What Makes a Bad Tarot Reader?

Learning Tarot 4 Comments »

Tarot reading still has a slightly disreputable reputation. Readers are often seen as charlatans, without adequate training or quality control. As for the idea that bits of coloured card can give people an accurate glimpse into their lives and future is illogical, even a little crazy.

That’s the left-brained, rational, scientific view. Or – is it?

Einstein, one of the greatest scientists ever, was wonderfully open-minded. He understood the role intuition could play, and was awake to the marvelous. In his wake, quantum physicists are proving that the impossible is, in fact, probable, and questioning everything we think of as ‘reality’. They’re even beginning to explain consciousness and the mind through quantum physics, as well as other strange phenomena such as ghosts, telepathy, mediumship, psychic power etc.

This strange, illogical science can probably explain how the tarot works – watch this space for more articles on tarot and quantum physics.

But the intermediaries, the mediums, the psychics, and the tarot readers – their ability, or lack thereof, are what gave tarot its difficult reputation. Having said that, all the readers I know have high ethical standards and wouldn’t dream of cheating, lying, or carrying on a reading when it’s obvious they’re not getting anything right.

But, unfortunately, there are readers who do lie, cheat, say they can lift curses, etc. I heard one at a psychic fayre piling on the flattery so thickly I was amazed that the client didn’t burst out laughing. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she repeated the same thing to the next one. And there were people lining up to see her! Perhaps bad tarot readers just attract bad clients, the sort that want to be buttered up and told that everything is going to be fine…

Talking of bad clients – one gay man pulled out a wad of money from his pocket and began peeling off ten pound notes, placing them on the table. He indicated that this was a bonus for me. I smiled sweetly and continued reading the cards, which were basically saying that he’d treated all his boyfriends really badly and needed to make reparation. When I got round to that, he said, ‘You’re going to be really angry with me now.’ ‘Why?’ I asked, curiously. ‘Because you’re not going to follow any of my advice?’

‘No,’ he replied, picking up all the money he’d placed on the table. ‘Because I’m going to take back my money.’ And at that he got up and left. I was in hysterics, figuring that the tenners must have been a bribe to tell him what he wanted to hear!

If the cards appear just too good to be true, they probably are. Perhaps the reader is flanneling and trying to tell you what you want to hear (without a bribe), or lying about their meanings for some reason – perhaps because they aren’t very good readers! There is one other alternative which I’ve experienced only a couple of times in the forty years I’ve been reading: that you yourself are psychically powerful and are somehow influencing the cards to say what you want to hear.

Back to bad tarot readers. If the cards (or interpretations) are completely wrong, a bad tarot reader will carry on regardless, ignoring the fact that the energy between you is mismatched or missing. A good reader will say ‘this doesn’t seem to be working, is it’ and give you the option to continue, or return your money.

A quick point about being asked questions. Clients often think that the reader is trying to pump you for information if s/he asks questions. But the cards only offer a general landscape, not a specific landmark, so the questions are to see whether different aspects of the card meaning would be more appropriate to your circumstances. However, there are exceptions: I was shocked recently to hear about a reader in the west of London who spent the whole reading attempting to get the client to interpret the cards, instead of doing it herself. Apparently she charged a fair amount for her readings, too. I find this rather strange – if she couldn’t make head or tail of the reading, perhaps she should have offered a refund.

Finally, the reading is about you, no-one else. A reader who starts talking about her- or himself is bad news. You may get a reader illustrating a point from something they’ve experienced themselves, fair enough; but it should be kept to a minimum.

So what makes a good tarot reader? Someone who uses their psychic gifts to intuit through the cards what is going on for you, and what possible futures you have in store; someone who listens to anything you have to say; can put their ego to one side and concentrate totally on you for an hour or so; someone with good life experience and perception. Tarot readers are counsellors, not predictors, who use their cards as a window through which to gaze on your possible future/s. Your job is to walk out into those future landscapes, using the tarot reading to ensure you notice the opportunities to blossom and grow.

