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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.
Have you ever noticed that after seeing some films you are snappish or silent, yearning or ponderous, giggly or jumpy, and that the affects can last for minutes, hours or even days, abducting us from our normal means of perception?
I was reading one of my all-time favorite books Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by David Abram and came to the part where he describes his own growing awareness that certain movies and books would “surreptitiously enter into my bloodstream, like a contagion . . . a curious spell that my organism was under.” He further characterizes these effects as a “capacity for being drawn, physiologically, into the terrain of certain stories—abducted into another landscape that would only belatedly release me back into the palpable present.” His description is reminiscent of being stolen away into the land of fairy.
I recently experienced such a state after going to see “Beasts of the Southern Wild”: my friends noticed that I couldn’t speak after the movie and that I refused their ride so I could walk home alone. I realized that Abram’s insights provided a second part to my established practice of active reading and movie-viewing, in which I draw cards before partaking of the work so as to sharpen my perception and enrich my understanding and appreciation of the work. Based on Abram’s commentary I’ve designed a spread that assists us in seeing how a work ensorcells us, temporarily coloring our perceptions and feelings and even influencing our actions.
Place the first six cards in a clockwise circle, beginning at the top, with the seventh card in the center.
1. What feeling tone colors my general outlook after seeing the film (or reading the book)?
2. How does this influence my immediate approach or response to things?
3. What fears does it stir?
4. What longings awaken?
5. What shifts do I perceive in my immediate surroundings? How do I see things differently?
6. What do I need from those around me? And, once I’ve answered that: How can I give this to myself?
7. What is the major lesson that this work offers me?
I went to see this movie because some friends had invited me, based on the recommendation of another friend. Before going I knew nothing about it and couldn’t even remember the title. So, I thought I’d try out the Petit Lenormand cards as a prediction of plot. I got Lilies-Clouds-Snake-Scythe-Whip, all of them Court Cards. Turns out it was pretty darn accurate for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” It’s a coming-of-age mythic fable about a little girl, Hushpuppy, and her father who live on a fragile island, the Bathtub, south of the Louisiana dikes in the Gulf. It also features other people who exist in these unbelievably harsh conditions (all the Court Cards). There’s the dying father, a huge storm, a wise female teacher (as well as a dream-like encounter with a mother-figure), the poisoning of the creatures on the island, breaking through the dike, lots of arguments, and the inhabitants battle with the authorities. It’s an emotionally wrenching film with incredible acting – especially by the young girl and her father.
I drew five cards:
- Lilies -Family (also innocence and Father)
- Clouds – the Storm
- Snake – Poison/Wise Woman (at the center)
- Scythe – Decision to stay on the island; Death and Destruction
- Whip – Arguments, violent activity
An even better way to read Lenormand is in pairs:
- Lilies+Clouds – disfunctional family or problems with the father.
- Clouds+Snake – bad mojo, lack of clarity regarding a woman.
- Snake+Scythe – cut off from a woman; a treacherous decision; a poisonous death.
- Scythe+Whip – violent cutting, a decisive battle.
I was prepared for what could be a very dark, tragic film. It almost was, but something else broke through. My strongest thought during the intermission (they have to change the reels at our local art theatre) was, I couldn’t live like that! Several people left.
I later did a reading with the Mary-El Tarot to help me explore my conscious and unconscious reactions, responding directly to her images. I’ll only mention a few brief highlights of what I saw.
1. What colors my general outlook? 5 of Wands. First thought on looking at the growling red lion: “red-in-tooth-and-claw”. I had a very visceral reaction that touched on my most primitive fight-flight-freeze physiology.
2. How does this influence my immediate approach or response to things? 10 of Wands. This shows a warrior with bow and arrows on a horse. Flight. But I also wanted to be a defender of the movie to those who were repelled by it.
3. What fears does it stir? Page of Disks. This image of a sleeping baby with marks like nails surrounding it arouses my protectiveness. I fear that something primally innocent – the exquisite nature of the sentiment in the film – might be harmed. I also fear that I might slumber when I should awaken.
