78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Hereby Resolve....

It's that time of year. An old year ends, a new begins and one can't seem to help but make at least a few New Year Resolutions.  Why do we do this to ourselves? We know from sad experience the disappointing sound of old resolutions popping like so many champagne bubbles, floating out of our reach and falling, spent, to the ground.  I don't think it's our fault, really, that so many intended changes don't happen.  I think we just don't get how to make them real.  Our goals tend to be too big, too unweildy, like the 7 of cups, big ideas with no foundation.  We want to "lose weight" but we don't know how much and we only have a vague idea how to do that.  We want to "get a better job" but only go as far as revamping our resume and looking through the first few weeks of classifieds or signing up with an online job search engine and after the fifteenth "Get Rich Making Money At Home!" email we block the spam.  Whether the resolution is to stop smoking, learn a new skill, take up a hobby, or even reconnect with old friends, we have the best of intentions but somehow the passion dissipates somewhere in February, if it lasts that long.

What happens to those intentions?  It dawned on me today as I was writing something on the grocery list that I perpetually keep on my refrigerator that writing that list is an act of intention.  Making that list doesn't result in the items appearing in my kitchen but only specifies what I need to manifest there.  The actual manifestation will involve physically going to the store and purchasing the items then bringing them back to my apartment.  But making the list is an important step.  I have shopped without a list before and I've done alright, but the chances of not manifesting a few items are pretty high.  Some people thrive on lists, to do lists and such.  I'm the sort that takes the list to the store then forgets it in the car.  But I have been in the store, list-less, and have closed my eyes and visualized the list and been able to remember what was on it.  The very act of writing it down seals it in my memory, and if I'm lucky I can recall it.  So even if I don't carry the list with me, the writing helps a lot with seeing the intention through.  So I should think step one in making a valid New Year Resolution would be to Write It Down.

I've had that perpetual grocery list for many years.  I remember when my oldest was in high school and his girlfriend Jessica once surprised me by writing her desired item on the list.  She wasn't even at the house when I saw it and it made me laugh out loud.  There, nestled between bread, milk, cheese, and laundry detergent was her request for a pony.  Since then, my kids have randomly written their wishes on my grocery list and it's still amusing to see the unlikely items they'd like me to pick up at the grocery store.  There's a second clue about making viable New Year Resolutions: make them realistic.  While there may come a day when Super WalMarts carry ponies, that day is not today, at least not in my town, so I would have to limit my list to that which I can reasonably assume would be sold there.  So I need to make my intentions realistic and achievable.

Beyond the shopping list approach, I don't usually have to concern myself too much with the "hows" of grocery shopping.  Not so with my other goals in life.  If I want to lose weight, for example, I need to break that goal down into smaller achievable goals that I can reach on a daily basis.  Drink more water.  How much more? Write it down.  Eat fewer meals out.  How few? One night a week? A month?  Exercise more.  How much more? Walk daily.  When? How far?  Write it all down.

If you're having trouble sorting out in your mind exactly what goal you want to make your priority, tarot can lend a hand.  Ask the deck to choose a goal for you and then draw a card.  Once you interpret the goal, draw more cards to show three things you can do to reach that goal.  Draw cards again to show the pros and cons of each path to the goal.  Tarot is a fantastic tool for brainstorming and for getting to the unsurfaced subconscious desires.  The thing with manifesting anything in your life is that you have to really want it.  I mean really, really want it.  Because if you really don't give a crap then it's not going to happen because you just won't find the motivation to move it along.  For example, I've been saying I want a new car, but I'm nowhere near that goal.  I realized today that what I really want is a new laptop to replace the one with the motherboard that fritzed out after 18 months or a way to get that one fixed.  Now THAT I want.  Because sharing one computer between me and my boyfriend is, well, inconvenient.  And we can't play World of Warcraft together and that just sucks.  I've researched prices and specs on new laptops and have even decided on one I'd like to buy when I can.  I've researched and priced replacement motherboards for the old one and found them to be about 1/3 the cost of a new computer, but with labor will likely make repair the old one unreasonable.  I've looked into selling my old laptop for spare parts. I have put time and energy into the new laptop desire but virtually nada into the new car desire.  So pay attention to what you focus on and where you spend your energy and you may realize that what you think you want isn't what you truly want after all.  Get behind what you really want not what you think you want.

I found this helpful worksheet on The Road To Well Being website.  I thought it lent itself quite well to exploring one's desires and setting goals and I also thought it would work well with a tarot deck in hand.  Using the questions on the worksheet, or adding your own, ask these questions of your deck and see what you come up with.  I tried it and my first goal is the Six of Cups.  I interpreted that as getting back to what genuinely makes me happy, what used to make me happy, which I have let go a bit.  Returning to a love, following my bliss and blessing others in the process.  Three paths to that goal: The Magician, The Fool, and the Queen of Wands.  All viable options, but one is the best way.  So I clarified those and The Magician was clarified by the Page of Pentacles which means I would probably need to learn more, find out more, practice more, and it might require some investment.  The Fool got the two of cups which would mean I would need support and possibly a partner to pick up my broken pieces when I dashed myself on the rocks.  The Queen, however, got the Sun.  I'd say that was the more powerful and compelling option.  So in order to reach my goal I need to tune into my inner Queen of Wands, take charge of things around here and move into action with passion and commitment.  All of the options were good, but one was better.  Working down the list this way with the cards helps refine and clarify one's goals and maps out a viable path to making them happen.

Let's make 2010 a year in which we indeed follow our bliss, but better yet...find the way there.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Are You Psychic?

There's an uncomfortable question tarot readers are often asked and because it doesn't have an easy answer, it sometimes causes us to shift a bit on our seats. Are you psychic? Well...no, ahem...yeah, actually...um...maybe?

I've been asked to perform some pretty amazing feats with these tarot cards. I've been asked if I can feel someone's energy through the cards, if someone will meet their soulmate, if someone will win the lottery, and if the cards can diagnose a medical problem. These are valid questions but they are more appropriate for a psychic reader, a doctor, or another professional than a tarot reader. Then again, I've heard of and have done some pretty amazing psychic readings with these 78 pictures. Basically, it comes down to what process is in operation in the reader. Is the reader using a psychic ability or intuition or a combination of the two?

I stand by what I said here in that I believe that a Tarot Reading involves applying basic historical meaning of the cards with intuition. It does not have to involve any psychic abilities whatsoever. Tarot reading is a skill that anyone can learn and while it can be used with psychic abilities, it does not have to be. Amazingly, the combination of archetypal images thrown in a random spread and interpreted via knowledge, understanding, and intuition can yield a most amazing, chilling, and goosebump-raising reading. Here you'll hear me mutter something about a "universal consciousness" and "the common human experience" and "somehow we're all connected" amid coughs and generous shrugs of the shoulders indicating I really don't know how it works so precisely, but it does. And it does so without a iota of psychic woo-woo attached.

