The Tower

When we see you

We are shaken

Trembling on a ground of waves

~

to upset, to reveal, to liberate

A cascading Tower looms tall. A lightning bolt cracks a hole through the sky. The crowned roof comes falling off. A man dances on his hands.

The Tower is perhaps the most feared card in the tarot. Ideas of ruin, devastation and crisis have long been attributed to the sight of the trembling tower walls, striking fear into those who see it.

And true, the Tower may bring these fears, but that’s not all that it offers.

To understand this card we have to first understand what a Tower is.

A Tower is a construction; It protects and fortifies from the outside world, keeping those inside safe. It may hold a reservoir of accumulated goods and knowledge, as well as serving as a vantage point to threats;

A Tower is a construction from which we can see. 

Our lives are made of many constructions. Within the walls of our experience is a story about who we are, where we are from and what has happened to us. This accumulated store of energy becomes a tower; a way of being, a structure that keeps us safe, contained and fortified.

We need structures, like we need walls to a house. Walls and structures help us to define who we are and make sense of the world.

~

But what happens when the structure that we are familiar and safe in, is suddenly changed?  

The sudden crash of lightning and the falling roof of the Tower can be seen as a dramatic, unforeseen event that shakes the foundation of the way things normally are. This strike could look like a revelation of truth, or a sudden upheaval that upends our perspective.

~

‘The Tower II’ by Jack O’Flynn and Tamara Macarthur, pencil, pen, paint, glitter, paper mache. 2021

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After this strike, we cannot go back to the way things have been.

And perhaps this is why the Tower is so feared as a card

because of change.

Humans fear change, especially to the structured ways we have learned to live. Change is the unknown, it’s the potential for failure, and the loss of what was.

But change is inevitable, and constant.

Shunryu Suzuki, the beloved Buddhist teacher, was once asked what the most important teaching of Buddhism was, he replied ‘everything changes’

The change that the tower brings may come about through crisis and moments of stark exposure, but some times we need these sudden shocks to wake us up to the reality of our lives.

And crisis, sudden change and loss may also bring some unexpected gifts.

~

There is a central figure who seems to be falling through the sky, plummeting from the Tower walls. I had always seen their dangling legs and outstretched arms as crying for help, as they fall to their death.

But on closer inspection, I could not say that they were really falling; their hands seem to touch the floor, and they have a peaceful look on their face.

What if instead of falling, they have escaped from the Tower’s door and are now jumping onto their hands, kicking their feet into the air with joy?

The Sufi poet Rumi wrote that the door to love was devastation, and that allowing ourselves to fall would one day give us the wings to fly.

Perhaps he was signalling the potential for devastation to open up the emotional landscape. As devastation takes hold, and claims our past we may feel a new connection to the world around us, one no longer governed and confined by old walls and structures.

There may be sorrow and mourning at the loss of what was, but allowing ourselves to release when crisis appears, as the jumping man seems to do, may eventually lead to a new liberation.

~

From the moment of crisis to the liberation of destruction we eventually find one of my favourite keywords for the Tower: reconstruction.

Carl Jung put it simply, ‘Nothing can be created without something first being destroyed’ 

The spark of the Towers’ flames may become a light that illuminates, showing us what we need to change and where.

But the walls will eventually be re-built. However this will not be a simple reconstruction, it points to a more deeper restructuring. One that goes down to the foundations, to the roots.

Seeing the Tower can be to see a problem in your life in all of its totality leading you to completely rethink and revise your perspective on it.

~

‘The Tower III’ by Jack O’Flynn and Tamara Macarthur, pencil, pen, paint, glitter, paper mache. 2021

~

The Tower clears the way for new foundations to be laid, and with new foundations,

we can build new constructions, with new vantage points;

new Towers to see from.

until the shaking of the Tower walls begins again

and a lightning strike brings our Tower

crashing down

like a trembling wave.

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The way of love is not
a subtle argument.

The door there
is devastation.

Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom.
How do they learn it?

They fall, and falling,
they’re given wings.

Rumi, The way of Love

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Artwork for this month’s When We See You comes from a collaboration between artist’s Jack O’Flynn and Tamara Macarthur. Tamara created the cards from paper mache, paint, gold and glitter, leaving space in the middle for Jack to re-create the tarot image with colouring pencils and pen. The image in the middle was re-imagined from the Tarot de Marseille ‘La Maison Devx’ (The Tower) card.

