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.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Technical Difficulties

When I tried to rowse my sleeping computer this morning, it didn't want to wake up and it was making this very odd noise. "Brrrrrreeeeee. Burrrrreeee." I was busy getting ready for an appointment and wanted to look up the address again, so I cocked my head around to take a look at the screen and it was black with this ominous message: Cannot locate hard disk 0...


Oh no, my dear laptop, you must be mistaken. I know you have a hard drive in you. You used it just last night, remember? Now, where did you misplace it?

Turn off. Turn on. Still can't find your hard drive?

Now I'm starting to get a wee bit upset because do you know how much of my stuff is on your hard drive? You better find it! I'm going to be late for my appointment and when I get back I'm bringing a NEW notebook computer with me, so you better find that hard drive you lost!

So I did just that. I went and bought me a brand new shiny Toshiba with a bigger hard drive, faster processor and lots of bells and whistles. So there. And when I pushed the power button the old girl laughed and pulled the hard drive out from behind her back and started up fine. Um. Ok fine, but now I don't trust you. So I am taking full advantage of your cooperation at this moment to move all my stuff, or as much as it as possible, to the new model. Anyway, you're still making those funny noises.

Anyway, that picture up there is the tired old Dell Inspiron 1150 which will be fixed with a new hard drive and given to the kids to use. This is my spanky new Toshiba Satellite A105 blah blah blah, fancy schmancy new web cruiser. It even has fingerprint ID scanning! No passwords needed, just rub the laptop like a genie in a bottle. I spent the entire day transferring, downloading, installing, backing up, etc. How utterly dependent so many of us have become on these machines.

Anyway, the short of it is, I am back in business. And the kids are gonna be thrilled...until they start fighting over it. You know it's gonna happen.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tarot By The Numbers: The Nines
In number symbolism, nine, not ten, means completion. This can be rather confusing in tarot when the suits have a sequence of ten cards. But there are reasons for this and once understood it makes things a little easier. In a base 10 system, where all numbers are represented by ten distinct forms (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9), nine is the final number. It then represents a limit, the end, or an ultimate goal. The last among the seven Pythagorean numbers (three through nine), nine is the limit to which the generative principles of number reach. The ancient mathematical philosophers called nine the “finishing post” and “that which brings completion.”

The Greeks called nine "the horizon," beyond which the Ennead, or "the nothing" or void lay. We colloquially express this by saying things like "the nth degree" or that a cat has nine lives and "the whole nine yards" to mean the very limit of something. Also we say someone is "on cloud nine" or "dressed to the nines" when they are achieving something high. There are nine magnitudes on the Richter earthquake scale, though one has not yet been recorded to go that high and so is only theoretically possible at this time. As such, nine is the completion of a cycle, symbolic of change and reform. In tarot it represents the end prior to a new beginning. So what's the ten there for? I'll get to that in the next post in this series.

Nine is composed of three trinities (3 times 3 equals 9) and represents the principles of the sacred Triad taken to their utmost expression. In fact, the Chaldeans believed nine to be so sacred they kept it apart in their numerology from the other numbers. This practice relates back to the Major Arcana IX, The Hermit, who separates himself from others in the spiritual search of the sacred. The Norse God Odin, ruler of the nine Norse worlds, hung nine days on the world axis or Yggdrasil tree to win the secrets of wisdom for mankind and after the seige of Troy, which lasted for nine years, Odysseus wandered for nine years in trying to return home. The Hermit is often pictured standing on a mountaintop, a pinnacle of sorts, the limit of height.

The Nine Muses were the fruits of nine nights of Zeus' lovemaking. Thus, nine is associated with gestation and the fulfillment of creation. We say it takes nine months to make a baby, although it is actually ten lunar months. However, that last month is a transition time where the baby and the mother's body prepares for birth. In that same vein of procreativeness, in Scandinavia nine-day fertility feasts were held every nine years.

In fact nine features prominently in many ancient cultures. Aztec, Mayan, and Native American myths describe nine cosmic levels (four above, earth, and four below). There were nine Gods of the Sabines (an ancient tribe of Italy): Aeneas, Bacchus, Esculapius, Fides, Fortuna, Hercules, Romulus, Santa, and Vesta. As the most auspicious number of celestial power in ancient China, nine became the rule in nine great social laws, nine classes of officials, nine sacred rites, and 9-story pagodas. The festival of the “double yang” was held on the 9th hour of the 9th day of the 9th month. In fact, the Chinese words for “gift” and “nine” are identical. In Christian symbolism, there are nine orders of angelic choirs in nine circles of heaven and nine orders of devils within nine rings of hell. The gifts of the spirit are nine in number: the words of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles and prophecy; the discerning of spirits; tongues; and the interpretation of tongues.

