It can be frustrating, when learning tarot, to have cards show up in a spread that can seem like they relate in no way to the subject at hand.
Here’s you, all fired up, reading about that fantastic guy you met the other night, and all you get are Pentacles and Wands. Where are the Cups? The Sun? The Lovers?…or…sigh..the Three of Swords?
Where is the Rrrrrrromance?
But there is romance, or issues related, in every single card in the tarot deck. Yes, it’s true. Every card is a romance card.
Why? Because tarot is entirely…entirely….about context. Sure, there are traditional interpretations for every card, but that is your jumping off point. Your diving board, as it were….the pool, though, is the context of your question, the placement of the card, the weird and wooly layers of your mental landscape and the energies that surround the question.
Every card in the tarot is a love card because every card in the tarot has a love context….and given that about 80% of the readings I do are relationship oriented, I became rather fascinated with the relationship manifestations the cards that seem none too emotional by sheer necessity! Surely these cards are saying something…but what?
And how do you know when to believe yourself?
For example: The Two of Swords has a traditional definition of “stalemate, cool emotions, and a retreat to fight another day”. But in a romance spread it becomes the card of the emotionally unavailable, the avoidant, and the rejection of love offered. You know the super fun feeling of someone blowing very hot and cold? Came on so strong and now you are chasing after him and feeling awful and unsure? Sigh. Yeah. That’s the Two of Swords in a love spread.
(Oh, and don’t ever wait around for men like him, ever, by the way, but that’s another topic for another time, and no one listens to me on that one anyway.)
Context. It’s something you develop with time and experience and reading after reading after reading. You will, with time, learn the way the cards speak to you, specifically. You will learn that the Eight of Pentacles traditionally means plugging away at a task with small gains, but in a relationship spread means someone who will stick it out: the guy who actually will go to therapy with you. The woman who is loyal and committed to things growing better day-by-day. They are the stand up person who doesn’t run at the slightest challenge. You know, the increasingly rare species known as “an adult”.
With practice, it’s easy to see how a “small” card is actually full of information.
Let’s look at two sides of a coin… the “Masculinity Expressed” coin, to be specific, in two cards: The Emperor and the Strength card. Here’s some manly goodness, but one is definitely better than the other (she wrote, as if her opinion were objective fact) as we will soon see.
Here’s THE EMPEROR, as defined in my book, “Love Tarot for Beginners”:
“4: THE EMPEROR
Traditional Masculinity. Leadership. Oppression. Rigidity. Power. Overwhelming force. Conservative.
Most of the time, The Emperor is a person in your life of great importance or influence to you at the time of the reading. This can be a good thing. This can be a neutral thing, if you get my meaning. This card can just represent The Man in Question, and nothing more, except signaling that he is important to you!On the other hand, if you are reading about character traits, and wondering what kind of person you are dealing with, then I should give you both the good and the… less than good!
If you like traditionally masculine, protective men, well, it’s your lucky day! The Emperor is an excellent provider, often a leader in the community or his career, and oh, boy, would your mom approve. MANLY.
The Less Than Good
Did I mention manly? Well, it’s not cute, funny, and charming Nick Offerman manly. It’s usually the “I wash my hair with dish soap because shampoo is for girls” manly. It’s “I call women ‘gals’ or ‘females’, and wow, they are sweet, but irrational. Am I right?” manly, and that sort of masculinity can be a bit fragile. Brittle. Rigid. At its core, it’s an insecure and precarious image to maintain, if not expressed in a mature way.
Sure, he’s an excellent protector and provider, if you are someone who needs a lot of protection and provision, but your tears make him either angry or confused, and this kind of “protection” sometimes comes with a price, whether it’s something “small,” like resentment, or something large, like oppressive abuse.
In his more benign aspects, when you have a problem of any kind, he is sure he can solve it with graph paper and a pencil. His natural leadership abilities can get twisted up in the wrong hands and become his natural “Let’s oppress everyone to make sure I get my way” abilities. There are a lot of little Emperors in the world. Some of them even run for President.
Be particularly careful if this card shows up in a spread with The Five of Pentacles. This suggests a strong attraction to “bad boy” types who talk a very good game, but are really unavailable emotionally. They might look great on paper, but words are not deeds, and rare is it that the words and deeds of this combination match.
So, if you dig this guy, let’s hope he is that magic blend of traditional Knightly Protector and Sensitive Lover. He exists, but he’s a bit of a Manicorn, so good luck to you!
If it is clear that this is not a person, and merely a situation, then you can read it like this: You will be dealing with a steamroller of a situation. Get ready to resist, evade, or submit.
Back to the beginning. A man who is currently insignificant in your life will greatly increase in importance to you.”
And here is STRENGTH, from the same (totally awesome) book:
Gentle force applied with skill. Strong character. The ability to master your impulsiveness and be effective in the world.
The lover that possesses the characteristics of the Strength card is a wonderful partner indeed. As a person or a situation, the traits of calm, self- restraint, wisdom, kindness, strong moral character, gentleness, perseverance, patience, maturity, and attractiveness prevail.
The man who is represented by the Strength card is a dreamboat; the woman, a gentle, wise, sexy, confident and intelligent paramour.
This is the card of the grown-up. Possessed of high levels of emotional intelligence, this card represents someone you can introduce to friends and family with pride. This is someone who doesn’t run at the first sign of trouble; is gentle, but firm in their feeling; has learned from hard-won experience; and is no pushover. Gentle confidence is the order of the day.
Don’t mistake this for dull, and, if you do, carefully examine your own issues with intimacy. For some of us, when it comes to our love lives, the only thing that feels right is conflict, and the only thing that feels normal is feeling bad or confused or unsure. Sometimes fear of intimacy doesn’t show up as running away from someone, but running toward the wrong someone. That way, you can have the passionate experience of intense desire, longing, and “love” without ever having to worry about the terror of having this love actually returned.
As an experience, it means everyone involved is sane, kind, warm, and wanting the best outcome for all concerned.
This card boosts the good qualities of the positive cards it is near, and softens the dark aspects of the negative.
It’s a great card to have show up in a love spread.
Everyone is going to play nice, or you will have the self-control, the maturity, to do the right thing, in the right way, and handle it like a boss.”
See? Both are about take charge, manly men, but one of them is sex on a stick, and one of them is, well, Dad.
Maybe you want a Daddy…far be it from me to tell you that this is a bad thing. In fact, if you are kink oriented, The Emperor might be the man of your dreams, as he is dominant and protective and old school and controlling. Sometimes, that’s a perfect fit.
On the other hand, Mr. or Ms. Strength are the type with a sexiness that comes with quiet confidence, earnest expression of feeling, and the courage to take emotional risks and win.
BOTH of these types would be really handy in a zombie apocalypse, for sure, but only one of them might share the spoils captured along the way.
SO! Your personal “knowing”…something which will always be a jumbled up expression of traditional definition, personal experience, and gut feeling, is something to be trusted, once you have the traditional card definitions nice and firmly tucked into the wrinkles of your brain. Get to know your tarot deck backwards and forwards, and then the deeper layers of meaning will show themselves to you in ways that will surprise.
You will eventually realize you aren’t making it up…you aren’t winging it. You actually know, and then the real fun begins.
Jhone Daniels is an artist, author and designer who makes her living counseling people with cards and making pretty things to wear. You can find her book, Love Tarot For Beginners, on Amazon, and read more about tarot stuff (and learn how to get a personal reading) on LoveTarotForBeginners.com. You can find her pretty things in shops from NY to Los Angeles, or, fabulously enough, at PersephonesBijoux.etsy.com, which means you could shop in your PJ’s, like an adult.