Wednesday 28 October 2015

A reader of cards

I’ve read with great interest two recent posts by my friends Lisa and Chloe about what it means to be a tarot reader. All of this comes as a result of Camelia Elias’s book, Marseille Tarot, a book that I for one am truly grateful to have read, and look forward to reading again and again…

Both Chloe and Lisa have discussed predicting the future in readings, which is interesting to me because Camelia doesn’t have much to say in her book about predicting the future. She uses the term ‘fortune teller’, though, and that does bring to mind the idea of making specific predictions -- if ‘fortune’ means ‘a person’s fate or future’, then it follows that ‘fortune teller’ could be taken as making predictions of outcomes. But ‘fortune’ can also mean where you are right now, and that’s the sort of telling that I mean when I use the name ‘fortune teller’. Fortune has brought you where you are, I can take a look at that as it is written in the cards, read it out to you objectively, and maybe this objectivity will serve to jolt you out of whatever rut or blockage brought you to me for a reading in the first place. Or maybe it won’t. Your reaction to the reading is entirely up to you. All I can do for you is tell you what the cards say. That’s Camelia’s take on fortune teller (and I’m sure she’ll correct me if I’ve gone astray!). There may be some element of prediction in the short term, which is a projection of outcomes if you continue on this course. The answer that a person gets is entirely dependent on the question they ask. What they do with the answer is entirely up to them. As a ‘fortune teller’, my job will have been done – which was to read what the cards say in response to the question.

Chloe no longer reads cards for individuals but has decided to teach tarot and coach people in life-enhancing methods and techniques, including tarot. Thus she styles herself a ‘magical life coach.’  --  ‘ My personal choice is to focus on teaching other people to read for themselves, so they can find their truths in their own time and way.  ….  I read for people, but within the context of a deeper relationship, an understanding of that person, so that we have the best chance of using the cards in the most empowering, enlightening and growthful way possible.’ For Chloe, tarot has a spiritual element in a counselling approach. And so, a method that espouses, ‘This is what the cards say, take it as you will,’ has no place in her practice.

Lisa most definitely reads cards for individuals, calling herself not a fortune teller but an ‘oracle’. She believes that as such she has been chosen by the gods to deliver messages to people. ‘I do what I do because I have no choice. Had choice figured in my equation, I would have gone down a path more respectable in the eyes of society. I would have used my intelligence to earn more money. It turns out that [what I am meant to do] is anything the gods want me to do. And now I’m finally in a place where I can say that I am happy and at peace with that.’ And so, ‘This is what the cards say, take it as you will,’ as a reading philosophy rings true for her. She says that Camelia’s book has given her a ‘profound understanding’ of the path she must take.

For myself, I am not a counsellor or coach. I am not an oracle. I am a card reader. Someone said that the term ‘card reader’ sounds impersonal and reminds her of the little thing she needs to use in order to make an online purchase with her credit card. That’s fine. I like it. I want it to be impersonal, objective, straightforward. Sensitively worded and judicious in detail, yes, of course. But otherwise, ‘This is what the cards say, take it as you will’ is an approach that fills me with peace.

No, I’m not a mystic, not a coach, not an oracle, not a tarot diva, not a tarot ninja, not a sybil. I am a reader. I personally do not believe that I have any special powers of perception beyond the normal intuition inherent in everyone (like a muscle, some people choose to exercise it and make it stronger, some choose not to, so it goes flabby and weak).  I have the interest and inclination to learn how to read the cards, I have done it, I am good at it. I continue to study and learn and I always will. I have read cards in the coaching style, I have read cards in the straight reading style, and I have even read in the predictive style, and I have to say that the method that feels most comfortable and right for me is the straight style. I just never talked about it much because it has been looked on unfavourably by some other readers. Camelia’s book has given me permission to own it. Card reader. That’s it.

None of this touches on the bigger role tarot plays for me, in my spiritual life. I have likened tarot to a gigantic iceberg and a tarot reading is not unlike scraping a tiny bit off the surface and handing it to someone as a snowcone. Sure I can do a reading for you; it's a fun and useful side effect of my tarot study. There's more to tarot than readings. But that's not what we're talking about here. :) 

Sunday 25 October 2015

Confronting the stalker cards

'Stalker' cards are those that keep turning up over and over, no matter what deck you're using, what question you're asking, or sometimes even what person you're reading for! The lovely and wise Pearl Annie shared a technique for looking at stalker cards (she calls them 'cards that haunt me') in a group on Facebook called The Tarot Readers Development and Study Group. She shuffles her deck thoroughly and then divides it into five piles to determine what plane of existence the stalker card is attempting to deal with: Fire, Water, Earth, Air or Spirit.

I thought I'd just try that with my two recent stalkers, Knight of Wands and Chariot.

Three cards into the Fire pack, I found the Knight of Wands. I placed the two cards before him face down above the Fire pack, and placed him on top of them facing up. Then after two more cards, I found the Chariot! So I placed it and its previous cards below the Fire pack. 

(It doesn't matter what order you put them, that's just the order I said out loud as I laid them out so I stuck with that, even though normally I would have done Fire - Water -Air - Earth - Spirit. It's early, and I am a witch of dismal memory.) 

Both cards have fallen in the Fire pack, which comes as no surprise at all, but you never know until you ask. Knight of Wands is a Fire card of course, being Wands, and its elemental affinity is Air, so he is Air of Fire. The Chariot is a Water card, associated with the moon and Cancer. It's action that they're calling for, both in thoughts and feelings. I should act on thoughts and feelings, and not just think or feel them. 

I thought it would interesting to take this technique a bit further. What would happen if I looked to see what cards fell in the same spot in the other packs? Would that give me insight into how to support the Knight of Wands and Chariot across all planes? How can my other aspects aid this one that wants so much to come out?

