Just the Tarot Posts

The Nine of Cups and the Expert Syndrome

Did you ever have a friend who was an expert in EVERYTHING all the time, no matter how obscure the subject?  Whatever you mention to them they always have a rejoinder like,”Oh, yes, I read several books about that years ago.”

Or

“I actually took a course on that in college.”

Or

“I actually TAUGHT a course on that in college.”

Or

“Yes, I had an affair with Professor Crumbley who’s the leading expert on that and we discussed it many times while we were having sex in the most IMAGINATIVE positions.”

Bring up anything – quarks, inflation, ancient Roman gods, the cotton content in Victoria Secrets thongs – they already know all about it and also manage to convey that you are somewhat intellectually deficient for just finding out about what they’ve known for years.

In my original definition for the Nine of Cups I wrote this:

This card indicates an individual who is rather smug and self satisfied.  He is very well pleased with his position in the world and doesn’t mind telling you about how great he’s doing.  There is a warning against going too far and appearing to be arrogant.

On an intellectual level, that’s an expert.

I’ve had several of those people in my life lately and started to think of them as having a personality disorder that I refer to as, “expert syndrome.”  Just for grins I ran it through the search engines and found that a few other people have noticed it, too.

Having a conversation with someone who has expert syndrome can be extremely frustrating.  I admit that I’m an idea junkie: I have a high degree of intellectual curiosity and I get excited when I discover a new concept or explore a new subject.  I look forward to discussing them with other people.

 And then I run into an expert.

“Oh . . . yawn . . . is THAT what you’re excited about?  Really? Yes, I explored all of that quite some time ago . . .”

They literally can’t hear you because their brains are already stuffed with their own opinions and self-importance.  That’s the frustrating part.

That’s also the part that’s very sad:  they literally can’t hear you. At some point in their lives they adopted the intellectual posture that they are smarter and know better than anyone else, so why should they listen to anyone else?  

Psychologists refer to it as, “the Dunning–Kruger effect,” and it’s an illusory perception that you are intellectually superior to, well, just about everyone.  It’s not an over-compensation for an inferiority complex as you might think and, oddly, it afflicts both people who are extremely bright and people who are dumb as stumps.

The bottom line on it is that the second they adopted that posture, they stopped growing intellectually or spiritually.  They can’t take in anything new if they’re convinced that they already know it.

The Nine of Cups certainly represents smugness and self-satisfaction.  It also represents the kind of energy stasis that we see in expert syndrome.  There’s no growth, no expansion, no seeking out what’s new or different. And that’s a very sad place to be.

“Just the Tarot,” by Dan Adair, a book of basic Tarot definitions available on Amazon.com.

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.

The Fool, The Magician, and Jesus Driving a Plymouth

Jesus is Watching – Original Painting by Dan Adair

There is a terrible country and western song called, “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”  I admit freely that every time I hear it I think, “Jesus, take a hike.” Too much church when I was a kid, no doubt.

At any rate, the heroine of the song is driving her car down an icy road when she suddenly hits a patch of black ice, the car starts to spin out of control, she takes her hands OFF of the steering wheel and cries out, “Jesus, take the wheel!”

Jesus, take the wheel

Take it from my hands

‘Cause I can’t do this on my own

I’m letting go

So give me one more chance

And save me from this road I’m on

Jesus, take the wheel

And apparently he does and the next thing she knows she’s sitting on the shoulder of the road in her car, which for some reason I’m thinking is an old Plymouth, and everything’s hunky dory.

Now, aside from making me intensely frightened of fundamentalist christians driving in snowstorms, it also brings up the distinction between spiritual surrender and spiritual co-creation.  I wrote in a recent post that I was practicing turning my most difficult problems over to my higher powers and this song is a perfect example of what I didn’t mean.

When we look at The Fool tarot card we see someone whom we might call, “god(dess) intoxicated.”  He is channeling that power from the Higher Realms, it’s flowing through every molecule of his being and he is HIGH with its’ energy.  He’s going to dance right off the edge of that cliff and just float away instead of plummeting to his death. In a very real sense he has surrendered his being and his body to that Higher Power.

