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Have you been looking for an opportunity to study in-depth Tarot with me? I’m very excited to announce I’ll be teaching for three days in Kingston ON, Canada in October: “Unmasking Your Intuitive Side: A Weekend of Wisdom with Mary K. Greer”. There’ll also be a touch of Lenormand with me or crystal ball reading with Marilyn Shannon.

Three Days: Three Terrific Tools to Unmask your Intuitive Side presented in five workshops by world renowned instructor Mary K. Greer and Kingston’s own Marilyn Shannon. Join the magic in Kingston, Ontario on the beautiful shores of Lake Ontario October 24, 25 & 26, 2014. You’ll learn how to discern what card meanings are most relevant to a querent and their questions and how to integrate the card meanings. Then get the significance and function of the court cards down once and for all!

I hope to see everyone there!

http://unmaskyourintuitiveside.weebly.com/

ImageIt’s been a long time since I was really excited and intrigued by a new ‘how-to’ book on reading the Tarot. Dr. Yoav Ben-Dov’s Tarot—The Open Reading is a book I just have to share with you. Ben-Dov describes the Tarot as a work of art, through whose details a full range of human experiences can be revealed. First, the book features the Marseilles Tarot deck—a deck that’s gaining greater interest and appreciation among English-speaking Tarotists. This deck is pre-occultized, as the images are not modified to conform with esoteric systems. While not identical to early 15th century decks, it expresses a folk tradition that dominated for at least three hundred years (out of the nearly 600 year history of Tarot) and is still the major style found in much of Europe. Additionally, Ben-Dov has created what I believe to be the most elegant restoration of the classic Conver Marseille deck available (see below). This process aided him in his close attention to detail in the cards.

What has been notably missing in English Tarot literature are good, non-Waite-based meanings for the four suits. You need look no further. The focus here is on reading the cards through the scenarios one perceives when looking at the images. For the Majors, Ben-Dov says the possibilities are open. Nevertheless, he points out valuable interpretive perspectives derived from symbolic, historical and mythological associations, many of which I found both original and obvious (once-stated)—in other words, extremely helpful as kick-starter phrases for the cards. Through comparison and contrast of visual details he demonstrates how the cards relate to one another. Emphasis is on a therapeutic approach, rather than being predictive or proscriptive. Providing an excellent introduction to practical reading skills, he stresses developing familiarity with psychological practices, for which he specifically recommends Irvin D. Yalom’s outstanding guide to interacting effectively with clients, The Gift of Therapy.

Previous authors stressed one of three approaches to the Minor pip cards: 1) a straightforward transfer of the Waite-Smith Minor Arcana meanings to the Marseille deck, 2) a memorized meanings often derived from Etteilla, or 3) a personal synthesis of number-plus-suit meanings for each card. Ben-Dov bases his Minor Arcana explications on the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, emphasizing visual cues in the cards along with number, which make their arrangements ‘sensible,’ and therefore easy to learn and build on. His descriptions of the thematic progression within the Major and Minor suits provide an immediate handle on each. In keeping with his therapeutic approach, the Court Cards represent attitudes and characteristics of the querent rather than other people, although there’s nothing to stop you from applying them to others. I only wish that Ben-Dov had included sample readings utilizing the Minors like he did for the Majors, as his examples were so insightful.

Spreads are kept simple, with some innovative approaches to working with both Major and Minor suit cards that are well-worth trying out. His instructions for creating your own spreads gives you an infinite palette of deeply meaningful options to choose from.

I have two pet peeves: Ben-Dov completely ignores the first two hundred years of Tarot’s history when he describes the Marseille Tarot as the ‘genuine model’, with the ‘true order’ for the cards, saying it offers, “the most faithful and accurate representation of the ancient Tarot symbols.” The oldest decks (15th century Italian) are quite different in style, and there were several different orders for the cards in its first century. It would be better to describe the Marseille-style decks as the most long-lasting, consistent design (which is not to be scoffed at). My second pet peeve involves misunderstandings of the Golden Dawn system of Tarot reading, resulting in minor errors that are not centrally relevant to this work. Personally, I think he should have left out his few Golden Dawn references or listed the differences in an appendix.

Overall, this book offers fresh, practical instructions for reading the Marseille Tarot that will give you a great appreciation for the details and special characteristics of the deck that first inspired tarot divination. Additionally you will gain lots of valuable insights into the reading process itself.

Works Mentioned:

Tarot—The Open Reading by Dr. Yoav Ben-Dov.

The CBD Tarot de Marseille deck, created by Dr. Yoav Ben-Dov.

The CBD Tarot de Marseille app for Android.

The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients by Irvin D. Yalom, M.D.

The Way of Tarot by Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Note: Yoav Ben-Dov has generously made his deck and basic interpretations freely available for use for non-commercial purposes via the Creative Commons concept – http://www.cbdtarot.com/download/

I asked a group of tarot readers on Facebook to give their top advice for how to combine and integrate card meanings in a spread. It’s one of the things that beginners find most bewildering, but we can all learn more about. Forty-nine people responded (see list of contributors at the end). I combined, edited and grouped the advice to form sets of approaches, moving roughly from the most intuitive to the most analytical. Share this material freely but please include the list of contributors and a link back to this post.

