78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Unexpected
Sometimes life throws in an unexpected thing. The Wheel showed up yesterday at about 4:00 pm in the form of my nine year-old daughter crying and holding her neck in obvious pain. She had been under the weather that day and had stayed home from school feeling very punk and out of sorts. I know spinal meningitis can sometimes present this way and whenever my kids have complained of flu-like neck aches, the doctor always checks their range of movement there. This time, the doctors advised a visit to the Emergency Room where we camped out for about ten hours while they poked and prodded, ultimately deciding to perform a spinal tap. Her symptoms were just too close for comfort, so besides an IV through which they drew blood and gave her fluids, they also punctured her lower back through which to draw spinal fluid for the test. I couldn't help but think of the Ten of Swords. This card often literally means back pain or surgery, sometimes acupuncture, too.

So, what else is there to do but roll with the Wheel? As we waited, and waited, and waited everything else in our lives had to wait or be neglected, put on hold and put off. I had readings to do and a class essay to write, none of which were done. Another child of mine wasn't able to carve a pumpkin as he'd hoped to, his Dad wasn't there to help him. A guitar lesson and a dance class went unattended. Dinner came from a drive through and vending machines. I hoped someone remembered to let the dogs out. But though it sometimes seems that life stops, it doesn't, not really. It keeps rolling on, taking you with it, even if you feel helpless to direct its course. It especially feels this way when you're taking a nosedive on the Wheel's downturn. Finally, the attending physician poked his head inside the curtain where we were holed up and smiled. The spinal fluid was clean. There was no meningitis. Suddenly it felt as if the Wheel had turned again and now all was upright again, only it was now 3:00 in the morning and we were exhausted.

The Wheel is fate, destiny, chance. Fortuna, the Goddess who determines the chance events of our lives rules The Wheel. In medieval art, the Wheel of Fortune characteristically has four shelves, or stages of life, with four human, semi-human, or animal figures, usually labeled in Latin on the left regnabo ("I shall reign"), on the top regno ("I reign") and is usually crowned, descending on the right regnavi ("I have reigned") and the lowly figure on the bottom is marked sum sine regno ("I have no kingdom"). Medieval representations of Fortune emphasize her duality and instability, such as with the two faces side by side like Janus; one face smiling the other frowning; half the face white the other black; she may be blindfolded but without scales, blind to justice. She was associated with the cornucopia, ship's rudder, the ball and the wheel.

The image of the Wheel of Fortune found throughout the Middle Ages and beyond was a direct legacy of Boethius's Consolation in which he expounds on the possible solutions to evil by way of distinguishing between Providence and Fate.

“Providence is the divine reason itself which belongs to the most high ruler of all things and which governs all things; Fate, however belongs to all mutable things and is the disposition by which Providence joins all things in their own order. For Providence embraces all things equally, however diverse they are, however infinite. Fate, on the other hand, sets particular things in motion once they have been given their own forms, places, and times” (Boethius Book IV, Prose 6 p.91).

Boethius presented his argument through a model of spheres in orbit. He says that the closer spheres to the center tend not to move around and have simple orbits and are indicative of Providence. The spheres that are farther away from the center tend to have complex orbits and whirl around, which are of the realm of Fate. However if all the orbits are connected to the center they are confined by the simplicity of the center and no longer tend to stray away. Therefore Fate is confined within the simplicity of Providence, just as a circle is confined within its center.

And that is the key to peace on the Wheel. The ups and downs of life are unavoidable, times when events seem to go well and times when events have you holding or gasping your breath, times when time seems to stand still or times when you feel too rushed, all because of events and circumstances happening to you that are outside your control. Truth is, life goes on so if you can find a place in the center of the Wheel where the turning is the least noticeable, where you become more an observer of the events happening in your life without being thrown all around by them, you can feel a sense of peace and stability even in the most trying of circumstances. If you can manage to achieve that place in the center, that's where Fate is ruled by Providence and becomes a divine gift. During the seemingly endless time spent in waiting rooms and hospital treatment cubicles, I spent a lot of time in my own thoughts. I watched people and mused on their actions, situations, and circumstances. I taught my daughter about the "magic button" she can press between her eyebrows that brings about a sense of calm and spent a lot of time massaging that area on her forehead. I held her and stroked her hair and just spent time being her mother. Though the evening was tiring, I never once felt stressed or tense or too worried. We were exactly where we needed to be given the circumstances and while physically uncomfortable, I was emotionally and mentally quite at peace.

True to the spirit of The Wheel, as promised, I chose the winner of the Halloween Reading Contest today at random by drawing an entry from a Jack O' Lantern treat bucket. Fortuna has smiled on Katherine. Congratulations! She treated me to this deliciously funny site: Cats That Look Like Hitler. Happy Halloween!

The Tarot of the Master is produced by Lo Scarabeo in Italy, but is distributed in the US by Llewellyn. Copyright 2002.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

New Podcast Alert
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Episode #16 of The Tarot Podcast from The Tarot Connection is now available for download! In this episode Leisa discusses making decisions with tarot and includes a reading she did for someone who was trying to decide whether or not to make a career change. Visit the Tarot Connection website where she includes the card layout for the spread she used. In the 78 Notes To Self segment, I present my series on the Aces, which are here, here, here, and here.