Tamara Macarthur is a Glasgow based performance artist whose work explores tears, longing and intimacy within the space of theatrical, glittering sets of cathedrals, trees, waves and stars. See more of Tamara’s work on her website below.

https://cargocollective.com/tamaramacarthur

The Lovers

When we see you

We are chosen

The diamond sky is full of arrows

~

To relate, to decide, to be torn

Three figures stand enmeshed behind a brilliant white sky. A tangle of coloured robes and arms push and pull in different directions. There is a young man in the middle and a young woman to his left, maybe they are a couple, to the man’s right a mysterious priest figure whispers something in his ear. Above the crowd, an angel shoots an arrow from the clouds.

Inscribed on this card are the words ‘Lamovrevx’ meaning ‘The Lovers’ this tells us we are entering into the space of love, relationship, attraction and union; the meeting with ‘the Other.’ 

~

We each experience life through a private inner world of thoughts, memories and dreams. Most people we meet will never really know the colours and contours of this inner landscape. But every so often, a meeting happens, a meeting with ‘the Other’

The other arrives as a lover, a collaborator or a friend. When we meet the other we become challenged, stimulated and affected by their otherness, and may begin to relate to them, sharing our inner world.

When inner worlds become shared, intimacy is created.

The psychologist Esther Perel, created a wordplay from the word intimacy, which she translated as ‘Into me see’ The act of allowing someone to see us, creates bonding, trust, and relationship.

What does it mean to be seen by an other?

To be seen and accepted, encouraged and nurtured by another person can be a life altering moment in a person’s life. A relationship can provide a safe space where talents, passions and self-identities can be discovered without the fear of rejection. 

~

At first glance, this card seems like a joyous meeting. It could be a wedding day. But on closer inspection something feels off. Although they stand together, the figures are looking in different directions, hands pointing in opposite ways. In the midst of the confused movement of arms, a lack of unity and ambiguity can be read between the relationships.

The young man stands in the middle of the three, his red shoes point in either direction; perhaps they are torn between two choices. 

A relationship pulls our life in a direction. 

To go in one direction, is to close doors on other directions, other doors that we could walk through; other selves we could become. 

Relationships change our direction in life, and they change us. As we feel the presence of the other moving us, there may be moments of hesitation, fear and uncertainty as we wonder if we are doing the right thing following this path.

~

‘THE LOVERS II’ by Tamara Macarthur and Jack O’Flynn. Paper mache, paint, gold, glitter, pencil, pen.

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But this card is called The Lovers, so what about love?

To fall in love is to be enveloped by another’s existence. Being in love is a an opening, vulnerable process that shifts our perspective of life. We become birthed as someone new in the dreamy, endorphin fueled state of an early relationship.

But the past is always with us, and the past must be seen.

In the card the young man stands with the woman, but looks back to the past, at the priest figure. A sense of chaos is stirred up in this act. Perhaps this past figure reminds the young man of a hurt, or something he wants to forget.

With love, comes inevitable conflict. 

Our past self momentarily quiet, comes colliding into the present, needing to be seen. The open landscape of a relationship creates a safe space for past wounds, hurts and traumas to rear their heads, and tear away at the utopia of an early relationship. 

In the Pamela Coleman-Smith illustration of this tarot card we see two lovers naked; they are exposed. 

Our self grows through being seen. 

And the psychic landscape of a relationship is a place where this can happen. In being seen there can be the chance for healing.

The other is a mirror, and if we can take responsibility for the flaws we see in this mirror, there may be a chance that we can become more whole and graceful versions of ourselves.

~

‘THE LOVERS III’ by Tamara Macarthur and Jack O’Flynn, Paper mache, paint, gold, glitter, pencil, pen, 2021

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Carl Jung felt that within each of us exists an anima or animus – this can be translated as something like our unconscious psychic opposite; the other that we carry within us. He felt that contact with this presence motivates the ego to go beyond the realms of what it knows. 

Following beauty, and the feelings inspired by the shimmering image of the other, inner and outer, can lead people to create and become versions of themselves they never would have alone. The other compels us to grow; through joy, pain, longing and even separation.

