Order Out of Chaos: Twelve-Card Zodiac Spread

There’s a famous Jewish insult that takes the form of a toast: “May you live in interesting times!” In that regard, the times continue to get more “interesting” by the day for your humble blogger. As regular readers are aware, in recent weeks he has temporarily moved back into the house he grew up in to care for a sick parent. Now, as if that wasn’t enough of an adaptation to make, he has received—out of the blue—two job queries from potential employers, both of whom seem very interesting in hiring him soon (interviews are later this week; I’ll know more in a few days). On one hand, he’s excited at the prospect of resuming his career after having been largely unemployed for a year—he could certainly use the money! On the other hand, however, he’s trying to juggle the demands of his sick parent with what could be the upcoming demands of the workplace. Granted, telecommuting allows more flexibility these days, but in any event, our blogger is staring at the real possibility of having to spend appreciable amounts of time away from his mother’s house at a time when she is relying on him to an extent she never has in the past. Suffice to say, these unforeseen developments have left our blogger percolating in a jumble of mixed emotions, and praying for someone—anyone!—to help him make sense out of his life. Sounds like a job for the Tarot!

Since its 12 cards correspond to the months of the year, a 12-card Zodiac-based spread is a time-honored method of providing the kind of long-term guidance our querent desires today. The cards don’t necessarily need to be read on a “month to month” basis—implying what the querent should be mindful of in January, what he should avoid in April, and so forth—but rather as general hints and suggestions, providing the querent with some insight into the active (and, by implication, dormant) elements of his psyche, and how they may be affected by external forces in the weeks and months to come. (A “month-to-month” interpretation is a perfectly valid type of reading, it should be noted. I personally don’t employ this method because I consider it too restrictive and insufficiently open-ended, but that’s just me, your mileage may vary, etc.)

A Significator from the court cards (S) is used for this spread—if in doubt as to  the querent’s “card identity,” use The Fool—and the cards are dealt clockwise around the Significator in the following pattern:


11            1

10                         2 

9                  S                  3

8                          4

7                 5


After a thorough shuffling, and a few minutes spent meditating over the deck, these were the cards that decided to make an appearance today:

Screen shot 2015-06-18 at 1.58.04 PMFirst, we notice eight reversals out of the twelve dealt cards, which may suggest a preponderance of  negative spiritual “polarities” exerting an influence on the querent today. On the other hand, the querent may be unknowingly attracting these polarities with overly negative and pessimistic thinking, so before we even proceed to the individual cards, the spread offers a caution to the querent: Clear your mind of all doubts and fears—they will only exert a drag on your psyche, and make your life even more confusing than it seems already. Good advice for all of us!

Now, let’s examine the cards individually, to see if we can detect an overarching them that ties them together.

1. Aries: Four of Pentacles. This position on the spread signifies the querent’s state of mind at present—his emotional environment, and how sees himself in relation to the world. The Four of Pentacles, here in the sign of Aries, symbolizes the dynamic working of a material matter, or the prospect of achieving a state of material comfort—but also, by suggestion, a material insecurity, a “weighed down” feeling that inhibits the querent from taking risks, and that encourages him to “stay put” lest he lose any more of his hard-earned gains. Ill dignified, the card can signify a psychic split—a condition of paralysis brought about by an unhealthy obsession over material affairs that manifests itself as either miserliness or reclusiveness. As to the querent, it reflects to some degree the conflict he is experiencing inside his own head—the seeming conflict between “staying put” and devoting himself entirely to the material obligations at hand, no matter the cost to him personally (i.e., caring for his sick parent), and/or the prospect of future riches posed by new job offers that may require him to venture away from home, just as the prosperous city on the horizon in the Four of Pentacles beckons the wealthy merchant in the foreground. Which path the querent would be wise to follow—or if he can somehow reconcile them—can perhaps be anticipated by the following cards; but in any event, appearing as it does as the “first” card in the spread heralds the coming of a material influence in the querent’s life.

2. Taurus: Seven of Swords reversed. This position on the Zodiac belongs to Taurus the bull, and as is implied in the image of a beast of burden, it signifies work, money and the querent’s material state. If the querent is in a confused state of mind today, it is no accident that this card should turn up here, for the Seven of Swords is one of the most cryptic and confusing in the entire deck. As a rule, it signifies the commencement of work without the presence of clearly established goals to guide the work—execution lacking strategy, in other words. It can also imply movement, as in commuting or relocating for work, and by implication, it can advise the querent to keep an open mind to such a potentiality. Reversed here, and not terribly well dignified by either card beside it, it can signify the head and the heart working at cross-purposes: the heart is sincere in its desire to “have it all,” but the head is intent on overruling the heart, insisting on an “either/or,” zero-sum existence in which the querent’s work is either completely subservient to his domestic concerns, or vice versa. Such a state of disorientation can cause the querent to “drop the ball” when it comes to making important decisions, and meeting obligations, just as the upside-down thief in the Seven of Swords is “dropping” his swords.

