The Elemental Roulette

[Being the fifth part in our four-part special series on the nature of the tarot card suits For the previous parts, do check out Isabel’s Much at Stake: Vampires on Fire, Paulinnhhoo’s On Coins, Miguel’s To a Queen of Swords and Shelley’s The Fool’s Journey Through the Tarot Suit of Cups.]

It happens. You’re reading a book on the tarot. Or just going through some threads on some online tarot forum. Or maybe you pick this up in a course on tarot. Sooner or later, there comes a time where you will find a mention on how the four elements correspond to the four suits of the minor arcana. If you’re like me, the first time you read anything about the subject, this will seem like a huuuuge breakthrough, as it will open the door to a new understanding on the blasted minors and, perhaps, an easier way to deal with the damn cards. This will open the door to all kinds of esoteric subjects: kaballah, alchemy, mysticism, philosophy, and everything but the kitchen sink. Out of nowhere, there are huge amounts of knowledge that needs to be studied, perceived and assimilated in order to read the cards. Or at least to understand what the hell everyone is talking about.

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As if that wasn’t enough, not everyone seems to follow the same system. Cups are the easy ones. Everyone more or less agrees that they are associated with Water. The other suits, however are mined field. Are batons Fire or Air or Earth? And what about spades and coins? And why can’t anyone agree on something like this? Are we to follow the western esoteric tradition and assign Fire to batons, Earth to coins and Air to spades? Or should we take the cunning folk tradition and see Fire associated with coins, spades associated with the Earth and batons associated with the element of Air? Or maybe some other combination?

And, again, why don’t people agree just with any of this???

Well, you can blame the ancient Greeks for this whole mess. They’re the ones that had the idea that the whole Universe could be explained as a combination of four elements, namely Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Granted, other cultures has similar concepts. The number of elements might vary, or even the substances considered elemental, but older civilizations like the Egyptian, the Babylonians, the Hindu or the Japanese all had similar concepts. More recently, science has taken a spin on the concept, with the notion of states of matter. According to scientists, matter can not be described by a particular combination of the four elements — since there are some things called atoms (about 120 different kinds of atoms, just to complicate things) —, but they can appear in one of the following states: solid, liquid, gas and plasma. These scientists then entertained themselves with trying to find other possible states of matter, most of which occur at extreme conditions of temperature or pressure. Still, for the most part, under normal conditions the only observable states are solid, liquid, gas and plasma. These states are due to similar behavior of different types of matter at similar energy levels, and not due to having a certain type of some substance.

Or, to put it in another way, the states were assigned by observation. Just like in the old days, the elements were defined by observation. Aristotle, for example, related each element to two of four possible qualities. Fire is both dry and hot; Water is both wet and cold; Air is both wet and hot; Earth, both dry and cold. However, there were people who would not agree. For Proclius, a neoplatonist,  Fire is sharp, subtle and mobile, while Earth is blunt, dense and immobile. Air is blunt, subtle and mobile, and Water is blunt, dense, and mobile.

So, as you can see, right there at the beginning, people also didn’t see eye to eye with this. And things really haven’t gotten better since.

As most of the western culture comes from ancient Greece — with Plato and Aristotle being the two main pillars on which everything else got build, if these two currents can’t agree, we’re in for some deep trouble. And again, if the correspondence is to make any sense, there should be something in both the element and the suit that can be related. Which means, that we need to observe the same qualities in both the material element and the object that lends its name to the suit in question.

Since the last four posts have been devoted to the suits, we will start with the elements. So let’s take a look at all of this and see where it gets us.

FIRE
Fire is warm and bright. When controlled it can be used as a source of heat and energy as well as a transformation tool, enabling us to cook thinks and manipulate matter, whether it be glass making or metal crafting, amongst other; however, when uncontrolled, it can easily destroy everything in its path. Fire is then a source of creation and destruction. But the most interesting thing about the element is that it is both the strongest and the weakest element, due to a very interesting characteristic: it is the only element that cannot sustain itself. It constantly needs feeding in order to survive. Take out the source of nourishment and it will easily be put out. But can just as easily be brought back or rekindled with the right spark. This gives fire something that no other element has: the capacity of regeneration. In a sense, it lives to consume and be consumed, only to rise again from its ashes when the time is right. It is also the only element that is constantly changing, its flames constantly dancing in accordance to its own volition.

Associating Fire with the batons is easy enough: not only does wood burn, but if you rub two sticks together, you will create fire. Wood (and thus batons) can then be seen as a seed of fire but also as the carrier of fire. Which is why most people make this association. But that is not the only one.

