Among the Tarot cards determined by adding the numbers in your birth date, I find most intriguing the Constellation of the Emperor, which consists of the Major Arcana cards whose numbers add up to four: the Emperor (4), Death (13 = 1+3=4), and the Fool (the un-numbered 22nd card of the Majors; 2+2=4). Many people don’t include the Fool in this set. I made the decision to do so based on teaching stories such as King Lear, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and the Sufi Nasruddhin tales, etc. In the Greek play, Oedipus Rex a young man, while running away from home, kills a King at a crossroads. In fairy tales it is often the youngest, most foolish son who ends up solving a problem, killing a monster, and marrying the princess to become the king.

When the power of an established ruler is subverted by madness or the situation becomes untenable by his becoming a puppet or tyrant, it becomes apparent that what is ruling us must die. The result may be a new king or a return to an original state of innocence: both are major themes of this Constellation.

These cards depict the principle of life force and realization of power. The constellation encompasses the poles of birth and death and the step between: of manifesting oneself on the physical plane. The Emperor is the hallmark of reason and logic. He seeks to own, build and do things that have a lasting impact. Death is the necessity to release and let go for there to be renewal. It cuts away whatever is stagnant or no longer truly vital and alive. The Fool is the soul freed from all constraints. It is said that a new way of perceiving the world never fully takes hold until all adherents to the old way have died.

IN THE MINOR ARCANA FOURS the 4 of Wands points out that community involves rites of passage for each stage/season of life. The 4 of Cups tells us we need to awaken to life’s hidden gifts to relieve stagnation. The 4 of Swords says to stay true to our dreams through stress and afflictions. And the 4 of Pentacles reminds us that true stability is about moving from our center (core, chi, hara) rather than holding fast to material things.

A recent music video provides a modern perspective on this age-old theme by including the Emperor, Fool and Death in a powerful archetypal story.

The music video, “Daechwita” was written, performed and produced by Min Yoongi aka Suga aka Agust D of the Kpop group BTS. It is based on a Korean historical tale that is a perfect expression of the Emperor/Fool constellation. Synchronistically the MV was released on May 22, 2020 – double 22s! Also of significance: the MV refers to Carl Jung’s theory of the Persona, Ego and Shadow, for two of BTS’s recent albums were based on Jung’s “Map of the Soul” (see the book by Murry Stein).

Furthermore, Min Yoongi, in his BTS Persona Suga, in a solo for the second Jung-based album, sang “Interlude: Shadow.”

He sings, “I want to be rich, I want to be famous, I want to be the King” while also claiming, like the Fool, “My leap can be my fall,” just like the Fool who leaps from a cliff edge.

He sings, “I want to be rich, I want to be famous, I want to be the King.” While claiming, like the Fool, “My leap can be my fall.”

Regarding the recent explosion of BTS on the world stage, Suga explained that he aspired to reach the 12th floor [of fame] only to find himself on the 60th floor. “The moment I’m flying high as I wished, my shadow grows larger, beat down upon by that light. Please don’t let me shine. Don’t let me down. Don’t let me fly.”

The other song I want to talk about is Daechwita by Agust D: a rap song and cinematic music video, direct by Yoongi, based on the story of King Gwanghae as portrayed in the S Korean film, Masquerade, and the 2019 TV Kdrama, The Crowned Clown. Daechwita means “procession of the King” from words referring to the wind and percussion folk instruments used in royal and military parades. The music video set is one famously used in many historical dramas featuring a real palace and an historically recreated town.

In this story King Gwanghae fears assassination and so murders all his rivals ushering in a reign of terror. He searches for a body double who can take his place if needed. An exact double is found in a peasant street comedian who has been using his resemblance to make fun of the king. The king is poisoned or goes mad and, while recovering, the double takes the place of the King, “the clown with this face is playing as this country’s ruler.” This fool commits himself to be used as bait to bring out the traitors and eventually to die in place of the real king,“If a clown is picky about making his move, that’s the same thing as dying.” But he proves to be a compassionate ruler who truly cares for the people.

In Daechwita Agust D appears as a dark-haired peasant or slave (a Fool) walking through the street and briefly stopping to talk with a butcher at a stall. The scene cuts to the courtyard of the palace and a white-haired tyrant (a King) who raps as he leaps on the backs of prostrate subjects. Both the fool and the king have a scar running down the right eye making it clear that Agust D is both characters. The King is killing his subjects and we see three bagged heads on display that may represent the Korean entertainment companies that kept BTS off the airwaves and mistreated them publicly. (BTS has now achieved world recognition greater than any prior Asian celebrities.) But where does that leave the pure, innocent and very idealistic underground rapper who headed off to Seoul (Soul) to follow his dream of making his mark in music in the face of the overwhelming odds against him?

As we look further we see that a Jungian interpretation helps to elucidate the Birth Card constellation. It portrays the inner battle among the various parts of oneself. The Fool, ironically, is Agust D’s innocent yet rebellious Self. While the King, who was meant to be a public Persona of rulership and success, becomes a Shadow-self who descends into madness.

