Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Strength (La Force)

Tarot Rider-Waite
One of the interesting cards is "The Strength". That card is normally depicted by a woman gently holding a lions mouth open.
This image shows it all what this card is about, and is a good example of the subversiveness of tarot. This card has often in the past been called "fortitude", which is emotional strength  and is slightly more fitting to the meaning of the card.

The card  is card number 8 in Tarot Rider-Waite, but in Tarot of Marseilles the card is traditionally placed as the 11th card. Rider swapped the numbering of this card with The Justice, however, many writers disagree with this change. The reason was astrologically: Strength is represented by Leo, and Justice is represented by Libra. Leo comes before Libra, so the numbering was changed.

Jean Dodal's Strength

Rider changed a few items of this card: The infinity symbol sits like a halo over the figure's head, and she nicely touches the lion, looking caring and gentle. In Marseille cards the hat shows the infinity symbol in a more hidden way, but the lion's mouth is very violently kept open. The meaning of the card is the same with both: Interior strength, willpower, self control, kindness, love, courage, vigor. In a relationship this card is a very good card, showing positive behaviour.

St Jerome: Removing the thorn from the paw out of kindness
The picture of the lion, being dominated and tamed, is an old christian symbol. In the story of St Jerome (St  Hieronymus), the saint removed a splinter from the paw of the lion, and was later recognised by this beast. The storyline is similar: The force used is brain and kindness, rather than overpowering the beast with physical strength. Surely, in medieval times, people looking at the card of the strength, who opens the mouth of the lion, would be reminded of that christian story. Jerome is saint patron of translators, librarians and encyclopedists.

With this Arcana, the card has used one of the most moralistic aspects of the entire tarot deck. The fact that kindness, self-control and discipline, in short the general virtues, are simply described as strength shows how highly regarded they are. As an advisory card, the difficulty of being virtuous must not be forgotten. As a descriptive card, being virtuous is generally a good thing, and the card is overall good. As always, the meaning of the card has to be interpreted in relation to its positions an combinations within the spread. In a position that shows this card in a balanced way, it shows that the person uses fortitude, and is positively influencing the outcome. Is the card unbalanced in the spread, it turns into advise to become "more clever" about the behaviour, to try to use willpower without using physical force or aggressiveness.

If you want to know more about this card, or are interested in a reading in Notting Hill or anywhere in London, please contact me under

Sunday, April 21, 2013

IV of Swords in Tarot Rider-Waite Tarot Rider-Waite, the Four of Swords depicts a tomb, in a church, with stone carving of a knight on the top in a sleeping and pious position. Many readers believe that it shows an actual person sleeping, and modern Rider-Waite clone decks often colour in the person, to make him look like a real sleeping person on a tomb. In the original Rider-Waite deck, it is just an effigy of a person who is in fact dead. This does not change the meaning, but I feel the image is easily misunderstood.
The meaning of this card is rest and reflection after a fight or difficult task or  time. This card reminds us to recover and rest. The person shown is praying, which means he is still receiving celestial energy if he asks for it, which is what this card is about: Build up strength again, especially mentally. Now is the time to meditate, relax and let your mind go. This card is very similar to the Hanged Man, except that in this card the exhaustion makes it compulsory to rest. The four of swords advises us to take things calmly, and not take them too seriously and let them affect you too much, because that could lead to depression and psychosomatisation. If this card describes a situation rather than giving advice, the card means stagnation out of exhaustion, and the resources are missing to advance and progress. This is a situation after a crisis or a breakdown, and there is no immediate improvement. You are not able to move on yet.
Do you want to learn more about Tarot and the Four of Swords, please check out

XII: The Hanged Man

Tarot Rider-Waite
(c) Eltarotdecarmel
Hanged Man (Vatican Museum)
Also a saint
The hanged man has always been a fascinating figure. In tarot, he is depicted hanging upside down with one leg free. He is often depicted as a saint. However, the sainthood, which moves this rather grim Arcana into the realm of being a Martyr, is not shown in the other tarot decks. Rider-Waite took the sainthood from the meaning of the card.

This might be because the hanged man is not necessarily bad, and it does not necessarily describe wrong decisions - but it can, depending on the situation. In Christian iconography, the process of being hung often describes a God-given suffering, that can be rewarded in the afterlife. Therefore, the hanged man is not necessarily hanging because of a previous crime, but he can be seen as the victim of circumstances.

In Tarot of Marseilles (unlike with Rider-Waite), the Hanged Man is suspended via two posts, that represent the spiritual and the material worlds. The cut branches represent the karmic negativity of the ancestors. The figure represents the psycho-genealogical tree, whereby the head is the root.

