Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Under the Oaks with the Big Kahuna

What a HUGE week I had last week! First to Las Vegas as a guest speaker at a convention for the Day Job, then the smallest taste of normal life for two days, and then two very full days at the Himalayan Festival at Live Oak Park in Berkeley, CA.

“Luck, be a lady tonight,” Frank sings over the loudspeakers while slot machines chime major scales in and out of tune with him. Luck was a lady if you remember that ladies are allowed to change their minds. I was just glad that my attention span for gambling is pretty short and that I prefer penny slots to anything more dangerous. Luck relented on my last try at the Fool’s Game and I did come away with more than I had put in. Knowing when to stop is the real art here. I stopped wisely and was pleased I suffered no further damage. Getting to see The Lion King and Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef Experience aquarium were actually the highlights of the entertainment for me. I can’t scoff at the wonderful food provided by one of the technology vendors at their dinner either, but as “wild and crazy” as that evening may have seemed, I did not dance on the tables. I did not shoot out the lights.

Happily home, I turned my focus to the Berkeley Himalayan Festival and looked forward to reading tarot in the tarot tent Memorial Day weekend. Our host Herb had organized the tarot tent so that 5 and sometimes 6 of us chipped in to pay the very high booth cost. Herb’s been going to the Himalayan Festival since 1987 and I was pleased that he had asked my friend Kristine and me to join their tent and read tarot. We handled the ‘who is sitting where’ with deference and grace, we took breaks and shopped at the other vendor booths, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over exotic goodies, and were treated to two days of Tibetan and Nepalese music including a long horn. I lunched and snacked on iced chai, veggie samosas and mango lassi. Kristine lost one of her “new” used folding chairs to a combination of the sitter and the angle of the slope we were on, but all in all, it was a plus. When Herb asked if I’d be interested next year, I said, “Sure!”

In between readings, I had some short time to take in the shade and ambience at Live Oak Park and I reflected on the Hierophant.

The Hierophant is often an intimidating card. In the RWS tradition, he is portrayed pretty clearly as the Pope and he does represent spiritual authority and conformity. In contrast to the High Priestess, who studies the mysteries and protects them, the Hierophant or High Priest as he is sometimes called, focuses on the outward signs of faith and devotion that hold a culture together. He’s one of the cards that is most clearly Christian in symbology. But there’s no reason that his card is exclusive to Christianity. He could well be the Buddha or the Big Kahuna (the surfer or the priest). He’s sitting down, meaning that people come to him. His hand is raised in blessing, meaning that he means well, especially when you mean to conform. He’s the guy who shows you how to be spiritual. And he makes just about everyone a little nervous.

For one thing, he gets attributed “Santa Claus” qualities like seeing you when you’re sleeping and knowing when you’re awake. He presides over spiritual rites and rites of passage.  He teaches not just how to be humans, but how to be good humans. He’s got the market on social behavioral “shoulds.” “Shoulds” are scary to us, especially when “should have” is not exactly equal to “did.” Face it, we hate to be corrected. But “shoulds” are needed in our society to give us benchmarks to gauge our lives, to offer us a better way, to show us enlightenment and happiness. He humbles us often at a time when we think we need more, not less self-esteem.

But the character of the Hierophant is in each of us too. He’s strong, perhaps over-strong in those who are working hard to save the world for their religion. But I feel he is strongest in the quiet of the oaks, in the reverential silence of an empty church or other place of worship, in the sounds of bells and other music, in the muted laughter of children playing. When I sat under the tarot tent, under the oaks and other trees, I was transported beyond a colorful marketplace, the little waterfall in the creek, the smell of sandalwood and curry, the texture of vegetable-dyed cottons, wools and silks, to a place inside a little like Utopia. The people were happy and kind. The music was soft and soothing. The air was not so cool as to need a sweater, not so warm as to raise a sweat. He shows us that this life can be wonderful or a trial, but that a spiritual path can bring joy. He gives us his blessing.

My inner Kahuna said, You are one lucky girl. And I answered, Yeah, sure, you betcha! And thanks.

As I worked to help those who wanted a reading, I was glad I was able to be there to serve in some way, to add to the tranquility rather than take it away. And at the end of the fair, just before we took down the tent, I dashed over to the booth across the way and bought that utterly fantastic tiger pattern wool rug. I’m pretty sure the Kahuna didn’t make me do it.

Best wishes.

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