2 of Swords

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Swords/Air

Swords are the suit of the air, of the mind, of communication and the mental realm.  They are about matters of logic, knowledge and ambition.  Strategy and planning, truth and justice are all sword qualities.  Swords are about learning and thinking but as they are about the inner mind, they also deal with worries and nightmares, the shadow side of all that thinking energy.  This suit, like the swords that represent them, have two edges; light and shadow.  Creation and destruction.  Imagination and anxiety.  Decisiveness and indecision.

“You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too.”
– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird (quoted on Little Red Tarot)

The nature of swords is to fight but instead, as Lamott makes reference to, you can use the sword in other ways.  You can use the related intellect and instead out manoeuvre your opponent or your nemesis using your mind instead.  The suit of swords is also about communication, possibly making the saying the pen is mightier than the sword appropriate at times.

Whilst we normally think of cups as the emotional suit, swords and air bring with them mental conflict.  Michelle Tea notes that “the swords suit has a tense relationship with the realm of emotions.  In some readings of the Two of Swords, it represents a problem whose solving requires strict logic; you must not rule with your heart in this moment, but with what you know to be intellectually true”.

Twos

In tarot, twos can go two ways.  They can be about union and partnerships or they can be about choices and opposition.  With this in mind though, we can also see them as being able balance or finding the middle ground.

Twos are also linked with the high priestess, the two from the major arcana.  I’ve not done a post about her yet but she is often about intuition and looking inwards for answers.  She is a card that sings with sacred, feminine wisdom.  She is balance and harmony and peaceful stillness.  Yet she is also about awakening what lies inside you, revealing that which is hidden.  This dichotomy gives us a hint of what we will find across the twos.

We will start to see, as we move through the different depictions of the two of swords, that this tuning into oneself is one way of answering the call of the card.

Different decks

Rider Waite Smith

The two of swords from the RWS tarot depicts a blindfolded woman with a sword in each hand and her arms crossed.  Behind her is the ocean, craggy islands and a vast sky, empty except for a crescent moon.  I feel like we can take this scene by looking at three stages in the scene; the woman, the sea and the sky.

The woman appears to have chosen her blindfold, she has deliberately closed her eyes.  What might this represent to the reader?  Perhaps you have consciously withdrawn in order to make a decision without distraction.  Or are you subconsciously closing your eyes to your choices or in denial?  Sometimes we shut ourselves off physically or emotionally as a way of handling decisions – we put our head in the sand, or blindfold ourselves so we don’t have to engage.  We can also push problems or choices we don’t want to make away from ourselves and if we look at the woman we find a position which could be considered defensive, crossing her heart in a protective way so that nothing can get near.  Conversely the crossed arms could be a deliberate, temporary, carving out of space and time so that she can think things through – there is something in her position that I find somewhat intentional and zenlike.

We saw that twos can be about choices and balance and here we find the two swords facing away from each other, is there a tension here?  Are they symbolic of the two paths ahead of the woman?

Behind her we find the sea, choppy and filled with rocks and islands that could become hazardous for ships.  In tarot, we often find that the state of water is reflective of the emotional state of the querant.  Here we see a lot of emotional turmoil and perhaps this is why the choice or decision is so difficult?  Or are we being swayed by those emotions?  Another way to view this is to note how still and calm the woman is in the face of such emotions.  If the woman is in denial, we could view the choppy seas as a sign that the problem she is hiding from is growing and growing and the chance of hitting the rocks is increasing… It is time to made a decision, to choose a path and to move on from this place of inaction.  Toss a coin if you have to but don’t stay here.

Above the sea spans a sky, empty except for a crescent moon.  Interestingly the sky is a light blue, the sky of day, whilst the moon is obviously normally found at night.  Perhaps this hints that logic won’t always work here.  The moon is about illusions and dreams and things not being as they seem and a moon in the day feels like it exaggerates that message.

Tarot of Pagan Cats

The Tarot of Pagan Cats normally follows the RWS deck in it’s imagery but here it has departed quite significantly.  There is no blindfolded character and the cat is not holding two swords.  Despite that, the little white book gives this card the same meaning.  Again, it’s about conflict, this time its specified that it’s between heart and mind.  The cat is walking a tightrope between the two swords, the two choices but his head (and tail) are held high.

These swords are parallel suggesting equally valid paths and it may be worth noting that the cat is both black and white here.  We find the crescent moon depicted but this time in a night sky and whilst there are islands in the ocean, they are smoother, less dangerous and the waves aren’t as choppy as the RWS card.  This all confirms the cat’s confidence about this decision, he knows he’s got this.  I feel like this deviation from the RWS card shows the importance of listening to your intuition when it comes to which deck to use for a reading as the conversation can take on a rather different tone.

Wild Unknown

Another different depiction here.  In the RWS we had two swords facing away from each other and in the pagan cats the swords are parallel, here we find the swords are facing towards and crossing each other.  They form a dark X against a sky with an eclipsed sun.  The moon on the previous cards is now full and is obscuring light, the clarity.

When I first saw this card I read the sun as straining behind the moon to be seen and that if I uncrossed the swords, or made a decision, I would be able enjoy the light and see things clearly again.  I’ve also had readings which have shown the card as a situation where we want to understand things but we don’t necessarily want to understand things as they actually are and we find ourselves straining to impose our mentally constructed version of reality onto the world around us.

Lumina

Wow, this portrayal is so different to the rest of them.  Here we have parallel swords, as in the pagan cats, but instead of being vertical they are horizontal and instead of being held by the same person they are each wielded by a bird and they appear to be in a stalemate situation.  Alternatively, we could see a mirror image deal going on here.  Appropriately, the image is a bit confusing.

Talking about the two of swords reversed, the little white book says that “mental confusion and information overload is rife!”  This is something I wanted to touch on as it’s not really come through with the other representations.  We life in a world where we are surrounded by messages and information and opinions and words and words and words.  It can be hard to hear our own voice in amongst all the others and most of us don’t tend to make space for listening either.  Another way to feel into this is that being surrounded by information can mean we know too much and can see all sides or we can have so much information that we don’t realise we have the right information.

I don’t know what the birds on the cards are but given the meaning of the hawk and eagle, I like to view them as one or the other.  Both are messengers who bring perception and foresight to the game.

Other

The two of swords in norse tarot is very different again.  It has two men sitting opposite each other at a table and it looks like they’re playing chess or something similar which requires the mind to come up with paths forwards and work through them to see what obstacles could arise.  There is also something here about taking your time but not taking too long.

Whilst we’ve seen some very different depictions, there are some common themes here.  We are looking at decisions and how we face them.  As well as figuring out the decision or choice you are facing, you may need to spend some time unpicking the how and whys of your coping mechanism.  In my little white book I’ve made a note that whys -> wise.  By learning why we engage with a particular way of dealing with things we can start to learn how to approach things differently.

Other questions to explore include:

  • What are you denying, repressing or avoiding?
  • Head or heart? Logic or intuition?
  • What info do you need to make the decision?
  • Why are you struggling to decide?
  • Is anxiety clouding things?
  • Do you already known your decision but are afraid to make the leap?

Keywords

blocked, stuck, avoiding, at a standstill, intentional blindness as an emotional barrier, following blindly, conforming, stalemate, opposing forces, a situation you’ve been putting off dealing with, ambivalence, take off the blindfold and start fighting, indecision, contemplation, deliberation, considering both sides, boundaries, the calm before the storm, closing off from distractions to make a choice, comfort zone, clouded logic, overthinking

Associations

Peppermint

Whilst I mostly know about mint as an association because of the wonderful Little Red Tarot website, I have come across it elsewhere as I’ve noted it in my little white book I just didn’t note where it came from…  I have found a few more references in my googling to the suit of swords being associated with mint which reassured me that I haven’t just dragged this out of thin air!

Mint is a stimulating herb which is associated with quickening the mind and as we’ll see, the sign of libra is also about rapid fire of ideas and this could be related to the information gathering or information overwhelm of the two of swords.  The peppermint could stimulate the mind to filter through or seek out the information needed to make the decision.  It is said to clear the mind and this would set the scene for making the choice ahead.  Perhaps a peppermint tea would give you the space and the clarity you need.  Or a peppermint scent could help you cut through the fog.

It is a stimulating, invigorating plant that energises but also soothes; it is complicated, much like decision making!

Moon in libra

On a basic level, the moon is about emotions and libra is about balance and harmony.  Libra is an air sign, like swords, and the moon in an air sign brings us quick fire thinking, rapid fire ideas as well as the desire to build bridges, connect seemingly opposing ideas and find compromises.

