17. The Star: The Calm After A Storm

The Fool has just experienced a huge upheaval when they encountered The Tower. They are feeling totally lost, not sure where to go from here. That’s when they meet The Star, one of my favourite cards in the whole deck.

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch

The Star gives you this feeling of healing; it feels like coming indoors from the cold, someone gives you a cup of tea and you relax on the sofa with the fire on.

The figure in the card looks so confident in her own skin, she looks at peace and relaxed. Nakedness is vulnerable, but allowing that vulnerability gives you strength. Similarly to Temperance, The Star is pouring water and is part on land and part in the water. She is in tune with all parts of herself. The grounded and realistic parts, the flowy, emotional parts, all in harmony.

As you see the water flow on the land, you begin to understand how everything on earth is connected. The Star knows this, and relishes in it. The water nourishes the plants in the earth, or is heated by fire and rises into the air. All four elements united.

Above the woman in the image is one big guiding star, surrounded by seven smaller stars. These seven are said to represent the chakras. The stars have eight points, so they represent The Star of Ishtar. Ishtar, or Inanna, is an ancient Mesopotamian Goddess. She is associated with many things, such as love, beauty, war, and justice. She is often associated with Venus. Inanna-Ishtar is important to many feminists because of how powerful she is compared with the male Gods of her pantheon.

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Goddess Ishtar on an Akkadian Empire seal, 2350-2150 BC

What is your guiding star? Stripped back to your most important values, what truly matters to you most? If you pull this card, find your home inside yourself. No matter what you have been through, you can heal and you have the potential to do many wonderful things. Journal or meditate on what is important to you, and what makes you feel like you are home. How can you find healing?

As we go through the remaining few cards of the Major Arcana, we will begin to consider, what is our calling? The Star is asking us to begin thinking about these big questions so that we can find inner peace.

The Star is associated with my Zodiac sign, Aquarius. If you would like to know which tarot card is associated with your sign, have a look at the list below. Do you think that card represents you well? See if you can remember what some of these cards mean, as we have covered all but one of them by now.

Aries – The Emperor

Taurus– The Hierophant

Gemini– The Lovers

Cancer– The Chariot

Leo– Strength

Virgo– The Hermit

Libra– Justice

Scorpio– Death

Sagittarius– Temperance

Capricorn– The Devil

Aquarius– The Star

Pisces– The Moon

Sometimes when we begin to heal, when we begin to ask ourselves the big questions, we can encounter confusion and uncertainty. That’s what we will be exploring next time, with card number 18: The Moon.

 

 

15. The Devil: Shadow Work

When The Fool meets The Devil, they learn what can happen if the teachings of Temperance are not heeded. This is an important lesson, one that many people learn the hard way.

The Devil is all about self-destructive behaviours, ways that you are holding yourself back. These things can be negative thought patterns, addictions, or habits you want to change. Basically everything that is really hard to change. It’s important to be kind to yourself while going through this process. Self-blame can bring you back into a cycle of pain and anxiety.

Please excuse the pun, but don’t demonise The Devil. This card helps us to see those things that hold us down so that we can begin to heal.

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch

The Devil is usually represented by Baphomet, who is adapted from the Greek God Pan. You may know this figure from when The Satanic Temple attempted to erect a Baphomet statue outside the Oklahoma State Capitol. Baphomet is a mix of human and animal, male and female. Their power is an illusion in the Rider-Waite-Smith depiction- look how loose those chains are- the people could escape. Change is in your hands.

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Compare The Devil to The Lovers. It’s almost like The Devil is mocking the other card. Baphomet is pretending to be the angel, but is also taking on a Magician pose. We are reminded of the choice that The Lovers taught us about. Are there any choices you have been making that are holding you back in some way?

I really like this point Little Red Tarot makes about The Devil:

In that same vein, there’s a more mundane message here about materialism. Addiction to ‘things’ is a sad issue of our time – it leads to huge amounts of waste, a throwaway culture, and a sense of not having enough (which ultimately means: not being enough). Think of the way beauty products are marketed, for example: by creating insecurity. We buy to fill the need, to fix ourselves. Our inner demons tell us that we need ‘things’ to make ourselves more beautiful, successful, popular, good. The Devil can represent becoming bogged down in this stuff, forgetting about the bigger picture and what is truly important in life.

