Card of the Week: The Sun

“Everyone plants their own happiness, everyone sows their own joy, and everyone holds their own destiny.”
The Bruegel Tarot, by Pietro Alligo and Guido Zibordi Marchesi

XIX The SunThe Sun is the 19th Major Arcana, and the third of the celestial Trumps.1 This is perhaps one of the happiest cards in the Tarot, and indicates that things are going extremely well. This week, I’m giving myself an additional challenge by looking at the Sun as depicted in a deck that’s brand new to me: the Bruegel Tarot.

The House You Built

The nice thing about the Sun is that it’s not telling you to simply sit back and relax, but that the happiness and joy that comes to you is because of your own labors and efforts. The background of this card is filled with people enjoying the fruits of their labors. We can see a farmer hard at work in the field, a woman seeming to enjoy tall trees, and somebody hanging up their laundry in the Sun’s warm rays.

This card is also a reminder to enjoy the good times when they happen. In the foreground, a man and a woman are building a wall. The tools of the trade are scattered about them, and the wall is obviously unfinished. However, they are happily rejoicing. This is also mirrored in the background, where crowds gather on the hillside and gaze up at the Sun in admiration.

The unfinished wall indicates that happiness and joy don’t need to wait until the completion of your work. You should find ways to also enjoy the process. The means to an end need to be as good for the soul as the end itself. A wall built with faulty materials is not going to be a great wall.

Strong Celestial Influence

This card also carries some potent esoteric symbolism. In the sky, the Sun shines brightly, illuminating the rest of the imagery in the card. Peeking over the horizon are a crescent moon and two planets, one of them ringed. This is a reminder that while the influence of the Spheres may be overshadowed by the power of the Sun, they lurk forever on the edges, waiting for darkness to fall and their power to increase. The happiness of the Sun must be worked for. While you can stop and enjoy it, you still need to sow the seeds of joy in order to reap the fruits of happiness. Like all things, the Sun is part of a cosmic cycle.

What are your thoughts on the symbolism of the Sun? How does this interpretation differ from other decks? Discuss!

In the photograph, the card is from the aforementioned Bruegel Tarot, copyright 2003 Lo Scarabeo. The image in the background is the Tower of Babel from Athanasius Kircher’s Theatre of the World: The Life and Work of the Last Man to Search for Universal Knowledge by Joscelyn Godwin (Inner Traditions, 2009).

  1. I drew it randomly. It’s a weird coincidence to have the Moon last week and the Sun this week, but sometimes that’s how the Tarot works. 

Since launching this website a few weeks ago, I’ve been catching up on all of the Tarot material that’s available online. There’s a lot of it. One of the websites I’ve been enjoying is Tarotize, by the prolific Lisa Frideborg. She recently linked back to an older post of hers called Top 10 Tarot Tuition Tips in which she lists a number of ways that one can get started reading cards. The list is interesting in that it lists a few things that I certainly have done and have recommended to others, and a number of things that I’ll probably never do.

Syncretic Divination

As a part of the modern Western Mystery tradition, Tarot is a syncretic system. Its association with Hermetic Qabalah and ceremonial magic probably doesn’t date much earlier than the 19th century. This link was either invented or popularized by the influential occultist Eliphas Levi. Since then, the popularity of Tarot and other cartomantic systems has skyrocketed. You can now find systems of cartomancy incorporating all manner of other systems, including runes, astrology, and other symbol sets.

Tarotize recommends familiarizing yourself with astrology, numerology, and the chakras. Astrology has had a strong link to the Tarot simply because it’s been a part of our cultural landscape for so long. Modern astrology hit its peak in the 17th century, with the explosion of astrological almanacs and popular public figures such as Sir Christopher Heydon, Nicholas Culpeper, William Lilly, and others.1 Its history goes back much further, however. It’s very difficult to study Western Esotericism without learning something about astrology.

Numerology takes a number of forms. Some of them are divinatory, but others are deeper and stranger.2 Because Tarot decks are numbered, it makes sense to draw numerical connections between the cards. In fact, kind of like a poker hand, I will interpret cards differently if multiples show up in a reading. Three 4’s, for instance, can mean some significant stagnation. Tarotize points to a novel system of Tarot numerology that was initially introduced by Mary K Greer.

