Spread of The Week: Four-Card “New Direction” Spread

This spread, a slightly longer variation of the popular three-card “Past-Present-Future” layout, aims to guide us through those times when we are feeling as though we are not living up to our fullest potential, or when we are feeling stymied or frustrated by life as we perceive it. Perhaps we are struggling with a difficult relationship at home, or an unstable environment at work, or perhaps we’re feeling a bit lost and directionless in a world that often seems to be careening out of control. In any event, this spread encourages us to engage in some self-examination, to put our anxieties in their proper perspective, and to suggest a constructive “way out” of our emotional funk.

The cards are laid out, right to left, as follows:

4    3    2    1

The questions posed by the cards are:

(1) What is the source of my dissatisfaction?
(2) Given the option, what would I rather be doing?
(3) What is preventing me from embarking upon this?
(4) What can help me to overcome this?

Some archetypal and elemental correspondences that can assist us in interpreting the cards can include, but are not limited to, in order:

(1) Wands: intellect and intuition, fire and smoke, creation and destruction;
(2) Cups: emotions and feeling, water and fog, healing and sickness;
(3) Swords: ego and will, air and wind, power and impotence;
(4) Pentacles: becoming and sensing, earth and creation, wealth and poverty.

The cards that appeared today were these:Screen shot 2016-01-09 at 10.46.42 AM(Disclosure: For simplicity’s sake, no reversed cards today—and for a change of pace, I’m using the Renaissance art-inspired Golden Tarot deck, which has fast become a new favorite.) The first thing we notice here is that we have a card from each of the four Tarot elements: Fire (Strength, governed by Leo), Water (8 of Cups), Air (10 of Swords) and Earth (4 of Pentacles). This suggests a general state of balance on the part of the querent, though the appearance of the 8 of Cups and the 10 of Swords—both cards denoting isolation and solitude—suggest a wish to reconcile the disparate elements of his psyche in a more harmonious arrangement.

(1) What is the source of my dissatisfaction? Four of Pentacles. This card has been showing up in a lot of my daily readings lately. Regular visitors to this site will know that the last couple of years have been somewhat challenging for your humble blogger, in particular regarding work and finances, so it should come as no surprise to see the Four of Pentacles in this position. It’s a card signifying material plenty, but it is also a warning against becoming a slave to material desires. Worrying over money—or the lack of it—is a neurosis that afflicts all too many of us; and certainly, while we need to be mindful of our finances, we don’t need to allow feelings of “money-panic” to govern our lives, even in tough economic times. To succumb to this thinking is to see the world through a prism of scarcity, not abundance, and such a cramped and constricted view of the world can leave us in a state of emotional paralysis.

(2) Given other options, what would I rather be doing? Eight of Cups. This speaks to a deep-seated desire to turn away from society and all its discontents, to literally go “off the grid” and live out the remainder of days as a solitary truth-seeker in an unspoiled wilderness. I’ll have to admit that I’ve entertained such a notion (haven’t we all at times?), albeit more frequently in my older years, regardless of how unrealistic—and, as we are about to discover, how spiritually impossible—it really is. More charitably, it speaks to that part of the psyche that seeks a spiritual union with the creative forces of the universe away from the bustle of civilization. It’s a reminder, too, that we don’t need to become hermits in hair shirts to achieve a deeper appreciation of the spiritual forces around us—we can discover these things in peace and quiet, alone with our thoughts in meditation and prayer, and we can do this just as easily in a crowded bus as we can in a distant idyll. We simply need to make the time, and to train our minds to “tune out” all of the static that distracts us from the task. 

(3) What is preventing me from embarking upon this? Ten of Swords. This is the ultimate “wake-up call” among the cards in the Minor Arcana. It’s the card of the martyr and the persecution complex, of the self-inflicting sufferer whose public agonies mask the vainest type of narcissism. It’s the card that screams, “Get over yourself!” It is the symbolic representation of the ego-death that we must all experience before we can ever truly know our Selves—to see ourselves as fully individuated beings and not victims of illusion, captives of will, or slaves to sensation: In short, to reach a state of consciousness where we recognize ourselves as infinite spiritual entities, ever evolving and expanding in dimension, and not merely as three-dimensional assemblages of flesh and bone. To the seeker, this process is typically painful at first, and is generally accompanied by the kinds of emotional “fits and starts” such as we see with an addict who is undergoing withdrawal. Ah, those mistaken preconceptions of ourselves and others that we cultivated for so long were assuring, now, weren’t they? But now that we are disabused of all falsehood—of the notion of our “separateness” from others, and all forms of hierarchical thought that emanate from this—we can begin the process of “re-assembling” our true Selves as parts of the greater whole of humankind.

