Saturday, June 30, 2012

General Notes on Spreads

Well, dear readers, we've made it through all 78 cards of your standard Tarot deck! Now that you get a grasp of the cards (I hope!), what do you do with them? More often than not, the answer is divination. I draw something of a difference between divination and fortune telling, and here's why- though the two terms are often used pretty much interchangeably, with a good deal of accuracy, fortune-telling seems to imply a fatalistic outlook, like things are predetermined, and it may be some small comfort to know what comes next down the line, but there's nothing we can do about it. While it is true that some things are pretty much inevitable, we are not passive recipients of the world around us. Remember your high school physics- for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. That includes our own actions, which set in motion chains of events, for better or worse. Divination implies (at least to my own thought) the understanding of things concealed, or not apparent. We can see how the past influences the present, and how our actions in the present are going to affect the future. Otherwise, would it make sense to look at the whole situation? Wouldn't it make more sense to just look towards the future?
So first, what is a spread? Simply put, an arrangement of Tarot cards in such a way that each card has a designated position relative to a time period or area of life, thought, or emotion. These positions are interpreted in terms of a question, and can provide insight to the situation and question being asked. There are quite a few different spreads out there, many with different focuses and designs. Which one is best? That's a tough question, as there is a high degree of subjectivity in both the cards and the spreads. As a for example, when I write the word "airport", what do you think of? If I asked ten different people to do a little word association, I'd get ten different answers. The same thing is true of the Tarot- within some limits, the word covers a lot of associations. It's not, say, a place where you go to get your oil changed, but the term can have emotional as well as memory associations, depending on the person. So everyone will likewise relate to the cards differently.
On the opposite side of this, the cards are meant to reflect the common elements of human experience. Turning a moment to Carl Jung, there are what Jung called 'archetypes'- those things universally recognizable as concepts in human experience. They have names like the Father, the Mother, the Trickster, and so on. These are concepts that we all recognize, though their exact manifestations vary across each individual life. Yet for all our individuality, human lives are in a general sense similar. This is why the Tarot can be understood, and can be applied in terms of its concepts.
The same is true of spreads- we all have a past, we're all (more or less) in the present, and we all move towards the future. There are some most common spreads, and from this, many other spreads have been developed. There's nothing wrong with developing your own spreads, too. Much of finding a spread that works for you, (and there's nothing wrong with modifying existing spreads or using more than one, when you feel comfortable doing that) is trial and error. Find what works best, and find what resonates best with you, and is easiest for you to understand.
To quote from another scientific concept, there's something called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which means that observing a behavior (Heisenberg originally applied this to subatomic particles) can change that behavior. In other words, the electrons and protons could be doing the hokey-pokey while we're not looking, then settle down when we are. And how would we know, unless we observe them? Yet also, we know that the world operates according to principles of cause, effect and influence. So I believe observing things changes not only what is observed, but the observer him-or herself. The observer can't un-observe what has been seen, and this provides insight into the pattern. What I'm getting at here is that observation leads to understanding, and understanding to insight, and ultimately gives us the ability to change the world in the way we desire. So again, a good spread is one that allows you to see what you are looking for. Another analogy- what kind of telescope do you need to see across the ocean, (assuming you're a pirate, or something cool like that) instead of what kind of telescope do you need to see Mars? Both are telescopes, that is, they operate on the same principles and do the same thing, but are somewhat different in their specific applications. So again, find or tailor a spread to what you're looking for. I recommend focusing your efforts to a handful of spreads, however, rather than trying to tackle the ever-growing number of Tarot spreads out there. Many of them will have similarities, and differ only here and there. So that being the case, what specifics do you most relate to? Never discount your own intuition and understanding, as this intuition is the reason we have the Tarot in the first place!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Perfect Tens

I heard my father's words, deep in my heart-
'Son, know your enemy,
As I would have them know my son'.
-Aurelio Voltaire, Crusade

Looks like we're coming to the end of the Minor Arcana cards, and the last on the list is the Tens. Tens represent completion, the end of the cycle, for better or worse. Though these cards represent an end, there is also a sense of circularity- we see here also the basis for a new beginning- there is a connection between the Tens and the Aces. However, the Tens differ from the Aces in that there are lessons, things learned, that have occurred over the course of the cards, leading up to the position of the Tens, and this forms the foundation for a new chapter. Whereas the Aces represent a kind of primal starting point, the Tens represent what has come before and contributed to the current situation. As always, let's begin with the suit of Wands, and examine each card in turn.
This version comes from the Infinite Visions Tarot, and seems to convey a sense of burden. Here we see an older guy, contemplating what appears to be a big pile of work in front of him, with less than an enthusiastic look. It seems he has to get started, and the work ahead will be long and ardurous. Yet at the same time, we can hope that this man has been at this for a while, and has learned from his studies and effort, and has the resources to get through his latest project. And the message of this card is both a sense of burden, and having the resources to cope with that burden. The suit of Wands has been one of exercising will and building success. Here we see the results of that- when we work hard, and build up, we also assume the responsibility and control of that which we have built. Here is the burden of that responsibility, which comes right alongside enjoying the benefits. Yet it's not an insurmountable responsibility, rather, we have learned the lessons and ways and means to deal with added responsibility, and can keep both in balance with what we hope to accomplish. The negative side of this card lacks that balance- that is, we might feel overwhelmed, and may have taken on more than we can handle. In that case, it becomes a matter of finding what there is to set down, and what we're carrying without the need to do so.
Next, we have the Ten of Swords- this one seems pretty clearly negative, and there is a negative connotation to this card-

