Ace of Wands, go forth and multiply

Morning is due to all —
To some — the Night —
To an imperial few —
The Auroral light.

Emily Dickinson, poem I

Crowley, Marseille, Gran Tarot Esotérico, Balbi.
1. Crowley, 2. Marseille, 3.Gran Tarot Esotérico, 4.Balbi.

I  know, I know, the Ace of Wands is the herald of spring, the beginning of the Aries season… and we are in May now! But I hope you forgive me as the spring has been dawdling a bit in the UK and it hasn’t been until the last few days that I can say that it’s truly among us. I went to the Forest of Dean a couple of weeks ago to see its famous carpet of bluebells and there were none! Methinks another visit is in order.

The number one is the first of the natural numbers; it is the one who has the power to decree whether a number is prime or not; itself being above that classification, he is not one of them but the one who defines what they are: primes are those numbers than can only be divided by themselves or by 1. Both the Ancient Greek, who liked to attribute sexual characteristics to numbers, and the Chinese thought that prime numbers were macho numbers because they resisted any attempt to be broken down into a product of smaller numbers. It is not surprising given the fiercely male-gender paradigm those societies were based on. Number 1 fits the bill nicely if only for its similarity with the male organ.

Here we have four examples of Aces from my small collection of tarot decks. Being the Wands the fire suit, all of them include the flames surrounding the rod, which each artist has drawn in a different way:

  • a ray of light sending forth curly flames in (1),
  • a freshly pruned branch in (2),
  • a regal sceptre enveloped by fire in (3)
  • and what looks like the neck of a guitar in (4) (isn’t that charming?).

Looking closely, the ones in Crowley seem snakes rather than tongues of fire. I find myself attracted and intrigued by the images in this deck but it’s too hermetic for me, I’ve never been able to read anything out of them. Although, after reading what Barbara Walker has to say about the Ace of Wands, I think I get the image in this particular Crowley‘s card.

Alejandro Jodorowsky, the Chilean artist behind the resurrection of this version of the Marseille Tarot, has some interesting reflections about this Ace in his book La voie du Tarot*. He says that the creative energy embodied by this trump is androginous because, even if the Ace  has a phallic form, its tip looks like a yoni. He also explains the meaning of the cut branches along the wand, it’s all about the direction we choose when using the energy that the Ace of wands brings to the table: “one cannot create this energy, the only thing one can do with it is to wisely choose in which direction it is going to be directed

Riding the dragon not metaphorically
Snake charmer.

Barbara Walker goes back to the origins and talks about the ancient strife between the Goddess and the Patriarchal Gods; when the serpent was considered the firstborn of the Goddess, who had power over it. It is interesting to note how the victor of his battle is shown in Catholic iconography, it is common to depict the Virgin Mary, in her incarnation as the Blessed Virgin, treading over the head of the serpent. She could overcome the evil snake because she was born free of sin.

There is also a wonderful paragraph that has made me quite anxious to re-read some Arthurian legends or, at least to watch Excalibur again:

Five thousands years ago, the pole star was Alpha Draconis, the Dragon’s Eye. Precession of equinoxes since moved the north celestial pole to the constellation of Ursa Minor, the Little Bear. This subtle precession was interestingly personified in Celtic Myth. King Arthur’s name has been derived from Welsh Arth Vawr, Heavenly Bear. His predecessor was Uther Pendragon, which means “Wonderful Head of the Dragon”
Barbara G. Walker The Secrets of the Tarot. Origins, History and Symbolism p. 164

So, we have got a card that means start,  power, new foundations, Creativity with a capital C, plenty of potential. As always, when Aces turn up in a spread they are usually sign of something good coming up, a torrent of new energy that should be channeled in the right direction.

And, unlike Ms Dickinson says in the poem that opened this post, anyone can be one of those Imperial few, as long as one can harness this surge of Auroral light.

As an amulet, it is very useful when someone is feeling stagnant and needs a bit of a push to break the statu quo.

Next time, I’ll talk about a spread based on Gestalt psychology and a card from the suit of Pentacles, I haven’t decided which one yet.

*Destiny Books published an English version in 2009: The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards.


