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Hidden faces in the Rider Waite type decks

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 16 Sep 2002, and now archived in the Forum Library.



Alissa  16 Sep 2002 
In the past when reading from intuition only, I related all the cards whose faces were hidden (6 swords, 8 cups, 3 wands mostly) to journeys that were beginning, and whose outcome was uncertain. The inability to look the situation in the face, and see it, was what I was working with, and the journeys were either of the self (or job related), emotional, or were business/opportunities related.

But, there are plenty of other cards whose faces are also hidden -- 10 swords (face down in the mud), 10 wands (buried in work), 7 cups (bedazzled by the options before you), or 10 cups (focussed on family).

And there are the cards with faces that are obscurred (5 cups, 6 wands, 9 swords).

Beyond the standard card interpretations, what do these hidden faces suggest to all of you? 


Mojo  16 Sep 2002 
When I saw the subject of this thread, I got all excited because I thought it was going to be a puzzle just like I remember from all the magazines and comics I used to read as a kid (how many indians can you find hidden in the picture?)

This is a great subject, Alissa. When I teach Tarot, I want my students to look at every minute detail and include it in their story for the cards. I have often challenged them with the hidden or obscured faces. I'll be really interested to hear the responses! 


ihcoyc  16 Sep 2002 
IIRC, most of the people in the RWS deck who have faces hidden are also draped in capes or robes. Not only have their faces been concealed, but their sexes have usually been concealed as well. At least, when they appear individually, and they aren't doing something like being blindfolded or covering their face.

I suppose the fellow on the 3 of Wands could be interpreted as either sex, but I usually "see " him as male. Same with the 10 Wands.

On the other hand, the 5, 7, and 8 Cups people could be any sex, as could the 10 Swords. I usually see the cloaked person in 6 Swords as female, and the gondolier as male, for no better reason than that she is accompanied by a child.

Bearing in mind that these drawings were made in or before 1909, I suspect that several were drawn to deliberately make the figures in the scenes sexually ambiguous. The Wand scenes typically reflect male roles, at least as such were understood in the Edwardian period, and all of the protagonists on those cards are male IIRC. Several lone female figures appear among Cups and Swords, and one in Pentacles. 


Alissa  17 Sep 2002 
Feelin silly, but I don't understand/not familiar with the IIRC abbreviation ...?

Ohhh yessss blindfolded... I can't remember if I caught that as a hidden face as well.

Obscuring sexuality makes perfect sense (thinking World Dancer conotations here as well).

The cloak of 5 cups often suggests to me, when reading, someone who has "wrapped" him/herself in mourning and grief, and unable to see anything else in their life but that sadness. So the action of that scene certainly works into an illustration with the face being hidden or obscurred....

Hmmm still pondering, and looking forward to reading more input :) 


catlin  18 Sep 2002 
Hi alissa,

Great you brought this subject!!!

B/W there are some more things related to hidden faces: J. Fiebig mentions in his books the double face in the female person on the 6 of cups and we have here discussed the matter of the HIgh Priestesses robe in which the face of a wizard is disguised. Ok, this is slightly off-topic but I just wanted to bring them again into consideration. 


Alissa  18 Sep 2002 
Catlin, I went running for my Universal Waite deck to see these, but can't find either...?

I see one figure in the background of the 2 children on the 6 cups...? That person's face is turned away though, and I NEVER noticed it before, so that was wild to see that detail jump out for the first time.

But I don't see the wizard in the High Priestess' robe...? maybe sorta down by where the fold of her robe falls over the crescent, there's kinda a sideways face there... is that it?

Guess I should go find the thread you mention too... hmmmmm 


catlin  19 Sep 2002 
Hi alissa,

Yep, this is indeed the face mentioned in the folds of the robe of the High Priestess.

The other face in the 6 of cups is hidden when you reverse the card. Look at the girL's hair, there is also a kind of face hidden (this is at least what J. Fiebig mentions in his books).

The thread is a pretty early one, maybe it is gone in the great crash at a.net last year. I had started a thread as IMO the folds in the High Pristesses robe disguise a cat whereas someone else saw a bambi in them but the general opinion was that it is a wizard's face. 


