July 29, 2017

What dreams may come?

Morpheus (Neil Gaiman's Sandman)

This may be the flakiest thing you’ll ever hear me say, but the Tarot arrangement in this blog entry came to me in a dream. I don’t believe that this arrangement was channelled from a higher (or lower) power, but that doesn’t make it any less useful. Every element in this arrangement has been known to me for some time, but I had never thought to assemble it this way. 

Because this arrangement came to me in a dream, I'm calling it the Sandman. As I dreamed it, the Sandman arrangement must be performed with two people, the reader and the seeker, and is arranged according to the following diagram:

Although this diagram only shows five positions, it’s still composed of 10 cards because each position is filled by two cards. Let me show you the method to this madness:
  1. The reader shuffles the deck and deals to both him or herself and the seeker five cards each. The reader and the seeker pick up the cards and hold them as a hand, not allowing the other party to see the cards’ faces.
  2. The seeker chooses one card from his or her hand and lays it down in any of the assigned positions. The order in which the cards are laid is not important.
  3. After considering the card chosen for the assigned position, the reader chooses a card from his or her hand and lays it horizontally across the card just laid.
  4. Repeat the previous step for the each remaining position. The positions of Needs, Habits, Desires, and Future are plainly stated, but the position of the Shadow represents hidden fears, shameful mistakes, buried nightmares, and all the skeletons you’ve pushed into the far back of your closet.
  5. The arrangement is performed as usual except that each position is interpreted as a pair with the principal card being the one laid down by the seeker, and the modifying card being the one laid down by the reader.
  6. The reader interprets the cards as they lay for the seeker.
  7. If both parties to the Sandman are able to read cards, then after the reader has performed for the seeker, then everything is inverted: the reader becomes the seeker, the seeker becomes the reader, and the arrangement is interpreted a second time. The second interpretation is the mirror opposite: future becomes shadow, needs become desires, principal becomes the modifier, and so on. 
The Sandman is a fascinating arrangement to me because it allows the seeker to choose his or her preferred fortune, but not without the reader's interference. If you’re a reader who wants to have this arrangement performed for you but there’s not another reader to do it, then you need only reverse the roles: ask a friend to play the role of the reader who shuffles and deals the cards, and you play the role of the seeker. After laying down cards, you read the cards for yourself but remember that your chosen card is the principal - not the modifier. It’s not quite the same as asking another reader to perform for you, but the effect is sufficient.

Be forewarned that the position of the Shadow in this arrangement can elicit shameful, embarrassing, and painful responses. Some people enjoy being publicly shamed, embarrassed, and hurt, so this is right up their alley, but some people (myself included) don’t enjoy stripping themselves figuratively naked no matter how few strangers are watching. For this reason I don't perform this arrangement for anybody who has not been warned of its nature and explicitly agreed to be potentially humiliated, and for the same reason I'm not going to include an example of this reading for myself on this blog entry.

But I will include a hypothetical reading for an imaginary friend. Be advised that I follow a non-standard interpretation of the Tarot, so the interpretations given are supplied primarily to illustrate how the message of the first reading changes after inverted for the second reading. Let's see what comes up:
  • Needs: Ace of Diamonds / The Magician I
  • Habits: 3 of Clubs / The Sun XIX
  • Desires: Death XIII / 3 of Pentacles
  • Shadow: 3 of Hearts / Slave of Pentacles
  • Future: The Star / The Lovers VI
HABITS: Upon examining your desires, I see that the knowledge of who you are and how you move forward in life is fundamentally based upon your being witness to others' misfortunes. And why not? Like we said in the Marine Corps, "Better you than me." If you can learn from somebody else's mistakes, then that's a great way for you to avoid the same. Still, all things being equal, this shows that you've achieved this awareness as a response to other affairs versus active involvement in your own life.

DESIRES: But I think you must already know that? Because when I look at your desires which motivate you into action, I see that you're motivated by personal clarity and a drive to translate what you know not only into material success, but also respect from others. But is that possible? Again, your greatest awareness of yourself is based on bearing witness to others' failings, and not on your own achievements. Is that enough?

NEEDS: I don't think it is. When I look at your needs, I'm seeing that you need to recognize how your own choices create the very failings in others from which you've gained so much personal insight. Do you see? You're ignorant not only to the pain you're inflicting upon other people, but also the reason why you're inflicting the pain.

