exploring life in all its variety

March 28, 2009

2009 Tarot Study – Twos

The Twos in Tarot can be dualistic, bipolar, two-faced, and filled with conflict or tension. They can push or pull in two directions, or unite somewhere in the middle in a tense, semi-structured and semi-permanent balance. Their energy can also build to a release point that will occur in the Threes.

Three of Wands Three of Cups

Three of Swords Three of Disks

Going back to Gail Fairfield’s geometric analogy, Two is two points connecting to form a line. Remember back to Geometry class, the abstract notion that a line extends into infinity in both directions, and you have an idea of the potential of the Twos in Tarot — especially the most prominent Two in the deck, the Papess or High Priestess.

As keeper of the Akashic Records, the Collective Unconscious, the knowledge of past, present, and future, the High Priestess’s secret knowledge extends into infinity — but not in all directions. Her number is two, so her scope (or at least what she’ll tell us about it) is limited at any given moment to the course of a single line, and perhaps that is why she seems so secretive. Perhaps in any given instance her wisdom extends only from one point in the unconscious to one point in the conscious, or from one point in Heaven to one on Earth, or from one point in the Past to one point in the Future. At any given moment, perhaps she only connects one point on the Other Side to one person or moment on this side of the Veil. (She is sometimes portrayed with a kind of curtain or veil draped behind her.) She is the line of knowledge from the waters of the great sea of unconscious and intuition, or the dark side of the Moon, her planet, into the light of day. She is the epitome of the Oracle called Tarot. Her knowledge can be as mundane as a single person’s entry in a dream journal or as far-reaching and esoteric as the unknown fate of a people, a nation, or the world. She is the antithesis of the Magician’s conscious known. She is the Unknown, the vast, ghostly sea of the Past, the revealed and unrevealed Present, and the possible Future.

I’ll write more about the High Priestess, as well as the other instances of Two in the major arcana (Strength, Judgment), later. Today my focus is on the Twos of the minor arcana.

The Twos are important cards to us because we live in a world full of duality. At least in a physical sense, we’re tied to duality in this life, to the divisions of day and night, male and female, up and down, right and wrong, life and death. Yes, there are gray areas, but the Twos are at a point in the path where two extremes may not have been bridged yet.

Each of the elements acts on us and our surroundings in dual ways through wet and dry, hot and cold, motion and stillness, hardness and softness, magnetic polarity or attraction, and so on. Though these forms of duality aren’t always absolute, they’re with us all the time to one degree or another, in connection or disconnection, in flow or resistance, in some state of balance or imbalance, for good or ill.

Opposition is something that the smallest child is aware of. Conflict is one way that it manifests, but it also manifests as contrast, complimentariness, and in both positive and negative forms of tension. The saying, “Hunger makes the best sauce,” provides a good example of the range of positiveness and negativeness inherent in any two-ended spectrum or two-sided relationship, even in conflict. Hunger can be deadly, or it can make a meal the most pleasurable event in one’s day. Ice can kill, or it can refresh one in an ice cold drink after a summer day’s work. Some of the most dangerous objects, substances, and experiences in the world are also those that make life worth living, and how they affect our lives depends on duality, combined with perspective.

Of course there are other forms of conflict and interaction than pure duality, and we explored some of them in the Threes. But considering duality can set us on a path of learning about the nature of everything — ourselves, our fellows, and our world.

The ways in which two can work together are every bit as important as the ways that two can work in opposition. We have two eyes, two ears, two hands, opposable thumbs, two legs, two feet. Each pair works in unison to improve exponentially one’s ability to perceive and act in the world. A tree grows limbs above the ground and balances itself with equivalent limbs — roots — beneath the ground. In this way the Two are bridged, a path between them provides cohesion, unity, and support. The limbs alone are without support, the roots alone serve no purpose. Unless they can grow new limbs, they die. Together there’s strength, support, and life. Male and female come together with great tension in a sexual union and then (in many species) they unite as one complimentary force to protect, nourish, and guide their offspring. It might be said that the dual nature of our world, the physical plane, and the bridges that form between opposing forces, are what create the fabric of life. They’re what hold our Universe together. Everything else is built upon that.

