Monday, July 31, 2006

Coming Out

I just love it when people come out of the tarot closet. Over at Tales From The Reading Room a lecturer in French Lit decided to come clean with a 15 year tarot habit. As such, included this gem:

"When I’m doing a reading, it feels to me like an exercise in a very formal kind of literary criticism. I’m reading and interpreting the symbolism on the cards and piecing together the story they have to tell me. I never ask for details of people’s lives – it’s not my business. Often people do tell me things, and that’s fine. It can be very helpful, but it’s not strictly necessary. People are always afraid that I will foresee something terrible in their future, and it’s almost impossible to dissuade them of this until their first reading is over. It really does not work that way. I always tell people that they will walk away saying: it hasn’t told me anything I didn’t already know in my heart of hearts. A friend of mine was kind enough to say that the reading I gave him was ‘like an x-ray of my soul.’ And most importantly the tarot does not predict the future – it predicts the likeliest outcome to events if nothing changes. That’s an important distinction. I couldn’t envisage a helpful tool to life that foreclosed the possibility of free will. Anyone can change their life from one minute to the next if they choose to do so. A tarot reading should encourage you to make an intervention in your own life, not submit passively to the hands of fate."

Ok, first of all, I am a total logophile, so the way these words are put together in this essay provokes in me a euphoria similar to hearing the sound of a violin concerto in the hands of a skillful musician. But that aside, the writer succinctly summarizes the value of reading tarot for oneself or another. It kills me that she (I actually do not know the gender of the author, but in keeping with my feminist principles, I will default to "she" rather than "he") found it necessary to say, "I have a confession to make..." as if revealing her tarot reading was akin to telling people she snacked on toenail clippings. What would her academic colleagues think? Would this revelatory post have been made if the author were not anonymously blogging?

Would you believe that there actually is a tarot card called The Closet? Well, there's not, really. That image up there is from a satirical online "deck" called The Metrosexual Tarot, "a fashionable satire" by Thomas Scoville and Hughes Hall “'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' collides with The Occult.” Ok, I thought it was funny.

There are numerous reasons why a tarot enthusiast might keep her study of the cards a secret. Tarot cards have a sketchy reputation and are seen as belonging to the realm of the gullible and fanatics. Various religions frown on their usage and relegate them to the bin of "all things demonic." Most people see them as just frivolous, weird, and beneath the consideration of any rational, intelligent person. The tarot reader finds herself derisively scoffed at with phrases such as, "You don't believe in that stuff, do you?" For shame if you do. Now you find your credibility leaking out, puddling around your feet, and all your rational intelligence is suddenly suspect because you, you of all people, fiddle with "such things."

With the quickness you say, "Oh, but tarot cards have a rich history and the cards are originally from a 14th century bridge-like card game played in Europe, and the symbolism on the cards are archetypical representations of classic themes of life and conflict, and they're a tremendous brainstorming tool, great for delving into one's subconscious, and they're...they're art! Too! And you should see how many people collect cards and hardly anyone uses them for fluffly stuff like divination anymore...even therapists use them in their practices, it's true!" as you try to grasp your sinking credibility by the tail and yank it back in place.

Don't tell these people you do in fact divine with these pretty pictures. Be sure to speak academically and reasonably. You may have come out of the closet, but you still keep secrets. Like how you ask the tarot if she loves you, or will you win the lottery, or will I get that iPod I want for Christmas? Don't tell them you sometimes spend hours doing spreads over and over on the same nagging question. Certainly don't tell them you asked the cards about them, too, and how to better deal with their boorishness. Your secret is safe with me and other tarot readers. We know. We do it, too. I laughed out loud in complete identification the other day when a tarot reader, having car trouble and not knowing what the problem was, said to a group of other tarot readers, "I'll draw some cards on it later today." No one flinched. We understand. Because we've seen the amazing accuracy these cards can yield, and though skeptics scoff and snort and make all kinds of unattractive noises and faces, we know that the cards could easily tell her where the problem lies in the car, and when the mechanic goes to check it and tells her it is indeed the water pump just as the Ace of Cups suggested in the reading, she smiles to herself and says, "Yeah, I thought so" quietly editing out the end of the sentence: "just as the cards told me."

So it's not just the ones who pull out a crucifix and garlic and declare the tarot evil that cause tarot enthusiasts to hide their habit, but everyday kinds of people who pooh-pooh at anything that smacks of the nutty, woo-woo metaphysical. In order to continue to appear as normal, sane, intelligent people, tarot readers will often secret their cards away when people come to visit and only bring them out among very trusted, close friends and family. When a good friend of mine balked at my tarot practice, I agreed not to bring it up in conversation between us. She has some pretty deep religious reasons for her objection and after playing tarot apologist for a bit, I simply told her I wouldn't mention it again out of respect for her beliefs. She thought again and said, "What kind of friend would I be if I expected my friend to leave pieces of herself at home?" I so appreciated that. It was her willingness to be made uncomfortable in order to accept me, all of me, that truly touched me. I do respect her beliefs, though they differ from mine, and I make a point not to yammer on about tarot with her, but I don't feel like I have to censor myself either. Her ability to see me beyond the fact that I practice tarot is more than being nonjudgmental. It's the capacity to accept that people are multi-dimensional and often contradictory in their passions.

