Musing: Negativity In The Tarot

I read an uncomplimentary discussion of the Queen of Cups as being a dreamy female who couldn’t grasp concrete thought? Well, I blew my top. Honestly, it made me personally angry to read that!

A new student of the Tarot asked me why there was so much negativity in the books she was reading. The deck she had been working with gave a gentler slant where other interpretations seemed much more doom and gloom. She and I exchanged a few emails that resulted in her buying another book (Tarot Wisdom by Rachel Pollack).

One thing that occurred to me is that we (this is everyone and not just we students of Tarot) have a tendency to believe what we read. When someone writes a description of a card in their personal journal, that is one thing. However, when that personal journal gets turned into a book, well now, we have a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, don’t we?

What I am driving at is that just because it is in print, that doesn’t make it so. Even though I post numerous articles here on my blog, I certainly don’t expect you to take everything I say as gospel. I harp on the need to learn to read and think critically. So when you read a description of a card that does not jive with your gut…take a moment to figure out why.

sibyl_cupsIs it because that description rings too far from what you know? Or, conversely, is it because that interpretation is a little too close to home? For me when I read an uncomplimentary discussion of the Queen of Cups as being a dreamy female who couldn’t grasp concrete thought?

Well, I blew my top. Honestly, it made me personally angry to read that! And why?

Well, because I can be that dreamy female who can’t grasp concrete thought. It took me some hard searching to come to that but I realized it was a true statement. Of course then I decided that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because we can’t all be engineers. Grin! No offense to the engineers who are dreamers in their own right!

So remember that your particular deck, like all decks, is given its interpretations by its author/artist. Some authors avoid any negativity. Others roll around in the negativity. I don’t agree with either point of view because I prefer to see the good and the bad balanced. I like light and dark in my decks. One reason I so enjoy the World Spirit tarot is that it doesn’t shy away from the bad nor does it attempt to hide the good. For me, there is a fair balance of both in this deck.

In an article I wrote about the Tower, I mentioned the fact that even in the bad there is good. This can also be said of the opposite that even in the good there is bad. Don’t think so? Love ice cream? That’s good, right? Try eating too much and see about the bad in that. Ha! See! Even in the good there is bad. Balance in all things.

A book I recently reviewed explores cards in a similar fashion. Rachel Pollack shows both the good and the bad in each card. If you missed that review, you can read it here. She gives in-depth essays about each card that I really love.

You just have to remember that each deck is simply a reflection of that person’s world view. Find the one that fits your worldview. This system is an intuitive tool to help us work on ourselves. For me personally, I require my own soul searching to pick up the rocks of my life and see what’s under them. Sometimes there are tiny growing shoots that needed that dark time to germinate. Sometimes there are icky crawly things that need to be eradicated from my inner self because they aren’t doing me any good.

So, remember to examine why an interpretation doesn’t fit for you. It’s your intuition being triggered by these images. Listen to your gut, okay? And stop denying your own ability to be intuitive. That’s a whole ‘nother post, isn’t it, darlings!

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10 thoughts on “Musing: Negativity In The Tarot”

  1. Excellent post! And I agree with the need to be flexible when viewing the nuances of different decks. I always encourage people to look beyond the words and the limitations of a companion book. Rather, be the seeker in the image and let your heart carry you to where it wants to go. I often see polarities (light and dark) that actually facilitate deeper thinking about a card/s. Oftentimes, these things are not obvious, but come from something more sacred and ineffable. And our intuition can help lead us there.

    1. Lisa, one of the things I love about your art is that you put the polarities into the cards. I could probably draw on information from one of your cards for hours. Thanks so much for this quote “be the seeker in the image”. Wow. That really hit home for me.

  2. It’s kinda like my current week.

    Yesterday, a friend of mine died. It hit hard. Very hard. It was a ‘bad’. It was ‘negative’. Yet, my coworker – who is also a friend, though we’ve been growing distant – saw me hurting and took the time to sit with me and talk with me for an hour to help me work through it. Our friendship was renewed and refreshed because of it.

    Today. My marriage was annulled. A sad thing, the end of a relationship. Yet, because of it, I’m free to grow and learn from the situation and spread my wings and fly once again. It’s not something I would have chosen; yet, the lessons learned through the experience are priceless. Particularly learning of so many who truly care about me. People I would never have known cared, had it not been for this turbulence.

    Tomorrow. My big boss from CA is making an unanticipated visit. We doubt it will be a good thing. Yet, somehow, I feel that whatever the outcome there will be something else that will balance it.

    As I told a friend of mine…it’s like when these hard things happen…when these negative things occur…it’s almost like TPTB are ripping through that hard, protective outter layer. That calyx around our very being. And through its removal, painful and difficult though it might be, the bud beneath is granted the ability to grow and bloom and come into its own.

    We need the negative – just as we need the positive. I wish more people understood that. Life is about balance…at least – in this humble woman’s perspective.

    Love you, Arwen.


    1. Aw sugar, I do adore you. I will email you my number. I’m gather friends up down in south Austin on Sunday for a dinner party. It’s for some chick’s 48th b’day. You might know her? Used to live in Denver with a lot of birds. 🙂 It’s gonna be a very gay gathering. I’d love to have you if you can make it.

  3. This is a really great post Arwen.

    So often especially when one is new to tarot or any other subject actually, they tend to take as gospel what they read. I think that although a lot of decks are based on an accepted general meaning, their creators bring in a diversity of symbolism that can change one’s interprtation.

    I like to look at cards as a whole. That is having a positive, neutral and negative aspect within in them. I like that you mentioned the Tower. How many go “oh no” when the Tower appears. Yes the Tower can have a devasting effect, but I also can see the opportunity it brings with it. The opportunity to review and maybe just chuck out those ideas or thoughts that don’t work and rebuild from the bottom up.

    As you say the best way to know when a card is positive or negative in its meaning is to follow that old intuition.

    Helen´s last blog post..An Interview with My Napo Tarot Deck

  4. One of the hardest things for new students to understand is that there is not ONE TRUE meaning to each card (and its reverse). Each card has a continuum of meaning and those meanings are modified by our understanding and contemplation. The meanings flex, morph, change, and transform as we do likewise.

    As you pointed out, each deck has its own voice and sometimes the meaning of one card in one deck does not translate or carry over. It makes us as readers more flexible and willing to seek and discover. Sometimes our querents need a little of that flexibility too.

    Really nice, thoughtful post. I’m glad we weren’t content to be dreamy without grasping concrete thought, though on a snowy day like today all I want to grasp is a nice cup of hot chocolate!

  5. Helen, I really think it’s a mistake (or better a learning opportunity) for all of us when we first start any divination. We think we *must* learn the “right” rules when the right rules are within us not the book. 🙂

  6. OH Gail! You hit something I didn’t even think about… that one meaning may translate to the next. I’ve seen, in particular, a three of swords in one deck was more about heartfelt choices than heartbreak. Really messed with my head. Grin!

  7. Arwen?

    Ain’t it the truth that sometimes the Tarot hits too close for comfort. But just to be fair I did a number of readings with only upright cards and the majority of my readings had a negative tone to them…then I did a number of readings with both upright and reversals and the readings came out almost 50% positive.

    Now here’s the humorous part. I like to include reverse cards in my readings BUT only if they show up on their own. NOT because I deliberately reversed them while shuffling.

    Oh, and Arwen? I almost forgot! While I don’t read fiction, I REALLY do love the cover illustration on your new novel!

    Aurora, CO

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