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The Tarot can empower you to create the future you want and transform your life by providing you with insights about yourself and the world around you.

Pithy Tarot meanings — Two of Pentacles

Two of Coins (Pentacles) -- Tarot of the MastersTwo of Pentacles:
Act happy!

A way to become a happier person is to act like it. Even if you think, “Oh, this is so artificial,” do it anyway: Act like you’re happy. For example, when you’re cooking dinner, put on some upbeat music and dance around the kitchen. Whatever you think is an act of a happy person, do it.

We all know that how we feel affects the way we act, but what we don’t know is that this works in the other direction as well, which is a pretty profound realization. In fact, studies have shown that just putting a smile on your face will change your brain activity because it thinks that since you’re smiling, you must be happy! So at the very least, do that: Smile. And if you can do something more (like dancing in the kitchen), do that too. This simple message can change your life, and there’s a great side effect too: it will also make the people around you happier.

PS: This extremely pithy message is one that encapsulates several other pithy (but somewhat longer) meanings for this card. See also:

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A Tarot reading for ugly ducklings everywhere

Many years ago I wrote a series of imaginary readings for well-known historical figures and fictional characters which I called “KnightHawk’s Tarot Readings.” This collection of readings, which you can find in my book, Tarot Reading Explained, is like a Tarot advice column, as if Dear Abby had used Tarot readings. Each of the readings was performed as though I was doing it for someone sitting across the table from me. After carefully considering a question that the person in mind might ask, I shuffled the deck and dealt the cards into the layout I had chosen. Then I read the cards as they came up.

The readings were intended to be both educational and entertaining (after all, the most valuable learning experiences are the ones we enjoy), but they became more than that. Fictional though they were, these readings often revealed insights that can be valuable for all of us. Recently I recalled one of the readings I did—the one for the Ugly Duckling—and I considered how appropriate its message is for so many of us. As I noted in my comments for this reading:

Ironically, it is common to have been uncommon in our childhood. This is because while there are only a few ways to conform to the social norms, the eccentric paths of individualism are infinitely varied. Later in life we may find our way, especially when we go out into the world and discover other people with whom we share a common bond, but in our youth we are stuck in the strange environment into which fate has thrust us.

This can be especially true for those of us who eventually found our way to alternative interests such as the Tarot, so I decided to reprint this reading here for you, my readers, along with the explanation and discussion of it that also appears in Tarot Reading Explained. I hope you enjoy it and also find some valuable personal truth here.

 

Duckling Ridiculed by Peers

 

Dear KnightHawk,
Why does everyone laugh at me and pick on me? I may not be as adorable as my brothers and sisters, but I can’t help what I look like or who I am. What can I do?
Humbly yours,
An Ugly Duckling

*   *   *   *   *

Dear Duckling,

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to read for you. I am sorry to hear that you are having such difficulties. It doesn’t seem fair does it? I’ve done the following reading to help you understand your situation better and see how best to deal with it.

  1. The foundation or background of your situation:
    The Star
  2. What you need to know or do about your problem:
    King of Cups
  3. What may help you:
    Seven of Wands reversed

Tarot of the Masters Star, King of Cups, and Seven Wands Reversed

The Star is a card of hope, and it is a beautiful card with which to start your reading. It shows one large, brightly shining star in the heavens surrounded by seven smaller, lesser stars. I see you as that lovely star. You are different, but this card promises a brighter future when your differences will be seen as something splendid.

The King of Cups advises you to learn to control your emotions. Although you may need to be wary of others around you, take care that you do not succumb to fear or anger. This card also urges tolerance of others, even when they are not tolerant of you, and reminds you not to sink to their level. Try to ride above the turmoil of derision in which you find yourself.

The reversed Seven of Wands suggests that maybe you are being too defensive, and that it may help to try to be less so. Others may call you ugly names, but is it worth fighting about? This may not be an issue you need to take a stand on. Remember the promise of the Star card and let their taunts just roll off your back. But if they become too physically abusive, you may want to yield your ground and retreat for a while. Then later, when you are in a better position, you can come back and confront them if you like.

Again, thanks for asking me to do this reading for you. I hope it helps.

Best of luck to you,
KnightHawk
.

