You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Tarot & Psychology’ category.

“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 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.

hugs

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?”

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.

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.

 

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.

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

Druidcraft Ace of Cups

Druidcraft Tarot

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

german-15th-century-eucharist

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

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

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

 

Visconti-Sf Ace of Cups

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

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

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

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

 

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

Jung elaborates on this elsewhere:

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

 

MorganGreerAceOfCups

Morgan-Greer Tarot

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

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

 

 

Georgina-Gibson

Georgina Gibson Ace of Cups

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

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

 

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

 

Medieval Scapini Ace of Cups

Medieval Scapini Tarot

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Von Franz explains:

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

 

Robin Wood Ace of Cups

Robin-Wood Tarot

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

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

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

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

Many people come to Tarot readings in hopes of “fixing” their lives—obtaining information and guidance that will help them make the “right” decisions and no mistakes—guaranteeing perfection.

I subscribe to the BrainPickings blog featuring contemplative posts on creativity, literature and non-fiction. This week’s post has some applicable thoughts by George Saunders and Parker Palmer that show the narrowness of perfection.

George Saunders“Although we’re animated by conflicting impulses and irrepressible moral imperfection, we can still live rich and beautiful lives.”wpid-Photo-Apr-19-2011-710-PM.jpg


 Parker Palmer“Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.” 

I ask you, as a Tarot reader, how can we help the querent “embrace brokenness”?

On the other hand, I sometimes hear from clients that a reading primarily showed them something they knew already. I ask them if they knew that what was shown was the most important thing to take into account in their situation—the key to their decision-making process and the true value of their experience.

This is mirrored in a BrainPickings post on poet Denise Levertov in which she is quoted:

“One can anyway only be shown something one knows already, needs already. Showing anyone anything really amounts to removing the last thin film that prevents their seeing what they are looking at.” Talking High Priestess

Ah, what a perfect way to describe the best that can happen in a Tarot reading!

And one last quote. This time from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act 1: Scene 2). Imagine that the Tarot itself is speaking to you as your mirror—a metaphor often used in describing the way in which the Tarot works.

And since you know you cannot see yourself
So well as by reflection, I, your glass,
Will modestly discover to yourself
That of yourself which you yet know not of.

It is not really that we don’t know these things, but rather that we don’t know their relevance. The Tarot offers us the in-sight.

 

 

ImageIt’s been a long time since I was really excited and intrigued by a new ‘how-to’ book on reading the Tarot. Dr. Yoav Ben-Dov’s Tarot—The Open Reading is a book I just have to share with you. Ben-Dov describes the Tarot as a work of art, through whose details a full range of human experiences can be revealed. First, the book features the Marseilles Tarot deck—a deck that’s gaining greater interest and appreciation among English-speaking Tarotists. This deck is pre-occultized, as the images are not modified to conform with esoteric systems. While not identical to early 15th century decks, it expresses a folk tradition that dominated for at least three hundred years (out of the nearly 600 year history of Tarot) and is still the major style found in much of Europe. Additionally, Ben-Dov has created what I believe to be the most elegant restoration of the classic Conver Marseille deck available (see below). This process aided him in his close attention to detail in the cards.

What has been notably missing in English Tarot literature are good, non-Waite-based meanings for the four suits. You need look no further. The focus here is on reading the cards through the scenarios one perceives when looking at the images. For the Majors, Ben-Dov says the possibilities are open. Nevertheless, he points out valuable interpretive perspectives derived from symbolic, historical and mythological associations, many of which I found both original and obvious (once-stated)—in other words, extremely helpful as kick-starter phrases for the cards. Through comparison and contrast of visual details he demonstrates how the cards relate to one another. Emphasis is on a therapeutic approach, rather than being predictive or proscriptive. Providing an excellent introduction to practical reading skills, he stresses developing familiarity with psychological practices, for which he specifically recommends Irvin D. Yalom’s outstanding guide to interacting effectively with clients, The Gift of Therapy.

