“What’s your Card…?”

Please allow me to begin here by stating up front that I’m a bit groggy today.  Nothing to be alarmed about, and it isn’t any kind of medication responsible for my condition (which might be cause for alarm if that were indeed the case, leading to questions such as “But wait, what dire thing happened to you such that you have to be on Demerol??”), nor is said grogginess the result of any self-inflicted chemical alteration (which might be cause for recriminations, along the lines of “Well, sure, if you stay up all night popping Ecstasy, you’re bound to feel a little fuzzy come morning!”).  But to be perfectly honest, I can’t point to anything in particular that might serve as the logical root cause of why I feel like I’m still trying to surface from up out of sleep.  It could be that after being acupunctured two days ago and then sleeping less than usual that night (although it was great sleep, and I felt well-charged yesterday), I was on a deficit that my body took it upon itself to redress last night…?  I don’t know…  All I do know is that I conked out way earlier than usual last night, and I logged about ten hours of sleeping like a log.

I'm sure I must have looked much like this all last night in my bed...
I’m sure I must have looked much like this all last night in my bed…

And then I awoke to find that we’re enjoying the first overcast — actually even “foggy” might not be too terribly strong a word here — morning that we’ve had since I moved to my new neighborhood.  I mean, if I rise around dawn, then sure, there might be a bit of mist in the air, but that basically disappears the instant that anyone else anywhere in the area swings their feet out of bed and onto the floor.  This is more like…well, almost real fog.  Now, I lived in and around San Francisco for more than 20 years, and that’s where the nation’s supply of fog comes from, so I know this particular phenomenon inside and out.  What we’re seeing here this morning in LA isn’t quite as thick and all-encompassing as a standard-issue SF bed of fog, but it’s turned the usual wide-open blue sky overhead into a sort of gray-white absence of sky, like someone pulled the covers up over my neighborhood, and has yet to pull them back down.

This is a little heavier than the fog that's actually outside my window right now...but not all *that* much heavier, really...
This is a little heavier than the fog that’s actually outside my window right now…but not all *that* much heavier, really…

This combination of things — the “sleeping like a log/waking to the fog” business — is probably why I feel like someone slipped me a mickey at some point last night, and I’m still trying to metabolize it out of my head.  All of which is to say that I don’t believe today will be the best day for me to wax all philosophical about my latest theory on the nature of existence (sorry, gang — soon!).  Instead, I’ll devote this space to a computation anyone can do, that I find cool and interesting and very individualized.  I view it as sort of the Tarot version of a person’s Zodiac Sun Sign.  I’ve spoken before about similar calculations that are more widely used in the Tarot field, but I’ve since added a refinement of my own, which will offer up what I feel is a highly personalized result.  As with generating a full astrological birth chart, you’ll need to know your time of birth for this, though.  Anyway: onward!

Okay, so “What’s your Card?” may not replace “What’s your Sign?” in the annals of pick-up line history…but it leads me neatly into the subject of today’s post: discovering your own personal Tarot Card based on the moment of your birth.

It’s become pretty common practice among Tarot enthusiasts to add up the digits of their birth-dates so as to arrive at things called Personality Cards and then Soul Cards — these are individualized associations meant to show which cards a person will have affinities for in this lifetime, and which cards will have affinities for them right back.  However, after being much swayed by discussion of the importance of the Ascendant in Astrology — which depends on time of birth, as well as day, and so yields a result that’s vastly more personalized and more precise (because while a lot of people were born on the same day as you, not nearly so many were born at the exact same time on that day) — I decided to experiment with doing something similar in the Tarot sphere.

