JULY 29th: Tarot Every Witch Way: Food!

by Kevin Pelrine

Tarot Every Witch Way: Food!

Saturday July 29th 4pm / $15


One of the most beautiful and intriguing things about the tarot is that it can be interpreted and experienced in an infinite number of ways. There are foods, oils, herbs, music, crystals, and more that can be used to help you better understand the cards. 
Join me for this series of workshops where we examine tarot every "witch way." Take one or all the classes as we dive into the depths of an ancient medium where few have truly tread.

This workshop will give an in depth culinary exploration of the major arcana cards and their corresponding foods. Learn how to better understand the cards through recipes and tastings. We will sample Fool's Deviled Eggs to help with beginnings, endings and transitions in our lives. A sensual chocolate dessert to explore the Strength/Lust card will also be served, and much more will be discovered as we fully taste the rainbow of delight the Tarot has to offer.

Lilith Dorsey M.A. , hails from many magickal traditions, including Celtic, Afro-Caribbean, and Native American spirituality. Her traditional education focused on Plant Science, Anthropology, and Film at the University of R.I., New York University and the University of London, and her magickal training includes numerous initiations in Santeria also known as Lucumi, Haitian Vodoun, and New Orleans Voodoo .

$15 + $5 fee for food (payable to Lilith at the class)

4 Charles Place, Brooklyn

All tickets final. Limited to 12 people.

JULY 27th: Omamori: Japanese talisman pouch making & embroidered magic

by Kevin Pelrine

Omamori: Japanese talisman pouch making & embroidered magic
with Erika Harada. 
Thursday July 27th, 7:30pm
$35, includes materials. 


We will be touching on the long and somewhat mysterious history of Japanese talismanic charm pouches known as Omamori, as well as the contents of the bag -- objects will be provided, such as certain crystals and sigils known as fuda, that participants can put inside before it is stitched shut. For this portion of the workshop, please think of what you want to specifically be protected against in advance, as that will determine the contents of your bag, along with the sigil used. The bag will then be finished with a sealing knot called the Omamori musubi.

After we make the Omamori, we will be working on making a few pieces of Semamori, or protective embroidery, which are traditional symbols typically stitched onto items of clothing on the upper back area for young children. This old tradition has recently been revived, and has started appearing on clothing meant for adults as well. We will be stitching a few symbols onto provided pieces of felt, which can then be used as patches or sewn onto your own clothes as a protective charm.

Basic sewing skills are not required for this class, but will probably make it a bit easier.

Please come prepared with a needle and black thread, an article of clothing you would want embroidered for protection (optional), and an idea of specific problems you would like to protect against.

Erika Harada is an artist and craftsperson who is infinitely curious about the universe and how it works. She loves studying anthropology, along with biology and natural sciences, and finds it easier to balance spiritual beliefs with scientific principle than one would think. Her latest line of products include wearables and talismans that merge contemporary pagan principles with her roots in Japanese animism.


JULY 25th: Tarot for Beginners with Kevin Pelrine

by Kevin Pelrine

Tarot for Beginners with Kevin Pelrine

Tuesday July 25th, 7:30pm


Tarot class for total beginners! 
This class is for all of you who have been interested in tarot but never knew where to begin. 
Do you have a deck and are confused about how to use it?
Did you get a reading once and want to know more?
This is for you. 

Starting with a brief introduction to the history of tarot, I'll try to dispel some common misconceptions, and lay the ground for why and how the tarot has maintained its popularity for hundreds of years. 

We'll use the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) deck* as an entry in to tarot symbolism, covering the broad strokes of
The Minor & Major Arcana (including helpful tips for memorization), plus elemental and astrological attrubutions. 

I'll go over some practical tips for how to read for other people, tarot meditations, and grounding exercises. 
The goal of this class is give you a solid foundation to begin your own tarot exploration. There are as many ways to read the tarot as there are tarot readers. Your journey is your own. 

*This deck is not required for this class. All decks are welcome. We can compare other decks against the RWS to see how the symbols translate from deck to deck. 
Please bring a journal and a writing utencil. 

$25 (limited to 15 people). $20 early-bird tickets available through July 17th. 
4 Charles Place
Bushwick, 11221

Kevin Pelrine is the co-founder of the Tarot Society Gallery & Reading Room in Bushwick. He is a tarot reader and educator with a special love of introducing tarot to beginners. Since opening Tarot Society in 2015 with partner Darcey Leonard, he has curated numerous exhibitions of tarot-themed art and performance, as well as hosting workshops and classes on hermeticism, astrology, and herbalism. Kevin lives in Bushwick with his cat amidst a pile of books.