Previous authors stressed one of three approaches to the Minor pip cards: 1) a straightforward transfer of the Waite-Smith Minor Arcana meanings to the Marseille deck, 2) a memorized meanings often derived from Etteilla, or 3) a personal synthesis of number-plus-suit meanings for each card. Ben-Dov bases his Minor Arcana explications on the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, emphasizing visual cues in the cards along with number, which make their arrangements ‘sensible,’ and therefore easy to learn and build on. His descriptions of the thematic progression within the Major and Minor suits provide an immediate handle on each. In keeping with his therapeutic approach, the Court Cards represent attitudes and characteristics of the querent rather than other people, although there’s nothing to stop you from applying them to others. I only wish that Ben-Dov had included sample readings utilizing the Minors like he did for the Majors, as his examples were so insightful.

Spreads are kept simple, with some innovative approaches to working with both Major and Minor suit cards that are well-worth trying out. His instructions for creating your own spreads gives you an infinite palette of deeply meaningful options to choose from.

I have two pet peeves: Ben-Dov completely ignores the first two hundred years of Tarot’s history when he describes the Marseille Tarot as the ‘genuine model’, with the ‘true order’ for the cards, saying it offers, “the most faithful and accurate representation of the ancient Tarot symbols.” The oldest decks (15th century Italian) are quite different in style, and there were several different orders for the cards in its first century. It would be better to describe the Marseille-style decks as the most long-lasting, consistent design (which is not to be scoffed at). My second pet peeve involves misunderstandings of the Golden Dawn system of Tarot reading, resulting in minor errors that are not centrally relevant to this work. Personally, I think he should have left out his few Golden Dawn references or listed the differences in an appendix.

Overall, this book offers fresh, practical instructions for reading the Marseille Tarot that will give you a great appreciation for the details and special characteristics of the deck that first inspired tarot divination. Additionally you will gain lots of valuable insights into the reading process itself.

Works Mentioned:

Tarot—The Open Reading by Dr. Yoav Ben-Dov.

The CBD Tarot de Marseille deck, created by Dr. Yoav Ben-Dov.

The CBD Tarot de Marseille app for Android.

The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients by Irvin D. Yalom, M.D.

The Way of Tarot by Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Note: Yoav Ben-Dov has generously made his deck and basic interpretations freely available for use for non-commercial purposes via the Creative Commons concept – http://www.cbdtarot.com/download/

Have you ever noticed that after seeing some films you are snappish or silent, yearning or ponderous, giggly or jumpy, and that the affects can last for minutes, hours or even days, abducting us from our normal means of perception?

I was reading one of my all-time favorite books Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by David Abram and came to the part where he describes his own growing awareness that certain movies and books would “surreptitiously enter into my bloodstream, like a contagion . . . a curious spell that my organism was under.” He further characterizes these effects as a “capacity for being drawn, physiologically, into the terrain of certain stories—abducted into another landscape that would only belatedly release me back into the palpable present.” His description is reminiscent of being stolen away into the land of fairy.

I recently experienced such a state after going to see “Beasts of the Southern Wild”: my friends noticed that I couldn’t speak after the movie and that I refused their ride so I could walk home alone. I realized that Abram’s insights provided a second part to my established practice of active reading and movie-viewing, in which I draw cards before partaking of the work so as to sharpen my perception and enrich my understanding and appreciation of the work. Based on Abram’s commentary I’ve designed a spread that assists us in seeing how a work ensorcells us, temporarily coloring our perceptions and feelings and even influencing our actions.

Place the first six cards in a clockwise circle, beginning at the top, with the seventh card in the center.

