December 4 is St. Barbara’s Day. Interestingly, she is also associated with Chango/Shango. In tarot, she is associated with The Tower. For the third year in a row, my friend and I celebrated. At the bottom of this post is a spread that we used for our first year’s celebration. You can do this spread any time, not just on her feast day.
Although this is a Catholic saint, we do not celebrate as Catholics, although we were both raised as such. Instead, we work with the various St. Barbara stories as if they are a sacred text, much in the same way as I read tarot as a sacred text or as the hosts of the wonderful podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, read those books as sacred texts. As with so many of the stories of the saints, there are many versions. We do not try to establish the “true” story or demand factual evidence. A sacred text is not a scientific research paper.
Each year we focus on a different aspect of the stories. The basic plot of her story is that her father locked her in a tower to keep her safe and virtuous and away from the heretic Christians. Food and necessities were sent up to her in a basket attached to a rope. One day, somehow, a book found its way into the basket and Barbara read it. It was about Christianity and she thought it was wonderful. She wanted to learn more but her father was suspicious and controlled her life. But Barbara was pretty clever. She feigned illness and said that she knew of a doctor, the only doctor who could save her. Her father sent for the doctor, not realizing he was a doctor of the soul not of the body. Barbara learned all about Christian faith and was baptized.
Her father went away on business for a few days. While he was gone, Barbara ordered her father’s architects to add another window to her tower, which only had two windows. She wanted three windows to represent the Holy Trinity. When her father returned, he was, of course, outraged. He turned her in as a heretic and she was beaten and punished, but she would not repent. This went on for days, maybe weeks, but each night she asked Jesus to heal her wounds and he did. Because he’s cool like that. Her father was ordered to behead her so he took her to the foothills of a mountain (like you do) and attempted to cut her head off. After he accomplished this horrible crime, lightning struck, killing him and causing a mountain to fall on him.
That is one variation and I left out lots of things. And my friend and I change the ending. In our version, she does not die but escapes just before the lightning hits her father and goes on to teach love and commitment for many years.
We began our celebration by spending a few minutes at the alter I’d set up with candles and a painting I made of her followed by three minutes in meditation, inviting St. Barbara to come to us and guide us of in our discussion, reflection, and tarot reading. In my meditation, I was taken immediately to what looked like a WWI trench with soldiers in it. Barbara was going behind each one, laying her hands on them. She looked back at me with a look that said, “I’m busy right now. Just get to work.” Even though St. Barbara is associated with artillery, it was clear that this vision was metaphoric and not a literal call to physical violence.
As we discussed our meditation experiences, the message for me was that I know what is right and what must be done, what my work in the world is, and that I need to be braver and share my messages more clearly and with a wider reach. Until now, I have been quietly posting my messages on my blog and hoping that whoever needs the messages will find them. St. Barbara says that that is not enough. If I want to be part of changing the world, I need to be more on the front lines.
We finished our evening with doing readings for ourselves, sharing our messages, and adding to each other’s, as we felt led to. We used the second edition of the World Spirit Tarot and Carrie Paris’ Magpie Oracle. Very often, I take a photo or write out my reading in my journal but sometimes some readings are different. They are oracular moments that feed the soul more than the conscious mind. They are meant to be experienced rather than analyzed and mulled over and figured out. This reading, for me, was like that.
During our discussion and reflection, we noted how an apparently randomly acquired book held a life-changing message for St. Barbara. In myths, we often see that the environment is responsive to the hero. Barbara was seeking wisdom and it came to her. She, in turn, was responsive and changed her environment to reflect her new wisdom by adding a window to her tower. So my friend and I asked Spirit to help us be open to common, everyday things and occurrences that might hold such messages for us and how we can respond and create effective change in the world.
The next day I received a holiday card from a cousin who wrote something about really missing my presence on Facebook and maybe in 2017 I’d consider returning. Others have asked me over this past year but I always knew that the answer was, at least for now, “no.” With this one, I wasn’t so sure. I’m not someone who believes that every random thought is sacred intuition. Instead, I prefer to take the idea as a suggestion and test it against my current goals and values.
So I am still thinking about this, thinking how could my Facebook experience be different. How can I use it to share my messages without getting dragged back into my old way of using the platform. It may come to nothing. Or it may lead to something vital to my journey. As we enter into the darkest time of the year, I will spend time in reflection and prayer.
In the meantime, I blessed my neighborhood that night with words inspired from our celebration:
May you stand up for something with love, honor, and integrity without violence.
