Judge-y Cards (Justice and Judgement)

An angel blows a trumpet as people-shaped spirits rise into the air to join her.
from Shadowscapes Tarot
Woman holding sword in one hand, balancing scales in the other.
from the Ellis Deck

Justice and Judgement might be the most-frequently compared (or questioned) pair of cards in the majors.

What I see them having in common is (the potential for) clear sight.

True justice means knowing what’s really going on. Judgement Day (the biblical one this card is based on, where sky-daddy God does accounting on all our souls) is when all the truths of our hearts are brought into the light for all to see.

But they also have very different foci, so clarity just represents their overlap.

Here are a few songs to show what I mean.

For Justice (Key 11 in most of the decks I prefer)

It’s about making distinctions. That sword you see in so many iterations of the card cuts between differences.

[“How does it feel” sung by Avril Lavigne.]

This highlighting difference can be polarizing or build understanding (The depiction of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in this video is a good representation of both applications).

Understanding differences is important to justice in this time, as always, because if we always “treat everyone the same” we of the dominant culture will continue to center ourselves and our view of the world (as “normal”), running the risk (or exhibiting a myopic arrogance) of not believing the lived experience of marginalized people.

Justice invites us to admit what we don’t know.

Read more

The Fool card

An Alternative Order for the Majors

One of the most interesting tarot things I’ve learned in the last month is how the majors were not originally numbered.

(That link includes the typical list, 22 cards numbered from 0-21.)

~ ~ ~

In her book Tarot 101, Kim Huggens suggests an exercise where you re-order of the majors according to a story structure

The commonly suggested “story” of The Fool’s Journey has never worked for me as much of a story, so I loved the idea.

I took this on because she suggested a form of The Hero’s Journey – something I already have familiarity with – so it felt like a solid foundation to build on.

That link is to a version of the Hero’s Journey I wrote about some years ago. If you like to write fiction you’ll find a whole new rabbit hole to explore in that series.

What I’ve laid out here is the order I came up with based on the way I see the majors and how they line up with the pattern (Departure, Initiation, Return) as Huggens laid it out in her book.

Departure

1. Call to Adventure

image: sphynx leans on a wheel from behind, holing a up a sword in one hand
from This Might Hurt Tarot

Wheel of Fortune. The randomness of fate – often proving to be not-random (destiny).

I love the sphinx in this card for this position, and she’s surrounded by the elements: Earth, air, fire and water. You know from go this isn’t a game, and everything is involved, whether for you or against you.

2. Refusal of the Call

Image: Hermit Card
from Tarot of the Hidden Realm

The Hermit. No desire to engage. Alternatively, the hero might already be fully engaged in their current/inner world and aren’t responsive to or motivated by the call when it first appears.

After all, how many of us would respond to an outrageous demand from a stranger.

And these demands almost always seem outrageous…

3. Supernatural Aid

image: magician card
from Spellcasters Tarot

The Magician. Here we add to that story all the raw material (resources) and power.

This is the point where the hero is convinced that what needs to happen is mathematically possible: those elements mentioned in The Call? Here with the magician we see the physical representation of each of them as tools: The wand for fire, sword for air, cup for water and the pentacle for earth.

4. Crossing the First Threshold

The Fool card
from Vivid Journey Tarot

This is the fight our protagonist has to be able to enter the arena. The big change embraced, even as they don’t fully know all they’re saying yes to. Of course I saw The Fool.

I love how she’s got her little knapsack and her dog. She doesn’t have to have everything figured out before she starts, but she doesn’t have to be alone or empty-handed, either.

5. The Belly of the Whale

The Empress card
from Shadowscapes Tarot

The worst so-far – and we’re not all that far in yet. This is a form of rebirth through a death-like experience. The Empress: the power of life and death, tied up in nurture (or the withholding of it).

This is sometimes where our hero realized the stakes – how much there is to lose, which restated can also be a reminder of how much there is to fight for. Read more

Examples of 2-Card Email Readings – with feedback

Two-card readings are a nice way to get your feet wet as a tarot newbie, and a quick check-in for anyone who wants some outside input.

These are 2-card readings for querents who were willing to let them be shared on the blog, and the responses of those who agreed to let their comments be public.

 

For E.A. of Keller, TX.

Child of Create and reversed five fo think
Cards from Hip Chick Tarot

The Child of Create and Five of Think (reversed) in this deck are analogous to the Page of Wands and the 5 of swords (reversed). This pair of cards feels like a sweet complement or affirmation for you, E. It suggests you’re using your creativity and enthusiasms to interrupt conflict and work toward cooperative solutions that will benefit more than just one person. Well done!

From E.A.

[The reading] made me feel glowy. I definitely connected with the words and interpretation. I train and the reading directly relates to not only my job but things going on with family! As an overall holistic reading, I felt very connected. Using creativity to overcome conflict defines my life!