4. What longings awaken? Knight of Disks. The next stage of maturity: Knight as protector of the Page/Baby of Disks. This immediately reminded me of the scene shown in the lead photo above. I long to stand up for and to what might otherwise overwhelm us.
5. What shifts do I perceive in my immediate surroundings? How do I see things differently? 7 of Disks. I see a split, like two separate meteors. I am aware of the lack of words when I feel drawn out of myself.
6. What do I need from those around me? How can I give this to myself? The Tower. Strong words and opinions. Instead, both I and my friends retreated into silence. I can give myself the words, the surpressed fury, the burning to act on this film in some way.
7. What is the major lesson that this work offers me? Ace of Wands. That some creative spark can be birthed out of this fiery angelic torment. The reading is all Fire and Earth.
Words still fail me. Please let me know what you thought of the film and/or your experience in reading cards for enhancing your experience of films and books.
I often get asked how to keep a tarot journal. Of course, you can do it any way you want, and there are dozens of things you can include and mediums you can use: notebook and pen, computer files, blogs, etc. A blog is nice in that it is set up for a sequence of dated entries, and you can choose whether to keep it private, make it public or only allow a few friends in.
I just happened on a “Tarot Book of Days” called Quirkeries by Sharyn Mallow Woerz. It’s practically perfect in its elegant simplicity.
Often there are no more than a half dozen sentences. Entries begin with a title, the deck and the card. These are followed with three brief paragraphs: 1) first thoughts on card image, 2) personal associations regarding card meaning, 3) an inspirational quote on a related topic. The card is pictured in a space to the right. Sharyn switches to a new deck every Sunday and usually adds a brief deck overview at that time.
I’m so glad I found this blog. I wrote Sharyn asking her some questions about the blog, which she kindly answered in the comments. I recommend reading what she has to say. I find her whole process inspiring. She’s given me permission to post this sample clip from her blog (click here to get a readable size). Imagine doing one of these every day!
Feel free to add your own experiences with keeping a daily tarot journal, and tell us what medium you use.
I asked a group of tarot readers on Facebook to give their top advice for how to combine and integrate card meanings in a spread. It’s one of the things that beginners find most bewildering, but we can all learn more about. Forty-nine people responded (see list of contributors at the end). I combined, edited and grouped the advice to form sets of approaches, moving roughly from the most intuitive to the most analytical. Share this material freely but please include the list of contributors and a link back to this post.
There are no rules to interpretation.
- Be intuitive.
- Look at the cards from an internal perspective.
- TRUST in your intuitive awareness and reactions to the cards.
- Go with the flow!
- Be guided by the HOLY Spirit (The Whole (holy) Picture).
Combine right brain/left brain work: analysis and imagination/story.
- Both the universal and the personal must be understood. Use both the Intellect and Intuition.
- Use analysis to “check” the intuition which can sometimes get clogged or confused.
Look at the big picture (Option 1).
- Step back and look at the spread from a larger perspective, not simply focusing on individual cards and their individual meanings.
- Become unfocused and blurry eyed (take off your glasses) and feel the energy flows as an energy picture: wands are direct and immediate, swords reflexive, turning, twisting, cups are energy accuminlations and coins ground or build up energy, etc.
- Look at the whole picture of the layout and then tune into a “knowing” of the entire spread before anything else. See it as a snapshot of the unconscious mind made manifest. After the initial “feeling the meaning,” look at the individual cards and symbols.
- Sense the *vibration* of the *whole* spread.
- Pay attention to any movement you can actually feel or see.
- Quickly glance over all of the cards at once and jot down the immediate thoughts that come to mind – words, images, feelings, messages, etc. that jump out. How do the cards feel together? What kind of feeling do they invoke in you?
One card at a time (Option 2).
- Turn each card one at a time and watch how each builds on the last in terms of a pattern.
- Build the relationship between cards and positions as you move through the spread, one card at a time, until all is revealed.
- Turn the cards over one at a time, gaining a tiny ‘clue’ from each, so the story builds and changes, letting the cards talk to each other as the “new kid on the block” gets turned over.
Look at how the images and figures interrelate with each other.
- Determine the direction the figures on the cards are looking or moving; their body-language.
- Are they back to back, or facing each other?
