The Suit of Swords as Laws

Inspiration often arrives at the oddest times. This time, it was two hours into a four-hour shift of speed reading for a high school grad night event. There I was, doing three-card readings as fast as the kids came up to my table, and this new idea pops out of my head and mouth at the same time.

(I could probably (and probably should) write about the synergy of inspiration and opportunity. But that’s a different post.)

The spread in particular has a four of swords in play, and given the rest of the cards involved, what I said was: “It’s time to let old ideas, old rules you used to live by, get retired. They don’t serve you any longer, so it’s time to let them go.” The young adult nodded in understanding and left.

But the extra definition stuck with me; swords as laws? Rules, regulations, strictures, procedures. Why not? Lets run with it and see where it takes us.

Swords, like rules, divide things in two. Or as Shakespeare might put it: “Do I, or Do I Not?” Thus every sword is a binary division of possibility space. Each Sword added is an added fractal layer of decision making.

Although some might point out that laws really aren’t about decision. They’re clearly marking the DO from the DO NOT. However, life is also about choice. Choose to follow the rules, or choose to break them. There are pros and cons to each decision. 

Ace of Swords: The Golden Rule. The Prime Directive. The foundational principle. This is the tip of the decision tree, so sometimes this is the most critical decision. When the Ace appears consider what the most fundamental limit, restriction or requirement applies.

Two of Swords: The Minimum and Maximum. The Micro and Macro limits. The Alpha and Omega. If the Ace defines the first decision point, then the second sword of the Two of Swords is the logical limiting decision point at the far end of the process. All else falls in between. Do no harm. Take no shit.

Three of Swords: A misinterpreted rule or law. Being cornered or obstructed by a limiting requirement or potential violation of statute. Being vetoed by another party. 

Four of Swords: Sometimes a rule, restriction or law has reached the limit of its relevance or usefulness. Time to let old rules die, especially if it no longer serves its purpose.

Five of Swords: Rules must be obeyed, but they must also be tested. Before you put in place a new law or requirement, test its limits. How does it actually work when implemented?

Six of Swords: Take what works with you. When transitioning to a new workplace, a new life, remember what worked before, and take those rulesets and structures with you. They may not survive in the new environment, but they may work out after all.

Seven of Swords: Take what works from others. Learn by their examples, both in success and how they failed. Adjust your rulesets accordingly.

Eight of Swords: Warning! You may have too many rules in place! Your feelings of limitation and restriction come from your acceptance of too many restrictions and rules.

Nine of Swords: The sum of all data, and overwhelming in its totality. The big picture. We may not know all the rules from where we are, but there are rules and systems in place. Even when you can’t see them.

Ten of Swords: the dead end. The exhaustion of all choices and options. Time to reset and start over with a new idea.

Page of Swords: New world, new role. Time to start learning new ropes. The Page is about following leaders and learning by others examples. In this case: the rules and regulations of a new job, or situation. It’s a prime opportunity to ask questions and push boundaries.

Knight of Swords: In gaming circles, a “rules lawyer”. The person who can quote obscure and complete regulations from memory on demand. While the rules lawyer can be useful when arbitrating disputes, they can also be really annoying when they interject unprompted for advice.

Queen of Swords: While the Knight lives the rules and embodies them, the Queen understands them at a fundamental level. Their history and intent. She sees the forest for the trees.

King of Swords: The chief executor, choosing how rules are followed, and possibly rejecting those laws that no longer work. Also sets high-level policies towards executing those laws, and appoints others to act in his charge (i.e. Knights).

The entire court can be interpreted as roles in a government: The Knight as executors of rules, Queens as makers and keepers of the rules (legislators), Kings as jurists who judge the validity and hierarchy of rules, and the Page as an advocate: those who seek new rules, or seek adjudication of how rules are enforced.

Three card spread for the week of 27 May 2019

So for the week of 27 May thru the 2nd of June, I did a three-card spread and got the following:

Whoo boy. This is going to take some unpacking…

Judgement:

The next to last Major Arcana, I like to think of Judgement as a warning that the means won’t be forgotten in the end. Legacy will reflect the choices made here and now and you will face evaluation after the fact. Maybe the ends do justify the means, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be questioned about it later. Or that you’ll ever forget what you chose to do, to ignore, or prioritize differently.

