Hanging is a lot of things, but it’s not always a punishment.
Part of me wanted to skip this week’s card, because… Well, there’s not much going on, is there? I’ve been keeping busy here, but interactions with the outside world that alter the shape of my internal landscape have been, shall we say, lacking.
Still, I did the thing.
I had to laugh when I drew Le Pendu, The Hanged Man.
Like the man in the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, Le Pendu of the Tarot de Maria-Celia dangles by one foot. His hands are free, though, and he appears to be sticking his tongue out — almost a “Look, Ma! No hands!” face. Nobody tied him there. He isn’t being punished. He is there of his own volition, for his own reasons.
He is waiting. Resting. Delayed. Hanging upside-down certainly gives him a new view of the world, but this comes at the price of his mobility. He is sacrifice.
I had to order a few things today. I would’ve preferred not to, but there are some supplies that are no longer available locally here. I can’t really describe how nerve-wracking it was, scrolling through lists of products to find the things we needed, all while watching things sell out before I could act. Still, this anxiety comes from a fortunate place: We have the ability to order things, or I wouldn’t’ve been looking in the first place.
It’s a helpless feeling, like hanging upside down, but Le Pendu’s hands are free and I am fortunate to be in a position to feel this helplessness to begin with.
Waiting isn’t always a punishment. Right now, it’s the choice we make for our own safety, and the safety of others. The Hanged Man has to come down some time. The helplessness and delays will pass.
Last time I drew the Ten of Swords, it didn’t take long to manifest — by the next day, I was sicker than I think I’ve ever been in my life. I’m hoping that that isn’t the case here, for obvious reasons.
This week, I used the Tarot de Maria Celia again. I’m getting the hang of interpreting the pips cards and, to be honest, it’s become one of my favorite decks. In Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired decks, the Ten of Swords typically shows a dead or distressed figure, stabbed by ten swords.
The Tarot de Maria Celia offers no such imagery; it’s the culmination of the cycle of the suit of Épées, and that can mean a lot of different things.
Don’t get me wrong, none of them are really positive. It can still stand for a time of pain or betrayal. It’s still the end of this pain, though. It’s the last numerical card in the suit, which makes it’s the last low point.
As the suit of the logical mind, the Dix D’Épées can stand for a point where the thiking mind has matured, after a cycle of pain and difficulty. Like the Ten of Swords, it’s also a sudden, crushing loss — the kind I think most of us are feeling right now, in one form or another.
This card can also stand for exhaustion, physical and mental. The Tens of any suit are the ultimate end, after the whole cycle of the suit itself. This can mean enjoying the fruits of your labor, like the Ten of Pentacles. It can also mean collapsing, gasping, at the finish line after you’ve spent yourself going through a gauntlet. With how I’ve been feeling, I can understand that. Exhaustion is a trauma response, and I think we’ve all been going through the wringer.
If the Ten of Swords/Épées offers a hope spot, it’s that things won’t be this way forever. As I mentioned before, it’s the culmination. It’s a card of logic. It says that, if we can take a bird’s eye view of our pain and maintain perspective, we can take solace in the fact that we won’t be suffering forever, and use this opportunity to analyze the situation and figure out how to keep this from happening again.
I can brace myself for bad news, but at least the bad news won’t last.
One thing I’ve learned from reading tarot is that you shouldn’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to. I wasn’t going to ask.
Still, I needed something to do with my hands, and I have more time and decks than I know what to do with, sometimes. I was waiting for the results of a well check — I’ve called and called my grandfather for days, and gotten no response. He’s very independent for his age, but I still worry (especially now). When another day passed with no answer, I bit the bullet and asked for someone to check on him.
(He’s okay. He was sick, but he’ll be home tomorrow.)
So, agitated and with shaky hands, I forced myself to put my phone down and shuffle a deck instead. I didn’t even really ask a question, I just wanted something to do.
I drew the Nine of Wands.
This card speaks of setbacks and obstacles. It’s the ninth in the cycle — the third card of the third card — the Penultimate End, but not the End End. It’s a conclusion, but not a culmination. It’s challenges, it’s exhaustion.
It kind of sucks.
The silver lining to the Nine of Wands is that, coming as it does at the end of the end, it means that you have a lot of knowledge and resources to draw on. Things are tough. You might be feeling mistrustful, worn out, ready to give it up. When you can leave the past behind and push onward, you can make it throught.
To be honest, I can’t complain — there are people who have it a lot worse than I do. People who can’t work from home, people who can’t work from home and need to find childcare because schools are closed, people who are actually sick. I still feel it like an itchy shirt. There’s a world of difference between choosing not to go out, and not being able to for fear of getting sick or putting others in jeopardy.
If there’s a positive side to this, it’s given me time to write here, finish some paid writing, paint, pursue a few new ideas, and work on learning the Tarot of Marseilles and Ogham divination.
On the flip side, it’s tempting to do a lot of divination. As anyone who habitually reads tarot, runes, or other oracles can tell you, doing tarot spread after tarot spread is an easy way to trip yourself up.
