Saturday, 31 March 2012

Some Steampunk Straight Talk

The Steampunk Tarot. Text by Barbara Moore,
artwork by Aly Fell. © 2012, Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale
Drive. Woodbury, MN 55125. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the
publisher.
I've long been a fan of three card spreads.  Short but sweet, with enough depth to get your teeth into, though without being overwhelming.  The two card spread, on the other hand, has often felt like it fell a bit short.  However, in the Maat Tarot app they had a couple of two card spreads that really caught my eye: appearance/reality, and self/other.

Wanting to get to know the Steampunk Tarot (Llewellyn, 2012) a bit better, I decided to give the appearance/reality spread a go.  My question: what do I need to know about my current, week-long chocolate binge?  While I think I know what the main issue is - too much stress and too little sleep recently - I decided that, as it's been on my mind, a little extra input wouldn't hurt.

Appearance: Four of Wands

On the face of it, my chocolate eating seems like it's a way of celebrating, or at least of giving myself a treat after a hard day (and night).  Deeper down, there's my belief that if I was truly in a Four of Wands state - happy, relaxed, feeling celebratory - then I wouldn't want to eat chocolate, I wouldn't need that kind of treat, as I'd be happy even without it.

The Steampunk Tarot. Text by Barbara Moore,
artwork by Aly Fell. © 2012, Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale
Drive. Woodbury, MN 55125. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the
publisher.
Reality: Three of Wands

What this tells me is that I need to bring some determination, clarity of vision and strength of will into play, if I want to put a stop to this behaviour.  Without those three pillars, I will have no ships to come in, no success to my venture.

In terms of determination, perhaps a reminder about why I don't want to eat chocolate, and what I gain from not doing so.  Clarity of vision comes from exploring in more depth what it is that is driving my eating - what emotions, what stressors, and what I can do about them.

As for strength of will, I need to find ways to help myself resist temptation, both at the level of not buying chocolate in the first place, and in not eating it if it is in the house.  Part of that is about making sure that I eat well, with plenty of protein, so that at a physiological level I don't have cravings.  The emotional ones are somewhat harder to deal with.  Those might require a different spread...

In the Cards

The Steampunk Tarot. Text by Barbara Moore,
artwork by Aly Fell. © 2012, Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale
Drive. Woodbury, MN 55125. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the
publisher.
For this first daily draw from the Steampunk Tarot (Llewellyn, 2012), Justice comes to call.

In a scarlet dress, with a silver and black corset, a red choker, and a clockwork crown, she stands between two pillars.  In front of her is a mechanical scales, with jewels on one side and a single feather on the other, perfectly balanced.  Instead of a sword in her hand, tarot cards fall from it - the Justice she metes out is not cutting, but still decisive.  Karma determines the cards we are given, the hand we have to play.

What is in the cards is often influenced by what has gone before, as any card sharp can tell you.  Or as Barbara puts it: "You play the hand that you were dealt.  The way you play it will determine your next hand."  And so, in Justice, we are often asked to weigh up the past in order to decide how best to move forward, and to consider the consequences of our actions.  Sometimes the weighing up is done by some force or institution outside ourselves - law courts, or life itself...

In fact, what I see in this card today is a hope that karma will be kind to me.  Yesterday, things did not go to plan!  Mercury retrograde meant that my on-line calendar didn't show my mother was coming over, so she turned up completely unexpectedly, and with me totally unprepared.  Not that it was bad, but it meant that Big Boy was off at a play group, and I was exercising when she arrived, and with nothing in the house for lunch.  I had also had plans to hoover the place - our cats are molting like mad in this warm, almost summery weather - and of course to spend some more time with this beautiful Steampunk Tarot.

On top of that, having called the community nurse for some test results for BB at 11:30 and being told he was fine, then she called back at 3:30pm to say, actually, sorry, he needs antibiotics which, if you want them before next week, you'll have to pick up between 4:30 and 5:30pm.  Oh, and it's 20 minutes either way to get where I had to go for them.  So, my whole day pretty much disappeared.

I'm hoping today will allow me a little more breathing space, and the opportunity to catch up on some blog reading.

I am grateful that karma can sometimes be a lady.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Steampunk Interview

Corset image taken from AniaM's lovely shop :)
After an arduous wait, at last the fabulous Steampunk Tarot by Barbara Moore and Aly Fell has arrived.  I have been watching the progression of this deck for a year, with the little tasters and snippets Barbara offered on the blog.  The publishers, Llewellyn, as well as the author and artist, have all done a beautiful job in producing this gorgeous deck.  It's a pleasure to look at, smooth to shuffle, and the book is both elegantly written and full of fascinating gems.

A deck this good deserves to be explored on its own terms.  So, I devised a spread specifically for this fun Steampunk Tarot.

The Steampunk Tarot. Text by Barbara Moore,
artwork by Aly Fell. © 2012, Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale
Drive. Woodbury, MN 55125. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the
publisher.
1) Parasol - what is the most useful thing you bring to the table? - Six of Wands

"What ho, madam!  Now let me see, I'd say that a great deal of confidence, a will to succeed, and an ability to marshal support to help in any endeavour are the main traits on offer.  My confidence is infectious, helping you to make the most of whatever you have at your disposal.  Also, my passion for things shines through, and will draw out the same in you. 

So, I can help you find what most matters to you, give you the confidence to make a go of it, and help you gather what you need to achieve it.  Is that enough, my dear?"



The Steampunk Tarot. Text by Barbara Moore,
artwork by Aly Fell. © 2012, Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale
Drive. Woodbury, MN 55125. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the
publisher.
2) Corset - what restrictions do you have? - Three of Cups

"Well, I will admit I can be a bit flighty and flirty.  I will play with your emotions, but it's always just for fun.  After all, what good is life if we don't live it with passion, and allow ourselves to experience it fully?

As with the two charming ladies I'm sat with here, I bring duality to all that I do.  That can feel a bit challenging at times, I have no doubt.  However, as my lovely author Barbara Moore put it so well: 'Just as tarot explores contrary energies, so does steampunk, combining as it does reality and fantasy, magic and machine, facts and imagination.'  So, I may not be a simple and easy read - I have plenty of depths.  Still, if you want to explore yourself and your world, the past, present and future, you don't want something simple and one-dimensional, now do you?"

