Tarot Reversals – The Fours

To a certain extent the Fours of the RWS deck can be said to deal with the results of abundance. How best to celebrate abundance other than as part of the community? That is the question that is answered by the Four of Wands. Or how to deal with the ennui of non-stop abundance? That would be the Four of Cups; our wastrel appears to have been the Kardashian of his day. How to deal with the problem of keeping that abundance when you’re a miser? This we see in the case of the Four of Pentacles. The seeming outlier here is the Four of Swords. It’s important not to claim a rule or order when perhaps there is none, so I shall not claim that this card focuses on abundance, as the other three do. Although… we could look at the Four of Swords as an example of the man who has successfully dealt with an abundance of activity in life. He now rests in peace, fondly remembered by the community. Community appears to be the unifying “perspective” in the Fours’ reversals; for it seems to be the community’s view that applies to the reversed meaning in each. What goes around comes around, they say. We could even place the four figures on a mini-Karmic-Wheel-of-Fortune, which is as good an organizing principle as any.

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The Four of Wands – A One Page Guide

The Four of Wands is pleasant but unfocused and visually empty. What is its most important part? This unusual lack of focus renders the festival distant and joyless. Fortunately, by studying Waite’s divinatory meanings (and a couple of online encyclopedias), we can discover the joy. This festival has an open bar. And what a bar! This is not just any country fête—it is one sacred to Venus. Using an odd device, Waite throws in a reference to “harvest-home,” a very English harvest festival, and by doing so, refers back to Venus. It is a festival of wine and fertility. The Romans called it “Vinalia urbana,” but we can simply enjoy it (accompanied by a glass of “sacramental” wine) as a celebration of sacred and profane love, and the fertility of the earth. It is the Primavera of Botticelli, as rendered by Colman Smith, and bottled by A.E. Waite.

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Tarot Reversals – The Threes

As far as Waite and Colman Smith’s tarot goes, the threes can be said to be about well defined, sharp moments that require growth before they can happen. For wands, it is that precise moment when a plan turns into execution. For swords, the moment after the beloved walks out the door, when the lover feels the piercing of his or her heart. For Pentacles, it is the moment the former apprentice realizes that now, now, he is a master artisan. And for cups: well, the harvest is in, it’s time to enjoy the wine. The “sharpness” of those moments can be of both pain and growth. In this it is apparent that Binah, the third sephira on the kabbalistic tree of life, which some say represents the womb, has influenced Waite and Colman Smith. But we’ll leave the details to the one page guides, though, and concentrate on reversals in this post. In the first post in this series on tarot reversals, we introduced the idea that relationships between the divinatory meanings (as defined by Waite in the Pictorial Key to the Tarot) of the upright vs. reversed minor arcana can be interpreted as a change of perspective. In the threes we see that moment, from these two perspectives.

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