Tarot Reading – Stage Three

Stage three deals with the astrological sign that is of greatest import to the question. As you may know, we are more than simply our Sun sign or our rising sign. (The rising sign is the sign of the zodiac that was on the horizon when we first drew breath and represents sort of a first impression that we give to the world)

We actually have all twelve signs in us and can call upon their various attributes when needed. This stage of the reading indicates which of the signs we need to call upon to best address the themes and issues raised regarding the question.

In this example, the significator appears in the ninth pile, which is Sagittarius. In other words, the questioner needs to be in touch with the Sagittarian qualities in herself in order to work with the issues raised by the question.

What might those be? Well, that might include a willingness to look at one’s philosophy around the question – possible doing research, maybe even traveling (actually or vicariously) to find out more about appropriate things. There is a sense of adventure in Sagittarius as well, and Sagittarians are natural gamblers. Therefore, the questioner may be asked to take a risk.

Cards are counted and paired as in previous stages. They are interpreted with an eye to how they pertain to the sign that is being dealt with.

From this stage, we move to the most complicated stage of the reading, astrological decanates. It is the stage I use the least, as it is long and, at times, tedious.

I’m only telling you the truth as I see it. Next time, you will be able to see it too.

Tarot Reading – Stage Two

The second stage of the five-stage reading involves the astrological house of relevance to the question.

Houses in astrology relate to areas of our lives, such as material possessions, partnerships, travel, children, home life, etc. In this stage, we determine what area of the questioner’s life is of particular concern. In our example, we are following the Queen of Cups (significator) through the stages.

The entire deck is dealt into twelve piles, each pile representing one of the houses of the zodiac. Dealing begins at the upper left (first house) across (to the sixth house), then on to the second row, left to right (seventh to twelfth house). The first six piles contain seven cards, while piles six through twelve have six cards apiece (for a total of 78, the number of cards in the deck). Each pile is then searched face up until the significator is found. In this example, the Queen appears in the second house, the house of personal possessions, material goods, etc.

The cards are laid out in a circular formation, and counted as they were in the first stage. Once any card is landed upon twice, the cards are paired as they were in the first stage. In this case, each card has a mate, while the Queen stands alone.

This stage gleans more information about the question, and the themes exposed in the first stage are often fleshed out a bit more.

But how is the questioner to deal with the situation? What skills must be called upon to assist? This is where the third stage comes in – astrological signs.

Tarot Reading – Stage One

The first stage of a B.O.T.A. style reading involves determining to which of the four Qabalistic Worlds the reading pertains. This ranges from the most abstract, archetypal level to the most manifest, material level. (I go into a fuller explanation of the Four Worlds concept here.)

I will go into a bit more detail on this first stage of the divination, since it is sort of a template for the rest of the stages. First, the significator of the questioner (also known as the querent) is determined. How to do this is in this blog post. (In this example, the significator is the Queen of Cups.) Then the cards are shuffled by the reader until they feel “ready” to read. At this point, some readers ask the querent to cut the cards, others don’t.

Next, the cards are cut by the reader into two piles, slightly separated. Each pile is cut again, with the cut of pile one (the pile that was on the right) placed between the original two piles; pile two’s cut is placed to the left of the other piles. This movement from right to left mirrors the order of the letters of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, and the order of the four worlds.

The significator is searched for, and the pile in which it is found becomes the cards to be used for this stage. The cards of this pile are then laid out in a circle (usually this turns out to be an oval or a square). The rest of the deck is set aside for the balance of this stage.

Only certain cards are read in this portion of the stage, based on card value. Each card has a count value, and the count determines which cards are selected to be read. The count stops once any card is chosen twice. (It’s not as complicated as it sounds.)

Finally, the cards are paired, moving outward from the significator. These pairs are then interpreted with regard to the question and the World in which the reading is taking place. (You will be relieved to know that I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt when this picture was taken. I do not do Tarot readings in the nude.)

When doing this stage, I often find that the first two of three cards touched during the count relate to the current state of things. This is a great way to assure that the reading is “radical,” or true to the question. Stage 1 lays out the basics of the situation and gives a couple of themes that will be refined and emphasized during any subsequent stages.

We now move on to Stage 2 (Astrological Houses).

