What the Tarot is Not
Before we begin a discussion of the Tarot and what it means to me, let me first tell you a few things which it is not:
I know the Tarot has gotten a bad name over the years largely from bad movies and religious zealots who fear anything different than themselves (my advance apologies to any religious zealots who may be reading this). But studying psychology and mythology is not evil. Seeking insight to one's life is not evil. And cards themselves are not evil.
- The Tarot is NOT...Speaking with the dead
- The Tarot is NOT...Channeling spirits
- The Tarot is NOT...Speaking with evil spirits
- The Tarot is NOT...Divination
- The Tarot is NOT...Fortune telling
Painting a set of cards with an array of images detailing mythological archetypes, personality types, and mundane daily events taken from the Middle Ages, is not evil either. And really, that is "all" a Tarot deck is a selection of interesting paintings depicting scenes imbued with symbolic metaphors which have been finely tuned to represent important archetypal influences which effect the human psyche.
Perhaps the two most misunderstood Tarot archetype cards are represented by the Devil and Death. So let's briefly introduce these two cards, which some will argue represent the darkest aspects of the Tarot deck. (And from a certain point of view, this argument has some merit.)
The Devil. Addiction. Self-absorbtion and self-abuse. Being unable to throw chains of habit off oneself, despite the looseness of the chains. This really is not about an evil creature of any kind. It is about our inability to control our more base, animal impulses or falling prey to self-destructive behavior.
Death. Transition. Transformation. Death and decay are a cycle of life, making room for those who will follow those who proceeded them. It also marks transitions across different phases of life. Moving out of our parents home, graduating college, marrying, moving to another country may all be "signaled" by the Death card. In these cases it is a symbol of the "death" of one phase of our life and the beginning of a new phase. There is no judgement attached as to whether this change is for the better or worse, merely that we find it significant.
Organization of the Tarot Deck
Tarot cards symbolically represent core human traits, common to all mankind. These representations range from vast underlying archetypal influences, to personality, emotional, and psychological traits and behaviors of individuals, to the small trials, tribulations, and successes we find throughout our daily lives.
The traditional Tarot deck is comprised of 78 cards, arranged in three "groups" of cards, each of which addresses a specific aspect of how we interact and perceive the world around us:
- There are 22 "Major Arcana" cards, often simply called "Trumps."
- These serve as the major human archetypes, representing broad, sweeping concepts.
- These typically represent the strongest influences in an analysis/reading.
- There are 16 "Court Cards" populated by Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages.
- These represent personality traits of individuals, and sometimes specific persons.
- Interestingly, the Tarot developed to recognize 16 basic personality types as did the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) used today to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.
Examining our situation/question from these perspectives provide a matrix against which we may compare and contrast concepts. It is in this analytic process that we discover new insights to our situation, and sometimes notice Synchronicity.
- The remaining 40 cards depict mundane affairs of daily life.
- These are still quite important influence upon our lives, but they are not sweeping in nature (Archetype) nor specifically dealing with personality (Court cards).
A study over 500 years in the making!
Tarot (pronounced TAY-row) is the use of Ancient Psychology to help us weigh the pros and cons of our daily problems. We know the human condition was the same 500 years ago. In fact, we see clear proof people don't really change reaching back more than 3,200 years ago when we read Homer's Odyssey (circa 1,200 BC). This is why his epic poem still moves us to this day.
You see, while technology may change over time, people don't really change. We all struggle with personal relationships, friends and rivals, our finances, and are faced with many pivotal decisions throughout our lives...
None of these are new questions! Our ancestors struggled with the same issues of heart as you do... which are the same issues I face. While there are some obvious cultural differences in reaching back 500 years, we still all face the same kind of challenges in life. We all enjoy laughter. We all suffer emotional loss and turmoil. We all seek to improve our lot in life, and to help those we love.
- What is going to happen with my job, career, and/or finances?
- How might I improve my relationship?
- What are important considerations when choosing one path over another?
- Is there a better way of dealing with that difficult cousin, in-law, or co-worker?
Now, our ancestors didn't have a Jungian psychoanalyst to speak with, but they certainly accumulated vast stores of knowledge about the human condition, and they were every bit as smart as we are. So they must have developed techniques similar to our study of human psychology.
