Monday, July 31, 2006

Coming Out

I just love it when people come out of the tarot closet. Over at Tales From The Reading Room a lecturer in French Lit decided to come clean with a 15 year tarot habit. As such, included this gem:

"When I’m doing a reading, it feels to me like an exercise in a very formal kind of literary criticism. I’m reading and interpreting the symbolism on the cards and piecing together the story they have to tell me. I never ask for details of people’s lives – it’s not my business. Often people do tell me things, and that’s fine. It can be very helpful, but it’s not strictly necessary. People are always afraid that I will foresee something terrible in their future, and it’s almost impossible to dissuade them of this until their first reading is over. It really does not work that way. I always tell people that they will walk away saying: it hasn’t told me anything I didn’t already know in my heart of hearts. A friend of mine was kind enough to say that the reading I gave him was ‘like an x-ray of my soul.’ And most importantly the tarot does not predict the future – it predicts the likeliest outcome to events if nothing changes. That’s an important distinction. I couldn’t envisage a helpful tool to life that foreclosed the possibility of free will. Anyone can change their life from one minute to the next if they choose to do so. A tarot reading should encourage you to make an intervention in your own life, not submit passively to the hands of fate."

Ok, first of all, I am a total logophile, so the way these words are put together in this essay provokes in me a euphoria similar to hearing the sound of a violin concerto in the hands of a skillful musician. But that aside, the writer succinctly summarizes the value of reading tarot for oneself or another. It kills me that she (I actually do not know the gender of the author, but in keeping with my feminist principles, I will default to "she" rather than "he") found it necessary to say, "I have a confession to make..." as if revealing her tarot reading was akin to telling people she snacked on toenail clippings. What would her academic colleagues think? Would this revelatory post have been made if the author were not anonymously blogging?

Would you believe that there actually is a tarot card called The Closet? Well, there's not, really. That image up there is from a satirical online "deck" called The Metrosexual Tarot, "a fashionable satire" by Thomas Scoville and Hughes Hall “'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' collides with The Occult.” Ok, I thought it was funny.

There are numerous reasons why a tarot enthusiast might keep her study of the cards a secret. Tarot cards have a sketchy reputation and are seen as belonging to the realm of the gullible and fanatics. Various religions frown on their usage and relegate them to the bin of "all things demonic." Most people see them as just frivolous, weird, and beneath the consideration of any rational, intelligent person. The tarot reader finds herself derisively scoffed at with phrases such as, "You don't believe in that stuff, do you?" For shame if you do. Now you find your credibility leaking out, puddling around your feet, and all your rational intelligence is suddenly suspect because you, you of all people, fiddle with "such things."

With the quickness you say, "Oh, but tarot cards have a rich history and the cards are originally from a 14th century bridge-like card game played in Europe, and the symbolism on the cards are archetypical representations of classic themes of life and conflict, and they're a tremendous brainstorming tool, great for delving into one's subconscious, and they're...they're art! Too! And you should see how many people collect cards and hardly anyone uses them for fluffly stuff like divination anymore...even therapists use them in their practices, it's true!" as you try to grasp your sinking credibility by the tail and yank it back in place.

Don't tell these people you do in fact divine with these pretty pictures. Be sure to speak academically and reasonably. You may have come out of the closet, but you still keep secrets. Like how you ask the tarot if she loves you, or will you win the lottery, or will I get that iPod I want for Christmas? Don't tell them you sometimes spend hours doing spreads over and over on the same nagging question. Certainly don't tell them you asked the cards about them, too, and how to better deal with their boorishness. Your secret is safe with me and other tarot readers. We know. We do it, too. I laughed out loud in complete identification the other day when a tarot reader, having car trouble and not knowing what the problem was, said to a group of other tarot readers, "I'll draw some cards on it later today." No one flinched. We understand. Because we've seen the amazing accuracy these cards can yield, and though skeptics scoff and snort and make all kinds of unattractive noises and faces, we know that the cards could easily tell her where the problem lies in the car, and when the mechanic goes to check it and tells her it is indeed the water pump just as the Ace of Cups suggested in the reading, she smiles to herself and says, "Yeah, I thought so" quietly editing out the end of the sentence: "just as the cards told me."

