Interview with poet Mark Hannan about “Incantations” in Light & Shadow Tarot

tarot of light and shadow incantations aletheus interview mark hannan

Destiny Books, division of Inner Traditions in Rochester Vermont, released their newest (1996) Tarot deck and book set this month. The Light & Shadow Tarot is a collaborative effort from the late artist, Michael Goepferd; author, Brian Williams; and poet, Mark Hannan.

Michael Goepferd spent much of 1992-94 creating, carving, and printing the 78 linoleum cut block prints that make up this unique, black and white Tarot deck. Brian Williams has previously created and published The Renaissance Deck and the PoMo Tarot Deck. Mark Hannan, a student in the Integral Counseling Program at CIIS, has been writing poetry for the past 17 years and has published in several periodicals. His first chapbook, After Many Years Absent (Studio Press, 1993) also featured block prints by Michael Goepferd. Mark gave the Inner Eye some history of his involvement in the project:”I had taken a break from writing after the chapbook came out and wanted to concentrate more on visual art. Several of my friends were painters and I began producing shows for their work, both in my home studio and at local galleries. Michael came to my studio during Open Studios. That was the first time I had included some of my own work; some assemblage sculptures I’d been making. These “doll wands” appealed to Michael’s mystical side and a few weeks later he asked me to join him at Fire Thorn Studio on Valencia Street here in the City. That was such an exciting time for us. Watching the progress of the deck, and how Michael opened himself up to the Tarot, was inspiring. I learned so much from him during that time, about art, creativity, pain, life and death. This deck is very special to me. I miss him.
light and shadow tarot incantations aletheus mark hannan
The Incantations that are included in The Light & Shadow Tarot came out of my work with the Tarot over the previous four or five years. I found that I could never quite remember all the attributed meanings to each of the cards, and, I wanted to begin using them as meditative objects. Poetry was a natural choice; the line, the rhythm, the brevity. I am so grateful to Angeles Arrien for her Tarot Handbook (Arcus, 1987). That, along with the work of Aleister Crowley, Paul Foster Case, the Cicero’s, and Dion Fortune, firmly grounded me in the historical traditions. At the time, I had been working closely with Starhawk and the Reclaiming Collective and so my magical side was quite “up” for me. I began using the Incantations as magickal mnemonics for the Tarot. I was so thrilled when Michael invited me to contribute to this publication. Recently, I have developed a method of using these poems directly in readings and with dreams and dreaming. It’s quite exciting. I’ve developed a new Tarot spread called the Pentacle Spread and this deck works really well with it. There’s probably another book in all that.”

Brian Williams writes in the introduction: “The Light & Shadow Tarot is both a traditional Tarot deck, respecting the structure and symbolism of an ancient tradition, and an entirely fresh and original creation. It embodies the contrast between light and dark, heavy and light, feminine and masculine, expressed in a lively, linear idiom of black-and-white graphics. This contrast, though, does not mean a Manichean duality of good battling evil, order against chaos, darkness striving to drive out the light. Instead, Light and Shadow celebrates the balance and synthesis of contrasting forces. It honors the significance and interplay of both extremes. Think of the classic symbols of yin and yang, each teardrop shape begins along side the fullness of its opposite, and then, as it reaches spherical perfection, the seed of its opposite is born in its heart.

Michael discovered the Tarot first while traveling through Goa, where he met people who were deeply involved with the cards and other esoterica. Years later in San Francisco, during conversations with writer Mark Hannan and others, he began to think about interpreting certain Tarot images as individual artworks: the Endless Dance of Death, the Sun, the Magician. Light and Shadow Tarot began gradually, but Michael soon felt as if he were sliding into a kind of happy quicksand. The process started with the images of the Major Arcana, and each new card led to the next, though they weren’t created in numerical order. When the time came for Michael to carve the Queens, the process had become so intense that the archetypes appeared to him in dreams to announce how they should be portrayed.”
The Inner Eye, Vol.XXXIII, Number 10; Nov. 11th, 1996

Hand Meditation; the Power of Touch

Hand meditation aletheus group facilitator AHP

For a group of four or more: …one person serving as guide, pausing appropriately along the way in order to give ample opportunity to mindful consideration –

Get comfortable in your chair, with both feet firmly on the ground, and close your eyes,, resting your hands in your lap palms up. Notice your breathing. No need to change it, just notice the pattern of the breath coming in and going out.

