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.

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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.

 

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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.


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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.

This spring I am again involved in Magical Tarot tours of the British Isles. But I want to speak here about communing with the land, which we will focus on even more on this year’s journeys to “Sacred Scotland” and “Merlin’s Britain.” These are things you can do in your own community as well as sacred sites—a city park can be as good as a meadow or forest. Even buildings have their energies and stories. Your intention may be to gain knowledge about nature, the land or the place: past, present or future. Or you may be on a quest for personal insight. I’ll mention just a few of my favorite methods that can be used separately or together.

FINDING A POWER SPOT

Go to your place of engagement. 

mini waterfalls

With or without shoes, move slowly, with your intention in mind, using your breath to enter a meditative state of open awareness. 

Open all your senses and try to determine a flow or confluence of energies. This energy focus may be found in trees and plants or landmarks or even sounds or air flow. Some people use kinesiology, a pendulum or dowsing rods to assist them.

One time I was walking by a forest stream with many little waterfalls and found myself going back and forth until I came to the exact spot where all the ambient sounds seemed to join together equally in perfect balance and harmony. O Ecstasy of the spirit!

Step Pyramid

A second example was following a nighttime ritual inside the Egyptian Step Pyramid at Saqqara. Standing in the outer temple complex I walked around until I found myself triangulating a position at the juncture of the energies of the pyramid and two other structures. Once I found it, I looked up and the full moon was, just at that moment, cresting the top of the pyramid, resting on its point. When this kind of magic happens I quietly express my gratitude and try to enter into oneness with the place.

dowsing

Dowsing for Pamela Colman Smith’s grave in Cornwall

YOUR TAROT GUIDE

Take the Major Arcana from your favorite Tarot deck to a place that intrigues you. You’ll probably want an intention in mind. For instance, you may ask to be guided to a power spot or to receive information about the place or its history, or to get insight regarding a personal concern. Get comfortable. Select a Major Arcana card as your guide either randomly or by conscious choice. If in doubt, select the Hermit.

Gaze at your card until you can recreate it in your mind’s eye while speaking your intention. Close your eyes and breathe in the place while asking your guide to come to you. What appears in your mind’s eye may or may not look like a figure on the card. If it doesn’t, then ask if it is your Tarot guide or sent by your guide. Once a figure is affirmed, ask for guidance regarding this place or the knowledge you seek. Be sure to thank and release this guide and return fully from the parallel astral world in which you met.

NATURE AS ORACLE

communing with stone

Communing with the central Boscowen-un Stone

Select a special rock, piece of plant or wood, or other object (I’ve done this with trash found on my walks!). If possible, hold or touch this “other” and speak aloud. Describe it as thoroughly and objectively as you can—no metaphors or symbols—but rather colors, shape, texture, smell, even taste—all the concrete and subtle details. Next, describe its energy affect and attitude. Is it distant or welcoming? Open and yielding or harsh and inflexible? Whimsical or practical? Or some combination of things? Ask if you can enter into it (the “it” is now a “thou”) and, if you receive an affirmation, then become this other being, stretching or compressing yourself into all it’s nooks and crannies. Let your human self ask this nature-being your question and let it speak what it has to convey. Express your gratitude and remain a few moments in that place of emptiness that follows purpose, for the greatest gifts often reside there.

 

communing with roots

Diving deep into the roots of Avebury

Check out this video by Martin Shaw. Although a promo for his new book it is really an inspiration for walking the hills with consciousness. https://youtu.be/d0T7UP1U1Ts. Thank you, Carrie Paris.

I invite you to join me, Linda Marson of GlobalSpiritualStudies and Jamie George of Glastonbury’s Gothic Image Books and Tours on our special journeys this coming May. Register now to get special rates, information and view fabulous videos in the links below.

us at stonehenge

Tarot Magic in Sacred Scotland – 14 May to 23 May, 2018
Tarot Magic in Merlin’s Britain – 23 May to 1 June, 2018
London Workshops with Mary Greer and Linda Marson – 12 & 13 May, 2018
Linda Marson’s Tarot Nav: GPS for Life, courses
Interview with tour leader extraordinaire, Jamie George

What happened to the Visconti Devil cards since they are missing from every 15th century Tarocchi deck?

