We began this series with the dismaying situation of looking at our cards and feeling nothing, seeing nothing, finding nothing whatever to say. This wretched state of affairs is not terminal nor do we just have to wait it out. Like writer’s block, there are ways to jump start the creative juices and get your tarot mojo flowing again. The first article focused on decks. The second article looked at spreads. This third will suggest taking a scholarly road to escape the land of ennui. The next (the fourth and, we hope, final) article will cover a potpourri of techniques that are both fun and effective.
One of the great things about tarot is that no matter how many years you practice, there is always more to learn. Learning something new is an easy way to add a little oomph to your practice. Tackling a new aspect of tarot knowledge is probably the least “instant” of all the techniques presented in this series of articles. Learning something new requires research, reading, processing, trial and error, and application. If you have the time and the commitment, being in a rut is a perfect time to take on a new course of study. Your gratitude for having something new and interesting to think about will fuel your motivation. Plus, in order to study whatever it is you select, you’ll have to put your cards aside for a bit while you research and read. When something is frustrating you, sometimes putting it aside is the best thing you can do. Finally, becoming an expert in some area (which, as sincere students, you all will become experts at whatever you set your minds to, right?) provides a sense of confidence that will help you feel better about your readings and will also benefit your clients, if you read for others.
Once you’ve decided to learn something, you get to decide what. Do you read reversals? If not, learn all you can about reversals. What are the different theories about reading reversed cards? The easiest way to jump-start this course of study is using Mary K. Greer’s Complete Book of Tarot Reversals. She gathers in one spot many different theories, so you can consider them, decide which one or ones suit your style, and try them out. Not interested in reversals? Try elemental dignities. Instead of a book, I have three websites that I like for elemental dignities information: www.tarotelements.com, http://taroteon.com, and http://supertarot.co.uk. Catherine, Doug, and Paul (respectively) all do wonderful jobs of presenting the information and examples.
Instead of learning about how position can affect a card’s meaning, add new layers to your current understanding of the cards. Tarot lends itself so readily to so many other modalities. Tarotists are famous for creating endless lists of correspondences, such as matching tarot cards up to astrological signs, planets, seasons, numerology, Myers-Briggs personality types, Hebrew letters, Sephiroth, paths on the Tree of Life, colors, alchemy, musical notes, runes, plants, stones, directions, I-ching, and socio-economic divisions. Pick something that either you already know or that you are interested in learning. Let’s say you already know astrology. That would make apply it to tarot all that much easier. Let’s say you’ve always wanted to learn astrology. Learning it through the framework of tarot will make it easier, as you’ll be using a language that you already understand. Either way, you’ll be expanding your view and understanding of the cards.
Reversals or dignities can add precision to your readings and learning a correspondence can broaden or deepen your understanding. But how about adding something really practical (and use some of those nifty associations you’ve learned)? Don’t many people want to know when something is going to happen? Can tarot be used for timing? Well, insofar as the future is determined (which, as you probably know, I believe it is to some extent but can still be altered), why wouldn’t the cards answer timing questions? There are various methods. Each card (except three) is associated with a decan or other astrological time period, which is a pretty specific period of time. That association can be used for timing. The suits are associated with the four seasons. Work out a method that uses the suits and the numbers on the cards to determine timing, based on months, weeks, days, moon phases, whatever you like. Or try a timing a method that is less calendar-based and instead focuses more on events. Create a spread that accounts for the idea that the event in question will happen after a certain other event occurs.
Become a bard. Okay, maybe not an actual singer of epic poetry, but someone who knows a mythology practically by heart. This may seem odd, but tarot cards are the archetypes, characters, and situations that make up stories. And we read them to find out more about our own stories. The Major Arcana is often compared to the Hero’s Journey. Just as almost any modality can be associated with tarot, so can almost any mythology. What’s the benefit in that? Thinking of the cards as actual stories rather than intellectual aspects of a story makes them more meaningful. Also, being able to relate the cards in terms of myths or stories helps clients, students, or friends understand the cards better. In general, people are more likely to understand “a guy like Obi-Wan Kenobi” more so than “the wise old man archetype.” Try relating the tarot to your favorite ancient myths, your favorite movies, books, or television series. If you become well-versed in a variety of story connections, you’ll easily be able to relate to a broader audience. Besides, it’s fun. And who knows? You might end up coming up with an idea for a new tarot deck, as many are based on this very idea.
These ideas should keep you busy until next month, where we will (I almost guarantee) end this series with some lively techniques that won’t require you to research and read—unless you want to. We’ll really shake things up by asking unexpected questions, pushing the edges of your comfort zone, and considering the importance of socializing. See? All good stuff. In the meantime, go study something.