The Zodiac -- I believe we can settle on a Major Arcana Tarot Card for ourselves that holds easily as much meaning as a Zodiac Sun Sign...
The Zodiac — I believe we can settle on a Major Arcana Tarot Card for ourselves that holds easily as much meaning as a Zodiac Sun Sign…

So I know I’ve mentioned this briefly here before, but to recap, if I just use the old way of crunching down my birth-date into a number that falls within the set of 1-22 (as there are 22 cards in the Tarot’s Major Arcana), I arrive at the number 6.  This is the number that corresponds to the Lovers Card.  And it’s not that I can’t find things to identify with that fall within the usual scope of what the Lovers Card is generally taken to represent, because I can, and I do (The Lovers = falling in love with someone or something, yes, but also big choices to be made, and also things like the reconciliation of opposing forces within ourselves, such as Yin/Yang polarities and such).  And I like the Lovers Card, and I never felt uncomfortable with it as a result…but there are a few cards I feel drawn to even more…cards that feel “more like me.”  Among these, I’d list at least half a dozen before slowing down, but the card I love best, and that feels the very most like me out of all of them, is the Hanged Man.  It sounds dark and morbid and maybe a little bit scary, I know, but as I see it, the Hanged Man is about the removal of oneself from the usual and the mundane so as to get an almost (or not even “almost,” but fully) mystical new perspective on things…it’s also about a pause between moments, or a bridging of worlds, or an act of self-sacrifice that leads to new arcane knowledge or gifts, often for the betterment of all.  Now, all of the Tarot cards have metaphysical import, but a few cards strike me as even more metaphysical than the rest, and the Hanged Man is certainly one of these.  And when I add the digits that comprise the time of my birth to those that form my birth-date, they add up to…12, the number of the Hanged Man Card!  This convinced me that I might be on to something with this time of birth business…

Here’s how you crank through the math for this…

First, you need to know that when dealing with the numbering of the Major Arcana, the Fool Card can be listed as either 0 or 22.  For purposes of this exercise, count the Fool as 22 (since your numbers can’t add up to 0…).

Second, I find that I like compensating for time of day by using military-style time measurement — that is, instead of saying that 3am and 3pm are both represented by 3, I use 3 to signify 3am, but I use 15 to denote 3pm (if you’re not up on your military jargon, this bit is easy: if you’re looking at a time that falls after noon, just add 12 to it: so, 3 + 12 = 15).

Next, the calculation itself looks like this (let’s say we’re doing this for someone who’s busy being born today, September 20th, 2013 — I’ll do both a morning and an evening version, too…let’s use 9:18 as time of birth):

9:18 in the morning birth

9 (hour of birth) + 18 (minute of birth) + 9 (month of birth) + 20 (day of birth) + 2013 (year of birth)  = 9 + 18 + 9 + 20 + 2013 = 2069

Next, take the digits from that resulting sum total, and add them together individually: 2 + 0 + 6 + 9 = 17

If you end up with a number that’s still larger than 22, keep adding the digits together until you get a result that’s in the 1-22 range.  In this case, we succeeded at that right away, and we ended up with 17…which is the number of The Star (another of my favorite cards!).  This is a fantastic card; The Star speaks of hope, divine guidance, inspiration, trust, faith, renewal, opportunities for new growth and new discoveries, illumination…  We love The Star…

The Star -- Card XVII from the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck...
The Star — Card XVII from the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck…

9:18 in the evening birth — use 21:18 here, so as to differentiate from 9:18am

21 (hour of birth) + 18 (minute of birth) + 9 (month of birth) + 20 (day of birth) + 2013 (year of birth)  = 21 + 18 + 9 + 20 + 2013 = 2081

Next, take the digits from that resulting sum total, and add them together individually: 2 + 0 + 8 + 1 = 11

