Moses, Another Guy With a Dream

This past week, the world marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. Stirring words from a modern-day Moses. Like the biblical patriarch before him, Dr. King did not live to see his people reach the Promised Land. Nevertheless, his vision shook a nation.

As an archetype, Moses is a symbol for someone with a single-minded focus, someone who wasn’t afraid to buck the tide and 12 - Hanged Manact contrary to what was expected. In this way, he becomes a representation of The Hanged Man (Key 12 of the Major Arcana of the Tarot). This card shows a man hanging upside down, often suspended over water. The card is associated with the element of Water, the planet Neptune, and the Hebrew letter Mem (shown in the lower right of the card). In divination, it commonly indicates a period of delay or things in transition. Patience is the watchword.

In the Western mysteries, This card is used in meditation so that we can know the will of God, and become an instrument of that will. It requires us to act contrary to the rest of the world, with its materialistic emphasis. Let’s see how Moses fits the archetype.Moses red sea

Moses is frequently paired with water in the Bible. He is set adrift on the Nile by his mother, to be discovered in the rushes by the daughter of Pharaoh. He is raised up in Pharaoh’s court, destined to become a prince of Egypt (why, Disney, why?). However, God intervenes as a burning bush (Fire, the antithetical element to Water) and turns the world of Moses upside down (clever, huh?). Actually, the letters that spell out Moses (Moshe in Hebrew) tell the story quite clearly. Moshe is spelled Mem-Shin-Heh. The Tarot cards for these letters are The Hanged Man (12), Judgement (20), and The Emperor(4), respectively. Laid out Hebrew-style, right to left they look like this:

4 - Emperor 20 - Judgement 12 - Hanged Man

When we do this work of telling stories, interpreting interactions among cards, we most often work backwards (left to right). So, the story goes like this: A royal person (Emperor) encounters Fire (Judgement is associated with that element), is turned upside down, and starts acting in accordance with Divine will – at odds with the material world.

Moses’s association with water continues throughout his life. The first plague of Egypt involves Moses turning the Nile blood red. On his way out of town with the Israelites, he parts the Red Sea. When they are withering away in the desert and Moses asks God for assistance, he is instructed to bring forth water from a rock. Finally, Moses does not get to cross the River Jordan to enter the Promised Land. Water forms his final barrier.

(OK, so why didn’t he get to go into the Promised Land? Because he struck the rock twice when bringing forth water, and God told him just to command it. That Old Testament God was a stickler and wanted strict obedience. I’m sure Moses turned out OK in the afterlife, though. He did appear with Jesus during the Transfiguration, if you remember your New Testament.)

Moses is the model of a person who puts his own will aside (except for that rock-striking business) and molds himself to God’s will, or the dictates of the Higher Self.

Please realize that there is no need to espouse any religion in order to gain benefit from this practice with the cards and letters.”God” can be replaced with “Higher Self” and any of the cards is a psychological archetype, a part of our collective unconscious, free for any of us to work with, non-denominationally.

All that’s required is a bit of knowledge, a questing mind, and a desire to benefit from what reveals itself.

Telling Stories With Tarot

This is a sample of part of a series of classes that I will be conducting in the months ahead. The example used is only a small piece of what will be covered in the class. Be on the lookout, eastern and central Iowa, for more information about these classes.

The Tarot is amazing. It is so adaptable. Sure, you can “tell fortunes” with it, but that is its most mundane use. In fact, it is my opinion that the “is my boyfriend cheating on me” type of question, so often asked of casual Tarot readers, is an insult to the deep, eternal wisdom that is Tarot.

Tarot is a tool for self development. This is especially true when talking about the Major Arcana, the 22 cards that have wonderful names like The Fool, The High Priestess, The Tower, etc. These cards are no less than a road map of the unconscious. They are archetypal symbols that speak to our deepest selves. What’s more, each card contains a lesson, a story if you will, to give us a sense of how to attain the state intimated by the card. This is done through the Hebrew letter that has been paired with each card. This is very handy, as there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Divine providence, perhaps?

