While everyone who regularly uses the Celtic Cross Spread adapts it to their own understanding, I am going to reveal the underlying richness of the traditional “Hopes and Fears” or 9th position* of this classic spread.
*I’m not counting the Significator.

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“An Ancient Celtic Method” in Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Both/And

Early in my tarot reading career, I interpreted whatever card landed in this next-to-last position from both the perspective of what querents hoped and what they feared. For instance, with the 10 of Cups querents might hope for a happy home or family life. Yet they simultaneously fear: either that this is an illusion (the rainbow in some decks) or that they will be constrained in some way by family needs and concerns. This points to how our anticipations affect outcome (position 10). Thus, this card can provide an extremely valuable look into the quandary experienced by querents regarding their issue. Note that it doesn’t say whether the hopes and fears are right or not. They aren’t predictions. Therefore, what are they?

After extensive work on the emotions expressed by the cards in the RWS deck, including a research project I did involving almost 100 people, I came to look at this position more broadly as simply one’s emotions in the situation being described. Hope and fear or attraction and repulsion form the core polarity found in emotion: physiologically experienced as pleasure or pain/distress.

Empedocles’ Love & Strife

The 5th century BC Greek philosopher, Empedocles, first defined this core polarity as “Love and Strife” or attraction and separation, which combine in different ways to form all matter in the universe as well as in our psyches. Emotions can be placed along a grid with two axises: pleasure—pain and mild | intense. For instance, annoyanceanger-rage express a range, from mild to intense, of an emotion we tend to avoid as being painful.

The fact is, as Empedocles recognized, we always experience some combination of emotions—which is where we get all those feeling experiences and the emotion words we use to describe them. This is why interpreting the 9th card from different perspectives can, in itself, describe the stressful push-pull which is pictured in the central conflict revealed by the first two cards of the Celtic Cross Spread.

Motivation

As I researched emotion I came to understand that they are our primary motivating factors. What Motivates Getting Things Done by Mary Lamia has recently added to my level of understanding how this relates to the 9th card. Lamia is a clinical psychologist and researcher specializing in emotional awareness. (This book is about procrastination, which happens to be a particular issue of mine.)

In Chapter 3, Lamia points out how situations stimulate emotions that, in turn, direct our attention. We care about the situation because we feel something. So, whether we feel distress or interest, the feeling motivates us to take action. “The emotional importance we give to a stimulus influences how we will attend to it.” These emotions (along with associated thoughts and memories) script our present behavior.* One person may notice unwashed dishes and feel compelled to immediately do something about them, while another person may not even notice them.

*As tarot readers, it is vital that we become aware of such differences in people’s responses. For, if we assume our own bias to be the only response, it can skew the reading.*

Scripts

For Lamia, “Scripts are based on the repetitive activation of a given emotion or emotions consistently activated by a particular stimulus.” They form an implicit set of rules that help us make sense of our lives: “Depending on how well we learn, scripted responses can either help or hinder us as we interpret, evaluate, and make predictions in our experiences.”

Photo by Stephen Leonardi on unsplash.com.

The Role of the 9th Card

While our own scripts speak to our interpretative abilities as readers, scripts also point to the role of the 9th position card in a querent’s reading (either for oneself or another). “In consciousness, feeling and thinking always arise together,” with thoughts (that are actually conjectures) being “the best information your mind has available.” It is the underlying emotion (at root, the physiological affect or gut response) that most motivates human behavior. Furthermore, “emotions can be impervious to thought,” which is why a reader‘s informing someone of an outcome or best action—no matter how ‘right’ the reader is—is not as effective as when a querent emotionally “gets it.”

The Interactive Tarot Reading

The value of an interactive approach to tarot reading lies in the querent describing a card or speaking of what most draws their attention. At that point the attendant memories and the emotions associated with those images arise. By dialoguing with the querent about what arises the reader can help the querent evaluate how relevant these responses are to the actual situation and therefore which options and goals, indicated by the other cards, generate the most interest in the querent and/or promise the most relief from distress.

Summary

Emotional responses motivate us. Positive emotions give us energy and drive. Negative emotions result in a desire for relief. Both positive and negative emotions may be described by the card in position 9, although sometimes one clearly predominates over the other(s). Recognizing that this card describes one’s motivating factor(s) can help querents become aware how their history (i.e., their scripts) are affecting the outcome.

The Benefits

As with the other cards in the spread, emotional responses depicted in position 9 are not totally fixed. A consciously aware reader can help a client align themselves with their highest goals and recognize their options. Furthermore, energizes are vibrational and thus, by aligning oneself with the higher vibrations and lessons offered in the situation, and bringing consciousness to the emotional roots of the situation, a client can experience an emotional shift within the sacred space of the reading and thus change the way they meet the perceived outcome.


Please, try these ideas and let me know if this makes a difference in your own experience of the spread. Or, leave a comment on how you interpret and work with the 9th or “Hopes and Fears” position in the Celtic Cross Spread.

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I’ve collected quite a few Tarot music albums over the years so I thought I’d share what I have. I ask you to contribute to this list in the comments section. I link mainly to amazon but you’ll find many of these on iTunes and probably other places on the web. Forgive the dearth of commentary but, lacking a musical background, I feel unqualified to speak of the characteristics of each album.

I begin with my personal favorite (otherwise the list is in no particular order). It might not even be a tarot album except that the CD cover features the Star and the Fool. Still, listen to the story-telling folk-style lyrics and tell me this is not about the Fool’s journey through the cards: Pilgrims by Eliza Gilkyson.

Tarot by Réjean Paquin. Serious musical compositions for the 22 Major Arcana (with voice/sounds reflecting social commentary). There is plenty of variety that accords well with each Arcana.

Tarots, composed by Tomás Marco, guitar by Juan Carlos Laguna. Booklet in Spanish and English. Classical guitar pieces for the Major Arcana.

Tarot Music for Readings by Gene Newton. New Age, synthesizer, meditative. Not much variation.

Music of the Tarot by David & Steve Gordon. Meditative space-music with 3 pieces that cover the 22 Major Arcana and separate pieces for each suit of the Minors.

The Power of a New Aeon: Musical Impressions of the Tarot by mixed artists. Two-CD set. A selection for each card of the Major Arcana. The styles vary widely but seem to emphasize heavy metal (?).