 

For A.J. in Whitehall, PA

Reversed 5 of Cups and The Tower
Cards from the Luna Sol Tarot

Your cards speak to a rough season. It looks like you’ve been pressing down some grief to manage the upheaval around you. If I can suggest it, I think the reversed 5 of cups is an invitation to honor the reality of what you’ve lost, and let yourself grieve. The Tower is something we can’t control, and we hope will come around to our ultimate good, but that is usually later.

The Now is where we are, and tears are for you. They also are only for a time – they do have an end – and so often they can help as we look for a way forward.

 

For E.W. in Bristol, UK

Reversed 7 of wands and reversed page of pentacles
Cards from the This Might Hurt Tarot

In your cards I see you in a bit of survival mode. You are managing your tension – perhaps feeling the world against you, or your own spoiling for a fight – it’s tough but you’re managing it. This takes a lot of energy, and I get the impression that as a result you’re not able to put the focus you’d like into your own studies.

I’ve always seen the page of pentacles as the student of the beginner’s mind. The diligent consistency to pursue learning. And it probably disappoints you how hard it is to study right now. The way I see it you have two options: Cut yourself some slack (always fair in these situations), and/or let yourself work on a different level.

For example if you’ve been studiously working in order through a text, let yourself “graze” and take in the best bits so you can continue to nourish that part of yourself that misses learning.

[Of course, this assumes these are self-paced studies and you have that option. My heart goes out the enrolled students fighting to reach targets at this time. <3]

 

For M.H. in New York, NY

Cards from Tarot of the Sweet Twilight

You asked about the energy around a job search, and if you like numerology I think you’ll enjoy seeing that both your cards are 8s – a number about personal power.

Short answer, these cards reflect very good energy for a job search (yours or someone else’s), with wands-8 (speed, intensity), and pentacles-8 (steadiness, perseverance) coming together.

If you’re interested in some advice, this reading seems like an invitation to stick with your strengths. Do what you know you’re good at, what you’ve mastered and will WOW your employers. That not being an option, go where you will be allowed/have time to learn. Impatience (on their part or yours) or not being able to perform (especially in unjust circumstances) could hurt you in the long run.

From M.H.

{First impression:} A little startled by the cards and due to the dark colors preparing myself for an answer that I didn’t want to hear and then quite happy to have the reading be very positive about my question. I was also happy with how much information you were able to tell me with two cards.

Your interpretation was clear and concise. You spoke about the cards individually and together. You also gave a summary and then more detail, which I thought was great. Even better was getting an answer to a question that I hadn’t specifically asked (I had been thinking about moving into an adjacent field and now I know that the timing for that isn’t quite right.)

The level of detail, the numerology, the advice were all spot on. I also really liked how you formatted your answer (short summary with individual card meanings and then together, followed by a longer more nuanced interpretation). I really appreciated the part about sticking to my field as I had been seriously thinking about applying for jobs in an adjacent field. I think, especially now, that is very good advice.

For C in Seattle, WA

C wrote:

During COVID-19 stay-at-home, I’ve begun reflecting on and trying to grow, deepen, and clarify my emotional life. How can I best go about this process? What guidance does the Tarot offer me? I’m interested in guidance about areas to spend time with and pay attention, guides for the process, or strengths/skills to draw on.

KIng of swords and reversed 2 of cups
Cards from The Light Seer’s Tarot

I wondered if we’d get an answer to the whole of that out of two cards, but this is a good example of asking for what is important to you, because I think you got it.

The king of swords suggests fully engaging your mind in your emotional life. There are excellent books about emotions (The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren, How Emotions are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett, The Feeling of What Happens by Antonio Damasio) that will demand work from your mind and the ability to organize your thoughts while processing competing possibilities.

I’d suggest starting with just the first title if you don’t have energy for the “competing” part.

The reversed 2 of cups suggests you keep this exploration close to home – yourself and your closest relationships right now. The reversal suggests an imbalance or perhaps just a “look here” that is an invitation to your attention. Regarding an available skill, I think that is the king of swords as well. Let your inner leader bolster you and give you confidence to pursue what you value.

From C.

I felt very seen — the cards were eerily specific, and Wren’s explanation of their significance succinctly honed in on key ideas for me to think about.

I gasped! I don’t know how you did it, but the deck you chose to do my reading with was perfect! I’ve been admiring Light Seers for a long time. That you recommended books for me was exactly right! I’ve already checked out one of the three as an ebook from my library–thank you, and the gentle suggestion of where to start (‘close to home’) is a welcome one.

Your explanation of the reversal as either a place of imbalance or at least a place to start resonated–this is a tender place and I appreciated how carefully you worded this suggestion.

Feedback on the Panda Reading

Feedback on the Panda Reading

The difference between tarot and storytelling is that tarot is done for or with a person who is seeking meaning out of the cards we’re reading.

