The Wrong Truth: On Knowing When To Lie (Which Is Never)

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What do you do when one job ends & you need to eat? You apply for another job! As I want to be a fulltime tarot reader from now on I decided, more or less on a whim, to have a go at a spiritual chat service. You know, one of those things where you can get a reading from a number of different psychics, mediums & fortunetellers, via phone or chat. As I like to write I reckoned that chat would be the best option for me. Never mind the New Agey website that talked about Twin Flames a lot (don’t get me started), a job is a job.

So I filled out an application, and the next day I got a phone call inviting me to do a test reading then & there, without even asking me if that would be convenient for me. I put that down to a flattering enthusiasm on my prospective boss’ part. We settled on an hour later.

In a brief preliminary Lenormand line, without a specific question, I got this: Man, Key, Coffin (see picture above). Uh-oh. Something ending, with a man turning the key. It looked like I would have to deliver some tough news.

My test client was a woman working at the spiritual website. She asked for a general reading for the next three months or so, with an emphasis on work & relationship. The cards showed a choice to be made, a change and/or an ending. This could apply to her work as well as her relationship in my view, but bearing in mind the Lenormand preliminary I decided to focus on the relationship. I did a second line specifically about that, and it became clear that the relationship isn’t that healthy, they keep each other bound, and the man will indicate he wants out first.

The To Do card was actually Death: best sever the knot yourself instead of waiting for him to give you the news! It won’t surprise you that this second spread was with the Noblet Marseille. Blunt as fuck. It brilliantly pointed out that that first general line of five wasn’t about the client’s job after all. So in total I now had THREE readings all saying the same. Clear as crystal, if not as pretty.

And so I told her what I saw, matter-of-factly but not especially insensitive. The thing is, when such a strong issue comes out of the cards, especially without even a question asked, almost always the client will admit they already know that things aren’t right. I therefore assumed that my sitter would at least have a feeling that her relationship wasn’t going all that well.

A complicating factor was of course that this was all a test. So when my client asked whether she & her partner weren’t Twin Flames after all, then, I wasn’t even sure if she was serious. With her relationship so plainly in trouble, could anyone calling themselves a spiritual counsellor really believe she & her partner were meant to be forever eternally?

But test or no, for me there was still only one answer possible. I therefore explained to her exactly what I think of Twin Flames, Soulmates etc.: which is NOT that they are meant to stick together all their lives. On the contrary, such significant others usually give you a Learning Moment (i.e. they break your heart) & then move on, leaving you to lick your wounds & grow tougher skin.

I refrained from pointing out that it’s downright irresponsible & dangerous to tell people they should stick it out with whichever Soulmate they are encumbered at any given point. From my own experience & what I have seen from other couples this is a recipe for disaster. Like I said, DON’T GET ME STARTED. Especially when that website actually makes money of this whole concept it’s better not. I thought I was being pretty diplomatic. Haha ARIES.

Okay, says she, apparently accepting my answer, my colleague will call you back & give you feedback. So the man I spoke to earlier calls, and of course it turns out that my boss-to-be is also my CLIENT’S PARTNER. Oopsie.

What then followed was a bewildering & slightly unpleasant discussion, in which I was told the following things:
-You are simply WRONG
-You don’t ask enough confirmation questions
-You don’t care enough about how the message may affect the sitter

When I cautiously questioned his impartiality (after all, he didn’t really need to tell me he was the partner in order to evaluate this reading! Also he sounded & felt upset to me), and that I got the same message THREE FUCKING TIMES (well I didn’t say fucking), he says that CLEARLY something is off in my energy or that there is some interference or other, making me ALL WRONG.

It was just all so absurd to me that I quickly ended the conversation for fear of laughing at him, which would have been unkind. I admit I was a bit rattled as to my accuracy, so I grabbed the Vera Sibilla for some extra confirmation :

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Obviously in three months time he’ll offer me the job again at a double rate…

The spiritual counsellor feels attracted to the idea of going away; the union will come apart. Sad, but nonetheless true. Interestingly the Sacerdote, being the King of Spades, can also mean an ex. So he’s attracted to becoming an ex.

