Cards of the week

Weekly thoughts about Malpertuis cards


Eight of Diamonds 2nd May 2017
from the Malpertuis Bridge J7 (2016)

The Eight of Diamonds is usually read as a sign of 'money in, money out'. Drawing the card this week prompted me to reflect on how completely out of sync I sometimes feel with the rest of society with regard to money, particularly in terms of my attitudes to credit.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone whose approach to finance is regularly mocked as Victorian (which, to be fair, it probably is), I'm forever amazed at how untroubled so many people are by the matter of debt. In my own circle, I have friends who'll happily treat themselves to things they can't really afford, or who've mortgaged themselves up to the hilt, or who'll take out a loan just to go on holiday - and who aren't, it seems, in the slightest bothered by a credit card balance that just gets larger and larger. It's such a contrast to my own experiences: buying my first car years ago 'on finance' and sweating until the day it was finally mine; never being able to relax properly in my home until the mortgage on it was paid off in full. I've always hated the idea of debt - any debt. Perhaps growing up in the country, and growing up with little, has stayed with me in terms of cutting my coat according to my cloth.

In a world where consumer credit always seems to be hovering on the cusp of catastrophe, it's obvious that my own approach is old-fashioned and somewhat alien. Even after twenty years of custom my bank still doesn't recognise that I don't want a loan - for anything. And at times it can actually feel like the whole motor of modern consumerism is determined to make me waste money. Live a little! Treat yourself! Go mad for once! You deserve it!

Maybe I should. The Eight does, after all, indicate money going out as well as money coming in. For most querents it's a warning against reckless spending: perhaps in my case the card's telling me to stop being Silas Marner.


The Malpertuis Bridge J7's page


Lovers 26th April 2017
from the Tyldwick Tarot (2013)

I'm not really of the 'prediction' school, and never have been. I lean more strongly towards the idea that Tarot is a tool for identifying and informing choices and for provoking consideration of their potential consequences. While it could be argued that every card in the deck illustrates a choice of some kind, this always seems especially pertinent with the Lovers.

The oldest examples of the Lovers (Marseilles, Visconti) depict a youth standing between two women, traditionally accepted as a mother and a potential partner. The implied scenario is of a choice between maternal and conjugal love - of the progress from an immature and unequal relationship (childhood) to a mature and equal one (partnership and marriage). Modern versions (RWS, Thoth) have ditched the mother entirely, presenting instead a couple presided over by symbols of 'love' (an Angel, cherubs, a minister). These later versions to my mind miss the element of progressive choice which characterises the card, and in particular those choices we all at some time confront between what we already have and what we might yet have. Choices which necessarily involve giving something up in order to achieve something else - where having one's cake and eating it isn't possible.

Such choices can be difficult, especially when they're contaminated by the various ifs and buts we pile into the equation - conveniently providing ourselves with the excuses we use to avoid coming to a decision. I'd love that new job, but I really like everyone here. I'd love to move, but I'm so attached to this house. I'd love to live with someone, but I do like my own space.

I've personally found the Lovers card to be an alert to precisely this kind of decision avoidance: a signal, perhaps, to recognise the buts for what they often are - excuses for not moving, rather than reasons for staying put.


The Tyldwick Tarot's page


Clouds 19th April 2017
from the Lothrop Lenormand coloured edition (2015)

When I first started designing Lenormand decks, I knew much less about its traditions than about Tarot. One of the earliest lessons I learned - from the response I received to draft designs - was that many Lenormand followers are extremely attached to the Clouds having a 'bright side' and a 'dark side', setting great store on the direction of shade in their readings. It's one of the few intractable conventions I've come across with Lenormand - where people are usually much more flexible about how images are represented.

So drawing the Clouds this week prompted me to consider the question of bright and dark sides - whether I'm an optimist or a pessimist, a glass half full or half empty person, and how that might in my own case connect to the card's usually accepted meanings of uncertainty and doubt.