Ayurveda Workshop for Kapha (winter) balancing Diet/Lifestyle

by Kevin Pelrine

Earth & Water: Ayurveda for Kapha (winter) balancing Diet/Lifestyle

A class and workshop with Ayurvedic Mama Elisa Garcia de la Huerta. 

Join Ayurvedic Mama Elisa Garcia de la Huerta for an afternoon of lecture, conversation, kapha balancing meditation, aromatherapy and self-abhyanga (ayurvedic massage). During this hands-on healing journey, participants will be invited to experience Ayurvedic Mama’s unique fusion of sacred, alchemical processes for personal health and healing. Rekindle mind-body-soul balance as you take away simple, practical, empowering tools for daily self-love and self-care. This workshop focus on understanding the basic principles of Ayurveda specially applied to Winter season and Kapha constitution, which can benefit to any individual but specially those who tend to feel depressed, stagnation or overweight or any other imbalance during winter, focusing on routine and diet to empower yourself to improve harmony between your mind and body, stamina and vitality.

Sunday February 19th, 3-6pm
$25 advance/$30 at the door (suggested donation)
Space is limited. Reserve your spot

Email info@tarotsociety.us for more information


Please wear comfortable, loose clothing. Participants are encouraged to bring their own towel a blanket or a yoga mat. Oils and other essentials to the healing practice will be provided, including supplies to take home and begin your daily, self-healing spiritual hygiene manyana.
- Introduction to the principles of Ayurveda and Kapha (Earth & Water) (Winter) more in depth conversation.
- Simple asana (yogic stretching) and pranayama breath work to warm-up.
- A chakra-balancing ayurvedic meditation technique done while listening to a healing binaural soundscape. We will deepen our awareness of each chakra center in relation to organs and elements in our body.
- Ayurvedic aromatherapy for balancing our body’s earth element. Though the grounding effect of smell, we learn to connect deeply to nature. Drinking in the essence of 5 powerful essential oils, we’ll experience their benefits firsthand while learning how to apply the practice to our daily life.
-A guided, candle-lit body self-abhyanga ayurvedic massage to a binaural soundscape. We’ll go through the body’s marma points (energy pathways) as well as learn about the different oil bases appropriate to various body types and seasons. Through the healing effects of warm oil massage, we’ll consciously balance our body’s air and space elements as we calm the mind and heal the heart.
-Practical conversation about diet and lifestyle for Kapha constitution or any concerns in general to be able to confidently slowly start applying any of these tools into our daily routine.

About Workshop Instructor Ayurvedic Mama Elisa Garcia de la Huerta
In addition to being a holistic ayurvedic practitioner, Elisa Garcia is well known for her work as an interdisciplinary visual artist and co-leader of the radical feminist collective Go! Push Pops. South American by blood, Garcia situates her work within a family lineage of “Meicas” - herbalist medicine woman at work in the garden, earth and kitchen. Her approach to teaching incorporates divine feminine principles and consciousness-raising as the tools of transformation. Integrating her Chilean roots with sacred ayurveda, Garcia teaches that only when we find our own inner healer and begin to see ourselves as miniatures of nature, will we experience self-love. Her vision to balance the masculine and feminine energies within us all, heal her community and Mother Earth make Elisa a unique teacher. Through her particular, intercultural philosophy, you can empower and heal yourself utilizing the pillars of indigenous, eco-earth-conscious contemporary ayurveda - Awareness, Sustainable Living, Love, Peace and Patience.
@AyurvedicMama on Facebook and Instagram

Tarot Class for Beginners February 21st

by Kevin Pelrine

Tarot for Beginners with Kevin Pelrine

This class is for all of you who have been interested in tarot but never knew where to begin. 

Do you have a deck and are confused about how to use it?
Did you get a reading once and want to know more?
This is for you.
Starting with a brief introduction to the history of tarot, Kevin will try to dispel some common misconceptions, and lay the ground for why and how the tarot has maintained its popularity for hundreds of years.
We'll use the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) deck* as an entry in to tarot symbolism, covering the broad strokes of the Minor & Major Arcana (including helpful tips for memorization), plus elemental and astrological attributions.
In the second half of the class, I'll go over some practical tips for how to read for other people, tarot meditations, and grounding exercises. 
The goal of this class is give you a solid foundation to begin your own tarot exploration. There are as many ways to read the tarot as there are tarot readers. Your journey is your own.