Tarot Reading – The Significator

Before talking about the reading itself, let’s discuss the very important concept of the significator. The person asking the question of the cards (this person is also known as the querent) is represented by one of the sixteen court cards of the deck. The determination is based on the querent’s gender, age, and astrological Sun sign.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Gender/Age
    • Male: King (older) or Knight (younger)
    • Female: Queen (older) or Page (younger)
  • Sun sign
    • Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius): Wands
    • Water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces): Cups
    • Air signs (Libra, Aquarius, Gemini): Swords
    • Earth signs (Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo): Pentacles

For example, I am an older male born under an Earth sign. Therefore, my significator would be the King of Pentacles. On the other hand, a teenage girl born under the sign of Pisces would have the Page of Cups as her significator.

Admittedly, the age breakdown is a little slippery. I use the “younger” card if the querent is under the age of 30, unless that person has children, in which case I tend to use the “older” card. Of course, a very young, or somewhat immature, person with a child will be signified by the “younger” card. This is my rule of thumb. Other readers may be a bit different on the issue. What is important is that the reader is clear about what significator should be used.

The significator is, um, significant because it is the determiner of which cards are read during each stage. At the start of every stage of a reading, the significator is located. The number of cards to be used, as indicated by the stage, are the ones following the significator in the deck.

Cards can also be used to signify other individuals important to the querent, such as one’s mate. The rules for determining that person’s significator are generally the same as those used for the querent. This is not a hard and fast rule, regarding those other than the querent, but it is a handy thing for the reader to keep in mind.

The next five posts will concern themselves with the actual stages of a reading. Stay tuned.

Reading the Tarot

First of all, let me say that I see the Tarot primarily as a device for the pursuit of enlightenment. Meditation on the cards and symbols unlocks aspects of the psyche, and allows us to free ourselves from limiting, erroneous beliefs. Using the cards for divination is appropriate only under certain circumstances, and I don’t read them for mundane matters. More on that below.

The system I use to read the Tarot has been taught to me by B.O.T.A., a Western mystery school that I have belonged to for 14 years. Their lessons in the study of tarot, astrology, and Qabalah are unequalled, in my opinion. The Tarot reading system is not even introduced until you have studied with them for almost 10 years. Suffice it to say, they don’t hurry things – very wise.

I’ve been reading cards since I was in my 20’s, and I used to use common spreads like the Celtic Cross. Now it is very rare for me to use any spreads other than those taught by B.O.T.A. The reason? Depth. The system is so rich that it is worth the effort.

A full B.O.T.A. reading consists of five stages. However, for most questions, I have found that two or three stages are enough to get the guidance sought. I will give an overview of the stages in subsequent posts.

The reading can last as long as two hours, though about 60 – 90 minutes is the norm. Length of time depends, of course, on how many stages are used.

By the way, I read only when the question shows the respect due the process. On my page that talks about my readings, I give some examples of good and poor questions.

To clarify, let me tell you a true story. I worked for a psychic hotline (which will remain nameless) several years ago. It was done mostly out of curiosity, and to get my “divination chops” honed. I lasted 10 days.

Why did I quit so soon? Several reasons. Sitting around waiting for the phone to ring is irritating to me. I felt constrained and captured by the phone – and I don’t like talking on the phone all that much, anyway. I was getting paid about $14 per hour (only time actually on the phone counted), while the callers were paying the hotline $3 per minute. Do the math and let me know who was making out like a bandit in this scenario. There was pressure (subtle, but there) to be sure to keep the person talking for a bit, eating up their moolah. Finally, it seemed like a lot of what the callers were asking for fell either into the realm of psychotherapy (something your ordinary telephone psychic is ill-equipped to provide) or into the realm of Jerry Springer fare. The first category was no real problem. I’ve been doing psychotherapy for close to 35 years – but I didn’t want to do it as a side-gig for $14 per hour. The second category was something I definitely didn’t want to get involved in. Ultimately, it simply didn’t seem right for people to be paying the hotline $180 per hour for either of those categories and, more to the point, for me to be a party to that.

At any rate, what I’ve been trying to say here is that I don’t do the “Is my boyfriend cheating on me?” kinds of Tarot readings. My readings are for personal and spiritual growth only. Anything else, and you’re not respecting the process – and I won’t read for you.

Stay tuned, and I’ll give you a peek inside the stages of a reading.

