Sunday, 27 November 2016


Saturday's Cards, The Druid Craft Tarot, The Lovers and The Queen of Swords. 

The lovers card indicates a choice to be made. I sought further clarification and drew the Queen of Swords. According to the book this can mean denying oneself intellectual or career development. Makes a lot of sense. I have really neglected these aspects over the past couple of years. There is no time right now to pick up my PhD but pick it up I will. For now as the lovers card suggests I am going to surrender to what is left of the weekend and later to sleep as my body and mind need. 

Enough to know a path is there

Friday's Card, The Druid Craft Tarot, Three of Wands

The guidebook says that this card is about hard work bearing fruit. 

Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm write 'your ideas, energy and enthusiasm now begin to yield positive and definite results particularly in the fields of business, communications, writing and invention'. 

I suppose I can see some signs of green shoots in my learners assignments which came in this week. 

But like the man in the picture my focus is on my own learning journey now (my research and writing which has taken a back seat for two years now). I don't know where the path leads it is enough to know that there is a path. Put one foot in front of the other...

Onwards and upwards

Thursday's Card, The DruidCraft Tarot, Eight of Cups

On Thursday I asked a specific question - should I leave my job (I already knew the answer really) and here it is the eight of cups. The moving on card. The guidebook explains that one of the hardest wisdoms the heart acquires is knowing when to leave a situation - to let go. 

So many times in my life I have waited until things have become absolutely intolerable before letting go. I have been receiving (and ignoring) messages that this role isn't the right one for me for a long time. Last weekend I was metaphorically but almost literally on the floor. As the book suggests it is time to embrace something new. 

I am thankful that things have got so bad that I realise the only way is up and out. I am also thankful that I now know exactly what kind of work I don't want to do which will help me make better decisions about what I want to do next. in every crisis an opportunity...

The hermit says no

Wednesday's Card The DruidCraft Tarot, The Hermit

I asked a specific question on Wednesday about whether I should get involved in a work discussion in which there is disagreement. 

The Hermit accompanied by the wolf (symbolising self-constraint, inner wisdom and power) says no. There are times when it is important to withdraw from the distractions and dramas of the outer world and focus on the inner quest. The guidebook says that as we sleep at night we make a spiritual journey to the otherworld which is a source of renewal. Hence why insomnia (a result of too much distraction) is so harmful. 

The advice is to allow dramas and distractions to take care of themselves. More importantly to trust in the light of the Hermit even if the path ahead seems dark and lonely and know that my inner guide and animal spirit companion are there to counsel and protect me. Here goes! 


Tuesday's Card The DruidCraft Tarot, Ten of Wands

A heavy load. As the guidebook suggests I tend to accept work with an attitude of mature responsibility and without complaint. I have had to be self-reliant from an early age. As a child I learned not to ask for help as my parents couldn't provide it. Perhaps I am still trailing that now or perhaps there is a problem with my idea of leadership (never burden or trouble the team with my own problems). I don't even tell them when I pick up their work. 

This card does signal the dangers of overwork and burnout. The suggestion is to delegate but the last time I tried to do that it threw up a whole heap of conflict at work. What would happen I just dropped all the wands? 

withdraw, retreat, self care

Monday's card, The DruidCraft Tarot, Four of Swords. 

Like the guidebook suggests I have been through a period of intense work - 57% of my annual workload has been crammed into 15 weeks. The card also suggests there has been some conflict. There is someone at work who is trying to implicate me in an argument that I don't want to have. 

This card suggests the approach I have been taking and want to take is correct. This is a time for withdrawal and retreat. The card also suggests a need for respite. I have been to the docs and got medication for my insomnia to get me through the next few weeks. Long term I have decisions to make. 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Hairway to Heaven

Daily Draw, Tarot de Marseilles, The Star

Every hair on a person's head was a heavenly creation so said a Lutheran pastor c1600. For this reason a 'proper' hairstyle praised God. In Reformation Europe, a time of religious tensions, the style of a man's hair or beard were easy ways of judging his religious affiliations. People's everyday performances of hair and their innovative usage of head, facial, body and animal hair mirrored fundamental religious and social changes at that time. 

According to Cambridge historian Stefan Hanss 'The Reformation turned hair into a highly contested issue...A community's religious purity was defined by its inhabitants' bodily, as well as social behaviour, so hairstyles were a way of demonstrating religious conformity.' 

Preachers encouraged their parishioners to adopt hairstyles appropriate to their age, gender and status. Women were were discouraged from displaying curly flowing tresses (like Miss Star here) in public. 

Deviance outraged God's honour. In 1582 a French noblewoman Charlotte Duples-Mornay scandalously wore curls to receive the eucharist. This act was considered sufficiently audacious to warrant an official investigation which resulted in the excommunication of her entire family.  

As good grooming equalled godliness ruining someone's hair was a popular way of discrediting them. Violent attacks such as pulling off wigs or tearing out beards were quite common. 

