Continuing this series on the Sacred India Tarot published by Yogi Impressions in November 2011.
The suit of Wands or Staves contain the soul of Agni, the sacred fire – where more so than in these two cards of destiny?
Their story is: in the Seven of Staves, Sita the distrusted bride immerses herself in the flame which is purity itself; in the Eight, she is liberated with her beloved as the Karmic bonds are released. Who among us has not felt scorched with self doubt and then seen the skies open as life becomes simple again?
As Rohit has pointed out, the eight of each suit is an ‘end of Karma card’. Then the seven of each suit portrays a matter of doubt: a threshold through which the Dharma moves. If I look through the four suits, each “seven” portrays an inward gesture or vulnerability to purify, and each ‘eight’ clears the slate. I was not aware of this when I painted them. It was Rohit’s work to perceive the archetypes and their speech, and to email to me, brief suggestions or pointers. When I received these, the primary images took over and flowed, surprising both of us many a time. The deck has an elder Vedic soul. It is contacted and released through creative concentration. Thus the deck provides us with an astute psychological mirror.
Sequentially in the story, Sita tested herself through the flame after her safe return with Rama to India – but in the Mahabharatha as in other great epics, time is not linear but visionary. Hearing bad council, Rama would suspect her of enforced infidelity with Ravana the King of Asuras he had rescued her from, and they suffered a second isolation from each other while this was sorted out. Psychologically a man’s union with his inner beloved can be as fickle as the sea – especially when he believes he should stand alone. In the female psyche, this is mirrored. In all of us the male and female interact – animus and anima – and set up mutual obstacles.
The suit of Wands/Staves denotes the play of sacred weapons; the higher transformation of war games into the martial arts.
The tragedy implicit in the Seventh card, is the old, old story: the woman is targeted. Many of us bear this redemptive burden down the centuries. Is it any wonder when we feel inexplicably tired?
Rohit’s Notes to Jane, 2003
“Card Seven is Sita Agni Parikasha – courage – she asks for it.
“It should be easy enough to show the fire ordeal she goes through to prove her innocence as seven logs of burning wood from which she emerges, held up by Agni lord of fire. The 3 illustrations given should be of some help. This is a dynamic and dramatic card, as everyone except Rama was appalled at what was happening.”
From Rohit’s Book with the Deck
“Sita’s Trial by Fire. Sita has been rescued. In the ensuing celebrations over this fact, as well as Ravana’s death, one awful unspoken question hovers raptor-like over the minds of all. Did Ravana forcibly molest her or did he not? … Rama knows there will never be any end to insinuation, slander and malice if this is not tackled expeditiously. So he harrows Sita by giving voice to the collective suspicion – ‘Ravana could never have been so self-controlled.’
“Sita is outraged and furious. In popular Indian imagination, Sita is all that is meek, timid and subservient to a husband. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Sita of Valmiki’s Ramayana is a fire-brand intellectual, outspoken and fearless, and she is not going to tolerate sniggering speculation about her virtue. She upbraids Rama for daring to speak so – the fault if any is in the abductor, not the woman.
“Provoked beyond endurance, Sita orders Laxmana to arrange a funeral pyre for her, as a life without dignity is worthless. As the appalled audience watches this awe inspiring act of courage – a living Sita seated amidst flames – the gods intervene. Agni god of fire rises from the flames with an unscathed Sita, and remonstrates with Rama for his conduct. Rama wryly admits he manipulated matters thus, so that a public and miraculous vindication of Sita would silence all loose talk forever. The issue is resolved – for now.
“Interpretation of the card: Courage, decisive battle, defiance and reliance on the self. Inner resources and resilience. Do not back away. Inner battles especially over ethical issues and temptation – perseverance through adversity: taking responsibility. Refusal to be intimidated or manipulated into restrictive roles. Able to say ‘No’ without guilt.
“Shadow – this can also be the card of the excuse maker – fatigue and fear of loss – giving in to others’ wishes – neglected talent. Fear of failure or of being thought incompetent. What do you really need to take a stand about, or what are you shirking from? Are your values important, or ‘being liked’? Clean up any clutter at home.”
Behind Sita, Agni the deity of the sacred fire seems to breathe on her gently like a bellows – to raise the power of the pure and liberating flame within her: to open her wings of prana in the chrysalis. In the next card she is the Shakti: she flies.
In alchemical traditions, the transformative agent is the secret fire with the breath: the cooking: the warmth of the hen’s breast to hatch the egg.
I feel this suit thematically signifies woman’s truth and male doubt when he does not listen. We are both masculine and feminine. The creative combat of intuitive wisdom and the rational mind is played out daily within our psyche.
Rohit’s Feedback – “The Seven – Sita in the flames with Agni – This is a superb card, mystical and melancholic, and the Agni is a very unusual interpretation of the god of fire. Perhaps the outlines of the seven wands need to be slightly stronger but in all other aspects it is beautiful. Most seven of wands are all about a huffing and puffing macho sort of courage, but this is courage with dignity and grace. Sita is absolutely wonderful.”
Rohit did not send me a visual reference for the Pushpaka-Vimana, though he mentioned a ‘sculptural panel’, and that it is a conscious vehicle. Here is a link to an article about the vimanas or devic chariots that cut through time and space.
