Tarot Reflections: The King of Cups

29 June 2017

In Tarot, the suit of Cups is representative of emotion, creativity and the unconscious. As the maturation of the suit, the King of Cups embodies the ultimate balance of these different aspects. He understands emotions without being impulsive - he's connected with his feelings, without being controlled by them. He is able to empathise, without losing his sense of self. He has ultimate emotional and spiritual mastery - and he can understand (on an objective level) why the feelings may have arisen. In this way, he is balanced and enlightened, and able to make sound judgement. 

However this doesn't mean he's boring or staid - this is a creative and sensual archetype who experiences all the feelings, even if he doesn't act on them. He allows others to be fully expressed and would make a great mentor for an(other) artistic soul. In fact, he'd be a good mentor for anyone - he understands what makes people tick and treats them accordingly. This also makes him an effective diplomat - in fact it's hard not to like him, especially because he has a particular way of looking at you - it's almost as if he can see right through to your soul. 

As well as being in tune with his emotions and able to balance knowledge with spirituality, the King of Cups is patient and generous - he's a nurturer and is widely considered the most 'feminine' of all the Kings.

When learning to read Tarot, the Court Cards are often the most challenging to relate to, and the first step to understanding them can be found in the symbolic interpretation of the artwork (one of the many reasons people have more than one deck and therefore more than one way of accessing the symbolism). 

King of Cups from The Linestrider Tarot by Siolo Thompson*, published by Llewellyn Books
In the minimalistic Linestrider Tarot (which is heavily influenced by the Smith-Waite tradition) the King's image is based on a piece of neoclassical sculpture. He appears to float up from the white background with the most gentle splash - Cups relate to the element of Water - accompanied by a fantailed fish which represents spirit and creativity, as well as the balance between the conscious and unconscious. The King's face is calm and restful but we can see his authority and maturity from his crown and beard. These are qualities that make him a good listener, leader and mediator. 

Keywords¹ associated with the King of Cups include: balance; vision; responsibility; maturity; intelligence; fairness and leadership. Also ² emotional balance and control; generosity. In my Tarot Journal I have an unattributed scribble describing this card as "The soul of an artist, the duties of a King.

In her book Choice Centred Tarot (1982), Gail Fairfield describes the four Tarot Kings as being about 'releasing' old patterns that are no longer effective in our lives. Her interpretation of this card is the release of an old emotional pattern (upright) or psychic/spiritual pattern (reversed), as follows (p77):
An emotion has run its course and is no longer operative in your life. This could mean a relationship is ending completely or that a particular part of the relationship is ending. The old pattern has become a habit that is no longer meaningful or satisfying... You need to make some real or symbolic gesture that shows you've reached a point of closure or completion around this feeling or relationship...
Of course, all archetypes have their shadow side, and when this King is out of balance, there's the potential for moodiness and emotional turmoil. He may seem unstable and unable to control his emotions. (If this is the case, it's necessary to work out a way to get back into balance, pronto!)

I find it very helpful to associate the 'people' of the Tarot with those I know, and typically think of the King of Cups as an ex-boss who I was very fond of. Of course, this isn't much help to anyone who doesn't know him, which got me thinking about people in the public eye who I'd relate to the energy of this card. I immediately came up with someone who is (from an outsider's view, at least) seen as all of these things - Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau - photo source: official Justin Trudeau Facebook page

What do you think? Can you relate to Trudeau as the King of Cups, or is there someone else you think of as a better likeness? Either way, when this card comes up as your 'card of the day' as it did for me this morning, there are a few things you might like to consider: 

1. What aspects of your life would benefit from increased emotional balance? 

2. Are you putting your responsibilities before your self-expression? Is this necessary or healthy for you? How can you balance this? 

3. Are you acting as mediator in any situations? If so, are you able to remain objective, or do you find yourself getting drawn into the emotional drama? How does this affect you and what can you do to improve things? 

4. What emotional or spiritual closure do you need? Is there a symbolic or actual gesture which you can make to help release that emotional or spiritual pattern? 

Thanks for reading. As always, your feedback is very welcome in the comments below, or on Instagram

*Amazon UK affiliate links included to the books in this post - the deck is widely available elsewhere, and is published by Llewellyn Books. The artwork and book are beautiful, however I find the card-stock to be quite underwhelming, which isn't to say that you won't like it.

