Courtroom Drama

Now that I’ve explored the Major Arcana, I can jump back into the Alternative Tarot Course! This is a majors only spread, and the question is: How can I become a truly brilliant tarot reader?

Reading 2015, Dec 6
Gypsy Palace Tarot

Position Five: The Center

The Hierophant

This card is looked at first since it is the center of the issue at hand — everything else depends on this. It is not drawn randomly from the deck, but is determined by adding the numbers of the other cards in the spread.

While this card still gives me icky feelings much of the time, I’m going to practice seeing it with a positive angle: my dedication to my beliefs are central. And this does not mean blind, dogmatic beliefs. Because I can be insecure, I do tend to second-guess myself. The Hierophant here might be saying, “Stand strong in your beliefs. That’s not inherently a bad thing.”

Position One: In my favor

The Lovers

A lovely card of love and connection! I have external support, and I also feel a great connection to others and would love to help them through tarot. Even though I am not usually super confident, I am on the same page with myself here. While that’s no deep and stable self-love, it is a step in that direction. So I have great support, I have an intense desire to help and connect with others, and I’m actually on my own team!

Position Two: Against me

The Devil

The illusion of unworthiness. I often think I don’t deserve success or I just am not good enough to achieve success. This little devil does lurk in the background.

Position Three: The judge

The Sun

Clarity as judge seems awfully fitting. Keep my vision clear and don’t let myself get tripped up by illusions or self-doubt. Be confident, embody “as within, so without,” and let my own light shine. As long as I keep the point of view of the Sun, she doesn’t see any reason that the Devil should win out. She says, “Love can be so much powerful than doubt.”

Position Four: The decision

The Magician

Maintain a balance, and keep in mind “as within, so without” and “as above, so below.” With a sense of higher purpose and a creative, action-oriented vision, there is no reason I shouldn’t be able to become a brilliant tarot reader.

XIX. The Sun

The Sun
Efflorescent Tarot

Card Meaning

The Sun symbolizes clarity, joy, simplicity, knowledge, and openness. When considering the third row of the Major Arcana as a whole, the Sun is significant: from darkness (in the Devil and Tower) to light (from the Star, to the Moon, to the Sun). What was in shadow in the light of the Moon is now clearly seen.

The Sun is a card of self-confidence. It can represent a harmonious joining of our eternal selves and our mortal selves or the discovery of our own inner Garden of Eden. When we have made the connection between our inner light or eternal self and our mortal self, how could we be anything but confident? To know that such beauty and power lies within us is empowering and joyful indeed! The joy of the Fool has been transformed into a joy bred of self-knowledge and experience.

I love this statement by Paul Quinn in Tarot for Life: “‘Light is above us, and color around us,’ observed Goethe, ‘but if we have not light and color in our eyes, we shall not perceive them outside us.’ The brighter our inner Sun, the more apt we are to see the Sun in the world (as within, so without)” (128). Quinn also relates the card to our inner child and says this is not a refusal to see that which is painful or bad in the world — but rather the knowledge that goodness burns brighter and will outlast these things (129). One of the keywords the Animal Wisdom Tarot assign the Sun is “radiance.”

The Sun
Gypsy Palace Tarot

As card 19, 1 and 9 make us think of the Magician and the Hermit. The Magician reminds us of the “as within, so without” adage, and in the Sun, the Hermit has climbed out of his cave radiant and whole. 1 + 9 = 10 (The Wheel of Fortune), which indicates that even though the Sun might seem like the end of the Fool’s Journey we still have some changes in store.

As the sun in the sky is a source of life, the Sun card might lead us to ask “What is sustaining me and supporting me right now?” And if we are full of Sun energy ourselves, what are we doing to help sustain others?

A shadow of the Sun could be being a little too cocky, perhaps in assuming the world revolves around you. Another shadow could be false cheer, only as an outward performance. An opposite or reverse of the Sun could be refusing to see the light and good of things, keeping your own light from the world, or having low self-esteem.

