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.

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