Hebrew is one of several languages that have been considered the language of creation. I’m not here to argue the pros and cons of any of that. I use Hebrew because that is language that the Western mystery tradition has used. And it works for our purposes, especially since each letter has multiple associations and a meaning all its own.

So, let’s tell a short story. storybookI’ve decided to use one of the scarier cards of the Major Arcana as an example: The Devil (number 15 of the 22 – I’ve already talked a little about this card here). Really, this card isn’t scary at all. It is a simple reminder of the deception put over on us by our senses. That is to say, the world, as we perceive it, is an illusion. The reality which lies behind this illusion is God’s energy, the very stuff of creation itself. This actually meshes quite nicely with some of the tenets of modern quantum theory. Oh, those ancients. They knew a thing or two.

At any rate, the letter for this card is ayin, which not-so-coincidentally means “eye,” the sense organ most of us rely on as our primary way of gaining information about the world. To get more of the message behind this pairing of card and letter, we need to spell out the name of the letter. For example, in English when we spell the name of the fourth letter of the alphabet, it’s done thusly: dee. Well, ayin is spelled with three letters also: ayin-yod-nun. Don’t worry about the details now, just take my word for it. I’ll guide you along.

Since each letter has a Tarot card paired with it, we can look at those cards to help us out. The three letters and their cards are: Ayin (Devil); Yod (Hermit); and Nun (Death). Laying them out right to left, the way Hebrew is written, we get:

13 - Death 9 - Hermit 15 - Devil

You can see the letter for each card in its lower right corner. Several stories are possible for each arrangement of cards, by the way. That’s part of the beauty of this process. So let’s look at these three briefly. We’ve already talked a little about the Devil. The Hermit is the light of God showing the way. Death isn’t death at all. It signifies a transformation, a radical change. Taking this information and reading right to left, the message is: In order to see the illusion for what it is (Devil), one must concentrate on the light of God (Hermit), which will lead to a transformation of perception (Death). Using just the letters in the same order, we get: Use your inner eye (ayin) to see what God is truly giving you (yod means “hand”) in order to plumb the depths of the unconscious for an answer (nun means “fish” and, by extension, the deep water of the unconscious).

Once you have a vocabulary of associations to the cards and letters, lots of stories can be told with the same arrangement of cards. I didn’t want to cross your eyes (your ayins?), so I kept it simple today. This same process can be extended to the names of the spheres on the Tree of Life (see here and here), or to other words and phrases. The layers of meaning are many, and informative.

Keep an eye out for my class series, where we will explore the intricacies of the Tarot for personal growth and spiritual insight. Coming soon!

Why Is the Devil Laughing?

Did you ever notice how, in the movies, the bad guy is always laughing?

(Apologies to the late Andy Rooney for this opening line)

It made me wonder. After all, you see it all the time. Eventually, though, it occurred to me that since bad guys are a representation of Evil, and hence the Great Deceiver himself (a.k.a. the Devil, Satan, Old Nick, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, etc.), I think they take their cue from him. I’m sure you’ve encountered this business of the laughing Devil somewhere. A poor schlub is going to Hell for some reason or another, and the Devil is standing there laughing his tail off at him.

How can a being who is theoretically condemned to eternal damnation be so friggin’ jolly? I mean, ensnaring souls and poking those unfortunates with a pitchfork for all time must get repetitive and boring. One can get giggles out of that kind of thing for only so long, I would imagine.

I believe that there is an answer for this archetype of the Laughing Devil, and that answer lies in the symbology of the Tarot. In the Major Arcana of the Tarot, The Devil is card number 15 (picture at right). It is associated with the astrological sign of Capricorn, and therefore with Saturn, the planet of limitation. Some even see Saturn as oppressive, which it can be under certain circumstances. However, it is primarily linked with material manifestation, for without limitation, nothing could take form.

The Devil reminds us how easy it is to be ensnared by the illusion of the physical, placing us in a prison of our own making. The primary message to us is to look beyond illusion to the essential spirit underlying all things. This is the ultimate cosmic joke – that what we perceive is “how things really are.”

The realization to be grasped is that The Devil is actually God in disguise. We can undo that disguise by turning the pentagram in the picture right-side up, so that the proper order is restored.

