Seeing the Signs

March 1st, 2018

Book Review – The Tarot Companion: A Portable Guide for Reading the Cards for Yourself and Others by Liz Dean

OK – I am not a big fan of eBooks. I don’t have a tablet so I have to read them on my laptop and right there that causes certain problems. I have to sit at my desk – I have sit in my upright chair – I can’t be comfortable in my easy chair – I can’t read in bed – I most certainly can’t read in the tub – which I wouldn’t be able to do with a tablet, either. What can I say? I’m an old woman! A crone. I like books. Real books!

But sometimes books come your way and the only way you can access them is electronically and this is how it was with The Tarot Companion: A Portable Guide for Reading the Cards for Yourself and Others by Liz Dean, published by Fair Winds Press in 2018. So it’s hot off the presses, as the saying goes! I suppose it’s portable if you’re reading it on a tablet or a phone and you are actually carrying the text with you. And technically, I can take my laptop with me – it’s just seven years old now and really heavy so I generally don’t do that anymore. I thought of printing out this book – it’s 176 pages and I decided not to. I have to pay for my printing and that would have put me way over my monthly budget. But believe me – I am definitely going to look for this book in print. It’s a fabulous book. Meanwhile, I have it safely in a file on my laptop – it’s one of my favorite Tarot references!

The cards Ms. Dean features are the Universal Waite cards, which are a brighter, shinier conception of the classic Rider-Waite cards. They also tend to focus more on the main person in the card and not so much on the background imagery. They are a great set of cards for beginners and for anyone who wants to get back to basics with their divinatory skills. I love my Rider-Waite cards but I really like the Universal Waite deck and I’m thinking of picking up a set if I happen to see them on my travels – you know, if they come to me. Like Tarot cards do.

Like many books about reading the Tarot, she starts off with attuning your new deck and how to properly keep them and store them. Chapter one is all about the proper way of shuffling the cards and I was quite interested to see that she differentiated between shuffling the cards for yourself and for another person. She does the same with cutting the deck. She also says to always flip the cards sideways “left to right” (page 9). I admit that it took me years before I came upon this all on my own – I used to flip the cards this way, that way, upside down, whatever which way – it’s amazing I got any good readings at all!

One thing she acknowledges is that sometime you lay down the cards and you don’t get a clear reading at all. She says in that case, to shuffle and cut the cards and then read the cards again. I always felt like I was “cheating” if I did that but now I feel totally vindicated! But even then – sometimes the cards just aren’t telling you anything. One thing she says to look for – “Did the Ten of Wands come up?” She writes, “If so, this often means that there’s too much going on and it’s not the right time to read your cards. Wait a day or two and try again.” (page 9). This was the first time I had ever heard this. The Ten of Wands – with its picture of oppression – doesn’t strike me as a card of busyness – that would be more the Eight of Wands – too much information! Wands going everywhere like too many emails and too many texts! But I’ll keep what she says in mind.

Thinking it over – maybe the Ten of Wands – the man pushing all those Wands – is a card of too much going on – trying to keep all those wands in order and in one place and going forward! And it’s back-breaking! And perhaps heart-breaking too? So, yes – what Ms. Dean says makes total sense. Isn’t a new point of view so refreshing?

Unlike most books about the Tarot, Ms. Dean’s Card Layouts are in the beginning of the book as opposed to the rear of the book. She features a 3-card Layout – basically, Past, Present and Future – but she tells us how to tweak this layout to read for different life aspects, so that this one 3-Card Layout can be used in dozens of ways. Naturally, she presents the Celtic Cross layout – I do not believe that a book about the Tarot would be complete without the Celtic Cross. She also has a “The Week Ahead” layout to predict what the immediate seven days will bring you or your querent. She tends to focus on the immediate future, which makes sense. I have never understood looking beyond a few weeks. Anything could change and isn’t that the whole point? To see what’s ahead so you can make changes?

Chapter Two she introduces the Major Arcana. She presents each card, starting with The Fool and ending with The World, with the picture of the card on one side of the page and the text on the other. On my laptop, I have the picture and the text on the screen at the same time. She gives an “upright meaning” of two or three paragraphs, and then a more in depth look at how each particular card can affect the querent in the areas of career and money, relationships, and at home. Then she considers the “reversed meaning” of the card. Unlike many Tarot books, she doesn’t say that the reversed card is a “blockage” or it’s a “muted” meaning of the upright card. Nor does she have an upside-down view of the card, either. For instance, her analysis of the reversed Fool is this: “Is what you’re proposing – or a situation – a leap too far? The Fool reversed brings out his irresponsible side, as his mouth works ahead of his brain…” (page 17). I like that she tells it like it is. No sugar-coating.