It sometimes takes courage to come out of the tarot closet, but I guarantee when you do, you will find out who your true friends are. Their responses, which may range from shock and horror to complete and utter disinterest, tell you more about them than about the value of your tarot passion, or about your intellect. Among the throng of tarot practicioners I have found doctors, psychologists, technicians, CEO's, stockbrokers, social workers, opera singers, artists, writers, humanitarian workers, lawyers, as well as laborers, administrative assistants, homemakers, and yes, fulltime tarot professionals, too. I think it's time to bring tarot out of the closet and the way many professionals are finding it a useful tool is indicative that it isn't only for the gullible suckers who believe in magic. It's for all of us who believe as well.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

MapQuest Doesn't Help


“Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation.” - William Lyon Phelps

I've never been one much for the "middle road." The middle road is boring. This virtue, Temperance, is tough for me, given to excess as I am. Excess is where I am inspired, creative, productive and feel as if I am truly alive. I have had to learn moderation, it doesn't come naturally to me. Moderation feels a bit too "safe" for me, a bit too tight-ass, like someone made a rule that says, "You can go this far, but no farther." Fool that I tend to be, I'm pretty sure I can go farther, especially if you get in my grill and tell me no. Still, I have to agree with Mark Twain in that one can easily take temperance to extremes, just as you can take anything off the rails. He said: "Temperate temperance is best. Intemperate temperance injures the cause of temperance, while temperate temperance helps it in its fight against intemperate intemperance. Fanatics will never learn that, though it be written in letters of gold across the sky."- Notebook, 1896

That idea helps me deal with the times Temperance shows up as advice in my readings. Normally I would rail against it, because she's no fun, but I have to admit she is rather wise. Since the time of the early Marseilles decks she has often been pictured with wings, though as a personification of a virtue, she's not supposed to be an angel, per se. Justice didn't get the bell rung for her wings and neither did Strength (Fortitude), why did Temperance? Because you can't find the middle road on MapQuest, that's why. If we didn't have some divine guidance in this, we'd all be irretrievably lost. Nah, honestly, I don't know why she has wings and the other tarot virtues don't. However, I do like to think it's because, well, at least for me, I need a little extra help in order to find just the right combination of things. It takes a lot of patience and soul searching to pick out all the various components in just the right measure and come up with a way of walking though a tough time intact.

Which leads me to the other aspect of Temperance: alchemy. In some decks this is called Alchemy because it represents that quest to discover or create a new element out of existing materials. The ancient study of alchemy wasn't merely the quest to turn base metals into gold, the find The Philosopher's Stone or a panacea that would cure all the world's ills, although they certainly hoped it could yield up those treasures. It was a proto-scientific field that combined the study of the elements of the earth with spiritual knowledge and discovery. Imagine that! I wonder if "Creation Scientists" would mind being labeled "alchemists?" You think? I have a feeling they'd be insulted by the connection to magick, but really, what they profess is similar to what ancient alchemists pursued, though I think the alchemists should be the ones feeling insulted by the comparison. In Temperance that very mingling of elemental and spiritual is what is depicted, which is maybe why Temperance got her wings, in order to better symbolize the spiritual aspect of the experiment. She is often, if not always, shown pouring liquid from one container to another. Originally, she was known to be watering the wine, which results in moderate drinking, whether you like it or not. That reminds me of that story in the New Testament where Jesus alchemically turns water into wine at that wedding at Cana. Apparently the wine Jesus makes is not watered at all because when it was tasted one of the stewards said to the groom, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now."(John 2:10 NRSV) That Jesus knew how to throw a party. From what I could gather about him from reading all those stories in the Bible, he wasn't so big on Temperance himself most of the time. Tut!

Temperance is itself an alchemical mingling, a bringing together of elemental and spiritual, with patience, knowledge, wisdom (they are quite different), fortitude, and a dash of divine intervention. When she appears she bears good news, that you're on the right track, you're soon to shout "Eureka!" in your own personal laboratory. If she shows up in a relationship reading she may be saying the personalities are rather slow to mix, but they mix well with some work and patience. She's not in a hurry, so she indicates things will likely take some time, just keep at it, whatever you're doing. She warns us extremists to take caution and temper our wildishness a bit, to find that middle road, not the shortcut.

This image is from The Housewives Tarot, a really cute, 50's kitch deck that is not just a novelty deck, I promise. The fun facade is deceiving, this deck gives it to you with cheek and humor, but it gives it to you straight. Temperance in this deck is all about the alchemy, getting just the right measure of just the right ingredients in a mixer. If any of you have done any baking, you know, probably from sad experience that if you fudge or rush or don't pay attention to directions, forget it. The result is usually inedible. So disappointing when the cake you slaved over for hours tastes like poo. Bet you didn't realize Temperance has some sorrow and anger in the recipe, too, did you? Well, maybe you did. It was news to me. Just like that time I tried to make chocolate chip cookies with no baking soda. Who knew? So Temperance might be a bit tedious and boring, but the results are worth it.

There is an old saying: "The high road leads to heaven, the low road leads to hell, but the middle road leads to Faerie." If going to Faerie means enchantment and secrets revealed, magic and wonder and cookies that don't taste like ass then that middle road might not be so bad after all. But I still can't find it on a map...sigh.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Like a Bad Penny

This scenario is more common than dirt: Two people have a romantic relationship. It lasts however long, then they break up. They part ways. Then, some weeks, months, even years later, one of them contacts the other. Just to say hi, they say. Just wanted to see how you're doing, they say. Hmmmm....what does he/she want? Are they fishing to see if you're available? Will they call again? What's going on? I get this type of question regularly in my tarot reading practice, and I mean a LOT. I don't always use this spread, but sometimes I do because it contains position meanings that explore not only what the other person may be intending, but also what it is you want. That bit of information is often overlooked when someone is contacted by an ex they still care about, but they haven't asked themselves in a while if they even want the relationship to be reconciled. What you wanted in the long weeks following the breakup may not be what you want for yourself now. Ok, here's the spread. I found it at Tarot Wisdom Readings and I used the Archeon deck. Click on the image to see position meanings better.


1. The Past History of the Relationship: Six of Swords. Here a ship sails through and past the six swords, leaving them behind, storm clouds appear to be breaking in the distance. From this card it appears the relationship was quite stormy, many harsh words were said on both sides, both people had drawn their lines in the sand, took and held to their positions and the only solution was for one or the other to leave. The six of swords is often a "break up card" in relationship readings as it depicts someone leaving for calmer seas, brighter shores. Sometimes it can indicate a couple getting through a difficult period in their relationship and moving past it, but as this is an ex-relationship reading, it makes sense that this card is depicting what brought the relationship to an end. Given the suit is swords, it appears they had trouble communicating on the same wave length and were opposed to one another's way of thinking as well as speaking.

