Tarot: the un-essay
Essay-schmessay. Who’s got time for an esoteric essay in this day and age? Not you, that’s for sure. What follows is
an introduction to the ancient art for the easily distracted. (No offence. I’m a member of that club too.)
First things first - how do you say it?
I am an American from the Midwest, so I pronounce it kinda like this: TA-roh. The “a” is like the “a” in "cat", and the first syllable is
slightly heavier than the second. Lots of folks pronounce it that way. Then again, I’ve heard other people put the stress on the second
syllable: ta-ROH or tah-ROH. That’s seems to be okay too. Just don’t pronounce the last “t” - people might snicker.
Tarot – what is it?
It’s a deck of 78 cards which probably evolved in medieval Europe. Of those 78, there are 22 Major Arcana cards (like Death and the
Lovers and The Chariot over there) + 56 Minor Arcana (which are much like our playing cards). Each of these cards is associated with
different qualities or conditions or attitudes.
So, what do you do with ‘em?
When a card is (or cards are) drawn in response to a specific question by a well-intentioned reader,
many tarot fans discover great insight, guidance and/or validation to life’s challenges.
Why do you think the tarot survived from the middle ages until now? People like guidance and validation, apparently.
If a new way of looking at your problems doesn’t sound intriguing to you, you may as well move it along.
The tarot ain’t the tool for you.
How does it work?
Okay, I don’t have to be psychic to know some of you won’t be satisfied with that answer. How about this one: Practice.
Some readers spend a lot of time learning about their cards, practicing, memorizing meanings, taking classes,
reading books, journaling, networking with other readers and so on.
That's not what I meant. I mean…how does it work?
Ohhhhh, you mean the woo-woo part...
Yeah, like, how does a deck of cards know how to give me advice about my crappy love life.
If I had a question about my crappy love life, that is.
I think it's fair to say that most tarot readers would tell you that the cards themselves have no consciousness. That’s like assuming a
book about heart transplants can perform surgery. The Tarot is a tool, like a book, wherein knowledge is contained and can be
extracted. As for how certain cards show up in response to certain questions…there are different schools of thought on that topic.
Some think that it is divine intervention, or angels, or guides or the like. Jung would suggest synchronicity. Some others think that it has
to do with a subconscious process on the part of the reader that guides the shuffle to the appropriate cards. Cynics believe that it is
merely our own desire to create order from disorder that allows us to find meaning in unlikely places - ie a deck of cards.
And what do you believe?
I told you. Magic.
I'm not sure why it works. I just know that when I ask a specific questions when I am sober and let go of expectations about any
outcome, I get pretty good advice. I don't know how oxygen works in my lungs either, but I know that I need to keep breathing.
I just know that it works and that's enough for me.
Is Tarot reading satanic?
Only when performed by a Satanist.
Like anything in life, it depends on what you bring to the table. In my experience, people with good hearts open minds and strong wills
have positive, helpful experiences with the tarot. People with hateful dispositions, manipulative intentions or weak wills can find
themselves inviting negative experiences into their journeys.
And for what it’s worth, the person who lives in constant fear of Satan is just as likely to meet dark energy as the person who
consciously chooses that path. What you think about most is what you invite into your life, you know.
But isn't there something in the bible about fortune-telling and witchery being evil?
If your mother told you that eating a whole bunch of halloween candy before going to bed would give you a tummy ache, but you ate a
bunch of candy anyway, and then got a tummy ache...would you accuse your mother of being a witch?
I may differ from some tarot readers on this point, but the truth is I don't do much fortune-telling. I do a lot more here's-where-you-are-right-
now-telling. And if-you-want-to-get-there-from-here-then-these-are-your-options-telling.
Cause and effect is cause and effect. If you've made life choices that put you on a certain path, you are going to have certain
experiences that result from those choices, and the only way to stop having those experiences is to make new choices. Go to the tarot
when you have a metaphorical tummy ache, and you can learn about other choices you can make to find relief.
But don't you have to be psychic to read the tarot?
So anyone can do it?
Not everyone can do it well. It takes lots of practice and a natural inclination to get really good at it. You know, like playing a musical
instrument. That’s not to say that you can’t get comfort from learning how to read for yourself without becoming an expert, just like
lots of us play the guitar without becoming rock stars.
What if I want a reading but don’t want to have learn anything myself? Should I find one of those corner houses with the
big neon palm in the window and the flashing Tarot Readings $10 sign?
Well, uhhh...you can. But I wouldn’t. I would choose carefully. Like a date. Chemistry happens on different levels, don’t be a sucker
for a certain “look” or stereotype. The whole point of using a tool like the tarot is to break out of limited thinking and rigid
expectations. The best tarot readers I’ve been to always look more like science teachers or soccer moms and have darling websites
instead of neon signs.
Also? See if they belong to any tarot clubs or associations. Ask them if they are certified. Ethical tarot readers want to be of service,
want to give you a useful experience even if they never see you again. Scammers, on the other hand, will tell you whatever you want to
hear so you keep coming back…or they tell you what you are most afraid of so they can bleed you of your money while they purport to
“cure” your curse.
I can't think of anything else to ask.
If that changes, I'll be here.
No. Thank you.
Copyright 2007 Bohemian Path Tarot
All rights reserved
from the Zerner Farber Tarot