There are no rules to interpretation.

Intuit!

  • Be intuitive.
  • Look at the cards from an internal perspective.
  • TRUST in your intuitive awareness and reactions to the cards.
  • Go with the flow!

Combine right brain/left brain work: analysis and imagination/story.

  • Be guided by the HOLY Spirit (The Whole (holy) Picture). Both the universal and the personal or the Whole must be understood. Use both the Intellect and Intuition.
  • Use analysis to “check” the intuition which can sometimes get clogged or confused.

Look at the big picture.

  • Step back and look at the spread from a larger perspective, not simply focusing on individual cards and their individual meanings.
  • Become unfocused and blurry eyed (take off your glasses) and feel the energy flows as an energy picture: wands are direct and immediate, swords reflexive, turning, twisting, cups are energy accuminlations and coins ground or build up energy, etc.
  • Look at the whole picture of the layout and then tune into a “knowing” of the entire spread before anything else. See it as a snapshot of the unconscious mind made manifest. After the initial “feeling the meaning,” look at the individual cards and symbols.
  • Sense the *vibration* of the *whole* spread.
  • Pay attention to any movement you can actually feel or see.
  • Quickly glance over all of the cards at once and jot down the immediate thoughts that come to mind – words, images, feelings, messages, etc. that jump out. How do the cards feel together? What kind of feeling do they invoke in you?

Notice overlaps among the cards’ meanings.

  • For instance, several cards can mean “new” or “let go.” Such ‘blended’ meanings are very potent, sort of like the overlapping gray area between black and white.

Look at how the images and figures interrelate with each other.

  • Determine the direction the figures on the cards are looking or moving; their body-language.
  • Is the Knight of Wands galloping towards the Queen of Swords or galloping away? Is he riding towards a tomb entrance? Or a family gathering? Is the Emperor turning his back on the World, or facing it?
  • Are they back to back, or facing each other?
  • Look at the direction symbols are pointing.
  • Does each card point to another card in a sequence?
  • Are they actively engaging in something or inert?
  • Does a card at the bottom seems to carry all the others? Or a card at the top, lead the way?

Find the story within the cards. “Every Picture tells a story.” –Rod Stewart

  • The cards always tell a story.
  • Let a story flow from your interpretation of the cards.
  • Let that story flow from picture to picture. The cards will show you the weavings and patterns. The numbers, the titles are road maps or signs along the road.
  • Read the cards in the order you laid them out in the spread and create the tale of what they are all doing, interacting with one another, and how that relates to you.
  • Let the story, the narrative of the reading, jump out at you. “Make up” the story as you go along. If you can’t “see” it, check a few cards with the querent for verification.
  • Sometimes the message is clear and will form a ‘seamless sentence’, but, at other times, only one card may stand out.
  • Build off of what is obvious first.
  • Start by talking through the stuff you do understand and it’ll come to you or not; usually it’ll come to you.
  • Read the cards/positions that stand out to you; the rest of the cards in the spread are filler. If you can understand the noun and the verb of a sentence you can deduct the rest.
  • Look for a card that you intuitively feel is driving the reading, i.e., the one that seems to be directing events a little more than others. Ask what the character in that card is saying to the characters in the others.
  • Link cards by finding correlations among them (more later).
  • Look for combinations. Find the patterns and connections among cards and positions, then mush it all into a composite idea (position + card is too limiting).
  • Turn each card one at a time and watch how each builds on the last in terms of a pattern.
  • Build the relationship between cards and positions as you move through the spread, one card at a time, until all is revealed.
  • Turn the cards over one at a time, gaining a tiny ‘clue’ from each, so the story builds and changes, letting the cards talk to each other as the “new kid on the block” gets turned over.
  • Reversed means one might not be perfectly comfortable with the combination, something needs to be adjusted.
  • The story is the intuitive weaving of the nature of the cards. Alfred Woolard once said in his poem, “My life is but a weaving … when I reach the other side can I truly see the whole design” (paraphrased).

How the cards in a spread relate to one another is like the relationships that we have with others or how the characters relate in a story.

  • Think of the reading as a conversation. Let the cards “talk” to you, and talk back to and through them. Imagining that the cards are “talking” to you opens your mind to “hear” the message. PAY ATTENTION to it.
  • View the cards as a council circle: lay them in a circle and let them interact with each other and advise you in a sacred space-circle kind of way!
  • Think of two cards interrelating from their respective positions, much like having a conversation or discussion, until there is greater understanding.
  • Ask what each card (or figure in a card) thinks about the other(s)—what’s the attitude of each to the other and to what they’re thinking and doing?
  • A reversed card can mean it is not ‘playing well’ with others.

Look at what’s there and what isn’t.

  • Look indeed for what is not there as much as what is.
  • Notice what’s NOT in the spread.
  • Which cards didn’t come up can tell you as much as the cards that did. For instance, if The Lovers, 2 of Cups, King/Queen of Cups are absent from a love reading, that’s telling you there is no love relationship over the time period specified by the reading.

Look for prevalent themes, groupings, colors, or shapes.

