The three card spread is a staple of tarot, but it can be fun to tweak it a little bit. You can change the meaning of positions in the spread — for example, two popular versions are “past/present/future” and “mind/body/spirit.” Another option, one of my favorites, is to lay down two cards and then put a third card just above or just under the first two, asking, “what ties these two cards together?”
That’s what I did with these three cards. First I pulled reversed Judgement with The High Priestess (intuition). What ties these two cards together? Reversed Three of Swords (heartbreak). Do you see what I see in this spread?
To me, reversed Judgment is often about leaping to conclusions — rushing to judge someone for actions that we don’t understand. What do these conclusions tell us? That this person is not to be trusted, or is an -ist (racist, sexist, ageist, anti-Semite, homophobe, or whatever), or is shallow, or is vain, or will never stop [fill in the blank with the sin of your choice: it could be something less serious, such as acting out, being aggressive, procrastinating, or something more serious, such as cheating on a spouse or lover, or being abusive]. That this person is not truly worthy of being considered human or being given a second chance. That we cannot open our hearts to this person.
The first problem with these conclusions we leap to is that we can be wrong. The person being judged might actually not be an -ist, or shallow, or an unreformable cheater. We may have simply misunderstood or drawn the wrong conclusion from circumstantial evidence. What we thought was our intuition might have been plain fear based on past experiences. But past experiences are not the present.
The second problem is that we might be aware of the facts, but not all the facts. Some people express themselves routinely in a very politically incorrect way yet are very committed to equality — they aren’t the -ists that they sound like. Some people shop all the time not because they are shallow, but because they can’t resist being generous to others. Some people sound grumpy all the time because they are depressed. And some people commit acts that are stupid and hurtful, like cheating on a spouse, for reasons that no one can understand but that we still can recognize are systemic in some way. For example, men in Western culture are at greater risk for cheating on their lovers during times of economic crisis. Why? Do men keep their brains in their wallets? And when they are confronted, they stereotypically say, “but I didn’t love her and it wasn’t about sex.” The fact is, as nonsensical and stupid as that statement is, it is also probably true (do I contradict myself? very well then I contradict myself…). When you apply pressure (social pressure, economic pressure, the pressure of a health crisis, or even personal pressure) to a person or a relationship, cracks and fissures appear. And stuff happens that is not excusable but is at the same time inextricable from the pressure of the situation. But when we make our judgments, we take those actions totally and completely out of context. And then we say, “I don’t care what pressure so and so was under, you never [fill in the blank].” Even though we know sociologically that when a human being is under certain pressures, [fill in the blank] is precisely what will happen — it’s not the “never” that we say it is. What we could more honestly and descriptively say is, “you [filled in the blank] and it sucks that you did that and I am hurt and angry.” Neither excusing nor diagnosing — because diagnosis is the next step, isn’t it? First comes the hurt and heartbreak, then the judgments, and then the diagnosis — “you’re pathological! you’re shallow! you’re an -ist! And on top of that, you think with your [fill in the blank].”
This situation could be described in tarot terms as Three of Swords (heartbreak) leading to Judgment or reversed Judgment. But this connection is more vibrant that that — it goes both ways. Because once something has happened, we have the choice to react in a way that does or does not make the situation better. We can react in an opening our hearts kind of way or in a turning our backs kind of way. It’s not wrong to turn your back, and in fact I think turning your back is a natural step in the process of healing if something truly unconscionable has occurred. Expressing anger and hurt in no uncertain terms also has a role to play.
But eventually the question will come down to whether or not you want to continue to have a relationship with someone who has said or done the thing that so disturbs you. Enter the High Priestess. Our tool for evaluating whether to continue in a relationship or not needs to be something that is bigger than the situation. We can’t just look at the facts, because we will never have all of them. Intuition IS bigger than the simple facts; it can flow around the circumstances and feel the energy of what happened — and that energy can tell us whether the harm involved was deliberate, intentional and malicious, or whether the person felt pressured into doing what he/she did. We have to think with our hearts in order to find some guidance as to whether this is something that can’t be understood or forgiven and that we need to have this person out of our lives, for good, or whether it’s something that could have been understood, if only we did have all the facts, and that the hurt was never intended. If the latter is a possibility, intuition will tell us that, and it can turn over the Three of Swords and mute the heartbreak — not by making it go away, but by changing its energy and working with it differently. Then we can let the angels or the universe do the understanding, if we can’t, and we can move on with the relationship. On the other hand, if the harm in question was intended and was malicious, and all our conclusions that we drew were accurate, then maybe we should turn our backs, draw our boundaries, put up our walls. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t. Just saying that it’s heartbreaking to see a wall go up when it doesn’t have to.
This whole post, actually, could be told a different way, with that Zen story about the boats. In case you don’t know this story, it goes something like this: a woman in a boat saw another boat headed toward her, on a collision course. She began frantically shouting and waving, but the other boat continued straight toward her. She managed to turn her own boat aside, and as the other boat went past, she looked and saw that there was no one in the boat. No one had intended to harm her. The boat wasn’t even being steered. It was just drifting in the current.