My Tarot Manifesto
A concise explanation of how I see Tarot . . .
The following summary is based on experiences I’ve had over quite a few decades. Some readers may identify with this set of ideas—and some may decide my perspective is quite far from their own. Either way, this summary provides context for the rest of my writing.
There are, of course, no right/wrong, better/worse ways to approach Tarot. Part of its fascination lies in the variety of ways it can become part of anyone’s life and thought.
I’ve written about that diversity in Ten Doors to Tarot, which I hope is worth a read for newbies, as well as veteran practitioners.
But precisely because there are many different approaches to Tarot, there is great value in thinking about your personal choices, how they fit together, and how they shape your Tarot practice.
I hadn’t really worked that out in my own mind before I began publishing the EP newsletter--a process which has encouraged me to take a clear look at what Tarot is, and isn’t, for me personally.
So I decided to write down a description of my relationship with Tarot. And here it is, in the order these ideas occurred to me:
Once you get to know Tarot well, the structures of the deck become a way of organizing ideas and perceptions. A thinking tool, with suits and trumps serving as a kind of archetypal shorthand. This could happen almost as soon as one becomes interested in the cards, or emerge only gradually, through long acquaintance. And for some people this might never happen at all — but it’s been very important for me.
I love doing readings. It’s almost always an absorbing experience, as I let go of (at least some) ego awareness and just give myself over to communicating whatever the cards have to say. But it’s also a very intense experience, and doing a lot of it — as I did for several years — can become exhausting. For me, it’s all or nothing, and I wouldn’t want to read in a more casual or programmatic way.
I consider the core purpose of a reading to be revealing something that would not be known otherwise. The cards may offer some insights that fit what the querent is already aware of, and sometimes that may be all there is. But my goal is always to let the cards reveal something that is surprising — yet also feels true.
Personally, I chose a specific method of reading/practice long ago, and have tried to continue deepening that method. I never wanted to experiment with different spreads or various systems of interpretation. Instead, I expanded and refined one specific way of reading Tarot for other people — mainly by doing it a lot.
So my approach to reading is completely focused, in a carefully chosen way. But on the other side of the coin (or pentacle), my approach to everything else about Tarot is eclectic and inquisitive. In writing about Tarot, I want to explore stories about how people relate to the cards, and to discover connections between Tarot and other idea/image systems. Which covers a lot of territory!
I think of Tarot as a complex system, and I am more interested in understanding its unifying structures than I am in interpreting individual cards or particular symbols. That approach applies to my reading method as well as my writing and research. (Another common element, now that I think of it, is looking for the surprise — the thing that wasn’t known, or wasn’t understood well enough.)
All my Tarot projects — writing, publishing, teaching — have been shaped by the personal preferences I’ve just outlined. And candidly . . . when I look around at what a lot of other people are doing in the realm of Tarot today, I have to recognize myself as an eccentric/outlier/contrarian. But there might be other folks out there who fit the same labels — and if so, I’d love to engage, inform, and even inspire them.