Getting in Line Part III


Learning to read with plain ole playing cards is well worth the effort. Not only is it a lot of fun, but no matter where you go in this world, someone close by will have a deck. You can count on it. And what’s more… learning to read strictly by suit and number interaction will help you immeasurably when it comes to reading Tarot decks with non-pictorial minors. So I wanted to write a brief introduction to reading with playing cards in the hopes of getting you interested in it, and also to familiarize you with another method of divination.

I think it’s safe to say that most card readers love puzzles, I know I do. And Cartomancy is one of the best puzzle games ever invented.  It’s one of those activities that just never gets old. Why? Because every card carries a range of meanings, but which meaning depends on a couple of factors: the context of the reading itself, i.e. the question and any other cards that are present. Yesterday the 3 of Clubs meant this, but today… in this context… next to these cards… it means this. Puzzling it all out can be endlessly fascinating.

So what is the first step in reading a line of playing cards? Establishing a question. Now one of the long standing and well established practices within the card reading community is that we never ask yes/no questions or questions about timing. The reason for this is that Tarot isn’t designed for answering these types of questions. But playing cards kind of are. Playing cards can do this not in spite of their limitations, but because of them. Establishing yes or no is simply a matter of whether you have more red/yes cards or more black/no cards in your line.

When it comes to questions of timing, a standard deck of playing cards contain 52 cards that correspond to the 52 weeks of year and four suits which correspond to the four seasons. Another way of looking at it is that there are thirteen cards per suit (1 – 10 plus three court cards) and 13 multiplied by 28 gives us a total of 364, just one day short of the number of days in a solar year. This is where the Joker enters the picture, providing us with the extra day we need for a total of 365. So you see, there’s more than one way of using a deck of playing cards to divine time.

After we have our question established, we shuffle the cards and then lay them out. Most lines contain three, five, or seven cards – today we’re using a three-card line. The first card on the left tells us what the main focus of the line is. The second or middle card tells us something about the first card, like why, or how, or concerning whom or what. The final card shows us the outcome.

It’s important to keep in mind that playing card suit correspondences are NOT the same as Tarot suit correspondences. In Tarot, Swords correspond to Air, Batons correspond to Fire, Cups correspond to Water, and Coins or Pentacles correspond to Earth. Not so with playing cards. The reason for this is, again, the binary color system. Black cards are viewed as negative and red cards as positive. This is especially true when it comes to the suit of Spades, which is almost wholly negative. Compare this with the Tarot suit of Coins, which has many very positive and happy associations, and you can understand why we don’t just superimpose Tarot card meanings onto a deck of playing cards. Where do the positive and happy qualities of Earth go when we read with playing cards? They’re absorbed by the other suits. Let me show you…

Diamonds is the suit of Fire.  Diamonds are bright, flashy and extremely fast. This is the suit of electricity, spontaneity, creativity and spark. It is also the suit of money and legal matters. Diamonds correspond to Spring. Cups is the suit of Water and concerns feelings, emotions, intuition, as well as relationships and happiness. Cups correspond to Summer.  Clubs is the suit of Air and concerns communication, work, travel or movement, and social interactions. Clubs correspond to Autumn.  Spades is the suit of troubles, problems, obstacles and delays. Spades correspond to Winter. Note: Many cartomancers view the suits differently, but this is the system I feel works best.

008Okay, so let’s imagine you have a querent who comes to you wanting to know – will she get to go on such-and-such a trip. Even a cursory look at the cards in the photo gives us a resounding, NO. We know this because we have two black cards and one red card, as well as two Spades, one of which is the outcome card… and not only that, but it’s a 9, the number of endings and distance.

But what if we want to know more… like why won’t she get to go on this trip? Here is where we start playing with number meaning, suit interactions and card combinations.  Note: I use standard Numerological correspondences for card interpretation (mostly, but I’ll get to that in another post.)  The first card is the 4 of Spades – we know that 4 is a number of structure and foundations, plans, process, milestones, and stability. It can also be slow, dull and stuck in a rut. Because 4 is closer to the beginning of the cycle we know that whatever stability or solidity it has acquired, it’s temporary. When this occurs in the suit of Spades, which corresponds to delay, disruptions, obstacles, and problems, we can see right away that there’s a blockage here. But in regard to what? Where is it coming from? What might it have to do with? Well the 6 of Hearts is our clue. Sixes are concerned with connections, communication, bridging divides, parenting, nurturing, care, balance, beauty, service and family. Hearts tell us this is occurring in the realm of emotion, happiness or relationships. The 6 of Hearts is talking about the care of a family member, or trying to connect with a loved one, or it could even suggest some kind of beauty service. Now we combine the 6 of Hearts with the 9 of Spades in order to get even more information. 9 is the number of distance, fulfillment, endings, the past, compassion, spirituality, and awareness of the next cycle. When this occurs in the realm of Spades, it can indicate negative karma, grief, trouble from a distance or because of distance or with regard to the past, etc.

4 of Spades + 6 of Hearts + 9 of Spades suggests a blockage having to do with some kind of service or attempt at communication or connection, with regard to grief or trouble at a distance, or from the past, etc. And the 9 of Spades is also the outcome card confirming for us that the querent, in fact, will not be making the this trip. Reading this line was a matter of combining numbers with suits and cards with cards. As I said, this can be done with more than three cards. Each card is modified by the card to its right. The final card both modifies the card to its left and acts as the outcome card.

This was a brief introduction to reading with playing cards. I hope it’s piqued your interest in learning more about this divination technique. I also hope it’s given you some  ideas about how you might apply this technique to reading Tarot.