The Hanged Man means stagnation, no movement, and remaining in place. The meaning depends a bit on the question if the card is read upright only, or including upside down as well. When all cards are read upright, the meaning is stagnation out of someone's own will, and voluntary submission. With this card, the person has to have patience, and possibly sacrifices himself for other people. The card is therefore not necessarily negative (like most cards), but can give the advice that relaxation and stagnation is productive. It can be related to the Four of Swords of the Rider-Waite tarot (the knight lying on a tomb), which means resting out of exhaustion, or with the Two of Swords of Tarot de Marseilles, which means thinking and taking decisions carefully, rather than taking action. The Hanged Man integrates in himself the knowledge or the intuition of the Two of Swords, because the process of thinking is completed. 

He now must make sure he does not move into any direction, and not take rushed decisions. He needs to be patient. This card also represents to meditate, and contemplate about your past life, to be able to identify negative and positive sides and take future actions accordingly. The Hanged Man is trapped, but he has the opportunity to better himself in the future.

Tarot de Marseille by Yoav Ben-Dov
If the card is read in the reverse as well, the reverse card can mean involuntary inaction, because of something that feels like a force that is causing the inaction (family obligations, physical impairment, overpowering fears, and lack of self-esteem etc.). If the card is reversed, one needs to take a new perspective, and change the situation, either psychologically or physically. How a tarot reader can add advice to a bad card can be seen in my previous blog.

The following card in the Major Arcana, card number XIII, the Death or Arcana with no name, will break this inaction, and changes will arrive.

In finance, the Hanged man, can therefore also represent unemployment or a dead-end job, and as advice, it can - depending on the question - mean that it is better to remain in the job. In Health, it can describe a person who is physically not able move very well. Together with the Emperor in a reading, the problem of moving can be physically related to the legs.  Together with the Hermitage, this problem can be due to old age. Because of the lack of self-esteem, it could mean the propensity to be addicted to alcohol, prescription and recreative drugs. Therefore, this card relates to the second chakra (the spleen chakra).

If you want to know more about the Hanged Man, or are interested in a reading, please find out more under Readings are available in London, Notting Hill, or vial Skype worldwide in English, Spanish, Italian and French.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ke$ha's new video - did she do my course?

Tarot in popular culture is always interesting. Some people say that tarot is completely misrepresented.Tarot is often shown as a "dark art", slightly simplistic and generally on par with the use of a Ouija board. Ke$ha's new video "die young" is no exception, but I still like it. The plot is simple, Ke$ha and her mates go to some building, dance around, drink, and incidentally use every spiritual symbol there is. Tarot has a smallish role in this video, but it is worth mentioning, because tarot is the only actual spiritual activity shown in this video. Also, we see the all-seeing eye, the pentacle, skulls and lots of leather. 

The "game" they are playing with tarot cards appears to be similar to familar constellations. From the gestures in the video, the cards they pull represent members of the crew as well as the artist herself. Ke$ha pulls the death for her and holds it onto her foreheard. They all point and laugh. Before, her friend pulls out a card that I cannot see, and the artist herself pulls the devil. They are using a black-and-white Rider-Waite deck.
Shortly afterwards they are throwing all cards into the air, which must be a  new method of shuffeling.

As silly as videos like this sound, there is a purpose to this. Tarot is supposed to be a fun way of discovering something about oneself and other people. Tarot Group Sessions can be very useful for group bonding, and discovering aspects about each other. Although many people consider Tarot sessions as something completely personal - and in most cases it should be - there is the possibility to have more light-hearted sessions in groups. Particularly, with "familiar Constellations" the cards are placed by the group in order of how they relate to the individual. Once the cards are turned around, the tarotist/tarot reader can advise the group on how the group can be improved, or how they relate to each other. Group sessions require from the tarotist more control over the session: No-one should leave upset, and the risk is that personal issues will be uncovered or even discussed. This is why such sessions should be light-hearted.

Even if it means that everyone throws the cards around in the end.

If you are interested in single tarot sessions, group sessions or courses in London or via Skype, please contact me under or e-mail me under

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Where does the High Priestess come from?

Papesse from Le Mat Comunicaciones:
With Sphinx and phallus and egg
After there has been some interest in the Papesse (or the High Priestess), and where she comes from, I would like to add some more information about this card. It is one of the most interesting cards of Tarot de Marseille, because she is a conundrum. A "Papesse" is an impossibility, something illegal and against the church.