In this reading, the Ten reminds the querent that his idea of going “off the grid” (implied by the previous card) is a conceit of ego and a false construct based on the common misperception—often advanced in Western societies—that “separation equals individuation” when nothing could be further from the truth. Those of us in America are even more susceptible to this error: we take great pride, for instance, in our founding document—a declaration of independence—and we routinely hear our civic leaders chastising the lower orders for fostering a culture of dependency when the act of “dependency”, in fact, is what binds humanity to itself, and to God!

Look at evolutionary biology. When a cell multiplies via osmosis, is it not still a component of the same organism? The evolving organism simply has two cells now instead of one, but the organism has not changed its “identity” for that of another; neither do the cells within the organism attain a state of “separateness” or :apartness” from each other, even though each cell is unique unto itself; all work in concert on behalf of the organism. And each additional cell that the organism generates is utterly dependent on the cells to which it is chained in sequence in order to “grow” the organism to its completion.

So it is with us—no matter how many “separate” physical osmoses we appear to undergo during our lifetimes here, our true “spirit-cell” identity lies outside the cell itself, and it is one that we share with all other living things; and all of us, like cells in a celestial body, are interconnected, interdependent, and utterly necessary to “complete” the organism of God. We can no more realistically “declare our independence” from others than the billions of cells that dwell within us could decide on their own to split apart from each other and begin to build billions of disconnected bodies. When we realize this at last, we begin to heal the psyche, and the process of “re-cognizing” our true Selves can commence. If we stubbornly ignore this reality, however, we inflict severe psychic pain upon ourselves—the “living death of the split mind” that the Ten of Swords warns us against in such harsh and unforgiving terms. We Americans, of all people, should be acutely aware of this fundamental truth; our founding motto, after all, is E Pluribus Unum—”Out of many, one.” We should remind ourselves of it more often.

(4) What can help me to overcome this? Strength. This is fairly self-explanatory, with the emphasis here being less on brute force than on self-discipline, and on keeping one’s wilder, more animalistic impulses in check. In the querent’s case, it serves as a caution about material matters that may be giving him concern (implied by the first card); not to overindulge in food or drink, to avoid excessive physical activity (it’s flu season, remember), to keep his emotions in check, and to act frugally with his finances. Now is a good time, it would seem, to “save up” for that apocryphal rainy day—and just in time for El Nino, it would seem!

Dante DiMatteo

Reflections on the Six of Swords

Q: If there is anything I should be mindful of today, what would it be?

A: This.VI

The traditional meanings attributed to the card include “journey,” “travel,” or “passing over” as to Hades or the underworld; the gray and somber mood of the image conveys a mournful mood, as though the shrouded passengers in the boat—typically interpreted as a mother and child—are proceeding to a funeral or memorial. There is an alternative meaning, however, that is suggested by the card preceding it in the suit of Swords:

V

This is a card of violence and aggression, of scars inflicted and battles unwisely waged. Viewed this way, the Six of Swords can be seen as a sign of safe passage, a retreat from danger in order to heal, and a suggestion for the querent to seek solace in a quiet and private place. Perhaps the querent is dealing with an abusive domestic relationship or a despotic boss at work. In any event, the Six of Swords advises her to “get away”—to find a spiritual sanctuary where she can be at rest with her own “inner child.”

There’s an important condition, however, and it is found in the figure of the oarsman plying the waters. To get to that “safe space,” we, like the mother and child in the boat, may need the hands-on assistance of others—and in order to receive the full measure of their help, we must be willing to ask for it. Many of us are conditioned to “bottle up” and internalize our less flattering emotional impulses, not wishing to “be a burden” unto others. This is an unfortunate manifestation of ego-consciousness that achieves the exact opposite of what we are consciously seeking; for when do this, we only build walls between ourselves and others when we should  be building bridges instead. “Ask, and ye shall find”: Don’t ask at all, and we exact a needless sacrifice from ourselves.

This is but one side of the coin, however; for while we all need the help of others at some crucial point in our lives, we too must be willing to perform the same assistive function, freely and selflessly, for others whenever we are asked. All of the Sixes in the Minor Arcana depict scenes that suggest or imply acts of giving unto or serving others:Screen shot 2016-01-05 at 3.10.12 PMThe victorious ruler in the Six of Wands serves his subjects by using his powers of strategic thinking (“Wands” power) to lead his regiment to triumph in battle. The young boy in the Six of Cups uses his powers of love (“Cups” power) to give a cupful of flowers to the little girl beside him. And the wealthy merchant in the Six of Pentacles uses his powers of material wealth (“Pentacles” power) to give alms to poor mendicants.

