How To Use Tarot To Interpret Dreams

How To Use TarotTo Interpret Dreams

Tarot cards are an excellent tool for helping you find meaning and understanding in your dreams. Using the cards is more personalized than using a generic dream interpretation book, which knows nothing about your personal history or unconscious impulses. With the cards, you can take the information you receive and incorporate it with your own information to form a complete picture.

The heart of Jungian psychoanalysis lies in analyzing the messages your unconscious delivers to you via your dreams. The idea is that your dream material is what’s ready to emerge from the lower iceberg of your unconscious, so that you can now work with this material, integrate it and move forward in a more complete way. You can use your cards to perform this function on your own. Although it isn’t psychoanalysis, it is a valid instrument to gauge what’s going on underneath the surface and help you work with your hidden “stuff” that’s ready to be examined.

Today I’ll use myself as an example so you can see how this process works.

I follow my dreams and often remember them. I’d suggest that you don’t “force” remembering your dreams but rather allow the ones that stick with you to emerge. Work with the material that seems to call for your attention.

Over the past few years I’ve had a recurring dream from time to time that varies in setting and some particulars, but never wavers from its basic theme: my first serious boyfriend (who I broke up with at 20 after nearly two years, for no other reason than I was young and wanted to experience the world, not be tied down) returns to me in my dream and I desperately want to reunite with him. He, however, is unavailable and although he comes close in the dream and at times even indicates he wants to be with me too, he always leaves or is always somehow prevented from being with me (usually it’s because he has another girlfriend).

The most recent iteration of this dream was the most dramatic; I stood before him and looked right into his eyes and said in all sincerity: “Leaving you was the biggest mistake of my life.”

Here is a three-card spread I devised that you can also use for any dream image or message that you’d like more insight about and are ready to really delve into and work with consciously:

  1. What message is this dream showing me?
  2. How can I work with and integrate this message?
  3. What’s the next step?

For my example, I used the Thoth Tarot. While I generally rely on the RWS for most of my readings, I opted for the Thoth as it appeals to me in terms of dream work. The images on the deck are much more nuanced and have a dreamlike quality about them. Since I feel I haven’t fully penetrated this deck’s depth (and perhaps never will, because it really has that bottomless-well quality to it), it seemed the perfect match for working with dream imagery.

Here are the cards I received for my mysterious, recurring ex-boyfriend dream:


With the Thoth, I first like to allow the images to soak in and I take my initial impressions without any additional input. The immediate message to me of the 7 of Cups here is that we have something that has “gone bad.” It made me think of spoiled fruit, something that’s past its expiration date. It’s no longer fresh. Hence, we can garner an immediate interpretation that the dream is trying to show me that my ideas about “going back” to this ex or still desiring him, or imagining that “he was the one that got away” all those years ago, are mistaken. This is a “relationship” that exists only in the realm of things that are spoiled and overgrown, rotten and unsuitable to eat.

Secondly I noticed the opposing symmetry between the 7 of Cups and the 7 of Swords. Such a profound difference. It’s as if all the muck we see in the initial card is purified and clarified and made razor sharp in the third card, in the “next step” after we pass through the integration phase in the second card. Clearly the cards are showing a way forward. Further, if you look closely at the 7 of Swords, there’s a planetary symbol hanging off the point of each sword, with the moon being indicated in the central position. For me this points to being called on to trust my inner knowing and intuition, my emotions and heart impulses, mystery rather than logic, when it comes to taking the next step in terms of relationships.

The middle card for me is such a departure from the two “bookend” cards here, that it seems to be the major message and lesson. In fact, I often see the Knight of Pentacles in my RWS readings when I ask the cards about my love life and future. They continually, continually insist that I must focus on and “go for” the stable man, the one who doesn’t move, the one who’s real, concrete, loyal, faithful, grounded, etc. Here then, we see an example of how the cards repeat their messages across decks and across time.

You can also turn to references for additional information. I absolutely adore the book by Lon Milo Duquette, Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot.

In terms of the first card, “what message is this dream showing me?”, Duquette says the original title of the 7 of Cups is “Lord of Illusionary Success” (which immediately makes me think about the castles in the sky in the RWS 7 of Cups and how what we think is real or available or possible isn’t always the case). I immediately realize my ideas and longing for this past relationship and my romanticizing of it belong to a world of illusions. In fact, in the card itself, you can see how the lotus plants are covering each cup, much like an umbrella, and as Duquette points out, “all the cups are empty.” We’re reminded there’s no love here, there’s no substance here, there’s nothing here to nurture or grow. Duquette says:

This is much-too-much of what was once a good thing and, this low on the tree and this far off balance, there isn’t a single influencing factor left to remind her the party’s over.

