Daily Reading with the Thoth Tarot: Learning to Lose

Every morning, I usually do a daily reading–a practice that has evolved over time for me. I do these readings primarily as a way of studying the cards, but when I get a deck that I feel really connected to, the reading usually offers some good guidance, too. While I’m not too crazy about the common tarot blog practice of posting a card and calling it “Your card of the day,” I do hope to post more of my daily readings as a record of my practice and life.

So here we are: I am defending my dissertation tomorrow. TOMORROW. Less than 24 hours from now, there will be a Ph.D. behind my name. (Well, not legally–I don’t officially graduate until December 20th, but it’s common practice for people to call you Dr. So-and-so after the defense.) The few weeks leading up to the defense have been a strange mixture of doing nothing—after submitting my dissertation for my committee to read on the 1st, I didn’t touch it again until yesterday—and doing a lot of thinking about big issues in my life. It’s a good time to be using the Thoth tarot for daily readings, then, because while my outer life has been quite lazy, my inner life has been intense.

I wanted to share this morning’s reading, not only because I love the guidance I gave me, but because it shows off this deck’s strengths. For now I have settled on a simple 4 card spread for morning readings: top row is the check-in or weather report (what things are looking like for me right now) and the bottom row is advice.

sept 22 readingWeather report: The Chariot and the 8 of Disks (Prudence.) In this deck, the Chariot is about victory, so victory plus prudence: looking good! All my ducks are in a row with paperwork and preparations and I feel pretty confident about the defense tomorrow. I still have a little work to do, but I plan on doing it. These cards strengthen each other, since the Chariot is water and the 8 of Disks is earth, and these two elements like each other a lot.

But then we get to the advice: 5 of Swords (Defeat) and the Tower! Had these two cards been part of the weather report, I would have raised an eyebrow. But I think the advice they give can be summed up in three words: “Learn to lose.” That is, on the eve of this most important event, victory may be right around the corner but that victory will mean not only happiness but change. I am about to give away my identity as a graduate student and an academic. I am about to let go of this degree that I have been working on for six years. I am about to make final revisions to a dissertation that I will then shelve. In the 5 of Swords, I see the acceptance of loss, and in the Tower I see the breaking down of old forms and identities to make way for the new. (By the way, the Tower in this deck is my favorite of any I’ve seen.) This is only the part of what I take away from these two cards of advice–the rest I can’t put into words.

I think many people might be made uneasy by seeing the 5 of Swords and the Tower before their dissertation defense. However, for me it feels like excellent advice–what I needed to hear but didn’t know that I needed it. I have no road map in front of me like I would if I had been applying for academic jobs. The world after December 20th is exists past the edge of the earth. Learning to lose, learning to let go will be, I think, the most important lesson for me but it might have taken longer for me to see that I hold this wisdom if the Thoth tarot hadn’t brought it out.


  1. I completely agree with your interpretation. Good luck tomorrow! I’ve no doubt you will do brilliantly.


    1. Emily says:

      Thanks, Jack!


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