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Divinitory Meanings of the Tarot by Baird Stafford


The Aces are generally thought to represent beginnings of all sorts, whether of new phases of one's life, new enterprises, new relationships, or of any other matter of concern.  They may also, however, represent completion: the whole of the meanings of the other cards in their respective suits distilled into a single symbol.  To borrow a phrase from another religion, each Ace is the alpha *and* the omega of its suit.

   The COIN

Coins being mined from the Earth represent the Earth in both the mundane and the magical senses.  When they appear in readings which indicate conflict, they generally are a shield against aggression.

Favorable:  A new monetary venture; a new career - or the idea for either, which must be acted upon.  Turning earth for a garden; planting a new tree.  New awareness of the ecology and one's place in it; oneness with Nature.  Attainment of mundane goals or spiritual goals connected with one's surroundings.  The founding of a Circle which has the potential to grow.  When heavily influenced by Cups or Triumphs which generally signify emotional involvement: bliss or felicity.

Unfavorable:  The corruption of character by wealth and the mundane power which accompanies it.  Neglect of the environment.  Blight, whether from natural causes or manmade pollution.  The beginning of an enterprise which, although personally profitable, may harm either the environment or those with whom one comes in contact.  Devotion to the spiritual at the expense of both mundane matters and other people; selfishness.  When heavily influenced by adverse cups or Triumphs, ecstasy to the point of divorce from reality such as might be induced, for instance, by dependence upon substances either natural or synthetic which alter one's perception of the world.

   The SWORD

Swords usually correspond to Air, perhaps due to the preponderance of metaphors in languages of northern Europe which liken the north wind to a knife or sword.  In many decks, the Swords as a suit are depicted with two edges, indicating the ability to cut in either direction, just as the weather may vary from the pleasant to a hurricane within a matter of moments.  A layout with a preponderance of Swords might well be considered alarming, even if the cards lie favorably.

Favorable:  Triumph, conquest by force of arms or by force of will.  Virility to the point of satyriasis.  Courage to defend the right; "the courage of one's convictions."  Will-power, perhaps enough to enable one to stop a habit such as alcohol or tobacco "cold turkey."  In material matters it may also mean skill, particularly with cutting edges such as a surgeon's knife or a fencer's sabre.  The recruitment of allies for an endeavor.

Unfavorable:  The triumph of an evil or unjust cause.  A lost cause.  Rape.  Weakness in the face of opposition; inability to make a decision.  Lack of will-power.  Force applied foolishly or with deliberate malice, resulting in manslaughter or murder.  A declaration of war.  Persecution of the innocent; dictatorship; cults of personality.

   The CUP

Cups are generally associated with the element of Water; like the Coins, when they appear in a layout which seems to indicate conflict they represent a defensive armament - perhaps a helmet or other head-covering.  Hence, they also represent not only the emotions but also psychic and magical attributes and abilities.  They may also represent wisdom.

Favorable:  Nourishment and abundance, though more emotional and spiritual than material.  Love.  Novitiate in religion and/or magic.  Birth of psychic powers.  Beginning of a relationship.  Inspiration.  The womb:  hence, the Sea, which is the Womb of Life.

Unfavorable:  Strong emotions such as hatred, jealousy, and possessiveness.  Abandonment of the spiritual for the mundane.  Loss of psychic or magical power.  Emotional fragility usually induced by events in early childhood: frequently, the victim of child abuse.  Constant search for instant gratification.  Barrenness.

   The WAND

Wands are most frequently, in the Tarot, assigned to represent the element of Fire:  when depicted with that element they are represented as burning while remaining unconsumed, like Moses' bush.  They are the stout quarterstaff of the peasant and the lance and arrows of the warrior.  Their association with fire may be extended to other forms of energy, from the unpredictable violence of lightning to the more subtle energies which power growth and maturation.  They are also associated with the intellect.

Favorable:  The beginning of an enterprise which may or may not bring fame and fortune, but which will be of benefit to the person carrying it out.  Start of a scientific, literary, historical, or other intellectual inquiry: invention.  Forensic prowess; intellectual courage.  Spring, when seeds germinate and many animals bear their young:  conception and the virility which leads to it.

Unfavorable:  Intellectual stagnation, antagonism towards new ideas.  A blind alley.  Impotence.  Overly meticulous attention to detail at the expense of the whole.  Superficial understanding, as is sometimes displayed by the "astrologer" at a party or in a bar.  Dilettantism.  Misdirection of sexual energies towards minors; dislike or abuse of children.