Today’s Tarot Talk, or Tarot Tuesday (I haven’t decided on a name yet), is all about what the cards say!
There are 78-cards in a regular Tarot deck. That’s a whole lot of personalities working together to bring you, the reader, a concise and clear message. How does one learn them all?
A lot of us, when beginning our love affair with these cards, begin by looking up meanings and memorizing keywords. Then we take those keywords and regurgitate them in our reads, as if like robots, there’s only one way to see the cards. “The 6 of Cups means you were once a child!”
Wow, how’d she know?!
In another time of my life, I’d been set to become an Art Historian. The first thing we learned on our way to our degree was to SEE the piece first. You could not make a judgement, or learn about the artwork, if you did not see it. We’d list the details, as silly as it sounded, verbatim. Seeing the painting, or sculpture, with fresh eyes- detailing as much as possible and seeing as much as possible. Then, our next step would be to try and determine how it made us feel, its composition, and even its possible intention.
So, today, I propose a new idea. Let’s be Tarot Art Historians! What if we let the cards talk to us through their visual works? What if we sat down with our deck, shuffled, pulled cards at random, and listened to what each one had to say?
What would that look like? Would it be a repetition of memorized words or would it be feelings? Would it be tangible responses like, “blue sky means clear prospects” or would it be intangible, as in “That Ten of Swords looks scary- it evokes a feeling of fear in me.”
And if it looked like the latter, the intangible portion, could we apply that to reads?
The Art History Degree I never used says that not only can it be applied, it’s the only way to apply them personally. Let’s take the Ten of Swords as our example.
When we look at this card, we see a man on a beach in a tumltuous storm, stabbed in the back by ten long swords! Immediately it brings about a few sensations, right? Betrayal, reminiscent of Shakespears’ Julius Ceasar’s line “Et Brute” as he was stabbed in the back by his friend Brutus. It also brings with it fear, unease, negativity. The clouds in the back are foreboding, a warning, even- but they’re dangerous, and somehow, we know it. Depending on the question asked, this might be all you need to know about this card. Are they letting their fear keep them from a goal, are they feeling betrayed by a loved one, are they uneasy about a decision?
Already, you’ve taken a card, looked at it, and generated a very decent and more often than not, accurate read, and we haven’t cracked open a single book- all from just looking at the card and seeing it. Feeling it. Listening to it.
Let’s keep going. What about the 7 of Cups? One of my favorite cards because it was the first I learned (without a book) and when I later took my thoughts to a book, to compare, I found validation in knowing I’d been on to something.
What do we see? A man stands before a cloud of cups, each magically holding treasures as he seems to contemplate which one to pick. Look at the treasures closely! Seeing them all you can surmise that they are each visual representations of “wants”- beauty, wealthy, fame, victory, etc. What feeling does this invoke in you? What does it make you think of? For me, automatically, I think of The Genie from Aladdin- when he granted all Aladdin’s wishes. Come to find out, he only had three of them, and they were all illusions- not based in reality. I also feel confusion, too many choices. Fantasy- because the cups sit on a cloud, as if they’re brought about by thought. I feel tricked, deceived, and flighty- as if I was living in my head instead of reality.
As you can see, these impressions could easily apply to a reading and instead of regurgitating keywords you could fluidly affix the meanings to personally represent the person and/or situation in their inquiry.
How about another? The 2 of Wands!
First, see what you see. It’s a man, holding a globe, standing on a patio of some sort- staring out onto the vastness that is the world before him. How does it make you feel? For me, it brings about hope, thoughts of the future, wander, journey, and even a bit of trepidation. It immediately reminds me of Copernicus, who changed the way we saw the Universe forever- creating Heliocentric models instead of Terracentric. So, for me, this card is also about changing things, exploring, and even science.
Again, without even cracking open a book, I can apply everything I’ve observed in a reading.
The question then, instead of do I know the cards, becomes: am I accurate with my interpretation?
Firstly, no one is ever going to be 100% accurate 100% of the time. I’ve had lots of feedback over the years and I’d say I’m about 90-95% accurate. The variation comes on information we are not privilege to, or that is not given to us.