Here we have a picture of defeat- all those swords we have kept in the air come back down, and wind up right in this person's back. Yet more than a card of destruction, it, like all the Tens, is a card of completion. There's a message here that it's time to let go of what has been on your mind, and to let that blossom into something else. I always pictured this as a card of hope. From the shed blood, soaking into the ground, new plants and new life will begin. It could be a reminder that the course one is on isn't the right one- we've come to the end of this particular road, and now it's time to move on, not hold onto the past. There's a sense of old ideas and old patterns no longer serving the purpose they were put in place for, and with this, a time to move forwards and leave the past behind. In the more negative sense, this card portrays destruction, but the destruction is not absolute, and perhaps can be avoided. It's a card of recognizing and seeing clearly. Whether or not there's anything to fear depends on our perspective on the situtation.
The Ten of Cups is a little more optimistic, and shows not only a house, but rather a home.
It seems here everything is coming up roses, and that is definitely a part of this card's meaning. However, this is a card of hard work, emotional mastery and coming to a place of completion. What is shown on this card has been worked for, not given. The path up to this card through the Cups suit has not been entirely an easy one, and like all the Tens, it's a card of having been there and back again.Yet all the hard work and all the heartbreaks have not been in vain- rather they have brought us up to this point, and this place of fullness. The message here is that things are working out for the best- you've come to the end of at least this particular road, and now it's time to rest and enjoy the present moment. There may be more to come, but you have the emotional resources to deal with anything yet to come. In its more negative sense, this card can mean stagnation, an inability to move forwards and clinging to the past, perhaps the more negative aspects of nostalgia.
And finally, we come to the Ten of Pentacles. Perhaps even more than the Ten of Cups, this expresses the sense of completion and closure.
This particular version comes from the Druidcraft Tarot, and expresses a sense of completion and wholeness. The elderly man in the picture is a parallel of the home behind him- something, or someone long established, long worked-for and invested in. It's a kind of snapshot of a happy home, and a happy moment. This man is at peace, things have worked out, and he enjoys the benefits of his labor, and the rest from those labors. The message here is that what he has made will endure, and will remain for generations. There's also a sense of the seasons of the earth here- the old passing away, to be replaced by the new. The old man knows this, and accepts it. Again, the Tens indicate completion, and in this case, a sense of security and peace coming from the knowledge that what has been built will remain. In its more negative sense, this can indicate some holes in the foundation- things being less stable than they appear, though this too is not without hope. Coming to identify these things is the first step towards putting them back together.
So as the Tens represent completion, they also represent a new beginning and a new start- yet again, unlike the Aces, there's much more knowledge and wisdom than when the journey first began.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Nines Have It

