with different aspects of deity. I am fascinated by how others work with the Divine. I have been a soft polytheist for years now. In my own experience, I have found that there are Gods and Goddesses that seem to be with us for life; I have some that seem to be very long -term, their presence felt in my life even before I became a Pagan, only later realising who there were, once I had a framework to understand them better. Then there are those that come to us at certain points in our life, helping us to explore specific issues we might be facing and then when the work is done, quietly move on. There are also deities that we might choose to work with for a single ritual or when honouring the seasonal changes. Sometimes we might feel a certain energy lurking in our periphery for years and then suddenly, when the time is right, they reveal themselves fully.

We can certainly choose deities to approach but I have come to believe that the ones most important to our development choose us. They can make their presence known through synchronicities, signs and symbols that jump out at us and nip at our heels until we pay attention. The contact will feel alive and vibrant. I have done rituals with a specific deity, choosing them for the purpose of the ritual and quite often when I have done that, the sense of connection to that deity feels intellectual; it can feel like going through the motions but not really feeling it. When we make a true and meaningful connection, there is a strong sense that there is someone on the other end of the line; it has a charge to it.

Because I feel comfortable viewing deity as having many different aspects and expressions, I like to think of the ones that I work with as my spiritual team. They are rooting for me; have my best interests at heart, even if their lessons are challenging. Sometimes, when I feel alone with my troubles, I like to close my eyes and visualise them standing in a circle around me – it is comforting, strengthening and grounding.

In the last few weeks a newish member of my spiritual team has come to light. At various points in the past, I have worked with the Goddess Bast but in a much more intellectual sense of wishing to explore her qualities and express them. Just over a year ago, I began working more in earnest when I began working with the moon cycles again (see Reaching for the Balance) but when that practice drifted, I hadn’t really thought of her for months.  Lately, there has been a sudden shift in gear and without prompting from me, she has stepped into the foreground.

A few weeks ago I came down with a horrible tummy bug; I felt awful and exhausted for days after and not at all right for most of the month. A couple of days in, I had fallen asleep on the sofa in the afternoon and I had a vivid dream, so vivid I actually thought that I had woken up. I dreamed I was on the sofa and my beautiful little  black cat – who died 12 years ago – was curled into my body. It was the most comforting feeling. I suddenly heard a voice say, ‘you haven’t been feeding the cat’ and I felt a sudden panic that I had to go and get food, berating myself that I had forgotten, and wondering why and how I had failed to remember. The urgency woke me and the first thought that came into my head as I came to consciousness was Bast!

From that point I felt the strongest urge to set up an altar for her and spend some time there exploring and meditating on her qualities, opening to her energies, reaching out. It has been an interesting experience that has revealed aspects that I hadn’t necessarily associated with her before, particularly with regard to her more motherly, protective sides. I think she is very much a goddess of joyful, sensual expression, a goddess of music, dance and pleasure (I certain haven’t been ‘feeding’ those in my life nearly enough!) but she was originally depicted with a lion’s head – very much like Sekhmet, and in her role as Eye of Ra, she goes into the darkness of the underworld with her father Ra and fiercely protects him on that dangerous journey. And so for all her ‘lightness’, she sees in the dark and can help us confront our fears too, all those things that can drain our joy if we don’t bring them to light and deal with them.

My partner Steve found the most beautiful statue of Bast for me. He actually found me two, one the classic cat shape which now sits on my hearth and home shrine (Bast is a protectress of the home after all!) and one which is a copy of a Bast head housed in the British Museum. It’s such a gorgeous face – I love it! But moreover, on her ears and forehead is carved a vulture, its wings spread, it claws holding two symbols that look like rings. I knew that the vulture headdress was worn by Goddesses such as Isis and Mut but had never associated it with Bast. In Ancient Egypt, the Vulture Goddess was Nekhbet. Vultures were believed to be all female and self-generating; they were also seen to be devoted and protective mothers to their young. And so, Nekhbet birthed herself and all life and took these back inside her (vultures are brilliant at devouring carrion!), linking her to the birth/death / rebirth energies of nature – she was called the ‘mother of mothers’. In time her qualities were syncretised with Mut and Isis and other goddesses and to find her connected to Bast deepens my understanding of Bast’s nature; she may well rule pleasure but she is not just a fluffy sex kitten; she has depth and complexity as all aspects of deity do.

Hearth and Hone Altar with Bast and wall hanging by Wendy Andrew

I discovered that the vulture’s claws are gripping the Shen symbol, a ring that represents encircling divine protection. This combination of fierce, motherly protectress, joy bringer, fertile creator and healer, has been so what I have needed. Her call for me to ‘feed’ her is also a call to feed myself; to give myself the love, joy and healthy boundaries that I need to heal from the challenges that have faced me these last few years. Whether she will stay with me forever, or slip away when her work is done, doesn’t really matter; I am grateful for her presence.

Incidentally, I have now taken the plunge on Instagram, so if you feel you would like to, you can find me there @luckyloom369. xxx

Do take a look at Wendy Andrew’s beautiful wall hangings here.