And they did....
Since the Renaissance their observations of the human experience has been carefully defined, refined, and codified. Furthermore, this has been committed to paper. Their terminology and cultural references are somewhat different, yet they remain very familiar to us even to this day. This is why Renaissance artwork still strikes a chord in our hearts we are connected to them and their era in very real and important ways, only some of which we appreciate consciously.
We are the benefactors of their painstaking observations. We may now interpret their Ancient Psychology as seen through the lens of the Tarot deck, and in so doing better inform our own decision making process.
So far as we know, the tradition of hand-painted Tarot cards reaches back about 500-years. Tarot cards are perhaps the finest example of ancient psychological analysis, and while we can't prove it, they must be the result of many hundreds of years of careful observation and philosophical contemplation as to what drives and motivates human beings.
But the deepest roots of Tarot reach much farther back in time....
From that first moment something sparked in the mind of man, ever after we have questioned the universe and our place in it. This evolving process of struggling to understand ourselves and our fellow man began in the lost mists of time. Gradually our ancestors developed stories to help them feel safe during the long, dark nights, and to pass on what they learned about their world to their children.
We "modern" humans look back at these stories, dismissing them as myths or legends, while quietly smiling to ourselves, and silently wondering, "what kind of unsophisticated barbarian would believe such tales?"
Then, Sigmund Freud showed us strange and disturbing aspects of ourselves dwelling within our own minds, barely concealed by a thread-bare layer of consciousness. And as Carl Jung developed his unique insights into human psychology we began to seriously consider that there may indeed be an unseen, unappreciated Group Unconscious uniting everyone. Even stranger, Jung introduced the concept of Synchronicity, that something seemed to orchestrate "Meaningful Coincidences" in our lives, suggesting an incredibly deep level of interconnectiveness between each of us and the world. This is something even today many wish to deny.
As our collective minds reel from these blows, Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein help deliver the knock-out punch. Quantum physics shows us that everything is energy, that matter is merely interference patterns of energy waves, and at the most fundamental level, our universe is comprised of collapsing waves of probability. This makes no sense, of course yet there is every indication this is true. Suddenly, our smug self-assuredness seems false... nothing remains certain. We are a-drift...
Fortunately, Joseph Campbell shows us the way back from this precipice. Using comparative mythology and comparative religion, he helps us understand that Universal Truths do in fact connect each of us to our ancient ancestors. Campbell helps us sew together the common threads of ancient archetypes, mythology, philosophy, and religious beliefs in such a way that we begin to appreciate the wisdom of our ancient ancestors.
Carl Jung, Neils Bohr, and Joseph Campbell together point us toward a mystical understanding of the meaning of our existence and that of the Universe. In a fascinating twist of cosmic irony we are coming full circle. Is it a coincidence that modern quantum physicists and ancient mystics describe the Universe in much the same way? That everything and everyone is connected? That at a the deepest level we are all one? Perhaps our ancestors knew something important after all?!
As Shakespeare observed when writing Hamlet...
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Keen observation of human behavior lead our ancestors to intuited that which comprised our deepest selves was unexplainable. Words fail to reveal that which the heart feels as Truth. Understanding this, they summon archetypes and symbols as their vehicle of expression in their myths. They speak to us not so much in their words, but in their imagery, painted with the brush of metaphor. So to understand the Tarot we need to develop an appreciation for metaphor, and of expressing ourselves symbolically. As we do so, we learn to navigate the layers of imagery Tarot cards depict.
While there are areas of overlap, the main modes of communication we need to appreciate are:
Archetypes are universal to all human experience. These are sweeping concepts, some are truly cosmic in nature, and as such they are ideas we may only poorly express or understand. One of the core aspects of an Archetype is that it conveys something which is too large to fully comprehend with the human mind. In an effort to better understand an archetypal concept, we break it into more manageable pieces, until we hold a smaller network of related concepts. These are symbols. While symbols are more clearly defined than archetypes, we often still cannot grasp the entire network of underlying ideas. So we further reduce and simplify our symbols until ultimately we hold a sign in our hand, which is a singular concept which we are able to completely understand.
Two additional dimensions of the Tarot are important to appreciate. We are being addressed at several levels of consciousness, and we may apply our awareness to an outward (exoteric) or inward (esoteric) perspective.
