Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tarot: By the Light of the Moon Spread

The Moon. Now there's a tarot card which gets a bad press. I feel the Tarot Community have largely overcome the Hollywood approach to the Death card to the extent that it is difficult to see it as referring to actual death these days, but because the Moon doesn't get such a bad press from the outside world, there hasn't been any reputation to 'reclaim'. My own Goddess mother refers to it as the anus card and sees it as referring to all the sh*t coming out and going down the drain. Here, however, is what Waite has to say about this card:
'The distinction between this card and some of the conventional types is that the moon is increasing on what is called the side of mercy, to the right of the observer. It has sixteen chief and sixteen secondary rays. The card represents life of the imagination apart from life of the spirit. The path between the towers is the issue into the unknown. The dog and wolf are the fears of the natural mind in the presence of that place of exit, when there is only reflected light to guide it.
'The last reference is a key to another form of symbolism. The intellectual light is a reflection and beyond it is the unknown mystery which it cannot shew forth. It illuminates our animal nature, types of which are represented below--the dog, the wolf and that which comes up out of the deeps, the nameless and hideous tendency which is lower than the savage beast. It strives to attain manifestation, symbolized by crawling from the abyss of water to the land, but as a rule it sinks back whence it came. The face of the mind directs a calm gaze upon the unrest below; the dew of thought falls; the message is: Peace, be still; and it may be that there shall come a calm upon the animal nature, while the abyss beneath shall cease from giving up a form.' (
The life of the imagination. Tendencies lower than the beast. Our animal nature. So far so creepy, but Waite's interpretation leaves me thinking that the tendency tends to be to interpret this card in a 'reversed' meaning. I think a valid interpretation of this card is that the querent is imagining things not quite as they are, but I would not like that interpretation to be the only thing this card means. Personally, I have written before about how I don't usually do reversals in tarot, preferring the two extremes of meaning to refer to a dynamic tension within the meaning of the card. What tends to be overlooked in interpreting the Moon card is that the mind calms the animal nature here, and the light of mercy is shed on our base tendencies.
A more detailed dealing with the symbolism is given by Eden Gray, a classic tarot author whose writing I have only just discovered for myself:
'"The moon in three phases watches over the landscape. From the pool of Cosmic Mind stuff in the foreground, a crayfish appears, symbolizing the early stages of conscious unfoldment. The wolf is nature's untamed creation; the dog is the result of adaptation to life with man. In the back-ground, halfway up the path, are the twin towers Man has erected to protect himself from his hostile environment. The Moon will lead him along the rugged path, past the towers, to the final heights of attainment, if he will be guided by her reflected light and listen to the voice of the subconscious. Once again, the falling drops are yods, representing the,descent of the Life-force from above into the material existence. This is the key of sleep and dreams. The Moon's three phases of intuition concern body, mind and spirit. The Moon Mother watches over the birth of Spirit into material manifestation. The number 18 consists of the digits 1 and 8, which add up to 9, thus becoming the second 9 and indicating the second initiation, The Hermit was the first 9 on the path. The Fool is still on his journey - learning, falling back, and then again advancing." (
For Gray the point is much more the journey, and she makes the Moon a true counterpart of The Hermit. Unusually for me I have devised a tarot spread (I tend to be more free form as a rule, and merely throw some cards down and see how they relate to each other) based on Gray's interpretations of the elements of this card, to capitalise on the appearance of this card in your life and turn it into a means of transformation. If you only wanted to know some elements of this card as they manifest in your life, say the defences you have put up, you can reduce the number of cards. Needless to say this is a spread which you wouldn't want to do too often, and perhaps only at times of great difficulty, where you don't feel like anything surrounding you is real. The cards should be shuffled, and cut or selected according to your own method and should be laid out in the pattern indicated on the illustration to represent elements of the moon card. The various positions represent:
1. The Moon itself. This refers to what is watching over your transformation. It can mean a divinity or if the card is one with a particular resonance for the querent it could mean a particular person, alive or dead, or it could even be an attribute or a situation. This is what will preside over the transformation and journey.
2. The yods. How the entity or situation in position 1 will help you on your journey. If it is a court card, as so often it may refer to a real person or a particular attitude to your situation.
3 and 4. The pillars. In the RWS deck the towers on this card are first seen on the Death card, indicating that we are nearing the end of the journey. In this reading, these cards represent the things we do to protect ourselves from our own vulnerability to the hostile environment about us. These cards will refer to the social constructs we use which prevent us reaching our destination at the end of the path. They may be thought patterns or expectations.
5. The path. This is the way we must go. It refers to the action we must take, despite not being able to see the end of the journey, to get to clarity and the next step. There is an irony in the Moon card, which may underlie the dislike many people feel for it, in that the end of the journey is death, and so is inescapable. This card therefore accesses both people's greatest fears and also ontological beliefs about what happens after death.
6. The dog. This card refers to the socially acceptable ways we stop ourselves progressing along the path. For example it may refer to one of those repeated ways of behaving we find ourselves slipping into with significant others, but which drive us up the wall and which we really want to change.
7. The wolf. This card will almost certainly be embarrassing, as revealing the querent's animal nature. This is what your instincts want you to do rather than your consciousness. This isn't even what you want to do, it refers to the fight or flight reaction at its most instinctual.
8. The crayfish. The card here shows the earliest stage of our understanding of what we are imagining. It may refer to the initial thing which has made the querent realise that there is something wrong with the situation or that all is not what it seems.
9. The waters, representing Cosmic Mind Stuff. The card in this position indicates the background to the situation and will reveal the sort of things going on which we may not be aware of. (If you want you could add another card or cards here to represent the rocks, which for Sandra Thomson represent the ways society keeps unconscious material walled in. These would represent the *really* basic thoughts and desires which you wouldn't want to own up to!)
My advice would be to read the cards in the order 9-1, even though I have numbered them the other way round and would suggest laying them out in that order so that you start with what the moon represents. I deliberately haven't put in a position for the destaination at the end of the path, although I suppose you could do if you wanted to. Personally I like not to know too much of what is on the horizon. And what I personally have learned from doing this is that this card can be intensely transformative and also that devising tarot spreads can be a good way of getting to know the elements of a card and how they manifest in our lives! And I won't be publishing the spread I did for myself, I wouldn't like to be that embarrassed...


  1. Wow! You've been productive over the past week. Just mind you don't suffer any papercuts from all that deck shuffling.

    1. No fear of that - I go at shuffling the way I go at everything else so the cards are far more likely to suffer damagw!


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