The human faculty associated with The Devil card is mirth. It is important for us to see the humor in the everyday and, by seeing beyond, to approach the Divine.

So, now it is easy to see why the devil is laughing. He gets the joke! It seems that the deeper meaning of the symbol has been misunderstood, even perverted, into the laughing devil, or bad guy. In actuality, the archetype of The Devil wants us to join in and enjoy the joke that is being played on us by our senses. This is one of the crucial elements to understand in order to travel the path of enlightenment successfully.

Laugh it up!

The Misunderstood Tower

There are several cards in the Tarot deck that can stand your hair on end. Getting them in a reading can send chills up the spine. One of these cards is The Tarot, number 16 of the Major Arcana. Usually, there is lightning, falling figures and masonry – disastrous looking stuff. The interpretations given in Tarot cookbooks are much better, talking about disaster, a shaking to the core, etc. However, these initial impressions can miss the mark.

Thinking about The Tower in an esoteric way can ease these concerns. In its most central energy, this card represents Mars. Think of Mars as pure force, dynamic movement, and reproductive energy. It is the gas, if you will, of our actions. Without Mars, we would be essentially inert.

In the card (this depiction is from the Haindl Tarot Deck), the tower itself is an edifice of false belief, error, an opinion at odds with the ultimate reality of Spirit. The falling figures are those beliefs themselves, the erroneous “knowledge” and “understanding” put up by the personal ego for its own use. The lightning is the illumination of Spirit, bringing insight and exposing the erroneous beliefs for what they truly are.

When looked at in this way, The Tower is a wake-up call from Spirit. This card is asking us to evaluate the way we are looking at ourselves, or a given situation. It is urging us to contact our Mars force and direct its considerable power in another direction.

Self-examination is the hallmark of personal growth. Unless we can take a long, hard, honest look at ourselves, advancement along the spiritual path is virtually impossible. Fortunately, Spirit is extremely willing to help if we show the motivation (Mars) to pursue our own growth. The lightning starkly shows where we are mistaken and brings us the energy to change those beliefs or ways of acting that are interfering with advancement along the spiritual path.

Using The Tower as a meditation is extremely helpful. With the card before you, allow the imagery to merge with you. Enter the card and become it in all its details. See and feel yourself as the tower, or the figures. See the flash of lightning striking the tower. Feel its loving, cleansing strength. Invite the lightning strike and ask it to cleanse any beliefs or behaviors that are impeding your progress along the path of spirit.

With practice, The Tower becomes a welcome influence. When you see it in a reading, it will no longer be frightening. It will be a reminder that Spirit is with you, helping you, guiding you.

Uh-One and uh-Two and uh- . . .

What activity can get you tossed out of a casino, but can give you tons of information in a Tarot spread? Why, counting cards of course.

If you’re at a blackjack table and the management suspects you of counting cards, you could very well be escorted unceremoniously off the premises by large men with names like Vinnie and Rocco (for example, remember 21?). But, use counting in a Tarot spread, and a new world of interpretation opens up. The practice was a standard with the Golden Dawn, and it has been carried on with organizations that have evolved therefrom, such as B.O.T.A.

Warning: this technique is not for beginners, but for those readers with a comfortable familiarity with spreads and interpretation.

First off, you need to know the code. In the minor Arcana: 2’s through 10’s count as their face value; aces count 11 (beginning of a new cycle of ten) or 5 (the fifth element, quintessence), depending on the spread; court cards count 4 (for the base elements), though Pages count 7 (messengers of the Elohim, the “Seven who stand before the Throne”).

The major Arcana are a different matter entirely. It depends on their associations. Here goes, so hang on: Those associated with astrological signs count 12 (Emperor, Hierophant, Lovers, Chariot, Strength, Hermit, Justice, Death, Temperance, Devil, Star, Moon); most associated with the planets count 9 (Magician, High Priestess, Empress, Wheel of Fortune, Tower, Sun, World); while those associated with the “Mother letters” of the Hebrew alphabet, even though these cards are associated with planets, count 3 (Fool, Hanged Man, Judgement).

