~ “Dangerous is the man who has rationalized his emotions.” ~
— David Borenstein
In Step 2, we discovered how describing the card objectively and in full details (without letting our personal assumptions and projections get in the way) helped us connect with our card on a deeper level. Noticing the most minute details within a card can lead to so many personal revelations that not only could it change the way we’ve viewed or appreciated a card, but also add a whole new dimension to our ability to read it.
Now, we shall delve deeper into our card by describing what seem to be the emotions, feelings, and attitudes of the figures on the card, and the mood and atmosphere of the environment. Some of you might wonder, isn’t this exactly the opposite of what I discussed (ranted/raved/preached/nagged – take your pick) about in the previous step? Well, yes it is, but the thing is, before we can allow ourselves to open our emotional floodgates over a cards imagery, it’s important for us to first have a clear concise idea of the card. This way we remain ‘grounded’ when reading the card without being carried away with our emotions. In my case, had I not given an objective description of my chosen card, I would have been singing ‘Think of Me’ from Phantom of the Opera in each and every reading the card appeared in, as in Step 1, I so felt the card was a total rip from it.
So let’s begin the third step in our journey, and describe what seem to be the emotions, attitudes, and feelings of the figure(s) on the card and the mood and atmosphere of the environment.
The scene seems to be in an underground labyrinth of sorts. Due to the massive metallic swords and the bare stone walls, it seems as though the air has a slight chill to it. The woman in front seems to be a princess. She isn’t afraid, nor is she nervous. She’s almost stoic, as if she already has an idea where she is heading, and in a way is just preparing herself for it. The way she is holding onto the ledge of the vessel, gently and subtly but very obviously, it’s almost like a part of her feels she cannot handle things all by herself, and thus needs a ‘support’ of sort. She certainly isn’t getting any from the mysterious figure behind her.
The mysterious figure steering the boat though seems sinister at first, is actually a slave to his position (I’m sticking to masculine pronouns for the sake of convenience. I’m all for women’s lib and equality, but what can I do, the English language is highly chauvinistic). His hands are chained to the steering rod of the boat/vessel, making it seem as though he’s stuck to being the navigator of this vessel for eternity. In a way, one would feel sorry for him, but he seems to be more or less accustomed to his purpose in life, even though it seems forced upon him. Perhaps he’s made peace with it and goes about his work stoically. Maybe that’s what makes it bearable for him.
Despite the stoicism displayed by both the figures, the water below tells another story. Despite the overall calm and serene appearance of the card, the water is incredibly ‘disturbed’ with all the ripples. The swords creeping up from below only seem to add to the ‘troubled waters’. Perhaps this reveals how the two figures truly feel from within, despite doing such a good job of masking their emotions.
The swords that dangle on top perhaps represent the various issues being faced by the two figures. In the case of the Princess, she is only aware of the minor issues that though are important in the present moment, aren’t really the ones that need all her attention. Those are represented by the large sword behind her. Though she isn’t consciously aware of them, on a deeper level she is. Thus she can feel them weighing her down, but yet is unable to identify them. The Mysterious Stranger however knows what they are, but it isn’t his duty to say anything, for he bears a cross (sword) of his own (the one behind him). And even though he doesn’t try to think about it too often, the bright light next to that sword constantly reminds him what’s looming above.
He knows that the middle sword, the big one dangling in the center represents not just the problems (as it has the largest and clearest amethyst crystal embedded within – amethyst being the crystal of ‘awareness’ and ‘healing’ among other things), but also the solution for those problems for the princess. Yet he is paralyzed by his obligation of just being the navigator and due to the ‘chains’ that bind him, he can’t really make the princess turn around and face the main issues. Instead he just watches as she spends all her time throughout the journey focusing on the little things that don’t hold much value. Then again, who is he to talk? He has issues of his own that constantly seem to haunt him. He knows what they are clearly, but he’s doing nothing about them, instead he remains entrapped, and keeps focusing on the issues of the Princess; all the while steering this vessel as smoothly as possible in these troubled waters with swords popping out of no where.
