Symbolic Charge in the Tarot
I have long held onto the notion that Tarot cards are neither “positive” or “negative,” and that every card has aspects of both. Many disagree, however, and when reading about other peoples’ interpretations of the cards, I see a lot of talk about positive and negative cards, and I’ve seen spreads whose interpretation is based on whether a card in a certain spot is “positive” or “negative” (most obviously in the “Yes/No” spread, where a positive card indicates a Yes and a negative card a No; I really dislike this spread, if it can even be called that, for several reasons I won’t go into here). Naturally, this way of thinking is antithetical to my own conception of the Tarot and of life; there is good and bad, Yin and Yang, and positive and negative in everything. I can, however, understand the appeal and utility of thinking of cards as positive or negative. Naturally, there is no codebook or set of formalized guidelines for what makes a card “positive” or “negative,” and it all comes down to an individual’s reactions to a card. In fact, I would argue, whether or not a card is positive or negative can change depending on the situation. That, I think, is the beauty of the Tarot.
However, a discussion with a friend entering the world of Tarot got me thinking about positive and negative cards. While I don’t ascribe to the belief that certain cards have inherently positive or negative energies, I do think that I tend to view some cards as negative more often than others, and some cards definitely strike fear into my heart when I see them pop up in a spread. As such, I do think there is something to this notion of positive vs. negative cards, even if it’s not particularly clear-cut.
In many esoteric situations in which symbols are put into one of two opposite categories, I would call this “polarity” (such as in Geomancy). In this case, I don’t think this term is appropriate, though, because polarity implies two complete opposites with no middle ground. If a card was either entirely positive or entirely negative, then perhaps the term “polarity” would work, but in this case I think the less-loaded term “charge” can better describe how I view the cards. Cards have a tendency to be positive or negative, but mix both charges, so they are negative or positive to different degrees.
As I said before, this is all just my own opinion, and what follows are my own personal thoughts on the charges of the Tarot cards, based on the Thoth deck. I have grouped them into strong negative, negative, neutral, positive, and strong positive. However, even the strong negative cards have positive in them, and vice versa. The strong positive and negative cards are cards that instantly give me a negative feeling, just on sight, and usually color my reading of other cards in the spread. The negative and positive cards usually give me a negative vibe, but are more likely to be influenced by context than the strong negative and positive cards. The neutral cards are entirely context-dependent, and I either attach no charge to them on sight or else there are equal amounts of positive and negative charges that war in my mind when I see them. The cards are ordered according to their number.
Three of Swords (Sorrow)
Five of Wands (Strife)
Five of Cups (Disappointment)
Five of Swords (Defeat)
Five of Disks (Worry)
Seven of Swords (Futility)
Seven of Disks (Failure)
Nine of Swords (Cruelty)
Ten of Swords (Ruin)
Ten of Wands (Oppression)
The Tower (XVI)
The Moon (XVIII)
Seven of Wands (Valor)
Seven of Cups (Debauch)
Eight of Cups (Indolence)
Eight of Swords (Interference)
Ten of Cups (Satiety)
The Devil (XV)
All Court Cards
Eight of Wands (Swiftness)
Four of Cups (Luxury)
Four of Swords (Truce)
The Priestess (II)
The Emperor (IV)
The Hierophant (V)
The Chariot (VII)
The Hermit (IX)
The Aeon (XX)
Ace of Disks
Two of Wands (Dominion)
Two of Disks (Change)
Three of Cups (Abundance)
Four of Disks (Power)
Six of Cups (Pleasure)
Six of Disks (Success)
Eight of Disks (Prudence)
Nine of Disks (Gain)
Ten of Disks (Wealth)
The Fool (O)
The Magus (I)
The Empress (III)
The Lovers (VI)
The Hanged Man (XII)
The Star (XVII)
The Sun (XIX)
Ace of Wands
Ace of Cups
Ace of Swords
Two of Swords (Peace)
Two of Cups (Love)
Three of Wands (Virtue)
Three of Disks (Works)
Four of Wands (Completion)
Six of Wands (Victory)
Six of Swords (Science)
Nine of Wands (Strength)
Nine of Cups (Happiness)
The Universe (XXI)
A few interesting patterns emerged when I sorted the cards this way. Most obviously, I truly believe all of the court cards are neutral and don’t lean in any direction; they all have about equal amounts of negative and positive. Furthermore, I have about the same number of very negative as very positive. However, I tend to view most of the cards in the deck as positive, as there are many more “positive” cards than “negative” cards. Also, most of the numbered cards I do consider either mostly positive or mostly negative, while a good chunk of the Major Arcana (especially near the beginning) I consider neutral and dependent entirely on context. Most of the Majors, however, I consider positive, save for most of those relating to larger forces outside of an individual’s control (hence why Fortune is a negative for me, instead of a neutral).
The Devil is also a strange outlier; most interpret his presence as negative, but I usually tend to view it as a card urging you to reinterpret the situation, and flip around the good guys and the bad guys. The Devil, for me, is usually a card of moral relativism, and can represent either ignorance and blindness or else a need to shift one’s perspective, and realize that the villain is the hero. As such, my interpretation of the Devil tends to be torn between two poles, and hence its placement in the Neutral category.
Another card in which people might disagree with my placement is the Seven of Wands. The name Valor usually evokes positive feelings, but for me, that interpretation is colored by my view of the Seven of Wands as a card representing breaking off from one’s friends and foolishly galloping off into danger alone. It is individual courage, which is less powerful than the Victory that comes from the Six of Wands before it (which I inevitably compare the Seven to), and more divisive and foolish. So, to me, the Seven of Wands is a negative card.
The distribution of suits is also interesting. The Cups cards are fairly evenly distributed, with a slight preference for the positive. The Wands and Disks have a strong preference for the positive. On the other hand, half – five cards out of ten – of the Suit of Swords I consider strongly negative. Three more of them are negative, and only two are (strongly) positive. My pessimism really shows here, as the Swords are the suit I identify the most with and are also by far the most negative. So, I consider Cups neutral, Wands and Disks positive, and Swords negative. This is also interesting because I dislike the materialism of the Suit of Disks as a whole (hence why the Ace of Disks is the only Ace not strongly positive), and yet think positively of the individual cards of that suit. Similarly, the abstractness of Swords appeals to me, yet I don’t think positively of most of the individual cards.
Even more telling is the distribution of numbers, but this is not surprising given the design of the Thoth deck. Each number corresponds to a Sefirot on the Tree of Life, and these have positive and negative connotations that influence the card’s meaning. This is why all of the Aces are some form of positive , as well as the Twos and the Sixes. Three of the Threes and Nines (Swords being the exception to the rule) are also some form of positive. Half of the fours are neutral, and the other two are some form of positive. All of the fives are strongly negative (seeing as they are associated with the Sefirot Geburah, which I associate with instability), and all of the Sevens are negative to some degree as well. The Eights are more evenly distributed, similar to the Fours, with two negative, one neutral, and one positive. Three of the tens are some form of negative, and only one is negative.
What does this mean, overall, for my interpretation of the Tarot? Namely, that I view the deck as largely positive, and that the good in the cards comes out before the bad does. Usually, in life, I see the bad before the good, however. Furthermore, the Suit I dislike the most I view the most positively, and vice-versa. The Tarot seem to reflect my life as in a mirror, with everything reversed. Perhaps that is why I find the Tarot so calming.
Simple Deadly Sins Tarot Spread
After watching all of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, I managed to get the idea of the Seven Deadly Sins stuck in my head, bouncing around aimlessly. Eventually, as everything does, that turned into me thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins as represented in the Tarot! I did some internet research and first found a detailed and very useful spread about the role of the Seven Deadly Sins in your life here.
However, many of us don’t have the time or the emotional strength of will to go through such a detailed analysis of our own flaws. As such, I spent a bit of time thinking about a much simpler spread involving the Seven Deadly Sins. In fact, it hardly gets any simpler than what I’ve come up with!
The spread detailed below – which I have titled “The Simple Deadly Sins Spread,” is a seven-card one: one for each deadly sin. Each position in the spread represents the influence of its associated sin over any given situation, person, or life. Taken together, this spread gives a picture of the interplay of the Seven Deadly Sins in a situation specified by the question you ask.
Because this spread is so simple – consisting of only seven cards – and covers a very broad topic, a very in-depth analysis of each card is necessary, and a very well-phrased and specific question is as well. When considering this spread, you must spend a lot of time on each card, trying to apply it in every way possible to the situation. Let your mind guide you, as always.
When considering each position, there are three factors coming together to think about: the meaning of the card itself, the possible ways it relates to the Deadly Sin in question, and how both of those apply to the specific situation addressed in the question.
The question for this type of spread should generally follow a formula similar to: “How do the Seven Deadly Sins influence ______?” The “______” is the hardest and most important part of this question, as it defines the third factor listed above. In that spot, insert a situation, person, object, event, or anything that you would like to break down and analyze in terms of the Seven Deadly Sins, such as “my life,” “my love life with ____,” “my education,” “my personality,” “how other people see me,” and other things. The question in this spread is more important than in many other spreads.
In addition to the three factors listed above, when considering the meaning of each card, keep in mind the following questions:
–Where: What sphere of life – “House” in many esoteric arts – does the Sin express itself in? The home? Friends? Family? The workplace? The card itself might hold the answer to this question – for example, the Empress could hint that this Sin expresses itself when you are near nature – or the question might if you are focusing intentionally on a particular area of your life.
–When: Under what circumstances does that Sin display itself most prominently? When do you most often fall under its influence?
–How: How the Sin expresses itself in your life. For example, Greed may be expressed in a person by theft, by ruthless business actions, or simply be desire for something you do not need. Gluttony can express itself through a literal over-fondness of food, or through shopping binges. Is the Sin overtly or covertly displayed? Is it something you keep under control or not? Additionally, each card can, depending on the question, sometimes give you hints as to how to deal with the Sin and get it under control.
–Why: Why does the Sin manifest itself as it does? Why does it appear where and when it does? What past factors of your life has contributed to the Sin’s appearance? Are any other particular people involved in the expression of this Sin?
It may sound simple, but reading such detailed nuances into one individual card is difficult. This spread is not detailed and focused on interpreting the delicate interplays between multiple cards, but its simplicity forces the reader to examine the full message of each individual card on its own merit. However, some interplay between the positions is possible, particularly if several positions are held by cards linked by number, element, or theme.
In the spread chart below, all I’ve given are the positions of each Sin as they, in my own perception of them, relate to the body – Pride is the head, Envy the heart, Greed one hand and Wrath the other, Gluttony the stomach, Lust the genitals, and Sloth the legs (the spread also forms the shape of a cross) – as well as some (but by no means even close to all) Major Arcana cards that generally indicate that the Sin plays a large role in your life (Strengthens) and cards that generally indicate that the Sin is mostly under control in your life (Weakens). More cards that strengthen or weaken the severity of a Sin’s impact on your life will come up as they appear in spreads, without a doubt, and the connections will sometimes be very obvious. Reversed cards in this spread often mean that the Sins influence is very subtle and hard to feel or see, may be disguised as a virtue, or its influence might be weaker than the card would normally suggest.
Lastly, some numbers of Minor Arcana can play a specific role in the spread, as well. Aces mean the Sin is newly manifested and powerful, while Twos often indicate that the Sin is even more powerful. Threes can indicate that this particular Sin acts as a “gateway” to other Sins, while Fours often represent a temporary shelter from their influence, a strong defense against them, or else some sort of understanding with that Sin or moderation. Fives represent the circumstances around you causing you to Sin. Sixes and to a greater extent Nines, for example, often represent a near-total conquest of the influences of that Sin in a given situation, sometimes indicating that it does not play a major role. Sevens represent an excessive amount of that Sin, or a particular weakness to or proclivity towards that Sin. Eights sometimes represent trying to overcome the Sin, but failing to through overcompensation. Of course, in each of these cases, the numbers only might imply the above; sometimes the animus mundi and your subconscious are using that card to tell you something completely different. Just keep the above in mind!
For those unfamiliar with what each Deadly Sin is (colored by my own interpretations; feel free to use your own understanding of the Sins for your own readings, or use a more in-depth online resource such as this):
Pride: Arrogance, particularly excessive self-confidence that undermines one’s ability to see clearly. The belief that you are better than others. The root of all other sins. The card in this position can also be used as a “summation” of all of the other cards.
Envy: Coveting, or wanting, what is not yours. Jealousy. Being unhappy with what you have because you believe that was those around you have is better; never being content with what you have because everyone else has something better.
Greed: Desiring large amounts of material possessions.
Wrath: Uncontrollable rage, fury, or hatred. Causing violence or harming oneself.
Gluttony: Overconsumption of anything – from food to resources – to the point of impoverishing others while wasting it on yourself.
Lust: Intense desire for anything, particularly sex or any sort of pleasure of the flesh. Wanton hedonism, desire for pleasure in general.
Sloth: Laziness, indolence, apathy, a wasting of potential due to an unwillingness to apply oneself.
Keep in mind that many of the Tarot cards are associated in one way or another with a Deadly Sin (most obviously Lust (XI) and the Seven of Cups (Debauch) with Lust and the Eight of Cups (Indolence) with Sloth), beyond what is listed below. When a card representing a Sin shows up in that Sin’s slot, pay attention to it! Also remember that in moderation, the Seven Deadly Sins can be a good thing, and help to define everyone’s personality.
I realize that the above has all been very general and not specific, but this spread is meant to be very broad. To help give people an idea of how to use this spread, here are two sample spreads, one very general and one a little bit more specific(though both spreads have abbreviated interpretations, for time’s sake and privacy’s sake):
Question: What role do the Seven Deadly Sins play in my life?
The spread (notice that Greed and Wrath both point inwards when not reversed; they point outwards when they are):
Pride: Death (XIII)
So, my Pride expresses itself as Death. In my own life, I see this as coming out in my youthful belief that I can supersede the inexorable laws of the universe, change and the cycles of time; in other words, the youthful belief in invincibility. My pride is my irrational belief that I can somehow make things not change and remain as they are. I am very opposed to drastic change, whether it occurs quickly or slowly, even though it is inevitable. I am currently going through a transitional phase in my life – undergraduate studies as a university – and despite my wishes, my life is changing rapidly as old friends are lost and new ones gained. I find it difficult to let go of the past and embrace the cycles of loss and gain that Death represents, and I try very hard to prevent it from happening in the belief that I can conquer change.
Envy: Prince of Swords
The Prince of Swords is the distant intellectual. In my mind’s eye, this is who I want to be; in many ways, the goal I strive for. Deep down, I’ve always longed to be mysterious and hard to understand (sounds silly, I know), as well as a paragon of intellect. Because I want to be the distant intellectual, I also do envy those who are distant intellectuals themselves; famous scholars and academics who have changed their fields of study. That is who I want to be, and at times I am, despite my efforts, jealous of those who are successfully on their way towards doing this. This has at times become apparent at awards ceremonies at university; no matter how hard I try, someone always does better, and I am not happy for them; I am envious of their success.
Greed: Sorrow (Three of Swords)
This is an interesting card to have in the Greed position. I certainly don’t desire things that make me sad. However, I am fully aware of my social class standing; I am from a rather wealthy family (though we would never admit it). I have a lot of material things already, and as such, whenever Greed does set upon me in any desire for a physical thin (such as, say, a new deck of Tarot cards), I feel intensely guilty for wanting that thing because I already have so much. I can get rather upset over this; perhaps more so over this than my giving in to any other sin. I want to be able to want things without feeling terrible about it; the world does not live up to my expectations (a Three of Swords idea), and so I feel terrible about my own position as a member of a class who has things other’s don’t, and I feel angry and depressed about any feelings of desire for material possessions I might have.
Wrath: Peace (Two of Swords)
Even though this card is a 2, which normally might indicate that this Sin is powerful within me, the card itself has the opposite meaning. Peace represents control of emotions, putting aside differences, and striving to improve the world around us; quite different from Wrath. In this case, this card indicates that I don’t express my rage outwardly; I get angry a lot, but no one can ever tell, and my anger is primarily directed towards the world as a whole, not any given individual. I successfully block my anger and Wrath in the hopes of making myself and everyone else happier, and so this Sin, while it exists within me, is mostly under control.
Gluttony: Queen of Cups
These two cards go together reasonably well. I consume dreams, fantasies, and imagination; realms of the Queen of Cups. Not of other people, of course, but of myself; in my attempts to distance myself from what I view in many ways as a corrupted, spoiled world, I spend a lot of my time in the realm of my mind, writing and creating things so that I don’t have to think about it. This has the effect of me consuming my time and depriving others of it; I have friends who sometimes complain that I am not social enough and I lock myself in my room too much and don’t go out and do fun stuff (though I don’t think most of the aforementioned stuff is fun). I consume my own time and keep it to myself, not letting others spend it with me, sometimes. I consume myself by locking myself in my mind.
Lust: Debauch (Seven of Cups)
Well, this is awkward. Enough said. Moving on…
Sloth: Swiftness Reversed (Eight of Wands Reversed)
The Eight of Wands is a card that has a meaning that is the opposite of Sloth; energy and speed. However, it is reversed, so its meaning is not on the surface. I am very, very efficient when I want to be; I can pull out ten page papers in a few hours if I have my mind set to it. I can write 10,000 words in a novel in four hours. I can write entire children’s books, complete with full-color illustrations, in about ten hours total. I can run very quickly, and I can do a lot in one day if I set my mind to it. That seems to the be opposite of Sloth. However, it is also very difficult for me to get myself to be productive (take writing this post, for instance; a couple hours of work, but about a week of procrastination), which is where the reversed comes in. I am usually good about getting things done well ahead of time, but it still takes me a lot of will to overcome my urge to not get that stuff done. I can and will overcome my Sloth, but not after a lot of laziness first.
Very general readings like the above are very difficult, and I have only included the most important of my interpretations above. It is also not always easy drawing links between the cards and the Sins; it can seem downright impossible at times. However, if you think hard enough about it, eventually it will come to you.
Question: What role do the Seven Deadly Sins play in my current formal educational experience?
Pride: Queen of Swords
The Queen of Swords is, in some ways, herself prideful. She is an individualist who does not like to rely on others, but who also sees herself as able to negotiate with others and help them. This is an apt description of my approach to academics; I almost never accept help from others (the sole exception being my thesis advisors, really), and prefer to do things on my own; not because it will be good for my mind, but because I believe that I don’t need help. I don’t like to admit that I need help, and I firmly believe that I am always good enough to do anything put before me; even when I can’t. At the same time, this pride I take in my academic abilities can sometimes cause me to sound condescending, especially because I like to help people in their own struggles with schoolwork; I like to give, but not receive, help. My Pride makes it this way.
Envy: The Emperor (IV)
The Emperor is a symbol of order and justice. I am, despite first appearance, an organized individual. However, the Emperor is also a symbol of power and authority, and it is of that I am envious. In my studies, I am jealous of those who are closer to the power and authority of the university academic (not overall social) system: professors. I am envious at times of graduate students who hold closer relationships with those professors I hold a working relationship with, and I want to have that sort of relationship with those academics responsible for establishing authority and order among both academia and the student body in the classrooms. I am envious of TA’s who get to establish order in the classroom, and I want to be able to do the same myself.
Greed: Victory (Six of Wands)
Sixes generally indicate conquering, in some way, your Sin, or at least finding a way to balance it out. In this case, Victory is an even stronger indicator that, in the academic world, I have achieved Victory over this Sin, and have mastered it. I do not believe this is necessarily the case; I certainly do have Greed in my studies, at least in that I always want to know more. I’m that student who reads the extra articles (but doesn’t do the extra work!) just to find out what they say. Other than that, though, my Greed does not play a major role in my academic environment; it is for the most part under control. I don’t even pursue academics like I do in the hope of material gain! Greed is not a problem for me academically.
Wrath: Science (Six of Swords)
Another Six, and in my other arm! This seems to indicate that my Wrath is under control, and is represented by Science. This is a very good indication of the state of my wrath, I think; my studies in sociology certainly make me angry at the world quite a lot, but I have successfully directed that Wrath towards the pursuit of a better world, devoting it towards developing a better understanding of social Science to eventually help make the world a better place and lessen my Wrath.
Gluttony: Truce (Four of Swords)
Truce is a Four, which is associated with some sort of understanding with the Sin, or temporary shelter. Reinforcing this meaning is Truce’s own association with a temporary solution to a problem. This would indicate that for now, my desire to consume to my own detriment is temporarily at bay, but might return. I actually see this as a very temporally-influenced card; I think it’s telling me that my thirst for knowledge has been temporarily removed by winter vacation, during which I am spending little time on my studies. But how, you may ask, does this hunger for knowledge work to my detriment? I overwork myself. I am working on my undergraduate thesis at the moment, and I read way too many sources and am trying to include far too much in it. My desire to learn everything possible about the topic often leaves me stressed and depressed when I can’t do it all. For now, though, this Gluttony is not a problem. Check in again in January.
Lust: The Hermit (IX)
Lust is the desire of pleasurable things. In this case, because its most obvious association, sex, is not relevant at all to the question, this will have to represent how my academics relate to me doing “fun” things, such as spending time with friends, writing, relaxing, and the like. The answer? I don’t spend much time doing that! Why? Because of my overworking myself with my thesis and classes at university, I lock myself in my room and don’t let myself do these things a lot of the time. I isolate myself from doing things for enjoyment, cloistering myself with my work and not allowing myself to relax. In this case, the card indicates that I am not giving into my Lust at all, which, in the end, is actually hurting me.
Sloth: The Priestess (II)
The Priestess is a figure of passivity, being the ultimate symbol of esoteric femininity. This indicates that I am, to some extent, passive in my studies. The Priestess is also a card of mysteries and hidden meanings. My thesis is a historical one, and so I am using primary sources from centuries ago, whose meanings and true messages are often obscured. In this case, my Sloth could very well be my reading some sources only for the surface meanings (due to me overworking myself; see above) and not bothering to dive into the deeper meanings of the authors’ words. I could, if I had the energy and will to, but I choose not to.
Thoughts on the Celtic Cross
The Celtic Cross Spread is perhaps the single most commonly used Tarot spread in the Western world, or perhaps the entire world. It is generally the first spread – other than the simple three-card Past, Present, Future spread – that most Tarot books teach. The spread itself has been used so often that it has built up a lot of energy and interpretations as to its meaning.
The Spread itself is composed of two parts: the Cross and the Staff. The two parts of the Celtic Cross represent the two basic polarities that inhabit everyone’s life: Yin and Yang. Yin, the masculine, is represented by the four upright cards of the staff, and reminds us that everything progresses towards a goal (the top card of the staff represents the ultimate outcome). Yang, the feminine, is represented by the four cards surrounding the central two in a circle, and reminds us that everything also has a cyclical nature. The two cards in the center of the Cross – the central and supporting factors – represent the resolution of the duality of the Staff and Cross. In Druidic thought, dualistic thinking is resolved through the creation of a third choice, to avoid living in a world dominated by either ors. The two central cards connect the Cross and the Staff, and represent the third choice; the two dots in the Yin Yang symbol colored differently than their surroundings.
A rough image of the shape is the spread is below:
The Cross is on the left, and the staff is on the right. Those of you familiar with the Spread may immediately notice that I have numbered the positions differently than is standard. This is because, to me, the “standard” Celtic Cross numbering has never seemed to ring true, and the way above has always seemed much more natural to me; it was the way the cards naturally dealt themselves, rising from the influence of the unconscious to the influence of time, to the influence of the subconscious, focusing on rising through the levels of consciousness. Who am I to argue with the animus mundi?
When I throw the spread, I lay out the cards in the above order. The card in the first position represents the central factor of whatever question you have asked, and tells you what the most powerful energy in any given situation is. The second card is the secondary factor, and it can be either supporting, neutral, or contradicting. If it is a supporting factor, its energy will be similar to that of the central factor, and will work in harmony with it (such as The Lovers and Love). If it is neutral, the energies will have no interplaying effects on each other. If it is a contradicting factor, the energies will oppose each other in some way. In all cases, the energy of the central factor takes priority and has the most strength, but its energy is modified by the energies of the secondary factor, changing it, strengthening it, weakening it, or sometimes, as in the case of a neutral factor, merely adding another layer of complexity and another central factor to the situation.
After dealing those two, I deal the rest of the cross in a zig-zag motion, starting at the bottom, going up to the left, then the right, then up. As I said before, this just feels natural to me. The four cards of the wheel are the influences on the situation, and represent how the querent’s own mind and the passage of time affect the situation. The third position represents unconscious influences on the situation, such as what might be going through the mind of the querent (most commonly) or those closely involved with him that they are not aware of that shape the querent’s perception of the situation. If this influence is a card associated with deception, the querent may not be being honest with himself.
The fourth position represents past influences; the weight of history and their past experiences, and how those things have shaped their worldview and approach to the situation. It can represent receding influences as well, and influences whose hold over the querent are weakening. The fifth position represents future influences or goals, and represents what the querent or others strive to achieve, and what might (remember that the cards do not tell the future) lie in store there. The sixth position represents conscious influences: those things that are at the forefront of the querent’s mind that they are very much aware of, affecting their actions with regards to the situation. If this card is associated with deception, then the querent (if it is not yourself) might not be being honest with you! It could also mean that they are possibly a dishonest party in the situation.
The Cross is made of two axes: a vertical one and a horizontal one. The horizontal axis deals with the passage of time; on the left is the past and on the right is the future. The secondary factor (the second card placed) is also associated with this axis, as it lies horizontally. It represents the present situation as well as what I listed above, and the transition between past and future. I should note here than many practitioners of the Celtic Cross spread lay out the cards so that the past is on the right and the future on the left. This interpretation is seen in Geomancy as well. This is a perfectly valid viewpoint, and I believe it arises out of the common trend of many languages (particularly Semitic languages like Hebrew, from which the Tarot derives some of its symbolism) to read from right to left. As I am a native English speaker, I read left to right, and so also read the passage of time in that manner. The difference is as simple as that.
