Over the weekend, I shared my first deck acquisition over on Facebook and Instagram: the Arcana Tarot Playing Cards by Chris Ovdiyenko (published by Dead on Paper, his company with his wife, Adria).
Like I said in those social media posts, having this deck is literally a dream come true. Many years ago, after getting my first Tarot deck, I had a dream that I was standing next to houses of cards, and began to pick up the cards. When I looked at the cards in my hands, they were both Tarot cards and playing cards.
The dream acknowledged my study of Tarot, while reminding me of the dream that got it all started (in which I was reading for myself with playing cards).
And, during that time, a resource on Tarot I turned to was “Tarot Plain and Simple” by Anthony Louis. To this day, it remains my all-time favorite resource, one that I still highly recommend to others when asked about a good book on the cards.
One of the reasons I love the book is a section where Louis shares his “Theme and Variations” layout as a way to make meaning of the cards, from things taking place in your world through everyday experiences.
I resumed working with this layout since returning to my study of playing cards at the end of last year.
And today, I was particularly struck by the insights I gleaned from this morning’s layout, which is in the photo below.
Card 1 opens the layout, and the Page of Spades (Swords) landed here. The Pages are the message bearers, and this one, in particular, is in search of the truth. For me, I’ve learned the message from the Page of Spades can be either alarming, to some degree, that its truth might be difficult to hear.
It always brings to mind that classic scene in the movie “A Few Good Men,” where the character played by Jack Nicholson is being questioned for the truth by Tom Cruise’s character, while on the witness stand in a military courtroom—and his character shouts from the stand, “You can’t handle the truth!”
So, the layout opens with the message of receiving information that might be difficult to handle.
Card 2 is The Star, the first Major Arcana card in the layout. The Star can be a card of optimism and being hopeful for the future, but I also read it as visibility and something being exposed, which would fit coming after the Page of Spades.
The Star, for me, can represent the media, so the information could be revealed through the news outlets, whether it be television media or social media (The Star can be the internet).
Card 3 is The Sun (the second Major Arcana card), and here, instead of looking at it as the “happy happy, joy joy” card, I see it here as a card of illumination, something being brought into the light, following The Star about visibility and exposure.
I see The Sun as the best card in the deck, and it outshines all the other cards in the layout.
Which brings me to Card 4, The Devil (the third Major Arcana card in a row)—a direct contrast to The Sun: Where The Sun is walking in the light, The Devil is remaining in darkness; where The Sun is personal freedom, The Devil is entrapment; where The Sun is enlightenment, The Devil is being unenlightened.
As a person who has a psychology background, for me, The Devil is a card about working through our fears, working through our conditioning and programming, those tapes that can trip us up and unconsciously sabotage our efforts.
Here, though, keeping with the context of information being exposed and brought into the light, The Devil is about keeping things concealed—or that some type of wrongdoing has taken place, and when exposed, then blaming and scapegoating occurs, rather than taking responsibility for an error in judgment or making a mistake.
I think of the classic line “The devil made me do it,” made popular by the late comedian Flip Wilson.
Which brings me to Card 5, which represents the theme; this is the central issue that the other cards frame. In today’s layout, it’s the 2 of Hearts (Cups).
The first thing I noticed was this card is the only non-scenic card, which means it’s not illustrated. And despite this, I found this card had a lot to say.
Being from the suit of Hearts, the issue can be about love and healing.
The number 2 is a number of relationships and partnerships, about balance and harmony. The 2 can also be about opposites—and with that, opposition; about polarity and duality—which I have referred to as “the other.”
And then I took a really good look at the hearts on the card.
Typically, the 2 of Hearts can be about a relationship beginning to form, that stage where two people are getting to know each other, deciding how intimate each person wants to become with the other.
But, in that moment, I was seeing something else.
The hearts are on opposite sides of the card, with a wide gap between them. I looked at this, and thought about emotional differences that have created distance, or that a gap has widened as a result of feeling differently about something.
And isn’t that seems to be what’s going on in the world at this moment?
People are feeling one way or another about things, and as a result, the division that has become more apparent seems to be getting wider, as people place more importance over their own individual feelings without taking into account the emotional experiences of others.
And then I remembered the healing aspect of the suit of Hearts, and that this card can also mean reconciliation.
The cards are acknowledging that, yes, things are going on with information (Page of Spades), whether it be fake news (The Devil) circulating in the media (The Star) or the truth—which can be difficult to bear (Page of Spades).
And, yes, there’s fear, prejudice, and bias (The Devil) rising up through the cracks of the social progression (The Star) we thought we were making, shedding light (The Sun) on the fact that there’s more work to be done with regard to freedom (The Sun) and the pursuit of happiness (The Sun).
And, even with all of that, we’re also being given the message (Page of Swords) to be hopeful for the future (The Star) of humanity (The Star).
The 2 of Hearts, at the center, says we all have a choice here; we can choose to continue coming from the fear of “us vs. them” conditioning and programming (The Devil) and widening the emotional divide even more—or we can choose to begin the process of healing and reconciliation, and bridge the gap of that emotional divide.
And it takes one person, one heart, one relationship at a time.
It reminds me of a song, back in the day, by the vocal group Seduction: “It Takes Two (to Make a Thing Go Right)—and the ladies sang that in harmony…
Louis, A. (2006). Tarot Plain and Simple. Woodbury: Llewellyn Worldwide.