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Agatha Christie’s detective, Miss Marple, said she solved crimes by recognizing the characteristics of people she knew well from her own small village.
Come to my June 18 class on the Court Cards to hone your skills (details at the end of this post).
What if each of the Court Cards was a suspect in an Agatha Christie murder mystery? Why don’t we call it, Murder at the Tarot Symposium! Sixteen is a lot of suspects, so let’s whittle down the possibilities. That’s easy because it’s one of the Court Cards who’s been killed. I shuffle my deck and the first card off the top is the Queen of Cups reversed. Sorry, Isabella Donati. It seems you fell down a steep flight of stairs (3 of Pentacles is the next card), right in front of two of the Court Cards, the Queen of Wands and Knight of Swords who were standing at the bottom of the stairs. They saw a hidden figure stick out a booted foot forcing the lovely Ms. Donati to fall. That leaves thirteen suspects.
Four teenagers, the Pages, who were newbies at this symposium, were at that moment being admonished by the Queen of Swords for bad-mouthing one of the presenters (9 of Swords). So that’s five more who are out, leaving eight.
The King of Cups reversed was in the bar – drunk as usual, telling his maudlin story to a High Priestess. Meanwhile, the Knight of Cups tried to extricate himself (8 of Swords reversed) from a lecture on the “true” history of Tarot by the argumentative, know-it-all King of Pentacles (5 of Wands).
That leaves five.
The King of Wands is followed by the Ace of Cups. He’s a passionate man who carried a torch for the beautiful and dreamy Queen of Cups, although she hardly deigned to take her eyes off her tarot deck to look at him. Hadn’t he offered to get Ms. Donati a cup of water?
The King of Swords, described by the 6 of Pentacles, was dispensing his definitive opinions to the vast unwashed masses via a podcast, so he’s out, isn’t he, or was the podcast pre-recorded? He didn’t like that students preferred Ms. Donati’s intuitive skills to the logic of his teachings.
The Knight of Pentacles reversed is a tee-totaler (4 of Cups reversed), supposedly off meditating in the retreat room. But I think a gift he’d brought Ms. Donati had been rebuffed.
The Queen of Pentacles reversed was doing voice exercises (Judgment) before her presentation on coming out of the closet as a tarot reader. Hadn’t she called out the blond-haired Ms. Donati in the past for being too blatantly revealing?
Last of the 16 and represented by the final two cards in my shuffled deck, the Knight of Wands, although young and impulsive, had considered Ms. Donati to be his special mentor (Hierophant). He had recently run off when he found her tutoring others.
Who do you think murdered Ms. Donati, the Queen of Cups? And why?
I’ll be teaching workshops in Brighton, UK on 17-18 June, 2017, including a Court Cards class and a Lenormand class. If you are in England at that time, you won’t want to miss these experiential sessions where we seriously learn as well as have fun! I hope to see you there. Sign up now at GlobalSpiritualStudies.com.
What, you might ask, does the Cornwall of Merlin’s Britain have to do with the Tarot? And why am I leading a tour there? To join this unique tour, sign up by January 31, 2017 at Global Spiritual Studies.
Pamela Colman Smith, artist of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck died in Bude Cornwall, just north of Merlin’s Tintagel, in 1951. Smith owed a considerable sum of money so that all her possessions, including her artwork, was sold at auction to pay the bills. Prior to living in Bude she lived at the far end of Cornwall in a place called The Lizard, where she ran a vacation home for Catholic priests. Waite, Smith, Merlin and even King Arthur all share a major part of Britain’s magical past, with their stories converging in Cornwall and Glastonbury, which we will explore on this tour.
We will visit Tintagel Castle, the birthplace of Arthur that came about through Merlin’s magic, and the supposed burial place of Merlin. We even hope to find the lost burial place of Smith herself.
‘Marvellous Merlin is wasted away
With a wicked woman:–woe might she be!
For she hath closed him in a crag
On Cornwall coast.’