I also gave the points he made some consideration, as this could well be a Learning Moment for me (oh dear gods IS THIS MAN MY SOULMATE). It is true that I am used to working mainly unilaterally, via audios & written reports, so I considered it possible that my customary directness might not work as well in this bilateral medium. As for not caring enough, believe me I do. I’m not good at the whole detachment thing AT ALL. I just don’t let it influence the message itself.

Of course I asked the cards: Should I change my style of delivery?

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Showing some tough love…

The answer is, a big NO. You shine a clear light with great authority, even if you bring an uncomfortable truth that forces people to make tough decisions. DO: keep everything as it is. DON’T: change a damn thing.

It would seem that if I had lied, or modified the message, I might have been hired. Is the lesson, always lie to your future boss? NEVER. In fact, at the moment I feel reaffirmed in my task of being a teller of Truth. I should toughen up more, not less.

Because, as long as we’re being brutally honest here: I do find it difficult to deliver this kind of devastating truth when sitting next to an unsuspecting stranger, and having to deliver this kind of message to their face instead of safely from behind my computer. Definitely something to chew on. After all, the Dutch word for ‘fortuneteller’, waarzegster, literally means ‘truth teller’. It’s all in the job.

What else did I learn? Well, not to work for this kind of channel which is aiming to keep people chatting endlessly! To which end giving such straight answers would be counterproductive. And that I may have been needed to deliver a Truth out of the blue…

As for those initial Lenormand cards: a man is the key to an ending. His relationship, but as it turns out, also my chatting career! See, and that’s why reading cards never gets boring…

Need some Truth Telling of your own? Visit my shop to book a reading!

How Tarot Cards Play Out in the Real World

If you’re new to the cards and haven’t built up much experience yet with readings, it can be a bit difficult to see how they relate to actual happenings in the real world. At least in terms of how I taught myself tarot, the images on the cards and the stories they could create when placed together all seemed theoretical and impersonal until I had years of real-world experience to relate to each and every one of them.

In an attempt to add a bit to the overall knowledge base regarding how readings play out in the real world, every once in a while I’d like to let you have a peek into my own personal tarot journal. The internet didn’t exist when I started teaching myself tarot, and I would have really liked to have been able to get a look at how experienced readers interpreted the cards and applied them to actual practical situations.

So, in the spirit of learning, I’ll let you in on one of my most recent practical uses of tarot for myself.

As you may or may not know, I am a single, divorced, working mother of three elementary-school-aged children (9, 7, 7). Needless to say, my romantic life has been stalled to non-existent for quite some time. Now, however, I feel happy and serene as a single person and I’m no longer looking for someone to fill up a void in my heart or emotional life.

Some girlfriends encouraged me to try online dating. So I put up a profile and started chatting with some men. One of them was really funny and attractive. We made plans to meet for a coffee. And then it occurred to me (I’m an American living in Italy, btw) – I had forgotten to ask if he was married or had a girlfriend.

Although I certainly don’t want to generalize, in my own personal experience in Italy, I’ve learned that men often don’t have any qualms about taking a lover on the side in addition to their steady girlfriend or wife. While I don’t pass judgement on their choices, I don’t want to be anyone’s other woman. 

Here’s where the reading comes in.

When it occurred to me that I hadn’t asked him, I figured I might as well perform due diligence. So I asked him outright in a message if he had a girlfriend, wife, lover, or was otherwise engaged with a significant other.

His immediate response was a flippant joke, which struck me as a way to deflect and avoid. 

That was suspicious to me, and no answer was forthcoming, so I turned to the cards. Situations like this, when you have a “hunch” but there’s an information gap, are excellent practice readings for learners. When and if you get more real-world information, you can compare it to the information you obtained from the cards and your interpretation of their message for you. The more you make these comparisons, the more your confidence and knowledge will grow.

I drew three cards: 1) What I need to know about Marco; 2) Advice/guidance for me re: Marco; 3) Outlook.