As the King becomes a dangerously tyrannical Shadow-figure surrounded by dragon imagery and severed heads, we see the Fool as an endangered Ego. In fact, Min Yoongi comes from a very poor family yet is included in the formal list of direct descendants of the last queen of Korea. He then debuted with an upstart entertainment company that had no resources and was shunned by most media outlets: “Born a slave but now a King.” Like King Gwanghae, who began as a warrior, Yoongi had to overcome struggles with family, disapproving underground rappers, and haters before achieving success. “Rags to riches, that’s the way I live.”

The only girl in the video gives the peasant-rebel a key to a car. She is Jung’s idea of an Anima or inspiratrix/muse and also represents the BTS fans known as ARMY. She supports and encourages him by giving him the key to his destiny and access to his personal development, i.e., the Individuation Process. A sign above has a quote from Confucius: “a classical scholar doesn’t value treasure,” reminding Agust D of the value of knowledge over riches as in the 4 of Pentacles. But his dream turns into a nightmare through the tyrant King: “The Shadow is born out of light” (fame’s shadow grows as the spotlight becomes brighter).

The Peasant is imprisoned and condemned to death by the murderous King: “Who’s the King who’s the Boss. Everyone knows my name.” This scene shows Agust D bound and blindfolded like the figure in the 8 of Swords.

The tension between the idealistic Yoongi, who had to choose between eating or bus fare, and the famous Suga who flies the world in chartered plans and plays to multiple sold out nights in the world’s largest stadiums, is huge but comes at a cost, “my growing shadow swallows me and becomes a monster.” He fears he will forget who he really is, so Yoongi invents yet another Persona in addition to Suga: Agust D, to remind him of his true passion for music with roots in hip hop and rap.

The executioner (who was the butcher in the marketplace), a revolutionary co-conspirator, is an aspect of Yoongi’s growing consciousness which frees him from prison and death. Yoongi has talked frankly about his own issues with depression and social anxiety. In the lyrics he says he’s putting his past in a rice chest – a reference to a mad prince who was killed by his father by being confined in a rice chest until he starved to death. “I trap the past in a rice chest. I’ll take mine and eat them all.” So Agust D vows to consume his own past trauma and live.

At the moment of death the Executioner frees the Peasant/Fool who rises up against tyranny and shoots the King with an antique pistol known as a “Colt ARMY” (BTS’s fans are called ARMY).

But it isn’t really that simple, for the song “Interlude: Shadow” concludes with the voice of the Shadow,

“Yeah, I’m you and you’re me, do you get it now? We’re one body, and sometimes we will crash. You will never be able to take me off of you, you get it, right?…Success or failure, wherever you are, you can’t escape, wherever you go.”

At this point it is essential to remember that BTS stands for “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” and, as their early performances of “We Are Bulletproof” depict, they can’t be killed by mere bullets shot by haters.

From a Jungian standpoint the Shadow is not to be killed off. It is an essential part of the Self. A key task of consciousness (the Ego) is to bring the Persona and Shadow (the ideal and repressed selves) into relationship as is beautifully pictured in “Interlude: Shadow”.

For now Min Yoongi has achieved success and has everything he previously desired, yet he still experiences the post-passion let down (Korean Hunyta or Shakespeare’s “little death”) in which one wonders “is that all there is” before picking himself back up and doing what he does best—making music.

For those wanting to understand this Constellation, we see the death of the old King and crowning of the new King in the ever changing cycles of our lives—”The King is dead; long live the King!” We sometimes talk about earlier stages of life as our “past lives” acknowledging that they ran their course until graduation, a move, a marriage or divorce or pandemic ended one way of being and we stepped off a cliff into a new unknown. One of the lessons here is that it is not about being either the Fool or the Emperor but rather about keeping both in our lives: the crazy Fool leaping into the unknown and the responsible King restricting freedom with rules and boundaries in a constant cycle of lives and deaths.

Given the ‘Storming of the U.S. Capitol’ on January 6, 2021 – a day after I posted this – I can’t avoid the current political dimensions of this archetypal theme. Culturally speaking Trump is the mad King. We have so many candidates for the role of Fool, among which are the comic talk-show hosts who regularly point out that Trump is wearing no clothes: his “Big Lie” (there is no widespread election fraud, among all the other lies). Washington D..C. erupts in violence and five die, marking the end of Trump’s tenure in office. Meanwhile 3,500 people are dying per day in the U.S. alone from COVID.

Here’s Suga in Times Square, optimistically counting down New Year’s 2020 shortly before the global pandemic hit, reminding us all that death is closer than we think. We currently rely on restrictions and laws to keep us safe while we stand on the cliff edge of a new world.

My friend, John Irving, is currently flying medical planes within the Navajo Nation that’s being devastated by COVID-19. I asked him to send me his story that I could post here to let people know what is actually going on. It’s just one story from the midst of this crisis. I want to add that John has been the chief pilot for heads of state as well as flying humanitarian missions around the world both professionally and personally, for instance to bring survival supplies to remote areas ravaged by floods or earthquakes. He’s one of the most caring people I know, who acts immediately to help those in need wherever they are. From this point on I’ll let John tell his story.