The last thing she has for each card is a “Wisdom Message”. Each one is different for each card. Naturally, for the Fool it’s “Leap, but look first.” (page 17). For Strength, it’s “With strength, you can discover your higher purpose.” (page 33). The Moon card’s Wisdom Message is “Be guided by the messages from your unconscious.” (page 53).

It’s the same with the Minor Arcana, which she covers in Chapter Three. The descriptions of the cards are succinct, to the point, and spot-on. Unlike the Major Arcana, she does not have an in depth look at how the card affects career, money, relationships and home life – perhaps because each suit has a particular strength in each of these areas. But she does mention how, for instance, Aces affect a reading – she writes, “… one Ace brings a focus on the life area according to the suit, which can set the theme of the reading.” (page 63). She goes on to say what two Aces in a reading mean (an important partnership); three Aces (good news); four Aces (excitement, potential). (page 63). She does the same thing with the court cards. Two pages mean friendship but rivalry if they’re reversed; three pages mean lots of social activities; four pages mean a social group of young people. (page 111).

At the end of the book, there is an index to make looking up any card or concept a breeze. I cannot recommend this book highly enough; as I said earlier, as soon as I can find it in book form, I plan to purchase it. I want it on my actual hands and not just on my laptop. But until then, I will be referencing it as an eBook! This book is my new favorite Tarot book. Check out The Tarot Companion: A Portable Guide to Reading the Cards for Yourself and Others  Liz Dean today!

Click Image for Amazon Information


Dean, Liz. The Tarot Companion: A Portable Guide to Reading the Cards for Yourself and Others. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press, 2018.


About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

I love comparing cards! This month we will look at the Major Arcana Strength card and then come to understand it even further by comparing it to The Chariot, the card we examined last month. If you haven’t yet read last month’s column, please do so now.

Next, a quick review.

There are 22 Major Arcana cards in a Tarot deck, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. An archetype (pronounced “ark eh type”) is a generic, idealized model of a person, an object, or a concept which can be copied, patterned, or imitated. The term archetype often refers to one of two concepts: a “stereotype,” a personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of a personality type; stereotypes can be positive or negative, or an “epitome,” which is the embodiment of a particular personality type, especially as the “greatest” or “best” example of the particular personality type; epitomes can also be positive or negative.

So archetypes present personality traits that are common enough to be known by us all, through images (rather than words) that contain symbolism that connects with our subconscious in a universal manner. Each of us can understand the symbolism of archetypes and connect with that symbolism because each of us has (or will) personally experienced these archetypes.

Each Major Arcana card corresponds to an archetype, an image, a number, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth. Let’s start breaking this one down; we’ve got a lot of work to do!

Many Major Arcana cards represent archetypes of people in our lives. The Empress is The Mother, The Emperor is The Father, The Hierophant is The Teacher; we easily understand these archetypes because most of us have them in our lives. Other Tarot Majors represent ideas or feelings or concepts or stories, rather than people. The Strength card is one of these, as Strength is the archetype of goodness and endurance. Like The Chariot of last month, Strength is about courage and self-discipline; however, Strength has an inner focus that allows us to tame and live with our instincts or animal nature.

The traditional image associated with Strength is a woman and a lion under a blue or golden sky, with the woman appearing calm, gentle and cultured, gazing peacefully at the lion; not a figure typically associated with the ability to dominate a wild beast. Often the woman is clasping the jaws of the lion or petting or combing his mane; on a few versions she is prying open the lion’s mouth. Some cards show the lion sleeping at the woman’s feet, others show the woman riding the lion. Many Strength cards contain a lemniscate, a geometric shape also found on The Magician. There are often flowers, green grass, and mountains in the distance. The lion is a symbol of our passions and instincts and desires, and it is interesting that while The Chariot offers us the Warrior, Strength presents a woman to tame the lion. Here is the first hint that Strength is not about physical strength at all. The woman tames the lion with gentleness and patience; in many images the woman’s left arm (representing mental effort) is exhibiting effort while her right arm (representing physical effort) is merely resting on the lion.

