Learning the Tarot

I’m still doing my one card a day tarot study, though I’m not sure if I’m learning anything. The whole thing confuses me — if the card tells me what I already know about myself, then it seems unnecessary. It it’s supposed to help me see where I am going, then that too seems unnecessary since I will know what I know when I get there. And if it’s about delving deeper into my psyche and coming in contact with my higher self — well, so far that hasn’t happened.

It’s possible the lack is in the tarot itself. After all, the tarot is only a deck of cards — specialized cards, but still just cards. Although each card is assigned a meaning of sorts, a core truth, the cards are open to interpretation, so whatever a person thinks the card means that particular day is the meaning, and that meaning can be different on a different day. This all seems too imprecise and ambiguous for my logical and concrete mind.

It’s possible the lack is in me, not just my inability to intuit any meanings, but my inability to connect with any particular deck. It’s possible I’ll be able to find such a deck — after all, I have dozens of them. Each month I use a different deck, and so far, the ones I’ve used are off-putting. The artwork doesn’t speak to me, and the symbolism of the artwork seems specious at best. Still, I’m sure I will find an affinity with at least one, and then we’ll see if my studies take a different turn.

Having said that, I’ve been keeping track of my daily card, and I do see a pattern to the cards I pick, vague though that pattern might be, because the same cards seems to show up again and again. For example, the king and queen of pentacles show up at least once every month, sometimes two or three times. Since I pick a card randomly, this repetition seems to indicate that more than mere chance is at work. If I used the same deck all the time, I’d think that perhaps the card hadn’t been shuffled well enough or was sticky or had some sort of defect that made the card stand out, but I use a different deck every month.

These two cards do seem to be a reflection of my life. The queen, in a few words, represents someone who is secure in her personal possessions and in her place in life, and the king refers to stability and not having to prove oneself. Since the cards are open to interpretation, and since every tarot writer has assigned various meanings, these few words don’t tell the whole story, but they suffice for the purposes of this article.

Another and seemingly opposite card that I get frequently is the ten of swords which spells ruination, disaster, calamity, though this seems to reflect my thoughts about the current USA situation rather than my own. The card is also a reminder that though I can’t change the actions of another person, I can change how I respond, which seems a timely reminder, for sure.

The cards I pick are mostly swords and pentacles. Very few cups or wands. Very few of the major arcana, though The Tower shows up periodically, which among other things, points to changes — a release of tension that has been building up, a flash of sudden insight, or maybe a warning.

So does any of this mean anything? I don’t know. My daily card pick is helping me get used to the tarot, and it is getting me familiar with the various way experts interpret the cards, so that’s something. The card itself sometimes seems to refer to me, sometimes it seems to refer to what’s going on in the rest of the country, sometimes it seems to be a reflection of my worries. But does it add anything to what I know? Not that I can see.

Sometimes the cards tell me I am more intuitive than I know, other times they seem to think I rely on my intellect. Either way, does it matter?

I do try to find a bit of advice in the daily card, as I did with the ten of swords mentioned above, but these are merely reminders of what I already know.

I suppose it’s possible that after years of study, I might find . . . something. But then, that’s not the point of my studying. I have the cards, and I do find the array of the different decks compelling, and if there is any esoteric knowledge hidden in the cards, I’d like to know what it is. But more than that, it’s about connecting with my deceased brother, the one who collected the cards. “Connecting” might be the wrong word since I’m not trying to connect with him in any psychic way. It’s more that I am connecting with my memory of him, with the private person buried beneath his polarizing personality, the beloved brother I lost way before his death.

That connection, if nothing else, does give my daily card reading a meaning.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

A Slightly Dreamy Woman

I’ve been doing a one-card tarot reading every morning this month, and every time I asked the same question — what do I need to know today?

I’m not sure what I need to know, but there is definitely a pattern to the cards. Five of the cards spoke of harmony. Two spoke of balance. Two spoke of working toward one’s dreams, and two said the dreams were coming to fruition because of previous hard work. Two or three mentioned change and growth. (That adds up to more than twelve cards, but some of the cards fell into a couple of these categories.)

It’s interesting to me that there is a theme to the cards I picked, but I have no way of interpreting it. Since at least two of the cards refer to intuition and inspiration, I should be able to intuit the meaning in these cards, but it’s hard to know if they are saying I’m almost to the point of balance and harmony or that I need to work harder to get to that point.

I must admit, I do feel as if I’ve found a balance to my life and seem to be in harmony with my self for a change, but since the tarot is about digging deeper and discovering what we don’t want to face, it’s possible I’m fooling myself. Though if I were, wouldn’t I feel out of harmony?

Either way, being in harmony (or nearing that state) and merely feeling as if I am in that state of near harmony, it seems to be the same thing — a feeling of having found a balance.

