Tarot and the Art of Life (con't) by Eva Yaa Asantewaa (c)


A dear friend and colleague of mine once briefly nicknamed himself "Doc." He was anticipating having to address a very difficult work situation with merciless aggression as if he were a surgeon extracting a threatening tumor. He quickly dropped the "Doc" when he realized that another approach suited him and the situation better, but I rather enjoyed his temporary nickname. When I look at the figure of Justice wielding his/her sword and dangling the scales of judgement, I see "Doc."

This figure sits on a very simple, even drab throne, wearing down-to-earth garments. Nothing flashy here. Justice is all business. Functional. Clear, fully-open eyes with a direct gaze that sees through you and your nonsense and others' nonsense too. There's no escaping the truth.

Let's wake up here and smell the coffee! The time for romantic illusion is over. What's working? What's not working? What needs correction? What's the best way to implement that correction?

Can you serve the greater good and take an action that might hurt temporarily but bring relief?

Are you caught up in confusing minutiae or conflicting feelings? Can you see the Big Picture? If not, let Justice help you gain perspective.

The sword of Justice cuts through the murkiness. That bright blue jewel on his/her crown represents a sharp mind at work, a clear vision. The flowing red robes tell you that Justice is not afraid to take swift, decisive action when necessary.

By any means necessary? If Justice decrees it, it will be not just "any means," but the right means.

"No justice, no peace!" Make no mistake, it's peace s/he's after.

The Hanged Man:

Some Tarot images of The Emperor–for instance, the Builders of the Adytum deck but not our Rider-Waite deck--show this figure sitting with legs crossed in the same dance-like fashion as our young, handsome Hanged Man here. You might think there's a connection, and you might be right.

Unlike the powerful Emperor, The Hanged Man is not only youthful but a peasant. It's possible that he might represent The Emperor at an early stage of development before the many battles and conquests that got him where he was going. It might equally suggest, though, that even a power figure can return, at times, to a younger self, a less-established, softer, more open self that is always carried somewhere within.

The Hanged Man dangles upside-down, one foot tied to the oddly-flowering crosspiece of a hanging pole. The notion of a man hanging is disturbing, certainly, but take a good look at this image. The pole bears an abundance of greenery. It's alive. The man's feet (shod in yellow slippers, the color of dashing Mercury) are pointed as if in a lively folk dance. His leggings are the red of vigorous life. His tunic is the blue of serenity, spiritual devotion, and authority. His head exudes a brilliant yellow aura.

In fact, if you have an actual Rider Waite deck before you, turn this card upside down, and you will quickly see that this man is dancing.

The red legs and yellow feet certainly speak of a Mercury/Mars disposition: A man of speedy action. However, now he is literally held in suspense. Do you feel that way today?

Remember, this is a dance, and for every step there is a rest in between. The Hanged Man is about that in-betweenness.

My teacher described The Hanged Man as being about voluntary sacrifice. This card asks you to take some time away from action. Rest in the in-between. Rest in the unconscious, in the unknown, in the undoing.

While The Hanged Man hangs between worlds, he opens himself to the music of the spheres. He receives messages and energies that enlighten and strengthen him. Truly, this is the pause that refreshes.

Take it.

Alternately, the dangling man reminds us that turning our situation upside down for a bit might give us a different perspective. Try it. Can you see your creative project or your problem from a completely different angle? It will help you shake loose your habitual way of perceiving and responding. It will shake loose a new solution.

Put on your dancing shoes and shake it.


Here he is: The Grim Reaper. You didn't want to get this card, did you?

As the blood drains from your face, you point at the skeletal Black Knight on his pale stallion, surrounded by dead, swooning, and praying figures, and say, "Does that mean I'm going to...!"

But hold on a minute. In the realm of Tarot--which is the realm of Spirit and consciousness visualized--Death ain't no big deal. Death is transition. Life is one big, long existence with these momentary punctuations. One thing turns into another, and everything must change.

As in your dreams, Tarot uses big, colorful, dramatic imagery to GET YOU TO PAY ATTENTION!

Like The Tower, Death suggests that change is at hand and that change is irresistible. Whoever figured out Tarot, back in the day, must have understood how resistant humans are to the very idea of change, the idea of giving up what is familiar and safe. You might think of the whole deck as one big long initiation; we are encouraged, urged, cajoled, and pretty much forced to give up the old and get on with the new.

