Alternative Tarot Course: Courtroom Reading

A majors-only tarot spread from the LittleRedTarot course, to ask ‘how can I become a truly brilliant tarot reader?’

The centre: The Lovers. This I find a hard card to interpret in this position, though I think it echoes the love and care of the Empress. One aspect, though, is that – paradoxically – the Lovers can point to the development of one’s own individual identity (marking the way the Fool steps out into the world after meeting the Hierophant). I find reading tarot feels like a step away from many of the existing interests and relationships in my life – in a good way, in the sense that it’s an aspect of myself that has gone unexplored for some years. And how can one be a happy and loving partner or friend or mother without continuing self-development and new interests?

In my favour: The Empress. My own compassionate, nurturing, intuitive, loving and creative side (and indeed the many aspects of that which I can credit to my own mother) is the energy I need to bring to my tarot readings.

Against: The Magician. The card of making things happen, of accessing resources in the world, I suspect the most relevant meaning of this card is that my tendency to take on new projects (or indeed a career change, as is imminent) is likely to eat into my available time for tarot reading and learning.

The Judge: Strength. A card that seems to me to be more about balance than the instant surface meaning would suggest, it’s more about strength tamed, ferocity turned to calm compassion. This card seems pleasingly apt in this position; firm but fair, strong and careful, it amplifies the compassion of the Empress, but also the power of the Magician.

Decision: The Fool. This suggests to me that my best path is to treat this as a completely new journey. Not to rush to the end, not to skip steps because I think I’ve got the gist, but to recognise that I am truly a novice. It also seems worthy of note that the outcome is the ultimate in journey’s-start; my tarot journey may be more significant for me than I anticipated.

Alternative Tarot Course: The Fool’s Journey

This week I’m learning more about the major arcana, and one of the exercises from LittleRedTarot is to try and put together your own understanding of the Fool’s Journey – or, what is learned in the progress through the major arcana. Obviously, this kind of thinking needed a cup of tea before I started (thought about cropping it off the photo of the cards, but decided against it!).

The Fool

A fluffy chick, perched nervously on a branch, considering taking flight. This is the start of the journey, the beginning, all potential and possibility. The lesson here is that all journeys start somewhere, all knowledge starts in ignorance. It can be frightening to make a start – stepping off a branch is, quite literally, a leap of faith – but the alternative is stagnation.

The Magician

The first person the Fool meets, the Magician is a card of power, of making things happen, of drawing on the abundant resources around you – tangible and less so – and discovering your own capacity to affect the world around you. There is, too, a gentle warning against illusion; the Fool is still choosing their path, and the Magician could guide one towards doing great works, or towards snake oil and flash cotton.

The High Priestess

The second person the Fool meets. If the Magician is about channelling power outside oneself, the High Priestess is about mastering inner power. Her lesson is that the Magician’s work is as nothing without inner wisdom and finding your own calm guidance. Sometimes you don’t need to run around making things happen – sometimes you need to sit calmly and confidently in your own power, and know that what matters will come to you.

The Empress

The third person the Fool meets is the Empress, which I used to refer to when I first left home as the ‘call your mother’ card. Standing for maternal energy and fertility, she is a card of abundance, sensation, growth, warmth, compassion, and love without expectation. Just as a baby’s relationship with its mother sets it up to learn about and to anticipate love in the world, this is the Fool’s first step in learning about love and compassion – unconditional love is an extraordinary force, and to be propelled out into the world with that at your back is a powerful thing.

The Emperor

The fourth person the Fool meets – if the Empress is the mother of the tarot, the Emperor is (unsurprisingly) the father. He is a card of protection, stability, clarity of mind and decision-making; if the Empress in this deck is a warm sheltering tree in the uncertain dark of the night, the Emperor is a tall tree in the clear morning sun; with his support you can see for miles. One of the important roles for fathers for their children is to provide a caring ‘bridge’ from the mother to the exciting outside world; the Emperor is beginning to lovingly nudge the Fool towards independence, teaching her to think for herself and make her own decisions.

The Hierophant

The fifth person the Fool meets, the Hierophant, speaks of the value of teachers and mentors, of learning from the wisdom of those who have gone before or already trodden a similar path. The Hierophant teaches the Fool that she is part of something bigger, that there are always lessons to be learned from others, and to keep a sense of humility with your confidence – seek help or guidance when you need it.

