Tarot Pairs: the Tower and the Star

No one wants to see the Tower come up in their reading, but if it does the Star is a wonderful card to follow it.

The Tower indicates the end of a pattern, situation, or way of life that is coming to a drastic end. For example, it could refer to a job that you’re fed up with but feel like you’re stuck with, a relationship that has been deteriorating for some time, or a nicotine habit that you just can’t, or don’t want to break. In your heart, you know that it’s an unhealthy situation, but it’s what you are used to, and leaving it might represent leaving your comfort zone. Making drastic changes can be daunting. Sleepwalking through life is much easier.

Then suddenly lightning strikes the Tower—you lose the job, have an irrevocable blow-up with your significant other, or get a bad diagnosis from the doctor. It hits you hard. You probably didn’t expect it, even though you might realize you should have. When the Tower comes up, you’ve probably played your part in it being there, even if you’ve contributed little more than complacency and inertia.

The energy of the Tower is often natures alarm clock, and waking up can be a shock. “This isn’t the dream I was having. The floor is cold and I’m still groggy. Where’s the snooze button?” The Tower has no snooze button and waking up to it can make you feel like the world is crumbling around you, and that can feel devastating.

This is where the Star comes in, and why it offsets the Tower so well. The Star speaks of hope, inspiration, healing, and an open spirit. It indicates that, no matter how drastic the changes represented by the Tower, that energy will pass, and that you will be shaken, but not scarred. It can mean mean that you can see an opportunity to change things that weren’t working out, and you have a positive attitude towards doing so. Maybe you already know what changes you want to make. Maybe the lightning strike of the Tower has provided a eureka moment and where you once saw nothing beyond your current situation you can now see the path ahead clearly. The Star is the silver lining around the storm cloud.

It’s worth pointing out that the Star immediately follows the Tower in the major arcana, so these two cards coming together form a natural progression. All is well, even if it temporarily appears that isn’t the case. This is just one more stage you need to pass through, and there are brighter days ahead.

Tarot Pairs: Five of Swords, The Lovers Reversed

The pairing of the Five of Swords and the Lovers reversed is an unwelcome sight in a relationship thread, unless you’re looking for confirmation that the relationship is off the rails, and in that case you probably already know that. Of course, Tarot is a great tool for telling you what you probably already know, but it does help you focus.

The Five of Swords is somebody who’s main interest is themselves, and they don’t mind looking out for themselves by any means necessary, even if it means being a little (or a lot) underhanded to succeed. And if you get hurt in the process, hey, that’s life. Along with this comes discord, naturally enough, another possible meaning for this card.

When you pair the Five of Swords with the Lovers reversed, you see the domain in which this self-interest is acted out, because the Lovers reversed can indicate a fear, or lack of desire for commitment and intimacy, communication problems, and an unwillingness to meet their partner halfway. This could play out as obviously as someone who is cheating on you. Alternatively it can indicate that someone might not be emotionally available. Or maybe you feel like someone is not as candid with you as they should be, which makes sense since the Five of Swords often has a secret they don’t want to let you in on. You might feel underappreciated by this person because they don’t value you enough to take your wants and needs into consideration. If you don’t want to go along with what the Five of Swords wants, then they’ll be just as happy to go along without you. All of which ties into another possible meaning for the Lovers reversed—a dysfunctional relationship.

Of course, this doesn’t have to represent a romantic relationship. Maybe your business partner is telling porkies, or your real estate agent forgot to tell you about the temporarily covered sink hole in the back garden of that house you like, for example.

If none of this resonates with you when you see these cards, then consider the possibility that the Lovers reversed is pointing out either a bad decision or a reluctance to make any decision. Especially with the former, the Five of Swords might have a negative impact on decision making due to the underhanded way of operating, perhaps trying to get away with something they know that they should not. Which usually isn’t a problem for the Five of Swords…unless they get caught of course. So if you’re thinking about writing off luxury items as business expenses, for example, or trying to pass off someone else’s work as your own in the office this might be a warning against doing so. Five is the number of change, and Swords can represent justice, so what seems like a good idea at the moment might not end up being one.