- Is the Knight of Wands galloping towards the Queen of Swords or galloping away? Is he riding towards a tomb entrance? Or a family gathering? Is the Emperor turning his back on the World, or facing it?
- Look at the direction symbols are pointing.
- Does each card point to another card in a sequence?
- Are they actively engaging in something or inert?
- Does a card at the bottom seem to carry all the others? Or a card at the top lead the way?
- Several cards can mean “new” or “let go.” Such ‘blended’ meanings are very potent, sort of like the overlapping gray area between black and white.
- Look for combinations. Find the patterns and connections among cards and positions, then mush it all into a composite idea (position + card is too limiting).
Where to Start
- Build off of what is obvious first.
- Start by talking through the stuff you do understand and it’ll come to you or not; usually it’ll come to you.
- Read the cards/positions that stand out to you; the rest of the cards in the spread are filler. If you can understand the noun and the verb of a sentence you can deduct the rest.
- Reversed means one might not be perfectly comfortable with the situation, something needs to be adjusted.
Find the story within the cards. “Every Picture tells a story.” –Rod Stewart
- The cards always tell a story.
- Let a story flow from your interpretation of the cards.
- Sometimes the message is clear and will form a ‘seamless sentence’, but, at other times, only one card may stand out.
- Let that story flow from picture to picture. The cards will show you the weavings and patterns. The numbers, the titles are road maps or signs along the road.
- Read the cards in the order you laid them out in the spread and create the tale of what they are all doing, interacting with one another, and how that relates to you.
- Let the story, the narrative of the reading, jump out at you. “Make up” the story as you go along. If you can’t “see” it, check a few cards with the querent for verification.
- Look for a card that you intuitively feel is driving the reading, i.e., the one that seems to be directing events a little more than others. Ask what the character in that card is saying to the characters in the others.
- The story is the intuitive weaving of the nature of the cards. Alfred Woolard once said in his poem, “My life is but a weaving … when I reach the other side can I truly see the whole design” (paraphrased).
How the cards in a spread relate to one another.
- How are two or more cards like the relationships that we have with others or how the characters relate in a story?
- Think of the reading as a conversation. Let the cards “talk” to you, and talk back to and through them. Imagining that the cards are “talking” to you opens your mind to “hear” the message. PAY ATTENTION to it.
- View the cards as a council circle: lay them in a circle and let them interact with each other and advise you in a sacred space-circle kind of way!
- Think of two cards interrelating from their respective positions, much like having a conversation or discussion, until there is greater understanding.
- Ask what each card (or figure in a card) thinks about the other(s)—what’s the attitude of each to the other and to what they’re thinking and doing?
- A reversed card can mean it is not ‘playing well’ with others.
Look at what’s there and what isn’t.
- Look indeed for what is not there as much as what is.
- Notice what’s NOT in the spread.
- Which cards didn’t come up can tell you as much as the cards that did. For instance, if The Lovers, 2 of Cups, King/Queen of Cups are absent from a love reading, that’s telling you there is no love relationship over the time period specified by the reading.
Look for repetitions of numbers, images, suits/elements, colours, symbols, themes, etc. (Correspondences).
- Use the correspondences as a base and go from there.
- Start with the foundations: suits, numbers, Majors, Minors, Courts.
- Look at the suits/elements to know what world you are dealing with: work, money, practical stuff, or something emotional or mental?
- Notice things like Gate cards, or which suit is prevailing or dominant.
- Check for a progression among the numbers as a sequence of development.
- What colors dominate? What color stands out as different than the others?
- With the elements, if there are two fire and one water, for instance, the fire cancels out that watery influence. [referred to as Elemental Dignities.]
- Look for a predominance of Major or Minor cards to get a feeling if the reading is depicting a key event/change/issue for the querent (majors) or a more minor everyday event (minors).
- Trumps [Major Arcana] can be an over arching theme or a life passage and the rest are everyday life stuff.
- See if Minor Arcana cards repeat a Major Arcana card in the spread by number or other similarity.
Compare and contrast, looking for both how cards are alike and how they are different.
- Are there similar scenes in two or more cards? What are the interactions among these factors.
- Place cards next to each other (not necessarily in a straight line) to see how they relate.