There might even be times when you look forward to the death of something in your life--a job that just doesn't fit anymore, the end of a sour, destructive relationship, an exciting breakthrough after a period of struggle. Right? Yeah, I thought so.

Well, then, what about the Worst Case Scenario? Have I ever read a layout where The Death card meant the death of a querent or someone he or she cared about? That hasn't happened to me, but I cannot speak for any other reader.

Tarot expresses itself in a variety of complex ways. Based on my experience, I don't expect to have Tarot blurt out a message about literal death. If I ever saw such an event in the cards and in my intuition, it would be up to me as a compassionate counselor, to deliver what was important about the message in a way that fit the situation and brought the most benefit and empowerment to the person.

When you see the Death card, think, "What do I need to let go of? What in my life needs regeneration? How can I bring more life to my life?"

See that big sun between the towers in the background of the card? It could be either a setting or a rising sun. Make of it what you need.


One can never have too many angels working on one's behalf. So, be pleased that the Temperance angel has come into your life today. S/he's going to work some alchemy. In the gleaming solar disk on his/her forehead is a little bit of sunshine for you, brought down from the distant heights. The upward-pointing triangular fire symbol over the angel's heart should remind you that, no matter how we entertain and soothe ourselves by our human-like images of what angels look like, they are, in truth, simply pure energy made of nothing more than love. Angels are love on a mission.

Look at Temperance. S/he's so good that it isn't even necessary for those two chalices to be close together: The water flows through the air from one to the other; not a drop is wasted. Have you ever seen anything like this before? Have you seen the action of grace in your life? Think on that a bit.

With one foot on the fertile land, the other in pure water, the Temperance angel reminds you that, if you want to be healthful, you must blend air, fire, earth, water, and spirit into a balanced whole.

In paganism and Ceremonial Magick, the elements are not only the substance of all created things, they are the domains of spiritual entities (for instance., the salamanders--spiritual beings of the element of fire--or the undines of the element of water) as well as realms of consciousness both personal and collective. For your creative purposes, it might help to consider how the elements illustrate various aspects of yourself as a creative person or of your project or of your problem.

Take out your journal and a timer and free-associate around each of these words:

Air. Fire. Water. Earth. Spirit. Five minutes per element. Whatever leaps to mind. Keep you pen moving along the paper and don't lift it until the five minutes are up. You can even draw circles or doodle if words are not immediately coming to mind. They will.

Then, when you've dealt with all five words, go back and look at what you've written. See what strikes you about it. How does it express you, parts of you, your project, or your problem? Record and journal around your insights. Free associate a little more if necessary.

If nothing seems relevant, put your material away for a while and come back to it later. You may find that the Temperance angel has been steadily pouring the water from chalice to chalice, and your answer is now at hand.

The Devil:

Wait! Don't run away! Believe it or not, there's hope!

The Devil card comes up when we need to let go of something in our past or present that does not serve our well-being--a real bedevilment. Easily said than done? If you've got a fairly traditional deck based on Rider Waite imagery, you'll see that the man and woman in the image are wearing loose chains around their necks. That's the key: loose chains. If they weren't so distracted by "this-and-that,"so deeply invested in "this, that, and the other thing," they could easily take those chains off!

That monstrous figure hovering over their lives can be anything from addiction to social oppression to simply a very limiting personal system of beliefs. They have given their all of their inherent, sacred power over to this ogre.

In fact, the more you look at this Devil, the more ridiculous he appears. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

The Tarot Devil reminds us that we must examine our self-limiting beliefs and behaviors before we can make a powerful move forward. He applies just enough pressure–holding that red-hot torch close to our tails--that we've gotta take action for change. Ouch! What's holding you back? If you look at it carefully, you might find that you're actually holding onto it! For goodness sake, let go! There’s an interesting parallel with The Magician card. The Devil has one hand up--in an open-palm gesture--and one hand, bearing the torch, down. The Magician has one hand up--bearing a scepter and either drawing down energy or pointing it skyward--and one hand down. What's going on here?

Oddly enough, the old Devil is, like The Magician, an agent of the good. He might be drawing inspiration and energy from Spirit to power that bedeviling torch and light a fire under your butt!

