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.

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