The Tuesday Newsletter (7.27)
"Divination Deconstructed" + "Daily Explorations"
I had in mind two specific topics for this issue of the newsletter—but then something different drew my attention. I suspect this will be happening a lot, because I’m going through Tarot materials gathered over the past few years, and figuring out how to share things I think will be of interest to others.
There’s plenty of it! Some is very recent, but some items go back over the course of three decades. And it’s a very eclectic assortment, including everything from journal articles and magazine stories to dissertations and term papers to biographies of poets and philosophers. All related—directly or indirectly—to Tarot and divination.
I think my next step in this effort will be to set up categories, and create short summaries, which I’m hoping to share as I go along.
Most of these items were written/published by other people, but in the process of looking over the storage folders I revisited part of a chapter from my second book, Methods, Mastery, and More. That chapter—“Divination: Expanding the Ways of Knowing”—had three parts, and I’ve already published substantially rewritten versions of the second and third: Fortune/Telling and The Future Factor.
I hesitated over publishing the first part, though, because I wasn’t sure it would seem relevant to readers today. And drastically revising it just didn’t seem right.
But I had a different impression after looking at it today, and decided to share the original text (with just a few tweaks). I’ve posted the whole thing as a standalone story, but here’s an excerpt . . .
from “Divination Deconstructed”
Tarot is more similar than most divinatory systems to spoken language—in the sense that individual elements (the cards) have specific meanings and can be arranged according to grammar-like rules.
Obviously, though, Tarot is more amorphous than a conventional language, as there are no fixed references for its individual elements. The images can refer to virtually anything and they can be related to each other however we choose at a particular time. A Page is a child in one context, a message in another; the Emperor may be a father, a boss, an Aries man, a politician, a social structure, the force of convention, or any of several other things, depending on the cards which surround it.
But spread patterns can control and direct possible meanings, and combinations of meanings, by providing grammar, syntax, and punctuation. For example, spreads enable the reader to tell (by position) roughly what’s in the past tense, what’s in the future, what subject acts on what object, and so on.
A spread also forms “sentences” and “paragraphs” in which individual meanings can be understood by contextual reference. So if the rest of the cards in a spread have nothing to do with children or romance, the Page is more likely to be a message than a child; if, on the other hand, the Page appears with the Empress and the King of Cups, it is more likely to be a child than a message.
Although that’s a very simplified example, it’s a clear illustration of the same process that enables us to recognize one meaning for “spring” in the sentence “Tomorrow is the first day of spring,” and another meaning in the sentence “He has a spring in his step this morning.”
In many ways, Tarot “language” is actually most like the language of dream imagery, from the standpoint that (a) information is conveyed more by images than by words, and (b) the meaning of individual images is largely a function of their relationship to other images in the set. For example—if I say “I ate fish” you know exactly what the fish means; no matter whether it is a salmon or a trout, a big fish or a little one, its meaning is that it was food for me.
But if I say “I dreamed of fish,” you have no idea (and I don’t, necessarily) what the fish means. Now it becomes very important whether the fish was a salmon or a trout, big or little, swimming or sizzling on the grill. The characteristics of the particular fish and the context in which it appeared are the only clues to its significance.
Dream and language, according to French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, are brought together in reverie, the “waking dream” in which the imagination travels into the heart of reflection. And the experience of poetic reverie is described by Bachelard in a way that applies just as well to reading Tarot images as to reading written language:
I am a dreamer of words, of written words. I think I am reading; a word stops me. I leave the page. The syllables of the word begin to move around. Stressed accents begin to invert. The word abandons its meaning like an overload which is too heavy and prevents dreaming. Then words take on other meanings as if they had the right to be young. And the words wander away, looking in the nooks and crannies of vocabulary for new company . . . .
In just such a way may the diviner find that a kind of reverie overtakes his or her imagination, and transforms a Tarot event from the prosaic kind of reading to the poetic kind.
In News + Letter 7.15 I committed to a month-long, all-out effort at growing readership for the Exploration Project. One thing I’ve decided since is that weekly newsletters really don’t provide enough momentum to engage new readers. So I’m going to experiment with adding short daily notes.
This was another point of hesitation, because I don’t like getting things daily myself. (The exception is Reliable Sources—which I look forward to and usually scan.)
On the other hand . . . I thought something short, designed to spark creative ideas and insights about Tarot, might be fun to read. And write.
My general idea is a mix of quick tips, new news, vintage snips, and TBD. But I’m only going to do this for a ten-day test period (starting Thursday, July 29), and I promise the daily notes will be readable in three minutes. So just see what you think.
In the meantime—don’t forget to participate in Survey #1.
As always—thanks for reading! And please invite anyone else who might be interested in serious-but-not-boring perspectives on Tarot.
Warmest regards, Cynthia