I’d like to introduce a way that you can begin to shine a light on those parts of yourself that you may try to hide, that you feel shame about, that need some love. It’s called Shadow Work, and it’s a concept that was introduced by Carl Jung.

I think Tarot is a great way to do Shadow Work, because it can bring to the surface thoughts and feelings that aren’t in your conscious mind. Jung said that everyone has a shadow, and the less that you are aware of it, the darker it is. It’s that painful part of yourself that you try to pretend isn’t there.

I’m not a psychologist, so I won’t go into too much detail here- you can research shadow work and find plenty of resources. But here are some questions you could journal or ask your Tarot deck if you’re interested in trying it:

  • What am I hiding from myself?
  • What holds me down?
  • How do my thoughts/behaviours hold me back?
  • What is the root cause of my pain/anxiety/addiction?
  • What is blocking me from resolving this issue?
  • What do I need to forgive myself for?
  • What can I learn from my shadow self?
  • How do I move forward?

Make sure to be in a safe, comfortable place, and be in a relaxed state of mind when you approach questions like the above. See if you can designate a safe person you can go to if you become overwhelmed, and afterwards make yourself a cup of tea or run a bath. It’s hard work and deserves a relaxing reward.

Be kind to yourself.

14. Temperance: Queerness in Tarot

Along with The Hierophant, Temperance is one of my birth cards. It embodies what I think is one of the most important aspects of Tarot:

Balance.

The great thing about balance is it’s a non-judgmental concept. There are many people who will tell you things like ‘stop eating carbs’ or ‘go for a run every morning’. Whether or not you think those things are healthy, it’s not always practical to completely stop or start doing something. Habits take time and willpower to form. Embracing balance means to do what feels right to you, just keep it in moderation. Not much in life is black and white, and Temperance teaches us to appreciate the grey areas in life.

This isn’t about being a centrist, or never taking sides, it’s about recognising nuance, and the myth of duality. What do we often see as dual, or binary?

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch

An idea I love about Temperance is that it can represent the inherent non-binary nature of gender. Rather than there being two genders, male and female, it makes more sense to see gender as a spectrum:

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If you look at the symbol on the character in the Temperance card, you see a triangle inside a square. A triangle has three sides, and a square four. The third and fourth cards of the Tarot are the Empress and the Emperor, so it is like this character blends or balances those energies together. That is also what they are doing with those cups, and also by having one foot on land, and one in the water. Bringing together opposites, balancing and mixing what we usually see as separate.

There are other ways that you can bring this balance into your life. As the Little Red Tarot post says, think about things like work/life balance, or not making extreme decisions.

I am reminded of something that Weston says a few times in his podcast Root Lock Radio: you contain multitudes. I’m not sure who came up with that phrase first, but it possibly comes from this poem by Walt Whitman:

Song of Myself, 51
Walt Whitman – 1819-1892

The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day’s work? who will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

When you pull the Temperance card, think about what aspects of your life need balance. A lot of people struggle with black-and-white thinking. This is also sometimes called ‘splitting’. It’s the inability or difficulty to see the middle ground. Look for words like ‘never’ or ‘always’ in your thinking patterns: ‘I always screw things up’, ‘I’ll never find any friends’.

Noticing these patterns is the first mindful step towards reframing your thoughts in a more nuanced way. What ideas do you have for changing such thoughts?

Earlier I mentioned habits, and that’s something we will revisit next time when we discuss card 15: The Devil. Like Death, this is not a scary card, but it does show us what can happen if we do not practice Temperance.

13. Death: It’s Not Morbid

Transitions. Not just of life to death, but child to adult, day to night, winter to spring to summer to autumn to winter again. Birthdays, the phases of the moon. Becoming a parent, student to employee to retired. Some of these transitions are easier than others. But we all go through many.

