Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How I learned to stop worrying and love the Tarot

Left: The High Priestess, from the Rider-Waite tarot deck.

~*~

Can I really tell people's fortunes?

Someone asked me, as I was idly reading the tarot for myself, sitting alone and drinking coffee. I told them: I read the tarot.

Isn't that reading people's fortunes? Telling the future?

At that point, I launched into a rather flaky Philip-K-Dick-inspired explanation of pre-cogs. PKD's particular pre-cogs saw a collection of futures and then, one future would appear prominent and more obvious than the others.* Interestingly, two pre-cogs may not agree. In one of his most famous stories, three pre-cogs are used to arrive at a conclusion and it is discovered that one of them frequently dissents from the other two, and this account therefore disregarded. (This dissent was known as the Minority Report.)

In various of PKD's tales, when the pre-cogs tell the future, that future may suddenly vanish. It has changed, in the telling. It was prevented by saying it aloud; also the intention in Minority Report--to actually prevent what the pre-cogs see from ever truly coming to pass. (It was called the Department of PreCrime.)

And then there is Dickens' version. After being shown his unpleasant fate, Ebenezer Scrooge notoriously pleaded with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to please clarify: Is this what CAN be, or what WILL be? And the spirit, dressed like the grim reaper (who never says much in fiction, you'll notice), didn't answer but kept pointing to Scrooges' gravestone. The only thing certain is death.

When I read the tarot, I feel I am getting a series of random snapshots from that person's psyche, all measured in archetypes. The best reading is interactive, when I read the archetypes and the person tells me who/what these represent to them and what it means when they see the images and I repeat the words: The Lovers, The Chariot, The Moon, Strength, The Fool. Who is the Queen of Swords? Who is the King of Cups? They will usually tell me, unless guarded and distant (and some are). They unwind their selves for me, confiding and reaching out. I feel then that I truly know them, even if I have just met them. They have shown me their vulnerability and I show them whatever I think they need: kindness, encouragement, reproach (yes, some come to confess their sins; usually at least one card always gives open permission for this to happen), interrogation, an overall lightness, fun. Every person is different. I ask them what they want from the reading and I try to deliver it as best as I can.

Sometimes, as was true for my friend JW, the person invigorates my spirit and helps me see myself better, too. And I know the reading was also for myself.

People know what they want. They know what future they want. They want permission, encouragement, warnings, best wishes. Perhaps in the past, they had kindly relatives living close by, who could offer these. Maybe they had a priest, a rabbi, someone who delivered the periodic warnings and the necessary checks and balances to the ego. But lately, people have fewer spiritual authorities, even as their existential options have exponentially increased. They want to be in charge (and on some level, realize that they ARE), and yet, give some quiet assent to tradition, old ways, the unpredictability of life and fate. They want to go to a grandma-hippie figure and be comforted or upbraided. Their own grandmother might be in another country or on the other side of this one. This is the reason people have psychics, shrinks, therapists, life coaches.

~*~

Left: the Eight of Coins (Craft) from the Nigel Jackson tarot.


I could never have read the tarot when I was young. I just wouldn't have had the nerve to look at a bunch of cards and talk about what they mean. I studied the cards and knew about them, but I don't know when it was that I saw a reading and realized I could do it, too. The first time I read the tarot for another person, I could clearly see that they were trusting me implicitly with their honest life-questions... and it was THEN and only then, that I understood the tarot's purpose; it is a process, an interaction, an exchange of knowledge, impressions, emotions. As I read the cards, it all unfolded before me--my own future too.

During the advertising campaign for Sam Raimi's film THE GIFT, screenwriter Billy Bob Thornton made waves when he said he based the lead character on his own mother, a small-town psychic in Arkansas. More weird shit from Billy Bob, said the press, rolling their collective eyes heavenward. But I heard him when he said that in certain parts of the south, people don't trust educated counselors and professionals the way they would trust his mother. It was also a matter of class, money, motive and overall style. People will either get it, he said, or they won't.

