Friday, November 23, 2012

Court Cards in the Thoth Tarot

Considering the Court cards of the Thoth Tarot, brought to us by that infamous occultist Aleister Crowley, we find some unusual symbols compared to the Golden Dawn system many of us began with. Interestingly, the Courts are assigned different names and a seemingly different order- instead of Kings, Queens, Knights and Pages the order is Knights, Queens, Princes and Princesses. While Princes and Princesses are not uncommon alternatives to Knights and Pages respectively, the placement of the Knights in the Kings' position is somewhat unique. Hermann Haindl's Tarot assigns the following labels to the Courts- we find the Kings identified as Fathers, the Queens as Mothers, and the Princes/Knights as Sons and the Princesses/Pages as Daughters of their respective suits.
So from all this, we can draw some further conclusions about the nature of the Courts. Focusing first on the Thoth assignments, we find that here there is a more person-centric feel to the deck. The Thoth deck tends to focus more on what each person brings to the situation, or what a given situation might require of a given person. Likewise, the Court cards in the Thoth deck can be seen to represent things to work on or master- each suit represents a different aspect of our own psychological, spiritual and emotional makeup, and each card represents a different aspect or point in life.When interpreting the courts, it's important to keep in mind the nature of the human mind- don't look for a static, unchanging story, or fixed characteristics. Instead, the Courts represent the development of our own mental states as well as patterns of responses and behavior over time. Within the suits we can see a development and maturity of thought and action, and each of the four suits represents a different aspect of our situation- spiritual and will, physical and practical, emotional and relationship-wise, and intellectual and analytical. We can also see in the Haindl Tarot something of a reversed order- the Sons and Daughters are the product, so to speak, of the Mother and Father. This can relate to new developments and new situations we find ourselves in, perhaps due to life circumstances or our own actions and new ideas.
But back to Aleister Crowley. Here we find a, well, self-centered deck, though not in a negative context- merely that the self is the focus of the deck. What do you do, what do you think? These are the questions this deck asks of us. Let's review the individual positions in Crowley's courts to determine what the message is-
First, we have the Knights, representing a similar role to the Golden Dawn Knights. The Knights represent dynamic energy and knowledge- both having a clear intention in mind and the know-how to get there. As usual, the Knights ride horses, and horses are a common symbol of both desire and will as well as instincts. This again tells of the main characteristics of the Knights- knowledge of how to achieve an end, and the desire that will drive them on reach that end.
How do these differ from the Kings? The Kings also represent knowledge and strength, and the common element of the Kings is Fire- indicating likewise will and determination. The difference between Kings and Knights, where they are used, is that though they are similar, Kings tend towards more practical knowledge whereas the Knights, with Air as their element, tend towards more idealistic and black-and-white thinking.
The Queens remain consistent across both systems- Queens are tied to the element of Water, and as such tend more towards support and development than strict leadership roles. This is not to devalue the contribution that a Queen-type person can bring to the situation. Each aspect is important.
The Princes have a different role, however. Here we have, in the Thoth deck, the Princes mounted on chariots- though similar to the Knights, who are mounted on horseback, the chariots are symbols of manipulating change to our own ends. The horses of the Knights represent a combination of purpose and knowledge, yet the chariots represent a conscious and willful manipulation of the world to bring about a desired end. Though the word manipulation tends to have a negative context, as in manipulating and using people, this is not the message here. Rather, it's a sense of using resources to achieve a desired end.
The Princes, likewise, in the Hermetic Tarot, are identified as the "Lords" of their elements, indicating a somewhat Knight- like aspect of mastery, an idea supported by the imagery of chariots in their portrayals. Remember also that the Chariot (the Major Arcana version, I mean) represents conscious and deliberate movement in accordance with will and purpose.
Now on to the Princesses- they correspond roughly with the Pages, in the sense of desire and purpose, but marked by inexperience, and with inexperience a desire to learn and grow, often pushing the boundaries. The Pages represent determination and study, building up to become a Knight in many ways. The Princesses in the Thoth deck represent potential, and the understanding of that potential. Whereas in the other Courts, the cards turn more towards what the individual can do in the situation, the Princesses focus rather on self-development and self-mastery. The message throughout the deck clearly becomes before you can master the world around you, first you must master yourself. This may not be quite the daunting task it seems, considering things from a psychodynamic perspective. What we find is the id and ego- one represents what needs to contained and mastered, that is, the id. Moving beyond simply self-gratification, the result can be that in doing this, we can build and plan for the future.
To conclude, we find that our world, and we as people inside that world, are both complicated, and not easiy divided into categories. Look for a changing, dynamic narrative as the substance of our lives, not a fixed ready-written story. Each of us is different, though all our lives do bear common threads and symbols, allowing us to interpret and make sense of our time here.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cat in the Box

