Astro-Tarot: The Magician and a Nursery Rhyme

Astro-Tarot: The Magician and a Nursery Rhyme

 

Do you recall the day of your birth? A neat little fortune-telling rhyme goes:

Monday’s child is fair of face
Tuesday’s child is full of grace
Wednesday’s child is full of woe
Thursday’s child has far to go
Friday’s child is loving and giving
Saturday’s child works hard for a living
And the child that was born on the Sabbath day
    is bonny, blithe*, good and gay.

I loved this as a child, because I was born on a Friday which made me a rather lovely person, if the rhyme was anything to go by. The rhyme probably originated in the 1500s. But where do the day meanings coming from? With my tarot-reader’s curiosity, my first thoughts drifted to those Week Ahead tarot spreads which follow the classical planets – Mars, Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, the Sun and Moon (the Sun and Moon were classified as planets then – you can find the Week Ahead spread in The Ultimate Guide to Tarot). So let’s see if the planetary and tarot-card associations match the rhyme:

Monday              Moon            Fair of face                         Planet of inner life
Tuesday              Mars              Full of grace                       Planet of war
Wednesday         Mercury         Full of woe                         Planet of communication
Thursday             Jupiter           Far to go                            Planet of expansion
Friday                  Venus            Loving and giving               Planet of love
Saturday              Saturn           Works hard for a living       Planet of time and restriction
Sunday                Sun               Bonny, blithe                     Planet of life and self

* In some versions, ‘wise’

Some alignments work perfectly. Sunday’s happy child is favoured by the Sun, planet of optimism, which we see in XIX The Sun. Friday, Venus’ day, is just right for the child born on Friday – loving and giving, just like our tarot Empress, who bears a Venus glyph on the Rider-Waite-Smith versions of her card. Saturday’s child works hard for a living neatly chimes with Saturn – the taskmaster planet whose influence brings slow, hard work. The World card is ruled by Saturn, expressing the work and culmination of the journey through the major arcana cycle. Thursday’s child has ‘far to go’, which links to Jupiter, planet of expansion, education and development. No surprises there. And Jupiter’s tarot card, X The Wheel of Fortune, reflects Jupiter’s reputation as a bringer of luck – just as the Wheel turns, bringing good fortune (at least in the upright position in a spread). Monday’s child is ‘fair of face’. In contemporary astrology, the moon represents the interior rather than the exterior – inner life, intuition and dreams. In Greek mythology the moon relates to the Greek goddess Selene and the Roman Diana, both known for their beauty. And with a dose of enchanting moonlight, I can be bewitched enough not to glitch too much on this one.

At first glance, Tuesday looks like an anomaly. How does Tuesday’s ‘child being ‘full of grace’ relate to Mars, planet of war? Given the age of the rhyme – and its Christian theme – ‘grace’ may have been meant in the Christian context of ‘unmerited favour of God toward man’: a warrior’s prayer for God’s favour in battle. Mars’ tarot card is XVI The Tower, also known as the House of God, or the call to surrender to a higher power. I can just about countenance this. But what of Wednesday’s child of woe and its association with Mercury, planet of communication?

Mercury is the planetary ruler of I The Magician in tarot – one of the most energising and positive cards of the major arcana. Here’s the possible reason it’s literally woeful (bear with – I’m just having a sip of tea and a biscuit.) If we look at the etymology of Wednesday as ‘Woden’s Day’, we find Woden/Odin, the Norse deity of magic, wisdom, poetry and war. To me, it seems that ‘woe’ may have been short for ‘Woden’ , but we got landed with ‘woe’. Which is pretty miserable.

Working on this basis, I reckon that Wednesday’s child is not full of woe, but full of magic. And I’m also thinking of generations of children who misguidedly believed that they were destined to be, well, a bit dour, little knowing that the true meaning of their day of birth was rather more exciting. Woden/Odin spent nine days and nights suspended from Yggdrasill, the World Ash, a spiritual initiation which gave him the gift of reading the runes (and he was known as the ‘father of charms’). The Magician card shows the Greek deity Hermes (the Roman Mercury), who travelled between the realm of humans and the realm of the gods. As a messenger, Hermes was a god of communication, magic and divination. Now this diminution of Woden may have been deliberate (the Church, seeking to suppress our Pagan ways) or one of those slippages that no one thought to correct. But I’m going to begin doing that at a micro level.

My younger sister was born on a Wednesday and I remember that when she cried we’d say ‘Full of woe!’ This happened a lot as we lived near the beach and she hated sand – there’s many a picture of her making sandcastles with a pretty woeful expression. Thankfully she got over her dislike of the beach, and her woe. Maybe I should tell her now that she, and anyone born on a Wednesday was never a child of woe at all, but Woden’s child – full of abracadabra.