The Tarot’s minor arcana Twos divide some of these interactions into categories for our consideration, based on their suits or elements:

Two of Wands (Fire)

The Two of Wands in the Haindl Tarot shows what appears to be the forecourt of a ruined stone palace. A palace or other seat of power ruined by time or war can symbolize the dominion of one powerful force over another, weather opposing stone, or two armies opposed in battle, even a leader opposed by his own subjects. The forecourt of such an important building is often the nexus of activity and interaction with other forces — a place to greet other leaders who visit or send emissaries, or the leader’s own subjects may gather there in protest. In any relationship between two powerful forces there’s equally powerful unity or opposition. Only in special circumstances can two energetic forces remain in balance for long, because their great energy creates great tension. Through attraction or opposition, tension is created that without perfect equality and balance will eventually wear one side down or overwhelm resistance, attraction, or peace.

The Twos in all the suits have to do with relationships between people, things, actions, or forces. The Two of Wands reminds us of how we exert our power over others in relationship, how others exert power over us, and whether we balance that power somehow through equal application of force, or whether one side is likely to dominate the other. It can be competitiveness or cooperation. Because Wands are all about powerful energies, this is the Two that is most likely to indicate conflict. But it can also indicate a powerful union of two. The choice is often ours. For instance, in business, one party can only be concerned with what the other can do for him or how he can profit from the relationship, which can result in conflict or a win-lose result. Or he can be equally concerned about what he’ll do for the other, resulting in an equal, productive and mutually satisfying relationship, one that is likely to last or to be repeated, a distinct win-win result.

Two of Cups (Water)

Water tends to flow in the same direction, usually due to gravity, and sometimes due to deliberate channeling. It can be dammed up or its flow controlled, in constructive ways, or in damaging ones. Conflict in our inner selves or in our relationships with others can bring about a lot of turbulence in our lives, both inner and outer, and make us feel as if we’re submerged, unable to surface. A lot of the most energetic conflict in our emotional lives has to do with dammed up feelings, those held in check so long or which have such great intensity that they eventually break through their barriers — just as water needs to flow. Water also tends to seek itself out, as well as to seek out its source — the ocean — just as we humans tend to seek each other out in relationship, and to seek our spiritual source. As individuals we tend to seek our whole inner self, to flow toward wholeness, balance, and integration of our internal opposites, toward individuation.

In the Tarot of Transformation this card is titled “Authentic Connection”. It portrays two people having a balanced, direct conversation. In an authentic relationship, with our Self or others, feelings are shared or acknowledged in a balanced way. The positive and negative feelings are at some time or another brought into the light and acknowledged in a compassionate, honest way, and at appropriate times, so that they don’t build up that intense force that penetrates helpful and healthy barriers. Helpful barriers are those that protect our innermost secrets and dreams, our self-esteem, our personal space and privacy. They may also be those barriers that govern our considerate or compassionate behavior toward others or help us keep confidences and maintain trust. They can be barriers that keep us from saying hurtful things in anger that we’ll later regret.

Relating to others takes time and a willingness to listen without judging. It takes acceptance, cooperation, or flowing together. Supporting each other’s feelings as valid helps us work together through difficult times as well as pleasant times. It’s also important in any relationship to be honest in pointing out when we think the other is about to fall or do something regretful, or needs healing that they can’t see right now. It’s easy to love someone when they’re healthy, strong, and when things go well. But true love and friendship work equally well during tough times.

Two of Swords (Air)

Swords are sometimes about communication, thoughts, intellect, ideas, and sometimes about things governed by electricity, electronics, airwaves, weather, or technology. I can also see them as indicating the atmosphere of a situation. There are times when we speak of the air being tense with a particular mood, and if one looks at the images on the Swords cards in many decks, they do appear rather moody. Our frame of mind on any given day can influence a lot in our lives, including our work, our ideas, our decisions, our relationships, and our communications.

