Cassandra and the High Priestess
It happened again recently — I presented an analysis of a situation and a forecast about it, and my words were misinterpreted to an amazing degree. What happened was that someone who didn’t like what I wrote somewhere took the trouble to send me an email. But rather than present any refutation of either my facts or my logic, she just accused me of having deep animosity about something, despite other evidence to the contrary.
I’m sure this happens now and then to everyone, but it really seems to happen to me all too often, which I suspect may be due to my “birth cards” being Justice / High Priestess. Why would that present this problem? I think it’s due to the High Priestess, as I’ll explain here.
One way to view the High Priestess is to see her as the Oracle of the Tarot. That can be a good thing when you’re considered to be an oracle like the one at Delphi, which was routinely consulted and heeded. However, consider another famous mythical oracle: Cassandra from the Iliad, who was cursed by Apollo so that her predictions were always dismissed and disbelieved. In her case, being an oracle was not such a good thing.
Mythic characters represent human archetypes, as do the Tarot’s Major Arcana cards, so we can associate Cassandra with the High Priestess and thereby can gain some insights into the latter oracle by examining the archetype of the former.
“The Cassandra Syndrome” is a term named after this tragic prophetess of Greek myth. It has the obvious connotation of a valid warning that is disbelieved, but it has deeper psychological and social applications as well. On the one hand, it represents our unconscious imperative to issue warnings about moral or ethical violations, along with their consequences. But such warnings typically arises from the realization of a problem that no one else wants to look at, an outcome that no one wants to deal with, or a truth that no one (especially authority figures) wants to acknowledge. For example, in the 1990s Warren Buffett, who was called the “Oracle of Omaha,” repeatedly warned that the stock market surge was a bubble, earning him the title of ‘Wall Street Cassandra’. Also, consider the following quote from H.L. Mencken: “It is hard to get a man to believe something when his livelihood depends on him believing something else.”
The most insidious part of this is that since denial is such a strong human defense mechanism against unpleasant facts, those who are affected by them stubbornly and unshakably strive to remain unaware of such facts. Instead, they ignore, misunderstand, or outright reject them – anything to avoid believing a “Cassandra prediction.” This is the other side of the Cassandra Syndrome – the typical denial, dismissal or disdain that greets so many conclusions, warnings or predictions that people don’t want to hear.
So the High Priestess can represent two different archetypes of an Oracle – the trusted Oracle of Delphi or the distrusted Cassandra. This is an important point for us, as Tarot readers, to remember. From my experience, a person’s response to the insights and prophesies we offer depends greatly upon how s/he comes across them. When people come to us for a Tarot reading, they usually approach us as they would a trusted Oracle. In that case, they tend to believe what we say, or they are at least open to considering what we reveal. The exception is when our predictions or advice are too hard for them to accept. But when they come across our advice or warnings without seeking them, that’s when they tend to ignore or denigrate our insights, with the exception being when our predictions or advice are in accordance with their instincts or desires.
Now, you may say that we shouldn’t force our advice on anyone, and of course that’s true. But where I have found this problematic aspect of being a “Cassandra” arise has been in one of two circumstances. First, it happens during functional discussions which occur in things like business meetings or (especially) at the home owners’ meetings for my condominium association. (In those cases, I’m not acting as an oracle per se, so I’m speaking more generally about advice and warnings here.) In those situations, it doesn’t seem to matter how often in the past my advice has been right; they’ll still wheel in that really cool giant horse even after I tell them that it’s hollow and filled with Greek soldiers.
The other circumstance is when someone overhears something I said or reads something I have posted online. In the latter case, which is what I was referring to at the beginning of this post, I merely offered my warning on the Internet.
Anyway, I would be interested to hear about the experiences of others here. Using a very unscientific and informal survey, I have found that people whose birth cards are Justice / High Priestess usually say, “Yes! That happens to me all the time,” while for other people, this doesn’t seem to ring a bell for them. So, do you find this happening to you a lot, and if so, what are your birth cards? (See http://www.tarotschool.com/BirthCards2.html for an explanation of birth cards and how to calculate them.)