Japaridze Tarot

Coming to Grips with IV War

In today's post, I want to catalogue an evolving and challenging relationship I'm having with a particular card in a recently purchased deck. It's a little long and rambly, but I'll do my best to keep it interesting, and I hope, too, that it gives some insight into my process of working with individual cards and archetypes. If nothing else, it is further proof that one never really stops learning tarot!

The Japaridze Tarot depicts archetype IV, The Emperor, as War. When I first looked through this deck, I was swept away by the lush and vibrant colours, but my reverie came to a screaming stop when I saw IV War. What the heck? Here, in amongst the rich and colourful fantasy worlds of this deck was a stark, bleak scene of violence and conflict. It's a pretty striking change in language from "The Emperor", and I think, takes a strong, almost non-negotiable position on how this card should be interpreted. It really stopped me in my tracks! It didn't, however, stop me from purchasing the deck and so now, IV War is sitting on my coffee table.

In my deck interview with the Japaridze Tarot, I mentioned that I wasn't surprised to see this card come up, given that I had had such a strong reaction to it. In that context, it felt confrontational. The Japaridze Tarot knew I was judging it, and it was demanding that I listen to its side of the story. Alright, fine, I thought. The Emperor can be a tyrant at times. I guess I can see your point.

This wasn't a peaceful, "let's hear each other out" kind of negotiation, though, and the conversation sure wasn't over. A couple of nights later, I decided to do some meditation with a random card from the deck. I wanted to visit one of those rich, colourful landscapes! After giving it a good shuffle, who should appear, but IV War. Are you kidding me? The Japaridze Tarot effectively snuck up behind me, threw a hessian sack over my head, and chucked me in the back of a van! I can see I have no choice but to go along for the ride.

Dutifully, I pulled out my journal, and started writing whatever I could come up with - "It looks like an upside down ghost horde facing off against an army of naked humans. Does it represent suppressing the subconscious, the spiritual? I'm having trouble get past its violent implications. I suppose I can see that it could represent times when we need to stand up for our worldview and impose our will. Metaphorically, perhaps some things are worth going to war for. The flipside is - are we being too tyrannical? Are we fighting for something that isn't worth it? There are times when we need to lead our troops into battle, and times when that is a futile, destructive quest. This doesn't look very glorious to me though." Grappling, grappling!

The Emperor is a card I rarely see. In fact, I can't even remember the last time it came up in a reading for a client, much less for myself. The only connection I really feel to it is that it is the birth card of one of my most beloved friends, and I sure don't see her reflected in this bleak scene. Given that I did have such a strong reaction to this version of it, though, I obviously have some pretty firm ideas about what The Emperor means. In the hope they could offer some guidance, I dragged out a few other Emperors in my collection and stared at them. What's with you guys? 

That strong, stable, ancient tree of the Wild Unknown is hardly about to shoot somebody. The Green Man, he's a little scary with his staff, I guess, but over his bubbling cauldron, he's more creator than destroyer. The Steampunk Emperor - inscrutable. One thing I didn't notice that now seems screamingly obvious to me, is that the Rider Waite Emperor is wearing armour beneath his robes. He might be reclining on his throne, but he's ready to jump up and whoop ass at a moment's notice. Huh. I obviously haven't looked up his skirts before. Perhaps physical conflict has never been far from The Emperor's reach.


The accompanying booklet describes IV War thusly - "... this card embodies the archetypal father possessing a worldly masculine energy... His power is often seen as the stabilising energy that counterbalances the feminine energy of The Empress and represents authority, social order, and control. ... The artist has chosen to portray a less harmonic facet of patriarchal power; the darker side of social power wherein emperors send other men off to war."

Maybe therein lies the key to my discomfort with this card. The Emperor himself is nowhere to be seen. He might be wearing armour back at the palace, but he's not going to get down here in the mud and squalor with his troops. I suppose that is implied by the more traditional Emperors - they are excellent delegators, after all - but here that reality is stark. This is not so much a depiction of the act of imposing one's will but of the potential consequences. Perhaps this card is to be read as calling out bad leadership, a chance to stop and question how one's decisions might be affecting others. 


