Do not sit on The Emperor’s face

The bad news is that South Africa’s parliament failed yet again to pass a vote of no confidence in beleaguered and hopelessly corrupt President Jacob Zuma, even using a secret ballot. The good news is that my tarot reading predicting this result turned out to be correct.


The Wild Unknown Tarot deck.


I’m still novice enough to be pleasantly surprised whenever a reading makes sense. Looking at the cards (I used Kim Krans’ Clarity Spread), with The Emperor crowning the lot, my hopes that Zuma would be ousted faded. I’m not The Emperor’s biggest fan. Intellectually I know The Emperor represents rules, order, society: humanity’s will imposed on the natural world. But emotionally? Humanity’s will has been awfully patriarchal, and Lord knows I resent having to pander to patriarchy.

For me, Zuma is the reflection of both these aspects of The Emperor. On the one hand, he is South Africa’s third democratically elected president, and so The Emperor here speaks of the victory of order over the apartheid era’s chaotic discrimination. But then we have Zuma the man. He behaves like a king rather than a president. He has massively enriched himself at state expense; most recently with the notorious Gupta family, but his corruption has a long and rich history. He’s been tried for rape. He has six+ wives. In short, he’s what happens when The Emperor’s energy is left to run riot without The Empress’ to balance it out: toxic masculinity on a national scale.


The other cards in the spread speak volumes about the impact his tenure has had on politics. There’s a sense of hopelessness in the 8 of Cups. This was the eighth motion of no confidence against Zuma and like the others, it failed. The Father of Cups speaks of continuing indecision: the ANC majority was led by emotion for their party rather than the consequence for their country. The Lovers mark this choice. Interestingly, The Lovers reflect a choice with ethical undertones more than romantic love (as per Benebell Wen); the ANC majority chose wrong, giving in to the temptation of corruption and pride.

2c32f033f3556687cbc084978fe2c5adThe Emperor’s biggest frailty, though, is that he believes his own press. In The Wild Unknown Tarot, The Emperor is a strong, tall tree under a burning sun. Yet it’s that same tree that’s destroyed in Krans’ The Tower, toppled by a lightning strike. The Waite Emperor seems painfully aware of this danger: he’s a haunted, isolated man, clad in armour and wild-eyed even though no feasible danger seems to exist. Emperors and empires were made to fall.


Though Zuma wasn’t ousted, he’s a marked man. The no confidence vote was very close – 198 against, 177 for – closer than it’s ever been. It will have showed him and the ANC that his loyalty and thus his leadership is suspect. His lightning strike might not be that far off.



It’s a gas: a seasonal energy spread

Yours truly has the dubious distinction of possessing a psychic stomach. Whenever the seasons change, I often sense the shift somewhere in the region of my belly button a week or two before even small outward signs appear. It’s a kind of restless excitement, a loss and a yearning, a hollow feeling as big as the whole world. Or maybe it’s just gas and I’m attributing something significant to it, à la confirmation bias. Or perhaps, to the astonishment of all, it’s psychic gas!

Anyway, whatever this temporal gastroenterological thing is, it always drives me low-key crazy. Rather than just stew in it as in years past, irritated and existential, this time ‘round I decided to use a spread to see what I can do with this change in season and thus, energy. My shitty diagram is below. Do it whenever you feel or see the shift of season around you.


It’s supposed to suggest an outward moving spiral.


In the reading I did for myself, I got The Hermit in the first position, Death in the second, and The Star in the third.




The energy available to me during this period is the stillness and inner retreat of The Hermit. As anyone who has practised meditation knows, it takes a lot of effort—and energy—to be still. The Hermit resists the draw of outward distractions that would only tap energy that could be better spent on contemplation. She tends her own flame exactly so that it can shine brighter for herself and those around her.




Tending this flame isn’t always an easy process. Diligent and mindful stillness requires the sacrifice of those things that would work against The Hermit’s energy, things like fruitless and pointless distractions. To properly utilise The Hermit’s energy will require the Death of emotional, mental and spiritual clutter. In a way the very process of a retreat is Death: in removing myself from things, things are removed from me in turn. This is good and right and leads to renewal.




Renewal, though, is a funny thing. It isn’t always visible. The Star tells me that even if I succeed at utilising The Hermit’s energy, the results might not be materially tangible. Nevertheless, the inward qualities of The Star—hope and connectedness—will make all the difference to me. To a layperson, a single star’s twinkle might not be especially discernible, but the collective gives us the glory of the Milky Way.

“You can’t handle the truth!” Reflections on Justice


Lucky old me had “Justice” as my stalker card all week. I spent more than a moment staring at Kim Krans’ The Wild Unknown Tarot version of it, puzzled. “Decisions, karma,” the Not-So-LWB said, and like every other relatively innocuous person in the history of the world, I had a brief sensation of terror: which of my sins would come back to haunt me? Then I remembered I don’t subscribe to karma and went from horrified to horrified and confused.

