11 – Strength

11 - Strength.jpeg

Please note that this series of interpretations is intended to assist specifically in personal healing and shadow work. There are many incredible websites that offer traditional meanings and correspondences. 

When you think of the word “strength,” what comes to mind? Is it a grandmother who fed and clothed her family through the depression? Is it a child who is overcoming unimaginable challenges? Is it someone who displays traditional physical strength? In the tarot, the Strength card reflects a deep level of emotional mastery.

In many decks, the Strength card depicts a woman gently closing a lion’s mouth. This reminds us that true strength can be gently harnessed and effectively expressed with loving care. While we often think of lions as ferocious, and they certainly are, there is quiet, deeper energy at work in these magnificent animals that is worth remembering when this card comes up. Where in the Chariot, we saw a need to outwardly take charge, Strength asks us to use the power within us in a patient, composed way. Emotional intelligence is demonstrated in the ability to feel intensely passionate while having the capacity to express ourselves in a focused and articulate way. For many of us this is no easy task but quietly influencing others is a powerful tool!

This card is a valuable lesson for those of us delving into our shadows. It may be helpful to make a list of situations where you have found your emotions getting the best of you. When was the last time you really lost it?  Does this tend to happen with certain people in your life or is it seemingly random? What are the topics that really get your blood boiling? Often the root of our outburst comes from somewhere deeper within–an emotional injury that has been left unhealed. The raw emotion that you feel can be helpful if wielded correctly. Many memorable humanitarians mastered this skill and changed history.

In shadow work, we discover that often our intense reactions to someone’s behavior or comments stems from shame we carry about our own thoughts or actions from the past. This is one of the most challenging and bitter pills to swallow but it is profoundly freeing and lends itself to lasting personal growth. It certainly takes strength to face this side of ourselves but it is integral to self-love and our own spiritual evolution. What does your lion look like?

“The lion who breaks the enemy’s ranks is a minor hero compared to the lion who overcomes himself.”
Rumi

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Until our paths cross again…

10 – The Wheel of Fortune

10 - The Wheel of Fortune.jpeg

Please note that this series of interpretations is intended to assist specifically in personal healing and shadow work. There are many incredible websites that offer traditional meanings and correspondences. 

Charles Darwin believed that it would not be the strongest species that would survive, but the one most adaptable to change. We humans are not known for this trait, although some of the more enlightened of us have embraced it entirely.

The Wheel of Fortune reminds us that change is indeed constant. Everything in our life works in cycles from the seasons, our relationships with others, and our own aging and mortality.  In witchcraft, many of us honor and celebrate all stages of life: the maiden, the mother, and the crone. We believe that all stages are equally important to our self-actualization. This is important to keep in mind when our personal “seasons” are experiencing turmoil. It is at this point when we are likely depleted of the capacity to recall that Spring will follow Winter as it always does. The beauty of it is that life is rich because of the contrast. Despite our resistance to challenges, without them, we would lose sight of the times that deserve our deepest gratitude.

While the Wheel of Fortune often suggests an upswing of luck and a positive turn in our current situation, I feel it is helpful to consider both sides of the wheel in regards to our healing. There are times when we feel on top of the wheel and there are times when we will feel flattened by it. If we can find a way to make peace with the low swing of the wheel and embrace when the wheel is at its highest we learn to thrive regardless of external circumstances. It is not only important to remember that things will get better, but it is also helpful to be prepared that the good times are not infinite–but the universe has got you–let go and trust.

The Wheel of Fortune is also a karmic reminder that the way we conduct ourselves will have consequences. In this way, if we focus on sending out that which we hope to receive, we will be far more successful. What is it you want most of all? What has been preventing this from happening? Where are your blocks? Often we are the ones sabotaging our own success without realizing it. In your heart, have you accepted just how worthy you are of all of the delights that await the upturn of the wheel? If not, are you being too critical or do you need to rethink the energy you are putting out?

Whatever the reason that the message of this card has shown up in your life, it is a reminder that things are changing whether you wish them to or not. If you can learn to surrender to this you can find an internal peace that takes many of us a lifetime if we are lucky to find it at all. It might be helpful to journal about ways you have managed life changes in the past. I would also invite you to recall something in your life that was completely out of your control and intensely challenging. After some time had passed and healing had begun its gentle embrace, were you able to extract the lesson? Most challenging times, no matter how heartbreaking, will hold valuable information for us about ourselves and our response to the world.