But then we transition to the next card, The Magician, and we see something very different.  He’s in touch with that same energy, that same power, but he’s not just channeling it, he’s controlling it and directing it.

And that’s a major distinction, both philosophically and spiritually.  It’s the difference between spiritual surrender and spiritual co-creation.

In classic christian theology human beings are seen as essentially flawed, sinful creatures whose only hope for real salvation is to surrender their lives and their wills to Jesus.  Essentially, they want their independent, “selves,” to disappear as much as possible so they can be replaced by Jesus. It’s sort of like a cross between being possessed by a cuddly demon and The Stepford Wives.  You’re out, Jesus is in, everybody’s happy. Jesus take the wheel.

In Wiccan and Pagan theology, we aren’t flawed sinners, we are embodiments of the divine.  Yes, we may not remember that, we may be confused, disoriented, feel spiritually and emotionally lost, but in essence we ARE the divine on a journey to the earth plane.

When we,“turn our problems over,” to our angels, spirit guides, gods and goddesses, we aren’t asking them to take the wheel.  We’re asking them for wisdom and guidance to help us on our journeys. We’re asking them enter into our lives and act as co-creators with us.  

As an artist I can totally relate to that concept.  Instead of hogging the canvas and the paints and the brushes, I can paint for a little bit and then let my spirit guides paint for a little bit.  Or I can ask them for some advice about what colors to use and how I should blend the shadows and the light. But, ultimately, it’s my signature that goes on that canvas.  Ultimately my life is my creation, it’s not a surrender or a mistake. And I don’t think our Higher Powers would want it any other way.


The Wheel of Fortune Reversed and Turning it Over

I recently made a decision to start turning some of my problems over to my Higher Powers.  And I found that for me – as a Wiccan who tries to be emotionally and intellectually honest – that was a surprisingly easy decision.

Sometimes life turns into a shit sandwich.  It happens to everyone sooner and later and this was my turn.  Within a period of just a few months I’d lost my beloved life partner to cancer, I was embroiled in a nasty probate process to settle her estate, and the unpaid bills just kept piling up like malevolent imps that had taken up residence on my desk.

In other words, The Wheel of Fortune Reversed.  A prolonged period of bad luck.

I was beat up, beat down, and hung out to dry.  Emotionally and spiritually exhausted, I knew I needed some help from the higher realms to keep walking down my path, and getting to that help turned out to be more of a revelation than I could have anticipated.

The first realization was that I actually trusted my Higher Powers.  I had drifted a long way from the little boy kneeling in a catholic church, being taught that god loved us so much that he let his only son be murdered just to prove it.  My view of the universe no longer included some scary, bipolar, vengeful, patriarchal god who might be equally inclined to toss you into eternal flames or welcome you to heaven, depending on how much you’d prayed and how little you’d masturbated.

Somewhere through the many years I’d lived, my view of Higher Powers had morphed into angels and spirit guides, fairies, elves, and gods and goddesses (with a lower case, “g,”)  who actually loved and cared about us. The face of Jesus, writhing in pain and covered with blood, had been replaced with the smiling, tender faces of Lakshmi and Tara.

It was kind of a shock to me, to tell you the truth.  Despite all of the poison that had been planted in my subconscious mind when I was a child, despite the fact that I was going through a terrible, terrible time in my life, I found that I had unquestionable faith in a loving and nurturing universe.

And that brought along a second, equally powerful revelation:  I can live – for the most part – without the need for a constant cause-and-effect spirituality.  The universe doesn’t always have to be a comfortable place for me to trust it.

Cause-and-effect spirituality is the basis of all organized religions and has a large part in New Age spirituality.   The idea is that if you’re a really, really good person then really good things will happen to you. And if you’re a really, really bad person then really, really bad things will happen to you.  And there’s a lot of truth in that.