The vertical axis of the Celtic Cross deals with levels of the mind, and how the querent acts upon and perceives the situation. At the top is the conscious mind, and at the bottom is the subconscious mind. As the central factor is vertical, it is also associated with this axis, and represents the ultimate reason for the querent’s interest in the situation, and the sum of their conscious and unconscious drives, as well as everything else discussed above. The three cards on this axis are reflected in Sigmund Freud’s conception of the mind: the conscious influences are the Superego, the police for of the mind that makes judgments and imposes values on the individual’s actions; the central factor is the Ego, which does its best to provide a realistic view of any situation; and the unconscious influences are the Id, the primal drives and unconscious desires that ultimately drive us all, and are repressed by the Ego and SuperEgo.
The Staff consists of four cards aligned vertically. The seventh position represents the querent’s position, and in some ways serves to sum up the Cross. It represents the biases and prejudices the querent might have, as well as how they have been approaching the situation up to this point, how they are dealing with it, and their role in the situation and how they effect their surroundings. The eighth position represents environmental factors, and the querent’s relationship to everything that surrounds him or her. This can be the people surrounding him, the physical environment she lives in, or anything else. Most commonly, it represents the influences that the environment have upon the situation and the querent, but can also sometimes represent the influences that the querent as upon the environment (a role shared with the previous position). These two positions are also associated with the horizontal axis of the Cross.
The ninth position represents the querent’s hopes and fears, as well as advice. it is strongly associated with the future influences position, as well as the secondary factors position. It is also a summation of the vertical axis of the Cross, and represents what the querent hopes to get out of the situation, or what they fear to lose from it. It can also give the querent something to think about, or a piece of advice that might help them deal with whatever is going on.
The tenth and final position of the Celtic Cross is the summation of the rest of the spread. It represents the probable outcome of the situation. Depending on the way that the energies of the spread work out, this can either represent the result of things don’t change, or the result if the spread’s advice is followed (the latter is more common). It tells you how the querent, the environment, and everyone else involved will be affected by and changed by the situation when it is resolved. It is strongly associated with the central factor as well as the conscious influences positions, as it represents the central factor of what is most likely to happen given everything else, and serves as a sort of second central factor card for the spread.
When I read any spread, unlike many people, I lay out the entire spread first before looking at the cards, rather than interpreting each card on their own before looking at their relationships to each other. This is a personal thing, and I feel like I can better understand the cards if I do it this way. Additionally, I do not read the Celtic Cross in the same order I lay it out. Generally, I begin with examining the first two positions, then move on to the horizontal axis of the cross (past to future), then the vertical access (unconscious to conscious), and then go onto the Staff. If I need clarification on anything, I generally look first to the cards linked with the confusing card’s position, then at the cards surrounding it and the general energies of the spread, and if that fails me, I draw another card.
The World’s Greatest Fear
At the request of a good friend of mine, I did another reading looking at the world. This time, I am using one of my own recently-created spreads – my Conquering Fear spread – to examine what the world might be afraid of. The question I asked was “What factors should I look at if I seek to understand what the social, environmental, physical, and metaphysical world fears and what it might hope can be done to assuage those fears?” I used the Necronomicon Deck.
Position 1: The Underlying Cause of the Fear/Root of the Fear – Six of Cups
The underlying cause of the world’s fear is the Six of Cups, or the Satisfaction of Water. This indicates that the deepest root of the world’s fear is of increase, gain, happy expectation, and hope. This very interesting, as it seems to indicate that the cause of the world’s fear is optimism itself; it is afraid on its deepest level of hoping for the best. Why is this? It could possibly be because the world is afraid of hoping for better things, because it believes that its hopes and dreams will always be unrealized. I can understand this attitude; I feel this way quite a lot, and with the current situation of the world, these feelings are understandable; just look at how we’re handling climate change and all of our social issues. Despair and surrender are the cause of the world’s fear.
Position 2: The Form the Fear Takes – The Star
Again very interesting; the form that the world’s fear takes is Ishtar, the Star. They key thing here, I think, is that the form the fear takes is that of a guiding light; the Earth feels as if it is being misguided by its caretakers: the human race. We have caused many of the problems that the world is facing, and we are either doing little to fix things or exacerbating the problems. Our failure to effectively regulate environmental pollution is one example of this. Society also might feel that it is being misguided by its rulers, and is actually afraid of its guiding lights. The Star is also associated with a renewal of energy, and perhaps, again, the Earth is afraid of the form that this renewal of energy will take. Humans are sapping the Earth of its energy, and maybe it fears that we will be unable to find a renewable source of energy (literally and figuratively) before it dies. This explanation would make more sense if the card was reversed, but holds this way, too.
Position 3: The Effect the Fear Has on You – The Lovers
The Deep One and Bride represent the effects that the fear has on the Earth. In this case, I think it is safe to interpret the two Lovers as the Earth and the human race. The Fear, then, is directly affecting the loving and caring relationship we have with the world: natural disasters are striking more often, social unrest is occurring everywhere, and everyone is doubtful about the future. Looking at the situation from an outsider’s angle, the current world situation could be seen as a spat between two lovers, with the two needing to understand each other once again. Of course, the blame is not equally distributed, and humanity is more at fault here. The Fear, then, is creating a disconnect between the Earth/world and humanity, which just makes everything worse.
Position 4: The Reaction That May Benefit You – Judgment
The Guardian of Eden. Interesting; a reaction to the fear of hoping for too much is to bring about a final judgment and just end it all, righting all wrongs in one blow. Perhaps a good reaction of the world – materially and in the social sense – would be to punish those responsible for misguiding the human race (see Position 2), or just punish the entire human race. In the end, that is what will end up happening if we can’t stop our levels of pollution; climate change will punish us all, and the Earth will take this road to deliver herself from its fear, and wait for a new guiding light.
Position 5: The Reaction That May Harm You – Hireophant
Dagon. A harmful reaction to the fear of the guiding light is to stick with tradition. This, to me, seems like a blatant jab at conservatives; it will be harmful to do things just as we have always done, or to rely on the current authority (the current guiding lights) or religion to save us. To look at the past and make our responses based upon it will not help us in our moment of crisis, as we have never seen anything like this before. Tradition is not the answer; innovation is.
Position 6: The Source of Your Courage – Ace of Wands [Reversed]
Purpose. Motivation. Energy. The Matrix of Fire – reversed. The source of the Earth’s courage to do what must be done will come from hidden (hence the reverse) reserves of Fire and drive we never knew it possessed (if it’s going to bring the day of judgment to us all, then Fire will be necessary). The Fire it will draw its courage from is not a blazing bonfire, but rather a more subdued, steady flame; perhaps a reflection of the long path it will take, and its boundless reserves of inner Fire and spirit. The Earth thinks on a different timescale that people do, and so do society. The Fire that will give the collective consciousness and the physical Earth courage burns slowly but steadily and strongly, allowing for a stable source of courage.
Position 7: The Form Your Courage Takes – Three of Wands
The Establishment of Fire. The form the world’s courage will take will, paradoxically, be optimism. The underlying root of the fear of the world is hope itself, and in order to conquer the despair of having given up, the world will need to learn how to take control of its optimism. It will face its fear head-on and meet it, and absorb and transform the optimism. Optimism can provide the fuel for the drive for change, and the world will learn to harness its optimism despite its strong misgivings, perhaps using this optimism and slowly-building fire to bring about the Judgment that may come to pass, cleansing the world of those who defile it. This card is also associated with discovery, which again hints that the to create change courage will come (as it tends to do with social change) from progressives, who innovate and expand upon the old, not content just to accept things as they were or return to the past. A new order will be established, one that restores the balance of the Loving relationship between humanity and the world.
Position 8: The End Result of Conquering Your Fear – Three of Swords
Not a positive ending note; the Regret of Air. After conquering the fear through the energies of Fire, the world will experience regret. This indicates that there will be much loss before the world’s fear can be overcome, and its guiding lights are once again people it can trust and people it can believe in. This card can represent kept promises, as well, and perhaps could indicate that people will realize that they have a promise they must keep with the Earth, and will respect that covenant once more and care for it. Sorrow and grief will accompany the loss of fear and the gaining of optimism, which will be caused by this to transform into realism, and hopefully the world will be a better place for it.
Overall, a very unique reading. The world is afraid of its caretakers, and those in power – such as corrupt governments and humanity itself – because it is afraid of putting too much hope of trust in them. This has affected the relationship between humanity and the larger world, leading to a disconnect between the two that will end in a purging of fire fueled by the slow buildup of energy and willpower. Let’s see how this unfolds…
This spread is not particularly useful for these abstract questions, I think, and is really meant to be more for practical readings. Still, it was a very interesting exercise!
Conquering Fear Spread
I read a very scary book yesterday: Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. As I explained in the first linked post, I was extremely affected by this book, on a level that no other book has ever affected me. Needless to say, it also terrified the living daylights out of me. As I was up at obscenely late (or early, depending on your point of view) hours, not able to sleep, I started contemplating ways to help me deal with my fear. As is common with me, I turned to the tarot, which I find usually calms me down when I am stressed about something.
And so I decided, last night, to design a spread to help me face my fears by contemplating them and moving past them. Fear is a psychosomatic phenomenon; fear is not a mandatory part of being alive. Fear only exists so long as you let it exist, as best explained in Frank Herbert’s novel Dune in the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing……Only I will remain.”
What makes fear so scary is, in part our inability to effectively deal with the unknown. By making our fear known, it helps to lessen it. We cannot deal with that which we do not know. Once we know it, it can be treated and dealt with. As such, this spread is designed to help you think about your fear, and hopefully try to move past it.
The spread below has a unique shape, which those of you familiar with H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos might recognize. It is the shape of the original Lovecraft Elder Sign (not August Derleth’s rehashed Elder Sign). The Elder Sign was designed by Lovecraft in his short story/novelette “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” to protect its bearers from the Deep Ones. Lovecraft also used it in another instances – such as in “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” – as a means to ward off any form of unnatural being. It has since come to be used as a ward or protective force to be employed against any manner of unnatural or eldritch beings.
Since H. P. Lovecraft’s horror is known for portraying the horror of cosmicism – the utter meaninglessness of life in an uncaring, monstrous universe and the vast, unknowable depths of human consciousness and experience from which the eldritch and alien emerge – I felt that it was appropriate that the spread should take the form of his Elder Sign, to ward off the terrible unknown that forms the basis of most fear.
Without further ado, the spread is here:
The spread is divided into three parts: Positions 1, 2, and 3 (the stem) represent the nature of the Fear you are facing, and help to mitigate its impact by understanding what it is. Positions 4 and 5 represent the nature of your possible reactions to the fear, helping get you in the proper mindset to rationalize the Fear and your ultimate course of action with regards to it. Positions 6, 7, and 8 represent the nature of the Courage you need to summon up in order to face your Fear, and as such lie above the Fear and represent what you should ultimately do to allow the Fear to move past you.
When using this spread, as always, deck choice can be key. Colorful, cheerful decks (like the Gummy Bear Tarot, Angel Tarot, Wildwood Tarot) can help bring peace of mind to you if overcoming your fear through action is what you desire. Darker decks (like the Necronomicon and Dark Grimoire decks) can often help overcome your fear through a cathartic-release effect, and might also help you more deeply consider the Fear by giving it more weight. I personally find the latter approach more beneficial, but it’s entirely up to you as the reader (or the querent as the querent).
The Nature of the Fear
Position 1: The Underlying Cause of the Fear/Root of the Fear
As I argued above, the true underlying cause of almost all Fear is the unknown, particularly the intrusion of the unknown or alien into one own’s familiar life. However, it would be, for contemplative purposes, not very useful to assign a place in the spread for this already-defined idea. Instead, the “root” position of this spread represents what, on a deep level, is causing this Fear of the unknown to creep into your life. What insecurity, emotion, though, or feeling is causing this Fear? How did the unknown creep into your life? What aspect of the unknown is it that is scaring you? On the most fundamental level (without just saying “the unknown”), what is it about your current situation that really unnerves you? This position, though a “root” position, is meant to be a very, very abstract concept; Fear is ultimately rooted in the mind. It asks you the question “What am I really afraid of in this situation?”
If this position is inhabited by a Sword, a Prince, or an Ace, then your fear may be buried deeply in your mind, and is a very abstract Fear, as cards with these qualities reinforce this position’s meaning and ask you to focus your attention and thoughts here.
Position 2: The Form the Fear Takes
This position is meant to illustrate the way in which the above underlying cause of Fear appears to you. If your fear is, say, that you will die alone and unloved (the first position), then this position might tell you that this fear makes itself known to you through your recent string of romantic rejections. Another way to view this position is as asking the question “What prompted this Fear to awaken inside you?” This position will hopefully help explain to you how the Fear makes itself known in your life, how it shapes itself, and how it manifests in such a way as to affect you. This position represents the avatar of your Fear, its earthly representative as it descends from the realm of the abstract.
If a Disk, Ten, or Princess appears in this position, your Fear may be grounded inherently in the practical; cards with these qualities reinforce the card in this position, and tell you to focus your attention here. Additionally, if this card is a two or a three, pay special attention here, as this card can represent the potential for the Fear to grow (related to the “Three” position), and also as the first “harmony” of the Fear (the “Two”). Also pay attention to Fours here, as this position also represents the manifestation of Fear.
Position 3: The Effect the Fear Has on You
This is a relatively simple position; it directly helps you understand how the Fear has impacted your life, and what effects it is having on you. Carrying on with our example from above, if the way that the Fear of dying alone and unloved is manifesting itself in your life is that you have been rejected many times recently, the effect that this fear is having on you could be withdrawal and contemplation of your dismal prospects, perhaps thus producing a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps the effect that the fear has had on you is that you are becoming more and more desperate to find someone who won’t reject you. Perhaps you are losing sleep over, or feel that your life is out of balance. Think deeply about the card in this position, as it is a reflection of your mental state as you instinctively try and cope with the Fear that you face. This position’s meaning is very broad, and can be interpreted in many ways, depending on the situation.
If this card is a Cup, Queen, or Three, pay extra special attention to the card in this position, as cards with these qualities reinforce this positions meaning in terms of how the Fear is affecting you and your healthy inner life.
The Nature of Your Possible Reactions to the Fear
Position 4: The Reaction That May Benefit You
No card in any spread is guaranteed to fit perfectly, or even well, and so the card in this position represents not “the reaction/mechanism of coping with the Fear that will help you” or “the positive way to react to the Fear,” but rather offers a (usually short-term, but also possibly long-term) course of action that might possibly help you cope with the Fear. This card also serves as a sort of “sum” of the meanings of Cards 6, 7, and 8, representing them in their totality. This position asks you to think about a particular course of action and what benefits it might bring you; it is advice, nothing more, and represents one possibly way to react to your fear. Of course, thinking about the negatives of this reaction is always a positive too, and should definitely be done, though this card’s emphasis is on how to react positively to the Fear, and gives guidance primarily in that regard. Essentially, this position asks you to think how the meanings of its occupying card might help you deal with the fear well. Going along with our example, perhaps this card advises you to take a step back and take some time to contemplate your actions as seen in Position 3; maybe there is something you are doing that you can change so that you won’t be rejected. Maybe it advises you not to worry because there is someone for everyone, and with patience they will come.
If a Four is occupying this position, then pay extra attention to this position, as Fours (representing Chesed and Stability) reinforce this position’s inherent desire to stabilize you among your fear.
Position 5: The Reaction That May Harm You
Like the above, this card has a disclaimer attached to it. The same one as the card above, in fact. Additionally, like the above position, this position is associated with Position 3 in the spread. The difference between Position 3 and Positions 4 and 5 is that Position 3 is meant to get you to think about how the fear has affected your life directly, while Positions 4 and 5 ask you to think about possible courses of actions to more effectively deal with this fear (if you didn’t want/need advice on how to help you overcome your Fear, then you shouldn’t have been doing this spread in the first place). Position 3 is a more immediate reaction, whereas 4 and 5 are more thought-out and considered reactions.
That being said, Position 5 is the opposite of Position 4. Where Position 4 asks you to examine a reaction to your fear that might help you, this position asks you to examine a reaction that you should avoid, as it may harm you or even increase the power that the Fear you are experiencing holds over you. Keeping with our example, this position might tell the querent that their Fear will only be made worse if he continues going out to singles bars, or perhaps that solitude isn’t the answer for now. This position asks you to consider a possible course of action and the negative outcomes it might bring (though, again, always think about the positives too!).
If a Five is present in this position, ponder it carefully, as Fives (Geburah and Destabilizing Motion) represent the energies present in this position.
The Nature of the Courage You Need to Face Your Fear
Position 6: The Source of Your Courage
The three cards making up the final part of the Elder Sign mirror the three cards making up the stem. Position 6 asks you to examine the source of your Courage; where will you or should you draw the energy from to face your Fear? Will it be drawn from within you, or from without? Will it come from friends? A significant other? Family? The community? Your pets? Going back to our ubiquitous example, perhaps our querent will draw the courage needed to face his problem from his dog, whom he realizes loves him unconditionally. Perhaps we will realize that he will always have his family. Perhaps he will realize that there is more to life than love, and will do what he can without it. If the source of your Courage is abstract, then likely a Sword or Wand will appear here. If the source is more grounded, a Cup or Disk will likely appear here. If the source is grounded, then this position also will help you determine from what physical objects your Courage will come from.
If Wands/Fire is present in this position, then your Courage in part comes from your indomitable will. If Cups/Water is, you draw it from your inner strength. If Swords/Air is, then it will come from your mindset, your rationale, and your principles of truth and reason. If Disks/Earth is, then it will come from those around you and your environment. Additionally, if a Six, Nine, Ten, or Ace is present in this position, then the source of Courage is especially strong and likely will not let you down. A Six indicates that your source is well-balanced and centered, a Nine that your Source is complete and full, a Ten that your Source is rooted firmly in the ground, and an Ace that your source is bottomless and overflows with energy.
Position 7: The Form Your Courage Takes
This position mirrors Position 2, but applies to Courage rather than Fear. If Position 6 explains where your courage is drawn from, this Position represents how it will manifest itself in terms of your ultimate reaction to the Fear. This card is linked closely to Position 4, as it helps you understand the best course of outcome for dealing with your fear. Position 4 gets you on the right track and offers one possible reaction, usually short-term, but Position 7 represents the longer-term process that will help you permanently deal with your Fear. If Positions 4 and 7 reinforce each other, than the Fear will be relatively simple to conquer; if they negate each other, then your Fear may be more difficult to conquer. Remember, however, that fear is always conquerable. It’s in your head. Sure, if an object is the source of the Fear, it can still harm you, but once you soar above bodily and hormonal reactions to it, the choice to Fear becomes yours alone.
This card represents how the Courage will imbue you and allow you to face your Fear. If we return to our example for the penultimate time, our brave querent perhaps decides that no matter what happens, he will always have his dog to return to, and so is emboldened by this to let slide rejections; he knows that he matters to someone, and so if someone rejects him, he thinks that it’s ultimately their loss, not his. In this case, the Form Courage takes for him is self-esteem.
If a Seven is in this position, be wary! Sevens in this position indicate a possible false sense of Courage, not truly drawn from your source, and might fail you in the end. This is not necessarily the case, but it is a distinct possibility, so be warned! Reversed cards in this position also mean that there might be a hurdle or blockage at first making it difficult for the Courage to manifest itself in your life.
Position 8: The End Result of Conquering Your Fear
The is the summation card, and represents the changes that you will see in your life once the Fear has been conquered by your Courage. This is a broad card, and can mean anything, but it is essentially a summation of the previous seven cards and the lasting effect that they will have on you. Returning to our example for the last time, perhaps this card tells our querent that by overcoming his Fear using the Courage of his Self-Esteem, he will become a more confident person who will succeed in the world, and as a result of this grow to be loved by more and more people, until he dies as a beloved member of the community.
If this card is a Nine or a Ten, pay special attention to it, as this process will make you stronger in the end. If this card is a Seven, the process may actually weaken you (what doesn’t kill you does sometimes make you weaker). If an Eight is occupying this position, it cautions you not to over-react to the conquest of your fear, and reminds you to remain balanced afterward.
In order to design this spread, I came up first with the idea, then the symbol I wanted to use, then the layout, and then attached cursory meanings to the cards. I then laid out a spread, and adjusted the meanings slightly to better suit the energies as they were displayed before me (I switched positions 4 and 5 from the initial reading). In the end, the result of my initial spread – my Fear about House of Leaves – was as follows, using the Dark Grimoire Tarot:
Position 1 – Four of Wands [Reversed]: The root cause of my Fear is an inability to be complete; the House of Leaves reminded me of the essential state of loneliness that we all experience in the world, that we can never escape from; it is impossible to completely “know” somebody. Everybody is, in the end, the unknown.
Position 2 – Four of Swords [Reversed]: The form my Fear took was that of an inability to obtain restful sleep, or any kind of truce or break. Quite literally, the book made it impossible for me to sleep, and as its messages ring constantly in my mind, the Fear gnaws at my mind. I am surrounded by people, and their unknowable nature constantly reminds me of how alone I am and how alien the world is. I have no respite from these thoughts, and thus the Fear is with me always, and the Fear manifests itself as a constant presence and sense of restlessness and unease with everything.
Position 3 – Ten of Pentacles: The effect that the Fear had on me was to render my material Wealth (from my family) meaningless, and illustrate how life means nothing without deep connections to others, no matter what you own. However, complete connections with others are impossible, and so the contradiction of the Tens emerge: I want that which I cannot have, and so am unsatisfied, and am affected by my fear by becoming unhappy, wanting more, and realizing that having everything is both futile and impossible.
Position 4 – The Hermit: This Hermit advises me not to seek a period of withdrawal and contemplation in order to rationally sort out my fears and discover who I really am. While this could help – as we are all, ultimately, inherently alone – it would also hurt me by depriving me of the support of others. As this fear is about a lack of connection to others, cutting myself off from them could be disastrous, even though I know my bonds to others will never be pure and complete.
Position 5 – Two of Vessels: This card advises me to seek out a companion to confide in and share my Fear with, thereby lessening the burden and reminding me that while on the ultimate level we are all inherently alone, on more superficial (in the literal, not connotative, sense of the word) levels, there are always others to support us. This is the course of action I ended up taking, and it worked.
Position 6 – Six of Swords [Reversed]: My Courage will come from logic and reason. In the end, my confidante calmed me with exactly this; she sat me down and logically explained why I shouldn’t be afraid. Usually this doesn’t work with me, but combined with the calming effect of my confidante (and her humour), this did wonders. The card is reversed because the logic and rationale of Science was not enough on its own to banish the fears; the influence of the Two of Vessels was also needed.
Position 7 – Nine of Cups: The Courage took the form of Happiness, as I realized that I would be okay even if I was on a fundamental level alone, because I would always have people who loved me, and that that was the best anyone could do. Therefore, I could unblock Completion (the Four of Wands) and be happy and content.
Position 8 – The Fool: As a result of confronting and defeating my Fears, I will be ready to move on with my life, no longer worrying too much about being alone and alien to others. However, this card also reminds me of the cyclical nature of everything, and how another Fear will eventually take the place of the old one – but hopefully I will be ready and brave enough to face it.
Hopefully this spread is helpful!
The Current State of the Occupy Movement
Those of you who have been following this blog know that my mind has been, in almost all of the previous readings I have posted here, been preoccupied with the Occupy Movement across the globe, and reading its widespread effects in the spreads. I was reflecting on the current state of the Movement – it seems to have lost a lot of momentum and has certainly dropped from the media radar and much public knowledge – and contrasting that with what I had predicted. I seem to have been rather off-kilter in my predictions (though I did think that it was maybe possible for the Movement to go into a “dormant” phase; this could very well be it), only to re-emerge more brightly in the future. However, I am anything but infallible, and may very well have misread the cards based on my situation in a place where I could not see the full picture.
If we look at Marx’s theories of Revolution, the Revolution to overthrow the governing classes must be composed of the workers united in one consciousness. As a Teaching Assistant in my Social Theories class insightfully pointed out, the Occupy Movement was made up of middle-class college students primarily, and when the working class did get involved, segregation in the Occupy camp occurred. Nothing was really solved, and the working class was still excluded and left out. This might account for why it has appeared to flop so badly.
Or perhaps there is another explanation; Marx was far from infallible. If he had been completely correct, the Great Depression would have resulted probably in a Communist Revolution in the United States. As far as we know, that did not happen. So, I decided to ask the cards for clarification, and went with a deck I use very little: The Dark Grimoire Deck.
I used the standard Celtic Cross Spread, and got this:
Card 1 – Central Factor: Ace of Wands
The Ace of Wands is a fiery card, filled with the pure spirit and will of Fire. In the Dark Grimoire Deck, the Ace of Wands is the cover of the Book of Light, representing creativity and sexuality. The central factor in determining the current state of the occupy Movement appears to be the pure sexual/fiery energy of creativity. But on whose part – the Occupiers or the Occupied? Is the current state of the Occupy Movement a result of the fiery ideological counterattack by the media and the right? Or is it perhaps a result of the fire of the movement starting strong and burning with a passion and then burning out? Or, perhaps it is a combination of the two; as rhetoric against the Occupy Movement grew (both sides began to criticize it, though for different reasons), the Movement itself began to splinter under pressure, and as the media shifted its attention away from it, like a fire the Occupy Movement began to gutter out, until like a flame its strength and power had ebbed away.
This card also represents the cover of a book. It tells us that the Occupy Movement has this fiery energy and creativity, but also that the book hasn’t completely opened yet. This seems to support my earlier conclusions about the Movement entering a “dormant” phase; the real story has not even begun yet.
Card 2 – Supporting Factor: The Lovers
This card indicates two personalities coming together and bonding, in some form or another. In this case, this bond, I think could be between two distinct personalities of the Occupy Movement: its middle-class personality and its revolutionary personality, coming together to create a revolution of the middle class. This revolution would look very different from a working class revolution, and would not have the same intensity as a working class revolution would. Perhaps this mismatched relationship is part of the cause for the movement’s recent downturn. Another interesting aspect of this card in the Dark Grimoire deck is that a third figure appears on the art, looking on the two lovers, creating a sense of impending doom. Who is this third figure? In this case, it could very well be the working class, which has been excluded from this revolutionary relationship through segregation in the camps and middle-class dominance of the Movement. In this situation, this card seems to have a more ominous and less positive connotation, and becomes a card of exclusion rather than bonding.
