I feel like I’m always talking about organs online. Will. Guts. It’s not hard to see why. I’m pretty concerned with both of those things. My formerly weak will. My currently weak digestive system. The more I learn about the body, the more it seems the gut is important for everyone. Some believe we get our motivation from the will chakra, the energy center associated with our digestion. Not only that, the gut is like the body’s second brain.
So why am I always talking about guts and what does this have to do with the seven of wands? When I pulled this card during the New Moon in March, I skipped right over the usual focus of perseverance and really felt what it meant to look into the eyes of this wolf. The adrenal spike. The survival instinct. At the time I focused on how this causes focused attention – tunnel vision – and how this can shift who we think we are at any given moment. One minute I’m me. The next, I’M DEALING WITH THIS WOLF. This was the interpretation that made sense according to the context at the time.
This week I wrote a piece over at littleredtarot.com about the seven of wands. When I started, I had the same Mary-El version of the card from March in mind. I focused on the heart of the card; its astrological associations – Mars in Leo, it’s connection to security and survival via its number. I focused on the things we do to stand out and the feelings that motivate us to do so. The little oaths we make to ourselves. While I wrote the piece, I was inspired to create a spread based on this concept of conscious and unconscious oaths.
Here’s a brief reference sheet with the bones of this spread:
I wanted a spread that could represent our path to sovereignty. In “Tarot for Magical Times,” Fiebig says this about the seven of wands:
“as we master tasks, languages, or daily routine as a matter of course in a way we could never have imagined as a child, we are able to reach a fitting and personal sovereignty in dealing with complex energies and many tasks at the same time.”
While reading this, it struck me that hyper focus may serve one issue or obstacle but what happens when issues are complex and obstacles many, as is often depicted in the seven wands? What inspires mastery? I think it’s consciousness – of the obstacles, of the tools and skills at our disposal to deal with challenges and of our level of mastery. The following spread attempts to bring these things further into awareness.
Setting the Container
Readings are like journeys – with their own sense of time. They can have their distinct smells, tastes, and sounds. Without effort, they provide us with unique stimulus. There’s something to be said for just receiving stimulus. A fish out of water. A person outside the realm of habit.
There’s something to be said for providing yourself stimulus and creating an inward journey too. What sights, sounds, tastes and smells do you need to give yourself over to an internal journey with your cards?
I have a special Pandora playlist. Sometimes I smoke up my whole house burning copal or smudging myself. I love the feel of opposing temperatures in a rock or gem – hot when it’s cold and vice versa. I like to divert the air down into my belly and test myself to see how gently I can breathe. These are some of my things. If you try this spread, get and do your things.
I used my Thoth deck, Mary-El, and Centennial Smith-Waite. I kept my Thoth whole. I used only the court cards and Majors from the Mary-El, and I set aside the Centennial Smith-Waite for the difficult cards. Three decks gave me the option of customizing my difficult cards. Traditionally speaking there are about 15 cards in a tarot deck that everyone might agree, are scary. However, as I’ve said in my column about difficult cards, not all of us have conventional ideas of what’s difficult let alone the standard number of difficult cards. A third deck gives you more choices.
A Visit from Old Friends
Two of these cards are old friends. The witness, the queen of swords, likes to remind me to stay true to myself. This is especially true if I ask about business. This queen is ME. I think of the first position, what’s happening, as the trigger event or obstacle. The thing that inspires the seven of wands feeling or behavior.
Temperance tells me that this spread isn’t about a casual trigger. Temperance is one of my birth cards and in the last few months, I hardly see a reading for myself that doesn’t include this card. I’ve been feeling for months as if an important process is unfolding in my life and Jupiter is sending the message, loud and clear, that supporting that process means unfailing integration, exploration, and balance.
The other two cards are less common to me. Both even numbers. Both symmetrical. Hmmm. Both calling to mind the harmonious nature of tifereth. I’m struck here by just how much the Queen doesn’t fit. She doesn’t even bother to take a human form. She prizes her moral code, her individuality, above comfort or even reason. This is what makes people so uncomfortable with her sometimes. Asymmetry. Cognitive dissonance. Compared to all that balance, this queen looks like the stuff nightmares are made of. Does that future-forward tendency-to-stand-out of hers fit in the conventional cogs of the two wands and six pentacles?
Lessons from Darkness
The last two cards compacted the dis-ease that started with the queen. My eyes were drawn first to the lobster in the Moon. My reaction came as a surprise. Even though I sometimes I have a thing about arthropods, it never usually comes up with the Moon. This card took me right back to my bathroom a few nights when I had a standoff with an insect. Used to be a standoff like this ended in death and panic. (Not in that order.)
