dual meanings

as i continue to reflect on what tarot is and why it’s important to me, i was delighted to pull a card for my daily reading that seems to embrace all the beautiful difficulties and contradictions of this practice: the two of swords.

IMG_0289this powerful card features two dark swords, identical in strength and size, locked together. a fiery eclipse hovers over their meeting point, with dark lines of energy pulsing away from their crossing.

this depiction in the wild unknown is very different from the more traditional images of a woman standing blindfolded, holding a sword in each hand, contemplating and considering what she cannot see. where the wild unknown image feels like conflict or a stalemate, the original image feels peaceful, contemplative, like the woman featured is pushing other things out of the way to focus on what matters. i love the duality of this card, the variety of meanings that can be drawn from it. two opposing forces clashing, with no one able to move forward, all that energy stalled by an contradictory force. but they could also be unified, lending one another strength, joining those strong forces together to achieve a common goal or purpose. there’s such focus, a beautiful balance and symmetry that speaks to a completely different energy.

week one of beth’s alternative tarot course includes a lengthy list of questions, all centered around tarot, including history, meaning, purpose, abilities, and how that connects to me as a reader. and when i consider what drew me to tarot in the first place, this card is a perfect example: i love the duality, the hidden meanings, the way that every card feels full of possibilities. obviously the suits and courts, the major and minor cards, all have patterns and inherent symbolism that lends each card to specific meanings. but all of that is open to interpretation, allowing individual readers to listen to the cards and hear their message.

mother-of-cupsthe appeal of the beautiful mystery and elusive nature of tarot is what compelled me to choose the mother of cups as my personal card for the duration of this course. it was a strong influence in my reader’s reading a few days ago and is a card i’ve written about many times already. her wisdom, natural intuition, empathy, solitude, and psychic abilities are appealing and inspiring to me, and represent much of what i hope to gain from learning tarot. this card makes me feel powerful and strong, reminds me to listen and find wisdom in stillness, and gives me courage to trust my instincts and my intuition.

 

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keep your head down

today’s card is all about focus, determination, craftsmanship, and innovation: the eight of pentacles.

eight-of-pentacles

confident and skilled, the spider is constantly pushing herself to create new, intricate webs, never giving up. if a web is broken or damaged, she fixes it. if it’s destroyed beyond repair, she creates a new one, that’s stronger and more beautiful than the one before it. she is constantly honing her skills, seeking mastery of her craft. detail-oriented, determined, focused, and devoted, she is constantly challenging herself to do better.

this card is all about balance and devotion, understanding that hard work and drive can achieve so much. there can be joy in every stage of a process, learning to embrace every single aspect of a project or craft. and while there’s always plenty of things to distract us, sometimes the best thing we can do is keep our heads down, stay focused, and put all of our energy into making something strong and beautiful.

this is a challenging card for me today, as i have a quiet work week planned. my to-do list is completely finished, every task that’s been wiggling in the back of my head completed – all that’s left is writing difficult letters to my family, which i’ve been putting off for weeks now. pentacles are so connected to the earth and possessions for me, all about stability, material things, wealth and careers and property. but eights are goal-oriented, all about achievement, getting things done.

son-of-wandsmy clarifying card is the son of wands, a card that’s been popping up a lot lately. this son has no fear, no self-doubt, but pushes forward with confidence and strength and passion. i don’t want to force the cards or miss something, but this feels like it could speak to my still-unwritten letters. after all, finishing coming out during pride month was the goal that i set for myself, and while i’ve taken the first step i have stumbled over the others. the son has such purpose, such fire, and he and his mother have appeared so many times this month. it feels like the court of wands is pushing me to push myself, to finish the journey i started years ago.

yes, it’s scary. i might destroy the fragile webs i’ve been building all these years, damaging relationships that are so important to me. but if i can keep my head down, focus on the task at hand, use the skills and intuition and empathy that i’ve been developing – perhaps i can build something even stronger.

