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The Alternative Tarot Course, Week 1 Exercise: Choosing a Card for the Journey

I mentioned in my last post that the final exercise of week one of the Alternative Tarot Course was to pick a card from the reader’s reading to keep with me for the duration of the course. After spending yesterday debating back and forth, I settled on XVIII. The Moon.

the moon from the wild unknown tarot, © kim krans

There are a few reasons why this card is resonating with me in regard to my tarot journey:

  • The Moon is all about vivid fears and internal alarms: things I need to face and things I need to learn to listen for.
  • The Moon calls me to venture out into the darkness of my mental landscape despite the feeling of potential danger.
  • In many decks, this card illustrates a tug-of-war between the wildness inside of us and our externally enforced (and often internalized) domestication — the pull between lapdog and wolf, both baying at the moon out of instinct, even if the wolf retains more connection to the rest of its instincts than its domesticated counterpart. This appeals to the restlessness in me (more on that below).
  • The Moon challenges the Seeker to question everything. On the one hand, there is the message to let instinct guide; on the other is the idea that moonlight changes the appearance of our surroundings — things are not always what they appear to be after dark. There is a challenge to find balance between openness to the mystical/mysterious and a healthy dose of skepticism/grounding in reality.
  • Nighttime and moonlight tend to strip away pretense — many of the most honest, insightful conversations of my life have happened after civilization had gone to bed.

The connection to my inner restlessness has stood out most strongly to me. (I’ve used the handle “restlesscourage” in various places on the internet since high school. I’ve always struggled to put adequate words to the concept, but the basic idea is that deep-down desire to make a difference and save the day is always there, restless beneath the surface, waiting for a chance to shine. I wish I could always be courageous.) I am nearly always restless. I’m a chronic insomniac and over-thinker. My brain rarely stops moving. This is a card that calls me to lean into that restless, disquieted part of my spirit, to plumb its depths and explore its deep darknesses. And maybe, just maybe, if I am more in touch with what’s going on beneath the surface of my mind, I will find some reprieve…or at least a better appreciation for why I struggle to quiet my racing thoughts.

This decision inspired a name change for this blog: it started out (because I was at a total loss for a name) as Alyx Talks Tarot. Now, I’ve christened it Restless Tarot, which feels like it’s going to fit this journey well.

At the conclusion of the first week of the course, I feel ready, with The Moon lighting my way, to dive headlong into this study. It promises to be a wild, interesting ride.

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The Alternative Tarot Course Weekly Reading, Week 1: The Reader’s Reading

I’ve started taking Beth Maiden’s Alternative Tarot Course. I’m still in the first week, but I’m loving what I’m learning so far.

Beth gives a weekly reading as a part of each of the eight weeks of the course. The first week of the course material is all about you as the reader, your relationship to and beliefs about tarot, so it makes sense that the first reading follows this theme. The basic premise is that you draw six cards (laying them out however feels best to you) in answer to the following six questions:

  1. About you in general: what is your most important characteristic?
  2. What strengths do you already have as a tarot reader?
  3. What limits do you feel as you start this course?
  4. What key lessons can you learn on your developmental journey with tarot?
  5. How can you be open to learning and developing on this journey?
  6. What is the potential outcome of your tarot journey?

I did this reading with my Wild Unknown tarot deck. I shuffled the deck and drew the cards one by one, laying them out in pairs:

1 2

3 4

5 6

I resisted the impulse to look up meanings, instead working off intuition and memory for my reactions to the cards. (I did look each card up in the guidebook afterward to see if there was anything further that might be helpful.) Here are my results:

  1. XVI. The Tower. This was interesting, as it was definitely not a card I would have picked for myself on my own. It rings true, though. I have been through a lot of major upheaval, much of it sudden, in the past decade (particularly in the past six years), especially in terms of my identity and how I relate to the world. At this point, though I am definitely a creature of habit and can be greatly upset by relatively minor change, I am able to handle major change with a much higher level of calm than a lot of people.
  2. XX. Judgment. This made me happy – far from being a dark and guilt-inducing card, I see here the ability to, on the one hand, treat myself gently and with grace when I need it, but on the other, to shine light into dark corners so that they can be dealt with. I also see the ability to see the bigger picture of a situation, if I take the time to look around, and to remain clear-headed. From the guidebook: “No more blaming yourself or others, no more excuses.”
  3. Two of Cups. This one was tricky as a limitation, as I usually think of this as a pretty positive card. However, I did see a few things: I want to feel a connection to my cards all the time, and that isn’t particularly realistic. I am also in the honeymoon stage of my relationship with tarot, and I need to remember that all relationships worth maintaining do take work and dedication to maintain. There’s also something in this card that reminds me of my relationship with my partner, and the fact that I want to be able to share what I am learning about and from tarot with him; however, while he respects and supports the fact that tarot works for me, it’s something he has a hard time taking seriously, and I want to respect that.
  4. XVIII. The Moon. There are all sorts of valuable lessons to be learned here. I can learn to confront my more vivid fears and anxieties. I can be better attuned to the inner voice of wisdom and rationality, particularly in the moments where it is telling me to be cautious when what I want to do is rush headlong into a situation. This card tells me that I will be able to learn to explore the darker corners of my mind without fear, or perhaps in spite of fear.
  5. Ace of Pentacles. I will learn the most if I remember to ground myself regularly, to focus and put time and energy into this study. I need to allow new growth to spring forth from the parts of me inclined toward spiritual things – parts that have been dormant for quite a while.
  6. Nine of Swords. I won’t lie: I was extremely upset when this card came up here…so upset, in fact, that I almost scrapped the whole reading. I mean, come on, twice in one week? But that’s not a good attitude to go into this with, so I stepped back and let myself think about it for a while, and then I realized why this was the right card for this position: if I focus on tarot and meditation, I will have better control of my anxiety, and I will be able to deal with it head-on. The better equipped I am to deal with it, the less power it will have over me. From the guidebook: “You’ll be battling with yourself, so turn to others for help. Find joy. Reach out.” I’m choosing to read this card as the message that tarot (and perhaps the online tarot community, as well) will help me deal more productively with my points of inner darkness.