I'm all for woo-woo. I love it, in fact. When I have experienced it either in myself or in another person it's crazy and spooky and makes me smile really big. I love it when things are said that could not have been said except that the person received that bit of info extra-sensorially. I feel just like those guys on Ghosthunters when the lights on the meter go off and they have no explanation for it. Willies galore! But psychic abilities vary widely from person to person, just as any other talent or gift. While I believe everyone has psychic abilities, not everyone is psychic. I can sing just like anyone can, but I can't sing well and even with training I won't be able to sing professionally. I think that's how psychic abilities work, too.

Basically, there are three major types of psychic abilities: clairvoyance, clairaudience, and clairsentience. Clairvoyance is the ability to see images, scenes, visual impressions in one's mind's eye that are extrasensory messages about another person. Clairaudiance is hearing things spoken, listening to guides, spirits, or departed ones. Clairsentience is feeling, smelling, tasting or otherwise physical sensations that communicate extrasensory messages. One or any combination of these abilities can be exercised in any psychic reading, depending on, of course, the particular bent of the reader. However, none of these abilities are of much use without intuition that filters the messages and allows the reader to make sense of them, to interpret them, and deliver them in a relevant manner. While a tarot reader may possess and use any of these abilities, she relies heavily upon intuition to guide her through the reading, to discern between meanings, images, messages and in choosing which of the sensory and extrasensory input to apply to this reading for this person right now.

I have experienced some of all three types of psychic input but none of them to any great strength, usually. During any given reading I will often hear words or phrases that will explain the specific meaning of a card for someone and my intuition must apply that to the reading/situation in question. That makes me somewhat clairaudiant, but I am not a medium or channel. I sometimes see pictures, with or without accompanying words, and I can just sense what they mean, but I think that's my intuition kicking in. Rarely have I smelled or tasted or had a physical sensation apart from empathic feelings. The hardest part of it all for me has been to trust that this input is not my own imagination. Working with tarot has certainly helped me in developing these abilities but I do not claim to be psychic. I am simply using these abilities as I can to enhance readings that I do. I have done many readings without the use of these abilities, relying purely on intellect, knowledge, and intuition and the readings are no less accurate or insightful.

A psychic may use tarot cards, or not, but relies primarily on extrasensory input combined with intuition. A tarot reader relies primarily on knowledge of the cards and intellect combined with intuition and possibly, though not necessarily, some extrasensory input, depending on the person. So, are tarot readers psychic? It depends on the reader. He may have well developed psychic abilities or he may not, it's highly individual, but psychic abilities do not determine the skill of a tarot reader.

As a client, how can one know whether one's tarot reader is psychic? Certainly you can't really know anything about a reader's abilities unless you've splurged for a reading. Even then, you really don't know how the reader obtained the information she relays to you. Intuition is eerily accurate and doesn't require messages from "spirit" to access. To be very honest, I don't know how it works. Maybe it's all "messages from spirit" and we think it comes from our own heads or gut feelings. I don't know. I do know that I have delivered readings that contained information there is no way my conscious or subconscious mind could have known. At other times, the cards just read like a story and it only takes figuring out the conjunctions between the cards that allow the story to be told.  Maybe there's something to Jung's theory of a collective unconscious that we all share and are able to tap into, the connective threads between us accessed by those of us willing to trust and listen.  Jung described the collective unconscious as the 'inherited potentialities of human imagination. It is the all controlling deposit of ancestral experiences from untold millions of years, the echo of prehistoric world events to which each century adds an infinitesimal small amount of variation and differentiation. These primordial images are the most ancient, universal, and deep thoughts of mankind.'  

Our minds are amazing computers.  Nothing is ever lost, it is stored and categorized and accessible at any time. It cross references all words, images and experiences we have experienced in our lifetime.  Most of this activity is done below our conscious surface.  This lends credence to the experienced reader, someone who has a number of years and readings beneath their belt.  Her mind will naturally compare and reference the various combinations and placements of cards and with analytical reasoning she herself may not even be aware of, come forth with some amazing understanding. I lean towards a combination of theories.  While the idea of a collective unconscious intrigues me, and I think it is valid given what we know about how all energy and matter is interconnected, I also give credit to the human brain to sort and sift and analyze the data presented.  Together, the end result may be what we call "intuition" or even "psychic" phenomena.

But wait -- that all makes sense when you're talking about past or even present events, but how are tarot readers, psychics and intuitives able to predict the future?  It hasn't happened yet, so it can't be stored in the collective unconscious, it's not able to be retrieved from the mind's database, so how in the heck do some of these people tell us precisely how something will play out?  Once again, I think its a matter of both tapping into the collective and the individual consciousness.  Human beings have not changed significantly in thousands of years.  We really do respond and react in pretty predictable patterns.  Oh sure, there's always a time we get caught off guard and surprised with some uncharacteristic move on someone's part, but if one were to place all of human interaction and history into a huge computer, I bet that machine could predict the next thousand years of our actions.  Ok, that's only part of it.  How did that psychic know about the washer breaking down or the windfall of money that was to come your way?  Honestly? I don't know.  Therein lies the mystery and the fascination with getting a reading.  We stop thinking, "How do they do that?" and start thinking, "When will this happen?"  Now you are a co-conspirator.

I truly do believe in the ability we have to draw unto ourselves the things and experiences we focus on.  Some call this the Law of Attraction.  I don't know if it's a law as such but it sure seems to happen.  So when one receives a reading and is given a prediction, even if it isn't something grand, it plants a seed in your mind and even if you consciously forget about it, your steel trap of a brain hasn't.  Am I suggesting the Power of Suggestion?  Maybe a little. But it's not that simple.  I see things all working together and one's own power of attracting to oneself that which one expects to happen is quite a powerful force, especially when combined with other energies in play.

So, am I psychic? Yes...and no.  It depends how you think of psychic and it depends what you demand from someone who promotes their psychic abilities.  Personally, I don't think we can demand any predetermined product from psychic or tarot people.  They provide a service, but the results aren't dependent upon them alone.  They are but an element in the grand scheme of things.   As the motto I've claimed as my own says, "The cards may be in my hands, but your destiny is in yours."

“We are a psychic process which we do not control, or only partly direct. Consequently, we cannot have any final judgment about ourselves or our lives.”
--Carl Gustav Jung

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm On A Boat!
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.” ~William Shedd

Sometimes when I'm listening to my iPod I can't help but hear a tarot card shout out through a song. The other morning this song came on my random shuffle and all I could think about was the Three of Wands.

WARNING: Probably NSFW, liberal use of the f-bomb will ensue if you choose to view this video

Are you laughing? I hope so. I was. Hard. That song is from The Lonely Island's debut comedy album "INCREDIBAD"(C) Universal Republic. The Lonely Island is Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone. I love it because it's contagious and perfectly captures the excitement of something simple. To me, the 3 of Wands means a lot of things, but one of its meanings is having one's ship come in. The most basic meaning of the idiom is that something very good has happened to you. Most often it is used in terms of financial wealth, but in tarot the suit for this ship's homecoming is not pentacles but fiery, passionate wands. It's that playful, passionate energy that I see in that video.