Getting in Line Part II

Yesterday I was talking about the beauty of reading cards in a line as opposed to using spreads. Today I’d like to continue with some examples from my own deck. But before I get to that I’d like to describe my deck a little bit. The Tarot de aux Arcs is not a Marseille deck, it isn’t strictly a pip deck either. This deck is a hybrid of sorts. The images aren’t anything we aren’t already familiar with, but the rendering is. In a lot of ways this is a new type of deck and to read it we need to approach it in a new way. Such a way would be a combination of several different reading methods. So let’s look at the Marseille and the RWS.

One way that Marseille style decks work is by simplicity and repetition. By that I mean the images are rendered very simplistically and the colors are basic, primary and secondary colors. On one hand this creates a kind of echoing effect where a particular element in one card can appear to transform into something entirely different in a subsequent card; while on the other hand, an object can simply remind the reader of something other than what it was intended to be – a Wand can become a pen, a Coin can become a pie, or a sun, or an eye, etc. How does this work? Well, Cezanne, the French Post-Impressionist painter, said that all things could be reduced to the sphere, the cylinder and the cone, meaning that there is a geometric sub-structure underlying all forms. It is this tendency, or this truth, that Marseille decks exploit so well. The simplicity of the images creates ambiguity, which becomes the vehicle of the message. Does that make sense? It’s all very much like child’s play. A child has no problem whatsoever turning a cardboard box into a fort or a stick into a lightsaber. We should have no problem reading Marseille decks. Our difficulty comes from the loss of our imaginative faculty. We have simply forgotten how to play.

Having said all that, there’s more to reading with Marseille decks than just following the bouncing ball to see what it happens to turn into. The reason I am emphasizing it here is because I want readers to remember to PLAY. Sticking to “standard” card meanings can really hold you back as a reader if you rely on them too much. Don’t be afraid to interpret a card differently from what some book says it means. That’s Rule Number 1.

Rule Number 2 is that sometimes the standard interpretation of a card is the correct interpretation. Reading cards is an art not a science. There are no rules or formulae that won’t eventually hinder your readings… and yet you need some kind of parameters in order to have a game in the first place. At this point, I imagine you shaking your head and exclaiming, “This is all a house of mirrors!” Yes. Yes, it is. Sometimes a fish is just a fish… sometimes it’s Aunt Maggie.

Reading RiderWaiteSmith  (it’s clones and variations) in a line is much more straightforward than reading the Marseille. With RWS you’re looking at images much as you would look at frames in a filmstrip or scenes in a movie and so it’s relatively easy to interpret the narrative.


Let’s say a querent comes to you and says, “I’m thinking about taking a Shiatsu class and I’d like to know what I can expect to get out of it.”  So shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, cut… and we have the 7 of Cups, the Hierophant, and the Knight of Swords. Here is where we must remember to stick to the question. We aren’t trying to describe what takes place in the class, but rather what the querent can expect to get out of it, i.e. to take away from it.  The first card that I’m drawn to is not the first card in the row, but rather the last card, the Knight of Swords. Why? Because this is the most active card. It may not be the strongest card, but it definitely has my attention. The Knight of Swords represents someone who’s clearly on a mission to right a wrong or to save the day. And what is he charging straight into? The Hierophant traditional values, the good ole boy network, institutions that have been around for a very long time and that have no desire to change, etc. Why is he doing this? Because on the other side of The Hierophant is a person or people who appear to be confused, or who are being kept in the dark, or who are suffering from mental disturbances, and even though The Hierophant has his hand up in a gesture of blessing, he’s ignoring them. THIS is why the Knight of Swords is charging in.

So to answer the querent’s question, I’d be inclined to say that he’s going to come out of this class pretty pissed off at what he sees as obstruction or negligence by the very institutions who claim to be promoting health and wellness.

Notice that I did not read one card, and then the next card, and then the next card. Instead, I tried to see all three cards as elements in a scene. The standard card meanings are there, but subtly… supporting the imagery not overtaking it.

Next post is a quick look at Playing Card interpretation and then we will hopefully be able to put it all together.

Getting in Line

When we read Tarot cards in a spread, our context for interpreting a card comes from both the spread position and the question that was asked.  The imagery on the card along with our store of associations around that card gives us the answer.  No doubt this is a great way to work with Tarot, however, interaction among the cards is generally minimal because of this.  Don’t get me wrong, the relationships between the cards are there, but more often than not they aren’t emphasized and they’re often overlooked altogether, which can lead to readings that don’t quite flow or that miss the bigger picture. One way to remedy this is to place our cards in a line like frames in a film strip. Suddenly now we can see the flow of the action, who’s interacting with whom, who’s ignoring whom, who’s focusing on what, and where it’s all heading. We can see all the relationships simultaneously, which allows the bigger picture to come into view.

Another reason to consider reading cards in a line is that it opens the door to reading cards whose meaning isn’t derived from imagery. I’m talking about playing cards, Lenormand, and pip decks (decks with unillustrated or minimally illustrated minors) that rely on interaction to create meaning. That’s right, the line is a wonderful thing. Not only can it enhance your overall ability to read fully illustrated Tarot decks, but it enables you to read equally well with non-pictorial decks. Although the methods for doing so are necessarily somewhat different.

When we’re looking at a line of well illustrated cards it’s relatively easy to create a meaningful narrative out of them. But when we’re looking at a line of unillustrated cards, say playing cards for example, there are no pictures to give us any clue as to what’s happening. In addition to this there’s no spread to help us out either. So how in the world do we even begin to approach this? Well, it’s not as daunting a task as it may seem at first. It’s actually pretty simple. The primary difference is that instead of  relying on the pictures in front of you, you’ll be working mostly from memory, but applying it to the context at hand.

