aces

Tarot Talk

December, 2015

Time to return to the Aces, those unique members of the Pip cards. Aces are different from the other Minor Arcana cards, as they are seen as being the seeds of their suit and element, rather than the manifestation of their suit and element. Aces are not material, and there is no measurable manifestation of their effects until they become the Two. Aces are tendencies that are the foundation of the manifestations of their suit; thus the Ace of Wands, our card for this month, is not Fire, but a tendency to become Fire! Let’s begin our process of breaking down this Ace.

The Ace of Wands is a Minor Arcana card, so we know right away that the message offered by this card will most likely be more immediate in nature, or will most likely be connected to more day-to-day issues. Notice right away that I am qualifying many of my statements with “most likely” or “usually”; as readers and interpreters and students of the Tarot we do need to remember that every message, no matter how insignificant or mundane on the surface, can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature.

The easiest way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 1, and the suit of Wands. These two ingredients could actually give you enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation.

Let’s look at the number 1 first. I see the number 1 as representing two concepts: position and potential. Position is most commonly represented by the point or period. The point is a one-dimensional shape; all we know about it is its position. We don’t know what it can do or how it can affect us, we only know where it is. Potential is neither good nor bad because it has not yet moved or manifested or acted. Potential is fertility before it is affected by the catalyst that begins growth.

So, just by looking at the number of our card, we already know that the Ace of Wands is going to present a concept rather than an experience. Aces present energy just as it is preparing to manifest, kind of like the moment just before the Big Bang happened in our Universe, or the time in your lungs between an exhale and an inhale. This is especially true of our Wands Ace, because the element of Fire has so many different non-physical associations.

The number 1 is about new beginnings, or better yet, the seeds that bring new beginnings. Every following number is made by comparing itself with or interacting with the number 1. How do you arrive at the number 2? You add 1 to the number 1. You could say that the number 1 contains all the other numbers.

The suit of Wands corresponds with the playing card suit of Clubs, the cardinal direction of South, and the element of Fire. In its natural state, the element of Fire is hot and dry. It tends to bring spontaneous change or impulsive, energetic effects. Fire is passionate in nature, and transforms everything in our world. Fire can sanitize or cleanse, and it can destroy everything in its path; Fire can warm us and keep us safe, or it can kill us. All of the cards of the suit of Wands (including our Ace of Wands) teach us about Fiery attributes: creativity, ambition, growth, passion and actions, and how their presence or absence can affect our lives. The suit of Wands represents our ability to experience joy and passion (including sexual passion), and the Wands cards can represent our creativity, our ability to be artistic or to be drawn to beautiful things. Fire often represents Spirit or the Divine Will (one of those non-physical associations I mentioned above), and Wands cards also can present the possibility of some interaction with Spirit or the Divine, or actions or passions manifesting in line with Divine Will.

We know now that the Ace of Wands tells of a potential for experiencing spontaneous change, passion, and complete transformation. The change or transformation has not happened yet; all that exists is the possibility for change or transformation to happen.

The traditional image of the Ace of Wands shows a Wand or Rod or Stave being held by a hand that is reaching out of a cloud, showing that the Ace is the first and purest manifestation of its suit, so pure that we can’t affect it or be affected by it yet. Often the Wand has leaves and small branches or blossoming flowers sprouting from it, indicating the fertility of this Ace. Sometimes there are flames around or near the Wand; an alternative to flames can be a glistening crystal. I’ve seen Ace of Wands cards decorated with dragons, phoenixes, and sunflowers, all correspondences to Fire.

Like all Tarot Cards, the Ace of Wands has an astrological connection as well, which can help us to add even more depth and texture to our readings. The Ace of Wands represents three sun signs: Cancer (a cardinal Water sign), Leo (a fixed Fire sign), and Virgo (a mutable or mobile Earth sign), or the season of Summer.

