Another focus card you can work with over the course of the year is your Personal Year Card. This card covers you from your most recent birthday to the next one. Calculate this the same way we did the Tarot Birth Card but use the year of your most recent birthday (2019 or 2020) instead of your birth year. I’m a Sagittarius, so my birthday December 2019 to December 2020 works out to be my Temperance year. I’m trying to embrace and relax into the idea that I will be learning how to achieve more balance within my life on both a large and small scale. I know Temperance seems like it should be a relatively “chill” card to have as a focus, but Personal Year Cards have a way of letting us see where we need to shift our attention and do some work. So being open to using Temperance as a part of my personal practice means being attentive to not only the areas of my life that are currently in-balance and clicking-along smoothly but ALSO noticing the areas of my life that are hovering around the extremes. I have to hold my achievements and my perceived failures in equal weight in order to really embrace and benefit from all that this archetype has to offer. This means accepting some current clumsiness for the sake of the longterm goal. Temperance is active; balance is not passive. I work with Temperance now so that I can integrate it into my “normal” for the next year. New year, new lessons. If you choose to work with a Personal Year Card in your practice I suggest thinking of it a bit like a coach or personal trainer… they are there to encourage you, for sure, but the real reason you’ve enlisted them is because they will push you in areas you wouldn’t easily push yourself. (Example of how to calculate a Personal Year Card: June 9th Birthday = 06 + 09 + 2019 = 2034. Then 2 + 0 + 3 + 4 = 9 The Hermit)
My “card of choice” for 2020 is The Fool. This card I picked intentionally (not through synchronicity or numerology). I want to bring a sense of optimistic adventure back to my life as well as cultivate open-hearted acceptance of the vast unknown. Incorporating The Fool card into my contemplative practice will help remind me to ride the waves and “enjoy the journey” in the face of personal, communal, and global uncertainty. It’s also handy to have my constant companion, my own little white dog Sadie, as a visual reminder by my side urging me to relax and explore. I’ll share more of how I incorporate The Fool into my practice as the year progresses. I encourage you to pick a “card of choice” for your year as well. Something that inspires you, something you’d like to cultivate, or maybe just something you’d like to get a better handle on. It’s totally up to you. Pick your card, any card!
2020 is the year of The Emperor in Tarot. (2+0+2+0=4) In your contemplative practice you can use The Emperor like a filter to view events through or a seasoning that adds a flavor of this archetype to your intentions this year. Explore and consider what you like AND what you don’t like about The Emperor as a symbol. What do you admire about The Emperor? What frustrates you about him? Over the course of the year I’ll share some of what I unpack about this particular card, but I encourage you to add him into your own practice here and there too. The Emperor archetype can feel complicated during unstable political times. There will be days you might just feel angry looking at his stoic chill face sitting there on his throne, let it motivate you to bring positive change. Other days you’ll feel his burden of responsibility as your own, let it evolve into compassion rather than weigh you down. And there will be times we will be empowered with that experiential wisdom The Emperor brings to the table, run with it! It’s ok to have shifting and conflicting feelings about the idea of The Emperor. It’s complicated.
