How Tarot and I-Ching Work Together

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If you use tarot for divination, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t explore other systems of divination as well.

Although runic divination is on my bucket list (and if it’s on yours as well, enjoy this gorgeous post from Camelia’s archives, Renewed (M)antics), the complementary system I use most often with tarot is that of the I-Ching, or the Book of Changes.

Because my tarot practice is largely based on the principles of humanistic psychology, empowered decision-making and self-determination, it was only natural that I would discover the I-Ching in the course of my reading and research over the years. I came to this system of divination by way of the work of Carl Jung, who was working with the oracle some 30 years prior to meeting sinologist Richard Wilhelm. Wilhelm’s translation of the I-Ching remains one of the most well known.

For those of you who know not a thing about the I-Ching, let’s back up for a moment.

What is the I-Ching?

The I-Ching is a book that, according to my favorite I-Ching translator, the Taoist Master Alfred Huang, existed more than two thousand years before Confucius (ca. 551-479 B.C.). Just think about that for a moment. Ancient doesn’t even begin to describe this work.

Huang says the I-Ching was originally a handbook for divination, and only later, once Confucius wrote his commentaries, did it become a book of ancient wisdom. He goes on to say:

It is a book that not only tells one who consults it about the present situation and future potential but also gives instruction about what to do and what not to do to obtain good fortune and avoid misfortune. But one still retains free choice.

Hence it becomes clear that this system could complement a tarot reading quite well.

How does the I-Ching work?

The Book of Changes is divided into what we might refer to as chapters, each of which is called a hexagram (in Chinese called a gua), which is a symbol that is arrived at after a systemized ritual that provides six lines. I often think of each hexagram in much the same way as a tarot card, or perhaps even an entire tarot reading in and of itself, and the ritual, such as a coin toss, as the shuffle.

There are 64 hexagrams in all, and each is formed of two trigrams, of which there are eight in all. Each trigram is named such because it is composed of three lines. The readings go into numerous possible permutations because each of the lines can also be determined through the casting process to be “changing” and this adds more depth to the overall reading and also can comment on possible future outcomes.

How can I-Ching complement a tarot reading?

Rather than this being a tutorial on the I-Ching, which is far beyond the scope of this post, I’d like to share with you how I use the I-Ching as part of my overall practice.

I find that the tarot and I-Ching provide complementary messages that overlap only in how they are able to pinpoint and highlight different aspects of the same question.

The tricky part is when the client hedges in identifying the meaning or wants to avoid the message.

I was looking for a question and at the moment I was writing this post I got a text message on my desktop and started chatting with an acquaintance. I asked if he had any pressing questions, and he agreed to be a willing participant in my experiment, but didn’t give any details about his situation or context.

His question for the cards was simply:

“Which is stronger: my desire to change or my fear of leaving?”

I don’t know much about this person at all; he’s an acquaintance, but someone I recently met and who isn’t very forthcoming about his personal life, so there’s really no way for me to hypothesize much about the meanings of these cards as they apply directly to him. He didn’t offer up much by way of what resonated, either, so we’ll just have to go on theory and practice.

In any case, I decided to go for an old-fashioned A or B for this one. When you have two options, it’s a nice way to put it out on the table and get a baseline idea. A (left) being “desire to change” and B (right) being “fear of leaving.”

Here’s what came up:

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I tell him: look, your desire to change is stronger. And I go on a little bit about the element and characteristics of the Knight of Wands, which I won’t go into here. That’s just a whole lot of fire, so, that desire for change is literally burning strong.

But you want to know what really intrigues me about these two cards? The story. Right? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

I go: “Here’s the thing. Who’s the woman? Because she’s tied to your fear of leaving.”

Now, generally speaking I don’t always assume court cards are real people, but when you’ve got two court cards of the same suit and close in age (woman slightly older or more mature here), you’d have to be blind not to make the connection, amirite?

We were chatting online as I read the cards. I asked no less than four times who the woman was or if there was a woman in the middle of whatever this question was about, and it got DODGED and DODGED and DODGED like a mean game of dodge ball and let me tell you I could not get a hit on this guy to save my life. So I let it go. As an out, I suggested it could be “interior conflict” rather than a real person, and he latched onto that. But you see, we already know there’s inner conflict: it’s at the heart of the question itself. I just provided it as a comfortable place to rest. It’s not important for me to force a client to see what I see. I make suggestions, and like spaghetti on a wall, I let what sticks, stick. It’s their reading, not mine, and the bottom line is that clients will see what they’re ready and willing to see.