You are loved, supported, and deserving. Be open to those who want to help when you need it and offer help to others when you can. It will all come full circle in the end. Trust.

“I don’t know how much we will rise,” I say stoutly. “And I have no fear of falling.
He looks at me. “You are ambitious to rise?”
“We are all on fortune’s wheel,” I say. “Without a doubt we will rise. We may fall. But still I have no fear of it.”
― Philippa Gregor

Until our paths cross again…

09 – The Hermit

09 - The Hermit

Please note that this series of interpretations is intended to assist specifically in personal healing and shadow work. There are many incredible websites that offer traditional meanings and correspondences. 

When was the last time you spent a decent amount of time alone–really alone?

The Hermit suggests a time of quiet introspection and a chance to build our self-awareness, humility, and insight. We all have an inner light to share but with the pace of life and focus on speed and efficiency, it is easy to lose sight of it. This card asks us to reconnect in a meaningful way, to turn inward and examine those parts of ourselves that may get left behind. For those of us who could spend limitless time alone, this suggestion would be a welcome one. For the more social creatures among us, the work in this card may be more challenging.

In a society where we are being constantly bombarded by stimuli, silence can feel very foreign. Think of the last time the power went out–were you surprised by the silence and the realization of how much noise you live with? The same can be said about functioning in society and culture. We grow accustomed to the noise, and only through retreating from it can we truly experience reticence.

In many depictions of The Hermit, the figure is seen carrying a lantern which only illuminates the few steps ahead of them. We must investigate that which is closest to us before we can confidently move forward.

I invite you to schedule time for yourself where you are not only alone but unplugged from texts and social media (gasp). Although we rely heavily on it now, it wasn’t so long ago that those things didn’t exist and time alone truly meant time alone. Everyone is different, so some may find themselves tapping into their inner wisdom quickly and others may find that they need a week-long solitary break to get there. For many of us, finding this time is not an easy task so it may be helpful to start out small: dedicate a certain amount of time every day for meditation. If you are not familiar with meditation, try a guided meditation to get the hang of it. Alternately, walking meditation can be a powerful experience. The point is to allow yourself to draw completely inward and spend some uninterrupted time getting to know yourself. On our side of the planet, these dark, cooler months can be a wonderful time to do shadow work and internal maintenance. Perhaps you could write a letter to yourself, introducing yourself as you would to a stranger. Maybe you could fill a page with all of the words that bubble up inside of you when you hear the word silence. Take a look at these words–your insight may lie there.

“Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment; that background which the painter may not daub, be he master or bungler, and which, however awkward a figure we may have made in the foreground, remains ever our inviolable asylum, where no indignity can assail, no personality can disturb us.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Until our paths cross again…

08 – Justice

08 - justice (1)

Please note that this series of interpretations is intended to assist specifically in personal healing and shadow work. There are many incredible websites that offer traditional meanings and correspondences. 

If you are a proponent of the Rider-Waite-Smith system, you might have expected Strength to be in the eighth position. We will roll with the traditional order as it has been used by this deck, The Wild Unknown.

What does truth and Justice mean to you? The Justice card will have you examining this in your life in some way. The interesting thing about our own truth is that it is likely to change as we discover blind spots we didn’t know we had. In itself, this is one of the most effective ways we can grow as humans! It is exciting and can actually be quite freeing to realize that your perspective is limited and begin to approach differing viewpoints from yours from a curious place rather than an argumentative one (but this muscle can take a lot of work). We have so much to learn from each other!

The interesting thing about the Justice card is that it often refers to a more karmic, Lord of the Flies, kind of integrity, rather than the man-made law we are familiar with. One of the more memorable references to this is visited in Kim Huggens’ book, Tarot 101. She shares a story about King Solomon and a dispute he resolved between two women who both claimed to be the biological mothers of an infant. These women both presented their arguments–claiming to love the child more than anything,–and both were equally convincing, so Solomon presented a solution: they would cut the baby in two and each woman would receive one half. At this point, one woman threw herself before the King and insisted that the other woman have the child rather than allowing any harm come to him (inadvertently proving that she was the true mother). Although this is a harsh example, it is certainly unforgettable!

