Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tarot Spell Basics

I wanted to take a moment to address another use for Tarot cards other than divination- they can be used for spells. Much of the information in this post comes from the book Portable Magic by Donald Tyson, who deals primarily in ceremonial magic, also called high magic, or Enochian magic. The idea is that as a model of the universe, and also ourselves within it, we can further model the universe using the cards. Here the principle of "as above, so below" comes into usage. What we do on this symbolic level is reflected in the world around us. And of course, the law of three (what you send out returns to you three times) still applies.
Keep in mind that though Tyson writes with a great deal of authority, this is not the only way to model the world. It's based on Enochian magic, and uses a Triangle for evocation- many modern day practicioners don't use this, simply directing energy from inside the circle and sending it off when it has been raised. Really, it's a matter of personal preference and familiarity. Speaking for myself, I've found evocation to be a pretty useful tool.
Below we have a basic layout of what the circle and its accompanying triangle would look like drawn out on the working surface-
Now, if this gives you a nervous tic just looking at it, you're not alone. Oh, and be sure to keep in mind the tables of planetary hours and zodiac influences for maximum effectiveness, and be sure you're mentally and physically ready before you even begin. You do know the appropriate preparations and meditations, right? On a serious note, look at this not in terms of odd language and symbols, but rather in terms of function, and it might become a little clearer. There is a Circle, which I'm sure all Witches are familiar with. There are the four Watchtowers at the four cardinal directions- likewise, pretty much old hat here. We can also see the symbolic altar in the middle- many Witches incorporate this at home, with an object or symbol representing the four elements.
However, there is one difference here- the triangle. I find it best to put a triangle of evocation (nice big word there, it's basically where you direct the energy to) either in the south or the east. Much of the Enochian community recommends the east, but if you find a real indication to put it in some other quarter, that's fine too. As with many things, your will and purpose provide the direction in all of this. The basic mechanism is pretty simple here. Energy is raised within the Circle, then directed outwards to the triangle, where it is then directed outwards. It's similar to much of modern magic, the main difference being the extra step in setting up and using the triangle.
Remember that using Tarot cards to symbolize what would otherwise be used on the ground, a table or whatever else you may be using makes it a little smaller and somewhat more portable. Breaking it down into symbolic parts, we get the following:
Here we see the Circle, the Altar (the cross in the middle of the circle here) and the Triangle and a ray between the two indicating the direction of energy. It's not that different from any other working, except that instead of doing this from the reference point of your physical body, we use a more symbolic representation composed of the cards. A Significator (almost always one of the Court cards) is placed on the center of the Altar, representing you yourself. It's recommended that you use a Court card instead of one of the Minor Arcana cards, which might better represent the situation you're addressing with this spell in the first place, is because that situation can indeed be represented by Minor Arcana cards. However, that situation would be shown by the cards placed on the Triangle- what you want to get rid of, what you want to make manifest, or what have you.
Now, how do we construct this symbol out of cards? Let's examine each part of this diagram and see how it's constructed. I realize this will be a somewhat general examination- if you're interested in the specific rationale behind each card, I highly recommend Tyson's book. To begin, the Circle is composed of 12 Major Arcana cards- these are the cards with a strong affiliation both to their respective Zodiac signs, and in the cases of the four cardinal points, a strong elemental affiliation- Fire to the South, Air to the East, Earth to the North, and Water to the West. The layout is as follows-
As with most Circles, this one begins in the East, with the Emperor, then proceeds clockwise around until reaching the East again. The illustration above also includes their Zodiac affiliations. Why are the Zodiac symbols used? The idea is to create a model of the universe- so these symbols are simply meant to correspond to the world above and around us.
Now within this Circle, we have an Altar. Again, as in most forms of magic, the altar forms the central focus of the working. It's composed of four indicators of the elements, and you are symbolically on the altar in the form of the significator card- first, lay down the Aces as follows, then place the Significator on the altar.
As you can see above, this represents the four elements, and by extension, the four Watchtowers of each direction- when casting (creating, whatever term you might use) the Circle, it's traditional to address each of these quarters in turn- Watchtowers are one of the several terms given to these quarters.
Finally, we come to the Triangle, should you wish to make use of it. Is it strictly necessary? No, it depends on what type of workings you're most comfortable with.
The purpose of the spell is likewise reflected symbolically in the cards, and a little background knowledge and experience can make all the difference here. First, as with any spell, what is the purpose of this spell? What do you want to have happen? This is the first step. The second is to kind of translate that into Tarot cards- pick the cards that represent the situation or the outcome you want. It's easiest and probably best not to go too overboard with this- I find usually not more than three cards, if chosen carefully and with thought, can sum up most any situation. Again, knowing the meaning behind each card can help a great deal on this front. The reason behind using Minor Arcana cards is that the Minors address life events, whereas the Majors represent more pervasive and less personal or individual influences.
The Triangle, at least in this model above, represents the point where the energy is sent to manifest, and usually here the "realization" cards go. The realization cards are those Minors that represent the outcome of the spell, why you're doing it in the first place.
The Triangle itself uses three Majors-
Notice that the Fool is placed at the apex of the Triangle- the Fool, numbered zero, represents the void, and potential in its purest sense- what we put into the Triangle is what this potential then becomes. Again, usually the Triangle points towards the East, but if you have another purpose and layout in mind, make use of that.
The ray we see in the diagram above is actually not composed of cards- rather, it represents the direction of the energy sent out from the Significator- much like you would do if you were standing within a Circle and casting the spell with your own two hands, instead of symbolically here.
So put it all together, and you get something that looks like this:
Looks a little bit like that big scary Enochian circle we started with, doesn't it? Here we see the Significator sitting on the center of the altar, and the realization cards sitting out on the Triangle. It's simply a question of setting this layout up as a Circle, the same as you would do in the physical world, so to speak.
As with anything else, remember to have a clear purpose in mind when using this, and remember that it will operate just like any other Circle. Our physical bodies are but one point of reference- using the center of the Altar as a focal point is just a shift of awareness and reference. As a final note, Tyson notes that the circle and any reciprocating energy will remain in place until the cards are moved. While this is true, it is a Circle. It can be closed out, same as any other. And as a final note, should you wish to make use of this method, it's highly recommended that you set aside a different deck for it- don't use the same deck you use for divination. There are smaller decks available that work well for this type of application, allowing you to work on a somewhat smaller space. Using the same deck that you use for divination, besides, can get things a little short-circuited, lacking a better term. And of course, all images above are the property of the publisher, not me, who just borrowed them for illustration purposes. Stay well!

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