Our problems spur us to greater growth--if we work them right. Someone once suggested that we are not so much punished for our sins as by our sins. If we learn from our problems and mistakes and make the necessary changes, they will have served their purpose.

The Tower:

A tower built on the heights is highly visible but also highly vulnerable. Lightning strikes its golden crown, knocking it off, hurling two human figures to their doom as The Tower bursts into flames. One of the Tarot's scarier images.

The Tower indicates that you're about to come to a turning point--a breakthrough, not necessarily a breakdown. Hang on to your hat (if not your crown)!

The Rider Waite deck has a lot of crowns in it: Royalty abounds. Here, though, the crown is attacked by the agency of Spirit. When anything gets too hardened and set, the Universe breaks it up. That's just the way things go.

To benefit from The Tower, go with it. Don't resist. Also, don't expect that you can plant new flowers while the ground rocks beneath you. Wait a bit. Use the energy of this time to help you make changes you may not have been able to make before. Trust that the Universe knows how to reshape itself--and you--even if you can't yet see how all the pieces will fit together once the quake has passed.

When that energy erupts, it might create that opportunity you've been longing for all along. It can be a good thing. Praise Spirit, and walk right through it.

Lightning storms? Volcanos? Earthquakes? So, I'm talking about acts of G...?! Right. It's out of your hands.

The Star:

Information runs through you like electricity through wires, and sometimes that keeps you up at night. You tend to be, at worst, hypersensitive and overwhelmed by outside influences or, at best, purposefully and healthfully psychic, intuitive, and creative. You have a keen attunement to the music of the spheres and often feel as if your best ideas come from afar. Perhaps they do.

Spirit guides you and, if you are in a cooperative mood, uses you for the good. Use your eyes, ears, sense of touch, smell, taste, and intuition to perceive what's around you but also what's elusive. You bring in what the world needs. You teach us the next step.

Even if you're not a technology expert--yet!--you're leaning towards it, eager to find vehicles for communication. There's so much you will have to communicate, and you don't want to limit yourself. There are also so many people with whom you will need to communicate. What are the best, most efficient ways to reach them?

You may be baffled by or even nervous about everything I've mentioned thus far. However, with the assistance of spiritual and material forces beyond your control, you may be on the path to a breakthrough. If you feel your efforts have gone unnoticed, or if you’re a rather shy person, get ready for a big, positive change. You will become more visible, more recognized, and more essential.

The Star card can represent technology, communications, mass movements, idealism, new leadership, and infusion of spiritual energies and information. It’s also about networking. Networking could be a solution to your concern. Alternately, you might find yourself establishing and coordinating a network and being the pulsating center of it. What fun!

The Moon:

Sometimes it's so hard to get a grip on things. You feel like a child trying to scoop the moon's reflection out of a river.

It's hard even to name what you're feeling. How can you be expected to make a good, clear decision?

Take a moment to honor yourself for feeling your feelings. You don't have to define them right this minute, and you don't have to do anything about them. So many things in our society exist to help us stay in denial that we feel anything at all. Feelings get in the way of other things that are supposed to be more important (like making money and spending it). When you honor the moon inside yourself, you are honoring your sensitivity, your receptiveness, your response-ability, your feelings, your livingness. Don't shut down. Or, as the Sufi poet Rumi wrote, "Don't go to sleep!"

How can you understand the mysterious yet alluring light of the night? What might this silent sister-self reveal about you and your situation?

Buy a basic book of astrology and one of those calendars or appointment books that detail the phases of the moon and also, preferably, its void-of-course (v/c) periods and relationships to various planets. For several months to a year, keep track of how your feelings change during these different phases and celestial configurations. When are you more energetic? When do you feel more funky? When do you feel most clear and decisive? When do you feel like hiding under the bed covers?

Traditionally, astrologers and earth-loving pagans see the New Moon as a great time for initiating new projects and the Full Moon--with its heightened energies-- as the best time for bringing developing matters to a boil.

If you're feeling adventurous, find a welcoming neopagan or women's spirituality circle in your area that offers public rituals at the New Moon and Full Moon times as well as seasonal festivals. (Lots of these groups have Web sites. Surf around.) You’ll get in tune with how cosmic changes work through you, microcosmically, and how you can work in better harmony with them.

