Friday, May 25, 2012

What The Deuce

Returning to the study of the individual number cards, we're up to the Twos. Generally the Twos indicate a development from the Aces, and each Two expresses an aspect of that particular Ace being put into use. The number cards are interesting in that they can be both interpreted individually, and in the context of their adjacent cards in order.  The number cards represent life events, and situations we find ourselves in. This being the case, we find that indeed, they are related to what comes before and after them in their numeric sequence, but also can represent a given point in our lives.
So first off, let's examine the Two of Wands-
The suit of Wands represents the willpower, and directing will to action. As the Ace represented the beginning of a new idea, the Two represents the development of that idea. What we find here is being met, perhaps confronted, with a choice. We're looking at two different possibilities, each one seeming to be equally appealing. But nonetheless, we have to make a choice, and commit to one course. Often this card shows a figure looking out over the ocean, indicating that the ship must soon sail. There's also a sense of dominion in this card (actually the Crowley-Thoth deck expressly identifies this card as Dominion). Dominion here refers to having the ability to direct and control; at this point, there are options open to us- we're at the first crossroads of a decision and action process that will lead us through the metaphors of the cards. And, as the Wands express will, it's time to exercise a certainty and strong will, and make the right choice. In its more negative sense, this card can mean indecision and uncertainty- either the inability to make a decision, or being easily led along by others. 
The Two of Swords is somewhat similar, though the concept is more intellectual than a matter of decision making;
This somewhat unorthodox interpretation is from the Osho Zen Tarot, but actually does have meaning in this context. Consider the literal meaning of schizophrenia- it comes from the Greek term for 'divided mind', or 'split mind'. Here we have a message of considering between two ideas. We can see the positive and negatives of both, yet are unable to make a decision between them. Things exist at the moment in a balance, but this balance can't last forever. When this card appears, it's usually time to consider the options to resolve that decision in your mind. Being tied to the suit of Swords, and hence intellectual matters and thought, we find here that the process is one of simply thinking through the decision- don't be afraid to trust reason and thought, and don't let fear get the best of you. The more negative aspects of this card indicate an inability to think clearly about the issue at hand-again, letting fear or uncertainty get the best of you, or an inability to reach a decision. The Twos all indicate a transitive state- things are indeed moving one way or the other, and if we are not able to make a decision, that decision can sometimes be forced upon us by outside factors.
Now we reach a happier image, the Two of Cups-
This image comes from the Universal Waite Tarot, and might be familiar to many readers. Here, the message seems pretty clear- perhaps a celebration, a wedding, or something as simple as a declaration of love, which means a new partnership. And this is the message of the Two of Cups, ruled over by emotional and spiritual Water. Here we see a new union and coming together, and a new friendship or relationship. This early stage tells us that the direction this relationship can take is still yet to be determined, not yet set in its course. But with this, there's a definite chance for spiritual and emotional happiness- there is the obvious interpretation for single guys and gals of meeting a new someone! In its more negative interpretation, the card can indicate a destructive, manipulative relationship, from either side of the equation, or perhaps simply jumping into an unwise relationship solely from a desire not to be alone. But again, in any case we see the potential here for a great (or terrible) relationship to form.
Now, finally, we find the Two of Pentacles- remember, Pentacles are the most tangible and physical of all the suits.
Here, the message is also one of balance- the figure is often described as a juggler, balancing the two pentacles between his hands. The lemniscate (sideways figure-8) between them also occurs in the Magician card, indicating eternity, yet also here indicates harmony and balance, another interpretation attached to the lemniscate. Here, the indication is a temporary balance- holding things together until those ships in the background return from whatever merchant voyage they happen to be on. In its simplest form, here we see the message of a temporary balance while investments are made- things move towards an end, towards success, but that success is soon to come, not at the present. The card has the meaning of wise investment, and careful planning- keeping things in order and together until the returns on that investment come. 
In its more negative sense, the message is poor planning, and an inability to hold things together in the short term, until investments come full circle, or alternately, making rash and unwise decisions where tangible assets are concerned.