I counted down into each pack and repeated the laying out of the cards as I did for the Fire pack:

Aiding the Knight of Wands

Fire - Knight of Wands, Water - 9 of Wands, Earth - Queen of Wands, Air - 2 of Cups, Spirit - 8 of Wands (confession, the 9 of Wands and Queen of Wands came out reversed, but I turned them over for the photo, so I'm going to read them reversed). 

I can aid the Knight of Wands' manifestation by watching out for feelings of being judged by others, being more sympathetic and forgiving of my physical body and habits, sharing ideas with others, and engaging in a daily spiritual practice. 

Aiding the Chariot

Fire - Chariot, Water - 7 of Wands, Earth - World, Air - 9 of Cups, Spirit - 2 of Pents Rx (confession, 7 of Wands was reversed so I will read it that way.) 

I can aid the Chariot's manifestation, again by avoiding defensive reactions, glorying in my physical self (note the glorified naked form in the card), thinking about where I am satisfied and successful, and accepting that being alive means not always (or even usually) feeling anything like being on an 'even keel'.

In summary 

My stalker cards want very much for me to make progress. The other cards show the blockages to these cards -- possibly they are the real reasons the stalkers keep stalking. They're not waving but drowning, as the poem says. They're stymied by attitudes in the other planes. The cards are telling me to stop seeking balance and get on with things. Lighten up. Stop looking for perfection in myself or my methods. Just DO something. Knight of Wands and Chariot will be satisfied if they see me do something, anything. So stop telling myself it won't be good enough.

Good insights. 

Saturday 24 October 2015

Never the Twain? Wen and Elias -- Book Review(s)

I bought Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen in July, right after the TABI Conference. I have more or less pored over it ever since. It is a massive tome of 874 pages of tarot scholarship. I thought I may have found the definitive tarot source book, and without doubt it is on its way to the status of a classic introduction to various esoteric traditions and  the contemporary approach. It's certainly a compendium of all sorts of esoteric and occult traditions, a comprehensive introduction with much to offer experienced readers as well. But over the last week, I've read Camelia Elias's Marseille Tarot: Toward the Art of Reading. A slim book of 197 pages, as a guide to reading the cards,  it knocks Holistic Tarot into a cocked hat. While the carefully researched tables of information in Holistic Tarot appeal to my Virgo side, the philosophy of reading espoused in Marseille Tarot thrilled me to the tips of my ten toes. While reading this book, I have laughed out loud, frowned in consternation, and felt my eyebrows shoot up in shock. I've underlined, drawn arrows, and written in the margins on nearly every page! Wen's book is a tremendous resource. Elias's book I simply love. And you couldn't get two more diametrically opposed approaches. Here are a few of the more glaring examples:

What is a tarot reading?

Wen - "I do not support fortune telling and I do not believe in future telling. The signs and symbols of the cards facilitate retrieval of information from the unconscious and move it to the forefront of the conscious plane of the mind."

Elias - (Refers to self throughout as a fortune teller) "In classic cartomancy, we don't read the cards according to esoteric principles. We read the cards according to common sense. The cards are like a language rather than a symbol. [Tarot] is most efficient precisely in the moment when we give up symbolism and esoteric knowledge."

How is a reading delivered?

Wen -- Presents an elaborate 8 step process which includes the First Operation and involves explaining individual card meanings at least 10 times (see pages 478-479 of Holistic Tarot). Here is a sample reading from Wen:

(It's worth noting that this is a general enquiry, no question asked.) 

Elias -- "I often say that I'm not an 'intuitive reader' --whatever that means -- but rather a reader who has trained herself in the art of 1) distilling the primary meanings of the cards, 2)essentializing these meanings to a core understanding and ultimately 3) synthesizing these primary meanings into one relevant shot. In Romania where I grew up, most card readers I've seen have been versed in delivering the one sentence reading without needing 30 minutes for a tarot session."  From Elias (question in middle of page on left, entire reading is at top of page on right):

(Take note that there is a question here. Elias doesn't do general readings. "I never read the cards without a question. The question is crucial for the level of precision that we end up delivering when we read the cards. ...If the cards address the querent's issues in a very direct manner, then they do so because there is a question to begin with.")

What about ethics?

Wen -- "The purpose of the tarot is to empower the Seeker, never to harm. ...Generally, tarot practitioners should never agree to do readings for Seekers who are asking specific questions about illness, financial troubles, legal troubles, or abuse of any kind. That is unacceptable. ...The ethical reader will not facilitate such situations. The tarot should only be used to complement current professional care."

Elias -- "The querent has ultimate agency, and my work is always based on fundamental trust. If a person comes to me for advice, I trust the person to be able to reflect on what we're talking about. ...The reader is not responsible for people's feelings, for what people make of a reading, or for what they get out of it. The reader is responsible for delivering a useful statement, and for staying on track and true to the cards."

In summary

These two books present a fascinating view of different personalities, different traditions and different approaches to tarot reading. Wen is deeply immersed in esoteric details and gives page after page of charts, diagrams and tables from astrology, numerology, and the writings of occultists. She espouses tarot reading as a sort of coaching or active listening, with strict ethical rules of the boundaries and responsibilities of the tarot reader. Elias comes from a fortune teller tradition and approaches reading by following patterns appearing in the pictures on the cards and weaving the images into a story. She assigns 'ultimate agency' to the querent and accepts no responsibility for their reactions to the reading or their resulting action (or inaction). Being true to the story she sees in the card trumps other considerations.

Both writers agree that the purpose of a tarot reading is to help the querent to see their situation more clearly and make their own decisions about next steps to take.

I have certainly enjoyed reading both books...but a fire wasn't lit under me until I read Elias. So thanks for that, Camelia.

(Please note quotations from the books are sentences compiled from different pages; breaks are noted by an ellipsis.)

Benebell Wen's website offers plenty of free resources and  blog. 
Camelia Elias's site Taroflexions is also filled with information and blog.
Both are well worth a visit! 

Friday 23 October 2015

Listen to those Chariot wheels creak!

CBD Tarot
What is the most important thing for me to do today? 