Strength is the number 8 card, which tells us that we have skill to move forward, and the time has come to move, and to follow our instincts. This number represents the concept of a Remedy or a Reaction to the degeneration of the number 7; 8 is the number of building and of destruction that asks us to present a conscious and deliberate response to what has been presented to us to date. In some decks, Strength is switched with Justice and thus is numbered 11. The number 11 reduces to 2, the number of balance, polarity, diplomacy and the energy of “distance between.” This number offers the concept of comparison.

Strength corresponds with the element of Fire. Fire corresponds with the Minor Arcana suit of Wands, playing cards suit of Clubs, the cardinal direction of South and the color Red. It represents creativity, ideas, ambition, and growth. This element represents seeds being planted and things being born; Fiery energy encourages us to move forward and to take action based on Divine Will rather than our ego-based Self. In its natural state, the element of Fire is hot and dry. It tends to bring spontaneous change or impulsive, energetic effects. Fire 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. Fire is associated with our ability to experience joy and passion (including sexuality), and can represent enthusiasm and a pull towards being physical or artistic; it can also represent recklessness and apathy, a lack of energy and potential health issues.

In astrology, Strength corresponds with Leo (“I am,” passionate, dramatic, egotistical). The Sun sign of Leo is connected with the Lion, the king of the jungle, and the Lion plays a huge part in the Strength card. Leo also corresponds with our Sun, the center of our solar system; it is a fixed Fire sign. In Astrology, Fixed Signs are associated with stabilization, determination, depth and persistence. This means that Leos are powerful and willful in all they do, often achieving more than expected. Of course, they can also be inflexible, rigid, stubborn, opinionated and single-minded. Leos are passionate and courageous; they can combine dignity and strength in order to be effective leaders who have a talent for inspiring others to also go above and beyond what is expected. They tend to plunge into a situation without a second glance, but since they thrive on risk and competitive situations, the end result is often good.

In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected to the creative forces in the universe, and they express themselves on three levels: one level is archetypical and runs from the first to the ninth letter; the second level is one of manifestation and runs from the tenth to the eighteenth letter, and the third is a cosmic level and runs from the nineteenth to the twenty-second letter. Strength corresponds with the Hebrew letter Teth, the tail or the coiled serpent, the 9th letter in the alphabet which falls into the archetypical level. A coiled serpent has built up its power and is ready to strike; this is seen as a hidden spiritual awareness the release of which creates a reminder of our divine origin.

On the Tree of Life, Strength represents Path 19, running between Geburah (the place where forms and structures are challenged or affirmed) and Chesed (the place where forms and structures are stabilized and nurtured), representing Spiritual Intelligence. The 19th Path tells of the balance between strength and severity, and affection and gentleness. It encourages us to endure the tests and challenges that give us the strength and skill to wield Perfect Love and Trust. The 19th Path is one of the Paths that crosses the Tree of Life horizontally, moving in both directions between the sephiroth and spanning the Pillar of Form/Restriction and the Pillar of Force/Expansion. If you remember, The Chariot is a vertical Path, also originating in Geburah, the center of the Pillar of Form/Restriction, but moving upward into Binah and remaining on this Pillar.

The Chariot tells of having the control necessary to focus on our goals, and to avoid distractions, and it represents the ability to get to where we need to go, perhaps even the ability to get there quickly, rather than walking. Sometimes The Chariot can represent our mind and intellect and the way our feelings can affect them; both our mind and our feelings need to be controlled with a firm hand.

Strength does not tell of physical strength or the use of strong muscles. This is energy without brutality, a feminine strength, irresistible in its gentleness. The Strength card is seen as being connected to The Magician (they both contain that sideways 8, the symbol of eternity), however, The Magician must learn his skills, while the Strength card represents the ideal to be attained and strived for. The lesson The Magician must learn is that gentleness tames violence.

Like The Chariot, the Strength card also represents determination focus and power, however there are differences. The Chariot represents the Will, Strength represents Endurance. Two powerful forces, one with an outer manifestation and one with an inner manifestation. Originally, Strength was called Fortitude, one of the cardinal virtues (the other two are Temperance and Justice). Fortitude tells us that we need to moderate our expectations regarding pain and danger, for while we don’t usually want either of them, they can’t be avoided but rather endured. The Chariot has strength and focus, and is able to direct the forces around him in order to arrive at his chosen destination. Strength adds patience and composure to the mix, taming the unpredictable energies so they no longer present obstacles.

