As someone who’s come around to the idea of the universe being one grand, impossibly complex web of energy exchanges (thanks, quantum physics) – and also someone who believes that God is speaking all the time, through nature and people and stories and symbols – the art of tarot has recently begun to fascinate me.

Having been raised to view tarot as an exclusively occult practice, it surprised me to learn that people from any and every kind of religious background use the cards and find meaning in them. Until now, I’d never understood that a tarot deck is, more or less, a way to interpret personal stories – a hero’s journey told in cycles and represented through universal archetypes. Lately, my spiritual walk has been all about encountering God in unexpected places, so I decided to get a deck for myself and see how I felt about using it. Maybe, I thought, it would help me steal past my own watchful dragons a bit.

As a fan of Maggie Stiefvater’s books and beautiful, liminal art style, the Raven’s Prophecy deck seemed like a natural place to start, especially since it’s loosely themed around the creative life.

I’ve been absorbing card meanings for days and finally decided to try a reading this morning.

I probably should have started with something SIMPLE, but mustered up the courage to dive into a ten-card spread to answer a creative question that’s been plaguing me: What am I missing that will make this manuscript come alive? Right now, TPI feels like it breathes in inconsistent fits and bursts, and it’s been a struggle to pinpoint exactly what I’m doing wrong or right.

It took me a long time to pore over individual card interpretations, the spread placement, and reversed meanings (there were a lot of those!) – and to attempt to be objective about myself in the process.

At last, here’s where I landed:

  • Current mental situation: Knight of Wands. I have complete confidence in my ideas and interests and where they’re taking me, but that confidence is crossed/complicated by the Six of Wands: I’ve made external validation too much of a goal. (Ugh, SO TRUE.) It’s time to shake that loose. I don’t need anybody but me to justify myself creatively. I know what I’m doing.
  • Factor dominating my subconscious: The Emperor. Tradition, rules, regulation, order: I’m pretty sure this speaks to how much my 1-wing dominates my inner life. I have insanely high standards that are likely stifling the work as much as they’re helping it.
  • Factor dominating my waking thoughts: reversed Ten of Swords (dear God). A painful ending that must occur in order for me to grow. I’ve recently woken up to just how how badly my false self has sabotaged my life on every level imaginable (yep, creatively too). Moving out from under its suffocating energy – allowing my true self to emerge on the page and in life – will be freeing, but it’ll also hurt. I know this, so I’ve resisted it.
  • What I think will help me: Page of Wands. Pure, unfiltered curiosity and creativity.
  • What I think will hinder me: Two of Cups. My closest relationships, which consume a lot of my energy and attention at the moment. Yep. (I think this goes hand in hand with a common fear of Enneagram Nines: We are scared that we’ll just continue to merge with the people/agendas around us; we crave independence.)
  • What will actually help me: reversed Knight of Cups. Suuuper interesting. The reversed position, and its placement in the spread, seems to imply that I would benefit from letting my emotions rule me for awhile (something I never do) – including the negative ones. I’ve been forging a brand new relationship with my anger, lately, so … sounds like I have more work to do.
  • What will actually hinder me: reversed Judgement. Second-guessing, constant deliberation, and changing directions have defined the first three drafts of this novel. I laughed so hard when I finally realized what this card was telling me: to stop looking back.
  • The next step in the immediate future: reversed The World. I had to sit with this one for awhile. For years, I’ve been subconsciously asking this project to fulfill me. I think this card is warning me that I won’t get that sense of completion or closure I’m looking for when I’m done. Perhaps ideally, I will no longer need it to fulfill me.
  • The outcome: Queen of Swords. This story, so cautious and uncertain for so long, will become clear when I finally stop asking it to be everything to everyone. When I stop asking it to make me whole, it will be whole. It won’t be capable of hiding its own truth anymore, and I won’t be capable of hiding what I’m trying to say any longer.

Performing this reading for myself as a total novice was intimidating and challenging. The cards felt loaded with meaning that I’m positive I didn’t scratch the surface of. But I’m entranced by all the possible connections latent within them. They’re complicated and nuanced in the way that life is complicated and nuanced. And they speak in my language: that of patterns, signs, and metaphor.

I’m in the process of deciding how I feel about making use of the cards a regular part of my life. Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism is helping me understand how others have reconciled tarot with a foundationally Christian worldview/walk; I also have my eye on Charles Williams’s novel The Greater Trumps, which, until now, I didn’t even realize was about tarot. He’s always been the most esoteric (and therefore fascinating) Inkling; it’s about time I tackled another of his novels. The last one I read was the intensely surreal and strange All Hallows’ Eve in 2009.

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