When we’re telling stories it doesn’t matter how things connect or play out for a specific someone else, because we’re laying out a sequence of events and making meaning within a closed system.

Tarot seeks to either bring the querent (the person the reading is for) into that system, or to align the reading with the querent to add meaning to their situation.

How do we know if we found meaning – some connection to real life?

We ask questions, of ourselves (as readers) and of the querent(s).

In person – with a live reading face-to-face or via phone or video call – this sort of feedback is very natural and organic. I ask, “Does that resonate?” and the querent will let me know if that angle on the cards lines up with their situation.

Email or other distance readings (where the reader and querent are not face-to-face) cannot hold the same immediacy, but can still have value.

As I’ve expanded my practice into written readings, I ask follow-up questions of those I read for. I encourage anyone who reads for others to consider how questions such as these can both enrich your services, and provide confirmation of your instincts – which is a tremendous confidence-boost and can help a reader remember they’re not just shooting words into the void, they are touching lives. Read more

What Does an Email Tarot Reading Look Like?

In the year+ I’ve been in business, the majority of people I’ve read tarot for have been first-timers and/or afraid of tarot.

On one level I feel incredibly privileged by this, because it means that I have the chance to educate, inform, and just plain share my delight in tarot to neutralize negative stereotypes.

The only drawback is that this full-newness often means querents (the askers) don’t always know what they’re looking for, or what tarot can offer.

So, interspersed with the card-explorations I’m (slowly) posting, I’ll also use opportunities like today’s to share (with permission) a recent reading I did for a real-life querent.

~

I connected with Beth (not her real name) on Facebook, and she described her situation:

I am feeling very called to do – something. I read tarot, I’m a Reiki Master and clairvoyant healer, I use my pendulum, I work with earth spirits, I’m studying herbalism and permaculture and many other things. I love is so much and I’m happy in it. The problem is, the energy around learning all this feels frantic almost, like I HAVE to be the keeper of this knowledge.

As a tarot reader, Beth knows the value of a clearly stated question, and here’s what she offered for me to work with:

What’s the energy around why I’m being called so strongly to these intuitive and healer pathways now? How much is this just part of my personal journey or is there a bigger purpose at stake – something beyond me?

Read more

Images and links for the Untangling Tarot interview on Poema podcast

Images and links for the Untangling Tarot interview on Poema podcast

Hi everyone, my first podcast interview went live today.

Because I name-drop, and because tarot is so visually intensive, I wanted to offer this post as a sort of “listener’s guide” for people who want to explore further the specifics I reference in our conversation.

You can find the Poema Podcast (hosted by James Prescott) pretty much anywhere you get your podcast, but here’s one link: Season 6, ep. 7.

Read more

Major Arcana – the fifth suit

The Fool from Tarot of the Magical Forest

These are the archetypal and original storytelling cards of the tarot.

The oldest majors have people (or humanoid) forms, even if the rest of the deck – the minors – look like the playing cards they correlate to (a repetition of the number of items listed on the card).

These 22 cards, numbered 0-21, are among the most iconic images of the tarot, including the Fool, the Magician, the Devil, the Tower and the Moon.

The Major Arcana (majors) are to the Minor Arcana (minors) as a lion is to a lynx. They both hold power, but the former are bigger and have more (cultural, story-based) associations. particularly in the Western world (starting in Europe) where they were developed.

Side note (credit to The Queer Witch Podcast where this math was first pointed out for me): Our “modern” deck did not devolve from the tarot – losing a face card and the majors along the way. A couple easily accessible sources point out where playing cards entered the historical record, and it was long before the tarot.

It’s one useful reason to call the majors the 5th suit, because its a reminder of the order.

Also, considering the early tarot examples are all European, and cards were imported before that could happen… It was an example of my own short-sightedness that I rolled with the first stories I heard about tarot coming first.

~ ~ ~

The majors, like the minors, are usually taught in a specific order: 0-21. Read more

Pairing – comparing The Lovers and 2 of Cups

The Lovers is the sixth card in the Major Arcana. The 2 of cups is from the minors (one of the four suits I talk about here).

The main distinction many people make between the majors and the minors is how epic the event is. For example, the Lovers card represents one’s soul mate, and 2 of cups is everyday, happy-to-be-paired-with-you living.

Another way to contrast them is in intensity.

“All along it was a fever. A cold-sweat hot-headed believer.”

“Makes me feel like I can’t live without you…Round and around and around and around we go.”

[Stay, sung by Rihanna and Mikky Ekko.]

About the Lovers card, I once heard another reader say, It burns hottest, but crashes harder.

~

Reversed, I see it as one of those angsty stories where the audience/reader knows they like each other, knows they’ll be perfect together, but they need to talk.