The Book of Thoth: A Musical Interpretation of the Tarot by Zehm Aloim. This album doesn’t seem to be readily available but you’ll find a review here. Music for six of the Arcana. Zehm Aloim also created music to go with several Israel Regardie Golden Dawn training audios (found on iTunes).

Tarot: a musical and spiritual album inspired by the Tarot, music by Kevin Kendle; text by Steve Hounsome. New Age, mystical, covers the Fool through Wheel of Fortune.

Tarot Keys by Ruth Ann Amberstone. Collection of piano improvisations for the Major Arcana composed in the key of the musical note assigned to that card by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Cups of the Heart: A Musical & Poetic Journey into the Minor Arcana by Emerald Joy and Paul Tye. Poetic visualizations narrated to music for the Suit of Cups.

Tarot Suite by Mike Batt and friends. I only have the vinyl and haven’t listened to it in 30+ years. Now available on amazon mixed with another Batt album.

Osho Zen Tarot: Music from the World of Osho is not actually tarot-related but is, rather, spiritual, India-influenced New Age music taken from other Osho music collections. You may enjoy reading the cards while listening to it.

Voyage of the Acolyte by Steve Hackett (thanks to P.D. Newman).

Teargarden By Kaleidyscope from Smashing Pumpkins (thanks to P.D. Newman).

Turn of the Cards from Renaissance (thanks to P.D. Newman). Described as classical/prog rock. The only direct tarot connection seems to be the cover and title. Nice.

Tarot: “Die  Welt” by Walter Wegmüller (thanks to Bertrand Saint-Guillain), Described as the “funkiest of funk”; Vol. 2 with images from Wegmüller’s deck found on Youtube here.

How could I have forgotten this one? Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles by Suzanne Vega. Several songs on this album are tarot-based by title or otherwise.

The Fool’s Journey: Solo by Liz Deyoe. Instrumental guitar. Ten pieces, each named after one of the 78 cards. Lovely.

Note: There is a heavy metal band from Finland named Tarot but I’m unaware of any tarot card-related music by them.

You’ll find plenty of individual tarot-based songs and tunes on non-tarot albums. The best of which is “The Wheel” by Rosemary Cash, while others, like “Pokerface” by Lady Gaga and “She Only Smokes When She Drinks” by Joe Nichols, feature tarot primarily through images in their music videos (as “The Wheel” also does brilliantly!). Others can be found by looking through my blog category: Tarot Music Videos.

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Joe Nichols music video with tarot reading at end.

Please mention your favorite songs in the comments along with why you like them.

Added to individual songs: Cassandra Wilson, sings “Tarot” on her album, Thunderbird (thanks to Charlie Harrington). “The Fool” from Hills and Rivers (thanks to Dovid DeHay). “Six of Swords” and “Four of Cups” from HobbyHorse (thanks to their vocalist Annie Aronson). “Tarot” by Chad Shank (thanks to Chad Shank); it’s really good!

Watch Xena: Warrior Princess Episode, “Bitter Suite,” available on youtube for only $1.99. The entire episode is sung, beautifully! It’s well-worth it. More info here including the Tarot references and sources for these.

A third category would be music that you play when you want to do deep work with the tarot, either for reading or meditation. My favorite deep trance-meditation music for tarot is El-Hadra the Mystic Dance by Klaus Wiese.

Jean-Claude Flornoy’s book Seeing the World: Tarot Signposts on the Path to Perception (translated from the French by David Vine), features what Flornoy describes as “the cadillac of readings,” and I’m inclined to agree with him. Flornoy was a French artist and tarotist who died in 2011. He was the foremost recreator of the earliest French tarot decks beginning with the Jean Noblet deck (Paris, 1650). His book features a quirky, individualistic interpretation of Marseille-style decks that is worth reading if you want to shake yourself out of many of the Anglo assumptions about Tarot that most of us labor under. Personally I found the book exciting for this very reason. However, what thrilled me most was Flornoy’s introduction to a spread concept I hadn’t seen before that he learned from Parisian Jean Assens. With David Vine’s permission I’m presenting it here. It is very briefly described in the book, focusing only on the layout procedure, so I’ll include my own developing insights into its use.

The Assens-Flornoy Pyramid Spread

Using only the Major Arcana, ask your question, then shuffle and lay out all 22 cards, face down, in the 21-position pyramid layout (see below) beginning on the bottom left. The positions are the same as the Major Arcana laid out in numerical order, but you’ll be putting face down cards from your shuffled deck into each position, in order from 1 to 21 plus one card that lies outside the pyramid.

21
19..20
………………..16..17..18……….222/0
12..13..14..15
7….8….91011
1….2….3….4….5….6

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Jean Noblet Tarot recreated by Jean-Claude Flornoy

The final, 22nd, card goes on the right; Flornoy called it the “Outside Card.” You start by interpreting this Outside Card in relation to the question. The next card to be turned over should be the card in the pyramid layout that corresponds to the number of the Outside Card. For instance, if you get 9-Hermit as the Outside Card, then the next card you turn face up will be the card in the 9th position. If that card is 6-Lovers, first you interpret it, and then you turn up the card in the 6th position, and so on, interpreting each card as you go. I call this chaining.* Continue until you turn up The Fool. As The Fool has no number, the reading stops here. Flornoy says that if you need more information you can pull supplemental cards from a second deck (but he doesn’t explain what you do with these). You may reveal, in total, as few as two or three cards or almost the entire Major Arcana! Unrevealed cards are either in their own position or form their own group of mutually linked cards. You don’t look at or read the unrevealed cards at all.

I’ve been obsessively using this spread and have developed a few additions of my own.

Rather than pulling supplemental cards for more information, as Flornoy suggests, I prefer taking the archetypal card’s position into consideration. This is similar to reading an astrological planet in its “house” in a chart. To ascribe uniqueness to each item in the pair I think of the preceding card as asking a question of the card that lands in its position. This will become obvious in the example.

Here’s a reading I did, laid out on top of the Noblet Tarot, which is my own addition to this spread technique. (You don’t need to use a second deck beneath.)

