Little Match Girl Reading

The other night before bed I grabbed Women Who Run with the Wolves and opened to a random page. What I got was Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ examination of The Little Match Girl (most well known in the Hans Christian Anderson retelling).

Ms Estes compares the little match girl’s selling her matches for a pittance and using up the remainder to experience brief visions (illusions) of warmth, to the way we give away our inner flame – devaluing it – and use up what’s left on “somedays” and “imagine ifs”, rather than actually lighting a damn fire to get warm and stay alive!

I like it; and I think it is an analogy that rings true for many, MANY women. What’s more, the unwritten implication is that our inner spark is just that: a spark, good only for the most pitiful light and weakest heat in this cold, cruel world, rather than a blazing fire that can accomplish something. “Keep it close; don’t use it all up at once; give it away give it away give it away now.”

The Little Match Girl is a very manipulative, insidious story, when you look at it. I can see that now, but childhood conditioning means that it is part of the dogmatic schema that lives in my skull (suffering makes good little martyrs). This practically screams out for a reading! I happen to have the perfect deck for a fire reading: the Tarot of Fire. I designed The Little Match Girl spread around something I’m pretty sure I know the answers to already, to help me get to know the deck. But hey, there’s always room for a surprise!


Tarot of Fire by Floreana Nativo & Franco Rivolli; Lo Scarabeo, 2011


The little match girl sells her matches for a penny…

[1] What flame am I giving away?: 13 Death (Death and I aren’t quite done yet; it keeps popping up in the strangest positions…)

Ohhhhh-ho-ho yes. This is *exactly* what I’ve been feeling for over 2 years now. A couple of months before I picked up my first deck, I developed the need to retreat. I knew then – as I know now – that I need to go somewhere to… die. Not physically; psychically, I guess. And I’ve been prevented from doing that – denied the reality -, with the result that the need manifests in a dangerously physical way. I have no idea how to satisfy… honour this need in a world that isn’t set up to accomodate sacred journeys.

The little match girl lights her matches one-by-one, rather than starting a fire to stay warm…

[2] What flame am I burning up (wasting)?: 8 Justice

“My heart’s truth.” Osiris is a death god, linking this card to the first and strengthening what I feel is going on there. Justice: what is right and fair for me. The Truth here is also referring to a larger truth, as the human heart is weighed against the feather of Ma’at after death. Wasting your Truth = wasting your life.

The little match girl lights her first match and sees a warm kitchen stove…

[3a] What illusion keeps me warm?: 2 The High Priestess

Ummmmm ಠ_ಠ First thought: “Tarot?” No wai. Is a tarot deck telling me to stop pissing away my time with tarot (HP being linked to occult knowledge)??? But wait: “keeps me warm”. Hmm, dreams? Daydreams? Mucking about in my subconscious, rather than living out “here”? Best consult another card…

Clarifier: 18 the Moon

Ohhhhh grrrrreat – my illusions are my illusions? Nice one, tarot :) The HP and the Moon are linked to each other too. I think I’m getting reinforcement for the “daydreams” theory here. I am that little lobster, swimming in the water, only coming out onto land when the moon is right. It’s just so nice and fluid down here and the water is a lovely shade of deep, indigo blue, and I’m so free… It’s a web you can get trapped in.

She lights a second and third match and sees a huge dinner and a Christmas tree with lights…

[3b] What illusions distract me with “shiny”?: 3 of Wands

Buggered if I know. The LWB says that a bird plays a role in the discovery of fire in Chinese mythology, but the most I could find is the term “fire driller”, which would tie in with the woodpecker shown on this card. Oh shit! I get it: new things; starting new things. Shiny, new things distract me with their shiny newness. As soon as I get to the point where a project just starts to get off the ground and looks like it might go somewhere – 3 of Wands – I abandon it for the illusion of something “better”.

The girl lights another match and sees her dead grandmother. She keeps lighting matches ’til the vision of her grandmother carries her to heaven (and I barf heartily), as she freezes to death…

[3c] What illusion will be the death of me?: 12 Hanged Man

That I am chained and powerless; that I have earned this punishment. This illusion returns to eat me over and over and over again, feeding on my anger and darkest emotions (liver).