- See how, in the example to the right, the churning waters of the Moon become a cloak that is almost too heavy to wear. [Trimmed decks work best.] The deck is the Revelations Tarot by Zach Wong.
Find two to three keywords for each card and put them into a sentence. First reactions are best; you don’t have to go to the core of the cards existence.
- Read them as a sentence. For example: First card—Hermit and the flicker of his lamp catches my attention, so I think, “ah, a new idea.” Next card—Chariot, and the black horse going the other way catches my attention. Linking the two cards to form a sentence, it becomes “ah, a new direction going against the norm.”
- The position is the “noun” and the card is the “verb”. Tense (past present future) is supplied by the positions relative to the Querent (now).
- View the positions in a spread as the framework of a sentence. Insert keywords or phrases for each card into the basic sentence format and then embellish it based on symbols and correspondences. “While I am conscious of ____, I unconsciously need ____, in order to achieve ____ and meet the challenges of ____.”
Use Occult Systems.
- Figure out where cards are on the Tree of Life and what paths or sephiroth are involved.
- For instance, the Ace, 6, and 9 of Cups are on the middle pillar and not yet grounded in Malkuth, but they are an indication that energy is flowing. Or most of the cards are on one pillar making the situation out of balance.
Look for astrological relationships.
- For instance, the Empress and Hierophant are Venus and Taurus and Venus rules Taurus. Or, the 5 of Swords and The Fool are both Air.
- If you are doing a horoscope spread you can combine the meanings of the cards that fall in the opposite houses or that are trine or square using the meaning of that astrological aspect.
- Determine the speed of the cards to determine how much light they shed on your reading of the images. This way, even a shadowy situation can emerge as crystal clear.
- Switch decks periodically as a conduit to “open” your attention.
- A few cards in key positions can determine how you read the rest of the spread. If they don’t tell the story right away, then use all the other techniques.
CONTRIBUTORS: Hildegerd Haugen, Sophie Nusslé Falco, Maureen Aisling Duffy-Boose, Jon Kaneko-James, Fiona Dilston, Stephen Russell, Jean Foster, Jeanne Fiorini, Lisa Bruno, Kevin Quigley, Nadia K. Potter, Mary Mueller, Paul Nagy, Tero Hynynen, Virginia L Beach, Gwydion LosAngeles, Paula Gaubert, Gloria Scotti, Berthe van Soest, Lynda England Bustilloz, Bertrand Saint-Guillain, Greg LeFever, Carola Meijers, Steph Myriel Es-Tragon, Kustiana Murtjono, Terri Bivona, Jera-Babylon Rootweaver, Diane Brandt Wilkes, Rosie Grace, Nancy Antenucci, Sue Clynes, Sandra M. Russel, Camelia Elias, Christine Payne-Towler, Lorrie Kazan, Stacy LaRosa, Toni Gilbert, Vyvien Starbuck, Sherri Glebus, Flash Silvermoon, Judy Nathan, Helene Martz, Stephanie Arwen Lynch, Monika Sanders, Katrina Wynne, Rana Fakhouri George, Robert Moyer, Dancing Bear, Mary K. Greer.
Announcing the official launch of my new book Who Are You in the Tarot? at BATS and with a web seminar (webinar), “Working with Your Tarot Birth and Year Cards,” on September 6, 2011, 6pm – 6.45pm USA Pacific time through Global Spiritual Studies.
So, you’ve calculated your Birth and Year Cards (I’ll show you how if you don’t know), but what are you going to do with them next? In this session, Mary K. Greer shows you how to take these archetypal forms further, to see how you can work with them in your own life and with a querent. Discover the wisdom of your Year Cards and what Destiny calls to you from your Soul Card. Make these cards come alive in your own life! Learn how to learn from them in ways unique to you. Explore the nine Constellations and the three Soul Groups that are at the heart of this system and are key to your relationship dynamics.
Information on this live webinar is available here. Join us live so you can ask questions and take part in the discussion. For the time in other zones, check the website.
Click on the link to visit the book’s Facebook page and “like” us, then let us know what your Birth Cards are.