Throughout the Twos, we've seen a message of balance, and, oddly, a need to tip that balance one way or the other- to take action to move forwards, and to bring about a desired end in the long run. Again, we see movement from the raw potential of the Aces, to a call for decision, expressed in the Twos, and, the results of that decision, in the Threes. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

As Above, So Below, Part 2

Continuing the study of the correspondences between the Major and Minor Arcana, we come to the Sixes. The theme of crisis and resolution continues throughout the cards, and here we find that the corresponding Major Arcana card is the Lovers. We have come beyond the challenge and difficulties of the Fives, and perhaps sought counsel and help, but the end result is that we've gained wisdom and insight, both into ourselves and the world around us. The message here is that there's a give-and-take in any relationship, and we see in this that again, what we send out comes back to us. Perhaps this is best summed up by the Six of Wands- there's a common theme of transition and change in the Sixes- again, the balance isn't permanent, as we continue to develop and grow. From this balance indicated by the Sixes, and the Lovers, we find movement again towards an end.
The Six of Wands indicates victory, and recieving the accolades of victory- however, something here also is required of us- instead of simply sitting on our laurels (kind of difficult, seeing as they're on the figure's head and on one of the Wands) we need to establish and understand this new development, and put it to work- again,  from a foundation, new developments can occur.
And in the Sevens, we see that there is indeed a next challenge. The Sevens fall under the Chariot, which expresses two things- first, conflict- the Chariot is usually pictured as drawn by two animals of opposite colors. This expresses the fact that were it not for their being hooked to the Chariot, they would probably just head off in opposite directions. The second part of this message is in the driver, charioteer, guy with his hands on the reins, whatever the term may be. What keeps these two opposites from running off is the charioteer- and it's his willpower and guidance that keeps the Chariot moving in one direction, instead of the two animals simply running all over, perhaps causing the Chariot to harm the driver, or others. Although the Chariot represents even perhaps an unnatural union, it's the will and purpose of the driver that keeps the whole vehicle together and moving in a single direction. The Sevens in the Minor Arcana deal likewise with conflict, and things seeming to tend towards chaos- yet with this, a clear purpose and strong will can counteract those entropic tendencies and move the affair towards a successful resolution. In the Seven of Pentacles, we see a message of patience, as well.
The image here is of a gardener, watching the garden grow. The Pentacles are there perhaps just for clarity, and indicate a time of patience, waiting for things to develop. Part of the conflict here is wanting to rush forwards, to hurry things along- but it's best to let them unfold in their own time, as rushing or hurrying will only bring trouble in the long run. However, we also see along with patience, that this gardener is watching his plants- maybe this seems like overkill, watching the plants every minute, but the principle remains the same- here we have a guard against trouble or things going awry. The will of the gardener is that the plants grow, and be free of weeds or trouble, so he monitors and prunes them, keeping out the weeds and making sure they unfold and develop according to the plan he has in mind.
The Eights again represent balance restored- here the Major Arcana card (again, relying on the Rider-Waite system of numbering) is Strength. Things are moving along, flowing and developing, and the Strength card tells of a strength coming from working with, not fighting against and trying to overcome. Whereas the Chariot represents sheer force of will, the Strength card tells of a more gentle, sometimes even yielding strength. There's an old Taoist saying about how the water flows around and over the rock, and does not oppose it, and in so doing, overcomes and eventually wears away the rock.
In this way, the Eights in the Minor Arcana represent a powerful force, but a purpose-driven one that we ourselves have set in motion- this force has gained momentum, and though it moves towards a definite end, changing or trying to oppose that end can mean trouble. In the Eight of Wands we see this message- a unity of purpose and motion, things moving swiftly towards a conclusion and towards a definite end.

Keep in mind also that this purpose is what we ourselves have set in motion, and what our purpose is, and will ultimately lead down that very same road we've chosen.
The Nines fall under the Hermit, and carry a message of fulfillment- things have almost come to an end, and like the Hermit, the time has come for a look back, and perhaps a rest. The road has been a long and challenging one, as we've moved along, facing challenge after challenge, growing and learning from those challenges. Now, looking back over all we've done, this too can be a good opportunity to take stock of the situation, and look at everything that's happened. Are there some lessons, or some underlying theme running through these lessons and events? Is there some greater message and some greater purpose hinted at throughout the path we've been on? Sometimes, the Hermit tells us, it's good to have a time of quiet introspection to examine everything that's gone on, and everything that's happened over the course of life.
Interestingly, in the Nine of Swords we also see this message- a time to step back, calm one's mind, and take an open and honest look at the situation.
Here we see a person either unable to sleep, or unable to get back to sleep, from the bad dreams she was having. Either way, the message is the same- don't dwell or obsess on those things you really have no control over. However, do consider the whole long road that's already been, and consider the positives and negatives. Where are you going, and how successful have you been in getting there?
