Saturday, October 22, 2016

On Being Given a Tarot Deck

There are a number of traditions which are associated with the tarot. I wouldn't personally call them superstitions although I don't follow any of them myself, since they usually have a firm grounding in occult science. Wrapping the cards in a silk scarf is one of them. Nothing wrong with treating your divination tool as something that should be treated with respect, given luxury surroundings, and protected from the surrounding vibrations. I don't want to imply that tarot cards should ever attain the sort of status of scripture, but if you compare the way Sikhs treat the Guru Granth Sahib - you can't even have it in the house unless you have a room for it on its own and you have to maintain various rituals of dressing it and putting it away at night - or the way Muslims treat the Quran, the point is clear that the tarotist should treat the tarot with respect. Personally mine tend to live on a shelf in the wardrobe in the boxes they came in. I'm not averse to carrying them around in my pocket nor to reading them on say a pub table. But then you wouldn't expect the Hound to do it the way anyone else does, would you?
Another tradition I don't follow but have the greatest respect for is the tradition of never reading the tarot for yourself. Again the sensible reason for this is that you are biased in your own reading, and will tend to see what you want to see. I personally know one tarotist who never reads for herself - she gets me to - but I think that this is a tradition which has tended to pass away under pressure from the modern practices of pulling a daily card, more actively reflecting on the cards, and so on.
The third tradition is that you must never buy a tarot deck for yourself, and this is the one I want to focus on in this post. Again I am sure there are some lucky readers who read with the deck they inherited from their mother and have never read with another one, but given the number of people showing off their collection of tarot decks on the internet this is another tradition which has clearly gone by the wall.
My own practice is that I will periodically buy a tarot deck which takes my interest. For example at the moment I am getting to know the tarot del fuego which I reviewed recently (and finding that it gives some absolutely blinding readings). I was once given a deck by my Goddess mother: it was a tiny RWS which she brought once when visiting the UK from South Africa and of course I will always keep it and do read with it. It has the slight problem for me that the cards are slightly too small for me to shuffle comfortably, so I tend to use it for magic rather than for divination.
For divination I have several decks, although not an ever-growing collection since I do give decks away that I don't think are going to be long-term friends. They are all ones I have bought myself. My duvet deck, from which I am guaranteed to get insights when I can't from any other deck, is a Morgan-Greer deck. While not the actual one I learned one, which became so disreputable even by my standards that I threw it away, I bought the Morgan-Greer for the reason I would advise anyone to choose a tarot deck, which was that I saw some pictures of it in a tarot book and liked it, and so I bought it.
For me the point of being given a tarot deck is that the tarot is a gift of the universe; sometimes gifts of the universe come in a different way from actually being given them by someone else. My advice would be to look around on the internet and get a deck to which you feel a connection. This may of course require a number of false starts, and fortunately these days it is easy and cheaper than it once was to try a few decks. The actual first deck I ever bought (and at that point nobody would have given me one any way because I didn't know anyone who was into that sort of weird shit) was the Ancient Tarot of Lombardy, which I bought in the Waterstone's on New Street, just because I liked it. It was a pity that I simply couldn't get my head round reading with it!
Of course there is a drawback to the obsessional collection of tarot decks which goes on nowadays. If you have dozens of decks, you will be less likely to make a connection with one reading deck which you stick with for years on end, and in many ways I could hanker after the days when you got a tarot deck with great difficulty, kept it, and there wasn't really going to be an alternative to read with. If that deck was the gift of someone dear to you then it obviously became even more precious.
Sticking to one tarot deck needn't imply a poverty of understanding. Why would you need a lot of decks, anyway? I think it suggests a desire to find that deck that will give perfect readings, after all these are different divination tools we are talking about collecting. For me there is something powerful about the idea of only reading with one deck, and carrying on reading with it for life. The reason this wouldn't impoverish the reader's understanding is that the whole point of tarot reading is that the deck is understood to encompass Everything. Seriously. When you hold a tarot deck in your hands you have to know for real that there is no possibility not contained in that world of 78 cards.
I think this is why it has been interesting for me recently to start doing something which I did in my recent post on the Moon card, and which I am starting to do for other cards - I draw cards to represent the various elements of the card I am wanting to understand. This seems to me a very powerful way for the tarot to explain itself, and show how the parts of a card can interact with the rest of the deck. For example, in the 4 of Pentacles, one could draw four other cards to show exactly what it is one is holding on to so grimly! Like this, it isn't necessary to look outside of the tarot to find explanations of what one is seeing.
This also reflects a tradition of monastic and other 'spiritual' ways: it is important to stop running round to look for an answer. Sometimes you have to sit still and just let the answer come. For me this is probably the most powerful aspect of the tradition of being given a tarot deck, that it is the gift of the universe and there is no need for further seeking.

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