78 Notes to Self: A Tarot Journal

We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gypsy Skin
One of my recent reading victims -- Muahahahaha!-- wanted to know how I got into tarot and learned all this vast reservoir of tarot knowledge. I will tell you all a secret: I am a tarot newbie. I've only been reading the cards for about four years.

About 20 years ago I had my first tarot reading. A friend of mine read my cards at her dining room table. The pictures on the cards made no sense to me, so I just walked about the room making sure my four year-old son didn't do anything he shouldn't do, listening to what she said. At the time I had just recently left my first husband, was semi-seeing an old boyfriend for comfort's sake, but was really more concerned with gaining legal custody of my child and staying alive. My ex was psycho and I didn't know what he was liable to do. So when she told me that he was going to remain in my life for a long, long time to come, I was, needless to say, really disappointed. She also told me that a new guy was coming into the picture, not this old flame I was sorta seeing, someone else that I would be seriously involved with. Well, at least she didn't say I'd be getting back together with my abuser ex. I wasn't thrilled with the reading until later, years later in fact, I remembered what she had said and realized it had all happened. My first husband did indeed remain in my life for years as he insisted on visitation with our son even though he did not pay child support, and he continued to be a threat and a thorn in my side until our son turned 18 years-old. I didn't continue seeing that old boyfriend either. It was just an itch that had to be scratched. And that October I met the man I would marry a year and a half later. Hmmmm.

Meanwhile, I had become Born Again, was a pretty darn serious fundamentalist Christian and tarot cards were doorways to demonic activity. I still couldn't shake that feeling - the cards were right. Luckily, I wasn't the kind of Christian to check my brain at the church door, so I eventually read my way out of Christianity. Reading the Bible is probably the best way to do that, but that's a whole other discussion. As I came to more fully understand and grasp grace and freedom, I found my interest in tarot pique once again. I started by reading about tarot online, then in books, and in tarot forums. I got another friend to do a reading for me and once again, right on the money. That was it, I had to get my own deck. So off to Border's I went to purchase a beginner tarot book and deck of cards. I tend to avoid woo-woo. That's super-spiritualistic speak. I've learned my lessons in all that the hard way and nothing but down to earth, real, and sometimes getting dirty and gritty, just like real life, appeals to me. So I had to wade through some books to find one with a minimum of woo woo. I settled on Introduction to Tarot by Susan Levitt. Interestingly, she used both the Rider Waite Smith deck and the Thoth to illustrate the cards. I was torn between these two decks as I really adore the art nouveau of the Thoth and the early 1900's storybook art of the RWS. I finally settled on the Universal Waite deck and planned to maybe purchase the Thoth at a later date.

The book helped to do exactly what it said: introduce me to tarot reading. I went looking for more, more, MORE! I found so, so much online and yet the best place by far that I found was Aeclectic Tarot Forums.

Wow. This place was jam-packed full of all manner of tarot readers from your skeptic to your newbie to the very seasoned professional. Deck artists, writers, dabblers, teachers, students all. I learned so very, very much there. Interacting with others, posting stupid questions, getting wise and not so wise answers, exchanging readings, chatting live, reading live over IRC all helped me grow in tarot at, I believe, an accelerated pace. However, one person truly helped me come into not just knowing what the cards meant but actually reading the cards as well as the space between the cards. On the forum she is known as GoddessArtemis. I won't unveil her identity here as I do not have her permission to do so. She was so open and friendly with me and we became very good friends, though we have never met in person. We read the cards incessantly together, for each other, for ourselves, bounced interpretations off each other, researched meanings, connections to astrology and symbolism, and got entirely obsessed with readings, the cards, decks, etc. She encouraged and supported my decision to start reading professionally and has been such an incredible mentor and friend, apart from tarot.

It was GA that said, "Stop over-thinking the cards! Say what you first think and see!" If ever there exists the best EVER advice about reading tarot, that's it. In all our studies and classes and practice, we so often second guess, and third and fourth and so on only to come back around to that first rush of intuition. Or we ignore it and find out later we were right. Hate that!

