Welcome to the Tarot Blog Hop!
As the wrangler for this season’s tarot blog hop, I used some astrological and qabalistic sleight of hand to develop our topic (see the Master List post to get a quick breakdown of the symbolism as well as a list of all participants). I proposed the topic of “Don’t Fence Me In” and shared the Gene Autry recording of that song, written by Cole Porter. I liked the topic because it felt free, wide open, moving, and optimistic. I hope our hoppers enjoyed opening it up and seeing how far afield it took them! For myself, I open with a recording of me performing the song–yes, I sing and play the autoharp. Never before heard! Then I gallop slipshod across world mythologies in a careening exploration of the symbolism of Uranus in Taurus, the tarot Fool and Hierophant, and the cowboy as cryptid. Finally, I share an Astro-Musical-Tarot vignette for your amusement. Utterly foolish and frothy, but none of it could have been done without ongoing dedication and practice.
Don’t Fence Me In
(I took my own challenge and recorded myself playing (and singing) “Don’t Fence Me In” on the autoharp. I learned it in one day. In the morning I got a notion to play the song, then learned it during the day, and finally recorded it in the evening. It’s not perfect. And I’m sure it never will be! But I think it’s worth sharing. It’s only a minute and a half, so not too much of a commitment to listen to it.)
Freedom on the Range: Cowboy as Metaphor
Although I wasn’t thinking about it when I proposed this topic, the theme “Don’t Fence Me In” is a perfect metaphor for Uranus in Taurus. Uranus is the rebel, the rule-breaker, the tarot Fool. Uranus loves anything high-tech and craves cutting-edge ideas, innovation, and invention. Taurus is solid, reliable, comfortable, and enduring. Its card is the Hierophant, associated with rules and traditions, displaying a conservative disposition with a tendency to indulge a craving for luxury. Uranus seeks out change. Taurus hates change. Uranus is everything Taurus is not. Uranus moved into Taurus May 19, and with a retrograde coming up at the end of the summer, will be hovering over the Aries/Taurus cusp for nine months. Uranus upsets what Taurus holds fast to. (Check out my free e-book for worksheets that help you determine how this might affect you.)
Uranus is Father Sky while Taurus is Mother Earth. Stories from around the world describe the yearning of above for below, and the highly prolific but often destructive and devastating result of their union. In the Greek myth, Uranus’s first children with his consort Gaea, the earth, were monsters. She loved her children, but their father hated them. He caged his own children. Trapped in the darkness of the earth, the rejected ones caused Mother Earth intense pain. She convinced her other children, the Titans, to rebel against their father. One night when Uranus descended on her, the Titans held him down, and Cronus castrated him. The blood that fell to earth sired yet another race, the Giants. The Giants could not be killed in their native land. But if they crossed out of its borders, they became powerless and were easily destroyed.
It is fascinating to watch details of ancient stories, when activated by certain placements of the stars, play out in modern times. Themes of the sky god’s opposition to and need to connect with the earth goddess play out on multiple levels in our personal lives as well as in the broader world of politics.
Our theme song, Don’t Fence Me In, is an ideal metaphor for Uranus in Taurus. Rather than showing the incompatibility of sky and earth, it resolves their opposition in a synthesis that traditionally has been considered uniquely American: the cowboy riding the open range. Utter freedom, within a context of connection to and dependence on the earth. The cowboy “can’t look at hobbles” and he “can’t stand fences.” He insists on freedom, but finds it through “land, open land,” the “wide open country” that he loves. He embraces banishment if it includes evening breezes and whispering leaves.
The Western supplies the balancing component that transforms our Greek mythic tragedy into an idyllic life. In the American myth, there is a link that connects earth to sky: the cowboy on his horse. Other ideologies, including Egyptian mythology and Asian esoteric philosophy, also include the element that stands on the earth, holding up or linking to the sky. It is this third principle, this negotiator, this lightning rod that carefully allows the blasting power of above to gently flow into the solid and grounding but easily broken below.
On his horse, the cowboy is already greater than man alone. He is is the centaur, half man, half animal. Most interpretations of this cryptid describe something that fuses the baser animal qualities — the earth element — with the higher planes of reason and intellect — the sky element. However, anyone who’s ever actually ridden a horse knows this is incorrect. The fusion of rider and steed is the integration of man and god.
In fact, many methods for activating kundalini energy, which opens up the psychic centers and sends a cascade of spiritual energy up and down the spine, involve tapping or otherwise rhythmically stimulating the root center. Riding a horse, especially bareback and primarily at one of the faster gaits, is exactly the type of activity that can induce this energy current. Combining this flow with being elevated above the ground, while maintaining a constant need for physical, earthy awareness to maintain connection and communication between rider and mount, produces a shift of awareness into the larger energetic field. This experience produces a feeling of bilocality, the sensation of the physical body and simultaneously the awareness of the giant, the cosmic being, that surrounds the limited physical body. The result is an expanded awareness associated with advancement toward spiritual enlightenment.
