Tarot In Praxis: The Feel of the Nation Post Election


I suppose I don’t really want to harp on it, this feeling of dread, of anxiety, of desperation… But it’s hard not to cringe and be overwhelmed in confrontation with the continuing impending disaster of president-elect Trump’s cabinet and administration nominees.


I find that I am constantly trying to ground and center all…the…time.


Like several tarot readers I know, I’ve had a really hard time being able to face the cards lately, because every draw and reading gets all up in my face with my anger, sadness, angst, devastation, foreboding, and 87 other degrees of bereavement that I feel since this "election." It's hard to be centered and grounded when one feels decimated (or even rejected or duped) by the world or by our neighbors' ignorance, isn't it? That's some of my bitterness seeping out, but it's a hard thing to be the figure on the beach walking away from the battle in the Five of Swords, (right?) when that guy who's picking up the remains from the fight is smirking and gloating behind you (ala the white nationalists, and racists, and bigots, and xenophobes, and homophobes)...


But hey, your voice... our voices... our outrage, defiance, and demand for justice will eventually emerge triumphant. "Love," as they say, "always wins." I’m glad I’ve got some friends to be able to remind me of that. Bless you.


The division that exists in the nation continues to be my biggest source of anxiety…because I am constantly trying to interpret what causes it, and—dishearteningly and inevitably—I always come to the same similar conclusions that have to do with uneducated ignorance, and racism (and the whole discriminatory slew that includes xenophobia, homophobia, etc.). Those aren’t conclusions that I take any joy in recognizing about my fellow citizens. But sometimes you have to call a spade “a spade.” I won’t go into the whole recent polling study that found that Trump supporters overwhelmingly believe fact-checkable lies, conspiracy theories, and fake news. (“Fake news” was circulated on Facebook and social media sites, often by foreign sources whose sole purpose was to garner page hits that translated into income. Such non-news advertisements are also known as “click bait,” for obvious reasons.) Meanwhile, non-Trump voters, including Independent party members, seem to be able to know better where to get viably-sourced news.


My over-active mind sometimes goes places that it really shouldn’t—because I really hate conflict, thus my fears about it often generate in conflagrating ways—and the world keeps presenting me with worst-case scenario models. This isn’t a good place to be; anxiety can do terrible things to one’s physical body. But because of these anxieties, I decided to do a tarot reading about it and see what positive places I could achieve in regards to my anxieties about the nation’s divisiveness. I don’t, therefore, feel like this tarot spread is any kind of fortunetelling or crystal ball gazing about events that might actually happen in the course of the nation’s future; but rather it was a way for me to process the information I know—or know subconsciously—that might help me (1.) deal with my anxiety, or (2.) interact with my fellow citizens and neighbors in the midst of such divisive rancor… This can only be done using Prudence—the informed ability to look back and gauge historical precedent, and project possible future outcomes based on human nature and proclivity…


The Spread


I didn’t really plan this spread ahead of time. Instead I thought of my questions just previous to drawing each card, but really focused on the intent of what I wanted from each question. I used Kat Black’s Golden Tarot (© 2003, U.S. Games Systems, Inc.) for this spread.

What is the current status of the nation post-election?
What are citizens doing, and how are they handling the
outcome? Is our divisiveness in jeopardy of evolving
into something more dangerous? In extremis, is
something like civil war possible?

How are Democratic/ Progressive
party supporters facing
the reality of the outcome
of the election? How
are they planning to
proceed going forward?

How are Republican/Conservative
party supporters dealing
with the surprise win that
has been achieved with this
election? How are they planning
to proceed going forward?

How will the general population react to the drastic
changes that will unfold with the new administration’s
policies? What becomes of the population’s grievances
once Conservative overhauls are put in place? More to
the point, how will I deal with the policy changes and
live with the new regime?

