If you ask me, I’d tell that Dante Alighieri was describing his mid-life crisis in his opening words of his ‘Divina Commedia’, where he says that in the mid of his life he found himself in a dark forest.
“[…] On the surface, the poem describes Dante’s travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise or Heaven; but at a deeper level, it represents, allegorically, the soul’s journey towards God […]”
It can indeed be very dark in a the forest: it was very very hot weather in Italy (south of Tuscany) a few days ago when we took this photo, and we didn’t feel like roasting in the sun like every other tourist was doing on a very noisy and busy beach. The darkness of the forest kept us cool, that day, and made a difference between feeling sick from too much sun, and having a relaxing, enjoyable day that allowed us to reason things out and get insights.
The Latin writing on this card, from Aleister Crowley’ Tarot, also reminds us that we need to visit the depth of the earth (dig into our Jungian shadow), ‘rectify’ what we find (face and tame our egotic desires) and we shall find the ‘hidden stone’. This is an alchemical way to say that our theoretical knowledge needs to be tested and tempered by living in the real world, facing the darkness and getting experiences, in order to emerge into the light as we learn to balance the two forces.
Dante went to study the lives of people he wrote about and cast into Hell, Purgatory or Paradise, in order to find its way out of the forest in which he felt entangled – his life and previous set of values did not make him happy, so he started working on himself. This isn’t very different from us, nowadays, reading about Steve Job’s ‘success’ which then led him to Cancer and death, and then deciding which thoughts and actions we consider divine or hellish, fair or unfair, and which companies we want to work for – or not – weighting all factors in the choice, such as our alignment to our soul’s desires and moral code.
The bottom line is that, to get inner happiness (and health), we have to work on and resolve our tensions.
If we need to work to make the world a place of joy, we have to learn how to be balanced, first: don’t strive too hard, don’t get restless, but work the middle way in all things and situations.
This balancing act can be seen as an art – and that’s probably why this card, traditionally called ‘Temperance’, has been called ‘Art’ by Crowley (in the photo you might read ‘kunst’ – the dutch word for ‘art’ – which reminds me that I need to buy an English Thoth deck for these posts, but I digress…). The art to combine the powers of fire and water can create beauty, harmony, balance and transformation. Learning to harmonize our two – dark and light – sides is the ultimate alchemy and the goal of our spiritual path.
You don’t have fight the warm outside but neither should you be afraid of the darkness and cold inside the forest!
Resting in the shade of the forest to temper the heat, like we did, can be the best course of action and the path of least resistance on some days, and digging in the depths of our fears can turn into an enlightening situation.
We were sitting and talking in the shade of those Italian pine trees, half day dreaming and half making projects. We had just pulled this card when my son announced that he saw an Angel looking over us from behind a bush, in the distance, and he ran after him. When he got there, the Angel was gone (or he could not see him anymore at least), but in that spot we found the feather you can see in the picture.
In other Tarot decks, such as the Rider-Waite tarot, the picture in this card is clearly representing an angel.
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