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The Three Of Wands

Once again, time has gone by since my last post. Lots of activity around community events and such. Things that have taken me away from blogging, but good just the same to get out of my usual routines and  participate in areas where I can be useful in other ways. I am following the suggestion of a friend who read my post on the three of pentacles and asked about my take on the three of wands. In some ways, my busy-ness has been a kind of three of wands experience.

I generally approach interpretation in a reading on not just the card itself, but what it is saying in relation to the other cards and also what it fits with in what I am receiving intuitively. Sometimes I find that the overall reading is summed up in a particular card and will go into that more in-depth. I always find a richness in Pamela Coleman Smith’s illustrative skill (she was the artist who created the Rider Deck, under the guidance of Arthur Edward Waite).

When we look at the details of the card somethings become quickly apparent. The figure wears a circlet and a tartan. This lets us see that he is a ruler of a particular domain. He has climbed to a vantage point, with the aid of the staves, to look out beyond his known world at a vast sea, which has three ships sailing upon it.

In the Rider Imagery, the “great sea” is often representative of life beyond our comfort zone. The realm of the future, full of risk and potential. Lets remember that in the medieval period that is used in illustration, going to sea was a great life risk. Entire fortunes could be made or lost on just a single voyage. So for our little clan chieftain this is an area of great concern. It means going beyond the idea of  being a big fish in a little pond. risking commerce and trade with the wider world. No matter how big we think we’ve become, there’s always an experience that’s greater. A truly great person is someone who is willing to acknowledge what is greater than themselves and learn from it.

So my usual take on the three is to see it as an opportunity, a doorway into that experience. If what we have attained thus far has given us useful tools we will be able to negotiate through the challenges. It’s a reminder too that success is an ongoing process, we don’t stay fit on yesterday’s exercise. Our growth involves ongoing challenge. Sometimes too we have to let go and let a process work itself through, once we have begun to venture forward it is very hard to just go back to our old ideas of limitations.

A big part of all of the threes is interaction and the emergence of patterns, putting our concepts into action and relating our internal consciousness to the outside world. In the Celtic cross spread the third position is often seen as a start or the first emergence of an idea into actuality, often the basis of a question.

Weilding Swords (continued)

This is a continuation of the  previous article on some of the things that swords can represent – with some specific referance to the court cards – in a reading, along with some thoughts on communication and conflict that  come to mind when I think  of what this suit represents.

There are some relationships and people that have an undercurrent of hostility. When the court cards of swords are reversed (or sometimes not necessarily physically reversed, but ill aspected) this is sometimes the case. The page of swords in this mode is like a child that feels a need to act up, disruptive and unaware of boundaries. The knight in this vein is “cruising for conflict”. The King of swords (again in his negative aspect) is a sometimes abusive tyrant and the Queen can be quite cutting.

The responsibilty to swords energy manifests strongly in communication. I have been more aware lately of this in social media which can be very much a swords based arena. Cyber bullying, political vehemence, sniping are rife on platforms like facebook. People like to expound on issues. It’s like a personal soap box in a park with a megaphone. This can be a valuable tool, or a weapon depending on how it is used.

We have been seeing a lot lately about cyber bullying, it’s not enough to just chant the old schoolyard slogan “sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never harm me”. Sorry no. Names and slander, attacks on a person can hurt and are also a warning sign of greater behavioral problems. Part of what has motivated me to write this has been inspired by the recent rant by Rick Mercer about bullying and teen suicide.As someone who experienced this growing up, I couldnt agree more with him, I believe we have a responsibility to step up when we see innapropriate or hurtful communication. Here’s a link to his passionate speech:
Rick Mercer on cyber bullying and teen suicide

Mercer, with his wit and strong articulation is a great example of healthy warriorship. His “rant” is not about being hurtful, it’s about taking action, protecting and setting a healthy boundary. I would say he is a great example of a healthy, well aspected King of Swords.In a healthy, well balanced sense, the king is a discerning and diplomatic figure of authority. Someone who knows how to debate, make a point and be objective while still holding firm to principles. The queen is a judicial advisor, someone who knows the disciplined, sometimes “tough love” side of nurture. The knight is a rebel with a cause, a provocateur who isn’t afraid of shaking up our complacency a bit. The page is a childlike protector, maybe, like a good little hall monitor, a voice worth heeding.

Wit and articulation, discernment (over judgement) and the heroic quality of irony are all hallmarks of healthy sword energy. The qualities of good warriorship are evidenced. Much like someone who has long practiced the martial arts there is not a seeking out of conflict, but also not a shying away. Violence of any kind is a last resort, more often the ability, like a bull fighter to let an opposing force run itself out or to throw itself off balance.