*This deck is not required for this class. All decks are welcome. We can compare other decks against the RWS to see how the symbols translate from deck to deck. 
Please bring a journal and a writing utensil.

Tuesday, Feb. 21st, 7:30pm
$20 (limited to 20 people)
4 Charles Place
Bushwick, 11221


Kevin Pelrine is the co-founder of the Tarot Society Gallery & Reading Room in Bushwick. He is a tarot reader and educator with a special love of introducing tarot to beginners. Since opening Tarot Society in 2015 with partner Darcey Leonard, he has curated numerous exhibitions of tarot-themed art and performance, as well as hosting workshops and classes on hermeticism, astrology, and herbalism. Kevin lives in Bushwick with his cat amidst a pile of books.

Spellbound: The photos of Chris Carlone

by Kevin Pelrine

Spellbound: The photos of Chris Carlone opening Feb. 11th

Buried Love, 2011 ©Chris Carlone

Buried Love, 2011
©Chris Carlone

Opening reception Saturday February 11th, 8pm

Tarot Society Gallery & Reading Room

4 Charles Place, Brooklyn, 11221

A collection of film and digital portraits, video art, and sound spanning the years of 2011 to 2016 by Brooklyn artist Chris Carlone

Featuring portraits of the amazing artists...
Amanda Jo Williams
Rachel Mason
Emily Ruth James
Victoria Moyer
Lauren T. Mack
Matthew Silver
Deirdre O'Keefe
Pascal Yen-Pfister
Jacquelyn Marie Shannon & Tracie Kidd Shannon
Paige Johnson-Brown
Representative l - Nurya Chana-Jennie Portney-Destefano DeLuise
Lucy Kerr
Davey Mitchell
Margherita Tisato
Holly Chernobyl
Leah Marie Beltran

Jacquelyn Marie Shannon & Tracie Kidd Shannon, ©Chris Carlone

Jacquelyn Marie Shannon & Tracie Kidd Shannon, ©Chris Carlone

Providing a spellbinding soundtrack to the evening...
NYC Accordionist Melissa Elledge!

There will be live performance offerings from Omer Gal and Jacquelyn Marie Shannon of Cookie Tongue (Music and dance), as well as original songs from Paige Johnson Brown of Irrevery. 

Chicago Butoh dancer and Performance Artist Holly Chernobyl  ©Chris Carlone

Chicago Butoh dancer and Performance Artist Holly Chernobyl

©Chris Carlone

Since 1987, Chris Carlone has lived a lucky life of a Performance Artist, Butoh Artist, Photographer, Video Artist, Musician, Actor and Dancer. The common thread throughout all of his work is his intense love of discovery, beauty, magic, people and what can happen in the moment when you are completely open.

Announcing a new class: Practical Tips for Tarot Reading with Dr. Al Cummins

by Kevin Pelrine

Practical Tips for Tarot Reading

Tuesdays January 24th and 31st, 7:30pm at Tarot Society ::: GET TICKETS HERE :::

Introducing a new 2 part workshop for all diviners who inevitably ponder these questions at one time or another:

"A lot of troubling cards are cropping up in this reading - how do i broach cautioning the client not to do something dangerous they seem set on doing?"

"Sometimes the cards feel especially “charged” after a good reading: is there anything particularly I can do with that, ritually?"

"I seem to read Tarot differently to anyone else I know, but how do I get better at my own style?"

"Having identified the issues facing me or a client, what magical actions can I take to get the most out of the situation?"

As anyone who has read Tarot for friends or clients an attest, being a skilled and effective diviner is about far more than simply knowing what Tarot cards signify.

It is about how to set a good question, and how to avoid inadvertent doom prophecy or self-deception. It requires setting boundaries and meeting expectations. It can bring up questions of ethics, honesty, ‘bedside manner’ and confidentiality. It also frequently challenges diviners in aspects of their own practices: from spiritual hygiene, protection and empowerment; to more shifts in perspective and approach to their craft.

In this 2 part workshop, Dr Alexander Cummins, a diviner, performance coach and historian of magic, hosts discussion and analysis of the wider practicalities of being a good Tarot reader. This will include exploring techniques for ensuring clarity, focus, insight, and eloquence in the readings we give, as well as investigating perspectives on spirit-work and sorcery as part of one’s divining.

