KonMari Project 5.1: Komono (kitchen equipment)

The fourth stage of the KonMari Method is when you tackle komono, which is Japanese for “miscellaneous items.” Ideally, you’ve sorted through your clothes, weeded your books, and gone through your papers. You’re not ready for your sentimental items yet, but now it’s time to tackle Everything Else. But that’s a lot of stuff.

I get why komono gets one amorphous step to itself.  Kondō could assume that most of her readers owned clothes (!), books, and paperwork. And most people have sentimental items: the trick with those is the emotional attachment more than the items themselves. But everything else in someone’s home varies from person to person. Instead of being one small volume, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up would have to be a set of encyclopedias to cover all the different kinds of things that people own. Best, from the author’s standpoint, to give general tips and then stand back and let people work their own way through this. As taking everything I owned that wasn’t in one of the other categories and piling it in the living room wasn’t remotely feasible, I decided to break it down into broad categories. After all, I classify things for a living: this is second nature to me. I’m working through them one by one, and we’ll see how it goes. While I may very well revise my list as I get further into this, my first set of categories (to be tackled as the spirit moves me) is:

  • Kitchen equipment: cookware, bakeware, and the dishes and silverware
  • Audio/video: CDs, DVDs, cassettes, and the equipment to play them on
  • Bed and bath: towels, throws, sheets, and other things that lurk in the linen closet
  • Crafts: yarn, fabric, magic markers, and anything else that I may have been creative with
  • Everything else: (to be further subdivided when I get the first four out of the way and see what’s left)

And with that, I took on the kitchen.

Let’s start with the results. I did the main kitchen purge on July 4, and then went to CONvergence two days later. When I got back, I was a bit pressed for time, so I didn’t do major cooking. I just threw together a few ingredients and called it lunch for the following week. So it was almost two weeks before I did serious cooking in my newly-weeded kitchen. I opened the kitchen gadget drawer to get a strainer and was totally stunned by how easy it was to retrieve it. That drawer used to be so jam-packed that stuff would catch on the drawer above it and I’d have to work my hand in through a narrow opening and try to unsnag everything. Now opening the drawer was effortless and since the things in it were only one layer deep, I could easily see everything at a glance. This was so noticeable an improvement that it lifted my mood for the next half hour. So yes, totally worth the time spent pulling the kitchen equipment together and going through it!

Random thoughts from the kitchen

I started with the equipment I rarely use nowadays. I don’t use large skillets any longer, now that I have a sauté pan that I like, and anyway, the 12″ (30 cm) cast iron skillet was too heavy for me to handle safely. Eating habits have changed, and while I still adore layer cake with buttercream frosting, I rarely make it anymore, not even to take it into work for parties. I didn’t get rid of all the cake pans, but I tried to hold on to only the basics and only the specialty ones I fully expect to use within the next year. I need two 9″ round pans to make a layer cake, but I don’t need two Bundt pans when you only use one for a recipe. And it was time to accept that even if it improves the flavor noticeably, I’m not going to grind my own spices. Not enough to justify giving space to a spice grinder, anyway. I do grate fresh nutmeg, but I can use the grater for other things. The spice grinder was single-purpose and a lot larger.

If I couldn’t identify the item or it looked too dangerous to use, it went. Rationally or not, I’m convinced that the onion holder was a tetanus shot waiting to happen, not so much when it was in use but when I was washing it afterwards. My wariness of sharp blades and points is why a mandoline slicer has never made it into my kitchen. One of the reasons I prefer baking to cooking is that you don’t need to use knives nearly as much in baking.

Odd kitchen gadget lying on table and being held.
It took me half an hour to remember what this blue thing was (you use it to protect your fingers while slicing or grating food).

Often, one thing led to another. I’ve moved a pair of pie plates—not sure why I had two of them in the first place—from one apartment to another for years. Never mind that I haven’t made a pie in at least 12 years. So the pie plates went. And if I’m not making pies, then I don’t need to keep a pie keeper/carrier. Nor do I need pie weights, nor do I need a pie crust shield. Gone, gone, gone. I did keep the rolling pin—if it’s been at least 12 years since I made a pie, it has to be closer to 20 since I made pie crust from scratch—but that’s because I use it occasionally to crush cookies and the like into crumbs.

I got rid of most of the “cute” equipment. I think there’s a perception that if you’re single, you need smaller quantities of food, like casseroles with only 2 servings. But here’s the catch: it takes almost as long to make a small amount of something as a regular amount. Think about it: why would it take twice as long to dip a 1-cup measure into flour and level it than it does to dip a ½-cup measure? So while I kept the bread maker that makes small loaves because they’re good for potlucks, I got rid of the tiny baking pans and other pots and pans that were only large enough for one or two servings. I like to bake, but I don’t like to cook all that much, so I prefer to cook regular size amounts and eat away at it over a week. It helps that I have a really high tolerance for leftovers.

It’s hard to get rid of anything when there’s a little voice whispering But everyone needs a skillet. How can you not own a pie plate? But what if you want to make waffles some day? I had more trouble with the “what ifs” with kitchen equipment than with the other things. I have a lot of specialized kitchen equipment. If I got rid of the waffle maker, I couldn’t easily substitute something else if I decided I wanted a waffle one morning. Whereas with the clothes, if I gave away one shirt too many, all that meant was that I couldn’t wear that shirt, not that I’d have to go to work naked. And that’s why I still have the waffle maker, at least for now.

Kitchen equipment piled on the floor.
Some of what departed.

End result: about 80 pounds (36 kg) of kitchen stuff went off to Goodwill or to interested friends. Oh, my hypothetical future movers, you don’t know how I’m making your lives easier.

All the feelings

I started with the kitchen equipment because of all the komono, I figured I had the least sentimental attachment to it. Which was technically true, but there were feelings anyway. With much of the stuff I’ve gotten rid of, it’s because I’ve outgrown it, like weeding most of my books on Wicca because I’m no longer Wiccan and because I’ve learned much of what was in the books and don’t need to refer to them as often. But I still like to bake. (Cooking, not so much.) Some of the baking equipment went because it was reminding me that I don’t get to bake as much as I used to, and the reminders were kind of sad. Am I still a baker if I don’t bake all that much? Is it all right to bake when most of the baked goods I like to make are on one naughty-no-no list or another? Will I bake much in the future? I catch myself scheduling my favorite recipes to make sure I cover as many of them as possible: vanilla pound cake for a potluck later this week, something easy to carry for the family reunion next month, chai-spiced pound cake or maple cake for a potluck in September, and definitely gingerbread and Grandma’s pumpkin bread for sometime this fall. But in trying to make sure all the favorites get covered, there are fewer chances to discover anything new, and I enjoy that as well.

Melancholy aside, remember those great results I got with just the kitchen gadget drawer. And I no longer have to offload every baking pan I own onto the floor just to get to my 9″ x 13″ pan (22 x 33 cm). I’m sure I’m not conveying how thrilled this makes me, but I’m downright ecstatic every time I go into a manageable cupboard or drawer and easily retrieve something. I’m definitely pressing on with the KonMari Project. I don’t know what I’ll be dealing with next, but I continue to inch ahead. More later!

KonMari Project 4: Papers

The third discard stage of the KonMari Method is getting rid of papers. After the long, drawn out process of weeding my books, I figured this stage would be quick and easy. I like books; most papers don’t generate nearly the same interest, much less warmth and affection. And since you can say that for most people, this stage uses different criteria. We keep most papers for legal reasons, financial reasons, and information. So this stage is a matter of coolly evaluating the papers you’ve got and asking yourself if you really need to keep them. (Pointing out the obvious here: if most people, myself included, could coolly evaluate anything we own, decide if we really needed it, and follow through on getting rid of the unneeded, Kondō’s books wouldn’t be international bestsellers.)

I hope most people who read Kondō’s books realize early on that you can’t follow the program unthinkingly. Kondō says “My basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away”—trust me, that was tempting—but she’s writing for Japanese readers who have to deal with Japanese rules about hanging onto documentation. Only a few sentences later, she writes, “…I recommend you dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely.” The tricky part is figuring out what’s needed.