Which brings us to the oarsman in the Six of Swords. What “Swords power” does he employ to serve his passengers? In short, it is will power—the determination to see a thing through to its conclusion, no matter how inconveniencing or burdensome, or how long and thankless the task may seem at the time. This is as true for ourselves as it is for our apocryphal oarsman. There will undoubtedly be critical episodes in our lives when we will be asked—even begged!—for help and support in a matter involving a friend, a family member, or even a perfect stranger over whom we have little apparent responsibility. It could be the onset of an illness, a financial crisis, a messy divorce or a struggle with substance abuse. We may be suddenly thrust into a position of leadership at work or in the home, as with the Six of Wands, or required to look after a needy dependent, as with the Six of Cups, or to dip into our savings as with the Six of Pentacles, even if it spells hardship for ourselves. We can rest assured that there will be no throngs of grateful subjects singing our praises at the time, no sweethearts to kiss us in exchange for our affections, or grateful beggars to thank us for sharing our good fortune—only a work to be accomplished and a destiny to fulfill. In these events; we take on responsibility for the wellbeing of others, regardless of outcome or reward, because we know that it is the right thing to do—because we have been called to act in that moment by a power greater than our own. It is the parable of the Good Samaritan; it can happen anywhere to anyone, and while it appears to impose a burden upon us, it actually affords us the opportunity to work miracles.

We also know that an important law of the universe is fulfilled when we act in service to others in this fashion, expecting nothing in return; for the odds are that one day that we, too, as with the beggars in the Six of Pentacles, will need the support and guidance of others in our own time of emergency—and having been willing to step forward and serve others in like manner, we invite our own deliverance as well. Happy Twelfth Night to all.

Dante DiMatteo

Auld Lang Signs: Six-Card “New Year’s” Spread

foolWhile “New Year’s Day” may be a purely arbitrary date, its passage gives us the opportunity to achieve a greater state of self-awareness when we devote some time to assess the past 12 months of our lives, reviewing our accomplishments and disappointments while making resolutions, and setting goals, for the coming year. It’s times like these when the symbolic language of the Tarot can speak most intimately to us, and provide us with insight and guidance into the year ahead if we are willing to engage in the work of serious self-examination.

Of course, this spread need not be confined to New Year’s. It can be laid out anytime we feel as though we have reached the end of a certain phase in our lives and are about to embark upon a new journey, or for those times when we feel that we are situated at a “crossroads” and are wondering to know if we are heading in the right direction or if a course correction is in order.

This spread utilizes a Significator card to represent the querent, and while you are free to use any Court card you prefer, I recommend using The Fool since he embodies the principle of “pure potential”—the “Now” of our lives that is yet to be made consciously manifest—with greater fidelity than any other card in the deck. The cards are laid out in the following sequence:

6

4     3     Fool     1     2

5

The questions posed by the cards are, roughly:

(1) What have I managed to achieve this past year that I hadn’t before? Or, if the card suggests it, How or where have I fallen short in achieving my goals?

(2) Who or what helped me to achieve my goal? Or, Who or what has held me back?

(3) What obstacles confront me looking into the coming year?

(4) What can or should I do to overcome them?

(5) Who or what can help me to achieve next year’s goals?

(6) Given current events, what is the likely foreseeable outcome?

If the querent wishes some further clarification, four additional cards can be laid down beneath the others, such that the spread now appears like this:

6

4    3     Fool     1     2

5

10   9    8     7

The additional cards can be said to represent the four stages of the upcoming year, the four levels of human consciousness, or any combination thereof, for example:

(7) Winter, intellect, the inner mind: The situation as it is perceived.

(8) Spring, emotion, the outer mind: The situation as it is felt.

(9) Summer, perception, the ego mind: The situation as it is projected.

(10) Autumn, sensation, the body mind: The situation as it is experienced.

In the coming days, we’ll examine a sample spread to see what we can learn about ourselves as we head into the next “chapter” of our lives. Until then, I wish you all a prosperous and fulfilling New Year.

—Dante DiMatteo

Yuletide Tarot: The Five-Card “Christmas” Spread in Practice

Christmas is almost upon us, so, following up on a post from a few days ago, I thought it was high time lay down a cruciform “Christmas” spread, to see what lessons the Tarot might teach us about this year’s holiday. The Hanged Man, archetypal representative of the mythological dying and reviving god, serves as a Significator card, and the remaining cards are dealt in the shape of a Tau cross. The cards are dealt in the following order:

2       S       1

5

3

4 (laid sideways)

The questions the cards ask are, roughly:

(1) “Father/God”: What protects me?
(2) “Mother/Mary”: What nurtures me?
(3) “Savior/Son”: What blesses me?
(4) “Devil/Mammon”: What debases me?
(5) “Holy Spirit/Shekinah”: What exalts me?