The Steampunk Tarot. Text by Barbara Moore,
artwork by Aly Fell. © 2012, Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale
Drive. Woodbury, MN 55125. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the
publisher.
3) Clockwork - what can I learn from you about how life works and what drives me? - Four of Wands

"I will help show you how to celebrate life!  I'm not just into having fun, though.  I know that it takes work to make a party a success, and as I said above, I know how to get things moving and muster help.

Still, I bring a sense of the joy of life - never a bad thing to be reminded of!  I will remind you of innocent pleasures, and how to shine a light on everything you undertake.  A strong sense of the abundance of possibilities available means that I will always remind you to look for the positives, for what you can do, and how you can have fun while you do it."


Well, what a very friendly welcome, and a forthright but joyful approach.  I think we shall be good friends.

Eostre

Today, we meet another of the Courts from the  Maat Tarot (Julie Cuccia-Watts, 2006).

The Princess (Page) of Cups shows what Julie describes as a young bride on the way to her wedding.  She is emotionally committed, but not yet experienced.  What I see here, too, are multiple symbols of Eostre, or Ostara, the Goddess associated with Easter.  To the left of the Princess on her white horse, we see a hare, a nest of eggs, and the first spattering of blossom on a tree.  Even the palm branch that Julie states is traditional for brides makes me think of Palm Sunday, part of the Christian Easter festival.  To her other side, and further back, is an empty grave, marked with lamb's blood.  This is to indicate the need for new life, to bring fresh beginnings to what has been dead, just as spring follows winter.

As for me, today I will go with Julie's new bride metaphor.  Barbara Moore's Steampunk Tarot has finally arrived, and today I hope to dedicate myself to getting to know this new companion :)  However, I am not a jealous lover, and will share some Steampunk delights with you later, and all next week ;)

I don't want to end this week with the Maat just talking about another deck, though.  I have loved my time with this deck, and have been using the app every day for myself, too, which I think will continue.  So, don't think this is the last you'll see of this stunning deck!

I am grateful for the deep love I feel for tarot.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Into The Fire

The Maat Tarot (Julie Cuccia-Watts, 2006) offers a somewhat different perspective on the Eight of Cups.

For one thing, the main figure feels female to me, though we can see nothing but her hand.  She sweeps along, black cape flowing behind her, headed towards the light that shines through the trees.  On her shoulder, a raven rests, whispering wise counsel in her ear.  I find this card stunningly beautiful, from the bright flowers to the lush foliage, from the dark cloak and raven to the piercing, enticing sunlight.  Behind her, filigreed cups are stacked neatly yet with a gap to the woman's side, giving the sense of an emotional situation which is tidy, but has left her feeling incomplete.  Hence the figure's spiritual quest, moving away from the everyday. 

Something about this card makes me think of Sarah McLachlin's song "Into the Fire".  Although the element seems wrong (fire instead of water), the sentiment feels right to me - a quest for spiritual enlightenment, for a feeling of oneness.

After a morning of boring business meetings, this afternoon I see my therapist.  I wonder what emotions we will explore today?

I am grateful for moments of spiritual searching.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

ShadowFox and Light

Yesterday, I received the ShadowFox Tarot (Schiffer, 2010) which I had resisted for quite some while.  I find the images less visually challenging in person than I had feared from what I'd seen on-line.  There, they had seemed almost like visual illusions that make my eyes feel like they're twisting inside out :o

So, after my initial favourable impression, I decided to do a little reading with the deck, to try it out in practice.  As the images are all about shadows and light, that's what I designed a spread around :)

1) Where in my life am I manifesting light? - Moon

I am manifesting light in my work with intuition, and with my ability to sit with uncertainty.  I am accepting the cycles of life, and working with them rather than struggling against the tide.  I see this referring to Big Boy - I think I am managing his cycles (mainly of health and sickness) better.  I am trusting my intuition more, too, both in my family life, my tarot work and in my work as a counsellor.


2) Where in my life am I manifesting my shadow? - Queen of Pentacles

I am manifesting my shadow in the area of my work life: I have not been doing the work I know I need to do!  Look at that cute bunny by her side - so creative.  Not me, though.  In the four months since the taught part of my Masters finished, I have done little or nothing towards my dissertation, except feel bad about it. 

However, just this morning I started doing some research on the topic, and have got 6 books on the way.  I plan to research articles as a next step, and hopefully print some out, rather than having to go in to college to read them.  So, still taking a somewhat lazy approach to the whole thing, but at least I've got a little momentum going.

3) What can I do to improve this situation/balance? Three of Pentacles

Well, basically, I just need to get on with the work!  I see, too, the suggestion of getting help: building up a team of people I can talk with about it.  Already, there's one good friend from my course who I meet with quite regularly, and we've been helping and supporting one another.  It doesn't hurt that we were in the same Research Methodology tutorial group, so we already know one another's ideas and plans. 

Also, my mum is a really good resource - she used to be a degree-level teacher of sociology, so she knows a bit about how to research and write things up academically ;)  And she's been encouraging me to contact my godmother, who was a professional qualitative researcher for decades, as well as a University lecturer in the subject.

I think this spread worked well, and I found the images quite expressive and easy to read.  I can well imagine using this deck quite regularly, and wonder what other types of reading it might be especially suited to.  What do you think?

The Sleeping Goddess

Once again, the Maat Tarot (Julie Cuccia-Watts, 2006) offers us a quite unusual depiction, this time of the High Priestess.

Here we have the Maiden aspect of the Goddess: dormant, fertile earth as yet untilled.  She is asleep, not yet awakened to all the potentials of life, with choices still ahead of her that only she can make.  In her sleep, she is in touch with her dreams and intuition. 

The spiralling milky-way behind her also makes me think of Hathor, the mother aspect of the Goddess still ahead of her.  The censor at her side is a reminder of the role of the High Priestess as voice of the oracle, avatar of the Goddess.

In the book, Julie talks about a site in Malta where a huge temple-mausoleum was built and a sleeping Goddess statue was found.  She suggests that, in her dreams, the Priestess could commune with the ancestors. 

