the supreme ordeal.

in reading tarot cards it’s easy to take each card and dissect it on it’s own; or to think of it in the context of a reading with other cards; but there is an evolution and life cycle within the deck. i’ve heard the major arcana compared (eloquently so) to joseph campbell’s the hero’s journey, and this feels true to me. one of the things that i love about tarot growth or year cycles (adding up your birthday with the current year to find the corresponding card for the year that you are in) is that it really illustrates the evolution of the major arcana. it shows you how the cards progress and offer certain lessons before moving on to the next one.

most people go through growth cycles from 4/emporer up through 15/devil. you may begin a cycle with a 4/emporer year, moving through the next 8 years up to a 12/hanged man, and then begin a new cycle back down at 5/hierophant and run through to 12/hanged man, only to start over with a new cycle again. these are soul evolutions that cover your life. what you learn in each year informs your next year and your next cycle. the cards take you through learning about leadership & personal power (emporer); dogma & conformity (hierophant); relationships (lovers); control & will power (chariot); courage & confidence (strength); introspection & self-examination (hermit); luck & karma (wheel of fortune); cause & effect  & responsibility (justice); addictions & self-care (hanged man); hitting bottom & starting over (death); spirituality & creativity (temperance) & bondage vs. passion (devil)- to name a few. those themes follow each other, one after the other. looking at growth year cycles it’s easy to see how the cards inform each other; and how you need to figure some things out before you can move on to the next card.

most people count growth years as birthday to birthday, but mary k. greer talks about growth years applying to both calendar and birthday years. she says that from january 1 to your birthday is an action period- a time where circumstances start to occur that require you to react. by the time your birthday happens- you are ready to internalize those circumstances and learn to process them and apply those lessons to your life. personally, i feel like there is an overlap period where the two cards (the card you began on your birthday, and the one that will begin on your next birthday) intersect. for example my birthday is in august, so i’m currently in a justice year, coming up on a hanged man year on my birthday in august. in the months between where the calendar year began (january) and my next birthday (august); i see new lessons come in that suggest the growth year ahead, but they are filtered through the lens of my current growth year.

for me, justice has been about facing myself. karmic lessons. getting my shit together. being a grown up. it has also been about looking at where i have made good choices and acknowledging that. as the hanged man year has come in, i’ve started to see how i run away: what things are addictive to me and how i struggle with that. through the lens of justice i can look at those things honestly; with a little maturity. i can look at how those things have served me in my life; which of them work and don’t work for me anymore. it’s been about noticing the things that continue to trigger me, and the ways in which i react to or avoid those things. the cause and effect aspect of justice combined with the need to surrender aspect of the hanged man means that the more i try to control things, the more out of control they get. i feel like once i reach my birthday and hanged man really begins, i will not be able to lie to myself anymore. from hanged man, i will move into a death year. i believe that whatever you do not face in hanged man will ultimately defeat you in your death year. so here is to accountability and self-care, to letting go of the struggle to control. here’s hoping i make it through the abyss.

 

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justice.

there is a sort of karmic heaviness to my life these days. perhaps it’s not just my life, but there has been more than one occasion recently that has called into question who i am and what i stand for. people have brought a strange sense of moral relativism to things which i always felt were absolute truths. on more than one occasion people have challenged my word & called my integrity into question. things have made me question myself in ways i never have before.

the tarot card the tower has always been significant for me. cyclicly throughout my life i’ve felt a connection to the archetype: the idea of an earthquake, a crumbling foundation. the idea of an unexpected shock, something that shakes up your life and leaves you changed. the thing about this card, to me, is that it signifies a clear change. a clear end to something. it’s not ambiguous. when this card appears something is clearly changing, something is ending. lately i’ve felt like i’ve been trying to cull the meaning out of piles of junk. lately the tower hasn’t been showing up for me. lately things have not been so cut and dry.

this year i’ve been very aware of the tarot growth year that i am in, which is justice. to me the justice card stands for balance (this card also represents the astrological sign libra). it’s about getting extremely honest with yourself, and it is about responsibility. understanding the consequences of your actions. being a grown up. having to step back and weigh all of the options. having to take one for the team and play the middle person, but also being willing to be true to yourself in every situation. prior to this justice year i was in a wheel of fortune year. wheel of fortune is also about balance and the consequence of your actions, but i think of wheel of fortune being more about karma, while justice is about dogma. it feels like it’s been a long period of ups and downs, of little fortunes followed by debts, little victories followed by failures. since my birthday in august, there has been a gravity to these things. as i really turned into my justice year on my birthday, things became louder. more confrontational. less easy to chalk up to mercury retrograde or pms. things that are much heavier and cause for asking, “what in the world did i do to deserve this?”

recently a tarot card that has been showing up a lot in readings for me is the 5 of cups. fives represent mars, which is a very reactive, aggressive energy. they represent tests, struggle, conflict and some kind of loss or break. cups represent the element of water and emotion. the five of cups card depicts 3 cups that are knocked over, and typically a figure with their back turned to 2 remaining cups which are upright. this symbolizes a focus on the negative, and the card asks you to turn around and look at the upright cups. it asks: what can you learn from this, how can you not get bogged down with grief and look for the positive?

i’ve been caught up lately in feeling like a bit of a victim. like the universe is taking a giant crap on my life. i’ve been questioning my faith in said universe. i’ve been feeling like all of the confidence i thought i’d amassed over 39 years has dissolved into self-doubt. i’ve been feeling like i am being served some karmic retribution for all of the terrible little things i must have done in my life. i’ve been asking “why me?” instead of “what do i need to learn from this?” recently the 5 of cups card has been literally jumping out of the deck at me, when i pick up the deck, when i shuffle the cards. and i realize what it’s telling me is not just to take a look at the positives in these situations, but to look for myself in all of this. to take responsibility and to step back and accept the consequences or face the oppositions in my life with some amount of awareness. instead of blindly reacting. instead of always being defensive.

when i step back from my daily dramas it feels like a pretty universal theme right now: the struggle to balance compassion and gratitude with standing up for what is right. which is actually the definition of the word justice: the quality of being fair and reasonable.