Daily Draw: Four of Swords

The Four of Swords is the first image I encountered from the Tarot deck, and it sold me on the deck immediately. A woman reclines, sublimely relaxed, in a bubble bath. One shoe still on as though she didn’t want to take the time to fully disrobe to get into that relaxed state. Likewise, one sword lays on the ground implying she didn’t want to take the time to properly stack them all—she needed to submerge herself NOW. Her red hair flows out from her head like water against violet clouds as her mind relaxes. Candles enhance the mood.

Compare this image to the corresponding card in the Rider-Waite-Coleman deck. The RWS card shows the tomb of a soldier who is laid in rest. The predominant tone is grey and dark, where in the Bonefire deck the colours are warm and bright. The theme is rest, recuperation, contemplation, and meditation in both cards, but the Bonefire version makes it look that much more inviting.

This card can come up when you need some serious self care. There may have been a period of struggle that has worn you down. It could be as obvious as a physical battle, but it could also be any conflict that has worn you out or frazzled your brain, like a lawsuit for example, a bad break-up, or a work-related conflict that didn’t go well. The preceding card in the suit is the Three of Swords, harbinger of pain and misery, so this is the calm after that.

The Four of Swords doesn’t imply that the struggle is over. This is more like the calm of the storm. There is probably more conflict to come. Therefore, this is the time to get some sleep, eat well, and recover from whatever has been affecting you because you need all that. It’s also a time to reflect on what has happened, think about what you are going to do about it, and plan your strategy for success. Think about all this, but don’t stress about it. For now, it’s time to rest.

The Tower as a Major Seven

The full moon this past week had a more negative impact for me than any I can recall in my recent personal history, resulting in an unexpected upheaval. I was in the late stages of a protracted interview process for a senior role in two separate companies and things were going well. In both I was one of two finalists, and a heavy favourite in one of them. Then Uranus, in opposition to the moon, decided to throw a spanner in the works with a twist worthy of “Tales of the Unexpected” —not only did I not win either role, nobody won either role. Both companies decided to change job requirements and go back to the drawing board. Yikes!

I won’t go into the details of how much time and energy I put into all this, or the knock on effect of having to go back to the drawing board myself, and under a bit more financial pressure this time. But I will say that one of the first things I did after putting down the phone from the second rejection was to lay out a celtic cross spread of what the next month was going to look like for me. In retrospect it might not have been the best idea to launch into this reading on the heels of that fresh energy of frustration, rejection and futility, but nevermind.

Without going into the whole reading, I will tell you that I drew three out of four sevens (no cups) in the minor arcana. Challenges and obstacles to overcome indeed. And just to the right of it all, in the immediate future/concerns slot was the Tower.

The Tower is probably the card one least wants to see under any circumstances, especially when one is contemplating when and where they’ll see their next paycheque. The Tower warns of impending upheaval, crises, inescapable disruption of life as one knows it. So not part of the comfort zone then.

Seeing this card in my immediate future was unsettling, to put it mildly. And then I was reminded that 16, the number of the Tower, reduces to seven. A fourth seven, in this reading. A great big honking seven, but still a seven. Staying upright while the rug is pulled out from beneath you definitely falls into the challenges and obstacles category.

The Tower usually doesn’t come up unless there is a good reason for it, and as harsh as it is, it is not only usually for your own good, but you caused it to come up in some way. You’ve willed it into being by being complacent in a situation you know you should get out of, or you’re letting things slide and not taking care of business, or you’ve been propping yourself up on a shaky foundation, for example. Eventually something’s got to give. If you don’t rise to the challenge of the hints and red flags that you may have ignored, the Tower makes sure you learn the hard way.