beauty & balance

of the four suits in tarot, pentacles are the one i draw the least – by quite a lot. i relate deeply to the emotional cups, love delving into the mental space created by the swords, and seek out the crackling, fiery energy from the wands – but those earthy, grounded pentacles rarely come up for me in readings. today’s card is one of the few in the suit i’ve drawn before: the two of pentacles.

two-of-pentaclesstrong and bold, with large, beautiful wings balancing two pentacles, this butterfly is powerful, open, and full of stable energy. the most obvious interpretation here is balance, with her asymmetrical wings and those pentacles delicately sitting on her massive wings. the rainbow lemniscate connecting the symbols adds the only touch of color, but keeps everything tied together beautifully. but this card can also indicate inevitable change, as the butterfly herself goes through a complete transformation in order to acquire those glorious wings. she may look fragile, but is much stronger than she appears – she’s able to quickly change direction, catch a slight breeze and use it to her advantage. there’s an unexpected strength along with easy flexibility that makes her unique, dynamic, and able to balance change in a beautiful way.

pentacles are tied to work, home life, possessions, finances, and earthly matters, so i can’t help but consider my career prospects whenever they come up. i have a busy week, packed with a variety of shooting gigs – live music for a singer/songwriter friend, my regular work with restaurant menus, a queer women’s cocktail event for pride, and social media images for a catering business. i love weeks like this, that push me to constantly adjust my style and perspective, forcing me to grow and adapt as a photographer, but they can also be challenging – every day is more different than usual, and it can take more energy to do everything well. this card can remind us to stay flexible, prioritize what matters, and embrace changes that may come along the way.

of course, this card could also be speaking to other types of change – perhaps a new job opportunity is coming, or another move is on the horizon. but it feels to me that balance is the message today, remembering to honor all of my commitments and approach every task with purpose, flexibility, and creativity.

courting cups

my last few daily readings have stirred up a lot of emotion, and with so many cups and swords in play it’s no surprise that i’ve been very internal these days. today’s card seems to honor my sensitive state, while still pushing me to action: the father of cups.

father-of-cupsi’ve seen both the daughter and the mother of this suit recently, and while they’re both powerful figures, in tarot the female energy is connected to internal awareness, psychic abilities, and strength of intuition. the mother of cups is deeply introspective, powerful in her reading of situations, and intensely empathetic. in contrast, the father of cups (and in tarot, masculine energy in general) is action-oriented, pushing us to direct energy outward rather than reflecting inward. he is strong, direct, diplomatic, open-minded, sensitive, supportive, and level-headed. he is the master of his emotions, but remains immersed in them – rather than exerting control and ignoring all those feelings raging inside, he understands the power that they have and uses it to better connect with the world around him. he uses that empathy and sensitivity to navigate his emotions as well as difficult situations, remaining calm and diplomatic. his presence is stabilizing, reassuring, and he isn’t afraid to dream. while the mother of cups thrives in the darkness, using it to focus on what’s important and real, the father is comfortable in the light of day, with nowhere to hide. he is not afraid of being exposed.

cups can be a tricky suit to navigate. and as a water sign with a tendency towards hiding her emotions, i often find myself caught between identifying and sharing my feelings. it’s instinctive for me to keep them hidden, but this king has found a way to harness and use that emotional energy in a positive, balanced way. i certainly have more in common with the female members of the cups court, but seeing the father today is a strong reminder that emotions are powerful, and learning to master them doesn’t mean simply bottling them up or relying solely on intuition.

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time to shake things up

continuing on yesterday’s theme, today’s cards are really exciting ones. and while at first glance they may tell a completely contradictory story, i think they apply to my life in a beautiful, challenging, energizing way. my first card today was the tower.

the-tower

even before i’d purchased my first set and started exploring the world of tarot, i knew about the tower. often considered one of the scariest cards in the deck, it can represent change, upheaval, destruction. it seems to be one of those cards that gets strong, dramatic reactions, and is usually perceived to be negative. something wicked this way comes. unavoidable pain, terrifying change, the ruination of all we hold dear.

and i can see that. change is scary, and nobody likes their foundations rattled. a few quick bolts of lightning are completely transforming that tree into a new creature, altering it and everything around it, and the damage that that fire causes is irrevocable. those flashes came out of nowhere, and nothing will ever be the same. this is a major, revolutionary event.

