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Tarot Reflections

  July 15, 2004

Wisdom Reading - Fate vs. Destiny
James Wells

James Wells is a Toronto-based Tarot Consultant, Reiki Master, weaver of rituals, and workshop facilitator. His mission is to provide sacred space for soul work and constructive feedback so that all may enjoy insight and healing. He can be reached through his website.


Dear Friends,

A short while ago, some friends, students, and I were chatting about fate and destiny. Are they the same thing? Are they different from one another? If they were different, how would we define or explain each? If they're the same, why are we even having this conversation? And on it went. This seemed like good food for a wisdom reading.

First, I must confess my personal biases. I believe that fate and destiny are two different beasts. Also, I'm more of a believer in choice than in fate. In spite of that, I decided to play fair and return the first card to the deck and reshuffle, just in case the tarot had different ideas on this matter and wanted them to be the same thing. The deck we're using today is the Toscano Tarot.

1. What is fate?
6 of CUPS
The fairy-like garden scene suggests that fate is a fairy tale, a wish, and a pretty fantasy. A large castle acts as a stronghold, something that is difficult to penetrate or break through. This makes me think that the whole concept of fate is something that is solidly implanted in much of humanity, and is a tough nut to crack. There is a person pushing a full wheelbarrow. Fate pushes things upon humanity, sends it our way, and then dumps the goodies or the crap on us before returning for another load. It says that life happened to us (note: my own anti-fate bias may be showing here). This card's six-ness (in the system I use) and its cup-ness tell me that fate is about our predictable relatedness with life and our reliable and unvarying interactions with other people. Many tarot commentators see any 6 of Cups as containing elements of nostalgia, memory, the past, and childhood. So perhaps fate is something we desire to cling to so that we can remain in a sort of evolutionary childhood.

    Six of Cups
To pull this all together, fate is an infantile way of relating to life, which says that life does things to us. It tells us that all that we do and all that we are never swerves from a regular, predictable pattern. There's no way to break out of it - it just is.


2. What is destiny?
This is a Major Arcanum, which suggests (to me anyway) that destiny is something greater than fate, deeper than waiting for the next barrel-load of stuff to plop into our lives. The High Priestess says that destiny is fluid and malleable, like the phases of the moon. Destiny is more obscure - sometimes we experience it head-on, at other times we need to wave through the fog to find it. So there's an implication of something we actively seek out. Indeed, on this particular Priestess card, there's a high cliff, something to climb or strive for, a goal, a destination (note the similarity to "destiny"). There's a sense of wisdom and ancientness about this card, a hint of destiny as our individual soul expression. The image evokes thoughts of the Pythia at Delphi, above whose entranceway were the words "Know Yourself".

Perhaps destiny is the deep, wise, and unique spiritual self we encounter when we make the effort to get to know it. However, it is fluid and flexible enough to accommodate the shifting tides of our personalities and circumstances.

I'd love to hear other people's ideas about these two cards as they relate to our topic. Please do send me your feedback!

All my best,

Illustrations from the Toscano Tarot by Kimberly Fordham. See our deck review for ordering information.


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