Friday, July 10, 2015

3 of Wands

In Rabbinical Judaism Chokmah is the "Yesh" which G-d spoke to create Being out of Nothingness: Binah is the Hebrew alphabet which contains, conveys and preserves His message.  The 2 of Wands shows a successful campaign and points to what the Querent does.  The 3 of Wands illuminates the people and circumstances which made that success possible, the intangible assets and virtues the Querent has.  (Strictly business or financial issues are more often covered by the Disks or Pentacles). 

Crowley attributed the 3 of Wands to Sol in Aries, the sign of the Spring Equinox.  There is a definite feel of springtime to this card.  Within its context the 3 of Wands suggests a happy time and a place full of promise.  New life is busting out all around the Querent and the last bits of ice are thawing away.  The Querent should not be complacent: don't rest on the laurels when they're still tender buds. But the 3 of Wands suggests that advice has already been heard and that if current trends continue there's no need to worry about frost.

Spring is part of the Great Cycle and the 3 of Wands is often a card of revival. Business picks up after a down cycle: an on-again off-again romance is back on.  It points to something established, something with deep roots. If the question concerns something or someone new it suggests the potential for a longer, mutually beneficial relationship.  3 is a Saturnian number: while frequently (if accurately) reviled as a harsh taskmaster, Saturn also rules over things which endure and which can pass his test of Time.  

Saturn is also connected to wealth and political power. The 3 of Wands is often associated with commerce and is especially fortunate if the Querent is looking to expand a family business or run for office.  Waite referred to the "calm, stately personage" in Pamela Coleman Smith's illustration as a "successful merchant prince... looking from his side towards yours with a view to help you" and suggested the card could signify "able co-operation in business." 

This is almost always an auspicious card which bodes well for the Querent's undertakings.  If it falls in an oppositional position, the 3 of Wands may suggest the Querent is holding boldly to a misguided cause. He may be doing the wrong thing at the right time, or vice versa.  But there is still gold amidst the dross.  In looking to the surrounding cards, the 3 of Wands is often a beacon pointing to the Querent's strengths and showing how they can be used to best advantage. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Hermit


Lying between Chesed and Tiphareth, the Hermit shows the Perfected Man preparing to claim his throne.  As he turns his attention to the Merciful God, Adam Kadmon receives the Divine Light: as He reaches down the Heavenly Father finds a fitting vessel for His wisdom that it might be revealed to the world. There is an organic element of maturation and development to this card.  The things lost to the Querent are not ripped away so much as outgrown.  But there is also a profound sense of isolation and loneliness: the Hermit has come alone to the mountain because there is nowhere else he can call home and no one else he can call friend.  

Wherever it falls in a reading the Hermit represents renunciation and withdrawal.  As a Greater Trump, its message is both critically important and inescapable. The Querent will be forced to take an inventory of affairs. Illness or injury may force him to give up cherished time-wasting activities.  Financial constraints may drive away her fair-weather friends and make bad habits unsustainable. These tribulations are likely to be uncomfortable: purgation usually is.  But they are necessary: the Querent will arise from them with a clearer focus and a better understanding of that which gives their lives meaning. 

It can be tempting to interpret the Hermit in strictly spiritual or religious terms. Yet he can also represent a withdrawal away from the esoteric and toward the practical and mundane.  The Desert Fathers arose as a reaction to organized Christianity. The Querent may find himself expelled (voluntarily or otherwise) from a magical order.  She may find herself drifting away from a cause or a group she once supported enthusiastically, no longer able to ignore its faults or limitations.  This is not a betrayal or a failing: it is a retreat both in the spiritual and strategic sense, a letting go of the dross to make room for treasure. 

The Querent may feel that mundane responsibilities are detracting from spiritual ones, that overtime at work is leaving no time to pursue the Great Work.  To them the Hermit may be a sign that they need to quit their day job and concentrate on feeding their souls.  But the Desert Fathers spent a great deal of their day weaving baskets, tilling fields and otherwise engaged in practical activities: they believed those mundane chores were a vital part of their spiritual path. The Hermit certainly demands commitment, sacrifice and life-changing choices. But the reader is advised to examine the surrounding cards and the spread's general tone, and to remember the difference between renunciation and escapism. 

