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

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

Both/And

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

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

Empedocles’ Love & Strife

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

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

Motivation

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

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

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

Scripts

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

Photo by Stephen Leonardi on unsplash.com.

The Role of the 9th Card

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

The Interactive Tarot Reading

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

Summary

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

The Benefits

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


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

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

The Assens-Flornoy Pyramid Spread

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

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

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Jean Noblet Tarot recreated by Jean-Claude Flornoy

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

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

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

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

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Pam’s Tarot dealt atop the Jean Noblet Tarot

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

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

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

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

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

Version 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘Breaking Your Sound Barrier’ Spread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: I’ve had more than 600 requests for my Tarot Scrivener template and many responses on how incredibly thorough and helpful it is. Thank you again to everyone who contributed to this blog and to those who have written to tell me how much they love the template. I’m truly happy to provide this service.

Wondering where and how to keep your Tarot journal notebook? I’m offering a free Scrivener template below, but we have such a range of options these days that it’s hard to decide which way to go. I’ve tried almost every journal possibility. Here are questions to ask yourself if you are trying to decide which way to go. I suggest writing down your responses:

  • Do you prefer the experience of pen on paper or the ease of typing?
  • Do you want a fixed record of your Tarot development or the flexible changeability of computer documents?
  • Do you want to be able to carry your journal with you everywhere or do you like setting down at a regular place and time to write in your journal?
  • Do you want your Tarot journal to be completely private or shared (at least in part)?
  • Do you want it to emphasize your own drawings and sketches or be a repository for scans, photos and web research?
  • Is it more about personal contemplation of the cards, recording spreads, or research?
  • Do you prefer working within a well-developed structure or free-form (writing whatever strikes you at the moment)?
  • Would cross-referencing links and tags be especially helpful?
  • Would you like your journal to eventually become the basis of your own book on the Tarot?

Here are the main choices for your journal. Some people maintain several, for instance, recording readings on paper but writing study notes on the computer.

  • A blank-book or spiral notebook. A permanent, developmental record of your progress and the ability to integrate personal artwork and sketches. These are mobile, but sometimes bulky, can be beautiful and let you write and draw with your favorite pens on creamy paper.
  • Computer files. Use your favorite word processor (or consider Scrivener,  Evernote or Notability). With integrated systems and wifi you can switch among desktop and mobile devices with ease: taking, modifying and reorganizing your notes anywhere. Use dictation if you prefer speaking. Integrate photos and links. You can even include audio or video recordings of readings.
  • Blogs. A blog is not just for public sharing. You can set it to private or so only chosen individuals can read it. It can be a great resource especially for reviewing your readings (most recent comes up first) and writing about specific topics. Categories and tags allow you to cross-reference the same cards or symbols appearing in different contexts. Publicly blogging your ideas gives you an incentive to develop them.
  • A 3-ring binder. For those who like hard-copy, you can use a computer, print out the pages and update individual pages as they change. You can add in handwritten notes & sketches on a variety of pieces of paper, even napkins.

What if you prefer a super-organized yet flexible system but aren’t sure where to begin or what to include? Or you dream of turning your Tarot studies and experiences into a book and would like help with how to do that?

Scrivener sample2

I recommend the #1 writer’s resource for computers: Scrivener (for Mac and Windows). If you already use Scrivener then I don’t have to tell you how valuable it is. It is described as a powerful content-generation tool for long, complex writing projects. It allows you to seamlessly view your notes as a corkboard, outline, individual files or a single document. Along with tags and templates these are only a few of the structuring tools. You can work on your computer, tablet and phone, and sync through Dropbox. When you are ready, compile only those files you wish, and print, export to Word, or format directly into one of many eBook and insta-print designs.

To top it off, I’ve created a “Tarot Journal Template” for Scrivener, based on 50 years keeping a variety of Tarot notebooks, converting them into Tarot books, and editing other people’s Tarot books. The full template is hyper-organized into separate card and topic files and has “prompts” (such as for exploring each card’s layered meanings). It can also be easily modified and reorganized to suit your own preferences and needs.

Scrivener example1

List frequently used keywords & correspondences in the Corkboard for instant access.

I’m making this template available for FREE, but if you like and use it, I hope you’ll consider donating any amount to my blog (see the PayPal donate button near the top left of my page). To receive this template, you’ll need to email me:

Click here and type: Tarot Journal Template” into the message box, then send.*
I’ll email you a .zip folder that includes instructions for importing the Tarot Journal into Scrivener.

*I’ve received a disappointing number of requests with emails that don’t work. Please double-check your email address before sending.

Scrivener is very reasonably priced for a computer application prized by published novelists, script writers and academics. While you can begin using the template immediately, you’ll want to check out all the bells-and-whistles that make Scrivener so fabulous. The program has a fairly stiff learning curve but there are many youtube videos and instruction websites that will inspire and assist you. 

I welcome suggestions and recommendations in the comments. 

