Two days ago my friend Dana purchased a fancy ring for herself. A marvelous cut stone in a butterfly silver setting. She told me all about it, while going through 4 imaginary cards. She then asked me: ‘actually, I wonder what the cards might say about our friendship.’ A strange request, I thought, yet a brave one, for what if the cards were to say nasty things about us? As I never read cards with the intent to end up telling myself the story I want to hear, if the cards tell me something that I would rather not hear, I’m careful about my state of mind before I rise to such occasions. After all, I don’t want to ‘empower’ myself for the wrong reasons, after the fact. As a general rule I’m prepared to get depressed if the cards are not ‘nice’ to me or the others I read for. So, I went for Dana’s challenge especially since I was curious. We have a few things in common: dogs, trees, magic, cards and stars. And we both share a love/hate relationship with academia.
As we ended up exchanging quite a few ideas, we decided to turn this into a joint lesson into how to read with art tarot cards. Perhaps others may be inspired in seeing how we went about it, how we went from answering a concrete question to allowing ourselves to discover other venues.
As many readers of Taroflexions already know, my standard deck is the Marseille, but on occasion, and as I’ve also stated elsewhere, I like to take out a few of my special decks for friends. This time it was Amerigo Folchi’s silk scarves that we went for. And here’s what we made of it in the following classical French spread: 3 cards from the major arcana in the top row, and 4 from the minor arcana in the bottom row. No positions for the cards were chosen, so we went for this general idea: major cards for the main point; minor cards for explorations of the main point.
I have retained the email exchange as it came in. Only a few typos were edited.
What are the benefits of our friendship?
Light and dark forces are in balance and deliberations are made (Justice). We kiss the truth. A dive into all things magic, with white rabbits coming out of our hats (Magician), will bring us to partnership and choice (Lovers).
More concretely, we’re dealing with a new project (Ace of Wands) of a challenging and contradictory character (5 Swords), but it looks like common sense will prevail in the kind of pragmatism (Page of Coins) that will be nurtured very nicely (Queen of Coins).
So, all well. If I have to say something about what to pay attention to, then it’s the 5 swords coming after the Ace batons. We don’t want to rush into any combat, or a project that’s more than we can handle.
Hmmm… Could this 5 be a form of 3… one pair for you, one pair for me, and a third sword that represents what could happen when your position and my position meet to magically make a third something new, the fifth sword? Could ‘the fifth sword’ be a new creation born from the spark of two sovereign minds coming together? So not so much a ‘battle’ but more of a strong new fifth dimensional ‘point of view’ that emerges from a collaboration of two disparate ‘points’… the swords being the ‘pointy’ things.
What do you think?
Very good observation. If we follow the visual ‘argument’ – which I always do before I read everything as a line – then we get this: the one baton turns into the 5th sword. One pair of swords turns into a coin over the head of the Page, and the other pair turns into a coin over the head of the Queen. The 5th element seems to have vanished from the last two similar cards in that row. So, what can we assume happened?
Two talking heads with a coin-halo over them indicates that a solution has been found. No swords in these last cards. Traditionally the coins are associated with the suit of the intellect and fire, hence my interpretation. Also, if you notice, the swords are behind the scarf. You should see some of the other cards that have swords on them – all frontal and drowning the scarf. Here the scarf is in the foreground, hiding all the pointy ends. This is good. If preceding other cards than the coins here, then I’d say that the hidden pointy ends should concern us, as they might indicate hidden agendas with the intent to harm.
Now, also traditionally – and when I say tradition I mean the playing-card tradition not esoteric tarot – the 5s are associated with the body. The 5 of spades means illness, drugs, alcoholism, addiction, more than you can handle, or simply a doctor. What determines the primary meaning here is always the surrounding cards, plus what we notice about embodiment, here the work of transformation. As a general rule, if a sword turns into a coin, it’s good news. It can mean transactions to settle whatever ails, or mending. So, this is some of the reasoning behind all this work. Because of the Ace of Batons, I like your idea of the 5th sword as a new creation, and we can assume that we are the agents here behind it, as we seem to be represented in the last card, literally featuring two people coming from the angle of having forged a new project.