So it's not just the ones who pull out a crucifix and garlic and declare the tarot evil that cause tarot enthusiasts to hide their habit, but everyday kinds of people who pooh-pooh at anything that smacks of the nutty, woo-woo metaphysical. In order to continue to appear as normal, sane, intelligent people, tarot readers will often secret their cards away when people come to visit and only bring them out among very trusted, close friends and family. When a good friend of mine balked at my tarot practice, I agreed not to bring it up in conversation between us. She has some pretty deep religious reasons for her objection and after playing tarot apologist for a bit, I simply told her I wouldn't mention it again out of respect for her beliefs. She thought again and said, "What kind of friend would I be if I expected my friend to leave pieces of herself at home?" I so appreciated that. It was her willingness to be made uncomfortable in order to accept me, all of me, that truly touched me. I do respect her beliefs, though they differ from mine, and I make a point not to yammer on about tarot with her, but I don't feel like I have to censor myself either. Her ability to see me beyond the fact that I practice tarot is more than being nonjudgmental. It's the capacity to accept that people are multi-dimensional and often contradictory in their passions.

It sometimes takes courage to come out of the tarot closet, but I guarantee when you do, you will find out who your true friends are. Their responses, which may range from shock and horror to complete and utter disinterest, tell you more about them than about the value of your tarot passion, or about your intellect. Among the throng of tarot practicioners I have found doctors, psychologists, technicians, CEO's, stockbrokers, social workers, opera singers, artists, writers, humanitarian workers, lawyers, as well as laborers, administrative assistants, homemakers, and yes, fulltime tarot professionals, too. I think it's time to bring tarot out of the closet and the way many professionals are finding it a useful tool is indicative that it isn't only for the gullible suckers who believe in magic. It's for all of us who believe as well.

8 comments:

Archaeomom8 said...

I might have felt like staying in that closet a bit longer (in my own discipline/vocation) until my graduate advisor had a Tarot reader at one of his Hallowe'en parties and then another reader at his wedding reception. We're supposed to be scientists. But, hey, we're "social" scientists, really. It works for me. ;)

Besides, it seems like everyone loves to get a reading, no?

Dorene said...

I'll never forget the day my daughter mentioned it to my step-mom that I had a deck. She was livid and lectured me on how it was a tool of the devil. There was no reasoning with her. Hopefully the subject never comes up again. Some people will never get it.

Ginny said...

Dorene, I never understand the compulsion some people have to give others a piece of their mninds when it's obvious they can't spare it.

And archaeomom8, yeah, I suppose "scientists" are people, too, huh? Who knew? ;) Actually, I would think scientists would be most intrigued because if it's not the mystery that compels them to poke and pry into things, what is it?

Archaeomom8 said...

LOL Some scientists are people, I would say. ;)

I certainly look into things for the sheer joy of trying to solve a mystery. But it's like you said in your wonderful post - some are fearful of being found outside the box...or at least too far outside of it. Since you know me, you know I thumb my nose at that! ;)

On the whole, most scientists tend toward conservatism in their research hypotheses (not in their politics, though, necessarily). That's not *all* bad, since you'll waste a lot of time (hence $$) following too many rabbit trails. But still, if you take the research conservatism too far you'll miss out on all kinds of stuff...like transposons and DNA...

That's my story and I'm stickin to it! ;)

litlove said...

Hello Sophia and thank you so much for stopping by! I love the tarot and it's been a tool of enlightenment for myself, my family and my friends for a long time. But prejudice is rife. I was rather wary about writing on the tarot in my blog as I never know which people are going to turn out to have the kind of religious beliefs that totally oppose it. I had a vicar friend once who used to write me long, long letters about why I should give up reading. I have to say I didn't read them all because I felt he simply had the wrong end of the stick. But it was an end he was clinging to. Anyhow, I needn't have worried because the response I received online was entirely positive and I couldn't believe how many of my blog buddies possessed decks and liked to do readings. It's lovely to now know about your site, and I'm sure I'll find lots here to help enrich my own readings now.

Ginny said...

Yes, it has been encouraging to me to participate in a forum such as Aeclectic Tarot because the diversity of tarotists there is so broad. It certainly opened my own eyes as to the range and scope of the "type" of person who uses tarot. What I found is, there is no type! So, yes, the predjudice is just that: predjudice. It seems to be fueled by old, worn out notions and media exposure of charlatains and victims of scams. Mark McElroy has long been promoting tarot as a useful tool in the work environment, as a brainstorming device especially. It also seems to work well for writers trying to come up with ideas for stories. So many uses for these 78 picture cards.

behindblueeyes said...

I don't know if you will see this or not, since I am commenting on a post that you wrote roughly 3 years ago...but I just found your blog and I realize already that I have found a gem. Now I have something to look forward to for the next few days.....I will be reading your blog from end to end!!

Ginny said...

Actually, blueeyes, I get a notification in my email when someone leaves a comment on any of my posts, so never fear the old posts! Comment away! :D Welcome to 78 Notes To Self.

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