Photo: Camelia Elias

I always thought that straight fortunetelling is all about deduction, coupled with insight about the human condition, when the human condition designates suffering. How do people navigate suffering? You put the cards down, and you read them according to people’s predicament. A predicament cannot be formulated without an implicit question. If the question is explicit, all the better, for the answer will be precise and on target.

I never read without a question simply because a reading without a question produces generalities. Generalities don’t move me. And I know that a general statement about a predicament doesn’t move the other I read for either.

Let’s have a quick look at how we can think of the trumps as carrying significance according to the question, and as the cards lend themselves to interpretation of the image and deduction. This is Part One. For Part Two, go to this link here.

Jean Noblet Marseille Tarot as reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy (Photo: Camelia Elias)

In a question about capacity, the Magician suggests that you’re not as capable as you think. You may be very skillful at a trick, but being good at waving your arms about does not equal capacity. ‘Fake it till you make it’ does not mean that you actually know what you’re doing. If this card presents itself to you, ask yourself why you con yourself and others, and whether it’s all worth it, especially if the Moon is also present. The last thing you want in the world, if you’re into navigating through your suffering, is to project utter shit thinking it’s ‘skills’ and capability.

In a question about inclination, the Popess suggests that you be curious. Read. Read everything. Without inspiration from books, images, and reading other people (though, withhold judgement when reading others), there’s no way you’re going to know what you’re inclined towards. All questions about ‘finding your path’ and following direction begin with an act of reading. Without polishing your vocabulary, there’s no focus.

In a question about purpose, the Empress suggests that you get the power if you get the man. Yes, I know, it’s not fair. Culturally speaking, while the Emperor is thought of as the sovereign, the Empress is thought of as the consort. We can resist this nonsense, of course, and try to change this symbolic order of things, but if you want quick results, pay attention to what happens when you shift your focus from the Empress as an independent woman, and see her instead as a person who exercises her power via her husband and children. I bet you’ll get more out of it, especially if the Sun is also in the picture.

In a question about strategy, the Emperor suggests that what it takes to win is knowing what battlefield you’re on. Is it open, closed, hot or cold, the war you’re at? ‘In times of peace, you think of war,’ the sages of old had it, and they are right. The Emperor doesn’t merely sit on a throne. His most active action is actually called guarding; guarding the throne, the castle, his territory. Rulership takes this vigilant guarding into account. Think of it too, next time you see the Emperor and want to get excited about your sovereignty. You pay a price for it that’s not always the most attractive. The only good news is that strategizing is a lot of fun, when you’re good at it, but being good at it presupposes a very keen sense of knowing your place. Yes, yes, you are the ruler, but precisely therefore, what you must know at all times is why and how you rule. Just being the ruler won’t cut it. What makes a good ruler is knowing your place and correct timing for every act. Without these two, you’re merely a fool, thinking he has power. Beware of the Emperor next to the Fool.

In a question about meeting the significant other, the Pope suggests that you can rejoice. It’s in the picture, your marriage. You’ll get the blessing. When that is said, and considering the Pope’s rather indifferent gesture, not even looking the the two kneeling before him, think of the idea of a disengaged person performing the counsel. I can’t help thinking of the Pope thinking, ‘it’s just a bloody job’. How cynical, but such an attitude exists. My point is that you should not expect with the Pope’s blessing the idea that it will last forever. When you break the news to them that they’re going to get married, some think, ‘oh, what a relief’, fallaciously anticipating the grand ‘forever happy’. If giving his blessing is ‘just a job,’ for the Pope, you can think of the same when you seek his counsel in connection with your ideas of divorce. The Pope won’t endorse it, as such, for he’s after all a man of the church and there’s a tradition for keeping a record of what you own, namely, via marriage, the man owns the woman and the woman owns the man, that is to say, if both parties are in for symmetrical relations, which is not always a given, given that more often than not, there are more men than women owning their partners. If the Pope is next to Justice, then we can deduce via the function of these cards that we’re here in the presence of ‘the right one for you’. But I wouldn’t lose sight of Justice being a representative of the court, where divorce battles are lost and won.

In a question about doing what you like, the Lovers card suggests the agony of love. Most get excited when seeing this card, but as far as I can see, an agony is an agony, and therefore quite removed from bliss. It’s not that you don’t know which one to choose, but that you don’t know what’s culturally appropriate. And yes, we want to talk about a young man’s anxiety about what’s culturally appropriate because it exists. I have as yet to meet young persons who even have the slightest clue about doing what they like. What would that be? Who is to determine it? And let us not confuse being under cultural pressure with the knowing that you’re now free to fuck, especially if you’ve reached a certain age. The lovers card is not about fucking, even if it may appear to be so. It’s about anxiety and how to avoid being fucked by circumstance. Many a young man I know have gone for the woman who acts as a front, respectable, successful, willing to breed children, and care for the house. Oh wow, that’s so exciting, isn’t it? When doing what you like is equal to playing safe and for the gallery, then I don’t know. On my part, I steer away from the ambivalent types. If the Judgment card is also in the picture, then I know already what the deal is all about, namely, about being loud and showing off. How boring. I pass on this one.

