I have always had a love-hate relationship with the tarot. I love the beautiful imagery and symbolism, but it’s hard to be any good in it for a perfectionist like me! It intrigued me at an early age when I noticed tarot cards in a series or movie (I think it was ‘Live and Let Die’, James Bond), although most series, books and movies don’t paint a great picture of tarot… It is mostly portrayed as something strange and/or dangerous, used by dark characters, gypsies and other ‘strange folk’. The cards Death and The Lovers are often depicted and not always in their true meaning. Still, this sparked my imagination. As a teenager I bought a deck (Universal Waite) and a booklet. I read it and did some spreads, but forgot all about it over the years. When I became more active in witchcraft I encountered people that were very skilled in tarot and the interest returned. I still had the Universal Waite, but also looked for other decks. I bought several and tried them all. A Lord of the Rings tarot deck because of my love for everything Tolkien, two cats tarot decks because I love cats, etc.
After a while I decided I wanted to learn more about the tarot and how to use it. I couldn’t find a course in my neighbourhood, so I decided to do a correspondence course with the Dutch ‘Buro voor tarot’ which specializes in courses, training and extended studies in tarot. As I wasn’t interested in becoming a professional I chose the basic course that worked with the Rider Waite deck. I learned a lot from it, so I can definitely recommend it. It’s different from self-study from a book and there are professionals who answer your every question. It’s a thorough way to get the basics.
I worked with the Rider Waite for a while. That’s a wrong name imho, it should be called the Waite-Smith deck, because Pamela Colman-Smith was the illustrator and deserves the credit! It is a great deck while exploring and getting to know all about tarot, but somehow it never really felt like the right deck for me. It feels a bit too much Christian-based and that didn’t appeal to me. I hardly ever used the other decks I owned, although I love to look at the beautiful cards. I also own several other oracle card decks. My favourites are the Druid Animal Oracle and the Druid Plant Oracle, made by Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm and beautifully illustrated by the very talented Will Worthington. When I heard this trio had also made a tarot deck, I looked into it and ordered it right away. I guess you could say it was love at first sight. ? The wonderful images and the overall druid-witchcraft-pagan feel of the deck spoke to me. I could still use everything I learned from the Rider Waite deck, as the basics aren’t that different. I started working with it and developed a real connection with the deck, which made my readings better I think.
There are several ways in which I use the tarot. To get acquainted with a deck (or re-acquainted when I didn’t use the tarot for a long while) I take a card each day and work with it. What do I see in it? What does it tell me that day? Not from the book but from the heart. Afterwards I look it up in the book to see how that matches; sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t! I always listen to my own intuition though. The cards are merely a tool to get things clear for myself.
From time to time I do a reading for myself or (rarely) at request for someone else. The spreads I like most are the Celtic Cross (10 cards) and Past-Present-Future (3 cards). On my birthday I do a 12 card-spread, a card for every month of my new year. I also like to experiment with other spreads I find on the internet or invent myself.
I also like to use tarot cards in a ritual setting or on my altar. For example, I place the High Priestess and High Priest as decoration on my altar or when travelling they can replace the goddess and god statues. In a ritual setting I look for cards that support and strengthen my goal for the ritual. I place them on the altar, often accompanied by runes, stones and other items with the same purpose. Of course a tarot reading can be part of the magical work in a ritual all by itself too.
Tarot can also function as a tool in meditation, to focus your consciousness and I’ve also used it in shadow work. That’s a bit much to explain here, but I can recommend ‘Tarot Shadow Work: Using the Dark Symbols to Heal’ by Christine Jette.
Like all kinds of divination, for me tarot has nothing to do with forecasting the future. It’s a tool to get an insight in a certain matter or situation, in possible consequences and solutions. It helps me to look at problems and other things from different perspectives. I look for guidance and insight, and in that way it has never disappointed me. Of course I didn’t always like a possible outcome, but that was a push in the right direction to act, do something to change it!
When I was thinking about this column and making a start to write it another tarot deck came into my life. I had heard about the Wildwood Tarot, and I knew I would like it! It is a complete reconception and redesign of the popular Greenwood Tarot. This time author Mark Ryan worked with John Matthews, and illustrator Will Worthington, to create this deck based on the seasonal rhythms and festivals of the ancient year. One day I noticed a friend offering it on the pagan marketplace-group I manage on Facebook. Someone had already shown interest, but nevertheless I left a comment that I’d be interested to buy it. After a while I got a message that the first buyer had pulled out, I guess it was meant to be with me! So now I have a whole new deck to explore and get acquainted with and I’m very much looking forward to it!
Do you work with the tarot? Which deck do you prefer?
I’d love to hear from you.
Sources and more to explore:
- My tarot and oracle decks: http://www.librarything.com/catalog/Tinkerbell-NL&tag=tarot
- My favourite tarot source: http://www.aeclectic.net
- Druidcraft Tarot: http://druidcraft-tarot.druidry.org/
- Wildwood Tarot: http://thewildwoodtarot.com/
- Tarot Shadow Work by Christine Jette: http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/books/tarot-shadow-work/