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A Cynic Learns the Tarot
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Like many people, 2020 left me feeling unbalanced. I tend to approach solving most of my problems in a rational way (I love a good chart!). I think leaning too much on that side of my personality is part of what was pushing me out of balance. I began to feel the ways in which my intuition was blunted. Towards the end of the year, I stumbled across tarot readings on YouTube, and they gave me a strong push in the opposite direction.

​I determined it was time to turn inward and engage in an extended period of self-reflection and thought…

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Conflict gets a bad rap. It is a necessary part of life. In order for difficult problems to be solved, they have to be confronted and wrestled with. Vehement disagreements have to be hashed out in order for compromise to be struck. Sometimes, there can be no compromise, especially when there are grave injustices in play. The conflict must intensify until one side is defeated. It’s possible to achieve harmony without conflict, but, if the stakes are high, it may be unavoidable. Conflict is inextricably tied to justice, and avoiding it delays the advent of fairness. Conflict can bring balance.


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We need other people. Community and cooperation are the bedrock of civilization. On an individual level, feeling loved and supported is better for your mental and emotional health than feeling cast aside. In the tarot, the Four of Wands represents togetherness and the celebrations around it. Traditional illustrations of the card show a couple under a garlanded canopy supported by four wands. While the Four of Wands generally indicates family and community, it is also considered one of the marriage cards of the tarot. When it turns up in a love reading, it often symbolizes a stable, harmonious, long-term relationship…


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Much of life is spent in limbo. We set goals, make plans to achieve them, and get to work. Depending on the scope and difficulty of the journey we embark on, there can be long stretches of being unsure if we’ll ever reach our charted destinations. There is a lot of waiting in life, even while we’re acting with deliberateness. The Three of Wands card of the tarot captures this energy of expectation without clear results. In many traditional illustrations, the card is very similar to the Two of Wands (a robed man staring out to sea), and may seem…


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Making a new start is often thrilling. It can also be overwhelming and even frightening. The passionate new beginning represented by the Ace of Wands needs to be guided and maybe even tempered, so the flame doesn’t rage out of control. This requires planning.

I love a good chart. I like distilling information into easily digestible portions and using those tools to help me make decisions. Learning the tarot was, in part, an effort to balance this highly rational part of my personality and approach to life with a more intuitive attitude. I was surprised and pleased to learn that…


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Our lives change. That is the only thing besides death we can be absolutely certain of (even taxes can be avoided). Shifts in our lives can be grand and deep, and these twists and turns and the lessons they provide are represented by a journey that begins with the innocent leap of faith of The Fool and ends with the completion and unity of The World in the tarot’s Major Arcana. The Minor Arcana of the tarot (comprised of four suits usually called wands, cups, swords and pentacles) contains archetypes and patterns that are used to interpret everyday events. The…


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It’s hard to dream big, to truly want things that seem out of your reach and go for them. There are many twists and turns in life’s journey, and what we hoped to accomplish often gets postponed or even jettisoned as we try to hold on and get through the day, then the next. Practicality can seem like the enemy of hope. We are pulled in opposite directions by the drives of our inner selves and the external demands of surviving in the world. That division often creates disharmony. We are at odds with ourselves. Healing that inner rift takes…


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I’m a judgmental person. I don’t recoil from the label. Judgment is necessary for human survival. It’s how we identify and mitigate threats. It’s how we determine what our boundaries should be. Judgment underlies all of our choices. I find it’s better to be firm than it is to waver. Even so, rigidity is the enemy of progress. Bright lines sometimes move, or we realize we have to cross them. Our opinions have to be flexible enough to change with new information, otherwise they can become toxic ideologies. As we judge others, so we are also judged. …


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There are moments in all of our lives when we seem to be feeling around in the dark. There is something — a piece of vitally important information, perhaps — that’s missing. We can sense the contours of the gap, but we can’t identify what should fill it. It can be particularly frustrating when there’s some action you know you know you have to take, but you also know some of the salient facts you need to weigh remain hidden. …


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We all have hopes and dreams. Some of them we’ve achieved; others remain goals we’re working towards. We’ve had to give up on some of our hopes and dreams as we mature and put away childish things. It’s a dispiriting process. The lofty aspirations of youth make our world a more vibrant, hopeful place. The Star card of the tarot represents our wishes for ourselves. That’s fitting. We wish upon stars. The otherworldliness of those distant lights remind us to reach outside of ourselves, to think bigger, to want more, to believe.

It isn’t always easy to have wishes. As…

A Cynic Learns the Tarot

A cynic’s journey into the world of the tarot

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