Tarot Case Study: Card Permutations 1

Here’s a kind of case study we can do every so often: I’m going to pull two cards and answer a variety of hypothetical questions with them. Keep in mind these aren’t advice readings, like my monthly Patreon forecast: they aren’t going to particularly apply to you, or to anybody. They’re pulled as exemplars, so I can demonstrate a variety of methods in something as close to a “real life scenario” as possible.

The Questions

Every time I do this “case study” exercise I’ll use the same questions, though I may add to them over time if I think of more, or if you suggest some! For now they are:

  • How can I improve my career prospects?
  • How can I meet a person who I can begin a healthy romantic relationship with?
  • What should I focus on in my spiritual life?
  • What’s something important in work environment that I haven’t noticed?
  • When should I move?

That covers a wide variety of topics, and are all things one might be asked by a querent.

The cards

We need a pair of cards at this point. Here they are:

The 4 of Swords and the Magician from the Sigil Arcanum tarot

The cards are from Sigil Arcanum by Taylor Bell, which you can find here if you’re interested.

  • 4 of Swords
    • Jupiter
      • Greater Benefic
      • Peace
      • Religion
      • Generosity
      • Lucky breaks
      • Day sect
    • Libra
      • Cardinal
      • Air
      • Justice (major card)
    • Chesed
  • Magician
    • Major card
    • Mercury
      • Clever
      • Communication
      • Words
      • Magic
      • Calculation
      • No sect
        • Matches what is around it in a chart
    • Four elements
      • Earth
      • Water
      • Air
      • Fire

These are just some of the correspondences the cards bring up. Let’s answer those questions!

How can I improve my career prospects?

Have you been fighting something or someone at work lately? Center yourself and breathe. Take a break – don’t stop working, but stop fighting. When you see an opportunity to give in, take it, so long as it does not weaken your position too much. Use that new time and freed-up energy to do something clever. Find someone to communicate with that you don’t usually loop in and see how you can learn a new skill or manipulate an existing structure to figure things out. The magician is the calm center of the universe, and the 4 of Swords supports this. Look out for opportunities you weren’t expecting. This isn’t about brute forcing it or showing yourself off. It’s about taking advantage of a something new or new-to-you that comes because you stop fighting a battle you can’t win at this time.

How can I meet a person who I can begin a healthy romantic relationship with?

Talk to your prospective partners and dates in calm situations, not rowdy messes. Don’t go to a bar or even a restaurant. Go to a café and spend a few hours actually getting to know each other. Think about what you actually want from a relationship. Get all the hopes and dreams out of your mind, breathe, focus on mindfulness, and then imagine what it is you need and what it would look like to have a relationship that gave you what you need. Be honest. If you’re sort of clingy, accept that you need a person who likes hugs. If you are standoffish, accept that you need somebody who can do their own thing for hours at a time. Go through this carefully. Make a list! When that’s done, go on a date and, very peacefully and happily, find out if this person can do those things. Go on a bunch of dates! Don’t brandish the list at people, but keep it in mind and slowly, gently discover the person, not the image. This process sucks, because everyone thinks they have to portray an image when they’re dating. Take your time.

What should I focus on in my spiritual life?

Meditation. Do imaginal workings in the middle of meditating. Read Jung’s Red Book, or at least a portion of it, and do what he did. Close your eyes, get peaceful, and imagine a door. Then open that door without any expectations. Find out what’s behind it. Examine the scene and the objects or people from all angles. Ask questions. Expect answers, but don’t expect specific answers. Repeat as necessary.

What’s something important in work environment that I haven’t noticed?

You’re probably not networking during down time, and someone else is. Take advantage of lulls in the workday, or in the seasonal calendar, to talk to everyone about any old thing. Learn what makes them tick. Don’t plan to blackmail anybody, or even hold it over their heads formally. But when you know a person, you know the names and the calls for them, and can ask them for help more easily. The process works in reverse, too, so be generous with your time without causing yourself stress. Stop anything that starts to stress you out though. But pay attention to the grapevine while also avoiding getting engaged in malicious gossip. If you never encounter anybody in all the gossip that everyone rags on, it’s you they’re ragging on when they talk to other people. Fix that.

When should I move?

Not right away. Take a breather. Start a calendar and get fussy with it. When does the sale go through? Add a month to that. When are all your deadlines? When does the current landlord want you out? How much would it cost to stay in a hotel for a week? Can you crash on a friend’s couch? Does that friend know you might need to? Get specific, get annoying, and only after that’s all done can you think about actually moving. Possibly September or October, most likely October. If you’re into astrology, look for when Mercury transits into Libra and try to move just before that, right when they’re near the cusp.

And we’re done

You’ll notice I haven’t gone into details about why each reading is the way it is. You can presumably see the obvious patterns, such as the 4 of Swords being associated with meditation and “breathing space.” Take the list above and think through the readings that followed. I want this to be a kind of guided exercise. You know the beginning and end points, so you can think through how to get from one to the other.

Next time, we’ll answer the same questions using the Magician and a randomly drawn card. In this way, we can work through how what the cards say changes when they’re paired up with different cards.

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Card Combinations

This post builds on this post I wrote for Arnemancy.com about webbing. Given that, the whole post won’t be about doing the webs, but about the ways we can link cards together in a reading. It’s important to be able to connect cards across a spread, or even when the whole thing is a simple pair.

