the four elements spread

with travel, insomnia, and sickness all leaving me exhausted and ill, my second week of course work is spilling into two full weeks. i don’t mind, though – considering the way the suits and elements overlap and combine in tarot has been really fascinating, and has taken a lot more mental energy and consideration than i expected. it may be slow going, but i’m enjoying the process.

each week of exercises includes a spread, so naturally this week’s reading is focused on relating elements to a situation in my life. i’m working through some complicated feelings at the moment, so my spread is all about confusion and uncertainty with a particular relationship.

1. your situation at this moment

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this card, the three of cups, is perfect and heartbreaking in this first position. a card of community, friendship, honest relationships, and the family you choose, the birds and cups sit in harmony, relaxed and open, unafraid to be their true selves. this card is a perfect representation of what i’ve had and what i stand to lose, representing a relationship that has kept me feeling whole and secure but that i’m concerned is slipping through my fingers. i feel disconnected, lost, separate, but this card shows me the ideal of what i’m missing. i’ve had this before, and i don’t want to give it up. the support, love, and honesty radiating from this card is what i crave, and what i hope to return to.

2. the earth of your situation

IMG_0296the dreaded nine of swords, a card of depression, heartbreak, nightmares, and things that go bump in the night. as this card is swords and air, rather than cups or wands, it’s important to remember that this is all about what happens in our minds. this card represents terrors, fears, the worst-case scenario, but isn’t necessarily what’s actually true or real. seeing this card in the context of earth could be a reminder to stay grounded, to not get so tangled in this mental storm that i lose sight of what’s really happening.

the situation i’m struggling with is not a new one, but every time i’ve used tarot to work through my feelings on this matter, i pull swords. air is a tricky element for me, and swords are a suit that i feel the least comfortable with – but i think it’s significant that i tend to pull these difficult cards symbolizing fears and traps and depression when dealing with this relationship. i’m very in my head about this, rather than trusting my heart. and while i find comfort in the earth, its calm and stabilizing presence, there’s nothing soothing about this card – except for its emphasis on mental struggles, rather than earthly ones.

3. the water of your situation

ace-of-swordsthe ace of swords, a card of illumination, truth, and insight. there’s a harsh clarity here, an unerring revelation, that forces us to acknowledge reality (whether we want to see it or not). this is an ace of zero bullshit, a card that offers fresh revelations, a flash of insight. there’s nowhere to hide, not with that brilliant sword and bolts of lightning lighting up the sky. water can be murky and deep, distorting our reality and muddling our senses, but air is crisp and sharp, revealing the truth. in this position, this card encourages precision, honesty, and a frank reality check. my assessment of the situation is almost completely emotional, driven by a lonely heart and a tendency towards darkness and depression. i’m often alone, rarely feel accepted, and am overwhelmingly aware of my isolation and differences. this situation is drowning in water, and it’s time to grasp onto that sword, cut through the swirling emotions, and look critically at what’s really happening, rather than simply my perceptions.

4. the air of your situation

ace-of-cupsthe cards are having fun with me today. it’s too on-the-nose to get the ace of swords in the water position, and the ace of cups in the air position – particularly in an emotional and difficult elemental spread that features only cups and swords.

representing the air of my situation, the ace of cups could be signaling a fresh start, a considering of the full range of emotion present. this relationship is one that’s given me such joy, and still feels new in many ways – but that doesn’t mean it’s always been easy, and has brought out a lot of emotions (both difficult and lovely) during its run. things have shifted and changed, and we’re in a new phase now – in many ways, it’s a fresh chapter, a place to start over. combined with air, this card is also a reminder not to be completely overrun by emotions, to exercise caution and remember truth, to stay aware of reality rather than drowning in feelings.

5. the fire of your situation

six-of-cupsthe six of cups is a card of memories, stories, past experiences, longing, and kindness. it gives us an opportunity to remember our roots, reflecting on who we are and how we became this way. there’s also a yearning in this card, a feeling of needed to let go and forgive, a craving for love and acceptance. this is a lovely card, but it always gives me a vague sense of sadness.

in the fire position, this card leaves me a bit puzzled – fire represents movement and opportunity, ideas, inspiration, passion, motivation. but the six of cups feels like reflection and remembrance, sitting beneath that big, beautiful tree and tracing the pattern of the strong, colorful roots that keep it anchored and strong, that gave it life, that let it exist at all. at first glance, there seems to be little connection between burning fire and these quiet cups.

and yet – fire is often about action, outward movement, intensity. and if i push the ideas of the six of cups outwards, it can remind me to consider the roots of others, their stories and experiences and all the effort and growth that happens below the surface. this relationship was forged in trials, was strengthened by shared experience, has endured because of where our root systems connect and overlap. by remembering kindness, by forgiving that which i cannot see, by acknowledging how we connected in the first place, perhaps i can keep this relationship present, rather than simply in the past.