Here’s what came up:

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Three of Wands, Death, Seven of Swords

[Practice exercise: If you had to simply make a sentence out of this string, keeping it in context with the questions posed, what would it say?]

Here’s verbatim what I wrote in my journal:

“Oh, see – now that’s a real shame. I had this feeling smth was going on – like he’s not really single. This spread says he has his eyes elsewhere, let the whole concept and idea of him die, and you’ll see he had smth to hide. Boo! Now let’s see how it plays out…spill the beans, Marco.”

I left it at that and decided to follow the advice of Death – let it go, close it off, leave it behind. It wasn’t easy to follow this advice because my initial impulse was to respond to his jokey message and gloss over it and explain why I had asked. Instead, I stayed silent as a tomb. Death doesn’t utter a word, not even an emoji. Total crickets. 

It was only a matter of hours before I had my answer!

He later spontaneously sent a message admitting that yes, he has a girlfriend; but, and I quote: “she lives abroad and I hardly ever see her.”

Ah, tarot. How I love thee. Let me count the ways.

Let’s now look specifically at two of the cards that, in my own experience, have shown up repeatedly in specific real-life situations.

The Rider-Waite-Smith Three of Wands has come up repeatedly in my readings for clients in situations where there are long-distance relationships and in situations where one of the partners is contemplating a move overseas (or in any case across water or a long enough distance to require relocation) in order to be with the other. I didn’t touch on the overseas part in my own brief written analysis of this reading (because I already knew that part in my head), but I did make sure to note what the figure is doing on the card: he has his back to me. Thus, what I needed to know was that he certainly didn’t have his eyes on me, but rather elsewhere, across the water. In fact, I came to find out that his girlfriend lives in Spain.

Secondly, the Seven of Swords is a card that I’ve seen repeatedly for clients when there is a situation of cheating or getting away with (or attempting to get away with) something secretly. I generally dislike assigning specific keywords and situations to a card, since it’s better to be fluid enough to interpret every card uniquely for each unique reading. However, the Seven of Swords is rather difficult for me to extricate from the context of cheating when it shows up in a relationship reading, especially as it regards trust issues or secrets.

If you’re learning how to read the cards, I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping a journal. I’ve been reading now for nearly 20 years and as you can see, I still physically jot down notes with an actual pen on an actual piece of paper every single time I do a reading for myself. Documenting your readings has immense value for your learning, especially further on in the future when you have real-world findings, information and results of the situation that you can bring to bear on your initial interpretations.

As you grow in experience, you’ll begin to amass a substantial collection of actual situations that you can link back to particular cards, and this becomes a really important toolkit you can draw upon if and when you decide to start reading for others.

Your thoughts?

If you want to experience the power of a tarot reading for yourself, please visit me over at Sparrow Tarot (sparrowtarot.com) to learn how the cards can serve as a road map to help you navigate your life’s journey.

My Little Faun

I’ve always been in love with drawing and painting. It’s not something that I’m good at, or ever was. In fact, I’m the only one in my family that can’t draw, or paint, to save his own life. My parents, however, are both very good painters, which is something that I’m really proud of. Specially my mother. She can work with watercolors and oil and charcoal and produce the most interesting pictures. Some of them I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hands on.

The reason I’m bringing this up, is that I wanted to write about a picture my mother drew. A charcoal drawing that was made some fifteen years ago. It’s a picture that I find very special and alluring and even though it is not mine (yet!), I have no doubts that it will eventually fall into my hands. After all, what kind of a panda would I be if I couldn’t charm a picture out of her? 😉

The picture is about a boy. There’s something very primal about it. It looks like a faun with its little horns an pointy ears and his face is very seductive. He stares at me, daring me to come closer, to find out about hidden mysteries and forgotten secrets. He is smiling. I can see him easily seducing everyone in a room with that smile. He knows the power he has over people and finds it easy to play with them, if he so desires. There’s a fire burning inside of him and everything is crackling with energy. Even his hair seems like flames rising ever so high, his energy and power wanting to escape somehow.