Nine has been, and in some cases still is, considered thrice sacred and represents perfection, balance and order. In Kabbalah, the ninth Sphere (sephira) of divine emanation is Yesod. The word "Yesod" means foundation, and Yesod is the last of the immaterial sephirah. It is said this is the place where the Cherubim dwell, the angels that act as intermediaries between man and the spirit world. However, it is also the place of Gamaliel, or certain demons considered to be children of Lilith.

Nine represents society and completion as well as symbolizing mankind, philanthropy, charity, social issues and government. Nine is representative of universal love, giving and the brotherhood of man, as well as neighborhood, clubs, organizations, institutions and the common good. The positive characteristics of nine are selflessness, fulfillment, completion, universality, universal understanding, interrelatedness, compassion, idealism, tolerance, forgiveness, generosity, benevolence, humanitarianism, emotionalism, and justice. Nine is also associated with accomplished artists and thinkers who are inspired by universal truths.

Some of these concepts don't seem to fit well with the traditional Rider Waite imagery. All of the four nines in many tarot decks show a solitary figure, not someone interacting in the process of giving to others. However, the concept is often implied rather than shown outright. The solitary aspect is directly echoing The Hermit whose spiritual quest has taken him to a place apart and alone. His contributions to society may be made in the form of writing or mentoring, but they are significant. One's accomplishments are truly one's own. While others may support, teach, help and contribute to your success, when you have achieved something it is yours and yours alone. The ideal result is that by your achievement, you are then in a position to give back, to help others cross that threshold as well.

The Nine of Swords may not seem to be much of an achievement, but if you look closer it can represent that final battle with one's self, one's mind, that must be confronted and conquered. It is a dark night of the soul, a time when one's thoughts threaten to sabotage everything. The swords of thought, communication and action turn into weapons against oneself rather than tools of progress. This is the night before the big exam, the time when you totally freak out because everything you spent weeks, nay months, studying just leaks out of your brain and you can't remember a single thing. You start to think you're going to fail, you are going to end up homeless and destitute, you're a lame loser with no future. Eeeeek! This whole mindfuck we tend to do to ourselves just prior to a Big Event is typical and might even be necessary. It's like your mind runs through all the worst case scenarios so you can be prepared, mentally, for any course of events. Or maybe it's just nervous mental energy that needs to be expended before we can relax enough to actually do our best. This place in the swords suit is really where the mind goes the furthest it can go, and ultimately it can go no farther. You exhaust all the possibilities and usually end up with heartburn and nightmares because of it, but at least you've thought it all through.

The Nine of Cups is traditionally called The Wish Card in tarot. There are spreads that say that if the Nine of Cups appears in a certain position, you will definitely get what you desire. Feh. Whatever. Never worked for me. (Or did it? Be careful of what you wish for!) This is a really happy card, the guy on it usually looks so very self-satisfied. To relate it to the symbolism of the nines the scene depicted in most Rider Waite based decks shows a man before a banquet table with nine cups on the table. He is the host and is quite pleased to be able to share what he has with his honored guests. This is where the philanthropic part of the nines as well as the emotionalism comes to the fore. This guy is just so moved emotionally that he's "going to the nth degree," pulling out all the stops, "the whole nine yards," for those he either wants to impress or be generous to out of a higher motivation, one never can be sure. He's "on cloud nine" in this act of emotional giving. This card also represents the "channel" aspect of Yesod, in that this man's feelings are being translated into something tangible and material by way of his sharing his wealth with others in a way that blesses them. This card shows only he, not his guests, because the focus of the nine is on his achievement and the benefits of which he will share in just a moment. I see this card, too, as just feeling good about yourself, feeling happy in the moment, being full of good feelings and appreciating what you have. He has found the cup he set out to look for in the Eight of Cups and now he, at least for the moment, "has it all."

The Nine of Wands, like the swords nine, shows a tougher aspect of the nine. This one is the grit and determination it takes to succeed. This card represents that last breather before you finally finish what you started. Being wands, the active fire element of tarot, this card refers mainly to the energy needed to bring something to fruition. Having birthed four children, I can't help but liken this card to labor. The figure on the card is showing the weariness of of his trials, battered and bandaged, he has been through much. There comes a point in labor when things get quiet and it's usually right before they get really hairy towards the end. That's the overall theme of this card, the end is at hand and this is a regathering of energy for that final push to completion.