Strength has a powerful yet subtle message for those who seek to understand the energies of this card: it is not holding on that makes us strong, but it is the act of letting go.

The Celtic Cross

Samhain is traditionally a time of divination. Some methods – such an apple and tossing the peel over your shoulder and seeing the design of the peel – have gone down in history as “folk love magic”, since the apple peel, left overnight on the hearth, will set into the letter of your true-love. We did this as children.

In my own Samhain rituals, I always use tarot cards – tarot cards have always been my first and favorite form of divination. I first picked up a deck in 1988 – a Rider-Waite deck – and I have never stopped loving the feel and the ease of reading the cards. At this point in time, I own seven Tarot decks. Most of the time, I use the Rider-Waite – it’s just my go-to deck – easy to read in every aspect.

I have a Tarot notebook filled with notes of the twenty-eight years of study. Once a section of my Book of Shadows, it is now a giant-sized notebook of its own with numerous divisions. I have read almost every book I have found in libraries or borrowed from friends or have been able to buy. In the 1990’s, when I became connected to the Internet, I found another rich source of Tarot information and my Tarot notebook grew by leaps and bounds. Now my favorite source of information is Pinterest – for images of cards, for new spreads – for all kinds of enlightenment. I’m at a point with my Tarot notebook where I’m thinking of dividing it up into two notebooks – one for notes and one for spreads alone. I have 102 Tarot spreads as of this writing – organized by subject matter, shape of the spread and number of cards used. There is a section for The Celtic Cross, which was the first spread I learned to read and remains my favorite spread to use.

I have eighteen versions of the Celtic Cross, including the one I developed myself. The first one in the section is from Tarot: A New Handbook for the Apprentice, by Eileen Connolly, which was published by Newcastle Publishing in 1979. I used to own this book but gave it away because I felt it had too much a Christian bias and I am a Dianic Witch. But looking at the spread today, it is a simple and easy-to-use spread that is perfect for the beginner, and I do remember that the entire book was the same way so if you ever come across this book, I do recommend it for that reason. Don’t let the Christian-speak turn you off. For years, this was the only Tarot book I had in my possession – since you have to return library books – so I am glad that the woman who gave me my first deck of cards also gave me this helpful book. Teachers do come from all spiritual backgrounds so it is important not to let religious or political differences get in the way of enlightenment.

In the beginning of my spiritual search, I hadn’t learned the rules of research so many of my spreads do not have bibliographic information telling me from which book I found it, which is disappointing to me today. But nowadays I make sure I cite all my sources on each page. Some of the spreads are named after the person who wrote the book in which I found the spread – therefore, Celtic Cross #5 is subtitled “Angeles Arrien” Celtic Cross #6 is subtitled “Joanne Kolwalski”. Celtic Cross #7 has the subtitle “Mary K. Greer” and it is one of the more involved spreads that I have seen, in that for each position it presents between seven and ten concepts to consider. Mary K. Greer is one of my favorite Tarot instructors via her books, website and blogs. Her book, Tarot for Yourself: A Workbook for Personal Transformation has an entire chapter devoted to the Celtic Cross and just rereading it for this column was like a refresher course in Tarot! I bought this book back in 1993 and did all the exercises – many of them turned into poems. I cannot recommend it enough. ALL of Mary K. Greer’s books are fabulous.

My personal Celtic Cross came about simply because when you do something all the time, you naturally start seeing things in a certain way and the cards start speaking to you in a certain way. Reading all the spreads that I have collected, I can see how they all influenced me – from the very simple ones to the very complex ones. Being on the simpler side, I keep my spreads easy to read and to the point. I scanned the page with my Celtic Cross but since it was written in pencil – which I do in case I make a mistake and can easily change things – my tiny handwriting didn’t show up very well. So here is the basic spread, which is of course the same as everyone else’s Celtic Cross:


This is how I read it:

  1. Cover. The basic situation.

  2. Cross. What is screwing up the situation.

  3. Base. What is at the bottom of the situation.

  4. Past. What is no longer happening but is still affecting the situation.

  5. Hopes. This is connected to #9, Fears.

  6. Future. This is connected to #10, Outcome.

  7. Environment. What is surrounding the situation.

  8. Querent. The person who wants to know what’s going on.

  9. Fears. Worries & anxieties surrounding the situation.

  10. Outcome. If this card is from the Minor Arcana, then deal three more cards and see if a card from the Major Arcana comes up. If none appears, then the situation is as yet unsettled spiritually and set it aside for another day. This is the way it is sometimes. Meditate on the issue and do another reading on another day.



I have kept records of my tarot readings in my regular diary and in special tarot journals since I started using the cards in 1988. It’s a good

practice to acquire. Looking back on my old readings, I can see how I have developed as a reader. I rarely read for other people – I look for my own answers – and I use the cards for meditation. But I’m at the point where I can lay out the cards and generally read them at a glance. Quite often – after writing it all down in my journal – I’ll refer to one of my Tarot books or the notes I have in my Tarot notebook for more enlightenment. As I said before, I love all of Mary K. Greer’s books. Another favorite is A Feminist Tarot, by Sally Gearhart and Susan Rennie. Originally published by Persephone Press in 1976, it is now published by Alyson Publications and is in its sixth edition. I have the fifth edition, which was published in 1981.


Of course Radar has to get in the way when I’m recording the reading in my Tarot Journal!

There are as many versions of The Celtic Cross as there as tarot readers – many more than I have in my Tarot notebook – so find some of the books I have mentioned and teach yourself some of the finer points of this easy to learn, easy to use Tarot spread. And on Samhain evening, as you sip your apple cider by candlelight, shuffle your favorite deck and find out what your ancestors have to say to you. Brightest Blessings!

Thoughts While Reading The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook




One of the books on my summer reading list is The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook: Reading the Language and Symbols of the Cards, by Caitlín Matthews. I don’t have a set of Lenormand Cards – but I’m not letting that stop me from learning as much as I can about them. As with all divinatory cards, I am fascinated by the variety and beauty of the many sets of Lenormand cards available in occult shops, online or from private seller.

I think what appeals to me about the Lenormand is the combination of pictures, numbers and playing card symbolism. In divinatory terms, there’s a lot to work with. Since I don’t have a set of cards yet and have therefore never used a set of Lenormand cards, I can’t say anything about them but I have gazed on their images online and they are incredibly intriguing! I have seen enough sets to know which one – or ones – I would buy if I were in the position to do so. But being the witch that I am, I have learned that these kind of divination tools tend to come to you, rather than you seek them out. When I see the set I want, I’ll know it.

But while I am enjoying Caitlín Matthew’s informative and well-written book, this article is not about Lenormand cards per se. It about her assertion about reading Tarot cards versus Lenormand Cards. Having never read Lenormand Cards, I can’t say anything about that. I have no reason to doubt what she says. However, about reading the Tarot, she writes,

In tarot, cards are laid out in predecided or named positions. Take a spread like the ten-card Celtic Cross. Every position has a different meaning, as introduced by diviners as they lay cards down … Each position is an essential part of the reading and helps define or frame how the card laid upon each place is to be read.” (10)

She goes on to say, “Lenormand cards work by proximity to each other, creating meaning through juxtaposition. This is a more linguistic method. Just as we use different combinations of the alphabet to create words, so, too, do Lenormand cards work together to create different meanings, as we will see …” (10)

Of course, I don’t yet have a set of Lenormand cards, so I can’t say if using them is a “more linguistic” method or not. But I have been reading Tarot cards and studying the Tarot for over thirty years now and while some spreads are just as she describes – putting a card on a certain position and reading it against what that position is supposed to mean – other spreads do require the cards to be read together, as card combinations. So in that sense, the Tarot can be also be a linguistic method – quite honestly, I never thought of it as anything else.

On the subject of card combinations, I did learn quite a bit from her explanation of how to read the placement of cards – the first card as the subject and the second card as modifier. When there are more cards, the way the modifiers are worked out – left or right of a middle subject card – changes, but this is basically it. Now – maybe I’m just being cantankerous but I don’t see why this method can’t be used with a set of Tarot cards. Or a deck of playing cards, for that matter. When you’re a skilled reader, I would think you would be able to read most anything. I do not even pretend to play the part of a skilled reader – I am merely an interested amateur – a kitchen witch who has an interest in all the arts.