[Distance, sung by Christina Perri and Jason Mraz.]

“And I will make sure to keep my distance,
Say I love you when you’re not listening,
How long, can we keep this up?”

“And I keep waiting
For you to take me
And you keep waiting
To save what we had.” Read more

2 of Cups (comparing examples)

2 of Cups

Like the Lovers card, the 2 of cups can refer to a couple, cooperation, a pair.

But there is also a constancy here that may be absent in the Lovers. This is remembering to say “I love you” before you end a call. This is holding someone’s hand when they’re nearby, or listening instead of offering advice right away when the beloved is distressed.

This card represents constancy and a balanced, mutually beneficial partnership – usually of respect, but always of contentment. That is, both parties think they have something pretty good here.

Another distinction between the 2 of Cups and the Lovers cards is how in-the-world they are.

That is, most Lovers cards (see the last post) consist of the individuals being utterly focused on each other. In many 2 of cups images the introduction of physical objects (usually the two cups) draws the viewer as well as the characters into a connection with something physical. Something beyond the “transcendent” of the lover or the interaction.

There is a mutuality in all of these images, whether in sharing an experience that is beyond the other (Fountain, Steampunk) or connecting, giving to the other something beyond the self (Mermaid, Numinous).

Moving out of the ideal/theoretical and into the world is a function of this card being one of the Minor Arcana. Minors are about daily life and where the rubber meets the road. This is another way we make a distinction between the 2 of cups and the Lovers. One is the “practical” and one is the “ideal.” There will be overlap (usually based on the reader’s personal experience), but this is one easy way to mark a difference in interpretation.

The Numinous image, in case you can’t read the tiny words, has the human holding a vial labeled FINS while the mermaid holds one labeled, LEGS. I love this representation of offering understanding and (perhaps) a willingness to change in love/service to the other.

This is one of the most precious elements of 2 of cups. Each person is in this commitment, at this level of contentment, while they see the partner as the the partner is.

~

Of course, the same issue of representation exists in the 2 of cups that exists in the Lovers card. Namely that the dominant interpretation is a romantic one, and so messages or assumptions are being displayed in the way this *couple* is shown.

Several decks have a hetero pair on their Lovers card, and non-hetero pairings in their 2 of cups (or the reverse, as in Numinous).

Still other decks repeat the technique from the Lovers card and offer a few cute (or lovely) animals to interpret as is most appropriate in the moment.

The main concepts I bring to a 2 of cups interpretation are contentment, commitment, and connection.

It is one of the most reassuring cards I ever draw for myself or others. It is a reminder we are not alone, and have reliable people in our world who care for us – romantically or not.

When the 2 of cups comes up, it’s often an invitation to remind ourselves of those connections, and lean into their life-sharing power.

The Lovers (comparing examples)

My first set of cards to contrast are The Lovers and the 2 of cups.

Each of these cards portrays a happy pairing, and is generally considered a fortuitous card to show up in most readings.

After seeing how long this discussion can get, I’ve decided to start with a comparison between images of each individual card before I move on to the contrasts between two or more cards. (While this will make for a long series, I think it will make the most useful reference in the long-run.)

The Lovers

The Lovers, like most cards in a tarot deck, has a range of interpretations.

It can mean love, union, intense attraction, finding value, making connections (interestingly, not always lasting connections).

It represents truth, value, opposites meeting (Consider, below, the gold crown and the flower crown, both removed from the lovers’ heads in the Shadowscapes image. Or the metal lamps-post opposite the flowering tree in the Steampunk image).

It can represent hope.

It can also be interpreted as a choice-card. In older decks the third figure was sometimes a second woman, presenting the implied duality of life-choices (often with racist undertones) that the man had to choose between.

Even with current imagery you can see the choice if you look at the pairings as a meeting – sometimes with attachment, but not necessarily a commitment – one of the differences I see between this card and the 2 of cups. In this context a choice – whether to stay or leave – is still on the table.

~

In most decks you have a very obvious couple, usually male-female, and often there is a third (or more) someone looking on. Perhaps witnessing or blessing the union.

As more relationship structures and the spectrum of gender identities are acknowledged, artists have responded in different ways. For example, slightly obscuring, or allowing a question of one party’s gender. There are also the animal depictions which leave more up to the readers’ interpretations.

Sometimes the picture of the Lovers offer a twist on the traditional imagery: An interracial couple, or an active (if formal/scripted) partnership, rather than a static portrait.

Then there are the broader interpretations of artists who emphasize the first-love, core essence of the Lovers card, as seeing/accepting the self (Mermaid Tarot) and/or making room for multiple and different combinations of partners (Numinous Tarot).

All these create visual commentary as they invite us to consider – or expand – our vision of what we consider love, or value in a relationship.

Next time I’ll lay out the images for 2 of cups and we’ll start to see the overlap in art and interpretation.