3 of Swords

consider your response

Threes are the response or reaction to the two + Swords relate to our thoughts and mental processing.

from the Herbcrafters Tarot

And so the center or balanced position of the Three of Swords shows realization and reminds us to consider our response. We may realize the truth about something (piercing an illusion?); but even if that truth is painful, we get to choose how we respond. Reality as we know it occurs in the space between stimulus and response. This is not a card of emotion, but of realization and truth informing us of how to proceed (remember, threes expand). Consider it, turn it over in your mind, integrate information, and you will then know how to proceed with clarity and grace.

In resistance, the truth may be difficult and we may try to protect ourselves by refusing to see it.

In excess, we’re triggered and we react. What may be a better response?

Questions to consider when this card comes up may include

  • Is there a situation which could benefit by putting things in perspective?
  • Is there a situation you see as a crisis which could instead be an opportunity? How can you step toward that?
  • Is there someone with whom you could clear the air?
  • Has a part been activated and could use some tending?

What else? There are so many more, depending on the spread and surrounding cards. How has this card come up for you? What insight have you gained from it?

3 of Cups

Seek out your community

Three is expansion from the two + Cups point to our emotional experiences and relating to others.

from the Art History Tarot of Past Lives

And so, in its centered or balanced position on the spectrum, the Three of Cups expands or evolves outward from the two in emotional generosity. This is the weaving together of a community in which we feel accepted and supported. We see that one person cannot be our sole mirror and that each relationship brings out other facets and builds webs. This card also carries a tone of celebration — it may be small, it may be temporary, but we’re invited to be present in community where we are valued.

As we consider the Cups as symbolizing emotions, we can also apply the expansive nature of three (the reaction or response to the two in synthesis or releasing the tension inherent in two) as an emotional breakthrough of some sort, supporting the healing of personal wounds.

Where water is deficient, we don’t feel included or supported, or we may choose to remain solitary.

In excess, we may be drowning our emotional wounds in excess socializing or partying, or we have an over dependence on group acceptance.

Questions we think about when this card comes up may include

  • To whom can you turn for support?
  • Do you care what others think? What part of you requires that?
  • Do you avoid the company of others? Is that a function of introversion, or is there a part that fears some sort of wounding?
  • Are you afraid of standing out, preferring Instead the safety of being surrounded by your tribe?

What else? There are other facets to this card and your insights may differ. Feel free to share!

3 of Wands

assimilate and expand

Three is the response to the two and its integration (expansion) + Wands relate to our energy and where we put it.

from the Spiral Tarot

In the upright or centered position on the card’s spectrum, the Three of Wands sees the return of the two’s exploration and we’re assimilating and considering what’s next in expanding our horizons. If the two was sending our ships out, three shows them coming in, and we are seeing the return on the groundwork we’ve laid; but things are still in process or evolving (three strives for form), so follow-through is key as we’re building, expanding, managing the next cycle of the journey and the opportunities that allow us to expand. How can we keep growing?

When the three’s Fire is deficient, we’re bored with it already or we lack vision. Fear of the unknown can stifle our desire for expansion.

In excess, we’re overreaching, seeking or seizing opportunities which are beyond our capabilities or rooted in attention-seeking. Are we afraid of missing out?

Questions to ask when this card comes up may include

  • what obstacles prevent you from realizing your vision?
  • Is follow-through a challenge for you?

What else? You may have other insights. How do you see this card? How has it come up for you? Feel free to share in comments.

2 of Pentacles

balance priorities which promote our soul’s growth

Twos aim to balance when an other is introduced + Pentacles represent navigating the material world.

from Darkness of Light (1st ed.)

And so, in its upright or balanced position on the spectrum, the Two of Pentacles invites us to look at what we’re trying to hold in balance. The metaphor of juggling is often used with this card, as the two acts in rhythm and balance, representing the natural flux of life in and flow such as cause & effect. Sometimes it’s up, sometimes it’s down (as the ship in the background of the Smith-Waite 2oP, or the tides as shown in this example from Darkness of Light). Sometimes we must borrow from Peter to pay Paul. Life is a series of cycles, and in this two, we must juggle demands, balance priorities, and weigh our options. If we’re working too hard, rest. If we’ve overspent, save money. If we’ve eaten poorly, adjust our diet, and so on.

