Monday, March 12, 2012

Questions and Myths

Today I decided to take on some common questions about the Tarot, that both experienced and beginning readers encounter. So here goes- these are in no particular order, and my answers come from insight and experience, much like reading the cards itself.
First off, a question I encounter all the time, how do the cards work? Well, it's not exactly 'work' in the sense of an engine working, something mechanical like that. Since our actions in the present decide the future, and the present is always moving into the past, things are, to a degree, uncertain. However, the Tarot is simply a set of symbols that can identify what's likely to happen given what's already happened. Throw a rock in the air, and it's more than likely to fall down and hit the ground. Drop a glass on the floor, it's more than likely to break. Gravity is pretty much a constant force, and combined with experience, we can predict what will happen. It's simply a matter of being able to recognize the pattern, and extrapolate the information you want from it, and that comes easier and easier with experience. Interestingly, the Tarot is not unique in this regard; technically speaking, you can look at any pattern, and knowing what to look for, extrapolate the same information. It's a question of how you can pull information out of the world around you. However, many people (myself included) have found the Tarot one of the easier systems to use.
The next question at first struck me as an odd one- do you need to be given a Tarot deck, or can you purchase your own? The answer is yes, you can purchase your own. It's a long-standing superstition that buying a Tarot deck is bad luck, though really how you interact with and understand the deck is what's important in determining which deck you should use. Which brings up the next question, which is a little tougher- how do I choose a deck? There are thousands of thousands of decks in the world, some new, some old. Probably the most commonly known decks are the Rider-Waite decks and the Crowley-Thoth deck. These are commonly known because they're fairly user-friendly, and easy to interpret. Luckily, we live in the age of the internet, so finding out information about different decks is not difficult at all! Personally, I recommend Aeclectic Tarot, they have a brief review of many different decks, some of which I've seen, some of which I've not. A good way to get recommendations is from others- friends who read, or simply ask around. If a deck catches your eye, for whatever reason, do check it out! Tarot decks are, after all, a visual medium, so what do your eyes tell you? Many decks are based around the Rider-Waite symbolism and design, so it's not uncommon to hear of a deck described as 'using the Rider-Waite symbols' or 'based on the Rider-Waite model'. This is one of the reasons the deck is so popular. But choosing a deck is not a lifetime commitment. Many readers make use of several different decks, choosing between them for certain questions, or as the impulse strikes them. But as time goes on, many readers accumulate multiple decks. This is why, if you're an experienced reader and can find one, Tarot swap meets are a good place to unload some of the older decks you don't get much use out of, and see what other decks you can find. A deck is not necessarily better by virtue of age; I find I make regular use of a couple different ones, some new and some old. Your best bet in choosing a deck is to do lots of research. Find out what you can, and trust your own intuition on that one.
The next question also is close to this- how does one read? A lot of readers like to set aside a space to read in, or have a certain ritual before they begin. It can and will vary among each person, though the idea is to get settled mentally, clear your mind and maintain a state of alert openness. Doing this will enable you to easily read the cards, and keep your mind active, looking for connections and patterns. It's very useful to keep the cards 'isolated' when not in use- many people prefer to keep them in a cloth bag or wrapped in cloth. This is said to clear out any residual energy from a reading, and to keep the cards from absorbing any other energy knocking around. Keeping the cards going in one direction (no upside-down cards) and wrapped up is a good idea also, though upside-down cards can occur in a reading. Many readers also set the cards they spread out on a cloth, simply again to isolate the cards from any unwanted energies. In terms of how one actually reads the cards, are there any books you should read? Any secret esoteric orders one should belong to? The answer is there are a lot of books out there on the Tarot- some more in-depth and thorough than others. Many decks will come with a 'little white book', which may offer some details about the deck's publication and symbolism, as well as a very brief overview of each card, and usually a couple methods of using the cards- how you lay them out. I wouldn't rely on these books alone- though they can provide a few interesting details on the deck, such as why a particular symbol or design was used on a card, there simply isn't enough information for a novice reader in them. And when I say 'novice reader' I don't mean that in any negative way, even the best readers had to start somewhere! The further along you go, the more experience you get, and hopefully the more confidence.As with everything else, ask around and find out what books are recommended the most. From my own library I can recommend Easy Tarot by Josephine Ellershaw and Ciro Marchetti, as well as the Tarot Handbook by Angeles Arrien.
I suppose I should include also the oldest question in the book- are Tarot cards evil/against the Bible/Satanic/choose your term? The short answer, not that I'm aware of. I've heard Tarot cards condemned as evil, and on the opposite spectrum, a way for god to speak to us. The answer is, the Bible in the Old Testament does advise against divination. It also advises over a hundred reasons to stone someone to death, as well as performing animal sacrifice. My personal answer is, I'm not a Christian, I happen to subscribe to a different set of beliefs. If you're a Christian, well, make your own judgement on this one. If it's a problem for you, that's fine. If you're interested in the Tarot, look into it! The best answer for something you don't know about is to go digging, do some research, find out what you can! The best decision, I've often felt, is an informed one. I'm not an expert on the Bible- I have read it more than once, but am not a scholar or theologian. I know I haven't found any negative effects from reading- the Devil hasn't popped up in his Armani suit and held out a pen and contract written in blood, or anything like that. Tarot is not equivalent to witchcraft, and many Witches I know would be first to point out this distinction. The two are similar, true, and often a Tarot reader will either be a Witch or have a knowledge of witchcraft (I've never been certain whether to capitalize either of these or not), but the two are not synonymous.
Another question, should I go to a 900 number for a Tarot reading? Well, having talked to a couple people who have worked as 900-number readers, I'd say it's a crapshoot. There are, beyond a doubt, legitimate Tarot readers out there who hire out to these services. They get a percentage of the income generated by this. There are also less ethical people out there, who essentially are playing a confidence game to keep you on the phone. Your best bet is to find an in-person reader. I say that not because I do that myself, but because it provides a little less pressure on both sides, you don't have to worry about cramming a whole reading into a short time. I like to allot about an hour per reading, that way we can go through any other questions that may arise.
One final question that a lot of people get tripped up on, is there a certification board or organization? The answer, if you're thinking of one nationally recognized certification board or professional organization, no there is not. There are groups that provide certification, usually by means of an examination. Should you seek out this certification, there is nothing wrong with that, but understand, it's not like, say, a license to practice medicine or something. The field simply isn't that regulated. I myself am kind of halfway- I have looked into and found the requirements for certification, although regard the actual certification as unnecessary. I find references and word of mouth combined with experience and familiarity with the cards to be more than sufficient, but again, it's a matter of persona choice! Should you wish to become certified, or have a certified reader do your reading, certainly seek one out! The certification exams are difficult for a reason! So long story short, seek out a  reputable, ethical reader, and if you wish to learn Tarot, seek out a good teacher, and remember that your own intuition, when it becomes developed, can be a powerful tool.

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