This deck is now out of print although a second hand deck can be picked up on amazon and ebay for an extortionate sum of money.
This is a shame because this has become one of my favourite decks (and I own quite a few) and whenever I use it with clients they respond very positively to both the artwork and the morals contained in the tales.
I find that using folk tales and fairytales in my readings has a very positive effect on my clients. The metaphors and analogies that are employed in the tales make it much easier to understand complex situations and psychological states rather than trying to use more clinical and exacting language.
This is because metaphors are the language of the soul and have a way of bypassing the intellect, making the tales immediately accessible to the unconscious mind.
I have, once again, delineated common themes surrounding the Tarot Aces but this time I have concentrated on each particular suit in more detail, playing with key words and images and then briefly looking at the tales that Karen Mahony has chosen for each card.
The Ace of Wands
The Suit of Wands is associated with the element of Fire.
Fire: Archetypal Themes
Fire rules the spirit, willpower, assertion, masculine principle, yang energy, pingala nadi, new ventures, inner light, passion, newness, force, brightness, light/lightness, creative stirrings of new beginnings, action, belligerence, anger, violence, aggressive instinct, the life urge, autonomy, authority, the eternal self, lust, fury, desire, wish-fulfillment, sterilization, persistence, determination, individuation, individuality, experimentation, temperance, welding, alchemy, vitality, virility, potency, influence, imagination, creativity, inner child, playfulness, motivation, tenacity, Me, Myself, I, consciousness, self-consciousness, energy, steadfastness, resolve, the divine spark, the Self, intuition, inner knowing, gambling, speculation, mettle, clearing the decks, blazing a trail, psychological birth, faith, spirituality, illumination, animus etc.
Fire in Life and in Nature
In nature, fire is associated with the sun, light (sunlight), electricity, electrical currents, fires, pyres, cremation, cleansing (sterility), flames, forest fires, solar flares, fireplaces, the hearth, central heating kindling, embers, shining, illumination, sparkling, glittering, shimmering, volcanoes, lightning, thunder, pyres, heat, warmth, glowing, ovens, stoves, furnaces, kitchen ranges, baking, cooking, alchemy, roasting, blazing, sparks, melting, smelting, daytime, daylight, rays, roaring, cinders, ashes, salamanders, phoenixes.
Ace of Wands –Jack and the Beanstalk
In the Fairy Tale deck, the Ace of Wands is described by the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.
In the classic fairytale, the family cow has stopped producing milk and Jack is charged with taking her to market to sell so that the family can get another means of livelihood.
The cow is an ancient emblem for Mother and Motherhood and the fact that her milk has dried up suggests that it is time for Jack to mature/individuate and find his own way in the world. He can no longer rely on his mother's nourishment (symbolised by the cow).
He takes a gamble and swaps the cow for some magic beans, which grow into an enormous beanstalk. The world that exists at the top of the beanstalk opens up a whole new world for him and his adventures allow him to experiment with his sense of potency and effectiveness in the world (his Selfness). It is because of his adventures (and misadventures) that he becomes an individual in his own right –that is, a fully autonomous person who is completely separate from the influence and control of his parents.
The Sun (fire) is the force that conducts experiments in Nature. It takes base matter and turns it to gold.
The Ace of Wands heralds the call to a new life. Fire suggests a psychological birth –tearing ourselves away from the comfort and familiarity of our childhood roots and taking a stand in the world.
Like Jack, we must take a gamble and discover who we are as individuals even if it means that we must contend with giants and climb beanstalks.
The Ace of Cups
The Suit of Cups is associated with the element of Water.
Water: Archetypal Themes
Water rules emotions, feelings, sensitivity, death/birth/re-birth/pre-birth, love, relationships, gestation, dissolution, loss of self, loss of ego-boundaries, creativity, feminine principle, alcohol, milk, fluids, ida nadi, yin energy, baptism (new beginnings), subaquatic realms, mysteries, tears, sorrow, erosion, empathy, ecstasy, swooning, depth, cleansing, healing, festering (water can be stagnant and motionless), the irrational, power of emotions, desires, oneness, ecstasy, bliss, release, resurrection, nursing, madness, fusion, the inexplicable, the numinous, compassion, martyrdom, victimization, redemption, drowning, floating, collective unconscious, yearning, fluidity, life in the moment, the womb, embryonic fluid, ancient/unformed self, protectiveness, protection, irrational impulses, love, Soul, Sofia, undifferentiated self, source, confluence, dreams, primordial chaos, origins of life, suspension, containment, anima etc.
Water in Life and in Nature
In nature, water is associated with the sea, ocean, rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, canals, rivulets, erosion, ice, groundswells, whirlpools, drizzle, storms, torrents, eddies, cloudbursts, rain, wells, fountains, brooks, deltas, tributaries, tsunamis, nighttime, moons, tidal waves, currents, tides, ebb and flow, gushing, waterfalls, steeping, mulling, soaking, drenching, wetness, goblets, chalices, jugs, ewers, moistness, crying, blubbing, weeping, fish, marine life, foam, cockles, shells, clams, oysters, sea spray, undines, mermaids, water nymphs, merrow, selkies, kelpie, mermen, sirens.
