grief & release

though i’m very new to the fountain tarot, it’s remarkable how different it feels in my hands. when i was trying to choose my first deck, i kept coming back to the wild unknown – it felt like i had an immediate emotional connection to it, like we could have a long and fulfilling relationship, like it had wisdom and knowledge and power that it was just waiting to reveal. it felt like water, deep and dark and full of magic. but the fountain tarot feels like air to me, crisp and light and honest, ready to cut to the heart of the matter. perhaps that’s why it’s taken me so long to begin working with this deck, in spite of the fact that i bought it months ago – i had to be ready to deal with this new feeling, a new element in my readings.

true to form, my new deck is clear and concise, sharing its wisdom and waiting for me to catch up. today’s cards are judgment and the five of cups.

IMG_1852my single card draw was judgment, a card of release, reconciliation, and forgiveness. it’s looking directly at our past, understanding the pain and struggles and loss that may be there, fully acknowledging mistakes and heartache and difficulties. it’s accepting our role in those trials, honestly owning what has happened (along with what hasn’t) and our part in it, and then setting it free. i find it feels so much easier sometimes to hang on to that pain, to let it fester into bitterness and anger and frustration – but all that dwelling on the past actually takes so much energy, changing the focus from what’s in front of me back to what’s already happened. this shift isn’t always an elegant or lovely process – rather, this type of self-assessment and openness is often ugly and messy and terrifying. but setting that pain free, letting go of the past, and allowing ourselves to move on is the only way to go forward and begin to heal. there’s such intention in this card, a joyous leap up and out from that stifling cavern. she’s finally free, able to rise up and step into a new, more open future.

i don’t often acknowledge cards that jump out of the deck while shuffling, at least not beyond a quick glance, a nod, and incorporating it back into the deck. but the five of cups leapt out of the deck when i was cutting it, about to draw, which has never IMG_1854happened to me. and seeing these two cards together, i can understand what the cards wanted me to see. the five of cups speaks to grief, despair, an emotional storm. while not every cup is overturned or broken, there has been a significant loss, and it must be mourned. there is a time for sadness, and trying to ignore the sorrow can be a recipe for disaster. it can be so tempting to get lost in that suffering, to let the pain become the only thing that feels real – the man in this image is mourning those spilled cups, but there are two full ones right behind him, waiting for him to turn around and grasp them when he’s ready to move forward. we cannot get so lost in our grief that we forget that all is not lost, that we overlook that which we still have. but taking a beat to feel that sorrow is necessary – this card gives permission to feel that sadness, to move inward, to feel what we feel even when it’s dark and difficult. sometimes, we just have to sit with the despair.

 

IMG_1843together, these cards have a powerful message. the shadows are real – there has been loss, and struggle, and pain. a period of mourning is natural, normal, and acknowledging pain is an important part of moving past it. but without intention, without purpose, this grief cannot be overcome. even though i’m good at putting on a brave face, can play the role that’s required of me at times, my depression will not simply disappear just by ignoring it. and the pain of my past and present cannot be shed if i don’t acknowledge it. i have to face those demons, thoughtfully consider where i’ve been, and find a way to feel and release this pain without drowning in it. freedom is on the horizon, but i have to reach for it.

 

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on isolation

some days i wake up and know that the hours ahead are going to be difficult. call it intuition, call it fear, call it whatever you like – but today is not going to be a good day, and i know it in my bones.

i wish i knew how to navigate days like this, but i’m never sure what will help. i’ll make a to-do list, try to distract myself with mundane but necessary tasks. i’ll schedule a yoga class, take on a new project, go for a long walk with my dog. sometimes i share this feeling with those around me, but i usually just end up feeling guilty – it’s easier to isolate myself, stay quiet, hide away. nothing ever quite helps, and i know that when the sun goes down and i’m alone with my thoughts, things will feel impossible. it’s a scary feeling, an emptiness, a longing for relief that never comes.

