Monday, February 14, 2011

Easy Tarot Lessons: Lesson one-- start here

Staring at a spread that won't give you solid answers is frustrating. Spreads that are unclear or seem to wander away from the querents question (querent or petitioner = one who is asking/seeking) do a lot of harm to your ego. They delight in making you feel incompetent. When you are facing down a spread that refuses to cooperate you might be tempted to wonder if you shuffled enough or "did it right." This is a problem most (if not "all") Tarot students experience time after time. It is recurring. It is pernicious. And it is a pain in the butt!

Fortunately this problem can be solved with the following exercise. This exercise requires a fair amount of practice. It may seem simple and obvious, so much so that you would hardly consider it valuable, but the amount of time you do this exercise will determine how much the cards open up to you. This is the foundation of all advanced Tarot knowledge. I do this exercise to this day (but obviously not "every day" any more), even after several decades of reading and teaching the Tarot. So, got your deck handy? (I will wait) . . . 

. . . Okay I am timed of waiting. Let's begin:

Step one: If you are an absolute beginner do this step. If you like to think of yourself as proficient with the Tarot do this step. If you are a Tarot master you can skip this step. Remove all 22 "major" Arcana cards from your deck and set them carefully aside. Don't put them near a candle or anything wet. As obvious as this sounds please trust me on this. You don't want your cards to get bent, folded, or knocked over (wax on them, wet . . .) and you will forget about them within a few minutes of doing this exercise. Also, turn each card so that it is facing "up." We don;t need any reversed cards for this exercise as they will only slow you down.

Step two: With your deck prepared ("major" Arcana carefully set aside and all of the cards facing the same direction) you can shuffle the deck or have them in the order of your choosing. Just make sure they are facing "down" so you can't see their faces. Now . . .

Flip a card. 

That was easy, eight? So, what does the card look like? Is it cluttered with things and activity? It is a "busy" card or is it sedate, lazy, relaxed? How much is going on in this card? If you were the photographer of this picture--you were right there snapping the pic as it happens would you say it was loud or quiet? Are people shouting or making noise? Are they polite or argumentative? Is there music? If there is music is it light and charming or festive (dancing music)? Who is the "star" of this picture? Who is most important and are they happy? Do they fit into their world or does it conspire against them? Is this card a comedie or a tragedie? (roughly: happily ever after ending or sad ending) Is the card authoritative? Is it "a day in the life" card or an event? These questions you ask of the card help you get inside it and see what is really going on in the picture.

The Tarot is a visual divination tool. It's purpose and usage is based in "what you see" and little else. To kame (Na'vi word for "see" or "see into") it you need to be able to understand the relation of its participants. Don't underestimate the importance of this exercise. This one exercise will help you become a reader of legendary ability if you stay with it. But that is for later, after years of "real-world" experience. Right now let's just look at some examples. I will use the Rider-Waite, or "Rider/Waite-Smith" deck as it is the most popular deck in the world and the foundation of almost every modern Tarot deck. No matter what deck you are using please draw the appropriate card from your deck now and look at it and compare it to what "I see."

7 of Swords This seems to be a thief sneaking away from camp with other people's swords. If you look closely you can see silhouettes of people in the background. Presumably these are the warriors whose swords are being stolen. If this is the case (that the "main character" is a thief) then we are looking at something being stolen or someone "taking the wind out of someone else's sails". He is (seems to be) removing their ability to fight. After all how can you go to war without your sword?

But what if it is a practical joke? That could be what we see. Or he could be dancing. One of my students insisted this guy was dancing. So be it. Maybe he is. Maybe he is doing "the forbidden sword dance of Sheba." Perhaps he is gathering the swords because the idiots in the background DID go to war without their swords and he was ordered to go back to get them.

What is the most obvious scenario to you right now? Next Thursday when you see this card again you may have a different opinion of what is happening and that is just fine. Does he look like he is succeeding (getting away with his practical joke or theft, or whatever)? Does he have any opposition? Is anyone directly confronting him? Is it raining on him? (Yeah, yeah, there is almost no weather to be found in the Tarot)

Let's try another card . . . 

Ten of Coins Okay, so here we have an old man sitting in a chair petting a dog. In the mid-background is a woman talking/flirting with a man ho holds a spear and a small child trying to pet the doggie who is ignoring him/her. Beneath the layer of coins we can see that on the arch post are coats of arms and an expensive woven tapestry (rug) that shows a scene of power. It could be a painting but it is doubtful as it is outside, or at least exposed to the open air. Nonetheless we seem to be in town or on the estate grounds. Gauging by the fact that there are ten coins and a man with a spear (facing away from the old guy) this is probably a wealthy home. 

Everyone looks happy here. The old man does not seem to be in prison or uncomfortable. His hair is not bedraggled and he has a long flowing beard. This seems to suggest (for the time it was drawn in) that the man has wealth. He is a man of power and influence, not a beggar who is resting for a moment before being chased off. The dogs seem to know him (they are not barking at him). The lady has a sense of poise and relaxed confidence and is not concerned with her child's wanderings. Thus this card seems to indicate "a happy place." The nearby walls and tower show a defensible location, and given that this is "the end" of the suit of coins it is safe to say that this looks like a "happily ever after" card of generational wealth. That brat yanking at the dog's tail is probably worth more than I will ever be. The vines and grape clusters ("real" or painted/woven) also seem to indicate fertility if land and loin. All in all this card screams wealth and personal security. 

