Living the Symbolic Life


Living the Symbolic Life

Everyday there are signs to help you along the way. In 1976 when I met my first Native American Shaman he told me to look at my daily life as symbolic, everywhere there were messages.  I just needed to become aware and so I started my training. Living the Tarot symbolic life came later in 1982, when I took my first class. Each week while we studied the Major Arcana we were to notice the symbols in our daily life. For instance I would see the Mother archetype, the Empress. To see abundance at the farmers market, to see love being expressed publicly, a potential job offer, a sip of nurturing tea offered by a friend, an artist painting or sculpting in the fertile fields of the creative mind.  There are many signs we can read to make sense of life at any moment. Signs are everywhere. Training your heart and mind is one of the aspects of my teaching of Tarot. Our dream world is filled with metaphor and few recognize the daily events are also imbued with meaning; the study of Tarot symbols can open you to the world.  For many of us we tend to be in the symptom rather than the symbol. We can change that through Tarot. We express our symptoms daily in our complexes, our mother complex, father or power, or victim complex for example. To change that around, we can look at a mother archetype, for instance in this painting and choose to express her energy, the nourishing and caring ways of a grandmother, or if we see a Father image, to express the law of life and the caring of a father. We can change our victim role or dis-empowered role at any time during the day. We can be responsible to discover our own inner life and move out of the disassociated part of our own true nature.

For instance, here we have a painting that symbolizes the number Two, the Opposites, the duality, the tension, the union. We have two grandmothers, the nurture, the feminine aspect, proud with their heads held high. The Full Moon and the Cups in Tarot symbolizes water, the emotions, the feminine, thus I see the smudge bowl as this energy, plus the purification aspect of the smudging. Smudging is a powerful cleansing technique from the Native American tradition. I ask myself, what needs to be cleansed? What needs to be unified? Where do I need to come into union with? Is my writing blocked, (drums) do I need to smudge? I am Norse of heritage, what of the Norse symbol is this calling me to heritage? Where am I not nurturing, myself or others or my projects?  These are some of the questions I asked myself when I saw Aaron’s painting of his two Grandmothers. Only through the study of Tarot was I able to open up and discover the everyday patterns in life and those they meant something to me.

“Grandmothers: by Aaron Paquette

This a painting of my grandmothers. They came from different worlds but they were not so different when you come right down to it. They had similar stories, similar customs. It might be a product of living in the north, of long winters and short summers of nights that are cold and dark and lasting, but they both came from cultures who loved to tell stories, who were enamored with design, color and myth. And like all Grandmothers, they were the keepers of the fire.

The braid that ties them together includes my life down the middle, these threads intertwined forever. They reach down to the smudge bowl, the cleansing, the prayer the offering. And what is the prayer? A blessing for the seventh generation. There are seven tendrils of smoke, rising in their time.

The drums in the corners are bordered with knowledge, with writing. One in Cree syllabics, the other in Norse runes. Grandmothers impart this knowledge, they tell us our stories, they preserve our cultures and transmit them, keeping them vital.

I honour my Grandmothers. They were not perfect, they were human. And they gave to the generations who followed them everything they could, and so much more than they knew.


The smudge bowl depicted in this painting was gift to me from my friend, the Blackfoot artist Terrance Houle, during the time we spent at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 2008”.

Aaron Paquette is a First Nations Metis artist, author and speaker. Based in Edmonton, Aberta, his first YA Novel Lightfinder comes out in May 2014 through Kegedonce Press.

Blessings, Jean

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