1. What feeling tone colors my general outlook after seeing the film (or reading the book)?

2. How does this influence my immediate approach or response to things?

3. What fears does it stir?

4. What longings awaken?

5. What shifts do I perceive in my immediate surroundings? How do I see things differently?

6. What do I need from those around me? And, once I’ve answered that: How can I give this to myself?

7. What is the major lesson that this work offers me?

I went to see this movie because some friends had invited me, based on the recommendation of another friend. Before going I knew nothing about it and couldn’t even remember the title. So, I thought I’d try out the Petit Lenormand cards as a prediction of plot. I got Lilies-Clouds-Snake-Scythe-Whipall of them Court Cards. Turns out it was pretty darn accurate for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” It’s a coming-of-age mythic fable about a little girl, Hushpuppy, and her father who live on a fragile island, the Bathtub, south of the Louisiana dikes in the Gulf. It also features other people who exist in these unbelievably harsh conditions (all the Court Cards). There’s the dying father, a huge storm, a wise female teacher (as well as a dream-like encounter with a mother-figure), the poisoning of the creatures on the island, breaking through the dike, lots of arguments, and the inhabitants battle with the authorities. It’s an emotionally wrenching film with incredible acting – especially by the young girl and her father. 

I drew five cards: 

  • Lilies -Family (also innocence and Father)
  • Clouds – the Storm 
  • Snake – Poison/Wise Woman (at the center)
  • Scythe – Decision to stay on the island; Death and Destruction 
  • Whip – Arguments, violent activity

An even better way to read Lenormand is in pairs:

  • Lilies+Clouds – disfunctional family or problems with the father.
  • Clouds+Snake – bad mojo, lack of clarity regarding a woman.
  • Snake+Scythe – cut off from a woman; a treacherous decision; a poisonous death.
  • Scythe+Whip – violent cutting, a decisive battle. 

I was prepared for what could be a very dark, tragic film. It almost was, but something else broke through. My strongest thought during the intermission (they have to change the reels at our local art theatre) was, I couldn’t live like that! Several people left.

I later did a reading with the Mary-El Tarot to help me explore my conscious and unconscious reactions, responding directly to her images. I’ll only mention a few brief highlights of what I saw.

1. What colors my general outlook? 5 of Wands. First thought on looking at the growling red lion: “red-in-tooth-and-claw”. I had a very visceral reaction that touched on my most primitive fight-flight-freeze physiology.

2. How does this influence my immediate approach or response to things? 10 of Wands. This shows a warrior with bow and arrows on a horse. Flight. But I also wanted to be a defender of the movie to those who were repelled by it.

3. What fears does it stir? Page of Disks. This image of a sleeping baby with marks like nails surrounding it arouses my protectiveness. I fear that something primally innocent – the exquisite nature of the sentiment in the film – might be harmed. I also fear that I might slumber when I should awaken.

4. What longings awaken? Knight of Disks. The next stage of maturity: Knight as protector of the Page/Baby of Disks. This immediately reminded me of the scene shown in the lead photo above. I long to stand up for and to what might otherwise overwhelm us.

5. What shifts do I perceive in my immediate surroundings? How do I see things differently? 7 of Disks. I see a split, like two separate meteors. I am aware of the lack of words when I feel drawn out of myself.

6. What do I need from those around me? How can I give this to myself? The Tower. Strong words and opinions. Instead, both I and my friends retreated into silence. I can give myself the words, the surpressed fury, the burning to act on this film in some way.

7. What is the major lesson that this work offers me? Ace of Wands. That some creative spark can be birthed out of this fiery angelic torment. The reading is all Fire and Earth.

Words still fail me. Please let me know what you thought of the film and/or your experience in reading cards for enhancing your experience of films and books.

James Redfield’s book The Celestine Prophecy recently came up in a discussion.

I read the book when Redfield first self-published it (he couldn’t find a publisher at the time), as he had given a copy to my brother-in-law. I saw it as a parable consisting of “new age” lessons made palatable through its story form. None of the ideas were new to me and the story was nothing more than a teaching device, but I enjoyed being reminded of things that I had experienced myself when “in the flow.” Reading it reminded me of how it is possible to live in that kind of “reality” (at least for short periods) and what magic can arise from it.