2. Where you are now. Ten of Pentacles. This is a crucial card in this spread because it tells you about yourself and gives you a piece of what you need to make a more informed decision.
Here we see a very peaceful scene, a large castle-like mansion by a calm sea. The crescent moon illuminates the watery image, telling me that this person has reached that place of peace and security aimed for in the first card, the six of swords. I'm inclined to say that this person was the one who initiated the break-up and has since found a place of inner wealth, peace, and satisfaction in their life. As the ten of pentacles also indicates the wealth of tradition, family and inheritence, this person may have even gone on to marry another and begin a family. If not, it simply means they are quite secure where they are now.

3. Where your ex is now. Eight of Swords. Oy. They're not doing so well. They appear to be stuck as a result of their previous thoughts and actions and now find themselves unable to move in any direction. They could be caught in a bad relationship in which they desperately want freedom from and are looking to you as a way out. They could be overridden with guilt in how they treated you and are looking for the release of your forgiveness. In any case, they are painfully bound up in their own mind and are looking to you for help in removing those bonds.

4. What you really feel about reconciling. Nine of Pentacles. This is another crucial position in this spread, telling you more about yourself. The tendency in these situations is to focus on the ex, to wonder why they called, to try and figure out their intentions but it's very important to instead focus on you and your true feelings about them and what you want to do next. Here is a woman, arms up in freedom and victory, the image of a lion (Strength) superimposed on her torso tells me she is confident and strong in herself. The nine pentacles surrounding her show that she is materially comfortable, self-sufficient, and really doesn't need anyone to complete her or make her whole. I'm thinking the person represented by this card isn't too keen on reconciling with this ex and would rather remain her own person, independent and free.

5. What your ex feels about reconciling. Queen of Wands. This is what is called a "Court Card" in tarot. There are four in each suit: Pages (or Princesses, Knaves, or Fante); Knights (or Princes, though in the Thoth deck Knights are Kings, but Crowley's deck is another ball of wax altogether anyway); Queens (or Regina); and Kings (or Re). These cards are stereotypes of people with the qualities of their suits. I'll go more in depth about courts in another post soon, but for now I'll just say that Queens represent the element of water (emotions, intuition) combined with the element of their suit, in this case wands which, in my way of elemental associations, is fire. Queens are also the means by which plans become implemented, they delegate to others as well as accomplish things themselves. They are actively in charge of things. The Queen of Wands is a passionate, active sort of woman whose emotions tend to guide her actions and passions. She's fairly unstoppable when she is focused on a task that she is passionate about and has a tendency toward the flashy and dramatic. When a Court comes up in a position such as this one, describing how someone may feel, it's helpful to ask yourself, "How would the Queen of Wands feel?" This becomes easier once you get to know these personalities of tarot. The ex in this case probably feels very passionate about reconciling and is eager to see it happen. They would be looking for ways to act on that idea and make it happen in a rather outward, gregarious fashion. The fact that a Queen came up here tells me this person's emotion are key to understanding their actions and how they act is dependent upon those emotions. Watch what this person does as well as what they say, but their actions will tell you how they feel.

6. Who or What Opposes What You Want? Three of Swords. I read this position with the assumption that reconciliation is what is "wanted" or at least supposing it's wanted. It could simply be what is opposing the reconciliation. A figure grieving with hands over their face, three swords, one of which has cracked open a heart. Ouch. This hurt is what is standing in the way. It took a lot of mental processing to deal with the pain of the relationship and the breakup itself, too, so it may not be possible to put that behind either one of you and start anew. It seems there were some hurtful things said that have not been addressed and may still hurt as you look back upon them. While you would like to get past this, you are unsure whether it is possible for you to do so.

7. Who or What Can Help You? The Lovers. This is a Major Arcana and as such, in relationship spreads particularly, signifies a really BIG relationship in your life. This is IT, the One, the connection you've longed to feel and finally realize with this other person. This is the one you know you want to "forsake all others" for and commit to long term. The Lovers represents a major decision of the heart. In this position, though, it serves as advice. It's saying this is what would need to be done in order for this reconciliation to happen. You would need to ask yourself how deep are your feelings for this person? Are they truly the One you have sought and wanted? Is this the person to whom you could or would commit yourself to, sacrifice for, love forever? This is a big decision, and if you find yourself answering yes to those kinds of questions, then yes, reconciliation may be possible, at least on your end. This kind of commitment could help you work through the Three of Swords that oppose you to get past the pain. But if you're really not feeling like you can or want to give it your all, this reconciliation is probably not a good idea.

8. Something You May Not Know. Four of Pentacles. This card shows a figure clutching four pentacles and the body language indicates they are not entertaining anyone else's opinion about what they should do with those pentacles. This person is not engaging on any level with anyone and seems intent on holding on to those pentacles no matter what. This is the person who does not share well or at all. This card may be indicating a lack of willingness to be open or to share one's resources with another. In a relationship it can indicate a clingy, needy person who can be possessive and selfish. Is this about you or is this pointing to something you need to know about the ex? Maybe only the person this reading is for can answer that question. How willing are you really to share what you have with another? If you are willing, then maybe the other person isn't. This position highlights a potential place of difficulty should you decide to reconcile.

9. Probably Outcome or Resolution. Nine of Wands. This card features a man behind eight wands, holding a ninth wand away from his body. He's naked and vulnerable, but he's protected by the fence of eight wands before him. This is not someone ready to engage in the closeness and intimacy of a committed relationship, but rather someone who is still naked and vulnerable behind his walls. He's not prepared yet to engage in pursuit of his passions, the wand he holds as a reminder, but not as a tool or a weapon. My conclusion for this reading is that while the ex is eager to reconcile, the person for whom the reading was done is full of doubts and pain and feels too vulnerable yet to start things up again. They had reached a place of peace and comfort without the ex and has serious reservations about giving up their hard won independence and freedom. While the idea is inviting on some level, the main question needing to be asked is can you or do you want to commit to this person fully? This card seems to indicate you need more time to heal before you are ready to take this, or maybe any serious relationship on.

