Tarot and the Nature of Desire
The tarot reader is often tasked with divining “what someone wants” in a situation. In natal astrology the answer is much simpler: Venus and Mars rule the realm of basic human appetites and their interaction goes to the heart of the matter. Boston astrologer Isabel Hickey once said “Mars goes out and gets what Venus wants.” Venus relates to the things we value in life, and Mars has the energy and drive to make sure we get them (assuming of course that neither is debilitated in the chart). The birth-chart itself speaks most directly to the nature of desire in the “Succedent” houses — the Second House reflects the native’s personal values and the pursuit of them; the Fifth House is the domain of sexual questing “just for fun;” the Eighth House relates to shared values and resources; and the Eleventh House is the home of “Higher Purpose” in a broader social setting. The “Fixed” signs spell out the most pragmatic expressions of this urge for self-realization. Where Venus and Mars appear by sign and house, and in particular their relationship by aspect, will offer a reasonable snapshot of how individuals go about getting what they want.
In tarot it isn’t nearly as straightforward, and I often wonder exactly where to place the emphasis in a reading. Setting aside the suit of Swords, which refuses to admit that it might want anything badly enough to actually crave it without reservation, a few general observations can be made.
The suit of Wands deals with ambition, aspiration, enthusiasm, energy and the like, but it seems to exercise all of those qualities more for their own sake than as a means to an end. Fire people typically don’t stay attached to anything long enough to develop the kind of strong bond that inspires unflagging devotion to ones private “hierarchy of needs” (see Maslow). A moment’s infatuation is more their style.
The suit of Cups seeks emotional fulfillment and commitment, but it’s more along the lines of “the right — or expected — thing to do” than a nod to any form of ego-stroking or libidinous dalliance. Water people can get “clingy” but it’s often more an insecurity thing than an overheated chasing of the heart’s desire.
The suit of Pentacles is more about sensation than sensitivity; think of it as the “grunt-and-grind” approach to satisfaction. Popular culture gets a lot of mileage out of this one: David Bowie’s Suffragette City (“Wham bam/Thank you, ma’am”), Rod Stewart’s Hot Legs and any number of other salacious paeans to lust. Earth people are less prone to overthink their reasons and more inclined to “just do it if it feels good.”
In practical reading, it may make the most sense to have a specific spread position for “what someone wants.” In that way the card that lands there can be related directly to the subject with no need for guesswork. The Celtic Cross spread has such a position, although I’ve tweaked the layout to meet my own expectations. I have created numerous relationship spreads that apply this model in both personal and interpersonal ways.
Originally published at http://parsifalswheeldivination.wordpress.com on April 24, 2022.