Flying home from a trip to visit my then-husband’s parents, as I read the book on the plane, I was especially intrigued by one section. Having just seen his parents, I asked my husband the same series of questions that the protagonist had been asked about his parents. As a result, Ed and I had one of the most deeply meaningful discussions ever about his life purpose or quest (as revealed through his beliefs about his parents).

When I got home I turned the process into a tarot spread that I’ve since used in many tarot workshops and occasional private consultations (always giving credit). I found it far more powerful to do with Tarot, since the cards suggest what may be, at first, a confusing possibility that, once comprehended, can contain a major breakthrough. This spread/process has resulted in significant insights for people. And, for siblings, and those who never knew one or both parents, it has fostered some remarkable healings.

Part One

For each question draw two cards—placing them in two parallel columns: one for your father and one for your mother (keep face down). Turn over and read the cards for one parent first and only after that for the other parent.

The key is to realize that this is not about your actual parents but about your perception of them. The interpretative process should be more about brainstorming possibilities than about applying set meanings. What memories or associations do the cards trigger?

Cards 1 & 2: What did your father(1) / mother(2) stand for and believe in?

Cards 3 & 4: In what way(s) did your father(3) / mother(4) achieve this?

Cards 5 & 6: What kept your father(5) / mother(6) from doing it perfectly?

Cards 7 & 8: What meaning or truth did YOU learn from the above experiences of your father(7) / mother(8)?

Cards 9 & 10: What would you have changed about your father(9) / mother(10) that would have enabled him or her to have a better life?

Part Two

Use the same cards received above (moving them to their own area of the table) and apply the same conclusions you’ve already drawn (although feel free to add new ones). You’ll be looking at these cards from a different perspective.

Cards 7 & 8 (from Part One): What is the Higher Synthesis or Truth for YOU based on what you learned from your parents? You derive this by blending Cards 7 & 8 along with the insights you had about them.

For instance, a summary of your earlier insights might be: My Higher Synthesis or Truth is that I believe in 7:”standing up for” 8:”the beauty of life.”

Cards 9 & 10 (from Part One): What do you want to find out how to do? This is based on your being able to integrate and do what you believe your father and mother SHOULD have done to live a better life.

Summarize this as:

My Life Quest is to find out how to ________. Combine 9 & 10 into a statement reflecting what you think they each should have done.

For instance, My Life Quest is to find out how to 9:”live my own truth” while 10:”caring deeply for others.” This might also be stated as, “. . . know the truth in myself about caring for and being sensitive to others.”

From this perspective, your Life Quest is to fulfill what you perceive as lacking in your parent’s lives—what you see as their unfulfilled potential or destiny. You combine these perceptions, deriving from the combination something that is unique to you. Thus, it is a kind of spiritual DNA.

As Carl Jung noted: “What usually has the strongest psychic effect on the child is the life which the parents . . . have not lived.” (The Red Book)

I’ll always be grateful to James Redfield and The Celestine Prophecy for this process.

Recently, at PantheaCon (a huge pagan conference in San Jose, California), I led a “Tarot Intel Circle” with around a hundred people and was asked by several participants to provide a description so they could do it themselves. There are two forms of this process: the “Intel Circle” that can be done with any number of people from a dozen to over a hundred, and the “Tarot Council Circle” that works best with around 6 to 16 people. Each person in either circle gets to be both a Questioner and a Respondent. At most workshops the participants range from those who’ve never read a tarot card to professional readers and everything in between. Everyone gets something out of it, and it often provides a huge kick-start to one’s intuitive abilities—opening a door and switching something on in the psyche. It’s a good process to use at the beginning of a tarot course.

