Friday, August 28, 2009

To Reverse or Not To Reverse - That is the Question

There is often confusion about reversed cards in a reading. Some readers don't use reversed card meanings, they say, and some of those who say that mean that they aren't looking at the negative concepts that a reversed card often suggests (this is a misconception, by the way - not all reversed card meanings are suggestive of negative indications) while other readers who say they don't use reversed cards do understand that some cards have influences around them that will lead toward what can be found in books under the "keywords for reversed card meanings." Then this leads to the question of why some use reversed cards in their reading (that is, should the card land in an upside down position, it will be read differently than if read while upright) and why some do not. And among those that do not, how can you tell if they are using what are called "dignities" or influences around the card to determine if it reads its generally "positive" upright definition or if it should read its sometimes less positive meaning?

For instance, the Ace of Wands is like a giant match stick. It signals in a reading a sparking of ambition, the initiation of a new direction, optimistic energy and maybe an adventure. And in certain cases it can represent the growing excitement of the sexually active male. But is that all there is to this card? Doesn't it sometimes also mean missing an opportunity? Having a bad start at it? Going limp and needing time to start over another day? Yes, such would be the case if your reading included reversed cards. But if the reader doesn't "use" reversed cards, how would they know which ideas to choose from?

There's always the old standby answer of "I just use my intuition." But if you research the clinical tests that have been done concerning intuition and its development, or ask someone who is certainly very intuitive where the intuition comes from, after the typical cheap answer of "I dunno, it just (yawn) comes to me," they will ramble on about how this showed up and that showed up and they thought this and this shined brighter and that made sense and so suddenly they were able to feel as if they just somehow knew the answer. That is, according to research, intuitive leaps occur when there is enough variety of data (and sometimes maybe too much to add up all at once) that the picture or complete idea behind everything began to just seem simple to see. Like looking at those pictures where you have to squint your eyes, look far away and then close up again, and then suddenly seemingly random dots and blobs take on the shape of a three dimensional picture of dolphins in the sea at play around a yellow submarine. Intuition doesn't "just happen," it’s a product of a collection of data and the ability to assimilate it all at a glance. Intuition is a gift, but it is a gift that all mammals are born with (except of course those with cerebral handicaps). Trustworthy intuition, on the other hand, like any talent that any human being could learn to increase, is a trained skill.

The amount of data that exists in tarot is incredible. Lay down five, ten, fifteen or more cards on your table and that data has increased exponentially! Add to this that some cards will land upright and some will land reversed (unless, like me, you have certain decks you shuffle in such a way as to insure that they don't mix with reverse cards in them) and your amount of available data has just stacked itself to the ends of time. It's huge!

But as I hinted above, it doesn't matter if you allow reversed cards to be on your table or not, every card has two sides to it. If you, as a reader, do not know that or refuse to accept that, you are falling short of giving the most accurate and detailed reading you can.

There are those who don't read reversed cards in their readings who I've seen in conversation get very vehement about this subject. Sometimes I just get the impression that this topic stirs a great deal of spiritual pride in these people. This troubles me because spiritual pride is, to me, the greatest hallmark of a roadblock to spiritual progress. I would say for certain that spiritual pride is definitely not the hallmark of a worshipful master or teacher. Can a teacher be qualified if he or she has forgotten what it was like to be the pupil? It's for this reason, among others, that I decided I needed to write about this subject. Another motivation behind this article is for the other side of the fence, those who use reversed cards in their readings and how I want to 1) explain to them how not using cards turned upside down as the sole indicator of significance is a viable practice and 2) how they can use the "non-reversed" card systems to enhance their reading depth and accuracy.

Allow me to begin by explaining the basic nature of the tarot cards. Tarot is based on both the Western Qabalah and Astrology. It is a collection of pictorial expressions in numbered fashion designed to suggest to the reader the concepts associated with each card as understood by both the study of Western Qabalah and Ancient Astrology. The suits of the Minor Arcana represent the Four Worlds of the Qabalah as do the numbers represent the Ten Spheres or Sepheroth as understood in the Hebrew based numerology system. On top of the numeric and mystic system of the Qabalah is superimposed the system of Astrology. The Major Arcana contains the 12 signs of the Zodiac, the Seven Sacred Planets of Ancient Astrology, and the Elements. Four of the sixteen cards that are called the court cards also belong to the elements, but not at the same level as the three Majors do. The other twelve members of the court cards belong to signs of the Zodiac also, but again, not in the same way as the Majors (The majors are actually the Signs & Houses they rule whereas the court cards suggest rising signs). The aces are the elements themselves and the remaining 36 small cards fit into each of the 36 decanate of the Zodiac, representing ten degrees of The Wheel each. This alone can make for a very complicated system.