Other similarities to the card have to do with the number. In the beginning of the video, the prize is a boat ride for three.  Three is a pretty low number, but it's a first completion or achievement. How exciting to get to the point in one's endeavor when you can sit for a moment and just enjoy what life has brought to you. Make you want to jump up and down and shout, "I'm on a BOAT! Look at me! I'm on a BOAT!" It's a card of adventure, strength, commerce, and of approaching life with a "Let's Go!" attitude. The ship symbol  is commonly seen in rock carvings as far back as 5000 BCE. It can be found on funeral stones, in graves, and was believed to be one of the vehicles to reach the afterlife. You've probably heard of the mythological Charon who ferries dead folks over the River Styx on what? A boat. Boats have long been the most prolific symbol of good luck next to the dragon in China.  Boats take you places, bring things to us, allow us to cross an otherwise unnavigable ocean in order to expand our horizons.

The image of the ship or boat is featured in other RWS tarot cards as well.  The 2 of Pentacles shows ships on rough waters behind the dancing figure.  The 6 of Swords is all about a boat crossing water.  There is a ship in the distance behind Death.  The King of Cups shows a ship in the water beyond him as well.   Don't "miss the boat" in the cards because if you do, you miss out on some key symbolism in the reading.  Boats offer safe passage over water -- the element in tarot that represents emotions and the deep psyche.  They allow us to be in the water without being overwhelmed by it.  From a safe distance we can plumb the depths of our own emotions and the emotions of others and the situation, allowing objectivity while still being involved. 

In dream interpretation boats are usually indicative of something going on emotionally, depending on the condition of the water beneath the boat.  Various words and phrases seem to come up time and time again when discussing boats or travel by boat.  Words such as "involved","carried along","emotionally excited","having a good time","current" and "waves". Boat dreams are often linked to emotional excitement.  When we become excited by a project, a book, or something currently happening in our lives, boats may feature prominently in our dreams.  It makes sense.  Boats carry us, push us farther, propel us, inspire our imagination.  Wands do the same thing.  They inspire, propel, activate and recharge us.  Sometimes getting carried away is the only way to get there.

I guess that's what I really like about that video.  Silliness aside, it provokes a sense of wide-eyed excitement over something relatively commonplace.  Being on a boat is something not everyone in the world experiences and yet this is about more than just the boat ride itself, but about finally achieving something, reaching a small but significant pinnacle in one's life, seeing one's reward and reveling in it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Advice Position
Reading tarot professionally, advice becomes a commodity that is sought after while utilizing the tarot cards as a tool. In fact, many tarot spreads have at least one position that is specifically designated for "Advice." Tarot cards are, after all, used primarily as an advisory tool. Even when one is seeking "insight" from the cards it is usually so that insight can be used in the course of making choices and decisions in our lives. Of course, the reader can't help but throw his or her two cents in, too. Even if we don't mean to, we really cannot separate our own life experiences and accumulated wisdom from how we interpret the cards. Although a good reader will consciously be aware of this and try to draw that fine line between her own advice and what the cards are saying, we can too easily fall into the place where we are drawing primarily from our own advice storehouse and lapse into personal opining rather than tarot reading.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing and I certainly wouldn't say we should try to dissociate ourselves from our left-brain functioning when we read. It's that side of our brains that can find the links and patterns between what happened in the past and connect them to the present and the future possibilities. This is essential for communicating what the cards are projecting. We also need some tangible frame of reference for that communication and if we don't have our own experiences, knowledge and wisdom to pull from, we wouldn't be able to empathize or effectively share what we are seeing. So while I think it's perfectly okay to bring one's own personal advice into a reading, be careful. I've done many readings where I've seen the cards recommend exactly the opposite to what I would have advised. I might entirely disagree with the cards and yet it is my responsibility as a tarot reader neither to twist the meaning of the card to better align with my own advice nor to replace the reading with my own recommendations. I've sometimes felt the need to disclaim at these times that while I wouldn't personally recommend this course of action, the cards clearly seem to be pointing in that direction.

My clients understand they take the advice of the tarot reading at their own risk. We are each responsible for the choices and decisions we make in our own lives. We can't convincingly point a finger of blame at anyone or anything that "forced" us to choose one way over another when it was we ourselves who acted in accordance to what we believed, at the time, to be the best choice. Certainly we are influenced in our decisions, but honestly, most people will, in the end, follow their own inklings, urgings, passions, and way of thinking. We are most likely to go in the direction our emotions lead, even if our minds are telling us something different. Persuasive speakers, salespeople, and motivational coaches know this and if you look back on the major decisions you've made in your life, you will likely find a strong emotional component to the choice made. This is why unsolicited advice is so rarely received well. The recipient is not emotionally open or prepared to accept the advice given, even if it's good or well-intentioned. Unsolicited advice is most often perceived as criticism which is a really good reason not to give it. You're wasting your breath and time and you risk alienating the person you are trying to help.

Of course, tarot readings are a form of solicited advice, but that comes with a different set of responsibilities. When someone asks for advice, one needs to be respectful of the other's willingness to be vulnerable. When asking for advice, people open themselves up a bit and I consider that, in itself, a gift. It's not carte blanche for your ego to take over and climb the podium and pontificate endlessly on and on about what you know and have experienced. They have not suddenly elevated you to Master Guru of their life or even of the situation at hand. Offering honor and respect for the seeker is essential to giving any advice, and in the case of the tarot reader, that respect is extended to the cards and the art of tarot reading as well.

While empathy is crucial to giving meaningful advice, it can also be a motivation for giving unsolicited advice and should be kept in check. By all means empathize with others, but if that empathy is so strongly felt that you can't help but instruct them on their situation, realize that your empathy just trumped your respect for them and that's bad because your empathy just crossed the line from being other-centered into being self-centered. When that happens it's because you need relief from the anxiety of feeling their emotions. That anxiety can cause you to stop empathizing entirely and once that happens, you're no longer thinking or feeling for them but for yourself. Notice when that anxiety starts and you'll be able to pull back and gain perspective more and more frequently.

I had an unpleasant experience last week in which a family member decided she needed to voice her unsolicited opinion regarding my parenting. In the process I was called everything from selfish and irresponsible to manipulative and a drama queen. This person's motivation, she said, was coming from a strong desire to see my children cared for properly. She's worked with children in various ways all her adult life and I understand she has a passion for seeing to the welfare of kids. Her advice, though well intentioned, was entirely inappropriate given that it was not sought. Not only that, but she neglected to ask the simplest of questions that would have given her much more context in which to give the advice, since she clearly felt the need to express her opinion on the matter. She made the common mistake of assuming her secondhand information was correct simply because it came from other trusted family members and she also presumed upon her relationship with me believing it gave her an undisputed platform from which to speak into my life. As a result, much of her advice was irrelevant because she had not "done her homework" by asking questions and thus she was not informed about the history of the situation, so her advice was redundant and useless. What she intended as helpful was instead insulting and invasive.