Early Devil

As other cards are missing from these decks I never gave it much thought until Ria Dimitra, the author of the 2006 supernatural romance novel Visconti Devilsinvited me to read her book. Her novel is an enjoyable, easy read about a modern Tarot artist who is intrigued by the mystery—why did none of the original, fifteenth century Renaissance Devil cards survive? There are no Tarot readings in her book, but the early history of the cards is well portrayed with no glaring errors, which is a remarkable feat in its own right.

Synchronistically, I had no sooner finished the book than I was perusing Andrea Vitali’s scholarly articles at LeTarot.it and read new evidence for the use, five centuries ago, of Tarot in witchcraft. I invite you to read what I wrote here about the 16th century Venetian witchcraft trials using the Devil card. Vitali’s article adds many interesting details (see first link at the end of this article).

It seems that when a lady wanted to satisfy a sinful lust or coerce an unresponsive gentleman, she knew it was inappropriate to appeal to Heaven and so she would make her appeal to the Devil, sometimes in the church itself. In a reversal of the regular prayers, the woman would place the Devil from the Tarot pack on a shelf “ass up,” with a lighted oil lamp having a wick from the bell cord of a church held upside down. Hands were to be clasp together behind the back making the “fig” gesture. With hair down, she would recite the “Our Father” for three consecutive nights. Sometimes blood and bones would be included and both hanged and ‘quartered’ men were called on.

convicted-heretic-before-the-inquisition-wearing-a-samarra-engraving-ew3n19

When caught, the punishments were relatively mild considering that these women could have been killed for their actions. Instead, their superstitious rites were seen more as a feminine weakness brought about through the sin of lust. One woman, Catena, was, among other indignities, publicly pilloried with a miter on her head (see the miter used as an indication of heresy in the picture on right). The miter was inscribed with a sign saying she was condemned as a witch (striga) for the magical use of herbs (herbera). This ironic use of the miter, usually worn by both bishops and pope, is reminiscent of the late 15th century Sermones de Ludo Cum Aliis (“Steele Manuscript”) in which La Papessa in the Tarot is described as “O miseri quod negat Christiana fides”: “O miserable ones, what [with respect to which] the Christian faith denies” (or, as several online translators offer, “O wretched that denies the Christian faith”).”

But, as to our opening question, there is no way we can know for sure what happened to the earliest Devil cards (if they even existed). However, it is interesting to speculate based on likely scenarios.

According to Vitali’s research it seems that Emilia “took a tarot card, and it was the devil, that she stole for the purpose.” It appears it may have been a requirement of this magic rite that the Devil card had to be stolen. Could this be why the Devil card and, perhaps a few of the other cards, are missing from all the earliest Tarot decks?

The use of images for invocation was common at this time, based on the belief that the image stood as a surrogate for the being depicted—that there was a direct physical connection between the image and its referent. Furthermore, early woodcut Tarot cards were produced in the same print shops as saints cards and may even, on occasion, have been substituted for each other. 

Girolamo Menghi in Flagellum daemonum (1577) recommended the physical and verbal abuse of images of the devil as an operative way of impacting evil spirits. Subsequent guides to exorcism followed Menghi’s lead, calling for the exorcist to draw or paint the devil’s portrait, along with his name, and then burn the paper. Such “exorcism by fire” evolved into the bonfires of vanities, especially at what was deemed the devil’s feast of Carnival. Fredrika H. Jacobs in Votive Panels and Popular Piety in Early Modern Italy further explains, “It was believed that the pain inflicted on the image was transferred to and experienced by the devil.”

Similarly, as we’ve seen from the court records in Venice, the devil could be invoked to grant wishes that were unworthy to be asked of the holy family or the saints. Invocations of entities through images by persons or in situations other than those ordained by the Church was regarded as superstition, witchcraft or heresy. 

Sola-Busca 3 of Sw

In the Visconti-Sforza (Pierpont-Morgan/Brera) deck only four cards are missing: The Devil, The Tower, Three of Swords and Knight of Coins. It’s easy to imagine a ritual invoking the Devil to punish the Knight of Coins with the desctructive Tower because of a betrayal or heartbreak depicted by the Three of Swords (see the Sola Busca deck on right).

What do you think?

