This is the first of three free readings I’m offering on a first-come, first-served basis to anyone who is interested. (See my previous post.) The window of opportunity will remain open until the end of today.
Position #1 (“Covering”) – the Moon: As the “covering” card (also, the “heart of the matter” and “the situation as it stands”), the Moon shows an uneasy state of uncertainty and disorientation. Aleister Crowley made no bones about calling this card “midnight,” in which “such light as there may be is deadlier than darkness, and the silence is wounded by the howling of wild beasts.” Pretty grim stuff, but he goes on to quote Keats: “There is a budding morrow in midnight,” making it clear that this particular “Moon-madness” is only a temporary, spellbound state of misapprehension. While it lasts, it might seem unrelenting, but its dismal foreboding may itself be an illusion, simply a matter of perspective. In practical terms, it has a “Will this never end?” feeling to it, but if it’s understood that the dimness of the waning Moon (as Crowley terms it) “is the condition of the rebirth of light” that can be easy to misconstrue as an endless twilight, it’s possible to see beyond the phantasm of negativity. Not a pleasant card, but not a harbinger of terminal malaise either. There is a verse from a 1970’s song by the country-rock band Redeye that sums it up:
“Though it seems bad, it’ll get better
Just keep the faith, and keep it together
You know time will mend that hole in your shoe
But until then your toe will stick through”
Position #2 (“Crossing”) – 9 of Cups rx: As I read the Celtic Cross, this position can represent either a challenge or an opportunity, and sometimes both rolled into one. I often see it as “what the situation needs” to enable surmounting a major obstacle to growth. The 9 of Cups (also a “lunar” card) , when upright, suggests “all is right with the world” (with maybe a hint of smugness – I call it the “fat, dumb and happy” card). When reversed, it implies a sense that something indefinable is lacking; perhaps what is needed isn’t “more of the same” but “something completely different.” Maybe in trying to appease that fickle Moon by pouring its soothing balm on the troubled lunar waters, it may be missing the point entirely. Here, I see it as an expression of “Count your blessings, for tomorrow may be worse.” Or maybe “Half a (jug) is better than none.”
Position #3 (“Foundation; the distant past; that which is not subject to change”) – 9 of Swords: This card makes me think that yesterday was worse – by a mile. This is the third lunar card in a row, suggesting that things were – and still are – in flux. The good news is that the truly traumatic distress is in the remote past and is likely stay there as just a fading memory. This is the only Sword card and the only Air card of any kind in this reading, so the aching anxiety it implies does not linger and isn’t reinforced. This is one of the worst cards in the deck, so it’s best to have it locked away and not loose to cause more mischief (as long as you don’t dwell on it, or pick at it like a scab).
Position #4 (the “Recent Past”) – 4 of Cups: This position shows something about the situation that is supposedly over but that is still on your mind; it may indicate unfinished business. The 4 of Cups has a couple of connotations; one is boredom – the man in the picture has seen one too many cups and is completely jaded by them. The second one, which I like better in the context of this spread, is “an excess of patience,” perennially waiting for a better offer but never being satisfied with it when it arrives. This leaves the door open for the next unacceptable overture, bringing no closure to what should be over-and-done. There is an aura of mildly frustrated indifference to it, like a lukewarm emotional connection that has outlived its power to thrill but that is too comfortable to leave. If you’re being too accommodating, now may be the time to stand up and walk away.
Position #5 (the “Present; the realm of possibilities and opportunities”) – 9 of Wands: The fourth lunar card in the “time-line” section of the spread, implying that circumstances remain unsettled and fluid. The 9 of Wands is a card of “true grit.” That guy is going to hold his ground no matter what. The phrase it brings to mind is “Bloodied but unbowed,” along with the lyrics to the Tom Petty song I Won’t Back Down. The good news is that he won’t fail in his mission any time soon; the bad news is that there is no foreseeable end to the onslaught, so he only gets a brief respite from battle. If it’s the nagging influence of the 4 of Cups he hopes to contain, it’s like trying to squeeze a handful of water – all it does is dribble out of his grasp. It looks like a stalemate and, ultimately, a “no-win” proposition.
Position #6 (the “Near Future”) – 10 of Wands rx: So where is all of this going in the short term? The reversed 10 of Wands makes it look like the hard-pressed man in the 9 of Wands will simply pull up stakes and slink away in exhaustion, having “fought the good fight” but unable to muster the enthusiasm to continue in the face of the relentless “drip-drip-drip” of the insidious 4 of Cups. It’s not so much a matter of “moving on and moving up” as of “side-stepping” in avoidance. It suggests making a lateral move of some kind to preserve at least a modicum of pride and self-respect.
