“If you’re interested in deepening your understanding of the Tarot, forming a personal bond with your deck, or enhancing your abilities as a reader, 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card is an excellent experiential guide for connecting with the cards.” —Janet Boyer
Are you looking for a way to enliven your tarot practice and expand your skills? Then I urge you to try Mary K. Greer’s 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card. This is a shameless plug for my latest book. I wrote it, in part, to help you discover what reading style you most resonate with but also to push the boundaries of what you thought was possible in a tarot reading. It’s all about how to discover meaning for yourself. It’s also where I reveal all my tarot reading “secrets.”
I first read Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning a very long time ago. As an army brat who had lived in post-War Japan and Germany I was interested in Frankl’s concentration camp story and how he not only survived but transformed his experience into gold. What stuck with me was his belief that “Everything can be taken . . . [except for] the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
It may seem ironic that I was then drawn to tarot, which one might think promises to reveal a predetermined future. Personally, I don’t find tarot all that good at predicting specifically what is about to happen. Instead, as I say at the top of my blog, “Tarot helps you meet whatever comes in the best possible way.”
Tarot helps me see what has brought me to a situation, what really concerns me in the now, and the qualities I believe will most help me meet the future I value. It helps me move forward with a sense of purpose and relieves anxiety.
Victor Frankl, who created something called logotherapy, believed that the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in human beings is our striving to find a meaning in life. But this is not a fixed point. He explains, “What matters is not the meaning of life in general, but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.” Tarot is a tool for finding one’s purpose and meaning in the moment so that our choices are relevant. Meaning is an expression of the emotional relationship between ourselves and the world (as perceived through symbols). It aids survival, especially by preserving the integrity of the personality. This is what my book 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card aims for.
In another favorite book, The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram says, “meaning also involves a meeting and a resonance.” In tarot we can meet what’s in the cards and resonate with that. In physics, resonance indicates the probability that a particular reaction will be at a maximum. Through the cards, we practice, in a safe space, resonating with people, ideas and events so we can meet them in real life in a way that harmonizes with our clarified purpose and direction.
All too often card meanings are mere definitions and the cards are flat and lifeless. Using the processes in 21 Ways the cards come alive so we can participate in their meanings and discover a “felt” inner significance. All our senses are involved. Try out some of the exercises and see if the card you are working with doesn’t become more vibrant, colorful and seemingly alive.
The 21 Ways are like the contents of a Magician’s bag of tricks but wielded by the High Priestess. They are processes I’ve developed and worked with in hundreds of classes and with thousands of people in readings. While you may be familiar with most of them at the “apprentice” level, you may not have ever applied them all to a single card. I’ve taken many groups through most of these 21 methods in a couple of hours. It involves going deeper and deeper into something you thought you knew to find much that you’d never touched on before.
Each step has a second level called “The Way of the Adept” that explores the implications of these techniques and offers further activities that will hone your practice—whether for yourself or when using tarot with others. Some of my favorite activities include “once upon a time” story-telling and then repeating it in the first person, the “Benefit and Liability Meter,” the 3-Card Drawing where you use crayons to sketch an integrated scene (see drawing above), and working with the archetypes. The 3-Card Drawing is actually the best way I’ve ever found to teach people to integrate the meanings of cards in a spread.
Warning: this book is not for everyone. If you want concrete meanings and keywords for the cards, both upright and reversed, then see The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals. If you want fixed rules and absolutes then don’t come here. If you want creativity and play, the breaking of rules and exploration of taboos this might be for you. But, it’s risky to look this deep.
I would love to answer your questions about the book and hear about your experiences with it in the Comments.