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)
This Halloween season I got to read for a wide variety of people at various events. At one party, a four year-old girl sat at my table and wanted a reading. Many professional readers I know refuse to read for children. Very often children are struggling with very real and somewhat heavy issues too. And many readers are uncomfortable having a conversation with a young querent* about these topics if they show up in the cards. And that’s fair, it is much better to set boundaries and refer a querent to another reader who would be more suitable for their needs.
(*querent: one who is receiving the reading)
I, personally, enjoy reading for children. The most important part of reading for a minor is that you treat them like every other querent… you have a conversation with them as a person. The card interpretations and the suggestions should be specific to their life situation and needs. Just as you would for anyone who would sit at your table. Being aware of their sensitivities and taking care with their emotions.
Also… not every deck is appropriate for minors. I suggest carrying a family-friendly deck with you if you read for minors and your regular working deck is too mature, startling, esoteric, etc. I happened to be using my Halloween Tarot deck by Kipling West for most of this Halloween season’s events and it is a perfect deck for family and youth readings.
While I have read for many children over the years, I think that four years-old is the youngest querent I’ve ever had (with the exception of my son who was also four when he asked for his first reading).
9 of Swords –
Me: “Do you ever get bad dreams?”
8 of Wands –
Me: “Sometimes, if you have one bad dream, does it seem like they just keep happening when you try to sleep again?”
Girl: (lowers eyes slowly and nods)
Me: “See this card? What’s happening in the picture?”
Girl: “There’s a lion by her.”
Me: “Looks kinda scary, right? What about the lady… who is she?”
Girl: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Is she a lion tamer maybe?”
Girl: “Maybe. Yes.”
Me: “She’s looking at the lion’s teeth. Does she seem scared?”
Girl: (shakes head enthusiastically “no”)
Me: “Exactly. Next time you have a bad dream, you be the lion tamer and look that bad dream in its teeth.”
Girl: (slightly cheerier) “Ok!”
The Moon –
Me: “Have you ever looked at your back yard at night? Looks kinda spooky, right?”
Girl: (wide eyes, vigorous nodding)
Me: “But it’s still just your backyard. Nothing’s changed. Right? Just spooky lighting.”
Me: “When you wake up at night, it’s still your bedroom. It’s just dark. That’s all.”
Girl: (happy smile)
Me: “You’ve got this. Look that bad dream in its teeth and say ‘This is my room, if you want to be here… you behave.’”
(we high-fived, she giggled, hopped off the chair, and ran to hug her mom)
Now if I’d done this reading for myself it would’ve looked more like this:
9 of Swords – Stress and anxiety are starting to have an affect on your health. While there are things to cause concern… you are giving them too much power over your thoughts.
8 of Wands – It’s a busy time and there’s a lot to do. Busyness itself, is neutral. It’s how you handle the busy times that shape your experience of them.
Strength – Remember you have inner strength and stamina. Tend to it to keep yourself healthy.
The Moon – Really look at your habitual reactions to stress and triggers… are you acting based on old patterns that grew from anxiety and trauma or are you truly engaging with the present? Don’t let your subconscious keep playing the same nightmares over and over again. Are you really talking to the person in front of you or to ghosts from your past?
Conclusion – Keep your focus on maintaining your inner strength during this active time and don’t let subconscious triggers overshadow reality.
Obviously interpreting the cards like this would’ve been confusing, boring, and not relevant for my young client. So when reading for a young querent make sure you are speaking to them appropriate to the stage of life they are currently in. One of the greatest gifts you can give to a child who sits at your table is to treat them like a regular client; don’t speak down to them and don’t underestimate the depth of their experiences. Have an honest and caring conversation with them guided by the cards and they will remember that you took them seriously. Really, that’s what any seeker truly wants.
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.