The easiest tarot reading is the skeptical person who has never had it done before. The archetypes represented by the tarot deck freak them out in a big way; they didn't realize they had consented to Jungian psychoanalysis as conducted by a hippie herbalist.

"Who's the Emperor?" I asked one such skeptic. "Your father?"

"You're supposed to tell me that!" he barked, condescendingly.

"Okay, your father."

He grunted.

And let's not forget: Occam's razor works well for tarot, too.

***

*In Ubik, a group of pre-cogs hired by one corporation is neutralized by another. They do this by making all futures (as foreseen by the pre-cogs) equally probable, thus canceling out any prominent ones from manifesting. (Of course, this essentially made them just like anyone else who could vividly imagine a future.)

15 comments:

Sarah J said...

I would love you to read my cards, Daisy. I do my own, but I think I bias them. ;)

though then again, there's always that notion of controlling your own future, isn't there?

Lisa Harney said...

I used to read the tarot. I lost my deck a long time ago, though, and I was never happy reading from Rider-Waite anyway. Not that Rider-Waite is bad, I love the cards, I just always felt they were a bad fit for me.

I would totally ask you to read my cards.

thene said...

The easiest tarot reading is the skeptical person who has never had it done before. The archetypes represented by the tarot deck freak them out in a big way; they didn't realize they had consented to Jungian psychoanalysis as conducted by a hippie herbalist.

So true!

I've gone in the opposite direction; I truly felt I could read the tarot until a few years ago, and then...stopped. Partly it was a social thing; I've barely read for people lately, but when I was a teenager I did it all the time. I am getting back into the deck now, in fits and starts, but I've not got anyone to read for, and I'm not sure I'll ever have the raw confidence I used to - hope so, though. I would love to play with cards with you sometime.

Octogalore said...

"The easiest tarot reading is the skeptical person who has never had it done before."

That's it -- I must have a reading from you! I've had my palm read but I think it was just a pick-up line and that may have been what kept me skeptical. Now I'm intrigued, especially with the "overall lightness" part -- which sounds quite appetizing.

nataliaantonova said...

I'd love it if you read my tarot sometime too. :-)

JoJo said...

I have a couple of tarot decks myself but I haven't studied it in depth much. My husband is such a science freak and uber skeptic, that I feel like he may think I'm off my nut.

I know that I am drawn to the cards but I would really need a mentor or teacher to guide/help me. *hint*

annie said...

now i will have camarillo brillo in my head all day long! ;)

eclexia said...

While I am skeptical of any "future reading" from tarot, I do believe the structure is a very useful tool for self-examination if used correctly. While I make no claims as to being correct (heh) I have recently tried this and found it to be both satisfying and uncomfortable.

Mrs. Earnest said...

I read since I was 15, now I'm 28 and I love it more and more as time goes by. Tarot will evolve with one - no question about it.

Now I'm in a phase where not only does Tarot have answers for my "clients" buy many lessons that will apply for my life. It's like a mirror. A couple years ago I was very reserved about my cards -- it was a secret -- now I tell everyone what a good reader I am.

Thanks for posting your blog!!

John Powers said...

I do love reading your posts. It's especially impressive how honestly you put yourself out for others. Putting a happy face on that, I'm a bit more reserved. I think this tendency isn't just how I am for others, but also honestly knowing myself. I find the use of archetypes helpful as a window into my unconscious--or barely conscious--motivations. Reading Tarot is a bit hard for me as I can take the negative meanings too much or too little to heart. I very much like Jamie Sams' Animal Medicine Cards and Sacred Path Cards. However this post inspired me to get out a Tarot deck. Hum, looks like snooze time is over for me. I'm not sure I can really read them, it takes some practice to develop relationships between the cards. It seems there's something bad in my past I'm not really aware of, and that has me thinking.

belledame222 said...

yeah, I've always seen Tarot less about predicting as such and more about a kind of myth-infused Rorscharch.