Please excuse the sound quality of my segment. I am obviously still trying to learn my way around these new ropes of podcasting and will improve.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

As The Veil Thins
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All Hallow's Eve is a week away and it is said that the veil between the physical and the spiritual world is at its thinnest then, so what an opportune time for a tarot reading, right? In honor of this time of year, I am giving away a free "Mini-Reading" to be delivered to you on October 31. Enter by midnight October 29 by sending me a "treat" via email: such as an interesting or silly website, doesn't have to be tarot related, NO spam or naughty links, please, or something else you think I would enjoy. Please put "Reading Contest" or some such in the subject line so your email doesn't get dumped in a spam repository. I'll choose the lucky winner on Monday, October 30.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Strange Bedfellows
Christianity and tarot make very odd bedfellows indeed. One might even say they need separate bedrooms at the very least. That opinion is held not only by many Christians but also by many Pagans and neo-pagans who reject the Christian symbolism in the cards and claim the symbology to be corrupted forms of earlier pagan symbolism. While they have a valid point, I think it's interesting that both Christian and Pagan belief systems reject the Christian historical roots of tarot.

The Church took offense with the deck almost immediately. Card playing had associations with gambling ever since playing cards had been introduced to Europe and various laws and decrees were enacted to discourage that. However, the earliest known disparagement of tarot cards specifically comes from an anonymously penned sermon, known as "The Steele Sermon" or "Sermones de Ludo cum Aliis," c. 1480. This sermon detailed the Trumps of tarot and asserts that the Trumps were invented and named by the Devil and as such hotly discourages their use. The blasphemous depiction of The Pope, the inclusion of a female Popesse, the imagery of The Devil, The Tower and so forth created objections and banning by the Church. But it likely wasn't just the pictures that caused such a ruckus. The politics of the time were more than probably the driving force behind the opposition.

The characters in the tarot "triumph" or trumps were seen in the many Roman Catholic pageantry processions, not too unlike what we see preceeding Lent at Mardis Gras and Carnival. These pageants were evangelistic devices of the Church designed to convert. Indeed, the Church has used various forms of earlier pagan imagery in its quest to convert the heathen, so the imagery these pageants used were designed to place the Christian story in a pagan context. As the Reformation took hold in Europe, these pageants disappeared from France, Italy, and England. All religious plays were banned in France in the mid 1500's and with them went much of the historical truth about what those original tarot trumps actually represented. A very sad loss, indeed.

While we may have lost much of the original intention and meanings of the trump cards, we have not lost the association with the demonic first set forth by that frothing friar. The Reformation did nothing to change that, in fact under John Calvin the Church government at Geneva instituted what amounted to a theocracy that strictly governed personal and household conduct, severely punishing those that deviated. Card playing under Calvin's regime was not allowed. (However, this was not the case in Germany where Luther's Reformation did not specifically prohibit card playing, so the making and playing of cards continued, as it does today.) My point here is there has always been a gap between what the Church proscribes and what its followers actually do. While the Catholic church, both pre-Reformation and post, linked tarot with the devil, your average tarocchi playing parishoner most likely dismissed that notion out of hand.

Today, modern Christian fundamentalist sects likewise attempt to place the fear of God in its followers regarding the use of tarot, but their reasons are somewhat different. As tarot developed through the centuries it became embraced by Christian mystical secret societies such as the Order of the Golden Dawn and its splinter groups. These societies attached occult and esoteric meanings and uses for the cards apart from their game-playing use. All three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam forbid the practice of divination. Well, sort of. Officially they do, anyway. All three have their esoteric branches: The Jewish Kaballah, Christian Hermeticism and Gnostic Mysticism, and Islamic Sufism, for example. These are the woo-woo branches of these religions and often utilize divination practices in a quest for spiritual enlightenment. However, the more mainline of these religions don't trust that stuff and pretty much dismiss most of it. Conservative and fundamentalist Christian groups commonly reject tarot as belonging to the kind of divination that is forbidden in the Bible and view it as a doorway through which demonic forces can enter your life and send you reeling down into the depths of depravity. It's hard to take that kind of attitude seriously from the same types of folks who also claim the devil inhabits children's toys, games, and dolls.

However, I'm not going to play tarot apologist here and attempt to make a case that tarot was originally Christian in origin and therefore ought to gain the stamp of approval from Christians. I could, but there just isn't enough known about the origins of tarot for me to do that. There certainly is very blatant Christian iconography in tarot images, but without those original pageantry plays and meanings, it's difficult to assume just what the cards were projecting. Moreover, I just don't want to. Certainly there was a time in my life when I Biblically prooftexted just about everything I said and did, but I'm not in that place any longer, thank God. Apparently certain people in Church leadership have always had an issue with the cards while others have not. That being the case, as it always has been, it lies with the individual to decide whether or not practicing tarot reading is in line with or counter to their faith. Many tarot readers are Christians, some even incline towards a conservative bent. One reader I am acquainted with is married to a pastor and is herself a member in the ultra conservative denomination The Church of Christ. I've seen enough divination practiced within Christian circles to know that it isn't divination per se that is objected to, but the manner in which it is done and with which tools.