The cards that appeared today were:Screen shot 2015-12-22 at 1.15.20 PMAt a glance, it’s an interesting spread, especially considering that the figures along the “transept” of the cross are, like the Hanged Man, facing downwards as if under the effect of some gravitational pull, while the Prince and Princess below offer their elements upward as a kind of offering to the sacrificed deity. It’s almost as if there are two symmetrical “force fields” in this spread that collide with each other midway up the cross; on the kabbalistic Tree of Life, the equivalent position would be Tiphareth, “Beauty,” the central sefira where God’s descent into base matter and man’s ascent to pure spirit—the wedding of heaven and Shekinah, “God in the world”—converge in harmonious accord. As I’ve written many times previously, it really is amazing how this Tarot stuff works—but before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s have a look at the individual cards:

1. What protects me? Eight of Swords reversed. When we see this card in a reading, we typically think of someone who is trapped in a psychological prison of their own making. Often, these types of individuals keep their emotions literally “locked up” for fear of exposing their vulnerabilities to others. Reversed here in the “Father/God” position, it suggests that when we are willing to strip away our defenses and reveal our true Selves, and disabuse ourselves of any weaknesses real or imagined that we see in us, we are actually made stronger and less vulnerable. What truly “protects us” is not the psychological barriers and barricades that we erect to separate us from others but that element of our psyche that can summon the courage to “set the captive free.”

2. What nurtures me? The Chariot reversed. As a rule, this card in reverse suggests unstable action or effect—a chariot toppled over is generally a sign of defeat! At its core, however, this is a card about power and control, and conversely, dominance and oppression. The chariot is also, we should recall, an ancient symbol—a celestial vehicle that conveys a deity across the high heavens. Viewed in these lights and at this “station” of the cross denoting “Mother/Mary”, we can interpret this card as (a) a representation of the Fall from Eden (which we all must endure before we can know reunion with the Divine) and (b) a reminder that those things that truly “nurture us” are the exact opposite of power and control and dominance and oppression. When we live in a spirit of humility—willing to “tip over” our own chariot and surrendering our power to manipulate others—we gain more, not less, control over our own inner lives. As the Talmud reminds us, “In my exaltation is my debasement; in my debasement, my exaltation.”

3. What blesses me? Prince of Cups. Interestingly, this is the card I used as a Significator for myself when I was a young man, and it generally describes the kind of person we might refer to as “passive-aggressive”—someone capable of manifesting ego to achieve important goals but who can just as easily, and unpredictably, retreat to the realm of passive daydreams and fantasies, which can often wax vain and narcissistic. Seen here in the “Savior/Son” position, we can see the Prince as a proxy for the Christ, offering the wine of communion before “crossing over” the river (Jordan?) in front of him, with the caveat that we avoid falling victim to any “messiah complex” that would elevate ourselves—in our own minds—above our actual significance in the world. God, we are told, is no respecter of persons—which is to say, none of us is “special”, yet all of us are special. It’s a good lesson to keep in mind, especially at this time of year when we are standing in long lines or jockeying for parking spaces at the crowded mall during the holidays. While we wait, it might be a good time for a daydream or two—about peace on earth, perhaps?

4. What debases me? Nine of Cups. The “wish card” in the “Devil” position warns us to be very careful what we wish for! Now, this is certainly the time of year to eat, drink and be merry—good will toward men can be a lot easier to extend after a few rounds of eggnog—but we should be mindful not to “overdo it” when it comes to holiday festivities. The actual event we celebrate, after all, is one that’s stripped of material trappings—a peasant birth in a lowly shelter that forms the origin of a narrative that would eventually upend the whole of Western thought, and which continues to influence our customs and laws to this day. Better, perhaps, to take some time out from the revelry to contemplate the archetypal significance of the Jesus story, and see what lessons from it we can apply to our own lives.

5. What exalts me? Princess of Coins. In the end, all the same, Christmas is about sharing our love and good fortune with others, and the Princess, her coin aloft in the “Holy Spirit” position, reinforces the point. Besides being a gift-bearer, the Princess of Coins is also known as the “shopaholic” of the Tarot, so while the Nine of Cups may caution against material excess, the Princess reminds us that it’s perfectly okay for us treat ourselves to nice things every now and then, too, particularly if we have fulfilled the Divine mandate to love the Creator with all our hearts, and to honor our neighbor as we’d like to be honored in kind. We’re worth it!

Whatever you celebrate or commemorate at year’s end, I wish all of my readers a peaceful holy-day time and a healthy and prosperous new year.

Dante DiMatteo

Spread of The Month: Five-Card “Christmas” Spread

hangedmanApropos of this time of year, here’s a quick and simple spread that employs the most common Christian archetypes to provide us with guidance and insight during the time of the winter solstice.

For this spread, The Hanged Man—symbol of the dying and reviving god of myth that the Christ figure personifies in our aeon—is used as a Significator, and the remaining cards are dealt in the T-shaped pattern of the Tau cross from which The Hanged Man, well, hangs.

