100 Days of Tarot, Part 2
Part 1 of this 100 Days of Tarot Celtic Cross reading can be found here. It covers the center of the Celtic Cross.
The second half of the Celtic Cross lies in a vertical line separate from the central cross of six cards, so divided from the other cards that some readers don’t even flip the last four cards before they’ve read the first six. I don’t do that because they’re all part of the same spread to me, and it feels . . . gratuitous. The “reveal” adds a dramatic flourish that feels out of alignment with my tarot practice. If you’re familiar with my pick-a-card readings on Instagram, then you know that I have “reveal” posts, but that’s done to play the (now sadly vital) Instagram game of post engagement and to give me a chance to post the photos and let people pick early in the morning while I take time actually writing up the readings. (It takes a surprising amount of time to do so.) All of which is to say that the second half of the Celtic Cross is distinct enough to allow for dividing it, as I did in cleaving this one long reading in twain, as they say.
The second half of the Cross (the “staff” I think it’s supposed to be called) reflects the first and expands it, as though throwing an idea out of one’s mind and into lived experience. It takes the current situation as seen in the cross and extrapolates. There are intentional resonances between the central cross and the staff cards: Card 1 with 7, Cards 2 and 6 with 8, Cards 3 and 5 with 9, and Cards 5 and 6 with 10. But then there are plenty of visual resonances between the actual cards that I drew and up the staff.
The first of the staff cards, what I call the Approach, shows the 10 of Pentacles. The Approach can provide new insight or reinforce ideas about the central card, or it can provide a new way to move ahead. In this instance, I read the 10 of Pentacles as a new way of seeing where I was in preparing to move forward. Like the Kings and the 6 of Wands, the man in the 10 is seated. He’s secure in what he has and what he’s done, which is a nice place to find yourself if you’re heading into new territory. The 6 has done something, and he is being rewarded for it; the 10 of Pentacles has been there many times before. And the comfort and stability of the kings as seen in their thrones is reflected in the elderly man’s comfortable seating and surroundings. He’s collected comforts and now he is able to look back on his domestic empire. But in that looking back, we can see the potential longing for the past of the 6 of Cups and the desire for youthful adventures as might have led the 2 of Wands to become the 6 of Wands. To me this card signaled a good situation from which to grow, building off of the tarot work that I’d done offline and the relative position of comfort and privilege I enjoy that both allow me to confidently take the time to even complete a 100 Days of tarot challenge in the first place. I also saw the transition from the 10 of Pentacles at the base of the staff to the 6 of Pentacles at the top, where I might share some of my “wealth” in terms of time and experience. As a “Hermit” type, I tend to want to guide and teach, so that sharing held great appeal. There was a warning in this card, though, and I saw it at the time but largely ignored it. The shift from the 10 to the 6 of course also brings the divestment of money and time in ways that might not be balanced. In a desire to help, the old man might give too much away. Perhaps he would want to reclaim some of that youthful adoration. What would he pay to make that happen? Similarly, would he be too rested on his laurels and not really be willing to grow. Was that backwards look at times past from a comfortable chair just the dream of an old man who would ultimately lack the energy to make the leap, a fear that is reflected in the Hopes / Fears card of the 4 of Swords?
The next card, representing the environment in which I was going to be engaging in this project, was the Magician, and in that card I saw the great potential of the online tarot community to excite mystical thinking and a reconnection to elemental energies. I was actually very surprised by how skilled and thoughtful I found the Instagram tarot community to be, and I’ve learned quite a bit from other practitioners about tarot and similar esoteric practices. I didn’t quite know what to make of it at the time I did the drawing, but by the time I posted about the Magician I knew that was one major reading I could get from the Magician. I also noted that it was the only major arcana in the spread. That suggested to me that the 100 Days challenge probably wouldn’t fundamentally alter my life but perhaps some of the people I met would. What I think now is that doing the 100 Days of tarot would not fundamentally change much in me, but doing it in the online arena, where all the Magicians were, could. But that was only half of the meaning that I probably should have taken. But what I didn’t properly recognize in the Magician was that there was a lot of work behind that much Instagram posting, and the level of energy I would need to dedicate to it. I’m glad that I have as I’ve learned a lot from it, but it hasn’t been easy. And the social media platform requires concerted and constant effort to make it meaningful and rewarding. That said, I would have seen that I could do it from the start if I’d paid more attention to my own observations. The Magician raises his scepter with his elemental implements before him, and all of the central cross figures hold their elemental objects in their hands. And he is wearing a red cloak like several of the central figures too. I should have seen there that I could be using what I was coming in with to manifest what I wanted, but I didn’t know then what I would want to manifest. After all, that was the primary decision in the 2 of Wands: to plan or to start the journey and see what comes?