Finally, the Tens in the Minor Arcana indicate completion- both a beginning and an end. You've come to the end of this particular journey, and are ready to start out on a new one- alternately, you've come to the end of a journey, and still need to learn a few more lessons; you're not quite ready to move forwards and upwards. Either way, the Tens indicate a time of beginning anew, or going back over what needs your attention. The Tens fall under the Wheel of Fortune, also a message of completeness- the Wheel tells us that what goes around comes around- what we invest our time, resources and energy in will ultimately come back to us- again, for better or worse. What we put on one point of the Wheel will eventually swing back around to us. I figured it would be good to end on a positive note (remember, that what we send out comes back to us- sometimes that's not a good thing, either by our intentions, or simple oversight and errors. But keep in mind, mistakes are to learn from as well!) so let's conclude by examining the Ten of Cups.
Here we have a message of happiness worked for and built- these people have worked hard to build a home and foundation for their kids and each other, and now there's nothing left to do but sit back and enjoy the benefits of that hard work. Yet even at this point, the message remains the same, that from a new balance, a new movement forwards occurs. Here we again have the establishment of a firm foundation and balance, and this too leads us to new developments and growth. Like the Wheel, we've come full circle, and this new foundation can take the place of the Ace-a new potential that we can use towards whatever ends we decide on. And throughout life, this cycle of movement from potential actuality, from challenge to balance, continues throughout.

As Above, So Below, Part 1

In a little different direction today, there are correspondences, or correlations, between the number cards and the Major Arcana. It's said that the first ten Majors 'govern' their respective numbers, and are a more generalized representation of the number cards, or Minor Arcana. It's an interesting idea, and worth exploring. But of course, one is left wondering, where in the Majors do we start? We have The Fool, numbered 0, and the Magician, numbered 1. Well, to take a page again from this line of thought, it's often thought that the Fool is kind of a stand-alone card- some people argue that it doesn't have a number- well, technically, zero is a number, but it seems to make more sense to begin with assigning the Aces to the Magician. Remember also that in the Tarot, we have the Major Arcana representing more abstract ideas and concepts- some Platonists might say on a higher level of reality, while the Minor Arcana represent more day-to-day events- things that happen to us more directly.
So to begin, we find first the Aces falling under the Magician. Let's take a common image of the Magician for further inquiry:
I like Bob Veon's take on the Magician shown here, but the important thing to focus on at this point is the table in front of the Magician. Here we have the symbols of the four suits- the Pentacle, the Sword, the Wand and the Cup. These things are collected on the table for the Magician to make use of; similarly, the Aces represent the potentials of their respective suits. The Magician can pick up any of these tools, throw them away, use them to harm himself or others, or work some great magic with them. It's up to him. And here we see a similar message- the Magician represents the use of resources, and the Aces themselves represent those resources coming into our lives. We too, also, can choose what we wish to do with these resources. 
The Twos, then, fall under the High Priestess. Unlike the Magician, we don't see the symbols laid out in the actual design of the card, but keep in mind that the High Priestess is often shown with two pillars behind her, reflecting the duality we see in the Twos.
Here is the Two of Wands- I rely pretty heavily on the Rider-Waite deck and its imagery on this blog, but find that it's fairly easy to interpret and understand. The Twos represent first and foremost, potential and decision- making. Moving beyond the Aces, we now have possibilities to consider- which way to go, what do we do now? The Twos indicate that a path has been chosen, and we have put the resources of the Aces to work on our own designs. Now, as we begin the first phases of the plan, we find that the first decisions come to us, and our first options. The path here exists in potential, not yet reality. Yet depending on which option or choice we make, the outcome will be based on that decision- pre-determined, in a way. And this is an aspect of the High Priestess- she represents hidden knowledge, and knows where these two (or more) options can lead us, but we ourselves cannot see that far ahead. It's up to us to rely on intuition and insight into what comes next, and, as we move down that road, work with new knowledge as it becomes available.
The Threes indicate the next step here- beyond that initial decision, we begin to see returns on our investment, so to speak. These could be thought of like the first shoots growing in a garden, and are similar in this way to the Empress. The Empress represents nurturing and support, and at the juncture represented by the Threes, this is what we have need of. The Empress tells of the support for an endeavor, which ultimately leads to further growth and expansion- also aspects of the Empress card. 
