Friction and Lubrication: Chaldean Decans as “Built-in Clarifiers”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: In the Golden Dawn system of astrological correspondences, every card except the ten planetary and elemental trumps has a counterpart on the opposite side of the Chaldean zodiac. I’ve explored these pairs in a previous post (linked below), but here I’m proposing that a reversed mate is the instigator for reactionary change and not merely the passive complement that would normally be the case when both cards are upright. (This essay arose from an observation made on one of the tarot forums about the dry-as-a-bone Ace of Swords reversed meaning “lubricate liberally.”)
Reversed cards can have many meanings in a tarot reading, most of them representing a disruption in the normal flow of a card’s energy. Dealing with them can amount to finding ways to dispel the resistance they suggest. In this essay I’m going to consider them as introducing “friction” in the circumstances they impact, and their Chaldean counterparts as providing the symbolic “lubrication” — in some cases maybe a “swift kick” more than a nudge — by which their lagging influence can be accelerated to become an approximation of its upright meaning. (Think of it as “closing the gap” via another form of disambiguation, something we must do intuitively every time we encounter a reversed card.) In my earlier post I described the result as a “slingshot effect” that can offer a constructive way to assimilate the reversed energy. But here I’m suggesting that it can have a more profoundly stimulating influence than simply serving as a compensatory offset.
Suppose, for example, that the 10 of Swords comes up reversed in the future position of a Past/Present/Future spread. Since I’m not one who believes that reversal automatically improves the effect of a difficult card, I would read it as indicating that the trouble it represents could “blindside” the querent by coming from a completely unknown source or unexpected direction. Even though Aleister Crowley said in a similar context that “All such impulses are right if rightly received,” making such a case for the 10 of Swords reversed is a decidedly tough proposition.
Looking across the zodiac, we find that the 10 of Wands is its counterpart. Recently I’ve been interpreting the 10 of Wands as “true grit” or the summoning of tenacity and force of Will. Faced with the 10 of Swords reversed, I would read its opposite number (always upright) not so much as “Oppression” piled onto the consequences of “Ruin” (both Thoth keywords) but as advice aimed at mustering the resolve to stand up and confront the onslaught rather than meekly presenting an exposed backside to be skewered. Think of it as signifying “psychological body armor” that is available to deflect the rude sword-strokes. While the distinction between the 10 of Swords reversed and its upright expression may be negligible, invoking the 10 of Wands might at least demystify the source of the distress by flushing it out into the open. This concept can be considered a built-in “clarifier” that offers a little more structure to the usual approach of seeking purely intuitive ways to “make the best of a bad situation.”
Originally published at http://parsifalswheeldivination.wordpress.com on October 1, 2022.