The moon also brings us intuition and the sub-and un- conscious and then libra can bring in an air of indecision.  Because libra can see and understand multiple perspectives, they can find themselves unable to make a decision because they know there are pros and cons of all sides and as there may not be a clear cut good or right choice, their intuition can become muddled and blinded by information.

Moon in libra can be focused on trying to keep everyone happy, compromises which keep the peace and generally trying to find the middle ground.  This can lead to the person themselves getting lost and their own needs and thoughts being lost as they try to please everyone else.  This can be seen in the depictions above but does put a slightly different spin on things.  Instead of just being indecisive or stuck under an information avalanche, we find a person who has lost touch with themselves because they are focused on the happiness of others and compromises.

I feel like the energy at play here makes it hard to lean into mind or heart fully, perhaps being able to feel into both instincts and not being able to privilege one over the other.

On a more negative side, the moon in libra can lead to a person becoming argumentative as a protective mechanism.  They can provoke an argument if they feel emotionally unsafe and then instead of dealing with the emotional unsafe feeling, they can go into their quick fire, rapid idea, seeing all sides of things part of themselves and this can feel more comfortable.  In a way, this is hiding behind indecisiveness and/or the decision making process itself.  It is almost as if an issue has been summoned up so that moon in libra can busy themselves with seeing all the many sides and arguing about it.  An excellent example of paradoxically avoiding an issue by diving into the issue.

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Wheel of Fortune

Whether it’s depicted as the Wheel, the Wheel of Fortune, the Wheel of Time or the Fates, this card brings with it change and cycles and uncertainty.

Suit

Each Major Arcana card is associated with a suit, in this case the wheel of fortune is a fire card and knowing this can help us lean into the meaning.  Without knowing anything else, we get a fast, sparking, energetic vibe, this is not a card about staying still.

Different decks

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I’m posting this from a hotel room and can’t remember the name of the tarot deck for the small card or the one on the bottom row to the right… I will update when I’m home with the boxes…
Top Row; Lumina
Bottom Row; Wild Unknown, Tarot of the Pagan Cats

Rider Waite Smith

“The Wheel of Fortune promises that change is the only thing you can rely on.”
– Michelle Tea

The Rider Waite Smith image involves a lot of symbolism.  There are many layers to this card and we’ll get a sense of that as we start to unpick things.  You can take the image at face value without knowing what the symbols mean, less so for the RWS but this is easy with some of the other decks.

With the RWS symbolism, from the little I know and have read, we have alchemical symbols which correspond to the suits of the tarot, zodiac signs depicted in the four corners and so on.  In terms of the zodiac, there is a Scorpio eagle, Leo the lion, Taurus and apparently Aquarius – all of which are fixed signs if you know anything about astrology you might want to ponder this.  The wheel itself seems to be resting on the back of what might be a devil and the wheel has a sphinx? On top and a snake to the left.

According to Michelle Tea, the snake is Typhon, a murderous monster in a downward spiral – he has had his time on top but no longer.  What I think looks like a devil is apparently Anubis (half jackal and half human) who is protector of the dead, who guides souls and brings new life.   The sphinx is indeed a sphinx who is enjoying her time up top.  There are a lot of different ways we can relate to this card through the different depictions and we will all, at one point or another, be each of them.

Rachel Pollack instead says the snake is set, Egyptian god of evil and bringer of death into the universe.  In some stories, Anubis is set’s son and so the decline of set gives space for Anubis to step into life, the cycle of death and rebirth is played out – “psychologically, only the death of the outer self can release the life energy within” (pollack).  The sphinx represents Horus, god of resurrection and so symbolises the triumph of life over death.

Pollack also notes that the wheel originally symbolised both the mystery of nature and the human ability to take part in that mystery through a ritual sacrifice.  This may sound sinister to our 21st century ears but sacrifice could just be about letting go of that thing which is no longer relevant, that belief which is no longer appropriate or that idea you have of how things should be.  She goes on to point out that the important thing about change is the reaction you have to it.

Do you embrace change?  Do you struggle against it?  Do you drain all your energy trying to fight it?

The Tarot of the Pagan Cats

Where the RWS wheel is spinning by itself, albeit with the influence of gods and such, the wheel in pagan cats is being spun by a cat herself.  We still have the four suits and the symbols which indicate the degree to which the cat cannot control the future.  Combined, these elements show an approach to destiny and fate which is in partnership with the reader of the cards.  The LWB says:

“The wheel of life is spinning and where it will land is uncertain, those who are centered will feel the effects less than those who cling to the edge. R. running away from fears or responsibilities.”

I find this interesting given the cat is clearly on the outside of the wheel, here she will feel a greater impact of change, and perhaps experience greater change because of that resistance to throwing herself at the centre.

Instead of just select astrological signs, the pagan cats wheel includes all the zodiac symbols and the planets.  Having observed this, I’m now mulling over what I think it might signify but am not feeling anything obvious – I’d love to hear from you if you have thoughts!

Wild unknown

This particular wheel of fortune card is one that I’ve leant into in a deeper and deeper way the more I’ve learnt about tarot.  The card shows a complicated web of rainbow treads, weaving in and out and getting tangled in branches and ultimately creating a circular wheel akin to a dreamcatcher.  The top half is in darkness with a crescent moon and an owl and the bottom half is light.  Things are a bit topsy turvy right now.

As with the previous cards, change is a key element here.  We are asked to be the change or to feel into how change is showing up for us.  How are we responding to those changes – are we clinging on for our lives desperately trying to be in control of the change or are we going with the flow?

The tangledness of the image reminds us of how intertwined life is.  It is a visual representation of the interconnectedness of all of us and how everything is connected and united with everything else.  However random events in your life may feel, they are connected somehow, just in a way that us mere mortals can’t see.  Life is messy and it may not feel like things are going as they should but have faith that the universe is keeping you on your path, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Related to the idea of life as messy, we can use the card as a reminder that life, like a tangled ball of wool, only becomes untangled with time and patience and making a bit more mess first.

Lumina

“Intentionally move the spinning wheel of You to the beat of your own heart’s guidance”

Where the phases of the moon were hinted at in the wild unknown, they are explicit with the lumina tarot.  A feminine figure stands at the centre of 8 arms, each reaching for a different moon phase.  Above sits the moon and she stands on the sun, echoing the wild unknown.  Etched into the moon is the symbol for Jupiter which I’ll look at a bit later on.

The centring of the figure suggests she is at the centre of the wheel of fortune; she is moving with the flow not resisting change.  Fighting it makes no difference to what happens, just how you react to it.

The moons in this card speak to me of cycles – the lunar cycle, the way tides flow in and out, the way a year moves through seasons and the cycle of life that we all experience.  Everything changes and everything passes.  We also cannot skip a stage of the cycle.  You cannot go from new to full moon without passing through the crescent moon on the way.  Works of Literata expands on these ideas around cycles and phases in a post about the wheel of fortune.

Other decks

In the Simplified Tarot, the wheel of fortune shows a wild looking woman turning a crank to spin a wheel with 6 of the zodiac signs on it – Pollack suggests that this is saying in a direct way we make out own luck.

The Chrysalis Tarot has a somewhat different image to most of the other decks I’ve looked at.  In this deck, the wheel of fortune appears as though it could be burning.  I wonder if this is saying we can take control of our fate?

The Herbal Tarot illustrates this card with slippery elm, something which doesn’t take much leaning into to feel appropriate for the wheel of fortune.

Finally, in the goddess tarot, the wheel of fortune is represented by hindu goddess Lakshmi who is associated with fortune and prosperity, the generosity of the universe.

I find these different versions of the wheel of fortune reflective of the different types of change we all experience, the different ways we move through change and the different levels of control we have over changes.

General thoughts

“Like the wheel of life that never stops turning, the longer you cling on and try to stay where you are, the more out of flow with life you get, life is not linear, it is cyclic.  A boundless journey of transformation. Of highs and lows. Of contractions and expansiveness.  Of birth and death.  Of wins and losses.  Change is a sure thing.  Our ability to surrender to its natural rhythms is our greatest tool”
Rebecca Campbell

“I walk with life’s ups and downs. Sometimes I’m ahead, sometimes I’m behind. This too shall pass”
Jessi Huntenburg

  • What is changing? How am I responding?
  • How can I stay centred?
  • Have you checked out of your life in some way?
  • Are you struggling to trust that the future will unfold as it’s meant to?
  • Who is spinning the wheel?
  • Where on the wheel am I?