But then you look at someone like Donald Trump and you think, “Huh . . . what happened there?  Why has this tangerine colored, demon infested, piece of human excrement who’s never caused anything but misery been blessed with all of this material wealth?”

Or you have a friend who is a kind, loving, wonderful person who lives in poverty and dies an agonizing death and you think, “Huh . . . what happened there?”

As I said, cause-and-effect spirituality appears to be true a lot of the time.  But not always. People have been trying to come up with explanations for why good things happen to rotten people and vice verse since the beginning of human existence.  Maybe it’s karma from past lives. Maybe they forgot to say their prayers or slaughter an ox and two sheep and offer them to god. Maybe they masturbated too much. Who knows?

That’s what The Wheel of Fortune Reversed is really all about.  Shit happens. It doesn’t put any value judgements on it, it doesn’t say shit happened because you were a bad person or you brought it on yourself.  It just quietly observes that shit happens, sooner or later, to all of us.

And that’s a Spiritual Law, just as surely as the Law of Attraction.  It can be scary if you need to view the Universe as a neat and tidy place where everything happens for a reason, the good are rewarded, and the evil are punished.  Or it can be a strong motivator to deepen your spiritual resources and to cultivate your inner strength and resilience BEFORE it happens. As The Desiderata says, “Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.”  

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.

Being Your Own Magician: The Magician Tarot Card

“If we do not consciously live our best lives we are destined to unconsciously live our worst.” – Sylvan

I was recently reading about Dorothy Maclean, cofounder of the Findhorn Community and author of, “To Hear the Angels Sing:  An Odyssey of Co-Creation with the Devic Kingdoms.”    She’s done extensive channeling with the Devas, the beings that oversee the development of forms, for instance of plants.  These two quotes really jumped out at me because of messages I’ve been receiving from my guides:

What I would tell you is that as we [the devas] forge ahead, never deviating from our course for one moment’s thought, feeling or action, so could you. Humans generally don’t seem to know where they are going, or why. If they did, what powerhouses they would be! If they were on a straight course, how we could cooperate with them!

Why go around like zombies, following this or that external guide when all the time your only guide is within you?

The Magician Tarot card premises that each person is his or her own Magician.  In other words, we all – individually – channel down energy from the Astral and use it to create our lives and our environments.  We don’t need to hire anyone to do it, we don’t need to consult with a priest or a shaman to do it, we don’t need to have any secret knowledge to do it.  We ALL do it, ALL the time. We are creating our worlds every single day, whether we know it or not.

And for the most part, we don’t know it.

Here’s how therapist Gay Hendricks put it:

 . . . one thing I want you to accept about yourself is that you’re already a manifestation genius – I guarantee it.  Now all you have to do is hitch your genius to your heart’s desires instead of your default programming.

In other words, we are manifesting our lives and our environments every single day but, because we don’t realize it and don’t realize what we’ve been programmed to believe about ourselves, many of us are manifesting a load of crap.  If, for instance, you were raised in a highly critical family and your parents were always telling you that you’d never succeed, guess what? You’ll manifest a whole lot of failure because that’s what you were programmed to do.

So step one in being your own Magician is realizing that you ARE your own Magician.  You ARE manifesting your world right now and, as Hendricks said, you’re already a genius at it.  You don’t need to practice because you’ve got it down.

Step two is getting really, really straight in your mind and heart about what you WANT to manifest in your life.  And, yes, a lot of us have trouble with that. It can go something like this:

What I want more than anything is to be happy.  And to get into Debbie’s pants. Of course, Debbie makes fun of me and we’re really not compatible so if we have a relationship I won’t be happy.  I could lie to her about wanting a relationship and then I could get into her pants and that would make me happy. Only then I’d have to admit that I was a hypocritical jerk and I hurt her feelings just so I could get into her pants.  And that would make me unhappy. On the other hand . . .”

Or as the Devas put it:  Humans generally don’t seem to know where they are going, or why. 