There are other relationships that this card could indicate. The Occupy Movement’s bond with the left and its strong association with it in a country with conservative leanings could also account for their current situation. The third figure in this case would be the right-wing in the United States, who have been left out of the Occupy Movement even though many conservatives would benefit from its success. This exclusion allows the media to delegitimize the Movement by associating it with politics rather than economic justice. It could also indicate the alliance of conservatives and liberals in striking down the Movement, making the third figure the Movement itself.
Card 3 – Past Influence: Two of Wands [Reversed]
So what laid in the Occupy Movement’s past? The Two of Wands – reversed. The Two of Wands is associated with domination and power, and this card in this position could indicate that the Movement in the past had power and the potential to change things, but perhaps no longer; this power is receding, either permanently or temporarily. Interestingly, both the Ace and Deuce of Wands appear in this spread; the Ace is in the present, and the Deuce in the past. This indicates a retrograde storyline; the book was opened and the story was read (the Two), but then the reader (in this case, social consciousness) rejected the storyline and shut the book, bringing it back to its cover.
This raises the question: why was the storyline rejected? Maybe, as Marx would likely theorize, the conditions weren’t right yet. Perhaps Marx is completely wrong, and the Occupy Movement’s aims will never be accomplished. Maybe the story will open again, and maybe not.
The Two of Wands is in this case Reversed, which is important to keep in mind. Perhaps that is why the storyline was rejected; perhaps the power that the Occupy Movement displayed earlier was false, and it appeared to be larger than it actually was (I believe I myself fell into this trap). This would account, I believe, for why the book closed; the Movement did not have the power it claimed as a result of leaving out important factors (as indicated by the Lovers), and so was destined to fail – for the moment. The book still exists, as indicated by the presence of the Ace of Wands. The art of the Two of Wands in this deck shows two men plotting something around a table, which hints that perhaps the movement was less spontaneous than it has been presented as – and perhaps reinforcing that the lack of inclusion of working-class individuals hurt the Movement (the figures in the image are distinctly scholarly).
Card 4 – Future Influence: The Magician
In the future we have the card that serves as the cover image of this deck: the Magician. The Magician is a card of manipulation, a master of esoteric secrets, and a channel of the divine or supernatural. He serves as a bridge between the realms of illusory reality and true reality. In the Dark Grimoire Deck, he is portrayed as writing a book. The Magician is, therefore, the person writing the story.
But what story, do you ask? He is writing the story that we all read and experience. Everyone has their own magician, writing their life story, but in this case, the energy of the Magician is powerful enough to manifest itself in a spread, in the position of the Future. The influence of the Magician is rising, and will eventually become a dominant force in the occupy Movement. We can hope. This, to me, indicates that in the future the Occupy Movement will resurge and will begin to write the story of the world, indicating its success.
However, I am biased. I want the Occupy Movement to succeed. What if, instead, the Magician is indicating that the opponents of the Movement will be writing the story? Nothing is specified. In the present moment, the opponents of the Movement are writing the story; politicians, the media, and conservatives dominate the discussion, and even liberals discredit the movement, writing the Movement’s history for it. Perhaps the Magician indicates that this trend will continue into the future.
So, then, who in this situation is the Magician?
Turning to the cards themselves, I noticed that the Major Arcana from I to IV are all present, and in very close proximity to each other. This, to me, seems to indicate that the prevailing story of the Occupy Movement is that of the Major Arcana, and is a coming of age story for the Movement. The Magician serves as a teacher for the Movement, which to me indicates that the Magician refers to those others writing the history’s Movement: the media and politicians. The Movement will hopefully learn from this experience, and move onward and forward, for the Magician is a teacher. Adversity and the active manipulation of your Movement by others can serve as a fine teacher.
Card 5 – Unconscious Influence: The Hanged Man
This card has darker connotations than normal in the Dark Grimoire Deck. It actually depicts a Hanged Man. This, to me, says that the hidden, underlying causes of the Movement’s current state is despair of some kind; the artwork on the card evokes ideas of suicide (quite obviously, really) and depression. Perhaps the Movement has ceased in most of its efforts because it could see how badly the odds were stacked against them, and support began to ebb as it became clear that nothing would change as a result of their actions. This supports my early theory of classifying the Movement as a flame: burning hot and bright, then simmering down quickly and burning out.
This card could also indicate that the Movement is merely biding its time and waiting; after all, the Hanged Man is card of going with the flow. Perhaps the Movement is waiting to gain more legitimacy, waiting to see what happens, and then resurge again when the time is right. This card seems to indicate that the current state of affairs is temporary, and that beneath the surface, the spirit of the Movement remains alive, but in an unrecognizable state. The time was not right for the Movement (again reinforcing what has already been said), and so the Hanged man came to have unconscious influence.
Card 6 – Conscious Influence: The High Priestess
The High Priestess, in the Dark Grimoire Deck, stands with the book the Magician wrote in her hand, reading it first and holding its secrets in her heart and mind. The High Priestess here is the first to interpret and fully comprehend the Magician’s words – perhaps even better than the Magician himself. She is an initiator of mysteries, and another channel of the divine. As a conscious influence, this card to me seems to indicate that the Occupy Movement is inspired by higher morals and ideals from a higher plane (economic justice), and that its current state relates to these ideals. Perhaps the segregation of the Movement between middle and working class Americans violated this ideals, and in order to maintain its legitimacy, the Movement had to lie low until it once again came in tune with this divine inspiration.
Perhaps this card could also indicate that the Movement is acting as a reader of the world, and is carefully watching everything said about it, and has realized that perhaps a better time for the Movement will come later. Perhaps they have subdued themselves because of signs they have seen; violent crackdowns, negative media coverage, and abundant criticisms of the Movement. They are taking a more passive stance, and reading the world again to determine when the time will again be right. This reinforces the themes of waiting and passivity found in the Hanged Man.
Card 7 – The Movement’s Own Perspective: Ace of Swords
Another Ace makes itself known, indicating that perhaps the Movement has a lot of unrealized potential; the Movement’s story has not yet even really begun. The Ace of Swords is the Ace of Demons, corresponding to the realms of thought and control. The Movement perhaps believes that it is in control of its own fate, and believes that it will fail or succeed based purely upon its own merits, actions, and mental attitudes. The reason for the present situation of the Movement is not because its opponents are doing better, but rather it is because the members of the Movement itself are failing in some way. As this card represents how the Movement itself feels about the situation, I find the above unlikely. Rather, I think that this card indicates that the Movement is aware of the control that the media, corporations, and the privatized political systems have in this country, and so are choosing to wait until they are weaker before rising up to strike again. Or, at the very least, the Movement believes this to be true. This card I am unable to shed much light on, as I am not an Occupier myself.
Card 8 – Society’s Perspective: Two of Swords [Reversed]
Interesting that the Two of Swords immediately follows the Ace. Perhaps the book of Swords – the Book of Control – has been opened by someone other than the Occupy Movement. Perhaps Society has opened the book and is reading and interpreting it in its own way, and thereby seizing control of the Movement’s future. The artwork shows Erich Zann (from H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann”) playing his violin while blindfolded, indicating a blind devotion and a search for inner tranquility that may be shattered at any moment by the Demons standing below him. Peace is fragile, this card reminds us, and society is getting this message as well. This card, to me, indicates that society realizes that there is a serious problem, and that the Occupy Movement has helped to raise awareness of this problem, even if it did not accomplish what it set out to do. This card is also reversed, indicating that perhaps the influence of the Occupy Movement on society’s perspective is hidden and not obvious, manifesting itself in a greater awareness of social issues in the country.
Interestingly, both Twos that appear in this spread are reversed. This seems to indicate that the story of the Movement has begun, at least in part, but that we are having trouble progressing past the beginning – perhaps due to flaws within the Movement itself, or because it has such powerful opponents. The fact that Erich Zann is blindfolded also has significance. The card is reversed, which could indicate that the blindfold will soon be coming off, and that society perceives the Occupy Movement as inherently flawed and silly, but at the same time as bringing something in dire need of attention to light: social inequalities in the United States and the world. Now that the Occupy Movement has done that, it is receding, as that goal has been accomplished, which might explain the Movement’s current state.
Card 9 – Advice/Hopes/Fears: The Emperor
The Emperor is a bringer of justice and order, as well as a symbol of power and authority. It reinforces the theme of fire we have seen throughout the spread as well. In this case, the Occupy Movement probably fears the order imposed upon them by the police, politicians, and the media, and the laws of society as a whole. What it hopes for is the justice that the Emperor brings to everyone. What it could do better is bring this justice to their own movement, end segregation within its camps, and come up with more ideas than just throwing out a lot of the old system. Perhaps if smaller concrete goals could be imagined (as difficult as this would be, given the broad goals of the Movement now), more might be accomplished, changing the order and sense of justice incrementally.
Card 10 – Summation: The Empress
The Empress is companion to the Emperor. She welcomes the Emperor’s subjects and nurtures them, preparing them for the indoctrination of the Hierophant and for her husband’s acceptance. This card in this position tells us that if things continue as they are, the Empress is the result. This seems at odds with the rest of the reading; the nurturing mother figure of the Empress?
Keep in mind that this reading is not examining the trajectory of the Movement as its primary focus. Rather, I am examining the factors behind its current situation. In this case, this summary card to me indicates that the Occupy Movement is in its current state in order to better care for its members and society as a whole. Its tactics have proved largely ineffective, and its members are fleeing the Movement. Many members of the Movement need to obtain jobs and money, and so leave the Movement, weakening it in order to nurture themselves – maybe so that later they can give back to the Movement. The Movement is also drawing a lot of fire, and a lot of arrests have been made, so perhaps the Movement is lying low to give its members time to recover and nurse themselves back to health, so that the movement can continue fighting.
Three things drew my attention immediately about this spread. The first was the presence of a large number of Major Arcana, indicating that large forces are behind the Movement’s current situation, perhaps many beyond its control. The second was that there were no Court Cards, indicating that strong personalities or individuals were not involved; this is a reminder that the Movement has no real “leader.” The third thing I noticed was that there were no Minor Arcana cards above the Two, which seems to suggest that the Occupy Movement is only the first stage in a much longer process, as its story has only just been opened.
So, in summary, the Occupy Movement is in its current state because it has burned itself out and faces poor publicity as a result of others writing its story, and is now sitting back and biding its time, waiting for the proper moment to rise again and allowing itself to lick its wounds and heal from the assaults on it. In the end, the Occupy Movement is only the first chaper – the opening lines and cover – of the book telling the history of the world, one forged in Fire and Air, the only two appearing elements in the spread. Emotions and Practicality are not the true essence of the Movement, but rather fiery willpower combined with lofty ideals. These things are necessary before the full revolution will occur, but we have a long way to go before we reach our final destination…
Interpreting the Cards
I have already discussed the process behind throwing the spread, and now it is time to discuss another important aspect of reading the tarot – perhaps the most important aspect, in fact: interpreting the cards themselves.
Assuming that you have already laid out the cards, having gone through the process of formulating your topic, asking a question, choosing your spread and deck, invoking your guide, and then finally placing the cards down,it is time to start interpreting them.
The most important thing to keep in mind when reading the cards is the question that you asked. Your inner guide, your subconscious mind, is trying to help you answer your question through the medium of the cards. You need to interpret the cards with the intention of answering the question you spent so much time formulating. For example, if you asked “What factors should I consider when trying to understand and handle Larry’s frequent thefts?” (sound familiar?) it wouldn’t do you any good to interpret the spread as advising you to invest in fish. Certainly, you can find a way to interpret the spread as almost anything you want. That is the beauty of the tarot: it is vague, simple, and meaningful enough that each card be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, leading to countless avenues of mental exploration. However, the cards will only help you if you interpret them in a fashion that directly answers your question.
A second critically important aspect of reading the cards is to interpret the card and its position, or else the spread itself is meaningless (more on this later).
Like with laying out the spread, there is no single way to do interpret the cards, and every reader will give you a different answer if you ask them about it. So, instead of laying out meaningless “rules,” I will merely give my own take on the process.
I tend to interpret the cards individually first, and then use these interpretations to color wider relationships and patterns between and among the cards. It is perfectly valid, however to do the opposite, and use broader patterns in the spread to inform your interpretation of individual cards. I have been known to do both. Generally, it is easier to focus on interpreting individual cards, and when just starting out, often it helps to just focus on this and ignore larger patterns at first.
The first thing I do, after laying out all the cards and carefully placing the remainder of the deck to the side, out of the way, is methodically go through each card in each position and meditate on its meanings. When I say “meditate,” here, I mean think very hard about it, while simultaneously attempting to shut out all distractions. This can be very difficult to do, as the world has a great many distractions. If you can, you should perform a reading when you will not be disturbed by those not involved, and with no easy access to the internet (unless you are still learning a deck, when having websites open might aid you). If you are reading for someone else, in person, this might be harder, but it is still important to concentrate greatly on each card.
For each spread, I go through the cards in the same order; ritual, I find, helps focus the mind and make the cards easier to interpret. For example, in the Celtic Cross spread, I always start with the central factor, then supporting factor, then influence of the past, then the future, then the unconscious influences, then the conscious ones, and then I work my way up the staff from bottom to top.
For each card, I go through the following steps:
1). Remind myself of the meaning of the card’s position. (It’s later). It is easy to sometimes get so wrapped up in interpreting the meaning of a particular card as it applies to your question that you forget to also take into account the meaning of the card’s position. Each position in a spread has its own meaning, like that of the card, and functions like astrological houses. The question serves to focus your thoughts (and serve a function similar to the date and time in astrology), the cards give you language to speak in (like Sun Signs, Planets, Asteroids, and Nodes in astrology), and the positions in the spread show you where the actions represented by the cards take place (like Houses in astrology, and in Geomancy, for that matter).
By reminding myself of what the card’s position means first, I ensure that I am thinking about that when thinking about the card. For example, when reading the first position of the Celtic Cross, I will remind myself that this is the central factor that will help me answer my question, or when reading the ninth card will remind myself that this card is what will offer me advice or illuminate my hopes and/or fears (it’s always interesting when a single card can do both of these). I will then apply the card’s position to my interpretation of the card itself.
2. Interpret the Image on the Card. This step is relatively simple; answer the question “What do I see on the card, and how does this apply to my question when relating it back to its position?” This often does not take all too much time, as eventually the picture’s image will help define what it means to you. If you are using this deck for the first time, spend a long time noticing every aspect of the image, and how it reinforces its meaning. If you have used it before, it is often helpful to spend a long time looking at it, but not always necessary. Instead, look at the image for any parts of it that might directly apply to or shed insights on the question.
3. Interpret the Card’s Meaning as Seen by You. This is closely related to the previous step, but slightly different. Each card, over time, will come to have a specific meaning for you, and you will develop different relationships with the cards. For example, the Devil and I have a very special relationship, and I can generally almost instantly divine an interpretation for it (even though one might be able to do this, however, it is always good to not rely on an instant reaction, and think instead about that reaction for a while before moving on to the next card). This meaning is not the meaning espoused by others; always at first interpret the card on your own, using your own understanding of it. This makes your reading unique, helps develop your mind, helps you learn the cards, and is a more direct conduit to your inner mind. Let the card speak to you before you turn to others’ thoughts. This is most easily done by looking at the image on the card, as explained above.
4. Interpret the Card’s Universal Meaning. This step is not as important as the previous two, but helps provide some cohesion and legitimacy to the cards. For example, it is generally not considered appropriate to interpret Death (XIII) as meaning that your life will remain the same forever (though if the card is reversed, some might argue it can be interpreted that way). There are certain “universal” interpretations and meanings associated with cards, which come from generations of scholarship and personal interpretations; in the end, the universal meaning of a card is merely the result of countless generations of personal interpretations. For most decks, the universal meaning of a card is the result of occult and esoteric theories, particularly those from Qabalah and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Many of the cards also have equivalent symbols in other esoteric arts, such as Geomancy, Astrology, and Alchemy.
However, one should always interpret a card on their own and understand it on a personal level before ever consulting an outside source on the card’s meaning. The instant one does that, they will never interpret the card the same way they would otherwise. It is best, I have found, to first learn the card’s meaning according to your own system, and then research it and take in what parts of it you agree with, and leave out others. Sometimes you might reject everything the universal meaning says (which is perfectly fine!), and sometimes you might reject everything you thought about it (also perfectly fine!). The outside research won’t change because of you, but you will change because of the outside research. Remember that.
So, once you have interpreted the card’s meaning according to image, personal interpretation, and universal meaning, I would recommend next looking at the card’s suit.
5. Interpret the Card’s Suit. This becomes more important when looking for wider patterns, but even when looking at it initially, interpreting the suit can be helpful. In this step, simply look at the card’s suit and apply that meaning to its position. Wands/Fire are associated with the willpower and activity, Cups/Water are associated with emotions and passivity, Swords/Air are associated with logic and the abstract, Disks/Earth are associated with the material and practicality, and the Major Arcana are associated with the spirit and life’s journey.
6. Interpret the Card’s Number. This is often more helpful when reading an individual card than interpreting the suit is. After determining the effect of the suit on the reading, I look at the card’s number (or, in the case of court cards, its rank). Each number generally has a specific meaning across the suits, though this meaning varies from deck to deck. Most commonly, the numbers represent the different Sefirot of the Tree of Life. This is where the interpretation of the suit can become useful, as it is the card’s number and its suit that determine its universal, original meaning. Aces, for example, represent the beginning of the suit and stand for everything it represents, completely purely. Tens represent the logical conclusion of the suit, with it being applied to earthly, material life. One should adopt a system of interpreting the number and stick to it. Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth is helpful in this regard if you wish to examine Qabalistic interpretations. Numbered cards (1-10 in the four suits) generally represent aspects of the energies of a particular suit as they apply to events relating to the question.
In the cases of the Court Cards, instead of looking at the numbers, look at the position. The names of these positions vary wildly, from King, Queen, Knight, and Page to Knight, Queen, Prince, and Princess, to King, Queek, Knight, and Knave. No two decks have exactly the same court card setup, and Court Cards are often the hardest cards to master. Court cards generally represent strong personalities in the situation you are examining in your reading, and might represent actual people or forces of nature and society.
Major Arcana cards do have numbers, but not in the same way as the numbered cards do. The numbers of the Major Arcana reflect the card’s position on the journey of life, and Major Arcana cards appearing in the spread represent powerful forces in a reading. They generally are given more weight when interpreted, and represent aspects of life’s journey as manifested in a particular situation.
7. Is the Card Reversed? Reversed cards are a matter of much debate in the tarot world, and nobody interprets them the same way. When a card appears upside down, some people choose to interpret it differently. Some people don’t at all, and just flip the card over. Whatever you wish to do about reversed cards is perfectly fine.
Many people interpret a reversed card as meaning the opposite of its normal meaning; for example, Death (XIII) reversed would be that one’s life will lack any major changes, and that no major forces would interfere with his life. This interpretation works fine, but I find it personally lacking.
Personally, I interpret reversed cards as meaning that the energy of that card is still present, but blocked by something. Going through the rest of the spread, or if that fails, drawing a clarifying card, can help you figure out what exactly is blocking the energy. When the energy is blocked, the card’s effects can be reduced, hidden, or expressed in an unusual way.
But, the meaning (and existence) or reversed cards is up to you. If you are just starting, it might be best not to interpret reversed cards differently at first.
8. Relate the Meaning of the Card Back to Its Position. Remember how I said to keep the card’s position in mind? Did you, when reading all of the above? Chances are, you didn’t. I didn’t. It can be hard, like I said. So, after interpreting all of the above aspects of the card, before you move on to the next one, take a minute or two to remind yourself of the card’s position, and relate the card’s meaning back its position. This also serves to help you formalize what the card means in this particular situation in your own mind.
So, after going through that for each card in the spread, its time to look for patterns! There is, again, no set way to do this. Generally, the first thing I look for is patterns of suits. Are there a lot of Wands in the spread? Perhaps, then, the situation calls for courage and forging onwards without looking back. Lots of Disks? Perhaps you should be cautious and think things through carefully before moving forward. Are there a lot of Major Arcana? This might be a major turning point in your life. The tone of the spread overall can be drastically affected by the various amounts of each suit represented. Make note also of absent suits.
After this, I look for patterns of numbers. Are there a lot of Aces? Perhaps a new beginning is coming your way. A lot of tens? Perhaps an ending. Lots of sixes? Your life may be well-balanced at the moment. If there are a lot of a particular rank of Court Card, perhaps this personality has come to dominate your life and the choices you make. Additionally, if you have all four of the Court Cards of one suit in a spread (or even, to a lesser extent, just all four Court Cards), make a note of that, as it indicates that all aspects of that suit are represented somewhere in the spread.
Some decks have other classifications of cards specific to them. For example, the Wildwood Tarot was designed with the Wheel of the Year in mind. When using the Wildwood deck, after interpreting the spread initially, I often rearrange the cards to that each card is in its position relative to the Wheel of the Year, to better understand the spread’s composition. Doing similar other things can be helpful in determining other patterns, too. Just remember to make sure that you are done interpreting the cards’ positions before rearranging them!
Once you have looked at broad patterns, you can focus. Many cards have associated opposites or complements; Learning the Tarot here has a page on some of these, and there are many others. For example the Magus and the Priestess are opposites, as well as the Emperor and the Empress. The Seven of Disks and the Six of Disks are often opposites. Opposites are often easier to see than complementary cards, such as the Seven of Cups and then Ten of Cups. Also, remember that the numbered cards form a progression, from one to ten. If you can see this progression in the spread, it can also be interpreted in its own special way. For example, if in the past you see the Two of Swords and in the future you see the Three of Swords, you might want to consider how the path of Swords influences your life, as you might be going down it. It might be worth it to ponder how the rest of the suit might manifest in your life.
The meaning of these linked cards can be reinforced if they are also in linked positions. The positions in each spread, as I have said many times, have specific meanings, and some positions are linked to others through these meanings. For example, the past and present positions in the Celtic Cross are opposites, the central and supporting factors can be either opposing or complementary positions, the Conscious Influences, Future, and Advice/Hopes/Fears positions in the Celtic Cross are complemantary, the bottom two positions on the Celtic Cross staff are linked, the Past and Subconscious Influence positions are linked, and the entire Yin-Yang spread is composed of opposites. Learning the Tarot has a page on linked Celtic Cross positions here.
If you see opposing or complementary cards in these linked positions, it can either strengthen a certain message or weaken it. Watch these positions carefully!
If reading the patterns in a spread isn’t enough, and you really want the meaning of a particular card to become clear, you can draw another card from the unused deck and place it next to the card in question. This card will clarify the meaning of the card you drew it to help you understand. It can clarify the card in a number of different ways; either by showing how the card’s energies will be expressed, where they will be, how strong they will be, or can add a second factor to the card, sometimes showing the situation to be even more complex than before. Try not to try a second clarifying card if you can; always try to use the cards before you already before drawing more.
Most spreads have a single card that “sums up” the rest of the spread. This card is good to end a reading on. Of course, interpret it individually along with the rest of the cards, but at the end, after you have taken everything else into account, return again to this card and look at it in a new light, and determine why it is that this card applies to the entire spread, and how the rest of the spread represents various aspects of this single card.
Once you are done interpreting the cards, it is time to put them away. There are countless ways to do this, as with every other step, but my own personal method is to thank my inner guide, move the cards together into a big pile, shuffle them among themselves, and then shuffle them back into the deck, before putting them away and moving on.
It’s very difficult to be specific with posts of this nature, but hopefully this was interesting and at least mildly helpful!
Throwing the Spread
Almost as important as – or some would argue more important than – interpreting the tarot cards as they are laid out before you is the process of actually laying out that spread. This process varies wildly depending on the reader, so it is impossible to create a “universal” process (indeed, for any esoteric art, it is impossible to create a “universal” anything). So, in this post, I will describe what I personally do, the steps of which include many items common to many readers.
I believe that there are six important steps to throwing a Tarot spread: Formulating the Topic, Choosing the Spread, Writing the Question, Choosing the Deck, Invoking the Guide, and Laying out the Cards.
Formulating the Topic
The first step for me, Formulating the Topic is when you come up with the idea for a reading. This is, perhaps, the simplest step for me. The Topic does not refer to the specific question being asked (I cover this later), but instead the general area that I will explore in the reading. Usually, the Topic comes to me in a flash of inspiration: “I wonder what the state of the world is now,” “I wonder what I should do about X,” “I wonder what might happen if,” and other similar statements. Note how these all started with “I wonder;” if you can turn a topic into an “I wonder” statement, then chances are it can later make a good question and an interesting reading. Of course, some of the time I am not in charge of the topic. When I am doing readings for others, usually they are the ones choosing the topic. However you arrive at your topic – whether by thinking about what you want to do your daily reading on, in a flash of inspiration, or as ordered to by others – Formulating the Topic is the Spark/Origin (Ace of Wands, anyone?) that initiates everything that follows.
Writing the Question
The next few steps can really be done in any order, but the order I listed them here is the order I feel it works best in. The next thing that I do is operationalize the topic by turning it into a question that the tarot cards can help me answer. This is one of the most important steps of the whole process; by doing this you turn the Origin of the Topic into something that can be worked with and used, giving the topic the potential to become an interesting reading (the Ace of Cups, anyone? The Potential?).
In order to write a good question, you must think of your words very specifically. Your question will reflect how you interpret the spread, and writing a good one is essential to being in the right state of mind. If you are just coming out of a traumatic or depressing event and immediately want to throw a spread on it, by all means do so, but make sure that you are able to, at least for this step, detach yourself from the events. This can be difficult, but a biased question will result in a biased answer. If you ask “What should I do about stinking Uncle Larry’s thieving ways?,” you are assuming that Uncle Larry’s motives for thieving are not particularly important, that he is a bad man, and the answer you get will be straight advice, nothing more. This is not, in my beliefs, because the cards themselves will hear you and change to reflect the question, but because you are already in a mindset, when interpreting the cards, that will lead you to interpret them to give you the answer you want. The tarot is all about seeing situations in new lights, and if you are going to them for divination or straight “what should I do, tell me” advice, you are, I would argue, doing them wrong.