I love the fact that the symbol in the Rider Waite deck is a broad sword. A peaceful warrior is conscious of when to use the cutting edge, prefering more often to use the flat of the blade. In other words to invite differences of opinion, to not have to cut down an opposing view but to learn from it. Qualities of respect and to look beyond an immediate issue. A saying of my father’s that I reflect on more and more as I get older is “sometimes what’s more important than being right, is what gets left”.

On a more formal level, the business of articulation, mediation and problem solving is where we see Swords (along with the other elements) in the process of developing policy. Any good community group or organization usually has a constitution, a mandate for how it operates and it is out of constructive conflict that we develop the policies and procedures that guide us through challenges. Rather than having to fight the same battles again and again we are able to work with our experience (this involves pentacles – see the September article on Discerning True Worth). The saying that “the pen is mightier than the sword comes to mind, but in truth the pen is just another form of sword. How we communicate and articulate ourselves runs through all the elements but in swords we have the conscious opportunity to either wage war, uphold a principle or set a boundary that allows for healthy discourse.

On a more personal level, couples learn to fight fair, to understand each others backgrounds in conflict is important, to not hit below the belt and to see where sometimes a conflict on one level may be an opportunity to work safely with other, sometimes more unconscious issues.
It’s very challenging in conflict situations to not react but rather to listen and then respond. When someone who has obviously been stewing with something suddenly brings an issue forward, it helps to see they have been preparing for a while. I am an Aries ( ruled by the planet Mars) so I CAN be a hot head. I have had to learn to stand back, to say “I’ll have to think about this” and (boy this is still challenging) “while you’re at it, is there anything else”? Often for the person bringing the issue forward just the rassurance that they are being heard is diffusing. Sometimes though what comes our way is a tantrum. Thats when you have to stand back, sometimes walk away, give what Eckhart Tolle calls a “quality no”. You can’t teach pigs to sing, it only makes the pigs angry. Paying attention to the time and place can be important. Saying “could we perhaps address this differently,another place or with other people present) can help. If someone calls me at 11:00 at night that isnt good timing, Also in this age of cyber communication, not hitting send in the heat of the moment, even better saying could we discuss this in another way. If the other person is simply interested in berating and not about to show reason best to walk away. Like I said this stuff is challenging. For myself, I can be a know it all sometimes and having the last word is not always the best thing.Walking away sometimes means to give up the idea of winning, to say “well thats your opinion”, or “I understand thats what you feel or think of this”. Challenging eh?

Sometimes we have to fight our own battles, but relying on outside resource, whether thats as formal as calling in the law, talking to a counsellor or on a less formal but incredibly valuable level, an objective friend, are all healthy applications of swords energy. Sometimes I need feedback not just on the conflict but how it is getting addressed. There are times when we might be right in principle but very wrong in how we address it. I sometimes have to look at even how I bring the issue to that objective person. If even there I need them to agree with me or take my side, I might not be deep down so sure of my own position. Being present, really listening to others and my own reactions is a discipline, but to not do it is far more draining; like people who yell all the time that others tune out, learning to reflect and communicate without letting anger take over is work, sometimes hard work, but living less consciously takes a greater toll. After a while, like learning to walk it becomes more natural and we dont have to crawl anymore.

Weilding Swords

This article is some of the thoughts and lessons that I have come across in readings, and experiences that have to do (somewhat) with what the suit of swords in Tarot can represent.

The suit of swords relates to our mental, analytical consciousness, how we problem solve and on a circumstantial level, our issues of conflict. Our first reaction to that is often negative, but all of the elements are tools that we have the opportunity to use constructively. Working with conflict is challenging but if we are willing to grow, we can see it as an area of rich resource, protection, articulation and ultimately healthy exchange.

There are times in life when we have to take a stand, maybe in protecting ourselves, others, an ideal or principle. If we didnt have differences we would never learn. Sometimes in the great school of life it’s like going out for the debating team. We can learn to have differences, debates and even conflicts in a healthy way. A relationship with no degree of conflict isn’t much of a relationship. Sometimes even when we may be in agreement we have to mututally deal with conflict situations. although we may be on the same side of an issue, our approaches might be different.

How we deal with conflict is often learned behavior. Some of us grew up in households where there was a lot of direct conflict, maybe yelling or fighting was an everyday occurance. Others may have had a background where conflict was submerged or repressed. Either of those extremes would be unhealthy. Learning to deal with conflict, whether it’s standing up to a bully or seeing where our own energy has been intimidating to to others is an important part of inner work.

In my own journey I have had to overcome some old bad defensive habits. Like most people I can have my own rationalizations of things. Believing I’m a nice person, wanting others to like me and avoiding confrontation has sometimes got me into some fine messes. I have come to learn (and am still learning) that sometimes you have to take a stand, set a boundary, state a conviction, be willing to take a reaction and to not shy away from some forms of conflict. Along with all of this is the old axiom “choose your battles”.