Here’s how the cards fell…


Full Spread Layout: Feel of the Nation Post Election


Card number 1:


Seven of Coins, Golden Tarot by Kat Black, U.S. Games Systems (c) 2003

Seven of Coins. The tenor of this card is truly more reflective than it is rebellious or renegade or belligerent or anything actively resistant. Some textbook definitions for this card include “patience,” “endurance,” “diligence,” “success unfulfilled,” as well as “success eventually fulfilled.” It can be seen as “reaping what one sows,” and “admiring the fruits of one’s labors.” This particular version is even more pensive than the standard Rider-Waite-Smith version, because the farmer or shepherd or charcter—whoever he is—looks outward away from the tree bearing fruit, and instead is looking directly at us (culpability!) At first look he appears to be placing his hand upon his heart, which has the effect of sincerity, but the index finger of the same hand is pointing at something to his right (our left). There’s nothing distinct in the landscape that seems to be correspondent to his directional gesture. But…he could very well be pointing at the walking stick, or crosier that he is holding in his right hand. Ominously, the walking stick looks rather sharp and pointy…more like a javelin. So while one way to interpret this fellow’s gaze is “pensive” and “reflective,” he could just as well be purposefully standing with his back to the debacle that has “just bourn fruit” for the Republican party (represented by the tree), while he is saying, “I take these things to heart, but beware! I am ready to defend the honor of this nation and my freedoms if things are bent too far…” Even though this card is part of the suit of coins (perhaps conceding that most of the country believes that economic issues are of primary importance), the staff held by the shepherd seems to indicate that there is a fragile balancing act in which the “peasantry class” (represented by the suit of wands) are willing to rise up and make the issue about the people—rather than economics—if provoked. I don’t think he looks threatening, per say, just determined and self-assured.


The iris in front of the shepherd is perplexing, and we can look to symbolic interpretations that might shed some light on it… Irises are more prominently recognizable on the Temperance card (or the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot), and perhaps this is a reminder to keep a level head, to weigh both sides, to advocate for compromise, to allow the country’s “checks-and-balances” to do their just duty, and perhaps to admonish the ruling-pervasive party not to push too far beyond moderation… Also, the Greek meaning of the word iris is “rainbow,” perhaps indicating that there is more of a diversity represented by this pensive-but-wary and sincerely-intentioned population of citizens that feel affected by the election. “Faith,” “hope,” “wisdom,” and “valor” are also symbolic meanings attributed to the iris flower, all of which could be attributed as important traits to remember for one's spirit in the face of defeat.


The shepherd’s companion familiar—the dog—looks over his shoulder…wary of something that might be sneaking up from behind. This little dog is reminiscent of the small pooch from the Fool card (0), but his focus is no longer the card’s character…perhaps he is looking over his shoulder at the spot where the Fool went ker-splat after his “fall” from his pinnacle. (Perhaps a reference to Democrats who were duped by media polls that exuded confidence in Clinton’s success on election day?) Dogs in a historical context can represent “chastity,” although in this instance the symbolism of “loyalty” and “faithfulness” seem more appropriate. He’ll defend and stick by his party steadfastly, faithfully, and with fidelity…dogs are that way.


So what about the original question? Could the country be heading towards something more ominous and dangerous? Despite the saber-rattling feel of rhetoric, this card doesn’t exude that kind of violent prescience to me. Overall, I think people ultimately believe in the American democratic process. Granted, this election season happened to bring us to the lip, to the edge, to the very brink of our comfort zone, and that’s scary… Like the dog, I think lots of people will be looking over their shoulder for warning signs for some time to come. But the state of America—despite the offensiveness of those stewarding the government—is reflected in the clear skies, and the verdant hills that the forefathers envisioned for the American people.


Card number 2:


Two of Coins, Golden Tarot by Kat Black, U.S. Games Systems (c) 2003

Two of Coins (reversed). The juggler, trying to keep his coins balanced and in the air. Generally he is sure footed, although set against a background seascape that is roiling and unsettled, tossed and blown, dangerous and threatening disaster. In this reversed position the juggler’s coins are likely to go flying, the routine upended and dropped. Ironically, this juggler uses an infinity symbol as part of his act, as though he has all the confidence in the world that the status quo will proceed forth, that devastating change is in check, that America will last forever. …Oops. Well, that’s what happens when you get too confortable and too self-assured and too confident with how things are. That’s the perspective of the Fool…who makes a second “appearance” in this second card of this spread. In this card the similarities to the Fool include the symbolism of a juggler. The Fool has been depicted as a juggler in some historical decks—as in the Gringonneur tarot deck at Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris—as well as some more contemporary decks such as in Ciro Marchetti’s Gilded Tarot, and the Halloween Tarot published by U.S. Games Systems.