Unsolicited advice is always risky, but if it's going to be given, at least please frame your advice in question form. Instead of saying, "You need to do this" say, "Have you tried this?" That way, you're not assuming the person hasn't given consideration to the options you are suggesting. Had this person simply asked me and my children's father what we had already tried, what we were already doing concerning a certain situation with our kids, she would not have come across so unbearably arrogant. When receiving unsolicited advice, our knee-jerk reaction is defensive because it feels like criticism. However, if we try and view the person giving it as, at best, concerned and well-intentioned, we can diffuse the defensiveness. In this case, even my understanding that her intent was good, her lack of communication skills and attitude of superiority created a wall of animosity rather than understanding and acceptance. Instead of building bridges, her "advice" attacked and, as a result, erected walls between us. Now, unless she can approach this issue differently in the future, she has lost any opportunity she may have had to influence. Her potentially valuable expertise and advice is no longer welcome on this subject because she was so disrespectful. In short she pissed me the hell off and it's going to be a cold day in hell before I discuss anything remotely personal with her.

Communication skills are something one can learn and hone. Some of us are naturals and others have to work on it, but it's not something you can't improve. Having poor communication skills is not an excuse when one routinely unintentionally offends others. You don't need a broad vocabulary and you don't need perfect grammar. You need only to show respect for the person to whom you are speaking and things should go relatively well. Put your ego in its place and seat the other person in a place of honor for the moment. Ask questions, and not condescendingly either, as if you already know the answers. Even when you've been asked for advice, tread lightly with humility and give only enough to satisfy the seeker. If they want more, they'll ask.

While I could take on full responsibility for the conflict and berate myself for not being more understanding, I don't think that's right, either. I don't make a very good martyr, it makes me grumpy. When unsolicited advice feels like a sledgehammer, it's perfectly fine to tell that person to stop. If they don't stop, that reveals they probably aren't looking to help you but instead, their need to "advise" is coming from some other motivation, probably ego-driven. That's their problem, not yours. As a tarot reader, check yourself when you discuss your readings with your querants so that you're not investing your own ego into the reading. Allow them to take it or leave it, think what they will about it. It's not about you, it's not about your finely-honed intuitive skills, it's not even about what the cards mean and say. It's always, always about the one seeking the answers.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Macho Man: The Emperor
The Emperor of Tarot is a man's man, a fully masculine, testosterone driven all-powerful monarch. Let me preface this by saying I identify as a feminist, a radical feminist in some ways, and see the Emperor, straight up, is an icon for Patriarchy. However, the Emperor also stands for fatherly protection, love, and generosity. That said, when I see the Emperor I hear the phrase, "Because I said so." Need I mention I hate that phrase? My mother used it when I was growing up and my knee jerk response to it has always been a really snotty, "SO??? And you are?" The Emperor's word is law and he has the power to enforce it by physical, violent means, if necessary. His number in tarot is IV, which is the most stable of numbers. He is the fully masculine counterpart to The Empress, who is feminine energy personified. The Emperor is not easily swayed, though he will listen to reason. He isn't a tyrant in his upright position. He's a generous, responsible, capable ruler.

Ruler. Authority. Man of Power. Ugh.

So many of these jokers have effed things up so badly in this world that I can't feel at all protected and secure when he shows up. More often I wonder what ulterior motive the guy has, what damage is he about to do, and I eye him as suspiciously as a Page of Swords. Whereas in days past, people may have looked to their King with a sense of pride, if he was known as a "good king" and respect. Or maybe fear? An emperor is known as having a higher ranking office than a king, even though both are monarchs. The difference is generally whether the monarch is head over a particular land, a kingdom, or a collection of kingdoms. The latter would be an "empire" and hence the Emperor is head over all.

It's ironic that the term actually began in an anti-monarchical society, Rome. They actually didn't even like the term and when they did become a monarchy in the latter part of the 1st century they chose all manner of terms to replace it such as "Caesar, Augustus, and Imperator. In Europe it developed into the head of state for the Holy Roman Empire, a collection of territories that were under the dominion of the Roman Catholic Church. Emperors, or their equivalents, were also known in other regions of the world, such as East Asia: China, Japan, Korea, and even in smaller regions such as Vietnam, and had a different tradition than the one that developed in Europe. However, although tarrocchi players in 16th Century Europe may have known about the Dynasties in the East, they were likely more familiar with the Holy Roman Emperor who reigned over much of Europe during that time. It was never a peaceful reign, though. Although the Pope crowned the Emperor, they fought like cats and dogs over who would appoint bishops and abbots and such. The Church maintained their higher authority, God, was above any man, and it was therefore their right to appoint whom they pleased while the ruler of state saw the Church as under his authority. Mostly it was political jockeying for power since a substantial amount of wealth and land was usually associated with the office of bishop or abbot, the sale of Church offices (a practice known as simony) was an important source of income for secular leaders. Since bishops and abbots were themselves usually part of the secular governments, it was beneficial for a secular ruler to appoint (or sell the office to) someone who would be loyal. In addition, the Holy Roman Emperor had the special ability to appoint the pope, and the pope in turn would appoint and crown the next Emperor. Thus a top-down cycle of secular investiture of Church offices was perpetuated. This conflict actually sparked a civil war in Germany which lasted more than 50 years, so it was no petty controversy.

Interestingly, in the Tarot deck's Arcana order, the female symbols of the heads of church and state come before the male, with only the "magician" coming before them. (The Fool's number being zero places him randomly throughout the deck) However, the Emperor (IV) is placed before the Hierophant (V) while the High Priestess (II) is placed before the Empress (III). I find this fascinating, although I have no theory to explain it. Maybe, as with the Court Cards of the Minor Arcana placed as they are in ranking order, the ruler cards in the beginning of the deck may be given ranking placement as well. If the number on the card denotes more power, then I can see the progression: i.e., the Popess having less power than the Empress who has less than the Emperor who has less than the Pope. Something tells me, however, it's not that simplistic. Or maybe it is and I'm just reading too much into it.

So here's this head honcho guy, right? And he shows up in a reading and he baffles some readers much like court cards do, because what the heck is he trying to say? Usually, in my experience, the Major Arcana cards tend to represent a powerful energy that is in play, often but not always unconscious, and very compelling. As an outcome, this card may be saying things will not be bent or swayed or changed, they will stay in place. No amount of railing or protest or fits of temper will change a thing. The Emperor looks for stability in his lands and will quash any hint of an uprising or challenge to his authority and he will do so swiftly and with emphasis. So if you're looking for revolution, change, a twist in coming events, this card states emphatically, "Not on my watch." Why? Because he says so.

Actually the reasons he would give are less pompous. He would say because he is responsible for the health and welfare of not only you but the entire world around you, therefore everyone's needs must be taken into consideration. He looks at the bigger picture and has to balance the pros and cons of any proposed change and decide whether or not it serves the greater good. As I said, he can be reasoned with, and if your argument is compelling and if you can show how your proposal will benefit not just you but those around you as well, he could be swayed. When the Emperor shows up in a reading, it's time to consider how your actions are affecting others, even the long term impact of how they might affect the world around you.

The qualities associated with the Emperor can also be useful at times. If your world seems chaotic and on the verge of war, it may be time to pull out the macho tendencies of this card and pull rank on someone. You may need to be the Emperor in such times and unequivocally draw your battle lines in the sand. Stand up and say NO to whomever or whatever is threatening the safety of you and yours. Why? Because you said so. So let it be written, so let it be done! This is not a card of cooperative effort, sharing power, or of mutuality. He stands alone at the top and the buck stops with him. The authority is his but also the responsibility and he carries it all.