Learn how to begin to develop your own techniques for reading Tarot; how to use significator cards in image magic and spell-craft; how to divine and execute magical assistance and remediating rituals to clients facing difficulties and attempting to ensure their success. Discuss best practice methodologies and perspectives on being a professional and ethical worker. Celebrate Tarot’s mysteries and magic.

Part 1: Professionalism
Tuesday Jan. 24th

In this workshop, we discuss best practice, ethics, and confidentiality, as well as styles of reading, communication skills, making and keeping healthy boundaries. It also includes material on techniques, rituals, and materia for keeping your space, tools, self and business spiritually or magically healthy, clean and sharp.

Part 2: Remedies
Tuesday Jan. 31st

This workshop deals with how to pull useful solutions from your readings - either cautioning a client to be wary of something, or advocating they do some kind of magical or spiritual working to alleviate unhelpful conditions and help secure beneficial outcomes. It includes tips on what herbs can be used for focusing on specific matters in a reading, as well as revealing hidden matters. Finally, we will explore ways in which cards can be used for operative sorcery, such as the image magic if using significators as poppets or ritually destroying cards that represent obstacles.

Dr. Alexander Cummins is an historian, poet, diviner, and magician whose work focuses on necromancy, grimoires, and folk magic, as well as divination. He lectures and facilitates workshops across Brooklyn and Manhattan. He reads Tarot, playing cards, and geomancy, with a style that includes proscription and prescription, delivering both fresh perspectives and practical magical remedies for the situations identified.

$20 each. All ticket sales are final. One does not need to take part 1 in order to take part 2. Mix as you please!

Cover image from Tarot of the New Vision

New Tarot Society tote bags are in!

by Kevin Pelrine

New Tarot Society tote bags are in! 

Hand silkscreened white on black heavy duty cotton tote with flat bottom and 24" straps. Fits nicely over your shoulder. Each one comes with a randomly selected card from the mini Marseilles Tarot. Get yours today! $15 + shipping. 

$15 + shipping



by Kevin Pelrine

Tarot Society and Music Off McGolrick present: All of Them Witches: Music & Ritual at the Park Church Co-op

Friday Oct. 21st, 8pm

Tarot Society and Music off McGorlick present
Music and Ritual
at the Park Church Co-op

Songs for the Spirits
Reverend Mother Flash
Laura Ortman
Kate Mohanty
Jezmina Von Thiele - Romani dance

Opening ritual by Britta Love
Readings by Kristen Sollee from her upcoming book
"Witches, Sluts and Feminists:Conjuring the Sex Positive"
Tarot Readings by Tarot Society
Color to Clarity with Jenny Viera

$10 cover
Opening Ritual at 8 pm and show at 9 pm. 

Park Church Co-op
129 Russell St. 
Greenpoint, G train to Nassau
Guest Bartender: Piper Durabo (Puro Instinct)

Songs for the Spirits
Darcey Leonard is a singer, performance artist, DJ, and palm reader living in Brooklyn. She is the founder of the House of Screwball as well as the Tarot Society Gallery and Reading room. Since 1998, she has been an essential part of the music scene as an "empressario" in Boston, LA and Brooklyn, where she nurtured many aspiring artists. She is now debuting her personal music project, "Songs for the Spirits" in which she vocally composes and performs her own work a capella. Darcey is also working in collaboration with Australian composer/arranger, Andrew Dalziell on an upcoming EP with string arrangements, to be released next year.

Songs for the Spirits, photo by Jason Speakman

Songs for the Spirits, photo by Jason Speakman

Reverend Mother Flash
Paige A. Flash has lend her artistry to many fields within media. Her entertainment career began in 2000 when she joined the noise group Laundry Room Squelchers. She currently performs with Cult Of Youth, a Brooklyn based post-punk neofolk influenced band.� 
Her performance art became more distinct, veering away from it's noise roots and music scene when she began working at Jumbo's Clown Room. Also in San Francisco she formed the alternative burlesque group The Damnettes, which consisted of choreographed entertainment skits that were conceptual and political in nature. �Paige took on the moniker Reverend Mother Flash and began producing shows throughout the bay area. In NYC she began performing solo throughout the nightlife scene still as the Reverend Mother Flash. She can be seen at Badass Burlesque and with House of Screwball where she currently holds residencies. She also can be seen gigging at a variety of Manhattan and Brooklyn based venues, Burlesque productions� and Nightclub events. She is also a writer, director and actress in small budget films as well as works in art department for films that run the gamut from indie to big budget features.� 

Reverend Mother Flash

Reverend Mother Flash

Laura Ortman
NYC's Laura Ortman (White Mountain Apache) received the FIRST NATIONS COMPOSERS INITIATIVE Award Grant for founding The Coast Orchestra, the all-Native American orchestra in 2008. She was a member of the THE DUST DIVE and STARS LIKE FLEAS, has written & recorded two solo albums (recorded by Martin Bisi) She was selected for the 2014-15 Rauschenberg Residency in Captiva, Florida. 

