Healthy Relationships and the Tarot
Imagine that you are passionately in love. Imagine that you are in the ideal relationship you have always known can be possible. Think of this relationship with all of its love, compassion, harmony and joy. Your soul knows this ideal. Somewhere within you, there is an intuitive recognition of loving relationships. Throughout history, writers,artists and performers have dedicated their creativity to honoring love. Yet despite thousands of years singing the praises of love, so many of us find that the reality of relationships falls radically short of these ideals. In the Tarot, two cards which reflect the potentials for both healthy and dysfunctional relationships are The Devil and The Lovers. The relationships which are illustrated in these cards can give you important clues about the hidden dynamics in your own interactions, and suggest ways to grow into more fulfilling relationships.
As a Tarot reader, I have found that most people request readings about love and money. When dealing with such crucial issues, the questioner often takes a passive role, perceiving themselves as powerless over fate. This reflects the common belief that love is something that happens to you. You are helpless over your feelings and when and whether you will fall in love. Living in the 20th century, you can hardly avoid carrying around a lot of preconceived notions about love and intimacy. Popular media encourages you to perceive yourself as a victim or vanquisher in the "game" of love. The fairy tales, love songs, television commercials and other myths of this culture program your mind to view love and intimacy in this context. Ironically, these images are often artificial marketing ploys which present an illusion of love and intimacy by using professional actors in a carefully contrived setting. Conversely, our parents' relationships provide stark contrast to the romance and glamour of the silver screen. Many people come from dysfunctional homes where some form of abuse occurred. The Tarot offers a method for reconciling these differences and evolving towards healthy relationships.
The cards function as mirrors which reveal your role in relation to yourself and others. Your personal relationships are also mirrors. In looking at these mirrors, it helps to focus on yourself and your responses to others. Find your definition, not in the other person, but in your interaction with them. When first considering relationships as mirrors, it is easy to confuse the concept and perceive others as replicas of yourself. However, they are autonomous individuals with their own destiny and free will. The mirror is defined by the interaction between you. What you see on one side of the mirror can vary greatly from what is seen on the other side. Keeping this in mind, we can now look at how the Devil and the Lovers cards reflect the patterns of our internal and external relationships.
The Devil is perhaps the most feared card in the entire deck of 78 cards. Within this dominantly Christian culture, the Devil represents everything negative or evil in this world. Instead of viewing the Devil figure as evil incarnate, consider that you create this image when you deny your relationship to the divine by ignoring your dark side. The denial and repression of the dark side of yourself leads you to externalize the Devil, looking for a "scapegoat " to blame for all your problems, including problems in your relationships.
There are three figures in the Devil card: a man, a woman and "the Devil". The man and woman sit chained to each other, yet there is no rapport between them. In many cards the woman looks forlornly to the man while he looks away, ignoring her. The Devil sits above them, looking disconnected and bored. The Devil card represents the choice to deny spirituality in favor of materialism. The male figure in the card represents the physical, outwardly-focussed self, the female figure represents the inward, emotional self, and the Devil represents the denied spiritual self which is subsequently feared because of guilt about the abandonment.. The figures also represent a couple and the fantasies (the Devil) which motivate their relationship. These aspects form a triangle in which the physical holds the highest priority, the emotional responds and reacts to the physical, and the spiritual is basically ignored. The couple do not relate to each other as individuals. Instead, they are preoccupied with the roles they "should" play in order to maintain a relationship. Their chains are loose, showing that they have the ability to free themselves, yet they continue to maintain the image of bondage and powerlessness. There is more interest in the potential future than in the present situation. Each person waits for the day when their mate will change to meet their expectations, while they tolerate unacceptable behavior in the present.
