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Tarot as an Art Form

This post was written by Barbara Moore
on November 18, 2009 | Comments (8)

In my last post, I mentioned some questions that I’ve been considering lately. Based on the lack of response, save from my friend Mark, I wonder if these questions do not interest you as much. But they keep coming up for me in different conversations with various colleagues. I’ve been wondering a lot about the future of tarot but having no ideas what that future may hold. Rachel Pollack’s comment about tarot being an art form in and of itself  has triggered some inkling of a possibility of maybe an idea or two.

I asked “are all decks meant to be read with?” Not long ago I would have answered with a resounded and confident “yes!” What good is a deck that isn’t designed for ease of use? But now I’m beginning to wonder about that. Tarot cards were not always used for reading. They were used for games. Then readings and for holders of esoteric wisdom. What is next for tarot? A change in information captured in the images? I don’t think so…for even when the cards were used for games, the images still contained recognizable symbols for the people who used them. Perhaps the change will be in how they are used. But we do already use them in a wide variety of ways: fortune telling, brainstorming, creative inspiration, spiritual and psychological growth.

Truly, I am not sure, but the idea of an art form lingers and I wonder what exactly that means.

While I ponder, maybe we should take another artsy-craftsy break. One technique that some people use to gain insight into the cards is to make their own deck. I was recently given two handmade cards. The image is a bit unclear, as they are multi-media. For those of you are not busy cropping your decks, maybe try your hand at making your own deck.


Reader Comments

Written By lada
on November 18th, 2009 @ 11:40 am

Barbara: I enjoy reading *all* your posts…I love the way your mind works, and how well you can express it.
The way we perceive these images; the difference between how they look and how they ‘feel’…as I pondered more of the Elves cards it felt like someone elses’ experiment with a plane of existence I did not wish to entertain.
So, in that sense…the one who designs the cards may have something other than providing a tool for others in mind. Even though, I think a tarot that does not achieve that should be called something else.
another example that comes to mind is the deck of cards distributed to soldiers in Iraq with the 52 most wanted war criminals on them. It was a wonderful way for EVERYBODY to sit around, play solitaire, pass the mindless time between the terror and commit to memory the names and faces trying to hide in the hostile crowds.
I wonder if any of those men and women experienced some visceral reaction when “Chemical Ali” turned up?

Written By Irmata
on November 19th, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

I think that there are many decks that I would not be able to read with – or at least, not without much difficulty – but that doesn’t diminish my desire for them! My interest in tarot is as much for the artwork as for the cards as a tool. It makes it very hard to be “good” and not just buy everything that catches my interest 😉

Of course, these decks are different for everyone. I’ve seen many decks that get rave reviews and I know from looking at the art that I wouldn’t get the same results. Or there are the decks that everyone loves and I just find outright ugly or visually unappealing eg. historical decks, overly CG decks. And these opinions might change as my experience with and understanding of tarot grows and changes. My feelings for decks have changed already in the past few months, as new symbols and depths become visible.

Creating my own deck is a lifetime goal, of course 🙂

(I chose not to comment on your last post because I got the feeling it could get heated and possibly ugly. Maybe I wasn’t the only one?)

Written By Susan
on November 20th, 2009 @ 5:55 am

This is my first ever response to a blog…
Making an entire deck seems too overwhelming, but after seeing the two cards illustrated here, I’m inspired to make at least one – maybe a small quilt or oversized collage/card of the Empress card.

Written By Barbara Moore
on November 20th, 2009 @ 6:57 am

Irmata, it can be difficult finding the balance between interesting conversation and heated debated and even ugly attacks–and everything in between. Possibly because tarot and art are such personal experiences and we cannot help but react so. And also since I am still feeling my through my thoughts and trying to figure out exactly what I mean by “an art form” doesn’t help.

The idea of tarot as a tool has been in my mind, too. I have always thought of it as a tool. But now I am wondering about what makes a good tool. Usually I think of a good tool as one that is designed for ease of use and can do the job easily. If it is beautiful, too, then that’s even better. So then I wonder, what makes a tarot deck easy to use? And that is complicated, too, because first one has to define what a tarot deck should do, and that will vary from person to person.

Thanks for reading and replying 🙂

Written By Barbara Moore
on November 20th, 2009 @ 7:00 am

Susan, thanks for stopping by and responding! 🙂

Making a whole deck would be very overwhelming. Making one or two, focusing on your favorites or ones that trouble you, can be fun and helpful. Collage is a favorite medium. And I have seen some fabric/quilt work cards. I cannot remember the name of it…Enchanted Tarot, I think…by Amy Zerner…is lovely fabric art.

Written By Lisa Hunt
on November 23rd, 2009 @ 10:22 am

Great post, Barbara. I too think tarot images are an art form and can serve so many functions beyond the requisite “reading”. I’m wondering if the term “reading” is evolving along with the cards. What does it really mean to read cards? I think it depends on the individual. For some it’s about the art communicating the ephemeral, for others it’s about the symbols serving as vehicles to the deeper layers of the psyche. Some like to “read” the art–and derive a meaningful spiritual experience from viewing the image. Some use them as projection holders as a means of confronting complexes and shadows. Some decks lend themselves to meditative practices. And then there is always the synchronous function of cards coming up in seeming coincidence. The fact that the term “reading” is becoming hard to define (at least for me) makes me think that the spectrum of possibilities is endless and tarot as an art form is what you want to make it. In a way, I think we’re in the midst of a tarot movement (like an art movement). Perhaps we will look back on this era with an objectivity that will help us define that what we do not completely understand now. Who knows? But whatever is happening, it’s exciting!

Written By Barbara Moore
on November 24th, 2009 @ 8:17 am

Lisa, that is such a great take on it. I had not really thought about the idea of what is a reading as changing. But you are right. By reading, we usually mean using the cards…and the way we use and relate to the cards is very much evolving. It is part of the art form. Thank you!

Written By '
on March 14th, 2014 @ 12:45 pm

I thought long and hard for a year and a day,
between Solstice to Solstice, sum seventy-eigh’,
with Lady Channel, the Witch of good Force,
T’wright with my Art what’d been so put off course.
Each day another station in The Paths passion wept,
into pigments from goblets The Lady’d long kept,
drawn to and drawn of Tarots’ spell was insistent,
bridling my talent as I, ‘, her willing assistant,
wrought truth to Trump, Pip and Suits as it were,
thus symbol and beauty and power culled and cured,
In Her box locked with Magic this Fine Art adorns,
not fancy, not wicked; intolerant of scorn.
I see one among you, I reach out for your hope,
this deck is an Art Form on which life is a rope.
Blessed Be

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