Planetary Forces – Pluto

The final planet to consider is Pluto. Whether it’s a planet in astronomical terms or not doesn’t matter. It’s a planet as far as astrology is concerned, and it represents a force in the human psyche, just as the Sun and the Moon are considered planets in this regard. Pluto is elemental Fire and is associated with the Tarot card Judgement (Major Arcana Key 20).

Discovered in 1930, Pluto arrived at a time of great upheaval in human history, almost as if it were announcing the depths of the Great Depression and the beginning of the period of World War II (remember, China and Japan began hostilities in 1937). Pluto has therefore become associated with change, but of a violent or upheaving type. It co-rules Scorpio, along with Mars, and is seen as a higher octave of the Red Planet.

Scorpio is one of the so-called fixed astrological signs, and it has two symbols – the scorpion and the eagle. These represent the two extremes that the Scorpionic temperament can take: vengeful or majestic, seeing far and wide. Scorpio also rules the large intestine in the body, which certainly gets rid of whatever isn’t needed, and sometimes in a violent fashion.

Pluto, elemental Fire

Pluto is also a rule breaker, psychically and physically. The planet itself is inclined to the usual orbital plane of the other planets, so it wanders outside the boundaries. Also, its orbit is such that for a couple of decades each revolution around the sun, it is closer to the sun than Neptune.

In our psyches, Pluto can bring about rapid cleansing, and asks us to die to ourselves so that we may rise anew – hence the Tarot card that shows the dead rising.

Pluto has the same note (C natural) as Mars. Look for Pluto in sweep in and really shake things up. It can seem traumatic at the time, but it often signals a growth period, as that which is outmoded dies and the new rises from that destruction.

Planetary Forces – Neptune

Moving outward, the next planet is Neptune, which is elemental Water. It is paired with the Hanged Man (Tarot major arcana Key 12).

Water is the emotional self. It is also our contact with the unconscious, both personal and collective. Neptune was discovered in 1846, after its position was predicted mathematically. Isn’t it just like emotion not to explain itself truly until rationality is put into play?

In astrology, Neptune is our dreamy side and it helps us formulate hopes and aspirations. On the negative, it can enslave us with unrealistic expectations and even addictions. It co-rules (with Jupiter) the astrological sign of Pisces, perhaps the least grounded of all signs. Its rulership of this sign gives a clue as to its ability to put us into contact with our intuitive parts. Perhaps that is why it’s considered a higher octave of the Moon.

Neptune, elemental Water

Recall that the Moon is paired with the High Priestess (the post for the Moon is here), the mistress of memory and intuitive connection. There is a decidedly feminine emphasis here; also the Hanged Man (post on the Hanged Man is here) reminds us to look beneath the surface, not to take things at face value. In other words, there more to life than what the senses tell us.

The note for Neptune and the Hanged Man is G#, because of the relationship with the High Priestess.

Here is an essential point: Rationality without emotion is cold, while emotion without reason is unfocused. It is again, no surprise, about balance. The lessons of Neptune and the Hanged Man are indispensable. They ask us to dream and to hope. Without that, life becomes meaningless and pointless. Out of Cosmic Memory comes the true sense of connection with something greater.

Let Neptune bring you to the heights of fantasy and dreams, while you keep yourself tethered to the physical. This is the formula for making dreams into reality.

Planetary Forces – Uranus

This is the first of three posts on the outer planets, those seemingly unknown to the ancients. Whether these planets were really unknown is not the issue, though. The issue is that these planets were not used in the casting of horoscopes. The explanation usually given is that these outer planets made their appearances (were discovered) at a time that was most apropos to their function in the human psyche.

In Tarot, the outer planets are given as rulers of the elements (Saturn, the outermost in the ancient planets is given as ruler of elemental Earth – compare this with my post on Saturn here).

Uranus, elemental Air

The first of the outer planets to consider is Uranus, elemental Air. It corresponds to the Fool (Major Arcana Key 0), and the Tarot suit of Swords. I have posted on the Fool here.

The element of Air is associated with quick thought and movement. There is a gregarious quality to it, and those with much Air in their temperaments are quick-thinking and sociable. However, the dark side of Air is cold, aloof, and sometimes cruel.

The Fool is often paired with the so-called transpersonal chakra, located about 18 inches above the head. It is where we commune with the rest of the human race.