  • Notice things like Gate cards, or which suit is prevailing or dominant.
  • Check for a progression among the numbers as a sequence of development.

Look for repetitions of numbers, images, suits/elements, colours, etc. (Correspondences).

  • Use the correspondences as a base and go from there.
  • Start with the foundations: suits, numbers, Majors, Minors, Courts.
  • Look at the suits/elements to know what world you are dealing with: work, money, practical stuff, or something emotional or mental?
  • With the elements, if there are two fire and one water, for instance, the fire cancels out that watery influence. [referred to as Elemental Dignities.]
  • Look for a predominance of Major or Minor cards to get a feeling if the reading is depicting a key event/change/issue for the querent (majors) or a more minor everyday event (minors).
  • Trumps [Major Arcana] can be an over arching theme or a life passage and the rest are everyday life stuff.
  • See if Minor Arcana cards repeat a Major Arcana card in the spread by number or other similarity.

Compare and contrast, looking for both how cards are alike and how they are different.

  • Are there similar scenes in two or more cards? What are the interactions among these factors.
  • Place cards next to each other (not necessarily in a straight line) to see how they relate.
  • For instance, see how, in the example to the right, the churning waters of the Moon become a cloak that is almost too heavy to wear. [Trimmed decks work best.] The deck is the Revelations Tarot by Zach Wong.

Find two to three keywords for each card and put them into a sentence. First reactions are best; you don’t have to go to the core of the cards existence.

  • Read them as a sentence. For example: First card—Hermit and the flicker of his lamp catches my attention, so I think, “ah, a new idea.” Next card—Chariot, and the black horse going the other way catches my attention. Linking the two cards to form a sentence, it becomes “ah, a new direction going against the norm.”
  • The position is the “noun” and the card is the “verb”. Tense (past present future) is supplied by the positions relative to the Querent (now).
  • View the positions in a spread as the framework of a sentence. Insert keywords or phrases for each card into the basic sentence format and then embellish it based on symbols and correspondences. “While I am conscious of ____, I unconsciously need ____, in order to achieve ____ and meet the challenges of ____.”

Figure out where cards are on the tree of life and what paths or sephiroth are involved.

  • For instance, the Ace, 6, and 9 of Cups are on the middle pillar and not yet grounded in Malkuth, but they are an indication that energy is flowing.

Look for astrological relationships.

  • For instance, the Empress and Hierophant are Venus and Taurus and Venus rules Taurus. Or, the 5 of Swords and The Fool are both Air.
  • If you are doing a horoscope spread you can combine the meanings of the cards that fall in the opposite houses.

Miscellaneous:

  • Determine the speed of the cards to determine how much light they shed on your reading of the images. This way, even a shadowy situation can emerge as crystal clear.
  • Switch decks periodically as a conduit to “open” your attention.
  • A few cards in key positions can determine how you read the rest of the spread. If they don’t tell the story right away, then use all the other techniques.
CONTRIBUTORS:  Hildegerd Haugen, Sophie Nusslé Falco, Maureen Aisling Duffy-Boose, Jon Kaneko-James, Fiona Dilston, Stephen Russell, Jean Foster, Jeanne Fiorini, Lisa Bruno, Kevin Quigley, Nadia K. Potter, Mary Mueller, Paul Nagy, Tero Hynynen, Virginia L Beach, Gwydion LosAngeles, Paula Gaubert, Gloria Scotti, Berthe van Soest, Lynda England Bustilloz, Bertrand Saint-Guillain, Greg LeFever, Carola Meijers, Steph Myriel Es-Tragon, Kustiana Murtjono, Terri Bivona, Jera-Babylon Rootweaver, Diane Brandt Wilkes, Rosie Grace, Nancy Antenucci, Sue Clynes, Sandra M. Russel, Camelia Elias, Christine Payne-Towler, Lorrie Kazan, Stacy LaRosa, Toni Gilbert, Vyvien Starbuck, Sherri Glebus, Flash Silvermoon, Judy Nathan, Helene Martz, Stephanie Arwen Lynch,  Monika Sanders, Katrina Wynne, Rana Fakhouri George, Robert Moyer, Dancing Bear, Mary K. Greer.

See also:

“What Every Newbie Tarot Reader Should Know

“What Every Newbie Tarot Reader Should Know about the History and Myths of Tarot”

Updated 7/18/11: See Mic update at the end and helpful recommendations in the Comments.

Imagine that a client comes to you for a premium reading. They spend an hour and a lot of money, but when they get home they can hardly remember a word of the deep wisdom and insights they just received. I like to trust that their subconscious is making use of it, but I know from experience the value that comes from reviewing a reading in depth. What to do?—No one uses audio cassettes anymore.

I got myself an iPad 2 and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve been waiting a year for the next generation and I’m thrilled to have it. One of my main intentions was to use it as a fancy digital recorder for tarot consultations. And by fancy, I mean FaNcY! Nothing else offers the bells and whistles this does [except the iPhone, which can do most of these things, too].