What do I mean by working from memory? I mean relying on a storehouse of associations that you’ve built up around the Court Cards, the numbers 1 through 9 or 10, and the elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth along with their corresponding suits – Wands/Batons, Swords, Cups, and Coins or Disks (or in the case of playing cards – Diamonds, Clubs, Hearts and Spades).  These are associations that you build up over time through study and practice. Most card readers spend many years accumulating knowledge and honing their reading skills and for them, going from reading with spread positions to reading without spread positions is a fairly smooth transition, because the information they need is already there. Conversely, many, many readers are so steeped in RiderWaiteSmith associations that it can be hard to see any other way to interpret a card and thus the tendency is to superimpose RiderWaiteSmith meanings onto a deck of non-pictorial cards. In this situation it’s good to have a list of number meanings, suit and element associations to fall back on.  Below is a list numbers and their meanings. There is another post on this blog that takes a look at numbers somewhat more as personality types than the following list of keywords and that’s worth reading as well.

The Numbers

  1. Beginnings. The Source. Potential. The Self. Individuality. Initiation. Leadership. Independence. I-Me-Myself. Innovation. Unique. Original. One-of-a-kind. Inventive. Creative. Pioneer. Wholeness. Unity. The seed. The All. Totality. Coming in first. The Winner. Victory. Spirit. Deity/God. The Masculine. Father. Active. Selfish. Egotistical. Isolated. Conceited.
  2. Duality. Division. Separation. Self-and-other. You (as opposed to me). Conflict. Cooperation. Support. Relationship(s). Balance. Compromise. Attraction of opposites. Polarity. Contrast. Reflection. Passivity. Choice. Decision and/or indecision. Crossroads. Partnership. Marriage. The Feminine. Mother. Receptive. Intuitive. Co-dependent. Needy. Oversensitive. Irrational.
  3. That which is/was created out of the union of One and Two. The Divine Child. The Trinity. Triangles. Communication. Sociability. Joy. Self-expression. Creativity. Expansion. Growth. Superficiality. Fickleness. Talking. Words. Exaggeration. Deception. Gossip. Lying.
  4. Foundations. Process. Stability. Milestones. Recognition. Rest. Security. Boredom. In a rut. Squareness. Structure. Form. Solidity, but it’s temporary. Tradition. Caution. Planning. Practical. Hardworking. Ordered. Calm. Logic. Reason. Step-by-step. Trust worthy. Slow. Stubborn. Plodding.
  5. Change. Freedom-seeking. High energy. Kinetic. Anxious. Nervous. Stressful. Travel. Movement. Risk-taking. Variety. Rebellious. Dramatic. Magnetic. Electric. Fast. Over-the-top. Undependable. Flashy. Unpredictable. Curious. Resourceful. Flexible. Tricky. Versatile. Restless. Discontented. Impatient. Temperamental. Moody. Impulsive. Possibly addicted. Unfaithful.
  6. Communication. Bridging the divide. Concerned with equality and fairness. Parental. Responsible. Caring. Concerned. Giving. Generous. Service-oriented. Justice. Selflessness. Diplomatic. Pretty. Beauty, harmony, and balance. Artistic. Poised and graceful. Desires a perfect world. Nurturing. Family-oriented. Helpful. Dutiful. Perfectionistic. Critical. Fault-finding. Never satisfied. Difficult to please.
  7. Spiritual. Abstract. Mystical. The Unseen. That which is hidden. Darkness.  Philosophical. Analytical. Educated. Refined. Contemplative. Studious. Deep. Reflective. Meditative. Healing. Private. Solitary. Isolated. Quiet. Alone. Paranoid. Skeptical. Depressed. Prone to escapism through drugs, alcohol or fantasy. Secretive. Mysterious.
  8. Powerful. Willful. The Cube. Highly structured. Solid. Heavy. Skilled. Authoritarian. Bossy. Strong. Serious. Reserved. Traditional. Conservative. Value-oriented. Makes things happen. Manifestation. Abundance. Business-oriented. Big business. Banking. Wealth and wealthy. Mastery. Materialistic. Achieving. Organizations. Hierarchies. Order. Institutions. Government. The harvest. Karma. Fortune. Dominant. Prejudiced. Manipulative. Ruthless. Overbearing. Repetitive, like the lemniscate. Greedy. Abusive. Extreme success or utter failure…no in-between.
  9. Selflessness. Self-denial. Uses will for the good of all. Compassionate. Peacemaking. Humanitarian. Concerned with the past. Fulfilment. Culmination. Endings. Preparations for a new beginning. Aware of coming changes. Letting go. Distance. Things at a distance. Benevolent. Wise. Knowing. Spiritual. Universal love. Idealism. A sense of greater purpose. Tolerant. Forgiving. Understanding. Highly intuitive. Global. Concerned with the big picture. Liberal. Highly sensitive and easily hurt by ugliness and insensitivity. Can close down, and off. Shy. Fearful. Depressed. Sad. Zealous. Fanatical.