“What does he (or she) think (or feel) about me?” In the whole field of card divination this is one of the most asked questions online and one of my least favorite. In my experience people are a hotbed of conflicting thoughts and feelings that change from moment to moment and circumstance to circumstance. To say nothing of one’s head and heart giving us different messages! You think of your sweetie with longing as you anticipate going out with him that evening, then he calls to say he’ll be watching a game with his buddies instead. Suddenly you think he’s a scumbag and plan how you won’t be available when he wants some. Meanwhile, you’re facing an evening at home alone. Or, “he hasn’t called in a week—not since . . .” Or, “I want to ask her out, but am unsure if she sees me as anything other than an annoying co-worker.”

An old booklet from the 1890s might have just the spread for you. Taken from the Livre du Destin or Book of Destiny card deck printed by Grimaud in Paris, this simple layout may be exactly what you need. Furthermore, it may have been an inspiration for the core of the original Celtic Cross spread. I’ve included some clarifying remarks in brackets.

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Livre du Destin (Chartier-Marteau & Boudin/Grimaud), 1890.

“How To Read Somebody’s Thoughts”

“After shuffling and cutting the cards, ask the person to choose any five of them, and lay them down as follows:

“The first is laid across the blank one, which represents the person whose thoughts you are reading.” [Choose a Significator for that person. Next, fan the shuffled deck, and have the querent choose a card which you lay across the Significator.] “This shows what his heart is feeling.”

“A second one is laid at the top, and shows his thoughts.”

[These first two cards—following the Significator—depict what is consciously going on in the person’s heart and head.]

“Another is placed at the bottom, and represents what he tramples under foot.” [This is “beneath him”—the more unconscious feelings or thoughts that he (or she) is squelching or ignoring.]

“On the left is what he is fond of and on the right what he cares nothing for.” [That is, what he likes and dislikes in the querent. Or, possibly, a person he likes and a person he dislikes?]

Try this with your favorite divination deck and let us know, in the comments, how it works for you.

 

Wizards

Wizards Tarot by Corinne Kenner and John Blumen (Llewellyn)

I’m a firm believer in learning by doing, and getting to know the components of your deck is no exception. This can also be a great daily spread for anyone.

1. Divide your deck into four stacks:

• The 4 Aces
• The 16 Court Cards
• The 36 Minor Arcana Cards numbered 2-10
• The 22 Major Arcana

2. Shuffle the Aces stack thoroughly while asking, “What do I most need to be aware of today?” Draw one card. if a card is reversed, turn it upright for all steps. The Ace indicates an area of focus, general atmosphere or the overall energy at play. (Note: if your suit characteristics differ from those below, then use whatever works.)

Wands signifies innovative or intuitive energy. It indicates desires, enthusiasm, activity, initiating projects, enterprise. It can also indicate a rushed, angry or volatile situation.

Cups signifies emotional energy. It indicates love, relationships, nurturing, imagination and fantasy. It can also point to nostalgia, grief, sadness and lethargy.

Swords signifies mental energy. It indicates beliefs, choices and decisions, research, planning and intellectual endeavors. It can also be about disputes, struggles, and issues around honesty or dishonesty.

Pentacles (or Coins) signifies physical, sensate energy. It indicates work, skills, money, body, security, results and the care or valuing of physical resources. It can also indicate being stuck, inflexible, stubborn or stressed and worried.

Try to feel this energy inside and around you. Is it fiery, fluid, airy or earthy? Where and how is this energy manifesting in your life right now? Later you’ll want to consider how the other cards you’ve drawn function in this kind of atmosphere.

3. Shuffle the 16 Court Cards while asking, “What do I most need to be aware of today?” Draw one card. This is the part of yourself that is most active and of which you need to be most aware. How are you Kingly, Queenly, Knightly or like a Page? It can show your level of knowledge, experience and command (King and Queen) in this area or how open you are to learning (Page) or able to take action (Knight). 

Describe this card in as much detail as you can, including the physical image on the card and the characteristics of the figure: its attitude, mood and emotions, and what it wants or needs. How and where are you acting like this figure? Occasionally this card can express someone else in your life. How do you expect them to handle or influence the situation rather than you? Are you giving your own power away and, if so, how can you own it? Or is it as it should be?

4. Shuffle the 36 Minor Arcana number cards (2-10 in each suit) while asking, “What do I most need to be aware of today?” Draw one card. This is the situation that the part of yourself (Court Card above) is concerned with today.

If a scene is depicted on this card, then describe the scene. What situation has similar characteristics? If there are only suit markers on your deck, look up the meaning and consider how it applies.* What does the Court Card figure bring to this situation? What does it tell you about your relationship to these circumstances?

5. Shuffle the 22 Major Arcana cards while asking, “What do I most need to be aware of today?” Draw one card. This shows why you need to be aware. 

The Major Arcana card may represent a goal or desired outcome, a lesson to be learned, something to be mastered—how you can ‘triumph’ in the situation—or what is at risk or to be gained.

What is the first thing that strikes you as you look at this card? Describe the picture in as much detail as possible. How does this card ‘trump’ the situation? Look up the standard keywords and meanings in a book. Explore the individual symbols in a symbol dictionary. Try all of the above possibilities until something clicks.