In one, relatively small package, you can record a reading, take notes on it, create an annotated sketch of a personalized layout, and include photos of the completed tarot spread and even of the grinning querent and reader. And, at the end of the session, you can instantly email the reading to clients so it’s waiting for them on their computer when they get home (or on their iPhone or iPad for their immediate viewing and listening pleasure). Talk about moving into the 21st century! Now, there can be a few glitches in this otherwise perfect scenario. Occasionally an app crashes. Audio files can get really big and cause problems with mail. And one app even caused my whole iPad to crash (boy, is that app going to get a thumbs down!). Additionally, you can’t email unless there’s a WiFi connection or you have G3, but even if you have to send the file later that’s hardly a deal breaker. Here’s a couple of apps that make the whole process irresistable.

Click for larger image

NOTABILITY – This app does it all and the new price of $2.99 is a still a steal. Since I originally wrote this post, Notability has been upgraded, and they added all the features I asked for (thank you very much!).

  1. Type notes such as the question or subject of the reading, aspects of the issue that could be the basis of a personalized spread, recommended resources. You can use a variety of fonts & colors and can indent to create outlines.
  2. Record the conversation. The audio recording will continue even while you perform other functions within the app and outside of it, and you can pause it.*
  3. Insert a photo of the actual spread. You can resize the image and move it on the page and now place images side-by-side.
  4. Create a sketch of the spread or layout (basic shapes included as well as freehand drawing and text). You can also draw on a photo to circle important symbols or lines of sight and emphasis. No other app that I know includes all these features.
  5. The Send options are excellent since you can mail as a zipped PDF + separate Audio file; or, to other Macs only as an RTFD (opens in TextEdit). It also works with Dropbox (cloud computing).

*If you are recording your own readings—talking to yourself as you look at a card or spread—this app can be fantastic. Just type a few keywords as you speak to indicate ideas you want to return to, then, when playing back the audio, if you tap on one of those keywords or phrases, the audio will jump forward or backward to that part of the recording! This would be a great way to journal the exercises in 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card!

AUDIO MEMOS 2 – Free for the basic app, which is adequate; pay for upgrades.

This is a professional level audio voice recorder. You won’t get the photos or the notes, but you will get great recordings even with only the built-in mic (either .wav or for smaller files – .aac). You can do button or voice activated recordings and you can pause and restart. You can also do some basic editing. When played back on Audio Memos it can jump to annotatable position markers that you set when recording. Unfortunately, the position markers don’t work if you playback via a different application. End the recording and email it in seconds (if you are net-connected) or save it to mail later. CONS: Photos and sketches have to be created in another app and sent separately; you can only mail up to 15mb and the best quality files are BIG. You should be able to record an hour on .aac setting. If you want .wav use the included timer and start a new recording when the file gets too big. You can export to Dropbox or Evernote.

GARAGEBAND - $4.99. I don’t use this myself as I find it overkill for simple recording, but others love it. Great editing features.

EVERNOTE – Free with limited space on its server; a monthly charge for more space.

This note-taking app saves everything on its own server, making it accessible to you from any computer or mobile. You can also give others access to some of your files. You can type, record and take a photo without leaving the app and it’s designed to easily insert webclips (like a spread from tarot.com). CONS: You can’t sketch; if you stop the recording you have to start a new one; the emailer crashed the app and froze my iPad! PROS: I discovered, after recording a Skype interview with someone in Italy, that I could transfer the giant AudioMemos .wav file to Evernote and then access it through my Evernote web account on my home computer and mail it via SendThisFile—problem solved.

Added: A MUST HAVE for Professional Tarot Readers who do face-to-face or phone readings is a Credit Card App (PayPal works well for internet consultations). A credit card app will work with both the iPhone and the iPad. It allows you to accept charges and the money is then deposited in your bank account (or a check can be mailed to you). The most handy and reasonable app, that has no hidden fees or monthly charges, is Square, which is perfect for those who only need to take credit cards occasionally. See recommendations in the Comments section by people who have used it.

There are other Notes+Audio apps that I haven’t checked out yet like AudioNote, SoundNote, Sundry Notes, ClassNotes, PaperDesk, some of which may be better if you prefer handwriting and sketching to typing. If anyone has any suggestions, please let us know in the comments. Added: My Notebook! app has all the functions I’ve recommended, including a great handwriting/sketching option—smooth & with the best arrangement for color choosing I’ve seen. But the interface is unnecessarily complicated and the free Lite version has quite a few limitations, like not being able to try out any of the many Send features.

And, of course, iPad/Phone comes with FaceTime, which, like Skype, gives you the option of face-to-face calls for readings at a distance. Read suggestions for Skype recording in the Comments.

UPDATED note on External Mics:

Under most circumstances the little mic in the iPad will do okay for face-to-face readings if you don’t mind the hollow tone and a bit of a lisp in your voice. Don’t speak directly into it.

If you want an external, portable mic, then I highly recommend the Samson Go Mic. It’s very small (though surprisingly heavy), clips onto your iPad or stands alone, and works with the iPad USB camera connector. You can also plug headphones directly into the mic. It’s good enough for podcasts-on-the-go, although a pop-filter helps for optimum sound when in uni-directional mode. This video review is very helpful for understanding the three sound settings and hearing it in action.

