A Robin’s Tarot Tale

A real reading done for a robin, befitting the season.

 

 
Image: Public Domain

There are many depictions of animals and birds in the Tarot.  They form a great part of the human landscape physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and symbolically. If there’s a heaven, what would it be without them? I wouldn’t mind, personally if mosquitoes, maggots, deadly snakes and komodo dragons didn’t make it. Spiders would be all right as long as they were non-venomous and less than two inches in diameter. However, it’s not me in charge.

The  songbird traditionally most associated with Christmas, or to give the winter festival its older name,   Yuletide – is the robin redbreast. The cheeky, dumpy little European robin, Erithacus rubecula is a member of the flycatcher family.

Its preferred habitats are woodlands, hedgerows, parks and garden. Its staple diet is worms, seeds, fruits and insects. It will fight over sunflower seeds and it adores mealworms. You can buy these in dried form in lots of outlets including many supermarkets. They look revolting though people used to baiting fish hooks won’t mind them. Robins have been to take mealworms by hand, so irresistibly delicious are they to robin-kind.

Male and female European robins are identical to look at, adults of both sexes having the red breast, while young robins have no red breast, and are a speckled golden brown colour. The lack of red breast in the young defends them from territorial attack by adults. The robin lives a little over one year on average. If it lives beyond 1.1 years it may achieve twelve years and has been known to reach the age of twenty, but long life is rare.

The robin’s endearing appearance belies its feistiness. It’ll fight to the death for its territory, and one in ten die in combat. They have been seen to chase off pigeons much bigger than they are. The one in my garden right now however, is rather timid and will scurry into the rosemary when a pigeon appears. Well, I suppose they are individuals just as we are.

Robin redbreast builds a cup-shaped nest in a hole or hidden in ground cover, and will sing all year round. Click here to hear its song and for other general information from the RSPB:-

The robin received the human pet name of ‘Robin’ in the fifteenth century. It has a special place in the library of legends embedded in the Tarot, and a robin may be observed in some decks, including the King of Pentacles card in the Sacred Circle Tarot Deck.

It belongs there by virtue of the symbolism and superstitions attached to it.

Some older people consider the robin a bird of ill omen, a harbinger of death. It is considered unlucky for a robin to fly into a house as Death is expected to follow. For this reason, a Christmas card with a picture of a robin on it is not always welcome with people aware of this tradition. But compassion and care for the dead is also attributed to the robin. One legend says that it tried to help Christ by pulling off a thorn from the crown Jesus had been made to wear, injuring itself in the process – hence its red breast. Another old tale says that it was a robin who found the bodies of the lost ‘Babes in the Wood‘, and who buried them with a golden coverlet of fallen leaves.

If your robin seems shy, it may be a visitor from Europe. British robins haunt gardens more than their European relatives, are more used to human contact and are bold in comparison with European winter visitors which tend to favour woodlands in their native lands.

All right, you robin.

English: Robin Redbreast
English: Robin Redbreast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m on my way out with  sugared bread (for energy it’s better to give them cake or sugared bread than plain bread) Here are some more of those revolting mealworms, and let’s hang up another half coconut of fat and nuts. But note this, my fine robin friend; this is not just for you, but is for sharing with the blue-tits and coal-tits, the blackbirds,  sparrows and the finches.

The North Wind Doth blow

And we shall have snow

And what will the robin do then, poor thing?

He’ll hide in a barn

To keep himself warm

And hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

Let’s see what the robin currently peering out from the safety of the big rosemary bush, will communicate via the Tarot.

Are you a cock or hen robin?

Answer card: The High Priestess. Just to make sure, I pull another card and get the Moon Reversed. Meanings: I am a hen bird. I am solitary right now, I want no mate. This is not the time.

What are you thinking right now?

Answer card: The Empress. Meaning? What have we here? Food! I have discovered a new harvest!  Being provided for, I must eat my fill while I can.

I pull another card, just as the robin flies off again…and, strangely enough, the card is The Chariot.  The robin has flitted just a short distance to sit on top of the seed feeder hung in the bare branches of the laburnum tree.

Why have you gone to sit there?

Answer card: The Seven of Wands Reversed.  Meaning: I am new to this garden and I must be careful. This is a good vantage point from which to spy out enemies and not be taken unawares.

What’s your favourite time of year?  

Answer card: The Empress Reversed.  Meaning: A time when there are plenty of fruits and seeds, but there are still sheltering leaves on the trees. A time when there are still long hours of light to feed by, and sometimes there’s still warmth…the night is not so bitter, the air does not bite so hard. My legs creak like sticks at first light when I must move for food or die. How I wish it could always be the time of the Empress.

OK, verification may not be an option as with readings done for domestic species.  Still, I have done animal readings before, and know intuitive communication can work inter-species. Maybe it would not work with all species, but the tarot affords a means of extending perception beyond the boundaries of self, and living things share common drives and goals. Sentient and sensate beings, whether bare or feathered, scaled or furry, are inextricably subject to vagaries of environment, the common denominator in shared consciousness.