The following day, I set the timer again and sat in meditation with IV War. This time, I focused more on visualising the scene, walking around in it, making it a sensory experience (incidentally, if you are interested in learning more about working with cards in this way, I recommend the Four Queens video, How to Pathwork with Tarot. There are also some great exercises like this in Tarot for Yourself by Mary K. Greer). I approached the crouched figure in the foreground, put a hand on her shoulder, and asked, "What happened here?" She replied, "Chaos." Man, I just love this exercise! All kinds of things bubble up from the depths of the subconscious! 

Chaos. That's an interesting keyword to attach to The Emperor archetype. Chaos is actually the antithesis of this card of discipline and order. This card could be depicting a place where The Emperor's energies are needed, where unrest and violence need to be transformed into peace and stability. Or, it could be showing us where discipline and order go too far and become oppression. IV War is toeing a fine line here! I do feel like this card is starting to unlock for me. I like the idea that it can be explained as either a need for or an excess of Emperor energy, although I think I'll always struggle to say to a client, "You just need to bring more War to this situation!" That's just really not my jam! Notice, too, that I'm still not quite comfortable with calling this archetype "War", even in this paragraph!


Later that day, I was pottering around, doing some reading and ruminating, and I had a sudden impulse to take out my Dark Goddess Tarot. It's not currently in my regular reading rotation, so it's packed safely away, but I just had a feeling it might have something to say about this whole War situation.

IV Sovereingty, The Morrigan, Celtic Goddess of the Blood. From the guidebook: "Prophesying after a battle, she speaks of peace, 'peace to the sky... strength in everyone.' The peace of the goddess is achieved by power, vigilance, and the willingness to shed blood, one's own and another's." It seems IV War is not without precedent! Because you're unsurprised by synchronous connections, you're just going to smile knowingly when I say that The Morrigan's army is traditionally naked.

Maybe it's because I like the idea of badass warrior goddesses, but this version of the fourth archetype of the Major Arcana is so much more accessible and comprehensible to me than War. However, I'm coming to understand that they essentially mean the same thing. I think I have been failing to see this archetype for the warrior king that it is. The Emperor, The Morrigan, War must be willing to impose order by force at times, and force can both disperse chaos and create it. You guys, I think I just "got" this card! 

It has been an interesting little journey, from rejecting and doubting this card to questioning, exploring, and finally, coming to an understanding with it. It did require some outside input - I feel like I've got a bit of a king's council situation going on with all these Emperors spread out around me - but I think I got there in the end. Most importantly, I feel like working with War has given me a deeper understanding of the traditional Emperor archetype that I think was lacking before. No doubt, now that the door has opened, I'll be seeing more of this card in the future!

What's your take on the Japaridze Tarot's fourth archetype? And how do you feel about The Emperor? I'd love to know! Please do share your thoughts in the comments.

Oh, and if you enjoyed this ramble around The Emperor, you may wish to subscribe to my blog by email! Sign up for future rambles here.

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Deck Interview: The Japaridze Tarot

Oooh mama! I am so excited to welcome The Japaridze Tarot into my collection. This deck has been around for a little while already (2014, according to the copyright on the box), but it only recently popped up on my radar. As soon as I saw those lush, lush images, I knew I had to have it! I have heard mixed reviews of this deck as a working deck, so we'll have to see if it does make its way into my reading rotation. It's pretty, but does it want to play? Only time and study will tell! 

So far, I've only glanced through the cards and the lovely, full colour booklet, but I already have a favourite card:

Would you just look at that. Those colours! What a hot fucking volcano goddess. You can feel her power rumbling! It strikes me that this deck would work well for pathworking and meditation, because don't you just want to fall into this image? It's very seductive. So rich! There's a whole world in this card.

The Japaridze and I are never going to get to know each other if we don't make proper introductions. Thus, a deck interview! Borrowed, as usual, from the wonderful Beth of Little Red Tarot. Let's get to work, shall we?