Elemental Association

If I were to assign an element to the Sun, it would be fire, air, and water. Fire for joy, air for knowledge, and water for spiritual harmony.

The Sun
Animal Wisdom Tarot, Animism Tarot

Personal Reflection

Honestly, the most Sun-like part of my life is practicing tarot. I’ve tried many things (all kinds of hobbies, not only spiritual practices) and enjoyed them, but nothing has gotten me so fired up and excited and sure that I can be awesome at something as tarot has. I’m loving every second of it. I have the privilege of staying at home right now, and I spend probably four hours a day usually studying tarot. And the time flies! I mean seriously flies. I already have plans in the works to set up an online reading business, but I’m waiting to learn more and save up for starting costs. Even so, I think about it every day. I look into logos and LLCs and how others do email readings and all kinds of things. Tarot makes me confident in a way I don’t think I’ve ever been. I feel empowered and good at something and wildly enthusiastic! Tarot is my Sun-place, and hopefully that will eventually leak out into other parts of my life that could use a little more self-confidence.

XV. The Devil

The Devil
Efflorescent Tarot

Card Meaning

The Devil is the first card of the third row in the Major Arcana, a row about moving our spirit from darkness into light — enlightenment. The Devil can represent materialism, oppression, imprisonment, temptation, and illusion.

It may seem strange that this card comes so late in the Major Arcana, immediately following Temperance. But when we keep in mind the three rows in the Fool’s Journey, it makes sense as the starting card for row three regarding the spirit and enlightenment. Row one is about learning about the world around us, row two is about inner growth, and row three zooms out to the ultimate big picture: the spirit in relation to the universe (or however you might like to call the divine). We need the inner victory of Temperance to be able to face the challenges represented in the Devil card.

I really appreciate two quotes that Paul Quinn uses to discuss this row of the Major Arcana and the Devil card:

  • “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. – Carl Jung” (107)
  • “If thou has not seen the devil, look at thine own self. – Rumi” (108)

In the traditional RWS depiction, a man and woman are chained to a box the Devil sits upon. However, when examined closely their chains could be easily removed. The Devil creates the illusion that the materialistic or oppressive world is truly all there is. Also in the RWS depiction, the Devil mimics the arm and hand motions of the Hierophant and the Magician. Rather than having two fingers pointed up and two down (indicating that there is more to life than what we see) on his raised hand, his fingers are all open. In this way, the Devil communicates that the world we see is all there is. The wand he holds in his other hand is pointed to the earth. Where the Magician’s wand pointed to the sky, the Devil’s points to earth, once again speaking to the illusion that this world is all that exists.

The Devil
Gypsy Palace Tarot

While the pentacle represents the human body (with arms raised to the side and legs spread apart), the reversed pentacle seen in the traditional RWS depiction and the Animism Tarot depiction can indicate sexual obsession (genitals above the head). This doesn’t mean that sex is bad. There is power in sex, and we must be careful to not abuse this power or let it be the only power we draw on. The upright pentacle can be seen in both the Efflorescent Tarot and the Animal Wisdom Tarot. Since pentacles speak to the physical world, they could be another indication of only seeing the physical world.

Huszka’s Devil shows four figures: a red figure is the Devil who lulls a woman (white figure) into submission while a pink figure shows the pain experienced in the grip of the Devil and the green figure clings to a security blanket and refuses to see another possible world hushing the pink woman. Huszka’s description of this card is here.

The Devil can also symbolize “demons” from our past that we have not been able to leave behind or suppressed parts of ourselves we are ashamed of, fear, or deny. I appreciate that Paul Quinn in Tarot for Life points out that this can vary from person to person and that an attribute that may be embodied in the Devil for one person may be a liberating attribute to someone else. For example, I was listening to a meditation about compassion the other day, and I had to stop part way through because of the way it was worded. I didn’t like being told to let go of so-called selfishness because that is a trait I’ve had to cultivate a bit of in myself for self-preservation, self-protection, and self-care. Compassion to an extreme (for everyone except myself) was the only world I knew for a long time, and a dose of “selfishness” is freeing me from those particular chains.

