Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make You a Better Tarot Reader

by Douglas Gibb on October 7, 2009

The Thoth Deck at Tarot Eon

So I’m hanging around a Tarot forum the other day.

People there are going on about how “Qabbalistic” approaches to the Tarot are the only real ways to become better Tarot readers. No, more than that, better people.

Was I in a Tarot forum? Or maybe over at a fundamentalist forum?

Nope. It was a “serious” Tarot site.

Frankly, I’ve never heard people involved (or trying to be involved) in Tarot say those types of things before. The entire thread just blew my mind. Especially the way these same self styled Magus’ treated “non-initiates”. I’m still cleaning up the coffee that I sprayed all over my computer.

Is it because only dedicated students of Tarot are occultists?

Is it because anyone who talks about intuition instead of “correspondences” are living on fluffy white clouds?

Maybe, but I think it has more to do with the fact that many past celebrity occultists used to write on and on about the Tarot being a pictorial representation of the Qabbalah. People read this and think, “Hey, if they did things this way, so will I.”

Many of these occultists were products of their historical environments and were truly innovative, both in the realms of Magick and Tarot. But times change, and the problem starts when people start clinging to their every word as if they were the Law.

These types of people unwittingly become carbon copies, adding nothing new or innovative whatsoever to Tarot.

On the forum, the way these “carbon copies” were treating “newbies” was as if they were guilty of spouting blasphemous rumours.

These “carbon copies” remain popular because, well, they’re popular. But as the Tarot continues to grow and develop, many of these so called “experts” will be given less and less “weight”, and be treated no differently than any other alternative “expert” – as a possible, and perhaps questionable, source of information!

Want to emulate a great Tarot reader? Try these people:

Catherine Chapman. Marcus Katz. Paul Hughes-Barlow.

Why? They are all intensely focused on looking towards the future of Tarot; to new and innovative approaches to both Tarot and the dynamics involved in Tarot readings – just like the occultists of the past, not the carbon copies that are floating around now.

I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.
- Louisa May Alcott

Let’s learn from the past, let’s not cling to it.

The storms will come soon enough, but we all sail our own ships. The best Captains learn how to sail from the sea itself.

See, that didn’t even take the full three minutes.

Check out The Criticism I Received For This Post And What I have To Say About it!

(Theoretically) Related Posts:

20 comments… Let's discuss

Theresa October 7, 2009 at 4:09 am

Brilliant post! It is all too easy to get stuck in a rut of self righteousness. Trying to look at tarot with new eyes requires an open mind and a less involved ego. Not easy to do.

Btw, I love Catherine Chapman’s site and agree with you – she’s a great reader and I learn a lot from her site (yours too!).

Reply

Suzi October 7, 2009 at 7:13 am

I followed your post from the Tarot Lady’s tweet. This IS a terrific post Doug, and you have voiced what I have always thought about! Well-said and well-written!

Reply

Ginger October 7, 2009 at 12:20 pm

This post made me smile….but it is so true….and you know its like this with a lot of things not just tarot. Becoming mired in ego and “expertness” keeps one from growing…in the world of medicine, technology, psychology, all fields…

Reply

Douglas October 7, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Hey guys, thanks for letting me know your thoughts :)

@Theresa Thank you for your kind words. I wanted to write a post that focused on people’s attitudes towards Tarot, and the “correct” way of using it. This was really prompted by the Tarot forum I was reading, but essentially, I didn’t agree with people who weren’t prepared to look at Tarot from a different perspective.

I agree with you, “…a less involved ego” is something I think is really important if you’re writing about or communicating information, ideas or opinions on the Tarot.

@Suzi I’m really glad you liked the post :) Like you, this was something that I’d been thinking about for a while, but after I visited the forum, I thought I’d share my opinion on it. I really feel that “experts” should be able to communicate with others of differing opinions without judgment. In fact, I think that an “expert”, if there is such a thing, is someone who realises there is more than one way to skin a cat, and communicates accordingly.

@Ginger I totally agree with you. This kind of behaviour can be seen in fields outside of the Tarot. Knowledge of a subject is very cool, and the desire to communicate with others is also very cool, but what is not cool is when people mistakenly associate knowledge, with absolute “truth” and “reality”.

