I’m a hot mess right now. Angry, sad, confused. My eyes are puffy, I have a headache. I don’t even really trust myself right now. So I asked tarot, “How can I be open to some movement toward positive change?” Because I feel like I’m not open to anything right now. I’ve very much in “scared donkey” mode right now. I’m frozen and everything sounds like a terrible and scary idea. I am not budging.
Five of Cups
Yes, I am grieving. I feel sadness and some regret. At this moment I am having a terribly hard time seeing that there are still cups standing. The cup that got knocked over was trust, so the others seem insignificant in comparison. This card has snakes, which can symbolize new beginnings. Right now sucks, but maybe maybe the contents of some of the other cups can be mixed up to make trust again. Maybe!
At this point in time, Strength seems to be saying to me, “Pull yourself together, woman!” My inner lion/dragon is a terrified thing running around in circles, knocking things over, and biting people. There is no balance! I need to take my inner dragon, hold its little face in my hands, and say, “Look, I know you’re scared right now. But trust me. We can do this. It won’t be easy, but it will be even harder if you don’t sit still for a hot second. You are adding to the chaos. Drink some tea, take a nap, find a safe place to calm down.”
My life feels like chaos right now. Maybe I can create some stability. Not over this situation at the moment, but I can fold the laundry, get back to daily tarot in the morning (that really helps start my day off right), and plan out the meals for the week. I can be someone I can count on. That little bit of created stability may make the rest of this mess feel easier to handle.
Two of Wands
In this depiction of the card, a girl is caged up while the birds fly free. I’m not ready to the leave the cage, but maybe if I can even just imagine that the door is open that might help. Like I said, I don’t know what the solution to this mess is, and nothing sounds good. But even so, if I just imagine that something (even if I don’t know what it is) can open the door maybe that will help. The Ostara Tarot’s lwb description of this card mentions courage, which is my word of the year. Maybe I can scribble the word on a sticky note and post it by my bed, because I’m having an awfully hard time remembering it on my own right now.
I received Barbara Moore’s Tarot Spreads: Layouts & Techniques to Empower Your Readings for Christmas. Today I decided to try her “Through the Shadows Spread” to further explore my current heartache.
Position One: My truth
I do understand that my current heartache is temporary. I was thinking just earlier today that time is the only thing that will really sooth the sharp pain I feel right now, but that at the moment I have to experience this. There’s no getting around it. So I do believe that better things will come, but it’s like I’m outside without my glasses on. All of the stars are blurred and practically invisible. I can’t imagine what this better future would be. I’m mired in pain at the moment with no clear Star perspective other than the not quite helpful adage of “this too shall pass.”
Position Two: My deepest inner fear
Four of Chalices
While usually I lean more toward the more upbeat interpretation of this card, that is not so in this position. I’m afraid I’m doomed to sit under this tree having my cups kicked over by inconsiderate passers by. I’m trying to be strong and content, but every time I fill up a few cups and start to feel stable (the number four), something happens. Perhaps I’m minding my own business and someone kicks my cups down. Or perhaps I invite someone under my tree to proudly show them my cups and they are indifferent or dismissive. It’s a lonely place to be, and sometimes I feel like I am doomed to relive this over and over. This deck’s depiction of the Four of Chalices reflects this feeling very strongly for me.
Position Three: Familiar, external fear, distraction, or illusion
Ace of Swords
I often fear that I’m being unreasonable or overly harsh in wielding my sword-element powers. In this situation, this has crossed my mind from time to time, but honestly I believe I have been wronged and that I am not being unreasonable to feel this way.
Position Four: Unknown, external fear, distraction, or illusion
Nine of Chalices
Satisfaction and happiness with life are things that I have sneaked awfully close to but which remain unknown to me as constants. Or constant enough for me to trust in them as something I deserve or will have again. It feels like an illusion that is too good to be true, and it is something I fear I won’t be able to have.
For all three fear positions, it seems appropriate that they’re chalices and a sword. My thoughts and emotions can get so twisted up and confused that I feel horribly lost and frightened.