Now each of the four Suits contains all the above Numbers with their full range of meanings. But what do the suits themselves mean? First of all Suits and Elements are not the same thing although we tend to think of them as such. So the first thing we need to do is to distinguish between the Suits and their Elemental correspondences and vice versa.  Take for example the Suit of Swords– the Suit of Swords is associated with the Element of Air and as such it has many connections to the mind, to thinking, to logic and reason, but it’s also more than that. It’s also conflict and division, which are not exclusively products of reason, in fact, more often than not they’re the products of passion and are emotionally driven. The Suit of Swords also concerns pain and suffering, but again, pain and suffering are certainly not confined to the mental realm. So let’s look at the Suits:

The Suits and Elements

Wands and Batons— are associated with the Element of Fire and are therefore considered to be quick, dynamic, restless, passionate, energetic, bright, enthusiastic, and warm, etc. which are qualities we associate with Fire. Wands are also big clubs, poles, sticks, things that we use for support, for fending off attacks, playing sports, building structures, setting flags and so on. And even though we think of Wands AS Fire or LIKE Fire, Wands are also the wood without which Fire cannot burn. Wood is first a plant that grows and expands and reaches up toward the sun. Not unlike Fire, but again it isn’t the same. Plants in large numbers produce cool shadows that retain moisture and provide protection for all manner of little creatures… and big creatures too. Trees and grass help hold the earth in place quite unlike Fire that is a catalyst for change and transformation.

Cups— are associated with the Element of Water and so they’re generally thought of as flowing, deep, intuitive, reflective, and cool, but also sometimes dark, murky, and difficult to see into. But Cups are also just bowls and containers for food and drink and eating and drinking is what one does with family. We associate food and drink with  hospitality, care, sharing, and love. Only when we sit down and are able to relax are we also able to eat or drink anything, and so Cups are also symbols of relaxation and joy, of comfort and satisfaction.

Swords–we think of Swords as the suit of the mind, because Swords are decisive and cold and that is how we view thinking and thought.  Reason is not warm like feelings and intuition seem warm to us. Logic is sequential.  Logic is linear like a line, like a long piece of sharp metal. Reason and logic tend toward compartmentalization and separation and are therefore divisive like a Sword, whereas intuition and feeling are holistic and spatial like Cups. We associate Swords with the Element of Air, because we associate Air with breath and speech and words, which carry our thoughts out into the world. Without air there’s no sound.

Coins–represent money and tangible property. Coins are valuable because metals are valuable – they represent our labor deep in the earth. It requires great strength and long hours to mine gold, copper, silver, and platinum. And gems too, are found primarily far below the surface. We value what isn’t easy to get. The Element of Earth, however is  about more than just money. Earth represents the physical body and nature itself, but also the qualities of density, heaviness, mass, inertia, contraction, and solidity. Process, effort, time, work, forms, materials, structures these are Earthly too. As are obstacles and blockages.

Putting it all together

Let’s say you have two cards, a 4 of Swords and 6 of Cups, what do they mean? Well, first of all we know that 4 is a very stable, square number and Swords represent thinking and thought and therefore the mind. So 4 of Swords can be referring to mental stability, but also boredom and possibly even thoughts about a building, or a structure, or of building a structure of some kind. Now 6 we know is a helping number, a balanced and responsible number… a number concerned with service, mundane tasks, as well as beauty and perfection. Combined with the suit of Cups, our 6 likely carries the meaning of concern for a child, or the care of an elderly parent. But it could just as well be talking about faults or fault finding.  How do we know which meaning to give these cards? That is a matter of context and suit & number interaction.  It is also a topic I will have to cover in my next post. In the mean time, try combining numbers and suits and if you can write down the range of possibilities for each pair. If not, at least say them out loud as you go through the deck. You’ll be surprised at the range of meanings that you come up with.

Men in Suits

Okay, okay, I know the court cards aren’t all male, in fact the court cards are not gender specific at all, I just liked the title.

So, today’s topic is Court Cards as they relate to the suits of Batons, Swords, Cups, and Coins or Fire, Air, Water, and Earth respectively.  The Courts are notoriously difficult to read.  They can represent the seeker, the seeker’s thoughts or feelings, other people who are having a direct impact on the situation under discussion, advice from the Tarot itself, and can even serve as messengers in the case of pages (although I tend not to view pages as such as far as Tarot is concerned, but some people do).

Please be aware while reading this that I use the pronoun he a lot simply because with the exception of the queens, all the figures on these cards are male… just because they are. But a Court Card King can be a woman, a Court Card Queen can be a man and the same applies to the Pages and Knights. Also be aware that the Court Cards are not meant to be fully rounded, complete characters… they are intended to be slightly one-sided and their descriptions reflect this.


PAGES – are young, inexperienced,  individuals lacking in both wisdom and guile. Like children, pages have not yet learned to hide their emotions, thoughts, actions, or intentions. Pages are simultaneously representative of their suit or element and ignorant of it and therefore can display its best and worst aspects.

  • Page of Batons – This page is naturally creative, independent, impatient, honest, brave and prone to risk taking.  This page can also be willful, bullying, tactless, selfish, and prone to injury.
  • Page of Swords – This page is innately witty, quick-thinking, changeable, communicative, and enjoys social situations. When negatively aspected, however, this page can be fickle, superficial, dishonest, nervous, and critical.
  • Page of Cups – This page is naturally emotional, sensitive, artistic, intuitive, imaginative, and a tad lazy, but excels where relationships are concerned.  This page is also quite capable of being hyper-sensitive, easily offended, unrealistic, and moody.
  • Page of Coins – This page is grounded, methodical, realistic, stubborn, and will seek out those things that give him pleasure while avoiding those that don’t. Negatively this page can be ridged, dull, repetitive, addicted, unimaginative, and slow.

With all pages, their presence signifies some of lack of preparation, information or understanding. So whenever a page shows up we need to ask, “What information do I need?” or “What is it that I do not understand?” “Why am I feeling like a child in this situation?”