The Lovers

The Fool finally steps out on her own, and begins her journey through the world by discovering desire and love; the lessons she has begun in compassion and confidence, wisdom and stability, stand her in good stead to form a strong and equal partnership. She learns the beauty of love, sensuality and sexuality.

The Chariot

Riding high on her newfound independence, the speed and confidence of the Chariot marks the Fool’s discovery of the strength of her own will. She is assertive, bold, and in control of her own life; she has begun to take decisions about her path, rather than just having things happen to her – she has a momentum of her own.

Justice

The Fool is faced with her first major decision. Now that she is choosing her own path, she must also take responsibility for her choices, and for the consequences of those choices. Her future hangs in the balance, and she must find the path that is fair, just, compassionate and wise.

The Hermit

The Fool has chosen to seek wisdom from within; to undergo a period of quiet contemplation and meditation, in the hope of receiving insights. She is beginning to question the world around her, to consider its values and rules.

Wheel of Fortune

After seeking insight, the Fool begins to see more clearly how the world is structured; the way fortunes can change from one moment to the next, the way that everyone has their own rags-to-riches AND riches-to-rags story, depending on how you tell it. The Wheel of Fortune marks a turning point, a bend in the road taking her closer to her destiny – she has learned a little more about how luck or fate touch us all.

Strength

The Fool is stronger now than she has ever been, but must learn how to apply that strength with all the lessons she has learned so far – it’s not just about brute strength, but about the strength of compassion, the power of justice, the confidence of truth.

The Hanged Man

Now, the Fool faces her first real challenge, and it seems too difficult to bear. She must make a sacrifice, let go of something – or someone – she loves, in order to move forward. She finds it hard, she resists, yet that doesn’t make it any easier; eventually, when she accepts her situation and lets go, she finds herself freed from the worries and pressures she had before – she has turned her world upside down and found clarity and freedom.

Death

All beginnings are ends and, likewise, all ends are beginnings. Death marks the Fool’s great transformation, as she brings to a close things that were of value to her former self but no longer serve their purpose. It is no easy process, but the opportunity to acknowledge and say goodbye to the past is crucial.

Temperance

The first thing the Fool chooses to consider in her new life is the value of temperance, of balance, of walking a path between the extremes. Just as virtue ethics holds that all virtues have corresponding vices as both lacks and excesses (courage, for example, balances between foolhardiness and cowardice), so the Fool now chooses to take a gentler path than the excesses – emotional, mental, physical – of her youth. She learns how healing and restorative self-restraint can be.

The Devil

Despite her best intentions, after discovering the value of moderation, the Fool is now tempted; although she has worked hard to learn more about herself, her strengths and her weaknesses, she has  one remaining Achilles Heel that she has not yet conquered. She gives in, making the choice that she knows is the wrong one, but the opportunity is just too seductive for her to pass up.

The Tower

Disaster strikes. The Fool has brought herself low; she suddenly sees, like a lightning bolt, the devastating consequences of her poor choices, and her world is falling apart. But the energy of the Tower is immense, and only a power this huge could have broken the protective walls around her comprehension. She could not have progressed any further without this new and humbling understanding of her own weaknesses.

The Star

After the devastation of the Tower, the Fool recovers and reaches serenity, the calm after the storm; she is full of hope and optimism, calmly looking to her future with confidence. She knows she does not have the answers yet, and she knows she is flawed, and she knows that all is as it should be – she is full of love and hope.

The Moon

The Fool is so full of serene calm that her mind and heart are fully open – she is able to access, now, her deepest unconscious; finding there her immense imagination and creativity, her strange and beautiful ideas, but also her greatest fears and mysteries. It is hard for her to tell dream from reality in her moon-struck ‘lunatic’ state. All the insights she’s gathered so far are jumbled in with strange half-remembered beliefs and fears.

The Sun

The bright light of the Sun brings everything into stark relief for her at last. Now she can see clearly – she feels the warming and healing light of the sun melting away the worries that went before. The fears of the night are dispelled by the sunrise, and she is left with her truly creative inspirations and her genuine insights. She is full of energy and vitality; the powerful life force of the sun is running through her.

Judgement

She must now pass honest judgement on herself. She must reflect on her own life with the same compassion, clarity and honesty she would extend to and expect of someone else – has she lived up to her own ideals, has she learned the lessons she hoped to learn? Can she acknowledge, recognise, and forgive herself for her mistakes? She finds that joy and love and, truly, at the heart of all things. Truth and forgiveness are extraordinarily powerful; here, she learns to wield that power accurately. The Fool is freed to rise up and become her highest self, to discover her true destiny.