Christianity and the tarot have a marriage that has been rocky and uncomfortable at best, but the images clearly cannot be divorced from their Christian context. It is true that the early Church did indeed co-opt many of the pagan traditions, symbolism, and festivals and layered upon them a Christian filter and interpretation in order to convert the masses. Therefore the symbolism within tarot does have origins that predate Christianity, but the Christian meaning is intended to be a part of that symbolic language as well. The creators of those images were likely well indoctrinated into the "new" meanings as well as the old, a blending which, to this day, is difficult to separate out. It's a fascinating study to research the way the same symbols have been used by various cultures and groups, and to watch them morph through the centuries taking on layer upon layer of meaning. Tarot crams so many of these symbols into 78 cards that they should keep one busy for a very long time. In any case, no matter how you may feel about the joining of Christianity with tarot, they are inextricably bound and it helps to understand more about the tense history this union has endured.

Mystic Flower by Gustave Moreau c.1875
Mystical Origins of the Tarot: From Ancient Roots to Modern Usage by Paul Huson

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Behind The Mask
If you listened to Episode #15 on The Tarot Connection, then you heard Leisa and I discuss the use of pseudonyms among online readers and you know that I have given some thought to my own use of "Sophia" as an online "reader name." I chose to use the same reader name at both Kasamba.com and here for consistency, but as a writer I'm uncomfortable with that. So, not that it's really any big deal, but I'm changing my alias here to my real name. I've used "Sophia" on several internet forums as a screenname, so it is, in a way, part of my online identity. I'll still answer to it if it's stuck in your head. Still, between the conversation I had with Leisa and my own post entitled Coming Out, I was beginning to feel a bit of a hypocrite. I mean, if I am encouraging tarot readers to come out of the closet, then why am I posting anonymously on a tarot blog? I swear, it had nothing to do with not wanting people to know I read tarot in real life, but still. It was, if not hypocritical, rather inconsistent of me.

Anyway, pleased to meet you, my name is Ginny Hunt, and I am a tarot reader.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Connecting With The Tarot Connection
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Leisa ReFalo of The Tarot Connection has invited me to become a regular contributor to her wonderful and engaging Tarot Podcast by including my own readings of my posts on 78 Notes To Self for her podcast listeners. You can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or any of these other podcast options.

Leisa's podcasts offer a wide array of tarot instruction, interviews with tarot artists, writers, teachers and professionals as well as recorded tarot workshops and seminars. Partnering with The Tarot Connection was an easy decision to make as Leisa and I share a similar vision and philosophy about tarot and regarding reading tarot for others. I truly respect and admire what Leisa is doing through podcasting technology, utilizing it as a means for tarot enthusiasts to access enriching information they can take with them as they travel to and from work or going about their daily lives. Podcasts free one up from the computer desk. You download the episode into your player and listen at your leisure, hands free and mobile. It's so cool!

If you don't have an iPod or other mobile device through which to subscribe to the Tarot Podcast, don't worry, you can still listen to the episodes via The Tarot Connection. As soon as I figure out the technology I will also put a player on the posts that are included in the podcasts here at 78 Notes To Self. So even if you are bound to the computer, you can play the episodes through your computer speakers or earphones as you work or websurf.

My introductory interview and posts are now up on The Tarot Connection, Episode #15. Give a listen and let me know what you think. Both Leisa and I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions and feedback.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Vastness of Tarot
The other day I was phone chatting with a tarot friend and I came away a little amazed that, in a relatively short conversation, she and I had touched on such a wide array of tarot topics. Because tarot is really that vast. Who knew? I certainly didn't know that when I began looking into reading tarot. While the interconnectness of any field of study is usually readily apparent, and one might presume tarot to be at least connected to various other metaphysical pursuits, it goes far afield of that and ranges all over the intellectual map. Which is cool because there's always a new bunny trail to follow if one has grown a little bored.

Throughout my Tarot Court Series, as well as miscellaneous other posts, I've shared some history of tarot and of the time period in which the cards were developed. I've barely skimmed the surface there, so if you're at all interested in medieval history, or the history of games and playing cards, or art history, or church history, the history of fortune telling...well, you get it. Pick a history trail, any trail, and you're liable to come up with a wealth of fun stuff to dig into. The Hermitage is a great place to start, and Tom Tadfor Little put together a kind of compilation from the foremost historians in the field of tarot history who frequent the Tarot-L mailing list. Unbeknownst to many of us, tarot has woven itself inextricably into our collective history. It's only when you pick up a deck and try to figure out the meanings of the cards and start asking questions about the various figures and symbols do you find yourself falling down various rabbit holes into a wonderland of curiosity where one question leads to so many more.