Find the Symbols You Need

While I like to think that you don’t need to incorporate other symbolic systems into Tarot, avoiding them will make your path more difficult. However, you don’t need to use astrology, numerology, or chakras. Finding a symbol set that speaks to you is one of the best ways to find a deck that you’re going to like. If you’re interested in Tarot, then you’ve probably already explored something else. Maybe you enjoy Ancient Egypt, or you’re really into cats, or you’ve got a thing for Celtic knots. There are many, many Tarot decks out there, and you’ll be able to find one that matches what you already love.

If you haven’t already seen it, Aeclectic Tarot is a great resource for exploring the variety of Tarot decks out there.

Did You Catch the Free Reading Offer?

In my last Client Query post, I offered a free Tarot reading by email to those who ask me good questions. If I pick your question for a future Client Query post, then a free reading is yours!

  1. Monod, Solomon’s Secret Arts: The Occult in the Age of the Enlightenment, Yale University Press, 2013, pp. 53-59. 

  2. For instance, Gematria is an esoteric Hebrew system of numerology that uses the numerical values of words to analyze holy texts. 

When I first started doing public readings about a year ago, my routine would be to shuffle the deck and then hand it over to the client for a shuffle or two. I feel like it’s important for the client to get involved with the readings by getting their hands on the cards, and shuffling seems like the perfect way to do it.

Those Cards are Important

I had to rethink this after just a couple of sessions. Every time I handed over a deck of cards for somebody else to shuffle, I cringed. It’s rare that anybody sitting across the table shuffles cards as often as I do, and Tarot cards are awkwardly large and usually pretty slippery. If you slip up while shuffling, you can send the cards flying all over the place. Nobody wants to play 78-card pickup. To make matters worse, when the cards go flying, there’s a big chance one of them will be damaged. Some of my decks are impossible to replace.

It’s Not Bad Juju

You’re not going to mess up my deck’s ancient mystical powers. Each Tarot deck, after all, was machine printed and packaged in a box by a large, unfeeling machine. They weren’t produced by magical cartomancy leprechauns or something like that. I just don’t want you to physically damage the cards. I still make my clients cut the deck before the reading begins, but no shuffling. Please no shuffling.

Why Do You Keep Answering Dumb Questions?

I was jotting down topic ideas for this blog the other day, and a friend looked over my shoulder and said to me, “Those are stupid questions. Don’t write about those.” Well, frankly, these are questions that I get a lot. I know they’re not really complex, but I need my readers to ask me good questions before I can answer them. Use the comments form below to ask me a question. Please.

I’ll throw in an incentive: If I pick your question to answer on my blog, I’ll throw in a free Tarot reading by email!

Card of the Week: The Moon

XVIII: The MoonThe Moon is one of those great mystery cards in the Major Arcana. In many decks, the imagery includes two hounds, water, towers, at least one moon, and a crustacean. It’s the second of the three celestial Trumps, between the Star and the Sun.

Time For Reflection

Unlike the Star and the Sun, the Moon doesn’t create its own light. Though it shines, all of its light is reflected. Because it can only reflect light cast upon it, the Moon spends much of its time partially occluded. Light represents knowledge. If the light is hidden, so must knowledge be. Because of this, The Moon represents thoughts and ideas that we have hidden within ourselves. The water can indicate that the hidden things are lurking in our unconscious mind.

The two dogs, usually one dark and one light, also symbolize two parts of ourselves. One is the part with which we’re familiar. The other is the darker half, or Shadow, which we must learn to face if we hope to grow as individuals.

Wax On, Wane Off

Different Tarot decks depict the Moon in different phases. In the Alchemical Tarot, the Moon is pictured as waxing, or increasing. However, in the classic Rider-Waite deck, the moon is waning. One shows more light and the other less. Both, however, should remind us that our work at understanding ourselves is cyclical. At times, we feel as if everything is clear, and at times, nothing makes sense. Patience and reflection help us integrate more Light and knowledge when it is available, and help us understand the darkness while we wait for the Light to return.