Keywords for the wheel of fortune:

Destiny, change of course, life is messy but have faith that the universe is keeping you on your path, change, luck, karma, fate, turn of events, turning point, movement, action, brief glimpse of the world card, taking control of your destiny,

Associations

Fixed zodiac signs

As we saw with the RWS card, the fixed astrological signs come into play here.  These are Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius and Café Astrology says:

The fixed signs are not as interested in manipulating their environment as their Cardinal brothers and sisters- they are happy to concentrate on personal matters and will resist outside attempts at trying to change their lives. They tend to hang on to the past, which is their biggest weakness, but they are strong in their stability.

In the context of the wheel of fortune, these signs feel like they should be more resistant to change and to the turning wheel so I’m finding it a little strange that they are highlighted.  I’d be interested to hear other people’s ideas about why the fixed signs in particular are used on this card.

Amethyst

Previously I’ve not really explored the symbolism of the associated crystals but I love amethyst and as a pisces, it’s my birth stone and it’s been with me for over 2/3 my life in different ways so I felt compelled to find out more about it.

Firstly, it’s quartz so let’s start there.  Quartz comes in many varieties and formations and is the most abundant mineral on the earth’s surface.  There is, when you put it like that, nothing special about quartz.  But it is special.  I have a lump that I picked up as a child and whilst I don’t know where it is, I can picture it as clearly as I can my teddy bears.  It was raw and full of character and as I write this, I’m upset that I can’t think where it is.  I know I didn’t get rid of it but I’ve moved house so many times…  Anyway, back to quartz.  It’s clearish and if you look back in time, it was used to heal sickness and wounds and is generally thought of as a basic go to crystal if you are into crystal healing.  If you don’t know where to turn, grab some quartz.

So, amethyst is a type of quartz.  It’s purple colour is down to manganese and iron in the crystal, so really, not only is this quartz, a really common crystal, it’s also impure.  And yet, it is so beautiful!  I feel this really chimes with the message of the wheel of fortune – things don’t need to be neat and tidy to be valuable, messy and impure have their own rewards.  If you start to look at how amethyst is used, you’ll find it’s a magnifier, it enhances the qualities of other crystals and like quartz is a bit of an all rounder.  More specifically, it’s allegedly good for protection, balance and interestingly purification… It is supposed to calm eg nerves and environment, and echoing its use as enhancing other crystals, it’s supposed to enhance self esteem, spirituality and meditation.

A further note on the idea of enhancing or magnifying, on a trip to Mexico Danielle Dorsey found herself dealing with a number of challenges and repeatedly drawing the wheel of fortune.  She writes:

“The Wheel of Fortune continued to appear, gently reminding me that while these misfortunes might seem temporarily magnified, it was up to me whether I would allow them to define my trip.”

When we are in the middle of change, we often experience it more intensely that it is.  Spinning around, feeling out of control, amplifies all the other areas in life where we feel untethered.

Jupiter

In the lumina tarot, we saw the symbol for Jupiter.  This was echoed in another deck which featured Fortuna on the wheel of fortune (Jupiter is said to be her father).  We also find oak associated with this card and again, that brings us back to Jupiter and his counterpart Zeus.

Aside: Zeus is linked with oak and when I was looking at plant associations for the wheel, oak was one of them.  If this feels intriguing or relevant you might want to explore this further.

As a planet in astrology, Jupiter is about expansion and growth and is excited about new things which could be seen as a very healthy attitude towards the wheel of fortune and change.  Traditionally Jupiter has been seen as the planet of luck and good fortune so perhaps we should or could see future change as a positive opportunity instead of a negative, external imposition.

Owl

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Top, left to right: Animal Allies, Animal Dreaming
Bottom, left to right: Medicine Cards, Wild Unknown Animal Spirit

 

The owl on the wild unknown card is showing herself to be wise enough to step back and observe and adapt, she is not trying to hold onto the wheel or hold back the changes.  She looks from the darkness, the unconscious and flows with the cycles instead of struggling against them.  She teaches us to adapt and to make the most out of what is coming as it will come regardless of whether you like it or not.

Links

Ten of Cups

Cups/ Water

Having looked at the ten of wands, swords and pentacles, we are now turning towards the ten of cups. This suit, associated with water, is to do with emotion, intuition and matters of the heart. It is where we find creativity and imagination as well as fantasies and dreams. Cups deal with relationships and love and in the water we find reflections and can see into our inner worlds. The water in these cards often reflects our feelings and thus make for interesting readings.

Tens

If you want to read more about tens, check out the other posts. The only thing I want to add here comes from Rachel Pollack:

“As the highest number, the Tens signify being filled with the quality of the suit… in cups we find joy and the wonder of life spread across the sky.”

Different decks

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RWS

The Rider Waite Smith deck depicts the ten of cups as a normative family – mum, dad, son and daughter – rejoicing under a rainbow of cups. The parents have their arms around each other and the children are dancing. This is clearly intended to be a picture of harmony and a happy, loving family. A river and the green green grass suggest abundance and wealth, but remember we are with cups here so this is different to pentacle style wealth, this is emotional fulfilment and stability. The house is pictured but instead of being a physical asset that highlights security, here it signifies the feeling of clan – it is people who make a home.

“The Ten is the grand finale of the Cup’s emotional ups and downs; this couple has been together through some crazy twists and turns, yet they have wound up here, enjoying a pretty day.”
– Michelle Tea

Michelle notes that it is a simple scene and yet that is what makes this card so wonderful – finding fulfilment and inspiration and magic in the everyday. Take time to pause and breathe and enjoy the peace and abundance around you.

Tarot of the Pagan Cats

Unusually, this pagan cats card is notably different to the RWS version. These cats are inside the home, playing with a rainbow flag draped in the background. We still have the two adult cats and two kittens but because it’s cats and not people, we side step the heteronormative image.

The LWB says the following, which feels a little strange to me:

“Happy home. R. Presenting a false face to the world.”

Normally the reversed meaning of a card hints more to the opposite meaning whereas here we seem to be dealing with two slightly different interpretations of the ten of cups. Neither feel wrong but they don’t seem to gel very well. It’s almost as if on one side we have the head of a 10p coin and then we flip it and suddenly we’re looking at the tail of a 2p…

Leaning into each meaning separately, I think we can see that the happy home side of things fits very well with the traditional RWS version – note that they’ve used home and not house here, we are looking at those relationships and meanings and feelings that make up a home. The reverse meaning, presenting a false face to the world, makes me think that the cats are less happy and fulfilled and more focused on ‘keeping up with the jones’s’, something we all know does not lead to a happy ending.

I wonder if this reversed meaning is leaning more to an inauthentic experience of the happy nuclear family from the RWS and how actually, it’s better to feel fulfilled in whatever way is right for you, even (and arguably especially) if it doesn’t look like the rest of the world’s idea of happiness. Tied into this you could read the rainbow as the flag of the LGBT movement – perhaps this card is validation that your own version of family is just as worthy or legitimate as the stereotypical man, woman and 2.4 children.

Wild Unknown

I think I’ve said before that I like the way this deck doesn’t include humans. It’s all much freer in it’s ideas about what we should do and what society expects us to do. Because there are no humans, or animals, in this image, we can think more widely about the concept of home and family that we saw in the other cards. Here we can be thinking about found family and the homes that we create for ourselves which may not actually be buildings. We create communities online and they are just as valuable and just as much your home and family as the bricks and mortar that you might have grown up in.

This card shows a beautiful symmetry, with the top cups, or outer cups filling the bottom, or inner, cups with light and love and rainbows. Just as white light is made of all the colours of light, so too here, joy and love is made of all the different aspects of the rainbow, or aspects of life. Whilst the other cards have featured rainbows, it feels as if here we have a much stronger reminder that rainbows are the union of sun and rain, of love and pain. Light and darkness are depicted in what feels like equal amounts. This version of the ten of cups is not saying that when you reach this point in life, you will be trouble free. It is much more about having the inner and outer resources to cope and get through the harder times.

Lumina

Magnetic fulfilment. Abounding love.

Comparing the imagery for the wild unknown and lumina, we find in both a symmetry. Where the cups from the wild unknown represent both the inner and outer worlds, the butterflies in the lumina do the same. The inner reflects the outer and the outer reflects the inner, they are beautifully entwined. In the wild unknown it is the rainbow which unites them and we will see shortly that the butterfly has a similar role in that the butterfly effect highlights the interconnectedness of the world, and of our inner and outer selves.

