Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Guest Post: The Four Sages Tarot Spread

Long time readers will recall a student of mine named Puck.  He's all grown up now, and has this tarot spread to share with you:

The Four Sages Spread

Some Background
Here's a tarot spread based on the lulav, a Jewish ritual performed on the holiday of Sukkot. In this ritual, Jews mutter an incantation while waving around bushels of herbs in order to ensure that God grants us rain. Oh, but you aren't allowed to call it magic (or else the boring members of the Jewish community will get angry at you).
The herbs (or, rather, species) used in this ritual are willow, myrtle, palm and citron. One of the reasons given for these plants being the ones used in the ritual is that they represent 4 types of Jews. The willow has neither smell nor taste and represents a Jew who neither performs good deeds nor studies Torah. The myrtle has smell but no taste and represents the Jew who does good deeds but learns no Torah. The palm has taste but no smell and represents the Jew who studies Torah but does no good deeds. Finally, the citron, which has both taste and smell, represents the Jew who both performs good deeds and studies Torah.

Now for the spread
Three cards are arranged in the center in a fan shape. One card is placed either to the right or left of the fan, depending on whether the reader is right- or left-handed.
To expand or clarify your spread, you can have up to three cards in the "myrtle" position, two in the "willow" position and 4 arranged one over the other in the "palm" position. You can also place up to 4 cards around the "citron," one on each side.

Here's the full explanation of each card position:
There is a story that is told regarding the four sages.
Four men entered pardes (the Orchard) — Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Acher (Elisha ben Abuyah) and Akiba. Ben Azzai looked and died; Ben Zoma looked and went mad; Acher destroyed the plants; Akiba entered in peace and departed in peace.
Ben Zakai
The aravah (willow) has neither smell nor taste. Ben Zakai walks into the Orchard and lacks the capacity to exist there. He dies. He could neither experience the Divine directly, nor through learning of the Divine. This card represents your downfall, something that you are unable to handle or something that is hidden from you.

Ben Zoma
The hadass (myrtle) has smell but no taste. Ben Zoma got the experience of the Divine, but no way to make sense of it. This led him to insanity. This card is something that you know from experience, but must study formally to master.

Ben Avuya
The lulav (date palm) has taste but no smell. Ben Avuya did not receive the experience of the Divine, only the theory. This led him to destroy the greenery. The plants became engulfed in flames as soon as he looked at them, either because of his hatred for the orchard or his inability to make sense of the orchard. This card is something you have done your research on, but have yet to fully understand.

The etrog (citron) has both smell and taste. Akiva was able to experience both the theory and practice of communication with the Divine and enters and exits the Orchard safely, having been nourished by its fruit. This card represents that which you are in control of, that which is beneficial to you and that which is, was or will be revealed.

As you place cards down, I suggest saying the following:
"Four sages enter the orchard. The first dies"
Place the first card (the right of the fan).
"The second goes mad"
Place the second card (the left of the fan).
"The third burns down the greenery"
Place the third card (the center of the fan).
"The fourth enters and leaves in peace."
Place the fourth card (to the far left or right of the fan).

So that's about it. The spread tells you one thing to look for, one thing to avoid and two things to work on. Simple enough.

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