It's an interesting question, particularly because I'm not sure that I'm very consistent in how I tend to regard past, present, and future. I have quite positive feelings about my past and present - I recognise that I have plenty to be grateful for. Even though my life hasn't been perfect and I've made mistakes, I'm not consumed by bitterness or regret about any of its more negative episodes and I've certainly got no scores that I feel I need to settle.

When it comes to the future, however, I lean towards pessimism and - given that to date things have generally turned out quite well - I'm not really sure why. Whereas my empirical experience has been of things working out fine, I still never quite expect them to. It could just be self protection - perhaps it's easier to predict the worst and be pleasantly surprised than to hope for the best and be disappointed.

Who knows? As usual, the Clouds pose a question and then don't deliver a very coherent answer.


The Lothrop Lenormand's page


Cross 12th April 2017
from the Malpertuis Lenormand (2014)

The Cross is usually taken to signify some kind of burden: illness, bereavement, financial hardship, or - at a more general level - suffering and despair. All these interpretations are valid - given the right, specific context. But the card can still often appear within readings where the querent isn't obviously experiencing any of these ordeals. In these less extreme situations, I find it more useful simply to read the card as an indicator of pressure.

I'm fortunate enough to live a life with very little pressure in it. This isn't accidental: after more than twenty years working in a profession which demanded a lot of me (emotionally, physically, and intellectually) I decided three years ago that I needed a much simpler lifestyle. So I effectively downsized my entire existence: I gave up my share of the business I partnered, stopped commuting and travelling, stopped chasing deals and profits, and perhaps most importantly just stopped caring so much about the transient, material rewards of work - money, reputation, success. In effect, I made it a deliberate, ongoing mission to eliminate wherever possible those elements which introduce pressure into life.

One of the critical benefits of this change has been how much more effectively and patiently I now find myself able to manage real, genuine pressure - the more extreme situations the Cross often describes. I've realised this particularly in the past few months, where at times I've felt that I've been surrounded by a succession of close friends suffering difficulties and sorrows: bereavements, illnesses, and relationship problems. The absence of pressure in my professional life has at least meant that I've been able to afford these issues the attention and care that they deserve. In my previous life I'd never have been able to do that: maybe there's a lesson there.


The Malpertuis Lenormand's page


Six of Diamonds 4th April 2017
from the Malpertuis Poker K25 (2017)

I often struggle with Diamonds: one school claims that they represent finances, while another argues that they refer to relationships. It can be hard knowing which of these interpretations to go with – or whether one should try to reconcile both ideas into a single meaning.

Strangely enough, I always find this less of an issue with the Six - regularly cited as one of the ‘problem’ or ‘neutral’ cards in the standard deck. The card’s sometimes taken to indicate a breakdown or separation of some kind, and my entirely personal take on it brings together the two schools mentioned above. I generally see the Six of Diamonds as a warning against the problems which money – or work – can cause within a relationship.

Relationships fail for many reasons, and money is of course just one of them. But denying the effect of money on relationships – with friends, family, or colleagues – always strikes me as somewhat naïve. Whether it’s the friend who always seems to forget to pay us back, the successful relative who displays their greater wealth insensitively, or the lazy colleague who gets a raise without deserving it, money can easily start off as a needle which turns into a wedge. I remember well a close friendship which cooled extremely quickly because I decided against investing in the other party’s business idea. And many marriages fail because partners don’t share the same perspectives on work, career, and money and on what priority these should be afforded.

We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not worth falling out over money”.  Of course this is in many cases true, but the Six of Diamonds usually acts as a reminder that there are some situations where if money isn’t by itself reason to cut a tie, it can still present an uncomfortable obstacle which may need some work to get around.


