In 2012 legendary tarot collector K. Frank Jensen donated his collection of cards and related esoterica material to Roskilde University Library. I was appointed as the president of the collection by the Institute of Culture and Identity. My task is to develop research related to the collection. Although my field is American Studies, my research interests are in sacred texts and spiritualities, so I was honored to accept this special appointment, as it gives me access to first-hand material of extremely valuable significance.
So far I’ve published work on the cultural significance of the Tarot cards, and two books about the art of reading the image, semiotics, and the poetics of cartomancy.
I’ve held workshops about the Tarot at the Roskilde University Library for my students already, and I’m planning a conference that will open the collection, as soon as the library has finished cataloguing and registering the cards.
Apart from regular academic research related to the collection, the idea is also to organize small events at the library which celebrate the practice of looking at the cards in a poetic way. What do they say about their own time, and what do they say about us now?
Aside from my work as a professor at Roskilde University, I read the cards on a professional basis, I teach cartomancy, and I run cartomantic workshops about the value of storytelling in our lives. But my primary aim in this context is to bridge the gap between the world of cards and the world of books, and demonstrate how the practice of reading the cards is not only as sophisticated as that of reading a painting, but more. It is my contention – along with that of other Tarot scholars – that a pack of cards contains history, cultural history, and art history, philosophy, hermetic philosophy, and semiotics, cultural anthropology and folkloric practices, psychology and consciousness studies. In the humanities and the social sciences we research into these fields. So why not look at the cards too, in a new, fresh, and non-prejudiced way?
In this connection I see myself primarily as a storyteller whose preferred medium of expression is the oracular, as mediated by natural omens, cards, the stars, bones, and books. While it may take time for the university to open its doors fully to ‘alternative’ modes of knowledge, I try to do my part in promoting what there is to promote regarding the participation in the creation of knowledge.
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