JOHN IRVING: I first started doing humanitarian flights in Alaska in 1976. One type of flight was taking Alaska State alcoholism counselors to native villages devastated by alcoholism. Frequently, after an emergency call-out, we would find all adults and teenagers in a village drunk and/or unconscious with children outside (exposed to the elements), kids who had not been fed for days. I also flew typical medevac flights in both helicopters (from oil platforms and fishing boats) and in airplanes.

Now I fly single-engine air ambulances for Guardian Flight, one of more than a dozen air ambulance companies owned by Global Medical Response (GMR). GMR operates ground and air ambulances in 40 states. In Gallup, New Mexico we normally have two Swiss-made single turbine-engine PC-12s, a twin engine Beech King Air 90C and one helicopter, all serving the Navajo and Zuni nations.

Now, during the corona virus pandemic about 80% of our flights are with Covid-19 patients, flying them from regional clinics and small hospitals on the reservation to larger hospitals in Albuquerque, Phoenix, Tucson and near El Paso.  

Covid-19 is slamming the Native reservations at a rate 3.5 times the rate of America in general.  This is a higher rate than even that suffered by America’s black and Hispanic communities.  

The reasons for this high rate of infection and death are simple.  Many American Natives suffer from diabetes, obesity, alcoholism, heart disease and respiratory problems, all of which increase the probability of getting Covid-19.  Social distancing is anathema in cultures where traditionally multiple generations live in a single dwelling, eat communally and care for each other instinctively.  Many of the homes on the reservation do not have running water.  Instead, they have an outside hand-pump.  This makes regular hand-washing difficult or impossible.  Many of these families live hours from the nearest medical facility, so often their illness is quite advanced before they go to a clinic or hospital.

We hear so little about the dire situation on the Navajo and other Native reservations because mainstream America has for centuries, paid little heed to the suffering of our poorer brown and black citizens.

Recently, many teen-age and young-adult Navajos and Zunis are collaborating in doing wellness-checks and bringing food, water, and sanitation supplies to elders who live alone.

Normally Gallup, New Mexico is the busiest air-ambulance base in the United States.  With the explosion of Covid-19, GMR has added 30 medical crew-members and seven addition air ambulances to the ‘four-corners’ region (New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado & Utah) occupied by the Navajo Nation.  This has made us much more responsive to the requests for emergency medical transport from the regional clinics and hospitals.

On a typical 12-hour shift I will fly two Covid-19 patients and one non-Covid patient from Gallop or one of the reservation airstrips, to an airport near a major hospital facility.  Typically I am in the air less than 30 minutes after being called out.  If the patient is local, I will prepare the aircraft readying it for the patient, while the clinical crew (nurse & paramedic) go to the hospital, assume the medical care of the patient, then bring the patient by ambulance to the airport.  If the patient is at a remote location, we will fly together to the nearest airport and operate from there.

With the Covid-19 patients, the pilot, nurse and paramedic are all wearing full personal-protective-equipment while loading the patient into the air ambulance, during the entire flight, unloading the patient into the ground ambulance and then to the receiving hospital.

While my clinical crew rides in the ground ambulance with the patient to the hospital, I will use spray alcohol and sterilizing wipes to thoroughly disinfect the aircraft; then I’ll drive a van to the hospital to take my crew back to the airport for our next mission.

The other night I had a singular honor.  My patient was a 100-year-old Navajo Code Talker; one of the great heroes of WW2.  He had served in the Pacific when my two uncles were there.  He was bright, funny and flirtatious with our medic who is 75 years younger than he is.  I am delighted to tell you we got him to the hospital in time and now he is well and back home with his family near Fort Defiance, Arizona.

Regularly, while flying back to base, Air Traffic Control will pass on a request from our dispatch center, asking us to divert to different airport for our next patient.  My normal shift is 12 hours, 12 off, but 16-hour days or nights are not unusual.

Best regards,
Capt. John Irving CEO, Drone Surveys & Reports, LLC

If you leave a message for John in the comments I’ll make sure he gets it.

How to write from your heart with tarot:

Breathe (ground/center if applicable).

Connect with your future reader (including if you will be your only reader). Try to get a specific image in mind and open your heart to that person(s)—real or imaginary.

Begin your writing with where you are right now at this moment, being as concrete and present as possible (even if you will edit this out later).

State your intention (even though you may find yourself going elsewhere in your writing).

– At this point, if not before, draw a tarot card from your shuffled deck. It may serve as the focus or direction for your next bit of writing or simply confirm it. Use keywords and imagery suggested by the card. To what thoughts, emotions, memories or desires does this card bring you? Integrate your reaction immediately as an integral part of what you are writing. Try to keep writing rather than pondering the meaning of the card.

Breathe. Keep writing.

Draw a new card whenever you come to a new phase or turning point in your writing. (I tend to draw around 5 cards for around 500 words/2 pages, but it could be more or less.) Just don’t let this distract you from your writing. You have to commit to be honest about whatever comes up.

– At the end, ask if there is any last message or thing you need to know or include.

– Take a moment to experience gratitude for what you’ve been through in this process.

Optional Spread: line up the cards you drew and examine them as you would a spread. You might want to do this the next day or even later.

