One thing that you learn as you live is how quickly and radically external reality can change. As a species we are adaptive but also highly habitual; we can build whole castles for ourselves only to find that we still spend all of our time in the same small, windowless room.
It takes time for the psyche to catch up, to expand to fill out the vast spaces we make for ourselves. To not only manifest the lives we want, but to calm the reflexive resistance to them. To get comfortable. This is Empress energy, obviously. Creativity. Expansion. And always patience.
People often interpret the Hermit as being about solitude. I see it as representing the quest for self-knowledge. The journey to differentiation. To parsing out what is you, and what is conditioning. It is about inward focus, a mode of relating that clashes with the lessons many of us learned in childhood.
Some of us were parentified as children. Some were pulled into relational triangles to diffuse the stress of a wounded dyadic relationship. Many were not taught to recognize the qualities of a personal want or need, let alone how to balance our own with the wants and needs of others. These dynamics are built on a mode of relating that is externally-focused (Ten of Wands) as a matter of survival. In this mode, the wants and needs of others must always come first.
The Hermit shifts the center of gravity back to the Self, not in a selfish sense but in a way that allows for healthy, boundaried relating (Two of Cups). Where there is space for the wants and needs of everyone involved. A lot of us don’t know how to do that and it’s not our fault.
The work of learning is worth it, because healthy relationship is like nutritious soil for the emergence of a budding creative self (Page of Wands). A unique and personal quest. A path whose scent can only be picked up once the overwhelming essence of the wants and needs of others have been lovingly unloaded and returned to their rightful owners, blessed and transformed.
A quick and somewhat unrelated note about the Hermit in this spread:
The best teachers and guides that I’ve had have been people who have helped me reclaim the qualities that I admire in them as my own. The ones who I’ve been able to use as examples, not to avoid doing the work, but to inspire it.
In this way so many people have been my teachers. People I’m jealous of. People whose presence puts stones in my belly. People whose magnetism scares me. All those Empress qualities that we find it so easy to assign to others and so challenging to locate in ourselves—the beauty, creativity, depth, richness, patience, lushness and compassion—those traits are ours, too. Maybe full-fledged, maybe dormant, it’s our work to claim them.
Maybe that thing people say “I’ll believe it when I see it” is backwards. Maybe actually you will see it when you believe it. And if so, if you are seeing beauty, brilliance, confidence, compassion, righteous self-love, courage, or wild abilities in others, you are being invited to trace them back to their origins. To consider that what you are seeing is being viewed through the filter of your own unconscious. Maybe you wouldn’t see these qualities and believe in them if you didn’t also have them. If you didn’t also know them because they are innate to your being.
Anyway, Spring is here which makes me want to lift and exalt the message of the Ace of Cups, more than ever. Even if you don’t use cards to make predictions, it’s hard not to feel a sense of hope for the future when the blessing of an Ace finds its way into your spread. When I see the Ace of Cups, I can feel my body readying my Soul for a thawing, a clearing, a breakthrough.
Early life experiences tend not to teach optimism. Repeated heartbreak conditions the mind to always brace for a letdown; an expectation that typically comes with consequences. Anxiety. Self-sabotage. And the probable reinforcement that “not getting your hopes up” was ultimately a wise move.
Expecting the best isn’t just a matter of choice. Like any habit, the anticipation of disappointment is carved in the brain. You probably won’t just decide to stop going there and be done with it. You’ll have to practice and keep practicing.
Imagine a car, driving in circles in a field, over and over again. The loop creates a deep trench. When it’s time to go home, it takes multiple tries, reinforcement from friends, or in serious cases, a tow to get out of what is now a path so worn your little tires can’t clear the edges. It takes having someplace else to be. Someplace that you deeply want to be—someplace worth getting muddy, asking for help, feeling tired, feeling frustrated, wanting to cry for. This is what building new habits looks like. It takes work.
Empress is about energy, not insight. She is about engaging from the bottom up rather than the top down. So while part of shifting into the expectation of joy and ease is being mindful of thought patterns that take us instead to fear and lack, the transition from one energetic comfort zone to another is not and cannot be solely cognitive.
In her book 78 Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack writes of the Empress as being about the body as a vehicle for ascension, and the senses as the portals through which such ascension occurs. By indulging the senses in ways that truly feel good in the body and Soul, we upgrade our energetic constitution in a way that cognitive work alone cannot do.
In hard times it’s almost unfathomable that joy and ease could take getting used to. But the reality is that most of us carry at least some ambivalence about letting go of struggle. When you introduce joy into a system dominated by suffering, there is pushback. There is rejection. There are threats, real and imagined. There is grief. Often in ways that you aren’t expecting, and don’t yet have the tools for. If you should discover that beneath the hump you’re desperate to get over there is some ambivalence about your healing, I think that’s normal.
Something that I’ve found useful is to sit very still and locate spaces in the body where I can feel old energies of undeserving, inadequacy, self-doubt, fear of deprivation, fear of rejection or anything else that might keep me bound to suffering. I use my hands to imagine pulling out and extracting all traces of these energies, placing them on the ground.
And then (and this is a technique taught to me by one of my elders, a gifted energy healer), I visualize that there are lasers on my palms, and I imagine blasting these energies to the edges of outer space.
If you are thinking that this sounds crazy, remember that the Empress is the archetype of creativity. There are six million ways to heal. Choose one. And be patient with yourself as you get acquainted to a life of ease and pleasure.
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