Add to this system, just like you would in using Astrology, that some of the planets can be stationary or retrograde, some of the Houses or Signs can be negatively afflicted or captured (also known as "hidden"), and some elements or configurations can lead to afflictions of some or all the natures and intelligences found in an astrological chart, and you have the same concepts that would be expressed if we were to say that a card in a reading was afflicted, averse in its influence, or (if used) reversed.

So as you might imagine, if you know your astrology and your tarot well enough, and you have a pretty solid tarot spread you use that allows well for this knowledge of astrology and its techniques, you do not need to use reversed cards to determine if this card or that should read this way or the other. And further, the more you know about this system of using DIGNITIES to determine exactly what a card is meaning, the more information you can glean in the reading. But this is not the only system of dignities readers are using. There's another, much simpler understanding of dignities that merely depends on the four elements of each card and how well they work together as well as the "active" and "passive" (or male and female) nature of each card. This is in conjunction with the astrological method, but pairs it down to a more general sense and (no pun intended) elementary model.

I'm not sure when reversed cards came into fashion. All the older works on Tarot that I have studied do not mention them although they do mention the two tiers of meaning each card can have. These two structures of meaning assigned each card are variously called "card meaning" and "averse meaning," or "ill-dignified," or "inflicted." Those, by the way, are all astrological terms used as far back as writings about astrology have been in existence. On the other hand, it isn't until the 1960s or 1970s when popularized tarot decks become a vogue that we start seeing the words "reversed meaning" in books. But if someone wants to play detective and discover the first time this terminology was used, I would be eternally grateful. So... until I am proved otherwise that this fashion did not exist until Tarot became a toy available to any school girl to buy and play with, I am going to say that using reversed cards in your reading is a lazy way of excusing a lack of knowledge about the astrological method of reading the cards.

That isn't to say that I don't use reversed cards in my readings. In some spreads, only the use of reversed cards can give us enough information to allow for a fuller understanding in the reading. For instance, using the Celtic Cross spread would be incredibly inferior in reading the situation(s) if we didn't use reversed cards. Also, with my "Yes/No Answer" spread, I use reversed cards and with my "Relationship Perspective" readings. For these spreads/readings, I have assigned specific decks to each in which when I shuffle I not only allow for reversals, I encourage them. But with my Thoth decks, which I use for the fifteen card spread and for some three card spread readings, as well as some other more complicated readings I do for personal use, I shuffle them in a so as to avoid reversed cards (but in that deck, on the rare occasion a card comes up reversed I do consider if it might be more significant for some reason).

As a final word, even if one uses the reversed card method of reading this does not mean that they cannot also incorporate the concepts of the elemental dignities or numerological dignities and so forth, nor are they prevented from using the astrological concepts I alluded to before - but as for that, the astrological dignities, I wouldn't encourage mixing it with reversed card spreads. That could lead to confusions.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Something about a doctor?

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Imagine sitting in the doctor's examination room waiting for him or her to come in. You are ailing from some condition or another and you aren't sure what to do. You are hoping that your physician can figure things out, offer you a solution of some kind, and allow your life to get back to its healthy and happy previous condition.

The doctor walks in and says hello. When asked what brings you to the office, you say, "You tell me."

The doctor knows you came because you have some questions or concerns that need to be responded to, but now all of the sudden you've decided not to tell the doctor what your questions or concerns are? You know and I know, and the doctor knows, this is going to take a "full work up" just to even find out what one of possibly many of the symptoms are. Unless you change your attitude and decide to tell your doctor.

Since instead of cooperating with your health management specialist, you've decided to play games, the doctor now has to fish with you to get even close to understanding what your situation is. He or she is going to ask you a litany of questions - some of which actually will seem to have nothing to do with what is troubling you. You can't blame the doctor for this, you obviously came in for a reason and now it's the doctor's job to figure out what that reason is. This isn't going to be easy.

Or let's imagine another situation.

Same doctor. Same room. Except this time you have decided to be a little more a part of the team. At least you can tell the doctor, "I have pain." At least that narrows it down some. "Any particular place?" the doctor asks. You remain tight lipped. You've finished being helpful. So now the doctor has to poke and prod you in every imaginable location! Is that really what you want to pay for?