File box and file cabinet.
The destination and the starting point.

Generally, my papers fall into four categories: knitting and crochet patterns, owner’s manuals and warranties, tax returns and financial papers, and interesting articles and clippings. The whole lot filled a two-drawer file cabinet. I’d love to get rid of that file cabinet. It’s attractive, but the drawers are a few millimeters too narrow for standard hanging folders (?!), and I don’t want two drawers worth of papers in my life. Where it sits makes it difficult to get to the air conditioner, but there’s no better place to put it. A file box would work just as well and I could push it under the desk or into a closet.

The easiest papers to toss were the patterns. Most of them were working copies and I didn’t need them any longer. I prefer to work from PDF patterns, and I keep pattern notes on the knitting blog and Ravelry nowadays. Owner’s manuals and warranties were a bit more of a struggle. I have a hard time tossing them, even when it’s obvious how to use the device and the warranty runs out in 90 days. (Yes, I have kept IKEA assembly instructions for furniture that will never be disassembled until the time comes to throw it out!) But as Kondō says, if you really need them, you can usually find them online.

Financial documents don’t spark joy, but that doesn’t mean they don’t generate emotional energy. I had no real feelings about my personal tax returns and was content to shove them into the back of a closet. But I was also storing the tax returns for two estates, and I loathed them. They reminded me of a miserable time in my life, and I felt forced to give them space in my home, which is pretty much the opposite of what the KonMari Project is about. But even though the last estate had closed 14 years ago, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was going to be in big trouble if I threw them out. So in the past, I would come across the estate tax returns when looking for something else, feel powerless to do anything about them, and then try hard to forget about them entirely. This time, buoyed by the success of getting rid of clothing and books, I made myself ask my tax preparer about them. The best way I can explain why I hadn’t asked earlier is that if she’d said I had to keep them, it would’ve felt even worse than it already did. I’d have known I was powerless. Ugh.

Turns out I could toss them. 🎉

Including other confidential papers I had weeded, I ended up lugging about 12 pounds (5.4 kg) of paper away to be shredded. It was absolutely delightful feeding the papers into the collection unit. I felt both literally and figuratively lighter.

That leaves the articles and clippings. I’ve halved the collection, but what remains is stubborn (I know, I know: it’s that I’m stubborn about keeping them). I need a different way to store them. All that filing them accomplished was to hide them from view and allow me to forget about them. Keeping them in notebooks is a possibility, although most of them are on acidic paper and are already turning yellow. I don’t care if they disintegrate after I’m done with them, but they need to be readable for as long as I choose to keep them. I’m stuck with the file cabinet until I figure out what to do with them, which is excellent motivation to keep working away at the problem. The fight goes on!

Lost and gone forever

It is satisfying as all get-out to interpret a Lenormand reading and/or a horary chart that accurately describes the location of a lost item, and then find the item. But sometimes a lost item stays lost. So when you ask where a lost item is, are you asking only for a description of its location? Or are you also asking if you’ll find it, even if you don’t say that in so many words? A reading I did a few months ago suggests the latter.

My friend J. has a friend who had lost a set of keys to a home safe. J. asked me about the keys on her friend’s behalf. The Lenormand reading and the horary chart both gave meaningful answers, but as of this writing, the keys haven’t been found. And even if they do turn up someday, for all practical purposes, it’ll be too late. J’s friend was going to have new keys made. Once that was done, the original keys may as well stay lost.

The Lenormand reading

I took my “usual” approach to doing a lost items reading. (“Usual” meaning I’ve done this maybe three or four times now: so much experience!) I choose a card ahead of time as the significator of the lost item, shuffle the deck, look for it in the deck, and lay out the card before it, the significator itself, and the two cards after it. The one card before would show the past; it’s the equivalent of “When did you last see the keys?” The two cards afterwards should show the present/future location of the lost item. Choosing the significator was easy: lost keys cry out to be represented by 33-Key.

It never occurred to me that the Key might be the last card in the deck. Which it was.

Garden and Key Lenormand cards

Here’s that issue I was talking about. I’d asked where the keys were. The most straightforward reading of this was that the keys had no present or future location. (The past location, 20-Garden, which suggested they might’ve been in the garden or at a gathering, didn’t help any.) It was possible that the keys had been destroyed, and that would answer the explicit question Where can she find her missing safe keys?. But the keys only needed to be permanently lost, nothing as dramatic as utterly obliterated, if the reading was answering the implicit question Will she find her lost keys? No “future” for the keys: the answer is No.

I admit I didn’t trust my intuition. And I hadn’t realized that there were two questions involved; I was only thinking of the explicit one. Since it seemed unlikely that the keys had been destroyed, they should be somewhere, so I took the first two cards from the top of the deck to find out what that somewhere was. The first card was 23-Mice. One interpretation of the Mice is that the keys had been stolen; another was that they were permanently lost.

Garden, Key, Mice, and Fish Lenormand cards

Eventually, I do figure these things out. Especially when the cards are practically hitting me over the head with an answer. 🙄

The second card was 34-Fish. It suggests the keys were near J’s friend’s financial materials, which makes sense given that they were the keys to one of her home safes. But as they do seem to be permanently lost, we’ll never know. The Mice may have been the absolute end of the reading (“Look,” the cards grumbled, “we told you they had no future, and then we told you—again—that they were lost. How much more of an answer do you need?!”), and it wouldn’t matter what the next card was.

The horary chart

To make this post easier to read, I’ve separated the Lenormand reading from the horary chart reading. But at the time, I was going back and forth between them, so I hadn’t reached that conclusion about the Lenormand reading before I’d started working on the horary chart.

Astrological chart.
“Where can [J’s friend] find her missing safe keys?”

Choosing the significator

This was one of the times I went with intuition when choosing the significator. I could have used derivative houses, but it was turning into a long chain. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the best I can say here is that it didn’t feel right. Mercury is the natural ruler of keys, and like choosing 33-Key in the Lenormand, it seemed much more reasonable to use it as the significator of these keys.

The considerations before judgment

First off, let’s see the general condition of the chart:

  1. Radical Ascendant? Check.
  2. Void-of-course Moon? Yes. Hmm.
  3. Saturn in the 7th house and/or the ruler of the 7th house afflicted? Yes to the latter: Mars is the ruler, and isn’t comfortable in Taurus.
  4. Moon in the Via Combusta? No.

Void-of-course means that the Moon (or a planet) will not make an exact aspect with any other planet before it moves into the next sign. It may still be in aspect to one or more planets, approaching and separating, but nothing else will match it exactly before it goes into the next sign. The tag line for the void-of-course Moon is “nothing will come of it.” Whether that’s helpful or not depends on the question asked. I wouldn’t say it’s all that encouraging in a lost items question, not unless you wanted the item to stay lost.

Among other things, the 7th house represents the astrologer who’s interpreting the horary chart. (That’s me.) Saturn in the 7th house or an afflicted ruler of the 7th suggests the astrologer will have problems with the chart or suffer a delay in understanding it. Or, in my case, be a bit oblivious to her own intuition.

And the chart says…

Mercury is at 29° 49′ Aries. That’s right at the end of Aries (each sign has 30º), and horary texts have explanations for significators that are right at the end of signs and what that means for lost items. But in this chart, Mercury is also void-of-course. See everything above about about the VOC Moon, and apply it to the keys themselves. Mercury isn’t connected to anything, symbolically, so the keys aren’t connected to anything or anyone, including J’s friend. They’re in a void somewhere, not to be found.

Conclusion

No keys. No future for them, according to the Lenormand reading. No ties between them and anything else according to the horary chart. It’s good to know that these readings can tell you if you’re ever going to find a lost item, but I wish the problem had had a happier answer.

