Tarot is a funny sort of thing, isn’t it. Seemingly innocuous pictures on bits of card (of varying quality) are spread out on a surface somewhere, and meaning is inferred from the pictures, symbols, colours, numbers, and the rest. It’s a lot like reading a book, really, and I’m by no means the first person who has likened a deck of tarot cards to a book. But instead of looking at them linearly (like we might a book), they’re more like a giant esoteric card catalogue, where everything references something else, and those things in turn reference yet something further – and if you think about it, it’s really not all that surprising that we are able to glean information that relates to every one of us in the cards, because as we look at the pictures we see parts of ourselves in them.
…except for those days when we look and we think, “HUH?”
Some people like to draw cards, and then re-draw cards, and draw clarifying cards, and look at shadow cards, to try and shed light on their questions or problems. For many people, this works, but I personally believe that more cards on the table usually only serves to obfuscate the issue. Most of the time the meaning isn’t clear because we don’t yet have the clarity of hindsight to help us understand what the cards are saying. Is it “cheating”, to say to a querant, this is the message the cards have for you right now, regardless of whether they understand that message or not? Is it a way for a tarot reader to blag their way out of a reading that they don’t understand themselves?
I don’t know. Sometimes, it probably is. And I guess if you are reading against the clock, it must be tempting to turn over card after card until one shows up that makes the querant respond: oh! I know what this means!
I actually really like not knowing. If I turn over a series of cards that my brain doesn’t instantly join the dots with, that’s when new, interesting connections and interpretations can be made. That’s why, sometimes, you just have to set a reading to one side, and carry on with your life. Return to it every now and then, with a wide-open mind. It’s a puzzle, a koan, something intended to get you thinking in a new way.
This is also why going back through old readings is such a great idea. Sometimes it’s just interesting to read back through your journal to see what was going on. What was my favourite deck a year ago? What sort of readings was I doing then? What cards often showed up for me at the different periods in my life?
I had a miscarriage last week. It was really traumatic for me, and I spent four days in hospital. It’s been a really interesting exercise (now I’m feeling better) to look back through my journal and see the ways in which cards like Death, and Judgement popped up to say hello. And then today, shuffling through a new oracle deck, I draw: The Poppy. Symbol of redemption, motherhood and remembrance.
Sometimes we just need to look back on old images with new eyes in order to see the message that was waiting for us all along.