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Pam’s Tarot dealt atop the Jean Noblet Tarot

As I was listening to a news program about Donald Trump’s potential legal problems (regarding Manafort and Michael Cohen) I decided to ask what the cards thought of Trump. With 14-Temperance Reversed as the final “Outside Card” I felt Trump was out-of-balance; his temperament or “humors” were askew and that the spread would especially address his temperament problems. Next, I turned over the card in the 14th position and found 15-Devil. I asked the question “What is creating this imbalance?” The Devil seemed to speak of obsession, enslavement, blame and guilt, plus a focus on “upmost materiality” (the latter is the Golden Dawn meaning). Based on my reaction to 15-Devil, I then asked of the next card, “Where does this negativity come from?” and turned up the card in the 15th position, 18-Moon. This card seemed to suggest that Trump is deceiving himself as well as others, arising from deep-seated unconscious instinctual behavior. Turning to the 18th position I asked, “Of what is Trump unconscious?” and got 2-High Priestess Reversed, which said to me that he lacks empathic sensitivity and can’t hear the inner voice of Wisdom (he’s out of touch with what we might call the Feminine).

To reiterate: my addition to this spread technique is to view the preceding card as asking a question of the card that lands in the numerical position (of that preceding card). Think of these two cards as a pair: the earlier card asks a question that the subsequent card responds to. You may want to examine the cards by placing them in pairs. Based on your interpretation of the first card, your intuition suggests a question that it asks of the subsequent card in the chain. For instance:

After considering the meaning of the Outside Card (14-Temperance Reversed), turn one of its meanings into an open-ended question like “What needs to be balanced?” or “Where is there imbalance?” or, in an issue regarding creativity, “What is blocking the creative flow?” The next card in the chain provides a response. Sometimes the second card makes you aware that the question wasn’t phrased quite right. That’s okay, just adjust your question.

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15-Devil now poses a question of the card in the 15th position, 18-Moon:

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If you wish you can go through the rest of the cards for yourself. I admit I was at first stumped by 19-Sun in the position of 6-Lovers (the Lovers card was reversed and in the position of 5-Hierophant = one’s morals). Upon considering the question, “How is he deceiving others?” I figured The Sun might point to his relationship with his Base (Lovers) who feel he can do no wrong. However, The Sun, featuring a child with a feather in his hair, brought to mind the image of the “Baby Trump” balloon flown in the air during Trump’s trip to the U.K., and I couldn’t help chuckling.

Version 2

This spread was the first time I turned up more than a half dozen or so cards before reaching The Fool, where I stopped. The only card not revealed turned out to be 17-Star, in its own 17th position. Technically these cards are not to be read, but with The Fool in the 9th-Hermit position and 17-Star unrevealed, it seemed to reiterate the lack of personal insight and integrity in Trump’s psyche that had previously been shown.

I want to note that I was very aware of projecting my own feelings onto the cards as I read them, so the above interpretation in no way represents an objective analysis of Trump, but rather my own perception of him. It was startlingly clear to see my opinions take precedence over any other interpretation of the cards. When reading for myself, I find it is an opportunity to become conscious of my own semi- and un-conscious perceptions of a matter. It is through the Tarot that I’ve learned to see through to many of my own biases and assumptions. But, that’s another discussion.

I believe you can also summarize the spread by reading the cards that were revealed in the order they were laid out – that is, positions 1 to 21 sequentially and by rows—especially since some of your spreads will reveal an entire row or two while leaving most of the other cards unrevealed. The centrality of positions 9, 17 and 21 seem to stand out and may be especially significant, perhaps as “Destiny” or “Wisdom” positions?

This is one way to use all those luscious Major Arcana-only decks. Reversals are optional. Let me know what you think of this spread and any insights you have as to how to interpret it.

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*”Chaining” is a technique used with the 36-card Lenormand Grand Tableau. Toward the end of a Grand Tableau reading you can chain or link cards in a similar manner, starting with the querent’s significator. You determine its position number, find the card having that number, then from its position find the next card, and so on, stopping when you circle back to a card you’ve already read. This chain of cards serves as a kind of confirmation or summary of the whole reading. With The Pyramid Spread it is the entire reading.

There are tons of ways to create new spreads. Before the mid-1970s it was almost unheard of; today you find thousands of spreads—in books, from teachers and on the internet. I first encountered a do-it-yourself-spread explanation in Gail Fairfield’s 1981 classic, Choice-Centered Tarot. This ground-breaking concept had the reader and querent co-creating unique spreads based on the question or issue, breaking it down into positions that would reveal what you most wanted or needed to know. This is still one of the top techniques you should have in your kit.

I like to create spreads based on self-help protocols, like “5-Steps to a Co-Creative Partnership”: I’ll draw a card for where I am now or what I need to do for each step. I’ll even turn my favorite quotes, proverbs or maxims into spreads as it allows me to explore what guidance they have directly for me at that moment. Try turning this quote into a spread, being as literal or creative as you want, and post it in the comments section:

“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.”
–Oprah Winfrey quoting the Roman philosopher Seneca.

Here’s a spread that evolved out of my curiosity about a world event that happened on the day I was born. The more I learned the more it seemed a worthwhile metaphor for my personal life path and as well as being applicable to others. I invite you to try out both the spread and the method used to create it.

The ‘Breaking Your Sound Barrier’ Spread

On the morning of October 14, 1947, pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. According to PBS’s Nova program it marks a major milestone in flight and space history as “the sound barrier was no longer a barrier after all.” This spread helps you break your own “sound or noise barrier” as it is a metaphor for an impediment to further acceleration that cannot be easily overcome, despite your striving to do so.

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By Realbigtaco – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15250934

The symbolism underlying this problem and the need to overcome it give us a clue to something we can examine in our own lives. To do this, I turned the technical description of what happens into a personal description:

The energy wave you yourself create gets ahead of you, blocking your ability to move forward and through to the next level. It takes the form of confused, irrelevant or meaningless “noise.” Attempts to break through create shock waves, turbulence, severe buffeting and control problems that can throw you into a dive. Part of the issue is whether you can withstand the pressures that accompany breaking through this barrier. The reward on the other side is stability and return of control.