I'm writing this entry from my home state of Connecticut, and it's good to be home! The drive back here, though long, was an inspiring one, filled with interesting sights and people. But on to today's entry.
Recently I encountered Schrodinger's infamous cat- the cat was used as a thought experiment (not a literal experiment) to show how the principle of "superposition" works. I find it has some analogy in the process of reading the Tarot as well.
So to start off, we have a cat. This cat goes into a box, the design of which is such that we can't tell anything about the cat from outside the box- that is, when it's closed we can't see, hear or otherwise get any information on the cat. We don't know what is going on inside the box without opening it. Also in this box is a mechanism where (long story short) there is an exactly equal chance that the cat will die from the device- and likewise an equal chance that the cat will not be killed by the device. So, in goes the cat, the box is sealed, and we are left to speculate about the state of the cat. Is the cat alive or dead? Keep in mind we have no idea of knowing except one- open the box and observe the cat.
Schrodinger's point here is that the cat, until it is observed, is in a state of "superposition"- that is, since the odds are perfectly equal as to whether the cat is alive or dead, until we confirm it and assign a state to the cat, it's both alive and dead.

Granted, we don't often, if ever, encounter a situation where there are exactly two possible outcomes, and where there are equal probabilities of both outcomes. I find that our own lives are somewhat like the cat in some ways- we start with potential, then the decisions we make form that potential into definite states. But to reiterate, very rarely do we find a state where probabililties are equal- everything that has come before has, in one way or another, to a greater or lesser extent will influence any given decision.
So what we find is a somewhat predictable world. It's interesting at this point to examine once again the question of free will vs. predetermination. We do have free wil, and can indeed change the path we're on. However, the past also influences the present. So what's the answer? Understanding first how the past influences us, and second, understanding how to change the path we're on can allow us to make needed or desired changes. Sometimes it's simply a question of knowing where to start.
We find that the whole thing looks something like this- we have free will, but what we have already set in motion will continue to affect the present. Before we can begin anew, we first have to put to rest the past. And again, the process is all about understanding- not making another person's decisions for them, but rather helping everyone to make the best decisions possible. Not everything is known, and there are always factors we can't readily account for- but the fact is, most of these unknowns tend to cancel each other out, and what we truly will, where our hearts are, is what we see in our lives.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Affirmations, Negativity And Reversals

Going back to "bad" readings for a moment, it may help to examine just what the Tarot does in this sense. Are there any hopeless readings? Not exactly. No one is immune from karma and the consequences of our actions, yet at the same time, the goal of reading is not to tell you what's going to happen; rather, it's to illuminate the road ahead of you. Knowing what lies ahead can help you to make an informed decision, and getting a better idea of what to expect can help you prepare for it. Now, very rarely will you find someone who is 'cursed', needs to be cleansed, under the evil influence of Mercury (well, actually Mercury is going retrograde very soon, but nonetheless) or anything like that. If you do find someone who tells you this, my advice is get a second opinion. Usually negativity comes about as the result of what has already been, and already happened, coming to fruition in our lives.
Reversals are another common way negativity or difficulties can manifest in the Tarot- a reversal generally means that the influence, situation or energy that card shows is blocked, or unable to manifest at the present time. So the first question that usually follows is, what's in the way? Looking at context can help a great deal, and I've had people stop and think for a moment, then ask me "Do you think it's ____?" Often the fact that this factor, whatever it may be, comes to mind is a good indication that yes, that has an influence. The fact that there are reversals in a spread shouldn't discourage either reader or client; the message here is to look and see what you can do to free up that blockage and move forwards.
So let's examine how that can be done. First, it bears repeating that we are the ultimate deciding force in our own lives- though the stars, fate, karma, what have you all do act to influence your life, we do still possess free will, and our outlook and thought can have a good deal of influence on our situation. What we wish or will to do begins with our thoughts; going back again to the four suits of the Tarot, we find their respective influences. First we have Wands, and Fire- will, or desire to make a change, or undertake a project. So we have that initial spark that prompts us to change. So where to go from there? Well, nothing is built without a blueprint or design, so on to Swords, and analytical thought. Here we have the beginning of how to make something happen- how do we begin to make that impulse reality? Again, with our thoughts.
So we find the way is change your thoughts, change your world. An affirmation is some simple thing, perhaps like a mantra, we keep in mind and make decisions in light of. It can be something simple like "Today I will release the stress I've been holding onto." or "I will work to develop my will." Generally, statements like that rather than "I hope I can release the stress I've been holding onto" or "I wish I could get a chance to let others know what I want" will be more effective- your mind will begin to accept that it's pretty much a given that this thing is going to happen. Keeping a note where you will see it, or using some reminder of that can help to cement that intent in your mind.
First, remember that understanding of the situation helps a great deal. From there, developing and sticking to a plan will allow you to work towards that end. Remember that only you know what you truly want, and can make or break that will's manifestation in the world. The Tarot is not a means to make decisions for you, or allow anyone to give up personal responsibility, but rather a way to empower people to make the best decisions they can.