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 conceptĀ 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).

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 – Venus

Looking at the Fifth, or Throat, Chakra, we find the planet Venus and the Tarot card The Empress (Major Arcana Key 3). I have written about The Empress in a previous post, primarily as a symbol for the Divine Mother. Here she is associated with the gifts of the Fifth Chakra.

These gifts include the ability to speak one’s truth, and to create in a constructive way or at the highest level of our spiritual abilities. Mars (Second Chakra) is a more generative, reproductive sort of creativity. One of the tasks of the spiritual seeker is to take that Martian energy and transmute it into a power that can be used in the service of the Venus force.

The brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon, Venus

Venus, the Fifth Chakra planet
is not only the planet of desire. She is the planet of beauty as well, and the Venus force seeks to bring beauty into our lives. Venus rules two signs: Taurus and Libra. Both are concerned with beauty in different ways. Taurus wants beauty in the physical world, whereas Libra wants divine justice, a beauty of the mind. Both are important, of course. A misguided Venus can be lazy, either physically or intellectually. The force can even be turned toward Mars, a reversal of the interplay needed for spiritual development. This can lead to lust, promiscuity, and a dissipation of the creative force.

The metal associated with Venus is copper. Just as copper is a great conductor of heat and electrical energy, the Venus force is a great conductor as well. Properly directed, Venus brings fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment. Copper is also very malleable, just as creativity can take many forms.

The note associated with The Empress, and Venus, is F#. This is the tritone of the C major scale, which is considered a very “feminine” interval. (I have blogged elsewhere about the tritone here.) It is rumored that the Catholic Church forbade its use in music at one time, though this is disputed. However, the late composer Kay Gardner stated that, while in school, she was once required to rewrite a musical piece that depended on the tritone.

Venus is beauty and creativity. Let her shine in your life to help you reach your greatest potential.

Planetary Forces – Sun

We have reached the heart of the matter, both figuratively and literally, as we explore the fourth chakra, province of the heart and the Sun. The Tarot card of the Fourth Chakra is Key 19, The Sun.

The Sun is the center of our solar system, just as the heart chakra is the central chakra of our energy system. (For those of you who might object to the Sun being called a planet, that’s just how it is in astrology. All the planets of the solar system – including Pluto, dadgumit – as well as the Sun and the Moon are considered to be planets.)

The human heart is also aligned with the central sphere of Tiphareth on the Tree of Life. This sphere is associated with the Son on the Central Pillar so, in English at least, it is an interesting homonym.

The Sun rules Leo, the astrological sign that governs the heart and the spine (your “backbone”).

Sun, the Fourth Chakra planet
The lion is known as a courageous beast, and when we live from our heart, we find our courage. However, a Sun out of control is quite destructive (think supernova), and if we let our Sun get the better of us, egotism and arrogance result. This leaves a path of destruction in our lives, and in the lives of those around us.

The Sun’s metal is gold, and there seems to be a special affinity between that precious metal and the spirit of humans. In fact, some indigenous peoples have called gold “the blood of the Sun.” (I have posted about this in another blog here). In medieval times, alchemists tried to turn lead into gold, or so the story goes. In actuality, it was a quest for enlightenment – an attempt to transcend earthly bonds (the metal lead – remember? from Saturn?) to attain union with the Divine (by linking to Tiphareth and Christ consciousness).

Man, there are future blog topics aplenty right here in this post! I’ll get to them, I promise.

The note associated with the Sun is D natural. This comes from the assignment of notes according to color correspondences, and the Sun is paired with the color orange. (Another blog topic, for another time.) D is also the tonic for the well-known Dorian mode (here is a brief video on the Dorian mode).

Rely on your Sun for courage and identity. Let it light the way to higher consciousness for you.

Planetary Forces – Jupiter

The next chakra to consider in our journey through the energy (and solar) system is the third chakra, located at the solar plexus. Its planet is Jupiter.

This chakra is associated with Tarot trump number 10, The Wheel of Fortune.

The choice of Jupiter for this chakra is an interesting one. Traditionally, the third chakra is associated with the force of Will, and the ability to put oneself forth in the world. Jupiter is an expansive, beneficent force in astrology, so the “putting forth” part of the chakra is well represented by this planet. Jupiter is an optimistic force, and this optimism is needed if we are engage the world with any success.

Jupiter rules the sign of Sagittarius, an outward sign interested in exploring, higher education, and distant travel.

Jupiter, the Third Chakra planet
Jupiter is also co-ruler of Pisces, another sign of expansion, but this time on the psychic and spiritual planes.

The metal of Jupiter is tin. This metal has a prime use in coating other metals as a protectant, as it does not oxidize easily. The Jupiter force is the outer, protective force we need as we put our third chakra into contact with others. Also, tin is related to lead on the periodic table of elements. This reminds us that the expansion of Jupiter needs to be rooted in the groundedness of Saturn, so that we don’t lose sight of reality (which can be a problem for the Piscean part of our temperament).

The note of Jupiter, and the third chakra, is A#, the highest pitch of the planetary scale. Jupiter is certainly the loftiest of planetary forces from the standpoint of optimism and engagement with others. It helps us keep our chins up when the chips are down. As you may know, the word “jovial” comes from the Roman god Jove (or Jupiter), after whom this planet is named.

Keep your Jupiter force close at hand to ward off depression, and to help you meet the world with confidence.

Planetary Forces – Mars

Let’s continue on our journey through the planets associated with the chakras.

The second (or sacral) chakra is located an inch or two below the navel, and its planet is Mars.

Mars is paired with Key 16 (the Tower) of the major arcana of the Tarot.

The force that is typically attributed to Mars is evident in the card. As ruler of Aries, and co-ruler of Scorpio, Mars is seen as an initiating, driving planet, whose power also shows in the realm of sexuality and reproduction.

It is this very association with reproduction that is Mars’s greatest strength and biggest trap. Misused, Mars can be the instigator of personal destruction, and become a huge obstacle on the path toward self-realization. If properly directed, however, Mars is an indispensable ally, providing the force needed to overthrow out-worn illusions and limiting beliefs. In this way, we give birth to a new self, a more developed, spiritual self.

Mars, the Second Chakra planet

The metal of the red planet is iron, and it lends that solid, sturdy sense to our endeavors when its power is properly applied. But, we need to be regularly aware of our use of the Mars force to keep from becoming rusty, i.e., complacent in our current state. Remember, rusty gears don’t turn, and rusty tools are liable to break under stress.

The note C natural, the one that provides impetus to our musical scale, is the note of Mars. The C major scale is arguable the most basic scale, as there are no sharps or flats in it; and C, as the starting note, is known as the tonic of the scale. In this sense, Mars is like a tonic to our system, providing the energy needed for change and growth.

I encourage you to stoke up your Mars energy and direct it toward your personal growth. It is definitely the way to go.