I like the idea of communing with my ancestors today, taking some time to honour them and learn from them.  My maternal grandmother, in particular, calls to me.  She was such a kind and wise woman, as well as a vain one.  She would have liked this beautiful and youthful image.

I am grateful for the wisdom of my ancestors.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Lord of Shadows

The Maat Tarot (Julie Cuccia-Watts, 2006) has quite a different perspective on many of the Majors.

In the case of the Emperor, instead of him being a rather distant figure on a throne, with symbols of authority in either hand, instead we meet a Green Man.  Around him grows an abundance of grape-bearing vines, and he leans against a tree which seems to already have lost it's leaves, or else be dead.  This symbolises the fact that this Green Man is in fact dying, transitioning into the Lord of Shadows as the days draw in after the Autumn Equinox.  Still, he has a great deal of strength, wisdom, and an enduring connection with nature - helping manage the last of the harvest, the storage for winter, and the allocation of resources needed to husband them through the dark times.  This is the aspect of rules and boundaries that may seem authoritarian, but is done for the best of everyone involved.

Rules and boundaries makes me think of my counselling clients.  I have one who was a no-show this week, and if that happens again, the service suggests they try again at a later time.  Another pushes quite a few of my buttons, so I have to be very firm and clear about what is my stuff and what isn't.  My third client I forgot to tell last week that we're going to have a break at Easter - my bad!  So, I need some of this Emperor energy to keep my on the straight and narrow today ;)

I am grateful for clear boundaries.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Maat Tarot Couple


Once again, I am using the exercise suggested by Alison Cross in her This Game of Thrones blog to explore Court Cards.  This week I decided to break away from the Wheel of the Year Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2011) and instead use the Maat Tarot (Julie Cuccia-Watts, 2006).  The two I drew are the Queen and King of Coins (Pentacles).

In the Queen of Coins I see a wo/man who is sensible and practical, resourceful and family-oriented.  S/he is willing to be open, and always has some new project in the pipeline, be it a scarf s/he's knitting, a recipe s/he's creating, or a business proposal s/he's putting forward.  Elementally, as water of earth, she is the part that nourishes new growth.

As for the King of Coins, in this deck he is represented by Osiris.  Here, Osiris has been tricked by his brother Set - jealous of Osiris' wealth and happiness - into getting into a jewel-encrusted sarcophagus.  Set then sends Osiris floating off down the Nile, until Isis is able to find and rescue him.  As such, this card speaks of someone who is "boxed in" by their own desire for wealth and status, trapped by their attachment to decadence.  As fire of earth, at least in this somewhat negative take on the archetype, he is earth that has been baked by the sun into a rigid lump.  While fire and earth can create beautiful porcelain and useful crockery, if the clay is unformed before the process takes place it becomes no good to anyone.

As a romantic couple, I notice that the Queen has turned her back on the King.  She is unimpressed by his lack of openness, his decadence.  While she is focused on growth and helping others, he may be wealthy, but is also selfish and emotionally unavailable.  I can imagine them as a woman who works hard to support her family, and makes the most of what she can find, make or do, while he may overindulge in food and alcohol, and always wants designer clothes or a new car, to the detriment of those around him. 

In a business context, once again the Queen is unimpressed.  The King might be a boss - s/he has that element of command and plenty of presence - but that doesn't mean that s/he works in the company's best interests, rather than his/her own.  S/he could also be an upstart who reckons him/herself, but is more concerned with status than with progress.  The Queen, on the other hand, whether a boss or a regular worker, thinks creatively and is a team player.  S/he is careful and meticulous, aware of the bottom line without allowing it to control her/him.

Despite being of the same element, these two don't seem like a good match in any context.  Perhaps this is partly due to this King of Coins being rather the Rx aspects of that archetype.  However, if I had pulled the King first, then the Queen would have been looking towards him, trying to support him, adding to his box of wealth.

I really enjoy this exercise, allowing both the archetypal energies and the actual images and the way they interact to influence my explorations!  If you give it a go, do let me know :)

Rage

What a very dark and forceful card for a sunny Monday morning!  Today we meet the Prince (Knight) of Swords from the Maat Tarot (Julie Cuccia-Watts, 2006).

Although he may be well-built, I can't say I'd like to meet him much!  This Prince is cutting in the extreme, quick to anger and rather vengeful.  If he feels he has been slighted, or his ideas challenged, he can easily explode.  And he has a cruelty to him that I find scary.  He has clearly been hurt himself, but rather than learning compassion from his pain, he has learnt only aggressiveness and rage. 

This is quite a negative take on the Knight of Swords, who I would traditionally see as someone who leaps in where angels fear to tread.  Bounding ahead with his ideas and judgements, he is commonly impatient, but not necessarily cruel or vengeful.  On the positive side, he is someone who is full of ideas, and not shy about sharing them.  He can also be a great protector due to his willingness to jump into even challenging situations at the drop of a hat.

Today, I have quite a few things I need to write.  So, I hope I can draw on the positive side of this Prince, with his flowing source of creative ideas.  I may have to take the time to edit them later, though, as that isn't really his forte :)

I am grateful for times of boldness and lightning-quick thoughts.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Daily Bread

I love the depth of this card from the Maat Tarot (Julie Cuccia-Watts, 2006).

In traditional versions of the Seven of Pentacles (Coins) we see someone waiting for plants to grow.  Here, this idea is taken several steps further.  In the background, people harvest golden fields of wheat.  Closer in we see a woman baking bread in an oven, and in the foreground sit both a loaf of fresh bread and a bunch of corn sheaves.  Overlaid, we see seven coins, which represent the seven sacred directions of Native American (and pagan) tradition - North, East, South, West, Above, Below, and Within.

What I see here is the process of converting hard work into something not merely financially rewarding, but more deeply nourishing.  Part of that is a recognition of the different parts that make up the whole of any system.  Another part is about the time and patience that this may require.  Finally, Julie also says that it's about the sacredness of everything, work included.


Today, it is my role as part of a family that I see here.  My MIL is coming to visit, and so I have been preparing food and organising picnic plans.  I will try to remember to enjoy it, and see the sacred even in doing the dishes ;)

I am grateful for the nourishment offered by family.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Faces

This week I will be pulling my daily cards from Julie Cuccia-Watts' stunning Maat Tarot (self-published, 2006).