WillieHewes  19 Sep 2002 
Wow, scary stuff! Hidden faces!

I knew of the (slightly melancholy) face in the woman's hair on the 6 of cups, but I never heard about a wizard's face in the HP before. I can't see it either, but I only have the small images on the learningtarot page to go by, so... I'll have a look when I see a RW deck again.

Would the artist have intended this, I wonder?

Hm, my cards don't even have faces at all! I feel so left out!

Willie 


cjtarot  19 Sep 2002 
Hi,

When I started reading the Sacred Circle (which is not really a rider clone) I had to learn to read by what I see in the card..

As you look at a card you will see that some things that are more prominent than others. THESE prominent things are the meaning of the card at the time (different things pop out at different times..the beauty of Tarot).

Thus, when you see a hidden face and it is the first thing that hits you when you read..it is a more important part of the card meaning than the meaning in the LWB.

Try letting go of the LWB and lay the cards out and SEE what you SEE...let the story flow from there..

Good reading,

Cj 


wavebreaker  19 Sep 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by WillieHewes
I can't see it either, but I only have the small images on the learningtarot page to go by, so...
If you click on the images, you get a bigger version.

Or try these links to the High Priestess and the Six of Cups.

I do see "something" in the High Priestess' dress, but I don't see anything in the Six of Cups. But then it's a bit difficult to reverse my computer screen... ;) I'll have to have a look at the cards. 


Keslynn  19 Sep 2002 
I can kinda see the wizard's face in the HP's robes. I didn't catch the one in the 6 of Cups, but like tarotlady, I'll have to give my deck a closer look.

That's so neat! Thanks for posting about that, catlin.

And back to the original post, that's a really good point about obscured faces. I will have to give that some thought.

:) Kes 


ihcoyc  19 Sep 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Alissa
Feelin silly, but I don't understand/not familiar with the IIRC abbreviation ...?

IIRC = "If I remember correctly." 


Angeline  19 Sep 2002 
Im just going to have to sit and look at my cards again now......as if i needed an excuse...lol! 


juice  20 Sep 2002 
I see the wizard's nose and mustache and hair but that is about it. For the six, I don't think you need to reverse the image. Those 2 semicircle swwops in the middle of the hair right above the only seperate dark spot that is mouth shaped. The faux face really stands out to me when this coloring makes her scarf nearly the same color as her face. 


Alissa  20 Sep 2002 
Not to change the subject back to the original point of the thread or anything but ... ;)

What about more from you folks on those cards with faces who are obscurred, or turned away...? 


Alissa  19 Oct 2002 
I was really hoping to hear from others about their thoughts on cards whose faces you can't see, but a whole topic on hidden illustrations ensued due to my poor thread title....

Just curious and thought I'd bump this to see if anyone has anything to chime in about reading cards with faces that are turned away from the viewer......?? I have my own beliefs, as menitoned in the first post, but I'd love to hear alternatives that others' may have. 


Zhritza  19 Oct 2002 
This is a really interesting thread, thanks for bringing us back to it (you started it while I was "gone"). I actually haven't looked much at the RWS at all, in general; I only got one a few months ago for the first time, and it's the Mini (not Tiny, but Mini). Upon finding this thread I looked through the entire deck and ended up making a pile of cards where faces are turned fully away, and also another, larger pile of cards where there are faces that are turned to the side.

I realized that when I'm interpreting a card, I frequently perceive a face turned to the side as an indication that there is a "different" or not-readily-assumed viewpoint that the character in the card has. Whether or not this means the reader or querent needs to take a different view varies with intuition, the question at hand, etc. There are some interesting ones that stand out, though. In the Six of Wands it could symbolize too much focus on "fame," or on the attention/laurels that the card traditionally implies, on others' opinions. In the Two of Wands it could easily be about seeing something bigger and better that must now be sought. In the Seven of Swords it helps to convey the ambiguity/ capriciousness/duplicity of the card. And, of course, in the Two of Cups the focus is on one another. In summation, with the numbered minors it seems to be about preoccupation with issues that can readily be discerned.

