Reading for 2021 (Global / Covid)
Updated: Feb 27
As it's the beginning of a new year, I thought it might be interesting to see what's in store for 2021. Will things get any easier, or are we in for another bumpy ride? If you're reading this, then well done - you've survived 2020. Not everyone did. As things have been rather 'global', putting it mildly, I thought it best to keep the focus there. So here goes, a global reading for this new year ahead, focusing on the Covid situation. Buckle up...
Layout: year divided by four quarters, one card per each quarter
Deck: Materia Prima by Uusi Studio
All the quotes under the card titles are taken from the accompanying guidebook Materia Prima - A Reflection on Matter by Linnea Gits (text) & Peter Dunham (artwork). © An Uusi Publication, 2020.
First quarter, Spring 2021: Lanthanide Series
"First journeys are departures away from original birthplaces. Down the path you go, searching for your truth to connect you with events and encounters that widen your world. The Lanthanide Series bursts with elemental figures that support these beginnings, but their helpful presence is often so subtle that they are easily missed. If discovered, you gain strength from their friendship. A clearer vision of yourself emerges. Hardships are more easily endured. Ultimately, along the way, they help ignite a spark giving you a sense of purpose that focuses your thoughts within a new consciousness - a higher space filled with boundless energy - where you can easily see that which you were and the source of all things to come. Keywords: Understanding / Perspective / Education / Mentor / Guide" (p. 185)
The historical roots of the lanthanide series takes us to Sweden, and some of the 15 elements in this series are named after Scandinavian locations. Hopefully we would see more of the traditional 'Scandinavian qualities' of clear-headedness, resourcefulness, and honesty unfolding on collective scale this year, and not just in Scandinavia! These elements are classified under the "rare earths" umbrella, but the implication here is more to do with the difficulty of separating them from each other, rather than their prevalence in the biosphere.
Encyclopedia.com tells us about the history of the lanthanide series:
"First, a chemist identified a new lanthanide; then a few years later, another scientist came along and extracted another lanthanide from the sample that the first chemist had believed to be a single element. In this way, the lanthanides emerged over time, each from the one before it, rather like Russian matryoshka or "nesting" dolls."
One leading into the other, from one doll another smaller doll appearing. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to mirror this with the Covid virus and its (possibly) infinite mutations. Likewise, the 15 'balls' (elements) covering the person in the card image associate easily - at least when looking at it through my nursing background lens - to a virus 'covering' a person. Then again, the symbolism could also be mirrored with the global vaccination programme: a domino effect of sorts, leading to more and more individuals (and countries) being 'covered'.
The "rare earths" and the difficulty of separating these elements from each other, and the fact that there are 14 + 1 of them in total in the series, bring to mind Major Arcana no. 14, Temperance (sure, Major Arcana no. 15, the Devil, too). Or Art or Alchemy, as Temperance is sometimes called. In the Crowley-Harris / Thoth deck this card is called Art, and has the alchemical axiom Visita interiora terrae, rectificando invenies occultum lapidem inscribed in it. "Visit the interior of the earth, by rectifying (purifying) shall you discover (uncover) the hidden stone". The guidebook mentions "their helpful presence is often so subtle that they are easily missed". Here's a warning (or advice, however one wants to read it) to look closely, to observe, to be able to differentiate, and to not throw something away which might turn out to be valuable - invaluable even.
What could this "precious stone", the "education" offered by the Guides or Mentors (as mentioned in the keywords) be? Maybe a bit of scrutiny is required, for us to be able to differentiate what is needed, useful, good, and important to us, and what is not (think here of the Page of Swords mindset). There is help at hand, and will be throughout the Spring quarter, but it might not be easily identified or recognised. Look deeper, look to other, previously unexplored, new, even unusual directions. Dig in, dig deep, but not in order to hide or escape, but to excavate, to discover. The Spark is to be discovered in the 'little things', on a daily basis. "Rare earths" speak of scarcity, and yet there is abundance of these 15 elements in our biosphere. This speaks to me of a new mindset, a new way of thinking. And the importance of developing one.
Second quarter, Summer 2021: Osmium
"Contaminated from the start by a pungent, ashy-smoky conception, and restricted by rarity, obscure, hardened Osmium is the periodic table's Captain Dunsel. Continually replaced by others who performed better and are easier to find, Osmium struggles to reach his potential. However strong and dazzling he might be, his congenital scarcity has gradually eroded his place in the world, fundamentally limiting his freedom as he struggles to remain relevant.
Keywords: Obsolete / Old-school / Outdated / Inefficient / Surpassed" (p. 85)
Oh dear, it doesn't look that great for the Summer quarter, does it. Something being inefficient, surpassed, outdated, to be replaced by something. I can't help thinking here of the vaccination: would it turn out to be less effective than initially hoped for? Or would it be about the programme itself - already there's discussion on the news about the challenges in terms of getting enough of the population vaccinated within the planned time frame. "Replaced by others" again brings to mind the virus mutating, too. And "limiting his freedom", well... I'm writing this during the third lockdown in the UK, so let's see how many more there will be.
There's a direct iconographical resemblance between the Osmium card image and the Hanged Man in the tarot, which is Major Arcana no. 12. The Hanged Man is a card of suspended action, being bound or tied by something (or someone), immobility (another lockdown?), but also of a new way of looking at things, a new awareness. Historically, the Hanged Man in tarot partakes in the pittura infamante or shame painting tradition of Renaissance Italy. This, in turn, belongs to a type of forensic art, often linked to character assassination. If justifiably deserved, this can sometimes come close to poetic justice in action. I wouldn't be surprised if during summer we would be seeing quite a few political smearing campaigns or attacks. This could involve political leaders, heads of state, those in power (institutions, companies) but also involve various groups of people.
Osmium is a rather curious creature. It is the densest stable element, it is also among the rarest, and its name derives from the Greek word osme, meaning "smell". Something clearly 'smells' here! Another interesting point is to do with osmium's history: it was first discovered in 1803 in London, United Kingdom. I would venture to guess that something will not just smell but stink (to high heaven) in London this coming summer.
On a more personal - and more importantly, internal - level, what could we say about the Osmium card? How to deal with something incredibly heavy, obstinate, and outdated? As it says on the Wikipedia page, "Because of its hardness, brittleness, low vapor pressure (the lowest of the platinum-group metals), and very high melting point, solid osmium is difficult to machine, form, or work.". Osmium is almost like a huge stone, parked right in front of your front door. There it sits, while you always have to go round it. One option would be to start using the back door - finding an alternative route. Or, you could carry a hammer and a chisel with you, and every time when passing the stone, give it a little hit (in the case of real osmium this might take a couple of aeons, though). If this stone is a metaphor for the Covid, I doubt dynamiting it to bits really is an option here.
The hammer and chisel metaphor is likewise useful, if the Osmium card refers to something within us, that is outdated and obsolete. Much better and wiser decision is to slowly work your way through it, rather than trying to 'dynamite' it away. That rarely works, when it comes to the internal stuff - unfortunately. Old and outdated habits, belief systems, thought or emotional patterns, these needs to be worked through and with, rather than going against them. One needs to be careful when working with extra heavy things.
Third quarter, Autumn 2021: Lead
"Lead's slow, heavy, dull gravitation tugs at the spirit with oppressive gloom. A damaged, flightless nature bound to loneliness and soft, melancholy mutations. His lifetime of managing gravity and negation while dreaming of ecstatic flights fills him with a dizzying, ferocious need for self-transcendence. Yet this experience of flighted bliss from his blind, stupid, and paralytic affections eludes him. Instead, everything associated with Lead is imponderably concrete. Lead is an old god, who burned his bridges, ate his young, and languished too long in displeasing immobility. A mass now hinting at evil.
Keywords: Depression / Worthlessness / Lost / Despair / Forgotten / Illness" (p. 123)
Crikey, it doesn't seem to get any better with the Autumn quarter, either. Looks like we're in for a real ride, this year as well. Some of my astrologer friends have been saying that "2021 does look a bit better compared to 2020 - but not much". The Lead card seems to be speaking of all things 5 of Cups. And yet, lead is only half as dense as osmium (which is the densest of all the stable elements). Osmium isn't malleable at all, while lead is. There is definitely an element of hope here, entering the picture, things turning just a little bit lighter during autumn. But can we see it, recognise it for what it is?
Where the Osmium card bore a resemblance to the Hanged Man, the Lead card does it to the Devil (Major Arcana no. 15). A horned, bearded human-animal hybrid also conjures up images of the Green Man and Dionysus (and thus connecting to the Fool in tarot, as well), and other fertility gods. Looking at the history of lead, it can certainly be said to have been 'fertile'. To quote Eschnauer and Stoeppler, "This metal was by far the most used material in classical antiquity, and it is appropriate to refer to the (Roman) Lead Age. Lead was to the Romans what plastic is to us." ("Wine - An enological specimen bank" in Stoeppler, M. (ed.): Hazardous Materials in the Environment. Elsevier Science, 1992). Lead and fertility, however, don't mix well together. Quite the opposite: chronic, high-level exposure can 'lead' to infertility in males. Lead, in general, is highly toxic - a neurotoxin which accumulates in soft tissues and bones, causing brain and kidney damage. According to the WHO, "Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in the Earth’s crust. Its widespread use has resulted in extensive environmental contamination, human exposure and significant public health problems in many parts of the world.".
