To be fair, there was a relevant character dynamic being shown here, so Call the Midwife was not tarot-bashing...but it was presenting the tarot in an unfavorable light, which is always a big bummer. On a side note, (ever so slight spoiler, but I'm still on season one, so you should be fine) that episode would have been soooo much more satisfying if Maeve (or was it Meg?) had gotten punched right back by that sassy librarian nun with the secrets...
So, these twin sisters are decidedly old school, and are depending on a very old book, and lots of herbs to get prego twin safely delivered. The well-meaning midwives try to sway them, but aren't having any luck for most of the episode. The domineering non-prego sister breaks out the tarot cards to provide some insight, and lays out:
The Empress, the ace of swords, the Tower, a card I can't remember or find a record of on the internet, the High Priestess, and the Devil.
Her interpretation: "The Empress reversed...I don't like that." Turns up the Ace of Swords: "Blood! Surgery!" The Tower: "Destruction!" The High Priestess: "Death approaches!" The Devil: "Sky darkens! It's the end!"
Um, forgive me but, what the shit? Do you secretly hate your sister and want her to miscarry? (Well, shit gets complicated later, so maybe...).
Of course, her poor sister is terrified. She wants the cards recut and read again, but she's told, "You can't change the cards!" Which, um, again, epic fail. Because the future is always malleable, and a second take on the same situation (within reason) is totally legit.
It doesn't take a tarot expert to see all the issues with this reading. The more interesting question is, what if this reading was being done well? What messages would a real pro find in these cards? I'm going to try and find out! Of course, I can't be truly objective, because I saw the rest of the episode, but it'll still be an interesting exercise. If you haven't seen the episode, turn away from your computer! Get out your cards, and do your own interpretation of the reading, knowing only that this woman is pregnant, afraid because her mother died in childbirth, and unsure whether to seek outside medical help, or trust her old herbal ways. This reading was done with a Waite-Smith deck.
The Empress, reversed: This card represents the querent. She's at a time when she should be connected to her body, and to nature, but her fear is strangling that connection, making it difficult for her to get in touch with her instincts about what herbs she may need, and if those herbs aren't enough. She needs to take charge of her situation, and get back in touch with herself to find the answers she seeks. Meditation would be very helpful!
Ace of Swords: Objective intellect is your greatest alley right now. The querent's sister loves her dearly and wants to protect her, but she doesn't have what the querent need moving forward. Seeking the advice of professionals would be very wise.
The Tower: Life as the querent know it is due for a great, big change. If she doesn't embrace it, it's going to come in a dramatic, and scary fashion, and preparing to give birth is not the best time for a thunderbolt of insight. On the other and, giving birth itself is a Tower event, leaving behind one way of life for another. If the querent can spare the emotional resources, she should try to work through the big changes at hand. If she can't, she should just focus on preparing to give birth, and trust that the Tower will work things out for her as part of your birth adventure.
The High Priestess: There is a place for intuition, and secret knowledge here. A cup of herbal tea never hurt anybody, and seeking advice from the tarot is of course very in line with the High Priestess' ways. Choosing to move forward into the modern century, and into a different phase in the querent's relationship with her sister, doesn't mean abandoning everything she's ever know, or had with her sister up to this point. There will be opportunities to honor your sister's opinion, and involve her in the process in a way that helps her to accept the changes at hand, and allay her fears regarding this birth.
The Devil: The temptation here is to surrender all control and agency so that the querent can absolve herself of all responsibility for the outcome. At this vulnerable time, she wants to trust her sister utterly to take care of her. Perhaps the card I don't remember would provide a clue as to what would happen should she take this course of action, but the rest of the reading has made it clear that this is not the best path for her to take.
Wow, it was incredibly easy to craft an empowering and insightful reading out of cards that had been used as weapons to bully the querent into submission. Which just goes to show what I'm always saying: there are no bad cards. Any card could be very positive or very negative. While you never want to hide an unpleasant truth from your querent, you do always want to empower the querent. Sometimes that requires drawing more cards, or asking an additional question, but in this case, all it took was some know-how, and a lack of vision-clouding fear (and, ok, some outside knowledge that everything was going to work out for the best once the midwives were involved).
What were your interpretations of these cards in this context? Was your reading more dire than mine? If so, how would you empower your querent to handle the situation? Let's talk in the comments! I'll (hopefully) update with more pictures soon!