I didn’t kill it. I didn’t find someone to kill it and, even more, astonishing for me; there was no panic. I shared the bathroom, and when I finished, I went right to sleep. Not that I was totally ok. (BECAUSE I KNOW IT WAS STILL IN MY BATHROOM.) But any amount of ok with this whole thing is unheard of.
I have what you’d call a phobia. Insects are my last point of contact for panic attacks. I’ve resolved almost all other panic. But they still bring out a deep unconscious layer of terror in an instant. And in that instant, my reaction feels beyond my control – kill the thing that frightened me. It’s not something I can usually sleep after. This was a huge turning point.
The Moon is showing me the potential that is available once I get below the top layer of paralyzing fear. I think, on some level, I had assumed that there will always be layers of self and layers of fear that will remain impenetrable. Even though I think this, I managed to get past this “impenetrable” layer. Thoughts are usually enough of a barrier to prevent needed change. It’s not a coincidence that this shift happened. I can trace multiple lines of work that I’ve been doing that might have led up to this experience. And yet it doesn’t shock me any less. If I’m no longer as phobic as I used to be, then where might I direct ALL the energy that used to be wrapped up in this fear?
And this is when I notice the Tower. Ever-reminding me that I’m not done. That I need to let the concept of ‘done’ go. My Tower moment, which is turning into years, isn’t done. The Mary-El Tower feels like waking up in a furnace to find that while you see flames, you feel no burning. Or the opposite, while you feel the heat, there are no flames. And this waking-up-in-a-furnace-feeling is a cycle that repeats. Where each time the distance between you and the reality of being baked is slowly closing. You think that once you close the gap, you might be free, you might be ‘done.’ But is there really anything you can do to speed up the process? And would you want to? Who wants to be baked ever?! All that’s left is to allow reality to be however it happens to be and to accept it.
An Oath of Fire
The last card was meant to be pulled face down. It probably would have been easiest just to choose it at random. But I decided to pull it face up, consciously. I wanted it to be on my terms. I wanted to engage my intuition directly. I looked through the deck as fast as I could and picked the first card where I hesitated for no apparent reason. No logic. No words. I set the Empress on the table and then I walked away. For a full day, I let the spread breath.
The next day I sat with the Empress, asymmetrical and not, one hand empty, one hand holds. Is that a mountain behind her or an earth-colored veil? Note how the swan seems to come alive and walk right out of her shield. Security and creation sit side by side at her feet. She is the mother of both. And from this the seed of an Oath. A promise I make to myself, consciously. I wrote this:
I embrace the full range of my alchemical potential,
Walking boldly into unfettered flow
Doing and being me
Even when it means I’m blasted away to nothing
I trust and allow.
In the space that follows
I grow and give with the certainty and care of the Mother.
I let creativity secure me.
This oath started as a list of the cards drawn and a few keywords that came to mind that I scribbled beside them. It evolved into a series of statements answering the question:
What does this spread say that you do to overcome obstacles? What is your oath of fire?
If you try it for yourself you can construct yours the same way: starting with a list of cards drawn, their keywords, and answer the question above. Doesn’t need to be the finished product right away. You can always add to it later.
The oath above is the kind of thing I’d work with for weeks. I might take each line and brainstorm ways to be or things to do to match the oath. Or I might write three ways that I already match it. Imagining all the details of my examples. What has the full range of my alchemical potential looked like lately? Smelt like? Who’s there when I express it? Who expresses theirs? I could write a brief list or a detailed story. Whichever I have the energy and interest in. If there’s any doubt or argument about my examples or about what I’ve written, I write ALL of those down too. Quickly. Emphatically. Thoughts like those need to be heard. Honored. And thus in time, exorcised.
If you make your oath remember it doesn’t have to be a poem. It can be a to-do list. A list of phone numbers or names. A list of foods. I happen to be a poet. So things start as poems. It’s unnecessary. All that’s ever needed is intent and attention. And we have an unlimited supply. Here’s a short reference for the spread above in case you want to try it for yourself.
May you be the fierce defendant of your golden inner child.
Let me know how it goes
Comment below or use #DIFFICULTCARDS
Thoth Tarot by Crowley & Harris US Games 1978
Centennial Smith – Waite US Games 2013
The Mary-El Tarot by Mary White Schiffer 2012
Tarot for Magical Times by Pollack & Fiebig US Games 2012