For this first draw, the Seven of Swords shows its faces.  This fits well with traditional interpretations of trickery and deceit - the question of which face we choose to show to others - but has other layers, too.   For one thing, Julie talks about the ultimate thief being time - which steals away our youth and our sense of self.  Another thing she mentions is the idea that the facades we show to others are not just empty masks, but about actually being different - others can bring out the best or worst in us.

This card makes me think about the very different faces I show to different people in my life.  My Facebook page, for example, is reserved for friends, family, and tarot people - who often also fit the friends category :)  Then there's my day job in the business world, where I wouldn't dare mention tarot.  One colleague once said she didn't believe in yoga - wtf?  You don't have to "believe" in yoga, you just practice or you don't, and if you choose to follow a spiritual path at the same time that is in many ways by-the-by.  Anyhow, you can imagine what these people would think if I told them I read tarot!!  Then there're my counselling clients, to whom I show an empathetic, professional face, without sharing my own pain...

Now I have "From Russia With Love" running through my head.  Ah, the things we do when we are uncertain of ourselves, and the need we sometimes have for others to validate us.


I am grateful for the people with whom I can just be me.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Weekly Vlog Reading for 24th March

Staying with the gorgeous Maat Tarot (Julie Cuccia-Watts, 2006), this week's vlog reading draws three cards to look at a situation we may need to be aware of, and suggest what to avoid and what to do in this case.  It was interesting to have two Majors as the actions surrounding the situation, suggesting that there is a life lesson to be had in this seemingly everyday situation.

Fradella Choices

For this last day with the Fradella Adventure Tarot (U.S. Games, 2002), I have drawn the Two of Swords.

A woman kneels, two wavy daggers held in either hand, her arms crossed and her feet likewise.  She has raven-black hair, suggesting Asian origins, and the room she is in makes me think of Japan - simple, minimalist, possibly paper walls, the only visible furnishing a cushion on the floor.  Outside, a pool is encircled by trees, and a quarter moon shows in the sky, waning.

My sense here is of tying yourself up in knots through your own thoughts and doubts.  That being said, it feels like there's a great potential for decisive action, once that uncertainty is overcome.  The pool suggests that it is through connecting with our emotions that we can move beyond our confused thoughts.  Perhaps, too, it is simply a question that the time is not yet right - once the dark of the moon arrives, new movement will become possible...

For me, this card is about my Masters thesis.  I have been humming and ha-ing about what to do and how to do it.  I now have quite a clear plan, and yet I have no passion for it.  I'm not sure what it is that is tying my thoughts and my energy up.  I guess I need to meditate on it, allow my heart to speak in the silence.

I am grateful for choices, and the wisdom to know when the time is not right to decide.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Maat Tarot App Review

Julie Cuccia-Watts has been a long-time favourite tarot creator of mine.  Her first deck, the Ancestral Path Tarot (U.S. Games, 1996, sadly OOP), was the second deck I bought myself, after the Radiant Rider Waite (U.S. Games, 2003) which I got when I did an introduction to tarot course.  And her Maat Tarot (self-published, 2006) is another amazing, innovative and totally beautiful piece of work (or 78 of them, to be precise).  I am also eagerly awaiting the publication of her Journey Into Egypt Tarot, due out in 2013.  So, imagine my joy when I discovered that Julie had released an iPhone app of the Maat Tarot!

Not only is this a very affordable way to get access to the Maat Tarot, the quality of the images is exceptionally good!  The app also includes detailed information on every card, including a description of the image, an interpretation, and an explanation of the timing, season/day, and moon phase based on Julie's application of the lunar calendar to the tarot.  While it doesn't have as much information as the book that accompanies the card deck, it is still very informative.

A nice touch is the fact that you can choose whether or not to work with reversals, negative cards (not sure what exactly that means - Death, the Tower, and the Ten of Swords?), and whether to use all the cards, or a selection from the Majors, Courts and Pips.

I also really like the spreads that you can choose from: a single card draw, 3 two card readings (self/other, appearance/reality, if yes/if no), 2 three card readings (past-present-future, situation-action-new situation), a five card reading (past-self-present-suggested action-possible outcome), and the celtic cross.  While this app doesn't offer the flexibility found in Ciro Marchetti's apps, where you can design your own spreads, this is still a pretty comprehensive selection.

Another thing which this app lacks compared to Ciro's apps is the ability to email a reading to yourself or someone else.  However, it's understandable that the app creators don't want to give unlimited access to these high res images, given piracy concerns.  Less understandable, though, is the fact that, while you can save readings, you can't give them a title or add any notes - a serious failing to my mind.  Another minor quibble is that the menus are a little clunky - for example, you often have to press the menu icon to be able to go backwards a page, and then have to press it again to go back again, making the process a little laborious.

There isn't yet a version specific to the iPad available, however the iPhone version works perfectly well on the iPad.  In fact, the image resolution is such that they still show up beautifully at twice the size, though the menu text looks a little pixelated.

Overall, I give this app four out of five stars.  The images are fabulous, the text is informative and easy to access, the spreads are very useful, and I just adore being able to carry this deck around with me wherever my phone goes.  A very reasonable price for a wonderful app,  I highly recommend it.

Blind Justice

The Fradella Adventure Tarot (U.S. Games, 2002) is a very masculine deck in many ways, based as it is on comic book heroes.

That can be seen in today's card, Justice, which in many decks shows a female figure.  Here, though, it is a male who stands, with scroll in one hand, and scales in the other.  The backdrop is a courtroom, with American flags flying, a motif echoed in our hero's clothes.  He wears a blindfold over his eyes, and seems to weigh up his options: the letter of the law, or what feels truly just and balanced.  This certainly says something about how, in comic-book-land, it is often a lone, male hero who takes justice into his own hands!

This card fits nicely with traditional interpretations: a situation involving legal matters; questions of justice; weighing up what has gone before.  I like the symbolism of the bound eyes - not letting yourself be swayed by appearances - and also of acknowledging that the letter of the law does not always match the spirit of it.

Today, I shall try to be fair in all my dealings.  It can be easy to get stuck in my own point of view, but this card reminds me to try to see beyond that, to act honourably, and respect the needs of others. I shall try to listen to both sides of any situation, even if I have to give voice to both of them.