For the cards above we can attempt the following: the balance turns into a rabbit that turns into a bow (elements found in the upper zone of each of the three cards). The straight, vertical line dividing the plane in the first card turns into a diagonal in the last, thus allowing us to contemplate a plane that’s tilted. Again a similar line seems to be missing in the card of the Magician. The 5th sword is missing. So, as you can see there’s quite a bit of stuff to think about that emerges out of simply observing what’s happening in the cards.
For me, meaning arises from such descriptions. As the central card indicates here, but also generally, we don’t always know what the Magician ends up pulling out of his hat, hence the consideration of choices and consequences. Together with the card of Justice, the card of the Lovers indicates that there’s thinking about it. In fact, also here we have this idea supported by the visuals, as one of the heads is horizontal. No one rushes in. The gaze is turned towards the magician. Can we trust him? The two discussing heads in the bottom row seem to agree that whatever the Magician has up his sleeves, it will be useful. Coins are always good to have, especially above your head. It protects, in the first card, and it allows for luxury, in the second card. So, I’d say, whatever hits us in our friendship – quite literally – it will be good. Look at all that yellow.
Now I’m pondering how ‘literally’ these pictures in the hand can be seen. For example, is it significant that the first card displays two faces, one light and one dark? A picture of the two of us together in reality would look similar, right?
If this is relevant, does it suggest who plays which character in the story, and is there any significance to roles here? Is it then me with my head resting sideways in the third card? If so, what does that mean?
You said, ‘The straight vertical line dividing the plane in the first card turns into a diagonal in the last, thus allowing us to contemplate a plane that’s tilted.’ This makes me wonder if the cards reference an astrological similarity we share, Mercury retrograde in our natal charts.
In general, I’ve seen many references that explain Mercury retrograde in a natal chart as a sign that someone might be more likely to process information differently. For example, it might look like someone is simply absorbing information rather than learning through an act of deliberate study. Or a person may be more likely to take issue with information presented as points of fact or rhetoric and commonly question what others accept as the gospel truth. Likewise, natal Mercury retrograde might point at an increased ability to process abstract concepts and draw out precise information from subtle impressions.
Might this be the ‘plane that’s tilted’ in your read? I know for myself that I tend to look at things oddly in general.
And lastly, I can’t help but notice that the final card displays a bare chested woman, specifically a woman with one tit out. As the queen, a symbol of the Mother Goddess, might she not be indicating something about providing nurturing support? Can this be read to suggest that whatever ‘we’ are about and whatever ‘we’ do together, it will include nourishment? Could this be related to your earlier mention of the sword that turns into a coin? Is there some kind of healing engagement here?
I thought about which deck to choose. Now I’m thinking it was good I picked that one. With carefully crafted art decks, there’s always something that the viewer is invited to consider over and above what we know of the cards and their standard primary meanings. What I like about this deck is that it offers more than ‘archetypes’ – well, for some bizarre reason the Italians are the best at this, if you ask me.
So, yes, agency in cards. There’s almost no post on Taroflexions that doesn’t address that and the challenge we have in determining that. Who is who and who does want to whom? Indeed.
The two faces are us. We speak the same language. There’s only one mouth. So we can presume we’re on the same page. The page we’re on regards magic. We are both magicians. I like it that the theme of light and dark is in play here too, albeit in a more subtle way. The Magician’s body is like a gate. It’s transparent, and lots of mirroring happens inside of it. It looks like there are shards of mirrors inside his body. Besides, his head is a question mark.
Now, what’s also fascinating is the magician’s hats. He has two of them. One on his head and one in his hand (the two of us again). Which hat is ‘me’ and which hat is ‘you’? If we follow the visual logic – the left plane goes with the left element, the right plane goes with the right element – then we’d have to conclude that the hat on the Magician’s head is me (the light, left hand plane), and the hat in his hand is you (the dark, right hand plane). I sit on a question mark, and out of you a white rabbit comes. Isn’t this neat?