I say: “Look, your desire to change is so strong that you’re actually riding away already. And you’re not looking at this woman, and she’s not looking at you. You’re looking in opposite directions. But you’re actively moving away while she’s just sitting there, more stable, more calm, more mature in her inner fire.” (A note on the Knight of Wands, FYI, at least according to my experience with the RWS deck: if you ever get a question about love, this is your quintessential player. The Knight of Wands in a love context often really just wants to play the field and does not want to settle down to save his life. He needs freedom, and even if that’s a psychological hang-up a lot of times, it comes out in a perpetual string of affairs because there’s a restlessness and a need for adventure.)

I say: “Ok, let’s do an I-Ching reading. How about ‘What’s the best thing for me to do now?'”

In my practice, I write the hexagrams I cast on pieces of paper as I’m doing them. Here’s what came up:

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Without going into the specifics of method (I actually just used three US quarters I found lying on my desk), here are the themes that emerged:

What’s the best thing for me to do now?
This gua expands on the truth of avoiding contention. It talks about how conflict and contention is a part of life, but it must be resolved in order to move forward. Huang: “Generally, dispute arises from one’s mean intention and overly self-willed conduct” (italics mine: Knight of Wands, anyone?) “lacking flexibility in considering other people’s situations.”

The idea here is to find common ground, to try to see eye to eye, and there’s a special focus on trying to clear some sort of blocked truth.

I go back to this not seeing eye to eye, as we saw in the tarot cards, not seeing each other, not looking at each other. “Who’s the woman?”

(I imagine the conflict is with this woman.)

I say: “Didn’t you have a girlfriend? Do you still have a girlfriend?”

He says: “Yes, but we hardly ever see each other.”

I about die. I go “AH. Right.”

I mean, people, really?

When I point out that this is what the cards have been trying to show him, he says, “That’s too simple.”

[My greatest tarot teacher ever, Enrique Enriquez, taught me many things, but one of the recurrent themes of my work with him was this: “Shelley, you need to be dumb to read the cards.” Every time I’d complicate things, he’d remind me BE DUMB. Meaning: read what you see. Don’t embellish, don’t overthink, don’t complicate. Just read.]

Anyways, you get the point. It was like a dog chasing its tail.

If I had to craft a story based on these narratives, I’d say there’s some sort of decision going on deep in this man’s psyche and on the surface of his mind that he’s wrestling with, and this woman is part of the fear that’s attached to whatever it is he means by “fear of leaving.” It doesn’t much matter, though, this stated fear, because he’s already mostly out the door anyways. She seems pretty cool with it, after all, she seems to accept his restless, playboy nature. Perhaps she has her eye on someone else. (I should have and could have tried Isabel’s sight card trick here. Damn!)

At the heart of this, and where the I-Ching comes in with specifics, is in pinpointing this need to find common ground, resolve disputes, and “unblock” truth before moving on. It’s almost as if it’s a shame, as if these two people are two pieces of a puzzle that would have otherwise fit together, if he weren’t so intent on running away. In fact the man himself made an interesting unsolicited comment at one point: “But if the woman had come up first, they would have been looking at each other.”

Indeed. And there wouldn’t be any question then, would there?

Hilary Barrett calls hexagram 6 “Arguing” and states “You’re in dispute with how it is.” (Italics hers.) The two moving lines five and six show that this is coming to a head anyways (he’s already riding away): “you have truths to seek and aspirations to follow, so make yourself heard” (Barrett, line 5); and yet, line 6: “there is no such thing as a final victory.” I take this to mean that running away isn’t going to necessarily help you find what you’re searching for, but, as Barrett says (line 6): “This is not the way to leave Arguing behind; it’s the way to trap yourself in a struggle for scraps, constantly hampered by the fear of loss.”

