Thursday, November 3, 2016

Direction in the Tarot, and Passive and Active Meanings of the Cards

I reflected in a recent post, on how a friend interpreted the 9 of swords in a reading for myself completely differently from how I would myself. I saw it as meaning that I myself would be faced with all these swords that I would be reluctant to look at, whereas she saw it as referring to my ability to face other people with a load of their own rubbish which they don't want to look at. This came in the wake of me reflecting on how the common interpretations of the 6 of Pentacles incorporate almost exactly opposite meanings, i.e. both of giving and receiving money.
I realise that this is an aspect of tarot which has tended to be completely absent from my own reading, such that it has almost hit me like a half-brick. I do incorporate a lot of a sense of direction into my reading, by which I mean that I relate the cards to each other often by referencing the way the figures are looking, and additionally there is often a sense of direction in a card's action, such as the approach to the veil in the High Priestess or the forever forward yet undecided motion of the Chariot. I will use this post to think more about the sense of direction in a selection of cards and also how each card incorporates an active (something you do) and passive (something you have done to you) understanding. An approach to reading tarot, which is often attributed to Pamela Colman Smith, is to assume the postures of the characters first of all. This is actually a very useful approach, because it means that we are tapping into the non-verbal communication of each card, and the likely emotions and events.

0 The Fool
Direction: Very clearly towards the edge of the precipice, although for me it is always interesting that the Fool can see where he is going and we can not. There is a sense of ambivalence introduced by the way the dog is trying to pull him back in the opposite direction.
Active: Knowing, or not needing to know, what is coming so that you can just go forward.
Passive: Having no option but to go forward without knowing the possible consequences.

2 High Priestess
Direction: For me the direction in this card is only forwards towards the High Priestess herself and the veil, and being stopped there before you can go through to what is behind.
Active: Having the answers to the questions or challenges that life throws up on the way.
Passive: Being taught in a purely didactic way.

3 The Empress
Direction: While the empress is looking towards the viewer, her body is oriented towards the right of the card, suggesting toward the future. The fact that she is traditionally pregnant indicates movement in that direction and downwards as she gives birth. Upwards movement is not lacking, though in the growth of the corn.
Active: Giving birth literally or metaphorically to your future.
Passive: Being left holding the baby.

4 The Emperor
Direction: The Emperor is going nowhere. This may actually be the tarot card with the least movement.
Active: Asserting a rigid rule system.
Passive: Coming up against a rigid rule system.

6 The Lovers
Direction: One of the most complicated cards in terms of direction, in my opinion. The direction in this card is literally all over the place, but perhaps the most important one here is that the man is looking at the woman but she is looking at the angel rather than looking back at him.
Active: Making your choice and sticking with it, focusing on what you want.
Passive: Being chosen by someone else, fancied, or conversely deselected, defriended, overlooked in some way.

7 of Cups
Direction: A single direction facing towards the cups one is presented with.
Active: Facing your own dreams and nightmares. I always feel rather out on a limb that I personally interpret this card quite positively in being able to dream in a constructive way.
Passive: Being faced with your own dreams. I would see this as confronting a 'Walter Mitty' character with the simple fact that he is living in a dream world.

Page of Cups
Direction: I love the direction in this card, because while the Page is clearly focused only on the fish peeking out of the chalice, if you get in the page's position, I always find myself going a bit like the Baldrick character in Blackadder. Alternatively, it feels like a kind of 'slap my thigh' Fool position. I also like that there is a completely alternative interpretation if you want to identify with the fish. It could be that the chalice isn't big enough for you and you are forced to look out of the top, or else that you are swimming around in there and just peek out to have  a look at the page.
Active: Looking at something you love and value, admiring it, caring for it, just checking on it.
Passive: Being looked on by someone who has an interest in you. It wouldn't be a wandy enough energy to be your employer checking your email, say. I think it would probably be more like the man I know who keeps wanting to see my cock on the internet. It's not going to happen and I'm happy just swimming around in my own world without doing what he wants me to.

5 of Pentacles
Direction: The movement is obviously towards the right of the card, but a lot of this card's meaning is suggested by what is going on on the other side of the wall containing the window.
Active: Being out in the cold, isolated, frozen.
Passive: Doing these things to others (sitting smugly in the church, as it were, after all this card immediately precedes the 6 of Pentacles).

6 of Pentacles
This was the card which made me realise how this active and passive thing can work.
Direction: Again multiple possible directions here. The man is looking at one beggar but not the other, while both beggars are looking at him. The scales introduce a sense of direction/balance all of their own. The fall of the money also indicates a downwards movement, which for me is the obvious movement in this card, but I am reminded not to ignore other possible movements in this card.
Active: Having enough or a surplus and giving.
Passive: Receiving.

9 of Swords
Direction: The direction is all towards the right in this card. The swords are all pointing right although there is an oppressive sense in which they are stacked up over the woman and possibly bearing down on her. The woman is also facing right, however she is not actually looking at anything at all, least of all the swords on the wall above her.
Active: Being confronted with difficulties which you don't want to face up to
Passive: Confronting someone with the things they don't want to see.
I appreciate that these meanings may have their active or passive status switched, and it is the reflexivity of this card which is one the things which got me interested in this aspect of tarot. The woman is being presented with a load of swords (passive) which she is actively not looking at.
If you were to do the action of this card to someone else, I'm guessing you can only be giving them a load of swords which they don't want to face up to.I feel I may be over-analysing to suggest though that if you do do the action of this card to someone else, the reaction may only ever be to have them try to avoid the swords.

7 of Wands
Direction: The man on the high ground is oriented downwards to protect himself against the wands of those below him. There is also much down-upwards movement in this card because of the (unseen) aggressors below)
Active: Protecting yourself against aggressors and winning.
Passive: Giving someone loads to do to deflect them from paying attention to you.

9 of Wands
Direction: In the RWS card there is no movement. A man with a bandaged head is holding a wand almost defensively and looking ?angrily ?petulantly at another eight wands.
Active: Defending your ground against your aggressors who have already injured you.
Passive: Giving somebody something to forgive you for!

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