The 2018 "It Could Always Be Worse" Tarot Misreading


On New Year's Eve 2016, in the wake of the disastrous election, I decided to do a 2017 tarot misreading using my Minchiate deck. For 2018, I turned back to my Minchiate to find out what the next twelve months might have in store for us.

Something about the atmosphere surrounding this reading felt much less urgent compared to last year. In 2017 I think we were all looking for signs of immanent destruction or of some last ditch hope that could reverse the outcome of the election. Now, having withstood one year of that, it doesn't feel as if the events of 2018 are something that we immediately want to know, either because we've become hardened to the bad news, or because we've had enough bad news already, and we're shying away from getting more of it, too soon. Those were some of the thoughts going through my head as I prepared the deck for this reading, and as I looked back I thought 2017 had as many joyful things about it as painful, and thought that a good way to describe it was to say that it could always be worse. On that thought I began my reading.

And it got worse.

The full 2018 spread, top row Jan-Jun, bottom row July-Dec. Each card has one of the Minchiate's astrological sign cards below it as a signifier, starting with Capricorn for January and ending with Sagittarius for December.

Starting with the first card that I threw down, this reading featured some of the scariest things the tarot has to offer. Death. Destruction. The Devil. This is how I came to terms with all of it.

January, Death: As I was collecting the cards to put them away—because that was my immediate reaction, to put some distance between us—I realized that one of the

cards had been damaged. I hadn't noticed that the surface I was using for the reading wasn't entirely clean, and something moist was underneath the first card in the spread, the Capricorn card I had used to signify January. It's gross, and not the way to do these kind of things, and on the heels of the disturbing reading, I felt horrible about it. It was as if that Death card had been powerful enough to change the card underneath it, destroying something very important to me. The bad things I saw in the reading were already starting to take place.

But instead of letting those immediate feelings sink me, I got a grip. I used a paper towel to start drawing out the liquid from the card. What at first seemed like permanent damage by the next morning had faded away to an almost unnoticeable level. It's the same way with pulling Death for January, and for this reading as a whole: what seemed terrifying as the cards were being laid out doesn't bother me so much now that the sun is out. Something did change, something will change, but it's nothing we can handle.

February, Seven of Batons: This is the suit of fire, of creative and sexual energy. Sevens represent those principals taking action in the world. Think about the classic Rider-Waite version of this card, which somewhat captures that feeling: a dude fending off the world from the high ground. But there's more to it in the Minchiate: Here there appear to be seven batons, but if you look, in the central space between the crisscrossing staffs, the middle is empty. That seventh baton is either illusory, or actually two short ones whose ends are hidden behind the others. Four diamonds are created by the negative space (which may be analogous to the material stability of the Four of Coins).

March, Six of Swords: This is one of those cards where the Minchiate is like no other. Curiosity killed the cat. But that still hasn't happened yet. The mysterious orb is still unexplored. The swords haven't sliced the cat to bits. The cat doesn't seem as if it's noticed the shiny disco ball up there yet. We are in a state of two separate intellectual quantities, perfectly balanced, though perfectly un-integrated. Those same four diamonds appear at the center of things.

April, Queen of Swords: Cutting through. She represents an answer to the Six of Swords' two individual concepts. She knows the matter at hand, but she's willing to listen to new ideas. She's definitely not a warm person, or the idea of warmth, but she is fair (and not to be trifled with). She wears ermine, which symbolizes a purity because the animal was thought to rather die than run away through the mud. Here the purity is the queen's unflinching ideals. Look for this person, or the essence of this person, in April.

May, Casa del diavolo/The House of God/The Tower. Even the rosiest interpretation of this card (Alejandro Jodorowsky thinks that this card represents nothing less than coming into contact with the divine) means total, world-shattering change. The version of this card used by the Minchiate shows people abandoning a flaming building in despair. As with the well-known versions of the Tower, the flames are emanating from above. Even the floor seems to be hot, like lava. This is Pompeii. A disaster, an act of god. But one thing Pompeii did is that it gave us amazing, ash-frozen insight into another world. That's what is possible in May, but be careful.

June, Devil: A kind of subjugation. If the body is considered something like a prison (it's not) that's what you might read here. But the body does exist, and it has needs and desires. This month may be ruled by them, and by those darker impulses we have in our subconscious. There's a dangerous creative fire here behind all those snakes (or charred geese) around the Devil's waist. With the Minchiate traditionally calling the House of God the House of the Devil, this trump's appearance here is as if something from May's calamity will follow after us into June. It's a scary time, this spring, but things do look to change in the summer.

July, Wheel of Fortune: This is a big positive change for the second half of the year. I love the design of this card, that shows a really pumped king with an ass-head riding high and loving every second of it. Of course he's going down. In this case, with the preceding cards being so bad, this month is going to start to realign the year.

August, Air: This is the only Minchiate-specific card that came up in this reading, and for traditional tarot readers it might be completely unfamiliar (see last year's post for more on the differences between these decks). This is the trump of Air, one of the four elements in this deck. Imagine a trump card for the suit of swords. That's what Air represents here. It is the triumph of intellectual clarity and precision ideas. In this card we see an animal (a dog? maybe a lamb or a deer) staring up at the sky. There are ten birds in it, three of which are in foreground, as many as fifteen or sixteen stars, clouds, haze. The sun is breaking out from behind the mountains. Is it rising? Is it setting? We're seeing everything is what is happening: It's day during the night.

Here the animal's position is fairly similar to the position of the man at the bottom of the wheel in the Wheel of Fortune card we just saw. He is at the bottom and can only look up. He can only travel back up the wheel, where he will have an unobstructed view of the sky. I think this card shows a big improvement on the year that we have had thus far. August is a big month, things start looking up.

September, Five of Coins: But there are actually six faces total among all these five coins. The coin in the upper left hand corner has two faces on it. Not as in a double-sided coin, but two faces cheek-to-cheek on the same (coin) face. There is something being ventured here. Something that is looking forward to the future already, to the Six of Coins. Four of the six faces on the card are looking to the right, to the future. Buuut, the "two-faced" nature shouldn't be totally disregarded. This venture could be a huge deception, one that has the potential for loss.

October, Five of Cups: Like the Five of Coins, the Five of Cups is another card about risking something on a new venture. This time it's an emotional risk, and this time the danger seems a little bit more real. Imagine that these five cups are actually balanced on top of one another. The two top cups are balanced highly precariously on the center cup. They most likely will fall. But if they don't, something impossible is going to be achieved. If they do fall, it will probably only be those two on top (cf. the number of cups spilled in the familiar Rider-Waite Five of Cups).

November, Ace of Coins: Maybe something is getting started in November. Maybe, like in the image that you can see in the face of the coin here, the foundations of something great are being laid down, something that can be sworn upon. After the last two months of risk, there is a potential for new opportunity in November.

December, Page or Fantine of Coins: Now that single coin from the Ace is in the Page's hands, and she's hurrying into the future to deliver it somewhere. She doesn't necessarily know exactly what to do with it, but she's definitely earnest about trying it out. She almost looks as if she might trip over her own feet she's in such a rush. But maybe, if she keeps her balance, she'll land right over the threshold of the palace. It's not the worst way to say goodbye to the year.

[All photos are by me and hereby public domain. Font used in the top image is Metal Lord.]

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