Thursday, 31 March 2016

Why negative tarot cards are necessary?

As every tarot reader knows, each card has a number of meanings and picking the right meaning for a situation is what is the challenge. If each card only meant one thing, no intuition nor much studying would be needed. Reading tarot would definitely be a whole lot easier, but it wouldn't capture much of the experience called human life.

Life is complex, colourful and fluid and no two people experience it exactly the same way due to their own personality traits, expectations, dreams and fears and the intensity of emotions. For one person, missing a train is a catastrophe, but to another it's a mere inconvenience or even a beginning of a new adventure - how to get from place A to place B now, when the first mode of transport is excluded?

It's safe to say that tarot cards depict themes or concepts, but what's the exact content for each situation, depends on the person receiving the reading.

Tarot enthusiasts also know that a tarot deck contains plenty of cards that make us happy to see them - they are regarded as positive - and a number of cards that are disliked or unwanted, i.e. negative.

However, to be able to observe life and use tarot effectively, this black-and-white dichotomy between positive and negative needs to go. Yes, some situations and emotions feel great, and some feel not so great or downright horrible. But even the negative events and feelings serve a purpose.

Sometimes they are needed for cathartic (liberating) purposes. How refreshing does it feel sometimes to have a good cry, even though nobody wants to hurt so much they have to cry?

We can always learn from the negatives and at the very least, if there were no downsides and disappointments in life, how could we experience positives, either? Everything would eventually become a steady, dull flow of neutrality without much spectrum of colours.

I've been keeping an eye on "negative" tarot cards lately because some of them have been repeating in my readings and I've wanted to understand them from a wider perspective.

Here are some new perspectives on typical "negative" cards:

5 Swords

The card of arguments, discord, underhandedness and dishonesty is hardly anybody's favourite. For me personally this card rarely means fighting, possibly because I hate dragging things out and always try to solve arguments instantly with calm practicality (I don't always succeed in staying calm though...).

I also absolutely despise playing the martyr, because I think everyone is responsible for their own actions and should never blame someone else (look what you made me do, OR I've been doing all this without being asked and you don't even notice - hey, if nobody asked, why did you put so much effort in it without discussing it first?)

For me, 5 Swords most often has the meaning: something is being kept from you OR you don't have all the facts. It can mean that something is being discussed or agreed behind my back, which is not always negative, but possibly inconvenient. For example, at work, an agreement might be made that concerns me, too, but where I'm not being consulted. Or, the person I'm dealing with, is not being 100% honest for their own gain. It might not be lying, but it's withholding information nevertheless.

Today I experienced another meaning of 5 Swords in the realm of "a battle that has no winners", or a lose-lose-situation. I do daily spreads of five cards, first three predicting my day from the morning to night and two remaining cards giving advice on what I can learn and what to pay attention to during the day. For this morning, I got the dreaded 5 Swords and was slightly baffled. What sort of an argument or discord could there be, first thing in the morning?

I woke up to learn that our kitchen was invaded by hundreds of ants.

I immediately started fighting, spraying and wiping them off as fast as I could, but of course the tiny buggers just kept creeping out from every nook, crack and cranny and under our front door. When I went to spray outside too, I learnt that an ant army was marching through the corridors of our apartment building. Cheez!! So, for an hour now, I've been fighting a battle I can't win (they will come back eventually) and the ants keep dying en masse. No party will walk out of this as a winner.

5 Cups

The card of disappointments, loss and not gaining what one wanted. Here's another great example of a not-so-lovely card.

This card pops up when things don't go as planned, something doesn't come to fruition, or something is lost and it's causing emotional suffering. However, with 5 Cups, the essential teaching is: don't focus on what's lost, focus on what you still have left. The card traditionally shows three cups or chalices standing upright and two knocked over, and a person staring at the fallen cups in despair.

I've learned through experience that the essential element of this card is expectations. Buddha thought, among others, that suffering comes from expectations. The more we expect, i.e. take for granted or make assumptions, the more likely it is not everything will come to be. Hence, we are setting ourselves up for a disappointment. 

It has taken me years to understand the difference between planning, anticipation, being ready and expectations. When I first heard that Buddha's advice in my teens, I thought it's the most stupid thing I've ever heard. Possibly because in my native tongue, expectations were (for some incomprehensible reason) translated as "thirst for life". Suffering comes from the thirst for life, and if you cease to yearn to live, you'll be free. Well, that sounded like a pathway to depression to me.

Now I've figured this advice does not prompt anyone to stop planning or stop living. It simply tells: be mindful and ready, but don't get attached to a certain outcome, process or person. Accept the flow of life: it comes with ups and downs. As mentioned before, without downs and darkness we couldn't experience ups and light, either - life would eventually become flat and boring, as we'd grow complacent and blind to our blessings.

With 5 Cups, it's also important to remember that not everything in life can or should be permanent, but it doesn't mean the experience was less worthy or valuable. If you lose a person from your life, it doesn't mean it was worth nothing. You still learned heaps about yourself, the other person, and a range of emotions - and hopefully have some golden memories to cherish forever.

In our society so much weight and admiration is put on a lifelong marriage, that shorter marriages are seen as failures. Why? Not everyone is meant to be in our lives forever - we could never grow, evolve and learn, if everything stayed the same. Sometimes we find the person for life, sometimes that person doesn't even exist, and there are a number of people "lined up" to live and experience with.

"Not everything in life should or can be permanent, but that doesn't mean it's somehow less valuable than permanence."

8 Cups

The card of loss, abandonment, walking away from something, tired and disappointment. This card must be among the least wanted in a reading.

The main teaching of 8 Cups is in my opinion: just because you've put time, effort and emotions into something, doesn't mean it should or could succeed or become permanent. There can be times when it's better to understand that something you used to value does not have the same value or meaning anymore, and that's ok. 

I'm sure everyone knows or has heard about a couple who stays together for the kids, even when there's nothing else to keep them together. It can be a good decision, depending on the personalities, but it can also be a very unwise one, for the growth of everyone involved - the parents and the children. This is very much an 8 Cups situation: something you have built is not worth keeping as it is, after all. Time to move on, to go fill those cups with fresh, different emotions.

The card of leaving and abandonment also has a different side. When we leave, we also start going towards something else. Something new, different and hopefully better, or at least better suited to the person we have evolved to be during the time that was spent by gathering those 8 Cups. So it's not only about walking away, it's about walking towards a new life, even if the new life is not clear or visualised yet.

I've got this card a lot for the past few months and I thought for a long time that it must be prompting me to leave my job, as that has been the only element in my life I'm not fully satisfied with. However, due to the current economic situation where I live, combined with other reasons I don't think now is the best time to jump on something new, I haven't acted on it. During one reading, the meaning finally clicked and it wasn't about leaving, it was about walking towards something new: new people. Cups can depict hearts, i.e. people.

I've felt a bit disconnected with my current social circles due to differing interests and values. I love my family and friends, but I'd be happy to expand my company to those who are more into mindfulness, intuition, creativity and exploring deep questions in life, such as the meaning of this all. Once I figured this and started acting on it, 8 Cups has completely disappeared from my readings, as often happens. Once the message is delivered, the card has no purpose any longer - for now!

My favourite 5 Cups card - Victorian Fairy Tarot. Things that were built did not last, but they form a cherished memory of a great time. And now, something else can be built!

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