divination

Learning the Tarot of Marseilles

Following Tuesday’s post using the Tarot de Maria Celia, I wanted to talk about actually interpreting this deck.

I admit, the first thing that drew me to the Tarot de Marseille was its visual appeal.

I spotted the Marshmallow Marseilles deck, and fell hard for the colors and imagery. It seemed a little daunting, sure — I’m experienced at reading your fairly standard interpretations of the Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired decks… But one with no illustrations on the pip cards?

I’ve talked a bit about how I interpret and familiarize myself with decks before, but it’s a technique that relies on there being images to interpret in the first place. This is something that Marseilles-inspired decks lack by design. Where the Rider-Waite-Smith deck was intended for divination, the original Tarot of Marseilles was a deck of playing cards. Still, I’ve never been interested in anything because it was easy, so let’s go!

Numbers, Cycles, and the Pip Cards

First, I’d like to briefly mention that there are a number of wonderful books on interpreting the Marseilles tarot. That said, I don’t have any of them, and wanted to try to see how the cards “felt” myself before engaging with someone else’s experience.

It seems there are two ways for me to go about interpreting the pip cards:

  1. Apply the same meanings given to the Rider-Waite-Smith cards of the same value.
  2. Look at only the information presented by the card — the suit and the value.

Not gonna lie, the first way involves way more memorization than I feel like doing. With a Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired deck, the images provide a visual cue. Without that, this angle seems, to me, to be more trouble than it’s worth. (Also not discounting the fact that I have access to plenty of RWS-inspired decks — if I wanted that kind of interpretation, I could easily use one!)

So that leaves me with the cards themselves.

Numerologically, there’s a lot going on here. Every suit has ten pip cards — the Ace through the Ten, the beginning through the end. Each suit is a cycle, easily divided up into smaller, three-card cycles within. The Ace to the Three, the Four to the Six, the Seven through the Nine, with the Ten as the ultimate culmination.

Interpreting the pip cards in the Tarot of Marseilles is an interesting combination of the meaning of the suit, the ideas suggested by the numbers themselves, and their position within these cycles. The artwork is completely decorative — there’s really not much information to be gained there, and the imagery is very consistent through each suit. The Five of Coins looks like the Three of Coins, just more of it.

Really, I kind of enjoy the freedom.

Interpreting a more art-based tarot deck is a fun challenge, but ultimately becomes a kind of find-the-hidden-image search. It’s a game of seeing what jumps out at you, what details you notice, and what meaning you can assign to them. Strength depicts someone wrestling with a lion, what meaning do lions have symbolically? Red is the color of passion, blood, and fire, how much red is in the artwork, and where? Are there alchemical symbols? Heraldic? On top of all of that, what overall “sense” do you get from the image?

With a purely suit + number interpretation, it’s free association in a pretty basic numeric framework.

Look at the III de Deniers, for example:

  • It’s the suit of Coins (or Pentacles), so it relates to wealth, money, security, and the Earth element.
  • It’s a three.
  • It’s the final card in the first cycle.

As the final card in the first cycle, the number following two, and three, specifically, Three is the manifestation of the creative joining of the Two. The pollen meets the ovum, the Two come together in a fertile, creative union, and the fruit, a third entity, is produced. As the suit of Coins, it’s the first manifestation of something monetary, economical, or physical — the result of the first effort represented by the Ace-Two-Three cycle. As the end product of the first cycle, it’s an encouragement to continue working hard and moving toward the ultimate goal represented by the Ten.

Reading them is a lot like unlearning the way I usually read tarot. I like it!

 

divination

Bâtons, Deniers, Épées

This week, I wanted to try something a little different.

Not long ago, I picked up a copy of the absolutely beautiful Tarot de Maria Celia, a deck based on the Tarot of Marseilles, illustrated by Lynyrd-Jym Narciso. The ToM is a bit different from conventional Rider-Waite-Smith-based decks, in that the pip cards aren’t illustrated — they’re much more like a regular deck of playing cards. The meanings of the pip cards also vary a little, with their own subtleties and nuances.