Compare this to the Page of Coins where we have a solitary young man delicately holding up a coin which he seems to stare worshipfully, or even philosophically at. The lands he stand in are well cared for. They are peaceful and fertile, providing grass for sheep, cows, goats, and horses to munch on happily, and also tilled farmland which grows crops for humans. The mountains provide a nice backdrop but they are far away distant things. No one needs to climb them any time soon. The day is sedate and casual, with time to reflect--even at the beginning of this young man's adventure. he is young and just starting out where as the man in the Ten of Coins is old and has done well for himself. But also the young man is "out in the open" versus the old man being walled in (securely). These are minor things that will mean nothing in some readings and mean everything in others. For now we are merely noting them in passing.

Okay, so now it is your turn. Go through the deck and see "what you see." Post a comment here please. Let me know of course if you have any problems or questions. I am here to help.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What to do if you "just don't connect with a Tarot deck"

I recently saw a post on a metaphysical social networking site. A beginner at the Tarot was having problems connecting with the Rider Waite (and don;t we all at first). She posted her problem asking what to do. She was immediately greeted with suggestions that she simply buy more decks and ignore the ones that she did not understand immediately.

My head almost exploded.

While I am all for mindless consumerism and the collection of divination decks, and other oracles, I am simply fed up with the impatience and complete lack of actual study so many readers try to get by with these days. Then there are the uninformed opinions based on countless superstitions and lies spread by earlier generations. All of this must end, as these do nothing more than publicly boast one's ignorance and give the impression that the Tarot is a sham.

Here is what you do if you cannot connect with the Tarot. Buy a book. Buy my book. By any well-designed Tarot instruction manual. Eileen Conolly made a set of three several years ago that are quite nice.There are several very-well-written books on the Tarot available today and hundreds of crappy ones. There are thousands of Tarot teachers and free and paid lessons online of varying quality. LEARN.

Study and practice. There are no shortcuts (unless you consider high-quality Tarot instruction to be a shortcut as it saves you years of trying this and that).

I hear, and read, almost every week people complaining that they have tried off and on to learn the Tarot for years, or that they gave up after getting frustrated. Most of the time these valid complaints come with the statement that they own several decks. They spend years buying decks instead of learning to read the ones they have. This is something so many people do (and complain about) that it needs to be addressed. Too many people are taught BAD INFORMATION about the Tarot even before they get a chance to learn what it is all about. This leads them to believe they must be "gifted" their deck (someone has to give you one of their own free will, without you asking or hinting--LIE!) or that they have to buy 5-6 decks to find the one that speaks to them. (LIE! The deck that speaks to you is the one thats peaks to you after you have learned how to read the tarot proficiently with a "starter deck.")

Deck-shopping is like bed-hopping. It can be fun but it leaves you empty and feeling used inside if you are not getting real value from each (deck) you spend time with. If you are having trouble learning the Tarot a new deck won;t magically make it all better. You may find a deck more attuned to your sensitivities (your personal outlook on life) but you still have to learn how to know th meanings of each card right side up, reversed, upside down, flipped out of the deck, and what it means when you cat stand on it (and your cat will). There is NO substitution for practice and the lessons of experience or we would have computers do readings for us.

If you cannot connect with a deck get a new teacher (or book), not a new deck. New decks are trinkets, toys, party favors, or tools for the job--one you know how to read at all. Collecting decks is fun but shopping is not a method of study. If you need help ask. I am always available at the student forums at and we have practice areas and interesting discussions. But you can also look locally and see if there is a teacher in your area. Not everyone who teaches the Tarot is a teacher, or any good. Teachers are like mechanics. Your best bet is to find a good one and stick to them like glue, but while you are shopping around (for a teacher or a mechanic) be willing to try out a few and ask for references, look at the reviews their students give, and maybe even get a reading (or repair) from them--which you should pay for--and tip if appropriate.

Okay, shameless plug: here is my book. yes, it is guaranteed. I do not write trash. The book works--but so do thousands of teachers all over the world. Find a good one and learn the Tarot.

Don't believe me. Check it out for yourself. Read the reviews. Flip through it. Study and practice. It is worth the effort.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Beltane is coming!

But first we have Imbolg! Check your calendars. On or around feb 7th it will be 15 degrees Aquarius. The "Fixed," or middle (dead-center) of Winter. It's check-up time. Every 8.5 weeks you get to do a self-progress report. Are things going well? How are those New Year's resolutions (you hopefully made at Yule) going? We have one more week to cram before the big test. Are you moving in the direction you like?

This year started with Merc. retrograde (in Sag!) so plans change--and we are expected to adapt. I have seen this already in my own life. Press on. So . . . time to think of how you are doing. Is "it" working for you right now? Next check up in 9-10 weeks!