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ˇ Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
ˇ Current Events
ˇ Another Avenue
ˇ The Thursday Night Tarot
ˇ How I Came To Love Chaucer's English

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Another Avenue

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight led Tanya in another avenue of research. Why, she wanted to know, did Sir Gawain have a pentacle as his emblem at the same historical time when people were being jailed for displaying pentacles on their clothing?

Furthermore, while Gawain has a pentacle on the outside of his shield, he has an image of the Virgin Mary on the inside, to whom he prays for guidance. The author tells us the poem will explain why the pentacle is Gawain's image, even though it is a digression in the narrative, even though it will "tarry the tale," as the poet says.

It seems that we have entered a culture where the Virgin Mary and the pentacle are complementary, not antithetical. What culture was that?

Looking for answers to this question Tanya studied Christian contemplation in workshops with Basil Pennington and read The Cloud of Unknowing and other works by the same author over and over.

"The first time I was in London," Tanya says, "I shivered with delight at the thought that Medieval copies of The Cloud were in the same city I was!"

Tanya later attended a summer intensive at Matthew Fox's Institute for Culture and Creation Spirituality, which returns the ancient "Royal Tradition" to Christian life. "Basically, the idea is that we all have a center within ourselves that benefits from being treated royally," Tanya says.

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These studies from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s gave Tanya a good grasp of the best of Medieval European spirituality, but they did not answer her questions about the pentacle. In the late 1980s, Tanya was introduced to the cabala and to the tarot, an expression of cabala. "This is not tarot for fortune telling," Tanya explains. "It is tarot used as Tibetans use mandalas in their meditative practices."

"The world of cabala opens the doors to a system in which the pentacle and the Virgin Mary are free to exist in harmony."

If this seems abstruse, Tanya reminds us that the Globe Theater Education Center in London has a cabalistic tree of life diagram, as well as a pentacle and other meditative images, painted on its ceiling.

"The Globe Theater project is devoted fifty fifty to performance and education" Tanya says. "That's their stated policy. On the ceiling of the main lobby, to which everyone comes on tour, are many diagrams straight out of the cabala. These images are painted in gold on a blue background, like stars in the night sky.

"Tours meet at the oak, a huge artificial tree, emblematic of the importance of the oak in British traditional culture," Tanya tells us. "On the ceiling, touching the top of the oak, is the top of the cabalistic tree of life diagram. This is not coincidence. From a purely design point of view, it would be better to separate the oak and the diagram as other ceiling diagrams are separated from each other. But that's not what was done.

"Shakespeare and his contemporaries were steeped in the same traditions as was the author of Sir Gawain. The Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser may even have used Sir Gawain as inspiration for his poem The Faeirie Queene."

Tanya has kept tarot and cabala in her studies since the late 1980s. She now teaches The Thursday Night Tarot in San Francisco. Begun in the 1950s by Jason Lotterhand, a student of Paul Foster Case, The Thursday Night Tarot explores tarot, cabala, and related traditions in a form coming down through The Golden Dawn and allied groups.

Arisa Victor, who taught the class after Jason's retirement, asked Tanya to lead the group in 1998 while Arisa herself persued her specialty of metaphysics for children through her role as "Granny Rainbow."

The first time Arisa heard the story of The Pearl she felt the plot fit not only into cabalistic traditions but into traditions of dreams in Sufism as well.

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