Laura Ortman, photo by Jason Speakman

Laura Ortman, photo by Jason Speakman

Kate Mohanty
A saxophonist of 20 years, Kate Mohanty's music exists in the avant-garde realm. She performs solo improvisations under the title The Neue Avant-Garde Project. Kate is also a member of Brooklyn-based experimental trio Parlor Walls.

Kate Mohanty

Kate Mohanty

Intuition and the Art of Tarot: a video portrait of Lynn Sabulski

by Kevin Pelrine

In this video Lynn talks about tarot as a tool for personal transformation, responsible use of intuition, newcomers' common fears, and how to deal with skeptics. 

Lynn Sabulski has been reading with Tarot Society since 2014 and has become one of most requested tarot readers. Her clairvoyant, clairaudient readings are deeply personal and incorporate dream interpretation with uncanny accuracy. She also practices shamanic Reiki and crystal therapy. 

Lynn reads at The Keep (205 Cypress Ave., Ridgewood) every Thursday 8pm-12 midnight, and by appointment through Tarot Society. 

Lynn's website

Production: Kazi Elman Awal, Noah Caldwell
Edit / Final Cut: Noah Caldwell

Material Happiness: a reading for the New Year

by Charles Olbert in

A reading for the New Year

Happy New Year! And happy indeed it may be. The portents for the New Year speak of material happiness. The Nine of Chalices is a fine place to begin in this solar nadir. Now is a good time to push forward and try to close the circle on any projects, relationships, or goals that 2015 left open-ended. If the end of the year seemed brimming with losses and abandonments to you, it may have been that life was simply making room for more genuine riches and wonders.

(9 of Cups, King of Pentacles, XXI The World, 2 of Swords, XX Judgement; Prisma Visions Tarot)

(9 of Cups, King of Pentacles, XXI The World, 2 of Swords, XX Judgement; Prisma Visions Tarot)

Solidifying a sense of pleasure and emotional well-being may lead to a new phase this year in which you feel more of a sense of security and control, especially over your material situation. This year is a good time to be king of your castle (or at the very least to shack up with someone else who can give you that sense of security).

Move toward a sense of solid footing in the world and mastery over your environment and career, but don’t forget that the purpose of doing so is to fuel and be fueled by your inner life. It’s easy to backslide into thinking that our material position and possessions in this world reflect the truth about How Things Are. If you’re doing well, don’t make the mistake of thinking you have it all; conversely, if things aren’t going so well for you and you’re struggling, don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is the way things are or that the world is an inherently bad place. All of the King cards should put us in mind of the Wheel of Fortune—those who now reign will soon only have reigned, and those who have no reign may soon come into their kingdom.

As the year progresses, keep in mind that the world is much bigger than you. Remember that genuine happiness and progress come from the recognition and encouragement of human beings, not from our personal material circumstances. Whatever rulership and power you come into (or dream of coming into) this year, remember that you only ever see, understand, and master a tiny sliver of something far bigger than you can ever comprehend. You may think you’ve got it made this year; you may find someone who thinks The World of you (or who you think The World of); you may believe that you’ve figured it all out. Things are going to look a feel momentous!

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if that’s you this year, you’re getting ahead of yourself. This is just one year of many. All of these illusions are subject to a corrective, and you’re going to have to make peace with that. You might find yourself stuck, or feeling pulled backward toward a loss of momentum. This is a good thing. Too much grandiosity requires a deflation, and these deflations are painful. The phenomenologist Edmund Husserl puts the pain of this deflation nicely: “Can we live in this world, where historical occurrence is nothing but an unending concatenation of illusory progress and bitter disappointment?” (Husserl, 1954, p. 7).

Handling that deflation with good grace and a sense of fairness and balance will get you through to the other side. As painful as these correctives may be, they can bring you toward a greater sense of who you are. You may even find this year that an unwelcome puncturing of your illusions about the world and your place in it bring you toward self-transformation—a sort of transformation and inner movement that may set up you to break through the illusions and truly come to understand something about yourself and the world after all.