I know, the layout looks a little like a jet (or a fish). That sort of happened serendipitously. I suggest reading cards 1, 2, 3 first as a three-card spread to get a handle on the direction everything is headed. You can specify a particular situation to examine or discover it as you go.

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  1. What is your particular sound barrier? This could be an external, physical limit or some kind of inner noise or chatter.
  2. What do you hope to discover or achieve by breaking through it?
  3. How does this barrier get in your way or limit your achieving this?

  4. What pressure, turbulence or loss of control must you withstand?

  5. What’s the worst that can happen if, symbolically speaking, you lose control and fall into a dive?
  6. What improvements will help you break through; what new thing or attitude do you need?
  7. What will you actually find on the other side?

  8. How can this breakthrough help you in the future?

I find it interesting that one of my greatest contributions to the field of Tarot is what, back in 1981, I named The Breakthrough Process in which the client identifies, via the cards already discussed in the spread, the major problem(s), how to break through it, and a personal goal. This process is described in most of my books.

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I am thrilled to announce publication of my latest book, Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story. The journey to publication was an extraordinary one, first, because I was able to work with an amazing group of collaborators: Stuart Kaplan, president of USGames Systems Inc., Elizabeth Foley O’Connor and Melinda Boyd Parsons; and second, because of what was involved in researching Pixie’s accomplishments, walking in her footsteps, and working with my collaborators. Stuart has long wanted to gift the world with a beautiful art book featuring his extensive collection of the works of Pamela Colman Smith. We all wanted the world to know about this extraordinary woman, set the record straight on what is known about her, and give others the opportunity enjoy her many gifts as we have.

During our research we discovered many hundreds of articles written about Smith, appearing around the world over a mostly fifteen year period, plus there are letters giving insights into some periods of her life. All works by and about her, as well as a list of all known communications and artworks, are available in the extensive bibliographies.

In the summer of 2017 I took a tour group to Pixie’s final home in Bude, Cornwall. We dowsed for her lost grave in the local cemetery. We had dinner with Nikki Saunders whose grandparents had been good friends with Pixie and our tour group stayed at the then-King Arthur’s Castle Hotel (now Camelot Castle Hotel) in Tintagel where she stayed with her father in 1899, and where she met theatre impresario Henry Irving for the first time. (The hotel has hardly changed at all!)

castle-hotel old postcard

Rather than me telling you all about the book, I’ll direct you to four reviews and an informative interview with Elizabeth Foley O’Connor:

Interview with Elizabeth O’Connor by Lakshmi Ramgopal

Review by Benebell Wen.

Kirkus Review.

Publishers Weekly Review.

Video review by Arwen Lynch (with a look through the book itself)

I also recommend this earlier blog post where I speculate about Pixie’s design for the Tarot deck based on an article she wrote in 1910 (the year after she completed the Tarot deck) concerning what’s most important in stage decoration.

Everyone interested in Pamela Colman Smith will want to get this book in which her life and works are so well presented. Serious collectors may want the signed and luxurious Limited Edition, that’s only available here.

Linda Marson, author of the groundbreaking Ticket, Passport and Tarot Cards brings us her new multi-media package for personal guidance and insight using TarotNav: A GPS for Life.

FlashDriveTarotNav arrives in the form of a flash drive/memory stick or you can direct download the files to your computer or device. Through videos, personal stories, and text, Linda offers an excitingly innovative learning experience that will help you gain deep meaning from life experiences and get direction for future endeavors.

Imagine a world in which everything has a meaning, your adventures serve a deeper purpose and Spirit speaks directly to you through a set of picture cards. Each day becomes its own adventure. Discover what way to go when your path forks. Know that detours present challenges to strengthen resolve and reveal things you might have missed along the way. Examine your baggage to see what can be discarded. Find your destiny in your goals.

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Linda speaks from her own vast experience. She has been making travel films and leading spiritual journeys around the globe for nearly 20 years. If anyone is said to “follow their intuition” it is Linda. As former President of the Australian Tarot Guild she focused on making connections among teachers, students and professional readers nationally and internationally. More recently she has brought all her interests together through activities featured at her Global Spiritual Studies website. You’ll find courses taught by the best teachers in their fields, and tours to sacred sites that will transform your life.

TarotNav literally shows how to use tarot as a guidance system. The multi-media package contains a set of 22 short videos with example readings based on real journeys, an e-book of card meanings, a sheet for recording your readings, and an extra video on the Celtic Cross Spread. The card meanings focus on life as a journey from new beginnings to goal completions and letting go. Reversed cards show where there may be resistance and where issues haven’t been fully resolved.

I highly recommend this program as a way to learn how Tarot can be a guide on your personal journey and a key to turn your daily life into a spiritual adventure. Get information here, where you’ll find sample videos and a look at the whole package.

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Join us August 3-5, 2018 for the Masters of the Tarot conference at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck New York. This year Rachel Pollack and I join with three outstanding Tarot teachers for a weekend of fun and deep learning: Melissa Cynova, Liz Dean and George Koury. Watch for our interviews with everyone over the next two weeks.

Melissa CynovaI am pleased to begin with Melissa Cynova. She is the author of a recent book that has made quite a splash, Kitchen Table Tarotand has a popular website and blog at Little Fox Tarot. We are so excited to have her as one of our presenters.

Mary: What is it about Tarot that most intrigued you and first got you hooked?

Melissa:​ ​When I was little, I always felt like a weirdo. I would wander around in the woods by myself, looking for fairies (like you do). I was constantly reading fantasy books about witches and wizards and magic. When tarot came along at 14, it felt like an active, alive piece of magic that I could hold in my hands. I was still weird! But this was a weird that I could learn and make choices with. It gave me a way to connect to people, and still be myself. Also, it was really cool!

Mary: Weirdly cool!—I agree. Your website and blog at LittleFoxTarot.com is very popular and earned you a loyal following even before your book Kitchen Table Tarot came out. It seems to me that Tarot has been going through some pretty radical shifts over the recent 10-20 years. What shifts have you noticed and what do you think is most important for both newbies and experienced readers to know and learn in order to take advantage of what’s happening now?

