I thought I’d talk a little bit about Pathworking with tarot. It’s a practice that while I am certainly no expert, I’ve gleaned much wisdom and insight each time I go through the process. It’s yet another trick in my Spiritual-Magickal-Philosophical tool bag. I like tools, and as is evident by many of my exboyfriends, they also like me. Bwaahaahaaa! My tools simply help me connect the dots as I map my Travels down the Path. So far I’ve found that the tarot, a bit of low magick, energy work, ritual, and of course pathworking works best for me. It helps. I don’t get into any of the Kaballistic aspects of Pathworking. I just don’t know enough about it. Presently, it’s not my area of expertise. I haven’t gotten past the Chicken Qabbalah… Or is it Cabala?
That’s not to say you can’t do pathworking by other means, although I would assume it’s a very profound experience to do so with Qabalah-coloured glasses on. Is it creative visualization? Is it an exercise in using Jung’s Active Imagination? Is it a journey into the “astral realm”? Is it self-guided meditation? Is it a “shamanic journey”? Maybe it’s all of the above. Maybe it’s none of those things. The thing is, I don’t know. I was doing it long before it had a name. My mind might meander off during meditation, and I might pick up on some of the same things, but it’s not the same as actually sitting down with a very specific intent in mind. I am going to “go” somewhere, to learn, see, or understand something that will be of spiritual value to me. It’s a meditation and magickal technique, where the gods seem best able to communicate. It’s good stuff. I do it often enough to feel comfortable with it. I often will use one of the Tarot trumps as a gateway, depending on what I’m doing. The idea of movement or progression is part of the Fool’s journey, and Tarot is something I know and understand, while using the Qabalah is not. Ain-Soph? What kind of nothing was that again? What?
Here is a good article on how one method initiate the process…
A Book on the Subject (I haven’t read it, but it looks interesting. I’m adding it to the list…)
I’ll share a little bit of my process. It’s been honed over the years through hypnosis, guided meditation, studying the tarot and occult, and of course my own experimentation. It’s by no means the only way to do it. Whatever gets you where you’re going.
1. Ground & Center or Open up some Chakras, etc. Whatever works. I’m chakra-challenged, but I can do the whole imagine your trees are roots reaching into the earth… blah, blah, blah thing like a pro. Whatever you do that gets you balanced, anchored, and ready energy wise… Do it. Just do it! I wouldn’t consider pathworking to be energy intensive, but I personally get a little ookie and nauseous if I don’t anchor first. It’s a delicate balance for me. Hell, if hitting yourself on the head with a frying pan and doing your best Terance and Phillip impression singing the “Uncle Fucker” is what does it… This Erisian Princess salutes you! Hells… I think I’ll join you! Sounds like my kind of party.
2. Get into an altered-state of consciousness… I get all relaxy. I might listen to some music that helps me zone out or gets me into a semi-altered state, or light trance. My monkey-mind is fickle, and this is the hardest thing for me. Tibetan singing bowls seem to do the trick, as does tamboura or swaranandala, or the sounds of a rainstorm. Ocean waves? Fuck you, ocean waves! You’re no help at all. I can’t relax enough if I’m drunk or herbally-enhanced. Anything that will put you into a light trance is perfect. Drumming is good. Mantras. Counting on some prayer beads till your mind goes numb. Listening to Britney. Whatever bangs your gong, dude. My favorite is listening to Spencer Krug’s voice, it can put me into a trance state pretty quickly, but I tend to get too amped up. I swear, he’s a Shaman but he doesn’t know it. I love him. I want him to be my Canadian Indie Rock God Accidental Shaman boyfriend. My husband approves.
3. State your purpose or intent clearly in your mind. Decide where you want to go or what you want to find out. If I am wanting to use one of the Tarot trumps as a jumping off point, I will simply think of what the card means to me, and what type of knowledge or insight I wish to gather. Even if the reason is that I just want to explore a little bit, or see what happens, that is fine too. “Hey… I just want to look around and explore! Whoopity-doo!” is just as good of an intent as any. I’ve sought healing to physical issues, answers to spiritual questions, or just wanted to understand why the Fool was so damn happy all the time.
4. Visualize your Starting Point or Pick your “Gateway” I do this two ways… If I’m really crystal clear about where I’m going, such as using the Tarot, I will begin by visualizing the card, almost as if I’ve just walked into the scene from a distance. I look at everything around me, and try to notice all I can. The smells, the feel, the energy, the way the light hits, the people that are there, what they look like, etc. Eventually, I become part of the scene, and the fun begins. I’ve crossed the threshold, and the journey can begin. When using tarot, I’ve done it two ways… I’ve used just the imagery alone in a card as my Gateway, or the Archetype itself. You could do both, but when using the imagery, the archetype is not my focus or it’s unimportant. You could do this with any visual image of your choice, as long as you can visualize it in your mind to a degree. Jackson Pollack? That might be tough. That Manet painting with the naked gal having a picnic? Snooze. Magritte? Awesome and fan-damn-tastic! You get the idea. Any visual image works… Who needs acid with the Active Imagination? Eh?