These images are art. Some are very good art and some very bad art, but art nevertheless. Art being expression and communication, evoking response through symbols, defies definition and there is much ongoing argument about that. Britannica Online defines art as "a visual object or experience consciously created through an expression of skill or imagination." However, today art is defined by the artist as New York Times art critic Roberta Smith's guiding dictum says, "If an artist says it's art, it's art." We might quibble when we approach a piece that looks neither imaginative nor skillful in its creation, not to mention aesthetically lacking, but as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is art. The creation of tarot decks has exploded in recent years and there is now a vast collection of styles one can choose from. There are limited edition collectible decks, some very rare and/or out of print. The Tarot Garden Boutique is one of the best sources for such decks. Check out their 5-Star section if you should have a few hundred extra dollars lying around. To have a look at various decks, Trionfi's gallery displays thousands.

No study of tarot can really do without a grasp on the symbolism in the cards. Historically, certain colors, numbers, figures, animals, and plants have symbolic meaning. These vary from culture to culture and from system to system, but a basic understanding is necessary. This is a great article by P. D. Ouspensky on The Symbolism of the Tarot. For those interested in the psychological component in tarot, this article, "Chaos and the Psychological Symbolism of the Tarot" sheds light on the connection between Jung and Tarot Symbols. For research into the connection to Christianity and its symbolism and history, check out "The Tarot - Images of Christian Being and Cosmic Consciousness".

Of course, if you want to expand your understanding of the esoteric meanings and associations with tarot cards, there are astrological and Kabbalistic depths you can plunge. Crowley's Thoth deck was designed with the Hermetic Quabalah, rather than the Jewish associations in mind. Etteilla's deck was designed with astrological associations. Many of the newer decks use either these or other systems as well, so if you are using a deck with these associations it helps to understand the basics in these areas of study.

Of course, if you're into it for the psychic or metaphysical interest there's the whole history of the use of tarot cards for divination to discover. Yes, discover. It's not just about laying the cards down and looking up the meanings in a book, or memorizing the meanings, but there IS a rich history of these traditional meanings based on the practices of esoteric groups who put a lot of study and research into those meanings we so blithely toss away with the Little White Book that comes with the deck. Check out Waite's Pictorial Key to the Tarot and see what he really meant to portray in that five of pentacles scene. (Wait...did he say it's a card of love or lovers?)

Tarot is used as a tool for self development and empowerment as well, apart from its historical, spiritual, and divinatory uses. It can tap into your subconscious and bring up all sorts of things you didn't know you had tucked away in there. How you perceive the illustrations on the cards relies in large part on all the stuff you've experienced and "forgot" (actually stored away), similar to a Rorschach ink blot test. Since we generally operate at about five percent consciously, there's a whole ninety-five percent of our motivation, thoughts, drives, and understanding that goes on under the surface. Tarot's images, based on archetypes of common human experiences, are great investigative tools to subconscious dowsing, as it were. You ask a question and see what comes up. One can learn so much about oneself this way, even things you may not have wanted to know.

Which is all fine and good when you're reading for yourself, but I still cannot explain how it works that MY subconscious knows what you are or have experienced when I am reading your cards without ever having met you. That's where the paranormal mystery of it all comes in and frankly, I'm not going to really pick at that particular can of worms. I have no explanation for it. Oh, sure, there's Jung's collective unconscious theory and there's a similar woo woo belief in what is called the Akashic Records, a cosmic repository of everything everyone's ever done. But whatever it is that makes tarot do its stuff...like just last night a friend asked me to do that timing spread for her. I told her the person would call at either 10:05 pm or five minutes to ten. The person in question sent a text message to my friend at exactly 10:05 pm. How does my subconscious know that? It can't. It doesn't. So this is the part, I'm afraid, where I simply defer to the magic of it all and say, "I dunno how, but it works." Still, I know it's also dependent upon practice, this "whatever-it-is" that brings about the "wow" factor of tarot readings. Intuition and psychic ability is something like a muscle that grows stronger with use. When you lean on it, heavily, it builds itself. Keep adding more weight, move it about in different ways and you'll find it growing in strength and clarity as well as reliability.

I've merely touched on but a few of the topics my friend and I discussed in our phone conversation, but I think I've made my point. If you have an interest in anything, I bet I can link tarot to it somehow.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Celtic Cross Storymaker v.3.0
When I began reading tarot, I learned, as many tarot newbies do, to use the Celtic Cross spread. It's a 10-card spread that has been a staple of tarot reading at least since Arthur Waite published it, but he claimed it had been used among tarot readers long before he brought it to the masses. The spread is fairly general, but useful, and gives a lot of information, even some you may not need. A lot of people have difficulty with the Celtic Cross Spread. Some say it has too many cards, others say it's too general and doesn't answer the questions specifically enough. I understand those objections and there's no reason to use the spread if you can't seem to get it to work for you. However, I've found a way to read it that helps me, and maybe you, too.

The Celtic Cross Spread is like a story. It has literary elements like a protagonist, antagonist, conflict, climax, and denoument. It also reveals hidden forces at work, for better or for worse, and gives advice to the protagonist on how best to complete his mission. Tarot is story-telling with pictures and this spread lends itself quite well to that method of reading.