Though I was very tempted to pull out all of the stops and do a full, complete-deck spread, I figured it was better to stick to just one card for this week. (After doing a success reading, and a career reading, and a creativity reading, and a love reading, and experimenting with a Lenormand spread, and…)
Using The Tarot de Maria Celia, I drew the Cavalier d’Épée — the Knight of Swords.
Interestingly, the last time I drew him, it was a time that was fairly similar to this. Though the health challenges causing my isolation aren’t my own this time around, I can feel the same sense of waiting and agitation. In The Crow Tarot, the Knight of Swords points to an energetic start to a new project. In the Marseilles Tarot, the sentiment is similar — he is the feeling of obsession we get when we have a new idea, when we’re so fixated on the fresh and exciting that it seems like nothing can go wrong.
On the positive side, his energy, determination, and enthusiasm make it easy to succeed. On the negative side, they also make it very easy to ignore the challenges in the way of that success. It may even be tempting to ignore the protestations of other people who know better, and ignore the needs of others in the attempt to chase that success.
Sometimes, when I get wrapped up in a project, I do forget things. I might not eat, might not drink enough, might even forget to sleep until the middle of the night. These things aren’t just harmful for me, though — they’re also a sign of neglecting my relationship. If I’m too busy to eat, I’m too busy for meals with my partner. If I’m up too late, he’s up too late because he has trouble sleeping without me.
The Cavalier d’Épée is a warning — ride the tide of optimism, but don’t let it flatten everything else.
I spotted the Marshmallow Marseilles deck, and fell hard for the colors and imagery. It seemed a little daunting, sure — I’m experienced at reading your fairly standard interpretations of the Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired decks… But one with no illustrations on the pip cards?
I’ve talked a bit about how I interpret and familiarize myself with decks before, but it’s a technique that relies on there being images to interpret in the first place. This is something that Marseilles-inspired decks lack by design. Where the Rider-Waite-Smith deck was intended for divination, the original Tarot of Marseilles was a deck of playing cards. Still, I’ve never been interested in anything because it was easy, so let’s go!
Numbers, Cycles, and the Pip Cards
First, I’d like to briefly mention that there are a number of wonderful books on interpreting the Marseilles tarot. That said, I don’t have any of them, and wanted to try to see how the cards “felt” myself before engaging with someone else’s experience.
It seems there are two ways for me to go about interpreting the pip cards:
Apply the same meanings given to the Rider-Waite-Smith cards of the same value.
Look at only the information presented by the card — the suit and the value.
Not gonna lie, the first way involves way more memorization than I feel like doing. With a Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired deck, the images provide a visual cue. Without that, this angle seems, to me, to be more trouble than it’s worth. (Also not discounting the fact that I have access to plenty of RWS-inspired decks — if I wanted that kind of interpretation, I could easily use one!)
So that leaves me with the cards themselves.
Numerologically, there’s a lot going on here. Every suit has ten pip cards — the Ace through the Ten, the beginning through the end. Each suit is a cycle, easily divided up into smaller, three-card cycles within. The Ace to the Three, the Four to the Six, the Seven through the Nine, with the Ten as the ultimate culmination.
Interpreting the pip cards in the Tarot of Marseilles is an interesting combination of the meaning of the suit, the ideas suggested by the numbers themselves, and their position within these cycles. The artwork is completely decorative — there’s really not much information to be gained there, and the imagery is very consistent through each suit. The Five of Coins looks like the Three of Coins, just more of it.
Really, I kind of enjoy the freedom.
Interpreting a more art-based tarot deck is a fun challenge, but ultimately becomes a kind of find-the-hidden-image search. It’s a game of seeing what jumps out at you, what details you notice, and what meaning you can assign to them. Strength depicts someone wrestling with a lion, what meaning do lions have symbolically? Red is the color of passion, blood, and fire, how much red is in the artwork, and where? Are there alchemical symbols? Heraldic? On top of all of that, what overall “sense” do you get from the image?
With a purely suit + number interpretation, it’s free association in a pretty basic numeric framework.
Look at the III de Deniers, for example:
It’s the suit of Coins (or Pentacles), so it relates to wealth, money, security, and the Earth element.
It’s a three.
It’s the final card in the first cycle.
As the final card in the first cycle, the number following two, and three, specifically, Three is the manifestation of the creative joining of the Two. The pollen meets the ovum, the Two come together in a fertile, creative union, and the fruit, a third entity, is produced. As the suit of Coins, it’s the first manifestation of something monetary, economical, or physical — the result of the first effort represented by the Ace-Two-Three cycle. As the end product of the first cycle, it’s an encouragement to continue working hard and moving toward the ultimate goal represented by the Ten.
Reading them is a lot like unlearning the way I usually read tarot. I like it!
This week, I wanted to try something a little different.