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Looking at this picture, I can see a part of me staring back to me. I can see myself as a child who loved to play and to provoke others. Mischievous, even. Someone who can make himself noticed just by walking into a room. He shines and he reminds me of that little kid that shone, defiant to all the world and its surroundings. Looking at this picture, I can see someone that I used to be a long long long time ago. Someone who is still there in a way, even though family and society have done their work on me as it usually happens. It calls to my inner most nature and asks it to manifest itself. To come out just be…

So I just stared at him and asked him “what do you have to say to me?”

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As I laid three cards of the table, The Wheel, Death and Judgement, I could tell that it was important. You are tarot readers, you know what I mean, right? That feeling of looking at a spread and thinking  “Now this is the real stuff! This is what this is really about!”? There is something in the way the cards look next to each other that will whisper this to your ears. Or is it to the eyes? Looking at the spread, I could hear it here. That little voice in the back of my mind alerting me to what was right there in front of me. In those tiny little pictures.

I looked at the wheel and I immediately recognized my little faun. He’s all grown up now, and with no fire in his head. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Wheels turn, but this one didn’t. It happens, right? Sometimes, you just look at them and they are frozen. Immovable. However, what did move were all the animals and the angels surrounding the wheel. Funny that. An immovable wheel, but everything else is moving. I started to think how things were spinning all around me in my life. People coming and going. The routines of my daily life. All the various places that I needed to go everyday due to work. And how tiring it could be just to run from place to place; from person to person. That little devil sure has had its due. And maybe more than its due. Does he actually carry the wheel or is he just being hit by that damned wheel? It looks like he is being run over. Specially if one looks at the next card.

Death is walking away from all of this. Of course it is. It’s death and this is what it does. There will be a time when everything in the Universe will be dead, and death will just walk out of it and close the door. Because it is death, so what else is it going to do? So, I’m to walk away from all of this. But looking more carefully at the card, I can see that it’s not just about walking away. It is also about walking over everything and everybody. Which is understandable. This is death, after all and no one (I’m reminded of how misery got the best of death, but that’s another story and we don’t have the time, so let’s just get along with “no one”) gets the better out of it. Death gets to do what it wants to do and that is that. Ah! so here is the defiant bit. Do your own stuff and don’t you worry with anything else. This is you in your power, walking the path that you want to walk. Away from the confusion and the pressures of the wheel.

Which takes me to the Judgement card. Someone is being called from the grave by an angel. Tradition would say he or she is being called to a new life. Stepping into a new phase, one would read in the tarot books. Which seems all good. As soon as I cut with all that mess, a new life will open itself to me. This is one of those times when I’m pretty grateful for not using a horror-inspired deck and having to ask myself if those people in the Judgement card are zombies or not. New life it is, with stuff heralded by the heavens themselves. The three figures in the wheel are here again, now all in human form. My faun / devil is at the right and has turned into a blond woman. His hair has grown back and it is as fiery as I ever imagined it to be when looking at the painting.

This is important, after all. My little faun is daring me to just let go of all the stuff I have in my life that is just dead weight. He’s asking me to cut through it all and revert to the true me. To that kid that got buried somehow, sometime ago and needs to be brought back. My little faun is asking me to become more like him and do the stuff I want to do. For it seems that little kid that I was, the kid that somehow the faun recognized in me is still there. And it’s stronger than death.

Schooled by the Cards: On Unnecessary Clarification

Well, I’m probably just asking for it. When you get out the Noblet Marseille to ask about l’amour, somebody is going to get a spanking. Humiliating as this is, I thought I’d share this example with you because it illustrates beautifully the use of sight cards for clarification. Among other things.

What are sight cards? When you read a line or string of cards, or even a spread of single cards, one important aspect to observe is the interactions between the cards. Who is looking at whom, who is moving towards or away from what, etc. When you have outward facing cards not looking at anyone in particular, you can draw a sight card to see what your marginal figure is ogling. This can be very illuminating, and the fascinating thing is that it often happens (at least to me) that the original ensemble would not have been complete without them & takes on new depth & meaning. Not in this case however, as I shall now relate.

