Eliphas Levi claimed that all the knowledge in the world if lost could be regained from study of the tarot. Supposedly the most serious scholars of tarot would never stoop to do a reading. But tarot readings can be fun and enlightening, and a good tarot reader can give useful advice as anyone who has experienced one will tell you. As with any oracle the key is to avoid becoming dependent. But even the obsessive stage can be an enlightening experience. It’s easy to fall in love with the oracle that suits you best, or with a new one.
The reading pattern or deck a card reader uses matters little. Every card is worthy of meditation but good readers don’t necessarily study the cabbala. Sometimes readers evolve meanings for cards that are individual and not the same as traditional interpretations. Experience is the best teacher.
Here is a little known technique you may enjoy experimenting with. Most tarot readers follow a particular pattern, let us call it past to future, when doing a tarot reading. Occasionally you might find you are reading for someone you can try this out with. Ask them to choose which card they want to hear about first. Let them choose each card in the reading one by one. What cards are they attracted to first? Last? More than that, what card positions do they choose first? Do they first inquire about the past or the future? Do they choose the card crossing them representing obstacles and opposing forces? Or do they pick the signifier card, cypher of ego?
Consider a Celtic Cross reading. A person who chooses the cards on the bottom and the left of a reading, are they retreating from what is before them? Others may show little interest in card positions representing the past. They may need to take a better look at what they’ve ignored.
By allowing a person receiving a reading to have more choice about how the experience proceeds new levels of insight become available to the reader. You can also try it out in solitaire readings. See which cards attract you first. The tarot is a mirror. The more your sensitivity to nuance the greater the insight you’ll find.
Eliphas Levi in his Key to the Mysteries described a technique that is the opposite of what I have suggested. He seeks a scientific rigor of sorts in the depths of the cabbala. The number of cards thrown must be symbolic of the issue at hand. For example, for a question regarding life goals nine cards would suggest the completion of a cycle. Reading with an even number of cards are to be read right to left. Readings with an odd number of cards are to be read right to left, too, but starting from the middle card. The letters associated with the numbers of the cards are to be read the same way, right to left, as a cabalistic word. For specialists this is a wonderful experiment, but it requires at least a small library of obscure reference works, and experience with them.
Greed, vainglory, pride, lust are only a few of the emotions that can mislead a tarot reader. Using the tarot to impress a potential lover, or in revenge, or to anticipate the better profit, only seems to muddy the stream for most readers.
Can you remember the glamor of the cards when you first laid eyes on them? The innocence and sense of adventure approaching them, the investing of these images with a sense of spiritual potency, that is where the best readings come from. Joy of play. Cards after all are made to be used in games. Even though the tarot game is much deeper than poker or bridge it is still a card game.
You can wrap your cards in precious scarves and nestle it in a painted Tibetan wooden box. You can smudge your deck and saturate it with handmade incense. You can soak your cards in the full moon’s light or under bright sunshine. Y ou can approach them like a sacred radio for asking help from something greater. But they will not reveal their depths if you lose your sense of play.
The Herbal Tarot deck pictured above was co-created by Candice Cantin
while listening to cassettes of lectures on esoteric subjects by me among others.