The next card in the sequence is the Four- here we have structure and delineation- as in the Major Arcana, we see that there is a balance between growth and restriction, and the Fours represent the point at which the growth needs to be checked- that is, given structure and form, instead of just random chaotic growth. Both growth and structure are important for success- the structure gives direction and perhaps purpose to that growth, which is shown in the Emperor, representing rule and discipline. 

The Four of Wands expresses this neatly- here we have a castle in the background, and it looks like a celebration, perhaps a success in life. The Four represents here represents structure, like the four corners of a foundation, or the four corners of a building. Without this structure, what kind of building would there have? Well, you could say a round building, but this too implies order and structure. 
The Fives represent the first challenge to this new structure, or new development. Here the Fives correspond with the Hierophant in several ways. First, we have the conventional thought aspect of the Hierophant; we may find ourselves expanding beyond what we thought were limitations, or, when confronted with challenges, referring to a time-honored source of advice. Both of these are aspects of the Hierophant. Sorry, couldn't resist using this illustration from Paradigm Shift of London! 
But again, we see the message of a teacher, good counsel and someone to provide a new perspective based on experience and wisdom. The message of both the Fives and of the Hierophant here is this- who do we turn to in times of crisis or challenge? 
For the sake of brevity and readability, I'll cover the next five, six through ten, in a second entry. So far, we see a kind of "as above, so below" correspondence in the Tarot. While the Major Arcana represent the more abstract and far-reaching forces in our lives, the Minor Arcana, or number cards, represent the manifestations of these forces in our everyday, "mundane" lives.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Aces High

Having finished up the Court cards and the Major Arcana, I figured I'd at least start on the 'pip' cards, or numbered cards. And what better place to start than the Aces? The Aces are perhaps the embodiment of the suits- unlike the Court cards, they represent the essence of their respective suits and elements. Instead of actuality, we see potential- these are in many ways the 'void' cards, representing potential which can be used in any way we choose. To see the Aces in a reading can indicate a starting point- something coming into one's life, perhaps in the form of new opportunities or new and unrealized potential. It's up to us to take advantage of that potential, and to make use of it in our lives.
There is a system of correspondence, where the the number cards are 'governed' by the Major Arcana cards that match their numbers. It's arguable whether the Aces should be governed by the Fool, numbered 0, or the Magician, numbered 1. For discussion purposes here, we'll assign the Aces to the Magician. Interestingly, the Magician is often portrayed as having these objects on his table, altar or whatever he's standing next to or working with. And the Magician can shed some light on the nature of the Aces. The symbols of the Aces, and by extension the four suits of the deck, are laid out for the Magician's use. The Aces represent, again, potential and undeveloped or unused-as-of-yet resources. The Magician can make use of them, turn that potential into actuality, as this is the nature of the Magician- to manipulate (in a positive sense) the world around him to accomplish his purposes. A closer look at the Aces themselves can help to clarify this.
Often the Aces (as in that timeless classic, the Rider-Waite deck) are depicted as a hand holding out the suit symbol, perhaps offering it to us, perhaps with some indication of what its purpose might be in the background. Here are the four Aces, and in the background some indication of what  use that potential can be put to:
First, we have the Ace of Wands- a hand (for some reason coming out of a cloud) offers us a budding wand.
In the background, we see a castle on a hill, looking like a pretty good location both in terms of land and tactical value- these builders have obviously taken the 'high ground', putting the castle in a good defensive position. In terms of the Ace, remember that it's tied to Fire- that is, will and the drive to make ambitions real. This castle, in its defensible position, tells us of how determination and will can create these things, and allow us to defend them. Again, the Ace here tells of a new direction, backed up by determination and willpower. What direction that willpower and determination take remains up to us- it can be a message to follow that idea or objective we have, and bring it to fruition. In its more negative sense, the Ace can tell of one of two things, both of which lead to the same result- either we lack the focus for our energy, resulting in a lot of smoke, but no fire, as our energy is expended chasing first one task, then the other. The second interpretation is that though there's a purpose and direction, we ourselves lack the follow-through to make that goal a reality. Instead of having will but no clear focus, we have a clear focus and no will to follow through.