The trick – the Magic Trick – is to manifest consciously.  To take the time to do the self examination and thinking about what you want, where you want to go, and why.  Take the time to figure out what you were programmed to be when you were a child and see if that fits with what you really want to be.  Take the time to meditate and learn to listen to your heart and your spirit guides. And then make your magic happen. Be your own Magician.

Why go around like zombies, following this or that external guide when all the time your only guide is within you?

“Just the Tarot,“available on Amazon.com

The Sex Cards in the Tarot

Everyone likes sex!  Well, nearly everyone.  I actually read an article recently about people who don’t like sex in any way shape or form and don’t feel any sexual desires.  They’re calling themselves, “asexuals,” and actually have their own organization.  How about that?  What an interesting world.

Anyway, nearly everyone likes sex and there are certain Tarot cards which definitely indicate its’ presence in a persons life.  It can be handy to know when it’s likely to pop up in a relationship, whether you’re interested in the other person or not. Come to think of it, it could even be handy for people who are official Asexuals because they’d know who to avoid.  Nearly everyone, right?

FOUR OF WANDS

Two people dancing beneath what looks very much like a wedding gazebo.  There is an element of sex here but in the more traditional sense of marriage and an on going union.  A happy card that includes the idea of sex without actually signifying it outright.

TWO OF CUPS

A man and a woman hold chalices and gaze into each others eyes.  This is a card of profound bonding and love, the start of a serious relationship.  While it can often indicate something as mundane as a good business partner or a best friend, it can also indicate a deep romantic and sexual relationship.

THREE OF CUPS

Three women dance together, chalices raised in mutual salute. Sex is not necessarily a central theme in this card but it’s a possibility because the central theme is PARTY!!!!  This is a card of joyous celebrations so why not sneak a little whoopee into the celebration? May also indicate a happy three way relationship.

THREE OF SWORDS 

A heart pierced by three swords.  This can often indicate a monogamous relationship in which one of the partners has decided to be not so monogamous.  He or she may be screwing around and it’s breaking the partners heart.

THE EMPRESS

An Earth Mother type of woman reclines on a couch holding a sceptre loosely in one hand.  Again, The Empress is not exclusively about sex but it’s definitely included in her vibrations.  Unlike her sister card, The High Priestess, who appears to be a little prim and proper, The Empress is openly sensual.  She reclines comfortably on her couch, legs slightly spread with a definite, “come hither,” look on her face. If you’re involved with The Empress, expect a good time.  On ALL levels.

THE HIEROPHANT

An individual who looks like a pope sits stiffly on a throne between two pillars while two monks bow down to him.  The Hierophant is mainly about organized religion and dogma, so it may seem strange to include it in this post. The point, though, is that The HIerophant is about CONVENTIONAL religion rather than spirituality.  In that sense, if this card shows up in a reading about a relationship you can expect it to be a very CONVENTIONAL relationship with very CONVENTIONAL sex. In other words, always the missionary position, probably with the lights turned out and only when the kids are fast asleep.  If you’re into sex toys and trapezes in your boudoir, RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY . . .

THE LOVERS

A nude man and woman stand in a Garden of Eden setting while a snake climbs a tree next to the woman and an angel hovers over them.  As the name indicates, this card is about love and not JUST love but triple whammie hit in the head with a sledge hammer love. These two people are absolutely thunder struck and there WILL be sex.  Really good sex.

THE DEVIL

This is obviously the same couple from The Lovers, only they’ve been driven out of the Garden of Eden and are now sporting horns and tails while a demon hovers over them instead of an angel.  There is a very strong element of sexuality here but it’s not what you’d describe as happy sex. Instead of joy we find pain and enslavement. It can indicate sexual addiction, BDSM games that have gone WAY too far into pain and humiliation,  or the sexual element of a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. And, to me at least, it’s a sad card: it’s taking one of life’s greatest joys and turning into something sick and twisted.

So there you have it.  When you see these cards in a reading think about sex.  Or think about it anyway – it’s always fun.