There’s much to unpack here. If you can debrief with clients to get their honest and unguarded feedback, lots of stuff can come out into the open. If, however, your client isn’t willing to open up, this can be a run around. You may find, however, that the client despite their best efforts to the contrary does somehow inadvertently slip once in a while into dropping a tidbit or two almost against their own will. This one, as we were chatting, kept denying there was a woman, and then his autocorrect inserted a woman’s name where he meant to say something about how he’s “too demanding with the world”—where the female name popped in before “the world,” inadvertently changing his intended statement to read “I’m too demanding with [woman] world.” The name wasn’t his girlfriend’s though, as far as I know. :-p

However, he insisted the question “wasn’t about love” and I told him I wasn’t insisting the message was about love, either. Here’s something most tarot readers will identify with: the cards respond to the question asked. The querent knows what’s behind that, but, confused and/or vague questions can generate confused and/or vague responses. However, in this case I think it was the cards showing a message that needed to get out, intentions behind questions be damned. It happens.

I dunno, folks. This is our service. We offer it up, we tell people what we see. But we absolutely cannot be attached to what they see. Tell it like it is. Say what you see. But let your sitters do the heavy lifting of applying the message to their lives and finding meaning in it—or not.

Thoughts?

Four Tarot Readers Enter a Bar …

Actually, three board a plane and one meets them at a train station. But still.

This weekend I am proud and happy to announce that your fearless readers here at Maelstrom Tarot convened for our first in-person summit. Shelley flew in from Rome, Miguel and Paulinnhhoo from Porto, Portugal, and we all convened in The Hague.

Why is this relevant to you? Because we are planning many exciting things and we want to involve you even closer each step of the way.

Maelstrom was born in 2013 when Shelley and Miguel met at what we affectionately refer to as TarotCon – a rather unfortunate name, really, if you consider how many in the tarot world are considered con artists (and btw EE has a brilliant essay on that: Peeking Through the Bars of the Tarot’s Occult Prison). It was run by Marcus and Tali over at Tarot Professionals, which I think is now simply Tarot Association – or Tarosophy; in any case, it was a fated meeting and a magical friendship was born.

We set the blog up shortly thereafter, but it lost steam due to – well, life.

Now, however, the pieces of the puzzle have come together and we have a foundation team that is energized, committed and ready to fully engage with a community of our own creation.

You are part of that community. Not only that – you are a FOUNDING member of that community simply by virtue of the fact that you’re reading this right now.

Part of our Den Haag summit (besides enjoying the moscatel that Paulinnhhoo brought us from Portugal) was making a sacred and solemn pledge to grow our site, ourselves, our clients, and our community.

That being the case, we’d like to ask you a dear favor: will you share our site and our community with your online networks?

We know we’re not for everyone – and that’s just as it should be. But we want to connect with the ones who resonate with what we are doing, with those who make up part of our tribe, our people – in short: others like you. And you can certainly help us with that.

Here are three easy things you can do right now to help. And we thank you in advance in our four (and maybe more) languages: THANK YOU and GRAZIE (Shelley), OBRIGADO (Miguel and Paulinnhhoo) and last, but certainly not at all least, DANK JE WEL from our country host, Isabel.

Please take just a minute now to do the following:

  1. Share our website with your social and online networks: maelstromtarot.com
  2. Share our Facebook page with your networks, and if you haven’t already, LIKE US!
  3. Subscribe to receive updates of our blog posts by email.
  4. Follow us on Twitter too @maelstromtarot

The cards are on the table and there are lots of good things to come.

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When four readers get together, lots of cards get pulled and lots of spreads tried out. Enlightening for all!

To see more photos, visit our Facebook page!

The Fool’s Journey Through the Tarot Suit of Cups

[This post is part of four-part series on the nature of the tarot card suits. Each of us has chosen to tackle one suit in our own unique way. To see the first in the series, Miguel’s take on Swords, click here: To a Queen of Swords]

When thinking about the suit of Cups in the tarot, it’s helpful to consider the form, shape, and function of a cup itself. We’re looking here at a vessel: something designed specifically to hold, contain, distribute, transport, and – in some cases such as fancy chalices and ornamental goblets – adorn and beautify.

Much like a heart, in fact.

In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, the suit of Cups is like a microcosm of the overall Fool’s Journey through the tarot. There’s a cycle of being woven throughout the suit that takes us neatly (if not easily or without strife) through the entire spectrum of the human emotional experience and how it plays out in everyday life.

Describing the Suit of Cups

If I had to use one word to describe the suit of Cups, I would chose love. Runners-up would be heart, emotions, soul, feelings. In playing cards this would be the suit of hearts. This is where we live out our interpersonal relationships, our romantic interludes, our painful heartbreaks, our bitter emotional manipulations, our tender compassions, our delicate and vulnerable reaching out for and offering our affection.

In short, we are emotionally involved here. The degree to which that emotional involvement takes place is also oftentimes a subject of the individual card. How much should we be “in deep” emotionally? How detached should we be? How are our feelings triggering our behaviors in our choices and actions? All of it is here in the suit of Cups.

With the Fool’s Journey as our model, let’s look at the suit of cups in four separate sections bookended by the Ace and the King, as the Hero (you yourself, your soul) journeys through the flowing world of the suit of cups.

Ace: Planting a Seed – A New Beginning (From an Ending) 

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In the RWS deck, the imagery of a lotus flower rising from the mud is apt. There is beauty here, but in order for it to emerge, it has to hit rock bottom and crawl its way up out of the mud. Think of this (and all Aces, for that matter) as the interplay between beginning and end, much like the infinity symbol. There’s forward motion in terms of something that’s growing in our hearts, but we often can’t determine that exact point at which something that ended made way for fertile ground to bring about the “new.” Beginnings and endings need each other and they are inextricably intertwined. However, when the Ace appears, we’re being encouraged to look ahead to what’s ready to grow and emerge, rather than what we’ve left behind or ended that has brought us to this point.

The Ace shows the first signs of what we might describe as “effusive” emotions. Overflow. Too much to contain. The excitement of a first spark, a crush, an overwhelming feeling of being hit by Cupid’s arrow. It’s simply too much to hold inside and as such it flows outward beyond our physical and emotional borders and boundaries, much like the four streams coming out of the goblet being held out here in the hand from the cloud.

Two, Three, Four: Meeting, Sharing, Refusing

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Two: When we move past this initial explosion of emotions we can make a step forward to meet a person where they’re at. If we’re on equal footing as we see in the Two and if we are willing to reach out to a partner who is also reaching out, there can be a true meeting of not only hearts but also minds, under the caduceus of Mercury, God of communication and transport, in this case not only physical but also emotional.

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Three: When love extends beyond two people it becomes a celebration of fraternal love, of friends creating a harmonious triangle together and toasting to their good fortune. We’re reminded that we can’t get by in coupled pairs alone – we must also seek out fellowship on a heart level with like-minded individuals who will support us, listen to us, and lift us up.

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Four: In our emotional and psychological world, we’re not always open to love. Love and heart-centered sharing isn’t always appropriate or necessary for our growth at any given moment. There are times when we need to say no to love, even if it’s being offered over and over again. If we don’t want what’s being offered, we’ll reject it. We need to draw a fine line however between what we know we don’t want or isn’t good for us, and what we perhaps deem isn’t “good enough” for us. Rejection out of perfection will leave us sitting alone.

Five, Six, Seven: Mourning, Regressing, Imagining

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Five: They say don’t cry over spilt milk, but we must. We must cry over loss, because if we don’t, we simply can’t integrate the experience and move forward with a cleansed and willing heart. So cry. Mourn. Look at the spilled milk, the lost love, the missing loved one. Cry over what you can never, ever get back again, no matter how hard you try. You must cry over it as long as you feel you have tears to shed. Then: turn around and start filling up again. There are empty vessels that need contents.

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Six: Regressing often has a negative connnotation, but returning to the past isn’t always a negative thing. In the six of Cups we see a return to nostalgic memories of childhood, loved ones from the past, happier times. Cups are used as flower pots. That’s a transitory use but it serves its purpose for the moment – effemeral beauty without deep roots.

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Seven: Building castles in the air can be a beautiful thing that opens our heart to magic. But how much of it is real, and how much of it is imagined or idealized? Living love in the world of ideas can be exciting, but it can vanish just as soon as it was conjured. Distinguishing what’s real from what’s imagined is a challenge for the heart, especially when desires are real but reality doesn’t rise to meet the challenge. Seeing clearly with the heart isn’t easy when love is blind.

Eight, Nine, Ten: Leaving, Gloating, Rejoicing

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Eight: Stacking cups to make a lasting structure, but one is missing. Sometimes the heart wishes for something that can’t be built in the real world. At that point there’s a fork in the road: either accept the hole in the wall and live with it, or refuse to continue with a missing part and walk away from it altogether. Building with the heart and not just the hands means leaving something behind on an emotional, not just physical, level. And that can hurt. But the way ahead is a conscious choice based on the inner knowing that there’s something better to be had and progress to be made.