Wow. Now that was a trip! In all honesty, had I not done this exercise, I would have never been able to come up with all that in the card! Isn’t it just amazing how connecting emotionally with a card can lead to such an enriching experience with the Tarot! Let’s add a spin to this and again connect with this card on an emotional level, but this time we do it in the ‘first person’ mode. In Step 2, I chose to be the princess, hence I feel it’s only fair that I be the mysterious stranger this time. I so wanna be the Princess again, but my Libra rising insists on instilling a sense of fairness and impartiality to the two figures. So let’s delve deep into the emotional narrative of the Mysterious Stranger…
I am in an underground labyrinth. The massive metallic swords and the bare stone walls only add a chill to the air within. The woman in front of me seems to be a princess. She isn’t afraid, nor is she nervous. She’s almost stoic, as if she already has an idea where she is heading, and in a way is just preparing herself for it. Yet, the way she is holding onto the ledge of the vessel, gently and subtly but very obviously, it’s almost like a part of her feels she cannot handle things all by herself, and thus needs a ‘support’ of sort. She certainly isn’t getting any from me.
I seem sinister at first, but I’m actually a slave to my position. My hands are chained to the steering rod of the vessel and it seems as though I’m stuck to being the navigator of this vessel for eternity. In a way, one would feel sorry for me, but I am more or less accustomed to my purpose in life, even though it may seem forced upon me. I suppose I’ve made peace with it and hence go about my work stoically. Maybe that’s what makes it bearable for me.
Despite our overall calm and serene appearance of the card, the water is incredibly ‘disturbed’ with all the ripples. The swords creeping up from below only seem to add to the ‘troubled waters’. Perhaps this reveals how the two of us truly feel from within, despite doing such a good job of masking our emotions.
The swords that dangle on top perhaps represent the various issues being faced by us. In the case of the Princess, she is only aware of the minor issues that though are important in the present moment, aren’t really the ones that need all her attention. Those are represented by the large sword behind her. Though she isn’t consciously aware of them, on a deeper level she is. Thus she can feel them weighing her down, but yet is unable to identify them. I however know what they are, but it isn’t my duty to say anything, for I bear a cross of my own. And even though I don’t try to think about it too often, the bright light next to that sword constantly reminds me of what’s looming above.
I know that the middle sword, the big one dangling in the center represents not just the problems, but also the solution for those problems for the princess. Yet I am paralyzed by my obligation of just being the navigator and due to the ‘chains’ that bind me, I can’t really make the princess turn around and face the main issues. Instead I just watch as she spends all her time throughout the journey focusing on the little things that don’t hold much value. Then again, who am I to talk? I have issues of my own that constantly seem to haunt me. I know what they are clearly, but I’m doing nothing about them, instead I remain entrapped, and keep focusing on the issues of the Princess; all the while steering this vessel as smoothly as possible in these troubled waters with swords popping out of no where.
Wow! That was even more intense than just narrating from a third person point of view. I would have never guessed, but after doing this exercise, I actually feel oh so connected with the Mysterious Stranger!
This actually reminded me of an incident not so long ago. I was giving a reading to a young woman who had quite a pampered and privileged upbringing. Perhaps the dark labyrinth represents the subconscious mind – the esoteric realms of the mind and universe that both, the reader and the seeker navigate through during a reading. She came asking a question many Tarot readers get asked numerous times (and I too am very guilty of asking all my Tarot reading friends this question over and over) “When will I find true love?” However, when I laid the cards out in the spread, it was clearly evident that she was going through a whole lotta shit, and needed to focus more on getting her life back on track rather than finding true love. (Due to privacy, I can’t really discuss what they were about, but let’s just say within a 7 card spread, there was a 7, 8, 9 of Swords – in different positions – as well as, the Devil and the Moon. I forget the other two, but they certainly weren’t ‘cups’ or ‘lovers’).
Now don’t get me wrong, I love reading Tarot. In fact, I can’t really imagine my life without the Tarot, but the reading was taking such a major toll on me that I did indeed feel like a ‘slave to my situation’. I tried my best to counsel her, as well as, help her see the ‘big picture’ and perhaps even go a step further and offer her some healing. She acknowledged a lot of her past issues were still plaguing her, but she refused to really focus upon them, claiming that she came here only to find out when she’ll find true love. A part of me felt she didn’t really understand the gravity of the situation she was in. Maybe it was denial, maybe she genuinely didn’t care; but it was clear she was truly turning a blind eye to them.
