Contemplating the Kings

31 March 2017

Kings are the mature embodiment of each of their suits. They are solid and reliable, they stand for certainty not change. While the rest of each suit has goals or actions, the Kings are stable and unmovable. As a group, they are powerful and authoritative.  

Deck: Dreaming Way Tarot by Rome Choi, illustrated by Kwon Shina  (Can we take a moment to admire the back?)

Like many other tarot novices, I considered the court cards more tricky to get to grips with than other cards in the deck. In my mind, they were quite difficult to distinguish when using my 'study deck' which is the Radiant Rider Waite. In fact, I didn't start to relate to them until I was looking through the Dreaming Way tarot - isn't it great that a different artistic interpretation can bring fresh perspective? (I can see why people often end up with many decks!) In a side-by-side comparison, the symbolism isn't actually very different in the two decks, so perhaps it's that I can relate to Kwon Shina's art more easily.

These are my thoughts about the individual kings, and how I identify with them. I didn't use a book, so they may be completely different to the standard meanings - see if you agree with my conclusions. 

The King of Pentacles is an older main, who has earned material success. People respect him. He is fatherly and - dare I say it - a bit cuddly. I imagine grandchildren rushing in to see him, waiting to be indulged with attention and gifts. He enjoys big family meals and hearty laughs over a large goblet of wine - look out because he'll refill yours continuously, he's a great host. Protective and loving, the King of Pentacles is the person you'd want to give you a big bear hug and to tell you everything will be ok, when life seems uncertain. You know where you stand with him - he's solid and earthy and as a result, his advice is practical and sound. He loves gardening and being outside, and even though he has other people who will take care of his enviable estate, he enjoys getting his hands dirty and no job is beneath him. 

In contrast, the King of Wands is a task-master. Ambitious and assertive, he is a demanding father and boss and probably not someone you'd want to confide in - he might see your insecurities as faults and would tell you to pull yourself together, in no uncertain terms. This is a man who gets things done and nothing will stop him. His children wish that he would spend more time with them, but he doesn't sit still for long enough. Perfection is this king's middle name. He has a stern look and that's because he is stern - you definitely wouldn't want to disappoint him. He expects everyone else to have the highest standards, just like he does. He exercises (excessively) every day, competing with himself when there's no one else who can keep up, and he always dresses in the most fashionable clothes - not just because he can but because he loves the attention. 

The King of Cups is another nice father, he is in touch with his emotions, he's friendly and approachable and when he's with you, he's present in a way that not many people are - he makes you feel special. He's understanding and tolerant, and his kids hope to grow up to be just like him. Others see him as a father figure too, not because he's particularly authoritative (although he does have authority) but because he's such a genuinely nice guy - he's respectful and warm and welcoming. When he smiles, he lights up the room. 

The King of Swords might learn a thing or two from him as he could do with a bit of warming up. He is incredibly intelligent and (over-)analytical... of everything. It can be quite tedious to talk to him, so his family often choose not to - unless there's a dispute that needs resolution, in which case his sense of fairness and emotional-detachment will be exactly what you need. He's capable and rational and there are times when you might want to seek his wisdom (like when you have troublesome maths homework), but he's not exactly touchy-feely. In fact, many people would consider him cold, or even a bit scary. 

With these insights, I've been able to liken them to people I know or have known. One is my much-loved-and-missed father-in-law, one an old boss, another is a friend's husband and one is someone from my youth. This makes it so much easier for me to relate to the cards. How about you? Do you think of the cards as real people? 

From my Journal: The Observer

30 March 2017

As a journal-keeper of several years, it was only natural that I should record my discovery of oracle cards and their uncanny knack of turning up a particular message at the appropriate time. The following is an extract from my journal dated Saturday February 11th 2017, approximately one month after I started using the Wisdom of the Oracle.

Over the last few days I’ve been remembering a repeated conversation I had with a school-friend called 'C' when I was about 13 or 14. The first time we had it, we were walking home from school, down the hill past the Police station. It was a sunny day and I recall it as clearly as if it were yesterday - I can almost feel the weight of my rucksack. 

