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.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Freedom to Fall
A while back I wrote a post over at The Tarot Channel on associating songs with Tarot images, so when I tell you this song by Alicia Keys is a perfect Fool's song you'll know I'm not disparaging the song, but instead using tarot-speak to give it props. It's called Sure Looks Good To Me and I've been listening to it to remind myself that a Fool's approach to life is actually the wisest.


Life is cheap and bittersweet
But it tastes good to me
Take my turn, crash and burn
That's how it's supposed to be

So don't rain on my parade
Life's too short to waste one day
I'm gonna risk it all, the freedom to fall
Sure looks good to me

Time flies by, it leaves you behind
Take it naturally
Heaven knows, oh there's so much more
More than what we see

So don't rain on my parade
Life's too short to waste one day
I'm gonna risk it all, the freedom to fall
Sure looks good to me

Deep in my mind I'm secure with getting by
Want to see the light before I die
Before I lie in an empty space and the darkness comes
And I've been telling my soul, me and myself
We turn around we're getting old
But the lightning crashes, the foolish emotions
Of the bruises and the beauty of this moment
That we're feeling and I feel like I'm seeing
The world inside of me, but I can tell you that I know
It's getting easier to breathe
There's a cold in the morning, an endless equation of who we've become
It's a complex situation

So live, love life, give love
Live, love life, give love
Live, love life, give love
'Cause who are we anyway?

So don't rain on my parade
Life's too short to waste one day
I'm gonna risk it all, the freedom to fall
Sure looks good to me

Copyright EMI April Music & Lellow Productions
Lyrics for: Sure Looks Good To Me
From the album: As I Am
Songwriters: Augello-Cook, Alicia J, Perry, Linda



There are so many associations in these lyrics that bring to mind the meaning of The Fool card, but one phrase that crystallizes the Fool is "the freedom to fall." The Fool in many tarot decks is often portrayed as standing on the edge of a precipice, and we're not sure whether the next step means death or simply a change in direction. We can't see what is below so we fear for his safety and, thinking he's foolishly risking it all, want to pull him back from the edge "for his own good."

A Fool lives inside of me alongside a very stressed-out worrywart who is constantly trying to get my Fool back from the edge. But falling, even if it means crashing and burning, is necessary to learning and growth. A small child learning to walk takes many spills. A parent may want to prevent each and every fall, fearing for the child's safety, and may hover nearby to scoop her up every time she teeters and loses her balance. However, if that parent never allowed her to fall it would handicap her and prevent her from learning how to walk at all. Imagine if a parent kept a child bundled in a papoose or hamstrung her in some way that prevented the prospect of falling, her sense of balance would not be developed, her leg muscles would atrophy, and she would lose the opportunity to develop naturally. We need to give ourselves the freedom to fall, to risk it all, to crash and burn.

Obviously the problem with falling is that unpleasant crash at the bottom. So, if our toddler is naturally going to fall, we hope she falls on the carpeted floor rather than the concrete driveway. But no doubt she will fall on the concrete driveway inevitably and we hope the only repercussion is a skinned knee. As adults, we all need the freedom to fall, the freedom to explore and try out newfound skills. Fear of falling should not hold us back, only caution us to be careful. We often say, "Don't take unnecessary risks" but one person's necessary risk is another person's unnecessary one. What ultimate good does it do to sit back and judge the Fool for his choices? Does it get you any further along on your own path? Does it make you feel superior to chide someone or say "I told you so" as you sit comfortably secure in your safe world?

I've lived life on both sides. I've been the Fool and I've been one of the cautious crowd and I can tell you that the "safe" life is not safe at all. There is no known human way to avoid falling and pain and crashing and burning. Being physically safe does not equal emotional safety, although being in physical danger can be emotionally traumatic. So it's probably not a good idea to let the Fool reign all the time. The Fool truly is like an infant and does not fully comprehend the dangers and repercussions of his actions. He leads us into the unknown wilds and after a time or two of falling flat on our faces, most of us learn our lesson and grow "wise." Unfortunately, many of us grow up and become far too mature for our own good and abandon the Fool behind. Many of us wake up one day, somewhere around the middle of our lives, and we ache for the Fool we have lost.

There are 78 cards in a tarot deck, each illuminating an experience or concept of life. The integration of these experiences and concepts is the challenge, both in reading tarot and in living life itself. On Alicia Keys' same album, As I Am, there is another song called Lesson Learned and it ends with these lyrics:

Life ain't perfect if you don't know what the struggle's for
Falling down ain't falling down if you don't cry when you hit the floor
It's called the past 'cause I'm getting past
and I ain't nothing like I was before.
You ought to see me now.

Yes I was burned but I call it a lesson learned
Mistake overturned but I call it lesson learned.
My soul has returned so I call it a lesson learned.
Another lesson learned....

The Fool may not learn, but we can. Still, the Fool's usefulness is in locating the teaching moments in life. Where would we find our lessons if we don't play the fool from time to time, take the chance, step out of our safety zone and risk something?


Hudes Tarot Deck by Susan Hudes Published by US Games Copyright 1995

Monday, November 19, 2007

Seriously Bad Readings
So you lay the cards out, you talk about what they mean, you tell all you can see and then some and then the sitter says, "Um...I'm not sure who you just read for, but it wasn't me."

Oops! Your face flushes and you sit there a bit stunned for a moment before stammering, "Are you sure? I mean, nothing fits? Nothing at all?"

Nope. So what do you do when you're just plain wrong?

May I present to you this fallible human suit. News flash: you will get it wrong. It happens to us all. Some will say, well the cards are NEVER wrong, only the reader can be wrong. The reader interpreted them poorly. Maybe. Or maybe the wrong cards came up. I've had it happen. I threw a spread meant for someone else but the cards distinctly and clearly told the tale of my life angst at the time. As I'm reading I'm marveling that this other person was going through exactly the same things I was, look at that! And when she couldn't relate to Thing ONE in the reading, I realized those were MY cards, not hers. Were the cards right or wrong? Well, damn, I was trying to give her a reading, not me, so the cards were wrong for her.

There's this Dan guy on Aeclectic Tarot Forum that always says, "It's not about you, it's about the sitter." True enough. It is about the sitter and when the sitter looks blankly at you and says the reading sucked, suddenly its really really hard for it not to be about you. You're the one that read the cards, after all. The ego really gets a bruising then and it can be difficult to regain your composure after such a flop.

We all want to read really well. We want to be accurate. We want to give the sitter what they came for. And if we admit it to ourselves, we want them to go, "Wow...how'd she do that?" Tarot reading is both easy and hard. It does take a lot of study and time and effort to get to know the cards really well. There is plenty of skill involved. But a tarot reading straight out of the box with the Little White Book that came with the deck can be just as chillingly accurate as one done by someone with thirty or forty tarot reading years under their belt. So there's one chip off the old ego. Your tarot experience does not matter.

Your reading ability does not matter. You read the cards, you were wrong, or the cards were wrong or something. And what does it matter which? The reading pooped. Oh freaking well. You just shrug it off, let it go, and move on. That's hard but it's really the only thing you can do. Sure, you can learn from it...I did. I still do. I'm certainly not past having those kinds of readings. I don't make excuses, I don't try to make what I said fit the situation or backpedal in any way. I simply say, well...I screwed up. Besides, one stinky reading in the many, many other good readings I've done shouldn't be the one that makes me throw the cards down and walk away.

Sitters come to readers for insight, advice, a psychic tickle for their nickel or some other reason. Ultimately, the responsibility for what they do with the reading is up to them. They received it, they own it. They can toss it, disown it, or follow every last word to the end. It's up to them. If they get angry because something you said you saw in the cards ended up being different than what ultimately happens, that's their prerogative, but I think that's a consumer mentality. It's like they bought a toaster that ended up fritzing out in a week's time and feel like they got gypped...literally. (I so amuse myself...gypped comes from gypsy doncha know?) But tarot reading is on a different level altogether. It's not a product, it's an experience. It's not a guarantee, it's an opportunity. It's just not measurable or concrete the way a purchased thing is.
So you're providing a service? You gave it. They don't like it? They won't come back. Oh well, them's the breaks. Don't sweat it. Do I sound callous? I mean, people come to tarot readers looking for advice, guidance, a peek into themselves and their lives. If we steer them in the wrong direction, it's hard not to feel bad. Well, I didn't say don't feel bad. Anytime someone's advice goes wrong, it's natural to feel a bit responsible. There's not a service professional in the world who doesn't sometimes get it wrong. There's not a lawyer, a financial advisor, therapist, doctor, student advisor, or anyone else who gets paid to give advice that hasn't dropped a bomb once or twice. Framed certificates on your wall don't guard against being fallible. And when you're dealing with something as hard to nail down as intuitive flashes, grasping into the ether for something solid to show someone, it's all the more difficult to hit it every single time. So take it easy on yourself and just let it go.