Some Blue USB Microphones work through the iPad USB camera connection kit. The Blue Yeti is supposed to be the best of its class (+/-$125) but requires a powered USB hub. The Snowball and Snowflake are cheaper, more portable and don’t require the powered hub, but the quality goes down. If you are doing podcasts then go with the Blue Yeti (I would). I understand Blue is working on more portable mic solutions for the iPad/Phone.


See the Comments for other great suggestions for recording, including internet video and audio recording via Skype and Conference Calls.

Much is made of how tarot cards can be interpreted through their images or symbols—especially modern decks that feature pictorial scenes with lots of  images on all the cards. This post is about how to combine and translate the language of imagery into statements, such that these statements can be more easily interpreted than the images by themselves.

Many of us have spent fruitful hours pouring over symbol dictionaries in order to better understand each detail in the tarot. For instance, we might research and discover that a key, in addition to simply opening or locking a contained space, is seen as the means to unlock hidden meanings in symbols or doctrine. More specifically, in the Hierophant/Pope card, keys have a special meaning regarding the priesthood: the gold key represents mercy and absolution, and the silver key stands for judgment and penance. Furthermore, these keys refer back to the gospel of Matthew (16:19) in which Jesus tells Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Going further, you will discover that Mercy and Judgment (the gold and silver keys) are the two columns on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

How many times have you mentioned any of the above references in an actual tarot reading?

Alternatively, a reader might try to discover the querent’s own, in-the-moment, personal associations with this image: “Oh, my gosh. Those are my car keys that I lost yesterday at church!” Or a reader will offer up his or her own projections and intuitions, as in, “As I’m seeing it right now, the keys are saying that your spiritual leader or tradition “holds the keys” to whether you should get a divorce.” These can certainly be rich ways to read the tarot, but they can sometimes get you sidetracked from the essential message of the card. Even the artist’s stated intention for a symbol can be so personal and idiosyncratic that it, too, misses the mark. I’m not saying that the following technique is the “best” method for interpreting images, but rather that it can be helpful and serve as a checkpoint to make sure you’ve touched on its roots.

What I offer here is a method that involves translations of the essential, objective meaning of an image—its denotative and connotative definitions and its core characteristics or functions (how the thing is used).

At the denotative level, a key is a small piece of metal shaped with parts that fit with parts in another mechanism (usually a lock) so that manipulation (turning) changes the latter mechanism’s function—usually to open or close things. The connotative meaning is that it binds or loosens, and a key often suggests gaining access to something. If we abstract it one more level, then it suggests obtaining the answer, solution or means to something crucial or important. Connotative meanings are more subjective and often convey pleasing or displeasing feelings about the word. [Note: I use ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ here, not as absolutes, but as relative points along a continuum.]

Step 1

To try out this technique, you need to start with the most “objective” meanings and functions—what I often call the “literal” level of a symbol—rather than personal projections or mythic, occult, alchemical, astrological or psychological significances. In other words, try to use as little abstraction, impressionism or subjectivity as possible.

To try another example, the denotative level of the RWS dog in the Fool card is “a domesticated, four-legged, carnivorous mammal with an acute sense of smell.” The functional aspect is that it is tamed by humans to function as a companion, protector or hunter. A further, connotative abstraction includes ideas such as loyalty, instincts or, sometimes, a scoundrel or wretch. (In this process, we won’t consider the mythic associations of dogs with death, like Cerberus at the gates of Hell, nor the Egyptian dog-headed Anubis, nor the association of dogs with the Moon and Artemis, nor the dog of Odysseus, or that in alchemy a dog represents sulfur or primitive, material gold. Nor will we consider that god is dog spelled backwards.) When in doubt, think of a dictionary rather than a book of religion, mythology or literature. In fact, a dictionary is often a good place to start when translating images.

Step 2

Step 2 involves linking together the most essential definitions, functions and connotations of three to five core images from one card into a “literal translation” of these images.

With the RWS Six of Cups as our example, let’s go through Steps 1 and 2. (We should also be aware that traditional meanings for this card often include gifts, pleasurable memories and emotions, nostalgia and old things.) Here are three dominant images from the picture created by Pamela Colman Smith:

Children – more than one pre-pubescent human being. Their key characteristics are small size, immaturity, innocence, vulnerability, playfulness, learning and development, and being a descendant or establishing a lineage.
Flowers – the reproductive organs of a plant, usually with characteristics (scent, shape and color) that attract fertilizing mechanisms.  Flowers are cultivated to function as decorations or gifts. Blooms suggest the flourishing peak of beauty, health and vigor.
Glove/mitten – a garment covering the hand. It protects or safeguards the hand to avoid discomfort, damage, disease or contamination of self, others or environment. It may also serve as a fashion ornament.

First we combine these individual images into a simple statement: “A larger child hands a flower to a smaller child wearing a mitten.”

To translate this, we substitute a key word or phrase for each image:
“A larger, innocent offers a gift of beauty and reproductive vigor to a smaller, innocent whose vulnerability has some safeguards.”

Let’s add two more images to see if this changes anything:

Courtyard – a private space surrounded by walls or buildings. It functions as a place of air, light, privacy, security and tranquility.
Guard – a person who keeps watch. He functions in a defensive manner to watch or protect what is vulnerable or to control access.

A very literal description might be: “In a private, guarded space, a child offers a gift of flowers to a another child.”

