Lately I have been thinking about how much whimsy there is in my blog, which makes it a little harder for people to resonate with the content if they don't already have some experience or interest in the tarot. I thought it would be nice to go back to the basics and define the mechanics of how it works here. I have read it with ease for years as a product of feverish study and constant effort into understanding the manner in which the cards interact with one another. After 12 years of reading tarot, I am certain that there is no religious — or otherwise malicious — affiliation to the cards, whether or not they have Catholic, Pagan or much darker principles featured. They run off a certain order and can be stripped of all religious meaning if desired. At the same time, the symbols can be added for context and for more depth in readings. That is always up to the reader, who can choose which tarot deck it will be out of a selection of thousands.
So what is tarot really? In essence, cards that are shuffled at random but somehow connected to all of the stages we undergo from the moment that we are born until we die. They allow us to trace meaningful connections back to our lives, and thus to gain a better understanding of ourselves. As we learn to read them, we employ techniques used by art historians and writers alike. They can be used for self-exploration and empowerment, but they don't really tell us things we don't already know and that's the beauty of it. What we are doing is finding a confirmation to what we already think, and from there we can have a better idea of the consequences to our choices. It allows us to think more deeply on our lives, all from a series of divination cards. We learn to derive meaning from pictures, and that is simply what it is.
There is no hocus pocus in the tarot, nor is there any hoodoo voodoo. In reality it's just paper, there is no magic there. Sparks don't shoot out of wands and people can't levitate with it. The real magic is in the person who has gained a thorough enough understanding of the cards to be able to draw coherent connections amongst them. This is the stage in which the reader can find the symbols pertain to their personal life, or that of the person that they are reading for. It can take years to really understand the system and the manner in which the cards talk to one another, but if we keep an open mind and if we trust our inner intuition, the process is made much easier.
I have come to see that those that are generally unconscious about their surroundings have a harder time learning. They stick to canned meanings and they can't grasp at all what the tarot is saying to them. Often if they have more than one meaning to choose from, they choose the one that they like over the one that all the cards are pointing to. I don't blame them for trying as long as they don't believe themselves to be masters of tarot reading within the month of picking up their first Doreen Virtue tarot deck... oh, wait. Was it the Vampyre Tarot they picked up, or possibly the Witches Tarot? In their inexpert enthusiasm, they decide they want to start reading for other people and then they get the bright idea of charging for their readings. They take on the guise of a seasoned reader and start telling people lies. Grim opinions, the Death card literally means death, the Devil card means you're in trouble, and other common misconceptions. They try to put on a show and what they do is give the rest a bad name. The people they read for get scared and revert to their comfort zone in religion, they push away the tarot and the Hollywood image lives on still. Slow down! Enjoy the process and don't read for others until you're really ready. The best route to go is to tell your sitters that you are only just learning, and that while it could be an enriching experience for them, there could also be some things that are off.
I don’t agree with the image Hollywood has dressed tarot readers with. Now people in general think of the tarot as something evil or religiously charged, when in fact it is not. The tarot rarely ever speaks of death or the Catholic entity of the Devil. The tarot does not damn your soul and it isn’t a break up with any religious doctrine, should you be affiliated with one. I respect religious beliefs even if not my own, and grow silent about the subject if someone says, “I don’t believe in those things,” or, “I am loyal to God,” as if I was suggesting to them otherwise. (And I wasn't.) It doesn’t matter what I think or what I have experienced; if someone I am talking to is uncomfortable about the subject, I drop it like a hot potato out of respect. It is unnatural for me to bring up the subject first unless I trust you. It only ever comes up when people find my blog or my personal Facebook. I was raised in a Roman Catholic household and high school so I understand where people are coming from, but as an adult I don’t discuss my religious background or practice because it is personal and secret. Nobody ever really asks me about it, but I am glad to declare it.
Why is the public image of a tarot reader so fearsome?
Notoriety. Gypsies are quite popular in California, you can find Egyptian, Romanian and just about any nationality there is. What they practice is a blend of metaphysical tools of divination laced with their own religious principles. Their lineages trace back to centuries of fortune telling and other mystical secrets that can cause the hair on your arms to rise, but this is extra. It’s not just tarot, it’s something more. People make the mistake of throwing the tarot in with the rest of the experience because it is what lured them in, in the first place. Their religion and the practice of tarot is separate. Tarot is for almost everyone. Another notorious entity in the world of metaphysics is Aleister Crowley, a proclaimed Magus of our time.
How and why Aleister Crowley earned the title of Magus is a long story for another day, but today we will talk about his notoriety and his image in the world of metaphysics. Brace yourselves, because this one’s a bit tough to swallow, and this is precisely why we must talk about him. He wrote many scandalous articles that were encrypted messages for something else much less controversial. He was a powerful visionary and an enlightened soul, but he mistakenly overestimated his readers as he coded the true message of his writings. He thought anyone could be able to crack the code and gain the benefit of writing, but instead he limited it to a select scholarly few that are fluent in Thelema and Kabbalah.
He fed off the negative press and the scandal that rose around him because he enjoyed the attention. He relished the fear of those who did not understand him and propelled many to read his literary works that way. Therein lies the problem; people could not crack his code. It backfired in a way, but at least he is still a hot topic today. He knew how to get a reaction out of people and he took advantage of it in order to get ahead. That sounds more like stealth than it does like being a threat... and I have to say, he was quite a genius.
The only thing I will ask you to do is not to believe everything movies say. They are sensationalist, exaggerated to impress and to scare away. Often people think they know what they're talking about, when in reality they haven't got a clue. They will go through great lengths to exaggerate and to dazzle, but the truth is often quite simple. Seek sources that are credible, and listen to those that have enough experience to know what they're talking about. Read on the subject if it fascinates you. It would avoid confusion and more misunderstandings to arise amongst the members of the metaphysical tarot community.