Relax any tension you notice in your body as you breathe.

Become aware of the air at your fingertips, between your fingers, on the palm of your hand.
Experience the fullness, strength and maturity of your hands.
Think of the most unforgettable hands you have known – the hands of your father, your mother, your grandparents, a friend or lover.
Remember the oldest hands that have rested in your hands.
Think of the hands of a newborn child, perhaps your nephew or niece – of the incredible beauty, perfection, delicacy in the hands of a child.

Once upon a time your hands were the same size. Think of all that your hands have done since then. Almost all that you have learned has been through your hands – turning yourself over, crawling and creeping, walking and balancing yourself, learning to hold something for the first time, feeding yourself, washing and bathing, dressing yourself.

At one time your greatest accomplishment was tying your own shoes. Think of all the learning your hands have done and how many activities they have mastered, the things they have made. Remember the day you could write your own name?

Our hands were not just for ourselves but for others. How often they were given to help others. Remember all the kinds of work they have done,
the tiredness and aching they have known,
the cold and the heat, the soreness and the bruises.
Remember the tears they have wiped away, our own or another’s,
the blood they have bled,
the healing they have experienced.
How much hurt, anger, and even violence they have expressed,
and how much gentleness, tenderness they have given.

There is a special mystery that we discover in the hand of a person we love.
There are the hands of a doctor, a nurse, an artist, a conductor, hands which you can never forget.

Now raise your right hand slowly and gently place it over your heart.
Press it firmly until your hand picks up the beat of your heart,
that most mysterious of all human sounds,
one’s own heartbeat,
a rhythm learned in the womb from the heartbeat of one’s mother.

Press more firmly for a moment / and then release your hand and hold it just a fraction from your clothing. Experience the warmth between your hand and your heart.
Now lower your hand to your lap very carefully as if it were carrying your heart.
For it does.

When you extend your hand to another, it is not just bone and skin, it is your heart.
Think of all the hands that have left their imprint on you.
Fingerprints and hand prints are heart prints that can never be erased.
The hand has its own memory.

Think of all the places that people carry your hand prints and all the people who bear your heart print. They too are indelible and will last forever.

Now without opening your eyes extend your hands on either side of you and find another hand.
Do not simply hold it but explore it and sense the history and mystery of this hand.
Let your hand speak to it and let it listen to the other.
Try to express your gratitude for this hand stretched out to you.

With eyes still closed, slowly release your hands and bring them back again to your lap.
Experience the presence of that hand lingering upon your hand.
The afterglow will fade but the print is there forever.
When you are ready, open your eyes.

Share your thoughts and feelings of this experience with those around you.

Many thanks to AHP of SF for sharing this powerful exercise from their program.  As a facilitator of 12 week support groups at AHP, I found this to be a powerful way to end the last session.