The cards are laid out in the following order:

2           (S)           1

5

3

4 (laid sideways)

The questions assigned to the cards are, roughly:

1. “Father/God”: What protects me?
2. “Mother/Mary”: What nurtures me?
3. “Son/Jesus”: What blesses me?
4. “Devil/Mammon”: What debases me?
5. “Holy Spirit”: What uplifts me?

The answers to each of these questions will depend to the greatest extent on the cards that turn up in the spread. If, for example, we see The Hierophant in the fifth position, it would suggest that prayer, devotional readings, and perhaps even church attendance would prove inspirational for the querent during the holiday season. The Nine of Swords in the same position, however, might hint at a source of aggravation or frustration that the querent needs to surrender before she can fully apprehend and experience her truest, Christ-like Self. As we draw nearer to the 25th, I’ll lay down a sample spread in the coming days to see what this year’s anniversary of the birth of the Nazarene can teach us about ourselves and our wider world.

Dante DiMatteo

Reflections on The Tower

Q: What should I be most mindful of today?

A: This.towerAs a rule, this card is not a welcome sight in a reading as it often portends a sudden turn of fortune, and generally not for the better. As a cautionary allegory, however, it can play a very instructive role, reminding us that we as individuals are not the measure of all living things, that we are all inextricably connected to the wholeness of Creation, and that any attempt to separate ourselves from it—as represented here by the unfortunate couple being evicted from their “proud tower”—is ultimately doomed to disappoint. As with the citizens of Babel who thought they could construct their own heavenly edifices out of base brick and mortar, The Tower brings us “back down to earth” whenever we get a little too full of ourselves, as well as advising us to be flexible in our dealings, and to be willing to adapt to any sudden changes that may befall us. Pride reinforced by complacency breeds arrogance. If such is the state of our inner lives, we should expect at some point to be “cut down to size”—the karmic law of the universe will demand it!

It’s good to keep in mind, also, that the sequence of the cards of the Major Arcana form a kind of “endless cycle” of  creation and destruction, death and resurrection, and descent and ascension along the “royal road” that comprises the 22 paths of the Tree of Life. To arrive at their proper context, therefore, it’s sometimes smart to examine where each individual card “fits” within the sequence, in this case by examining the cards that immediately precede and follow it:Screen shot 2015-12-01 at 9.49.28 AMViewed in this light, we can interpret The Tower as a “bridge” that connects the material world of The Devil to the celestial world of The Star. Its destructive powers, in a way, are only transitory (if not utterly imaginary), for The Tower represents an evolutionary gateway of consciousness through which we all must pass if we are to liberate ourselves from the bonds of (Devil) earth-consciousness in order to become more fully actualized as spiritual (Star) beings. For most people, this takes the form of some cathartic event that triggers a psychic “dark night of the soul,” a time of reflection and soul-searching that can be either tragic or transformative, depending on how willing we are to “do the hard work” of self-examination needed to transcend the limitations of hard-headed ego-consciousness. This obliges us to unburden ourselves, over time, of a great number of our most dearly held pretensions, preconceptions and prejudices; this can be a painful process, and it is effected most usefully through acts of meditation and prayer, and through psychoanalysis or other counseling under the supervision of an experienced “spirit guide” who can keep us from getting lost in the psychological wilderness. Ideally, once we have “learned the lessons” that this experience imprints upon our psyches, we can apply our newfound understanding to helping others who have fallen out of their personal towers—their “comfort zones”—and who are now beset by the devils of alienation and isolation that once frightened and paralyzed us. Thus we affirm our interconnectedness as we share the light of healing.

In reality, the process of individuation is a lifelong journey, but it is a journey we all must undertake. As a symbolic beacon in the darkness, The Tower offers us a direction toward the light if we would but approach it in humility and with a willingness to be led by a power greater than ours. Assuming that we can entirely “make it on our own” is an invitation to a comeuppance.

Dante DiMatteo

Deck Review: Golden Tarot

MagiGoldI hadn’t stumbled across this deck until quite recently, but it is rapidly becoming my Favorite Tarot Deck Ever. First published in 2003 by Australia-based artist and author Kat Black, Golden Tarot aims to reconnect the Tarot aesthetically and esoterically to its origins in early-renaissance Italy. It does so successfully by means of a method so simple, most of us would never think of it, yet one so daunting to execute that most of us would never undertake such a project:

To wit, every single image on every single card in Golden Tarot is lifted directly from a painting or illuminated manuscript created in western Europe circa 1200-1500 C.E. and then “reassembled’ on the cards in the form of a collage. This gives the cards an authenticity that most Arthurian fantasy decks of the modern age lack while still giving the artist plenty of leeway to take liberties with the traditional designs. To add a layer of mystery to the deck, Black eschewed the works of more famous artists of the period—Botticelli, Da Vinci, Durer and the like—and relied instead on more obscure works by lesser known artists. (If you’re an ardent student of art history, you’ll probably recognize some of the representations. I’m an amateur, and even I nailed a few.)

