18. The Moon: Cognitive Distortions

The Moon is such an important celestial body for all of us here on Earth. The word moon comes from the word for ‘month’, which shows how important it is for us when it comes to measuring time. The Moon’s gravity causes tides, of which there are two high, and two low in 24 hours.

The Moon has been, and in many cultures continues to be used as a way of marking time. According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, today (12th August) is in fact the 22nd of June.

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Source

We only see one side of the Moon, because it is in synchronous rotation with Earth. Occasionally we can see about 18% of the far side, but we didn’t see the rest until 1959. This can make the Moon seem very mysterious. Before the far side of the Moon was photographed, I wonder what humans used to think it was like.

The Moon is also associated with many deities such as Artemis, Selene, and Hecate. In China, they have Chang’e, who flew to the Moon after drinking an immortality elixir. In Japan, Tsukuyomi angered the sun Goddess Amaterasu so much that she created day and night so that she would not have to be near him.

Let’s look at The Moon as a tarot card:

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch.

I love how strange it looks. The Star Spinner version depicts Chang’e who I mentioned above. There’s a quote in the Sasuraibito Little White Book for The Moon that I love:

You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather. – Pema Chodron

This card represents illusions and fears. It gives you a feeling that you’re not sure if what you’re seeing or experiencing is real. Think of the word ‘lunacy’ meaning madness, which comes from another name for the Moon: Luna.

According to A. E. Waite, who co-created the RWS deck, the wolf and the dog represent fears of the mind when there is only reflected light to guide you. Your animal self, fight, flight, or freeze. The crawfish represents universal fears.

This card has a lot to teach us if we are struggling with mental health, or if we are neurodivergent and struggle with masking a lot. I am reminded of the concept of Cognitive Distortions, which are thought patterns in which you interpret reality in a negative and damaging way. If you have ever done Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), you will have heard of these:

All-or-nothing thinking– Also known as ‘splitting’ or ‘black-and-white thinking’. This is when you see a situation as all good, or all bad. There is no grey area or in-between. Often perfectionists struggle with this one. Recognise that everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect, and that you can overcome difficulties without getting everything right. Accept what you cannot change, and know that you’ll get it right next time.

Overgeneralising– This is when one bad thing happens and you think ‘this always happens to me!’ This is a distortion which I think can be improved by gratitude journaling. If you log the good things that happen to you, you can read them back when you’re feeling like nothing good ever happens.

Filtering– This happens when you only remember the bad things out of something that happened. Dwelling on the negative will hurt you. It’s important to recognise when something bad has happened, as rejecting bad feelings will hurt you just as badly. But don’t let the bad outweigh the good.

Disqualifying the positive– This is when something good happens and you dismiss it as a one-off. Alternatively it can mean that someone said something nice to you and you think they don’t mean it. Remember that people say nice things because they care about you.

Jumping to conclusions– It can be frustrating when someone says what they think you mean before you even get to say anything right? So when you’re communicating with others, let them tell you what they mean, and don’t assume. This can also be associated with self-fulfilling prophecies. If you think you can’t achieve something, you probably won’t try as hard and you’ll end up being right. Try to keep an open mind.

Catastrophising– This is where you think the absolute worst case scenario will happen. I recommend letting your mind go down that path and make a quick plan for if the worst does happen. That way, you’ll see that no matter what happens, you can cope. And it probably won’t be that bad anyway.

Please remember that this is just one view, and that CBT does not work for everyone. If you find learning about Cognitive Distortions useful, then great. If not, then feel free to throw that idea out and find something else that resonates with you. My other recommendation when thinking about The Moon is the book The Gift of Fear. This is a book about using your intuition or gut instinct to empower yourself.

When you pull The Moon, take a moment to meditate or journal about fears and illusions, and ways that you can use your own intuition to see through them. The Moon doesn’t ask us to solve anything just yet, only to begin letting your mind work through things.

If you are struggling with your mental or neurological health, please contact your GP. I find tarot to be useful as a self-help tool, but it cannot replace therapy.

4. The Emperor: Leaders and Tyrants

I, like many people, find The Emperor a little difficult to relate to. With his stern face and cold stone throne, he’s a little intimidating. But if you have ever been in a leadership position, such as a manager, or if you have had to deal with someone in a position of authority, The Emperor has some useful advice for you.

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Upper left: Sasuraibito, Upper right: Star Spinner, Lower left: This Might Hurt, Lower Right: Modern Witch

 

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Ankh

That cross he is holding in most of the depictions is an ankh. It’s an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol that represents the concept of life. It’s like our lives are at his mercy. He clearly has a lot of power. In some of these images, he even holds the whole world in his hand. And the ram imagery makes us think of the Aries zodiac sign. Aries is ruled by the planet Mars, named for the Roman God of War. His Greek counterpart is Ares and there’s an interesting difference between the two: where Mars was loved and admired by the Romans, the Greeks kind of… hated Ares.

Let’s start with Mars. Mars tried to use his power to promote peace, associated with the period of Pax Romana. Let’s not sugarcoat his story though, he wasn’t exactly a good guy. The story of Romulus and Remus, and Rhea Silvia is brutal and violent. But when we compare him to Ares, his Greek equivalent, Mars was celebrated, and we did name a planet and a month after him.

In comparison, Ares is told once by his father Zeus that he is ‘the god most hateful to him’. He constantly causes destruction, and has children named ‘fear’, ‘terror’, and ‘discord’. Where Mars is more of a leader figure, Ares is a complete tyrant.

