Doctor Who and the Major Arcana: The Empress

As we work our way through #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes, my collection of quotes from Doctor Who that illustrate or align with traditional interpretations of each tarot card of the major arcana, we’ve reached the Empress. The Empress is the archetypal earth mother, a powerful being of feminine energy who comes to reflect your joy and love in life back at you. To illustrate her, I’ve chosen a snippet of a longer quote: “Remember – hate is always foolish and love, is always wise. Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind.”

These words are spoken by the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi, in the moments before he regenerates in the series ten Christmas special “Twice Upon a Time.” He’s talking to his future self (who the audience knows but he does not is about to regenerate into female form) but also trying to reassure his current self, I think. Here’s the full quote:

You wait a moment, Doctor. Let’s get it right. I’ve got a few things to say to you. Basic stuff first. Never be cruel, never be cowardly. And never ever eat pears! Remember – hate is always foolish and love, is always wise.

Always try to be nice and never fail to be kind. Oh, and – and you mustn’t tell anyone your name. No one would understand it anyway. Except…. except children. Children can hear it. Sometimes, if their hearts are in the right place, and the stars are too, children can hear your name. But nobody else. Nobody else. Ever.

Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind.

Doctor – I let you go.

I like this quote for the Empress for a lot of reasons. The Empress is about abundance, generosity, and kindness, and tells us that our needs will be met. The Empress is a maternal figure, and this advice to be kind is indeed very motherly. Certainly, as a mom to three, I’m most concerned that they grow up to be kind humans first and foremost. The Empress is about nurturing and looking inward for grace, something the Doctor is doing as he passes the baton to his next iteration, exhorting his next regeneration to be a better version of himself. And, most interestingly for me, this quote is spoken from a male incarnation of the Doctor who has learned through his travels how to be not just clever and witty but kind as well, and he has learned that largely through the females in his life: Clara, and River, and Bill. And then with these words he regenerates into the first female Doctor in the storied 50+ years of the franchise.

As an aside, I truly loved watching Capaldi’s Doctor and his preoccupation with goodness and being kind. You can see this evolution from his query to Clara (“Am I a good man?) and Clara writing him crib notes on how to be nice to his stirring exhortation to Missy to “just be kind” to his regeneration muse to his future self. I had a hard time choosing between the quote above and his final speech to Missy to use for the Empress. It’s another beautiful quote:

“Winning? Is that what you think it’s about? I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone, or because I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone.

It’s not because it’s fun. God knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works because it hardly ever does. I DO WHAT I DO BECAUSE IT’S RIGHT! Because it’s decent! And above all, it’s kind! It’s just that.. just kind.

If I run away today, good people will die. If I stand and fight, some of them might live. Maybe not many, maybe not for long. Hey, you know, maybe there’s no point to any of this at all. But it’s the best I can do. So I’m going to do it.

And I will stand here doing it until it kills me. And you’re going to die too, some day. And how will that be? Have you thought about it? What would you die for? Who I am is where I stand.. Where I stand is where I fall. Stand with me. These people are terrified. Maybe we can help a little. Why not, just at the end, just be kind?”

Oh my goodness but I love the Doctor. I can’t read these quotes without feeling my heart soar. I was truly fascinated by the way the Twelfth Doctor’s sojourn explored gender issues. But what do you think? Do you think this idea of embodying kindness is in alignment with your understanding of the Empress? Do you think the Doctor’s regeneration from a male form into a female form aligns well with the characteristics you associate with the Empress? As always, I’d love to hear your perspective.

As we approach the end of an Emperor year, come back next Monday and we’ll look at a Doctor Who quote that embodies the Emperor in our continuing series of #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes.

Doctor Who and the Major Arcana: The High Priestess

Next up on our journey, visiting all the major arcana tarot cards through the lens of quotes from Doctor Who, is the High Priestess. In this project, #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes, I’ve been using quotes from the Doctor to interpret traditional meanings and understandings of the major arcana.

Last time, we looked at the Magician, who is all about manifestation and taking action. By contrast, the High Priestess is about stillness and the things that we cannot see. She exhorts us to embrace our spiritual side. Where the Magician makes things happen by doing, the High Priestess makes finds her power by being still and paying attention.

It’s this sense of things known and unknown, tangible and intangible, that made me find this quote from the Fourth Doctor to be representative of the High Priestess: “Never be certain of anything. It’s a sign of weakness.” Certainty is not what the High Priestess seeks or offers; instead, she is the keeper of secrets, explorer of the unconscious mind, and her strength is her intuition. She is an enigma.

The symbols on the Rider-Waite-Smith version of the High Priestess card illustrate her links to that which is uncertain: the Moon, the veil behind her, her hidden right hand, and the pomegranates on the veil are all symbols of that which is unknown. She is the embodiment of mystery, and tells us to look beyond the obvious to what is hidden and obscured.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think this quote is a good link between the Doctor and the High Priestess? Why or why not? Why does the Doctor think certainty is a sign of weakness? Can certainty be a weakness in a tarot reading or tarot reader?

Come back next Monday, as we continue looking at the major arcana through #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes with another feminine archetype, The Empress.

Doctor Who and the Major Arcana: The Fool

In honour of Doctor Who day on November 23, I’m launching a new series here: Doctor Who quotes that express or align with common interpretations of the cards of the major arcana: #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes. Each week we’ll explore a major arcana card by pairing it with a quote from Doctor Who that plays on the essence of it.

How does one come up with such a project? I was thoroughly enjoying myself recently, reading through a list of the best quotes from Doctor Who, and musing about how they cover the great panoply of human experience. A bell (but not a cloister bell) rang somewhere deep in my subconscious as I thought about the other thing I love that covers the great panoply of human experience – tarot cards! I started reading the quotes more carefully, and realized that I could easily find quotes that matched the essence of each of the cards in the major arcana. I’ll admit that some fit better than others, but some fit so well they made me grin with delight.

We start, as any journey should, with card 0, The Fool. Of course, the Doctor themselves is the Fool, the hero on a quest, an adventurer exploring the universe. The Fool, perhaps not coincidentally my favourite card in the deck, is about making the leap and trusting the universe to catch you. When things go really wrong, the Doctor will be to save the human race yet again. Also, the Fool is unpredictable because they live outside of convention. They are the cosmic egg, the beginning, where the adventure starts. And so of course we start this adventure with the Fool.

It was Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, one of the more overtly positive incarnations of the Doctor, who said, “I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams.” I can’t think of a more Fool-ish set of sentiments than optimism, hope, and improbable dreams. What do you think of this quote as an interpretation of, or a riff off of, the Fool? Does it work for you? Why or why not?

Join me over the next 22 weeks as I merge the wisdom of two of my very favourite things: Doctor Who and tarot cards, in #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes.

Chase the Ace: Using Aces to manifest your desires

There’s a lottery game that’s a popular fundraiser here in Canada called “chase the ace.” The basic idea is that you pay to pull a card from a deck, and if you pull the Ace of Spades, you win the pot. That’s not this game, but it is a catchy little phrase that got stuck in my head.

We know that the aces exemplify the energy of their suit in it’s most raw and powerful form. Aces are also about beginnings, so use this exercise when you’re looking to start something new, and you want to draw some of that suit’s energy into your life.

Shuffle your tarot deck well, and think about what it is you want to manifest. Think about the raw energy of the Ace you seek. Looking to manifest career stability or progress, healthy body or physical fitness, or other things in the material realm? You’re looking for the Ace of Pentacles. If you want to manifest love or deepen your intuitive connections, you’re looking for the Ace of Cups. Is it clarity of mind you seek to manifest? Search for the Ace of Swords. And finally, if you’re seeking to manifest that spark of ambition or charisma or personal power, you’re seeking the Ace of Wands.

Turn the cards face up so you can see them, and chase that Ace in the deck. When you find the Ace you seek, look to the card directly underneath it. That is what you need to let go of in order to make room for the Ace’s manifestation. Think of one thing you can let go, or one thing that is holding you back, and write it down. That’s your first action item.

Now look to the card directly above the Ace in the deck. That is where you need to focus in order to manifest the Ace’s energy. Think of one step you can take, one small concrete action you can do. Don’t just write it down; do it! Don’t let this just be a thought exercise. You can’t just wish change into action; you need to actually get things in motion.

Deck Credit: The Midcenturian Tarot Card Deck by Madam Clara

Here’s a sample of how this exercise could play out. Let’s say Norah is thinking about selling her home and buying a new one. That’s the realm of the material world, so Norah is looking for the Ace of Pentacles. She shuffles her deck and then looks through until she finds the Ace of Pentacles. Behind the Ace she finds the Three of Cups. Norah realizes that if she moves, she will have to give up her tight clique of neighbours, and she knows she will miss the regular gatherings in each other’s back yards. She makes a note to remind herself to talk to each of the neighbours so they know before the “for sale” sign appears on her lawn, and promise to stay in touch. The card on top of the Ace of Pentacles is the Wheel of Fortune. Norah realizes that selling and buying a home will be very stressful because she is a control freak and there will be many things out of her control. She decides to write up a list of things she can control and things she can’t, and jots down a few ideas for coping with each item.

Good luck, and let me know if you use this exercise and how it works out for you!

2020 is my Death year

One of the most feared and misunderstood cards in the tarot deck is Death. People assume it is a predictor of a person’s death, or maybe even your death. What it actually means is much more nuanced and interesting, though. Death is about transformation, and about clearing out old habits and possessions and ideas to make room for what really matters. It’s like a Kon Mari for your soul! That’s why when I found out that 2020 is a Death year for me, I nodded my head in understanding and said, “Oh, that explains a LOT!”

I have been reading Mary K. Greer’s Who are You in the Tarot, and listening to the most recent season of the Root Lock Tarot podcast. They both talk about what are variously called birth cards, personality cards, soul cards, year cards, or beacon cards. The idea is that you distill down the digits of any date to a number that is less than 22 and interpret the aligned major arcana. You can read for your year of birth, the current year, today’s date or any significant date in your life.

For example, if your date of birth is September 3, 1970, you’d add 9 (September) plus 3 plus 1970, which is 1982. You’d then add the 1+9+8+2, which is 20. So your birth year card, variously also known as a personality or soul card, can be read as either 20, which aligns to Judgement, or further distilled down to 2+0=2, the High Priestess. Mary K. Greer goes in to all sorts of detail about constellations and hidden factor cards and all the tangential things you can look into for a really thorough analysis. If you’re interested, I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of Who are You in the Tarot – it’s quite the deep dive, and a bit of a mathematical mind trip when you look at the patterns in the major arcanas as the years progress.

Beyond your birth/soul/personality card, you can calculate the major arcana aligned to any calendar date or year. That’s how I came to realize that this is my Death year. My day and month of birth (August 1) plus 2020 adds up to 13, which aligns to Death in the major arcana. And what an incredibly transformative year this has been. I turned 50 years old last summer and decided I was going to embrace my crone years with enthusiasm; it’s been a time of choosing to follow my heart and stop trying to live up to external measures of conventional success. I’ve let go of many, many old habits and routines (hello pandemic!) but found so many new things, not least of which is this tarot project. It’s been a year of letting go of some things to make room for new and wonderful things that make me feel like a better version of myself. It has been a tough year, even aside from the pandemic, but I feel like the sacrifices and pauses of last year’s Hanged Man year have truly made my life richer.

I was also interested to see that my personality or birth year card is the Chariot. This makes sense when I think about how I am never still for very long, and no-one close to me would disagree with the fact that I have control issues. I do love the challenge of harnessing the competing forces in my life, but being pulled in opposite directions has been a lifelong challenge.

You can apply this to calendar years as well. 2020 is an Emperor year (2+0+2+0 = 4), all about authority, rules and structure. I see this in the pandemic and how governments have had to step in to basically shut down society to prevent the spread of the virus, and imposing unprecedented laws and rules to keep us safe, but also providing safety nets in the form of financial aid packages.

So from a basic math perspective, you’d assume that since last year was the Hanged Man year for me, and this is Death, then next year would be Temperance, right? Nope. 8+1+2021 = 2030; 2+0+3+0 = 5. Next year is a Hierophant year for me, which is actually really exciting because my whole goal with my tarot project was to teach tarot in workshops. And 2021 is also a Hierophant year (2+0+2+1=5). I can hardly wait to see what next year has in store now!

Have you calculated your birth or personality or year card? Did you find them insightful?