The Devil card portrays the addictive model of relationships. Addiction can be thought of as behaviors that you are compelled to engage in despite the harm they cause you. These behaviors can manifest in varying degrees. Often it is very subtle, as The Devil card more likely represents the life of quiet desperation rather than a truly abysmal existence. Perhaps the hardest thing about this dynamic is the denial which accompanies these behaviors. Rarely are the problems being denied as damaging as the denial itself. Because of the desire to keep a relationship, you rarely confront trouble when it begins to surface, hoping that if you just ignore it everything will be alright. Truly healthy relationships constantly need to adjust and examine their interactions by boldly confronting and resolving any issues as they appear. To heal your relationship to the Devil card, you must replace fear and denial with a willingness to embrace your shadows and face your difficulties. Confronting the Devil, and the destructive patterns the card represents, is a necessary step towards a satisfying relationship. This process transforms your experience to that of the Lovers. The Lovers card depicts a man and woman who are embracing before a gateway of bright flowers. Traditionally, an angel above the lovers represents the spiritual aspect of the card. In "The Healing Tarot," the gate of flowers represents the spiritual, suggesting that the Divine is everywhere. The Lovers card illustrates a rapport between all aspects of the self. The spiritual self holds the highest priority, the emotional self communicates with the spiritual self, and the physical self supports the whole by being responsive to the guidance that the emotional self has received from the highest self. The Lovers live in the present, loving the reality instead of a yet-unrealized potential. Their attention is inwardly focussed, and each person takes responsibility for their own needs and problems. This does not mean that you cannot seek support from others. However, you must ask for help instead of expecting others to automatically meet your needs.
It may seem selfish to make your own needs your first priority, but this insures that your needs are being met. Therefore, you are less likely to bring hidden agendas to your encounters. In this culture, you are not encouraged to directly express your needs by asking for something, so you often do things for your mate that you want them to do for you. You may not realize that you have ulterior motives until you discover your disappointment when your mate hasn't responded in the way that you subconsciously hoped they would. When you openly address your own needs, you are free to love and support your mate without anticipating what you will receive in return.
Healthy relationships demand lots of work to maintain. Continuous dialog is vital for the care and feeding of loving relationships. The council process can be used to facilitate communication between partners or in groups. In council, the person who is acknowledged as the Speaker is not interrupted. The Speaker usually holds a particular object while they are talking, and they pass it to the next person when they have finished. An agenda is established, and each person is given the opportunity to respond to the issues in turn. You can establish in advance that you will speak in turn for a certain period of time and then resume normal dialog. Another vital key is to speak from your own point of view, using "I" statements ("I felt... when you did...")instead of "you" statements ("you are ...".)
A Tarot reading can illuminate certain aspects of your relationships, providing opportunities to discuss your thoughts and ideas. There are many different ways you can approach a reading. You can do a traditional reading using a standard spread, and mutually explore how this reading pertains to your situation. You can establish an agenda and create a new spread together to address mutually agreed-upon issues. Express your own ideas about the cards and why you feel they are relevant. I have created a unique spread to address the hopes and expectations you bring to your intimate relationships.
Each person looks at the deck face up and chooses cards which appeal to them. Two five-card layouts are created to represent each person's wishes for the relationship. One card is placed in the center to represent the relationship in its ideal state. Place the second card to the right of the central card to represent the ideal perspective of the relationship. Place the third card beneath the central card to represent actions and motivation. Place the fourth card to the left of the central card to represent love and nurturing. Place the fifth card above the central card to represent how you wish the relationship to manifest. This spread is an affirmation of what is possible. It is important to visualize your relationship in its most perfect state. Let your choice of cards illustrate your dreams and desires. Compare and contrast the two spreads to establish a basis to explore and discuss your relationship. You can then draw Tarot cards from the deck face down to create a bridge between the spreads, providing guidance for the evolution of your relationship.
The possibilities open to you through the Tarot are infinite. In this article, we have just begun to explore the ways you can utilize this valuable tool to enhance personal and interpersonal growth. The Tarot can guide you in learning to recognize the patterns which limit you, allowing you to achieve satisfaction and fulfillment in all areas of your life. May your exploration of the Tarot provide you with new options and a fresh perspective towards achieving the healthy, loving relationship that is your birthright.