The situation is as follows. I’m in a very Delicate Phase with a Certain Someone. The cards have already told me several times to let the Someone take the lead. However, this is not my style of doing things at all. For all my nice manners I’m a bossy Aries type who likes to barge in & start giving orders. So I have this idea that I can get the Someone to get crackin’ by giving him a present. (Let’s not go into what it actually is. Best to avoid emotional scarring & the expensive lawsuits that might ensue for the nice people at Maelstrom Tarot.) In my view this is a pretty delicate way of enforcing enticing him to do the right thing. What I think is right, anyway.

Best check with the cards first though, no? Allright: Dear cards, is it a good idea to give the Certain Someone my present?

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Pffff… Men. Such ninnies.

Temperance – The Lovers – The Devil. Dear oh dear. Prevarication, hesitation, being in a bind. No bueno. Yes but but, what if I’m being too negative? There’s no such thing as a bad card, right? (By the same logic there’s no good cards either, but let’s roll with it). So what’s that dilly-dallying Temperance looking at while trying not to spill a drop? The Tower. Ah. So there is sense in moderation: any meddling will see the whole thing tumbling down. No wonder Lovers & Devil look eerily similar. Fear rules him more than Love.

But, but, what if we see this as a symmetrical reading, with the Lovers representing a choice between moderation & brutal PASSION? Moderation inspired by fear, Passion fueled by? The Devil is looking straight at us, but whatevs. Clarification card: the Chariot. Another duo in a bind, for one thing. And try as I might, Devil & Chariot doesn’t feel positive at all to me. The poor Someone will feel put upon, rushed & overwhelmed if I ram my gift down his throat. What a ninny.

Luckily there’s still a way out: the To Do or Advice card! Which produces the Emperor. HA I KNEW IT I AM TO TAKE ACTION AFTER ALL. Ooh goody there’s even room for a sight card to prove how right I am: Justice! See? I need to take action (Emperor) & make the decisions here (Justice). But no, even to me in my fevered state that makes no sense, quite apart from the main cards I’m already forgetting to take into account. The Emperor is obviously the Someone, I even have gotten this card for him before. And he looks at Justice because he needs to be the one to decide, for whatever reasons he has.

This Aries has trouble swallowing this. But after chewing on this most unsatisfactory answer, I draw the outcome card. Usually I don’t bother with a Do Not card as that is mostly just the opposite of the To Do, and we can figure that out for ourselves. What will happen if I go with the proposed course of action (or non-action in this case)? The Star: you will get your wish. You will be the one receiving the gift. But, looking at how the Star’s patient pouring of her vessels reflects Temperance’s perpetual flow, it may be a while. Patience is needed, or it will all be water down the drain.

But, but! The Star is looking into the distance! What does she see? Quick, draw a sight card! RESCUE BECKONS!

Nah. I have learned my lesson. The Star shines her light clear enough. She is the sight card.

So that is how I got schooled by the cards. Morale: know when to stop asking for clarification or you will get a spanking.

Also, dating is FAR MORE EXASPERATING than I remembered.

Do you use sight cards for clarification? Or what other tricks do you have? Dating tips? Share in the comments!

Need a spanking reading too? Visit my shop!

Eros, and Why Love Happens When You’re Not Looking

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I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: most readings break down into two distinct categories overall. Can you guess them? Love and work. That’s it. It’s what we’re about.

Have you ever heard the saying that love happens when you aren’t looking? Frankly folks, I find it one of the most frustrating pithy pieces of so-called wisdom I know of, and yet I can’t despise it because I actually think it’s true. Every working, functioning couple I know of came into being in the precise moment when they weren’t looking for love.

And yet, can I just tell you how many of my dear, wonderful clients come to me specifically because they ARE looking for love? I mean, is this not the most dastardly Catch-22 conceivable? We’re human beings and we desire human connection, affection, and romantic love to share with someone special. People even tell us things like “get out there and meet someone” as if we could order up a significant other on demand. And yet, then we’re told that, after all, not to worry if we don’t meet anyone because it always happens when you’re not looking.

It begs the question, does it not: how can I look without looking?

