Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Three-Card Spread and Elemental Dignities (and reversals)

I've been hesitant to use reversals.  I'm not against using them, and may consider incorporating them in the future.  It's not because I'm afraid of the negative implications they sometimes bring, or because I feel it's unnecessary as Tarot cards already hold tons of meaning.  I've seen spreads that have been done with reversals where I find the reversals tend to give a subtle layer of additional meaning to the reading that would not have been as clear otherwise.  So we'll see about that.  What I find most mind-shattering is that with 78 upright cards there are already so many potential meanings and ways of interpreting them, that to add another slew of potential meanings to each one just makes me exhausted.  I mean, have you done the math?  78 cards does not equal 78 meanings.... if we decide to randomly assign 5 potential meanings to each card, that comes to a total of 390 potential meanings we have floating around in our minds.  That does not factor in the positions the various cards end up in, or the interactions and additional potential meanings we might see and intuit from a spread.  If we double that, we come to 780.  It's perfectly possible to learn reversals and successfully apply them.  But while I already understand the basic premise of reversals and their application, I'm not sure it's entirely necessary or worthwhile yet to study each card.

At any rate, I've been reading about elemental dignities and the extra clarity they can provide readings by helping to determine which cards carry more or less weight in a spread.  The first websites I looked at were really confusing, mainly because while the description of elemental dignities was fairly clear, there were no examples of real-life spreads with interpretations using the elemental dignities.  So learning how to apply them seemed daunting - yet I kept reading about how powerful they can be!  So I was motivated to figure this whole situation out.....

Image from Creative Commons

Meanwhile I read a blog entry on Sun Goddess Tarot (a blog I've come to love), where Tarot "newbies" were encouraged to get more experience reading strangers by signing up to do free readings through various sites.  When I went to one of the sites, it said that all potential free-readers must EITHER use reversals OR elemental dignities.  I thought: "Okay! It's settled! I will learn these dignities, or else!"  (Later that night, in frustration, I threw my hands up in the air and resigned myself to learning all of the reversed meanings I could; it's true - elemental dignities are not for the faint of heart).

But I was further motivated by the apparent recognition that while yes, reversals can provide extra layers of insight, so can elemental dignities, and it's not absolutely necessary to use both. (Yet. But this is me, and I will probably learn all the reversals at some point, anyway, just for the additional challenge and knowledge).  So, that felt validating, and I was happy (and still am) to learn a challenging but effective system that does not require doubling up on all of the cards.

Okay.  So this morning I had a meeting with a student and his advisor about a plagiarizing issue (this was mentioned in a previous post).  I had been working with this student for just a couple of weeks, and so far most of his out-of-class work had been poor, despite his general good naturedness.  I was nervous about how the meeting would go because while I was unhappy with the quality of the student's work, coupled with the plagiarism, I was nervous about the potential implications, and how student would react.  I decided to do a 3-card spread, but didn't assign meanings to any of the positions.

I pulled:                    The Queen of Wands   -    3 of Cups   -     Ace of Wands

My initial interpretation:

My first sense was that the Queen of Wands was the student's advisor.  I had not met her before, so I was encouraged by this card - it suggested a very capable woman with self-confidence, a caring and friendly demeanor.  I felt this meant that she would lead the meeting well, and would come up with a creative way to deal with this unpleasant situation.

The 3 of Cups brings to mind teamwork, success, celebration, and I definitely did not think this meeting would be most of those things.  But the element of teamwork stuck with me, as I was preparing for a meeting with several other people.

The Ace of Wands at first made me feel that the situation would be resolved in a positive way, and the student would be allowed some kind of new beginning.  I wasn't really sure what that might look like.

So then I applied the elemental dignities.  Fire and Water don't mix.  And two fire cards flanking one water card meant that the Wands really dominated this spread - they were most important - while the 3 of Cups' meaning was diminished.  This made sense - to me, then, the 3 of Cups signified the meeting itself, and the coming together of several people to solve an issue.  The emphasis of this issue lied in the Queen of Wands (the student advisor) and the the Ace of Wands (what I came to think of as the outcome).

The result:

I had the meeting today, and was pleased with the results.  When I walked into the advisor's office and met her I immediately said to myself "Yes. This is definitely the Queen of Wands."  She was everything you'd imagine the Queen of Wands to be, and it was a pleasure to meet her.  She handled the meeting with expert grace, and was firm yet kind.

I had been led to believe there would be up to 5 people in the meeting, but in the end there were just three of us - the Three of Cups. And the meeting, while successful, was not celebratory, so I felt that the card with the adjusted meaning was very accurate.

Finally, the card that still held some mystery for me: the Ace of Wands.  I originally thought it meant a creative outcome, a new opportunity for the student, in some way.  Well, that was accurate, though not in the way I might have thought.  The student lost all points for the class, received a zero for his project, and after calculations were complete, it was evident he would be failing my class, and thus would have to retake it next semester.  There's a new beginning, alright.  He would be held accountable for his work, and would need to challenge himself to try harder, and take his work more seriously.  I wondered if in part this conclusion remained cloudy for me because I was personally invested in the idea that he would not have to repeat my course, even though rationally I knew it was a real possibility.

The spread was entirely right on, and the application of the elemental dignities was helpful in determining extra meaning for the cards involved.  It is a simple example, but one that gives me a clearer understanding of how the elemental dignities can impact the meaning of a spread, even in subtle ways.  When I thought of the spread, I thought that a reversed 3 of Cups might well have signified similar things in this spread - a subdued version of the upright.  While this might not work the same way for every card in the deck, it did provide food for thought, in terms of how the meanings or impact of reversals and elemental dignities can intersect, and I'm looking forward to practicing more with this application.

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