I have the Mythic Tarot, which I use for readings (rarely), and something called "Cosmic Tribe" which I don't use for readings but is really pretty to look at.

sometimes use single cards for altars, meditation, etc. too

Nick Kiddle said...

I've got a Rider Waite deck that I picked up on ebay. I've tried to do a couple of readings for myself, but what I've mostly used it for is working out what happens next in a novel. I just cut, look up what the card means, then try to figure out how that fits in with the characters' goals and so on. It's given me some interesting directions, but I kind of worry that's not really taking tarot seriously.

annie said...

couldn't resist sharing frank's words. sigh...

She had that
Camarillo brillo
Flamin out along her head,
I mean her mendocino bean-o
By where some bugs had made it red

She ruled the toads
Of the short forest
And every newt in idaho
And every cricket who had chorused
By the bush in buffalo

She said she was
A magic mama
And she could throw a mean tarot
And carried on without a comma
That she was someone I should know

She had a snake for a pet
And an amulet
And she was breeding a dwarf
But she wasnt done yet
She had gray-green skin
A doll with a pin
I told her she was awright
But I couldnt come in
(I couldnt come in right then...)

And so she wandered
Trough the door-way
Just like a shadow from the tomb
She said her stereo was four-way
An Id just love it in her room

Well, I was born
To have adventure
So I just followed up the steps
Right past her fuming incense stencher
To where she hung her castanets

She stripped away
Her ranchid poncho
An laid out naked by the door
We did it till we were un-concho
An it was useless any more

She had a snake for a pet
And an amulet
And she was breeding a dwarf
But she wasnt done yet
She had gray-green skin
A doll with a pin
I told her she was awright
But I couldnt come in
(actually, I was very busy then)

And so she wandered
Trough the door-way
Just like a shadow from the tomb
She said her stereo was four-way
An Id just love it in her room

Well, I was born
To have adventure
So I just followed up the steps
Right past her fuming incense stencher
To where she hung her castanets

She said she was
A magic mama
And she could throw a mean tarot
And carried on without a comma
That she was someone I should know

(is that a real poncho...i mean
Is that a mexican poncho
Or is that a sears poncho?
Hmmm...no foolin ...)

Daisy said...

Nick, Philip K Dick wrote THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE by using the I Ching as a random plot-changer in just the manner you describe. He won a Hugo award!

is that a real poncho...i mean
Is that a mexican poncho
Or is that a sears poncho?


Annie, he used that line again in Cosmik Debris!

Anonymous said...

Hi Daisy. I was just on Ren's blog, and I thought I'd come over and check you out. On a new blog (new to me, anyway) that always includes some of the older posts. I like the Tarot too, but I'm one of those skeptics who uses them as more of a personal Rorshach test/fictional character development tool.

I like Lady Frieda Harris' work (no, I WILL NOT edify Crowley when I refer to that deck.)
I'm currently using the Motherpeace deck. I didn't mind the Rider Waite deck, but mine went all floopy on me about 3 years ago. Man, my religious friends had some supernatural fun with that.I wrote those events off as a product of my own stress, being in a bad situation, making a few bad decisions at the worst possible time b/c of being sleep deprived and stretched to my limit by the persecution I had to deal with. I guess I did better than many would have done in such a No-Win scenario. I'm still alive. Cards don't curse me. Phantoms don't curse me. People curse me. And when that happens, I can't listen to my weird chanting friends about what kind of rituals to perform on a bunch of pieces of paper. I have to get back to RL and deal with it.

But I did switch to a deck with less formal, more Earth Mother based imagery. Goddesses in forests and lakes are so much easier on the eyes ;-)

Sorry for logging in as anonymous. It's me, Xena. I'm still working out the bugs with non-Wordpress blogs. That's what I get for being such a technophobe :-) Hopefully, I'll figure it all out as I stop by some of your other posts.

ttfn