I asked C to think about something… and then to notice that he was thinking about it. Then I asked how we could think and also notice that we were thinking, and if we could do that, which ‘us’ was thinking and which ‘us’ was noticing it?

At the time we didn’t have any answers, but I recall pondering this over a long period - I may have still been bugging C about it when we were taking our A levels. Trying to make sense of it troubled me. In those days (the late 1980s) we didn’t have the internet. Google hadn’t been invented. It wasn’t very easy to find things out, unless they were on the school curriculum or something your parents talked about. No one I knew talked about things like this. So my questions went unanswered, until I was already in my 30s and a mother, and I started to read The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle.
The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realise that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of intelligence. You also realize that all the things that truly matter - beauty, love. creativity, joy, inner peace - arise from beyond the mind. You begin to awaken. (Page 14) 
I have never forgotten the conversation with C or the realisation and feelings that had prompted me to seek out the ‘most intelligent’ boy in the class to discuss it with.  It came up again this week as there is an exercise in Uncharted (by Colette Baron-Reid) which starts by directing the reader to do, more or less, what I asked him to do almost 30 years ago. 


Unbelievable… but not at all, as I’m quickly learning! I had a busy day today so I didn’t get to pull a daily oracle card until tonight, which perhaps defeats the object, but I did it just after writing the above and got this:

The journal then goes on to discuss the card, it's meanings and how it applies to that conversation and different areas of my life right now.

Reading through the entries for the past few months, I notice lots of little synchronicities / meaningful coincidences like this, some of them I hadn't commented on at the time because they were a day or so apart, and it doesn't seem that I noticed. As recently as last year, I'd probably have proclaimed all of this to be a load of rubbish. I can't explain how or why a relationship with cards/life works like this, I don't know how synchronicity works, but isn't it fascinating?

If you have your own theories, please feel free to leave a note below. 

The Emperor

29 March 2017

Deck: Dreaming Way Tarot by Rome Choi, illustrated by Kwon Shina

Ah, The Emperor. Such a handsome man, don't you think? It looks like he has a lot on his mind. In fact, I recognise the beard-stroking and far-away stare because my husband does it too (he's not so nattily-dressed, though). He usually has that look when he's thinking about his responsibilities and how he has to take care of everything and everyone. He takes it very seriously. He'll say it's not that he doesn't trust anyone else to do it (it's exactly that), it's just that he likes to know it's done right. There are 'i's to dot and 't's to cross and if he does it, it will be done exactly right and ahead of time. Just like his tax return.

When I say 'taking care of' people, be clear that I am not talking about their emotions or feelings. Those are not his domain. 'Taking care of' means the bills are paid, everyone has everything they need, and there are savings in the bank. Things have to run smoothly and to order. Order is so important to him - you have to be organised when everyone is relying on you, you know. He works better alone - and at arm's length - and takes care of things in his own way. That's why The Emperor is sitting alone amongst the flowers at the side of the road. It's peaceful and there is no one to distract him.

In short, The Emperor is an organised leader, a business man, he's capable and conservative, and he's a father figure - stable and reliable, just like the tree that portrays him in The Wild Unknown. So when I calculated this as my birth card as part of the Alternative Tarot Course*, I was stumped. It's not me, it's him! Right down to the look on his face! How on earth could this say anything about me and my relationship with tarot reading?

So I looked deeper.  I suppose there is an element of me being organised. I didn't start the course until I'd set up this blog to record my progress. I have all my card decks organised on the shelf in identifying pouches, with related books and my own 'tarot meanings journal' which I'm slowly compiling, has colour coded highlights and tabs. Oh dear, as I write this I realise it's suspiciously like my husband's folder for utility bills!

This is the thing about the cards, on first impression you may not see a connection - it might not be obvious - but when you look deeper you might find things that make you squirm a little, but are none-the-less true. If The Emperor comes up in a reading, I start thinking about the things in life that give a feeling of certainty and reliability and I guess that's also what I'm seeking in my tarot readings. How interesting...