The above article on https://ancientaliens.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/vimanas is fascinating, reminding me of dreams I had in which I built a flying machine whose “engine” was fuelled by balance and intention. The archetype is deep within us, and in “His Dark Materials” Philip Pullman describes an Intention Craft which rises vertically, descends, hovers and travels laterally as thought – a remarkable depiction of the body of light in the western occult tradition.
Correspondence 2003 – Jane to Gautam (publisher) and Rohit (author)
(for Card 9 and the court cards, see next SITA posts)
“Dear Gautam – I do not understand your picture references for Cards 8 and 9. 8 should be the Vimana flight home to Ayodhya, and 9 should be Rama’s agony at banishing Sita; but the pictures you gave are of Sita being abducted and Jatayu fighting Rama, both marked 8. Please clarify.
“For the court cards, which documents are the photos of yourself and Rohit attached to? I do not have the Skanda document you refer to, or the photos! Regards, Jane.”
“Dear Jane, please find below, comments of Rohit: ‘We do not have the exact visual reference for either of these cards, as neither in painting nor sculpture have the two incidents been clearly depicted. The two pictures marked 8 have been provided to convey the impression of flight. They are just triggers for the events to be depicted in card 8, they do not illustrate.
‘For card number 9, there is no reference as such, as the event is both touchy and controversial in India and avoided by artists. Please tell Jane she has free rein to depict it in any manner she chooses.’
“I will send our pictures via email. Warm regards, Gautam.”
Rohit’s Notes 22 September 2003 – Eight of Wands/Staves
“The Pushpaka-Vimana flight back home to Ayodhya (representing swiftness) – The Pushpaka Vimana was supposed to be composed of flowers or flower-bedecked, in blooms that would never fade. It was an airplane of sorts, and there is a bewildering paragraph in the Valmiki Ramayana where Sita asks Rama why the stars are visible from the vimama, even though it is day.
“The answer given is that at such elevation the light of the sun fails, and we see the stars which are always present in the sky! What we perhaps need is a feeling of flying over the ocean, or alternatively we could show the vimana flying over Ayohdhya which too is a spectacular city. I like the touch in the sculptural panel of showing the vimana as an embodied form; according to the texts, the vimana had consciousness and was a genuine personality in its own right. The eight wands could perhaps be poles on the vimana like some sort of flying pavilion?
This image also depicts the power of the Mantric vehicle: the way sound travels through all dimensions. See my earlier posts on Ganapati Muni’s Guru Mantra Bhashya – “Om Vacadhbuve Namaha“.
This link (below) is not strictly speaking related to the content of this post; it arises intuitively because I began this week to learn the Gayatri and other mantras and to chant them at odd times during the day – in the street, on the bus, or wherever. Wonderfully, they clear the weather! The science of mantra fascinates me, and so does the warm and ancient Vedic vibration. My Indian roots are deep.
All powers seek the one who does not slip out from the state of wisdom. They come naturally for the Jnani is omnipotent , whether he shows the powers openly, impelled by momentum of karma, or imperceptibly but surely by his very presence.
With the energy in this Karma-clearing card, 8 of Staves, I see the principle not only in mantra and sound and healing, but in the quality of relationships and what we try to communicate to one another.
From Journal, September 2003 – “I began Eight of Wands yesterday. I have not drawn an oriental vehicle, but a living Being, an outlined gandharva or angel, in whose lap Sita and Rama are transported across the sea to their home. I realised while on this, that what is happening in the world today, is the same as in the Ramayana or the Bhagavad Gita. A vast mythological archetype is in action, destroying the father of lies again. Be gold, go bold, and seize and receive this actual perception. It trembles truth.”
Rohit’s Feedback 10 December 2003 – “The Eight is the most original interpretation of the pushpaka I have yet seen. It conveys that Hanuman carrying Rama subtext as well as showing the swift flight back home.”
From Rohit’s Book with the Deck:
“… The trip from Lanka in the time left, is feasible only by Pushpak Vimara, a flying craft seized by Rama from Kubera, god of wealth. This machine was a curious mixture of science and magic, having human form as well as being a wood and metal craft capable of expanding infinitely, with aisles and window seats! Its fuel was kept in vats on flight, and was an amalgam of wine, honey, mercury and herbal concoctions – a veritable environmentalist’s dream!
“The aerial route described in the Ramayana is similar to the now defunct Colombo to Allahabad air service. It took nine hours to make the trip to Ayodhya, so the speed was quite good if not spectacular … Ancient Indians were fabulous astronomers, and there is nothing peculiar in Rama’s knowledge when he answers Sita that at such heights the rays of the sun do not penetrate and veil the stars, therefore they are visible in the daylight – but the sheer incongruity of such a perspective in the midst of Wordsworthian lyricism is striking. The swift, even giddy atmosphere such a flight would generate, was what the poet captured.
“In a reading – … Things happen sooner than planned for or anticipated, but that is for the best … ideas and work tumble out – increase in vital forces – spiritual breakthroughs and out of body experiences; transcendence of limitations. All Eights are end-of-karma cards, so it also means giving up unproductive and unprofitable activities.
“Or: (shadow) act in haste and repent at leisure, especially when it comes to marriage. Future shock and disproportionate reaction to events – a station wagon trying to be a Ferrari. Pay careful attention to all documents, agreements etc, as the hasty nature of the energy may cause serious blunders or omissions.
“The insight of the card: You have abundant energy. Now set some clear goals and focus this drive to achieving them, before it fritters away in interesting distractions.
My adventure invites fellow travellers. I am a poet, an artist and a seer. I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.
This blog is a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.
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