KNIGHTS – are the teenagers of the Tarot and just like the average idealistic teenager they assume they know more than they do and that they’re capable of more than they are, and so their tendency is to ignore what they’re told. Knights do possess knowledge, but their immaturity leads them to dramatic outbursts and to extremes of action and reaction.

  • Knight of Batons – This knight charges out and charges in. He is always in a rush… primarily because he has more energy and ideas than sense. This knight is a fairly amiable chap up until the time he is told, “no” or he encounters a sizable obstacle. At this point he can become quite aggressive. This knight can be extremely tenacious and will keep pushing long after wiser beings would have given up. When truly frustrated, this knight will explode with anger, possibly even violence. If and when he is forced to admit defeat, his depression is deep and profound.
  • Knight of Swords – This knight is your social butterfly, flitting from scene to scene. Depth is not his forte and commitment is almost a dirty word. Variety is what this knight is all about. The Knight of Swords is more active than even the Knight of Batons, yet lacks the latter’s passion and drive. When challenged or thwarted this knight is inclined to change the subject, if pressed he is not opposed to lying. This knight is capable of being mean, even violent and if so it’s the kind of violence that erupts suddenly and with great force and is just as suddenly over.
  • Knight of Cups – This knight is the lover of the Court Cards. He is the dreamer, the artist, the poet, the writer, the knight who is always seeking a connection, a romance, a beautiful sunset, a happy ending. This is Prince Charming whose desire is to rescue those in need. This guy fancies himself to be spiritual, enlightened, and emotionally mature. To him feelings are far more important to than appearances, so if the kitchen doesn’t get cleaned it’s no big deal and anyone who thinks otherwise probably has their priorities backwards.  This knight wants everything to be pleasant and when it isn’t, our sweet knight can turn very dark indeed. When faced with too much cold, hard reality or too many tasks this knight is inclined towards escapism – he will seek solace equally from a book or a bottle. He may also disappear for days, weeks, or months… to brood alone, to wallow in his misery… to eat worms.
  • Knight of Coins – The Knight of Coins or Pentacles thinks before he acts. He plans, he goes over the details again and again checking for weakness. Do not try to force this knight to do anything quickly, he will not. Keep pushing this knight and he will dig in his heels. He will only move when he’s ready and not before. The Knight of Coins, however, likes nice things and he isn’t afraid of working long and hard to get them. If anything can get this knight up and at it, it’s the knowledge that effort yields reward. And yet this knight can fall into the trap of working for work’s sake, going over and over the same ground, but achieving little. Change is not on this knight’s list of fun things to do. In fact, he craves routine, because sameness gives him a sense of security. Innovation is risky, uncertain, tainted by the unknown and to be avoided. Years may pass while this knight toils, head down, plowing a deeper and deeper rut… until one day he looks up and realizes autumn has arrived and he never actually planted anything of real value.

The appearance of any of the knights signifies that something is being assumed that may or may not be true. So ask yourself, “What is it that I think I know?” Knights are also a sign of overreaction and drama and can imply extreme behaviors and/or unnecessary action. So ask, “Why am I acting like this and is it appropriate to the situation?”

QUEENS – are mature, nurturing individuals with a decisively feminine quality to their character irrespective of the actual gender of the person they represent. Queens are interested in growth and development and are the encouragers of the Court Cards… they want to see you succeed and they will assist you in doing so per the nature of their suit and/or element. They will likewise steer a situation toward their own desires and goals. Not out of any sense of selfishness, but simply because that’s the role of a Court Card queen. None of the Court Cards are supposed to be well-rounded individuals, on the contrary, they’re meant to be somewhat skewed as I mentioned earlier.

  • Queen of Batons – This Queen is active, passionate, fiery, and enthusiastic. She values independence and seeks to bring that out in others. This queen wants you to think for yourself and to go after what you want with gusto. She will not coddle you or indulge your weaknesses, although she may spoil you a little for fun. This is the queen that sees magic all around her… she believes in fairytales and isn’t afraid to tell you why. She is creative, assertive, demanding and may not ask for help even when she needs it. She has a big heart, a big smile and usually isn’t angry for very long. She believes that if there’s a will, there’s a way and she never gives up easily – she will encourage you to see the world in the same way. Do not disrespect this queen… she is proud.
  • Queen of Swords – This queen is cool, intellectual, logical and unsentimental. In her opinion, emotions are messy. This queen enjoys work and intellectual pursuits more than raising babies and baking cookies. The Queen of Swords is clever, always on the go, and social.  “Busy” is her catchphrase and she likely has more than one thing going on at a time. She is easily bored and doesn’t know what to do with idle time. This queen doesn’t understand laziness or weakness, although compulsions she understands, because she probably has a few herself.  Ironically, she will encourage you to act and not over-think things. She is a master of mind over matter and can teach you how to overcome both fear and fatigue.
  • Queen of Cups – The Queen of Cups is the quintessential mother of the Court Cards. She lives to pamper and spoil all those within her circle. Relationships are of the utmost importance to this queen. Her greatest happiness comes from making sure her children and mate are warm, safe, and satisfied. This woman is soft, loving, compassionate and concerned. While she is surprisingly strong when it comes to protecting those within her care, she is easily hurt by lack of appreciation and/or disregard. Do not forget this queen’s birthday, give her lots of hugs, and say thank you… otherwise, she might just disappear.
  • Queen of Coins – This lady is oh so very practical. Frills and lace and pretty dresses are largely a waste of her time. Getting the work done, the task accomplished is her goal… if it’s dirty, or difficult it doesn’t matter. This queen values hard work, skill, a plump bank account and a dry home. She is as tough as any man and isn’t afraid of pain. She does what needs to be done, no questions asked. This is the queen who’ll help you bury the body and never tell a soul. Do not betray her.

