Wednesday, October 16, 2013

SGSD: The Vampire Tarot & Tarot: Get the Whole Story

There are several vampire-themed Tarot decks on the market, but until recently, I didn't have any of them.  While I enjoyed Buffy the Vampire Slayer a whole lot, and I enjoy Stoker's Dracula, and True Blood (although I'm a lot behind on that)  I'm not a 'fan' of vampires as sympathetic characters, so I've never been drawn to the motif in Tarot.

The Vampire Tarot (US Games Systems, Inc), Nathalie Hertz

Recently, though, a friend of mine passed on her copy of The Vampire Tarot, by Nathalie Hertz (US Games Systems, Inc.) - since it is seasonal, I've been exploring it a bit, although I am far from 'literate' in its imagery.

Vampire tales seem to me to be about passion and desire that utterly overrides every other consideration.  They seem to embody  the energy of dysfunctional relationships, where one person 'feeds' on another - where people are seen as both repellent and charismatic, takers of one's energy while promising eternal life of a sort.  Vampires are portrayed as being pure passion and romance while having no beating heart at all, and no pulsing blood other than that which they steal.

In this deck, the Devil has to surpass all these qualities typical of the Tarot Devil - here he is depicted as pure beast, human qualities nearly entirely gone.  He is pure predator, pure desire in search of what it hungers for, long fangs to feed, long claws to clutch, wings to better pursue.  No persuasive allure is left here - he's not interested in convincing his prey to come to him.  He'll just take them, and be done with it.  In this image, he occupies all the space - the way behind him is blocked and closed.

The Devil in Tarot often points to intense materialism, addiction, and an imbalanced level of sensuality.  You may fall for that sparkly, broody vamp you write about in your diary, but if you find yourself in the hands of this Devil, you're just food.

The book I chose to work with today is a Tarot: Get the Whole Story, by James Ricklef.  This gem of a book focuses on spreads with solid explanations of how to compose a spread that will best reflect what a person is seeking guidance for.  Ricklef does this in a really creative and interesting way, by demonstrating spreads for various historical and fictional figures, so that each spread has a 'what if' story about familiar characters.

This can be a very fruitful way to practice spreads - read for 'characters'!  It also helps show how Tarot might be used in storytelling - to get at the qualities of a character, to understand motivations, or to lay out a plot.

Because I so strongly associate vampires with relationship issues,  I chose to try out Relationship Transformation Spread, intended to help a person understand why their relationships don't work.  Ricklef applied this spread to Scrooge.  I'm going to use it to have a little talk with Spike,  the incorrigible vampire with the longstanding love/hate crush on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

1.  What are Spike's problematic patterns in this relationship?
6 of Cups
Honestly, Spike has a LOT of problematic patterns in this relationship, some of which go with the territory when you're a soulless vampire.  But his core pattern goes back to before he was turned, when he was an over-earnest writer of bad poetry, trying to convince a woman to love him and being told that he was 'beneath' her - he's been the hapless lover ever since, falling for women who won't or can't love him in return.  Choosing the Vampire Slayer as the object of his affections - could there possibly be a better set up for dysfunction than that?

The 6 of Cups often has to do with nostalgia, and sometimes overly positive memories of more innocent times gone by.  In this card, we see the Cups - carriers of emotion and love (and in this deck, blood) overturned.  Reliving the patterns of his past, Spike wound up, among other things, being 'chipped' and unable to feed, and still not really getting the girl - because his pattern is to chase love from people who are unattainable, and lose.  Perhaps he even beliefs the pain of that constant cycle of loss and hopelessness is what makes his love 'real'.

2. What are Spike's fears in it?
King of Pentacles
The King of Pentacles is the guy with all the power over material things.  Spike is afraid that this King isn't him - that someone better, more worthy, more stable and with more to offer, will take his place.  He knows that he's the guy who probably understands Buffy best, but that's because she, herself, is not very well grounded and she, too, yearns for a simple, down to earth life and relationship, while living in such a way that it is impossible.  If it ever happens that she's able to find someone to share that sort of life with her, Spike will be deposed, and he knows it.  The only way Spike can keep his crown is to keep her convinced that she'll never do better - classic vampire style dysfunction, and it's rooted in his own fears about not being good enough.