Our consciousness is spoken to on three levels:
Unifying these levels of consciousness is what Carl Jung spoke of as our primary imperative. In doing so we unite the Self, which while somewhat nebulous in the spirit of an Archetype, is nevertheless that inner-most aspect of ourselves which motivates us to evolve emotionally and psychologically into a fully integrated being. And interestingly, this is one way to understand what an esoteric study of the Tarot may help us accomplish.
- Conscious awareness;
- Subconscious and Unconscious awareness:
- Subconscious This is entirely in our own minds.
- Unconscious This is a much wider expanse. It includes the Group Unconscious which all humans share.
- Super-conscious awareness:
- Our Higher Self;
- The Spiritual Realm; and
- The Divine.
So what is meant by exoteric and esoteric?
One way to understand the concept of exoteric vs. esoteric is to use a religious example. The exoteric (outer) meaning of religion is seen in the orthodox structure and the dogma of a specific religion. It is organized in the outer world and applied to the individual by others. The esoteric (inner) meaning of religion is entirely personal to the individual. This requires no correlation to the outside world. Another example may be seen in government. The exoteric meaning of government is seen in the laws and regulations of that society and in how these are forced upon the individual by other people. The esoteric meaning of government is self-government. This is the self-enforced "code of honor" by which the person governs their own life.
Another aspect of interpreting the Tarot is in how each card's meaning is modified by those cards which are placed near it. Furthermore, the position of the card in the overall pattern of cards (called the "spread") is also important. Thereafter a large number of additional correspondences may be applied to the spread of cards. Of these, some of the more important are astrology and numerology, as well as the study of the Kabala (which itself includes several important subsets: Jewish Kabala, Christian Kabala, and Hermetic Qabalah) and Hermeticism.
Each of these additional correspondences may become quite an involved area of study. These are beyond the scope of our conversation at this time. There are literally dozens of books written on each of these subjects, as well as the primary subject matter itself. A person may either study these texts, which is a fascinating, complex, and stimulating process or find someone else who enjoys doing this, who continually digests this and related material, and then ask them to do a "simple" Tarot reading for you.
Fortunately I enjoy studying each of these fields. There is more material than a person may hope to digest in one lifetime, but I find it relaxing and mentally stimulating, as well as spiritually challenging. I also enjoy providing people with interesting Tarot card readings, and many people tell me my interpretations have helped them.
But what about Free Will?
Free Will appears to be a Cosmic Law. We must make our own choices. Sometimes we try to deny this by choosing to not-choose, or by letting others choose for us however, either way, we are still exercising our Free Will.
I invite you to entertain the possibility that considering additional perspectives may benefit your ability to make more informed choices. By giving consideration as to how the Tarot cards may inform your situation, you may gain new insights which you might not otherwise consider. This is a perspective which you are free to accept, modify, or deny. You always retain Free Will.
Exercising your Free Will with Deliberate Forethought is precisely the objective when utilizing the Tarot as a sounding board. Anyone telling you otherwise either does not understand the nature of the Tarot, or they do not have your best interest at heart.
Tarot Readings by Erik E. Weaver
I apply the Analytical Tarot Consultation Method when reading Tarot for you. This means I employ the Tarot in a technique I call "Ancient Psychology" (which is not to be confused with modern psychology I hold no professional degrees, although I am an ordained Esoteric Interfaith Chaplain).
As you and I discuss your concerns and interests, I use the interaction of archetype, personality, and events revealed in the Tarot to inform your question(s). In so doing, we find a realistic yet optimistic means of resolving your concerns. While you always retain Free Will and will do as you wish, you will benefit from your Tarot reading with me by having at least one positive plan to steer you towards an outcome you desire.
Among the primary objectives in giving you a Tarot reading is to highlight both the obstacles and aids to your desired goals. As you then find these positive and negative influences acting out in your daily life, you emphasize the positive aspects, helping them to grow and increase, while at the same time striving to negate or diminish those negative influences which may work against your desired outcome. As you diminish the negative and increase the positive aspects of your environment, you naturally find over time your situation improves, as well as your attitude toward your future. Both play an important role in promoting a state of holistic wellness.
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- My name must be spelled correctly, or someone else will get your email;
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