The first two cards are the actual cross, while the next four cards are the circle around the cross. The staff up the side is puzzling to many as it is disconnected from the circular cross and some of the positions seems to repeat the ones in the circular cross. There are many, many variations on this spread and different orders of positions as well. I have included a diagram here of the Celtic Cross but actually, I lay the cards down in a slightly different order than pictured here. It doesn't really matter, but it's best to choose an order and stick with it, embedding it in your subconscious so your readings will be more clear to you.

Some readers will use a Significator as well, underneath the first card. In Waite's version this makes sense, as you'll see, given his position designations. A Significator can be chosen by the Querant from the entire deck or from the court cards. It represents the card they see themselves as in their current situation. Or, you may decide to choose a Significator at random which can tell you what may really be going on under the surface with the Querant. Others don't use a Significator at all and just proceed with the spread without it. If we view this spread as telling a story, this card represents the protagonist of the story. The main character. Our noble hero: The Querant.

The first position card is laid just over the Significator, if used, and is called, "What covers you." If you want, you can say that in a spooky voice. This is the main issue at hand. This can show the main focus of the Querant, the main issue or challenge in front of him/her, their strongest feeling or attitude, or even how they have been or desire to approach the situation. Basically, I see this card as saying, "Ok, here's the situation from your point of view." In the story of this spread, this is the protagonist's dilemma or situation facing her. This is the basic issue around which the plot is centered.

The second position card is laid sideways over the first card. This one is called, "What crosses you." This card indicates the obstacles or that which opposes the Querant. In story terms, this is the antagonist. An antagonist can be another person, an external force, or something within the protagonist that brings conflict our hero must overcome.

Using the diagram above, the third position card is laid above the center cross and this is called, "What is above you." There are various ideas about what that means, but generally speaking this is the intended goal of the Querant. It is a potential outcome if she is able to successfully navigate the challenges and if others cooperate as well. The other cards will show if this goal is realistic or not under the current circumstances. So, in story terms, this is the dream of the hero, the intention of his mission, where he has set his sights to end up.

The fourth position card is laid to the right of the cross and is called, "This is before you." This card shows what the very next action in the Querant's situation is likely to be. It will either give advice or simply show what's coming next. It's also called the Immediate Future position and it foreshaows the coming events in the story. It is also the beginning of the action of the story.

The fifth position card is laid below the cross and is called, "This is beneath you" and will give the backstory about how this situation came about. It's like a flashback in a novel, filling in the missing information about a key feature of the more distant past that brought about the present circumstances. It can also indicate a strong character trait that the Querant has that has gotten them thus far and may remind her that she can get through the current problems in a similar way. It, of course, depends on the card and your interpretation to understand what exactly it is referring to.

The sixth position card is laid to the left of the cross and is called, "This is behind you." Rather than being the foundational issue, as in position five, this position tells the reader what has just happened immediately prior to this situation that is even still currently impacting it, but which is passing now as event unfold. This is backstory, too, but because we are able to see dynamics still present, it's current as well. This is action as well, but it's as if we walked in on the scene already in progress.

This portion of the Celtic Cross gives a good idea all by itself about what is going on and where it is likely to go. But our hero has other influences and the challenge is still before her. So, on to the staff.

The seventh position card is laid to the bottom right of the spread and it indicates the Querants present attitude, feelings, and actions. It should be taken as advice, in that if a card comes up indicating a negative attitude or approach, the reader may point that out as being disadvantageous to the accomplishment of the goal the Querant seeks in the third position card. Also, if her approach has been positive, that can be affirmed as well. This is the hero's action plan.

The eighth position card is laid directly above the seventh and it indicates the Querant's environment, the forces and other people who are impacting the events and the way they may be impacting them -- their actions, their opinions, advice, etc. If, say, the Tower appears here, this could show an event out of the Querant's control that will impact the situation and change things for her quite dramatically. If a court or other "people card" is in this position, this would indicate another person who plays a direct role in shaping the events. They could be helping or harming, depending on the situation. Good information for our hero to know.

The ninth position card is laid, again, above the last and it indicates the Querant's hopes and fears concerning the outcome. Other versions use this position as "something the Querant should know." In either case, it sheds more light on what will be the necessary approach, given all the other cards information thus far. It's the final conflict, and if it be her own hopes and fears, it is the protagonist's own inner struggle which brings about the climax as she resolves this conflict within herself and ....

