This is part of an ongoing series in which I write about my interpretations of the cards in A.L. Swartz’s Wooden Tarot. You can find the other posts here.
Yes, I’m going through these quite quickly because I want to keep up the momentum (and also finish them while I have time off of work and school.) Marianne at Two Sides Tarot has a lovely post on this set of cards, and I wrote this before going back to re-read hers. Hopefully both of our posts together will give even more depth and dimension to them.
Two of Blooms
Two many-petaled flowers bloom back-to-back. Above them is a lemnescate.
The Two of Cups is traditionally the card of connection, especially between two people. Its keyword in the Thoth tarot is “Love,” and the Waite-Smith deck features a wreathed man and woman each holding a cup to the other, as if they were taking vows. The Two of Blooms, unlike these, also features a lemnescate, meaning that the card also carries connotations of eternity contained within constant change and balance.
The two flowers on this card seem to do the impossible: they grow from each other, rather than from the ground. They are in a tight-knit, closed system, giving and taking life-force in equal measure. And so while this card clearly has the classic connotation of connection, it speaks more strongly than two (or more) parties liking or understanding one another. It points to the true connection of selflessness–Indra’s infinite, eternal, and utterly connected jeweled net, or the beautiful philosophy from southern Africa that “I am because we are.” Whether we understand this card on a more mundane, “You make a great couple” level or on the vaster level of universal interconnection depends on the context of the reading.
Keys: connection; mutual understanding; unconditional love; interdependence; being seen and valued for who you are; realizing that you can’t do it alone
Reversed: confusing love with obsession or possession; loving or being loved only conditionally; refusing to see commonality; doing it on your own, no matter the cost
Three of Blooms
Three pink flowers are in bloom on a branch. Below them hangs a ripe peach.
Ah! This card contains another impossible situation: fruit and flowers at the same time. (I dunno–maybe this can happen on some trees? Probably not on peach trees, though.) I feel that this also captures both the Waite-Smith meaning, in which we tend to emphasize joy and friendship, and the Thoth meaning, which is “Abundance.” (Abundance is in the Waite-Smith card, too, in the form of the harvest at the women’s feet, but can often be left out of interpretations.)
Fruit and flowers at the same time: joy, celebration, and connection are their own rewards. There’s no if-this-then-that mentality when hanging out with friends and loved ones. You don’t spend time with people in order to reap benefits down the line. This card is about enjoying the present moment and shows that the true gift we give and receive is none other than presence. (That was not a pun, I promise.)
Keys: spending time with loved ones; feeling emotionally fulfilled in relationships; having fun; deepening friendships
Reversed: spending time with people who don’t have your true interests at heart; shallow friendships or relationships; not spending enough time with friends or family; imbalance in the give or take of relationship
Four of Blooms
A faded, withered rose bud.
O Rose, thou art sick! (OK, I said this of the 5 of Pentacles in the Wild Unknown, too, but it’s still apt.)
O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
The Four of Cups is called “Luxury” in the Thoth deck; the water in the four cups simply flows between them, rather than flowing freely outward. The Waite-Smith deck features a young man seated, his arms crossed, refusing a cup being handed to him from a cloud. Something is stopped-up, dammed here, and life begins to wither as a result.
This rose bud is not simply experiencing the effects of old-age, since it is still tightly drawn into a young bud. It was picked before it had a chance to fully bloom and is fading before its time. This card reminds me of a phrase shouted (yes, literally shouted) as part of morning practice in my temple each day: “Do not waste your life!” What we see in the Four of Blooms is life being wasted. The waste here is not happening because of oppression or outside pressure; it is the “invisible worm” eating the rose from the inside out; it’s an inside job.
Keys: apathy; withdrawal; risk-aversion; boredom; stagnation; wasted potential
Reversed: dissatisfaction with stagnation; wanting to take the first steps toward a goal; realizing that new ways of being or thinking are possible; gaining understanding of self-limiting or self-destructive patterns
Five of Blooms
Five tree stumps cut off close to the ground.
My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,All felled, felled, are all felled;Of a fresh and following folded rankNot spared, not oneThat dandled a sandalledShadow that swam or sankOn meadow & river & wind-wandering weed-winding bank.–Gerard Manley Hopkins
The desolation and feeling of being cut off in the Four of Blooms has become more serious in the Five. As depressing as this card is, I think it’s a very apt visual for the Five of Cups. There are no blooms here–life has been cut off. Unlike the Waite Smith card, which features a person grieving over three spilled cups while two still stand upright behind them, the desolation here seems total. I think it is similar to the Thoth tarot’s take on the Five of Cups: “Disappointment.”
The Five of Cups has always been a card that, to me, is less about an emotional state than an invitation to enter that emotional state. Feeling disappointed, dried up, rudderless, and isolated is the essence of this card, and I think Swartz’s art captures it perfectly. Not only have these stumps been cut off, but it’s not even particularly clear from the picture that they have roots. This may mean that there’s no place to go from here: neither up into new growth or down into roots. This feeling of being disappointed and cut off must be rested-in. All this being said, some species of tree can sucker back up even after the main trunk has been cut off. While suckers may not be like the original tree, this card offers the distant promise of a new phase.
Keys: disappointment; loss; grief; depression; sadness that must run its course before new growth is possible
Reversed: refusing to grieve or sit with feelings of sadness; conversely, a period of grief that is coming to a natural end