When swords are predominant in a reading there are often issues of conflict that need to be addressed and dealt with. One of the things that Tarot also illustrates, particularly in the Rider Waite deck, is the inter relation of the elements within each other. There is often an emotional tone to the sword cards, how can there not be? Our feelings are aroused in situations of conflict. But inner work is also about knowing the right tool for the job. The three of swords particularly is a card of tough emotional decisions. Often when I am describing this in a reading I say “tough emotional ( I put my hand on my heart) decisions (I put my hand on my head). So it’s rather like the head has to say to the heart “I know you’re upset, so you’d better let me drive”.

There are some beautiful, peaceful and constructive elements in the suit of swords. The two, the four and the six have no direct conflict going on. I could point out too that there are as many signs of upset or turmoil in the other suits (i.e. ALL of the fives, the seven of wands) also we could see some situations where an absence of swords has created a stagnation. When there are NO swords in a reading it can sometimes be quite telling. If there seems to be a brooding, morose quality (i.e. King of cups reversed, the 4 of cups ill aspected) it may be that there is more of a negative situation in the absence of boundaries than there would be if a good healthy argument were to take place. If we just hold conflict in it can affect our physical health, our emotional well being and our overall security. The four of swords can relate to meditation or sometimes I refer to it as “rest amidst battle”.

When we don’t work with what the swords suit represents we can sometimes attract conflict energy. This isnt really all that unusual. If a person seems to have a pattern of attracting or being attracted to difficult, intimidating or abusive conditions -whether directly to the person or indirectly to others, one has to wonder what kind of  logic is at work. Often getting professional counselling can be a vital step when these patterns have become particularly life affecting. The use of such resource is POSITIVE sword energy at work. When we make a coscious choice to be safe. To learn to set healthy boundaries our lives go through a profound transformation. With that change comes a responsibility to own our strength, rather than seeking it in unhealthy situations or relationships.

At the same time, a refusal to own up to our own conflict energy, to continue to allow abusive or negative behavior on the part of others is a big failing. Something I see quite often is that we are sometimes not just attracted to a person, but also who we feel we are in relation to the situation. Some people can get used to getting their needs met in a victim role. Dont get me wrong, Im not talking so much about anyone deserving to be a victim but we sometimes have to look at how we can negatively re-inforce that sense of self, not just in the particular relationship but also how we take that into other ties. A saying that I feel is quite often overused in this and only addresses a surface aspect is; “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing expecting a different result”. This buzz phrase sometimes annoys me. It’s like saying just dont date mean guys…well duh. I think we have to sometimes look at what’s behind the attraction. the bigger question is what is the payoff that deep down we keep needing to go back to? What are we re-inforcing and then what can we give or work with that more truly addresses our need for growth? There is often a good instinct or need, like being loved, feeling safe or protected that is behind our choices. Sometimes that good instinct has been simply going to the wrong address.

When we start owning our own strength and instincts we can stop giving our power up to the wrong people and patterns. This doesnt mean we dont need people, it means we can better meet those needs. We can share, give and recieve more freely, with less baggage, less negative attachment.

Breaking through that attachment can be difficult.I sometimes run into people that can really use their victimhood or martyrdom as a weapon.I sometimes have to challenge that, but people so caught up in self rationalization are not very open. If the person is not open to seeing their part in things, or refuses to work with resources that can help, choosing instead to suffer and inflict that suffering on others, then this is sometimes one of the rare occaisons where I have to say I cannot be a resource. It is significant that these are the types that are also more inclined to be invested in the idea of curses or some sort of external”force”. Saddly they are a pretty easy mark for unscrupulous people (and systems) that mutually re-inforce those beliefs.

A tough lesson I’ve had to see is that forgiveness cannot be true if it just means allowing the same situation to happen again. Letting abusive energy back into an area where it demonstrates an inability to be co-operative or reasonable is like lettting a rabid Rottweiller loose in a dog park. I cannot be responsible FOR another person but I do have to be responsible TO them, to myself and the other things affected. The nines in all of the suits are where we see underlying patterns, the things we can allow to go on bringing those same results or break the pattern and free our potential.

Some situations need resolution, and a kind of finality. We can learn from experience and say “no more”. The ten of swords is a card of dramatic finality. The issues have been analyzed and analyzed, one could almost say “done to death”. In the background though a new day is dawning, a new chapter beginning. In accepting an ending we can move forward.

Again these are only some random thoughts. I have included the cards as illustrations but these comments are not all specific to each and this is by no means the sole interpretations of the cards. More to come!

Discerning True Worth

Our true worth is not measured comparatively. It is not found in being more than some things or less than others. It stands in it’s own right and is self evident. It is often in the areas of our struggles, not in the things that come most easily that it is revealed.

