Sublimation as a Reading Strategy

Parsifal the Scribe
4 min readMay 16


AUTHOR’S NOTE: As I’m using it here, to “sublimate” something means to “elevate it to a higher order of excellence.” I’m focusing this principle on the problem of how to deal in a constructive way with particularly discouraging cards in a tarot reading that stubbornly resist interpretive mitigation. We may not be rewarded with a “silk purse” for our efforts, but perhaps a minor step up to “light-weight organza” is all that is needed under the circumstances. (Before you start, recognize that this is very far “off-the-beaten-path” from conventional wisdom and may seem counterintuitive, so allow for some “suspension of disbelief” as you read.)

In the secularly-corrupted version of the biblical passage (Acts 17:28) it is often said that Earth is where we “live and move and have our being.” Thus, every action we take is “filtered” through the sensibilities of elemental Earth because the senses are the only way we have to directly engage with the objective Universe; anything that isn’t empirically discernible as fact (and measurable as such) is abstract conjecture, including unproven scientific theories, philosophical concepts and psychological explanations for which the obvious conclusions ipso facto presume their existence (and yes, tarot-card forecasts).

In her book, Tarot and the Tree of Life, Isabel Kliegman observes that in order to improve a dire outlook (specifically the 10 of Swords), we must work with the energy on the physical plane where our awareness is less cerebral and our efforts are likely to be more conducive to positive change. (She notes that being intellectually or passionately moved in a detached way is not the same thing as being viscerally compelled to act in a “do-or-die” sense.) I once had the 10 of Swords show up for a man who had just undergone a messy divorce and was still bitter about it; I told him that a new field ready for replanting awaited him in the Ace of Pentacles. This obviously works best with the Tens, which already have one foot in the next suit, but here I’m going to apply it to all of the more challenging Minor Arcana to see whether they might be redeemed in a methodical rather than an entirely intuitive way. The goal in all of this is to envision a new “playing field” for the energies to inhabit.

The idea is to give each of these cards a “foothold” in grounded reality by identifying the “Earth” card that relates to the card pulled by number or rank (Kliegman’s assumption is that we must “find the bottom” in such situations before we can begin to recover, but I think it’s enough to recognize that there is a bottom without actually experiencing it). Then bring this concept to fruition by taking its fundamental meaning “under advisement” as a parallel approach to confronting the difficulties of the original card. Not all of the alternate cards are much (if any) better than the “base” card, but the practical scenario they offer may invite “getting one’s arms around” the issue in a way that opens up new possibilities for concrete resolution.

Another option is to also invoke a trump card of the “Earth” element and the same number (whether natural or mathematically derived) as the other cards: the Empress as “3” and “Venusian Earth;” the Hierophant as “5” and “Taurean Earth;” the Hermit as “9” and “Virgoan Earth;” the Devils as “6” (1+5=6) and “Capricornian Earth;”and the World as “3” (2+1=3) and “Saturnian Earth.”(Without creating composite numerical pastiches, there are no “Earth” trumps associated with 2, 7, 8 and 10.) As a further supplemental step, it may also be meaningful to impose the numerological definition of the number applicable to all of the cards, along with the astrological sign-and-planet implications of the Earth cards.

For the purpose of this essay, the more troubling minor cards (even the best of which are at least nominally disheartening in principle) are listed below; the mildly-debilitated 2, 4 and 7 of Pentacles and the unpleasant 5 of Pentacles embody their own pragmatic restorative paradigm, although it may be instructive to turn to their elementally “friendly” counterparts in the suit of Cups as liberating opportunities. The 4 of Swords is omitted because it is already a card of “rest and recuperation.” Note that I’m including the Pages due to their immaturity, suggesting that the matter they signify is not “ripe” for disposition in its initial form, the assumption being that adopting the sensible qualities of the Page of Pentacles will help them get their feet on the ground. (We might think of this and all of the other pairs as an expression of the “buddy system.”)

5 of Wands
7 of Wands
9 of Wands
10 of Wands
Page of Wands

4 of Cups
5 of Cups
7 of Cups
8 of Cups
Page of Cups

2 of Swords
3 of Swords
5 of Swords
6 of Swords
7 of Swords
8 of Swords
9 of Swords
10 of Swords
Page of Swords

In a future post I will present a small layout of cards that illustrates this approach.

Originally published at on May 16, 2023.



Parsifal the Scribe

I’ve been involved in the esoteric arts since 1972, with a primary interest in tarot and astrology. See my previous work at