The Nine of Pentacles, like the Nine of Cups, shows someone enjoying the fruit of their labors and with the ability to share it with others. Although the card shows a woman alone in her wealth, it is implied that she has the ability and means to be a benefactress. The trained falcon can represent her communication with others, the way she sends parts of herself out into the world which then return to her. Here is someone who has reached a certain pinnacle in life, materially speaking, and this comfortable financial state allows her to focus on other pursuits that reach more heavenward than earthbound. Unlike the Nine of Cups, this woman isn't on "cloud nine" emotionally, her feet are planted firmly on the earth. She has a stability and an independence that frees her. There is a certain contentedness to feeling complete in oneself, and the Nine of Pentacles revels in that completeness.

So are we done at nine or almost done? Well...as tarot has one more card in each suit, I would say done symbolically, but there is one more step to go between the nines and back again to the aces. Here is a place where tarot ambiguity creeps in. Tarot doesn't actually fit that neatly into any one system. The best fit is with Qabbalah, but even that had to be tweaked. It doesn't fit neatly into astrology nor into any system of numerology. These other systems can help add dimensions of understanding to tarot, but cannot be neatly overlayed. Tarot is unto itself and though the symbolism of nine says we're done there, tarot says no, we're not quite finished, and adds a ten.

The Hudes Tarot Deck by Susan Hudes US Games. Printed in Belgium.
DruidCraft Tarot By Stephanie Carr-Gomm & Philip Carr-Gomm & Will Worthington Published by Connections 2004Tarot of the New Vision by Pietro Alligo, artwork by Raul & Gianluca Cestaro Published by Lo Scarabeo
The Sharman-Caselli Tarot by Juliet Sharman-Burke. Illustrated by Giovanni Caselli © 2002 St. Martin's Griffin Press

Monday, March 19, 2007

In Love With Love
You know these two. You may have even been these two at one time. Maybe you're even part of this pair now, but if you're not it's all you can do to not say,"Get a room." With fluttering eyelashes and deep gazes that invisibles everyone else from the stratosphere, the Two of Cups is a budding romance in its first flushes of engagement. No, not engagement engagement, unless they're crazy, but that first meeting, that first date, the initial contact where both parties are twitterpated. "Whatever," I say, with dismissive gesturing.

Wot? Not romantic? Moi? Sure I can be, but you know, this is the stuff of infatuation that those rogue Knights are so fond of, particularly that Knight of Cups and we all know how dependable they can be [insert derisive snort]. Oh sure, it's sweet, it's cute, and I can't help but smile when I see a couple so obviously smitten, but I suppose I've had a few too many kicks from the back end of that horse that I look with slightly jaded (yes, I said slightly) eye on this card. Sure, it's nice and all, but hello, it's just a two. They're being swept along by the rush of the Ace of Cups and while that's a heady cup of spirits there, I say watch for the hangover sure to come ohhh around say, the Four of Cups, if it lasts that long.

Maybe I should have posted this on Valentine's Day, but I have an internal boycott on V-Day that has nothing to do with whether I've personally been involved with someone when that day rolls around. It's cheesy and forced and my knee jerk reaction to anyone telling me I gotta luuurve someone on February 14 is, again, "Whatever," with dismissive hand gestures. Maybe that's the root of my problem with the Two of Cups. I'm far too much a Queen of Swords to admit to any twitterpating on my part, however that underlying water element belies a romantic heart that cries at love stories and whose favorite movie is Ever After.

I say I'm realistic. Lovers don't care. They don't give a damn about reality and I don't blame them at all. It's all very nice in that pink bubble with hearts and glitter floating about. Because this is the card all the hopefuls want to see who come to a tarot reading asking, "Will I meet someone?" or "Does he like me that way?" So when I see this card for a sitter, I smile and say, "Yes. For sure. Yeah he does." And that's really nice. But get this, falling in love is a lot like drug addiction and temporary insanity, at least chemically speaking.

As reported by the BBC:
"When people fall in love they can think of nothing else. They might even lose their appetite and need less sleep, preferring to spend hours at a time daydreaming about their new lover. In the attraction stage, a group of neuro-transmitters called 'monoamines' play an important role:
  • Dopamine - Also activated by cocaine and nicotine
  • Norepinephrine - Otherwise known as adrenalin. Starts us sweating and gets the heart racing
  • Serotonin - One of love's most important chemicals and one that may actually send us temporarily insane"

It seems that lovers brains are just having themselves a party. I did mention the word hangover up there, didn't I? That looks like a scene from the movie Blow. And while the feelings associated with falling in love may cause us to yearn and wish for it to befall us again and again, so pleasant they are, you might re-think that when you read this story about a man who suffers permanent amnesia brought about by a virus but who keeps falling in love with his wife over and over and over. Two of Cups is not really the best place to camp out, now is it? I've seen this pattern in rather dysfunctional couples that repeatedly break up and make up as a way of recapturing that Two of Cups high, but really, it does get old and starts to feel a bit like that Bill Murray flick, Groundhog's Day, where the guy keeps reliving the same day over and over and over.