The guide for the lumina tarot suggests we pause, take a breath and notice that we have reached the place we were striving for. Our live is full and, having trusted our path and our intuition, we have found our destination. This is a card of abundance, of love, of gratitude and joy. A card which feels like all our loved ones, our made or found family, are holding us in their arms. We are safe here and we are both loved and loving. It also says that “you are a guiding light and an inspiration for what it is to step into your power and truth and become who you know you are”. This is not an easy journey. To become who you are, regardless of what the world says or does to you, takes immense strength, you must face challenges with courage and work through the hard times. But the reward will be so sweet if you do.

On the flip side, maybe this card has shown up for you because you are not following your path, you are not carving your own way and are letting the world push you in a different direction. It is so easily done but to follow other peoples plans and expectations will not result in happiness. Perhaps you are on the career path and are automatically climbing and climbing, seeking prestige and money, when actually the job you most enjoyed was two rungs down. This may be a time to look at why you are making certain decisions and what it is that truly sets you aflame, that inspires your heart and your soul and brings you to life. Often this is not what the world expects from you, but that is ok. At the end of the day, if you are doing what you love, your friends and found family will see that and love you for your courage and honesty and you will set something alight in them too.

General thoughts

For a very different depiction of the ten of cups try the Mary El Tarot, it definitely doesn’t portray a nuclear family! Beth also shows us a number of other interpretations for this card which may chime with you more than the RWS version.

Key words in my little white book include:

happy ending, contentment, alignment, radiating energy, overflowing, positivity, excitement, light, flow, love and support, relationship harmony, emotional fulfilment, wholeness, connectedness and interconnectedness, you do you, go for what makes you happy, live honestly, acknowledge who you are and what you love

Questions to ask yourself might include: what does family look like to you? What does home look like? What does the good life mean to you? What does success look like for you?

Associations

Mars in Pisces

The astrological correspondence for the ten of cups is mars in pisces, a fiery planet infusing watery pisces with energy. This suggests strong and powerful emotions are at play and mars can lend energy to Piscean imagination and compassion.

Pisces is a mutable sign and, especially in the wild unknown card, we can see the dance between pulling in energy and putting it out into the world, a dance between the inner and outer that helps to align both worlds. The balance of giving and receiving and the reward of being and feeling authentic when your outer self aligns with your inner self.

A low expression of mars in pisces can be going with the flow and not taking any initiative yourself – this might be the case if the card has shown up reversed or if you are following other people’s idea of your life path. Not knowing what you want can be another characteristic of mars in pisces and if you don’t have an idea about where you are going it’s going to be pretty hard to get there. Perhaps this card has shown up to encourage you to dip into that mars active energy to help you set a goal or figure out what you want.

Alyssa Trahan uses the analogy of white light being made up of all the other colours being equivalent to pisces being made up of the other signs. Given the rainbow symbolism it felt relevant to mention this.

Butterflies and Moths

As well as considering butterflies, I’m going to look at moths as they are so similar but also because I think considering them together sheds additional light on both of them.

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The mother butterfly essentially exists for her potential children. Once she has emerged from her chrysalis, she is very focused on mating and then laying her eggs in the perfect place. She will die before she sees her children but that doesn’t stop her loving them intensely. She looks for a spot where her babies will have the best food and the best chance in life.

Often the butterfly card brings with it a message around change but in the context of the ten of cups it feels more like we have been through the painful process of metamorphosis and we are reaping the rewards. Earlier cards in this suit depict the pain and suffering and turmoil necessary to reach this amazing, fulfilling place. You have been on one hell of a journey and now you get to pause and enjoy the benefits.

Butterflies are associated with joy and happiness and seen as wish carriers and dream bringers.

“Butterflies live so deeply in the moment of being that they can conquer time itself”
– Matthew Oates

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Where butterflies give us to positive side of the ten of cups, the moths show us the shadow side.

Moths are drawn to light but unnatural lighting is drawing them away from their path just as consumerism and capitalism can draw us away from ours. We search for something which will fill the hole in our soul and end up trying to fill it with materialistic possessions that we use to declare our status. Think back to the idea with the pagan cats of keeping up with the jones’s…

Spend some time with the moth and the butterfly as you reassess what you want from life, where you want your own unique path to go. Refind your sense of self, rediscover your passions and your values.

Pause, breathe and be aware of burning out because you are living someone else’s life.

Ten of Wands

Wands and Fire

Wands are associated with fire and with the hot, passionate energy that comes with it.  This is a suit of ambition, ideas, creativity, the sparks that excite us and brings us alive.  They are inspiration and electric.  A person who can fire off a thousand exciting ideas is one expression of fire energy.  Because of the intense nature of fire, burn out is a real possibility with this suit.  Other things to be on the look out for are impulsiveness, illusions and not following things through.

As you’ll read below, in some decks the wands are referred to as branches, sticks, staves and batons, all of which bring with them particular connotations.  The first two feel to me like they are viewing the wands as something which is growing and reaching out and the latter two feel more like something static to hold onto.  Both make sense in the context but do give the reader a different angle with which to lean into the cards.  The former feels like a flame flickering and getting bigger as ideas and inspiration come and the latter feels more like a steady, strong flame.

Tens

As we saw with the ten of swords, the tens are about endings and beginnings, the natural conclusion of the suit.  If we look to the five of wands in the wild unknown tarot, we find a card with very similar imagery; again there is darkness and scattered wands although with the five it feels more like they are falling and in the ten as though they have fallen.  This gives the five a bit more hopefulness – there is the chance to regain control, to catch the falling pieces and gather yourself up.  In other decks, the five depicts people using the wands to fight with; there is a struggle but there is a chance of winning.  Learntarot.com tells us that the five and ten of wands are reinforcing cards and its clear to see why.

Another ten to consider is the ten from the Major Arcana, that is the Wheel of Fortune, another card about starting again, about turning the wheel, about moving forward.  As I’ve said already, I’ll probably be doing a post about the Wheel of Fortune at some point so we might find a bit more light shed on the ten cards then.

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Left to right: Tarot of the Pagan Cats, Wild Unknown, Lumina

Different decks

RWS

“My shoulders hurt just thinking about this card.  The figure clutches a cumbersome bunch of wands in the most awkward way possible, limping painfully into their future.”
– Michelle Tea

Tea goes on to ask why the person is insisting on carrying them so awkwardly, why aren’t they using a cart or asking friends.  One theory she posits is that the person felt they knew best and got themselves into a difficult situation and are too proud to ask for help or admit that other people might have known better.  Perhaps this person is a martyr, insisting on doing everything for himself and possibly moaning about it as well – I’m sure we all know someone like that!  There are different reasons why someone might act that way – they might struggle to ask for or accept help or they might think they are the only person who can do something or do it right.  In fact, there are very few things where you are irreplaceable.

This idea of being irreplaceable is one that our culture likes to encourage.  The idea that we are all so important that no one can do what we do or at least not as well as us.  But for me, the realisation that this is a myth, really freed me up.  I would martyr myself, struggling to work through intense pain, because I believed this myth.  I believed that it mattered that I was in work every day and that if I wasn’t something terrible – no idea what – was going to happen.  The reality is that very few of us have roles which are so vital.  And whilst this can feel like a harsh lesson, it also shows us that we don’t need to break ourselves trying to chase after the goals of a consumerist society.  We don’t need to buy into the idea that being busy all the time makes us good human beings.  This card is asking us to look at our motivations.  Why are we doing x,y or z?  Can we do things differently?  Are other people perhaps more suited to the task or might have valuable insight that can help us?

Tarot of the Pagan Cats

The LWB says, of the ten of wands:

“Carrying a large or many burdens.  Reversed: Being overwhelmed by burdens.”

Whilst the imagery is similar to the RWS deck, the cat seems to be struggling significantly less, in fact a case could be made that the cat is handling her burdens with grace.  The house she is approaching is not too far away and there is a clear path for her to follow.  This suggest that the cat has thought things through a bit more than the character we find in the RWS deck.  She has accepted her burden but she has set things up in such a way as to minimise the impact and she is heading towards home where help may lie.

Wild Unknown

The Wild Unknown card for the ten of wands shows a pile of wands, tangled and messy, against a dark, almost rainy background.  This is chaos.  Where the RWS and pagan cats showed the reader in control or at least handling their burdens, this version shows the struggle to corral them and what happens when you drop them all.  It feels a bit like herding a group of cats or taming wild horses.  It is hard to see what move to make next.

Perhaps you have too many things on the go or are overextending yourself, maybe you are afflicted with too many ideas or your enthusiasm and zest has imploded.  One of the downsides of wands is that the passion and inspiration can come without structure and the process to see things through.  This card could be calling you to create a plan and clarify your goals.  Add some good thinking air energy and so practical earth energy to your endeavours.  This might look like getting other people in to help or it might be about channelling different aspects of yourself.  Whatever it looks like, you probably aren’t going to get far if you just rely on wand energy.

