This morning I was particularly sad. I’m taking a break in communicating or spending time with someone, which is something I need to do while I figure out what I want or what to do. But that doesn’t make it easy. I’m sad! I miss them! This ache was, for some reason, rather acute this morning.
I wanted to do a reading but wasn’t sure what to ask, so I decided to do a four card open reading. Then I couldn’t decide on just one deck, so I decided to consult two of my tarot “friends.”
Ostara Tarot’s Message
Ace of Coins, The Hierophant, Four of Wands, Seven of Coins
The Ace of Coins says to me that there is an opportunity for a new beginning. In this scenario, I’ll consider that beginning as encompassing most of my world: work, family, relationships, home. While this can be a good thing or lead to a sense of stability and joy (Four of Wands), it is not an easy thing. I am having to question many of my currently held beliefs (The Hierophant), and it’s not quick work (Seven of Coins). The colors in this spread seem very mellow. This feels like it emphasizes the slow nature of the work I’m doing right now and reminds me that many wonderful things grow out of slow processes. This wait is part of what makes the end result so valuable or special.
The Ostara description of the Ace of Coins mentions the garden as growing “organically” — things will happen as they unfold. I can tend my proverbial garden, but I can’t make a rose a watermelon or make a sprout flower overnight.
The Hierophant represents not only belief systems, but larger systemic structures. I can search for outside wisdom and inspiration during this time. For example, I’m reading my new book The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren and it is already giving me so much to think about as I process my emotions in this situation. The Ostara depiction is my favorite Hierophant because there’s a book and pages. A plant grows out of the Hierophant’s head here — another hint at organic unfolding.
The carrots in the Four of Wands offer a similar hint.
The Ostara depiction of the Seven of Coins with the little raccoons snuggled in their tree reflects the need to patiently cultivate the world around me. The coins seem to magically grow out of the tree, representing where true treasure lies.
Here, the Ostara Tarot is reaffirming the slowness of this transition in my life. It is what it is. I should use this time well.
Gypsy Palace Tarot’s Message
Two of Wands, Nine of Wands, The Empress, Ten of Pentacles
I’m feeling trapped in a “stay or go” cycle of questions in my mind. Huszka’s depiction of the Two of Wands warns us that if we wonder for too long, stagnation and decay will set in. While I wait for the things that need to unfold organically, I can throw some fire energy into other things, like planning for my tarot business and being a good partner to my sweetheart.
I think in this situation, the Nine of Wands can represent not only my current sense of defensiveness but also my questioning and restructuring of personal boundaries. Particularly emotionally. This is one of the things that I feel will unfold as a combination of organic, subconscious happening and concerted, conscious work. Right now I feel like the grumpy woman guarding her fenced-in property!
The Empress reminds me to be nurturing and compassionate, which I think I’m doing a pretty good job of lately with myself. With others it feels tricky because of my unsureness about where and how to set boundaries. Before, I’ve always put others before myself, so it feels strange to put myself first and to leave others be on their own. I look forward to striking some kind of balance between the the Nine of Wands defensiveness and the Empress’s outward love and nurturance.
Where the Ostara Tarot gave me the Ace of Coins, The Gypsy Palace Tarot shows me the Ten of Pentacles. In fact, the Ace is the first card in my spread, and the Ten is the last! Perhaps here the Ten may indicate the end of an old cycle of being and thinking. One that worked for a while but isn’t functioning in a healthy way anymore. It can also represent a hopeful peek into the future: a joyous Ten of Pentacles representing success and fulfillment.
Each deck gave me one major card and a combination of coins/pentacles and wands. No swords, no cups. Much of what is happening feels like emotion and thought, but perhaps this spread indicates these are actions that are unfolding organically around and within me. The two major cards symbolize, broadly, love (The Empress) and beliefs (The Hierophant). I feel that these two things are really at the core of what is happening in and around me right now. I am full of love, but I just have to figure out what I really believe is the best way to share that and to protect my heart.
I can see the light! My heart aches much less today. Someone has helped to begin the healing process.
I decided to do a tarot spread to celebrate and process this breakthrough, and I’m calling it the Sunrise.