The Nines in the Tarot are somewhat unique, as they represent both accomplishment and movement. The corresponding Major Arcana card is the Hermit, telling of accomplishment, reflection and also desire for something deeper. Having come all this way, past the foundation of the Eights, we're at a place of completion, ready to move towards something new. The Nines can be cards of reflecting back on what has come, and with that, reflecting forwards on what we can continue to do. To reference the Hermit again, he carries a lantern and a staff- one symbolic of illumination of the way ahead, through his experience, knowledge and understanding, and the other symbolic of his dominion, earned through his efforts and insights into the world and the path he's on.
Again, considering each Nine individually, let's begin with the Nine of Wands-
This image comes from the Legacy of the Divine Tarot, and bears a sense of heaviness and weight. It looks like this figure has been working hard, and building up a defensive position with the wands behind him, and is pretty worn out because of that. The message of this card is accomplishment and security- having worked to secure a position, it's now time to rest a little. It doesn't matter how tough you are, everyone needs a rest once in a while, and this card is a message to take that break. If there are renewed challenges ahead, don't go charging right into them- better to put up a solid front than to go into it tired and weakened. This card is also a message of knowing limitations- perhaps even asking for help. Being a Wands card, there's a tendency to want to press on, to exert our will over the situation. However the card also tells us that there needs to be a balance. And this is the negative aspect of the card- not allowing adequate time for rest, and not allowing for help from others. Sometimes, the wiser plan of action is not to press forwards, but rather to wait.
Next, we have the Nine of Swords. Here is a similar message of insight and thinking, though the focus is different.
This rendering comes from the Vampire Tarot, and shows how the mind (here symbolized by the vampire) can conjure up all kinds of horrible scenarios, and can drive itself to anxiety. The message of the Nine of Swords is that it's time for a reality check- don't get so lost in your own mind that you miss what's really going on. The mind feeds on itself, and the mind creates its own fears, in some cases. So the solution here is to use that logical mind- look at the situation objectively, see what really is happening, and what is instead the product of our own imagination. The negative aspect of this card is precisely that opposite- being unable to draw that distinction between reality and imagination, and swinging at phantoms when giants are waiting.
The next card is the Nine of Cups- here is a more positive message, although also along the same lines.
Here is the 9 of Cups from the Gilded Tarot, showing a person, possibly a brewer or saloon owner, with the fruits of his labor, so to speak. The message here would put us in the position of walking through the door to this saloon, and meeting this man. He's in a good mood, perhaps having tasted the wine or beer or whatever it is, and found that it's been a good year indeed! Time to grab a bar stool and toast his success! The man is no doubt thinking about all the profits he'll make, and how his reputation will spread. This card tells of success, and happiness, perhaps coming as a result of long hard work. But nonetheless, the time has come to enjoy it. This is often a card of celebration and reward. But at the same time, there remains that sense of looking back over all that's come before- a good head on our shoulders will allow for a moderate enjoyment of the good head on the beer. (Okay, that was lame, I admit.) But the message is, enjoy with moderation, and enjoy with common sense, so that you don't overindulge or act impulsively. Moderation, and the knowledge of how that moderation works, is the key to understanding this card. In its negative sense, the card tells of not having that moderation- either not experiencing or not remembering the lessons life has taught you, and though overindulgence can also teach those lessons, it's sometimes easier to take another's word for it who has already been there.
Finally, the 9 of Pentacles- also a card of enjoyment, of having worked hard, now enjoying the products and end results of that hard work.
Here we have the Druidcraft Tarot's take on the Nine. I've always wondered why a falcon always appears on this card, and realized that it's also the falcon's handler that factors into this. Though there's a pleasant garden, and in this case, a stone wall, indicating security and being built up and safe, there's also a message here of a need to understand, to work with what's around us. So what does that have to do with a falcon? Well, I understand they have very sharp claws and beaks, and are trained to go track down prey- a person must understand what this falcon is capable of doing to be safe with it. So it is with the Nine- though there's abundance and bounty, we need to maintain a degree of objectivity- the Nine is not the end result, neither are the Tens. Though these represent accomplishment and completion, life moves in cycles. We move forwards and upwards, and what has come before has shown us the way to what comes next. Again, the negative aspect of this card is that this bounty and wealth can turn against us, and control our lives.
So in the Nines, we see a generally positive message. Here we have things working out, and perhaps even a deeper level of understanding. Yet with this understanding, as in the Eights, we have the choice to remain where we are or move forwards still further.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Line 8