Boom! Look at how those cards have fallen. The man of the material realm and the despot have their eyes fixated on the 5 of Wands, the card of physical work/action. Today I must work out and if I do, it will be the first workout since April 2015. Can you believe that? 

I thought I'd draw a goddess card to see what energy I need and look who popped up: 

Journey to the Goddess Realm
Yes, it's Hygieia, goddess of health, with her kundalini rising and her pentacles representing the body (fire, water, earth, air, spirit) in protective circles. And there are four of them, showing how balanced she is. 

All right already! Where are those old Kelly Coffey-Meyer DVDs? ....

ETA: I did something. It wasn't a workout DVD -- I did my own 30 minute stepping, squats, lunges and biceps and triceps while watching 'Harold and Maude' (1971 cult classic) on You Tube. Then I went and ordered 4 KCM DVDs at Coffeyfit.

Thursday 22 October 2015

A "dumb reading"* -- say what you see

CBD Tarot 
'How can I motivate myself to do a particular thing that I ought to do?'

Your desires and your actions are not cooperating. At some point they seem to have been moving together in the same direction, but both of them are now looking over their shoulder. At what? The direction from which they've come. The crossed wands show that earlier in the journey, they cooperated, worked together. But now, they are at an impasse. (A cross could be an alliance, or it could be an "X" as in "stop"). They're stalled out. If they were to turn their heads and look in the direction of travel, what would they see? 

They would see a man in a chariot. His gaze and the gaze of his two strange blue horses are toward the forward motion of the path. (The way the bodies, though not the faces, of King of Cups and Knight of Wands are facing). The chariot faces us, the viewer, but we see a wheel on the left and the horses' heads and the charioteer's gaze are to the left, so it looks to me like this chariot is being turned to the left, heading down the path, 'back on track'. The charioteer's left hand is coming up, elbow raised. I can just see him complete the motion to point his horses toward his right. The two horses that were pulling in opposite directions will come in line -- it's already beginning to happen, as their heads are both moving in the same direction. The King of Cups and Knight of Wands will hear the commotion, turn their heads, and follow his lead. 

The Chariot will surely be able to mow down obstacles in the way, and progress can be made, as long as the King and Knight follow in the path he clears. 

Will you allow yourself to take agency as the Chariot, or will you stay stalled out as the King of Cups?

(Notice my recent stalker cards of Knight of Wands and Chariot. Not surprising, as I keep reading about the same theme, using different decks on different days. And they say tarot is random. LOL)

*"Dumb reading" is a term of Enrique Enriquez - Eschew symbolism and esoteric knowledge in favour of looking at what's happening in the cards. 

Tuesday 20 October 2015

The climb's more important than the mountain

Tarot of the Spirit, US Games 2011
Today's card is Eight of Earth, or 8 of Pentacles, from Tarot of the Spirit by Pamela Eakins. This card is called 'The Mountain'.

This card brings to mind an eagle on a mountaintop, with the rays of the sun streaming down on the lower hills. (It also makes me think of a circus Big Top -- I think it's the pointy bits with the stars in them.)

The pointy bits at the bottom and the rather triumphant sphere at the top bring to mind a concerted effort to overcome obstacles or blockages, determination to meet the challenge, and success at the end of it.

As it happens, the LWB says, 'Perseverance, commitment and discipline are the real keys to success. Talent is important, but not the most important factor.'

The card, then, has a traditional meaning of plugging away at something, and the journey being as important as the finish, and maybe even more important. It's the experience of doing and learning that is more fulfilling than the feeling of having it all done.

Remember that today as you go about your slogging, 'routine Tuesday' tasks -- enjoy the journey. This is the only 'this Tuesday' you're ever going to see.

Monday 19 October 2015

7 of Cups - it's not 'pipe dreams'

Tarot of the Spirit by Pamela Eakins 
Today's card is from Tarot of the Spirit by Pamela Eakins (US Games 1992, 2011). This deck is highly Thoth influenced, but that's all I really know about it at the moment as it just arrived on Saturday. :)

My card of the day drawn from Tarot of the Spirit is Seven of Water, aka 7 of Cups. Crowley calls this card 'Debauch'. If you look in the lower corners, you can see symbols, Venus on left, Scorpio on right. This card is Venus in Scorpio. As it happens, this card is also ruled by -- guess who? Knight of Wands. Yes, he's back.

Let's start from scratch. DuQuette offers this formula for dealing with minors:

ns + pz = sc

This stands for 'number of suit plus planet in zodiac equals small cards'. So in this card we have: 

7 of Cups + Venus in Scorpio

7 is associated with Netzach on the Tree of Life (Victory). Its elemental affinity is Fire, thus this card is Fire of Water.  It is considered an unstable number (as are most of the odd numbers). Venus in Scorpio seems key to the Thoth interpretation, so I've gathered some thoughts about it from various sources:

"Common types with Venus in Scorpio dissipate relentlessly and are frequently degenerates or drunks." -- Astrologer Joan Quigley, qtd in DuQuette, Understanding Crowley's Thoth Tarot

"Venus in detriment in Scorpio betrays its weakest qualities. Scorpionic passions plus the goddess of love equals 'I can resist everything but temptation' Oscar Wilde" --

"Venus in Scorpio worries about finding some much-needed stability in the emotional turmoil, so it pursues the deepest, most primal emotional connections it can find. It wants to cut through illusions and connect at a soul level, because when we connect at this deep level, we find peace and stability.' --

This understanding of Venus in Scorpio helps to explain why many tarot readers interpret 7 of Cups as being overindulgence, addiction, substance abuse, or as Crowley calls it 'Debauchery'. 

So while the 7 of Cups sits on Netzach (Victory), its planetary zodiac attribution makes it very unstable and the type of Victory seen is not that enjoyable. 

