The Four of Cups – A One Page Guide

The Four of Cups is noteworthy in the far-greater-than-usual distance between Waite and the Golden Dawn group. And that is to say nothing as to how far away from the qualities of Chesed, the qabalistic influence; clearly it is the widest departure from the Sephirot we’ve seen so far. Waite seems to have gone rogue! He seems to focus on the Moon, which rules the decan and is the planetary association for Cancer, the Zodiac sign for the decan. The Moon’s light is reflected and illusory; it is the opposite of “real” light, direct from the Sun. Waite, in his description for this card, says things seen in this illusory light appear as a “fairy gift.” We might describe the young man’s attitude is such that anything less then “the real thing” is unsatisfactory. There is a sense of profound alienation. It appears to me that Waite is setting up a contrast between the young man and the High Priestess, the major arcanum associated with the Moon. If you do not have the secrets, mystery and sacred law, you are just an empty vessel to whom spirituality is like an illusion of an empty cup. I would suggest that a modern interpretation is that it signifies alienation from the materialistic world. But it doesn’t suggest the antidote—going out into the spiritual sunlight—but I don’t think Waite meant it to. Frankly I prefer the “enjoy it while you can” message of the Golden Dawn group for this card, for that is something that we can do in the companionship of real world friends and family.

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The Six of Swords – A One Page Guide

It is no doubt a startlingly long leap from Charon, the ferryman of Hades who’ll leave your spirit wandering on the shore of the river Styx for one hundred years if you don’t have the penny for his fare, to a positive affirmation of life and continuity that foresees safe journey through the person of your child. It is odder still, in my opinion, to see A.E. Waite, in the Six of Swords, not only make that leap but also get away with it! We shall see that an unusual word—commissionary, a Christian qabalistic take on Tiphareth, and perhaps a bit of “soloing” by Colman Smith while Waite wasn’t looking are the clues by which we arrive at this serrendipity for what otherwise might be a dreary card.

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The Three of Pentacles – A One Page Guide

I had previously looked at the Three of Pentacles as a fairly prosaic card… just a day at work. Ho hum. But it’s actually about the nobility of creation and creativity. The card is at once obvious and subtle. Why does Waite specify that the workplace is a monastery? After all, the monastery’s functions include far more than just work. And why does Waite specifically say that the worker of the Three of Pentacles is the same person who we see in the Eight of Pentacles? There’s a trail we can follow via the major arcana associated with the planetary influence (the World): a reference to Genesis, no less! The answer is that the Three of Pentacles is not just about work… it’s about ennobled work. If we put aside Waite’s mystical Christianity, and think about his message in terms of today, we might see that when this card is drawn by a querent with questions about their job, for example, perhaps it is to suggest that one should consider whether that job is spiritually rewarding. This is a card that says “Quit the stock brokership, move to Hooterville and grow vegetables!”

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The Ten of Wands – A One Page Guide

The Ten of Wands, like Maynard G. Krebs’ favorite movie, “The Monster Who Devoured Cleveland” is about ends. The Ends of Ages. People’s ends (bodily ends, that is, not the ends of lives). It is, figuratively speaking, the ass-end of the RWS tarot deck. Seriously. Waite, faced with the conflicting natures in the very mixed astrological, alchemical and qabalist influences, seemingly threw his hands up in the air, and complained that it “cannot be harmonized.” Colman Smith’s illustration is unrelenting. It’s not exactly my favorite card, either. If we start by recognizing that a serf who works on the farm has more to do with Pentacles, the suit of Earth, than with Wands, the suit of Fire, we just might find the key to understanding this oppressive card. And if you never look at this card in quite the same way again, my apologies.

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The Two of Swords – A One Page Guide

The blindfolded swordswoman of the Two of Swords can only be a metaphor, but for what? Why is she blindfolded? Why two swords? Why is the composition symmetrical except for the Moon? I believe that Waite wishes us to perceive the message of the RWS Two of Swords as that the balance of two types of justice, divine and human, manifests itself in peace and harmony, even though both types of justice can countenance cruelty. But if inside oneself and one’s circle of friends we maintain balance and harmony, such a balance can be a “beneficent force.”

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Link: Tarot at Another University Newspaper

Today, the newspaper of the University of California at Santa Barbara has run a short feature article regarding tarot. The article is very short, and other than advice “not to overthink it,” it is simply a three card draw (Six of Wands, Seven of Pentacles and Eight of Pentacles) and a few sentences each regarding what each of the cards represent. Short as it may be, the article stands as an indicator that the popularity of tarot, once again, is growing in our society.

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