78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

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

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Doctor Google & Tarot
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Image by MaricorMaricar Studio.......

I've been really out of sorts for a few months.  This blog and many other things have taken a back seat to some sudden onset health issues I've been dealing with.  It has been stressful but I'm finally taking action and I'm finally starting to feel more like myself again.

It started in June, more or less.  I'd had a pinched nerve in my upper back a few years ago and it went away on its own.  It took six weeks but when it was gone, it was gone. Until a few months ago. This time it didn't go away.  Instead, after four weeks it changed.  It became much sharper and sent more than a dull ache down my right arm.  Shocks of nerve pain were constantly traveling up into my neck, down my arm and to my fingers.  Walking hurt. Working hurt. Cooking hurt. Cleaning hurt. Driving hurt. I lived on anti-inflammatory meds and rest.

I delayed going to the doctor because insurance. I have it, but it's not affordable. High Deductible Plan with only $500 in my Health Savings Account.  I know that nerves cannot be seen on lower cost x-rays and that I would need a pricey MRI.  I didn't know what kinds of medications I would need to pay for out of pocket.  I also have to pay for non-preventive doctor visits out of pocket and I also have another pressing health issue I must see a doctor for which will likely lead to more imaging tests and lab work that, again, I must pay for out of pocket.  My pocket is not that deep.  My rent is being raised $50 a month starting next month and I still don't know how that will be adjusted for in my no-wiggle-room budget.  In addition to the pain and ongoing symptoms and concern for my health, I was also very concerned about my finances.

And then of course, there's Doctor Google.  I was pretty sure I was dying of cancer by the time I had researched my symptoms.  Possibly three or four types of cancer.  And maybe a rare genetic disorder, I'm not sure.

Driven by pain and worry I scheduled my appointments and said fuck it to the finances.  About a week before my appointment, the pain subsided a lot.  The nerve shocks still occur when triggered, but the unrelenting pain is gone.  Sweet relief! The doctor prescribed predisone which gave me heart attacks indigestion, and x-rays that ruled out fractures and tumors and referred me to a neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon said I don't need an MRI  yet because the treatment for nerve compression is focused on pain management and I seem to be progressing.  I have another appointment with another kind of doctor in a week for something entirely unrelated, so I'm still concerned about Doctor Google's diagnosis about that, but at least my overall hypochondria health worries have been reduced.

The Thinker in the Dark - A5 by
Hartwig HKD Creative Commons License

This is why I don't read tarot for health issues: Anxiety.  I may have pulled a few cards for my situation over the last few months but the swords cards always made me think I was going to have surgery and the pentacles cards made me think I would have to pay a lot of money.  I pulled one before my visit to the neurosurgeon and it was the King of Swords, which cracked me up because that's a surgeon card if there ever was one.  It was like tarot saying, "Just go see the doctor."  Which is probably what I'll tell you if you ask me for a health reading.

Pamela A. tarot

I will read about how you can make the most productive use of your time while you are dealing with health issues.  I will ask tarot for advice how you can focus on self-care.  But the advice will be general to your health issue and specific to you.  I will not attempt to, nor should I, diagnose your issue.  We may discover, for example, that stress is contributing to your issue, but stress will not be the issue.  If the Death card appears, I will tell you that something will end, hopefully your health issue, and you will need to adjust to something new in the way of living life after that -- and we'll draw a card to see how to navigate that.  I will not tell you that Death means death in a health related tarot reading.  I will not give you a prognosis because how foolish and irresponsible would that be?  The last thing anyone needs is a reading that echoes Doctor Google.  I will interpret the cards in light of what you can do today, tomorrow, in your present and immediate future to aid in your recovery and wholeness and this is often how tarot readings work anyway.  It approaches your situation from a holistic view.

There really are very, very few things I won't read tarot about.  Sometimes I will tell a client that the proposed reading is a waste of their time and money and allow them to reconsider, but I will usually read on whatever my clients ask. They know their pressing questions far better than I.  Health issues, both physical and mental, are different because they usually need the attention of a professional trained in that discipline.  I am a tarot professional not a health professional and that is where the line is drawn.  Besides, more often than not when health issues have played a part in the reading the cards recommend seeing a physician or mental health professional.  I often see Kings, Queens, Hierophants, and Hermits in those readings.  Kings and Queens often represent professionals, Hierophants often symbolize established institutions such as traditional medicine, and Hermits can be counselors and therapists.  So if you ask me about a worrisome health issue I will tell you to see a doctor and we'll read about how to cope in the meantime. 

