Today on Instagram, I expect at least one heckler for my interpretation of the Four of Swords.
It happens occasionally that I will interpret the card of the day in a way that someone else would not, and it will be pointed out to me that the card could have also meant this, that, or this other.
In recent months I've also been somewhat amused by reading online statements via tarot facebook group formats, "I heard you must not ever buy your own deck of tarot cards and that your first deck must be a gift" or, "I hear one can only own or use one deck of tarot cards since having too many will bleed your energy or steal your soul," and, "Once you find your forever deck thar speaks to you, you will never need or want another deck," or any other of the type of nonsensical myths that somehow manage to grow around tarot.
I think I'm as valid a tarot reader as anyone can be, and with the exception of two decks, I have purchased every one of my tarot decks. If I had waited for someone to gift me with my first deck of tarot, I'd probably still be waiting. The only reason I was ever gifted those two aformentioned decks was because a friend knew I was a reader and she had inherited two decks from a former lover who moved on and left them behind. (I must admit btw, that the Grand Etteilla Egyptian Gypsy Tarot deck that came my way as a result of his exit from her life became an awesome departing gift for me.) I own several dozen decks, though not hundreds becasue I am particular, and I read from every last one of them.
I mention all this, because I believe I have broken every myth that I have ever read online surrounding proper tarot protocol. Who comes up with this stuff?
My tarot habits may or may not be of interest to anyone else, but I do encourage others who are serious about tarot to disregard much of what they read about tarot 'rules'. It is all a distraction from the only valid point, which is to learn the cards. I don't think you can have a rich tarot vocabulary if you limit yourself to one deck of tarot.
I have written on several occasions that the different tarot camps; e.g. Marseille, Thoth, and RWS and even a few other esoteric branches, are akin to different dialects of the same language, and sometimes they may seem like similar but distinct languages. Which means, when you read from a deck from the Thoth school, you need to know its vocabulary which is often different from RWS, and even Marseille depending on how you assigned meaning to the numbered pips.
I learned tarot from a Marseille styled deck and since all the books on the Marseille Tarot that I could find back in the 70s were strictly for the Major Arcana, I had to devise my own system for the numbered pips. This led me to learn about numerology and assigning meanings to the numbers within the context of each suit. I created my own interpretation for each number one through ten and what it meant within each suit. I created my own little tarot book for my own learning. Eventually I did not need my little homemade tarot book anymore because I defined the numbers in a way that made sense to me when I saw them. For example, I understood what four meant in the context of the suit of swords and all the suits including the trumps of the major arcana.
Numbers were and remain a major aspect for me when l read the cards.
My own generic definition of the number four means something is taking shape. An idea manifests into reality. I then applied this meaning to the particular suit it is represented by. In the case of the Four of Swords, it could be an idea, or a thought, which becomes reality.
Eventually I bought an RWS deck (more accurately the Albano Waite Smith deck) and I saw that in many cases the meanings I had assigned to some of the Marseille pips did not mean the same thing as the images representing the RWS pips. So of course that meant when I read from the different decks, my interpretation needed to be flexible. When I see a RWS inspired image of the Four of Swords, a different meaning usually surfaces from what I would apply to a Marseille style deck. Traditionally a RWS interpreation might suggest a need for respite, retreat, stepping aside to declutter the brain for some serious circumspection. If I use a RWS deck with my numerological meaning it would not make sense to a client who is also looking at the cards, nor would it make sense to me. So why force meaning to a card if it does not speak the same language? Speak its language instead.
The same is true of the Thoth, Alchemic and other decks.
My reading of today's Four of Swords on Instagram was from a Thoth styled deck which has its own interpretation of the number four. Within that deck system, four is more about creating order from chaos, establishing a truce so that things may peacefully fall into place.
It could be argued that aspects of each definition overlap and add depth of understanding to any given card. If I didn't own and read from multiple decks, I'd never be able to apply a range of understanding to the cards. I rarely if ever read the cards in a vacumm. Most often there is a concept the cards are being applied to, or the client has a question, no matter how vague.
Each deck is like a different book. I wouldn't own one book and say that was enough reading for my lifetime. Like most avid readers, I've read many books in my fifty six years which have all enriched my life. Having hundreds of dusty books on a bookshelf means nothing if you haven't read any of them.
And having multiple decks of tarot also means nothing, if all you can say is that you have a collection. You have to read from them to learn from them. And it might take a lifetime, which blows another tarot myth, that tarot can be learned in five easy steps.
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I rarely if ever do readings specifically for predicting the outcome of anything.
Most often my intent in reading is to achieve the best possible outcome given the influences and options that I or my clients are presented with on any given day. Unless doing a full reading for a client, I only do one card draws on a daily basis that I share with my IG followers as a thought or focus for the day.
Today I was just a little bit tempted to pull a few cards to help me in deciding on how to place my gentleman's bet with my husband. (Although he decided he'd also wait to see what I drew before placing his bet. )
Neither of us know the first thing about horses or racing, but we always tune in to watch the results of the Kentucky Derby race and always place little bets with each other.
I used my Buckland Romani Gypsy Tarot deck because heck, what other deck would I choose to this end?
I'm not one to predict in my readings because I really do believe that most often our outcomes are based on things we do or do not do, but the winner of the Kentucky Derby Race will not be influenced by anything I may or may not do today.
Why I chose three cards for this task I am not sure, but I felt it would give me a well rounded picture of the winner.
Four of Staves totally looks like a celebratory event, so I figure I'm on the right track.
The Empress and Emperor are a strong presence.
I figured I could go one of two ways, look up the numbers of the horses, or do it by their names.