Next, the Ace of Swords- unlike the other Aces, this meaning is more in the forefront of the card- right on top, in this case:
Here we see a sword with a crown at its point, and the hand appears over a mountain range. The focus of the Ace of Swords is the Air element, and with it, the intellect, reason, ideas and thought. Here the potential of the Aces takes on the sense not of physical change, but of an internal one- new ideas may come to us, or new inspiration. We find ourselves in an environment conducive to creativity and new learning. It could even be developing a new career path- becoming a student again, and the potential to put that learning to use. Perhaps the mountains are in the background to remind us that the mind, when properly applied, can level mountains. The crown here also shows that through reason and logic, we can in fact rule our world. A part of the message here is understanding- understanding is the key to overcoming, or working with.
In this Ace's more negative sense, it indicates a million different ideas- either our thoughts aren't clear, and we're left puzzled and confused, or we simply don't understand. Instead of acting on a new idea, we might find here that we don't have that clarity of thought, or haven't thought whatever new direction we're contemplating all the way through- here is the danger of unforeseen complications, things we didn't prepare for or see coming.
The next Ace to consider is the Ace of Cups- here again we have a meaning on top of the card, as well as prominent images of Water, this card's element:
Here we see a descending dove, such as was seen in the Bible when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The dove is holding a host, which is the wafer used in Christian communion services. This represents an aspect of the Ace, which is what we could call blessings- good fortune, and the happiness and strength of heart to follow our dreams. Here also is hope for the future, and guidance for how that future should unfold, seemingly like a light from above. Sometimes in cartoons we'll see a cartoon character standing there looking up raptly, while a shaft of light shines down on them, and we hear a "heavenly choir" behind them. This is, in some ways, the message of this card- a revelation, an insight, and a joyful one. Like all the Aces, this one represents potential, so what we do with this revelation and new insight depends largely on us ourselves. The hands shown on the Aces may offer, but they cannot force us to take what's offered.
Finally, we have the Ace of Pentacles, and here we see a hint in the background.
Again, we see the hand offering a Pentacle, and in the background, an entrance to a garden, and flowers blooming along the way to that garden. It's not a coincidence that this suit is often called Coins. The Ace here deals with the potential of the physical world, which is much like a garden. It represents the potential to invest, and like a garden, to increase beyond what you began with- from seeds to plants. And as always, we see the hand offering, but the decision to accept, and also how to use this resource, remains with us. Whereas the other Aces tend to point to new potentials and ideas, the Ace of Pentacles is more of a practical change, perhaps a return on an investment, or even a new job opportunity. In any sense, the Ace represents a new direction for our resources, and again, it's up to us to put that potential to use. In its more negative sense, perhaps this is the most obvious negative interpretation- either hoarding or squandering- either way, not using this resource to its fullest potential.
So overall, the Aces represent the earliest stages of development- here we have potential- we find that new opportunities arise, and new developments can occur- at this point, it's up to us to guide and direct how these potentials unfold, and which direction we apply these new resources.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Oracle Decks

The Tarot is quite possibly the most widely recognized system of divination, and is usually composed of 78 cards. However, there are other decks that have more or less cards, and perform a similar function. Some of these are generally classified as Tarot decks, also- some examples are the Deva Tarot, which has 93 cards, an extra Major Arcana card as well as a fifth suit, and the Fifth Tarot, which also contains five instead of four suits. Others are deviations from the Tarot, and aren't considered Tarot decks. So what's the difference? And is one superior to the other? 
To answer the first question, I have limited experience with oracle decks, but believe it's a matter of what the reader is most comfortable with. Tarot has behind it the strength of long tradition- whether or not this makes it easier to learn is again a matter of personal opinion and aptitude. 
Perhaps the most noticeable difference between Tarot decks and oracle decks is that they don't follow the traditional Tarot divisions and symbolism. They serve the same purpose, but don't have the divisions that the Tarot does. Some of them are almost too simplistic- one that comes to mind is the Archangel Oracle deck, created by Doreen Virtue- it consists of 45 cards, and contains pictures of archangels (there are 15 different archangels in the deck, each one with a different area of influence) and a rather oracular message pertaining to each- the method of using them is similar to using Tarot cards, and can make a good companion tool to the Tarot.
Another example is the two decks produced by Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor, the Hidden Path deck and the Well Worn Path deck. They consist of 40 cards each, and can be used together or independently. Unlike the Tarot, they are all 'picture' cards- without a number or suit designation, and each card has a meaning related to some aspect of Paganism. It's an interesting take on using cards and symbols for divination, and not a bad one!