The queens locking horns

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I hit a wall and wasn’t feeling inspired at all. It seems that my mojo comes and goes without any regular pattern, so I need a change of plans in order to publish more regularly. However, I’ve got an exam coming up, so I just need to be more organised. I plan to spend some time each day prepping this blog as a rest from revising.

Anyway, I’ve got a spread to discuss today, a friend from Twitter asked me to look into some new work project he’s undertaking so I asked him to draw 6 cards and send me a picture of them. To be honest, I should’ve asked him to draw 7 cards, as it’s a spread I’m more familiar with. Nice and easy, with 3 cards for the past, the one in the center as the present situation and the last three for the future. There is another spread that I like, specially useful for mundane divination, so if you are using tarot, I recommend to take the major arcana out and use just the minor arcana. I know this is a bit controversial, but for certain questions, I do believe that using the Major Arcana seems overkill.

Three rows of 7 cards, with the centre cards as the focal points:

  • the bottom one is the past
  • the middle one is the present
  • the top one is the future

It is a wonderful spread for the wealth of information it yields and also for how easy it is to link the different meanings of the cards. It certainly helped me to find my feet while I was learning the tarot. Plus one can always go into more depth with a celtic cross to clarify certain points; although it took me some time before I felt confident to move on to the celtic cross. You may have seen similar ones when reading the Lenormand* cards. Although I think the Grand Tableau uses all 36 cards and there are just 21 in this one.

So, after telling myself off for asking for 6 cards instead of 7, I started looking for a spread with 6 cards and I came across faerygodmother’s awesome blog: Faerygodmother: My top ten relationship card spreads. And there is it, the last one, the harsh truth has 6 cards! Excellent, I can use that.

The positions are as follows: 1*3*2

6 card spread, using Barbara Walker Tarot
6 card spread, using Barbara Walker Tarot

Let’s go to the reading:

1. What you want to be true: Queen of Swords

2. What you don’t want to be true: 2 of Wands

3. What it’s true: Justice

4. What you want to happen: 8 of Wands

5. What you don’t want to happen: Queen of Wands

6. What will happen: Strength

Although the question was about work, those two queens (one of them is his mum or someone older than him and the other one, his partner) are telling me something else, as this is a spread for a man, however I’m going to try to focus on the work side of things.

1. What you want to be true: (Queen of Swords) He’s a person that is capable of a long sustained effort to achieve his goals, he wants to prove himself that he can make it on his own. I’d also say that he’s forgotten his own strength as he feels attacked by everyone and his uncle.

2. What you don’t want to be true: (2 of Wands) He thought that the way to his goals was going to be easier. He has taken an important step, but there is still a lot of hard work ahead. He feels his knees weaken at that thought.

3. What it is true: (Justice) I’ve always thought of the Justice as a karmic card, so I’d say that he is now where he needs to be (as if he wasn’t before because he was living someone else’s expectations of how his life should be and he’s now broken free from that), that he is in a quest to find his inner voice, his inner strength. It is very important that he cross-examine his motivations before committing to do anything, as he has a tendency to play fair even when the rest of the players in the game aren’t.

4. What you want to happen: (8 of Wands) He wants things happening and happening now, there is a slight whiff of desperation as if his patience has run out and needs some action straight away. I’d suggest him to stop and meditate, to take this opportunity to take some time out for himself now that things are slow.

5. What you don’t want to happen: (Queen of Wands) He doesn’t want to be bossed around, I’d say that he is also worried about how much money his partner is spending (is she financially independent? I’d ask)

6. What will happen: (Strength) The test he must pass is to find the courage to speak his truth. It is crucial for him to speak up, otherwise situations from his past, where he has done as he was told to, will arise again. This is his Rubicon for the classically inclined or his Punxsutawney for the Bill Murray lovers 😉

I think that although things are a bit slow at the moment, his project is likely to pick up from where it is now and grow steadily. I wouldn’t worry about that if I were him. However, the main undertone of the reading is the tension between the two queens. Oh boy, I wouldn’t like to be in his position. There is a lot of diplomacy to be used and gallons of oil to be poured onto troubled waters.

He must be firm and listen to his heart first, instead of trying to please them.

*I bought a Mystic Lenormand oracle and I have started studying them, but it’s early days, I am not fluent in their language yet.I’m keeping a handwritten journal with the daily draws, I may post something if I find it interesting.