¹ Taken from 'The Linestrider's Journey' by Siolo Thompson, the book which accompanies the deck.

On Thoughts, Air & Swords

24 June 2017

Drawing the Nine of Swords for a daily Instagram post recently, I actually laughed. This isn't a card to normally illicit such a response, but it's been a tough few weeks around here. Beyond some immediate worries for the family, it hasn't been a great time for the UK either. On several occasions prior to drawing the card, I'd caught myself imagining worst case scenarios and outcomes, and feeling sick and breathless and trapped inside my head

It's uncommon for me to experience this. In fact I can't recall the last time it happened. Subject to the normal hormonal cycles, I try my hardest to notice and be objective when reactions are triggered in me (it's not always easy, but day-to-day life offers plenty of opportunities to practice). It felt so alien and extreme to experience physical sensations of worry, as if my legs and body were weightless and I was literally floating up into my head - very bizarre. I dealt with it in the best way I know - by focussing on my breath. In The Power of Now*, Eckhart Tolle writes (on p 52): 
When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution. So whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you find the life underneath your life situation. Use your senses fully... Observe the rhythm of your breathing; feel the air flowing in and out, feel the life energy inside your body. Allow everything to be, within and without.
So when the Nine of Swords came up, I already knew what to write on my Instagram feed: "There's no point worrying about things that happened or that might happen. There is only Now. So get out of your head and stay grounded. How? Just breathe. Breath is what connects your soul to the physical realm. In moments of panic or distress, simply ask yourself "am I still breathing?" Then focus on the expansion and contraction of your body. "

After posting, I kept thinking about the link between thoughts and breath and the Tarot Suit of Swords - which is both related to the element of Air and also representative of thoughts. There are various partially-read Tarot books on my shelf, and flicking through them I found this interesting explanation:
Swords belong to the element of Air or wind, often seen as closest to Ether, or Spirit. The word 'spirit' relates directly to the word 'breath', and in Hebrew the word for 'spirit' and the word for 'wind' are the same. Just as air constantly moved, so the mind never rests... - Rachel Pollack, p208 Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom.
Did you know that the words 'spirit' and 'breath' are directly linked? I had no idea until now, but it does make sense. We are spiritual beings having a human experience which revolves around breath - a baby takes its first breath when born, and our last breath is at the point of death. Buddhist traditions have over 2,000 years of Breath Meditation teaching, and it is strongly linked with spiritual enlightenment. Meditation and 'mindful breathing' have become so mainstream a Google search for "mindfulness apps" brings back 548,000 results.

So how does all of this link with Tarot, and more specifically the fourteen cards in the Swords suit?

The Swords from the Smith-Waite Centennial Tarot Deck, published by US Games, click to enlarge  
This is a suit with a bit of a reputation! Its keywords¹ include: stalemate (II),  heartbreak (III), defeat (V), sneakiness (VII), entrapment (VIII), nightmares (IX), and betrayal (X).  Even the court cards are often treated with suspicion - from the 'talkative' Page to the 'hasty' Knight and the 'independent' Queen. Personally, I can relate to wider aspects of all of these court cards, so I try not to think of them too harshly!

Swords deal with the conscious level of intellect, attitudes and beliefs and just like their symbolic weapons, these can all be double-edged and used for good, evil, and everything in between. Expert swordsmanship is largely about balance and correct handling. So it is with our thoughts - we must first appreciate their power and then learn to work with them effectively. In the book which accompanies The Good Tarot, Colette Baron-Reid says:
We're asked to remember that our thoughts are like powerful seeds. What seeds will we plant? What thoughts will we rehearse? What perspective do we take for the highest good of all? If we are intelligent creatures, how best can we use our minds to align with the highest good and the best outcome? How can we find value in our suffering as we shift from reactive and victimised to response-able? Can we find freedom through radical self-acceptance and the right use of reason and intellect? The answer is yes if you're willing to allow the Suit of Air [Swords] to reveal the deep truths of your mind. 
The key to doing this seems to have been there all along - I believe it lays in the link between Air, Spirit and Breath. What do you think?

* Amazon affiliate links are included for the books listed in this post. 
¹ Keywords quoted are from The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Card Meanings by Brigit Esselmont.