The World

Finally, the Fool reenters the World, after her transformative journey to enlightenment. As her best self, with a true comprehension of her powers and her role in the universe, she has achieved a sense of wholeness and completion. She is ready to make a meaningful contribution and to share her talents with the world, and her work will be well rewarded. This marks the end of a cycle, but the beginning of a new one, too; she is ready for a new journey, full of fulfilment and understanding.

Alternative Tarot Course, week 2: elements in every card

Not strictly speaking a reading as such, but an exercise to find specific elements in cards as they are drawn.

Water

Seven of Cups feels almost like a cheat of a card to have drawn in this position! The cups of course are water, with emotion flowing freely; this card in particular has a touch of ‘the world turned upside down’ about it – the sun at the bottom of the card and the moon at the top, and one cup upside down, tipping out its contents skywards, all suggests nothing here is quite as it seems.

I originally learned this card as the card of ‘fairy favours’, a warning against illusion and wishful thinking, of basing too much on what you wish was true, rather than what’s really true. The card also shows what could be a rainy sky in the background, washing away illusion in the end, and a rainy blue wash over the distant mountaintops.

Earth

Judgement, in the Earth position, requires groundedness to be meaningful. The bright shining dove is welcoming a flock of bats that almost seem to be emerging from the ground. This is no flippant forgiveness, no airy idealistic decision or emotionally-driven hope – this is grounded in dirt, in reality, in the things that you truly feel need forgiveness.

Fire

The Star, shining away under Fire, is a lovely illustration of the harnessed power of fire. Although stars themselves aren’t the safe little twinkling things they appear to be in the night sky, this card brings an immense sense of calm and of hope. It’s powerful, but contained; fiery, but soothing. The light from the star reaches for uncountable miles, its influence is felt but its vitality and motion is channelled and harnessed.

Air

Two of Wands shows a perfectly-balanced pair of wands lifted in the air against a rainbow spectrum of horizontal lines, giving a sense of immense energy – the wands point the way forward, like an arrow, and the wind is at your back.

Alternative Tarot Course, week 2: crossover cards

One of the exercises from LittleRedTarot this week is to identify a handful of ‘crossover cards’ – cards that seem to feature a heavy influence from an element other than their own suit. Here are a few that jumped out at me from the Wild Tarot deck:

Six of Cups

A very earthy card, featuring a tree with deep and powerful roots – larger, even, than the tree itself. The card suggests joyful memories, nostalgia, reaching back to your roots; and the emotional pull of nostalgia often includes looking back on a sense of security and abundance – whether real or perceived.

Eight of Cups

Another earthy card, with more emphasis on the mountain looming darkly in the background than on the cups shattered in the foreground. The card speaks of stagnation, loss, a need to move on – and even physical illness, a practical consideration that touches neatly on the earth influence in this card.

Six of Wands

An airy card, depicting a blue butterfly breaking free of a tangle of branches and flying into the air. A lovely and positive card, suggesting victory and success, rising against the odds, soaring above obstacles; the mental strength of Swords, and therefore air, is clearly present.

Two of Swords

More fire than most Swords cards, this shows a clash of two swords around a flaming sun – or, perhaps, an eclipse. The two opposing forces have reached a stalemate; your answer is blocked and you cannot move forward. This card brings in the inspiration of fire and Wands to the intellectual clarity of Swords; you need a breakthrough, to bring an answer out into the light.

Two of Pentacles

A butterfly again, though far more stationary than the butterfly in Six of Wands; this card suggests the essential balance of change – one door opens and another door closes, death leads to life leads to death, and so on. Things that seem binary are in fact part of an infinite rotation. As a Pentacles card, this usually refers to practical changes in job or finances, but it invites a more reflective, intellectual, airy approach.

Alternative Tarot Course, week 2: Four suits, four elements – four aces

Thanks to LittleRedTarot for this course! This week I’m focusing on the suits, and the elements they represent.

Ace of Swords

Depicting an ouroboros wrapped around the hilt of a sword, against a dark background with two streaks of lightning striking. Swords connect with air, and with the mind and mental clarity; this strongly suggests a strike of inspiration, a new idea, a ‘lightbulb moment’. The light in the darkness also suggests a sudden new clear-sightedness, a flash of clarity to illuminate something previously confusing or shrouded. The sword held aloft is reminiscent of ‘fighting the good fight’, inspiring others, taking on battles for justice; perhaps it suggests a new cause or a call to action is presenting itself.