When you let it go you free your mind up for the next reading. When you let it go, you also let your ego go, and your ego really has nothing to do with reading tarot, so good riddance. When you let it go you embrace your own humanity and gain more compassion for the other humans in this world and that can only make you a better tarot reader. Honesty is your best tool. It's much better to say, "Well, I guess that reading really sucked, I'm sorry. Would you like a rain check for another?" Besides, I've found that I just read better for some people than others. If you've ever gone to a reader that your friend raved about and found the reading less than flat for you, it's not that the reader sucks, but the connection -- whatever that is -- just didn't, well, connect. Who's fault is that? No one's, of course, so don't waste your time taking responsibility for it.

I will admit, when I gave that first really, really bad reading it shook my confidence for a while, and that, too, only means I'm human, and in need of grace, as are we all. So whether you're on the giving or receiving end of a crappy reading, remember that. So you may not return with your coin purse to a reader with whom you did not connect, and no one expects you will, but unless there was some seriously fraudulent smack going on, don't hold it against them. If you've read tarot yourself at all, you know how it is. Some readings just suck.

Let it go.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Le Bateleur: Shuckster or the Real Deal?
Recently I watched one of those "magician tricks revealed" programs with a masked magician, masked to hide his identity from the other magicians who would supposedly be extremely pissed at him for giving away their precious secrets. Nevermind that there are all kinds of instructional books and videos that reveal these same "secrets." The irony was profound. The smoke and mirrors were still present even within a context that was supposed to be transparent and revealing. It's funny, though, most of us really don't want to know how the magicians saw women in half or pull a rabbit out of a hat. We don't really want the sense of wonder ruined. We want to believe what we see the magician doing, even if we know we have to suspend our disbelief in order to see it.

Recently, we've seen a "new" kind of magician come on the scene but which is really a throwback to magician tradition: the street magician. These guys are good. They have to be. They have no special stage effects, no curtains, no tarted up assistants. It's just them, their own props, and you.

The tarot's own Le Bateleur, or "the street performer" means literally, "one who uses a wand," hence...a magician. Wands are a point of focus for the magic practitioner and for the audience. A magician may use it to distract, to point, to focus your attention on something, or something else. It is a tool and therefore not particularly imbued with any power of its own. Just like the wands in Ollivander's Wand Shop could only be wielded well by a particular person, so a magician's wand is his own tool and subject to his own bidding. The wand is the most consistent element in any Magician card from the earliest to the present, whether he is pictured more as a shuckster or a sort of wizard, the wand is usually clearly visible in the card most often in the subject's hand. Most of all, what we need to remember about this guy is that, historically, he was seen as a cheat, a shuckster who swindled people out of their coins by pulling the wool over their eyes. He's the guy who offers a chance to play a "fair game" with loaded dice and a stacked deck.

The Magician is the instigator. Numbered one in the Major Arcana, he's the guy who gets things started, who makes something from nothing, or so it appears. Is he for real? Or is he pulling the wool over our eyes? Does it matter? I don't think so. Some focus on this guy's shell game and others focus on his charisma and still others believe he has real power to magically manipulate the essences of life.

Tom Tadfor Little, in his essay about The Magician, shows how the use of The Magician in the game of tarocchi offers a great analogy to his meaning in tarot:

The tarot dates from times when the ancient feudal system had been intruded on and transformed by an ever more important middle class of artisans, merchants, and others "out for themselves" in the world. Such people were not well respected. The great artists of the Renaissance, whose paintings and sculptures are now seen as priceless masterpieces of what is highest in the human spirit, were in their own time lumped together with the cobblers, housepainters, tailors, and others who worked with their hands to provide purely utilitarian goods and services. So both the juggler/magician and the artisan/craftsman were "nobodies" operating outside the formal hierarchical world of the nobility, yet neither were they serfs or slaves; indeed they might be wealthy enough (or clever enough) to carry influence out of proportion to their social status...

In the game, the court cards are all worth points, but the trumps are generally not. The only exceptions are the World, the Magician, and the Fool, which are each worth as much as kings, making them among the most valuable cards in the game. Now if you are dealt the Fool or World, those points are guaranteed to you, because neither of those cards can be captured during play. The Magician, on the other hand, is extremely vulnerable to being captured, because it is outranked by all the other trumps. So to win a trick with the Magician, the other players must all play suit cards, not trumps. This is not an easy thing to arrange. It can happen only if (a) you are out of a particular suit that everyone else still has, or (b) everyone else is completely out of trumps. If neither of those conditions occur, you will likely lose the Magician (and all its points) to some other player. So arranging an opportunity to play the Magician card without losing it is a major component of tarot strategy.

One can generally not count on the lucky opportunity of running out of a suit that others still have, although it is easy enough to take advantage of the opportunity if you are the last one to play in a given trick. More challenging and fun is saving the Magician until everyone else has run out of trumps. (For this to work, you must be dealt many of the trumps to begin with--if not, you are likely to run out early yourself.) You hold the Magician card until the end of the game, when you hope all the other players will be defenseless against it. Furthermore, the way the game works, players are often caught holding court cards through the middle of the game, because it is too risky to play them when they might be captured by a trump. So at the end of the game, players are finally forced to play their valuable court cards. There is no greater glee in the game than taking a handful of royalty by playing the Magician in the last trick. This feature is so prominent that in most versions of the game, a player who pulls this maneuver off gets a hefty point bonus!

The Magician is a coward, a swindler, and a cheat. He lives by his wits. All the other cards of the major arcana depict high earthly rulers (Pope and Emperor, for example) or archetypal powers (like Love, Death, and Time), which are unambiguously superior to the kings, queens, and knights of the court. Only the Magician, as an ignoble commoner, cannot "logically" triumph over royalty. By his powers of illusion, dexterity, and fast talk, though, he can capture them! As if his portrayal on the card were not enough to make the point clear, the rules of the game are contrived so that the Magician lurks secretively throughout the entire hand, waiting for the great powers of the cosmos to play themselves out; he appears by surprise at the end to capture a veritable hoard of royalty who were too cautious or inept to enter the fray of the early part of the game. I think the game of tarot is full of wry social and metaphysical ironies of this type. The Magician is the ultimate manipulator. Although without nobility or rank, he rakes in his victory by unabashedly exploiting the rules of the game of life.

And here's another cool thing about the Magician card: if you add the value of the letters for Le Bateleur, the sum is 78, the number of cards in a traditional tarot deck; however, if one takes into consideration how the letter U was often represented as the letter V (whose value is 22) then the total becomes 100 which reduces to 1 which is the placement of the Magician in the Major Arcana sequence. Wow! How'd he do that?

When this card appears in a reading, you really have to be careful. He's not bad news, but he's not always good news either. With him, there's always more than what meets the eye, and even just knowing that can be helpful. He can represent someone who is just simply charismatic and charming, who naturally brings attention to himself, who shines in the spotlight. He has a bit of a Midas touch, too, in that he has the ability to transform any situation to his benefit. He is endowed with a creative energy and spark that creates something from nothing, or so it may seem. He's entertaining and, like celebrities tend to be, also a bit self-centered and yes, manipulative. On the negative side, he is narcissistic and uses his considerable powers of persuasion and deception to his own, selfish ends.

As advice, I often see this card urging me to start something, and encouraging me that I have what it takes within me already to accomplish something to make something I want to happen. See, in most tarot decks the Magician is shown with all the symbols of all four suits laid out on a table at hand. You have the tools, you have the knowledge, you might have to shuck and jive a bit to make it happen, but you can do it.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

New on the Tarot Horizon
Michael recently emailed me with this lovely tarot deck in progress: The Urban Tarot by graphic artist Robert Scott. I emailed Robert and asked him if it was alright that I feature his work on 78 Notes and he graciously agreed.

I am not a tarot deck collector. Though I have upwards of 20 some tarot decks I use them all. I have traded or sold or given away decks that, while I initially felt drawn to the art, just didn't resonate with me in some way or another. There are many decks I can appreciate from afar and not feel the need to own. However, if this deck is ever completed, I really think I would like to work with it. These images, while maintaining the traditional symbolism also inject a modern sense to the meanings. Many deck artists do that, so it's not like that's something new, but the way Robert translates the Thoth tarot with gritty city scenes and characters is something that grabs my attention. The graphic style that appears as paper collage is multidimensional so that the images are layers and almost have a 3-D effect. The different parts of the scene will, at different times, appear to move forward and grab your attention. For both intuitive and traditional-meaning style tarot readers, these cards have so much to offer.