Uranus is considered to be a higher octave of Mercury, another fast-moving entity. As such, it has the same note (E natural) as Mercury and the Magician. This planet (with Saturn) co-rules Aquarius, the astrological sign of humanitarianism. Its discovery in 1781 came at a time of the eruption of new thoughts and bold visions (like that upstart nation the USA), so those things are associated with this planet.

The Fool encourages us to step forward with complete hope. Uranus calls for change. Air appeals to our thinking selves. Put them all together, and one gets results.

Planetary Forces – Mercury

With our visit to Mercury, we have reached the Seventh, or Crown, Chakra. This chakra is associated with the Tarot card The Magician (Major Arcana Key 1).

The Seventh Chakra is our connection to our Higher Self, the place through which divine wisdom enters. But why Mercury for this chakra? Shouldn’t the planet be something, I don’t know, loftier? Well, there are a couple of reasons for this choice.

First off, in mythology Mercury is the messenger of the gods; you know, the guy with wings on his heels, like in the FTD logo. It seems natural to assign the planet Mercury to this chakra, then. Also, Mercury is the communications planet in astrology. Where our Mercury is in our natal chart shows how we think and communicate.

Mercury, the Seventh Chakra planet

Astronomically, Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, and the Sun is seen in many esoteric traditions as the physical manifestation of the divine in our solar system. As such, Mercury is the intercessor, in that it lies between us and that representation of the godhead. Notice in The Magician, the figure stands with one arm aloft and the other down, directing the force from the above to the below – once again, an intercessor, a messenger, and a transducer of the power from the divine.

But the associations don’t end there. The metal for Mercury is, as you may have guessed, mercury or quicksilver. This curious element is a liquid at room temperature and runs about quickly (if you’ve ever played with it, you know it forms globules and balls that shimmer and move away at a touch). Furthermore, mercury is seen in alchemy as the symbol of the superconscious, the highest source of communication. Sulfur is symbolic of our regular consciousness, while salt is the unconscious, or automatic consciousness.

Too much Mercury leads to a disorganized mind, flitting from one topic to the next, a very ungrounded situation. Too little Mercury beings a dullness of thought, and a rigidity of belief untempered by a true connection to the divine.

The note for Mercury and the Seventh Chakra is E natural. This is the beginning note of the Phrygian mode, a mode used to evoke rapid movement and quickness. It is often used in flamenco music, for example.

Mercury – communication and communion. Listen carefully and you will be able to hear the whisperings of the divine.

Planetary Forces – Moon

Next up is the Sixth (or Brow or Third Eye) Chakra. Its planet is the Moon, and it is associated with the Tarot card The High Priestess (Major Arcana Key 2).

The Sixth Chakra is our center of intuition, and a way of connecting with non-local phenomena and knowledge. This is one of the reasons for the assignment of the High Priestess with this chakra. I posted about the High Priestess here, discussing her association with intuition (the Third Eye). Her position on the Tree of Life acts as a transmitter of Divine wisdom into human nature.

However, there is also an association with memory, both individual and collective, in the

Moon, the Sixth Chakra planet

High Priestess. Where better to place this than smack-dab in the middle of your head?

The Moon is linked in astrology with emotion, and where the Moon is in our natal chart tells a good bit about how we deal with emotion. The Moon is also symbolic of the Mother energy in astrology (Saturn is the father). The sign of Cancer, which the Moon rules, is described as a maternal sign, centered around the home and nurturing.

Balance is important here as well. Too much Moon leads to an over-emotional, unfocused life; too little Moon yields an uncaring, unimaginative one.

The metal of the moon is silver, the “other” precious metal. Like gold, humans have a special affinity for this metal, and it is an even better conductor of electricity than copper. Gold and silver are also the colors of the so-called solar and lunar currents (masculine and feminine; yang and yin) of the body. Their interplay keeps us in balance. Too much (or too little) of one or the other leads to disruptions in many of our natural cycles, resulting in illness or emotional instability.

The note of the Moon is G#, placing it directly between Venus (F#) and Jupiter (A#). Thus, the three brightest non-solar objects are placed as a stellium (another astrological term) within the musical scale.

Never lose touch with the Moon of your being. It is your emotional center, your intuitive feel, and your link to Cosmic Memory.