 

growth.

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as long as i can remember, tarot has been in my life. my mother started using tarot cards as a teenager in the 60’s, and spent much of her 20’s studying tarot. when i was born she had a little shop in the town where we lived where she would sell her stained glass pieces and give readings and teach tarot to the locals. when we moved to santa cruz because of my father’s job, my mother started studying with vicki noble, one of the creators of the motherpeace tarot deck. throughout most of my childhood there were weekly gatherings of women sitting around our dining room table with decks of tarot cards, drinking boxed wine and talking about things my little girl mind couldn’t comprehend. while i was more concerned with the latest tiffany single and the b.u.m. equipment sweatshirt that my mom couldn’t afford to buy me, i always liked getting readings from my mom, and i started playing with tarot cards as a teenager.

tarot incorporates both astrology and numerology, and i always really liked the idea of tarot personality and soul cards (formula for calculating these is at the bottom of this post) in the same way that i like seeing someone’s astrological chart. the idea of growth year cards has always really interested me. mary k. greer explains the cards this way: “personality card indicates what you have come into this particular lifetime to learn. the corresponding soul card shows your soul purpose through all your lifetimes. the year card represents the tests, lessons and experiences you will go through this year.” and angeles arrien says: “the personality card represents your expression in the outer world, your talents, gifts, resources; and how others see you. the soul/spiritual card represents the deepest core of who you are. this symbol provides an internal base of energy and natural resource for you to draw upon for your personality expression. your growth (year) card reveals all the possibilities for growth, opportunities, expansion, and challenge during the current year from birthday to birthday.”

i grew up in a town called nevada city, which is home to the brilliant mary k. greer. over the years i’ve had several readings with mary, and one of her insights into the year card is that while the calculation is from birthday to birthday, calendar year plays a role too. mary says: “january to january i experience circumstances which demand that i learn new reactions and directions. around my birthday i begin integrating my learning, and during the birthday-to-birthday cycle these new awarenesses, which yield new actions, are tried and tested and thus become a natural part of me.”

in my experience, the energy of the two cards come into play during that overlap period each year. for example my birthday is in august, while i’m currently in a 10/wheel of fortune year (which began on my birthday in august), i am coming up on an 11/justice year. while wheel of fortune is about luck, destiny, change and going with the flow, justice is about karma, balance, cause and effect and accountability. to me, the months where wheel of fortune & justice interact have a gravity or heaviness that was not present before justice came into play. old debts come back to haunt, closed cases are re-opened, the fine print and the devil of details come to get you. it can feel like a run of bad luck that comes in waves. you’re up then you’re down. there are a lot of sleepless nights spent questioning what’s this all about, why is this happening, what have i done to deserve this and what am i doing with my life? in my experience the two cards overlap and play off of each other in the space between calendar year and birthday in the way that someone’s sun sign is filtered through their rising sign in astrology.

another thing that i find super interesting are the cycles that we go through in our year/growth cards. in adding up their birthday with the current year most people tend to run through cards 4-14, and then start over again. for example a person might start out with year 4/emperor and run through the following years up to a card 12/hanged man and then find that they start over again, this time with a year 5/hierophant and then work up again through the following years until they begin a new cycle, this time with a year 6/lovers. i find that the year card that begins these cycles sets a tone and the years to come may revolve around that big picture. i also find it interesting that people typically repeat these cycles up to a card 12/hanged man and often start over there- rarely reaching a 13/death year and even more rarely reaching higher cards like 14/temperance and 15/devil. i’ve always felt like reaching 13/death years and above are signs of soul evolutions, like manifesting or even re-incarnating at a certain level until you evolve to a higher level.

personally, i began my current cycle in 2010, which was a 4/emperor year. in that year i received two big promotions into management positions which both included moving to different cities, and i also met my husband and became pregnant. over the course of this cycle i’ve started a family; become a stay-at-home mom; gotten married; started working in different areas and seen major transformations- all around themes of leadership & building a new life. this cycle will conclude for me in 2019 with my very first 13/death year. i’ll start a new cycle in 2020 with a 5/hierophant year.

if you want to calculate your personality card, add together the day, month and year of your birthdate. for example, if your birthday is april 7, 1969, you will add 4 + 7 + 1969 = 1980. then, add the digits – 1 + 9 + 8 + 0 = 18. your personality card would be 18/moon. the soul card is calculated by adding together the digits of the personality card. in the example above, 1 + 8 = 9/hermit. if the personality card is a single digit, the soul and personality cards are the same.

to calculate your year/growth card add together the day, month and current year. if your birthday is april 7, you would add 4 + 7 + 2017 = 2028. then, add the digits – 2 + 0 + 2 + 8 = 12 and your year card would be 12/hanged man. my favorite description of the year cycles remains this one.

the end.