Summer Solstice Tarot Spread

20 June 2017

Here in the Northern Hemisphere*, tomorrow is the longest 'day' of the year. Midsummer, Summer Solstice, or the Litha Sabbat, if you follow the Wheel of the Year. The details vary, but most agricultural societies traditionally celebrated the occasion in some way - there's a thorough post on ThoughtCo.com, if you'd like to read about the rituals and folklore. 

Since the kids were small, I've been marking the occasion in three ways. We quite literally look at how much the children have grown by placing a new mark on the 'measuring' wall. We collect things (from nature) and make a centre-piece for the kitchen table. Finally, I read a passage from chapter 10 of Circle Round by Starhawk, Diane Baker & Anne Hill: 
The Summer Solstice is the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The sun has grown to its full strength, and summer begins. Even as we enjoy swimming and picnicking, we know that the days will begin to get shorter as soon as Solstice passes. The Summer Solstice reminds us that nothing lasts forever. We do not live in the unchanging realm of the Faery, but in the living, dying, fading and growing realm of earth. Whenever something is completed, we must let it go. Because things we love don't last forever, we love them all the more while they are here. But letting go of things is never easy. The Summer Solstice is a time to practice giving things away, letting go of what is completed and done.  
This year, I'm adding a new tradition - I'll be using this Tarot spread which I've written to mark the Solstice and to help identify the parts of myself that are shining and growing, as well as the parts I need to uncover and release.

If you'd like to try it out too, please feel free. Let me know what you think in the comments or on Instagram - I'd love to know what comes up for you. 

*If you're in the Southern Hemisphere and are heading into the Winter Solstice, you can find lots of alternative spreads online

A Procrastination Conversation / Spread

17 June 2017

How fitting that I should log into Beth Maiden's Alternative Tarot Course tonight and see the 'Procrastination Converstion' Spread. I've had loads of creative energy this week, but none of it has found it's way here, so I decided to have this conversation with The Wild Unknown, to get to the bottom of it. 

Deck: The Wild Unknown. Click to enlarge image.

1. Dude, how's it going? Three of Cups: Great thanks. I've had a good week - I managed to get lots of things done and to spend time with friends. Today I saw my mother, hung out with husband and kids and relaxed. Oh and I had three small glasses of wine tonight too!!!

2. Awww... I can't get my blogging done because - Eight of Swords: Well, you see, I've put all these obstacles in my own way - there are lots of things on my 'to do' list and I don't feel that I can get down to blogging here until I have cleared those. 

3. Rubbish! Just do a little of this - The Emperor: You made a commitment to yourself when you started this blog and you can't flake out at the first sign of being too 'busy' especially when you've had time for other things. Stand up for your commitment and be strong - get the job done. 

4. Nah, I can't get my blogging done because I'm doing this - 10 of Swords: I'm being self-destructive - all these thoughts! I have so much other stuff I could be doing. No one reads this blog anyway. What's the point? I don't have anything worth saying. What do I know about Tarot? Why should anyone want to read this? *insert other melodramatic and completely unnecessary thoughts here*.  

5. Dude, seriously. Just focus a little on this - Daughter (Page) of Swords: You have lots of ideas, and you are gaining insight and wisdom through your ongoing studies. Log your progress, write the posts. There is so much potential - you just need to plan your time wisely to ensure you're blogging each week. 

6. And whatever you do, do not do this - 4 of Wands: Don't go pouring another glass of wine / drinking the other half of the bottle - it might be Saturday night but it's not time to party right now!

7. One Final thought - The High Priestess: Trust your intuition - you know what you need to do. Get on with it. 

And so I did. I made a cup of tea and wrote this post. 

If you want to give this spread a try, you can find it on the Little Red Tarot blog and also as part of the Alternative Tarot Course

Thought for the Day

14 June 2017

In Progress: Unfinished mixed-media spread from my art journal
Women are not taught, they awaken. Every woman has a mysterious force within her. An ancient wisdom that is always whispering. A rhythmic flow that is not only connected to the life force of the planet but to the entire universe. A cyclic nature, that if all women surrendered to, the whole planet would come back into balance.… It’s easy to look at the state of the planet right now and get overwhelmed. To feel there is nothing we could possibly do to turn it around… The only way to heal the world is by healing ourselves first…. when one woman heals, she doesn’t just heal herself, rather she heals the large whole…. she sends out ripples. To those who came before her and those who will come after her. She can never truly know the impact, but she can be sure that her personal healing will not just be felt by her. As she is brought into harmony, the whole planet is too.  - Rebecca Campbell, Rise Sister Rise, pp 53-54

Calling... Me?

