“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious” — Carl Jung
I love this time of year, with shorter days and the Sun in Scorpio, to examine my shadow side. To explore the sides of myself that are private even to myself most of the time. The things that helped shape my view of the world and self but don’t steer me in the right direction. The things that aren’t very pretty, where shame and fear control and dictate choices and feelings of self-worth, from behind the scenes. Usually these fears stem from childhood but I believe they come from something even more profound, karmic debt. This doesn’t make the dark side of one’s nature any less difficult or less painful. Incorporating the pain of one’s experience into the realm of one’s strength isn’t an easy process requiring complete vulnerable honesty with one’s self. No rationalizing one’s fear or trying to forget about it. Understanding the fear and vulnerability can lead to greater understanding of your needs and what needs mindfulness and healing.
We all have experiences and family patterns that influence how we conduct ourselves daily. Some help us move forward with ease, some keep us small and uncomfortable perusing our ideals and dreams. I had an traumatic event that caused me to have very early childhood memories. My mother fell victim to a violent episode by my father when I was two years old. This event left my mother, my brother and myself traumatized. Regardless of my father’s horrid behavior I still craved paternal guidance, something I constantly referred to and imagined for myself as a child. Now I just imagine it. My glorifying of some idealized version of having my father back in my life caused tension in my family. I also had nightmares of my mother being brutalized, not making the connection that it was a situation I had witnessed at two years old. My brother secretly told me the truth about my father. A father who had completely abandoned me after the incident, but I still wanted him. This left me feeling insecure and never feeling at home anywhere. This is the most prevalent side of my shadow.
It is not uncommon for me to draw conflicted cards with The Emperor when I do shadow work. It is also an indication that I must do shadow work when I start drawing The Emperor with difficult cards. Yet these card combinations have given me great strength as I reflect upon The Emperor’s message. He tells me and gives me all that I have craved, reminds me of my shadow. I pull from a repertoire of idealized fatherly voices. The Emperor says, “Your worry is a pointless energy draining activity. The way out of this difficulty is by remaining calm and taking action. When you make decisions consumed by feelings of failure, you will only continue to fail. Take care of yourself and hold onto your fortitude, the challenge will only make you stronger.”
Seeing The Emperor tarot card sitting next to the Five of Cups or the Ten of Wands or the Nine of Swords isn’t uncommon for me. I always find a strange comfort in these combinations of cards. It is a reminder of my shadow, my wound. It keeps me grounded and honest. It keeps me mindful of my own needs and to be gentle and patient with myself. It tells me that I am learning, the hard way, the ways of The Emperor. But I find that the lessons learned the hard way are sometimes the most valuable. It makes me grateful for Tarot.