A little study in Romantic Masculinity. The Emperor and the Strength card in Love.

It can be frustrating, when learning tarot, to have cards show up in a spread that can seem like they relate in no way to the subject at hand.

Here’s you, all fired up, reading about that fantastic guy you met the other night, and all you get are Pentacles and Wands. Where are the Cups? The Sun? The Lovers?…or…sigh..the Three of Swords?

Where is the Rrrrrrromance?

But there is romance, or issues related, in every single card in the tarot deck. Yes, it’s true. Every card is a romance card.

Why? Because tarot is entirely…entirely….about context. Sure, there are traditional interpretations for every card, but that is your jumping off point. Your diving board, as it were….the pool, though, is the context of your question, the placement of the card, the weird and wooly layers of your mental landscape and the energies that surround the question.

Every card in the tarot is a love card because every card in the tarot has a love context….and given that about 80% of the readings I do are relationship oriented, I became rather fascinated with the relationship manifestations the cards that seem none too emotional by sheer necessity! Surely these cards are saying something…but what?

And how do you know when to believe yourself?

For example: The Two of Swords has a traditional definition of “stalemate, cool emotions, and a retreat to fight another day”. But in a romance spread it becomes the card of the emotionally unavailable, the avoidant, and the rejection of love offered. You know the super fun feeling of someone blowing very hot and cold? Came on so strong and now you are chasing after him and feeling awful and unsure? Sigh. Yeah. That’s the Two of Swords in a love spread.

(Oh, and don’t ever wait around for men like him, ever, by the way, but that’s another topic for another time, and no one listens to me on that one anyway.)

Context. It’s something you develop with time and experience and reading after reading after reading. You will, with time, learn the way the cards speak to you, specifically. You will learn that the Eight of Pentacles traditionally means plugging away at a task with small gains, but in a relationship spread means someone who will stick it out: the guy who actually will go to therapy with you. The woman who is loyal and committed to things growing better day-by-day. They are the stand up person who doesn’t run at the slightest challenge. You know, the increasingly rare species known as “an adult”.

With practice, it’s easy to see how a “small” card is actually full of information.

Let’s look at two sides of a coin… the “Masculinity Expressed” coin, to be specific, in two cards: The Emperor and the Strength card. Here’s some manly goodness, but one is definitely better than the other (she wrote, as if her opinion were objective fact) as we will soon see.

Here’s THE EMPEROR, as defined in my book, “Love Tarot for Beginners”:



 Traditional Masculinity. Leadership. Oppression. Rigidity. Power. Overwhelming force. Conservative.


 Most of the time, The Emperor is a person in your life of great importance or influence to you at the time of the reading. This can be a good thing. This can be a neutral thing, if you get my meaning. This card can just represent The Man in Question, and nothing more, except signaling that he is important to you!On the other hand, if you are reading about character traits, and wondering what kind of person you are dealing with, then I should give you both the good and the… less than good!

 The Good

If you like traditionally masculine, protective men, well, it’s your lucky day! The Emperor is an excellent provider, often a leader in the community or his career, and oh, boy, would your mom approve. MANLY.

 The Less Than Good

Did I mention manly? Well, it’s not cute, funny, and charming Nick Offerman manly. It’s usually the “I wash my hair with dish soap because shampoo is for girls” manly. It’s “I call women ‘gals’ or ‘females’, and wow, they are sweet, but irrational. Am I right?” manly, and that sort of masculinity can be a bit fragile. Brittle. Rigid. At its core, it’s an insecure and precarious image to maintain, if not expressed in a mature way.

 Sure, he’s an excellent protector and provider, if you are someone who needs a lot of protection and provision, but your tears make him either angry or confused, and this kind of “protection” sometimes comes with a price, whether it’s something “small,” like resentment, or something large, like oppressive abuse.

 In his more benign aspects, when you have a problem of any kind, he is sure he can solve it with graph paper and a pencil. His natural leadership abilities can get twisted up in the wrong hands and become his natural “Let’s oppress everyone to make sure I get my way” abilities. There are a lot of little Emperors in the world. Some of them even run for President.

Be particularly careful if this card shows up in a spread with The Five of Pentacles. This suggests a strong attraction to “bad boy” types who talk a very good game, but are really unavailable emotionally. They might look great on paper, but words are not deeds, and rare is it that the words and deeds of this combination match.