3 June 2017

Back in March, I wrote about my dog Archie, who continuously 'reads' the direction of my feet and bases his decisions on where they are pointing. I likened it to way that we create our own lives and experiences. From our current actions and intentions, we can divine where we are headed. Here is my summary from that post, and the accompanying quote from one of my favourite books:

We can learn a lot from Archie. It strikes me that his skill with foot-divination is very much applicable to the way that we create our lives. Based on the direction our metaphorical toes are pointing - as indicated by our intentions and actions - the clues about our direction are already there, if we care to notice them. (Some of them are subtle, so it may take practice.) A wonderful thing about being human is that we can change our course at any time, and unlike Archie we do not have to be watching to see what someone else is doing before we can move in any direction of our choosing - as many teachers have reminded us, we are not trees!

After conversations with various friends, and reading lots of different materials about creating our life experiences, I am becoming increasingly certain that there is a part of each one of us that knows which direction we should be going in order to feel authentic and in alignment with our highest selves, even if the destination isn't yet clear. Perhaps the very idea of the destination is so scary for us we doubt we have the ability or courage to get there - from our current point of vantage, we can't imagine stepping into our power to make it happen. I've been considering all these things, and feel that changes are coming - I'm not at all sure what they are or what I'll be creating when they do, but I don't think the details matter right now...
You are here to create what is yours to create. There is no rush. There is no competition.... [W]ater your garden, fan your flames and keep your focus inward. Let your creations be your medicine then share that medicine with the world..... What is truly yours to create? - Rebecca Campbell, Light is the New Black
In the three months since writing that post I have felt increasingly drawn towards more spiritual pursuits, including daily Tarot study and intuitive painting. I also started this blog and the related Instagram account, and joined various Tarot groups on Facebook. When the 'True Calling' spread was posted on one of them by Kimberley of Fables Den, inspired by the same book I'd quoted in my post, I couldn't resist trying it out.

(C) fablesden.com
For this spread I used the Radiant Rider Waite deck, published by US Games. The cards are pictured below. Interestingly there are two cards from the suit of Pentacles and four from the Cups. Pentacles is the suit that deals with what we make of our surroundings - the physical manifestation - while the suit of Cups relates to emotional matters including relationships and connection, expression of feelings, and creativity. Perfectly apt for this spread, don't you think?

Card 1. What is my soul's true calling? Page of Cups: The Page is about art, inspiration and intuition, as well as psychic abilities. These are all things that I am increasingly feeling drawn to and indeed, the list of goals I made at the start of the year included developing my intuition and spending more time on art. The message of this card seems to be creative endeavour, rooted in the intuitive/spiritual realm.

Card 2. How am I responding to my soul's call right now? Queen of Pentacles: The Queen is a nurturer, she is patient and deliberate and slowly brings things to fruition in her own practical way. I can certainly relate to this right now. In the past I've probably been hasty and in a rush to manifest things - like the Knights of Swords and Wands - but at the moment I'm definitely more tortoise than hare, ambling along and seeing how things transpire while also balancing my family life and commitments. There is no rush.

Card 3. What is stopping me from answering this call? Seven of Pentacles: Far from feeling 'stopped' or blocked, this is a time for taking the long term view. Any gardener knows that after planting the seeds, you have to water them, keep the weeds and slugs at bay, and then be patient until Harvest time. Like the Seven of Pentacles, I'm giving things space to grow, and the fruit is almost ready to enjoy.

Card 4: How can I overcome this block? 5 of Cups: The Five of Cups is a reminder to see the whole picture. As we grow and develop on our own path, there is usually an element of letting go of the things that no longer fulfil us, so we can move on. It's sometimes hard to do this, but important not to let it block the way forward.

Card 5: How can I honour my soul's true calling right now? Queen of Cups: This will  fuel my intuitive ability too. The Queen of Cups is related to work such as healing, counselling, teaching and art. She has integrity and keeps a lid on her emotions - she is calm and nurturing. Calling on my inner knowing (intuition), I can create meaningful work which is expressive, thoughtful and will help and inspire others.

Card 6: What is a loving message from the Universe? 8 of cups: It's time to leave behind the things that no longer inspire and fulfil me - including those that are incomplete - and to move on. This strikes a chord as I have SO MANY unfinished projects hanging around. It has felt like I should be working on those instead of something new, even though I am not inspired to work on them any longer. It might just be time to put them away and to set myself free!