“Do one thing well”
Beth, Little Red Tarot

Look at how you manage your workload, break things down into smaller tasks, prioritise, let things go, look at how and where you are leaking energy.  And look after yourself as well.  You can’t do the work you are here to do if you are burnt out and exhausted.

Lumina

As with previous card explorations I am going to discuss the fox symbolism a little later and see if it adds any specific insight into this card.  In the meantime, for the ten of wands, the lumina deck tells us to accept the support of others.  I don’t feel that the imagery here really conveys this as strongly as I find in other decks but we have already seen that carrying burdens can become difficult alone.  We can have so many ideas and wonderful visions but sometimes we need the support of other people to share the workload or to bring in different talents and expertise.  Carrying everything can lead to burn out and the spark of the wands that once excited us goes out.

As a ten card, the ten of swords reiterates completion and the cumulation of work resulting in achievement.  As a wand card, it is full of energy and you may feel inspired and excited about the future, about the next project.  But you may also experience overwhelm from the choices ahead of you.

I sometimes see the fox on this card as coming across a little smug.  He is sitting on his pile of wands, proud of his achievements and bolstered by them.  But he cannot leave his previous projects to start gathering new ones without leaving the old ones.  Are you stagnated by your success?  Are you holding onto what you have achieved, feeling rightly proud but also tethered to the past?  It feels to me a little like an artist who has accumulated a number of works of which she is proud but her attachment to them, and to the approach and style she completed them with, is holding her back and preventing her from trying out new styles and ways of working.

General thoughts

In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, my little white book also says that the ten of wands could be about:

Not feeling at peace with yourself * success that has little reward, for example something that has material gain but spiritual loss * how can I see the bigger picture? * see the support around you, let people in, be vulnerable * take responsibility * immaturity * a failure to understand one’s place in the world

I recently purchased Rachel Pollack’s The New Tarot: Modern Variations of Ancient Images which has examples of tarot cards from a multitude of decks.  One in particular caught my eye with its illustration of the ten of wands.  It was ‘A Poet’s Tarot’ from Jesse Cougar and the wands are referred to as sticks and her ten of sticks includes what Pollack describes as “a sense of fantasy in the snaking branches”.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find the image online to link to but it is of a forest with intertwining trees and twisting branches, hinting towards a similar meaning as the wild unknown card.  I found the word fantasy interesting here and with everything else we know about the card, I feel this maybe referring to an element of self delusion.

Something that Beth from Little Red Tarot suggests is that feeling burdened is not necessarily the same as being burdened.  We often take on other people’s issues and burdens and forget that we can put them down. For women in particular there is this feeling that we need to smooth everything over, make everything ok for everyone else and this can be a heavy weight to carry.  If this chimes with you, you may want to read about emotional labour.  Compassion fatigue and activist burnout are also areas which may be applicable to your current situation.  Know that you are not alone and you cannot support others if you do not first support yourself, even if this means you have to put down other people’s burdens.

“Sometimes, to become empowered, we have to reach a dark rock bottom first, and sometimes we have to acknowledge that for all of our radical power, we too are human and flawed.”
Cassandra Snow

Alongside this idea of emotional labour and compassion fatigue come the words I must/ I should/ I have to/ it is my duty and so on.  We are conditioned to feel a sense of duty, particularly as women, but these are pressures which come from outside ourselves.  Beth talks about this in her post on the ten of wands and discusses the idea that we don’t HAVE to.  Instead we can reframe things.  Turn I should into I could and suddenly a statement becomes more of a question.  If you are saying I need to or I have to all the time, experiment with what happens if you change it to I am excited to or I want to.  These are not indulgent ideas, they are crucial for preventing burnout.

Pause.

Breathe.

Let your self-loving breath reignite your fire.

Associations

Saturn in Sagittarius

Helpfully this week in In The Stars, we’re looking at Saturn and I have Saturn in Sagittarius so I’ve been able to reflect on this quite personally and in more detail that I might have otherwise.  Basically put, we have a planet that tends to be association with constriction, with discipline and a zodiac sign which is about expansion so we have a bit of an uneasy combination here.  We could also view this as finding a balance between freedom and commitment, between new ideas and following through with existing plans.

Sagittarius is a sign that’s looking to learn, to expand, to move forward – it’s symbolised by an arrow after all – but we have the discipline of Saturn here which guides that arrow to a more focused place.  Instead of trying to master everything all at once, Saturn in Sagittarius suggests that focusing on one thing at a time might be a better option in this situation.  Instead of clumsily carrying all the wands and dropping them (as has happened in the wild unknown card), maybe picking up one at a time will be a more helpful approach.  Saturn also brings structure to Sagittarius, perhaps you need a routine or a project plan to help you achieve what you want.

Another way of reading the symbolism of Saturn in Sagittarius with the ten of wands is around meaninglessness and loss of ambition.  There can be self doubt which becomes paralysing and if Sagittarius is not allowed to expand and head forward, they can become disheartened and frustrated and feel a sense of pointlessness.  Whilst you might not be able to do ten things at once, make sure you’re doing one thing and do it well.

Other

The Thoth tarot calls this card Oppression and indeed, the heavy burden being carried can be read to be oppressive but perhaps here we are also looking at the burdens we carry because of society such as the emotional labour mentioned above.  This is not an individual burden, instead it is one shared by oppressed groups.

I went looking to find out if the associated plant or crystals etc would shed any further light on this card but the only associated plant I found was Prickly Ash Bark which I’ve never heard of.  That being said anything which is prickly feels appropriate here!  This card is filled with ideas that can be difficult to handle and challenges which can potential rip through us and shred us.

Fox

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Left to right: Animal Allies, Medicine Cards, Wild Unknown Animal Spirit Cards

We have three very different looking foxes here.  The medicine card fox is skinny and feels to me like it belongs in a desert.  The wild unknown fox is glowing and seems sure of himself to me, possibly with an edge of conceitedness.  And the animal allies fox is looking us in the eye and knows how good looking he is and what fantastically bushing and vibrant fur he has.  It is almost as though we have the fox in three different life stages – the medicine card fox is young, the wild unknown fox is a teenager or in early adulthood and the animal allies fox has the confidence of a fully grown adult who knows his place the world and is sure of himself.  With this in mind, it feels like the foxes are illustrating the journey that the ten of wands is inviting us to take.

We start off young and naïve, sure of ourselves even when we shouldn’t be and inevitably we overdo things and that shows in the unsure eyes and the skinniness of the young fox.  He has been overly confident and now is questioning that.  Having experienced that and learnt to ask for and receive help, the teenage fox is basking in the glow of his successes, achieved because he took on board those lessons.  He asked for advice and support from those around him and because of it he saw things through but it seems as though perhaps he isn’t confident sharing the limelight here, he isn’t ready to say that he needed help or that he couldn’t have come so far alone.  Earlier I said that in my own LWB I have written “a failure to understand one’s place in the world” and whilst I can’t remember why I wrote that in my book, I do feel as though the adult fox has worked through his stuff and come out the other side understanding the interconnectedness of the world and through that, his own place.  He has matured and grown as he has taken on board the lessons of the ten of wands.

Mira Sol Wisdom says, of the ten of wands:

“Where once there was momentum moving forward with a goal, this is a time where one has really slowed down and starting to feel the burden of their own creation. This is right about the time where pushing through is most necessary. At one time of immaturity it would have been easy to give up at this point.”

It is this journey of growing up that we see with our three fox cards.  The excitable energy of youth, flitting from shiny toy to shiny toy slowly becomes a more sustained interest in seeing things through and basking in the glory and over time, we may come to realise that it is the team which should be receiving the recognition and that drawing attention to team achievements does not negate our own involvement.  We can say the team did well and not lose our own place in the world or the project.  Indeed, in my own experience, being acknowledged for work done as part of a team can feel more authentic and enjoyable.

Another way to lean into the fox imagery on the ten of wands is as a medicine to the situation.  The fox is often considered to be quick witted and cunning, thinking about what is coming.  Perhaps channelling this energy will help you to be more decisive and become better at planning the next move.  The wild unknown fox is part of the earth suit so may also be able to offer some groundedness to the excitable fire of the ten of wands.  It could steady the flame and reduce the risk of burn out.

The Japanese folklore about shapeshifting foxes echoes the potential for illusion and delusion with this card and one of Aesop’s fables shows the fox to be prideful, something we definitely see in the ten of wands.

