Loose Leaf Tarot


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When you’ll never be a royal (Or, on being who you actually are, right now)

page_vs_queen

Lately, it feels like court cards are coming up an awful lot when I do readings, sneaking in no matter what question I’m contemplating or what story I’m trying to explore. They turn up in the simplest spreads and the most complex. I’ll be hoping for a poignant major card to reveal itself, so I can smile knowingly while feeling wise and connected to deep universal truths, like a real tarot reader. But instead, here’s yet another page or queen, looking smug, forcing me to think up even more possible meanings for these images I’ve been seeing over and over for weeks.

(I get it, court cards. I’ve always shunned you a bit, and now that I’m listening, you have all sorts of things to tell me about what’s up with my shit. Okay. Just stop trying to forcibly take over my blog, maybe?)

Today when I threw my cards, the story was one that comes up a lot for me. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve got a very swords-heavy personality. But I’ve always been drawn to the wands, in real life as well as in tarot. Wands people are warm and sharp at the same time, like a shot of cinnamon liquor. They make you feel like something special is happening no matter what, and like you’re right in the middle of it. Or at least, they’re right in the middle of it, and maybe if you’re lucky you’ll be along for the ride.

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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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Daily draw: Page of Wands

Page of Wands

I pulled this card reversed a couple days ago, as a daily draw exercise. Drawing a card each day (or, okay, most days) is a new practice for me, so I’m not sure if I’ll continue to consider reversals or not. But I think it will be good practice for me to look at reversed cards outside the context of a spread. Just in the context of my day.

As a page, this little guy stands for a younger person, or for qualities that are developing and “childlike.” I almost always look at the court cards as being aspects of personality, except when the spread seems to indicate it’s definitely a real person.

I usually think of this page as being inspiration/creativity in its early, fragile, exciting phase, before things really start to happen. While I was looking at it this time, I noticed the way the page is gazing up at the top of the staff, almost beyond it to the sky. There’s idealism there, as well as inspiration.

Appropriately enough, I connected this card with my recent re-dedication to taroty things, and this new journal in particular. The reversal, in that context, could be a warning not to stay a page forever. Enjoy the initial spark, but move on to a later stage or risk losing interest. This character can be a dilettante if she never stops gazing dreamily at every cool new thing that inspires her. She’s got to stoke the fire and get things cooking on it.

So here’s my post, in honor of the Page of Wands.


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The King of Cups probably disapproves of you, but is too well-bred to say anything

King of Cups

Ah, this guy. The King of Cups. I’ve always had a really hard time connecting with this card. In the contest of which tarot character I’d least like to have dinner with, it’s a toss-up between this dude and the Hierophant. I mean, Death and the Devil at least seem like they’d be interesting conversationalists.

I know this king has good qualities, but the Waite Smith imagery is so… stiff. There he sits, stiffly, looking into the middle distance like you’ve just burped and he’s politely ignoring you. I never really got how he can embody anything but disapproval and emotional repression.

But earlier this week, I did a reading that might have changed my mind. It was the confidence spread over at Little Red Tarot (a quick but highly useful spread, so check it out!). A couple of the positions relate to existing strengths, and when I flipped over the first of those cards, who did I see but the King of Cups. That dude.

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