Melissa: ​I’ve been playing with the cards for almost 30 years, and the thing that I’ve noticed the most is that it used to be shrouded in some kind of secrecy. “Don’t buy your first deck, it has to be gifted. You have to put the cards under your pillow to absorb their full meaning. You have to shuffle three times into your left hand!” There were all of these whispered rules that followed it around. Since I didn’t know better, I followed them. I thought that you had to achieve a certain level of woo-woo mysticism to read cards, and follow the “old traditions”. I think that the advent of the internet showed us that most of those whispered secrets are complete nonsense. I know tarot readers who shoplifted their first deck back in the day, rather than risk buying it. Most of my clients today buy them online and look for decks that appeal to them.

​I love that level of freedom and accessibility. Anyone can pick up any deck of cards and get started on this path. You can shuffle into whatever hand you want (or not at all) and your readings are still valid. I think it lends confidence to the new reader, which will then translate into their readings. Fantastic.

Mary: Just before my mother died she mentioned her grandmother read playing cards for visitors at their kitchen table in New Orleans. I love that you wrote a book about your kitchen table experiences teaching and reading tarot. No fuss, perhaps a bit of muss – of the best kind! What would you like to bring from your kitchen table into the Masters of Tarot Omega weekend to turn it into a similarly welcoming and supportive environment?

Melissa: It’s so funny that you asked that! I was talking about the book with my friend, Terry Iacuzzo, and she told me that her mother used to read playing cards at their kitchen table in New York! She said that I reminded her of her mom—making tarot accessible and easy to understand—just like we were sitting at the table and talking. It was the best compliment I think I’ve ever received, professionally, and inspired the title of the book.

​At Omega, I’m going to be talking about ways to simplify the questions that people bring to the cards, and teach some simple spreads to help them interpret the answers. I want folks to come out of our class confident that they—and they alone—can hit a reset button on any part of their life that needs it. ​

Mary: Thank you so much, Melissa. It’s been an honor talking with you. I can hardly wait for your common sense and de-mystifying presentation and exercises at Omega in August. I know they’ll be a hit.


Follow up with a 5-day intensive workshop with just Rachel and Mary: The Neverending Tarot. Discount available when you sign up for both. Info here.

Read a recent interview with another one of our presenters, Liz Dean, at The Wild Hunt Pagan News featuring a discussion of her new Game of Thrones Tarot.

The Crowley-Harris Thoth card was renamed The Universe giving us both an ancient and very modern scientific perspective on the card formerly called The World that focused on Earth as the center of the Universe. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn emphasized this fact by its correspondence with the planet Saturn, related on the Tree of Life to Binah, the Great Mother. Saturn, being the furtherest planet that can be seen with the naked eye, was called “the ring-pass-not” and represented the furtherest reaches of what is known and the outer barrier of human existence.

World x3.jpgThe standard image of the wreath in most cards is said, among other things, to represent the plane of the ecliptic forming the constellations through which the planets travel and also the wheel of the year. The figure at the center seems to dance within the limitations of material existence. She can also be seen as giving birth to herself out of a cosmic vesica pisces shaped womb.

This figure is most often identified as some amalgam of Isis/Hathor, Sophia, Shekinah, Aimah Elohim (the plural feminine name of g-d), Gaia, and the Anima Mundi, or Soul of the World, who unites all opposites. Waite equated the image with what the alchemist, Thomas Vaughn described in Mysterium Magnum, as “Nature personified and redeemed.” (quoted by Waite in his book on Vaughn).

This theme of Nature appears in the Thoth deck at the bottom of the card via an early 20th century periodic table of the elements according to their atomic weight (identified by Lon Milo DuQuette; see Marcus Katz’s forthcoming Secrets of the Thoth Deck for details of this and other symbols).

However I believe the Thoth Universe card illustrates the creation of the universe that resulted in those raw elements depicted at the base. Crowley makes no mention of what I’m about to say. So this may be taken as one of the astounding examples of Carl Jung’s theory of the archetypes of the collective unconscious.

Robert Graves’s The Greek Myths (available cheaply used) opens with “The Pelasgian Creation Myth,” the most archaic of that peninsula’s creation myths, featuring Eurynome (whose name means “wide wandering”) whom Graves relates to the Sumerian goddess Iahu (“exalted dove”). Although Graves published The Greek Myths in 1955, it is likely that Crowley was familiar with the same sources used by Graves. I’ve truncated the story because of copyright. I highly recommend you read it in its whole.

Crowley Thoth Universe

In the beginning, Eurynome, the Goddess of All Things, rose naked from Chaos, but found nothing substantial for her feet to rest upon, and therefore divided the seas from the sky, dancing lonely upon its waves. She danced towards the south, and the wind set in motion behind her seemed something new and apart with which to begin the work of creation. Wheeling about, she caught hold of this north wind, rubbed it between her hands, and behold! the great serpent Ophion. . . .

Ophion, grown lustful, coiled about those divine limbs and was moved to couple with her. Now, the North Wind . . . fertilizes. . . . So Eurynome was likewise got with child. [She then laid the Universal Egg.] Ophion coiled seven times about this egg, until it hatched and split in two. Out tumbled all things that exist. . . .

[Ophion] vexed her by claiming to be the author of the Universe. Forthwith she bruised his head with her heel, kicked out his teeth, and banished him to the dark caves below the earth.

Eurynome then created the planets, setting a Titan and Titaness over each: Rhea and Cronos for the planet Saturn. Cronos (Time) went on to murder his father Uranus/Ophion with a sickle given him by his mother Gaia/Eurynome. 

And so we have a story that includes the dancing maiden, the serpent, all creation (the stars and celestial bodies detailed in Graves’s tale plus the table of elements), the four winds, stepping on the head of the serpent and the sickle. The egg with a serpent coiled around it, from the myth, appears in The Hermit and can be related to Phanes, another figure of early Greek myth who could be at the center of the Universe card.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 5.02.31 PM

Phanes

All that’s missing in the Pelasgian Creation Myth, but found in the card, is the radiant eye and the “twisted torus” shape in the background. If it is some kind of torus, then it is worth considering that some physicists propose the shape of the universe that immediately followed the Big Bang as a torus, while others see the universe as still being that shape today.