Anyone who has had a little kid make them a card or a picture and you can tell that they worked at it lovingly, knows this. As an uncle (officially and unofficially), I’ve had some stuff on my fridge from nieces and nephews that I have treasured. I didn’t look at it and say “oh the depth perception is all wrong, what kind of nonsense is this”? I don’t think anyone with a heart would de-value something like that, and yet how often are we self discouraging. Thoughts like “oh I could never be any good at that” or “So and so is much better at this sort of thing than I” often sideline our creativity, or in some instances our opportunities for growth or being a voice to what we see as need.

There is a great difference between judging and discerning. I like to think of it like what you see in an Olympic sport, like figure skating. When we watch a figure skater we sometimes see in the corner of the screen the skater’s coach and occasionally we see the judges, but the judges don’t hold up numbers while the skater is skating. They wait till the skater is done. The judges are only involved in that one limited event, while the coach will probably be working with that skater further along, whether they win or lose that day they will be back at practice and back in training and needing constructive feedback.

In our own work, we occasionally have to judge our actions in particular situations. Maybe we blow up at a colleague or we gain a satisfying victory in a challenge. These moments of downfall or attainment are important but tomorrow is another day. We take from these experiences the business of discernment, to learn and keep doing, to not throw in the towel and to look at our progress. I have had to learn to be more of a discerning coach with myself and less of a cranky judge.

I can remember a time where someone suggested I take a class in something I wasn’t good at, something where I maybe wouldn’t necessarily ever be good at it but to learn anyway. I ended up taking pottery. It was a lot of fun. The stuff I made was pretty lopsided and much of it I couldn’t even pass off as a paper weight, but it gave me a pretty good appreciation of what goes into making a beautiful bowl or a good hand crafted mug. I learned about different kinds of glazes and what makes somethings work and some things not. I can see and appreciate the craftsmanship. About a year later, by coincidence I dated a very nice person who happened to be a potter. One day when I was visiting, I saw some (what I thought) beautiful bowls by his back door, when I commented on one, I was told; “oh they’re mistakes, that one has a crack near the lip, I’m throwing them away”. I asked him for that bowl and I’m glad I did, I still treasure it. In a funny way it ended up representing the relationship. We’re still friendly despite a crack or two, and there’s somethings, like that friendship, worth keeping.

Our own inner worth works like that. The feelings of debt, the feelings of owing or in many instances the need to pay things forward that have been given to me, are all powerful motivators. Sure I love to share what I’m good at, but I have also learned to welcome the opportunities to do things where I’m not and to appreciate better in others the things they share. At the same time, my values sometimes show me situations and relationships that don’t always balance. Sometimes it is important to leave things and people that are not compatible with our growth, but these experiences as teachers also have their worth.

In Tarot the suit of Pentacles refers a great deal to our material security, our possessions and our financial affairs. Issues of profit and loss. On an inner level I have found that it refers to our natural values. When we pay attention to these things, like a gardener pays attention to the values of a plant, we see what makes things grow in ourselves and in our affairs and alternately what makes us wither. When our values are properly aligned, when we are “in our element”, we see results and there is progress, a positive payoff. When we aren’t aligned, when we are out of touch with those values it really doesn’t matter what we gain or not, we aren’t satisfied.Sometimes we get hooked into the negative payoff.  Discernment  helps me to find what I need to move forward, what I can let go of and where I need to be to offer best what I can.

Six Of Pentacles


If you continually go above and beyond the call of duty, often exceeding expectations, the day you stop, the people you have enabled will feel let down because you’ve spoiled them. Communicating limits and expectations is important. Giving your all doesn’t mean depleting or damaging yourself. Don’t be a martyr about it, they make horrid role models.

Often we just need a chance to stand back. The bumps we encounter usually serve to show us the (often hidden) motives we have had in giving. Once we’ve had a chance to see these things we can give our head a shake and carry on, most of us go on giving, but in healthier measure and with better, clearer motivation. I don’t know anyone who has truly learned this easily.

The Sun

The Sun card is often seen as one of the most positive cards in the Tarot deck. It often signifies clarity, honesty and optimism. it suggests a bright outlook, not necessarily that everything is entirely problem free, but that everything is out in the light of day. Nothing is hidden in the shadows here and we can bask in the light of reason.

It’s a curious thing that so often difficulties and worries are accepted as facts of life and negativity seems to need little justification. Happiness is sought and sold to us as elusive. I don’t buy into that.

There is never a moment when the sun stops shining on the earth. True at night we turn our backsides to it and things like clouds and pollution obscure it momentarily. Some would be quick to mention that the sun, as a physical entity, has a life span. Like other stars it will eventually burn out. But the very light of the stars goes on shining and ever moving outward long after their demise. Some stars that are visible to us burnt out long ago, the light continues to move forward.