For example, I once had a client ask me if there was a possibility for romance between her and a friend. I pulled The Lover, The Two of Cups, and The Tower.
Without any other information than her question, I delved into the interpretation as I normally would. I saw the cards, read them, listened to what they had to say and I told her. The possibility was there, definitely. Attraction was felt on both sides (Lovers), and there was compatibility (2 of Cups)- but it would take a radical change for them to be together. Having no other information, my advice was to make the change described by the tower and to stop hiding her feelings.
Now, my read was accurate, but not entirely. She took my advice, told her friend how she felt, and he reciprocated with feelings of his own. What I did not know, and what was not revealed to me, was the he was already married before she decided to tell him. He divorced his wife, and they became a couple. The Tower predicted this upset, telling me there would need to be a change- but I did not have the information needed to know what that change would be. Had I have had that information, my read would have been slightly different.
Not to mention, I never would have advised a woman to go after a married man.
So, it’s not the cards, nor our feelings or interpretations of them that generally lead to bad or inaccurate reads. It can be the missing information.
That’s not to say there aren’t bad readers out there, because there are. I see them all the time, confusing “intuition” with judgement, and shouting their decrees at unsuspecting queries. This usually comes from not listening to the cards, and if you do listen to them- you couldn’t possibly be one of the bad readers.
An example of this was one I just saw recently. A woman asked why a man she had feelings for would not let himself love her. She pulled the 5 of Wands, The Knight of Cups, and The Knight of Swords.
Immediately, my interpretation was that he enjoyed the chase of finding new lovers (5oW with KnoC), but that something in his past (possibly the divorce of his parents or an ex lover) kept him from staying (KnoC with KnoW). I went into further detail and read the cards as they were placed- and she and I had a great conversation about how she thought I was spot and what she could do about it.
Others immediately saw the two knights together and jumped to the conclusion that the man she was referencing was gay and conflicted. After she confirmed that he was, in fact, not gay- others argued with her. Telling her that he was only sleeping with her as a cover for society, and that in fact, according to their intuition, he was gay. That’s a bad read. No matter how you look at it. Firstly, two cards facing each other is not an indication of sexual preference; second, telling the querent, after she’s explicitly said otherwise, that they’re wrong and you’re right is just bad tarot ethics; third, and most importantly, those “Readers” disguised their judgement of the cards (and the man in question) as intuition- never looking to see what the cards could actually mean.
So, now, we’ve covered listening to the cards, we’ve covered accuracy, but what about book-learning?
What if we listen to these cards, and we don’t get the same meanings that the author, or everyone else, intends these cards to mean?
You might not. Everyone sees the 5 of Pentacles as this bad card, representing strife and bad luck. For me, because I’ve looked over the whole card- I see friendship, love, sharing of burdens, and a sense of companionship. There’s no book that will tell you that about 5 of cups, yet, when I take what I feel about this card- I’m more accurate than someone who just repeated the same keyword “hardships” over and over.
Want to know how I got that interpretation? Look closely at the card. There are two people walking through the snow- one is on crutches, and the other is shivering away in a cloak. Most people see them as simply walking in the snow, and their hardships. Yet, I don’t. I see a woman wrapped in a cloak too small for her, obviously provided by the man on the crutches. I see him limping in socks, while she walks barefoot- obviously having provided the man with hers. Instead of seeing a man on crutches, hobbling, while an able-bodied person walks past him, I see a man being walked with by a friend (or a companion) who looks over to make sure he’s keeping up instead of leaving him to walk in the snow alone. Instead of seeing them outside, in the starkness of winter, I see them walking to a new destination- passing through the harshness of the cold- together!
However, if I focused only on the book interpretation, I would have missed all the intricate details of the actual card.
It doesn’t mean the book is wrong, it just means it doesn’t fit with the way I see it- and that’s perfectly okay.
I’ve created a little worksheet for you, to start seeing the cards like an Art Historian- seeing their picture, feeling their meaning, and remembering them instead of memorizing them. I hope you like it and I hope it helps you!
Until tomorrow, my friends…