“I’m staying away from the books until August 31, I think,” I said nervously to M last night across the table at a Greek resto. I meant August 1.
A few days prior I’d deleted most of my massive collection of tarot books from my Kindle. Only three remained:
- Psychic Tarot by Nancy Antenucci & Melanie A. Howard
- Tarot Spreads by Barbara Moore
- A Magical Course in Tarot by Michele Morgan
The three books I kept are light on book meanings. Instead the emphasis is on developing your beliefs, your style, and learning to listen to and trust your intuition and voice. That’s right, yours, not that awesome tarot blog you’ve been reading–mine, maybe? Or even the #tarot tag on Tumblr, however great it may be.
I love A Magical Course in Tarot so much I would recommend it to anyone who has forgotten (or never discovered) the magic of tarot. Michele Morgan has a truly unique take that has revolutionized the way I think about, talk about, view, and use tarot.
The thing about the rest of the books, the ones I deleted from my Kindle on the bus ride to work, especially Rachel Pollack’s The New Tarot Handbook, is that I Wasn’t just falling back on them when I was stumped. In falling back on them when I was stumped on one card, I was also checking all the cards and then doubting the meanings I intuited. I was using them as a crutch in place of trusting my own ability.
“Cats or humans?” I asked M Thursday. “Humans,” she said. I sat on my bed shuffling out the majors and court cards from the Cat’s Eye Tarot and the Gaian, the way my most recent acquisition, the Chrysalis Tarot arrived.
“Okay,” I said. But the rest of the week I debated: bring the cats, or leave them at home. My hasty decision to do a one card reading with something like ten minutes to go before M arrived made my decision for me. I shuffled the majors from the Cat’s Eye asking “What should I know about tonight?”
“I don’t know what it is, I said to M,”but lately I’m nothing but questions about tarot cards.” I was thinking, of course, about Seven Devils. So I was not surprised in the least when my first thought on drawing The Sun from the Cat’s Eye was “What waits on the horizon?” I shook my head impatiently. “That is more or less what I asked you,” I said to the card. Okay, a cat looking out at the horizon… what if a new day isn’t all Hollywood? Of course there is hope and anticipation, but what if there is also trepidation? Trying to talk it out the way one of the above-mentioned books recommends, I said “the tangle of emotions I’m feeling right now is okay, it’s okay to be hopeful and anticipate this reading but also have a bit of nervousness. That’s okay. I just need to remember that a) M is M, whether she is sitting across from me as a seeker or whatever, these are all parts of the same person (people contain multitudes), and this person is my friend, who loves me for who I am at this exact moment: there is nothing to be nervous about and b) The cards are just pretty card stock, the magic lies in me and if I don’t get it right the first time, I can try again, tomorrow is another new day.
Our conversation—over tzatziki and pita, kalamari, French onion soup (her), souvla (me), cheesecake (her) and chocolate poura (me)—kept looping back to tarot:
- “I don’t get a lot of practice with the Gay Tarot,” I said, “Jeff is the only one, and I’ve only read for him once.” “Would you consider reading for my friend? We could go for coffee… Think about it,” she said.
- “There’s no right or wrong way to read tarot, right?” she asked. “Well, some people think that, but others are very traditional and you have to at least stick to the essence of the meaning of the card.” “That’s what you do [stick to the essence], right?” “I’m not sure, I’m not checking the books.” I smiled.
Again, the more we talked about it, the more confident I became in my ability to talk about it.
Finally, while she was away from the table, I ordered a hot chocolate and slid the flower purse M gave me from my birthday last year, the impromptu “tarot bag” for my Gaian deck, out of my India bag from the Black Market Boutique.
“Shuffle,” I said, handing her the majors.
And then there were three
“Start small,” many of the “Tarot 101″ books advise, three card spreads are ideal. I started big—10 cards.
The minute I mention three cards people instantly think: past, present, future. As spreads go, PPF’s are great, some of my favourite readings are PPF’s, but you are selling three card spreads short by not at least knowing a few more three card spreads—there are well over 100! Some of my favourites include:
- Abundance, sources of love, silver linings
- Emotion, source of emotion, next action
- Fear, current response, better response
- Three approaches: optimistic, pessimistic, practical
- Hate, need, love
- Needs, wants, fears
But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what Michele Morgan writes in A Magical Course in Tarot:
Spreads can be fun and “easy” in that they limit the psychic horizon to fit within their boundaries. Fewer options, shorter trip.