Examples:

I draw the 10 of Cups and mention the joy and responsibilities of family. The 9 of Wands are my defenses: I need to reveal what and why I initially held back. The Moon has me writing about emerging from an underworld journey through depression, which I probably would not otherwise have acknowledged. You may find yourself using metaphors arising from a card’s imagery.

Try using this method when writing a review or a paper for school or blog post or a letter/email to a friend.

The cards can push you beyond your comfort zone but isn’t that what writing from the heart is really about? Magic is moving beyond the limits or boundaries of our everyday experience.

The best way to understand the historical roots of the tarot is to visit Northern Italy and see the actual sources for the imagery. There is no way I can duplicate the wonderful job Katrina Wynne did of telling the story of our Italy Tarot Trip this October so I’m sending you to her page. Enjoy the journey and photos of our amazing journey on Katrina’s Transformative Tarot Counseling blog.

Here’s a few additional photos to wet your appetite for Katrina’s post.

Read the rest of this entry »

“Lights” is the newest music video from the phenomenally popular South Korean K-pop group, BTS. Its main theme is the question “What is love?” to which there is a response: “your Light lights the way for me . . . no matter how far apart we are.” If you haven’t heard of BTS you are probably over 25. Please scroll to the bottom for more background on who they are. 

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_59be

L-R: V/Kim Tae-Hyung, Suga/Min Yoon-Gi, Jin/Kim Seok-Jin, RM/Kim Nam-Joon, JHope/Jung Ho-Seok. Bottom: JK/Jungkook/Jeon Jeong-Guk, Jimin/Park Ji-Min.

In addition to expressing their extraordinary talents, highly developed skills, and social consciousness, their works are filled with heart-felt messages mixed with complex symbolism that I appreciate based on my over 50 years as a Jungian-based tarot reader and symbol interpreter. 

As others have noted there are so many levels of meaning to the song and video “Lights.” If you can’t see the English subtitles in the video, be sure to turn on CC (closed caption). Please watch.

Whether consciously intended or not, the movie theatre depicts Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Only instead of viewing reflections on the wall we have the modern analogy of viewing a film being projected. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_5c41This leads to the question: What is Reality? Plato said we are limited to perceiving existence through our senses, which can easily be misled.

The Allegory of the Cave

In Plato’s allegory, prisoners are chained in a cave so they only see images projected on a wall formed by statues moved in front of a fire, and they hear only echos from sounds made by those moving the statues. They think these illusions are reality. One of the prisoners escapes and, coming out of the cave, first perceives reality as shadows, then as reflections in a pool, then stars and moon, and finally the sun. This is the role of the philosopher who must subsequently return to the cave to free the other prisoners. Unfortunately, as his eyes are now accustomed to the sun, the philosopher can’t see in the dim light of the cave, so the other prisoners think his explanation of the true reality is crazy and kill him. This video presents a more hopeful view of humanity connected through sound and light internalized. Read the rest of this entry »

This tarot reading addresses a particular piece of music and its composer/lyricist, however it is not necessary to be familiar with the work. I wrote the article to demonstrate how tarot cards can add insight and dimension to any project or experience. It helps you think outside the box and consider the deeper significance, inner ramifications and choices available in any situation. I originally intended to read from a Jungian point of view, but, lacking a dialog with Agust D regarding what he sees in the tarot images, that seemed overly invasive and not respectful. I truly want this to be an honoring of this amazing rap artist, while trying to understand more deeply what he is expressing in Korean but that I hear only in translation (yet isn’t everything a translation and projection?). I will be addressing the reading directly to the public voice (Persona) in this piece.

In doing this kind of reading, spread position meanings are derived completely from the situation itself and can specify particular things you want to examine or they can be open-ended like, “7 Things  I Need to Know” (or to include or to consider). Try it for examining a dream, a text, a project or a life situation.

c6%pjwDCQs6zAwQEXXdZVA_thumb_59f0In this primarily-solo rap album Min Yoongi (BTS stage name Suga) is showing one of the many sides of himself—songwriter and soloist Agust D (which is the reversed spelling of DT (Daegu-Town) SUGA. The album speaks primarily of his painful yet determined evolution from small-town rapper to international idol.

In an autobiographical storyline, Min Yoongi, from a poor family in Daegu, South Korea, leaves home to get into the music business in Seoul. He describes the hardships he goes through after leaving behind the “fried rappers” to become a pop idol: “I slept less and moved more than all of you.” (Even now he describes his days as eat, sleep, work.) In the process the hometown “Min Yoongi” dies off as these other Personas are born. (Persona is a Jungian term for the social mask(s) one wears in order to fit in.) However, in finding success he discovers that “behind the famous idol rapper stands my weak self / it’s a little dangerous” and he wonders, while admitting to contemplating suicide, if the depressed, compulsive self is “the real me.”

[The members of the K-pop group, BTS, have been very outspoken about their emotional anxieties, depression, fears and failures in an effort to bring self-understanding and love to South Korea’s highly-pressured and suicide-prone youth. BTS are also very much into the psychology of Carl Jung.]

If the rap at the beginning is too heavy for you, jump to minute 15:37 or later as the storyline evolves (but you’ll miss how it all develops).

