78 Poems Project: Tarot Poetry

The 78 Poems Project came about in a very organic way.  Back in December of 2008, after having been in Florida less than a year, I was having a difficult time surrendering old grief.  I chose the Eight of Cups to represent the energy I needed to embrace for healing, and did some meditation with it.
 
I was inspired to try to write a poem about the Tarot card I had chosen.  Over a period of three days I struggled with that poem.  When it was finished, I felt a sense of peace and healing that I had not felt since before my Mother’s illness and death, four years earlier.
 
I posted my Eight of Cups poem on Facebook for my students and peers to see.  Some of them commented that it helped them with their healing as well.
 
I have always encouraged my students to write Tarot poetry as an intellectual process, and I have written other Tarot poems in the past.  With the Eight of Cups poem I saw, for the first time, the incredible healing magick of Tarot poetry. 
 
Two things were born in me the day I wrote the Eight of Cups poem.  The first was the realization of the powerful healing tool that Tarot poetry is.  The second was the desire to write a poem for each of the seventy-eight Tarot cards.  The 78 Poems Project was born.
 
I established some loose rules and goals for myself for this project, which I have listed below. I hope that you enjoy these poems and, if needed, that you find some healing with them as well.
 
If you enjoy Tarot, and enjoy writing, please consider exploring Tarot poetry for yourself. It is a great exercise in Tarot understanding, in poetry writing, and in healing.
 
For the 78 Poems Project, I will:

  • Use the Rider Waite Smith images as my guide. I may write about cards from other decks as well, but for this project I will use only RWS.

  • Write about the cards in whatever order I prefer, or no particular order at all.

  • Explore, play with and employ as many poetic devices as I can, including rhyme, meter, assonance and alliteration.

  • Not worry whether or not each poem is a great poem in terms of literary quality.

  • Not plan for, or expect, publication. This is a project born out of my love for Tarot, and my love for words.

  • Treat each card in whatever way I want. I may write from the first person as the card character, or write as a person traveling in the card, or observing the card.

  • Try to include some Key Words that I associate with each card in each poem.

  • Publish the poems on my website for the amusement and inspiration of whomever might stumble across them.

  • Hold myself to no particular timetable for completion.

The Empress

Easy to create, but hard to sustain

Wanted or not

Life wants to be

 

As common as dirt, brought in blood and pain

The mother knot

Formed perfectly

 

Uniquely human, both sinner and saint

Reflection of

Divinity

 

 

The Empress is card 3 of the Major Arcana

The Empress is card 3 of the Major Arcana

The Hierophant

Dogma, tradition, law and rule

Ancient word and secret rite.

Headmaster of the sacred school

Chose by myth and God's own might.

 

More influence than royalty

Holy hand may bless or curse

And bound by fear and loyalty

Trusting masses fill the purse.

 

While you hold the keys of learning

And the power of the priest

You can't stop their hearts from yearning

For knowledge and release.

 

You represent the Deity

Acolytes fall on their knees

Unaware, in piety

That they, too, hold the keys.

The Hierophant is card 5 of the Major Arcana

The Hierophant is card 5 of the Major Arcana

The Chariot

Opposites in union pull forward

Directed not by hand but by will.

The power of myth and the power of mind

The hero is traveling still.

 

Transportation and transformation

A singular vision and quest.

The warrior speeds commanding his steeds

Envisioning total success.

 

Swift motion and great calculation

Under the cover of stars.

Mastery conquering mystery

Whether ordeals or journeys or cars.

The Chariot is card 7 of the Major Arcana

The Chariot is card 7 of the Major Arcana

Strength

As water with patience carves into stone

So do hearts carve one on the other.

And when nature battles civility

New friends are drawn together.

 

Each has more reason to fear than to love

The dangers beckon, not understated.

This war is waged not with bullets but blooms

And fine compassion, communicated.

 

The gentle maiden must be of mind fierce.

She has enraptured a fierce jungle king.

The beast submits not by violence but choice

To a union of forces opposing.

 

Strength then is found not in warfare or blood

Nor in doctrine nor laws to rely on.

True strength is found in faith and control

With your hand in the mouth of a lion.

Strength is card 8 of the Major Arcana

Strength is card 8 of the Major Arcana

The Hermit

The Hermit climbs the mountain on a cold and lonely night

what faith compels his journey and commands his feet be light?

What meditation holds him fast, what knowledge spurs his quest?

There is comfort in his loneliness to heal his heart at rest.

 

He holds the lamp of wisdom, the light for all to see

But his journey is most personal, a path of singularity.

You may choose to seek his wisdom, but one truth must be known

If you climb his mountain you will climb it all alone.

 

You may seek true wisdom, eternal knowledge, healing power

You may walk with destiny until your final hour

While seeking truth may take you to the top of lonely hill

There you learn the truth's not there, it lives within you still.

The Hermit is card 9 of the Major Arcana

The Hermit is card 9 of the Major Arcana

Death

For the caterpillar in the cocoon

Does transformation come too soon?

Does the snake mourn the skin after it's free?

If change is the door, letting go is the key.

Does the chick regret leaving the nest?

Would we prefer not to outgrow our mothers' breast?

