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?

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.

The Wrong Truth: On Knowing When To Lie (Which Is Never)

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What do you do when one job ends & you need to eat? You apply for another job! As I want to be a fulltime tarot reader from now on I decided, more or less on a whim, to have a go at a spiritual chat service. You know, one of those things where you can get a reading from a number of different psychics, mediums & fortunetellers, via phone or chat. As I like to write I reckoned that chat would be the best option for me. Never mind the New Agey website that talked about Twin Flames a lot (don’t get me started), a job is a job.

So I filled out an application, and the next day I got a phone call inviting me to do a test reading then & there, without even asking me if that would be convenient for me. I put that down to a flattering enthusiasm on my prospective boss’ part. We settled on an hour later.

In a brief preliminary Lenormand line, without a specific question, I got this: Man, Key, Coffin (see picture above). Uh-oh. Something ending, with a man turning the key. It looked like I would have to deliver some tough news.

My test client was a woman working at the spiritual website. She asked for a general reading for the next three months or so, with an emphasis on work & relationship. The cards showed a choice to be made, a change and/or an ending. This could apply to her work as well as her relationship in my view, but bearing in mind the Lenormand preliminary I decided to focus on the relationship. I did a second line specifically about that, and it became clear that the relationship isn’t that healthy, they keep each other bound, and the man will indicate he wants out first.

The To Do card was actually Death: best sever the knot yourself instead of waiting for him to give you the news! It won’t surprise you that this second spread was with the Noblet Marseille. Blunt as fuck. It brilliantly pointed out that that first general line of five wasn’t about the client’s job after all. So in total I now had THREE readings all saying the same. Clear as crystal, if not as pretty.

And so I told her what I saw, matter-of-factly but not especially insensitive. The thing is, when such a strong issue comes out of the cards, especially without even a question asked, almost always the client will admit they already know that things aren’t right. I therefore assumed that my sitter would at least have a feeling that her relationship wasn’t going all that well.

A complicating factor was of course that this was all a test. So when my client asked whether she & her partner weren’t Twin Flames after all, then, I wasn’t even sure if she was serious. With her relationship so plainly in trouble, could anyone calling themselves a spiritual counsellor really believe she & her partner were meant to be forever eternally?

But test or no, for me there was still only one answer possible. I therefore explained to her exactly what I think of Twin Flames, Soulmates etc.: which is NOT that they are meant to stick together all their lives. On the contrary, such significant others usually give you a Learning Moment (i.e. they break your heart) & then move on, leaving you to lick your wounds & grow tougher skin.

I refrained from pointing out that it’s downright irresponsible & dangerous to tell people they should stick it out with whichever Soulmate they are encumbered at any given point. From my own experience & what I have seen from other couples this is a recipe for disaster. Like I said, DON’T GET ME STARTED. Especially when that website actually makes money of this whole concept it’s better not. I thought I was being pretty diplomatic. Haha ARIES.

Okay, says she, apparently accepting my answer, my colleague will call you back & give you feedback. So the man I spoke to earlier calls, and of course it turns out that my boss-to-be is also my CLIENT’S PARTNER. Oopsie.

What then followed was a bewildering & slightly unpleasant discussion, in which I was told the following things:
-You are simply WRONG
-You don’t ask enough confirmation questions
-You don’t care enough about how the message may affect the sitter

When I cautiously questioned his impartiality (after all, he didn’t really need to tell me he was the partner in order to evaluate this reading! Also he sounded & felt upset to me), and that I got the same message THREE FUCKING TIMES (well I didn’t say fucking), he says that CLEARLY something is off in my energy or that there is some interference or other, making me ALL WRONG.

It was just all so absurd to me that I quickly ended the conversation for fear of laughing at him, which would have been unkind. I admit I was a bit rattled as to my accuracy, so I grabbed the Vera Sibilla for some extra confirmation :

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Obviously in three months time he’ll offer me the job again at a double rate…

The spiritual counsellor feels attracted to the idea of going away; the union will come apart. Sad, but nonetheless true. Interestingly the Sacerdote, being the King of Spades, can also mean an ex. So he’s attracted to becoming an ex.

I also gave the points he made some consideration, as this could well be a Learning Moment for me (oh dear gods IS THIS MAN MY SOULMATE). It is true that I am used to working mainly unilaterally, via audios & written reports, so I considered it possible that my customary directness might not work as well in this bilateral medium. As for not caring enough, believe me I do. I’m not good at the whole detachment thing AT ALL. I just don’t let it influence the message itself.

Of course I asked the cards: Should I change my style of delivery?

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Showing some tough love…

The answer is, a big NO. You shine a clear light with great authority, even if you bring an uncomfortable truth that forces people to make tough decisions. DO: keep everything as it is. DON’T: change a damn thing.