Each year I check in with my birth card and consider how it played out in my previous year. Then I spend some time considering how that archetype may effect my upcoming year. My birth card is 8 Strength. The last half of 2019 taught me valuable (albeit scary and challenging) lessons about fortitude. Learning to not expend more emotional energy than necessary. To leap the hurdles as I get to them and not waste my energy either in nervous anticipation or after-the-fact anxiety. Strength (or the depletion of it, rather) taught me to be more present. For 2020 I’m approaching my birth card in a much more literal way that I’ve never considered much in my contemplative practice before: exploring Strength as it physically manifests in the world. Two days before my birthday in December I was in a car accident. Although minor, it physically effected me quite a bit. My chiropractor describes me as hyper-mobile. I’m flexible, my bones float in and out of place easily; a combination of some natural hyper-extension and 22 years of “finding my edge and letting go” in yoga. My chiropractor urged me to shift my focus in my exercise to building strength. Not to go “as far as I can go” into a pose but to exercise restraint, pull back just a bit so that my focus shifts to developing muscular endurance and strength rather than length and surrender. “You’ve got that part down. You have got to build strength to keep from being totally knocked out of place.” I laughed. Psychologically as well as physically, flexibility without developed strength just leaves you vulnerable to any bump in the road. I’m interested in finding where the two overlap as well. So for the first time my Tarot practice is going to focus a bit on my physical wellbeing and experience of life. (Tarot deck: Rider-Smith-Waite / page in photo from Magic of I, 2020 planner / domesticated cat skull from Oracle, Kansas City)
Your Tarot Birth Card is the card (or in some cases two cards) from the Major Arcana that correspond numerologically to your birth date. There are different ways to calculate your birth card. The simplest and one of the most common is to add the month, day, and year you were born together and then reduce the number down by adding the digits of your result. Example for January 3rd, 1976 you would add 01 + 03 + 1976 = 1980. Then add 1 + 9 + 8 + 0 = 18. Because this number is under 21 it will correspond to a card in the Major Arcana, but it can be reduced further still. 1 + 8 = 9. Therefor this birth date has two corresponding Tarot cards: 18 The Moon and 9 The Hermit. Why go through the process of figuring out a birth card and what do you do with it? The birth card gives you an archetype to examine and explore over the course of your lifetime. By noticing how the archetype shows up and plays out in your life you are given the gift of a longterm touchstone for your contemplative practice. Use it as a theme for a meditation, let it prompt you in journaling, explore the ideal aspects of the archetype, consider the shadow or perceived negative side of the archetype, let it be a starting point for your annual goal setting. Do not be disappointed if you have only one Tarot birth card or if you perceive your corresponding card to be “negative.” Every card in the Major Arcana contains knowledge and the wisdom we can gain from contemplating these archetypes with an open mind and willingness for growth is a precious gift. Precious and simple.
Happy New Year! October 31st through December 31st of each year is always a sort of intense time of closure mixed with looking forward for me. My birthday falls in this window too. The season itself also tends to really interrupt routines, so there’s an extra sense of groundlessness underlying this cycle of transitions. I tend to do my largest overview card spreads for myself during this time because I’m already in a state of self-examination. When looking to make big moves or major shifts it’s good to work with tools that encourage big picture mindsets. Cartomancy and other sorts of sortilege and divination helps break up our routine thought patterns which makes us more open to new perspectives and opportunities. It asks us to consider the possibilities. This year, in my own journaling practice I’m working with the Tarot cards for my birth date, my year birthday 2019 to birthday 2020, the current year 2020, and a card of my choice. For spreads, I’ve focused on a Lenormand Grand Tableau and a Tarot “Wheel of the Year” spread. Over the next few days I’ll post more about how each of those works and you can use what you like to supplement your own intention setting process.
New clients tend to panic when they see “The Devil” card show up in their reading. But really it’s just referring to patterns and habits we’ve developed that are no longer serving us: everything from that daily Frappuccino all the way to toxic relationships. This past weekend a very calm and poised woman sat at my table. When we got to “The Devil” in her reading she stopped me, looked me in the eye and said, “I know this well. I quit heroin after a decade of abuse 11 months ago.” I looked at her, “Whoa. That is not small. Good for you!!!” We high-fived, celebrated her strength and accomplishment, and talked about learning to have tea with our personal demons. I love my job. It’s odd, I agree. But not many other jobs have opportunities for such intense and pure moments of connection with strangers on a daily basis. I will always be grateful to this art form.
The High Priestess card is a strong contender for my favorite card in a traditional Tarot deck. In fact, I’ve used the High Priestess card as my primary focus card for the past three years. Let me break down a few of her main attributes:
- INTUITION. The High Priestess represents our intuitive side. In the Smith-Waite deck she is sitting in front of “the sea of the unconscious” which is hidden behind a veil suspended between two pillars. The columns represent Boaz and Jakin which stood outside of the door to Solomon’s temple. The High Priestess is intuition backed by wisdom and knowledge. This card asks you to understand and trust your “gut feelings.” These impulses we have are based on our personal and collective experiences. I’ve personally been fascinated with understanding the roots of our impulses and the book “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell is a nice jumping off point.