IMG_0334hoping for some simple guidance and maybe even a bit of reassurance, i went to my cards – but my stalker card has once again reared its ugly head. the three of cups will not leave me alone, and i’m getting frustrated by the repetition. what are you trying to tell me?

this card showed up for the first time in early july, and has appeared four more times since, including in several spreads. i even did a stalker spread, and have resisted posting about it the last few times it’s popped up for daily readings. including today, that’s eight appearances in less than two months. i’m clearly missing an important element of this card, a significant message that i have to face. after so much reflection, after researching this card half to death, i’m still not sure what i don’t see.

this card represents celebration, community, accomplishment, beauty, joy, friendships, giving and receiving, compassion, sensitivity, harmony, positive energy, creativity, good times. it’s so positive, a card of contentment, understanding, feeling whole and accepted. and yet this card’s constant appearance brings a sense of dread, seems to mock my loneliness and isolation. if my community values me so much, why do i feel locked out of it? if contentment is present, why do i feel so miserable? if compassion and sensitivity are all around me, why do i feel alone and misunderstood?

reaching out is so difficult for me, and i hate doing it. everything in me resists. but this card feels like a lecture, forcing me to continue asking for help from people i feel don’t care about me very much. this card brings out shame in me, makes me feel embarrassed and contrary and just plain sad. i wish that a card with so much joy and love wrapped into its meaning didn’t make me feel completely alone, but somehow, it does.

what do you do when a card feels so wrong?

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.

burning out

i’m deep into my insomnia, going on day five of no real sleep, and tarot feels like a giant mystery right now. it’s time to begin week two of the alternative tarot course, focusing on the elements and suits of the minor arcana. and while i’m excited to keep exploring my deck and expanding my knowledge, everything in my head is twisting and turning upside-down. no surprise that today’s draw was the seven of cups, a card that perfectly mirrors my exhausted mind and tangled thoughts.

while water and cups represent relationships, connections, love, friendship, and emotions, part of my work this week is learning how the different suits overlap and interact with each other. the suits speak to each other, reference each other, and offer little hints and reminders that none of these elements exist in a vacuum. someone who’s IMG_0338intellectual and analytical might feel much more comfortable dealing with air and earth, staying connected to the world around them and focusing on knowledge and facts, rather than first considering emotional responses or passionate ideas. and though this seven deals with those watery, elusive emotions, connections to other people that we can’t usually control, depths that can be frightening to explore – i can’t help but notice the powerful celestial bodies that feature on this card, and those strong mountains in the background. this confusion may be centered on cups and water, but there are references to air and earth too. after all, when emotionally confused, when illusions feel much too real, when everything is sideways and it’s impossible to know which step to take next, don’t we try to intellectualize, find a rational solution, seek the truth? don’t we scramble to find our footing, stay grounded, find comfort in the physical world? when our hearts are disoriented and can’t find a way forward, we move to other strengths, work to solve the problem in a new way.

my personal elements are mainly water and fire, but i’m working to incorporate more air and earth into my daily life. i rely the most heavily on my instincts and intuition, rather than my intelligence or ability to recall facts and knowledge. i may live in the physical world, and relish being in nature, but i tend to get lost in my thoughts and dreams when left to my own devices. my weakest element is probably air, as my mind can be a very dark and difficult place. i’m not always comfortable solely in my head, preferring to either lose myself in the physical world or stay true to my fiery passions or swirling, complex emotions.

some larger elemental spreads will be coming later in the week, but for today i’m going to give myself permission to live in this disorienting space, and try to get my head on straight.

offerings

as i spend time with family, with all of the emotions and plans and struggles and confusion that goes along with traveling with lots of adults and small children, i find myself a bit drained. california is beautiful and sunny and mellow, the kind of bright, optimistic energy that everyone seems drawn to. and yet getting here was exhausting, there are a lot of people to meet and connect with, and i haven’t slept well in too long. today’s card is a reminder to be kind, both to others and to myself: the two of cups.

IMG_0333two elegant goblets, identical in form and size, rest on a dark table. roses cross over them, evenly spaced so that both cups can share in their beauty and radiance. everything about the card is symmetrical and simple, with balance and reciprocity and the sharing of something truly sweet. this is a card of love, of connection, of true soulmates.

offering a cup, a gift, an open look into one’s heart and soul, takes a lot of trust. it’s not easy to be completely honest, to offer the good with the bad, to surrender to emotion and acknowledge all the messy things that come along with connections and relationships. but true friendship, true love, true empathy and loyalty and generosity only happen when we strip everything away and aren’t afraid to reveal our true selves.

it feels that for the last month or two i’ve been so introspective, focusing on my personal goals and sharing secret parts of myself with those that i trust. it takes a lot to give so much of me away, and i’m still feeling the impact. but there’s a freedom too, a sigh of relief. i can just be myself now. i had to extend that cup, with all of its fears and joys and fierceness and mystery, to others. and now perhaps i can find some quiet.