In this way, the Justice card may ask you to examine how karmic law would observe the way you conduct yourself in your daily life. We can all use tune-ups sometimes! More specifically, how do you make decisions when no one is looking? Are you kind to those who are the most difficult to show compassion to? Even if you do not subscribe to the spiritual beliefs surrounding karma, if you are kind in your dealings, when the time comes that you need gentleness, it will be there.

Fairness is in the eye of the beholder. What does fairness mean to you? I invite you to journal about the word “fairness” and “justice.” What is your initial response to these terms? Is there a time in your life where you feel that you were treated unjustly? How did that affect you long-term? Can you bring to mind a time when you treated someone unfairly and could have handled things differently?

This card is all about balance. We do not always present our best selves in decision-making, but through intermittent evaluation and self-examination, we can consistently improve. If we know we have been operating at a lower integrity level than we are capable of we can change the channel. That is often when we do our best spiritual work.

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

Until our paths cross again…

 

 

07 – The Chariot

07 - the chariot

Please note that this series of interpretations is intended to assist specifically in personal healing and shadow work. There are many incredible websites that offer traditional meanings and correspondences. 

The Chariot reminds us that at every stage in our lives we are on a journey but not all of our journey reflects the fire in our bellies that we find ourselves battling for, or on behalf of.

I once asked an enlightened friend how to better frame the idea of “trigger warnings,” as to me, that very term raised my hackles up. She shared that when she wanted to offer caution to someone in a more positive way, she described that the feeling of being “triggered” is actually you calling in your guardians. I think this is a much more appealing idea and also reflects where we are going with this card.

The Chariot represents your willpower, your confidence, and the things that “bring in your guardians.” Do you find yourself ready to fight for our four-legged companions? Perhaps you have the inner drive to be a warrior for children’s rights. Maybe you naturally gravitate towards ensuring immigrants are cared for. Whatever it is that has always been your default battle, this is something vital to who you are.

When this card comes up, it is an indication that you are right to be courageous and stay your course, but you must believe in yourself and your convictions. For example, you may have been considering starting your own organization in support of a cause that is closest to your heart, but you have been feeling the pull between being practical and following your passions (in The Chariot card, there are often two or more horses trying to pull the chariot in different directions). This is your time to grab the reins and hold strong to your path, despite the doubt others may throw in your way.

I invite you to journal a theme that has come up throughout your life. It may be in the form of arguments you find yourself having or situations where you feel called to defend someone or something. How have you presented your views? How were they received? Do you recall conversations that immediately brought your energy and excitement up?

Often, even with our best intentions, our passions take over our communication skills and we risk scaring someone away from our cause, rather than raising their interest and possibly getting them on board. One example of this would be some of the well-known animal rights campaigns. While these campaigns certainly grab our attention, the more shocking ones upset those who are already living a cruelty-free lifestyle and do not get through to those who likely need to assess their choices. After you have a look at this, think about how you can move forward in a more productive way and possibly integrate this passion into your life, and even career.

Although The Chariot can refer to that which drives our passion in life, it is also an overview of our journey aka, “The Fool’s Journey.” It can also be quite literal and refer to travel and road trips, but for our purposes, considering the metaphorical path may illuminate how true we are being to what our soul is searching for. What do we want our quest and our journey to really be about, and what focused action do we need to take to get there? Where can we begin?

“Intuition goes before you, showing you the way. Emotion follows behind, to let you know when you go astray. Listen to your inner voice. It is the calling of your spiritual GPS system seeking to keep you on track towards your true destiny.”
― Anthon St. Maarten

Until our paths cross again…

 

 

06 – The Lovers

06 - the lovers

Please note that this series of interpretations is intended to assist specifically in personal healing and shadow work. There are many incredible websites that offer traditional meanings and correspondences. 

While The Lovers card is often a welcome addition to any reading, it can mean a variety of things other than the obvious. Yes, it can certainly suggest an exciting new relationship or strengthening of a current one, but the aspect of it that might be most helpful for us in regards to healing is that it can suggest a union of one or more parts of ourselves.

