Well, more progress on the Tarot deck, and the obligatory book to go with it. I decided it was high time I had my say on how Tarot really works, IMHO. So, first, here’s the next card up, the thirteenth card and trump number twelve, Sacrifice, traditionally called the Hanged Man.
And then, here’s the current draft of the intro to the book:
So I’m not going to waste your time discussing the history, mystery, mythology, popularity, phenomenology, or what not of the rich, varied and sometimes bizarre tradition of Tarot cards. There are plenty of good, bad, and downright idiotic books out there that will tell you all sorts of things about what Tarot is, what it isn’t, and what, in their humble opinion, it could be. Most of the books are informative; some are excellent.
Many are pure bullshit.
You have your own opinion of Tarot; no matter what I say in the next couple pages, you will use these cards to your own beliefs and purposes, and I couldn’t be happier, provided you or someone else has plunked down the cash to acquire the deck, and, hopefully, this book.
Many folks think of Tarot as a psychological phenomenon, using the cards for a meditational focus or even just appreciating them as art; I myself own over thirty decks collected over a couple decades of study in the tradition. On the other hand, there are people who think that the cards themselves contain and bestow some sort of magical energy that enables one to become clairvoyant. If you honestly believe that you can tell something about the future by moving around pieces of cardboard with numbers and pictures on them, then good luck to you; you can skip to the meanings of the cards, because my theory of how Tarot works will only annoy you.
Did you ever take a basic psychology course in college or high school? And, when studying the standard personality indicators, did you come across the one where the subject is given a picture and told to make up a short paragraph or three about what’s going on in the picture? Kind of like inkblots (Rorschach), but with photographs? The test itself is called the ‘thematic apperception indicator,’ if you like to know that sort of thing. The basic idea is that we, as humans, create stories for ourselves, based on our own beliefs, feelings, and attitudes. More to the point, we can get a pretty good ‘snapshot’ of a person’s psychological makeup, at least for that point in time, from the themes and tone of the story told in response to any given picture.
Now, consider: whatever history you might believe about the cards, they, or something like them, have been around for at least a couple few centuries, and the pictures on them are pretty basic, generic slices of human existence: interference, love, betrayal, sex, death, futility, struggle, joy … we all know and understand these concepts. The cards themselves, though sometimes cryptic in design, the older meanings lost to history, will still evoke the general mood of their title, enough that the ten of wands – oppression – is nearly always someone under a huge burden. Similarly, the two of cups (love) will always show a couple in amorous embrace, the nine of pentacles (wealth) will show fabulous riches, and a really good nine of swords (cruelty) is almost painful to look at.
These cards, whatever else they might or might not be, are symbols – symbols of events, circumstances, and even people – we all know well. How easy, then, to create stories using these cards, and, by mindfully observing what themes and meanings you attach to those symbols, gain a deeper understanding of your own mindset and your own internal mental filters which effect how you interact with the world around you.
The symbols of the Tarot deck, used in this way, become points on a grid upon which the subject weaves the story; the more complex the grid and more varied the symbols, the greater the ability of the subject to express the story of their own mind. The tradition of Tarot offers a rich tapestry of symbols and a wealth of spreads that can, with the active participation of the subject, be used to create astonishingly accurate pictures of that person’s attitudes, feelings, fears, hopes, and dreams – small wonder that people attribute such powers to these cards, never realizing that the magic, per se, is actually occurring within their own skulls!
And, just as the best indicator of where you’re going is which direction you’re pointed, yes, to some extent, the cards can provide you with a good idea about the decisions you’re facing and how you feel about what future might arise from those decisions. Given that, it’s not hard for a mature and aware individual to take the stories from the cards as timely parables, useful as a tool for navigating your mental landscape and thus your life.
Tell the future? Hogwash.
Give you helpful information to face that future? Most definitely. That’s what good divination – real divination – is about.
A few notes about the deck itself: this is, in fact, the second incarnation of the Tarot of the Sacred Rainbow. The first version had all of a half dozen copies printed, a few of which were sold and a couple given to dear friends, and my own personal and rather dog-eared copy is always at hand. The designs for both versions were created in Adobe Photodeluxe 2, Adobe Photoshop 7 and 9, and Adobe CS 4 and 6, over a period of a decade or so, and the photo-stock is all from images I or my husband have taken ourselves, or from royalty-free sources on the internet; I am particularly indebted to the various US government departments who have made it a practice to take and post copyright-free photos of just about anything a digital artist could need, from sheaves of wheat surveyed by the Department of Agriculture, to the residents of our National Zoos. I am also grateful to my many models, too numerous to name here, who have lent a hand, quite literally, as well as feet, eyes, legs and other assorted body parts.
For the most part, except for some minor qabalistic adjustment of the pip cards (if you don’t what that means, you don’t need to worry, just Tarot geek stuff), I keep the traditional meanings of the cards, incorporating many of the original symbols seen in many different decks (for instance, for the seven of cups, I went through my complete collection and found what seven visions are most often shown in that card, throughout all the decks).
While remaining mostly traditional in the meanings of most of the cards, I did break from convention by removing the gender bias from the court cards; the sixteen personalities are derived from elemental personality types that exist throughout the human psyche independent of gender. One will also notice that numbers are included on the court cards; this is for ease in playing the “Sophia Spread” meditation/game described at the back of the book. For similar reasons, the suits have been clearly color-coded – violet for the Major Arcana, red for wands, blue for cups, yellow for swords and green for stones – which represent the five traditional Tarot elements signifying the fives areas of our psyche: spirituality, ambition, emotion, intellect, and manifestation, in that order.
Touching briefly on the convention of using “ill-dignified” or upside-down cards; I believe that the 78 traditional cards provide diverse enough material with which one can create a thorough, well-considered reading, and so I do not include any extra meanings here. If you must include them in your own system, I have found it sensible to interpret an “ill-dignified” card as having some problem or issue with whatever it is the card represents.
Now, put this book down and go use the cards; you already know how and most certainly don’t really need the descriptions that follow. If you have a brain, you have everything you need.