Almost everyone has noted that the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot images, especially for the Minor Arcana, look like scenes in a stage play. This is not unexpected since Pamela Colman Smith spent much of her early life involved in the theatre, from miniature stage productions to set and costume design to her own costumed story-telling performances. She even wrote two articles on set design and decoration.

I here present selections from her article, “Appropriate Stage Decoration,” that appeared in The New Age magazine (7:5, June 2, 1910. pp 7-9) shortly after the deck was published. I think you’ll find that it will heighten your appreciation of her Tarot cards. I’ve interspersed commentary that shows possible relevancy to her creation of the deck. Pamela begins:

ABOUT us is the glowing beauty of the world, with its leaves and flowers, rags, gold and purple. Kings on thrones of iron, beggars on beds of clay, laughing, weeping, dreaming.

Notice how Smith poetically evokes the scene before our eyes, weaving together shape and color with emotion. My own research fifteen years ago of nearly a hundred people demonstrates high agreement in the assignation of similarly-related emotions to individual cards in the RWS deck.

 

Land_of_Hearts_Desire-1898

Land of Heart’s Desire

This pageant of life moves before us, intensified, in the theatre.

Theatre, Pamela tells us, is an exaggeration of life, a march of characters before our eyes. In a tarot reading we have a progression of scenes whose figures are comparable to ourselves and to other people with whom we are involved. It is this intensification of a personal issue in people’s lives that allows them to recognize a repeating theme and, if desired, begin to change it.


People go, most of them, to the play to be amused, and in spite of themselves, are often tricked into a mode of thinking quite contrary to their usual habit of thought. That is why the theatre is the place where all beauty of thought, of sound, of colour, and of high teaching, comes to be of use.

In the U.S. for instance, Tarot, for legal purposes, is billed as entertainment—an amusement that ‘tricks’ querents out of the usual ruts in their thinking, turning the experience into a place of ‘high teaching.’


All arts are branches of one tree.

We can picture this as tree of life and wisdom. It is a reminder of, “As above, so below.”


There in the theatre, unconsciously, the onlooker is moved, or interested, and finds himself agreeing or disagreeing with the playwright and every time he enters a theatre he comes out with a little more knowledge than when he went in. Agreeing or disagreeing, it brings uppermost in his mind some thought which crystallises and becomes a new intelligence.

In many circumstances the information provided by readers is not unknown to their querents, but its significance is usually heightened or it is seen as part of a larger pattern. And it is not so important that querents agree completely with what a reader says. Rather the important thing is that they leave with greater insight than when they came in. This is what we hope for: a new and beneficial realization or insight, or as Pamela expresses it, “some thought crystallized.”


Theatre-going is a habit, where one cultivates a new kind of observation, a new pair of eyes and ears.

In order to enter into this new kind of observation one must have, in Coleridge’s phrase, “a willing suspension of disbelief.” We accept for a moment that mere cards are mirrors of the soul, reflections of our personal issues with answers to our questions. Furthermore, when we make reading our own cards a personal habit we can observe our own patterns of thought and so recognize where we are prone to delude ourselves.


Pamela disparages the then-modern vulgar theatrical display of too realistic scenery—real trees, flowers and animals—that she called “a self-conscious sham without purpose or meaning.”

Those in power have not remembered that illusion is the aim of the theatre. It is a great game of pretence that recalls the time when, as children, we baked stones in the sun for cakes, and feared the dragon that lurked behind the garden wall, or by the pond. A remnant of that imaginative life we re-live in beholding a play set forth before our eyes.

It is through a playful sense of analogy among the figures on the cards and our everyday situations that we are able to face our own dragons.


Art Box S656 no. 4

Caliban from The Tempest

If the illusion is good, we follow it more easily, and illusion to be good need not be realistic. Realism is not Art. It is the essence that is necessary to give a semblance of the real thing.

Absolute correctness in dress or scene does not necessarily give the illusion. Everything must be exaggerated in order that it may be visible across the footlights.

A deck that is too real may be off-putting. A card depicting an office-worker with a computer may be too “real” an image to correlate with someone’s job as carpenter or herbalist. An idealized movie star as Knight of Wands could do little to suggest a problematic boy friend. By contrast, a fantasy fairy tale. as in Pamela’s faux-medieval Minor Arcana, may be easier to inhabit. Moreover, it can help one see the mythic dimension of one’s own life.


The designer must insist on the balance being kept, and work in harmony with, and not be ruled by, the producer or stage manager. Of course the producer must have confidence in the designer to complete his work.

We may take this as a statement of the working relationship between Smith and Waite, in which Smith was cognizant of the importance of not being ruled by Waite, the stage manager/producer. Likewise, Waite apparently gave over illustration of the Minor Arcana cards primarily to Smith, with confidence in her ability to do justice to the task.


Regarding decks that are slavishly based on their predecessors, Pamela complains that all too often costumes are “hired merely in the tradition of the part, the model having done duty in many revivals.” So we should not be surprised when her deck takes a decidedly new form of expression. It might even make one wonder what Pamela would have thought of so many RWS influenced decks.


A great many people find her colors garish. When critiquing the artistic effect of her cards we should take into account that for Pamela:

Colours are forces but little understood. Strong colour is disliked, and perhaps the fear and hatred of strong, clean colour is due to ignorance.

She asks us to:

Observe the work of the French impressionist painters, who use red, blue and yellow side by side to get the effect of light and atmosphere. Is it the fear of the dreaded accusation of vulgarity? I believe the public would prefer the effect got by the use of strong primitive colour, if they saw it.

While some may see her strong colors as a call to vitality and a celebration of life like that perceived in the French theatre posters of the period, we see here that she was also influenced by the impressionist experiments in color theory.


How rarely does one see an entire production welded together into a thing of beauty by artist hands?

 As we’ve already seen, historical correctness is secondary to an exaggerated illusion welded into “a comprehensive thing of beauty.” She further claims that costume is more important than scenery. The latter, she notes, should be kept simple and in harmony with the costumes. Nevertheless, Pamela ends her article with a plea for a dramatic library that would provide historical details for design purposes (much as can be found with simple google searches today). She asks, “Where would one look for the dress of a Jewish woman in England in the year 1185?” and answers herself, “There is the material to go on, given the knowledge of where to find it.” Here’s one source.