The tenth position card above the ninth indicates the Outcome. This card shows what will likely happen if the story plays out as described in the sequence of cards already shown. Sometimes a card that isn't welcome shows up here, so sometimes one needs to look carefully at the other cards to determine where something might be going badly. It's possible the end result is simply outside of our hero's control and the story becomes rather a tragedy, riveting but sad. Other times there are clues to attitudes we can change, behaviors to adopt and new things to try. The outcome is not written in stone. All the other cards are there to tell our hero what she needs to know to make her OWN outcome, if she can. She can re-write the story at will, and that is one of the best qualities of a tarot reading: that it provides information, ideas, and clues to help us write our own life's stories as we go along.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Poetry Pop Quiz
I am taking a Literature class at college and we're digging the poetry right now. One of my favorite poems, which I found in a college textbook twenty years ago when I was last in college before and have loved ever since, got me thinking about different types of people. Because we just finshed the series on courts which describes different types of people, I have a challenge for you. Read the poem and then tell me, which court card(s) best represent the two types of people symbolized in this poem?

may have killed the cat; more likely
the cat was just unlucky, or else curious
to see what death was like, having no cause
to go on licking paws, or fathering
litter on litter of kittens, predictably.
Nevertheless, to be curious
is dangerous enough. To distrust
what is always said, what seems
to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,
leave home, smell rats, have hunches
do not endear cats to those doggy circles
where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
are the order of things, and where prevails
much wagging of incurious heads and tails.
Face it. Curiosity
will not cause us to die--only lack of it will.
Never to want to see
the other side of the hill
or that improbable country
where living is an idyll
(although a probable hell)
would kill us all.
Only the curious have, if they live, a tale
worth telling at all.
Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,
are changeable, marry too many wives,
desert their children, chill all dinner tables
with tales of their nine lives.
Well, they are lucky. Let them be
nine-lived and contradictory,
curious enough to change, prepared to pay
the cat price, which is to die
and die again and again,
each time with no less pain.
A cat minority of one
is all that can be counted on
to tell the truth. And what cats have to tell
on each return from hell
is this: that dying is what the living do,
that dying is what the loving do,
and that dead dogs are those who do not know
that dying is what, to live, each has to do.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Tarot Court: The King of Pentacles
To live content with small means, to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich, to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never, in a word to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common, this is to be my symphony. -William Henry Channing

The King of Pentacles is usually portrayed in tarot as a very wealthy man. His clothes are sumptuous and fine, he is usually seated and relaxed. His is an air of comfort and ease. He is the benefactor, the financial advisor you know knows what he's talking about because whatever he's done with his own finances has yielded results. Pentacles is the suit of money, but also of everything of the earth, material things, food, sensuality, all that you can touch, see, smell and hear. This is a man who knows what feels good and what satisfies the senses, be it good food, good music, or good art. These pleasures of life are what makes life worth living to him and which enfolds him in a state of contentment on a daily basis.

Here is a man who, upon rising, looks forward to his morning cup of coffee, not for the caffeine buzz but for its taste. He appreciates soft fabrics, warm fires, and the cold nose of his dog on his hand. Some say he's lazy because he is often pictured lazing about. No, he isn't lazy, he's reserving his resources. His sharp mind and verbal abilities give him the ability of all the kings, the talent and knowhow that allows him to put forth the least amount of personal effort and yield the most amazing results. He's figured out that if he does his neighbor's taxes for him, his lawn will be mowed for a season in return. So, he spends an evening on the computer and yields an entire summer of leisure. He is generous, though rarely will his generosity fail to benefit him in some way. Even his contributions to charity are a tax write-off. His favors for others means they owe him one, too. If you need a loan, he'll likely give it to you, even interest-free. But, you must know that you will pay up one day when he comes to ask for your services in some other way. It's just the way his economy works, but everyone benefits.

The King of Pentacles is one of the most sensuous and romantic of the courts. He stops at nothing to make sure his lover is delighted in all her senses. Fine wine, fine music, and rich chocolate. "Are you comfortable?" is his chief concern. His "air of earth" elemental combination usually results in a thoughtful, well-spoken man who gives generously of himself and all he has, and he usually has a lot. However, ill dignified or reversed, this King can be miserly and cruel, selfish and unbearably stubborn. He might be the workaholic who is focused only on the bottom line, the money he can gather to himself. He might be the one who so gratifies his pleasures that he takes advantage of the weaker, purchasing sex with prostituted women and swindling old ladies out of their life savings while acting the part of the smitten lover. He might be the father who can only show his "love" by buying his children things but never connecting with them in any meaninful way.

As advice, when the King of Pentacles shows up in a reading he usually encourages you to be careful where your finances are concerned, to make sure you aren't spending too much unwisely. He could be suggesting you consult with a trusted financial advisor before signing that contract or investing that money into that venture. He also reminds you to remember that appreciating the sensual side to life makes life more pleasurable. Quality over quanitity makes more of a difference. There is value to luxury when it yields comfort and pleasure to the senses. Art is worth investing in not just for its resale value but because it enriches your life every day. So consider how you are living your life, and if your sacrifices make sense both in the short and the long run. If you live like a pauper and stuff money in your mattress, then die without ever having gone to Brazil as you dreamed, what have you gained? While he's not at all saying, "Eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow we die!" he will ask you to consider the pleasure your life is to you and if you are truly enjoying this wildly sensual world we live in, no matter what your current financial status. Even the most meager incomes can find a spare pence for a bouquet of flowers or a cup of really good coffee. His last bit of advice is to see if you can find ways to exchange services with others in a way that benefits both of you, but especially you. Work with others and think of new ways to be savvy about the way you bring wealth, and not just the coin type, into your life.