Well, after a brief hiatus, we're back, so let's continue plowing through the pip cards! The Eights are cards of balance- again, we see the conflict-resolution-rebalancing pattern at work here. The Eights are unique in that they represent movement towards a conclusion- an end is in sight. Essentially, the number cards move from Ace to Ten, with the Ten forming the next Ace- that is, things move in an upward spiral- development and evolution, in other words. Reviewing each Eight in turn, this will become clearer.
First, we have the 8 of Wands-
Here the message is a unity of purpose and design, as well as unity of will and intent. There are eight wands, apparently flying through the air. But they all are flying in the same direction, almost like a formation. This is an indication of not so much everything being the same across a group or organization, but rather cooperation. There are different aspects, perhaps even different people involved, yet each one works towards a common purpose in its own way, much like cogs in a machine. The more negative aspects of this are when those same cogs malfunction, working against each other, stripping gears and destroying the machine, in a way. There is also an indication of leadership and organizational skills here- assigning each symbolic Wand to its place, and making sure it does what it needs to do.
Next, we have the Eight of Swords, here indicating perhaps the opposite, yet with this, it also carries its alternative meaning.
It's interesting to note that the woman here closely resembles the blindfolded figure in the Two of Swords- both are blindfolded, and both can be seen as almost fearing the swords around them. Whereas the Two represented a decision, the Eight represents again a decision to be made- yet there are many alternatives, and none of them seem good. It seems no matter which direction the woman moves, she runs the risk of getting cut by a sword. This is, in part, the message of this card. There's a time to make a decision indicated here- the woman can't fully know the consequences of her actions, being blindfolded. But consider also, brushing up against a sword may well cut her bonds as well. Making a decision will mean running the risk of getting hurt, but also is better than the alternative of standing and waiting. Here we have a moment of decision, and indecision- choose a path, though it seems that all the consequences are not fully known, and we can't see every outcome in the present situation. But the fate we can imagine is never as bad as the one that could really happen, so it's better to just make a decision and hope for the best. It's true, worry is apparent here- there's obviously a good deal of "what ifs" surrounding the situation. But like our tied friend here, we must make a decision as best we can and accept the consequences. Failing to do so could mean the decision is made for us, and perhaps a less pleasant alternative.
Next, we have the Eight of Cups- here is the rendering from the Infinite Vision Tarot, similar in many ways to the Rider-Waite card, however I find this captures the essence of the card quite well.
Like all the Eights, there's a sense of decision and almost finality surrounding this card. What we see here is a figure going out on a quest- he holds a standard in his hand, which serves two purposes- first, as a rally point and symbol for troops in battle, and second, as a sign of who he's fighting for. The message is that though this person has done great things, and won great battles, there's still something missing. This card indicates a complex message- though there is a sense of having been there and back again, there's also an element of world-weariness and dissatisfaction, and a promise of greener pastures down the road. This discontent can motivate us to change, and can motivate us to expand and grow, spiritually, mentally, or in relationships. It's about leaving the accomplishments of the past behind, and setting out once again. But like all new journeys, there's an element of risk and uncertainty, of trading the comfort of the known for the promise of the unknown. Will this knight be successful? Only time will tell, but his heart tells him take the risk. When in a more negative connotation, consider also- is the risk really worth it? There's a big difference between impulsiveness and following your heart, and not knowing the difference can mean trouble.
Finally, the Eight of Pentacles. This one comes to us from artist Dana Driscoll, from her ongoing project Tarot of Trees. It's a more symbolic take on the Eight, but also gives us a good sense of the card.
The Eight of Pentacles is a card of industry and hard work. Pentacles are often associated with coins, symbolic of labor and work, and the value that work produces, for you Marxists out there. Here we see the Pentacles forming a path, both guiding us and leading somewhere new. The Eight is, again, a card of industry and hard work, learning new skills or shoring up existing ones. It often can indicate a career change, or a new job, or more specifically, preparing for a new job, such as training or schooling. Beyond this, there's also the sense of devoting oneself to work.Why do we work? To survive, by and large. There's a sense here of developing a career, and perhaps most importantly, doing something we enjoy. There's a promise of a brighter tomorrow, and this card indicates the steps we need to take to get to that brighter tomorrow, through work, through developing skills, and through discipline and learning. However, this card can indicate also a lack of focus- avoid 'get rich quick' schemes, as this card also tells us there are no shortcuts through the hard work and labor portion of this journey.
Overall, we see the Eights are both cards of establishment and also of change. The foundation that has been laid is not the end- there's more to do, and the way ahead is becoming clear. When we see these Eights in a reading, it's a good indication of a time of decision- here we have a choice to move forwards or stay put- to keep things the way they are, and remain in the comfort of what we know, or step out of that comfort zone and take the risk that more might be in store for us. However, remember also that though there's an indication of change, at this point experience plays a role. No longer the proverbial babes in the wood, the people in this situation have experience and life lessons- these are definitely an influence at this time, as we move on to the Nines and Tens, and in many ways, the completion of the cycle begun with the Aces.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sevens-Take The High Ground