At this point I feel I understand the message that’s trying to break through: what you think is this perfect past relationship really isn’t how you imagine it at all. It’s not real, and it’s not available to be revived.

Granted, this was always obvious to me on a semi-conscious level, but a part of me continued to want to cling to the idea or fantasy. This is where the cards help hammer home the message of the dream.

Moving to the final card, despite the keyword “futility” (I often ignore the Thoth keywords, because they distract me and I don’t get into the Kabbalah aspects of the cards), Duquette mentions Crowley said this card is “like a rheumatic boxer trying to ‘come back’ after being out of the ring for years.”

As it regards my love life, I’ve been “out of the ring” so to speak for about six years as I’ve been floundering around in the dating world since my divorce, coming up not with any healthy fish but rather seaweed and tin cans. In his divinatory meanings, Duquette mentions: “Yielding when victory is within grasp, as if the last reserves of strength were used up. Inclination to lose when on the point of gaining, through not continuing the effort.” This makes sense to me in terms of my love life. I often go for the unavailable or inherently impossible, and then give up when it inevitably doesn’t yield results, which takes us back to the central card, the Prince of Disks.

Everything about Disks suggests stability to me. Duquette suggests Crowley’s prince represents “the ultimate handyman.” Crowley’s take: “He is competent, ingenious, thoughtful, cautious, trustworthy, imperturbable; he constantly seeks new uses for common things.”

Once again I feel I’m being shown the direction for the “right” man in my life – if only I can accept and integrate the messages of letting go of expired illusions and take the next step of understanding how I might get “just this close” and then somehow abandon ship.

Using the tarot to work with dreams is a very organic process. By that, I mean you need to really allow yourself to be fluid and accept what comes through as resonating with you, rather than sticking to super strict rules or interpretations. Dreams offer the messages we’re ready to receive, much as the cards do.

How To Use TarotTo Interpret Dreams

Reading with the Thoth deck

As a self-taught reader, I remained unaware of the weight the Thoth deck carries for a very long time. It was my first deck and, for several years, the only one I used to read cards. My reading skills developed gradually, over time, first by trying to apprehend what the hell Crowley wanted to say when he described the cards; then by taking a more visual approach and finally, by developing a personal set of rules, somewhere in between what Crowley had pointed out, with things I picked up from various sources (whether tarot-related or not) and instinct / inspiration or whatever you want to call it.

My first clue about the way many people regard the deck came when I heard about the U.S. System version which had the three Magus versions. At the time, I tried to buy the deck here in Oporto, at a tarot shop. Obviously, the shop didn’t have it. The attendant was extremely nice and said that even though they didn’t had it, I could order it and they would find a copy. A later visit, several weeks later, the same attendant informed me that the owner thought the deck a “devilish one” and didn’t want to have anything to do with it, so they would not even try to hunt a pack down.

Fast forward a few years. The year is now 2011. I was attending my first Tarot Convention, mainly wanting to see just how good my reading skills were. A convention seemed like a good idea, as it would present me with different people with different skills and would allow me to somewhat measure my progress since the early days of “if I don’t know what to say about the Strength card, then it’s probably someone born under the Leo sign” type of thinking.

During that event, either at the sessions or at social gatherings, I could always register some astonishment or surprise because I was using a Thoth deck. Something that I would counter with “well it’s just a deck” type of response to which I would get “yeah.. but it’s Thoth!…”

Well, yes, it was Thoth. It was also my deck and I had already passed that stage of “how can I read it?” I then spent a good amount of my time there giving people some pointers on to how they could approach the deck. Was it really necessary to know all the Cabalistic / esoteric / astrological meanings? Could it be approached in simpler terms? Where do we start looking? and with such intricate images, what should we value the most?

When I started, I read the Crowley book about the deck. At the time, all that stayed present was the astrological attributions and a few meanings per card. I didn’t have a system and all that mystical talk about Sephiroths, visions, mythology or insights like the Naples arrangement seemed so out there that they didn’t really register.

Eventually I decided that any of that wasn’t for me, and so I went for the only thing that remained: the images. The first and main reason for me to buy the deck in the first place. Again, my reasoning was simple: If this was the way the cards were supposed to look like, then everything I need to know is right there, in some level or another. This was complemented with another notion that was that the bigger the symbol, the more importance it has in the overall reading. So the Charriot card was, at the time, obviously about cars and means of transportation or travels. Of changing places. But then, there were the sphinxes, each pointing to different sides and I would think about indecision, paralysis, struggle, or the lack of ability of the driver to actually conduct such a vehicle. Or… maybe it was about that Cancer person, when nothing else could felt right.

The Magician was about this young kid who was always on a wire juggling things. Playing with possibilities, not much caring about what could come out of it. But then, there was that monkey who could fly like Superman, but was headed straight for the kid, as if to throw him off balance. Not that it should matter, as the kid possessed some nice wings on his feet, so the wire thing was probably show off.


In time, and with hundreds of readings, my ability to read cards became refined. I would start to notice other things, and to relate some cards with others. Little by little, I ended up encountering so many texts about Cabala and its relationship with tarot, those concepts became more understandable. But I never diverged from this picture analyzing path.

In fact, I still hold the belief that anyone can read with the Thoth deck without any knowledge of any type of matter other than the usual image analysis skills. Does this means that any of the mystical things Crowley keeps mentioning doesn’t matter? No, it doesn’t. It just means that you don’t need that system to work with the cards. Arthur Koestler, in his book “Sleepwalkers” points out that even though we thought the Earth revolved around the Sun and didn’t know the actual movement of the planets and stars, that didn’t stop us to use stars as guides to travel around the Globe. To put it in another way, we don’t have to know how things actually work to be able to extract meaningful information and act upon it. In fact we never know if the systems that we use do indeed correspond to the actual events that we see. We just know that it’s the best system that we could find that can explain said events. However powerful the cabalistic system might be, it’s still just a system. A map, if you will, of how the Universe might function. Other people, other cultures might have other views which are just as valid.

Getting back to the Thoth deck, it means that whether you use what Crowley left us as he intended or you use it in your own way, you can still extract information from it. As an example, here’s a reading I recently made to a woman who wanted to know if her sister’s boyfriend was betraying her. Here, I purposely used only image analysis techniques and not anything else.

Three cards were drawn: the Ace of Clubs, The Hierophant and the Ten of Cups:

2014-01-23 19.31.36

It is evident from the very first card (the Ace of Clubs) that he is betraying her. In fact, this card is so affirmative, with its phallic club cracking with energy, that we wonder why do we need any additional cards.

But more surprising is the presence of the Hierophant in the middle, as we’re dealing not with a relationship, but with a betrayal of said relationship. In fact this card has such a strong pull that it immediately becomes the center of the whole reading, as it seems to suggest that such betrayals are not only known, but permitted. How so? Well, the card represents a pope. Someone “appointed” by God itself to be its agent on Earth. Someone whose sole job is to point out and enforce the Divine teachings. A pope can then represent a guide. Someone who is there to advise you on how to act. In this particular case, this interpretation is reinforced by the presence of the 10 of Cups, aptly titled “Satisfaction”, where we see 10 cups, laid in such a harmonious way that one can get the idea that the relationship doesn’t suffer because of the guy’s betrayals. This is also reinforced by the water that comes forth from the cups. As if everything is bright and shinning, no matter how you look at it.

But then the question arises of why doesn’t this situation seem to bother the querent’s sister. It certainly does bother the querent enough that she has to ask about it. And again, the answer lies in the Hierophant card, since it is the only card with human figures. There’s the obvious pope, which fills the whole card, and then, right at his feet, there’s a woman in blue. Both seem in harmony with each other, as can be seen by the diamond that connects the woman heart to the pope’s heart.

However, the difference in sizes is too obvious to miss. It is not so difficult to see the querent’s sister as the woman and her boyfriend as the pope. Some obvious signs would include the halo around the pope’s head which is positioned at the same level as the center of red cloud in the 10 of Cups, from which sheds all the water of this relationship or top of the Ace of Clubs. The woman’s size is just enough for her to fill the lower part of the Ace of Clubs and the lower cups, thereby suggesting that even though she is content with what she gets from him, he certainly is not.

2014-01-23 19.31.36b

2014-01-23 19.31.36a

The cards seem to suggest that he seeks more, sexually speaking, than what she is willing to offer. And so, he simply accepts this and goes to find what he craves elsewhere. As for her part, she seems content in being by her side. In being there for him whenever he needs. In a sense, in being the base from which he can grow. This is something that the querent agreed on, at the time. She described her sister as someone quiet and more interested in maintaining a relationship than it actually living it to the fullest. As putting her boyfriend in a pedestal and being pleased with just his company.

And if this fulfills her, why would she look for anything else? Why would she look for the energy and activity that comes forth from the Ace of Clubs? She doesn’t need to and, even though he still has to find sexual fulfillment elsewhere, this relationship still provides a stability and a sense of well being that makes the guy want to keep it going.

Crowley’s tarot deck might have complex imagery. You might be aware of all the things Crowley wanted to include in the deck and feel a little frightened about the amount of information that you have to work with. However, it’s also true that the cards can function at various levels. And that even if you don’t want to work with all the things Crowley did work, you can still use the deck to have insightful readings.

A simple way to work with it is simply noticing the first thing that you see and try to figure out why you see it. It might be a card or a detail in a card. Chances are that’s the most important thing and where most of the answer lies. That is your point of entry to the story at hand. You then just have to pull that thread and see where it leads you. In this case, the whole reading came forth by noting the Ace of Clubs (the answer to the question the querent asked) and then the Hierophant (the answer to the question the querent really wanted to know). Then it was just a matter of pattern matching and looking at the same positions of each card to find out what could be said.

That said, if you know Cabala, you’d recognize the pattern in the Ace of Clubs and the 10 of Cups as the Tree of Life. And that the woman’s size amounts more or less to the distance between Malkuth (The Kingdom, or Earth) and Yesod (Foundation, the sphere of the moon, where dreams and illusions, which form the basis of our reality, lie). However, we managed to get to similar conclusions without it.

My Tarot Bookshelf

Today I was performing one of my readings, and I felt compelled to look in some of my tarot books for a spark of insight about one of the cards. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve opened any of my tarot books during a reading, and yet here I grabbed three right off of the bat to get some fresh ideas.

My guess is that those of you who are learning tarot are using at least one or two books to guide your studies. My guess is also that those of you who are already confident readers or professional readers also have at least a couple of tarot books on the shelf that you may refer back to from time to time. It’s rare to come across a tarot enthusiast or professional who has no books on tarot. While as a professional reader I don’t rely on keywords or generate my readings from copy based on a book I’ve read, our craft is populated by a wealth of creative minds, and as such we are invited to explore what our colleagues have to say.

While I take my inspiration for my readings from all sorts of books and life experiences, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at my actual tarot bookshelf. I have quite a range of books that I’ve collected over the past 14 years, some of which I never open at all, some of which I refer back to again and again.

One book I don’t even have on my physical bookshelf anymore (probably because I wore it out) is Joan Bunning’s Learning the Tarot: A Tarot Book for Beginners. The material from this book is available in a free online course at the Learn Tarot website. Excellent material here that I still find relevant.

And so, below I share with you all the titles on my physical and virtual tarot bookshelf, organized into categories. Enjoy!

Some books I consider classics in the field:

EN TEREX IT: Encounters Around Tarot, Vol. I by Enrique Enriquez
EX ITENT ER: Encounters Around Tarot, Vol. II by Enrique Enriquez
Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot
by Rachel Pollack
The Tarot: History, Symbolism and Divination by Robert M. Place
Tarot for Your Self: A Workbook for Personal Transformation by Mary K. Greer
Mary K. Greer’s 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card by Mary K. Greer
Choice-Centered Relating and the Tarot by Gail Fairfield
Everyday Tarot: Using the Cards to Make Better Life Decisions by Gail Fairfield
The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Marianne Costa

Some books for delving deeper into specific topics:

Court Cards
Understanding the Tarot Court by Mary K. Greer and Tom Little
The Tarot Court Cards: Archetypal Patterns of Relationship in the Minor Arcana by Kate Warwick-Smith

Tarot and Kabbalah
The Fool’s Pilgrimage: Kabbalistic Meditations on the Tarot by Stephen H. Hoeller
Tarot and the Tree of Life: Finding Everyday Wisdom in the Minor Arcana by Isabel Radow Kliegman

Reading Reversals
Learning Tarot Reversals by Joan Bunning

Deck-Specific Texts
Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot by Lon Milo DuQuette
Voyager Tarot: Way of the Great Oracle by James Wanless, PhD
Motherpeace: A Way to the Goddess Through Myth, Art, and Tarot by Vicki Noble
Motherpeace Tarot Guidebook by Karen Vogel
Journey Through the Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert

Books Written About the Poetics of Tarot and Wordplay by My Teacher and Mentor, Enrique Enriquez:


And a couple other books on the shelf that I acquired along the way:

Tarot for Manifestation: Use the Cards to Make Your Desires a Reality by James P. Wells
Tarot for Beginners by P. Scott Hollander
Tarot for a New Generation by Janina Renèe
Power Tarot: More than 100 Spreads that Give Answers to Your Most Specific Questions by Trish MacGregor and Phyllis Vega

Robert Anton Wilson and Tarot

Maybe Logic The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson

For the first time, I will write a post in e-prime. Not that I haven’t tried to do it, mind you. I had and I still struggle to do it. However, no matter how much I would like to do it, I always end up struggling to find the right word or better yet, the right combination of words to translate precisely what I intend to say. In the end, I take the easy way out and just write in normal, plain english.

For those of you that don’t know, e-prime stands for “English Prime”, a variant of english which excludes every single form of the verb “to be”. You can find out more about it here.

I first came upon this form of English in the books of american author Robert Anton Wilson (RAW). Born on the 18th of January, he would complete today his 83rd birthday, had he not died seven years ago.

I first got exposed to his ideas quite accidentally, through a comic book called Arkham Asylum: A Serious House in a Serious Earth, by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean. Needless to say, it made an impact on my adolescent psyche:


As a side note, this comic marked also my first ever exposure to the Toth deck, through the Tower card, although at the time I didn’t knew that it actually existed and just assumed the artist made the image up. Silly me…

Fast forward a few years. I had discovered Philip K. Dick and held him in such high appreciation, that when I saw a quote of him on one of RAW’s books, I decided to give this guy a try. I started with Prometheus Rising, followed by Quantum Psychology. Two books that would significantly alter my way of thinking. Both books function pretty much as two halves of the same coin, although tarot readers who want to significantly better their reading skills should probably start with Quantum Psychology.

The books argue how we got imprinted with a set of Aristotelian values that made us see the world through the lenses of a binary code: Black or White; Right or Wrong; Left or Right; Yes or No. In Prometheus, we then get toured through each of Leary’s 8 Circuit Model of Consciousness and how we can break free of this code by reaching higher levels of consciousness, much like our perceptions of the world evolve as we go up the Cabbalistic Tree of Life. In Quantum Psychology, we have a different approach.

Again, we start with a two-value set and how it enforces our view of the world. Wilson then goes and expands this notion by introducing a third value: “Maybe”. And then a forth value, “Meaningless”. And so on. As he does this he starts to show us how can we expand our world view, our reality tunnel. So that we no longer see a world in Black and White, but start to see it in shades of Grey. As the book progresses and we become increasingly more comfortable with relativism, he goes even further, mixing ideas from fields such as Quantum Physics, Psychology, Magick or Yoga and the likes of Aleister Crowley, William Burroughs, Gurdjieff, Timothy Leary, Einstein and James Joyce.

Starting with thought-provoking ideas like “Whatever the thinker thinks, the prover proves” – an interesting concept that basically says that if we can come up with something (an idea, a concept, an opinion), then we will also come up with a way to validate said idea – he then sets out to systematically deconstruct our view of reality by simply showing us that  if we can prove everything we think of and our view of reality results from perceptions gathered by our senses and transformed into electrical signals to be transmitted to the brain, we do live in our own version of the world and all discussion of it ends up pointless because we can always think a way around the conundrums that other people throw at us.

This also means that statements like “Andrew is rich” do not have any kind of meaning at all, because other people might not see Andrew quite that way. In fact, for the sentence “Andrew is rich” to have any value, people would first have to agree on the definition of the word “rich”. And how can we define a simple four letter word such as “rich”? Do we even agree on the definition of said word? Or do each of us has its own definition of richness, which may or may not approach other people’s definition, but none the less remains unique; personal. So, instead, maybe we should say something along the lines of  “I sure find Andrew rich”, or even “In my opinion, Andrew has so much money, I see him as a a rich person”. Notice the difference in the latter sentences with the first one. In the first, we simply state “Andrew is rich”, whilst in the latter, we say something along the lines of Andrew possessing so much wealth that he meets OUR definition of richness. Our definition. Not some nameless, absolute, quantified definition. Remember, we always talk about and we can only talk about our perceptions; our way of seeing the world. By inserting a referential in the sentence, we not only acknowledge that we see only according to our own views, but we also acknowledge that anyone else might have a different opinion…

And what does any of this have to do with tarot?