For me, this is more about looking back at a later date and asking: “Could I have done better?” It’s my innate mode of self correction and method of perpetually trying to make myself a better person. Rather than waiting weeks for the final outcome, I can ask here and now: “Am I doing the best possible thing I could be doing?” It will help me with fighting procrastination, and failing to act for fear of failure or making a mistake, and most of all: prevent failing to act when I do make a mistake or not act to correct one in the making in time. Shortening the leash, if you will, from “i’ll hate myself later for acts i take now,” to “I don’t want to hate myself later, so I’d best do the right thing NOW, rather than regret it later.” An ounce of painful prevention now, rather than a pound of agonizing cure later.

TEN of CUPS

The ten-cards in the Minor Arcana represent fulfillment and the end of story arcs and journeys. I also like to look at ten-cards as turning points: signaling the end of one process and the beginning of the next. They can represent reaching a plateau point where the next steps on a journey can begin. One might not even be able to see the next cycle until you reach the end of the current one. The Ten then rolls around to the One/Ace again (or the Zero if you need it) and the ascension begins again. In this sense, the Ten is a kind of singularity: the point beyond which you cannot see until you cross its’ boundary; after that whole new worlds and possibilities open up before you.

As the ultimate CUPS card this one is about emotional contexts. And that feels true here. Life has been a challenge lately. Work stress and life stress have been peaking. Keeping a steady hand on the emotional till has been essential for navigating the rapid of my own emotional reactions. I believe the Ten of Cups here signifies the light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel. There IS and end in sight to the stress and drama.

Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.

[RoseRed hates this card, BTW. But I’ll let her explain why on her own blog 😉 ]

TEN of WANDS

Everything I said above about Tens in general applies here as well. Most other decks depict an overwhelming wave or wall of responsibilities and causes, but Stephanie’s gorgeous watercolors here give a different feel and inspire another answer: the alignment and mutual support of many different yet related branches of life and cause and passions. Hearths and homes raised above the bramble and clutter of the ground-level. Each getting its own new lease on life-giving light from above and support from below. This speaks to me of a worthy goal, and one not out of reach.

Conclusion

As some of you who know me in real life know: we’re moving shortly into what we plan and hope will be our hereafter home. Like any move this is an immensely complex and detailed process. The appearance of multiple Tens cards show both the challenge and rewards of this journey. That the cards drawn are about water and fire sources tell me this is a journey of emotional resilience and with passionate outcomes worthy of the challenges. That no Coin or Swords cards appear in the readings, I choose to take that as there are no outstanding complications about money or details. Everything on those fronts are known and manageable challenges. That’s a relief, frankly.

So while this spread contains some rather BIG MEANING cards, I choose to interpret them in this context as helpful signposts, rather than dire warnings or sudden reversals of fortune.

Plateau

I’ve been struggling lately with what exactly to do with this blog here. I feel like I’ve hit a plateau in my knowledge and use of Tarot, and at the moment I don’t see a next level to strive for.

I’m fully aware that there are higher levels of use and understanding to Tarot. But to appropriate and apply a ‘spoony’ meme: I don’t have the cards to begin to explore them, let alone decide what direction to go in right now. Lots of things going, and making time for pursuing metaphysics is low on my priority list.

I still have my Explorer’s Society Destiny Spreads projects to work on. The next chapter crosses over into Rune magic, and that’s a new paradigm for me. Again, this just needs time to delve into. I have concerns about cultural appropriation that I need to work out to continue. That alone is worth a post about. Okay, there’s something I can blog about 😉

As a creative person in general, i depend on feedback and external motivation. My Little White Book post from a month ago was inspired by a friend who’s exploring Tarot for the first time. I have problems with justifying doing things just for myself.

For now, I’ll just have to stick to Card Of The Day tweets. Please follow at
https://twitter.com/andrewtarot

Writing your own L.W.B.

While the Tarot is a well defined method of divination, not all decks speak the exact same way. I’ve noticed that with one of my decks the Wands cards consistently keep coming up in readings with contexts around ‘work,’ while with a different deck’s Wands come up in ‘relationship’ contexts. So when doing readings with the first deck I know that the Wands have to do with Work, and with the other, relationships. Having spoken to fellow readers about this idea it seems this isn’t an uncommon occurrence and many of my fellow Tarotists have different frameworks of interpretation for each deck in their arsenal. I also find that readers, experienced or newb, need time with a new deck until they get a handle on it’s particular ‘accent,’ and I want to share an idea for a technique for ‘breaking in’ a new deck and it’s particular meanings and interpretations. Hopefully this will be useful for both experienced tarot readers as well as newcomers to the art.

