Roots and Shadows

The idea of family and understanding the family or hereditary influence in my life, is very complicated for me.

Even ignoring the strained and distant relationship I have with my immediate family, I have very little in the way of emotional connections to the idea of my bloodlines. Ancestral relations are an interesting fact, not a spiritual connection that I can feel or trace. To be honest, I’ve never felt remotely inclined to remedy this, except in moments of shame based in what I “ought” to be or be doing. In many ways I’ve only ever furthered the divide between myself and my blood history, checking the wall that bars the way through the ravines that keep me isolated from the hills of what was and spying the complex system of roads and territories that have led me here… watching their feuds and inner battles right along side their excesses and violent outbursts. I am content to remain in the woods and away from them, stacking tiny stones upon the already waist high wall of some ancient boundary.

But I understand also the many ways that they have led to me and my desolate forest. For many of their lessons I am grateful, and for most of the pains, I simply stack another stone – I’ve come far on my own, but I am not fool enough to think that my shadow and my self has nothing to do with what once was.

So it is that this sort of introspection and seeking can be very strange and very hard for me.

I chose to use the same deck for this spread, the first real digging in to the Shadow Work October challenge. I like the feel of connectivity that using the same deck brings – and I intend to use it for the rest, where it feels appropriate.

So without too much more babbling, I bring you the Roots Spread, broken into tiers:

Family 3

1 – Family Shadow: immediate family’s burden of shadow we carry – Progeny of Void
2 – Family Core: upbringing and tradition – 7 of Pentacles Valor
3 – Family Light: immediate family’s strengths and valuable traits we carry – 99 of Cups Recursion

I expected this one to be the hardest of the three. Given that this layer is the one I have the closest contact with and the most (in my life) history to sort – but oddly, it was not.

Here I see the Progeny of Void standing in for shadow and being exactly that… a deep, empty expanse. The potential cast aside and the discarded good. This is the turning of the back and the abandoning of hope. Desolation and apathy – but not heartbreak. I bear the shadow of their dreams discarded and loves destroyed. I am not what I was wanted to be, but that is another story.

The 7 of Pentacles, in Valor, shows the lessons of a value placed in self neglect. The rushing in without the facts, the burning rescue at the damage of self. Here is the lesson of lessening self to the benefit of others…

99 of Cups, and it’s more than in drinking! A light and a glory in enjoyment, plain and simple. (Don’t look too closely at the risk of excess, this is a great benefit, if you can dodge the addiction fraught from the other two.)


Elders 3

4 – Elders Shadow: grandparents’ and elders’ of the family burden of shadow we carry – The Lovers
5 – Elders Core: lineage and family wisdom – Fortitude
6 – Elders Light: grandparents’ and elders’ of the family strengths and valuable traits we carry – 8 of Wands Prudence

I should maybe say that I don’t know a lot of my family history, and not for neglect. Simply put, almost everyone has lied about their history, in small and large ways. So things are obscured and made hazy and guesswork in genealogical research (one of my aunts is all about it) is the best we can gather. Without real knowledge, I’m left with things said, stories alluded to, drunken ramblings, and the empathic impressions of my childhood… I will keep the details to myself, of course, but it is interesting to see what draws up when matched with the little I know.

Here things get interesting with the Lovers as the Elders Shadow. What stood out to me most here was not the three lovers we see flying central, but the grabby hands of black and white at the bottom (or in this case top) of the card. The snatchy, greedy hands of duality and force of choice. I see here the burden of too many compromised decisions. Too much given away. Fear and necessity and oddity removing the options for love, happiness, or basic dignity. Where is the honor when you turn away from your heart for appearances? Where will you flee once the fleeing is done? The shadow echoes of hearts breaking, and shoulders too heavy to bother shrugging it off.

Fortitude is the Elders Core. Strength. Survival. Resilience. And a big fuck you to that which would tear us down. This is the wisdom of the lineage so near to now… Learn to live and do what you can, let the rest get fucked.

The Elders Light brings Prudence, right into the face of that last message. The lesson of tempering yourself and your hardness. The lessons of patience, and making things last. Food, hearts, and houses. The harsh lines of this layer aren’t really softened by the 8 of Wands, but rather they are honed and sharper still. But as such, they pierce where they are aimed, and leave less in the way of collateral damage. Don’t flatten the hill, just tear out the weak. Don’t do so in desperation or anger or rush – be careful and do only what is needed instead. It will serve you better, in the end.


Ancestors 3

7 – Ancestors Shadow: the burden of shadow we carry from our ancestors for generations – 7 of Swords Futility
8 – Ancestors Core: collective wisdom of our ancestors / tribe of origin – The Empress
9 – Ancestors Light: strengths and valuable traits we carry from our ancestors for generations – 3 of Cups Abundance

Here is more a mystery than ever.

The Ancestors Shadow wants to steer us to fear and avoidance. It is useless to fight, because they will win. We die fighting or we cower and hide. This shadow is fight or flight. Death now or death then. Ruled by fear and cowardice.

But the Empress shows life. Let them die and find what’s left for rebuilding. She sees the truth and the eternity of growth. We will survive and we will be fed, we just must choose where to force and where to leave. Show one face to the world, and scrounge the necessities while it distracts them. The Empress knows the reality of death and bounty. She does not fear the choice or the strain. These are the lessons of my Ancestors Core.

The Ancestors Light comes in the way of the 3 of Cups. Celebration and small joys. Companionship and a glass of choice. Laugh strong while you can and don’t water down the drinks. There may be little now, but we know there will be more later. If not for us than for our children


Outcome - Me

10 – Outcome: who we are as a result of our Roots – 9 of Swords Cruelty

I laughed a long while when I saw this card. The 9 of Swords, so called Cruelty. Is it betrayal or is it resurrection? None know but the snake.

Who am I as the outcome? I am a tough little bitch not afraid to make hard choices or break lines. I have been fearful and abused, but beneath I have a balanced sense of all these lessons and shadows and lights, and I am hard and enduring because of it. I will chat about blades over my corpse as we choose what to save. Or is it if to save at all? I don’t fear the sharp lines, and I don’t need the hand holding. Under the rest, I am strong, and cruelty will only harden that truth.


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