—The Death of Merlin by Ernest Rhys (1898)
The Minor Arcana of the Tarot by Pixie (her small stature and dark coloring led her to declare herself of fairy blood) is in a style quite different from that of the Major Arcana. A look at the late 19th and early 20th century Arthurian and Grail artists depicted in the University of Rochester’s Camelot Project, demonstrate that the Minor Arcana is of this artistic tradition. Could there be a reason for this? I believe so, as stated by Waite himself when he wrote that the Ace of Cups (the Grail) “is an intimation of that which may lie behind the Lesser Arcana.” Waite also named the Knight of Swords Galahad. This should not be surprising as the same year the deck was published also saw publication of Waite’s book, The Hidden Church of the Holy Grail. This work features a chapter titled, “The Hallows of the Graal Mystery: Rediscovered in the Talismans of the Tarot,” specifically on the Minor Arcana of the Tarot (each suit is one of the four Grail “Hallows”) with no mention of the Majors! On the tour I will reveal how Waite envisioned the Minor Arcana as rough outlines for a quaternity of ritual pageants depicting a great Spiritual Loss, while the Major Arcana represent the path of Mystical Attainment that’s at the heart of the story of Glastonbury and Cornwall. Come join me, Linda Marson of Global Spiritual Studies, and tour guide and author extraordinare, Jamie George, of Glastonbury’s Gothic Image Bookshop and publishing house, on a tour you’ll never forget.
Written by Lyn Howarth-Olds (New Zealand)
Friend and honoured to be assisting in the management of the K. Frank Jensen Collection
It is with great sadness that the Tarot world said goodbye this week to a wonderfully unique human-being, K. Frank Jensen (Denmark). He was 83.
Frank’s interest in Tarot began in the early ‘70s. He was not a Tarot Reader. But, among other things, he was a Tarot collector, Tarot author, Tarot researcher and archivist.
In 1975 he established Spilkammeret (literally ‘The Chamber of Games’). Spilkammeret’s purpose was to collect, preserve, register and document divinatory and symbolic systems (mainly tarot and cartomancy decks) manufactured and used during the 20th century. At the turn of the Millennium the aim was fulfilled and his collection contained approximately 95% of all tarot and cartomantic decks published during the 20th century along with a number of earlier decks. The collection was unique inasmuch as it was considered the most complete in existence.
It was to my great delight that Frank took time in 2011 to contribute to my Letters to the Past Tarot Project. Letters to the Past was an international collaboration featuring 22 well known tarot contemporaries. Each contributor wrote a letter to an historical figure posing a tarot related question. Every letter – completely unique – provided fascinating insight into the world of tarot, its past, its present and its future. Frank’s contribution was a letter penned to Monseigneur Antoine Court de Gébelin. The final paragraph of this letter reads as follows:
Mon Cher Monsieur Gébelin, life is short and death lasts so long. We leave traces of whom we were; we sort of exist, as long as we are remembered. It is, however, only the very few who can leave an imprint that lasts over centuries. You did, but not by your linguistic studies nor by your studies of ancient myths. You lived on through your intuitive and unsubstantiated contention in volume 8 of Monde Primitif, that a deck of 78 playing cards was a secret book by the Egyptian god, Thoth. You would be amazed to see what the seed you sowed, 225 years later, has developed into. It’s likely that you would also be shocked to learn that tarot is no longer solely an esoteric system, but has become mass media, a vehicle for dreams and frustrations, and an industry run by commercial interests.
Fortunately for us all, Frank has also left ‘an imprint’. Something he will be remembered by. He too has ‘sown seeds’.
On December 21, 2012, Frank signed an agreement to generously donate his very large – one-of-a-kind – collection to the Roskilde University Library, Denmark. Much of the collection is already in the hands of the Library. The remaining items that were still in Frank’s possession will be transferred in the coming weeks/months.
It was Frank’s desire that his collection remained whole. Completely intact. In his view, ‘the real value of a collection is its degree of completeness’. Interested parties had contacted him over the years offering their services to act as custodians, care for the collection or to set up Trusts. But in the end Frank was adamant that his collection of around 1500 tarot decks, 600 cartomancy/fortune telling decks, along with some 3000 books and his archive of correspondence, should be kept together in an official institution.
And so it is. Roskilde University Library, only a short distance from where Spilkammeret was originally housed, will care for the K. Frank Jensen Collection. The Collection will not be broken-up, sold, or squirreled away behind closed doors in private collections. It will forever remain accessible to researchers and interested parties. The K. Frank Jensen Collection is managed by a Board of Directors.
