Certain times of the year bring with them their own special magic. Samhain is usually celebrated on the evening of October 31. This time of year, the end of summer and the beginning of the dark season, is recognized by many religions and cultures with holidays such as Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, All Souls’ Day, and the Day of the Dead. Samhain began as the Celtic New Year and is now celebrated by Wiccans as the New Year as well.
Samhain’s magic is powerful, and to some, a bit frightening. During this time, the door between the worlds is opened. The veil between the living and the dead, the past and the future, is at its thinnest. On a more mundane level, it marks the end of the harvest, and as such is an opportune time to give thanks. The end of summer also means the beginning of the dark time, the perfect time to request protection for the short days and long nights ahead.
-From the description of the Spirit of Samhain card in Destiny’s Portal, the companion book for the Enchanted Oracle by Jessica Galbreth and Barbara Moore
Although all seasons bring about their own types of changes, those of autumn always seem the most spectacular to me. The visible change of leaves from green to red, yellow, and brown is striking. The “going back to school” feeling is, after all these years, still palpable to me, inspiring me to start something new. Even with the happy memories and the excitement of new beginnings, there is still something melancholic about fall.
Readings about change
Changes in general can have that bittersweet feeling. Whatever the season, changes are about letting go of the past and facing the future. At the 2008 Reader’s Studio, Thalassa, the producer of SF BATS (the San Francisco Bay Area Tarot Symposium), presented a spread she calls The Box of Change. I found this spread to be clever, elegant, and, above all, useful. The positions in the spread are based on tarot cards that represent different kinds of change.
The positions are:
1. Wheel of Fortune: this card represents what is propelling and powering the change.
2. Death: this card represents what is dying, stagnating, or putrefying. To move with the flow of the change, this is what you must let go of in order to make room for something else.
3. Tower: this card is a bit of a warning card. It represents what you don’t see coming or a blind spot in your thinking. You know that saying, “stuff happens”? Well, if you take note and be aware of this, you may avoid the “stuff happens” scenario. Knowing this can help the change go as smoothly and productively as possible.
4. Hanged Man: this card represents an area in your life regarding the change that you don’t need to do anything about—just let go, breath, relax, be still. Don’t fuss, worry, or try to control it. Just wait—this part of the change will happen on its own.
5. Judgment: this card represents what you need to do. Here you will learn where and how you need to plan. This is the area or part of the change that you can and should take a proactive part in creating.
To use this spread, shuffle your entire deck (including the five cards the positions are named after) and lay out the cards in order.
Another simple spread when facing change is from the above-mentioned Enchanted Oracle. Although its simplicity is well suited for an oracle deck, it is equally effective with a tarot deck. If you are considering a major change or a spiritual change, try it with only the Major Arcana cards.
1. This is what you need to take with you
2. This is what you need to leave behind
3. This is your next step
4. This is the probable outcome
Spreads about changes usually include positions about what to leave and what to take. Changes are like the beginnings of journeys. And whenever you pack for a trip, you have to make decisions about what to leave and what to take. You can’t take everything all the time or you’d never go anywhere, right? Well, unless you live in a mobile home or have very few belongings.
Be smart when facing your changes and your journeys. Figure out what you’ll need and what’ll get in the way. Pack light. Have a map. Leave space for spontaneity.
At Halloween, people wear masks and have fun trying on different personas. Sometimes it feels like the cards wear masks. At first glance, they mean one thing; then, upon closer inspection, they may mean something else. Sometimes we, as readers, may put masks on the cards, to tweak their meanings. I find I do this, mostly when reading for myself and am hoping for a specific outcome or answer. But, if we are reading to find truth (and we are, right?), we’d do well to remove the masks and see the cards for what they really mean in the reading.
There are a couple of techniques that work well for me when faced with a card that I suspect I might be masking. The first considers various possibilities for the card; the second involves imagining other cards in the position.
Let’s say you are asking about a relationship. The card that comes up is the Hanged Man. You want the relationship to be okay; you want everything to be fine. So you say, “the Hanged Man means being peaceful and mellow and just hanging out.” Possibly true. But what are other alternate possibilities? Sacrifice? Looking at things from a different point of view? Try coming up with three possibilities, one positive, one neutral, and one negative. See how they each work in the reading. See how you respond to each possibility. Often, if we allow ourselves, we will know which is the best reflection of reality and which will provide us with the most useful information.
Using the example above, think about the meaning you are assigning to the Hanged Man…that everything is fine. Then think about what other cards could have come up that might reflect that idea even better. Pull that card or cards from your deck. Look at them next to the Hanged Man. How are they similar? How are they different? Why did the Hanged Man come up and not that other card? What is the difference? I believe in identifying that difference, you will find the answer.
Whether your life is changing like autumn leaves or you’re trying to unmask important truths in your life, I hope some of these spreads and techniques work as well for you as they have for me.