Get a signed first edition hot off the press and unavailable yet in bookstores, at the San Francisco Bay Area Tarot Symposium (BATS) on August 27-28 (see EVENTS).
Over 60 experienced tarot readers offer their best advice for what every Newbie Tarot Reader should know. Not everyone will agree with everything. Add ideas you think belong, in the Comments. Feel free to post this anywhere, so long as you include the source and contributors (listed at the end).
• There are no rules. All rules are made to be broken.
• You may hear and read a LOT about tarot, much of it contradictory. Listen, read, discuss, try, and decide for yourself. No one knows how you will read or work with the cards except you.
• The more you know, the more options you have.
• Read books, Lots of books.
• PUT THE BOOKS DOWN!
• There is nothing wrong with books. Knowledge gained from them gives you a fantastic starting point and framework and can lead to more assured reading.
• Try to read a card first, before you look it up. You will be surprised by how much of the gist of it you get.
• Get to know your deck – pull a card a day and/or go through your deck and take notes on each card. Write your thoughts and feelings about each card in a journal.
I frequently hear questions on forums such as, “When the Magician (or Star or Emperor) comes up in the position of what someone wants, what does it mean?” Or, “What does the Three of Wands advise?” Or, as a response to “What does my boyfriend feel about me?,” students want to know “What does Justice (or the Knight of Pentacles or the Seven of Cups) feel?” I find these questions curious. For one thing, what the Magician wants in one life situation will be very different than what he or she wants in another. For another, the deck used will often change the attitude and feeling of the card.
Here’s my favorite way to get the most helpful responses to such questions: Simply ask the figure on the card!
Usually it’s the querent, not the reader, who can give voice to the most meaningful response. Sure, as a reader, I can easily come up with a bunch of possibilities, but if you want to hear a loud, resounding ring of truth, ask the querent what the figure on the card says.
It’s amazing how easily querents will come up with something consequential when I ask them for the first thing that comes to mind. I’ve asked thousands of querents, and I’ve rarely had anyone who couldn’t do it.
The answers are never random. In the majority of cases, you’ll be surprised at how significant the response will be—both in relation to the card and to the situation. If a querent doesn’t get how this relates to him, I have him repeat the statement once or twice until he does. Or, I ask the querent directly how this response relates to her situation.
Using this technique for yourself, you’ll find the cards in a spread form a committee, each with their own attitudes, agendas, feelings and advice. One may speak with the voice of your mother, another with your inner wild-child, and a third as your demanding boss. It’s not unusual for them to disagree with each other. The position in the spread will help you determine if theirs is a voice from the past, the urgings of a possible future, an obstructing adversary, or a helpful guide.
A technique that can make this even more powerful is for the querent (whether yourself or another) to assume the body posture of the figure on the card. Try to imitate it as exactly as possible and try moving as that figure would move, and taking on its tone. Then, speak as the figure, saying what that figure wants or feels or advises, or how it uses the various implements and symbols on the cards, and even what it thinks of the advice of other cards!
I invite you to come play with me. In the Comments section, speak with the voice of one or all three of the following Magicians and/or the one at top, and tell us what that Magician wants. Is it the same for all of them or different? From left to right you can call them: Wildwood Magician, Wizards Magician, Otherworld Magician (click for a larger image; sources below).
Top: Bateleur from the Tarot de Jean Dodal by Pablo Robledo. Left: Shaman from The Wildwood Tarot by Mark Ryan, John Matthews and Will Worthington. Middle: Magician from The Wizards Tarot by Corrine Kenner and John Blumen. Right: Magician from the Otherworld Tarot by Alison Williams and Sarah Nowell.
Enrique resides in Manhattan and is well known for his appreciation of historic tarot decks. His fresh and disciplined approach to the interpretation of this antique imagery bears only a superficial resemblance to the more synthetic ways tarot is usually read. Because of this distinctive approach to tarot reading, Paul thought an investigative interview designed to explain Enrique’s suppositions would make clear to the tarot reading community what he is does when he reads.
Read the interview at TAROLOYEAST (BETA).
Check out Paul Nagy’s on-going and free teleconference class “The Way to Tarot Wisdom” based on the works of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Marianne Costa and Rachel Pollack.