Though he spends plenty of time alone, sooner or later the Hermit leave his cell.  The monastics started out in the wilderness but ultimately built monasteries and nunneries:  they found their solitude took its deepest meaning within a faith-based community and a living tradition.  A.E. Waite's Hermit (as drawn by Pamela Coleman Smith) exposes his lantern as a beacon to those who have eyes to see. For all its mystical trappings this is a very practical card.  The Hermit sells everything he has for the Pearl of Great Price,  then comes down from the mountain and corners the jewelry market.  The knowledge he brings the Querent is not for the masses: it conceals itself from those who are unprepared.  But for those who are ready it cannot be hidden. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

7 of Disks

Hermetics claim the Pillar of Strength (the Sephirot Chokmah, Geburah and Hod) is "outwardly corrosive and inwardly solar" while the Pillar of Mercy (Binah, Chesed and Netzach) is "outwardly solar and inwardly corrosive." There is an air of decadence and languor to the 7s:  Netzach's Venusian charms have sapped the Querent's will.  This is especially true of the 7 of Disks, the card Crowley called "Failure." Pretty dreams and idle hopes have been crushed beneath the weight of cold, hard reality.  Things have taken a turn for the worse and the Querent has not prepared for the crisis: the rose-colored glasses have dropped and the handsome prince is looking like a toad.

The 7 of Disks frequently arrives as unexpected trouble. But hindsight will show the disaster was a fait accompli from the start.  Natural laws and mathematical equations don't take our feelings into account.  We must base our business plans on prevailing market conditions, not on dreams of easy money.  No matter how much we love our partners and friends, we must be aware of their imperfections. When we forget this we will inevitably pay the price and the 7 of Disks is our notice of default.  The 5 of Cups describes the Querent's growing realization that cherished dreams won't come true:  the 7 of Disks signifies the event which makes this realization inescapable.

The 7 of Disks points to a situation where success on the Querent's current terms is impossible.  But its impact can be mitigated or even avoided if the Querent heeds its message.  This failure arises out of misbegotten hopes and expectations.  The surrounding cards will help show where things went astray and present alternate scenarios.  Becoming the next Anheuser-Busch may not be in the cards -- but microbrewing might still be an enjoyable and even profitable hobby.  Your campaign may not pull off that win against impossible odds -- but you may come away with a new knowledge of the system and a new network of friends and supporters.

Arthur Edward Waite had difficulty with this card, finding only a welter of "exceedingly contradictory" meanings. Pamela Coleman Smith, his illustrator, offered a much clearer interpretation. The young man stares at the pentacles like one enraptured: it is clear that he treasures them. But he is leaning on his staff as he gazes at them adoringly. He is in no position to defend them from a surprise attack, nor to plow the fields so that he may gain more.  His youth suggests inexperience, but it also suggests this failure may be a valuable learning experience.  The 7 of Disks generally signifies disappointment rather than catastrophe,  a setback that leaves the Querent bloody but not irredeemably broken.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

8 of Wands

While many Tarot cards are breathtakingly complex, the 8 of Wands is at first glance simple.  Its meaning can be summed up in the label Crowley used in his Thoth deck: Swiftness.  It arrives in a reading like a shot of adrenalin: wherever it lands shows an area where things are going to start moving with lightning speed. But that very simplicity makes interpreting the 8 of Wands tricky.  Like all the 8s its meaning is colored very strongly by context and composition: its message is colored by the media through which it resonates.

The creative and magnetic force of the Wands suit is well suited to the 8th Sephirah.  Hod's expansive and searching nature thrives and grows in its warmth.  It can signify an artistic breakthrough, or a sudden inspiration that helps the Querent overcome a long-standing problem.  (This is especially true if it falls near Aces or cards of inspiration like the High Priestess or 6 of Swords).  Since Mercury is the Divine Messenger this card often comes into the Querent's life as a message -- the arrival of a long-delayed acceptance letter or job offer, an e-mail from an old flame that rekindles a past romance.  If the Querent is waiting on news the 8 of Wands suggests an answer is on the horizon.