As we move out of the seed of the Ace, are we prepared to step onto the path of our soul’s work? What are we choosing to juggle? Now may not be the time to try and multitask too much, but to choose to release those responsibilities not in keeping with our path.

In resistance, we don’t make the connection between cause & effect, perhaps oblivious to our causative role in matters. One thing to keep in mind is that if we choose not to step into our soul’s work, we fail to grow.

In excess, we try to keep everyone happy and, in misplacing our priorities, we struggle to keep all of the balls in the air.

Questions we may ask when the 2oP comes up include

  • Where do you feel out of balance in your life?
  • Are you feeling pulled in opposite directions? Which serves you better?
  • What are you struggling to juggle? Why do you continue to do so?
  • Is there an aspect of your life that you’ve been ignoring? Why do you do so?

What else? Of course, this is just a sampling of this card’s spectrum, and you may have other insights. How do you see this card? How has it come up for you? Feel free to share in comments.

2 of Swords

remain objective

Twos introduce an other in duality + airy Swords represent the mental realm of ideas.

from Touchstone Tarot by Kat Black

And so, in the upright or balanced position of the Two of Swords, we are balancing opposing views, striving to see both sides. Can they be reconciled? Must a choice be made, or can we hold the two in balance? In many modern decks, the figure is blindfolded, reminding us to trust our inner knowing for the truth and to remain objective; don’t allow emotion to cloud our judgement.

In resistance, we cannot remain impartial. Info or ideas inconsistent with our beliefs are dismissed or rationalized; cognitive dissonance.

In excess, we remain in indecision, stifled by self-doubt.

Questions we might ask when this card appears include

  • Are you feeling pulled in two different directions?
  • Is there another side of something that you’re refusing to see?
  • What factors or events from your past may be influencing your decision?

What else? Of course, this is just a sampling of this card’s spectrum, and you may have other insights. How do you see this card? How has it come up for you? Feel free to share in comments.

2 of Cups

look into the mirror of the other

Twos take us from the sole oneness of Ace to the introduction of an other + watery Cups represent feelings and relationships.

from Murder of Crows Tarot, by Corrado Roi

And so, in its upright or balanced position on the spectrum, the Two of Cups is a coming together in relationship — whether a partnership of some sort or as the integration of parts within the self. It invites us to look into the mirror of the other and see ourselves reflected back. Can you accept what you see? This card’s most fundamental message relates to the age-old advice that you will not find love in another if you can’t find it within yourself. It’s important to remember that this card isn’t necessarily about romantic love, but about relationships and love of all kinds, including self.

In resistance, we find incompatibility between the two, or we separate. We may be rejecting a part of ourselves. It may also hint at an independence which rejects others.

In excess, we become dependent on another to compensate for a perceived lack in ourselves which we see reflected. Co-dependency.

Questions we may ask when this card comes up include

  • What part is preventing you from reaching out due to pride or fear?
  • What attracts you to another person in friendship, collaboration, love, etc.?
  • What irks you in another person in friendship, collaboration, love, etc.?
  • What painful event from the past do you need to make peace with in order to heal and move on?
  • How do you balance solitude and connection with others?

What else? Of course, this is just a sampling of this card’s spectrum, and you may have other insights. How do you see this card? How has it come up for you? Feel free to share in comments.

Ace of Pentacles

take the first step in manifesting your idea

Aces are offerings or opportunities of the highest potential of the suit.

Pentacles deal with the physical domain of earth, and how we as spiritual beings navigate the material world. This has customarily focused on money and resources, but this suit has so much more breadth than being limited to materialism. The realm of earth includes our physical bodies and health, but is a grounding force, rooted and slow. It is practical in the ways that we manifest and pursue our soul’s work and spiritual ideals in the physical world. We can see hints of this in the church imagery that Pamela Coleman-Smith included in her pips (3 of Pentacles, 5 of Pentacles).

Historically, the four suits were associated with the four classes of society, and Pentacles or diamonds represented the merchant class. In modern classist or Marxist tarot, this translates to the bourgeoisie – industry leaders, real estate, and other financial and physical structures of society.

If we consider the four humours of the body and temperament as in Galen’s time, Earth correlated with black bile and therefore melancholic — thoughtful and considerate (but may struggle with perfectionism and be easily depressed). As Jung’s cognitive functions go, the suit of Pentacles corresponds to Sensation, which is how we observe the physical and manipulate it.

from Darkness of Light (1st ed.)

