One of many so-called “pyramid” spreads in the Tarot canon, this one uses a Significator to represent the querent, and a somewhat unusual layout sequence to provide guidance to the querent in a “past-present-future” format. Here, the Significator is placed at the peak of the pyramid as the “first” card in the spread, and the other cards are dealt in the following order:
4 2 3 5
The meanings of the cards are as follows:
1. The querent.
2. The root of the problem, or the heart of the matter.
3. Ways that the querent may be unconsciously affecting the matter.
4. Things working in the querent’s favor.
5. Things working against the querent.
6. The future.
7. Unknown things or events that could affect the outcome.
As an exercise today, I laid out a seven-card pyramid with no hard question in mind—just looking to see if the cards had any advice for me today. This is what turned up:
This spread is arresting for a couple of reasons: First, all of the dealt cards except the Queen of Pentacles are reversed, suggesting that the key to the querent’s situation may likely be understood in physical terms brought about by a disorientation of intellect (Wands) and/or emotion (Cups). Second, all four cards at the base of the pyramid are governed, at least in part, by the element of water (the Queen of Pentacles being the “watery” part of earth) while both the Four of Wands and The Emperor above them are both governed by the element of fire—the Emperor being ruled by Aries, cardinal sign of fire in the zodiac. The structure of this pyramid, then, is unstable enough when the elements are in accord, but even more so today when we see fire burning downward and our Cups overturned. How can there be a reconciliation of the opposites today when the head is following the heart, while the heart is ignoring the head?
Regrettably, there can’t—at least not in short term—but we can look to hexagram 38 of the I Ching: K’uei, or “Opposition”, for guidance:
Above, fire; below, the lake.
The image of OPPOSITION.
Thus amid all fellowship
the superior man retains his individuality.
When we encounter opposition in our lives, the I Ching cautions us, we should tailor our expectations accordingly, seeking “good fortune in small matters”, lest we make mistakes in judgment that we will later regret—and when our head and our heart are not working in harmony, mistakes are practically inevitable. Here we see this personified by the Queen of Cups reversed, the “heart of the matter” or the “root of the problem.” The Queen of Cups is the spiritual adept and the psychic healer among the court cards, and ill aspected, she can represent a tendency on the part of the querent to rely too heavily on the “fellowship” of others and not “retaining our individuality” as the I Ching counsels us. As a result, our impulse to love becomes misplaced, and we devote ourselves to relationships that are spiritually unbalanced, pouring out our affections in the wrong direction as the Ace of Cups reversed does here.
The solution? The Queen of Pentacles, the card “working in our favor,” suggests nothing more profound than indulging our sensual side: Have yourself a cocktail, darling—and take a long hot bath with perfumed bath salts. Buy yourself a nice suit of clothes, and enjoy a delicious dinner and a night at the opera—with champagne and caviar, no less! Sometimes, in our spiritual pursuits, we are all too quick to dismiss those elements of the material world that can relax and de-stress us—those things that put a smile on our face and that can help to heal our troubled heart and settle our scrambled head. We can overdo this, of course, and many people do, culminating in greed, gluttony, materialism and overconsumption, addiction to alcohol or drugs, and other types of destructive behavior that are signified by the Knight of Cups reversed—the “dreamer thrown from his saddle”—directly opposite the Queen of Pentacles. This is, it should be noted, the card I used in my youth as my Significator, and in this position in the spread, and it reminds me that refusing to release the disappointments of the past can exact a heavy physical and psychic toll, as indeed they have with me.
In any event, if we are ever to live a fully balanced life, once in a while we should “treat ourselves”: Turn off the TV, unplug the phone, power down the laptop, and just curl up in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine and a good book. Even God rested after six days of work; we owe ourselves the same.
What does the future hold in this spread? It’s difficult to say when our conflicting intellectual and emotional states are mutually reinforcing each other in an unproductive—even counter-productive—manner. What’s most needed in the querent’s life here would be the kind of self-discipline personified by The Emperor. There are many ways to do this, of course—daily prayer and meditation among them—but until we make an earnest effort, we will continue to be a spiritual “unfinished product”, the kind of creative “work in progress” personified by the Four of Wands reversed; and this state of arrested development, in turn, can cause us to be too hard on ourselves—The Emperor reversed. If we can break this “vicious cycle” and learn to forgive ourselves, we will have passed an important milestone on the road to individuation. This is the “unknown factor” at work here.