I do hope you've been keeping up with The Tarot Connection Podcast, though I had taken a short hiatus from recording segments. I just submitted a continuation of my numbers series, The Eights, for a recent podcast and Leisa has included it on Episiode 58. Be sure to check out the teleclass with Robert Place. (He also has a deck in progress I am impatiently awaiting, TheTarot of the Sevenfold Mystery.) She also has devoted an entire episode to an interview with author Derek Armstrong whose latest book, The Last Troubadour, seems rather groundbreaking in that it is based on accurate historical research and uses the characters from the tarot. Looks to be right up my alley!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mixed Musings
Life is not linear. In tarot, we so often do the Past, Present, Future spread or something like that and it may give the impression that life, too, lines up in a row like the cards where one thing follows after the next and the next. It's way more complicated than that. My life has tangential tentacles that reach out in various directions and get tangled up and weave in and out of each other.

I've been married and divorced twice now. My first marriage was in many ways horrible. Just horrible. The man was brutal and cruel and sadistically abused me. But there were sweet times, too, and we had a child together that we both love. My second marriage was sweet but died a slow, painful death. We had three children together and raised my first child together as well. I am without a doubt heartbroken that that relationship fell to pieces and couldn't be put back together again.

And yet...I am in love again. This man is incredibly sweet and fine and we fit together despite our sixteen year age difference. I find myself smiling absentmindedly because my heart is so full and whole.

Whole? Didn't I just say it was broken? What the hell?

Yeah...it's like that. Do I have a heart for each man that I have loved...one for each that beats and breaks? Or just one heart that opens a bit wider for each person I love? A heart that hurts for the failures and mistakes and abuses and injuries and that same heart that is filled when my love is loved. Relationships...men...people... are not interchangeable. One relationship cannot take the place of another. I have lost much and those losses are not replaced by another relationship. Am I making sense? The loss of my marriage is profound and being in a new relationship really does not quell that sense of defeat and disappointment.

At the same time, I am walking on air, happier than I've been in a long, long time. I don't want to hurt anyone with my happiness, so I tend to keep it to myself. I don't shout my feelings from the rooftops...I play my cards close to the vest and watch how things play out. But damn, I am in love. Seriously. He and I both have tried to get each other out of our systems. I went back to my marriage and tried to make it work. He went to another relationship and tried to make that work. Through it all we could not let the other go entirely. We kept gravitating back to each other until finally we both had to look each other in the eyes and admit what had been incredibly obvious to others: we were and are in love.

So what is this in tarot terms. Five of Cups? Yeah...the sense of loss overwhelms at times yet the two cups that remain standing show the potential of what can be. Five of Swords? Yeah, that, too. Loss and gain together at great price. Three of Swords? A truth that both hurts and heals and sets one free. Judgement, a crucial realization that moves one from one way of living to another. Ace of Cups? Sure thing. A flood of emotions, both positive and negative, the force of which pulls you away and toward. The Fool? Quite right. The Lovers, The World, The Star. Death, Strength, Temperance. They all play a role and describe a facet of what has transpired these last few years.

That Two of Pentacles juggler and the Two of Swords blindfolded woman both trying to hold two opposing realities at the same time. I can do it. I do it all the time it seems. I hold it all in my heart and in my life and realize that I do not have to choose one feeling or another...but simply feel.

To everything there is a season and a purpose under heaven, so said Solomon the Wise. And yet even he separated the times to laugh and to cry, whereas I tend to do them both at once. My seasons overlap like an Indian Summer in October or an April snow that blankets the forsythia.

I know this and remember this when reading tarot. That while the cards may be read in a neat row, seldom is anyone's life mapped out like that. Read the space between and around the cards, see the various intersectional lines that connect them in a spiderweb like pattern that allows for blended experiences rather than ok, this will happen then this, then that. Remember that while a card may say a person will feel thus and so it does not mean they will act accordingly nor make a decision based upon those feelings. Or just because X and Y are in place it doesn't not necessarily follow that Z will be the outcome. Leave room for inconsistencies and overlaps and ambiguities and ambivalence. Because this is real, human life we're reading in those cards and life is one big soup pot sometimes.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Coming Up For Air
Hellllooooooo! Feels great to be back. I finally got most of my stuff moved to the new place and I'm feeling much more settled and able to breathe a bit easier. Finally getting caught up on readings, too, though my turn-around time is still about a week. The new place is small but comfortable and starting to feel like home now that I have my belongings there. All I need now is to have my kids come and spend some quality time and it will really feel like home. It's been a difficult transition and difficult to know what the "new normal" will feel like, but it is a life change that was entirely necessary for me to make.

I've been thinking a lot about the Three of Swords. It's a difficult card to see in a reading as it's undoubtedly referencing something painful occurring. The Rider-Waite-Smith rendering of the pierced heart and clouded, raining sky reveals that the realization is not merely cerebral but emotional as well. The water falling from the sky and the pierced heart are a graphic representation of the kind of emotions that proceed from this revelation. This is the "truth hurts" card, and yet it isn't without hope. It reminds me rather of lancing a boil or cutting out a cancerous tumor. The process is painful but the truth revealed is a necessary one that brings the situation to a head and clears away the confusion so healing can begin.

If we look at the cards immediately preceding and following the Three of Swords, one can almost feel the angst of the Two of Swords, the refusal to face the issue, trying to decide not to decide, then the relief felt in the Four of Swords where the subject is able to finally be at peace. The Three is the event between them which brings about the healing and recovery of the Four.

Some truths are just incredibly difficult to look full in the face. I've lived for years in that Two of Swords place, knowing the pain of the Three would be just too difficult that I could not and would not decide nor face the reality of what was actually true. I had to fully recognize and admit that my marriage of fifteen years was over and that the differences were irreconcilable and that I would have to begin the process of starting over in a new life. I wavered and hesitated for an extremely long time in the hope that something could be resuscitated. When it finally became clear to me that I had no more strength to hold those two swords crossed over my chest, their weight had become unbearable and heavy, they, along with the third sword dropped and all three pierced both mine and my ex-husband's hearts. Certainly the pain felt and the truth realized was different for each of us, but my hope is that with this truth and the reality of the divorce genuine healing can begin for everyone.

In a reading when the Three of Swords appears, there's no denying it hurts. Nobody likes to tell a seeker that. Being the bearer of news of a heartbreak or painful revelation is uncomfortable. However, if you understand and convey that this is a truth that must be told, understood, and accepted before anything else positive can happen, there is less to fear from this card. Denial only works for so long before it becomes destructive. If this card shows up, you might ask your sitter if there's something they've been avoiding facing, or if they've felt there is something "hanging" in the air, things left unsaid or unclarified that is making them uncomfortable. In this way you may get to the root of the Three of Swords and identify exactly what issue will be revealed or should be addressed. You might even show the sitter the Four and tell them the way through to that peace and recovery is only through the Three, hurtful though it may be.

If we could avoid the Three of Swords in life, we would. We can't. So it's best to face them honestly and head on. Otherwise, being stuck in that Three of Swords place is much like having your heart pierced again and again and again, over and over and that is far more painful and destructive than one brutal blow that cuts away the bullshit and denial.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Lying Liar
I said I would post a tarot post here "in a few days." Clearly, I lied. Why do I lie like that? I had the best of intentions, of course, to write about tarot. But here's the deal: I just started a new full time job at a company where I will not have access to personal email or random internet sites, including this one. I only have a limited amount of time in the evenings now. I am moving into a new place next week, so weekends will likely be spent packing and moving stuff. Tarot is one way we use to try and unveil the mysteries of life but I wish it would tell me why I insist on putting on lipstick before brushing my teeth and why I can't seem to manage my time a bit better at the moment. No, I'm not berating myself really, though I know it sounds like that. I'm just missing the time I could spend posting here and talking about tarot. Life will settle and it will get better, but for now it's feeling tight and restricted.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Popping In To Say Hi
Hi! Long time no see!

Ok, so I haven't blogged for a while and I apologize for letting things lapse here, but I've been trying to look for a job and apartment and life has just gotten in the way of blogging. Ok, that and World of Warcrack, ahem, I mean Warcraft. For those who are blissfully unaware of this MMORPG (What's that? Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) I can only say: come play! I'm an Alliance player ( a level 27 human mage and a level 17 night elf druid) on Korgath server. That will mean nothing to anyone not familiar with WoW, so I'm sorry for that and I will stop now. The cool thing is I can play the game and log on to give tarot readings online at the same time, so it's not entirely a waste of time. But seriously, the life transition thing is taking up most of my focus and time. Job hunting is difficult and this whole divorce and moving, well, it's all very emotionally traumatic. Which is probably why I distract myself when I can with WoW. That and the online gaming addiction thing. They don't call it Warcrack for nothing.

Meanwhile, on the tarot front, I am working on writing that book many of you have urged me to get written already. It's not a small project and it's just getting started so it will be a while, but I have begun. I'm looking forward to it, as the whole process is new to me.

Podcasts at The Tarot Connection are, as always, full of quality and interesting tarot info and commentary. Leisa's been featuring my Tarot By The Numbers series but in a recent podcast she also featured my post on the Death card called The Terminator. Most recently she had as her guest Kat Black, artist of The Golden Tarot in Episode #50 (Fifty! A milestone for The Tarot Connection Podcast, yay!) Gorgeous deck, delightful artist, and a wonderful interview with Leisa once again.

I will get a real tarot post up here in the next few days. Promise!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Minor Majors and Major Minors
Have you ever asked a fairly mundane question of tarot like, "So what's in store for me today?" and had a bunch of Major Arcana cards show up? So then you're like, "Oh my god, something huge is going to happen today." Then all that happens is...nothing out of the ordinary? Conversely, you could get a fairly mundane reading with a bunch of Minors and win the lottery. What is up with that?

Frankly, I don't know what is up with that, but I think the notion that Major Arcana are "destiny" cards that project something that will for sure happen in one's life is, well, not bogus per se, but just not always true. That's the wondrous and irritating thing with tarot. Pretty much nothing is always true or consistent when it comes to the meanings of the cards. They're so freaking fluid that you really can't rely on a dogmatic system and read accurately.

When I see a Major appear in a reading, depending on its position, I often see it as a compelling and strong motivation or pull in a certain direction. It's almost irresistible, in fact. I say almost because a person's chosen free will always reign supreme over anything the cards might have to say. Human beings are also very fluid and inconsistent, so they may feel a very strong urge or desire but resist it. That's why I have a very hard time seeing Majors as destiny cards in every situation. There are a few exceptions. When I see Death, for example, I know something, somehow, is going to end despite the seeker's choices or intentions. It may be a welcome end or an unwelcome one, but no matter, something will cease. In a reading I did recently for a young woman, Death and the Hierophant came up together. I asked if she or someone she was closely related to was about to leave school or the military, that some kind of institutional way of life was about to end. Turned out she was about to take her final and if she passed she would graduate. One might wonder why the World card did not instead appear. I think it's because she had not yet graduated, but was about to. The World is more about the time after you've completed that big deal thing and haven't yet moved on to the next phase of your life. Death heralds an ending coming soon.

While it's true that Majors can indicate a Big Thing it doesn't always matter much unless the little things are practiced as well. For example, I have a friend who has a difficult person in her life whom she had, for a long while, hoped and prayed would get it. This person needed a kick in the pants big time, a Judgement wake up call. Well, we did a reading and sure enough, finally Judgement showed up to say this person would indeed have that wake up call. But wait, hold the confetti and streamers. The person did in fact have that eleventh hour what the hell moment, but lacked the follow through, the every day Minor Arcana stuff to make the change actually stick.

When I talk about the Minors, I'm not really talking about the Courts. They are in their own little group to themselves. Courts project attitudes and manner, how someone is likely to go about something rather than tell you what they will actually do. The Minors, on the other hand, might give more concrete action-oriented advice or information. Some say the Minors indicate the small stuff of life, the day-to-day happenings. Yet, I've seen the Eight of Cups signal the end of a relationship, so that's pretty big. I've also seen it mean a person would be going on an extended trip far away. That's no small potatoes either. Deep hurts and losses can be indicated by the Five of Cups and winning the lottery just might be shown by the Ace of Pentacles. Though the Minors are said to be minor, they can be anything but.

Delineating the Majors and Minors into The Big Stuff and The Small Stuff really doesn't work. Instead, I tend to recognize the energies of the cards and when a Major appears I know the energy is deep and strong, its pull is magnetic and almost irresistible, and there is a compelling energy present. Sometimes they do indeed indicate destiny, something that will happen regardless the seeker's choices, but more often they show strong energies toward something the Major indicates. Aces and Courts are pretty strong, too, yet Majors trump (no pun intended...ok, maybe it was intended) them both. For example, if I were to get Eight of Cups with Strength, I might interpret it as the person really wants to leave a situation but is resisting it and/or it is taking everything they have within them to go. Conversely, the Eight of Cups with The Lovers might mean that though the person really desires to leave, their commitment to the relationship overrides this desire and they will, ultimately stick with it.

Viewing the Majors and Minors as having different levels of energy and pull really helps me figure out why when Majors come up they don't always happen and why Minors can sometimes mean huge life changes. They don't quite fit neatly into the boxes of Big Stuff and Small Stuff, do they?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Double Celtic Cross
A few of you have requested that I share the Double Celtic Cross spread I referenced in my post about reading card combinations, Pairing Up. So, without further ado, here it is:


(click to enlarge)

Wow, them's a lotta cards, right? I don't usually use spreads with so many cards, but because the cards are paired up, there are still only ten positions. It's not like each individual card has to be interpreted, so it's not as overwhelming as it may seem at first. The only position that is not doubled is Position 2, the crossing card. I'm not sure why that is, but this is the version of the spread I found ages ago and have stuck with ever since.

You begin by laying out the Celtic Cross in the usual manner. I've numbered them on the picture in the order I lay them out, but if you are used to laying them out in a different order, by all means stick with your usual way. Then, you continue laying out a second "layer" of cards around the spread starting again at number one and doubling up through the last card, excepting the crossing card.

The cards are read as pairs, interacting with each other. The second layer isn't necessarily clarifying the first, though it can, but the cards are to be read together, sharing information between them in each position. Once you have the pairs sorted out, you can then see how they interact with each other positionally and the spread is then read in the same way you would read a regular CC spread.

I've used this spread a lot and have found it to be very useful for me, but if reading card pairs or the addition of that second layer of cards is just too much information for you, then this isn't the spread for you. If you are comfortable with the Celtic Cross, then this might offer you a bit of an enjoyable challenge.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Reading Reversals
To give an idea how I read with reversals, here are two examples of simple three-card spreads with reversals. How I read reversals is reflective of my own personal reading style, and as with all of tarot reading, there is no "right" or "wrong" way to read with them.

Ok, so when I read reversals, I keep my mind open to all the various possibilities just as when I read the cards upright. I don't lock myself into one set of meanings for reversed cards any more than I do for upright. Keep in mind, then, that reversals don't always mean a card's negative side is being highlighted. It could mean just the opposite, as you will see in this sample reading.

In this simple, Past/Present/Future three-card reading, the reversed card, the nine of swords, is in the Past position. The center card tells us what the issue is about. Three of Cups may inform of a get together with close friends or relationships with sisters or other women friends.
Apparently, with the Nine of Swords reversed, the potential for a friendship or group of friends breaking apart was there, but was averted. This card shows a positive result of some hard thinking and less worry and obsession than if the card were upright. The swords become a kind of ladder from which the figure can descend from the heights of anxiety to stand on solid ground. Whatever was the cause of worry in the first place, it did not get out of hand, and it looks like the get together with the friend or friends is now looking very positive. In fact, the future position shows that there will be a new start to things, even possibly a joint venture that will bring tangible reward to this person, maybe a gift of some kind with the Ace of Pentacles in the Future position. Basically this reading is saying there's nothing at all to worry about, everything is not only just fine, it's great.

If the Nine of Swords was upright, I would probably have read the cards very similarly. The only difference is that I can see, with the reversal, that the worry and angst really wasn't that overwhelming and in fact was muted a lot by the positive cards. Upright I might have said, yeah, you were were pretty upset about what might have happened, but you got the right support at the right time to allay your fears and worries. Overall, though, the meaning of the three cards together tell the same story.

Here's an example of reversals in their classic sense:
This Past/Present/Future reading shows all kinds of sticky issues. The King of Swords on his head does not bode well. Kings tend to get nasty when upside down, they don't like it, and usually take it out on others. This King, who is usually level-headed and even-tempered can become incredibly wishy-washy or strike out in cold, calculated spite. His inability to be rational has resulted in a situation that is unsavory: The Devil. Poor decision-making has brought this about, apparently, so now we've got a situation that nobody likes and now wants to get out of, but with the Devil in full swing, I kinda think it's going to take hitting bottom of some sort to do it. This brings us to Judgement reversed. Usually Judgement can indicate that bright turning point where you totally get it and make that profound decision to change something significantly, but with it reversed...well, it looks like the Devil wins this round and that wake up call isn't going to be answered just yet. See, the person involved is just having a bit too much fun or something, is being too self-focused and self-indulgent to make the proper decisions at this time. Judgement reversed could also indicate that Judgement will fall on his or her head as a direct result of their indulgence and it's not going to be pretty. That was an unpleasant reading, wasn't it?

A very similar reading would be seen had the cards been upright. With the King of Swords next to the Devil, I would have suspected he was up to no good and would have read him as being a bit of a hardass and inflexible in his stance, making a decision that primarily benefited himself. This would result in Judgement and with the Devil front and center, I would have seen him getting a severe wakeup call that "judges" his decisions and actions and that would probably send him for quite a loop. How he responded to the wakeup call would be, of course, up to him. But see, with the unbending attitude of the King and the strength of the Devil card in the center of the spread, it seems unlikely to me that he would respond positively to the call of Judgement.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Turning Tarot On Its Head
I wonder when reading tarot cards upside down began. Though it started in the 20th century, I imagine it was akin to any other form of divination where one reads the objects as they lie, such as with throwing sticks, stones or bones. Shuffling certain ways can result in cards being naturally reversed when laid down, so being reticent to "change fate" by altering the arrangement in any way, the cards were read as they were, upright or upside down. Someone, somewhere applied a different meaning to the card if it came up reversed, usually negative. The history of this practice is not likely to be traced, and today we have various theories and practices of reading, or not reading, with reversals.

When I first began reading tarot, the idea of reading reversed cards was daunting. I could barely remember the meanings of all the 78 cards to begin with, much less 78 more meanings for those same cards reversed. It is often recommended that a newbie reader forego reversals until one feels more comfortable with the cards, but that really isn't necessary if you use one understanding of reversed cards: that the energy of the card is "blocked" somehow in the person's life or situation. Basically, the card has the same meaning as upright but the reversed position indicates this is a challenge or obstacle for the person. This is a perfectly acceptable interpretation of reversals and isn't just for new readers only. It's just that it may help a new reader by not adding on additional meanings to the existing ones.

One doesn't have to read with reversals at all. Tarot reading is totally "upside down optional." A lot of it depends on the way you naturally shuffle. I decided to forget about reading reversals when, after noticing that the same cards came up reversed time and time again in my readings, I tracked it to my particular way of shuffling. When I shuffle, I don't get reversals. To get reversals, I had to pointedly cut the deck in thirds, reverse one pile, then reshuffle. On subsequent reshuffles, those reversed cards never got reversed back around. The randomness factor of reversals just wasn't working, so I said the heck with it, turned all the cards upright, and learned more about the duality of the meanings of each card so that reversed cards simply weren't necessary for me.

I can read reversed cards, no problem, but I don't care to lay the cards out with some of them upside down. It's kinda hard to see the pictures that way. Some folks have no problem with it and intuit all kinds of cool stuff from a Hanged Man who is no longer standing on his head but dancing like the World Dancer upright. In general, I am usually able to sense from the interaction of the cards whether or not a particular card is communicating a more positive, negative, or neutral meaning.

As I was discussing a card with my friend the other day, I said, "Well, that's more like the Emperor sideways."

"Emperor sideways?" she asked, "What's sideways?"

"Well," I said, "It's like he's not as dictatorial, abusive and control freakish as he might be upside down, but he's kinda leaning that way."

Oh, don't moan and whine and say, "Oh so now I gotta learn sideways meanings, too???" No, no, you don't. In fact, you don't have to think of it in those terms at all. As you learn to relate the cards to each other and follow the storyline of each spread and throw, you will naturally pick up on how a card is expressing itself in a reading, whether it is to be read more positively or negatively or somewhere in between. If a card is thrown literally upside down, it may limit your perception of its meaning. It doesn't have to, but it may.

There are vigorous proponents and opponents to reversals in the tarot community. Many see them as entirely unnecessary and cumbersome. Others feel they add meaning and depth to a reading and give more information. There are several books by competent tarot professionals that focus on reversals. If you're unsure about whether or not to use them, I would say try them. Read up on the various ways to use them and incorporate them into your readings for a while. Get comfy with them, if you can. Then decide if they are something you want to use or not.

In another post I will demonstrate a reading with reversals so you can see how I might use them, if I did, in a reading. I will also demonstrate how to interpret that same reading with upright cards that includes "reversed" meanings.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Tarot Mirror
The question, "How do you read for yourself?" was asked in the Question and Answer thread. It's a good question because so many readers, yours truly included, have trouble with self reading, sometimes to the extent that they cannot read for themselves at all and so just don't. However, there are also readers that read strictly for themselves and no one else. So once again, there is a wide range of practice on this subject that varies from individual to individual.

Some will make the distinction between divination and fortunetelling. Divination, or communing with the divine, is something to be done on one's own for oneself. Using tarot for this purpose is often seen as using it for spiritual growth and self-improvement. Fortunetelling is reading for others, using the cards to predict and foretell as well as see events that have happened in the past and present.` Both can be done for oneself, but somehow fortunetelling is harder to pull off. That's because we have less objectivity to the life experiences we ourselves have lived and the circumstances and situations in which we are currently intimately involved. As a friend of mine once quipped, "It's hard to see the picture when you're inside the frame."

It's sometimes easier to divine for oneself just to receive answers about one's own spiritual growth and development because you're not usually really invested in a particular outcome. You tend to be more open to hearing whatever the Universe, God/Goddess, your subconscious or some other supernatural source wishes to convey. Therefore, whatever the cards seem to be saying is what they're supposed to say. So divination for oneself tends to be less confusing, though some have a hard time with having enough objectivity even for that type of exercise.

Reading for oneself can be a very frustrating thing. Trying to be uber objective can be as fraught with problems as being too subjective. Trying too hard, period, is usually the problem. This results in second and third guessing the meaning of each card and being entirely confused about which meaning is being conveyed. In an attempt not to look at the cards through rose-colored glasses, one will often put a darker spin on them than necessary. Alternatively, a desire for things to turn out a certain way can cause the reader to put a more positive spin in order to get the cards to say what she wants them to say. Another pitfall is fearing the worst and so seeing the dreaded outcome in every card, no matter how "nice" the card may be. In such a state, even the Sun can be threatening. How to put this bias aside is the question and for most of us it is nigh impossible.

Using a deck you are less familiar with may help. This causes you to put aside your preconceived notions and rote meanings you've grown accustomed to with a more familiar deck. An unfamiliar deck will cause you to free associate more, tap into your intuition, and see things in the images you may jump past in a more known deck. Alternatively, you may feel more comfortable reading for yourself with your old faithful, a deck that speaks cleanly and clearly no matter what the situation or question. Try it each way and see which works best for you.

One reader suggested using a stuffed animal in place of yourself and to read for him or her asking the question as if the poppet were asking. As odd as this might sound, it can work by giving you just the distance and objectivity you need to read your own cards as if for someone else. I do a similar thing but without the toy. I look at the cards as if I were reading for a paying client. I also try to keep the reads I do for myself very simple with few cards and very direct questions. The fewer cards, the fewer opportunities to put my own spin on them.

I also tend to use confirming spreads when I read for myself. This is one time where asking the same question or reading on the same subject multiple times works for me. Because of my subjective perception of my situation, it's reassuring when, having done several readings on the situation, they all pretty much say the same or similar things. Then I know I'm reading the cards accurately for me. If, however, you find the readings all over the place and not consistent with one another, you may want to reconsider reading for yourself on that topic and ask a fellow tarot reader to help you interpret your cards or just read for you on that subject. Trading readings with someone else is a great way to not only sharpen your skills as a reader, but gain some objective feedback on your own reads for yourself. For when the other reader draws the same or similar cards for you as you had for yourself, you know that at least you were on the right track. If she interprets them similarly, too, all the better. But I've found that more often another reader will offer a slightly alternative look at the cards and this helps to gain perspective and confirmation on your own readings.

Reading for oneself is one of those things you will find warnings against, but there isn't anything at all wrong with it as long as you acknowledge the lack of objectivity and try to maintain a distance from your reading. By that I mean you understand that you could be too close to the situation to be accurate, so you hold the reading rather loosely, and look for confirmation either in events coming to pass or via others reading for and with you. You recognize your own limitations where reading for yourself is concerned. Alternatively, you may find you read best for yourself because you are able to put what you see in the cards in the context of your life, experiences, and spiritual understanding. It truly is a very individual practice and whether you are adept at it or not says nothing about your skill as a tarot reader. One can be a top notch reader for others and totally inept at reading for oneself. But I do believe you can get better at reading for yourself and the exercise in objectivity is good for lots of things. It can be very helpful, especially in times of heightened emotional crisis, to know how to take a few steps back and view your own self and life from a different, less biased perspective.




Maurits Cornelis Escher (Dutch, 1898-1972), Hand with Reflecting Sphere, 1935

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Aftermath
Great Eastern IX was a blast. It rained off and on all weekend, and not just light sprinkles, but heavy downpours that came through the mountains like a freight train drenching everything thoroughly, then disappearing just as quickly. The tent stayed dry, though, which was a plus, because everything and everyone else didn't.

There were castle sieges and company battles, an all night lit ditching (fighting) field, knightings, and drunken knight brawls. Assassin ninjas were captured and humiliated. A Margarita party was thrown with a gas-powered blender that looked like a cross between a small lawnmower and a motorcycle.












It turned out to be one huge, soaking medieval party. It was great. The people there were wonderful. I knew many and met more warm, friendly, crazy, Amtgardians from all over the US and Canada.












All that to say, I'm now back to this tarot thing and will be answering your questions in the following posts.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Weekend Warriors
This weekend I am off to Pennsylvania to attend an Amtgard event, Great Eastern IX. This is the largest Amtgard event on the east coast and it is being held this year at the same campsite as the SCA's Pennsic. I did a reading last night on the event and in the immediate future position these two cards came up:Ok so, how literal is that? I laughed out loud when I saw those cards together. At Amtgard events people literally play battle games with sticks as depicted in the Five of Wands and the events are fun affairs, like the party atmosphere of the Four of Wands. Tarot could not have been more literal.

Anyway, I will be out of here Friday, May 25 through Monday, May 28. So I won't be blogging or doing readings until next week. I hope everyone has a nice Memorial Weekend, too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

So You Want To Read Online?
If you've thought about reading online, Leisa ReFalo of The Tarot Connection Podcast interviewed me about two months ago regarding reading for online psychic services. I hoped to be as unbiased as possible, giving the pros and cons of reading via the online venue, so take a listen to this week's podcast, Episode #43, if you thought to pursue that venue of professional tarot reading. This is just one more episode Leisa has put out dealing with the ups and downs and ins and outs of professional reading. It's tremendously valuable information Leisa is providing through these various interviews, information that just isn't available widely. There are few articles and books on professional tarot reading so these interviews are really a wonderful resource for those thinking about entering into reading for the public.

Also in this episode, Jeanette Roth of The Tarot Garden discusses three new tarot decks, the Abysmal, the Vanessa, and the Love decks. I met Jeanette at the Reader's Studio and she is so knowledgeable and obviously has such a passion for the decks she collects and sells. Bonnie expounds on the meanings of The Hierophant and the Lovers, too, so don't miss this episode.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Couple Answers
The question about reversals needs its own post, but I thought I'd answer a couple of the posted questions in the meantime....

Evangelios said...

Hi Ginny,
I would like to hear your thoughts about using 2 or more decks in a reading.


Though it isn't a regular practice of mine, I have used different decks simultaneously while reading and it is a very interesting exercise. It's better left for those times when you have time to really reflect on the reading and not trying to shoot from the hip on some online pay-by-the-minute reading service. Some decks work really well together and others just will not speak to each other no matter how you ply them with bribes, so you kinda have to experiment with your decks to see which ones gel and which ones conflict.

Basically, it's kind of like doing a double card spread. You can do it two ways:

1. Lay out the spread in your normal way with one deck, then take the second deck and find all the cards that came up in the spread and lay them, in order, next to its mate of the first deck. Because deck imagery differs, each version of each card will shed a different light on the message.

2. Shuffle two different decks and lay one out in the spread, then randomly lay out the next "layer" of cards from the second deck. This spread would be read like a double spread, using pairs of cards for each position. This can be interesting because a card may show up twice in the spread in different positions because you are using two decks.

Another dual deck option is to use an oracle deck with your tarot deck. I have several and have found they can compliment a tarot spread very well, depending on your choices. I would recommend trying this method on a night when you have some time to really delve into the cards and soak up the imagery.

Katherine asked about "Quintessentials" of a spread: whether I use them at all, and what role they play in a reading. First of all, "Quintessence" is a classic alchemical term referring to aether. The aether was believed to be the substance which filled the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere. Aristotle included it as a fifth element distinct from the other four, Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. Aether was also called Quintessence (from quinta essentia, "fifth element"). Quintessence was also supposed to be a definition of pure energy. Its force was imagined to be like a lightning bolt. In tarot, this term is used as a reference to a way of rather "distilling" all the cards, numerically, down to a number between 1-22 to get a "quintessence" card of the Major Arcana to sum up the reading or with which to relate the reading together.

One calculates the Quintessence card by adding up all the cards in the spread used, excepting the court cards, then reducing them down to a number between 1-22, with 22 representing the Fool. You can use this card to shed additional light on the reading and often it does relate rather well to the theme of the reading. It is not necessary to do, but it is a practice some readers use to add another kind of depth to a reading. I don't tend to use it, mainly because there has to be a very fine reason for me to do math.

Another practice some readers use is the "Shadow Card." This is the card at the bottom of the deck after the cards have all been shuffled, cut and laid out in the spread. Often readers don't even look at it until the reading is complete. It likewise tends to be used as a "summary" card or a card that gives additional information, advice, or warning. Once again, I tend not to use this card, and I'm not sure why I don't. It's just not a practice that became habit for me. Once again, try it and if you find you appreciate the information gleaned using this card, go ahead and incorporate it into your readings. Why not?

More answers to come. Meanwhile try these methods and exercises and let me know what you think of them.

Friday, May 18, 2007

You Ask, I Answer
That last post about card pairs got me thinking that you might have questions I might be able to answer about tarot reading in general. Or at least give you my opinion at any rate. What do YOU want me to talk about in here? Here's your chance. Strike while I'm in the mood to be agreeable. Use the comment section of this post as a suggestion box.
New Tarot Fiction and More
I noticed her at the Readers Studio absorbed in her project. She was friendly, as were most of the people there, engaging and funny. But she spent a lot of time writing, writing, writing. It was clear she was working on a book while she was there, and others had mentioned that she had already published another. But it wasn't until the last day of the conference when she was invited to step to the podium and share an excerpt from her recently released (March 2007) novel, Accidentally Engaged, that we were able to truly appreciate Mary Carter's considerable talent. The reading was hilarious and it was clear that she completely understood the insanely obsessive moments most, if not all, tarot readers have experienced while attempting to read for themselves in the midst of a very emotionally tenuous time. She poked good fun at all of us, including herself, and the room erupted in appreciative laughter as we identified with her main character sitting in a seedy hotel room frantically trying spread after spread in vain attempt to divine her own romantic situation. That excerpt alone is worth the price of the book.

Mary Carter is Leisa Refalo's most recent guest on The Tarot Connection Podcast. Episode #42 features an interview with her as well as a guided ritual using the Aces by Bonnie Cehovet and I have begun recording my Tarot By The Numbers series for the podcast so this episode features the introductory post: "The Twos"

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Pairing Up
Pairs of cards read together is a skill you don't necessarily have to learn to read tarot, however many readers want to know how to relate the cards to each other. Some spreads naturally have pairs of cards together, too, so if you want to learn how to use those you're going to need to know how to see the two cards interacting with one another. I often use a Double Celtic Cross, so I've become pretty comfortable with card pairing. Reading pairs also comes into play if you use clarifiers.

To clarify or not to clarify, that is the question. Some readers say no way, clarifying cards confuse rather than enhance meanings. Others, like me, say wellllll....not always. Sometimes, especially if you are unsure about the meaning of the first card, they can muddy the waters further, but it depends on how you use them. You knew you wouldn't get a straight answer out of me, didn't you? I'm all about the "well, it depends..." when it comes to tarot.

For those who don't even know what I'm talking about, clarifying cards are cards laid on top of an existing card in a spread in order to double-check or enhance the meaning of the first card. I find their best use is when you know what the first card means but want to know more or you want to be sure you've got the right aspect of the card. For example, if The High Priestess comes up and I'm feeling the card is stressing the secretive side of the Priestess rather than say, the passive feminine side, I may draw another card asking if I'm on the right track. If say, the 7 of swords clarifies it, BAM! I'm on the money. If the 4 of pentacles clarifies it instead I can change my track and go with the more passive, withdrawn meaning. Other times clarifiers can be used is when one may desire more information. I like to pull another card when, say, the Tower shows up in order to see what the result of the shake up will be. Another card that is useful to clarify is Death to indicate what may come afterwards, what the situation is transforming into. They aren't always necessary or desired, depending on your own intuitive sense about the card and the reading as a whole. Just remember, when using a clarifier, the first card is still provides the main message and should hold the most weight. The clarifier is meant to add some depth but not be read with the same weight as the first.