I am grateful for the tarot, which can act as a moral compass, shedding light on both sides of any situation.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Maat Video Review

Starting on Saturday, I will be drawing my daily card from Julie Cuccia-Watts' amazing Maat Tarot (self-published, 2006).  Between now and then, though, there are a few tasters to be had!  Starting with a video review of the deck today, tomorrow I review the Maat Tarot app, and on Friday there'll be a video reading :)

Queen of Blades

Today we meet one of the Court Cards from the Fradella Adventure Tarot (U.S. Games, 2002).

This Queen of Blades (Swords) is beautiful, but also wise.  She holds one arm out to a snowy white owl who brings messages to help guide her choices, while in the other hand she holds a blade-tipped spear, symbol of her authority and ability to make decisions.  She wears a (rather revealing) purple dress, colour of spiritual wisdom.  Sitting in a colonnaded structure, she makes me think of an amazon queen, as portrayed in films from the sixties and seventies. 

Altogether, I see decisiveness tempered with wisdom and kindness, an ability to listen, and a willingness to help those around her.  This is a far more pleasant face to the Queen of Swords than we often see, highlighting her good qualities, rather than focusing on the sharpness of her tongue or her embitteredness.

Big Boy is ill again, so I hope the Queen of Blades' energy will help me decide what to do: go to the doctor or not; try some alternative remedies; simply weather the storm?

I am grateful for messages from spirit, which buoy my soul even if they don't answer all my concerns.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

What Super Power?

Yesterday, for the Ostara Tarot Blog Hop, Arwen of Tarot by Arwen wrote about having the super power to trail flowers wherever you go :)  Bizarre super powers definitely come to mind with today's card from the Fradella Adventure Tarot (U.S. Games, 2002)!

This mini, green superhero flies up, lifting two dragon-fly decorated golden orbs.  Are these super-high-tech flower pollinators?  Or insect repellant?  Or at a more complex level do they symbolise the balance required for an ecosystem to work; the many variables from sun to rain, to plant and animal life, with nutrients and the vagaries of butterfly's wings thrown into the mix?

Today, I need to balance work and play.  I haven't yet had the chance to read all the Tarot Blog Hop posts, and I want to.  Still, clients call, as does a deadline for some work I need to do before Easter...

I am grateful for the ability to claim some time for myself.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Paint a Journey with New Life

©Maria Caratti & Antonella Platano
Well here we are at the second, Ostara, Tarot Blog Hop.  Welcome to those who have jumped in from Priestess Tarot's blog.  And if you found your way here by some other means, I hope you'll consider hopping around to see what other joys are on offer today. 

Ostara marks a time of new beginnings, the true start of Spring.  Donnaleigh Delarose (who did a great job organising this round of the Blog Hop) chose the title, which I take to be about how to bring new colour to this journey we call life.  So, being very literal-minded, I decided to break it down into its constituent parts, and draw three cards from the Wheel of the Year Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2011).  I'll call this the Colouring the Canvas Spread.  Yep, I've remembered to name it this time, Arwen ;)


©Maria Caratti & Antonella Platano
1) The canvas - what area of my life needs some colour: Six of Pentacles

The area of my life that I need to focus on is the balance between what I give and what I receive.  Do I give too much or too little? Do I allow myself to receive all I deserve?

I can admit, this is an area I find challenging. How do I know what the right balance is?  For example, I sometimes feel quite exhausted taking care of my son.  But does that mean that I'm giving too much? Or just that I'm not receiving enough, perhaps from other sources?

This card is often associated with charity, but there too questions arise.  I volunteer at a bereavement centre, donating my time, paying for my travel, I even print out at home the forms I have to fill in for admin.  Yet I get something from it, too, as I need to work as a counsellor in a voluntary capacity if I ever want to become a registered psychotherapist.  The lack of pure altruism has been argued by many philosophers.  Even in cases less obvious than mine the volunteer gains something, be it human contact, a sense of self-worth, or simply a feeling of joy at being of assistance.  In many ways, I would suggest that there can be no pure altruism because we are all inextricably interrelated.  And that's not a bad thing. 

So, perhaps what this card points to is a need for me to bring new colour to my place in the web of interconnections that is life. 

©Maria Caratti & Antonella Platano
2) The paints - what changes can I make: Ten of Pentacles

What new colour do I need to brighten my interconnectedness?  The Ten of Pentacles to me represents happiness, a sense of being part of something greater than myself, and a valuing of what I have inherited from those who have gone before. 

One thing that jumps out at me here is the idea that I need to bring a greater sense of peace and security to my role as part of a family.  For all of 2010 and 2011 I was very focused on my Masters course.  Now, though, I have the opportunity to look more to my family, to enjoy being a part of it.  The aspect of inheritance makes me think of my parents, who have had some health issues over the last year.  I should make the most of my time with them, too.  Perhaps, also, there is a suggestion to focus on the practical in terms of all my relationships, and to value them.

©Maria Caratti & Antonella Platano
3) The brushes - what tools do I need to do this: Queen of Swords

What skills, then, will help me in this endeavour?  I am a little surprised to see the Queen of Swords here.  Somehow I would have expected a Cups card.  Still, the Queen of Swords as Water of Air can be seen as someone who turns her mind towards other people and their emotions.  As such, at her best she is empathetic without being overly emotional, rational without being hard.

In some ways, this is a very nice card to get, since I associate myself with the Queen of Swords anyway.  So, this says that to achieve what's wanted I have to bring to the fore skills that I am already comfortable with.  I need to assess my current role in my various relationships, and think about how I can be emotionally more in balance with those around me.  Taking the time to value the people in my life, and also value what I offer them as well as what I receive.

Hmm, I shall have to ponder this awhile, I think...

The next stop on this Tarot Blog Hop journey is with Lina at In Thirteen Moons.

Rescue

The Fradella Adventure Tarot (U.S. Games, 2002) takes us on a journey today.

In this version of the Six of Swords, a masked hero guides a boat out of a dark, defended building, and into the light.  There is definitely a sense of moving out of danger towards a better place, as the boat is steered towards a walled building, with green trees growing all around and open to the sky.  A place of security and comfort after a time of difficulty.