It would seem that if I had lied, or modified the message, I might have been hired. Is the lesson, always lie to your future boss? NEVER. In fact, at the moment I feel reaffirmed in my task of being a teller of Truth. I should toughen up more, not less.

Because, as long as we’re being brutally honest here: I do find it difficult to deliver this kind of devastating truth when sitting next to an unsuspecting stranger, and having to deliver this kind of message to their face instead of safely from behind my computer. Definitely something to chew on. After all, the Dutch word for ‘fortuneteller’, waarzegster, literally means ‘truth teller’. It’s all in the job.

What else did I learn? Well, not to work for this kind of channel which is aiming to keep people chatting endlessly! To which end giving such straight answers would be counterproductive. And that I may have been needed to deliver a Truth out of the blue…

As for those initial Lenormand cards: a man is the key to an ending. His relationship, but as it turns out, also my chatting career! See, and that’s why reading cards never gets boring…

Need some Truth Telling of your own? Visit my shop to book a reading!

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.

Schooled by the Cards: On Unnecessary Clarification

Well, I’m probably just asking for it. When you get out the Noblet Marseille to ask about l’amour, somebody is going to get a spanking. Humiliating as this is, I thought I’d share this example with you because it illustrates beautifully the use of sight cards for clarification. Among other things.

What are sight cards? When you read a line or string of cards, or even a spread of single cards, one important aspect to observe is the interactions between the cards. Who is looking at whom, who is moving towards or away from what, etc. When you have outward facing cards not looking at anyone in particular, you can draw a sight card to see what your marginal figure is ogling. This can be very illuminating, and the fascinating thing is that it often happens (at least to me) that the original ensemble would not have been complete without them & takes on new depth & meaning. Not in this case however, as I shall now relate.

The situation is as follows. I’m in a very Delicate Phase with a Certain Someone. The cards have already told me several times to let the Someone take the lead. However, this is not my style of doing things at all. For all my nice manners I’m a bossy Aries type who likes to barge in & start giving orders. So I have this idea that I can get the Someone to get crackin’ by giving him a present. (Let’s not go into what it actually is. Best to avoid emotional scarring & the expensive lawsuits that might ensue for the nice people at Maelstrom Tarot.) In my view this is a pretty delicate way of enforcing enticing him to do the right thing. What I think is right, anyway.

Best check with the cards first though, no? Allright: Dear cards, is it a good idea to give the Certain Someone my present?

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Pffff… Men. Such ninnies.

Temperance – The Lovers – The Devil. Dear oh dear. Prevarication, hesitation, being in a bind. No bueno. Yes but but, what if I’m being too negative? There’s no such thing as a bad card, right? (By the same logic there’s no good cards either, but let’s roll with it). So what’s that dilly-dallying Temperance looking at while trying not to spill a drop? The Tower. Ah. So there is sense in moderation: any meddling will see the whole thing tumbling down. No wonder Lovers & Devil look eerily similar. Fear rules him more than Love.

But, but, what if we see this as a symmetrical reading, with the Lovers representing a choice between moderation & brutal PASSION? Moderation inspired by fear, Passion fueled by? The Devil is looking straight at us, but whatevs. Clarification card: the Chariot. Another duo in a bind, for one thing. And try as I might, Devil & Chariot doesn’t feel positive at all to me. The poor Someone will feel put upon, rushed & overwhelmed if I ram my gift down his throat. What a ninny.

Luckily there’s still a way out: the To Do or Advice card! Which produces the Emperor. HA I KNEW IT I AM TO TAKE ACTION AFTER ALL. Ooh goody there’s even room for a sight card to prove how right I am: Justice! See? I need to take action (Emperor) & make the decisions here (Justice). But no, even to me in my fevered state that makes no sense, quite apart from the main cards I’m already forgetting to take into account. The Emperor is obviously the Someone, I even have gotten this card for him before. And he looks at Justice because he needs to be the one to decide, for whatever reasons he has.

This Aries has trouble swallowing this. But after chewing on this most unsatisfactory answer, I draw the outcome card. Usually I don’t bother with a Do Not card as that is mostly just the opposite of the To Do, and we can figure that out for ourselves. What will happen if I go with the proposed course of action (or non-action in this case)? The Star: you will get your wish. You will be the one receiving the gift. But, looking at how the Star’s patient pouring of her vessels reflects Temperance’s perpetual flow, it may be a while. Patience is needed, or it will all be water down the drain.

But, but! The Star is looking into the distance! What does she see? Quick, draw a sight card! RESCUE BECKONS!

Nah. I have learned my lesson. The Star shines her light clear enough. She is the sight card.

So that is how I got schooled by the cards. Morale: know when to stop asking for clarification or you will get a spanking.

Also, dating is FAR MORE EXASPERATING than I remembered.

Do you use sight cards for clarification? Or what other tricks do you have? Dating tips? Share in the comments!

Need a spanking reading too? Visit my shop!