Visions & Nightmares

When I was very young, perhaps five or six, I had a terrible nightmare – I can still remember it clearly. I thought I was awake and that hundreds of black cats were leaping out of the wall next to my bed at me and then the devil was standing at the foot of my bed, laughing.

When I told my best friend and neighbor, Chris, the next morning, he did the only logical thing a six-year-old would do in 1964; he found his father’s magnifying glass and began looking for fingerprints all around my bed. Needless to say, he found nothing at all.

I don’t recall being afraid to go to sleep the next night – or any fear of cats, black or otherwise. It was so outside of any experience I’d had, it seemed dissociated from regular life.

Our dreams and our nightmares have an impact on our waking life, whether we remember those nighttime experiences or not. But even more, our day time visions and worries, impact how we move through our days – with faith, with joy, with fear, with worry – those thoughts that meander away when we’re not paying attention often pull us along with them.


Today’s reading presents us with the full spectrum from the most delightful vision to the most terrifying nightmare – and then offers a way to navigate between the two.

I suppose it’s possible that there are a few people out there with fairy tale lives where everyone gets everything their heart desires with little muss, fuss, or trauma. But for the rest of us – life is about the challenges we encounter or choose, and we have joy and love interspersed between the rest of life. The Ten of Cups is the fairy tale life – I don’t believe they had white picket fences in medieval times, but if they did, the little house in the background would definitely have one.

We need the energy behind this card – we need to believe that love, joy, rainbows, and unicorns are possible, even probable, because they are real. So, soak in the energy of the Ten of Cups and then sketch it out in the way that is most real, most relevant to you. Each of us has touchstones in our lives where we experienced that Ten of Cups feelings. Remember, cups are feelings – so take time, every single day, even if it’s just for a minute, to re-visit that touchstone and feel it again.


On the other end of the spectrum is the nightmare of the Nine of Swords – it’s driven by our thoughts that drag our feelings into the experience. Sometimes, it’s an actual nightmare when we wake with heart pounding and feeling chilled and haunted. Other times, it’s the nightmares we create in our minds – the thoughts that circle and circle and circle and it’s three hours later and we’re staring at the ceiling never seeing it because we’re caught in the self-created images and thoughts in our mind.

I remember that experience – replaying a conversation or an experience over and over again – what I could have said, should have done – and envisioning a different outcome that was not, would never be, real.

That experience is not part of my life now. I might replay a conversation a few times until my Inner Self chimes in and asks – is this really where you want to put your time and energy? Of course not – it’s a horrible feeling! I have the tools and skills to dissipate the energy pretty quickly.

I’m sure many of you have the tools and skills also – breathing, meditation, walking, yoga, tai chi are just a few. The question I have for you is — do you use your tools or do you continue to suffer? And why?


Finally, we come to the card of resolution – Temperance. Most people interpret this card to mean restraint and moderation, guidance for a balanced life. And sure, that’s one way to interpret it.

But in this reading, settled between our deepest dreams and our deepest nightmare, balance seems a little trite. I see something much larger at work here. This is an angel – a messenger from the Divine – and it’s bringing a message of moving from chaos to clarity.

Our nightmares are an expression of chaos – and our visions are an expression of clarity. We constantly move from one to the other and back again. Both states are natural, both are necessary.

The angel stands grounded on the earth as well as in the water – because both are needed for change; they are energizing the waters of emotion. The yellow iris flowers on the bank symbolize passion, which can feel chaotic. All this emotional energy is building toward clarity and then is when you step out on your journey along the path to the east.

Temperance has all the elements present: the grounding earth, the emotional waters, the fire of the rising sun, and the direction of east – our thoughts. Both vision and nightmare produce energy and both can feel chaotic until it has a container to shape that energy into manifesting the vision into reality.

This card suggests that you use the energy that arises from both experiences and find the best possible container at this moment in time – a writing or art project, a new job, tidying your home, gardening – something real and meaningful in your life.


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