Face Up Journey – A Narrative Spread

by | Nov 16, 2015 | Blog












This post first appeared at siobhansmirror.com

A few weeks ago I was staring at my computer screen with a lump in my throat and a feeling of impending doom. I was finishing a piece, intended for Beth Maiden of littleredtarot.com, that I had started a few weeks ago about mental illness and entrepreneurship. I couldn’t bring myself to finish it the first go around. So there I was, with a lump, the doom feeling, and the big question: just what was I trying to say when I started? I did what any self-respecting tarot blogger might do. I got out my cards.


Face Up Journey


I had a fantastic reading exchange with my partner in a course I’m taking with James Wells. During the reading, my partner asked me to choose cards in response to their questions. I loved that the tarot cards became a road map through my thoughts. I felt the format gave me direct access to the heart of my lived experiences. I decided to use this method to see what might unfold in my unfinished piece. I laid out my Tarot de St. Croix deck, face up so that I could easily sort through its rich images. I asked myself questions geared toward telling my mental health story as it relates to entrepreneurship.


A Narrative Spread


  • Which card represents my shame?
  • What maps my way out of shame?
  • What is my superpower?
  • What is it like to be an entrepreneur living with mental illness?
  • What does mental illness mean to me?




The Interpretation



Which card represents my shame? – 5 Cups


This card represents the part of me that covers my face in dismay, blind to the signs and lessons symbolized by the crows in the spilled wine (blood). Regardless of their state, upright and filled or overturned and empty, I still have five cups. When I abandon everything outside of my grief or discomfort, I am stuck. Rather than face the world, I look inward at the dark. Within me dwells the strength to move on and integrate all lessons, and own all cups.

Owning all my cups means admitting the things I want to hide: my history with addiction, my relentless and diverse fears and self-doubts, my reliance on loved ones for financial support as I struggle to make peace with myself as someone healing and someone earning. Sometimes I tell myself I’m over the shame thing. Times like those I need only count my cups for a reality check. Where my cups are the things, I’d still rather that no one know.


What maps my way out of shame? – 4 Swords


Stillness. Deep listening. Ownership of darkness. The darkness of an inward journey. A retreat from the largeness of “five,” to the self-care and solace of the “four.” The stillness where I am pierced by my wayward thoughts, and I endure. Not all that is still is at peace. Not all that pierces destroy. Being able to snuggle up with discomfort means rest without end. Resting like it’s my job. Sleeping like the dead.

Peace can be uncomfortable without practice or precedent. My first panic attacks came years after trauma and miles away from any triggers. They came once I felt safe to feel. The more I engage with silence, stillness, and the echo of my thoughts, the more I accept the natural ebb and flow of peace. One month it’s here, the next moment it’s gone. All of it is ok.



What is my superpower? – The Hermit


This hermit wears the darkness from the 4 swords. I own both the limiting parts of myself, my fears, and the expansive parts of myself: my passion, curiosity, and desire to connect. My limitations afford me a unique perspective, grant me empathy and time. I use these things to cultivate a deep relationship with myself and others. I seek and am the source of healing and inspiration.

The hermit has access to light: resources, patience, and wisdom, and so needn’t fear the dark or search for something in others. The hermit connects, motivated by consciousness and abundance, or does not connect at all.


What is it like to be an entrepreneur
living with mental illness? – 10 Swords


A constant awareness of the direct relationship between the unconscious, emotions, and thoughts, and their effect on the material world (body/symptoms/wealth). As below, so above. Sometimes the link weighs on me. Choice outside the self is one thing but what about when I have to work to cultivate thoughts or new habits the same way I cultivate muscles? Sometimes the link liberates me. I know the why behind certain cycles in my life and feel empowered to stop and start new cycles.

Awareness can feel like swords piercing, especially new awareness. There are multiple occasions for the knee-jerk perception of insurmountable darkness. There are just as many occasions to use perception to pass from one state of being and thinking, into a new state. One unlike any previously encountered. I have ample practice ending and beginning cycles and framing those cycles with or without consciousness.


What does mental illness mean to me? -The Hanged One


The plight or power of the Hanged One is a matter of perspective. On the one hand, I hang, strung up and left out to dry and suffer. On the other hand, I hang, with a standing invitation to transcend. The hanged One means having one foot in each of several worlds: my inner landscape, my projection of reality, reality, other people’s reality, all of the context that makes up my personal experience. It is an Ordeal. It is my choice how to frame and interpret the Ordeal and whether I allow it to empower me to explore my depths.


What I Affirmed


  • Living with mental illness, for me, is constant shadow work, exploration of consciousness, and reclaiming darkness. It’s common to fear darkness, the unknown or the less known, and think of it as separate from everything else. Something to hide, to get rid of. But it is not separate. And any judgments I place on darkness, discomfort, variance from norms, solitude, are learned judgments.
  • My past experiences shape my interpretations of “difficult” cards. For me, these cards don’t end at dismay, fear, and calamity. They are raw potential. The energy needed to transform.




There is value in telling my story.

When I interact with my cards or my intuition, some of what I rely on for an optimal experience (what does THAT mean anyway? optimal?!) is the mysterious allure of the random. I’m hoping to connect and gain wisdom from something bigger than me. It can feel like wisdom comes from the random card pull and the spark of intuition that it inspires. As though wisdom comes from outside. Wisdom and intuition come from everywhere. When I answer questions from my personal experience, I tap into something bigger than myself and my own story. In this process, the cards are a footnote, anchor, bullet point, or reference. They focus, they center, and they are not the source of the story.

This becomes doubly important when we face “difficult” cards. Take the five of swords for example. A quick search of the keywords for the five swords will turn up words like conquest, conflict, and hostility. In St. Croix’s five swords, we see the familiar conflict depiction: swords beam at the figures in the card, as if they represent arrows of blame.

I pulled this card twice in the last few weeks. The first time at random. I was wary and unsure what to do with the card and its message.The second time I pulled the card, it was from a face-up deck, as directed during my aforementioned reading exchange. After I pulled it, my partner asked, “what is the way out of the five of swords experience?”



I noticed the chessboard-like squares on this card. I noticed how the walls of the card mimic the floor and serve to trap the figures in the card. Asking for the way out is like asking for a version of this card without walls. ‘Lo and behold, the knight of cups of the same deck: a doorway appears, and a person kneels to receive. The water (emotions) pouring out of the cup mirror his flowing heart-cape.

Does this symbolism progress further? Are there any more chessboard squares? The king of cups of the same deck shows a reality without walls or borders. The mastery of emotions. The five swords, rather than stop at being a proclamation of blame and conflict, inspired a solution: receptivity, compassion, and freedom. This journey from struggle to solution is, for me, the optimal tarot experience. The optimal life experience!

Much gratitude to my partner for this reading and an introduction to their narrative therapy style of reading the tarot. <3

Check out the piece at littlereadtarot.com for the rest of this story.


Having an experiencethat you want to move through?

  • Pull the card that represents this experience from a face-up deck.
  • Pull a second card that represents “the way out.” The deck can be face up or down.


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Do you use face up spreads?
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*All images from the Tarot de St. Croix by Lisa St. Croix Devera Publishing 2013