Reply

Annie October 7, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Thank you Doug, you have said it all and from a place of wisdom. Actually, unfortuately, this kind of attitude spills out in many fields and seems to reflect the insecurities of the people who are behind it; they seem to need a platform from which to look down at other people because they are not on firm ground in themselves and need to have some sort of ‘prop’. They cannot easily cope with openmindedness because of its very nature, therefore they try to lock themselves within some perceived boundary which is exclusive to them. There are sadly many historical references which point negatively to this kind of dogma too. Also, one thing to bring to their notice is that ‘Newbies’ can bring in new and refreshing ideas and we all can benefit from this.

Reply

Douglas October 8, 2009 at 12:01 am

Hi Annie,

Thanks for dropping by :)

Also, one thing to bring to their notice is that ‘Newbies’ can bring in new and refreshing ideas and we all can benefit from this.

I agree with this 100%. The Tarot will stagnate if new and refreshing ideas are not discussed, developed, or at the least, entertained.

Reply

Jason October 7, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Let me stand and give applause. You know I agree with you on this post! I recently wrote something along similar lines. I think your “fundamentalist” reference is quite apt, because that’s how it often feels to me as well.

Reply

Douglas October 8, 2009 at 12:04 am

Hi Jason,

Thank you for your kind words.

You know I agree with you on this post!

Haha totally!

Reply

Barbara Moore October 7, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Well said! I’ve always felt a little like a tarot poser instead of a a tarot professional because I truly have no interest in Qaballah. I’m looking forward to the next stage in tarot’s evolution. Thank you for writing this.

Reply

Douglas October 8, 2009 at 12:07 am

Hi Barbara,

Tarot poser! :D Haha what a cool image.

I’m looking forward to the next stage in tarot’s evolution.

Me too! I love reading about something new or innovative; reading some new way someone is being inspired by the Tarot.

Reply

Eartha October 7, 2009 at 3:47 pm

“The storms will come soon enough, but we all sail our own ships. The best Captains learn how to sail from the sea itself.” Douglas aka The Chariot :-)

@Barbara thank you :-)

Reply

Douglas October 8, 2009 at 12:11 am

Hi Eartha,

I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

Haha thank you for your kind words – Douglas aka The Chariot – funny ;)

Reply

BQ October 7, 2009 at 4:04 pm

I have never once looked at the, “Qabbalistic,” side of tarot. I’ve read that the Majors were supposed to have something to do with the tree of life, but never gave it any though. The correspondences I always go on about have to do with Major vs. Minor cycles within the tarot. This is just my opinion too. I don’t even stick to that system for every reading. Sometimes I rely on purely visual cues that completely exclude DMs and EDs. Systems are nice for depth, and it doesn’t always have to be the same system.

I’ve done tarot readings without tarot cards for that matter. I was at my cousins 4th of July party and he had a bunch of foil confetti on his table. Silver, Gold, Blue, Red, and Green. I had the querents mix up the confetti and push 3 piles over to me. Silver was Major and the others were elements. I used numerology to reduce to base energies and applied the context that the elements provided.

The problem with most traditionalists is their fear of change. They assume that for someone else to be right, then they must have been wrong. That is not even remotely the case. They will have been just as right in their perceptions as you are in yours. If anything, they will focus on one different aspect of a given situation and you will shed light on another. That’s all there is to it. The answers we recieve when we consult an oracle of any kind, only reflect information we already possess. Let’s say you pull the Two of swords in a reading but it gives you some trouble. The picture reminds you of someone getting a haircut. Traditionally, this card means indifference is needed. The answer will come when your not looking for it. It also means equanimity is needed. You must be relaxed and at peace to recieve the answer. Guess what, not only does getting a haircut refocus the querent, but I can’t think of anything more relaxing than getting a haircut. Not only was the pictoral key right, but it was more specific. So guess what. The traditionalist can kiss it. Open your minds and let enlightenment find you.

Okay, I’m done ranting… Great article Douglas!

Love and Light,
Bul

Reply

Douglas October 8, 2009 at 12:21 am

Hi BQ,

I don’t even stick to that system for every reading. Sometimes I rely on purely visual cues that completely exclude DMs and EDs. Systems are nice for depth, and it doesn’t always have to be the same system.

