I am using a spread I found in the Tarot Life Planner by Lady Lorelei (published by Hamlyn). This spread is designed to answer the question: What are my strengths and weaknesses?
Any number of cards can be used with this spread as long as you use the same number of cards to represent Strengths as Weaknesses. The cards are placed vertically in two side-by-side columns, with Strengths on the left and Weaknesses on the right. For this reading, I am using three cards in each column. Here we go!
The Hanged Man / Trump 12 / Limbo, Sacrifice, Transformation
This is an interesting rendition of Trump 12 in that we have a large hand holding the tree from which the man is hanging. He appears to have a halo around his head, and he looks fairly relaxed, with his arms behind his back. I get the feeling that he is assuming this position as part of his usual yoga routine or something like that. I can assure that yoga is NOT one of my "Strengths." So we will need to explore other possibilities.
The companion guidebook for this deck lists the following key words: "Limbo, Sacrifice, Transformation." As a Strength, this could refer to the ability to suspend activity when necessary to consider, reconsider, or test an alternate view. I am willing to make sacrifices at times in order to change direction for the better.
Queen of Cups / Nurturing
With my Sun in Sagittarius, I typically don't identify much with this Queen. Even so, I would certainly like to think that her qualities of nurturing, kindness, and gentleness apply to me. The guidebook notes that this Queen "may also act as a guide to those seeking to deepen their understanding of all things spiritual." I think I can own that trait as well.
The Hierophant / Trump 5 / Spiritual Guidance, Morals, Harmony
Speaking of acting "as a guide to those seeking to deepen their understanding of all things spiritual," The Hierophant could reinforce that aspect of the Queen of Cups. However, the guidebook tells me that this card typically represents "Need for Spiritual Guidance" as well as "Morals" and "Harmony." I need to stop here and point out that The Hierophant is one of my least favorite Major Arcana cards. I tend to associate it with organized religion and tradition, something I have no use for at all. Seeing it here, as one of my Strengths, forces me to give some thought to what that might mean.
The guidebook states that the two keys on this card reflect "your self conscious activities" and "your subconscious emotions." The Hierophant sits between these two keys, which suggests that "a balance must be struck for you to progress spiritually." Perhaps my Strength is a willingness and/or ability to strike that balance and move forward in my spiritual life.
From an element standpoint, my Strengths relate to Water (The Hanged Man, Queen of Cups) and Earth (The Hierophant). I feel this correctly indicates an emphasis on intuition, subconscious activity (dreams, etc.), spirituality, and deep feelings along with determination, being grounded, and taking a practical approach.
Even though none of these cards are Fire cards, The Hierophant and Queen of Cups cards feature a large blazing orange sun. The halo around The Hanged Man's head echoes this fiery circle. I believe this could refer to the positive, fiery qualities of my Sagittarius Sun. (Many -- but not all -- of the Major Arcana cards in this deck incorporate a big fiery sun.)
Three of Pentacles / Reward
This card is traditionally about acknowledging and enjoying success thus far ("reward myself"), while remaining realistic about how much is left to achieve. I would have to say that my Weakness is focusing on the latter and ignoring the former. In other words, I am all too aware, all the time, of how far I would have to go to achieve what I consider "true success." Unfortunately, my definition of "true success" has changed shape over the years. It's like, "I'll know it when I have it." Right.
Before my first book was published, I thought I would be "truly successful" once I had a book published. I now have eleven published books -- but they have not received the attention I feel they would receive if they were "good enough." The reality is that they were published by small publishers who don't have the marketing clout of the Big Boys, and I personally am not Super Marketer. I'm an introvert who has to force herself to publicize her work. Therefore, as an author, I am unknown to most people.
The same is true for my Tarot and Astrology work. Everywhere I look, there are people in that field who are better known, more highly regarded, more prolific, etc. etc. etc. So the question really becomes: How much is enough for me to see myself as "truly successful"? The answer: I have no idea.
Seven of Cups / Choice
What strikes me about this card at first glance: the large pink hearts. They're pretty hard to miss. So perhaps this card is saying one of my Weaknesses is that I'm too "big hearted"? Maybe not. The Seven of Cups traditionally refers to the need to choose from among many desires, and subsequently the need to focus all one's heart, soul, and energy on making that desire a reality. I suppose in my case, the Weakness is that I simply won't do that. These days, I direct my energy in at least three or four main directions: family, tarot/astrology, writing, and jewelry making. I am not interested in giving any of these up. I love them all! (Hmmm... could this be why I will probably never be "famous" for any of them? Ya think?)
The large eyes in the background of this card remind me that "The eyes are the window of the soul."
The Fool / Leap of Faith, Seeking Answers
Ah, delicious. Here we have the possibility of at least two interpretations: (1) my Weakness is that I tend to be too cautious or reserved (Virgo rising, Taurus Moon), unwilling to take a Leap of Faith because I might get hurt or (2) my Weakness is that I tend to take a Leap of Faith when I really shouldn't (Sagittarius Sun) -- thus getting myself into a heap o' trouble that I then have to work my way out of. Either of these interpretations could easily apply to me. Too bad the Judgment card didn't show up under my Strengths. It would be nice to be able to see when an impulse to strike out on a new path should be resisted, and when it should be acted upon.
I almost always look before I leap. I really do. But there have been times when other factors overruled the warning bell clanging in my head. Then again, looking back, I would not change *what* I did, only *how* I did it. And yes, it is also about "Seeking Answers" through trial and error rather than mental musings alone.
Many of the cards in this deck have snakes on them, including The Fool. Snakes can represent different things -- fertility, primeval life force, evil -- destructive and protective energy all rolled into one. On The Fool, the snake is coiled, ready to strike at a moment's notice. Again, it's important to know when and how to strike.
The Fool in this deck isn't the traditional "guy about to step off a cliff into thin air." Instead, it's a woman holding her finger very close to a candle flame. I am reminded of the expression "to get burned" meaning to suffer unpleasant results of an action.
From an element standpoint, my Weaknesses (like my Strengths) relate to Earth (3 of Pentacles) and Water (7 of Cups) -- but also to Air (The Fool). In the Golden Dawn system, The Fool is linked with the planet Uranus, which rules the Air sign Aquarius, an independent sign known for unorthodox ideas and approaches. There again, the question is whether it's a Weakness to impulsively act on unorthodox ideas or a Weakness to fail to act on them because of fear.
I have to say this deck worked really well for me in this reading! As I mentioned in my REVIEW, many of the cards do not follow Rider-Waite-Smith traditions and symbolism. I don't find that to be a problem. I have most of the traditional meanings in my head, and I find it intriguing and beneficial to blend those with the actual images on these cards.