A Tarot reading is a proposal. It’s a supposition. It’s a thought experiment that says “What if these cards have an important message for you?”. If we are willing to “play along”, we create an opportunity for magical experiences. It is similar to a movie, or a board game. A movie is worthless if you are only ever thinking about the fact that what you are watching is carefully edited footage of actors on sets. A board game is similarly worthless if it is your turn, and all you have to say is that the board and the pieces are merely printed words and symbols, and that the outcome is of no consequence?
The need to “opt-in” to the premise of a show or a game in order for that show and game to have value is sometimes referred to as “suspension of disbelief”. However, this phrase implies that “disbelief” is a constant in our lives, when the opposite is true. We inject belief into every circumstance. This willingness to maintain a high level of belief, even across generations, is the foundation of the human project. From the moment we are born, we are compelled to opt in to the game of language and symbol, of metaphor and abstraction. We must believe in the premise that a spoken word or a scrawled pictogram is capable of acting as a stand-in for that with which it is associated. If we do not play this game, if we do not put our faith into the power of language and symbolism, we cannot participate in culture or society. Everywhere we go, we are playing various games, always referring to the content of real life indirectly through various mediums of expression, and these games all require more of an elevation of existing belief in the reality of the symbols at play, rather than a suspension of an assumed normal state of constant disbelief.
We watch a sports game, and we create a mirror for capturing a projection of our deepest yearnings for camaraderie and victory over adversity. We do this by accepting the premise that balls and lines divide time and space into success and failue. We step into any kind of social gathering, and we create the opportunity for essential human connections. We do this by silently agreeing to various symbolic gestures and customs such as the need for introductions of strangers and the requisite courtesies that allow for the flow of graceful conversations. Everywhere we go, we pull out a set of rules, a set of roles, a set of symbols, and a set of beliefs. All human activity is made up of these Belief Games.
Tarot is merely another Belief Game, though it is capable of something uniquely profound. Only by accepting the premise of “These cards have an important message for me.” are you allowing for the possibility of an important message to reveal itself to you through them. A Tarot reading is a game that you play with every aspect of your life. By “opting-in”, you “ante up” with your love life, your career, your various desires, your greatest challenges, your highest hopes, your deepest fears, and all the rest. You are creating a little slice of time and space where the most important aspects of your life are invited to dance, and only within that dance can you witness that uniquely personal reflection of inner truth that we call a Tarot Reading.
A Tarot “spread” designates pre-determined positions for the cards that will be chosen. These positions carry labels, and the labels create the opportunity for true depth of meaning. We say “The card that ends up here on the left will represent you.” and then “The card that ends up here on the right will represent the most important thing you need to be paying attention to at this time.” and this is what enables the cards to provoke a reaction. It is not a question of “accuracy” in describing what is already known to be true, or of predicting future events, it is a question of what new truth the cards are capable of revealing here in this moment.
There are some people who make a habit of flipping a coin when they are unable to come to a decision between two options. The secret of such a technique is this: when you say “Heads means I go, and tails means I stay.”, you empower the coin toss to reveal your true preference. When you’ve made the declaration, and the coin is flipping in the air, a flash of true desire occurs, and you find yourself suddenly hoping for one result more than the other. You could not have created this flash of desire had you not “put it all on the line” for the coin toss. The actual result of the coin toss is not important, it is what your engagement with the coin has revealed along the way.
It is the same thing with a Tarot reading, except that instead of using two sides of a coin, you are using 78 separate cards, each full of rich symbolism. A randomly chosen card is placed into a position of the spread. The symbol on the card is “cast” in the “role” of the position, and you are faced with a provocation, such as “Right now, you are The Sun.” What does this sudden accusation awaken within you? A stranger just dug through the basement of your subconscious. Then they found your dusty old box labeled “My Personal Understanding of What The Sun Symbolizes”. They’ve just marched their way into the living room of your present moment, and they’re dumping the contents of the box right onto the carpet in front of you.