Once again we see the number cards moving from balance to imbalance- the Sixes indicated a time of balance, and again, we see the foundation made by them creating the new position indicated by the Sevens. The Sevens tend to show imbalance as well, but here the difference is in advantage- standing on the foundation made by the Sixes, we now find that the advantage is, more often than not, ours.
To start, let's take a look at the Seven of Wands.
Here the message might at first be conflict, and that would be true. However, take a look at the position of the figure, and the wands that are raised against him. When I was in boot camp, our motto was "Take The High Ground", and that seems to be the case here. This also displays exactly why you want to take the high ground- other people are forced to meet you on your terms. So the message here is, though there is conflict, it's on our terms. We have the advantage, and conflict can only make that position stronger, especially in terms of will and conviction. There is a twofold message here- first, the high ground is ours- use the advantages of the situation. Second, don't relinquish that high ground- make wise use of it. In its negative sense, there is a message of uncertainty and doubt- the position is not as firm and sure as we'd like it to be, and the advantages may prove to be ultimately false. In either case, the card is a message to act wisely and carefully- preserve the advantages and exploit them.
Now, on to the Seven of Swords- this is a somewhat different type of advantage, but nonetheless, in many ways conveys a similar sense.
Here we see a less direct attack or conflict than in the Seven of Wands. The sense here is of someone sneaking around, stealing swords. The Swords are tied to intellect and communication- perhaps gossip, rumors, or undermining a person. However, it doesn't look like these swords were that hard to steal, seeing as they're sitting there stuck in the ground outside of the camp. This too is a part of the message. It tells us to review our position. Where are our Swords, metaphorically speaking? Are we making it easy for others to steal them, and use them against us? When this card appears, it does indicate an advantage- one person against an entire encampment? But overconfidence can be the reason why trouble comes- if we are sure of our position and security, we need to double-check, and not assume everything is okay. This is a card of caution and prudence. And in its more negative sense, it indicates rumors, gossip, or some negativity floating around out there with our names on it- the solution to this is to do some research- see what's really going on, and avoid living in that ivory tower.
Now, on to the Seven of Cups- I chose this Rider-Waite image because it's a commonly recognized one, and provides an interesting insight to this card's message.
This represents a vision, or something seemingly fantastic. Not necessarily in the sense of wonderful, great, awesome, but rather in the sense of I'd never believe it if I didn't see it. Notice that the figure looking at these cups is kind of in a holy-smokes position, and that he is apparently coming out of the dark. The message here is discovering good fortune, and discovering a great many options that previously were unknown. So what to do? The question is, where do you want to go? Choosing one of the cups can result either in satisfaction or trouble, judging from the snake and the dragon in two of them. So what do we do? The answer is, remember that this is the suit of both emotion and spirituality. Think clearly, and don't be dazzled by emotions. Let your decision be a careful one, and one you think through. Whatever new opportunities you find, make sure that they are what you really want. The downside to this card would be either making the wrong decision, rashly and unwisely, or not making a decision at all- sometimes it's better to make a choice than endlessly debate the options in your mind. This tells us, basically, the choice is yours. Don't waste it.
Finally, we have the Seven of Pentacles. This too is an advantageous card, and again, in its own way.
Here we see a farmer- he must be a good one, because (wait for it) he's out standing in his field. Okay, bad jokes aside, we see the results of hard work here- the field has required careful tending, planting and weeding, and soon the farmer will reap the fruits of his labor. Perhaps not quite yet, but the end is a given here- all the hard work will soon pay off, and the harvest will come. This card is a message to stand fast and wait for things to come around. The farmer knows he can't rush the process- he's planted and tended, and now in their own time the plants yield a harvest. So the message here is one of patience- wait for things to happen, and be ready when they do. It's also a message of wise investment- don't count your chickens before they're hatched, so to speak. The negative aspects of this card are a lack of preparation, and from that, a lack of rewards. It's a call to be sure things are in order before proceeding, and to make full use of them.
So overall, the Sevens demonstrate a good position to be in- however, like all good positions, it's only as good as the ways we use it in. Careful planning and thorough understanding are the order of the day among the Sevens.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Six of One

There's an interesting factor in the distribution of the numbers in the Tarot, alternating odd and even. Also with this, we find that the alternation seems to reflect balance in the even numbers and challenge in the odds. At this point, we've gone beyond the establishment of a foundation in the Fours, and now are moving also beyond the challenges of the Fives. Things are re-stabilizing yet again. The Sixes indicate the movement from that challenge, either to victory or to a new way of viewing the world.
Let's begin with the Six of Wands-
This rendering comes from the Deviant Moon Tarot, and, while kind of funky-looking, tells of the message the Six expresses- in essence, victory. Notice the wands in the foreground raised in solidarity and support. Having come through the conflict of the Five, and the implied challenge of authority, it seems the person in question has come out on top, has overcome or subdued enemies. The more traditional Rider-Waite interpretation shows a figure on horseback, perhaps parading back victoriously, and wearing, as this figure is, a laurel, a sign of victory and conquest. To see the Six in a reading is an indication of overcoming, and having won a battle or conflict, perhaps even an internal one- the result is the same. With this victory comes a renewed sense of focus and purpose, and a clear picture of the path ahead in terms of will and purpose. However, the 'shadow side' of this card, its more negative aspects, can indicate a false sense of victory, or trying to give other people that false sense of victory- assuring either ourselves or others that everything is all right, when in reality that conflict in the Five revealed much more pervasive and serious doubts than we had imagined.
The Six of Swords likewise indicates a new stability, but a transition as well.
This shows that the defeat of the Five of Swords led to a new place- sometimes this card is interpreted as quite literally travel, even sometimes travel by air. However, the movement can also be of a more metaphorical sense. The Five has shown us a losing battle- there seems little hope for that particular path. So instead of stubbornly pressing forwards, ultimately leading to further defeat, the Six indicates a change of thought and change of approach. It's transitioning from one perspective or approach to another. Though the Five did indicate a defeat, and change is not easy, especially with a bruised ego, the upside to this card is the fact that this transition isn't based on reaction. Rather, it's forward thinking and reasoned out- what, we ask, needs to happen? And how can I make that thing happen? The more negative aspects of this card are in many ways the opposite, though a little more complex. It could be jumping to a conclusion, any conclusion, just to relieve uncertainty, or acting impulsively in a situation where careful consideration is needed.
The next of the Sixes is the Six of Cups- this is also a somewhat multi-layered one.
This interpretation is done by artist E.C. Dunne, and is similar to the Rider-Waite design. Here we see two figures, children usually, sharing a moment. They seem content and happy, and no doubt they'll look back on this moment as a fond memory. And this is a part of the message of the Six- not necessarily nostalgia, which would indicate a longing for the past, but rather the knowledge of the past, and drawing strength from that past. It could be a simple recalling of what's important to us, and who we work for, or the ends we work for. It's a card of family, and in some ways, returning home. It can also be a card of support in the same way- kind of calling Mom and Dad for advice when all else fails, or some good source of comfort and advice when we need it, or simply a reminder that life isn't all that bad after all. However, again in its shadow sense, this can be living in the past- unable to let that past go, or unwilling to leave our comfort zone, despite the promise of change and growth in that very thing- stagnation, in other words.
Finally, we have the Six of Pentacles- also a card of balance, and also related to the Five that came before it.
This Six also comes from the Deviant Moon Tarot, and seems to capture the sense of balance and philanthropy in a somewhat ironic sense. The card is one of giving and investing. At first glance this may seem the exact opposite of the Five, which tells us of loss and need. But it's through knowing that loss and need that we can better understand and make use of plenty. Philanthropy is the giving for the benefit of all, and this is what we see here. When in a position to give to others, often we find that we ourselves likewise benefit from that giving. It's not an unwise giving, or one not thought out- the Five indicates that there has been plenty of time to think about this, albeit when we had nothing to give. From this interaction with the Five, we also can see a sense of "pay it forwards"- as we were helped out in a time of need, when the Five of Pentacles was there, we now can help out others, now that situations have improved. The negative aspect of this card tells of again, the opposite- unwise giving, and squandering when there are more effective uses to put our resources to.
The Sixes are cards of balance, and correspond to the Lovers in the Major Arcana. Here again we see the sense of balance between two sides- in many ways, one could say the lessons from the past staying with us, but not controlling or overwhelming us, and the view of the future, neither blindly optimistic nor overly fearful and worried.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Five for The Money

