Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Tell Us About Your Tarot Practice!

We all love those internet quizzes that get passed around, either on blogs or in email chains, where we get to share fun, quirky information about ourselves. Well, as I've participated more and more in the tarot community, I'm continuously excited to learn more about its members. That means YOU, reader of this blog!

Here are a few questions/answers about my own tarot journey.  Pick one or two to answer in comments, and let's get to know each other!


1.  Why did you first start practicing tarot?

I'm a huge geek and was really interested in learning a new system, plus I think tarot decks are really pretty!

2.  What was your first tarot deck?

I picked up some "Teach Yourself Tarot" kit at Barnes and Noble.  The deck has lovely illustrations for the trump and court cards, but the rest of the Minor Arcana are only pips, so it was difficult to learn from (not to mention the little white book was... not great). 

3.  What card do you identify with strongly?

It's a little difficult to pick a "favorite" card, especially since their meanings and purposes change so much, but whenever Strength pops up, I feel a special affinity! I really like that it refers to internal strength, and not physical strength.

4.  What card tends to be difficult for you?

Until recently, the seven of swords was pretty much an enigma for me. I had a few breakthroughs in some recent readings, though, and I have a better relationship with it.  Currently, the four of pentacles has been doing weird things in my readings. 

5.  How often do you read?  Do you have a ritual around it?

I do at least a three card spread every morning, and lay my cards out on silk with curios and other special items. 

6.  Do you stick to a "classic" deck (Waite-Smith, Thoth, Marseille), or do you explore alternative tarot systems?

I'm basically a Waite-Smith girl, with all my current decks being some kind of variation on it.  As I get more confident, I'd like to try some other, more abstract decks, and I definitely want to work with a Marseille deck sometime.  I'm not a big Thoth fan, but it's fun to see how other people read it.

7.  Do you use other forms of divination?

Not yet!  I'm interested in learning how to throw bones, though.

8. What are your current goals for your tarot practice?

Keep up my daily three card reading, and work on learning reversals!


Share your answers to a few in comments below, or feel free to post all your answers on your blog!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Court Cards: A Down Home Approach

Even if you're a beginner, you probably recognize the difference between the Major and Minor Arcana.  You might already have a decent handle on the suits, and their domains and symbolism.  If you're anything like me, though, the court cards still feel beyond your reach.

The first suggestion you will see for how to read court cards is to read them as literal people in your or the querent's life.  Some readers even go so far as to say that a court card can identify a person down to their eye color!  Now, if the querent notes that one of the court cards looks like somebody specific in their life, that is definitely something to pay attention to (I once had a querent look at the Page of Swords and exclaim, "That's my ex!"). If it occurs naturally (and it does), that's one cool permutation of a court card. But the truth is, that could happen for any character on any tarot card. I find trying to read court cards as specific people can feel cumbersome, and removes a lot of subtlety from the reading process.

Still, the court cards feel unique from the rest of the Minor Arcana; they seem to have somewhat more independent personalities.  I really like Daily Tarot Girl's method for getting to know the court card, treating them as their own unique actors in the deck. She isn't necessarily saying they always correlate to a real-life human, but they do seem more like fleshed-out characters than the rest of the Minor Arcana. I think her exercises are absolutely wonderful if you are just starting to get to know the court cards.

When I started to devise my own approach to the court cards, I was drawn to the idea of each position referring to a level of maturity; that is to say, Pages are children, Knights are youths, Queens are adults, and Kings are old and wise.  Aside from the implications about gender, this was a good starting point for me.  I decided that, for me, each court card spoke to a step in our journey of relating to the world (much the way the Major Arcana describe our path through life). Pages are just starting their journeys; Knights have more confidence, Kings are ready to make decisions, and Queens see the process as a whole (my Queens outrank my Kings).

So what does that mean for reading the cards?  Well, it means knowing the domains of each suit, so that you can see what each court card presides over. For me, it made sense for me to give each court card a motto, and I am not the first person to hear the court cards speak in first person!  You will find, within a spread, that each court card may have a lot more to say, but these mottos are a good starting point.