That central tension plays out in the ninth card as well, the 4 of Swords in the Fears / Hopes card, which shows the hope for rejuvenation but also the fear of stasis or death. While I had hopes that this Instagram challenge would help invigorate my tarot practice, I was also scared that it would go nowhere, that I would fail to actually complete it, or that I wouldn’t use it to move forward in any way or explore new things. Thankfully that fear wasn’t realized, and my hopes were, but I often come back to that card and why it bothers me. I think it’s because it’s clearly a sarcophagus to me, not a knight resting in meditation. The stillness of it bothered me (and still bothers me) much more than the Death card, which shows an active transformation, however potentially ruinous. I think my problem with it is the fear of staying still so long that one hardens into stone, like a troll in some old fable. And coming from the Knight of Swords, it felt like a possible death for that brash Knight: he rushed headlong and crashed and burned, winding up a corpse in the 4. All of this was fairly clear to me because of the card’s relationship to the 6 of Wands and the King of Wands. It warns against the 6 of Wands resting on his laurels so long that he might never get up again. And it contrasts the King of Wands in that this man who should be seated calmly cannot contain his energy while the once active knight is still forever more. It was clear to me that I feared a lack of growth and hoped for something rejuvenating, and while I didn’t know that I would manage that for myself, I feel that, by the end at least, I had.
The final card of the spread has proved the most thought-provoking to me. Like the central figures and the Magician, the charitable donor of the card wears a red robe, so I was sure that I was that figure in the card, not one of the beggars, and that was a good sign to me. I felt confident that I would be in a position to disperse resources, such as giving free tarot readings and helping provide insight on others’ readings. Some of that has changed since the end of the 100 Days, but it still persists. More interesting though, and completely unknown to me at the time, was that I discovered the use of decans and timing in tarot readings and I grew more comfortable in considering timing even though I don’t think of myself as psychic or of tarot as inherently predictive. Still, it has proved to be a fairly useful way of interpreting the cards, and I’m glad to have learned it. The 6 of Pentacles, in that system, is my birth card, since it represents the middle of Taurus season. The decans system is part of the Thoth associations, and that whole other way of reading the cards has definitely proved to be informative to my own practice, and it’s helped me teach other practitioners new ways of understanding the cards. I’m always happy to help other readers learn how to connect with the cards in new ways, and the systems of timing with decans and the associated Thoth elements of elemental and planetary dignities that I learned about near the end of my 100 Days has proved a rich resource for guiding others into expanding their own practice.
I could certainly go on, but in closing, I found the Celtic Cross to be a remarkably insightful spread for this particular situation. It gave me a good idea of some of the pitfalls of my motivations and accurate warnings about fears that could easily come true, but it also gave me confidence and guidance in many instances. I missed some of its useful insights until after they’d happened, but the ideas were there for me to act on. I eventually figured them out, and some were sooner rather than later. But the most useful thing I found, as with almost any tarot reading, was to trust in my ability to make decisions and adapt as needed from a secure position. I knew that the challenge wouldn’t be a life-changing experience, but it would help me in some very practical ways, and seeing that helped take some pressure off. Seeing the Magician in the role of my environment was also a really helpful reminder of all the inspiration I could find in the community around me.
The cards depicted above are from the Smith-Waite Centennial Tarot by Arthur E. Waite and Pamela Colman Smith © 2009, U.S. Games Systems, Inc. 179 Ludlow Street, Stamford, CT 06902. All rights reserved, used by permission.