3CGoldAs an example, let’s examine the Three of Cups pictured here. Black has supplemented the “Three Graces” of traditional design with the presence of another trio—a pair of court musicians and a small dog—and set them in a lush forest, suggesting a more complex and ambiguous, Primavera-style spirit of celebration than that implied by the simpler “ladies’ night” of traditional cards. The musicians—one playing a lute, the other a recorder or shawm—are taken from the Siennese painter Simone Martini’s St. Martin is Knighted (1317) which you can find hanging at the Church of St Francis in Assisi. The lush forest and garden come from a painting by Fra Angelico, dating to 1400 and residing at Chiesa San Marco, Firenze. The woman hoisting her goblet overhead comes from a painting by the Florentine artist Benozzo Gozzoli from roughly 1420 and currently at the National Gallery in Washington. The other two graces are from The Church Militant and Triumphant (1368) by Andrea DiFirenze and found at Santa Maria Novella, Firenze. And yes, even the dog has a provenance—it’s from a fresco by Gozzoli from 1465, and it’s at St. Agostino in Sam Gimignano. Even the gilt border and card-back (as with the other 77 cards; they’re identical in this regard) are taken from a panel by the Swiss painter Conrad Witz from 1445 and found at the Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

Mind you, all of this is source material for only a single card!

ASwordGoldSpend some time with this deck, and sooner or later you’ll wonder which feat is truly more impressive—Kat Black’s encyclopedic knowledge of renaissance art, or the amount of time and effort that must have been required to brainstorm, locate, cut, paste, resize and re-pixelize the hundreds of images that comprise this deck. The hard work has paid off, though, in a sumptuous tableaux of images that convey a depth of multi-dimensionality found in few other decks. The deck also comes packaged in a sturdy box with removable top (again, with graphics derived from renaissance sources) and includes a 200-page (!) booklet that provides a comprehensive listing of all source materials along with a brief bibliography for those who wish to delve deeper into the subject matter. By way of constructive criticism, I’d like to see U.S Games Systems produce a larger-format version of these cards a’la the Sforza or Yale decks. There is so much detail in each of these cards to consider, you need a magnifying glass to fully apprehend many of them.

In any event, this is a deck that should appeal to most intermediate to advanced Tarot readers, and especially to readers who happen to be art-history buffs. Personally, I can’t think of many more pleasant ways to spend a quiet evening alone at home than to dim the lights, light a few candles, pour a glass of wine, put some Early Music on the stereo, and turn up a few cards from Golden Tarot and let them “speak their wisdom” to us from the first stirrings of the Enlightenment. Given current events, there are lessons they can teach us that we have yet to learn.

Dante DiMatteo

Spread of The Week: Friday the 13th “Bad News” Spread

We’ve all endured stretches in our lives where nothing seems to go right for us, where every day seems to be Friday the 13th. In honor of the day, then, I cobbled up a simple spread to be laid out during those times when we seem to be mired in the middle of a personal losing streak, and when we are seeking a change in fortune. Part of the process of fortune-reversal, of course, relies on a change of attitude on our part, so this spread employs a “lucky” seven cards to break any spells of bad luck that we may misapprehend about ourselves.

The cards  are laid out, right to left, in the following sequence:

4        3        2        1

6        5

7

The corresponding questions are, roughly:

1. What is the situation as it stands?
2. How am I affecting or influencing the matter?
3. How are others affecting or influencing the matter?
4. What can I personally do to resolve the matter?
5. Who or what should I look for to resolve the matter?
6. Who or what should I avoid?
7. Given the previous, what is the likely outcome?

The cards that appeared today were:Screen shot 2015-11-13 at 1.23.32 PM1. What is the situation? The Fool. Most obviously, this could speak to a naivete on the part of the querent, or a tendency to trust in people or events that may merit more careful scrutiny. Given that the two cards that follow are both Wands, this could suggest troubles with one’s work or career—perhaps a dishonest boss or an unscrupulous coworker who is manipulating the querent for his own selfish ends, or it could signify a stubbornness on the part of the querent to refuse to see her work environment in a more accurate light. The Fool is, in many ways, a “Pollyanna” card, but in any event, it strongly suggests that a change in the querent’s outlook will need to precede any change in fortune.

2. How am I affecting this? Five of Wands reversed. Upright, this is a card of quarrel and strife—which implies an eventual resolution of a dispute—but reversed in this position, it could suggest that the querent is not fighting hard enough for herself, that she may need to “defend her turf” against others in the workplace who may desire her position. On the other hand, as we will discuss shortly, it could also just as easily suggest that the querent should “let her guard down,” abandon any combative attitude she may have, and “lighten up” around her coworkers.