 So, if you dig this guy, let’s hope he is that magic blend of traditional Knightly Protector and Sensitive Lover. He exists, but he’s a bit of a Manicorn, so good luck to you! If it is clear that this is not a person, and merely a situation, then you can read it like this: You will be dealing with a steamroller of a situation. Get ready to resist, evade, or submit.


“Back to the beginning. A man who is currently insignificant in your life will greatly increase in importance to you.”


And here is STRENGTH, from the same (totally awesome) book:



 Gentle force applied with skill. Strong character. The ability to master your impulsiveness and be effective in the world.


 The lover that possesses the characteristics of the Strength card is a wonderful partner indeed. As a person or a situation, the traits of calm, self- restraint, wisdom, kindness, strong moral character, gentleness, perseverance, patience, maturity, and attractiveness prevail.

The man who is represented by the Strength card is a dreamboat; the woman, a gentle, wise, sexy, confident and intelligent paramour.

This is the card of the grown-up. Possessed of high levels of emotional intelligence, this card represents someone you can introduce to friends and family with pride. This is someone who doesn’t run at the first sign of trouble; is gentle, but firm in their feeling; has learned from hard-won experience; and is no pushover. Gentle confidence is the order of the day.

Don’t mistake this for dull, and, if you do, carefully examine your own issues with intimacy. For some of us, when it comes to our love lives, the only thing that feels right is conflict, and the only thing that feels normal is feeling bad or confused or unsure. Sometimes fear of intimacy doesn’t show up as running away from someone, but running toward the wrong someone. That way, you can have the passionate experience of intense desire, longing, and “love” without ever having to worry about the terror of having this love actually returned.

As an experience, it means everyone involved is sane, kind, warm, and wanting the best outcome for all concerned.

This card boosts the good qualities of the positive cards it is near, and softens the dark aspects of the negative.

It’s a great card to have show up in a love spread.


Everyone is going to play nice, or you will have the self-control, the maturity, to do the right thing, in the right way, and handle it like a boss.”


See? Both are about take charge, manly men, but one of them is sex on a stick, and one of them is, well, Dad.

Maybe you want a Daddy…far be it from me to tell you that this is a bad thing. In fact, if you are kink oriented, The Emperor might be the man of your dreams, as he is dominant and protective and old school and controlling. Sometimes, that’s a perfect fit.

On the other hand, Mr. or Ms. Strength are the type with a sexiness that comes with quiet confidence, earnest expression of feeling, and the courage to take emotional risks and win.

BOTH of these types would be really handy in a zombie apocalypse, for sure, but only one of them might share the spoils captured along the way.

SO! Your personal “knowing”…something which will always be a jumbled up expression of traditional definition, personal experience, and gut feeling, is something to be trusted, once you have the traditional card definitions nice and firmly tucked into the wrinkles of your brain. Get to know your tarot deck backwards and forwards, and then the deeper layers of meaning will show themselves to you in ways that will surprise.

You will eventually realize you aren’t making it up…you aren’t winging it. You actually know, and then the real fun begins.





The Missing Knight of Swords: A damn near perfect metaphor.



Today, thanks to a very kind reader, I found out that a card is missing from my book, Love Tarot for Beginners. It is not the worst thing that has ever happened to me by a long shot, and in a few days the updated manuscript will be ready to go for printing and downloading, and all will be well. (I will include the missing excerpt below!)

(Edit: Paperback now updated! All new purchases will have our missing Knight. Kindle to follow shortly.)

My first thought was OF COURSE IT WAS THE KNIGHT OF SWORDS…..That’s…so perfect.


Here he is:



Unpredictable and wild young man. Information given in a tactless manner.


Oh look, it’s Danger Boy. Sigh. Handsome and charming and devil-may-care, here is the one that will sweep you off your feet and then drop you as soon as you start to get used to all the heady deliciousness of it all.

The sexy, but emotionally distant man that you want to “win”, because he is a challenge? This guy.

The man who gets recruited for the CIA? This guy.

Is that a promise? No. There are exceptions to this. Sometimes the Knight of Swords means there is a smart, intense, and sexy guy is in your life, and he doesn’t suffer fools lightly. Can you match that energy? Then he might be your guy, and you two can be the intense couple in all black that hangs out in the corner at parties and wonders how long they have to make small talk before they can go home.

Otherwise, you might find him a bit…frosty, if great in the sack.


WHOOSH. What just happened? Did you get swept up in something that feels out of your control? Hold on to your knickers. Things might be getting very exciting, very soon.


That’s right. The Knight of Swords is portrayed as exciting and upbeat and unpredictable and tactless, but really, what it boils down to is this: The Knight of Swords is a fuckboi. OF COURSE he went missing from my book.