I have a sneaking suspicion what behaviour this card points to for me. My waist size and the topography of my thighs can attest to it. Whether I care about appearance or not, health is a factor that must be considered. What is the way out of 7 of Cups debauchery? Well, this card sits on Netzach on the Tree of Life. The way out of 7 Netzach toward 6 Tiphareth, the sphere of Perfect Equilibrium, is tarot major (or Key) 13 Death. It's printed right there on the Tree of Life Diagram: 

The route from Victory to Beauty is 13. Death. That's a pretty clear message, too. I can press my luck and further ask, What needs to die in order for me to move from debauchery to balance? Funnily enough, I drew Brother of Fire, Knight of Wands. I think it's telling me, stop with the questions get on with the action. 

The LWB says: 'Be careful, do not be too impulsive at this time of great revelation and change. Attune to the eternal nature of things, and your actions will endure.' 

Which being translated could be: 'Be careful, don't stuff your face with cookies and cake all day when you're just starting to get your head around the fact that you're lumpy and it's all your fault. Remember that calories in must be less than calories out, that's the eternal nature of things. If you remember that, you will hesitate long enough to keep your hand from going straight to your face with that biscuit.' 

Or something like that. 

Sunday 18 October 2015

Introduction to Tree of Life

I enjoyed watching this simple and easy to digest introduction to the Tree of Life as it pertains to Tarot.


The teacher is new to me, Ellen Goldberg.

Saturday 17 October 2015

Thoughts on the Chariot from various sources

Anna K Tarot
A. E. Waite Pictorial Key to the Tarot:
  • The sphinxes in the card were originally horses but were added 'to support a particular historical hypothesis.' 
  • 'It is the King in his triumph, typifying the victory that creates kingship.' 
  • Says Court de Gebelin was wrong in identifying Chariot as Osiris Triumphing, the conquering sun in spring time. 
  • He is 'conquest on all planes -- in the mind, in progress in certain trials of initiation'; he has 'thus replied to the sphinx', which is why Waite has included Elias Levi's having the Chariot drawn by sphinxes. 
  • The planes of his conquest are external
  • His power is limited to 'the bondage of logical understanding'
  • His triumphs are to be understood physically or rationally
  • He would not be allowed to open the TORA scroll in High Priestess, and would be unable to answer if she questioned him. 

Crystal Tarot 
 Aleister Crowley Book of Thoth:

Triumph, victory, hope, memory, digestion, violence in maintaining traditional ideas, the 'die hard', ruthlessness, lust of destruction, obedience, faithfulness, authority under authority.

Rachel Pollack 78 Degrees of Wisdom:

  • Kabbalistic title for number 7 = wisdom
  • Chariot is the triumph of the first line of the major arcana (1-7); it cannot address the 'great areas of the unconscious and super-conscious'. 
  • The developed ego, ie, the 'mature adult, successful in life, admired by others, confident and content, able to control feelings and above all direct will
  • 'an emblem of personal maturity'
  • Jungian 'persona'
  • Sphinxes signify the dualities and contradictions of life; the mediating force is will power
  • Maturity, accepting the limits of life, plus the faculty of speech
  • Not concerned with the inner man or the divine -- those come in later lines of the majors
  • A situation contains some contradictions and these have not been brought together but simply held under control

Druidcraft Tarot
 Plato Phaedrus:

Chariot = allegory for human soul
Charioteer = intellect, reason, seeker for truth
White horse = rational or moral impulse, positive part of passionate nature
Black horse = irrational passions, appetites, lusts

The charioteer directs the entire chariot/soul, trying to stop the horses going different ways and to proceed toward enlightenment.

Katha Upanashad (Hindu text c. 500 BE):

Hudes Tarot
"Know the self to be the master of the chariot. Know the intellect to be the charioteer, and the mind to be the reins. The senses are the horses, the objects in their way the view. When the self is yoked with the mind and senses, the wise call it the enjoyer."

Mary K Greer Tarot for Yourself:

"What mask (persona) are you presenting to the world? What emotional reactions are you hiding? What contradictions and tensions are you struggling to maintain control over? Where have you experienced recent victories or successes in your life? What progress are you making in testing your abilities in the world?"

LOTR by SceithAilm
 Affirmation: "By harnessing all my forces toward my purpose and controlling my fears, I victoriously meet my challenges."

Yoav Ben-Dov Tarot: The Open Reading:

"The illustration on the (TdM) card resembles medieval representations of a popular story about Alexander the Great. After having conquered many countries, Alexander decided to subdue the sky. He harnessed two gryphons to his chariot, and help a spear with a piece of meat over their heads. The hungry gryphons tried to reach the meat, and flying upwards they carried his chariot with them. On the way up, a flying wonder-man appeared and warned Alexander to give up his plan. Alexander lowered his spear and the chariot landed safely on the ground."
Illuminati Tarot

Merkabah (chariot) mysticism:

a school of early Jewish mysticism, c. 100 BCE – 1000 CE, centered on visions such as those found in the Book of Ezekiel chapter 1, or in the hekhalot ("palaces") literature, concerning stories of ascents to the heavenly palaces and the Throne of God.

Rachel Pollack Shining Tribe Tarot:

Wicca Moon Tarot
"The image comes from two mythical sources. The first is the book of Ezekiel in the Bible, where the prophet witnesses a heavenly chariot of fire. This vision has had a deep effect on both Jewish and Christian mysticism, leading contemplatives to ecstatic experiences of God. ... The other myth, from India, tells of the God Shiva who uses the power of all the other Gods to create a chariot from all the parts of existence."

Friday 16 October 2015

Reading using directionality and reversals

Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Tarot  

This is the reading I've been exploring in my journal for the last few days. I'd drawn cards of the number 5 two days in a row (not pictured). Five being associated with finding balance, I asked 'What is attempting to find balance in my life right now? What is out of balance? and What is maintaining equilibrium?' I drew Magician Rx, Strength, Star.

