Tarot: Step inside the cards

Sooner or later, most good cooks throw away their recipe books. What they know is not rote memorization, but an understanding of food, the impact of heat and cold, and the results of mixing one thing with another.

Knight of Swords – Thoth Deck. Other decks use the term “King.

Effective Tarot card readers throw away books that list the standard meanings of each card because they have discovered that the card is a prompt–or perhaps a spirit–that directs the reader to his/her own intuition and knowledge.

Personally, I don’t believe the future is fixed in place, so I’m going to see a reading (whether it comes from the I Ching, Tarot Cards, Bones, or some other system) as a story about what is now the case or is developing. How the reader sees this matter will also impact how they react to either the so-called standard meanings of the cards and/or to their intuitive glimpses into the question on their minds that is prompted by seeing the cards in a certain order.

In time, the reader no longer needs the cards. That’s much simpler, but perhaps a long time coming for many people who pick up a Tarot deck and wonder if it will speak to them.

I am influenced when I look at the cards by knowing that they are “ruled” by the elements Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. Fire and Air are considered active. The Swords suit (modern-day spades) is within the realm of Air. Knights are always considered the fiery/active part of each element. The active nature of a Knight is shown in the movement of the figure on the card. As described on Raven Tarot, “The element of Air is the pure mind, the thought and the intellect, synthesis and analysis, the proceeding of the amorphous spirit of Fire and the unconscious emotion of Water into definitions and concepts. Air is both structure and conscious realization, both formation and abstraction.” 

Other readers come to the Tarot with other basic ideas and they will be influenced by those and they will find the cards to be catalysts to their intuition in a somewhat different way, though they “should” more or less come to the same conclusions about a subject as I do.

The deck I use.

Some people “learn the cards” by meditating on each one and allowing ideas about each card to come to them without actively trying to “figure out the card.” Others do multiple readings about things they will know in the “future” and see how what they saw in the “spread” (the card’s layout on the table) coincides to the unfolding future. When one does this, it helps to do readings about others because if you do them about yourself, you can always change the way things unfold an invalidate the reading.

The Card as a Doorway

In my imagination, I visualize being in a nondescript room with a large doorway in it that’s painted like the card I want to learn more about. After I’ve relaxed and gotten rid of all the general chatter going on inside my head, I walk to the door and open it. What do I see outside? What do I hear? First impressions are important because they simply are and haven’t had time to get twisted into logical deductions about what’s going on. When I open the door painted like the Knight of Swords card, I see swirling fog, sometimes by day and sometimes by night, and hear the sound of the wind.

Sometimes my intuition leads me to sit on the doorstep there–as we’re supposed to do at a railroad crossing–and Stop, Look, and Listen. Sometimes my intuition leads me to step outside, and when I do that, I’m usually in the sky, swirling around like a leaf in the wind with no control of its own. There’s no fear in this, no sensation of falling, and no worry that I might be carried so far away from the door, I won’t know how to get back. Since this is “my card” in Tarot readings and as I see myself generally, floating, swirling, sailing, and tumbling in pure air is a basic, womb-like experience. I’m often content to do nothing and just soak of the nourishment of the moment.

I can exert control if I like, though it’s more intuitive than logical. Rather than, say, deciding to fly over a specific place, I simply wonder “what’s down there” or “what else is up here.” I might see cities and oceans the way I would seem them from a plane or stars the way I might see them through the lens of a telescope. Air carries me whither it wants to.

Doing this kind of meditation is not unique to me. Many intuitives have said that Tarot cards are, for them, like windows or doorways. I suppose, though, that I bring a shaman’s journey technique and, rather than seeing figurative worlds or literal places, I see what’s outside the door of each card.

And, in a sense, whenever we do a Tarot reading, we are looking at what’s outside the doorway of the present moment and our present time and current place.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of novels filled with magic.

 

 

 

The Dance of Sun and Moon – Stages on the Journey

When the Sun and the Moon are viewed within the arena of Western esoteric traditions, including alchemy and the Tarot, they represent opposites that approach and retreat from each other even though they are destined to be merged into one. In these traditions, the Sun represents fire, masculine, positive (polarity), rational, visible world, and the consciousness mind. The Moon represents water, feminine, negative (polarity), intuition, hidden world, and the unconscious mind.

