The Turning Away

I’ve never been content with the conventional wisdom that any card placed in the far left position of a line spread usually refers to past aspects of the matter. Right now I’m reading the English translation of Paul Marteau’s 1949 Tarot de Marseille book, in which he suggests that left-facing figures in individual cards denote passive, inward reflection and discernment as opposed to the active, forward-looking involvement with external events displayed by a rightward focus. It favors mentally preparing oneself in advance of decisive action, and is more akin to the “threshold of the present” than a bearer of old news. It might even be supposed that a reversed card whose orientation changes from right to left symbolizes a suspension of progress, an occasion for deep thought that may even be stultifying in that any further development could be forestalled by excessive and unproductive deliberation. It can provoke a moment of second-guessing oneself, of hesitating mid-stride; not necessarily a stumble but a definite hitch in one’s gait.

Although I am by no means a Biblical scholar (or even an avid reader of scripture in any form), in references to the letters of Peter I came across the figure of speech that one should “gird up the loins of the mind” – to be prepared for action and in so doing to keep a sober and alert spirit. This allusion to the ancient runner’s practice of gathering up the robes around the waist in preparation seems like a perfect analogy for what Marteau was saying, although as far as I can tell he wasn’t talking about running the road to salvation. Another more martial verse attributed to Paul avers that “the armor of God includes a girding of the loins with truth;” in some versions it becomes a “belt of truth around the waist” in tandem with the “breastplate of righteousness” on the chest. While these exalted notions about truth go far beyond my objective here, they do admirably describe being prepared for anything by laying the necessary mental groundwork.

This premise is something I can effectively mold to my purpose when a question exhibits no obvious “past/present/future” dimension. In my proposed model a card to the far left becomes a harbinger of things to come rather than a static temporal milestone. Even when a card sits in the middle or right-hand position of a three-card line but faces or gestures toward the left, I can appreciate how this could imply an important consideration in the matter that has been neglected as circumstances evolved up to that point. The attention is being drawn backward in the flow of events to an earlier juncture, at which point something may have gone astray that went unnoticed and has yet to deliver its full impact. Therefore, the leftward emphasis can highlight a chancy state of affairs along the lines of “Watch your back.”

In practice, it would be necessary to remain flexible and sensitive to the context of the situation when deciding what this emphasis portends. I wouldn’t want to waste any breath explaining how the querent needs to ponder the danger of a crucial signal that was missed when the card plainly signifies nothing more than past occurrences that laid the foundation for present and future conditions. In other words, it may be entirely innocuous and of only incidental interest if there are no unresolved issues lurking in the background. It might paint an intriguing picture of precursors in the matter but it won’t always step out of that informational role into something more motivating. I would pose the question of relevance to the querent to determine where I should place the spotlight; this is the same way I handle the “past” positions in a Celtic Cross reading.

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