I really like the Efflorescent Tarot’s depiction of the Devil. The coat the Devil wears is full of different things: bugs, bones, a ring, a watch, masks, and more. These items represent all of the things we carry with us that imprison us, including the “masks” we wear. The Animal Wisdom Tarot reminds us of the concept of “scapegoat.” We need to seek out and liberate our own shadows rather than projecting them on to others.

The Devil card itself is a portrait of the shadow in ourselves. An opposite or reversed meaning of the card could be liberation

The Devil - animals
Animal Wisdom Tarot, Animism Tarot

Elemental Association

If I were to assign an element to the Devil, it would be earth since it speaks to worldly attachments and entrapments within the physical world.

Personal Reflection

One demon I have conquered is the misunderstanding of compassion as something that requires me to put myself last forever and always. That view of the world was a painful imprisonment which I thankfully discovered was only a illusion which I had the power to free myself from.

One view that still imprisons me is the idea that I have to be on guard in order to minimize my vulnerability and therefore to minimize any chances of being torn down or ridiculed by my loved ones. I’m in a weird place with this belief: I don’t exactly believe it anymore, so the prison door is open. It’s just awfully scary to actually walk out into an unknown world. As the saying goes, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” This fear creates a powerful hesitation even though I know where I’m at is a type of prison.

Thanksgiving Reading

I found this great Thanksgiving spread I’d like to try out. I’m doing it a day early because we’re getting ready to head over to spend the next couple days with family, and I won’t have anywhere private to do this. (I’m not exactly “out” yet about my tarot reading.)

Reading 2015, Nov 25
Animism Tarot

This seems a lot more gloomy than I was anticipating. Time to dive in and see what some of this might mean.

Position One: What sustains me (Turkey)

Five of Pentacles

This seemed like a tough card in this position, but I pulled out Joanna’s little white book, and some of the key words she uses for this card can certainly fit here: “truth, adaptation, endurance.” These little kiwis have been through a lot, but they still have each other and they know this moment is not the end. Better things will come. They just have to endure the present moment. I think it is fair to say that this sense of endurance is something that sustains me. I’ve been through bad times, but I’ve learned to stick with those who love me and to know in the midst of sorrow and hardship that better things will come.

Position Two: What completes me (Stuffing)

The Wheel of Fortune

A change in my life for the better. The period of my life defined by pain has ended. A new era has dawned, and even though some of it is mysterious and beyond my control, it’s a much better place to be. I love the image of a spider web as the Wheel. This can symbolize the interconnectedness of all things. I may only be a thread in the web, but I am both an essential piece (valuable, with purpose) and connected to the others (attached, not in control). Additionally, spider webs look pretty delicate, but they’re quite strong.

Position Three: What I don’t get enough of (Green Bean Casserole)

Ace of Swords

At first I was confused by this card in this position since I tend to be a sword-heavy person. But perhaps in this place it means clarity and courage. I think a lot and rely on my mind a lot, but it doesn’t mean I’ve felt brave about some of the changes I’d like to make, or clear on how to create these changes. I’ve not been seeing with the clear sight of the eagle.

I like what Joanna says, “Let the world speak. What we find may not be what we wanted, but it may be what we needed after all.”

Position Four: What I get too much of (Cranberry Sauce)

Ace of Wands

Well, I’ve already established that it’s not courage. I think with this Ace in this position, I think I’ve had too much fire and drive with too little direction to send it in. I want change, I’m ready for change, but I’ve got all this pent up energy. Without the clarity of the Ace of Swords, I can get burned by this energy.

Position Five: What I need to share (Bread)

The Magician

One of the many meanings that the Magician conveys is “as above, so below,” and so also “as within, so without.” I have moments of confidence and pride in who I am on a deep level. I need to share that. I need to share myself, my talents, and my skills to create the “as within, so without” balance represented in the Magician.