So in closing I will add, Frank Jensen, you too will be ‘one of the few who have left an imprint that lasts over centuries’, and for that we are truly grateful.
More information about the Collection can be found:
Thank you, Lyn Howarth-Olds, for this detailed information about Frank and for befriending him in such a wonderful way. I corresponded with Frank many times over the years and appreciated greatly his generosity with all his knowledge about Tarot. –mkg
Many people come to Tarot readings in hopes of “fixing” their lives—obtaining information and guidance that will help them make the “right” decisions and no mistakes—guaranteeing perfection.
I subscribe to the BrainPickings blog featuring contemplative posts on creativity, literature and non-fiction. This week’s post has some applicable thoughts by George Saunders and Parker Palmer that show the narrowness of perfection.
George Saunders: “Although we’re animated by conflicting impulses and irrepressible moral imperfection, we can still live rich and beautiful lives.”
Parker Palmer, “Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.”
I ask you, as a Tarot reader, how can we help the querent “embrace brokenness”?
On the other hand, I sometimes hear from clients that a reading primarily showed them something they knew already. I ask them if they knew that what was shown was the most important thing to take into account in their situation—the key to their decision-making process and the true value of their experience.
This is mirrored in a BrainPickings post on poet Denise Levertov in which she is quoted:
“One can anyway only be shown something one knows already, needs already. Showing anyone anything really amounts to removing the last thin film that prevents their seeing what they are looking at.”
Ah, what a perfect way to describe the best that can happen in a Tarot reading!
And one last quote. This time from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Act 1: Scene 2). Imagine that the Tarot itself is speaking to you as your mirror—a metaphor often used in describing the way in which the Tarot works.
And since you know you cannot see yourself
So well as by reflection, I, your glass,
Will modestly discover to yourself
That of yourself which you yet know not of.
It is not really that we don’t know these things, but rather that we don’t know their relevance. The Tarot offers us the in-sight.
I’m a firm believer in learning by doing, and getting to know the components of your deck is no exception. This can also be a great daily spread for anyone.
1. Divide your deck into four stacks:
• The 4 Aces
• The 16 Court Cards
• The 36 Minor Arcana Cards numbered 2-10
• The 22 Major Arcana
2. Shuffle the Aces stack thoroughly while asking, “What do I most need to be aware of today?” Draw one card. if a card is reversed, turn it upright for all steps. The Ace indicates an area of focus, general atmosphere or the overall energy at play. (Note: if your suit characteristics differ from those below, then use whatever works.)
• Wands signifies innovative or intuitive energy. It indicates desires, enthusiasm, activity, initiating projects, enterprise. It can also indicate a rushed, angry or volatile situation.
• Cups signifies emotional energy. It indicates love, relationships, nurturing, imagination and fantasy. It can also point to nostalgia, grief, sadness and lethargy.
• Swords signifies mental energy. It indicates beliefs, choices and decisions, research, planning and intellectual endeavors. It can also be about disputes, struggles, and issues around honesty or dishonesty.
• Pentacles (or Coins) signifies physical, sensate energy. It indicates work, skills, money, body, security, results and the care or valuing of physical resources. It can also indicate being stuck, inflexible, stubborn or stressed and worried.
Try to feel this energy inside and around you. Is it fiery, fluid, airy or earthy? Where and how is this energy manifesting in your life right now? Later you’ll want to consider how the other cards you’ve drawn function in this kind of atmosphere.
3. Shuffle the 16 Court Cards while asking, “What do I most need to be aware of today?” Draw one card. This is the part of yourself that is most active and of which you need to be most aware. How are you Kingly, Queenly, Knightly or like a Page? It can show your level of knowledge, experience and command (King and Queen) in this area or how open you are to learning (Page) or able to take action (Knight).
Describe this card in as much detail as you can, including the physical image on the card and the characteristics of the figure: its attitude, mood and emotions, and what it wants or needs. How and where are you acting like this figure? Occasionally this card can express someone else in your life. How do you expect them to handle or influence the situation rather than you? Are you giving your own power away and, if so, how can you own it? Or is it as it should be?