Perhaps Justice is not so much about decisions and karma here as it is about its central concept, that of truth. How can one have justice without truth? But what is the truth? In the Tarot, The Fool steps off the cliff (or tumbles from the branch, in The Wild Unknown) in search of truth, only to discover The World at the end of an inner journey. The truth has been inside her all this time. It’s not a lesson taught so much as it is a journey of rediscovery. Similarly, tarot’s Justice isn’t concerned with external laws. It isn’t about the truth so much as it’s about a truth in your life right now.


I’ve been staring at both cats on the Justice card, insisting that there’s a choice to be made: an external “truth” to trump an inner truth. But my gut’s been right all along. Don’t do it. Step back. Trust God. In other words, retreat like the Hermit, the Fool’s next stop after Justice. Today was a reminder of that in miniature. There’s no way to skip the inner contemplation of the Hermit and expect to get past The Wheel of Fortune, another stalker card, unscathed.


Stepping back as a way to move forward is counter-intuitive. It’s why I’ve been so reluctant to retreat, like Krans’ Hermit tortoise settled in its shell, the light of inner truth burning securely atop it. I’ve wanted to do do do, even if it was only spinning wheels.

But so the Fool(e) learns! Hopefully next time round I’ll rediscover this without quite so much drama, politics and nonsense.


Deck interview: The Wild Unknown Tarot


*inhales* Ah, that new card smell! After a wait of more than a week, I finally got my Wild Unknown deck yesterday. It’s more beautiful than I’d anticipated and, true to its name, it’s got a “wild” undercurrent that doesn’t appreciate artifice or dallying. I think we’re going to get along just fine.

Since I had such a great “interview” with my old and neglected Dark Angels Tarot deck last week, I thought I’d interview my new deck in the same way. I’m not going to lie, the transition from the Universal Waite deck to this one has been a little jarring and I find myself squinting at the images of the Wild Unknown in pseudo-meditation (it’s really bewilderment, but lets at least try to keep the mystery alive, shall we?) The Universal Waite is “suburban cul-de-sac”* to the Wild Unknown’s “cabin in the woods”, so I guess some adapting is necessary. A big change for me is that The Wild Unknown doesn’t use reversals. I guess I could just invert the cards, but I’m curious to learn how to go without and doing so with a new deck seems wisest. I’m looking forward to the process.

The Wild Unknown interview


(I used Little Red Tarot’s spread again.)

1. Tell me about yourself – what is your most important characteristic?

The Chariot

It’s a confident and wilful deck, interested in helping its reader to run free like a wild horse.

2. What are your strengths as a deck?

Two of Swords

The Wild Unknown will lead you to confront things you’d rather avoid and will “cross swords” with your ego to this end.

3. What are your limits as a deck?

Father of Swords

I had trouble interpreting this one. Can a deck be too perceptive or emotionally unattached? Perhaps it’s a question of bias: its unbiased nature cuts too close to the quick?

4. What are you here to teach me?

Two of Pentacles

The word that immediately came to mind when I saw this card was “Metamorphosis”.

5. How can I best learn and collaborate with you?

Father of Wands

I can best collaborate with this deck by practising compassion, awareness and patience.

6. What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?

Six of Cups

A positive, joyful and nurturing relationship is on the cards.

Johnlock and the Lenormand



Sherlock Series 3
John and Sherlock on their John and Mary’s wedding day. 


Why suck at just one form of cartomancy when you can suck at two? Why indeed? I thought and started learning the Lenormand cards this past weekend. It’s an interesting system, straightforward, the McGonagall to tarot’s Trelawney*. It relies on a kind of “storyboarding” method of reading. In some ways, it’s less complex than tarot, but that may just be because tarot still puzzles me 75% of the time.

I’m working on Caitlin Matthews’ The Complete Lenormand Oracle. It looked the least funny of the three books I got on the topic – less pedantic than Learning Lenormand by Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin and less finger-wavey than Rana George’s The Essential Lenormand – and has a great selection of exercises to do. It’s one of these exercises that led to today’s post. The deck and I were both tired of reading about my dull life, and so inspired by this post, I thought I’d do an “As above, so below” spread for Sherlock and John’s relationship in BBC’s Sherlock.

Sherlock and John’s relationship


Clearly, shoddy artwork has not stopped me.


1. Man 2. Woman 3. Heart

4. Fox 5. Whip 6. Birds

I should probably just admit outright to being a Johnlocker, so when Man + Woman + Heart popped up I actually went, “Aww yiss!” out loud. Take into consideration that I might be a little biased here, but I do read cards 1, 2 and 3 to be indicative of romantic feelings, and I interpret the rest of the cards from this assumption.

The bottom row shows that John and Sherlock’s romantic relationship isn’t straightforward and uncomplicated, primarily because it isn’t actualised; it’s all shadow games. Interestingly, Fox + Whip + Birds shouts “sex on the sly” to me, but it could also indicate stresses (lies, arguments) around their pairing (Birds).

