Reading A Blended Path
Recently, I took some time off to really think about the different approaches to tarot today. We seem so far away from the philosophical debates of the past, now preferring feel good ideas of self-improvement and reading by intuition and intuition alone. All things must run their course, but what does this mean for traditional tarot readers like myself? My approach to tarot is one of philosophical inquiries and time honored traditions. I like knowing the Celtic Cross Spread is over a hundred years old, and when I read with it, I embrace the ideas of those who came before me. Why do I savor the idea of an esoteric truth to tarot while others are quick to dismiss such a claim? Today I just want to discuss where I’ve been, what I’ve been researching, and some of the opinions I heard when seeking out the wisdom of others.
As I’m writing this the full blood moon lunar eclipse is going on. The moon seems to reflect feelings many people, not just myself, are currently feeling. There’s something about eclipses that just makes even the most skeptical of people acutely aware of the moon’s influencing presence. While the view of the eclipse isn’t so spectacular for me, that doesn’t mean I haven’t gone out and felt the breeze. There’s a sense of calm hearing the night all around me, realizing that others are doing likewise. I’ve even got a pan of banana bread muffins in the oven, something that oddly brings back memories of esbat cakes. All in all, something magical is in the air. This is the perfect time to explore tarot, and where my tarot journey is currently taking me.
Lately, I’ve felt a lot of dissatisfaction with my tarot journey. The people I’ve turned to for guidance simply haven’t lived up to my expectations. Part of that is my fault, I know that, but I still hoped for a bit more from them. Mentors aren’t all their cracked up to be, and quite frankly, I know well enough by now to understand even prominent leaders are just people with their own pitfalls. If I sound bitter, pleasure know I don’t mean to be. This is a growing pain, simply part of the experience. I want those reading this blog to know they aren’t alone in feeling these moments of dissatisfaction and doubt. Readers share in the successes, but we also share in the challenges as well. I don’t think the frustrations I feel are that uncommon. Many aspiring tarot readers struggle to navigate their tarot journey when first starting out.
There’s been some mixture of emotions as I analyze the different approaches to tarot. Many tarot readers seem to choose between a traditional, more occult, approach to tarot symbolism and a more intuitive, almost new age approach. These two schools of thought, Occult Tarot and New Age Tarot seem to exist on different ends of the same spectrum. But when I first began studying tarot, I didn’t know any of that. I couldn’t care less about New Age Tarot or Occult Tarot. I cared about tarot. The history of tarot and reading tarot all blurred wonderfully together. There wasn’t a single moment where I felt tarot was exclusively intuitive or exclusively esoteric. I studied tarot in a mixture of intuitive interpretation and traditional correspondences. Tarot complimented my already existing occult practice. And yet, for most people, this is not the case.
Today, most people seem stuck in a community that favors kindness. Usually kindness is a good thing, a commendable thing, but kindness does not belong at the tarot philosophical table. When I started digging into the issue of kindness within the tarot community, I realized my bias as a woman. I have been taught that kindness is synonymous with respect. However, I realized that many men are not taught the virtue of kindness. Instead, men are actually taught the virtue of respect. This, to me, is a critical distinction in the tarot community. We need to recognize that when discussing philosophical approaches to tarot kindness needs to be swapped out for respect. Kindness, in the exchanging of ideas, hinders progress. It is kindness that leads to an atmosphere of instant gratification and little effort. Respect brings about trial by fire, and in that trail there is also a possibility for success.
While it might be unpopular to say so, success is a factor in tarot reading. We successfully predict the future, or we don’t. The reading either addresses the question, or it fails miserably. Success does not necessary favor Occult Tarot or New Age Tarot, but it does favor results. Within the tarot community there’s been a shift away from these results in favor of feel good atmospheres. Now, there’s something to be said for feel good atmospheres, but is that really our goal as tarot readers? Have we become so worried about what the client thinks of the table that we’ve forgotten the tool itself? In many cases, I think that we have. There’s very little emphasis placed on tarot, and instead, it is placed on additional tools. Reading cloths, crystals, runes, oracles, and dice are just the tip of the iceberg. Aspiring tarot readers don’t stand a chance, often feeling left behind and somehow less in their inability to acquire more add-ons.
Successful tarot readings and tarot philosophies have nothing to do with this shallow definition of what makes a good tarot reader. Success in terms of tarot boils down to accurate information. While reading tarot by correspondences or intuition can be debated heavily, some of the history surrounding tarot cannot. This history, at times, lends itself toward Occult Tarot, but that is not the point. Historical fact should always be historical fact, free from bias and speculation (whenever possible). The fact that Occult Tarot has a defined past and a tangible thread into the traditions of today should not be ignored simply because others fear it will take away from new ideas embodied within New Age Tarot. Just because something is new does not make it any more or less legitimate. We need to remember this within our discussions as a community.
There’s a deep end of the tarot pond, one where more and more aspiring tarot readers are drowning. I recently asked why so many tarot readers fear Occult Tarot, and the one answer I received over and over was simple. People didn’t want to bother with the hassle. Can you believe that? Maybe you can, but it’s shocking to me. The main issue isn’t that tarot readers disagree with the approach, history, or philosophy. But rather, tarot readers simply want instant gratification. They admit this shamelessly, and no one seems to care or draw attention to the fact. It’s worth noting that this shameful approach to tarot reading also impacts New Age Tarot, it’s just not as obvious. New Age Tarot does have its own system of symbolism. Gestalt Tarot is an actual thing, and I recommend learning it. But a lazy tarot reader, one who cannot be bothered to learn, impacts both schools of thought.
As I sit here, plotting my own path forward, I can’t help but think of the pond itself. For me, tarot has opened doors to the deepest parts of my soul. I hate to think of others missing out on that. Ultimately though, I cannot make people learn. This blog is attempting to be a resource for those that need it, but I cannot force people to read it. Likewise, I cannot make people approach tarot in a blended fashion. Weaving the knowledge of book after book is not for everyone. But today, I realized that weaving different schools of thought is definitely for me. I wish to sit down to the tarot table, and earn my spot. Never do I want people to lie to me about my progress. I will not ask other people to lower themselves to that level. Whether a tarot reader I talk to approaches tarot from the viewpoint of an Occult Tarot reader or a New Age Tarot reader, I hope we will have something worth discussing.
Every moon phase, I do a tarot reading. With the Mercury Retrograde, I got to do two days worth of readings. Both readings cautioned me against the dissatisfaction I feel. The cards highlighted how I’ve played it safe, refusing to voice these thoughts in an effort to be kind and neutral. Staring at the tarot spreads I did wasn’t exactly a wonderful experience. The path ahead of me is a difficult one. For me, it requires wading into the deepest parts of the tarot pond. But now, before I do, I’ll be a little bit wiser. There’s no shortcuts to success, whatever success looks like to you. This full moon, I’ve learned a valuable lesson about staying true to myself. So, to end the post, I just felt like sharing one of the more inspirational quotes that help me through my discouraged moments.
“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.”