4. Shuffle the 36 Minor Arcana number cards (2-10 in each suit) while asking, “What do I most need to be aware of today?” Draw one card. This is the situation that the part of yourself (Court Card above) is concerned with today.
If a scene is depicted on this card, then describe the scene. What situation has similar characteristics? If there are only suit markers on your deck, look up the meaning and consider how it applies.* What does the Court Card figure bring to this situation? What does it tell you about your relationship to these circumstances?
5. Shuffle the 22 Major Arcana cards while asking, “What do I most need to be aware of today?” Draw one card. This shows why you need to be aware.
The Major Arcana card may represent a goal or desired outcome, a lesson to be learned, something to be mastered—how you can ‘triumph’ in the situation—or what is at risk or to be gained.
What is the first thing that strikes you as you look at this card? Describe the picture in as much detail as possible. How does this card ‘trump’ the situation? Look up the standard keywords and meanings in a book. Explore the individual symbols in a symbol dictionary. Try all of the above possibilities until something clicks.
6. Overview and integration: You’ve drawn three cards out of the Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles (or Coins) suits. Which suits did you get? Does one suit dominate? Do the suit energies harmonize or do they seem to conflict? Are the energies more active and impatient (Wands and Swords)? Or, receptive and patient (Cups and Pentacles)? Is just one suit missing? If so, which one? Is that okay, or is something important missing in the situation? (Usually you don’t need to be as aware of a missing suit as much as you need to be aware of the suits that turned up!)
7. As a daily spread: Write down the cards you’ve drawn and your insights. Do this daily for at least two weeks, then look back over your spreads and write down what you’ve learned. Continue if you so desire. Over time, note especially what cards and suits appear most often and which never appear at all. Does a situation continue to develop in subsequent spreads? How? How do you respond to changing circumstances by bringing forth different parts of yourself ?
If you’d like, please give a sample interpretation, in the comments section, of the cards shown above.
*Note: Yes, looking up card meanings is perfectly fine, whether you are a beginner or experienced reader. You are learning to expand your repertoire of meanings. But don’t forget to really look at a card and say what it seems like to you.
Beginners often have the most trouble reading Court Cards, especially if several of them appear in one spread. In general, Court Cards represent personal characteristics of individuals, attitudes, and levels of maturity or development that influence us—from within or without. Sometimes they represent actions: like traveling or revolutionizing (Knights), communications delivered (Pages), power and control applied (Kings and Queens), mothering (Queens) and fathering (Kings), teaching (Kings and Queens) or learning (Pages). More often they are personalities.
Old books have you select a card to “stand in” for the querent based on age, sex, marital status and hair color. Most of the time a significator is not really necessary in a spread; you can leave it out if you choose. If a Court Card significator is essential, then I tend to select first by the suit-to-element correspondence with the person’s sun sign (Fire, Water, Earth or Air) and then their sex and level of maturity. None of which are absolute! Another method is to have the querent look through the Court Cards and pick one for themselves. This will often tell you quite a bit about the querent and about how best to communicate with him or her. Feel free to throw out that hair color nonsense as it won’t work for more than half the people on the planet.
Who Are They?
• In mundane readings Court Cards are often straightforwardly someone recognizable.
• I find they always represent an aspect of oneself – one that you may or may not be projecting onto others. In deeper, more psychological readings, they are your personas: you can probably recognize their voices as contrary opinions in your head.
Reversed Court Cards
• Reversed Court Cards are not evil people; their characteristics can be weakened or excessive. Reversals can represent refusing to act like that Court Card. You might reject the tendencies usually shown by the card. A King might say: “I refuse to take charge.” A reversed King of Swords may be unable to make a decision or could make ruthless ones; a reversed Queen of Pentacles may ignore the needs of others and spend lavishly.
• Think of reversed Court Cards as being in a situation where their natural characteristics are not valued or respected; therefore they tend to “act out.” A Knight of Pentacles longs to be outdoors using his hands, so when working in a windowless office with florescent lights, he may be an unhappy, stubborn co-worker making everyone else as miserable as he is.
• Depending on how you read reversals, one other possibility is that a reversed Court Card represents your inner, hidden self versus your more public self.