But let's say you get this card in a reading about your career and you're happily partnered up and you're not looking for any nookie in the copyroom after work, what then? Should you be concerned you have an ardent admirer? Nah, you'd likely get the Page of Swords or our star-struck Knight of Cups for that. What this card can also imply is any positive connection two people make or even a good match between a person and a project or job. It means there's a potent connection and the emotional benefits will be reciprocal. As such it can signify a friendship or even a business partnership that just "clicks."

In the Waite style decks, there is a lion with a caduceus symbol above the lovers. While oft thought to be the symbol of medicine, this symbol actually was an ancient astrological symbol of commerce related to the god Hermes, the winged-footed messenger of the Greek pantheon. It looks very similar to the symbol for the planet Mercury Astronomical symbol of mercury— the Roman name for Hermes, who carries the kerykeion, or caduceus. The basic power of the Caduceus is the primal power to heal or harm. It's not quite the same as the medical symbol the Staff of Asclepius and you will more often find the caduceus as symbols of pharmaceutical companies rather than, say, the World Health Organization. Hmmm, drugs again, huh? Here we find another duality of the two and the real question behind such a potent pairing. Because isn't that just like love? It, like medicinal drugs, has both the power to heal and to harm. So be careful whose eyes you gaze deeply into and what exactly is in that cup he's offering?

Lest you think you can avoid this trap by simply indulging in lustful sex with none of that addictive substance love stuff, the BBC also reported that research suggests sex is booby-trapped to make partners bond:
According to the research the more two people have sex together, the more likely they are to bond. "We all know you can have sex without falling in love but if you have enough sex with the same person there's a good chance you will hit the body's booby-trap which is there to tip you head over heels into love," said Dr Marsden. "So your body goes all out to make you bond with your partner and that makes love highly addictive and the withdrawal sucks."
Nice and floofy as the feelings may be, they are temporary and do fade, though they can last between three to seven years. If you take a look at the Seven of Cups, you might see someone in the throes of the "seven-year-itch" dreaming about other potential partners and falling in love again. We're such addicts, honestly.

The Secret Tarot Deck by Marco Nizzoli Published by Lo Scarabeo

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Tarot By The Numbers: The Eights
Eights in Tarot are a mixed bag. They contain the solid sense of four yet without its enclosing, fearful walls. Eights are about moving beyond that structure, but still working within its rules. It takes the growth lessons of all the numbers that came before it and moves still higher, still striving towards the goal. There is the hint of a new beginning with the eight, but it's more because the old ways weren't working as well as you'd hoped. There is both building and destruction inherent in the eights, so it may be difficult at times to ascertain the meaning in the card.

Eight is one number beyond perfection and represents the infinity. The mathematical symbol for infinity, the leminscate is, after all, the number eight turned on its side. We see this symbol in various cards in the tarot: The Magician, the Two of Pentacles, but also, auspiciously, in the Major Arcana VIII Strength. More about this in a moment, because as we shall see, Strength fits very neatly into the symbolism of the number eight, with its multifaceted approach to challenges.

Eight was the number of the balance and cosmic order of the universe according to the Egyptians. In Mesopotamia, the eight-leaf rosette was also the emblem of the fertility goddess Ishtar and her planet Venus. This symbolizes the eight's basic meaning of birth and death and rebirth, or building and destruction and new beginning aspect of the eight. To the early Christians it was the symbol of the new Life, the final Resurrection and the anticipated Resurrection that is baptism. It was also the number of Beatitudes (The Blesseds) of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. The number eight as a symbol of new beginning is seen in the Bible, as when Noah saved eight persons from the flood to start over. Similarly, the Jewish rite of circumcision which marks the beginning of the newborn boy’s relationship with God is performed on the eighth day, and in Leviticus 9:1, the inauguration of the Tabernacle as the new dwelling place for the presence of God took place after seven days of preparation on the eighth. In Jewish Qabbalah, the number is the eighth Sephira, Hod or "Splendour." The star of Bethlehem is usually shown with eight rays. Also, Easter Sunday, the day when Christ is said to have rose from the dead, was counted as the eighth day after Palm Sunday, the day on which Jesus entered Jerusalem. I know, to us it seems like seven, but the ancients had an inclusive way of counting the day itself plus the following days.