I agree, and I really enjoyed reading your example of a Tarot reading done without Tarot cards. Awesome!

You make an interesting point on this idea of a “fear of change”. It implies a type of control. I think you’re right to point out how, “they will have been just as right in their perceptions as you are in yours. If anything, they will focus on one different aspect of a given situation and you will shed light on another. That’s all there is to it.”

The Two of Swords example is awesome. Getting a hair cut is very relaxing :D

Open your minds and let enlightenment find you.

I couldn’t agree more.

Thank you for your thoughtful response. Highly informative :)

Reply

Helen October 8, 2009 at 7:58 am

I get a bit mad when others tell me that in order to read tarot you must link it to the Kabbala , or even those that say you have to know the astrological attributions in order to read properly. I have always felt that Tarot can walk along side these but that it also stands firmly on its own two feet. Tarot is an ever involving practice. Tarot traditionally does have a history and I think it good to be aware of that, but along with the accepted meanings for the cards, comes the gift of intuition, this is what helps turn a good reading into an exceptional one.

I admit I do have problems when people say “I read intuitively” and have never bothered to study the meanings of tarot cards, because for me, they are not reading tarot, they may as well be reading the cornflake box. This is not to say that their readings are not valid, but it is not necessarily tarot, as tarot does have a history. Call it an oracle reading rather than a tarot and that would sit better with me.
Ducking now to avoid all the rotten tomatoes that will be thrown at me. LOL

Reply

Douglas October 8, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Hi Helen,

Thanks for dropping by :)

Tarot traditionally does have a history and I think it good to be aware of that, but along with the accepted meanings for the cards, comes the gift of intuition, this is what helps turn a good reading into an exceptional one.

Excellent point. I couldn’t agree more. Tarot does have a history, and it took time before other systems were associated with the Tarot. But this wasn’t always the case. I do think, if someone has an interest in some of these systems, that its definitely worth pursuing, however, its not necessary to use that system to the exclusion of any other. It’s worth knowing the Tarot’s history – this can only help to create a more balanced and complete picture of Tarot.

Call it an oracle reading rather than a tarot and that would sit better with me. Ducking now to avoid all the rotten tomatoes that will be thrown at me. LOL

LOL you make a valid point :D

Reply

mzzlee October 10, 2009 at 2:20 pm

fab piece, doug! thank you for the validation and the reminders…open…airy…free…ever-learning….creative…all these are words we can embrace to let tarot breath free and grow! oh yes, there must be room for all energies, all angles… you said it well! thank you!

Reply

Douglas October 10, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Hi Mzzlee,

I’m glad you liked the post.

Thank you for your kind words, they are really appreciated :D

Reply

Lionel November 1, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Good post, I’ll definitely know to be careful when discussing Tarot with new people that may or may not give a hoot about the Qabala (Or Numerology or Astrology), and certainly I’ll watch my language from sounding arbitrary on any of those – I certainly don’t want to alienate anybody!

The carbon copies comment does feel like a jab to ANYBODY who emphasizes Qabala in their study. Even if one looks at the cards from the perspective of astrology, Qabala, or straight numerology different people will have their own ruminations and opinions within those systems, in which themselves are endlessly fascinating. I agree that them pushing their ‘lens’ as LAW are being close minded, and are limiting their exploration somewhat; I personally have seen that a lifetime isn’t enough time to study any One of those systems and feel they’ve run out of things to learn!

Thanks for the post, it reminds us all to be mindful and respectful of how people approach their study and understanding of the cards! :)

Reply

Douglas Gibb November 1, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Hi Lionel,

Thanks for dropping by :D

I’m glad you like post. I was wanting to remind people that one of the most important skills we all need to be mindful of when learning the Tarot is open-mindedness. I agree with your point, “…that a lifetime isn’t enough time to study any One of those systems and feel they’ve run out of things to learn!”

Sometimes, we can become so involved with one aspect of studying the Tarot that we become closed to listening to conflicting ideas. I wanted to remind people that by closing ourselves of from these ‘differences’ we actually damage our own explorations.

Great comment :D

Reply

Leave a Comment

3 trackbacks

Previous post:

Next post: