Donald Trump, Pharaohs, and the Peculiar Royalty Cards of the Tarot

\If you’ve ever studied the Tarot you know that the definitions for the royalty cards in the Minor Arcana pretty much suck.  For every suit of cards – wands, cups, swords, and pentacles – there are corresponding royal figures: the Page, Knight, Queen, and King.  The definitions for these come about as close as any of the cards to the stereotypes of Gypsy fortune tellers muttering that you’re about to meet a tall, dark stranger.

Unlike the definitions for all of the rest of the cards, these tend to be very gender and age specific.  As in, “An older, dark haired man with a hatchet face will play an important role in your life.” Or, “A troubled young person with red hair may cause mischief.”  Or, “A very strong, dark haired, materialistic woman will be difficult to defeat in legal problems.”

Perhaps the definitions are so awful because the very concept of royalty is so NOT the Tarot.  The Tarot is not about, “exceptionalism,” or people who are removed from the normal human experience by virtue of their wealth or power.  

The Minor Arcana cards describe common human experiences and states of being that we all go through.  Poverty, disappointment, broken hearts, celebrations, love, hate, passion.  The Major Arcana describe archetypes that blow through all of our lives.  Illumination, spiritual quests, death, lovers, evil, power, sudden turns of fortune.

In a word, the Tarot is, “egalitarian.”  Egalitarianism is, in its original meaning, the doctrine that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.  We see that built into the Declaration of Independence:  

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Of course, we know that the people who signed that document were, for the most part, rich white dudes who owned slaves and would have been horrified at the possibility of women voting.  Nonetheless, let’s look at the truth that underlies the statements that they didn’t live up to.

We are ALL of us much more alike than we are different.  If you take it right down to the core, right down to the bedrock of existence, we are ALL Souls on the earth plane trying to do our best and figure out why in the hell we’re here and what we’re supposed to do next.  Just forget for a moment all of the strange earth plane illusions of skin color, gender, countries, languages, creeds and religions, wealth, poverty, genius and stupidity. Underneath the whole, bizarre, flashy, Mardi Gras parade of colorful costumes and masks, we’re Souls on a common journey.  On the Soul level, we are all equals.

Which is why the Tarot works for everyone.  It’s about that bedrock of human experiences that every person on the planet shares in common.  It’s about what we – ALL OF US – encounter in our lives.

Being a King or a Queen, a Knight or a Page . . . except metaphorically and momentarily, those are NOT experiences which most of us will share.  And so those cards seem like rather odd appendages to the Tarot as a whole.

Karl Popper, who was one of the most prominent philosophers of the 20th century, once wrote an essay called, “Is There Meaning in History?”  And the first sentence in his essay was, “No.”

His point was that history is mainly about the egomaniacs, killers, misfits, and psychotics who seized power, created thrones,  and caused endless misery for their fellow Souls, and NOT about the majority of people who were living during their periods of time.  The French, for instance, are fond of remembering the, “military genius,” of Napolean while ignoring the millions of deaths that the little over-compensated dictator caused.

Americans love to talk about their cowboys but not so much about the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans to make room for the cowboys.

The real story of the pyramids should be about the slaves and artisans who built them.  Instead, we remember them by the tricked out, inbred Pharaohs whose bodies they contained.

On the current scene, Donald Trump is an extremely wealthy man who has taken over control of the world’s most powerful office.  He, not us, will be remembered in the history books. But on a Soul level, he’s a rather pathetic old man who’s stuck in his first and second chakras, whose own mother didn’t like to touch him, who’s had a series of mail order wives he’s cheated on, who never had a pet and who, as near as we can tell, has never been loved by another human being. Pretty sad.

In all probability, decent definitions for the royalty cards in the Tarot won’t emerge until we give up our fascination with and admiration for royalty and the ultra-wealthy. 

At that point the definition for the King of Pentacles may be, “A totally materialistic, shallow soul who is obsessed with money to a point of crushing anyone in his path.”

And the Queen of Cups might be, “A pathologically jealous bitch who will destroy anyone she views as a potential rival.”

And the Knight of Wands might be, “An intellectual zealot who will ride right over anyone who disagrees with his elitist, fanatical point of view.”

It’s just a matter of looking at the real Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages in, “history,” and seeing how they really behaved.  What human qualities do the royalty cards really represent?  What kind of a person was Henry the Eighth?  Was the Sun King all that sunny? How horrible were most of these people?

We may have to create a special card to represent Trump, though.  Maybe the King of Putz? I’m open to suggestions . . .