I read this as Pamela’s call for historical awareness at the same time that she observes the primacy of dedication to the art plus the necessity of illusion as essential to having one see with “a new pair of eyes and ears.” This is a formula with which all tarot readers have to contend. And then, knowing what we know of Pamela Colman Smith, we must add a significant dash of intuitive awareness allowing us to experience other realms of perception.

For the definitive book on her life and work, fully illustrated with never-before-seen art and photographs, please check out Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story (2018, USGames Systems, Inc.).

Please add your own thoughts in the comment section.

There is no single Jungian interpretation of the Ace of Cups. That it represents a major archetypal motif is without question for it suggests the feminine, mother, breast, womb, water, vessels, and related ideas of love, emotion, nourishment, healing, sacrifice, rebirth and renewal, the unconscious, imagination, empathy, psychic awareness and more. The value of a Jungian approach is that it encourages a Tarot reader to be aware of the multi-dimensional wealth of meaning in the cards, while allowing them to guide, honor and support a querent’s own wisdom and self-knowledge. You may want to read my other two posts on the Ace of Cups first. Part 1. Part 2

Druidcraft Ace of Cups

Druidcraft Tarot

 

First we have to ask: what is a Jungian approach to a symbol? Is it simply pointing out all the symbolic interpretations (see my earlier posts on the Ace of Cups) and mythological and cultural referents? From this point of view, I could begin with several quotes from Jung on the image of the cup and Grail: 

The bowl is a vessel that receives or contains, and is therefore female. It is a symbol of the body which contains the anima, the breath and liquid of life. CW18. p 121.

Vessel symbolism probably contains a pagan relic which proved adaptable to Christianity, . . . which secured for the Christian Church [in Mary] the heritage of the Magna Mater, Isis, and other mother goddesses. CW6 ¶ 398.

The aesthetic form of the symbol must appeal so convincingly to our feelings that no argument can be raised against it. For a certain time the Grail symbol clearly fulfilled these requirements, and to this fact it owed its vitality. CW6 ¶ 401.

The symbolism of the vessel has pagan roots in the “magic cauldron” of Celtic mythology. Dagda, one of the benevolent gods of ancient Ireland, possesses such a cauldron, which supplies everybody with food according to his needs or merits.  CW6 ¶ 401.

The Hermetic vessel, too, is a uterus of spiritual renewal or rebirth. This idea corresponds exactly to the text of the benedictio fontis [“blessed font”]. . . . We could take this water as the divine water of the [alchemical] art, since after the prima materia this is the real arcanum. . . . The water, or water of the Nile, had a special significance in ancient Egypt. . . A text from Edfu says: “I bring you the vessels . . . that you may drink of them; I refresh your heart that you may be satisfied.” CW13 ¶ 97.

 

german-15th-century-eucharist

“The healing cup is not unconnected with the “cup of salvation,” the Eucharistic Chalice, and with the vessel used in divination: This is the divining-vessel of Joseph and Anacreon. . . . The content is the water that Jesus changed into wine, and the water is also represented by the Jordan, which signifies the Logos, thus bringing out the analogy with the Chalice. Its content gives life and healing.” CW12 ¶ 551.

The water chalice is associated with the baptismal font, where the inner man is renewed as well as the body. This interpretation comes very close to the baptismal krater of Poimandres and to the Hermetic basin filled with nous [“mind, intellect”]. Here the water signifies the pneuma, i.e., the spirit of prophecy, and also the doctrine which a man receives and passes on to others.” CW11 ¶ 313,

Jung also writes of the alchemical water that “purifies everything and contains within itself everything (i.e., for the process of self-transformation)” – Jung’s parentheses. He continues with something apropos the dove on the Ace, “You must know that the art of alchemy is a gift of the Holy Spirit” CW18, p. 799.

 

Visconti-Sf Ace of Cups

We can see from these many references, and the ones in my other posts on the Ace of Cups, that this is an archetypal image: an archaic remnant of instinctual patterns of meaning in the human psyche that influences our psychology. Gathering all the mythic and artistic examples of the motif is called amplification.
Amplification is seeing what is behind an archetypal image or symbol, enlarging it so as to view it from different perspectives, restoring it to its original fullness to discover what kind of forces could be working in it.

However, is amplification the main or even true Jungian approach to Tarot? In fact, symbol amplification has a certain seductiveness in that we think that by gathering more and more examples of a motif, we’ll discover its true meaning.

Perhaps we need to start somewhere else. And this is what Jungian dream interpretation and active imagination does. My book, 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, details several Jungian-based tarot techniques, which are impossible to include in a single blog post.

When discussing dream interpretation we find Jung giving advice in what has become my favorite quote: 

 

“I have always said to my pupils: ‘Learn as much as you can about symbolism; then forget it all when you are analyzing a dream’,” CW18, p. 418. [Or a tarot reading!]

Jung elaborates on this elsewhere:

“True art is creation, and creation is beyond all theories. That is why I say to any beginner: learn your theories as well as you can, but put them aside when you touch the miracle of the living soul. Not theories but your creative individuality alone must decide,” CW17 ¶ 313.

 

MorganGreerAceOfCups

Morgan-Greer Tarot

This, to my mind, is the best advice for a Tarot reader. Learn as much as you can about Tarot and its history and symbolism, then forget it all when you are doing a reading. Actually, I would say, set it to one side in a space in your mind that will hold your associations ready as they are needed. Instead, embrace yourself as creative artist. Focus your attention and energies on touching “the miracle of the living soul” before you, which means using your intuition to guide querents into their own experience of the image, for only the person can ascertain the meaning(s) for themselves.

This brings us back to the Ace of Cups for it is up to the reader to become the container, the holder of energies for the associations and emotions of the querent. In a process similar to that in dream interpretation, I advocate being a mid-wife of the soul, assisting the querent to engage with the images on the card and bring their own wisdom to birth. I encourage personal associations that well-up from the unconscious while keeping them tethered to the cards in the spread. When tears or other subtle signs appear, know that emotions are activated that yield personal meaning. 

 

 

Georgina-Gibson

Georgina Gibson Ace of Cups

As tarot reader, I am also like the dove, bearing the cards in my beak, touching on the unconscious waters of the living soul. The lotus blossoms below are rooted in the deep mud, rising through the waters to bloom in the light of consciousness. They are the realizations that a querent takes home from a Jungian approach to a reading. What blossoms is a result both of the querent’s own conscious realizations and the greater patterns that point to that person’s own myth.

