Tarot

Long Night’s Journey Into Day

Those of us in the Southern Hemisphere will be celebrating the Winter Solstice tonight – the longest night of the year. The long, cold, dark night gestates and finally gives birth to the reborn Sun. The old gives way to the new and the night gives way to the day. The days will now get longer and the nights shorter until the Summer Solstice. On that night the reverse happens as the Wheel turns and begins its solar, lunar and seasonal dance anew.

When I think of the Winter Solstice I think of what the longest night would mean to – well – to vampires 🙂 Night is when vampires come alive so the longest night must be their favourite. It certainly is one of mine. Years ago I saw a frightening movie, 30 Days of Night. In this film vampires take over an Alaskan town just as the sun sets and won’t rise again for 30 days – that is one long night! But just how important is it for vampires to avoid the Sun?

In The Dracula Tarot I explored the sun and vampires through the tarot Sun card. Below is a condensed piece that draws on my analysis of Dracula through both the Sun card and the Hermit card – both key cards for the Winter Solstice.

I seek not gaiety nor mirth, not the bright voluptuousness of much sunshine

I seek not gaiety nor mirth, not the bright voluptuousness of much sunshine

In many folkloric myths, the power of the vampire may be dulled during the day, but the sun does not kill them. Many early vampire stories have their vampires walking about during daylight hours, although they do prefer the night. This is particularly so with Stoker’s Dracula. Although it first appears as though the Count is vulnerable to sunlight, this is not the case. Dracula’s sun sensitivity is mainly evident in the first few chapters during Jonathan’s stay at the castle, but when in England, Dracula is seen in the daylight a number of times with no ill effects. Although restricted in sunlight, Dracula is certainly not as vulnerable to the sun as popular mythology would have us believe. Dracula can move about during the day, but like most vampires, he prefers the night. The power of the sun in Dracula appears to be linked to spirit, vitality and new life – much like the tarot Sun card.

In England, Dracula begins to personify the spirit of the tarot Sun. Dracula’s excitement at being in a thriving country is reflected in the number of daylight appearances he makes. Jonathan spies Dracula in daylight, following a woman who will no doubt be his feast. Dracula also visits the zoo, confronts the vampire hunters and books passage on a ship, all during daylight hours. Dracula’s forays into the sun coincide with the injection of new blood into his supernatural body. In England, Dracula is surrounded by people who are easily his prey. Glutted on an abundance of human blood, Dracula not only begins to look younger, but he is stronger and more able to tolerate the sun’s rays. Although Dracula is predominantly a night creature, he is nonetheless free to wander about during the day. Dracula’s trip to England reflects the tarot Sun card as the journey is filled with possibilities. For a brief moment in his life, Dracula experiences the pleasures of being in the world, hunting in freedom and walking in the sun.

It may seem strange to picture Dracula as a man about town in Victorian England, walking the streets in full sunlight. But don’t worry, Dracula, like most vampires, is still a creature of darkness. You can’t take the black cape and inner darkness away from Dracula, no matter how long he spends in the sun. The key to Dracula, as with most vampires, is that he loves to brood! Vampires’ long lives and self-reflecting natures link them to the tarot Hermit card.

I love the shade and the shadow, and would be alone with my thoughts when I may

I love the shade and the shadow, and would be alone with my thoughts when I may

The Hermit represents reflections on the past, present and future, and Dracula is no stranger to such musings. During his stay at Castle Dracula, Jonathan is privy to Dracula’s meditations on all these aspects of his life. The longevity of the undead vampire allows us a unique insight into a figure that has experienced the passage of centuries. Dracula has watched, experienced and reflected upon his growth from celebrated hero into shunned vampire.

When Dracula looks into the mirror, he casts no reflection. As a soulless creature he cannot reflect upon himself or see his vampiric changes. Dracula must seek such outer reflections in the faces of others. Sadly what is mostly reflected back to him is the hatred, fear and loathing of his true vampiric countenance – his unreflected mirror self.

So on this Long Night’s Journey into Day, what do you see when you look in the mirror?

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Moveable Feasts, Moveable Meanings

Many, many years ago I was watching a cooking show by Geoff Jansz. He was doing an Easter Simnel Cake and explained that the eleven marzipan balls that top the cake were representatives for the twelve disciples – Judas was naturally omitted. Jansz proceeded to put a 12th ball on the cake explaining that “two thousand years is a long time to hold a grudge”. Once I finished rolling on the floor laughing, I researched the cake and made my own version. I even made a cupcake variation!

simnel cake

simnel cake

This made me think about Easter, food, religion and tarot – popular topics for me.

When I think of Easter I think of the Tarot card the Hierophant. Hierophant is an ancient Greek word for someone who is skilled in the art of interpreting sacred and holy texts. The Rider-Waite Hierophant card features a man sitting on a throne between two pillars. He wears a crown on his head and his red gown and white shoes are both decorated with crosses. The Hierophant holds a scepter in his left hand, his right hand points to the heavens. At his feet are two crossed keys. Two figures kneel before him, one wearing a gown decorated with red roses, the other gown is decorated with white lilies. The Hierophant stands for conformity, education, good counsel and religious guidance. He is the link between Heaven and Earth and is the male spiritual counterpart to the female High Priestess. The name Hierophant may be of ancient Greek origin but the traditional symbology of the tarot card is distinctly Christian, which is why many decks call this card the Pope.

When you think of the Pope, the last thing you may think of is food. Yet food is intimately linked to religion. From the Christian ritual of communion to Pagan feasts, food has been one way of communing with the Gods. Easter is one of the most religious and food oriented celebrations on the Christian calendar. It is called a Moveable Feast as, unlike Christmas which is celebrated on a fixed date, Easter’s date changes yearly. The reason for Easter’s moveability is that it is based on the cycle of the moon and the Spring Equinox. To confuse the issue, Orthodox and Western Christianity argue about how to measure when these astronomical events occur. That’s why you sometimes have two Easters. Like the Hierophant himself, Easter’s dependence on lunar, solar and seasonal cycles harks back to ancient Pagan festivities.

Before Christians began arguing about full moons and equinoxes, Pagans around the world had been celebrating equinox festivals for ages. The Northern Hemisphere Spring Equinox ritual is a celebration of life and rebirth after the harshness of Winter. Christianity easily adapted its message of life, death and resurrection to this festival. Easter therefore incorporates the foods, ingredients, and rituals of many diverse cultures.

Last week I posted my recipe for Coffee Lamb Cutlets which can be an Easter dish as it combines the symbolism of lamb with that most religious and worshipful of all foods Coffee! I’d love to hear about your Easter traditions and recipes – whatever their origin.

So to bring this discussion full circle I will return to the tarot Hierophant. When I was creating my Dracula Tarot there was only one choice for this card – Abraham Van Helsing. The most famous of all vampire hunters combines an intellectual understanding of medicine, science and philosophy with arcane knowledge on the supernatural and a deep belief in religion, Christianity and the might of God. He uses the power and knowledge of the Hierophant to save souls and destroy the vampire Dracula. So what would Van Helsing’s favourite Easter food be? Hot Cross Buns! I can just imagine Van Helsing warding off Dracula with a large yeast bun 🙂

Hierophant

the dracula tarot by vicky vladic & anna gerraty

Hot Cross Bun

chocolate hot cross bun