By Daniel Coleman
After the chakra class, several months passed before I again wandered into the Natural Forces shop.
Browsing about, I came to a display of Tarot and other divinatory card decks. Seeing an open pack of the Oracle of the Unicorns, I picked it up and thumbed through the cards, each adorned with drawings of bright beautiful, majestic beasts. Of all the New Age affectations, a belief involving unicorns was the furthest from my thinking. For me, the glorious horned creatures were merely decoration.
Nonetheless curious, I shuffled the deck and spread the cards in my hand. Clearing my mind, I selected a single card from the pack. To my surprise, it was no unicorn at all. High above the clouds, radiant from the focused rays of a setting sun, was Pegasus, wings stretched wide, exuding freedom and power. Below the image, the card read “Expansion: Spread your wings and soar. Share your message and shine your light. Show the world what you are made of.”
I immediately recognized the consistency of this message with the affirmation my brother had suggested—“to radiate joy and passion.”
Walking home, shuffling my feet through the Autumn leaves which had blanketed Elwood’s streets, I considered those twin messages and the resonance they held for me at that point in my life. What might it mean to bring those qualities to my relationships, to understand them as central to my own being, and thereby find renewed vitality in my approach to life?
Six weeks later, on my way to buy groceries, I noticed a man standing next to the counter in Natural Forces.
With his wavy brown hair, close-cropped beard and soft gaze, he was easily recognizable from Facebook. This was James, a seer of some 30 years practice and study. James describes himself as “a humble pilgrim traveler exploring the dream world with the eyes of a Child & the soul of an Elder.” I wasn’t sure why ‘Child’ and ‘Elder’ were capitalized but, hey, I’m a novice at these things. I walked inside to introduce myself and see what this inspirational figure might have to say.
“Are you here for a session?” James asked as he firmly shook my hand.
“Maybe,” I replied, although, in truth, the answer was no. “What would it entail? What would the cost be?”
James told me he had only 30 minutes free, not enough time for a healing, so it would have to be a reading. Uncannily, he quoted a price at the exact maximum I was willing to pay.
We went through a back door into a small, dimly lit room with a massage table on one side and a smaller table between two well-worn wooden chairs on the other. We sat down and James lit two scented candles before handing me a deck of Tarot cards. Of the scores of decks available, James uses the Mythic Tarot with all its imagery drawn from Greek mythology.
He asked me to shuffle the deck, spread it out on the table, and select three groups of three cards. I handed the cards to him, three at a time, and he arranged the nine into a square layout supposedly describing where my life had been, where I stood in that moment, and where I was going.
As the cards were arranged, James pointed out the highly unlikely placement of the Emperor and Empress side by side.
Four of the nine cards held the image of Zeus, one of which occupied the central position. This was a powerful layout indeed. Although all nine cards seemed meaningful, two stood out. Both were situated in the top row, representing my conscious ideals and aspirations.
The Hermit is a cloaked and hooded figure, looking straight ahead, as if into your eyes. He rests a scythe upon his shoulder and holds a lantern before him, with the first hints of the morning sun rising behind. It is as if he is seeking his way with feeble lantern light, oblivious to the brightness soon to engulf him. An owl sits on the Hermit’s shoulder, indicating access to wisdom.
In a position representing my immediate past, the Hermit suggested solitude, patience, and introspection, an apt expression of my recent withdrawn condition. The images were spot on—my approach had not been to wallow in my pain. Instead, I wielded a scythe of determination to cut away the habits and anxieties which had kept me emotionally repressed for so long. I had patiently attempted to find my inner voice of wisdom. As I listened to James describe the card, it seemed undeniable that this painful time was ending with a new dawn of hope and possibility just emerging over the horizon.
The Ace of Wands lay atop the right column, indicating that which is emerging, and which awaits me. The image was of a king, dressed in dark blue robes and standing on a hilltop. Across his shoulder rests the Golden Fleece, a symbol of royal authority. His head is crowned. In his right hand he holds an orb. But the true power of the card is in the left hand, where this portrayal of Zeus holds a thick wooden staff. Atop the staff, a fire blazes brightly. It is as if he has taken the light which rose unnoticed behind the Hermit and now holds it in his hands. The king gazes toward the light and forward, confidently offering his strength to whomever he might encounter.
James looked at me pensively.
“There is too much power in this layout to hold within yourself,” he said. “It must be expressed and shared with others.”
As with the second chakra affirmation and the unicorn card, the Tarot was urging me to radiate, not just with joy and passion, but now with insight, strength, and wisdom.
Again, several months passed before I returned to Natural Forces. It was around the anniversary of my chakra dream that had set all this in motion. My friend Patricia, a massage therapist and yoga teacher, wanted to shop for crystals to decorate her studio and I went along, happy to soak in the mellow vibes of peaceful New Agers and the aroma of incense and essential oils that permeate the store.
While Patricia searched for the perfect stone, I walked over to the sofa. Next to it was a small table with several oracle decks displayed for examination. Before I could sit down, a card fell off the top of one of the decks and landed by my foot. I returned it to the deck, but it fell once more, this time landing right on my shoe.
Despite understanding the force of gravity that might pull a card to the floor, I picked it up and said to no one in particular, “All right, I can take a hint.”
The card was from the Angels Oracle Deck. If there is one thing that impresses me even less than unicorns, it is surely angels. Nevertheless, I turned the card over to be confronted with a cartoonish image of a bespectacled stork and a chubby cherub flying through misty white clouds while examining a roadmap.
The card was called Change in Direction and read, “The changes you are experiencing are divinely directed by your newborn willingness to open your heart to love and our guidance. You are protected now and in the future. So, follow your path to the happy outcomes you desire.” This apparent recognition of a year of open-hearted exploration was as astonishing as the card itself was laughable.
Of course, I did not believe I was protected by angels.
Any protection could only lie in having embraced my wounds, my loss, my grief, and my vulnerability, thereby setting down life-long barriers to growth and change. The darkness and di stress that had previously characterized my life were lifting. The path to happy outcomes opened before me, not just for myself, but also for those around me, as I learn to radiate joy and passion from a more deeply authentic sense of self.
In today’s world, as in the past, many take solace in beliefs and rituals, mainstream or alternative, that lend meaning to their lives. Others find beauty and purpose without recourse to such systems and even with a fierce rejection of them. But even for atheists and skeptics like myself, the question remains: what is the place of belief in opening oneself to the possibilities that life offers?
As I don’t believe in unicorns or angels or visitations from the dead, how is it that I welcomed, valued, and grew from the experiences of the past year?
My year of visits to the Natural Forces shop have been a lived embodiment of Tom Robbins’ paradoxical dictum. Can I believe in nothing yet hold these experiences sacred? Can I walk out the shop door to a life with little thought of mystical belief or practice but return to find both wisdom and challenge therein? In doing so, can I find the means to salve my wounds, live comfortably with my vulnerability, and grow stronger, nourished from within?
And, if I can, perhaps I will indeed take the bright light of inspiration from the Ace of Wands to share with those around me, and soar like Pegasus above the clouds.
In the end, I am left with fantastical images and expressions of optimism that defy my sense of who I am. But if I am willing to set aside a deeply engrained worldview and suspend my disbelief, I may find fresh perspectives, direction, and insight, all from the unlikeliest of sources.
Daniel Coleman is an American-Australian writer living in Melbourne. A former political columnist, his diverse interests range from fiction to essays to poetry. He is the author of Ecopolitics: Building a Green Society and of The Anarchist: A Novel. Currently, he is a contributing political columnist at Plus61J.net.au.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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