Ace of Cups –The Ugly Duckling
In the Fairy Tale deck, the Ace of Cups is described by the story of The Ugly Duckling. In the story of The Ugly Duckling, a mother duck is waiting for her eggs to hatch. All her eggs are the same size except one very large one that takes a long time to hatch. When it finally breaks open, an ugly duckling comes out that looks nothing like his brothers and sisters.
He is teased and jostled by his siblings and by passersby for his ugly appearance and ends up going on many adventures on the river where he is met with further contempt and aggravation.
This makes the poor ugly duckling extremely sad as he wanders around seeking love and acceptance but experiencing only profound grief and the “dark night of the soul” instead.
One day as he is looking at his reflection in the water he finds that he has turned into a beautiful swan… So he wasn’t a duckling after all but a cygnet just waiting to blossom and mature into a swan. After this transformation takes place all the other river creatures are full of awe and admiration for his beauty and he is finally at peace with himself.
The Ace of Cups opens us up to the irrational world of feelings and emotions. In the story, the ugly duckling experiences the full spectrum of life’s emotions –from despair and depression to awe, love, happiness, compassion and self-acceptance.
Water awakens compassion and love in our hearts, often through pain and suffering. It is also the element that teaches us how to connect with others and, above all, how to connect to our own feeling and desire natures, which operate according to their own “laws” –laws that are irrational and impossible to fathom.
The Ace of Swords
The Suit of Swords is associated with the element of Air.
Air: Archetypal Themes
Air rules motion, movement, speed, velocity, communication, speech, intellect, intelligence, invisibility, no fixed abode, rationalism, sociability, interactions, the mind (our double-edged sword), thoughts, ideas, information, inventiveness, inventions, reason, prana, qi, the masculine principle, yang energy, pingala nadi, breath, breathing, circulation, ingenuity, cunning, skill, stealth, mediation, craftiness, schemes, calculations, plotting, planning, tact, positivity vs. negativity, choice, civilization, wit, humour, agility, higher intelligence, humanness (the capacity to reason), understanding, eccentricity, changeability, mirthfulness, genius, insight, incisiveness, awareness, fear, nightmares, anxiety, control, belief, arguments, processing, liberation, bondage, ignorance, subtlety, consciousness, bardic spirit, silence, mantra, attitude, mentality, outlook, animus etc.
Air in Life and in Nature
In nature, air is associated with winds, breezes, invisibility, purity, bellowing, howling, sighing, exhaling, inhaling, breathing, the sky, kites, flying, hovering, weightlessness, zephyrs, gales, hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, tempests, the breath, pumping, blowing, farting, gas, indigestion, ether, dryness, sylphs, sylphids, air nymphs, djinn, genies, demons, spirits, ghouls, specters, phantoms, apparitions, spooks, shades, phantasms, metempsychosis, poltergeists, ghosts, unicorns, birds, feathers, sprites, the nervous system, ever-presentness, omnipresence, the intelligent activity of the universe, orating, singing, storytelling, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, dry-heaving, quicksilver, mercury, wings.
Ace of Swords – Yu-Kong and the Demon
In the Fairy Tale deck, the Ace of Swords is depicted by the traditional Chinese tale of Yu-Kong and the Demon.
The thirteenth Emperor of China decides to hold a contest to decide who should be the captain of the Imperial bodyguard.
After several knockout rounds, the choice is down to three men, including the handsome warrior Yu-Kong who happens to be the youngest contender.
The crowd likes him because he is fierce and elegant, yet confident and humble.
The final test comes in the form of an archery competition. The target is set up so that it moves in the breeze, purposefully making it extremely hard for the three archers to hit the centre.
When Yu-Kong shoots his arrow a breeze whips up out of nowhere leading the arrow straight to the bull’s eye. One of the other warriors, E-Shen protested that he had been unfairly helped by the wind and so humbly Yu-Kong stepped aside and let E-Shen take on the role as the Emperor’s Imperial bodyguard.
Little did Yu-Kong or the Emperor know that E-Shen was really an evil demon who wanted to destroy Yu-Kong at all costs.
E-Shen disguised himself as a fortuneteller whose greatest gift was being able to tell when people were going to die. He became extremely successful, with people visiting him from all over China to seek his advice and wisdom. He didn’t care about his successes as a false fortuneteller, however, for all he wanted to do was to trap Yu-Kong.
One day Yu-Kong’s faithful servant had fallen gravely ill and so he reluctantly sought out E-Shen for advice. Although he sensed there was something “off” about E-Shen he didn’t know where else to turn.
E-Shen told Yu-Kong that his servant was doomed and that he would also befall the same fate if he didn’t succumb to E-Shen’s demands.
Yu-Kong rushed home to find that his servant really had died but instead of going back to E-Shen to negotiate he went out into the city to find someone who could make him the most powerful sword.
The next night, as predicted, Yu-Kong was attacked by ogres and evil demons and he was able to defend himself with the help of his mighty sword, killing them all in succession.