For coins warm our palms just like fire. Also like fire, money doesn’t like to be still, but instead to spread as fast as possible. In a way, money is just as nervous as fire. And just as restless.

As for the suit of Spades, Swords are quick and destructive. In fact, they’re the most destructive suit of the pips, just like fire is the most destructive of the elements. As Proclius also pointed out, fire can sting, just like a sharp needle, which again brings it closer to Spades.

AIR
Air doesn’t have a particular shape or a definite volume. It can freely flow and expand or contract according to need. It’s main quality is thus movement. It contains oxygen, which is vital to human needs, but also carbon dioxide, which can be poisonous. It is what we breath in and what we breath out, so in a way, what connects us to the outside world; a bridge if you like. But at the same time, and much like Fire, it is a vital force. Even though we can not see it, we can feel its effects. With the breaths we take, but also in the wind and hurricanes and how it seems to bend things to its will, sometimes going as far as ripping them off the ground and just carry them away. As a carrier, there really isn’t a better medium, since air can carry both physical things as well as sound. It carries words, thoughts, ideas and it is what allows us to communicate with one another, no matter how far we are. In a nutshell, it is the element of interaction.

Esoterically speaking, the element of Air is attributed to Swords. This might seem like a strange attribution, but just think of the previous sentence: it is how words and ideas travel from one place to the other. How rational thoughts get spread. If you want a more down-to-earth approach, cold air cuts just like a sword does. Which, granted, is not the most elegant idea, but practical enough.

The attribution to coins isn’t a better one. It requires that we see money as a spirit, as fickle as air. Money comes, money goes. Like air, money is both a way to carry things forward and something as insubstantial as air.

As for batons, trees grow upwards. They take what they need from air and give it the oxygen other living beings require for sustenance. Batons are related to air because wood was once alive as trees. But not only that. As the suit of batons are related to the concept of will, it is also easy to relate  them to air. Just think of how the same breath that can nurture a flame can also extinguish it if we so will it. We just put our intention on the act, and just like magic! — well, there is also a scientific explanation to this, but onwards — the flame either puffs up or blows out.

WATER
Water is fluid. It doesn’t have a particular shape, even though it has a definite volume. It can flow from place to place. Sometimes it is crystal clear; other times, murky, thick and opaque. It can be still and peaceful, as the water in a pond or fierce and strong as in a tempest. And beware of undercurrents. They’re always there, even when they are not felt. An interesting property of water is that it will hit you back with the same strength that you hit it with. If you want, try this as an exercise. fill a bowl big enough to fit your hand with water. First, place your hand as softly as you can and gently push it underwater. You will find that it offers no resistance. Next, take the hand out and repeat the exercise, but faster. If you don’t feel any pain, gradually increase the speed you hit the water with until it does. You will find that the faster you hit the water with your hand, the harder it will hit you back. Physicists know this as the Law of Action/Reaction, which basically states that the higher the force you apply in an object, the higher the force that object will apply on you.

But that is not all about water, as water is at the root of life. Our whole bodies are made of water. Every cell that exists is made of water. And water is necessary for most of the chemical processes that occur in our bodies. Simply put, without water, there’s no life. Water was there at the beginning when life first appeared and not only provided the base material for life, it also provided shelter from the harsh conditions outside — the sea becoming a barrier from all the nastiness that was happening, while supporting and nurturing the life within.

From all the four suits, Cups seems the most obvious. Cups are a container, a vessel and that’s what we need to hold water (as otherwise it will flow away). If we look at how water and cups are related in the same way as blood and the heart, things become even more obvious. And more obvious still if we replace the word water with feelings, which traditionally are related to the heart. So much so, that the other suits aren’t even considered. And yet… water can hit just as hard as a baton and ice can cut just as sharply as a sword, so maybe there is something here?

EARTH
Earth has a definite form and volume. It is the most stable and inert of all the four elements. It is hard and cold and at first sight doesn’t seem to be of much use. After all, it is just there. But appearances can be deceiving. Everything that we get comes from the earth. All our food; all our metals and shiny things; all the materials we need to build and create stuff come from the earth. In a way, it is at the root of everything we do. It is the base material for things like glass, concrete, clay, and others. It is where trees and plants root themselves and the provider of all the minerals and nutrients they need to be able to grow. It is also where things break down and become available to re-enter the cycle of life. Or, perhaps just remain there until they are extracted for fuel. So where all the riches come from. Like water, it can also provide shelter from the elements, and even though we stopped using caves, we still build our own particular holes to live in.

