Mother Tarot - 2 of Pentacles - Rohrig Tarot

When Fish Bones Were My Tarot Teacher – Gaian Tarot

10 of Cups - Radiant Rider-Waite on Mother Tarot
Radiant Rider-Waite
fish bones were my Tarot teacher - Mother Tarot - Gaian Tarot
Gaian Tarot

Fish bones as a Tarot teacher? Yes indeed.

Remember when as kids we were all told not to judge a book by its cover? I find it amusing that even though we think we have learned our childhood lessons, we can often get shown as adults that we need to recall them again. Fish bones on a 10 of Water (Cups) Tarot card  reminded me of this lesson.

I like to think of myself as open to changing thought and circumstance. Sometimes I find myself not living up to my lofty expectations of myself. A case in point was my initial reaction to the 10 of Water card in the Gaian Tarot, by Joanna Powell Colbert. Having learned Tarot in the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition,  I was used to seeing happy families and rainbows on the 10 of Cups card. But here, I was being presented with dead fish carcasses! What in the world was this all about?!

The well-written guide book that comes with the Gaian Tarot deck indicated that the fish bones are those of salmon who have already spawned, laid their eggs, and then died – as is their normal life cycle. (Ok, I can accept that.) The red, swimming salmon in the background are those still spawning and soon to lay their eggs. (Ok, so that means they are soon to die, too, right?) None of this fit the happy and cheery energy I normally feel about the 10 of Cups card. Inside myself I was recoiling from this disturbing (to me) card of death. I was alarmed by this image and figured I would have to find a way to think of this card in happier terms if I was going to be able to use this deck.

Fast forward a few months and one day I got asked to do a reading for a person who was having  some work-related issues in a care-giving field. She did not elaborate on the problems, but they were getting to her so much she was wondering if she should start looking for a new job at another location – or if she should find a new line of work altogether. I felt prompted to use the Gaian Tarot for her reading and imagine my surprise and dismay when this particular card showed up in the spread, reversed. Those darned dead fish were glaring at me and I knew they were important here, but what in the world could they be telling me?

Fish bones were my Tarot teacher - Mother Tarot - 10 of Water-Gaian Tarot
Gaian Tarot

And then, in a flash, I knew. This woman had given her all in her work, down to the very last drop, but she was not getting the positive emotional return she had once received. Nor was she getting from her colleagues the support and recognition she deserved for her efforts. For her, changing jobs – much less possibly changing fields – was going to create some heart-wrenching decisions. She confirmed that what I had described was exactly what she had been dealing with for quite a while. How hard that must have been for her.

The reason I am sharing this story is to remind us all not to judge a card by our initial impression of it, especially if it is a negative impression. Had I not had those depressing dead fish on this card, I might have missed entirely what Spirit knew that woman needed to hear. This card came up in the spread because it was the right message, at the right time, for her.

I am grateful I was able to help her as a direct result of this most unusual card. My thanks to the artist, Joanna Powell Colbert, who created it. Her vision  gave me a broader view of the 10 of Water (Cups) card than I had ever had before. I will always remember the lesson I learned that day, when fish bones were my Tarot teacher.

There are bound to be many other stories like this that Tarot readers have experienced. It will be fun and illuminating to hear about your fish bones kinds of lessons. Please feel free to share them in the comments below. You can either click on this comment link or on the ‘leave a comment link’ immediately below.


To read a post on another lesson I learned in the do-not-judge-a-Tarot-card-by-its-image department, click here.