Even what we see as a lower life form knows this. Plants evolve to capture light. Sunflowers (which are depicted more than once in the Rider Tarot as a symbol of self -honesty) adjust daily to follow and soak up the sun’s rays. Dandelions manage to root into concrete and stretch to absorb light. Happiness is our connection to that sort of life force. When we are happy we radiate a kind of energy that is positively infectious and it continues to move forward. This is our natural state. We forget it and get preoccupied. We often buy into the lie that we need to have things or the right conditions or the right relationship in order to be happy, but there are moments where we get to forget that (probably what St. Francis of Assisi meant in “self forgetting”) and experience this. It is what C.S. Lewis meant in the business of being “Surprised By Joy”. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with wanting things, it’s when the wanting hurts that we are out of line. Relationships are a prime example of this, when we want a relationship in order to be happy our odds aren’t as good as when we want to share the happiness we do have with someone.

Some many years ago I was in a group that was trying to do some conscious inner work. We were working very hard at trying to be HAPPY people and there was a lot of focus on what our problems were. Some felt that they had repressed issues they needed to get in touch with and while in some areas this is a valid thing, it was also a bit of a blame game. I found myself questioning my childhood. Was there something I was blocking? Something I needed to “get in touch with”? I wondered, and at the time as I was distant from my father (and had blamed him for some things) it was a question of what did I maybe have bottled up that I needed to see. I talked to some people and fortunately someone very wise said “maybe you’re so focused on the negative that you’re blocking the positive”. Well at first I found that annoying, (frankly I was in such a state that I found A LOT annoying those days), but it stayed with me. A few days later I was out with a friend and he asked me to pass him something on the table and as an off the cuff remark he called me sunshine…”could you pass me that sunshine“. It hit me like a bolt from the blue…when I was very young my dad called me sunshine. I had forgotten that, along with a lot of other very positive little things he had done or said. It was at that time I began to re-connect with my father and came to have a happy relationship with him, he passed away peacefully in 2005 and  I was with him when he did.

Another thing this reminds me of; a friend was going through a really tough time, a genuinely hard, tough time. Her partner had left her, had taken everything (even the dog), she was living in a hotel room, she was faced with so much uncertainty and had every justifiable reason to feel low. We were sitting in her car (which she was on the verge of losing) and she was talking about how tough things were. I didn’t have any platitudes to offer (I’m bad for that – sorry). Something told me to just shut up and listen (and thankfully I did). She eventually just fell silent and we were staring ahead down the street. We were parked near my work on College street. Some grubby little kids (about 4 to 6 years old) were playing with an old tire they’d found. They found it uproariously funny to roll that old tire down the street. We just found ourselves watching and after a while when they laughed, we did too. My friend was very okay after that (maybe she just needed to see she was okay all along) still she had rough times but she came through them. I believe happiness is what children know and what we misplace (but I believe we never really lose).

This sort of thing has happened for me again and again, not on demand, not instantly, but often enough for me to know (but still need reminders), that happiness is a natural state. It does not distract us from grief, it does not solve everything, but it’s there. We allow ourselves moments, we need reminders, we get preoccupied, some of us get very lost, there are dark states that can be quite lethal, but in those instances especially I believe that spiritually we all eventually find our way into the light.
Let the sunshine in.

Eight Of Swords Continued

In the comments on the previous article about the Eight Of Swords, I mentioned the business of detachment and how that doesn’t necessarily mean physical detachment or leaving a situation but rather not being defined by it – being “in it but not of it”. This is a tricky business for some.

I’ve started this post with Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I was looking for images that could depict a person’s attempt to break through isolation and convey a unique and at the same time relatable feeling. This image speaks to millions of people both in it’s beauty and in it’s poignancy. Although Van Gogh’s life held a lot of suffering, his work ultimately has been a legacy of the vision he needed to share. Some experiences of suffering, like Vincent’s, seem inescapable and sadly not all have happy outcomes.

The key thing to (hopefully) overcome in what the Eight Of Swords describes is isolation. Whether it is our own difficulty or that of someone we care about, the tools we can work with are compassion, detachment and acceptance. We can hear, we can try to listen and out of that to understand. At the same time we can never know entirely what another person’s experience is and we have to be rooted in some degree of well being if we are to be of any good.

Many of us grow up believing that to be compassionate we must feel what the other person is feeling. How often in a caring situation do we feel compelled to say “oh I feel badly for you”. We are often taught that this is compassion, but what good does it do? True we need understanding and the ability to relate and empathize to a degree, but this needs to be balanced with our own healthy well being.

A lesson I have often seen with the Eight Of Swords is that sacrifice for others must be balanced with our own demonstration of responsible self care. The alternative is suffering for others, a kind of martyrdom. When we do this we actually are making others responsible for our state and we are not living our own potential. The other side of the coin is not selfishness but rather a sense of sharing what we can, and what others can receive. Being responsive to, not responsible for others while being whole and responsible and accountable for ourselves. This is a life lesson that I’m not great at. It’s a learning we move through many times. I can say it get’s easier and along the way there is a lot of beauty, even in the hard stuff.