The Fives are located haflway through the Minor Arcana, and continue the cycle of balance and conflict we see throughout these ten positions. Again, moving beyond what has come previously, we find that the Fives represent a challenge to the balance and establishment present in the Fours. Having an established foundation, we now find conflicts arising and trouble coming to challenge that foundation.
Beginning with the Five of Wands, we see conflict, here specifically in the area of authority and guidance.
This particular interpretation comes from the Gothic Tarot, and I chose this rendering because, well, it's kind of creepy. Imagine yourself standing on a path, when this goon squad blocks your way. There's a sense here of challenge among them, and this is the message in the Five of Wands. Often showing people engaged in either real or mock combat with staves, this points to internal conflicts. Perhaps, in the instance above, it's uncertainty and fear, or perhaps dissent within a group or organization. The troops aren't ready to mutiny yet, but they're definitely grumbling and challenging authority where they can. But as always, there's a positive and negative side to this. The Five calls for re-examining the current situation, and how these conflicts can be resolved. The negative side of this message is in ignoring those dissenting voices, or failing to take them seriously enough. When this card appears in a reading, it's usually an indication that you need to examine these things early on and meet your own fears head-on instead of ignoring them and letting them grow worse.
The next card we find is also a change from its predecessor, the Five of Swords-
This particular card comes from the World Spirit Tarot, and is an interesting one. Commonly it shows a group of people on a field- several are walking away in seeming disgrace, and one seems to gloat as he collects up five swords from the field. The situation seems to be there was a battle here, and these men lost, thus surrendering their swords to the victor, who almost seems to be calling out taunts after their retreating forms. The card above, however, seems to have a slightly different focus- not on the victor, but rather the vanquished. The swords in the background seem to form a barrier to his way out, back into the light, and also seem to be occupying his mind quite a bit. The Five of Swords is a card of defeat. But there's a difference between being defeated and being beaten. Someone once told me that you're never beaten until you don't get back up again. Remember also that the suit of Swords is tied to thought and reason. How we view this situation has a good deal to do with how we respond to it. Do you consider this defeat the end of the world, or can there be a lesson taken from it? It's true, these lessons are all too often painful, and a wound to the ego is the most painful of all. But notice also that small plant by the figure's hip. It's growing in this dreary place, and seems to be reaching out to the person. It says, don't despair. Sure, you got knocked down. Now figure out why, and figure out what you can do to avoid that in the future. There's also a message here of rethinking where you're going. Sometimes in life we are met with dead ends- we need a new plan. When this happens, we need to have first, the ability to recognize that path for the dead end it is, and second, the mental flexibility to see a new direction. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is look beyond wounded pride, and this comes out in the card as well- we find that the consequences of allowing stubbornness to rule will be even more trouble down the road.
The Five of Cups is another one of these mixed-message cards, and also can deal with a sense of loss and perspective on loss.

