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.

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.

Angels, Spirit Guides, and the Tarot

We seldom see the Tarot referred to as, “a Spirit Guide.”  Which is weird.

There are many, many online courses about contacting your angels and spirit guides.  Thousands of videos online telling you how to do it and/or how to maximize your contact with your spiritual helpers.  Dozens and dozens of books on the subject.

So . . . it’s pretty widely accepted that (a) there are benevolent, loving beings out there who want to help us; and (b) we can learn how to be in touch with them.  But, curiously, the Tarot isn’t usually included in those discussions.

A part of that, of course, may stem from the fundamentalist christians horror of all things occult.  We’ve seen the ghost hunter shows on television where a couple of little girls are playing with a Ouija board and two minutes later thousands of creepy demons and ghosts are whizzing out of the kitchen cabinets.  Tarot decks have been painted with the same brush for decades despite the fact that the images in them are chock full of angels. (See my previous post, “The Angels of the Tarot.”)

Another element is that most people who read the Tarot don’t really THINK of it as a means of getting in touch with our angels or spirit guides.  We just think of it as, “Asking the Tarot for advice.” Of course, that begs the question of who or what is giving the advice. Is an inanimate deck of cards somehow capable of cogitating about our problems and giving us the best insight and solutions?  

In one of the better online courses about contacting your spirit guides and angels, Roslyn Light suggests journaling as a means for receiving messages from them.  There are some people among us who are able to be in direct contact with higher beings and see them and hear them. Others may receive guidance through synchronicities and so-called coincidences that occur in their lives.  A book falling out of a shelf and opening to a certain page with a pertinent message, for instance. For others answers and solutions may appear in the writing they do in their journals.

And, for some of us, the very best way to get in touch with our guides may be the Tarot.  Which makes a lot of sense when you actually think about it. It’s said that beings from the higher planes communicate with us in symbols and images rather than verbally.  There is probably no other source on earth that is richer in images and symbols than a deck of Tarot cards. In other words, it speaks their language.

Indeed, it seems entirely possible that this is exactly what the Tarot was designed to do.  It may well be a tool conceived by minds far greater than ours to allow us to have direct communication with the higher spiritual realms and the beings who dwell there.

And all we have to do is ask.

The Chariot Card and Getting Some Direction in Your Life.

I have to admit that I read Tarot cards for years before I flashed on the fact that there are no reins attached to the sphinxes in The Chariot.  As I said in my basic definition, this is a very deceptive card on its’ surface.  The charioteer looks like he’s totally in control of the situation but, upon closer examination, there’s no sign of control at all.  The sphinxes are black and white, representing opposing forces, and they’re sitting on their butts, not moving forward. And they’re not harnessed to The Chariot. The charioteer might as well be a lawn ornament for all of the real action that’s involved.

What The Chariot is really all about is figuring out what your goals are going to be.  And, since this is a card of the Major Arcana, it’s not about figuring out what your minor goals are going to be.  It’s not about what you want to do next week or next month or even next year. It’s about figuring out what you want to do with your life.

Put it this way:   goals, desires, life purpose are what puts harnesses on the sphinxes and puts the reins in the charioteers hands.  Your goals are what motivate you, what cause you to go forward and evolve instead of just sitting in place. You have to know where you want to go before you can start your journey.

And, like The Chariot, that can be deceptive on the surface.  Most of us hustle and bustle through life being good at what we do.  We do a good job for our employers, we’re good parents, we’re good sons and daughters and friends.  And, as long as we’re, “doing good,” we figure that’s enough. We fill our busy schedules up with so many details that we don’t even have time to think.  We don’t question why we’re here. We’re here to work hard and buy IPhones, right?

We usually don’t contemplate if that’s really all that there is until, unfortunately, we encounter a tragedy or a catastrophe.  The death of a life partner or our parents or children, a terrible divorce, losing all of our possessions and going bankrupt. And then we get hit smack between the eyes with those very troubling questions.  Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing? Is this all there is to life? Is there some purpose to all of this that I’m supposed to fulfill?

And then there’s a big surprise.  Those are REALLY HARD QUESTIONS!!!  You can go through a lot of fortune cookies and not find the answers, believe me.  

One way to get started is The Subtractive Method.  If you can’t quite figure out who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing, then figure out what you aren’t and what you’re not supposed to be doing.