Perhaps the main difference between an oracle deck and a Tarot deck lies in their names- an oracle speaks not to a situation, but to a specific person. Thus, the focus of an oracle deck tends to be much more centered on the individual- instead of saying "this", as a Tarot deck does, taking into account all the factors surrounding a situation, an oracle deck will say "you", addressing the specific person, and often has a greater focus on the individual and their internal state. The oracle deck will focus on thought processes, patterns of behavior, and how a person reacts to their world, while a Tarot deck has its focus on the situation as a whole, and what external as well as internal factors influence a situation. This isn't to imply that one is superior to the other, merely to note that the different focus can assign a more specific use to each one. I've found that they can be used together, as after all, we live in one world, governed by one set of rules, complex and multifaceted though they are. 
Like in any area of similar debate, there will be people who insist on tradition- the Tarot has a long tradition of being used, and if that's what you're most comfortable using, then by all means do so. Who really can say what will resonate with each person? It's an interesting question why the Tarot has become such a widely used system. Perhaps a part of it is its portability, and a part is the fact that it's so commonly known. But it's perhaps the same reason that most churches have an organ in them- because it's traditional. Again, I'm not trying to bash tradition, or advocate it above all else, necessarily- tradition is a useful tool, as is innovation. Perhaps another factor is that to develop an oracle, one would need to plan out a system of representing all or part of human experience, and develop a symbol set to cover all of that. But again, this leaves us with the question of why only the Tarot can do this. Are there other systems that can do the same? 
There are, though again, it depends on what each person is most familiar and comfortable with. Systems like the Runes, the I Ching and even astrology all look for patterns in the world around us, and give us a means to interpret those patterns and signs. So if all these systems of symbols tap into the same world, which has throughout it the same patterns and flow, then it becomes simply a question of in what way each reader or observer is most comfortable understanding the same basic functionality, and understanding what it can tell us about the world we live in. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

A King's Ransom

On to the Kings! The final group of Court cards are the Kings, related to the element of Fire. As the Queens are tied to the Empress, so the Kings are tied to the Emperor. And like the Empress and Emperor, we find a balance between the Kings and the Queens. Where the Queens represent Water, the Kings represnt Fire. Whereas the Queens tend towards more intuition and human concerns, the Kings bear the characteristics of Fire- here we have people more goal-driven and energetic, focusing first and foremost on results rather than relationships. While this can make for a powerful leader, the Kings might sometimes need a reality check, as sometimes that human factor can be sacrificed. Notice also that these Kings are tied to Fire- while good leaders, and powerfully charismatic figures in many cases, they need the support of others; as a flame needs a fuel source, so the Kings need both a direction and a purpose, and the means of support to accomplish the great things they dream.
First up, we have the King of Wands-
This King comes to us from the Druidcraft Tarot, and reflects this King fairly well- this guy is Fire of Fire- pure drive and energy, his most notable characteristic is willpower. He will be of one mind, certain in his decisions, and will unfailingly meet any challenge that comes in his way. With all this Fire energy, we also find a wonderful husband and family man, always there for his loved ones. The King of Wands is also a very charismatic figure, and often has little trouble leading the way- he's a natural leader, full of contagious energy and great ideas. The King is probably the most "kingly" of the Kings, very similar to the Emperor in many ways.
In his more negative aspect, this King can be domineering and overbearing- he may be a good leader, but a weakness is that he expects to be in that position; he may have trouble following, or be too stubborn to hear the ideas of other people, and may actually come to regard any challenge to his authority or questioning of his ideas as a challenge or insult, and react with a fiery temper. But like Fire, this King has a great energy, and will never fail those he loves.
Next, the King of Swords- perhaps a little more balanced than the King of Wands, but nonetheless, we'll see that he bears some of the same weak points as the King of Wands-
I always thought of this King as somewhat like Denethor from the Lord of The Rings books. He was a very intelligent, thinking type of guy- at one point it's pointed out that "He has long sight. He can perceive, if he bends his will thither, much of what is passing in the minds of men, even of those that dwell far off. It is difficult to deceive him, and dangerous to try." A thinker, this King combines the energy of Fire with Air, and is more analytical and less impulsive than most people. He usually considers things carefully, and thinks many moves ahead. In this image, the King is shown as a chess player, considering all the things that could happen. The King of Swords is more of an idea man, relying more on logic and thought than the sheer charisma and energy of the King of Wands, but in this way also can be a powerful leader. However, this same analytical nature can make him seem cold and distant, even to those he loves. The King is also an idealist, holding to a high standard of ethics and a sense of right and wrong, and can sometimes judge others harshly according to this. Another negative aspect of this King is the fact that he can use that very same sharp-edged intellect against others, using harsh words as weapons against others he percieves as threats or rivals, or people who fall on his bad side. He doesn't often hold grudges, but his anger can be a formidable thing when aroused.