The Malpertuis Poker K25's page


Seven of Swords 19th January 2017
from the Tyldwick Tarot (2013)

My main resolution for this year has been to read more, after slipping from the habit somewhat through 2016 (when I commuted, I used to tear through a novel most weeks on the train - but I don't now have that obvious daily gap to fill). In the past week I've read William Gerhardie's 1922 novel Futility. So it didn't surprise me entirely that the Seven of Swords showed up for this week's draw. The card's commonly associated with deception and betrayal in the RWS tradition, but Crowley labels the card as Futility - and I was more aligned to this latter interpretation when I designed this card.

The main theme of Gerhardie's novel appears to be 'waiting' - quite specifically, that sense of resigned, passive procrastination which Beckett was to explore more famously many years later. And it captures perfectly the utter listlessness of Russian upper class life. The main characters are imprisoned by their own inertia - pathologically unable to make active decisions, they abdicate themselves entirely from the process of making choices. It's easier just to do nothing - maybe Godot will turn up soon.

(An aside: the script on this card design is in Russian. I'd love to claim that I was making a deliberate connection between Russian history and the theme of pointlessness, but I think it was more coincidental than that).

Inertia and indecisiveness are both slowly corrosive conditions which need to be kept in check - the former in particular can very quickly establish itself into the pattern of life. I often see this card as a stark reminder of all those 'must dos' that never get done. The fence which we mean to paint, but leave until it goes rotten. The friend we mean to catch up with but don't, until we've left it too late. More generally, our 'big ideas' that we never put into action, leaving them to wither on the vine.


The Tyldwick Tarot's page



Stars 18th December 2016
from the Silson Lenormand coloured edition (2016)

The Stars card is generally taken to indicate direction and forward planning. Nowadays, it’s often associated with the online world, in particular news and information delivered over the internet. Within the context of a year where trust and understanding of information has so often been confused – with forecasters, pollsters, and professional predictors all getting it wrong - it seems appropriate that the Stars has turned up as my final draw.

The OED has selected post-truth as its word of 2016. Post-truth behaviour is generally described as people rejecting rational considerations in favour of instinctive, emotional ones – disregarding the vast reservoir of information  available to help them to direct their decisions and instead following their feelings, going with their gut.

I don’t think the many definitions I've read quite capture the experience of post-truth as I've myself witnessed it. I haven’t seen people I know actively rejecting information per se. Rather, it seems that they’ve been presented with so much information, and so many conflicting interpretations and analyses of it, that they no longer know what to believe. They haven’t rejected ‘truth’. Instead they've been presented with so many versions of the truth that it’s become difficult to identify which ‘truth’ is the real one.

Perhaps, then, the Stars card is a reminder of the importance of conducting one’s own analysis – assessing information independently and objectively. Seeing the Stars card not as delivering a direction (or ‘truth’) by itself, but as presenting the data from which a direction might be identified. Because data by itself carries no message: messages and meanings are only extracted from it through analysis and interpretation.


The Silson Lenormand's page


Fish 5th December 2016
from the Old Arabian Lenormand (2015)

People sometimes struggle with the Fish card, due to the apparent paradox it expresses. It's usually taken to signify work, but it has just as strong an association with independence. On the surface, these two meanings can appear incompatible. The card always seems to raise questions about this problem: can work and freedom successfully co-exist? Isn't there inevitably a price to be paid in terms of the freedom given up for a career? Which is more important - life, or a living?

In recent years Britain has seen an apparently unstoppable movement towards self-employment (particularly among older professionals). Although some  argue that it's a trend borne of necessity (fewer companies hiring), all the research undertaken into the phenomenon suggests that the majority of those who are self-employed have in fact actively chosen to be so.

I've followed the debate because I'm one of these specimens myself. My own reason for leaving behind a twenty-year career was simple: the need for personal freedom gradually rose to the surface and eventually trumped all other considerations (whether it's freedom from responsibility or freedom to do my own thing remains a question which I haven't yet quite answered).