Your question should be unbiased and use neutral language, so as to get your mind thinking neutrally and to distance yourself from the situation. Your question should also be simple, so that it is easy to directly relate each card to the question. Your question should never be a yes or no question; if it is, just flip a coin and be done with it. It will waste less of your time. Asking advice in a question is perfectly fine, but “What should I do about’s,” while they can work, generally don’t. The cards are not there to think for you; they are to help you think be letting you reinterpret the situation. Instead, maybe ask “What factors should I consider when deciding what to do about…” Yes, this question is longer and not quite as simple (and both use “I should’s – but in different ways), but it more accurately captures what would be more useful information. Instead of just asking the cards what actions you should take, this question asks if there are any things about the situation that you should take into account when deciding what to do. The images and meanings of the cards will then lead your mind to think about things you may have missed, and help point you to where you want to go.
The cards are not diviners. They are mental aids. Treat them as such. Generally, I find merely putting the words “What factors should I consider when…” can make most statements into a workable question.
The last important thing about your question is its scope. Many readers will tell you to be specific. That is all well and good, but I think that broad readings also serve a purpose – like survey courses at a university. If you are tackling a large problem with many interconnecting parts, it can be helpful to first ask a broad question – for example, “What factors should I consider when trying to improve my company’s performance?” That reading will probably lead you to think of a few key areas you could improve. Then, you can get more specific as you think – “What factors should I consider when trying to fix workgroup R’s productivity problems?” This can lead you on to ask “What factors should I consider when dealing with the tense relationship between James and Ginny?,” and maybe after you come to a conclusion on that, everything will work out fine. Broad questions can also serve as interesting philosophical exercises. Just keep in mind that your answer’s scope will generally be the same as your question’s.
So, the most important parts of a question, I believe, are:
-Nuance (i.e., not Yes/No)
-Asking After Influencing Factors Rather than Straight-up Advice (long part, this one)
-Scope (choose one for each reading and go with it!)
So, going back to my first sample question, “What should I do about stinking Uncle Larry’s thieving ways?,” I would recommend rewriting it as “What factors should I consider when trying to understand and handle Larry’s frequent thefts?” The words in this question are less loaded than the original, and the question is more nuanced and open-minded. Also, though the question got longer, it is still just as simple; the wording just changes your state of mind and distances yourself from it (note the removal of the word “uncle”). The scope of the question is also still the same.
So, now that you’ve got yourself a question, how do you answer it?
Choosing the Spread
So, how are you going to think about the answer? Perhaps by invoking the energies of the Ace of Swords (the Thought), which allows you to translate your question into something that your mind can answer with the cards. There are two steps to this process, the first of which is choosing the spread. The spread is the pattern in which you will lay out the cards. There are far too many spreads to list here, but your spread should provide a format for the cards to answer the question.
The most common spread is the Celtic Cross spread, and generally I use it to serve as an overview of a situation, or as a go-to spread. The Yin-Yang spread is helpful when dealing with relationships between two people (and, in theory, could be expanded into large, more complex relationships). My own Personality Spread is useful when trying to understand someone or something thoroughly. The World Tree spread (as seen in the Wildwood Tarot: Wherein Wisdom Resides) is useful for examining the state of the world around you. The Astrological or Celestial Spread (twelve cards in a circle) can give you results similar to an astrological chart reading (though generally much less complex).
So, once you have your question, pick the format of your answer. There is no real tried-and-true way to do this; just follow your inner guide and your own logical thoughts to choose what pattern best answers your question.
Choosing Your Deck
The second half of the Ace of Swords bit! Choosing the deck you use is choosing the images you interpret, and can drastically flavor the tone of a reading. Generally, my go-to/neutral deck is the Thoth Tarot, which I use when I either really want to get a reading done accurately or have no other preferences. If I want to see the negative side of a situation (because I have been seeing the positive), I might use the Necronomicon or Dark Grimoire Tarot because of their darker images. If I am asking a question that reads like a narrative, I might use the Dark Grimoire Tarot because of its structure. If I want to see the positive side of something, I might use something like the Rider-Waite (which I find cheerful, for whatever reason) or the Gummy Bear Tarot (which I desperately wished I owned). If I am asking a question about the natural world, I will use the Wildwood Tarot. If I am asking a deeper, spiritual question, I will either use the Thoth Tarot (especially if I can relate the question to Kabbalah; hand-down the Thoth is the best deck for Kabbalistic readings) or the Celestial Tarot.
Decks can also match up well to the spreads you choose, and often go hand-in-hand (for example, the Tree of Life spread [which is literally the Kabbalistic Tree of Life in Spread form] goes well with the Thoth Tarot, the World Tree spread goes well with the Wildwood Tarot, and the Astrological/Celestial Spread goes well the the Celestial Tarot.
Choose the deck that calls to you and the situation. Again, there is no one way to do this; just follow your heart.
Invoking the Guide
This is a little ritual that any readers do before actually throwing the spread. There are no two ways of doing this. What I do, personally, is hold the cards cupped between my hands, and then shuffle the cards while asking my inner guide and intuition for guidance, and then asking the question I wrote earlier (it is often helpful to write this question down). This step, while it may seem small and trivial, helps get you into the right state of mind, and well make the reading go more smoothly.
Treating your cards with reverence also helps the reading go more smoothly, I have noticed, but do not ask the cards themselves for guidance (on occasion, when exhausted and in a state in which I shouldn’t be doing a spread anyway, I make this mistake. Kids, just say no!). The cards are not doing anything but exist and be used by you. It is you and your unconscious mind doing the work. By performing a little ritual and then asking yourself for guidance, it helps bring out your subconscious thoughts and allows you to see things you wouldn’t see otherwise. This step does not really fall into the Aces thing I have been hinting at; it belongs to the realm of spirit, of Daath, or perhaps even of EinSof.
Laying Out the Cards
This is simple. After shuffling the cards (very important), you lay them out in the pattern of the spread. Always lay the cards out in the same order (for each spread) every time. This removes the temptation to mix around the order to get cards you want. If you change the cards around, you are not helping yourself see things differently; you are merely using the cards to confirm what you think you already know. This is not helpful, and often misleading.
On the same note, never move the cards around or throw a new spread because you didn’t like the last one. It doesn’t matter how scary the cards before you are; if you open the door to moving around your spreads once, you may never stop, and the entire process will be invalidated.
This step coincides with the Ace of Disks – the Manifestation. Now you have actually begun the work of interpreting the cards!
And that is a post in and of itself, coming in the future! Stay tuned!
Tarot Reading Requests
Hello, everyone! Just dropping by for a bit to ask anyone if they have any questions, issues, or ideas for an interesting tarot reading to put up here on the site. If it’s a deeply personal question, it might be best not to suggest it for the site (though if I have the time I’d be happy to send you a private reading), but anything else is fair game! Good topics include questions on current events, the state of the world or other localities, or questions on general spirituality or any other general topic. Currently, I will limit readings to Tarot readings, but in the future I hope to expand into Geomantic and Astrological readings.
I’m also popping in to inform you that the next posts on Astrology (on the aspects of the planets) will likely be coming this weekend or next week. This week I will be focusing on finishing the final draft of the final novel in my debut science fiction trilogy (the “Jakken Trilogy), The Libel of Blood.
So, any requests for readings would be greatly appreciated! Post your ideas as comments to this post, or send an email to email@example.com. Include the following: Name as you want it to appear, Question, Requested Deck (If Any), Requested Spread (If Any), and any parts of the question you wish me to focus on. That’s all for now!
The Shape of the New Year (2012)
Happy New Year everyone! Like every other self-respecting Tarot reader, I threw a spread for the new year (it would be interesting to do an astrological chart reading for this day, but alas, my skills are not yet strong enough). So, what might the upcoming year look like? I considered doing my Personality Spread for this, but instead opted to go with the more traditional Celtic Cross, as I am not interested so much in the New Year’s personality as in what it will look like, what I should watch out for, and the like. So, here we are, using my Thoth deck. The question asked: What might the upcoming year look like, and what things should I look for or do in the coming year, both on a universal and a personal scale?
Central Aspect: Gain (Nine of Disks)
The central, defining element of the New Year, it seems, will be Gain. The Nine of Disks represents material gain and fulfillment in terms of one’s material needs. This seems to indicate that in the upcoming year, my labours (whatever they might be) will be rewarded and will result in material advantages, which in turn encourages me to work harder this year in order to maximize these gains. I’ve been looking for a paying job of some kind for a while; maybe this year I will find one. Or, perhaps, the books that I’ve written will finally start making me money. On a larger scale, perhaps the work of the world will also come to fruition and will bring material advantages. The first thing that comes to mind for me is the Occupy Movement (in case this wasn’t obvious); perhaps their work will yield material advantages and a better distribution of wealth and a more fair system of gaining from one’s work.
Supporting Aspect: Interference (Eight of Swords)
Coupled with the above card, this card suggests that perhaps gaining our material advantages won’t be particularly easy. There are hurdles to be overcome, and though it may seem hopeless, we need to power through everything that gets in our way in order to reap our rewards. The labours we perform in order to gain material wealth will be made harder by the influences of this card, and frustrations may abound as it seems that we are helpless to get what we want to get done done. This year, then, might be difficult for me in terms of my intense university workload this semester (and the beginning of my thesis next semester), and all of the little hurdles will add up to make getting these things done more daunting than they normally would be. Again relating this to the Occupy Movement, pretty much everyone will get in its way, especially big corporations and the GOP. It might seem hopeless to topple or change such an entrenched and wealthy system, and many things will stand in their way, but in the end there can be much gain in the material world from keeping the struggle alive.
Together, the first two cards in this spread say that though it will be very hard, this year one’s work will also be well-rewarded and will manifest in material gain, despite interferences.
Influence of the Past: Queen of Wands
Very interesting. I like to call this card the “tyrant” card. It is important to note here that I use the word in its original meaning, as a sort of dominating figure, which can be both positive and negative. This card in this position indicates that the direct influence of the tyrant is receding, but that her memory will linger on and affect our actions in the future. Again, let’s tie this to the Occupy Movement (this is really at the forefront of my mind)! The (negative) tyrant, in this case, is “Wall Street.” This card tells us that Wall Street’s influence might be receding – indeed, already, much of its legitimacy has been wounded by the movement. On a more personal level, this could also indicate the receding power of another tyrant in my own life (or rather, two of them, though they do not dominate me, but rather someone I care about), but I shan’t go into that here. Though perhaps asking too much, this card could also be indicating that the rule of strong, single personalities (particularly in political positions of power) will end, and community rule will once again return to the human race. The Queen of Wands is also an old, proud ruler, and the fact that her influence is receding indicates great change on the horizon, as reinforced by the influence of the future: Death.
Influence of the Future and the Path We May Take: Death (XIII)
One of the Major Arcana that usually makes one draw breath, in this position I think Death is a positive card. Like I hinted at above, the fact that Death – symbolizing transformations and broad, sweeping changes, the end of the old and the beginning of the new – is coming in the future seems to indicate that society will be changed forever as a result of this year. 2012 is a momentous year if one listens to doomsayers who believe that the Mayan calendar predicts that the world will end this year. If that happens, then that certainly would be a drastic, sweeping change. If it doesn’t (which I really hope is the case), then the world still might change drastically. The fact that the card is Death, to me, indicates that these changes will be on a broad, sweeping scale, which (again!) to me points to the Occupy Movement and their (hopeful) toppling of the current, unfair, corrupt system in the world. This would fit the card very well, as that would very much be an example of the toppling of the old and bringing in the new. These changes will probably affect me on many levels (especially considering the careers I’m looking at – economic equality would be very beneficial here), and hopefully will improve the world and make it a better place.
Unconscious, Hidden Influences in the New Year: Ace of Disks
A very earthy year so far! The influence of the Ace of Disks, to me, seems readily apparent on some thought: the driving force behind many of the movements that began in 2011 (and are continuing on into this year) are material. The material unequal distribution of wealth, the desire to improve one’s own standing and quality of life; all concerns of the material. Perhaps these concerns will become more pronounced as we enter into 2012. An additional thing to consider is climate change; the world is heating up (this is not disputable, this is fact. Whether or not humans are the cause is up for debate for some), and it is possible the cause of all of the strange weather last year. This card could indicate that the influence of the Earth and her moods might have a powerful effect in the coming year, her actions unconsciously moving many people to act. Maybe the effects of climate change will become extremely apparent, moving more and more people to environmental movements, making Mother Earth a hidden, covert influence in the upcoming year. Interestingly, I was thinking of joining a Druidic group this year – again another attachment to the Earth, as represented by the Ace of Disks. On a personal level, this card indicates that perhaps these thoughts will influence my actions in the upcoming year, though I may not realize it. Maybe if I join a Druid Grove, they will begin to influence me in ways I could not imagine.
Conscious, Overt Influence: Peace (Two of Swords)
Peace as a conscious influence in the New Year? That sounds nice. The United States has withdrawn from Iraq, and this year we will see how the country will react to the withdrawal. Perhaps this card offers a sliver of hope. Maybe the war in Afghanistan will end. Maybe the new leader of North Korea will reverse his recent violent speeches and threats, and will instead seek to help his people. Perhaps the upper classes of the world will end the class warfare that they began by oppressing those beneath them, and the war will become unnecessary. Perhaps what will drive the New Year forward is a desire for Peace, which may again lead to material gain as the violence that exists everywhere in the world ceases. Perhaps. On a more personal level, perhaps my own dark thoughts and problems I’ve had with… well, life, will finally be resolved and I’ll manage to attain some inner peace for once. I’ve been trying to consciously do that for a long time – it’s one of the reasons I study the esoteric arts. Maybe my labor here will be rewarded with gain (see what I did there)?
My Perceptions of Myself in/and the New Year: Ruin (Ten of Swords)
Well, this card seems to be at odds with the rest of the reading. We have being rewarded for one’s work, moving out of the shadow of the tyrant, being driven on by the material forces and the quest for peace, and experiencing vast transformations in the world. Perhaps these changes might not all be positive; maybe we shall move from tyranny of the wealthy to the tyranny of the mob. Ruin, as represented by the Ten of Swords, is a result of an extreme disconnect between reality and one’s thoughts. Perhaps the Occupy Movement will succeed in the New Year, but not in the same way I had been hoping; my expectations might then fall flat on its face and I will perceive the movement as having come to ruin. On a more personal note, perhaps I will achieve the peace I have been looking for, but to others around me I might seem as having come to ruin; I have always had a different perspective on life than other people, and what I consider inner peace might vary drastically from what they would associate inner peace with (this position is, after all, also associated with how I express myself to the world). My sense of the world as being ruined might also define me in the upcoming year, and might drive everything I do. Perhaps, also, this card is telling me that I have become too detached from reality, and in the new year, the first hassle (from Interference) that I have to overcome is my abstract nature; perhaps I need to become more grounded and see the world as it really is, not just through my Airy mind.
How the Rest of the World Sees Me/The Effects of the Environment: Oppression (Ten of Wands)
The second ten in this spread. Interesting. Tens in the Tarot are associated with the Sefirot of Malkuth, which is in turn associated with the Earth. This is a very Earthy year. This card also seems to indicate that the rest of the world sees me as being oppressed by the world; I certainly feel that way a lot of the time, and have expressed these sentiments to others. The world will continue to see me this way in the upcoming year. This position also tells of the influences the larger world will have on me; namely, I will be oppressed by it. Perhaps my feelings are not all that inaccurate, then; I will, in this year, become more of a victim of the flawed global economic system than I have been in the past.
Advice/Hopes/Fears: Completion (Four of Wands)
Completion. A sense of security, order, and celebration. Again, this card brings out the oddness of the previous two cards (perhaps they indicate what things will look like before Death’s influence becomes apparent). It tells me that what I hope for is security. For me, this will come in the form of a plan for my future, a way of maintaining independence from my parents, and some sense that when I go out into the job market, the flawed system out there won’t strike me down. I fear a lack of security and a lack of order, possibly as threatened by the movements across the world. I hope for a sense of completion within myself and with others; I have never been particularly social, and generally feel alone. Perhaps, this year, I should strive to make social connections with others, and go out and celebrate life with them, so that I can become part of a secure community, who can provide me with the order I also desire in my life (which has been surprisingly absent of late).
Summation: The Emperor (IV)
Assuming the year goes as the rest of the spread indicates, 2012 will be defined by order as dictated by a higher force acting to combat chaos. It will also be defined by virility and energy. Combined with the rest of the spread, Death will come and make way for a new order as represented by the Emperor, rising from the ashes of the tyrant. This new order will provide me with security and help me break free of the feelings of ruin and oppression in my own life, and perhaps some sense of justice and fairness will return to the world under the Emperor’s guidance. I feel that in the material world, the Emperor’s influence will be felt as the unconscious, mass mind of the world, uniting to create their own order and justice in order to fix what has been going on up to this point.
So, in conclusion? This year is a year to focus on the material and the practical, and get your head out of the clouds. Good things will come your way this year if you work hard, and overcome all of the obstacles that will be thrown at you. The old order will be abolished and swept away, and society and your life will transform into the something more ordered and just, driven by the powers of the earth and the search for peace. The oppression and feelings of despair will also help drive the world towards this coming momentous change, and hopefully, after said change, these feelings will stop.
Happy New Year everyone and have a good 2012! Rabbit rabbit!
Elemental Order in Astrology and the Tarot
So, I was thinking again (dangerous, I know), and I noticed that the order of the elements in Tarot and Astrology are different! This might seem minor to some, but for people who base part of their conception of the Tarot on the order of the elements (that would be me), this is shocking! The traditional elemental order in the Tarot is Fire (Origin), Water (Potential), Air (Thought), and then Earth (Realization). In Astrology, Fire (Origin) is first, followed by Earth (Realization), then Air (Thought) and Water (Potential). Water and Earth are switched in the astrological system!
After a few moments of panic, I began to rationalize this, and came to the conclusion that both orders are logical. The Tarot order makes sense because it starts off with a spark (Fire), which then gains potential (Water) and is defined then by thought (Air), which results in its manifestation in reality (Earth). An order of creation, based on the Tree of Life.
On the other hand, the astrological model is not one of creation, but of cycles. Fire begins as an initiator, providing activity to start things off, and is followed then by a manifestation on Earth. This manifestation is then observed and rationalized by Air, and after that it gains new potential through Water, which allows for another spark to ignite and carry on the cycle. This model makes sense for astrology, as there is an emhpasis on the cyclical nature of the Zodiac and similar, cyclical changes.
Capricorn and the Devil
After finishing my recent Astrology post on Capricorn, I thought for a long while about the parallels that can be drawn between the Sun Sign of Capricorn and the Tarot Card of the Devil. The Devil is a rebel, a destroyer of order, and a god of wild, uncontrolled fertility. Capricorn is associated with order and discipline, and social status and hierarchy. At first glance, the two seem to be opposites, yet Capricorn is the Sun Sigh associated with the Devil.
This could be because of the symbolism. The Devil is a goat, and often represented as Pan. The same holds true of Capricorn, so on this superficial level the two have some parallels. However, the parallels do go deeper, even if you have to think about them.
Capricorn is associated with social class and order, yes, but not necessarily the accepted, established one. Capricorns are, like the goat, often thick-headed and sometimes confrontational, and will try to change the society around them to fit their view of what order looks like. Capricorns are associated with the Yin Polarity, making them passive and introverted, but that does not mean that they cannot initiate change and flip the order of things head-over-heels. One’s sheer force of personality can be enough to initiate an action to change the world.
When looked at that way, suddenly the parallels between Capricorn and the Devil become clear. The Devil tried to overthrow the old order in an attempt to establish his own order, and his sheer force of personality turned many angels to his side. In the end, his new order didn’t fully establish itself, but it did create some very large changes in the universe.
Capricorn and the Devil are also both associated with virility (Pan) and fertility (Earth), but in different ways; the Devil with wanton creation, and Capricorn with ordered reproduction. The two don’t exactly match up, but Capricorns are still associated with reproduction, in the sense that they reproduce their own values in order to spread them and establish their own order; just not in the same wanton fashion as the Devil once did.
So, though some of the meanings of the two symbols may differ at a glance, they are more closely related than one would think. And thus concludes my thoughts on the matter!
Fairly straightforward: a reading done with the Celtic Cross spread on the Occupy Movement sweeping the world (this spread has been sitting on my Tarot Table, unread, for a good while. Now that I have the time, I figured I’d get around to doing it!). The question was:
What aspects surround and influence the Occupy Movement across the world?
Due to my bias – living in the United States – my answer will focus on movements here, that I am more well-informed about, but I will attempt to cover all movements. The spread visually:
Position 1 (Central Aspect): Queen of Vessels (Salmon)
The Queen of Vessels in the central position of the Celtic Cross to me seems to indicate that this card is acting as a personality descriptor summing up the whole movement. The Salmon is famous for the journey it makes upstream each year to spawn, going through countless obstacles in order to reach its goal. In this regard, I believe that the Salmon reflects upon the tenacity of the Occupy Movement, and the deep devotion of many adherents to its cause. This Movement is not something that will go away, and no matter how many waterfalls and hungry bears you throw at it, it will keep on growing and moving forward. If we carry the comparison even further, the Movement might be weakened by the hardships it faces as a whole as people back out, but those left behind will be stronger and in the end will triumph, as the Salmon always does. It isn’t extinct yet, right? In the near future we will see if this holds true, following intense police crackdowns across the world, which have the potential to either shut down or inflame the movement. Let’s hope it’s the latter.
The Salmon can also represent virtue and caring, indicating that perhaps the Occupy Movement is right in what it is doing (I personally believe in it myself, which doubtlessly influences my reading). The Salmon is also associated with cherishing things – such as the ideals of freedom from corporate domination and economic inequality that the Movement is protesting. The Movement is also seeking to recover from the terrible downturn the world plutocratic society has taken, again putting it in harmony with the Salmon.
The Queen of Vessels also calls to mind self-sacrifice in the name of the future – what else is the Salmon’s journey upstream a prime representation of? Many have sacrificed much in the Occupy Wall Street Movement – pepper-spraying, arrests, and beatings – in order that they and their descendants do not have to deal with plutocratic oppression. The Salmon also represents honesty and generosity. Generosity can be seen in many of the camps, who provide for their members’ needs, and the message of honesty resounds on the Movement, though critics have pointed out – sometimes with merit – that some (but not all – not nearly) of those joining the Movement do so purely out of personal gain, and there are some horror stories of crimes committed in the camps. This brings perhaps a shade of dishonesty to the movement, possibly a cause for Mourning the loss of the Occupy Movement’s original integrity, as reflected in the next card.
The last important aspect of the Salmon as it applies to the Occupy Movement is its association with simplicity. Many critics have… well, criticized the Occupy Movement for having no clear message. In fact, the message of the Occupy Movement is very clear and very simple; so simple, in fact, that it seems to go right over many peoples’ heads. The message is thus: End corporate power and return democracy to the people. It is a very broad message, yes, but that simple statement incorporates all that the Occupy Movement is about.
Position 2 (Opposing/Supporting Aspect): Seven of Vessels (Mourning)
While the Salmon indicates that the Occupy Movement is virtuous and persevering, the Seven of Vessels – Mourning – has some contradicting messages, indicating that the Movement is not as simple as it may at first appear. As mentioned above, some of the initial spirit of the Movement has been lost – some of its integrity has been destroyed by those abusing it, the media, and, of course, its opponents – and it is no longer quite as spontaneous as it had once been due to its growing size. The time of those aspects of the Movement are past, and this card indicates that it is time to move on from them.
The Occupy Movement also has met with fierce resistance from law enforcement, and has had to recover many times from clashes with the police. Mourning is the first step to this recovery, and as protestors and occupiers mourn the loss of their encampments and the support of the law, they move on forward, putting the past behind them.
On a very broad level, the entire Occupy Movement can be seen as representing a reaction to mourning the loss of a true democracy in the United States, and in many other areas of the world, where corporations have taken control of political and economic power (look at Greece, for example, where this is most overt). The people have seen democracy fail, especially in the United States, due to corporate power, lobbying, and an ill-and-mis-informed populace, and mourn for the death of what was once a country where everyone mattered (this in itself is, of course, a fiction, but the idea of the past is almost always more important than its reality). The Occupiers have finished the worst part of their mourning, and are recovering – but not by moving on, as the Seven of Vessels urges you to do, but instead by embracing their grief and sense of loss, trying to restore that which they have lost. The entire movement, then, is a way of embracing what was lost and not letting themselves move on until the problem causing them to mourn is fixed.
Position 3 (Unconscious Influence): Knight of Bows (Fox)
The unconscious influences on the Occupy Movement are best represented by the Knight of Bows, or the Fox. This is very interesting, as the character of the fox is a strange mixture of wisdom, cunning, and playfulness. Certainly, the mischievous nature of the Fox is absent in many regards, but that character has come out in a few regards – emphasizing the fact that this is the unconscious influence, so is beneath the surface. One thing influencing the Movement is a desire to change the current system – and some might even go so far as to say “upset” or “overthrow.” This mentality represents, I think, the hidden influence of the Fox, and perhaps a mischievous desire to upset the anthill and see what comes out. Some members of the Movement are doubtlessly in this mindset, and this card is perhaps telling us that they wield more influence than we have been led to believe – or maybe it is telling us that the troublemakers that critics of the Movement are quick to point out do have influence beyond their numbers.
Other supporters of the movement – particularly Facebook groups such as the Coffee Party and The Other 98%, and of course Jon Stewart’s Daily Show – embody this playful nature in a less harmful way, making their point stronger through the use of wit (again the domain of the fox) and humor. These voices are perhaps the most influential (especially Mr. Stewart), even though they are not the official spokespeople of the Movement, making them, in a sense, “unconscious” influences. Jon Stewart in particular I feel is a good archetype of the Fox – using wit, humor, and playfulness in order to cunningly expose the ridiculousness of the system, and in his own way provide us with wisdom. Though not explicitly connected to the Movement or even to activism, really, Jon Stewart has been a rallying point for liberals, whether he wanted to or not, and a sworn enemy of many conservatives. The Occupy Movement, while not belonging to any political party, is generally more liberal than conservative (many have compared it to the Tea Party, but I believe that this comparison has no real merit), and so Jon Stewart I believe has served as a rallying point for the Movement as well, and his words have probably influenced a large portion of them – the Fox’s hidden influence becoming plain.