Umm, wowsers. That's some big, nothin' to fuck with energy you have going on here, Japaridze Tarot! Five out of six majors. The flippin' Death card straight off the bat. Yikes!

1. Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic? XIII Death

Obviously, this deck does not beat around the bush! Immediately, we are being taken on a journey, and a rather confronting one, at that! It seems the Japaridze Tarot is most interested in transformations, in the shedding of skins, and transitions from old ways of living to new.

I love the way the figure on this card is being drawn into a cycle, drawn into the land of death, but also into a red, womb-like space. This Death card is a chrysalis out of which something new can be born. This deck isn't afraid to lure us into dark places, and we need to trust that this exploration will prove to be for our own good.

2. What are your strengths as a deck? XI Strength

Ok, point taken! This deck is obviously a powerful tool. It embodies the particular kind of power that the Strength card represents - a kind of inner composure, a still, resonant kind of power, no force or brashness here. This deck is steadfast and supportive, but don't expect to be coddled by it! 

3. What are your limits as a deck? XXI The World

I don't even know what to say to this! I was literally laughing as I turned these cards because they are just throwing punch after punch! Reckoning with the limitations of The World is no small feat. Now that my nervous giggles have abated, I think the limitations of this deck might lie in the fact that it is so rich and full. It contains everything and more, and it won't spare any truths when reflecting that back to you. Reading with it might leave you grasping, overwhelmed. 

Also, its primary interest seems to be spiritual journeying. Don't ask it what to wear out on a Friday night, because it's only interested in taking you to the top of the mountain and showing you infinity. It'll definitely make you late for dinner! To get the best out of it, save it up for the big questions.

4. What are you here to teach me? IV War

I'm not at all surprised to see War appear in this reading, because it was one of the few cards I had a strong negative reaction to when flipping through the deck for the first time. The Emperor isn't an archetype I'm overly attached to, but I don't feel so great about interpreting it in this way. My first impression is that this is quite a negative, limiting way to think about The Emperor's energy. Obviously though, I have more to learn from this card!

Given the assumptions I brought to this, I think this deck is here to teach me to get some more beginner's mind going on. As soon as I saw War, I used my preconceptions about The Emperor to make a judgement about this card, but it's important not to cling to that judgement and be closed off to what the card can teach me. The Japaridze Tarot is obviously its own beast, and it won't be pigeonholed by anyone else's standards. I have to learn to accept it on its own terms.

5. How can I best learn from and collaborate with you? 0 The Fool

This really reiterates what we just talked about, the idea of beginner's mind. The best way to work with this deck is to leave your baggage at the door. It wants to take me on a new adventure, and I must approach it with an open mind and heart. We've already seen that this deck doesn't shy away from confrontation, so there may be times when working with it feels like treading a dangerous tightrope through a mad, gravity-defying circus. My level of comfort is really not this deck's main concern! If I want to work with it, it will be important for me not to fear or judge what it has to say. Instead, I'll have to plaster on my fool's grin and keep putting one foot in front of the other!

6. What is the potential outcome of our working relationship? Five of Fire

Once again, there is no coddling to be seen! The Five of Fire shows a serious confrontation - with skeletons! Am I about to be brought face to face with my mortality? We've already had the Death card come up today, so that is entirely possible!

I suspect The Japaridze Tarot and I may come to loggerheads at times. I can already tell that the ideas in this deck are quite different to my usual reading approach, so no doubt there will be moments when I feel as though it is pushing my buttons and will want to push it right back. In some ways, this card is an invitation - I might want to write off some aspects of this deck, or turn away from its tougher messages, but wouldn't it be so much more rewarding if I just let my guard down and got into the ring? It might not be pretty, but for all its beautiful paintings, this deck doesn't care much for pretty! This is down and dirty, full engagement. Take it or leave it!


Phew! That was intense! I think I've got a seriously powerful device on my hands here, and I can't wait to work with it more deeply and get to know it better. For now though, I'm going to step away and have a cup of tea. All those Majors have worn me out!