The moon inside you responds to the moon outside.

The Sun:

There would be no Earth--at least, as we know it--without the sun. Its radiance sustains life even as we slather our skin with sun block. The sun brings morning in a continuous mission of awakening one segment of the world after another. Birds and treetops respond to the siren call of light.

Light reveals what has been hidden. You can expect now that any murky atmosphere impeding your understanding or your progress will clear. Expect order--or make order. Extend your vision further than previously possible.

Here's a good visualization for you:

Give yourself an image of the sun shining above you. Reach up with open hands, and bathe in the golden light. Let it reach into the spaces between your subcellular structures, between every molecule and atomic structure in your body. See sunlight streaming through your aura, lending its upbeat vibration to your energy.

Visualize sunlight pouring from your Third Eye center (at the middle of your forehead) out in a long beam of light that brightens the path before you. Visualize light helping you to see. Look at something that has been difficult to understand and see deeply into it. You can examine anything from a current relationship issue to a possible past life to a problem whose very nature seems opaque.

With the Sun card shining before you, expect to make a decisive stride toward the Victory Circle. Achievement of your goal is at hand.

"Free your mind/Let your love light shine!" -- Ru Paul


Judgment is one of those Tarot cards inspired by Biblical imagery. The bodies of the dead are called forth by an angel's trumpet on the Day of Judgment. They rise from the grave.

The Judgement card counsels us to awaken and pull our selves together. That is, find all of those parts of ourselves--our "selves"--that may have been lost, forgotten, discounted, shamed, or turned into something they are not. It asks us to re-create ourselves by bring these selves back into harmony with one another. When we do, we feel more fully ourselves. We feel vivid, radiant with renewed energy. We face things that once seemed remote and impossible with new confidence and resolve.

Judgment is a great card to get when you are recovering--from illness, from addiction, from trauma, from loss. It reminds you that there are higher forces working with you, for you, and through you. You are not alone. While you get caught up in the small and terrible details of your situation, there is a greater overview. Now and again, you can catch a glimpse of this overview, and that’s healing.

Take some time today to meditate and make friends with a part of yourself desperately needing your attention and loving care. Write about it in your journal. Dialogue with it. Ask it what it would like you to know, how you can establish a better relationship with it. Perhaps it is your Inner Child or the feminine (if you're a man) or masculine (if you're a woman) part of yourself. Or it might be your neglected Creative Self. Or, if you are artistic, your neglected Business Self that is capable of giving your creative work the kind of support you need to survive and thrive.

If you are concerned about a creative project, take another, closer look at those ideas, approaches, tools, or other elements that you may have rejected. There might be something of value there. Or spend some time brainstorming around how you might pull a viable project together out of a variety of seemingly disparate pieces.

Remember: The Judgment card implies an holistic approach emphasizing inclusiveness and balance. Just as the physical body has an inherent ability to heal itself, if it is not compromised by unnatural forces, your project or concern can also move towards healthful balance if given proper nurturance and an atmosphere of positive energy.

Blow, Gabriel, blow!

The World:

This card ends the Tarot's Major Arcana, but it should also be considered a place of new beginnings. The World represents the completion of one major journey and the launching of a new one.

When you receive The World, give yourself a new spiritual journal or some item of spiritual significance to mark a major transitional point between your old life and your new. You may want to perform a simple--or more elaborate--ritual. You might invite others to celebrate with you or do it privately.

We see here a figure dancing in the circle of a victor's wreath. She is the Exalted One, newly emerged from the lengthy, challenging initiation that is the Tarot Journey.

If you have a Rider Waite deck, look at the Wheel of Fortune card. You'll recognize, on The World, the same four figures who surround the Wheel of Fortune--the angel, the eagle, the winged bull, and the winged lion. Here on The World card, they represent guardians who welcome you to this next phase of your life. They come to inspire, guide, and protect you.

Visualize yourself standing in a beautiful temple with one of these beings at each of the four directions. Express gratitude for the journey and all that you have experienced and learned. Express your willingness to go further, to learn more, to meet even more sophisticated challenges in order to grow and to serve more.

Listen closely. You will be given wonderful counsel.

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This page was updated on March 21, 2001.