A little less “Match”, a little more “Tank”…

[4] How should I use my fire to stay alive instead?: 7 Chariot

Move. The LWB says that this card references an inititatic journey; right back to card #1. I notice the glowing solar chakra, the seat of will and personal power (wish I knew what he is holding in his hand) and, quelle surprise, governs the liver. I also see that he is floating on the (still, calm) water, using it to facilitate the journey, rather than drowning in it (HP & Moon illusions/dreams).

My war cry: “Hoooooooow??”

First step?: Queen of Cups

“The queen is a dreamer seeking a way of expressing herself through art.”  Ta-da. What’s interesting is that the Q/C is also connected to the HP and Moon, by way of her being so watery, moony and (in most systems) governed by Cancer (as is The Chariot). She is Water of Water in a spread about Fire. So the Water isn’t the problem; how I’m utilising it is.

I have a special love for ken/kenaz/kano, even though I don’t work with the runes. Seeing it in this card is a little affirmation – not that this brings me even half a step closer to reconciling my inner needs with my worldy responsibilities.

For now, I remain chained to the rock. Hercules? Can I get a Hercules in the house?

11 thoughts on “Little Match Girl Reading

  1. Digital Dame says:

    I had an idea about the Death card turning up in what you’re giving away. You say it keeps coming up for you. As we know, Death is the end of something, which of course means a new beginning. Perhaps you’re giving away this new ‘beginning’ or not seeing it, or backing away from it.

    If you’re burning up Justice, could it be that you’re not doing yourself justice, or giving yourself credit?

    The Moon isn’t just about illusions, Crowley links the Moon to evolution. As the crayfish crawls out of the water onto land, and the wolf became the domesticated dog (obviously using my mental Thoth deck here, rather than the symbolism on this deck), it’s a sign of things moving forward. I’ve always chafed at the negative meanings given to the Moon. Maybe you think you’re moving forward, but you still need the guidance of the High Priestess, her wisdom. We like to think we know what’s going on, but do we?

    Just my 2¢. (and thanks for the shout-out :) )


    • submerina says:

      Yes, exactly! Giving away the ending and the beginning that follows it. Quite possible that I’m not seeing it either. Get those blinkers off, girl!! I’m also not into the Moon = negativeallthetimealways thing; I usually see it as a positive card, actually. “Not moving forward” ties in with “not ending & beginning” too. I like everything you’ve added here; lots for me to think about. I think it’s worth at *least* $0.20 ;)


    • submerina says:

      The warming glow of the past is a _powerful_ illusion. What about the card makes you think of ancestors? Is it just a feeling you get, or something visual?


      • Aj / Melia says:

        Visual. Spiders and spider webs are connected to the ancestors in many lores. Snakes through the shedding of their skin are connected with rebirth or the past. In some myths, the moon is the way station before rebirth.


  2. Chloe (@ChloeTarot) says:

    Really glad you posted this. I have the book, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet *adds to to-do list* Fascinating view of the Little Match Girl. And I’m definitely going to have to try out that spread. Wishing you luck with getting control of where you want to go :)


    • submerina says:

      It’s a great book that you can read however and whenever you get a chance; I come back to it every couple of years and always learn something new. It’s a wonderful prompt for designing spreads as well :) Have fun with the spread!


  3. Leikkona says:

    I hated that story as a child. Pff. Puss in Boots was so much better (as the Snow Queen … o_o loved that one).

    This deck is fascinating, as is this spread !

    For the Death, I would have go the same way as Digital Dame at first – the refusal of a new beginning. But your idea of a Sacred Journey made me remember something interesting from Helvegr (a e-list about Hel and Her Family, to keep it short). Raven Kaldera presented an explanation for the order of his tarot (the Tarot of Giant :, where Death / Hanged Man / Devil were placed as the representation of the sacred journey to the Underworld, needed to emerge anew under the Stars. That would link pretty nicely with the Sacred Journey idea : you are giving a spiritually dark, but enlightening experiences that allow a new beginning ?

    Hey … can I translate in french this spread ? You will be credited, of course :)


    • submerina says:

      The Snow Queen! I wanted to be her (and still do my makeup all frosty on a regular basis).

      I love Raven Kaldera’s telling of the stories. Funny enough, the first one I ever read was of Angrboda and how Hel came to be. Beautiful. I never knew he had re-ordered the cards in The Giants; I’ve been thinking about how they would make better sense – as far as telling the story of a journey goes – if they were in a different order. Stupid life getting in the way of my evolution…

      Go ahead and translate! Spreads are for sharing :)


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