I've grouped them below by court level instead of by suit; this way, you can see what I mean by the progression in our personal story. We start out relating to the world as a new, wondrous thing; we gain confidence, begin to act upon the world and shape it, and ultimately gain a perspective of our experience as only a piece of a larger whole.  Our paths are not linear, either; we can return to a Page chapter of our lives many times, or we may feel like a Knight in one domain and a Queen in the other.



  • Cups: I have innocent trust in the validity of my emotions.
  • Pentacles: I approach the physical world with fascination and wonder.
  • Wands: My enthusiasm leads to uninhibited, spontaneous action.
  • Swords: I am eager to learn everything about anything!


  • Cups: I have confidence that my emotional compass will point the right way. 
  • Pentacles: I have faith that consistent hard work will bring reward. 
  • Wands: I strive to experience life in the fullest!
  • Swords: My intellect will lead me to success.


  • Cups: I balance my emotions when making decisions.
  • Pentacles: Success comes through hard work and reasonable expectations.
  • Wands: Passion, tempered by experience, guides my decision-making. 
  • Swords: I use logic to come to just decisions.


  • Cups: I have the intuitive ability to understand the important role of emotions throughout our lives. 
  • Pentacles: Hard work is most noble when it serves not only your house, but your community. 
  • Wands: Passion promotes growth, in our communities and ourselves. 
  • Swords: Wisdom comes from the ability to evaluate experience rationally. 


A Note On Gender

I could write a whole blog post on the fuckery that is gender representation in traditional tarot; I'm not ignorant that my beloved Universal Waite-Smith features exclusively hetero-cis-normative folks (though I do my best to expand my interpretation of those characters). When reading court cards, I remove gender as much as my colonized mind can.  That is to say, any individual court card is not tied to a specific gender, but rather speaks to a potentially universal experience. 

This is all well and good, but what we need is better representation on tarot cards. I am completely over the moon for decks like the Numinous Tarot, which features not only non-binary, non-cis folks (kings with boobs! queens with beards!), but does a great job of featuring people of color, too.  In other words, this deck actually looks like real the people in my life.  And if you're not already reading Cassandra Snow's Queering the Tarot, you should; it's a series of essays at Little Red Tarot that brings a queer lens to tarot card meanings, ultimately helping to shape a more inclusive and accurate practice of tarot. 

Does this approach to court cards resonate with you?  Are there other approaches you prefer?  How do you incorporate (or extract) the power of gender in your tarot practice?  Let us know!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Closer Look: Eight of Swords

Key words and concepts

  • Feeling trapped
  • Helplessness
  • Fear of change
  • Obstacles
  • Restriction

Sometimes, the meaning of tarot cards is elusive, and not immediately clear from their illustrations.

Then you have the eight of swords.

All kidding aside, this is some pretty straight-forward imagery.  The woman is literally bound and blindfolded, and the encircling blades are evocative of the bars on a jail cell. Restriction and helplessness practically drip off of this card.

But even if this is the first time you've seen this card, you've probably already noticed that the circle of swords doesn't completely surround her, and those bindings haven't immobilized her feet and legs. You're thinking, "If I were stuck like that, I could just hop around a bit and get out of it!" And you're probably right! The key to the eight of swords is that, very often when we feel stuck, it's because we haven't actually considered all of our options.

Now, this isn't to put all the blame on our heroine here. She has been tied up; there are eight weapons literally blocking some of her paths. Some people read this card as signifying that your obstacles are of your own making, but that doesn't ring true to me; we've all had times in our lives where we just could not, for one reason or another, figure out how to get un-stuck.  Sometimes it is because we are creating problems that we otherwise wouldn't have, but sometimes it's because we are facing truly daunting issues.

When I see the eight of swords, I tell myself not that I am the cause of all my problems, but that I have become stuck in my perspective.  Sometimes, we know what decision we need to make, but we don't want to admit it to ourselves because we are anxious about the consequences of that decision. The eight of swords asks us to think about what is more important: Avoiding the consequences of that decision, or getting yourself un-stuck?  That's not a glib question; sometimes, we have to stay stuck awhile before we find the right path forward. Sometimes, we have to find small changes we can make for ourselves. Maybe we can't knock down all of those swords, but are there ways you can loosen the blindfold?