This reading, done in this way, allows the seeker to ask themselves pertinant questions they may not have been asking themselves or reflecting on deeply enough. Shifting the focus back on to what they want rather than what the wayward ex may want is tremendously helpful in that it grounds the person in their own feelings, needs, and desires. Only they can decide, ultimately, whether to pursue this reconciliation or not, but this type of reading gives them more to go on with which to make that decision.

And just so you know, because I know you were wondering, no, this was not an actual reading for anyone. I simply pulled the cards for the spread at random without thinking of anyone's situation in particular. But if the shoe fits anyone here, go ahead and wear it. You never know, synchronicity and all, if there was a greater purpose to your reading this right now.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Zzzzzzzz.....


This is what I did for a very long time in the last 24 hours: lots of sleeping. I put the swords to the side and rested. My kids are away on vacation with their dad and I was able to nap 6 hours uninterrupted. Which of course leads to this, me posting on the net at 3:00 in the morning. I am not a napper, and this is why. I don't do anything in bits and pieces, I go full on, so I don't "nap," I sleep. For hours. And then wake up at all the wrong hours and act like it's a new day. Fours indicate a time of no movement, like me, prone for six hours. Since swords are the suit of mental activity and communication, sleep is a good metaphor for the time when the brain shuts down or at least preoccupies itself for a time. This guy's four swords are resting too, leaning beside and around him. They're right there for when he awakes, but if he's anything like me I bet he's dreaming about whatever it was that was on his mind before he dozed off. My "swords" tend to keep active even when I'm not, which is also why I've always sucked at meditation. I can't seem to reach that "no mind" place, ever, and actually, that has served me well in times of extreme mental stress, when I was seriously in danger of mental breakdown my mind refused to give in. Still, there are times when I wish my brain had an off switch. I have fantasized about taking my own head off, leaving it on a shelf with a peck on my own cheek, and going about a normal day, like having a temporary lobotomy.

So, the four of swords is like a nap, a mini-vacation, flipping TV channels while thinking of nothing at all. It's silence, not thinking much, not talking, not doing much of anything, and when you look at the cards that come before and after this one, it's no wonder. The three of swords is traumatic and very tough on the brain cells, not to mention the heart, and the five of swords is, well, really conflicting. It can indicate convalescence, time in the hospital, or even doing time in jail. It can indicate a break is needed in a relationship or from your job. If this card reappears in your readings over and over, you are probably being cautioned that if you don't willingly take some time off, you will be forced to, often by way of our bodies conking out like coming down with the flu or some other illness that forces you to rest whether it was convenient to your schedule or not.

Remember how I said that tarot can be quite direct at times? This card often comes across in readings as saying, "Give it a rest." Like, cut it out, you've obsessed enough about this, it's only going to make things worse if you continue. Knock it off. That includes doing yet another reading on the same situation because you can't seem to leave it be. This is one of tarot's ways of telling you to fuck off. Go take a nap. Leave the cards on the table. Rude! Well, yeah. But hi, you're the one chasing your own tail with the cards and obsessing about things. Is it helping? No. So listen when tarot flips you off. Its for your own good.

As for me...I'm going back to bed. I'll flip TV channels until sleep takes over again. Totally 4 of swords.

* The image above is from The Hudes Deck By Susan Hudes, published by US Games.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Shake, Rattle, & Roll


A shudder in the loins engenders there the broken wall, the burning roof and tower and Agamemnon dead. --William Butler Yeats
I blithely mentioned three of the most shocking Major Arcana cards over here, and I’ve touched on The Devil and Death, so here's the other one: The Tower. This one is probably more unwelcome than the others, if you can even believe that. Mostly because it represents the type of experience that not only is painful but sudden. It’s not the reluctant acceptance of a relationship you’ve seen coming to an end but didn’t want to face it, as with Death. It’s not that you’ve known you shouldn’t have been visiting all those online gambling sites and have been watching your credit bills slowly rise, as in the Devil. The Tower indicates a sudden shock, a “bolt out of the blue,” that sends you reeling and gasping for breath. This is the telephone call in the middle of the night, the stock market crash, the police knocking on your door, the discovery of your lover in bed with another. This is the sucker punch to the gut card and when it shows up in a spread, your chest clenches and you can’t help but panic a little and cry, “What now?!”. Or it could be your washing machine breaks when you don’t have money to buy a new one, so you have to readjust your lifestyle to collecting quarters and hauling clothes to the coin-operated laundromat. “Oh?” you say, as you poke your head out from under the table, “Is that all? Whew!”
This image of the Tower is from the Tarocchi Durer by Giacinto Gaudenzi (Published by Lo Scarabeo © 1990) . It's a Majors-only deck drawn as a tribute to Albrecht Durer in a very similar style as Durer's engravings. The blast is a bolt of lightning out of the blue which explodes the tower from within, creating havoc, destruction, and loss. What a mess.

Over at The Hermitage Tom Tadfor Little has written up a really good page on the History of the Tower Card and he brings up a very interesting point. Apparently none of the early expensively made decks, those commissioned by people with the money to do so, come down to us with a Devil card intact and few with the Tower. While the church objected to the depictions of the Pope and Papesse cards of the tarot, it appears the nobility wasn’t too comfy with depictions of vice, greed, and the destruction of castles. Apparently tarot has always had a knack for making everyone fidget in their seats in one way or another.

The main thing about the Tower is it signals the disruption and even destruction of things that you thought were solid. The more comfortable we become in our “castles,” the more complacent we become, the less connected we are from others and from what is really important in our lives. We begin to believe the illusions of safety and security that we’ve built and start taking some very valuable things for granted. A Tower moment, though rarely welcome, unless it’s happening to someone you dislike very much, brings into sharp and sudden focus those things we thought indestructible and safe, and subsequently presumed too much upon.

