Anna.K Tarot – 5 of Swords

July 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Anna.K Tarot 5 of SwordsThe Anna.K Tarot is a very honest deck. What I mean by that is, it doesn’t have any airs or graces and it doesn’t dress things up.

For example, one of the things I really like about it is the head-on way it depicts negative situations. The 5 of Swords is an excellent example of this with its violent scene of barbarians pillaging and burning and preying on the weak. Some might see it as too extreme for most everyday readings, but I like it because it cuts to the chase. The subject of the reading might not be as dramatic as the scene on the card but it certainly makes you confront the reality of the situation – whether that’s your boss abusing his position to advance his career or your own treatment of the new girl. It says, “Hey, the bottom line is, someone here’s being a real bully”.

And the 5 of Swords isn’t the only card to speak out in the deck. Another favourite of mine is the Devil, which shows a scene of such debauchery and depravity, the real Devil would be proud. 😉 There’s greed, lust, war, gluttony – probably all seven of the deadly sins if I could remember what they were. And everyone in the card has completely lost sight of themselves. Everyone, that is, except for the Devil, who is the only one in control. What an incredibly powerful and unapologetic image. It would certainly make you think twice if it came up in a reading.

Before you start running for the hills, let me say that these cards are in the minority. In fact, the Anna.K Tarot is a very well-balanced deck which covers the full spectrum of real life. So, alongside these cards and others like them – the Tower, and the 3, 4, 8, 10, and Knight of Swords (okay, let’s just say the Swords suit!) – there are wonderful paintings of joyful family celebrations, of warm summer days, and of growing old with the person you love. And then there are the cards in-between, that show the daily struggles, exchanges, hopes and dreams that we all experience. It’s a deck that feels very much like life itself: painful and joyful, beautiful and messy, cruel and yet mind-bogglingly tender.

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Anna.K Tarot copyright Anna Klaffinger

Shadowscapes Tarot – The Magician

July 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Magician card from the Shadowscapes TarotWhat I find interesting about this Magician is that his “tools” – the lantern, the seashell, the feather and the leaves, representing the four elements and four tarot suits – are behind him. They hang from his wings while he focuses on the magic he’s performing. The traditional image, one that is repeated in many decks, is of the Magician standing behind a table with his tools in front of him. In those decks he is actively using them yet in the Shadowscapes he almost seems to be ignoring them.

Why is that? It made me think about the tools we have at our disposal at any given time. Some we actively use – a pen, for example, or this keyboard I’m typing on, or a violin. Others are passive, stored in our brains, integrated and assimilated into our existing skillset. For example, the ability to type is a tool but it’s one that I’m so comfortable with, so familiar, that I don’t really need to refer to it anymore. It has become automatic.

A common interpretation for the Magician in a reading is something along the lines of “you have all the tools you need”. Which sounds great. But what are we saying there? Imagine someone doing a reading about an upcoming presentation that they’re nervous about. The Magician comes up as advice and we say “you have all the tools you need – just be confident and charismatic and you’ll be fine”. In other words, you don’t have to do anything and you’ll knock their socks off.

With the Shadowscapes Magician, maybe the advice would be more along the lines of: “Make sure you know your stuff. Don’t get caught out. Memorise any stats you might need. Be prepared for any questions they might throw at you. Rehearse your presentation over and over again until it rolls off the tongue like a saleman’s spiel. Learn how to operate the projector with one hand.”

And isn’t that what magicians do? All the great illusionists are just very very good at practising. They practise a trick a thousand times until it’s second nature.  They read about other great illusionists. They study tricks done by others. They practise on their friends. They’re brilliantly committed to making you believe in them.

So maybe that’s the message of this Magician: Make sure your tools are behind you, where they will be of most use.

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Shadowscapes Tarot copyright Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

2 of Pentacles

March 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

International Icon Tarot 2 of PentaclesAdrienne asks: Hi, can you help me to understand the 2 of Pentacles please?

Hi, thanks for the question. Actually, the 2 of Pentacles always used to give me problems too! There seems to be a big difference between understanding book meanings and actually “getting” a card well enough to feel comfortable interpreting it in readings. So, I’ll do my best to help you “get” it.

Imagine somebody surfing. They have to keep their feet firmly on the surfboard and they have to keep their balance. But they also have to stay flexible, to let their muscles relax and move in sync with the motion of the waves. If they’re too stiff, they won’t be able to go with the flow – their body will fight against the natural movement of the ocean. And if they’re too loose, they’ll just fall off. It’s this easy, relaxed attitude that the 2 of Pentacles is all about.

When you watch someone surfing, it looks so easy but there’s actually a lot going on to make that happen. A surfer uses their brain – to gauge wave strength, direction, and to keep their balance – as well as their body. Think of all the subtle muscle adjustments that are going on all the time. It takes a lot of practice to get in sync with the water, just like it takes a lot of practice before you can make riding a bike look easy. You have to be constantly aware of what’s coming up and yet you also have to relax and let your body take over.

A good phrase to bear in mind when the 2 of Pentacles comes up is “bend, not break”. That’s really the essence of the card. Stay relaxed and keep in sync with your environment or whatever’s going on around you – that way you won’t be bowled over by it but can move with it and harness its energy.