I know you feel me here. I’ve asked it myself countless times. It’s like meditating and telling yourself “don’t think”. The more you do it, the more it happens. Human nature – a fairly predictable bitch.

Anyhoo, I figured, why not turn this beast of a conundrum over to our trusty Rider Waite Smith deck? Let’s let Eros speak to us directly on this one. Heaven knows that I myself don’t have any answers.

So here’s what I asked:

1) Why does love happen when you’re not “looking”?
2) Advice for those who are looking!
3) Message from spirit – Eros

And here’s what I got:

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1) The World
Number one is pretty straightforward, and I suppose I could have even told you this myself had I thought of it before. The World is all about being content with what you have, being sort of “self-actualized” and satisfied exactly right where you are. With The World, you don’t need or desire anything else, because you finally realize that all is all. Yeah, pretty enlightened stuff.

But truth be told, when I ask the couples whom I know about what was going on around them in their lives when they met (besides everyone telling me they weren’t looking), the key component almost always seems to be some variation on “I was happy with myself” or “I had finally accepted myself” or “I didn’t mind being single anymore” or “I decided not to settle anymore.”

Thus: The World.

It happens when you aren’t looking because you are no longer in need of anything.

Once you truly realize in your soul that you are all there is and you are all you need, love somehow strolls on in to put the icing on the cake. Don’t ask me to explain how or why. It seems to be so.

2) 9 of Wands
Advice for those who are looking is the 9 of Wands. Oh, no rest for the weary, eh. The poor guy on the 9 of Wands. He’s been through one hell of a battle, a series of battles, really. Refer back to: answer 1 above (ie, looking). I see this card a couple different ways. The first is: keep your damn guard up, because as long as you continue down the same road that you’ve always been down, you’ll most likely run into the same damn minefields and traps you’ve already stepped in. The second is: leave the battle.

Hence: see answer 1 above. [For effing eff’s sake.]

3) 8 of Cups
And what does Eros have to say about all this? Well, in the 8 of Cups (which in my experience comes up a lot around relationships when it’s time to actively move on because we’ve finally realized that it’s never going to be what we want or wish or need it to be), my feeling here is he is telling us: give it up! In fact, what happens when we stop looking is most likely that we walk away from that pretty little tower of 8 stacked cups because we realize that cup number 9 is beyond our grasp. That’s Eros. It’s not all in our hands. Ah, now there’s a concept for you.

And so, what can I tell you? Not much of what you haven’t heard before. I won’t say that looking is hopeless – I don’t think it is, necessarily. However, I also think that the process of allowing (which I wrote about on my own blog recently in the post We Have Forgotten How to Allow) has a lot of merit to it and brings with it some pretty surprising and great things.

I asked my fellow stirrers to weigh in. I wrote my interps before receiving theirs. I love to do stuff like this and discover how other readers see the same cards. Here goes:

Isabel:

1) The World
Oh but you *are* looking. Looking good! Do you know how hot it is when you need no one else to be happy? To make people WERK for an invitation into your life? Strut!

2) 9 of Wands
Just pick one already. If it’s not the right piece of tail there’s plenty more trees in the forest. Conversely, if someone picks you out of everyone, trust they have good reason to!

3) 8 of Cups
Leave behind what you already know. The hollow promises, the tears you shed. Make off with that one stick you picked and don’t look back. If it turns out to be a dead end, at least you’ll have something to light your fire with.

Miguel:

1) The World
You’re not looking, but the other part is. You become more centered in yourself. It feels like you’re alone, but you’re really not. You are shining under the World’s spotlight. And this makes everyone around you notice you. It makes them pay attention to you.

2) 9 of Wands
Don’t look. Let it all go. Try to act as if nothing was happening at all. No matter what it takes. I find it interesting that the guy is holding his own wand, even though there are 8 behind him. It’s almost as if the card is telling us to trust ourselves and our capacities. And not to be too dependent on finding love.

3) 8 of Cups
Again, walk away from love. Love is fleeting and happens by the light of the moon. It’s something conjured by illusions and light tricks. As such it’s best to remain grounded and wait for the sun to shine on what’s in front of you.

