Every year, as some of you know, I choose a word to focus on, as a way of experiencing whatever may happen during this turn of the wheel, and I calculate the Tarot card that symbolizes this part of my spiritual journey. A couple of days ago I wrote about my Tarot card of 2023 – The Hanged Man — and my word for 2023 — Interbeing.
That was SO 2023.
No, that’s not correct. Nothing is lost. The journey is a spiral rather than a line, so although we may find ourselves in a similar season, we never view it from precisely the same vantage point. Wisdom is not lost. As the saying goes: once you know, you know.
This year the word I’ve chosen is “Liberation.” Growing older nudges me to release things that are no longer serving me. Ego. Stuff. A few opinions no one’s asking me for. This time next year I expect to know more than I do now and to have been liberated from things that no longer serve me. At least that’s my hope.
I love this Andrew Wyeth painting. There is something so calm about it, with a deep invitation to listen to the call of the sea, that primal element, deep and transformative. It speaks not of liberation through violence, but rather through surrender, and openness. Fresh. Quiet. Calm. Simplicity.
Liberation is a word that applies, especially now, not only to the personal but to the collective. That may sound strange, considering the horrible wars and hatreds, the upcoming (possibly violent) election season here in the US, and the ongoing climate catastrophe, however, I see a connection. Old ways will not serve us. Dictators, fascists, billionaires, and authoritarians will not save us (they never have). Perhaps it’s time to liberate ourselves from the idea of the rugged individualist in favor of compassionate cooperation. If I learned nothing else from my year with “Interbeing,” I learned we are all connected, all dependent on one another, in ways large and small, and that we are all woven into the fabric of life itself.
But back to wars and violence and, well, death. Snort. I picked my word after I realized my Tarot card for the year is the Death card (associated with Scorpio). Now, before you panic, know that The Death card is rarely, if ever, about the death of the body. It is about the death of ego, about liberating oneself from ego’s endless prodding and nagging to do more, to achieve, to dominate, to be better than, to be exceptional, to get attention and accolades, to be SEEN.
Looking at the card, I note the ever-changing river flowing to the sun (which is born every morning and dies every night). The water flows between the two towers, indicating a gateway, a liminal space. A priest prays, his robes the same yellow as the sun. Death is well-armored, but fragile within. Death is clothed in black but rides a white horse. The mystical rose in the flag is white, and the background is black. There is balance in all things, and the mystical rose is the grail symbol of rebirth. There are four figures around the horse and rider: a dead king, a woman turning away, a priest praying, and a child offering Death flowers. Rachel Pollack, the amazing Tarot pioneer interpreted them this way: “The king, struck down, shows the rigid ego. If life comes at us with enough power the ego may collapse; insanity can result from an inability to adjust to extreme change. The priest stands and faces Death directly; he can do so because his stiff robes and hat protect him and support him. We see here the value of a code of belief to help us past our fears of death. The Maiden symbolizes partial innocence. The ego is not rigid, yet still aware of itself, unwilling to surrender. Therefore she kneels but turns away. Only the child, representing complete innocence, faces Death with a simple offering of flowers.”
Pollack also said this card reflects, “the precise moment at which we give up the old masks and allow the transformation to take place.” The Hanged Man Year, in which one willingly undergoes trials in the hopes of gaining wisdom, indicates a strengthening desire to change. It can lead to fear though, as we come to understand all that entails, resulting in the rigidity of the king, or the woman’s unwillingness to adapt to change. We fear there will be nothing left of us, of our ego,if we ‘die.’ We are wrong.
I have some trepidation going into this experience, I admit, but I also hope for renewal, for rebirth, even. Still, there is no doubt that birth and death are both painful, bloody, messy, convulsions, after which nothing is the same.
The collective Tarot card for 2024 is Strength (associated with the sign of Leo) – not physical strength or the strength of force, but inner strength, the strength of compassion and gentleness. In the Rider Waite deck, we see a woman calming a roaring lion. She subdues not with might, but will kindness, with serenity, courage, and faith. What lions are there in the world right now? What bestial (with apologies to beasts) forces need taming?
I will leave that up to you to decide and wish you bravery, peace, compassion, courage, and faith.