I hope that helps.

Kali in my Corner

February 23, 2010 § 4 Comments

Kali – Mother of Wands in the East

Everyone should have a friend like Kali.

A few days ago I drew a card to help me decide what to do about a loved one who disapproves of my interest in tarot. When I sat down to do the reading, I braced myself to do some soul-searching. Then Kali barged in.

“Screw them!” she says, in the most literal way imaginable. “You love tarot. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about doing what you love!”

I see her point. It’s hard not to.

“And don’t try to hide it either. Live it. Own it. Wear it all over your body. Show everyone – this is what you do. This is who you are! It’s not a dirty little secret, it’s a wonderful beautiful exciting thing. And so are you.”

Well, that solved that problem. It’s great having Kali in my corner.

Two Queens

February 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Deanres21 asks: Hello, I’m so happy that I can come to the Tarot Doctor, I have only been learning the Tarot a few months and I still don’t understand when I get the Wands and Sword Queens in a reading. As I know that each of these have Fire and Air elements but when I ask a general question these usually pop up in my reading and I must add I’m a male and single.

Hi, thanks for the question Deanres. I can’t tell you why those Queens keep appearing in your readings or what they’re trying to tell you, but I can hopefully give you some tips to help you figure them out next time they turn up.

Let’s take a look at them.  Here are the Queen of Wands and the Queen of Swords side by side. The deck shown is the International Icon Tarot which closely models the popular Rider Waite Smith Tarot. Don’t worry though if your deck doesn’t look like this. The important thing is to always use the images you see before you – that is, your cards.

International Icon Queen of Wands

International Icon Queen of SwordsThe Queen of Wands sits facing us, holding a wand and a sunflower. Her body language is open and welcoming and the card is warm and friendly. There’s even a cat at her feet – how homely!

The Queen of Swords is turned to the side, not facing us. She holds an upright sword in one hand and the other hand is pointing in the direction she’s looking. She’s pictured rising above the clouds, with lots of clear blue air around her. The card is cool and fresh. 

One thing you’ll often hear said about Queens is that they “express” or “embody” the essence of their suit. What does that mean exactly? Well, it means that if you believe Wands represent fire, passion, creativity and action then the Queen of Wands is fiery, passionate, creative and active. In that sense, Queens are quite straightforward but of course that isn’t the whole story. Those are just keywords after all and it’s trying to remember keywords during a reading that can make a lot of readers come unstuck.

One good way to get inside the head of a Queen is to imagine you’ve been invited into her home. Try to picture what the place looks like, what she’s doing there, how she treats you as a guest. Use the image on your card to feed your imagination. So, for example, I imagine this Queen of Wands’ home to be sunny and warm, with yellows and oranges and comfy throw cushions and big bright flowers everywhere. There’s a cat sunning itself on the windowsill and a half-finished painting on an easel in the corner. The Queen herself is a great conversationalist, talking about artists and traveling and parties and life. It’s a place where I feel free to relax, explore and create.

The Queen of Swords’ house is cool and white. She keeps the windows open to let the fresh air in and so she can hear the birds. There’s a desk by a window where she’s writing but she’s very private about it, she won’t show me what she’s working on. There are doors to other rooms but they’re all closed. She likes to know my thoughts on things – politics, literature, science – and she’s sharp and witty. The Queen of Swords’ home is a place where I feel challenged and expected to keep up. It’s not as comfortable as the Queen of Wands’ house but that’s okay because it fulfils a different purpose. I feel I can learn a lot from this Queen and I enjoy her direct manner. I feel I know where I stand with her.

Those are some of my thoughts – yours can differ entirely. And all this is very well but how does it help in a reading? Well, the idea is that the better you get to know your cards the less you have to struggle to work out what they’re telling you in a spread. There are generally two type of spread positions: descriptive (e.g. situation, problem, outcome, etc. ) and advice. When a Queen turns up in a descriptive position, try describing the image on the card and use that as your starting point. If it’s a general reading with no specific question, assume the Queen represents you. If a Queen turns up in a position of advice, then ask yourself what that Queen would do in your situation – or perhaps, what she would advise you to do.

I hope that gives you something to work with. The main thing to remember is be patient. You can’t get every card straight away but they all do fall into place eventually!

The Knight of Wands vs the Knight of Swords

January 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Emma asks: What’s the difference between the Knight of Wands and the Knight of Swords? They seem the same to me.

Hi Emma, thanks for being the first to ask a question! It’s true the Knight of Wands and the Knight of Swords have many things in common. For example, in the International Icon Tarot, both ride horses, both face left, both carry the symbol of their suit and both are leaping into action. But let’s take a closer look…

International Icon Knight of WandsInternational Icon Knight of SwordsCheck out the Knight of Wands. See how his horse rears up on its hind legs? See how its mane resembles flames? This knight wants to make sure he gets noticed. Sure, he’s going to rescue the damsel in distress but only after the paparazzi get a shot of the brave hero setting out on another dangerous mission. The Knight of Wands can’t do anything under the radar – it’s just not his style (and style is of great importance to the Knight of Wands). 