Position One: What has come to light
Page of Cups
A fresh emotional perspective. A new beginning. Earth of water: a grounded perspective on emotions. Everything is out on the table, and a new journey together is beginning.
Position Two: What to remember about myself
At heart I am a loving nurturer. This doesn’t mean that I have to tolerate being treated badly, but on this new journey I can really thrive and lend my knowledge and skills to the process of growing and renewing. I feel much happier in this role rather than feeling sad and defeated. I can shine now that the sun has risen with the Page of Cups.
I love that this depiction of the Empress has a bird’s nest in her hair. I watched an amazing show on PBS about bird nests and how incredibly intricate they are — truly skilled pieces of construction. Nurturing is not easy work. It is hard work that takes time, dedication, and great skill. I want to build this new nest for a fresh start.
Position Three: What to remember about the other person
King of Cups
They are emotionally invested, but they are working on mastering expression of emotion in healthy ways. Things should be different now, but if they stumble I should remember that they are as emotionally invested as I am. If this happens, I can be firm but loving to direct them back on track.
Position Four: What is possible
Six of Pentacles
A respectful and fair balance. A mutually beneficial give and take. I particularly love the Animal Wisdom Tarot’s description of this card as relating to community and providing for everyone and taking only what one needs. Loving, caring community is possible.
On a side note, this seems to be the card stalking me at the moment.
Position Five: What is the earth/foundation we are standing on
Eight of Swords
The previous foundation was a lack of productive communication. Two minds out of sync, trapped in isolation from each other. Through some intense honesty, the blindfolds have been removed and the new foundation is one of shared knowledge and goals, and mutual understanding. The previous foundation was a recipe for disaster. Now that the foundation has been repaired, hopefully we can build a lovely (and loving) house.
Continuing through Susannah Conway’s workbook, I’ve done a spread for the year ahead. I don’t subscribe to the idea of future-telling, but I do like the idea of a little message or tidbit to keep in mind for each month of the year ahead. So I’ve gone through and created a short message from each card, focusing on the particular messages in the little white book for the Ostara deck.
January – Queen of Coins
I love that this card came up first, especially since it is one of two cards that I chose to help guide me in courage through the year ahead.
“Cherish home and family, focus on and nurture the world immediately surrounding me.”
February – Justice
“Be mindful that all actions have consequences. Choose wisely.”
March – Seven of Coins
“Enjoy the little things. Don’t miss out on these small things by being distracted by impatiently expecting ‘more.'”
April – Four of Coins
“Protect what is mine, but don’t neglect those around me. Share and be generous.”
May – Wheel of Fortune
“Appreciate the good in my life, and don’t let any bad events take me down. Remember that I control my emotional reaction to what happens around me.”
June – Queen of Cups
“Be imaginative and trust my intuition. Continue to be kind and empathetic, but don’t let myself be emotionally drained by others.”
July – Seven of Swords
“In seeking independence, don’t isolate myself. I can be my own person within community.”
August – Knight of Coins
“Hardship can bring valuable lessons. Don’t quit.”
September – Eight of Swords
“Be careful not to get stuck in my own head. Look realistically at situations and seek additional perspectives.”
October – Four of Wands
“Celebrate with family. Be happy.”
November – Queen of Wands
“Trust my creative vision. Be passionate.”
December – The Empress
“Appreciate the abundance of good in my life. Embrace my creative powers.”
I’m feeling a bit icky right now, but I know this is about me. Since I recognize this feeling as about me and not this person, I decided to do a reading to remind myself of some of the things I love and/or admire about them. I pulled three cards to see what they might say.
Page of Cups
I admire their childlike personality. I try to let go and emulate this personality trait more often. Also, this person is more emotional than they let on, and being aware of this emotional quality make it easier to interact with them since I know there is more to this person than meets the eye.
Five of Wands
When their childlike outlook on life comes out more negatively as immaturity, usually through ignorance, I can be easily hurt. When conflict between us arises, this person steps up and buckles down with me to resolve the situation. They are attentive and compassionate. They are very good at listening to and hearing what I am saying when I am upset and owning their piece of the conflict.
