FEAR is a 4-Letter Word

Fear is just a lack of information, an emotional response to a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger.  Fear comes in many shapes and forms and levels, from a mild sense of uneasiness and caution to sheer terror and paranoia. Fear functions to make us alert and ready for action while expecting specific problems or outcomes.  What happens to us in our lives is a direct result of the choices we have made and how we conduct ourselves.

I am a firm believer that we are the sum total of all that we think and do. As fear is based on something that we think may happen in the future, it is clearly a mental process, which tries to predict the future – in that sense, the reason of fear is a projection of our mind.   So one could say that fear is always based on something that has not yet happened, and is therefore a fantasy in our mind rather than fact.

Every living thing has two main aspects; its primary nature and its acquired characteristics, which are influenced by Geography, the period or time, society and home environment.  When we are born, we come hard-wired or pre-loaded with two basic instincts – Survival of Self (fight or flight) and Survival of the Species (Procreation) everything else is acquired learnt knowledge.  This seems rather simplistic and limiting, but if you think about it, everything we choose to do and how we respond to external stimuli can fit into either of the basic instincts, sometimes a little of both.

Somewhere in the middle lives the ‘delusion of fear’.  It’s what we imagine ‘could’ happen.  It’s these delusions that keep us from ever truly living or experiencing new things.  From something as simple as learning to ride a bicycle to the more extreme of base jumping.  I say we learn from our mistakes, and yet at times it’s these very experiences that hold us back from trying again, or more importantly trusting again.  Trusting that even though the situation is the same, we are different and hopefully will react and interact with acquired knowledge.

Buddhism talks about ‘healthy and unhealthy’ fears.  Healthy fear is being aware that an activity, choice or action is dangerous and harmful and to be avoided at all costs.  Unhealthy fear is reacting to something in the future that is unfounded and in our minds.

As a tarot reader there are a few cards that when drawn, invoke a sharp intake of break or Oh-Oh reactions from the client. My top five cards in descending order.

5.  Five of Cups : Traditional interpretation is sorrow, loss, sadness.  The RWS deck shows a man, head hanging with the weight of the world in his heart.

4. Three of Swords: Heartbreak, Rejection, Separation.  RWS shows the swords piercing the heart.  This could also be ‘getting to the heart of the matter”.

Pearl of Wisdom Tarot

Courtesy Pearls of Wisdom Tarot (C) 2011 Roxi Hermsen

3. 16 The Tower: Restoration and regeneration, Internal restructuring, flash of enlightenment, involuntary change.

Visual from Pearls of Wisdom Tarot– The Tower’s lightning bolt of truth and unexpected chaotic, earth shaking events are upsetting. The wave washes away, the fire cleanses, the earth opens to receive and the volcano offers new fertile soil.  The broken strand of pearls sends wisdom far and wide. The vine growing from the cracks represents chance.

2.  15 The Devil – Thikoloshe (uHili) from iTongo Tarot.  The invitation is to set your boundaries and limits.  Our shadow selves, pain & pleasure, archetype of the trickster.

Thikolotshe - uHili

iTongo Tarot for Transformation

The Thikoloshe myth is very well known in South Africa, and each tribe has its own variation of what a Thikoloshe looks like. The Thikoloshe is a manifestation of mischievousness and evil, and he has immense power.

His physical appearance owes its attributes to various African creatures: large all-seeing eyes and survival cunning from the nagaap (Bushbaby); the ability to see in the dark and wisdom from the owl; the mane of a great lion that empowers him with strength and courage; and a tail like a serpent.

In Zulu mythology, Thikoloshe is also called “Hili”, and believed to be a dwarf-like water sprite. He only has one arm and one leg, and is a mischievous and evil spirit. He can become invisible by swallowing a pebble, and he then leaves his watery home to make unlawful love to women, or to fight men. If he loses the fight, he will teach his opponent magic and healing.  Malevolent people wanting to cause trouble for others sometimes call upon the Thikoloshe, and a Sangoma’s skill must be called upon to banish him.  Most of the time only children can see the Thikoloshe; he shows kindness towards them and they often become firm friends.

1.  13 Death – uKufa :  Transition, transformation, regeneration, letting go, metamorphosis, rebirth.

How Death came to Mankind


iTongo Tarot for Transformation

According to Zulu legend, God (uNkulunkulu) arose from beneath (the seat of the spiritual world) and created in the beginning men, animals, and all things. He then sent for the chameleon, saying, “Go, Chameleon, and tell the nations of men that they shall not die.” The chameleon started his journey, but walked slowly, loitering on the way, eating a shrub called ubukwebezane.

After some time, when the chameleon had not returned uNkulunkulu called the lizard ordering him to make haste and tell men that they shall die. The lizard outran the chameleon with the message, and told men that they shall die. When the chameleon eventually arrived and delivered his proclamation that man shall not die, the men refused to listen as they had already heard the words of the lizard and accepted what he said.  And so it happened that through the slowness of the chameleon and the speed of the lizard death came to all men. From that day, the chameleon was cast with his peculiar halting gait, which makes it impossible for him to run.

In multiple decks the Death card has the image of either the Death cloaked and mounted on a horse, or a skeleton with his trusty scythe.  Either of these visuals are indicative of our perception of the ‘grim reaper’.  When drawn card 13 Death is not an indication of mortal death, but rather a time of transition and transformation.

Everything in life arises from what we feel (Soul), think (Mind), what we say (Speech) and what we ultimately chose to do (Body), Being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing an understanding of who we are allows us to fulfill the dreams we have and control our fears.

We all experience fear to some degree on a daily basis. Predominating are the fears of loss, of a loved one, status, position, job, and respect. Fear is related to a number of additional cognitive and emotional states including worry, anxiety, terror, horror, panic and dread.  Whether these fears are valid or we have become addicted to the physiological effect of fear.  We are tasked daily to be brave, have courage, be the warrior and fight for our survival and place on the hamster wheel of life.

Experience can also make us fear – if you have ever been attacked, one might fear people who look like the attacker assailants. What we observe we save and file away for another time when a similar situation arises.  Our reaction is based on this information.  A fair amount of these files are created in childhood.  As we mature our physical bodies and our intellect, we often don’t update our memories and perceptions.  With the result we have an unrealistic response to a certain situation.  We grow out of the boogieman under the bed, but we may have transferred that information to certain types of people (shape, build and size) are out to get us and harms us.

Observations – if we have witnessed a murder, assault or a robbery, although we are not part of the action we pick up on the terror of the person and we make that situation something to be feared.  We avoid certain places and people, because they make us feel uncomfortable and the frisson of fear is present.

Take the analogy of animals in the wild, motivated by their survival of the species (food) and survival of self.  The buck grazing calmly is not aware that it is being observed and stalked by a lioness nearby.  The lioness pounces and the chase begins, the buck is experiencing all systems on go, senses are heightened and he knows to survive he has to flee – his experience has taught him that he cannot stand and fight, he will lose.  The elephants also at the watering hole, are aware and on standby should the lioness come their way, the matriarchs of the herd are closing ranks around the younger elephants.  The monkey in the tree is curious to see what is happening, but remains where he is, instinctively knowing that he is out of danger in his position (different story if the predator was a leopard).  The crocodile sunning on the banks of the watering hole is lying in wait – he has two options, either the buck will run into his jaws or the lioness would be so exhausted it would be an easy kill for him.  To all there is danger around, and to all there is the possibility of loss, yet they do not react until the danger is directed at them.

So too should we live our lives, observation and readiness are essential tools to survival, fearing an outcome until it has actually manifested is a drain on energy and pointless.


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