Telling Stories With Tarot

This is a sample of part of a series of classes that I will be conducting in the months ahead. The example used is only a small piece of what will be covered in the class. Be on the lookout, eastern and central Iowa, for more information about these classes.

The Tarot is amazing. It is so adaptable. Sure, you can “tell fortunes” with it, but that is its most mundane use. In fact, it is my opinion that the “is my boyfriend cheating on me” type of question, so often asked of casual Tarot readers, is an insult to the deep, eternal wisdom that is Tarot.

Tarot is a tool for self development. This is especially true when talking about the Major Arcana, the 22 cards that have wonderful names like The Fool, The High Priestess, The Tower, etc. These cards are no less than a road map of the unconscious. They are archetypal symbols that speak to our deepest selves. What’s more, each card contains a lesson, a story if you will, to give us a sense of how to attain the state intimated by the card. This is done through the Hebrew letter that has been paired with each card. This is very handy, as there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Divine providence, perhaps?

Hebrew is one of several languages that have been considered the language of creation. I’m not here to argue the pros and cons of any of that. I use Hebrew because that is language that the Western mystery tradition has used. And it works for our purposes, especially since each letter has multiple associations and a meaning all its own.

So, let’s tell a short story. storybookI’ve decided to use one of the scarier cards of the Major Arcana as an example: The Devil (number 15 of the 22 – I’ve already talked a little about this card here). Really, this card isn’t scary at all. It is a simple reminder of the deception put over on us by our senses. That is to say, the world, as we perceive it, is an illusion. The reality which lies behind this illusion is God’s energy, the very stuff of creation itself. This actually meshes quite nicely with some of the tenets of modern quantum theory. Oh, those ancients. They knew a thing or two.

At any rate, the letter for this card is ayin, which not-so-coincidentally means “eye,” the sense organ most of us rely on as our primary way of gaining information about the world. To get more of the message behind this pairing of card and letter, we need to spell out the name of the letter. For example, in English when we spell the name of the fourth letter of the alphabet, it’s done thusly: dee. Well, ayin is spelled with three letters also: ayin-yod-nun. Don’t worry about the details now, just take my word for it. I’ll guide you along.

Since each letter has a Tarot card paired with it, we can look at those cards to help us out. The three letters and their cards are: Ayin (Devil); Yod (Hermit); and Nun (Death). Laying them out right to left, the way Hebrew is written, we get:

13 - Death 9 - Hermit 15 - Devil

You can see the letter for each card in its lower right corner. Several stories are possible for each arrangement of cards, by the way. That’s part of the beauty of this process. So let’s look at these three briefly. We’ve already talked a little about the Devil. The Hermit is the light of God showing the way. Death isn’t death at all. It signifies a transformation, a radical change. Taking this information and reading right to left, the message is: In order to see the illusion for what it is (Devil), one must concentrate on the light of God (Hermit), which will lead to a transformation of perception (Death). Using just the letters in the same order, we get: Use your inner eye (ayin) to see what God is truly giving you (yod means “hand”) in order to plumb the depths of the unconscious for an answer (nun means “fish” and, by extension, the deep water of the unconscious).

Once you have a vocabulary of associations to the cards and letters, lots of stories can be told with the same arrangement of cards. I didn’t want to cross your eyes (your ayins?), so I kept it simple today. This same process can be extended to the names of the spheres on the Tree of Life (see here and here), or to other words and phrases. The layers of meaning are many, and informative.

Keep an eye out for my class series, where we will explore the intricacies of the Tarot for personal growth and spiritual insight. Coming soon!


Soap Box Time.

Just a couple of days ago, on May 1, 2011, it was announced that a U.S. special forces mission had succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden. The latest bogeyman of all bogeymen has been dispatched.

How does one react to such news? After all, this person had been the posterboy of terror for ten years.

It looks like some chose to react by whoopin’ it up, chanting “U-S-A !” in that obnoxious way favored by sports fans, and in general acting like they’d just won the lottery. I take it that these people were pleased by the news.

Celebrating death? Giddy with excitement that one of our species has bitten the dust?

Look, relief I can understand, or a sense of satisfaction that justice has been served in some fashion — but the displays that broke out across the country seem beyond the pale. Granted, he was a bad guy, and bad guys deserve comeuppance. However, I felt sad to see the way people reacted. It’s not a sporting event. I believe that the “in yer face” attitude is beneath what we stand for as a nation. To turn it around, how did we Americans feel when we saw the (largely staged) videos of people dancing in the streets after the World Trade Center buildings came down? Think our own spontaneous two-stepping endears us to others?

So maybe we’re even now? Perhaps ahead? Great! Can the wars end???

But look at us. We’re a nation that loves the Ultimate Fighting Championship, The Real Housewives of (fill in your favorite city/county/state), and foolish, tiresome displays of bravado at every touchdown. In short, we are a nation without class, and it simply shows our distance from true Spirit. Reactions such as those shown in response to bin Laden’s death are not the signs of a spiritual people, or an evolved people.

Where does that leave us as moral guardians or examples, I wonder.

I was frankly embarrassed to see it and to call myself an American at that moment. I am not an apologist for what evil has done. I just don’t want to see evil itself mirrored in our reactions to the elimination of a tiny bit of it.

Agree with me or not, it doesn’t matter. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.