I will only give brief mention here of those (happily few) that often want to make others feel responsible for the state they are in, or in some way apologetic for not being in their suffering with them. But these people are rarely and only momentarily satisfied. All I can say in regards to them is a big thank you to whoever invented call display. I usually don’t avoid the call altogether but that brief pause gives me fair warning where my boundaries can be in place. That’s a swords lesson in itself!

Detachment is not being aloof or uncaring, far from it. It is about being responsible for one’s self so that you are in good shape to be of service to others and to be a healthy demonstration. A healthy nurse can better look after people. A good teacher doesn’t necessarily have all the answers but rather the tools that they are willing to share to find answers. If a good friend has the flu we don’t say “here, sneeze on me, we’ll both be miserable”, but rather we avoid the sneeze, bring them soup and wash our hands and take our vitamins while doing so.

This is a challenging lesson, especially with those nearest and dearest when trauma is going on. Being caring means that of course we are affected, but it’s also the recognition that we can’t be in the same place as those directly suffering, nor would it be constructive to try. I learned this in some of the deepest grief situations my friends have gone through, both in loss and in facing their own passages. I learned that it is sometimes better to say “I have no idea what this must be like for you”, because it was the truth. At the same time it is important to try to relate and understand.

Compassion is about knowing that others move through these situations and we can learn from those experiences. The circumstances are often not that unique (if they were there’d be no such thing as country western music, or Shakespeare or any form of art) but our individual experiences are.

There is comfort in knowing others move through similar situations. That’s a big part of creativity. Music is a great example of people relating over heartache, joy and hope and most forms of art are about people expressing their individual experience and perceptions in a way that others can identify with, each in their own unique way. It is one of the things that makes the symbolism of Tarot useful. It is a way of relating these common themes with a degree of intuitive understanding from the reader and in what the person being read can relate to.

Being in the Eight of Swords state also means having compassion with one’s self. This is not narcissistic victim-hood or self pity, rather it is being a friend to ourselves, being able to drop the ego’s expectations, the false armor of pride that isolates us. Being open to the experience of others is often an important start. It means giving up the familiar identification with pain, though what have we really got to lose?

This also has another word running through it all, acceptance. Acceptance is not a resigned giving up or (as I said in the comments section before) playing “possum” to a tyrannical force. It is also not about trying to run from or deny the circumstances.It’s about seeing it as part of the journey, useful in our understanding and compassion to others and yet not the entire definition of ourselves.

All of the Eights are our relationships with circumstances. They are not the totality of ourselves, simply where we are momentarily on our journey. We might get stuck in them for a while (or choose to stay stuck). Swords are about conflict but they are also about our responsibilities in working with boundaries, making decisions, articulating ourselves, dropping the unnecessary baggage and protecting what is important.

Reversed Queen Of Cups

Anyone who has ever remotely worked on a committee or in a group effort, often will see certain human traits that surface in themselves and others. Archetypes that show up again and again and human frailties and booby traps we can all fall into.

There is the very self sacrificing person who perpetually saves the day, does too much and is often teetering on the brink of burnout. They often hear “we don’t know how we’d get by without you”, but the flip side (which can be detrimental) is the organization then is one person away from falling apart.

Martyrs aren’t great role models. It is a great truth that healthy compassion is not about needlessly suffering along with others, but rather being in a place of well being and caring from there. This is not easy (at least it hasn’t been for me, I don’t know, but if it’s been a walk in the park for you from the get go then I’d love to read YOUR blog, send me the link). 

I often remember a quote from Dorothy Parker -one of my favorite authors (see left), -she was very ironic and a lightning wit.

Someone once commented that Claire Booth Luce (see right) – who Dorothy didn’t like – just “lived for others”, to which Dorothy replied “Yup and you can tell the “others” by their hunted look”.

In another instance, someone said “Claire is so kind to her inferiors” and Dorothy responded “wherever does she find them?”

I’d probably put Dot’s take on Claire as Queen of Cups reversed. Important to note though that Dorothy was at times a suicidally romantic alcoholic, (rather Queen of Cups reversed-ish herself). Maybe that’s why Claire rankled her so, there is an ancient saying; “who smelt it dealt it”.

Righting The Reversal

Personally I’ve had to go through bumps and discomforts (and no doubt still will from time to time) before I’ve seen my own patterns and baggage and been able to find release from them. I sometimes have cycles where I find I’m doing way too much in some areas and am off track in others. 

I have found that whenever I am living under the threat of an “or else”, that in some way I am already in it. The first times I had to recognize this were the hardest. Many of the people who were around playing into that pattern DID leave, they found another person to play into that pattern with, some got fed up and moved on in their growth. The crisis of letting go of that addictive behavior of rescuing was frightening but moving through that “or else” turned out to be one of the most positive things I could do. I had a lot of help (we usually do when we are honestly trying to move beyond this).