This is the old Rider-Waite image, of loss and trouble. The figure in this card is focused on the three spilled cups- indicating what he has lost. Yet two cups remain upright behind him- it seems all is not lost, and these cups still remain. Again, this card deals with loss and how we percieve it. There's a message here not to let emotion rule the day- when something bad happens, it's very rarely the end of the world, though it may seem like that. What remains, and how can we repair the situation? The main focus of this card is on sorrow- it could be a dashed relationship, a failed deal, or just a flat out bad day. The message is, we all have these things in our life. How do we get beyond it? The obvious answer might be by telling ourselves, well, it's not that bad. While true, this is not all of the process. It's also a call to deal with these emotions. If you feel upset or angry or frustrated, deal with and acknowledge those feelings. Then, with a clear mind, go forwards.In its more destructive or negative aspects, this indicates exactly that- not dealing with those feelings, not allowing yourself to acknowledge those feelings, and even more importantly, to put them in perspective.
Finally, but not least, we find the next mixed-message card in the group of Fives- the Five of Pentacles.

This particular card comes from the Wizard Tarot, and is a somewhat stylized rendering of the Rider-Waite image. It does capture the message of this card very well, though. Here we have two figures, looking very forlorn, put-upon and pretty cold. Behind them we see a lighted stained glass window. The figures seem unaware of this way out of the cold night. This is an important aspect of the card. What it indicates here first, is hardship. Like the rest of the Fives, we see a message of conflict and trouble. From the wise investment of the Four of Pentacles, we see here that things have clearly not worked out as planned. But the message is, when the going gets tough, know where to turn, and know where to find help where you need it. It's also a warning against being too blind or too proud to ask for help when you need it- it requires more strength sometimes to admit you need help than it does to keep pressing forwards.
It's interesting to note also that the Fives fall under the Hierophant in the Major-Minor correlations. The Hierophant represents, among other things, a source of advice and counsel. And here we see the message of seeking help and advice, and most importantly, an outside perspective. It's often easy to get wrapped up in our own world and our own thoughts, and, like the two figures above, to miss what's right in front of us. Until next time, keep looking up!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Four Corners

Once again we find ourselves with a balance- we've moved from the mixed bag of the Threes to the Fours. It's helpful when contemplating the Fours to imagine four corners of a foundation- the message is stability, development and a basis upon which we can build. The Fours represent the movement beyond the Threes, into a place of stability. As always, let's examine the Fours one at a time.
First up is the Four of Wands- having moved past the investment and growth of the Three, we now find things developing well. Here is a message of becoming concrete and stabilizing- what was potential once again becomes real.
In the foreground we see four wands, forming a kind of square. It looks like there's cause to celebrate, and this Four also is a card of success and good fortune through diligent work. However, also in the background we see a formidable castle, and this too is a message of the Four- that this stability is a lasting one, with an eye to preparing for the future, and maintaining. Again, the idea of a foundation is here. The negative aspects of this card are uncertainty and instability- those things left undone or unfinished coming back, or causing problems further along.
Next, we have the Four of Swords. This image usually shows someone sleeping or resting- in the Rider-Waite deck, we see a figure who almost looks like he's dead and laid out in his tomb.
This is one possible interpretation of the card. In any instance, it represents the resolution of the heartbreak of the Three of Swords- having come through the trial and the storm, it represents a time of shedding old patterns of thought that no longer serve us. It's a message of waiting on change as well. The conflict and trouble have passed, and now it's time to marshal strength and prepare to move forwards.There's also a message here of having learned from the past- the Fours all indicate foundations, and this is a foundation of learning- we need not repeat the same mistakes over and over again, and we do not exist wholly in a vacuum. It's also a message of embracing the knowledge around us and within us.
The more negative aspect of this card indicates the opposite- not learning, repeating the same mistakes over and over again, finding ourselves once again facing those three swords and the storm clouds behind them.
The Four of Cups seems to be a change from the Three of Cups, but is also, in its way, a card of foundations.
This card, coming from the Fenestra Tarot, shows a message of discontent- no longer wanting more. The joy and happiness we saw in the Three have kind of grown a little dull. But this is not a bad thing, necessarily. There is a message of discontent with this card, and discontent can lead to change. Perhaps this change is a needed one, and things are better just past the next bend. But also, you'll never know until you try. The underlying message of this card is to weigh that discontent in your heart with what your head and the surrounding world is telling you, then, when the time is right, go for it. Also, the negative side of this card deals with imbalance instead of balance- sometimes emotions can overwhelm, blinding us to what's right in front of us, and causing us to use those powerful but transitive emotions as the basis for long-term decision making.
Finally, we come to the Four of Pentacles. This image, again from the Rider-Waite deck, has been interpreted several ways.
One is miserliness, and this too can be a part of the card. But again, remember back to the Three of Pentacles. There we saw hard work and growth, development towards an end. Here, we see also a wise investment of the resources that growth has brought with it. This is neither wholly saving nor wholly using those resources; rather, making prudent and wise use of resources. Think of it as the discretion card- using discretion and good judgement, again to develop and grow. The foundation concept here is expressed in these tangible resources- kind of like the figure sitting atop the pentacles, the message is of a stable foundation, and putting those resources to work. In its negative aspect, we find here not a lack of resources necessarily, but rather unwise use of those resources- either missing opportunities by being too cautious, or missing opportunities by squandering resources beforehand.
Throughout the Fours, we see a message of a foundation. This differs from the foundation we saw in the Aces, a message of potential. There is indeed a message of potential here also, but the potential is more of a basis that we can build upon- unlike the Aces, which can sometimes come "out of the blue", the foundation expressed in the Fours is a hard-won and hard-earned one, having come through learning, work and wisdom.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Three of A Kind