Oracles vs Tarot

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There seems to be a feeling that you must either use a tarot deck or an oracle deck in your readings. But why is it either/or? Why not both?

Since I completed the Devas of Creation – an oracle deck of higher-level energies (Devas are the Shining Ones of Sanskrit tradition, like angelics but more primordial) – I use the tarot for the basic spread as usual, and every now and again I draw a Deva card to look at the higher-level energies around the person, or what will be coming in to help or challenge. It helps that I’m using two decks I painted myself – The Intuitive Tarot and Devas of Creation, because I know them so well, but at the College of Psychic Studies tarot seminar in July, Emily Carding used her Transparent Tarot and Transparent Oracle in a similar way; I’ve also used the Mirror Cards and the Intuitive Tarot together.

The information / clarification that comes from this multi-dimensional approach is usually very helpful – sometimes astonishingly so. For instance, a client drew the 3 Swords which I see as confusion or being split.


She was disinclined to admit she was running away from the problem – until she drew the Deva card I call Storm Crow, which is about splitting / denial.

Another example: the tarot Moon appeared for the client’s son. I sometimes see the Moon as crossing over from sanity to insanity and it certainly is about the deep unconscious intruding into everyday life. I said that it looked like her son was wandering into the Otherworld of the unconscious.

But when I asked for the Devas to clarify what was going on for him, the Moon of the Devas also appeared.

This double whammy indicated to me that he had made a choice to stay in that realm. (Most people see this realm as insanity. I personally think if we had a more enlightened approach to the conscious and unconscious mind, we would be able to help many return from ‘insanity’. The so-called primitive shamans can move at will between these realms; but we have no idea how this works. We say it’s all mumbo-jumbo, and leave the lost souls to wander around between the worlds, never mind that the world needs their insights.)

Still, this is way off the subject, so let’s return to using an oracle deck in tandem with the tarot.

In readings for people who are psychic or very self-aware, I often switch the emphasis to use the Devas as the main deck, with the tarot as clarification. Here the tarot gives the more mundane focus of every-day issues as counterpoint to the spiritual level of the Devas. Obviously, other Oracle decks might have a different focus – the Mirror Cards I mentioned above would concentrate more on relationship issues. And of course it’s possible to do full readings just with an Oracle deck, though you need to know the meanings well in order to do it.

Try it out. Any oracle will work with your tarot deck, it’s really what works for you and what you feel comfortable with. If you have any questions, post them and I’ll do my best to answer.

Strange thing, intuition

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The way intuition works is weird. It is definitely like something other that kicks in. Normally with tarot you work with a low-level intuition – i.e., the base meanings are mostly the same but in each reading they may change slightly; you get a slightly different sense of what the card may mean to this person; or you find yourself saying – or seeing – something that you haven’t said or seen before. So for example, with the Lovers: with one reading the card will be about change, about growth, and about becoming mature. For another reading, it might be about a relationship that has become too stifling and the client needs to move away into the big world.

But as I say, that’s all low-level intuition. Sometimes, though, something else kicks in. The client is often someone who has done a lot of work on themselves so is very aware; or they are pretty psychic themselves. And then, it’s like a path opens up onto a different plane altogether, and information floods through. It’s not INFORMATION like writing on the wall (although it might be for some people); with me, it’s quite subtle and sometimes sounds a bit crazy – but if I trust it, it usually opens up all sorts of avenues for the client.

The trouble with it is that it is so ‘other’. It doesn’t feel like thinking usually does. Trying to explain it is almost impossible, but when I was trying I wrote ‘it comes through’ or ‘something opens up’. Is this opening up to the right brain, or to some other dimension? Who knows? I think this question is one I must put to other tarot readers and psychics to discover how they see it. Meanwhile, if you have any thoughts on this, please send them in!

Oracles

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The underlying message of all oracles:

‘We will now show you a little part of its divine intention, a part that pertains directly to you. Be assured that you are not alone. You belong to the Matrix that holds and beholds us all.’

So, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, the message is that the universe is both intelligent and purposeful.