At first glance, this card doesn’t seem to relate to this person. But when I thought about it for a bit, I think this person can be very nurturing. I can see this in the way they interact with certain people. Because this person doesn’t wear their emotions on their sleeve, this is not an openly advertised trait, but I see it and I admire it.
Death is a card of change and rebirth, despite its scary name. (Though I’d be just as scared of a card named “change.” I’m not good at transitions!) One thing must end (or “die”) for something new to begin.
Why isn’t the card just called “Rebirth” or something similar then? Because Death is the moment of transition we need to heed in this card. It can be scary and uncomfortable and we may not know what lies beyond, but it is an essential step for many transformations.
There are several ways we can respond to death: we can be defeated, we can face it without fear (through innocence or through a belief system), or we can be afraid. Or perhaps a combination of these things is more likely.
I really like the Efflorescent depiction of Death. I find it super scary! But there’s the reminder of rebirth in the sunrise. The sun comes up between two towers, which are also seen in the High Priestess and the Moon. Both the High Priestess and the Moon symbolize mystery. We have to pass through mystery to get to our rebirth in the Death card. I suppose the sunrise could also be seen as a sunset, but even so the sun “dies” each night and is “reborn” every morning.
Huska explains much of the symbolism in her depiction of Death here. I like how the woman shows the suffering of a person in the face of death, and how the cat and orange face actually make a boat, signaling a transition to a new place.
I think the Animism Tarot depiction of Death is really beautiful. A raven brings a white rose to a group of three bird skulls, and the sun rises in the background. Joanna ends her description of this card with, “Be ready for the light” and includes these keywords: self-awareness, adaption, wisdom, truth, loss, passage. Not as scary when seen this way. The Animal Wisdom Tarot offers the keyword “metamorphosis.”
As number thirteen, one and three point us to The Magician and the Empress, both cards of creation.
Death can also say, “Let it go.” Let go to something that needs to go, but that we’ve been hanging onto nonetheless. Death can be a door closing which will not reopen behind us. We have to move forward.
A shadow of Death could be letting go of things too early or refusing to create attachments to begin with, for fear of loss. An opposite or reverse of Death could be refusing to let go of something when it is time or, on a more positive note, of not letting a good thing die.
If I were to assign an element to Death, it would be water since it is so deeply felt emotionally. I might add a dash of fire as a spark for the beginning precipitated by Death.
Change is not something I am very comfortable with, though I am working on that with some degree of success. I quit my job back in July to go back to school. I’ve discovered that school is not for me at this time in my life, so I will be leaving that behind to create a new me at home. I feel good about these transformations.
I have been mourning the loss / absence of my childhood for some time now. The grief comes and goes. Most days I am good at living in the sunrise, but some days I am overtaken by the sadness I feel at being robbed of a fundamentally valuable part of my life. A part of my life that would have given me a much more stable adulthood. That was a loss I had no control over, though I control now how I respond to that loss.
One of the ways I have responded to this loss is by cutting contact with some people from my family of origin. It was a long road to that decision, and I held on much longer than was healthy. But oh how beautiful the sunrise is! It’s been over two years since that decision, and they’ve been the happiest years of my life. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been ups and downs and hardships, but my life is so much more full of light. That was a loss that needed to happen for me to live. And I’m proud of myself for being strong enough to finally take care of myself.
This card represents seeing something in a new way, surrender, inner or spiritual awareness, and peace. The Hanged Man is suspended upside down, but she doesn’t struggle and she doesn’t appear distraught.
Paul Quinn in Tarot for Life says, “His number, 12, brings together the will of the Magician (1) and the soul receptivity of the High Priestess (2). The sum of their union is the Empress (3), who reminds the Hanged Man that his suspension, like her pregnancy, is but a precursor to a new awareness” (94). This is not a permanent state, but it is a necessary pause or surrender in order to bring about a new understanding or new inner or spiritual awareness. The snake in the Efflorescent Tarot depiction can be representative of a new beginning. The Animal Wisdom Tarot also suggests the Hanged Man as a representation of suspension between the physical world and the spiritual world.
