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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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.

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.

 

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.