Having a Rich Tarot Vocabulary
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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