Margarete Petersen Tarot, Osho-Zen Tarot, Tarot de St. Croix
What is Face Up Tarot?
When we lie face up, we are exposed. With our bellies facing the sky we lay open to whatever may befall us, be it travesty or ecstasy. With our backs against the ground we limit our options for avoidance or escape. We are poised to receive. Is it possible that in this position we might be more ready to listen to ourselves more deeply?
When we draw a card face up, consciously choosing the card rather than pulling at random, we lie face up to ourselves, belly up, backs against our realities. We are poised to receive our own stories, to affirm our lived experience, our present moment truth. Where is there to go, without the distraction of the future or the unknown, but into the depths of our own knowing? From this vantage point, we own each card, each card meaning, each life decision, and the beliefs that inform it all.
What to expect…
This series was inspired by a face up spread I did back in November in order to give me courage and focus . This series will explore face up cards and the many ways they can be used: to process events, to supplement random card pulls, to transform, incite courage, and to affirm. Under the umbrella topic of face up tarot, this series might contain new spreads, interviews, and wild poems. Expect awareness, empowerment, and courage-to-be themes. Authenticity. Vulnerability. Because to me, that’s what face up means.
Three Cups Reversed
The three of cups from my current favorite deck, the Tarot de St Croix, is more subdued than others.
Three figures sit at a table playing a board game. There are symbols, images of the moon, spiraling snakes. Mysticism is celebrated, but quietly. This is in direct contrast to the classical image of three dancing figures, raising their glasses in utter abandon. In popular culture this is what a celebration looks like: the raised glass, the dolled-up ladies, the socially-focused frolicking. Social means celebrate means nurtured. Or so it goes.
Until recently, I never frolicked like we normally see in the three of cups. Not without alcohol. There is still often a boundary. Is it introversion? Social anxiety? Or some kind of weird pride left over from growing up in NYC where every step needed to be perfect and polished, where I always needed to try to look good. How do I, as a somewhat socially awkward person, identify with this card? With the celebration it depicts?
A “Private” Celebration
I went to a women-only non-alcoholic dance party awhile back. I didn’t intend the evening to be the introvert date of the year, but that’s what it turned into. I went to dinner alone. I drank tea. It was like I was one third of the three women depicted on the three of cups in the Tarot de St. Croix.
Except that underneath the quiet loner exterior of an adult dining alone, was a goofy 11 year old girl ready to dance her heart out like it was 2 am at a friend’s sleepover. It doesn’t get much more three of cups reversed; not for me anyway.
There was tension at the start of the party. I tried to put the tension into words. The word was trust. I needed to trust the DJ, the dance floor. I needed to trust myself to open, to express. I needed to trust the crowd to receive that expression and to recede, to make room. I needed to trust that the party could contain – what does a space like this contain? – Desire. The desire of many. The dance floor is a place where desires converge and energy is raised: life force, sex, and art. All these things at once. Rather than it being solely about fun, feeling safe was of the utmost importance.
I found a quiet corner and removed my bulky turtleneck. Underneath I wore a long formless shirt dress and underneath that I wore spandex black leggings and a spaghetti strap top. Simple, statement-less. Meant to make dancing easy. Meant to be comfortable and, to an extent, not stand out. Meant to be shed later as I opened up but only after discerning what kind of party this was.
I wasn’t alone in this. Later, women would shed shirts, dresses, bras, shoes, inhibitions. Many layers would come off. There would always be something left, for sure. Some of us have invisible cages. Barriers to dancing. Barriers to dancing with others, to smiling, saying hello, yelling out, flirting. I marvel at the people that can completely release. I wonder if there are those who marvel at me that way, when I shed my layers, when I revel in my own joy and forget fear for a little while.
This dance, it was not the freedom of an ecstatic dance.
At an ecstatic dance, I don’t have as much mental commentary. There are no cages or concerns. There is no perception of group fear. At an ecstatic dance, movement is prime. Movement is the religion. Even dance is secondary. And in that genderless wiggly space people shout, writhe, explode, and experience the moment; I do too. No, this dance was not like that. We felt each other out. Women. Girls. Grandmothers. Queerfolk. GNC. Cis. Trans. Communing even within our respective cages, whether the bars were apparent or not.
I experienced a private celebration at this dance. Usually, I don’t go dancing. I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t seek lovers. These things aren’t the linchpin of my social life anymore. I love movement and I love to dance but do not prefer the rest of what’s associated with “going dancing.” I expected, on some level, this dance to be different. I expected it to transcend any boundaries I associated with “going dancing.”
Because there would be no men and no alcohol, I thought it might be more like ecstatic dance. Cageless. It was not. Women carry their own cages with them it seems. Without outside assistance, without reinforcers. Myself included. But still the space, the evening, was worth celebrating.
It affirmed that I don’t need to deal with alcohol to love dancing or to dance. It affirmed that I don’t even need to love socializing to dance. It affirmed women are glittery, cautious, wild, sensual, handsome, playful, fun, and worth being with. I loved that. I loved myself at this dance. I loved watching us thaw and trust. I was able to be alone with these women. We carried our desires like so many cups, and raised them. To trust, communion, and play.
These could be said to be the trifecta illustrated in the three cups. The trust needed to own our desires, our creative expression, our life force; communion, as in absolute humanhood: the group cohesion we feel when all of us feel the same baseline tremor through the floor into the soles of our shoes; play as in joy, as in if we like it, we move toward it.
And why is the three of cups reversed?
The celebration is a personal one, experienced within. The party serves as a metaphor for an internal shift from fear to release and reclaiming. In order to open up, something had to be undone. Some boundary. Some restriction.
And so the three of cups reversed, in this case, is the unraveling of the something in the way of desire. I love to dance. That is ok. I don’t love to meet new people all the time. That is ok too. I can do both. All the celebrations count.
How do you imbibe?
A question I often ask in my tarot practice when working with the suit of cups: How do you imbibe? Physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? Intellectually? Emotions drive the desire to imbibe. And yet we often are unaware of our the emotional needs. When we look for satisfaction, we do so unconsciously.
When we imbibe physically, we eat certain foods or maintain habits around fitness, sex, or touch. We use or do things to our body and we don’t always know the why behind it. The answer to the question – how do you imbibe? – will turn up in the cups you draw for yourself and which are drawn for you. What does celebration look like to you? A book and a quiet corner? An outdoor sensory adventure? A carnal indulgence? A commiseration? The smell of flowers from a lover wafting in while you work?
The answer will give you your own personal three of cups.
How do you celebrate? Comment below or tweet using #faceuptarot
Siobhan (she/they) is a NYC-born writer, spiritual ally, and #radicaltarot reader living in central Texas. Her facilitative reading style is the blended result of over a decade of study of tarot, nonviolent communication, shamanic ritual, sacred sexuality, and alternative relationship. She geeks all those things in her newsletter and blog. She is also the creator of “The ‘Scopes,” the first-ever monthly collaborative tarotscopes which have featured over 40 professional tarot readers in the last three years.