For Jung, meaning is a meeting of the soul “on its own ground, whenever we are confronted with the real and crushing problems of life” CW17, ¶ 81. Meaning is found in the creative confrontation with the opposites and the synthesis of the self into the scheme of creation—their personal myth (paraphrase from Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 338).  And, from The Myth of Meaning in the Work of C.G. Jung by Aniela Jaffé, we find that meaning is “a human interpretation or conjecture, a confession or a belief . . . created by consciousness, and its formulation is a myth” [no page number]. To summarize: meaning is a myth formulated by humans to answer the unanswerable. Jung frequently notes that meaning is present in an emotional response to an image.

 

“A great work of art [such as Tarot] is like a dream; for all its apparent obviousness it does not explain itself and is always ambiguous. . . . It [art/dream/tarot] presents an image in much the same way as nature allows a plant to grow, and it is up to us to draw conclusions. . . . To grasp its meaning, we must allow it to to shape us [to act upon us] as it shaped him [the artist]Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, p. 175.

 

Medieval Scapini Ace of Cups

Medieval Scapini Tarot

To do this, we may use word association, active imagination, dialog, and other interactive methods favored by Jungians. We may also want to be aware of the interplay of the parts of the psyche that have been activated or the stage of the alchemical process of individuation. However, in contrast to Jungian psychoanalysis, we keep the light of awareness focused  on and through the querent’s cards and question, to what they most need to hear at this time.

To be clear, there are times when you’ll want to amplify the images on a card: to compare the mythical and symbolic elements with a client’s circumstances. And, in some cases it is helpful to present querents with the archetypal aspects of their pattern and where it is headed as foreshadowed in associated myths. As Jung explained:

 

“This comparative work gives us a most valuable insight into the structure of the unconscious. You have to hand the necessary parallels to the patients too, not of course in such an elaborate way as you would present it in a scientific study, but as much as each individual needs in order to understand his archetypal images. For he can see their real meaning only when they are not just a queer subjective experience with no external connections, but a typical, ever-recurring expression of the objective facts and processes of the human psyche. By objectifying his impersonal images, and understanding their inherent ideas, the patient is able to work out all the values of his archetypal material. Then he can really see it, and the unconscious becomes understandable to him. Moreover, this work has a definite effect upon him. Whatever he has put into it works back on him and produces a change of attitude. CW18 ¶ 401.

Given the Jungian approach, there is no way I can tell you what meaning the Ace of Cups will have for an individual, as even for the individual it will vary over time. So, coming back to where I started with Marie Louise von Franz, I want to amplify just one aspect of this Ace of Cups image that may, at some point elucidate the soul’s work in a person. In The Psychological Meaning of Redemption Motifs in Fairytales, Marie-Louise von Franz writes:

“The Benedictio Fontis, baptism in the Church, represents the cleansing of the human being and his transformation into a new spiritual being. . . . On the Saturday before Easter the baptismal water is always blessed . . . by [the priest’s] making the sign of the cross over it. . . . It is said that the Holy Ghost will impregnate the water . . . so that out of this uterus of the divine font a new creature may be born,” p. 35.

Although any water may be used there is a special water used for Roman Catholic baptism called Easter Water. Traditionally it is blessed on the last Saturday of Lent, Holy Saturday, in a ritual where the paschal or Easter candle [an Ace of Wands!], representing Christ risen from the dead, is held in the water and the Holy Spirit is called upon, saying, “Wherever we may be, make the Holy Spirit present to us who now implore Thy mercy.” 

Von Franz explains:

“The light of the candle would represent the light of an understanding attitude, an enlightenment of the mind which now enters the unconscious and fertilizes it . . . handing back conscious understanding and truth to the unconscious from whence it came so that it may be increased in power and effect. There is also the union of the opposites—fire and water—and the result is a fiery water. The baptismal water of the Church is often called aqua ignita since it is said to contain the fire of the Holy Ghost,” p. 35-36.

 

Robin Wood Ace of Cups

Robin-Wood Tarot

So, while the querent may wax long and lovingly on their hopes for a new relationship or the beginnings of some work of the imagination, as a reader, I will be looking to the other cards in the spread to see where and how there may be an influx of grace in which the unconscious is ignited, impregnated and fertilized in preparation for a healing and spiritual renewal. Or, like mystic and Golden Dawn member, Evelyn Underhill, said of the related cup of the Eucharist, it bodes a Divine Presence and a movement toward Love.

Finally, in a Jungian approach to Tarot, a reader would be aware, when the Ace of Cups appears that, of Jung’s four functions, the Feeling Function is actively involved in the gestation of a new awareness. Among other possibilities, it may signal that the querent’s currently activated mode of consciousness centers around what feels pleasant or unpleasant to them, and so the reader might aid in making them more conscious of this.

A Jungian approach to Tarot requires quite a bit of reading and study, first to understand the Jungian “map of the psyche” (self, ego, anima/animus, shadow, etc.) and other concepts like individuation, the four functions and so on, and then to become familiar with the archetypes expressed through myth and symbol. However, it may be a relief to recognize that most people will find that a modern study of tarot will have already introduced them to many of the concepts and methods discovered and made popular by Jung.

______________________
I was initially inspired to write on the Ace of Cups in the Waite-Smith Tarot upon reading the Jungian analyst Marie-Louise von Franz’ The Psychological Meaning of Redemption Motifs in Fairytales. Von Franz was also the co-author with Jung’s wife, Emma Jung, of The Grail Legend, which I studied a lifetime ago for my M.A. in English.
See also:
Part 1: Waite’s Eucharistic Ace of Cups.
Part 2: Ace of Cups Symbolism.
Carl Jung on the Major Arcana
Carl Jung and Tarot
Note: CW refers to the Collected Works of C.G. Jung. They are listed here. A bibliography of Jung’s publications is here. A good starting point for Tarot readers on Jung is Man and His Symbols (get an o.p. hardcover if you can). A list of great books by “Jungians” that are applicable to tarot is very, very long.

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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

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