There was a great post on Siobhan’s Mirror a while ago about what you believe the Tarot does (check it out here: Hidden Assumptions in Tarot – Part 1) and how that speaks to the way you read the cards. It’s a great read, and I particularly like the fact that Siobhan asks the reader to pull three cards in order to answer the question for yourself. Honestly, when I come across a question that takes a minute or two just to wrap my head around, I’m pretty heavily inclined to reach for my cards anyway, so I thought I’d give this Big Question a shot.
1.) the Hanged Man:
I often think of this card as a moment taken out of time, a respite. When we actively seek to explore and understand, we use the conscious mind. This card calls attention to the need for the unconscious mind’s ability to integrate information in new and unexpected ways. Have you ever tried to remember something, known it was buried somewhere in your mind, but you simply couldn’t access it? And then, after letting go of the need to remember, it suddenly comes rushing to mind? That’s the Hanged Man. I believe that the Tarot doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know on some level (like the unremembered thing), but it helps bring the information we need to the surface; it directs our conscious mind to where our unconscious mind sees that we need to focus.
This card also indicates the peace that comes from acceptance. This is acceptance of people/situations/things we cannot control. Control is a Big idea in and of itself; it can be the need to change or the fear of change. Change is inevitable and necessary, and scary as hell sometimes. The energy of the figure in this card is calm: they have accepted that change is coming and they are simply using this moment to breathe and center, to prepare for the change. This speaks to meditation, deep breaths, grounding exercises.
I primarily do my readings through email because I like to sit with the question, take as long as I need to get grounded and centered, slowly pull the cards, and then let the information set in before I write up what I see. I need to go at my own pace, to find just the right words. And I have to look at the cards from multiple angles (sometimes literally turning them this way and that) before I feel like I can pull meaning out of what’s in front of me. The Hanged Man represents my need to slow down and allow my subconscious mind to work out the connections, as well as my need to do it my own way (no matter what that may look like to others).
2.) the Chariot:
I’m drawn to the sphinxes in this image: two sides of the same coin, two halves of a whole, opposites that balance one another. This speaks to the way that the Tarot gives us viewpoints we may not have seen on our own. There are times when you pull a card for a position and just go, “The hell?! How can the Three of Swords be a good thing?” (We’ll look at that in a minute.) The Chariot shows the need for a more balanced view, for finding deeper connections, for allowing yourself to see the positive in the negative, and vice versa.
As I said earlier, I take my time with the cards so that all the messages I need have a chance to surface. I need the balance, the grey area when I read a card. I look to both ends of the spectrum, I look for the middle ground, I weigh the messages and then I use my intuition to glean which message(s) have the most relevance to the question at hand.
The balance inherent in the Chariot is a big part of how I read the Tarot. I’m not a definition-only reader. I’m not a purely intuitive reader. I’m somewhere in the middle, using knowledge I’ve gained through study, as well as a more ineffable understanding of what the cards are trying to tell me. It’s a bit like translating text from one language to another: I want a balance between the historically accepted meaning, and the pure feeling of the cards.
3.) Three of Swords:
I said we’d get to how this card can be seen as positive; and I think the automatic Oh No of this card is part of the point here. When I first starting learning to read Tarot, I pretty quickly got comfortable with the idea that neither the Death card nor the Tower are necessarily big-bad things. I was gaining an acceptance of change, even in its most extreme forms, because I was learning to see the cyclical nature of the universe: an ending is the first phase of a new beginning. Admittedly, I’m an obnoxiously optimistic person. I will find a silver lining. (So help me!)
In this image, we have three swords piercing a heart against a grey and rainy background. Pretty stark stuff. But the swords aren’t sharp-ended and there’s no blood. This is not a permanent state of things, this does not portend inevitable or unending suffering. This card shows how the way we think can impact how we feel about a situation. Overthinking can keep us stuck in a certain way of feeling, holding us to a phase, keeping us in a certain head/heart space. It’s important to explore the intricacies of our emotional selves, but it’s also important to simply feel our way through our emotions. When we intellectualize our feelings, we don’t necessarily understand them better. Naming a thing is not the same as knowing it.
Moving through the negative, integrating the less-than-glamourous parts of ourselves is where I think that Tarot truly shines. When we accept an ending, we open ourselves to new beginnings. We pull out one sword at a time, allowing our emotions to flow, no longer pinned down, no longer clinging to what has already left us behind. I love reading for people going through this phase, people about to turn the page between chapters. I like to help them see that the swords aren’t sharp, there’s no permanent damage, and they have the tools (and the right) to pull the swords out and move forward.