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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Tarot Choir
I just don't get it.  Furthermore, I think the reason I don't get it is because I have no desire to get it.  Kabbalah and Tarot.  When I've read about the connections, the overlay of Tarot on to the Tree of Life, what I comprehend is: "Ten spheres, sefirot, 22 paths, Kingdom,  blah, blah, blah, Wisdom, blah, blah, blah, tifereth, Malkuth, blah, blah, blah..."  and "isn't that amazing, the insights we get from the Kabbalah and how it applies to tarot?"  Blank stare.  Blink.  I really hate it when I feel this way about what is perceived to be a pretty important aspect to a subject I love.  I love Tarot and Tarot history and divination and symbolism, and yet when it comes to the merging of Tarot and Kabbalah, I am at a loss.  Same thing happens, to a lesser degree, when I read about Astrology and Tarot.  I really want to read Corrine Kenner's Tarot & Astrology book because I think it will help clear up my fog-brain on this system.

And then there are the other Tarot practitioners who combine other systems with Tarot that are really cool and fascinating, but somehow the fascination doesn't grip me at all.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm a lame Tarot reader because I'm not really all that interested in researching all these nifty side roads and offshoots.  I probably shouldn't even call them side roads because the development of Tarot as a modern tool of divination has its roots in the esoteric systems of those who ascribed Kabbalistic associations and astrological associations to the cards.   This is why I feel a bit conflicted about my internal resistance to these systems.  I feel as if I may be missing out on some important stuff.  

Then again, maybe not. A wise woman once said to me, "All God's chillun got a place in the choir."  So, since we all have a voice to share in the chorus that is Tarot, maybe it's not a big deal that I don't combine these other systems with Tarot.  Maybe that is another person's place in the choir.  I can't imagine trying to be a one-woman band.  I just don't multi-task that well.  I'm very glad there are many different approaches to Tarot because without them, the song just couldn't be sung as well.  I'm thankful for innovators, for those who find new ways to combine the systems, people like Scott Grossberg who developed The Vitruvian Square which is a system unto itself but which can also be overlayed or merged with just about any other divination system.  Mary Greer is forever highlighting new and culturally interesting tarot relevant things on her blog.  Marcus Katz and Tali Goodwin of Tarot Professionals have been instrumental in bringing historical tarot discoveries to light, most recently Abiding in the Sanctuary, a collection of 23 tarot images by AE Waite and artist JB Trinick that have not been seen publicly in a hundred years.  Then we have Donnaleigh De la Rose, the radio personality Tarot's primo podcast, Beyond Worlds.  As a sometimes co-host, I am amazed at Donnaleigh's ability to pull off such a seamless, welcoming, informational, educational and FUN radio show almost every week of the year.  She's so good you can't even tell how much work she puts into it, but trust me, there is a great deal of preparation and management that goes on behind the scenes and then during the show, she's busy multi-tasking, sending links to chat room attendees and guests, keeping the flow of conversation going, etc.  The really cool part about all of these players is they each bring something unique to the Tarot table.  AND, no one stands alone.  Scott Grossberg, for example, consulted with and features Enrique Enriquez in The Vitruvian Square.  Enrique does incredible things with language and symbolism and the Marseilles Tarot and is even the subject of a documentary.  Mary Greer wrote the preface for Abiding in the Sanctuary. Those are just a few examples of the collaborations that go on every day in the Tarot community.  

Just like a choir, we all have a voice that adds to the song.  And whether we stand alone and sing solo or choose to harmonize with other voices, it all becomes a symphony of brilliance and beauty.  Every one of us has something to add and we don't have to be all the voices, just one.  I don't need to master Kabbalah, astrology, numerology, or anything else to be a strong Tarot reader.  However, if I ever want to learn, I know exactly where to find the information.  In the Tarot Choir. 


  1. Really, I don't think you need to go out on esoteric tangents to use or understand tarot. There is so much in the cards themselves.

    I tend to use a Chinese Menu approach to Tarot, Two from Column A and One from Column B. I use a little Jung, a little Kabbalah, a little numerology, some intuition. Whatever helps me get a better reading. It's a bit of a mishmash really.

    If it works for you and you are helping others don't worry about all the other modalities.

  2. Hi Gary :) I have my strengths. They mainly lie in symbolism, anthropology, the ability to make connections between what was and what is, and a strong intuitive ability. I'm really, really good at those things. When I bring my strengths to tarot, the cards and I sing beautifully. And that's what I'm getting at (and, it seems, you, too) that when we use our own voices, we sing much better than when we try and force ourselves to sing a different way.

  3. What a relief to hear someone I respect say this!

    I feel exactly the same as you about correspondences between Kabbalah and tarot, Ginny.

    Tarot is a fantastic mnemonic device for remembering the elements of various Western/European and other hermetic traditions. But it isn't essential to understand tarot through those traditions. It just isn't. The historical connection between tarot and Kabbalah is pretty much non-existent -- that doesn't mean that connections can't be found. Tarot is so open-source that we can have Hello Kitty Tarot and Porn Tarot and Native American Tarot. That's part of the fun and appeal.

    But do we HAVE to understand Hello Kitty to understand tarot? ;)

    That said, I love learning what experts of various hermetic traditions see in this pattern of images. LOVE it.

  4. This is such a lovely post! The Kabbalah, blah, blah, blah rings true for me, too :) The only person who has ever explained any of it in a way that made sense to me is Rachel Pollack, perhaps because she uses the associations to tell stories, and then it's memorable for me...

    We don't always manage to sing in harmony, but I guess we can try to tune our ears to the voices we want to hear.

  5. What a wonderful way to put it - a "Tarot Choir"!

    You know what? I feel most connected to my cards right now... not because I have learned some new system to overlay with the cards, but because I am finally learning to trust my intuition.

