The other day, my friend Katie Hargrave did a tarot reading with me.
This was my first ever reading. It seemed important to me – or at least noteworthy – that she used a deck of cards designed by photographer Bea Nettles, The Mountain Dream Tarot
Bea Nettles was a remarkably innovative photographer in the 1970’s, who spent some time working at RIT, near where I live and work now. Back in the day, Bea wrote a great little book about alternative process photography, and experimental darkroom work (not unlike a book I am working on now).
Katie is still new to reading, but I loved the discussion we had, and some things we read together in the cards (above, you can see the first laying of my cards). While preparing the deck, I asked a two pronged question, and without going into detail here (even with Katie, I asked my question internally), they were a question about the trajectory of both my personal and professional life (both feel full of changes, and in some strange and interesting ways, entirely connected).
Typically, a tarot deck is divided into four suits (like any deck of cards) – swords, wands, cups, and coins. Within the suits, the cards are classified into major arcana – greater secrets, the trump cards – and minor arcana – lesser secrets.
The two cards crossed in the middle were the first laid out, and create the core of the reading. Katie was enthusiastic about the cards, and saw them full of power, potential and energy. The first card was the IX of wands, a card full of creativity, and in this case, stability (perhaps of character). Placed on top of this card, was the hierophant, a major arcana card representing spiritual and mental strength and knowledge. Read as a religious or spiritual figure, the hierophant is full of essential ideas and philosophies.
The next two cards played are on the left and right, and serve to strength the initial core of the reading. Here are the King of Wands, and to the right a cup submerged in water (thus a cup of abundance). Together these cards support the initial findings of creativity, knowledge and power, all with depth and resolve.
Next played were the two placed above and below the cards in the middle, and represent my past and future. On top is the V of wands. In the image, five wands (wooden staves) are held by four people, and represents unity and strength, and the wand in balance the potential for change. Below, the VI of wands. Here is rider holding his wand, with a wreath of victory draped around the top. This is my future (sounds good, huh?!). I like that he’s a rider (strangely, and abstractly, horses are this periferal theme cropping up in my life – hard to explain that one).
The four cards on the right were played bottom to top. First, I of wands. The singularity of the wand, strengthening the wand energy/presence in the reading, perhaps offering a decisiveness to that core energy. Above the wand, the moon, one of the major arcana. In this card, you see two wolves, printed positive and negative, howling at the moon (over the summer, I had an interesting dream about wolves, that at the time seemed to be about coming changes in my life). This represents something that can’t be seen, but is present nonetheless (like the other side of the moon). It’s change, positive and/or negative, a primitive energy in the wolves looking for a hidden knowledge.
Above the moon, VI of pentacles. Here we see two – potentially three figures, as the shadow seems an important presence – a man holding a set scales, and the back of a (woman’s?) head bowed before him. The central figure (Bea’s husband) is changing a scale slightly out of balance, and in our discussion of this reading, we see his gestures as bringing the scale back into balance, rightly correcting something just off kilter.
Lastly, the ace of pentacles, showing strength in its singularity, helping to further support and resolve the balancing scales in the previous pentacle card.
We then did a second reading from the same shuffle. This time, just three cards were laid in a triangle. All in a new suit, swords – the knight, the emperor, and the page. In this lay of the cards, the knight is my past, the emperor my present, and the page my future.
The knight can have many meetings – courage, passion, recklessness – though here we read it as all of this, good and bad, and as a character making decision about how to reconcile these differences (again, I’m interested in the horse pictured in this card). The knight, in our reading, represents decisiveness, or at least a need for decisiveness. Next the emperor, the king of the suit. Again a strong card, the emperor is power and austerity, power with wisdom and insight. The last card, the page of swords. We read this a growth, its youth symbolizing potential, though with a secretive nature.
The meaning I most take from the reading is that I asked the right question. In a strange way, I know my life is changing, and I like the idea of strength, balance, and decisiveness being apart of these coming changes, my growth.