So, a weakened Magician is attempting to find balance right now. Personal power is not being used to bring my needs into reality. I am not identifying my true needs. Strength has come forward as what is out of balance right now -- again a card of personal power and taking the bull by the horns (or lion by the jaw). The Star has maintained equilibrium -- hope has not been lost. I have felt all along that there is plenty of time to address my issues. I just haven't done anything about them. (The reason why is seen in 9 of Pentacles later).

To rectify the reversed Magician, I drew Hermit and placed it above Magician. I can identify my true needs and establish balance in my personal power within myself, or with the help of a mentor, or in a spiritual tradition or practice. wondering what the Hermit's lamp was lighting, I drew another card to see what was in his line of sight. Queen of Cups. Her posture echoes that of the Hermit -- both facing to the left, both intent upon the item they are holding, for the Hermit, the lamp of enlightenment, for the Queen it's the world's craziest cup, shaped like the Ark of the Covenant with the seraphim on either side (if the Ark of the Covenant were made of spare pipe and hood ornaments nicked from the cars of pimps in Starsky and Hutch.)  Queen of Cups is Water of Water -- and so was the daily card that prompted this draw (not in the photo), 5 of Cups, another Water of Water card. This imbalance or disturbance is in the realm of emotions and relationships and personal power.

 Looking at the Queen of Cups and Hermit makes one long to know what is in their line of sight -- so I drew another card to see what they are looking at and got 8 of Cups reversed. Another Water of Water card! 8 of Cups is recognition of time to move on; reversed suggests confusion or delay in making that move.

How can I overcome this confusion, find some clarity? I drew a card to rectify the 8 of Cups reversed and got -- King of Swords reversed! Fire of Air, reversed. I am Aquarius, and King of Swords is the card associated with Aquarius. He's sort of my default setting. But here, to overcome my confusion about what needs looking at and changing, I can't do it through King of Swords, but through King of Swords reversed. Usually, I tend to be rational about things but now that is not what is needed. To clarify this, I remembered a technique of identifying reversed court cards by identifying their elemental opposite. If King of Swords is Fire of Air, his opposite would be Air of Fire --Knight of Wands!

Knight of Wands, that maker of 'down and dirty' plans, that explorer and adventurer, that risk taker! Knight of Wands? How the heck do I access Knight of Wands energy when I don't even feel that I remotely have it right now?

I took the card out of the pack and looked at it for a while. I noticed the pyramids in the background. The Knight of Wands is not drawing energy from his surroundings, which are dry and barren. His passion is inside him. So it must be somewhere inside of me, even when there is nothing in my environment or situation to feed it. What is the Knight of Wands charging toward? What is he charging away from?

I put the card back in the pack and shuffled to find out which cards he would end up between. I found the Knight of Wands and laid him out with the cards on either side of him: Chariot, Knight of Wands, 9 of Pentacles.

The Knight of Wands is moving away from 9 of Pentacles (Air of Earth), whose energy and line of sight are directed away from him (though her body posture is still open to his direction). Her attention is definitely elsewhere, focused on her bird (Air) of prey (Earth). As Air of Earth, she contemplates the material/physical realm. Her satisfaction with her status quo is evident. She is complacent, self-congratulatory, self-satisfied. These are not bad things, but the way she spends her leisure time may no longer be balanced -- too long standing still. Too long watching others move (her bird of prey, which she will presumably set loose to watch fly).

How does the Knight of Wands move me from too much physical luxury? What does he move me toward? The Chariot, a Water card, associated with Cancer and the Moon. Okay, so the Water of Water cards led me to draw a variety of Water cards that have laid me a path to -- a Water major! The emotional plane is dominant in this issue. Not the material plane or the logical plane, but the emotional plane, and how to take action with balanced emotions.

'Cancer is the gateway to incarnation, as Capricorn (its opposite) is the gateway to ascension. Cancer's energy guides us to learn the distinctions of our emotional and logical reasoning so we can recognise how they don't always agree' -

Like a Cancerian crab, the Chariot has a hard shell and a soft centre -- appearing tough on the outside but deep down quite sensitive and vulnerable.

The Chariot card is full of this tension between opposing forces: black and white sphinxes, male and female, facing in opposite directions, meant to be pulling the chariot but not hitched to it and lying down (they seem ambivalent), the lingam and yoni on the shield (which to me looks like a top that spins in place but doesn't actually get anywhere), the chariot is a conveyance but is built like a cube of concrete, no reins and no motion in the charioteer who is encased in the concrete cube (he seems ambivalent), chariots are often associated with the sun ('chariots of fire') but this one is decorated with moons and starry night skies and is associated with the moon.

In other words, the Knight of Wands is me progressing, through my own inner drive,  toward a state of balance created by acknowledging that there is always a state of perpetual tension, and harnessing that tension to drive my life forward. I have been looking for balance rather than acknowledging constant tension. In fact, I have turned from acknowledgement of tension, turned from the areas that need attention (Water and Fire) and settled into some complacent wallowing in the material realm. And there I've wallowed for quite some time.

'To be useful, either to herself or any higher purpose, she had to use her ambivalence as a driving force in her life, a force that would power the Chariot' (Rachel Pollack, The Forest of Souls, 75).

Much to ponder. The Chariot and the Knight of Wands are going on my altar.

Some of these techniques were shared by Caitlin Matthews in a session at the UK Tarot Conference, October 2015. A webinar and DVD of line of sight and rectifying reversals, etc,  may be available at some point. Visit her website at Hallowquest.

Other techniques seen herein have been shared by Alison Cross in TABI conferences, by Benebell Wen in her book Holistic Tarot, and many others.

Monday 12 October 2015

UK Tarot Conference 2015

Hey, another UK Tarot Conference in London! This year the theme was Hanged Man -- but I missed all the themed business, because I attended the Saturday session, and nobody said boo about the Hanged Man on Saturday. Never mind! There was plenty to keep me busy, and at the end of it, I got a certificate!