We are suddenly in the process of telling a dense and rich symbolic story of your life as it is existing now, and we are forcing all your symbolic associations of The Sun into your conscious mind. What have we revealed? What happens when we choose another card to represent another aspect of your life? Perhaps we shall cast you in the protagonist role of The Sun, and we shall cast the King of Cups as the antagonist, just to see how your inner Sun and your inner King of Cups duke it out. Maybe the King of Cups represents your internalized sense that you need to keep a strong masculine control over your emotions, and The Sun represents a long lost innocent idealism within you that the King has thwarted. Is the end result of this temporary inner conflict the absolute most important question of your life right now? What if it was? What if the very act of paying direct attention to this specific inner conflict, until it resolves, is singularly capable of unlocking a new path forward for your life, right here, right now? This is the premise you accept. This is a possibility worth believing in, even if only for a moment. This is the game of Tarot.
Normally, a Tarot reading is face-to-face, and you alone are the one who shuffles and randomly chooses the cards. This contributes to a powerful feeling of personal relevance. However, a one-on-one reading is you acting as one out of 7,000,000,000 people. Even a phenomenally successful blog post would be 100,000 out of 7,000,000,000, which would mean the absolute best odds that you would be reading these words right now would be 1/70,000. Therefore, even if we are being bold, and playing with the idea that this reading might be capable of being an important and powerful message about a specific aspect of life, for a specific selection of 100,000 people, out of everyone alive on Earth today, we are working with very, very unlikely odds indeed. And so, this reading is for you, dear reader.
Your 3-Card Reading for May 4, 2019
Your greatest challenge at this time
What you’re being invited to receive to overcome this challenge
What you’re being invited to give to overcome this challenge
Your greatest challenge at this time: 4 of Wands
Wands represent our inner creative fire. The Wand is the power of imagination. It is the line you draw between an idea in your mind, and the manifested result of you acting on that idea to bring it into your outer reality. The suit of Wands depicts the many ways in which we relate to our own creative powers, and the growth and strengthening of our abilities that occurs when we keep trying to make things happen in the world. The Wand is your Will. It is your ability to focus your attention, determine your true desire, and make your dreams come true.
The 4 of Wands represents a point along the journey when you have the chance to carve out a domain specifically for the cultivation of your creative gifts. For a painter, it is having a studio separate from your living space. For an athlete, it is joining a sports team, or other athletic organization. For a doctor, it is having an office in which you conduct your practice. The 4 of Wands represents the need to make a material commitment to your creative gifts, and you do this by creating solid structures of time and space that are clearly designated and maintained exclusively for your creative development.
Therefore, to draw the 4 of Wands as your current challenge could mean that you haven’t yet found the right location, either in the world or in your schedule, that serves as a safe place for the expression of your creativity. Maybe you’re still paying for a gym membership you haven’t been using. Maybe you haven’t found the right school or class to best support your goals. Maybe you’re a writer spinning your wheels alone, and you need the regularity and accountability of a writers group to get that book finished. Overall, perhaps you’re not quite feeling like you have a specific place where you can go to really get in the zone and connect with your creative peers.
What you’re being invited to receive: The Magician
The Magician is a Major Arcana. These are like the vowels or prime numbers of the Tarot. They are concepts so unique unto themselves that they cannot be split up in the way that the 4 suits can. The Magician carries the number 1, making it a singular symbol of creative will and life mastery. The Magician has full control over all 4 suits in harmony. They are fully aligned with the principle “As above, so below.” They understand that the contents of their inner life will match the conditions that they find in their outer life. The Magician chooses their words very carefully, for they know that whatever they speak as their true belief and true desire will have a significant impact on their life. What they say goes.