*As well as being part of the Beth Maiden's course, there's a post on her blog about numerology and birth cards which you can find here

The Reader's Reading

28 March 2017

There are many things that I have yet to understand about tarot, and there are a few things that I already do. For example, I understand how the reader's interpretation (or question) can make the same card have a different meaning. I also understand that while no cards are inherently bad, there are a few that most people hope not to see in their spread, and others that are welcome. 

However, I wonder if I'll ever understand one thing - how your state of mind can so directly affect the cards you choose when you have shuffled them thoroughly and have absolutely no idea about their placement in the deck. Yet this appears to be the case.

As I sat down to do the first weekly reading from the Alternative Tarot Course by Beth Maiden, I decided to write the interpretation up as each card was pulled. Thinking about it gave me beginner's anxiety - I hate not knowing what I'm doing! I started worrying that I'd pull all the 'bad' cards, that I wouldn't be able to understand the cards, or my words wouldn't make sense - in short, I'd completely mess up the reading. So I pulled the first card and, what do you know, seven of swords - the card I think of as Sneaky Pete. Not a great start as it was meant to represent my most important characteristic! Next up, five of swords - in a nutshell, the card denoting self-destruction. 

At this point, I decided that I was indeed being self-destructive. I stopped and went off to breathe* for a bit. I came back later, deleted the draft post, and got my pen and paper out, deciding that I wouldn't share anything I didn't want to. Feeling much more relaxed about the exercise I shuffled the cards and started again.

Here's the reading.

Deck: The Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans
Looking at the spread as a whole (the cards were drawn and read one-by-one), I notice that it consists of two-thirds wands - the suit of inspiration and creativity. I'm a creative person, so this seems fitting. There are no (emotional) cups at all.  Half of the cards are radiating energy - as depicted in the linework - while the Four of Swords and Six of Wands both speak to me of stillness and clarity despite potential threats. And so onto the individual cards...

According to this, my most important characteristic (in general) is that I'm a vibrant, attractive and self-assured woman, like the Mother of Wands - why, thank you, Ma'am. All joking aside, her other characteristics are pretty spot on for me. She's loyal, fierce, protective of her family - who always come first - and she's also compassionate. If you need a friend, she'll be there for you, but you wouldn't want to get on her wrong side! Those who know me would probably agree that sums me up. 

My existing strengths as a reader are that I tend to say the right things, just like the charming Son of Wands

The limits I feel at the start of the course are around being still and grounded. The example at the top of the post shows why this is important. My monkey brain is very loud and can get carried away, so I'll take this card as a gentle reminder - the Four of Swords tells us that being calm and contemplative is possible through sufficient rest and attention to the energy you're putting out there. She is centred and calm, come what may - I could certainly take a lot from this. 

A developmental journey with the tarot is looking prosperous for me, thanks to the Ace of Pentacles which represents the seed from which a big tree grew. A seed is such a tiny little thing yet given the right conditions, it will sprout up towards the light and put down roots ready to receive everything it needs. It grows in both directions at once - on the surface we see it transform into a shoot, a sapling and eventually a proper tree - and trees are the very things that give us breath. Underneath, unseen to the human eye, root growth matches that of the branches to anchor the tree and nourish it. I could run and run with this, but the message is already clear, right? It's a great card for the beginning of a project or endeavour. 

I can be open to learning / developing on this journey just like the Six of Wands. A butterfly, the very symbol of transformation, is rising up above tangled branches. Although her new wings are fragile, she is strong and she doesn't get snagged - she is calm and steady. Let's not forget that to get her wings she had to let go of everything. Her tissue and limbs, her entire form had to dissolve during metamorphosis, so that it could be reformed. She's been through it, but look at her now! 

The potential outcome of my journey is a celebratory Four of Wands - time to party! Four of Wands is the card of completion and appreciating all that you've achieved. I'll take that.

So after the initial worry, I ended up taking away a big message about being in the right frame of mind before approaching the cards and found this a great start to the course. You can find out about that here, and if you just want to try this spread as a stand alone, it's also available on Beth's Blog.