Advising imaginary people: a tarot reading for Tara Abernathy

Quite a few years ago, I read a couple of books by James Ricklef: Tarot Tells the Tale: Explore Three Card Readings Through Familiar Stories and Tarot—Get the Whole Story: Use, Create & Interpret Tarot Spreads. In both books, Ricklef demonstrated spreads by doing readings for fictional characters as if they’d consulted him for help about the problems in their stories.

Yesterday, I wanted to do a reading, but I didn’t have any pressing questions of my own. I remembered Ricklef’s books and I’ve been meaning to try this for a while, so it seemed like a good time. I’d just finished rereading a fantasy novel called Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (and I highly recommend it, but that’s another post). It was fresh in my mind, so I pretended that the main character, Tara Abernathy, was asking me to do a reading for her. Since unlike Ricklef’s examples, I’m using a book that many people won’t be familiar with, I’ve added a few notes for clarification.

Warning: major spoilers ahead for Three Parts Dead.

Imagining the question:

I’m a new associate at the Craft firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao. I’m on probation, my boss is sticking her neck out for me, and if I fail, my career and possibly my life are over. It’s my first case, and opposing counsel is the guy who got me thrown out of school—from about a thousand feet up in the air. I want to beat him even more than I want to win the case. Can we win? Will the firm keep me on? And will we defeat Alexander Denovo?

Since I was practicing techniques, I started with the First Operation (not shown). Although the Knight of Wands doesn’t appear in the spread, it seems like a good significator for Tara. She nearly gets herself killed twice in the early part of the book through good intentions carried out enthusiastically without considering all the ramifications. The Knight of Wands appeared in the fourth (earth) pile, so I tried to take a pragmatic, results-oriented approach to the reading.

That done, I reshuffled the cards and did a Celtic Cross spread:

Celtic Cross spread for fictional character Tara Abernathy.

  1. You: Page of Swords. This card represents you right now as you’re asking for this reading. The Page of Swords is clever, good with words (and Craft), and devious when the situation calls for it, but she lacks practical experience. I’d love to be able to tell you to take your time and learn at your own pace, but you’ve described a tense situation, and cards like the Eight of Wands and the Knight of Swords hint that things are moving quickly. So see how watchful and aware the Page looks? Stay alert and be careful.
  2. Situation: King of Wands. Fire of fire, this card most likely represents the fire god Kos Everburning, whose death is the reason you’re in Alt Coulumb in the first place.
  3. Challenge: Five of Wands. Struggle and conflict: the court case, the various creditors fighting over Kos’s debts and obligations, dealing with Shale, the Blacksuits…need I go on? Kos is the reason you’re here; this is the fight that being here involves. I know you want to hurt Denovo, but watch yourself: it can be easy to lose yourself in the fight and let anger overrule your better judgment.
  4. Foundation: Eight of Wands. It’s all coming at you at once: your new position and how much rests on your proving yourself, settling the matter of Kos’s death before his obligations come due at the dark of the moon, the murder of Judge Cabot and hiding the gargoyle, facing Denovo in court, tracing Kos’s private dealings. Everything is top priority.
  5. Recent Past: Four of Wands. A card here shows something from your past that’s over with but which influences your current situation. I’d say that’s your recent graduation from the Hidden Schools. That’s where you learned the Craft, where you met Alexander Denovo, and where you received your job offer (sort of!) from Elayne Kevarian. Ordinarily, the Four of Wands is a positive card, but since you said your graduation was promptly followed by an execution attempt, this is an ambiguous card at best in this reading. [Although not floating in the air, the castle in the background could represent the Hidden Schools.]
  6. Attitudes and Beliefs: Two of Pentacles. All that stuff I mentioned back at the Eight of Wands—the Two of Pentacles shows you’re concerned about keeping on top of it all. Reading in a vertical line from bottom to top, there are all those problems coming at you in the Eight of Wands, and you as the Page of Swords don’t have a lot of experience handling all this. Communication is vital, but you need to figure out what to say to whom to strengthen your position—and when to keep your thoughts to yourself. The Two of Pentacles shows you trying to manage all these issues. This whole situation is testing your ability to adapt to changing circumstances. It won’t be easy, it’ll stretch you to your limits, but the man hasn’t dropped those pentacles, which suggests you’ll manage.
  7. Near Future: Six of Cups. The Six of Cups is one of those cards that references the past, even when it’s sitting in a future position, as it is now. We just saw that the part of your past relevant to this reading is your time at the Hidden Schools and your graduation from there. I read the Six of Cups here as showing someone from your past offering you a gift. Maybe someone older than you, since the boy in the card looks older than the girl. The person who best fits this description tried to get you killed, so I’d be really careful about taking any favors from him in the future. Notice how the little girl isn’t reaching to accept the flowers that the boy is offering her.
  8. You as You See Yourself: Knight of Swords. You’d like to show your boss, the firm, and Denovo that you’re qualified, capable of winning, and, well, right. You wield the Craft and your knife [see book cover] as the Knight wields his sword. Remember, though, you don’t have a lot of experience yet. Focus, choose your battles, and prioritize—don’t charge at everything and everyone or you’ll waste your energies.
  9. Environment/How Others See You: Six of Swords. You were thrown out of the Hidden Schools, you fled Edgemont one step ahead of a mob, and your position with Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao is conditional on your performance in this case, which is a lot of pressure. It’d be nice if you could break with the past and make a fresh start, but what with the Four of Wands and the Six of Cups appearing in this reading, it looks like you need to wrap up some unfinished business first. The river crossing shown on this card symbolizes a rite of passage. It’s difficult, but notice how the water is rough on one side of the boat but smooth on the other. Make it, and things will probably settle down, at least for a while.*
  10. Hopes and Fears: The Emperor. You dream of becoming a respected, powerful Craftswoman. However, you know powerful authorities are either waiting to see how you’ll do (the senior partners in the firm) or are actively working against you (Denovo).
  11. Outcome: Death. Given that your field is necromancy, Death may be more literal here than for other people. This card generally means transformation, and in your case, it may be saying that yes, you stand a chance of being a bona fide Craftswoman (necromancer) at your firm, assuming everything else goes well—remember, there are a lot of opportunities for everything else to fall apart! Winning the case counts as beating Denovo, correct? [In Denovo’s case, death was literal. Also, Kos Everburning comes back to life, an option for gods, perhaps signified in this card by the (fiery) sun rising on the horizon.]

Oh, that was fun! I should try this again sometime.


*Tara Abernathy is also in Four Roads Cross. I haven’t read it yet, but its mere existence suggests that her life will become unsettled again.

Venus through the Minor Arcana

Venus went direct yesterday, after about a month of being retrograde. The timing is appropriate for this post, as we’re up to Venus in the Chaldean order. We’re past the halfway point now, and the planets are speeding up. Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Similarly, in astrology, the planet Venus represents love, beauty, pleasure, and relationships. The five Minor Arcana cards associated with Venus do say something about relationships and/or pleasure, although sometimes what they show is the downside or how these can go wrong.

Four of Wands: Venus in Aries

Aries is primarily a solo sign. Not that Aries shuns people, but it’s self-centered rather than other-oriented. It’s cardinal fire, a combination that initiates action and is high-energy. So it’s essentially compatible with Mars and the Sun, planets that are associated with action and personal identity. Venus, however, is other-oriented, the part of us that creates relationships, and that focus on relationships is at odds with Aries’s focus on the self. The combination suggests creating relationships mainly to see what’s in it for you. Traditionally, Venus in Aries has been viewed as being in a contrary environment, and not acting at her best.*

Four of WandsWith that kind of background, you’d think the Four of Wands would depict selfishness or a reluctance to be with others. Instead, the Waite-Smith card shows people celebrating together. Perhaps this is about the completion of a project or task, since the Golden Dawn name for this card is Lord of Perfected Work and Crowley called it Completion. One keyword I use for the Four of Wands is community, and that’s the antithesis of this textbook description of Venus in Aries. Now, sure, there are other ways to interpret the combination of Venus and Aries. Perhaps this scene of dancing outside on a warm, sunny day shows Venus’s sociability fueled by Aries’s energy. Dancing itself—beautiful, done for pleasure, often done with other people—has a lot of Venus to it, and as physical activity, could draw on Aries/fire energy.