Recently a client told me about a great Tarot deck he has. I’m envious of this deck. In fact, he wanted me to read using the deck, and I reluctantly had to tell him that it’s not as simple as that.

wpid-2014-07-18-09.50.02.png.pngLike I repeatedly tell people, I’m not psychic. My skill with a particular deck comes from familiarization and contemplation. I need to sit with the deck for quite a while and experiment with it. Do the symbols mean anything to me? Am I able to quickly and intuitively draw connections between them? Sometimes I’ll get a good feel for a deck quickly, and I can perform rich and rewarding readings. Other times, it takes me months of practice with a deck before I’m comfortable reading for others. Most of the time, however, when I pick up a deck for the first time, I can’t do anything with it.

Successes and Failures

There have been a few decks throughout the years that I really wanted to use but couldn’t. For instance, the Haindl Tarot is a beautiful deck with rich imagery that spans multiple cultures and traditions. The artist, Hermann Haindl, put a lot of work into the deck. Renowned Tarot writer Rachel Pollock wrote two books about this deck. There’s a lot going on, and I’m a big fan of complex symbolic systems. I’ve read the books, I’ve used the cards, and in spite of all the effort, I just can’t work with the deck very well.

Robert Place’s legendary Alchemical Tarot, on the other hand, spoke to me the minute I saw it. It’s almost effortless for me to read with this deck. The language of the symbolism resonates with me. The next time you get a reading from me, request this deck and hopefully you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Other People’s Things

There are a lot of readers out there who get really attached to specific decks of cards. I’m not like that: I get attached to symbol sets. I can pick up any Rider-Waite deck and do a perfectly fine reading. I’m also fine with others touching my Tarot cards, trying to read with them, and otherwise doing things that some Tarot readers would probably be shocked by. I don’t find that this reduces the efficacy of my readings.

Unfortunately, if I’m unfamiliar with your deck, I probably can’t give a good reading with it. Even the best deck in the world needs practice and familiarity.

By the way, don’t forget to visit me tomorrow at the Division/Clinton Street Fair!

Featured in the image are a number of decks that I own that I rarely read with.

Since The Press Club closed, I’m without a regular home for my weekly Tarot readings. I’m looking for a few good venues for my Friday afternoons!

What Does It Take?

I only need a place with a free table that I can take over for a few hours. I don’t want to take up valuable space in a really busy location. In fact, my Tarot readings will bring customers to the venue. A bar, coffee shop, or casual restaurant works best.

How Can You Help?

Are you a business owner who wants to add a little mystery to your Friday afternoon? Do you know of a business that would be a perfect fit for a weekly dose of Arnemancy? Please get in touch with  me! I’m eager for more ideas. I will happily pay for my use of your space with a cut of my sales.

If you have ideas, please contact me using the form below.

Kicking off our Card of the Week feature is the Magician, the second of the major arcana. When I drew this card to write about, I didn’t really believe it. Who would believe that randomly I picked one of the best cards for starting off a new venture? If I was going to purposely select a card for the first post, the Magician is the best candidate. I picked it randomly. No, really. I shuffled a lot.

wpid-2014-07-18-09.13.18.png.pngAll Your Ducks in a Row

The Magician has all of his tools ready to begin a new undertaking. On the table, all four suits of the minor arcana are represented: Pentacle, Sword, Cup, and Wand. This is the way to start something new and make sure it works. The Magician is making sure that he’s ready to tackle something large, life-changing, and important.

This is also symbolic of harmony between the four elements, represented by the tools of the minor arcana. Harmony between the elements brings a balanced and sturdy foundation.

As Above, So Below

The Magician raises his own wand into the sky with his right hand, while pointing to the ground with his left. In doing so, he is symbolizing the Hermetic axiom found in the Emerald Tablet, which states, “That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below.” The symbol for infinity floats over his head like a halo, and he is surrounded by a glowing white aura.

With this pose and the tools, the Magician appears ready to perform some great magical act. The ultimate magical act is the unification of the soul with the Divine. The major arcana doesn’t mess around, by the way. Its messages are grand. There really is no better card with which to begin this enterprise.

The featured Tarot deck is some version of the Rider-Waite Tarot which I’ve had for years. The book behind the cards is a volume from the Pritzker edition of the Sefer ha Zohar, a necessary work for students of the Kabbalah.