Alison Spokes

Faerie Tales from an Artist & Tarot Reader

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tower Card.

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In Tarot, there is no bigger trial than the dreaded Tower card. This card represents unexpected devastation, upheaval and a forced removal of security, yet I have learned to love this card. Over time and throughout experience, this card has come to mean growth, happiness and a feeling of great achievement. Unfortunately, in the case of the Tower, none of that greatness comes without all the former stuff to accompany it.

Lately, I have been re-immersing myself in the works and teachings of mythologist, Joseph Campbell. Campbell is best known for his theory of The Hero’s Journey, in which he identifies a single archetypal hero and plot found within every great tale ever told, from the story of Jesus Christ to tales of King Arthur, Hercules, and even Star Wars and Harry Potter. His theory has influenced many great writers to this day, however, Campbell’s theory goes even deeper than simply explaining how to tell a great story. He believed myths and stories are a metaphoric reflection of the human experience – that there is a hero in all of us longing to discover what it means to truly live.

If you’re wondering how to start your own journey, Campbell says all you have to do is “follow your bliss.” Your bliss can be linked back to what you loved or dreamed of doing as a child, or something you keep going back to again and again. When I was a kid I loved mythology. As most myths are connected to some kind of spiritual belief system, mythology led me to an interest in world religions. I actually went to university to study religion, but finished with a degree in Psychology and Anthropology. In my spare time I was practicing Tarot, which led me to fairies. Fairies brought me back to folklore and mythology.

It’s a wonderful feeling to find a mentor whose interests and philosophies line up so closely with your own. For me, Joseph Campbell’s theory is the glue that holds all my seemingly miscellaneous blisses together. I was afraid people would think I was crazy when I said I was going to merge Tarot with Geek Culture, but Campbell’s theories say they couldn’t be more aligned! Whether we’re listening to stories of ancient demigods or reading comic books about modern-day superheroes, the purpose is the same: to reflect and explain the human experience, experiences that I can gauge, mirror and put into perspective for individuals through my Tarot cards.

So what does any of this have to do with the Tower card? The Tower represents those moments in a story when all hope seems lost and we can’t see how our hero will ever escape from their dire situation. These are the moments in our own lives when our world is crashing down around us. Everything we once relied on is now gone and we wonder how we are ever going to recover or rebuild. These are our worst fears come to reality. Yet somehow, as if by magic, our hero does escape (or is reborn), and we, too, emerge out of the other side of our own tragedies better than we were if they had never happened to us. Allow me to share with you a few personal Tower moments in my life and how the aftermath of those negative experiences left me in a better state than where I was before they’d ever happened.

  1. Dad dies at age 13

In 1996, I was 13 years of age. In May of that year, my dad fell ill and was being tested for Cancer. He was positively diagnosed in June, and passed away in September. From that moment, my life was irrevocably changed. I was forcefully pushed outside of my comfort zone, as everything I had come to know and rely on had to be rebuilt from the ground up, including redefining my relationships with my surviving immediate family members.

Out of the ashes of this great personal loss and upheaval, I learned just how strong and independent I could really be. However, my greatest transformation was that I became more humble, mature and appreciative of others. Because of the emotional aftermath that clouded our family, I was very lucky to have other adults in my life who stepped up every so often to act as a sanctuary from my emotionally dysfunctional home life, offering me everything from a listening ear to vent my troubles, to getaways and safe spaces for me to stay for the weekend. Before my dad passed, and even for a few years after, I possessed a childish sense of entitlement and assumed that people would just look after me and provide food and travel expenses at my beck and call. I might have continued getting away with that attitude if I only had to rely on my parents, but extended family and family friends expected more appreciation for their generosity. By age 16, people were starting to express annoyance and anger with my immature selfishness. I realized I had to step it up, grow up and stop taking others for granted. Understanding that the world didn’t owe me was a big step toward achieving a happier life.

2. Divorced at age 26

In 2006, I married my high-school sweetheart. This was not a decision I made lightly. This was part of my grand plan: marry young, graduate university, have children in my mid-twenties, buy a house, live happily ever after. I was in control of my life, I knew what I wanted, and I would make it happen. People questioned my decision. Some people were even taking bets as to how long our marriage would last. This only made me more determined to prove everyone wrong: that I was a mature adult and I knew what I was doing. Divorce would never happen to me; I was very stubborn about that. Although I heard the whispers and negative opinions, I ignored them. Denial made me the last person to realize I was 9 years deep in a psychologically abusive relationship. For years I told myself if I try harder, do more, be better, I can earn his affection, love and respect …until 2009, when I finally had to confront my fear and admit that maybe the problem wasn’t something I could fix. I had to decide what was more important: my plan and my pride, or my happiness. I chose happiness.

