Awakening Our Inner Strength at Lughnasadh

Provoked by my yesterday's tarot reading, I decided to write this post since one card simply imposed itself on my as the key card. The card in question is the Woodward card from the Wildwood Tarot set. It is the eleventh card of the Major Arcana and, as such, is connected to the Strength card of the much more common, one one even say "classical" Rider-Waite Tarot (although Strength can be the eighth or eleventh card of the Major Arcana depending on the edition).

Parallels between these cards are clearly visible since the iconographic basis of the Strength card is a woman controlling a lion, but with her mental composure rather than through sheer physical strength. Her male equivalent in the Wildwood Tarot equally calmly reigns over his territory and the animals around him (which is made obvious by the lynx lying at his feet and the mountain lion head he wears as a symbol of his hunting success, prowess and strength).

Yesterday, I actually did a reading especially for Lughnasadh to see what this Sabbat brings me, or rather what awaits me in the following months. I picked out the Woodward as the final and definitive card of the reading, which had quite a strong impact on me. To make things even more interesting, the authors of the Wildwood Tarot made a Wheel of the Year on which they placed all of the Major Arcana cards so that their meaning correspond to a particular part of the yearly cycle. And guess which point of the Wheel of the Year the Woodward is on? Precisely on Lughnasadh/Lammas.

One of the connections between this card and the Sabbat is the hill you can see in the background. It's known as Silbury Hill and is located just south of Avebury, England. It is the largest man-made mound found to this day. Archaeologists have found that its creation began at about 2 660 BCE, most likely at the beginning of August (i.e. after the first harvest). Some interpretations of the mound claim that it was a symbol of this time of the end of the first harvest since the hill was visible on the horizon from Avebury only after all the wheat from the surrounding fields had been harvested (as the wheat was too tall and obstructed the view).

Be that as it may, the message I got from this reading has to do with inner strength and balance which are necessary during this time of year. So, I would like to share my musings with you in hopes that I will encourage you into further conquests during the following months.

First, allow me to explain the make-up of the card. The central male figure represents the archetypal guardian; a strong man with all the markers of masculinity (a beard, mustache, war clothes, a weapon that is still bloody to make it even more pronounced) who governs over the surrounding territory. However, what is unusual in this depiction is that the man has not taken a stance of attention, or perhaps offense. Rather, he stands as if he is resting - he has lifted one leg on a sort of tump and is drinking wine from quite a fine cup which the authors of the set describe as the chalice of "giving, intoxication and compassion". Although Mabon is yet to come in September, wine plays an important role in this card as a symbol of sharing and celebration of the collected harvest at Lammas. However, what is most important in this card is the man's relaxed, even kingly posture due to which he simply radiates his inner strength.

The original symbolism of the Strength card warns us that we will achieve much more with patience, if we are balanced and filled with love than if we succumb to feelings of anger and hate.
We all come across obstacles in life. In the Wheel of the Year, the following winter months are that obstacle which could, in ancient times, only be crossed with persistence, balance, moderation (e.g. in the consumption of food during these months), careful planning of supplies and patient, diligent collecting of the fruits of one's labor in late summer and early autumn. This enabled people to sustain life during the winter months. Inner strength and persistence are what make us go on and not lose hope when we encounter every obstacle. I find the following description of this card from the authors of the Wildwood Tarot quite fitting at this moment:
"The Woodward, an ancient guardian of the Wildwood, symbolizes the inner power that comes from facing fear and understanding the nature of darkness. The inner strength that comes from this awareness gives the individual the emotional body language and the humility that says: 'I am not a victim. Treat me with respect. Do not mistake my passivity for wakness'.

What usually happens is that people live in the belief that they are strong and that they can do anything, or perhaps that they cannot do anything and are too weak. But things become clear only when we are faced with a moment of crisis. Only then do we truly get to know our capabilities and true strength. However, crude strength cannot be our only focus. I must once again quote the authors of the Wildwood Tarot who really very poetically describe this card:

"The strength of the Woodward is both a balance and a dichotomy between te energy of the hunter or the guardian, and the grounded inspiration found within the ecstasy of drumming and war dancing. These energies honor the qualities that provide protection and inspiration.
Whether we are dealing with a situation of crisis, facing the unavoidable truth, a private or professional problem, the Woodward tells us that we can survive it all with enough persistence and inner strength.

To return to the Wheel of the Year, imagine a farmer who works hard the whole year round planting and taking care of his wheat fields. And then comes the first harvest when he is expected to collect all of this wheat. He is exhausted from all the previous months of hard work and now he has to draw strength out of nowhere to finish the job. He has no choice; he has to do this despite the fact that he is at the end of his tether, that he is lacking patience and is wavering under the scorching summer sun. This harvest is what he and his family depend on for survival. To continue, he needs his inner strength.

Lughnasadh marks the beginning of the harvest when we collect the fruits of our labor. Sometimes these fruits manifest in the shape of rewards for all our effort and right decisions, but sometimes as the consequences of our wrong decision. However, we must know how to accept both and learn from experience.

With this, I wish you all a happy and blessed Lughnasadh! May your first harvest be plentiful!
Witch's Cat

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