On September 11, 2001, the people of the United States, who had not seen external aggression in their own land since the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, watched helplessly as two towers in New York were intentionally attacked, exploded, and crumbled to the ground. The World Trade Center had been built specifically to resist the occasional wayward airplane from La Guardia, an earthquake, and hurricane-force winds. It symbolized capitalism and with it the life we know and understand: work, trade, making money, investing, an icon that all those living here believed to be permanent. The image of The Tower in the Haindl deck, first published in the 1980's, many years before the World Trade Center destruction, is eerie in its similar depiction of such an event. While the aftershocks of the disaster were many, a prevailing theme seemed to echo around the country brought about by the victims’ and survivors’ last moment calls on cell phones to their friends and families to say, “I love you.” For a long time afterwards we found ourselves hesitating on doorsteps and at the ends of phone calls just to say, “Hey…I love you.” Therein lies the effect of The Tower. It causes us to reflect on and appreciate more the things, the people, the relationships and the mundane daily blessings we often take for granted.

Most often The Tower isn’t nearly so devastating as 9/11, obviously. However, no matter how seemingly small the event may be, it serves the purpose of shaking loose that which has been built on a false sense of security. While no one should say the event itself was a “blessing,” not even a “blessing in disguise,” because it really bugs me when people try to pretty up nasty events and experiences with that kind of talk, what emerges in the aftermath is a deeper sense of what is truly important to you and how you’ve been missing out due to your own preoccupation with other, less important things. As a result, priorities, the foundation of our lives, are shifted, as we set to work building yet another tower, but…lesson learned. Well, we can hope, right?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Decisions...Decisions

People who read tarot professionally are sometimes faced with ethical dilemmas due to the nature of the questions asked to read on. People ask for tarot readings when they're faced with life's very difficult decisions, when they're emotionally distressed and looking for direction. Many times they are looking for a sign from a higher power, insider information from Destiny herself. Occasionally we are confronted with clients whose problems lie outside the scope of a reader's expertise and we have to ask ourselves when should we refer a querant to a professional?

Part of this dilemma can be alleviated by the reader's approach and how she communicates that to the client. As a reader, I try to empower those I read for. I rarely give imperatives from the cards because rarely do I see the cards being that bossy. What I see are pictures that uncover alternatives and opportunities that may have been looked over or missed entirely. One reader I know places a sign on her reading table that says, "The cards are in my hands, your destiny is in yours." Likewise, I place the querant's destiny squarely in their own hands and ask them how they plan to process this reading, how they see what the cards are advising, how they might proceed, etc. I ask them to think carefully about what the cards revealed to them and to ask me questions if they need to. I emphasize that the cards act as guides, not as authoritative decision-makers. This serves to demystify the information that comes from a reading, and encourages the querant to take what is said more in the vein of advice rather than edict.

As readers, we are human and fallible and we can misinterpret the cards and as a result give poor advice. Before becoming a tarot reader, I know I've handed out sorry advice a time or two in my life and I've taken poor counsel as well. However, it's always up to the person themselves to choose whether or not to act on the advice given, no matter if it is from a friend or a tarot card reading. When I'm reading, I interpret the cards as they present themselves. I don't really have a clue how what I am saying is affecting the other person until they respond. I simply tell them what I see, and if they choose not to respond, well, that's what they get, for better or for worse. The more interaction I have with a client, the better the reading will be and the more the client will get from the reading as she participates in the dialogue between us and the cards. For example, if I see depression indicated in the cards and the client acknowledges that they are indeed depressed, I can advise some help for that. Often the cards themselves will advise seeking professional help with the appearance of "mentor" cards such as The Hermit, The Hierophant, Kings and Queens. I have also had people ask for a reading to decide whether to invest in something, sell their home, to ask how their health is faring, or should they divorce their spouse and always I tell them not to base their decision on the outcome of the reading but to use the experience to give them something to think about and to consult a professional advisor before making their final decision. I don't think tarot substitutes for that help, but a reading can serve as an incentive for someone to take more control of their lives: i.e, to make that therapy appointment, to consult with a lawyer, go see that doctor, or take that course they've been thinking about. It's an adjunct to decision making, and I make sure those I read with know that. And that's not just butt-covering on my part, that's sensible. I have found tarot to be an invaluable tool for decision making in my own life but it's not a hotline to Destiny, God, or whomever you may believe is running the show, and it's not always up to date on the latest case law.

As a professional reader I know there are many misconceptions people have about tarot, about the skills of tarot readers, and about what they can reasonably expect from a reading. It is my job to help people, and I do that by helping them to uncover what they may already know inside themselves but may have been too overwhelmed or distracted to acknowledge. Readings often bring clarity to a really fuzzy situation and they can assist the client in taking steps on their own behalf to create their own futures and deal effectively with their problems. I nor the cards are a substitute for a professional in another field. When a reading is approached in this manner rather than in a "just tell me what is going to happen" manner, the client walks away from the table feeling a lot more steady on their feet and ready to face the next step.


Tarot Nasties

It's funny the reaction you have to certain cards. It can vary deck to deck, depending on the images, sure, but for a long time my gut response to the 5 and 7 of Swords was, "Ugh! Sneaky, deceptive asshats!" When these cards appeared I knew someone, could be me, was up to no good. And by God, they're just relishing in their assiness! I mean just look at the poor fellow in the far distance in the 5 of Swords (left). Head bowed, face in his hands (sob!). The clouds look all ominous and that little prick in the foreground is just all full of himself, delighting in not only the fact that he's won all the swords, but also in his opponents' losses. And then we have the 7 of Swords thief on the right here, barely containing his self-satisified giggles over the fact that he's just gotten away with nicking five of somebody else's swords while they're all over there in the background oblivious to his treachery. If there's one thing I can't stand is duplicity or sneakiness. Just be straight with me, ok? When the 7 of Swords shows up I can be sure someone's keeping a secret and it's likely something to do with trying to pull one over on someone. Grrrr!

But hang on here just a minute. Let's get off our high horses...well, that would be my high horse I'm referring to, and take a closer look at these cards. While gut reactions tell me something important and often our first responses to are card are the correct ones, I found as I studied tarot that I needed to get past my predjudices and kneejerk responses in order to see both the light and the dark aspects of each and every card. Because they're there...yes, even in images seemingly repugnant. As with even the Devil, a more shadowy figure you would be hard pressed to find, there is a positive message to be found.