That’s simply too much of a commitment.






You can’t make someone love you, and other truths we pretend are not true.

The Lovers and The Tower

Life Changing Awesome or a Really Bad Time? Could be either! Whee!


There is a very pervasive and understandably appealing idea that you can, though sheer force of will and possibly specialized, targeted, frankly manipulative behavior, win the heart of someone who might otherwise not give you the time of day.

It is a comforting thought. If you only make all your reasonable needs teeny teeny tiny, and just Become the Magical Mate of Their Dreams, they will drop their defenses or apathy and just perk right up and be awesome to you.

Then they will love you, and commit, and you will be so happy, and all the hard work you did landing that fish will be so worth it, because LOVE.

This is something akin to putting on a very elaborate costume for a date, having the date go swimmingly, and then realizing if you want to keep the romance going, you are going to need to keep that costume on forever. And ever….and ever.

Dance clown, dance.

It doesn’t work. You can only be Not You for so long, and some people have a very short shelf life for this behavior. The amazing guy who suddenly needs time with friends, now that he thinks you are in the bag…a mere month in. The cool girl who suddenly isn’t so easy going and maybe doesn’t really love football as much as you thought. If you go into a romance playing a role, you will be exhausted sooner than you think. You know this. Yet, we keep doing this.

The combination of The Lovers and The Tower together in a reading can seem confusing, but that’s only because it REALLY IS CONFUSING, and here is why: This combination can be seen as either wildly good, or a nightmare, and it’s all about the moment when the roles can no longer be played, and the “real” both of you decides to show up.


The Lovers is the big brother of the Two of Cups. When The Lovers show up, Feelings are Stirred. This isn’t just a flirtation. This is fierce stuff, possibly obsessive if badly expressed, and sometimes indicative of a profound crush between to people who are not entirely single. Paired with The Tower, whose explosive quality is all about the NOW, (as in, when the Tower appears the reading will manifest in days, rather than weeks or months), we have keg of gunpowder and everyone is throwing matches for funsies.

Here’s where it gets weird. This combination, oh so rarely, can mean you met the person who will Rock Your World in a Great Big Way, and it’s a good thing. It’s a magical thing. It’s a thing that can change your life, and it happens. Good lordy I wish that for you, and everyone who hurts and wants. Who doesn’t want that?

Ok someone, maybe, but they aren’t here.


Alas, though, more often than not, it is that extraordinary moment in a not-working, poorly fitting relationship when someone just…drops…the…act. They stop pretending they are Mr. or Ms. Perfect For You and just pull away, or snarl at you in resentment of the role they have chosen to play (or you do that yourself!), or someone does something catastrophically harmful and the whole house of cards comes down, and no one quite understands what happened, and wow, who the hell are YOU?

No good. So what to do? Fit. Are they a good fit?…Knowing who is a good fit for you is your best bet, so knowing what YOUR needs are, and valuing them, is everything. I know what you are thinking…you are thinking “Oh PLEASE, like I don’t know this!”…..right..sure…but how often have you ignored these basic needs? I’m betting often, and his name was Chad, at least once.

I’m not allowed any more Michaels, myself.

We often ignore the many painful little signs our minds and hearts give us that tell us this is not a good fit and will eventually collapse in a heap of hurt and confusion. We ignore them a lot. We pretend we can be with someone who is of a completely different ideology than us because we Just Won’t Talk About It, or the Sex Is Good. We pretend we Want Children when we really Don’t Want Children. Maybe he got the impression, somehow, that you are Open to an Open Relationship when you are No Effing Way on that.  I know someone who married a slender woman in spite of having a strong preference for larger women. Very. Strong. Preference. That went really well for all involved. Good times.

So, discernment of fit is everything. We are so used to pretzeling ourselves to fit what we think the Person of Interest desires, but in truth, the love that is easy long term is the love that was easy at the start. Great sex because you are compatible. Enough interests shared that you can do stuff together while also doing your own thing. Same ideologies. Same politics, if that is a passion. Similar taste in food and adventure and new experiences. A matching communication style. Matching kink.

….and most profoundly…Both of you want the same thing, whatever it is, in the way of relationship. Or else…


You don’t have to be perfect. Your weird just needs to match their weird in ways either complimentary or similar. If you have that, love is, at a fundamental level, pretty effortless.

I know. I used to think that was horseshit too. Then it happened to me.


Good luck out there.




(Deck featured is the beautiful and classic Aquarian Tarot)