Position Six: What I should enjoy more (Pie)

Nine of Wands

This is a card of defensiveness. When I first discovered this, I immediately related to it. The RWS depiction of someone with their flimsy fort of sticks was a symbolic depiction that spoke directly to me. In the Animism Tarot, we can see that this elephant had good reason to fight. She was being held captive. However, if we look closely, we can see that her chains are broken. She can run away now. I should enjoy my freedom more, rather than feeling like I’m still in the middle of a fight.

Position Seven: What my blessing is in life (Blessing)

Three of Swords

While this card represents heartbreak and pain most clearly, it also speaks to healing. I wouldn’t necessarily call my pain a blessing, but the sunrise after the storm is something a lot of people don’t get to see. For folks who live out their lives in mostly sunny days, a sunrise may not be something special. But as someone who spent the first two decades of her life in a dark and scary storm, the sunrise after was and continues to be a huge blessing. My blessing is that I escaped my pain (or the source of my pain, anyway), and I get to journey to greener pastures. I get to revel in the joy of many small kindnesses that others may take for granted.

Overall Reflection

That turned out much less gloomy than I thought it might at first glance. My pain is a part of me, but that doesn’t mean the pain itself stays central to who I am. It may shape me, but my life is about more than dwelling in the hurt.


Note: I swapped green bean casserole and cranberry sauce from their original positions in Arwen’s spread to better fit my Thanksgiving taste buds  🙂

XIII. Death

Efflorescent Tarot

Card Meaning

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.

Gypsy Palace Tarot

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.

Death - animals
Animal Wisdom Tarot, Animism Tarot

Elemental Association

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.

Personal Reflection

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.

XII. The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man
Efflorescent Tarot

Card Meaning

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.

The Hanged Man
Gypsy Palace Tarot

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.

The Hanged Man - animals
Animal Wisdom Tarot, Animism Tarot

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.

Elemental Association

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.

Personal Reflection

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.

XI: Justice

Efflorescent Tarot

Card Meaning

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.

Gypsy Palace Tarot, card eight in this deck

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.

Justice - animals
Animal Wisdom Tarot, Animism Tarot

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.

Elemental Association

If I were to assign an element to Justice, it would be air since air directly involves issues of truth and justice.

Personal Reflection

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.

VI. The Lovers

Efflorescent Tarot

Card Meaning

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.

Gypsy Palace Tarot

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.

Lovers - animals
Animal Wisdom Tarot, Animism Tarot

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.

Elemental Association

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.

Personal Reflection

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.

Reading: The Hierophant

Reading 2015, Nov 11
Animal Wisdom Tarot, A Reading for the Hierophant in Rachel Pollack’s The New Tarot Handbook

Position One: How has tradition affected my life?

Beaver, Eight of Fossils (Pentacles)

The tradition of “family” has affected my life in multiple, conflicting ways. For the majority of my life, family was a obligation and a system where I had to be obedient. This was a joyless tradition since it was all work and no spiritual fulfillment. I had no concept of family as a positive, safe place for spiritual and emotional support.

I have finally begun to assimilate with my family of choice, and this took a lot of learning and unlearning (the Hierophant as education in a tradition). It has been a healing process and, as I am becoming more confident, an enjoyable kind of “work” as portrayed in the Eight of Pentacles. In fact, I’m bringing some of my own “traditions” to the family, particularly holiday traditions. Before I became an active member of the family, they didn’t celebrate a lot of holidays even though they recognized them. This has been a really enjoyable experience, bringing these holidays to life and making them our own.

Each eight card in the Animal Wisdom Tarot contains a lemniscate, representing cycles and patterns. Traditions are shared patterns of actions and beliefs.

Position Two: What have I learned?

Dog, Ten of Fossils (Pentacles)

This new way of experiencing tradition has taught me how to play and be happy, to feel fulfilled. Now, of course it’s a learning curve and I still experience fear and inhibition a good bit of the time as well. But that doesn’t diminish this incredible lesson which I continue to grow with.