Learning to interpret them has been a bit of a challenge. I’m not a fan of rote memorization, but pip cards that don’t have actual scenes on them don’t leave you nearly as much to go on. That has its advantages, but can make things a little intimidating.

troisdedeniers
Notably not pictured: three people standing under a fancy archway.

So, for this week’s reading, I settled on an easy three card spread. Even without artwork to read into, I figured three cards would give me enough information to build something from.

I drew the II de Bâtons (Wands), the XIIII de Deniers (Pentacles or Coins), and the XIII d’Épées (Swords).

Twos are the continuation of the beginnings indicated by the Aces. As a duality, they can represent two sides of a situation, or a decision of some sort. Two is a pair, and the fertile, creative energy between them.

As a decision, the Two of Wands represents the shift from the physical to the creative. It’s at the very beginning of the Wands cycle, so it also represents the opportunity to broaden your horizons. If the Ace represents the beginning and the choice of a goal, the Two is the next step: planning in order to make it a reality.

Nines are the completion of their respective cycle. As in other decks, Deniers represent material wealth and physical comforts. The Nine of Pentacles here is a point of freedom and self-governance. It stands in contrast to the Two — it’s nearing the end, knowing the plan, and and understanding that self-discipline and follow through are what got you here.

The Eight of Swords is self-imposed restriction. It is near the end of the cycle, but notably not there yet — there’s an obstacle in the way, and it’s you. Use too much caution, spend too much time devoted to making the right decision, and no decision will be made. At the same time, it’s a good idea not to make any major decisions until you are able to recognize that your entire decision making process has been defined by limits you’ve set for yourself. It’s choice fatigue, the paralysis of indecision, the trouble with Katy Make Sure.

I feel pretty called out.

We are comfortable. I’m at the very beginning of some creative plans, working out the kinks and deciding how to progress. At the same time, because I’m at a point where I’m comfortable, there’s a not-insignificant part of me going, “Now what?”

Growing up poor, much of my thinking was dominated by material concerns. I was presented with many, many different incarnations of the idea that if I just had this thing, I could be that person, and they are better than I am. It was kind of a huge relief when “shabby chic,” thrift-store clothes, capsule wardrobes, and mason jars became trendy, because that’s all stuff I had anyway, just out of poverty reasons.

I’m freer now. I’m more autonomous now. I spent a lot of time pursuing goals that lined up with an idea of success that I didn’t choose for myself, and now that I’ve attained many of them, what now? 

It’s a scary feeling. A sort of unsettling is-this-it feeling. Is it just this, and more of this, and then eventually we die? How do I shake the limitations of traditional markers of success?

Four things have made me ecstatically happy recently:

  • Finding pants that fit. (I’m a 2 now, and a Petite. If I accept this, finding the right size will be much harder, but I also won’t look like I’m wearing my partner’s pants.)
  • My partner surprised me with a gift. (Otter socks, a card, and a stuffed otter. His name is Philippe.)
  • I started a painting. (Three guesses what it’s of, and the first two don’t count.)
  • I found some neat flowers I hadn’t seen before.

Literally none of these line up with the goals I was raised to have. None of them are really markers of success, either. But is it really okay to just let go of that?

I’m ready to make a plan, to work towards new aspirations. I’m at a point where we have the time and money to do this. I just need to let go of these limitations first.

Then what?

 

divination, life

The Sun

It seems fitting after this weekend doesn’t it?

I always draw my card for the week the way I would draw any tarot card — at random. I cut the deck however feels correct at the time, and hold my hand over each pile until I feel the little “pull” that tells me it’s the right one. When things line up like this, it just feels good. A tiny “yes” from the universe. A pat on the back from the ancestors, guiding spirits, or whoever’s in your metaphorical corner. I dig it.