I created the spread positions after listening to the album for the first time, using the themes and refrains that stuck with me most. For instance, Agust D says, “I always prepare two masks” — so I started with two Personas. I drew the cards, then went back to the album to pick up quotes and refine my initial interpretations. [From this point on I’ll address most of my comments directly to Agust D/Suga/Yoongi with a few clarifications for my readership.

The question to the Tarot is, “What do I, Agust D, most need to know?”

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1-Persona: Agust D – 4 of Wands

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_mini_3654This card, depicting a harvest celebration, is about completion. It could show both an arriving and a leaving. We see the fruits of one’s labor and people dancing and welcoming on the far side of a gateway. Doing this album is a completion of a cycle, a rite of passage for Agust D. You are stepping over a threshold into a wider world of success and recognition (welcomed with laurels by the fan group, ARMY) but not before looking back at your roots. Agust D is the role you assume when doing the album that is a compilation of your rap name and your BTS name. The 4 of Wands declares it to be a transition piece, just as the name you used is a transition name. As a four it suggests establishing a firm base for future creative (Wands) endeavors.


2-Persona: Suga – 9 of Wands

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_mini_365d.jpg[Suga is his BTS stage name.] On this card we see suspicion, weariness and the expectation of difficulties from the “haters”.
“I show the defensive side, hiding my true self.” But, like an old soldier, there’s also strength of character developed through training and discipline.
As a nine (which refers to the 9-Hermit card) you find that independence of thinking can be isolating, but it also yields the courage to stand up for your beliefs and convictions. The head bandage indicates your past wounding that you carry with you, even in the Suga Persona. It is Suga who admits “My address is idol, I won’t deny it.” Being an idol brings with it a lot of attacks along with the responsibility of those depending on you.


3-Dream: 6 of Pentacles reversed

unadjustednonraw_thumb_362b.jpgThe 6 of Pentacles depicts the “haves” and the “have nots.” The Dream is the achievement of the seemingly impossible and that all the hardships, represented by the beggars, will be over. “It sucks to not know what to do with your life.” Given the card’s reversal, instead of being content with a little, the Dream is about imagining the improbable and going for it. There is an early refrain of, “Give it to me – money, fame, anything’s alright.” So the card refers to reversing one’s fortunes, to not be a beggar at life’s table. Near the end of the album you directly speak to Dream in a formal prayer/invocation style: “Dream, May you be treated warmly wherever you may be. May you be in full bloom at the end of these hardships.” Dream responds in kind, ending with, “I will be with you at the birth and end of your life. Your beginnings are humble, so may your future be prosperous.”
Also, this card may refer to giving away the album for free.


4-The Piano: Queen of Swords reversed

unadjustednonraw_thumb_3623.jpg[This position actually refers to a separate Suga solo piece: “First Love,” in which he names a brown piano as his childhood companion. it is alluded to late in this album but occurred to me right away as I was planning the spread positions.]
When upright, the Queen of Swords is the divorced or widowed woman. When reversed she indicates ‘No judgment’. Thus the piano represents unconditional acceptance. So, this reversal says that you can never divorce the piano (or the music), and it won’t leave you. It’s the place where you can let your guard down. With the piano you can control grief and resist sorrow. Being reversed the woman appears to look into the past and so points to childhood’s mother issues. It might reference the rejection of your dream by your parents as part of what has made you you.


5-“So Far Away”: 7 of Wands reversed

unadjustednonraw_mini_365b.jpgThis is a repeating phrase referring back to the dream. When upright the card is about overcoming the odds against you as the man fends off the objections of others with his stick; when reversed it is turned more inward. Focusing all your energy on developing your talent you originally cut yourself off from home and developed a social phobia as a way to fend off disapproval of your choices and poverty. Barricades allow time and space for reflection, but “my arrows miss the target of human connection.” Despite “the wall I built in front of myself,” you cry, “Don’t abandon me.” Connection is not as far as it seems. Anger and aggression can be overcompensation for perceived vulnerability. Perhaps it’s time to tear down the walls that keep you far away. As the title/theme of the final song it strikes a positive note heralding the removal of defenses, walls, and barriers between people. It may also indicate how far you’ve already come from the negativity of those who thought your dreams were crazy.


6-Greed: The Chariot

sgwyhe3krscum7zsxyteyw_thumb_366b.jpgYour desire to make it big was a kind of greed that got you moving. “I thought I better get out of Daegu.” Greed is like a vehicle you ride to success. Greed is also the charioteer: “The greed that . . . devours and sometimes collars me.” “Hungry for money” to pay for classes and living expenses (10 people living in 2-rooms) you got a delivery job–running non-stop from dawn to dusk. The Chariot suggests the real greed is for victory, mastery. It becomes the vehicle to one’s destiny. The armor worn by the charioteer is like the masks worn to protect your most vulnerable self. In a delivery accident you crushed your shoulder, seen as the moons on the shoulders of the Chariot. You told no one so as not to be dropped, proclaiming instead, “See me in one year . . . on TV.”