The eight of swords calls on us to truly evaluate all possible options, even if they are frightening or distasteful. It's not blaming us for our set-backs; it's asking us if they are really as dire as they seem. Reading with compassion, the eight of swords is a gentle inquiry about what we are empowered to do, despite the other restrictions in our lives.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Reading a Spread: The Wind Chimes

As I've mentioned before, I start reading tarot out of geekiness rather than mysticism.  The Wind Chimes spread, however, is a clear result of my mystic side.  I wanted to develop a spread that was simple, and focused on high-intensity emotions while still providing a sense of calm.  While working on such a spread, I heard my recently-hung wind chimes gently sound from the backyard. As anyone with wind chimes can attest, wind chimes help soothe and clarify, and I was able to come up with the following spread.  I imagine each card sounding out its own clear note to form shifting harmonies of meaning.


Our emotional lives can be sources of great energy, motivation, and self-awareness, but they can also lead us to confusion and disorientation.  We incorporate intense emotional experiences into our sense of self over time, so stating that an emotion is "ordered" or "disordered" is not a way to pass judgment, but rather a way to identify where we are in the process. 

CARD 1: What makes you sing? (Where are your emotions intense, but coherent?)

It took me awhile to get to know the seven of swords--he's got a bit of a shit-eating grin that can be off-putting--but I've learned to recognize the lessons he brings. He's sneaking away with an armful of swords, looking over his shoulder gleefully at the two he's left behind. I get the impression that carnival behind him wasn't actually that great, and he's managing to get out of a bad situation in the best shape possible. While working to disconnect myself from some previous, unhelpful beliefs, I recently came to a point where I am content with that loss.  The loss is still intense, but I have a coherent sense of what it means for me as a person.

CARD 2: What makes you shout? (Where are your emotions disordered?)

The Magician has been popping up a lot for me.  The Magician is about synthesizing all aspects of yourself in order to manifest your dreams. No big deal, right? Of course I'm still disordered around these emotions; I'm trying to honor new aspects of myself while trying to determine what my true desires even are.  An exciting time in my life, to be sure, but absolutely still a measure of disorder!

CARD 3: What makes you cry? (What do you process internally?)

I get the two of wands a lot, too. This card is actually about using a solid sense of self to build on.  Like anybody, I consult people I trust and respect when I am struggling, but at the end of the day, I am comfortable relying on my inner moral compass. Ultimately, this card reflects to me that my sense of self comes largely from my internal processes, and less from how others define me.  I hope I can live up to it!

CARD 4: What makes you laugh? (What do you process externally?)

Guys, I think the Page of Cups is just a little sweetheart.  I don't know if it's the pink stockings, that charming curtsy, or the fact that the dude is carrying around a fish in a goblet. He ultimately signifies trust in the validity of our emotions; the truth is, I often check in with a few loved ones to evaluate the appropriateness of my emotional responses.  This can be really, really healthy if you are being gaslighted and need to check in with somebody you trust, or if you are caught in a self-destructive spiral; however, I don't want to let it invalidate my own emotional responses.  This card encourages me to pay attention to how often and when I rely on others to validate my emotions.

CARD 5: What orchestrates your passions?  (What concept ties together your emotional reality?)

Of course the court of cups is making a strong appearance in a spread about emotions. The King of Cups is, naturally, a leader who relies on his emotional intelligence; I think of him as a leader who embraces charity and intuition.  He's not quite as naive as, say, the Page, though; the King understands that our emotions must be balanced with other information and pragmatism. In orchestrating my emotions and their varying levels of intensity, it's important for me to remember that all of my reactions are valid in their contribution to my internal symphony of self.  It's perfectly reasonable, though, to base my actions on not only my emotions, but on a variety of factors.

This spread reinforces to me that I am in a period of emotional growth and flux, but that I am able to find internal balance despite the disorder in some areas of my life. I can rely on my internal process for a sense of self, but I know there are still plenty of issues for me to work through!


This spread relies more on intuition than some of the other spreads I've shown.  How does that approach work for you?  Do you like the card significance to be a little more cut and dry?  Could you see yourself using this spread? (I offer it in my Etsy store as one of my readings.)  How would you modify it to create your own set of wind chimes? Let us know!