You, Me or the Universe?

One of my favorite on-line debates involves what to do with the court cards.  The traditional approach is to consider them as other people involved in, or with an interest in, the querent’s situation. It even went so far as attempting to describe the physical appearance of the person in question. But with the rise of psychological interpretation in tarot and the prevalence of  self-reading as a tool for increasing one’s self-awareness, this is very often too narrow a rule-of-thumb.

When doing daily readings for myself, I recognize that I don’t leave home on most days so the prospects of encountering another person as shown by a court card are minimal. Since I perform daily readings more to show the “tone” of the coming day than the anticipated occurrence of events, I default to the second major indication for the court card: personal characteristics, qualities or attitudes I should either adopt or avoid in dealing with my immediate environment. A third possibility – what the Universe offers in the way of impersonal energies or forces surrounding me at that particular moment – I treat as a “background” vibration.

For those who spend much of their day in a public setting, interaction with other people is typically the main focus of a court card’s influence. I like to say that sitters will respond most favorably to my suggestion that a court card shows another person when they want to blame someone else for their troubles, so I always propose that possibility first. If they draw a blank on whom that might be, I change gears and move on to the psychological implications of the card. Here I like Aleister Crowley’s delineation of the “moral characteristics” of the court cards in The Book of Thoth as my working model. I advise my clients about the general qualities of any interactive scenario they may find themselves in, and the posture they would be wise to adopt to make the most of their situation. I have even created spreads for just this purpose, notably my “Fool in the Middle” workplace dynamic spread.

If there is no potential for interpersonal cooperation or conflict within the context of the question, I prompt my sitters to consider any broader aspects of their life circumstances that may exhibit the nature of the court card(s) involved. This is usually the least productive angle of approach because it can fall into the “tell me something I didn’t already know” category. Still, when all else fails, this can allow the reading to progress where it might otherwise stall.

My forum mates often agonize over being unable to tell the difference between the various “faces” a court card may present in the matter. Because I only read in-person, I put the burden on the sitter to tell me which of the three main descriptions makes the most sense, and explore that option first. Obviously, with the rise of on-line reading, this opportunity is limited or non-existent, so the context provides the only clue to the significance of the card. If the question deals with how to handle an interpersonal matter, I initially go after the “other person” perspective to see how that suits the client’s understanding of the situation. (I always trust the sitter’s subconscious knowledge of his or her own reality over my second-hand impressions.) If the question is more along the lines of “What will happen?” or “How should I proceed?” in a personal sense, I take the second path and talk about psychological ramifications. Finally, if the question is “What will my life be like over the next six months?” I may float all three in a general way, with more emphasis on the “background vibration.”

The court cards present the greatest interpretive challenge to the reader because they are so kaleidoscopic and fluid in their applicability. The best advice for dealing with this conundrum comes from James Ricklef in his observations on how to address puzzling cards: just let them “simmer in your consciousness. They will eventually make sense. They always do.”

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