If you didn’t get a Tarot book as a x-mas present, no worries. You can do better.
People often ask for book recommendations. If they ask me, I say to them: ‘Get them all. Why compare? Each author brings his and her own contribution in accordance with their capability and plan. And this has zero to do with what other authors do, which makes comparing utterly pointless.’
Where learning systems of divination is concerned, there are 2 ways of going about it.
You get a book of ‘meanings’. If you get one such book, you might as well get them all because they’re all the same. Each will start with a preamble, often consisting of establishing family pedigree or lineage. After that the cards are described one by one. ‘Secret’ and ‘forgotten’ spreads are presented, consisting of set questions for each position. ‘Who hates me, who loves me, who is with me who is against me’ are classic.
You learn all the meanings for the cards by heart, and you’re set. This approach avoids questioning the premise for the arbitrations: ‘Justice means truth, balance, discernment, karma, getting what you deserve, cosmic perfection’, and so on.
You get a book of divination. If you get one such book, you’re in trouble because the author will ask you to produce readings that are anything but flat. Card meanings will be secondary or tertiary to the overall plan, or downright nonexistent
Books of meanings produce flat readings. Books of divination give you a headache. To be sure of how you distinguish between them, you’ll want to know: When is a reading not flat?
In my recent essay on Patheos, Fundamentals in Reading a Visual Text, I hammer on this, but here I’ll give you a further example of the concreteness of what’s at stake when you don’t go:
The Devil means passion, the Emperor means power, and the Magician means prowess. The Empress means creativity, Temperance means concoction, and Force means coercion.
A reading that’s not flat will start with observing what’s happening on the surface: Men on top, women at the bottom.
The Devil presides over the men’s moves.
The Emperor is above the line between the Empress and Temperance. We’re here with a calculating power.
The Magician is above the line between Temperance and Force. We’re here with displaced perspective.
‘Ho, ho, ho, what happened to meanings?’
Santa took them.
This is what I say: Read all the books you get and enjoy every writer’s effort. What it comes down to is not what is said in the books, but what you do with what is said in the books.
I hope the approach to deconstructing meanings will provoke you hard enough to make you curious about how you can turn the flattest of your readings into the most dynamic events.
You can start thinking of the flatness of keywords as part of a wordplay. Did you notice that I’ve deliberately had all the cards in their rows begin with the same letter, while maintaining ‘the meaning’?
Observe the interplay and function of the characters before you get all giddy over their symbolism: How many men and how many women are acting? What’s between their individual roles? These questions invite you to think.
Divination is never boring when you think about what you’re saying and why. I hope you’ll think of your cards as a game of arcades and mirrors, with your perception going in and out of perspective.
The cards I used here are my own concoction designed to accompany a new book, Arcades Tarot, on the relation between haiku poetry and the Tarot. I only made 22 sets – a laborious process – that went in 10 minutes. The book is available separately in unlimited edition.
Stay creative in the new year. Make some art and beautify your world. Merry, merry to all, and a happy new year.
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