Friday, March 29, 2013

An Exercise In Reading- Ash Williams

Original movie poster for Army Of Darkness

Seeing as Ash Wednesday is coming up, as well as the imminent release of an Evil Dead remake in theaters (where today's subject comes from) I figured I'd tackle this character and give him a reading. For those not familiar with the name, Ashley J. "Ash" Williams is the protagonist of the Evil Dead movies and comics. Portrayed by Bruce Campbell in all three movies, Ash is kind of a blue-collar everyman, driving around in a battered Oldsmobile and working at a department store. As the movies progress, Ash first finds himself doing battle with a bunch of demons who seem intent on nothing more than messing with his mind, losing his right hand (literally) to these same demons, and finally getting sucked back in time to the year 1300 to continue doing battle with the demons. Finally, he manages to defeat an army of reanimated corpses and, in an alternate ending to the film, winds up in the future, where these same demons have pretty much razed the whole of human civilization, so it's pretty much back to square one for our reluctant hero. However, in the version of this film that was released to theaters, Ash manages to return successfully to his own time and his department store job, where he continues to likewise battle demons. So, whichever way you slice it, it seems Ash is destined to take on the demons that are seemingly knocking around in every era.
So what would the future hold for our hero? I decided to do a Celtic Cross reading for him, and the results were interesting.
The first card, representing the present, is the Queen of Wands. This pretty much sums up our subject, keeping in mind that gender is often very mutable in the Tarot courts. The Queen is a figure of authority and charisma, a natural leader. Ash does demonstrate leadership abilities, as well as a creative and practical streak, also characteristics of the Queen. He also tends to be egocentric and self-centered, more concerned with his own ends than with others, which often makes for a complex figure.
Covering this, indicating present influences, was the 6 of Pentacles, an indication of balance and exchange. The card indicates a give and take of resources, and here we find that Ash indeed often finds himself in situations where an exchange needs to be made. Ash frequently finds himself where he must help others to help himself; and work for a common good. This, in this hypothetical situation, shows that the key to survival and success is cooperation.
This theme of cooperation and working together continues in the Past position. Here was the Justice card, telling us that the things that have come about for Ash are the results of his own actions and decisions. Granted, we can't always know the consequences of our actions, but we can see that Ash's actions always have consequences- this can be both a positive and a negative, as we see in this instance. Sure, Ash is able to fend off attacks from the demons time and time again, but at the same time, it's often his own errors that produce the situations in the first place! But nonetheless, from these I would say that his leadership and practicality, as well as his self-interest, will ensure a future for him, though not necessarily an easy one.
In the Foundation position was the High Priestess reversed- an indication of forces beyond his control. These forces beyond his control are, to a large extent, simply because he does not or cannot grasp the larger picture. Developing farther sight and a more objective viewpoint would definitely help him. Ash tends to operate from a perspective of self-interest, and in so doing can miss a larger network of cause and effect.
Moving on to the Near Future position, we find the reversed Sun card. Again, a Major Arcana card, and again reversed. The Sun is a card of positive energy, and its reversal indicates something blocking or preventing this energy from manifesting. Judging from the cards that have come before, it would seem that the main issue remains a somewhat stubborn nature- Ash may well be capable of putting ego and self-interest aside, but will not do so without a major change in perspective and a major shake-up. This likewise can point to the stubborn nature of ego- we often go to great lengths to prevent a bruised ego.
Finishing out the 'cross' section of this reading, we find the card in the Aspirations position to be the Chariot. The Chariot represents force of will, and also provides some insight to Ash's situation. I found it interesting that the influences around a strong-willed court card were almost all Major Arcana cards. The Chariot represents driving forwards, subjugating conflicting or opposed aspects to the force of will. Again, we find stubbornness; Ash will persist to his last step on the path he's on, which is both admirable in some ways and an indication of a lack of any viewpoint other than his own.
The next position in this reading indicates the future- here the card was the reversed 3 of Pentacles. The 3 is an indication of being recognized for one's abilities and skills, as well as hard work. Granted, a lot of hard work has gone on over the course of these movies, but at the same time, it would seem that a great deal of it is running just to stay in the same place, as these demons are constantly on the lookout for people to attack. So from what we see here, Ash's situation seems to be one without a ready win- the best he can generally hope for is holding the fort down.
The next position in this reading is the reversed Knight of Wands. This indicates hopes and fears of the subject. In this case, it seems to go back to that maintaining the status quo; Ash is able to defend against attacks, and this consumes most of his time. There seems to be little more that he can do. The Knight is a figure of boundless energy, and the reversal indicates that this boundless energy is not, or cannot, flow into productive channels, when all of Ash's energy and resources are put towards simple survival.
Next up we have the Hidden Influences position, and here was the reversed Hanged Man. This seems to combine two factors in this reading- one, Ash's lack of long view, and second, the fact that his situation is somewhat unique. In a constant fight for his life, he simply lacks the time and mental energy to look beyond the immediate situation. Looking back to the High Priestess, it seems unlikely anything will change soon for Ash. But at the same time, there's hope for him in that he has a strong will, and an unstoppable desire to survive.
Finally, the Outcome here is the 7 of Cups- a card of choice. As time goes on, we can reasonably assume that Ash will continue fighting, and continue his survival. The time may come when there's a break in the battle, and Ash is faced with choices as time goes on. No doubt his continued survival will provide new learning opportunities, and the discovery of his enemy's strengths and weaknesses. This indicates to me a chance to change and advance- the situation will change for Ash, and it will fall to him to make the right decision.
In doing this reading, I did pick a rather extreme situation. It's unlikely that we'll find anything like this in everyday life. Nonetheless, the moral of this story, so to speak, is that the choices we make have repercussions- not always negative ones.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Arrow Spread- For Meditation