But I also know many friends and former colleagues who derive just as much fulfilment from being employed as I do from flying solo - and not just because they probably earn more. Being an independent agent certainly carries its own strains and pressures. I think, therefore, it's a mistake to see this card and immediately assume that it's a signal to ditch the office job and go freelance. Lenormand can be direct - but it's usually flexible too. So perhaps it's better to treat the Fish as a reminder of the importance of working on one's own terms.


The Old Arabian Lenormand's page


Paths 28th November 2016
from the Malpertuis Lenormand (2014)

The Malpertuis Lenormand's page

Nine of Hearts 21st November 2016
from the Malpertuis Bridge J7 (2016)

The Nine of Hearts makes me remember an examination I once took where I came top of the year with a score of 97%: I should have been pleased with my result, but I was instead more unhappy about the 3% I’d got wrong than I was happy with the 97% I’d got right. My friends at the time couldn’t understand my disappointment: they didn’t appreciate a perfectionist's inability to count his blessings.

Psychologists have in recent years identified a spectrum of perfectionism: at one end exists an adaptive form, focusing on the desire to improve but allowing for some congratulation (“97% is great, but I can still do better”), while at the other stands a maladaptive form based on self-criticism (“I got 3% wrong, so I failed”). The Nine of Hearts offers a useful illustration of what this theory calls the Almost Perfect Scale. Some are delighted with a nine, because it’s almost ten. Others are distraught, obsessing on the one they're still missing.

I’ve certainly learned to be more relaxed about not having it all as I've aged: I can count my blessings now without immediately feeling the need to construct a balance sheet. But achieving that equilibrium has to a significant degree involved my going against the culture. Maladaptive perfectionism – in respect of body image, lifestyle, career, relationships – rages across modern life like a contagious disease. People have been persuaded, not just by the media but by the gigantic motors behind consumerism, into believing that dreams aren’t just something they’re entitled to hold: they’re something they’re required to pursue. A bigger house. A better neighbourhood. A bigger bonus. A better hotel. Bigger arms. A present Nine which needs to be a future Ten - but which of course will only revert to being a Nine again as soon as it’s been achieved.


The Malpertuis Bridge J7's page


Emperor 15th November 2016
from the Tyldwick Tarot (2013)

Several years ago my company employed, for a short time, a talented but temperamental researcher who had a reputation for job hopping (it didn't take him long to hop away from this job too). It was only a while after he’d left that we discovered that his grandfather had been an emperor, that his mother was a crown princess, and that he was himself a duke. His family had lived in exile for over half a century.

I'd not thought about this man for years, but drawing the Emperor this week made me remember him, and led me to recall how strange it was to find out that this unsettled character – flitting from position to position, evidently unable to find a purpose to suit him – might, in a parallel world not all that distant, have enjoyed a very different life. But history had determined against him, deciding that empires and emperors had no further place.

We live in an era where the very idea of empires is almost impossible to entertain. Some occasionally argue that empires still exist in disguise (comparing the EU's structure and approach to that of the Holy Roman Empire, or labelling the USA’s global hegemony as ‘imperial’) but nobody now believes in or refers to emperors in anything except a metaphorical sense.

Many empires have risen and fallen, and many more emperors have come and gone. It’s worth considering this when the Emperor appears, particularly when it falls in a reversed position. The Emperor is generally read as a symbol of power, authority, and order. History – including my own small anecdote – demonstrates time and again that these may not be lasting quantities. Power can evaporate; authority can crumble; order can be swept aside and replaced.


The Tyldwick Tarot's page


Mountain 7th November 2016
from the Retroracle (2016)

The Mountain represents an obstacle to be overcome, and as such is one of the easier Lenormand meanings to remember: it is invariably a sign of a challenge which won't be easy to surmount.

While the card can be an indicator of mundane concerns - a large bill which needs to be paid, or a recurring problem with the house that won't go away - it can just as often represent a barrier of a more internal or psychological kind. For my own part, whenever the Mountain appears in a reading I tend immediately to regard it as an alert to some kind of stasis and inertia - particularly the lethargy that can, and often does, strike me mid-project.