Once I did visit a skilled reader. It was many years ago in Topanga Canyon, California. She used an ordinary deck of Rider-Waite cards but she laid them out three in a row, read those three as a combination, then laid out three more, read those three, and so on. She laid the cards out very fast and read them very fast. She used maybe half the deck. One of the things I remember her telling me was that I was not with “the man I was supposed to be with” – I was with the father of my son – and my “soulmate” would be coming to me soon. Whoever that soulmate was, he has come and gone, because, as I said – that was many years ago. But my point is, the way she read the cards was more like setting out a Grand Tableau –she probably used around than 36 cards. Of course, at that time I had neither heard of the Lenormand Oracle or the Grand Tableau. But now – reading about it and thinking back – I wonder if she was blending the two systems for a better reading. Who knows?

In my Tarot notebook, I have notes about card combinations, some from books I have read and some printed off the internet. I have quite a lot from a now-defunct website called – I searched for it the other day and it was gone – but websites come and websites go. It seems that most of the information I have saved refers to the court cards – I suppose that would make sense, since it’s easier to modify concepts concerning people. And most questions people ask concern other people! For instance, a queen with the seven of swords – it could be a light-handed woman or a woman who is a victim of theft, depending on the placement of the cards.

Someday I will have a set of Lenormand cards and I will continue my education with this divinatory system. Until then, I will practice my skills using Tarot cards, playing cards, and whatever else I have. As I was told as a child, “Practice makes perfect.” I don’t know if I’ll ever be perfect, but I know I will never stop practicing.

You can find out more about The Complete Lenormand Oracle by clicking HERE.

To read more on the author of the book, Caitlin Matthews, click HERE.

Brightest Blessings!


Ten of Cups

(The Ten of Cups Card is from the artist Ciro Marchetti**

Last month we finally talked about the Tens of the Minor Arcana, discussing the Ten of Swords. Let’s reexamine the Tens, this time looking at the Ten of Cups. If you haven’t already read last month’s essay, now might be a good time to check it out. As always, here is a bit of basic foundational information about the Tens of the Tarot Minor Arcana.

A Tarot deck has 78 cards. There are 22 Major Arcana cards, with numbers from 0 to 21; the Majors usually deal with broader and more far-reaching life experience issues, archetypes that are easy for us to identify with and connect with at some point in our lives. There are 56 Minor Arcana cards that are customarily grouped into four categories or suits that represent the four elements (sometimes called “Pips” or “Pip Cards”), with numbers from Ace to 10; the Minors usually deal with day-to-day issues.

The Ten of Cups is a part of the Minor Arcana. We already know that 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 10, and the suit of Cups, and understanding these two categories of information will give us a good initial understanding of our card this month.

First, let’s look at the traditional image of the Ten of Cups. The traditional image on this one is of a loving couple often arm-in-arm, usually with two or three happily playing children nearby. Everything around them is strong, healthy and verdant: green grass and bushes and trees, brightly-colored flowers. Usually there is a house in the distance, also surrounded by green trees and lawns and multi-colored flowers, and there is also usually a lake or pond or river, sometimes in the foreground of the image, and sometimes in the background. The sky is usually blue and clear, and there are 10 Cups in the sky, usually arranged in an arc along with a rainbow. The image is calm, serene, and trouble-free, offering an idealized version of country life and a happy family.

The number 10 represents the end of one cycle and beginning of another or a transition point from one cycle to another, closure, a plateau or rest before moving on, culmination, and attaining the level of perfect combination of the 1 and 0 energies (as the number 10 reduces to the number 1, 1 + 0 = 1). Within the Minor Arcana, the Ten cards are usually seen as offering the concept of the end result of the application of the element, the sum total of everything accomplished and learned from the Ace of the suit (which for the Ace of Cups represents the possibility to experience strong feelings or emotions or visions or dreams), or the physical vehicle of the previous nine numbers. In many ways, the Ten cards can be seen as the opposite extreme of the Aces of their suits. The effects of the number 10 are different from the number 9, which represents the completeness of the experience of the effects, rather than the completion of the process.

The suit of Cups corresponds with the element of Water. 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.

Feelings and emotions are the main correspondences of the element of Water, and the suit of Cups. Emotions flow and have currents, 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, the dark and unknown depths hidden below the smooth reflective surface.

Like the other cards of the Tarot, the Ten of Cups has an astrological correspondence. The Ten of Cups represents the planet Mars when it is in the constellation of Pisces.