Eight, being a higher representation of four, also represents the earth, though not in its surface but in its volume, since eight is the first cubic number. The Pythagoreans have made the number eight the symbol of love, friendship, prudence and thinking and they have called it the Great "Tetrachtys". The Eight-Spoked Wheel, or Dharmachakra symbolises the Buddha's turning the Wheel of Truth or Law (dharma = truth/law, chakra = wheel). The Dharmachakra has eight spokes, symbolising the Eight-Fold Noble Path. In Neopaganism, there are eight Sabbats, festivals, seasons, or spokes in the Wheel of the Year. Eight solar years are also the time it takes the "new" midwinter solstice sun to come again close to a new moon. The number eight means multiplicity for the Japanese and in China, eight expresses the totality of the universe. Eight is considered an auspicious number for the Chinese not only because it sounds the same as “prosperous” or “fa” in Cantonese, but also because it is the yinnest of the yin numbers from 1-9. The Chinese believe that if you are at the bottom, the only way for you to go is up. So eight stands for potential and for growth: a change from bad luck to good luck. Eight also stands for the eight trigrams (bagua) – an auspicious symbol of transformation. In many cultures and ideologies eight seems to have similar meaning: the movement from less to more, destruction, regeneration, and resurrection, a kind of microcosmic cycle of life all on its own.

In numerology, eight is the number of building, and in some theories also the number of destruction. Eight has the primary numerological meanings of wholeness, change, leadership, and power and is viewed as one of the strongest numbers in some schools of numerology. The focus of eight is material possessions and money and is very powerful in attracting wealth. It tends to happen, though, if eight comes up in your numerology reading, you tend to have great gains and failures, which means major highs and lows, which is also in alignment with the rather contradictory meaning of the eight. Lots of cycles. Governed by Saturn, number eight people suffer sorrow along with success. If you are an eight person, you possess great will power and individuality, yet you are often misunderstood, partly as a result of hiding your strong feelings beneath a cold exterior. Sounds a bit like Scorpio, the 8th astrological sign of the Zodiac.

So how all this relates to VIII Strength you may have already put together in your mind. Strength used to be La Force or Fortitude, one of the four cardinal virtues in the tarot. Some earlier depictions of this card show brute force being used while others show a woman (virtues are usually symbolized as women) breaking a pillar and/or closing a lion's mouth. Fortitude to the ancient Greeks meant bringing all your resources to bear in a situation, doing whatever it takes to overcome the challenge whether that means bearing it in quiet strength or attacking the problem head on. It might mean different approaches depending on the situation. Today tarot readers often default to the meaning of subduing one's inner impulses and while that can be one approach that shows fortitude, it isn't the only one, and really is more applicable to Temperance. In some cases taking the bull by the horns, the tiger by the tail, or, in this case, the lion by his jaws is what is called for, because once you've grabbed on you can't let go until the job is finished. These kinds of challenges require determination, yes, and strength and are quite the character-building experiences. Once you've seen it through, you often come out the other end quite a different person and hence, the rebirth side of the eight is seen. You may not come away unscathed either, in fact you will probably suffer some deep gashes from those sharp teeth and claws, and so the suffering and success theme is evident in the card. The infinity symbol is seen above the woman's head in the Waite version of the card, which implies perfecting one's inner strength through challenge and maybe biting off more than you think you can chew.

The Eight of Swords is one of those Minor Arcana scenic pips that makes us wince a little. Usually pictured is a woman bound, blindfolded, and barefoot surrounded by eight swords. Often when a querant receives this card in a reading there is an immediate sense of identification with feelings of being trapped and unable to determine which way to go to release oneself. This is, as with all eights, a challenge to be faced and overcome, hearkening back to the Strength card. However, being of the Swords suit, this is a challenge of the mind and of using one's mental faculties to either entrap or release oneself, and being an eight it is likely a bit of both. Something must be destroyed in order to gain release and in this case the bonds must be cut, she must abandon a certain way of thinking that has gotten her in this sticky predicament in the first place, she must rely on her inner resources (Strength, again) rather than her sight and problematic thought pattern, carefully feeling the earth with her bare feet for clues to her next move. The desolate landscape and the circular pattern of the swords indicate that this situation could quite literally go on endlessly (the infinity pattern of the eight) unless she herself does something about it.

The Eight of Cups shows yet another desolate environment, a place of darkness and stagnant waters. The symbolism of this eight is associating more with the regeneration aspect, but also inner fortitude as well. The figure is usually seen leaving eight cups behind which represent emotional ties, relationships, and other meaningful associations to him in order to seek out that which is more emotionally fulfilling to him. In reference to the seven, this guy has decided which cup contains his most sought after desire and in the eight he leaves the others behind in order to pursue his dream. That can be one of the hardest decisions one makes in life and hence the inner strength and determination of VIII is needed to see it through. The lesson of the eights are that nothing good comes without sacrifice and that sometimes suffering is just part of the path to success. We must face the bitter with the sweet. Something compels us, though, in the Eight of Cups, to move beyond that which we've known and loved to something more, thought we don't even yet know what that something will actually be.