I’ve been drawing a lot of very positive cards lately. This week was no exception: I drew The Sun.

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The Sun is enthusiasm. It’s infectious, effervescent joy. It’s unfiltered light, freedom, and truth. In love readings, it’s happiness. In money and career readings, it’s prosperity and success. In health readings, it’s energy and vitality. In spirituality readings, it’s happiness and optimism. In an advice position, it tells you to take this warmth and this joy, and bring it out into the world. As a person or significator, it’s someone who is energetic, determined, playful, and fun.

With the new moon on the 23rd, it’s a very good sign for this coming cycle.

I don’t really have a specific situation that The Sun applies to right now — my life has been on an upswing in a very general sense. I’ve been doing more. Seeing more. Enjoying more. Trying to meet more people. Learning more things. Growing in ways that bring me satisfaction, in every respect. Spiritually, I’m growing like a weed. Health-wise, I feel better than I have in awhile (if tired — Zoloft fatigue plus IIH hypersomnia is real.) Career-wise, I’ve gotten more work than I know what to do with, lately. Creativity-wise, I’m painting more, cooking more, making more things, and moving forward through Ane’s story on Uruvalai (and man, the upcoming bit is an emotional doozy).

For me, in the place I am now, The Sun is a reassurance that everything really is going well. I don’t have to look for another shoe to drop — not yet, anyway. Things are as they should be. If I experience frustration in the near future, it’s alright. The earth is turning, the sun is shining, the new spring flowers are pushing up through the cold ground.

It’s all good.

divination, life

The Eight of Wands (wants me to hurry up)

Sometimes, the tarot tells you that the energy is right for embarking on a new adventure. Like the Ace of Wands, for example. Sometimes, it uses eight sticks to goad you into doing a thing, instead.

This week, I drew the Eight of Wands. I’ve got to hand it to it — I have been feeling a lot of momentum lately. I don’t know if it’s the warming weather or the appearance of the sun during what’s felt like a very cloudy winter, but I definitely get that sense of motion!

In every respect, the Eight of Wands is progress, and very rapid progress, at that. It’s a wind that picks you up and carries you along. It’s an upswing in energy. It’s a rapid recovery from a low point, It’s infatuation, movement, high energy, and flight. It’s results.

I’m happy to see it.

Positive omens are lining up for beginning another round of studying! I found a new Meetup group! I’ve made a lot of very interesting breakthroughs while meditating and journeying that I don’t really want to get into right here, because they probably won’t make any sense and will alienate literally everyone else! I have so many paintings to photograph and list, my dudes. 

As advice, the Eight of Wands can be the harbinger of good news. It’s learning from a positive experience, and letting that confidence carry you to greater heights. It’s finally gaining the understanding that, even if you had to start from zero again, you have what it takes to achieve what you want again and again, as many times as you need to. It’s a thumbs-up from the universe, a pat on the back, and a sign not to quit now.

The Eight of Wands is near the end of the Wands cycle, but it isn’t the ultimate culmination. It’s just a high point, a small success that gives you confidence that the larger success is possible. It might be tempting to take shortcuts, but that isn’t what got you here and it won’t be what gets you to the end.

It’s good stuff.

 

divination, life

The Nine of Cups

More Cups.

Following the Three of Cups last week, I guess the party isn’t over! The Nine of Cups, upright, is another overwhelmingly positive card. As a Nine, it is near the end of the cycle of pip cards. The only thing after it is the Ten of Cups, so the Nine of Cups is a good indicator that the hard times are in the past (for now) and things are looking up.

In love readings, it’s a sign of emotional fulfillment, pleasure, and satisfaction. In career readings, it points to success and recognition. In a more spiritual context, it points to spiritual fulfillment and a soul that radiates joy and positivity.

Even in terms of advice, the Nine of Cups is a good sign. Looking at the traditional imagery of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, there’s a man sitting in front of a row of golden chalices, arms crossed and a frankly smug expression on his face. All of the cups are upright, none are spilled. He’s got a ton of resources to back him up. Whatever this guy wants, he is probably going to get.