As many people have already so well demonstrated, the Tarot can be a tool for self-examination, a jumping-off point for meditation, and a tool for self-examination. The cards of the deck can be considered individually, each card representing a specific energy that appears in our lives. Picking out this pattern in the Tarot can provide insight to the current situation, and in many cases put it into context. The goal here is to view a situation or set of circumstances from a new perspective, and in so doing, perhaps move forwards with something you're facing or working through.
I found this pattern can work well for self-examination or insight. When you're faced with a problem or something you can't seem to get past, sometimes simply sitting down and thinking it through. The goal of this spread is one of two things- to provide insight into a situation, or to provide a fresh perspective on a question.
The layout of the spread looks like this- I'll define the positions below.


                                                                           4             5

                                                                     2          1          3

1. The Keystone- Look to this position to clarify thoughts on the situation, as well as any important factors on the situation or in your own mind that you might be overlooking or not seeing at present. 
2. Thoughts- This position is meant to provide insight into cognitive factors in the present, and how you are reasoning or thinking about the matter at hand. 
3. Emotions- This position provides the other half of the equation; the emotional factors and how you may feel about the situation are expressed here. 
4. Directions From Higher- This indicates what your higher self may be telling you- below this are the more obvious, conscious factors, but at this level the focus becomes the subtle promptings and clues we may be picking up from the world around us. 
5. Directions From Spirit- Here again on this side we see the emotional and spiritual factors- here are concealed or unconscious feelings, desires and wishes- these too can come from the world around us. 
6. Higher Direction- Here, at the apex of the pyramid, is an indication of a more grand design- what is this card indicating about a greater purpose or higher design to life, and how does this factor into the current situation you find yourself in? 
This spread is called the Arrow spread because first, it can provide direction, and at the same time, can call us to look up, not down. When we look down, we may see only what's in front of us- looking up and around can provide a new perspective, as well as context. Sometimes we find ourselves stymied, seemingly with no way forwards. When that happens, sometimes sitting down and thinking through the situation can provide new insight and a breakthrough. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The 12 Houses Spread

