When Reading Tarot Cards Is Like Watching TV

Since this blog reflects my day-to-day preoccupations (so far, our awesome puppy, being creatively adrift, and, um, a basil plant?), it feels appropriate to write about a Tarot card reading I did for myself a few days ago. I’m still mulling it over.

I read Tarot cards like I read movies, TV shows, plays, and conversations I overhear in coffee shops: not in any particularly mystical manner, but knowing full-heartedly that I can learn something from anything, that there’s something useful in having narrative art laid before you. Beyond being entertained, if you want to, you can become a semi-reflective surface when you face it. (Yeah, very reverse-mimesis, you Aristotle fans.) If I look at how I react to characters or situations (find myself identifying with a character or person, for example) and have some semblance of self-awareness, I can learn just a bit more about myself by mulling over why I’m having a certain reaction. What features am I reflecting, what angles am I taking? It’s sort of like tossing a coin to make a decision, except you use your reaction to the random chance (No! Why wasn’t it tails?) to choose what you’ll actually do.

My reading was question-centered: What do I need to know about why I’m so unfocused and have so much trouble doing what I want to do?

And the spread (the arrangement and number of the cards) was a simple set of three, representing the past, present, and future.

The results:

Sometimes the reading immediately feels meaningful, and part of it did: I instantly related to the center card of the present, feeling bound, blinded, and confined in the present. (So dramatic, right?) But Justice in the past? The freaking Chariot in the future? So strange, it seemed to me, so impenetrable! And, to be fair, mostly because I’m a novice and wasn’t sure how to read these intimidating cards.

So I looked up the most basic of possibilities: judgment and victory, respectively, and, duh, I say to myself.  This led me to feel cautiously hopeful, but still confused. Sure, past decisions have lead to present restriction (lady surrounded by swords can so get out of them if she tried just a bit!), but how does present restriction get to sphinx-led-chariot-riding victory?

Because it’s so puzzling to me, there’s what I need to think about: I get, more or less, why I am where I am. That’s less important than answering the question: how do I get out? How do I become the self-assured badass with the staff and the sphinxes?


6 thoughts on “When Reading Tarot Cards Is Like Watching TV

  1. Sarah:

    Having read the tarot for the last 25 years, I can understand your post about this reading. It is very difficult for the querent (Tarot-speak for the person asking the question) to also be the interpreter. Reading for yourself denies you the all-powerful and necessary virtue of perspective. In fact, you are like the blind-folded lady among the swords. Tarot books are a good resource; so many people out there have excellent things to say about what the general meanings are for the 78 cards of a standard tarot deck. When you read something someone wrote about the cards, it should poke you in the gut (just to give you a test for if it rings true or not), but the cards themselves will tell you with their pictures and words just what the story is.

    Let’s look at your question to illustrate my point:

    Why is Sarah so unfocused and having trouble doing what she wants to do?

    First look at the elements: Is it Major or Minor Arcana? If it’s Major, then it indicates that outside influences, factors beyond the querent’s control, are instrumental in the unfolding of events. Looks like you’ve been book-ended! If the card(s) is a Minor Arcana, the suit will determine the dominant element of either Air (swords), Fire (wands), Water (cups), or Earth (pentacles). Swords represent the realm of Knowledge. Wands represent the realm of Will. Cups represent the realm of Emotion. Pentacles represent the realm of Manifestation. So here we see an individual’s Knowledge book-ended by events beyond the individual’s control.

    Next you’ll look at the numbers. Numerology will give you an idea of where in the Elemental journey you happen to be. Justice is 11 (a cosmic number) and is a higher octave of the number 2 which is balance. So this represents a cosmic balance or adjustment. The Swords card is an 8 which is a number of POWER. This is the POWER of Knowledge. The Chariot is 7 and represents the Seeker (and is also known as Victory) actively going out into the world to get answers to the Mystery. This is the Divine within you responding to the Divine without.

    So we can look at Justice as an outside force that imposes adjustment into the individual’s life. It may appear as though you are experiencing the exact opposite of what had been going on in the past. If you had been creative and productive, you may currently be experiencing a fallow time. For instance, creativity seems to be at an all time low (as an example) or perhaps the Universe is roughly booting you in the bum to diversify.

    In this context, we would look at the 8 of Swords as an obstacle to Power, one the you have created by your perceptions or a denial of the truth. If you look at the character in this card, doesn’t it seem like she could throw off her bonds if she chose? To continue with our example, we could say that your are refusing to see or are unable to see that this fallow time is a natural part of the creative cycle. What goes out must be replenished, right? Instead of producing, maybe you should be digesting new things and experiences by opening your eyes to the opportunities for empowerment around you.

    Finally, the Chariot demonstrates a fundamental quality of you (the Divine spark shaped by circumstance) because of how you are already programmed to respond to what you learn. Outside events will urge you to throw off the blindfold and Seek. How long this takes will depend on the how willing you are to accept the adjustment.imposed by the recent past. Based on previous experiences, it is probable that you will be Victorious.

    I don’t really address the time frame implied by this particular placement of the cards because each position is interrelated with the other two. Past, Present, and Future are intertwined and the seeds of one are the fruit of another. The linear framework helps the reader understand the most appropriate interpretation of cause and effect. The adjustment is still occurring even though the catalyst is in the past. Your seeking nature probably catalyzed the adjustment just as much as it will move you forward in the future. Conversely, if you had been more aware (i.e. not blindfolded) before all this began, you wouldn’t be asking this question!

    Of course, this is just an example of how to interpret the cards. I hope it serves you in some fashion. You may develop an interest in Numerology or take up studying the Western Esoteric Qabala (which is closely aligned with the Tarot). Whatever you choose to do, I wish you a bounty of creative juju and beatific purpose in your travels. Aman Nai.

    • Io, it’s so kind of you to offer such a thorough and deep reading, especially to a querent doubly limited by doing a self reading while in Eight of Swords territory–and I take your good wishes to heart! Thank you so much. I’ve been letting your reading churn within me for the past day, and I think it’ll be useful to keep it stirring as I tackle my question each day. I’d hadn’t heard of the Major and Minor Arcana described as external influences and influences within my control respectively before, and it’s a really useful distinction for me. I often fall prey to emphasizing personal will and failure to act with purpose to a fault (and wallow in the ensuing self-absorbed guilt), when I might be better able to do good by acknowledging just how immersed I am in an interconnected web of cause and effect–with everyone and everything else!

      Goodness, thank you again.

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  4. i toss coins like that too 😉 used to drive my husband crazy, why do it if you’re going to ignore it?! but i’m not ignoring it, i’m using what it gave me! 😉
    have you tried a different medium? switching from abstract painting to machine embroidery helped me reaffirm my identity as a process ARTIST not painter, and now i am moving into short films…just a thought, and all good wishes on trusting your journey 😉

    • Yeah! It’s like the coin is a friend instead of a boss. 😉

      I can’t think of a medium I’ve tried that I don’t like–I hope to keep trying more. 🙂

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