The Tower can also mean revelation. In this case, it’s possible both of the roles I was going for were beginning to look like more trouble than they were worth—one company didn’t seem to quite know what they wanted, with an ever-changing the job spec, and the other company was beginning to look quite toxic. But I need the work and I’ll just suck it up right? Guess not, says the Tower, time to reassess and find the path you should be on, not the one you think you should be on, or that is expected of you by others. And while I’m concerned that the fallout from all this might make it tough going for the next while, at least the only pentacle that came up in the next reading was the seven, as a possible outcome. That I can handle.

Living in Interesting Times

Reality is subjective. I never used to think that. I mean, how can reality, something that one would assume can be empirically proved or disproved, be open to interpretation, conditioned on whether someone accepts it or doesn’t accept it?

Then came social media, which does have some uses (hi fam) but is also a veritable, all you can eat buffet of political polarization, culture clashes, countless conspiracy theories, and trolls of every persuasion. So many opinions, so little tolerance. I sometimes say opinions are like farts: everyone has them, no one wants to hear anyone else’s and most of them stink. Except mine of course. Mine smell like roses.

But back to reality, so to speak. Let’s look at something that one would think is a fact or isn’t: COVID-19. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It is a particularly nasty virus circulating around the globe with a high infection rate, a higher than average death rate, and long-term consequences for those who contract  and survive it. Or is it? I guess that depends on who you listen to, or what you believe yourself. For health care workers, for example, it seems to be undeniable and has brought about a relentless ordeal that is overtaxing every health-care system that has to deal with it. But that’s not unilaterally true either, as a number of Youtube videos are circulating, produced by health care workers claiming that we’re being scammed and that there are empty hospital beds and unused ventilators stockpiled in basements. Some people believe COVID-19 is such a threat that they put on masks and gloves to bring their bins to the sidewalk. Others are having COVID-19 parties because it’s all a load of nonsense, until they actually contract the virus and change their belief, or not. Economies are shut down and people are put out of work because we’re being indoctrinated into the New World Order with Bill Gates set to vaccinate us with the mark of the beast, or else it’s because we’re facing a potentially catastrophic pandemic about which next to nothing was known initially and, even with discoveries made daily, there are still too many knowledge gaps for comfort. And it was all manufactured in China, or came from eating bats, or something else.

If you are waiting for me to tell you who is right you will be disappointed. Everybody is right, or at least everybody believes they are right. Each of these concepts represents somebody’s truth, their reality. How can this be? Wouldn’t it be a simple thing to prove, at the very least, what the basic facts are about COVID-19 in a way that cannot be disputed? No. But we can’t trust the main-stream media. They each have their own agendas and slants on events in line with their corporate owners. We can’t trust scientists. Who’s funding them and what are their vested interests? We really can’t trust politicians. At best, they are trying to juggle economic considerations and the health and safety of the population, with varying degrees (or lack) of success. In Ireland, for example, we’re telling everyone to wear a mask and be vigilant, but then we’re letting tourists fly in from highly-infected Texas who are apparently meant to quarantine on the honour system (i.e. not quarantine). When we can’t count on anyone to be straight with us, the best we can do is attempt to triangulate what the facts are by looking to see where the various accounts intersect.

“May you live in interesting times” is, ironically, a Chinese curse. The times are certainly interesting, and uncertain. We are challenged with conflicting scenarios and are left to choose what we believe to be true based on how we filter what we see, hear and intuit for ourselves. Our worlds are changing drastically, with this virus being only one example of a catalyst bringing about that change. We can be stressed and even fearful of those changes, as many are, or we can try to take this malleable world, focussing on shifting it in a direction of our choosing that is aligned with love and compassion, while trying not to get distracted by the potential triggers bombarding us daily.