Cancer, the Crab, can be moody or sensitive, and is often affected by the environment and people nearby. Those born under the sign of Cancer, the 4th sign of the zodiac, have strong feelings and emotions, and they are very protective of those feelings and emotions. Cancer people tend to be very attuned to the past, and they like to have mementos of the times and people of their childhood. Cancer people place a high importance on family, both family of the blood and family of the heart. They nurture and protect those they love. Cancer people are hard workers, and that paycheck is important not only for what it will buy, but also for the security it provides.

Leo is the 5th sign of the zodiac, located in the middle of Summer. The symbol of Leo is the Lion, regal and strong, magnetic and forceful. Leos are determined, ambitious, and highly motivated; add in their charm and they are natural leaders who attract many friends. They make good organizers and motivators, and the best use of a Leo is as the leader of a large group. Leo is the most expressive sign in the zodiac, and those born under this sign are showmen who are exuberant and passionate, but they are also susceptible to flattery. Watch that ego!

Virgo, the Virgin, is the 6th sun sign in the zodiac. Those born under this sign have a strong sense of service, and feel satisfied when helping others. They sometimes come off as cold or unemotional, but they are actually cautious, sizing things up. Virgos are meticulous, practical, intelligent, reliable, analytical and intelligent; of course, they are also over-critical, too conservative, and harsh. Virgos exist within the mind, appearing calm and collected on the outside, but lots going on inside. They are pure and honest, never malicious, and always trying to figure out how to improve things.

This means the Ace of Wands is about the potential for experiencing ambition, a focus on nurturing and protecting the family group, or the possibility of leadership within a group of intelligent and motivated creators.

Each of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck also has a home on the Tree of Life of the Qabalah; all of the Aces correspond to the sephira (or sphere) of Kether. Kether (or Crown) is the first sephira at the top of the Tree of Life. It is the top sephira of the Pillar of Balance, the center or trunk of the Tree, and is considered to be the cause of manifestation; not manifestation itself, mind you, but the catalyst that begins the process of manifestation. Nothing actually exists yet within Kether, but the Source of All awakens within Kether. However, it does not know itself yet because there is no other form from which it can view itself. Once again, we are speaking about the “point” or “position” without any dimension or manifestation.

That is quite a bit of information, all attained by breaking our card down to its basic ingredients. Not so complicated after all!

So the Ace of Wands tells of the initial emanation of enthusiasm or inspiration or passion that could very well energize an entire process or project. Indeed, this card can be seen as a talisman of power; all we need to do in order to access its potential is to take hold of it! The Aces can be seen as containing the other numbered cards of their suits, and that means our Ace of Wands contains the potential to become every other Wands card. In the Tarot, the Aces often are seen as “gift cards,” as they represent the gift of the element associated with the card being offered to the Seeker. The Ace of Wands gifts us with courage, enthusiasm and confidence, and it will push us out of the box in order to connect to our creative potential. Fire can be a truly transformative element, burning away everything and sterilizing the ashy remnants. But of course, the phoenix rises from the ashes to begin anew, and thus the potential associated with the Ace of Wands is amazing.

The sudden and impulsive nature of the energies of the Ace of Wands can be motivating, but they can also be a wee bit uncomfortable. After all, impulsive behavior can initiate calamities of all kinds, and strength and ambition can easily degenerate into cruelty, persecution, and violence. These are all things to consider when choosing to work with the energies of the Ace of Wands.

Aleister Crowley’s deck, the Thoth Tarot, presents a Fiery Wand covered with flames; the Ace of Wands in this deck is seen as associated with the Sun and as representing the Lingam. Placed beside the Ace of Cups, associated with the Moon and representing the Yoni, we have the potential for gathering the energies of the Great Rite and the creation of life. A talisman of power, indeed!

Tarot Talk

September, 2015

We have not talked about the Aces in a while, so let’s revisit these unique members of the Pip cards. Aces are different from the other Minors, as they are seen as being the seeds of their suit and element, rather than the manifestation of their suit and element. Aces are not material; they are tendencies that are the foundation of the manifestations of their suit; the Ace of Pentacles, our card for this month, is not Earth, but a tendency to become Earth! Let’s begin our process of breaking down this Ace.