For me, this was a great spread - it really feels like it hit the spot. Have you tried it yet? 

Deck-Trimming Tips for Beginners

2 June 2017

A few months ago I ordered the Tarot of the Hidden Realm, a beautiful deck written by Barbara Moore with artwork from Julia Jeffrey. I couldn't wait for it to arrive and when it did I read the accompanying book immediately (excellent), and loved the imagery which shows exquisite close-up images of each character ... but then I just didn't use it. Earlier this week I was thinking about the deck and went to use it, but after shuffling I found myself putting it back in the box. I wasn't sure why. What was stopping me from using this stunning deck? 
Tarot of the Hidden Realm by Barbara Moore and Julia Jeffrey, published by Llewellyn Books

A while later, it struck me. The borderless cards come with a dark brown stripe at the bottom, upon which the names are printed. Not only is this colour quite jarring to me, especially against the beautiful tones of the cards, but I realised I was looking at the words instead of the image every time I picked them up. I wasn't reading the cards intuitively at all. Instead I'd think something like 'Five of Pentacles - what do I know about that card meaning?' and this is not how I like to read Tarot. 

After a bit of consideration, it seemed like the answer may lie with scissors but I hadn't trimmed a deck before and wasn't sure how easy it would be to do a good job. Also, from the imagery it's not immediately obvious which card is which without the label - it takes a bit of looking. But that's exactly what I wanted to do, so it seemed worth the risk. 

In my 'other life' as a crafter and designer I rely on swatching and measuring before getting started on any project involving scissors, so that's exactly what I did - I made a few "swatches" to play around with.

After making a copy of the front of a few cards on plain paper, the stripe was carefully trimmed and the images looked great. Then I tried two different sizes of corner punch - 5mm and 10 mm - to determine which worked the best (neither is 100% perfect, but the 5mm size is best as the 10mm would have required all four corners to be trimmed to match). I didn't have to think about the backs of the cards as the pattern isn't symmetrical, and in fact it almost looks as though it was laid out with potential trimming in mind. With the decisions made, it was time to trim the real deck. 

Despite having my heart in my mouth for the first few cuts, it was plain sailing - within half an hour the deck was totally transformed. If you're thinking of trimming a deck of your own, and haven't done it before, I've compiled a few tips. As you'll see, it's mostly about preparation. 

  • Tarot deck
  • Sharp scissors which is suitable for paper/card
  • Corner punch (check size, see notes below) with a sharp blade
Remember that blunt blades could tear the cards instead of cutting through them. If you're not sure how sharp your tools are, test them on some similar card stock whenever possible - the extra/info cards that come with some decks could be useful for this purpose.

I'd urge anyone to think about the reasons for wanting to trim your deck, and the repercussions if you don't like it. Here are a few things to consider:
  • How much would you like to trim off? What size will that leave the cards and are you happy with this? 
  • Will it result in the removal of any imagery or symbolism? 
  • Will the back of the deck be affected?  How might this affect reversals? 
  • Can the deck be easily replaced if you make a mistake? Is this important to you? 
  • If you're not sure about trimming your particular deck, look online - there are lots of videos on YouTube which feature trimmed decks, and you will also find plenty of images on Instagram, although they are not all tagged. I used the tag #trimmedtarot which has over 130 images at the time of writing.
  • If you haven't seen (and can't find) any trimmed versions of your deck, try making a swatch of some kind - check you will like it before you make a cut. 
  • You might want to try covering any labels you're removing, to make sure you'll still be able to read the cards without them.
  • Check the size of the corner punch ON SCRAP paper or card. If you will not be re-cutting all four corners, check against the original size - unless you have a choice of punch you may have to cut all of the corners to make them match. 

  • Take it slowly!
  • Depending on the thickness of the card stock, you may find it a bit taxing to use the punch on each of the 78 cards in one sitting - especially if you don't have very strong hands - if that's the case, be sure to take regular breaks to avoid causing injury. 
  • If you don't get a perfectly neat corner on the first attempt, try turning the card over and cutting it again - this should even it out. 

Here is my finished deck in a three-card spread - I'm delighted with how it turned out and so pleased I did it! You can find my interpretation on Instagram, if you'd like to know the message I got about reading with these cards after trimming them. 

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