IMG_1573this was an extremely challenging spread for me, and is one that i’ll need to continue meditating on. i’m not convinced i’ve interpreted things correctly. but somehow, it’s still given me hope that this relationship may not be lost. having only cups and swords in this spread feels incredibly accurate – i know that my head and my heart are at war over this situation, that my tendency towards depression but desire to see the truth are battling with my craving for support and resistance to losing this relationship. i still have a lot to learn about combining elements and seeing their influence in situations and cards, but this spread has definitely given me more insight.

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inner light

today’s card is a reminder for peace, calm, finding quiet spaces, and channeling that inner light: the four of swords.

IMG_0291swords can be a stressful suit for me, and the more i work through the elemental aspects the more i understand that air and i just don’t quite fit. something about all that open space, nowhere to hide, the clarity of truth and the forceful nature of wind and storms – it all makes me a bit uneasy. i like my swirling tides and churning waves, feel safer when i can hide in the depths of stormy seas and sink beneath the currents. but i can’t live solely in those mysterious waters – sometimes honesty and openness are the only way to find contentment. and with those big swords hanging overhead, the lamb has to look within herself to find the eye of the storm, has to set her own boundaries and find peace even when everything around her is tense.

we head back home today, after a crazy week in california. there have been some stressful times, some difficult times, some sad times. i don’t feel nearly as rested or relaxed as i hoped to feel, and catching a cold halfway through didn’t help. but i’m grateful to have been able to spend even a few days in one of my favorite places, and thankful to have spent time with family and new friends. IMG_1517

today is a travel day, which are hardly known for being restful or quiet. but as i fly through the air to my home, perhaps i can find some rest, create some moments of peace and calm for myself. i want to be able to learn from each element, rather than wrapping myself up in one and ignoring the rest. my mental space may often be cluttered, may be dark and twisty and confusing, but that doesn’t mean i can just pretend it’s not there. especially after so much stress, it’s critical for me to rest even in tension, to set boundaries for myself so that i can take some deep breaths and find center again.

adding spirit

tarot is built on four suits, each representing an element that shapes who we are and is central to the world around us. heart, mind, body, and soul – each suit in the minor arcana explores the highs and lows of our experience as humans on this earth. my course this week is all about exploring these elements within my cards, and connecting them to each other and to me personally.

while beth has a number of exercises for us to follow this week, i want to include this five element spread from the wild unknown, allowing me to add in the major arcana and connect more deeply to the various elements in the deck.

1. earth

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this card represents my foundation, my home, and my sense of stability: the six of pentacles. though there is darkness around, this branch is flourishing, finding a way to grow and blossom even after difficult times. i may not have all resources available to me all the time, but making due with what is present is something that gives me courage, strength, and pride. there’s beauty in both giving and receiving, and it’s important to me that i don’t simply take and take and take without paying things forward. i feel the most grounded when i am able to give back, help friends, be strong for those that need me. and while my career is never going to make me wealthy (and may never fully support me financially, which keeps me incredibly humble when i compare my earnings to those of my husband), doing something that i love and believe in helps me to flourish personally in ways beyond riches.

 

 

2. water

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the three of cups represents my emotional self, my relationships, and my creative and spiritual flow. as someone that’s fairly private and doesn’t always trust others immediately, this is a lovely card to see and an important reminder – i may not have a wide circle of friends, but those i do have know me truly, allow me to be myself completely, and will stand by me through thick and thin. my relationships keep me centered and healthy, and when i remember to rely on my friends and family, when i gather my strength and trust them with my pain and my darkness and my secrets, i’m always better off. it’s not a weakness to ask for help or admit when i’m overwhelmed. and while it’s not easy to ask for support, i need to be better about doing it.