At any given time, many of us are active in several roles such as mother, teacher, wife, brother, employer, son, healer, daughter, mentor and so on. It is not uncommon to feel a challenge when uniting these roles. For example, you may have a career where you are required to use cold, exacting logic, but in the home, you wish to be a warm, compassionate parent.

The Lovers also represents choice so it may feel as though you need to choose between the hats you wear, rather than to integrate them. In some cases you may, in fact, have to choose between roles–especially when they have become more than you can manage while staying healthy and productive. Other times, we can learn to embrace and celebrate the duality in our life.

When was the last time you were called to make a choice in your life that would eliminate something important to you? How did you navigate that choice?

I invite you to journal about the different personas you wear in your life. Note that this is not a negative list–all of us have them! They can be helpful. Which personas do you feel good about and which ones feel like they may be based on shadows and unchecked pain. One example might be a situation where you feel the need to wear a tough exterior and not show vulnerability, which may indeed be necessary but it is worth looking at. Is this reaction based on a previous experience that may not happen again? What might happen if you bring your authentic self into this scenario? Might a different approach open new doors?

As humans, we are continually evolving within ourselves, within partnerships and within our community. It can be helpful to “declutter” aspects of our personalities that are not serving our higher good just as it can be helpful to nourish parts of ourselves that bring value to our lives. Similarly, we may grow out of relationships that have taken a path that is incompatible with ours–it can be difficult, but it is necessary for growth.

The Lovers card represents raw, open communication and honesty both in our relationships and within ourselves. Perhaps we can consider ways to not only unite the seemingly disconnected parts of ourselves but to fall in love with them! When you practice self-care you may wish to include rituals that unify these different aspects and honor the place they have in your life.

“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”
― C.G. Jung

Until our paths cross again…

05 – The Hierophant

05 - the hierophant

Please note that this series of interpretations is intended to assist specifically in personal healing and shadow work. There are many incredible websites that offer traditional meanings and correspondences. 

The Hierophant is generally not favoured amongst readers for a few reasons: many tarot readers are non-comformists; many of us have eclectic spiritual interests–often Witchcraft or Wicca (which doesn’t necessarily jive with the religious connotation of this card); and many of us have strayed from long-standing family traditions. The Hierophant represents all of these things.

The Hierophant also embodies mentorship and higher understanding. When this card pops up it may be prompting you to seek a teacher who excels in your interests, or it may suggest that you are ready to offer mentorship to someone else. The wisdom associated with this card is related to accepted practices rather than intuitive exploration such as with The High Priestess.

In regards to healing, what is your response to the word “conformity?” Do you tense up and recoil, or do you relax? Are you indifferent? Why do you think this is? As with The Emperor, this card may trigger your feelings about authority figures. Have you experienced any negative or positive interactions or relationships with religious figures? How might that influence you in subconscious ways?

It may be helpful to journal about at least one person in your life who has led or inspired you to new and/or higher understanding. This might also be a wonderful opportunity to do a thought cloud or free-write about areas that you may be able to offer mentorship to someone else. It can be really self-affirming to see a list of all of the skills you have accumulated.

Another exciting thing to consider with this card is your ancestors and heritage. What kinds of traditions did they uphold? Do any of those traditions resonate with you? If your familial elders are no longer living, is there someone else who may be willing to share this knowledge? Tradition and convention have their place and may offer something fresh to enrich your practice!

 

04 – The Emperor

04 - The Emperor

Please note that this series of interpretations is intended to assist specifically in personal healing and shadow work. There are many incredible websites that offer traditional meanings and correspondences. 

Following the previous discussion we had about The Empress, and our relationship with the concept of “Mother,” comes the concept of “Father” with The Emperor. Although this card carries many positive connotations, for those of us who have experienced unpleasant fatherly relationships or associate this card with patriarchy in general, it presents a wonderful opportunity for healing.

The Emperor is an actively masculine card and the character is often depicted wearing battle gear which coincides with his aggressive aspect. How you have experienced and interacted with authority in your life may surface with this card. This may be a good time to reflect on the difference between healthy masculinity and toxic masculinity and how that has played a part in your life.

