Saturday, April 30, 2011

Layers of Meaning

Rarely in life is anything very simple.  We live in complex societies in which our lives take on many roles, activities and interests.  We, ourselves, are multidimensional having physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components.  We live and move among people who are just as complex and and living equally multifaceted lives.  It's a huge, multi-layered web of interconnectedness.  For such beings living in this kind of world,  tarot cards wouldn't be very helpful if they each had just one static meaning or application.  It might make reading tarot a whole lot easier, but not very useful.  It would be like sending an "e-gift" of a picture of a delicious dinner to a hungry person.  Nice sentiment, but the belly is still growling.

One of the first things a tarot reader discovers is that each card has many meanings.   This presents a challenge for novice and seasoned  readers alike.  To determine when a card means this or that, and to figure out which of the many interpretations apply, most readers and teachers will advise, "Intuition.  Use your intuition."  But what if I don't have intuition?  Don't be silly, we all have intuition, we just need to tap into it.  Ok, so how do I do that?  Listen to your gut.  My gut says it wants a cookie but I don't think that's what the card is saying.  Sometimes the predominant meaning shines forth in glorious clarity while all the other meanings fade into the background.  Most of the time, though, it takes some consideration.

What has helped me is to recognize that one card may be addressing several aspects of a person's life and be giving advice on more than just one area.  For example, a court card that can be representative of another person or aspects of the querant's personality, or a more literal thing such as a message or travel.  Consider that it may be addressing all of those potential areas.  You don't always have to choose between them.  Even when the reading is primarily focusing on a person's career, for instance, the card in question may be speaking about their romantic partner.  We don't live our lives in separate designated vacuums,  our jobs affect our personal lives and vice versa.  The court card could be advising a certain approach for that situation at work but it may also be showing that the person you went on that date with last week is going to call.  Not having to choose between those meanings is wonderfully freeing.  If you see several meanings in one card, then say so.  You're not being a wishy-washy reader, you are seeing the multiple layers and dimensions of the card and the intersections of those meanings in your querant's life.  If the reading is specific to a topic, you don't want to stray too far afield from it, of course.  By all means keep the positional subject in mind, too.  It has to make logical sense to the spread positions and original question.  However, if the reading is a general one with few topical boundaries, one should be open to many layers and possibilities.


I'm not recommending listing all the possible meanings of the Sun card for your querant and letting them choose which one applies to their situation.  They could open a book and get that for themselves.  I'm saying tell them the Chariot shows they are determined to get this thing accomplished in the most efficient way possible, but also mention there may be some travel coming up not necessarily directly related to that issue.  For all you know this person may experience a family emergency and will need to take a quick unexpected trip which, naturally, affects both their home and work life.  The cards may not show the emergency but only the travel.  Say what you see, even if you think it doesn't make sense.  That's where intuition comes into play.  Your intuition is still picking and choosing among the available meanings, but you are not limiting yourself to just one choice.

Our lives are anything but linear.  We may track time in a linear fashion but that's somewhat misleading.  We're always multitasking, carrying on many thought-streams at once, and often physically doing several things at once, too.  As I am writing this, for example, I am thinking of an errand I need to run at a specific time today.  I am also drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette.   I'm wondering if I have time to go out for a walk.  My ankle itches, so I scratch it.  I'm recalling various readings where the cards spoke to more than one area of the querant's life. I talk to one of my kids.  Even in this moment I am living in several dimensions.  In order for tarot to be truly helpful to we who live this kind of existence rife with a complexity we take for granted and most of the time don't even notice,  it must be capable of addressing all of these aspects simultaneously, too.
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