When Cards Recur in Your Readings for Self and Others

As my bookings for readings have increased and so I’ve been performing a higher volume of client readings than ever before, I’ve begun to see ever more frequently how particular cards tend to surface in my personal and client readings over brief periods of time.

In my practice it’s not uncommon for me to see the same card come up for clients over and over during a period of 2 to 3 weeks. At first I thought it was a fluke (my 9 of Cups phase), then I thought it was lightning striking twice (my 2 of Swords phase), then I thought I was imagining things (my 3 of Pentacles phase) and just yesterday I realized this is real (currently in my 7 of Wands phase).

Synchronicity in the cards between professional and private spheres

A dear colleague, Donna of Tarotdon Tarot, was kind enough to drop me a line to see how things were going, since I hadn’t posted in nearly two months. Although that was due to a series of work engagements outside of tarot (I’m also a writer), she and I started talking about this phenomenon.

Immediately after that, I performed a reading and there again was the 7 of Wands that I’ve been seeing recently in client readings, almost exclusively in readings for clients who are asking about “impossible” relationships. By that I mean, relationships where there are major stumbling blocks or obstacles to making the relationship work or get off the ground. The client asks how to approach the situation, usually to get insight regarding whether or not it’s “worth it” to try. It’s been interesting, since previously the 7 of Wands had been primarily a card I’d see in a lot of work-related inquiries, especially job interviews or other clearly “competitive” situations.

In any case, I wrote back to Donna about the reading I had performed, and thought, let’s explore this further together. So here, I’d like to share with you the reading and both my interpretation as well as Donna’s. It’s always interesting to compare how two different readers tell the story of the same cards. I wrote my interpretation totally independent of Donna’s and didn’t read hers prior to writing mine.

The Reading

The reading was to answer a relationship question about a man and a woman who have had an unshakable bond/connection for seven years ever since they first met, at times thinking they were in love, meeting up, but both being in a relationship, etc. etc, nothing ever “working” but always, even after a year or more, one recontacting the other. The question was “What is the explanation for this bond?” and then “What will become of this bond?”

I decided to simply do a 3-card spread with no positional meanings, to answer the question, and these were the cards that emerged:

King_Swords7_Wandsmaj01

One of the first things that visually struck me about this combination is something that frankly I’d never really noticed before. The 7 of Wands and The Magician look as if they could be one and the same here; it’s as if the man in the 7 of Wands in this spread morphs into The Magician himself.

The first key point to highlight in the bond between these two is shown to us by the King of Swords. This is a very strong link through honest and direct communication. The pull is a mental one, two minds sparring across the air, with an above-average grasp of the power of the spoken and written word, as well as a search for the truth.

The conflict comes along here with this recurring card, the 7 of Wands, which as I mentioned before, has been coming up continuously lately in readings where the relationship isn’t getting off the ground for some reason, and one of the partners is fighting hard to stay on top of things and make it work. In this sense, in terms of what brings these two people together, I see the 7 of Wands as a mutual sort of desire to both “go it alone” and also “stay on top” which naturally isn’t conducive to a long-term partnership if that is the basis of the relationship itself, because the energy shown by the 7 of Wands isn’t necessarily sustainable on a long-term basis. I always see the 7 of Wands as a sort of temporary situation in which we’re called to go all out to fight for what we are going after (whether that be a job, a partner, a promotion, recognition, etc.) but one can’t go through life on top of that cliff alone trying to beat back all the challenges that surround the situation perpetually. It’s simply too combative to permit for a balanced approach in the long term. So here the bond is simply that, the pull that comes from the desire that both partners have to reach the top of their game and stand alone, which clearly contrasts with any conventional notion of couplehood or friendship, where a collaboration is fundamentally important.

Finally though, The Magician here was quite interesting, because, it’s as if that combative energy, and the “go it alone” mentality or “me against the world” stance, changes into The Magician himself. It’s as if the figure on the 7 of Wands finally learns his lesson that he doesn’t have to approach the world from a combative place, because he already possesses everything that he needs in order to get what he wants. In essence, when “translating” this into practical terms for a client, it reads to me as if once both of the partners recognize the fact that they are only their own worst enemy and are essentially fighting against themselves, they can approach each other from a place of wholeness, as The Magician already possesses all the tools that he needs in order to achieve whatever he goes after. So there’s a softening that comes from maturing through a process of evolution together.

The final question then was “What will become of this bond ?” and we see The Star.