~

Many people will see this card and feel their past, for we have all come from relationships. But Cupids arrow points directly between the couple. They have not yet shot it, and we don’t know what this arrow will do.

We don’t know who is around the corner, we don’t know who we will meet next and who will change our lives. The mischievous hand of Cupid seems to say that to a large extent, it is out of our control.

But when the arrow strikes, we will be compelled to follow.

So follow love

And show yourself

To someone who cares. 

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Artwork for this month’s When We See You comes from a collaboration between artist’s Jack O’Flynn and Tamara Macarthur. Tamara created the cards from paper mache, paint, gold and glitter, leaving space in the middle for Jack to re-create the tarot image with colouring pencils and pen. The image in the middle was re-imagined from the Tarot de Marseille ‘Lamorvevx’ card.

Tamara Macarthur is a Glasgow based performance artist whose work explores tears, longing and intimacy within the space of theatrical, glittering sets of cathedrals, trees, waves and stars. See more of Tamara’s work on her website below.

https://cargocollective.com/tamaramacarthur

The Chariot

When we see you 

we are ready

following blue horses under stars

~

To be confident, to be guided, to face

A young man stands in a chariot. They are drawn by two blue horses and carry a wand in hand. They look ahead, under a veil of stars.

The man in the chariot looks like a handsome young prince , they are adorned with a crown, and seemed dressed for a role of importance. 

When I first saw this card I thought they looked confident, like someone ready to take on the world. 

What is confidence? 

Confidence comes from a trust or belief in ourselves and what we do in the world.

To believe in ourselves we have to begin to know ourselves.

Perhaps the young prince finds some confidence in their constructed chariot, their garments, crown and wand; these could be the adornments of a young person ready to find their place in society.

To begin to know yourself you have to start trying new things, ways of dressing and expressing in the world, and to see yourself in different roles. The constructed, sheltered chariot speaks to this sense of finding of oneself in environments, roles, and clothes; the constructions of the ego.

A chariot is for movement, often led by animals. So this person is going somewhere, When we see this card we may be asked, what are we led by? And where are we going?

To begin knowing yourself is to begin understanding where you are going. 

But closer inspection will find no wheels on this chariot, this prince is staying in one place. 

 I found this confusing for some time. I wondered why the chariot actually looked stuck? The horses seemed to move, but how could they get anywhere?

Alejandro Jodorowski writes that the The Chariot moves with the spinning of the earth. 

Perhaps when you are learning to know yourself you are always in the right place.

                       ~

‘The Chariot II’ by Connie Hurley and Jack O’Flynn. Pencil, paint, pen on handmade paper. 2021

~

But the young prince is looking away slightly, they are not facing us, and they keep their left hand shy and hidden. This chariot is a construction, above him the stars are a clothed veil; a fabrication.

They are not yet ready to leave this place, and be exposed under the open night sky.

The shadow side to confidence is fear.

The prince’s idle left hand reveals an uncertainty in his role. He looks away somewhat distracted. In his eyes a sense of sadness can be detected. 

Part of learning to find oneself comes in realising these constructions we build and garments we wear are not who we really are. ‘Confidence’ is an act. One that we learn to perform to move forward in the world, but one that in the end, is tiring and repetitive.

~

Two crescent moons rest on the prince’s shoulders. They are under the protective and nurturing influence of the Mother; they are a child at heart.

One day this prince will pull down his clothed veil of stars and find themselves under a bare, glimmering sky. They will pour water back into the ground that has nurtured them, and take off their crown. They will have nothing to hide and have found true confidence  – vulnerability. 

But for now,

The Chariot is a path.

It tells us we are getting to know ourselves, we are going somewhere, and we are learning how to become confident.

But true confidence will come in letting go of confidence.

In taking off your armour,

And allowing the movement of the stars to guide you. 

‘The Chariot’ (backside) by Connie Hurley and Jack O’Flynn. Pencil, paint, pen on handmade paper. 2021

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Artwork comes from a collaborative project interpreting the Arcana of the Tarot between Jack O’Flynn and Connie Hurley, conducted by post.

Connie is an artist and star living in Edinburgh who is interested in gendered social and support structures, DIY methods of making, folklore narratives, processes and love. her work moves between sculpture, installation, performance, curation, facilitation and friendship. https://cargocollective.com/conniehurley

~

Jack Oflynn 2021

The Magician

When we see you

We become

Changing pearls to half moons

~

To create, to combine, to play.