7-Real Success: 6 of Wands reversed

unadjustednonraw_mini_3651.jpgUpright we see a leader and his followers. The reversal of this card of leadership and success seems to point to a holding back from taking on these roles in BTS. Agust D/Suga may have the potential to be a front-line dancer and to perfect singing skills. But you have chosen mostly not to step into leadership roles. Is this from weakness or is it a path chosen in order to focus and develop other parts of yourself like supportive producing skills? It’s been said that you don’t push for bigger parts in the BTS songs so I tend to think it’s the latter. We see fear of the success that greed brings, “The monster named success that I traded my youth for, he wants more wealth.” This card suggests that true success is not found in rising from the bottom to the top. You might be asking, “How is success like a Trojan Horse, how is it transitory or ultimately defeating?”


8-Depression and Loneliness: 8 of Swords

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_3640.jpgLike the figure who is bound and blindfolded, the big question here is “How does this tie you up and hamper your progress?” The Swords behind the figure represent a mental condition, a state of mind, and therefore beliefs and opinions that keep you hemmed in and feeling weak. The feet are free; you could walk away, but instead you sabotage yourself. What core beliefs imprison you? In the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, from which this deck came, this is a card of initiation, reflecting the state early in the ritual in which you are admonished to “Quit the Night and seek the Day.” It is really about the potential of insight gained when there is seemingly no way out.


9-Fans, Friends, Family: Temperance reversed

unadjustednonraw_thumb_3660.jpgI call the figure on this card ‘the Healing Angel.’ Ultimately it is about compassion, while the reversal points to imbalance or perceived conflicts. The reversal indicates you must first find inner compassion for yourself. Lines such as: “Passion died and comparing myself to others became my daily life,“ and “I don’t even know myself so who can know me,” say you have trouble accepting the healing and love of others, hiding behind words like “I don’t give a shit.” Suga is sometimes referred to as the angel of the group, but Agust D can’t see himself that way. Instead he declares, “If my misfortune is your happiness then I’ll be unfortunate” (ties back to the imagery of the 6 of Pentacles reversed). It’s interesting that this card of healing ends up in the bottom row that depicts, literally, the most wounding. It also indicates that true healing comes from within, “My pride that said I sold out has now become self-respect.”
Temperance is also a card of creativity – the ability to combine different things into something new: “The roots of my creativity has tasted the sweet, bitter, and shit of this world.” You are able to share this healing mix with others. You say to fans, friends, family, “Sorrow created me, look at me closely,” Ask yourself, “What stops me most from healing and accepting friendship?


It is the Suga Persona (in spread position 2) who recognizes in the Nine of Wands (that refers back to The Hermit card) that “I’m the cause of all these issues, so I’ll stop on my own.” Only you can walk away from whatever limits you as in the 8 of Swords.

Wands is your strongest suit indicating you are driven by your creative desires. Two Sword cards show of your difficulties that are more mental. The sole Pentacle is in the central “Dream” position suggesting by its reversal that material rewards are not really what the dream is about. The final two cards are from the Major Arcana or Trump suit, showing how you triumph. They describe harnessing or combining your opposing “sides” and resources in light of your highest purpose (the Star and the Sun that crown each figure). There are no Cups reflecting the lack of personal connection experienced at this stage of the journey, however the final song appears to herald a change in this.

Have fun with tarot this summer at the Omega Institute “Masters of Tarot Conference” in Rhinebeck, New York, July 19-21.

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Then deepen your experience by staying on for Rachel and Mary’s 5-day “Wisdom of the Tarot” workshop July 21-26. Discount available if you register for both.

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Emily Dickinson as HP

I recently stumbled across a web article on Pixie Smith that makes me want to stop the presses of Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story and add it as an appendix. Then I was delighted to discover that the author, Thea Wirsching, is creating a new deck, The American Renaissance Tarot, with artist Celeste Pille, based on esoterically-inclined religious influences in early 19th c. American literature (bios). PCS fits into this obliquely as an American artist (living in England) whose Colman-side grandparents were publishers and prominent Swedenborgians and who created an esoteric tarot that became America’s most iconic deck. In addition to fleshing out some of Pixie’s notable ancestors and making the point of just how thoroughly she emerged out of a lineage of early American ‘royalty,’ Wirsching examines the difficult issue of Smith’s racial appropriation of Jamaican folklore and patois

In addition to Emily Dickinson, the Major Arcana of this deck includes figures such as Thoreau, Emerson, Walt Whitman, the Fox sisters and Margaret Fuller. An entire suit is dedicated to Poe and another to Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter). Wirsching’s blog includes examples of the kind of depth of analysis you’ll find for each card. This deck belongs among other great decks that not only serve as divinatory devices but also contain teachings of cultures and cultural artifacts, that bring us insight into the human condition, such as the Matthews’ Arthurian Tarot and Celtic Wisdom Tarot or Diane Wilkes’ Tarot of Jane Austen and Ed Buryn’s The William Blake Tarot of the Creative Imagination. These decks introduce us to and, indeed, educate us in areas to which we might not have otherwise paid that much attention.

Wirsching and Pille are planning on completing the deck and book this year and are currently looking for a publisher or alternative publishing option. At this point, you can help subsidize the artist’s expenses by buying a print.