During the severe winter of 1962/63, the UK robin population was worse than decimated, reduced to an estimated 50-60 breeding pairs. Spare a little if you can, for your fellow creatures outside this winter.

Until next time 🙂

The Death Card: The Angel & The Hamster

Death Card To The Rescue…a true tarot hamster tale.

angel of death 

The Angel of Death, by Evelyn de Morgan.

 

The Death card has in recent years been distanced from death as a physical event by the Tarot profession. The motivation has largely been so as not to frighten or disempower anyone. The Death card has been repackaged with an emphasis upon its power and value as Transition or Transformation.

There is much to be said in favour of this change of emphasis. Life is full of change and flux. Circumstances change, die, evolve. Winter comes. Sometimes a situation is over-ripe for change, and the appearance of the Death card will identify this as a good time to let go and move on, which is helpful to know if decisions are called for. I often draw it in a guise that the querent finds entirely welcome.

But Death is inescapable. It walks amongst us in Life, and is the agent of much of our greatest grief and fear. It is not our enemy, except as the thief of desires unfulfilled. Nature wants Death. It has engineered it for Life In The Grand Scheme.

But it’s the ultimate gateway to the unknown, perhaps to the extinguishing of our uniqueness, our personality? I think our consciousness survives the moment of bodily death at least for a few days. Where it goes afterwards is not for anyone to know for sure.

In my own experience, the Death card is actually not the sole predictor of human physical death in the Tarot. I tend to see instead multiple and repeated combinations including the Fool Reversed, Tower, Judgement dignified or reversed, 4 Swords, 6 Swords, Ace Swords Reversed, Strength, Star Reversed and the Sun reversed.

But I have seen the Death card in readings where the card has done exactly what it says on the tin, detecting a recent death, or presaging one. Tackling or avoiding these discussions when the cards raise them requires careful judgement.  Readers must do no harm, and can get it wrong. Humility is the corollary of respect.

But the Death card can be a friendly angel. One afternoon two summers ago I drew this card, and it appeared to be referring to somebody in a state of childhood (The 6 of Cups)

I immediately got up to go and check on the hamster. I associate the suit of Cups not only with childhood, children, nostagia, happy times, but with animals, who live so pignantly in the moment, asking little.

The  hamster had recently had a fall. She did not fall far, she tumbled down the back of the sofa on to a cushion. Her landing was soft and Il Matrimonio laughed because it looked comical but something about the way she picked herself up worried me.

Bam-Bam the Bold, Beautiful and occasionally Bad (a toe nipper in her youth) had been ill two days after this fall, and we had thought she was on her way out.  Tears in our eyes, hankies at the ready, spritzing the air with Rescue Remedy  we took turns to hold her for more than three hours.

Then ANTICLIMAX. All at once the small personage decided she was better, and scrambled off. She was bright as a button next day, trying to climb the wine rack (that’s my girl) and chomping my Gombrich’s History of Art on the lowest book shelf (in hardback)

We were delighted of course, but puzzled. She was my tenth hamster and I’d never seen such a recovery from prostration. The little things don’t  ‘do’ illness.

So now, drawing the Death card ten days after this event, an awful thought struck me. I headed upstairs as fast as I could go to the Hamster Palace and found her in great distress, stumbling about. She tried to evade my hand and knowing she was sexist, as animals often are, I knew she would prefer my husband’s smell, I mean, scent, and went to fetch his pyjama top to use for getting hold of her.

I held her cuddled upright in this for two hours while she rested, unmoving. Later that evening she was sufficiently recovered to eat a small square of  brown toast with acacia honey (good for rodents with diarrhea) I offered her cooled chamomile tea, which she first refused at first but later took a real shine to. I had read this would calm her and possibly offer pain relief.

Speaking with the vet on the telephone. I wondered if Bam-Bam might have had a hernia of her diaphragm. If she did, then when it popped out that would explain her struggling to breathe. When it popped back into its rightful position,  it would explain why she recovered and why holding her almost vertically against my body produced recovery, gravity doing its work. The vet thought a hernia highly likely after the fall. But he had nothing to offer that would not involve distress for an animal so small.  And at 18 months, she was at a classic age for hamster health problems.

The third attack will be her last, I told my husband. (The 3 of Swords)

She left us two weeks later. The Angel of Death took her away in a kindly fashion with nothing of Swords in the manner of it.  I was deeply grateful to the Tarot for the forewarning that sent me to her when she was in distress. Even animals who are solitary by nature, will learn to look for company and when she went, she was not alone.

Bam-Bam The Bold is buried under the pink rose in the back garden with her predecessor, the curtain climbing, mighty-for-her-size but ever sweet-tempered Coco the Courageous. There are Dog roses. I say, let there be Ham Roses or any kind of animal roses we want. Only animals? Well, so are we. It’s all Life, and what would a heaven be without them, anyway?

I’ll still swat a mosquito though, as soon as look at it, and think komodo dragons are entirely disgusting, from which I deduce I am not ready for Enlightenment.

Until next time 🙂