First, the suit is Swords, which represents air: communication, thought, words, active response to a mental process, and yes, conflict. 5 of Swords depicts the end of a battle. A time when "clearing the field" belonged to the victor, usually by pages, who brought the weapons back to the winning side. The clouds, though they may seem ominous at first, are breaking and clearing. The fighting has stopped. There are losses, probably heavy losses, on both sides. There are times when it's just no use to keep fighting. The figure on the left of the card maintains a certain repose, dignity, and confidence in light of his defeat. While the far figure certainly is taking it hard, this one seems quite ok with the decision. Did he simply drop his sword and walk away? There are times it is far wiser to do that rather than continue a fight that is just not worth the effort. Yet, the smug satisfaction on the central figure is not entirely out of place either. When one puts forth one's best effort and comes out the victor, is it wrong to feel good about that? I've seen this card come up numerous times in career readings where a sought after position is highly competitive and the understanding is that you will likely have a tough time showing your worth, but if you give it all you've got, you may just get that job. And yes, the others who wanted the job and didn't get it have two choices: walk on with head held high to other opportunities, or spend some time feeling really bad you didn't make the cut. And who wouldn't raise a fist to the air and shout, "Yes!"after receiving word you got it, you got that job, promotion, or contract? The 5 of Swords, more than anything, asks the querant to think a moment: Is this worth it? Someone will win and someone will lose, and only you can decide if going for the brass ring is worth the cost.

Likewise with the 7 of Swords, the first thing to remember is that Swords have more to do with mental activity and communication. Certainly this guy is pleased with his seeming act of treachery...or is it so bad as all that? Could it be that he is merely retrieving stolen property? He's acting alone, so maybe he's cooked up this hair-brained scheme by himself. Or maybe he just didn't want to risk anyone else's head on a platter but his own. This young thug may be a hero, we just don't know. And that's really the point of the card: we don't know because he's not telling. He's keeping his own counsel, planning his own actions, and carrying them out alone. This card can advise the reader to keep quiet about his/her thoughts for the time being, until the right time to tell. Sometimes that's the wisest course of action. See if your plan works before you go blabbing about it.

While my initial reactions to the images remain viable interpretations of these cards, thinking through the images and the possibilities helps me see various facets that open the meanings up to any number of possibilities and situations.

I still think they're asshats. But even asshats have their moments.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Quick Reading on the Blog

A Past-Present-Future reading about this new blog:
Past: Princess of Pentacles. This young Celtic lass is a newbie to this endeavor. Obviously, that's me, newbie blogger, trying to learn how this whole blogosphere operates. It also represents my decision a while back to earn money (pentacles) via tarot reading online, which brought me to this decision to start this blog.
Present: Four of Pentacles. Hmmm. This guy is keeping some things safe, secret, and locked up. The thing about this card is that while he can do that, for sure, and probably should, he really won't see any growth in his endeavors unless he invests what he has into them. I think the card is telling me two things: be safe, reserve some resources for myself, but this project won't get anywhere if I don't invest in it. There needs to be a balance in order to achieve what I am aiming for. (Just to see if I was on the right track with that interpretation, I drew a clarifying card and I drew The Chariot. That card is all about balancing two opposing forces to achieve a successful result. So yeah, I was right on. It also bodes well for success providing you just get going, get moving in a direction, and keep those doggies rolling.)
Future: The Lovers. Seems we're gonna be gettin' jiggy with it here at 78 Notes To Self! Shall I bring out the erotic tarot cards? Wooo! Good times! Actually, this card is representing the commitment I shall need to make to something that I love. I love writing. I love tarot. Apparently we're a good match. There may be a crucial decision coming up for me and this card advises choosing with the heart. Do what you love.
Good advice. Thanks tarot.

The Terminator


"All but Death, can be Adjusted—
Dynasties repaired—
Systems—settled in their Sockets—
Citadels—dissolved—
Wastes of Lives—resown with Colors
By Succeeding Springs—
Death—unto itself—Exception—
Is exempt from Change—
"
-Emily Dickenson

What does that card image say to you? Hi, I'm Death, right? It's all there, the human skeleton, the scythe, cutting a swath through the remnants of human affairs. The lives of noble and peasant alike laid waste: the artist, the scholar, the kings and queens, the laborer, all meet the same end. The great equalizer: Death. Is there anything in this image suggesting rebirth? Fun things on their way? I don't see it, do you? Call me a party pooper, but Death means end, finale, termination. "Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore." This card is from the Classic Tarot deck, a reproduction of a Milanese deck, dated 1835, but it's a very typical, historically accurate portrayal of death symbolism in art since the early Middle Ages.

So why do so many tarot readers insist this card does not mean what it clearly portrays? That look of terror in a client's eyes in the middle of a reading is one reason. Nothing can cast a pall over a for-entertainment-purposes-only tarot reading faster than having Joe Black make an appearance. Readers are quick to say, "Oh no, Death doesn't mean literal death, it's symbolic, you see, calm down...have a mint." Soft-peddling death is a natural reaction. We don't like death. It's unpleasant. It hurts. It's scary. However, no matter how you candycoat it, death represents an end. True, that end doesn't have to be the literal end to someone's life, but it certainly means an end to an aspect of someone's life, be it a relationship, a career, a phase or way of life. It's an ending that cannot be resisted, it's going to happen, like it or not, and the attending grief likewise cannot be avoided.