I guess this sense of rescue feels quite apt - after a weekend with a sick boy, now my Dear One is home to share the responsibility.  Even though I had help with Big Boy, it's nice to know that his dad is here again, and I hope I'll sleep better for it.


I am grateful for easier times.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Lady Liberty

Today's card from the Fradella Adventure Tarot (U.S. Games, 2002) is the powerful Ace of Staves (Wands).

I love this Lady Liberty, with her flaming torch!  This speaks so well to the aspect of this Ace which is about the passion to fight for what we believe in, to follow our bliss, to dare new places and experiences.

I could certainly do with some of that energy today.  I'm trying to get a bunch of stuff done before Easter, which is fun, but all takes time.  I also have a new project on the horizon, a new passion to be explored...


I am grateful for the excitement and energy of new beginnings.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Young Hermit

This week I will be drawing from the Fradella Adventure Tarot (U.S. Games, 2002).  Although it's been out for nearly a decade now, it's still widely available, and a really fun, quite masculine deck.

For this first draw, the Hermit comes to visit.  What I notice about him above all is that he is young, quite different from the traditional "wise old man" archetype.  He makes me think of a Kung Fu hero, a Shaolin monk in the Tibetan mountains.  He walks far and wide, alone, but not holed up in a cave far from civilization.  Instead, he is part of the natural world and does not shun others, being apart from them but not distant.

Today, with my Dear One away, I too shall walk alone.  I hope to have some time to work on a few projects - Big Boy has a play group to go to :)  As for the learning aspect of the Hermit, I see this being about looking inward - a few readings perhaps...


I am grateful for time to myself.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Weekly Vlog Reading for 17th March

This week I was hoping to post with the Deck of Heroes Tarot (Schiffer, 2012) by Richard Shadowfox.  Unfortunately, I think they need to get someone to proof cards at the printers better, as the contrast is abysmal and I'm asking for a refund on mine!

So, instead I will be drawing from the Fradella Adventure Tarot (U.S. Games, 2002) which is similarly masculine, and a lot of fun.  Once again, I have done a three-card video reading to look at the energy around this week, and as of tomorrow I'll use it for my daily card :)

Spiritual Awakening

Once again, a beautiful card to end our week with the Temple of Balance Oracle Cards by the talented Lee-Anne Peters.

This is one of my favourite cards in the deck, both because of the image and colours, and because of the message.  There is such a feeling of balance, growth and beauty for me in this card.  Illumination, creativity, and a connection with the divine, all encompassed in a simple yet lovely picture that speaks of the divine source, the nature of duality, and the ultimate oneness of spirit.

I'm not sure if this is an energy I will be able to access today, nice though that sounds.  Big Boy is ill and my Dear One is away for the weekend, so my focus is likely to be rather more on mundane matters, with little time for meditation or spiritual epiphanies.  Still, you never know...

I am grateful for the joy of oneness with life.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Hawk - Messenger

Today we meet Hawk from the Temple of Balance Oracle Cards (©Lee-Anne Peters).

For me, this card's caption fits perfectly with my associations to the bird depicted.  Eagle-eyed, with a perspective that allows an oversight of any situation, and bringing messages from spirit, Hawk flies high, then dives down to share experience and whispers from around the world and from the spirit realm.

The message for today, then, is to pay attention to everything around us, and to be open to spirit speaking to us.  This makes me think of the wonderful spiritual mountain walks which Emma Sunnerton-Burl organises.  If anyone is lucky enough to be in Wales...  However, even if we can't be led by someone to explore nature, perhaps we can take the time to listen to spirit in our own way, whatever that may be.

Today, I am going to a spa with a dear friend.  Although it is a man-made environment, spirit's messages can come in many ways - what is most important is a willingness to stop and listen, to pay attention.  Having a day of pampering and good conversation, I shall try to hear what I need to know right now.

I am grateful for a day that starts with such good omens.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Bear - Direction

Today another animal guide comes to speak from the Temple of Balance Oracle Cards (©Lee-Anne Peters).  This time it is Bear.

I find the message associated with this card a little unusual.  Perhaps because I don't really associate Bears with much in the way of planning and accomplishment.  They hibernate in caves, rather than digging buroughs as rabbits do.  They live off the land, rather than farming as some ants do.  They don't work as a team, which some monkeys do, nor do they create beautiful, decorative mating places as some birds do.  Although they must eat enough to have reserves to hibernate over winter, they don't transform in the way that caterpillars do, moving to a different stage of their life.

What I see in the bear is a great deal of strength, and a shamanic connection to healing.  They have a lot of discrimination - choosing only the best if they have enough, but making the most of whatever they can get.  Bears are also very similar to humans in terms of size, sometimes walking upright, and in their expressions.  They are native to large areas of the world, and have been important in the mythology of all of Europe, and the Americas.  We have many common phrases that include bears - "like a bear with a sore head" "bear hug" "bear market" - and there are both male and female names in all European languages that reference bears - Ursula being just one example.  Bears are also smart - they will lay down false trails and double back on hunters tracking them.

For me, then, this card represents being strong and smart, as well as protective of your family, and possibly a healer.  It might indicate the need for a time out, as in hibernation, being similar in that way to the Four of Swords or the Hanged Man in tarot.  I wonder what bears dream about while they hibernate...

Today I shall call on the bear's ability to sleep - I've been up since 4.15am and won't have a chance to sleep til Big Boy leaves for school.  After that, though, my bedroom will become my cave :)


I am grateful for a time out to sleep, perchance to dream.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Wolf - Nurturer

After three "people" cards from the Temple of Balance Oracle Cards (©Lee-Anne Peters), today we receive wisdom from an animal spirit - Wolf.

The caption speaks of nurturance and protection, and of wolf sitting by our side.  For me, the wolf as a pack animal also represents support and having a place in the world, the companionship of shared interests.

This card came up in the weekly video reading I did last Friday.  One aspect that reading raised was the question of why we might need nurturing?  For example, those who nurture others often seem to forget that they also need nurturing, and need to nurture themselves.  When we care for others, we can sideline ourselves.  Whatever the situation, though, the message is clearly one of getting support in whatever way we can and need.

