Evocations of Emotions
Recently, I decided to do a grieving ritual for my time in academia. I’d dropped out of my PhD in 2005 and for almost a year had not really had a chance to process the emotions over leaving under such circumstances. My wife had bought me the Voyager Tarot, and I needed to break it in, so I decided to use it to help me divine the various causes of my grief. By objectifying my grief through the reading, I could draw those elements out of my psyche and take control of my grief, bring it to a resolution.
The picture is for a frame of reference as I refer to each card.
The central card was Logic, which accurately represented academic thought processes and so was the core of the particular sorrow I wanted to evoke.
The card to the bottom left was a card that explained the mission of the Voyager Tarot. The lines that stood out to me were: “Voyager Tarot is a mirror extension of yourself. Respect it as you Respect yourself1.” The words “mirror” and “respect” especially resonated with me. I’ve always used mirrors as a gateway to myself, and I realized that I needed to find some respect that I’d lost for myself in leaving academia.
To the immediate left was the Sun card, representing glory and power. In this particular case, it represented a feeling of dis-empowerment that I’d felt as a result of my academic experiences. That dis-empowerment came in the form of a loss of self-confidence in my writing and in who I identified myself to be.
On the upper left was Compassion, which indicated a need to forgive myself as well as the others in the situation. I tend to hold grudges for a long time, both toward myself and other people. In order for me to find my peace I knew needed to forgive everyone involved.
Above the Logic card was the Seeker Card. This one represented both my desire to seek a resolution and the vulnerability I’d felt as a seeker of knowledge in academia. It was the loss of my social life (at that point in time), but also the loss of my innocence. When I’d gone to academia I’d sought a community of fellowship and had quickly found that no such community existed and that a lot of competition was involved in the learning process.
The card on the upper right hand corner was time-space and represented my feelings of bitterness over spending three and a half years in a PhD program, without getting the degree. There have been times when I’ve felt I wasted those three and a half years. Rationally I know otherwise, because all experiences are never wasted. Emotionally, I was irrational and wanted those three and a half years back.
To the immediate right was the learner card, which represented the loss of wonder and enjoyment in learning I experienced when I realized academia was a game and not quite the place of learning I’d thought it was. I wanted learning to be fun again, instead of being a tedious chore of proving who could drop more names than the other person.
The card to the lower right was confusion, which represents what I felt and still feel about my academic experience. I was confused by how I got to the point where I needed to leave the program. I was also confused by the feelings of bitterness I had over choosing to leave, and the wistful longing that occasionally brought up a desire to be back in academia.
After I did the reading, I left the cards out and pulled out my art supplies. I felt it was useful for me to grieve by evoking and expressing that grief. I allowed each tarot card to register in my mind’s eye and then asked the consciousness of that card to take over and guide my hands in painting the symbols that best expressed the meanings I’d found in the cards. I also wanted to paint how those meanings related to each other, by creating in the symbols a linkage to the other symbols.
During the actual painting, I didn’t feel any grief. The trance I was in focused more on getting the symbols on paper. But the creation and linkage of those symbols was also meant to create a gate in the painting, for the purpose of containing and evoking the energy of the emotions I felt, so that the energy could be put to better use than in a continual cycle of grief and anger.
This is a picture of the painting. Each of the symbols relates to the spread I drew.
Once the painting was completed, I vividly recalled the feelings I associated with academia. The frustration I felt at failing the exams, the politics, the three and a half years of time I’d invested into the degree, not getting the degree, the loss of confidence and the feeling of dis-empowerment I felt; all of these feelings surged with a vengeance into my consciousness. My chest felt heavy, as if a large block was on it. I then opened my mouth and “vomited” the energy into the painting. A loud keening cry of sorrow came from throat as I gave voice to the grief and regret I felt over everything that had happened. This continued for quite a while. When I could no longer give voice to my grief, I stopped. The energy had gone into the painting, where I could access it as needed, but where it would also no longer be a toxic presence in my life.
I’ve always taken the approach that any and everything has its uses. I’ve used similar evocations of emotions before to store away emotional energy. I still feel the energy, but it’s then recycled and stored away until it’s needed for magical workings. I no longer wallow in the pain. Instead, those emotions are directed toward accomplishing specific goals and tasks that will help me achieve my desires. I would note that a person shouldn’t think I’ve closed myself off from the emotions or denied their validity. The purpose of the ritual is to grieve, to vent, and give the sorrow a voice, but also to redirect that energy so it no longer cycles back to the subconscious to torment me further.
As an interesting side note, after doing this ritual, some of my insecurities reared their heads, probably because of the deep plunge into the subconscious to deal with the lingering emotional issues concerning academia. In particular, I had a vivid nightmare of being judged by a panel of people. Over the next day and a half, these insecurities were expressed in several different ways, through online posts and through just feeling the emotions. However, in each case I was able to consciously act in regards to the insecurities and come to a resolution that was beneficial for those feelings. I think these insecurities woke up because they related to the issues in the painting. In other words, it was the rest of the emotions expressing themselves before being funneled into the painting where they could be stored until evoked for magical purposes.
- Voyager Tarot Kit: Intuition Cards for the 21st Century Wanson & Knutsen 1984
©2007 Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.com/ and his website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/.