“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. 

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L-R: V/Kim Tae-hyung, Suga/Min Joon-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.

In the movie video, the youngest BTS member, JK/Jungkook goes to the theatre where he finds himself alone. Others arrive in the lobby but on the way to the screening room seem caught in a time freeze. Jin (the oldest member of BTS) is the only one who can walk through this frozen timescape. He seems, like Plato, aware of some overriding reality and may be a stand-in for the Philosopher-King, Bang Si-hyuk, head of their management company. V looks for a way into the theatre which he finds only when Jimin shows the way through a wall which opens into a ray of light. In the theatre, JK turns and looks into the light of the projector. He leaves the theatre but outside he is immediately frozen in place—unable, perhaps, to grasp the exterior light of reality. V joins him and is likewise frozen. Cut to JK asleep in the theatre with the other members where Jin wakes him. Outside again, Jimin “walk[s] forward without fear,” knocking both V and JK awake. The boys in the theatre watch this scene on the screen. Later we see all but one of the boys lying in a circle in a parking lot. Only one of the members, Suga/Min Yoongi, is “sleepless,” separate from the others where he realizes that the lights and connections are not lies, “They made me stronger.” As his eyes adjust to a greater reality he sees past the shadows, to the stars. (Are these Plato’s steps to the sun’s “reality”consciousness or are they the ‘light bombs’ waved by fans in concerts?) All the members return to the theatre to watch the film that now shows them running outside in the parking lot lit by street lamps (a new light in the darkness). It seems that even when they close their eyes they can see the light that is the true light connecting them. Jungkook, who initially entered the theatre alone, could represent the ‘personal us’ who must be “woke” to the reality not only of Plato’s starlight and eventually the sun, but, heartened by RM, to the sustaining connection with others.

Other Levels of Meaning

1. What ARMY means to BTS. On its surface this is an uplifting love song by BTS to their millions of fans, known by the initials A.R.M.Y., in deep appreciation for their love and making it all happen. BTS acknowledges, with every award and in their social media commentaries, that their achievements are due primarily to ARMY. “No matter how far apart we are, your light shines on me. . . . We are connected.” Even when the members of BTS are ill or tired, they can continue to grow and perform for the sake of ARMY.

2. What BTS means to their fans, ARMY. Many of the song’s lyrics seem taken directly from comments by fans, quoted by BTS members as what has touched them most: “I feel sick [of it/reality], helpless right now. . . [Then] I hear your voice.” “When I close my eyes, in the darkness your light lights the way for me.” In the song, JHope seems to speak the words of those deeply affected by BTS: “I want to face my loneliness and color my reality, losing and gaining, pursuing something every day.” Fans are heartened by BTS’s reaction to bullying, mistakes, stress, social inequality: “I believe things will change. No one is perfect. . . . Even this moment has its own meaning . . . we are connected by sound.” One of the founding principles of the group was that the youth of today need “a hero who can lend them a shoulder to lean on.”

3. What each of the boys mean to each other. As the person singing changes (watch the lyrics video to see who is singing what), I hear the words as a conversation in which they voice projected concerns about their future (eventual disbanding as they face required military service) as well as reassurances that they will always be connected to each other no matter how far apart. Will this phase of their life seem like a dream later on? How do their BTS personas fit in relation to both an earlier and later life of each of them? Their leader, RM walks toward the inside light, “I can see there’s light inside that will overcome even the future. . . . Everyday take a step to grow up.” He seems to show the way through future crises (spilled popcorn and movie ticket confetti). 

With these three items we see BTS, ARMY and the members of BTS all connected by sound (matter) transmuted to a psycho-spiritual light for them to follow through the darkness (the unknown, sadness, depression, etc.). These themes apply equally to each of us: what keeps us moving ahead despite social constrictions, mistakes and troubled emotions? What do we gain from our inner journeys and reflections?

The Maknae

4. What the Maknae (youngest members) mean to each other: L-R: Park Jimin, Kim Taehyung, Jeon Jungkook.

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In the music video they are presented as a triad with Jimin as a catalytic particle, opening hidden doorways and waking Jungkook back into time/space. In countless fan videos the “skinship” (hugging, touching, etc.) of these three is minutely documented looking for evidence of their real relationship(s). By featuring the puppy-dog playfulness of these three the movie video producers are making the most of these fan-tasies. Jimin may represent compassion as the way past limitations that block or freeze us. But, is this just their public personas—simple fan service or a manufactured entertainment drama—confusing and fulfilling the dreams of fans? The fan service among the three is explicitly apparent in this concert video in Japan, deliberately enticing the crowd to go wild.

In ultra-conservative South Korea it seems unlikely that any LGBTQ pairings in mainstream idol-dom will be able to declare their love, even though BTS is outspoken in its support of the LGBTQ community. Is BTS speaking to this when they say: “Let us walk forward without fear, you and I”?

Mikrokosmos

5. What Carl Jung’s concept of the unconscious—symbolized by the watery film projection at the beginning—says about how we individuate: to live life awake versus asleep. Here we see them exploring the unconscious/dream world or “liminal” [threshold] state via the projections of others onto their public masks/personas. How do we move past the money ATM machine and the theatre of idol-dom to cross a greater threshold to spreading the light of knowing and loving our true Self and being truly open to loving others? Remembering, “It’s okay sometimes to show weakness. It’s okay to be you.” In their last album, Map of the Soul: Persona they began a depiction of the path of individuation and we are invited to share their journey via social media in a way never experienced before. It is believed that there will be more albums based on Jung’s ideas in the future.