Positions Five & Six: Lighting my path
Two of Pentacles, Seven of Wands
Life has its ups and downs, and I can create my own steady rhythm including when to let some balls drop. If I keep this in mind I may feel more in control and less lost. I may be in a very challenging time right now, but I must trust myself to get through. I must not doubt my strength or my value. I find the depiction of the Seven of Wands in this deck particularly beautiful.
Position Seven: Nature of my path
Ah, my friend Strength. As difficult as this path is, the nature of this path is self-confidence and self-trust. Believing I am strong and valuable and not wavering on these points. Without holding to these beliefs, I will surely collapse on this path. It would be too unbearable to find some healthy way out of this situation and I’d be gobbled up by depression and sorrow and make a mess of my life over someone who clearly doesn’t value me as much.
And Strength isn’t always inherently from oneself alone. I can draw strength and encouragement from my sweetheart as I trudge down this painful trail.
Despite being a sad lump today, I’d like to try this winter solstice spread I found over on The Inner Atlas.
Whoa! My first all majors spread. That feels kind of heavy. To best understand what I’m thinking about here, I read up on shadow work here at Teal Swan.
Position One: Shadow Work, a shadow aspect to work on
I really believe in the interconnectedness of the universe and all things in it, but I do not trust others enough to foster and fully live out this interconnectedness in direct ways. I assume I will be let down and rejected. It does leave me feeling lonely and incomplete, which is of course not a nice way to feel.
Position Two: In Store, a lesson learned in the last year to help with the shadow work
A lesson I have learned and continue to learn and will probably never stop learning: let go of what doesn’t work. As I talked about in my discussion of the Devil card, this is easier said than done. As the saying goes, the devil you know is better than the one you don’t. I may know that some habits or beliefs are not helpful for me, but it can be terrifying to try something else. I at least know what the consequences are in my current rut. What if it’s even worse on some other path?
Of all of the tarot depictions I’ve seen of the Devil, the Ostara Tarot one is my favorite. It captures so well the feelings and meanings this card holds for me.
Position Three: The Fire, wisdom or advice for moving forward and avoiding psychological burn-out
The Fool may be saying to me, “You know, ‘let go’ means more than just letting go of what isn’t working. Sometimes you just need to let go … as in stop thinking so much and just be. Just experience. Just do. Just exist. Be silly. Lay your worries and burdens down and embody my philosophy of life — jump first, think later … or not at all.”
Position Four: Hope, a message of hope to lift my spirits
This has become one of my favorite cards in the tarot deck, so I felt a sense of relief when it popped up in this position. It reminds me that emotion is not a weakness and that I do have the inner strength to persevere and create a positive life for myself. It reminds me to tame but not abandon my inner lion (or dragon, in this card) — which for me speaks to my inner Fool. I really love the Ostara Tarot depiction of Strength. She has clearly been through battles, she carries two whole cities on her shoulders, and she holds her heart in front of her. For me, it really communicates a balance of strength and vulnerability. Even more than than, it shows them as being able to serve the same purpose. Emotion and vulnerability can be power, can be strength. This card does make me feel hopeful. I’ve seen battles, and I sometimes feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, but I am still a person with feelings and an inner beast that wants to play (and sometimes roar).
I really enjoyed this reading. So thank you to Bianca Lucine for sharing! I definitely needed this on such a glum day. The shortest, darkest day of the year! Oh, how I look forward to the days getting longer. In the meantime, I have my work cut out for me, but I know that with Strength I can tackle the job.
The Star is hope, calmness, and peace. After the rubble has settled from the crash of the Tower, we see a Star letting us know we’ve made it through. It can also represent healing and wholeness.
Visually, this card is very similar to Temperance, but the woman in the Star is naked suggesting a comfort with one’s true self. Additionally, the woman in the Star card pours the water out into the pool of water and onto the ground. She gives freely and trusts that her energies will be restored. Paul Quinn in Tarot for Life reminds us that our human wells do sometimes run dry. When that happens we need to pause and replenish.
