“What am I doing wrong?” I whispered to the Tarot cards.
A part of me wanted to grab my coat, say goodbye to the client, and abandon reading Tarot cards forever.
And yet, there I was, battling through my own inner-doubt to name a date. Somewhere in that Tarot spread was an answer, and I was going to find it.
Up until that point, I’d never really known how to apply the astrological associations to a Tarot reading. Sure, I had successes, but never consistent successes and I never did manage to battle my self-doubts with that particular reading. I left defeated, but awoke the next morning with two singular ideas.
My mind had been working on the problem as I slept and, it worked. I’m going to share it with you.
It’s all about perception
Knowing what Tarot cards to select is a question of perception.
The idea goes something like this:
Our perception of the world around us is not a true depiction of what is actually there. We perceive, to a large extent, what we expect to perceive. Our expectations — and therefore our perceptions — are biased by three factors:
- The past: our experience
- The present: the current context
- The future: our goals
1. Perception biased by experience
Have a look at the young woman below.
Did you see her?
Now what if I told you that the picture above is of an old woman? If you look again, you’ll be able to see her.
Notice how expectations bias perception? Initially I asked you to look at an image of a young woman — that is what you expected to see. But imagine if I initially asked you to look at an image of an old woman? Do you see how expectations bias perception?
And perception makes or breaks a Tarot reading. If you look for very specific information in your Tarot spread, you run the risk of being blind to other interpretations.
Implications for Tarot and Astrology
Recognise that there is always another way to interpret exactly the same Tarot cards. When using a positional based Tarot spread that has an outcome position, avoid the trap of expecting to use that card to predict when the event will happen.
2. Perception biased by current context
The current context, in terms of selecting cards to predict when events will happen, is a largely visual process.
To understand this visual process better, let’s use reading (as in books, not Tarot cards) as an example. For instance, the word in which a letter appears may influence how we interpret that word.
Similarly, our overall comprehension of a sentence can influence what words we see in it. For example the same word can be interpreted differently depending on the surrounding words.
I’ve focused on visual perception, but all five senses do contribute to perception bias. For instance:
- what we hear can bias what we see and vice versa
- what we see can bias what we feel; what we smell etc.
Recognizing a letter, a word, a face, or any object includes neural activity stimulated by the context. This context includes objects, events and even reactivated memories of previous objects and events.
Implications for Tarot and Astrology
Be in the moment
What I hope to show with this article is how perception is greatly influenced by past experience, context and goals. These three factors are responsible for an inaccurate interpretation of experience. Now, we are all subject to these limitations, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t break free from these limitations.
When doing a Tarot reading, remain in the moment; remain open to different interpretations; remain open to a dramatic change of Tarot reading style (do not let a past victory blind you to only one interpretation).
3. Perception biased by goals
Our perception is also influenced by our goals and plans for the future. Specifically, our goals filter our perceptions; things unrelated to our goals tend to be filtered out preconsciously, never registering in our conscious minds.
For example, some people I know, when doing a Tarot reading, scan the information quickly and superficially looking for a yes/no answer.
Although this is usually only a beginners mistake, it is worth pointing out that goal driven behavior adversely influences your ability to interpret a Tarot reading — particularly because you’re looking for something specific (such as astrological information to determine when an event will happen).
It’s not that they ignore the information unrelated to their goal, they don’t even see it.
To illustrate what I mean, briefly look at the image below and try and spot the sledge hammer.
Did you find it? Now, without looking back at the image, can you say whether there is a pair of scissors too?
Implications for Tarot and Astrology
The filtering of perception by our goals is particularly true of adults, who tend to be more focused on goals than children are. Children are more stimulus driven: their perception is less filtered by their goals. This makes children less biased as observers.
For instance, send an adult to go into your kitchen and look inside a drawer for a pair of scissors. When the person returns, ask whether another specific item was in the drawer. Most adults won’t be able to answer you. Next, send a child to complete the same task and (providing they don’t get distracted by all the cool stuff) when they return with the scissors ask them if another specific item is in the drawer. Most of the time a child will be able to provide additional information.
The implications are to be childlike with the next Tarot reading you do. Be less goal focused and more child like. Imagine you’re that kid who is being distracted by all the awesome stuff in the drawer.
This article covered a lot of basic information on perception that could easily have been written as a Tarot 101 guide. However, when using astrological associations with Tarot, it’s important to remember the implications that our perceptions have on our ability to provide objective Tarot readings.
Here is a list of things to remember:
- Influencing where we look: Perception is active, not passive. We constantly use our five senses to actively sample things in our environment that are most relevant to what we are doing or about to do. If we are doing a Tarot reading, remember that our past experiences, context and goals will largely determine what we perceive. By being mindful of this we can free ourselves into a more objective state of mind.
- Reinterpretation: A great Tarot reader always reinterprets the same cards within a Tarot spread. There are countless ways to perceive exactly the same Tarot cards and countless stories can be created from these. In my experience, these seemingly disjointed stories have an enormous capacity to register with the client. Just because we don’t understand them doesn’t make them any less relevant. Remember, childlike behaviour often avoids the pitfalls of a goal focused approach to reading Tarot.
What does all this have to do with Tarot and Astrology?
This article is a reminder for you to be open to different ways of perceiving the same Tarot cards. Avoid being overly goal focused, or concerned with discovering what astrological associations predict when an event will happen.
Allow for multiple interpretations of all the Tarot cards within your spread (including the ones that aren’t there) and, above all, have fun — like the child who thought that a drawer full of stuff was awesome.