Day 309: Reading the Cards

I confess:  I am thrilled to have finished up the major arcana series.  I’ve been meaning to do something like that for a long time now, and I fully intend to do something similar for the Minor Arcana at some point in the future…but I’m glad to be done for now.  That was a lot of research!  There were some cards like the Star that I spent multiple days researching and meditating upon.  I’m glad to move onto something else, that’s for sure.

The next week or so tackles a few basic reading techniques.  Roderick prefaces this section by noting that it’s a good idea to set aside plenty of practice time before reading Tarot for anyone other than yourself, and I would second his motion.  Tarot is a subtle medium, and you really need a long period of time to get to know its ins and outs and what the different cards call to your mind before trying to apply their messages to anyone you don’t know as well as you know your own self.

Roderick also takes a moment before beginning this series to address inverted cards, or cards that are flipped in their orientation to the reader (upside down).  Many readers ascribe unique meanings to these cards or otherwise interpret what barriers may be standing in the normal meaning’s path.  Tarot reversals are a little tricky, for they very rarely indicate that whatever that card depicts will not happen.

Mary Greer has written an excellent book, The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals, and in its introductory chapters she outlines eleven possible ways to interpret reversed cards (twelve if round decks are included):

  1. Blocked or Resisted.  The energy normally described by the card could be blocked, repressed, denied, rejected, or resisted.  This can be positive:  for example, the Eight of Cups reversed could express resistance to spending time alone.
  2. Projected.  There could be a tendency to project the denied material onto others.  The reversed Emperor, for example, might indicated projecting one’s own repressed aggressiveness onto another who wields power inappropriately.
  3. Delayed, Difficult, Unavailable.  Overall change may take longer than expected, or the querent should wait because the right timing for the delay may lead to preparation for a more rewarding opportunity
  4. Inner, Unconscious, Private.  The energy may be unconscious rather than conscious.  The Two of Cups reversed, for example, can refer to inner polarity instead of the upright balance.
  5. Breaking Through, Overturning, Refusing, Changing Direction.  The querent could be breaking free from the condition pictured, or that particular condition is coming to an end.
  6. No or Not (the upright meaning); Lacking.  Occasionally you can preface a standard upright interpretation with “no” or “not.”
  7. Excessive, Over- or Undercompensating.  The reversal may intensify or lessen the meaning of the card, or take it to extremes either on the over indulgence or under compensating side.
  8. Misused or Misdirected This can indicate a faulty start, bad timing, or something that is not used appropriately.
  9. “Re-” Words:  Retried, Retracted, Reviewed, Reconsidered.  The querent may wish to review, reconsider, or redo previous actions.
  10. Rectification:  Disease into Remedy. Sometimes the trial will lead to a greater cure.  For example, the reversal may indicate that the querent will get to the root of the problem rather than just tackle the problem’s effects.
  11. Unconventional, Shamanic, Magical, Humorous.  If an upright card depicts conventional wisdom, then the reversal illustrates unconventional wisdom.  It questions all the assumptions indicated by the upright meaning.

I, however, think pondering over reversals is something best left until you’ve fully mastered the upright meanings.  As Roderick notes, “a tarot reading involves interpretation of the archetypes, which are ancient, cross-cultural symbols.  There are no reversed archetypes.”  Plenty of truthful meaning can be made from a reading even if reversals are ignored:  simply turn the card upright and read it in its face-value meaning.

The One-Card Draw

The One-Card Draw

Today, we practice a basic one-card draw.  Given the vast number of tarot spreads people have developed, drawing just one card can seem disappointingly simple.  However, the one-card draw does have excellent uses, particularly if you just want general guidance instead of detailed responses.  It’s a good way to help get an idea of the “tone” of how a day will pass or what the basic energy of a situation, circumstance, or person is.

To begin, hold in your minds’ eye the question, “What influence governs my day?”  Shuffle the major arcana cards together face down (so that you cannot see their imagery).  Shuffle them as long as you would care to do so.  Lay the cards in a stack before you.  Using your left hand, spread the cards with a single sweep from right to left.  (This move takes some practice.  If you don’t get it right, simple work the cards into an overlapping row from right to left.)

While continuing to hold the question in your mind, draw a single card from the row and turn it over.  This card represents a spiritual symbol important for you to keep in mind for the day.  When the day is completed, take time to journal about how the card did or did not provide meaningful guidance for your day.

Robin Wood's King of Cups

Robin Wood’s King of Cups

The card I drew in this technique was the King of Cups, which Robin Wood says is “a kind, considerate man.  A father figure.  Someone who is interested in the arts, and gentle things.  A deep man, with a quiet demeanor, but none the less powerful and well balanced.”

It sort of surprised me that this card was the one I picked.  It doesn’t at all mesh with the tortured, intellectual day of writing that I’d planned…but, if I’m to be honest with myself, it really is how I’d prefer the day to go.  I am more than a little out of balance right now.  I do need to take the time to “father myself” and to be my own kind, gentle, powerful friend.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had anyone I can have a little discussion about the gentler things in life with, and I really miss it.  A few weeks ago, I’d taken a lot of strides to help supply that energy back into my life…but a few things happened and I fell off that bandwagon.  Maybe I should turn my attention back to that today.

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