Tarot cards are great tools because they help us crystallize our inner knowings. When we find meaning in a card, we are projecting our own inner knowing into the material world; doing so helps us truly grasp and integrate what we know. Tarot cards, like all external signposts, are a way that we validate and learn to trust ourselves.
So, The Star is a symbol of sacred empowerment, reminding us that the messages and signs we receive in the world are projections of what we already know. When someone says something that resonates with me, it does so because at some level, whether conscious or unconscious, I am already in awareness of that thing.
I can have amazing relationships with my trusted healers and teachers and still know that I am the source of the wisdom I seek. Good teachers and healers don’t necessarily give us anything new, they just help us remember. Notice that the qualities you admire in your beloved teachers and healers are also in you; in your values and ideals and aims for living.
I often see the Empress or the Emperor in readings but rarely do they appear together. In combination, they represent a fully integrative approach to healing that comes from both the top-down and bottom-up.
Healers are always healing, that is what we do. And so whether you take this as a sign to rebalance your own healing work, or the work you do with clients, I think the message is clear: Truly integrative approaches to healing are about coming through both the body (and pelvic brain) and the cranial brain. Anything else is only half the story.
From a psychotherapy standpoint, “top-down” approaches to healing tap the newer, more evolved region of the brain (the frontal lobe). This part of the brain gives us the skills to override our baser, more “reptilian” impulses with techniques like objective observation, labeling thoughts and even renaming mental events to reframe their significance.
From an energetic or spiritual perspective, these top-down approaches are associated with the pole of consciousness that resides in the cranial brain, and they are associated with the male element of Doing.
And finally, from a tarot perspective, top-down approaches to healing coincide with the Emperor. Traditional meanings of the Emperor card have to do with authority, control and management. And top-down approaches to healing are just that. They are about managing our relationship to our experience, in order to regain some level of organization and personal control.
Harnessing the capacity of our evolved analytic brains to “outsmart” our maladaptive thought processes is tremendously powerful. To be able to step back from a mental experience, name it, analyze it and defuse or detach from it in order to work with it more effectively is to harness pure Emperor energy. These are important skills to have, without a doubt.
And also, they’re not the whole picture.
In psychotherapy, “bottom-up” approaches to healing operate through the body, rather than the cranial brain. Bottom-up approaches tap the nonverbal wisdom and earthy, Empress qualities of the body, emphasizing activation of physiological processes for the sake of healing through experience, a kind of knowing that is different from heady, verbal understanding.
While top-down approaches tend to work well with anxiety-based issues (rumination, racing thoughts, phobias), not everything can be healed through the mind. When it comes to issues that are rooted in the body, such as unresolved trauma, we have learned that we cannot expect clients to think, observe or analyze their way out of trauma symptoms.
And both of these approaches to healing are important.
Top-down, or Emperor approaches would include things like mindfulness practice and learning to detach from, observe and label thoughts without judgment. Bottom-up, or Empress approaches to healing would include body-based practices like yoga, reiki, energy tapping, somatic experiencing, massage and chiropractic care. Some combination of the two, with emphasis on one or the other based on individual needs is ideal.
Now, the minors: Three of Wands, Page of Pentacles, Five of Pentacles
In light of the Emperor and Empress pair, the three wands appear to me as symbols of connection between poles of consciousness; air and earth, intellect and intuition, cranial brain and pelvic brain, and so on. Threes speak to integration, and this card hints at the potential for discovering new depths of healing through a balanced combination of both bottom-up and top-down approaches. Likely, when we strike a balance between the Emperor and Empress healing energies, new spaces open up to be explored. We find ourselves shifting and transitioning and evolving where we once felt stuck.
Page of Pentacles represents a state of seeking greater stability, grounding, security and a willingness to deal with the mundane and unglamorous aspects of the work it takes to get there. With such an emphasis on healing in this month’s spread, I tend to think this Page represents the need to apply the qualities of patience, pacing oneself and longterm vision to the healing process. This Page is the young Queen or King of Pentacles, after all; laying the groundwork for a future of emotional and material security. She knows she’ll be tempted by old patterns, make mistakes, relapse. She prepares herself for all of that and knows that commitment to a healthy future is her closest ally.
Lastly, Five of Pentacles gives us some sacred dark energy to work with. Dark energies are deeply personal, often private and go beyond the scope of what a general tarot reading newsletter can guide you through exploring. If you feel called to do so, take some time exploring your own experience of the Five of Pentacles. You may wish to use a top-down approach to understanding the image, jotting notes or journaling a bit about what it means to you. Or, you can simply be aware of where you feel the card’s energy in your body. In the spirit of integration, you can also try both.
Like many of the cards representing dark energies, Five of Pentacles is rich in symbolism, body language, power dynamics and potential meaning. I’d love to share some of my own interpretations, but I think you, dear readers, would be better served by trusting in your ability to tap what the image means to you.
I offer one hour tarot sessions on a pay-what-you-can basis in-person in Philadelphia or via Skype. Feel free to check out more about my professional background and sessions and then email me to book a session.