The next level of abstraction looks something like this:
“In a private, secure and guarded place, but with inattentive watchfulness, youthful innocence and vulnerability handle, with some safeguards, a gift of beauty and reproductive vigor.”

Step 3

Relate this translation back to the querent’s question or situation (via the spread position, if applicable). Now you interpret what the translated images in the cards add to the situation. Generating questions based on the translation is a good way to start.

Let’s add a keyword from the basic card meaning so that we have the following translation:
“A memory in which youthful innocence and vulnerability, in a private, secure and guarded place, but with inattentive protection, handle, with some safeguards, a gift of beauty and reproductive vigor.”

The following are example questions that emerged from the image translation:

Can you remember moments of former pleasure in which a mature, adult significance was not apparent at the time but may now be? Perhaps you were attracted to or given something that continues to reproduce emotional (Cups) reverberations in you? Have you been too guarded and naive to fully appreciate a gift given or received?

Alternatively, could a larger or more dominant self/person have offered something to a smaller self/person who covered up (gloved) her response as she wasn’t completely open to the experience?

Are some of your memories guarded? How do you protect yourself from what happened in the past? A worst case scenario suggests some kind of childhood abuse from which memory you’ve tried to protect yourself. There may be an element of seeing a difficult past through rose-colored glasses (and this card has had those difficult meanings on more than one occasion)—although, generally, it is a very good card.

In the Comments to this post you might want to try combining the image definitions into other translations, because even the most literal translations will vary. See where different translations take you. Feel free to explore this technique in your own way on your own blog or with others—just include a link back here.

Comparison with Cartomancy

It’s worth noting that readings with decks such as the Lenormand, Sybilla or Old Gypsy Fortune Telling Cards use a process similar to that above, in which each card represents a single image. The meanings of these cards have even more restricted parameters, but can be creatively combined. For instance, the card depicting a dog means loyalty and friendship. The child card can mean one or more children or anything small, young or innocent. A set of these cards are linked together in a fashion similar to what we’ve already done, although the result tends to be more mundane and may yield a single new image. For instance, Dog + Child can indicate a puppy, playmate, or childhood friend.

I’ve selected four cards from the Mlle. Lenormand deck (from Piatnik publishing) that are most similar to images in the Six of Cups just to see what happens if we use their meanings:

ChildLilyGardenCrossroads

Child: Child or children. Play. Anything small, immature. Naïve, innocent, trusting, sincere. Sometimes, gifts.
Lily: Mature, old, the elderly. Commitment. Peace, satisfaction, contentment. Wisdom, soul development. Social welfare.
Garden: Meetings, gatherings, parties, events, conferences. Social encounters and places for this. An audience. Outdoors.
Crossroads: Options, choices, alternatives. Decisions. Separation. Many of something.

The most simple statement we could make about these cards is: “Many wise children (or immature elders) gather together.” (The order of the cards in an actual reading would affect the interpretation.)

To expand on this idea, we could say:
It is about a social interaction involving young and old, innocent and wise (to play old-fashioned games?), and that a choice may be involved. Peace or wisdom could be gained from childhood choices or from an older sibling. An older person could be reconnecting with past friends or relatives (or grandchildren) or, simply, remembering them.

[Notes: Traditional playing card meanings are usually not part of the standard interpretations for these cards (although it is interesting that three Court Cards appear. Regarding modern interpretations: Garden+Crossroads is a perfect description of social networking, ala facebook and twitter.]

Some Final Thoughts

I use the “Image Translation Technique” as a checkpoint to keep me on track and to compare with other card possibilities including projections and intuitions. Studies of intuition show that intuitions are just as likely to be wrong as right, but you can often get to a right understanding faster and more accurately than through any other known means. What works best is to check your intuitions against ‘rules of thumb,’ or what I call ‘checkpoints.’  The true issue is sometimes precisely what is shown by juxtapositions among traditional meanings, literal translations and the reader’s and querent’s projections and intuitions, revealing the tension or conflict causing the unease at the core of a reading.

I want to reiterate that translations of tarot card images are only one level of working with  images (and some people prefer not to work with the pictorial images at all). But, even card keywords are images, and I believe that keeping in touch with the essential meaning of any image provides an important checkpoint for one’s intuition. I’d love to hear about how you work with these ideas and whether they are helpful to you or not.

Acknowledgements: Yoram Kaufmann’s book, The Way of the Image: The Orientational Approach to the Psyche, clarified and helped me to explain the technique I often use in readings. I’ve adopted a few, but not all, of his terms and methodology, and I’ve tried not to psychologize the above material too much (Kaufmann was writing about a Jungian approach to dreams). The concept of using “rules of thumb” with one’s intuition is discussed in Gerd Gigerenzer’s Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious. Sylvie Steinbach’s The Secrets of the the Lenormand Oracle was helpful in putting together the Lenormand interpretation. See my book 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card for lots of other interpretation techniques.

This is a press release from the ACLU – I’ve marked a few especially important passages in bold:

BETHESDA June 10, 2010: The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland hailed a decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals that strongly defends fundamental free speech rights in a case involving fortunetelling in Montgomery County (Maryland).