The Two of Swords in the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot (RWS), and in decks based on the RWS, usually shows a situation that appears to be a stalemate. Differences have been set aside, but only in what appears to be a temporary way, by closing one’s eyes to them or by putting decisions off. Sometimes it indicates a stubborn resistance to talking things out. Avoidance is indicated rather than a truly satisfactory compromise or agreement.

This Two can also sometimes indicate thinking a situation or process through carefully before moving forward, which is a more positive form of delay or resistance. Or it can indicate a need to conserve energy by focusing on fewer things for the time being.

In some situations this is about a fork in the road, sometimes a pivotal divergence of paths. One idea takes two different courses, each veering off until they’re two separate ideas. Who originated those two ideas? The person who started out on one path, or those who carried that idea in different directions? In this sense this card could indicate the genesis and subsequent evolution of a situation, even of a belief system or religion, or a systematic way of thinking, such as Freudian and Jungian psychology, the divergence of one political party into two parties, and so forth. This can lead to conflict. An argument about cleaning a closet becomes an argument about cleaning the garage or entire house, about buying too many clothes, needing a larger house, and so forth. An argument, or an international conflict, can escalate in this way, leading to a war that no one remembers the reason for. For that reason sometimes it’s best to leave some arguments and side issues for later — to ignore or avoid getting sidetracked by them for the moment — and to focus on the matter at hand. This helps to resolve one conflict and leave the others to be resolved one at a time. Otherwise things can quickly get out of control. In this way Two of Swords can be about timing, knowing the right time to pursue an argument, or picking one’s fights.

Two of Disks (Earth)

The Two of Disks is about balance of physical things, activities, energy, time, and even pleasure. Everyone has two or more priorities in their life — work and home, exercise and sleep, vacations and paying off debt, hobbies and those things that pay the bills, spiritual life and practical life. The illustration on the Two of Disks in many decks shows a person juggling two objects on shore while in the background ships toss in a rough sea. Juggling requires focus and attention that shuts out all else. We sometimes get so caught up in juggling one set of obligations, and possibly the conflicts between them, that we don’t have time to see how the rest of our life is getting out of balance. Practical matters seem to override all else these days. The boss insists we be passionate about the job — juggling our obligations to his business — so the kids’ soccer practice, or the fact that an anniversary is coming up — the business of personal life — falls by the wayside. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of how our activities are causing us to miss other important things. It’s all about balance, though, making sure we pay attention to the “big rocks” as time management expert Steven Covey teaches in his “What Matters Most” course, and letting the sand fit in between where it can. The trick to this is in deciding up front what’s a rock and what are the pebbles and sand in one’s life, and ensuring that one isn’t juggling someone else’s rocks instead of one’s own. That’s setting our values and prioritizing, and it may be the most important meaning of this card. It’s difficult to plan our time perfectly because we don’t know what’s coming, what’s likely to throw our plans off. But if we determine up front what’s truly important to us — what we value — and then keep clear in our minds at all times what’s truly important, we’ll be sure to take care of that no matter what, and be happier people for it.

In some decks, such as the Crowley-Thoth Tarot, the Two of Disks is Change, and that’s another important aspect of planing and prioritizing conflicting obligations. Any plan or set of priorities needs to be flexible. What’s important to us one month, for instance making sure Tommy does his homework or gets to band practice on time, may change next month when Tommy goes off to summer camp and we have a big organizing project at home that we want to finish before he returns. Sometimes our values change drastically, such as our beliefs, our political identification, or our major relationships. If we don’t find a way to stay in balance in spite of these “big rock” changes in our lives, disaster can result. So this card is also about flexibility in how we value and prioritize the various parts of our lives. It’s important to glance up and check the horizon now and then and keep our relationship to it adjusted in appropriate ways. If ships are tossing out at sea, there’s a good chance that storm will hit shore soon, so we’d better keep an eye on it, not just go on juggling things the way we would on a sunny day.

Copyright © 2009 Barbara W. Klaser. All rights reserved.

2009 Tarot Study Index

File: — Barbara @ 3:17 pm PST, 03/28/09

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