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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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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?

hard truths

while this blog is named after the daughter of cups, a card i hope to grow into and evolve from, today i pulled a card that i identify with very strongly: the daughter of swords.

daughter-of-swordsfrank, observant, insightful, detail-oriented, and judgmental, the daughter of swords doesn’t miss a thing. this owl is watchful and honest, careful and clear, with no room for bullshit. she’s surrounded by the night sky, with glittering, colorful stars behind her, but her grip is on the blade of the sword rather than the handle. perhaps she’s not comfortable wielding it just yet, but this could also be a warning that the sword of truth can be sharp and double-edged. she’s a student of justice and truth, prefers to keep things simple and straightforward, and deals with situations head-on, though she isn’t unkind. she relies on her intellect and her powers of observation to get through tough situations, and those around her trust her to be truthful and strong.

paired with yesterday’s card, today’s drawing feels like it’s showing me how to approach the world again. i’ve been withdrawn, hesitant, unsure of how to shake off the last of this long-lasting depression. my legs are a bit wobbly. my head is still spinning. it’s so very tempting to continue to hide, to rely on others to tell me what to do, to pull that cloak of darkness back around myself and shy away from the light. but that’s no way to live, and it’s not the person that i want to be. i am stronger than that.

this daughter may not have all the answers – but she’s looking for them, and she isn’t afraid to be herself at the same time. she knows she’s not as adventurous as her older brother or as wise as her more experienced parents, but she also knows that her wide eyes and hungry mind will go a long way towards reaching her goals. and if i can lean into that hard truth, and not shy away from what’s in front of me, i can reach mine too.