Let's put this in perspective.

In the first doctor visit, the doctor had to begin with gathering as much of a full history as possible and then give you a complete general examine - or as much of one that was required before you finally said, "ouch, that's where it hurts!"

In the second scenario, the doctor knew he was looking for a physical location of pain and so got to avoid many of the questions and procedures. Straight to the poking and prodding to find out until the spot was hit. Or, in an ideal situation, the doctor walks in and asks the matter and you simply answer as completely as possible - but being sure not to make anything up or give your opinion because you don't want to waste too much time being mistaken. You have a continual dull pain in your left shoulder.

The doctor does some examinations, recognizes that you have a spasmodic muscle in your back just below your neck and shoulder. This could be due to spinal misalignment and the doctor prescribes you some muscle relaxants. "This should ease your discomfort and if your back or neck doesn't re-adjust after this, I might suggest a chiropractor. But sometimes this helps all you need."

The above situations are a lot like what I encounter as a tarot reader here on Keen. Some clients will call and ask for a general reading. That's not a bad idea, actually. It's a good idea every now and then to get a full "physical examine" to help you determine if you are neglecting any important health concerns you haven't yet become aware of. You know what they say: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But suppose it's time for that pound of cure... do you really want to continue longer in your discomfort by making your tarot reader pull your teeth before discovering that your main pain is in your heart?

When you visit with your tarot reader or psychic, it's okay to tell them what you want to know about. You can say anything from "I'm interested in finding out about my relationship with my boyfriend" or "What does so-and-so really want from me in this relationship?" And it's okay to know that too much information is not a good thing because some times giving the information can influence the reading in ways that might be counter productive to your success. It's a fine line honestly.

But don't be afraid if your reader has questions they want to ask you. This is not cheating, it's clarification. "Do you still live with your mother, or what's this issue I see that involves your home? These could be the same thing here. Any ideas?" That's not an unfair question. Or, "Are you two apart? How long has it been because I'm really getting a weak sense with this distance between you." That's actually a question I asked that ended up leading toward the woman deciding I was a fraud and she left me very negative feedback. Not to mention that my reading was the only one she'd received in months of visiting with different readers and asking the same question of them that was different than all the rest.

To get the most of your reading it actually helps to have an open and honest discussion with your advisor. Although of course it is true in any industry, be it medical, retail, or psychic services, that there are people who are not honest in what they have to offer you or are downright incompetent in what they do, it is rarely helpful to begin with the cynical attitude that you are purposely looking to "out" the phonies. Instead, give it a try with a comfortable and relaxed attitude. Assume the best and see where the reading actually goes from there before you decide if it is working for you or not. And also, especially if it involved predictions about the future which you currently can't imagine coming true, give it some time before you completely decide to form an opinion.

As much as I like receiving the feedback for what I do, I'm more interested in an honest rating based on the reading that was given and not your immediate feelings at the moment the call ended. And as much as anyone likes getting five out of five stars, a conscientiously written statement is much more valuable no matter how many stars are attached to it. In other words, for me, a three or four star rating with some words of encouragement and expressions explaining where things worked or didn't work is much more than a five star rating and simple "ty."

In my next blog, I think I'll continue the doctor metaphor and discuss second opinions. :-)

Love is the law, love under will.

- Darin

Thursday, May 28, 2009

15 Card Spread

The fifteen card spread (mistakenly called by some The Thoth Spread because it appears for the first time in the LWB of Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth Tarot Deck, but was really an invention of the cards’ publisher) gets more interesting to me the more I work with it and study it from my perspective.

The first card represents the querrent and is the very center of everything, and the two cards surrounding it in addition to itself comprise an explanation of the nature of the question.

I first learned this spread years ago and when I began my professional career as a reader (doing parties and gatherings for trade and donation), I didn’t ask the querrent their question but said, "Don’t tell me your question, shuffle the cards with the focus of the question in your mind and all its myriad possibilities. Shuffle until you *feel* the cards have heard you." Then I cut and dealt (silently reciting a minor invocation).

The next three cards I look at are the section in the lower right, known as "The influences around the situation which you have no control over." This more often than not tells me the influences of past times on the current situation. Between describing in detail all the cards in those first six I mentioned, I pick up on the full nature of the question and tell it to them. More likely than not, not in the words they would have exactly chosen (though... on occasion...yes), but most definitely all the necessary elements of the story to say I know the question’s answer if I continue to fully examine the cards ahead. Specifically, the two various outcomes I’m showing in the upper right and upper left - which, by this time, I’ve informed the querrent that they exist in the reading and they will be eager to know what is there.