Although it was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, it turned out to be one of my best. Because I let go of the life I planned, I was able to meet a man who showed me what a healthy relationship looks like. I am now happily married and ever the more grateful and appreciative of the life and romance I have now because of the one I walked away from.

3. Financial loss

A couple of years ago, I rented a small studio space outside of my home where I could sell my artwork. I was still travelling to festivals, fairs and conventions on weekends peddling my wares. The storefront was slow to start and I wasn’t getting a lot of walk-in traffic. There was a new event being advertised that I had known about for a while through other artists in the vendor circuit, but refrained from booking because the table fees were outside of my current budget. Only two weeks before the event, word went out that there were still spaces available and the organizers were willing to sell them at a reduced rate. I was encouraged to take the offer by fellow artists, so I called and negotiated a price within my budget. It was urgent that I get my payment in ASAP, or the booth would be offered to someone else. I also had a part-time job to make ends meet, and because I wasn’t expecting to participate in this event, I had agreed to accept shifts at work that same weekend. I called my boss to see if I could get out of them. She pulled some strings and everything was a go! I sent in my payment to confirm my spot. About a week later, 3 days before the event, rumors started circulating on social media that it had been cancelled. There was no official announcement, no information on their website, and no one was able to reach the organizers, including the venue, to confirm if the rumors were true. To make a longer story short, things got ugly really fast and all vendors and most ticket holders were out the cash. The event never went forward. Not only had I lost my table fee, but I lost the wages I would have got from the two shifts I sacrificed in order to attend. As a result, I could not pay my bills that week!

This situation forced me to scramble! I was panicked. I needed income, and I needed it now! I had been toying with the idea of adding Tarot to my business repertoire, but I was scared of what people would think. Well, now felt like a good time to jump! I emailed about five local businesses that week asking if I could read cards for their customers in their establishment offering them commission for use of their space. I had one reply, so I went to meet with the owner. Not only did she offer me a space to read cards, but she also offered me space for my art in a higher traffic area for less than half the price of the space I was currently renting! Had I not been motivated by the sudden and unexpected loss of income, I wouldn’t have been granted the opportunity to make even more money than the bundle I lost.

Now, I will never try to lie or attempt to cover up the fact that these Tower moments were incredibly shitty situations. They were devastating! But on reflection, my life became undeniably better after every single one. Had those things never happened, I would not have had the same opportunities to learn, grow or improve my circumstances the way that I did. The Tower is unpleasant, no question, but if you can find the joy and the treasure that is hiding within that darkness, you can not only burn out the pain, but emerge triumphant.

The video below contains more inspiring stories about overcoming trials, fears and the positive aftermath that results.

“The best things in life are on the other side of terror.” — Will Smith

“Growth doesn’t happen in our comfort zone; it happens in our uncomfortable zone… …If I’m not willing to be afraid and go forward anyway, then I can’t grow. And if I can’t grow, I can’t be happy. It’s paradoxical. Our willingness to be afraid is directly proportional to the amount of happiness we can get.” — JP Sears.

I recently had the opportunity to exchange readings with another reader at the Native Mystic and Spirit Fair a couple weeks ago. I asked what I ought to do about my business, as it wasn’t in a place I was hoping it would be at this point, and I am starting to sense that I am about to be confronted with some major changes and decisions.
The first message I received was: I must face my fears.
How? I asked.
Then he pulled these three cards:

  

I could tell that my Tarot reader was a little reluctant to share the answer, but I knew immediately what it meant: Trust the universe, take a leap of faith and follow my bliss. It will not work out, in fact, things might seem a lot worse. Only after everything falls apart will I finally get my happy ending.

Once again, it’s time to let go of the life I had planned, and start accepting the life that is waiting for me. Another Tower moment is coming to tear down the structures I have built around me that keep me in a comfortable and knowable place, so that I may have the opportunity to experience something far better than what I have now.  Time to be a hero and await a new call to adventure.

Ali

Author: Ali

Alison Spokes was born and raised in Houston, British Columbia and currently resides in Victoria, British Columbia as a self-taught digital fantasy artist and Tarot card reader. Visit her website: www.alisonspokes.ca

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