Page of Cups — Ship of Fools Tarot

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Brian WilliamsArtist & Author: Brian Williams


I can’t sleep. My body is a new, strange, ever-growing size. My hips hurt when I sleep on my sides. I get nauseous when I sleep on my back, quickly triggered by my constant hovering in a semi-nauseous state. I really just want the entire bed to myself so I can flail around without injuring or waking my partner. Failing that, I rise, clean the fishtank, sort some dry beans left to soak, put away the dishes, tend the woodstove, eat a sandwich, surf the web for information on sleeping, and finally ask the tarot deck: “Tell me something about sleep.”


Brian Williams says about this card’s meaning: “A wanderer, impulsive quester, wayward pilgrim. An emotional and poetic person, a seeker on life’s journey. Side trips and detours, the unexpected moments of travel, the pleasures and perils of a poor sense of direction. Rediscovering one’s intended path.”


The fool on this card has at last found his path after a lengthy bushwhack. On the path there is a shrine: a holy or sacred place, dedicated to a figure of awe and respect. The shrine points the correct direction: a well-traveled path. I know this traveler. I have been him a hundred times or more. The delight of gaining one’s bearings is enough to make one wander off the path almost as soon as the path is found. All who wander are not lost. Finding one’s self and finding one’s self again, over and over, is a thorough state of meditation. That which seems like aimless roaming can be the most thorough search for self-awareness.


Eventually the wanderer finds a path so enticing, he does not notice he’s actually following a path instead of meandering through woods and wilderlands. The path is well-trodden not because people follow it, but because people find it. It is a path of inner-wisdom, of following one’s dreams, of intimate knowledge of sacred and holy places not as destinations, but as places created by the journey itself.


What does this card tell me about sleep? Sleep is a naturally recurring state characterized by reduced or absent consciousness, among other things. It is as impossible to wake up without sleeping as it is to find one’s self without noticing one is at least slightly lost. Or have I got that reversed?


Page of Cups — The Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Artist: Yuri Shakov
LWB*: Stewart Kaplan


Interpretation: A studious and intent person. Reflective. Meditative. Loyal. Willingness to offer services and efforts toward a specific goal. A helpful person. Trustworthy.


[I think, from now on, if the LWB is completely at odds with how I generally view a card and has nothing in particular to say about a deck itself, as in this case, I shall cease to quote it, as it adds little to my insight.]


Yuri ShakovI love the Page of Cups. When my mom saw the image I drew for the card, she said it reminded her of Alice in Wonderland. Wonderful! The Page of Cups is my not-quite-rational, dreamy inner-girl-child. She reminds me: Be open to the unexpected. Listen to your intuition. Never cease to dream. And she reminds me to take a fresh perspective— a child-like view— when faced with difficult issues.


A couple of days ago I told my Big Sister I am going to have a baby. Six months is rather far along for just telling her, but we don’t talk often. I didn’t know how to bring it up sooner. I was afraid of feeling judged in one way or another. When I told her she said something like, “WHAT? Now you’ll be Mom’s favorite forever and ever.” Which is silly and she knows it isn’t true: I’m just Mom’s most huggable child. I will have Mom’s favorite grandchild by default: there are no others.


Having a child sets my sister and I down incomparably different paths. She is on the successful-career path and has succeeded, whereas I never quite tried hard enough. I am suddenly, after many years of much goofing-off, on a path of motherhood.


Today when I pulled a card, I remembered to ask a question: How does [my Big Sister] really feel about me having a baby? The answer is: the Page of Cups. Keep an open mind. If I expect a certain reaction, I am more likely to get it. If I expect to be judged, I will feel it. On the contrary, if I am able to be playful, to be open to unexpected feelings, to admit the possibility of a positive change in our relationship, I am more likely to be pleasantly surprised.


*LWB= the little white booklet that comes with most tarot decks
and tells, quite briefly, what each card is about

Page of Cups — Tarot of the Absurd

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Jessica Rose ShanahanArtist: Jessica Rose Shanahan


Interpretation: A dreamy youth or youthful dreaming. The surfacing and realization of emotions. Artful expression. Inspiration from the realm of the unconscious and the spirit. The beginning of a creative project or venture.


I think my dreams have always flown like books in the form of butterflies— or butterflies in the form of books. I am ever the youthful dreamer. The main purpose of this blog is to extract a storm of words from my brain in order that I might have enough material to write a book within a year and a half. Then I just have to edit everything and publish it somehow. So simple to say! So easy to dream! So challenging to do—


When I began this deck over a decade ago, I was using the tarot pack as form and framework for an illustration project for myself.  I saw the deck as a mythic tradition, similar to faerie tale or fable. For each card, I would use a certain number of traditional symbols to illustrate a given meaning. It was a dream, and the more I learned of the reality of the tarot deck— or the lack thereof— the more difficult my task became.


Even the simplest of things are inconsistent: the four suits are called by different names and people interpret the cards in ways that make sense to them. The mythology of tarot makes divination integral with multiple forms of divination and magic: the zodiac, kabbalah, the elements, alchemy, the divine name, etc. It has been said to come from the Gypsies via Egypt. It has been said to be a lot of things. Beautifully so, with just a little tweaking here and there, it can align with any system one chooses to align it with. Verifiable history, on the other hand, is another matter. Truth is often the destroyer of dreams.


I am currently reading A Wicked Pack of Cards by R. Decker, T. Depaulis & M. Dummett. It is an excellent account of the history of tarot as a playing pack and how it came to be transformed into a popular method of divination. Although some people prefer to know only some mythology and are satisfied to call it truth, I prefer to see how mythology interweaves with history and realize that neither is complete without the other. I believe that learning names and dates of history does not destroy the tarot as a tool of divination— though some may have no interest in such stuff— either one or the other.


I am the dreamer of my own mythology. I do not see differing mythologies as systems that must necessarily be in conflict. Hindu Mythology, Greek Mythology, Judeo-Christian Mythology, Zodiac Mythology, Egyptian Mythology and Evolutionary Mythology can all live in peace with one another, if we choose to be peaceful people. There is no need to wage wars. We just need to agree that every truth is also a mythology, and each mythology a truth. What a beautiful dream that would be!