Oracle of Ybor: Allow grief to take you to the underworld, but look for the light to guide you out

Follow the hermit.

click to enlarge The Hermit reversed is the card guiding this spread, holding a lamp into the dark. - VOLKOVSLAVA/ADOBE
The Hermit reversed is the card guiding this spread, holding a lamp into the dark.
Dear Oracle, I’ve recently been trying to tap into my spiritual side, getting more involved with art, and half-heartedly trying to meditate. Over the past several months, I’ve experienced a drawn-out breakup (as complicated and painful as these things often are) and the unexpected loss of a close friend. I want to emerge from these events brighter and stronger than before and to use my grief as a way to access my spiritual side, but I don’t know how. I am trying to be more open to my intuition and let things fall into place as they may, but I’m not sure where else to put my attention. Any advice?—Searching for Spirituality

Cards: The Hermit reversed, The Full Moon, Ten of Wands, The Star

Dear Searching, in my tradition, November is the month of holy darkness. “Skotia” is the epitaph used, which means “of the dark” or “of the gloom.” The Bible uses that word ,too, though it often gets translated as a dark that lacks God’s light, a word for wickedness, or for hell.

While I don’t believe in the Christian version of hell, I do believe in an underworld (metaphorically, metaphysically) and that grief is an act of skotia. Grief has the power to dim all the lights, to consume and drain, to take a piece of your soul down to the underworld and lay it to rest.

While that might sound terrifying, it’s necessary. Things can fester and rot if we don’t mourn or grieve, and we can lose ourselves despite our best intentions. We all have to journey through the underworld to get to the other side at one point or another. But you, dear searcher, know this. And judging by your question, I think you know it’s possible to re-emerge from grief as a new person.

But the way out of the underworld is to be reborn, screeching and wailing and violently embracing life. And I know that can sound at best cheesy and at worst dismissive, but living is the antidote.

The Hermit reversed is the card guiding this spread, holding a lamp into the dark. You’ve been there for quite a long time, and to see the light, you must be present, which can mean following your unvarnished impulses for a bit. What do you want to do in the moment? What makes you feel truly alive? Fall asleep in the grass? Methodically break everything your ex gave you? Drive to the mountains? If it’s not hurting yourself or others, go for it.

You mention trying to be more in touch with your intuition, and that’s great. But then you say you “let things fall into place as they may,” and I don’t think that’s working for you.

The Full Moon is a card of energy and clarity. Don’t let things fall as they may. Be an active participant in sculpting the new life you want. Maybe that involves working with a therapist who specializes in grief or spirituality. Maybe it involves taking improv classes or learning to cook, or fleeing the country to start anew on a windswept moor as a shepherd. Tap into that energy to find what sparks your light.

I understand that all of this is easier said than done. Grief is not something to simply get over.

This past May, a dear friend of mine, the brilliant comic Samantha Berkman, died three weeks into her 31st year. She had cancer, a brutal thing that took her in about 15 months, but Sam was tweeting jokes from the hospital two hours before she died. She aggressively embraced life, said “fuck that” to going gently into that good night. She was the bravest woman I’ve ever known, and I miss her dearly.

The day after she died, her long-time boyfriend posted the motto of “Do it for those who can’t.” Apparently, it’s a skateboarder’s phrase, but I thought that was brilliant, a succinct and true path through the dark, and a sincere way to honor such a kickass woman.

It isn’t easy to live for those we lost. It’s far, far easier to lay down with them in the underworld. What is difficult is taking a part of them and living vivaciously—doing it for them. The Ten of Wands is a card of hardships, but they’re doable. You’ll feel like you're getting crushed, that it will kill you, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. You’ll live. You’ll survive.

Because when we live, when we feel truly alive, the ivine can appear. That’s The Star in this spread. The image is of a woman at peace at a water’s edge, pouring water into the water and onto the land. It is a card of harmony, of integration of the subconscious and conscious, and a feeling of true peace.

There is a sentiment in some faith communities that The Divine appears to you in ways you can comprehend. Perhaps at this moment, it’s in that balance when you feel both alive and at peace. Are there any times when you feel that way? Any activities that spark that?

If you aren’t opposed to organized religion, this might also be a time to read literature from different faiths or to Zoom into a meeting and see if anything clicks. The Unitarian Universalist churches host meetings for CUUP (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans), which might strike your fancy if integrating tarot and meditation are important to your spirituality. I’m also happy to provide you with a booklist if you wish.

I am so sorry for your loss, dear Searching, on both accounts. It can be destabilizing, especially in a world that’s experienced its own profound grief. Nevertheless, I hope that you find some of this helpful and that you find some moments of serenity as you move through your grief. It is the season of Holy Darkness, but I do not doubt that once again, you’ll see the flame of light and be able to guide yourself out of the underworld.

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