The only major arcana whise characters look to the side are the Fool and the Hermit. This makes sense and is neat to take note of :) Unlike in several other common decks, the Emperor looks straight ahead, not to the side.

Then, there are many court cards who look to the side. These are the King of Wands, all the Knights except that of Wands (I guess because he's too busy charging ahead at full speed or whatever), the Queens of Swords and Cups -- anyone ever notice how ornate and arcane that Cup is that she's holding? The angels in profile on its sides looked like blades at first -- and the Page of Wands, who traditionally is interpreted as being a very devoted youth (I think), so that makes sense too. Perhaps the courts whose subjects look straight ahead are more self-contained and static than these.

The cards with people's faces actually obscured by something are the Two, Eight, and Nine of Swords, and the Seven of Cups. For the Nine, where the person convers their own face with their hands, this goes well with its depression meaning, and for the blindfolded Two and Eight I take it to mean that clarity of intellect is impaired and the instincts must be tapped into to get out of the fix you're in. But you might also include the Four of Swords, if you perceive that knight as the roof of a sarcophagus and not an actual person (or maybe the resting knight is hibernating so soundly that he has melded with the stone slab for the time being?). In the Seven of Cups, the glowing figure in the middle cup, who I feel reflects the gazer's reality-attuned self, is covered to its waist with a big cloth.

So those are all *partially* hidden faces, and if I allowed myself I could yammer about it forever :D 


Trogon  20 Oct 2002 
Great thread Alissa, thanks for getting it started. I did have to ruminate on the matter a little bit before chiming in with my own thoughts, such as they are.

The cards where the person is covering their own face in one manner or another (5 Cups & 9 Swords) always put me in mind of a person refusing to look at or face some truth which they needed to see in order to grow, or someone hiding something from being seen. This may relate to either refusing to face or reveal something within them, or some external truth. But in either case it carries a feeling that the person knows this truth is there, but refuses to face it - it is a more or less voluntary refusal.

The people who's eyes appear to have been covered by someone else, who've been blindfolded, are (to me) relating to an inability to see something. For instance a person who may be so wraped up in their own pursuits or addictions, they are blind to the problems they are causing to their family and/or themselves (such as the workaholic, gambler or alcoholic), hence, they are blind to what is going on around them. The 2 and 8 of Swords are, of course, the cards to which I refer.

As for the cards where the person is simply turned away, I feel that each of these has a meaning which is more dependent on what they're turned away from, or why they're turned away from, the viewer rather than just the fact that they are turned away. For instance, your suggestion on the 10 Wands is, I think, an excellent one (being buried in work). It fits right in with what I always felt with that card. Then there is the 8 Cups where the person is turning their back on the cups - always put me in mind of the person who turns away from some worldly pleasure to seek something more meaningful. But, I've probably picked many of these up from books I've read on the subject... since some of those things do manage to stick... ;)

And... speaking of Cups... In light of this discussion, what do you think of the one woman in the 3 Cups who is turned away from the viewer? What is this indicating on this card, or is it just a natural way for 3 people to stand together when they're toasting their success? 


rota  20 Oct 2002 
and speaking of hidden faces in Tarot cards, like 'hidden Mickeys' at Disneyland, they do seem to pop out in the Waite/Smith versions most of all. To me, this is one of the great beauties of this system. (my own favorite, an opinion which no one else seems to share...)
Look, for instance at the bridge in the distance of 5 Cups. Isn't that a skull sometimes? And an appropriate card for it, isn't it? Similarly, 'faces' often show up in the windows and doors of buildings at times ( 2 Wands, Tower reversed, etc.) depending on the reading.
Another aspect of the W/S decks is their occasional reliance on symmetry in their design. This ancient design motif carries the subliminal meaning of formality and seriousness, and seems to be used mostly in the Majors where the intent is to speak of unchanging archetypal ideals. It's this symmetry that occasionally gives a hint of a 'face' to me: Lovers, Judgment, Hierophant and Moon, for instance. I can't help but think that sort of thing is intentional.
The islands and beach in 2 Swords occasionally read as a face to me, with expressions that range from smugly sly to grim. And, the little windows in 3 Pentacles sometimes read as a starry-eyed goofy grin. Of course, these two examples are 'reaching', and they don't seem to "be there" each time I see the cards. I notice them only once in awhile, in relationship to the qualities of the larger reading.
Anyone else notice this sort of thing, or is it just me who needs therapy? 