True enough, there are situations in life that certainly call for this set of qualities, but what about the not so admirable side of this guy? We know all about them, for they have left their black marks in our history books and ruled in ways that not only did not protect their people but destroyed them. The famous quote by Lord Acton regarding the corruption of those with absolute power was delivered in the 1870's during a very heated conflict, once again, between church and state. He said:
"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it." --Dalberg-Acton, John Emerich Edward (1949), Essays on Freedom and Power, Boston:The Becon Press, p. 364
Right on. The term "Absolute Power" now typically refers to concepts of tyranny, corruption, authoritarianism, absolutism, and totalitarianism, and is associated largely with monarchy and non-democratic forms of government. While the people of medieval Europe may not have viewed the concept in the same way, I am sure they were not unfamiliar with the results. Prior to the 1500's the King was not an absolute ruler, but rather ruled with the consent of his nobles. During the 1500's however, the notion that King's rule is by Divine Rights, the monarch was, by the dawn of Tarot, absolute. Charles V was the reigning emperor at that time and so the middle ages notion of emperor was likely influenced by his rule. He made one last attempt to unite the medieval universal empire but did not succeed and while there were HRE's after him, the empire itself was broken and much less powerful. He spent a lot of his time in office trying to squelch the French from invading Italy. Hence he was largely seen as a protector of Italy and of Rome, as he also opposed the Protestant Reformation. Italians probably saw him in a better light than citizens of other countries, namely France and Germany, therefore the rendition of the Emperor in Tarot, originating in Italy around the time of his reign, was likely not one of a despot. However, tarot images are not one-dimensional, but always carry within them both the positive and negative qualities possible within the archetype. So the Emperor of Tarot is not specifically Charles V or any particular historical person, but the idea, the concept of Emperor as it applied to European consciousness in the Renaissance Age. Modern tarot decks have diluted the power of the Emperor, portraying him more as a fatherly figure, one who generally has your best interests at heart, neglecting his power and ability to completely devastate your world as you know it depending on his character, his skill, and his mood. Tom Tadfor Little makes an interesting comment on the actual play value of this card:
The Emperor, despite his trappings of rulership, is a very low-ranking trump. He can capture a king or queen, but is worth no points himself. And a good player is unlikely to lose a valuable court card to the Emperor. So like many of the lower trumps, the Emperor is "filler", a card that might win a low-value trick during the middle of a hand, but still much less desirable to hold than high-numbered trumps, court cards, or even the Magician or Fool! One can see in this an interesting commentary on the importance of the real Emperor in Reniassance Europe.

I think the main thing to remember when this card appears in a reading is that you are the one who is standing in control of yourself and your life. While others may attempt to control or dominate you, ultimately you are the Emperor of your own choices and decisions. This card shows a force that, when used wisely, can yield great results or, placed in the wrong hands or used unwisely, can be very destructive. Which kind of Emperor will you be?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Wheel
Thanks to Mary Greer who posted this on her blog:

Rosanne Cash - The Wheel (Official Music Video) - The most popular videos are a click away

This is The Wheel by Roseanne Cash and its chock full of tarot imagery. Too cool! Enjoy!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Death Waits

It was a gorgeous spring Sunday that felt very much like summer. While I was relaxing at home, the phone rang with an unfamiliar number on the caller ID. I let the voicemail receive it and heard, "Ginny, it's Caitlin...you need to call me, it's about Mom." Her mother was in poor health and I assumed she was probably in the hospital and she was calling me because I live in the same town. I'm close by, accessible, and can more easily offer assistance when needed. I was not prepared to hear her say, "Mom passed away this morning."


And the Tower crashed and burned and I fell from the windows.

"Yes, Ginny, yes...she did."

The third sword pierced my heart and in that instant my heart bled tears of overwhelming grief and a cry of agony escaped my lips as if that sword was an actual steel blade invading my chest cavity.

Jonna was my friend. For thirty years we shared our lives, from the halls of the high school we attended together, through boyfriends and lovers, marriages (my two, her one), our children's births (my four, her two), moving houses, through her mother's serious illness, her father's death, my divorces, our friendship remained.

Our relationship embodied the 2 of cups, the 3 of cups, the 5 of swords, the 5 of wands, the 6 of cups, the Sun, the Moon, the Wheel, the Fool. She was the Queen of Cups and I the Queen of Swords. We sometimes clashed and I'd get pointy and she would cry and pout. Yes, she drank too much, too. Her favorite tarot card from all my decks was always, without fail, the Ace of Cups. She wore her emotions on her sleeve, her face, her whole self was one big emotion. Her laughter was hearty and contagious, her tears deep with sorrow. When she felt something, it was big. My mother had a phrase for people like her. She'd say, "They're just too too!" The woman was intense. My airy Libra self needs people like her. I do seem to gravitate towards watery folks. They keep me in touch with my own emotions even if I do tend to wonder what all their fuss is about.

In the last week since she died, I have experienced a wide range of emotions and thoughts that, were I to align them to tarot cards, not one of them would align with Death. Our friendship hasn't ended. It still lives on as long as I live to love her. It has changed, yes. I won't be able to call her with some silly bit of daily, mundane news or frustration. I won't hear her voice on the other end of the phone anymore. I won't be wrapped up in her deep, soothing hug. I won't share another toast, a cigarette, a moment when we look at each other and just know what the other is thinking. I hope to see her again, but until then, this part of our relationship is different. But it isn't over. I still remember. I still love.

This is why, I think, the Death card doesn't often show up to herald physical death. Maybe the Tower. Maybe the Wheel. Maybe even the 6 of Swords. But not Death. Because although her physical life has ended, the reading would have been mine, not hers. What I am experiencing is a kind of ending, yes, but more a change, a hurt, a loss, sadness, a rush of memories, a need to connect with old friends, a grief. There are many other cards that better describe what I am feeling and doing and Death isn't one of them. Five of Cups is a big one. I am for sure feeling a whole lot of regret and deep, painful sadness.

I don't know how to do this, to lose my best friend. We had a rather rocky relationship and had grown a bit distant these last two years. That was my doing. As her health declined, those that loved her tried persistently to help her to help herself. She was still drinking, still addicted to prescription pain meds. Depressed, she spent most of her days in bed. She laughed less and cried more and when she would call I wouldn't pick up the phone until she left a voicemail so I could see if she was sober or not. She had verbally attacked me last year for not calling her when I had actually left several voicemails on her phone. Afterwards, she didn't remember yelling at me. It had begun to feel crazymaking. I knew she was losing some of her self. I couldn't bear it. Then other times she would call, sober, and we'd talk as if nothing was different. She would remember things. We would get all caught up on each others' lives and then get silly and stupid and laugh just like we always do. The last time I saw her I helped her do her nails, gave her a pedicure, and helped her choose her outfit for her daughter's rehearsal dinner. I guess it was my own denial that wouldn't allow me to really take in the seriousness of her condition. I remember her daughter holding her mother's face in her hands and saying, "Mom, look at me. I need you to BE HERE with me tomorrow. (Her wedding day) If you can't be with me I don't want you there at all. I'm not trying to be ignorant. I'm not trying to be mean. I NEED YOU. BE WITH ME. BE HERE." Caitlin looked at me and I could see the desperate worry in her eyes. I understood, but I knew Jonna. She was a fighter, a survivor. She could drink any drunk under the table and still dance on top of it. She had tried to overdose on her pain meds before and couldn't. I said, "Don't worry, Caitlin. She will be fine."