All queens cultivate and encourage something, so ask, “What does this queen want?” “What does this queen value?”

KINGS – are mature, assertive, and sure of their suit or element. These are wise and accomplished individuals who have learned through trial and error what works, what doesn’t, and why.  Kings, because they’ve been around the block more than a few times, do not possess the same level of concern for others that the Queens do – Kings are unmoved by emotional displays and they view the negative consequences of poor decisions as instructive and therefore beneficial, thus they may help you… they may not.

  • King of Batons – This man is active, passionate, charismatic and kind. He is a master of the Fire element – he is a catalyst for positive change,  uplifting and inspiring those around him to achieve their goals and dreams. This king has leaned how to apply Fire without getting burned or burning anyone else in the process. He knows just where and when to apply heat for the greatest effect. This man has control of his desires and is not given to outbursts of anger or jealously.  The King of Batons is protective of those he cares about and will go to every length to help someone who is truly in need. He will not, however, look kindly on anyone who is cruel… that’s where this King draws the line.
  • King of Swords – This king is typically educated, well connected and powerful. He is master of the Air element – he speaks well, enjoys intellectual pursuits, is witty and understands how his own mind works. He is self-observant and aware of his own inclinations. This man is a good judge of character. This is not a man who can be swayed by appeals to his emotions, he is unsympathetic to failure and isn’t interested in excuses. This man is by-the-book and does not look favorably on rule breakers or on those who try to cheat.
  • King of Cups – This man is the accomplished artist or poet, the dreamer who made good, the successful musician or actor, the architect, the inventor. He has mastered the element of Water and can use it to his benefit. This man is not shut off to his emotions, actually he relies on his feelings to get him through life, and yet he does not allow them to overwhelm him. The King of Cups is not afraid to be vulnerable, in fact it’s one of his greatest strengths. He loves without apology and expects others to as well. What he cannot so easily tolerate is lack of imagination.
  • King of Coins – Here is the king that understands the element of Earth through and through. He has worked long and hard and knows the value of things. This is a wise and practical man who has built his life from the ground up, a brick or block at a time. Whimsy and fanciful thinking do not interest him. He appreciates what is tried and true, what is tangible and real. He is not inclined to jump ship or to change course at this point in his life with out a serious, even life-threatening, reason. The King of Coins likely enjoys a  healthy back account and has investments in diverse areas. This man is as likely to be a farmer as a banker, or a business owner. What he doesn’t like is fickleness, waste, or cheap imitations.

All kings can be a bit cynical given their level of experience, but primarily these guys are realists. Even the King of Cups knows that without hard work dreams will just float away. So when we encounter a king in a reading we want to ask, “What is this man protecting?” “What is this king telling you to get real about?”

Every Court Card has a message, not just the Pages. With few exceptions, a Court Card will be facing away from one thing and toward another, it is absolutely essential that whatever or whomever the Court Card is facing away from or toward be considered as what the Court Card is reacting to. The same idea can be applied to spread positions, if you use them.

In the next post I will talk about Court Cards interacting with Court Cards.

Card Language

The following assumes you are familiar with cartomantic symbolism. If not, these are the ones that are typically used:

  • Fire is symbolized by a stick, a wand, or a staff… something that can be used like a torch or that represents the idea of action and/or growth
  • Earth is symbolized by a pentacle or a coin
  • Air is symbolized by a sword or knife
  • Water is symbolized by a cup or a bowl

By combining the characteristics of Fire, Earth, Air and Water with the qualities and personalities of the numbers 1 – 10 we have all the narrative elements that we need in order to articulate any aspect, condition, or state of the human experience. Theoretically, anyway.

With a bit of creativity we can use Elements and Numbers to describe virtually anything in our world. Take a cardboard box for example — a cardboard box is a square, semi-rigid, paper, container. 4 is the number we associate most with the idea of squareness and yet a cube has 8 corners… so to describe a three-dimensional box, the number 8 is most appropriate. Neither Fire, nor Air, nor Water are in anyway rigid or semi-rigid (with the exception of water in its frozen state, however paper is very dry and therefore ice cannot describe cardboard), so we would use Earth to describe something rigid or semi-rigid and dry.  A box or container necessarily obscures its contents and in this way is most like the number 7 (the number of mystery).  Inside the cardboard box beyond whatever contents are placed there, is empty space or Air.  Finally, a cardboard box is protective like both the number 6 (the number of the parent or caregiver) and the Element of Water, which we associate with feelings or emotions.  Now if I were to ask you to write out the equation for cardboard box in card language you could lay down the following cards: 8 of Pentacles7 of Swords6 of Cups. Cool, ya?!

Go ahead and try this on your own, I think it’s great practice. You’ll probably be quite surprised by what you come up with.

By the Numbers



The tarot minors you see in this  photo are from my own deck and they aren’t strictly what I’d call non-illustrated, but they aren’t pictorial either and that can make them a bit hard to read for anyone without a fairly solid understanding of numerology, suit, and element interaction.  So, I wanted to make my own number meanings available here for anyone who would like to know what those are.  In the next post I’ll talk about the other half of this equation: suits and elements, and how all of it combines to create meaning.



Ones represent invisible Source and therefore the full potential of whatever suit or element is being presented. Ones represent beginnings, single units, and solitary states. In the negative they can be isolated and lonely, but in the positive they can be pioneering and victorious. One is the self, the ego, the center around which all revolves. Ones are simultaneously powerful and tiny… think Big Bang. One describes the totality of all existing things as surely as it describes me. One is both unity and unit.