 

peace & love

today’s daily draw is a card i worked with just last week: the empress.

the-empressnurturing, soothing, radiating calm and tranquil energy, the empress is vibrant, creative, and brimming with love. she’s a caretaker, someone who makes everyone around her feel both relaxed and strong. she builds people up, cares for their needs, reminds them that they are capable and powerful, and is never afraid to let her own light shine brightly. there’s a sensual energy here, a passion and abundance that illuminates the card. she encourages us to care for others as well as ourselves, to reconnect with natural and the world around us, to offer love without restrictions or restraint. she takes us as we are, imperfections and all, and reminds us of our power.

i’ve got a lot swirling in my head these days – my husband has been pushing himself to the limit and is now sick, work has been hectic, and we’re getting ready to head out to california tomorrow for a week-long trip. it’s the first time i’ll be seeing my in-laws since coming out last month, and i’m both excited and incredibly nervous about what the next few days may bring. i’m also trying to be as loving and compassionate as possible, helping my husband get well before a busy week of travel. the empress can speak to these worries, reminding me to offer nurturing love to my partner, to remember compassion when speaking to my conservative family members, and to stay grounded and connected to the world around me so that i don’t get so lost in my mind that i drift away.

IMG_0334since i drew the empress so recently, i decided to gift myself a companion card for some extra clarification and direction: and pulled the three of cups, a card i haven’t worked with before. a card of friendship, kindness, and joy, this is a beautiful reminder of the people that i share love with on a daily basis. i have a group of girls that have saved my life in a sense this past year, and i see them here – but this card is also a reminder that i have a supportive family, a strong husband, and old friends that love me even if we don’t see each other often. i love my family, but the idea of the family you choose is something i’ve always really embraced. my chosen family keeps me grounded, keeps me centered, lets me kick and scream and cry when i need it, but also reminds me that i’m strong and brave and more powerful than i realize. they gave me the courage to come out. they encouraged me to seek a therapist for my depression and self-harm. they let me be myself, absolutely and honestly, in a way i haven’t been able to before. and that holistic, healing energy of the empress – it’s here, in real friendship and love.

there’s a lot of color, a lot of soothing energy, a lot of love in these cards today. and as someone that considers myself a dark, swirling mess of weird, it’s comforting to see so much positivity here. my main struggle with tarot is honestly reading what the cards are saying, rather than twisting them into something else – but it’s hard not to see the tenderness and warm in today’s cards. i’ll try not to fight it.

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always learning

IMG_1381after such a difficult and emotional june, i’m feeling energized and a bit restless. we havea lot of travel scheduled for july, and as i look forward at all of the exploring and adventures ahead, i’m also craving personal growth. tarot has become so important tome over these last ten months of reading, and i find myself wanting to dive deeper into hidden meanings, personal intuition, and feeling truly connected to my cards.

with that in mind, i’ve decided to begin beth’s alternative tarot course, an eight-week program designed to help readers develop their own style of reading and interpretation.

the course includes daily single-card readings, much like i do anyway, along with exercises and a larger weekly spread. i plan to use this space to explore the writing prompts, along with all of the readings she outlines, but i will still do my regular single-card daily readings here too. it’s my hope that sharing this journey publicly will connect me further within the tarot community, and help me continue to grow and learn.

with that in mind, i’m going to begin with this week’s weekly spread: the reader’s reading. this first week is all about thoughtfully considering what tarot means to me personally, what i believe about it, how it impacts me, and what i hope to achieve by learning this practice. i did this exact reading when i first started this blog in february, so revisiting it seems like a lovely way to begin this new portion of my tarot journey.

1. About you in general: what is your most important characteristic?

father-of-pentacles

the father of pentacles, king of the earth. grounded, practical, strong, observant, confident, quiet, steady, and gentle, this father is a lovely, calm soul. he stays cool under pressure, remains deeply connected with the world and people around him, and prizes his family, home, and career. he is reliable and mature, down-to-earth, known for his dependability and rationality.

i don’t always see myself in the pentacles, and don’t often draw them. but there’s something so soothing and profound about this card’s energy. i do think of myself as a hard worker, a problem solver, someone that will always jump in to help. i’m great under pressure, someone that can quickly assess a situation and come up with solutions. i like to think of myself as someone with a quick mind and a cool head. i’m the consummate emergency contact, the one who will drop everything to help out, the person who fixes things. i may not always have the answers, but i will always try to find them.