To complete the series, I’m going to take a look at the ten of cups and then I will get onto the long promised, and much mentioned, Wheel of Fortune card.

Ten of pentacles

Having had so much fun investigating the ten of swords, I decided I would start investigating the wheel of fortune, what with it being a ten card. I approached Oephebia about it and she said it had already been taken for this year but that the ten of pentacles and ten of wands were both available if I wanted to take on a second card.  I most definitely did and I picked up a deck and flicked through until I found the ten of wands or pentacles, whichever came first was going to steer my choice.  Ten of pentacles it is!

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Left to right: Wild Unknown, Pagan Cats, Lumina 

Pentacles/ Earth

The pentacles and the element earth with which they are associated are about worldly things, things you can own or touch.  This extends to your body and your health but also includes home, money, career, resources and a practical, pragmatic approach to life.  It is a grounded energy that tends to the aspects of daily life such as health maintenance and food.  This suit embodies the idea that a flourishing outer world extends from a flourishing inner world.  Putting on your own oxygen mask in on a plane before helping others is a high expression of pentacle energy. This is helping and being generous with yourself but tending to self first in order to do this.  However, greed and possessiveness are a lower expression.

With the pentacles there is also the practical realisation of dreams, the work that you put in to get what you want. It is about manifestation and productivity.

Tens

As we saw with the ten of swords, the tens are about endings and beginnings, the natural conclusion of the suit.

I find it interesting to look to the five of a suit, a half way point on the longer journey.  With pentacles, the five is about struggle, scarcity and not seeing what you have.  We work through this, we open our eyes to our abundance and we put in the work we need to build a solid foundation, to build the life we want.  There is a weariness to the five of pentacles and we might want to give up and give in but the light in the darkness is the wealth that comes with the ten.  Keep going even if you feel like you can’t.  There are times to quit and times to power through, this could well be the latter.

Another ten to consider is the ten from the Major Arcana, that is the Wheel of Fortune, another card about starting again, about turning the wheel, about moving forward.  As I’ve said already, I’ll probably be doing a post about the Wheel of Fortune at some point so we might find a bit more light shed on the ten cards then.

Different decks

Rider Waite Smith

In the RWS ten of pentacles, the foreground pictures and older man feeding or playing with two dogs, two adults in conversation with a small child pulling at the robe of one of the adults.  We seem to be in a market place or a town.  The scene is taking place in front of an arch, behind which are a range of buildings.  Ten pentacles are superimposed over the top in a symmetrical pattern.

Key words include affluence, permanence and convention and a traditional interpretation tends to view it as physical wealth, business success and maintaining this status quo. The Thoth tarot calls this the wealth card.

There is an air of prosperity in the village or town, not just in the people featured, which suggests a generosity, a sharing of wealth.  This is echoed somewhat in the old man who seems to be well off and I feel has been drawn with respect, this suggests a valuing of knowledge and experience, not just money.

I like Carrie Mallon’s observation that the card illustrates a passing down of security from generation to generation.  This could be in the form of physical or financial inheritance but it might also be in terms of wisdom.  Or perhaps the card could be asking us to turn to our elders in our quest to build stability and create abundance in our lives.

Tarot of Pagan Cats

The tarot of the pagan cats echoes this with a large cat – a fat cat if you will – laying in an opulent courtyard, a smaller cat at its feel and a couple of cats – one black, one white – interacting in the background.  The pentacles in this case are ten different symbols over the archway.

The LWB tells us this card means a stable and abundant life.  The description suggests less of the financial wealth of the RWS card and a more holistic idea of wealth.  Does anyone know what the symbols over the archway mean?  I know that left to right, the first four are earth, air, fire and water, possibly the fifth is the sun and the next three could be moon cycles but I’m really not sure…  If this is the case, it feels like we are being given all the aspects of life that we need – the magic of the different moon phases, all the elements and the power of the sun.  There is nothing more we need, we have security and the knowledge that we are safe and secure in what we have.

The Wild Unknown

The Wild Unknown has a circular rainbow with 9 large pentacles and one small pentacle right inside the central pentacle.  I like this, I like that you have to work a little bit to see all that you have.  This for me feels like a better angle for reading the card, one more fitting for this deck.  Pay attention to the details around you, don’t take things for granted.

As with most of the cards, I find the wild unknown take much more inspiring.  We are surrounded by abundance – the colours of the rainbow could perhaps be the equivalent of the symbols on the pagan cats – but no one is dictating what the aspects of abundance are.  For some people, to be surrounded by family might feel like contentment, for others it might be having the luxury of time alone.  And the need to look closer to see all you have really speaks to me.

I enjoy Carrie Mallon’s interpretations of the wild unknown cards and the words she has chosen for the ten of pentacles are stability and establishment.  Having spent the previous nine cards of the suit creating and achieving what you need, you can now pause.  You have established the life you want to live and have the things which make you content, you have created a solid foundation.  Note, this doesn’t mean you see them or feel them, you may need to stop and look instead of always future gazing.

Unlike in the ten of swords, this is a time to embrace the status quo, this is not a time for rushing forward and moving on.  Pause.  Enjoy.

Lumina Tarot

I love the image on this card!  It has a bear’s head with a bee resting on it’s forehead or third eye.  It is greyscale except for the ten golden pentacles surrounding the bear.  As with the ten of swords, I will explore the symbolism of this more later.

This time the keywords are joyful abundance and connection.  It is about satisfaction, appreciation for our life’s journey and gratitude for what we have.  The deck suggests that we create rituals to celebrate completion of particular journeys and phases as well as acknowledging that challenges and setbacks build us and help us to grow.  It also notes that what we have achieved may look very different to what we set out to achieve and that is ok.  Like all cards this could be read conversely as suggesting that you are not being grateful or not acknowledging how far you have come. We can get stuck in what we want to do and forget to look at what we have done.

General thoughts

Having looked at the decks, there are inevitably some common threads and I find pulling out questions can be a helpful way to help others read for themselves.  With this card some of these could include:

How can you use your success to help others? What can’t you live without?  What does success look like to you?  How are you tending to the details of your health and life?  What part of your life makes you feel richest?  What does security look like to you?  What have you inherited from previous generations?  How are you practising gratitude for what you have?  How are you working towards what you don’t have?  What are your values in life?

The card is speaking to the blessings in your life, to your relationship with abundance, to how you work towards or have worked towards fulfilment, whatever that looks like to you.  And that last bit is important here.  To find the richness of the ten of pentacles, you must be travelling along and honouring your true soul path instead of doing what you think you should be doing or what other people are telling you you should be doing.  If you follow other people’s paths, you might well find you harvest a bumper crop financially and physically but what of your emotional and spiritual wellbeing?  This can mean that the ten of pentacles is speaking to you more of how you heal yourself, how you align your inner world with your outer world.  As we’ll see, the associated mercury in virgo has aspects of this tending to your health and body, your emotions and your spirit.

Things you might want to reflect on are your confidence regarding your place in the world, your need for security vs your need for risk and adventure.  Also think about how you can further about yourself to experience the hidden ordinary magic.

Unlike the ten of swords, the ten of pentacles is the accumulation of the suit ending on a high note.  Michelle Tea says of it that “it is affirming that you’ve done the right thing, taken the correct actions, and made the best decisions, and the proof is in the very life you’re living… you’ve integrated your past achievements and their material payoffs into your life.  You’ve accumulated enough emotional and material security to trust that it’s not going anywhere.”

The ten of pentacles associations

Mercury in Virgo

Mercury is the messenger of the gods, it is a communicator, an archetype of perceiving and transmitting, taking in and putting out.  There can be an eloquence with this sign.

Then we have virgo, a sign which is detail orientated and also known for being of service.  Whilst these characteristics tend to be interpreted as perfectionist and helper in pop astrology, we can also see this as being meticulous and good at tending to the day to day.  There is an often overlooked aspect of tending to oneself, the day to day aspects of looking after yourself and others.  The detail part of this sign can be seen in the daily brushing of teeth and fuelling your body through carefully chosen nutrients.  Doing the little acts of self care even when you can’t see an immediate change.  These acts accumulate and this is how virgo’s attention to detail shines.  As an earth sign, virgo can be cautious, moving on a slower time scale than other signs.  Here I feel like we have an association that perceives, that observes, the details of life – the little things which some people overlook – the smaller bricks that make a life.  Ten of pentacles asks us to engage in small acts of attention and small acts of doing, both of which will build over time to create a gratitude and a security respectively.