Twos represent Duality and therefore otherness. Twos are relative and express as relationships of every kind. Negatively they are conflicted, indecisive, codependent and resentful. Positively they are cooperative, balanced, loving, and helpful. Twos can divide or they can multiply, break apart or join together. With respect to polarity Two is generally considered feminine, as are all the even numbers. Where One is the invisible idea, Two is the substance from which or with which it will be made manifest.


Three is that form created when idea (One) and substance (Two) combine. In other words it’s the product of a union of opposites and represents the fruits of labor. Three is communicative, creative, and indicative of expansion and increase. Three is the product, the widget, the child that plays and performs. Three can be highly entertaining, funny, and talkative, but also fickle and prone to gossip and the telling of untruths… not because it’s in any way malicious, it’s just highly social, likes a good story and wants everyone to have a good time.


Four is solid, stable, steady, sturdy, unmoving.  Likewise it can be repetitive, boring, tiresome, and stuck in a rut. Four will never make a quick decision. Four will weigh and measure everything twice before it makes its first cut and in this way is trustworthy and reliable.  By the same token Four can be tedious and draining, all work and no play. In the positive Four represents milestones and achievements, but in the negative Four represents blockages, obstacles, and traps. Four is a great place to rest, but it’s no place to reside. Visit, but do not move in.


Five disrupts the status quo. Five creates change. Five seeks variety. Five is sexy. Five is a hot mess.  Five represents travel, energy, electricity, and magnetism as well as drama, anxiety, stress and the overwhelming desire to break free from anything it perceives as  restrictive. Five can be a rule-breaker and an outlaw as easily as it can be a catalyst for continued growth and development.  Five may also represent the five senses and therefore the body and the health of the body.


Six is responsibility, service, routine. Six represents the nurturing mother or father, the caregiving spouse, the adult child tending an elderly parent. Six is about giving and receiving. Six is in a state of near perfect balance and its beauty is mesmerizing. Not only is Six easy on the eyes, but above all else Six wishes to be helpful and to mend the flaws it spots so effortlessly. Yet it is this very preoccupation with appearances and its inclination toward fault-finding that can turn the otherwise perfect Six into a superficial, critical, nitpicker that no one and nothing can satisfy.


Oh….Seven. Sigh. I feel for Seven, I really do. To take a tumble or a stumble after all the beauty and precision that we’ve experienced in Six is always heartbreaking. And we’ve all been there right? Thinking you had IT and then realizing… NO, you do not. Seven is where we go back to the drawing board. Seven is where we stop and we turn around and commence the long and difficult process of figuring out what worked, what didn’t and why? This is often a painful process, as well as one we must face alone. Having said that, it can also be a deeply healing experience. Seven is where the Universe gives us a do-over and so Seven can represent doubles, twins, and twos. Seven is where we start to figure out what we didn’t know that we didn’t know; thus a large part of Seven energy has to do with acquiring new knowledge, learning, study, teaching, research, examination, testing, etc. Yet there’s a mysterious quality to Seven such that no matter how much we ever learn, Seven will remain, to a certain degree, unknowable, unresolvable, hidden. Seven, for this reason, becomes a place of faith.  Seven can get the better of us though, and success, at this juncture, is NOT guaranteed. Plenty of folks fall off the wagon at this point, or take a dive into the baggie or the bottle. This is the realm of addictions, secrets, lies, paranoia, and psychosis.  Seven is watery and home to every kind of ghost.


Eight is the strongest of all the numbers. It represents double the stability and sturdiness of Four and quadruple the balance of Two without the divisiveness or inertia of either. Eight is highly skilled, powerful, dynamic and at the top of its game. Eight cannot be bullied or cornered. Eight is the number of wealth, class, and education. Eight resembles a lemniscate, the symbol for infinity, and this gives Eight a repetitious quality. 8 reminds me of knitting – over, and over, and over, you wrap the yarn around the needle and pull it through the loop. Wrap the needle, pull it through. Wrap the needle, pull it through. Wrap the needle, pull it through. Turn. Repeat.  Any small action done thousands of times has a huge impact. This is where Eight derives its strength… sheer repetition. And so Eight is associated with labor, with work, with effort and with the complexity and size of something created over the course of years.


Nine is the number of fulfillment, of endings, of culmination and therefore there is a karmic flavor to this number. Nine can fixate on the past, because everything is behind it. Nine is the last number and the most complete and so Nine can act much like a spiritual leader in the sense that it is very much the wise elder even as a child. Nine can indicate that which is far away or something at a distance whether spatially or temporally. Generally Nine is the number of the compassionate humanitarian and functions well if it remains somewhat detached. Nine is, however, the fulfillment and most complete embodiment of the original, initiatory spark of the One and so within Nine the ego is stronger than we might like to think. Nine can become convinced that it and it alone knows the truth, which can lead to zealotry and fanaticism.


Ten does not possess the potency of One and should not thought of as One at a higher level. Ten is transformation, transition, and travel — as such, Ten far more closely resembles 5 X 2 than some further or higher iteration of One. Ten can herald major life changes or burdensome excess that must be addressed. No matter how you look at Ten it is an extremely unstable number… poised to collapse at any moment into a new condition or new state of being. Yes, it can and does indicate A LOT of something, but that something is in flux even if we cannot yet see it. The only thing we can trust Ten to do is to become something else.




What Was Our Lesson for 2017?

