Intro to Tarot: Major Arcana

I mentioned a while back that a friend of mine had asked me to write a sort of tarot manual for her. Basically, I’ve bought her a tarot deck and have been mailing her cards, a few at a time, with information about them and how to read them. I thought that since my most popular posts on this site are my astrology and tarot posts, I might start posting excerpts from this manual here.

The manual begins with an overview of the Major Arcana, which is what I’m going to share with you now.


The Major Arcana
 
The tarot is divided into two main sets of cards: Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards and explores the journey of the first card in that set, which is Card 0: The Fool. In this text we’ll travel with the Fool through the Major Arcana, but here I just want to say a few things about what it means to have Major Arcana appear in a tarot reading.
 
The easiest way to look at it is to say that the Major Arcana are Big Things in life and the Minor Arcana are little things. Some read the Majors as signs of destiny, fate, or karma. Some read them as things that cannot be changed versus things that can (meaning the Minor Arcana). I hesitate to ever say that anything is set in stone and cannot be changed. I simply don’t believe that to be true. But I think, when you see a lot of Major Arcana in a spread, some big life lessons are—if you’ll forgive me—in the cards.
 
A surfeit of Major Arcana cards turning up means one of two things. (1) This is important so pay attention to what we [the cards] are telling you. (2) You didn’t shuffle very well.
 
Eventually, as you learn the cards and become confident in reading them, you’ll intuit what it means to have many Majors in a spread. What I don’t recommend is reshuffling and asking again. Asking the same question, even rephrased, over and over is a surefire way to irritate the cards and only confuse the issue further. If you feel like you’re not getting the message, set the cards aside. Or if it has been a while since you cleansed and recharged them (more on that later), do that. Then still set them aside for a few hours. The cards, like people, need breaks, and jumping from question to question wears them out.

From Introduction to Tarot: Card by Card by M Pepper Langlinais

If people get interested, I’ll start posting about each card.

Off Topic

My most visited posts on this site are my astrology posts. This blog has never focused on astrology in particular; I usually only post about it when I have something interesting to say (which isn’t often). This is meant to be a writing blog/site, but seeing as my writing doesn’t garner much attention…

I’m currently writing a tarot manual for a friend who wants to learn to read tarot. There are billions of these manuals out in the world, and I considered publishing mine when I’m done, but maybe I’ll just post here as I go along? I don’t know if tarot will be as big a draw as astrology, though.

By the way, if you ever have astrology or tarot questions, feel free to ask. I’m happy to share what I know. (That goes for writing, too.)

Here, by way of example, is the introduction to my tarot manual:

The tarot is divided into two main sets of cards: Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards and explores the journey of the first card in that set, which is Card 0: The Fool. In this text we’ll travel with the Fool through the Major Arcana, but here I just want to say a few things about what it means to have Major Arcana appear in a tarot reading.

The easiest way to look at it is to say that the Major Arcana are Big Things in life and the Minor Arcana are little things. Some read the Majors as signs of destiny, fate, or karma. Some read them as things that cannot be changed versus things that can (meaning the Minor Arcana). I hesitate to ever say that anything is set in stone and cannot be changed. I simply don’t believe that to be true. But I think, when you see a lot of Major Arcana in a spread, some big life lessons are—if you’ll forgive me—in the cards.

A surfeit of Major Arcana cards turning up means one of two things. (1) This is important so pay attention to what we [the cards] are telling you. (2) You didn’t shuffle very well. Eventually, as you learn the cards and become confident in reading them, you’ll intuit what it means to have many Majors in a spread. What I don’t recommend is reshuffling and asking again. Asking the same question, even rephrased, over and over is a surefire way to irritate the cards and only confuse the issue further. If you feel like you’re not getting the message, set the cards aside. Or if it has been a while since you cleansed and recharged them (more on that later), do that. Then still set them aside for a few hours. The cards, like people, need breaks, and jumping from question to question wears them out.

From there, I introduce The Fool, etc.

I feel bad that it’s taking me a long time to write this manual for my friend, so maybe posting it here will give me impetus to get on with it. I guess we’ll see if these posts get as many hits as the astrology ones (or at least more than my writing ones).

Solar Return!

Today is my solar return, which is the equivalent of an astrological birthday. It means the sun will return to the place in the sky where it was when I was born. I’ve heard that you should plan fun activities for your solar return because how you spend the day sort of projects into the coming year. I even read once how to break down the hours/minutes of your solar return day into which days and months of the coming year they correlate with so you could see when significant things might happen. I tried doing this once or twice, but it’s a heckuva lot of work, so I think today I’ll just mark down anything that happens that feels important or interesting.