The Eight of Wands focuses more on the power of the eight to get things accomplished as quickly as possible. Even in the pictorial decks, this is one pip card that often shows primarily the eight wands, with no storybook scene to tell the story. In the Thoth deck it is called "Swiftness" and that keyword is very apt for the energy of the eights in this card. This is the "git 'er done" card that takes the aspect of the Strength card that means taking on a challenge and moving quickly to its resolution. In modern terms this card has come to often represent the fast-moving communication of the internet, emails, text messages which accomplish passing information back and forth in the wink of an eye. However, it can also represent various actions being performed at once with a common goal. To coordinate these efforts takes a good deal of focus and determination to make sure all eight of those wands hit their mark. This highlights the facet of eight that refers to multiplicity, balance, and order. While the wands are not yet "grounded" they aren't flying off in fifty different directions either. They have been aimed and are in alignment with one another, so there is a purpose and direction to their trajectory. Events are going to happen quickly and there is a focused purpose to them.

The Eight of Pentacles relies on the inner determination that is brought to bear on a task that requires detailed, focused concentration over a period of time. This card often shows an apprentice at work hammering out a series of pentacles assembly-line fashion. This kind of detail work takes dedication and much burning of the midnight oil. Often when I see this card I feel the intensity of the figure's concentration. He is totally engrossed in what he is doing and is really bent on doing it just so, getting it just right. It also reflects the aspect of the eight that represents building, as he is building his reputation as well as building his skills. The alignment of the pentacles he has finished show the order of the eights, and also the notion that in order to reach the higher levels you have to start at the bottom. Some find this card a bit out of order in the sequence of the pentacles suit and some decks, such as the Hudes, have even switched the meanings of the three and the eight, showing an apprentice on the three and a master on the eight. But I believe this is incorrect if you take into consideration the loss of the the five and the decision-making of the seven. Here is someone who is starting again but not entirely from scratch. He is learning a new skill that can build on the skills he has already obtained. He is taking on a new field of endeavor and, as such, is broadening his resume. Possibly he's found an area of his work that he's never been really good at and is polishing his skills and aptitude in that area so that he can be even better at what he does. This is the guy from the seven who dreamed of what he wants and is now setting about the task of accomplishing that goal. He's pouring on the juice here, doing what needs to be done, even if it may seem rather boring and repetitive.

The eights are a mixed lot, to be sure, and it really helps to relate the cards back to VIII Strength to understand the different kinds of approaches and the different facets of the meaning of strength. There are situations that call for a slow, tedious, dedicated approach, while others call for a full on, no holds barred attack. Some situations require us to restrain an urge to rush in while other situations need us to work up the courage to act decisively and with force. The four Minor Arcanas show these various approaches with the cyclical and dual idea of building and destroying, suffering and success that the eight represents.

Classic Tarot By Carlo DellaRocca Tarot Deck Published by Lo Scarabeo
Robin Wood Tarot by Robin Wood Copyright 1999 Published by Llewellyn Worldwide
Tarot of the Magical Forest by Leo Tang Made in China Copyright 2005
DruidCraft Tarot created by Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm and Will Worthington Published by Connections and St. Martin's Press 2004The Gilded Tarot by Ciro Marchetti Copyright 2004 Published by Llewellyn Worldwide

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Web Bits and Stuff
No comments
I discovered a really great series on Tarot over at YouTube called "Tarot College Course: Tarot 101" There is a great deal of balanced and valuable information in this series of six videos on tarot history and use. They're produced by Magick TV and Tarot College. There appears to be a seventh coming as well, so if you enjoy the series, stay tuned. I will!

I occasionally find the greatest online stores and I just stumbled on this one. Those of you more traveled than I may already be familiar with this one, but it was new to me: Wilde Ones. "Wilde Ones is a shop in London's world famous Kings Road, unlike any other shop there, or for that matter anywhere else in the world! Unlike the conformist steel and glass shops in Chelsea, it is a ramshackle emporium, an Aladdin's cave, crammed full of items, artefacts and delights from around the world - and beyond." And boy howdy, is it! If you're in London it is located at 283 Kings Road, Chelsea, London. Guess what's going on my must-see list when I finally take that trip to England?