I like how Joanna, creator of the Animism Tarot, says, “Why he is suspended, why he watches in reverse, only he understands. His reality might not make sense, but sometimes life needs to not make sense, and sometimes views must be shifted in order to achieve clarity. And so he holds on until he finds his release.” Things might not make sense right away, but by being patient and allowing things to come into focus slowly, we can achieve clarity. I think that statement also serves as a reminder to be gentle and understanding when others are going through a transition in their lives. It might not make sense to us, but it doesn’t mean they’re being silly or dumb. This could also represent being true to ourselves, even when it doesn’t make sense or conform to the expectations of others. Non-normative ways of being and valuing can be incredibly important.
Western culture is about speed and efficiency. The Hanged Man can remind us of the value of pressing pause. The Hanged Man can also represent sacrifice. We can’t have everything we want in our materialistic society, and this card can remind us of that and make us reevaluate our spiritual understanding of the world when we get wrapped up in materialism.
A shadow of the Hanged Man is feeling trapped or victimized. An opposite or reverse of this card is the end of a paused period in life, or a refusal to pause and see things in a new way.
Sometimes we feel stuck, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t making changes. It would be wise to look at these places we feel stuck and to evaluate whether we’re really “stuck” or if we’re simply making changes from a position of stillness. Inner change as in progress before we can physically move forward. I think Huszka’s depiction does a good job of showing the vulnerability that can come from this. Her Hanged Man is not upside down, but she is naked and, even though she is right-side-up, her feet do not touch the ground.
If I were to assign an element to the Hanged Man, it would be water and air. Water for spiritual enlightenment and air for knowledge and clarity. These elements can be seen in the Efflorescent Tarot depiction which includes a jar of water and a hawk.
It’s been tough, but I am pressing pause right now in my life. I had been wanting to go to graduate school, wanting to push forward and actively being “doing something with my life.” After much honesty with myself, I decided that is not best right now. I need to hold still. I need to stop running full speed ahead when I don’t have the emotional reserves to do so. I will continue to teach online, but other than that I will stay home and do the work that is so often thought of as not “real” work. I am (a) allowing myself to pause and stay at home, to not push forward into projects I am not ready for and (b) seeing housework in a new way, as valuable and worthwhile. So both pausing and seeing things from a new perspective. It’s a good time in my life to emulate the Hanged Man.
This reading serves as an overall reflection of sorts on the first row of seven in the Major Aracana.
Position Zero: Fool. What am I leaping into at this time in my life?
Three of Pentacles
I am leaping into a cooperative era of my life that is quite new for me! This includes both a conscious cooperation with those around me to make emotional connections and a conscious cooperation between my body, mind, and spirit.
Huszka’s portrayal of the Three of Pentacles is more reflective of the frustration of having an idea that you aren’t quite sure how to put into action. In this position in the spread, I think the traditional meaning fits best, but it’s also good to remember that a breakthrough will come if I am feeling frustrated.
Position One: Magician. Where is the energy, the magic?
Three of Wands
The magic is in taking my dreams and fantasies and turning them into reality.
Position Two: High Priestess. What is secret or hidden or unspoken?
Like the individual / ego represented by the Chariot, as I reach the end of my delayed emotional adolescence, I still have much of my unconscious or “true self” to discover. As I come to a sense of balance with the ideas in the first line of the Major Arcana, I look forward to delving deeper on my journey.
Position Three: Empress. What is my passion?
Ace of Swords
My passion is truth and fairness.
Position Four: Emperor. What are the rules I follow (possibly hidden or unconscious)?
Five of Cups
A rule I follow is being realistic about what life brings: some sorrow to be sure, but there are always good things if you know where to look. Mourn that which is lost and don’t miss out on what you still have.
Position Five: Hierophant. What is the path laid out for me?
Ten of Wands
The path laid out for me is not the easiest path in the world, but it is worthwhile. I may feel burdened at times, but as long as I take time to rest and make sure I’m still on the right path, I’ll end up somewhere good.
Huszka’s portrayal can also represent having pushed rocks ahead of us on our path, but at some point they pile up so high we have to stop and dig ourselves out if we’re going to be able to keep moving.