Gringonneur Tarot, The Fool


The Fool, Ciro Marchetti, The Gilded Tarot

The Fool, The Halloween Tarot, (c) U.S. Games Systems


However, the very definition of the historical Magician…le bateleur…il bagatto…le jongleur…is the juggler, or the mountebank. And we can see examples of the Magician doing the same kind of slight-of-hand in other decks… The Magician is a “magician” because he appears to make things appear and disappear on his table seemingly with sorcery. The pea under the moving cups is never under the cup that we choose; our playing card phenomenally appears in the magician’s hand from somewhere hidden within the entire deck; he can pull a quarter from behind your ear…he can make balls and other objects appear to levitate and defy gravity…

The Magician, Nigel Jackson's The Medieval Enchantment Tarot

The Juggler, Dame Fortune's Wheel Tarot

John Dodal, Tarot de Marseille

Perhaps what we are interested in here is the transformation of the Fool into the Magician… One of the best historical descriptions of this transformation can be found on the auntitarot blog website  (which includes a wealth of well-researched information on the tarot).  There are other things about the minor arcana Two of Coins card that are reminiscent of the Major Arcana Magician card (I): the ellipses attached to a wand with the twirling coins holds many similarities. Le Bateleur (literally “stick-holder") defines many Magician characters holding a wand. But it also connects to the Fool using his walking stick or the pole slung over his shoulder holding his meager belongings in a cloth sack. Many Fool characters are depicted holding a twirling toy windmill (indicating how the fool is blown from place to place like the wind, shifting allegiances, never staying too long in one place…). When you spin an object attached with string to a stick, the fast motion of the circular spinning action gives the optical illusion of two or more objects simultaneously spinning. This is similar to a stroboscopic effect. This is perhaps how the amateur creates two out of one—through special effects and nothing more. One has to wonder if this political coupe was achieved using similarly simple tricks...and whether this is how plutocrats create their compounding wealth—through trickery and nothing more.

The Fool, Minchiate Tarot, (18th cent.)

The Fool, Mitelli Tarot

il Matto, by Dürer?

It is easy to see where the Fool—and in this case the character in the Two of Coins card—are striving to become magicians;…they are practicing their slight-of-hand tricks in order to become masters of the trade. Only “the trade” is akin to street buskering, which is not a very honorable tradition since it is based on illusion and deceit and often the swindling of funds from the audience.


When we think about the Democratic party and their endeavor to maintain the seat in the White House, they used all the standard game plans and strategies that were known to them. And somehow it wasn’t enough to overcome the master-trickster tactics of Donald Trump and Republican maneuvers. The Democrats thought they had their baton-twirling routine down…but it wasn’t enough against the fast-moving, cross-eyed-illusion-making movement of the pea cups crossing the table, swiped back and forth and in-between by Donald Trump’s slight-of-hand. That doesn’t make Trump the more ethical or virtuous busker; in fact his success can be attributed to his talents at deceit and swindling.


I see this card as the Democratic party trying to juggle their priorities and causes against a roiling landscape that has gone topsy-turvey. It’s going to take all the skill that they have to maintain balance and composure in their new circumstance and environment. The reversed position, further, could indicate a period of self-reflection, trying to determine what talents and priorities that the party has to offer that might re-upright their position.


Card number 3:


The Star (XVII), Kat Black's Golden Tarot, U.S. Games Systems (c) 2003

The Star. I love this deck’s version of the Star card (XVII), and it seems wildly appropriate for this position and this question. Republicans and conservatives (and those misguided souls who voted for Trump) are standing under the guiding light of the star of “hope.” The thing about hope is…that hope is often initiated by a kind of desperation. We need Hope to come to our rescue because we are helpless to fix things ourselves. We “grasp” onto hope when things seem bleakest. In the case of conservatives, they keep putting their misguided hopes in a party that seeks to take more and more aid and assistance away. That’s what happens when you vote for “less government” or “smaller government.” The safety nets and egalitarian support we need to coöperatively live together all but evaporates. So those misguided people stand there in the nakedness of their ignorance waiting to have their cups filled…but the sky is empty of the charity of rain clouds and is going to leave them high and dry, while everything in the landscape shrivels up. Not only will their hopes remain unfulfilled, but the double meaning of empty “cups” or vessels can translate into emptiness of emotion…apathy.


Dogs feature prominently in this card as well…continuing our theme of dogs that like to hang around Fools and foolishness, animals that stick devotedly to their master (even if their master is a political party that will make them destitute). The twin dogs of sloth and apathy lie prone behind her, staring blankly at one another, while the terrier watches imaginary creatures and fantastical stories (the mermaid in the river) float by in the river of social media in front of it…without ever chasing the illusion to see if it is real or perhaps even volatile.