This isn't so for spreads that use pairs in each position, such as the Double Celtic Cross. In those spreads, each card in each pair holds equal weight so the interpretation comes from a blending of the two. This is where it can get a little difficult, depending on the pairing up of the cards. It helps to begin thinking outside the box of "good" versus "bad" cards because if you think along those lines and get one of each in a pair you're going to have trouble right off the bat thinking they are negating each other. I'm going to give some examples here because actually reading the cards is really the only way to demonstrate what I mean.

First, here is an example of using a clarifier card:

The question is about a situation with a co-worker that has the seeker concerned about the possibility it could endanger her stability at work. This three card spread's position meanings are Situation/Advice/Outcome.

So the situation, Temperance, shows that the situation with the co-worker will take time and patience to work through, but it's not as dire as the seeker may believe. They may have opposite views on this situation, but it can be worked through. They are attempting to find a middle ground between them, and given time they should be able to find an equitable solution. Certainly this is what the seeker hopes anyway.

The advice, 2 of Wands, tells me that the seeker needs to focus on her own work primarily and not allow this interpersonal problem with the co-worker distract her too much. If it appears the situation could indeed threaten her job, she should put out some feelers to other places to work. She needs to examine her options and choose her course of action.

The outcome card, 9 of Wands, seemed to be saying that she will find herself a bit hemmed in by this situation, but I wasn't sure if the conflict would be resolved or not. Given that it is a nine, I do see an ending, but it looks like it's going to leave the seeker a lot more reserved and cautious around the co-worker. I also see that her job status will be protected, but I was a little concerned about the woundedness of the figure and how it may affect the seeker's job performance, so I clarified the last card. The 7 of Wands shows that all in all, the seeker would successfully overcome in this situation, she would prevail, though it won't be easy. She will need to stand her ground on some very crucial points and compromise on others, but in order to protect herself she will have to stand firm. The two cards together show a cautious but successful attempt to work things out in a way that benefits the seeker.

For pairs of cards, the interpretation is similar, but the cards interact in a slightly different way. Neither card holds more weight than the other, unless one is a Major and the other a Minor, but even then you have to see how they blend. For example, here we have the Tower and the 4 of Pentacles.

Depending on the position meaning, the cards could be saying several different things. Initially, the Tower is the stronger card given its intensity and the fact that it is a Major. With the 4 of Pentacles solidity, though, I get the sense that while the Tower will shake things up quite a bit, there will be a solid core that will not be shaken. There will be something left to hold on to throughout the Tower experience and afterwards as well. It's as if the cards are saying, hold on, let things quake around you, but you will be able to hold centered throughout, just keep it together. You may see something different. I can also see several different interpretations depending on whether these cards are advice, prediction, past, or whatever. This combination could also indicate that while the Tower will shake things up in several areas of the person's life, their finances will not be affected, per the 4 of pentacles. Or it could be saying the reason the Tower is erupting is because the person has been holding on to something too tightly and has created a kind of pressure-cooker which results in a Tower experience. See, it all depends on how the cards fall in the reading and which way your intuition is telling you to go with them.

I don't use elemental dignities, but they can also be used when interpreting pairs. When you have opposing elements, or elements that strengthen or weaken each other, you can bring that, too, into play. However you choose to interpret the cards, it's easiest if you don't necessarily view each one separately then try to blend them, but look at them as a unit to begin with and see how the messages of the cards interact and blend. Place elements of each card in the other card. For example, you can envision the man in the 4 of Pentacles sitting fast in the Tower basement, debris falling round him, but he remains guarding his treasure. Blending the elements of the images like this will help you feel out the meaning rather than trying to interpret them individually then try to connect them somehow.

I use pairs of cards a lot in my readings, but I wasn't always comfortable with the practice. It's something I've grown into and become more fluent with, so if it's not for you, don't worry about it. It's just one more way to read the cards.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Sun
"This must my comfort be:
That sun that warms you here shall shine on me."
William Shakespeare (Richard II)

This be the happiest card in all of tarot: The Sun. It is drawn in a reading and you know all is well, or will be well, at least for a time. It's all about doing the happy dance and feeling utter abandon and joy. It's difficult to turn this card around and see anything at all negative about it. It's party time!

So what is there to say about all that? It's interesting that we spend so much time analyzing the darker cards of tarot and rather skip over the brighter ones. Oh, we're really glad they're there, but we just think we know what it means to be happy and carefree so, enough said, right? I should think you'd know me better than that by now.

Worship of a sun deity is as ancient as dirt. As far back as there have been humans, there is indication that the sun was revered and spiritually significant to every human culture. This is not at all surprising as the sun plays a significant role in our daily lives and without it life as we know it would not exist. Though western cultures have associated the Sun with a male deity, such as Apollo, many other cultures have personified the Sun as a goddess. This is appropriate to remember when we look at the earthly abundance in many tarot Sun card images and relate it directly to the procreative and generative qualities of The Empress. The dualism of sun/male/light and moon/female/darkness is found in many European traditions that derive from Orphic and Gnostic philosophies, with a notable exception being Germanic mythology, where the Sun is female and the Moon is male. So while historically tarot, being developed in Europe, would have associated the Sun with a male deity, specifically the Son of God as Christianity claimed, one can also see the feminine influences in the card as well.

The Sun card often features a child or children and is associated with a sense of returning to a simpler time, a more innocent, carefree way of living. It can also denote childishness or childlikeness in one's approach or view. It is full of optimism and lives fully in the present moment. All of the historical meanings from Waite to Mathers and Etteilla point to happiness, bliss, contentment, and joy. Even reversed the card isn't negative, per se, but is simply muted in its joy. Shall I leave good enough alone? Um...no.

The Sun is the primary life force that governs our existence on earth, but we lose sight of that given its regular appearance in the sky on a daily basis. We often take for granted the daylight that allows for the regeneration and fecundity of the earth. We remember only during an eclipse or during some kind of natural disaster that clouds the sky with smoke or ash that blocks out the sun's light. We think how awful it would be to live perpetually in darkness. Well, we couldn't live perpetually in darkness, as nothing would grow to sustain life. The earth would grow cold and lifeless. But we forget that each morning as some of us draw the curtains to block those morning rays.

Oh sure, we appreciate the sun when we've made weekend plans for an outing at the beach or a picnic. "What a beautiful day," we say when the sun cooperates with our plans. We expect the sun to rise and it does, so it's easy to take it for granted and we do. So it is with the Sun card in tarot. It comes up and it makes us smile, but like not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, we tend not to delve too far into the meaning behind it. Yet the Sun is such a powerful influence. It can make us feel wonderful or it can parch and dry the landscape with too much intensity and heat. It causes us to sweat, to become thirsty, and if we're not careful, it burns our skin.

As a teenager, I was diagnosed with scoliosis and wore a back brace for 3 years. By the time I was sixteen, I was so not going to wear that contraption when I went out with my boyfriend. So, I'd take a change of clothes, ditch the brace and throw it in the back of his car. One summer day we decided to head to the beach. My torso had not seen the sun in two years but this day vanity took over and I so wanted to wear this new bikini I had bought just for the occasion that I threw all common sense to the wind and spent all day out in the sun with no protection. We had a blast that day, playing in the water and laying in the sun. On the drive home I began shaking. I felt ill and cold and yet I could not stand the blanket against my skin. As I stood up to walk, I fainted. My boyfriend caught me, helped me in the house and stayed by my side as I waited for my mother to return home. Over the next week the skin on my stomach peeled away to reveal stinging, burning, raw skin underneath. I stood in front of a fan to get some relief from the burning pain. The Sun, I learned, is not always a friend.

The Sun follows The Moon in the ordering of the Major Arcana, and so brings light to darkness and clarity to confusion. While in the Moon landscape you cannot see nor know what you are seeing is true, but when the sun comes up, you see what you could not in the bare light of the moon. The Sun brings clarity of sight, of mind, and a feeling of safety. It reveals and enlightens. Think that's a good thing? Usually it is, but revelations can be painful as well. Sometimes delusions are a refuge and, once revealed as such, can be heartbreaking to face.

No, I'm not trying to bring everyone down. The Sun really is a great card and as such denotes really happy times, long lasting relationships, happy endings. It can also signify a time period of one year, as it takes the earth one year to orbit around the sun. Or it can indicate one day, the time it takes for the earth to rotate once around. We say things like "having our day in the sun. " Still, in the backs of our minds, just as we know the sun sets each day, we also know that good times don't last forever. As such, the Sun's advice could very well be to take time to appreciate this day rather than take it for granted as we tend to do. This is why I chose to feature The Sun card from The Hudes Tarot deck. The image of the bright sun against a grey sky allows one to both appreciate the breakthrough of the sun after the long, dark night of the soul and clearly see that the clouds are still there, though in the background. This card doesn't neglect the reality that, without those darker times, the Sun times would not taste nearly as sweet.

