A “Shadow Play” Example Reading

I know an artist  who is starting an on-line business, and I wanted to examine what her prospects are for success with my new “Shadow Play” spread. I used M.M Meleen’s Thoth-based Tabula Mundi Colores Arcus deck, with reversals.

All images © 2015 M,M. Meleen

At first glance, the “outwardly explicit” cards in the top row seem encouraging, if perhaps a bit ingenuous; they convey artistic talent (Empress) coupled with innate coordination skills (6 of Swords) that need seasoning in a “real-time” environment (Princess of Disks). But the “shadow” cards in the bottom row tell a decidedly more sobering story, suggesting the “hazards of inexperience” (Fool reversed) and the “risk of miscalculation” (Devil reversed). I read the Queen of Swords at the end as “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Interestingly, there are no reversed cards in the upper row, while 80% of them in the lower row are reversed. This appears to add emphasis to the elusive and clandestine nature of the “house” cards, which are only redeemed by the emphatic “house-cleaning” of the Queen of Swords, who whips them into line. (“Just do it, dammit! We’ll figure it out as we go.”) Notice, though, that there is no enabling collusion from the “direct” cards to give them a foothold in outer reality, so they could simply represent a psychological crisis of self-confidence that she can put behind her with a swift and sure pre-emptive strike (Queen of Swords).

The pairs also deliver a mixed message:

The Lovers shows the decision to move forward with the enterprise. The Hebrew letter associated with this card means “sword,” a weapon that cleaves (not a precise surgical instrument), and the Ace of Swords reversed as the “shadow companion” card implies that the launch could lack finesse or be insufficiently thought-out. It may be balanced on a knife’s edge, with razor-thin margins and little maneuvering room.

The Devil reversed coupled with the 6 of Swords makes me think she will have to be more Machiavellian in her approach than she would like in order to maintain control (or she may have to deal with the devious machinations of others). The Devil is the numerological counterpart of the Lovers (1+5=6) and it implies a “dark side” to the choices that had to be made. However, Sixes are harmonious in nature so it may all look like smooth sailing on the surface.

The Fool reversed doesn’t offer very firm ground for the Empress to stand on. The advice would be to pay attention to the footwork and don’t be too sanguine about an early appearance of success.

The 8 of Wands and the 3 of Swords reversed remind me of a severe case of “heartburn” due to eating (growing) too fast. But the distress is only temporary and will soon pass as things settle down.

The Princess of Disks underscored by the Queen of Swords indicates that she can’t succumb to laziness or her accounts could fall into disarray. The Queen could very well be depicting her nagging “higher mind” keeping her on-track.

I decided, however, to put a different spin on the reading of these parallel story lines. Think of them as two “sine-waves,” one forward (showing momentum) and the other reversed (showing inertia). The forward wave includes the Lovers, the Devil reversed, the Empress, the 3 of Swords reversed and the Princess of Disks. The reverse wave involves the Queen of Swords, the 8 of Wands, the Fool reversed, the 6 of Swords and the Ace of Swords reversed.

The Lovers and the Devil are “numerological counterparts,” in that both vibrate to the number Six. The Lovers depicts the agreeable exterior of the enterprise and the Devil describes its subterranean infrastructure (symbolic plumbing, wiring, etc), which given  the reversal may be a bit clunky. If there is a chance for something to go astray in the business model, it would be here and not with the product. Agreements and arrangements may suffer from misunderstanding or misrepresentation.

It would seem that the Empress has the wisdom to make the Devil mind his manners, but the latter will bear watching since the reversal makes him more slippery than usual. I notice that the Empress is looking away, suggesting that she isn’t giving the infrastructure enough of her attention and it could “bite” her.

She is looking toward the 3 of Swords reversed, implying that she feels some low-grade anxiety over the situation but can’t quite put her finger on its cause. However, this card doesn’t promise major trauma, and since both the Empress and the 3 of Swords are “Three” cards indicative of progress and opportunity (the latter of the “no pain, no gain” variety), it seems to me that she will accommodate the momentary discomfort nicely.

The 3 of Swords reversed and Princess of Disks combination is an elementally unfavorable one (Air and Earth). The danger is that, in her unschooled outlook, she might “make a mountain out of a molehill” and overreact to the stressful stimulus. The advice is to take a deep breath and two steps back before responding to upsets, then treat it as a learning opportunity.

The reverse wave of inertia begins with the Queen of Swords/8 of Wands combination. There is a caution here against being “too quick on the trigger” and perhaps being burned due to a lack of patience. Count to three before jumping heedlessly into the fire.

The 8 of Wands and the Fool reversed in tandem don’t have much staying power and suggest a “flash-in-the-pan” scenario. The reversed Fool is nervous about his long-term stability and the hasty 8 of Wands adds fuel to the fire. There is an urge to leap first and look later. Don’t do it!

The Fool reversed doesn’t know quite what to do with the 6 of Swords, since he tends to shoot from the hip and, unlike with the Magician, meticulous, step-wise “science” isn’t really in his vocabulary (unless it’s of the “scientific wild-ass guess” variety). The instability of the reversed Fool infects everything it touches here.

The 6 of Swords and the Ace of Swords reversed advise going back to “first principles” and re-zeroing on the target. As an expression of inertia, this chain does not exhibit sluggishness or resistance so much as counter-productive reactionary impulses.

As an afterthought, I decided to calculate a quintessence card for the two “sine-wave” sequences. I subtract the value of reversed cards when I do this, so my result is usually different from the standard approach. (I do so because you can’t get the Fool as zero through normal reduction and have to renumber it as 22.) The “forward” sine wave gives me 2, the Priestess, and the “reverse” series yields 11, which is Strength (Lust) in this Thoth-based deck. Eleven reduces to 2, echoing the Priestess, so what we have here is a powerful  emphasis on “inner fortitude;” she will steer by her own star and is unlikely to veer from her course, which looks like a winning scenario to me.

Overall, the outlook seems promising as long as the tendency to act precipitously in tight spots is overcome. The Empress is an ideal card for an artist, while the Fool reversed as her “shadow-companion” suggests a business neophyte, betraying an innocence that the Devil reversed may seek to pray upon. Forewarned is forearmed.

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