Main image: The Magician from Tarot of the Heart, Liz Dean/Oliver Burston
The Real Ghost Voice

The Real Ghost Voice

After various travels at the weekend, I’ve received rather a lot of guidance. No, not from a guru deep in meditation, you might ask. Way more pedestrian: the repetitive advice from male and female announcers: ‘At the top of the escalator, please step forward/‘Use the litter bins provided/In the airport/Walk, don’t run/‘This is a smoke-free zone.’ There’s no way to interpret those as messages from the Universe, though I did try.

So there it is: we must be managed via public service announcements (PSAs, if you will). Without these ghost voices telling us what to do, we’d be falling off escalators, gaily throwing around empty sandwich packets and offering round a packet of B & H in the departure lounge. While some PSAs are surely for safety and insurance purposes (ie we’re not responsible if we told you not to do it) the warning against an infraction of the rules guilt-nibbles the soul like a digestive biscuit crumbling in hot tea. (I just deleted ‘just’ in that last sentence or I’d be contradicting my last post, The J Word.)

Here’s my train favourite: ‘Anyone without a valid ticket will be prosecuted.’ I’m seeing myself in handcuffs being dragged out of the toilet to a waiting police van. (Flashback to sitting on the train loo, forgetting to lock the door, which opens before a queue of people when another passenger tries to get in. No announcement saying, ‘Don’t forget to lock the toilet door,’ which would have been way more use than listing what’s on offer at the buffet car.) Of course I have a valid ticket. I always do. But that PSA, repeated a dozen times on the Mackem Express to London (translation: Sunderland, in the north east of England) trips me into a negative spiral. I could secretly have committed a crime. I might have an invalid ticket and be ejected at Hartlepool. And I don’t know anyone in Hartlepool, etc etc. It’s laughable, I know, but that ridiculous self-doubt is not only mine – on visiting a friend, I saw this note taped to the stove: ‘The gas is off. You don’t have to check again.’

Moments before that pernicious PSA on the London train I’d been thinking about the upcoming meeting with one of my publishers to talk about Nature’s Hidden Oracles, my next book. It’s about how to divine with natural findings such as leaves, stones, feathers and flowers when you’re out on walks. I reflected that on the beach, in the park, or your garden, there’s no interruption to the flow of ideas, of daydreams. No audio-interject telling you to walk on the path or step carefully over the stream or beware of the mud. The natural sounds of nature help us quietly connect with our intuition, or own knowing (and that’s one reason why being in nature can lower blood pressure and ease anxiety). Nature offers us a private and unique connection to the earth and with our sense of self. We’re appreciating what we see through our own filter and giving it meaning – from the pattern of rippled sand at low tide to the whisper of the leaves in wind. This is the real ghost voice, speaking; not the disembodied vocal loop played in commercial buildings and on public transport.

Freedom from this kind of sonic pollution gives us space to open up to new possibilities and to simply be with ourselves. When that’s not possible on planes and trains, let’s have some positive messaging instead: ‘Have a lovely trip.’ ‘Travel broadens the mind’ (I don’t mind clichés). Music, even. Or, ideally, silence, which as we know is golden (I’m on fire with the clichés, here) – unless you’ve forgotten to lock the toilet door on a train. In which case, give me that swift reminder, any day.

Nature’s Hidden Oracles is published in May 2020 by Godsfield Press, £10.
Image: From a trip to the isle of Arran, Scotland, December 2019. The west of the island near the standing stones of Machrie Moor.

Major to Minor: Surprising Relations

Major to Minor: Surprising Relations

When writing The Ultimate Guide to Tarot, I included in each major arcana profile a subheading, ‘Reflections’ – a list of minor arcana cards that echo the meaning of the major: Death’s reflection in the Ten of Swords. The Devil in the Eight of Swords (you get the picture). Then I began looking for patterns (I’m hard-wired to do this after thirty-plus years as a tarot reader. Of course, ahem, I started reading when I was five ten okay, 21).