Two of Cups: Venus in Cancer

Two of CupsLike Aries, Cancer is a cardinal sign, but its element is water, and cardinal water suggests that Cancer takes action emotionally. Already this sounds like a more compatible environment for Venus. Cancer has been traditionally considered friendly to the Moon (the emotions) and Jupiter (benevolence), but Venus, too, seems more at home here than in Aries. Cancer’s focus is on nurturance, which is necessary when something has just been “born”—a baby, a project, a relationship—Cancer’s energy shines at the beginning of things.

With the Two of Cups, we have the most romantic presentation of Venus in the Waite-Smith deck. Not surprisingly, the Golden Dawn called this card Lord of Love.  I don’t think it’s stretching to see the Two of Cups as the beginning of a relationship. Twos are towards the start of the Minor Arcana, suggesting an early stage. Beginning a relationship is in keeping with the symbolism of Venus in Cancer—it’s that taking the initiative in emotional matters.

Seven of Cups: Venus in Scorpio

From one water sign to another: but Scorpio is a fixed sign rather than a cardinal one. Instead of starting something, fixed signs are about continuing and maintaining what already is. Positively, Scorpio is emotionally steadfast and reliable, but if used poorly, planets in Scorpio become stubborn and obsessive. The Seven of Cups pertains more to Venus as a symbol of desire and pleasure rather than relationships. The drawback to Venus being in Scorpio is that Scorpio doesn’t necessarily restrain Venus’s desires. Its fixed nature suggests that once Venus in Scorpio decides it wants something, she will continue to want it, which can bring out Scorpio’s obsessive side. So like Aries, Scorpio is traditionally viewed as encouraging Venus’s less appealing traits.

Seven of CupsThe Seven of Cups is one of those cards that differs noticeably between the Waite-Smith and Thoth decks. In the Waite-Smith Seven of Cups, the card is about being presented with a number of options and needing to choose one. The figure in the foreground faces multiple delights: riches, glory, power, and more. But the card is called Lord of Illusionary Success, suggesting that none of them will bring him true happiness. In pursuing one or more of them, will the man overlook genuine, if not nearly as flashy, happiness close at hand?

Seven of CupsCompared to the Thoth Seven of Cups, however, the Waite-Smith card is all sweetness and light. Crowley and Harris’s depiction of the Seven of Cups hits you over the head with what happens when pleasure goes bad. The card is called Debauch. It has the Thoth deck’s standard symbol set of flowers, cups, and liquids, but here the liquid is fluorescent green glop, likely poisonous—really, would you want to touch it, much less drink it? True, the lilies look healthy and none of the cups are broken: things are not as bad as they could be, but that’s not saying much in this card. Here is a particularly nasty manifestation of Venus in Scorpio: pleasure going well beyond the point at which it’s pleasant and sliding into debauchery. As the Thoth Six of Cups is called Pleasure, the path from pleasure to debauchery to indolence (the Eight of Cups) is a theme of the Cups suit.

Five of Swords: Venus in Aquarius

From fixed water to fixed air as we consider Venus in Aquarius. Instead of maintaining things in the emotional plane, Aquarius maintains them in intellect and communication. Although the combination of Venus and Aquarius is not traditionally considered negative, there’s a bit of a conflict here. Venus wants relationships and pleasure. Aquarius is an air sign, and up for communicating with others, but that communication is mainly going to be intellectual. Ditto for pleasure: Venus may want a good bit of sensual self-indulgence, but Aquarius is likely to be more interested in a new book than physical delight. Venus in Aquarius has a reputation for loving the human race, but not doing that well at loving individual human beings.

Five of SwordsIf there’s a relationship in the Five of Swords, it’s that between the victor and the vanquished, and the only pleasure is the pleasure of beating others. The Golden Dawn called this card Lord of Defeat, which pretty much sums up the Waite-Smith picture. Indeed, any existing relationships between the three people in the picture may be the casualties of this battle. The victor has control of the swords, and seems happy, but in a card with Venus as its astrological correlation, it’s probably not good that he’s cut himself off from the others in the picture. For that matter, the two who lost are turned slightly away from each other. They aren’t going off together to console each other or plot revenge against the victor, but are alone in their misery.

Nine of Pentacles: Venus in Virgo

Virgo is the mutable earth sign. Earth is the element of the physical world and the practical, logistical approach to life. Mutability neither gets things going as cardinal energy does or keeps them going as fixed energy does, but changes and adapts what is. Virgo’s awareness of its circumstances makes planets in Virgo sensitive to imperfection and drives them to correct it in a practical, tangible way. Customarily, Virgo is considered another sign that’s at odds with Venus. That need to continually improve things can be harsh on relationships, and it’s difficult to thoroughly enjoy something when you’re constantly aware of anything that isn’t quite right about it.
Nine of PentaclesThat said, the Nine of Pentacles doesn’t appear to be about pickiness and perfectionism any more than the Four of Wands was about selfishness in relationships. The Waite-Smith Nine of Pentacles shows a woman in a vineyard, alone except for the bird that she’s holding and a snail on the ground. Cards with just one person in them are common in this deck, but except for this card and the Seven of Cups, the Minor Arcana associated with Venus show people in relationship. Like the Seven of Cups, the Nine of Pentacles portrays the pleasure and enjoyment side of Venus rather than the relationship side. The Golden Dawn title of Lord of Material Gain reinforces the idea that the focus here is on earthly pleasures. But in this card, Pamela Colman Smith shows pleasure in moderation to be a good thing. The woman’s body language is relaxed: her hand rests lightly on top of a pentacle and she trusts the other eight to be there. Compare this with the Four of Pentacles where the man clutches one pentacle to his chest while pinning another two down with his feet. Venus and Virgo combine to show contentment in the Nine of Pentacles. Perhaps this is Virgo’s acute awareness of the material world: the woman knows what she has, knows that it’s enough for her, and knows how to appreciate it.

*And yes, this is a textbook description of Venus in Aries. Real people with Venus in Aries—or any other sign—will live it in all sorts of ways, and there’s more to a person than just one planet/sign combination anyway.

KonMari Project 3: Books

It took a while—almost a year—but I’ve wrapped up the second stage of the KonMari Project: books. This was definitely more challenging than sorting through my clothes. I suspect that Marie Kondō doesn’t feel about books quite as strongly as I do. From what I can tell from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, books seem to be more like objects to her than, you know, books. Perhaps I am being unfair. It’s just that she made it sound a lot easier to weed books than it proved to be. But I’m determined to finish the KonMari Project this year, so I declared the books stage completed on February 20, and am moving on to the third stage, which is papers.

I will say, I now have a much better idea of why I’ve held onto so many books. Of course, I have my favorites. These are the books that as I looked at each one, I distinctly experienced a feeling of fondness for it. For fiction, I might remember a scene or two from the book. Nonfiction triggered memories of an argument the author made or an insight I got while reading the book. These were definitely books to keep. But I realized that I’ve kept a lot of books out of habit. Whether or not I’d read them, I got so used to them just being there that I no longer saw them, like wallpaper. Heck, I moved them from one apartment to another on autopilot. These were the books that were easy to discard using Kondō’s recommendations, because when I focused on each of these books individually—took it off the shelf, held it, and really saw it—it dawned on me that I felt no real connection to them anymore. Many of these books were ones that were important to me in an earlier part of my life. I let go of many knitting books because I’m experienced enough now not to need them. Having a lot of books on Wicca was right for me when I was Wiccan, but my Paganism has wandered far enough away from Wicca that it was time to let them go.