Of course, anyone spends at least a chunk of the 24 hours of their solar return asleep. So I’m not sure how it works to project that onto your coming year. Are those just really dull months? Does nothing much happen during that time? Are you super sleepy for those months?

I guess what I’m saying is, as with everything in life, you can only invest so much into a solar return or astrology in general. Life is what you make it, not what the stars and planets do.

Today I intend to relax. We’re going out for a nice dinner. That’s pretty much the only plan. Maybe that means the next year of my life will be placid. Boring? Well, I’m sure I can find ways to liven things up in my own way.

Synastry, Transits, Progressions

Of all the posts on this site, the ones about astrology charts get the most hits. I’m not sure why; I can’t possibly be the first result when someone Googles astrology. But since that seems to be what many people are interested in, I thought I’d write a bit more about it.

An astrology chart is like a fingerprint—it’s unique. Sometimes people ask, “What if two people were born at the same hospital at the same time?” Well, I don’t know. I’ve never seen a case like that. But I think that there’s a lot more to a life than a star chart, so while some of the themes in those two hypothetical lives might be similar, their lives wouldn’t necessarily be the same. If you look at a family—that’s a number of charts interacting in what we call “synastry.” Synastry is a fancy word for taking two people’s charts and comparing them to see how those two people might (or might not) get along. Most people use synastry to look at love relationships, but you can use it between parents and children, between siblings, between coworkers, anyone you might have a personal relationship with.

Synastry is handled in a couple ways. I usually look at the individual charts and see where planets interact, whether one person’s planets fill empty houses in another person’s charts, etc. But there’s also a way to create a composite chart that more or less shows a picture of the potential relationship. I don’t have much experience with these, so I can’t really say much about them. But my understanding is that you read the composite chart in the same way you’d read a natal chart.

Things get complicated when you consider transits and progressions. When you look at the current placement of planets in respect to a person’s chart, you’re looking at transits. If a natal chart is the big picture of a person’s life lessons, their obstacles and advantages, transits are more immediate things happening right now as the planets move. Transits are what daily horoscopes are based on.

Progressions take the planets in the natal chart and, well, progress them. They show where the planets would be now if progressed . . . by various methods*. Progressions can indicate change in a person’s life cycle, as their planets shift and so does their Midheaven and Ascendant. Again, I don’t look at progressed charts very often, but it’s an interesting idea. In fact, even as I write this I find myself thinking I should go look at my progressed chart.

If you’re ever curious about your chart and want to know where to get yours, I generally use astro.com (which is free) but also have on my phone a professional app called TimePassages that works well, too (not free). For the most accurate results, you’ll need to know where and when you were born—not just the date, but the actual time, which is usually on your birth certificate. Or, if you have a mother like mine, she calls you every year on your birthday at the exact time you were born and reminds you of all the pain she went through.

I catch a lot of grief from my scientist friends and religious family members about this stuff. For the record, I find it interesting, but I still firmly believe in our ability to make and change our own circumstances. Your chart is only as important and influential as you allow it to be. Nothing is inevitable. I find looking at my chart sometimes gives me perspective. However, I don’t let it dictate my life. How you handle yours is up to you.

* Methods for determining progressions vary. Some astrologers move each planet forward one degree for each year of the querent’s life (solar arc progression), some do it by moving the chart forward one day for each year (secondary progression). Those are the two most common techniques, but there are others. You can see them on the Wikipedia page for progressions.

Sun Conjunct Ascendant (pt 2)

One of my most popular posts is the one I wrote titled “Sun Conjunct Ascendant” which actually talked more about Aquarius than anything else. So now I’ll tell you about the actual aspect, or really, my experience with it. Specifically, however, I’m going to discuss what it means between two people (what astrologers call “synastry”) when one of them has their Natal Sun on the other’s Ascendant. (Sounds kinda dirty, doesn’t it?)

First let’s recap the function of your Natal Sun. In astrology, your Sun shows your core being. It doesn’t, however, always show how others perceive you. That’s determined more by your First House, which is where your Ascendant comes in. Your Ascendant is the sign where your First House falls.

For example, my Sun is in Sagittarius, but my Ascendant (aka “Rising Sign”) is Aquarius. So I come across to others as more like an Aquarius, though deep down I’ve got a lot of Sagittarius happening.

Okay, so what happens when your Sun is conjunct someone’s Ascendant? Well, in my personal experience—and I’ve had this happen fairly often in my life, where either my Sun is on someone’s Ascendant or vice versa—the Sun person pulls the Ascendant person into their orbit. While there is definitely mutual attraction of some kind, the devotion seems always to be stronger on the side of the Ascendant person. The Sun person feels a bond, too, but it might be more like a deep friendship, while the Ascendant person often falls head over heels for the Sun person.