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Nine: Look at my riches and look at my shiny cups! This is an ego-based love, a love that satisfies a carnal desire or a need for possession. They say this is the wish card, but sometimes what we wish for is like opening Pandora’s box. Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

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Ten: A rainbow of cups, a dancing family, a happy cottage – this is love’s completion, full of joy and contentment. It’s a moment to stand back and be grateful for completing the initial journey through the ups and downs of the emotional rollercoaster of life. Taking refuge in loved ones is cause for celebration.

Page, Knight, Queen: Professing, Offering, Emoting

With the court cards, we see four stages of love’s maturation.

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With the Page we have a young, puppy-love sort of feeling – naive and vulnerable, invincible and trusting, playful and unexpected, full of suprises.

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The Knight shows us the confidence of early adulthood, offering love’s cup on a gallant white horse, the wings of Mercury flying with the message of love. The fishes on the knight’s coat and the winding stream reminding us that this is a watery field to get involved in – tears will be shed, whether of sadness, joy, or both.

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The Queen is our Cups equivalent of the mid-life crisis. She is the utmost in terms of emoting at its fullest, and watch out if she wants to manipulate your emotions. She’s lived long enough to know a thing or two about how emotions and love work, and that gives her powerful insights into the human psyche as well as a dangerous ability to stoke emotional hot buttons for her own ego-driven desires.

King: Reaped What You Sowed – An Ending (For a New Beginning)

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Finally in the King we come to the elderly stage of life, love’s completion ready to make way for a new beginning. We see the reverse image of the Ace, in which this ending now makes way for a new beginning, and perhaps we take time to look back over the journey. What we have now that we didn’t have before is wisdom about emotions and love. Now we know how to temper our emotions and we know how to manage the delicate interplay between head and heart. Here we have a wounded king, the proverbial Fisher King, who has been wounded and lost potency, but is ultimately healed. We’ve found emotional stability and emotional balance, and as such, we’ve come to understand something about the fundamental nature of love itself, before beginning the journey once again.

Shelley reads the cards with poetic insights and practical solutions to help her clients navigate the twists and turns of the road of life. You can read more of her writings on Maelstrom Tarot and at her website Sparrow Tarot, and book your own customized reading here.

How Tarot Cards Play Out in the Real World

If you’re new to the cards and haven’t built up much experience yet with readings, it can be a bit difficult to see how they relate to actual happenings in the real world. At least in terms of how I taught myself tarot, the images on the cards and the stories they could create when placed together all seemed theoretical and impersonal until I had years of real-world experience to relate to each and every one of them.

In an attempt to add a bit to the overall knowledge base regarding how readings play out in the real world, every once in a while I’d like to let you have a peek into my own personal tarot journal. The internet didn’t exist when I started teaching myself tarot, and I would have really liked to have been able to get a look at how experienced readers interpreted the cards and applied them to actual practical situations.

So, in the spirit of learning, I’ll let you in on one of my most recent practical uses of tarot for myself.

As you may or may not know, I am a single, divorced, working mother of three elementary-school-aged children (9, 7, 7). Needless to say, my romantic life has been stalled to non-existent for quite some time. Now, however, I feel happy and serene as a single person and I’m no longer looking for someone to fill up a void in my heart or emotional life.

Some girlfriends encouraged me to try online dating. So I put up a profile and started chatting with some men. One of them was really funny and attractive. We made plans to meet for a coffee. And then it occurred to me (I’m an American living in Italy, btw) – I had forgotten to ask if he was married or had a girlfriend.

Although I certainly don’t want to generalize, in my own personal experience in Italy, I’ve learned that men often don’t have any qualms about taking a lover on the side in addition to their steady girlfriend or wife. While I don’t pass judgement on their choices, I don’t want to be anyone’s other woman. 

Here’s where the reading comes in.

When it occurred to me that I hadn’t asked him, I figured I might as well perform due diligence. So I asked him outright in a message if he had a girlfriend, wife, lover, or was otherwise engaged with a significant other.

His immediate response was a flippant joke, which struck me as a way to deflect and avoid. 

That was suspicious to me, and no answer was forthcoming, so I turned to the cards. Situations like this, when you have a “hunch” but there’s an information gap, are excellent practice readings for learners. When and if you get more real-world information, you can compare it to the information you obtained from the cards and your interpretation of their message for you. The more you make these comparisons, the more your confidence and knowledge will grow.