The Eight of Pentacles and the Death of Creativity

The Eight of Pentacles looks like a pretty happy card.  A craftsman sits at his bench carving away at one pentacle after another and seems to have several of them displayed, as if they were for sale.  My original definition of the card in my book, “Just the Tarot,” pretty much agrees with that:

Profiting from your skills.  Learning new skills that will advance your career.  Possible promotions or awards at work.

And, yet, as an artist and a writer, I have to say, “Ugh.”

And, “Yuck.”

In some ways the Eight of Pentacles is sort of the anti-creativity card.  Real creativity involves an interesting balance between competence and incompetence.

If you’ve ever gone through the pains of starting a new job or you’ve supervised someone who was new at their job, you know that there’s a definite learning curve.  For about the first six months you can count on a pretty high level of screwing up. The new employee has to learn new skills or – in some cases – unlearn what he thought he knew.  At about six months to a year, she’ll start to develop the abilities to perform the job and, after a year, it should be easy peasy.

We see a lot the same thing with artists.  Having a creative vision isn’t enough. The painter has to learn how to blend the colors and which brushes to use.  The wood carver has to know which chisels do what and what types of wood have smooth, tight grains that will take the details of the carving.

You study it, you practice it, and you learn it.  I used to refer to that as, “getting the knowledge out of my head and into my hands.”

But, the thing is, the second you’ve REALLY learned it, the second you can do it perfectly over and over and over again . . . you’ve stopped creating.  You’re just repeating.

That’s what I see when I look at the Eight of Pentacles:  a line of perfectly carved pentacles that are all exactly the same.  It would have been really cool if some of them were orange and some of them were purple, if there were a few folk art pentacles mixed in with some abstract pentacles.  

But there aren’t.

Henry Ford invented the assembly line in 1913.  It was a novel concept at the time: a product moving down a line, being assembled by a team of workers.  Each worker was highly trained in doing one separate part of the assembly, over and over and over. Doing exactly the same thing day after day after day until they retired or dropped dead from boredom.

It was a brilliant idea for a capitalist and an absolute soul killer for the workers.  Real creativity involves trying something new that you don’t actually know how to do perfectly.  It’s a meshing of your skill set with unknown territory that results in something unique and different AND increases your skills.

Unfortunately, we don’t see a lot of that in our work places.  We see people stuck in jobs where they do one or two things over and over again and are never challenged and never grow.  We actually give them awards for that and congratulate them on knowing how to do those one or two things better than anyone else, on accepting the concept that they should be, “good”, but not creative or different.

The Eight of Pentacle is a safe card, a card that shows that nothing bad is happening to that person.  But nothing particularly wonderful is happening to that person, either.  The real story is in the definition of the Eight of Pentacles Reversed:

 Employment problems that may involve a need for retraining or learning new job skills.  Possibly the questioners position being eliminated or some sort of a reshuffle of employees that will place him or her in a job requiring different skills.

In other words, THAT person is going to have to GROW.  It’s all really a question of choosing emotional safety or choosing growth.  Sit in the nest or jump out and learn how to fly.

Life is way too short to choose safety.

The Three of Pentacles and the Creative Process

We know that humans essentially have two different brains in one skull.  The left hemisphere of the brain is involved in logical and linear processes such as math, writing, driving a car, and analyzing problems.  The right hemisphere is the, “creative brain,” and deals with dreams, symbols, intuition, inspiration, poetry and art.

While the right brain is more involved in the genesis of art, both sides of the brain are necessary to make it materialize.  Here’s an example: Janis is an artist and has a dream about a beautiful, glowing landscape. Upon awakening, she’s determined to paint the image she dreamed and share it with the world.  That’s right brain working.

She goes to her studio and has to select which paints will work best with the image, what size canvas she wants to paint it on, and which brushes she want to use.  That’s left brain working.

As she begins to paint she falls into a sort of a trance and hours go by without her being aware of anything but the painting.  Right brain is in charge again.

When she’s finished for the day she sits back and critiques what she’s done.  Did she get the lines right? Is the shading perfect? Did she capture the source of light?  That’s left brain engaging in the process.

So there’s this interesting back and forth between the two sides of the brain, each side contributing its’ own powers and skills to creating.  And that’s what we see in the Three of Pentacles.

The Three of Pentacles is unusual for a Minor Arcana card because it incorporates two figures from the Major Arcana.  A stonemason stands on a bench, mallet in hand, pausing between strokes to listen to two people who are conferring over a plan.  The two people are obviously The Fool and The Hierophant.

They are represented here, it seems, not so much as the formal individuals they are in the Major Arcana, but as the energies or vibrations associated with those two cards.