Constructive Living

Constructive living article sfc solution focused aletheus mark hannan
 Accept your feelings, know your purpose, do what needs to be done.
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“The key is not to resist or rebel against the symptoms or to try to get around them by devising all sorts of tricks, that is, to accept them directly as they are without shunning them.”
– Takahisa Kora, MD
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Accept your feelings
Accepting feelings is not ignoring them or avoiding them, but welcoming them; Vietnamese poet and writer, Thich Nhat Hanh recommends we say, “Hello Loneliness, how are you today? Come, sit by me and I will take care of you.” Morita’s advice: “In feelings, it is best to be wealthy and generous”, ie, have many and let them fly as they wish.
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Know your purpose
Implicit in Morita’s method, and the traditional psychological principles of zen which he adapted, is an independence of thought and action, something a little alien to the western ideal to “follow our whims and moods”. Morita held that we can no more control our thoughts than we can control the weather, as both are phenomenon of most amazingly complex natural systems. And if we have no hope of controlling our emotions, we can hardly be held responsible any more than we can be held responsible for feeling hot or cold. We do, however, have complete dominion over our behaviour, and for Morita, that is a sacred responsibility. “What needs doing now?” is like a mantra in his methods.
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Do what needs doing
You can feel crushed and alone or hurt and homicidal while pulling up the weeds in your garden, but you won’t be there at all if you hadn’t intended to raise flowers. Morita’s way of treatment is very different from our western diagnosis/disease model. Morita’s methods lead his ‘students’ through experiments, and in each assignment, the lesson is not explained by a master, but learned first hand, through the doing or ‘taiken’, that knowledge gained by direct experience.
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The relation of thought to action is explored with the journal, a random sample taken three or four times each day to note our behaviours and the feelings that accompanied them. We quickly see for ourselves we are not just depressed, or shy, or alone, but all of these and more; something we all experience, but like your computer fan, something we habitually overlook. Within weeks, we see how our feelings are not “being caused by” our situation or our forgotten past, as many conflicting feelings fill the pages. Our log-book dispells any notions we may have of traditional and narrow “personality types”, and does this directly in the context of our everyday life.
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Human beings remember about 10% what they read, 20% what they hear, and 90% what they do. In CL, We grasp our lesson by practice in our own gardens, whatever our personal flowers may be. I often met my teacher in the nearby playground where my 2 year old could play while we talked; lessons can easily happen over shopping or apartment hunting. A friend of mine was asked on his first meeting, “What would you do first if you were cured today?” and they went straight out to do it. For Morita’s purposes, in his words, “Effort -is- the good fortune”“Each time you feel shy, it is a new shyness”Our brains change, by some accounts 50 to 60 times per second, and each is a new change, a new configuration … by western pattern-personality standards, it is physiologically a new ‘you’ never seen before. Each moment is a new branch point, a new start exploding with possibilities toward the next new you. We know now our brains do what they do not by the count of cells, but by the connections rewritten on each new experience.“Trying to subdue a wave by striking it only results in a thousand waves”

Kipling’s line on wanting the wisdom to know what can be changed from what cannot echos through the “quiet therapies”. Many exercises taunt us to attempt controlling the impossible. No one has yet asked me to put a camel (or rope) through the eye of a needle, but I swear it cannot be as hard as simply sitting for 20 minutes watching my mind and body!Constructive Living aims at helping a person see the world realistically and act on that knowledge in practical and constructive ways. In assessing any situation a first question that we ask is: what is controllable and what is not? If we hunt for the Constructive Living “bones,” as Santa Rosa, CA instructor Gregory Willms called the ‘essentials of this paradigm,’ a good beginning place is with the issue of controllability.
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The question of what is controllable is central to realistic thinking and action. It makes no sense to put effort into controlling what is essentially uncontrollable. And yet, this is what many of us do or try to do. Here we use the term “control” in a quite literal way. Control indicates that something is possible. . .all the time. Having control does not necessarily mean that it is easy, only that it is possible. We use the words “can” and “can’t” to reflect this meaning. “I just can’t seem to exercise lately”. She is not speaking accurately. She actually can exercise; she simply hasn’t recently.Lets look at the list of what is not controllable: the weather, other people’s actions, other people’s opinions, the outcome of events, my thoughts, my feelings, my moods. When we look realistically at life we see that a great deal of it is not directly controllable. What is controllable, then? My own behavior is always controllable. With a very few exceptions (stuttering, trembling and impotence) my behavior, that is, what I do at all times is fully within my control.
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Sometimes action is difficult. For example I notice that having the flu as I write this article makes me feel lethargic; it doesn’t, however, prevent my fingers from typing the words of this lesson. Writing is possible. It is behavior. I can do that action, even while “not in the mood.” I do it because it needs to be done.
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This can be a startling fact for many of us who have believed that “motivation” of some kind must precede action. What a relief to discover that I need not fix my feeling or my self esteem or my motivation in order to act. Realistically we know that life can’t be perpetually easy, comfortable, “exciting” all the time. As we gain maturity we accept this as reality. The “good news” is that my behavior is in my control at all times. I don’t need to wait for motivation, inspiration, or self esteem to act. I can act on what needs to be done because it fulfills a purpose. I can act now. My behavior is always controllable.
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Homework: Pick one action that needs doing on a regular basis: (flossing teeth, walking, doing dishes, changing the cat’s water,etc.) Chose a set time of the day and do the needed action at the same time each day for one week.
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More lessons and activities