I drew three cards: 1) What I need to know about Marco; 2) Advice/guidance for me re: Marco; 3) Outlook.

Here’s what came up:

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Three of Wands, Death, Seven of Swords

[Practice exercise: If you had to simply make a sentence out of this string, keeping it in context with the questions posed, what would it say?]

Here’s verbatim what I wrote in my journal:

“Oh, see – now that’s a real shame. I had this feeling smth was going on – like he’s not really single. This spread says he has his eyes elsewhere, let the whole concept and idea of him die, and you’ll see he had smth to hide. Boo! Now let’s see how it plays out…spill the beans, Marco.”

I left it at that and decided to follow the advice of Death – let it go, close it off, leave it behind. It wasn’t easy to follow this advice because my initial impulse was to respond to his jokey message and gloss over it and explain why I had asked. Instead, I stayed silent as a tomb. Death doesn’t utter a word, not even an emoji. Total crickets. 

It was only a matter of hours before I had my answer!

He later spontaneously sent a message admitting that yes, he has a girlfriend; but, and I quote: “she lives abroad and I hardly ever see her.”

Ah, tarot. How I love thee. Let me count the ways.

Let’s now look specifically at two of the cards that, in my own experience, have shown up repeatedly in specific real-life situations.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Three of Wands has come up repeatedly in my readings for clients in situations where there are long-distance relationships and in situations where one of the partners is contemplating a move overseas (or in any case across water or a long enough distance to require relocation) in order to be with the other. I didn’t touch on the overseas part in my own brief written analysis of this reading (because I already knew that part in my head), but I did make sure to note what the figure is doing on the card: he has his back to me. Thus, what I needed to know was that he certainly didn’t have his eyes on me, but rather elsewhere, across the water. In fact, I came to find out that his girlfriend lives in Spain.

Secondly, the Seven of Swords is a card that I’ve seen repeatedly for clients when there is a situation of cheating or getting away with (or attempting to get away with) something secretly. I generally dislike assigning specific keywords and situations to a card, since it’s better to be fluid enough to interpret every card uniquely for each unique reading. However, the Seven of Swords is rather difficult for me to extricate from the context of cheating when it shows up in a relationship reading, especially as it regards trust issues or secrets.

If you’re learning how to read the cards, I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping a journal. I’ve been reading now for nearly 20 years and as you can see, I still physically jot down notes with an actual pen on an actual piece of paper every single time I do a reading for myself. Documenting your readings has immense value for your learning, especially further on in the future when you have real-world findings, information and results of the situation that you can bring to bear on your initial interpretations.

As you grow in experience, you’ll begin to amass a substantial collection of actual situations that you can link back to particular cards, and this becomes a really important toolkit you can draw upon if and when you decide to start reading for others.

Your thoughts?

If you want to experience the power of a tarot reading for yourself, please visit me over at Sparrow Tarot (sparrowtarot.com) to learn how the cards can serve as a road map to help you navigate your life’s journey.

Do Expectations Create Reality?

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One of my close friends is convinced that nothing good ever happens to her. She didn’t always used to say this. But over the past year, she’s been saying it more and more, and for me it’s become a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. One thing would happen (getting injured, not getting a job, or any other number of unfortunate things that happen to all of us in the normal course of life), and immediately after, she’d say, “See? Nothing good ever happens to me.”

From the time she started making this affirmation more openly, it seems as if the “misfortunes” have increased. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that she’s convinced this is her fate, so she falls back on it whenever something doesn’t go her way. Or perhaps it seems like unfortunate things are happening more often, because she points them out more often now than she used to.

But there’s one more “perhaps”: is it possible that once you expect only bad things to happen to you, not only do they happen, but they even increase?

I come from the “everything happens for a reason” school of thought. I know that cynical people find this idea absurd, but believing it has been a real source of strength for me throughout my life. I subscribe to the idea that our souls incarnate with particular challenges built into the life plan in order to facilitate and achieve specific areas of soul growth. I suppose that’s not for everyone, but so far it’s worked for me.

Finding meaning in my life experiences, both good and bad, has helped me weather difficult periods. And when I say difficult periods, I mean even periods where I, too, could have reasonably said “nothing good ever happens to me.”