I listened to what some good people had been trying to tell me all along. I spent time alone and found it wasn’t bad, as a matter of fact it was nourishing. I sought (and still seek) the counsel of others with experience. I know I haven’t seen the last of these lessons, in truth I think we always are moving through them in some way. I can tell you it does get easier, and the neat thing is, it’s very very ok. We can see it more readily and move through it more gently. When the poop hits the fan and that “or else” plays out, there’s a lot more that comes into view, a lot of it very good possibilities and potentials that are hard to see when you’re busy turning yourself into a pretzel. It’s usually been there all along waiting to be discovered.

After a while, we start to see too, that the universe never gave us a gift by mistake. It didn’t get the name tags mixed up on the presents. If we have been abusing gifts, they sustain damage, but the human spirit is very resilient. When we recognize that we’re in that trap, when we release the “or else”, there’s an opportunity to come back and work with our gifts. They come into more graceful use, they evolve. We are given the chance to see something more than acceptance. Acceptance is important but there is something greater, recognition is seeing the genuine potential that has always been there and the use of the gift starts coming from that place instead. We start being kind for kindness sake (instead of a gritted teeth kind of NICE), we can give more freely with less of a drain or a price tag. People find us more comfortable to be with as we are more on a level playing field. Reciprocation goes on and we start to experience the intimacy of sharing ourselves and being shared with.

On that perky note -I have a good friend who closes most of his messages with “LIFD”: Life Is Fabulous Dahling!

Sometimes the question IS the answer

I am often asked what kinds of questions bring people to a reading. Most folks are looking for insight into the lessons going on in their lives, a perspective outside their own immediate perceptions and, often, a double check on what their own intuition is telling them. A reading can give some validation to a person’s own hunches. I believe it is not supposed to override or replace that.

There are certain questions that really answer themselves in the asking. When someone asks about a relationship “can I trust this person”? The question itself indicates the answer. It is not the same as asking “is this person trustworthy”? Whether a person is trustworthy or not is good to look at. Whether we can trust or not is our own stuff. Sometimes we aren’t supposed to trust right away. Sometimes that’s something that has to be built and if in that trust we are giving up our own sense of responsibility theres going to be problems.

Another question that answers itself is “is there hope”? If the question is being asked then it certainly seems there is, however remote that hope may be.

I should mention that this is a big part of why I don’t allow questions to be asked verbally until the latter part of the reading. It’s my job to pick up on uncertainties and issues without being told. This allows the querant (that’s the fancy term for the person being read) to know if a reading is “on” or not. Part of what I try to address is the stuff that is under the ownership of the person being read. It is very tempting to want to use a reading to try and figure out what other people’s motives might be. Classically I am often asked what someone else may be feeling. The old fortune teller question of “what does my boyfriend feel about me”, or “why does my daughter in law not like me”. Well often as not, the person with the boyfriend is going through their own ambivalence about the relationship. They might like the boyfriend but feel dissed when he puts work ahead of things or still has past issues with an old flame etc. The mother in law might have very little communication with the son’s partner, so where does the crux of the problem lie? Maybe in whatever the son has issues with. We could get really lost in taking on other people’s stuff. I do get some signals on these levels but the greater focus comes back to the querant.

Another way of looking at it is this analogy; when my old secondhand computer goes on the fritz, I could spend hours fiddling with it or (as I’ve learned the hard way). I can first pick up the phone and call my Internet service provider. If I get the message at the beginning of the call “attention customers we are experiencing technical difficulties” then I don’t have to waste time fiddling. So often at the very start of a reading (usually before I even turn the cards over) I get a very strong sense of where the person is connected or where they may be in a distraction over someone else’s stuff. If a relationship is giving them mixed feelings or giving them mixed signals I usually pick up on that pretty quickly. The mixed feelings are the querant’s stuff, the mixed signals are external. This also where the tarot is a very helpful tool and where it works well alongside the intuition. People sometimes say “you don’t really need the cards” , actually I do. The cards often give some objective insight about the cause and effect of things and it is often in the cards that we see, outcomes of what the intuition is picking up and also insight about things outside the client’s realm of responsibility. Things we cannot be responsible for, but can be responsible to. We cant chang the weather but we can outfit ourselves appropriately to it.Part of what a reading (both the cards and the intuition) should do is shed a little light on these things.

We also aren’t going to get answers about what is not our business and thank your lucky stars for that! Can you imagine how awful it would be to have to look out for the motives of others that don’t want to look at them themselves? That’s actually what many would consider the definition of a dysfunctional relationship and I see instances of it a lot and yes, as a professional know it all I have had to run into that brick wall quite a few times personally.