In the Crow Tarot, the imagery is similar:

9ofC

He sits on top of a pyramid of Cups, filled with fruit, fish, flowers, and the keys to whatever his little bird heart desires. The world’s his oyster.

I could use this energy right now. I’m taking on some things that are pretty new to me, and a few that aren’t — though they are rather high stakes. If I do have the keys to everything I want right now, I plan to use the crap out of them.

 

 

divination, life

A Re-sip-ient of the Three of Cups

(… Sorry.)

I get lot of Cups.

I’m not complaining, of course. Cups cards are the cards of emotions, and most of the Cups I end up drawing are all about fulfillment and good times.

This weekend, my S.O. and I had a little cause to celebrate. I’ve been able to get out more now, so we packed the weekend with things we’ve needed to do, and a few that just sounded like fun. The rain dampened our plans a little bit, but that’s alright.

The important thing here is that I’ve got so many plans for stuff I want to do, my dudes. i have a group of tabs open for some local theaters and concert halls, which I’ve been idly refreshing in my spare time to see what’s on offer. It’s a really nice feeling to be able to do that, pick a show that looks like fun, and actually plan to go, instead of feel like I’m tormenting myself with FOMO.

So it feels pretty appropriate to draw the Three of Cups this week. I’ve pulled it before, when he and I were about to move into our new place, and we each had a ton of irons in the fire that we were both very excited about. This time around, I’m continuing existing projects more than starting up new ones, and I don’t really have a major life change on the horizon that I know of. There are always more things that I want to do and see, but both my S.O. and I are in a very good place at the moment. I’m very happy to enjoy my new freedom, though!

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Saturday, we’d hoped to go see World in a Box. Unfortunately, the stars didn’t quite align — they were sold out, and the rain made navigating there a bit of a challenge. Still, it prompted me to look at what else Rhizome has coming up, and given me a lot of new ideas.

I love this card. I love the Crow Tarot deck. I love where my life is right now, and I’m excited to see where it’s going.

 

divination, life

The Star

As much fun as last week was, at times, it absolutely kicked my butt.

I don’t know if you remember when our car got poisoned when we went on that road trip down south, but, between a clunking engine and a cracked windshield, we’d finally decided that it was time for Caliber the Undying to be put out to pasture.

(According to what the trade-in guy said, the pasture appears to be somewhere in eastern Europe.)

So, my S.O. had to get a new car — though by “new,” I mean more like “used, but clean and significantly less likely to turn into smoking rubble on the highway.” Couple that with some late work nights, getting handed a shovelful of writing orders, turning in the corrections for my Druidry coursework, and going out in a crowd for the first time in over a year(!), I’m a little drained.

Please, I silently begged as I shuffled my deck, please just not the Ten of Swords. Or Nine of Swords. Or any of the Swords, to be honest.

Fortunately, I lucked out. This week’s card is The Star.

The Star is a very positive omen — it’s a hope spot. A pause for breath. It comes after The Tower, a card of tremendous upheaval, so it’s common to draw The Star when you’re entering a time of peace, serenity, and optimism after a struggle.

I wouldn’t exactly call what I’ve gone through lately a struggle, of course. While it was a lot of work, and it wore me out, I was glad to do it. (I mean, I’m not exactly going to complain about having too many opportunities to help support my family!) Still, spoons are spoons, and it’s possible to wear yourself out doing things you enjoy.

The Star is a positive omen in virtually every respect, whether you draw it in a Love, Career, Spirituality, or just a general reading. As advice, it asks you to focus on rest and healing — The Tower has fallen, the worst has passed. Marshall your strength and go forward from here. Conditions are favorable, you’re on the right path. Don’t force anything, just let it guide you.

Right now, it’s guiding me to some magnesium oil, a heating pad, and a cup of marshmallow root tea.