I just don't understand where some people come up with certain meanings for tarot cards. As far as I'm concerned they just pull them out of their underwear and parade them around like it should be perfectly evident from looking at the card that it means just that. So many times I just scratch my head and think: WTF? Let's say the Three of Wands shows up in a predictive position and the reader goes, "Well, she's going to go out and buy herself a new pair of earrings." Um. Mkay. Whatever. So then I start, painfully, trying to fit that interpretation to the card. I think, well, it is Wands and it could mean she goes out to actually do something. But it's a three, not a two, so I don't know where the pair of earrings comes into play. And it's not pentacles, so what's with the tangible purchase? And earrings? Ok, so maybe the card being used has a figure wearing earrings, what do I know? There are so many decks out there, maybe the reader honed in on the earrings in the image. So I try, hard as I might, to fit that to the Three of Wands. Finally I throw up my hands and give up. I can't do it. It feels wrong anyhow.
So then I hear, oh, it was an INTUITIVE reading. There. Now everything's all better.
Most people who know me would say I'm very much an inclusive, live and let live, no rules tarot reader. I'm open to practically everything where tarot is concerned because I believe the practice of reading tarot is a fluid, ever-evolving thing, but even I have my lines, my boundaries. I am a very intuitive reader. Any good tarot reader certainly utilizes their sense of intuition to a great degree but...and how can I say this without being misunderstood or without alienating my fellow intuitive readers...I believe the interpretation of the card must be somehow hedged in, based on a foundation of traditional, historical, symbolic meaning of the card in question.
I think fully intuitive tarot readings are great for firing up the intuitive neurons. It helps a reader look at all the various elements in a card image and begin really tapping into that place a bit to the side and beyond the card where actual reading of the cards happens. But I tend to look at it as an exercise, not an actual tarot reading. A fully intuitive reading doesn't need tarot cards. You could do it with a picture book, a magazine, toothpicks, stones, pig entrails, you name it. It's a reading, yes, but it's not a tarot reading even if you use tarot cards to do it.
I'm a big fan of those flashes one gets while reading, but if the flash of intuitive insight bears no relation to the cards in question I would certainly deliver said flash to the querant but I would preface it with, "I don't see this in the cards, but I feel I need to tell you..."
Maybe its my respect for the history of symbolism, of tarot, of having a tradition based on something rather than making it up as we go along that fuels my stance, but I feel very strongly that without these historic meanings, tarot is no more than a deck of pretty, or not so pretty, pictures. Why use them if you're not going to use their meanings? I mean, it's not like the pool of historic meanings is not deep or wide enough to swim in. There are some pretty off the wall traditional meanings, too. And I don't even really care where you derive those meanings be it the Marseille tradition, Waite, Golden Dawn, Crowley, or the freaking little white book. Ok, forget the little white book, that's going too far. But you get my point.
Intuitive readings are very suitable for oracle decks. I particularly like Froud's Fairies, personally. Those fey folk chatter and dance and give all kinds of messages you might not hear in a tarot reading. I love playing with those cards and they allow full rampant, random reign of my intuitive senses. Tarot, on the other hand, well...God forgive me...there are Rules.
Ack! Did I say that? *sigh* Yes I did.
I don't know if they are rules, per se, but they are a kind of framework, a tradition, a tried and true kind of consistency of semi-agreed-upon understandings. In looking into the number symbolisms, for example, I was amazed to find that, cross-culturally, numbers mean very much the same thing to people in different civilizations in different time periods. Same goes for colors and other symbols. When applied to tarot, these symbols actually mean something, have meant something for a very long time, and I see no sense in tossing all that out in favor of something you pulled out of your underwear just now. Your underwear may very well be psychic and that woman may very well go out and purchase a new pair of earrings, but you didn't get that from the tarot card in question. No, you didn't.
It annoys me, too, because there is such a wide and vast array of tarot meanings to pick and choose from, why pull something else out? That Three of Wands is not going to mean the same thing in every reading anyway, so why spin something else off it? Also, I might see something different about that card than another reader, all within the traditional framework, depending on the question, the spread, the position, and whatnot. It's vast, I tell you, utterly vast. I see no reason to muddy them up with random intuitive things that have no relation to the card. These random intuitive things may be very relevant to the situation, absolutely, so don't get me wrong here and think I'm against such things. Just don't say these things are in the cards, they're not. Unless your deck has a Happy Squirrel card, that is. A few decks actually do include this card and its from an episode of The Simpsons:
Written by Greg Daniels
Directed by Jim Reardon
Woman: I've been waiting for you, Lisa.
Lisa: [gasps] How did you know my name?
Woman: Your nametag. ["Hi, I'm Lady Lisa"] Would you like to know your future?
Lisa: Heh, sorry, I don't believe in fortune telling. I should go.
Woman: What's your hurry? Bart and Maggie and Marge are at the joust, and Homer is heckling the puppet show.
Lisa: [gasps] Wow, you can see into the...present.
Woman: Now we'll see what the future holds. [turns over a card from what looks like a Tarot deck]
Lisa: [gulps] The "Death" card?
Woman: No, that's good: it means transition, change.
Lisa: [relieved] Oh.
[the woman turns over another card]
Lisa: Oh, that's cute.
Woman: [gasps] "The Happy Squirrel"!
Lisa: [timid] That's bad?
Woman: Possibly. The cards are vague and mysterious.
[Image from The Happy Squirrel card from Victoria Regina Tarot copyright © 2000 Sarah Ovenall]
An ironic parody of the melodrama often shown in film regarding the Death card in tarot readings, the Happy Squirrel pokes fun at our own practice and keeps us from taking any of this too seriously. I love that some deck creators have included it in their decks. While I'm ranting about some readers not reading the cards themselves, please know that it's not all that serious. None of this is. It's tarot reading, for heaven's sake. Still, I can't help but be bugged when I hear some interpretation that is so obviously random. Do that, if you must, with the Happy Squirrel, but please refrain from that with my beloved tarot cards.