Look, Ma! I got a certificate! 
Here are my highlights:

Which Way Are Your Cards Facing? by Caitlin Matthews

Photo courtesy Kim Arnold
Caitlin led us through some exercises to help make use of the directionality of cards in our readings. This is a practice I picked up by way of Robert Place and have been doing for years. I remember getting feedback from a client once a few years ago telling me that 'which way a card faces has no bearing on anything and is something that exists entirely in your imagination.' Funny how something I 'dreamed up' is a standard interpretation method!

Caitlin calls the direction the 'line of sight'. She addressed reversals and provided this mnemonic for interpreting, TAROT:

Tardy - things are slowed down or delayed
Aberrant - the card's usual effects are lessened
Restrained - stuckness, obstacles
Obverse - the opposite to upright meaning
Threatens - the card's power becomes ominous, shadowy or burdensome.

This could be of use, but I find the words a bit abstract for me. I prefer Benebell Wen's mnemonic, offered in her book Holistic Tarot, because for me it is simpler, WIND:

Weakened energy and meaning of card
Inverted meaning, ie, opposite of upright meaning
Negative influence on seeker
Delay before outcome will materialise; not all factors fully matured

You can see that the various ways to interpret reversals are there in both mnemonics, I just find the second one easier to deal with.

Two Techniques Using Direction

1. Mirror Pairs
Caitlin taught us a simple method of asking a question, selecting a number, and then cutting the deck into two piles. Count down the number of cards you selected into each pile. Turn those cards over. How does this pair relate to your issue? Swap the cards round. Does that change anything? Add a third card to resolve them. If the cards are looking in a certain direction, see what they're looking at by placing the third card in their line of sight. Try moving the card around. How does that change things?

2. Rectifying Reversals
This was something I'd never heard of. I don't tend to read with upside down cards (reversals), and so never need to 'rectify' one. Caitlin never explained what she meant by that, so I have googled it and found this quotation from Mary K Greer's book, The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals:

'If you or your client receive a reversed card but desire its upright associations, is there a remedy? Of course. A tarot reading is about becoming aware of what you are creating with your current attitudes and choices. [A card's full range of meanings] is there for you to access, but are going to have to extend your imagination and exert yourself to achieve a desired change' (33).

Greer goes on to describe ways to rectify a card. Caitlin's way as demonstrated in this session is to merely draw another card and put it above the reversed card. If that card is also reversed, put another card above that.

Caitlin used this technique in what I call a 'story board reading' (and she drew that analogy as well), which is something I often do when reading for myself. You draw one card, three cards or however many. If this leads to another question, draw another card and add it to the line. Using Caitlin's two techniques of Line of Sight and Rectification, you would place the card to find out where someone is looking, and how to correct (rectify) the reversals. The reading draws to a close when the directionality is capped (for example, you've had two cards looking to the right and the next one you draw looks back at them to the left) or when the questioning comes to a natural finish. It's a 'story board' because you read, not for set positions, but by stringing the cards together into a story. (She did offer the tip of not allowing a reading to sprawl more than three lines!)

'Heresy!' by Richard Abbott

Photo by Chloe McCracken
Richard's talk was my favourite, in which he discussed ways of finding meaning in life, calling them 'mono-valence, multi-valence and omni-valence':

mono-valent - there is only one meaning per thing; only one interpretation of events (or cards)
multi-valent - there are many meanings to things, but there is still a truth
omni-valent - anything means anything, everything is one

The place we want to be is multi-valent, but in reality we move up and down the spectrum and sometimes get stuck in one spot (some deeper than others). I'm not sure why he called this talk 'Heresy', as most of us seemed quite in agreement with him.

I liked his idea of asking clients to stir the cards around (mudpie, he calls it) and select three cards. The manner they go about this, he says, shows a lot about the way they live their lives.

Lunch - 'Lenormand Magic' by Chloe McCracken

Photo by Lisa Eddy
Chloe shared her presentation on using cards in magical practice, this time using Lenormand cards. (See my notes from the Summer Tarot Festival here). The focus was on using the four elements as template when designing spells, then using the cards to help reinforce the energy and embed in the subconscious mind.

As usual, the day was packed and there wasn't much time to touch base with the people I only see once a year. But next year, it's a THREE DAY conference -- 13th, 14th, and 15th October. That sounds like the perfect year for me to finally attend all the days, and stay over in the hotel and the whole she-bang. If all the speakers and attractions appeal, I will do that. Can't wait to hear what Kim is cooking up for us.

And there's still Summer Tarot Festival (please, please in a different venue, we were wilting in the one used this year) -- and hopefully a TABI Conference. :D

Sunday 11 October 2015

Elemental Affinities and How I Learned About Them

This book is where I first heard about elemental affinities, Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen. Please get a copy of the book, you won't regret it. I intend to do a review of it at some point, but for now, just check out Benebell's website. She's got so much on offer there! 

Now, I already knew about elemental affinities in the court cards. You know: Pages = Earth, Knights = Air, Queens = Water, Kings = Fire. I  didn't know that was called an 'elemental affinity', but I had heard of this, and have used it. So imagine my surprise when I read that numbers also have elemental affinities! Benebell gives the information in this book, and tells us that it originally comes from a book called Tarot of the Bohemians by Papus (1892). She has also shared a PDF of Tarot of the Bohemians here. As Papus's work is not copyrighted, I'm sure she won't mind if I share the diagram found in her book (and Tarot of the Bohemians) showing the elemental affinities: 

Wen, Benebell. Holistic Tarot: An Integrative Approach to Using Tarot for
 Personal Growth
. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2014. 

 The elements are in the middle of the wheel, which is divided into four wedges, one for each element (Fire, Water, Air, Earth). Then each element is subdivided to show the elemental affinities. You'll see that each slice has four cards, usually a court and three numbers (except the slice containing the number 10).

So using the chart, we can see that, for example, the 9 of Pentacles is Air of Earth. So is 6 of Pentacles, 3 of Pentacles and Knight of Pentacles.

Looked at another way, Knight, 3, 6 and 9 are going to work together in each suit as Air of...Air of Fire for the Wands suit, Air of Water for Cups, Air of Air for Swords, Air of Earth for Pentacles.