In a Reading
• Pay close attention to the position meaning, and/or the direction the Court Card is facing. What are they looking at or pointing to? A Knight of Wands in the past, who looks even more into the “past” direction could be someone who has already moved out of your life. A Queen of Swords in a future position who looks to the future could be showing you the way. Notice what other cards are in the same suit suggesting that their energies are directly at play.
• I’ve noticed fairly often that a King can be most like a person’s mother and a Queen like the father, so don’t get too fixated on gender roles matching sex.
• I find that Court Cards almost always have strong opinions about what the querent should do, and the querent, if asked, will know exactly what these opinions are! So ask the querent what each Court Card thinks about the situation in question. Or, go further: have multiple Court Cards argue with each other. That reversed Page in your past will have very different opinions about what you should do than does the Knight who represents your “hopes and fears.”
• If you use Elemental Dignities then you will probably find that Court Cards in the same suit tend to support each other. Two Courts in Yang suits (Wands and Swords) will egg each other on, while the Yin suits (Cups and Pentacles) will counsel patience. Cups versus Wands, and Swords versus Pentacles, are so contrary that their opinions tend to cancel each other out.
Differences in Decks
Deck creators have taken significant liberties with the Court Cards, changing their titles from the traditional King, Queen, Knight and Page to express a whole range of social groupings or “influencers” in our lives. They may even become animals, supernatural beings, gifts or places. Therefore get a feeling for the Court Cards in the deck you are using. Describe the picture and the suggested characteristics in detail. If these qualities function better in your readings than the classic meanings, then use them.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
Based on concepts developed by psychotherapist Carl Jung, the MBTI posits sixteen personality types that have been understandably equated with the sixteen Court Cards. Most people agree on suit correspondences for Jung’s basic functions: Wands=Intuition, Cups=Feeling, Swords=Thinking, Pentacles=Sensation. However, the system becomes confusing when equating Introvert with just the Queens and Pages, and Extrovert with just the Kings and Knights. Is the Queen of Wands really an introvert? And is the King of Cups always an extrovert? I’ve found studying the MBTI system to be quite helpful in giving voice to Court Card personalities as long as I don’t make them absolutes! I find insurmountable problems when trying to equate these two systems, even though I learned a lot by trying to do so.
Want more information on the Court Cards? Order my book (written with Tom Little): Understanding the Tarot Court. And please submit an amazon review.
I am very proud to present the most complete version yet of material I’ve been developing for nearly fifty years on Carl Jung’s theories of the psyche and personal development as applied to reading Tarot. I’ve taught related workshops at the Jung Institute of San Francisco and at several Tarot conferences. This two-part course will be an expanded exploration of Jung’s concepts with the 2nd part being entirely new, to demonstrate exactly how to use these concepts in readings for one’s self and others. I’ll focus on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck as one example of how perfectly the Tarot depicts archetypal images from the collective unconscious. To register, visit globalspiritualstudies.com.
Class one: Symbolism in the RWS Deck
Jung wrote about Tarot on several occasions, seeing it as depicting archetypes of transformation like those he found in myths, dreams and alchemy. He described its divinatory abilities as similar to the I-Ching and astrology, and late in life established a group who attempted to integrate insights about a person based on multiple divination systems including Tarot.
In this informational class Mary:
- presents some of Jung’s own ideas about Tarot
- shows how his map of the psyche is reflected in the cards
- demonstrates how the “Fool’s Journey” parallels Jung’s all-important “individuation process.”
Class two: Methods and Spreads
In this workshop, Mary demonstrates how Jung’s psycho-therapeutic approach applies to actual readings and “inner work.”
- Learn how to apply Jung’s technique of “active imagination” to Tarot.
- Explore a couple of spreads that serve as mirrors of the psyche and show challenges and breakthroughs in the individuation process.
- Bring a Tarot deck as you’ll also draw cards for at least one Jungian spread for yourself.
- Discover how a Jungian approach can deepen your personal insights into the cards.
- Learn how to assist another with their inner work.
Mary also discusses the pitfalls and the boundaries required when a Tarot reader utilizes this material.
This course is open to all levels of Tarot experience, although some knowledge of the cards is suggested.
I’ll be teaching a basic Tarot class for the four Wedesdays nights in Nevada City CA – with a free intro on September 30th. Information here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1897546913804642/