It is common to use "happy" or "positive" cards in blogs, especially when they are trying to promote the deck. But to be honest, I find the ones that portray those harder moments of human life to be more poignant and interesting. This is one of those cards.
4 of Cups
Through the Looking Glass
The Mock Turtle is one of the saddest creatures in the text. “…Alice could hear him sighing as if his heart would break. She pitied him deeply. ‘What is his sorrow?’ she asked the Gryphon. And the Gryphon answered, very nearly in the same words as before, ‘It’s all his fancy, that: he hasn’t got no sorrow, you know…’” We never really know why he is so sad, except that he used to be a real turtle. We don’t know how or why he became a Mock Turtle. This chapter, in fact, leaves a lot of questions unanswered and many Carroll lovers dissatisfied. Many who’ve analyzed the story say that this part lacks the richness of the rest of the story. It is entertaining and clever, but it’s all sizzle and no steak. Which makes the Mock Turtle an even more appropriate choice for this card.
If grief or heartbreak are not processed, they become a pointless cycle, leading nowhere. There is no transformation or redemption. Even the fishes in Wonderland value having a purpose. “‘They were obliged to have him [the porpoise] with them,’ the Mock Turtle said, ‘No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.’” In this card, the Mock Turtle has forgotten his own wise advice, as we often do when we are in the depths of despair.
Down the Rabbit Hole
In a reading, this card shows someone who is unhappy, disengaged, and lackadaisical. This is not a card of mourning nor of heartbreak, although either of those emotions could have been the starting point. When we hold our emotions tightly, rather than letting them flow to be experienced and processed, they stagnate. Like the Mock Turtle, you’ve dwelt too long in the past. You’ve held on too long to some slight or some disappointment, and now it has transformed and filled your heart and mind with ennui. You are dissatisfied with what you have. You cannot see any fresh possibilities even though they are right under your nose. The card does not indicate whether you shake this off or keep stewing, so it is completely your choice.
Keywords: discontent, dissatisfaction, ennui, boredom, lack of gratitude, depression, resisting change, stagnation, lack of inspiration
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In tarot everything can mean something. Most readers understand that the suits all have a specific energy. Likewise, so do the numbers. If you are like me, some numbers are easier to get than others. Fours have always been easy for me. A four-legged chair is more stable than a three-legged stool. Stability, security, and safety are associated with the number four. It's negative extreme is stagnation.
In our fast-paced world, we are more apt to keep the screen moving, keep scrolling, keep breathing in more and more information than we are to pause, to dive deeply, to process.
Because of this, it might be good to consider the positive advice that we can find in the 4s.
The number four is not just about stability or stagnation. It is also about stopping the flow of energy. Energy stopped for too long leads to stagnation. But in a world where energy is encouraged to move at a frenetic rate, I don't think we will hurt anything by slowing down a little. In fact, just the opposite. There are great benefits to slowing down.
A Blessing from the Fours
May you take the time to celebrate your achievements.
May you acknowledge and honor your emotions.
May you allow your mind time to integrate ideas.
May you listen to the wisdom of your body.
Most people don't like being told "no." Even if it is gracious. Even if the "no" includes useful feedback or constructive criticism.
Jonathon Field's recent Good Life Project podcast riff, "How You Handle No is How You Handle Life" really resonated with me. This is only 10 minutes, so if you want to listen, check it out HERE.
In the riff, Jonathon explores possible reasons why we shouldn't get all bent out of shape when being told no and I agree.
As an acquisitions editor (for over 15 years), I've had to tell plenty of people "no, thank you, but this project isn't a good fit for us." Mostly people act like adults and either don't write back (which is fine, no reply required) or thank me for my time. These people stick in my mind as possibilities for future projects. Others will write back with a lot of hostility and defensiveness. So even go so far as to spread angry comments about the company in public. When I receive, hear, or see those words, it makes me thank the gods and goddesses that we did say no, because there is no way I want to work with someone like that. All their vitriol did was burn a potential future bridge.
As a tarot reader, I've had to, in essence, tell people "no." By "no" I mean giving them news that isn't exactly what they want to hear. Whether it is the common, but still always heart-wrenching, "will he come back?" or the ostensibly advice-seeking "what can I do to get a job?" If the answer isn't "yes" or "nothing, someone will walk off the street and give you a dream job with stellar salary" some people react with anger, defensiveness, or disbelief.
I remember one reading where the client wanted to know about getting a job and there were some very obvious blocks that he could clear, but he kept getting more and more upset. He ended up saying that I had obviously brought my own negativity into the reading and that it was the worse one he'd ever had. His reaction to the really solid advice the cards were giving made it easy for me to see why he was having trouble finding employment.
Instead of being defensive to the gracious no (especially when it comes with feedback or advice) and behaving as if the world is against you, calm down (maybe make note of the disproportionate emotional reaction and investigate it later), sit with the rejection and consider it, as Fields suggests, as data. Information is valuable. Take it in. Respond with openness. Use it as an opportunity to grow.
In tarot terms, don't be like the guy in the 4 of Cups, who is only seeing something that makes him unhappy and is completely missing the gift that is actually being offered.