Four plus three plus four equals eleven. I looked up the horse assigned to both gates eleven and two.
I referred to the NY Times Friday May 1st edition for information on the horses. I know nothing about the horses.
Number 11, Stanford, was scratched, leaving number 2, Carpe Diem as a numeric possibility.
None of the horses have 11:2 odds, so that angle is off the table.
I also try to find a connection to the Horse's name with a number tie-in if possible. I look for a hint of royalty and see 'American Pharoah' starting from gate 18, bumped up from gate 17 as a result of horse #11 being scratched. OK, a loose connection to number eleven but I'll take it! Gate 18 does not connect to the number on the cards I pulled, so in the case of American Pharoah the magic does not appear to be in his number but in his name.
I explained both of these results to my husband and he latched onto #2, Carpe Diem, because that was his motto for the men and women who served under his command (he's a retired military man).
And I'm choosing American Pharoah based on my interpretation of the imagery on the cards and also because it has a connection to the number eleven.
It's all in fun and if my husband wins I can't yell at him for 24 hours, lol. And if my horse wins he can't involve me in any of his schemes or projects for 24 hours. (Which is why I yell at him.)
Race time is approximately 4 and a half hours away and we'll be watching! Will you?
**Update** About an hour before the races and we're watching the pre-show. The announcers said there was a horse that has won 11 straight races, but neither of us caught its name. So that horse is interesring. But my wager is still on American Pharoah because Pharoah has a stronger connection to the cards I pulled. :)
Post Post Script. : My horse, American Pharoah, did indeed win. I only wish I had money on it. :)
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There are pitfalls of Tarot, both as a reader and as one who needs a reading.
My tarot online presence comes and goes depending on if I have something to say on a broad platform. In the 1990's and 2000's I could be found online in multiple tarot groups, a few which I either owned or moderated, I had my own websites, and if you read my about Marilyn page, you will get the full picture of my tarot career.
I stepped back at times when I thought I was getting too much exposure and attention. There were multiple reasons for this, through word of mouth people knew me and came to me and an inner circle of individuals knew where to find my services if they needed me. So I had the luxury of lowering my low profile and leading a more private tarot and spiritual life. Another, and more significant reason for dropping out of my online presence, was due to a few individuals who became thoroughly dependent on my services for every aspect of their lives. One man in particular requested readings from me multiple times a day, and after only doing four readings for him, I knew that this poor soul wouldn't open his front door unless I said it was OK.
I told him how I felt. He didn't care, he kept coming back. I told him I would no longer be available to him and I stopped reading for him. Yes, some other reader took him on and undoubtedly made globs of money on him. He was developing an unhealthy attachment to me and I could not take advantage of him.
Some tarot readers live for this kind of attachment. It brings in steady income for sure, but the price is too high. For me the price is self respect and integrity. To each her/his own and whatever lets us sleep at night.
I am an empty nested crone now, and I have the time, resources, and supreme good fortune to live the kind of life I want which includes my desire for revisiting another online presence for myself. (With a new name, I no longer use a pseudonym since I no longer care about being outed.) I have a lot of tarot knowledge in my brain after thirty-nine years as a reader, and I want a place to preserve some of my insights. They say nothing online ever disappears. Perhaps my modest contribution to the tarot world may be preserved in this small way and some day my words will resonate with someone. I will probably eventually gather up my blogs for the content for a book before I abandon this website.
In the past year, I've created a modest Instagram account in order to have a small online presence. As it became more popular I had the confidence to create this website and blog. I also created a fledgling tarot group on facebook which I may let die since it isn't thriving (Tarot Anonymous) and I have even joined a few facebook tarot groups which for the most part, annoy the hell out of me.
I'm very disappointed and unimpressed by most of what I see. People pull cards to determine if they should buy a particular pair of shoes, and then open it for discussion, and actually have other readers chime in about what the cards meant in terms of buying that particular pair of shoes. Seriously?
Damn girl, if you like the shoes and they're comfortable, buy them!
A few months ago I was engaged in an online discussion with another tarot reader about resolving an issue. I have a moral compass and the right thing to do seemed crystal clear. My colleague said he couldn't decide now and had to do a reading about it. I scratched my head and bit my tongue. All I could think was, 'Dude, you need to depend on the cards to tell you what the right thing to do when it comes to hurting or not hurting another human being?'
This kind of trivialization and over dependency on tarot is too much for me. It breaks my heart. The whole point of tarot is to help you navigate life with the purpose of being a fully spiritual being. If after twenty years of reading tarot you still need the cards to buy a banal product or decide not to harm another person, I think you missed the point.
I can't remember the last time I did a big sit down reading for myself. For the most part, I know what I need to do. I can see the cards as they are represented and played out in in my life. I can identify when I am being challenged by the spirit of one card or when I need the lesson of another. Yes, I do daily one card readings for myself, and I also do a one card reading for my Instagram followers as a method for getting the most out of the day. But I am not so crippled that I can't decide on whether or not I should wash the car or renege on a promise I made. After thirty-nine years of reading tarot I think that should be expected. If after all these years I still need to grab my cards multiple times a day, I probably haven't learned anything about or from tarot.
I understand people who don't read tarot themselves and don't have that lifelong benefit wanting a reading once a month or a few times a year for clarification, or even more frequently if they're going through a particularly difficult life experience. I mean heck, that's what I'm here for and it's what I do.
But it's like this:
When I was a teacher I'd tell my students, "My job is to make you not need me."
Instilling a lifelong love of learning is a teacher's true objective.
Tarot works in much the same way. I am the tarot reader, my job is to help you not need me.
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