- INTROSPECTION. With intuition though, we must have a significant degree of self-awareness. We must be alert to personal traumas or negative experiences which may have developed some instincts that might not serve us well. The better we know ourselves the stronger our intuition can grow. This card may be a good signal to make sure that you are spending quiet time alone thinking through your goals and desires.
- FEMININE DIVINE. The High Priestess is strongly associated with the moon. She speaks to lunar cycles, feminine wisdom, and the divine within us all (regardless of gender). When this card appears in your reading it can ask you to honor your spiritual side. It could also refer to someone in your life who embodies the High Priestess archetype: a studious, quiet, and highly intuitive individual.
- ESOTERIC EXPERIENCE. The High Priestess is the patron of the obscure, the mysterious, the arcane. There are many experiences in this world and not everything can be encompassed by the “universal.” There is value in the specific. While The Hierophant card speaks strongly to established societal structures, The High Priestess asks us to honor our inner selves no matter how odd it may seem.
The Sun card is making an appropriate appearance for June. With the bright light of the sun we can find plants flourishing, living creatures basking in the warmth, and… in the startlingly harsh glare of a summer sun… we can find clarity.
But that can be the trick, can’t it? While the light can reveal what was previously obscured in the shadows, what we find can be hard to accept. The light can feel blinding. Truth can be overwhelming if we’ve grown too accustomed to the darkness.
So what should we do when The Sun shows up; when we are faced with what we know should be our fulfillment and yet we feel overly exposed in the light? For now, I’m treating The Sun as a call for acceptance of the true self. You’ve worked hard and gotten to this point. Enjoy what you’ve attained but also take a look at exactly where you are. After all, with each completed goal comes a new one to work towards. There’s truly no need to be afraid of the realities we find, we are always a work-in-progress. There is always somewhere to go from here.
The Sun Meditation: Draw The Sun card from your favorite deck. Sit with it quietly for a few minutes. Note it’s dominant qualities: the main colors, symbolic themes, general impressions. Now think about how these qualities relate to your current situation. How is The Sun manifesting in your life at present? Are you feeling comfortable in your accomplishments or are you feeling exposed in the light of day? And why? Now look at any aspect of the card as it relates to your present situation that feels uncomfortable, lacking, or incomplete. How can you reconcile your accomplishments with that which is still unfinished? Visualize a bright light encompassing all aspects of The Sun as it relates to you. Let the light continue to grow until there is nothing but the light. Sit with this light for several minutes. Eventually let the light dissolve into darkness. Look at the card once more and, with gratitude, place it back in your deck.
The Sun Spread: Place The Sun card at the top of your reading. Form two columns of three cards each underneath. The cards in the left column are the things you have accomplished. The cards in the right column are the aspects that can be taken further. It’s important to not think of the right column as things which are lacking. These are simply aspects of your path that have room to grow. Finally, draw one more card and place it at the bottom of your reading. This card is the suggested action or focus which will help bridge the accomplishments (left) with the works-in-progress (right).
Many people I know are emerging from prolonged periods of self-reflection. Now we find ourselves in the bright summer sun. We must learn to love and trust what we have found there. Running back into the darkness is not the way to go. Work with the light. Let it show the way.
Pictured: Old English Tarot, The Sun XVIIII
It’s a new calendar year and, of course, I’ve been thinking a lot about setting intentions. While planning and pondering what my touchstone should be, the Strength card kept making an appearance. Over and over.
Strength is one of my favorite cards (if not my absolute favorite) of the Smith-Waite deck. It’s a powerful image: a female figure calmly subduing and closing the jaws of a lion. There is no brute strength going on here. This is tapping into the inner power at your core.
When this card comes up for my clients I often explain that this isn’t the hard unyielding strength of a bulldozer… this is the fluid and enduring strength of a wave.
The Strength card is asking us to find that leonine power within ourselves and to channel it. The lemniscate (infinity symbol) over her head reminds us that we aren’t being called to find one big burst of strength, but to develop real fortitude; turn the fiery bursts of energy into a steady stream of stamina. Endurance is the name of the game and we can handle it with grace.
Happy new year.