As hair was a marker of religious, cultural, personal and social status its loss was a serious matter. This association between hair and status can be observed in the way that the authorities sentenced certain criminals to forced shavings.

With hair being used express social, political and scholarly affiliations, hairstyling was to make identities and cultural hierarchies a material reality.  

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Horrible history

Draw: The Tarot de Marseille, The Tower

The more I read about medieval towers the more I understand why a blasted tower is such an archetypically terrifying image. In war time often the only thing that stood between a person and certain death was a secure garrison. 

The image above depicts an infamous episode during the first crusade - the Siege of Ma'arra (now the Syrian town of Ma'rrat al-Numan). The defenders of the city consisting mainly of an urban militia and citizens managed to hold off the attacks for about two weeks. 

During this time the crusaders constructed a siege tower enabling them to pour over the walls of the city, while at the same time a group of knights scaled the undefended walls on the other side of the city.

The crusaders occupied the walls on December 11. On the morning of December 12, the garrison negotiated with Bohemond who promised them safe conduct if they surrendered. The Muslims surrendered, but the crusaders immediately began to massacre the population. 
On January 13, 1099, under intense pressure from his followers, Raymond gathered his forces and continued the march to Jerusalem. Around this time an indeterminate number of soldiers reportedly ate from the flesh of enemy dead.
A chronicler, Radulph of Caen wrote nine years later that 
'Some people said that, constrained by the lack of food, they boiled pagan adults in cooking-pots, impaled children on spits and devoured them grilled'.
What the chroniclers stress is that the crusaders ate only Muslims - when there would have been, probably many dead Franks, and Syrian Christians. This suggests that the cannibalism had a meaning beyond the simple need to survive. 
Based on a review of the sources Jay Rubenstein argues that cannibalism was not confined to a single incident of famine and that it was not always a response to hunger. Rather than being an aberration from the ethos of holy war it was an integral aspect. 
In Peter Tudebode's chronicle the cannibalism is secret, anarchical and upon discovery by the crusade leaders immediately suppressed. Shocking though it is, it is explicable from a medieval perspective. Homegrown cannibalism was not unknown in famine and war riven eleventh century Europe. 
The events at Ma'arra were also chronicled by Fulcher of Chartres 
'I shudder to tell that many of our people, harassed by the madness of excessive hunger, cut pieces from the buttocks of the Saracens already dead there, which they cooked, but when it was not yet roasted enough by the fire, they devoured it with savage mouth' 
But crucially he disagrees with the chronology offered by the other Radulph. According to Fulcher the cannibalism occurs not in shame and secrecy in aftermath of the victory but openly in the midst of combat.  According to another eyewitness, Raymond of Aguilers, crusaders ate flesh in public squares, and they did so with gusto. The spectacle, he writes struck fear in the hearts of both ''our men and the foreigners.''

This was psychological warfare with religious justification. The city is a stewpot in which the enemies of God are cooked alive and consumed by his holy warriors. The Franks saw themselves as vessels of God's will and God’s wrath not in spite of brutalities such as cannibalism but because of them.

According to Rubenstein a plausible reconstruction is that cannibalism occurred in the Crusade's first experience of scarcity. However by the time the army reached Ma'arra some of the soldiers recognized its potential utility and, hoping to drive the defenders into a quick surrender, made a spectacle of the eating, making sure that Muslims were the only ones eaten. 

Towers of Strength

Tarot de Marseille, The Tower. 

The 12th century witnessed a huge building boom. Newly constructed cathedrals and church spires pushed cities ever upwards and closer to God. As with churches so with towers. Some were built as city defences whereas others were privately owned - the most tangible expression of a family's power. 

Sources suggest there were up to 361 towers along Rome's city walls. In Milan there were estimated to be 120 bell towers and city life was punctuated by bells ringing melodiously throughout the day. 

In order to enter or leave many cities people had to pass though gates which were often richly adorned with sculptures conveying religious messages. Gates could even prophetic. In Naples people believed that a magic spell had been placed on the city gate. If you entered on the right hand side good fortune would be yours - as indicated by the marble head laughing. On the left there was a weeping marble head - entering on this side might bring you bad luck. 

   A painting of Naples' Castel dell'Ovo c1472 attributed to Fransesco Rosselli. 

In 12th century Palermo a new royal palace (seat of the secretive kings of Sicily) erected - a bedazzling sight it's interior walls decorated in sumptuous gold and precious stones. Capella Palatina

Source for this post, BBC History Magazine December 2016 issue. 

Double Helpings

A week in cards Tarot de Marseille, The Tower (twice)

I drew the tower twice this week. But not a bad run. I have made approximately 270 daily draws and this week is the first time it has appeared. I was thinking the other day that ow I have started doing history posts the 'negative' cards - Tower, Death, Devil are quite good to draw because of better links with medieval history. So coming up later today are two historyish posts.