Anyone who works within a creative field will be familiar with the phenomenon of artistic dry-up, and the many forms it can take: the sudden absence of any exciting new ideas; the suspicion that your work’s lazily repeating itself; the doubts that what you’ve done so far on a project is actually any good. One of the mercies that being a deck designer offers is that there’s (usually at least) the opportunity to ditch a card design that just isn’t happening and switch to something else. Eventually, however, you’ll need to return to the difficult one – which requires a certain amount of discipline and belief in seeing the job through.

I suppose this is really the Mountain’s message. You can take the long way around, and you can take the way over the top. You can put off doing either for a while. But there’s no point hoping or pretending that the Mountain will disappear, or that there’s a handy tunnel running underneath that you just haven’t found yet. It’s a card of facing up to realities.

The Retroracle's page

Moon 31st October 2016
from the Silson Lenormand coloured edition (2016)

How well do we know the Moon nowadays? More to the point, how often do we even see it? In an era of electric light, high rises, and night skies polluted into a murky orange blur, the experience of true moonlight has sadly - in all but the most remote areas -  already become a relative rarity for great numbers of people. The disappearance of moonlight from our regular experience perhaps only serves to make it all the more unnerving when we do encounter it: its flattened shadows and alien silhouettes feel all the more uncanny and unsettling because we're no longer used to them.

But perhaps it's actually ever been so - the Moon has always confused us. Its myths are among the most muddled in the catalogue of cultures. Even the most methodical genealogists of myth, the Greeks and Romans, could never quite pin the Moon down to a single goddess. Selene overlaps with Hecate; Artemis and Phoebe occasionally stake a claim; Diana is partly Luna, but only at certain times and in certain places. This vagueness and confusion feels, of course, entirely appropriate. One only has to look at what moonlight does to our perceptions, and how it exercises a disorienting effect on even the most familiar landscape. It renders our surroundings through a foreign filter such that we can recognise but not fully understand them. It presents us with a strangely two-dimensional phantom of what we thought we knew.

The Moon in the Silson Lenormand continues this theme of confusion, showing a monk transforming into a werewolf (or vice versa) beneath a full moon which drips with rays. Given the wealth of wolf legend in European cultures - the loup garou, Petit Chaperon Rouge, the trials of Valais - the wolf's near total absence from the playing card tradition is perhaps surprising. This card gives Fenrir a late (perhaps overdue) invitation to the show.

The Silson Lenormand's page

Clover 24th October 2016
from the Old Arabian Lenormand (2015)

Next door to the Post Office I visit most days stands a betting shop - just one of the thousands on Britain's high streets (while their numbers remain lower than at their historic peak, such shops still comprise around 5% of all retail space in the UK). Observing it, and the men who use it, at close hand I've become mildly obsessed with it - and with betting shops in general.

The traditional British bookie once catered for customers for whom placing bets was arguably as much about knowledge and judicious selection as it was about plain luck. Men would study the runners' form, the 'going', and would exchange tips. Some of these turf experts, of course, still exist. But they've largely been replaced by men playing casino games on fixed odds machines (the Australian 'pokie'). While their fans may argue defiantly otherwise, playing them involves no skill or knowledge - they're simply about luck. And an enormous amount of research has established beyond dispute both their addictiveness and the damage they can exercise on their users' lives.

So what does this have to do with Lenormand, and with the Clover card? In most readings, Clover can be read as it always has been - as a sign of a stroke of fortune, a little windfall, a turn up for the books. Usually, this presents no cause for worry. But I mention it here because the luck associated with the card seems, slowly but surely, to be overwhelming the culture. Betting shops are just one manifestation of an ever growing belief in luck as the most powerful force in life, morphed in the imagination from a fantasy of what might happen into something which just hasn't happened yet. Within this specific context, and aligned with more negative cards, Clover may be read as a warning against trusting one's luck too much. Because once luck is twisted into some type of guarantee, into something to be relied upon to get ahead (or, sadly and more commonly, out of immediate trouble), ultimately only disappointment is due.