And she was. She attended her daughter's dinner and wedding. She stayed sober. Her husband lost his job and with it went the health insurance. She couldn't get her pain meds, so her addiction was broken. I talked with her last Friday night. We were supposed to get together the next day. I said, "I sure wish you were here so we could have a drink." I knew she was an alcoholic, but I also knew she wouldn't stop drinking, so if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. She said, "I don't really do that so much anymore."
"Really?" I asked, incredulous.
"Yeah, well...it causes...problems." I knew instantly she meant problems with her husband.
"Yeah, I bet it does!" I said.
"I still do, every now and then, but not so much."
"Well good. I can't wait to see you tomorrow."
"Ok hon, I'll call you when we're on our way, so you'll know when to be there."
"Perfect," I said, "We'll catch up then."
"Ok, I love you, hon."
"I love you, too. Bye."

I do. I love her still. So it is not Death. It is not over. Maybe I'll see the Death card before I go, but for now, he will have to wait until our friendship ends. If I have anything to say about it, he's going to wait a good long time. I think the Death card doesn't show up for us when we might expect it to because if there is still one person carrying on, the relationship is not dead. If we had ended our friendship, yes, Death comes in. Now, I still believe Death does and can mean literal, physical death, and I think it does show up in some readings to mean just that. But see, that's obvious. We wonder more why it didn't show, why we didn't get the obscene and blatant warning. Besides the fact that even a tarot warning would not have sounded as loud as her declining physical, mental and emotional state anyway, the experience of her death has been anything and everything but an ending. Or maybe I'm still in denial. It doesn't really feel like denial. I know she's gone, I accept it. I am grateful she is now no longer in pain, she is at peace, she is with her beloved grandmom and dad. I will miss her and yet I accept that she is gone from me now. It's just that it doesn't feel like it's over...because I remember my friend's love for me and know that part, the important part, lives on.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I don't know why it didn't occur to me until today. I mean, I've been recording podcasts for The Tarot Connection for a while now, I have a sweet new mic for the computer, I like talking, so why not offer audio readings? Email readings have their benefits, too. If your computer cannot handle a rather large mp3 download, maybe an audio reading isn't the best option. A lot of email programs won't even allow such large attachments. In which case, I could upload the audio file onto a file storage site and direct you to it to download. Hmmm...I need to test this out some more. But I think an audio reading may personalize the reading more and give a different feel to it. What do you all think? Are audio files a doable format for most folks these days? What do you feel are the pros and cons of email versus audio readings?

Feedback appreciated!


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fortuitous Fortitude
"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face... The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it... You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do." 
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Someone once told me to be very careful when asking God for strength because, sure enough, a situation would arise that would severely test one's resolve. Lately, I've been thrown quite a few situations where the cardinal virtue of Strength has been tested and whether or not I've passed is unknown, but these virtuous muscles are aching. In my case a lot of the situations have surrounded a generalized inability to say "No." I thought I'd gotten pretty good at using that word, given my rebellious and stubborn nature, but apparently I need more practice. When two cardinal virtues are standing toe to toe making rude gestures at each other, which does one choose? Does one choose Charity over Fortitude? Or is holding one's ground more loving in the end? Moral dilemmas suck.

The Major Arcana includes three out of four of what is known in the Western philosophical tradition as Cardinal Virtues:
  • Prudence - the ability to judge between actions with regard to appropriateness in particular situations
  • Justice - moderation between self-interest and the rights and needs of others
  • Temperance - practicing self-control, abstention, and moderation
  • Courage or Fortitude - forbearance, endurance, and ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation
While Justice, Temperance, and Strength are featured in Tarot, Prudence is suspiciously absent. It's kind of integrated with Justice, but not highlighted as the other virtues in its own card. There is a deck that includes it, the Minchiate Etruria, but this deck is not considered a true tarot deck and includes many "extra" cards representing the virtues, zodiac and elements. I have no idea why Prudence was exempted from Tarot representation. There are some theories bantied about, but the one I find most compelling is that in reading medieval texts, one gets the idea that Prudence is distinguished from the other virtues. It is often lauded as the highest of the cardinal virtues almost as an end result of combining all the other virtues in a human being.

One text close to the earliest trionfi cards illustrates this - the funeral eulogy for Gian Galeazzo Visconti, written by Petrus de Castelleto in 1402. Petrus compares Gian Galeazzo to "Twelve Stars which are twelve virtues". In his sermon he names a virtue, and then describes how Gian Galeazzo exemplified it. He divides the virtues into four sets of three:

1. Faith
2. Hope
3. Charity

4. Justice
5. Fortitude
6. Temperance

7. Prudence
8. Piety
9. Mercy

10. Magnificence
11. Intelligence
12. Humility

The second set are the three Virtues found in Tarot. Note that Prudence belongs to a different set of three.

But I digress. Interesting stuff, but rather than dive any deeper into the extremely large pool of philosophical pontificating on the ordering of virtues, I'll try to rein in my inclination to run off in miscellaneous directions. Strength is the card of the day today.

As I was saying, Strength is one of the four Cardinal Virtues and it represents fortitude, or courage. It is exemplified by firmness of spirit, steadiness of will in doing good despite obstacles.
Fortitude limits inordinate rashness and fear in the face of major pain. It is considered one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The others are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, and fear, or reverence, of the Lord. The iconography of Strength commonly shows a woman, a pillar, and a lion. Virtues were often personified as women even though the etymology of the word virtue means "manliness." A relief on the tomb of Pope Clement II in the Bamburg Cathedral in Germany depicts the four virtues. Strength is shown as a woman grasping a lion by its jaws. Given that Pope Clement II died in 1047, this image predates tarot by a few hundred years.

Fortitude is also known as Courage which is the ability to confront fear, pain, risk, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. There are generally two different types of courage. "Physical courage" is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, or threat of death, while "moral courage" is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement. (Given this definition, one can understand why Prudence would be needed to first distinguish the right action before mustering up the fortitude to actually do the right thing, thereby elevating Prudence over all. One must first posses the virtue of knowing what is right before exercising any of the others.) That said, in looking at the meaning of the tarot card Strength, resist the prevailing modern custom to oversimplify this card to mean only a suppression of internal vice or urges. It encompasses a whole heck of a lot more than that. I blame Waite for this dilution of Strength's meaning. He ascribed words such as self-control patience, compassion, perseverance, moderation, kindness, gentleness, slowness, softness, serenity, discipline, and inner strength to the Strength card. While these qualities may be needed in a situation involving courage, I do not feel they truly describe the virtue nor the actions or attitudes primarily associated with it. A lot of those words would better describe Temperance and Love. This would explain the changes one sees in the earlier historical tarot Strength cards and the later, more modern ones.