The image for Pisces is fish, and this sign is connected to all the correspondences of Water. Pisces is a sign of feelings of all kinds, of the suffering that brings growth, and of duality (picture a body of water; there are two worlds, one above the surface and one below the surface). The fact that the symbol for Pisces is two fish (as opposed to one) speaks to the duality of Pisces, their yin and yang sensibility.  Pisces is the twelfth sign of the zodiac, and it is also the final sign in the zodiacal cycle, and thus brings together many characteristics of the other eleven signs. Pisces people are selfless, spiritual and very focused on their inner journey and their feelings. Many people associate Pisces with dreams and secrets, which makes sense because their intuition is highly evolved. Pisces are fluid and easy-going, in keeping with the Mutable Quality assigned to this sign.

Mars is known as the “Red Planet,” and this makes sense because Mars is about energy, passion, drive and determination, all fiery personality traits. Mars is commanding, confident, and powerful, asking us to stand up and be noticed without fear. Ambition and competition are also associated with this planet; Mars encourages us to face challenges and to be our best, with honor. Mars rules our sexuality and sexual energy, and governs weapons, accidents and surgery. It’s important to note that Mars’s energy can be constructive or destructive. In the end, however, the energy of Mars can be quite useful if used properly.

Mars in Pisces may seem like a combination of opposites, and in some ways this is true. The combination of Mars and Pisces tends to have less-obvious energies because a lot of effort is used at emotional and subconscious levels, rather than in conquering outer challenges. Mars in Pisces is not about material world rewards or material world ambitions, but rather about spiritual fulfillment. This combination of planet and constellation encourages activities that feed the soul rather than the pocket, and encourages altered states of consciousness, often through the enjoyment of music or art or literature (and sometimes through alcohol and other mind-changing substances). Fulfillment is found through emotionally rich relationships, and through helping (and championing) those less fortunate.

Minor Arcana cards also correspond with a sephira on the Tree of Life. The Ten cards correspond with the sephira of Malkuth, along with the Pages of the Court Cards and the element of Earth. Malkuth is the bottom sephira on the Tree, corresponding with our physical world, and opposite of Kether at the top of the Tree, corresponding with the purest form of Deity, mostly unknowable by physical world beings. Malkuth is located at the bottom of the Pillar of Balance and is receptive in nature; it receives emanations from all the other sephiroth on the Tree. This sephira and the Tree itself show us that the physical world is created by traveling downward through the sephiroth of the Tree, and these two sephiroth can be seen as one representation of “as above, so below; as below, so above.”

The Llewellyn Welsh Ten of Cups shows a house at the end of a rainbow, located in a green valley, next to a mountain stream. The waters of the stream tumble down and around boulders, and the stream is spanned by a bridge. Near the bridge are a happy couple and two children, playing by the side of the stream, alongside 10 Cups. On the other side of the bridge and in the distance is a house surrounded by green leafy trees. This card tells of having a full heart; I love this description! It represents mature love, real companionship, safety, security, and dreams that have come true.

The Thoth Tarot Ten of Cups is not so happy as the Llewellyn Welsh Ten of Cups. The image on this card is 10 Cups arranged in the shape of the Tree of Life, and the water flows with power from each Cup. But that water is flowing with such intensity that it does not fall into the Cup immediately below, but rather overflows onto the floor. Crowley sees this card as suggesting “the morbid hunger which springs from surfeit.” He tells Lady Harris (his illustrator) to make the card menacing and to keep in mind the cravings of a drug addict. Instead of representing the realization of the potential of the rest of the Cups cards, this card is merely about fullness. Crowley blames this depressing end-of-the-line of the Cups cards on the influence of the planet Mars, which he sees as “a gross, violent and disruptive force which inevitably attacks every supposed perfection.” The divinatory meanings of the Thoth Ten of Cups reflect this influence: lasting success inspired from above and kindness, moving to pity and quietness, and on to dissipation, debauchery, wantonness and waste.

The Ten of Cups from the Gateway to the Divine Tarot offers a cozy variation of the traditional image for this card. This Ten shows a golden dog sleeping in front of a roaring fireplace. Leaning against the dog (and also deeply asleep) is a ginger cat. Hanging in front of the flames of the fireplace are the symbols for Pisces and Mars, and on the mantle shelf above and on shelves to either side of the fire are 10 Cups. Dogs and cats are associated with domestic scenes, but what makes this image so powerful is that these two creatures who are usually at odds with each other are coexisting in trust and peace. Here is the harmony, hospitality, mutual love, mutual trust, and the happy family of the Ten of Cups.