The Tarot Connection Podcast Episode 33 is up and running with Part 2 of James Wells' interview on Professional Tarot Reading. The 78 Notes To Self segment is a combined 2-post chat about reading timeframes in the cards called It's Only A Matter of Time. Finally, Bonnie Cehovet discusses using "value-added incentives" as a business practice in tarot reading. Another very useful podcast with just too much good stuff!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tarot By The Numbers: The Sevens
Sevens in Tarot once again bring conflict and choice, but this go round involves less something from the outside happening to you, but your own actions and impulses create the change, cause the ruckus, because you have some silly notion inside you that prompts this. You are the one agitating here, but not for no reason. Sevens take a stand based on an unseen but strongly felt inner truth.

Seven is historically a mystical number. Its mythological and symbolic use is broad and deep. Many different religions and cultures view seven as spiritual, lucky, and very significant. It is the number of the philosopher, sage, and wisdom seeker. When a seven appears in any fashion, you can understand there is more going on under the surface that involves the spiritual, faith, and esoteric realms. Seven is an enigma and as such is difficult to define. It's like the faith it symbolizes: you know it when you feel it.

Some of its significance stems from the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations, which identified seven planets and framed seven days of the week around them. Very early among Middle Eastern peoples, seven became known as a "perfect" number, symbolic of completeness and goodness. Not "perfect" mathematically like the six, but symbolizing perfection and as such is often attributed to God. In the Bible, God rested on the seventh day because his work of creation was complete, entire, perfect. Thus seven represents this perfect completeness and also it represents rest, as in the rest that is taken from work. It is from this same word that the Sabbath, the day of rest comes. In Judaism, every seven years a year of Jubilee is celebrated as well as a Sabbatical year once every seven. The "Counting of the Omer" leading up to the giving of the Torah is expressed as "7 times 7 weeks." In Christianity, likewise, the number seven continues to be significant. It is the number of churches of Asia to which the "Book of Revelation" is addressed, the number of Deadly Sins and Virtues, the number of terraces of Mount Purgatory (one per deadly sin), the number of sacraments in the Roman Catholic faith, the number of heads of the beast of the Book of Revelation, and the number of seals on The Book of Life. Jesus says to Peter to forgive seventy times seven times indicating an unlimited number of times, but also that it is the spiritual thing to do.

The number seven is important to the belief system and cyclical view of time held by the Ismaili Shi'a Muslim sect, also known as the Seveners. In Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, ascetics model their sevenfold path to enlightenment after the Prophet Muhammad's Ascension into the seven heavens. The number seven turns up time and again in rite of passage ceremonies to protect oneself from evil spirits. For example, a wedding ritual in Pakistan involves seven happily married wives touching the bride's wedding dress to ensure a happy marriage. It is the number of Archangels according to some systems, the minor symbol number of yang from the Taoist yin-yang, the number of palms in an Egyptian Sacred Cubit, the number of ranks in Mithraism, and in Buddhism, Buddha walked seven steps at his birth.

Seven represents the union of man and woman, since the number for women is four and the number for men is three. The triangle represents woman and the element fire and the square represents man and the element earth. The esoteric symbol of the merged triangle and square represents the union of spirit (fire) and matter (earth). Therefore, sevens deal with the esoteric, scholarly aspects of magic and is representative of the search for understanding through research and the active seeking of esoteric knowledge. Sevens deal with the activation of imagination and of manifesting results in our lives through the use of conscious thought and awareness.

So what does all this woo woo spiritual stuff have to do with the Major Arcana VII The Chariot? Though not immediately apparent in the willful, focused drive and energy of the charioteer, the esoteric symbolism in The Chariot illustrates the connections. The Chariot is Netzach on the Tree of Life, Victory, the seat of occult intelligence. Netzach's element is fire. If you draw a line from the charioteer's hands to his crown, and from hand to hand, you form the upright triangle of Fire. This rests on the square face of the Chariot itself, so that the complete figure is a triangle atop a square. This symbol is 3 + 4 or 7 and the union of Spirit and Matter.

The number seven represents experience and/or feeling. The experience of the Seven is purely experiential. This is experience as it happens, before any logical processing takes place. We can associate this feeling with The Chariot's fast pace and focus as he rushes to his destination. This is a card of doing because of feelings, both the feelings that prompts one to action and the feelings one experiences while acting. But like the Chariot, the minor pips in Tarot have their pitfalls, too. Single-minded focus and forceful action can be incredibly useful and successful but sometimes that Chariot is a bit like a hit and run driver, mowing down whoever gets in his way. Acting on inner conviction tends to carry with it a very strong impulse and drive but sometimes also a too-narrow focus and mindset.