3. How are others affecting this? Ten of Wands. In the workplace, this is a warning to the querent to be wary of anyone who places unrealistic expectations upon her. It’s also a warning against developing a “martyr complex” that excessive overwork can sometimes engender. It can also suggest a need —depending on the querent’s position—to delegate some activities, to refrain from being too much of a “micro-manager.”

4. What can I personally do? Two of Swords reversed. Upright, the card speaks to the limitations of ego, specifically its ability to constrain us and blind us to the greater, transcendent realities of our true Selves. If our only consciousness is Sword-consciousness, we will view our world as a dangerous place that must be ever subdued if not utterly destroyed. Reversed, it admonishes the querent not to fall in to the perceptual trap that ego springs for us, and of the need, from time to time, to detach our minds from the cognitive associations that we confuse for life’s spiritual truths. In the case of work or career, the querent should remember that her work and her Self are not the same thing! In our goal-driven workaholic culture, this simple truth is easily overlooked. In the end, the most important question we should ask ourselves and others is not “What do you do?” but “How do you live?”

5. What should I look for? Six of Cups. This is a card of miracles and memory, and it reminds us of what can happen if we “let our guard down” (Five of Wands reversed), “unbind our mind” (Two of Swords reversed) and offer up the gift of love for its own sake. In the workplace, this can mean offering to help a coworker on a project, or if in a supervisory role, to recognize the achievements of one’s employees with praises (or even raises!). More than anything, it reminds us of the power we have within us to brighten any environment in which we find ourselves with a sunny and generous attitude.

6. What should I avoid? Five of Swords. This is one of the “worst” cards in the Tarot deck, and in this position, it’s a stark warning against getting involved in a war of egos. No matter who “wins” such a war, both sides get hurt in the long run. Sometimes, it’s best to “lay down the sword” and walk away, and it also suggests that the meaning of the reversed FIve of Wands discussed above is to let go of any quarrelsome feelings we may feel for others, be it in the workplace or anywhere else in life.

7. What is the likely outcome? King of Wands. Since this spread has revolved around the dual themes of work (Wands) and conflict (the Fives), the King of Wands here could suggest the need of a third party to bring the matter to a close. This could be a work supervisor, an arbitrator or advisor, or even a personal attorney. It could caution the querent against making any rash decisions (the King of Wands possesses a mercurial temper), and it could also suggest that no matter how difficult things may seem to the querent at the present, what she is enduring is a kind of “trial by fire” and that, if she applies equal parts patience and persistence to the matter, she will survive her trial just as the mythic salamander, the King of Wands’ mascot, survives his alchemical trial by fire.

Overall, with five cards upright, and with two reversed cards mitigating their somewhat negative connotations, the overall ‘energy field” surrounding this spread bodes rather well for the querent, but she’ll need to “lose her attitude,” avoid striving for its own sake, and open her heart more freely to others if she wishes her fortunes to improve in the manner she desires. Life is a celebration, not a competition, no matter what our bosses and managers tell us.

Dante DiMatteo

Reflections on The Nine of Wands

Q: What should I be mindful of in my dealings today?

A: This.IX

As we’ve discussed previously, the Nines of the Minor Arcana each depict a solitary figure surrounded or enclosed by the element that governs the suit: A wall of staves, a tableful of cups, a phalanx of swords, a hedgerow of coins. In that regard, they remind us of the need, at times, to spend a season by ourselves in a “lonely place apart”: To pray, to meditate and to reflect upon our lives, our accomplishments and our discontents. This “impulse to introversion,” however, does not come naturally to the outward-looking mind- and ego-driven suits of Wands and Swords, and this is why the scenes depicted in the Nines of those suits seem so troubling: the sleepless mourner of the Nine of Swords trapped in an interminable nightmare of her own making, and here in the Nine of Wands, in the figure of the “wounded warrior” standing guard at the parapet, ever vigilant against an enemy that appears to exist only in his own mind. When this card appears in a reading, then, it can speak to some feelings of defensiveness or apprehension within ourselves that is inhibiting us from addressing our fears or anxieties: it’s so much easier, after all, to wall ourselves off from our feelings than to own up to them and deal with them! It’s safe and secure living within the walls of a fortress as our wounded sentry does, but it is a lonely existence, and as long as we choose to live in a state of separation over reconciliation, we can never be truly made whole as loving spiritual beings.