    I am finally 'in flow'.

    And it has nothing to do with esoteric knowledge per se, but just learning to trust that the Universe will guide me, and my clients.


  6. The choir image fits so well here, Ginny. And when you wrote about how most modern decks had their roots in those esoteric systems, something else occured to me.

    Do you need to know how an instrument/tool was designed, planned and made to be able to use it? I mean, you can be a great pianist and know bugger all about how to make a piano, right? Maybe it's the same with Tarot.

    The good thing about all those connections is that you will always discover new aspects, new facets to the Tarot, it will never grow boring and there's a lot to learn.

    Basically I do the same that Gary does, I take a bit of everything, picking the things I like and that work for me from a number of different schools of thinking and then adding my own intuition.

    Great article. Thanks for this!

  7. La La La Ginny,

    So true, we have a rainbow choir of Tarot wisdom, and I'm so glad. Instead of preaching TO the choir, we sing our praises together in harmony. (Voyager Tarot - 8 of Wands).

    As some of my Tarot students would say about learning the "workings" in the background of Tarot, you don't have to be a mechanic to drive a car.

    In my case, I like to add as many "tools" to my tool belt as I can handle well. Yet knowing the world of Tarot is so vast, I honor my special gifts and talents, but don't try to be all things to all people. I also teach that we should create referral lists, so if a client is looking for something I don't cover, I can confidently send them to someone who does.

    So, dear choir-mate, be sure to add inspirational Tarot writer to your list of talents.

    In harmony,

  8. Anonymous5:19 PM

    Love it!

    For me, the Tarot is like this endless mansion -- once you explore one wing, you find a secret door that opens to another. It's an endless process of discovery. But you know? Sometimes the vibes in the red drawing room are just too comfy, so why leave so soon?

    Everyone's unique perspective and connection to the Universe allows us to find our own comfort zone with our tools. (Okay, that didn't sound right, but you know what I mean...) The true magnificence of the Tarot is no matter what zone you're in, it finds a way to work with you.

    Rock on with your bad self for not allowing others' comforts to influence yours! Just because you don't follow LeMieux doesn't mean you don't have a clue ;)

    Blessed Be!

  9. I love that several of you made the point that we don't need to understand how something was made or even how it works to use it well.

    It's true, we don't always sing in harmony. But even the best choirs need practice.

    And I like the mansion analogy, too, and exploring it at our leisure. I have a feeling that one day I will want to learn some of these other systems and when I do, I know I am surrounded by teachers. It's so great.

  10. Excellent post, Ginny! I also keep worrying that I'm not good enough because I don't really GET the Tree of Life. It does fascinate me though. :)

  11. I totally understand. I just learned about the Tree of Life and how it corresponds to tarot in my comparative religions class on Jewish Mysticism this year. I spent almost a whole semester on it and I'm still scratching my head. Although some of the connections are awesome, none seem intuitive to me. Since tarot has been such an intuitive process for me, it seems odd to combine it with a non-intuitive one. But learning something new doesn't preclude what you already know. Shalom. ;)

  12. Thanks for this! From my seat here in the 4th row, the tarot choir keeps creating interesting harmonies ;) .

    As for correlations between systems - on the one hand I love patterns; on the other hand, I have a strange desire to do one lifetime's-worth of study at a time. I've been chatting to a Human Design expert - a system that combines astrology, chakras, Kaballah and I Ching. That's beyond daunting to me.

  13. Yes, I too think the correlations are fascinating, so I don't want anyone to think I'm dissing Kabbalah/Tarot or Astrology/Tarot or anything plus Tarot. I think all of these systems add depth and are great tools. I do a sort of Sociological History/Tarot thing which relies on researching what the symbolism meant to the people of the era the first decks were created, and learning where, if possible, the symbolism originated. That's "adding" something to Tarot, too. So, I'm not promoting one way or another, but simply saying we all have our unique way of singing the Tarot song.

    And OMG Hillary -- Human Design does sound like a VERY full plate! :0

  14. This was important for me to hear - thank you for putting it out there, Ginny. There are a lot of things in Tarot that seem to be over my head or out of my grasp, just as there are a lot of things that fascinate me too. The choir analogy & the mansion analogy are both really helpful & it's reassuring to hear others with similar thoughts. :-)

  15. Yes, the mansion image is great! I will try to remember it (goldfish brain that I am). :D

  16. sonia3:56 AM

    Thanks for this insight Giny,I too felt the same about relating tarot and kabala.It is perfect to use tarot on its own without superimposing.Even BOTA and Hermatic orders do this- On perusal I came to know this kabala link was pretty new! - eventhough kabala is ancient .I was fine with the astrology linking with it because I had learned some astrology before .I can understand why the justice card is related to Libra and other cards for their similar traits to planets.But I still cannot quite fully figure out the date part of it. The "Date" problem in tarot comes to me as I often want to know When?- On my spiritual quest I think I am most happy with Tarot alone.In all the books and material I learned on tarot I found this kabala link and had thought it was utmost necessary to learn the Tree of life too. Oh No!I see that I already have too much on my plate more than I take- (Will get back 2 your post on 2 swords..).Learning Tarot alone I think would be a never ending process.Did the original gypsies and the oldest readers browse on the net and read umpteen no. of books?- It just came from their hearts..

  17. I feel a bit conflicted about my internal resistance to these systems

    Remember The Star? It helped me personally to separate what I've learned as a human (like fear), from what I know myself to be true as a soul.

    When I first started down this path, I didnt know the names for the things I 'understood' and so I did not know them. But now that I've changed my perception, the tarot cards weave the most beautiful stories to me and lately, they've been about faith. I believe in patterns & I don't mind what road they will take me down.


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