The ouroboros also gently suggests eternal renewal, the cyclical nature of things, that all beginnings are endings and vice versa; a reminder that no matter how illuminating this inspiration may be, you may follow the same cycle in future and will need (and have) another moment of inspiration to lead you out of as-yet-unforeseen problems! The ouroboros also connects this card, curiously, to the Wands suit, which uses snakes in this deck – making it clear that new intellectual inspiration relies on plans and creativity to drive it onwards.

Ace of Cups

A simple cup drawn against a subtlely-coloured snakeskin background; that snakeskin links (again) to the snakes of Wands, remembering that the energy of the Aces requires your input, it won’t just happen to you – your planning and creativity is needed. Cups I always find to be the simplest of the suits to understand; these are pure emotion, often love (in all its forms – romance, friendship, empathy, compassion, protection, desire, loss), and also reflect the emotional or spiritual side of ourselves – expressed through religion, art, spirituality, creativity.

The new beginnings of the Ace of Cups are gently muted here, as befits the start of an emotional journey – this isn’t yet fulfilment, or love, or whatever it is leading you towards. It can suggest a new emotional connection, a friend or a lover, the start of something beautiful and significant coming over the horizon, like the yellow light of the sun rising against the blue of the night sky. Cups being the suit most closely connected with water, the colours in this card also make it reminiscent of the fresh start after rain; the blue-grey clouds are fading away, the bright sun is slowly returning, and everything is damp and fresh and new.

Ace of Pentacles

This is the tiny seed at the heart of the enormous tree, that red-hot spark of life at the root. Pentacles are the suit of material tangible concrete things – sometimes money, but often home, work, craft, things we can do or touch with our hands. The Ace of Pentacles is the prosperous card of new ventures – perhaps a new job, even a dramatic career change; perhaps a new era for your domestic affairs. Just as the tiny seed quickly puts down deep secure roots, this is the moment to root yourself firmly in the earth, in reality, in preparation for what is to come. The many rings of the tree here are a reminder that this is no flash in the pan; what you are embarking on has the potential to be long-running, substantial, significant, and to branch out in new directions.

Ace of Wands

As befits the suit most closely connected with fire, this card – the most brightly-coloured of the Aces – has red-hot energy firing off in every direction, radiating from a flowering wand at the centre. This is a card of inspiration, of excitement, inviting you to reach out and take hold of the power that’s right in front of you; more visceral than the intellectual inspiration of the Ace of Swords, but more planned and creative than the emotional journey begun with the Ace of Cups. The enormous energy of this card has even forced the carefully carved and constrained wand (pictured) to burst into bloom; this is unstoppable creativity and enthusiasm, the kind that makes you fired up, burning to get on with it. Like the fertile abundance of spring, this card can feel like anything is possible, like you’re seeing a whole new world. Be bold, be courageous, be expansive.

Alternative Tarot Course, week 1: my birth card

I’ve begun following the Alternative Tarot Course by Beth at Little Red Tarot, which I’m finding a lovely set of prompts and exercises to begin exploring. One of the suggestions from the first week is to find your ‘birth card’, or the card whose number matches your birth number.

My birth number is 1, which results in The Magician. What does this say about me?

This is the card of making things happen! Resourceful and proactive, full of potential and power, and capable of tapping in to a greater energy. A conductor and connector (in traditional decks, often shown by a figure marking ‘as above, so below’, connecting heaven and earth) – connected to both mysticism and practicality, dreams and reality, calling on both or either as needed, and turning the intangible into tangible. It speaks to the power of decision, of intention, of wanting-it-so-it-happened – but it’s achievement by Doing, not by Wanting. This card shows a beautiful great cat, whose speed and coiled potential power are key; the Magician is a card of making a start, of taking action, of going from 0 to 60.

Much of what I do has been about turning dreams and ideas – both my own and other people’s – into reality; I take the intangible and the hopes and the what-ifs, and come up with a to-do list and a project plan and a deadline. I also work to be a good connector and communicator, sometimes negotiating, sometimes gently interpreting, working with very human feelings, but grounded in practical reality. So, I am very flattered by the energy of the Magician, and it certainly gives a useful perspective.