As card 17, 1 + 7 = 8, which is is Strength. The strength needed to love our true selves, and the strength needed to make it through the fall of the Tower.
The Star can also speak to our wishes and dreams. I think Huszka’s representation illustrates this beautifully. I also really enjoy Joanna’s depiction of the Ibis, wings spread, beneath a waterfall and gazing up at the bright stars. The Animal Wisdom Tarot’s peacock (“The Illuminator”) reminds us to take pride in who we are.
A shadow of the star could be ideals that are too lofty. An opposite or reverse of the Star could be refusing to see the light, despairing, or keeping our energies bottled up.
If I were to assign an element to the Star, it would be water for the spiritual and emotional calmness it represents.
So far, the only times I’ve seen the Star in a reading it’s been telling me I’m too idealistic about certain things. So even though it hasn’t shown up in its more warm and fuzzy meaning for me, I love the imagery, symbolism, and meaning. Things might still be a little dark, but not fearful or destructive. More curious and exciting. We wouldn’t be able to see the stars at all if it weren’t for darkness.
I particularly like the meaning of healing. Healing is possible, and it can be beautiful like the Star rather than always painful or uncomfortable. Rather than focus on the darkness surrounding me, focus on the beautiful light. Which takes self confidence and strength. It can feel incredibly vulnerable to let myself feel hope.
This card symbolizes honesty with one’s self, truthfulness, and, well, justice. In the position of card 11, it is directly in the middle of the Major Arcana (if we set the Fool aside). This further speaks to the balance indicated by this card. Justice takes both the action of the Magician and the intuition and introspection of the High Priestess in order to make decisions.
Once we make decisions in our life, they often cannot be revoked. Because of this, we are shaped by the choices we make and must be willing to look inside ourselves honestly in order to make better choices as we continue on our journey. This is where we take responsibility for the choices we have made on our Wheel of Fortune. If we assume nothing is in our control, we take no responsibility for who we are and have become because of our various choices. Justice asks us to look closely and own what we have indeed controlled and chosen. This is what will keep us from patterns that we can in fact change. Justice reminds us of free will.
Part of the balance of Justice is also continuing to acknowledge that which we do not have control over. Take responsibility for what we do control and don’t torture ourselves by trying to control what we can’t.
In addition to being honest with ourselves, Justice reminds us to be fair and honest with others as well. Just can serve as a reminder to right a wrong.
I like some of the questions Paul Quinn in Tarot for Life suggests Justice might ask us: “‘We partner with the Justice archetype whenever we pause for a self check: “What do I need to do to right myself and be kinder to my body?” “Is my behavior in harmony with the loving capacities of my Highest Self?” “How am I ‘off kilter’ right now, and what will bring me into alignment?”‘” (87) All this responsibility might make us feel guilty, but Quinn reminds us that Justice is also about giving ourselves unconditional love, which will help us to be honest and then move forward, rather than be trapped in shame (88).
A shadow of Justice would be judging too harshly or with bad intent. The opposite / reverse of the card could be imbalance, refusal or inability to see the truth, inequality, or failing to take responsibility for one’s actions.
At position eight, Justice could symbolize the honesty and balance needed to journey with the Hermit. Strength at position eleven is another form of balance, but a strength that would come from having moved through the Justice and Hermit cards rather than the strength needed to move on to the Hermit. I’d like to look into this more, but right now I don’t have a great grasp on how their two possible positions might change their meanings. A research post for another day perhaps.
If I were to assign an element to Justice, it would be air since air directly involves issues of truth and justice.
This card isn’t an easy one for me. I’m often honest with myself, sometimes brutally so. It’s Paul Quinn’s reminder about loving myself anyway that I really struggle with. When my life is the most out of whack, when I am a truly hot mess, I am getting better at being both honest and compassionate with myself. But it’s the climb back to equilibrium that is the hardest. When I’ve fallen so far, it takes a little while to get back to a good place, and I am much better at being gentle with myself in this transition period. However, it feels like many times this is exactly when I am scolded from the outside. Which crushes me since I’m rebuilding self-esteem and feeling good about the baby step progress that is happening. This happened tonight, and I am not in a good place right now. When I’m slowly but surely climbing back up the mountain, I really don’t need people pointing at the peak and saying, “Why aren’t you there right now?” I know I am screwing up. But I also know that I did better than yesterday. I can’t snap my fingers and create balance in an instant.