The Old Arabian Lenormand's page

Six of Staves 17th October 2016
from the Tyldwick Tarot (2013)

In many quarters the notion of victory, which the Six of Staves traditionally represents, has slipped dramatically out of vogue. Popular (and legitimate) ambivalence about the morality of armed conflict means that military victory has become an uncomfortable contradiction, an outcome to be regretfully acknowledged rather than celebrated. More generally, education, and even in some respects politics, has witnessed a marked transition towards a conviction that victory is less important than many other things: participation, engagement, fulfilment. It's not the winning that matters - it's the taking part.

But in other quarters, victory - at least if victory means winning a prize - appears more important than ever. Sport and entertainment are only the most obvious examples. Within the world of business, virtually every industry now enjoys a raft of awards ceremonies in which all conceivable possibilities for a prize are endlessly indulged: best newcomer, best contribution, best commission, best advocate, best employer.

This confused contemporary perspective on the very concept of victory - why and how winning is good, when and where winning is bad - inevitably affects the many different ways the Six of Staves may be read. While the card (like all the other Tarot Sixes) is usually a good sign, for richer interpretation it's worth considering what the victory it indicates may actually mean. At what price will it be won? Will it be a commercial victory, a moral one - or both? What will happen afterwards (especially since defending titles can be more difficult than winning them)? Is this a victory you actually want to win?

Note: the building shown on this card isn’t (as has often apparently been supposed) the Pantheon – it’s Thomas Jefferson’s slightly less famous rotunda at the University of Virginia, which obviously drew on the Pantheon as an architectural model. The rotunda sits on the main campus lawn, where only a highly privileged minority of the undergraduate population is invited to lodge.

The Tyldwick Tarot's page


Stork 10th October 2016
from the Malpertuis Lenormand (2014)

The Stork tends to be among the easiest Lenormand meanings to remember. It's certainly one that few readers struggle to recall - improvement, progress, or "a change for the better".

But when confronted with this card it's often important to ask: does change ever really happen on its own? Does positive change randomly appear out of the blue - or does something need to be done to make it happen?

Without wishing to sound too pessimistic, random, positive change happens much more rarely than random, negative change: left to themselves, nice surprises occur much less often than nasty ones. The washing machine may break without warning (which is nasty), but it doesn't usually then surprise us by obligingly mending itself (although it would obviously be nice if it did).

Positive change usually requires some work, some preparation - some encouragement - to help it happen. Whether it's a promotion (a common reading for this card), a successful house move, or an improvement in a relationship, just sitting back with fingers crossed, hoping for the best, probably won't produce a result. So when encountering the Stork in a spread, it's only sensible to look around the rest of the cards to see what needs to be done to make positive change come to pass.

The insert here serves as a convenient reminder of the importance of considering what needs be done to effect change. In the Malpertuis Lenormand, the Stork follows the traditional French association of the Queen of Hearts with the biblical character Judith. Who - it has to be said - certainly wasn't one to sit around just hoping for the best.

Key 3rd October 2016
from the Chelsea Lenormand red edition (2015)

The Key is a relatively straightforward card to interpret, and is normally read positively: it's mostly taken to indicate a solution, an achievement which unlocks the potential for future success, or passing a significant milestone (e.g. by passing an examination). And in a more general sense, it can be a sign of truth and openness.

For simpler questions, especially those which don't touch on anything particularly deep, the traditionally accepted meanings are all well and good. If a querent's simply asking whether they'll pass their driving test, the Key clearly provides an encouraging, unambiguous answer. But - as ever with Lenormand - there is sometimes a risk of reading the Key too simply, and it can therefore be worth taking a few moments to examine the wider context in which the card appears. For more complex questions, particularly those dealing with the more difficult aspects of relationships, the Key may not always be quite as unqualified a good as it can be tempting to assume.