Earlier cards often show the woman engaging the lion directly, taking control over the beast in a very overt, aggressive way. Later cards commonly show a more peaceful coexistence between the lady and the lion, as if the lion were a domesticated kitty. The struggle and challenge, as well as the obvious risk and danger is absent in the later cards. This is one of the reasons I really love the older decks. The symbolism is more faceted and inclusive. For example the Strength card from the Tarocchino Milanese, first published by Gumppenberg in 1835, shows a woman in the very "unladylike" position of straddling a lion's back while taking firm hold of its mouth. She's quite determined to tame this beast and is not opting for Waite's more subtle or gentle approach. The Robin Wood deck, on the other hand, a much more modern deck, shows a smiling maiden and a smiling lion having no issues whatsoever. Even if one were to limit this card to meaning a struggle with one's own "internal beast" or Freudian "id" you would think there would be more to the contest than smiling at it and watching it roll over for a belly scratch. While it is very true that sometimes the most courageous thing is to do nothing, to smile and walk away, there are also other times when facing the danger head on and attacking the issue with force is the right approach. If there is no real challenge then there is no need for Strength. If the situation holds no potential for injury or harm, why invoke courage? During a very fearful time in my life I was told that courage was the act of feeling afraid but doing it anyway. Understanding that fear was a natural response to danger and courage was not the absence of fear helped me exhibit the qualities of Fortitude during a time when it was crucially important to both mine and my child's lives that I grabbed that lion's mouth and shut it. The later cards show no hint of fear, no sweat. In essence, Strength in tarot has been reduced down to one mustering up the courage to refuse dessert rather than facing down terror or threat. No mattter the source, be it internal or external, and no matter the type of courage needed, whether physical or moral, the implication of risk must be present in order to even need the virtue to be displayed. While lions are wild and not domesticated and imply a sort of risk, so could my bathtub when wet, yet I don't see drawing the Strength card before my morning shower.

I always cringe a little when I see the Strength card in a reading, much like that prayer for Strength uttered when feeling weak may invite more struggles, it is like a warning sign: Danger Ahead. It always seems to indicate there will surely come a situation in which you will be tested in ways that you feel are beyond your present abilities to overcome. You will be challenged, you will feel fear, you will be at risk, and you may be injured in the process. Even if you do the right thing, even if you stand firm, even if you go in head first and grab that lion by the mouth, those teeth are sharp and you're liable to come away with at least a few scrapes and bruises. Although the gentle approach may be required, it's not going to be easy. This is not a tame lion you are dealing with no matter if that lion resides inside of you or is an outside influence and you will have to find the inner fortitude to not only determine the right course of action but then to follow through on that course.

"Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.' "

Sunday, January 18, 2009

For Shame: The Hanged Man
This is one of my least liked tarot card trumps. I'm not sure it's anyone's favorite given its uncomfortable depiction of torture, but my main beef with this card is not only does it tell me that what I want requires a very long wait, but in the meantime I'm not going to be enjoying that wait. Unlike the Star that also depicts that my goal is afar off, this card says the intervening time is pretty much going to suck for me, though I will learn a lot from it. Bah. Take your life lesson and hang that from a tree, ok?

To even attempt to understand the meaning of this Major Arcana card, one really does need to get the historical perspective. Times have most certainly changed since the creation of Tarot and this card references something that people of the 1500's would have readily recognized that we in the 21st Century have no current context. Well, we do, but not in this manner. This picture of a man hung upside down by one foot is what was known in Italy as a pittura infamante, a defaming portrait. It was used as a kind of rag publication that showed thieves, traitors, those guilty of bankruptcy or fraud in this punishing position and displayed in centers of public view. Those paintings weren't literal, in that the depicted victims were not actually hung in this manner but were shamed by the portrait. They were akin to our political cartoons except that they were approved and even requested by the municipal civil authorities as a form of public punishment. They began to lose popularity when they began to be appreciated more as an art form, like the political cartoon, rather than be seen as a form of punishment. The intended effect, shame, was lessened, and the practice diminished.

But why use this particular positioning of the figure to shame someone? That answer can be found in even earlier paintings of a more religious nature. Religious art from the 13th through 15th centuries, before the creation of Tarot cards, show various scenes of the Last Judgement and the unrighteous receiving their eternal damnation. In many of these scenes one can see people dangling from their feet over the pit of Hell. In one particular fresco by Giovanni da Modena in the cathedral of San Petronio in Bologna, Italy there is a striking similarity in the figures shown hanging to the modern Hanged Man card. In this picture of a portion of the fresco, you can see the hanged men in the upper right corner and their positions, particularly with the hands bound in back and the leg crossed, mirror the tarot card image almost precisely. Given this painting predates the origin of Tarot, images such as this most definitely had to be the card's inspiration. Or at least the inspiriation for the pittura infamante, from which the tarot card image is likely derived. The inference of showing someone hanged in this position then would be that the person is deserving of hell.

Some have said the card is derived from the story of Judas whose betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver prompted his suicidal hanging, which would align with the cards in which the figure is shown holding bags of money or with coins dropping out of his pockets, but Judas hanged himself by his neck, not upside down. The money bags probably reference the shame portraits of thieves or those guilty of defrauding others out of money rather than Judas. There is another prominent Biblical figure who met his death upside down, but he was crucified rather than hanged. The apostle Peter requested that his death sentence be carried out in an upside down fashion because he didn't feel worthy to be executed in the same manner as Jesus. The humility shown by that act is something often transferred to the Hanged Man's meaning, but the depiction doesn't truly reference that event just as it doesn't reference Judas. The early players of Tarocchi likely did not think of Peter or Judas when they saw that card, but would have seen someone shamed and humiliated for his crimes.

If the punishment was implied and not literal, as would be the case in the shame portraits, the idea would be towards rehabilitation, in a sense. The warning would be clear, that the subject is in danger of eternal damnation unless he gets a clue and changes his ways. Hence in the later renditions of the card we see the spiritual illumination that surrounds the head and the more meditative, serene facial expression. The card was to be taken as a life lesson, a warning, especially because the next card in succession is Death, which all knew to be the "wages of sin." This card would then be a prompt to take a moral inventory because none of us know when the Grim Reaper will call, so rather than end up singeing your head in hell's flames, maybe you need to rethink your actions and direction in life.

Meanwhile, I have no doubt that 16th century card makers would have politicized this card depicting a particular public figure as the Hanged Man that those using the cards might easily recognize, just as a political satirist might do today, less for punishment than humiliation and to bring a recognizable face and circumstance to the meaning of the card. And just for laughs.

Understanding the historical, artistic, and symbolic roots to the imagery of the Hanged Man allows us to be more precise in the given meaning to the card and then permits us to extrapolate to the reading and circumstances at hand. If someone was to be hung in this position unto death, it would take an exceedingly long time for the person to die. If it was merely for punishment's sake, hanging there for any amount of time in a public square would be torturous. To bear one's body weight only by one's ankle would tear the ligaments and joints, break the skin, rush the blood to one's head and generally mess with the spinal alignment and heart functioning. And it's just a very demeaning position to be in. Embarrassing. Humiliating. Helpless. For these reasons the card's meaning implies a longer time period during which one is relatively helpless to change anything about one's situation and which is fraught with discomfort and pain. Is there anything to like about this card?

