The Tarot card for 2020 is The Emperor. The Emperor has never been my favorite card in the deck. Nor am I particularly averse to him either. And so at the beginning of this year I figured he would be a somewhat boring focus, but I was determined to make use of this archetype to my advantage.
I had originally set the intention that I would face my financial fears (and I have many of them) and learn to empower myself in the “business” side of my business. And now, in the midst of this pandemic, I am engaging with this archetype in ways I never could have imagined. The Emperor and all he represents are so present and in my face that I honestly cannot see around them to what lies beyond.
So here I am in “Financial Fears Boot Camp.” My household lost 95% of our income in the past month due to the pandemic, and it is unclear when or even if many of those gigs will come back. My partner is a performing and teaching musician and much of my work involved public events and classes. Now, like so many, we find ourselves trying to find new avenues to offer our services in quarantine-safe ways, while homeschooling our children, while navigating the overwhelming and confusing (and ever-changing) paperwork involved with the various economic-relief programs we are applying for, working to ensure our families health and safety, and attempting to create a new budget in the darkness of a complete unknown. We vacillate between feeling deep gratitude for the many blessings we have and frustration for being expected to be productive, creative, and entrepreneurial in the midst of trauma and grief. Our days are a blur of scrambling to catch as many balls before they drop as possible, doing what we can to preserve our health (both mental and physical), and paralyzing anxiety and well I guess shock.
Early this week I finally pulled out The Emperor card from The Dreaming Way Tarot and set him on my desk in front of a stack of the largest books in my library (my makeshift computer-stand for all those video conferences) where I can see him as I work. He is a reminder of what I’m grappling with and that in January I had promised to myself (albeit naively) that by the end of this year I would not be afraid to engage with this archetype anymore.
As my partner and I adjust to groundlessness in alternating bouts of complete awkwardness and surprising moments of grace… we realize there are so many throughout the world who are facing harder loss. We brace for the possibility that there are bigger challenges still ahead. But more and more I am beginning to realize that so much of the discomfort we are feeling is the patriarch’s own discomfort at being told he must go home, he must be passive, he must take shelter in the domestic; that his system on its own is not as strong as he had thought/hoped/insisted. We are starting to notice that the Emperor’s clothing is not what we had been told.
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.