Cards 4, 5 and 6 pairs up with their top most parts to tell us more about them. Interpreting cards 1 and 4 together, I’d say that John (who I read as more “masculine” than Sherlock**) is deceptive about his feelings (and probably his sexuality, as we see below). Sherlock’s Woman is full of desire but doesn’t know how to express it properly*** (also below). The Bird + Heart combo is interesting; it could mean both rumours about their feelings and a relationship itself (Birds being a pair).

Reading cards 1, 5 and 3, we literally see that “man argues against his heart”. John is in some serious denial, y’all, which seems pretty obvious if you’ve watched like five minutes of the show. Cards 4, 2 and 6 could indicate either that Woman believes Man’s deception about the type of relationship he wants – Sherlock doesn’t believe John wants him – or Woman/Sherlock is the one doing the tricking. I favour the first interpretation.

The fourth season of Sherlock was a major disappointment for me, to the extent that I’d be fine if they never made another episode. But man, would I love to see John and Sherlock’s (romantic) feelings expressed in an obvious way! I still cherish a vague hope that they will, that something will happen that makes sense of the awfulness of the fourth season, but at the same time, I completely doubt it. Maybe a topic for another spread?

*Happy #HarryPotter20!
**Just personal preference here, and one TopLock would have a lot to say about.
***Woman + Whip hadn’t escaped my notice – doesn’t that just scream Irene Adler, “The Woman”? In some ways, Irene Adler is Sherlock’s only obvious experience with romance, specifically with being desired sexually. I’ve always thought of Irene as a mirror for Sherlock and John’s feelings (compare Irene’s “not straight” with John’s constant “not gay” and her telling him, “Look at us both.”) But I concede you could read this as a Sherlock and Irene relationship.

Getting to know the Dark Angels Tarot

I’ve been reading the tarot on and off for a few years, more “off” than “on” until fairly recently. When I was in my early twenties, the second or third deck I bought was Lo Scarabeo’s Dark Angels Tarot. From the images I saw online it seemed like a beautiful deck, just the thing to add to my “light” collection. But the deck’s “in hand” experience left something to be desired, and I only used it a handful of times before I gave up the practice for the better part of five years.

Around the start of this year, I dug out my old tarot cards again. I’ve mostly been working with the Universal Waite, inconstantly picking at the Dark Angels deck with scepticism. Sometimes readings will “sing” to you, but either the Dark Angels deck wasn’t singing or I was tone deaf to its melody. Then I ran across this spread from Little Red Tarot that specifically mentioned decks that had been neglected and I thought, Eh, why not? My readings couldn’t actually suck any more with the Dark Angels than they have in the past.

What a surprise it turned out to be!


1. Tell me about yourself – what is your most important characteristic?

Seven of Swords

My first impression was that this deck isn’t messing around. The LWB describes the Seven of Swords as, “The angel has prepared her plan, she believes she is ready for anything.” The card shows an angel surrounded by swords and wielding one, looking supremely confident about it. This deck doesn’t take prisoners.

2. What are your strengths as a deck?

The Lovers

The Lovers in the Dark Angels features four people; I suppose you can make up your own mind about how they’re configured (it seems soap opera-ish to me, but I’m a prude, so). The deck is attuned to deciphering relationships and deals well with unusual situations. It’s also protective of those it deems worthy – who appears to be anyone who’s in for the ride.

3. What are your limits as a deck?

King of Swords

The LWB describes him rather ominously as, “The angel of authority will wield the sword of the law when necessary.” The Dark Angels tarot isn’t a merciful or forgiving deck – to soft soap you would be insulting, no?

4. What are you here to teach me?

Five of Swords

The Dark Angels Tarot is here to get. Stuff. Done. Creative energy comes to nothing unless a start is made, and the DAT means to make that start.

5. How can I best learn and collaborate with you?

Five of Swords

This read as a bit of challenge to me. The artwork shows an angel collecting swords, his efforts unobstructed though he is technically outnumbered. “Be in it to win it”, the deck seems to be saying. The best collaboration would be to take the same “no nonsense” attitude.

6. What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?

Knight of Wands

“The angel of action moves ever onward, never resting,” LWB advises. The Knight tramps around in a graveyard, his action unhindered even by death. A working relationship here would have the emphasis on “working”; together with the deck, I could create and effect movement.

The suits – wands and swords – combine to form a very active and proactive energy. Altogether it feels like a very “masculine”* deck and not one to fiddle around with when indecisive. I’ve since done another reading with the deck** that clicked for me. It’s like I’ve been plodding through a very thick book that makes much more sense now that I’ve bothered to read the blurb on the back!

I probably won’t use this deck very often – my “taste” for noir/Goth has worn off as I edge closer to thirty – but I’m happy that I’ve finally broken the ice with it all these years later.

*By which I mean traditionally masculine.
**Another one of Little Red Tarot’s.