Shining a Light on the Shadow
Welcome to the May 2015 Tarot Blog Hop. It’s May First, May Day, International Worker’s Day, Beltaine, or Beltane. Traditionally, this is a time to celebrate spring and anticipate the arrival of new life.
Our wrangler, Morgan Drake Eckstein, has given us an interesting task. He wants us to talk about the “distasteful cards” in tarot. He asks us this.
“So how do we deal with these cards when they show up? What do we tell our clients? What rituals (actions) can we take to better cope with these energies?”
I get really tired of people (even tarotists) maligning tarot because they feel it is “dark” or “negative” or “scary.” I was appalled when Doreen Virtue marketed her Angel Tarot as the “first tarot deck” to be “safe,” suggesting that, because of its imagery and words, traditional tarot is somehow unsafe.
I know that some people are very sensitive to imagery and words, and that some classic tarot images and words are harsh. I am very comfortable with decks that present these concepts in gentler ways, as long as they preserve the energy of the card. Whether we call Major Arcana 13 “Death” doesn’t matter, but that we understand the profound nature of its archetype and energy does.
I lead tarot workshops in which I ask people to look through the cards and pull out the images they find distasteful. What is interesting is that not everyone picks the same cards.
Once folks have their distasteful cards in front of them, we are ready to do some serious soul-searching to figure out the ways these dark images reflect our fears, our hurts, our dysfunctions, our trauma and our own poor behavior.
In one such group, a student had chosen the Two of Cups as his very most distasteful card. He did not know the meaning of the card, and was working with the standard Waite image. He found the lion head scarier than the Ten of Swords!
This exercise opened the door to the healing work he needed to be able to give and receive love.
This particular example proves a few things to me. First, scary tarot cards are tools that help shine light into the dark places. Second, people will sometimes react to the energy of a card more than to its image.
In general, people fear distasteful cards because they believe those cards predict unfortunate events. Sometimes they do.
When I see a distasteful card predict a future event, I am grateful for the opportunity it presents. I will continue the process of divination to try to get a clear picture of what might be coming. They I try to discern if this event can be avoided. If it can’t be avoided, I work to determine if it can be mitigated. If it can’t be mitigated, I try to figure out the best way to prepare for it.
I also try to remember to look beyond it, to the calm that always comes after the storm, or to the benefit that comes from the sacrifice.
This one-two-three punch of Avoid, Mitigate, Prepare is how I handle distasteful cards in my own readings, and in client readings. These dark cards are gifts that help light the way through the approaching darkness.
That the dark cards present the opportunity to take the long view and remember that life is a journey with necessary and unavoidable ups and downs is part of the spiritual value of tarot.
Sometimes distasteful cards appear to describe a current situation, or one from the past. When it’s a current situation, the cards are very effective in making a connection with a client. The client appreciates that we can feel their pain. We all sometimes need to have our pain acknowledged.
Even in self-reading, this acknowledgement of pain can be helpful, and can be a barometer to help us recognize that a situation has come to a breaking point and action is required.
Sometimes the dark cards show us the past in order to provide an opportunity to heal from it.
Sometimes they appear to bring light to our internal shadow. Sometimes we need the dark cards to shock us into action.
No matter how they are pictured or titled, we will all find some tarot cards distasteful at certain times. I think it is bad form to develop a negative relationship with any particular cards. We all have favorite cards, but I try to avoid having cards I truly dislike. The cards are my tools, and it’s helpful to have a good working relationship with all my tools.
The cards we find distasteful can sometimes be the most helpful tools in the box.