The Seven of Swords is a card rather disliked by many readers. This is the "thief" card, the one who steals your possessions, your ideas, or even your heart. This one is sneaky and calculating. Where's the mysticism in this card? What's so lofty or spiritual about this guy? Sevens are rather solitary action cards, in that the seeker is acting upon deeply held beliefs of their own. Our spiritual quest is, ultimately, a solitary one and the sevens depict figures engaging in thought, action, feelings and ponderings that are unique to themselves. In this card, the main figure has decided to act upon a plan that he devised and is carrying out on his own. Whether the action is ultimately just or unjust isn't clear from the card. He could be reclaiming what is rightfully his, or he could be stealing outright. He is engaging in some dangerous activity, though, which is a primary reason he's keeping this all to himself. This is sometimes called the Lone Wolf card because of his acting apart from the group, keeping his thoughts to himself, maybe behaving a bit oddly. He believes he knows what's best and will do it whether he has support or not from others. He takes his own counsel, wise or not.

The Seven of Cups is the dreamer card, the fantasies and temptations of what could be dance before the mind's eye. The emotional pull of these images is strong and can heavily influence one's reality even though the things themselves are not of this world. These are one's imaginings, even illusions, or possibly delusions. Sevens are very much about feelings and experiences, so the seven of cups depicts the strong emotional pull of the unseen and imagined possibilities. As a mystical card it can represent the visionary, the dreamer, the act of envisioning one's reality beforehand in order to manifest it. In such work it is imperative to both see oneself in the chosen reality and feel the emotions attendant with that wish in order to manifest the actual reality. However, this card also represents a choice that needs to be made in order to focus ones thoughts and actions. If there are too many choices, if one's emotions are equally scattered among the options it is more than likely none of them will come to pass and you will remain only a wisher or a dreamer. This card sometimes reminds me of the phrase, "Too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good." While there's nothing wrong with daydreaming or fantasizing and in fact its healthy, one who merely dreams and one who pursues a dream have very different lives.

The Seven of Wands reminds me of a rebel, a freedom fighter, a revolutionary. Here is someone who, against all opposition, and they outnumber him, stands up for what he believes. Once again, this card captures not only the solitary essence of the sevens but also the experiential act that follows strong feeling. When we see someone take on a challenge like this we say such a one has "spirit." This is a reflection of the spiritual seven, the spirit inside that drives one to, some would say, extremes. This card usually bodes very well for the lone fighter and indicates that if you should find yourself in a similar situation you will most likely prevail. Most decks depict the figure standing on higher ground symbolizing that he has the higher moral stance and that gives him an advantage. This is also the "walk your talk" card. Philosophizing and talking about one's beliefs and understanding of spiritual things is one thing, but where the rubber meets the road is when those same beliefs are challenged, when its hard to live by them because others don't accept you or berate you for them. Standing out in a crowd can be difficult, but in order to give your faith feet and bring it into reality, you must act on it or it's nothing more than, well, seven of cups.

The Seven of Pentacles may not seem very sevenish, in that it deals with work and material things, but we must remember that seven is the union of spirit and matter and each of the sevens in tarot do reflect an aspect of that union. In this seven, the focus is on goals and plans based on both one's dreams and one's material circumstances. It is in this card that one assigns "worth" to an endeavor, both in material and spiritual terms. For what does it matter if you have all the riches you desire if you are abjectly miserable doing what it is you're doing to create that wealth? In some ways this is the "meaning of life" card in that it represents an evaluation process that measures one's work against an inner sense of satisfaction. The seven's dreamer aspect is evident here as the figure weighs his accomplishments against his own goals and dreams and contemplates various possibilities. As the suit is pentacles, the focus is primarily on what can be accomplished with the material resources one has and is producing and how to use those resources to follow one's dreams and desires. This card brings those seven of cups dreams down to earth to reasonably consider what is actually feasible given the raw material you have to work with.

Sevens connect us spiritually to the forces we know exist but cannot see, both within us and without. They inspire and drive us in many powerful ways, which is why there are many pitfalls within each of them. The seven of swords could be up to no good, the seven of cups dangerously delusional, the seven of wands may be in for a thrashing, and the seven of pentacles just might foolishly throw all his cash away on some get rich quick scam, but these cards all get their energy from The Chariot whose will and focus derives from a powerful inner conviction. It's better to stand for something, live what you believe, and chase your dreams with enthusiasm. The charioteer is well aware of the risks, but the ride is worth it. Now that's living.

The Gilded Tarot
by Ciro Marchetti Copyright 2004 Published by Llewellyn Worldwide

Tarot of Durer by Giacinto Gaudenzi Tarot Deck Published by Lo Scarabeo 2002
DruidCraft Tarot By Stephanie Carr-Gomm & Philip Carr-Gomm & Will Worthington Published by Connections 2004
The Hudes Tarot Deck by Susan Hudes US Games. Printed in Belgium.