From what was said, the Element of Earth could be attributed to the suit of coins. It is a place of riches after all. It could also be attributed to spades. The metal thing won’t helps us here, as it is also a reason to associate this element with coins (coins being made of gold or silver or some other metal). But because it is the place where things get broken down; divided into such tiny pieces they can then be of use to other living beings. And cutting things down is what swords are known to do; cutting things to the bone. Just like the earth.

So what do we make of all of this?

Well, the first thing we make is that logic can’t really help us here, as there’s always a logical reason for every attribution that we can think of. As we just saw, for each set of attributions, there are some very strong reasons. And again, for each set, some very weak ones. In a way, as Robert Anton Wilson said, “what the thinker thinks, the prover proves”. So if there’s a way to make this happen, it will happen. (For more on R.A.W. and the tarot, see our previous post here).

So if logic won’t help us, it all comes down to how we see each element: how do we perceive it; what functions does it serve and how can we best fit it with the way we perceive each of the suits. And the truth is, for most readings you won’t even need to bring the elements into play. Again, just go back to out previous posts on the suits and see how, even though they’re slightly mentioned, for the most part we didn’t even mentioned it.

Does this mean that they aren’t useful, then?

Not exactly. They do serve a function. Specially in health readings and to describe personalities, as the elements can be associated with temperaments and health functions. But that’s it. So the best thing to do is to find the set of correspondences you relate the most and work with it. Just stick to a system. This way, the cards will always communicate with you in the same language.

As for what system to use, well, I personally tend to favor the esoteric system, simply because that’s the one closest to heart for me — meaning the one that best worked with the Thoth deck, which was my main deck for close to twenty years. As I moved to the Marseille, I’ve found out that the esoteric system still held, but wasn’t as precise as the cunning folk one. So grudgingly, I ended up switching to the cunning folk whenever I read the Marseille [I mean, who am I to argue with hundreds of years of use of a system? If it really didn’t work, it would have been discarded by now, right?]. 

Thankfully, and as I said previously, the elements really aren’t that necessary in a reading. Just looking at the suits and its functions will get you there most of the time, as I’ve personally found out by comparing my Marseille readings with the ones given by more traditional readers.

So, look into it, see what system catches your fancy and stick with it. Don’t complicate stuff and, specially, don’t start shooting in every direction. Card readings should be precise and accurate. And for the most part, we actually don’t need the elements thrown in there. Even if it can help. So keep it simple.

Much At Stake: Vamps on Fire

After my fellow Stirrers have talked about the first three suits of the Minor Arcana, it falls to me to set forth about the Wands, Staves, Batons, Staffs, or… Stakes? Yes! Some of you may be aware of my work with the Vampire Tarot by Robert M. Place. Far from being a gimmicky deck, it has proven to be very profound. Quite apart from the darkly stunning artwork, it is extremely good at Shadow work & spotting negative patterns. Moreover, the Vampyrs usually speak to me in a poetic & evocative voice, the better to get Their message across. I have blogged here & here about my work with this deck.

Place relates the literary Vampire theme to the tarot in a very interesting way (again see my review about it). The four suits consist of the means of combating the Vampires, symbols of the Shadow Self. The suits reflect the Jungian division of the four functions of consciousness, with Knives for Thinking (Air), Garlic Flowers for Sensation (Earth), Holy Water for Intuition (Water), and our subject today, Stakes for Feeling (Fire). In Jungian thinking, feelings are not emotions. Quoting from the Vampire Tarot Guidebook: “Feeling is a decision making function that determines if something is good or bad and motivates one to action, symbolised by Fire. The basic feelings are love and hate”.

Of course the Vampyrs immediately wanted in on any discussion of Their own cards, and so I’m letting Them tell the story of the Stakes. I used my charm set for further illustration of what each card wants to say, just as i do in my Vampire Tarot Readings. So let the sinning singing commence…

The Heart wants what it wants
And it will Bleed if it does not get it
A Stake through the Heart will produce
An immediate reaction:
For some, Pleasure
For others, Pain
A Cross, a Burden
Or a sign of Hope
Which one is it
And what will you do about it
Little Mortal:
Rip it out
Have done with it?
Or let it take root
So it can either make you grow
Or have you fester?

