It was early 2009 or thereabouts.
I was in the midst of a rather painful and unsettling time. It was so raw and cutting in fact that I remember considering either running away to India (an ashram looked particularly appealing at the time), or getting a caravan and moving in the middle of nowhere. The location ultimately did not matter: I was so broken up that I realised I could not remain in my current flat, or take up a full job, or even deal with people.
I simply needed to be alone and have the time to lick my wounds. I needed time and space to heal, and being in the midst of a busy city was no place for that.
I also needed some sage advice. This came from my psychologist, who put it very well: “No matter where you go, Monica, you’ll take yourself with you.”And with that, I realised I didn’t need to do something as drastic as move continents, but I still could not handle staying where I was or trying to get back to “normal”, whatever that meant.
As it happens I came across a small “bush hut” for rent. It was nestled among tress and Nikau palms on Auckland’s lush west coast. It was only a couple of minutes drive up to the local village, so I was not exactly a hermit’s cave, but still, it was very secluded.
At the time, the Tarot was a strong guiding force in my life – as it continues to be to this day and beyond. I decided to draw a card to check whether this was a right move for me. The main problem being, the realisation that I’d be alone, in a forest, at night… you know, those kind of fears. I mean, I wasn’t well enough to be dealing with people and life in general, so was it a wise move to be someplace that forced me to deal with my own issues and fears?
I shuffled the Rider Waite, cut the deck into three piles and turned over the top card from the middle pile: 10 of Swords. Ouch. In part, this card showed exactly how I felt at the time. And as an answer card to my question of moving to the bush hut, it was not exactly a yes.
I checked the card underneath the deck: the Star.
To me, the card underneath the deck adds an extra layer to the answer. Sometimes, it is just as important as the card drawn. This is the answer as I interpreted it: moving to the hut will be a really painful experience; it will facilitate the process of ending one stage of my life, and that in itself would be a difficult transition (10 of Swords). Equally, it will also be a time of healing; a time to take care of myself and process whatever I needed to; and a time to draw on the universal energy of wellness and to become whole again (the Star).
Next, I did something all tarot readers and teachers advise not to do, yet most (if not all?!!) have, at one time or another, tried: I decided to try again one more time. Just in case, you know, I got a really good card after all…
So I give the deck a good shuffle. I cut the deck into three piles. And I turn over the card from the middle pile: 10 of Swords. I look at the card underneath the deck, and it is the Star.
I will always remember this moment, because I instantly got goosebumps, and simultaneously I felt time stand still. The common advice for sticking to the original cards received in a reading, no matter how unpleasant, is to avoid the confusion that can arise when re-doing the same reading and receiving different cards. I may also add to this, consider what would happen when you receive the same card despite shuffling well a deck of 78 cards, not to mention having the exact card underneath the deck come up as well. A part of you will try to comprehend what has just happened, but alas, the mind is no match for the wonderment of magic. You’ll simply be awe-struck.
In the end, I chose to move. It was, as the 10 of Swords showed, a deeply, deeply painful time – in part because a part of my life – essentially who I had been up to that point – had to end; it truly had to end, and I knew there was no turning back, and I had to let go, and that was excruciating at times. But I also got the chance to face some fears, some past hurts, to start the journey towards healing (for that was just the start of it) – in essence the Star was also there.
I remember finishing my yoga course at night and having to walk through the bush in the middle of the night – this was at times terrifying, and other times magical. I felt, for the first time, the effect of the Moon: on a Full Moon, the path to my hut would be lit up and easy to see, while on a New Moon, it was pitch black. Primordial fears would surface up whenever I had to walk through on a dark night, hearing the critters and the rats moving around.
Yet at the same time, it was so, so deeply healing. The Star, alongside Temperance, is one of the great cards that signal healing, although it is much more than that. I got to live surrounded by nature and birdsong and that in itself was an incredible soothing experience.
I was there for almost 9 months, a perfect cocoon of transformational gestation. So I guess in the end, I experienced the 10 of Swords in its full meaning, and part of that meaning was the much-needed ending of a cycle. Which of course, when it was done, heralded the beginning of a new one – but that’s a story for another time.