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Following and honouring the cycles of the natural world can be very grounding, and if you ever experience dissociation, I recommend it.

Being afraid of death is very common, but so too is being afraid of change. And that’s what the Death card is all about.

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch

I love the symbolism of this card. Look at the different ways these characters react to Death. The bishop is praying, or maybe pleading for his life. The woman is turned away, she can’t even bear to think about death. The little girl doesn’t understand and offers Death a flower. There’s a king lying dead. All the power and the wealth in the world couldn’t protect him from death. Death himself has a flag with a white flower on it. They typically represent purification. In a way, death can be seen as purifying, as you go from rotting flesh to clean white bone.

 

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Did seeing that make you feel uncomfortable? I guess it depends what culture you are used to. The Toraja people of Indonesia live with their dead family members. Rather than a sudden transition from living to dead, by living with their loved ones’ corpses, they are able to slowly come to terms with their loss.

Like I said, this card represents transition, cycles, and change. How do you react to change in your life? Are you avoidant, or do you jump right in? many changes are unavoidable, and accepting that fact is freeing.

The Fool spent time contemplating their life as the Hanged Man, and now it is time to make necessary changes. What is no longer serving you? Think about things like your career or your relationships. Let go of unhealthy attachments, because if you cling on, you will only experience much more upheaval and pain later on. We will see how that manifests as The Tower in another post.

This card does not represent a literal death, as The Fool still has a long way to go on their journey yet. But it is such a useful metaphor, and can be a healing one to meditate on. If you pull this card, take time to journal or meditate on the transitions in your own life and the ones you experience around you. What do they mean to you and what can you learn from them?

If you are interested in this topic, I recommend the Order of the Good Death, which you can find out about here.

I am reminded of my favourite mantra which comes at the end of the Heart Sutra:

gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā

It means ‘gone gone, completely gone, to the other shore, enlightenment svāhā‘ and the Sanskrit is pronounced ‘gatay gatay para gatay parasam gatay bohdy sva-ha’. Svāhā can’t really be translated but it’s kind of like saying ‘amen’.

You can listen to a performance of the Heart Sutra by Imee Ooi here; please be patient as the lyrics begin about a minute in, and the mantra is the last line!

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12. The Hanged Man: Limbo vs Liminality

Something that I’ve thought a lot this year (2020) is that it feels a lot like we’re in limbo.

Limbo is a word I’m sure you’ve used before, but have you thought about where it comes from? It’s from Catholic theology and refers to having died but not entering Heaven or Hell. The reason for this can be that you committed sins and need the redemption of Jesus to enter Heaven. Alternatively, it refers to infants who died before being baptised and therefore have not been freed of original sin.

I think a better word is liminal, which comes from Latin and means threshold. Liminality is a concept which refers to being in a transitional space. Twilight is liminal, as it is neither light nor dark. Flying in a plane is a liminal experience, as you are usually crossing time zones and borders. What time is it on a plane going from London to New York?

The reason I prefer the word liminal is that limbo has this implication that you’re trapped, maybe forever. Liminality is more about going through an uncertain period and being able to come out the other side. I really hope we do recover from the pandemic soon.

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch

This card depicts a person hanging from a tree, but not by their neck. They have one foot tied up, and they look surprisingly comfortable. The Hanged Man has a halo around their head which makes them seem enlightened in some way.

The Hanged Man tells us that there is nothing we can do just now. Be patient and wait for what comes next. It asks us not to be hasty, which can be really difficult. Many of us want results fast, we want to be moving forward and making progress. Sometimes it’s not the time for that.

Have you ever been going through a hard time, maybe trying to deal with an illness, and felt like time is slipping away, like everyone else is moving ahead and you’re stuck in the past? The Hanged Man reminds us that if we don’t give ourselves that time and space to recover, we can’t move on. It’s okay to allow yourself to stop.

Another interesting interpretation is that The Hanged Man has a different perspective from being upside down. Maybe you’re a little stuck in your ways and need to look at things differently.

