How Tarot Works

How Tarot really works

You are just perfectly enough just exactly as you are.

Right here. Right now. You already are all you need to be in this moment. Take a deep breath. Are you in any real danger right this very second? If you are, what in the living heck are you doing reading a blog or listening to a podcast? Take care of yourself for goodness sake! But if you are reading or listening to this, chances are things are OK enough to allow for a little screen time. Even if things are fantastic, take a little time off from that emotional energy and let the time it takes to read this or listen to the episode be a bubble of emotional rest for you.

Hello and Happy Thanksgiving to all our U.S. friends. I’m glad you are here.

Today’s card is the King of Cups, in reverse. Like we’ve talked about before, I read inversions pretty much the same as upright cards, taking all of the keywords and meanings into consideration all of the time anyway. If the card turns over upside down relative to the person doing the reading, or “reversed” as we call it in Tarot parlance, it looks right side up to a person on the other side of the table. Reversed or upright, considering the big picture is key in this kind of work. Abstractions, ideas, archetypes, and intuitive nudges all make a tiny bit more sense when you keep the cosmic perspective in mind during the whole card reading process. When you think big picture, the orientation of the card on the table matters less.

In any reading, public collective or private, a reversal speaks more to the position in the layout than the individual card. Layout position plus a reversed card is a clue to an area of life that may be conflicted, slowed, problematic or blocked. In a one card reading, a reversal can mean a broadly applicable slowing or turbulence in the person’s energies or in the collective, zeitgeist energy

Or not.

Freud once said that “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Sometimes a reversed card is just a random happenstance from shuffling the deck.

Some decks, I’ll grant you seem to be more reversal prone than others, no doubt due to mundane physical properties like card size and paper coatings and what have you. My beloved Alleyman’s Tarot Deck is especially wild and wooly in that respect, so I tend to give reversals from that deck a little more creedence for whatever reason. On the other hand, the back on my favorite RWS deck feels more staid and proper and it’s reversals chalk up to shuffling and general. It’s funny how we humans like to anthropomorphize our favorite work tools. I get it why BB King named his guitar Lucille. Some stuff has vibe and zing and personality, especially things that we have given our time, creativity and our life energy.

Except today. Today the RWS deck came up reversed and it feels like it means it.

The reversed king of cups is about emotional maturity. It connects to the feeling of defeat and brokenness that the Ten of Swords spoke about in “The Lemonade” post/episode.

Clairaudience (intuitive hearing) gives the words “Own what you feel.”

2022 may be more bittersweet in retrospect than we realized. There are ribbons of darkness in the onrush of holiday celebration.

My mind again goes to those lost to gun violence, or as one newscaster put it to all the chairs that will be tragically empty this holiday season. It is perfectly understandable how grief of this magnitude can leave its mark on the collective energy, both on a conscious and unconscious level. Emotions of every kind tend to run high during the holiday season.

Whatever the emotion, whatever the intensity, whatever the reason, you have to own them and validate them even if no one else will. The emotions exist. They are valid and they are real and, more importantly, they are yours. How you express them and how you act upon them are your responsibility just like a kingdom is the responsibility of the king.

Once acknowledged, emotions can be let go. Once understood, they are less likely to resurface in disruptive ways. It’s not magic. It’s social science. It’s human psychology.

And it’s how Tarot works. Tarot works, not to accurately predict the future, but to help us own and understand our emotions. Psychologist Carl Jung taught that “Until the unconscious is made conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Tarot helps us find exactly that kind of insight.

It’s not my intention to equate Tarot readings with qualified clinical therapy, or a cure for any sort of mental health issue. It is, however, a great tool for stress management and personal growth for a healthy individual. I say that based on hundreds of readings over the course of twenty years of doing public professional Tarot readings. Time and time and time over again I would see people relax as a reading progressed. As we talked about new ideas, explored possibilities and validated their own intuitive hunches, shoulders would go down, foreheads would smooth. As readings go on, people would sit back in their chairs and the tone of their voice would soften. The easing of emotional tension was obvious, even to someone with no formal psychology or body language training.

Tarot works by helping us all own our emotions, understand our situations and create a more reasoned way forward.