The Questioner usually focuses on one issue or situation about which they want to gather information, although they can change the issue at any time. In both Circles it is helpful to begin by asking, “What do I most need to look at around _(insert issue)_? It can be as specific as, “around the problem with the person at work who is driving me crazy” or as general as “around my life purpose.” As the process continues, Questioners can keep asking the same question or reframe it to focus on different aspects of the issue.

Questions should be brief and to the point. The Respondent draws a tarot card (more about this later) and, based on impressions from that card, responds to the question. Usually only a minute or so is allowed for each response before moving on to the next person and question. No response is right or wrong, but rather it offers information, options and possibilities, or layers of meaning. No card meaning is right or wrong. As a Respondent, you don’t have to fix anything!—which is my number one rule.

UPDATE: The germ of these processes was the “Tarot Game” created by Australian artist, Peter Rosson (1954-2002). Originally it involved a small circle of guests who were invited to explore right/left brain interaction, the creative process and the “profiling” of a personal issue using Tarot. May this seeding of Rosson’s creative brilliance continue to grow and flourish.

The Intel Circle

The Intel Circle consists of an inner and outer circle with the same number of people in each, facing each other. The outer circle stays in place (and those who need to sit can do so), while the inner circle stands and moves one person to the right for each question/response interaction. I call time, direct the movement, and I change the rules for each interaction (leaders: a mic and gong are very helpful with large groups). Before we begin, the Questioners draw five cards each from a mixed pool of several tarot decks and will keep these same cards as long as they are Questioners. These cards contain the keys to their issue. As each interaction begins, they ask their question, and the Respondent (across from them) draws one of their five cards, looks at it and responds to the question. Then I ring the bell, the card is returned, and the inner circle moves one person to the right, where a new interaction (with a new prompt) begins. Karen Krebser described her experience as “controlled chaos” with no time for self-doubt.

I’ve provided sample “prompts” for each interaction below. After six or seven interactions everyone switches roles, so that the Questioner can be the Respondent and vice-versa.

The Council Circle

For the smaller Council Circle everyone sits in a close circle (can be around a table) facing everyone else, with one or more decks in the center. The first person addresses their question to the person to their left, who pulls a card and responds. The Respondent then becomes Questioner, turns to the person to their left and asks their own question, that person responds, and so on clockwise around the circle. After responding to a question, people often need to be reminded to switch into asking/Questioner mode as it involves a right-brain/left-brain switch. It is worth becoming aware of how this switch operates in yourself. As leader, I change the “rules” or prompts with each round. After a couple of rounds we change direction (so the question is asked of the person to your right). If doing a long session of several hours, you can have everyone sit in a different seat after a break. In the Council Circle, the leader can also be a participant and usually starts and ends each round.

Towards the end of the whole process, have one person ask a question while each of the others draws a card with which to respond to the question. You can follow with another person asking a question, draw only one card for the whole group, and everyone responds in turn to that that one card. These final questions can be personal, but it’s also a good opportunity to explore spiritual, community and/or world issues. In the Council Circle much more group rapport is built as everyone hears each person’s questions and the responses.

I frequently remind participants that it is up to the questioner to determine what works for him or herself—that this is information-gathering from which they are to pick and choose what seems most meaningful and relevant to themselves. Handled well, it should end up with a deep bonding and a sense of being seen and supported by the whole.

The Leader

The leader is responsible for seeing that the pace moves briskly along, that no one challenges, harangues or criticizes another, and that no one tries to impose their views. The Respondent responds to, rather than “answers” the question. The responses may be possible actions for the questioner to consider but should never be insisted upon. Respondents should not be allowed to lecture or argue for their perspective, nor should other participants question someone’s interpretation. It can sometimes be wise to begin a response with: “If this were my issue, I’d . . .” Personally, I offer gentle but frequent reminders that as respondents, we “don’t have to fix anything,” as this is an essential theme for me. Always support the Questioner’s assessment, for the questioner is the final arbiter of his or her own life. The most relevant information tends to rise to the top. On the other hand, encourage everyone to open themselves to new possibilities.