That post I linked is sort of the how-to guide for tarot webs. You can go about this in two ways: you can either link together cards you get in a reading or you can pull cards specially for this exercise. If you do the latter, then you can proceed systematically if you want, or you can shuffle the cards and choose them randomly. I will be using the cards that I get for my daily draw, since I already pull two cards per day.

And those cards are the 9 of Swords and the Queen of Wands. I am now writing the rest of this post on the following day, so I can actually talk about how things worked out.

Here’s the web:

A web of connections between the 9 of Swords and the Queen of Wands

So while there are some images that pop up for each, the connections are strongest around the zodiacal information. The 9 of Swords is associated with the second decan of Gemini, and that decan is ruled by Mars. The Queen of Wands is associated with the second and third decans of Aries, and that sign is ruled by Mars. As a little treat, I put down all the decans, and the “shadow decan” of the Queen is the final decan of Pisces, which is ruled by Mars. The first decan of Aries is also explicitly ruled by Mars, making that decan doubly Martial. So that’s a lot of Pointy Boy, is what I’m saying here. You don’t necessarily look at those cards together and think there’s a lot of Mars stuff happening, but apparently there is!

Now, how’d that go for me? Did I get in any fights? No, not specifically. But I did sleep poorly, both the night before and the night after. And it was a cardio day, so that was a treat to suffer through. My partner is dealing with a foot injury, I was grumpy all day, and I found what looks like half a bird’s worth of feathers in my backyard. This day is the day my partner finally admitted she probably needed to see a physician about the foot. Short term injuries are related to Mars, certainly, especially when there’s swelling involved.

It’s worth looking at where a planet is when you get it a lot in a reading. Mars was in Capricorn at the time, making a square to Chiron in Aries (as well as a trine to Uranus in Taurus). There’s our Aries and Mars energy: a rough square that happens to include the healer centaur as well.

Is a web really necessary to get this information? No. Of course, I did notice things about the pairing that I wouldn’t have because I did the web, so maybe it’s good practice anyway! But really the idea I want you to carry away is about connecting cards and what to do with the connections once you have them.

Another way to connect these cards is through their respective elemental qualities. Fire is hot and dry, while air is hot and moist. At least in some systems, there are a lot, and whether air should be moist or dry is a whole thing and I don’t have strong opinions about it. The thing to keep in mind is that a sword and a wand share an elemental attribute. They are supported by each other, but not strongly supported. So if you got two fire cards together, they add to each other’s heat, so to speak. If you think of it in terms of a fire, wind can spread a fire or kill it, depending on the intensity of the flames. So my sword and wand card will most likely play nicely together, which may not be the greatest thing for me. But it’s possible one could shut the other down. This would be more likely if they were opposed; if I got a wand and a cup, for example, the fire would dry up the water while the water damps the fire. Both cards would be somewhat weakened.

Now consider the web from earlier in the light of this strengthening and debilitating tendency. The cards are  not only slightly strengthened by their partial affinity (hot for hot), but also through their shared Mars correspondence. So this doesn’t just mean I’m getting Mars and no other planetary influence – though that’s true – it also means the two things are going to be connected. So I could get two cards in a day that are about two separate issues. In a larger spread, there’s no necessary reason for any individual pair of cards to be connected. But if they share these connections, as visualized in the web, then you can link them together, even if they aren’t otherwise connected.

Consider the good old Celtic Cross spread. If these two cards fell in the “recent past” and “hopes or fears” positions respectively, we might say that things that just happened in my life were XYZ, and I may fear ABC, but also that they’ll be linked – so what I’m afraid of either just happened, or I was very worried about it happening (that’s the card itself, the 9 of Swords, coming in again of course).

On Polyvalent Meaning and Magic

I’m here to tell you something you already know: symbols mean more than one thing. No, that’s not the whole post! Come back! In the practice of magic, mysticism, and the occult, a pattern is played out that is far broader than those admittedly broad fields. Humans have a tendency to think symbols are simpler than they are. So, for example, you might think the 7 of Pentacles means “be patient,” while your friend thinks it means “suffer.” And it means both! And we know that, really. But it gets lost in practice a lot of the time. So this post is specifically about importing theory and techniques from the formal study of symbols and art – my actual specialty, for once – into occult studies generally.

Continue reading “On Polyvalent Meaning and Magic”
High Priestess by Elisabeth Alba

The King of Dragons is a job title…

Tarot was, most likely, developed from imported Persian playing cards, and may or may not have been used as divinatory aids at first. But then again, late-medieval and early-Renaissance people used everything for divination, from little card stock spinning wheels to pins stuck in their copies of Homer. So it seems likely. When you divine with something, with a set of something, there are certain expectations that come with it. Your divinatory system needs to have everything inside it. What if you’re experiencing anxiety because of an illness but there are no symbols of illness in your divination system? Now we’re to the point of this essay: cultures code what are included and excluded from divinatory systems — what do we do when we aren’t included, or what if we are but in a deeply unsettling way? You guessed it: let’s talk about gender and tarot cards. It’s Pride month, and it’s as good a time as any to get really personal…

Continue reading “The King of Dragons is a job title…”