On any given night, you could have the most horrible nightmare. And were you to get a traditional tarot reading, the dreaded Death card could pop out of the deck at any moment! Or worse, the Ten of Swords, which features a man who’s been stabbed ten times in the back!
Naturally, our reaction is to avoid thinking about such terrible things. But what if the symbols in our scary dreams and tarot cards are trying to help us with our problems?
A client who recently sat with me for an in-person reading instantly recoiled when a Brown Tree Snake slithered out of my Postcard Tarot Deck. The Postcard Tarot is a signature deck of modern art cards I've collected that serves as an agency of universal communication.
The cards have an uncanny way of reflecting both details, and broad themes in my client's life. People have been taking pictures of them. One woman came to see me a year after her first reading, and said, "See this picture of Mexico from my last reading? I never thought I'd ever go, but a friend of mine invited me on a trip there!"
At the beginning of my sessions, I blindly select twelve cards (from about 400), and lay them out in a circle representing my client's astrological chart. I find that the symbols portrayed on my cards communicate in a way that is stark and relatable. A suitcase conveys travel; an ocean suggests abroad; a model highlights beauty; a turtle says that a project is going slowly.
The snake from this particular reading stood out from the rest of the pictures that were laid out that day. There was a bowl of fruit, a couple kissing over lunch, Stonehenge. With a little investigation, I knew each of those pictures would tell me a piece of my client's story. But first I had to address that snake.
It was sitting in her astrological house of work, flicking its tongue out at me.
Our visceral response to shiver in fear upon seeing a snake illustrates one of its central metaphorical meanings. I wondered how fear might apply to my client's job situation. Intuition said that she was afraid to take the steps required to establish herself in the career of her dreams.
I said as much, and because she agreed with this thought, I sought further psychic insights into her career matters by contemplating the various ways I've known the snake. In doing so, I was provided a story that mirrored my client's employment situation in a remarkable way.
This snake was actually pictured on a postcard from Guam, where it's considered to be an invasive pest. The task of getting rid of the Brown Tree Snake has been a tough nut for the government to crack. This association indicated to me that in her quest to achieve her goals, she was dealing with some tenacious opposition.
I said, "You're dealing with a formidable adversary here." My client became very still. It seemed I struck a chord.
Then for some reason, I thought of that snake, Kaa, from the Disney film The Jungle Book. He was a vain and goofy character who sought to take advantage of people. And he sang that song, "Trust in Me!"
I ran with it. "This adversary," I said, "He's a boss?"
"He's quite a character. And persuasive?"
"Oh, you could say that," she said, through a smile laced with frustration.
"You're at odds with his integrity?"
"He's made promises I don't think he's going to keep."
Kaa again appeared in my mind, with coils in his eyes, singing "Trust...in...me...".
"It's like you're caught up in a spell," I said. "He's occupying a lot of your energy. He's got some kind of hold on you. Is he possessive of your time?"
"Oh my God, yes. I've done so much for him. I set up his entire business."
"I see. I'm sorry you extended yourself, that you aren't feeling appreciated."
Once you're wrapped in a snake's coils, it's very difficult to get out. I said, "So he keeps playing on your sympathies, tempting you to stay. And he's your sole source of income." She nodded.
My inner trickster made me wonder if coils were forming in my eyes. I looked around the room a few moments. Intuition told me to confirm her relationship was platonic. She said it was.
There's a feeling that tells me a person is at that letting-go place; seeking renewal, and having a hard time with the process. I said, "I'm sorry. I don't imagine you happy with further investment in this job."
This vision disappointed her, yet she said it resonated with her.
I said, "You have a skill set that you're obviously successful at: you know how to build a business. Maybe it's time you use it to serve yourself."
We sat for a moment in silence. I had the sense she wanted something from her boss she wasn't going to get. I pointed to the Tree Snake on the table and said, "If you were ever to encounter a snake in nature, you wouldn't pick it up, or provoke it. You'd walk a wide circle around it, and move on."
She smiled on this association. She saw it as true.
Suddenly I realized that her hair was virtually the same color as the snake. This "coincidence" prompted me to change perspectives and think of her as the snake.
I imagined her emerging anew out of an old skin. With a smile, I said, "See? She's got a shiny new skin. It's a sign that you're molting."
It was a silly thing to say, but I was trying to get her to lighten up about the situation. After all, the snake did stick its tongue out at me.
I translated the message of the new skin: "I see you taking on a new identity." I meant this in the sense of a career identity, but she interpreted my phrasing in a more literal way. She replied, "I'm planning on changing my name."
Where else have I seen snakes? In traditional tarot decks, they're featured on the Two of Pentacles, a card sometimes titled, Change. This association seemed to confirm what my client just said to me, but I also felt it opened a doorway into all that I know that card to represent. I intuitively knew that card could describe the action of my client's story.
I said, "I see you setting yourself up in something completely different from what you have with your boss."
"That's right. I couldn't do what he does."
What's a snake's profession, I wondered?
A list of possibilities ran through my mind; politician, lawyer, psychic... No, none of them felt right. I asked, "Does he sell cars?"
Think Derek! Root it in the symbol. Snake. Profession.
It hit me: The caduceus. In the house of work, it can represent medicine. I asked, "Is his business, or the one you want to start, related to health care or healing?"
"He's a plastic surgeon."
See why I enjoy this? It's like a game show.
"But I want to open a day spa," she added.
I wish she hadn't said that. I felt like I would have come to it!
"A day spa! Where you'd slough off people's old skin, and help them feel rejuvenated?" She smiled.
"I see it," I said, glancing over at the snake. "I'd say it's in the cards!
"Now let's take a look into your house of money..."