The Fool is wild, intuitive, intoxicated with divine energy but with no need to interpret or define what he’s doing.  The Hierophant is stodgy, stolid, conventional, not unkind but a stickler for the rules. The Fool is all about Right Brain energy and The Hierophant is all about Left Brain energy.

So we have this almost perfect representation of the creative process:  Left Brain and Right Brain working together while the craftsman waits to create their synthesis in the material world.

And one of the fun things about this card is that it’s not about art at all, according to its’ common definitions.  It’s about buying real estate and making improvements to your home, being enthusiastic about it but paying careful attention to details.  Which is a wonderful reminder that everything – everything – we do in life is a creative process. 

 Life is a canvas – use bright colors.

Abuse Cards in the Tarot

One of the most frequent reasons for people to consult a Tarot reader is relationships, specifically romantic relationships.  This includes the full gamut of topics from, “Does Bobby like me?” to, “Is my marriage worth saving?”

You may find that a prominent subcategory of that topic is physically and/or emotionally abusive relationships.  People who are in abusive relationships are frequently desperate for advice and guidance.

You may also find – as any cop, social worker, or emergency department nurse can tell you – that the questioner may not even be willing to admit that he or she is in an abusive relationship.  They may be deeply ashamed of it. They may have been victims for so long that they’re afraid to reveal the truth, afraid that talking about it will only bring more abuse down on their heads.

It can be very puzzling to a reader.  You’re looking at a reading that indicates that something is very, very wrong in the questioners life and, yet, they assure you that everything’s fine.  There are, however, a few cards that can tip you to what’s actually happening.

NINE OF WANDS


The picture kind of says it all, doesn’t it?  This card may well indicate an abusive relationship though at this point – given that this is a Wands card and, thus, ideas card – the abuse is probably more verbal than physical.  A couple living in a constant state of verbal warfare with nasty, wounding arguments.

EIGHT OF CUPS

A card of stealing away in the night, this may indicate someone who is literally fleeing from a really bad relationship.  This can be a relationship that is SO bad that the questioner is leaving town to get away from his or her partner.

FIVE OF SWORDS

This is a card of really ugly power games and can indicate a person who is a serious sadist.  Deep wounds are being inflicted here and they may be actual physical wounds as well as emotional wounds.

SIX OF SWORDS

This appears to be a fairly placid card on its’ surface but there are undertones that can indicate abuse. As I said in the original definition from my book, “Just the Tarot,” this is a card of leaving troubles behind and moving toward better times.  A journey from rough waters to waters that are placid and calm. There is a definite element of escape, of fleeing in this card.

There is also an element of hiding and of turning your power over to someone else and asking them to guide you to safety.  The woman and child are cloaked and bent over, as if to conceal their identities.

I have seen this card frequently in the context of an abused wife or girl-friend fleeing to a women’s shelter or finally, finally calling the cops to stop the abuse.  

SEVEN OF SWORDS

This card doesn’t so much indicate physical abuse but may point toward a form of emotional abuse.  The questioner may be involved with someone who is stealing his or her power in a relationship, belittling them, and grinding down their sense of self-worth on a daily basis.

EIGHT OF SWORDS

Again, the picture pretty much speaks for itself.  A person who is literally being held prisoner in a terrible relationship.  The blindfold can indicate a high level of denial on his or her part, refusing to even acknowledge, much less deal with, the fact that they’re in deep shit.

TEN OF SWORDS

This may well be the scariest of the abuse cards.  It’s the end of the power cycle and the subject lies dead on the battlefield stuck full of the swords that he or she tried to wield.  A reminder that abusive relationships can have horrible endings.

NINE OF PENTACLES

I’m including this card in the post, not because it shows overt physical or emotional abuse, but because it may show a certain form of emotional or financial bondage in a relationship.  The woman in the card is to all appearances happy, content, and surrounded by wealth. One of the key elements of the card, though, is the blindfolded hawk. This card may indicate a person who has – perhaps willingly – surrendered his or her freedom for financial security.  There can be a great deal of inequity and inequality of power in a relationship like that and that can certainly lead to abuse.

THE DEVIL – UPRIGHT OR REVERSED

The Devil can, of course, indicate a whole slew of other things besides relationship abuse but it’s almost always there when abuse is present.  You have to be a wee bit cautious in automatically assuming that, though, because human sexuality covers a whole spectrum of behaviors. I have never personally understood it but there ARE people who enjoy giving and receiving pain as a part of their sexual experience.  If it’s mutually agreed on, it’s none of our business.