Tarot Insights: Knight of Cups

Knight of Cups – Bonefire Deck

I think of knights as fire, full of the passionate energy of youth. Not wide-eyed innocent pages, but high-spirited teenagers, sometimes rebellious, sometimes stroppy, usually full of themselves—knowing they are right about everything, constantly testing their boundaries. When we apply this to the Knight of Cups, we see someone who is passionate about following their heart, who puts more emphasis on their emotions than their logic, and who has a faith in their intuition.

In the Bonefire deck, the Knight of Wands seems to be surrounded by a lavender cloud that takes up most of the illustration. This also seems to be the color of what little of his horse we can see. The feeling I get is that this knight is surrounded by his dreams, perhaps emphasized by the few bubbles we can also see. He gazes at a chalice filled with rose wine. Yet his head is above the clouds, the sun is shining big and bright and the wine is captured by the sun’s corona.

This might seem like a contradiction, but it’s more an indication that the knight is aware of the “real” world even though he seems to be overindulging in his dream world. With knights, their energy can veer from one extreme to another. The trick is  finding the balance. I think this illustration convey’s this point well.

Whether it’s healing, divining, manifesting or something else, a lot of energy work requires the open-heartedness and intuition of the cups. The knight is enthusiastic about immersing himself in those energies, and it can be a real buzz to do so. While healing takes place for ourselves and others in this space, it is often a very personal experience. There is also a three-dimensional world out there, the one most people perceive as reality, the one in which most people interact with us. It’s important to try to maintain a balance so that we don’t get so caught up in dreams that we diminish our connection to others.

Tarot Insights: The Magician

All that Potential…

The Magician, Bonefire Tarot Deck
The Magician—Bonefire Tarot Deck

In contrast to the rather static depiction of the Magician in the RWS deck, showing all potential but no real action, the Bonefire Tarot Magician is surrounded by representatives of the elements that swirl around him. Nothing is manifest yet, but something is about to come into being—the creative process is in motion. You can nearly hear the crack of electricity as light begins to emerge from the Magician’s wand.

As close as this magician is to the moment of creation, it is still the energy of potential and not actualization. Kind of like the fool walking up to the edge then not quite stepping off the precipice. We’re still not there yet.

I’m struck now by how often I hear about dreams, plans, ideas, or even have them myself, that for one reason or another are never acted upon. I’m not saying they’re all good ideas, but at least some of them could be, and in many cases how can you tell until you begin to try to realize them? All the things we could create, the ways in which we could change the world, the people we could heal. All that potential, all that power to create.

But if it remains potential, what is it worth? Is it just a story we tell ourselves? How good life could be if only this or that would happen? Are we afraid to act? Do we not have enough faith in ourselves to bring the dream to reality? Not enough time? Don’t know how to get from point A to point Z? Are we too concerned about what others might say? What stops you from letting your inner Magician follow through to manifestation.

Hopefully your Magician isn’t completely frustrated or resigned to perceived “reality”. We sometimes find we can create in some areas while having problems in others. Yet those difficult areas are often the challenges we are meant to tackle in this life. And we can—that potential, everything we need is there inside of us, ready to be realized. What are you going to do with it

Tarot Insights: Ten of Coins

Ten of Coins—Bonefire Tarot Deck
Ten of Coins—Bonefire Tarot

In the Bonefire deck, the Ten of Coins (aka pentacles) is illustrated by ten flowers in bloom, a coin in the center of each, growing in lush green grass. We can see the roots of one of the flowers, and there is a dog sniffing around the foreground, seemingly also at root level.  A castle sits in the background. Between the flowers and the castle is a clothesline with a few items of clothing that seem plain yet new, or at least well cared for.

The ten of Coins is the culmination of that practical, tangible, material earth energy. It is often associated with family, especially in association with legacies or Dynasties. Every family has its own traditions and attributes that make them unique, and in the best of circumstances they are handed down and cherished from generation to generation as a linear connection to shared ancestry, stretching back to the beginning of civilization, uniting more of us the further back we follow the line, forming a strong connection to our foundation. The castle in the background is a stand-in for that foundation—for how many generations has that castle served as a dwelling, and for how many more will it remain.

