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.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lazy Tarot
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Photo Attribution
Photo by NikBoiv / CC BY 2.0 

 “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” 
~Bill Gates 

Confession: I am a lazy tarot reader.   I don't do a lot of things commonly recommended.  I am not against these practices at all.  I don't do them because, for me, they are too much work and don't yield any tangible benefits. Mostly, too much work. For example, I don't:

  • Cleanse decks
  • Use a classic Significator 
  • Use astrological associations
  • Use Kaballah associations
  • Do anything about "energies" (no smudging here)
  • Use Reversals
  • Look at the "Shadow Card"
  • Ruminate on a reading
The first book I read on practicing tarot provided an elaborate simple ritual to perform before reading.  I tried it, thinking the author certainly knew more about this stuff than I did, and I didn't notice anything different after doing it so I stopped doing it.  I tried "cleansing" decks by the light of the moon and the only thing that happened was they became dew damp.  Then I read you can cleanse them by laying them all out on the floor and swishing them around.  I tried that but concluded it was just a version of 78-Card Pickup.

I'm not an astrologer and feel that trying to learn a whole 'nother vast metaphysical art to overlay tarot is just too much work.  If I wanted to learn astrology, I would, and maybe someday I will, but not today.  Kaballah, same.  I've tried using various stones and crystals and noticed nothing different, so whatever floats your boat is fine, no rocks in my boat.  I don't "ground" myself other than one deep sigh breath before beginning a reading.  Oh, maybe I do "smudge" -- I smoke a cigarette.

I don't turn the cards physically upside down to read "reversals," I generally get a sense by the position, the cards next to/around it, and the question asked whether the card's meaning is "reversed."  I forget to look at the bottom card in the deck, so the Shadow Card remains in the shadows.  Sometimes other tarot readers have said they will leave a reading out on a table for days to think about it, ruminate over it, journal it to go back to later.  I don't.  I have journaled specific readings but I always forgot to go back to them, so what was the point?

I do:

  • Shuffle, a lot
  • Use a Sort of Significator
  • Use symbolism: colors, numbers, elemental, suits, objects, etc.
  • Use history
  • Pay attention to patterns
  • Listen to random observations my mind blurts out
  • Use common sense
To completely randomize a deck of playing cards, dealers at casinos will shuffle a deck around 5-7 times.  This is assuming you're good at shuffling and not leaving whole chunks of the deck unshuffled.  Depending on the questions being asked, I might shuffle the deck between them, leaving the already-drawn cards on the table.  If I'm clarifying a card, I will shuffle.  I randomize those cards like nobody's business.

Most of the readings I do include a card that speaks to what the client is thinking, feeling, and/or how they are approaching the issue at hand.  This is a Sort of Significator, and I use it because it gives very useful information for the client to use when formulating a plan of action.  They can see whether their approach is helpful or not based on what the reading reveals about the other factors and influences.

For me, symbolism is absolutely key in interpreting tarot.  Symbols are the language of all humans in all of history.  Language itself is symbolism and vice versa.  Connected to this is my understanding of history, culture, and the human experience.  I notice patterns in the cards.  Numbers, suits, colors that appear repeatedly or in a progression or order mean something.  Sometimes my mind will say something really random, like an idiom or lyrics from a song and I've learned these random phrases are hugely significant to the reading.  I always use them. There was a time I ignored them and was routinely surprised when the client gave feedback that included that exact phrase! When I started speaking them I found my client's feedback often confirmed that phrase played a key role in the situation.

Finally, I use common sense.  When the Lovers card appears in a reading that has nothing whatsoever to do with romance, I do not imply the client will fall in love in the middle of updating her resume.  While it is possible she may meet a charming person at a job fair, it just isn't sensible to talk romance when she's trying to find out her best option to advance her career.  Not ruling it out, just saying, keep on topic.

The practice of tarot reading is so unique to each reader.  What works well for one is cumbersome for another.  I have been known to spend untold hours researching symbolism and cultural history in my pursuit to understand tarot card meanings.  Many readers would shake their head and say, "Ain't nobody got time for that!"   But I love it.  I love the research and the richness of history and how people lived in times before, how that relates to the images we see now, the connections, the gaps, all of it.  Others feel and experience a very tangible difference when using cleansing rituals or objects.  Some can't help but see the astrological or Kaballistic connections and feel they would be remiss if they didn't include them. Whatever you do or don't do in your reading process matters only to you.  

But seriously, lazy is good.  Keeping what works efficiently and either re-working or tossing out what doesn't makes sense in everything we do.  Time and effort are both valuable resources.  Be lazy and enjoy what you do.