Today's spread comes from the Opening of The Key spread, which is long and complicated. This is actually one section of five operations- however, going through the spread, I noticed it's possible to use each different step as a stand-alone (and perhaps a little more accessible) spread. This particular spread deals with the 12 different houses of the Zodiac (not the signs, just the divisions of the natal chart) and what they represent to the individual. This spread is useful for either addressing a specific point in time or a specific question, just as the natal chart identifies the "initial conditions" at the time of an individual's birth.
In a natal chart, the sky is divided into 12 positions, or houses. The location of the planets across these 12 houses is said to indicate a good deal about each person's mental, emotional and spiritual makeup. However, for purposes of this spread we're concerned with what area of life each of the houses influences, and what cards appear in that house. So in many ways the spread does operate similarly to the idea behind a natal chart, though instead of using the influence of planets, we'll be examining the cards that appear in each house. 
Like the natal chart, this spread is composed of 12 positions, set up counterclockwise, beginning with what in the natal chart would be the Ascendant position. The divisions of the natal chart is shown here:

The houses begin with the Ascendant, at number 1 here, and move counterclockwise. Each of these "pie slices" represents a different aspect of the individual, and how they relate to the world. Each position can contain one or more cards, though there is a danger here of over-complicating the spread. Let's look first at each position and what information it provides about the querent. 

  1. (Ascendant) Here is the querent's image of themselves- their ego, self-esteem and core characteristics. What makes up the querent's self image, as well as driving factors and long-term goals, will appear here.
  2. The second house deals with income, assets and values- how the querent uses the things at their disposal to an end will be shown here, as well as any resources they may have overlooked or not taken full advantage of.
  3. The third house addresses communication primarily- what the querent communicates to the world, either intentionally or unintentionally, will be expressed here. Also in the third house are matters relating to writing and siblings, so how these factors enter into the question at hand can also appear here.
  4. (Imum Coeli) In the fourth house, family is addressed. What does the querent feel towards their family, history and roots? How these factors come to bear on the present situation is expressed here. Look also for any longer-term trends, as well as long-term forecasts for life.
  5. Creativity and romance are in the fifth house- relationships, courtship and how the querent expresses themselves creatively (I.e. talents, predispositions toward an area of study or art) will appear here.
  6. The sixth house tells of work and health- here look for any physical or otherwise limitations on the querent, as well as their work style, and how this can help or hinder them in life.
  7. (Descendant) In the seventh house marriage and partnerships are addressed- it may at first seem odd that this is not addressed in the fifth house, but here longer term and not necessarily romantic unions are addressed. Lifetime partnerships, such as marriage, are expressed here, though there is a correlation between the Seventh and Fifth Houses.
  8. The Eighth House deals with renewal and re-development, as well as picking up the pieces from past trouble, as well as psychic and emotional resilience. What legacy the querent leaves is often expressed here.
  9. The Ninth House covers journeying and seeking, and associated concepts such as philosophy, religion and the relationship the querent has with the world around them, both seen and unseen. How the querent's religion and/or philosophy factors in to their life can be seen here
  10. (Midheaven) In the Tenth House the querent's status, career and esteem by peers is shown, and how this affects their life. How the querent is seen, as well as how they wish to be seen, is indicated here.
  11. The Eleventh House deals with peers and friends, as well as aspirations. How do these friends and peers either help or hinder the querent? This is expressed in this house.
  12. The final, Twelfth House contains unconscious factors, things that the querent may be carrying and unaware of. Likewise, untapped potential and unrealized assets or weaknesses are here. 

    From this, we can see that this spread may likewise be used with multiple cards, as a separate spread or as a preliminary spread to more specific questions. Be sure to look also for patterns across the cards and positions- are there corresponding patterns across different houses, and what can these patterns tell us? Multiple cards, numbers and also Major Arcana cards can provide a good indication of important factors at the present time. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Scary Cards, Part 2- The Minor Arcana