The Fox is also known for its stealthy qualities, further reinforcing the idea of hidden influences. Perhaps this card is hinting that the Occupy Movement has goals that even most of its members don’t know, or are being influenced and run by people that hide their ties to the movement. I’d like to believe that this is not true, but this card hints at the possibility, and I think acts as a warning to Occupiers as well, telling them to watch out for pranksters and those who hide stealthily among them in order to change their course.
The Fox also, however, represents cunning and wisdom. This indicates that perhaps the Movement is using underhanded tactics – something which I have seen for myself at my university, when Occupy protesters interrupted a lecture being given on what one scholar thinks of capitalism, heckling him and in some cases abusing their status; definitely not something admirable, and in the end something which might undermine the movement. On the flip-side, however, the Movement is also in many ways putting forth its own wisdom, pointing out the flaws in the current world plutocratic capitalist system. The first step to true wisdom is realizing what is amiss in life, and the Occupy Movement has, I think, realized this.
Position 4 (Past Influence): King of Vessels (Heron)
Next to his wife is the King of Vessels, the Heron, representing the influences of the past – whether these influences be receding ones or those influences that have been in effect for a long time. The King of Vessels is a court card, so I feel that this influence is one of strong personalities. The Heron is a symbol of the gatekeeper to the Celtic Otherworld, and often is seen as having uncanny, nearly psychic abilities of observation. He is calm and possesses extreme self-control, but when he is forced to take action, the Heron can be unstoppable and willful. Certainly, the latter part of this description made itself known in the initial stages of the Occupy Movement, when a group of people who had previously been (mostly) calm, going about their daily lives, trying to earn a living, finally felt compelled to do something about the inequalities caused by corporate greed around the world, and using a depth of character found in the Heron, managed to begin a global movement to change things, that may or may not be unstoppable.
Looking even further back into the past, the inspiration for the Occupy Movement can be, I think, be traced back to the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring came to the world’s attention first through Egypt’s example, although there have also been protests in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and ongoing ones in Iran (although the protesters there are not Arab, but Iranian, similar ideas prevail). Of course, there is also the first country to overthrow its corrupt leader and the only Arab nation to have had any real success with its revolution: Tunisia, beginning with Mohammed Bouazizi’s setting himself on fire to protest the confiscation of his wares, bringing to light the oppression of the Tunisian government. Bouazizi is here, I think, the Heron that started the international idea of liberation in 2011: a street-vendor trying to make a living, harassed by officials and yet not resorting to violence against them (for whatever reason, ethical or practical), who when finally made to act, did so in a spectacular way displaying a real level of martyrdom and death that has significantly changed the country, and perhaps the entire world.
Taking this analogy further, Bouazizi is, as a result of his self-immolation, no longer among the living, his martyrdom making him a possible gatekeeper between worlds: while physically dead, his actions continue to play out in the real world, making his influence that of something between life and death, like the Heron of Celtic mythology. Bouazizi’s actions also demonstrated great integrity and honesty, and he fought for ideals of fairness – all aspects of the Heron as well. He also possessed extreme amounts of self-control: he did not attack officials, and it takes extreme self-control to set oneself on fire in a public space. He deliberately made a statement in the hopes of bringing equality, caring for his subjects like a good king should.
The suit of Vessels comes into play here as well, as the impact of his self-immolation was a result of the emotional trauma associated with such an event – something in the area of Vessels. This can also be tied to Mourning, the Seven of Vessels, as the Arab Spring began with the mourning of this man, and was a way of dealing with what he had done. Some people have claimed that Bouazizi’s story is not real, and was just a symbol. I personally doubt this, but even if it is true and it did not actually happen, that does not make the story any less powerful or influential.
In turn, the Arab Spring spread the idea of liberation to the rest of the world, and the Canadian group Adbusters adopted the Arab Spring’s revolt against political oppression into ideas of economic oppression, and thus began to movement. Whether or not the influence of the Heron is still strong, we shall see, but it seems to me as if it is, as the Movement still seems to have, as a while, the honesty and integrity of the Heron (though the rigidity associated with the Heron certainly does not seem to manifest itself in the Movement, other than in its unbending message). Additionally, the Heron stands beside his wife, the Salmon, whose perseverance will help the Heron keep his standing.
Position 5 (Conscious Influence/Thoughts): The Seer
This is a very interesting card to have here. The Seer is a card of wisdom and oracle, representing an inner journey and prophetic visions. While her counterpart, the Shaman, is an active manipulator of events, the Seer is passive and imparts guidance upon those who seek it. In this position, the Seer is representing the prominent position of the wisdom of the Movement. Indeed, the Movement is wise, I think, as the current state of world affairs cannot be allowed to go on for much longer. This card in its position as the conscious influence also indicates that perhaps the Movement wishes it had a guide, an oracle, or a leader of some sort, instead of being the supposedly leaderless Movement it is – or that it has one. This guide and imparter of wisdom is, I think, liberal philosophy and, frankly, common sense. Life is unfair, and something can be done about it, so why not do it? That is the Oracle of the Movement.
The Seer is also associated with an empathy towards nature, which can manifest itself as a part of the Movement. The corporate world economy has done lasting harm to the environment, which in turn has harmed the people, and a return of power to the people will hopefully begin to reverse this process. Nature can also refer to the environment surrounding people, which has definitely been harmed as a result of the world plutocracy, and this Movement empathizes with the environment, and seeks to heal the world spirit – another aspect of the Seer. If you look at my Personality of the World Spread, I think you will notice that a lot of the themes I discussed there appear here as well – as well as many of the same cards.
Position 6 (Future Influence): The Pole Star
This card tells us that the Pole Star will influence the Movement in the future – or is it telling us that the Movement will act as a Pole Star in the future? The Pole Star is a guide, shining its light down from above. This indicates to me that something – perhaps the collective energy of the world – is guiding this Occupy Movement (after all, it seems to have advanced very far for being ostensibly a leaderless movement), and will continue to influence it in the future. At some point in this future – and perhaps even now – the Movement will begin to guide the rest of the world, by exposing the corruption of the system in which we live and ushering in a new cycle – something else that the Pole Star represents. To me, this card is very optimistic about the future of the Occupy Movement, representing as it does renewal and hope: perhaps it can save society and guide it out of the darkness we have found ourselves sliding into. The Pole Star represents universal law and spiritual order, and the Occupy Movement will eventually come to represent this law and order, bringing harmony back to the world. This card also represents the calm after the storm, and indicates that perhaps it is this Movement that will end a lot of the conflict on the planet if it can succeed.
Position 7 (Occupy’s Perception/Presentation of Self): The Wanderer
Not a surprising card at all. The Occupy Movement is presenting itself as the first phase in a new journey, and heading towards a new society. While the Occupy Movement is advocating for a return of democracy to the people, this sort of thing is actually, in reality, quite unprecedented in the world (if you want to dispute this with me, I’d be more than happy to talk about it, as I study both sociology and history). As such, the Occupy Movement presents itself as, much like the Wanderer, stepping out into the unknown, having faith that its foot will fall on the rainbow bridge, and won’t touch nothing and cause them to fall to their deaths below. Reinforcing the idea of the simplicity of the message brought out by the presence of the Salmon, the Wanderer/Fool is often portrayed as simple and naive. While the Occupy Movement itself does not try to portray itself as naive, that is how the Occupy Movement is seen by many. However, its message is simple (though not in the sense normally assumed of the Wanderer/Fool), as I explained earlier, reflecting the simplicity of the Wanderer’s mind. The Occupy Movement seeks to make the first step into creating a new society in which the power of the corporations are shattered and democracy belongs again to the people.
Position 8 (Other’s Perception of Occupy/Influence of Environment on Occupy): The Mirror [Reversed]
This is very interesting, at least to me. The Mirror in this position, I believe, has two meanings. The more obvious of the two meanings is what this card represents: patiently waiting for initiation into hidden knowledge. This card’s meanings in this regard seem to fall short here (there’s one of these cards in every spread), and that certainly does not seem to be how others perceive the Movement. Interestingly, though, many people initially skeptical of the movement, after visiting the actual sites, become involved in it and begin to support it strongly (one example of this is here). In this sense, there does appear to be a kind of initiation, but it is more similar to the Hermit’s initiation than the Mirror’s, as there is a conscious move to the sites of the Movement. However, the visitor does not often intend to “convert” to the Occupy Movement by attending, but is taken by surprise when this happens, indicating that perhaps the Mirror is at work here through her unconscious initiation into the inner knowledge of the Occupy Movements. Additionally, due to the way the media covers the event, it is often impossible for viewers to really know what the Occupy Movement is like without going there oneself (regrettably, I have not been able to make it to one, though I have searched out obscure articles by Occupiers on it), which in itself makes the Movement similar to the unconscious initiator of the Mirror. It is also important to recall here that the Mirror is, in fact, reversed, so the characteristics we see here are less obvious than normal – which is good, because some of those explanations are a little bit of a stretch!
I believe, however, that a second interpretation of this card is better. The Mirror initiates by letting one see oneself through one’s reflection, allowing for better self-awareness and an inner, spiritual journey. Many Occupiers no doubt see their own struggles reflected in the Movement, which in turn leads them to become better people and to understand themselves more. However, the still water that reflects can also distort, and the mirror is sometimes cracked. The fact that the Mirror is reversed to me indicates that this reflection might not be as pure. This card is not how Occupiers see themselves – it is how others see them. The most vocal speakers on the Occupy Movement are its critics (aren’t they always?), who, I think, like a Mirror, reflect the face the Occupy Movement puts forward (that of the Wanderer) back at them and distort it. The simple message of the Movement is criticized by its opponents as being too broad and ill-defined. The Movement is portrayed as being naive, and taking foolish actions filled with risks in order to gain something that critics argue was never lost in the first place. Many others view the Occupy Movement’s face and see a twisted and distorted version of it. Due to the influence of the corporate-dominated media (again, if you dispute this, tell me – I argue that the idea of the “liberal media” is a myth), no one truly sees the Occupy Movement for what it is, and instead receives a twisted picture of it.
Position 9 (Hopes/Fears/Advice): The Shaman [Reversed]
The Shaman appears with his counterpart, the Seer, indicating that two types of guidance are present in the Movement. The Shaman in particular is positioned in the position of guidance itself within the spread, indicating that while the Seer’s oracular guidance may be more visible, the Shaman’s influence is perhaps greater. This card is also, however, blocked, indicating that perhaps the Shaman’s influence has the potential to be greater, and perhaps is the best course of action, but something stops it. The Shaman is a manipulator and a liaison between the ancestral memory of the world and the current world. To me, this seems to mean that the Shaman here is telling us that we should look to the past for lessons, drawing upon our ancestral memory. History has a tendency to repeat itself, and the Occupy Movement could probably look for past precedents to determine what the most effective course forward would be, manipulating the world in order to achieve its ends. Examinations of the South African anti-Apartheid Movements, the Black Power Movements, the World Social Forum, and no doubt a large amount of other movements I am less well-informed about.
However, this possible influence is blocked; perhaps actively by the media and the corporations providing access to information about the past, or more likely, by people’s lack of knowledge of or motivation to look at the past for examples – the Movement is very liberal, and looking to the past is primarily a conservative idea, even though it is often helpful for liberals as well. Perhaps the Movement has been looking in the wrong places for its inspiration, or is unwilling to look back, instead preferring to look forward. It is foolish to forget that which proceeded you, however, and by doing so one turns one’s back on a wealth of useful knowledge. This card could also represent a lack of active manipulation of the world around them, and advises the Movement to take an even more active role in making its own terms.
Position 10 (Sum): The Wheel [Reversed]
This certainly seems fitting here. The Wheel is one of those cards that sums up things, lying as it does at the end of the first decade of the Major Arcana. The Wheel is also a representation of the entire structure of the Wildwood Tarot Deck: the Wheel of the Year. To me, this overtly suggests that the Occupy Movement will be defined by the cycle of time: rising in the Spring (interesting that the Arab Spring began in the Spring…), flourishing during the summer, and then becoming more cautious in the fall as reactions to the Movement increase, until finally being forced to go almost underground by repression. I believe that the first cycle of this has already happened, with an initial strong movement flourishing for a while with support, until the crackdowns began, scaring many off, and then finally winter began with the forced evictions across the world. This card to me indicates that this cycle will continue on and on, persevering due to the influence of the Salmon/Queen of Vessels, and that soon winter will end and the Movement will come back stronger than before: perhaps in the reaction to the evictions, or perhaps later. Only time and the turning of the Wheel will tell.
This card also can indicate karma and the balance of the universe through the actions of fate. The plutocratic system has created drastic imbalances in the world, and this Movement may the karmic force to restore that balance. Interested at the lack of Balance in this reading – which is what I believe the entire Movement to be about – I drew another card here to see if perhaps Balance would modify the Wheel. Instead, I drew the Five of Stones: Endurance. To me, the message here was clear. As a card in the Suit of Stones, Endurance represents Winter. As a Five in a Tarot deck, this card represents a destabilizing force. The Occupy Movement has been destabilized in the recent past – in the “Winter” phase of the Wheel – and Endurance will be necessary to get through it. This seems to indicate that the Winter of the Occupy Movement has only begun, and this it will go through difficult times before it triumphs.
This card’s position as the sum also inspired me to look more closely at how the Wheel of the Year played into the Occupy Movement. Most of the cards in the spread are Majors, and those Majors – and the Court Cards, which consisted of two Vessels – tend to concentrate in the Vessels area. I rearranged the cards in the spread to their positions according to the Wheel of the Year below:
This makes the heavy weighting on the side of Autumn extremely apparent. The Wheel and the Mirror (Reversed) are both at the Autumn Equinox, and the Seven of Vessels is also well into the season. The Heron and Salmon are also cards of Autum. This, to me, seems to indicate that at the current time, the Movement is currently in Autumn, which is disturbing to me on some level, as this implies that the worst is yet to come – the evictions of late are not the Winter of the Movement. However, it could be that there are smaller cycles of the Wheel, but that in terms of the overall Movement as a whole so far, it has entered Autumn – and has done so extremely quickly, if the Autumn of the Movement is also the Autumn of the first cycle. I do believe that this is the best interpretation of this; that in the overall cycle of the Movement the plutocracy’s oppression is just beginning to make the movement cautious, but that smaller cycles exist within the movement as a whole, and that this is a moment of winter for the Movement. I just hope we have the Endurance necessary to survive the coming Winter. Also, there are no arrows at all in this spread (initially there were no stones either, until I drew clarification card, indicating that Winter is Coming). Spring is currently long gone, and it will be a long Winter before it comes again.
Also interesting to note is that three out of the four cards at the hub of the Wheel of the Year are present: the Wanderer, the Shaman, and the Seer. Both the querent and his two initial guides are present in this spread, which to me seems optimistic; if the Wanderer (the Occupy Movement itself) can find the guidance of the Shaman and combine it with that of the Seer, the Wheel will continue to turn and Spring will come again, as the Hub of the Wheel is practically whole, allowing it to turn. This also, I believe, emphasizes the cyclical aspect of the Movement. The one element of Spring in this reading is the Pole Star. While still in Winter, the Pole Star is a guide that will lead us eventually to Spring and our rebirth, advising us that we should use the world’s guidance to succeed.
However, despite all of this, we should not forget that the Wheel is reversed. This is most definitely not a good sign. The shirt that the loom is weaving is uncompleted, and something is stopping its progress. Time is not moving as it should. This seems to reinforce the idea that the cycle is askew, and that Autumn – and perhaps Winter – will last longer than they should at the expense of Spring and Summer. While all seasons are necessary for renewal, giving too much time to one season can ruin the world. The corporate plutocracy of the world has cast us all into Autumn, and we will have to struggle to survive the Winter and emerge into Spring.
Reflections on the Spread as a Whole
The most striking thing about this spread was the large degree of Major Arcana – seven of the ten cards were Majors! Of the remaining cards, only one was a numbered Minor, the other three cards being Court Cards. As mentioned above, Vessels also dominated this spread, though there was a single bow present, indicating that the cycle has advanced on from Summer. There were also no bows available for the Arrows, which perhaps hints that the Occupy Movement will have trouble obtaining its goals – it’s hard to use a bow without arrows. However, through the tenacity of the salmon, the guidance of the Seer, Shaman, and Pole Star, the integrity of the Heron, and the passage of time (the Wheel) will in the end help the Occupy Movement succeed.
I would also to take this space to point out that many of the cards in this spread were the same as in my Personality of the World Spread, which either indicates that I need to learn to shuffle better or that the Occupy Movement is the face of the world right now. Indeed, in that reading, I brought that point up several times, and I believe that this reading then reinforces that idea.
That was long, I know, but hopefully illuminating and/or thought-provoking!
Personality of the World
A reading done with my Wildwood Tarot deck, using my personality spread. The question: What defines the current state/personality of the environmental, political, and social world we live in today?
Essentially, an examination of the personality of the Earth, personifying it as a whole:
1. Central Aspect: Three of Stones – Creativity
The most important feature of the world’s personality is creativity; that is the quality that best defines it, and the quality most important to it. Creativity means the ability to innovate and create new things. It is the channeling of afflatus divine; the divine inspiration. The world best expresses itself through those that live on it; we all channel the Earth’s creativity in some form or another, whether it be through music, song, dance, ideologies, thoughts, philosophy, attitudes, actions, and beliefs. The world surrounds us all, and we all act as conduits for its energy and power. The presence of this card at the center of the spread indicates that the energy of the world flows around us and through us, much like the Neoplatonic and Kabbalistic theosophies; we are created from the superabundance of the world, eternally flowing from a bottomless cup, and we are all connected to the world’s energy flowing through us.
In a more literal sense, the world is also creative and an innovator. It’s survived for a long time, through several extinctions, large asteroid impacts, and so far even man’s predations on its surface. The spirit of the world is adaptable, and the planet itself will live on – but at what cost? With what change? The world could move on without us, finding creative ways to continue carrying on without humanity or other life. But at the same time, this planet was creative enough to give birth to life to channel its will. Will it give up that life so easily? It has come so far – and now it’s creations have become too powerful for it, and could very well destroy it; the world may have been too creative.
2. Influencing Characteristic: The Shaman
The secondary characteristic is that of the Shaman. The Shaman represents an understanding of all life on Earth; very fitting for the Earth itself. The world is a master of its own elements, and can manipulate the world to its will. This indicates a degree of predestination; does the world control all of our actions? How much of what we do does the Earth control? This card is also representative of the initiation of mysteries; the world opens its arms to all who live on its surface and shares its teachings and its mysteries. The world is the summation of all that came before it, the ultimate memory of the world (this concept comes up again in Position 6 in the World Tree). The Shaman is an active, guiding force, and the world itself is gently teaching us its lessons, and what happens when we do not have control of the elements.
In our pollution of the world and often (failed) attempts at taming the planet, we have shown ourselves not yet ready for those tasks. The Shaman present in the Earth tries to show us the ways, and is beginning, I hope, to succeed, as awareness about what we are doing to the Earth is raised. Similarly, in the social world, revolutions are taking place all around – the Arab Spring, uprisings in China, riots in London (though this was not really raising awareness for the most part), and Occupy Wall Street in the United States. People are becoming aware of how others have manipulated the elements for them, and now seek to take back control.
Combined with Creativity, the Shaman seems to indicate a sort of guided evolution and adaptation; it is not completely random, and there is some influence on the direction that the world takes. Maybe this influence is evolution itself, or maybe not. Humanity as a social group is certainly evolving, and this is not a random movement; people all around are guiding us towards a greater understanding of the world and ourselves. Taken together, these two cards seem optimistic.
3. Influence of the Past: Seven of Vessels – Mourning
An oddly appropriate card here; in the Wildwood Tarot, the card Mourning not only signifies mourning that which has passed on, but also being at peace with one’s past. The Earth has no regrets, and has come to terms with what it has done and what has been done to it. It feels no remorse for what it has done, but mourns over what has been done to it. The mourning of the Earth for what has been done to it represents the first step in its recovery, as environmentalist awareness rises throughout the world.
In terms of the world as the social sum of all of its inhabitants, the world’s mourning is being expressed in terms of the Arab Spring, stirrings of discontent throughout the world, and the Occupy Movements. The world is beginning to come to terms with its own past, in order to move forward; the evils of what has been done are being exposed and its results mourned, and all the while the world is beginning to move forward, seeking out a new path.
At the same time, this is also a card of conservatism, and honoring the past; the dead, traditions, and ritual. The placement of a card emphasizing the past in the position representing the influence of the past emphasizes the importance of the past in defining the world; history is hugely important in general, and learning from past mistakes – those which cause us to mourn – helps the world look to the future with wise eyes, able to forge the best path ahead. A mixed card; its pessimistic elements come in the form of the sadness caused by the wrongs done to the world – social and environmental – but at the same time, the world is able to come to terms with what has been done, mourn it, forgive, and move on. The time of mourning is in the past; it is time for the world to move forward.
4. Goals of the Future: Three of Vessels – Joy
Now that the world is beginning to put Mourning behind it, it can turn its eyes towards the larger goal: Joy. Joy is a very nice goal, and like Mourning, is in the Suit of Vessels, indicating that the world’s perception of the progression of time is in emotional terms rather than physical or mental terms; it is interesting that Stones did not come up in either of these spots. Joy represents communal celebration, the happiness coming with embarking on a new way of life, or welcoming home someone who has returned. This is exceedingly appropriate; the Earth wants to welcome back humans as members of its community, rather than forced by our own actions to be opposed to us. It wants to be full once again, and move forward on a different track, more in harmony with us and itself. The world seeks to heal, moving on from the Mourning of the past; and what better way is there to heal than through Joy? The world strives to reunite with itself, set a different course, and heal all of the wounds and rifts within itself and its social populations, coming together as one. A very sensible goal.
5. Unconscious Thoughts and Motives: The Mirror [Reversed]
The card of inner reflection. Again very appropriate when looking at one’s unconscious thoughts and motives. This card also seems to be at odds with the Shaman in Position 2, as the Mirror represents passivity and letting events wash over you, while the Shaman is a card of active manipulation. However, the Mirror is reversed; thee passive energy of the Earth and world has been blocked somehow; by harming the environment, by crooked capitalists (in the strict Marxist definition of the word) and corrupt politicians, or any other forms of oppression. Under its surface, the world is motivated by a desire for, above anything else, calm. This calm is impossible to maintain in the face of what has been done to the world, and so revolutions have begun acoss the Earth.
In its aspect as the Keeper and Initiator of Mysteries (a role the Mirror shares with the Shaman), the Mirror is also blocked. The Earth unconsciously lets other in on its secrets, but humanity’s blindness towards the Earth’s needs have made it impossible to truly for a connection with the Earth and the truth, which in this case is represented by the Mirror’s association with the Underworld.
The Mirror represents sitting back and letting your inner guide lead you through your life; essentially, letting your subconscious show your true nature. In this position of unconscious thoughts, this card is then very general; what influences the world’s unconscious thoughts and motives are… unconscious thoughts and motives.
The blocking of the Mirror also represents a blocking of the inner guide and the revelation of truth, indicating again humanity’s blindness in understanding the Earth, and a disconnect from the truth. This disconnect is not immediately obvious in all spheres of life – for example, in the social world, where many people are disconnected from reality through manipulation of the media – hence why the card appears in the unconscious position.
The reversed Mirror may also represent the Earth having trouble letting go; the people upon it are separate entities from it (though in this reading I am treating them as almost the same, the larger whole made from two parts). The Mirror involves a sort of surrender, and the Earth is unwilling to fully trust its care into the hands of humanity. This may be justified; the Mirror is a card also of patience, and its reversal means that patience may not be prudent. Perhaps drastic changes must be made to save the Earth and the world as we know it, environmentally and socially.
6. Conscious Thoughts and Concerns: The World Tree
An extremely appropriate card. This card indicates that the World is primarily concerned with, very obviously, wholeness and completion. This agrees with most of the other cards to so far. Interestingly, this is not reversed; that would match up even more well, indicating that the world is concerned with the breaking up of completion. Still, though, the world is concerned with completion, and bringing humanity together as one and revealing to them the hidden knowledge of the universe. This card also marks the end of a journey and the start of another, again hinting that the Earth and world is making it known that perhaps another path should be taken in its development; maybe it is time to use the knowledge we are gaining to move on to better places. The World Tree in this position also indicates that the Earth is forgiving, and its heart is open to any who turn to it; the world cares for every individual in it, as every individual is part of the larger whole. It serves as a reminder of the unity of the human race, and the futility of dividing ourselves up among nations. It urges us to remember who we are and our connection to everything else, in order to achieve harmony and truth.
7. Public Face: Ten of Bows – Responsibility
What the world wants us to know about its identity and personality is that it is responsible. It feels responsible for everyone living on/in it – after all, we are its children. It also wants us to know that it is carrying our burden; yes, we do harm ourselves often by our actions, but the world and Earth as a whole is hurt far more, and yet it still finds the ability to stay together and move onward. This card is placed in the position of conscious identity because the world wants its inhabitants to see its carrying the burden and emulate it; it urges us all to put our differences aside, bottle up our anger, and take responsibility for our actions. The Earth has already done so for too long, and we have prospered from the Earth’s ability to endure our maltreatment of it. Now, however, the time has come to learn from the Earth’s perseverance and suffer ourselves so that the Earth and world might be saved. We need to help shoulder the Earth’s burden.
8. Private Face: Five of Vessels – Ecstasy [Reversed]
What the world keeps hidden from us about its personality is represented by Ecstasy, reversed. The world keeps hidden its key aspect of spiritual awareness and fulfillment; the world has, in the past, been aware of itself, but now that awareness has been blocked by something – likely human actions affecting the social world. The world no longer is clearly defined, and does not know where it is going; turmoil is erupting across the surface of the globe, and the Earth is at a crisis – but it does not want us to know. It wants us to see its stoic endurance, and not its conflicted feelings and its lost of itself. The Earth no longer knows itself, and its spiritual fulfillment and ecstasy has been blocked. We pollute its surface and kill its children, and as can be seen in changing weather patterns that are beginning to prey on us all – the vicious 2011 tornado season, hurricane’s increasing in frequency, and similar occurrences – the Earth is no longer sure it wants to take it, and is no longer content; it has become unhappy, having lost its spiritual ecstasy.
