Yesterday my card for the day was The Empress, which puzzled me for a while. I considered many of its esoteric and symbolic meanings such as creativity, nurturing, abundance, luxury, nature, a passionate approach to life. None of those really rang a bell for me in terms of what’s going on in my life. Then I remembered a most obvious and basic meaning for this card, which is Motherhood, and I realized that it was a reminder that I needed to deal with some issues relating to my aged mother. In trying to be too clever, too “deep” with my interpretation of this card, I almost missed something that’s quite basic. It’s like that famous quote attributed to Freud: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
This also reminded me of something that I discuss in my book Tarot Reading Explained, which is a concept I call “Tarot Literalisms.” The following is from that book:
Something else to watch out for in a reading is a peculiar phenomenon that I call a “literalism.” This is an image on a card that bears a strikingly literal resemblance to something about the querent, his/her situation, or the question for the reading. …
Although at first glance it may seem that a literalism is merely a curiosity, I often find such an occurrence to be particularly useful in a reading. It may make or illustrate an important point, as it does in the reading for Hamlet, wherein the Tower card vividly makes the point that Hamlet’s mother, as well as Hamlet himself, was traumatically affected by his father’s death. …
The image of a crown blasted from the top of the tower was an obvious symbol for regicide, and the two figures falling from the tower were clearly indicative of Hamlet and his mother. [This] would have been a clear illustration corroborating the allegation set forth by the ghost of Hamlet’s father that he had been murdered. In addition, [it] makes an important point that Hamlet had not heeded when his father’s ghost made it.
Hamlet faulted his mother for having married his uncle, and so his emotional distress at the time of this reading was complicated by his anger toward her. Had he taken his father’s advice to realize that she was … a victim [too], then perhaps the unfortunate Prince of Denmark would have been able to think more clearly and act more decisively.
I’ve encountered “Tarot Literalisms” frequently, and it’s something that I encourage my Tarot students to keep in mind when doing a Tarot reading.
I would be interested to hear similar accounts from any of you.
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