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

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Squirrely Intuitive Readings
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.

Hell not!

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:

Episode 2F15
"Lisa's Wedding"
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.


  1. Great article Ginny, you expressed exactly what I also feel.

  2. Thank you Ginny!! I feel totally and utterly understood for the first time. You know, so many people have thrown in my face the fact that I have a blog where I explain card meanings relying on tradition, symbology and accepted meanings.Sometimes you feel you have to apologize for that!! What's wrong with havingcertain limits or rules? They don't hinder intuition,on the contrary (in my case) they help me control it and make sense of it. Thanks Ginny for making me feel supported :D

  3. I'm with you. My Tarot mentor advised me not to get too hung up on memorizing the meanings from the LWB and other sources, but that said, we should see that there is some some type of correlation between what is depicted on the card and the reader's interpretation!

  4. Ginny

    As ever, you get it spot on (in that you agree with my own opinion and therefore you are right, LOL).

    When someone told me many years ago something like "I read tarot intuitively and of course, intuition can't be taught" I simply heard "I haven't learnt anything and I can't teach intuition".

    I took that as a challenge and over the years have developed a load of ways of teaching people to develop "intuition", allied with a sound "installation" of the principles of tarot.

    It's interesting combining the two skills - conscious learning and intuition, as you end up with a student looking at two cards together and saying, "these mean 'deferred decision' with no knowledge of why, until it is 'explained' to them. Agreeing with Mary here - waves - that there should be some type of correlation.

    Even if that correlation is 'only' one like "over twenty years of reading,that card often has come up for people 'going on a study course'and it fits here." (5 of Pentacles).


  5. Precisely! Great post, Ginny. I could not have said it better myself.

  6. Hi Ginny!

    I just found your blog and I am loving your clear, crisp writing style. Plus your heading quote made me laugh!!

    I'm new to Tarot but interested and feeling that maybe I'll be writing something Tarot-based or related soon. Maybe for Nanowrimo.

    I had an experience last month wiht a psychic haughtily proclaiming, "I didn't learn. It's a natural gift!" And I thought, Hmmm.

    I'll be back to read you again!
    And if you like, you can check my writing blog at the link above.


  7. I appreciate your article

    It is true that lines of tradition must be drawn for certain matters.

    Knowledge, which has been around for years, should not be discarded.

    I-ching the book of changes is another knowledge which has history and rules too.

    But i feel that spreads and the way a tarot reader lays his or her cards should be personal and a way to define one's intuition.

    Keep up the work.

    I will drop by time and again....

  8. Anonymous5:33 PM

    Excellent article. Please write more.

    Of course there has to be a framework of some kind otherwise it is a psychic consultation not a tarot *reading*. My father went to see a lady tarot reader and she described his car, which he had just sold, and what colour it was. How?

    Mind you, I do like the odd flash of 'knowing'. It doesn't happen all the time but nice when it does.


  9. Ginny
    You have so fluidly tapped into your gift. Not just the readings, which I have had the opportunity to partake in with you, but in listening to your own intuition, your inner voice! I enjoyed your thoughts on this topic, definite resonation with me. I have never found you to be arrogant or self-righteous, always open to the possibility that there is more than one way to look at something.

    I love Froud's deck and use it only on a personal level myself. Allowing intuition to work its magic through that deck. You are right it dances and sings to a whole different vibration.

    Thank you for continuing to enlighten us with your personal touch and views!

  10. Anonymous4:41 PM

    I kind of relate to what you're saying. I kind of don't.

    It's kind of like, if you call yourself a martial artist and, in a fight, you give someone a random punch out of nowhere, based on no tradition or technique or formal art and you knock them out Well, obviously it's martially effective, but martial arts are more then results. They're also about honor and tradition, and studying regardless of what martial results you get from them and perhaps, in a sense, that's the most important part of being a martial artist.

    On the other hand, unlike the martial arts, most of the traditional meanings of the modern tarot cards were invented by people claiming ancient Egyptian knowledge which they didn't have and just made up, ancient kabbalistic knowledge which they didn't have and just made up, and other general ancient knowledge which they didn't have and just made up and the cards still work effectively as divination and fortune-telling tools using their made up definitions.

    It could be said that our respected tarot forefathers just pulled *these* definitions out of their underwear, so what's the difference?

  11. Hi David,

    I hear ya. Traditions start somewhere and where they started most likely was out of someone's underwear. Like the martial artists you referenced, someone once created that move, that style, out of seemingly nowhere. So I am quick to point out that I do see tarot reading as an ever-evolving kind if thing, not static, and open to change and new ideas and practices. Time and common acceptance of a practice tends to create "tradition."

    That said, that random punch out of nowhere can be awesome. But I don't think anyone who knows that style would accept that it was of that style. It may very well be effective and win the day, but it's not part of the traditional framework. And then again, new things have come from that, such as MMA, mixed martial arts, which includes boxing, wrestling, martial arts, and all sorts of no holds barred fighting styles. However, it's not called "Kung Fu" nor "Jujitsu" but MMA. It fully accepts it is a mishmash of all styles. A tarot reading, too, can include psychic "punches," flashes of intuitive knowing that may not have come directly from the cards, but which certainly should be shared with the querant. I would simply be clear that this did not come from the cards. As Troi's father's tarot reader described the car he just sold -- certainly intuitive/psychic, but no, we don't see silver Chryslers in a Rider Waite Smith deck. Good call on her part, but not from the cards.

    So why am I nitpicking if intuitive readings work? Because it bugs me when they are billed as "tarot readings." I had enough trouble on that online consulting service from clients who expected tarot readers to be psychic that I do feel the distinction should be made clearly. Certainly the two kinds of readings can be combined, a kind of MMA of readings, but I feel the reader should say so.

  12. Anonymous5:55 PM

    I can see that.

    A number of tarot readers see themselves as so spontaneous, and free, and "Fool-like" they feel they can't be bothered with clarification.

    It's still a hundred steps above above asking to be worshipped as the wisest and most enlightened person on earth because you can read the cards well, or, god forbid, tarot-reading curses to be lifted for a "small sum", but all these behaviors come from a reader's poor boundary issues.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to behavior, some creative people drawn to the tarot, tend to be . . . too creative.

  13. PS: the link is http://stregheriapratica.blogspot.com/2008/11/6-coisas-aleatrias.html

  14. You mean you DON'T have the second sight!??!?
    I feel as though I get that reaction a lot when I ask questions about Tarot and its variations.

  15. Hehe, Sam, I know, right? But seriously, we all have that. Intuition, I mean. And it comes into play a great deal when reading tarot, but reading tarot cards themselves also involves understanding what the cards themselves mean. Many clients will assume tarot readers = psychic. And that's a whole post in itself.

  16. Wow, I loved your article. I came across this article doing a search on Google for 'not reading intuitively', haha, because I feel a lot of what you explained more often than not when reading. There is symbolism in the cards, and there are meanings. To me, the symbols and meanings have always been there, it is just a matter of people portraying them on to cards. Beautiful article, I really thank you for sharing this!


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