The world has also begun to call others into its awareness through the above actions – the weather acts as the drums of the world, calling others to attention. Though inadvertently, the Earth is beginning to bring others into its fold, bringing it closer to spiritual ecstasy; for when enough people can become aware of the world around them, the world will be able to rediscover itself.
9. Public Desire: The Wanderer
The world/Earth wants us to know that it wants to start a new journey. It wants to to push away the burdens of the past, let bygones be bygones, and move onward – a theme coming up again and again in this reading. This, along with the presence of so many Major Arcana, indicate that powerful forces are shaping the world, and that it stands at a crossroads, on the brink of a new phase. If we look at Marx’s phases of history and then at the Occupy Movements, it is possible to read this card as indicating that the social world is ready to move past capitalist domination, and step off into the era of Socialism. However, I believe that this reading is of lesser importance in this card, and that the Journey or Blasted Oak would have indicated Marx’s Proletarian Revolution.
I do, however, believe that this card indicates that humanity is ready to move into another stage of existence; maybe not what Marx and historical philosophers envision, but something new. The Wanderer is poised on the brink of an abyss, ready to make a leap of faith. The world wants us to know that it is making this jump, and hopes not to fall of the cliff into an even worse state, but rather to walk upon the rainbow to a place in which a new journey can begin. The world/Earth is leaving behind its previous notions and striking out into uncharted territory, and hopes that its inhabitants share that desire. Do they? There’s only one way to find out…
10. Private Desire: The Seer
What the Earth doesn’t want us to know is that it’s lost. This is, again, like the reversed card in the Position of Private Identity; the world seeks to hide its insecurities to present a public face of responsibility. What the world wants is guidance and inspiration; but what inspiration is there other than the world itself? The world itself may feel lost, wishing for the Seer’s prophetic vision to help it decide where to go.
This card also offers the world some advice – use its experience and take the role of the Seer for itself! It has the experience and knowledge necessary to choose where to go and make its own future, rather than relying on others. It can channel its own power and use the personality of the Shaman – the Seer’s counterpart, appearing as the Influencing Characteristic in this reading – to influence the world to meet its goal of starting a new journey and regaining its state of harmony and union.
The world may also want to channel the abilities of the Seer and become her, rather than looking elsewhere for guidance and vision. The Seer tells us to go out and change the world ourselves, and maybe that’s exactly what we, as the components of the social world, need to do: go out and make change ourselves and act as the Seer for the sake of ourselves and the world.
The first thing I noticed was missing in this spread was any hint of exploitation; it just really wasn’t there. The only place it may have come up was in Mourning, as one of the various deeds of the past the world was injured and saddened by that it is trying to move past. Similarly, surprisingly few references to the environmental world emerged. This could be due to the environmental issues not being as important as the social ones (a claim which I do not believe – how can we fix our social issues if we don’t fix the planet that keeps us alive first), but I think it is more likely a product of my mindset as a student of sociology and history, and my scholarly focus on social issues over environmental ones (and following that, my lack of knowledge with regards to the environment). When reading the spread, I found myself making analogies to the social world more easily, and ended up interpreting the reading as the personality of the collective mindset of the world.
One other thing to note is my inherent pessimism popping up. Once I finished going through the cards, it became apparent to me that these cards could have been read in a very positive light, and I do believe that the readings hold a great deal of optimism. After much thought, however, I am going to go with my gut instinct and my negative view of the current world, as I do believe that these negative views are a result of the world’s reality. The cards also personally seem to be calling out to me and telling me that we can be saved if we take action like the world wants in the form of the Seer. As a whole, I see this reading as saying “Yes, we may be in a dark place, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel – if we choose to reach for it.”
This reading was also extremely general; it was interesting that a few cards representing the ideals of each Position in the spread showed up in the appropriate position. To me, this indicates a successful channeling of energies in the design of the spread, and also maybe a hint that I need to slightly adjust the meaning of the Positions so that they can tell me more. Additionally, there were lots of Major Arcana in the reading, which makes sense and again emphasizes the reading’s generalness; major forces are at play in the forces of the world, which itself… makes up a major force.
The reading was also dominated by Vessels. Looking at this from a cyclical/Wheel of the Year perspective, this indicates that the time of Autumn is upon us, and we are approaching Winter. We can sense the coming Winter coming, and emotions become charged and paramount; as we can see in the anger (the mishandling of emotions; blocked Ectsasy?) in the world right now. But if this is Fall… what is Winter? Will the events running through the world right now plunge us downward? But even then, it is important to remember that Spring will follow, and the world will be reborn – hopefully with us in it, and much the wiser for our experience. Ominously, however, there are no Arrows in this reading – perhaps this means that Spring will be a long time in coming.
The last point of interest is the lack of Court Cards. In a personality spread, I actually find this rather surprising; this indicates to me that perhaps the Earth’s personality is not strong, or at least doesn’t appear strong. At the same time, however, none of the cards contradict each other hugely, and most of them support each other; there is little self conflict in this reading. The world’s personality is, at least, defined, even if it has moments of self-conflict and doubt.
This was my first extensive reading with this deck, and I still have a long way to go before I master it (it’s a long way from my comfortable home in the Thoth Tarot), but it definitely is a very useful deck so far. Hopefully I will be able to in later readings incorporate more interpretations of the Wheel of the Year!
The Wildwood Tarot
The Wildwood Tarot was designed by Mark Ryan and John Matthews and illustrated by Will Worthington. The deck is a rethinking of the Greenwood Tarot (designed also by Mark Ryan), with redesigned images and a slight changing of the theme. The deck draws on natural pre-Celtic woodland symbolism to help us get in touch with our inner guide. The deck is based on the idea that as a species, humans have lost our connection with our subconscious, which in turn reflects our race becoming out-of-step with our planet. The deck encourages caring for our environment and reminds us that (at the moment), we have only one planet to live on, and we would be foolish to throw it away. Readings with this deck, then, often reflect also on one’s relationship with their surroundings, and the symbolism of the deck strongly relies on themes relating to nature and Man’s relationship with it.
The Wheel of the Year
The Minor and Major Arcana of the Wildwood Tarot are structured in such a way that while it reflects traditional Tarot structures (i.e., the Fool’s Journey and the flowing energy ofEinSof through the Sefirot), it is primarily based on the very natural idea of the passage of time and the cycle of the year. The edge of the Wheel is made up of the Minor Arcana, which divide then the wheel into four parts, or seasons: Arrows/Spring (Air), Bows/Summer (Fire), Vessels/Autumn (Water), and Stones/Winter (Earth). The Minor Arcana define the edges of the Wheel, and tell directly of the life-cycle associated with each season within the year. The Major Arcana are divided into three different wheels inside the Minors: The Outer Conscious Level, the Inner Human Level, and the Heart of the Wood. The Trumps represent the Fool’s Journey as seen in the frame of the passage of a year. The Major Arcana themselves are numbered in a way that corresponds roughly to the way they are numbered in more standard decks, but are more meaningful when looked at in terms of their position on the wheel.
Spring – The Time of Arrows
The Time of Arrows represents the start of the new year, the beginning of journeys, the potential of the future, and a time to celebrate coming out of the cold of winter. It is the season of Air, and represents the awakening of intellect, concepts, ambitions, and communication.
Minor Arcana: The Time of Arrows begins with the Breath of Life (Ace), coming from the mouth of the Uffington Horse. We start a new journey and begin to think of ideas for the coming year, putting them into practice and beginning to think about our potential. It represents renewed vitality and a knowledge of where you want to go and how to get there. It is the start of life itself.
Following the Breath, one is often disappointed when reality comes out to spar with one’s potential, and Injustice (Two) follows – for where there are clashing wills and life, there is injustice and the distortion of truth. The truth is obscured by multiple opposing views, and one must pierce through the haze to find the truth. As Spring goes on and Injustice exists, the lives of people become unbalanced, and the feeling of Jealousy (Three) comes to the fore. Emotions become tense, and fear, resentment, and disharmony begin to spread as people disagree on the truth and what to do with the new year. Negative feelings and emotions, often spurred by a loss in a time of plenty, often come in Spring.
Eventually, wounds are healed as time and people move on, and everyone reaches a state of Rest (Five). Rest is a second period of renewal, in which one puts aside their feelings of Injustice and Jealousy, emerging from a period of stress and entering one of peace. But feelings of peace, like any other feelings, are quickly shattered by Frustration (Five), as they emerge from their rest revitalized and full of energy, seeking to use their energy and put it to good use. However, an excess of energy misapplied leads to failure, disappointment, and frustration, and a squandering of resources.
Frustration, if handled properly, results in one stepping back and rethinking their actions and situation – which leads to a Transition (Six), in which one gives up the old path to try something new, whether it be to solve the frustrating problem or move away from it entirely onto a new plane of thought and personality. Drastic transitions often bring with them feelings of Insecurity (Seven), as (often unfounded) doubts and fears lead to confusion, anxiety, false impressions, and personal fragmentation. A lack of self-discipline is required in order to keep one’s identity and personality intact through their life, elsewise Insecurity will result.
One then will Struggle (Eight) with their feelings of Insecurity on their journey of Transition, and reminds us that the cold breath of winter has not yet left the year as the snows return for a brief period. One may have failed in some task or other, but the darkness will not last forever, and perseverance is needed to make your way out of the darkness of impending doom and defeat. Dedication (Nine) is also necessary to emerge from the dark days of despair, and the planting begins as summer nears, and the seeds are sown for a new harvest. The card Dedication represents focused energy, as one learns a particular skill and keeps to it, bettering both themselves and the community.
As the Time of Arrows draws to a close, the community draws together again and the elders teach the younger members what they need to know, and so begins a period of Instruction, and the passing on of life, knowledge, and wisdom to those who shall need it next. This card represents harmony and love between generations, as well as patience, tolerance, and good communication.
Major Arcana: The Wanderer‘s (0) journey begins in the Time of Arrows, as he steps forward from the realm of the known into the edge of the Wildwood, full of curiosity and an adventurous spirit. The Wanderer is the reader’s – or querent’s – significator, and represents the person themselves. He makes a leap of faith, jumping into the dark, following his heart and heeding the call that pulls him forward, his innocence allowing him to do what the more experienced cannot. They begin the journey with many questions and a desire to learn more about themselves and the Wood before them.
The Wanderer then begins to travel through space and time, along the Wheel (10) of time. The Wheel itself is placed at the Autumn Equinox, and is a reminder that Winter approaches, and that all things change, and that cycles are a part of nature. The Wheel also represents the Wheel of the Year that the Wanderer journeys through, and so holds a special place among the Trumps.
As Winter ends and Spring begins, the Wanderer steps into the Wildwood, and after a short trek inside encounters the Ancestor (5) on his inner level, representing ancestral wisdom and shared memory. She stands as the guardian of the inner secrets of the forest, and all who enter must meet her approval. She is nature’s patience and nature’s wisdom, to help others understand how they relate to themselves on their deepest level, and to the Wildwood.
As the Ancestor turns and leads the Wanderer forward, the Pole Star (17) manifests on the outer level reminds him to keep his bearings and to remember where he is. The Pole Star represents the higher will of God as seen in the creation of the heavens, and also the laws of the universe. The Pole Star will guide the Wanderer and keep him grounded, and reminds him of the natural laws of existence, and tells him of a hidden, unseen power that watches over everything.
As the height of Spring – the Equinox – approaches, the Wanderer experiences an enlightenment, the Wildwood stirring him from his unconscious state of being, and he awakens for the first time into the Archer (7). His mind blossoms and he is able to keenly perceive all that surrounds him, and knows that he has a will and can direct and focus it, like an arrow loosed from a shaft. The Wanderer learns to control his energy and will, and is able to calm himself both physically and mentally in order to do so. The Wanderer is filled with new life and purpose, and a new spring enters his stride as he follows the Ancestor onward.
On the conscious level – as the transformation into the Archer is unconscious – the Wanderer encounters also the majesty and grandeur of the Wildwood in the form of the Stag (8), king of the forest. He represents the strength of the forest, and also the laws of karma – one gets what one gives. Nature’s terrible beauty is revealed, and the unforgiving yet fair nature of the Wildwood is revealed. The Stag represents justice and continuation, and a return to balance and peace, sometimes kept through force of arms.
Court Cards: The four Lords of Arrows are birds, emerging as the Winter snows melt and Spring rears its head. The four Court Cards represent the four aspects of Spring, and the personality of the season. The Kingfisher (King) rules the spring, its dazzling plumage the admiration of all. The Kingfisher is powerful, willful, and able to judge wisely. It has no bias and sees everything clearly, and is not afraid to use its strength and maintain its freedom. He is strongest following the Imbolc.
The consort of the Kingfisher is the Swan (Queen), who is graceful, beautiful, and lonely. She is separate from everything that surrounds her, and lives often in solitude. Her beauty marks her also for destruction, and her own purity may bring her down. She has little, but she never loses her faith in her suffering, and is able to move on proudly. She is strongest before the Spring Equinox.
The Hawk (Knight) is swift, courageous, and eagle-eyed. He often acts without thinking, and is quick to anger and slow to forgiveness. He sees everything clearly, but understanding often eludes him. He brings messages, and his eyes can pierce through illusion and shadow. He is subtle and unafraid to do what he thinks must be done. He is strongest after the Spring Equinox.
Strongest before Beltane, the Wren (Page) is the guardian of mysteries, and alone holds the secrets of Winter, having lived through it, unlike many other birds. It is a studious creature, learning quickly and gaining great wisdom. It is determined to survive, and will gain all of the knowledge it can in order to do so. It works hard and reaps a bountiful harvest.
Summer – The Time of Bows
The Time of Bows represents the blooming of the Earth’s fertility, coming into its fullest, and the long, hot months of the beginning harvest and the prime of hunting. It is the season of Fire, of creativity, development, and will.
Minor Arcana: The Time of Bows begins with the Spark of Life (Ace), which adds on to the Breath of Life, and allowed for Life to come into its fullest potential. Life had begun to exist in the Time of Arrows, but now it has begun to exist with a purpose in the Time of Bows. It is no longer the tool, it is the wielder.
Coming with this new role in life, people must learn the art of how to make a Decision (Two). A confident course of action must be decided upon and taken, and there can be no looking back. One must strike out on their own and be unafraid. The gate is opening and the possibilities are endless. Once the decision is made, hopefully this helps one experience Fulfilment (Three). One’s goals are reaches and one’s desires satisfied, as one’s spirit rejoices in security. One knows who and what they are, having decided that, and are confident in themselves, having learn to use the bow to loose the arrow.
One then enters into a state of Celebration (Four) in order rejoice in this Fulfilment, and give thanks for good health, wealth, life, and safety and security. It is a time in which everyone is harmonious, blessing the warmth of summer, and when everyone sits back to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Honored by the community and by himself, the fulfilled individual feels a sense of Empowerment (Five), for they have succeeded in their endeavors, and are fertile and full of potential. They are ready to make more decisions and fully take charge of their own destiny.
As the Summer Solstice approaches, the community is filled with Abundance (Six), in which the first harvest is taken in, and joy can be taken in the success of one’s work. It is the best time of the year, when warmth kisses everyone’s face and the times are not hard. There is more than enough to go around, and the world is at peace.
But Autumn approaches, and soon after the Solstice clouds can be seen gathering and a chill felt in the air. The community realizes that its bountiful harvest will not last forever, and begins to put some things away, being careful not to squander resources, careful to prioritize things correctly and making decisions about the times ahead, giving the future some Clearance (Seven). As the chill seeps more and more into the air, the community gathers around the Hearthfire (Eight), enjoying one another’s company and purring inwardly with satisfaction. One knows the greatest peace with one’s close friends and family, and a sense of belonging pervades the scene and the card.
As one continues on the journey of the Year towards Winter, they will encounter obstacles again, and will have to learn to Respect (Nine) the wilds and those around him. This card is a reflection of respect given, not respect earned. The flipside of Respect is Humility, which is a virtue that must be learned so that one can truly Respect the world around him. And with great Respect comes great Responsibility (Ten), which one must learn before the Winter comes. One must learn to be stoic, determine, and develop stamina, for the tasks ahead will not be easy; everyone must be able to pull their load.
Major Arcana: As time passes and the Wanderer continues to travel his path through the Wildwood, he encounters the Forest Lovers (6) – Marian and Robin reborn. He feels the stirrings within himself as he longs to experience a union with another, joining forces with someone else to create a third force: life and a new state of being. He sees and understands how two polarized forces join together to make something new, and understands the attraction. He begins to view his relationship with the Wildwood in much the same vein, and understands the power of mutual love and respect, and sees how one must balance oneself.
And so then, on the conscious level, the Wanderer learns Balance (14), and sees how both light and dark are necessary, and how that without opposites there would be no vitality to life. Furthermore, he understands how important it is to balance his wild, natural nature with his refined, human one. It reminds him that every living thing has a connection to the planet, and that by not acknowledging this connection one will become doomed. The key to tranquility is being at one with oneself and perfectly balanced.
The Midsummer Solstice fast approaches, and the Wanderer encounters two spirits of the forest – the Green Man (4) and the Green Woman (3). They are the father and the mother of the forest, respectively. The Green Man is stern and watchful, the Dagda of the forest, and is virile and powerful. He protects his charges, the wild beasts of the forces, with great force and reminds the Wanderer that the king and kingdom are one and the same. He is stoic and ever-watching, and yet also has within him a great merriment and is exceedingly generous. Those who take advantage of him or his kingdom, however, soon find themselves wishing they hadn’t. The Green Woman is caring and nurturing, as fertile as the Green Man is virile. As the Green Man is active and filled with primal energy, the Green Woman is reserved and peaceful, guiding her charges forward. She is the challenger of the forest, and all who can meet her demands are blessed with love, warmth, and meaning.
In the sky above the Wanderer, the Sun of Life (19) reaches its fullest height, and the natural energies of the Wildwood – and of the Green Man and Woman – are at their highest height as well. The Sun brings warmth and light to the world, and allows for existence. It represents primal, raw power that fuels the world and keeps it going. It also represents clarity and moving into another, more aware state of mind and being. The Sun is also a star, and so also serves as a guide and reminds us that we are all made of the stars, and are part of the great circle of life.
Court Cards: The Lords of Bows are the masters of Summer, watchful and vigilant in their time of plenty, to ensure that what they have is not taken from them. The Adder (King) is strongest after Beltane, and despite the warmth of the weather, does not lose any of its seriousness. It is constantly competing for survival, and is extremely mature and intelligent. It is unerringly honest and has the greatest integrity, for it has nothing to hide its true nature. It is determined, wise, and strong, and will not give up its claims. The adder also, despite its venom, heals and helps bring balance and magic into the world.
The Hare (Queen) is the eternal partner and prey of the Adder, constantly engaged in a natural dance with it. She is extremely fertile and represents the potential of Spring carrying on into the Summer. She is kind and makes a marvelous companion, and brings with her success, courtesy, and a willingness to help. She is generous and understanding, but also is ever-vigilant, for she knows that many will take advantage of her and she is constantly hunted. The Hare is strongest before Midsummer.
Another predator, the Fox (Knight) rules in Summer during the Time of Bows as well.The Fox is cunning, able to move stealthily and silently to find its prey. He is both playful and wise, like a child mature beyond his or her years. He is constantly adapting and changing, and serves as a reminder that while change can be good, it often has a cost attached to it. He sees into the future and anticipates his opponents’ moves, and constantly moves himself, never remaining in one place for too long. He is strongest during Midsummer.
The Stoat (Page) rules after Midsummer and before Lammas. He is a fierce hunter and ferocious and flexible. He is associated strongly with the land, and will not move from it so long as he can. The Stoat is an ambassador and possesses regal splendor, and yet is mysterious and full of secrets. He is a prodigy and a very free spirit, unwilling to ever bow its head. He is a stranger to most, and rules the realm of dreams and vision.
Autumn – The Time of Vessels
The Time of Vessels represents the chill creeping back into the Earth, and the drawing together of the community and the preparations for Winter. It is a time of high emotion, great instinct, compassion, forgiveness, and romance and love. It the season of Water.
Minor Arcana: The Time of Vessels begin with the Waters of Life (Ace) filling the vessels of the suit and season, reawakening wisdom and the all-encompassing memory of the universal soul, ready to inspire the people to begin their quest anew, for rough times lie ahead. As the community begins to work together again, emotions of intimacy and Attraction (Two) are kindled in the people, and opposites begin to attract as opposing polarities draw together in friendship and love. Attraction is the spark that begins all relationships, and is tempered, refined, and strengthened by the need to work together to prepare for the coming Winter.
As two people attracted to each other work together, they experience Joy (Three) at their intimacy, and also at the unity of the community and the family. It represents rejoicing at the safe and successful return of a group of people, and welcoming them back into the community, with the promise of new lives and bounty. As the community continues to work hard, some begin to suffer from Boredom (Four) and a lethargy of the soul, unable to bring themselves to do anything, and missing the point of the labor. The individual begins to waste resources and energy, and becomes trapped in a cycle of inaction and squandering. They have lost their momentum, and it must be regained.
And when it is, they experience a sense of Ecstasy (Five) at the return of purpose, and are renewed and revitalized when the drums of the universe sound, calling them back to their duty. Others in the group hear the drums as well and take a short break, letting themselves surrender to the dance of Life for a short while, reveling in their existence. The lethargic soul then experiences a Reunion (Six) with the active souls, and the two soon-to-be lovers of before are reunited, and the secrets of reincarnation is taught, in which the lovers learn that they were meant to be and had united over past lifetimes and aeons. Ancestral memory from the Waters of Life returns also, reuniting the community with the world and universe.
The summer has, by this time, largely left the world, and Winter now looms over the forest and its inhabitants. The time has come for Mourning (Seven), to bid farewell to summer and let it go. It is a time to mourn all that is lost, and to also put the past behind and move onward with life at peace with what has passed. With this Mourning comes then also Rebirth (Eight), in which one learns from one’s mistakes and gains new insights and wisdom. The lessons of the past inform the future, and we move forward in our lives, putting our new knowledge to good use and connecting all times: past, present, and future.
One of the lessons learned from the past is that of Generosity (Nine) – both in terms of giving and receiving. One reaps what one sows, and if one is compassionate, respectful, and generous to others and to nature, they will receive the same in kind. When one gives, one also gains, and as one gives and gains, they experience Happiness (Ten). One receives the benefits of one’s kindness, and their heart’s desire is fulfilled. They become pure and clean, and understand the true meaning of life and what to best gain from it, and so are able to ignore the dark shadow of Winter that looms overhead.
Major Arcana: The Wanderer’s journey continues, and fall approaches. Energy begins to recede from the Earth, and he must rely on his own inner stores in order to survive. As Lammas arrives, a drastic change takes place in the Wanderer’s life as he encounters the Blasted Oak (16), and he is reminded that nature destroys as well as creates, and that things can come out of the blue. He is awakened suddenly from a state of half-slumber by the brilliance of the bolt, and breaks away from the traditional path in his shock. The Blasted Oak demonstrates the primal power of nature, and a clean break from the old and into the new. But just as the oak burns and his destroyed, new plants will feed on its ashes, and it will rise up again in the form of its successors
As he moves on onto a new path, the Wanderer encounters next the Woodward (11). The Woodward is strong and wise, filled with a practical knowledge that allows him to survive in the wilderness. He is the cat of the forest, and knows precisely where he is going. He is both the hunter and the protector of the forest, acting as a warden and guard. He points the way for the Wanderer, and accompanies him for a time, lending him strength. He is mature and understands the balance of nature, and teaches the Wanderer what he knows. He is fierce and in control of his emotions, and is also merciful in those times when the Stag is not. The Wanderer consciously learns from the dweller of the forest.
The Wanderer then comes face to face with himself, and he looks at his life and self through the lens of the Mirror (12). He sees the approach of Winter and looks deeply at himself to understand what he can do to prepare. He rests after the shock and trauma of the Blasted Oak, using the guidance of the Woodward to reflect and think on what has happened. He begins to grow inside, developing his spirit and mind, and heals his wounds. He begins to truly understand the nature of the Wildwood by looking at himself, and understands that he is merely a microcosm of the world and universe. He sees clearly the influences of fate in his life, and begins to regain his virility and vitality. He is also reminded by the mirror of the passage of time and the Wheel (10) on a more conscious level, and he reminds himself that all things change and so he will move on with the seasons.
Court Cards: The Lords of Vessels are the master of Autumn, wise and frugal, preparing for the long Winter that lies ahead. The Heron (King) rules the Autumn, and is the first to wake and greet the changes coming into his life. He is the guardian of esoteric knowledge, and serves as the guardian of the gates of life and death. He speaks on behalf of the deceased as they journey to the afterlife, and welcomes them upon their reincarnation. He is fair, honest, and responsible, having great hidden power. He always considers others and is often affectionate. The Heron is strongest after Lammas.
His prey, the Salmon (Queen), is also a master of the Time of Vessels. The Salmon is virtuous, devoted, and single-minded. She sees things simply, understanding that complexity sometimes is meaningless, and understands the heart of the matter. The Salmon is a symbol of recovery and security, and is caring and loving, devoted to and pampering of her charges, whom she cherishes. The Salmon is strongest before the Autumnal Equinox.
The Eel (Knight), another fish, is wise and is happy to spread its wisdom. It is welcoming and seductive with its sinuous curves, and represents the attraction found in life. It represents union and induction as well, and is very agreeable and a broker of peace. The Eel is also strong and is able to conquer that which it wishes. It is strongest during the Autumnal Equinox.
The Otter (Page) is the ultimate hunter of fish, and is also unerringly loyal and devoted. She is perceptive and happy to help and serve others; the perfect vassal. She is a great thinker and dreamer, able to see things that others don’t. She studies and learns, and is more than happy to cooperate with others. The Otter possesses also the ability to move between worlds without effort, gaining insight from this movement. She is strongest before Samhain.
Winter – The Time of Stones
The Time of Stones is one of using what was one has stored, practicality, frugality, and a material focus in a time of hardship. It is the end of the journey, and also the start of a new cycle, as it leads directly into spring. It is a season of gain, possession, achievement, and physical and worldly ambitions. It is the season of Earth.
