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Tarot and Desiderata

April 14, 2010

A valuable practice is to associate Tarot cards with … well, with anything.  It is great practice for doing readings, it is a great way to expand your understanding of the cards, and it encourages thought about things in general.

With that in mind, I decided to take a shot at considering which cards go well with various phrases or “statements” in the Desiderata.[1] I made these choices by reading each passage and seeing which card(s) came to mind, which was an intuitive (versus analytical) process. This is not meant to be a definitive set of associations by any means, and I invite your thoughts on this.

Note that some cards appear more than once, since every card has more than one meaning.  Also, I have picked just one or two cards per instance, even though several cards may have come to mind.

Again, this is just an exercise.  I hope it inspires you to do the same thing, either with this “prose poem” or with something else.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

High Priestess; King of Cups

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.

Three of Cups

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Ace of Swords; Queen of Swords

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.

Five of Swords; Knight of Wands

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Temperance; The Devil

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Four of Wands; Two of Wands

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Eight of Pentacles; The Wheel of Fortune

Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.

King of Pentacles; Seven of Swords

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;

King of Swords; The Star

and everywhere life is full of heroism.

The Hanged Man; Seven of Wands

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.

The Fool; Knight of Cups

Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Four of Cups; Ace of Cups

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

The Hermit

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

Strength; The Tower

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Nine of Swords

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

Strength; Nine of Pentacles

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.

The Fool

And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

The Wheel of Fortune; The World

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,

The Hanged Man; The Hierophant

and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.

Five of Wands; The World

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

Five of Cups; Five of Pentacles

Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Queen of Wands

Bright Blessings,
James Ricklef

[1] (c) Max Ehrman 1927

  1. David Attwood permalink

    Thanks for this James. I’ll use this in a class that I am teaching. I believe it will spark a great discussion. It is a wonderful learning tool. BTW, have a super experience at RS10! ~David

    • That’s great, David. That’s what I like about this sort of exercise — it causes us to think and discuss.

  2. Thanks James, this is a very clever idea and I never get tired of this creed. There was a song version that plays in my head every time I read it…

    • Helen,
      Thanks! And thanks for the “reverse reading” in the next comment. Yes, that sort of thing is a valuable process and exercise.
      Bright Blessings,

  3. I love this James! Of course, I’m not surprised. I love your work.

  4. Oh wow… I am loving this. Printing this out. I tend to “think in tarot” and this struck a wonderful nerve. I love that you called the Hanged Man the Hero.

  5. Wow. This is amazing! I absolutely love and live by the words of the Desiderata, but applying the Tarot to it is epic! I would love to share this, with permission and giving credit, of course.

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