And so the Ace of Pentacles, Disks, or Coins is the potential or foundation for manifesting in the earthly realm. It asks us to get out of our head and implement that thought, desire, idea; take the first step to give it concrete expression. (This is the Ace that brings the others to tangible form.). This journey will likely take time and require tending, like the seed we plant in the soil of our garden and nurture.

In resistance, we’re stuck. We just can’t move beyond our thoughts and dreams. What holds us back from taking the first step toward manifesting? Perhaps we doubt our ability to manifest.

In excess, is there an overemphasis on the material or physical, of security, or some other aspect of earth?

Questions that we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include:

  • What seeds are you planting?
  • What prevents you from pursuing your soul’s work?
  • Do you feel secure? Is there a part of you that does not?
  • How is your health? Do you get the physical exercise and nutrition that your body needs? How is your relationship with food?
  • Do you have a need for more time connecting with nature?

But of course that’s just a beginning. How do you see this card? How has it come up for you? What is your favorite depiction of the Ace of Pentacles, and how are its shadow aspects portrayed?

Ace of Swords

bring forward your ideas; speak your truth

Aces are offerings or opportunities of the highest potential of the suit.

Swords deal with the mental realm of air, and our belief systems. Where the Cups dwelled in our unconscious, the Swords reveal our conscious mind. Here, we’re dealing with ideas, words, communication, thought, reason, perspectives, principles, study, ethics, information, truth, insight, clarity of mind. Historically, Swords / Spades represented soldiers and warriors and the conflicts we face, which seems to have evolved in Air as thoughts and interpretations creating strife in our lives.

As such, there is much conflict in the shadows of the Swords. Their reason and strategy may help the lawyer presenting an argument in court, but we must also guard against being argumentative, self-righteous, seeing issues in black & white. While Swords can help Cups in understanding their emotions, they do so rationally and so they can be unfeeling, cold. They’re also prone to overthinking, allowing brain chemistry to run amok in worry and anxiety.

Historically, the four suits were associated with the four classes of society, and — as mentioned above — spades or Swords represented the warriors or knights. In modern classist or Marxist tarot, this translates to govt (including the military), police, as well as institutions of higher learning (academia).

If we consider the four humours of the body and temperament as in Galen’s time, air correlates with blood and was therefore sanguine — energetic and courageous (but may be impulsive and unpredictable). As Jung’s cognitive functions go, the suit of Swords corresponds to Thinking, which is where we strive to understand and discern so that we may make decisions.

from the Medieval Scapini Tarot

And so, the Ace of Swords offers an opportunity to bring forward whatever it is that needs to be expressed through us. There may be a challenge to our belief system, perhaps new info or a choice (note that the sword is often double-edged); but the mind is open and we have the clarity to express our ideas and speak our truth.

In resistance, we may not feel ready to articulate. We may be confused or foggy, or don’t have all of the information, yet.

In excess, we may be overthinking.

Questions that we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include:

  • What keeps you from expressing your ideas? Is there a part that holds you back from realizing your potential? Why?
  • What holds your tongue from speaking your truth? Where did these limiting beliefs come from?

But of course that’s just a beginning. How do you see this card? How has it come up for you? What is your favorite depiction of the Ace of Swords, and how are its shadow aspects portrayed?

Ace of Cups

expand our capacity for compassion and healing

Aces are offerings or opportunities of the highest potential of the suit.

Cups rule the domain of water, representing our emotional experiences and how we relate to others. Where fire rises, water descends, conforming to the shape of its container. This is the realm of feelings and relationships, but also the flow of the psyche in dreams, intuition, memories, imagination, and spirituality.

While compassion, self-acceptance, and healing fall in the higher realm of Cups, its challenges may include irrationality, hypersensitivity, fantasy. Cups are also often seen as the vessels for alcohol used to drown emotional hardship.

Historically, the four suits were associated with the four classes of society, and Cups or hearts represented the clergy. In modern classist or Marxist tarot, this remains clergy but includes those who provide spiritual or emotional services — such as therapists, social workers, nurses.