Star

The Star in this context shows that the bond shared by this partnership is one that provides a deep and unending source of renewal for both, and that the back-and-forth that they experience where one retreats and the other advances over the years, is akin to the two vases in this card being continually filled and emptied in the never-ending stream. Another point I often highlight to clients regarding The Star is the vulnerability inherent in this card. The woman on this card is absolutely exposed and has nothing to hide. So in terms of relationship bonds, this card demonstrates when one or both partners are fully “out there” in terms of exposing themselves to the relationship itself, perhaps deeper intimacy, risk of being hurt, etc. The Star is a card of reassurance and hope, and essentially of renewal. So in this context, The Star bolsters and supports the deep intellectual debate and fiery competitive combat that ultimately are channeled into the powerful form of The Magician that tie these two people together. It’s as if through their repeated contacts, they are forging themselves in the fire of their interactions to then be cooled by the renewing waters of the hope shown in The Star. The bond is, in a word, magical.

This is a rather esoteric reading because the open-ended nature of the question allows for a very free-form type of story telling, which personally I enjoy, because I think it gives the client a lot of room for developing follow-up thoughts and journaling prompts, and deeper inner work on the themes that came up in the cards. Not all readings are this exploratory, but this is one way of showing the potential the cards have for creating a complex interwoven story.

(Donna’s take on these cards and her thoughts regarding the recurring cards are below. I added the subheads for clarity.)

The Number Seven

My initial surprise when I looked at this spread was the robust replication of the number seven. We have it in the Seven of Wands, the Seventeen of The Star, but also if we add up all the numbered cards we have twenty-five. Which reduces – you guessed it – to the good old number Seven again! (2+0+5+7). An uncanny reflection, too, of the number of years this on-off, stop-start relationship has been disjointedly in place! Creeped out yet? The numerological significance of the number seven concerns changes, soul searching, spells of retreat, assessments and re-assessments, decisions, and turning points. Those are abstract terms without context, yet even minimally and at that formal level this seems to track the very nature of the relationship as a changeable eccentric thread; both continuous yet with breakages or “time outs”. As a “spiritual” number my first thought about this relationship is that the bond is almost mystical, intuitively driven, and perhaps immune, ultimately, to any complete or completely convincing rational explanation.

King_Swords

The King of Swords and the Intellect

The King of Swords is our power-house of ratiocination and logic. It strikes me as a bond that both parties have thought long and hard about and perhaps adduced a number of “good reasons” for pursuing. Equally (that double-edged sword) they’ve perhaps thought long and hard about why it hasn’t “worked”; why it hasn’t stabilized and turned into a permanency, a coupledom, a partnership in the conventional sense. I assume that’s what is meant by the term “work” in the question. The pros and cons of the relationship have been weighed up, counted, analyzed and put to work in making the relationship work. Probably time and again, together with a great deal of communication, confabulation and discussion. And yet it hasn’t worked in the sense of producing the conventional romantic togetherness. At times they have thought they were in love. The Swords are the Suit of thought, of logic, of reason and the sphere of the mind. They’ve only thought they were in love. This doesn’t have the overwhelming sense of feeling they’re in love beyond all doubt or question. But perhaps they’re thinking too much, like Hamlet constantly throwing thoughts around in his head, unable to reach a decision. “There’s nothing either good nor bad but thinking makes it so” Hamlet concludes, and this could stand as a testament to how I sense these two have created or proliferated their bafflement about this bond. On the one hand, I feel (especially read against the ineffability in the context of this reading conveyed by The Magician and The Star) that the King of Swords represents efforts to terminate the relationship once and for all because there have been so many reasons to do so, but on the other hand that there have been forceful efforts to intellectually boot-strap it into working out. Either way the bond has been stubbornly resistant to all attempts to push it further or else snip the cord.

7_Wands

The Seven of Wands and Assertiveness

And there have been a good many reasons to call it a day, perhaps. The Seven of Wands depicts a man in a solitary position fending off incursions to his territory. He’s barricaded himself in with a circle of rods and is trying to remain “The King of the Hill”. Perhaps the two are both “leaders” in life? This is an impression also given by the King of Swords, who is in command, authoritative, and self-assertive. At least, that’s the outward impression they each convey to the world. However that could indicate power-tussles during the course of the relationship, where each is fending off the demands of the other. Wands concern drive, enthusiasm, motivation and passion. Maybe this has been pretty hot-tempered, intense, and explosive at times! These conflicts would periodically interrupt the usual cool detachment characterising the King of Swords and the habitual composure and reasonableness of both parties. However, as is so often the case in the Tarot, the cards have many-layered meanings, like the proverbial rings of an onion. A further significance of this card is an inversion. What I mean by this is that at another level it could also exhibit a protective stance regarding the bond they share. The guy in the Seven of Wands stands not just as a figure for each party, but also as the very bond itself. And all intruders or threats to that bond are fought off or broken down when the two decide, almost out of the blue, to contact one another again. Even other relationships have failed to break that bond once and for all. Something impels or compels them to re-engage once more. The thread is always broken and re-tied, and the nature of it is almost a knot in time that even the acuity of the King of Swords can’t slice through or unravel. Finally, however, the truth and justice seeking aspect of the King of Swords might very well have led both to disagreements and also to internal grief with the clashing of mixed impulses: between what seems intellectually “right and fair” with deeper and more complex motivations and irrepressible impulses. The wands around the hill make me think here of desires popping up from below, from the unconscious, intruding into the awareness of the chap on the hill, on the crown or the “head” of the hill. He can’t subdue them with reason. The King of Swords, as I look at the line of cards again, stares resolutely ahead as if trying to ignore or distance himself from the scrap going on just past his left shoulder. Do they try to stick it all together or slice it all away with thought, yet then that compulsion emerges to rehabilitate the possibility of the relationship working once more?