3. Gemini. Five of Pentacles reversed. This is a key card to the spread: First, because it falls upon the querent’s astrological sign; second, because the two homeless mendicants on the Five of Pentacles correspond to the Twins who symbolize the astrological sign; and third, because the sign of Gemini governs intellect and communications—which, it should be recalled, is the field to which the querent has devoted his entire working life, and to which he wishes to return. Here, the hardship and suffering of the Five of Pentacles is turned upside down, implying that—just perhaps—the querent’s season in the “material wilderness” may be coming to an end; or, just as likely, that he has come to see the futility in worrying over material matters. With the Twins’ perception of the world now turned upside down, perhaps the state of the “split mind” suggested by the preceding card can begin to be made whole. Perhaps, also, the Twins will cease looking outward—like the beggars in the Five who beseech us for alms—and turn inward instead; the religious function—as signified by the church directly behind them—has been with them all along, but their obsession with money has blinded them to its presence. They—like the querent—need only turn around and notice the house of worship behind them, then ask that the door to be opened unto them. 

4. Cancer: Nine of Swords reversed. This position on the spread governs domestic matters—family, home and hearth—and it reflects, to a great extent, the querent’s state of mind. As he’s written previously, having his personal life interrupted, moving back into his parents’ house to care for his mother, and the pressures attendant to proving such care have caused him to lose a lot of sleep—much like the figure in the Nine of Swords. As time has passed, however, his tasks have come to be less stressful, and he has become increasingly reconciled to the very real possibility that his own life may need to be turned “upside down”—again, as with the Nine of Swords— for another few months. As with the Nine reversed, this development is a cause for some lamenting, and for some feelings of helplessness and loss, but these feelings are lessened by the passing of time and by the querent’s growing realization that his efforts are going toward one of the most noble causes we can ever undertake—the care and healing of another. What he needs now more than ever is the patience to see the work of healing to its conclusion—and when that happens, the tears and mourning and lamentations will cease. Perhaps the following card(s) will provide a clue as to why.

5. Leo: Eight of Wands. The Eight of Wands signifies movement and motion, the coming or going of an important event, news from afar, and communication of all kinds, in particular via the medium of air (e.g. the Internet). This position within the spread (Leo) governs the querent’s creative achievements and accomplishments. Could it possibly be that one (or both) of his upcoming job interviews will bring fortuitous news related to his past accomplishments? The Eight in this position would suggest that a bit of cautious optimism is in order. On the other hand . . .

6. Virgo: Seven of Cups. This upcoming news may confront the querent with multiple choices and/or trade-offs that he must make in the near term. This could take the form of a choice between two competing job offers, or by the competing time demands of a new job and the needs of his ailing parent, or possibly by demands the querent is placing upon himself to be “all things to all people.” This position on the spread covers the realm of healing and health, and the Seven of Cups—with its multiple choices confronting the seeker—advises the querent to think carefully when weighing his choices in life, particularly as they concern his own physical and emotional well-being. One way to for the querent to stay healthier during this stressful time of his life is suggested by the following card.

7. Libra: Knight of Wands reversed. Depicted in motion, i.e., on horseback, the Knights of the Tarot generally refer to the “coming” or “going” of a thing, an event, or a stage in our lives. This Knight, falling into the house of Libra on this spread, exerts an influence on the querent’s relationships—whether they be commercial, filial, friendly or romantic. The suit of Wands, though, is governed by the element of Fire—that “spark of creativity” upon which the querent has so often relied in the pursuit of his own career, so a likely commercial relationship is implied here. Knights, being young men, can be rash and ill-tempered if they feel that their destinies—their promised Kingships—are being thwarted, and the reversed Knight in this position warns the querent against “losing his cool” if his career prospects somehow fail to materialize in the manner he has envisioned. Notice how the Knight, when reversed, fixes his gaze within the circle (mandala) of this spread. In like vein, this speaks clearly to the querent’s tendency to sometimes internalize his anger and to punish himself for some imagined shortcoming, and suggests he rely on other means to cope with disappointment. In any event, however, the Knight also suggests that any anger or frustration the querent may feel in the matter at hand will be transient and passing—the querent must merely be willing to “let go” and move on should his plans fail to materialize.