While the traditional RWS depiction of the Ten of Cups shows a family joyful in only needing each other’s company, the traditional Ten of Pentacles can be said to be more structured and rule-based. In this context, the Ten of Pentacles can represent family tradition. And that doesn’t mean less loving or more strict. Tradition, when done “right,” can be a warm and beautiful shared experience. That is what I am learning to be a part of.

This card appeared in my reading for the High Priestess regarding what is deep within me. So maybe I’m just learning to let it out 🙂

Position Three: How have I broken with tradition?

Scarab Beetle, Ten of Branches (Wands)

This card in the Animal Wisdom Tarot can can represent “conscious transformation.” In the traditional RWS depiction, it can represent excess and burden — the person in the card carrying the ten wands has their arms full and can’t see the road in front of them. I can relate to both sides of this card. The old “tradition” of family life for me was very much like the person weighed down with so many branches she can’t see anything else. But like the Animal Wisdom Tarot’s interpretation, I have made a conscious choice to do something else with those branches, and the road ahead is clear, even if I’m not sure exactly where it leads.

Position Four: What do I have to teach others?

Bat, Master of Suspension (The Hanged Man)

The Hanged Man shows us that a drastic change in perspective and/or a pause can bring great transformation or enlightenment. Not only do bats hang upside down, but they can “see” with echolocation. While I am by no means a “master of suspension,” I have made huge strides in my life from being utterly trapped with no sense of my own power to embracing my power, making choices that are far outside my comfort zone, and creating a new life for myself, starting with my inner world. I can teach and encourage that in others.

Position Five: How can I fulfill this role?

Salamander, Two of Branches (Wands)

Twos represent duality and balance, as symbolized by the yin-yang symbols on the twos in the Animal Wisdom Tarot deck. And while the salamander is a symbol of fire, she also lives on both the earth and in the water. A fiery spark with a balance of emotion and reality. Paul Quinn in Tarot for Life says that this card “illustrates the tension between stability and mobility” (148). So perhaps I can fulfill this role by carefully choosing when to remain still (like the Hanged Man) and when to move forward. A balance between the creative action of the Magician and the quiet contemplation of the High Priestess.

III. The Empress

The Empress
Efflorescent Tarot

Card Meaning

The Empress represents sex, motherhood, and love. She represents passion. Where The High Priestess is intuition, The Empress is emotion. She is a nurturing and creative force, and can also represent Mother Nature.

The Empress represents an important point of growth on the Fool’s Journey. As the third card, 1 (The Magician) + 2 (The High Priestess) = 3, which can stand for synthesis or harmony between (active) creation and (inactive) intuition. Where The High Priestess occupied her inner being, The Empress experiences the world sensually through passion and emotion. Three is also the number of dimensions that humans experience in our comprehensible reality.

The Empress
Gypsy Palace Tarot

In the Efflorescent Tarot, The Empress’s crown is made up of five-point stars. In the traditional RWS card, the stars are six-pointed, symbolizing the combination of the symbols for air (The Magician) and water (The High Priestess). Her shield is painted with a human heart, her necklace holds the sign of Venus, and her dress is red: all symbols of passion. The water flowing beside her and pooling at her feet symbolizes change and stability as one: the river is always moving, but it is always the same river.

A shadow of The Empress would be failing or refusing to see necessary facts, being overindulgent, being overprotective, or caring for others at one’s own detriment. The opposite / reversal would be failing or refusing to surrender to passion or not providing sufficient care for the proverbial seeds one has planted (projects, relationships, goals).

The Empress - animals
Animal Wisdom Tarot, Animism Tarot

Elemental Association

If I were to assign an element to The Empress, it would be earth and fire. She enjoys earthly pleasures with passion and is a creative force.

Personal Reflection

So far, this is the toughest card for me to reflect on since I tend to have such a tight control over my passions. With an air-heavy personality, compared to The Empress she represents a lot of things that I am not, or that I have not let myself be. The Empress might say to me, “Feel, touch, create! Let your passions loose and see where they take you. Life is pleasure, nurture yourself.”