When interpreting, use this information the same for the pips as you do for courts (if you do).

You can see in the bar to the right side of this blog, I've started labelling posts in which I talk about courts and pips and elemental affinities. (I didn't mention them in the older posts because I didn't know about them yet!)

Friday 9 October 2015

Earth of Water - Ten of Cups

Tarot of the Hidden Realm (Llewellyn 2013)
I've drawn Ten of Cups today from Tarot of the Hidden Realm (Llewellyn 2013). We see a faerie in her crone years, passing her hands through the smoke of something. She's working some sort of magic.

I am not easily reconciling the image with the meaning for this card. The book says she has lavender and frankincense in the bowl and the wisps rising up are steam. The card is meant to represent 'moments of love and connection', 'wisdom and experience' and a time to 'create ties as well as celebrate them.' I gotta tell ya, I would have gleaned none of that from looking at this image. I'm sitting here staring at it, and I'm still not getting it. Now I know the back story, that she's sending out blessings to her family, I kind of do, but before reading that, no.

The element of the suit of Cups is Water, associated with feelings, relationships. The elemental affinity of the number 10 is Earth, corresponding to stability, the material plane, and resources. Thus the 10 of Cups is Earth of Water, which would suggest a grounded and practical approach to dealing with emotions and relationships.

This is why in the RWS card, we see relationships fulfilled in the material realm -- land, a cottage, children, a spouse. This card from Tarot of the Hidden Realm misses out the material aspect of Water. Perhaps it is there in the transformation of water to steam, but surely that is leading water to an even less substantial state rather than a more stable, grounded one.

If we look at Water as the inner and Earth as the outer, then the 10 of Cups could represent inner peace being reflected in outer manifestation. It is not prosperity; although the RWS image is idealized it does not represent prosperity so much as deep joy in having all one's basic needs met. What else could one wish for than home, health, a beautiful day, and the knowledge that the wolf is kept firmly from the door (even if it isn't the grandest door ever made)?

That's not to say the 10 of Cups card focuses exclusively on happiness being based on material comfort. Just that the inner and outer are reflections of each other. Wanting what you have and having what you want, that's pretty much the definition of happiness in this life.

Good card for a Friday!

Thursday 8 October 2015

Smart bird

Tarot of the Hidden Realm, Llewellyn 2013 
My card for today is Ace of Swords from Tarot of the Hidden Realm by Moore and Jeffrey (Llewellyn 2013).

Each of the Ace cards in this deck feature an animal:

Ace of Wands = Fox
Ace of Cups = Otter
Ace of Swords = Heron
Ace of Pentacles =Hedgehog

The element of Swords is Air, about which Moore writes, 'Air, as we know, can be motionless, invisible stuff that we need to live. It can also be a tornado that destroys, leaving a bizarre, surreal world in its wake. In tarot, Air represents our thoughts and logic, a word that comes from the Greek "logos" which means words, reason, order, and knowledge. Like air itself, our thoughts and words are invisible and yet so powerful. With them we can heal, create, or destroy' (Tarot of the Hidden Realm companion book, page 14).

Representing Ace of Swords, or Fire of Air, is a heron. The website Spirit Animals dot Com suggests that the heron represents 'self-reliance, tactfulness, careful forethought, vigilance, delicacy, innate wisdom, boundaries, and dignity.' These characteristics sound Swordsy. The Druid Animal Oracle mentions the heron in its discussion of the Crane card: 'The crane, or heron, is one of the four most frequently mentioned birds of the ancient Irish and British tradition -- the others being raven, swan and eagle.' According to this source, the heron represents secret knowledge, patience and longevity, not qualities associated with the suit of Swords, generally, but the book goes on to explain, 'The crane conveys the capacity to be focused and to be able to concentrate without distraction,' and this certainly is associated with Swords.

The element of Swords, then, is Air, which represents thoughts, words, logic, the rational mind. The elemental affinity of Ace is Fire, which corresponds with vitality, passion, and drive. The Ace of Swords, then, is Fire of Air, enthusiastic energy in thought. This could take the form of a passion for what is right, challenging ideologies, a confrontational skepticism, advocating for an idea or concept. The Ace of Swords suggests the awakening of this energy, awakening to truth, the gift of discernment.

I wonder where I will be called upon to use this energy today.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Calm down, love

Tarot of the Hidden Realm, Llewellyn 2013 
This is the Mondayest Wednesday ever. And today I've drawn Five of Swords from Tarot of the Hidden Realm (Moore and Jeffery, 2013). Well yay.

In this card we see a painted warrior fae, wild-haired, charging (or retreating) in battle. Five birds of prey swirl about her. (Hooray for having five of something on a five card!)

The elemental association of the suit of Swords is Air, which corresponds with thought, logic, and also conflict. The elemental affinity of the number Five is Water, which corresponds with emotions and relationships. The Five of Swords therefore is Water of Air. The rational is imbalanced by the emotions (5 being an odd number)--the emotions hold sway. It is a card that can indicate overthinking and faulty perception.

This card is a clear warning for me today, as today at work we are having a meeting in my more difficult work place about 'roles and responsibilities'. It is extremely important that I do not give voice to any emotive overthinking I may have been doing about the situation at work. It will serve nothing for me to bring up anything emotive. In fact, it would be better for me to lay my cards on the table (as it were) objectively and own up to any areas where my own behaviour has caused confusion or problems. I hope everyone else will also do their best to remain rational and grown up about it.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Honouring the deep

Tarot of the Hidden Realm, Llewellyn 2013 
At least in this pip card from Tarot of the Hidden Realm, there are ten items that could count as pips (doesn't happen in a lot of the cards in this deck). The old man holds a gigantic coin, and then there are nine standing stones in the background.

In the companion book, Barbara Moore weaves a story around this chap, that he has visited these stones on a regular basis to honour his ancestors. 'He finds comfort and peace in repeating the same acts, chanting the same words. Each time he comes he brings a token of thanks for the past and a request for the future.'

