Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes
Three of Cups and Five of Disks: Junk Mail Tarot
The squeaky hinge of the mail slot cover announced the arrival of the day’s offerings. “I should do some junk mail tarot!” I thought. Morgan Drake Eckstein of Gleamings from the Golden Dawn introduced this concept in the summer solstice blog hop of 2016. I pulled out the printed material stuck in the liminality between exterior wall and interior wall — a mailer from Kohl’s. What else did I have? Oh, look, here’s a Vitacost sale brochure from yesterday. Below that was the NCGR quarterly journal, which although technically shouldn’t count as it’s not junk mail, had practically no ads and no illustrations at all other than astrological charts, so wasn’t really useful anyway. Kohl’s and Vitacost. Vitacost was easy–the cover had a summery, cool, enticing photo of three watermelon ice pops. Three of Cups! Kohl’s had a big spread on watches. The main page of the spread had five watches. Seems like the Five of Disks to me. But there were some pairs of watches that might make a nice Two of Disks. I showed it to Hal. “Yeah, what those people in the snow need is five fancy watches,” he said. Humph. I started with the Vitacost ad.
Actually, I’ve been totally cheating when it comes to Junk Mail Tarot. Even though I haughtily discarded the NCGR journal as failing to meet the junk criteria, I have not been so discerning in the past. My first set of Junk Mail Tarot cards were taken from a National Geographic I had lying around the house after an earlier failed tarot collage project. Then I used the elegant quarterly magazine from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for my second set of cards. Now, using actual junk mail added some complications. With the magazines, I was able to find beautiful, artistic photographs, printed as illustrations, not marketing collateral. But the junk mail photos were being used to advertise. They had words all around them and over them. That brought me to an important question. Should my Junk Mail Tarot look like junk mail? Raising the question drew a rather obvious, “Well, yes.” It’s more clever. More real. More raw.
But then I have to take the words into consideration. Do they support the theme of the card? Three yummy popsicles makes a great Three of Cups. But what if the headline was “Sugar is bad for you”? That would not support the theme. In this case, however, the heading was “Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out” which is a great Three of Cups slogan. Although the phrase, “Free shipping over $49” doesn’t seem to bring to mind celebration, the other words, such as “Healthy Living, Delivered,” and even the circular title, “Vitavibes” seem appropriate to the Rider-Waite-Smith image we think of, with the three women dancing and toasting among the abundance of the harvest. OK. This one works.
But the five watches? A Mother’s Day ad. The headline read, “Make more memories. The best gift you can give Mom is more time with you.” If you superimpose those words over the RWS image of beggars trudging through snow, every one will read this card as representing a horrible daughter! You left your Mom out in the snow barefoot and in rags and forgot to pick her up on time! Of course, contrary to Hal’s assessment, I was thinking not of the RWS Five of Pentacles when I saw the image, but rather the Mercury in Taurus correspondence that I discussed earlier this month.
Because my previous sets of cards didn’t have words on them, I was sorely tempted to find the original images from these ads and use them without the commentary. I was able to cut out the watches and avoid the whole Mother’s Day theme. But searching for the Vitavibes watermelon pop art proved fruitless. Although I couldn’t find that image, I found a similar one from their blog post that contained the recipe. But in Google images I also found another photo, possibly from the same photo shoot as the cover art, with popsicles on a weathered blueish wooden backdrop. And a photo of nine pops. The Nine of Cups? Actually, what if I crop it down to six? Six popsicles makes a great Six of Cups! But how far afield should I allow myself to stray? This isn’t “Find Images on the Internet Tarot.” It’s “Junk Mail Tarot.” I decided to be strict with myself and limit my options to what came through the mail slot.
Three of Cups
The Three of Cups is associated with the second decan of Cancer, approximately the first ten days or so of July (specifically July 2 to 11). Popsicles and watermelon are iconic of summer and of the Fourth of July holiday celebrated at this time. The spring rains have cleared up. The sun is bright and hot. Melons and berries start beckoning from the garden or the grocer. We linger outside. During hot days we want to hydrate and stay cool. Watermelon is a perfect way to do both! And homemade frozen pops are a fun way to eat your watermelon!