 

So, The Emperor is a leader, an authority. He prefers structure, rules, and order. if you are Autistic, you’ll know how important structure can be. But if you’ve ever had a boss on a power trip, you know how limiting rules can be. We have all seen these ideals used for good, and for bad. Right now is a perfect time to be thinking about this.

This year, 2020 is the year of The Emperor. You can figure the current year’s card out by adding up the numbers in the year: 2 + 0 + 2 + 0 = 4. The Emperor is card number 4. Think about how we can use structure and rules to help us this year. Wearing a mask, keeping your distance from others, these are ways The Emperor asks us to promote peace and wellbeing at this time.

How can the qualities of The Emperor be used negatively? Poor leadership from politicians, police brutality and oppression. Wielding power over others, rather than using your power for the good of all. Like the Emperor with his ankh, there are people in this world who hold others’ lives in their hands. Whether enacting oppressive welfare policies, or literally being able to control if someone lives or dies, the power of The Emperor is often abused.

The Emperor also asks us to have good boundaries. The number 4 represents stability and foundations. Don’t let other people walk all over you. Whether they’re an authority figure or not, we are Emperors of our own lives, and we have the right to make decisions under our own initiative. If you see a misuse of power and it’s safe for you to do so, speak up. If you pull The Emperor card, consider where you can make positive changes in your community, or in your life to celebrate good Emperors, and bring down tyrannical ones. Remember to defend your boundaries against toxic people.

If you’re a manager and you’d like to learn how to be a great leader like the ideal Emperor, I really recommend the blog Ask A Manager. You can also go there to get advice if you’re dealing with bad management, so I hope it helps someone out there.

2. The High Priestess: Thin Places

The Secret Commonwealth. If you have read Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust series, you might recognise that name.  To see where Pullman got his inspiration from, we will have to go back in time to over 300 years ago.

In 1691, minister of Aberfoyle, Rev. Robert Kirk wrote of a land of fairies, or sith (pronounced shee) in his book The Secret Commonwealth. Rev Kirk believed he had met mythological creatures such as elves and fairies, and there’s no better place for such meetings as Scotland, where the veil between our world and the ‘other world’ is thin. Whether this other world is heaven, the underworld, or the land of the fairies, it is thought to be mysterious and you only tend to stumble upon it by accident.

One of the most famous Thin Places is the Isle of Iona. Before it was known for Columba’s arrival in the year 563, some theorise that this island was named Innis nan Druidhneach, which means Isle of the Druids. Druids were pre-christian priests, philosophers, lawmakers, and teachers. There isn’t much known about them, since there was a concerted effort by early Christians to wipe indigenous religion out, but there is no doubt that the idea of a veil between worlds has been a potent one for potentially thousands of years. The previous leader of the modern-day Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, Philip Carr-Gomm has in fact written about the Isle as a sacred location. The Celts thought that the veil was thinnest at Samhainn (pronounced saw-in), a Gaelic festival day beginning at sunset on the 31st October until sunset on the 1st of November.

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Druids in England: Two Druids walking in the English countryside, 18th-century engraving.

So what does The High Priestess have to do with Thin Places? Let’s have a look at her depiction in a few different decks:

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In most of these depictions, you can see a pomegranate patterned veil behind The High Priestess. She is the guardian of the veil between our world and some other world. I see The High Priestess as telling us that there is always more to a situation, always more to learn. She is holding some kind of scroll but we can’t see what is written on it.

Along with the two opposite-coloured pillars next to the High Priestess, the veil teaches us an interesting lesson. There is more than one side to a story. The High Priestess is asking us to understand that there is nuance in every situation. The veil is the gap between what you know, and reality.

Learn the difference between your own feelings, and how others may perceive the same situation. You can’t have all the answers, and being humble and accepting that is a step towards better communication. Using this method can help you to step beyond the veil, and learn a different perspective. Be receptive to new knowledge even if it doesn’t immediately align with what you think.

In a way, The High Priestess is like The Magician, but she is focused inwards, rather than outwards. She deals with what we think and feel, rather than what we do. If you pull this card, take a moment to step back and see if there is anything you’ve missed, something you have misunderstood. Although some people focus on the gender duality between The Magician and The High Priestess, or The Empress and The Emperor, others do not see that as useful, as there are aspects of femininity and masculinity in all people, regardless of gender.

I thought it would be fun to mention some of the mythological characters that The High Priestess is associated with, as her card has some rich imagery that evokes legends you may have heard of.

Persephone: There is a myth that the Goddess of the springtime, flowers, and vegetation, also became the Goddess of the Underworld when she was kidnapped by Hades. Hades tricked her into eating some pomegranate seeds from his realm and so Persephone became bound to the Underworld for a third of the year. It is said that because she is gone from the world above during the winter, that is why we don’t have vegetation and flowers during those months

Pope Joan: The High Priestess card used to be known as The Popess, and there is a legend that during the Middle Ages, a woman managed to become Pope by pretending to be a man. The ruse was unfortunately up when she inconveniently gave birth during a procession.

Isis/Hathor: The High Priestess’ headdress resembles that of Hathor, and Isis’ role helping the dead enter the afterlife is somewhat similar to the story of Persephone. Both of these  Goddesses are also seen as a manifestation of the divine feminine.

Artemis: The moon evokes thoughts of Artemis, Greek Goddess of the hunt, the moon, and protector of girls. She famously turned Actaeon, a hunter, into a stag when he was caught peeping on her while she was bathing. As he ran away, his dogs chased him and tore him to pieces.