I am strong at taking quiet time to retreat from the world and allow inner contemplation and exploration of my unconscious.
Position Two: How am I weak?
Three of Pentacles
I am weak at allowing others to join me and help me on my journey. I can often be too fiercely independent.
Position Three: When do I need to be strong?
Queen of Pentacles
This card keeps coming to me in positions of encouragement! I need to be strong in being a part of and taking pleasure in the world around me. Balance my High Priestess strength with the Queen of Pentacles.
Position Four: When do I need to be weak?
Seven of Wands
I need to be weak at being defensive. My defense mechanisms are often impressively overactive. Like the little hedgehogs in this depiction, I see a large and scary shadow coming my way, and my spikes go right up. But maybe the shadow is deceiving.
Position Five: What strengthens me?
Six of Swords
I am strengthened by the journey I am on away from the person I used to be and toward a healthier and happier me. As I reach different milestones, they give me the strength to keep going and remind me that change is possible. “Old” me will always be a part of me, but I can bandage her wounds, feel compassion for her, and bring her along on the journey.
Position Six: What weakens me?
This is the first time I’ve ever encountered the Star. I think perhaps what would fit here is the shadow of the Star: sometimes I can become disheartened and upset when my ideal outcome doesn’t occur. Of course, this is pretty often because such is life. This idealism weakens me by making it difficult to go with the flow. Or a reverse meaning: pessimism. When my depression starts to get the upper hand it’s awfully hard to see the stars shining.
Strength is number eight in three of my four decks, and it is number eight in the RWS deck. A.E. Waite swapped Strength and Justice, which were originally numbered eleven and eight respectively. I will examine Strength here in the eighth position and Justice in a few days at the eleventh position, but then I would like to reexamine both cards with their original placement in mind and see how that would affect their meanings and the Fool’s Journey.
In this position, Strength begins the second line of the Major Arcana, which turns from outward success and control to the inner self. On this card, in three of my four decks, you can see a woman and a lion (a woman and a bird in the Animism Tarot). This represents the inner strength to allow our “tamed” animal side out. In card seven, the Chariot, the Fool has control over the dualities in her life. In the RWS depiction, the chariot being ridden is stone, suggesting a rigidity in this control. Strength, however, is about knowing our inner “animal” (or lion, as depicted) is tamed and letting it out. This allows for more emotional expression which the inhabitant of the Chariot might find ridiculous.
As the first card of this second row, Strength relates to the Magician. 1 (the Magician) + 3 (the Empress) = 4. 4 x 2 (the High Priestess) = 8, or Strength. Strength can be seen as the power embodied in the Magician, the sensuality of the Empress, and the inner contemplation of the High Priestess. A lovely combination of passion and peace.
The kind of strength embodied in this card is not domineering or aggressive. It is patient and compassionate, loving and courageous.
A shadow could be over-taming our inner lion, or basically staying at the Chariot level rather than reaching true strength as signified in this card. The opposite / reverse of Strength would be an inner sense of inadequacy or anxiety.
If I were to assign an element to this card, I think it might be water and fire. While these two elements may seem like opposites, I think this card embodies a beautiful combination of the two: the fire of passion and the coolness of peaceful emotion.
This card represents a state of being that I would love to achieve: the ability to let my inner emotions out more often without fear of abuse in return. My little lion has been beaten into submission so often that I now police it all on my own. This card fills me with a happy hope and makes me smile.
I have certainly been strong to survive what I have, but the Strength card represents a new kind of strength. The strength to not let that abuse dictate how I think and behave for the rest of the my life. The strength to resurrect my inner animal (or inner child, if you will) and to let her run free. She is indeed tame and won’t hurt anyone. There’s no realistic reason to keep her locked up any longer. Easier said than done, but oh how wonderful it will be when I’ve reached that place!