The 8 of Wands comes quickly and leaves just as fast: it is more akin to a gas explosion than to the forest fire's insatiable conflagration.  Its effect can be profound but it is generally brief.  That is not to say that it cannot trigger a chain reaction if the Querent is not prepared to contain the blast.  Tarot spreads are ecosystems which illuminate the interplay between microcosm and macrocosm. A sudden shock in any single region will ripple through the whole reading, with unpredictable aftereffects coming into play well after it has faded.

The 8 of Wands often brings benefits. Waite attributed mostly positive meanings to this card, including "speed toward an end which promises assured felicity" and "the arrows of love."  But its blessing require immediate action on the Querent's part.  This is a limited time offer: hesitate and you'll miss it.  (This is especially true if you find this card opposed or crossed by burdensome heavy cards like the 7 of Pentacles or 10 of Wands).  Yet if it falls in a hostile or difficult position, it can also signify a situation where caution and discretion are in order -- a case where one must "hurry up and wait." But even where it points to problems the 8 of Wands suggests they will be brief.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

2 of Wands



For Crowley the 2 of Wands represents fire in its best and highest form.  The √Član vital moves inexorably on like flowering vines climbing a cliff in springtime, like new species emerging to fill and shape environmental niches. (Ever a bourgeois Englishman, Crowley saw this as the right and proper "Dominion" of a civilizing empire).  This is not a raging conflagration but rather what Dylan Thomas called "the force that through the green fuse drives the flower."  Its triumph is the obvious conclusion of the Querent's labors rather than a lucky twist of fate; its promotion is earned and the Querent capable of handling its demands. 

There is a theme of control inherent to the 2 of Wands. Where it lands is an area where the Querent is either taking charge or bending the knee. This is generally for the better: the 2s are by and large benevolent. Context and interplay must of course be taken into account.  The Querent may be conflating rulership with tyranny, or giving over control to a delusion or to an unworthy person.  But even these issues are not insurmountable: the 2 of Wands suggests that the Querent has everything necessary to defeat the issue and take charge of the situation.  

It also points to solutions which are organic and which rise out of present conditions rather than a radical departure from the norm.  Like all Wands it is driven by expansion and constantly in motion, but despite this the 2 of Wands is surprisingly conservative.  Fire is only beneficent when it is carefully controlled: here we find none of the hot-headed rashness or impulsiveness we see in other Wands.  The 2 of Wands is constantly in motion, but takes pains to be neither too slow nor too fast.  It wins by striking a match at the right moment, not by scorching the earth.  The Querent should act in a similar fashion where this card applies, but should not confuse caution for inaction and should be ready to do whatever necessary for the kingdom. 

While generally very positive the 2 of Wands often carries a melancholy tinge.  Waite compared it to Alexander the Great, saddened because he had no more empires left to conquer.  With the 2 of Wands growth reaches its apex and climbs as far as it can from its roots back toward the Source. But in doing so it reaches the natural limits of its growth. It is a card of maturation and growing up sometimes hurts. Responsibility means abandoning projects when the cost/benefit analysis doesn't add up: it involves telling others what to do and levying out discipline when they fail you. Adulthood means putting away childish things and, when necessary, childish people.  The 2 of Wands declares us rulers over our kingdom, but it also calls us to carry the burden of its responsibilities. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

5 of Cups


Western occultists associate Geburah, the fifth Sephirah, with Mars and grant it dominion over things like warfare and iron. (Those familiar with African Diaspora traditions will also be reminded of Ogou, the hot-tempered ruler of battlefield and forge).  This Martial feeling pervades Tarot's 5s. Wherever they show up they point to a conflict in the Querent's life, an ongoing struggle requiring hard work and constant vigilance. When we look into the 5 of Cups we see the emotional toll this war has taken on the Querent and on others caught up in the battle.