Friday, May 04, 2007

More To Come
I am working on a post about The Sun card. Meanwhile, head on over to The Tarot Connection because Leisa has put out a new podcast featuring none other than Robert Place, artist and author of The Alchemical Deck, The Buddah Deck, and the Vampire Deck and more. He was the artist from whom I bought that wonderful High Priestess print at the Reader's Studio. Bonnie discusses the symbolism of The Emperor and the 78 Notes segment is In Love With Love which puts a different spin on the Two of Cups.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

One Card for Me
I have a decision to make. I have a job offer that, if I take it, will require me to move two hours away from my kids. It's a writing job, at least in some capacity, and it is with a start-up online game design company. I will continue to read tarot online here, so that's not the issue. The main issue is the distance from my kids, although there are other important issues at hand as well. *sigh* It's complicated. However, the question is: Should I take the job?

Now, we know tarot readers usually suck at reading for themselves and I am no exception. So I drew one card and I am asking you to tell me what this card is saying in answer to my question. Help me out here, ok?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Leisa's Been Busy: New Podcasts
The Tarot Connection brings so much in the way of depth and insight to we of the tarot inclinations and these two podcasts keep bringing it on. Leisa just continues to find the most interesting people to interview and my co-regular contributors are always bringing such quality stuff to the table. In Episode #39 Leisa interviews Dan Pelletier of The Tarot Garden and he jam packs the interview with insight into "dark decks" and offers up his tried and true spreads for your taroting pleasure. Also in the podcast, Bonnie delves into the symbolism of The Empress.

Episode #40
features Leisa demonstrating a Career Reading while Bonnie discusses the concept of "Right Speech" in ethics as it applies to tarot reading, Bill talks about when to know it's time for a tarot break, and the 78 Notes To Self segment features my post on Christian roots of tarot: Strange Bedfellows.

I know you must get tired of me saying this over and over, but The Tarot Connection Podcast is truly of such a high caliber and I am always awed by Leisa's ability to put together such informative and enjoyable listening and learning experiences each week. And I'm not just saying that because she features my stuff. I've enjoyed her podcasts even before I joined the party.

Monday, April 23, 2007

2007 Readers Studio Recap
Getting there was the hard part, but that was my fault. One act of stupidity set off a chain reaction that left me stranded at Reagan National Airport for almost six hours. I could have driven to New York in that time and probably should have in hindsight. I haven’t flown since before 9-11, so all the new security measures had me a little bewildered, but that wasn’t the problem. I went to the wrong airport. I thought I was to fly out of Dulles International Airport but my flight was departing from National. Oh well, I thought, no big deal. It’s a commuter shuttle and I’ll just catch the next one. No such luck. The next flight was full. At that point I knew I would miss the entire first day’s session of The Reader’s Studio. I wanted to get in my car and go home, but my bag had traveled ahead of me and was sitting in LaGuardia Airport. Nothing to do but make sure I got on one of the next two flights out. I made it on the next one, but by the time I arrived at the conference, the last session had just ended. I was in no mood for it anyway, so I went to my room, chilled and became human again, then went down to the lounge to see who I could find.

Corrine Kenner’s was the first familiar face I saw. I said, “I believe a Cosmopolitan is in order.” She jumped out of her seat and hugged me, “Soooo glad you made it!” she said and invited me to sit down with the others. Joanna Colbert, James Wells, and Ferol Humphrey among others were noshing and introductions were made. Too embarrassed to admit I had gone to the wrong airport, I simply said, “I missed my flight.” Oh, I 'fessed up later that weekend, and we all got a good laugh from it. I so appreciated that warm welcome. It helped ease me out of my aggravation and tension and brought me safely into the embrace of the tarot community. And what a wonderful group of people it truly is.

I checked in with Ruth Ann Amberstone and was greeted with, “We missed you!” You’d think we were old friends, but this was the first time I’ve met any of these wonderful people in person. Her husband and partner of The Tarot School, Wald, greeted me in the hallway as I left the conference room and again I felt welcomed by a familiar friend. That’s how the weekend went, time after time, people I had only communicated with online materialized before my eyes as faces and smiles and hugs.

By the way, the gig is up for you lurkers here. I met several people who are regular readers of 78 Notes to Self but who do not comment or participate. I want to see your names in the comments section, you hear me? It was so wonderful to know there are lots of you out there who feel you know me and I want to get to know you, too. For me, meeting other tarot readers, both professional and non, was the highlight of the weekend. Though the sessions were both informative and full of incredible insight and gave me lots to chew on over the coming weeks, connecting with so many of you in the tarot world was so very rewarding. It’s so easy to communicate with your own peeps, you know?

Getting up in time to make the 7:30 am Breakfast Roundtable with James Wells was a bit of a challenge for this night owl. Mornings? What are those? But I didn’t want to miss a single minute more than I’d already missed of this event. Some of my friends from Aeclectic Tarot were fantastic, prodding me to ask Dr. Elinor Greenberg for her notes from her session on Tarot Counseling I had missed the day before. They filled me in on what I missed. Marcia Masino was conducting the first session on Saturday and Mary Greer was scheduled for the afternoon. Robert Place was there selling his new Buddah deck as well as his prints. I came home with The High Priestess from his yet unfinished The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery. I really, really want a copy of his Alchemical Tarot, but it is out of print and if I can locate a copy the price is a bit too steep for my cheapness. Jeannette Roth was there from The Tarot Garden, too, with many hard to find gems. And I won a prize! Door prize drawings were held all weekend long generously donated by the vendors as well as others. The schwag from this event was amazing. I came home with two free tarot decks, the Cleopatra and the Witches Tarot, plus the 2007 Llewellen Tarot Reader, lots of helpful handouts on various subjects from publishing your own book to techniques of reading. After hours, you could sign up for private readings with the likes of Rachel Pollack, Mary Greer, Corinne Kenner, James Wells, Julie Cuccia-Watts. The sign up sheets were already full by the time I got there, but Corinne did a short read for me anyway. Being surrounded by over a hundred tarot readers, I wasn’t really worried about whether or not I’d get a reading that weekend.

We’d get into deep discussions late into the night. Being among others who more or less share my own quirky, eclectic, mish-mashed spiritual ideas brought a sense of comfortableness. I didn’t feel like I had to watch my P’s and Q’s, not that I would have anyway, but still, it's nice to not only be accepted but welcomed into a community. At one point, folks were sharing about how tarot had contributed to their personal evolution, a question prompted by James Wells. While it was an excellent open-ended question, the kind he is known for, I found myself disgruntled by the common response: that while predictive readings were “okay” most people who answered spoke about “moving beyond that” and primarily using tarot for personal growth. Ok, fine, and that’s all well and good, but let’s be honest, brutally honest, here. You’ve got the cards, you have the skills, you’re gonna ask the mundane questions, too. I didn’t answer the question because I was getting the itch to be an ass, so I went out for a smoke instead. My answer would likely have been, “Tarot hasn’t done a thing for me except contribute to the manifestation of my out of control Obsessive Compulsive Disorder."

I guess it kinda tweaks me that there's this distancing going on in the tarot world from divination and fortune telling. I get it, cranks and charlatans have given tarot a bad rap, but the tradition of fortunetelling tarot is valid as well. Rather than distance myself from it, I embrace it as part and parcel of the whole thing. Because I do want to know what might happen next week and if tarot can give me a glimpse into that, I'm all for it. It is a tremendous tool for personal growth, so it is certainly proper to focus on that, write, teach, and talk about that. But please. While there may be a few of you who seriously do not use the tarot for divination, most of us do and we shouldn't have to feel like we're scumming up the cards to do it. It's not immature tarot reading. It's just another facet of tarot reading.

Corrine took notes the entire time and has put them up on her blog, so I'm not going to repeat them here. Suffice it to say I was incredibly inspired and enjoyed every minute. I would recommend The Readers Studio to anyone interested at all in tarot. The Amberstones don't distinguish between beginner readers and more advanced, we're all put in the same classes, the same pool, and we all swim together. I recognize the cost of the event might be prohibitive for some, but as conferences go it's not that high. I didn't share a hotel room this year because it was my first time, but next year I will. I might drive up next time as well. Some folks wrapped the trip around other activities such as visiting family and friends in the northeast, too, so that helps. If it is even remotely affordable, do it next year. I'll see you there, and next time I'll be sure to go to the right airport so I don't miss a thing.