I so wanted to help her, and counsel her, and even offer to use forms of energy healing to ‘heal’ her past (and karmic) wounds that were making her life a living hell, but due to her insistence of knowing when she would find true love, I couldn’t really do anything about it. Then again, like the Mysterious Stranger, I too had my own issues in the area of love. Earlier this year, I had my heart broken (not once, twice) by two people. One was just a tool, the other was someone I truly cared about, and it took me many months (and 20 odd lbs worth of emotional eating) to fully heal from it (and lost about 10 lbs of those courtesy yoga and spinning). And thus, in a way, I felt like a hypocrite wanting to ‘heal’ her, and help her see the ‘light’ in this matter.
Plus, along with all that, I had to remember that in this case, I was merely her Tarot reader. Not her friend, nor her shrink, nor her spiritual helper. She wanted me to only answer this question, and didn’t really care about any spiritual guidance of any sort. Hence, I had to steer through those troubled waters, with swords popping out of no where. Unfortunately for her, the answer I got for her question, was many many years from now. She was a lil unhappy about the long wait, but in a way, she already knew that would be the answer. She began laughing at her predicament, and then asked a few more questions about her career and with that we ended the session when the hour was up. Even though she was happy with the session and paid me a lil extra, than my usual rate, I could still feel she needed someone to talk to and help her out. I had to control myself from reaching out and giving her a comforting hug, but alas, due to professional constraints, I couldn’t. I still at times say a prayer for her whenever I am reminded of her.
This also reminds me of a former friend of mine. We met about six years ago when I was eighteen, and we hit it off immediately. We were tight as two peas in a pod. We were so close that people would think we were brothers (I wasn’t out of the closet back then, so the gay angle wasn’t really something people would comment upon). However, as our friendship progressed, I came to realize he came from a very abusive past, where he was subject to numerous incidents of physical and mental/emotional abuse. This lead him to start experimenting with LSD, which lead to him snorting cocaine, and further on, shooting heroin. I kept crying inside as I saw him literally killing himself in such a manner filled with so much self-inflicted hate, that no matter how much I tried to help him ‘see the light’ and even get him to go to de-addiction centers and 12-Step programs, it was of no use. He’d go off the wagon after a couple of weeks of sobriety, and just continue his self-destruction. I stuck by his side for a good 3 and a half years, because I was his only friend, and the only person he could turn to (as he had alienated everyone). Sometimes I even bore the brunt when he would turn violent on me.
However, I then realized that I could no longer be his friend. I couldn’t help him out, because even though it hurt me to see him this way, he wasn’t really willing to help himself, as well as, in the process of trying to help him, I was ignoring my own life and my own issues. It was no longer a healthy friendship, and just like the heroin, I too had become a ‘crutch’ for him as I put up with everything he did. What can I say, I’m an extremely loyal friend. A few months after I made the firm decision of ending our friendship and pleading with him to get help, I began taking care of myself. I haven’t heard from him since. I tried contacting him, but apparently some new people had moved into the house he used to live in with his family, and he didn’t have a cell phone I could reach him on.
Gosh, now I’m getting all teary-eyed thinking about it. Sheesh!..Lol. Oh well, it’s all part of the parcel in being a Tarot Reader. Especially if you’re an empath on top of it all. Wow! Who would have figured the card I thought was scene from Phantom of the Opera was actually an emotional pictoral metaphor for this situation in my life? No wonder, as mentioned in Step 1, the card chose me to ‘navigate’ through this journey of 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card :D.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this emotional excursion of the 6 of Swords. And I do hope you all give this (and the previous steps) a try as well. I can totally guarantee it will be an intense and powerful experience.
Love and Blessings
This exercise was taken from Mary K Greer’s fantastic book, 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card. For more information about the exercises and the various ‘steps’ click HERE to purchase a copy of this masterpiece that’s a must have for every one ever acquainted with the Tarot.