The overall lesson of this reading is to take time this year to reflect on the differences between the inner and the outer world (and inner and outer successes); don’t mistake one for the other. Good luck. It’s looking like it’s going to be a powerful year that starts off with positive energy that ultimately contains the potential to bring you into a greater sense of harmony with your greater purpose.

Charles Olbert is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Fordham University. He cultivates longstanding personal and academic interests in Western esoteric, hermetic, and mystic traditions and maintains a daily Zen meditation practice. He is a recent graduate of Stuart Südekum's Tarot Symbolism course. 

Tarot Society gift certificates now available

by Kevin Pelrine

Get read for the year ahead!

What better way to start the New Year than with a reading at Tarot Society? Tarot Society gift certificates are now available online or in-person at our December Holiday Market now through the 23rd. Choose what kind of reading you'd like to give - tarot, palmistry, or astrology - or let them choose! Available in $30, $60, and $120 values. All readings take place in our private reading room at 4 Charles Place in Bushwick. 

Choose a time (*Astrology readings are 30 minute minimum)

Astrological Forecast for December 2015

by Denora Indigo Crystal

Astrological Forecast for December 2015

by Denora Indigo Crystal


December starts with Saturn’s exact square to Neptune in the sky, making us choose between fantasy and reality. We will be forced to look at our dreams and find a way to make them a reality. With the square aspect, Saturn wants us to lean more on the side of reality, and how we can realistically reach our goals. The Neptune square can put a fog around our path, making obstacles unclear during this time. Try not to be deluded with any fantasy ideas as they can be of no use with Saturn squaring the planet of imagination. 

Venus goes into Scorpio on December 6th. She usually doesn’t like Scorpio, especially as Libra is her favorite sign besides Taurus. Pay close attention to what happens on December 5th, as she is at the anorectic degree that day. When she is in Scorpio, we become obsessed over our desires and our passions. It is a time to see something fully go through, because you will want it to with a burning desire. She’s very intense in this sign, so allow for all passion to flow creatively, especially when she trines Neptune from December 6th to December 13th. 

Mars is in Libra all month, making us all fair players in the game. Mars normally doesn’t operate to his fullest potential in Libra, however he uses the scales of justice to his advantage and makes sure everything is balanced. It’s great weather for dating, as men will be more in the mood for romance as opposed to competition.  He opposes Uranus on December 11th, allowing for emotional freedom and separation that day. If something comes apart, it was in everyone’s best interests.

We have a new moon on December 11th and a full moon on Christmas day. Christmas will have the light of the heavens that day, so it should be a particularly good holiday this year. Mercury finally leaves Sagittarius and enters Capricorn on December 11th, so communications will then be straight to the point, without any mental dribble. When Mercury is in Sagittarius, he tends to overthink. In Capricorn he is much more diplomatic and direct.

Limited edition Hanged Man print by Kyla Quigley

by Kevin Pelrine

The Hanged Man.

By Kyla Quigley.

2 color screen print. 18x24" unframed. $30 + shipping. 

Kyla Quigley: The Hanged Man's Harvest - sculpture and print drawn from the Major Arcana will be on view at the Tarot Society Gallery Nov. 7th-11th. 

The call is coming from inside the house...

by Charles Olbert in

A reflection on the 8 of Swords

    Not long ago a close friend asked me what my read was on the 8 of Swords. As luck would have it I had just drawn this card in consultation with the deck regarding someone dear to me (needless to say I didn’t like what I saw in the draw – fitting for a card depicting a blindfolded figure). Time soon revealed the truth of my own draw (let’s just say things got downright chaotic there for a spell—but fear not: it turns out that it’s possible to reverse into morning what once was night). The double-appearance of our blindfolded friend above sent the message loud and clear: rip off that blindfold and figure this card out! So without further ado: a reflection on the 8 of Swords.

    No matter our good intentions, careful plans, and clever stratagems fate has a way of blindsiding us. Work was going great until your colleague threw you under the bus; you had everything planned for that important presentation or meeting or date, then you forgot to set your alarm clock; your date was magical until you put your foot in your mouth; and you just had to bring up that recurring family argument at Thanksgiving dinner, didn’t you? No matter how spectacular your life seems to be going, the 8 of Swords is standing nearby in the shadows (hood)winking at you saying, “Sure, buddy, sure – just you wait.” 

