A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. May's Theme: "Balance"
Volume 4 Issue 4 ISSN# 1708-3265
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Technically Tarot
Inner Peace and Balance Revisited

A Minor Arcana Perspective with Jeannette Roth

In January of 2005, in the issue of Timeless Spirit Magazine centred around the theme of "peace," I had the opportunity to present my essay on seeking the path to inner peace through an exploration of the topic of "balance" in tarot. In that essay (which is available for your perusal in TSM's online archives here), I presented a trio of major arcana cards - Justice, The Chariot, and Temperance - which provided an overview of the method of achieving balance in our personal lives through the process of analysis, action, and integration.

In my conclusion to that article, I suggested that while those three major arcana cards can provide a useful starting point for studying the concept of balance, other cards may also potentially shed light on the topic. Given that "balance" is the theme for this month's edition of TSM, I have been afforded the opportunity to examine the subject in more depth. In this column, I'll attempt to provide some suggestions as to how the minor arcana - specifically, the 2 and 3 "pip" cards - can be used to further enhance one's explorations in this area.

General Concepts vs. Details

To set the stage for the ideas put forth in this essay, I need to make a distinction between my earlier discussion of the major arcana and this month's discussion of the minor arcana. In the previous column, my focus was on the process of achieving balance. While (presumably) useful, an understanding of the process does not provide us with a complete solution. Without the ability to identify the factors which are throwing our lives out of balance, we cannot apply the process effectively. It is a generalized formula, applicable to a wide variety of situations. Yet it leaves the seeker to fill in the variables.

Conversely, this article will attempt to provide a method by which the variables can be identified. Whereas "big picture" issues (such as generalized processes) are perhaps best explored through the archetypical major arcana cards, the "detail work" which relates to our day-to-day personal experience is often best captured through the more down-to-earth minor arcana. Since my previous article repeatedly referred to "surrounding cards" which could provide context to the process, it seems only fair that this dissertation should provide some information on how at least a few of those surrounding cards might function.

A Few Words of Caution…

One other area needs to be addressed before we can move on to my actual presentation. I think it's important to be very clear that what I will offer here is a discussion of certain tarot cards within a particular context. In other words, the associations and interpretations I've provided are not intended as hard-and-fast meanings for these cards in all situations. Furthermore, if you are an experienced reader or student of tarot, the "symbolic constellations" you've assigned to the cards may differ from mine. Fortunately, since tarot is adaptable to our subjective realities by design, any disagreement you may have with the specifics I've provided are irrelevant. If I do an adequate job of laying out the underlying goals and ideas of the procedure, you should (with luck) be able to adjust the details to fit with your personal "worldview" of tarot.

The Metaphorical Underpinnings

Having laid out the framework for the matter at hand, I can now proceed to present the particulars. While it is probably possible to tie all of the minor arcana into the process, I'll focus on what I consider to be two of the most useful sets of cards for exploring the idea of balance: the 2 and 3 "pip" cards. My reasons for this conjecture are as follows:

Balance is defined as "a state of equilibrium," which is further defined as "a state of stability between opposing forces." This definition underscores the presence, in an "unbalanced" situation, of multiple competing elements which need to be reconciled. For example, a parent must simultaneously find a method to control, direct, and discipline a child, while at the same time allowing the child enough personal freedom to explore and make the mistakes which are essential to the learning/maturation process. In this example, the parent is challenged to find the balance point that is neither too stiflingly strict nor irresponsibly permissive, thereby providing the healthiest possible environment for the child.

The number "2" can function as a useful metaphor to represent the idea of opposite or opposing forces. To the extent that we can imagine our options as lying on a continuum between competing extremes, the twos of the tarot minor arcana can provide us with an idea as to where those extremes are grounded. By making use of each suits' elemental attributions - used further to represent various psycho/spiritual concepts - we can gain a better perspective as to where we should be focusing our efforts when we apply "the process" of bringing our lives into balance.

In extending the metaphor, then, the number "3" becomes the balance point - the "fulcrum," if you will - that provides us with the mechanism for actually achieving balance between the identified opposing forces. Once again, we can use the elemental or other associations to provide us with the specifics of those mechanisms. In brief: the twos identify the arena where balance must be achieved, while the threes outline the best toolkit (approach) to use when pursuing a solution.

Applying the Metaphor

I've designed the tables below as a sample guide, showing how the concepts outlined above might be applied. In them, I have used attributions and symbols that spring from the "Golden Dawn" tarot tradition. However, if your personal approach to these cards differs from mine, there is no reason why the specifics provided here could not be re-drafted to conform to a system which is more comfortable or natural for you. An example scenario using my attributions follows.