When exploring alignments, I got to investigate some alternative relationships between cards. For example, the link between the Devil and the Eight of Swords may be obvious (restriction), but going deeper, I felt the Fives tell us much more; Fives can explain why you end up in a Devil situation. So, here’s my list:

I The Magician: The Aces

III The Empress: The Queens

IV The Emperor: The Kings

VI The Lovers: The Twos

VII The Chariot: The Knights

VIII Strength: The Eights

X The Wheel of Fortune: The Nines

XI Justice and XX Judgement: The Threes

XII The Hanged Man: The Fours

XIII Death: The Tens

XIV Temperance: The Sevens

XV The Devil: The Fives

XIX The Sun: The Pages

XXI The World: The Sixes

The Alignments

The High Priestess, Hierophant, Hermit, Tower, Star, and Moon are not aligned with minor groups. (The Fool, as outside the major arcana sequence, is not included.) Given the minors often reveal the detail of day-to-day concerns, perhaps my inability to align minors to these six cards isn’t surprising; after all, the High Priestess, Hierophant and Hermit operate beyond the visible in realms unseen. The Tower, Star, and Moon evoke the liminal, too – the blackness of the Tower’s landscape and the twilight worlds of the Star and Moon reveal the consequence of undercurrents in our lives, rather than what is manifest in the light of day.

Looking at how the groupings fall has helped me consider, more broadly, some of the minor arcana cards’ meanings. I’m skipping the explanations of some alignments here, as they’re obvious: how the Aces fall under the Magician (initiation, beginnings, pure essence – the alchemic territory of the Magician); and the Queens and Kings, overseen by the Empress and Emperor, with each Court card an aspect of the major archetype. Then, Tarotistas, come the others, below, along with my connections (aided by my trusty tea and cake):

VI The Lovers: The Twos – turning points

The Twos represent the choice aspect of the Lovers: the need for a mature decision. Rather than leap off the cliff in a spontaneous surfeit of joy, Fool-style, it’s time to consider long-term options. The figures on the RWS Twos are largely static, suggesting the process of consideration over time – which may be procrastination (Swords) planning (Wands), flipping alternatives (Pentacles) or the long gaze into the eyes of the beloved (Cups). And of course, the Two of Cups evokes the literal love meaning of the Lovers in readings, and the Lovers in its composition, with the lion (symbol of passion and protection) replacing Archangel Raphael as the guiding force appearing above the couple.

VII The Chariot: The Knights – forging ahead

As the Kings and Queens are four aspects of the Emperor and Empress, with the Knights we see four faces of the charioteer (pragmatist, idealist, egotist, dreamer). The purpose of the journey might be revealed by the Knights – financial stability and work (Knight of Pentacles); a love quest (Knight of Cups); to battle (Knight of Swords) or for adventure (Knight of Wands). The Knight of Wands is the unfailing symbol of moving house, in many readings – just as the charioteer departs the city, onward.

VIII Strength: The Eights – grace under pressure

If we see Strength as focus, as directed energy, the Eights align naturally with this card of grace under pressure: the working perfection of the Eight of Pentacles; the self-directed anxiety of entrapment with the Eight of Swords; the ever-expanding networks of the Eight of Wands; and, for the Eight of Cups’ departing figure, the realisation that something is missing. The irregular placement of the three cups upon the neat row of five depicts an uncomfortable gap, compositionally, which draws our focus. Fulfilment is elsewhere, and so the quest to find it must begin. Each scenario on the cards calls for strength – the strength to walk away (Cups), the strength to think our way out of the Eight of Sword’s limiting mindset, the strength to strive for and achieve goals (Pentacles), and the strength to avoid overwhelm as the Eight of Wands speeds the pace of life.

X The Wheel of Fortune: The Nines – intense times

By card nine in three minor arcana suits, we may just have convinced ourselves we’re in control. Nines are cards of accumulation and, therefore, intensity. Before the revelation of the Tens, we reach peak performance, able to manifest the ideal reality with the Nine of Cups or enjoy the material security of the Nine of Pentacles. The Nine of Wands could be framed as ultimate defence, as we protect our past achievements (and wounds); while the Nine of Swords takes us into the shadow self with its hyper-anxiety – the conflictual suit of Swords internalised in extremis. As anxiety can arise from having no control over external situations, the Nine of Swords is a harbinger of the Wheel of Fortune. The Wheel tells us what the Nine of Swords knew all along: control is an illusion, and there are greater forces at work over which we have little influence.

XI Justice and XX Judgement: The Threes – assessments

It’s the public nature of some of these Threes that lead me to Justice. Three women dancing in a garden (Cups); a craftsman holding court in a church, standing on a bench; and a journeyman atop a hill, standing tall with three wands, glimpsing the potential of the territory ahead. Looking at these cards, it’s as if we’re almost part of the picture, at the edge of the party, or talk, or just a footstep or two behind the traveller. As I reader, I feel cast into the role of observer – or Judge. There’s an element of assessment going on within the cards (what’s the traveller thinking, as he scopes out the landscape? What’s the verdict on the craftsman’s ideas, after he steps down from the bench?) Even the Three of Cups’ women might be celebrating the outcome of a trial, whether legal or personal.

