The Daily Note (10.22)
Back to nature . . .
For those just tuning in: Over this cycle of Daily Notes, I’ve mostly been plucking excerpts and ideas from Chapter 5 of my second book (Tarot: Methods, Mastery, and More). I have mixed feelings about the book overall, as described in this essay—but I’d like to keep and share the parts I think are either still good, or contain something of interest/import.
My original thinking about Tarot in relation to the planet was rather rambling, so hard to summarize. The following gives a hint, though.
After revisiting Gary Ross’s approach to connecting “Tarot” and “nature,” I thought a little further about what we mean by both words. I’ll tackle “Tarot” another time, but as for “nature” . . . I think we generally hear that word as an umbrella term for parts of the lived world that were not made or altered by humans.
Gary’s point, I think, was that we have too narrow a concept of the natural world. And perhaps too limited a concept of human being.
At the very least, everything on Planet Earth is part of an interconnected matrix—a concept that was derided only a few decades ago, but now seems not just reasonable, but urgently important. Taking that idea a step further, you have “deep ecology,” which is based on the premise that everything on/in/around the planet (literally, everything) has intrinsic value, and should not be evaluated on the basis of whether it is useful, desirable, or even just tolerable to humans.
There are quite a few variations on that idea, arranged along a continuum from more “scientific” to more “spiritual.” They won’t fit into three minutes, though, and I don’t want to go further afield from the relationship of Tarot and nature.
First, the obvious. Tarot has been widely adopted and adapted by practitioners of Earth-centered belief systems such as Wicca and paganism. And of course there are many decks and books based on Earth-engaged traditions, from Native American to tribal African to Australian aboriginal, and well beyond.
But when you get right down to it, all those practices and traditions are merely human perspectives on the non-human world—and they often provide systems and tools for manipulation and exploitation, even if they do it in a less destructive way.
On the other side of the human/nature divide, there are now more than a few Tarots that have no people at all. Some are based on “flora” (herbs, flowers, trees, etc.), and some on “fauna” (wild or domestic animals).
Which is just, when you think about it, another way of people using plants and animals for their own purposes. I’m tempted to call it “species appropriation,” but don’t want to overcomplicate.
I’ll tell you briefly that I live in a pocket forest (or an accidental wildlife preserve, depending on how you look at it), and if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that nature is not the least bit interested in humans. And in reality—nature isn’t as picturesque as we might like it to be. So in my view, these popular Tarot filters are imaginative, but not necessarily meaningful.
Here’s what I’m thinking. If we really wanted a Tarot that could hover in the whole-planet space, it would have to be completely non-representational.
Are there any? Let me know. Even the Cosmic Egg Tarot (one of only two examples I could immediately think of) is not wholly abstract, as it incorporates subtle references to the human life cycle.
Beyond whether they exist—would anyone actually want a purely abstract Tarot? Fortunately, I’ve blown through the whole three minutes, so I don’t have to tackle that question right now. But I’ll make an attempt next week.
As always, thanks for reading. Another turn of the wheel on Sunday. C