See now why it’s not for beginners? Anyway, here’s how it works. Take any spread you prefer, though the process works best with spreads that have at least six cards (to keep it interesting). After the usual interpretation, take the cards and arrange them in a circle. Start at the first card as is recognized by the spread. Always start any count by counting the card you are on as 1. For instance, if the first card you count from is the Six of Wands, start the count with this card as 1. Then count in the order of the cards of the spread until you reach 6. This is a card of importance to the Six of Wands and should be interpreted within the sense of the Six of Wands. Taking that new card as 1, count its value and interpret the card landed on, etc. Since the cards are in a circle, eventually you will land on a card that has been landed on before. This signals the end of the cycle, and the count. However, this card assumes greater importance, having been touched twice.

Side note – In ten-card spreads, like the Celtic Cross, count Aces as 5 instead of 11, since counting them as 11 will always cause them to count back to themselves.

Sound confusing? Lay out some cards and give it a try. You can also count in the opposite direction to gain “the other side of the coin,” for a reading.

And don’t feel limited. You don’t have to start at the first card of a spread. After all, this is a circle of cards. Say a particular card has caught your attention. That could be the starting point for a new layer of exploration. The possibilities are endless, as are the opportunities for depth in a reading. It proves immensely satisfying for both the reader and the querent.

All I can say is that this entire process goes to show what we’ve already known about Tarot readings. Every card counts. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)


On Martin Luther King Day, I would like to share something I noticed. Please come along for the ride.

The initials MLK are the transliterated Roman letters for the Hebrew מ ל ך which, amazingly, means king. It’s pronounced melek, as Hebrew is read right to left. (Also, the ך is the form of the letter כ that is used when that letter ends a word.)

But wait, as they say in infomercials,
there’s more . . .

The three Tarot cards that are assigned to these letters are as follows:

  • The Hanged Man (Key 12) is assigned to Mem (מ)
  • Justice (Key 11) is assigned to Lamed (ל)
  • The Wheel of Fortune (Key 10) is assigned to Kaph (כ)

OK, so what? Well, consider the meanings of the cards themselves. The Hanged Man is often said to represent transition and sacrifice. During a Hanged Man time, one is asked to persevere, realizing that the desired end may be a while in coming. Justice represents the law, and bringing things into balance. Justice says that what is right and just will come to pass. The Wheel of Fortune is all about cycles and things coming in their proper time. It is often a fortunate card, showing movement toward better times.

Put it all together and we have a man whose sacrifice and perseverence led to a righting of injustice and a movement toward a more hopeful time. Kind of sums up Dr. King, don’t you think?

It’s always a delight to explore what Tarot has to say. It is amazing in its ability to put forth deeper meanings. Tarot always rewards serious study.

Happy MLK Day.

What A Fine Fallow

Farmers know that it is advisable to let a field lie fallow occasionally to rest the soil. Intensive planting and harvesting will only exhaust the land, and lead to inferior results. This is an example of the role of cycles in nature and, by extension, in ourselves.

It is an important, if often underestimated or forgotten, principle of esoteric study that one cannot make constant progress. It is essential to allow study and practice to incubate in order to blossom at full potency. Those who feel that they are constantly reaching greater heights and states of accomplishment are building their castles on a sandy foundation. It is an illusion. Their structures are certain to collapse upon themselves, leaving them with nothing but shadows of their imagined glory. There is no substance to such practices.

The Tarot card often associated with cycles is the Wheel of Fortune. This is the card of the Third Chakra and the planet Jupiter. The card reminds us to respect cycles and to understand that they are part of the cosmic order. Respecting cycles includes an appreciation for those times when no progress seems to be made in our practice and spiritual development. This is merely a time of resting of the spiritual field – a period of germination of previous practice which is moving inexorably toward a greater level of understanding and functioning on the spiritual plane.

Take a lesson from the Wheel of Fortune and see that all is unfolding as it should. Meditation on this truth will yield fruitful results.

Mystery, Mastery

I don’t know about you, but I get occasional bolts from the blue. For me, it’s almost like hearing something; it pops into my head as if it were being spoken to me. Hallucinations, perhaps?

