Year and birth cards bring a relevance and depth to sessions that I love. This post will talk about how I came to include these cards in my sessions and includes access to a reference list to help you master Year and Brith cards.
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A while ago I got into the habit of pulling a card before a session to see what might serve. I was just curious. I didn’t think the habit would stick. The first thing I noticed was that the card would repeat, usually as the final card in the session. No matter how short the spread was, even though I always used two different decks, and no matter how unlikely it was. If you’ve had a session with me in the last year, you’ve probably seen me freak out about this. I’m shocked every time and it never gets old! These surprises gave more relevance and context to sessions.
This phenomenon reminds me of facilitation work where I would lead a tarot session with a group of people. Certain cards would echo. With ten decks or so it made sense that some cards would repeat. Still, the pattern was almost overwhelming in those scenarios. I thought the echoing cards were specific to group readings until I started pulling a card before client readings.
Fast forward to James Wells’ class on his Evolutionary Tarot method where I was reminded of year and birth cards. I had heard about them years ago but only used them inconsistently. After James’ course, and quite by accident, since the course had nothing to do with birth and year cards, I decided to give them a second look and some consistent use. I noticed some interesting patterns. Before I get into that…
What is a year card?
A year card references the energy for the span of one year. The year card is calculated the same for everyone: adding the digits of the year and reducing, as in done in numerology, to end up with a single digit. ie:
20 + 16 = 36
3 + 6 = 9
2016 Year cARD
IX The Hermit
The year card for 2016 is the Hermit. I wouldn’t oversimplify and say “well everyone is going to stay home this year, or everyone is going to study because it’s the hermit card.” I consider it a contextual reference point to be paired with other cards. When used in response to specific questions the context will breed meaning. To be honest, the year card hasn’t found a consistent home in my tarot practice just yet. I’m keeping my eyes peeled.
What is a birth card?
A birth card is more specific because the birth date is used to calculate the number for the card. To calculate a birth card number add the digits from the month of birth, date of birth, and year of birth and reduce numerologically to a single digit. For example if your birthday was Februrary 17th, 2016:
02 + 17 + 20 + 16 = 55
5 + 5 = 10
1 + 0 = 1
X THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE
I THE MAGICIAN
In my quest to remember this formula, I’ve calculated the birth cards using any number of different groupings of digits and there are various formulas for this. At the end of the day, I have yet to get a number different from the number I would have gotten if I used the formula above.
The birth card gives insight into the lessons that a person will encounter throughout their life. Lately I look at birth cards before every regular sized reading. I’ve grown fond of using them since I noticed that these birth cards also tend to repeat. Especially in sessions where life altering decisions are at play or when big transformations or shifts are discussed. These cards serve as an anchor point throughout life intentions, lessons, and themes. They serve as a life guide or a overarching context that is relevant to a specific person. I love what Mary Greer says about about “lifetime cards” (birth cards) in this interview with Rachel
Mary : There’s an old astrological axiom: “The stars impel, they do not compel.” Impel suggests
an urging while compel is about being forced. I sometimes feel that life is like floating down a
great river carried by a particular current made up of current events and our own character (or
karma). I can go with the flow, enhance it, or fight it. I don’t think that Lifetime Cards tell us who
we will become, or that Year Cards tell us what events will happen that year. I find that they
have more to do with sensing the existing flow and then discerning the meaning those events
can have for us. They reflect qualities that bring a sense of fulfillment—no matter what happens.
The sentiment is that we are always at choice. We can choose how to interact with circumstance. We can then choose to recognize patterns or “qualities” while, at the same time, recognizing opportunities to feel fulfilled regardless of what happens. With this view there is a fighting chance of preparation without defensiveness, exploration without attachment, and personhood without victimhood.
What I noticed using birth cards…
When I started using birth cards consistently, the issues of the sitter seemed to range on a spectrum between either of their birth cards. Everyone has two, or more in some cases, and at first I thought that life lessons would have to do with both cards. I noticed that usually someone’s issue would hover at either one card and or the other. If I take myself as an example, I feel an affinity for one of my birth cards and a huge weakness when it comes to the other. It feels like my entire life has revolved around the resolution of the more challenging birth card. It also seems, in my case, like the strength that I gain from the affinity I feel, might help me to transcend challenges with the more difficult card.
In sessions I noticed that there was a relationship between birth cards, life lessons, and also the solutions that would serve as a person acquires these lessons. This matched up fairly well with an article I read at the tarotschool.com by Elinor Greenberg pairing tarot psychotherapy with birth cards. She talked about birth cards from the perspective of a continuum. She talked about the progression from healthy ego toward higher states of being or enlightenment and using birth cards to contextualize or facilitate that progression. I noticed a fascinating correlation between what I had seen to be true reading others, what I have experienced in my own readings, and Elinor’s article.
So why use year & birth cards
I think birth cards give context in readings so that when they come up in a spread, the sitter
or reader knows to pay attention, that this is one of those “life lesson moments” where core parts of a person are at play. The birth cards are like a road map or a signpost that says, ‘look here, this is big.’ Pulling a card before a session produced it’s own amplified sense of context and meaning in the session, especially when patterns arose. I find birth cards particularly useful to know what to look out for in advance.
As for the card for 2016…
The Hermit is about listening deeply. To be more specific the Hermit is concerned with allowing space to hear our inner guidance and where we lack inner guidance, having space to invite the teacher in. This is the deep listening we have with a mentor, someone we look up to. The Hermit is about receiving, being a receptacle of light, of knowledge. Light grants us the ability to see further. Light is perspective. According to the Hermit card, and the energy associated with it, this year we can look forward to opportunities to receive this light, new perspectives, new wisdom, and/or perhaps to shine this wisdom out. The Hermit is very much about the relationship with the self and the decision whether to keep our own company or to connect with others. It’s about the decision to keep your own counsel or listen to someone else. The Hermit negotiates wisdom and solitude. It’s an interesting lens through which to view the year ahead. Especially if, this year, you’ve set intentions.