You are currently browsing Mary K. Greer’s articles.

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?”

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 5.34.40 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 3.37.18 PM


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.

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 3.52.51 PM.png

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 1.27.38 PM

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.

US71ngU+RJKbRIukmbvl3Q_thumb_52d3.jpg

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.

+H2jUSgzRvamYLddWuv0QQ_thumb_3caf

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.

AR%2MkADQ6WcHpfjeKSIcA_mini_2cc3

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.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_mini_fc0

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.

img_0050-1

“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.

Screen Shot 2018-10-20 at 7.02.50 PM

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.

IMG_4852

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.

About

Click HERE to subscribe to Mary K. Greer's Tarot Blog by Email

≈◊≈◊≈◊≈◊≈

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.

© 2007-2018, Mary K. Greer All material on this site is copyrighted. If you use anything, be sure to include my name and a link back to this site. Thank you.

I truly appreciate donations to help me pay for additional space.

Donate any amount to keep this ad-free blog growing.

Archives