Tarot for the New Year (2017)

A tarot spread for the coming year, using the Tarot of Marseille (pub. Lo Scarabeo, 1996).

Many forms of divination were practiced by ancient and medieval societies. Most forms of divination were considered “science” originally but are labelled “magic” in current practice. We laugh at some nowadays while others are still enthusiastically embraced. Some have been long forgotten while others are being rediscovered. The most common forms of divination used today are reading stars and reading cards–astrology and tarot. Until only two or three hundred years ago, everyone agreed that the various aspects of the world were so interconnected that they could not help but influence each other. What early and medieval Christians condemned was using divination as a tool to know what MUST happen, denying the possibility of free will and human agency. (The one method of divination that was ALWAYS forbidden in absolute terms was to open the Bible and point to a random verse in order to discover the will of God!) But the Church used these tools of star-reading and card-reading, as did secular society, to anticipate likely outcomes of probable actions.

What does this 3-card spread reveal about the upcoming year (2017)? A quick and simple reading would be that the 5 of Swords indicates both material loss and loss of hope early in the year, followed by new determination to study and engage in personal growth (the Page of Pentacles/Coins), resulting in a renewed sense of personal integrity and strength to confront our difficulties (Strength). Another reader might see these cards indicating not a linear series of developments but a threefold series of interconnected attitudes that continue to revolve throughout the year.

A 5-card spread for the upcoming year using the Tarot of Marseille deck.

A 5-card spread reveals a slightly more complex reading for 2017. The year begins with the Knight of Wands (reversed), followed in the spring by the 8 of Pentacles/Coins, a summer dominated by the 5 of Pentacles, and concluded by The Chariot in the autumn; the 9 of Cups (reversed) is present throughout the year. The quick-and-easy explication of this spread would warn us against an immature person who is headstrong, bossy or a bully-and a risk-taker, who can do dangerous things and convince others to do dangerous things and who dominates the beginning months of the year. In reaction to this person, everyone else must work harder at self-improvement and personal growth (spring) which forces us to confront our own pride or humility in the summer and take appropriate action based on these realizations. In the autumn, this implies a struggle and an eventual, hard-won victory over enemies, obstacles, nature, the uncertainties inside each of us. But this will require confidence as well as unity of purpose and control (between each of the struggling aspects of our personalities as well as in society as a whole) and, most especially, motivation.

The 9 of Cups (reversed) in the center? The card associated with the fulfillment of all our wishes but in a quiet, muted fashion. This can serve as a motivation for all the struggles we engage in throughout the year as well as indicate the result of those struggles.

When I first dealt these two spreads, I was VERY surprised at how much they reinforce and support each other. Do any other tarot readers out there have additional interpretations to suggest?

Christmas in July? (part 2)

Shrine of the Three Kings (detail), Nicholas of Verdun, gold, silver, and semi-precious stones (1190-1220), Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany.

Shrine of the Three Kings (detail), Nicholas of Verdun, gold, silver, and semi-precious stones (1190-1220), Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany.

The Magi were extremely popular in Western Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. They were considered powerful protectors against the “falling sickness” (epilepsy). They were also invoked in all-purpose protective prayers or charms, such as one attributed to Charlemagne.

The Magi were considered to represent the whole of the Gentile world because the three men included an Asian and an African with the European; they underscored the idealized inclusivity of the Christian world. The African magus — and African Christians in Ethiopia, such as the eunuch baptized by the Apostle Phillip in the Acts of the Apostles (8:27) — were looked on as special patrons of the people of Bohemia since both Bohemia and Ethiopia were on the edges of the (western) Christian world. The city of Kandahar in Afghanistan is thought to have been founded by and named for Gaspar, one of the Magi.

The relics of the Magi at Cologne were among the most popular pilgrimage sites in the Middle Ages. Their presence helped bolster the importance of the Germanic bishops both as supporters of the Popes or in opposition to them.

More information about the Magi in the Middle Ages can be found here and here.

The excellent Journey of the Magi by Richard Trexler might by a good thing to read in anticipation of Christmas. Better to read it NOW, before the hectic pre-holiday season arrives!

Stars and Cards: Gemini

The Lovers and the Magician from the Tarot of Marseille deck, published by Lo Scarabeo.

The Lovers and the Magician from the Tarot of Marseille deck, published by Lo Scarabeo.

The sun begins its month-long journey through Gemini, the sign of the zodiac associated with the Lovers trump of the tarot, on May 21. The sign Gemini belongs to the element air and is ruled by the planet Mercury (the Greek messenger of the gods), which is linked to the Magician trump of the tarot. The tarot’s air suit of swords illustrates typical scenes of daily life related to intellect, communication, logic, strife, conflict, choice, decision-making and the overcoming of adversity.

As an air sign, Gemini is concerned with all aspects of the mind. This zodiac sign is ruled by Mercury, which is a planet that represents communication, writing and teaching others. They get fascinated by almost everything in the world and they have a feeling as if there is not enough time to experience everything they want to see. This makes them excellent artists, writers and journalists. Gemini sign means that sometimes people born under this sign have a feeling that their other half is missing, so they are forever seeking for new friends, mentors and colleagues.

During the time of the sign Gemini, we have an excellent opportunity to meditate on the tarot’s Lovers and Magician cards, as well as the suit of swords of the minor arcana. Ponder the myths of Castor and Pollux, and of Helen of Troy — all figures associated with the constellation Gemini. Do you show your loved one how much you really care? What are the important decisions you are facing in your life and what are the potential consequences? Where must you turn away from the things of childhood and assume your position as an adult member of society? How can you use your talents to work magic in your own life and in the lives of those around you?