What is it in us that clings to the past

And dreads the unpredictable, inevitable last?

All things must evolve, age and transform

Every way dies, and new ways are born.

Death is card 13 of the Major Arcana

Death is card 13 of the Major Arcana

Temperance

Water poured from cup to cup, and metal turned to gold

Sorrow turned to patience, and ego turned to mold.

 

One foot on the water, another balancing on land

Not a drop is spilt by the angel's gentle hand.

 

Caution guards the recipe, stirring grace with balance

Art and time make alchemy with these select ingredients.

 

Change forged of disappointment, mingling with hope

Built on tragic lessons learned that gave us skill to cope.

 

Expectation and assumption gone, accepting what will be

Still the angel blends the cups, creating perfectly.

 

Perfect are the cups' contents, and perfect is the measure

And perfect are the woes and joys, blended into treasure.

Temperance is card 14 of the Major Arcana

Temperance is card 14 of the Major Arcana

The Tower

Yielding only to flame and destiny, and rendered into dust

The Tower crumbles and begins to fall.

The fullness of its destruction is inevitable.

Torn, falling, brick by brick, and wall by wall.

 

Is this a metaphor for some internal shadow journey?

Or a dark harbinger of doom, or worse?

Dread curls around your spine and laughs as you relinquish hope

Abandoned, injured, the weight of flesh a curse.

 

Pray you learned well the Fool's lesson; to leap, with faith, in good time.

Flawed foundations rock; ominous, frightening

Welcome the collapse, raining droplets of Spirit and dirt.

No fear in the storm; raging, releasing, enlightening.

 

Solid stone stands no more, yet burned and broken flesh is strangely

crawling, quivering, shaking, quite alive.

Ashes swept away reveal new ground, new hope, something shining.

The victory is simply to survive.

The Tower is card 16 of the Major Arcanaa

The Tower is card 16 of the Major Arcanaa

The Star

Water onto water,

And water onto land.

But water isn't water,

It's starlight in Her hands.

 

It's the light of heaven

Poured down upon the earth,

It's an act of healing,

Transformation and rebirth.

 

Avail yourself of pleasure,

Create abundant wealth.

Attune yourself to Spirit,

Rise into perfect health.

 

Passion and fulfillment

And ecstasy divine.

All of this is yours

When you bathe in Her starshine.

The Star is card 17 of the Major Arcana

The Star is card 17 of the Major Arcana

The Moon

Mistress of the dark is she, and keeper of the light

Emerging from the water's depth, I stumble in the night.

Howling wolves and baying dogs echo in my ear

Behind each rock and shadow lurk treachery and fear.

Moving through the midnight land as one moves in dreams

Nothing under moonlit skies is just the way it seems.

Spirit rains in droplets that dance before in my eyes

Intuition is the enemy of treachery and lies.

Her gift is in the dreamtime, when anything may be,

Her light shines down from blackened skies, and shows my path to me.

The Moon is card 18 of the Major Arcana

The Moon is card 18 of the Major Arcana

The Sun

A child in bright innocence rides on a brilliant steed

Complete within himself there is nothing more to need

No vestments, saddle, bridle, reins to stay upon the horse

No doubts or worries dull his glow, neither anger, shame, remorse.

 

One red plume adorns him as he rides toward destiny

Leaving behind the garden of walled security.

What hand will rush to catch him, should he start to fall?

In the power of his happiness, there is no fear at all.

 

The sun provides the nourishment, warmth and growth and light

The sun supports the child, whose shine is just as bright

To influence the sunflowers, by purpose or by whim

Instead of turning toward the sun, the flowers all face him.

The Sun is card 19 of the Major Arcana

The Sun is card 19 of the Major Arcana

Four of Cups

Is this careful deliberation, or just a spoiled child?

Sitting, waiting for something better or more exact.

There is no gift accepted. I look in, at nothing.

I feel no urgency to choose, to move or to act.

 

Am I picky, or fussy, obstinate or just cautious?

Distant, withdrawn, attached to no particular fate.

In discernment, do I miss the opportunity?

Or in patience, is the wisest move simply to wait?

Six of Cups

The journey back home before journey’s end

Memories shared, a reunion of friends.

Honored history and those who have passed

Looking with longing at what didn’t last.

When the sweetness of youth joins the great march of time

Some things will decay, but some things still shine.

Seven of Cups

Beauty, treasure, the unknown,

What you'll reap and what you've sewn.

Serpents, jewels, castles, kings,

Dragons dance with feathered wings.

All that you could love or fear

Within these cups are gathered here.

A question stands before your eyes,

Which of these to realize?

Eight of Cups

I search for signs of danger, for tentacles and claws

Yemaya waits, as at the shore I pause.

A long time it took to get here, and longer still to leave

Into eight cups I pour my sorrow, and the reasons that I grieve.

I take most somber inventory as day turns into night

For if the heart be heavy, how can the feet be light?

Yemaya watches as I stand upon her beach

I fill and count the cups, and stack them each on each.

On the shore I linger, as night turns into day

Then I draw my cloak around me, and turn and walk away.

Ten of Cups

It's not the castle that makes the king

Nor the depth of the love the size of the ring.