8. Scorpio: Nine of Pentacles reversed. This is a potentially troubling card, appearing as it does in the house of Scorpio, the sign of the zodiac that governs sex, death and rebirth, and metaphysical and occultic studies. In its upright position, the Nine of Pentacles represents the penultimate realization of one’s highest spiritual aspirations; one interpretation posits it as the Divine feminine, the Shekinah—the talmudic “Spirit of God in man”—standing before the gate of Eden and beckoning us to enter that we would fulfill our destiny of reunion with the Godhead. Reversed, however, the card can imply some sort of “spiritual blockage”—a gate slammed shut, a pregnancy miscarried, sexual impulses repressed, or, more universally, a resistance to accepting the finality of life, which can lead to all sorts of psychic struggles and discomforts. This is a common characteristic of humankind—that instinctual “will to live” is one that governs our actions from the minute we burst forth from the womb; how difficult it is for us to let go of it!—and overcoming this power of will is one of the most daunting, and necessary, challenges we must meet—and overcome—on our road to individuation. The reversed Nine, then, reminds the querent that caring for an ailing parent, who he can literally see dying in tiny increments each day, carries with it the opportunity to comfort her, and to help soothe her troubled soul in her twilight years, as well as to confront any fear of death that may dwell in his own heart. Achieving such a psychic breakthrough is monumental indeed, and the querent is well advised to be persistent in this regard; the gate may seem to slam shut many times, but if he should keep knocking in earnest, it shall eventually be opened.

9. Sagittarius: Wheel of Fortune reversed. Like the Archer’s arrows, which take flight from the hunter’s bow, this position in the spread concerns journeys and travels in particular, and upward aspirations in general—those “targets” of life that we seek to meet. Reversed, the Wheel reminds the querent—and not for the first time in this spread—to be patient; if his paths seem blocked, or if he encounters “detours” along the royal road, he should rest assured knowing that this condition is fluid and impermanent, and that his paths will be made straight one day if he continues to walk in faith. On a more practical level, however, the Wheel reversed advises against any unrealistic expectations; any spiritual “journeys” or “travels” the querent is likely to make right now are likely to be “baby steps” and not giant strides in wisdom

10. Capricorn: Judgment. As we near the end of our reading, earthy Capricorn reminds us of the responsibilities and obligations we take on in life, and how they assist (or hinder) the process of individuation within us. In the querent’s case, the appearance of Judgment in this position suggests a transformative, literally “renewing” influence at work in his domestic life that is closely related to the weighty obligation that he has recently assumed—specifically, to care for his mother. This could also signify the actual death-and-rebirth of the mother, though occurring as it does so relatively “late” in the spread, this is likely not an immediate concern. In any event, the card suggests to the querent, in the strongest possible terms, that his good works are not being overlooked, and that there is a Divine dispensation that he will earn if he continues his work of helping to heal and comfort another precious soul.

11. Aquarius: Two of Swords reversed. In the Tarot, Twos generally signify duality or polarity, the counterforce to an initiating force, and in the case of Swords, that signifies the limitation of will to effect transformative change. Specifically, the Two of Swords speaks of the need for self-discipline, which can seem to us as a kind of psychic straitjacket but which can also protect us against our own worst instincts. Within this spread, the sign of Aquarius reveals our earthly passions and aspirations; in the case of the querent, he secretly dreams of the carefree days of his youth, when he could be excused for failing to take control of his life—to throw off the fetters of adulthood, as the reversed seated figure in the Two “drops” her swords and “slips off” her blindfold, and live the improvised life of a bohemian once again. As the final card in the spread suggests, however, such a yearning comes at a great psychic cost’ First, because there is no way for the querent to recapture his youth—at least in its earthly incarnation—and second, because such yearnings invite all manner of reckless behavior and fantasies into his life that can affect his physical and/or mental health. Living in the throes of a “Peter Pan syndrome,” pining after things that can never be his, and summoning phantasms of a past that can never be retrieved, is not a healthy way to go through one’s life, and the querent, who has fallen into this trap many times throughout his adulthood, is well advised to liberate himself from it, Otherwise . . .   

12. Pisces: King of Wands reversed. He is liable to stumble into old age the way so many people do, as an angry codger who perceives the happiness of others as an insult to his sensibilities—a state of resentment that conveys on the surface a kind of smug self-satisfaction, but which actually masks a deep-seeded regret of a life poorly lived. The water sign of Pisces, the “final” sign of the zodiac that concludes the spread, concerns our innermost fears and apprehensions about the future, and about ourselves. In this event, the querent is reminded  by the King of Wands—a ruler who is mercurial and temperamental on his good days, and dogmatic and tyrannical on his worst—of many people he has known throughout his life who became more rigid in their outlook, and less open-minded and receptive to change, as they grew older in years when in reality, they should have become the exact opposite! As this is the most “distant” card of the spread—an “end of life” card, if you will—it warns us that adopting such a harsh and judgmental outlook represents a kind of “walking death” that separates ourselves from our brothers, and hence from all of the Creative forces of Heaven and earth. Unburdening ourselves of our ego-driven, self-oriented “inside-out” perception of reality is one of the most painstaking tasks we undertake on our journey of self-awareness. But undertake it we must if we are ever to reach the fullest understanding of our truest Selves. Then and only then can we expect the Divine “gate of consciousness” to be swung open to us, that we would fully know our origins, and the final destination to which we shall return. The choice of which road to take is entirely up to us. 

Dante DiMatteo

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