Of all the seventy-eight cards in the tarot deck, there may be none more dreaded to appear in a reading than the Tower Card. In the Rider Waite Smith deck, and in most of the decks springing from this deck, the Tower depicts disaster. A jagged and dramatic lightning bolt, almost seemingly “out of the blue,” strikes the study-looking stone turret, and the tower cracks. In most cases, the bodies of a man and a woman are falling headfirst from the tower; they are usually portrayed as being on fire. Crowns, and other signs of Earthly position and material possessions are falling to crash on the rocks below, to be destroyed. Without knowing any of the “history” or the “future” of these people or this card, it is plain that life has irrevocably changed, in an unwelcome and unexpected way, and will never be quite the same again.
Now, let’s turn to the deck under consideration in this blog, The Cook’s Tarot. In this deck, its creator, Judith Mackay Stirt, brings a fresh and memorable image to this card, linking the “crisis” situation of the Tower to the theme of cooking, eating, and living with food. Her card shows a kitchen that is in the most extreme state of disaster. Sudsy water is flowing out a sink which is overflowing with dirty dishes and utensils. A tower of plates tilts precariously to one side and looks about to crash over. A dog is stealing what appears to be a chicken or a turkey off a plate, and a woman is trying to save what appears to have been an elaborate, multi-layered “tower” cake, which is in the process of crashing to the ground.
Now, while there may be many reasons why this card may be seen as horrifying, unbelievable, nasty, grungy, raunchy—or even humorous in its own way—it struck me for one particular reason. For the majority of days, over the past several years especially, I would have to think that Judith Mackay Stirt has been in my kitchen with a camera! The depiction of what’s going on in the pictured kitchen represents my kitchen to a “T,” so that it makes me think she must sneak into my house at night!
Now, a short digression. Probably most of my readers have heard of a hologram. In a very limited, (and probably inadequate way) let me describe it as a 3-D image projected into space with the use of lasers and other light-related phenomena. The cool thing about holographic images is that when the projection “plate”—not sure if that’s the right word, but bear with me—is shattered, you can pick up the smallest piece and project light through it and the entire image is projected. The smallest fragment of the plate contains the whole! As compared to a traditional photograph, when a photograph is cut in half, each piece of the photograph shows half of the scene. When a hologram is cut in half, the whole scene can still be seen in each piece. This is because, whereas each point in a photograph only represents light scattered from a single point in the scene, on a holographic recording includes information about light scattered from every point in the scene.
I think we can use this quality of the holographic image to understand the tarot, in general, and to describe my experience with The Cook’s Tarot, specifically. In the tarot, let’s consider that all of the 78 cards go together to form a complete “whole,” a picture of the experience of life and living which may be seen as universal, across cultures, across time, etc. Now, in looking at The Cook’s Tarot, the deck is crafted such that any card drawn is reflective of how that particular part relates to the entire picture of how one relates to the unified issue of food and cooking on a larger scale: how you may prepare it, eat it, value it or waste it, how you may express your relationship to the rest of the world through food and eating, and so on. Thus, every card is much more general and inclusive in its meaning than a “simple” portrayal of cooking food—although the level of cooking food is a part of the whole. I almost think that the deck is about how you “cook” life on a larger scale.
So, as I read the tarot to see reflected there images about how I manage food and eating, how I can be healthier with these, how I can manage weight in a more effective manner so that I can feel better, I recognize that this area of focus is just one part of my life. Could it be that how I cook and eat is also how I manage money, how I keep my house, how I am either timely or tardy in my daily life? I think that the answer could be “yes.” Thus, as I seek to understand how I can become healthier with food, I am really trying to understand “the pattern that connects,” as Gregory Bateson, the British anthropologist dubbed it. I might call it the flow of energy which binds all parts of my life together into a coherent whole.
So, as I read the tarot and drew the “Tower” card, I reflected upon the points of crisis and chaos in my entire life and how they are both reflected in, and expressed as, the inevitability of dramatic and possibly traumatic (to me, at the time) change. But recalling the meaning of the holographic image inherent in the cards, the tower card reflects every facet of the picture that is my life, not just what happens around the kitchen
Because of the impact that my increasing weight was having upon my health, I couldn’t continue to do my job well. I couldn’t keep up because I was so tired. I was sleepy at times when I was with clients. I struggled to keep up with my notes. I ultimately chose to retire, so that I could basically focus on health in an attempt to “save my own life.” This sounds dramatic, but I believe it reflects my inability to continue to live with the circumstances of my life at that time. The choice to retire certainly impacted my financial life as well as my relationship with my husband, who is also retired. Arguments about money ensued. The issue of “too much time” suddenly being spent together. Who does which jobs around the house, and why can we never get on top of the domestic order and cleanliness I expected now that we are both at home all day with “nothing else” to do? (LOL!) Questions of how I can, and need to, attend to my health now, having more time but less money to spend and having more hassles with insurance. Why are we not in that idyllic state of “romantic love” that we were 44 years ago when we first met? Some of these questions have presented thorny issues and are still in the process of being worked out.
So, the “Tower” hasn’t just reflected issues of food, body, and health, but has reverberated throughout all of my experience, like ripples spreading out from a stone tossed into the center of a pond. So, as I seek insight from the tarot, about this or about any question, it is important for me to keep this image in mind: that of expanding ripples. So, with this image in mind, I have created the “Pond Ripple” spread. To try this spread yourself, shuffle and prepare your cards as usual. Then place the cards according to the diagram on the following page. Read as follows:
Card 1: The main issue; The focus or issue that you want to explore in your reading. You define the issue as you place the card, and then card 1 illuminate this issue for you.
Cards 2-5: Other life areas affected: Your Choice: Either let the tarot pick these four life areas for you, by dealing the first four cards in the deck into the four slots, or, you could identify four additional areas of life which you believe are impacted by your dealing with the #1 issue in your life. See what ideas the tarot has for you as far suggestions for managing these key issues effectively and happily.
Cards 6-13: Possible Solutions to Try: Use this outer layer of the ripple to get possible suggestions from the tarot for solutions you could try to apply to your problem areas. I just take all the ideas in the outer ring, in one group, and see whether they could apply to one or more situations without trying to manage solution to situation.
-- Sue Ellen