The same applies to the card of the Lovers. Here we seem to place each other in each other’s trust, or rather, the tilted head is in the other head’s trust. And yes, by the same visual logic – which we must follow lest we should wander in the woods with no guide – the woman with the tilted head is you. I love your idea about Mercury. I subscribe to the description. I always ‘object’ and I always come from an unexpected angle to a problem, which some people have a problem with. But I’m fair. Excellent job of observation and external reference to planets on your part here. We are definitely ‘tilted’. How exhilarating.
Now, let us turn again to the bottom row, as the logic above invites us to consider the last two cards, only, here we have no first card that entices us to consider who is who. Who is the Page and who is the Queen? This could be easily determined if we compared bank accounts. The Queen has more money than the Page. And yes, as I have mentioned already, the Queen, in her lavish excess, can, and she does, extend her nurture, by offering her breast. So there you have it. I think that just about covers it. But I’m sure we could continue.
Dana wants to continue:
YES, I would agree that you are the Magician’s mind as you have such a facility for articulating your process whereas my approach seems to be more akin to the hand that just pulls surprises out of a hat and couldn’t explain how it’s done for the life of me. But despite our approaches, we seem to do just fine. In particular I’d say that our interactions have an interesting effect on me. When we correspond like this I’ve noticed that I have more of a tendency to be coherent about my magic and be able to write about it. This is unusual and one of things that I treasure about the way our relationship works for me.
From the experience of working on this exercise with you I can see that I’m pretty good at “playing cards” with you…‘plucking out’ and ‘teasing you into’ your excellence at ‘seeing’ another angle of interpretation in the cards. We seem to be working together like improvisational theatre here [hands clapping].
And lastly, I can’t help but want to dive a bit more into who is the Queen and who is the Page. Is their difference literally a disparity in monetary wealth or a disparity in angle at it or position to the game or something to do with the kind of women we are? I’m not convinced the coins are about dollars per se as neither of us are struggling financially or exceptionally wealthy as far as I can tell. I’m wondering if they are more about some other kind of ‘tangible support,’ as ‘support’ is very much what we like to ‘offer.
Are the women with coins on their heads women who each possess a “wealth of information” that comes from two separate positions to the game? Is the Page a “muse,” as perhaps I am a muse to the artist? Is the “rabbit” as another symbolic representation of rebirth, resurrection and transformation like the butterfly from my ring a reference to me as the Page in her position alongside the Queen?
I now promise to STOP with the pinging in our ping pong game. Enough is probably enough… unless there’s more. Ha!
There’s always more. Any Queen would tell you that, so the Queen, yes. My job pays well enough, thank god, so I’m a Queen, all right. A Queen of sorts. And I love the idea of ‘wealth of information’. That’s very much aligned with the ‘diamonds’ suits. Also traditionally, the tradition of the playing-cards, again, the Jack, or the Page here, can stand for another court card’s thoughts. So, say we are both the Queen. Then what we’re dealing with here is our first thought. A pragmatic one. No surprise here, and indeed, it looks like we do come full circle. Our question was, strangely enough, about benefits. What are the benefits of our friendship? A good thing we get the coins into the picture. We wouldn’t want to only wail in each other’s arms, drink too much (in ref. to the five of swords), and need each other only when we’re upset. Obviously we enrich each other with ideas, brilliant ones too. Look at all that glowing yellow pervading the cards. Looks like the swords stand no chance of being too influential. At best, the swords may decapitate the Page, or a novel idea we come up with, but then guess what, it looks like we, as the final Queen, have resources. We can replenish ourselves. I like this thought, so perhaps we nailed it also in that useful way that I always expect the cards to be. Let us thank ourselves.
Dana gives me too much credit here, suggesting that I read the cards and she inspires. I’d like to say that it’s also very much the other way around. She reads her cards, and I let myself be inspired by what she sees. That’s what it’s all about. Reading with art cards can be quite artful, if we allow them to take us places.
Il Tarocco di Amerigo Folchi
Edizione limitata e numerata, 1991
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