Since I have no suitable client readings in the queue, I decided to test this spread on myself, asking the question “Who am I at this point in my life?” I used the Waite-Smith Centennial Pocket Edition with reversals, and drew the court-card Significator randomly.
All images copyright U.S. Games Systems, Stamford, CT
The King of Wands as representative of my “Root Character” suggests that I am currently in control of my life, including my appetites and desires, but that I must not let my attention wander in order to keep it that way. This is largely true. However, all of the reversed cards in the spread also make it clear that I’m not a “WYSIWYG” (“What You See Is What You Get”) kind of guy, more a “What You Think You See Is Not What You’re Gonna Get” type. The King of Wands may more accurately be described as what I aspire to be rather than what I am at the moment, and the goal appears to be within reach if I choose to make a serious run at it.
The “Basic Attitudes and Strategies” string includes the Sun and Moon, and both are reversed. In natal astrology, the Sun and Moon are two of the three main building-blocks of the personality (the other is the Ascendant), and here their reversal indicates an introverted personality that effectively tempers the more public ambitions of the King of Wands. (With my natal Sun in Cancer and my Moon in Capricorn, both intercepted, nothing could be more accurate.)
The Moon rx (reversed) denotes an enigmatic “first impression,” something that – with my Scorpio Ascendant – I have become resigned to and don’t try to discourage. The Empress between the Sun and Moon displays a “comfortable in her own skin” ambiance; she is not about to let anyone get the best of her, and neither am I. She will make good use of the introversion she has been wrapped in by doing something creative with the opportunity. The Sun rx confers an intense inner focus that only lets light escape in controlled bursts. With this combination I’m not likely to be the “sunshine” of anyone’s life, more a steadfast and reliable presence that conveys the agreeable warmth of a metaphorical “slow burn;” the outcome is a “simmer” rather than a “boil.” I tend to be kindly but reserved in my self-expression and philosophy toward life.
The “Basic Behaviors and Tactics” string includes the 2 of Cups rx, the 6 of Swords and the 6 of Cups rx. My daily habits are low-key, a bit self-absorbed and studious, with the 6 of Swords deftly navigating the backwaters of emotional idleness. At present my emotional pursuits are subservient to my intellectual ones. I often read the 6 of Swords as a “mental voyage of discovery,” and this blog is the vehicle in which I am making the trip. The publication of my work in various journals and newsletters is an interesting side venture that “feels good” in addition to offering a more formal outlet for my thoughts on divination, but the reversals suggest that there is nothing more rewarding in it than personal satisfaction.
A few preliminary words on the “quintessence” calculation: the normal mode of “theosophical reduction” in which the digits of a number are added together to yield a lower number (in the case of the “quint,” a number below 22) can never arrive at zero, so a common convention has been to renumber the Fool as 22. Although there is historical precedence for this, I find it an unsatisfactory workaround that contradicts my normal practice. Instead, I subtract the face value of reversed cards from the total, which can give me zero as well as a negative number that I treat as a reversed “quint.” This expands the range of interpretation in the same way that reversal of the cards in the main spread does; I like the increased complexity and subtlety offered by this approach.
Here both “Sub-quints” and the “Grand Quint” are reversed. The “Attitudes” string produces the Chariot rx ([-18] +  + [-19] = [-34]; [-3] + [-4] = [-7]). The “Core Philosophy” this symbolizes is one of cautious progress toward my goals. As long as I stay on this discreet success path there will be no “getting the cart before the horse” in the foreseeable future (although, as the King of Wands will attest, the temptation is certainly there). The “Behaviors” string yields the High Priestess rx ([-2] +  + [-6] = [-2]), revealing a “Core Agenda” of advancing my inner work toward superior self-understanding and awareness via the agency of undisturbed contemplation. I find it fascinating that both of the sub-quint cards have a lunar association, the Chariot with Cancer and the High Priestess with the Moon itself; this is a transcendent expression of the Moon as the “first impression” card in the “Attitudes” string and is completely in character for me.
The “Grand Quintessence” is the Hermit rx ([-7] + [-2] = [-9]). As if it wasn’t already obvious from the sub-quint cards and all of the reversed cards in the main array, this is a solo adventure in which any benefits will be strictly internal. It might be lonely if it wasn’t so full of philosophical wonder. Even though it could be fun to connect on a social level about these metaphysical matters, the King of Wands is just going to have to wait. In summary, this was a useful exercise in self-analysis that didn’t generate any surprises and pretty much confirmed what I’ve known about myself for a long time; it just put a recognizable face on my self-knowledge in the form of the three quintessence cards.