I discovered this exercise on AT where it was posted by lunalafey, but I believe I’ve also read a slightly similar one in Alexandra Genetti’s companion book for the Wheel of Change Tarot. Here’s how it goes:
Step 1- Separating the deck
Without thinking or taking purposeful note of the card your viewing, look at the cards imagery. Are you liking it or disliking it. Make two piles, the like it pile and the don’t like it pile.
Step 2- Reducing the piles
Choose 3-6 of the cards you like the best from the like it group, from those cards, carefully study each and choose the one that you are drawn to the most.
Choose 3-6 cards from the dislike pile that you like the least, again, study them carefully choosing the one you are liking the least of all.
At this point, my piles looked like this.
- Full Bloom / Nine of Earth — She seems full of life, energy, and creativity, isn’t afraid to stand out, and seems inspired and invigorated by nature and the spirit life around her.
- The Shape Shifter / Page of Fire — Makes me think of shamanic journeys and my desire to practice them more regularly. Shapeshifting (both spiritually, figuratively, and maybe materially) also is a skill I’d like to be better at.
- Wise Counsellor / Healer (Hermit) — I would love to have this kind of kitchen, full of herbs I harvested myself and know how to use, with a fireplace, inviting table, and a cat. I’d also like to have visitors who’d come over to sit in that kitchen with me, exchanging energy and ideas (sometimes I’m the giving one, sometimes the receiving one). Reminds me of the endless kitchen table talks I used to have with my friends when I was younger (and lived in apartments with bigger kitchens).
- Spirit of Change / Rebirth (Death) — I find that scene rather creepy, it’s not a friendly or trustworthy Magician to me. I also strongly dislike the harsh contrast between the black and white checkerboard tiles, the showy star-spangled robe, and the random combination of stage magic (rabbit, top hat, wand, costume) and the leaves and (cow?) bones.
- Strong Spirit / Lord of the Wild (Emperor) — Today, something about that display of physical masculinity and “wild man” attitude bothers me a lot. He reminds me of a certain type of “spiritual guy” I usually find very unappealing because that sort of guy tends to claim all physical strength, warrior skills, and active energy for “the male archetype” (which he takes to literally mean “men, and men only”) and relegates “the female archetype” (that is, women) to tending to the home, hearth, and heirs. Usually also comes with huge ego issues and can’t handle women very well who don’t fulfill the role he wants them to.
- Brewing / Seven of Water — In a way, this is another version of the card before, only with even more of a preachy attitude. I especially dislike the following of young, beautiful women he has developed, most of whom readily accepted his “guidance” (and brainwashing) due to previous victimization and a lack of self-confidence. (Another strong contender for this spot was the Storyteller / Knight of Air, who also comes with that preachy, know-it-all attitude. That one reminded me even physically of a certain guy I met early on in my first encounters with tarot and spirituality. I still shudder at the thought of him.)
The exercise continues.
Step 3- Finding the Balance
Take the card you liked the most and read it for it’s negative aspects and associations. Reflect upon how it applies in life at this time.
Take the card disliked the most and read it with it’s positive attributes and message. Apply it’s wisdom in order to find what will bring balance.
For the card I liked best, I chose the Wise Counsellor. Negative aspects of her could be a certain distance from the outside world. She has chosen a place where she can conveniently ignore many aspects of modern/urban life, especially the ones she doesn’t like (e.g. working in an office, riding the subway at rush hour or on Saturday nights, encountering too many people who are less privileged than she is – because she has to be privileged to be able to afford her own house and to work independently in her chosen profession). She may have a tendency to surround herself only with like-minded people, therefore losing touch with relevant parts of reality/life. She may also come with a preachy attitude, but hers would be subtle rather than being direct and out in the open. I imagine she’d add all sorts of pseudo-disclaimers to what she says, making it sound as if her friends and clients are free to chose their path for themselves, while making it very clear what she thinks is the right thing to do. She’d also subtly punish people who don’t follow her way, by being emotionally unavailable or by treating others as immature children instead of the adults they are. But most of all I believe her little paradise works only by excluding most of the rest of the world, thus limiting her knowledge about what goes on in other people’s heads. Which may eventually lead her to become a worse counsellor than she used to be.
For the card I liked least, I picked Brewing. Positive aspects of that card could be the sense of community and direction it provides. None of the women has to forge her path alone, but she is guided and supported by others around her. I can also see some kind of subversion in this card when I imagine a bonding between the women that excludes the preachy guy who thinks he has all the power. They share emotions he doesn’t have access to. Interestingly, that seems to be a common experience of women who are sister-wives, no matter if they are part of a Mormon marriage or a Pagan polyamorous relationship. I can also remember bonding with my best friend and carrying on our own special relationship (which included passionate kisses and such) right under the nose of her then-boyfriend without him ever guessing what was going on. Interestingly, he was the same guy that I mentioned earlier in my impressions of the Storyteller/Knight of Air (but that’s another story for another day). I remember feeling that at that time (it was the early 1990s, we were around 18 and still in school) and in that place (we lived in a small town where no one we knew was out as a lesbian or gay man) it was a smart way to do what we wanted without making too many waves. So that kind of subversive bonding within confining circumstances is indeed a positive aspect I can see in that card.
So both cards have touched on the topic of preachiness and wanting others to conform to one’s own standard. Both have spoken of like-minded friends and the support that comes from them. Looking at them together, I see how I do have my preferences for a certain style of teaching/sharing/living, but how none of the two styles comes without its pitfalls. Very interesting!
I also find it remarkable how this reading-exercise has brought me back to the very beginnings of my spiritual path where I did indeed encounter both versions of both cards. I believe it would be a worthwhile exercise to journal about these beginnings (and what happened between then and now) to look for patterns and other insights.