Seeking Ancestral Wisdom with the Tarot
Whether I’m deciding how to pursue my life’s purpose or what to put in my oatmeal, I sometimes question the choices I make and paths I take. Fortunately, my breakfast is usually determined by what I remembered to pick up at the grocery store. The big decisions, though - about family, career, finances - are tougher. Over the past several years, I’ve come to realize the value of reflecting on my ancestors, especially my grandmothers, in weighing my choices. In many cultures, grandmothers embody wisdom gained through experience. Ideally, there’s no one better to turn to when trying to decide what sort of person to become.
Ancestors also intrigue me because my rising sign is Cancer, the most family- and home-centered sign. I can be a regular 6 of Cups almost obsessing over a past communicated to me by my parents, aunts, and grandmothers. That includes the good for which I’m nostalgic and the bad by which I’m fascinated and repelled in turn. What can I learn from it all? Perhaps more significantly, how can I use these reflections to gain a better understanding of my ancestors and myself?
As you may have guessed, I take these questions to the Tarot for guidance. Last month marked the two year anniversary of both my grandmothers’ homegoing. Understandably they were both on my mind, and I did a reading to explore my connections with them as well as the lessons they still have to teach me. In doing readings about both of my grandmothers, I expected to gain more insight about my paternal grandmother. I was closer to her during her life, and since her homegoing, I’ve experienced her spirit’s presence. Needless to say, I was surprised when the reading yielded richer information about my maternal grandmother.
A brief qualifier: Although some Tarot readers explicitly call on spirits and angels during their readings, I do not. From time to time, I experience the presence of spirits, but I am not a medium. This has not hampered me from gaining insight with the Tarot.
So let’s get down to it! The following reading is modified from Sasha Graham’s “Honor Your Ancestors Spread” in her handy 365 Days of Tarot Spreads: Revealing the Magic in Each Day.
The Sacrifice card is a signifier. That is, it represents my grandmother. In traditional Rider-Waite decks, this is the Hanged Man. Generally, this card refers to self-denial for others’ benefit. It can also refer to holding off on important decisions until there is a better time to take action. A change in perspective is in order to break free of deep-seated feelings of restriction. The Hanged Man, though, is someone who willingly decides to put their life on hold for someone else because it speaks to their sense of fulfilling a greater purpose.
The generosity and restrictions represented by the Sacrifice card characterized my grandmother’s life and personality. An avid reader and extrovert, my grandmother loved to have people around who flattered her and made her feel special. She would have loved, I think, to be a famous novelist. From a young age, though, she dedicated her life to supporting her four children. She loved her children and grandchildren deeply. She spent hours sewing dresses for my mother’s dolls and, later on, reading to her grandbabies. Life is full of paradoxes; the greatest of my grandmother’s life is that while she willingly sacrificed her personal ambitions for her family, the restrictions on whom she could become chafed at her.
The 9 of Pentacles is a message from my grandmother. The 9 of Pentacles makes perfect sense because Grandma loved the finer things in life! She was also stylish and ladylike. Clearly a more coordinated woman than I, she wore high heels to the grocery store until she was at least in her seventies. In addition to encouraging me to maintain poise and enjoy life’s comforts, though, my grandmother was a self-sufficient woman and wants her granddaughter to be the same. If I enjoy a comfortable life, it should be through my independent efforts. Given her experiences as a single mother in the 1970s, it’s understandable that my grandmother would want me to build a life for myself that wouldn’t be completely dismantled by divorce. Don’t let that fool you, though. She was also a romantic to the core. The key is knowing when to show restraint and when to pamper myself and the ones I love.
The Power card shows me how I can honor my grandmother. The Emperor in the Rider-Waite deck, this card represents someone who is successful and authoritative. I can best honor my grandmother’s advice by gaining the success and recognition that will provide stability for my family and me. This requires discipline, focus, and self-confidence. Grandma really wants me to be a powerhouse! In more concrete terms, I need to make a S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) plan and stick to it.
So seeking insight into my grandmother’s life and wisdom has left me with a big task but not one of which I’m incapable. She’s given me so much to reflect on regarding balancing my own needs with that of others’. Like her, I tend to put others first. That can have major drawbacks. By setting my career and finances in order properly, I can enjoy a comfortable home life without depending too much on any one relationship or source of self-worth. Readings like these are truly blessings on the difficult parts of my path.
If you’re interested in gaining similar insights, please contact me through my Services page!