May you stand up for thing, large or small—yourself, another person, an ideal.
May you stand up for something you love and take one step closer to your true self.
With that, I offer an additional blessing to us all:
May you find and face the darkest parts of yourself.
May you find the peace and strength to transform them.
May you discover your next best step on your journey to live your true soul’s purpose.
May you know that you have the power to change yourself and the world.
As some of you may know, I've begun blessing my neighborhood each night. I talk about it HERE.
Some nights, the blessings feel too special to keep to myself and my neighborhood, so sometimes I'll share them here for you. Because I want you all to be blessed, too.
You are blessed with discernment.
You are blessed with the ability to take action.
May these qualities drop deeply into your heart and grow.
May your deepest core start imagining, feeling, seeing how things can be different.
May that beautiful vision grow until it manifests through your actions
and change the world.
Human beings are manifestation machines. There are lots of ways we create reality. On the physical level, we are natural makers…from creating whole worlds with words, to deep emotions with music, to grand awe with paint or architecture. We also create in other ways. There is a belief, which I share, that thoughts become things. This is an amazing ability that we are only starting to fully appreciate. With this ability comes responsibility.
Everyone has the same amount of time in a day. Everyone has a store of energy and attention that can be used during that time. The big question is what are we doing with it? What are the long term and bigger picture ramifications of our thoughts and actions? The more we understand our power, the more responsibility we have in wielding it well. We have the opportunity to decide what larger field of reality we are feeding.
In times of chaos or fear or anger, we…or at least I…turn to the comfort of focusing on smaller things that we feel we can control. Creating order out of chaos is a natural response and usually helpful. But sometimes we get caught up in either things that don’t really matter or are harmful although we may not realize it. Both of these responses are a misuse of our creative manifesting power.
Let’s say we spend some of our precious, non-renewable resource of time and some of our potent energy (it is potent whether you realize it or not) in posting some grammar meme, like these:
Now, as a writer I understand the importance of grammar (even if I don’t always get it right). As a spiritual being who is trying to understand how to best use my power and resources to create a world that is an expression of Love (as opposed to our limited human ideas about love), I cringe at hyper vigilance and judgment being spread like an insidious virus in the name of humor or in upholding the pillars of civilization (many take their grammar way too seriously).
I believe that when we do something like this, we accomplish two things.
1. We are using our precious resources on something that is at most ineffective and at best downright wasteful. If we truly care about grammar and helping people learn to use language more effectively, our time and energy would be best used in teaching…and teaching with love and respect. Intent matters. Indeed, I am counting on the importance of intent as I write this, as I certainly don't want to fall into the trap I am describing.
2. We feed the field of bullying and judgmental energy. This is so important. We live in a liminal time, a time in between stories. Our old worldviews are dying and new ones are forming (we, as co-creators of the universe are at this moment creating the future). That’s one reason we are seeing things in the world that we are right now…the old world has essentially died and we are experiencing its death throes. It has nothing to lose so it is thrashing out wildly. Our job is to help minimize the damage it does on the way out. Our other job is to pay attention to what energy fields we are feeding with our time, attention, actions, words, etc. Calling or implying that people are inferior to you because they didn’t have the same education or environment that allowed them to take advantage of education as you feeds the field of bullying. Do we want our next story to the same story but just with other people doing the bullying? I don’t. Be the change you want to see. Live the story you want to tell. Think about what you are doing and why. Imagine your actions as seeds that will grow in the future. What will they grow into? Something that nourishes live or something destructive?
How does this tie into tarot? Let’s consider the 5 of Swords. It tells many stories, as all the cards do. The story I’m thinking of now is of the pyrrhic victory. As we try, in our fear of chaos and the death throes of the old world, to push forward anything that imposes order and makes us feel better about ourselves, we may win some battles. We may help someone actually understand the differences between they’re, their, and there. We may (and this is more likely) help ourselves feel better about ourselves because we are so very smart and our like-minded friends will jump in and help feed that good feeling even more. But those are the short-term benefits. What are the long-term possibilities? Like the dude in the 5 of Swords, gleefully collecting all the weapons and probably feeling pretty darn superior, at what cost did he win? Did he give up a part of his soul? Did he alienate potential allies? Did he create future enemies? Did he feed the energy field of terror and fear?
I imagine we can all feed the world...this current one and the future...with something more nourishing, more life-giving, and more beautiful.