Despite that, The Devil can be a clear indicator of a relationship that has gone very, very wrong.  The man and woman are chained but the chains are obviously loose enough to be slipped off if they chose to do so.  There is an element of voluntarily sinking into a terrible, poisonous relationship and elevating the very worst of human nature into a so-called, “relationship.”  The abuse here can be emotional, physical and spiritual.

THE TOWER

The Tower can show abuse but it’s probably just happened.  The Tower is sudden calamity, a bolt from the blue, a shocking development.  Chronic abuse can go on for years. It may be shocking to others to discover it’s been going on but it’s certainly not shocking to the victims or perpetrators.  Depending upon the surrounding cards this may indicate the very start of the abuse cycle.

THE MOON

As I said in my original definition:  The Moon shows that the questioner may be involved with someone on a very primitive, unconscious level and that there may be deception on the part of the partner or, more likely, denial on the part of the questioner.  There is a lot of emotion present but it may not be of a healthy, evolved nature.

This card can show the depths of rationalization and deception involved in an abusive relationship.  Everything is murky, shadowy, and there’s no clear path out for the victim.

So those are the primary cards that may indicate an abusive relationship.  They don’t always indicate that but you’ll be able to tell a great deal by the surrounding cards.  I would also emphasize that these are by no means the only cards that can indicate abuse. Abusive relationships can be incredibly complex and so can the readings for the person being abused.

King of Pentacles

A man wearing a crown sits on a heavily carved throne adorned with carvings of bulls heads.  He wears a flowing robe embroidered with grape vines and holds a globed scepter in his right hand.  His left hand holds a pentacle which rests upon his leg.

A very successful and probably fairly wealthy man with an abundance of good business sense.  This isn’t someone who’s striving for success – he’s already there. And, in keeping with the old cliche about how the rich get richer, he just keeps on making more money.

The bulls on the throne show that he has a strong sensual nature but probably also feels a need to dominate those around them.  The grapes indicate that, like his queen, he enjoys the finer things in life and expects nothing but the best.On a mundane level, look for a dark complected, heavy set or muscular man who is conservative and close to his family.  Solid but fairly boring.

REVERSED:  A businessman who is capable of being vicious and very hard hearted who may be after the questioner in some sense.  Alternatively, a businessman who looks rock solid but may be totally undependable or secretly down on his luck.

EXAMPLES:  The CEO of a major company with a heavy stock portfolio.

The patriarch of a very successful family business.

Queen of Pentacles

A crowned woman sits on a heavily carved throne adorned with goats and cherubs.  She is surrounded by a lush garden and gazes down at a pentacle which she holds in her lap.  A rabbit is hopping by in the lower corner of the card.

This is a very sensuous, materialistic woman.  Since this is the Queen of Pentacles, the suit of money and possessions, we know that both of those are very important to this woman.  Beyond that, though, there is an awareness of the fact that money really represents the good things in life that money can buy. This is a woman who enjoys – and expects – the finer things in life.  A nice car, a lovely home, a good income, and, yes, probably a very nice garden.

And with the goats on the throne and the rabbit at her feet we can interpret that there is a very strong element of sexuality to this woman.  Among the other fine things she expects and enjoys are good lovers and slow, delicious love making.

On a mundane level, look for a woman who possesses and excellent business sense and knows how to turn money into more money.

REVERSED:  A tough, resilient business woman who is willing to get down in the ditches and fight it out hand to hand.  Very good with money but there is a hard, materialistic edge to her soul.

EXAMPLES:  A middle aged business woman who lives happily alone in a beautiful home and enjoys sharing her bed with the occasional lover.

A sensual, beautiful wife who EXPECTS to be supported in a luxurious manner because she’s damned well worth it.

Knight of Pentacles

A heavily armored man sits astride an immobile horse.  He holds a pentacle aloft in his gloved hand. Sprigs of greenery are attached to his helmet and to the mane of the horse.  A plowed field stretches out behind him.

A good money card, though hardly exciting or glamorous.  Unlike the Knight of Swords, this Knight isn’t going anywhere.  He sits still, solidly planted on his very solid looking horse. The plowed field represents the routine, day to day, hard work that’s necessary to bring projects to fruition.  This card shows a dependable, hard working individual who takes care of details and keeps money coming in.

On a mundane level, this may show the presence of a young, conservative individual in the questioners life.

REVERSED:  Problems with money due to the disruption of the daily routine.  A young, conservative person who is causing problems in the questioners life.

EXAMPLES:  The single mother or father who reliably shows up for work every day, does the job with no drama or complaints, and put food on the table and shoes on the baby.

A college student who grinds his or her way through to a PhD by taking a few courses every year while working a full time job.