The Wooden Tarot: Suit of Blooms 6-10

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.

Blooms 6-10

Well, this post clocks in at over 1,700 words!!! I didn’t mean to do so much writing, but these cards were more difficult to interpret than I thought they would be. I got them intuitively, but it was difficult to put it into words. Anyway, around the time I started this post, I saw that Marianne at Two Sides Tarot also published a post on these five cards. I waited until after I wrote mine to read hers, and I’m pleased to see that she could pull totally different things out of them!

Six of Blooms

A white lily-like flower on a stalk emerges from a seed. The flower has six stamens, on the end of each of which is an eyeball.

Here we have another botanical impossibility–although this might not be as impossible as two flowers blooming from each other or fruit and flowers on a branch at the same time. A flower emerges from a seed–showing its close connection with its origins. In the Thoth tarot, the Six of Cups is called “Pleasure,” and denotes general enjoyment of the pleasures in life. The Waite-Smith deck, though, has a bit more of a specific meaning. In it, we see a little boy handing a little girl a cup full of flowers, denoting innocent and nostalgic pleasures. This card holds both of those meanings, I think.

For the first time, we encounter eyeballs, which we’ll see in the next three cards. The eyeball is also featured prominently on the backs of the cards as well (which makes doing a “messy pile” shuffle a lot of fun) and on each of the Gods, so now it might be time to reflect on what the eyeball might mean in the context of this deck.

When I do a spread, I draw all the cards from a fan and keep them face down until all and drawn. This means that if I am doing a Celtic cross, for instance, I will have 10 eyeballs staring at me before I turn the cards over. (This is far less unsettling than I thought it would be before I got the deck.) The eye on the back of the card promises insight: your question has a 10 part answer, and each of these cards is an eye, a different perspective on the issue. As for the Gods, with their floating eyeballs, they seem to me to signify not simply beginnings, as aces do, but also the purest manifestations of the suits. The God of each suit is pure insight removed from the body of particulars. Interestingly, it should be noted that disembodied eyeballs do not appear anywhere in the major arcana.

The eyeballs that appear in the Suit of Blooms, then, have to do with insight into emotions and relationships–that is, emotional intelligence. The six eyeballs on the flower in the Six go beyond pleasure or nostalgia, but have to do with understanding of the roots of pleasure and nostalgia. The six eyes can show us different perspectives on issues surrounding our relationships, not only remembering the good times, but keeping our perspective during challenging times.

Keys: sharing pleasures with friends and family; acting skillfully in maintaining relationships; being generous and patient with loved ones when they are challenging; getting perspective on what is truly important when it comes to relationships

Reversed: emotional conflict or discord; forgetting why you love someone in the first place; refusing to see eye to eye on issues; keeping the blinders on

Seven of Blooms

A yellow flower with an eyeball at it center. Nestled in the petals are fourteen shiny white spheres.

Despite the Wooden Tarot’s reputation for creepy/unsettling art, this is the only card in the deck that gives me the Jibblies. It’s not the eyeball itself–it’s the little white things, which I imagine have the texture of fish eggs and jiggle a little bit when you touch them. Ewwwww.

OK!! Moving on. It’s worth noting that the Seven of Blooms in this deck corresponds to what is also the grossest card in the Thoth deck–the Seven of Cups, “Debauch.” I don’t know if Swartz actually meant for this to be the case, but I think the gross factor can help us relate the card to both the Waite-Smith and Thoth meanings.

In the Smith-Waite deck, the card is about fantasies and false choices. A person stands in front of 7 cups filled with the stuff of daydreams–good and bad–which themselves float on a cloud. All of the options seem both illusory and bewitching, but not worth putting your trust in. For the Seven of Blooms, I think of the eye in the flower as being the only true choice out of 15 possible choices.

In Tarot Wisdom, Rachel Pollack notes now drastically the Waite-Smith Seven of Cups departs from what seven means on the Kabbalist tree of life. Going by the Kabbalist attribution, the card would mean “great emotion, someone who loves powerfully.” In any case, “This is a card that might need balancing with other elemental energy.” (p. 325) That’s why I think the Thoth card means debauch, and we can get from the Seven of Blooms, too. There’s something not right about this flower–it’s literally overblown, and the color is sickly. Are those pearls nestled in the petals, or are we going to reach out to find gross jiggly things instead? This card suggests too much. Whether that too much has come to pass, or is only fantasized about, it reminds us that “decadence” and “decay” are rooted in the same word.