Tarot doesn’t predict our fate, it frees us from it.

Thank you so much for reading and listening. I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.

A Sip of Tarot: Two minds, one heart

Today’s card is the Two of Swords

Swords symbolize the element of air. They can denote action. Historically they are sometimes associated with negative things because swords were at one time the primary weapon of war. It would be like trying to find spiritual guidance from a card with a machine gun on it.

Today, the energy is lying with the air, mentality and intellect side of the card. A classic meaning for the card is being of two minds about something. Logic and reason are – or at least should be – our first go-to for making major life decisions. Sometimes, however, intellect fails.

Emotion seldom makes the best decision. But neither does cold hard logic and intellect when it is used in isolation, with no emotion or compassion at all.

The figure on the card is blindfolded. That signals the indecision that is part of the card’s meaning, while it also hints that following emotion or intuition might seem like a blind leap of irrational faith to the outside observer. Only the person with their hands on the swords, the person who knows both their logical rationale.

The figure on the card is also seated in front of water, the classic symbol for emotions, wisdom and intuition that we so often see on cards from the suit of cups. That’s not surprising, because people are more than one thing. People are complex. Ideas and experiences have a great deal of overlap as do the card’s symbolism and meanings. Water – emotion and heart – has the person’s back so to speak.

When logic is blinded, heart and compassion supports. When you can’t see the answer, resting in a place of compassion is enough.

Today’s Tarot: The Art of Art

The Knight of Cups is typically about chivalry, and romance, and that Arthurian kind of knight-in-shiney-armour kind of thing. It is sometimes related to art and artists.

As always these days, it is relatable to those of us staying at home. The art piece of this is getting my attention today. When we look back on the social media of these months, I hope everyone remembers the museum at home art challenge thing. I have no idea how it started. I think ultimately it came from museaums posting pictures of pieces from their collection (something MOMA, Musee D’Orsay and others do all the time anyway) on Instagram. When the shutdow happened, other museums became more visible, sharing famous works with the hash #museumfromhome. From there it evolved to people replicating famous artworks with whatever they have on hand during quarantine. It is nothing short of amazing. Please, please, please check it out. The ones that work in a roll of toilet paper or a few are my favorites because that was such a thing and a source of giggles early on in this.

Someone once said that art is something that exists only for its own sake. I don’t 100% agree. I’m fond of art that has usefulness. Tarot for example. It is ephemeral folk performance art of sorts, but has psychological, stress relieving, diversion and entertainment utility.

I define art as that which evokes emotion.

Other than that, no rules about aesthetics or utility. A hand knit sweater can be art because it evokes feeling of comfort, warmth, or associations with the person who created it if it was a gift and so on. The Dada movement appreciated art that was provokative, confronting unpleasant emotions. Even if your response is “eeeww” or “pfft – I could do that” it is still a response, it is still engaging with the artwork, and it is still art. True enough, not all emotion eliciting art has a practical use. If one of Bob Ross’ trees make you happy, then that is more than enough.

And there you have it folks…my college art minor put to good use.

Which brings us back to the Knight of Cups. It is a good reminder that not everything musst have a purpose, and that we can emotionally engage with anything.

Interestingly enough, this also reinforces the message from yesterday about simple pleasures. If you want to re-create a painting and post it online because it amuses you, then that is reason enough to do it. I you want to wear your rattiest old sweater because it makes you feel comfortable, that is reason enough. If you want to gaze out the window at a dandilion in the grass because it is so bright yellow in the sun and it takes your mind off other things for a split second…that is reason enough. That dandilion become art. Life is art and art is life, connected, engaged, and mindful.


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12 Second Tarot: Knight of Swords

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Today’s Tarot: Ten of Cups (17 may 19)

If you define happiness on your own terms, within yourself and not based on external circumstances, what is to stop you having happiness right here, right now, right this very second as you read this?

There are those with biological mood disorders where this kind of shift in perception, this kind of re-framing just doesn’t work. We must never stigmatize or minimize their experiences. At the same time, those of us more fortunate, how can we not look to genuine, internal, not-circumstance-dependent happiness when it is just a heartbeat away for us?