Other associations

I didn’t have any plants noted specifically in my little white book (where I collect all my thoughts and notes about tarot) so I did a bit of googling and found that this card is linked with:

Black tourmaline, copper, emerald, fossils, geodes, granite, jade, iron, jet, haematite, lodestone, roots and wild yam

I don’t know a lot about the properties of different crystals but these are feel strong and tough, hard to break, excellent qualities for the foundation we build through the suit of pentacles.  Roots and the root vegetable yam are another kind of foundation.  Not an architectural one but a more natural one.  The roots of trees are what stop it from falling over in a storm.  The roots of the yam seek out the daily water and nutrients which let it life and grow.  We have the physical foundation or secure base of our home, the security of regular food and water, our health which may or may not feel secure.  We are looking here at our needs and how safe and stable we feel with these and how we could work to strengthen the foundations of the needs.

The bears and the bees

Sorry, couldn’t resist…

Bear

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Left to right: Animal Allies, Wild Unknown, Medicine Cards

For the lumina tarot, the symbolic animal for pentacles is bear and I love the bear, and the bee actually, so this has been a really fun post for me.  One of the things I really like about the bear is the paradox or duality inherent here.  We have the mama bear who loves her cubs gently and wholeheartedly.  But we also have the fierce, protective mother who would kill to protect those she loves.  Learning how to hold contradictions and dualities is an important part of life and for me has been helpful for firming up my mental health.  Knowing I can be happy and sad and that one does not invalidate the other has been an important lesson for me.

But what does this have to do with the ten of pentacles you ask?  Well, holding those paradoxes with peace is one way of creating a foundation for your inner world.  Knowing that life is filled with happy and sad moments and that these do not contradict or invalidate each other even when they are concurrent is a way that we can hold onto something stable even in the most unstable situation.

There is also a strong grounding aspect to the bear, they are very in tune with the cycles of nature – life the cycles of the wheel of fortune – and can teach us the benefit of going with the flow, embracing changes instead of fighting against them.  For a card that has inherent contradictions, it is probably no surprise that alongside going with the flow and the cycles of change, we are also invited to pause – to hibernate – and rest and just be, something that the ten of pentacles encourages as well.

Bee

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Left to right: Wild Unknown, Animal Allies

If you know nothing about the symbolic meaning of bees, you probably still know they are hard workers.  Busy as a bee.  They are the embodiment of the work ethic that builds the foundation we see in the ten of pentacles.  They, like the ten of pentacles, are manifesting abundance.

In my post about the wild unknown bee card I wrote that bees have sensory hairs which can determine wind speed and direction and they can see UV light which means they see the world differently to us.  Flowers appear even more beautiful for the bee, pause and appreciate their magnificence, such a ten of pentacles message.

Where the bear is both loving and aggressive, the bee is both honey and the sting.  This feels like a prompt to consider perspective within the context of the ten of pentacles, a reminder that what we have depends on what we see and don’t see.

I hope this, along with the ten of swords, has given you some flavour of the ten cards in tarot and how some are the manifestation of positivity and others the accumulation of the negative.  Both have valuable lessons for us and both can help us grow, develop and enhance our lives.

10 of Swords, part two

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Part one looked at the meanings of swords, tens and considered a few portrayals of the ten of swords.  Today I’ll be looking at a few things associated with the ten of cards, including the symbolism of the buffalo and vulture which we see in the wild unknown and lumina decks. Consider this to be the equivalent of a person’s clothing. They do not dictate or change a person, but instead they are another way they can express their personality and are a way of an outsider seeing inside a person. These aspects are taken secondary to the areas discussed in the previous post but certainly they add depth to our reading and give us more to ponder and to question.

The ten of swords associations

Now I’m going to be looking more widely at who the ten of swords is, using the four cards I’ve already described. Once I’ve done this, I’m going to return to the Wild Unknown and Lumina and see what else we can gleam from them by looking at what the featured animals represent.

Whilst the cards all portray the idea differently, we clearly have a pattern of bleakness, of pain and of devastation in one way or another.

Sun in Gemini

The ten of swords is associated with the sun in gemini and this chimes very nicely with the idea of the play and telling, performing or watching stories. Gemini is the storyteller, the communicator and with this we are given the creative gift to retell or repaint our lives and stories. Where the card itself is bleak and dire, we have the tools to make the light shine. We just have to chose to. We can keep retelling our misery to ourselves, or we can start to tell new stories about who we are and who the world is.

Another way of leaning into this association is that because gemini is a quick sign, has lots of ideas and interests and sees lots of sides to a situation, you can end up overthinking or getting stuck in idea overload unable to make a decision. You can be so busy thinking and learning and perceiving that you can’t concentrate on one thing, your mind and eyes get caught by something interesting over there…

Ephedra

Somewhere along the way I wrote Ephedra in my little white book next to the ten of swords along with a note about how it’s a plant which has defied extinction. I don’t want to go into too much detail about a plant you’ve probably never heard of but…

It’s been around for a very very long time – at least since the early cretaceous period (145 million years ago – 100.5 million years ago) but it nearly went extinct around 66 million years ago (when the dinosaurs were wiped out) but escaped. Based on fossil observations, it’s thought that this group of plants saved themselves by shifting from predominantly insect pollination systems to wind based systems.  The plant shows us the need to keep changing, evolving, adapting and moving forward.

Unrelated interesting, at least to me, Ephedra, as the name suggests, gives us ephedrine, a compound which can be used to treat asthma, narcolepsy and respiratory conditions although ephedra plants have been used to treat illness as far back as 5000BC.  What medicine does the ten of swords gift you?

The Buffalo and the Vulture

The Buffalo

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Left to right: Animal Allies, Medicine Cards and Wild Unknown Animal Oracle

The Wild Unknown Animal Oracle Guidebook tells us that the buffalo is grounded yet heavenly, practical yet spiritual. When this medicine is in balance it is trusting, pure presence. When out of balance it is restless, lacks gratitude.

The buffalo is a symbol of abundance and being grateful for what you are receiving.  They are strong yet gentle, sturdy and grounded but is also spiritual.  Because they provided for the indigenous population of america, they were a way of attaining security.  They used all the parts of the buffalo and thanked them for their gift, because of the generosity of the buffalo they were seen as sacred, sacrificed.  How are we treating those who sacrifice for us?  Are we thankful?  Or do we react by exploiting their offerings?  In the context of the ten of swords, I am wondering if a kind ear has become over used as we recite every hurt we’ve ever received?  There is a time and a place for that and it is a valid way of healing but don’t abuse the generosity of others.  And don’t take without giving.  Share your abundance as well as your pains.

The medicine card buffalo is associated with prayer and abundance, again it is the giving thanks for what we have and what we receive.  Instead of listing our woes, perhaps we list the things that we are grateful for.  Again, I want to stress, this doesn’t mean you can’t feel your hurts or process your worries, but we privileged negativity over positivity and they can co-exist.  Just as the buffalo is both grounded and of the heavens.

“Buffalo… You bring us, the gifts of life. Hear our prayers, smoke rising, like phoenix, we are reborn, within the scared words.”
Sams and Carson

The Vulture

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For the vulture, the Wild Unknown Guidebook has the keywords guardian and purifier and notes that it is essential for rebalance. When in balance this medicine clarifies and reveals wisdom. When out of balance, it is dramatic and aggressive.

It can be hard to see why we should like a vulture, but if you look closely enough and give it time, you can find that they are fascinating and vital to our planet. Perhaps when we think of the ten of swords then, we are creating space to find a silver lining. To reach it, you need to work though some dark and heavy preconceptions, complex emotions, an unfounded hatred perhaps but this work that you’re putting in, that is what will make the reward feel so much more powerful. You will gain wisdom if you seek to know the vulture.

Change, like the vulture, has a bad reputation.  But both can be important to cleaning up, to cleansing and purifying the self and the environment.  The vulture cleans up after others and keeps our planet, and us, healthy.

Although the vulture only appears on one of the ten of swords I looked at, it feels appropriate for a sword card.  The belief that they have excellent eyesight means they have been thought to be able to see into the future.  With all the thoughts, imaginations and worries of the swords, this suit can also, if they wish, peer into the future, although they may find themselves dwelling on the past instead…

With the vulture, and the ten of swords, we have a theme of death and rebirth, hitting rock bottom and moving forward.  There is an aspect of renewal to both. However painful and difficult the death is to experience, it will allow something new to come into being.

Linked to the idea of birth, the vulture is associated with mothering and given how tricky the ten of swords can be, this is certainly a time to take care of yourself.