The cowboy stands on the ridge, supportive earth below him, dizzying skies above. He is man, he is god. He bridges the planes of existence. He is the Fool, wandering aimlessly, carelessly, with no responsibility. He is the Hierophant, the pontiff, the bridgemaker, the physical being that houses the spiritual will. He integrates contraries. He is stability in motion, darkness veiled in brilliance, to quote the prayer of the earth spirits. He stands between the Hierophant’s horizontal balance of light and dark, while following the Fool’s vertical journey, the rising and falling of the breath, the bellows. The bellow is the sound of the bull, the symbol of Taurus. Woven back and forth, up and down, the cowboy is the cross, the vertical pole of ascent, the horizontal pole of stablity. He does not seek to sire generations on his earthly consort, but rather has sacrificed himself to her to realize the resurrection that is the only freedom.
Early yesterday morning Hal and I were sitting together with our tea. (He’s cutting back on coffee, which I rarely drink. Coffee is one of the correspondences of Uranus). I was messing around on the Chromebook. In practiced procrastination for writing today’s blog post, I determined that listening to the Gene Autry version of our theme’s song would get me in the mood.
“You should learn to play this.” I said to Hal.
“It would be great if I had a video of you doing the song. You could put it up on your YouTube channel.”
“It would be a lot of work.” Mercury in Aries, ruled by Mars in fall in Cancer, Hal doesn’t usually come straight out and say anything. Like “no” in this case.
“Do you think they have the chords somewhere online?” I knew they did.
“Sure,” he said. “You’ll need to find the lyrics.” Was this a yes??!!
I pulled up the lyrics.
I started singing along with the song, now on perpetual repeat.
“Wait. The first time it’s on the off beat and the second time it’s on the beat,” I said. “Right? There are a lot of pick-ups.”
“It’s three against four.”
My ‘harp was sitting out because Hal had used it to teach his lessons the day before. He had prizim bars, not chromatic, on his. Hal grabbed it and started strumming.
“Gene does it in A. C suits my voice better,” he said.
I started Googling such things as “lyrics,” “sheet music pdf,” and “chords” for “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Don’t Fence Me In Gene Autry” and “Don’t Fence Me In Cole Porter.” There are a surprising number of variations to this song and only one that sounded “right” to me.
I turned up lots of stuff, but nothing that was exactly what I wanted. Hal turned to his PC and immediately brought up a Willie Nelson version of the song with lyrics and chords (another “right” version) (Willie’s one of Hal’s favorites) (I’ve seen him in concert and Hal hasn’t). Hal found this on a site I had already searched. I hadn’t found it. How does he do these things? He’s totally magic.
“This is in D but you can transpose to any key you want.” He knocked it down two semitones so it was in C.
Somewhere in this whole process I ended up with my Oscar Schmidt, sitting in Hal’s desk chair in front of his computer with the lyrics and chords on the screen. I started strumming away and mumbling the words tunelessly.
“D suits my voice better,” I said and clicked the button to transpose it back up. (Technology is a correspondence of Uranus.) Hal observed that in D the whole song fit on the autoharp — no places where we had to skip or sub a chord that was missing.
Ugh. I can’t get the rhythm. Isn’t there sheet music? Hal doesn’t need sheet music, only lyrics. He can figure out the chords and just seems to know the notes, or makes it up and doesn’t care. (Freedom is a correspondence of Uranus. Following the established rules is Taurus.)
Again, I searched forever but it was Hal who found a jpeg of the full song. No lyrics, and in the wrong key, but I just needed to see the notes on a staff so I could count the rhythm and see if they went up or down in any given measure of the music.
I opened up Google docs and created a file with the music and another one with the lyrics. I used the print button on Chordie to print out a copy with the chords transposed to the key I wanted.
(I was able to print from the Chromebook to my printer. Wireless things are cool, aren’t they? Wireless is a correspondence for Uranus.)
I went through the lyric sheet printout and underlined the downbeat. (Rhythm and structure are correspondences of Taurus.)
“Why are lyrics arranged on the page like poetry? The first beat of the measure should be on the left.”
Hal looked at me marking up the sheet. “I have my own system where I put the pick-ups in parentheses and underline the downbeat,” he suggested. I followed suit and added parentheses. It was starting to make sense.
“You know you can buy sheet music for just a few dollars,” he said. “Buy it online and download it.” (Money, luxury, and valuing ease are Taurus correspondences.)
“I would love to buy it, but I can’t find exactly what I want.” I looked again. Piano version had too much wasted space, I just needed the melody line. Here was a ukulele version. It was in D. The sheet music site would let me transpose too if I wanted, but this was my key. The uke version had those chord-fingering-thingies like guitar music, little images of the fretboard with the fingerings marked. Takes up too much room for info I don’t need. I’m not buying something that isn’t exactly what I want. (I have Mars in detriment in Taurus, so I’m rarely motivated to buy things.)
I laid out my three pages — chords and lyrics, lyrics marked with my counting notations, and sheet music with no lyrics — on the music stand. I picked up my autoharp and began strumming again.
I practiced the song quite a bit that morning. Again in the afternoon. And in the evening realized that if I wanted a recording it was now or never. Hal turned on his good recorder and I played for about twenty minutes, just practicing, but hoping one would be good enough to use. You heard it if you clicked the play button above.
Somehow, I had the idea to play the song in the morning and by evening I had learned the whole thing. This is unprecedented. I hadn’t played a musical instrument for decades when I picked up the autoharp three or four months ago. Of course it helps to be dating a music teacher. (The teacher is a correspondence for the Hierophant, Taurus’s card.) Free lessons and all, you know.
I hope you enjoyed my free-ranging musings. Gallop on to the next station using the links below and see what our other bloggers have to say.