So, we are dealing here with something toxic, widespread, and yet more manageable (by half) compared to osmium - at least when it comes to heaviness. Can I have a YAY?! Just kidding. Appropriate safety measures are still very much needed here, otherwise dangerous contamination may occur. Careless behaviour might even 'lead' us to losing our regenerative powers - not being able to access the positive aspects and transformative powers of the Fool and the Devil archetypes within ourselves. Integration, bringing things together, that is what is needed here. And that is also what is at stake. Things will either come together, or then fall apart, during the autumn quarter.
The horned beast in the Lead card can symbolise the unconscious part of the psyche. I've often thought about the importance of the werewolf myth, especially in today's society. The 'civilised man' needs to let the animal within roam freely, at least every now and then, otherwise we are in danger of losing connection to something incredibly vital. The werewolf myth solves this problem by letting the animal within come out, but in a controlled way: always during the full moon (ok, not in all traditions, fair enough). Seen from this point of view, the autumn quarter might emphasise the Wolf / wild animal aspect, possibly letting the animal within break free, and rummaging around the countryside, wreaking havoc and leaving a trail of dead sheep behind. Another warning (or advice) is clearly indicated here: make sure you have a 'vent', a valve through which the excess steam can safely be let out. Otherwise the machine might start making all sorts of strange, creaking noises...
Fourth quarter, Winter 2021: Rhodium
"Alchemistic enhancement is Rhodium's skill - an immersion into a magical, preserving hibernation that slows the wicked work of time with his pale white grasp. The present, sheltered under his costly spell, gives us the illusion that it always will be - that this rarified space, unencumbered by Universal turmoil, will last into eternity. Rhodium reluctantly weaves this elite intermission with a face full of reservation and obstinacy. A mentholated, gray-green look that knows all too well the cost of this fantasy birthed in the aqua regia of time.
Keywords: Sorcerer / Reluctant / Conflicting / Secret-keeper / Hermetic" (p. 89)
The fact that rhodium's name is based on the Greek word rhodon, meaning "rose", is already a rather promising start, methinks, especially after the heavy and smelling osmium and poisonous lead. Could it be that finally, with the arrival of the Winter quarter, things would start looking more brighter and promising?
The aqua regia (lit. "royal water") mentioned in the guidebook, is a highly corrosive mixture, consisting of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid. It was first mentioned by the early Islamic alchemists, including Rasis (Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, 854-925). The reason for the mixture's regal name is due to its ability to dissolve gold and other so-called noble metals. Rhodium, however, remains immune to this incredibly powerful (and lethal!) mixture. Isn't rhodium great? Not only is rhodium one of the rarest and most valuable precious metals, it is also hard, and doesn't give a toss even in extremely high temperatures. Because of its hardness, rhodium is used to provide a protective coating for other, less durable materials. Rhodium doesn't tarnish or corrode. Furthermore, approximately 80% of the world's rhodium production goes to catalytic converters in cars (more specifically, in three-way converters, where rhodium partakes in controlling the emission of nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, basically reducing harmful emissions from the car's exhaust - nod nod to Major Arcana no. 7, the Chariot). I don't know about you guys, but the more I read about rhodium, the more I like it!
If you look at the four cards I pulled for this spread, you can see that the Rhodium card has got the most gold in it. Osmium card has got two smaller gold 'balls', Rhodium card has got three, and these are much bigger compared to the Osmium card. The human figure in the Rhodium card looks possibly somewhat preoccupied, but relaxed. The person's appearance speaks of refinement, the garment spells opulence. My intuition says the winter quarter will have much to offer for all of us. It speaks of a time of regeneration, building new things, enterprise, partnership, more stability and harmony, hinting at wealth restored (there is a Gold card in this deck, too - this isn't it, not yet). The Chariot connection (via rhodium's main use) hints at development, progress, breakthrough, and - very much desired at the moment - travelling. The protective, anticorrosive properties and use of rhodium could refer to resistance against the Covid virus - hinting at mass immunity.
Before finishing with this Global Covid Reading for 2021, there's something else, too, that stands out to me when looking at the cards as a whole: the Rhodium card is the first one out of the four, where we can see a human figure standing upright, and looking to the right. For the Western mindset the right side usually signifies the future. With the first card, the Lanthanide Series, we have a figure sort of half standing, half sitting, looking towards the left (past), bringing to mind the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen (which is actually linked to the lanthanide series history - Copenhagen, not the Little Mermaid). With the Osmium card, the figure in the card is upside down, and looking more towards the left. In the Lead card, the human-animal hybrid is sitting - or possibly rolling - on top of the ball, going towards the right. But it is only in the last card, Rhodium, where we have a human figure who is actually standing on both feet, firmly in the ground, facing right. These four cards, taken together as a whole, tells the story of becoming human - of learning to stand upright, overcoming the unconscious animal within us. And maybe - hopefully - learning to walk in a new way, too.