Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do You Believe In Tarot?

When asked if she wanted a tarot reading, a friend replied laughing, "Oh, I don't believe in that."  I haven't been able to stop thinking about that response.  What exactly does she not believe in?  I wish I had thought to ask, but her response was so very commonplace that I just breezed right past it.  I wish I had thought to probe the statement further because I really am curious what it is that people think constitutes "belief" in tarot.  To me, tarot either works or it doesn't.  There really isn't much belief involved there.  Having read tarot thousands of times, I have seen it work with enough reliability that I don't have to believe.  Is belief a prerequisite to getting a reading?  It probably helps, but I don't think it's necessary. In fact, a predisposed belief in tarot may skew the results in such a way that the querant may not be able to critically examine the reading and authentically extract genuine benefit. Then again, maybe I am confusing "belief" with "blind faith."  A simple belief that tarot works probably isn't detrimental whereas blind faith can be, well, blind.

But the idea of believing in or not believing in tarot seems novel to me.  It's like asking if one believes in symbolism or art or history.  Does one believe in deriving personal meaning from a painting, a poem, a piece of music? It's not something one believes or doesn't, it's something one either does or not.  I know there are people who view art but do not personalize the experience.  They see it either as appealing or not but don't necessarily apply any significance to their own lives or thought process.  But if you asked them, "Do you believe in art?" I am quite certain they would look at you puzzled and ask, "What do you mean? Do I believe in that painting over there?  Of course I do, it exists.  Just like this chair I am sitting in or the vase of flowers on that table."  That is how I view tarot.  It just is.  It doesn't require a belief to exist, but one can either derive meaning from the cards or not. 

Do you believe tarot images are archetypal? A quick study of symbolism and art from varied cultures will soon persuade you they are.  Do you believe tarot can tell your future?  In the hands of an intuitive reader these cards, whether the reader be a novice or well seasoned,  just might.  Do you believe in the subconscious, the intuition, or do you ignore those in favor of concrete facts and evidence of proof?  I daresay give your intuition a chance and you will get all the facts and proof you need. 

Oh, I get it now!  I know what you don't believe in.  You don't believe in the woo-woo, the psychic predictive fortune-telling, destiny revealing practice of reading tarot.  Well, that's ok.  Lots of tarot readers don't either.  Instead, I would ask if you believe in gaining insight and help with sorting out the confusion of making a decision where no one "right" way is clearly revealed?  Do you believe in plumbing the depths of mind and soul to unearth revelations and create new paths for your self to trod?  Because tarot can assist with that, too.  When you say you don't "believe" in "that stuff" are you, like so many, lumping tarot in with all the charlatans, snake oil salesmen, frauds and thieves that dupe naive people out of their hard-earned money?  Or are you simply saying that in order for a reading to have any significance to you, you would first have to believe in the tarot's ability to be relevant to your life?  Because if it is the latter, you have a point. 

Tarot is not for everyone, to be sure.  But I suspect it could be for a lot more people if they only knew that they don't have to believe in supernatural woo-woo to gain their money's worth from a reading.  They don't have to suspend their disbelief either.  They can, and I hope they do, critically examine the cards, what the reader explains, how the interpretation relates or doesn't relate to their situation, to themselves.  I hope they come as a bit of a skeptic and raise one eyebrow toward the reader.  I beg of you, do not check your critical thinking skills at the door.  An involved and questioning querent is essential to deriving the most value from any tarot reading.  If you want to know why the reader ascribed a certain meaning to a particular card, ask them.  Bring your own intuition to the table.  Try the reader's intuition on for size but if it pinches and pulls, don't wear it.  Use your own.  It fits you like a glove.  If she says this card means this and only this, challenge her, politely, of course.  You don't have to discard your own perceptions and accept those of someone else.  Not if you want a rewarding reading.    And would it help if I told you there is even a card or two in the deck that symbolizes the positive trait of critical thinking?  There is, in fact, an entire suit devoted to the thought processes of the mind.  Check your brain at the door to a reading? Never!

To tarot or not to tarot may be the question, but it's not whether to believe or not in tarot.  It's not a religion, it's not a faith.  It is more closely aligned with art than science.  It is a practice, a discipline, an exercise.  It is not, however, a belief.  At least, I don't believe so.
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