How the Ego Co-Opts Feelings
Strength and Valued Relationships

Horns and Hooves Spread (Inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson)

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Happy 208th birthday, Ralph Waldo Emerson! (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882)

Currently, I’m reading The Spiritual Emerson: Essential Works by Ralph Waldo Emerson (Tarcher Cornerstone Editions with an Introduction by Jacob Needleman).

Before I go to sleep, I open to a random passage to read and contemplate—a bit of bedtime bibliomancy I guess you could say. The last two days, I’ve been chewing on this portion of Emerson’s essay "Compensation":

"The good are befriended even by weakness and defect. As no man had ever a point of pride that was not injurious to him, so no man had ever a defect that was not somewhere made useful to him. The stag in the fable admired his horns and blamed his feet, but when the hunter came, his feet saved him, and afterwords, caught in the thicket, his horns destroyed him. Every man in his lifetime needs to thank his faults. As no man thoroughly understands a truth until he has contended against it, so no man has a thorough acquaintance with the hindrances or talents of men until he has suffered from the one and seen the triumph of the other over his own want of the same. Has he a defect of temper that unfits him to live in society? Thereby he is driven to entertain himself alone and acquire habits of self-help; and thus, like the wounded oyster, he mends his shell with pearl. Our strength grows out of our weakness…”

After re-reading this portion many times (Emerson isn’t an author to gulp down!), I realized that his insights could be turned into a profoundly illuminating spread that could be used with any Tarot or oracle deck. I call it the Horns and Hooves spread:

Horns and Hooves Spread

1. Trait Admired (Horns)
2. How is this trait a downfall? A weakness?
3. Trait Despised (Hooves)
4. How is this trait useful? A strength?
5. What do I need to “mend my shell with pearl”? (Advice towards wholeness and integration)

You could select cards 1 and 3 consciously (that is, determine the traits you despise and admire in yourself based on a card's imagery, symbolism, title, esoteric associations, reaction or "just a feeling". Or, if you're feeling adventurous, select cards 1 and 3 randomly, especially if you'd like to uncover shadows within yourself that get either projected onto others or suppressed/denied altogether.

I've found this Horns and Hooves Spread to be quite enlightening. If you choose to try it, do let me know how it works for you! I'd love to hear of your experience.

-- Janet Boyer, author of Back in Time Tarot, Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer 2012) and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin)

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