The Ace of Pentacles is a Minor Arcana card, so we know right away that the message offered by this card will most likely be more immediate in nature, or will most likely be connected to more day-to-day issues. Notice right away that I am qualifying many of my statements with “most likely” or “usually”; as readers and interpreters and students of the Tarot we do need to remember that every message, no matter how insignificant or mundane on the surface, can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature.

As we have learned, the easiest way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 1, and the suit of Pentacles. These two ingredients could actually give you enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation.

Let’s look at the number 1 first. I see the number 1 as representing two concepts: position and potential. Position is most commonly represented by the point or period. The point is a one-dimensional shape; all we know about it is its position. We don’t know what it can do or how it can affect us, we only know where it is; everything else is potential only. Potential is neither good nor bad because it has not yet moved or manifested or acted. Potential is fertility without the catalyst that begins growth.

So, just by looking at the number of our card, we already know that the Ace of Pentacles is going to present a concept rather than an experience. Aces present energy just as it is preparing to manifest, kind of like the moment just before the Big Bang happened in our Universe, or the situation in your lungs between an exhale and an inhale.

Let’s examine the suit of our Ace. The suit of Pentacles corresponds with the element of Earth. Many Tarot decks use images of pentagrams or coins and trees or verdant growth on their Minor Arcana Pentacles cards, and that will make it easy to connect with the symbolism of this suit. A nice place to begin is with the element of Earth itself.

In its natural state, Earth is cool and dry, and it binds or shapes the other elements. Earth is of the physical or physically formed or manifested world, and of nurturing, health, finances and security, and the wisdom associated with living simply and being well-grounded. Earth is the element of form and substance; it is connected to material world security (and even wealth), and to our physical bodies and physical senses, and the pleasures and pains they bring. Earth represents the nurturing and serene side of Nature, and it represents the tangible end result of our labors. Earth is about security and stillness, and knowing what to expect; it is about strength, discipline, and physical manifestation of all kinds, and about enjoying the fruits of our labors. Earthy energies are fertile, practical, and slow to change.

You can see just by examining the paragraph above just how easy it is to connect the element of Earth to our daily lives, our physical bodies, our careers, our families, and the natural world around us. These things are all the main correspondences of the element of Earth, the suit of Pentacles, and of course, our Ace of Pentacles. We are off to a good start, and we have lots more information to consider.

The traditional image of the Ace of Pentacles shows a pentacle or coin being held by a hand that is reaching out of a cloud, showing that the Ace is the first and purest manifestation of its suit, so pure that we can’t affect it yet. Often there are trees, tree roots or branches, flowers, fruit, bees, or other animals associated with fertility in the image of this Ace. The sky is usually clear and blue, representing the clarity and purity of the potential being offered, not yet muddied by manifestations or expectations or actions. Often there is a wall with a gate in it and a clear pathway through the gate and off into the distance, showing us the potential for advancing along our Path offered by this Ace.

The Ace of Pentacles has an astrological connection as well, which can help us to add even more depth and texture to our readings. The Ace of Pentacles represents three sun signs, Aries, a Cardinal Fire sign, Taurus, a Fixed Earth sign, and Gemini., a Mutable Air sign, or the season of late Spring.

Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, the leader of the pack, first in line to get things going. Those born under this sign prefer to initiate, and they won’t shy away from anything new. Aries people are action oriented, assertive, and competitive. Aries is ruled by Mars, the God of War, bold and aggressive, and able to tap into the focus needed to take on any challenge. The symbol of Aries is the Ram, blunt and to the point, and a sheer force of nature. The great strength of those born under this sign is found in their initiative, courage and determination.

