I wasn’t 100% sure what I would post about today – one thought was a powerful conversation I had today that included a discussion about secrets (I’ll save that for another day) and the other was the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and, at the same time, the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam and central to the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict also had a fire break in the mosque.
I let the cards decide and it was easy to see what was more important in this moment. I wanted to bring us some new ways of looking at this momentous event. Churches and mosques and temples are burning all over the world. Forests are burning in wildfires of catastrophic scales. Children, and women, and men are burning as people choose to drop chemicals and bombs and other weapons of fire and destruction. What can we do?
The burning of the mosque, which was quickly brought under control was entirely overshadowed by the burning of the cathedral. As I write this, we have no information on whether this was an accident or a deliberate act of vandalism or terrorism.
No matter the cause – we are suffering a loss. Not just of the original building but of an innocence. The cathedral has been at the heart of Paris for over 800 years. The mosque has been in Jerusalem for over 1,000 years. We come to believe in their permanence and when faced with the reality of impermanence, we grieve.
In our grief we forgot, and for some perhaps it was never known, that these structures – as glorious as they are – were built on and over older, sacred spaces and places. Notre Dame was built (as were many churches and cathedrals during that time period) over a destroyed place of worship of the Great Mother Goddess. The intention was to bring the worshippers of the Goddess to the place and, in time, to replace the older religion with the new. And it was a successful ploy.
The Hierophant card is the symbol for the male-dominated church and their attempt to re-teach the sacred mysteries that were originally found in the Goddess religions (seen in the High Priestess card – compare the two cards from your own deck).
Here’s a secret about the Hierophant card – many people believe it is actually a depiction of Pope Joan (what?!?!?). Yes, there are stories of a pope who was secretly a woman and ruled the Church in the 9th century. Some people say it’s a fable and others say it was real.
In any case – the female sacred mysteries were co-opted and then gradually changed by the Church to fit its own mythologies. Women were demonized, children were chattel, and men ruled the western world based on their belief in the trinity. Some of the actions were horrific – such as the burning times when women and gay men were tortured and burned at the stake. Some of the actions were sublime – such as the building of the great cathedrals, including Notre Dame … Our Lady.
The Page of Swords asks us to take a fresh look at an old situation. Unlike the Hierophant, ensconced on his throne, the Page stands outside, atop a hill, with the winds blowing the trees, the clouds, and her hair and she raises her sword in preparation to strike.
The sword represents her mind – her ability to expand, broaden, and take in more information and possibilities than could ever be possible in a small, stuffy throne room full of stones. The Page says – I am willing to cut myself loose from old beliefs, old limitation, old paradigms. I am ready.
And so we take the new thoughts, new beliefs, new paradigms into rebuilding. Yes – Notre Dame will be rebuilt. Some will demand that the old be carefully reproduced – others will demand that new technologies and methods and materials be introduced. That’s not our concern.
Our concern is how we rebuild our personal inner cathedral. What will we keep of the old mysteries – goddess and god and nature? What will we bring in that integrates the new understanding that replaces medieval beliefs with those more appropriate to our consciousness here and now.
It will, like the Three of Pentacles, take collaboration and cooperation. It will ask us each to bring our skills to the table to rebuild, not just a cathedral but a culture and so a world.
Are you up for it? I surely am.
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