Well, yeah, though it is small comfort. The warning the shame portraits give is similar to this card's advice. Though you may have wound up in this position by your own unfortunate choices and decisions, and though you may not have much or any control over how things are playing out for you now, you can use this time for good as you re-evaluate how you got here and what you will do when you get down from here. Hanging upside down might be uncomfortable but it offers a very different perspective on things. One certainly gets a different view on life and circumstances and people while upside down. Haven't you done this as a child? Hanging by one's knees on the playground monkey bars or, like I used to do, hang upside down over the edge of the living room sofa, watching everyone walking on what now looks like the ceiling and you alone are walking "upright." Everything around me looked like Alice's view through the looking glass. So while you're dangling, give yourself a chance to see things from a different point of view. Only in this way will you be able to gain the objectivity, while in pain, to come away from this time with the necessary change in your thinking that will allow you to avoid these kinds of humiliating experiences in the future.

The Hanged Man illustrates one of those life learning experiences that none of us really choose to endure but, through our own previous choices, have landed ourselves in nonetheless. We can simply endure it and learn nothing, blame those who strung us up, and feel utterly victimized or we can use the experience to our betterment. I really hate that kind of advice when I'm in the midst of some really hard emotional experience, so I hesitate to give it, at least without first empathizing with the pain being endured. It sounds canned and patronizing, too. "What doesn't kill us will make us stronger," blah, blah, blah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Shut up. Which is another reason I'm not pleased with this card because, as a reader, it sort of forces me to, while explaining its meaning, give that sort of advice. And it's not that it's Bad Advice, not really, it's just that we don't like to be told that in the throes of agony and helplessness. Because the person in the Hanged Man's position is likely to be feeling quite victimized, it almost feels like blaming the victim, which I really do not like to do.

So there you have it. While there are other nuances of the Hanged Man that I haven't begun to cover, this at least explains the "Ugh!" reaction that many have to the card. Because even the positive aspect feels a bit humiliating. What do you do with a card like that?

Friday, January 02, 2009

I know you know at least one. I know you've probably even been one at some point, though it may be embarrassing to admit. At least once and probably many more times you have made that proverbial mountain out of a molehill. You Drama King/Queen! It's ok, really. I have a side that inclines toward the dramatic. Ok, maybe more than a side. A whole flank of my being perhaps. Enough that a friend of mine, who also relishes the fair amount of drama sprinkled through out her life, will call me out, "O! M! G! You're being so drama!" At least we recognize it in ourselves and can laugh at it when it rears its entertaining head. This fact makes us decidedly not Drama Queens. The true Drama King or Queen does not accept the fact that he or she is being ridiculously melodramatic nor do they seem aware that they are consistently creating situations that result in exhausting drama for themselves and others. So my friend and I were talking last night when she wondered aloud, "Which tarot card would represent drama?" We had been discussing the Moon card and the dramatic side to that card and the question made us both stop, mid-convo, and mentally rifle through the deck. At first we were rather nonplussed. I said the Fool and Moon combination would make me think "drama" but I wasn't satisified with my answer. We continued our conversation and somehow the Ten of Swords was mentioned and she interjected, "There is the drama card!" I laughed, "Oh yeah! For sure!" Talk about over the top, that card screams "Woe is meeeeeee!"

Recently my twelve-year-old daughter asked me what labels we used for various cliques in high school. Of course we had those we called "Jocks." She said "Jocks are perennial." (Yes, she is twelve with a very broad vocabulary.) I said we called "Stoners" by a different name, "Freaks." We had "Nerds" which would probably be "Geeks" or something like that today. We had a group we called "Grits" which were closely related to the "Redneck" in that they liked to race their souped-up cars and dress in leather jackets and grease their hair back in 1950's style. As she tried to find modern equivalents for the late 1970 era categories she asked, "Did you have Emo kids?"

"No! Because ALL teenagers are EMO!"

I bet your most embarrassing drama queen/king incident happened when you were an adolescent, right? And if it happened later, you probably felt like an angst-ridden teenager. As adults, we're not immune to our emo side and will occasionally exhibit distinctly self-absorbed, overblown emotional displays, especially while inebriated. It's ok, I forgive you. We're all entitled to occasionally wax melodramatic over some insignificant thing. Like that time I was trying to get ready for work and the new kitten I had just brought home had gone on a spastic kitty frenzy and climbed the curtains in the bedroom and brought the whole curtain rod down and for some reason this event rendered me incapable of going to work that day. Or that Christmas Eve scene I had with my first boyfriend in which I dramatically broke up with him, slapping him full in the face a la Joan Crawford, held back the tears until I burst through the door at home and ran to my mother and collapsed in a soppy, bawling mess in her lap. My mother was entertaining a date at the time. I didn't notice that the lights were low, all but the Christmas tree lights were off, there were wine glasses on the coffee table.

So, I put the question to my tarot deck today. Which card represents that inclination in people to be so self-focused and hungry for attention that they create interpersonal drama? The first card that I pulled was The Devil. Hmmm...never really thought about that, but isn't it true? This card speaks of OCD, addictions, obsession, unhealthy attractions and pretty ugly ulterior motives. It's the hedonist card, plain and simple.

Feeling on a roll, I pulled another card. Six of Cups? How in the heck? It's such a sweet card, so giving and generous...oh, but wait...these are children. Childish. Those I've known who are drama addicts also tend to be very immature and although they have chronologically outgrown the time of their lives when they are expected to be narcissistic, they haven't matured emotionally past that.

Next one I pulled was The Hanged Man. I laughed. Talk about the ultimate martyr! And look at the delight he is obviously receiving from his discomfort, he is enjoying what most people would take great pains to avoid. Is he a masochist? No, he is a victim, but not a completely innocent one. Some believe he is a thief for the coins that drop out of his pocket in a few older renditions of The Hanged Man. The precarious and even torturous position he finds himself in is probably due to his own making, the consequence of his actions. And he smiles. Like the cat who ate the canary.

Ok, this is getting interesting. Is it possible to find aspects of "drama piggyness" in every card? I pulled another. The Ace of Wands. Ha! Tempers flare then die out quickly with this card. It's a major blow up over something small, a matchstick that lights a straw fire that blazes hot then extinguishes in a moment. Does that remind you of any drama queen or king that you know? Umm hmmm...me too.

One more. I pulled the Six of Wands. I love tarot for its sense of humor. This card is one of the most positive cards in the deck, usually. But what about its conceit? Its "look-at-me!" attitude. The seeking of the approval and, most of all, the attention of others, along with the playing to the crowd that is evident in this card. This card shows someone who seeks the attention, thrives on the attention, and can't even take a trip home without drawing a crowd of onlookers.

So I think I get it. Human inclinations, personality flaws, irritating aspects of us all, can be found throughout the tarot deck. It's merely a matter of perspective when you look at any card. You can probably find what you're looking for if you look deeply enough, cock your head to one side, take in the whole of the card, not just what you think it means.