My preferred method is imagining a stair well. I tend to visualize the same place each time, and I pay attention to all of the details as I descend the stairs. For me, it’s almost like a castle with a warm and cozy feel, and it feels homey. The farther I descend, the deeper “within” I go. You could probably do this any number of ways, whether it’s imagining a forest path, a road through a hilly landscape, a set of stepping stones that leads you out of a garden. The object is movement. This is how you get where your going, and it works quite well. Mine involves the stairs leading to a terraced garden that skirts along the edges of sea-side cliffs, complete with mossy cobblestoned pathways protected by a stone guard rail, wisteria covered trellises, tunnels cut into the cliffside, with benches here and there. Vines of jasmine and other flowers creep up the railing, and there are many fountains and small waterfalls cut into the cliffside. It’s a very long, long, path that leads from the “Castle” to my little Sanctuary. I’ve never actually seen the “Castle”. Sometimes the terraced cliff-garden tunnel path distracts me. It’s quite lovely, and you can see the ocean. This ocean comes up a lot for me in these kinds of exercises, and I always begin and end somewhere near it’s coast line.
5. Create or Locate your Safe Place or Sanctuary. This is sort of a psychic/etheric haven. I’ve done a ton of guided meditation or self-hypnosis exercises where you begin at such a place. Instead of recreating it every time, I’ve more or less kept it the same. However you create it, it should be a place where you feel safe, protected, and secure. It’s all yours. It’s a good anchoring method for this type of work. You create it however you’d like, so long that it feels comfy and safe. It’s rather like having roots or a source. I’ve heard of many people picturing this place as a tree, or the World Tree, whose roots and branches sprawl out and lead to other places.
For me, I picture a series of round rooms, cut into the cliffs above the ocean, connected by the garden terrace pathways. There are balconies in front of the round rooms, and there are many fanning out of the cliffside with roofs like colorful umbrellas, clinging to the rocks like barnacles. They are almost Spanish or Morrocan looking in design, made of warm beige stucco, and decorated with brightly colored tile mosaics lining their large windows. I’ve only been into one Round Room. Mine has a round, arched double doors, and a curved balcony that swoops out with a small bench and a glorious view of the ocean below. The doors are made of warm, heavy wood with intricate carvings like something you’d find in an old church or temple. Inside, there it’s warm and cozy, with a large round bed in the center, beautiful Turkish carpets with dizzying patterns, and piles of brightly colored silk-covered pillows piled up everywhere. There are flowers in vases, with upholstried benches, and fabric lining the walls. It’s like a Bedoin tent with light coming in the windows. It’s a cozy place to rest and contemplate. No matter where I might go, this is where I recharge before I begin. Each time I return, I notice something else I haven’t noticed before. The feel of the place is far more important than the details.
6. Get to know the landscape, so you can find the Paths. You should have some sense of geography, as you embark on your journey. No matter where your Sanctuary is or what kind of place it is, it should be a place where all roads meet. If it’s a tree, it’s branches could spread out and lead somewhere. If it’s a cave, it’s caverns could lead somewhere. If it’s a waterfall, it could have tributaries or rivers flowing away from the source. If it’s a forest cottage, there could be paths going into the woods. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, whether you create it consciously or unconsciously. Just so long as you have a place to begin, or a connection to the Source. Sooner or later, your mind will take over, and you may find that you’re not actively or consciously formulating what you’re visualizing.
It took me many tries to get to know the “geography”. In my minds eye, there is a large garden on the rolling hills above the cliffs, with a small stone wall that juts along the edge of a dark spooky forest. There are worn dirt trails along the bluffs above the cliffs, leading into a cave. The terraced garden paths also continue down to shore, and beyond. Since I’ve done this a lot, I have a good sense of my surroundings when my mind takes over. The ocean is the constant, and walking along the shore is just as much a path as any other. It’s totally up to you, and your mind of course.
7. Go where you’re gonna go. Mix. Mingle. Look for a guide. Look for people you know. Once you’ve found the road or path leading out of your Sanctuary, and through the lands beyond… You’re path working! Whatever comes up is between you, your spirit, your guides, and your gods. I’ve discovered that the veil thins, and I can communicate with the Gods far more easily this way. It will unfold in it’s own way, and you probably won’t be doing the work yourself. I’ve been many places in this landscape, and come across some pretty profound truths. It helps me to understand things better, without the static. It can be a little bit scary, but it’s always fulfilling in it’s own way. More often than not, a Guide of some kind will appear to help you. Trust your gut. If they don’t seem right… they’re not. I often get Anubis. I could go on about some of the results of doing the exercises, but that would take way too much time.
I used to just go on auto-pilot, and let the Guides & Gods tell me whatever they wanted. Now, being a bit more practiced and comfortable with the process, I can go with a far more conscious goal in mind. It’s very different for me to pick a tarot card as a Gateway, rather than my stairwell. In using tarot, for me it means that I am seeking knowledge or insight from that cards particular area of expertise, or the energy that it’s part of. If I start at the stairs, I’m usually looking for something more general, or I am wanting to make contact with something or someone specific. Oftentimes, I’ll get a mad Erisian parade of gods coming by to say hello. Sometimes I make one of those crazy Shamanic journeys all the new-age kids talk about.
At any rate, it’s a fascinating process. I’ve benefited from it, even though I don’t do it too often. There are always curve-balls. Surprises. I’m no expert. I’m just a Traveler. Is it the astral realm? I have no idea. I believe that there is some connection to the collective unconscious that is more clear, more direct when I make the trip. I’m lucky. I don’t need ethneogens to do it. My mind doesn’t need the help, quite frankly, or maybe I’d end up going places I’d rather not go. Is it crazy? Yes. Probably. So, that’s how I do it. There are probably other ways. That’s what works for me.
In the words of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson… “Buy the ticket, take the ride…”