*Deep meditative breathing, using the built-in Apple Watch app.

Getting started: The Fool

27 March 2017

While there are generally accepted 'standard' meanings to all 78 cards in a traditional tarot deck, their inferences are also subject to interpretation by the reader (and/or seeker, if they are not one and the same). A card's meanings will also be affected by its position in a spread and the question being asked. 

"Tarot card analysis is not unlike Jungian dream analysis, where the signs and symbols are treated in a two-level process. First an objective, analytical approach is taken, whereby the cards relate directly to a Seeker's external situations and memory. The second level is subjective, and the Seeker is pressed to answer for him- or herself why certain archetypal symbols appear before [them] and what spiritual or intuitive message is being conveyed from the unconscious to the conscious to aid the Seeker in achieving a higher plane." - p 60 Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen.  

The Fool from Sun and Moon tarot by Vanessa Decort
As a beginner, whichever you way you look at it, the starting point is to learn the fundamental meanings of each of the cards and one of the most highly recommended ways to do this is to pull one - randomly - from the deck each day and then study it in detail to get an understanding of the meanings and nuances. To think about how it could be applicable to your day or current situation.

It is fitting then, that the first card to be pulled should be The Fool. I randomly selected this card from a new but very well-shuffled Sun and Moon deck. I haven't looked at all of the cards yet and am keen to get to know them, however, the deck doesn't use traditional imagery so I've also pulled out the same cards in the two decks I am most familiar with - The Wild Unknown and the Radiant Rider-Waite. Although this isn't the way that most people tell you to do it, I'm a visual person and seeing them together helps me to connect to the meanings. 

Looking at all three interpretations, the essential symbolism is the same: The youthful fool is about to step off (the cliff/ branch) into the unknown.  This is a card of new beginnings, spontaneity and a disregard for the rules. Who willingly steps off a cliff? An optimist or someone who knows something we don't, that's who! It could really go either way for him - the fool might land with a splat or it could be the start of a wonderful adventure - whichever way it turns out, it is likely to have a profound effect on his life.

Decks L to R: Sun and Moon tarot, The Wild Unknown and the Radiant Rider Waite (RRW). 
In the Wild Unknown, where the fool is portrayed as a cute little chick about to take the first leap, there is little additional symbolism apart from spring-like blossom (something new). However, the colours and the direction of the background linework show that this is an optimistic card (yellow, like the sunrise) and that the energy is free-flowing and untamed (horizontal lines). Despite the uncertainty, he's going to take the leap with a twinkle in his eye. 

The traditional imagery of the RRW is more symbolic - our footloose and fancy-free fool pays little attention to the edge of the cliff - he's looking (dreamily) up into the sky. He holds a white rose which symbolises pure passion, and it is elevated towards the sun. He's on his way to enlightenment. His bag is full of his experiences, and it's light and easy to carry - nothing is weighing him down. His companion - a happy little white dog - is symbolic of the animal nature, or instinct, inside us all. To me it also looks like he's warning the fool that there might be danger ahead, I know that my dog would! The fool's stick is a wand, a symbol of power, although he holds it lightly and in a care-free way, and not with obvious intent or direction. Does he know the potential power in his hands? Does he even care? 

And so onto the fool in the Sun and Moon tarot. He's a cool-looking dude with his sneakers and baggy pants. Instead of a dog, he's travelling with a tiger - a symbol of fear. He also has a wand and staff - this symbolises health, intuition, well-being and healing. The crocodile beneath the cliff represents creative vision and strength - when he takes the leap he might need those. For me, the most interesting symbol on this card is the butterfly - it represents change and spiritual transformation - and it has flown in a spiral around the fool and his tiger before ascending into the sky towards the sun. The fool's journey will result in a progression of his spirituality and he is encouraged to take the leap. 

For me, the fool has come at a perfect time. If you saw my earlier post about feeling vulnerable for starting a tarot-centric blog as someone brand new to the cards, you'll know that it feels a lot like stepping into the unknown. When the fool comes up in a reading it's time to take the leap - it makes me feel reassured that I did. 