There’s a place in Japan called Amanohashidate, which roughly means ‘bridge to heaven’. if you bend down and look at the view between your legs, the ‘bridge’ looks like a dragon soaring into the sky. By changing your perspective, you get a whole new view.

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Some have suggested that this card represents Odin. According to legend, Odin hanged himself from the world tree, Yggdrasil in order to obtain knowledge. He had to surrender and sacrifice himself in order to get what he wanted. Here’s a poem attributed to Odin about his experience:

I know that I hung on a wind-rocked tree,
nine whole nights,
with a spear wounded, and to Odin offered,
myself to myself;
on that tree, of which no one knows
from what root it springs.
Bread no one gave me, nor a horn of drink,
downward I peered,
to runes applied myself, wailing learnt them,
then fell down thence.

When we have to make decisions, often to choose one option means to sacrifice the other. Have you ever had to sacrifice something to make the right choice for you?

Next time you pull The Hanged Man, consider, is it a time to wait and contemplate rather than take immediate action? Do you need to look at your situation from another perspective? And maybe you have to consider what you’ll have to sacrifice. It can be a good idea to journal these thoughts, and use that time as your liminal space to figure out what is best for you.

9. The Hermit: Not today, Facebook

At the time of writing, at least 63 people have died, and nearly 3000 have been wounded in the Lebanese city of Beirut as a result of an enormous explosion earlier today. If you are able to, please donate to the Lebanese Red Cross here.

There are a few cards I would associate with the current year 2020 so far. Definitely The Hanged Man, Strength, Justice, probably The Tower. And of course a lot of this year has felt like The Hermit.

Many of us have spent much of the year shut inside, and those who live alone will feel even more like a hermit. You might have heard people say you have to make the most of it: learn a new skill, get fit, start a new business. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been playing a lot of Animal Crossing.

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Hermit Crab

There are of course, good ways and bad ways to spend time alone. The Hermit card represents taking time away from the world to introspect, to look inwards, and to avoid distractions. Becoming The Hermit means that The Fool is beginning to realise that all they need is their own self. Making lots of money and becoming successful are fine things, but beyond being able to live comfortably, The Hermit asks you to look inside yourself and ask if you are living authentically.

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Upper left: Sasuraibito, Upper right: Star Spinner, Lower left: This Might Hurt, Lower right: Modern Witch

I really love the Modern Witch depiction of The Hermit, because all I hear in my head when I see it is ‘not today Facebook!’ and I really relate to that. I used to get so angry when I used Facebook, because I would see people peddling MLMs, or telling cancer patients to use turmeric instead of chemo, and I would end up wasting hours in pointless arguments. Facebook isn’t a good place to debate. You see the most extreme opinions from people who are highly unlikely to change their viewpoints. The Facebook algorithm is designed to make you angry and sad. I haven’t been on the platform for a year now, and I’m a happier person for it.

Let’s look at a way that The Hermit’s energy can be corrupted.

Hikikomori is described by Alan Robert Teo MD and Albert C. Gaw MD as ‘a form of severe social withdrawal’. It’s culturally specific to Japan, and mainly adolescents and young men can be described as hikikomori. Generally, hikikomori spend most or all of their time at home, do not attend school or work, and often rely on their parents to supply them with food and shelter, well into adulthood.

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Hikikomori

I’m sure there are people who could be defined as hikikomori outside of Japan. Sometimes things can be so stressful and overstimulating in the outside world, especially when you have a mental or neurological difference, that staying inside is predictable and peaceful. If you are having a panic attack or a meltdown, taking time to be alone in a quiet room can be incredibly healing.

This is where I believe the Tarot teaches us to have balance in our lives. There are times when being by yourself and looking within, rather than without is healthy and helps you to develop great coping skills. But beware of taking anything to an extreme, with this card, and every other in the deck.

Where can you use The Hermit to improve your life, and when is it less useful? Take time to think about this when you pull The Hermit, and may you have a peaceful day.

8. Strength: Compassionate Action

Answers to yesterday’s riddles:

I walk on four feet in the morning, two feet in the afternoon, and three feet in the evening, what am I?