Now, on to the King of Cups- this is an interesting combination of Water and Fire-
The King of Cups is a father figure, first and foremost- his focus is on family, and he will do anything he can for his family. This King is the guy who loves kids and is devoted to his family, and can be found volunteering, coaching, mentoring, and trying to make the world a better place. His leadership is by love, not by strong ideas or by charisma. People look to him as an emotional provider, and as a source of counsel and insight. Though a strong family figure, he can be emotionally manipulative, perhaps even a little self-centered. He may be emotionally maniuplative to try and keep the people he loves close by, tending towards smothering rather than allowing a family to grow. In his more negative aspects, this King can tend towards emotional unbalance, tending to overreact to minor events, and to brood over past mistakes. This King also wants everything to be perfect, and can be prone to depression when things don't work out perfectly.
Finally, we have the King of Pentacles, combining Fire and Earth.

This King is probably the most balanced of the Kings, and his strong ties to Earth mean that he's a generous and giving person. Posessed of a great deal of common sense, this King will always give everything he can to help out other people, and will always repay a favor. The King tends to be very practical and hard-working. He's the least outgoing of the Kings, also, and tends to be a quiet but hard worker, building up his kingdom based on hard work and thoroughness. Though somewhat reserved, this King can be a very loyal friend and has a strong mind for business or practical affairs- in this regard, he's much more "down to earth" (pun not intended, once again) than the other Kings, and sometimes can be a little too conservative and stuffy. Tradition carries a great deal of weight for this King, and this can sometimes be to the loss of new ideas or innovations. The more negative aspects of this King can be a tendency to regard anyone who does not share his outlook as impractical and lazy, and with this, a tendency to judge them harshly. Anything outside the norm can sometimes be seen by him as frivolous or foolish. This King may also be concerned with his outward appearance in the world, and he may be somewhat vain, trying to project an image of being a pillar of the community and a strong upright figure. But it may be just that- an image, at the expense of anything real, and having any firm position on any issue.
So the Kings, overall, tend to be powerful figures and leaders at their best, as well as good providers and the backbones of their communities or families. At their worst, they can be petty tyrants, seeking only control without guidance, love and compassion that are the marks of a good leader.
Though the Court cards often represent people, these too are variable in exactly who they represent. There are a lot of systems to determine what Court card a person falls under, these cards can change- a person may find themselves behaving or thinking differently depending on the situation they find themselves in. It's true, that people will often have a dominant set of traits and thought patterns that make assignment to one of the Cards easy, but keep in mind that this too can change over time.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Queen By Any Other Name

Admittedly, I'm kind of running out of puns for these posts. We're up to a discussion and examination of the Queens, the second to last Court cards of the Tarot. At this point it would be useful to reiterate that the gender assignments of these cards are not absolute. Queens are often representative of women, but not always. Rather, they represent feminine, more passive energies- these need not be limited to women, nor do the more active energies of the Kings need to be limited to men. There is a numerological and zodiac system that determines which court card represents an individual- your own big muscular narrator falls under the Queen of Swords, referring to the most common type of energies and traits displayed by a given person- not necessarily their gender. At any rate, the Queens have as their common element Water, meaning they tend to be more intuitive and rely less on cold hard logic. They are more humanitarian, perhaps, than others, considering the person's emotional state, interrelatedness to other people and places, and more holistic than analytical, applying this both to themselves and other people, and in their style of relating to others, and even leadership styles. They correspond in the Major Arcana to the Empress, a figure of support and growth, yet also ruling and directing growth.