 

3. fire

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this card represents my sense of self, my soul, that inner spark that keeps me moving and motivated. the seven of wands is a card of independence and strength, a light in the darkness, a bold flame that knows what it’s burning for. i’ve always been different, rarely fit in or feel normal, but this card stands fiercely and proudly. it reminds me that knowing who i am, and not being afraid of what makes me different, is an important part of growing up and being strong. this little flame may stand alone and apart, but she’s sure of what she wants, knows she cannot be silenced, believes in her calling. when i stay true to myself, even if i’m alone, i am always stronger. my inner spark is often restless, feeling that i should be burning brighter or harder or larger – i have trouble being present, acknowledging where i am with calm and purpose. but this card feels so still, though the flame is crackling and lighting up the darkness.

 

 

4. air

daughter-of-swords

the daughter of swords is straightforward, intelligent, and embraces simplicity: an inspiring card for my air element, representing my relationship to change and inspiration. i love to travel, love to explore, love challenging myself to grow and learn in new ways. but i don’t like a lot of fuss – i always prefer to keep things drama-free. and while my scorpio nature means that i keep a lot of secrets, enjoy mysteries, and am often hard to read, when it comes to travel and adventurous i like to know what’s going on. i’m currently on vacation with my husband and his family, and the lack of planning and communication, the utter disorganization, the clear differences in the purpose of the trip, are driving me a little bit crazy. i want to know where i’m going, want to experience as much as possible, and don’t want to waste any time trying to organize those that refuse to be organized. i really identify with this child of the air: let’s not make this any more complicated than it needs to be.

5. spirit

the-empress

i’m a bit surprised to see the empress in this final position, representing my relationship to spirituality and the infinite. my birth card is the high priestess, a card i love and admire deeply for her intuition and spirituality, but the empress is far more grounded. she’s deeply connected to nature and the earth, embraces her senses and her body, understands the world around her on a visceral level. she is nurturing and wise, strong and kind, always extending open arms and caring words to those in need. and while i’m not sure that this is who i truly am, in this very moment i’m feeling extremely connected to the world around me. i’m in a beautiful place, craving time in nature, wanting to enjoy food and the landscape and everything around me with all of my senses. i just want to be, which is not always easy for me. california always feels like home to me, and i want to soak it in for as long as possible, enjoy this feeling of freedom and peace.

 

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this is a spread i want to revisit again and again, as it seems to give a really lovely insight into where i am right now, and how the elements can speak to my current state. these cards all feel calming and affirming, reflecting my current feelings of independence and solitude in the face of community, a desire for action and directness during this long and emotionally draining trip, and a craving for nature and exploration in the last days of our vacation.

i’m a bit behind on my week two exercises, but plan to do another spread tomorrow. if you’re following beth’s course too, please let me know how it’s going!

 

aces & elements

a little bit of sleep has offered some clarity, and i’m ready to dive into week two of my tarot course and focus on the elements in the minor arcana. first exercise: aces!

ace-of-cups

the suit of cups is one i talk about a lot in this space, both because as a scorpio i’m deeply connected to water but also because they tend to pop up for me frequently. the ace of cups is colorful and beautiful, overflowing with light and possibilities. this card represents the beginning of something emotional, a new relationship or connection, the start of a personal, perhaps spiritual journey. cups speak to matters of the heart, whether we’re dealing with others or with ourselves. water ebbs and flows, can be calm or rough, is soothing and restful but can also quickly become overpowering without warning. it’s easy to get ourselves in trouble with this suit, since emotions that start as beautiful and intriguing can quickly swirl out of control – passion can turn to hate, love can turn to obsession, anger can turn to rage. water resists control, has a mind of its own, is heavy and strong and difficult to contain, can sneak in through cracks and tight spaces to take us by surprise. i’m always reminded to keep an open heart when i see this card, to remember that all emotions have value and that it’s important to stay receptive to whatever may come, but also to hang on and try not to get swept away.