In the movement through the number cards, we now come to the Threes. Though there is a common pattern of evolution leading to challenge or crisis, we find the Threes to be something of a mixed bag- the Threes are a development from the Twos that proceeded them, but some have a more positive message, while others a message of challenge. The Threes have the common thread of representing the next development from the Twos, however- for better or worse. But again, they often represent simply a challenge, as we ourselves face challenges to development and growth. Remember that the Tarot, especially the number cards, are meant to mirror our daily lives. The number cards represent events in the cycle of that life.
So first, let's examine the Three of Wands.
The Three represents investing energy, willpower and direction into the path that was chosen in the Two of Wands. Having picked a direction, we now find that following that direction is needed. For the path to lead us anywhere, we have to walk it. Are the ships in this picture returning, or sailing out? Either way, they represent the development of an idea, and the return we will see on what we invest our energy in. I've found that the world always returns what we put into it. That's not necessarily a good thing, but always seems to be the case. This is also the "stick to it" card- when we've chosen the direction to take, made the decision, it's time to follow up with that decision, and follow through on it. If we ourselves fail to reach that decision, the decision can be made for us.
The next card is the Three of Swords- this one has kind of an iconic image attached to it, shown here- the heart, pierced by three swords, often with rain clouds forming a backdrop. 
It's interesting to note that the heart was often considered to be the seat of reason as well as the spirit in the ancient world, dating back to Aristotle. The Swords, as we know, are primarily symbols of intellect, reason and thought, as well as communication and ideas. So from this we can assume the heart shape to be symbolic of that very same center of reason and emotions, yet it seems that reason, ideas and communications have turned on us- instead of wielding the swords of our intellect, these blades turn and pierce to the very core of our being. Hardly a pleasant message, it seems that the balance indicated in the Two of Swords has not come to a happy conclusion. The balance has been upset, and the results are painful. But at the same time, though this card indicates a time of painful thoughts, communications or realizations, the good news is that it's moved from an unknown to a known- nothing left to fear, no uncertainty. It's as bad as it's going to get. And also, here we have a message of moving forwards- what lessons does this sorrow teach us? It's a call not to dwell on the negative, as well- remember, we've gone from unknown to known. What can you do with that knowledge?
Next up is what seems to be the Three of Swords' polar opposite- the Three of Cups.
Here we see the next evolution of the Two of Cups- the Two, dealing with a union and partnership, has proved successful and fruitful. The two people toasting each other in the Two, it would seem, have gotten together, perhaps a real or symbolic marriage, and now there's a cause to celebrate. The message here is, again, evolution- beyond the partnership of the Two, the relationship has evolved into something more- a partnership, a unit in one sense or another. Seeing as the Cups are tied to spirituality and emotion, often a new relationship or a marriage- this card can also indicate the likelihood of children in a marriage. This particular image comes to us from the Epilogue Tarot, and it almost seems like these women are enjoying the first wine from a vineyard. The work and harvest has paid off, in this case an increasing depth and joy in a relationship or life path.
Finally, we come to the Three of Pentacles- here, again, we find a sense of movement from the Two of Pentacles, indicating a time of balance, to things getting better- that balance that was maintained in the Two has come into the Three as success, and continued effort. 

This particular rendering comes from the Deviant Moon Tarot, and shows a kind of interrelatedness in the Three. In many renderings, we see an architect, mason, or some type of craftsman. The craftsman is depicted working on some task, while others, presumably his employers, look on approvingly, and discuss his work with a pleased eye. Here we see a similar message- that putting resources to work generates new projects- the more we work, and the more diligent we are, the more returns we'll see. One might say, it's a sense of creating our own future through our own efforts. The message is, nonetheless, to take advantage of the tasks ahead- to work hard, and be rewarded for that hard work. Again, we see that if we fail to take advantage of this, the decision is often made for us. But here we see the formation of a new foundation, in a manner of speaking. What we find is that our continued success builds up, and opens the way for new endeavors. What we put our energy into is what we receive back from the world. Overall the Threes indicate development and change, and through this change, a way either through trouble, or on to a better place. But nonetheless, keep in mind that in this life, change is about the only constant, as a drill sergeant once told me.