Next, a seven-headed, fire-breathing monster rose up and Yu-Kong pierced it in the heart with his sword, killing it instantly. A blood-curdling shriek came from E-Shen who fell to the ground and died. He had been hidden in the illusion of the dragon but was now dead thanks to Yu-Kong’s agility and bravery.
Yu-Kong heard cheers outside and went to see what the commotion was about. A crowd had gathered to watch the fight and the Emperor, seeing what a skilled fighter and swordsman he was, honoured him by making him “Yu-Kong, Slayer of Demons and Imperial Bodyguard of the Thirteenth Emperor of China.”
Swords rule the mind, which is known as our double-edged sword, meaning that we can use our thoughts for good or for ill. This is a time when strategy, skill and outwitting our lower natures (symbolised by the demons and seven-headed dragon) must come into play. It is a time of “mind over matter,” where we mustn’t fall prey to negativity and vice.
On a divinatory level, the Ace of Swords also augurs a time when we are called fourth to turn our ideas in reality, a time when we must harness the awesome power of the mind and use it to further ourselves along the Path.
The Ace of Coins
The Suit of Coins/Pentacles is associated with the element of Earth.
Earth: Archetypal Themes
Earth rules tactility, tangibility, practicality, resourcefulness, resources, “reality,” growth, subsistence, sustenance, potential, birth, maturity, death, decay, plant life, minerals, animals, vegetation, vegetative states, stillness, groundedness (grounding), sensuality, frankness, food, intake/output (food, nourishment, defecation), patience, focus, dedication, physicality, density, manifestation, acquisitiveness, calmness, peace, matter, grossness, material(s), muscle, tissues, flesh, skin, boundaries, home, grain, harvests, gathering, condensing, feminine principle, anima, ida pingala, slowness, coarseness, Self realization, our physical vehicle, incarnation, samsara, physicality, security needs, nurturance, balance between activity and peace, animal intelligence, animal instinct, physical vitality/vibration, optimization, value, currency, consumption etc.
Earth in Life and in Nature
In nature, earth is associated with earthquakes, tremors, mudslides, mud, landslides, mountains, forests, woods, orchards, gardens, lawns, quarries, fields, meadows, hilltops, cliffs, edifices, flowers, trees, plants, hedges, weeds, faeries, elves, gnomes, trolls, dryads, pixies, devas, devic kingdom, imps, goblins, hobbits, mammals, harvesting, planting, flowering, blooming, withering, decaying, priming, preening, pampering, luxuriating, growing, stomping, dancing, gyrating, sports, kneading, ploughing, fixing, gems, jewels, crystals, minerals, gravity, vegetables, animals, caves, caverns, burrowing, setts, warrens, lairs, soil, fertilizer, defecation, composting, recycling, nests, dens, abodes, wood, branches, twigs, roots, leaves, impenetrability, stones, rocks, moss, gorse, thistles, thorns, stems, shoots, stamen, digging, unearthing, filtration, wheat, chaff, money, wealth, possessions, bogs, marshes, hedges, hedgerows.
Ace of Coins – The Superior Pet
In the Fairy Tale deck, the Ace of Swords is depicted by the traditional Chinese tale of The Superior Pet.
The story is about a wealthy family who lose all their money and have to sell their big house and all their land. The only object they are allowed to keep is a small silver ear spoon.
The father says that he realises that the object might seem trivial and silly now but he is sure that it will somehow be the key to rebuilding the family fortune one day.
When their daughter grows old enough to marry, no one wants to take her as a wife because the only thing she has in her dowry is a small silver ear spoon.
So she grows old and alone and when her parents die she goes and lives in a big house with other poor, unmarried women. She earns her money by sewing and makes no friends as the other women are often unkind to her.
One day, her cousin catches a white mouse and, in doing so, injures its foot. She takes the little mouse from her cousin and nurses it back to health, often giving it the meager amounts of rice she has for supper so that it can grow strong and healthy. She calls the mouse her “superior pet” because of its unusual colouring.
When her cousin discovers that she still has the mouse, she demands that she lets it loose. The woman refuses and packs up her few belongings and leaves the village, glad (but afraid) that she is going to be leaving the place where she’d always been so unhappy.
After walking for two days and two nights with nothing to eat she stops to rest by a brick wall and tells the mouse that she will have to sell the silver ear spoon after all.
The mouse grabs the spoon out of her hands and runs away.
Furious, the woman gets up and runs after the mouse, tearing the wall out brick by brick so that she can locate the mouse. She stops when she finds that she has unearthed a golden box and, with trembling hands, she opens it up to find that it is full of treasure. The mouse places the silver ear spoon on top of the box and is never heard from again.
The earth element rules raw materials (that which needs to be worked), effort (actual work effort) and achievement (what we have achieved using raw materials and our own effort and determination).
On a divinatory level, the Ace of Coins augurs a period of relating to the earth element by using practicality, skill, craftsmanship and dogged hard work and determination. It suggests that we need to “marry” and balance a combination of raw materials and effort so that we can bask in the fruits of our labour (achievement).
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