If we seek a home without sorrow and strife

We'll seek without finding, alone throughout life.

But when hearts are open and destiny's kind

There's a chance to connect- body, spirit and mind.

If we expect to be happy sad tales we will tell,

True happiness comes from the life we live well.

Page of Cups

Jumping and squirming in my hand

a meeting, both solid and flowing.

Earth and water, not mud but land

Cup cradles life, small and growing.

 

Speak of love and heal your heart.

Speak your heart and heal the world.

Cast your spell in song and art

Let your spirit be unfurled.

 

Teach that power grows in trust

Learn with wonderment of youth

Temper anger, temper lust

Three of Pentacles

Apprenticeship and mastery, growing, always learning

Skill to plan and dream and do, creating and discerning.

Committed to the task and connected to the Earth

Work is woven in the circle of life, death and rebirth.

It is now and always has been, since the world was made

Fame and fortune follow those who flourish in their trade.

Nine of Pentacles

A lovely place to want no more

All time at my command

Locked in ivy-graced walls and door

By birth and by fate on my land.

 

No worry, then, of poverty

No man to be my warden

If I could at my leisure be

With a bird and a snail in my garden.

Ten of Pentacles

To recognize one's true inheritance

To be grounded in history, to honor the ancient

To watch the generations in their dance

To endure, to age wise and patient.

 

This is the Castle, this is the Crown

The power of legacy, the legacy of power.

The myth of brave deeds far renown

And wise counsel in war's darkest hour.

 

As we find our place in myth and mystery

The future emerges from choices of the past.

We create our grandchildren's history

From the power of Earth, strong and steadfast.

Ace of Swords

Forged steel of ingenuity

Communication, keen focus, acuity.

No tolerance for thieves in this blade

As Excalibur discerned a kingdom was made.

This Sword seeks no royalty

It 's a common but sacred thing, honesty.

This Sword of Air scourges lies

Reveals truth behind malicious disguise.

Questions ignorance, banishes confusion

And separates reality from dillusion.

But do not take this Sword of Air

Without the strength the truth to bear.

And remember with faith, when truth is clear

It's never as dark as what you fear.

swords01.jpg

Two of Swords

Peace is a balance kept

In balance and

Not without risk.


The heart knows, but wants anyway.

It should not make these decisions.

Sometimes, the heart speaks,

But should not be heard.


Once unheard, the heart may resort

to screaming, and then fall

silent.


In that silence,

There is peace.

Four of Swords

There needs to be a restful place, a quiet space

Between tasks of the mundane.

A retreat from needless worry, mindless hurry

And recovery from pain.

For if we do not take this time to clear the mind

And lay each sword to rest

It's certain that a longer sleep, the soul to keep

Will still the beating breast.

Six of Swords

Silent on the waters slipping into the black night

An angel guides this journey toward the distant shore's true light.

Rising above turbulence with intent both calm and clear

Higher thought commands this boat,and the stars by which to steer.

Navigation born of science, and logic points the way

Leaving stormy seas behind as you sail toward the new day.

 

Seven of Swords

A fox inside the chicken coop

Thievery and lies

An unseen foe may hide in wait

An enemy may rise.

 

Valuing integrity

And all that’s right and just.

Do I place my faith in what

Is worthy of my trust?

 

A monster underneath the bed

Or just shadows in the night?

The dieter creeps up to the fridge

To sneak just one more bite.

 

Borrowing from Peter

As Paul goes unpaid

A little creativity

Assures the deal is made.

 

The hand reaching in the cookie jar

And snatched back just in time.

It’s possible to be both

The victim and the crime.

Ten of Swords

An anguished offering to a disinterested deity

Words cut deep, and fear deeper.

The carnage may be only illusion, not reality

Truth is gold, and lies far cheaper.


Each screaming cut too much to bear, witness the chapter's end

And wisdom is born of such pain.

In final hours the setting sun, a lone surviving friend

Reminds us it will rise again.

Knight of Swords

Air of air and speed of speed

The keen knight charges on his steed

direction true and sword held high

across the land he'll swiftly fly.

His thoughs and words and aim are true

his message clear, to die or do.

And doing quickly, doing right

these are the virtues of this knight.

 

Five of Wands

Dancing each to our own rhythm

We work to build the temple

No art forms without struggle

No creation process is simple

 

When love and anger align

Caught in passion and torn

Conflict and chaos circle

In the pains of something being born

 

Eight of Wands

Eight arrows shot into the air

No act of war are they

Potential leaps and fires flare

Herald the new day

 

Motion swift into the sky

Shot by a steady hand

Flying where the angels fly

I wonder where they’ll land

 

Wands of spirit, Wands of speed

Life force stoked and glowing

Sending down the fireseed

Spark within us growing

Nine of Wands

The soldier keeps his vigil, though he appears at rest.

He is a patient guardian, strong and able for the test.

No need to seek a battle that may never come

His battle is within now, until the war is done.

His duty is to wait, to conserve and to defend

To stand long at his post, his battle scars to mend.

With the knowledge of the Hermit he awaits what might arise

And values now diplomacy; his wounds have made him wise.