Blind Buddha and the Two of Swords

In recent weeks, I’ve been obsessing over tarot decks. Looking at deck reviews and scanning kickstarter and etsy has made for an enjoyable pastime in the little gaps of between making meals and helping the kids with distance learning. Although it’s getting hard to resist purchasing all of the ones that I instantly fall in love with, I’ve been able to limit myself to one oracle deck and one tarot deck, and I’m really proud of myself for that.

The tarot deck I got is Rider Waite Smith inspired. For the past year or so, I’ve been concentrating on Marseille and Lenormand after taking the Rune Soup Premium Member course on tarot and Camelia Elias’s Lenormand Foundation course.  Although I started reading with a Rider Waite Smith deck, it’s been a while since I used one. Until I took those courses, I’d always refer to the little white book that came with the deck which got tiresome and took the enjoyment out of fortunetelling for me.

I was excited to look at the new deck after learning how to read images grounded in the visual evidence of the cards. I was curious in how I would see the familiar RWS images with this new technique, and how it would effect my readings.

As I was flipping through the deck, I was stunned when I encountered the Two of Swords. A recent memory of my 7 year old daughter in almost the exact same situation as the woman depicted surfaced and stopped me cold. Of all of the tarot card images to have a literal experience with, I didn’t expect that one.

Pamela Coleman Smith’s Two of Swords image of a blindfolded woman in white with her back to the sea holding two swords at the ready had always disturbed me since encountering it as a teenager. Echoes of strange initiation ordeals, fighting unseen foes all alone, and the risk of falling backward into the sea made me shiver more often than not. I never really believed its LWB meaning “Conformity and the equipoise it suggests, courage, friendship, concord in a state of arms” (excerpted from the LWB, US Games).

Rider Waite Smith Tarot deck. Two of Swords

My daughter takes karate, and the memory that rushed forth is from one of her classes a few months ago. At the end of the kids karate class, they play games. One of the most requested games is called Blind Buddha. The child, dressed in their white ghi, is blindfolded and sits cross-legged in the middle of the dojo. They are given a foam sword (sometimes two), and the other children (the ninja) get into position at the edges of the mat. The Sensai then rings a bell and places it in front of the blindfolded child who is the “Blind Buddha”. One by one the Sensai  nods to the children to start silently creeping toward the blindfolded child in order to steal the bell without being noticed. If the Blind Buddha hears them, they point the sword at the ninja or tap them and the ninja returns to the starting position. The game ends when the bell is successfully stolen.

I’ve witnessed this game many times in the dojo. No matter what the age or how giggly they are before the game starts, once they are blindfolded the serious face of the woman on the Two of Swords descends on them and they are ready.

The memory of that experience made me see what’s really on the card. It clicked. It’s a game. One where the senses are tested and where concentration is required. The sea at her back isn’t threatening, but an ally. She only needs to defend 180 degrees and not a full 360 degrees like the kids at the dojo.

Depending on the question and the context of the surrounding cards, one could be the woman with the swords (the Blind Buddha) or one of the ninja trying to tap her, or just a mom watching from beyond the mat.

This really is very different than the pip style or Marseille decks where two swords can mean much more in their simplicity and context. Reading the pips – Are the swords crossed in anger or sparring? Conflict or cooperation? I’m not sure if the RWS style is more limiting in its imagery or if gives more options. It might be a case of locking the doors, but opening the windows.

Celtic Tarot by Courtney Davis. A pip style Two of Swords.

I’m still in the getting to know you phase with the new deck, but it’s going well so far. Recently, I asked a question and thought maybe I’d go all majors, but was too lazy to pull them out. I ended up pulling all majors for the 5 card spread. I think that’s a good sign. The readings that I’ve been doing have been very clear, and there is no LWB in sight.



Note: Header photo decks are: Dame Darcy Mermaid Tarot; Green Witch Tarot by Ann Moura & Kiri Leonard, Illuminated Playing cards by Caitlin Keegan, Rider Waite Smith, Tarot de Marseille by Jodorowsky & Camoin, 2 of Spades by Venetian Las Vegas playing cards.

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