    The Golden Dawn attribution for the 8 of Swords is The Lord of Shortened Force, as in: to be pulled up short. It signifies not situations that are objectively terrible, but rather ones in which our balance has gone out of whack. Recall that the suit of Swords represents invoked force (as opposed to Wands, which represents natural force); the 8 of Swords symbolizes those situations where for one reason or another we’ve invoked force—channeled our energies—in the wrong direction. We may be trying to force the issue, engage in pursuits that feel forced, or suddenly be forced to reckon with the flaws in our plans. Too much smoke, not enough fire; and before you know it, the heat source goes cold.

A hint toward a psychological reading of the 8 of Swords lies in A. E. Waite’s divinatory meanings, which include ‘crisis’ and ‘sickness.’ From a psychoanalytic perspective, conflict doesn’t mean disagreements with other people, but rather the competing incompatible wishes within us. Sometimes, yes, the alarm clock doesn’t go off because the power went out during the night; but sometimes we forget to turn the alarm clock on because we’re terrified of success (oh how we learn to love our faults) or out of resentment for someone who’s depending on us to show up tomorrow (revenge is oh so sweet). In the latter case, unconsciously forgetting to turn on the alarm represents a compromise solution, allowing you to maintain your self-image as a good and caring person while simultaneously letting you get back at your colleague (with a handy alibi in hand, no less). Symptoms (psychological ‘sicknesses’) arise when we repetitively fall into maladaptive compromises.

    In this psychological way of looking at the card, the 8 of Swords represents those situations in which we fail because we set ourselves up to fail—often (but not always) inadvertently or unconsciously. Because we need to fail. Because we set our sights on impossible goals. Because we can’t separate fantasy from reality. Because we can’t let go of fears and desires that no longer serve us. On my reading, the blindfold and ropes in the 8 of Swords image signify not external barriers to success, but rather the ways in which our own desire not to know ourselves sets limits to our development and how we tie our own hands because we can’t reckon with our own power, fantasy, and desire. The 8 of Swords alerts us to the symptomatology of putting too much faith in our conscious intellect and strategizing while not properly attending to the deeper currents running within.

    These dynamics—these symptoms—play out dramatically in intimate relationships (a common source of questions that querants bring to tarot readings!). Romantic partnerships provide fertile ground for examining how our complexes and impossible fantasies trip us up and keep us blind to ourselves. The Jungian psychologist James Hollis in his book The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other describes the cycle that so many of us repeat as we stumble in, through, and out of relationships. First there’s attraction, then infatuation and the blaze of romance. In time, however, attraction and romance start to flicker out; and soon you’re arguing over whose turn it is to do the dishes when not so long ago you were giggling into each other’s necks – that, or all of a sudden you flame out in a spectacular fight that arose apparently out of the blue.

    Hollis’s diagnosis is simple: all relationships begin in projection: 

“What we do not know about ourselves, or will not face in ourselves, will be projected onto [our partners]. We project our childhood wounding, our infantile longing, and our individuation imperative onto [our partners].” 

In other words, what we’re really seeing in the sparkling newness of impassioned love is not the fundamentally withdrawn solitude of another human Other in all their astonishing, unique mystery. What we see in distorted, fantastical form is our own longing to be completed, healed—returned to paradise. For this reason, so many relationships bring us to the point of saying, “you’ve changed,” or asking, “how did I not see this about you before?” But your (ex-)lover didn’t change. You merely took off the blindfold.

    The problem with seeking the Magical Other that we hope will complete us is, of course, that only you can be in charge of you. No one else can complete you. No one else can relieve you of your suffering, even if they wanted to (and wouldn’t it be sadistic to truly ask others to martyr themselves for us?). No one else can carry your cross. Just as no one can swallow your breakfast for you, no one can take responsibility for you becoming yourself. Unconsciously desiring this inevitably leads to conflict and disappointment. Hollis again:

    “Since [our partners] cannot, and should not, bear responsibility for our wounds, our narcissism or our individuation, the projection gives way to resentment and the problem of power. The only way to heal a faltering relationship is to render our going home project conscious and take personal responsibility for our individuation.”