Much as we'd like this card to represent transition, I don't believe it does. Sure, the potential is always there for new things to come to fill the empty space left by death, but this card isn't talking about that, not yet. First, we must sit with the emptiness, grieve the loss, and accept it. Generally, we don't like to do that, in our own life or with others experiencing loss. The tendency is to rush through the painful to get to the other side. Get over it. That's understandable, but unproductive. If there's one thing I've learned about grief is that it will haunt you until you face it. It dogs your every step until you finally sit down and just weep and wail and hurt. Then and only then are we free to move on past the loss and begin again. That's precisely the time period this card is portraying. Right there in the hollowness of those skeletal eye sockets is the emptiness we feel in the wake of losing something, or someone, significant to us. Death invites us to wait, to sit a while in that place, let it wash over and through us because denying it is as useless as thinking we can outrun Death at the end of our lives, too.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

El Diablo

We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell ~Oscar Wilde
There are three Major Arcana cards that routinely tend to provoke quite the freakout: Death (dun dun dun!), The Tower (a rather unwelcome shock), and The Devil. He's usually depicted in very grotesque form and it's a natural response to recoil from such nasties. Case in point, here is an image from a very early deck, the Visconti-Sforza, the first "official" tarot card deck made in the mid-fifteenth century. It's pretty typical devil symbolism what with the goat horns and bat wings, dragon-scaled belly, malevolent face, etc., but what is more disturbing about this card are the children. Good God, will someone not save the children? Actually, I don't think they're both supposed to be children, per se, as the female figure has breasts, but the male figure is clearly a boy. And they've spouted horns, so apparently they're becoming that which both lures and repels them. Tied loosely, they seem captivated, willing slaves. The young woman looks freakishly like a Stepford Wife and the devil is obviously the Puppet Master. These kinds of images make one wonder what could possibly be so appealing about the gruesome dude that one would stay, willingly, bound. Tarot is masterful in revealing the underlying forces at work, so while this card is adept at uncovering the underbelly of a situation and confronting, in-your-face-like, that you've been dabbling in doo doo, some other artists have captured the other aspect of the Devil that answers the relevant question of what on God's green earth could possibly seduce anyone to be chained to such an ugly thing? Take a gander at the Gilded Tarot deck's Lucifer: YUMMY! (Ok, don't get freaked out by the pentacle in the background like it means something evil. The Devil rules over the "material world" and pentacles represent that in tarot, the tangible, sensual, material things of this earth like money, food, sex, goodies like that.) Just look at the hotness, though. Now there's something to get all tied up about. I like this depiction of The Devil, obvious reasons aside, because it answers that question about temptation. The helmet, too, is significant, as it covers his eyes and suggests he's not seeing the temptation for all it is. Again, willful blindness is suggested because nothing is stopping him from removing the horny hat to assess his flaming desires. Another subtle question is posed here: is the man pictured the devil incarnate or merely devil spawn? By that I mean, is he caught up in temptation or is he the tempter? The perp or the victim? Or both? Oh, what tangled webs we weave, right?
Sometimes the Devil comes up in readings as advice which doesn't mean tarot is recommending you take a trip down to the neighborhood crack house but instead advises a bit of indulgence in some material comforts (Hi, Ben & Jerry) while recognizing their inherent addictive potential, so you don't OVERindulge to the point of irresponsibility to yourself or others. Instead, it's affirming that yes, sex is good, money is good, chocolate is very good, just keep your wits about you. Please. Else you end up back at The Fool and his ass doesn't look nearly as good as this guy's. You have been warned.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Satanic Scribbles

Idle hands are the devil's tools. Put the Devil's Picture Book in them, and whoa. Now, we're in business!

Woo Woo Stuff

Can tarot readers see the future, read minds, cast spells, or, in short, are we psychic? Maybe a little. Some psychics read tarot, but not all tarot readers can tell you what you will be having for breakfast next Tuesday. I've had clients ask me if I can "see" their energy and if I could see it, can I rid them of "bad energy?" Um. From over here? With tarot cards? Maybe if I spread them into a fan, and if you're sitting across from me you might feel a breeze, but that's about it.

Personally, I feel that most if not all people are "psychic." Since we ordinarily only tap into about a tenth of our brain's capacity and my Western society has all but thrown intuition and divination into the same useless pile as alien abductions, old wives tales (which, by the way, is an excruciatingly sexist term, but that's another post for another day...or maybe today...I'm not sure yet), belief in Santa Claus and the rantings of
fools, we're probably all walking around with the latent skills of telepathy and telekenesis, but it's probably a good thing because what a mess THAT would be if that little secret got out. Think they had it bad in The Omen? Imagine that little shit multiplied by millions. I kinda like my spoon handles straight, thank you.

The cards are rich in archetypal symbolism, not unlike magical sigils, and can be used in the practice of spellcasting and magick, if one so desires, but so can many other common household items, well...I don't know many households with eye of newt in the pantry, but you know what I mean. Art itself is rich in symbolism and even my very cursory understanding of art history and symbolism tells me that tarot card art is, while not always very good, is in fact simply drawing on age-old symbolic forms, shapes, and colors to convey meaning. But the cards themselves have no more power or magic in them than 78 pictures cut from a magazine and laid out on a table. The mystery, the magic, the power lies in my, yes MY, brain. And yours too. Crank that brain power up to, say, twelve percent and see what happens.

Tarot is a great tool for digging around the cobwebbed parts of your subconscious. It can reveal your own assiness to yourself as well as remind you of dreams you've tucked in long forgotten drawers. One of my favorite cards of the
Major Arcana is the High Priestess or Papesse who literally means the subconscious, the secrets of the divine feminine. She is intuition personified and when she appears in the reading she gives you That Look. The one that says, "You know." And I, being thick-headed, usually argue and say, "No, I don't. If I did do you think I'd be asking you?" At which point the cards usually get very assy and start calling out random things until I walk away disgusted with the whole exercise.

It's not easy getting those rusty brain parts working, much less to run smoothly. It's like using muscles you never knew you had, or take for granted. You never realize how much you depend on your pinky toe until it gets broken and every step is a reminder it really wasn't a useless prod of an appendage all this time, it actually serves the function of keeping you balanced! Who knew? So with those fleeting thoughts, those internal nudges and hunches. You'll be looking at a card and something catches your eye, the butterfly in the upper right corner, the flower wilting to the left of the central figure, and suddenly a thought blinks in: "shrinking violet...shed your cocoon..." and then you dare to speak these nonsensical babblings and that's when the magic happens! The person on the other side of the cards sits up, eyes widening, and they say, "How did you know?"
"Know what?"
"That my father, he always used to say that. He used to call me his "Shrinking Violet" because I was so shy and he used to tell me that one day, I would see, one day I would come out of my cocoon and spread my wings like the butterflies he used to attract to his garden, he loved butterfly bushes, well...all kinds of flowers and he knew the names of all of them. And I used to love spending time with my dad in the garden, he would tell me all about the flowers and the insects that helped to bring life to his beautiful "children" he'd call them, his flowering plants...."
"Well, here the
eight of swords shows that what is holding you back are your own thoughts that hem you in and make you feel like you can't get anywhere, see?" as I point to the card, "there you are, in the midst of all your own naysaying."
"You're right. I'm always talking myself out of doing things I actually want to do."
And so it goes, the connections are made, from the cards, to me, to them, and back again, as we put the pieces together.