What are your thoughts on the Japaridze Tarot? Whether this is the first time you've seen it, or you've worked with it extensively, I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

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Trimming Borders, New Acquisitions, Podcasts, and More

Today, I thought, rather than posting a lengthy reading or tarot-related article, I'd just stop in and say hi. Hi! I hope you're well. In case you were wondering, and I know you were, here's what I've been up to this week!

I've discovered a favourite new hobby - trimming the borders off my tarot decks! I've long loved the way borderless cards look, but it wasn't until this past week that I had the right gear (and the courage) to give it a try myself. Look out world, I am addicted! Actually, I've only trimmed down two decks so far - a misprinted edition of the Wildwood Tarot I had, and my old copy of the Cosmic Tarot - but it's through sheer force of will that I haven't taken the knife to every deck I own! They just look so good freed from their borders! The art really opens up. Before I inflict it upon any other decks though, I will spend some time reading with these and see if I still like the borderless vibe. Stay tuned!

In case you're wondering, I bought a small photo trimmer from a craft store to do the bulk of the cutting, and I ordered one of these from ebay to round the corners. I did also wind up using a pair of very small, very sharp craft scissors to tidy the edges, because the trimmer was never totally accurate. It isn't a particularly difficult task, but I would urge caution if you are a perfectionist! It seems almost impossible, to me anyway, to get the trimmed cards 100% matchy matchy. I found that a lot of the images were actually printed slightly crooked on the cards, so trimmed down they do wind up being a little different in size. Also, the backs of the Cosmic Tarot don't match up with the images on the front, so do be mindful of that if you are considering trimming a deck and you think it will bother you. I'm not too fussed, but I can see that one more picky than I might drive themselves mad with it! If you are interested in taking the plunge, Seven Card Spread has an excellent tutorial here

In other news, last week, I added a new acquisition to my collection - the Japaridze Tarot. Ooooh! So pretty. I must admit, I was super excited to bring this one home, but I haven't had a chance at all this week to take it out and play. My week ahead is looking far less busy and social than the week just gone, so I look forward to more quiet evenings at home with the cards. I also have two other decks winging their way to me from overseas. Fingers crossed they make land soon and I can start using them all! 

In book reading news, I haven't dedicated as much time to reading as I would've liked this week, but I am slowly making my way through Phenomenal by Leigh Ann Henion. It's probably unfair to say since I'm only halfway through, but so far the book isn't quite adding up to more than the sum of its parts. It's interesting enough though, and if you like reading about faraway places, it's fun. I will say, too, that her writing about Hawaii, and the experiences she describes with the volcanos, are delightful and moving. If you have any interest in... shall we say, spiritual travel, I think it's worth picking this one up for that chapter alone!

What else has been filling my head? The excellent first episode of the Modern Mystic Podcast - seriously, GET ON THIS TRAIN RIGHT NOW! These gals are major magical babes, and you want to hear what they have to say! I also super enjoyed listening to Elizabeth Gilbert on the Robcast, and I've been epically binging on the inimitable Kelly-Ann Maddox's youtube channel. It's pointless of me to recommend her, because I'm literally the last tarot enthusiast in the known universe to get on board with her amazing, playful, smart, and informative work, so you must know her back to front already. On the off chance you're from some other, as-yet-undiscovered planet, get some Kelly-Ann Maddox in your ear immediately. She's the bomb.

Finally, the last thing rocking my world this week is the Alternative Tarot Network - the most supportive, interesting, and fun tarot community in town! This incredible network is the work of Beth from Little Red Tarot, and I cannot thank her enough for creating this space! THANK YOU, BETH! As far as I know, at the moment the community isn't open for new members, but if you subscribe to the Little Red Tarot Bits and Bobs mailing list, you'll be notified when the doors open again. Trust me, it'll be worth the wait! Plus, Beth's newsletter is great, so you'll want to subscribe anyway!

Before I sign off, I just want to remind you that I am now taking questions for my advice column blog series! If you have a pressing question and want to throw your hat in the ring, drop me a line, and you could score yourself a free tarot reading on your dilemma, right here on the blog! Don't be shy, friends! 

What's rocking your world right now? I'd love to know. Share, if you feel so inclined, in the comments!

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