Not long ago, I picked up a copy of the absolutely beautiful Tarot de Maria Celia, a deck based on the Tarot of Marseilles, illustrated by Lynyrd-Jym Narciso. The ToM is a bit different from conventional Rider-Waite-Smith-based decks, in that the pip cards aren’t illustrated — they’re much more like a regular deck of playing cards. The meanings of the pip cards also vary a little, with their own subtleties and nuances.
Learning to interpret them has been a bit of a challenge. I’m not a fan of rote memorization, but pip cards that don’t have actual scenes on them don’t leave you nearly as much to go on. That has its advantages, but can make things a little intimidating.
So, for this week’s reading, I settled on an easy three card spread. Even without artwork to read into, I figured three cards would give me enough information to build something from.
I drew the II de Bâtons (Wands), the XIIII de Deniers (Pentacles or Coins), and the XIII d’Épées (Swords).
Twos are the continuation of the beginnings indicated by the Aces. As a duality, they can represent two sides of a situation, or a decision of some sort. Two is a pair, and the fertile, creative energy between them.
As a decision, the Two of Wands represents the shift from the physical to the creative. It’s at the very beginning of the Wands cycle, so it also represents the opportunity to broaden your horizons. If the Ace represents the beginning and the choice of a goal, the Two is the next step: planning in order to make it a reality.
Nines are the completion of their respective cycle. As in other decks, Deniers represent material wealth and physical comforts. The Nine of Pentacles here is a point of freedom and self-governance. It stands in contrast to the Two — it’s nearing the end, knowing the plan, and and understanding that self-discipline and follow through are what got you here.
The Eight of Swords is self-imposed restriction. It is near the end of the cycle, but notably not there yet — there’s an obstacle in the way, and it’s you. Use too much caution, spend too much time devoted to making the right decision, and no decision will be made. At the same time, it’s a good idea not to make any major decisions until you are able to recognize that your entire decision making process has been defined by limits you’ve set for yourself. It’s choice fatigue, the paralysis of indecision, the trouble with Katy Make Sure.
I feel pretty called out.
We are comfortable. I’m at the very beginning of some creative plans, working out the kinks and deciding how to progress. At the same time, because I’m at a point where I’m comfortable, there’s a not-insignificant part of me going, “Now what?”
Growing up poor, much of my thinking was dominated by material concerns. I was presented with many, many different incarnations of the idea that if I just had this thing, I could be that person, and they are better than I am. It was kind of a huge relief when “shabby chic,” thrift-store clothes, capsule wardrobes, and mason jars became trendy, because that’s all stuff I had anyway, just out of poverty reasons.
I’m freer now. I’m more autonomous now. I spent a lot of time pursuing goals that lined up with an idea of success that I didn’t choose for myself, and now that I’ve attained many of them, what now?
It’s a scary feeling. A sort of unsettling is-this-it feeling. Is it just this, and more of this, and then eventually we die? How do I shake the limitations of traditional markers of success?
Four things have made me ecstatically happy recently:
Finding pants that fit. (I’m a 2 now, and a Petite. If I accept this, finding the right size will be much harder, but I also won’t look like I’m wearing my partner’s pants.)
My partner surprised me with a gift. (Otter socks, a card, and a stuffed otter. His name is Philippe.)
I started a painting. (Three guesses what it’s of, and the first two don’t count.)
I always draw my card for the week the way I would draw any tarot card — at random. I cut the deck however feels correct at the time, and hold my hand over each pile until I feel the little “pull” that tells me it’s the right one. When things line up like this, it just feels good. A tiny “yes” from the universe. A pat on the back from the ancestors, guiding spirits, or whoever’s in your metaphorical corner. I dig it.
I’ve been drawing a lot of very positive cards lately. This week was no exception: I drew The Sun.
The Sun is enthusiasm. It’s infectious, effervescent joy. It’s unfiltered light, freedom, and truth. In love readings, it’s happiness. In money and career readings, it’s prosperity and success. In health readings, it’s energy and vitality. In spirituality readings, it’s happiness and optimism. In an advice position, it tells you to take this warmth and this joy, and bring it out into the world. As a person or significator, it’s someone who is energetic, determined, playful, and fun.
With the new moon on the 23rd, it’s a very good sign for this coming cycle.
I don’t really have a specific situation that The Sun applies to right now — my life has been on an upswing in a very general sense. I’ve been doing more. Seeing more. Enjoying more. Trying to meet more people. Learning more things. Growing in ways that bring me satisfaction, in every respect. Spiritually, I’m growing like a weed. Health-wise, I feel better than I have in awhile (if tired — Zoloft fatigue plus IIH hypersomnia is real.) Career-wise, I’ve gotten more work than I know what to do with, lately. Creativity-wise, I’m painting more, cooking more, making more things, and moving forward through Ane’s story on Uruvalai (and man, the upcoming bit is an emotional doozy).
For me, in the place I am now, The Sun is a reassurance that everything really is going well. I don’t have to look for another shoe to drop — not yet, anyway. Things are as they should be. If I experience frustration in the near future, it’s alright. The earth is turning, the sun is shining, the new spring flowers are pushing up through the cold ground.