Because of this, this card has often been compared with other legends and historical people. Especially in modern decks, the symbolism of these stories is seen reflected in the cards, and this makes it worth looking at the Papesse in more detail. Because this card depicts a sitting woman, the meaning was originally often described as passivity, like the "reflex of god", describing re-action rather than action. This meaning, describing the opposite of the activity of man, tried to explain the card plainly as relating it to the men around it. However, the Papesse  is much more, and is often directly related to the following women:

Isis: This relates to an Egyptian legend of Isis and Osiris. I do not want to repeat the story here, especially since Wikipedia has a good summary, but the relationship between the High Priestess to Isis is an interesting one: Isis was able to build a Penis for Osiris out of gold. She took charge and did not need the man-part to create a man. The High Priestess, or Papesse is also able to take charge, and use female power rather than suppressing it. The Papesse in the Marseille deck - even in very old decks - often has a penis-shaped strap for her coat. She is a woman, but does not need a man to develop ideas and use femininity to her advantage. In the easter-blog I have written about the self-germinating qualities of the egg. The Phallus accentuates these qualities of the Papesse. Tarot Rider-Waite partly picks up on the symbology of Isis (especially the hat and the pillars). In modern Marseille decks (like above), a Sphinx can be found.

Pope Joan: This relationship is obvious. People who wonder how a female pope is possible, always relate her to the story of Pope Joan. Even the iconography is similar to pictures of this legendary pope, however the meaning in the tarot is dissimilar to the catholic-teaching of this story. Pope Joan disguised herself as a man, and managed because of her cleverness and her knowledge to rise to papacy. However, then her womenly  feelings and physicality overcame her, and she gave birth to a child in public. Because of her giving birth, it came out that she was a woman, and was stoned to death after giving birth. The story on the one hand shows - which was revolutionary for the time - that a woman can become a pope if people would let her, and that she can be even wiser and cleverer than a man. Pope Joan was - according to the legend - a very good, wise, clever pope. This so far relates to the Papesse. However, the cruel outcome, the public birth, the stoning to death, the being "too clever for her own good" has nothing to do with the Papesse. It is a very good card that encourages the person to be smart, make use of feelings and senses, and not to suppress the instincts.

Mary Magdalene: This was mentioned in the Easter-blog. The story of Mary Magdalene has a very similar meaning as the story of Pope Joan. Mary Magdalene is often referred to as the right hand of Jesus, who supported Jesus, and helped him. There are conflicting stories about Mary Magdalene, and her reputation changed from being a prostitute who is being forgiven by Jesus, whereby Jesus broke convention and took her into his community, to being the right hand of Jesus and possibly his wife. It is difficult to extract from the noise of stories and viewpoints where the symbolism of Mary Magdalene went into this card: The egg is an obvious one, but there is also simply the fact that Mary Magdalene is often referred to as the first pope, carrying the church forward. For more about this, you can read in the DaVinci Code.

Shekhinah: Rider-White also related the High Priestess with the "Divine Law and the Gnosis", which corresponds with Shekhinah.This is the general divine presence of god, which is female. Rider-Waite related tarot strongly with Kabbalah. The meaning of the High Priestess will be the same as described below, but the symbols clearly relate to a higher spirit, a person who stands above everything earthly. Because of the illegality, this card can also represent "secret tradition".
The Meaning:

The High Priestess, or Papesse, knows all the rules. She is the representation of the intuition and femininity combined with the knowledge she is acquiring. The advise of this female Pope is to listen inside yourself, because you will find the answer in yourself; believe your intuition and start using it.

The egg of the High Priestess that appears in several tarot decks represents the big potential that a person has inside herself. You only need to think carefully about what you are willing to do and you have to mature your ideas. This card tells you " You have a potential you can mature." The Papesse is a person with a lot of knowledge combined with intuition.

The Papesse is the seed and the Empress nourishes and allows this seed to germinate. The seed can be represented by the egg, which is a symbol of this potential. She can also be a religious person, a teacher, a lawyer, a nun, or a spinster.

Also a Papesse: Angela Merkel 
Source: Armin Linnartz 
The Papesse symbolises the gestation of ideas, the knowledge and discretion. This cards describes the female virtues, being caring, being approachable, but combines it with knowledge, and being smart. But it also describes passivity, and re-action. The Papesse or High Priestess follows her way, because she knows, from books and from her feelings, that that way is correct. This is different to the Pope, who represents more external advise from a third party. The Papesse means that the answers are there, but she does not always give the answers: Look into your heart and mind. Make an analysis of the situation and come to your own conclusion! The information is already there, there is no need to go around asking for advice. Sometimes, the advice could be to stop asking the cards if you already know the answer inside of yourself.
The Papesse also represents a hold, a pause, a momento of reflection and meditation.

More information:

This card has been heavily discussed by numerous authors, and I am explaining the relationship of this card - one of the most important in a reading - in my course. However, I am also grateful for comments and suggestions! This very short summary did not fully dwell on the meanings, but wanted to give an overview of the different women this card is related to. In reality, it is possible to find other personalities whose influence can be visible in this card. Remarkably, the Visconti-Sforza tarot deck is said to depict the female pope from a Christian sect related to the Visconti family, Sister Manfreda, that was eradicated in the Inquisition.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


After last weeks escapade into Easter Eggs and how they find their way into tarot as well, I would like to dwell on a more serious topic today. There are two main ways of interpreting Tarot: In the following I will call these styles Predictive Tarot and Progressive Tarot.