Depending on the nature of the Sun person, he or she may struggle with the pressure of the Ascendant person’s love. And depending on the nature of the Ascendant person, he or she might become clingy. There’s so much more to synastry, but the thing about Sun conjunct Ascendant is that it seems to go one of a few ways: either the two people are devoted to one another for life; or they form a terrible, co-dependent relationship in which the Sun person may use/abuse the Ascendant person; or the Sun person runs far and fast because the Ascendant person is so intense.

Remember, though, that none of this is written in stone, so to speak. Being aware of your chart and how it intersects with others’ gives you a starting point for planning accordingly. And planets and stars move. They’re dynamic, and so are we. You choose how to behave or react, so choose wisely.

#TBT: 1997

So astrologically we’re at the end of one 19-year cycle and the start of another. And I kind of felt like looking back at what I was doing 19 years ago, which would have been 1997. That was the summer I worked on the Hope Floats set. I was an extremely poor college student—like, barely scraping together my share of the rent. Trying to divide my time between the film set and my actual job, the one that paid. Trying to stay afloat. It was a tough time. And I do recall very clearly the night I came home from a late shoot and my then roommates were sitting in front of the television because Princess Diana had died. I was so tired and so overwhelmed with my own life at that point that it barely registered for me. I hardly watched the news; I never had time for it. Meanwhile, I was also starting my final year at UT Austin. No idea what I was actually going to do with my life at that point. Life had been school for so long that I couldn’t comprehend that there was anything more TO life than school. I had a vague notion that one got a job after graduating, but . . . ::shrug:: My values were shifting at that time as well; I was no longer completely buying into the church group that was attempting to force me in a very specific direction. In short, it felt like a lot of shifting was going on.

So now what? Well, I’m still struggling to make money with my writing. And I’m still juggling various aspects of my life, but I’m getting better at it (or so I like to believe). Though I haven’t watched the news since Peter Jennings died, I do manage to stay informed at least a little. And I’m long since out of uni but still feeling my way along my path. I know I want to be a writer—I am a writer. I continue to work on establishing myself. As for my values, they remain fluid when it comes to religion but fixed when I consider right and wrong; like pornography, I know it when I see it.

Things are still shifting, but in good ways. Life is no longer school, or at least not my school so much as my children’s. Life is family and writing. I try to keep them balanced in equal measure. Not each day, no, more like: This is a month in which more family things are happening. And here is a month in which I must bang out a book or script.

The last 19 years have been interesting, certainly. I wonder what the next 19 have in store.

Mercury Rx

Mercury goes retrograde today and will be through September 22nd. If you know even a little about astrology, you’ve probably heard tell of the Mercury Rx (Rx is the symbol for retrograde) horrors. Cars and computers stop working, you end up stuck at the airport with all flights cancelled, etc. It can and does happen—even when Mercury isn’t moving backward.*

Conventional wisdom states one should not begin any new projects, buy any new technological gadgets or cars, or travel during Mercury Rx. Of course, sometimes this can’t be helped. So you should at least build in contingency plans, extra travel time and so on during these three weeks. Also, the past can rear its sometimes ugly head at this time. And if emails and texts go awry, or there is major miscommunication between you and others, feel free to blame Mercury Rx.

But Mercury retrograde isn’t entirely useless. It does serve a purpose. All “re” things are actually encouraged at this time. Revision, review—anything that causes you to go back over old ground and re-examine. Mercury is usually a fast little planet, but in retrograde he’s asking you to slow down. While you may not be able to completely clear your schedule, see if you can’t lighten it a bit during Mercury Rx.

As a writer, I try to do rewrites and revisions during Mercury’s backward turns. Again, not always possible (right now, for instance, I have only new projects I’m currently working on), but I like knowing the planet’s power is with me for that; it’s sort of like turning my sails to catch the wind. Still, I don’t stop writing just because Mercury is retrograde any more than a boat stops moving just because the wind goes away from its destination. I simply adjust accordingly. Which is the whole point of astrology to begin with—it’s a compass for cosmic winds.

*Mercury isn’t actually moving backward, of course. Retrogrades are merely the appearance of planets moving backward from Earth’s viewpoint.

Ruling the Chart

Another little astrology diversion today as I’ve been learning about Ruling Planets.

Each zodiac sign has a natural ruler. But the planet that rules your sun sign may not be the one that rules your natal chart.

I’ll use myself as an example. My Sun is in Sagittarius. Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter. Lucky, right? But of all the planets that impact my chart, Jupiter is only 4th in line as far as influence goes. Pluto and Uranus are neck-in-neck for 1st prize there. Pluto just barely edges Uranus out, but then again Uranus rules my rising sign, so I feel them both almost equally.