If we consider the four humours of the body and temperament as in Galen’s time, water correlated with phlegm and were therefore phlegmatic — kind, calm, and compassionate friends (but may be shy and uninspiring). As Jung’s cognitive functions go, the suit of Cups corresponds to Feeling, which is where our value systems are developed. Expanding on ‘feeling’ a little, Cups also relate to psychic feelings we may get, and spiritual endeavors.

from Sola Busca Revisited by Tarot by Seven

And so the Ace of Cups reminds us to expand our capacity for compassion and fulfillment in whatever situation is coming up (whether toward self or others). It offers us a chance to more deeply consider what we’re available to receive or take part in.

In resistance, we withdraw. Our heart isn’t available for connection with others, this new experience, or acceptance (again, whether socially or of the self).

In excess, we may hold unrealistic ideals in this new experience or relationship. Are we a little starry-eyed?

Questions that we may be prompted to ask when this card comes up include:

  • How connected are you with your subconscious parts? How can you better connect with and accommodate their needs ?
  • How connected are you with your spirituality or a higher power? What do you hope to cultivate in spiritual practice?
  • What parts of you feel the need to protect your heart?

But of course that’s just a beginning. How do you see this card? How has it come up for you? What is your favorite depiction of the Ace of Cups, and how are its shadow aspects portrayed?

Ace of Wands

reach out and take hold of that energy

One of the things I’ve noticed in books and other writings on shadow work is that they only talk about the trumps, as though the pips are insignificant in these matters. On the contrary; I think the cards that represent our daily interactions and feelings and responses are those we should explore first when trying to better understand the parts of our psyche. So, in this new series on the cards to include shadow meanings, we’ll start with the pips and then go into courts, finishing up with the trumps.

Aces are often considered some of the most amorphous of the cards. As the beginning of the suit, Aces represent the possibilities of their element — and that can seem wide open. If we consider the imagery used in the Smith-Waite decks, the Aces show an article of the suit (wand, cup, sword, or pentacle) held by a hand emerging from a cloud, indicating that there is an offering here. Will we accept it? Are we ready to step up and take it? That’s really the directive of the Aces, isn’t it? Are we going to reach out and take hold of it? What are we going to do with it? What we’re asked to confront in the shadows of this card is what is holding us back?

from Tarocco Soprafino by il Meneghello

Wands as a suit represents the element of Fire, which is our energy. Here, we see the various ways our vitality influences the events in our lives. This is our life force and its activity, initiative, passion, inspiration, drive, will. It’s shadows may present as impulsivity, rashness, indecisiveness, taking risks, hyperactivity, and such.

Wands may also represent the identities we adopt. This is where issues of identity and ego are most revealed, as well as the expressions of jealousy and other shadows of ego identification. The invitations and teachings we confront here ask us to honor our inner flame. Are we ready to step into a new role?

Historically, the four suits were associated with the four classes of society, and Wands or Staves (as clubs) represented the peasantry. In modern classist or Marxist tarot, this translates to the proletariat – labor and the working class, as well as artists and other makers.

If we consider the four humours of the body and temperament as in Galen’s time, Wands or Staves correlated with Yellow Bile and were therefore choleric — energetic and ambitious but easily angered and dominating (hence a “fiery” temperament). As Jung’s cognitive functions go, the suit of Wands corresponds to Intuition, which is more figurative than literal ‘big picture’ thinking. Unconstrained by the restrictions of what is, in favor of more imaginative ideas and possibilities.

from Soprafino, by il Meneghello

And so, in fiery Wands, the Ace is raring to go. It’s the spark of desire, the motivation to reach up and grab that energy or desire so that we may actualize it in our lives.

In the spectrum of this card, that positive initiative is in the balanced center. On one end of the spectrum, where there is resistance, we hold back, reluctant to take what is offered. Are we not ready yet? Do we feel incapable? We may miss the opportunity out of fear, complacency, or a lack of focus. Our task here is to identify what may be holding us back.

On the other end, where there is excess, it may be counterproductive by generating hasty, impetuous, or bold behavior. By placing too much importance on it, we may jump the gun and miss the opportunity.

Questions that we may want to ask when this card comes up include:

  • Is there some fear or doubt holding you back?
  • Is there a desire you’re reluctant to allow out?
  • Are you procrastinating about something? What part of you is that serving?

But of course that’s just a beginning. How do you see this card? How has it come up for you? What is your favorite depiction of the Ace of Wands?