Loose Leaf Tarot


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A quick spread trick, because sometimes a quick spread is all you can do

wrist_spread_2

Unexpected Life Event of the week: I’m a rock climber, and on Monday I had my first real injury. I don’t get sick or hurt too often, but apparently when I do, I make it count. Now I have a broken wrist. Yaaay.

(Behold! Evidence that tarot cards really don’t reveal your future, or I’d have gone to a movie that afternoon.)

My doc’s putting in some pins next week, but for now I’ve only got one hand for things like typing, general existence, and using my cards. I started journaling some big-picture ideas in my tarot notebook over the past couple weeks – more thoughts about gender, and some about approaching the mystical/spiritual elements of the tarot as a mostly non-mystical reader. But it looks like these will have to wait until I can write again, and until I can type faster than twelve (misspelled) words a minute.*

In the meantime, here’s a simple method I like to use for quick spreads.

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Story mapping will make you feel smart, creative, and attractive* all at the same time

storymapping wide shot

Tarot readings are generally supposed to be conducted with some approximation of mental stillness, a focused willingness to sit down and quietly examine what comes to the surface when you throw the cards. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to sit still and think at the same time. For me, this is where story maps come in.

There’s something satisfying about mapping when you’re feeling a little manic, when you want to keep your hands busy instead of doing something more meditative. It’s a way to use the tarot when you’re more invested in playing with thoughts than with doing a regular reading.

I’m a writer currently working on a novel, and the past week I’ve been totally stuck on a plot point that’s keeping me from moving forward into the next section of story. When I tried to write, clicking between the manuscript and my notes as if that was going to accomplish something, I kept getting distracted and wandering away from the computer. So I decided to do a map with my cards.

You don’t have to be a writer to use story maps in your tarot practice (but they do work really well for dislodging half-formed plot details out of the gummy recesses of your brain). If you’re a beginner, a story map built from a book/movie/show you know well can help you play with the cards, getting a feel for how they interact in a spread. Story maps can also help illuminate real-world situations. They’re basically just spreads you make up as you go along, starting with a few initial cards and working out, choosing the cards intentionally rather than at random.

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Daily draw: Three of Pentacles

three of pents

The first thing I noticed when I drew this card yesterday was how awesome the robed figure in the foreground looks. Check out the spotted cape-onesie with tentacle hood! It’s like a medieval thneed*. This person is clearly an artist of some sort, probably an architect judging by the plans in her hand. She’s discussing important, artsy things with a craftsperson and a monk, and they are very politely ignoring how batshit/brilliant her outfit is.

Together these three can represent the foundational elements needed for starting a successful project: creativity and planning (the architect), spirit and intellect (the monk), skill and labor (the craftsperson). They echo the three pentacles in the unfinished stained glass window above them. It’s early stages, but between the three of them, they have what they need to start adding to the scaffolding.

The visual reference of the cathedral can have meaning as well. All projects, no matter how great or small, start here, at the foundations. And you never know how great a project might turn out to be, if you put all of yourself into it.

I drew this card reversed, which reminds me that even if I’ve been feeling a little mentally scattered lately, that doesn’t mean I can’t keep working on the foundations of the projects I’ve got going on. It may feel like it’ll be a long time before I have flying buttresses and gargoyles, but I’ll get there faster if I pay attention to all the key building blocks now.

 

*A-fine-something-that-all-people-need.

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Gender and the court cards (heaping spoonfuls of salt required)

Queen and King of pents

So, I’ve always had some problems working with the tarot courts. I’m starting to branch out into using non-traditional decks, but I’m still most familiar with the standard Waite Smith, and the court cards in that deck are… problematic. For me, anyway.

The archetypes in the tarot tend to be focused on finding balance between dichotomies (Moon and Sun, Magician and High Priestess, Empress and Emperor). Here’s what Joan Bunning says in Learning the Tarot, from her description of the fool’s journey: “It is a feature of the material universe that as soon as we name some aspect of experience, we automatically evoke its opposite.”

In the major arcana, these dichotomies are abstract, so while there’s a bit of reductive cringe-factor with cards like the Empress and Emperor, I find it easier to essentially ignore their gendered nature, or to take them with a grain of salt. But the court cards are more down to earth; they’re supposed to represent real people and specific aspects of ourselves. And these cards are the worst offenders when it comes to traditional, restrictive ideas about masculine and feminine traits.

Men act! Women contemplate things! Even the pages are supposed to be boys, because whoever heard of a lady page? You can’t carry messages in a skirt. Come on, now, that would be silly.

The problem I’ve been having lately, though, is that I’m actually making some headway in reading the court cards… but what’s helping me understand these images better is their gendering, the very thing I dislike about them and disagree with in real life. Yesterday my daily draw was the Queen of Pentacles, and I decided to pull the King as well to look at them side-by-side. I realized that for me, these two most clearly sum up the symbolic differences between the kings and the queens. Queens are inwardly-focused, more “passive;” Kings are outward or “active.”

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