Taurus, the second sign of the zodiac, is all about reward. Physical pleasures, material goods, and soothing surroundings are all important to a Taurus. The good life in all its guises is heaven on Earth to those born under this sign. Taurus is a fixed sign, and it represents steady persistence sometimes seen as stubbornness. Taurus is symbolized by the Bull, and Bulls are among the most practical and reliable members of the zodiac, happy to plod along slowly but surely toward a goal. Taurus is ruled by Venus, the Goddess of Love, Beauty and Pleasure, which is why harmony and beauty are a huge part of this sign’s personality. Taurus is a true-blue, loyal sign as well, and slow to anger; like the element of Earth, Taurus is about strength of body as well as strength of heart.

Gemini is about communication of all kinds, and about collecting information and stimulating the mind. Geminis are a mix of yin and yang, and they can easily see both sides of an issue; they are very practical. They are adaptable and flexible but they can also tend toward being wishy-washy, and they are not always good at following through to the end of a project. Gemini is all about the intellect, the mind, and the thinking process. They think clearly and make use of logic, and they can be real good at seeing the big picture. Gemini rules the nervous system, and calmness is a quality they need to cultivate. They love to play, love to share their fun and their ideas with others, and they love adventures that stimulate the mind.

This means the Ace of Pentacles is about the potential for experiencing new beginnings or awakenings, the slow and conservative building of an environment that encourages growth, and the diversification and exchange of information that creates the ability to adapt to the world around us in a positive and beneficial manner.

Each of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck also has a home on the Tree of Life of the Qabalah; all of the Aces correspond to the sephira (or sphere) of Kether. Kether (or Crown) is the first sephira at the top of the Tree of Life. It is the top sephira of the Pillar of Balance, the center or trunk of the Tree, and is considered to be the cause of manifestation; not manifestation itself, mind you, but the catalyst that begins the process of manifestation. Nothing actually exists yet within Kether, but the Source of All awakens within Kether. However, it does not know itself yet because there is no other form from which it can view itself. Once again, we are speaking about the “point” or “position” without any dimension or manifestation.

That is quite a bit of information, all attained by breaking our card down to its basic ingredients. Not so complicated after all!

All the Aces remind us of the potential connected to their Suit; the Ace of Pentacles represents the potential to achieve prosperity and abundance, security and trust, groundedness and strong foundations. The Ace of Pentacles suggests that we use common sense when approaching problems, and make use of the tools we have at hand, tools that are tried-and-true; it tells us that we have the ability and skill to use those tools (or at least the opportunity to acquire those abilities and skills). It reminds us of the importance of taking care of our body, our homes, and our families. And it presents the opportunity to reach a goal or see rewards through expending efforts over the long term. All of these opportunities might present themselves in an unexpected way, perhaps through some change or opportunity for growth within a career, a family, or a home.

The Legacy of the Divine Ace of Coins reminds us of the beauty of Nature, and the spiritual fulfillment that can be had through experiencing and appreciating beauty. The image on this Ace contains representations of beneficial animals and insects, and emphasizes the benevolent feel of the energies of this card. The Shadowscapes Tarot Ace of Pentacles emphasizes the potential to be found in a seed. That seed will sprout, but the growth will require both work and patience on our part in order to succeed; what grows from that seed is what we make of it.

Through its Ace of Pentacles, the Witches Tarot tells of a possible new source of income, perhaps obtained by acquiring a new skill. The Tarot of the Sephiroth reminds us that our Earth is the vehicle of all life, and thus the Ace of Pentacles represents life springing forth, as well as creation, evolution, and construction. Aleister Crowley believed that the Aces could be seen to contain the other numbered cards of the suit, and thus our Ace of Pentacles can be seen as containing the other Pentacles Pip cards, or at least the potential to become those other cards.

The Ace of Pentacles does not guarantee riches or health or security, but it does guarantee that we will have a chance to work in order to bring those things into our lives!