So, I thought today would be a good day to look back at 2017.  As the new year is fast approaching, I wanted to ask the cards, “What was our collective lesson for 2017 here in the states?”  And this is what I got…


3-Card reading using the Tarot de aux Arcs

From left to right, the 7 of Swords, Page of Swords, 4 of Swords. With even just a casual glance you can see 2017 was rather dark, whatever light there was at the outset seemed blocked, mentally it was a tough year and people were confrontational to put it mildly.

The first thing I notice is that all three cards are from the same suit of Swords, the suit of the mind.  Which initially seems odd considering what an emotional year 2017 has been. From the election of Donald Trump that sparked a half-million-strong women’s protest march the day after his inauguration, to the sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey and the subsequent appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller; to the massacres in Las Vegas and Texas, to the ongoing threat of nuclear war with North Korea… it’s no wonder we’re in the midst of an unprecedented opioid epidemic… folks just want to escape.  On top of which, there were the fires, the floods, and the hurricane winds that have pummeled our coastal states and territories from one side of the country to the other; our pulling out of the Paris Accord, the Me Too movement, and the passage of a Republican tax bill that will clearly create even more inequality. The list goes on.  So when right off the bat the cards are saying that in 2017 we were grappling with the mental side of things I’ll admit I was surprised.  But it makes sense. We’ve had our fuses blown.

So let’s look at the individual cards: The first card on the left is the 7 of Swords. This is a card of mystery, of hidden information and secret agendas, of isolation, addiction, loneliness and paranoia. To say the least, it’s a heavy card.  Next to it we find the Page of Swords… a child, who like any other, is naïve to the ways of the world.  In many ways I feel we Americans are like this Page, we have great intellectual potential, but we aren’t old enough to have any real wisdom. We very often think we know more than we do and yet we’re easily fooled and just as easily shocked when we discover we didn’t have a clue.  The last card is the 4 of Swords, a card that speaks to our mental stability, our intellectual foundation, the basis of our understanding and the root of our knowing, all of which are being squeezed from every direction.  2017 has been, I think, about the assimilation of difficult facts. Right now it’s like we’re all Gen-Xers, we’re all latchkey kids, the grownups are gone and there are bullies on the playground.  Maybe they didn’t beat the crap out of us today, maybe they won’t beat the crap out of us tomorrow either, or maybe they will, the point is that we don’t know and that’s incredibly stressful.

So there we are, the kid in the middle between deception and ugly truth on one side and our capacity to make sense of it and deal with it on the other.  Yet at the very center of the 4 of Swords, the final card, I see the red shirt and the yellow sleeves and hat of the Page and I’m heartened, because for as much as it feels like anything could happen at any moment, I sense a certain level of protection. I don’t believe that America is doomed.  I believe we have much to learn, that we have a responsibility to go back and clean up what we’ve swept under the rug, I even think it may get worse before it gets better, but I also believe that our destiny is to transcend our differences.  Why else are we all here together?




What’s Up With the Name?


Tarot de aux Arcs is a play on the name Tarot de Marseille. I chose to do this, because A.) I want people to know this deck does not read like a Marseille deck, and B.) because I live in the Ozarks and since I made the deck here, it is essentially “of the Ozarks.”

If you aren’t familiar with term The Ozarks, it’s a geological distinction. The Ozark Plateau, also called the Ozark Mountains, is a 47,000 square mile area that includes the Boston Mountains in Arkansas and the St. Francois Mountains in Missouri and is the result of South America colliding with North America during the Paleozoic era.  Together these make up what’s known as the U.S. Interior Highlands.  What’s funny is that the elevation itself is not that high, and to my knowledge there are no summits above 2,560 feet. BUT… combine them with 1,500 feet deep valleys and you can understand why there are signs warning you to beware of break burnout and separate lanes for heavy, slow moving vehicles that can’t climb 3,000 feet without coming to a crawl.

Etymologically the term “the Ozarks” is thought to come from a corruption of the French abbreviation aux Arcs, meaning “of or at Arkansas,” in reference to a trading post at Arkansas Post, the first European settlement in the lower Mississippi River Valley, where the French traded with the Quapaw or Arkansea people.  It’s also possible that the name Ozark comes from the French term aux arcs, referring to a large bend in the Arkansas River. Yet another possibility is that aux arcs means “of the arches,” a reference to the many natural bridge formations found in the area due to its karst topography, a type of landscape characterized by the effects of water erosion on soluble stone.

The Ozarks are a beautiful place to live. There are all manner of edible and medicinal plants. Walnut, Pecan, Oak, Maple, Elm and Hickory, Sumac and Dogwood cover the hills and valleys. Rivers, streams and lakes full of fish and crawdads are easy to find. Caves too. The deer are abundant, along with hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes, rabbits, possums, snakes and skunks. Occasionally mountain lions and bears are spotted, although they’re much more rare. At night the sky is filled with stars and tiny lights that appear and disappear in and out of nowhere. Mostly the people are good. They are by and large a conservative lot who keep to themselves and expect you to too. Civil War memorials and reenactments aren’t difficult to find either, nor are folks who think the South should have won. The Ozarks are not particularly progressive. You learn who to avoid and where it’s best not to go. This is the Upper South… we hold doors, say thank you, Yes, Ma’am & No, Sir, and excuse me… we also pronounce our “R”s and say pin when we mean pen. We also make fun of ourselves. Which is what you do when you know the rest of the world thinks you’re a bunch of hillbillies. We are. We will be the first to admit it. There are, by far, worse things to be.


Tarot de aux Arcs

I’m creating this blog around my tarot deck because I want you to get the most out of it that you can…. and basically just because I love tarot, and art, and puzzles, and sending my thoughts out into the universe to retrieve what’s beautiful and I want to share that with you.

So, welcome!

Let’s get started…