A human- crawls as a baby (morning), walks independently as an adult (afternoon), and walks with a stick in old age (evening).

I have a mouth but do not speak, I have a bed but do not sleep, I run everywhere but go nowhere, what am I?

A river- mouth of a river, riverbed, a river runs but can’t relocate.

In some Tarot decks, the 8th card is Justice, and Strength is 11, but all of the decks I work with have Strength as 8, so that’s what I’ll be talking about today.

When you hear the word ‘strength’, you might think of raw power or physical strength, and that might well resonate with a lot of people. But there’s an interpretation I think might be applicable to a wider range of people regardless of physical ability.

Have you ever seen the TV show What Would You Do? It’s a series where actors sit in public areas like restaurants and shops and pretend to have a disagreement that involves an injustice. An example is this episode which involves a cis woman telling a trans woman that she can’t use the women’s bathroom. The people around are not actors, and you can see their reactions to overhearing this conversation. Most of them begin by looking very uncomfortable, sometimes looking to whoever is with them like they’re thinking ‘are you seeing this?!’ and then in nearly every case, they step in and stand up for the trans woman.

Those situations are really scary, and I’m sure many of us have seen something similar and wanted to step in but felt too intimidated. But sometimes you can’t take it anymore, because the anger and the sense of injustice is stronger than the fear. For me, that’s a major part of the Strength card. When you’re so sure of your convictions that your fear of getting involved in a potential fight isn’t as powerful as that inner strength.

This kind of strength is compassionate and loving. It requires being sure of yourself. That’s really not easy. I think the beautiful symbolism of the Strength card helps us to find that within ourselves. Let’s take a look:

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Upper left: Sasuraibito, Upper right: Star Spinner, Lower left: This Might Hurt, Lower Right: Modern Witch

The image is of a woman taming a lion. But she isn’t doing so brutally or forcefully. You can tell that she loves the lion. She’s firm, yet gentle. The lion represents parts of us that are often in our unconscious mind. In her book Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack describes Strength as ‘the whole force of personality, usually smoothed over by the demands of civilised life.’ Sometimes we have been taught by society to not speak up, or not express certain things. But rather than force those things away, the woman in the Strength card tames those aspects so that she can express them in a way that is useful.

It’s normal and understandable to be angry about something and want to lash out sometimes, but Strength helps us to channel this into something more productive like through activism or Nonviolent Communication, depending on the issue. Accept and love those fiery parts of yourself. Don’t ever force that lion back if you are passionate about something, but rather than letting those feeling explode, use them as fuel. If we let those feelings injure us, we can sometimes feel like the people who have wronged us have won.

It takes courage to release emotion. Sometimes people will call you names. For example, when black women express their feelings, they are often labelled as an ‘Angry Black Woman’, and this is used to dismiss them. Most women are socialised to tip-toe around others, and that’s not okay. Strength is that wild part of all of us that should not be pushed away.

There’s another part of Strength that I love. It’s the idea that you don’t need others’ approval to enjoy something. I like this quote by C.S. Lewis:

Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

You might have experienced shame for enjoying something that your demographic typically doesn’t engage in. Maybe you’re an adult who enjoys cartoons, or a man who enjoys knitting, or a teenage girl who likes fishing. Anyone who makes you feel bad about those things is truly immature themselves.

Knowing who you are, and what you like is a powerful thing, and that’s what the Strength card asks you to manifest in your life. It helps you to speak up, to endure when things are difficult, and to be proud and confident in who you are. I hope you can use Strength to live your best life.

Today I mentioned Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack. If you’re serious about learning Tarot, I really recommend this book. She dives deep into the symbolism of the cards, and I learned a lot from her interpretations.

7. The Chariot: Monkey Mind

I saw this great video featuring Mingyur Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhism teacher. He talks about the idea of monkey mind. In Chinese and Japanese, monkey mind (心猿) means restless, indecisive, uncontrollable, and as a concept it’s this idea that your mind jumps around from one idea to another, chattering and making it hard to focus.