6. What the Time/Space continuum of quantum physics and/or multiple/parallel universes of String Theory means to us as individuals. This is depicted by time stopping for some of the group while others move outside of frozen time. They also seem to be jumping back and forth in time (time may be an illusion anyway). We all live in parallel, entangled universes. Just so are sound, song, and music a world-wide entanglement force from whence we may be “woke” to the Light. We are wave AND particle, sound and light, matter and spirit, individual and connected.

These last two items form a modern psychomyth based on Plato’s tale – a cinematic drama for our time. We also see an evolution in BTS since 2013 with their focus on the stresses of youth and the all-too-real generational barriers, then moving on to a broader themes of mental health and “Love Yourself,” and then to the “Mikrokosmos” of Map of the Soul, and now are standing at a threshold where we are all part of a connected universe—lights in an infinite web. “Mikrokosmos” is one of the most uplifting songs you can possibly imagine, featuring an early hymn to the same Lights and sung at the closing of all their concerts this year (watch it also on fancam from the Los Angeles Rose Bowl, see especially 8:35 where the crowd goes wild as Jungkook comforts a crying Jimin). Here are the lyrics and who sings them:

Additional Symbolism

Much of the symbolism appears in earlier videos and enlarges on those themes (search youtube and twitter for more), but here are a few things to note:

  • The story connects with the AU (alternate reality storyline(s) found in the many other music videos they’ve produced) – not covered here.
  • The theatre is the same as the one in “Boy With Love” – but they are now inside (psychological interior). Direct image references to Wings and Love Yourself albums (among others).
  • Outside the theatre: Stars = ARMY light bombs = guidance systems. Lines on ground in parking lot = directions in space/time.
  • Projector = projections. Being underwater = in the unconscious.
  • Sound & Light –
    • Video and performance require both. “To create sound waves, light must interact with a medium. This medium must be large enough to propagate the waves over any great distance.” George Talon on Quora.
    • “The relationship between sound and light is like sea and earth. Sound is the various waves of sine wave signals, and it arrives to human ears like the wave of ocean hit the shore. Light is also a form of wave that is visible on human eyes, and brings life on every creatures on the earth.” Syd Crimston on Quora.
    • “Sound and light are similar in that both are forms of energy that travel in waves. They both have properties of wavelength, freqency and amplitude. Here are some differences:
      • Sound can only travel through a medium (substance) while light can travel through empty space.
      • Sound is a form of mechanical energy caused by vibrations of matter. Light is electromagnetic energy caused by interacting electric and magnetic fields. 
      • A light wave is a transverse wave, meaning that its displacement is perpendicular to its direction of travel. (Picture a sine wave or an ocean wave.) A sound wave is a longitudinal wave, meaning that its displacement is the direction it travels. It’s also called a compression wave. Picture a Slinky toy (spring) being stretched and compressed longitudinally.
      • Light travels much faster than sound. It travels at a speed of about 300 million meters per second, while sound travels at about 340 meters per second depending on altitude and air temperature.”

About BTS

Something special happened when Bang Si-hyuk handed the keys to their own future to the six youths who formed a group around the genius 16 year old rapper, RM/Kim Namjoon. Bang looked for talented boys who were self-motivated and gave them an unheard of amount of independence and creative input, plus a lot of his criticism. Their singing, rapping and dancing as well as staging are all outstanding. Winning awards around the world, while singing in Korean, their songs are upbeat, inspiring and socially conscious.

I first became interested as they based their last album, Maps of the Soul: Persona, on the concepts of Carl Jung and an earlier album referencing Herman Hesse’s Demian. The use of symbolism and social commentary in their videos is matched by their deep compassion and love for self, each other and fans (known as ARMY). Currently ranging in age from 21-26, these seven young men have lived together 24-7 for seven or more years. They write most of their own lyrics, produce solo material, and share their lives through social media to an extent never seen before. They’ve spoken before the U.N. and were featured on the cover of Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” (with twice the number of votes as any other person). They just completed a world tour of the U.S., London, Paris, Sao Paulo, and Japan, performing to 15 sold-out audiences in the world’s largest stadiums. You might have seen them perform on scores of TV shows this year in the US. If you want to know more, I recommend the “CBS report on BTS’s phenomenal rise to fame “, and Vox’s “The key to BTS’s success: emotional resonance, sincerity, and an ARMY of fans”.

P.S. My dream is to someday do a Jungian Tarot reading with Kim Namjoon.

Added: Besides Bangtan Boy Scouts, BTS also stands for Beyond the Scene. Here’s the ‘behind the scene’ video for Lights through which you can get a little sense of their individual personalities.

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.

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

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

Both/And

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

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

Empedocles’ Love & Strife

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

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

Motivation

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

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

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

Scripts

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

Photo by Stephen Leonardi on unsplash.com.

The Role of the 9th Card

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

The Interactive Tarot Reading

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

Summary

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

The Benefits

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Joe Nichols music video with tarot reading at end.

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

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

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

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

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

The Assens-Flornoy Pyramid Spread

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

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

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Jean Noblet Tarot recreated by Jean-Claude Flornoy

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

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

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

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

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Pam’s Tarot dealt atop the Jean Noblet Tarot

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

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

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

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

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

Version 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘Breaking Your Sound Barrier’ Spread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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