Now look at the Knight of Swords. While the Knight of Wands is still adjusting the collar on his leather jacket, the Knight of Swords has charged off, brandishing his sword, probably yelling “aaaargh” or something equally warrior-like. He’s moving at top speed, galloping down a hill, clouds zipping past. He’s off to set things straight –  right the wrongs, slay the dragon, rescue the girl (or guy), then his work here is done. 

A good question to ask any of the knights is “what motivates you?” For the Knight of Wands, it’s glory. Wands are the suit of fire and fire isn’t shy. He likes to make a spectacle – it’s good for his self-esteem and other people get a kick out watching him too. The Knight of Swords, on the other hand, is motivated by honour. He has to do what’s right. He couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t act knowing that evil is out there doing evil things. So, all the knights are on a quest but what makes them different is why. Once you’ve figured that out (and it may vary from deck to deck so don’t forget to study your particular cards), you should find them easier to understand.

I hope that helps.


November 11, 2009 § 1 Comment


Strength bears the Hebrew letter Teth, the ninth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. On the Tree of Life, Teth is associated with the 19th pathway, the path that connects Chesed and Gevurah. Chesed is mercy and Gevurah is power. In The Kabbalah Tree, Rachel Pollack writes of Chesed:

“…here in Chesed we revel in the sense that the cosmos loves us, and will protect us and help us as our souls journey through experience. When New Age people say ‘The universe will take care of you,’ or ‘Ask the universe for what you need,’ they are invoking Chesed.”

Of Gevurah, she writes:

“Kabbalists often describe Gevurah as the most severe place on the tree, a testing point. If we think of ourselves as traveling upwards on the tree (in a sense, back to our origins), then Gevurah becomes the place where we must shed our own weaknesses before we can revel in the overwhelming love and mercy of Chesed.”

I know very little of Kabbalah and am learning as I go along with the Haindl Tarot. If Gevurah is the testing point, then it seems to me it’s the place where Strength is needed most. I can identify with Strength (or, rather, Teth) being placed on the pathway between mercy and power. I have been pondering this a lot and I have come to the conclusion that Strength is not a quality or trait like honesty or patience as I once believed.

Strength – at least in the tarot card sense – is a process. It’s not a noun, it’s a verb. It is not an Oscar-winning moment of grace under pressure; it is the continued giving of yourself, your love, your kindness, and your soul when all you get in return is pain.


October 26, 2009 § Leave a comment


Strength is the card I drew for this week.

Number: 8 (VIII)

Element: Fire

Hebrew Letter: Teth (“snake”)

Rune: Sigil (the “Sun”)

Astrology: Leo

Title*: Inner Strength

Motifs: Snake, naked woman, crescent moon, pool of water.

*from The Reader’s Handbook.

What Tarot Can Do For the World

July 3, 2009 § 9 Comments

This morning I asked, “What can Tarot do for the world?” I wanted to know if Tarot had anything to offer us in the 21st Century. By us, I don’t just mean tarot lovers; I mean the world at large and people in general. I wanted to know if Tarot could save the world.

The answer I got, drawn from the Aquarian Tarot, was the Seven of Pentacles. Which is such a perfect answer if you think about it. The Seven of Pentacles is the pause button. Tarot gives us the opportunity to pause, to evaluate our lives. I have spent the past six, almost seven months, stuck on play (occasionally on fast-forward). I’ve had very little time for Tarot. Almost every day I have questions I’d like to ask but don’t. Instead, I just get on with things that need doing, leaving the questions unanswered.

Having an unanswered question or two doesn’t sound so bad. What that really means, however, is that I daily have thoughts and feelings that go unexamined. I repeat the same mistakes because I don’t make time to understand why I’m messing up or to work out how I can do better. I’m making big, huge, major decisions – moving house, finding childcare for my daughter, falling out with my parents – without sitting down to consider how I really feel. I am being swept along by my life instead of stepping out ahead of it.

I’m not saying I need tarot cards to tell me how I feel. But when I sit down to do a tarot reading some kind of switch goes off inside. It’s the intention: by taking the time to do a tarot reading and putting the rest of my life on pause I’m saying this – this issue, this situation – is important to me. It matters enough to warrant careful consideration. Without tarot cards, I may think endlessly about the same problem, but not in the same way. I think in circles. I might think about it as I’m washing up, bathing the baby, cooking dinner, working, but without Tarot I don’t have an excuse to sit still and only think. Tarot takes the problem out of my head and spreads it in front of me. It freezes it so I can walk around it, look at it from all angles, see what’s really going on. It’s these moments of stillness in life that allow me to check my progress, to make sure I’m still on the path I want to be on.

In the 21st Century, everything moves at the speed of light. Tarot gives us the opportunity to slow down – not to stop, but to pause, check where we’ve been and where we’re heading, and make navigational adjustments if necessary. Or, as Ferris Bueller says:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

And that’s what Tarot can do for the world.


What card am I?

May 8, 2009 § 4 Comments

Last night I came across this poem by Robert Frost in a book.

Can you guess which two tarot cards it made me think of?

Where Am I?

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