Early on, we get taught that we shouldn’t see the cards as either positive or negative, but instead as existing in a type of quantum state that when accessed can become either positive or negative or even both. An idea first put forth by physicist Erwin Schrödinger in what became known as the Schödinger’s Cat paradox.

We then get a table of meanings for each card; a table with hundreds of meanings that supposedly we can assign to each card, only to get warned not to take them at face value. “You should only use them as a guideline”, we get told. “Try to find out your own meaning for the cards; your own attributions”.

The difficulties increase if we pause to think that if a certain card can have multiple meanings, then perhaps none of then actually describes the card. And instead, we all just wander around its edges, trying to pinpoint its exact meaning. By stating something along the lines of “I see the card in this perspective” or “in this reading, I assign this and that value to the card” we can inform others of the subjectivity of the reading, as well as invite them to offer their own views. Their own perspectives. Notice how when applied to a reading this changes the focus from the deterministic “this and this shall happen” to the more softer “I see this card translating this and that effect”, which can then shift the purpose of the reading from a simple Q/A session to a more self-awareness direction and a more significant type of work.

Then we have the never-ending debate of reversals. Should we or shouldn’t we use reversals? As we have already covered that in Shelley’s wonderful post, lets instead consider the following:

  1. the question arises because some but not all (somebunal, as RAW would say) methods of card shuffling invert the position of the cards.
  2. If most methods of shuffling result in 1-2 different card positions, some methods of shuffling that can produce an infinite number of positions, thereby raising the questions “If we use these types of methods when can we consider a card reversed?” and “If our way of shuffling can produce 2 card orientations, which I will follow in my reading, if I use a method of shuffling that produces “n” possible card orientation, should I also use the final orientation of a card as an indication into what type of meaning I can extract from the card?”
  3. considering the reversal as an inversion or decrease in terms of intensity of the meaning of the card can, in fact, help us assign meaning to the card, and might lead to a quicker reading, since you don’t have to consider so many alternatives.

Independently of the answer you might arrive, you end up with a personal system. Something that functions for you because it mirrors your own personal views regarding tarot reading. And your personal views only. Another person might very well reach a different conclusion. Because “what the thinker thinks, the prover proves”, both ways remain valid.

Another interesting point regards the use of language. We put way too much faith in the objectivity of language. But if we can’t even agree on the definition of simple concepts as “richness”, how can we accurately transmit an idea? Or, better yet, should we really concern ourselves with this? Enrique Enriquez, picking up on a tradition that goes all the way back to the surrealists, and even before them, has produced some wonderful work regarding “the hidden meanings of words” or, to put it in another way, to show us just how flexible our own communication system can become once we let go of the rigid parameters of “this means that and only that”. In a sense, when we say that a certain image in a card reminds us of something completely different, we end up doing the same. We associate two different images and establish a connection between them. A connection that might only have surfaced because at that particular moment we became aware of the second image. No doubt aroused by something deeply rooted into our own perceptions, in our brain chemistry and in the particular way our brain functions.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea… If you want to explore this type of approach in more detail, I strongly urge you to take some time and study his work. In the meantime, I leave you with a few exercises where you can actually test these notions.


1. Make a table where you only assign a single meaning to each card of the tarot deck. In the end, you will have 78 meanings, which you will use in every reading you make for a considerable amount of time (at least 2 weeks). How do your readings change by this restriction? Do they loose any of its accuracy?

2. Make a second table where you assign a different meaning to each card. So, for example, if you went with “Guide” for the High Priestess, consider now the word “Passive”. The more different, the better. Again, use this table for a reasonable amount of time, not less than the previous one and again, in every reading you make. Take notice of any changes in your reading ability or accuracy that might happen.

3. If you do reversals, stop using them. If you don’t use reversals, start using them. Does your reading suffer or do you notice any improvement by using them? What changed in your ability to read and translate the cards?

4. Pick a card from your deck and study it, writing down every single element you notice and an image it suggests. Then, try to reproduce the card you saw, but by replacing the symbols you just saw with the ones that popped into your head. Compare the results. Do you still have the same card?