    It’s fitting, I think, that the astrological attribution for the 8 of Swords is Jupiter in Gemini, corresponding to the Major Arcana cards The Wheel of Fortune and The Lovers. Apart from its more obvious interpretations, The Lovers can signify our agency in choice: in choosing whom or what to love. When we are not clear on (or honest with ourselves about) what we want and need, and when we don’t take responsibility for our own desires, fantasies, and fears, then we will inevitably find ourselves subjected to the fate inherent within all projections and illusions: reality setting in. In the mirage of a love based on the shifting sands of projection it’s all too easy to be comfortable in our apparent reign; soon, however, the Wheel has turned and we’re without a kingdom. Love ungrounded in a true and clear sense of self ultimately goes the way of Ikaros – from “I’m king of the world!” to the Titanic sinking. 

    It doesn’t have to be this way, though—success in love doesn’t have to come down to chance, to a spin of the Wheel. Remember, the 8 of Swords represents a temporary situation, not permanent deprivation. We can transcend our complexes and repetitive failures through self-understanding, through individuation—by becoming ourselves. Hollis tells us that “the greatest gift to others is our own best selves. Thus, paradoxically, if we are to serve relationship well, we are obliged to affirm our individual journey.” In the case of romantic relationships, Hollis provides us with a roadmap in the form of six questions to ask ourselves (and “if we do not ask them of ourselves, then our partners will, or we will hit some wall which obliges us to begin”):

 "(1) Where do my dependencies show up in the relationship? (2) What am I asking my partner to do for me that I, as a mature adult, need to be doing for myself? (3) How do I repeatedly constrict myself through my historically conditioned attitudes and behavior patterns? (4) Am I taking too much responsibility for the emotional well-being of the Other? (5) Am I living my life in such a fashion that I will be happy with the consequences of my choices? If not, when do I plan to start? What fears, lack of permission or old behaviors block me from living my life? (6) In what ways do I seek to avoid suffering?”

    If these 8 Swords seem always to hang over your head, step back, take a deep breath, and take a hard look at the ways that you’re participating in the patterns that continually arise in your relationships; the ways in which you’re failing to take responsibility; the desires and fears you’ve refused to see that keep getting in the way. When you take off the blindfold you may find that what’s keeping you from the life and love you desire comes from within.

The Things We Carry

by Charles Olbert

A meditation on the 10 of Wands

I’ve drawn the 10 of Wands a lot this summer. The Golden Dawn system calls the 10 of Wands “The Lord of Oppression,” and between work pressure and personal life turmoil I had plenty of cause to contemplate what this card meant for me. Oppression can mean many things, as A.E. Waite notes in his divinatory meanings for the card: “The chief meaning is oppression simply, but it is also fortune, gain, any kind of success, and then it is the oppression of these things.” This, to me, held a key: that it’s not necessarily what we’re carrying, but how we carry it.

The 10 of Wands: Lord of Oppression 

The 10 of Wands: Lord of Oppression 

Choice lays two major traps. On the one hand we can become paralyzed by choice like Esther in Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar: unsure which fig to eat first, we stew in indecision while the figs blacken and rot on the tree, uneaten. On the other hand, we can say yes to every opportunity and become overwhelmed by our choices, buried under an embarrassment of riches.

When we put too much on our plate even the smallest obstacle can appear insurmountable. We don’t wash the dishes because there are too many piled in the sink; we avoid processing a lover’s hurtful comments because we’re sad enough already; we don’t put pen to paper on that unfinished poem or novel because we lost momentum and don’t know the next line. Frequently, once you grit your teeth and take the first step things don’t seem so bad after all. Once the work is over we sheepishly realize the monsters we feared weren’t so monstrous after all.

The Irish poet-priest John O’Donohue writes, “Sometimes a person has difficulty with work, not because the work is unsuited to him [sic], or he to it, but because his image of the work is blurred and defective. Frequently, such a person lacks a focus and has allowed the tender presence of his experience to become divided and split. His sense of work as expression and imagination has been replaced by an image of work as endurance and entrapment” (from Anam Cara, p. 154).

Sometimes, it’s true, we really have taken on too much. Often, however, the psychological gravity of what we’ve said yes to presses more heavily upon us than the actual weight of our obligations. This pressure can in turn lead us to foreclose on the possibilities for lightness and joy that our obligations might bring. The 10 of Wands puts the question to us: is our work oppressive, or merely the image of our work? Are we genuinely oppressed by our burdens, or have the looming abundances of our own fortune and choice crowded out more lithe and gentle perspectives on our experience? When the pack upon your back weighs too heavily upon you, perhaps it will take only a small shift of the shoulders for the load to feel lighter.  

Charles Olbert is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Fordham University. He cultivates longstanding personal and academic interests in Western esoteric, hermetic, and mystic traditions and maintains a daily Zen meditation practice.