Minor Arcana: The Time of Stones begins with the Foundation of Life (Ace), in which the existence, drive, and wisdom of the previous three seasons are put into practice and become something tangible and real; for what use are ideas if they cannot help improve existence? Inevitably, when one brings something new into the lives of the community, there will be a Challenge (Two) from someone else that will have to be met head-on. One’s position will be challenged and they will have to fight for their selves and the sake of the community. Competition breeds success in moderation, and one must learn how to compete and fight for dominance without becoming emotionally involved.
Competition breeds also Creativity (Three), as the artist, the inventor, and the leader listen to the whisperings of the forest and let themselves be inspired. This is the card of Afflatus Divine, of listening to one’s inner self and finding in there new ideas and creativity.
As Winter approaches its height, it becomes necessary to seek Protection (Four) from its wild ravages, seeking shelter from the snows and cold. The vulnerable are protected and allowed to grow, while the hope of warmth and the sun remains to keep us going. In order to make it through the end, though, we need to learn Endurance (Five), and take strength from our inner self. Both physical and emotional resilience will be necessary of one is is to endure.
Exploitation (Six) speaks of the dangers of squandering resources and energy, and reduces people to beggars, left with nothing but the ability to wither away to nothing and die. When one overuses the Earth, or takes without giving back, they lose all they have and so have nothing in the harsh months of Winter. In order to survive, one must not be selfish or inconsiderate. When one realizes the error of their ways, Healing (Seven) can begin as a period of rejuvenation, inner calm, and rest, with the purpose of making oneself whole and healthy again. This card reminds us that emotional and physical wounds will heal, and that the healing of the spirit is the only way to truly become whole once again and recover completely.
As one lives in the harsh snows and temperatures of Winter, one gains much Skill (Eight) and experience in the ways of Life, and has learned skills that allow one to survive: practical tasks and labor necessary for the continuation of both life and love. The passing on of skills from generation to generation lead to the establishment and carrying on of Tradition (Nine), and a respect for the past and the sacrifices one’s ancestors made to gain wisdom and knowledge. This card also represents the passing on of said knowledge and wisdom, and the connection between all peoples of all times.
Throughout the long months of winter, one thing remains constant: Home (Ten). Home is not just a physical place, but an emotional one as well, representing the supportive community that surrounds the individual, supporting them and rising them up above the masses. Home is where the heart is, and it is the home that allows one to endure and see the blossoms of Spring.
Major Arcana: Winter has come, and the Wanderer is cold. The night of Samhain approaches, and as the chill suffuses the air, the Guardian (15) greets the Wanderer, posing riddles and taunting him, laughing and mocking they who try to carry on through the cold months. Appearing as the skeleton of a cave bear, the Guardian stalks forth from the cave holding the secrets of ancestral memory, and forces the Wanderer to realize his own inner darkness with harsh words and terrible insights. He causes the Wanderer to fear himself and everything around him, even when there might be no reason for fear at all. He challenges the Wanderer before he can enter the cave of ancestral memory, and grows stronger on the Wanderer’s fear and paranoia. The Wanderer cannot pass until he has conquered his own paranoia, fears, and suspicions, for otherwise the Guardian will be too strong. The Guardian represents all that is dark within us, and also symbolizes the wild wilderness within us all, that which we fear to let come to the surface: until we realize the dark secrets of the Guardian, we are lost to ourselves.
Encountering the Guardian prepared the way for the Wanderer’s new Journey (13), as the Wanderer’s world is turned once more upside-down. The Wanderer is reminded of the inevitability of death, change, and transitions, but also comes to accept that there is nothing he can do to alter it, and that these transformations are a vital and necessary part of life. The Journey is a reminder that there are paths that all things take through time, and that the cycle goes on and on, as things die and are reborn. The Wanderer again takes a step out into the darkness, trusting that he will arrive where he needs to go, and that he will be purified by it.
As the Midwinter Solstice approaches, the cold sets in long and hard, and the Wanderer retreats into himself and a hiding place to wait out the snows, becoming the Hooded Man (9). The Wanderer reflects on himself without any other around, and realizes many things about his own existence. Knowledge becomes illuminated and he begins to truly understand himself and the world around him, and his place in it. He becomes calm and tranquil, suspending himself from the wild and waiting calmly for the Winter to end, while life goes by without.
As the Wanderer reflects in the form of the Hooded Man, he sees a vision of the Great Bear (20) appear before him, come to judge him and give him what he deserves. The Great Bear stands before the gates to the realm of the dead and spirits, that realm which the Wanderer ultimately has realized that he seeks to understand. The Great Bear judges our lives through the eyes of nature, and its eyes are unclouded by morals and divinity. It thinks merely of balance and practicality, and rewards you with what you have done with your life, whether it be good or bad, helpful or harmful. The Great Bear represents nature’s final judgment of oneself, and none can escape that final truth of cosmic law. The Bear also represents renewal and reincarnation, as well as a passage into the realms of the mystical.
The Moon on Water (18) is its highest at the Midwinter Solstice, and the primal power of nature as seen on Earth rears its head and roars. It is at this point that the Wanderer’s consciousness is at its height, and the path to illumination, knowledge, and wisdom becomes clear, as the rest of the world goes still, quivering with potential power. The world around the Wanderer is reborn as Winter begins to end, new life arising from death, fertility coming from decay. Potential is hidden within the moon, the light waiting to come out of darkness, the egg from the womb, and with this realization of the constant nature of the circle of rebirth, the Wanderer walks the path of the Moon, and enters the Heart of the Wildwood.
Court Cards: The Lords of Stones are masters of Winter, untroubled the cold and snows. The ruler of Winter and the Time of Stones is the Wolf (King), whose communal spirit and ruthless hunting and tracking skills allow him to survive in the dead of winter. He guards the dead as they pass on to the underworld and a new life. He is logical and reasoning, loyal and determined. He is healthy and practical, able to compute, calculate, and appraise. He is also a very good and fair barterer. He is most powerful after Samhain.
The Cave Bear (Queen) sleeps during the winter, and so survives through inactivity, as the King survives through activity. The Bear is generous and has more than enough, and has no fear of the Winter that lies ahead. She is honest and always keeps her promises, filled with power. She is also protective, and trusts in the land to protect her as she protects the land. She is successful and reassuring, and her power waxes before Midwinter.
The stubborn and indomitable Horse (Knight) also reigns over the Winter, persevering through the cold months through sheer force of will. The Horse is healthy and strong, able to quickly understand what is needed, and able to get a lot out of a little. The Horse is kind and helpful, and makes a good friend and ally, who brings profit to those around it. The strength of the Horse is strongest during Midwinter.
Master of cats, the Lynx (Page) sits at the top of the food chain, ever watching, ever hidden. She is a great teacher, and teaches and learns by example. She is careful and cautious, reflecting on everything around her and watching others to learn about them and herself. She represents learning and apprentices, and reminds us that we are always learning and always teaching. She survives through the winter because of her ability to learn from those around her, studying the forest. She is strongest after Midwinter and before Imbolc, at which point her power waves and passes on to the Kingfisher (King of Arrows).
The Heart of the Wildwood
Major Arcana: In the Heart of the Wildwood, there are no seasons ad time passes differently, as the memory of all living things merges into one at the foot of Yggdrasill. The Wanderer first encounters the Shaman (1), who reaches out to embrace and protect the Wanderer as he enters the Wildwood’s Heart. He is the master of the elements, able to manipulate them to his will, and he teaches the Wanderer to do the same. He represents the different levels of consciousness and energy within the Wanderer, and helps him come to terms fully with his entire being. He represents the knowledge gained by the Wanderer after his time spend with the Woodsman. The Shaman teaches the Wanderer also empathy and the ability to communicate with all life, and is at one with the living universe. He is magical and a master of intellect and knowledge, knowing all there is to know about the Wildwood. He is the wild man of the woods, and the primal knowledge within us all. He is Air.
The Seer stands before Wanderer next, ruling the realm of intuition and emotion, as the Shaman rules intellect and reason. She is as mysterious as the Shaman is open, and represents the “dark” side of his “light.” She sees into the future as the shaman learns from the past. She is wise and patient, and advises the Wanderer in the realms of instinct. She represents the wisdom gained from the Wanderer’s period of solitude as the Hooded Man. She represents inner knowledge and wisdom, and coming into oneself, as the Shaman represents coming into one’s surroundings. She is in control of her emotions and is perfectly balanced. She is Water.
The Wanderer (0) then is finally at peace with himself and the universe, and he becomes Earth. Having known well and understood the lessons of the Shaman and the Seer, the Wanderer finds the last obstacles before him falling away, and steps forward through the labyrinth to embrace the World Tree (21). The Wanderer must make use of the skills he has learned to traverse the labyrinth before the World Tree and enter its open door. He becomes complete and blends in with the world, and sees the divinity and sacredness within all life and all existence, understanding fully the complexity and simplicity of the universe. He understands his place within existence, and so becomes one with everything. The World Tree represents both the end of the Wanderer’s Journey and the beginning of something greater, passing into the realm of the other and understanding it all.
Dark Grimoire Tarot
The Dark Grimoire Tarot, published by Lo Scarabeo, is arranged like a traditional Tarot deck. The images are all fully illustrated, and the cards correspond roughly to their Rider-Waite counterparts. The illustrations or given a sepia wash and are very dark in their nature, which leads a reader to interpret the cards in a darker, more pessimistic may than they might have normally. The deck is based on the assumption that authors of horror – and particularly H. P. Lovecraft – have managed to have visions of a forgotten world that intersects with our own, and bases its symbolism around supernatural elements of horror.
In particular, the deck is based on the forbidden teachings of dark grimoires of magic, such as H. P. Lovecraft’s fictional Necronomicon – or is it fictional? The deck is designed to be a grimoire in and of itself, providing forbidden knowledge and insights into a forgotten world of magic. The deck’s illustrations and scarce explanations force the reader to rely more on intuition and individualized interpretation of the images than most other Tarot decks.
The Minor Arcana
The four suits of the Dark Grimoire Tarot are the typical ones, but with slightly altered meanings, referring to different aspects of the conscious self: Wands are Lights, representing Fire, creativity and sexuality, Chalices are Dreams, representing Water, emotions, and feelings, Swords are Demons, representing Air, thoughts, and control, and Pentacles are Shadows, representing Earth, matter, and needs. The numbers from one to ten also each represent a different aspect of each of the four elements, and each act as part of their own grimoire:
Ones: The cover of the book, telling and hinting at what is inside, and indicating the suit in its entirety.
Twos: The book opens, and begins to be read. The energy of the book and the energy of the reader collide, creating an obstacle and contest of wills.
Threes: The reader advances beyond the introduction, and sees the purpose of the grimoire, and he and the book are at peace, and unify. The reading becomes natural.
Fours: The reader begins to understand the grimoire, and he is fulfilled and in a stable frame of mind.
Fives: The reader stands upon a cusp: whether or not he should advance to a higher level of understanding, or remain in his current, comfortable mental state.
Sixes: The reader ponders his dilemma, and thinks of the possible consequences.
Sevens: The reader begins to take physical and mental actions to see if they wish to move forward.
Eights: The reader decides to hold back for his own safety, but experiences stagnation and a lack of completion.
Nines: The reader is driven on then, and experiences the full text, and so is completed but perhaps also conflicted, and may never be the same again.
Tens: The grimoire ends, and a new one must be read. The reader reflects.
The Court Cards
The Court Cards each also reflect the energies of their suits, and are set up in a standard fashion with a King, Queen, Knight, and Knave. However, the cards represent different aspects of the same personality, rather than four distinct ones. The Kings represent having achieved control over one’s shadows, demons, emotions, or creative light. The Queens represent the ones who guard the sources of these four elements, and represents one’s outlook and perception of the four forces of life. The Knights represent impulsive urges to act on the drives given to them by their shadows, demons, emotions, or creativity. The Knaves represent one beginning to understand themselves and how their four centers of consciousness relate to them, and seek to learn more about them.
The Major Arcana
The Major Arcana are typical of a Tarot deck, and reflect meanings almost exactly like those of the Rider-Waite deck, albeit with a warning embedded in each one, as well as giving a darker view of each of the meanings than is normal. The symbolism used is overtly taken from the works of Lovecraft and other dark horror writers, and the use of grimoires and forbidden knowledge is key in the events occurring in the scenes depicted.
The Necronomicon Tarot
The Necronomicon Tarot was designed by Donald Tyson, using the characters of H. P. Lovecraft (and others) as a means of exploring the deck. The deck assumes that the works of Mr. Lovecraft were inspired by a sort of astral projection that the man did in his dreams, and so actually represent glimpses into a real reality beyond our own. The deck is based on the Necronomicon that Tyson wrote, based in turn off of Lovecraft’s own fictional grimoire. The deck is then incredibly dark and gives a bleak outlook on things, and the cards all represent some aspect of a hidden reality that lies just behind the veil, out of our sight. The illustrations were done by Anne Stokes on a computer, and all of the cards are incredibly detailed.
This deck is most useful when you are trying to find some secret, forbidden knowledge that perhaps you should not know. This is not a deck completely of looking inwards and meditation, but also of revelation and dark secrets; this is a deck to use when you are looking to uncover things that you should not know, or secrets best left alone. Its dark artwork inspires pessimistic readings, and so this is not a deck for those unable to face the dark truths that lurk within us all.
The Minor Arcana
The Suits of the Minor Arcana are the four standard ones found throughout most Tarot decks: Wands for Fire and energy, Cups for Water and emotion, Swords for Air and abstraction, and Disks for Earth and practicality.
In addition to the Suits, each of the Minor Arcana has an associated number from one through ten, as is standard. What is not standard, however, is that the ten cards, when put in order, tell a very clear story from beginning to end, exploring the highs and lows of each suit (similar to the journeys undertaken by the energies in the Thoth deck through the Tree of Life). The meanings of most of the cards are similar to the standard ones. Each story uses characters seen in the suit’s Court Cards to get across the themes of each suit.
The story told in the Suit of Wands is one of power, domination, clashes of wills, and energy. It tells the tale of the union – and then war – between the Atlanteans and the Deep Ones, an inuman race that dwells deep below the waves. The Ace of Wands is called the Matrix of Fire, and represents this energy in its pure form, and the matrix from which the energy of the story comes from: it is the origin of the story. The tale starts with the Exaltation of Fire, and reflects the Atlanteans dominance over the world and seas, and the ideals that go with dominion and dominannce. The Deep Ones then make themselves known to the Atlanteans as seen in the Establishment of Fire, and a noblewoman meets a male Deep One and reaches an understanding with him, establishing an optimistic future. The Manifestation of Fire follows then, and the Deep One and the noblewoman are due to be married in an act of union and completion. The Bitterness of Fire makes itself known then as the Atlantean Empire expands, both strengthened and cursed by intermingling with the Deep Ones, and they conquer lesser races and enslave them, experiencing war and strife on a scale not before seen. The Atlantean Empire reaches its full height with the Rule of Fire, and now most of the Atlanteans have been mixed with the Deep Ones. Atlantis has worked hard and achieved its place in the sun. But divisions occur, and the last pureblood humans are scorned by the Deep Ones and the half-breeds, and the empire begins to fracture as Atlantis suffers the Ordeal of Fire. A sudden war begins then, as the Energy of Fire reaches it height, and competing willpowers clash in an outburst of fiery energies. But the Stability of Fire is restored as the Atlanteans use their knowledge to push back the half-breeds and Deep Ones, providing some measure of safety. In the end, however, the war is destructive for both sides, and Atlantis falls prey to its own struggle, and the Deep Ones take over what remains of Atlantis, leaving the dead Atlanteans to rot, having experienced the Burden of Fire, never having let themselves back down when it could have been for the best.
The Tale of Fire is a tale of excessive energy and fanatical energy. It is a tale of the extremes of war and union, of passion, love, hatred, and death. It is a tale of competitive relationships.
The story told in the Suit of Cups is one of acceptance, emotions, and inner discovery. The tale is set against the backdrop of a young man seeking initiation into the cult of the cat goddess Bast. It begins with the Matrix of Water, representing the web from which the tale is spun, and represents the energy of the Suit in its purest form. The tale begins with the Devotion of Water, as the High Priestess of Bast initiates the young man into the cult. It moves on then to the Abundance of Water, as the young man enjoys his new status and position among the cult, spending some quality dancing time with his new priestess companions, enjoying the good things in life. The Indulgence of Water follows, as the young man has had enough of his excesses, and has become dissatisfied, hungering after something more. He then experiences the Frustration of Water as his three companions – the priestesses and another young man – lie asleep drunk, content with what they had, while he feels dejected and alone, unable to fully enjoy what he has. The whole experience had not been what he had been expecting. The next day, he returns to the temple, shaven and clad in the linens of an acolyte, the initiation overwith, ready to start his new duties as a servant of Bast. The High Priestess accepts his service and gives him an empty silver chalice as a sign of his service beginning. He experiences then the Satisfaction of Water and a renewed hope. The acolyte then steps into the temple, and is shocked when Bast herself appears before him. Awed, he holds his chalice forth to be filled, but Bast denies him her milk, and though the acolyte yearns for her blessing he does not receive it. Angered at her refusal, the acolyte turns about and does not accept her denial turn into a welcome, and experiences then the Stagnation of Water. He shows disrespect to the goddess and throws away his success. Eventually the acolyte realizes his mistake and turns and accepts the Benediction of Water and of Bast, who in her wisdom forgives him. He has achieved that which he sought to. The Fulfillment of Water is the last step in the acolyte’s journey, and he finally comes to terms with himself and his relationship the Priestess (and Bast herself). bast has helped him realize who he is, and he is able to finally be content with his life.
The Tale of Cups is one of intimacy, revelation, and acceptance. It tells the tale of emotional relationships and one’s role in the world.
The story told in the Suit of Swords is one of betrayal, conflict, thoughts, ill-conceived plans, and the principles of love. It is set in Damascus, with a young nobleman falling for a harlot. The Matrix of Air, representing victory, intellect, and ideology provides the basis for the tale, which starts with the Reconciliation of Air, as the harlot and nobleman cease fighting and make-up, restoring peace to their relationship. The harlot has other contenders for her affection, however, and she and the bearded nobleman find themselves standing over the corpse of one of these suitors, and experience the Regret of Air at having killed someone, and in a dishonorable fashion. The slain man had friends, who find him and hold a funeral service for him, carrying his coffin through the streets of Damascus, and allow themselves the Repose of Air before their hunt for vengeance begins, taking a moment to rest and plan. They soon find the nobleman responsible, and humiliate him, stopping just short of killing him due to his powerful family, and the nobleman experiences the Weakness of Air. Angered at his humiliation, the nobleman hires an assassin and schemes to kill the other four mercenaries, performing the act of the Scheming of Air. The harlot is angered as well, and steals a sword from a swordsmith with the intention of avenging her lover with it. She experiences the Instability of Air, as unlike her lover’s plan, she has not thought far ahead and is letting passion cloud her judgement. The harlot rushes to the barracks where the slain man’s friends sleep, and finds them all already dead, each with a dagger in their body. Her course of action has suffered the Constraint of Air, as she is unable to fulfill her plan, as unforeseen events have stopped her. The Despair of Air follows as she meets again with her lover. The nobleman is irritated as the woman despairs, for she realizes that her lover will have to face justice now. The two of them are fighting, and doom seems imminent. The story ends with the Abandonment of Air, as the nobleman faces execution, having ruined his life.
The Tale of Swords is one of sorrow, justice, and the truth coming out. It involves relationships as well, in the abstract fashion that suits the Suit of Swords.
The story told in the Suit of Disks is one of practicality, power, secrets, and forbidden knowledge, and perhaps best represents the dark themes of the deck. The tale is in the form of a clandestine deal made between a necromancer and a sorceress. The Matrix of Disks provides the basis for the story, representing practicality, wealth, and power. The tale begins with the Inversion of Earth, as a ghoul extracts a woman from her grave under the watchful eye of a necromancer, amused at the cycle of life and death and his mastery over it. Meanwhile, a young sorceress takes the severed arm from a criminal hanging in a gibbet, having the Purpose of Earth within her. She knows what she is doing, and good at what she does, able to produce great works. Back in her study, the sorceress coats the hand in wax to make a Hand of Glory, lighting the fingertips, causing a Generation of Earth, and reveling in her power. In a nearby town, the necromancer stalks through the streets, experiencing the Trouble of Earth as he is taunted and stones are thrown at him. He darkly promises vengeance in his mind. he had been on his way to meet the Sorceress, and he gives her a payment of a child’s heart – possibly the heart of one of the children who taunt him endlessly – while she hands him the Hand of Glory she had made. In this way, they both experience the Reception of Earth. The Squandering of Earth comes next as the Hand of Glory fails in its desired role, the resources going into it being wasted. He has raised the woman he took from the grave back from the dead in, in spirit-form, and attempts to send her spirit back into her corpse through use of the Hand, which has no effect. He feels betrayed by the sorceress and is also frustrated. Admitting failure, he then performs an Analysis of Earth, looking over the woman’s corpse in an attempt to understand what went wrong. He then experiences the Fulfillment of Earth as he conquers the dead woman’s ghost, and she leads him to where a strongbox filled with a source of power. He finally then comes into Possession of Earth as he uses his gains to summon forth a terrible spectre that he shall use to rule the world.
The Tale of Disks is one of gain, sorcery, the material, and the pursuit and achievement of power. It too has an element of relationships in it, and looks at the practical side of them, and how they benefit the individual.
The Court Cards
The Court Cards of the Necronomicon Tarot are the standard four: the King, Queen, Knight, and Knave. They each represent powerful personalities emphasizing different aspects of the Suit’s energy: the King is a mature man, the Queen a mature woman, the Knight an immature male, and the Knave an immature female. The meanings roughly correspond to standard Rider-Waite meanings. The Necronomicon deck also names each Court Card:
King of Wands – Lord (willful, impulsive ruler)
Queen of Wands – Lady (strong, confident charmer)
Knight of Wands – Commander (fierce, rash officer)
Knave of Wands – Overseer (ambitious, courageous overlord)
King of Cups – Priest (sensitive, naive scholar)
Queen of Cups – Priestess (dreamy, calm introvert)
Knight of Cups – Monk (determined, scheming underling)
Knave of Cups – Scribe (gentle, loyal friend)
King of Swords – Assassin (clever, flighty dominator)
Queen of Swords – Harlot (graceful, perceptive dancer)
Knight of Swords – Mercenary (self-centered, intelligent problem-solver)
Knave of Swords – Thief (aggressive, reliable doer)
King of Disks – Necromancer (patient, industrious mechanic)
Queen of Disks – Sorceress (generous, reserved psychic)
Knight of Disks – Shaman (practical, humorless manager)
Knave of Disks – Auspex (caring, enduring decision-maker)
The Major Arcana
The twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana carry their traditional Rider-Waite meanings, albeit with a darker twist, but have all been assigned to an element of the Cthuylhu Mythos:
0 – Fool – Azathoth (Simplicity, Journey, Beginnings)
I – Magician – Nyarlathotep (Will, Manipulation, Skill)
II – High Priestess – Bast (Mystery, Wisdom, Guidance)
III – Empress – Shub-Niggurath (Fertility, Life, Sensuality)
IV – Emperor – Amun (Virility, Determination, Passion)
V – Hierophant – Dagon (Tradition, Religion, History)
VI – Lovers – Deep One & Bride (Love, Commitment, Trust)
VII – Chariot – Beast of Babylon (Conquest, Command, Glory)
VIII – Strength – Shoggoth (Perserverance, Defiance, Valour)
IX – The Hermit – I’thakuah (Discipline, Examination, Wisdom)
X – Wheel of Fortune – Yog-Sothoth (Change, Luck, Fate)
XI – Justice – Spawn in Sphere (Balance, Fairness, Rightness)
XII – Hanged Man – Well of the Seraph (Suspension, Delay, Sacrifice)
XIII – Death – Tsathoggua – (Transformation, Rebirth, Ordeal)
XIV – Temperance – Reanimators (Renewal, Health, Harmony)
XV – The Devil – Cthulhu (Rebellion, Arrogance, Animalism)
XVI – The Tower – Great Ziggurat (Monument, Disaster, Glory)
XVII – The Star – Ishtar (Hope, Cleansing, Renewal)
XVIII – The Moon – Hounds of Leng (Illusion, Danger, Deception)
XIX – The Sun – The Empty Space (Clarity, Purification, Vitality)
XX – Judgement – Guardian of Eden (Forgiveness, Restoration, Judgement)
XXI – The World – Yig (Completion, Conclusion, Fulfillment)
The major difference in meaning is the Tower, which Tyson interprets as either being a great monument or having a great monument topple, depending on its inversion. He also takes the common beginner’s approach of interpreting a reversed card as negative and an upright one as positive, which limits interpretations.
The Rider-Waite Tarot
The Rider-Waite Tarot is the most popular deck in use today. The deck was designed by Arthur Edward Waite, a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (who had a fierce rivalry with Thoth deck designer Aleister Crowley), and consists of the Order’s imagery, drawn mainly from Renaissance European symbols, though the structure of the deck itself is Kabbalistic in origin. The symbolism present in the deck is a watered-down version of that used by the Order itself, in order to not give away its secrets. Pamela Coleman Smith, another member of the Golden Dawn, illustrated the deck.
The Minor Arcana
The Rider-Waite Tarot has the four suits standard to Tarot decks: Wands representing Fire, will, and drive, Cups representing Water, emotion, and intuition, Swords representing Air, reason, and justice, and Pentacles representing Earth, practicality, and the material. Each numbered card represents a different aspect of the energy of the suit. Unlike many other previous decks, the Rider-Waite’s Minor Arcana are fully illustrated, with almost the same attention to detail given to them as to the Major Arcana. The cards depict human figures, as well as a number of the suit’s item equal to the card’s number, in such a way that the card’s meaning is clearly shown in the scene.
