Okay, since I’m doing this mask-taking-off project, here are my true and real feelings: face cards freak me out. I know that a lot of people find them difficult and I am one of those people!
What is it about face cards?
I think part of it is that they are just so different from the other cards. Like, you’ve got the Major Arcana—big life themes, check. Then the Minor Arcana (minus face cards)—everyday life, check. This is fine, everything is fine. Then the face cards—people? I get it, but sometimes it’s complicated to integrate into readings.
Another issue is whether the face card is an aspect of the seeker or a person in the seeker’s life. I always interpret them as an aspect of the seeker; the reading is about the seeker, so intuitively it makes sense to me for everything to be about the seeker. But the way we relate to people in our lives is also part of us, so I feel torn! I also think it’s confusing to offer “aspect of self” and “person in seeker’s life” as two possible card meanings, although logically that’s not that much more complicated than the multiple meanings any given card has. Maybe you differentiate between “aspect of self” and “person in seeker’s life” in the context of other cards in the spread, but that’s often unclear.
The other thing that makes face cards feel complicated to me is that they are people, but not exactly. They are exaggerated archetypes that are intentionally unbalanced to highlight a certain characteristic. Like, maybe you know a Queen of Swords that is always a 100% logical, no bullshit, tough love, seen-it-all and tell-it-like-it is type of babe. But I am pretty sure that person, once you get to know them, has a secret love of emotionally needy teacup poodles or competitive ballroom dance or what have you. So I struggle with that too.
Nevertheless, face cards are a thing and this is me going bravely forward! Student of Vessels!
Can we take a moment to sit with how lovely this card is? The storm-tossed waves, the mermaid tail, the crescent moon, the heart in a jar? I mean, who hasn’t been where this person is? I feel like this is my life.
And what does the jar mean, anyway? Is this about a disconnection from emotion—the heart taken out of its housing and kept apart, sealed away in a jar? Is it about holding your own emotional container when connecting with others? Is that feeling of intense emotional vulnerability, where you’re being tossed around in an ocean (of feelings) with your heart exposed and wobbling around in a fragile glass bubble that could drop and smash at any moment?
All of those are valid interpretations, but I think it’s intended to be something different: an offering.
“The Student of Vessels brims with awe and wonder at the various capacities of the heart... While eager for connection, they have little experience. They may offer their energy or their heart to the first person they encounter, making The Student susceptible to heartbreak and disappointment... Open yourself to new connections, spontaneous encounters, and unexpected vulnerability. Be patient with yourself as you learn to trust your intuition and what you create in this world, without disclaimer or qualification.” –Slow Holler Tarot
This is tough for me. On the one hand, I want this openness and connection so much. On the other hand, this person is so vulnerable, so hurtable. It’s scary.
And maybe that's where we get into the "aspect of self" and exaggerated archetype issues. It feels scary to be open to love and connection, but I'm not just the Student of Vessels. I'm also the Queen of Swords, who is not here for any bullshit, and the Queen of Cups, who knows their own heart through and through. I can tap into the Student of Vessels aspect of myself safely, because the other parts of me have my back.
I’m going to try to be more Student of Vessels-ish tomorrow and see what happens.