Comments

I have always had a special fondness for this charming folk tale. I believe that it is such a popular and endearing story because so many of us have grown up feeling different and alienated, just like this duckling who turned out to be a swan. Ironically, it is common to have been uncommon in our childhood. This is because while there are only a few ways to conform to the social norms, the eccentric paths of individualism are infinitely varied. Later in life we may find our way, especially when we go out into the world and discover other people with whom we share a common bond, but in our youth we are stuck in the strange environment into which fate has thrust us.

Besides physical differences—the metaphor that illustrates the theme of this tale—children and adolescents may be ridiculed or ostracized by their peers for being intellectual, shy, awkward, gay, introspective, sensitive, or empathic; or for having unconventional beliefs, attitudes, or interests. But whatever our differences may be, we all hope to become swans once we leave the nest. I know I did, and so I was anxious to do a reading for this unfortunate duckling and thus, in a way, for myself.

You can imagine my joy, then, when one of my favorite cards, the Star, was the first card to turn up in this spread. This card of hope is a wonderful sign for any ugly duckling. That large, bright star high in the sky is different from the other stars, but rather than being out of place, despicable, or ridiculous, it is unique, beautiful, and exalted. What a perfect way for each of us to see ourselves. In fact, I have a friend who created a personal mantra of “I am a shining star.” She even framed this affirmation, written in silver letters set against a starry background, and hung it in a place of honor in her home. Indeed, this is an excellent affirmation to use with this card.

Next there was the King of Cups. I see both the King and Queen of Cups as indicating emotional mastery, but the differences between the two, although subtle, are important. One way of considering kings is to think of them as dealing with issues of control and as coping with the world (including society) around us. The queens, on the other hand, tend to deal with issues of support, understanding, and personal relationships. So the King of Cups can signify being in control of our emotions (in this case, fear and anger), especially in the midst of emotional turmoil.

This card also can be about dealing with other people in a diplomatic way. Thus, in this reading, the King of Cups advises “tolerance of others, even when they are not tolerant of you.” This is a warning against falling into an all-too easy trap. In emotionally charged situations such as the one in which the Ugly Duckling found itself, it is tempting to reflect back the hate we get from other people—to exclaim, “They are the ones who are wrong!”—but doing so plunges us into a dark side of the King of Cups, that of angry prejudice.

Lastly, the Seven of Wands often indicates taking a stand and defending your position, but reversed, I saw it as both a reduction and a delay of this message. The reversal of this card indicated a diminishment of its typical meaning in that it advised not being so defensive and even suggested retreating from this conflict. It also indicated delay in its message: “Then later, when you are in a better position, you can come back and confront them if you like.” At the very least, a reversal can be a questioning of the typical message of a card, and in this case, I asked, “Others may call you ugly names, but is it worth fighting about?” Asking questions like this can be effective in working with a reversed card.

Note that the message of this last card (“you may want to yield your ground and retreat for a while”) works very well with what happened near the end of the story of the Ugly Duckling. The young bird, not yet a beautiful swan, flew off to be alone until finally, full-grown, it chanced to see its own reflection in a pond and realized its own beauty for the first time. And so I see a message in this reading for all of us. Perhaps at some point we all need to make a journey of self-discovery with hope in our hearts (the Star) and with malice toward none (King of Cups), forgetting about our self-defensive struggles (reversed Seven of Wands) so that we can just look inside ourselves and find the beautiful swan that we all have within.

Post Script: You can find many more readings like this, along with commentaries on them, in my book, Tarot Reading Explained.  And there is also a Celtic Cross reading for Anna Leonowens (the heroine of Anna and the King of Siam and the musical The King and I), which concludes with a shockingly literal final card in position 10!

 

Pithy Tarot meanings — Eight of Swords

Eight of Swords -- Tarot of the MastersEight of Swords:
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

This pithy meaning is an abbreviation of something that Eleanor Roosevelt once said. Here is the full quote:

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” … You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

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Pithy Tarot meanings — The World card

World Card -- Tarot of the MastersThe World card:
“Be in the world, but not of the world.” — Traditional

Many people find this well-known quote (which is loosely paraphrased from the Bible) to be perplexing. For some illumination on the subject, I would like to refer you to an article I posted last year about a spiritual message of the World card.