As we journey into the new season, and with April Fool's Day later this week, it's the perfect time to ask yourself: What new beginnings are you experiencing? Are you up for taking risks and following your intuition into something new? Are you willing to 'play the fool'?

Edited to add: the Fool is also associated with the new moon, which is tomorrow. 

The morning after

Yesterday, in a rush of inspiration and with no forethought at all, I decided to set up a new Instagram account to share tarot and related things that my regular audience (I'm a craft blogger/knitting designer) might find too far off-topic or 'woo'. Being completely unplanned, the name was chosen on the spur of the moment too - it was the only vaguely sensible one that wasn't already taken, so I took it. It didn't stop there. Within a few minutes - from my iPhone while sat on the bed - I'd also registered this blog and domain name. It happened so fast, it was almost as if someone else did it. 
Card from Sun and Moon Tarot by Vanessa Decort
It was Mother's Day and we were busy doing family things, so I didn't have time to think about any of this until the evening, by which time I wrote an About page and added an introductory post. Then went to bed... where I tossed and turned. I suddenly wondered what the hell I was doing sharing this stuff online. Maybe I should keep my thoughts to paper or an offline document? What do I have to say about these things, that might be of value, anyway? Who would want to read anything written by a complete beginner? What will 'regular followers' think of me for being into personal development using tools that most people seem to consider flaky fortune telling devices? Questions like these were going around and around in my head and it wasn't long before I realised that I was having a Vulnerability Hangover.*

In the light of day, it's illogical and a bit ridiculous, but a little research confirmed that this is not an uncommon thing when publicly declaring you're 'into' tarot - there are numerous podcasts and blog posts about coming out of the tarot closet, such as this and this. It's obviously a 'thing'. So what is it that makes us feel so vulnerable about it? Is it the misconceptions around what tarot is and the things it can be used for? For some people, I understand there may be a potential impact on a corporate career, or perhaps they have religious restrictions - but I don't have these - I work from home and am not religious.

I am not completely sure my 'hangover' is specifically because it's tarot, though. Anything that opens us up, that shows something we usually keep to ourselves, or that isn't common to our circle of influence, can make us feel vulnerable. It's a bit like dancing - when you're alone in the kitchen and your favourite song comes on the radio, or you're at a party where everyone is dancing, you don't feel like such an idiot. But being the first one to stand up on an empty dancefloor is totally nerve-wracking for most of us.

So I'm here today, still feeling a wee bit vulnerable, and deciding whether to press 'publish'. If you're reading this, I obviously did. (Yay me!) 

Are you out of the tarot closet? Can you relate to this? Leave a comment and let me know!

*A term coined by Dr. BrenĂ© Brown describing the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realised you have done something which is a big deal for you, or that makes you vulnerable.  

Curious beginnings

26 March 2017

In her book Holistic Tarot, Benebell Wen describes tarot as being subjective, "it cannot tell you anything you don't know already. It tells you exactly what you know, but have not yet permitted your conscious mind to confront. It is about accessing the unconscious, the same theory behind psychoanalysis and modern-day psychology." This truly fascinates me! 

The Wild Unknown Tarot Deck

After embarking on an informal study of the cards as a personal development tool, I've taken the plunge and started this blog as an online journal. It's a place to record my musings about oracle and tarot cards, insights gathered from them, and the resources and books I'm using to decipher all of the above. I am most definitely not into 'fortune telling' and approach the cards as a method of personal investigation and development.
You can learn to use tarot as a holistic tool that can help us mine our own unconscious to find answers. You can learn to use tarot to make informed decisions and improve your future. The cards do not tell us what to do. Rather, they help us think about our problems from a different perspective and, like a diagnostic tool for decision-making, help chart a roadmap for the solution. - p1 'Holistic Tarot' by Benebell Wen
I don't know what else might end up here. There isn't any particular plan, I'll just start writing and see where it goes. You're welcome to stick around if these things appeal to you too or if, like me, you're just curious. 

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