Position #7 (Self-doubt; resistance to change; “the psychic basement”) – 7 of Pentacles rx: This is where I part ways with the traditional method of reading the Celtic Cross. Waite called this position “the Self” while Eden Gray named it “Fears.” I combine the two ideas and title it “Self-doubts,” as an echo of Card #2, implying push-back against the life changes imposed by the Near Future card.
Since it sits at the bottom of the “staff” section of the spread and I don’t impute any psychological qualities to the cards in the “time-line” or “cross” section, I treat this position as the Unconscious or Subconscious Mind, where all manner of negative-reinforcement “baggage” accumulates. It shows wrestling with the impact of Card #6 and trying to assimilate it into one’s life. The 7 of pentacles in the Golden Dawn and Thoth systems is a card of minimal success, even outright failure. In this reading I’ll stick with the more traditional meaning of “patience” (or lack thereof). Coming on the heels of the 10 of Wands rx, it begs the question of whether you will have the patience to tolerate the “side-stepping” or deflection that card implies. The reversal increases the challenge because it doesn’t allow coming to grips directly with the dilemma, instead requiring some oblique maneuvering or manipulation.
Position #8 (the “Querent’s Environment”) – 2 of Cups: rx: If the “covering” card describes the “environment of the question,” this position shows the environmental circumstances that you will encounter – including human interaction – in confronting the situation. The 2 of Cups rx presents a difficult choice. All of the Twos embody reciprocal and compensatory motion: give-and-take, back-and-forth, up-and-down, etc; when upright, the 2 of Cups suggests the pendulum-swings of emotional adjustment that are the hallmark of any healthy relationship; the pendulum occasionally oscillates but always re-centers itself. The reversal implies that one party to the relationship isn’t holding up his or her end, allowing disruptive irregularity to enter the emotional flow and trap the pendulum at one end. The choice I mentioned is having to decide just how much of this slacking to tolerate before seeking a new pendulum.
Position #9 (“Hopes and Aspirations; Conscious Mind”) – the Page of Cups: I depart somewhat from the norm with this position as well. Eden Gray called it “Hopes” (I never liked mingling“hopes and fears” in one card as Waite did), but I find that interpretation entirely too passive; it’s like “wishing on a star.” So I added conscious “aspirations” to show something that you not only hope for, but also that you’re willing to exert yourself to obtain. The Page of Cups implies that you’re looking for a “fresh new face” on the scene, but there is a caution attached. Aleister Crowley – always reliable with the court cards – considers this Page to be a card of subtlety and secrecy, full of intense, hidden passions. Another writer (either Isabel Kliegman or Elizabeth Hazel) names this young person “the actor” among the court cards, able to put on different masks for different occasions so he may never reveal his true self (until it’s too late). I always thought it looked like Hamlet pondering the “Scrod of Yorick.” If you set your sights on this individual, be aware that you may get more – or other – than what you expected.
On the other hand, if this card doesn’t indicate another person, but rather a quality that you should exemplify, it seems to be saying that you will aspire to become a “new you” by turning over a new leaf emotionally. This may in turn open doors for you that were previously closed.
Position 10 (“Outcome”) – the Hermit rx: The Hermit, when upright, normally keeps his own counsel and imparts his wisdom by example; when reversed, he’s positively tongue-tied. This is a card of meditative contemplation, not of exemplary action or even of philosophical advice. It may reflect the stoic, thoughtful reaction to a messy encounter with that Page of Cups, but I’m inclined to think it offers a bigger-picture outlook. As an expression of Virgo, the Hermit rx reminds me of the retiring attitude of Voltaire’s Candide, who – when his philosophical wanderings came to naught – simply observed, “Well, we can always tend our garden.” In fact, one of Crowley’s brief divinatory meanings is “Retirement from participation in current events.” Otherwise, it is described as “illumination from within.” Another thought is that the reversal could mean “coming back down the mountain,” or departing a spell of recuperative isolation; Crowley’s “inner illumination” would still apply since the lessons learned would be unchanged.
A word about reversals: I usually see them as “throwing a curve-ball” at the querent in the form of an indirect or oblique input. Here you have a swarm of them, suggesting you will have your hands full.