Nearly all decks come with a book describing the iconography and meanings of the cards. This can vary from massive and gorgeous tomes of artwork and references and background information, to the (in-)famous ‘Little White Book,’ which is tiny, cheap and often more difficult to read than the cards themselves. While I personally find having the “LWB” to understand what the creator may have intended with their cards initially useful at first, I also find the cards and I develop our own meanings often far afield from the original intent. And there’s nothing wrong with that. You shouldn’t feel restricted to the original intent of the creator. Once you buy that deck, it’s yours and your relationship with that deck is more important than authorial intent.

So how do you go about learning a given deck’s ‘dialect’? By spending time with it, of course. Immersion is good for learning languages and the subtleties of a new tarot or oracle deck. Doing single card readings every day for yourself is a great practice. I first learned all the cards meanings and how to explain them to others by performing single-card readings to passerby’s to our tarot booth. For the newcomer, it’s a great way to drill the meanings of the cards and practice your delivery. It also lets you focus on one card at a time, discover it’s intricacies and note when and how it comes up. The context when a certain card shows up has a lot to do with what that card’s trying to tell you as well and should be noted.

I’m a visual and rote learner; I remember better when I see things (as opposed to hearing them) and when i write things down. Thus, I recommend making your own Little White Books for your new decks. Acquire (or make!) yourself a small journal and keep it with your new deck. When you discover a new meaning or association for a given card, write it down in that LWB!

What kind of journal should you use?

Well that’s entirely up to you but here are my suggestions: Nothing too big. A5 to A6 size on the ISO scale, 5×8” or smaller for American scales. (See HERE for a breakdown of paper sizes.)

An A6 or 3.5” x 5.5” should be able to fit in the same bag as most tarot decks. You’ll want 48 to 80 pages or so. Designate the first couple pages as an Index then set aside a half-page to a full page for each card in the deck (78 cards, at half a page each is 39 pages. Plus a couple of Index pages and some spares means a 48 page ‘field notebook’ should do you fine.)

Here are some Amazon links to similar journals to what I’ve used:

A 6-pack of A6 line ruled 30 sheet journals.

A pack of basic A5 60 page journals.

Some 3.5×5.5” Field Notebooks.Same as above, but in bright colors.

Now you don’t have to write out long expository delves into each cards meaning. Go make an online blog for that! Instead your LWB should focus on the keywords that come to mind when viewing the card as well as contextual notes about when and how it comes up in your readings. The very act of writing these down helps reinforce their meaning in your memory. Later, when you draw that card again and you reference your LWB journal, you’ll see the contexts and correspondences that have come up with the card previously, further reinforcing what that card means for you. Feel free to add new ones or modify old ones as needed. Your LWB should be a ‘living’ document: constantly changing and updating with experience.

Cryptocurrencies and the suit of Coins

Cryptocurrencies are a hot new item in the world of digital engineering and social experimentations. Bitcoin being the best known, these ‘alternative currencies’ are evolving to solve the challenges an increasingly complicated world that is also increasingly paranoid about both personal privacy and privately held monetary systems (I.e. Big banks).

At its simplest, cryptocurrencies are digital objects, with built-in transactional history that can be verified via complex cryptographic means. Unlike other digital assets, you can’t just copy a bitcoin and give it away; the original and the copy have the same history and anyone checking that history can tell that it has been copied. Every time a digital ‘coin’ changes hands or is otherwise interacted with, that action is recorded in the history of the object, and thus can be verified.  There are still tons of legal and social questions surrounding the use of cryptocurrencies, but they aren’t going away as a concept anytime soon.

It may seem strange to want to write about digital alternatives to cash and credit, but the  Tarot is also evolving with the times and I’m here to explore those possibilities spaces. So just what do cryptocurrencies have to do with the Tarot? Well it starts with the suit of Coins, naturally.