ace-of-swordschanneling knowledge and mental clarity is the element of air, represented in tarot as the suit of swords. this suit is for the intellect, the power of facts and justice and communication – everything that takes place in our minds. the ace of swords is both powerful and terrifying, with its strong blade and illuminating bolts of lightning. the sword cuts to the truth of the matter, revealing what is inside with unerring certainty. this is a difficult suit for me, as i’m prone to depression and self-harm, but sometimes this kind of harsh clarity can be necessary. it’s easy to get lost in the tangle of our own minds – to become so focused on our own version of events, our fears, our desires, our insecurities, that we lose sight of what is really true. air is clear and strong, and can often be taken for granted, but when we abuse it or pollute, it quickly becomes difficult to see through and can be impossible to see our way forward. we must respect the power of truth, the wisdom that comes from experience, the necessary but difficult certainties that shape who we are. and as this ace can show us that a burst of clarity, a flash of brilliance, a bit of unflinching honesty are all on the horizon, it reminds us to be ready to see what’s real.

ace-of-wandsfire, passion, inspiration, power – the suit of wands represents the element of fire, and the ace of wands is one of the most brilliant, energetic cards in the deck. this card speaks to a flash of brilliance, a fresh new idea, a spark of energy that pushes us forward into an exciting opportunity. this is the ace i see the most, full of fire and creativity, but often stresses me out with its expectations and drive. the suit of wands speaks to everything that moves us, to motivation, projects, ideas and sparks, but also of burnout, overextending, pushing ourselves too hard and too fast. fire can burn low and slow, all sizzling embers and quietly glowing coals, but can quickly rage and flame into something that’s impossible to control. it can burn fast and hot, cutting through everything in its path and leaving behind a wasteland – or sometimes, space for something new to grow. this ace is a spark, a flash, and gives us the energy and power and passion to push forward, to do something that speaks to us deeply. wants speak to what defines us, what makes us unique. fire is our soul.

ace-of-pentaclesrepresenting the element of earth, our bodies, careers, homes, health, and the world around us, is the suit of pentacles. everything sensual and physical is wrapped into this suit, that which grounds us and keeps us connected to the material world. the ace of pentacles speaks to growth, to resources, reminding us to be practical, methodical, and consistent. unlike some of the other suits, earth is firm and strong, not easily changed or altered. growth takes time and energy, requiring patience and strength and foresight. this ace speaks to prosperity, reminding us to commit to the process and put in the work to achieve our more worldly, physical goals. whether it’s seeking a new job or building a family, finding a safe home or staying healthy or developing a new craft or seeking healthier habits, pentacles encourage us to care for ourselves in a material sense. so often we overlook resources, ignore what’s right in front of us, or get so caught up in dreams and relationships and knowledge that we forget our physical selves. pentacles are a beautiful reminder to take a walk, to reconnect to the world we live in, and to take pleasure in our senses and our bodies.

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each of these aces is so powerful, filled with promise and opportunity and passion, and connecting them to their elemental energies has certainly opened my eyes to the depth of each suit. there’s a richness to tarot, layer after layer of new meaning and promise, and i love the feeling that i may not ever fully master this – tarot will always be teaching me.

protect yourself

i’ve been seeing a lot of swords and cups in my reading today, and i think it’s a perfect (if very on-the-nose) representation of my current mental state – my emotions and fears at war with what my mind is telling me i must do. today’s card is the seven of swords.

seven-of-swords

like the four of swords, this clever creature is completely aware of the swords over her head – but unlike the lamb, channeling her power and setting boundaries for herself, this fox keeps an extra sword hidden, waiting for something big to happen. perhaps she’s aware of a threat in her midst, and doesn’t trust those around her – or maybe she’s the one with the secret, and is wary of being discovered. either way, she is on edge, keeping an eye on everything.

this card often reminds me of the seven of cups, another card that can speak of secrets, illusion, and deception – both speak to internal issues, whether they’re mental or emotional. and having seen both suits so many times in recent readings, it seems fitting to mediate on them both.

IMG_0338last week i wrote a post about coming out, and struggled with whether or not to share it on social media. this blog is not private, and i rarely write secret posts, but it also doesn’t get a lot of traffic – i write mainly for me, and while i occasionally send posts to friends, rarely share it beyond that. as i work through how to come out to some remaining family members, i’ve been wanting additional support from those that already know, along with those that don’t but will be strong allies. but i’ve been putting it off, worried that no one would care, that it wouldn’t mean anything. i’m out to almost everyone in my life – surely posting that on a site like facebook, where my connections are friends and real people i’ve met, shouldn’t be that scary. right? if i can write things that are available to strangers on the internet, surely people that care about me are less intimidating?

