Last night I had the most wonderful visit from a beautiful Barred Owl. I followed her on foot as she flew from rooftop to treetop around the apartment complex. She was stunning and didn’t seem to mind my company. It was a truly magical experience.
When I returned to the apartment, I decided to pull out all of the owl cards from my animal-themed tarot decks to ponder the message she may have had for me.
Perhaps the message I can take from this beautiful visitor is, “I feel your pain. I know it’s a hard time right now. There’s no denying that. There’s also no rushing it. The dark night will pass, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find small joys in the meantime. Night isn’t as scary as some folks think. There’s magic to be found. Maybe healing magic. Listen and learn. Don’t rush yourself and don’t be down on yourself. Healing will come at its own pace. Be present where you are, even if it is dark.”
Position One: Seed, a beginning or something that needs nurturance
King of Wands
I am really fascinated by the Animal Totem’s description of this card. It speaks to me much more clearly than any other description for this King I’ve read. He may seem mellow, but he demands respect and he’ll become dangerously frenzied if he is crossed. It may not be the most flattering thing to admit, but I can relate to that. Respect is really huge for me. So how might this represent a seed here?
Honestly, my self-confidence has taken a huge hit recently. So perhaps I need to nurture the cocky confidence of the King of Wands (without taking it too far, of course). To feel worthy of respect.
Position Two: Sprout, energies, guidance, and support during the process
Queen of Cups
A willingness to go deep within myself to explore all of the emotions at play in this situation. However, I’m not sure if I am best served at this point in time by doing this solo or by inviting someone to make the dive with me. I need to do some serious reflecting on this.
Position Three: the Fruit, possible outcome
The High Priestess
If I am able to tackle this task successfully, I will have a stronger sense of who I am as I am. Not as others see me or wish me to be. I will be more confident in myself without allowing others to so easily shake my self-esteem. I will trust my own inner voice and intuition more than the voices around me.
Judgement is a card of renewal and rebirth. Duality is a theme that has been explored throughout much of the Major Arcana. Here, we see a child between the man and the woman. This symbolizes the birth of a new self. From duality comes a new whole.
The cross in the sun on the Efflorescent Tarot (and on the angel’s banner in the RWS version) can represent a cross-roads. Judgement signals a need to leave something old behind in order to take this new path or in order to be resurrected. It can also represent the coming together of world and the universe.
Justice and Judgement seem to have a lot in common, but Rachel Pollack in Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom says that, “With Justice the experience and the response were personal, based on your actions in the past. Here a force greater than yourself is leading and calling you, and the Judgement is not simply on the meaning of your own life but on the true nature of existence, and the way in which you and all beings are a part of it” (135). So while Justice is about inner balance and truth, Judgement seems to be an awakening to the larger recognition that we are a part of the universe or a call to or recognition of change. Pollack tells us that this change can be mundane or divine and that the other cards in a spread can help to illuminate the change we’re called to or the change we need to recognize.
While the Sun is about unity and self-acceptance, Judgement speaks to unity and community. We are all integral parts of the universe. Paul Quinn in Tarot for Life says, “The Trump unites the fluidity of the High Priestess (2) with the ego-unencumbered wholeness of the Fool (0). The combination initiates the process that will lead to the spiritual homecoming symbolized in the World. … Judgment’s angel breaks through the density of mass consciousness with the revelation that we are all one in spirit. … Therefore, the Angel of Judgment does not seek to judge us (as the name of the card might imply) but to lift us out of our judgmental conscioussness” (133, emphasis in original).
A shadow of Judgement could be waiting for someone else to rescue us. An opposite or reverse meaning could be uncertainty about how to implement change or an unwillingness or inability to heed the call.
If I were to assign an element to Judgement, it would be fire and water: fire for the inspiration of the call and water for the spiritual unity we see through Judgement.
I think I’ve been called to take better care of myself for many, many years, but I only just answered that call a couple of years ago. Oh, I wish I’d listened earlier, but absolutely better late than never. I’m still working on heeding the call. I finally stopped letting people stomp all over me, but I’m still working on believing that I’m important and valuable — just as valuable as everyone else (like the Judgement card reminds me).