maj01

The Solitary “Oneness” of The Magician

The Magician is a number One; a solitary number, a singularity recalling the lonely and isolated position of the man in the Seven of Wands. And, indeed, there’s an obvious sense in which the two remain essentially alone in and within their lives when disconnected. One is also a number of beginnings. That seems apt, as here is a relationship forever recommencing or beginning again. That infinity symbol over the head of the magician catches my notice, that lemniscate of endlessness. It’s been an immensely powerful bond, with the potential to ceaselessly continue, regenerate (also a significance of The Star) re-begin, or re-create itself. Usually it’s said that The Magician indicates that all the raw resources necessary are at one’s disposal to create or manifest a project. Perhaps the pair have seemingly had all they appeared to need to actualize this relationship. The Magician suggests that nothing was actually lacking, there was no supervening or overarching reason why, all else being equal, the bond could not have been tighter and pulled them together. The will and the power was there, theoretically. It seems as if they could have mastered the situation. It’s as if they can visualize it, create it in their dreams, yet it never quite materializes as a completed partnership. Interestingly, the Magician is often used to be called “The Juggler” and sure enough the relationship has been juggled in and out of their “other” independent lives.

Star

The Star and Blessings

The Star is traditionally seen as a very positive card, a card of promise, hope, and faith in the future. It’s also frequently called the Guardian Angel card. There’s a sense of renewed direction here, of refreshment, healing and tranquility. Is the bond blessed from Above? Is it “meant to be”? And is that a parallel with The Magician, the other Major Arcana here? Of course, the Tarot rarely gives us unambiguous answers, but the suggestion is that the future of this bond, this relationship, is beyond all reason or explanation. Sometimes the card signifies occult knowledge. As if they know they can’t stay apart. Intuitively, they can’t let one another go. Not quite. The pool of water at the feet of the woman in the card represents the subconscious mind, as if this bond is – again recalling the Magician – reinforced from both above and below. The future of the relationship will depend on guiding forces not quite available to conscious manipulation. I feel that this a bond that’s largely out of their hands, and despite the loopings and twistings of the relationship it could yet become more solid and permanent than it has been hitherto.

Tying It All Together

In sum, I don’t often see too much that is necessarily mystical or altogether beyond our capacity to understand in readings, but I do in this one. I feel (and that’s a word I’ve used a lot in this reading) that the bond has been subject to ongoing rupture and challenge – both environmentally and between the two parties – yet it’s sustained by something very puzzling and never quite within reach, no matter how deeply one analyzes it. They’re both fiercely independent and protective of themselves, yet this interdependency will keep itself going. With luck. And that’s the problem with this reading, I don’t feel that this is a bond quite within their control. In that sense my reading hasn’t been very helpful, the question asked for an explanation and it seems as if the cards are saying that the explanation (if it can be called that) isn’t entirely accessible. The Magician can see what’s on his table. But the baton in his hand points upwards, beyond human sensibility or intelligibility, strangely duplicating the sword pointing towards the Heavens also held in the right hand of the King of Swords. Finally, though, The Star says you can trust this bond. Where it will go…it’s in the stars! The Star is a journey, a spiritual journey, and it looks as if they’ll be taking it together in some way. Maybe it doesn’t even matter if it “works” in the sense of the usual romantic partnership or not. It’s a joint spiritual development here, and especially when we factor in that number seven. This is an important bond, irrespective of quite the manner in which it “works”.

I just want to briefly look at the larger impact this spread has had on me in relation to the theme of the conversation between myself and Shelley. We wondered at the larger significance of recurring cards in readings performed by unrelated Tarot readers. Do these cards also hint at a bond, a web between us all, a mysterious confluence of unknown factors generating the repetition of cards? We try to assess it, be all intellectual King of Swords, fight off challenges to our “superior” position of knowledge, yet with The Magician and The Star are we being told that, yes, there’s something entirely Other at work? It interests me that these cards came up right after our conversation. Are we being told something? Is the suggestion that this strange synchronicity is no accident? That mystical, spiritual number Seven is decidedly and persistently YELLING at us in this spread. I would like to ignore it, like the King of Swords, or explain it away but I can’t. Fascinating, Captain! We will have to trust The Star and have faith that it’s a positive bond between us all working in our joint interests. However annoyingly (or happily!) beyond comprehension. Let’s think of it not as ever morphing into bright clarity, then, but as gentle, luminescent, guiding star light.