I erred on the side of keeping books. Lots of them weren’t my absolute favorites, but still made me feel happy when I saw them. It was also easy to justify keeping a lot of astrology and tarot books because they’re out of print. I may not have referred to them recently, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that if I get rid of them, I’ll need one again some day and won’t be able to get a copy of it. After all, astrology and tarot books aren’t all that easy to find in public libraries. But I’m proud of myself for getting rid of some books that I had mixed feelings about. I had a lot of books on Japanese, from studying it years ago. But I haven’t had the time to return to it, and anyway, Latin is calling to me now. It was tempting to keep them, promising myself that I’d use them someday, but I acknowledged that when I see them, they don’t spark joy. They spark feelings of obligation, a bit of guilt, some frustration, regret. This is exactly what Kondō is saying that you don’t want from the stuff you keep. So I thanked and released them.

bookshelf_space
Realizing that many of you may not be any more familiar with empty space in a bookcase than I am, here’s what it looks like.

So there have been some bittersweet moments, but generally, weeding the books has been a good thing, and probably something I wouldn’t have done to any great extent if I hadn’t been prodded by Kondō’s books. I’m enjoying seeing open space in my bookcases. Mind you, it looks unnatural to me. I’ve bought bookends (gasp!). I’ve never needed them before because every shelf was packed. So far I’ve only bought plain black utilitarian bookends, with the exception of one set of bright yellow ones because I love the color, but if I become someone who always has space in her bookcases, maybe I’ll get some fancy ones. And I’ve opened up about ten cubic feet in my storage unit by removing several boxes of books. It’s definitely an improvement to open the door without fearing that a mountain of boxes is about to topple over on me. On to papers!

The Sun through the Minor Arcana

The Sun is the midpoint of the Chaldean order of planets, with three planets slower than it (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars) and three faster (Venus, Mercury, Moon). Although we know the Sun is a star, it’s often called a planet in astrology, since for astrological purposes, it essentially behaves like the true planets do. Even so, the Sun is first among equals. As the physical sun is the center of the solar system, so the astrological Sun is the heart of the natal chart. In natal astrology, the Sun represents the sense of self, the ego, who you think of yourself as. The ego is independent but basically a solo act, and its aloneness is reflected in some of the Minor Arcana cards that have the Sun in their astrological correspondences. Many tarot cards depict people alone. Still, it seems notable that three of the five cards associated with the Sun show an individual set apart from others. The Sun is like the other astrological planets…and not.

Three of Wands: Sun in Aries

Aries is a sign that the Sun feels comfortable in. There’s a lot of overlap here, between the essentially solitary Sun and Aries, a sign of solo action. Aries is the cardinal fire sign, geared towards taking the initiative (cardinal) and expressing willpower and creativity.

3wWhichever sign the Sun is in shows the kinds of experiences that the self needs in order to grow. In Aries, that means taking risks and doing things that call for courage, usually as an individual rather than with others. In the Waite-Smith Three of Wands, we see a man looking out over a harbor in which three ships are sailing. One common way to interpret this scene is that the man is a merchant whose ships are either setting out on a voyage or returning from one. Either way, the success of the venture is not yet known. The man has put plans into action and committed himself, and this is risky. He’s far from the ships and the people on them, showing that he’s acting alone.

The Sun in Aries symbolizes the explorer or pioneer, someone who initiates a venture. Perhaps the man in the Three of Wands is sending his ships along a familiar, established trade route—although that can be risky—but he may be gambling on a new route into uncharted territory, where the risks and the rewards are even greater.

The Golden Dawn’s name for the Three of Wands was Lord of Established Strength, while Crowley went for Virtue. This is not virtue in the sense of goodness or the archaic definition of chastity, but an older definition of courage, valor, and strength. Either name, of course, reflects the courage and determination of the Sun in Aries.

Six of Cups: Sun in Scorpio

The Golden Dawn named the Six of Cups Lord of Pleasure. The differences between this card and its astrological association may leave one wondering what kind of pleasure they had in mind. The Waite-Smith Six of Cups seems to show the joys of innocence and nostalgia. A boy presents a cup filled with flowers to a smaller girl, while in the background, a man with a staff or spear walks away. Both children are heavily dressed for what looks like warm spring weather: they’re wearing hoods and we see a mitten on the girl’s hand. Some have observed that the boy’s proportions aren’t really that of a child, and have speculated that he’s more magical than human (a dwarf, perhaps). The slight unreality of the picture has led people to associate this card with nostalgia—a not-quite-accurate recollection of times past.

Waite-Smith Six of CupsOver on the astrological side of things, the association for this card is the Sun in Scorpio. Scorpio is fixed water: feelings that change slowly, if at all. Since those feelings are so stable, they have time to build in intensity and grow deeper. So the Sun in Scorpio shows that the sense of self grows through intense emotional experiences. Unlike the Three of Wands, there’s more than one person in the Six of Cups, and two of them are interacting with each other. This card isn’t about acting alone, but maybe that’s because it’s a Cups card, and emotions have so much to do with relating to others.

I’m having trouble seeing a connection between this card and its astrological association. The Six of Cups does not radiate intensity and passion; the Sun in Scorpio has little to do with innocence and nostalgia. Honestly, the Sun in Cancer seems like it would be a much better fit for the Six of Cups. Cancer, the cardinal water sign, also pertains to feelings and relationships, but it’s associated with nurturing and caring for others, and it’s known for its sentimentality. But the Sun in Cancer doesn’t appear in the astrological associations, and we don’t get it as an option if we’re going to follow the system faithfully. So I’m left guessing at the apparent mismatch here. Did the Six of Cups have a traditional meaning that simply doesn’t fit in the decan system? Or does the general association of the Sixes with happiness mean that the Six of Cups gets a happy scene even if that seems to go better with a different sign of the zodiac?

Ten of Swords: Sun in Gemini

The Ten of Swords is another card where the connection between the meaning of the card and its astrological association isn’t immediately obvious. The Golden Dawn called this card Lord of Ruin, which pretty much sums up the mood here: everything has fallen apart and it’s the end.  It seems odd that such a grim card is matched with the Sun in Gemini which hasn’t got nearly as bad a reputation as this card.

Waite-Smith Ten of SwordsThe Ten of Swords is the final result of the Swords suit: intellect taken to its conclusion. I’ve heard a couple of explanations for why the Swords suit ends so unpleasantly. One is related to the Tree of Life, saying that air and fire (Swords and Wands), are weighed down as they approach the earthiness of the final sephirah, Malkuth, while water and earth (Cups and Pentacles) feel more at home. Another says that the nature of the intellect is to dissect everything, until at last there’s nothing left to dissect except itself, and that’s the end. Whatever the reason, at Ten, the suit has bottomed out. A man lies facedown on the ground, with the swords stuck in his back. The sky above him is unnaturally black, although the clouds give way to a golden sky on the horizon. However horrible things have gotten, this is as bad as it gets, and there’s nowhere to go except up.

When the Sun is in Gemini in real people’s charts, it has as many positive and negative qualities as any other planet/sign combination. The Golden Dawn seems to have decided to emphasize the negative in their system, however, perhaps to go with the idea that the intellect eventually dissects itself if there’s nothing to balance it. The Sun tends not to feel comfortable in the air signs: the fiery life force can find cool detachment and analysis jarring. This is more of an issue with Libra and Aquarius than Gemini, but as with Cancer, there aren’t cards that represent these combinations, so the Sun in Gemini ends up standing in for the Sun in any air sign. The Ten of Swords appears to warn of one way in which the development of the self can go awry. In Gemini, the mutable air sign, the worst-case scenario is that all humanity evaporates into an ice-cold rationality that kills the passions, the life force. (Note that the man is wearing red and orange, the colors of fire and life.) But the Sun doesn’t stay in any one sign forever, hence its reappearance and revival on the horizon.

Four of Pentacles: Sun in Capricorn

The Four of Pentacles, the Lord of Earthly Power, is paired with the Sun in Capricorn. Capricorn is the cardinal earth sign, taking the initiative to be productive in the material world. At the same time, 4 is the number of stability. So here, movement and growth slow. This is shown fairly literally in the Waite-Smith Four of Pentacles. To maintain control of his pentacles, the man cannot move. He’s seated outside a city, separated from the human contact that suggests—yes, this is another one of the cards in which the individual is separated from the community—but he doesn’t look unhappy.