Keys: overblown feelings; fixated on ideals of love and relationship, rather than reality; getting yourself stirred up emotionally over something that won’t happen–like getting a crush on a celebrity; investing emotions where they are not wanted or will not be reciprocated

Reversed: disillusionment; choosing to withdraw emotional energy from somewhere and invest it in something healthier; realizing when enough is enough; getting out of a bad relationship

 Eight of Blooms

A waning moon/eyeball is surrounded by eight pinkish-white flower petals.

The eyeball in this card is only suggested–it is frosted over, or perhaps it has a cataract. The waning crescent moon suggests a cycle, as if the intelligence that animates the card is going through a pattern of waxing and waning over and over again. The circular arrangement of the petals suggests this as well.

The detached petals remind me of the “He loves me, he loves me not” game of pulling petals from flowers as a means of divination. All it comes down to is whether or not there is an even or odd number of petals on the flower. If they are odd, “He loves me.” If they are even, like they are in this card, “he loves me not.” After the debauch of the Seven of Blooms, we have sobered up here, and are able to see things in perspective. Feelings come and go; relationships come and go. They follow cycles, like the tide follows the moon. This card is about seeing the larger perspective, understanding how the cycle works, and realizing that when the moon is waning, or when “he loves me not,” there may be grace in walking away.

Keys: seeing things in perspective; diminishment of something that once nourished or excited you; walking away from people, habits, jobs, hobbies, or anything else that no longer support your emotionally

Reversed: clinging to a relationship or emotion that feels stale; seeing, but not following, signs that it’s time to move on; staying in a bad or stifling situation for a reason that makes sense: financial stability, keeping the family together, being a caregiver

Nine of Blooms

Eight small pink blossoms emerge from a branch bent to make a circle, and within the circle is a ninth, larger bloom.

After the weirdo eyeball flowers, this card may seem merely decorative–and yet it’s next on our list of botanical impossibilities. Notice that the branch in this card looks as if it were attached to the tree at both ends. How could such a branch grow? Would it connect two trees together, or would it connect to the same tree in two places, making a closed loop?

The Nine of Cups in the Waite-Smith deck features a guy sitting in front of his impressive cup collection, looking supremely self-satisfied. In the Thoth tarot, this beautiful card is simply called “Happiness.” The closed loop of the branch suggests as much–completion, security, fulfillment. Nothing needs to be added. But like the Waite-Smith card, it also suggests isolation and perhaps a certain smugness–particularly if paired with another card suggesting stagnation, like the Four of Blooms. The question is: are you happy because you know how to balance the good and the bad and grow emotionally, or because you are shutting out the suffering of yourself and others?

Key: happiness; a wish fulfilled; emotional contentment; having a strong circle of friends and family; may mean smugness or ignoring the suffering of others, depending on context

Reversed: getting what you want, but it turns out to be disappointing or destructive; dreams deferred; realizing that something you wished for is no longer worth it; setbacks in the pursuit of a goal

Ten of Blooms

A pink lotus flower with dew dripping from the leaves. In the center is nestled a crystal ball, slightly reminiscent of an eyeball. Behind the flower are rays of rainbow light.

Ah! And here we are–the rainbow colors of the Ten. If the Nine of Blooms is about insulated and perhaps isolated happiness and pleasure, then this card radiates outward. It’s a card about broadcasting love into the universe, which makes for a strong center. This may be the last appearance of an eyeball in the suit–the sphere in the center is somewhere between a very blurry eye and a clairvoyant’s crystal ball. This card connects happiness and love with intuition and insight–perhaps the person who can see unhappiness in other and knows how to respond in a positive way, or someone who just radiates good feelings to all around them.

I know this card is traditionally associated with family/domestic life, although I would expand it generally and say: this is a card about having a stable home base, whether that be your family, your circle of friends, but most importantly: yourself. With a solid foundation, radiance is possible.

Keys: self-esteem; healthy, loving relationships; being emotionally generous; putting emotional intelligence to good use; emotional stability and fulfillment

Reversed: emotional disconnection with others; relationship difficulties on a small or large scale; lack of self-esteem; longing for loving relationships, but not wanting to work for them

The Wooden Tarot: Suit of Blooms 2-5

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.

Blooms 2-5

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.

–William Blake

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 rank
                Not spared, not one
                That dandled a sandalled
         Shadow that swam or sank
On 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