Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Caitlín Matthews | Take your partners!

More exercises for Wildblog readers by Caitlin Matthews...

It’s true, people can be difficult, but that’s helpful to us when we want to learn court cards. In this spread, adapted from an original idea of Rachel Pollack, you can explore the courts in a constructive way. First divide the whole pack into separate court, major and minor packs. This is how you lay the cards.

1 2 3        COURT CARDS
4 5 6        MAJOR CARDS
7 8 9        MINOR CARDS

1. Consciously pick a court to represent someone who you find incomprehensible or difficult.
2. Pick a court card for who you are in this person’s company.
3. Pick a court card for who you are when away from them.   
4. Pick unseen a major for the dynamic they set up in you.
5. Pick unseen a major for the game you act out with them
6. Pick unseen a major for what you express when away from them.
7. Pick unseen a minor for what maintains this relationship.
8. Pick unseen a minor for the untapped possibilities.
9. Pick unseen a minor for what will change things?


In this spread, you begin to pair cards and see how, when one card is placed before or after another, it changes things.  Card pairing is the beginning of making a story, the basis on which every tarot reading rests. With just two cards, look at the possibilities.  You can chose an issue you’re currently dealing with, or else pair the cards without picking an issue.  See which works best for you.  Having an issue helps the cards leap into focus for many of us. 

Imagine a ballroom. The music is playing and the confident dancers are looking down the line of wallflowers to see who will partner them best.   Shuffle your pack and take out the first Court Card you come to from the top, counting down how many cards it was beneath the top.  Now count down the same number of cards beneath it to find its partner.   The second card may be a major, minor or court.  Here is the method with an example in which I didn’t choose an issue to work with: get the cards out and see what you make of them first before you look at the given interpretation or story: this just states the obvious and is often the way we begin to read the cards from their images or meanings.  Check your instinctive reaction to the cards and make that part of your story.  Do they pair together well or do they ignore or struggle along?  Also notice how they face or ignore each other: what does this tell you?


A. In this first pairing the Dancer card is dominant and will influence and lead the Wallflower card.
           DANCER                  WALLFLOWER
           Queen of Vessels        2 Bows

STORY: The Queen of Vessels is looking for romance in this dance, maybe for commitment and answering passion. 2 Bows is actively swept up into the dance and takes this opportunity. Maybe the Queen is doing her own thing a bit here and showing off while 2 Bows waits to show what he’s got to offer?

B. In this second pairing, you keep the same cards but they now swop roles. Suddenly the Wallflower becomes inspired by the music and the Dancer follows their lead.

           2 Bows                                     Queen of Vessels

STORY: 2 Bows now takes the lead, having summoned up enough strength and determination to step out under his own steam.  The Queen of Vessels is entranced by his fiery verve and decisive manner and looks towards him: it looks as if she would leap into his world and through the doorway made by his bow-staves.

C. Now I chose another card, another 3 cards down, to see the nature of the dynamic between them and draw I The Shaman.  In the A pairing, the Shaman looks to me like a dance-caller, trying to get people to pair up so that the dance can begin.  In the B pairing I get the sense that the Shaman sees how opposites attract, and the wisdom that can flow when this diverse pair get together.


Reading for a woman who’s  suddenly collapsed after a stressful family event.  She says she feels as if ‘something got hold of her.’ This one is a great example of profound tarot wisdom in action!

King of Vessels        XII The Mirror

STORY:  Amazingly, both cards show the Heron in two very different ways! The King of Vessels shows a generous and compassionate person who has patiently danced attendance at the family event and laid up a store of things to share.  I notice especially the hollow in the tree, as if something is stored up there waiting to emerge. The King turns its back upon the Mirror but it cannot avoid what it brings up, for the entranced lake-woman holds a mirror to situations that have gone before.  It’s all waiting to happen or come round again, is my sense.

XII The Mirror                           King of Vessels

STORY:  Now the images face each other directly and there is feeling of clarity.  The Mirror card has a dejected looking heron with a bag around its neck, as if it were carrying a heavy burden: here is the collapse.  The person in the boat is an ancestor who is not yet clarified but needs the help of the King of Vessels, the client who is now calmer and clearer about what needs to be done.

C. The dynamic of the resolution is expressed by 4 Arrows.  In pairing A, the Heron turns its back on the past and the work to be done. In pairing B. it is clear that the client needs to assess the nature of the family or ancestral bequest.  By resting and giving this issue a space, the soul of the ancestor who need her attention can finally pass onwards, even as the butterfly ascends from the injured person below.

I did the above reading as part of a shamanic diagnosis for a client I was seeing. I share it here, with some altered case details, so that you can see how powerful and apposite tarot can be.  As soon as I showed her these cards, she understood immediately and spoke of a traumatic youth in a troubled family where certain issues had not been tidied up but rather merely patched over.  The family event brought these to the surface.  By experiencing the mirrored resonance of an ancestral pain, the client was able to focus upon the burden carried not only by her but by her entire family, as well as upon the need of the ancestor still caught up in the trauma. I followed the reading with some shamanic healing on behalf of the whole family.

copyright: Caitlín Matthews 2012


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. dear Carmen, Thanks. The whole point of teaching is to convey what one has learned and is still learning so that the path ahead is clearer. I am fed up with obfuscating tarot books that sometimes make the path denser with too many theories.