Terrestrial Triumphs

A little more than two years ago, I started to do a daily tarot reading. I wanted to learn the cards effortlessly (that is, without having to actively memorize each of the 78 cards), and though I’m still at it, I have very little retention of what the cards mean, so after all this time, I still have to look up the meaning of each card. Adding to the confusion, each guide included in most decks offers a different interpretation of the cards, though there is a vague thread of similarity between each of those interpretations. Some of the major arcana seem obvious, such as the Wheel of Fortune or Judgment, but the minor arcana all runs together, especially the court cards (the people cards). These generally refer to the people in our lives, but I have very few people and none of court cards ever seem to have anything to do with them or me.

Actually, the readings themselves never seem to have anything to me except shallowly, the way newspaper horoscopes offer shallow advice or ambiguous prophesy. It’s possible that I am not doing the readings correctly, not opening myself to possible meanings, not meditating on the cards or whatever it is I am supposed to be doing since I am not gleaning anything about myself or my life that I don’t already know. It’s also possible that at this stage of my life there isn’t anything more I can know. That’s not to say I know everything about myself, just that I know what I know and can’t intuit what I don’t know, with or without the help of the tarot.

Still, I continue to do a daily reading, choosing a different deck each month. In the hope that by limiting the number of cards I use, I will be able to better learn the meanings, this month I am using the Glass Tarot, a gorgeous deck reminiscent of stained glass, that’s comprised of only the major arcana. (The title of this blog, terrestrial triumphs, is how the major arcana was once known; hence, the term “trumps” as another name for those cards.)

Today’s three-card reading included all cards that I am familiar with, and so my interpretation before looking at what the guide says, is that once I was naïve about certain matters, such as what grief can do to a person (The Fool), but then Jeff died and the world I knew came tumbling down (The Tower), and now I see things from a different perspective (The Hanged Man).

All true, of course, but it doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know. (My question for the reading was “What do I need to know today?) Going by the definitions in this particular guide, the cards mean something else and deviate a bit from how others interpret the cards.

The Fool: Freedom from concern over material matters, extravagances, follies, light-heartedness, incomprehensible or inexplicable actions.

The Tower: Arrogance, pride, presumptuousness, upset equilibrium, danger, exile, collapse of mistaken convictions.

The Hanged Man: Disinterestedness, altruism, repentance, detachment from matter, moment of transition, utopia, art, punishment.

Even reading my cards from a different angle, perhaps that my follies let to arrogance and now I have to repent, doesn’t tell me much, though it is interesting to see how the same cards are subject to two completely different interpretations.

It does show me, too, that a few cards are sticking in memory, so my daily readings are helping me learn the cards, for whatever that’s worth.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Today’s Tarot Reading

Although I continue to do a brief tarot reading every morning for practice, the cards still don’t tell me much of anything. In fact, they generally seem too disjointed to tell any sort of story, whether mine or anyone else’s. Nor do I see a metaphor for my life in the cards, which is what some people believe a tarot reading is — a metaphor for the querant’s life. The querant, for those who don’t know anything about the tarot, is the person seeking answers. In my case, I am both the reader and the querant, so perhaps I’m too close to the querant’s situation to make sense of the cards.

Unlike most people, I don’t ask the cards specific questions; I stick with a generic, “What do I need to know today?”

Apparently, since I don’t glean anything more specific than bad things happened or will happen, or good things happened or will happen, I don’t need to know anything else. But then, that’s pretty much life, isn’t it? Those good and bad things that happened or will happen don’t need to be anything earthshaking because except for a few truly earthshaking moments — births, love, death — most of life is about small happenings.

I suppose I could change my question to see if I get any other sort of result with a different query, but the truth is, I don’t really need the cards for answers to life’s questions. I don’t seek insights into the past because the past is done with. I don’t care to know what will happen in the future because if I live long enough — a day, week, year, whatever — I will experience the future firsthand. I don’t need a metaphor for my life because I am living my life, metaphor or no. I certainly don’t rely on the cards to give me investment advice or anything like that because . . . well, for one thing, I have no funds to invest, and for another, if I have to rely on myself to interpret the cards, I might as well rely on myself to interpret the various investment possibilities.