Ah yes, once you are bitten
Little Morsel Mortal
You toss & turn in Torment
No sleep
Only Dream
No rest for the Wicked
Trouble in Paradise
It will bring its own reward
A juicy prize
Worth flapping Our wings to pieces for
Against the cold, hard Glass
Until it shatters
And Two will dream one Dream

Three Stakes will summon
Three hungry Wolves
Either Friend or Foe
Who will they devour:
Your Enemy
Or You?
To Us it is the same
If they but leave a bite for Us
Only a nibble
Just a Taste
But We digress

The Four shows you Mina
Both Sacrifice & Priestess
Who came so close
To being one of Us
She drank the Blood
Consumed Immortality
Bound herself to the Master
And He to her

If that is not Commitment
We do not know what is
Not all Love is Eternal
But Ours certainly is
Ah, sweet Mina
How did Eternity Taste
Will you ever forget
Or yearn Forever?
And more importantly
Will We?

Five of Stakes to form a Hand
To express what one Desires
To guide
Or to manipulate
Perform a Trick
Or true Sorcery
An open Hand can bring a Gift
Bring forth Creation
Or Illusion
Look carefully, dear Mortal
To See which is which
And to Know when to Give
When to Receive
And when to hit back

A Crown fit for a Master
Admiration & Respect
Is what the Six of Stakes will bring you
A Circle of admirers
Well-earned & well-deserved
Well done, little Mortal
Enjoy your time
On your little pedestal
You have your pick
Of all Three Brides
Just leave some for Us
(Just a drop
Only a lick
Ah yes)

No good can come
From any Seven
When will you Mortals learn
That Seven is Deceit
Or Tears
Or even Death
Seven Stakes will bring a Quarrel
Ugly, deadly
Throat torn out
So you are devoid of Voice
Devoid of Power

No good can come
Of this kind of Conflict
When you see this card
Do not even try
Arguments will not win this
Only Force & Violence
So flee the scene
(We like a Scene
Ah yes
It makes Us hungry
Leave this sort of thing to Us
While you live another day)

Summon your Strength
And all your Courage
For the Eight of Stakes brings Duty
And not always a pleasant one
To drive a Stake through someone’s Heart
Someone who is not quite a Corpse
And may still Bleed
It takes a particular sense of Duty
A peculiar kind of Discipline
To see it through
To destroy Illusion
That what is not Life
Nor Death
It will bring rewards, oh yes
And yet may leave you hollow

Only fair, then
That after Eight comes Nine
After building Strength
Will come Surrender
Sacrifice of You
Instead of the Other
Here is the Fire
The pure Power
That was promised by the Stakes
The Sun, the Pyre
True Death
Letting go

Let it burn you away
Reduce you to Ashes
And leave nothing behind
But a good deed done
A Light for the World
We Immortals fear the Fire
But We know that Light
Beyond Our Darkness
Oh yes

It is what keeps us going
Throughout Eternity
It wakes us from our Slumber
When all seems lost
Returned to Dust
It is both what burns Us up
And what rekindles Life
Makes Us crawl out of that Coffin
Break out of Our Tomb
Pull out all Ten Stakes

Our own Choice really:
Will We stay buried
Or live again?
And you, little Mortal
Are you a Bone discarded
Or a Seed planted?

And so, when reduced to Our very Essence
We meet the Court ruling the Stakes
The ones in whom the Fire burns
For better or for worse:

The Knave & the Knight
The Poet & his Creation:
Ligeia, the Fatal Woman
Whose Passion conquered Death
With a hypnotic Gorgon stare
For she has seen that Light
Inside the Dark
Inside herself
And inside you

Poor Poet Poe
How your Raven whispers
Fills your mind with Stories
And your Heart with Dreams
Such Vision, such Intensity
To dream up a Ligeia
And many ladies like her
Forever dying
But refusing to stay Dead
What does that say about you

The King & Queen
They do not need each other
Facing away from each other
And yet so alike
And aligned
Charlotte Stoker
Both inspired & inspiring
A Teacher & a Guide
A Wise woman
With the Patience to
See you through the Fire

And the King, Franz Liszt
Ah yes, a man who ruled
Wherever he went
With his Genius
His pure Charisma
A man who set the tone
Quite literally too
Be wary of his Melodies
They might sweep you away
So strong his Fire is
Ah yes
We like him a lot
What does that tell you

And now the Night beckons Us
With her soft star light
Such a Comfort
After being so close to Fire
Too close for Comfort really
We do not like the Stakes
That have Us Bleed
Or Burn
And so We leave you, little Mortal

But We are watching from the Shadows
As We have always been
How you Shine
The Warmth of you, it draws Us
Ah yes
Just a Taste
A nibble
One drop only

Is that so much to ask?