The Threes also resonate with Judgement as, looking at these cards in sequence, they represent the highs and lows of the phase we’re reflecting on before moving toward the completion of The World. As Threes, they often represent physical events (the number Three is dynamic, symbolising tangible results). Threes also carry an emotional charge – the good times (Cups), the trips (Wands), the achievements (Pentacles) – and the sorrows (the Three of Swords, naturally). And it’s these experiences we need to revisit and assess; to decide which memories and lessons to take forward, and which to leave behind.

An alternative alignment for Three is The Empress.

XII The Hanged Man: The Fours – states and retreat

As the number of stability, Four evokes the stillness of card XII. The Four of Cups’ dejected figure might be the Hanged Man before his spiritual initiation; without trust in the flow of life, he is unable to move forward. The Four of Swords and Four of Pentacles are equally static, occurring as statues – the knight in his church, the merchant in the town square. The Four of Pentacles denotes the Hanged Man’s absolute security, while the Four of Swords signifies rest; there is nothing to change other than one’s perspective. The spirited Wands’ joyful couple are to put down roots in their ideal location, bringing their element of Fire down to earth, and it’s this Four of Wands that most expresses the bliss of the Hanged Man’s suspension, symbolised by his halo and beatific smile.

XIII Death: The Tens – all the endings

After the completion of the cycles experienced in the Tens, Death, or change, must come. What has amassed in the Nines now manifests: endings (Ten of Swords), fulfilment (Cups), consolidation and unification (Pentacles) or impossible burdens (Wands). If positive (Pentacles and Cups), the lesson may be to appreciate what we have and to continue to feed relationships and creative projects with our energy. If negative (Wands and Swords), Death releases us from self-enquiry. There’s clarity and truth; the bones don’t lie.

XIV Temperance: The Sevens – a struggle for balance

Take a measured approach, says Temperance, and you can make it work. Sound advice for the Sevens, of course, to not give in before the finish line – even if your competitor is stealing from you (Seven of Swords) or you’re tired of fire-fighting (Wands). Rise to the challenge, be ingenious and so what Temperance does – pay attention to every detail and don’t waste a drop of your energy on what isn’t important. And don’t rest for too long (Pentacles). Oh, the fantastical delusions of the Seven of Cups: don’t give in to those, either. Just do the work (note to self). So, in this sense, Temperance, as archangel Michael, is the guiding light when the work of the Seven threatens to derail our hopes. Anything is (still) possible.

XV The Devil: The Fives – potential pitfalls

If ever there were a gateway drug to the Devil, it would come packaged as a Five. Sorrow and bereavement (Cups), tests (Wands), humiliation (Swords) or isolation and poverty (Pentacles). How we manage the Fives leads to the darkness of devil-ment or the choice offered by the Lovers. We either lose ourselves, or choose for ourselves. The Fives, in this way, denote challenges that if left untended can lead us into temptation.

XIX The Sun: The Pages – divine children

Looking at the RWS card as a container of Pages, we might consider that the Page of Wands is the gardener (gardening as the work of the soul). The Page of Pentacles built the wall (the material world); the Page of Swords defends it, while the Page of Cups brings the Sun’s joy. As the RWS and Marseilles Sun cards depict children, this fits the Page profile – a child or youth. In Jungian terms, the child of the Sun can be regarded as the archetype of the Divine Child; Jung says this archetype means ‘the completion of a long path’. As card XIX in the major arcana sequence, the positioning of the Sun comes towards the end of the hero’s journey that the major arcana cycle may be said to represent.

XXI The World: The Sixes – microcosms of completion

Six is the number of harmony. To me, the tarot sixes are all microcosms of completion. They illustrate some kind of transaction – for example: the Six of Pentacles depicts a donation; the Six of Wands, a victory procession; the Six of Cups,

a gift, and the Six of Swords, paying the ferryman for safe passage. The aspect of completion is reflected in the cards’ meanings – in the Six of Cups, getting complete with your past when a person from the past returns; in the Six of Pentacles, we see an act of generosity (when we’re successful in life, we give back). With the Six of Wands, the goal is achieved, and there’s also a visual affinity in the Six of Wand’s laurel wreath and the mandorla wreath on the World. With the Six of Swords, a conflict is over.

These Sixes also depict groups outdoors – even the Two of Cups has a third person, centre-left – and the actions takes place outside. In this sense, the Sixes illustrate public displays of completion that XXI World, in its expansiveness, represents.