 

For further details read:
“Tarot and Inquisitors: In the Serenissima and Trentino, between ‘witches’ and ‘Diabolical Priests'” by Andrea Vitali, translated from the Italian by Michael S. Howard.
“The Conjuration of the Tarrocco: A magic ritual in sixteenth-century Venice” by Andrea Vitali, translated from the Italian by Michael S. Howard.
“Tarot and Playing Cards in Witchcraft” by Mary K. Greer.
Votive Panels and Popular Piety in Early Modern Italy by Fredrika H. Jacobs.
Also read the following discussion of early evidence of divination with Tarot including ruminations on the subject by the translator Michael Howard:
“Il Torracchione Desolato: A card-reading sorceress in a poem of the XVIIth century” by Andrea Vitali, translated from the Italian by Michael S. Howard. 
 I highly recommend the numerous translations and articles by Michael S. Howard on historical Tarot. A directory to where they can be found is at: http://michaelshoward.blogspot.com. I am so grateful to him for all he has done to make Italian, French and out-of-print sources available to us all.

 

Tarot is a great way to help you discover fresh, new resolutions and perspectives on them. A New Year’s Resolution is an attempt to better oneself. The word comes from the Latin resolutionem, which is “the process of reducing things into simpler forms,” from a core, solvo, meaning “to loosen, untie, or free up.”

IMG_2785

You’ll need a little alone time, your Tarot deck and paper & pen (recommended) or a computer text app. The key is to keep it simple.

  1. Take a few minutes to breathe and think about what you really want to know and therefore how to phrase your question. What have you most recently been drawn to or are desiring or faced with? I realized that I had just been drawn to a TED Talk on organizing and perhaps that was a synchronous clue to what I should focus on. I also wanted my resolutions to be something truly achievable. My question ended up being: “What resolutions are most possible for me to follow and will make 2018 better organized and fulfilling?” Write down your exact question.
  2. Shuffle and cut the deck while focusing on your question. Draw five cards to represent up to five resolutions (whatever number feels right to you), placing them any way you wish on the table. I will assume 5.
  3. Write down the titles of all five cards with plenty of room between each for your comments.
  4. Focusing on keywords and the symbols that jump out at you, quickly write down the very first meanings that come to mind for each card. Write fast. Don’t critique this.
  5. Next, pay attention to what the card literally suggests. For negative cards, look at them as soul tasks, for instance, the 5 of Cups might suggest looking at your failures, mistakes and losses (the three spilled cups) and then considering what remains for you to pick up and do (the two upright cups behind). The Tower might suggest throwing things out or letting yourself explode or get angry. So, even negative cards can suggest areas of focus.
  6. As you do this, note what concerns of the past few months are related to these things. I get spontaneous images or “snapshots” that flash through my mind as I’m writing and are quickly forgotten if I don’t note them down with a brief reminder. For the 5 of Wands as I wrote, “Speak my mind even if it is to disagree with others,” I also got a mental “snapshot” of a friend whose work I feared to critique. I wrote down that friend’s name as a reminder.
  7. Note also certain themes that are repeated by more than one card. For instance, I had several cards that spoke of finishing and completing things. Flesh out your thoughts relating to each card and to the connections among them.
  8. Lay down one more card on each of the five previous cards (for a total of 10 cards). The new card in each pair will make clear a particular situation or area where your resolution can take place. For instance, my first card, the Hermit suggested completing (it’s a Nine) projects involving research and study (looking deeply using my lamp of knowledge). My second card was the 8 of Swords which made me think of researching procrastination and truly dealing with how I tie myself up with inaction (see illustration at top). The Hermit also spoke of integrity, which linked with the 5 of Wands and speaking my true mind despite opposing views—something I had been procrastinating about.

By the time I finished looking at all ten cards, I had a pretty good idea of five thematic resolutions plus five specific situations where I could apply their advice, plus I could see how several of them were pieces of a bigger issue.

I discourage drawing extra cards, such as for obstacles or for what will result if you do or don’t do these things (although you will add whatever cards feel right). For the time being, I suggest focusing on the five major areas you are resolved to put energy into and what situations are prime places for doing this. Keep what you’ve written about these cards accessible and review it frequently. During the year create new spreads to help you work more on your resolutions—especially as new situations turn up. This is when spread positions about overcoming obstacles and setting concrete objectives can come in handy.

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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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