Even Barbara Moore, who wrote an entire book on Tarot Spreads, admits in that book that tarot spreads have limitations, writing that:
When you consider using any spread, be mindful of what it assumes about the question and any possible answers.
One of the assumptions the example she gives, the Choices Spread, makes is that there are only two choices. I find a lot of spreads make assumptions about the choices, assuming life is black and white, which of course it isn’t. It is more nuanced than that. For example, in the question “Should I stay in a relationship?” (which I don’t read for due to my ethics), there are at least three options:
- Maintain the current situation
- Radical change
- Work on improving the current situation if at all possible
It’s not as simple as “should I stay or should I go?” Ideally a tarot spread will consider the top choices, if not all the choices, and not just the most obvious two.
But back to Michele Morgan. When I dealt three cards for Jeff, I clamped my mouth shut just as I was about to say “Past, present, future”, the cards didn’t fit a past, present, future reading.
Afterwards, M asked, looking down at the six cards on the table (I’m getting to that, be patient), “What was that? Past, present, future?” I shrugged. “Just three cards.” Current situation.
Trusting my voice
I deal the cards face down. This comes from years and years of playing card games with my grandmother. We deal face down, so in tarot, I deal face down. No mystery here—I want to walk the hair-thin line between mysticism and everyday magic, between prediction and empowerment.
When I turned them over, I looked down at them trying to remember to take my time, to not rush the experience, but after a few minutes I reached into my bag to retrieve the cats. I think it’s time I admitted and accepted that as much as I may want to be able to read the diverse, happy images of the Gaian Tarot, we’re just not “there.” I shuffled through the majors to find the same cards and laid them in a row above their Gaian counterparts.1
I looked at the first one, “Well, I think…” I started. I skipped the middle, the cats hadn’t helped any with that one. “And this one…” I tap the middle card, “but this one… I’m not sure.” I looked at them a moment longer, and then flipped them around so they were facing M. “What do you see?” I asked. She told me. I flipped the first set to face her “what do you see?” and then the last set. “Something I find interesting…” she said, pointing out something on the card that hadn’t popped out at me. “I wonder what that means.” “Maybe…” I said, offering my interpretation after a few minutes.
“Does that make sense? Does it… resonate?” I asked.
man card is an island
Interpreting each individual card is correct, but leaving it there is also oversimplifying. On the drive home something nagged at me. What did the cards mean together. It wasn’t until I was re-entering the house after going out again, that it came to me. “Maybe all the cards together are pointing to…” I texted. “Does that make any sense at all?”
“Makes perfect sense,” she replied.
Which brings me to this: no card is an island entire of itself.
However informal the spread in most if not all cases, each card has the potential to inform the other cards, like I asked of one of The Devil cards in my Seven Devils post, “How does our past haunt us and the other positions in a past/present/future layout?”
Here are two visual examples:
- A basic 3-card spread (PPF, maybe?)
- The basic layout of the ten card reading I did in September–add an additional row of clarifiers for the full 10-card layout2
The cards have the ability to tell a cohesive story.
At the end of the day
She pulled up in front of my house. “Thank you,” she said, I said. I forget how it came up (oh the irony!) but she said I could experiment with tarot on her anytime. I smiled. We’d been discussing my awesome (but highly selective!) memory moments before, I said, “Just so you know, I’m going to remember that!” I smiled.
I am still developing my tarot practice. It will change, evolve, some ideas will be scrapped, some built upon, I will stutter less, my hands won’t always shake.
It is important to me that my tarot practice remain connected to its roots, like my city. That M be able to recognize her influence on my practice, always. That I learn to trust my intuitive voice exclusively, however far off-book it may stray. That I always be open to the messages, said, unsaid, and in the cards. May I remember love above all.
I have more thoughts, but I think I’ve written a book here, so I’m going to post this. The next tarot post I have planned is a spread for my Mixed Emotions deck… stay tuned!