But I never believed that. I always believed, as I still do, that things happen for a reason, even shitty things, and that there’s a purpose to life events, both those within my control and those outside of my control. It’s just that I never expect shitty things to happen as a matter of course. And when they do, I don’t automatically assume it’s because good things never happen to me—even if it’s been a bad run for a while.

Do you think there really are some people who never have good things happen to them? Or is it a matter of approach, expectations, and individual evaluation of life experiences?

Let’s ask the cards a few things:

  1. How do our expectations influence our experiences?
  2. What happens when a person is convinced nothing good ever happens to them?
  3. How can we increase the number of positive experiences in our lives?
  4. What advice or guidance should we follow when evaluating our life experiences?

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The Empress – abundance, seasons of change, natural bounty

The Empress shows how our expectations influence our experiences. She is the “Earth Mother” of the Tarot, the one who creates life, and celebrates abundance. Both an expectation of abundance, and a recognition of the abundance that already exists, serve to cultivate more abundance. As she is associated with growth and harvest, The Empress also reminds us of the cyclical, seasonal nature of life. There’s a time for planting and a time for gathering. If we expect to harvest abundance, and we also expect that the world provides for us as part of its inherent nature and the natural order of the Universe (as it does in nature, even without our direct intervention), this card shows that our experiences are likely to reflect that expectation.

Knight of Swords – conquest, fighting against, charging hard in offensive stance

The Knight of Swords tells us what happens when a person is convinced nothing good ever happens to them. They live life in this posture of charging hard into battle. Life is like this – always having to fight, fight, fight, and never getting to rest. There’s a sense of injustice to this card. The Knight of Swords is a fighter for justice, and as such, a person who thinks nothing good ever happens to them is going after life as if everything that lies in their path is somehow unjust and thus must be fought against. This is someone who sees life as an adversarial conquest. This card and its approach directly contrast with the receptive posture of The Empress, who inherently trusts that all things come in their own time, directed by nature and the underlying structure of the natural world.

Page of Wands – enthusiasm, fresh start, curiosity, creative spirit, eager to explore

The Page of Wands shows us how we can increase the number of positive experiences in our lives. The pages are like teenagers in the tarot. Although teenagers lack life experience and the hard-earned wisdom that comes from it, they do have a distinct advantage: they haven’t yet become cynical. The Page of Wands is convinced that his creative energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity will carry his new project forward. He focuses on new growth; notice how he eyes the budding leaves on the wand. If we focus on what’s growing and what’s working for us, this card shows us that we can increase positive experiences in our lives. This is another message of trusting that things ultimately do work out, and also a message of making a conscious effort about where we place our focus.

The red feather in this page’s cap caught my attention. When reading cards, if a particular element strikes you, take notice. In all my years of reading, I don’t remember this element ever jumping out at me before as a message.

I went searching for red feather symbolism, and ran across this blog post written by another Shelley, who also puts stake in synchronicity like I do. No coincidence there. In her post about a red feather, she says:

I found that feathers represent angels, and in particular, Archangel Uriel. He is the archangel of wisdom and is in charge of the red angel light ray. People sometimes ask for Uriel’s help to seek God’s wisdom before making decisions, or help with creative ideas, to learn new things, solve problems, let go of negative emotions and recognize bad or dangerous situations.

This passage seemed like it directly answered the question. We can increase the number of positive experiences in our lives by actively seeking creativity, learning new things, solving problems, letting go of negative emotions, and recognizing bad or dangerous situations. In fact, it appears that Archangel Uriel is the one to call upon for increasing positive life experiences.

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Temperance – balance, head and heart, new dawn, 1+1=3, harmony

When evaluating our life experiences, we must be balanced in our evaluation. It may be our nature to only focus on the negative, but in fact, there is a balance of negative and positive in everyone’s life. No one has all bad or all good.

Temperance teaches us about a paradox I like to refer to “one plus one equals three.” As we see in the mixing of the two liquids in the cups, when you combine two different things, even two opposite things, what emerges is neither all one nor all the other, but something entirely new and unique. We must evaluate our life experiences by recognizing that in the end, we are in constant flux and nothing ever stays the same. One experience blends with another experience to create a completely new reality. We have to keep one foot on the ground (rational, logical, intellectual) and another foot in the water (dreamer, intuitive, emotional). Like the triangle on the angel’s chest, three points are in harmony.

Your thoughts?