Elemental Attribution

Psycho/Spiritual Attribution

Title (Golden Dawn System)

Unbalanced State Can Result In:

Suggested Balance (Goal) State Qualities:

Two of Wands


Creative / formative

Lord of Dominion

Disorganization, chaos

Focus, control, discipline

Two of Cups


Subconscious / emotional

Lord of Love

Depression, resentment, negative emotions

Compassion, positive self-image, positive emotions

Two of Swords


Conscious / intellectual

Lord of Peace (Restored)


Inner peace, understanding, wisdom

Two of Pentacles


Material / observable action

Lord of (Harmonious) Change


Progression, healthy growth



Elemental Attribution

Psycho/Spiritual Attribution

Title (Golden Dawn System)

Methodologies for Achieving Balance:

Three of Wands


Creative / formative

Lord of (Established) Strength

Be fearless. Have confidence in yourself and your abilities. Seek the opportunity to assume a leadership role. Work with an eye to the "big picture." Take the "high road;" pursue the loftier goal.

Three of Cups


Subconscious / emotional

Lord of Abundance

Surround yourself with any and all resources at your disposal for dealing with the problem. Keep a positive outlook; seek out the "silver lining" of the situation. Don't be afraid to allow yourself some indulgences.

Three of Swords


Conscious / intellectual

Lord of Sorrow

Be prepared to make hard choices and sacrifices. Discard things and ideas that have outlived their usefulness. Remain aware that while some painful times may lie ahead, you can and will emerge from the experience as a stronger person. The benefits you gain will far outweigh anything you give up.

Three of Pentacles


Material / observable action

Lord of Works / Lord of the Material World

Work, create, take action. Abandon passive interests in favor of active ones. Invest a renewed focus in your career, family, or academic pursuits (as appropriate). Get out and "experience life."

Example scenario: Antonio does a reading to explore the question of why he has been experiencing a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the job that he has happily held for many years. His interpretation of the resulting cards is that they suggest an imbalance of some sort exists - but where? And how should he deal with it once he finds it? The answer isn't clear from the cards in the current spread. So Antonio elects to do a "focused reading" using the two and three pip cards.

Antonio pulls these eight cards from the deck, and separates them into two small stacks by their numerical value. He then mixes the stacks, and randomly draws one card from each, pulling the Two of Wands and the Three of Swords.

From the Two of Wands, Antonio concludes he's lost a sense of control over his work. He acknowledges much of the satisfaction he has experienced with his job in the past has arisen from a personal feeling of self-confidence in his abilities and performance. His bosses and co-workers have always acknowledged that he exhibits a tremendous amount of knowledge and competence. This has always been a source of pride for him. But in thinking deeper on the Two of Wands, he begins to realize he has indeed begun to feel some doubt… a growing insecurity arising from the perception that he no longer "has a handle" on his work situation. Where there was clarity before, ambiguity now exists. Antonio concedes that currently, his work lacks structure, direction… a view of the "big picture."

There are many reasons which could give rise to such a shift - perhaps layoffs, managerial reorganizations, or conflicts with other employees. But in our example, Antonio hasn't had to deal with any of that. Instead, he looks to the fact that the market serviced by his company has been changing. (Note: if Antonio is clearly cognizant of the various factors influencing his work environment, he may be able to deduce the preceding on his own; otherwise, he may decide to draw some additional "clarifying cards" from the remainder of the deck to trigger further reflection.) Changing markets dictate changing approaches… but Antonio has become so comfortable and set in his ways, which have proven so effective in the past, that he has failed to adapt when necessary. Since his knowledge and work style are not well suited to the evolved market, it isn't surprising he feels disorganized, out of control, even powerless.

In light of these considerations, the appearance of the Three of Swords makes a great deal of sense. It suggests in order to reestablish balance in his career, and thus regain a measure of satisfaction in his work, Antonio will have to make some tough but important changes. He'll need to rid himself of the notion that what worked before will continue to work now. He'll need to abandon old ways of thinking, regardless of how cherished those ways may be, and embrace new ideas and procedures. In essence, he will have to "relearn" his job - always an uncomfortable process, and one which at times can be truly difficult. He'll risk his self-image, and possibly even his reputation among his co-workers, by inserting himself into situations where he'll likely make some mistakes at first. Yet it is important that he take these risks if he has any hope of "rebalancing" himself within his professional environment.


If we seek to lead productive, happy, and fulfilling lives, then the importance of striking a "personal balance" among our obligations and aspirations cannot be stressed enough. When we lack balance, we are more likely to experience unnecessary struggle, stress, and discontentment. If we understand the process of achieving balance through analysis, action, and integration (again, see previous article), then we need only identify those areas of our life in need of re-balancing in order to begin that process and subsequently reestablish a harmonious equilibrium in our day-to-day lives. By viewing the minor arcana twos and threes as opposing factors and the "fulcrum point" respectively, we have equipped ourselves with a powerful metaphor for exploring the situations and possibilities underlying the obstacles and solutions pertaining to achieving and maintaining that equilibrium. And when our "inner lives" are in balance and at peace, there is no limit to what our "outer selves" can accomplish.

Jeannette Roth has been collecting and studying tarot decks for over 20 years, and has presented lectures on topics related to tarot evolution and imagery around the midwestern U.S. for nearly 15 years. She is the co-owner of The Tarot Garden, which maintains the largest publicly-accessible database of 20th and 21st century tarot and cartomantic decks in the world.

Feel free to check out Tarot Garden's auctions on eBay!

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