You can read an introduction to the light & shadow series and find links to its other installments >> here! If you aren’t yet familiar with my interpretation of the card in discussion you might want to read up on its meanings before you continue with this article.
For me, the Garden is one of the most difficult cards to interpret in actual readings – a lot of its meanings (publicity/disclosure, culture/mainstream, teamwork, and reputation/presentation) are rather impersonal and thus quite neutral, at least at first glance. This also makes it a bit difficult for me to highlight negative and positive implications of the card.
The Garden can represent quite a few unproductive, negative, issues and goings-on. Publicity will be a negative experience if that which is public was supposed to be private. Generally, if something is disclosed about someone against their will, this will be experienced as something deeply negative by them – although that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is also wrong or unproductive on the whole and in the long run. However, disclosures will almost definitely be unproductive if they happen too early or at an inappropriate point of time or setting!
If the Garden represents culture or mainstream, popular opinion, this can be a very negative thing if the culture is oppressive, unhealthy, if popular opinion is cruel, unjust. And if the card suggests that the querent is following the mainstream, that can be unproductive if it also implicates that the querent doesn’t dare or want to do what is best or right for them as an individual.
Furthermore, the Garden can represent networking, teamwork, things that are done collectively. This all sounds rather positive at first glance. But if a network is structured unfairly, or if we are forced to be part of a network we don’t want to be part of, this is can be really unsatisfying, oppressive, even unhealthy. The same goes for teamwork and doing things collectively. If we are forced to work together with people who we are uncomfortable with, who aren’t team players, or who lack important knowledge or capabilities but still insist taking part in decision making, teamwork can be very unpleasant and/or lead to bad results.
Finally, regarding presentation and reputation: yes, human beings are social and political creatures. Thinking about the image we project to others is part of our nature, trying to present ourselves in a certain way, to a certain degree is probably quite normal and natural. But the Garden can also hint at an unhealthy obsession with our public image. It can suggest that we’re putting too much effort into presenting ourselves, that we’re unnecessarily worried about our reputation, that we are too concerned with what others think of us.
On the other hand, the Garden can also represent quite a few productive, positive, issues and goings-on. Publicity will be a positive experience if publicity is what we wanted – e.g. publicity for our creative work, or if we, in general, like being seen, being part of larger groups. Disclosing things can be very productive, especially if disclosure leads to the end of burdensome secret-keeping, or (as is the case with whistleblowers) the end of corruption.
If the Garden represents culture or mainstream, popular opinion, this can be a very good thing. It can suggest that we are or could be spending time in cultural venues, partaking in society in general (which is a good thing especially if the society in question is predominantly nurturing, healthy). If popular opinion is in our view fair, if it supports our own opinion, we’ll probably feel supported, positive about it – although this doesn’t necessarily also mean that it’s productive (after all, even if public opinion and our own conform, we could still be wrong). If the Garden represents following the mainstream, this can be a good thing if we do it because we truly want to, because it agrees with us, because it furthers our interests, and not because we feel pressured to.
Networking, teamwork, doing things collectively, can be very good and productive things, especially if what we want to achieve is hard or impossible to achieve alone, and if the network in question is structured fairly; if the people we’re working with are capable and trustworthy.
Finally, regarding presentation and reputation: Because human beings are social and political creatures, thinking about the image we project to others is part of our nature, trying to present ourselves in a certain way, to a certain degree is probably quite normal and often necessary to achieve what we want. Sometimes the Garden suggests that something we’re planning to do will only succeed if we consider how we are presenting it to others.