How do I know which planet is in charge? Admittedly, I cheat a bit and use a site that does the math for me. (I can help you with it if you’re curious about your own chart.)

So what difference does it make which planet rules your chart? Well, there are a couple ways to approach it. For one, it can help to know where your strengths (and weaknesses) lie. Pluto + Uranus = transformation/intensity and the unexpected/creativity. Yay? Also, when your ruling planet is impacted by various transiting aspects, you likely will be too, more so than with the average transit. So it’s good to know which planets to keep an eye on. For instance, right now both Pluto and Uranus are retrograde. Less yay.

Of course, you should keep an eye on all of them, to an extent. They’re all in your chart, doing various things. But there is a hierarchy in your chart, and your ruling planet, well, rules.

Peter & Charles – In the Stars

I’m sad to have to admit having overlooked Peter’s birthday a couple days ago. A while back, you see, I established birthdays for him and Charles so I could have a look at their astrological charts and synastry. Yes, I’m that kind of a nerd.

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You can see how it was love at first sight, and also how career is a stumbling block for them. Communication, too, is moderately tricky.

It’s a fun little exercise and a nice piece of additional detail to play with. Charles passed away some years ago (he was older by a few years, after all), but I have a feeling Peter is hanging on by his fingernails . . . Something of a recluse now, one of those pensioners who perpetually wears a cardigan . . . I picture him in a house made cavelike by wood paneling, lined with many bookshelves, a number of knitted afghans strewn about, and one ugly, threadbare armchair. Peter sits there and reads and sips tea. He’s slow but sharp as ever, isn’t interested in things like the Internet, telly works just fine for him, thank you.

That’s if you ever wondered what happened to them. And if you don’t even know who they are, read the novel.

Know Your Chart!

I’m going to digress into some astrology here, so if you’re here for the writing, scroll down to older posts. But if you’re curious or interested, I’m going to reiterate (again) why it’s so important to be familiar with your natal astrology chart when reading horoscopes.

My Sun is in Sagittarius. But though horoscopes are organized by Sun sign, they also make an assumption that your Sun sign is the same as your 1st House sign. This is true for some people, but most of us will have a different Rising sign (that’s the sign on your 1st House). I borrowed this image from Astrostyle to illustrate:

The Houses of an Astrology Chart
The Houses of an Astrology Chart

You can see each House has certain influences, and so whenever certain planets are in those Houses, you will feel their effects on those parts of your life.

But here’s the thing: Horoscopes assume the planets are in certain Houses based on your Sun sign being the same as your Rising sign. If they’re not the same, you’re reading the wrong horoscope. You should be reading your Rising sign.

And then, even that is only true some of the time.

Whaaa?

I’ll give you an example. This week a lot of horoscopes are focused on the coming Full Moon in Sagittarius. That Moon will be at 1° of Sagittarius. Now, I’m an Aquarius Rising, but because of the way my Houses fall, even the Aquarius horoscope isn’t correct for me when it comes to this particular Full Moon. The Aquarius ‘scopes assume this Full Moon is in my 11th House, but for me personally, it’s in my 10th. Which means I need to read the Pisces horoscope to get a sense of what this Moon will mean for me.

Are you cross-eyed yet?

Another example. My husband is a Sagittarius with Sagittarius Rising as well. Easy, right? Actually, not really. Because his Ascendant is at 25° of Sagittarius, meaning for the most part he needs to read Capricorn horoscopes to be accurate. Only 5 out of 30 degrees will be correct when reading Sagittarius. By which I mean, only when planets are in those last 5 degrees of Sagittarius will the Sagittarius horoscope read correctly for him.

This is why it is so, so important to know your chart and then also be familiar with current transits. I actually keep a printed copy of my natal chart handy to refer to when planets are aspecting so I can see where in my life the impact is likely to be. If you want to get your own chart, I recommend astro.com; you’ll have to create an account, but it’s free and they don’t spam your email. You’ll need to know not only where you were born but what time of day. Otherwise you won’t have an accurate Rising sign, and that’s the real starting point for your entire chart.

Not many horoscopes will get technical about what degree the planets are in, so that’s information you’ll need to seek out if you want to be sure of where a Full or New Moon, or some other aspect, is falling in your chart. astroshaman.com‘s forecasts do have that info if you’re up for digging through them. And the aforementioned astro.com also has current planetary positions on the homepage sidebar. I myself use TimePassages software on my iPhone to check my daily chart.

I don’t mean for this to be an advertisement. I’m only trying to give you tools, should you be interested. Which, if you’ve read this whole thing, maybe you are? Meanwhile, feel free to ask questions, and I’ll answer to the best of my ability.

Ta!