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Monkeys in a plum tree, Mori Sosen, 1808

Mingyur Rinpoche says that the way to tame your monkey mind is to give it a job. If you want to meditate, tell your monkey mind to focus on your breathing. You can’t get rid of the monkey, but you can ask it to help you.

In the last card, The Lovers, we saw The Fool make their first independent decisions. Now it is time to act on those decisions and move forward. This card is about motivation, determination, and focus. Let’s look at the symbolism of The Chariot:

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, bottom right: Modern Witch

In some of these depictions we see two sphinxes, one black, and one white. They represent the duality of decision-making. Maybe your mind is being pulled in two separate directions, wanting to follow one path, but also feeling drawn to another. The Chariot is about being able to control and balance those opposing thoughts. But the sphinxes aren’t chained up, so it’s not about forcing them. Let them see where they lead you, but remain in charge.

There is a square on the charioteer’s clothes. The number 4 represents stability and structure, which reminds us of The Emperor, the 4th card. But the starry crown they wear reminds us of The Empress. Perhaps The Chariot is combining those energies of nurturing, compassionate freedom, with logical leadership and structure. They’ve taken those lessons taught to them by more experienced people, and they’re ready to use them in the real world.

You can see from the resolute look on the Chariot driver’s face that they always want to be moving forward. They’re independent and confident. There is no one else in the image, so no one to impress, or to get approval from. When you pull The Chariot, remember that you are in charge of your life, so there’s no sense in comparing with others. Above all, always remember you have the power to rein in all those little thoughts that might tell you that you’re not good enough.

In this article, a relatable conversation you may have had in your own mind plays out in a way that allows the person involved to approach problems with confidence, and ensure that their monkey mind doesn’t run out of control.

Sphinxes are known for their riddles so here are two for you to figure out. I’ll reveal the answers in my next post, which will be about the 8th card of the Major Arcana, Strength.

I walk on four feet in the morning, two feet in the afternoon, and three feet in the evening, what am I?

I have a mouth but do not speak, I have a bed but do not sleep, I run everywhere but go nowhere, what am I?

 

6. The Lovers: Choice

There’s a great interview with the creator of the Star Spinner Tarot, Trung Le Nguyen, known as Trungles. He decided to include four different versions of The Lovers in his deck. I really admire this decision, because the reader gets to pick which card speaks to them most, or which one is most representative of the person they’re reading for. There are so many ways to see each of these cards, someone even interpreting the bottom left one as representing platonic, or asexual love. That kind of representation is sadly still rare in Tarot decks, as in the wider world.

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Star Spinner Tarot by Trungles. Image from interview linked above.

I mentioned when talking about The Hierophant that we are following the Fool on a personal journey. Where The Hierophant was about accepting guidance from someone experienced and wise, The Lovers represents a choice that The Fool has to make by themself. In fact, some versions of this card are called The Choice.

The two figures in the card represent the duality of making decisions. Heads or tails, left or right, true or false. This card can represent the first choice The Fool makes without his parents’ input. A first love, which job to train for, what university to attend. The number 2 is also one of balance, or symmetry. It’s important to make decisions that bring balance to your life where possible.

Let’s look at The Lovers:

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Top left: Sasuraibito, Top right: Star Spinner, Bottom left: This Might Hurt, Bottom right: Modern Witch

Immediately, in some of these depictions we are reminded of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There’s an angel above the pair, and an apple tree and snake on one side, a burning tree on the other. The angel is Raphael, whose name means ‘God, please heal’. When we think about how this card can represent a choice, and often your first independent choice, it’s clear how the story of Eve eating the forbidden fruit is very analogous to that feeling. Many choices that teens make are risky and they try to hide a lot from their parents. You can’t become a fully individual person without breaking away from your parents.

That freedom and independence is an important part of the Fool’s Journey. How do you know who you are if you don’t make your own choices and form your own opinions? Are there any parts of your life where you could benefit from having more independence?