Predictive Tarot

Some tarot readers interpret the cards as a clear and unchangeable prediction of the future or the current situation: "Will my husband leave me for another woman?" "Yes!". "Will I get the Job I am aiming for?" "No!" or even "Yes, but you will not like it".

While cards do give answers, depending on how the energies fall, this is not a very useful way of interpreting the cards. It is partly, because the questions are drafted in a not helpful way, giving the tarot reader the opportunity to be slightly lazy and not actually support the client.

A good tarot reader who wants to show the future, needs to allow for some choice explain to the client that questions must be drafted in a way that the unchangeable truth can still guide the client through life.  A tarot reader who believes in this first philosophy might prefer the answer "there are bad energies over your husband" and therefore still allow for some choice of the client, rather than a "yes" or "no" answer.

Progressive Tarot

There is in my honest opinion another and better way, which starts with asking a different type of question: "Where am I and my husband heading", or "Is this job good for me, if I take it?". Then, the answer can be  what I call "progressive". The cards can show an in-depth behavioural pattern, that, if followed, leads to a certain result. The psychic intuition of the reader is more challenged, because suddenly there are patterns that can be broken, interrupted, problems that can be solved. And just by asking the right kind of question, the client unblocks the problem mentally, and the reader can show a way out of the bad situation.

Effectively, the cards are being divided in current situation, and if the current pattern and attitudes are followed, how the future could look like. If there is a negative card, other cards will be drawn to give direct advise what should be changed. The spread is less fixed, because the "advise cards" can sit on top of negative cards.

It requires for the tarot reader to direct the client to the right questions, speak to the client and find out where the problem is and discuss the options with him/her. It makes for a far more intuitive and interesting reading.

However, sometimes, clear answers are simply required. The cards will give the right answers, even when there is no resolution. Sometimes, a simple "yes" or "no" is all it takes to unblock the situation by itself.

The purpose of tarot is not only to speak about the problems, but to offer solutions. This is only one way of adding value to a tarot session, and to allow the client to leave the session with a positive feeling and new energy to tackle the problems.

In my course, I speak about the different ways of reading tarot, and when they can be appropriate for the situation. Please leave comments!

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Easter is approaching, and children will find lots of joy hunting for easter eggs, and adults will find lots of joy eating the ones that are left – let's hope there are lots left!

For Tarot, the symbol of the egg is increasingly popular in decks, and egg shapes are re-discovered and made more prominent by Marseille decks. Especially the Tarot Aurotriz, Camoin and Le Mat found joy in hiding eggs in a few cards. I would like to encourage you to look through your Marseille deck and find the eggs. Unfortunately, they are not made of chocolate.

In the major arcana of some of the Tarot de Marseille decks we can see several eggs. The Papesse/Priestess has an egg on her left side. The egg seems to have just been laid by a chicken. The Papesse represents this time of fecundation, this time of thinking and deepening inside oneself. If you have a religion you will share the silence, feelings, knowledge and sufferance of Christ. The egg will represent the Resurrection of Christ, because it contains a new life inside.

There are a lot of pictures of Saint Mary Magdalene with an egg. In Eastern Christianity and orthodoxy, there is a story that Mary Magdalene, went to the tomb where Jesus was buried and brought some cooked eggs for the other women that were with her. Suddenly the eggs turned red, when she saw the resurrected Christ.

Tarot de Marseille, which picks up on the iconography of the Orthodox tradition, is the ideal place for hiding eggs. Since the Vatican declared that Mary Magdalene was in fact not a prostitute, and the Mary Magdalene cult became more and more popular – not only after the DaVinci Code – it is likely we see more and more eggs in future religious iconography. The Priestess or Papesse is the ideal place, because she is often related to Mary Magdalene. But there are more eggs to be found, so please feel free to comment below what those eggs might mean, and what it means to you!

Think about what you want with your Easter Eggs. Easter is a time of reflexion about the future, the Papesse tells us to use our mental facilities and intuition, to wait and find in books and in ourselves the answer of what we want to know. Easter is a time of contemplating what we want in life. The Priestess has intuition and has a lot of answers in her memory, in herself. With the Papesse it seems that nothing is happening, but that's a very good moment to invest your time to plant all your ideas. After that card, the Empress will arrive with her creativity, that will be materialised by her husband the Emperor.  

Enjoy Easter! And if you see an egg, think about what you want in life, wait and when you have really decided go ahead.