Coins, Pentacles, Earth energy; all the variants of this suit refer to physical goods, tangible assets, wealth and power. Physical currencies are an abstraction for wealth and make trading and accounting easier; cryptocurrency is just the latest example that started with seashells used in barter. But most of all, if you look at the suit of Coins as a chain of exchanges, then the linkage between the suit of Coins and Cryptocurrency becomes even more important. If one goes linearly from Ace to Ten, one sees a legacy of events and exchanges that ‘coin’ has been involved it. From the decisions of the Two and Three of Pentacles, to the stability of the Four, the fallow times of the Five, and the entrepreneurism of the Six, Seven and Eight, to the accumulation and display of the Nine and Ten; the lifecycle of the suit of Coins show economic life-flow. Remember: that card didn’t just spring, fully formed for economic impact, from the nothingness of someone’s purse. It has been exchanged for work, for goods, for usury and for investment time and time again. It’s history is part of its value: the dollar is strong because it’s done so much, been used everywhere, appreciated by everyone for it’s value.

When you draw a Coins card, consider that it’s face value represents the stage of its economic journey. Perhaps draw again until you have two more Coins cards, and lay them next to the original; this show where the coin came from and where it shall go. While I can’t know the complete history of the quarter in my hand, I can know the transactional history of a BitCoin because that transactional history is part of the very identity of that BitCoin. Since Tarot cards are instances along lifecycles, I can use them to tell the history of something, because that’s part of its very definition; it’s cryptogram.

Cryptogram,

Pentagram,

Pentacle,

Coin.

22 days of BATS 2014. Day Twenty-Two: The Fool

And we’re back at the beginning.

How fitting that this 22 day journey started with The Magician, and ended with The Fool? And here, the day after BATS2014, life seems to begin anew. New ideas, new friends, new inspirations and new opportunities. Not to mention new aches and pains and debts to pay off 🙂 So The Fool is entirely fitting for the day after BATS2014.

So often we interpret the Fool as a know-nothing adventurer and free spirit wanderer, but now we can also see the Fool as the spirit of new beginnings; his association with all the Aces of the minor Arcana isn’t accidental: He’s the archetype of inspired explorer, stepping forth with a head of questions and a desire to find answers.

22 days of BATS 2014. Day Twenty-One: The Devil

The Devil is in the details, but so are the secrets of the universe. Everything isn’t made of earth, fire, water, and air. It’s made of atoms. Those atoms are made of baryons and other sub-atomic particles. What are they made of? We’re still figuring that out.  The Devil is the perpetual chase down the rabbit-hole of understanding. Today, the second day of BATS2014, is a chance to reflect on what has been learned and how our knowledge has grown.

When the Devil comes into play, ask: How far do you wish to go? What are your limits in the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, experience and sensation?

“‘Excuse me, teacher, may I be excused? My head is full.

I have no doubt, by 2015, I’ll be ready to dive deeper into the rabbit hole again for next year’s BATS!

Tomorrow’s card is The Fool

22 days of BATS 2014. Day Twenty: The World!

BATS 2014, day one!

How fitting the card of the day is The World; for BATS is a crossroads of continental and international TAROT enthusiasts; all here to share and intermingle and explore out mutual interest in the metaphysical and .

So the lesson of the World is: don’t isolate yourself. Science and genetics tell us that organisms that are isolated will spiral off on their own paths, often becoming too distinct and different to interact again with their hereditary siblings. The World warns us not to become detached from what’s going on in the world (except when necessary) .

Tomorrow’s card is The Devil!

22 days of BATS 2014. Day Nineteen: The Sun

The Sun is often described as ‘the source of all life and energy on Earth.’

But the Sun is so bright and so overwhelming, we can’t see the Stars while the Sun is in the sky. Even the Moon is difficult to see clearly when the Sun is shining brightly. We depend on the Sun, deify it and worship it.

So when the Sun comes into play, what all-important source does it represent? More importantly, what is it obscuring you from seeing? What alternatives is the Sun blinding you to? Draw another card, place it face-down and underneath the Sun card; when and if you want to know what you can’t see because of your dependence on The Sun, turn that card over.

Tomorrow’s card is the The World.

22 days of BATS 2014. Day Eighteen: The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man is about patience and perspective. But day lets turn it a bit more around and seek an alternative way to look at the Hanged Man (like I’ve been doing so far on this writing challenge). The Hanged Man is suspended, either by rope or pinned to a cross.

When the Hanged Man comes into play, look what cards are near his head, feet and hands. What significance are these other cards in terms of what’s keeping the Hanged Man where he is, or what may they have to do with the means of his escape?

Tomorrow’s post is The Sun!