The past few decades have in many ways seen truth elevated to pole position among the personal virtues - aside from the pop-psych emphasis placed on being true to yourself, the philosophy has become enshrined that it's not just desirable but actually a moral requirement (to oneself) to "know for sure" and (to others) to be unflinchingly honest. While there's of course much be said for this argument, it's always worth remembering the time-honoured metaphor of a can of worms, and bearing this in mind when reading the Key. It shouldn't always be assumed that the act of unlocking something will guarantee a positive result (ask Pandora). Some things are, after all, under lock and key for good reason. And in some instances - however much this flies against the orthodoxy of truthfulness - it may actually be better to leave them where they are.

The Chelsea Lenormand's page

Tower 26th September 2016
from the Tyldwick Tarot (2013)

The Tower card in the Tyldwick Tarot depicts Valckenborch's Tower of Babel reflected in a smashed mirror, surrounded by masks from different world cultures. This reflects the familiar myth from Genesis, in which God destroys the Tower of Babel and segregates the world's population by depriving it of a common language:

"And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech."

Not understanding one another remains a resonant theme for our times. Britain (or, for sticklers, the majority of Britons who voted) recently decided in a national referendum to exit the European Union. The debate around this issue, both prior to the vote and after it, has exposed deep fault lines and tensions within British society. While some of the commentary attributing the division of opinion to "culture war" has inevitably been prone to exaggeration, it's true to say that the Brexit vote can't be understood without acknowledging the existence of some element of culture clash.

Culture clash is a facet of the Tower that is regularly overlooked. While the Tower is usually seen as representing a disaster from above - the lightning bolt from heaven - it's often just as useful to read the card as an indicator of the friction and difficulty that comes when confronted with any sudden, unwelcome influence of difference over which one feels no control. This can manifest itself in infinite shapes and sizes: the noisy neighbours who've just moved in; the new boss who arrives determined to impose their own preferred system on the office; the mother-in-law who over-impresses her views on how her grandchild should be raised. In these contexts, the culture clash can at times feel like being struck by lightning.

The Tyldwick Tarot's page

Anchor 19th September 2016
from the Lothrop Lenormand coloured edition (2015)

The Anchor is generally taken to represent stability and security. Drawing from traditional Christian symbology, it is a commonly recognised indicator of hope and unshakeable faith. To this day in Britain, the anchor remains the insignia of the Boys' Brigade, with the motto Sure and Steadfast (the youngest members of the Boys' Brigade are, in fact, designated as "Anchors").

All these meanings are quite valid, and in most readings the Anchor tends to be regarded as an unqualified positive. Occasionally, however, the card appears in spreads which require some other facets to be considered.

From pre-Christian times onwards, the Anchor has served as a symbol of safety: it keeps the ship secure. But - in some contexts - this very security may itself be a form of restraint or restriction. In keeping the ship secure, the Anchor also prevents it from setting sail. So this card can sometimes be an indication of rigidity or stubbornness - a reluctance or a refusal to move. This may take the form of conservatism, traditionalism, and in some extreme situations reactionism. In this respect, the Anchor can represent the precarious boundary between faith and dogma: that dangerous area where strength in one's own convictions tips into prejudice or intolerance of those with different beliefs or lifestyles. It is, therefore, often worth reflecting on whether the Anchor is providing a subtle warning against one's opinions or outlook becoming too entrenched and inflexible.

Similarly, the Anchor may also indicate over-reliance of some kind. This can of course take many forms: the adult still tied to his mother's apron strings; those trapped within a cycle of co-dependency; or, more generally, anyone who finds it impossible to move forward in life, on the basis that it's "better to be safe than sorry".