Still, for me this card speaks today to my pack instinct: who is a part of that, and why?  Some friends are coming to visit this afternoon, with their three kids.  I have known him for over half our lives, and he introduced me to my Dear One.  Now, I am goddess-mother to his eldest daughter.  Well, he probably wouldn't put it quite like that ;)  The bond runs deep, and despite sometimes having issues, he is someone I trust, a part of my chosen pack.

I am grateful for my various chosen tribes.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Court Couples 2

The second pair of Courts I have drawn from the Wheel of the Year Tarot, includes again the King of Swords!  And once again he is partnered with a member of the Pentacle Court, this time the Princess (Page).

They are positioned back to back.  From the image it feels as though the Princess of Pentacles is oblivious to the King of Swords, while he looks as though he is well aware of her, but consciously ignoring her.

I imagine the King being rather dismissive of this Page, so caught up in her book-keeping.  Although she is doing a task that is all about information, he looks down on the fact that it is the practical job at hand that most occupies her, with its focus on the material, rather than the wider picture of which it is just a small part.  This King represents someone who thinks he has all the answers, and as such has little time for someone who is just starting on the path to make a place for herself in the world.

As for the Princess, she is dedicated to what she is doing, learning and trying to improve, staying focused on what needs to be done right now.  She is full of life, generally serious, though with a subtle a playful streak.  She can enjoy the counting, making a game of it - how quickly can I add the columns?  Can I use the coins to build a tower at the same time?  Do all the coins weigh exactly the same?  Her play is always practical and adds to her learning, perhaps on different topics to her original purpose, but still related to the physical or material - engineering, dexterity, and so on.

I can well imagine the King of Swords as the Princess' boss, glad to have someone to do the boring, day-to-day accounting work while s/he leads the company with his/her incisive ideas and ability to make important decisions.  On the other hand, I can also imagine, in some unusual circumstances, the Princess being the boss, or at least a high-up (like Chief Technical Officer or Head of Research and Development) - someone like Steve Jobs, for example, who wanted things to be practical and beautiful, who always saw the fun in his work.  A boss like this Princess can do with a good strategist as CFO, and for that the King of Swords is perfect, though he might never quite comprehend his child-like CEO.

As for romantic relationships, although looking somewhat censurious or grumpy here, the King of Swords might be able to appreciate the Princess of Pentacles' gentle playfulness and enjoyment of the physical, though with a slight air of superiority.  The Princess, in turn, might wish for a lover who was a bit more passionate and physical, a bit more practical or even romantic.  I can imagine the King giving the gift of a Kindle or phone, and the Princess appreciating the practical aspects of these.  The Princess is more likely to think of gifting an experience day or food, which the King might appreciate a little less, I fear.

I'm finding this a very interesting exercise, exploring the Courts from this perspective.  I'd love to hear what you make of this couple?

Aryon - Star Being

Another spiritual teacher from the Temple of Balance Oracle Cards (©Lee-Anne Peters) comes to share his wisdom: today it is the turn of Aryon.

The caption suggests we may receive messages from our dreams or while meditating.  What I notice, though, is the blossoming of galaxies around him.  It makes me think of this amazing simulation of the cosmos created by the Max Planck Institute.  A version can be seen on Youtube here (the other requires downloading) or a Discovery Channel clip explaining and then showing it.  That is certainly something worth meditating on!

The vastness of space is so much more vast than we had realised, far more than I can comprehend.  And so incredibly beautiful!  For some reason it makes me think of a silly quote from a yoga teacher whose DVD's I have enjoyed: "Angels fly because they take themselves lightly." (Baron Baptiste)

Today I shall try to take myself lightly.  I shall enjoy the web of connections that surround me, which I can experience and comprehend at a human level through the people I connect with.  And I shall try to release my worrying and stay with the enormity of the cosmos. 


I am grateful for supercomputers.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Leiah - Healing Priestess

The Temple of Balance Oracle Cards offer us wisdom from spirit teachers in both human, animal and plant form.  Today's card is one of the former, Leiah - Healing Priestess.

The card caption speaks of cycles of change, magic and healing.  I really like the purple bird beside her, as well as the matching colour in her hair and dress.  I notice, too, the conchshell on a necklace right over her throat chakra, which seems to glow, and the shining crescent moon at her third eye.

What all this suggests to me is that healing comes through speaking our emotions, and that to do so we first have to be able to open to the magic of our intuition: to understand what is going on around us and how we are reacting to it.  Wisdom comes from listening to the messages of spirit, and with it comes healing at a soul level.

I'm not too sure about the cycle of change, but I could certainly do with some healing, at a banal level.  I've had a cough for a couple of weeks, and while it's not dreadful, it's also not going away.  I wonder, too, if I can open myself to the messages of spirit today.  In keeping with this week's video reading, I shall focus outward, not just in terms of spending time with others (my MIL is coming this morning), but also in terms of keeping my eyes and ears open for what nature can tell me.

I am grateful for healing in all its guises.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Amethyst Deva

This week I will be drawing from the Temple of Balance Oracle Cards, by Lee-Anne Peters.  If you like the look of them, you can see all the images in this video review.

A clear quartz crystal grows from the figure's ajna chakra (third eye), while more grow from her head, and all around her.  Surrounding her head is an amethyst-coloured aura.  The caption says we can't rush this situation.  Amethyst is a crystal that aids creative thinking and spiritual awareness, as well as acting as a protection from psychic attack.

Bringing all these elements together, I see in this card a suggestion of putting creative thought into a situation, while recognising that the creative spark is just the start of any project.  It also requires structure, like a crystal, to manifest.  So, while this may be a good time for seeing beyond the everyday of a situation, the final result of our ideas may take a while.

That certainly feels relevant to me today.  I am working on several projects including my Masters dissertation.  It is starting to take shape if only in question form for the moment.  Still, having a question, and having decided how to go about asking it, is actually quite a good start.  Now I need to write my protocol, and really get the ball moving...


I am grateful for a clear idea, and the structure to bring it into reality.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Weekly Vlog Reading for 10th March

This week's reading is with the Temple of Balance Oracle Cards by Lee-Anne Peters.  What came up certainly feels relevant for me, and in fact fits with my plans for the week - term ends on Monday, essay will be handed in (I completed it early this time - yay me!)  All that's left is to work with clients - nurturing others - and to have some pamper-time for me.  My plans?  A day at a spa with a close girlfriend (we booked this over a month ago!), meeting up with some friends who've been abroad for three months, and an evening out with my Dear One (The Descendants or The Artist - which would you recommend? - followed by dinner at an excellent Indian restaurant).  So, what are your plans for the week?