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Pithy Tarot meanings — Three of Swords

Alchemical Tarot -- Three Swords

Three of Swords:
“If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” — Traditional saying employed by mothers everywhere.

Note that an argument could also be made for associating this saying with either the Five of Swords or the Ten of Swords as well as for this card. I chose the Three of Swords, however, because the Tarot’s Three cards often relate to group interactions. If you see it more in terms of either of those other cards, though, feel free to go with that instead.

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Pithy Tarot meanings — Seven of Cups

Seven of Cups -- Tarot of the MastersSeven of Cups:
“Dream with your eyes open.”

Pithy Tarot meanings can come from pretty much anywhere. This one is from an ad campaign for a realty company, and when I heard it, I immediately thought of the Seven of Cups.

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Pithy Tarot meanings — Eight of Cups

Eight of Cups -- Tarot of the MastersEight of Cups:
To find more fulfillment in your life, spend more time on your spiritual journey.

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Pithy Tarot meanings — Six of Wands

Six of Wands -- Tarot of the MastersSix of Wands:
“We are all just walking each other home.” — Ram Dass

To see my take on this famous Ram Dass quote, I refer you to a Spiritual Tarot blog post about this card from a few years ago.

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Pithy Tarot meanings — Five of Cups

Five of Cups -- Tarot of the MastersFive of Cups:
Find a safe place to pour out the sadness and loss that you feel.

This pithy meaning for the Five of Cups was inspired by an article I read recently: http://www.ramdass.org/learning-grieve/. That article also inspired yesterday’s post about the Death card which further discusses the grieving process that both of these cards can indicate.

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PS: There are several statements in that article by Ram Dass which might serve as pithy meanings for this card. Here is one for you to consider:

Grieving is a healthy, necessary aspect of life … [we should] be patient with the process, and not be in a hurry to put our grief behind us.

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Dealing with Death

Death -- Tarot of the MastersDespite the common view of the Death card that is held by the general populous, it does not mean that someone is about to die. (There are, however, pros and cons about interpreting it this way. See a blog post I wrote a few years ago that includes a poll about this topic, which you can still participate in.) Nevertheless, it may be about death in one way or another. For example, I once did a reading for a recent widow in which the Death card came up and initiated a discussion of how she needed to deal with the loss of her husband. And so a physical death can be an important aspect of this card in that sometimes it can indicate that we need to grieve and heal from the loss of someone who was important to us. That loss, however, may not be a recent one, so it can be hard to recognize this message in the course of a reading. Let me give you an example from my own life about how a decade-old loss may still require effective grieving.

When I was sixteen years old, one of my brothers was in a fatal accident. At that age, I was old enough to understand what had happened (I was not a bewildered child, after all) but not how to deal with it. And the people who otherwise would have been tasked with helping me cope with a personal tragedy (i.e., my parents) were living in their own private hell at that time and were not able to help me. In fact, their abject suffering caused me to decide that I needed to be the strong one, so I sublimated my pain and thus failed to deal with my loss adequately.

As time went on, it was like having a broken bone that had not set properly. It was no longer a visible injury, but it still exerted crippling effects on me. For example, I had recurring dreams about my brother. I would dream that he came back, that he had not died after all, and that it had all been a horrible joke or that he had had to fake his death for some reason. Of course, I would always awaken back into the cruel reality and have to suffer an echo of the pang of loss once more.

More than a decade passed in this way, and then finally I had a discussion about this with a friend who was wise enough to recognize the nature of the problem and to propose a healing solution. Simply put, he suggested that I say goodbye to my brother. I protested that he was gone, so how could I do that? My friend told me that it didn’t matter; I could imagine him there and tell him goodbye. So I tried that. I had a lengthy talk with my brother, and that led to a long-overdue grieving process, which finally brought me closure and healing.

I still have those dreams now and then, but they don’t hurt me anymore. Now I see them as evidence that my brother is still here with me—not physically, but in spirit instead. I think that’s the place that effective grieving brings us to. The ache doesn’t go away so much as it stops hurting us, and so we are finally able to leave the suffering behind and find a place of peace.

Postscript: This discussion about how to grieve and heal from a tragic loss was inspired by a wonderful article by Ram Dass, which I highly recommend to anyone dealing with the death of a loved one, whether it be recent or years past.

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