by Mari Powers
I had questions about two Tarot Cards that were very interesting and led me to think about a couple other cards, as well. I was asked about the Major Arcana, (Life Passage cards), #13 Death and #16 The Tower. These cards made me think of the 9 and 10 of Swords. This is the text of the question that got me to thinking.
QUESTION: I’ve been drawing cards daily (From the Paulina deck) and I drew The Tower yesterday. It set my day in motion putting me in a tail spin. It was a tough day. A friend also did a layout and in the position of Relationships and drew the Tower card. She is interpreting that as having to do with our relationship and maybe it’s time to let go. Any thoughts? Another question I have is when cards come up such as the Death card or The Tower card how can I interpret these cards without feeling a sense of doom?
ANSWER: Let’s take one card at a time. The first is, #16, the Tower. It has various names in different decks, and yet the similarities are greater than the differences. I like to let people know that it was poet W. B. Yeats’ favorite card. It is a difficult transition card, yet it is lightening quick. The repercussions are tremendous, yet we can move through the changes it brings very quickly and learn a lot in these types of life passages.
The most progressive of the decks I use adds the words “Self Awakening” to this card. Yeats and I both think of this card as sudden illumination and destruction ordained by the “Gods.” I often describe it as the “no shame, no blame card.” This is where a force beyond human control strikes at the walls we have built up around ourselves and brings them tumbling down. These walls are of our own construct, and what once may have kept us safe now has become a prison. An outside powerful force strikes and our only choice is to take a leap of faith seeking our safety and freedom. It is like abandoning a sinking ship before it goes down. We ought to seek freedom from the crumbling stones of our own making. Most important of all, it is followed by the 17th Life Passage Card, the Star. This is the card of hope and faith, of embracing magical thinking, of wishing upon a star and believing it will come true. (It is that, and so much more.)
When you get the Tower in a reading, you should first look at placement in the layout. If it is your card for the day, it is only for that day, perhaps just for that moment or part of a day. Ask yourself, what barriers are coming or need to come down? From what do I set myself free? And above all, no shame, no blame. Ask what has been a survival mechanism, a safe haven that is not useful any longer, and the “Gods” have seen fit to strike and tear it down for us. We are suddenly ready to let go and move on. It is how we meet this challenge that is important. The faster we move, the quicker the process is over.
Now, I would like to share my thoughts on the life passage card #13, the Death card. I have seen this portrayed as Transition, Metamorphous, the Phoenix, the Journey, Banshee Crone, Rebirth and Les Mortes (Death and Transformation). The Death card is all of these. I have never gotten the Death card in a reading that related to an actual physical death, unless it was about a relative or friend who had passed. The endings and new beginnings card has most often been about a relationship, a job, a move, a change of mind or point of view. It could also be about a shamanic journey or to alert a person of messages from the Mighty Dead. It may be a longer process than with the Tower, yet is an end and a new beginning always. It is informative to think of the card’s placement after and before in the Fool’s Journey, our lives. The Death card is thus cradled between “The Hanged One” and “Temperance” which represent a greatly expanded perception and the spiritual alchemist. The “Hanged One” is the perceptual flip card, and is a major visionary change. Temperance is the patience to transform Self, represented by Lead, into Gold.
The “Death” card, between the two, is the closing of one door to open another. In the simplest of terms, it is cleaning out your closet before you can buy new clothes! In a more complex tone, it is the transformation of the tadpole into the frog, the caterpillar into the butterfly, and the shedding of a snake’s skin in order to grow.
In addressing these questions, I also thought of the 9 and 10 of Swords as difficult or challenging cards. Swords are generally the most challenging of all four Tarot suits. Of course, the meaning of these cards in a reading depends on the layout and placement. If they are in the past, that is a good thing. Swords are usually representative of the element of Air. Air relates to the mind, thinking, perception and communication. Whatever tool you choose to associate with Air is in the place of the East, of new beginnings. I always say, if you have not changed your mind lately you may not have one. It is the mind that most often confuses us and can lead us astray. There are also some wonderful exceptions to this norm. I think of the 9 of Swords as the “get out now card,” or stop thinking like that, or your will face a very difficult closure.
The 10 of Swords, is that difficult closure. I often call this the “game over card.” A person has followed the wrong train of thought and has lost the battle. 10’s are always a closure. And though they all signal a new beginning, some closures are more difficult than others. This is a tough one, and yet there is a relief. The “going around the wheel” hamster brain is finally done. We must accept the fact that thinking the same way over and over and finding no answers or peace is one definition of insanity. Now we are free. It is time to feel the relief associated with new freedom, to let go and change our minds.
I owe much appreciation to the person who posed these initial questions to me. It got me thinking, and writing! I look forward to sharing other insights with you.
© Mari Powers, November 2012