First, let's consider the Queen of Wands-
This regal lady comes to us from the Art Nouveau Tarot, and has some of the more traditional symbols associated with the Queen of Wands- first, a sunflower, and second, a black cat. I always liked the black cat, put in the foreground very often when it appears on a card. I take it to be a symbol of power, kind of like the cliched witch's familiar. It signifies a command of forces and a knowledge of mysteries. The sunflower likewise signifies energy and power- it also appears on many versions of the Sun card in the Major Arcana. The Queen is often shown seated on her throne, as here, with an air of gentle authority and dominion. This Queen represents Water of Fire- she tends to be a person or a woman of boundless energy, and is highly charismatic- a natural leader, not by virtue of overwhelming will, but by good sense and intelligence, and by an inherent likeability. People listen to her because she's strong and lovely, in other words. In my own experience, the Queen of Wands is a strong Aries figure in the zodiac. The downside to this is that the Queen, much like the negative aspects of the Empress, can sometimes use her energy not to inspire others, but to drag them down, becoming too controlling and too involved in their lives. Her Fire and Water aspects mean tremendous potential for growth and energy, but this can lead her to be very controlling and manipulative of those around her, especially in order to remain the center of attention.
Next up, we have the Queen of Swords-
This version comes to us from a perennial favorite (at least for me), the Necronomicon Tarot. The guidebook with it describes her as "an Egyptian street prostitute", not exactly the most flattering description, but perhaps one that does convey the essence of her character. As Water of Air, the Queen is very intelligent and graceful, and has keen powers of observation. She tends towards physical grace (odd that someone like me, who can trip over his own shadow, falls under this card) and insight into other people. This type of person is often a problem solver, and may enjoy puzzles or complex problems, taking enjoyment from undoing the knots of life. Think of a therapist or counselor, (or maybe even a Tarot reader!), someone who leans on intuition as well as hard facts.
Coming to the more negative aspects of this card, this person can be manipulative, using physical or emotional charms to manipulate or control others- she could tend to be very two-faced, showing a friendly side to the world, while concealing her own purposes to use others. The Air aspect of this card indicates that she has the intelligence and cunning to do just that, and serve some higher purpose of her own. However, this is not entirely a negative aspect, as this person will very rarely be taken advantage of, and has the acumen to realize when she is being exploited.
Next, we have the Queen of Cups-
This image comes from the Tarot of The Silicon Dawn, and seems to sum up this Queen pretty well. She represents Water of Water, and the positive and negative aspects of Water. She tends to be very loving and gentle, and would make a great healer, as she relies heavily on intuition which rarely fails her. As you can see here, she's a naturally happy and loving person, and enjoys life and the company of close friends. She's very much a "Mom", looking out for other people, and helping them to feel better when they're down. Also like a Mom, she's fiercely loyal to loved ones, and can have a bit of a temper when she or someone she loves is crossed. This person also is very physical and prone to physical contact, always hugging other people as a gesture of friendship and support. In her more negative aspects, she tends towards extremes and self-absorption. Alcoholism and substance abuse are possibilities here, when that energy of Water turns inwards rather than outwards. Likewise, being lost in her own world to the point of being virtually invisible and shy is also a factor here.
Finally, we have the Queen of Pentacles-
Here we have Water of Earth- another powerful "Mom" figure- she represents both the supporting and nurturing aspects of Water and Earth, and as such indicates a supporting and hard-working figure. A main characteristic of this Queen is stability- she's a reliable and strong provider, and will work hard to take care of family, balance the budget, and keep house, and represents a very giving figure. She tends to work in the background, requiring little recognition or thanks for her efforts apart from seeing her family or loved ones doing well and being well-taken care of. This self-reliance can also contribute to her being somewhat in the background, and other people can tend to take her for granted. In many ways, the Queen best represents the Empress she corresponds to, being both supportive and unfailing, and relying more on intuition than intellect, yet intuition of a type that rarely fails her.
In her more negative aspects, the Queen tends to be caught up in her own tasks- whether or not these are that important or useful is beyond the scope of what the Queen sees and notices. She can become wrapped up in dull, repetitive labor with little reward, and will resent the fact that she is stuck in this position. Yet at the same time she does not realize that she has the power to change that- the issue is simply that she is unable to see beyond her immediate surroundings,to her detriment. That same hard work ethic and unfailing persistence are there, but what is lacking is the knowledge that she can do greater things than this.
So to sum up, the Queens represent one half of the equation formed by the Empress and Emperor- the Empress represents support and nurturing, and the Emperor tells of control and structure, as we will see in the Kings. The Queens tend to reflect a mature woman, though again, the gender roles assigned to these cards are flexible. The Queens tend towards intuition and emotion rather than cold hard reason, and as such can be more humane and caring than someone driven solely by logic or self-interest.