A Magician stands at a table, surrounded by loose, unfurling flowers. An array of tools, cubes, and half moons are spread out before them. They look back, remembering something. In their hand is a yellow pearl.

They are dreaming of something and working with their hands to create it. They are an artist.

What is an artist?

 Joseph Beuys said that everyone is an artist, meaning everyone has the inherent potential to change what is around them. 

With this in mind, perhaps to be an artist, is to enact change. To make a piece of art could be to change something. 

When you change what is around you, you change your relationship to the world. Changing whats around you creates new meaning in your life. 

To be an artist is to create meaning.

But how do you change something into a piece of art?  

~

‘The Magician II’ by Connie Hurley & Jack O’Flynn. Colouring pencil, pen, paint on handmade paper 2021

~

The Magician is holding a yellow pearl, keeping it close to their chest.

To fall in love with the creative process we have to find a piece of inspiration. It could be a word, a colour, a flower. This small fragment of inspiration seems to suggest something, like a distant mirage, or a dream memory. 

Hold on to that piece very carefully, follow it.

When you find your inspiration you have to bring it into the space of creation; the artist’s table, studio, or practice room. Here it can be nurtured, cared for, and allowed to grow. 

On the Magician’s table we see an array of different objects, materials, and tools; ingredients ready to be combined

Art is about combinations. 

To write a poem, make a painting, or form a sculpture, we have to begin combining things. They could be objects, ideas, words, emotions, images. 

When you put two words together in a poem or two textures beside one another in a painting, there is a reaction. Many times, this reaction will say nothing. But every so often, if we keep putting things together, a reaction will occur that you weren’t planning. 

At first you may discard this reaction.

But something will call you back, a feeling of unease, tension or nervousness around your combination may creep in.  

If this begins to happen, you may have found a tension point between two things that do not usually come together.  This feeling of tension, signals you have created something new, something you may not yet understand. 

Follow this feeling.

The Magician’s messy table of elements encourages us to connect and contrast different things in a spirit of experimentation. 

If we bring things together in a spirit of play and enquiry, doorways will be opened to tense, glistening moments of colour, sound, and air. 

~

‘The Magician III’ by Connie Hurley & Jack O’Flynn. Colouring pencil, pen, paint on handmade paper 2021

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But the Magician is not called an artist. They are a Magician. 

What does Magic have to do with art?

Magic can be said to be a supernatural force that affects change in the world through mysterious means. 

This speaks to the sense that at its root, art is mysterious. 

The moment inspiration arrives, or a work of art happens cannot be forced. We can show up to our work table, arrange our materials and act out our techniques, but ultimately, the best work, simply appears.

Most artists will admit they don’t really know how or why they do what they do. 

Agnes Martin counselled artists to follow their inspiration, all the way. By this she meant to not let any ideas, or justifications come in the way of realising your initial mysterious pull to create something. She meant trusting deeply in the voice within that shows you what to make.

To follow your inspiration all the way, is to believe in something beyond yourself. 

                                                                 ~

‘The Magician III (back)’ by Connie Hurley & Jack O’Flynn. Colouring pencil, pen, paint on handmade paper 2021

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The Magician is creating in the present, but they are looking to the left, to the past. They are remembering their inner child. 

Within each of us, there is a child. This inner child symbolizes our innocence, vulnerability and, spontaneous free spirit.  In the early stages of creation, too much expectation for a final outcome will create fear in the inner child’s creative desire.

The child’s desire to create is the desire to play

To play is to be in the present moment

To play is to believe. 

~

‘The Magician IV’ by Connie Hurley & Jack O’Flynn. Colouring pencil, pen, paint on handmade paper 2021

~

We see only three legs on the Magician’s table; the table is not yet finished. This reminds us that at its heart, creativity is not about a final outcome.

It’s a process. 

A process is something that is ongoing, something that is changing.

~

The Magician shows us that everything is changing

To create is to enter into this change

And when we create something new

we can become something new.

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Artwork comes from a collaborative project interpreting the Arcana of the Tarot between Jack O’Flynn and Connie Hurley, conducted by post.

