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.
I am currently living out The Hanged Man card in my life. I am in the midst of personal and legal issues and really all I can do is wait. There’s frustration and humiliation and a very real sense of powerlessness. I’m moving towards a better time and I know that fairly soon I will be cut down from this scaffolding, but for now… here I hang.
Times like this can be excruciatingly unpleasant; like riding passively in a car on your way to an emergency. Sometimes it feels like if you could just get out of the vehicle and run it would feel better, even though you clearly can’t run as fast as a car can drive. It seems like if only you could exert enough effort you could make time go faster. The feeling that you need to “do” something about the situation can be tough to fight.
So how can I tap into the resigned grace of The Hanged Man in the Major Arcana? Intellectually, I definitely understand that there really is nothing to do but just wait it out. Find an interesting pose, take some deep breaths, take in the view. Time to just “hang” or “be” with the situation. If I can stop flailing and settle down enough, I know I can gain a lot of insight during this time that will serve me well once the rope is removed from my ankle. So for now, deep breath and wait. This too shall pass.
The Fool. The “0” of the Major Arcana. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for The Fool. Perhaps it’s the sunny nature of the card and the funny little dog nipping at his heels. Maybe it’s simply because The Fool’s image graced the cover of my first Tarot book. Whatever the reason, I am always pleased to see The Fool make an appearance in a spread.
Early on in my Tarot training the authorities I encountered emphasized the warning aspects of this card. They droned on about a “foolish nature” and the dangers of “not looking where you’re going.” Some even insisted that the dog was a terrible nuisance driving our hero “over the edge.” While all of these aspects might be accurate in particular readings, I hardly think they apply as absolutes for every time our wanderer appears. And limiting our interpretation of The Fool to a cautionary tale is leaving out too much of the picture and cutting out the incredibly empowering side of this iconic card.
The Fool at “0” is what Buddhist philosophy refers to as Beginner’s Mind. The Fool is open to possibility, to learning, to expansion. No, The Fool doesn’t know it all… and that’s a really good thing. Our hero is stepping into the void, he doesn’t know what waits for him, and truth be told, neither do we. We cannot see what lies just one step below the edge of the card; will he truly fall into a cavern or is there another ledge just a foot away? He is groundless, which is the space filled with the most opportunity.
The Fool has been making an appearance in many of my personal readings lately. I’m in a period of profound transformation and many new endeavors are taking off. While I remember that The Fool can carry a warning to pay attention to where I’m headed, I smile to see this traveler setting out on his journey… so much potential before him. Yes, it’s scary and unknown, but you will never reach your goal if you don’t take the first steps.