The Spring Equinox was last Thursday, and normally I'd post my contemplations on or soon after that date, but my net server has been down until today (the following Friday). As it happens, this was a good thing.
Last Thursday I was not in a good state. For the last 21 months I've been working on my Honours project - A Trans Tarot Deck. This was a way of focussing on aspects of "gender transition" by using the major arcana as an allegorical platform to do so. The "cards" themselves measure 52 x 74 cm each and together form a coherent whole (see the Trans Tarot Deck page at my Web Comics site). As a trans woman, a tarot reader, and a Gallae of Cybele I knew that this was the right project for me to do.
But last Thursday I'd been working on a 23rd card of a 22 card set. That extra card was a second death card - the first one showed a suicide - the extra card showed murdered victims of trans hate crimes. But, before putting any of the images on the card, I had to research the people whose images was borrowing. And more I did so, the more sorrow I felt over the shootings, beating, strangulations, burnings and even torture of these people.
Not a good way to spend the Spring Equinox, perhaps.
Traditionally the Equinox is associated with awakenings, strong growth, resurgence and resurrection, transformations and different forms of fertility. And death and murder isn't something one immediately thinks of when one thinks of the Equinox. And yet, it is oddly appropriate.
I consider A Trans Tarot Deck to be my first "serious" Art Project. I've created various artworks before, but this time I've achieved exactly what I wanted, to a desired quality and effect. As I write this, the final cards have been printed, and though I still have much to do (mount the digital prints and exhibit them) the main part of this project has been completed. And yet it wouldn't have been possible without various forms of death playing a part.
Earlier this year I travelled to the Maetreum of Cybele in upstate New York to participate with other Gallae in the "Festival of the Tree". This is a revived ancient ritual reflecting the myth of Cybele and Attis, of Attis's death and resurrection and subsequent transformation. At the festival I was asked for what I wanted from it. My answer was "ego death and rebirth" and that was exactly what I got.
At the concluding ritual (and energy raising circle) I was struck by Mother's Hand and collapsed in a form of religious ecstasy. I recovered and returned home, and shortly afterwards fell into deep depression! While the festival had been great, my problems remained when I returned. But this time rather than wallow in them, I contemplated each in turn, and in doing so reached a calm and equilibrium that I have seldom felt. It gave me renewed strength and determination, especially in the pursuit of the project.
That was death number one - an "ego death" (and rebirth as a stronger person) for me. The second death was that of my Father, who died in August, just after he'd been counted in the Census. I was upset, but after spending six years in slow decline in a nursing home after a double stroke on his birthday, death was a release for my father.
Flying back to Perth for the funeral, I had a mixed experience. While I was sad and upset about his passing, I met relatives whom I'd not seen for years (including a favourite niece). And I had confirmation of something I'd known since last year when I went to Perth for a student conference. While I'd lived there for most of 30 years, I'd moved on from Perth for good. Almost all my relatives live there, but my home was (and is) here in the Hunter valley, where I'd settled in 1996. And Perth provided another opportunity. A good friend of my mother's, and a good friend of mine, financed the printing of my cards.
I'd been pretty much broke since February and subsisting on a disability allowance meant that I was unlikely to save much with which to print them the way I wanted to. And yet here I was able to, through the love and kindness of a family friend. Odd too, that I'd flown to America and back, to Perth and back, while broke. But any number of things are possible if one stops looking at the obstacles and starts seeing the possibilities. Unusually, it seemed to fit a new pattern that I seem to be creating in my life.
At some point I became centred and stopped (for the most part) worrying about my problems. Not that they disappeared, but I stopped using my "analytical mind" at the expense of "symbolic side". I stopped doing too many things each day, starting taking 'time out' for myself at my own speed. Sometimes that means just staying home and sitting out the back, reading and playing with my pets, and maybe just listening to the radio, or just the sounds of the birds and other animals that roam the Barnsley bush. Sometimes it means purposeful trips to the uni, or shopping, or whatever.
But the funny thing has been, that by doing less each day, I seem to be getting more done overall. And when problems come along that I can't "fix" by using my critical faculties, I seem to be more able to let pride go, and say "I don't know the answer". And here's the thing, because having done that, it's much easier to ask for help, from either temporal or divine sources. And, and it comes!
I even came across a book that described this very process - Slowing Down to the Speed of Life. I read this and realised that I was already doing what it suggested!
And the final death related to rebirth is that of my car, the Rauni. Ever since I converted her to LP Gas I've had nothing but trouble in one form or another. The last four years have been increasingly difficult for me to keep her legally on the road. I've borrowed, scrounged, and jumped through hoops to do so. I've used magic to keep her going or undetected when she shouldn't have been. But this year, I'm letting her go.
The issue was decided for me earlier this year when the engine head cracked and shortly afterwards I had a minor accident which forced me to get a Centrelink advance to pay for panel beating repairs on the other car. There was no way I could afford to get a new engine and pay for insurance this time around. At first I resisted, because I though that I absolutely had to have a car in order to survive in this "bush suburb".
But I was wrong. It wasn't so much having a car that I was sold on, but what having a car gave me. And mostly that is convenience - the ability to go places at whim at any time. You can't do that on public transport - you have plan ahead, and then there are limits. But mostly it just means that you take longer to get anywhere on a bus, train or ferry, than you do in a car. Then I discovered that the local bus company issued and accepted "pensioner excursion" tickets. For $2.50 I can go anywhere in the metro area on public transport, including a return trip to Sydney and back (250km round trip)!
I tried it. I didn't have to worry about traffic, I could sit and watch the scenery, or watch/listen to the other passengers, or read a book while in transit. Can't do that easily while driving a car. As someone who'd been epileptic, it'd been important for me to get my driver's license, but that's long ago now. I started (often) to enjoy travelling on the buses. Most of the people who used the local bus service were regulars, and the bus drivers know them, and know (more or less) each other.
And I started talking (and listening) to people while on the bus. It brought me out of myself. So, although my car is slowly dying, her death is forcing me to be social, and I'm actually enjoying it. In fact, once I accepted that I had to let the car go, a whole wall of tension and fear vanished.
So I guess this time around this Spring Equinox for me is about death and rebirth. My ego death (and eventual centring) earlier in the year; my father's death and the unexpected enabling of my project; the (ongoing) death of my car and my embracing other means of getting around and its side effects, are all in the mix. Death and life, hand in hand, all part of a cycle.
Don't know what's to come from this, but I'm no longer afraid of the future, and am ready to accept Mother's guidance, whatever that may be.