SHADOW: But perhaps I'm wrong? When I look at your shadow, I see that it's connected to the 3 of Diamonds in your desires by way of the Slave of Diamonds. Maybe you are aware of what you're doing? Are you? Because the shadow is telling me that you're selfishly aware of your position of safety and the fact that you won't be discovered. With the cards I'm seeing here, you know that this safety gives you leverage over other people. But does it help you? I see that you crave respect and admiration, but you're trying to achieve this substantial reality with insubstantial deception. Is your shadow sustainable?

FUTURE: I don't think so. Your deception is sustainable, and I don't think anybody will see through the masks you wear, but because you build your life upon the sorrows of others this inevitably takes you to a sad and hollow place where you've let go everything of value in favor of that which you found easiest to accept. This is a process of diminishing returns for you, and unless you make a substantial change you'll soon find yourself standing in a rubbish pile of your own creation.

Assuming that both parties to the Sandman read Tarot, let's look at how the message changes when we turn it upside down and inside out:

  • Needs: 3 of Pentacles / Death XIII
  • Habits: The Sun XIX / 3 of Clubs
  • Desires: The Magician I / Ace of Diamonds
  • Shadow: The Lovers VI / The Star
  • Future: Slave of Pentacles / 3 of Hearts
HABITS: You've made shameful mistakes in the past when attempting to gain respect in the eyes of those who know, and this shame is something you carry with you. Past embarrassments need not be a cause of pain in the present, and while your failures may still be remembered by others, these failures in no way affect your potential for future success.

DESIRES: This personal shortcoming has had a really pivotal effect on what you want to accomplish in life. I see that you want to not only recover your sense of power, but use it against those who have for themselves what you don't have you for yourself. Revenge is sweet, and it's a dish best served cold, so I guess that means revenge is delicious ice-cream, but is that a dish you should really eat right now? I think your blame is misplaced.

NEEDS: And I also think you need to worry less about proving wrong the witnesses to your past failures. I'm seeing that the only way forward for you is through honest recognition of where you actual power lays and using that to do what others can't (or won't.) You have the ability to prove yourself - you have it already, right now - you need only embrace your success.

SHADOW: You can do that, can't you? Just reach out and grasp it... unless you're too scared to hold on. I'm seeing that you secretly want to fail and be abandoned by the very people whose approval you appear to crave. Just like everybody else, you've got faults and flaws, but there's no requirement that you insist on shoving your figurative warts in everybody's face. If you do that, you will surely find yourself abandoned. Is that what you really want? Is it?

FUTURE: The future is everything you claim you want it to be. All the pieces are in place for you to be the same or even better than the people whose respect you allegedly wish you had. The only thing preventing you from claiming power and being respected again is if you choose to wallow in your shame. Wear the hair shirt of your shadow if you really want to, but I think the day will come when you're ready to take it off.

Edit: What's the Final Verdict?

I wasn't sure I wanted to use this arrangement with anybody else primarily because I'm deeply averse to sharing my shadow work with anybody, but I decided that if I can't use this arrangement with my wife of seven years, then I'll probably never use it at all. So yesterday afternoon while lounging in bed and enjoying the afternoon sunshine through the window, I asked my wife to lend a hand and I've gotta say - the end result was both entertaining and intimate. It's the most fun either of us have had with Tarot in a long time, and I think this is something we'll both do again soon.


  1. Fascinating! This sounds fun! (inherent risk notwithstanding. *chuckles) It reminds me of a group reading I love to do that I'd NEVER considered doing as a face up pull. And when I think of limiting the number of cards this way... There's a lot to try here. Doesn't hurt that I'm a Gaiman fan either. You have interesting dreams! I'll definitely try this and if I write about it, I'll link back so you can see. =D

    1. I'm glad to know that you enjoyed this arrangement! I didn't elaborate on this in the explanation, but the elements which informed its construction are founded on some basic positions I use in all my arrangements, the principle of face-up Tarot (as I first heard of it from you), the dealing method from the card game cribbage, plus the mirror scene from the movie Mirror Mask.

      I updated this blog entry to reflect this, but I did eventually perform this arrangement with my wife (who also reads Tarot) and it was one of the most interesting and intimate Tarot experiences I think I've ever had. I don't know if there's anybody else I'd ever feel comfortable enough to perform this arrangement with, but my dream delivered a really useful and powerful arrangement. Glad to pass it on to other people who might enjoy it!


Freedom of Expression =/= Freedom from Consequences