Tarot Talk

September, 2014

I think it is time for us to talk about the Aces, those unique members of the Pip cards. Aces are different from the other Minors, as they are seen as being the seeds of their suit and element, rather than the manifestation of their suit and element. Aces are not material, and there is no evidence that they exist or affect us, because they don’t. Aces are tendencies that are the foundation of the manifestations of their suit; the Ace of Cups, our card for this month, is not Water, but a tendency to become Water! Let’s begin our process of breaking down this Ace.

The Ace of Cups is a Minor Arcana card, so we know right away that the message offered by this card will most likely be more immediate in nature, or will most likely be connected to more day-to-day issues. Notice right away that I am qualifying many of my statements with “most likely” or “usually”; as readers and interpreters and students of the Tarot we do need to remember that every message, no matter how insignificant or mundane on the surface, can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature.

The easiest way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 1, and the suit of Cups. These two ingredients could actually give you enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation.

Let’s look at the number 1 first. I see the number 1 as representing two concepts: position and potential. Position is most commonly represented by the point or period. The point is a one-dimensional shape; all we know about it is its position. We don’t know what it can do or how it can affect us, we only know where it is. Potential is neither good nor bad because it has not yet moved or manifested or acted. Potential is fertility without the catalyst that begins growth.

So, just by looking at the number of our card, we already know that the Ace of Cups is going to present a concept rather than an experience. Aces present energy just as it is preparing to manifest, kind of like the moment just before the Big Bang happened in our Universe, or the time in your lungs between an exhale and an inhale.

The suit of Cups corresponds with the element of Water. Many Tarot decks use images of cups and water on their Minor Arcana Cups cards, and that will make it easy to connect with the symbolism of this suit. A nice place to begin is with the element of Water itself.

In its natural state, Water is cool and wet. When amassed, it has weight, and it tends to gather or pool at the lowest place. Because of this tendency, Water creates its own roadways or channels, and it prefers to use those already-in-place channels if it can. Water is used for cleaning and purifying, and Water can be a carrier for other substances. For instance, we can dissolve salt or sugar into warm Water, and use that concoction for other things. A body of Water can be calm and deep, or it can be dangerously churning and filled with powerful currents.

You can see just by examining the paragraph above just how easy it is to connect the element of Water to our feelings and emotions, and indeed, feelings and emotions are the main correspondences of the element of Water, and the suit of Cups. Emotions flow and have currents and eddies, a powerful wave of emotions can be cleansing, emotions can be hot and expanding or they can be bubbling upward, like steam, or cold and contracting and heavy, like ice, and our emotions can affect our physical bodies (which contain a lot of Water) and our health. Often, tears appear when we feel things strongly through sadness or joy or anger, as physical manifestations of those emotions.

Water also represents the Inner Voice and the subconscious. If we were to sit beside a lake on a calm, clear day, we can understand this connection. As we look out on the surface of the lake, we will see a reflection of the trees and hills, and even the clouds and the sky, on its surface. If we step closer and look down, we will see an image of our face and upper body, just as if we were looking into a mirror. If we were to step into that lake and keep moving away from the shore, we will discover the hidden depths of that lake, not visible from the surface. We can’t tell how deep the center of that lake will be by looking at it from the shore; it might be shallow and easy to cross, or it might be deep and dark and cold, the home of mysterious creatures. To many of us, the subconscious is deep and dark and frightening, and a body of Water makes a perfect metaphor for the hidden segments of the Self.

We know now that the Ace of Cups tells of a potential for experiencing strong emotions or a deep connection to the Inner Voice and the subconscious. These emotions and this connection to the inner landscape have not happened yet; all that exists is the possibility for them to happen. We are off to a good start, and we have lots more information to consider.

The traditional image of the Ace of Cups shows a Cup being held by a hand that is reaching out of a cloud, showing that the Ace is the first and purest manifestation of its suit, so pure that we can’t affect it yet. Often there is water overflowing from the Cup, and usually there is water to be found elsewhere in the image, sometimes with lotuses or water lilies floating on the surface, representing the fertility of the suit. The sky is usually clear and blue, representing the clarity and purity of the potential being offered, not yet muddied by manifestations or expectations or actions. Often there are doves or cherubs, or other representations of emotions and love. The Legacy of the Divine Ace of Cups shows two koi, symbols of love and affection, swimming in the Cup of Water.