The Emperor represents the solid, material world. Where the Empress brings us the drive to create, The Emperor can help us shape this concept into something tangible. There is an element of responsibility with this card, which may indicate obligations that have been neglected.

Growing up, were you exposed to any role models that demonstrated healthy masculinity? What were you able to take forward from that? On the flipside, did you spend time around unhealthy or toxic masculine energy? What have you carried forward with you that could be healed? We all carry the ability to harness our masculine and feminine energy in different ways. This energy is not static, and the wonderful part is that we can choose to change how we utilize these energies at any time. Regardless of your gender orientation, you may be more aware of your feminine aspects or masculine aspects and it is a healthy balance of both that can help us become our highest self.

Another thing to consider with this card is: where is my life currently lacking stability? Do I need to make decisions in order to move forward? This is where the active masculine energy can serve you well. Stand in your power and trust your decision-making abilities. Perhaps a free-write in your journal about areas in your life that need direction might be helpful. The Emperor can also present an opportunity for you to fill a fatherly or authoritative role. What might that look like?

03 – The Empress

03 - The Empress

Please note that this series of interpretations is intended to assist specifically in personal healing and shadow work. There are many incredible websites that offer traditional meanings and correspondences. 

The word “mother” induces a host of different emotions in all of us. There are no more complicated relationships than those with our mother and father (or guardians in parental positions). Many of us spend our entire lives untangling and making sense of those relationships. Despite that personal relationship, The Empress carries many positive connotations.

In The Empress, we meet the full embodiment of both the mother archetype and the concept of Mother Earth. She also represents healthy abundance and is known to give birth to our ideas and our creative endeavors, bringing them from a concept into life! The Empress can be a symbol of our sexuality and sensuality which may be a suggestion to explore that side of ourselves. In our busy lives it can be easy to neglect that part of ourselves, yet nurturing our erotic selves is fuel for our creativity and our ability to bring our full selves to those around us. In this case, The Empress asks us to examine and release shame or guilt that you have carried forward with you in this regard.

What was the response in your belly when you read the word “mother?” What images came to mind? Did you think about the mother you wish you had, the mother you hope to be, or were you flooded with wonderful memories of your childhood? Sit with these feelings. Whether good or bad, allow these feelings to happen. Allow them to stir you up, but do not give them permission to shut you down.

Journal about these feelings and the immediate images that come to mind when you read/hear the word “mother.” These are vital insights and can be so helpful. If your relationship with this concept, or with the figure of motherhood in your life is too challenging, feel free to save these activities until you are in a place to do this work.

On our healing journeys, and especially those in shadow work, it is integral that we are constantly listening to ourselves and practicing self-care, which includes knowing when we do not have the capacity to work through the really tough stuff.

 

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.” 
― Mitch Albom

 

02 – The High Priestess

02 - The High Priestess

Please note that this series of interpretations is intended to assist specifically in personal healing and shadow work. There are many incredible websites that offer traditional meanings and correspondences. 

Have you ever ignored a gut feeling only to discover how valuable that warning was?

The High Priestess embodies the very fabric of our intuition. She represents our dreams, our secrets, and the darker aspects of our personality. She helps shed light on patterns which may not be in our own best interest.

She may manifest as a strong desire to expand your spiritual life, such as a sudden interest in the occult or the inclination to explore the powerful messages in your dreams.

The High Priestess carries the same wisdom as the crone archetype and leads us to our inner world, illuminating the path to our destiny. Although her energy is feminine and passive, this aspect can be present in the whole spectrum of gender and non-binary associations. It is a suggestion to trust in our own inner knowing.

Consider a time in your life when you ignored that inner voice. Was this followed by a difficult lesson? Have you ever followed that inner voice despite reason? If so, where did it guide you? Often we dismiss this important, but sometimes neglected part of ourselves.

Learning to trust and nurture our inner guidance is a practice–a muscle that needs strengthening. Meditation can be a helpful tool for this inner work. If you struggle with meditation, you may want to try a guided meditation such as this one.

While on your self-care and healing journey, allow time to meet and embrace this vital part of yourself.