10 of wands – Stretching out too thin

Gran Tarot Esotérico, Marseille, Barbara Walker, Balbi
Gran Tarot Esotérico, Marseille, Barbara Walker, Balbi

I’ve taken a day off work to catch up with my uni homework and I feel a bit tired. So I’ve decided to change the card I was going to talk about today, the 9 of wands, for the 10 of wands, as I feel outflanked by life in general and by this homework in particular.

While the 9’s are more about getting there, you’ve worked your way up the minor arcana scale, enjoying the ride, happy that you are moving on; the 10’s are a different matter: the terminus and end. When you’ve gone full circle and accomplished your tasks or when a relationship breaks down. Depending on the cards that appear along the 10’s in a spread, they can even potentially indicate serious illness.

So, do pay attention if many 10’s turn up in your spread, that means that the end of the current cycle is nigh and you are going to get what you saw, whether it’s positive or negative. The Major Arcana marked with the 10th is the Wheel of Fortune, which reinforces the idea of change and impermanence of our toil, although I find its message more positive and uplifting that the one conveyed by the Minor 10’s, which is quite dramatic and final.

Let’s go into to the general meaning of the 10 of wands. First of all, it’s a funny card within the Wands suit. The Wands, all fiery and energetic, full of life and stamina, are symbols of our inner creativity to fight obstacles, while this one is all about tiredness, of being at the limit of our physical endurance and forced to live under someone else’s rules*.

  • Among the cards shown in the picture, the one in the far left is from “El Gran Tarot Esotérico”, a friend of mine found out that I’d been looking for it for some time and decided to send it to me. Thanks for that! I’ll make a review of it next week. I like the fact that the artist has drawn the 10 wands interleaved as a circle, very neat.
  •  Balbi and Marseilles have the same geometry: 2 vertical in the centre and the other 8 pointing to the centre in a star-like pattern. Balbi feels more about being under attack from all directions while the central interweave of the Marseille is like a solid weight over our shoulders that we just can’t take off.
  • The Barbara Walker one shows the fall of Lucifer, the Morningstar, after his rebellion against God (We all know how the story goes**). It focuses in injustice, abuse of power and a sense of powerlessness. And, sometimes, of stubbornness and refusal to acknowledge that the battle is lost.

So, a few points for when the 10 of wands turns up in a spread:

  • Ask yourself in which side of the tyranny or oppression you are: are you the oppressor or the oppressed?
  • Remember that this situation won’t last forever and try to come to terms with it.
  • It’s also a not so subtle nudge to take more care of our health, as we are feeling overworked. So a bit of meditation and trying to take things easy wouldn’t go amiss. One of the simplest tips to accomplish that is to go to bed earlier than usual. If that’s not possible, meditation is the key to a happy life (I can vouch for its effects); it can be done anywhere and you only need a few minutes.

That’s all for today, folks. Please let me know if this has been useful.

* Just a normal day at the office 😉

** I must recommend, if you are interested in this story to obviously read “Paradise Lost” (I haven’t yet… I know, I’m not proud of it either), but also the collection of comic-books, created as a spin-off of the hugely successful series of The Sandman, called Lucifer Morningstar. A tremendously fun read!

Friday reading – 3 of wands – Use your gifts wisely or lose them.

The weird sisters :D
The weird sisters 😀

Today we start a feature of the blog, where I give a 1 card reading to anyone who asks for it, don’t be shy!

I’ve decided to use one card only as anything longer will be tedious to read and it will help me to keep focused in the present card. I do consider that one-card spreads are quite difficult to master, specially when you begin reading tarot or any other oracle of your choice, because there are no props, just you and your intuition. This spread is really useful to tune into the energy of the card/deck* and to create your own Tarot lexicon. Do start this practice and let me know if you need any help or clarification.

I may include wider spreads in the future if they are specially insightful. However, there is always a card in them that holds the key of the reading and I will just elaborate on that one.

I want to share that I pay quite a bit of attention to numbers when doing a reading: an abundance of Aces or of 10’s (for mentioning the full gamut) has a meaning that can give you clues about specific time (when something is going to happen) o in which step of the process the consultant is currently immersed. I’ll make a post about this shortly.

