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Tarot Psychotherapy with the Birth Cards (Part 2)
by Elinor Greenberg, PhD, CGP, CPTR
Editor's Note from Lynda Martin: This article is the second in a four-part series on how a highly credentialed psychotherapist uses Tarot in her therapy. See Part 1 here. Part 2 shows how to calculate and use two (sometimes three) birth cards to identify the focus of your lifelong learning. Part 3 is a case-study, and Part 4 talks about some possible objections. I always love to see ways that Tarot can get more respect and help more people! (The entire article is available at www.thetarotschool.com in the Articles section.)
How to Calculate Birth Cards
If my client expresses an interest, I go on to calculate his or her Birth Cards by adding the month, day, century and year of their birth together. In most cases the total can then be reduced to only two major arcana numbers which then become the Birth Cards. Once in a great while, one will get a birth date that reduces to three numbers, such as a Sun, Wheel, Magician (19 = 10 = 1). These people will have three important aspects to their life lessons instead of the usual two. For the purposes of Birth Card Continuum work the Fool (number 0 in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck) is not used as a Birth Card as it is assumed that we are all equally "Foolish."
For example, if my client was born on July 8, 1978; I add 7 + 8 + 19 + 78 together to get 112. I then add the first two digits, 11, to the third digit, 2, for a total of 13. Then I add 1 + 3 and get 4. This gives me the two major arcana cards that correspond to those key numbers: 13 = Death and 4 = the Emperor.
Wald and Ruth Ann Amberstone are not the only tarot innovators who use one's birth date and other significant dates to calculate relevant major arcana cards, but they are the only ones that I know of who use two and sometimes three of them in this particular way that made them ideal for my purposes. There are also some differences in how various writers calculate Birth Cards. For those of you who would like more detailed information about Wald and Ruth Ann's Birth Card work, there are a set of tapes that can be purchased from the Tarot School. In this article I refer to Wald and Ruth Ann's Birth Cards system as "Birth Cards Continuum" work as a way of differentiating it from other systems.
How I Use the Birth Card Continuum in Psychotherapy
Once I have calculated my client's Birth Cards, I work with these two cards as if they represent two ends of a continuum. A person with "Death-Emperor" Birth Cards, for example, would presumably need to work on issues associated with both cards, but individuals would differ as to where on the continuum their major issues would be.
Towards the Death card end of the continuum are all the issues that relate to letting go of the old and welcoming the new, accepting the inevitability of change and transformation, and making peace with death. Towards the Emperor side of the continuum are the issues that relate to a desire to take on responsibility for others and to control, stabilize, organize and fight for one's personal "kingdom." The Emperor resists any change that he does not personally plan and initiate, while Death represents an irresistible and uncontrollable force that transforms anything it touches.
People who have these Birth Cards are assumed to be working on life lessons having to do with this continuum. They may have achieved relative mastery over one end, the Emperor side, for example; while struggling with the other, the issues associated with Death; or issues relating to both Birth Cards may be equally relevant to them.
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About the Author
Elinor Greenberg, PhD, CGP, CPTR has been a practicing psychotherapist for over 30 years. Dr. Greenberg is a teaching member of the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy; former faculty member of The Masterson Institute for the Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy of Borderline, Narcissistic and Schizoid Disorders; and is in the National Registry for Certified Group Psychotherapists. She has been studying tarot since 1995 and is psychology consultant to The Tarot School where she earned a Third Degree in Tarot. She is a member of B.O.T.A. and has been certified as a professional tarot reader by the American Tarot Association. Dr. Greenberg has developed and teaches her own unique blend of Tarot and psychological Counseling that she calls “Tarot Counseling” at both tarot conferences and psychotherapy institutes. Dr. Greenberg can be reached at: email@example.com.