Allan Ginsberg

The Empress's Coffee Pot

Lately, I'm seeing archetypes everywhere. Tarot has been such a big part of my life for years now, but in recent months I've felt our connection deepening and deepening. More than ever before, cards are making themselves felt in my everyday life, sometimes whispering a subtle notion in my ear, sometimes whacking me over the head with an epic solution. Maybe it's the Pisces season, making everything all soupy and psychic, mixing connections and brewing relationships?

Speaking of brewing (stay with me here), I've recently come back to reading poetry as a devotional exercise, something which I haven't done in months. Poetry can be such a gorgeous distillation of divinity, a perfect way to invoke, or awaken, or transmit an idea, a feeling, a vibration. When it feels right, just reading a poem - whether aloud or silently - is all I need to open up a sacred moment. 

When I revisited my poetry shelf, the collection I dragged out was A Book of Luminous Things, an anthology edited by Czeslaw Milosz. After opening it at random, I found myself in the garden of The Empress, with Allen Ginsberg. This impulse to marry up a tarot archetype with a beloved poem has seemingly come out of nowhere, but I must be tapping into that ol' collective unconscious, because Siobhan, of Siobhan's Mirror, has also recently written about exploring tarot and poetry side by side. Siobhan, in turn, linked to a wonderful strategy for creating poetry-inspired tarot spreads over at Alexis J. Cunning Folk's blog. There's obviously something in the water right now! 

I can't say I'm particularly familiar with Ginsberg's oeuvre, but this poem, I love. It's just heaven! When I came upon it again, that heavenly feeling conjured to mind the third trump of the Major Arcana, the mother goddess, The Empress. 

A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley

All afternoon cutting bramble blackberries off a tottering 

brown fence

under a low branch with its rotten old apricots miscellaneous

under the leaves,

fixing the drip in the intricate gut machinery of a new toilet;

found a good coffee pot in the vines by the porch, rolled a

big tire out of the scarlet bushes, hid my marijuana;

wet the flowers, playing the sunlit water each to each,

returning for godly extra drops for the stringbeans and daisies;

three times walked round the grass and sighed absently:

my reward, when the garden fed me its plums from the

form of a small tree in the corner,

an angel thoughtful of my stomach, and my dry and love-

lorn tongue.

(from Collected Poems 1947-1980, Penguin UK, via The Book of Luminous Things, Harcourt, 1996).

Something about this poem just seizes me! I don't know what. The simplicity? The gentle tension between sorrow and salve? The boon of finding a useable coffee pot in the bushes of a new home? When I first came across it I read it many times over, and again and again The Empress made her presence known in my mind. 

Wet daises and bramble blackberries are the natural territory of The Empress. She speaks to us of the bounty of nature, the fecundity of a garden left to overrun. She also reminds us that natural things must run their natural course - those apricots won't stay ripe if left on the branch.

She also gives insight into any structure - physical or otherwise, natural or man-made - that we inhabit, or call a home. Moving into a strange new place demands the ritual of enrooting. Tidying, clearing, repairing, making our mark. The Empress allows us to make our nests upon her, and in doing so, we make a sanctuary for sore hearts and love-lorn tongues. 

Not only a space for us to nest in or a bounty for us to nourish ourselves, The Empress is also a persona we can adopt when needed. The act of watering the garden, clearing the rubbish, harvesting the fruit may allow us to reap the ultimate benefits of The Empress, but it also allows us to embody her, too. We are both the nurtured and the nurturing. Offering water and attention, receiving plums and vessels for a strong morning brew.

This small verse captures so perfectly how we can experience The Empress in our lives. As a garden, rich and overgrown. As a home we make for ourselves. As the labour of maintaining and nurturing the world around us. As a place that offerings us succour - for our bodies and our spirits - when we need it most. As the hidden blessing of a good coffee pot, discovered in the vines by the front porch.

Where do you find The Empress archetype in everyday life? And, hey, in Ginsberg fans in the house? What should I read next?

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