Classic Tarot By Carlo DellaRocca Tarot Deck Published by Lo Scarabeo
The Housewives Tarot By Paul Kepple and Jude Buffum Published by Quirk Books 2004

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Tarot Court: The King of Wands
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What a mistake to suppose that the passions are strongest in youth! The passions are not stronger, but the control over them is weaker! They are more easily excited, they are more violent and apparent; but they have less energy, less durability, less intense and concentrated power than in the maturer life. --Edward Bulwer-Lytton, English dramatist, novelist, & politician (1803 - 1873)

Remember that spitfire, the Knight of Wands? Well, here is a more seasoned version. The King of Wands is a youthful man, not in age but in spirit and energy. He has acquired the ability to actually think through his actions and channel them to their most effective outcome. He's a lot less apt to go off half-cocked. Nooo, this man is fully-cocked, loaded, and has really good aim. He's tempered that raging flame with thoughtfulness and chooses his phrases and actions more carefully. While the Knight merely blurts out whatever his latest idea happens to be, the King has the ability to persuade others that his ideas really will work and he is able to gather support for his hairbrained, I mean creative and unique, schemes.

The King of Wands, elementally speaking, is "air of fire" -- the air giving the flame oxygen to burn, so it makes the fire less apt to burn itself out. It can burn just as brightly as the Knight's fire on fire, but it will last longer. Or, it can rage out of control consuming the oxygen and filling the air with acrid smoke. Yeah, this King still has the capacity for consuming rage and unlike the Knight's straw-fire anger that blows hot but is overwith quickly, the King's anger can last a while and do quite a bit more damage. Conversely, his overactive mind can quench his passion's flame and blow it right out, in which case we have a brooding, discontented man whose vision is clouded and who lives on the warmth of yesterday's fires but is unable to spark enough of a flame to get anything accomplished today. Reversed or ill-dignified he can represent a wrathful man with a serious anger problem or a man in need of Viagra, or both. Take your prick, I mean pick.

When the King of Wands appears in a reading he is usually a great sign of encouragement to put those long thought-out plans into action. You've done your homework, you've checked out the feasibility of the project, now get moving. Set things into motion, rally support, delegate, get the word out. However, he also lets you know that if anything will be done, YOU have to do it. The buck will stop with you, so take that responsibility and know that you're in charge and to you will lie all acclaim or blame. He is telling you that your ideas are good ones, but don't act impulsively or without reading the subclauses, else you could burn out too quickly. Keep your mind engaged fully in your actions and see it through to the end. This is not a time to quit because the going got a little tough or you've lost interest, no. You started this because it meant something to you, so fire up those brain cells and see if there might be a different way around or through the problems. Or maybe you can get someone else to do the hard stuff. Now that's using your head, King of Wands style.

Love and Mystery Tarot by By Moonprincess Himiko & Ayumi Kasai Tarot Deck Published by Seibido Shuppan
DruidCraft Tarot created by Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm and Will Worthington Published by Connections and St. Martin's Press 2004

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Tarot Court: The King of Cups

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong -- because someday you will have been all of these.-George Washington Carver, US horticulturist (1864 - 1943)

Most of us are really very fond of the King of Cups. He represents the generously tolerant, compassionate and wise man, a softie that doesn't hide his true emotions and yet doesn't allow them to get the upper hand either. He's quite comfortable with the entire spectrum of emotion, from sorrow to laughter and seems to find that wonderful gem of insightful truth no matter what the situation, delivering it with genuine care and warmth with just the right words at the right time. The King of Cups in the Lunatic Tarot stands as a pillar in his oceanic robes, which is just as the King of Cups does. He is the one to cling to when your own emotional storms are threatening to do you in.

His compassionate nature allows him to be very tolerant and patient with others, as he has plunged the depths of his own self and soul and found the frailty and weaknesses common to the human condition. He does not judge but accepts and encourages one to reach one's highest potential.

Sounds like Mr. Perfect, right? Well....um...no. He is "air of water," which means that, as a King, his air element gives him a sharp intellect and a forward moving active drive, and his suit element of water tempers his intellect with emotion, but when out of balance or ill dignified, this King can be a seducer, emotional manipulator, and the least reliable of all the Kings. He can be prone to alcoholism, emotional rages, and narcissistic self-absorbtion. Oh, but he means well.

He is less a romantic adventurer than his Knight and sometimes upsets his Queen with his rather lacksidaisical ways, but as an artist, a poet, or a writer he is supreme. The wells of wisdom from which he draws his inspiration are bottomless and deep, though sometimes dark and mysterious. These are people like Albert Schwietzer, St. Francis, Mother Theresa, and even former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter. Sure, they have their flaws and yet they more than make up for them with the richness they lend to the world. They have an openness about them that makes them approachable and genuine.