In its decision, the state’s highest court, in keeping with rulings from the Supreme Court and courts around the country, ruled that a Montgomery County ordinance banning fortunetelling is an unconstitutional restriction on protected speech.

This case has never been just about fortunetellers, but about the fundamental right to free speech,” said Ajmel Quereshi, an attorney with the ACLU of Maryland. “While individual fortunetellers can be punished if they fraudulently exploit their customers, banning all fortunetelling is overbroad and unconstitutional.  It is not the role of government to decide that broad categories of speech can be banned merely because it finds them distasteful or disagreeable.”

The unconstitutional Montgomery County law provides that “every person who shall demand or accept any remuneration or gratuity for forecasting or foretelling or for pretending to forecast or foretell the future by card, [or] palm reading Š shall be subject to punishment.” The Court of Appeals found that fortunetelling for pay is due full First Amendment protection ­ rejecting the County’s argument that such speech is “commercial speech”, like advertising. The court ruled the statute’s restriction on payment for fortunetelling is equivalent to a ban on protected speech. In addition, the court explicitly rejected the County’s arguments that fortunetelling is inherently fraudulent:

“Fortunetelling may be pure entertainment, it may give individuals some insight into the future, or it may be hokum. People who purchase fortunetelling services may or may not believe in its value. Fortunetellers may sometimes deceive their customers. We need not, however, pass judgment on the validity or value of the speech that fortunetelling entails. If Montgomery County is concerned that fortunetellers will engage in fraudulent conduct, the County can enforce fraud laws in the event that fraud occurs.

The County need not, and must not, enforce a law that unduly burdens protected speech to accomplish its goal. Such a law will curtail and have a chilling effect on constitutionally protected speech.”

The lawsuit was originally brought by Nick Nefredo in 2008, represented by attorney Edward Amourgis of Edwards Phillip Amourgis, PC, after he was denied a license to open a fortunetelling business in Montgomery County.  A lower court acknowledged that fortunetelling is protected speech, but nevertheless upheld the law as constitutional.  Due to the First Amendment issues at stake, the ACLU of Maryland became co-counsel for Nefedro on appeal, as the case was to be considered by the intermediate appeals court.

The state’s highest court took the case up on its own motion in July of 2009.

As the Court of Appeals found today, courts across the country have consistently held that fortunetelling is protected speech, and absolute bans on it, like the Montgomery County law, are therefore unconstitutional.  In addition, the Supreme Court has held repeatedly that the mere fact that speech is for profit does not reduce the level of protection it is due.

Nefedro is represented by attorney Edward Amourgis of Edwards Phillip Amourgis, PC, and Ajmel Quereshi and Deborah Jeon from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

______________________________________

This is only one example among many in which the ACLU has acted to protect the free speech of fortune tellers. So far they have won every case of this type. [Thank you, ACLU!] More information on the Montgomery case is available here and here.

St. Louis is reconsidering its law. A humorous article about it in the St. Louis Suburban Journals quotes a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to strike down a Lincoln, Nebraska fortune telling law, stating:

“If the citizens of Lincoln wish to have their fortunes told, or to believe in palm-reading or phrenology, they are free to do so under our system of government, and to patronize establishments or ‘professionals’ who purport to be versed in such arts. Government is not free to declare certain beliefs – for example, that someone can see into the future – forbidden. Citizens are at liberty to believe the earth is flat, that magic is real, and that some people are prophets.”

Meanwhile, in Warren, Michigan, laws restricting fortune telling are becoming stricter, while San Francisco has an outrageously convoluted licensing system for fortune tellers. Such laws have little to do with actually protecting people from fraud (anti-fraud laws do this adequately) and more to do with ameliorating complaints and protecting special interests (see quote below).

Many states and city or county ordinances require licensing for fortune-telling, and they are very inconsistent with the range of fields that require such licenses as summarized here. An article, Occupational Licensing: Ranking the States and Exploring Alternatives by Adam B. Summers (of the Reason Foundation) concluded:

Occupational licensing boards and laws should be continually evaluated for their relevance and perceived need. These reviews should, first and foremost, evaluate whether licensing laws pass the “laugh test” (fortune tellers and rainmakers?). They should also ensure that regulations are narrowly tailored, and that they are providing at least some measure of public benefit, not merely a gravy train for special interests and bureaucrats. Reviews should, furthermore, analyze licensing board performance by evaluating enforcement actions against licensees. Reviews could be conducted by a special commission or an existing agency such as an audit bureau or legislative analyst’s office. [parenthetical remark and question mark is Summers', bold emphasis is mine, mkg]

Robert Lederman offers excellent advice for fortune tellers in NYC which may help others with similar regulations regarding fortune telling-as-entertainment-only. Check out the Law and Magic Blog for updates on fortune telling and other related issues.

As I’ve mentioned before, it is incumbent on all professional tarot readers to know your local laws and establish yourself as a bona fide, legal business in your area.

I advocate supporting the ACLU and being willing to act locally to challenge laws that limit our freedom of speech. I also think that this information should be better understood by anyone who is thinking about certification or licensing for tarot readers. It is a slippery slope to government control that probably poses more liabilities than it does benefits! Comments and polite debate are welcome.