Waite-Smith Four of PentaclesThere are several ways to interpret this card. Perhaps it’s the love of material goods and power that limits your life to acquiring and keeping. Perhaps it’s maintaining useful and necessary boundaries with others. I like Barbara Moore’s observation that this is a card of “gathering power,”* which makes me think of batteries, savings accounts, and other earthy ways to store reserves. To me, that fits with an oddity in the picture: the way the man is holding one of the pentacles. If you wanted to hold a large coin, wouldn’t it be natural to hug it to your chest with your arms across it? Instead, his arms encircle the pentacle, reminding me of energy circling and building in power.

Thoth Four of DisksThe Crowley Thoth Four of Disks (Power) focuses more on the security and stability aspects of this card than the inflexibility and rigidity. Or rather, how those qualities are depicted can alter their interpretation. Rigidity and inflexibility in a person are generally seen as negatives, which may be what was intended in the Waite-Smith picture. Rigidity and inflexibility in a fortress, on the other hand, are usually considered selling points. (That’s a picture of a fortress as seen from above, with a moat surrounding it, and one road leading in.)

Eight of Pentacles: Sun in Virgo

It’s pretty easy to see the Sun in Virgo in the Eight of Pentacles. Like Capricorn, Virgo is an earth sign, mutable in this case. Both signs are responsible, dutiful, and willing to work hard, but Capricorn is the more ambitious of the two, and it often works with an eye towards earning recognition and reward. Pamela Colman Smith took the time to give the man in the Four of Pentacles a crown, suggesting he’s a king in some sense of the word. Virgo, however, is associated with service. In the Eight of Pentacles, the man is more likely an apprentice working to improve his skills. This is the third card in this group in which the main character is shown apart from others, and here it can mean that he’s not working for admiration or recognition. He’s working to make a better pentacle, which is totally in keeping with Virgo, which values improvement and attention to detail.

Waite-Smith Eight of PentaclesThe Sun in Virgo suggests that the self develops through diligence and material service. Although this man is as isolated as the one in the Four of Pentacles—both sit alone, with a distant city in the background—the man in the Eight of Pentacles is using the material energy instead of saving it up, and the pentacles he’s making may someday be put to practical use.

Thoth Eight of DisksAlthough both the Waite-Smith and Thoth cards are called (Lord ofPrudence, the Eight of Disks has a different feel to it. A plant doesn’t have to practice flowering to get it right—that comes naturally. This plant protects its flowers with its leaves so that they won’t get knocked off before it’s able to fruit. The meaning of the Eight of Disks goes more with the definition of prudence as “caution or circumspection as to danger or risk” while the Waite-Smith Eight of Pentacles seems more in keeping with “skill and good judgment in the use of resources.”**


*Barbara Moore, Tarot for Beginners: A Practical Guide for Reading the Cards, pp.201-203.

**Definitions of prudence from Merriam-Webster.

Finding Mouse the Elder

Every now and then, my friend Suncat will send along a lost item question. I get to practice horary, and there’s always the hope that the answer will help Suncat find the missing item. Since she and her husband have two cats, often what’s missing is a cat toy. This was true this past summer, when Gray Princess lost a toy mouse. There are several toy mice in the household, but “Mouse the Elder,” an unusually durable toy, had earned his name by having lasted for decades. Looking around the house for MtE wasn’t working. Suncat reported that he’d last been seen in the living room, but that was weeks earlier, and he hadn’t been found. Meanwhile, Princess wanted her favorite toy back. It was time for divination.

So Suncat asked, “Where is Mouse the Elder?” and I cast the chart for the time when I received and understood the question.But I’d also heard that you can use Lenormand cards to look for lost items, and this seemed like a good time to try that. And since it’s faster for me to look over a few cards than to interpret a horary chart, I looked at the cards first.

The Lenormand reading

I didn’t have much experience at using the Lenormand this way, so I kept things simple. I decided to choose a card to represent MtE, then find the card in the deck and read a few cards around it to see what was going on. At least choosing the significator was easy: when you’re looking for a toy mouse called Mouse the Elder, what better card could there be than 23-Mice? When I found the Mice in the deck, I laid it out along with the card before it and the two cards that followed it.Four Lenormand cards: Child, Mouse, Book, CoffinThe Child “jumped out” at me as a card to pay attention to. Generally, the pictures on Lenormand cards aren’t all that meaningful in themselves. They’re mainly there to identify the card. But in this deck, 13-Child shows a child playing with a toy—in most of my decks, the Child is simply a picture of a child. This felt significant. I looked up the Child in Caitlín Matthews’s book, the only one I know of that talks about using the Lenormand to find lost items, and read, “your child has it; used for play; in a new place you’ve not looked yet!” (emphasis mine).

Since Child + Mouse was an accurate description of MtE—a toy (Child) mouse (Mice)—I hoped that the next two cards, the Book and the Coffin, would be an accurate description of its situation. Quoting again from Matthews:

  • 26-Book: in the library, school, or training place; in a book or folder
  • 8-Coffin: in a box, drawer, or cupboard; forgotten and left behind

Putting those together, I thought that MtE had been left in a box, drawer, or cupboard near Suncat’s books. By extension, that could mean an enclosed space, like between two groups of books or something like that, the sort of place a cat could knock a toy into and not be able to retrieve it. And it was likely that Princess had forgotten where MtE was and left it behind.

The horary chart

So, was the chart going to support the Lenormand reading or give a different answer entirely?

astrology chart for lost mouse toy horary
Where is Mouse the Elder?

The considerations before judgment weren’t significant, so I moved on to finding the significators, the most important one being the one for Mouse the Elder:

  1. Suncat asked the question, so her significator is the ruler of the 1st house: Mercury.
  2. The 6th house is associated with small animals. Aquarius is on the cusp, so Saturn is Princess’s significator.
  3. Mouse the Elder is a possession, and possessions are associated with the 2nd house. If I were looking for something Suncat had lost, I’d look at the ruler of the 2nd house. But MtE is Princess’s toy, not Suncat’s, so we need to look at Princess’s 2nd house. Having just said that Princess is represented by the ruler of the 6th house, it’s like the 6th house is Princess’s 1st house. So the 7th house is like her 2nd house. Pisces is on the cusp of the 7th house, so Jupiter represents Mouse the Elder.

Does the significator fit? On its own, Jupiter seems a bit grandiose for a decades-old cat toy. But Suncat had told me that MtE was of better quality than many modern cat toys, larger and plumper than your run-of-the-mill toy mouse. And Jupiter is in Virgo, the sign of its detriment. Being in detriment suggests that the planet isn’t at its best. I figured, after years of kitty love, MtE was probably starting to look a little worn, even if generally it was a sturdy toy. (And although I’m using 23-Mice to represent MtE because, well, mice, the usual meaning of this card is slow destruction and deterioration; the illustration often shows mice gnawing on something.)

Incidentally, there’s another possible significator for MtE: Venus, the natural ruler of toys. In this chart, Venus conjuncts Jupiter, so it’s also in Virgo and the 1st house. Venus is in fall in Virgo, so like Jupiter, it’s not at its best. Basically, it’s pretty much the same interpretation whether you use Jupiter or Venus. Cool.

So whether the significator is Jupiter or Venus, Virgo and the 1st house should describe where MtE is. Virgo indicates that the lost object may be “inside something like a pocket or container…closets, desks, cabinets, where things are filed and stored, home offices, studies…” (Anthony Louis). Which sounds like what the Lenormand reading is saying: MtE was inside something. Virgo is an earth sign, which suggests that MtE is on the ground or near the floor. The 1st house is an angular house, which traditionally means that the object should be easy to find. (I’ve wondered about that—if the object is so easy to find, why hasn’t it been found already?) The 1st house also suggests that the lost object is where the querent spends the most time. I wasn’t sure if that meant Suncat or Princess in this case.

Success!