for me, the focus with this card has always been on what comes after. the tower is for change, sure, but the emphasis is on the good that develops once the flames are doused. renewal, regeneration, transformation – shaking the world up and seeing how much better things are once that beautiful chaos has passed. this card isn’t about destroying things that are good; rather, it’s about pushing through denial, breaking down self-imposed boundaries, a loss of control in the best possible way.

this card doesn’t scare me, but it certainly makes me feel a bit more alert. we have a big move planned, one that represents a lot more than our zip code changing. we’re doubling down on steve’s new job, proving our commitment, and saying to each other and his partner that we’re in this thing for real. and that brings a lot with it – already there’s talk of the next move, where we might need to go to ensure that an investment goes well and new acquisitions are running smoothly. i don’t know what the future has for us, but this is our way of leaning in and saying that we’re ready for whatever comes next.

but there’s always a sense of concern, yes? after all, one of the scariest things about the tower is that the change is unexpected. and while we’ve been planning this move for awhile, and the timing of it is now very sudden and moving incredibly quickly, it’s not entirely out of the blue. am i missing something? is there another change on the horizon that i haven’t been looking for? should i be bracing for impact?

two-of-pentacles

my clarification card is the two of pentacles. a huge, strong butterfly supports the weight of those pentacles on her beautiful wings, having transformed herself from hungry caterpillar into an elegant creature of the wind and the air. besides how pathetically grateful i am to see earthy, grounded pentacles rather than those emotionally-charged, relationship-centered cups, this card also represents change, balance, and considering multiple factors. any relocation we make is complicated, and has a ton of moving pieces to consider. both of our jobs are based here, many of our friends are here, and i don’t know that i’m ready to leave new york any time soon. but this card can indicate a need to be flexible, to prioritize, to accept change with grace and beauty.

and combined with the tower, i have a lot of anticipation for what the future may bring.

 

 

finding balance

there’s beauty in moderation.

temperance

…right?

today’s card is temperance, yet another major arcana card that i haven’t worked with, and what feels like the proper conclusion to my three-day stretch of intense, challenging cards. the moon, the devil, temperance – this trio of fierce, powerful cards has been pushing me hard.

i’ve read a variety of bloggers that find temperance a boring, rather uninspired card – one that can scold or nag, tell us to pull back, calm down, get it together. and while i can certainly understand that interpretation, seeing it for the first time in this context of difficult cards actually gives me a lot of hope and inspiration.

temperance can be an admonition of restraint or self-control, but the wild unknown focuses on the ideas of renewal, healing, awareness, and balance, which i find lovely. after cards that tell me to find my madness, but perhaps not overdo it, this feels like a reminder that harmony in all things is vital. diving into the hidden mysteries of the moon is a beautiful thing, but the devil tells me to be aware of the temptation to become addicted to the quiet, luscious fantasy.

as i work to find balance in my life, it’s clear to me that my default mode is one of quiet introspection. given a day or two without work or clear plans, i slip into a vague world of books, tarot, music, and very little else. i don’t take myself out to meals, find photography projects, or even cook – i simply exist in a peaceful, sedentary world of my own making. lately the days are slipping by with very little to define them, strings of beads that are all hazy and identical. what have i been doing with my time besides reading, exploring my cards, taking baths? it sounds incredibly lazy and self-indulgent, and it is – after long weeks of dealing with my dog’s illness, being sick myself, and throwing myself into work during every spare minute, i seem to have slipped into a waking dream.

i’ve thought these cards were about my tarot practice, but perhaps it’s a bigger issue at play here – my introspection seems to have reached expert level status, and i’m quite content to have little structure and next to no human interaction. and perhaps this is just a long period of healing, from so much stress with holidays and travel, the inauguration and resulting horrors, waiting every day to move to a new neighborhood, starting therapy. perhaps i’ve spent so many weeks under the moon, wandering a dark landscape that only i can see, that it’s time to pull myself out and back into the real world. i know i drift into the darkness easily, and it’s not all bad there – but it can’t be the only place i live.

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