In the blog article on Pamela Colman Smith, Wirsching, an astrologer and a professor of American literature, praises the recent biography of Smith (which I co-wrote) recounting her SQUEEE reaction. She goes on to explore “the complicated history of colonial privilege and racial appropriation,” claiming these speak to “the fundamental Americanness of Pamela Colman Smith.” This is a discussion that deals with the very issues that are confronting us (forever anew) in the world today, especially as Smith is being claimed as a woman of color on so many websites and in social media. A part of me wishes it were so, however the facts of her life make it near impossible.

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Smith’s grandfather, mayor of Brooklyn and a NY state senator.

With humor and extensive knowledge of early American history, Wirsching explains how Smith’s ancestors on both sides were among the earliest and most prominent in America:  “the first Smith on that side of her family arrived in the colonies in the 1630s, and another direct relative in the Smith line was purportedly felled by witchcraft – that crazy fad that spread through New England in the late 17th century,” and “Pixie Smith’s Colman ancestors . . . were actively engaged in establishing the character of American art and letters in the nation’s early period.” I learned so much about her ancestors than I hadn’t known before, in what rivals a captivating episode of PBS’s “Finding Your Roots.”

Wirsching then gets to her real concern. While “culture has always been and always will be syncretic, formed by the “mixing together” of discrete traditions,” she also claims, “we can view Smith’s West Indian performances as a type of minstrelsy . . . if someone wanted to dismiss her as a culturally appropriating black impersonator, they could.” Ah, there’s the rub! Unable to give a settled opinion on this, Wirsching manages to present us with one of the most thoughtful explorations of this conundrum that is so in our faces today. I highly recommend reading this article in its entirety.

I want to briefly explore Pixie’s cultural appropriation of Anancy (Anasi), the spider-trickster originating in Ghana who became a central figure of Jamaican folklore: He was associated with skill and wisdom in speech (wikipedia) and with the kind of selfish cunning and deception that oppressed slaves needed to outwit the white man, just as spider required trickery to outwit tiger. The Jamaica.com site includes this interview with a Jamaica youth:

“But the way I learnt Anancy, I knew Anancy as a child, and it was a joy-y-y! We loved to listen to the stories, we loved to hear about this little trickify man, and you know, and one thing we knew, that this man was magic, and we could never be like him. You know he is a magic man. He could spin a web and become a spider whenever he wanted to [laughter]. You cant do that, so you better not try the Anancy’s tricks, you know, but it was fun!”

Xs9SVLHnQi6bFSh4lIP9lQ_thumb_4d66Anancy stories were night-time tales, often recounted by elderly women to children in their care, which is how Pixie learned hers. Known as an exceptional mimic, Pixie easily assumed the role of Jamaican story-teller. She became a trickster-storyteller, the very traits for which Anancy was known, and reflecting her constant joking and willingness to make fun of herself. She playfully sketched self-portraits in ways that emphasized the racial confusion that her short, round, dark appearance and love of bright, strange clothing engendered in others, several of whom claimed she was Oriental-looking.

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She may have taken lessons from Anancy when trying to deal with her own forms of cultural oppression and the hardships of a woman trying to make her own way in the world and in the male dominated professions of art, publishing, theatrical design, and also suffrage. It is notable that there is a distinctive feminist cast to her Anancy tales that doesn’t exist in the originals. Is this an excuse for appropriation of any kind? Not an excuse but, perhaps, something to consider. “Anancy is an art that woos the loser even as it acclaims the victor.

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Carl Jung developed several techniques for establishing a productive relationship with the unconscious mind. Foremost among them, according to Jung himself, was Active Imagination. It involves conscious participation in the inner world of imagination or fantasy, and it becomes a means of communication and negotiation between the ego and the unconscious. Active Imagination lets our unconscious perspectives and desires be known – to be seen, heard and experienced. It has marked differences from similar practices such as guided imagery, creative visualization, hypnosis, some spiritual meditation, and magical scrying and pathworking.

What makes it different than Jung’s other psychotherapeutic techniques is that Jung felt active imagination had to be done by oneself. Being able to discuss one’s experiences with another was helpful but not essential unless one experiences panic over what is found in the inner world, has difficulty differentiating between the inner and outer, or lets beings in the inner world take over one’s life.

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Both Tarot and Jungian psychology take as their central maxim the words of the Oracle at Delphi, “Know Thyself.” The deepest purpose of Tarot, as with Jungian psychology, is to know one’s true self that lies beneath the veneer of family upbringing and social conditioning. To do this, both focus on an interpretation and understanding of the projections that both humanity in general and individuals make via images. 

In the years since Jung served as a pioneering explorer of the psyche through what he first called fantasy and later came to call active imagination, various human development and magic(k) groups evolved a variety of forms of inner work. None are precisely the same although each can benefit, to some extent, by learning from the others. Still, there are unique characteristics to each.

In my latest webinar on a Jungian approach to Tarot, which you can still join, I’m focusing on Jung’s Active Imagination. This blog post is an excerpt from that course. Get a broader perspective on Jung and Tarot at my workshop at the Northwest Tarot Symposium in Portland OR on March 1, 2019.