Position Six: Lovers. How do I express my passion?
Eight of Wands
I may ponder something for a while, but once I’ve decided on something I ACT! Sometimes a bit obsessively.
Position Seven: Chariot. Where is it all heading?
What a huge question! The Empress, within the context of the other cards in the spread, may be saying that I am on the road to being able to joyfully and passionately experience the outer / physical world. While my passion is truth and fairness, this doesn’t mean only internal contemplation. There are truths related to the world around us that I’m missing out on. It won’t always be the easiest journey, but the end of the road sounds wonderful! I can accomplish this by using my passion and drive to turn my dreams of this end result into a reality, and I don’t have to do it alone. And once I’ve reached a balance in the outer world I can better journey through the second row of the Major Arcana.
The Lovers can represent relationships, love, connection, and choice. In the Fool’s Journey, it can be representative of adolescence: the Magician and High Priestess are archetypes of “feminine” and “masculine” energies; the Empress and Emperor represent parents; and the Emperor and Hierophant represent larger social structures. From this perspective, the Lovers indicate a time of making choices based on one’s own desires, such as when a teenager begins to question the authority of those around them and to experience romantic / sexual feelings.
While the Lovers in the traditional RWS deck and here in the Efflorescent deck are presented as male and female, this doesn’t inherently have to be heteronormative in regards to the sexual/romantic element of the card. Male and female are used as archetypes, but really we each contain a mix of so-called “male” and “female” characteristics. The Lovers represent the “wholeness” that comes when we connect with others. The characteristics I have are complemented / completed by the characteristics of my sweetheart. This creation of wholeness is not limited to a romantic couple. Romantic partnerships come in many numbers and formations. The lovers represent connection in a broader sense as well, so our families and friends are essential relationships / connections. Together, we are more than pieces of archetypes; we come together to create a wholeness that does not exist when we are alone. Human are social creatures.
I said in my first exploration of the Lovers:
I like the way that Paul Quinn explains love and connection within this card. “Sifted down to its essence, the Lovers Trump is not only an exclusive representation of the union of sweethearts and sexual partners (eros), it embraces the deep connections between soul mates and friends (philia). And at the other, less personal, end of the spectrum, the Lovers encompasses the unconditional, universal love for all beings (agape)” (66).
He also frames the cards as union or integration between “head and heart, conscious and unconscious, light and dark” (65). This again speaks to a balance of duality within our own selves. Reason constrains, so alone it would not facilitate advancement on our spiritual journeys. Passions frees, but without direction who knows where we’d end up. Joined together reason and passion are powerful.
I think the Animal Wisdom Tarot’s honeybee is a beautiful representation of not only partnership, but with a wider, universal connection / love. Bees work together for the good of the hive and are communally connected in ways that humans are not.
The shadow of this card could indicate codependency, possessiveness, and over-reliance on others. The opposite / reverse of the Lovers could be a lack of connection, unwillingness to connect to others through a lack of trust or fear of intimacy, or antagonism or lack of cooperation.
If I were to assign an element the Lovers, it would be water and earth since they speak to a meaningful (emotional, water) connection with others (outside ourselves, earth). It could probably just as easily be fire and air when it speaks to the balance between passion and intellect. At this moment in time, the water/earth assignment speaks most to me, but that could change with time! So depending on the context of this card, really it could be any of the four elements.
For such a long time, I kept myself at an arm’s distance from others because getting any closer seemed like a guaranteed way to get hurt. And really, it still feels that way, but I can’t be so lonely anymore. I do crave connection, and I desire it enough to travel into “unsafe” territory to try and make those connections. By unsafe territory, I don’t mean actually dangerous situations: I am allowing myself to get closer to the people I already love, which feels “unsafe” because of my background. Sometimes I make good steps, and sometimes I retreat pretty quickly when I feel I may be rejected.
Within myself, I am certainly a combination of “masculine” and “feminine” traits. I can go back and forth between periods of intense activity and deep introspection. I am very reason-oriented, but I am also passionate. Those two overlap quite a bit. My sweetheart is more silly and mellow, and I’ve learned many good lessons from him.