 

 

 

 

Fate on a Plate: The Pizza Readings

Fate on a Plate: The Pizza Readings

There’s a woman standing on stage in a small, dark theatre in London. With a flourish, she holds up a Kellogg’s cornflake box, and rips it to pieces (luckily, no cornflakes inside). She looks at the debris and asks for a volunteer. A million hands go up – this is The Stand-Up Psychic Show, so everyone’s up for a reading – and one woman takes to the stage. The reading that follows is insightful, funny, and very accurate. There’s a huge round of applause.

The presenter on stage is Becky Walsh, an intuitive, TV presenter and author with a background in theatre and stand-up comedy. Becky’s demonstration always stayed with me, because she proved you could divine with literally anything to hand: since that time, I’ve divined with stones, shells, tea leaves, plants, flower petals, egg whites, salt, flour – you get the drift – and wrote up some of these techniques in The Divination Handbook.

Little did I know I was about to venture into new divination territory until last weekend, when meeting two friends in York for a rare day off the writing schedule. I realised I didn’t have my tarot cards with me, so we thought about casting divination stones in the park (I do a lot of stone-casting at home by the beach) but got distracted by hunger and the Vikings in the streets, all dressed up for that weekend’s festival. Heading for food along the packed, cobbled street, we found the perfect location: The Real Ale and Pizza Pub (also full of Vikings in full regalia, carousing, etc).

With much oohing and finger-licking, we polished off a whole pizza each. Then Rachel piped up: How about we read our plates, Liz? She explained this impulse as, ‘I don’t know, it’s just that… bit of crust on that plate, sort of sticking out, is really annoying me.’ An annoying crust? Who knew.

The minute Rachel suggested pizza-reading and Julie nodded in agreement, I recalled not only Becky and her cornflakes box, but the celebrated British psychic, Arthur Molinary (who read for Freddy Mercury). At one of Arthur’s classes at the College of Psychic Studies in London, we’d been given a bowl of sand each. He walked past each bowl and made a random pattern in the sand with his fingers. ‘Now, interpret!’ After that first black feeling of panic, we all began to divine meanings, and to offer Arthur interpretations as he made his way through the class. So, at that moment of pizza-reckoning, I reasoned that a pizza couldn’t be far off an impression in sand. And after all, there’s that time-honoured tradition of reading with food: from chicken entrails (yuk, indeed) to apple-bobbing at Samhain.

These are of course, summaries of just some of the issues that arose from each plate. For confidentiality reasons, I’m not matching the plate to the person (although anyone who knows me will probably guess which was mine).

1
The stack of scraped-off ham, stacked by the cutlery: Feeling emotionally shredded. The two large, half-eaten slices, clearly cut: a good front. Boldness, doing what you say you’ll do; taking a practical approach. Three clear portions of remaining food: divided time and loyalties. Compartmentalising life to cope with pressure.

2
Angle of the knife and fork: Forced space; setting very clear boundaries. The multiple pieces of leftover crust and base suggests a multitude of projects. Drawn to three pieces in the centre – two upright crusts and a broader piece between them felt like there would be three primary projects to focus on. It may be time to push the others aside.

3
The single piece of crust to the left: worry, irritation. The horizontal stack of crusts: planning, working through a series of projects or problems in an ideal order. Getting through work is foremost, as the crusts are at the top of the plate. The need to clear out negative energy; a longing for space. Lots of ideas, but presently scattered thinking – like the blackened crumbs.

Of course, you can try this with the remnants of any meal. Reading without preparation, on the hop, also helps free up your imagination and intuitive knowing: there’s no pressure, and you might be surprised at your insights. And, if you’re feeling a little too welded to one precious deck of tarot, LeNormand or oracle cards, give yourself some time away and read with whatever you have.

After all, we all need a day off from time to time.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

When the Lyrics Get You: The Led Zep Spread

When the Lyrics Get You: The Led Zep Spread

When the lyrics get you: The Led Zep spread

Ever wake more than one morning with an insistent tune in your head? This week, it’s Stairway to Heaven.Taking me right back to warm cider and joss-stick burns on my mam’s carpet, it’s one of the defining rock anthems from the Greatest Band in the World Ever. The lyrics keep running around my head from around 6.30am, which is horrendously early for me, so I’m giving in to this, getting up, making tea and finding my notebook, writing down the words I recall… May Queen, piper, gold, makes me wonder, bustle in your hedgerow (whatever it means, it feels epically poetic). I don’t have my glasses on at this point, and the daylight’s just coming through the kitchen window… so I’m not sure my scribbles are even legible. But the words, reading them back, echo with laughter (sorry, couldn’t resist) and soon the song bird will soon be singing. Yes, I decide to do whatever respectable tarot read should do in the circumstances to make sense of this: create a spread. I’ve used fragmented lyrics from Stairway to create card positions. Try it and see what you think.