But since these cards also speak of change and working toward one’s dreams, maybe it means I have found near-harmony but that’s no reason to rest on my almost balanced laurels.

One of the cards I picked was the Keeper of the Crescents. This is a weird deck, one of those that the creators decided to forgo a lot of the traditional names and meanings and made up their own, as well as switching around the elemental meanings of a couple of the suits. This card is the equivalent to the Page of Cups. The book that came with the cards spent a lot of time describing the card and pointing out the symbolism and mythos of the various aspects of the card, but when it came to interpretation, they said only that it meant a quiet and slightly dreamy woman, full of deep passion and feelings.

Although the card seems apropos, I had to laugh. All of that imagery just to mean something simple as a slightly dreamy woman? Why not just do an image of a slightly dreamy woman then?

When I looked online for Page of Cups, I did find more of an explanation, such as this card representing the unexpected inspiration that comes from the unconscious (though isn’t inspiration, almost by definition, unexpected?), perhaps in ways we might not truly understand. It also says to be open to new ideas that come from intuitive inspiration, despite those ideas being something we might not expect.

So far, I haven’t come upon those new ideas yet — no ideas about the cards I’ve chosen so far this month and no ideas about anything, actually.

If I had an idea, I’d have written about it instead of writing about these cards.

Well, there was one idea that came to me — it suggested that I would have been better served to pick a more traditional deck for this first month’s foray into a daily tarot pick. That way, whatever I learned would have more relevance to other decks. So next month, I’ll be sure to pick a less esoteric deck.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

 

Puzzling out the Tarot

Although I see myself as a bit of a mystic, I’ve never been into tarot, or any sort of divination for that matter. I always figured if we can change the future, then it doesn’t matter what the predicted future is, and if we can’t change it, then the prediction especially doesn’t matter.

If ever a thought of the tarot crossed my mind, it would have been in the same mental classification as astrology, Ouija boards, and fortune cookies. I used a Ouija board once when I was kid, know my astrology sign and will read my horoscope when it’s in front of me (though the horoscope never seemed to have any relation to anything going on in my life), and enjoy fortune cookies, but that was the extent of my interest. Oh, I did read up on the occult since I have always been one to try to get a peek into the secrets of the universe, but charlatans so often dominated the field, that I stuck with more scientific gateways, like particle physics and quantum mechanics. (Yep, I was one of those who read such books for fun.)

I’m still not sure there is anything for me in the tarot, but considering that it is supposed to be a way to get insights into one’s inner being, it’s worth studying for now. And besides, it seems a message from my brother. Admittedly, this collection of tarot cards hadn’t been specifically earmarked for me, but that mass of decks sure struck a chord with me, so it felt as if he meant me to have them.

So here I am, trying to make sense of a massive amount of contradictory information. For example, the card I picked this morning to answer my question of what I needed to know today, was the nine of swords. Swords are supposed to be a bad luck sort of card, without a lot of happiness attached, and the nine of swords especially so. One interpretation talks about fears, vulnerability and inner turmoil and suggests that I learn what the source of those fears are. Another interpretation talks of depression and suffering, scandal and loss.

But swords relate to consciousness at a mental level, and reflect an individual’s thoughts, beliefs, and overall attitude. They also point to fears and worries, but don’t necessarily put a whole lot of weight on those fears, because the sword is two-edged, which connotes a balancing act to stay positive.

And nines are about nearing completion, maybe about reaching a plateau, because what looked like the end hasn’t quite arrived.

All that seems positive to me, so instead of the nine of swords telling me I’m depressed and fearful and need to figure out what my trouble is so I can get into a more benign state, my own take on the matter is I’m already there. Or almost. That I’m doing well balancing my fears and staying positive, even though I can do better.

See what I mean about contradictory information?

And this isn’t even taking into consideration the whole ancient elements matter — water, fire, air, earth. According to the most common tarot tradition, swords mean air, but some decks and some scholars indicate that swords are fire. (As you can see, in my own interpretation, I left off any mention of air or fire because the element question muddles an already muddled situation.)

On a different note completely, as I was reading about the elements, I happened to open the book to another page that was defining the “fool” card, and I had to laugh. Apparently, in Italy and Austria, The Fool goes by the name “Mat,” which is an Arabic word meaning “a dead person.” In The Wheel of Time, one of the major characters is a fellow everyone thinks is a fool. I thought he was simply an archetype, but he is definitely one of the major arcana characters from the tarot. Not only is his name “Mat,” but as he says, “I’m usually pretty good at staying alive. I only failed one time that I remember.”

Now I’m going to have to re-reread The Wheel of Time again to look for additional tarot references. As well as to continue puzzling out the tarot itself.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.