Crowley called the 5 of Cups "Disappointment" and likened it to "disturbance, just when least expected, in a time of ease." For him water's placid nature was inherently at odds with Geburah's fiery energy.  The 5 of Cups could at best be a goad which rouses the Querent from slumber.  No matter how hard we try to avoid it, sooner or later we must wake up and smell the coffee.  Often the 5 of Cups holds that bitter brew, served alongside a bill for last night's revels.  Given his life history it's not surprising the Great Beast most often encountered the 5 of Cups in that capacity.  (Combined with the 7 of Cups, the Devil or other cards associated with addiction, this cosmic hangover may be literal.  The Querent will have to decide whether it will be rock bottom or just another step on the way down).

Waite saw this as a card of blended pleasures: in the image drawn by Pamela Coleman Smith for the Rider-Waite deck, the cloaked figure stands beside three spilt cups but two remain standing.  The Querent's losses are painful, but they are not total: brooding on what was will be less fruitful than looking toward what is to come. This is not the inescapable end of Death nor the utter ruin of the 10 of Swords.  The 5 of Cups calls us to cherish what remains and to move on with what and who we have.  It reminds us that all pleasures are transient and all joys mixed. Yet it reminds us also this makes them no less joyful nor precious.

Cups are inherently forgiving: the sea refuses no river and water flows into every available space. This easy-going acceptance cannot last long under the warrior's pitiless scrutiny. When the 5 of Cups shows up in a reading, the Querent will pay the price of misplaced trust. The heat is on, and fair-weather friends will consider you less important than air conditioning.  This is generally not so life-altering as the Tower (another Martial card) but even small betrayals hurt.  And if the Querent allows 5's energetic nature the day, a little present pain will save much greater hurt down the road.  With this card, as with the other 5s, returning to the status quo is not an option: the watery temptation to inaction is here more hazard than help. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

9 of Swords

By the time the Swords have followed the Lightning Flash to the 9th Sephirah (Yesod) they have become an all-consuming despair.  The Querent is struggling to make sense of past traumas and fearful of future dangers.  Yet despite all efforts the answers remain unclear and Hope stubbornly refuses to leave Pandora's box of problems.   It is certainly an unpleasant card: given how our society treats sorrow as sickness it's not surprising that we generally see the 9 of Swords as a problem to be overcome. But though it will never be a comfortable or friendly card, it carries a great deal of wisdom -- wisdom which we can access only by engaging its pain and rising to its challenges.

Yesod is the sphere of dream and illusion.  The suffering signified by the 9 of Swords partakes of that deceptive nature.  It is not the deep existential despair of the 3 of Swords but a sorrow which is as much overreaction as reaction.  This is not meant to trivialize the Querent's pain: the Reader must remember that the despair is very real, but it is rooted in miscommunication and misunderstanding.  Alternately, it is the despair of one whose illusions have been stripped away: the woman crying beneath swords has awakened from a dream of past joys only to return to present misery.  Context and placement will reveal more about which of these apply to the situation at hand.  But whatever the case compassion will be in order.  Mistakes and misunderstandings are part of the human condition: beating up on our client or on ourselves will not make matters better.

Aleister Crowley saw another, more unsettling, aspect to this card.  For him the 9 of Swords represented "Cruelty." As he put it, "The Swords no longer represent pure intellect so much as the automatic stirring of heartless passions. Consciousness has fallen into a realm unenlightened by reason. This is the world of the unconscious primitive instincts, of the psychopath, of the fanatic." When it manifests thusly, the 9 of Swords can signify a desperate self-justification. The Querent knows an action is wrong yet continues to make excuses for it: there is a greater interest in feeling moral than in behaving morally.

In the context of prediction the 9 of Swords can often serve as a warning.  It suggests this action or this relationship will lead the querent to grief and should be handled accordingly. It also points to areas where the Querent may be decieved. Despair can be a powerful business tool: more than a few people support themselves as professional victims. No matter how much you guide them from crisis to crisis you will never ease their suffering -- because they don't want it eased.  The 9 of Swords can be the card of what Anton LaVey called "Psychic Vampires."  It reminds us that not all the lame wish to walk nor all the sick to be healed: it also notes the best way to handle a vampire involves a sharp object through the heart.