Sunday, 25 September 2016

Tarot as a moral compass

Studying tarot has been a major eye-opener or rather, a mind-expander, for myself in the areas of a world view, values and thinking patterns. Since I started reading tarot, I've become more mature, calm and zen in life in general. How and why did that happen?

When I first stumbled on tarot some five years ago, I was mostly curious about its symbolism - I have a degree in art history and I've been drawn to understanding and deciphering symbols and codes since the start of my studies, in the best Dan Brown / Da Vinci Code manner.

Quite soon, I became enticed by tarot's divination skills: how could such a thing possibly exist and were the divinatory "powers" tarot clearly seemed to have (based on my Excel spreadsheets I kept to track my predictions) merely an illusion or a real thing? And if they were a real thing, how could that possibly be true from any scientific point of view I knew?

After encountering tarot, I became less enthusiastic about the reductionist, scientific and rather simplistic world view (matter is all there is) and other, more layered, metaphysical explanations started to make more sense.

I became more and more interested in the Eastern spiritualism (inc. Buddhism, Taoism etc.) and later on, on the traditions of Western Mysticims, including New Age but also other streams such as the Golden Dawn (one of the occult societies that created their own version of tarot cards in the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries), Theosophy, Druidism, Wiccan etc.

I don't subscribe to any religion or specific spirituality, but perhaps Theosophy hits closest to home with the idea that everyone should study and learn from every possible philosophy, religion and spiritual tradition, to form their own views and be as informed as possible = to be the lovers of wisdom, theo sophists.

I have not concluded how it could be possible that tarot can have any divinatory powers. The cards definitely seem to have them, for sure. I have predicted, for instance, meeting my husband, certain events happening at work, a couple of major arguments coming up with close relatives, and so on. I'll discuss my theory later on. Today, I'm more interested in discussing the "we see what we focus on"-theory.

I think that at its most rudimentary level, tarot is just a trigger for intuition in the same way than clouds, flames, foliage, or even wallpaper patterns can be. The human mind is incredibly apt in finding patters, forms and images - making meaning - where there is none. I believe we see patterns and images in the clouds, tree canopies, in the fur of our pets and practically, wherever, because we project what's in our mind anyway.

Tarot is all about looking at pictures and understanding their symbolic meanings. Normally, cards are rich in imagery and there is always something different to focus on. For one person, a white lily in the picture jumps out, because s/he is contemplating a matter that relates to innocence, children, purity of thought etc. For another reader, a medieval sword in the picture draws attention because his/her mind is occupied with thoughts about arguments, need for clarity, painful/hurtful words = blades etc.

People in general see meaning where it is only hinted - to the point where it becomes a problem. Think of all the times you - or perhaps your significant other - read something between the lines and it was, in fact, completely off base, only brought into existence by your own fears or hopes?

With tarot, the trick is to see meaning, but not too much of it. Intuition can't be paranoia or wishful thinking. How to find the exact amount of gut feeling? With practice. We know much more about life, ourselves and other people than we realise, but that requires careful tuning into the quietest wave lengths of our mind: it's about hearing the whispers, the hunches, the tiniest signs we've captured earlier without realising it.

As mentioned at the beginning, tarot has had a very educational role in my own life. When I focus on the tarot cards, I see messages of wisdom, patience and good will. Cards that repeat in my readings, highlight issues and recommend ways to fix things. For example, I have made a deliberate effort to become less fiery/trigger happy and more understanding and emphatic in arguments, because of the repeating message I've picked from the cards. Of course, the repeating cards can be a mere coincidence. And still, after I've understood and incorporated the message, the repetition stops.

Seeing messages in tarot or in any other medium can be explained by the fact that the human mind is tuned to see  meaning everywhere. I've seen meaning in random cards and it is not necessarily anything mystical. On the other hand, if seeing meaning improves the quality of life, is that a bad thing or wrong? Of course not.

Why and how has tarot made me calmer and more mature? I think it's partly because of self-reflection the cards give prompts for; and partly because of the divinatory properties.

Whether or not I can prove that the predictions are true, I feel that I can know what's coming up and there is a reason why certain events happen. That makes me much calmer towards any upheaval or sudden change in the future.

With advance notice, there's less reason for stress. And with the world view that everything happens for a reason and contains a lesson to draw from, hardly anything is scary. It just is. We always have a chance to decide, how to feel about matters, how to react, what action to take, how to fix or change or adapt into the situation.

I think that tarot in itself can be a way of life. Reading cards is often accompanied by some spiritual world view, but not always. Perhaps the only thing that connects all the readers is the idea that random pictures can trigger the intuition to know more than it otherwise could. Tarot is, at its core, about expanded knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of oneself and others.

Tarot to me is an inherently empathetic messaging channel; to me the cards always show the high road, the better way, the more moral take on the issue. Perhaps it's nothing more than a reflection of my own subconscious, but luckily my subconscious seems very concerned about the well-being of others AND myself, and hence, has helped me to become a better person. Thanks tarot! :)

Can the cards really know what's going on or what should be done? Actually, it doesn't matter. It's the reader who makes sense of the pictures and finds meaning in patterns with his/her intuition. 


  1. First of all I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question in which I'd like to ask if you don't mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing. I have had trouble clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Kudos! login

    1. Hi Oliver, sorry for mmissing your question for so long!

      I don't actually do any clearing or centering 'rituals' or actions before reading. I know many people find them useful and at the beginning, I did try to achieve some kind of meditative mindset first, but for me personally, it doesn't seem necessary. What I try to do, though, is to have a quiet environment and distraction-free time. I sit and look at the cards in peace and try not to think of anything, just look. I let my eyes be drawn by colours, forms, symbols, and they start making sense to me.

      One way that could help is to take a walk first, in particular if you can do it in nature or in a park. That seems a great way to get your everyday worries and frustrations out of the way so that you can be calmer and less distracted by the minute mundane issues when you start working with your cards. I hope this helps!

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