A Reading About Reading

January 6, 2008 § Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the question, “How can I make the readings I do more meaningful and beneficial to both myself and others?” I drew three cards from the Haindl, in a variation on the basic 3-card situation-advice-outcome spread. (This is a spread I am using more and more as it seems to make a reading less one-sided, and more like a conversation.)

1. Commentary – What do I need to understand?
DAUGHTER OF SWORDS IN THE SOUTH

2. Message – What do I need to hear?
2 OF SWORDS (PEACE)

3. Vision – What do I need to envision?
8 OF SWORDS (INTERFERENCE)

Haindl Daughter of Swords, 2 of Swords & 8 of Swords

In the first card, Isis wears a headband decorated with doorways. Rachel Pollack explains the significance of painted doors: “Since they were not real they could not open; only the dead spirits or the astral bodies of initiates could pass them.” This could suggest psychic development, or the kind of secret language that is involved in reading tarot. My first thought was, “doorways into the mind”. Isis has an open expression and she looks out of the card, towards some unseeable other. She listens rather than speaks; learns, rather than teaches. Without judgment or prejudice, she accepts the knowledge of others, soaks it up like a sponge. In the background of the card is Hathor. Rachel Pollack mentions how the Egyptians “tended to merge older deities into the current favourites, and some of Hathor’s attributes became associated with Isis.” This again could be seen as learning from those who have gone before and who have valuable experience. The equivalent of this card in conventional decks is the Page of Swords.

As Commentary, this card touches on several aspects. First, it shows that it is important to approach each reading (and tarot in general) with an open mind. It is not helpful to go into a reading with any pre-conceived ideas; it is far better to be a sponge or a blank slate, ready to receive the messages in the cards whatever they may be. Second, with Isis looking out of the card, it suggests the idea of an “other” which, in a reading, would be the querent. It is important therefore to listen to the querent, and to understand that any concept I have of what might be “meaningful and beneficial” isn’t necessarily the same as what will be meaningful and beneficial to the querent. Finally, the card tells me it’s important to keep learning about the cards, from books, from other readers, and from “older deities” whose experience and wisdom can help me grow. (I was going to add Rachel Pollack’s name as an example of an older deity but didn’t want to insult her by calling her old! Clearly though, the tarot world is full of these older deities, who have been reading and studying tarot for years longer than I have and from whom I can learn.)

The second card is the 2 of Swords, which in the Haindl Tarot is given the title ‘Peace’. I talked a little about this card in an earlier post. The position it occupies in this spread is “Message – What do I need to hear?” I think the answer is very simple: when I read for others or for myself I need to hear nothing or, rather, I need peace. It is no good finishing work and then doing a reading straight away. My mind needs time to find stillness, to quiet down. Likewise, I know there are many readers who can whip out their cards, give them a quick shuffle, get their answer and put them away again, all in the space of two minutes, but I’m not one of them. I need time and space to consider the cards, to let the reading come together as a whole.

I have done many readings over the last few years which have been meaningful and beneficial, but I have done many more which have been meaningless. Usually, those are the readings I rushed, or that I did when my mind was distracted by other things. It will help me to take time to do readings properly, to find a quiet space where I won’t be interrupted and take a few moments to calm my mind. Whatever is going on in my life has to be put aside – suspended like the swords in this card – so I can better achieve the ‘blank slate’ openness of the first card. 

The final card is the 8 of Swords, titled ‘Interference’.  It answers the question, “What do I need to envision?” The card shows the trunk of a tree, its branches stunted, with 8 swords criss-crossed in front and behind. It seems as if the swords are the reason for the tree’s restricted growth. The I Ching hexagram on this card resembles a mouth “biting through” the strong line in the middle. The hexagram can refer to the dogged persistance needed to get to the bare bones of a situation and also to reform. I believe (not being much of a gardener myself) that pruning some plants helps to shape or reform their growth. So the effect of the swords (and therefore the “interference) shown in this card could be beneficial as well as being restrictive. The card shows a difficult situation: too much interference can do more damage than good and kill the tree; not enough may lead to failure.

Tarot readers do quite a bit of interfering in the business of others so I think this card is reminding me to take care in this respect. Often those I’m reading for are complete strangers and I don’t know how they will be affected by what I tell them. I should make sure my words (swords) are beneficial rather than damaging. After opening my mind as shown by Isis, and finding the peace and stillness of the 2 of Swords, I must then “bite through” to get to the bare bones of the reading and use precision and careful judgement when explaining the messages of the cards. I need to envision myself in each reading helping the querent to reform their life – not through unnatural restriction of their free will to grow as they please but by pruning, shaping and guiding the growth in the direction they wish it to go. 

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