It is said that the enlightened being, often called The Wonder Child or viewed as the Philosopher’s Stone, is born from the merging of these apparent father/mother, king/queen opposites as depicted in the old art work shown here.

One of the many ways of illustrating the steps on the path to enlightenment, the goal of the hero’s and heroine’s journeys, is through the sequence of Major Arcana (trumps) cards in a Tarot deck. The Major Arcana  cards begin with “0 The Fool,” who is considered the innocent initiate at the beginning of the journey/quest and end with “21 The Universe,” which represents ascension. En route, the seeker finds “18 The Moon” and “19 The Sun.”

I like the description of the Moon and Sun  cards in the ancient quests of  knights for the Holy Grail. The Moon, then, is the Grail in the lake (beautiful water symbolism here) and the Sun represents the Grail lifted up into the pure light prior to completing the quest. Afterwards, the initiate/seeker reaches “20 Aeon” which is viewed as the rising of the Phoenix from the ashes prior to ascension.

Many Paths = One Destination

There are multiple layers of symbols here when we overlay the hero’s/heroine’s journey paths with all their traditional associations, including the Lesser Mysteries and Greater Mysteries, the cycles of the seasons around “the wheel of the year,” the Tree of Life, Tarot, alchemy and astrology. One need not study all of this, or even any of this, to understand seeker’s journey. The journey is who we are and what we are about. All of the paths to enlightenment are pointed toward the same end: transformation. Each of us focuses on the symbols we’re most comfortable with and attuned to.

Some experts say that we’re impacted by these symbols even if we are not consciously aware of them or understand the little we may have heard about them. I am a novice in using Tarot and understanding the cards’ many connections to the Tree of Life, spiritual alchemy and the cycles of the seasons. Generally, though, I like the symbolism of the Thoth Deck of Cards. The Moon and Sun cards shown here are from that deck and have a fair amount of symbolism.

  • Moon: The overall tone here is night. In the Book of Thoth, the Moon is called the “Gateway of Resurrection.” During night and Winter, the waiting Sun is diminished or absent. The landscape here is severe and the stream is mixed with blood. The sacred scarab holds the sun in its darkness while the moon occupies the mind and cosmos.
  • Sun: The overall tone here is light, with the twelve major rays standing for the signs of the zodiac. The light emanates from a rose-like sun, standing for the flowering of the solar influence. The children above the green and fertile earth are forever young and innocent. They represent the seeker’s and/or humankind’s next stage.

The Writer’s Raw Materials

moon
moon

As a writer, I love the relationship of symbols and story ideas. They can strongly impact plots, themes and characters. There are many ways to characterize a journey. For example, readers of my hero’s journey novel The Sun Singer  will find numerous references to light and the other aspects of the so-called solar journey. For more information, see the Journey Page on my website and explore the information on the Joseph Campbell Foundation site. The book’s Glacier Park setting reminds park visitors and fans of “Going to the Sun Road” and the expanse of light one sees from high mountain trails.

Likewise, readers of my heroine’s journey novel Sarabande will find numerous references to water and the other aspects of the so-called lunar journey. The Heroine’s Page and the Sarabande Page on my website have more details. While the book’s story begins in the mountain high country, the plot (which is oriented around the moon’s phases) becomes more focused on rivers, dreams and the so-called “Underworld.”

 

sun
sun

For more information about Tarot cards in general, you might enjoy exploring one of my favorite sites: Raven’s Tarot Site. Here you’ll learn more about the Major Arcana (trumps), Minor Arcana (suits), and their correspondences with the Tree of Life, the classic elements, and astrology.

My first intention in both of these books is telling an exciting story. Both stories have many associations with myths and symbols. Those who know the myths and symbols will, perhaps, smile when they see the references. Those who do not consciously know the myths and symbols will still be subject to their spells.

As Rumi said, “What you seek, seeks you.” So, perhaps when you’ve finished reading the stories, you’ll be drawn into the “inner stories” behind the actions of Robert Adams (The Sun Singer) and Sarabande (Sarabande). When that happens, you’ll find that what you are looking for will begin to appear more often in your life in the form of books, websites and links, things you see on the way to work or on a hike, people who are interested in these subjects, and your dreams.

Meanwhile, as you read the novels, I hope you’ll enjoy the action while you are dancing with the Sun and the Moon—as they dance with each other.

–Malcolm