Whilst there is so much I could say about the ten of swords, I think it’s important that you find your own relationship with the cards and I hope that something in what I’ve written will chime with you and set you off on your own path.  Different ways in work for different people but once you’ve found your own, there can be an amazing journey ahead of you.

I’m going to leave you with two links, both about tarot and poetry that I couldn’t resist including:

10 of Swords, part one

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Left to right: Tarot of the Pagan Cats, The Wild Unknown Tarot, Lumina Tarot

I got an email in the middle of June asking if I was interested in taking part in an investigation into the tarot cards ahead of International Tarot Day.  I most definitely was and I was also intrigued as to which card I would be assigned – the universe can work in wonderfully intriguing ways.  Anyway.   The card was the 10 of swords.  And earlier that week I had done a spread with a deck I rarely use and had got a very puzzling 10 of swords card so it was already on my mind and I jumped right in!

The way I get to know a random card is different to how I get to know a card when it’s come up in a reading.  In the latter I’ll describe it, might attempt a drawing and will see what leaps out and what speaks to me that day.  To get to know a card in detail like I’m doing today, I approach it from a few angles.  I look at the suit and the number and I look at it across a number of decks.  Once I’ve done that I might then have a look at astrological associations and the symbolism of the elements of the cards.  So with that in mind, let’s get to know the ten of swords.

Swords/Air

Swords are the suit of the air, of the mind, of communication and the mental realm.  They are about matters of logic, knowledge and ambition.  Strategy and planning, truth and justice are all sword qualities.  Swords are about learning and thinking but as they are about the inner mind, they also deal with worries and nightmares, the shadow side of all that thinking energy.  This suit, like the swords that represent them, have two edges; light and shadow.  Creation and destruction.  Imagination and anxiety.  Decisiveness and indecision.

Being air cards, they are often depicted using feathers, birds and other creatures of the sky although the examples we’ll be coming onto contradict this.

Tens

Tens are about endings and beginnings.  With the ten of swords, we find a very dramatic, painful end.  We have hit rock bottom, but that only leaves us with one way to go.  We have completed a journey and are now getting ready to move on, to go beyond and to start something new with the wisdom we’ve found.

I find it interesting to look to the five of a suit, a half way point on the longer journey.  With swords, the five depicts chaos.  Too many ideas, too many directions and getting stuck because of this.  Too many thoughts result in non action with the five of swords and in the ten of swords we see these thoughts come to destroy us.

Another ten to consider is the ten from the Major Arcana, that is the Wheel of Fortune, another card about starting again, about turning the wheel, about moving forward.

Different decks

Rider Waite Smith

As I’ve discussed before, I am not a fan of the RWS tarot deck but I do know it’s widely used and most people like it more than I do.  For a lot of people there is a sentimentality as it’s a common first deck.  Because I don’t have the deck myself and because I feel too much guilt if I steal images off the internet, here is a description instead.

It seems to be dusk or dawn, the sky is predominately black, with a strip of yellow under the clouds on the horizon.  In the distance are the silhouettes of far off mountains, at the foot of which lays a flat lake.  On the near shore lays a person with ten swords stabbed into his back.  The head faces towards the mountains and blood drenches the lower body.  A red ribbon of blood appears to lay under the head.

The words associated with the RWS ten of swords are ruin, destruction, defeat.  There is a hopelessness to this card.  I don’t think there can be much doubt that the person is dead, a sad realisation if you read the sky as clearing.  Perhaps there was hope and possibility but this fighter couldn’t fight long enough.  Sometimes light is just around the corner, it’s a cliché for a reason…

The Tarot of Pagan Cats

The nearest to a RWS deck I have is the Tarot of Pagan Cats which relies on RWS for imagery but portrays in slightly differently.  Differently enough that I feel more comfortable using it.

I’m aware the photograph is hard to see the detail on this card, it’s hard to see it when it’s right in front of you, so I’m going to try and tell you what I see here and this is actually a good exercise with all cards, however clearly you can see them.

There is a stage with a statue holding what might be two bouquets of flowers and some stage decoration, all are dusty.  The backdrop to the stage suggests a setting sun.  In front of the stage lays a red, plush looking cushion with ten swords stuck through it.  Unlike the rest of this deck, there is no cat in the image.  The little white book that came with this deck says “surrender to unpleasant or unfortunate circumstances”, a suggestion that I don’t always feel comfortable with.  But that does ask us a question – in whatever situation we find ourselves in, should we surrender or keep fighting?

When I’m dealing with this card, one of the key questions is where is the cat?!  Where is the reader?  Are you being present for this reading or are you distracted?  Is your mind elsewhere?  I’m also interested in the stage aspect – what play are you performing or watching?  What stories are you telling about yourself or to yourself?  Given that it looks as though the play is over, perhaps you need to leave some of these stories behind, perhaps you have got stuck in an old story that’s no longer relevant but you’re still standing on the stage, without an audience, getting dusty whilst you hold onto old achievements.  As a ten, this card is saying you’ve completed something and it’s time to move on.

The Wild Unknown

This is my favourite ever tarot deck, possibly because it was my first, but I also love the lack of people and how much you can read into the images.  For the ten of swords, we have a bull or buffalo (the angle and darkness makes it hard to be sure the artist’s intent) with nine swords piercing into his shoulders and one sword extending through both eye sockets.  The bull looks like he could be falling and it would be blackness he would fall into.  The use of lines in the background suggest rain to me.

Where one single sword could have blinded or killed the bull, ten have been used, this is overkill, it is like a death by a thousand papercuts.  No one person or reason is to blame for how you’re feeling here and you can’t fight every loss or hurt.  You can’t beat a tsunami by looking at each individual water droplet.  Sometimes in our society it can feel like you need to examine each aspect of what has hurt you and that certainly has it’s place, but sometimes you just need to lump it all together and move on.

As with the pagan cats, there is an important focus here on what you’re telling yourself.  Are you repeating each hurt and wound you’ve received over and over in your head?  Are you telling people over and over of each of your little pains?  Are you playing the victim or being a martyr?  I have a hard time saying this – being told I’m being dramatic is a trigger for me – but are you being melodramatic?

I am put in mind of something I figured out with my therapist.  We looked at a range of different things which caused me pain and suffering and then generalised the incidents.  So instead of focusing on someone not waving to me, I could reframe it as realising that it had pressed my trigger around being invisible.  Instead of looking at your ten thousand papercuts, could you look at the themes?  Perhaps you take it to heart when people are late and that’s ok, but it’s easier to carry that around than to carry each memory of each person being late.

Remember too that we are in the realm of the swords, of the mind, so the stories you are telling yourself, the thoughts you are spinning, are not necessarily true.  They are thoughts.  They are real thoughts but the truth of them is not necessarily accurate.  How are you responding to your thoughts?  How are they shaping how you act?  If we think we are terrible people then we can either accept that and do terrible things or change and become better people.  If you think all our pains are other people’s fault, we will stay stuck here but if we accept responsibility for how we react, we can move on.  We are not saying that what we’ve experienced is ok, we are saying it has happened and we are taking back our power and not letting the thing control us.  With the disclaimer of course that terrible things do happen in the world, this isn’t a just snap out of it card, this is a card which is saying go and find a therapist, get some medication or talk to a friend.  It is a card which is saying make a single step, right now, however small.  In taking that step, you are gaining some control over your situation, you are taking some responsibility for the future.

Lumina Tarot

Here we have a gnarled, bare stump of tree standing upright despite ten bloody swords stabbed through it.  On the top perches a vulture with blood dripping from his beak.  Everything is greyscale except the rich red of the blood.

The keywords for this card are traumatic endings and sudden change.  Probably not something of a shock given what we’ve seen for our other decks.  Again, there is pain, hurt, possibly betrayal.  Wounds are raw and you feel like you’ve been knocked off your feet.  Stability is hard to find.

Where other cards have talked about creating your stability, about taking responsibility, the book for this deck speaks of letting time take over, that you may not have control over where things are headed so you may way to stop resisting.  It does however clarify that by saying that whilst playing the victim may feel “temporarily rewarding, long term it will erode your sense of Self and leave you powerless, leading you to rock bottom.”  This adds an interesting dimension to the other characters we’ve seen – they have already been at rock bottom, but here we haven’t quite got there – do we keep falling or do we fly?  Swords are the cards of the air after all…

Interlude

We’ve certainly got a lot of food for thought here.  We’ve seen the general characteristics of swords and tens as well as different personalities of the ten of cards in different decks.  Next time I’ll be looking at a few things associated with the ten of cards, including the symbolism of the buffalo and vulture which we see in the Wild Unknown and Lumina decks.