There’s a Feng Shui exercise where you walk into a room and you just feel its’ energy.  You try to sense what’s harmonious in the room and what isn’t. If there’s something that feels like it doesn’t fit with the energy of the room and your personal energy field, then you subtract it.  And you keep subtracting until the energy feels right. For example:

“Hmmmm . . . this is my meditation room.  I have my statue of the Buddha and my painting of Red Tara.  There’s my altar bowl with the incense in it. Altar, meditation pillow, check. The quartz crystals on the window sill feel good.  And . . . um . . . that giant stuffed giraffe with purple polka dots that my boyfriend gave me. That’s wrong. That’s definitely wrong.  I’ll subtract that . . .”

And you can do the same thing with your life.  Remove what’s NOT you until what IS you starts to emerge.

Here’s a neat trick that life coach Tambre Leighn suggests in her course on dealing with the grief process:

A – get a pen and paper and write out one word listings of things that are important to you.  These might be things like love, serenity, happiness, music, art, friendship, etc.

B – go back and write a brief sentence for each word describing what they actually mean to you.

C – arrange them in order of importance, most important to least important.

So now you have a list that you can call your, “core values.”  These are the things that are most valuable to you in life, therefore they are clues as to why you’re here and where you should be going.

Keep the list handy.  When you’re faced with decisions like, “Do I really want this job?” or, “Am I really interested in this person?” take a look at your list.  Is the job or the person really compatible with your values? If quiet and serenity is important to you do you want to get involved with a guy who’s a party animal?  If peace of mind is important to you, do you want a high pressure job with a lot of extra demands?

As you continue to eliminate or subtract people and situations that are incompatible with your values the real you will start to emerge.  You will start to instinctively move toward energy that’s compatible with your higher purpose and you’ll be on your way.


The Lovers and The Devil – That Old Black Magic Called Love


Falling in love always seems like a magical experience.

You see someone across the room at a party and suddenly a giant, sizzling fireball shoots directly from your second chakra into theirs, or vice verse, and you involuntarily shout, “Zounds!”

Well, you’d shout, “zounds,” if you were at a party in the Middle Ages.  Today it would more probably be, “holy shit!” or, “wow!” or, “OMG . . . WTF?”

The point is that it’s often sudden, totally unexpected, and irresistable.  It’s like an outside force has taken over your conscious brain and turned you into a stuttering, romantic, totally bedazzled, HAPPY fool.

The scholars tell us that the notion of romantic love first appeared in the Middle Ages (zounds!).  Presumably before that, “Romeo, wherefore art thou?” was more a matter of, “Me, Tarzan, you Jane, let’s . . . ahem . . . reproduce.”

That doesn’t seem likely, though.  Solomon had some pretty steamy stuff going on 900 years before Jesus appeared and even talked about how much he enjoyed, “eating my honeycomb,” on his wedding night.  Must have been a very sweet woman.

Despite it being a wonderful, magical experience, there have always been a certain number of men who find it problematic.  One assumes they feel it’s not manly to be turned into a gibbering idiot by another person and that someone must have put a damned spell on them to make them feel all gooey inside.  The word, “glamour,” is directly descended from the word, “glimmer,” which means to cast a spell on someone. We speak of beautiful women as being, “enchanting,” and an enchantment is, of course, a spell.  And look at this version of The Lovers from an old Swiss Tarot deck:


Yep, that’s still Cupid shooting his arrow but there’s also a nasty old hag of a witch cackling away on the side.  She obviously just slipped him some Love Potion #9 and he doesn’t know if it’s day or night.

So we’ve pretty much got the picture on falling in love.  It’s overpowering. It’s magical. It seems to be beyond our rational control.  The Waite Tarot takes that a step further and shows it as a holy, sacred experience, guarded by an angel.  An experience as innocent and fresh as the Garden of Eden.

But wait. ( Or maybe I should say, “But Waite.” ) What’s that snake doing in that apple tree on the left hand side of the card?  Who invited him to the party?

Which brings us to The Devil card.


It’s the same naked couple but they’ve got an entirely different angel hovering over them.  And they’ve sprouted horns and tails and the guy’s tail is on fire. Typical male – only thinking of one thing, right?

Now, The Devil card can have a lot of meanings.  Materialism with NO spirituality. Violent sex. Black magic.  Just plain evil. But in this context, let’s look at it as the opposite of romantic love.

Say it’s fifteen years after the couple fell in love.  They’ve got three kids and a mortgage they can’t afford.  The wife just caught the husband playing hide-the-sausage with the baby sitter but doesn’t feel like she can leave him because of the kids.  And she is SO not interested in going to bed with him again. Ever.

They’re still the same couple and they’re still together, but their love has been transformed into a chain that binds them together in emotional slavery.

If you’ve ever been in a loveless marriage, or even knew someone who was, then you know that it shares some of the characteristics of romantic love.  It’s overpowering. It seems to come out of nowhere. It turns normally rational people into gibbering fools. But eventually, it makes you dead inside.