In a question about drive, whether literal or Freudian, the Charioteer suggests momentum: ‘Now is the time. Go for it.’ The only thing you might wish to consider is your speed, especially if the Tower card is in the picture. Crashing is not a good idea, unless you do it on purpose and for show. Normally you’d think that the Charioteer discloses knowing where you’re going, but don’t be so sure. Some drive in their cars for the sheer pleasure of it, though doing it to enjoy nature and the sights is less and less common. No one has the time for such trivial pursuits. Your drive has to have purpose, it has to go somewhere. Granted, having a goal may be a good idea, especially if you’re duly submitting to cultural constraints that dictate ‘you must have a purpose, and not only that, but you must also demonstrate how you’re going about achieving your goal.’ Culture is so tedious in its demands, and we give in, but is stating a purpose the same as actually having one? How many people you know have a purpose that they’ve arrived at through self-reflection? I can only name a few Zen masters who fall into that category. The rest, well, let’s just say that most drive around showing off their cars, and thinking that the fancy car equals power, speed, motivation, clear direction, and arrival. Sigh… if only…

In a question about choice, Justice suggests that whatever you go for, it’s the right thing for you. I bet you thought that the card for choice is the Lovers. Well, think again. When Justice appears we’re with the idea that righteousness is not only something that nasty politicians profess. I live in Denmark. The most fascist oriented parties invoke ‘just cause’ in their propaganda. I want to pull my hair. What ‘just cause’? Since when is the color of skin a dividing line for what is just and proper? Justice as a virtue is about seeing things as they are, not about seeing things as you fancy to see them. Think of that next time you see Justice in the picture. If she’s with the Pope, consider getting that marriage counseling done. If she’s with the Tower, say goodbye to your husband. Your possessions will stay with you, if the Emperor is in the picture.

In a question about making a difference, the Hermit suggests that you can forget about it. What difference? What’s up with this illusion? Culturally speaking, you don’t even have to hit the 40s, before you realize that ‘work’ is overrated. But since you didn’t bother to save up when you were in your 20s and 30s, you have to keep at it. Who’s going to pay your bills? When the Hermit retreats to some cave, that is to say, if he has the luxury to do so, all he’ll ever question is this: ‘What is my need, really? Can I even name one?’ This latter question, however, presupposes a lot of discarding to begin with, for it’s difficult to shed the capitalist schooling that will have you convinced that your life is all about giving in to fears and desires. When the Hermit shows up, you can be sure that he’s ready for tackling head on this very marketing strategy that relies on inducing fear and desire in anyone who is unable to ask the simple questions: ‘Fear of what exactly,’ and ‘desire of what exactly’? When the Moon is also in the picture, we’ll be in for a real rejection of shit. We can all rejoice. The Hermit is our savior, actually. Not about existential issues, your classical literature on the Tarot will instruct you, but about saying, ‘I don’t think so. Whatever bullshit you have for me, I don’t need it. You can threaten me all you want, but I’m telling you, I need nothing at all.’

In questions about power, the Wheel of Fortune suggests you have none. You have power by virtue of existing, but in the larger scheme of things, considering also all that connects us, there’s no ‘I’m special’. You are not any more special than the others caught in the wheel. Things go up and down, and you go up and down with them. It’s not even sure you get to know who’s pulling the lever. One thing is clear: It’s not you who gets to decide. If the Wheel of Fortune is next to Force, we get the idea of resisting the course things take beyond your control. You can try to overpower the situation, but it’s not sure you can succeed. If you do succeed, it’s not sure that you’ll be proclaimed a hero and given a medal. The best you can do is look at the others who share the same predicament and show some compassion. Competing is useless. You can be bold and hope that fortune will favor you, but that’s playing a game of chance. Playing games with your luck can be very entertaining, but it does not mean that such an attitude confers power on you. You may not exactly associate the Wheel of Fortune with lack of agency, but this is where you’re at when this card is in the picture. The only wisdom here is to know that things change. The question of who is to be master belongs to a different category.

In questions of dominance, Force suggests that the premise for your actions is strong. The conditions for you to win are in your favor. All you need to do is raise your voice, or get your hands into the hair of the beast. You do this reluctantly, you lose. The beast will overpower you. Why would you be reluctant? Well, think about it. There’s such a thing as ‘political correctness’, ‘me too’ manifestoes, and other such cultural revolutions that make you reluctant. While you deliberate to what extent you can allow yourself to overpower the beast, the table gets turned on you. While you investigate to what extent you’re on the same page with others, you lose momentum. Not good. Sometimes recognizing the fact that you can’t negotiate with the beast is the best way to go, political correctness or not. So what if others will think you’re dominant? What if you must be just that, dominant? Letting an animal’s howl be the voice of the advocate is not always a good idea. Let your own transmissions be coherent, but know also when the ones you’re talking to speak another language. If Force is next to the Devil, you can be sure that what you’ll get out of it is misunderstanding of the gross kind.

End of Part One. Part Two of this series will be published next week. Stay tuned for the other trumps. If you can’t wait, you’re welcome to check out my book, The Power of the Trumps. Or, indeed. get ready for some real power in my course, Cards and Magic, opening for registration tomorrow.

Stay tuned for future activities via The art of Reading newsletter. The registration for Cards and Magic is now open. You’re welcome to join this magnificent class.

About Camelia Elias
Camelia Elias, PhD & Dr.Phil., is a former university professor. After 20 years in the academia, she left her career to pursue her interests in teaching and writing on the philosophy and practice of reading cards. She works with contemplative arts, oracular language, and martial arts cartomancy and Zen at her own school, Aradia Academy. You can read more about the author here.

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