Alissa  21 Oct 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Qolus
[i realized that when i'm interpreting a card, i frequently perceive a face turned to the side as an indication that there is a "different" or not-readily-assumed viewpoint that the character in the card has. whether or not this means the reader or querent needs to take a different view varies with intuition, the question at hand, etc. there are some interesting ones that stand out, though. in the six of wands it could symbolize too much focus on "fame," or on the attention/laurels that the card traditionally implies, on others' opinions. in the two of wands it could easily be about seeing something bigger and better that must now be sought. in the seven of swords it helps to convey the ambiguity/ capriciousness/duplicity of the card. and, of course, in the two of cups the focus is on one another. in summation, with the numbered minors it seems to be about preoccupation with issues that can readily be discerned. the cards with people's faces actually obscured by something are the two, eight, and nine of swords, and the seven of cups. for the nine, where the person convers their own face with their hands, this goes well with its depression meaning, and for the blindfolded two and eight i take it to mean that clarity of intellect is impaired and the instincts must be tapped into to get out of the fix you're in. but you might also include the four of swords, if you perceive that knight as the roof of a sarcophagus and not an actual person (or maybe the resting knight is hibernating so soundly that he has melded with the stone slab for the time being?). in the seven of cups, the glowing figure in the middle cup, who i feel reflects the gazer's reality-attuned self, is covered to its waist with a big cloth. so those are all *partially* hidden faces, and if i allowed myself i could yammer about it forever :d [/b]



I loved all your yammering, please yammer away! This is exactly the kind of discussion I was hoping to begin :D

These are some fantastic ways of looking at these Cards. I esp. like the the 2 cups interpretation, as well as the 6 wands. I'd never considered that aspect to 6 wands, and it feels very very helpful now to have conisdered it!

I have always read 4 swords differently, more in with my own personal interpretation which is most often that "a part of you is being laid to rest" -- this came up in the Past position for a young girl who I read for. She recognized it as the "Party Girl" aspect of herslef that needed laid to rest -- that it was time to put that part of her away. When it's reversed, that often tells me that someone else or the situation has caused a part of them to be "laid to rest" -- a new mom has no time to do anything but be a mom, therefore her situation has necessitated that all other aspects of her personality are "resting". (I let them decide if that's a good thing or bag thing :))

But I focus on each card intutively before I decide the interpretation at hand, so i don't use meanings we're disucssing as a patent "LWB" way to read my Cards -- as someone else thought I meant and was doing. :D 


Alissa  21 Oct 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Trogon
[the people who's eyes appear to have been covered by someone else, who've been blindfolded, are (to me) relating to an [u] inability [/u] to see something. For instance a person who may be so wraped up in their own pursuits or addictions, they are blind to the problems they are causing to their family and/or themselves (such as the workaholic, gambler or alcoholic), hence, they are blind to what is going on around them. The 2 and 8 of Swords are, of course, the cards to which I refer.

And... speaking of Cups... In light of this discussion, what do you think of the one woman in the 3 Cups who is turned away from the viewer? What is this indicating on this card, or is it just a natural way for 3 people to stand together when they're toasting their success? [/b]


I love the addiction reference for the 8 swords -- that certainly makes sense. Most often, I find addictions referenced in my own readings by the Devil, but it's interesting to see how applicable it is for this minor card as well.

I hadn't even thought about the turned-away woman in 3 cups~! (See, this is why I like starting these discussions, becuase I learn way more in the long run...) Musing on it though, the first thing that strikes me is this is a common grouping that's used when choreographing a dance piece, esp. for 3. It's familiar to the eye.