Do you think you need some proper vampsplaining? You can order your very own dark, poetic Revamp Your Life Vampire Tarot Reading here.

Now on special offer for only € 37,50! I’m sure the Immortals will welcome you with open jaws claws arms… 

 

 

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:

20170614_002123

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?

On Coins

[As part of our special four-part series on the nature of the tarot card suits, I’ve been asked to talk about the suit of coins. For the previous parts, do check out Miguel’s To a Queen of Swords and Shelley’s The Fool’s Journey Through the Tarot Suit of Cups.]

 

My first experiences with the suit of Coins happened way before I ever got involved with the Tarot. I was eight years old when I found my first stray card. It happened on a garden. I was sitting on a bench, waiting for my parents. When I was about to leave, I took my hand to my pants and found that an Ace of Diamonds got stuck into my pocket. At that time, it felt like an omen. I have always had a soft spot for this card. It was red, one of my favorite color and at its center, it had a big diamond, which reminded me of diamonds, money. In a way, it reminded me of the good stuff in life. I guess that was why, when I was playing cards with my family, I always wanted that particular card to show up on my parents’ hand. To give him some needed good fortune in life. I’ve held to that particular card I found in the garden for years. I carried it with me in my wallet wherever I went, until I lost my wallet and the card that was inside. At that moment, as I was reminded that what comes, will also go away sometimes, everything broke. And I learned that no matter how good a talisman is, it’s no substitute for ourselves and our ability to go after our own things by our means. You see, magic is a good thing, but never a substitute for work and diligence.

A few years later, I was in Den Haag, in the Netherlands, trying to make ends meet. I needed some money to catch a bus home, but didn’t have enough to buy the ticket. Thus, I ended up walking my way home. On the way, I stopped for a while to catch my breath. I glanced down and saw another Ace of Diamonds, right there on the floor. I picked it up and found five euros glued to the back of the card. There was the money I needed, after all. This card was indeed an amulet. Once again I took the card – and the money – and keep it in my wallet. Once again, I ended up loosing the card. Only this time, I wasn’t concerned. Twice it had appeared, bringing either news of fortune or, money to a much needed situation. And they say third time’s a charm, so I’m quite sure it will show up again.

For me, this is what the suit of Coins represent. Money, riches, quality of life. The money part is easy: the suit is called “coins” after all. In Portugal, where I’m from, we call it “Ouros”, which translates as “Gold”. In a deck of playing cards, the suit of coins corresponds to Diamonds. And oce again, we have that meaning of riches, of precious things right there in the name of the card. But riches doesn’t necessary mean just money and precious metals. It can also mean anything we find of value. It can be a good friendship, or a plentiful table. In a way, of everything good that we receive from friends, family, society and nature itself, for food and shiny things are taken from the earth to our enjoyment and fulfillment.

And yet, it is the human eye that sets the value of all that surrounds us. What is precious one day can become dull and worthless the next day. Money is a fickle and nervous thing. It doesn’t like to rest, but to travel from one hand to the other. In a way, it gets nervous if it has to stop for more than a few moments, and it ends up loosing value. As any book on finances will tell you, money is only good as long as it can be passed along, traded for another thing. Unless you’re Uncle Scrooge, that is, and take your enjoyment out of jumping into piles of money, swimming through them and toss it up and let it hit him on the head.

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From “Only A Poor Man”. Story and Art © Walt Disney

When going through the suit of pentacles, we can see how these things influence our lives. Whether you’re using a Marseille deck or a Waite-Smith deck or any other, the same ideas come forth, even if in different ways or in different cards. As I’ve mostly familiar with the Waite-Smith deck, this is the deck I’ll be using to address the suit of coins. As a first approach, the more coins we get in the spread, the better we are. If these cards are meant to remind us of the good things in life, this is easy to understand: one coin (the ace) is little; ten (the highest number in the suit) is great wealth. So the higher the number, the better we are. But then, we come to the images. Some of the images from the WS suit of coins are not as positive as one would like. They speak of loss and misery; of struggle and work; of patience and the need to resort to others. This is to be expected, as money comes, money goes and really, how many of us can tame that fierce beast under its belt?

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Money comes to us as a gift. From our parents at first, but also from friends, strangers or bosses. It is handed to us to do as we please. This then would be the ace. Money as an offering, a gift. In a way, it can also mean a letter, as gifts of money usually arrive inside a letter, as it is not polite to show everyone else what one is giving.