If we look back at all the information we have discussed regarding the Ten of Cups, we can see where each of the variations I’ve described arise. If we begin with the Ace of Cups and think about the positive feelings and emotions and dreams we wish to attract to us, and then move through the Cups cards and the experiences they offer, one possible end result can certainly be the traditional interpretation of this card: the emotional fulfillment of a mature relationship. We do need to remember, however, that the happy ending presented by the Ten of Cups is not about money or mansions. The pleasures presented by this card are represented by a simple home in the woods, a loving companion in a mature and fruitful relationship, and the ability to enjoy the beauty around us as it naturally appears.

The lesson of the Ten of Cups is that we should not focus solely on achieving the goal, for once the goal is achieved, there is no feeling of satisfaction. Instead, there is the letdown of “now what?” or the surfeit of overindulgence. Instead, we should enjoy the journey and understand that the goal is not to achieve something material in the future, but rather to enjoy what we have now, things like love and peace and safety, which cannot be purchased with any coin.

** This year we will be featuring the art of Ciro Marchetti as part of Tarot Talk.  You can view his work and Decks at .


Instant Tarot: Your Complete Guide to Reading the Cards by Monte Farber and Amy Zerner, published in 2017 by Weiser Books, Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC, Newburyport, MA 01950, soft cover, 259 pages. Instant Tarot is published as a paperback, with a color cover printed on typical soft-cover stock, measuring 8 ½ by 5 ½ inches. The interior pages consist of black and white card images and nicely-sized typeface printed on white paper.

Instant Tarot is different from most of the how-to-read-the-Tarot books available to students and enthusiasts of the Tarot. This book uses a system for understanding and interpreting the cards in a traditional Tarot deck that is based on the card positions of the Celtic Cross spread. This system is generally described in the Introduction and the Frequently Asked Questions About Tarot Readings sections at the beginning of this book, written by the authors, and in more detail in the Three Step Process following the Introduction. The Celtic Cross spread is also explained, and each card position of the Celtic Cross spread is given a keyword or key phrase and a description. A sample reading is offered showing actual card images in the eleven positions of the spread, along with the seeker’s question and interpretations of each card in the spread.

Like other books that focus on understanding and exploring the cards of the Tarot, the main part of this book showcases the individual Major and Minor Arcana cards, beginning with an image of the card (based on a traditional Rider Waite deck), the name and number of the card, and a keyword. But the similarities end here. Instead of upright and reversed meanings, explanations of symbolism, and lists of correspondences, the reader is given eleven interpretations of each card based on the meanings of the eleven card positions of the Celtic Cross spread as explained in the beginning of the book.

Instant Tarot provides interpretations for every card in a traditional Tarot deck in every position of a Celtic Cross spread. If you would like to become comfortable with the Celtic Cross spread, this book is for you. Each of the card positions in this spread are explained via each of the cards in the deck, offering an in-depth tutorial for what for some Tarot readers is an intimidating spread. If you feel frustrated by card descriptions that seem difficult to adjust to the focus or style of your readings, the multiple focuses offered in Instant Tarot could allow you to see each card in a fresh new way. If you understand the cards themselves but are having trouble telling the story of a spread, the multiple interpretations could help lace together the meanings of the cards. The book is easy to use, the cards in the sample spreads are all cross-referenced with their individual descriptive sections, and the instructions for use of the system are clear and easy to understand.

Also included in Instant Tarot are some suggestions for performing one-card and three-card readings using this Celtic Cross system, as well as some suggested questions for one-card and three-card readings that are easily personalized or adjusted by the reader.

This book is well-named for it does provide a system that allows a novice to provide an instant reading. Instant Tarot does not offer a detailed history of the Tarot, or detailed description of the meanings of the individual cards, and it does not make reference to the multiple disciplines, such as astrology, numerology, or suits and the elements, that are some of the foundations of those card meanings. If you are looking for that kind of background information, you will not find it here.

What the system found within the pages of Instant Tarot does provide, however, is a method for creating smoothly flowing interpretations of the multiple card positions within a classic Celtic Cross spread. For many aspiring readers, it is the combining of the cards and their meanings into a coherent story that is the true challenge of a Tarot reading. If this is your challenge, Instant Tarot could be the answer you are looking for.


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About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot reader and teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journey To Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog,, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.

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