Paulinnhhoo:

1) The World
That’s when everything you need to find love comes together. All the elements are there and you are just dancing to your own tune.

2) 9 of Wands
Stop trying to find your prince charming. He’s locked away and isn’t coming anytime soon.

3) 8 of Cups
Love is not a trophy you get to conquer and put it on display. It’s something that should be held and maintained. When you do find love, keep it with you. In the meanwhile, stay away from trophy-hunting.

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!

Panda Talk

About two weeks ago I got to go to Madrid to see live pandas. I’ve been wanting to see a panda for a few years now. Unfortunately, there aren’t many places in Europe where one can go to see a panda. According to the Wikipedia, only five European Zoos have a panda exhibition and Madrid was one of them. Being the closest one – the visit was supposed to happen during a weekend – Madrid was the logical choice.

This all started a few years ago, when I started to feel a close kinship with bears. Not just pandas, mind you, but any type of bear. But little by little, pandas began gaining my heart until they finally became it. My special animal. In a way, they became my spirit animal and not a day goes by where I won’t do anything to honor them.

The journey to Madrid was uneventful. I had pulled an all-nighter, since I was leaving of the 6:25 am flight to Madrid, but that didn’t matter one bit. Inside, I was glowing and trembling with excitement as the chance to see a live panda became nearer and nearer.

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On the way to Madrid. Me looking out the plane with my Panda

The trip to the Zoo happened the very afternoon of the day that we arrived. I went with some friends of mine and with a newly met couple. It seemed that everything sparkled that day. As I started to see the signboards with the pandas, my heart beat stronger and stronger. With every step I was coming closer to fulfilling this dream of mine and, at the same time, becoming more anxious. More nervous. Until I was finally at the panda site and for a moment, the whole world disappeared and only me and the pandas remained.

There were three pandas in two cages. In the cage at the right, a male panda was sleeping; at the left, a cub and its mother kept passing around the cage. We were separated by a glass, since on the day we went there, they weren’t allowed to roam outside their cage. But that didn’t matter. Or better, it did matter, as I felt uncomfortable to see them confined to a closed space. The cub seemed oblivious to it all, playing around on its own. The she-panda felt uncomfortable too, always walking around left to right, right to left. Every once in a while, the mother would go to the cub and lick it or play with it. This would last a few moments, before the mother would become restless again and would start pacing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

Now, being a tarot reader is all about being able to see the moment when it pops up. To recognize it either in a string of cards or when something pops up in real life. Not just the bad moments or the ones where we feel lost and confused, but also the good moments. The ones that bring us joy and contentment. If there was a moment that qualified , this certainly was it. So I picked up my cards and asked them “what did they have to say to me?”

A three card string was quickly pulled, presenting me with The Sun, The Hermit, The Lovers.

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“You came to us, bringing joy and warmth”, they seemed to say. “We were waiting for you and here you are, bringing your love and radiance to us. Bringing your warmth to us who are so far away from home with only a few leaves to nourish us.”

A message of thanks then. As if the privilege of this meeting was theirs and not mine. But in a way, when we meet someone special isn’t this what happens? Both parties are happy that the moment happened. True, here we aren’t talking about two people. Even so, this was a meeting between the spirit of an animal that held a special place in my heart and myself. A communion of sorts between kindred spirits.

And, as with all good magic, the moment passes and I’m standing in front of a glass watching pandas. The spell had faded on its own, as it should and I was left to wander through the remaining of the Zoo visiting other animals and enjoying my time in Madrid.

As I am writing this, I can’t stop looking at the Hermit card and how it stands out from the reading. true, it’s the only gray card in a colorful spread and yet, it invites me to stop and think about it for a moment. About how things can be accomplished by pausing and taking small steps, making sure with each step of where do I put my foot. The grayness of the background and the lack of any vegetation speak of a solitude so great, but somehow not unbearable. Looking back at my pandas, I’m reminded of how they would spend hours alone in the forests looking for food. You see pandas are slow animals. They eat mainly bambu leaves, which doesn’t give them too much energy, and as such, they tend to keep to themselves and avoid any unnecessary use of energy.

