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Using the Tarot in Magick

This article was written by Donald Michael Kraig
posted under Magick

I have been doing magic with the Tarot for a long time, and teaching some of the techniques I use for several years. In Tarot & Magic I have given many of my favorite techniques and methods so you can add them to your own magical practices.

One of the techniques I describe, an expansion on an earlier technique of Denning and Phillips, is called “Dancing the Tarot.” The concept behind this technique is based on two things: the archetypal nature of Tarot symbolism and the power of body language. I give these two examples of the power of body language in the book:

  1. Sit in a chair. Drop your shoulders and put your hands between your legs so that your shoulders not only move down, but slightly together. Allow your head and neck to drop so you are looking down. This is a posture of failure and unhappiness. Now say to yourself, “I feel very happy about my life.” You will notice that it just feels wrong or false. Now try saying that your life is a ruin. You will see that your words feel harmonious with your body’s position.

  2. Try the opposite. Stand up straight and tall. Put your shoulders back so your chest moves forward. Smile. Now say to yourself, “I’m so unhappy.” Again, it doesn’t feel right. Try saying, “I feel great!” and you will find that the harmony returns.
It has been discovered, through the work of psychologist Wilhelm Reich, and later through Neuro-Linguistic Programming, that if you change your body language, you will change. The question is, how do you choose the body language to achieve desired changes?

This leads to the Tarot. When people ask me how they should select a deck, I always suggest that they look at several and then pick one that “speaks” to them. This is because the images on the cards will mentally, physically, and emotionally speak to you in some way. Part of this is that with some decks, especially those with designs that have been around for awhile, the images have seeped into our minds and hearts.

Self-Change Through Tarot
By combining the power of changing body language with that of archetypal Tarot symbolism, we can work some of the greatest magic of all: changing ourselves.

An example I like to give is that of a person who comes to realize that he is too egotistical and wants to change. First, I pick a card that just reeks of the current situation you want to change. Note that this may have nothing to do with the divinatory meaning of the card, just the image.

The card I use for this example is the Major Arcana card The Sun. The deck I frequently use for this is the Universal Tarot. And if you haven’t seen this deck yet, I strongly suggest that you do. The cards were painted by master Italian illustrator Roberto De Angelis. Although they are based on the old Waite and Smith designs, he really focused on the faces of the characters. Instead of the rather bland and blank images found on older decks, each one of the faces is alive with feeling and emotion. So if that old deck of yours doesn’t seem to have what it once had for you, or if you are looking for a new way to spark up your readings or divinations while keeping the traditional symbolism, I can heartily recommend this deck It’s beautiful!

So how does this card represent egoism? The young boy has the Sun shining only on him. Even the sunflowers don’t point to the Sun as they normally would; they look at him. He proudly waves his banner. The banner has no words or symbols. It doesn’t support anything or any cause other than himself. His posture, arms and legs proudly spread out, seems to be shouting, “Hello, world. It’s me!”

And yet we know that this egoism is undeserved. The Sun and the sunflowers don’t really focus on him except in his imagined world. His egoism has removed him from reality. He’s the type of person who would talk about himself four hours and then say, “But enough about me, let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?” It doesn’t even dawn on him that others have feelings and ideas contrary to his own or that don’t involve him. His most important message is: “It’s me!”

For the card that represents where we want to be, I use The Hierophant. The image on the card is that of a man who has been tested in the world (symbolized by his gray beard), but who realizes he can find peace by giving blessings. This is symbolized by the position of his right hand (a traditional position of giving blessings) and the crossed keys at his feet (the keys to the kingdom of the Divine). Even other spiritual people (their spiritual nature is indicated by tonsured scalps) realize his state of peace and grace, and they kneel before him, not in servitude but in acceptance of his blessings.

The Magic of Tarot
The technique for doing this magic is actually rather simple. Begin by doing your usual banishings. In your magical circle, place two chairs at opposite sides of the circle. Have the person who wants to change use the first chair to assume the position of the boy in The Sun card. Let the person really feel the heat of the Sun coming down only on him. Let that person sense the sunflowers turned toward him. The person should feel that only one thing matters in the universe. And what is that one thing? It’s me!

When the person deeply feels the incredible egoism that is there, he or she should get up and start to move around the circle. It is like traveling from where they were to where they want to be. The movement can be a walk, crawl, dance, or whatever is deemed right. Finally, the person gets to the second chair. Sitting down, this magician assumes the position of the Hierophant, including all the wisdom, kindness, caring, giving, etc. as indicated by that card. The person should stay in the chair until he or she feels at home with those sensations. The ritual is then concluded.

These are only the rudiments of this magical technique. Tarot & Magic includes suggested purposes for many cards in different decks. It also gives more complex versions where you use more than two cards, based on the paths of the Tree of Life. Together, the book and the Universal Tarot make an excellent system for creating powerful, life-changing energies. The book also shows you how to create your own Tarot spells, use the cards as talismans, work with candles and color systems, perform kabbalistic pathworking, and much more.

Golden Dawn Tarot
In the book, I give examples using several Tarot decks. I’ve already mentioned one of my favorites, the Universal Tarot. But another deck that I really love to use is the Golden Dawn Magical Tarot by Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. If you are doing initiations in the Golden Dawn tradition, this deck is priceless. It is the first deck to include all of the cards and all of the correct symbols as used by the Golden Dawn. It can also be used for Dancing the Tarot, in ceremonial magic, and even with magical techniques (such as spells and in candle magic) that are not usually thought of as ceremonial magic.

One of the things I like to use it for resulted by accident. One definition for magic could be “willed change.” In other words, it must have a purpose. Often, I’ve had people ask me to do magic with them. But when I ask, “For what purpose?” they have no answer.

There is, however, an assumption in all of this. That assumption is that we must know, beforehand, what the purpose is. But when people do readings using the Tarot, they assume that there is going to be a relationship between the cards drawn and the client. Why not assume the same when doing magick? Here is a technique I use when wanting to practice or do magic without having a specific purpose in mind.

This technique only uses the Major Arcana cards. If you are using the Golden Dawn Magical Tarot, you will also want to remove the extra card used in a Golden Dawn initiation ritual. Do your usual banishings. Select one card and then use one of the following techniques:
  • Look at the card intensely as you spin around until you get very dizzy. Clap your hands together and shout, “So mote it be!”
  • Put the chosen card on your altar. Inhale deeply. With each inhalation, feel or visualize energy coming into you. As you exhale, visualize projecting the energy out of your eyes and down your arms which point toward the card. Repeat at a faster and faster rate until you begin to feel lightheaded or you begin to lose your concentration. Stomp your left foot on the ground and bring your left forefinger to your mouth (as if saying, “shhh!”). This is the “Sign of Silence” and seals the energy.
  • Perform this ritual outside at the top of a grassy hill. Protect the card between your hands, lie on the grass and roll down the hill. Shout with loud vowel sounds (Aaaahhhh! Oooohhhhh! etc.) as you roll down the hill. When you reach the bottom look intently at the card and shout, “Yes!”
Finish with your favorite closing.

I give several other methods like this in Tarot & Magic. The magic goes out for the purpose of the card, whatever that may be. Using this system you can do magic every day, even if you don’t have a specific purpose for your magic. Not only can this make positive changes in your life and in the lives of those around you, but it will allow you to experience what I’ve spoken many times: magick isn’t something you do. Magick is something you are.

Donald Michael KraigDonald Michael Kraig
Donald Michael Kraig graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy. He has also studied public speaking and music (traditional and experimental) on the university level. After a decade of personal study and practice, he began ten years of teaching...  Read more

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