Two Years, Two Months, Two Days: Walking the Tarot with Henry David Thoreau

Update: I will be doing all my Tarot blogging at The American Renaissance Tarot site from now on.  Come check us out, we are actively crowd-sourcing!

All images for this blog post were sourced from a Smithsonian article featuring the lesser-known female artists of the Hudson River School.  You can view the article here.  

Landscape , by Susie M. Barstow

Landscape, by Susie M. Barstow

This Tarot spread is named for the two-day, two-month, and two-year experiment in simple living that Henry David Thoreau embarked on in 1845, an experience which he would later memorialize in his famous book, Walden.  The “Two Years, Two Months, Two Days” Tarot spread was also inspired by Thoreau’s essay, “Walking”(1862), a distillation of his philosophy concerning man’s relationship to Nature that he developed over his life, but which was not published until after his death.

Solitary walks in Nature or even in more urban settings can swiftly become moving meditations.  Anyone struggling with a grudge, a disappointment, or an unquenched desire might receive the advice, “go for a walk,” in order to clear the head.  What is the peculiar magic of walking that enables us to see with more perspective than we had before the walk?  Is it the act of putting one leg in front of the other and activating the body’s polarities (right, left, right, left) that restores balance to the spirit?  Does engaging the automatic mind, the part of the brain that remembers how to walk without conscious direction, produce the side-benefit of a smoother mood?  It’s true that even mild exercise causes the “feel good” chemicals, endorphins, to be released within the body.  Perhaps it is the simple act of propelling oneself out of a familiar place and into a new place that sends the subtle message to the psyche that “this too shall pass.”  Of course, all of these factors contribute to healing our spirits when we’re walking anywhere except a treadmill.  Just going outside reminds us that there is a larger world, and other people, plants, animals, and elements all weathering their own experience on this Earth we share. 

Kaaterskill Clove , by Harriet Cany Peale

Kaaterskill Clove, by Harriet Cany Peale

You can use the “Two Years, Two Months, Two Days” Tarot spread when what you really need is to go take a walk, but when it’s impractical to actually embark on one.  Maybe it’s the middle of the night.  Maybe the roads are covered with ice.  Maybe your infant is sleeping in the next room and it would be a crime to leave her unattended.  Whatever prevents you from walking out your front door, this Tarot spread is designed to aid you in gaining perspective by drawing on the “circles” theme so prominent in Thoreau’s Walden.  The first thing you will do is “walk” the entire 78-card deck.  You don’t even have to shuffle the cards before you begin, but you can if you want.  Just start laying the cards down in two piles, left, right, left, right, like steps on a path before you.  You’ll want to put the left set of steps just ahead of the right steps (when humans are allowed to wander in the wilderness without landmarks, we naturally veer to the left or proceed counter-clockwise, even when we think we’re going straight).     

"Walking" the lovely  Journey Into Egypt Tarot .  Resist the temptation to just draw the bottom two cards from your deck - remember, you are "walking" for meditation!

"Walking" the lovely Journey Into Egypt Tarot.  Resist the temptation to just draw the bottom two cards from your deck - remember, you are "walking" for meditation!

Remember, you’re “walking” to cool your head and calm your spirit, so don’t rush this process.  Modulate the “steps” of the cards like you would if you were actually walking.  Allow your mind to wander over all the stresses uppermost in your thoughts, or the specific issue you’re attempting to “walk off.”  It’s OK to get bored or to stop thinking about the issue while you’re walking the deck.  Eventually, you will come to the end of the deck.  Turn over the last two steps you take – left, right.

Turn over the last two cards in your "walk," left step, right step.

Turn over the last two cards in your "walk," left step, right step.

Don’t dwell on the upturned cards yet; just leave the two steps upturned and keep walking.  Next you will gather the pile of steps you walked from the left side only (excepting the upturned left card) and then walk the deck again.  Notice that this time around, you will reach the end of the deck in half the time.  Turn over the last two steps in the journey, as before, and then place them just below the first two cards you turned over – left, right.  You will repeat this process one more time, of gathering the pile of left steps only and then walking the deck.  Turn over the last two cards in your “walk” – left, right – and then place them just below the other two sets of steps.        

Walk the deck again with the pile of "steps" from the left-hand side.

Walk the deck again with the pile of "steps" from the left-hand side.

Repeat the process once more until you are looking at three sets of "steps."

Repeat the process once more until you are looking at three sets of "steps."

What you see before you now are three sets of steps headed away from you.  The steps closest to you represent the next two days.  The middle steps represent the focus of the next two months.  The steps farthest from you indicate the state of your journey in two years’ time.  Place your attention on the left-side steps first. Notice how your goals and issues develop, intensify, or recede as you continue to walk the same path.  This Tarot spread can assist you in organizing the multiple and competing goals that you have for that yawning blank canvas we call “the future.”  It may be that the issue uppermost in your thoughts will be resolved in two days, while a goal you’ve back-burnered will become the focus of the next two months, and a completely unexpected idea encapsulates the coming years.  Alternately, you may see a more linear progression of idea, legwork, and fruition in the line of succeeding left-side steps.  In either case, notice how the steps you walked to “two days” are the same steps that led you to “two months” and “two years.”  Where you put your focus in the present radiates out into the future, so reflect on how the circles that emanate from your current thoughts become cycles or grooves that recur in your life.  The left-side succession of steps can also help you gauge which goals are easily met, and which goals require more arduous effort and long-term dedication.  

Forest Brook , by Charlotte Buell Coman

Forest Brook, by Charlotte Buell Coman

The right-side steps are representative of the right-brain and provide the check or balance on the left-brain’s linear approach to setting and meeting goals.  The right-brain is concerned with the present moment, the emotions, and the importance of being part of the whole.  The right-brain will always be concerned with factors that the left-brain is all too ready to discount, such as friends, family, community networks, spirituality, beauty, and pleasure.  Though the “Two Days, Two Months, Two Years” Tarot spread repeatedly filters out ephemeral right-brain material each time the deck is split in two, the remaining right-side steps represent those emotional needs and desires that are deeply felt and demand expression.  The right-brain is also the holder of repressed psychological complexes and traumas, unresolved issues that may get in the way of your mundane goals if they’re not dealt with.  For each set of steps, consider whether the right step and the left step are working in tandem; perhaps your left-brain wants to concentrate on building your business while the right-brain wants to go party with your friends.  Does the situation look different in two months?  Two years?  See if you can determine a pattern in the succeeding right-side steps.  In most cases, the right-side steps will ask you to consider states that are difficult to quantify, like happiness, love, and peace.  While your experience with the “Two Days, Two Months, Two Years” Tarot spread will be highly individual, in general this spread serves to demonstrate how both your right-brain and left-brain are always manifesting in the world.  For those of you like myself who are always planning for the future, the right-side steps serve as a potent visual reminder to cultivate everyday happiness.  For those of you who live for the moment, the left-side steps can prompt you to think more strategically about where you’d like to be in the coming months and years. 

Forest Interior , by Mary Josephine Walters

Forest Interior, by Mary Josephine Walters