When you are inhabiting your inner Magician, you are the captain of your fate. A Magician is resolute in their aims, and does not permit themselves to be a victim of circumstance. For them, there is always a way. A Magician will not waste time or energy on despair or doubt. Theirs is a faith that is unshakeable. They are constantly inspired into new understandings and new actions. They are a pioneer of the mind and the world, absolutely committed to the realization of desired results. To be a Magician is to spin shit into gold. To be a Magician is to deliberately and methodically make ones life into a beautiful work of art.
With the Magician in the “Receive” position, it’s possible that there is someone who embodies these qualities that is your key to unlocking your creative domain. They could be an old friend or a new acquaintance that you greatly admire, someone who inspires you. It could be the captain of a water polo team that wants to recruit you. It could be an entreprenur who just bought a new office space and wants to bring you in to see it. There’s someone in your life, or about to enter your life, who embodies the qualities of a Magician, and they will provide a great deal of help towards your goal of finding a solid domain of creative discipline.
What you’re being invited to give: King of Swords
Swords represent the power of the mind, which is the power of language and symbolism. The world is one big interconnected whole, but with language we have the power to say “That’s a tree, that’s a rock, that’s the sky, that’s a cloud.” These are just words, yet they enable us to share understanding, communicate intentions, and provoke conversations on intangible aspects of being. To reduce a magical thing to a mundane word is a dangerous task, and we must always be wary of mistaking the map for the territory, or “eating the menu”. The sword of the mind is a useful tool, and a powerful weapon. When we cut the world into ideas, and cut our own selves into concepts, we must do so with care.
Kings carry the energy of their suit with a stoic, practical discipline. A King is always concerned with what they can build, what tangible and useful product can be created. They care little for trivial matters, nor are they terribly interested in being famous, or even popular. For them, the satisfaction comes from having a measurable, verifiable positive impact with the largest and longest range of effect possible. They want to make something important that outlasts themselves.
A King of Swords is someone who weilds language and knowledge with specific and definitive purpose. Lawyers, authors, judges, politicians, they all depend on a skillful weilding of language, and their words have a major impact on the lives of others. For you to be “Giving” the King of Swords is for you to carry yourself and your word with this level of seriousness. In order to get what you want, you must be very specific. You can’t just say “I want a studio where I can work”. You must be extremely clear on the location, dimensions, cost, and amenities. You can’t just say “I want a team to join”. You must be extremely clear on the sort of people who will make up that team, and the manner in which the team conducts themselves.
Putting it all together
What I see in this reading is someone who wants to achieve a new level of mastery, and knows that they need a special place or organization to make it happen. Let’s say that a magical person were to suddenly show up in your life and ask you “What do you need?”. Do you have a specific answer ready, or have you been wallowing in unclear ambitions and a vague sense of untapped potential? Do you even want something specific, or do you want to want something enough to compel you into action? What if this magical person could only give you what you want if you put it into a carefully worded contract?
There’s a very classical dynamic at play in this reading that is worth articulating. Imagine a King who has a loyal Wizard in his court. The Wizard approaches the King and reveals that a spell has been discovered, the casting of which will magically transform the kingdom into an ideal state. It can only be cast once, so the King must account for every detail of the desired outcome. Once the King finishes his plan for the perfect kingdom, the Magician will make it happen.
Your homework assignment is to place yourself in the role of this King. Imagine that you will receive an unexpected opportunity in the next 7 days. Someone very intelligent, powerful, and well-connected is going to show up in your life, and they are going to give you an opportunity to make your dreams come true, specifically in a way that ushers you into a creative domain you can step into and out of at will. A place you can go to on a regular basis to fully develop your creative potential. However, this person will not appear unless you have a plan ready, so take the time in the next several days to lay out an ideal scenario. What if money weren’t an issue, and you could build a new life for yourself, with the expression of your most joyous creative gifts at the exact center? What would be the exact parameters of that life? You might be surprised by what happens once you create such a plan, and you might be surprised by the sort of person who steps into your life to help make it happen.
Brian Duffy has been studying Tarot for more than 10 years, and regularly performs readings at public events and private parties. He also conducts individual readings, and teaches classes.
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