(I won’t get into it now, but it is my opinion that all symptoms of what we call mental illness are really normal phenomena carried to an extreme in frequency, intensity, and/or duration. For instance, we’ve all had the experience of asking someone if they had just spoken to you when in fact they had said nothing. Seems to me that you just had a hallucination.)

Back on task now – I had one of those bolts that other day. A voice said, “Move from mystery to mastery through the power of YA.” Of course, it was a play on the two words, whose spellings differ by those two letters. However, the implication is potentially profound. Let me explain.

YA is a shortened form of the tetragrammaton, the four-letter Hebrew name of God. It’s the one usually transliterated as Yahweh or Jehovah. The two Hebrew letters used to form YA are yod and heh.

In the Major Arcana of the Tarot, each card is associated with a Hebrew letter. Yod is associated with the Hermit, and heh with the Emperor. These two cards are manifestations of power, with the Hermit being internal and the Emperor, external.

What’s the message? It seems that taking the mystery, an understanding of which is arrived at via the Hermit consciousness, and transforming it into mastery, via the Emperor consciousness, is the path of making the spiritual manifest in the physical world. In other words, if one can take deep spiritual truths and live them day to day, then mastery is truly achieved.

Who says that all hallucinations are bad?

Tarot Reading – Stage Five

So, we’ve reached the final stage. By this point in a reading, the major themes have been identified and fleshed out to a large extent. Now, it remains to see what sphere on the Tree of Life is most applicable. This gives the aspect of personality, or the manifestation of the God-self, that is being called upon. Vague, I know. It’s a difficult stage to quantify.

To lay out the cards, they are dealt into ten piles, traditionally in the shape of the Tree  itself. Whichever pile the significator is in, that is the sphere begin brought into play.

As an example, say the significator is found in pile four, which is the sphere of Chesed on the Tree. This is the sphere of Jupiter, and it brings good fortune, but also a call for order and regularity. In our dealings with others, Chesed brings compassion. Depending on the question, this result could indicate a need for proper attitude, a reminder to heed the natural cycles of things, or an uplifting bit of support for a fortunate outcome.

As in previous stages, the cards are laid out, counted, and paired. Timing of the outcome to the question can also be approximated by the card that falls in a particular position in the spread. (This is true for the third stage as well)

So, there you go. This set of posts was especially for those interested in reading the cards, and for those curious about how I go about it. Go here for details of how to request a reading from me.

Maybe I should do a reading on a topic and post results here for inspection. It’s always an interesting thing to do, and there’s always something to learn from a reading.

Tarot Reading – Stage Four

This stage is a monster. It uses 36 cards, as well as the significator. Its purpose is to drill down a bit more deeply into the signs. However, rather than look at the one sign that is most applicable to the question, this stage uses them all.

Let me give you a definition first. In astrology, each sign is split into three decanates or decans (periods of ten or eleven days, comprising 10º of arc). For instance, those born between, March 21 to March 31 are in the first decanate of Aries. In this stage of the reading, called the decanate stage, the 36 cards dealt are for the 36 decanates of the zodiac.

To begin this stage, the deck is reshuffled, as is the case for each stage. Then it is turned face up and the significator is searched for. Once it is found, it is placed on the reading surface and the next 36 cards are dealt, in groups of three, around it. This will make a circle of twelve groups, one for each astrological sign. Interpretation is then made for each group of three, giving some information from each sign. Then the cards are counted as in previous stages. Again, once a given card is touched a second time, that part of the stage is over. Finally, the cards are paired, like before, but in a different way. The card for the first decanate of Aries is paired with the first decanate card of Libra, second Aries with second Libra, etc. In this way, each card is paired with the one diagonally opposite it around the circle.

It’s a long and involved stage and, as I mentioned in the last post, I don’t use it unless the question is particularly complicated. It does yield a good bit of information, but it can seem like overkill for many questions.

The central themes or messages of the reading are obvious by now, and the only procedure that remains is to look to the particular sphere of the Tree of Life that pertains to the question.

Stage number five, the last stage, is coming up.