As for me, I'm firing Doctor Google and seeing real ones. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Tarot Bones
I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Tarot cards do not mean anything and everything you think they might mean. There is a foundational framework of symbolism that has been collectively accepted and agreed upon by human culture over space, time, and history.

There seems to be a certain hesitancy in social tarot groups to tell someone they goofed, they got it wrong, they missed something when they state their take on a particular card.  While there is a whole wide area of wiggle room within the confines of that framework, there is a framework.  They are the bones of tarot over which everything else rests, is connected to, grows and moves.  If you remove the bones you are left with a blob of inert, gloopy stuff that doesn't hold together very well.

So don't tell me the Ace of Swords is about passion without logic, or that the 2 of Cups is about taking a gym class with a friend.  No.  Just no.  While the Ace does contain energetic passion and the 2 is about duality and togetherness, the suit characteristics were mixed up.  Wrong.

The problem arises when someone has the cajones to say, "Hey, I don't think that's quite accurate," and are met with predictable nonsense about how tarot card meanings are not "set in stone" and can mean anything to anybody and we all see things differently but equally valid. Nope. If your interpretation isn't tied by even the finest thread to the bones of tarot, your interpretation is invalid.

The bones of the Minor Arcana are the suit and the number or member of court. That isn't too hard or restrictive.  Hard, cold steel of the Swords does not equate to illogical, firey passion of a burning brand (Wand) but to precise facts.  Flowing liquid in Cups cannot be held in one's hand like a Pentacle.  These are the basics and the basis of tarot interpretation and just make sense. 

HOWEVER --- (disclaimer time) --- There are people who read cards in just this formless, boneless way and they read beautifully.  I am not negating this style of divination.  The cool thing about this style is one doesn't even need a tarot deck.  Any image or collection of images will work.  Oracle decks are wonderfully suited for this sort of reading. There are no rules, there is no framework, one simply allows intuition to guide and bubble up meaningful connections and phrases and ideas and so forth.  It's a tremendously useful way to strengthen one's intuition and learn to trust it and hone it.

But if you're setting about reading tarot then read tarot and don't try and serve up some oracular mishmash and claim it's because the meanings are not "set in stone" and "that's the beauty of tarot."  Yes, there are some meanings set in stone and no, pulling something contradictory to those foundational meanings is not beautiful, it's tripe.  See, if a singular tarot card can mean anything to anyone then there is no way you can teach what you know about tarot.  Because you don't know anything until you are faced with a question and a card that has changed its meaning based on the situation.  You can certainly coach others to use this same talent, to draw meaning from images relevant to the client's situation, but you aren't teaching tarot.  You are helping them develop their intuitive skill.  Different.

If one does not assign meaning to any particular card, suit, number, court, etc. then fine, but that's not tarot reading.  That's divining with a tarot deck, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I'm drawing this line for reasons of clarity because I'm tired, so tired, of the argument among tarot readers that the cards can mean anything to anyone at any time.  I think maybe we confuse our intuitive flashes with reading tarot because they happen often while reading tarot.  Those flashes are cool and often strikingly accurate but they don't change the foundational meaning of the card for the next reading.  The bones are the starting point and the body that each reader fleshes out from the bones to the outer layer of skin will fluctuate and change depending on the conditions, but the bones don't change.  Your understanding of them will deepen as you learn, but they will always be what they are and placed where they belong or the tarot reading will not run, walk, or move.

Sometimes we'll get stumped on a card because what we know about a situation (the flesh) or what we are getting intuitively (also flesh) does not appear to fit well over the bones. Good tarot readers don't discard the bones because the flesh doesn't seem to fit.  A good tarot reader digs deeper to see how the flesh connects, finds the sinews, ligaments and muscle fibers that latch to the bone.

Get digging.  Find the connective tissue. That's tarot reading.


Saturday, March 08, 2014

It's Your Own Damn Fault
Regret. Cyn McCurry
 When I was sixteen I did a really dumb thing.  (Who hasn't at sixteen?) See, when I was fourteen I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and was promptly fitted with a Milwaukee brace, a neck to pelvis contraption that I wore 23 hours a day.  My tummy had not seen the sun in two years and I went with my friends on a day trip to the beach, fell asleep on the sand, and woke with a very red belly.  I shook and shivered on the way home but couldn't tolerate the scratchy, wool blanket I was given to wrap up in.  It hurt my skin.  I passed out once on the way into the house.  My boyfriend stayed with me until my mother came home and explained to her what happened.  I was crying in pain and my mother snapped, "It's your own damn fault!"