And I would guess that there is a further message in this couple appearing in The Devil card.  Living in a loveless union with another human being isn’t just wrong, it’s evil. It robs both of the partners of the love that they deserve, the love that makes us grow and blossom into full human beings.  It defeats the purpose of our being here on the earth plane, which is surely to learn love and compassion.

Here’s to love!

Donald Trump, The Empress, and The Emperor

I have to admit that I’m always a little puzzled when I run across one of those news columns discussing, “Donald Trump’s Toxic Brand of Masculinity.”  To me, a guy who gets daily manicures, has his dyed hair styled every morning, and bakes under a sun lamp until he turns orange isn’t masculine ANYTHING, toxic or otherwise.

But maybe I’m just being defensive on behalf of all of the sane men in the world.

Today IS the International Day of the Woman, though, so perhaps it’s a good time to talk about all of this.

The Emperor and The Empress, sharing the same exalted positions and residing side by side in the Tarot deck, are often – in fact usually – held up as examples of male and female energy in the world.  But let’s a take a step back from that. Let’s just consider them as examples of energy in the world. Different ways of being.

Ram Dass has a rap that says you can consider people on a number of different levels.  You can look at their skins and see black and white and brown. Or you can look at their signs of the zodiac and see Aries and Scorpios and Capricorns.  Or you can approach it like a psychologist and see obsessive compulsives and narcissists and dependent personalities.

Or you can take it right down to the bedrock and see Souls.  Fellow travelers on this very strange journey through this beautiful world who just happen to be incarnate as a Taurus or a Leo in black or brown or pink skin and seem to have developed a little problem with OCD.

Or to put that another way, we are all multiple patterns of energy existing in the Earth Plane.

And two of those patterns of energy are male and female.

There are, obviously, very valid and real differences between the two patterns.  The human body responds quite differently to testosterone and estrogen. Males tend to have more muscle mass and extra cones in their eyes.  Women tend to have more fat cells and to visualize more in patterns than lines.

We can take those differences and we can celebrate them as we do when we recognize both the God and the Goddess.  The problems start to arise when we view those differences as being absolute and we turn them into stereotypes. “Real,” men are always muscular and silently strong.  “Real,” women are always soft and fluttery and vulnerable.

I’ve known women who were so physically powerful that they could have bounced me down the driveway like a basketball.  And I’ve known men who were nervous nellies residing in very frail bodies. You can take any stereotype of masculinity or femininity and find examples of it in both men and women.

Likewise, we know that we all have both testosterone and estrogen in our bodies.  We all have both, “male,” and, “female,” hemispheres in our brains. Some men retain massive amounts of fluids when the moon is full.  Some women are natural born weight lifters.

So masculinity and femininity are much more of a continuum than a dichotomy.  It’s a lot more gray than it is black and white.

From that perspective it’s much easier to drop the idea of looking at The Emperor and The Empress as masculine and feminine energy and just look at them as ways that energy can exist on the Earth Plane.


The Empress is relaxed.  Comfortable. At ease in her world.  She reclines on a velvet throne, legs slightly spread, wearing an unfettered, flowing robe and she is crowned with stars.  She holds a sceptre – her symbol of power – but she holds it loosely, almost as if she’s forgotten she has it. A lovely waterfall flows out of a verdant forest behind her and wheat – the symbol of nourishment – grows in front of her.  And . . . is that a box of chocolate leaning up against her throne?

The Empress is very, very powerful.  She is the power of life and fertility but it’s a gentle, unassuming power.  Most of all, she BELONGS in her world and she blesses it and it blesses her.

And now look at The Emperor.


Kind of a nasty faced old man who looks like he’s suffering from a severe case of hemorrhoids.  He sits on a hard, stone throne (ouch) and tightly grasps a vaguely Egyptian looking sceptre. His garments are tight, as well, and reveal that he is fully armored beneath them.  Mountains rise behind him, barren of any vegetation, and far, far below him a river flows at the base of the cliffs.

The Emperor is also very powerful, but he’s very different from the energy of The Empress.  It’s tempting to view him as the alpha-dog but he’s so obviously, painfully alone that you know he doesn’t even have a pack to run with.  The Empress exists IN her world, as a part of her world. The Emperor has, “conquered,” his world, destroying anyone and anything that got in his way.  He’s at the top of the heap but his heap is a pile of ashes.

Sadly, there are still many people in the world (and, yes, they’re mostly men) who choose to adopt the energy patterns of The Emperor rather than The Empress.  And we all pay a price for their choice.