A shipping box had been left in the living room for the cats to play with, and Mouse the Elder was inside it. The box was close to a bookcase. So there were the Lenormand elements: the toy mouse inside a box near books. As for the horary chart, MtE was inside something near where things are filed and stored (books), and the box was on the ground. I don’t know if either Suncat or Princess spends most of their time in the living room, but Suncat said that she’d only ever seen Princess playing with MtE in the living room, so that’s where she started her search.

Of course, the most important bit is that Princess has her favorite toy back. 😀 But I’m also fascinated with how both the Lenormand and horary answered the question.


References:

  • The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook by Caitlín Matthews
  • Horary Astrology Plain & Simple: Fast & Accurate Answers to Real World Questions by Anthony Lewis

Mars through the Minor Arcana

The next planet in the Chaldean order is Mars. With Saturn and Jupiter, we were dealing with semi-abstract ideas like restriction, expansion, limitations, and generosity. But starting with Mars, we are dealing with the faster-moving planets that represent personal characteristics and traits. Mars symbolizes the way you assert yourself and how you get angry. It shows how you defend yourself and how you go after what you want. And yes, it’s associated with the sex drive (despite the Mars symbol also being the male symbol (♂), that’s anyone’s sex drive, not just men’s).

Two of Wands: Mars in Aries

Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, the cardinal fire sign. Cardinal signs initiate action; fire signs are energetic, enthusiastic, and lively. Together, they show that Aries represents the need to take action and assert yourself. Yes, that pretty much sounds like a description of Mars itself, and yes, Mars is comfortable in Aries. At its best, Aries initiates things and is courageous and confident, although it can also be rash, impulsive, and selfish. So Mars in Aries acts in a direct, assertive, and bold manner.

2wWith all of that energy behind it, you might expect the Two of Wands to show an action-filled scene like the Five of Wands does, but the Waite-Smith deck’s illustration is deceptively still. A man stands on a rampart, looking over the lands below him. In his right hand, he holds a globe; in his left, a wand. The other wand of the card is bolted to the wall behind him, which stabilizes the wand, but at the same time, restrains it. The man is dressed in shades of brown, suggesting pragmatism and groundedness; his red hat symbolizes thinking about action. The Golden Dawn title for this card is Lord of Dominion, and it seems as if the man is surveying his domains. “Dominion” itself is a neutral term, but the device of flowers on the wall suggests that this is a positive card. The red roses signify action and desire, which might be problematic on their own (as in a lust for power), but they’re paired with white lilies, signifying purity. With the drive of Mars in Aries, the man has achieved much in terms of wealth and power, but his energy seems constrained (his still pose, the wall that separates him from the rest of the world, the wand bolted to the wall, the white lilies crossing the red roses). He may be restless, planning his next project and preparing to take action.

Seven of Wands: Mars in Leo

Here, the drive and assertion of Mars is shaped by Leo’s need for self-expression and recognition. Leo is fixed fire. Aries’ cardinal fire is targeted towards one goal, and Sagittarius’ mutable fire wanders away in any and all directions, but fixed fire burns steadily where it is. Which is what we see in the Waite-Smith Seven of Wands, where the man defends himself against unseen opponents. Holding one’s ground in battle is a good illustration of Mars in Leo.

7wSomewhere along the line, I’d learned “self-defense” as a keyword for this card, and I still think it’s a fair summary of this scene. But in reading about this card, I happened upon Joan Bunning’s description of it as “going after what you want” and “asserting yourself.”* These are fine descriptions of Mars generally, but it wasn’t what I expected for the Seven of Wands. After all, isn’t the man backed up to the edge of a cliff? Why would you challenge someone from such a difficult position? But Bunning explains that taking a stand triggers resistance in others. To assert yourself, to express yourself, to do anything that makes you stand out from the masses—the essence of Mars in Leo—is to draw attention to yourself, and some of that attention will be hostile. The moment you take a stand, the cliff’s edge and the opposing wands will appear.The Golden Dawn’s title for the Seven of Wands, Lord of Valor, makes it clear that you will need courage and strength to defend yourself, but stand firm (fixed fire) and you could very well succeed.

Five of Cups: Mars in Scorpio

The similarities between Mars and Aries are clear. Yet Mars is also comfortable in Scorpio. While Aries brings out the direct and headstrong warrior side of Mars, Scorpio highlights the strategist: the aspect of Mars that pauses long enough to plan its approach, calculate the best way to get what it’s after—and prepare an alibi.

That’s a good starting point for considering Mars in Scorpio in someone’s birth chart, but it’s not all that relevant to the Five of Cups. I think we get further by taking the combination apart and seeing how Mars and Scorpio play off each other. Like Leo, Scorpio is a fixed sign. But it’s a water sign, so it stands firm emotionally, rather than in self-expression and action. Positively, this gives Scorpio its qualities of emotional depth, intensity, and complexity, although it can also produce obsession, possessiveness, and vindictiveness. Mars in Scorpio is the combination of a planet that triggers upheaval, change, and disruption in a sign that lacks flexibility. This can mean a refusal or inability to compromise, and this all-or-nothing approach can result in destruction, followed by grief and regret…and that is relevant to the Five of Cups.

5cIn the Waite-Smith Five of Cups, the person (man? woman?) is isolated in their grief and loss. The ground around them is brown and lifeless. They could walk over to the city on the far side of the river and be with other people, but for whatever reason, they have chosen not to. They are focused on the three cups that have spilled, not the two upright cups behind them. Most people have an opinion about those cups, perhaps that the person should stop dwelling on the spilled cups and remember that they still have upright ones, or that the person needs to grieve the loss right now and deal with what remains at a later time. I tend more towards the latter interpretation. With the upright cups so close to the mourner, I suspect they know perfectly well the cups are there, but the time isn’t right to pick them up and move on. The Golden Dawn called this card Lord of Loss in Pleasure, but Aleister Crowley called it Disappointment. Neither seems quite strong enough to me; maybe if the Golden Dawn had called it Lord of Loss and left it at that?

Ten of Cups: Mars in Pisces

At the other end of the emotional spectrum is the Ten of Cups. Ever since I learned the astrology of the Ten of Cups, I’ve wondered about assigning Mars in Pisces to this card. I mean, even in Pisces, Mars isn’t a planet you normally associate with emotional/spiritual happiness. After all, this is a planet named after a god of war.

10cPisces is a mutable water sign; emotional flexibility and pliancy to the max. Scorpio dealt with conflict by refusing to budge, even if it broke; Pisces flows away and avoids it, which can sometimes mean escaping into fantasy and illusion rather than coping with reality. The Ten of Cups in the Waite-Smith deck shows a happily-ever-after ending for the Cups suit. The adults admire a rainbow, while the children dance, all in a picturesque landscape. The Golden Dawn title, Lord of Perfected Success, fits this scene well. Perhaps we’re supposed to realize that this is an ideal, not reality—after all, rainbows are optical effects, and cups don’t appear in them any more than pots of gold sit at their ends. Also, this is one of the Waite-Smith deck’s “stage cards.” The happy family isn’t in the landscape they’re admiring, but on a plain floor in front of it. Perhaps the lush countryside is no more than a painted backdrop. This possible illusion may connect the Ten of Cups to Pisces, but I admit I just don’t see Mars in this card.

10cthothThe Thoth deck is noticeably less romantic about the Ten of Cups. The Cups suit peaked at the Nine; the Ten is overstaying its welcome. The card is called Satiety, a word that can simply mean full and satisfied, but also means having had too much and the resulting feeling of revulsion. At first glance, all seems well: the ten cups are streaming light and are symmetrically spaced in the card in the form of the sephiroth of the Tree of Life. Look more closely, though, and you’ll see that several of the cups are tilted slightly and the structure is somewhat unstable. The force of Mars is a bit too much for Pisces, it would seem.

Nine of Swords: Mars in Gemini

The Nine of Swords reveals Mars’ capacity for viciousness. Gemini is no more brutal than any other sign of the zodiac, but in the context of the tarot, Mars brings out its worst. Sure, Gemini can be inquisitive, clever, and communicative, but in the Nine of Swords, we’re seeing its potential to be detached, scattered, and overly intellectual in its approach. Mars’ aggression, shaped by Gemini’s whirlwind nature (Gemini is the mutable air sign: ever-changing thoughts and communication), becomes a mental death of a thousand cuts: anxiety.