6. Overview and integration: You’ve drawn three cards out of the Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles (or Coins) suits. Which suits did you get? Does one suit dominate? Do the suit energies harmonize or do they seem to conflict? Are the energies more active and impatient (Wands and Swords)? Or, receptive and patient (Cups and Pentacles)? Is just one suit missing? If so, which one? Is that okay, or is something important missing in the situation? (Usually you don’t need to be as aware of a missing suit as much as you need to be aware of the suits that turned up!)

7. As a daily spread: Write down the cards you’ve drawn and your insights. Do this daily for at least two weeks, then look back over your spreads and write down what you’ve learned. Continue if you so desire. Over time, note especially what cards and suits appear most often and which never appear at all. Does a situation continue to develop in subsequent spreads? How? How do you respond to changing circumstances by bringing forth different parts of yourself ?

If you’d like, please give a sample interpretation, in the comments section, of the cards shown above.

*Note: Yes, looking up card meanings is perfectly fine, whether you are a beginner or experienced reader. You are learning to expand your repertoire of meanings. But don’t forget to really look at a card and say what it seems like to you.

 

 

 

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.

Tarot of the Magicians coverHere’s a classic “reclaimed spread” in the form of a five-card-cross that is most often found in French and continental Tarot books. The version I offer here is from Oswald Wirth’s Tarot of the Magicians, with an introduction by me (originally published as Le Tarot, des imagiers du moyen-age, 1926).  Wirth claims to have learned it from his teachers, Stanislas de Guaita and Joséphin Péladan (famous 19th century French occultists). It uses only the Major Arcana. Note that the card layout itself will probably be familiar as it has been adapted to many different kinds of readings, some of them focusing on the four elements or directions with the fifth-essence/situation/resolution in the center. The original spread is quite different. Note: This new edition of the book includes a reproduction of Wirth’s original 1889 Major Arcana!

What’s great about the Oswald Wirth version is that it’s based on the premise that your case is being considered in a court of law with the result being advice or direction for achieving success. The Major Arcana cards that turn up are characters in the resulting courtroom drama and should be seen as acting in a manner aligned with the card and presenting its unique attitudes and perspectives. Ham it up; imagine a scene from your favorite legal-eagle TV show.

Ask a specific question, and using only the Major Arcana, shuffle and cut. Then, taking cards from the top of the deck (*see alternate technique below), place them in the positions indicated.

The first two cards are the lawyers and the evidence presented by the two sides.

THE CARD ON THE LEFT is affirmative, showing what is in favor of (“for”) the situation. It points to what it is wise to do and those people or qualities on which one can depend.

THE CARD ON THE RIGHT is negative (the opposing counsel) and represents what is “against” it. It points to hostilities that should be avoided or feared: the fault, enemy, danger or the “pernicious temptation.”

THE CARD ABOVE is the judge who discusses the evidence, weighs the pros and cons, and may arbitrate between the for and against. The judge helps clarify the decision to be made and gives advice as to what’s required.

IN THE CARD BELOW the “sentence,” result or solution is pronounced. Taking into account the synthesis of the fifth card, this “voice” of the oracle offers a look into what comes from the decision. It may contain a “teaching” about what style, attitude or demeanor is ultimately to be aimed for.

THE CENTER CARD is determined by adding the numbers of the first four cards and reducing to 22 or less.** It is a synthesis of what has gone before, and points out what is of prime importance on which everything else depends. Although placed last, Wirth reads it first, since the situation or topic depends on it.

The Fool is considered 0 when adding or 22 when it is the result of the addition. The fifth/center card may be the same as one of the other four.

* Wirth suggests a special way of selecting the first four cards that you can use if you like. Shuffle the Major Arcana and then ask the querent for the first number between 1 and 22 that comes into her head. Count down that many cards and place the final card of the count in position one. Shuffle again and repeat for each of the next three positions.

** A much superior way of obtaining a reduced synthesis, numerologically speaking, is to add all the cards and then subtract 22 from any sum over that. This is the only way to get a true range of card possibilities as your synthesis. (Thanks to Steve Mangan, aka Kwaw, who did the math!)

In a sample interpretation Wirth asks “How should one advise a would-be diviner?” (That is, What advice should be given to a person who wants to become the best tarot reader possible?)

The cards received give an answer that you might find surprising. Please tell us your interpretation in the comments section, but here’s some direction from Wirth. He begins with the center card, stating that it shows what the divination depends on. He then contrasts the “for” (on the left) with the “against” (on the right): “the Emperor puts himself at the service of Strength to whom the Moon is detrimental, being against.” That is, the Emperor opposes (or reigns in) the Moon. Cards in positions three and four offer instruction. The Judge (above) shows what we must do and the Solution (below) shows what will come from doing that. What do you make of these cards?

This is the Radical Wirth Tarot painted by Carol Herzer, a beautiful, 22-card deck currently available in a limited edition, although perhaps not for much longer.


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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

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