  1. Active Imagination (AI) is goal-less! But not purpose-less. Generally the other techniques have a specific goal or result for each inner “journey.” AI seeks a transcendent, integrative function of bringing the conscious and unconscious into relationship.
  2. AI minimizes “guiding” to allow whatever comes and to receive it as real and without judging or editing it during the experience. Other forms often seek to replace distressing images with preferred ones, especially with images or suggestions that will facilitate a desired change or objective.
  3. AI does not focus on interpretation, as with Jung’s other techniques, but rather on understanding and insight.g%8WerahQhioQ+SVSq%pVQ_thumb_5516
  4. In AI one remains alert and keeps the focus on the first image that appears spontaneously rather than letting the scene morph and change as it will.
  5. In AI the individual is always present in the scene and active, coming into relationship with the beings that appear, to converse and interact with them, rather than viewing the scene passively as with a film or from a distance.
  6. In AI the images and interaction with them are prevented from sinking back into unconsciousness through some form of creative expression: usually drawing, painting or writing what has occurred.
  7. While images from the unconscious may evince a numinous or spiritual quality, they are to be taken as aspects of the person’s psyche rather than as divinities, spirits, ancestors or living beings. 
  8. AI requires that subsequent to the direct experience, human moral and ethical evaluations are made and that some action be taken to make one’s learning and ethical obligations concrete in the physical world.

The key to Jung’s view is that one’s imagination or fantasy can become a personally active encounter resulting in self-awareness along with moral and ethical obligations on which to act in the world. Take my webinar course and learn to use Active Imagination in conjunction with Tarot. Or come to NWTS 2019 for “A Jungian Approach to Tarot.


First and third photographs were taken by me at Nikki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden in Italy and modified by me. The middle photo of me was taken by Marcus Katz at the Castlerigg Stone Circle in Keswick, Cumbria and modified by me.

 

TTe7X7DhSdSTy4MOU3M%tA_thumb_566aRachel’s classic, Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Tarot Journey to Self-Awareness, is out this week in a 3rd edition, from Weiser Books. Having stood the test of time and delving deeply into the stories found in the images of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, it continues to be one of the best books for aspiring and experienced tarot readers. You can apply its wisdom to almost any deck that has pictures on all the cards because you will learn how to “see” what is in them. The photo shows Rachel having just flown in to Shanghai using her Tarot super-power. 

Interview with Rachel Pollack

Mary: Rachel, I met you in Amsterdam in the mid-1980s, not long after my first tarot book came out. You had already made a big splash with your first two books (now combined in one). We both have a 3rd edition of our early works published this year. How do you feel the tarot world has changed since your book first came out? What’s different about today’s students of tarot?

Rachel: Probably the biggest difference in the field is the vast number of decks on such a wide range of themes, using and molding the Tarot in ways that the old occult designers and artists, such as Waite and Smith, or Crowley and Harris, would never even have conceived.  First came the Pagan/Wiccan and feminist Tarots, then the wide range of cultural decks, and while all that continues–along with revivals of the older Marseille and Italian traditions–the cards have become a medium of artistic expression, and a way to embrace powerful themes and cultures.  None of this is new, of course.  We can look all the way back to the 15th century Sola-Busca, and later, the Vieville Tarot to see early artistic expressions, but it’s happening now in a way that’s unprecedented.  Diversity has become not just a theme but a way to open the Tarot up in images and meaning.  Today’s  students have access to all this, and start with such a banquet of Tarot’s possibilities.

Mary: For me, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom is astonishingly fresh even after all these years. I feel I get to know the true heart of a card, its inner life, its stories and not just basic meanings. What do you feel this book gives its readers that no other book seems to do?

Rachel:  First of all, thank you.  I’m honored that you say that.  When I began Seventy-Eight Degrees, I had a strong sense of who my audience might be.  I wanted to write for people who may or may not know anything of esoteric traditions, or mythology, or occult history, but had an openness and sensitivity to these ways of looking at life and symbolic images.  I was also aware that almost all previous works on Tarot (with some wonderful exceptions) fell into two categories.  First were the simple manuals for fortune-telling, with fixed but limited meanings.  Beyond that were the very detailed books of occult theory that were written for a very small and already advanced community–and pretty much opaque to everyone else.  I wanted to do a book that opened the Tarot up in a way that people could find their own lives in it, and at the same time learn about worlds beyond their experience.  Something else I did that I don’t think anyone had ever done before was to treat the Minor Arcana with same seriousness and consideration as the Major.  I did these things by delving into the pictures, making the images primary and looking beyond the symbols into their stories.

Mary: What advice would give newbies who are seeking to read the cards?

Rachel: I would say to try out various approaches and see what works best for you.  One person might find the strict interpretations and meanings inspires them to  reveal truths about people’s lives.  Someone else might ignore all the instructions and simply play with the pictures and what they seem to say in a given moment.  Above all, I would suggest that people treat the Tarot  not just as printed cards and a set of instructions, but rather as a living being.  The one thing I can for sure about the Tarot is that we will never come to the end of it.

Check out Rachel’s website and blog.

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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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