Hope and Haircuts

What a lovely way to end the week!  Today's card from the Tarot of the Mystic Spiral (Lo Scarabeo, 2012) is the Stars.

In this version, two waterfalls pour over a mountainside, one clearly falling into the pool where a blonde woman stands, naked and sylph-like.  The other seems to flow into the earth itself.  Around the woman fly two butterflies, or maybe fairies.  I also like the arrangement of the stars - seven smaller stars off to the right - perhaps representing the Pleiades or Seven Sisters - and a single, large star to the left - Venus, maybe, representing beauty and femininity?  Including the mountain peaks (representing higher truths and enlightenment) the fossil shell in the rock (representing the passage of aeons) and the flowers in the foreground (passing beauty) there is plenty of symbolism here.

The woman's nudity is an important element of the card, for me.  It represents our willingness to be open and vulnerable.  Probably the most traditional interpretation of this card is Hope, and I think that hope requires a willingness to risk.  If we are closed and armoured we are safer, but do not allow joy and possibility in.

Today, I get my hair cut for  the first time in about a year (one of the joys of long hair, it just gets longer).  So, my own nod to the beauty of Venus, as well as to vulnerability, as who hasn't had a bad haircut?!  Still, I remain hopeful - this hairdresser has done my hair twice before, and I liked it both times :)


I am grateful for hopes, both big and small.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Treadmill

Another highly unusual Minor from the Tarot of the Mystic Spiral (Lo Scarabeo, 2012) confronts us today.

In this version of the Five of Pentacles I see an infinity sign around which five ants trek, coins held in their mouths.  The whole thing hangs over what looks like it is either a black and yellow yin-yang sign, or possibly a yellow ladybird.  Behind, a starry night sky twinkles gently.

The traditional meaning of going through a time of material hardship does seem traceable here.  The ants struggle up and down a track without end, all for the sake of some coins.  Yet there is also spiritual redemption there for the taking, if they would release their eternal toil and turn either to the starry sky or to the balance of life offered by the yin-yang.

This card makes me question whether today my daily pursuits will feel worthwhile, or if they will seem like make-work, an unnecessary burden.  Should I turn my gaze to something more spiritual?  Or perhaps it is the friend we are meeting for lunch: will he tell us tales of woe working for a multinational bank?

I am grateful that my work generally feels emotionally satisfying.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Temple of Balance Oracle Review

This week my video review is of a self-published Oracle deck from Australia.  Created by Lee-Anne Peters, the Temple of Balance Oracle Cards is a deck of 44 cards with images from nature and of spiritual teachers.  Why not come and check out the review here?

If you are a fan of animal oracles, or of angel decks, these cards may well appeal.  The images are interesting, and I like that they are from a single artist.  The messages are up-lifting, and the beings represented are somewhat different from many other decks, adding a nice variety to what is available in this market.

Spider's Web

The premise behind the Mystic Spiral Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2012) is that through the ages the search for knowledge and wisdom can be represented by the spiral.  Found in nature - from galaxies to DNA - in mathematics and sacred geometry, it represents eternal truths.

In today's card, we see someone caught up in watching a spider hanging from a thread, in a web between two branches of an olive tree.  I wondered if this could have anything to do with competition - two scientists from ancient times trying to solve a particular riddle and the winner finding their inspiration in a spider's perseverance and amazing web.  There are plenty of tales of that sort, and spider's webs are astonishing in their design and structure. 

To my surprise, this card does have links to competition, but of a very different sort.  This is Athena watching Arachne, who she had turned into a spider.  Arachne was extremely proud of her weaving skills, to such a degree that she challenged Athena to a tapestry-weaving competition.  Athena became enraged and tried to instill guilt in her competitor.  Arachne ended up shamed and depressed, and committed suicide.  Athena had not wanted this outcome, and brought Arachne back to life as a spider so that she and her descendants could impress people through the ages with their skills.

This card, then, can speak to the question of playing fair, as well as to competition, and the unforeseen consequences of our actions.  I remain, too, with the idea of the incredible skill and perseverance of the spider, something we should heed if we want to succeed in a competition, if only with ourselves.  And finally there is the wonder of nature in creating such intricate and beautiful objects.

Today, then, I am reminded to do my very best in anything I undertake, and to stay humble.  Any skills I have are something I should give thanks for, rather than taking pride in, and should be worked at.  I will try to make my creations beautiful as well as useful.

I am grateful for the reminder to work hard to make the world a more beautiful place.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Monster of the Deeps

Today's offering from the Mystic Spiral Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2012) is one which came up in the Vampire Reading last week, too.

A huge, tentacled sea monster tries to engulf a ship.  The crew beat at the purple tentacles with their oars as the red-and-white-striped sail flaps uselessly in the wind.  The water around them is choppy from the battle between beast and boat, and the sky echoes the bloody fight.

The difference between traditional Five of Wands and Seven of Wands cards is an interesting one.  The external nature of the competition is obvious in the Five, whereas in the Seven (in the RWS) all we see are the up-lifted wands, but no actual aggressors.  This, plus the numerology of the card, leads many to see it as an image of challenges which we perceive, but which may not be "real" in the sense of coming from outside ourselves.  It may be more that we feel defensive, or are trying to figure out our values and beliefs compared to our received wisdom.

There is certainly an aspect of that here, too.  The monster from the deep can easily represent our own doubts, sedimented beliefs and emotions, while the boat stands for our conscious selves.  Yet, whether the threat comes from the outside or not, we can still feel embattled.  This struggle, though, can help us to define ourselves, and can lead to the clarity of purpose and rapid change of the Eight.

Today I have already met an aspect of this monster.  I had the chance to do something differently, and I tried, but my mind kept on saying, "You should be doing this, aren't you feeling that, what happens if this takes place?"  And so I went back to my old way of doing things.  Ah well, it's not a bad way, and maybe I need to prepare a bit more mentally before trying to challenge it again...


I am grateful for the battles lost, which are also learning experiences.