What is said in the circle stays in the circle and should never be mentioned elsewhere. Trust is paramount, which is especially apparent in the Council Circle.

At the beginning and end, the leader should take a couple of minutes to ground, center and focus everyone, state the group intent, and open (or close) the relevant energy centers for intuitive work. If appropriate to the situation you can set wards and call in guides. An informal-style Council Circle can work in a quiet, supportive social environment without needing a ritual format, but the leader should still be in control and gently guide the process.

The Cards

It’s usually best to use decks that have story-telling images on all the cards. Respondents can draw from a single deck, a selection of decks, or a bunch of decks mixed in a “pool,” or a set of cards (or deck) held by the Questioner. It’s also okay to have the Questioner draw a card and hand it to the Respondent. Whatever works!

The Prompts

Most of the following prompts are for the Respondent, but a few require something from the Questioner. While I usually begin with the same first few, I vary the later prompts as my own intuition directs me. The Respondent should begin speaking immediately and for the entire time given, repeating thoughts, if necessary. When in doubt, simply describe the card! Each item below consists of one interaction lasting a brief one to two minutes. Indented items are part of the prior interaction and may require slightly more time. Occasionally ask the Questioner to summarize what they’ve learned so far (a few summary points are suggested below). For most of the interactions the Questioner remains silent except for asking the question. Note: it’s okay for the Questioner to see the card drawn.

After the Questioner asks their question, the Respondent draws a card and—

• responds with the first thing on the card that catches his or her eye.

• responds by literally describing the image on the card (no meanings or interpretation allowed).

-follow by prompting the Respondent to repeat everything they just said in the 2nd person, present tense (“You are . . .”).

• responds by describing what seems to be the emotions, feelings and attitude of the figure(s) on the card and the mood and atmosphere of the environment.

-follow by prompting the Respondent to repeat everything they just said in the 2nd person, present tense (“You are feeling . . .”).

• the Questioner thinks the question silently (not aloud) and the Respondent responds with something suggested by the card.

• responds with a question (that is, answer a question with a question based on the card drawn).

-Optional: Questioner says what the Respondent’s question brought up.

• responds by not looking at the card (draw one but don’t look at it).

• breathes in the card and then responds with ONE word.

-Optional: Questioner tells how that word is relevant to their question.

• responds with one or more metaphors, aphorisms or sayings based on the literal image (“Been down so long it looks like up to you.” “Beggars can’t be choosers.” “You’ve got the whole world in your hands.” “It’s like being stuck on a fence.”)

• responds with what the person “should do.” (The Questioner can be asked to phrase their question accordingly: “What should I do about . . . ?”)

• responds with what the person “shouldn’t do.” (Ditto. Have the “should/shouldn’t” prompts follow each other.)

• responds with a wild, crazy fairytale using the card as the illustration, and beginning “Once upon a time . . .”

-prompt the Respondent to repeat everything they just said in the 2nd person, present tense (“You are . . .”).

• responds with “The lesson of this card is . . .”

• responds with “The worst case scenario described by this card is . . .”

• responds with “The best case scenario is . . .” (Pair it with the preceding.)

• responds as if the Respondent were a figure on the card, by speaking as that figure.

• responds with “Yes, if  . . .” or “No, if . . .” or “Maybe, if . . .”.  (Have the Questioner ask a yes/no question.)

• Have the Questioner say how all these responses relate to their issue. (Can insert this whenever it seems appropriate—not too often, but definitely at the end.)

I sometimes end with each person creating an affirmation based on the qualities that they perceive in one of the cards that they most want to develop in themselves, and committing to an action that is in alignment with that.

For Further Development

Many more possibilities are suggested by the exercises in my book 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, which also presents techniques that will make you a more effective and empathic leader of this kind of group process. See especially Step 21 for the affirmation process and the “Traps and Solutions” in Appendix H.

James Wells’ reports on his experience when I taught this process at Readers Studio 2010.

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