9sIn the Waite-Smith Nine of Swords, the Lord of Despair and Cruelty, someone sits up in bed at night, suffering through anxiety-fueled insomnia. Nine swords hover near them, and there’s a scene of murder carved into the bed frame. Perhaps this person woke up from a nightmare, or perhaps they never fell asleep in the first place, kept awake by racing thoughts. But the nine swords are no more real than those ten cups floating in a rainbow. The worry and suffering is entirely in the person’s head: the whirling, sword-sharp thoughts of Mars in Gemini.

The card is not 100% dread and misery, however. The quilt on the bed is made of squares with planetary and zodiacal symbols as well as squares with red roses. The person is not truly alone, because the astrological symbols suggest the universe itself is with them. Like the red roses in the Two of Wands, the roses in this card symbolize desire and action, and here, nothing restrains them. This points to the positive use of Mars (in any sign): acting to defend yourself. Being able to act often reduces anxiety, although in the middle of the night, it can be difficult to do anything constructive.

Three of Pentacles: Mars in Capricorn

3pAs you might expect, putting Mars in an earth sign produces tangible results. Capricorn is cardinal earth, a sign that builds in the real world, with structure and ambition. Used constructively, Capricorn is productive, industrious, and accomplishing, although it can also be controlling, rigid, and miserly. Mars does well here, with its energies turned towards material achievement. Glancing at the numerology of this card, 3 is the number of manifestation, and in the Three of Pentacles, what’s being manifested are real things.

It’s pretty easy to see this in the Waite-Smith Three of Pentacles. A craftsman is putting the finishing touches on a church, while a monk and another person (an architect?) consult with him. In the Lord of Material Works, what we’re seeing here is material accomplishment: a building. The three pentacles, earth symbols in their own right, are joined by a crossed circle which is another symbol of earth. The craftsman’s tools are in his hands; we see that this was achieved by physical labor. And this isn’t the mass production of the Eight of Pentacles, but a work of art by a master, someone who’s being recognized for his work (he’s important enough for the others to deal with him directly).


*Learning the Tarot: A Tarot Book for Beginners, p.172-173; online at SEVEN OF WANDS.

20/20 hindsight: a horary about a missing ring

Earlier this week, I misplaced the ring I’d been wearing. (SPOILER: I found it two days later.) I looked in all the obvious places and didn’t find it, so I cast a horary chart. I still didn’t find the ring. There was no indication that the chart was incorrect, but it can be mighty difficult to interpret one correctly. As it turned out, this chart was correct, but I’m not sure I’d have ever figured it out if I hadn’t found the ring and was able to work my way back to the chart interpretation.

Horary chart for missing ring
Where is my silver Celtic trinity knot ring?

The considerations before judgment

The first step was to review the considerations before judgment and see if the chart was even likely to work. The Ascendant is neither in the first three degrees nor the last three degrees of its sign, so it was neither too early nor too late to do anything. The Moon is not in the Via Combusta (the span of the zodiac between 15° Libra and 15° Scorpio), nor is it void-of-course.

The fourth consideration is if Saturn is in the 7th house, or the cusp of the 7th house or its ruler is afflicted which would show that your astrologer (the professional you’re consulting, represented by the 7th house) will have difficulty answering the question. I’m asking my own question, so the consideration is if Saturn is in the 1st house or if the Ascendant or its ruler are afflicted. Saturn isn’t there, and the Ascendant looks fine. However, Mars, ruler of the 1st, is close to (conjunct) Saturn and squares Neptune. The former suggests blockages, the latter, confusion. And obviously I was having trouble interpreting this chart. Hmm.

But generally, there’s nothing in the considerations before judgment that say that the chart is a dud. So on to interpreting it!

Identifying the significator

The next step was to figure out which planet symbolized the ring. The usual suspects are the ruler of the 2nd house (movable possessions) or the ruler of the 4th house (buried treasure). But neither of these felt right. The ruler of the 2nd house is Jupiter. Now if my ring had been expensive and/or ornate, I would’ve gone with Jupiter, but this was a simple silver band with a knotwork design. It wasn’t expensive, and it didn’t have large stones or really intricate metalwork or anything that sounded as grand as Jupiter. The ruler of the 4th house is Saturn. I’ve never had a lost item horary chart where the ruler of the 4th house was the correct significator, perhaps because none of the items were really buried treasure. In this case, even if Saturn had been ruler of the 2nd house, I’d have hesitated to use it because Saturn doesn’t describe this ring. It’s not a burden or an obligation, it’s not ugly, it’s not made out of lead (!)—there’s nothing Saturnian about it.

There were two other options: Venus and the Moon. Venus is the natural ruler of jewelry. The Moon is the secondary ruler of lost items. I chose Venus, and this is where I went wrong. Since the Moon is the secondary significator of lost items in all lost item charts, I overlooked the fact that if it was the best planet to describe my ring, then it was probably the main significator in this chart. Or to put it another way, I’d gotten used to thinking of it as the option of last resort, if absolutely nothing else described the lost item at all, and since Venus did, albeit in a general way, I went with Venus. In practice, this wasn’t all that much different than if I’d gone with Jupiter. Both planets are in Virgo. Venus is in the 10th house, within 5° of the 11th house cusp, which could count as being in the 11th house; Jupiter was squarely in the 11th house. Briefly, from this I got that the ring would be in my home office (10th house) or guest room (11th house), which are the same room in my apartment. In Virgo, the ring would be close to or on the floor, or perhaps it had fallen into a box or drawer (entirely possible, given the state of my home office). And of course, it wasn’t.

The Moon did the best job of describing the ring, so it was the proper significator. It’s a silver ring, and the Moon rules silver. It has a trinity knot design, and the Moon has several associations with threes, such as its three visible phases (waxing, full, waning) and the Triple Goddess. This is still a general description, but it’s more specific than Venus’s rulership of all jewelry.

The Moon is in Aquarius in the 4th house. When you’re assigning chart houses to areas of a home, the 4th house represents the cellar or the basement. The Moon conjuncts the 4th house cusp, suggesting that the ring is close to the door. Aquarius is an air sign, which shows that the missing object is “high up, maybe on a shelf or hook.”* The last aspect the Moon had made was to Saturn, which is not only the ruler of the 4th house, but also of the 3rd house of neighbors. Because the contact between the Moon and Saturn had already happened before I asked the question, and the planets were separating from each other, a neighbor had already found the ring.

Finding the ring

Where was the ring? This apartment building doesn’t have a true basement (4th house), but the ground floor is two-thirds below ground level. The laundry room is the only room on the ground floor that I have access to, and I’d done laundry that morning. The ring was in the laundry room, hanging from a pushpin (Aquarius) on a bulletin board that’s just inside the laundry room by the door (Moon conjunct the 4th house cusp). A neighbor (Saturn) must have found it and pinned it up there. The previous aspect between the Moon and Saturn had been a flowing, easy aspect. Had it been a difficult aspect, it could have meant the neighbor had kept the ring. But then, I’d have never found it and we’d never know for certain.

Okay, even if I couldn’t find the ring by using the chart, it would have been nice—and less stressful!—to have known that I’d find it eventually.** Horary charts can tell you this, but technically, I’d asked where the ring was, not if I’d find it, so it wasn’t as strongly indicated in the chart. The best indicator I have, which I only learned after I’d found the ring, is Frawley’s observation that if the item’s significator conjuncts an angle, that increases the chances that you’ll get it back. And like I said, the Moon conjuncts the IC, one of the angles of the chart.

The ring is back, and there was a happy ending. And it was a learning experience. Here’s hoping I’ll have more success with future charts!


*John Frawley, The Horary Textbook (revised edition), p.174.

**I found the ring after a friend suggested checking the laundry room again, and it finally occurred to me to look at the bulletin board since other small items have been pinned there in the past.