The Ibis bird is there…you can barely see him for the way he blends into the landscape (on a log just behind the furry terrier), but his placement and invisibility seems to infer missed or unobserved wisdom. The naked woman could drop her heavy pewter vessel on top of the bird and not even notice its smothered carcass.


Card number 4:


Four of Cups, Kat Black's Golden Tarot, U.S. Games Systems (c) 2003

Four of Cups. Well, this takes the cake. It can be hard to remember that Donald Trump did not win a majority of the nation’s vote. …Not anywhere near. In fact, of the four elections in which the candidate who won the election also lost the popular vote, Trump has lost by the widest margin by a long shot. In 1876, President Hayes received 250,000 fewer votes than Samuel Tilden; in 1888, President Harrison received 100,000 fewer votes than incumbent Grover Cleveland; in 2000, President Bush received 500,000 fewer votes than Al Gore;…and in 2016 President-elect Trump received over 2.7 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. That margin in this year’s election is still expected to rise as California continues to count votes and absentee ballots.


Overall, voters were dissatisfied with their ballot options in this election cycle, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton being the most unpopular candidates ever to run for the highest office in the United States. Needless to say, a majority of voters—the American public—are highly dissatisfied with the outcome of the election. How do we reconcile this discrepancy? Can we ever be satisfied with a president that so many people found distasteful…even abhorrent?


There remain a lot of paradoxes in the American experience to consider. We live in a land of plenty and bountifulness (the golden goblets of wine). Often opportunity swoops in with as much bountifulness—or more—than we deserve. And yet, we tend to see the empty tin cup and the empty canteen as our lot. Americans are afforded more opportunity than many people around the world who truly suffer under the regimes of their government. I think a lot of Americans often complain because their opportunities to help themselves seem stifled, because we are a nation of people who don’t like to ask for help with things. This is partly how the myth of the self-made entrepreneurial hero has been idolized in our society. People tend to idolize people who are wildly economically successful because they somehow think that those rich people were self-sufficient enough to garner all that wealth through hard-work ethic and business guile. The truth is that for the most part this is a total lie. People who are grossly rich mostly come to that status because it was already there…money was already available to them from family relations. And what’s more, our economic system—based on the stock market, global trade markets, and theoretical money—is set-up to produce more money for the rich that they don’t have to work for at all. Front corporations buy out failing businesses so that they can reap business loans, state and government incentive taxpayer money, then distribute it among “investors and stockholders” while leaving the new business to pick everything up, pay back the loans, shutter branch locations, cut jobs, and then go into bankruptcy so the whole process can start again. You should read this New York Times article for a perfect explanation of how the superrich keep getting richer through this kind of swindling…


At this point, it’s hard to see how the American public can be optimistic about the system at all…when the man in whom you’ve put your hopes has promised to “drain the swamp,” then literally does exactly the opposite before he’s even been sworn into office. When his entire administration is made of of old white men who happen to been super rich plutocrats, how can we hope to break this cycle of socio-economic inequality?


All the animals in this tarot card—the herd mentality—silently huddle in their masses, their apathetic routine, the status quo, and simply tolerate it…frustratingly, apathetically just lie there believing this is the way things are. There is the dog again…guiltily looking up at the shepherd who holds his book of poems about how life could be in an idealistic world. Do you think that the dog is somehow sorry for what he has reaped with his poorly-wagered vote? Fools don’t have much talent for Prudence—for remembering past travesties, or for the ability to look forward with wisdom. And there’s the donkey as if to emphasize the fact that the landscape truly is full of fools.


It’s frustrating to know that you can pick up and move your flock to greener fields any time, even if you really love a place and aren’t anxious to leave. For so many progressives and liberals this means moving to larger cities and the coasts in order to be among more like-minded individuals…but which ironically leaves rural America stagnant with old, tired, ignorant conservative philosophies in place…and it is that rural middle American landscape that lost us the electorate vote. No one is speaking or communicating to one another in this card. Those with the most enthusiastic optimism keep trying to offer us the cup of determination. And all we seem to be able to see is bitterness and defeatism. I wish with all my heart that I can eventually move past the place of this card…I would much rather be the optimistic angel offering words of determination and positive outlooks. …Not there yet. …Hope to be. …Stay tuned…





Posted in Discovering Meaning in Imagery, Social Justice, Tarot Reading, Tarot Spreads and tagged , , , , .

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