The old kindergarten rules always apply; it’s not so much important what others think of us, but rather what (and how) we think of them. When  we work with our own stuff we get somewhere. We can share and work with others, that’s a beautiful part of intimacy and co-operative, healthy relationships, but trying to work on someone else’s stuff when they aren’t interested is like drinking medicine to make someone else get well, You’ll get a little green around the gills.

Eight Of Swords

There’s trends I sometimes notice, where certain cards are more prevalent. It sometimes seems that there’s lessons we all are moving through and symbols become more evident during these times. Lately I have noticed a stronger than usual emphasis on the Eight of Swords.

The suit of swords itself is where we often are having to work with issues around conflict, stress and the part of consciousness that makes decisions, sometimes a more dualistic (good or bad, right or wrong) decisive focus.

None of the suits are good or bad in themselves but swords do seem to indicate more trouble on the surface than the others, yet they are necessary and when we work with what they represent we grow.

Not many people can say they like conflict, but conflict resolution is a very good thing. Any relationship that doesn’t have a degree of conflict (internally or externally) isn’t much of a relationship. How we work through these issues and identify problems is an essential part of our life experience.

Eights as a number are often about how we are identifying with our experiences. They are a sort of “you are here” indicator. We have to remember that our circumstances don’t define us entirely, we have to be in them but not of them. When we define ourselves by conflict, when our main subject matter is our battles and conflicts there is a self victimization that the eight of swords can illustrate.

Sometimes that victimization is from an external source, an abusive relationship whether it is with a partner or one’s environment can be shown by this card. Feeling powerless in our circumstances is also a big part of what this represents.

Looking at the illustration in the Rider deck there are some useful clues and insights. The figure is bound and blindfolded, surrounded by swords and abandoned on a beach, a castle is seen high on a cliff. Small puddles surround the figure, it is also significant that she is wearing red. What this seems to be is an execution by drowning. The tide will come in and this figure will be washed away. It’s almost as if the executioners didnt have the guts to do the job themselves but rather have left it up to a force of nature to do the dirty work for them.

In some cultures a woman in red represents a dangerous figure, a “fallen woman”. In the Tarot deck however she represents a resourceful woman of experience, the crone aspect of the female trinity (Mother, Maiden and Crone). In a happier aspect she is present in that trinity in the three of cups and also the Queen of Pentacles herself wears red (again symbolic of resourcefulness and the ability to see many sides of a situation).
So our figure in the eight of swords has fallen into a bad situation. The manner and style of execution suggests she is a powerful woman, again so much so that no one wants to directly do her in, nor do they wish to be identified hence the blindfold. In some cases so much as a look from this person would be enough for her to either do damage or to influence her escape.

The water is significant too. In many instances in the Rider deck, the ocean represents the vast unknown of our life experience, to venture out, to risk going beyond our comfort zones. This is different symbolically than just water as an element (cups). I always have felt though that the very thing meant to do our lady in red in, will be the very thing that sets her free. We have to sometimes “surrender to win”, let go of the defining circumstances and sink or swim but in doing so we reclaim the freedom we have lost.

In practical application this card comes up a lot for caring people who have lost their way in taking on the worries of others. I sometimes call it the “Achilles’s Heel of Empaths”. When our feeling for others has taken over our lives, we are in this state. Sometimes to take on our own feelings can be overwhelming at first (like the great ocean tide) but when we surrender to these things rather than run from them, we find our way out.

The term “Empath” has come up more in the last few years to refer to a person who has the ability to pick up on the feelings of others. I didnt hear the term so much until one of the Star Trek Shows ( I think it was Next generation) had a character who identified herself as one. Sometimes this seems to be an involuntary condition, a person who is an involuntary empath has not yet learned to set boundaries and is strongly affected by the vibes in their environment. Also there is the danger of projection, or ascribing to others the very dark emotions we do not want to own up to in ourselves. When we lack these boundaries or the accountability to see that the dark emotions we are “picking up” are sometimes our own, we have fallen into this trap. For some who are addicted to feeding off the emotional turmoil of crisis situations, boundaries can be frightening. To feel seperated from or cut off from others is harsh, but this is where the illustration of the card takes on new meaning. Sometimes we need the boundaries that the swords represent and the blindfold makes us look inward, we can begin to rescue ourselves (we often need help though in opening these things up) rather than using crisis as a way of avoiding.

I also sometimes call this “the flannel nightie card”. In relationships this can be an indication of a lack of safety or security, a need to withdraw from intimacy. We cannot truly share ourselves with another if we are feeling hurt or threatened. So like putting on a red flannel nightie that would look good on grandma and getting a good night’s sleep, we have to stand back, take back our space and be whole before we can share.

Sometimes this card can indicate physical problems. I don’t diagnose health, but the physical aspects of stress come up here. Some people don’t know they are on fire til they smell the smoke. This is not a good card around issues of pregnancy or fertility issues. It usually suggests a strong need for self care before any new undertaking can be accomplished.