so this is the new year

…and what a year it’s been. today is my one-year anniversary of tarot, exactly 365 days since i purchased my first deck and began learning a new language. what drew me to tarot was a desire to feel more connected with the world, to find a method of relating to things bigger than me, to overcome my difficult relationship with the church and find a new way to connect spiritually with the world. tarot has helped me reclaim that part of myself, learn to see beyond what’s in front of me, and forced me to grow and challenge myself in ways i never expected.

i’ve been searching for a new spread, something to help me celebrate and reflect, but in the end i decided to use an old one – the reader’s reading, a spread i did when i first purchased my deck, and again six months ago, when i started this blog. i love the continuity of it, having a spread i do each year to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. one of my favorite things about tarot is that while we can continue to gain knowledge and experience, even those that have been reading cards for decades still find new lessons, new interpretations, new ways to learn and grow. it’s a beautiful language, an incredibly powerful tool, and one i’m constantly challenged and amazed by.

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

seven-of-pentacles

the seven of pentacles is a curious card to get in this position, but it feels like a little wink, an acknowledgement that i’ve done this spread several times before. this is the report card of the deck, a chance to stop, evaluate, and consider if a change of direction is needed. it’s so easy to set a course and then just find a groove, settling into that path and following it. but sometimes it’s essential to pause in the middle, to recheck that compass, and make sure that we’re still heading the right way.

of course, this is exactly what i’m doing right now – stopping to consider, remembering where i started and looking forward to where i’m going. i’m not a person that sets strong goals for my life, or has huge ambitions, but i do enjoy the process of introspection and assessment. the journey is what matters to me, and in tarot, that could certainly be a strong and important characteristic in my readings.

2. What strengths do you already have as a reader?

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it’s hard to imagine any other position or spread where the dreaded nine of swords would make me smile, but in this case, i couldn’t help it. nightmares, the mind attacking itself, dark visions, anguish, despair – this is not a card anyone wants to see. and yet, in some ways, this card absolutely represents my strength: it doesn’t frighten me.

as someone that battles severe depression, idiopathic insomnia, a lifetime of feeling isolated, and more run-of-the-mill (but no less crippling) self-doubt and self-loathing, this card really hits home. it speaks to my inner demons, my worst fears, my darkest moments. but in this position, the card also represents what i already know to be true: that the mind is a difficult, twisted place, and that it is capable of true darkness. even when i do readings to find courage or strength, i often get “scary” cards in places of personal power. i know what the darkness is, but i don’t shy away from it. traditionally scary or fear-inspiring cards like the tower, the devil, death, or the ten of swords don’t frighten me, because i can see that they have purpose and meaning and value. loss can lead to greater findings. change may be hard, but it’s not inherently bad. and transformation can lead to greater beauty, even if the process is painful.

i truly believe that as a tarot reader, it’s my job to unflinchingly see the messages that the cards hold. those might not always be pretty or shiny or happy – sometimes they are difficult, brutally honest, or unwelcome. but i have to be able to honestly interpret their lessons, even when i don’t receive the answers i’m hoping for. and being able to see the darkness for what it is, and remember that there can be light at the end? that’s a strength, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

3. What limits do you feel as a reader?

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the chariot is a card of strength, willpower, confidence, control, and overcoming adversity. it’s a beautiful, inspirational card, but in this position it indicates limits that i feel as a reader, which makes it a bit more difficult to read. this card speaks to control, determination, someone that’s a force of nature. as a limit, it’s easy to see how this could go awry – someone is so focused on their goal they push past other potential options, become too forceful or stubborn, need to be in complete power and control over everything and everyone in their path.

i’m probably on the other side of this card – i rarely feel in control of anything, and don’t usually seek it unless i’m scared or uncomfortable. sometimes i want to steer the ship, chart the course, but most of the time i stay focused on little challenges, taking things day by day, and seeing how things go. this can certainly be a limit or weakness for me, as i’m resistant to looking too far ahead, or setting long-term goals. and for tarot, only pulling cards for a single day or the short-term or for small questions could be limiting my abilities to grow as a reader. perhaps it’s time to start pushing myself, asking bigger questions, to stop being afraid of what i might see farther ahead.

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

son-of-cups

the first card in my spread to show any real color, the son of cups is quiet, peaceful, introspective, and intuitive. he represents the extremes of the suit, shifting between poetic and insightful and dark, brooding, moody. this card really speaks to me as a lesson, since as a child of the water, i’m very susceptible to difficult, changing emotions. some days i don’t feel like i can handle what the cards may say, and other times it’s hard for me to cut past my own feelings and be honest with myself about the messages in the deck.

sensitivity is key when reading tarot, but it’s important to not let it get the best of me. i have to be able to separate myself from the deck when i’m reading for others, and it’s essential to be able to look past my swirling emotions and complicated feelings and see the heart of the matter, the reality that the cards are bringing to my attention.

but i think this card is also a reminder that emotions are not a weakness, and that they are not something to fear or avoid. the cards challenge me in so many ways, but one of the biggest lessons i’ve learned this year is that powerful emotions can make us strong, can push us forward, can reveal what we truly care about. they can take us to dark places, but they can also remind us what matters.

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

seven-of-swords

a card of secrecy and self-protection is an interesting one in a position of openness and development, but the seven of swords is a card that i’ve learned to love this year. i think it’s often seen as a card of deception, lies, trickery, of fooling those around you for your own gain. but for me, this card tends to pop up when there’s danger around, when i need to be on my guard, when protecting myself is key. sometimes you’ve gotta hide, and other times you have to grab a blade and be ready.

similar to the first card in the spread, i think this could be a little wink to me – a reminder that cards can be open to interpretation, that leaning heavily on books and blogs and resources to understand every single nuance isn’t always the answer, that the cards can mean different things at different times. when i first began reading tarot i was eager to memorize meanings, wanted to be sure i was aware of all the traditional implications and histories of each card. but now, i’m learning to rely more on my own intuition, to trust my inner voice and my first reactions to cards, rather than simply opening books and websites and leaning on the wisdom of others. everyone might not agree with my understanding of the seven of swords, but that’s perfectly fine.

but taking this card at face value, i think it challenges me to be aware of secrets i’m keeping while reading. it’s so much easier to just take what you want from the cards and run, rather than honestly assessing meaning and pushing yourself to understand what the cards are truly saying. i think the seven of swords can serve as a reminder to be open with myself, to not fall into the trap of self-deceit, to keep my eyes open.

6. What is the potential outcome of this journey?

IMG_0305the most vivid and colorful card in my spread, the three of wands is a card of confidence, moving forward, stepping into a bright future. this card shimmers with possibility, and it’s an incredible card to have in the outcome position.

i’ve written a lot about how the first few cards in the suit of wands often bring me anxiety, a weight of expectation that i never feel prepared to bear. but the three is about clarifying that vision, opening our eyes wide, solidifying intentions and following dreams. and while i’m not someone that necessarily has a crystal-clear vision of my future, or even an understanding of what my aspirations truly are, this card is both soothing and empowering for me. there’s such opportunity, such potential, and yet the world is wide and the possibilities are many. tarot has expanded my vision, helped me view my days through a different lens, and by continuing to follow this path, perhaps my future will also find some clarity.

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this is a very black and white spread, in more ways than one. i see definite progress here, learning and growing, leaning into challenges and understanding my own limits. and while the three of wands isn’t a card i typically like, in this position it gives me hope – i’m on the right path, and the future is colorful.

thank you for a beautiful year. now, onto the next.

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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!

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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.

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.

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.