My passion is my journey to a becoming a healthier, happier person. I have experienced pain, and I am ready to move forward.
In the Animism Tarot, the swords appear to be under the water, pointing toward the sunrise. So the swords are still present, but they are submerged and provide direction to something beautiful and warm. A sunrise also symbolizes a new beginning. Creator Joanna Cheung says, “The journey is almost over, and your destination is close.” Keywords include both fortitude and tranquility, strength and peace.
Swords are air, but both this depiction and the traditional RWS card are filled with water. The water (emotion) can successfully carry the mental anguish symbolized by the swords. In the traditional card, the ferryman uses a pole (wand) to push the ferry along. This represents the drive to create change and move on.
Position Two: How have I expressed it?
I have expressed this by reevaluating my worldview and creating spiritual practices that feed my soul. As I quoted in my first encounter with the Hierophant, Paul Quinn says in Tarot for Life: “Our task is to keep the ones [the ideas] that expand out spirit and retire the rest. … the Hierophant represents not only what one has learned or must learn, but also what one must eventually unlearn to nurture the heightened consciousness beckoning in the World card” (62, emphasis in original).
I am learning tarot and meditation, both spiritual practices with communities and long histories, in the hopes that these will facilitate my journey. In the traditional RWS depiction, the Hierophant raises his hand with two finger pointed up and two pointed down, symbolizing “as above, so below.” I am expressing my passion for forward movement on my journey by acknowledging the spiritual elements of my life and incorporating them into my daily practices.
Position Three: How can I express it more fully?
Four of Cups
While many interpretations of the Four of Cups are about dissatisfaction or the need to reach out for an offered opportunity, I also like the interpretation that states that the man in the traditional RWS card is not dissatisfied, but is content with the three cups that already sit in front of him and is taking care of himself by not accepting a fourth cup, which might be too much for him to take on at this point in time.
I can live my passion of creating my true self by not taking on too much. I can appreciate what I have and recognize when to say, “No thank you.” This will allow me to dedicate more energy to the task at handn.
Position Four: What blocks me?
The High Priestess
I can be blocked when I stay in my own head for too long. Introspection has its place and is certainly valuable, but there comes a time for action. I am blocked when I become trapped inside myself and won’t or can’t turn my intuition and thoughts into action.
I am free when I am able to “let go” in the company of my family of choice. Their stable love creates an environment where I am occasionally able to forget myself and really be the person I am journeying toward.
I nurture and celebrate success in others, and am beginning to do the same for myself. This card can also represent a balance of fire energy: enough to keep the fires burning bright, but not so much that they rage out of control. I am nurturing this sort of control or moderation in my journey.
Position Seven: What does nurturing ask of me?
Joanna, creator of the Animism Tarot, says, “Ferocity and gentleness, freedom and control, passion and compassion: there is balance here, one that requires a delicate touch, one without fear, but with understanding. With balance, comes peace.” Nurturing asks that I temper my passion with compassion and be confident in the knowledge that I do not have to be aggressive to achieve my goal.
The Strength card reminds me that “nurturing” with my dominant air qualities is not actually reflective of true strength. Knowledge and power are most effective when wedded to compassion and gentleness.
Position Eight: What does it give me?
Queen of Pentacles
Joanna says, “She is balanced in life, understanding the value of hard work as well as the importance of simple pleasures.” Through nurturing both myself and others, I will reap the benefits of this labor and be able to to partake in the simple pleasures that life offers by recognizing when to stop and smell the roses — which is in itself a form of self-nurturance.
Position Nine: How can I bring together my passion and my nurturance?
Two of Pentacles
The Two of Pentacles is a card that speaks to balance. This card acknowledges that balancing acts are not always the easiest: life comes with ups and downs. While the Four of Cups in this reading spoke to not taking on more than I can handle, this card may say, “But you must handle the balance between your passion and nurturing. Don’t neglect one in favor of the other, and work to tend both of them.” This card also implies that this juggling act doesn’t inherently have to be tedious or boring: I can make it joyful if I choose to approach it with a good attitude.