but oh, the fear is palpable. just considering posting this publicly (along with writing this post, right now) feels self-indulgent, self-involved, self-serving. sharing a post about my sexuality, as brief and broad as it is, feels like a huge personal step for me. and perhaps it’s the seven of swords speaking – this secret i have is impacting so many relationships, so many decisions, simply because i haven’t shared it yet. but the seven of cups looms too – is my brain pushing my heart to do something it’s not ready for? do i only think this is an important step, when it actually wouldn’t matter to anyone? will i feel better when it’s over, or simply obsess about likes and comments and fear nasty private messages?

i’m honestly not sure. but the phrase i keep seeing in blogs and forums about this card is act consciously. what’s more important – feeling calm and at peace with myself, or getting attention and support from others? do i want to tell people for them, or for me?

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strength in stillness

today’s card is one of my favorites: the four of swords.

four-of-swordspeaceful and strong, the lamb is confident in the power and clarity of her third eye. she’s aware of the swords hanging overhead, but she still smiles in the face of the unknown, allowing herself some much-needed rest. as the guidebook says, she sits in stillness and without fear. fours can represent stability and balance, so combined with the strong air energy and mental power of the swords, this card is all about quiet, rest, and finding space. it can remind us to set gentle boundaries, to protect ourselves, to seek tranquility and self-care practices that gives us peace and strength.

it’s absolutely possible to find moments of peaceful retreat while under pressure, and it’s an important skill to develop. not everything can be done by sprinting or pushing hard – sometimes we have to pause, to breathe, and give ourselves some time to rest and evaluate our progress before we can continue facing those swords again. knowing how to set those boundaries, both for others and for ourselves, is essential for healing and self-care. i’m not very good at creating those gentle barriers, but i relish the quiet times when i can find them. and with so much going on lately, both professionally and socially and mentally and emotionally, i’ve been craving some still moments for myself.

perhaps some time of meditation and solitude will help keep those swords overhead at bay for a little while longer.

the stories we tell ourselves

today’s card is a perfect reflection of how i’ve been feeling about a situation in my life: the eight of swords. and while this is not an easy card to see, it does offer a number of challenges for me to process as i work through this problem.

eight-of-swordsthe wild unknown depicts this card as a butterfly, curled up tightly into herself, dangling from a sword and surrounded by many others. she has no space to fly, no room to breathe, no obvious escape route. this card speaks of powerlessness, feeling trapped, and crippling self-doubt.

but those swords represent mental energy and conflict, that double-edged blade of creation and destruction. how much of this situation is real, and how much of it is in our minds? are we so busy seeing ourselves as the victim, drowning in feelings of fear and isolation and pain, that we can’t see that these bindings have been built only in our minds, and not in reality? if we can find a way to step back, see clearly, and reevaluate, would a solution for escape become obvious?

for the last few months, i’ve been struggling deeply with changes, anticipating a loss that feels inevitable. i see no way forward that does not lead to this suffering. and i’ve been mourning this loss, though it hasn’t yet happened. it feels completely unavoidable to me, like the wheels were set in motion long ago and now i simply have to follow this unchangeable path. there is no obvious solution, nothing i can do to alter what will happen, and i hate feeling so out of control when i can see what’s coming.

but what if my mindset is wrong? in her meditation on this card, carrie urges us to reconsider the stories that we tell ourselves, to look deeper at the situation and evaluate the personal power that we might be unconsciously surrendering. and i’ve always found it fascinating, the ways that we view ourselves versus how the world may see us. i have a very specific view of myself, that probably completely contradicts how others see me, and the complete truth of who i am lies somewhere in the middle.

but the narrative i’ve built around this particular situation could be a carefully constructed trap. i know how i think this all plays out, but perhaps by seeing this future and feeling that it’s inevitable, i’m limiting myself only to that outcome. what if there is a way out that doesn’t involve loss? what if i’ve spent so much energy crafting my own bonds that i’ve missed an obvious solution?

we need stories, narratives, a way of viewing the world and our place in it that connects us. those threads are essential, and how we see ourselves and our paths can impact everything. but focusing on only one outcome, viewing those threads as set it stone rather than flexible and shifting, can be incredibly limiting. if we can’t grow and change and learn, can’t be broken and rebuilt to be stronger, then what is the point of any of this? and if i can alter this situation, can shift my path to go somewhere new, why wouldn’t i try?