after hanging out with so many men our path took a u-turn and we settled into a nest of femininity: we were hosted in a beauty salon. neither of us had ever set foot in one before, and it was delightful : a bunch of women taking care of themselves, making jokes and coffees and chatting, all there to have a good time, to bond and relax and forget their days’ troubles over a foot massage, a manucure, whatever. everybody popping their head in the door, whispering “so what’s up girrrls?”, tiptoeing in and out to check on our progress. candles, music, buddha statues all set and ready before we even arrived, every room vamped up with incense and flowers and attention to the minutest detail. ines, the dazzling owner, telling how women drive one hour to come to her place. that she makes sure her girls are happy, that they can work well and spread the love all around.
we worked intensely on women as family – our customers were mothers and daughters, sisters, and their tattoos were all about each other. the cousins, grandmothers and best friends came in to watch. ines kept joking about her daughter being a mini-ines, and sure enough, they even picked exactly the same tarot card. a mother surprised her daughter by just coming along, then suddenly getting two big tattoos on her forearms.
i complete luz’s octopus on andrea’s arm
vivyan and ines
viv and martina
swinging by paris i took part in a little mother-daughter circle myself, cunningly plotting to draw her into experimenting our popular tarot-shiatsu combo. my beloved mother does not believe in cards, or in being taken care of – so it took some plotting to persuade her.
a pig on a péniche!
versailles with my mum
i’ve been thinking a lot about armor lately. tarot cards as i read them are forever wary of stagnation and the building of elaborate towers and walls – which shut you in as much as they keep others out. the tower card has kept popping up for men i’ve read for on the road, and one of its meanings is the destruction of old walls that have stood for too long. the line between a castle and a cage, the protective wall and the barrier is always a slippery one.
we build armors from our experiences. from memories of pain and resentment and sadness, we hold onto them to learn, to become tougher. we vow we will never be caught off guard again, be hurt. we establish a security perimeter, where none shall pass, to protect ourselves. we retreat behind a barrier of aggression, silence or the insouciant “i’m fine”. and then we sit there. thinking, safe at last. completely alone.
pagan otherworlds – a tarot with no armor.
there’s a card called strength. it has no armor, physical or otherwise. while on the battlefield, the vikings had a shield, used both for defense and attack. but no armor. there’s no armor in kung fu either. i was repeatedly taught that for most defenses you only need to move a limb by about 10cm. you deflect the attack, or move yourself out of its way. you use your opponent’s energy, instead of spending a lot of your own trying to block it.
but armor does use up your energy. it’s complex to make, heavy to carry. it also limits your options. your movements, your angle of vision, your hearing, your power of improvisation – all are limited. armors are crafted for a specific set of circumstances, and if there’s a change, they become dead weight. take one of those fancy full-body medieval tin cans. you’d be baking under the sun and sloshing under the rain, attracting lightning bolts and with frozen articulations in the winter. in these conditions, how good can your response be?
i’ve just watched a great ted talk, where a turkish healer states : “if you want to watch something die, draw a circle around it.” i feel the armor, the walls work in much the same way. you draw a circle around yourself, say this is where you stand, this is your shape, this is what you’re willing to let in – and no more. you close doors. saying no is important, and closing doors too. but just like anything in our funny little cycles, there is a time and a place for that. if you watch life through the narrow slit of an war helmet every day, life can only be perceived as a battlefield.
i feel like our viking friends got it right. if battle you must, what is more efficient than armor is an adequate weapon. wit, empathy, healthy boundaries, communication. and a battleaxe too, why not. a weapon, and flexibility to adapt.
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.