Keeping this in mind, the card of the Hermit seems to say something more. it seems to tell me that my path is slow and that I should understand the value of slowness. The kid in the Sun card can come charging carrying his dreams and celebrating the light above him. But this is not the whole of the story. Whatever dreams I might have, I still need to stop and watch where I’m going. To take time. It’s as if Father Time is my ally and that if I want to achieve my goals, I better start walking instead of running. In a way, this is what happened here. I waited until an occasion presented itself to meet my pandas. The magic of the moment came not because I met them, but because I took the time to nurture our relationship and to slowly build it. Until that moment where I finally got to be face-to-face with them. When Heaven and Earth met, and each was looking to each. The cub to the mother to myself. Me to both of them.

Finding Cards in the Wild

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Pretty much every card reader I know finds cards on the ground. Now, this could be a “chicken and egg” sort of thing: which comes first – the reader looking for cards or the cards finding the reader? Personally, I don’t ever actively “look” for cards. But, at the same time, I always pick them up when I see them on the ground. Does this happen to other, non-cartomantic people? Perhaps. But no one else in their right mind would pick up a card off the ground. That’s why people like us exist.

I like the phenomenon of finding cards “in the wild”, so to speak, because it reminds me of a larger concept—that of paying attention. Miguel and I (and both of my tarot mentors) always advocate for simply LOOKING at the cards as the main foundation for reading them. Enrique used to always say to me, “What do you see?” and then if I got too caught up in a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, he’d say “Shelley, just LOOK at the card, don’t read it”.

The photo above is a series of four cards that crossed my path, in the sequence in which I found them. The Five of Cups came one day all on its own, then the 2 of Diamonds, 10 of Spades and – UNO card! – came one after the other on one particular walk.

Can we read anything? Can we apply meaning to things that apparently have no inherent meaning?

Reading cards is like this. We are presented in a completely spontaneous—but conscious and aware—manner with images on paper. We are then charged with telling the story they convey. Although there are certain baseline “meanings” that come from long lines of cartomantic tradition, as far as I know, no one reads UNO cards. And yet, it begs the question: why not?

Exercises like this are useful because they free up our mental space to stretch and expand, allowing us to PLAY with cards and LOOK at them.

We can read this line as a time-sequence of events. Five of Cups to Two of Diamonds to Ten of Spades to UNO – what shall we call it? – going both ways? Reversing course? Twisted in two different directions? You can see how symbolism depends on the interpretation you give to it, based on the context around the question and the surrounding cards.

Here, no question was asked, other than my simple presence on the face of the Earth and being in my environment. Can we remain open to receive messages even when we don’t ask for them?

While developing a tarot teaching course, I created a related exercise. I’ll reprint it here, so you can try it if you want. Let us know how it goes by writing a comment after you complete it.

And by all means, share your interpretations of my cards in the wild! No wrong answers.

When I wrote the following exercise, I hadn’t seen a playing card on the ground for a long time, probably a year or more. What do you think happened after?

Give it a try.

The art of paying attention: can you make something appear?
Some card readers love to find playing cards on the ground. Do they find the cards because they’re actively looking for them, or do the cards find them? Are there cards everywhere that people just don’t notice? Do you create the event by “willing” it to happen? Over the next week—seven days from the time you’re now reading this and bringing the idea into your conscious awareness—are there cards that might cross your path?
Journal exercise:
After seven days, note in your journal whether or not you found any playing cards cross your path this week. If not, do you think it was because you weren’t actively looking or searching them out, or because you simply weren’t paying enough attention? If yes, do you think it’s because you were specifically looking for them, or because you were paying more attention to details in your surroundings in general? Or even because you simply forgot about the exercise and weren’t attached to the outcome? Can we “will” an event to happen, like noticing a playing card, just by bringing it to our conscious minds and focusing on it? Or is it just the opposite: bringing something to our conscious awareness and then letting go of it? How much of our noticing things is random, and how much is intentional?