Yes.  She was right.  However, her being right didn't help.  It never helps me to point out this obvious fact that my suffering is my own doing.  That's right, it NEVER helps.  It hurts.  It comes under the category of if you don't have anything nice (or helpful) to say, don't say anything at all.  That's because my default is to blame myself for everything that happens to me. This is why I don't say certain things out loud because I am sure that someone will say, "Well, it's your own fault."  I miss my kids.  I miss them with everything in me.  I hurt tangibly and physically sometimes because I miss them.  I made the heart-wrenching decision seven years ago to be the one to leave the family home when their father and I divorced.  I moved a two hour's drive away.  It's still close enough to see them and they have spent time with me, but that pain never lessened or went away.  Now that they're older and have less time to spend with their mom, it's harder to arrange time to see them. We talk on the phone and on Facebook, but, well, you know, not the same.  This pain is my fault.  I know this and beat myself up about it on a regular basis.  Yes, I know that's not helpful.

There are people who don't take enough responsibility for their choices.  These are the blamers, the ones who point their finger at everyone and everything else for their pain.  Stuck in victim mode, their misfortune is always the result of something outside of themselves.  Saying, "It's your own damn fault," to them only helps if you first acknowledge their pain and accept that they are hurting.  It's difficult to show compassion to someone like this, but it's absolutely necessary if your goal is to speak a harsh truth to them.  They have to know first that you care, that you have their best interest in mind and you're not just another outside force causing more pain. 

On both ends of the spectrum, whether one takes on too much responsibility for the painful situation or not enough the most helpful advice is to focus on right now.  Before someone can take steps in a positive, forward moving direction, they have to release themselves of the blame, both directed at themselves and others.  The self-blamer believes that if she can isolate the actions and circumstances that caused the pain in the first place she can avoid the pain in the future.  The other-blamer relieves themselves of the responsibility to make changes and keep doing what they're doing because they aren't in control.  One assumes too much control while the other assumes too little.  Regardless of their locus of control, neither has the ability to move forward. The fear of pain keeps them stuck. 

In my tarot practice, I focus not on what will happen but on looking for ways to view the situation as it currently is and on steps one can take from here forward.  Taking responsibility for the choices we make in life is one thing.  Regretting them is something that happens often because once choices have been made they can't be unmade and they come with unknown and unintentional consequences.  The last thing anyone needs when they cry out in pain from shooting themselves in the foot is the reminder that they did it to themselves.  They already know that.  They're already kicking themselves with the uninjured foot.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Not You Again?

Recently a tarot reader wrote to me asking about how to discern the meaning of cards that keep showing up in one's readings.  It will happen from time to time when reading for oneself where the same card or cards will reappear no matter what the subject or question.  It would be fine if we knew what message these nagging cards were trying to convey, but we often don't.  Their reappearance becomes more of a frustration than anything else and they seem to block us from figuring out the rest of the reading, too.

So what to do when these naggers show up time and time again?  I think just the fact that they're being repetitive can cause a kind of "block" to our understanding of them.  If a card or series of cards shows up once, we have no problem interpreting them, but once they start becoming frequent visitors we start to wonder what else they're trying to say apart from the original reading.  The more we try to figure it out, we tend to over-think.  Over-thinking usually blocks us from hearing our intuition and the situation gets frustrating as we pour over the individual card meanings, looking up definitions, and searching tarot websites for clues. One meaning leads to another, and another, and another....

I've experienced the best results from simply doing another reading on what the recurring cards are messaging.  You'll want to remove the repetitive cards from the deck before laying out your reading because the last thing you want is for tarot to answer with those same cards, which is what usually happens.  What does the 2 of Pentacles mean for me in these readings?  The 2 of Pentacles.  Thanks a lot, tarot.  In the case of multiple recurring cards, I would do a reading on each and one for them together.  A short, two or three card spread asking a direct question is best such as, "What does this card mean for me now?" is best.  It is also helpful to have a position in your reading for "The card does not mean this," which will help rule out some of the various things your mind has been mulling over.  Most importantly, do not over-think these readings and go with your initial intuitive meanings that come to you.

Another option is to consult another trusted tarot reader.  I often receive feedback after a reading that the cards I pulled were the same cards the client had been seeing repetitively in their own readings  but my more objective view was able to see what they had not. 

Do you have another way to figure out those nagging recurring cards?  I'd like to hear your suggestions!