3. How does Spike block love in it?
II - The High Priestess
The High Priestess is intuitive wisdom, but she is also a keeper of secrets.  She doesn't reveal all that she knows, and in order to access her wisdom, one must be ready to hear it.  She is mysterious and holds the key to the subconscious self.

Spike is a masterful keeper of secrets - from himself.  He can be the model of living in denial, always painting his own actions as either more heroic or more villianous than they are - and if that doesn't work, he's ever ready to blame others for making him do something he shouldn't.  He blocks love that could happen in his relationship with Buffy by living so deep in his own head and own reality that it simply isn't possible to really get close to him - he is far too protective of his own vulnerability to really allow it without resisting.

Deep inside, he really does crave love - but that is a solidly locked door if he thinks you might hurt him.  And the only way to be intimate is to be willing to risk being hurt. Poor Spike.

4. What does Spike need to let go of in order to make this relationship work?
8 of Cups
We can see the cups upright now, but they're drained of the fluid needed to keep this relationship alive.  If Spikes wants a relationship with Buffy to work on any level, it's time for him to get real and acknowledge that when it comes to any sort of healthy romance, there is no 'there' there.  Not only is he never going to be the Right One for Buffy - but she's never going to be the Right One for him either.  Because of who they are - vampire and vampire slayer - she can't overlook what he is without betraying what she is, and the only way he can stay near her at all means he has to be her neutered dog.  This is not ever going to work.

The 8 of Cups typically has to do with walking away from situations that are no longer emotionally satisfying.  If Spike is willing to accept that this romance can never be healthy and look for something more meaningful to let him feel his own worthiness, then perhaps he and Buffy can develop a real relationship as friends, but if he insists on trying to make it into a romance, it is going to continue to be dysfunctional and unsatisfying for them both.

5. How can Spike heal this relationship?
9 of Cups

Here we see the cups overflowing and filling one another, and the curtains flung open to see the wider universe beyond the confines of this space.  Spike can heal this relationship by moving away from pouring all his thwarted love/hate insecure feelings into Buffy, and toward caring about and being emotionally generous to many people.  Instead of grasping and taking, he can redirect himself to giving to others.

As it happened, Spike sacrificed himself (however grudgingly - he was, after all, a vampire to the end) for the sake of the town he'd regarded as his personal feeding grounds, and in doing so, he gained the love and gratitude of many, and more than redeemed himself in the eyes of Buffy.  In  that heroic act, he healed the relationship that had caused them both so much pain.

So there it is - thanks for indulging me, and apologies for inflicting any pain on anyone who really, really wanted those two to be the romance of the century!  If you enjoyed this, try reading for a fictional character you love, and see where where it takes you,


As a reminder, head over to Pagan Culture, for several wonderful giveaways, and tons of creative posts with a spooky bent for the So Dark, So Good Blog Party.  Magaly's giveaways are always so fun - not only has she rounded up some great items, but she encourages creative and thoughtful comments by asking questions as a part of entering.  Go check it out!

Also, Samhain's Sirens is still going strong!  Today's entry includes a mouthwatering recipe for Slow Cooker Pork and Apples, a lovely essay on Samhain as the New Year, and an adorable witchy tote bag being given away.

Until next time, when I'll be looking at the Zombie Tarot!
~ Lynda


  1. Lovely reading (poor Spike) and I had never thought of Tarot as being a doorway to storytelling. An intriguing thought!

  2. I also never thought of using the cards as an aid to storytelling, but it really did shine a new light on a character, which was intriguing. Great post.

  3. This is so very interesting. I was beginning to get a handle on reading the cards when I was younger but my family was truly against my being involved in "dark arts." Now that I have time again to pursue my own interests, I am finding many interpretations and learning so much.

  4. The High Priestess is STUNNING! And I just read Witchy J comment, what great stories these cards would inspire...

  5. Wish listing that book! It sounds awesome! Thank you for a fun post. I got to understand the cards better and smile happily at a nod to one of my fandoms.