Pardon the Hanged Man

By Melanie Harris
In the words of my great uncle, the late country western and pop singer Marty Robbins, "Some memories just won't die."  I've been feeling sentimental lately, and sentiment combined with Tarot reading is a very poor mix indeed. 

Let me explain.  I was thinking about my good friend the King of Pentacles, who passed away about a year ago.  I wanted to use my cards to "look in" on him, to see how he is doing.  The first cards I chose were very pleasant, The Sun and the Ace of Cups, telling me that his spirit is at peace, wherever it is.  I should have left it at that, but I wanted to keep talking to him; I didn't want to break the connection.

And so, I started posing questions on everything from my book manuscript's prospects for success to the nature of death (and whether or not those two things were actually one in the same).  The one question I asked relentlessly was, "How can I feel more passionate?"

The card that came up for the answer was the same each time: the Eight of Cups.  I thought, oh, that's clear.  It means don't walk away from love.  But then I thought, or does it mean, I should follow my heart?  Or could it mean I'm totally heartless, turning my back on those who care about me?  

I'm fully aware that whatever cards come up in a reading, you can interpret them however you wish and find justification for that meaning.  But I still kept at it, even though I knew better, asking, "Is this the right meaning?" and pulling a card.

My friend started taunting me: The Fool (You're being an idiot!); The Tower (Give it up before you have a breakdown!).  And so, I packed up my cards and quit, eventually.

In retrospect, I felt stupid and guilty for not heeding the magical rule of moderation.  I just didn't want to let go of that feeling, those six cups, that comfort of dwelling on a precious memory.  And so I got lost, looking at the past and at the cards too closely.  You can't tell time by looking at a clock through a microscope, and you won't get any true value out of a Tarot reading by using the cards as a tool for moping and obsession.

We can't control the memories that flood our minds, but we do choose our focus.  I'm a fiend for the past; I can spend hours daydreaming about, as my old friend Pat Plitt once put it, "what could never be but should have been."  I know better, but still I find myself buried in thoughts of long ago, pondering mysteries unsolved and pining for treasures lost and found and lost again.

Maybe I just like to fancy myself an old romantic.  Maybe I think the distant, mystical look that comes over me when I dwell on a memory is kind of cute, helping to detract attention away from my blemishes.  My excuses are lame.

If I want to participate in the present, I can't obsess over the past.  If I want my Tarot cards to work accurately, I can't abuse them by forcing prophecies to suit my reminiscent mood.  

It's nice to feel nostalgic now and then, but dwelling on the past, just like obsessing about the future, can turn one's own self into a faded, jaded memory.  Now I see that the meaning of the Eight of Cups was quite clear, after all: leave the past in the past.  I think I'll let the Queen of Swords handle the brooding.  This Queen of Pentacles is ready to get on with it.

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Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2008 

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