The 10 of Pentacles traditionally represents legacy. The elemental dignity of Pentacles is Earth, which represents the material plane. The elemental affinity of the number 10 is also Earth. Thus, 10 of Pentacles is Earth of Earth, a card of material abundance, deep connections to the past and future through the physical line of the family, deep stability. Rather than depicting a grandfather with his progeny in the background, here the old man is backed by stones representing a line that goes much, much further into the past, into the earth itself. The stability of the card is represented in the story of the man finding comfort and peace in the ancient stones -- talk about stable, they've been there for thousands and thousands of years! -- and the stability he finds in his repeated ritual of visiting them.

You don't have to have close ties with an extended family to enjoy the deep peace of the Ten of Pentacles. It's actually a feeling that runs much deeper than family ties.

I'm noticing how many times I've used the word 'deep' in this post. Back and back and back it goes.

On a mundane level, the 10 of Pentacles could just be a reminder to examine your own deep connections today. What do you feel reverent toward, what deserves honour from you? Have you acknowledged it lately?

Monday 5 October 2015

Natural way

Tarot of the Hidden Realm (Llewellyn 2013)
It's a very sunny looking card this morning for a nasty wet day, Two of Wands from Tarot of the Hidden Realm (Moore and Jeffrey, 2013).

The card depicts two faeries with fiery hair and dragonfly wings frolicking amongst the foliage. It's an extremely warm and happy-looking card. The companion book informs us that these are rowan buds, which is interesting to me for obvious reasons.

'This card marks the need for vision, for the application of determination, but first you must decide where to direct your gaze and invest your energy,' Moore writes.

It's been months and months since I last weighed myself; I have no idea how much I weigh but I know that I have hardly any clothes that fit. I got up and tried the scale and got the message 'Low battery.'

Now here's where I have a choice. Do I go and buy batteries, dig out (or create new) charts and graphs, start myself on a 'program' -- or do I take it as a sign to try a different way, a more natural way, in which I don't know how much I weigh, don't know how fast I'm making 'progress', and instead make more wholesome food choices and over time begin to notice that my clothes feel looser? The second way is completely against my Aquarius with Virgo Rising nature. The first way indulges and encourages some quite negative aspects of that nature.

Two of Wands is the Water of Fire. This would suggest an intuitive course of action.

I've eaten oats in almond milk for breakfast and just packed a nice lunch of hummus sandwich, grapes, cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks. I didn't measure any of it. I didn't look up the calorie content.

We'll try it the 'natural' way then, see how that works out.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Little minx - Page of Wands

Tarot of the Hidden Realm (Llewellyn 2013)
Page of Wands Tarot of the Hidden Realm (Llewellyn 2013)

Earth of Fire
What is the earthy part of fire? Earth and Fire have a neutral relationship. If Fire is passion, drive, vitality, inspiration, and so on, and Earth is the material, the solid, resources, and physicality...what is the Earth of Fire? Certainly Earth would slow down Fire. Earth would look at the Fiery passion and say, wait, we need to count up our pennies to see if we have the trainfare before we go bursting out of the house for an impromptu trip to wherever. But the Page of Wands isn't an Earth sign, he's just got an affinity for Earthiness. He's mostly the passion, tempered with a bit of sensibility. And his passions are going to be in the direction of material, physical things rather than abstract or emotional things. But he's still mostly going full tilt boogie. The Page of Wands is the kid with ADD who decides it's a good idea to see what dirt tastes like, or who might decide to try to make his mother some rose perfume by denuding all her rosebushes and stuffing the petals in an old milk jug and shaking it up with water. He likes to try new things in the material realm, but he's more about the trying than the planning or thinking. He's the kid who throws sand straight up in the air, or decides to find out what cat poo tastes like. Not always making the best choices, but always finding something new to mess around with. What does this button do? How hard do I have to kick this thing to break it? Will this thing bend the other way? Let's bang the pots and pans together until something else shiny catches our eye. Running around like a crazy thing until he finally falls over for a nap. Makes me tired just writing about him.

How can you release a bit of your inner Page of Wands today?

Thursday 1 October 2015

Handsome lad

Tarot of the Hidden Realm (Llewellyn 2013)
I've drawn another Fire of Water card today, the Ace of Cups. The chap doesn't look terribly playful; in fact, he looks dead serious. (Though the companion refers to him as a 'she', with those eyebrows and mustaches, I just cannot see him as female! He reminds me of Dr Watson from Sherlock Holmes.)

Why choose Otter to represent the fiery inception of the Cups suit? (All Aces have the elemental affinity of Fire.) Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm's Druid Animal Oracle companion book describes Otter as a symbol of the 'strength of family ties', and recounts a tale called The Voyage of Maelduin, in which a family of kindly otters bring fish to seafarers who find themselves stranded on the Island of Otters. 'Here the otter is is portrayed as a friend of man, exemplifying the ideals of service, charity and helpfulness,' explains the book, which goes on to describe the many Celtic names for otter which show the man's-best-friend aspect: water-hound, brown-dog, water-dog, sea-dog. So, the otter can represent joyfulness, playfulness, and helpfulness, all of which must surely have their source in the Ace of Cups.

I learned about elemental affinities in Benebell Wen's book, Holistic Tarot. I already knew that court cards had elemental affinities, but I did not realise that all minors have them. The system comes from a book called Tarot of the Bohemians by Papus, published in 1892. (I've created a new page here called 'Online Reference Library'. There a link to it on the right sidebar under 'More Rowan Tarot'. This page contains links to the full text of classic tarot and occult texts. You can link to Tarot of the Bohemians from there.)

This otter I must admit doesn't look quite as friendly or cuddly as other depictions I've seen...but then, emotion is always warm and fuzzy, and the Ace of Cups does represent the source/inception of emotion, intuition and relationships in their many guises, not just the warm fuzzy ones. For the moment at least, this card is working for me.