Have you heard of the double human myth from Plato’s Symposium? Humans used to have four legs, four arms, and two faces. Zeus feared their power and split everyone in half, so that humans are now desperately running around trying to find their other half. It’s a fun story and I think a lot of people feel that way when they get into their first relationship.

There’s another idea about The Lovers, which is that it’s specifically having to make a choice between what is dull but safe, versus something exciting but dangerous. Have you ever had to make a decision like that? We all have difficult decisions to make in life, and The Lovers teaches us to use kindness and love wherever possible. Note that The Lovers are naked, they have nothing to hide. Honest and compassionate communication is necessary here.

The Hierophant helped to guide us before, but now we have to decide what is best for ourselves. If you pull this card, use your values to make loving decisions, with good intentions. Value yourself, and others who may be affected by your decision. Stay true, and you can handle any dilemma.

Next time, The Fool heads off on the next stage of their journey as The Chariot.

4. The Emperor: Leaders and Tyrants

I, like many people, find The Emperor a little difficult to relate to. With his stern face and cold stone throne, he’s a little intimidating. But if you have ever been in a leadership position, such as a manager, or if you have had to deal with someone in a position of authority, The Emperor has some useful advice for you.

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Middle: Rider-Waite-Smith, Upper left: Sasuraibito, Upper right: Star Spinner, Lower left: This Might Hurt, Lower Right: Modern Witch

 

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Ankh

That cross he is holding in most of the depictions is an ankh. It’s an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol that represents the concept of life. It’s like our lives are at his mercy. He clearly has a lot of power. In some of these images, he even holds the whole world in his hand. And the ram imagery makes us think of the Aries zodiac sign. Aries is ruled by the planet Mars, named for the Roman God of War. His Greek counterpart is Ares and there’s an interesting difference between the two: where Mars was loved and admired by the Romans, the Greeks kind of… hated Ares.

Let’s start with Mars. Mars tried to use his power to promote peace, associated with the period of Pax Romana. Let’s not sugarcoat his story though, he wasn’t exactly a good guy. The story of Romulus and Remus, and Rhea Silvia is brutal and violent. But when we compare him to Ares, his Greek equivalent, Mars was celebrated, and we did name a planet and a month after him.

In comparison, Ares is told once by his father Zeus that he is ‘the god most hateful to him’. He constantly causes destruction, and has children named ‘fear’, ‘terror’, and ‘discord’. Where Mars is more of a leader figure, Ares is a complete tyrant.

 

So, The Emperor is a leader, an authority. He prefers structure, rules, and order. if you are Autistic, you’ll know how important structure can be. But if you’ve ever had a boss on a power trip, you know how limiting rules can be. We have all seen these ideals used for good, and for bad. Right now is a perfect time to be thinking about this.

This year, 2020 is the year of The Emperor. You can figure the current year’s card out by adding up the numbers in the year: 2 + 0 + 2 + 0 = 4. The Emperor is card number 4. Think about how we can use structure and rules to help us this year. Wearing a mask, keeping your distance from others, these are ways The Emperor asks us to promote peace and wellbeing at this time.

How can the qualities of The Emperor be used negatively? Poor leadership from politicians, police brutality and oppression. Wielding power over others, rather than using your power for the good of all. Like the Emperor with his ankh, there are people in this world who hold others’ lives in their hands. Whether enacting oppressive welfare policies, or literally being able to control if someone lives or dies, the power of The Emperor is often abused.

The Emperor also asks us to have good boundaries. The number 4 represents stability and foundations. Don’t let other people walk all over you. Whether they’re an authority figure or not, we are Emperors of our own lives, and we have the right to make decisions under our own initiative. If you see a misuse of power and it’s safe for you to do so, speak up. If you pull The Emperor card, consider where you can make positive changes in your community, or in your life to celebrate good Emperors, and bring down tyrannical ones. Remember to defend your boundaries against toxic people.

If you’re a manager and you’d like to learn how to be a great leader like the ideal Emperor, I really recommend the blog Ask A Manager. You can also go there to get advice if you’re dealing with bad management, so I hope it helps someone out there.