The first year I read tarot the cards went everywhere with me. I read them incessantly. I read about them incessantly. I couldn't get enough about tarot, tarot, tarot. That tends to be the way I am, though. When I am into something, I go in up to my eyeballs, bathe in it, eat it, drink it, dream it. I still have a deck with me most of the time. However, I find there are days that go by now that I don't pick up a deck or read the cards at all. A full week can go by without a look at the cards. I feel very comfortable with my 20-some-odd decks I've collected and my one shelf of books. I don't need any more. I learn more and more about tarot all the time and mostly now I learn by reading -- both doing tarot readings and reading about the history and lore of tarot. I'm comfortable in my gypsy reader skin. Tarot just fits me and I found that out fairly quickly. Others have their own coming to tarot stories. I'd love to hear yours.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

On The Bias
In sewing, to cut on the bias means to cut across the grain of the fabric. When you create bias tape, the pieces of fabric are arranged diagonally to form strips. Bias is slanted. We form these diagonal lines in our opinions, our biases, that draw lines that tend to be rather slanted. We each have our opinions and hopefully they are based on fact and experience and not being randomly pulled out of our asses or other people's asses. They make for good discussions, debates, conversations and even the rousing argument or two, but they do not benefit the tarot reader. One of the most challenging aspects of reading tarot for others is leaving one's biases entirely out of the exercise. That can be really difficult especially when you're not even aware of your own biases or if you tend to think your biases are universal truths.

Biases and preconceived notions have no business in a good tarot reading. I have what I think to be a pretty open mind and accepting outlook regarding other people and their choices and lifestyles. I learned a long time ago not to pass judgement. I try not to censure. However, my most embarrassing readings as a tarot reader have come when I have allowed my own preconceived notions and biases color what I see in the cards.

Working as a professional tarot reader on the online equivalent to a 900 line makes it easy to start making a lot of assumptions. After reading for so many who seem to all say the same thing such as, "He came on strong but he's not calling anymore, what happened?" and seeing the cards say, over and over, "He's just not that into you," it becomes way too easy to begin to give canned responses and presume this reading, this situation, is just like the twenty before. This is a surefire way to eventually make an ass of yourself. Assumptions tend to do that, don't they? I'm not saying there's no place in tarot reading for common sense and mundane wisdom. I don't think we can completely separate ourselves from our own life experience so much that we don't draw on it, nor should we. However, I've learned that I need to treat each and every reading as a new experience, a clean slate, and not to think any situation is "just like" one before.

The cards have often surprised me with their seemingly off-the-mark advice. They tell querants to do things I would never tell them to do. Though I've never seen them advise anything criminal, I have seen them advise pursuing relationships, careers, and other courses of actions that seem untenable. Still, I have to remember that with the very limited information I am given with which to do a reading, it really is quite presumptuous of me to draw conclusions about that person's life and circumstances. Sometimes it seems so ridiculous not to draw on common sense. I mean, hello! The guy is married with three kids and tells my querant he loves her, his wife "just doesn't understand him" and he plans on getting a divorce "soon" but it's just not the right time now...

Um. Please. Take your line of bullshit elsewhere, right?

As a tarot reader, though, you have to resist the urge to slap your querant upside the head saying, "Wake up and smell the lies!" As useful as that advice might be for your friend over Manhattans during Girls Nite Out, it really gets in the way of an effective tarot reading. If you approach any reading with your mind already made up then your mind has shut tight. No other alternatives can enter in. Each card will then be read on the bias, with slanted interpretations towards your foregone conclusions. Even if what you tell them is your standard Good Advice, and it very well may be very good advice, no harm done, right? Wrong. They aren't coming to you for that, they are coming to you for a Tarot Reading. If they wanted Good Advice, they'd ask Dear Abby. If you fall back on handing out prepackaged advice, you may as well toss the cards in your bag and buy them a Manhattan.

I'm not quibbling over the quality of the advice. You may be a very fine counselor with sage wisdom. More than likely, though, the querant already has enough people in their life that are more than willing to hand out unsolicited advice about her choice to hook up with a married man. She also has her own board of censure yelling at her in her own head. Her girlfriends a busy clucking their tongues and rolling their eyes. She doubts him, wonders if he's telling the truth. She doubts herself. Hence...the tarot reading. Querants want objectivity most of all and objectivity is what we need to do our best to give.

So you read the cards. Just read the cards. And they tell her to wait, to hold on, he's on the verge of a big decision and she should wait and see. The cards say he does indeed love her deeply. He needs more time.


Great. Now you feel guilty. You feel like this is very Bad Advice and sharing this would be giving her false hope. Now you, as a reader, feel compromised between what you believe to be the right thing to do and what the cards have instructed. I sympathize. There have been quite a few times I have looked blankly at the cards in disbelief and have thought there is no way in hell I can, in good conscience, tell this querant to wait for her lying, cheating scoundrel of a lover to come around. But then I do and what unfolds is often amazing. It never comes out the same way twice. If I am fortunate enough that the querant returns for a follow up reading or writes me to tell me how things worked out, it is usually for the best. Whether she uses that time to better understand her own feelings and decides to kick him to the curb, or whether that big decision he finally makes is to reconcile with his wife, or if they do indeed begin a legitimate relationship after he initiates divorce doesn't really matter. What matters is that the time the cards advised was crucially necessary for the situation to come to its natural conclusion.