Moving on to the  Minor Arcana, we find a few more negative cards, and as with the Major Arcana, often the question here is how to change the things we encounter, and in what context they occur. Often it's simply a question of finding what stands in the way, and what needs to change or give in order to relieve the negative aspects of the situation. Remember that though there are temporary troubles, the deciding factor is how those troubles are handled, and what we make of the changes in our lives.
The first card that often has negative context is the Three of Swords- the "heartbreak" card. Looking at the common imagery, here from the Rider Waite deck, the image is of a heart, here an indication of the emotional center of our being, is run through with three swords.
In the background, storm clouds and rain seem to add to the idea of gloom and heartache. But examining this card, there is a positive aspect as well. At least it's a development from the 2 of Swords, which is often marked by uncertainty and vacillation. Here, things have run their course, perhaps for the worse. But nonetheless, the positive aspect of this card is that now is  the time to move forwards- the heart (so to speak) here has been emptied out, and all the things we were holding onto can now drain out. This card can mean heartache, but in that also is a chance to let go of the things that have been long inside us. This card can be a message- don't make it worse by holding on to the heartache as well, and letting it compound and build. This card falls in the suit of Swords- this indicates intellect and thought, and also reason. The card tells us, though you're hurting at present, take a step back. Don't let emotions overwhelm you, but rather think it through, even in the face of trouble.
Continuing with the suit of Swords, let's next examine the Ten of Swords. This one too has a theme of  getting stabbed with something, as does the Three. The most common image is that of a person lying prone, their body pierced with swords. We can assume not only is this person dead, they are undoubtedly dead. This is kind of a grim image, and a seemingly hopeless one. So what comes next? This card has a definite sense of finality about it, with little room for doubt. But the Ten tells us that even from this, a new beginning can come.
Think of this card as saying "Well, that's that. Now what comes next?" Perhaps more than any other card, this is about endings. Again, the suit of Swords tells us that this end has not been gained easily- everything you could think to do has been done, and every aspect of the situation has been thought out- and it just didn't work out. In some ways resembling the Three of Swords, this card is not so much about abandoning as it is having nothing else left to try. Once in a while, we have to simply let go and start over, and the good news is, once we do that, things can only improve. You might well need to hit the bottom before bouncing back up- but that momentum can indeed carry you back upwards.
Moving on to the suit of Cups, another negative card, though one perhaps with a more apparent message of hope, is the Five of Cups. Using the Rider-Waite imagery again, we see a figure seemingly absorbed in his own thoughts and missing something important.
Here is a message of loss, but with that, not a complete loss. Again, we see that there seems to be a question of perspective- the figure in the card is so occupied with the three spilled cups that he seems unaware of the other two that remain. The suit of Cups is tied to emotion, and emotion can be a volatile aspect of the self. Sometimes irrational and sometimes overwhelming, emotions can sometimes mean lack of perspective, and this seems to be a theme throughout the negative cards. The message here is again, take a step back and assess the situation- what did you lose, what do you still have, and what can you do with this present situation? Often it's not as bad as you might think. One thing that struck me about the card is that the figure is solitary and alone. Perhaps he is so wrapped up in himself (pun kind of intended, look at the cloak) that he doesn't see what might be obvious to someone else.
Next is a similar message, in a different suit. The Five of Pentacles is a message not of loss and hardship as it is overlooking something. In this card from Egypt Urnash, we see a figure out in the cold, in a manner of  speaking. She seems distressed, and the Five traditionally means hardship and trouble, and this card takes an interesting turn on things, showing that all is not well apart from the protagonist of this card. Two people are arguing in the background, and it seems the woman would like nothing better than to simply get away.
The message here is that again, these things can seem overwhelming, especially in this suit, often related to things like health, home and finances. Again, these things can seem overwhelming, but as before, there's a call for perspective and insight. Another interpretation of this card is often missed resources and missed assets. The two people in the Rider-Waite version of this card seem to be missing the lighted window behind them-
Again, we see that these two are so wrapped up in their own troubles that they don't see a potential source of help. Someone has their lights on, and might welcome them in out of the cold, if only they would ask!
So throughout the negative cards of the Minor Arcana, we see that there is a consistent message of needing perspective- it's easy to get caught up in negative thought patterns, negative emotions, or even negative patterns of behavior. Often the cards can indicate something needing to be released or changed, and it's often the easiest thing to overlook. It's important to remember also that the ultimate force for change in our own lives is us.