Have fun and…

Happy birthday Mr. Wilson from all of us here at Maelstromtarot!!! 😀

In Search of Happiness

Nine of Cups. Wicca Moon Tarot
Nine of Cups. Wicca Moon Tarot

Recently, there seems to be so much pressure to be happy… Or maybe this is not so recent. Maybe entire generations of people ran after this dream. But even so, it seems that these days, everyone has happiness as one of his/hers main objectives in life. And, even though we hear about lots of techniques, and talks and courses and books about this subject, it seems that we are as far away as we can be from being happy.

But why is it so hard to be happy? And what does it take for someone to be happy? For some, it takes money. For others, love or health. Maybe a successful career, or a family with kids. Or, perhaps, a nice big house.  There are even those who would only feel happy if they could have it all. But is this happiness or ambition?

I was talking with a close friend of mine, who told me that he always wanted to take his life in a certain direction. A direction that would make him the happiest guy in the world, but he didn’t do it because of his family and of what others could say about him. And I asked him, “even so, did you manage to find happiness or didn’t you?”. His answer was a “let’s just say that we can never be happy at 100%. I was a good son, a good father, a good husband and I corresponded to what was expected of me from my family and society. So, yes… I was happy”

I confess to be somewhat shocked by this sentence. So does it mean that in order to be happy we have to do what is expected of us? What about our dreams, our expectations? Should I feel fulfilled or satisfied just because I’m living according to everyone’s expectations? But then why do we have so many people coming to us asking us what it takes to be happy? Don’t they know what is expected of them? Or do they simply want more from life than to fulfill someone’s expectations?

Even if we live in a society and act accordingly, we have a personality, dreams, expectations and so on. It is part of our way of living to try to fulfill these dreams and these expectations. To work towards realization. When someone comes to us, tarotists, they want answers or maybe a glimpse of light or to know through each path they should go in order to reach their goals. For any of these things, they are willing to open their lives to us for examination and trust illustrated pieces of cardboard randomly scattered in a table.

And what does the tarot tell us about happiness? There isn’t a single major arcana card there that explicitly means “happiness”. We have cards for change, love, meetings, work, adjustment, realization, failure, loneliness, action, and many many concepts, but happiness is not one of them. Sure, we can see The Sun as happy times, party, celebration; we can see The World as celebration, fulfillment, realization. If happiness is such a fundamental part of our lives, why is it not expressed in major arcanas?

If we go to the minors, we can can see it in the Ace of Cups, as an idea. Crowley entitled the 9 of Cups as the “The Lord of Happiness”, and everything in its description seems to point to a positive meaning. There’s just one catch. As with all nines, the card is placed in Yesod in the Tree of Life (also called Foundation), a sphere ruled by the Moon. Are we to take it as something fundamental to life, but only reachable through dreams? In the 10 of Cups, we have the fulfillment of this happiness in real world. Rachel Pollack, in her Tarot Wisdom book, even calls it “one of the happiest cards in the deck” and, indeed, there seems to be a sense of happiness throughout the illustrations on the main tarot decks.

In day-to-day situations, happiness is not something that we happen to find. Rather it’s something that happens. It happens when we successfully overcome an obstacle; or when something that we wanted very much becomes true. But even so, it depends on our state of mind and on the circumstances regarding said event: how we got there, how much satisfaction did we get from the results (imagine someone giving his/her all, breaking all kinds of records, only to watch someone else perform better than s/he has) and of how much importance do we give to said event. There’s purpose here, as well as conflict and function. There’s a hint of causality also, as something completely unexpected can make us very very happy, while something that we take for granted might not have the same effect. There’s something so subtle at work, we almost can’t grasp it.

But we know its there. And we know that, even if just for a moment, it is reachable if we truly work towards it (and not become obsessed with it). For it might be the stuff of dreams, but it also a fundamental aspect in our lives. Something that’s right there, if we dare to go to the moon and bring back that special something that can truly light up our lives.

By being present only in the minor arcana, we know that happiness itself should not be seen as an absolute concept or something that is so powerful that it can overtake our lives. Rather, it is something (a feeling, as expressed in the Cups suit) that arises from the combination of several factors. A product with its roots placed high on the moon, but reaching out to us, if we dare to reach up to it, and nurture us and brings us joy and realization and fulfillment. So please, do me the favor of fighting for whatever you want and whatever makes you feel fulfilled. Please make it real. Even if it’s just for one single moment.

And please, do me the favor of being happy.