This morning, as is my wont, I laid down a ten-card Tree of Life spread, asking nothing of the cards in particular but simply for an idea or thought to carry with me on my daily walk. These are the cards that decided to appear today:
As you might have guessed, I decided not to work with reversed cards today because I am the stage in life where I sometimes prefer simplicity over complexity. Regardless, though, you would be hard-pressed to take away much in the way of warning with this layout. True, the Nine of Swords is never truly welcome in a spread, but its position between Judgment and The Moon on the Pillar of Severity would suggest that judgment of others can only lead to grief, and that it is in fact the first step on the road to madness. In addition, the riders pictured on both the Knight of Pentacles and the Six of Wands are facing away from the Pillar of Severity, suggesting a gravitational pull toward the forces of mercy and wisdom. Otherwise, the takeaway for me was: Continue at your work (Eight of Pentacles) because you are in a very good place now (King of Swords—my personal Significator, in the heart of the spread!); so share your good fortune with others (Nine of Cups), for God blesses those who bless others in His name (The Hierophant). Good to know!
Still, Gemini that I am, I’m always on the lookout for the “other side” of the story—for alternative, perhaps hidden, meanings that might portend a more dualistic, perhaps darker, nature to a reading. One teaching tool for discerning the “other side” of a spread is the kabbalistic practice of gematria, in which we add up the numerical values of the cards to see if they correspond to the values of any Hebrew words or phrases. In this case, the sum of the spread is 450, which corresponds to the Hebrew KShPhYM, or Keshaphim, of “acts of sorcery and witchcraft,” with an additional correspondence to KTL, or “Chutulhu”, the name of the monstrous, misanthropic deity who reigns over humankind in the horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. What’s more, the final four cards in the spread—the ones said to most closely affect our waking existence, add up to 119, which corresponds to BAyLZBVB, or “Beelzebub,” the “Lord of the Flies” of the Old Testament who steals the souls of the disobedient.
Needless to say, I was in a quandary: Am I missing something here? Could The Hierophant in my spread be the agent of a more malign deity? Could The Moon be keeping me in the dark about this, and the Nine of Swords mourning and mimicking my blindness? Could the Knight of Pentacles and the Six of Wands, their backs turned to me, be signaling a desire to abandon such a hopeless cause, desiring to return at a more opportune time? In Tarot, all things are possible!
Seeking some clarity, then, I reshuffled the cards and meditated for a few minutes. I turned up the top card, and voila:
Sometimes in our public dealings, we are all too quick to impart ulterior motives to others when the party who has the hidden agenda is usually ourselves; ego-projection is a universal malady of man. Similarly, many of us—the Air signs among us being probably the worst offenders—are far too quick to question our instincts when we begin a new project or embark upon a new relationship or partnership. This can be especially true in our hectic, deadline-driven world, where cautious introspection is frowned upon as an unproductive waste of time. Conversely, we can also “over-think” a matter—of which your humble blogger was obviously guilty today—and this can be just as counterproductive as charging ahead recklessly without taking time to reflect on our direction in life. In any event, we need to learn to trust others if we are ever to fully trust ourselves, and one way to do this is to step back for a moment and take a breather, like the harvester pictured in the Seven of Pentacles: To take stock of our accomplishments, the better to see what remains to be done in our earthly existence; to recalibrate our efforts and emotions to bring the task at hand—living fully—to final fruition.
The number “7” in Tarot is associated with Venus; we should remember always, then, that all of our labors—in the office, at home, or in our own heads and hearts—should be labors of love first and foremost. And one thing love requires absolutely is trust—it is like water for the garden, without which our psyche shrivels and dies like the Pentacles on a vine in a Tarot card. If we do not trust, we cannot love.