The Court Cards
The Rider-Waite deck uses the traditional Court Card setup: a King, Queen, Knight, and Page are the four cards. These four cards in each suit represent different personalities influenced by that suit’s energies: the King’s represent the wise, ruling figure in control of his suit’s energy, and acts as a sort of father-figure. He is also bold, and represents the Suit’s qualities outwardly. The Queen represents a mother-figure, also having mastered the Suit’s energies, but in a different way; her Suit-like qualities are displayed inwardly, through passive qualities. The Knights are courageous and active, not yet in control of their Suited impulses, and represent unbalanced applications of the Suit’s energy. The Pages represent personalities who have the desire to go out and do things in the way of their Suit, but are not yet ready, and so serve to urge the reader on to become more like the appropriate Suit.
The Major Arcana
The Rider-Waite deck, being the quintessential deck, has the standard Major Arcana set-up; twenty-two cards that focus around the theme of the Fool’s Journey, telling the story of life as an adventure, from the journey’s beginning as a young, naive child to becoming one with the world, and everything else in between. Each card represents one stage on this journey, and represent the experiences one goes through during their life.
The Thoth Tarot
The Thoth Tarot was designed by Aleister Crowley and illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, both members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Crowley had a bit of a rivalry with Arthur E. Waite, a fellow member and designer of the popular Rider-Waite deck. Crowley sought to surpass Waite’s deck with his own, and used as much symbolism as he possibly could in it, borrowing from many cultures and disciplines. He renamed (and re-ordered and re-associated) some of the Trumps, and altered slightly the traditional meanings of several of the Minor Arcana, in order to be better reflect his own views on the Tarot.
Like all occult Tarot decks, the Thoth deck is based on Western Esoteric practices such as Astrology, Alchemy, Numerology, and Kabbalah. The Thoth deck, however, emphasizes the Kabbalistic aspect of the Tarot, and is very clearly based off of the Tree of Life and the ten Sefirot. In the book he wrote describing the deck, The Book of Thoth, Crowley spends a good deal describing the Sefirot and Naples Arrangement, as well as his views on the placements of the cards.
The Naples Arrangement and the Ten Sefirot
Just as the Kabbalistic Tree of Life has ten Sefirot, the Naples Arrangement has ten stages of existence, from the Point to Reality. Each Sefirot corresponds to a stage in the Naples Arrangement, and they share similar meanings:
1 (Kether): Spiritual Perfection – Point
2 (Chokmah): Original Harmony – Line
3 (Binah): Potential – Plane
4 (Chesed): Stability – Matter
5 (Geburah): Motion – Motion
6 (Tiphareth): Conscious Harmony – Experience
7 (Netzach): Sensitivity – Bliss
8 (Hod): Intellect – Knowledge
9 (Yesod): Crystallization – Essence of Being
10 (Malkuth): Reality – Reality
Just as the energy of EinSof flows through the ten Sefirot, existence passes through several stages: pure existence is represented by the point, which develops into the line and finally has distance, which then becomes the plane and begins to see its potential, and when the next dimension in added, matter appears. The matter then moves, creating motion, and with this motion the existence of time is implied, and so also the idea of an object having experiences that teach it. Emotions and thoughts are then implied by the existence of experience, represented by bliss and knowledge respectively. The idea of an ‘Essence of Being’ refers to the state of awareness of one’s own existence through knowledge of the previous states of being. Reality is, of course, the whole sum of the parts before it.
The Minor Arcana
In the Tarot, each number in the suits of the Minor Arcana correspond to their number in the Naples Arrangement and among the ten Sefirot of the Tree of Life, as can be seen here. The Aces represent perfection, the twos original harmony, the threes potential, the fours stability, the fives motion, the sixes conscious harmony, the sevens degenerate weakness, the eights intellectual weakness, the nines a crystallization of the suit, and the tens what happens when the suit is applied to reality. Each of these paths is interpreted individually for each suit, and so four different evolutions of energy are seen, that in theory cover most events that might occur in one’s life.
The four Suits are the standard Tarot ones: Wands representing Fire, willpower, and creative force, Cups representing Water, emotion, and passivity, Swords representing Air, logic, and principles, and Disks (often seen as Pentacles or Coins) representing Earth, practicality, and the material.
Each Minor Arcana card is named by Crowley according to its broad meaning, and each card has many different meanings that can be used when appropriate. The art on each card features the number of items of the suit equivalent to the number of the card, often with a background reinforcing the meaning. There are no other objects in this images, especially no living beings, which sets the Minor Arcana apart from the Court Cards and the Trumps.
The Court Cards
There are, as is standard in Tarot decks, four court cards for each suit. However, the Thoth deck has a different take on these cards. The four cards Crowley uses are Knights (normally seen as Kings), Queens, Princes (normally seen as Knights), and Princesses (normally seen as Pages or Knaves). The meanings of the Court Cards differ from other decks, in that each Court Card represents an association with a particular element. The Kings are Fire, the Queens are Water, the Princes are Air, and the Princesses are Earth. When combined with the element they represent, then, each Court Card represents one elemental aspect of another element, like so:
Knight of Wands: Fire of Fire
Queen of Wands: Water of Fire
Prince of Wands: Air of Fire
Princess of Wands: Earth of Fire
Knight of Cups: Fire of Water
Queen of Cups: Water of Water
Prince of Cups: Air of Water
Princess of Cups: Earth of Water
Knight of Swords: Fire of Air
Queen of Swords: Water of Air
Prince of Swords: Air of Air
Princess of Swords: Earth of Air
Knight of Disks: Fire of Earth
Queen of Disks: Water of Earth
Prince of Disks: Air of Earth
Princess of Disks: Earth of Earth
Through this system, the four court cards explore four different types of each element, to better understand the whole. As is normal in Tarot decks, these cards also represent personalities – and in the Thoth deck, these personalities are defined in relationship to the elements. The art on each card shows a single figure, as well as their surroundings. The Knights are always riding horses to indicate their willpower, and the Princes ride chariots to indicate their aloofness and forward progress. The Queens are always reclining on thrones as suits their passivity, and the Princesses are usually standing on their feet, being practical and down-to-earth.
The Thoth Major Arcana each correspond to a one of the paths between the Sefirot of the Tree of Life. Each card is also associated with either an element or astrological symbol, as well as with a Hebrew letter, linking together many disparate esoteric schools. The Major Arcana for the most part also carry standard meanings as seen in the Fool’s Journey, but have the added depth of also being associated each with two of the Sefirot and the connection between them. Aleister Crowley also made some changes in the ordering and associations of the Major Arcana; in his deck, he switches the cards Justice and Strength from the standard Rider-Waite setup, and also renames them both: Justice becomes Adjustment and Strength becomes Lust. these new meanings and names better suit their placement on the Tree of Life.
Crowley also switches the normal interpretation of the Major Arcana’s positioning on the Tree of Life (the association with the paths between Sefirot is not a new thing; Crowley merely emphasized it strongly). The Emperor, normally the connecting path between Chokmah and Tiphareth, he places between Netzach and Yesod, while the card normally there, the Star, he places in the Emperor’s normal place. This switch also serves to change the Hebrew letters associated with each card. This switch is very controversial, and not all agree with it.
Crowley also changes the names of many of the Arcana from the traditional; the Magician becomes the Magus, the High Priestess becomes the Priestess, Justice becomes Adjustment, the Wheel of Fortune becomes Fortune, Strength becomes Lust, Temperance becomes Art, Judgement becomes the Aeon, and the World becomes the Universe. This is in keeping with Crowley’s own interpretation, as well as his grand ideas, and incorporates elements of the religion he founded, Thelema.
The art on each card depicts usually a figure of the object in question, and is full of symbolism and very detailed.
The Major Arcana
The Major Arcana, or the Trumps, are the twenty-two Tarot cards that do not belong to one of the four Tarot suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, and Disks. The Major Arcana are sometimes referred to as the suit of the “Spirit” (as the four suits correspond to the elements Fire, Water, Air, and Earth). The Major Arcana can then, in a way, be connected with the Sefirot of Daath, which lies above the plane of the Tree of Life. However, Kabbalistically, the Major Arcana are usually thought of the paths connecting the ten Sefirot, linking them together. Each Major Arcana card corresponds to one of the connections between the Tree of Life, and shares characteristics of both of those points, and represents energy flowing from the lower-numbered one into the higher-numbered one.
The Tree of Life represents the flow of energy from the divine realm of EinSof into reality (Malkuth). It is a form of Kabbalistic Theosophy; an attempt to examine the what God might look like. The energy of EinSof passes through ten points to arrive at reality, in an order corresponding with the Naples arrangement – from original spiritual perfection to reality. The energy does not just flow strictly in this order, and indeed connects many of the other Sefirot, joining them all to make the Tree of Life.
The Major Arcana cards that lie on the “numbered” and “ordered” path of the Sefirot are The Fool, the Empress, a blank spot (Binah and Chesed are not connected), Lust (in the Rider-Waite tradition, the card in this spot is Justice), Adjustment (numerically Strength in the Rider-Waite tradition), Death, The Tower, The Sun, and the Universe (the World in the Rider-Waite tradition). These cards form the “natural” path of the energy of EinSof, and reflect the most important aspects of the Fool’s Journey (see below for full details on this). Kether is connected to Chokmah by the Fool, who begins his journey inspired by his spirit and ready to leap into action. He is guided initially by his mother (the Empress), who helps him realize his full potential. Following that, he is hesitant to leave the home and the safety of his mother for a little bit (hence the blank spot), but eventually summons up the courage and goes. He is initially strong and focused on his journey, but quickly realizes that he has to learn to master himself and control his impulses now that his mother is no longer there to help him (Lust). He then learns how to balance himself and reach an accord with the rest of the world through his new ability to adjust himself (Adjustment). However, his satisfaction is disrupted by a traumatic event and a drastic change in his life (Death). He feels as if all is lost (The Tower) and that he can never recover, and then sees the light of the Sun, and realizes that in every ending there is a new beginning. He picks himself up and moves on, finally realizing who he is and how he fits in with the universe (the Universe/World).
The Major Arcana, when looked at numerically, also tell a story known as The Fool’s Journey. In this journey, the reader is the Fool (O), about to set out on a journey, a naive young man or woman ready to unlock his full potential. The journey the Fool is setting out on can be any journey, and mirrors the journey of life. The Fool represents the start of the journey. The first few Major Arcana represent the early personalities that he encounters that influence his life, just as a young child is strongly influenced by the personalities around him. The Magus (I) is one of the most powerful personalities to come to him first, and represents the teacher who may have initially aroused the Fool’s interest, and who guides him initially in his quest, giving him knowledge from above, and telling him what his purpose is. The Magus encourages the Fool to go forth, and gives him the tools necessary to succeed. Interested in the Magus’ words, the Fool seeks out the advice of the Priestess (II), who tells him what will happen, again channeling divine knowledge, and showing the Fool the mysteries of life he shall discover on his quest.
The Fool then prepares to leave, and says goodbye to his mother, the Empress (III). She is the nurturing, caring figure who raised the Fool to be the way he is, and she does her best to make sure the Fool is ready for what is coming. As he leaves the home, he bids farewell to his father the Emperor (IV) as well – the stern man who made the Fool’s life possible and who taught the Fool the basics of how to live through his example.
As he leaves the house and passes into the village, he encounters the Hierophant (V), who blesses him and his journey, and formally initiates him into the community and into the wider world. He educates the Fool and teaches him how to survive in the world beyond, and then wishes him well and sends him off. The Fool is eager to finally be off, and needs no urging.
As a young man, he quickly becomes overpowered with passion for another individual he meets on his way, and becomes one of a pair of Lovers (VI). He feels a sense of true intimacy with someone outside of his parents for the first time, and he exalts in it, feeling compelled to do all he can in this person’s honor. Filled with a fervor, he decides that he will make the world a better place through his strength, and so embodies the spirit of the Chariot (VII). However, he soon is dragged back to reality and sees that he can’t do everything by himself, and learns how to balance his urges with practicality through a state of constant Adjustment (VIII). He begins to learn how to balance his own needs with that of his lover and the rest of the world.
Intimacy can be stifling, however, and eventually that period ends as the Fool seeks to balance out that aspect of himself, as well. He retreats into the wildnerness and lives alone as a Hermit (IX), unsure of who he is, and wanting to be separate from his lover. He ponders and meditates on the meaning of life, and when he emerges from his solitude, the Fool has changed, and has a greater understanding of who he is.
However, in his absence, the world has changed. Time passes and fortunes change, and those that the Fool knows are no exception. The first Decade (Trumps O-IX) has ended, and things are about to change drastically. The wheel of Fortune (X) affects us all, even the Fool, and his life suddenly takes a drastic and unexpected turn, as everything around him changes. He must learn then to master his inner emotions that react strongly to these changes, and discover for himself when to give into them and when to control them, channeling the power of Lust (XI). He finds this harder to do than he thinks, and as the changes of Fortune run through his life, decides to again just step back from society and reassess his position – and he realizes that the only way he can win and get what he wants is by giving everything up. He has realized the secret of the Hanged Man (XII), and decides to just go with the flow.
As the wheel of Fortune has shown, life is anything but stable, and a second, even more drastic change sweeps through the Fool’s life, and a period of his life ends as another begins: he has experienced the power of Death (XIII). Not necessarily in the physical sense of the world, but in the metaphorical sense; he undergoes a time of transition as he wrestles himself back into control, and sees for the first time with open eyes the power of forces beyond his control, and the inevitability of drastic change. He becomes serene and calm at this realization, and finally manages to control his Lust and manage the massive changes that have affected his life. He learns that he must do things in moderation, and learn to balance himself. He begins to grow and mature, and sees that he is not alone, and that by combining himself with others, he can make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. He has learned the secrets of Art (XIV) as he achieves once again harmony with the world.
Or has he? The Fool, in his quest for harmony, eventually falls into the trap of the Devil (XV), and is blinded by his ignorance and chained. He might not realize it as he blunders through his life, but he does not see the full picture – until he learns to see everything from a new perspective. As he does so, his prison is shattered and his life flips topsy-turvy, throwing him completely off course again. He suffers the unfortunate fate of the falling and toppling Tower (XVI), and sees ruin and the changing of an era before him. However, he also has broken free of the prison that held him, shocked out of it by a traumatic event that also leaves him in pieces.
But he slowly puts himself back together, and experiences the calm after the storm: the Star (XVII). He sits back and reflects, and sees that there is hope after all as energy from the heavens pours down into his life. Encouraged by the (seeming, at least) immortality of existence, he gets back up and moves on. Perhaps, though, he was not ready, as he is still disoriented and confused, and the shocking re-entry into reality may have been too much for him. He is misled by many and becomes confused and lost as the light of day is eclipsed by the Moon (XVIII). He no longer knows what is real and fears the return of the Tower. However, a moment of clarity eventually reaches the Fool’s mind, and the Sun (XIX) bursts into its full glory, banishing the ambiguity of the Moon and showing the Fool what he needs to know, allowing him to see his life with clear-cut vision. He rejoices and dances for he has emerged finally from some dark times indeed.
As time passes, the Fool ages, and he sees the Aeon (XX) change. He notices how things never remain constant, and that time inexorably rolls forward and everything grows – including the Fool. He has had a long journey, and finally sees how it has helped him grow a little bit at a time, teaching him lessons he needed to know. Finally, with that realization, he completes his journey and becomes one with the world, having realized who he is and what his role in it shall be – he now understands as much as he can about the Universe (XXI) – and is ready then to begin a new journey as he finally integrates with everyone around him and accepts his existence fully for the first time as he is.
The Major Arcana are also each associated with the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and share there numerological and Kabbalistic meanings. Additionally, the twelve cards associated with Hebrew single letters are also associated with astrological sun signs (whose meanings the cards reflect), the seven cards associated with Hebrew double letters are also associated with astrological planets, and the three cards associated with Hebrew mother letters are also associated with the three elements above Earth – Fire, Water, and Air.
The Major Arcana are the most extensively studied and the most complex of the Tarot cards, having many different meanings. The true secrets of the Tarot lie hidden in the Major Arcana, which tell of our journey through life and EinSof‘s journey to reality.
XXI – Tav – Saturn – Sign
Experience, Fulfillment, End of a Journey (and the Start of a New One), and Actualization (of Potential)
The Universe (the World in the Rider-Waite tradition) corresponds to the Hebrew letter Tav, symbolizing a stamp or seal. Tav is the last letter of the first word of the Torah, symbolizing the ultimate origin, and the end process of creation. It is also the last letter of the Aleph-Bet, causing it to act somewhat like a seal, capping the end of existence and providing it with the authority of truth. However, as the letter Tav is only the last letter of the first word in the Torah, it is implied that there is continuation after the end. So while this is a letter of endings, it is also a letter of new beginnings. It is a sign of righteousness symbolizing life eternal, and the continuation of existence even after the end (such as the World continuing on after the Judgement).
This letter is extremely appropriate to the last of the Major Arcana. The Universe means all of these things that the letter Tav does; it represents both the end and the beginning, as one journey ends and another begins, and also represents the state of the world at the end of things, summing up all that came before it.
Astrologically, the Universe is equivalent to Saturn, which is the Planet of limitation and discipline. It represents slow growth through experience, and getting exactly what you deserve; no more and no less (a form of righteousness). It represents coming to your full self along with the rest of the world, simply by living in it.
And the Universe as a card represents very much this ideal. It represents harmony and the world, and absolute completion and fulfillment; the zenith of one’s life. The Universe is the card that comes at the end of the Fool’s journey, and represents his spiritual being at that point, full of experience. He has learned the ways of the world and has become fully integrated into it, accepting his place there. The journey has ended, but a new one will soon begin. This card represents one being at peace with themselves in the world, finally realizing who they are and how they should live. It represents combination and fullness, and the whole picture coming together. It is the realization of the Fool’s potential.
On the Tree of Life, the Universe stands between the Sefirot of Yesod (Essence of Being) and Malkuth (Reality) – it represents what happens when one comes into Reality having fully realized who they are themselves (Essence of Being), which allows them to accept their place in the larger world (Reality).
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role that you sense of self-identity and the world play in your life. It asks you if you are sure of who you are and where you should be. It advises you to start looking for a new beginning, for the journey you have been on may soon be ending. Are you well-integrated into the world? Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden, blocked, or twisted somehow; perhaps the universe you are integrating to is smaller than you think, or your fulfillment is hollow – or perhaps you have gotten more or less than you should have out of your recent journey.
XX – Shin – Fire – Year
Sweeping Transitions, Absolution, Cycles of Time, and Revelation
The Aeon (Judgment in the Rider-Waite tradition) corresponds to the Hebrew letter Shin, which represents fire burning from a coal. This is appropriate, as the Aeon also corresponds to the element of Fire. Specifically, the fire of Shin is the fire that springs from a coal, representing cleansing flame that comes from within. The letter Shin also means “change,” specifically of a cyclical nature – such as the passing of the seasons within the Year. It represents natural changes towards the future, and the constant motion of the world. It represents also the passage of time, and the progression through various Aeons, as is appropriate to the card representing the Aeon.
In the Rider-Waite tradition, this card is Judgement, referring to the time of judgement during the apocalypse – a time when the world will end with Fire (corresponding to the card’s element), and the angels will call forth all the souls in the world to be judged. The Rider-Waite art illustrates the scene after the world has ended, with an angel blowing a trumpet to call the souls of the world to rise from the water and prepare to be judged.
The Thoth card interprets the idea of a Judgement more broadly, and instead of defining it as the last Judgement, shifts the meaning slightly to incorporate all vast periods of worldwide transition – such as the passage of the Aeons. As Aeons usually change with bloodshed and chaos, Fire seems to be an appropriate sign for this card. The Judgement depicted in the Rider-Waite art is the final passage of the Aeons, while the Thoth card represents all such Judgements and changes that occur.
The card of the Aeon, them, represents vast change affecting the whole world, and transitions from one state into another. The card Death (XIII) also is associated with transitions, but Death refers to more personal transformations, while the Aeon indicates transitions in the world around you. It represents judgement, change, transition, and transformation. In its guise as Judgement, it also represents rebirth and absolution, washing away the old in order that the new can rise. As one’s sins are stripped away, one can suddenly gain insight into the world and the passage of time, and experience epiphanies and revelation.
On the Tree of Life, the Aeon stands between Hod (Knowledge) and Malkuth (Reality), representing most the idea of revelation and insight of Malkuth into the workings of the world, into the Knowledge of Hod. It represents the logical structure of the world coming into play in reality.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role of cycles, rebirth, and change in your world. Is the world around you undergoing drastic changes? Do you have a chance to start anew, without the past coming back to haunt you? Have you recently experienced an epiphany? Reversed, this card’s energies are twisted or blocked somehow; perhaps the world really isn’t changing that drastically, or perhaps your insights are not what they could be.
XIX – Resh – Sun – Head
Clarity, Vitality, Security, and Consciousness
The Sun corresponds to the Hebrew letter of Resh, which roughly means head, or beginnings. It also corresponds to the existence and effects of poverty in the world, particularly the selflessness that comes after one has been poor previously. It represents also (as can be seen by its meaning and original pictograph of a head) consciousness and thought, as well as clear awareness of what is going on around you. This card symbolizes the beginning of knowledge that comes from having a clear head and understanding the need to both fear and love God.
Astrologically, the Sun’s equivalent is… the Sun! The Sun, as a planet, symbolizes one’s conscious identity and sense of self-purpose. It represents confidence and clarity of mind, as well as spirit and energy as well. It serves primarily as a symbol of a strong self-identity, however.
The card of the Sun, similarly, is a card of clarity, vitality, and energy. Like the Moon is a card of the darkness, the Sun is a card of the morning. It represents fertility and rebirth, as well as new beginnings. It represents conscious thought and clarity of purpose, mind, and spirit. The Sun is full of energy and vitality, as well, and represents rejoicing in the fact that the darkness has gone. The Thoth art captures this energy and celebration well, in showing two winged children dancing before a hill, while the sun sends out spiraling energy in all directions. The Rider-Waite art similarly has a happy child on a horse, with the beaming sun behind it. The colors on both cards are bright and clear, with no ambiguity. In the background of the Thoth card we can also see a hill surrounded by a wall, indicating security and comfort.
The Sun is also a card of sanity and freedom, breaking out of the darkness of night; the sun has risen from behind the eclipsing Moon and daylight has been restored, bringing much relief. This card represents flowering and hope, as well as the idea of living by conscious principles – another meaning of the wall – in order to provide security and eliminate ambiguity and shadows from your life. Lastly, the Sun also is a card of generosity and giving, as the sun gives its light to the people on the Earth.
On the Tree of Life, the Sun lies between the Sefirot of Hod (Knowledge and Intellectual Weakness) and Yesod (Essence of Being). The Sun, then, is the path from conscious application of knowledge, and learning from one’s intellectual failing and weaknesses, to finally coming fully into yourself. The Sun represents the conscious application of wisdom to make your life’s purpose clear.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role of clarity in your life. Do you know where you’re headed? Have you come out of a dark phase in your life? Are you thinking straight? Do you have principles? Are you filled with energy? Reversed, this card’s energies are hidden or twisted somehow; perhaps the clarity you are experiencing will be short-lived, or perhaps you are clearly looking in the wrong direction.
XVIII – Qoph – Pisces – Monkey
Illusion, Fear, Madness, and the Coming Sun
The Moon corresponds to the Hebrew letter Qof, symbolizing a monkey, or grasping and touching (as monkeys are wont to do). The letter Qof also represents the inner sparks of life being enlivened, just as in the card of the Moon, despite its inherently dark nature, there is always a hidden spark (in the Thoth art represented by the sun’s presence). However, the letter also represents the dark vapor that lingers over corpses, symbolizing both life and death, and representing the reality of the world. The letter is associated also with monkeys, who grasp and touch the world to uncover its truth, and who also often fail to understand it. The ape of illusion is seen on the Thoth’s Magus card, and it is the monkey of illusion whose thoughts are seen reflected in the Moon, for the Moon is a card of disconnect, paranoia, and fear.
Astrologically, the Moon corresponds to Pisces, representing unity and compassion. The Moon shows the dark side of the Sun Sign, and represents what a martyr might see before he gives his life – a dark world in need of help, that most people cannot bear to live in. The Moon -especially the full moon – has always been a sign of evil and superstition to some extent, and it is this image that the card reflects. The Rider-Waite art shows the cruel face of the moon looking down through the sun at the world, eclipsing it and bringing night. The scene is almost dreamy, as two dogs bark wildly in confusion, as a lobster comes up from behind to hurt them. The Thoth art is very dark, and the two towers that appear in the Rider-Waite art are shown more prominently. Before the towers stand statues of Anubis, the God of the Underworld, associated with death. At the foot of each statue are jackals, snarling and and guarding the passage between the two towers. In the background, the moon is eclipsing the sun, and bringing with it darkness and ill portents.
The Moon, then, is a card of darkness. It represents illusion and fear, as well as confusion and despair. This card is the card representing you when you are lost in the dark, alone, lost, afraid, and helpless. The eclipse brings with it a sense of hopelessness and foreboding. It is the dark energies of the moon that bring madness and insanity to mankind, and cause him to be prejudiced against his brothers. This card represents the darkness and evil in the world, but reminds us also that the darkness will end. The eclipse is only temporary, and the sun will rise again (seen in the Thoth art by the scarab carrying it) to push back the darkness. In this way, then, this card also provides a lantern light for the child lost in the woods, and the promise of winter’s end. But for winter to end, there must first be a winter.
On the Tree of Life, the Moon lies between Netzach (Bliss) and Malkuth (Reality). The Moon, then, represents what happens when one tries to find happiness and bliss in the real world, and find that it does not live up to their expectations; the world is full of darkness, and this dark side does rear its head. Reality is not perfect, and the Moon represents these imperfections; the things lurking in the shadows and hiding in your closet. It represents what could have been in the world, but wasn’t. It symbolizes what came in and filled those gaps.
In a reading, this card asks you to examine the role of darkness in your life. It reminds you that hard times will end eventually, but also asks you if you’re afraid and lost. Perhaps something new has happened to you and you don’t know what to do? Perhaps you feel as if you’re going mad? Perhaps you are despairing, or seeing something that is not quite real? This is the card of dark fantasy, so perhaps you feel as if you are living a cruel joke? Reversed, this card’s energies are twisted or hidden somehow – perhaps the illusions are real, or the light of the coming sun is false – or perhaps it is not you who is mad, but everyone else.