Mercury rules the second decan of Cancer. Mercury is the planet of communication, commerce, and travel. Mercury is a fast planet, zipping back and forth and around and around and up and down. Cancer is the sign of the home, and is considered to bestow nurturing, emotional, and protective qualities. Mercury in Cancer feels like kids running through the sprinklers while watching mothers sip drinks and share secrets.
The image shown here offers our watermelon red ice pops against the watery blue chipped paint of weathered wood. It looks like swimming pools and hot sun and staying out late. The headline “Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out” drags us out of the house to enjoy the day. “Healthy Living, Delivered” conjures the image of Mom bringing us treats from her kitchen. The title “Vitavibes” translates as “life vibes.” The idiomatic use of “vibe” for vibration invokes the connotation of the emotional atmosphere of a situation or place. The emotional atmosphere of our life.
We celebrate the culmination of an early harvest, gardens planted, tended, and bringing forth shareable abundance. The sign of Cancer is considered to be someone who loves to cook for others. Mercury wants something quick so he can go out and play. Making frozen treats is a great summer family activity. Planting a garden in spring is quickly rewarded with greens and melons, some of the ingredients used here. Mercury in Cancer is everything that grows quickly, offers early rewards, and is pleasurable to share.
(Here are the other images I came up with. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!)
Five of Disks
When I was a kid I loved watches. I had quite a collection given to me for various occasions. A cloisonné bangle watch. A watch with changeable bands. A Timex digital sport watch. A gold (tone) watch. I liked watches that were small, delicate, pretty. I didn’t like the Timex. But it was functional. My favorite was the cloisonné one. But my watches always broke. I think some I aggressively overwound. Others ran on batteries, which eventually died (I’m not sure I understood they could be replaced easily and inexpensively). Each dead watch was saved in the drawer of my bedside table. I was sure they could be fixed. They would run again. But like the buttonless items forlorn in the laundry room, these watches were never checked off the to-do list.
If only I still had that collection of dead watches. That might be just the perfect image for the Five of Disks, commonly associated with poverty, lack, trouble, and difficulty. I heard a story once. A man went to an Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting. The leader said, “You haven’t hit rock bottom yet. You’re wearing a watch. You’ll leave. You’ll be back.” The watch proves we are serious, we are committed, we are reliable. Pawning it, losing it, breaking it, letting it wear out oppose that. We can’t be trusted. We’re completely lost.
As I discussed in my post Five of Pentacles – Mercury in Taurus, Mercury ruling the first decan of Taurus contrasts Mercury’s ephemerality with Taurus’ grounded, lasting nature. Taurean themes are ones of solidity, luxury, long-lasting elegance. Mercury passes quickly and is gone. He is not compatible with Taurus. The standard image of the Five of Pentacles, two beggars limping through the snow outside a warmly lit church, shares this contrast of what’s lasting and what’s changeable.
So does this ad. Memories are lasting. Time spent with loved ones is the most important gift. But when that’s not available, a watch will substitute. Watches last a long time (with the exception of mine!). There’s nothing like a watch for the synthesis of elegance and efficiency. A good watch is handed down as an inheritance, a wearable reminiscence, an ancestral invocation wrapped around wrist or tucked in pocket. But watches are products, they are things, they are eventually destroyed, worn down, broken. This symbol of stability is ultimately lost to the time it measures.
The material is opposed to the eternal. Some things last longer than others. Like the interconnecting gears of a watch, we click into sync with the thing that is longer lasting, nicer, more reliable. Small gears ticking off fast seconds give way to slowly turning hour hands. A gold watch represents decades on the job. Father’s pocket watch carries a lifetime’s memories in a machine. What is longer lasting than this? That which transcends time. That which controls time. The illusion encapsulated in that little knob that changes the time. Did you know that knob is called the crown? The crown sits on the head of the king, but is symbolic of the divine right that empowers him. When we use it to change the hands of our watch, we invoke the power of eternity. Don’t wind it too hard.
(Here’s my alternate image, with the words removed. Do you prefer the junk mail look or the wordless image?)
Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.