Still, it’s possible that someday a certain tarot deck, the preponderance of my readings, a greater understanding will all click, and then I will know . . . something.

Meantime, there is my daily practice.

Despite my earlier declaration that the cards generally don’t tell a story, today’s three-card reading did, at least to an extent. The first card, the four of swords tells what happened in the past. (After facing multiple crises, you needed time for solitude and getting ready to face new challenges). The second card, the ten of swords, hints at the results of that past. (Pain, loss, desolation, but in that darkness are the seeds of hope.) The third card, the four of wands, suggests what will happen next or what actions will need to be taken. (Country life, work/life balance, peace, a sense that our projects are a wider expression of who we are.)

Did this reading change anything about my life or tell me anything I didn’t know? Well, no, but it did give me a blog topic, and that’s not a small thing.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Practicing the Tarot

Tomorrow starts a new month, which means I need to pick out a different tarot deck to use. I still haven’t found one that I have any special affinity for, so I am still in the habit of rotating decks to give me an opportunity to learn each of them. (Each of them in my collection, that is.)

Tomorrow also starts a new year. The first year of doing a daily tarot reading for myself, I picked one card. The second year, I picked two. Starting tomorrow, I’ll pick three, which means that not only do I have to choose a different deck, I have to decide what sort of reading I am going to do since there are an unlimited number of possibilities for a three-card reading.

A few examples:

Past, present, future
Situation, Obstacle, Advice
Opportunities, Challenges, Outcome
Your strengths, your weaknesses, how you can progress
Current situation, action to take, outcome
What will help me, what will hinder me, what is my unrealized potential
How to accept a change, how to care for yourself during the change, how to center yourself,
This happened, this was the result, this is what I need to do now

Lots of choices. Come to think of it, I should have done a reading today to figure out what my next reading should be!

The most common three-card reading is past, present, and future. The past can be anything in the far or near past that happened to affect you, either for good or bad. (If you’re doing a weekly reading, the past is the week since the previous reading, so if I am doing a daily reading, the past could be yesterday.) The present can be the current situation or current challenges. The future can indicate the outcome of the present situation or the direction things are moving. Another way of looking at the past, present, future reading is the final item on my example list: this happened, this was the result, this is what I need to do. That’s the one I am leaning toward, though it’s my game, so I can change the focus of the reading every month if I want so I can learn various three-card spreads.

That’s not the end of the choices. Next I have to decide how to pull the cards for the layout. Up until now, I’ve shuffled the deck, fanned out the cards, and picked the cards — one card the first year, two cards the second year.

I could continue fanning the deck and pulling random cards, or I could cut the deck then deal out the top three cards, or I could split the deck into three piles and then turn over the top card of each pile. I’m leaning toward the final way, though knowing me, I’ll end up just pulling random cards. That’s what I did when I started my two-card reading: split the deck into two piles and then turned over the top card. I don’t remember why I reverted to pulling cards, but that’s how I ended the year.

I’m not really sure why I’m continuing with the daily readings since they don’t seem to be telling me anything about myself or even about the cards overall. (I still don’t know the meaning of the cards individually without looking them up — I’d hoped that the daily use of the cards would help me memorize them, but it hasn’t happened, and I don’t know if it matters.) The main reason I’m starting a three-card reading is that I’m following through on a long-term plan. I’d probably get just as much out of the tarot if I went back to a one-card reading and spent more time figuring out what that card has to do with my life, but I should learn how to fit the cards together. (That’s why I’m leaning toward the final item on my example list — it lends itself easily to telling a story.)

Still, you never know — it’s possible something will come of my daily tarot exercise no matter how many cards I use. And if not, well, I have all those decks and plenty of time, so I might as well keep on practicing the tarot.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.