As soon as we get money in our hands, our struggle starts. What to do with it, or where to put it. Expenses such as food, house, water and gas are to be paid and we have only two coins to address it all. Not enough for our needs, but still, one must make ends meet.

Fortunately, we can rely upon others. That is, if our social network is a strong one. Family and friends can come to our rescue and bring us that extra coin, thereby increasing our income to three.

But four coins is the minimum number that we need for security and stability. Enough coins to cover our corners. However, this is a dangerous number, as we have only enough money to meet our expenses. There is a tendency to grab on to what we have and not let it go. If you look at the picture of the four of coins, that’s exactly what you will see: the man in the picture is seated, two coins safely tucked under its feet; one around his arms and one at his head. There’s a risk here, for money doesn’t like to be held against its will. Money is like a spirit, you see, and the more you bind him, the worse it will treat you. And in the end, if you don’t pay your bills…

You will end up loosing everything. Creditors will come and take what is yours and good luck with your four coins. In the end, you will need more than that and unless you have them tucked away, you will be left on the street, cut away from the very society that you were part of. In the Five of Coins, we see two vagrants walking in the street. There’s snow everywhere and a lit window that recalls the comforts of a warm home. I tend to think of the Little Match Girl, when I see this card. However, unlike the hero in Andersen’s story, our vagrants don’t stop and go near the window. They know fully well the reality they’re on, and unless they find a shelter quickly, they will freeze to death. The Five of Coins is then, not a card to get complacent. Hard times are hard times, and need to be addressed with seriousness if one is to escape them.

So what can one do then, except go begging in the streets? To rely upon the kindness of strangers? A coin gained can be such a treasure, after all. It can put some warm food in our belly or help us get a shelter for the night. Still, to depend upon the kindness of strangers is never a good thing. Strangers will only tend to give what they won’t miss. Those few extra coins are to be scattered between all that are in need, and maybe, just maybe it won’t be our turn just now. Still, it is the first step to get on our feet, now that the importance of money has been learnt.

If we take that coin and plant it in fertile ground (7 of Coins), we might get lucky. Our small business might develop and, with time, prosper. But grooming a business takes time. And it takes money. Good things grow slowly, so make sure that you do this well and stay vigilante. Else someone else ends up taking what is yours.

This is the time to work. To work and work and work. There’s no escaping it. Money comes through work. And if nothing else is there to do, well… work some more. The more you put into things, the bigger the rewards. So says the 8 of Coins.

And someday, someday things will bloom again and you will see the fruits of your labor. You will gather enough money to have a secure life. A life without any worries, your nine coins providing all the wealth that you need.

And with luck, you will get there. To the ten of coins. Money is not a problem anymore, as you can do anything you want. Or perhaps it is. Just look at the card. A couple is meeting in a garden, oblivious to all but themselves. But, lurking in the shadows, an old man remains seated, guarding his treasure. As Uncle Scrooge would tell you, that’s the problem with having too much money: you end up having to guard it against all thieves. Once again, you’re a prisoner of money, but now, you’re tending to its needs. Money did give you everything you wanted, but in return, it demanded your total obedience. Was it worth it? If it isn’t, you can always start again, by giving someone a coin. Just enough to get them started.

For the court cards, we go through the same exercise one again.

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The page holds its coin high, dreaming of all he can do with it. He is like a child, wondering which of his dreams he will fulfill this time with what little money he has. For him, money is like a blessing and he intends to treat it as such.

The Knight knows better, and sees it not as the promise of some item to be bought, but a way to get where he needs to go. For him, money is that secret key that opens all doors. Or at least, can open the right ones. Now, he only has to figure where he is going.

For the Queen, money is to be tended and looked after. It doesn’t come easily, so she should better not let it out of her sight. With the right attention, it can increase and offer abundance. But if she takes her eyes out of it, it will disappear. Money is then something necessary to attain what she needs. And to secure her home.

For the King, money is to be shown and paraded. It is there to make a stand and to give him privilege. He is King, after all, and he has the most money of them all; the most power. It is time to do as he pleases when he pleases and how he pleases. It is time to finally rule his world.

In all, money is a means to an end. It is there to provide us with the things we need and, with luck, some of the things we might like, even though we don’t necessary need them. The suit of coins addresses a part of our life: the material part. However, as the other suits point out, it is not the only part that needs to be attended. Even if having all those coins in our pocket might feel like a good thing.

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!