And…this result presents a slight wrinkle for us.  As I’ve mentioned numerous times in this space, modern Tarot has evolved into two major subsets: those decks that follow the Rider-Waite-Smith (“RWS”) deck, and those that follow the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck (“Thoth”) — there’s arguably a third school that looks back to older French decks in the Tarot de Marseilles tradition as well.  Without getting too deep into the minutiae of all this, the relevant thing here is that the oldest traditions used a sequence that saw the French decks’ Justice Card landing as number 8 in the order, and the Strength Card placing as number 11.  When Arthur Waite was cooking up the RWS deck, he switched these (for reasons I’m not sure would be helpful to get into at the moment, although drop me a line if you’d care to know more…).  Therefore, the most popular deck in the world today (that’s the RWS, along with its many, many descendants) reserves place number 8 for Strength, and 11 for Justice.  When Crowley followed Waite…he switched things back (he also renamed both cards, so his #8 card, “Justice,” became “Adjustment,” and his #11 card, “Strength,” became Lust”…).  This issue alone is one of the single greatest polarizing forces within the world of Tarot, and there currently remains a great schism, one side of which is home to people who fervently believe that the 8 card position should and yea, verily must, belong to Justice/Adjustment, with Strength/Lust falling as card #11…and the other side of the split feels just as intensely that, no, it can only be Strength that inhabits the 8th slot, and Justice is 11, always and forever.  And of course, you have a few people who don’t care or can’t decide, or those who, like me, are happy enough to just switch back and forth depending on which deck we’re using.

Anyway, the point is that in our example above, this hypothetical person’s individual Card might be either Strength or Justice…or even both, depending on their own take on that schism-issue.  To be fair, the two cards are kind of thematically linked, too, so taking them both together isn’t that great a stretch or impropriety.  A great explanation for how the two cards function together goes like this:

Imagine the Woman in the Strength/Lust Card is trying to travel along with the Lion in a perfectly straight line.  She can largely compel and/or coax the Lion to journey along with her, but their line of travel isn’t utterly straight: the Lion has some powerful urges, and there are numerous distractions along the way, such as things he’d like to eat, things he’d like to fornicate with, things he’d like to sink his claws and fangs into…so the Woman has to be constantly trying to impel him back onto the path.  The resulting route they end up taking does stick more or less to that pure vector, but it meanders back and forth across it in highly irregular fashion, as the Lion strays afield, and the Woman implores him back.  So the Strength/Lust Card is like a snapshot of where they are at a given moment.  If you were to freeze-frame them in their journey, you might find them to the left of the center line the Woman wants them on, you might find them to the right, or in a great moment, they might be right on top of it, as she’s striving for.  Whatever the case may be, the Strength/Lust Card reveals their current position relative to that “perfect” central vector, and it speaks eloquently of the eternal struggle going on between the base desires of the Lion and the higher-minded, arguably more refined wishes of the Woman.

And then, if Strength/Lust shows where the pair is at in a given moment…then Justice/Adjustment reveals the correction that would have to be made in order to get them back onto that central track.  As I just mentioned, this could mean cutting out a patch of turf to their right, a swatch of ground to their left, or it might be one of those happy instants where they’re already at zero variance from the path, and no correction need be made.  But the bottom line is that Strength/Lust is where their struggle has taken them in relation to the ideal central path, and Justice/Adjustment is whatever correction (if any) must be made to get them back onto it.

So again, our hypothetical person about to be born this evening at 9:18 may come to identify with either the Strength/Lust Card, the Justice/Adjustment Card, or the related pairing of both…  And just so you have it, here’s the list of Major Arcana Cards so you can work out your own personal Card (Crowley’s changed titles in parentheses, in case you’re more of a Thoth person):

1 —   The Magician (The Magus)
2 —   The High Priestess (The Priestess)
3 —   The Empress
4 —   The Emperor
5 —   The Hierophant
6 —   The Lovers
7 —   The Chariot
8 —   Strength (Crowley has Adjustment here)
9 —   The Hermit
10 — The Wheel of Fortune (simply “Fortune” in the Thoth deck)
11 — Justice (Lust in the Thoth)
12 — The Hanged Man
13 — Death
14 — Temperance (Art)
15 — The Devil
16 — The Tower
17 — The Star
18 — The Moon
19 — The Sun
20 — Judgment (The Aeon)
21 — The World (The Universe)
22 — The Fool

If you’re working through this, but aren’t really familiar with the Tarot, you can post here or write to me with any questions about which card means what…happy math, everyone!

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