To the lower left in the spread are three cards given the responsibility of describing the influences on the matter which are within or can be within the querrent’s control. I call this "advice" and it is definitely worth consideration. Ultimately speaking, this is what the caller seeks - sure, they want to know what the future holds. We all want to admit responsibility for the outcomes, so we all agree that this isn’t about "fate" and we agree the "future isn’t written in stone" policy that we have the right to work toward a change. So whether the upcoming news looks good or bad, this information can make all the difference in the world. And the wise seeker is truly after this pot of gold.

So I will then describe the two outcomes shown. The querrent will then decide what is most favorable, the path they are on or the other road perhaps not so far afield. And the "advice" they may wish to consider when choosing which way and how to proceed.

In the sample reading above I have for the center of the spread Four of Cups, Adjustment, and The Chariot. Right away I’ve noticed the Major Arcana cards seem to rule in this. And so the nature of those cards is greatly enhanced. This querrent, signified by the Four of Cups, the card labeled "Blended Pleasure" by The Golden Dawn and labeled "Luxury" by Crowley, tells us of so-so pleasures. The querrent might even be bored, as things seem okay but "blah" is probably a closer word. With Adjustment and Chariot flanking him, he seems to be in a state of not certain yet of a pending desire to move forward. Wow. That’s seriously feeling the blahs.

The past, or influences past or beyond control, seem a blend of give and take really. Looks like a "you win some, you lose some" situation. Definitely with that 10 of Cups, it has been successful and certain. But apparently not perfect. Look at the five of disks – that’s definitely poverty and loss. Perhaps sickness influenced this man’s poverty (the man being read for – who like that Prince of Cups - knows how to manifest desires out of his heart and imagination). Maybe that’s why he’s so "blah" today.

He knows he can survive the good and the bad; he’s gotten plenty of experience in that. And right now he has an issue of legal information, a checks and balances situation, driven by (we shall gesture forth the most improbable) a higher purpose.

The bad news so far is that we get to tell the client that this is definitely his own fault. A sense of overconfidence stands out over these first six cards. Heck, the first three tell us in good stead exactly how it all got where it is! The querrent is all feeling blah and bored, with too much of a good thing on his hand but nothing to do with it, like being all gussied up with nowhere to go. And the past has certainly shown him everything it seems. He can handle it, he knows that. So my personal conclusion is, what with the signal of the Higher Power involved with those Majors, it definitely spells "consequences."

At this point, the client tells me "Yes, I was wondering about this upcoming court trial I have! And I definitely know it is my fault – it’s just the consequences, that are what I don’t yet know about. And of course, the cards are right; it was my own stupidity that got me here. I was overconfident, certainly."

By describing the first six cards, I’ve already determined on what the reading is about and that we are all on the same page with it. From here it is based on instinct which of the next three segments to read out of first. Usually the way to go is to the Most Likely Outcome position and then to the Advice section – with words from the Alternate Outcome to support. But in this case I’m startled by the three cards baring the number 5 and the fact that two of them sit side by side in the Advice, next to The Magus – almost like Hermes/Thoth arose just to go "hey, lookey over there!"

"Alright, I’m not a lawyer and you should really seek an attorney’s advice on this – because obviously this is a criminal case and seems to have greater consequences than you seem to be feeling are possible."

"Yeah," says the client, "I could end up doing serious time, but I just don’t feel that it’s likely."

"Neither do I," I add.

"Anyway…," so the querrent goes on, "I’ve got an attorney. I’m just wondering what is going to happen now."

"Well, with the three 5s showing up, there seems to be a lot to worry about but I’m not sure it’s been on your mind at all to do that." ["No. I’m thinking probation and fines".] "Well, yes, the short story version is that the most likely outcome shows definite success for you. But this success looks expensive and rather extreme. But because that ten of swords is in the alternate outcome, although both areas look hard to deal with, it doesn’t appear that ’prison’ is the most likely event. But don’t forget it can be! I think that’s why the Four of Cups is showing as you between those two pillars of society, not enough emotional involvement right now. Those two 5s in the advice suggest you have to come clean and make a full clearing of the air. Maybe even communicating something not yet openly known? Giving up for a lesser sacrifice?"

"So, a plea bargain?" asks the querrent.

"Exactly! Why didn’t I see that? The Magus is offering you a bargain! Take it."