Let’s begin!

This time, it’s a question about work. The consultant has a work project and wants to know the present situation and whether it’s an opportunity worth pursuing or not.

The 3’s mean that something is coming to fruition, we are still in the initial steps of the way but we have all the required tools to start this project with a solid foundation. The Weird sisters tinge the meaning of the reading with their strict and powerful nature; sometimes, we think that life is being too hard and, resigned to the inevitability of our destiny and powerless, we think of throwing the towel. Not so, despair is not a feeling we should dwell on**.  The only option is to continue on our path because this is something that we are meant to do.

So, the card tells me that it’s a good opportunity, go for it! There is plenty of work ahead for you but the rewards will be worth it. Remember to make a business plan and advertise your work.

* Further instructions in Gordon’s amazing blog: How to calibrate your oracle – runesoup

** The giant from Stephen P Donaldson’s First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant said something along this lines. I love that Giant.

5 of swords – beware your pride

Crowley, Balbi, Barbara Walker, Marseille
Crowley, Balbi, Barbara Walker, Marseille

My favourites of this lot are the Marseilles one, as I find the interleaving of the swords very pleasing to the eye and the Barbara Walker one, for its rich symbolism. The martyrdom of Odin, hung from the Yggdrassil, in order to get the secret knowledge previously only held by women. He descended from the tree with poetry, runes, the gift of prophecy and many more wonderful presents for humankind.

That’s the positive twist of this potentially negative card: many rewards await for those who can accept life’s setbacks with sacrifice, patience and faith. Just as the days are becoming longer and winter, coming to an end.

Ah, the infamous 5’s… they are all about strife, annoyance and adversity. I can see that there is something positive about all this upheaval, it’s something necessary to break the statu quo marked by the 4’s and their tendency to write things in stone.

But the one we are talking about today even more so. There are plenty of fights, specially of the dirty variety, when this card turns up. Scheming, double intentions, manipulation (the venerable Bene Gesserit teachings come to mind)…  Vatican City may well be a very good representation of these energies at the moment, don’t you think?

It is just as well that it’s one of those cards that is always referring to “someone else” and never us or the consultant. It is: “They will be angry because…”,  “They are waiting for me to fall..” , and so on.

And that’s the second point I wanted to make with this post, what to say when the cards are not pretty? It’s important to make the difference between reading for ourselves and reading for others.

So, if reading for ourselves:

As a firm believer that what we encounter in the physical reality is a reflection of the energies we send forth*, I think that, regardless of whether it’s true that strife, opposition and malevolence may surround us and we’d better be prepared for it (that’s the usual intention of gathering intelligence, isn’t it?), it would be an ideal time to make an internal examination of the motives behind our actions:

  • Are we doing this thinking of the greater good or just because it’s more convenient for “us”?
  • What part of ourselves is being so selfish?

When reading for others:

– The consultant is embodying the “5 of swords” energy: They may be in denial (or not necessarily), unfortunately this kind of people wins too many times. Maybe something along the lines: “Beware your pride” or “Remember to be kind when you win” I’ve been pondering on this a lot lately, on how we can skew them to a less selfish path, but I haven’t got any satisfactory answers. Maybe I’m just reading too much into this card: being the bad guy is a karmic path as valid as any other.. At the end of the day, it’s just the 5 of swords on its humble own. Maybe when in company with the Devil or the Hierophant…

– The consultant is on the receiving end of the “5 of swords”: Be extremely careful as an impresionable consultant may fall in the “self-fulfilling prophecy” trap. Tell them to protect themselves as best as they can, to watch their back and to rethink their approach to the matter in hand. It’s not time to be naive.

*In respect of this, there is a powerful and really easy meditation to do, go and check it out: Ho’oponopono. Such a beautiful name!