By contrast, when reversed the Nine of Wands can suggest a state of denial in the mind of the querent—a refusal to acknowledge a reality that actually does threatens him. What the source of that denial might be, specifically, may be implied by the surrounding cards. The presence of Swords, for instance, could suggest the need for anger-management counseling. Near Cups, it could suggest an unhealthy emotional state, particularly in the realm of marriage or romance. Near other Wands, it could signify an unhappy work situation. With Pentacles, it could mean that the querent is living beyond her means, or perhaps needs to deal with sickness or substance abuse. The Nine of Wands, as with all of the Nines, reminds us that solitude and introspection are parts of the psychic individuation process, but they are not quite the end point on our journey of self-actualization. They are both necessary components of it, however, and that is easy to forget amid the bustle and churn of our goal-obsessed earthly lives.

Dante DiMatteo

Dream Analysis: Work, Theft and Memory

I had the strangest dream last night. In it, I was staying in a hotel—it’s more like a resort—where, in real life, I used to stay every year while attending an annual business conference. The hotel, and the conference, were two things I most enjoyed in my old corporate job, and I have only fond memories of the place (except the fact that wireless access could be a bit dodgy—the hotel was out in the countryside, some 30 miles east of Monterey). Anyway, in my dream, I  opened the door to my room, and realized that the room had been burglarized. In particular, my camera had been stolen, which meant I would need to drive into town to buy a replacement since one of my functions at the business conference would be (as it was in real life) to take photographs. I soon found an electronics shop and bought a replacement; then I returned to my room to drop off the camera before departing for dinner. When I returned to my room, someone had burglarized it again—my new camera was gone, and all of the room’s bedding and linens and bath towels had been scattered all over the floor. Stumbling amid a pile of crumpled sheets, I resolved to report this problem to the front desk when the door to  the room opened, and I was confronted by a very short man (who resembled an elf) who told me, “You must get out of here at once—you are in danger! Do not return until we’ve caught the criminals.” “Well, how will I know when this is?” I asked, at which point I woke up, profoundly glad it was only a dream.

As a thought experiment, and as a tool for attempting a little dream analysis, I decided to lay out my go-to six-card spread to see what the Tarot could instruct me about my dream. I’ve written about this before, but in case you’ve missed it, the cards are laid out around a Significator card (signifying the querent) in the following sequence:

6

2                    1 

S

4                    3

5

The meanings of the individual cards, are, roughly:

1. Thinking/intuition.
2. Feelings/emotion.
3. Perceiving/ego.
4. Being/sensation.
5. Origins/the past.
6. Outcomes/the future.

Here are the cards that made an appearance in response to my request today:Screen shot 2015-10-25 at 9.46.27 AMNow, we know that there is no such thing as a “bad” Tarot card per se, but certain cards in combination within a spread can spell a troublesome reading, and this one was so awful, I had to laugh out loud after laying it out. The number “5” is the most troublesome among the numbered ‘pip” cards of the Minor Arcana because the number signifies the alchemical process of “perfection rendered imperfect”: An impossibility in metaphysical terms but one that occurs when spiritual energy becomes attenuated and materialized in its descent down the Tree of Life in the corruptible and mortal body of humankind, with all the ego-driven wars, conflicts and aggression attendant to it.

Any time a Five appears in a spread, it  suggests difficulties for the querent, and this spread has three of them in a row! The fact that two of them are reversed doesn’t much change the overall meaning of the layout—it simply smoothes out a few rough edges from it. Without dwelling on the details, in the realms of thinking, feeling and perceiving we can see self-pity (Five of Cups), defeat (Five of Swords) and destitution (Five of Pentacles) as the respective forces governing the dream, and the Page of Pentacles reversed (the “sensation” card among the members of the Tarot court) could easily be a stand-in for the elfin man who warned me to get away from the scene at once. The dream is founded, the cards suggest, on a creative enterprise in which I was once engaged but which has since passed (Prince of Wands, creative energy in transition), and the outcome—assuming we never awaken spiritually from this kind of dream—is to live in a world of materialism and greed (The Devil), where we lust after things we cannot possibly possess. That’s the significance of the camera, a device that records the occurrence of things in the single dimension of time: It’s a dimension we lose immediately once we think in terms of time because it is never static and always in motion. We can cling to imitations of time—the photographic image—but the real thing is invisible and ever-fleeting; and this is why we are well advised to view our lives instead through the prism of an existential Now that is everlasting and ever-unfolding.

Less abstractly, the spread reminds us of time’s ability to deceive as well as to inform us, and in this case, it asks the querent just how much he really liked that last real-life job of his—specifically, whether he might be waxing a bit too nostalgic about work that was a source of a great deal of grief and anxiety in his life (the Fives) but which paid him well (The Devil). Those sheets and towels on the floor of the hotel room are meant to keep us clean, warm and dry. Strewn across the floor and trampled under foot, they’re soiled and hence are of no practical use. Work without any higher purpose than financial gain is like that—a material trap that tangles us up in a soiled spiritual morass of our own making. A life thus lived is literally hell on earth.

Dante DiMatteo