***

In conclusion, I definitely reiterate what Donna mentions about the sort of baffling nature of trying to pin this one down. That’s how I felt at the end, as well, as if I had gone around and around and hadn’t produced much of “practical value” in terms of delineating the reading. And yet, in so doing, we still are providing insights, interpretations, food for thought, and poking around at the various edges of the card to see what “sticks.” I also agree with Donna in her speculation about the invisible web connecting all of this: I often see the recurring cards in readings for my clients reflecting back to me pertinent themes I’m grappling with in my own life as well. We search for our own personal meanings in the cards and when they continue to turn up over and over in a limited period of time, we are constantly called to examine that particular “slice” of experience more deeply both for our clients and for ourselves.

This is what’s so fascinating about tarot storytelling. The layers, as Donna so aptly mentions as being like an onion, are truly infinite, which is why tarot lends itself so well to inner reflection and self-growth.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Please share with us in the comments!

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7 comments

  1. I found this really interesting, I had a similar problem when dealing a daily tarot card. I dealt the Chariot four days running, I even resorted to using a phone app and dealt it again. Shortly after that I decided to end an unhealthy relationship, I took the control back I’d lost and the chariot was gone 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing! These are the types of experiences that after nearly 15 years still surprise me and don’t surprise me. That’s the magic of tarot. No matter how many times “mysterious” or interesting “coincidences” happen with readings, they never cease to delight me. Such a wonderful language for guidance. Also, so much more relevant and meaningful when it pertains to your own personal situation, because it’s relatable on a deep level. It’s one thing to tell people about these things via a blog post or relating my experiences or examples, but I really think that in order to get the magic from it, one has to either experience a reading for themselves or learn how to use the cards for themselves; that’s really the true beauty for me, when it becomes a tool for personal development and making healthy, empowered choices. [Also fantastic on the phone app! I too have used online random card generators and had results the same as if I had dealt out cards by hand. :-)]

    • Tarot by Sarah, it’s Donna: I love how that Chariot vanished when you took charge and altered course.
      I’m with Shelley: it’s that crazy-weird-wonder which always keeps the “wow” factor with the tarot. Yes, so surprising but so frequent – and yet one never gets used to it. It provokes. In a good way, a way which expands and questions our assumptions and views. So tantalizing. Sometimes I think “do I even WANT to understand the mystery?” Yes and no. Perhaps it would be counter-productive to “know” it all. Depending on what it is we don’t know. I can feel myself descending into unanswerable paradoxes here: knowing what it is we don’t know, but that would change the very nature of what we know. Or not knowing that we do know or that we don’t know. And all that 🙂 Sometimes I think we are destined to subsist in a realm of radical undecideability. But then, as Shelley said in the post, we do have these clues and glimmers. So we can approach and see signs and markers even if we can’t get to a final destination. It’s a little like all those stories involving a trail of breadcrumbs.

  3. This was an interesting post. I like that the two of you did this experiment without comparing notes first. The two of you have covered the reading logically and intelligently and even touched a bit of the mystical.

    For me the cards have a thread running through them that add to this romance story. (and it is a romance) The K of Swords has two birds flying together over his left shoulder, the 7 of wands shows a man with two different shows in the midst of struggles, the magician is pointing in two different directions, the star is pour two vessels of water. Two. For me this is a thread that binds the two people involved together. I could get all mystical and call it soul mates or a romance or love carried through time as in other lives and times as well as in the current life with it’s time lapses and on again/off again schedule. Bringing the reading back entirely to a realistic take; I’d say is that the two have very controlled and planned lives that work for them; perhaps they have social positions that demand this or this is their choice. But every once in a while they need to take a break from that life’s rigidity. They battle away and toward each other because when they are together the world changes into one that allows them to strip naked, be themselves completely, freely, and fearlessly – like magic – and then they can return to their other lives and be alright again for a while knowing that they can feed on the memories for a while but sooner or later they’ll need physical contact again to renew the magic they give each other. And they must do this in order to maintain their normal, chosen lives.

    Just my two cents. 🙂

    Thank both of you for the post. Keep it up.

      • Thanks Wulfie. Yes on your two-step dance! Actually I rather like the mistake – the two different shows instead of shoes. I’m going to have another look now at the 7 of Wands and what it is showing on that “two” theme. Defence/attack, insecurity/confidence, internal (psychological defences)/external (all for “show”)? And so on.

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