6 of cups – Calm after the storm or hidden pain

Barbara Walker, Balbi, Marseille Anyone familiar with the Rider Waite deck would remember the image of the 6 of cups of a kid surrounded by cups in an amenable garden. Apologies as I no longer have one, so I can’t include it in the picture. I used the Rider Waite when I first started wandering in the mysteries of the Tarot; OK, I’ll be honest, it wasn’t that mysterious because I also bought a book by Hajo Banzhaf that was completely foolproof. It was only a spread and in each page, it explained the meaning of each card in every position. Very handy for when you don’t know what you are doing! I still think that the Rider Waite is a brilliant deck for beginners and more experienced readers but I must admit that I grew a bit tired of it.  I passed my deck on to a room-mate and moved on. I digress, this is a tale for another day 😀

Going back to the meaning, the usual explanations for this card: longing for the good old days, being stuck in the past. The 6’s normally mean the calm after the storm, represented by the strife that 5’s bring; they are numbers of balance and equilibrium. As this card belongs to the Water suit, it also can be about family, close relationships. It is a card that symbolizes the giver.

However, if you look at Barbara Walker’s card, a naked figure (a kid, an adult.. it’s left deliberately unclear) is sat on the floor and before him, a giant woman, a Goddess stands, overlooking the scene sternly. The low angle makes her look even more imposing and fearsome.

Barbara Walker, Balbi, Marseille

For me, whenever this card appears in a spread, it means someone whose heart still dwells in the past, someone who hasn’t digested yet the lessons from the old days (good or not so much). I would also add that we are reading or asking for a man, he may have self-steem problems, specially in close relationships with women, let these be love or work affairs. The pain from the past is still very much present, although he cannot be aware of it consciously. So, be careful of what you say if this card turns up in the spread; drop some hints, use metaphors… This is a painful truth, so be sensitive!

On a more positive note, I also see that this card harbours the hope that, as and when the consultant is ready to acknowledge this issue within her/himself, they will be able to raise over the chains of the past and speak their truth.

Next time: 5 of swords and how much you should tell the consultant when the cards aren’t pretty!

Notes: The book I was talking about before is:  The Tarot Handbook – Hajo Banzhaf.* I was trying to insert a link from Alibris to it, but wordpress is malevolently dismissing my plea. I’m learning the ropes of this malarkey, so please bear with me. From this low point, one can only improve! Adding links is a walk in the park, my friends!!

*You probably can find it in that humongous world-dominating bazaar named after a rainforest or in the no less famous “Bid-Buy Now” site, those places are big enough to need any more publicity. But Alibris supports independent bookshops, which are one of this life’s most underrated pleasures. I want those guys in business! That’s where I buy mine, even more so because this week my favourite bookshop (Bloom & Curl in Bristol) is on holiday.

4 of pentacles, why, oh why?

I just read the tarot for a friend, who had laid out a tarot spread about her boyfriend. The issue, in a nutshell, was that she wanted to move out of their current living accomodation into a bigger place; initially, he agreed but now he seemed a bit reluctant to commit.

In the spread, there was a 4 of pentacles, she thought that it meant that her boyfriend needed to take the plunge, grab the bull by the horns, etc.. Because in the book she is following said so. I pointed out that 4’s are numbers of equilibrium, of being static, of not willing/wanting to change.

In her discharge, she is just starting to learn how to read the tarot, fed up of me saying that I’ve lost the mojo and can’t see anything anymore. However, when she showed me the cards, the whole narrative unfolded before my eyes and I was able to give her a reading about her boyfriend’s state of mind. All this was by email as unfortunately we leave away from each other. The day after, she let him read what I said and he confirmed that I was spot on. They had a very honest conversation about their expectations about each other and their relationship and things seems to be going forward nicely.

I have to ask for her permission to publish the spread with her interpretation and my comments, as I think that it’s a very graphic example of a spread that “sings” .

Anyway, as I’ve been sending her a few emails explaining her certain things about tarot and as one of my goals for 2013 was taking up writing more seriously, I’ve decided to start a blog where anyone can use as a reference when learning to read the cards.

I plan to talk about the different meanings of the cards, what they mean when they are in pairs, numerology, spreads, different decks… I may include some comments on books I’ve read/own about this topic.

I don’t read tarot for a living, but I’ve been passionate about the cards since my early teens. My sister and me started at the same time, but it seemed that I got it right most of the times, so I kind of stuck with it.

So, to keep my mystic muscles flexed, I plan to to give a reading weekly to anyone who wants it. It will be a single card initially, as it will fit nicely with the tone of my blog that is sharing my knowledge.