In a reading, the King of Cups often calls you to act with emotional maturity, to look to compassion and meet the situation with a calm, intelligence that is neither dispassionate nor overly passionate. Weigh the facts but consider as well the feelings and needs of all involved. Watch that you aren't slogging through this king's negative tendencies, and if you are, seek higher ground. It means you've gotten wiped out in one of his emotional waves. Taking hold of the air element in this card will allow you just the right measure of emotional detachment needed to dry yourself off.

Lunatic Tarot By Evan Yi Feng Published by Evan Yi Feng. China 2005

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Tarot Court: The King of Swords

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts, therefore guard accordingly; and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue, and reasonable nature. -Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Roman Emperor, A.D. 161-180 (121 AD - 180 AD)

I have had a hard time learning to appreciate the King of Swords. For a long time whenever he made an appearance in a tarot reading, I usually scowled and quietly muttered some random epithet to his face. The seething hatred I felt for this character was quite strong and as I worked through trying to understand my visceral reaction to him, I learned quite a lot about both myself and this guy, and through it all began to appreciate his aspects or at least accept them. Tarot can help us explore our own issues this way, the things buried inside: attitudes, predjudices, old wounds, our dark or shadow self. One kind of expects that with a card like The Devil or another Major Arcana archetype, but to have this reaction to a court card surprised me. I'm telling you, I absolutely despised this guy and felt like ripping the card in two and tossing it from my decks. I mean, look, doesn't the King of Swords from the DruidCraft deck look a lot like Mr. Spock, the half-Vulcan, half-human whose appeal to logic in the series Star Trek was often infuriating, especially to the more emotional Dr. McCoy?

The King of Swords is a man completely and utterly ruled by reason and logic. He gives no quarter to emotional sway unless the emotions are in full accord with that same reason and logic. His mind is supreme and his decisions just, but they do not leave room for passion, emotion, and instinct. All must conform to the processes of what is true and not what could be. He refuses to muddy the process with hopes and wishes and least of all, faith. This is not a man who acts on a hunch or relies on gut feelings. If it isn't able to be logically and factually proven, it doesn't exist. Which isn't to say he doesn't entertain theories. Oh, yes, theories are the fodder that keeps the wheels of his ever-active mind turning. But theories must be grounded firmly in what is known and tested to prove themselves. And don't even think about getting into a debate or argument with this guy. He will chop up your ass and hand it back to you on a platter and politely ask, "Is there anything else you'd like to know?"

Who can abide such a man? Not me. For the men I have known whose minds were of such a bent and whose hearts seemed cold and untouchable were those I found very dangerous, indeed. For without the warmth and yes, illogic, of emotions and without leaning into faith, I could see nothing in the King of Swords but a souless, robotic borg clothed in flesh. I found him cruel and unbending, at first. The books said he makes a fine lawyer and business advisor, but then again there is a reason for all those lawyer jokes. You know, like this one (with apologies to my lawyer friends) :

The devil visited a lawyer's office and made him an offer. "I can arrange some things for you, " the devil said. "I'll increase your income five-fold. Your partners will love you; your clients will respect you; you'll have four months of vacation each year and live to be a hundred. All I require in return is that your wife's soul, your children's souls, and their children's souls rot in hell for eternity. The lawyer thought for a moment. "What's the catch?" he asked.

His elemental nature as a King is air, the realm of thoughts, communication, action, and conflict. His suit element, swords, is also of the element air, so he is "air of air" (for chrissakes!) which gives us the qualities of someone of such a keen mind that, while he is human and does in fact possess emotion and passion, finds little use for them and is uncomfortable in that realm. Like his Queen, he understands human nature very well and can use his knowledge to his own ends. His primary tool is language, and if it serves his purpose to talk about emotions and use his words to sway someone else's emotions, he will do so. Just don't make the mistake that he can be swayed in a similar fashion. He won't budge.

So what was it about him that prevented the ravaging of my tarot decks and the elimination of this irksome character? His ethics. He does not lie. He communicates the truth and holds to the highest of moral codes. Any moral code worth living by does in fact love mercy and can see the illogic of always following through on pure reason and logic when it works against the wholeness and completeness of life. This king understands that just because something "works" doesn't mean it's always to one's benefit or the benefit of others. It's not really compassion that comes into play for him, but the ability to see the end result of actions. While the actions might make sense, if they don't yield the result you are after, they are not useful. It was this quality that softened my opinion of him and saved him from being spat on every time he appeared in my readings. I don't see him as a cruel, unbending tyrant anymore. Instead, I often appreciate his viewpoint as it can cut through the confusion created by mixed emotions and riotous passions. One's heart can indeed lead one astray at times and just as important as it is to "follow your bliss" one has to balance that with what is reasonable if one is to succeed on that blissful journey. When he appears in your readings, he urges you to calmly and rationally think through your situation, to tell the truth, speak eloquently, be reasonable and for God's sake, figure it out the best you can beforehand. You might save yourself some embarrassment in the end.

DruidCraft Tarot By Stephanie Carr-Gomm & Philip Carr-Gomm & Will Worthington Published by Connections 2004
The Fey Tarot Written by Riccardo Minetti, Artwork by Mara Aghem Published by Lo Scarabeo and distributed by Llewellyn Worldwide