One of Paul Quinn’s reflection questions for this card is, “What ‘angels’ have awakened you to greater possibilities?” I’ve got to say my sweetie is one. He always believes in me even when I absolutely 100% do not. And like an angel, he hasn’t given up on me even once. He models the possibility of loving myself unconditionally.
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 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’m having a craptastic afternoon, so I found a spread I’d like to try out. It’s from tarot in a teacup.
Row One: What is the root cause of my anger?
The High Priestess, The Star, The Sun
The High Priestess is about the subconscious. While I try to be conscious of the baggage I carry around and how it affects me, I can be dragged under when it reaches up from my subconscious and catches me unawares. The High Priestss also indicates my tendency to immediately retreat inward when I am angry. I retreat from the world, including those around me. However, I’m not exactly listening to my inner intuition or unconscious. Just fleeing. When I have retreated so far into myself, I lose clarity (The Sun) or any glimmer or sense of hope (The Star). This makes it difficult to climb out of the deep hole of anger I’ve fallen into.
The Star can also indicate my tendency to have high ideals. When they are not met, I can become angry. Both my total withdrawal (The High Priestess) and my overly high ideals (The Star) block my ability to think with clarity (The Sun), so I become trapped in anger.
Row Two: What I need to do to heal/resolve my anger issues.
Page of Swords, Page of Pentacles, The Hermit
Pages are not active (like, for instance, knights), and the Hermit speaks to conscious introspection. These cards seem to be saying, “Stop!”
The Page of Swords says, “Stop and evaluate your state of mind.” The Page of Pentacles says, “Stop and evaluate the situation that surrounds you.” The Hermit says, “Stop and look within yourself. Be honest and learn from what you see.” Just stop. Evaluate, and then choose a different way to move forward rather than staying put in such an ugly emotional/mental place.
Pages also represents earth. So they can also be saying, “Stay grounded. Don’t float away on your sea of anger. Stay here.”
Four major cards and two court cards! This may speak to this as a larger developmental / spiritual issue for me. Of course it affects my daily, more “mundane” life, but it’s something I need to tackle on my Fool’s Journey (majors) in order to make real progress on my family (court cards) aspirations.
This card its below the High Priestess in the Major Aracana’s three rows of seven, and these two cards are certainly similar. While the High Priestess represents intuition and the unconscious, the Hermit seems to represents a more conscious withdrawal into the unconscious or into one’s self for the purpose of contemplation related to a particular circumstance or issue. The Hermit also represents a wise guide helping us on our journey, which could be our own inner voice, or the voice of a person in our life. In this way, the Hermit is more connected to the outside world than the High Priestess and more focused on the exploration of the self, and she represents a temporary withdrawal from the outer world. If others wish to follow her into introspection or seclusion, she will welcome them and teach them.
The six-pointed star in the Efflorescent Tarot’s Hermit represents the combination of fire and water. The owl in the Animal Wisdom Tarot (“Keeper of the Light”) represents vision in darkness. I’m curious about the headless fish in Huszka’s portrayal, but I don’t have any ideas at this point for what they may represent. I love Joanna’s red panda Hermit!
A shadow of the Hermit could be feelings of isolation or fear of other people. The opposite / reverse of the Hermit could be a refusal to examine oneself, or it could indicate a “coming out of one’s shell” and taking life less seriously.
If I were to assign an element to the Hermit it might be water, air, and fire. Fire for the courage needed to honestly examine oneself; water for the unconscious aspect of the self exploration; and air for the wisdom represented by the Hermit.
I am intensely “Hermit-ing” in my own life right now. And I think I’m doing a pretty decent job of not being completely withdrawn. I retreat from the world to reflect and I go back out and try to put into action what I’ve learned about myself. While there’s still plenty to learn, I think this is the best I’ve done in a long time of being more Hermit-like than High Priestess-like (being trapped in my inner world, even when I need to leave).
I think at this moment in time, I also embody both the shadow and the reverse of the Hermit. Isolation and fear of others and trying to come out of my shell anyway.
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.