The family legacy might take the form of a family business, or it might be a talent that runs in the family, musicianship, for example. Whatever ties this family together there is strength, security, and abundance. This family is secure and thriving. All is well.

Tarot Insights: The Hermit

The Hermit, Bonefire Tarot Deck
The Hermit—Bonefire Tarot

There is conflicting energy in The Hermit as he is pulled in two different directions. He shines the light of a star from out his lantern, but he is using that light to look within.  And with that inner focus he is also called on to share his knowledge and wisdom with the outer world

We think of the Hermit as someone who is off on their own, but reality is usually not so literal. Most of us don’t have the opportunity to live in a cave. We have to exist in the mundane world with everyone else and deal with the distractions that come from it. In that environment, The Hermit is the one who can unplug himself from social media, get off the treadmill of the daily routine, turn off the autopilot reaction to emotional stimuli. This doesn’t need to be all day every day, but often enough and long enough to develop a personal relationship with the inner world.

In those moments of solitude, The Hermit shines the starlight lantern inward in order to see himself clearly. The Hermit looks fearlessly and objectively at the inner shadows as well as the bright spots. Not judging but observing, discovering the holistic self and accepting that self for who he is, integrating the light and the shadow to be at peace with himself. In so doing, the Hermit discovers the universe as it is contained within.

With all that self-seeking, the Hermit has a calling to share what they discover with others, not necessarily the personal, but as a spiritual teacher. Because the inner-seeking and teaching are ongoing processes, the Hermit’s methods and message will change over time as he learns more. Knowledge will increase, belief’s will change and some will be abandoned. That’s why they call it “Seeking” and not “Found it”.

The Hermit does not need to be a guru selling out workshops to teach. Displaying business ethics regardless of gain, setting an example for your friends, having an openhearted conversation over coffee, parenting , blogging—there are always opportunities to teach. The Hermit knows that we are all connected, and that shining a light makes the path brighter for everyone.

Tarot Insights: Five of Swords

swords5_bonefireI’ve been working with the Bonefire deck recently, where previously I worked mainly with the RWS deck. In the latter, the Five of Swords seems a bit ambiguous—is that person in the foreground collecting the swords for the others, or is he stealing them while their backs are turned? The Bonefire Five of Swords seems a little more straight forward— two tattooed, brawny men duking it out over a woman, pursuing their own self-interest.  The one tattooed with the name and number of the card just landed a solid blow on the jaw of the Tao-tattooed guy, meanwhile the woman in the background gazes at the sunset with her back to them. Probably just as well, or she might decide to write-off both these guys. Maybe she already has, and maybe they’re fighting over which one of them to blame.

Maybe the bearded one felt entitled to ingratiate himself into an existing relationship, and and what we are seeing is the release of the Five of Swords guy after putting up with so much for so long. Let’s stick with that vibe for a moment, because I feel like that’s what this card might be saying this morning. This is what happens when you let people walk all over you for too long while you rationalize, make excuses, and put others ahead of yourself. You know that it happens all the time in a variety of different contexts. Then one day, WHAM! All that pent up frustration finds an outlet.

It’s OK to be selfish. If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else? You’re not a martyr—That would be the Ten of Swords. But being selfish doesn’t need to be taken to the literal extremes seen here. There is a great amount of scope for balance between being a doormat and flattening someone into a doormat.

Sometimes we can get to a Five of Swords point because we are not communicating our truth effectively. We gloss over what we think, believe, want and/or need. Why? Fear of rejection? Not wanting to rock the boat? Assuming what the response will be and not wanting to have to deal with it?

You can only be who you are. You can try to be who you’re not, but the ruse will fall apart at some point and no one will be happy, especially you. There will be times that this will rock the boat, and at those times you might need to ask yourself if you are a minor actor in someone else’s drama, or the leading character in the story of your own life.