I was reminded in the previous post of people who ask what they need to do to become a professional tarot reader.  After you feel comfortable reading for self, friends, and friends-of-friends, here’s my number one suggestion for when you want to make the transition.

Your Rite of Passage

The ideal “rite of passage” is to volunteer for a full day (or better yet, a weekend) at a charity or benefit event and donate everything to the cause. If you keep the price reasonable ($5-20 or sliding scale depending on the length of reading and the venue) then your schedule should be filled. The point is to read non-stop (except for necessary breaks), even to the point of exhaustion (drink plenty of water!). There’s a point beyond which a part of you doesn’t care what you say anymore, and you totally let go. You’ll be surprised at what happens then and how accurate you become when you finally bypass your critic. I can’t even begin to list the number of things you will learn from such an experience, but here are a few:

  • Letting go of the critic and trusting the process.
  • Explaining what you do and/or don’t do in one short, concrete statement.
  • Guiding people efficiently through the question, shuffling, etc.
  • Learning to listen as well as speak.
  • Realizing you can’t “fix” someone & letting go of the need to do so.
  • Releasing the need to be “right.”
  • Getting your timing down (how many cards for the time allotted).
  • Learning how to end a reading (especially with a clingy or argumentative client).
  • Discovering the things you’ll need in a “reading kit.”
  • Arranging breaks, keeping hydrated, eating, etc.

Omega08-2

A few basic accoutrements for reading at fairs and events:

  • One or more tarot decks, appropriate to the clientele and occasion.
  • A spread cloth. (Busy designs can interfere with the card images.)
  • Business cards & promotional handouts.
  • Tissues!!!
  • Water! Plus an emergency snack—in case you can’t get away for a meal.
  • Clothing to put you and others in the mood, and in layers so you can adjust to temperature changes.
  • Knowledge of local laws! If necessary have the organization collect the donation and give the person a token for a free reading.
Extras:
  • Watch, clock or timer.
  • If outdoors, healing stones to keep the cards from blowing away (plus nice to have for the energy).
  • Flowers, statue, other decorations. Don’t overdo it.
  • Reading sign-up sheet on clipboard & pen.
  • Mailing list (if appropriate).
  • Cushion for folding chairs. This extra bit of comfort helps.
And, if you continue to do fairs:
  • A professional looking sign. This probably will not be necessary for your first charity event.
  • Code of Ethics written by you and to which you adhere. (Google for examples.)
  • Optional: Tent.
  • Optional: Tackle box with pens, permanent marker, index cards (for mini-signs), tape, tacks, clips, extension cord, etc.
  • Optional: A Recording device. It’s ideal if the client doesn’t have to write stuff down. Here’s a post on great ideas for recording in person & online.

After doing this myself and making this suggestion to others for more than 30 years, as well as doing mini-events like this with my students, I’ve gotten tons of feedback from people who said it was the best thing they ever did to catapult them into the beginnings of professional confidence and expertise. Please, anyone who wants to add to these lists (and I know there’s more to say), do so in the comments.

I don’t like to criticize someone else’s reading as tarot card meanings are not fixed, and it is an art, not a science—but there’s a lot of confusion in the four minute reading for Whoopi Goldberg on The View—watch it here. I thought I’d clear up what I can. Read the rest of this entry »

Part 2: Hijacking What It Means to Be Human

(Read Part 1 to learn about mentalists, skeptics and cold reading.)

zoltar

Imagine my surprise when I discovered there are at least a half-dozen extremely expensive books marketed by mentalists on tarot, of which I’d never heard in my forty-plus years collecting tarot books. And, they were written by and for professional tarot readers that I didn’t even know existed as a self-identified group. Of course, I was aware there are fraudulent tarot readers who deliberately used cold reading techniques to con their marks. Naively, I had assumed, though, that cold reading was used mostly by fake mediums and clairvoyants (as in the 19th century) and by mentalist entertainers. I had no idea that tarot was regularly taught as a scam except among some phone psychics and those storefront psychics who used it to extort money for removing curses, etc.—a whole different, albeit related, enterprise. [Note: some mentalists are also ethical tarot readers, and not all mentalists deny the paranormal. I am also not referring, in most of what follows, to ethical mentalists who are honest about using mental tricks.] Read the rest of this entry »

Part I: Skeptics, Mentalists and Tarot Readers

mind-readingFor purposes of this article let us assume that there is no paranormal or spiritual aspect to tarot readings. Let’s pretend, for the moment, that all tarot readings have a rational basis in easily explained normal human skills.

Skeptics and mentalists reduce tarot reading to just this level. Mentalists utilize skills to make money in public performances, while skeptics denounce any tarot or psychic readings that don’t acknowledge they are merely mental tricks.  They claim “pseudo-psychics” exploit human weaknesses and take advantage of the desire to easily gain benefit from something. Pseudo-psychic readings are seen as “too-good-to-be-true” and as giving false hope just to make money. Skeptics claim that psychic and tarot readings can be explained by techniques gathered under the terms Cold and Hot Readings. We will ignore hot readings (that fraudulently use information obtained ahead of time) as our purpose is to examine readings where nothing prior is known about the client. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

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