So, where do those impressions come from? Psychic powers? Telepathy? Tapping into a "universal consciousness?" Shhhhh....don't pick at mysteries. Magic is meant to be experienced not dissected under a microscope in a sterile lab.

I'll get back to the sexism thing another time. Intuition and the exercise thereof has been routinely dismissed through history as silly woman stuff and the disparagement of older women and their wisdom is part and parcel of all of that...but that's a rant for another day.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Speaking Tarotish

An interesting thing happens when you come to know and speak tarot language. You start associating things, people, and events to the cards. It helps if you limit this kind of talk to those familiar with the archetypes, otherwise people will look at you really oddly when you say, "I feel so 10 of swords today...what is up with that?" However, this is a really effective way to more deeply understand the cards. By associating them to your daily life and the people you interact with, the cards come alive and you begin to understand how they relate intimately to the lives and experiences of those you read for as well. It takes you out of the book and into life, seeing connections played out in real life. It causes you to recognize that the Devil could be that piece of chocolate cake you didn't need at lunch or it could be something much bigger. The large and the small, the esoteric and the mundane, they're all represented in some way in those 78 cards.

My friend, Chloe, and I often do readings together, and as we discuss our lives "tarotish" is interspersed frequently.
"Could she be more a
Magician? Gotta watch out for her pulling a fast one."
"I know, but she's an amateur. Not even a good shell game."
"Still, and just dealing with her is such a
5 of swords thing, I can't win no matter what I try."
"Yeah, better to just drop it and walk away."
"Yeah, I definitely have to be the
Page of Swords here and just watch out for her. Ugh. How do I get out of this?"
"Well, you could be more
9 of pentacles, you know."

Did that make sense to you? If you're a tarotist, it probably did. The rest of you, you're on your own.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

All The World Loves a Fool

“I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries”
Theodore Isaac Rubin

I've always seen it ironic (and fitting) that the first card in a Tarot deck is "The Fool." Tarot is like that. The cards sometimes speak with a wry smile, a raised eyebrow and rude humor. You have to be a bit (at least a bit) of a fool to even pick up a tarot deck, willing to take a chance on something unexplainable, mysterious, and challenging and something many others view as just a little crazy. I love the reactions I get from people when I tell them I am a tarot reader. "Oh?" they say, "Um...ah...that's interesting..." with an undisguised tone of incredulity as they shift uncomfortably in their seats. And because I am a fortune teller I can hear their thoughts. No, really I can, it's true, and they're saying, "She seemed intelligent and sane, now this?" The Fool seems neither intelligent nor sane. In most of the ancient, historical decks he is the village idiot, the wanderer, the beggar, the guy who invites ridicule and laughter. He's often the court jester, the political satirist who, while playing the fool, makes a fool of the ones in the seat of power. So...he's not so dumb, is he? He shuns convention and "normal" society, and serves as a mirror to our own predjudices and pride.

One of my favorite images of The Fool is from the
Tarot of Durer. That's him up there on the left shooting the moon. He embodies the classic "Fuck you" attitude as well as the sly twinkle in his eye that betrays the secret that he's not as certifiably insane as you might think. His marotte (jester stick) signifies his occupation, though probably part time. The origin of the word "jester" seems to mostly coincide with the word for "actor," particularly comic actors in Rome. And therein lies the question: is he acting? Probably. Most jesters or fools were just folks down on their luck or who needed a steady source of income. They were often people born "vertically challenged" with dwarfism and whose parents would "beg him the fool." Gifted with a "childlike madness" those who might otherwise be destitute found a way to make a living by playing the fool, often making fools of those who laughed at his antics.

In tarot the Fool is unnumbered, zero, and he is just that random. Tarot was originally a bridge-like card game called "Tarocchi" and drawing or playing the Fool card meant the player was momentarily exempted from playing by the rules of the game. Perfect! For those of us hellions who have been railing at rules since birth, this is OUR card. The problem is, though, if you'll notice in the image above, our brave hero is precariously perched on the edge of a cliff and his own recklessness could be his own demise. Ah, such is the trouble with being a fool. Sometimes we're our own worst enemies. We tend to have a permanent imprint of our own hands on our foreheads from the many times we've smacked it in that "What the hell was I thinking?" post-falling on our faces moments.

Still, it's the reckless freedom of the fool that I love, despite his lack of forethought. Most people are afraid of being "played the fool" and I am no exception. I pride myself in my ability to assess people's character and I am not easily duped. Except sometimes. And when I fall, I fall hard. Still, the times when I have risked my pride have been the times when I have felt most fully alive. I wouldn't trade my fool's journeys for all the promises of safe passage in the world.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Cross My Palm With Silver...

A few months ago I decided to read tarot professionally on Kasamba, an internet advice site. Yes, for money. Hey, I've put years into the daily studying of the cards, their history and usage; and my skills are good, so I deserve to get paid for what I do. What I noticed right away is that people will pay me to ask about:
  • Love
  • Money
  • Love
  • Jobs/Careers (i.e., money)
  • Love

Oh, and did I mention...Love?

So, I was thinking maybe if you love someone you should tell them. In fact, don't just tell them, show them, too. Then they don't have to pay me $1.99 a minute to ask tarot cards if you really do or you don't. Likewise, if you don't love them, tell them. That way, they don't have to pay me $1.99 a minute to ask if you're ever coming back to them.

Wait. On second thought...nevermind. A girl's gotta pay the bills.
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