The fact that they are all facing in towards each other, to me, may reinforce the sense of community support, attention and wellbeing that the card speaks of. This may mean turning your back on convention, in order to support the ones you love as well -- an alternative alternative ? :D 


Alissa  21 Oct 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by rota
Look, for instance at the bridge in the distance of 5 Cups. Isn't that a skull sometimes? And an appropriate card for it, isn't it? Similarly, 'faces' often show up in the windows and doors of buildings at times ( 2 Wands, Tower reversed, etc.) depending on the reading.


Wow! That skull does show up. And, I love the fact that you have faces that show up in the Cards at different readings, I will watch for that myself. I was amazed at that .... 


Zhritza  21 Oct 2002 
Quote:
Originally posted by Alissa
I have always read 4 swords differently, more in with my own personal interpretation which is most often that "a part of you is being laid to rest"


This makes a tremendous amount of sense, with RWS clones especially. The more common meaning that I've found in books and LWBs is of respite, a break from stress or pain. But the sarcophagus seems to require that that is taken a step further, as you have done. And the meanings can go together, rather than just one being valid in a reading. Laying something of yourself to rest that is no longer serving a purpose *is* a good reason to feel respite, to feel that you have been given a break; after all, a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Thanks for the thoughtful feedback, this is a great thread indeed :D 


Alissa  22 Oct 2002 
4 swords -- The RWS illustration was exactly what led me to that interpretation! I read without training for a long time, and that was my frequent interpretation.

Since I've started formal training and book-learning, I came across the conventional "a time to rest" and thought EH?? You call this Resting~!? It's a COFFIN. At least, that is what I saw. :D 


Alissa  07 Feb 2003 
Just thought I'd bump my thread to see if it might spark anyone else's interest? 


firemaiden  07 Feb 2003 
Forgive me, I have nothing to add to the hidden/obscured faces question yet, I will have to spend some more time looking at the RWS. I have however, been pondering the question of masks in the secret tarot, perhaps that is a related concept? Masks and disguises, ambiguous gender, are played with very much in the S.T. Now you are showing me that the ideas came from RWS. **Perhaps a hidden face is a clue meant to tip us off to a hidden meaning in the card!**
Quote:
Originally posted by Trogon
what do you think of the one woman in the 3 Cups who is turned away from the viewer? What is this indicating on this card, or is it just a natural way for 3 people to stand together when they're toasting their success?

Well, it is a natural way for three people to stand, on the other hand, if you really want to look for symbolism, you could compare the three faces to the three phases of the moon, as in full, waning, and dark.
Quote:
Originally posted by catlin
..we have here discussed the matter of the High Priestesses robe in which the face of a wizard is disguised.


I don't know if I can see it, but that is cool, because I do see pictures hidden in the high priestess's skirt in the Secret Tarot -- as in a slain deer (or wolf?) and a also wizard/god/hierophant type (at least I think they are intentional...). so this idea too comes from RWS.

Cool thread! 


firemaiden  07 Feb 2003 
Quote:
Originally posted by Alissa
4 swords -- The RWS illustration was exactly what led me to that interpretation! I read without training for a long time, and that was my frequent interpretation.

Since I've started formal training and book-learning, I came across the conventional "a time to rest" and thought EH?? You call this Resting~!? It's a COFFIN. At least, that is what I saw. :D


Gosh, Alissa, I didn't see this post before. I had started an entire thread to address this very question. I am gratified to see that somone has an interpretation which takes the sarcophagus into consideration! 


Alissa  09 Feb 2003 
Thank you firemaiden! I'm so gratified to see others' can see what point I have always felt connected to in that card.

Sometimes, I see it as as an ego issue. As swords speak to matters of ego, and the sarcophagus suggests a death, perhaps there is something that needs to be released, left behind, or "buried".

I find that it may also be that a "time" has passed -- like the "time for partying and being irresponsible." A period of one's life may need to come to an end when this card comes up, I think. 


The Hidden faces in the Rider Waite type decks thread was originally posted on 16 Sep 2002 in the Using Tarot Cards board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the active threads in Using Tarot Cards, or read more archived threads.

 


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