The Ace of Cups has, as do all of the Tarot cards, an astrological connection as well, which can help us to add even more depth and texture to our readings. The Ace of Cups represents three sun signs: Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius, or the season of Fall.

Libra is about balance and partnerships, and about a focus on other people rather than just on the self.
Libras are most happy when they are paired up with another, and they are good at partnerships of all kinds. Balance is important to Libras, too, and they don’t like conflict. Libra corresponds with the planet Venus and with the element of Air. They use the intellect and their ability to communicate to form those partnerships and to maintain harmony.

Scorpio is about beginnings and endings, and about understanding the deep, dark secrets of the self. Scorpios stick to the plan (Scorpio is a Fixed Sign, after all); they are intense and passionate, even if they appear quiet on the surface. Scorpio corresponds with Mars and Pluto, and with the element of Water. They are motivated and penetrating, and they are very good at hiding their emotions. Still waters run deep, and Scorpios love hard, and love forever.

Sagittarius is about knowledge achieved by traveling the world and talking to everyone. They can be seen as enthusiastic consumers of information, and sitting for hours talking of philosophy or religion is their idea of heaven. Sagittarius corresponds with Jupiter, and the element of Fire. They enjoy physical activity as much as they enjoy learning about the world around them.

This means the Ace of Cups is about the potential for experiencing connections, intense and passionate feelings, the pleasures of the senses, and an enjoyment of experiencing the world around us.

Each of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck also has a home on the Tree of Life of the Qabalah; all of the Aces correspond to the sephira (or sphere) of Kether. Kether (or Crown) is the first sephira at the top of the Tree of Life. It is the top sephira of the Pillar of Balance, the center or trunk of the Tree, and is considered to be the cause of manifestation; not manifestation itself, mind you, but the catalyst that begins the process of manifestation. Nothing actually exists yet within Kether, but the Source of All awakens within Kether. However, it does not know itself yet because there is no other form from which it can view itself. Once again, we are speaking about the “point” or “position” without any dimension or manifestation.

That is quite a bit of information, all attained by breaking our card down to its basic ingredients. Not so complicated after all!

So the Ace of Cups tells of the potential to experience deep emotions, a connection to our Inner Voice, and a connection to those around us. The Llewellyn Welsh Ace of Cups represents nourishment, joy, and protection, and it tells of the beginning of a blessed and fruitful phase of life. The Rider-Waite Ace of Cups tells of the true heart, abundance, joy, and fertility. The Thoth Tarot Ace of Cups represents pure spirit, and the element of Water in its most secret and original form. The Shadowscapes Tarot Companion describes the Ace of Cups as that first tiny ripple that forms as a drop of water falls on the still surface of a lake; soon those ripples will grow and spread to the far reaches of the lake, but for now, we are dealing with the first stirrings of energy. The Magdalene Legacy Tarot Ace of Cups tells of the beginning of good things in home, hearth and family. The Ace of Cups is often seen as representing the Holy Grail, and indeed, here is the Cup of the Sacred Feminine, paired with the Lance or Rod of the Sacred Masculine found on the Ace of Wands.

In a sense, we could say that like The Fool, which journeys through the Major Arcana cards and thus, contains them all, our Ace of Cups contains each of the Minor Arcana and Court Cups cards. Within the Ace, these other Cups cards are potential only, without joy or sorrow, light or shadow.

The Ace of Cups does not guarantee happiness or love, but it does guarantee that we will have a chance to work in order to bring those things into our lives. The Ace of Cups does not promise spiritual initiation, but it does promise an awakening to our own Inner Voice and the messages of our intuition. It is up to us to make use of the promises of the Ace of Cups!