The final exercise for this first week of the course is to pick a card from this reading to carry with me for the duration of the course. I’m going to give myself a day or two to contemplate the reading, look back on it, see what cards come up in my personal readings that might point me in one direction or another. Right now I’m leaning toward one of the Major Arcana that popped up, but we’ll see.

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Wrestling with AnxietyBrain

I don’t think I’ll be posting personal readings here often, but this one was interesting.

Today I had to schedule a minor surgical procedure…minor in scope, but major in that I am transgender, and this operation involves letting medical professionals poke and prod at my butt. There’s not exactly a long and glorious history of good treatment of trans people by medical professionals in situations where our unconventional genital configurations are even tangentially involved, so I am (I think understandably) very, very anxious about this. I have been putting this off for months because of this anxiety, but the time has come, and now that it’s been scheduled (for a scant 12 days away), I have been fighting AnxietyBrain in a major way.

I decided that some tarot-driven meditation would be a good way to start bringing my brain back around to some semblance of calm and groundedness, and I decided to go with a five-card spread to tackle the question of how to best deal with this intense anxiety. A five-card spread, as I generally do it, goes from top left, down to the bottom, to top right, like this:

1. The question.

2. The situation/background – how we got here.

3. A strength or weakness I’m bringing to the table – or, often, something that is both a strength and a weakness.

4. This card can be more ambiguous, but the two basic categories it tends to fall into are outside influences or internal struggles surrounding the issue.

5. The answer.

Despite the fact that it made perfect sense, I was almost surprised that I drew the 9 of Swords for the first card. Obviously, the card of nightmares and anguish perfectly matched my extreme anxiety, but in the nine months that I’ve had this deck, I am reasonably certain that I have never once pulled this card. Of course, that makes its impact that much more powerful – I really am a writhing ball of anxiety right now, and the horror this card conveys feels like an accurate reflection of my brain today.

I was puzzled for a moment by The World showing up in the second position, but then it came to me: The World is all about wholeness, and the point of this surgery is to deal with a recurring problem in such a way that it is able to heal from the inside out, finally preventing it from coming back, and leaving my body whole again. I am not going under the knife for no reason, and it is good to be reminded of that.

The Ace of Pentacles changes meaning for me on a regular basis, but today it revolved around being grounded – something that is both a strength and a weakness in this instance. See, on the one hand, I have a firm grip on reality, which generally allows me to remain calm and level-headed. On the other, I have a firm grip on reality, which means I’m well aware of the sorts of horrors my trans siblings have faced in medical situations, which is causing me to panic now.

The 2 of Pentacles is all about balance, and that’s something I am struggling with in a big way – balancing my anxiety and the rest of life, ultimately. I have a full time job (thankfully, and I am lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive supervisor AND department head), and other responsibilities, and I need to be able to juggle those despite feeling like I’m seconds away from toppling headlong into the abyss when AnxietyBrain attacks.

The 3 of Pentacles (it’s fascinating that these three ended up all in a row – the deck wasn’t in any particular order, and then I shuffled it several times further before starting) is the obvious answer that I’m really bad at reaching on my own – teamwork. My partner is taking the day of my surgery off work to come with me and advocate for me, and he’s just generally wonderful and supportive and wants to help however he can. My instinct, when I get super anxious, is to go to ground and shut myself off from everyone, even people like him who I know are safe and who love me, because I feel toxic and I’m afraid of infecting the people around me. Ultimately, though, that instinct is wrong and unhealthy – if I am not open and honest about my anxiety, it festers and gets so much worse. I need to let my partner help me if I want to get through this without totally losing my mind.

Sometimes, at the end of a five-card spread, I’ll pull a sixth card, which may or may not have bearing on the rest. This time around, it was the 2 of Cups, which perfectly confirmed the answer: I have a wonderful, supportive partner who is the love of my life, and I need to lean on him just like I would want him to lean on me were our roles reversed.

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I’m struggling with some major anxiety today, and decided to do something I’ve never done before – take out my tarot cards on my lunch break at work. I drew one card, looking for some encouragement, and this is what it was. Of all the court cards in this deck, the Father of Pentacles is the one that best encompasses my aspirations regarding the man I’m trying to be. It’s a nice reassurance that I’m pointed in the right direction, even if I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed right now.