Connie is an artist and star living in Edinburgh who is interested in gendered social and support structures, DIY methods of making, folklore narratives, processes and love. her work moves between sculpture, installation, performance, curation, facilitation and friendship. https://cargocollective.com/conniehurley

~

Jack O’Flynn 2021

Strength

When we see you

We release

Opening pain to the wind.

To open, to resist, to express.

A woman holds a lion’s jaw under a yellow sky. She wears floral string across her head and a white gown that descends to the floor.  The lion looks up, licking her wrist, teeth gnarled. 

Her expression is calm, she appears composed and comfortable as she holds the dangerous animal. 

The card is called Strength, or La Force, meaning power, force or, the capacity of the spirit. 

What is strength? 

One definition of strength is the ability to withstand. Which could be said to be the ability to feel. To feel may hurtful, saddening, and depressing. To feel we have to allow, to allow, and to let go, is to be vulnerable. 

Vulnerability is an opening.

Being strong is a state of openness.

Opening to life means to feel the pain that we have experienced, that is all around us and that we have been born with. When we open our bodies to the world, we become vulnerable, exposed and at risk.

We may feel tension within our body signalling danger.

These tensions are vibrations of pain from life experience. They resonate in our cellular body, keeping us in safety patterns of fear, anxiety and avoidance.

When we see Strength we may be called upon to open the jaws of this hurt body.

~

So where does this woman gain her strength? How does she open the lion with such grace? What does she connect to? 

Above her head is the infinity symbol; she connects to infinite wisdom. 

What is the oldest thing we do, that is with us until we die? 

She breathes. 

When you consciously breathe into your body, you acknowledge the pain of the body.

Finding ghosts within the fascia.

The card calls us to breathe into and open up these haunted parts of ourselves. 

When you inhale and exhale deeply from the body, there is a softening. A window has been opened for pain and tension to leave. 

The breath is like the wind, and the voice is a breath. When we breathe into pain, we create a space where we can speak from pain.

And when we speak from pain

we can release from pain.

~

But the woman holds this lion patiently. She has surrendered to her task. To tame wild beasts, and release old wounds we must surrender, and be patient. 

‘Strength II’ by Connie Hurley and Jack O’Flynn. Colouring pencil, pen, paint on handmade paper. 2021

A sexual tension can be read into the woman’s relationship to the lion, and seeing this card may be a signal for you to express your sexual desires, or to harness your sexual energy in a more focused or embodied way. 

To some, opening their sexual body will present the fear of orgasm, connection and touch; a fear of their sexual self. In the depths of our body their may be stored memories of pain that prevent release into authentic sexual experience. 

Once again, we find the breath, to untangle knots in the sexual body and experience the sensations of your desire and pleasure the breath will guide and support you. Connecting you to your partners, and to yourself.  

~

But some will see the woman closing the lion’s mouth; controlling and restraining it. To be strong can also be to resist; to resist our temptations, endure and stay calm in the face of hardship and difficulty. 

This card calls on us to be stoic as storms rage. 

Arcanum XI ‘Strength’ Tarot de Marseille

If this card is an act – it is an action from a deep place.

An intuitive, instinctual act. 

If your intuition feels lost, engage in acts that connect you to your physical body in a consistent manner.  Intuition too must be allowed, it is a force like the wind; unruly and invisible. 

Sometimes we have to become still to sense what direction it blows in.

~

But truly, this card is a new opening. Opening like a wild gust of air.

With our breath, we can begin this opening, with our voice we can release old selves, and with our instincts, we can move into the unknown.

~

A guide to daily breathing 

Breath deeply, slowly inhaling through your nose.

Find an opening in the back of your throat. 

Inhale down into the heart, feel the ribcages expand.

Breathe into the stomach, let it relax. 

Allow the breath to reach the pelvic floor.

Exhale and release. 

Incorporate this deep breath into your daily life.

~

Artwork comes from a collaborative project interpreting the Arcana of the Tarot between Jack O’Flynn and Connie Hurley, conducted by post.

Connie is an artist and star living in Edinburgh who is interested in gendered social and support structures, DIY methods of making, folklore narratives, processes and love. her work moves between sculpture, installation, performance, curation, facilitation and friendship. https://cargocollective.com/conniehurley

~

Jack O’Flynn 2021