This is the concluding post on the series I’ve written regarding a challenge I’m using tarot to work through, a spread that I designed like a tree, with crown, trunk, and roots. To get caught up on the other posts before you read this one, read Part 1, and then follow the links at the bottom of each post to move to the next post in the series.
When I started writing on this topic, I really had no idea it would spread across four posts. But as it progressed, I wanted to develop it out at length, to show how tarot can be creatively applied to questions of a nature that we can’t seem to get any perspective on, or any objective handle on. That’s why when I started to feel ridiculously overwhelmed in my day-to-day life and at the same time compelled to keep piling on more and more tasks with impossible expectations and standards for myself, I wanted to take a step back with the cards to see what I might need to know about the situation.
The final 3-card reading in this series is designed as the “roots” of the tree. Intuitively, once we scratch the surface, so to speak, of the issue, we’ve hopefully integrated enough information that is a mix of conscious and subconscious in order to delve deeper into the hidden material. The reason I save the “shadow side” work for the third reading in the series is to allow time for the other readings to sink in (or to provide their information and guidance if all three readings are performed consecutively in one sitting), as well as to open our minds and hearts to material that might be harder to own up to, since by definition as a hidden or shadow issue, it is at the “root” of the situation and challenge and somehow we haven’t been able to consciously incorporate it or access it. I’d also venture to say that this 3-card reading, if you’re reading for yourself, might be the more difficult to interpret of the three, because it explores issues that you may not readily admit or own up to.
So, let’s get on with it!
Reading 3: The Roots of the Tree
1 – The side of myself, the “shadow” of me, that I don’t want to face
2 – How my current behavior relates to my shadow side and its lack of expression
3 – How I can constructively give expression to my shadow side
Ha! I bet you weren’t expecting practical and diligent Mr. 8 of Pentacles to show up as my shadow side, now were you? Oooh, you were hoping for The Devil or something else really juicy. Yeah, I’m just not all that exciting, folks! *wink*
The shadow side that I don’t want to face is what happens when the focused, “always do your best work” and “no distractions from the task at hand” 8 of Pentacles gets flipped on his head and either takes his values to a pathological extreme (unrealistic perfectionism) or lets go and cuts himself a bit of a break in terms of working with non-stop focus and demanding standards. I see in this reversal that I’m both overly perfectionistic as well as repressing a need of my inner self to loosen up my high standards a bit. Since it’s the “shadow” that’s not getting expression, I’m ignoring or actively denying myself the human right to make mistakes and simply do things “good enough.” (The 8 of Pentacles represents high standards of craftsmanship and dedication to a task, so “good enough” for him is not enough.) Here, we’re staring down the opposite polarity of the reliable, dependable, hard working 8 of Pentacles; the reversal shows us both what happens when his attention to detail and quality work is out of whack (unrealistic expectations of perfection at all costs), as well as how to balance it back out (kick off your shoes and chill out—not every project or undertaking in your life has to absolutely be dominated by a 110% devotion.) I need give myself more breathing room for error and for not keeping everything perfectly under control. (Story of my life, people!)
In the second card we see how my current do, do, do/go, go, go mentality relates to my shadow side and its lack of expression. If you turn your back on the joy you have in your life, especially that which you derive from your little family tribe of three preschoolers and their unbridled innocence and carefree spirit, in favor of being heavy and serious and striving for the impossible (ie, doing everything “right” all the time, aka perfectionism), you miss out on true happiness. You can’t be joyful if you set unrealistic standards for yourself. Again, this card, especially with its rainbow and happily dancing kiddos, reminds me to enjoy life and be at peace with WHAT IS. (I feel my inner Buddhist calling for attention!)
How might we see the Ace of Swords as giving positive expression to my shadow side, ie, helping me to lighten up and let go of my rigidity? Intuitively I hear the phrase “Live your own truth.” What am I trying to prove, by this need to constantly perform to unreachable standards? Is that fear of failure or loss of authority shown in the last spread compelling me to not be true to who I really am? This Ace represents the clear picture I now have of the issue at hand, and how I need to “cut away” what’s extraneous in my life in order to dedicate my mental reserves and energy only to what’s truly important. It also encourages me to be honest about what I can and cannot realistically do, and state that upfront, without promising things I can’t deliver, in a quest to be everything to everyone. Therefore, rather than always trying to be the Queen of Swords in the situation (as shown by the previous reading), I can go back to “beginner’s mind” and approach my tasks, responsibilities and challenges with the unburdened, fresh and bright-eyed approach that this Ace brings. This card, like the other Aces, heralds a new beginning. As it relates to constructive expression of my “shadow side” (having to loosen up and admit that my standards are unreachable in all reality, and furthermore that that’s OK), it’s asking me to be brutally honest about what I can and cannot realistically expect from myself, and to be just and fair to myself above all, not living for others’ expectations of me but living according to my own truth.