2. What strengths do you already have as a tarot reader; what are you bringing to this course?

ten-of-cups

the ten of cups, a card of harmony, balance, love, and support. there’s so much energy and positivity here, but i’m most struck by the openness, the evenness, of that colorful rainbow of light. every card gives and receives, sharing what they have and discovering something new. there’s no holding back, no stinginess or secrecy – the cups let everything pour out into the community.

as a strength, what i see here is my willingness to share and learn from others. i’m rarely 100% confident in my knowledge or abilities, even on topics where i have a lot of experience – and tarot is no different. i have so much to learn, and i think that this spirit of openness, this willingness to admit what i don’t know, and this desire to read and study and gain from the experience of others has already helped me in my study of tarot. i love my blogs and books, love finding new forums and old texts that will help expand my knowledge and push me to always find new meanings in the cards. if i can maintain that attitude of humility and sincerity, i think it will really help me grow.

3. What limits do you feel as you start this course?

four-of-cups

the four of cups: a card of discontent, apathy, an emotional slump. this card has come up for me in spreads before, and never fails to confuse me. is the rat simply hoarding the cups for himself? is he ignoring the light above, as in the five of cups? what is making him discontent, restless, selfish?

i struggle with the meaning of this card, which makes me think that the four of cups in this position is less to do with the literal meaning of this card and more what it represents to me in drawings and spreads – i don’t have a perfect, encyclopedic knowledge of every card’s meaning. i want to do this course, and i believe that it’s time, but i’m concerned that my lack of memorization is somehow going to hold me back. i want to know the more traditional interpretations, want to stay connected to the history and wisdom of the deck, but i also want to have a personal link to my own cards. the four of cups is probably the card i struggle with the most, not because i don’t like the meaning but because i always feel confused by what its message is.

4. What key lesson can you learn on your developmental journey with tarot?

mother-of-cups

oh, my beloved mother of cups. this is one of my favorite cards in the deck, one that comes up for me often, and she is always a welcome sight in a spread. her insight is legendary, her creativity is inspirational, and her psychic abilities bring tranquility and healing to everyone she touches. she’s often compared to the high priestess, which is my birth card, and i find her deeply inspirational and aspirational.

as a lesson, the mother of cups speaks to me of openness, a willingness to listen, and a deep need to trust my intuition. being receptive to the lessons of the tarot, even when they’re difficult, is critical to understanding the wisdom and beauty of the cards. there is power in quiet, strength in stillness, and so much more to these cards than what is on the surface.

 

5. How can you be open to learning and developing on this journey?

ace-of-cups

a brilliant and colorful card, the ace of cups is overflowing with energy and connectivity. the wild unknown calls this card love’s beginnings, and this card does usually symbolize the start of something lovely – a new crush, a new relationship, a new opportunity.

emotions have power, and while not all feelings are pleasant, they all have significance and weight. cups are not just for love and happiness, but the full spectrum of human response. in this position, i see a reminder to engage with all the aspects of emotional wisdom. just like feelings, the cards can quickly get away from me if i’m not careful – it can be easy to only see what i want, rather than remembering that there is often more than meets the eye. it’s more fun to focus on the happy emotions, the beauty and pleasure and love that swirls around us sometimes, and ignore the danger signs or the more difficult interpretations. i don’t always need to search for the most beautiful, positive meaning in each card – some cards are just difficult or ugly, because that is part of life too. i need to remember to acknowledge everything about the cards, to embrace my role as a student, and to find a way to enjoy every lesson, every emotion, every message – even when it’s hard.

6. What is the potential outcome of your tarot journey?­­­

ace-of-wands

it’s fascinating to pull the ace of wands, a card that is typically associated with a new idea or opportunity, as my outcome card. this card brims with energy and fire, and while it’s a positive and exciting card to see, often overwhelms me.

however, a card of such powerful inspiration and potential is really motivating to me. if the outcome of my tarot journey is to put me at a fresh start, an exciting new beginning brimming with energy and possibilities and strength, then that’s a wonderful place to be. i don’t see this journey as one with a clear destination – i plan to read for as long as i can. there’s no end game. but if the benefit of this course is that it can put me in a new position, one that inspires me to start something else or bring tarot into a more important place in my life, how can i not be energized? this is such a fun and powerful card to see here.

 

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overall: four cups, one wand, and one pentacle – no swords in sight. the proportion makes sense to me – i’m a scorpio, a water sign, and identify strongly with the suit of cups. but i’m very drawn to the suits of wands and pentacles, seeing quiet and strength in the earth and often craving that crackle of fire. swords are less appealing to me, as my mental energy is usually dark and negative. and for me, tarot is all about intuition, connection, and insight, and less about structured meanings and precise interpretations.

i’m both soothed and energized by this spread, seeing so much potential in this course and what i can learn from it. i’m really looking forward to continuing my journey and growing as a reader. and please, if you find this post and feel inspired (or have worked with this course, either now or in the past), let me know! i’d love to connect to other readers.