Taken from ‘When Oracles Speak‘ – Diane Skafte

Types of Intuition

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We are all more intuitive (or psychic) than we realise. It’s a natural ability to perceive far beyond our senses and logic; a flash of inspiration or insight; a gut feeling. We all have experienced that ‘inner’ knowing or awareness, a certainty that’s outside logical thought- perhaps as déjà vu, hunches, sixth sense, gut feeling; predictive dreams; psychic messages; solutions to difficult problems. But it’s often quite subtle, and we have to learn how to recognise and act on it.

Every one will have their own unique way intuition manifests. Some will ‘just know’ things – claircognizant – information just comes to you, with the sense that it’s important. You may know who’s on the phone before it rings.

You may see things (clairvoyance) – either inside your head, or in the outside world, seeing energies and / or images. You may see a person, scene, colours, auras, past lives, and visions of the past, present or future – they may be as if you’re watching a film, or still photos. Far-seeing comes under this category.

You may be clairaudient, psychically hearing thoughts, words, songs, or other sounds. These are usually inaudible to the normal hearing range, but can also appear within your voice, sometimes as a voice very different from your own.

Your intuition may also manifest as clairsentient – perceiving information through a sensation in your physical body. It may be a gut feeling, or sense the body issues of someone either with you, or close to you. You may also sense spirit guides, deceased relatives, angels.

Clairscentrist people sense through smell – tobacco, alcohol, a scent of candles, rosewater, etc (this is often reported with thoughts of spirit presence).

Clairgustant is psychically tasting a substance, liquid or food without actually putting it in your mouth.

Oddly, although we all have a certain amount of these so-called extra-sensory abilities, many adults in our culture ignore them or even close them down, either because they are scared, or because they couldn’t depend on their abilities – having been let down a couple of times, they then assumed it wasn’t safe to trust them at all. Certainly you will not have been trained in the use of intuition at school. But ancient humans probably used intuition to live by, sensing where the animals were running and, possibly, connecting with the animals themselves to check which beast to kill. Their cave art reflects the psychic link they felt with the natural world, and it could well be similar to how we work with in the tarot.

Developing Your Own Tarot Reading Style

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When first you start working with the tarot, your ‘reading style’ is probably not going to be uppermost in your mind. You’ll no doubt be concerned about the meanings and how on earth to remember them, or, if you’re an intuitive reader, whether you can trust your intuition and how you’ll find enough to say to the people who ask you for a reading – ‘it’ll take me 5 minutes and then I’ll run out of things to say’. (Actually, that won’t happen; if you make enough of a connection to the cards the meanings will come. You put your mind into neutral and allow yourself to say what streams off your tongue. Even after 34 years I often listen to what I’m saying and think ‘what on earth am I talking about? Is this total rubbish or does it make sense?’ Often it sounds like garbage to me, so I often ask the client whether it makes any sense to them. It’s rare that they look absolutely blank and say it’s total rubbish.)

But to return to style. When I first started researching the tarot I had about 5 books I read constantly, Alfred Douglas The Tarot being the most useful. Douglas’s approach was quite Jungian and that suited me; I’d become interested in psychology at the age of 18 and so references to the unconscious, myth and archetypes rang all sorts of bells, and actually inspired me to start reading into history, mythology, and psychology – I have always said that the tarot educated me. Jung’s personality types – intuitive/creative, feeling- or sensory oriented, or intellectual – made perfect sense in correspondence with the suits (Wands, Cups, Discs/Pentacles, and Swords). My readings naturally had the same slant – they were concerned with underlying concerns, background history and all that entailed, and interpersonal issues, often at work. The readings worked fine, especially using my own deck (The Intuitive Tarot), but I wasn’t sure this was actually what most tarot readers did. So when I began reading professionally, I figured I’d be a one-off, doing psychological tarot – and in fact, I met a psychic fair reader who informed me that she didn’t know what sort of reading I was doing – it wasn’t tarot, she said. It was only when I met other tarot readers that I was reassured: most readers nowadays consider that their readings are more counselling than psychic. Some readers prefer to concentrate on character-readings and past issues, and avoid looking into the future (based on the premise that it’s all in flux and can change without warning). However, I know the cards can, and do, look into the future – often with frightening accuracy. It’s just we haven’t got there yet. Trust the cards – they will be telling the truth; it’s our own vision which is limited.

Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself psychic. In my experience ‘psychic readings’ contain a lot of the reader’s ‘stuff’, whereas by using the tarot (especially if you get the client to draw the cards), you have a good chance that they will be accurate: all you have to do then is to interpret them. We all have some sort of psychic awareness, but it can exhibit in different ways. Each ordinary sense – sound, sight, taste, touch and smell – is matched by a subtle level, or ‘psychic’ sense. So you might get words or ideas ‘coming through’ (clairaudience), some ‘see’ clairvoyantly; some ‘just know’ things, sense atmosphere or get information on places (claircognizance); some can pick up information from items such as hair or wristwatches (psychometry and psychokinesis). Some can sense energies in and through the body (clairsentience), and the subtle level sense of smell (clairgustant) may well be something we used to rely on far more (animals have far greater olfactory abilities, but we are certainly still able to pick up on sexual pheromones, for instance). Indeed, it may be that all these extrasensory abilities are atavistic – throw-backs to our animal origins, when our lives depended upon what we picked up from the environment. This ‘secondary awareness’ is just about being fully awake. In our polluted, over-stimulated, over-populated world, we have forgotten what life is really about.

Anyway, finally, the most important ‘style’ a tarot reader needs, is to develop empathy. Empathy, the ability to feel someone else’s emotions and reactions, isn’t necessarily inborn. Some have no empathy at all, and they would not be particularly good tarot readers. However, the ability certainly can be learnt: practice by putting yourself into someone else’s shoes. Ask yourself ‘how would I feel in this situation?’ And, of course, the more life experience you have the more you’ll be able to understand how others feel.

Intuition

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Notwithstanding all the advances made by science over the last few centuries, which have seen our understanding of the universe change from the idea of a mechanical, ordered system in which humans stood triumphantly in the centre, into one where nothing is certain, all is flux, and humans, indeed our Solar System itself, are but miniscule aspects of a vast array of dancing particles. Perhaps the whole of existence is merely consciousness, perhaps part of some Meta-consciousness some might call Divinity. As for human consciousness – well, physicists consider now that the mind must be understood as part of a quantum system: in other words, the function of the mind operates along quantum principles, not through the usual physical laws, but we are still waiting to hear whether we can progress past the theory to the implications of this statement.

In the meantime, arguably, we know more about the workings of the universe than that of the mind. In our materialist, rational world, we find intuition extremely difficult to explain, let alone describe how it works – and yet we are use intuition to a greater or lesser degree. In some the faculty is so advanced we call it ‘psychic’.

My dictionary gives the standard definition of intuition: ‘immediate unreasoned perception; instinctive knowledge’. A second dictionary (published more recently) is more open-minded: ‘the power of the mind by which it immediately perceives the truth of things without reasoning or analysis: as truth so perceived, immediate knowledge in contrast with mediate.’

The standard dictionary’s take on psychic is ‘having occult powers; capable of telepathy, of seeing ghosts and spirits etc; of or studying occult phenomena.’ (The word occult as defined as: ‘pertaining to the psyche, soul, or mind; spiritual; beyond, or apparently beyond, the physical: sensitive to or in touch with that which has not yet been explained physically.

20th Century man’s arrogant view that we knew almost everything, and what we didn’t know would soon fall into place, begins to look distinctly shaky as chaos theory, multi-dimensional maths, and quantum physics redefine our current view of reality. Mystics and artists have of course been saying much the same things as the quantum physicists for centuries. If we wonder about the origin of such revelations we would probably say they are creative and intuitive. We might add that they come from the wellspring, or the collective unconscious, or right brain, or some other term. But they have a different flavour to the normal rational consciousness, which calculates and cogitates, functions in the outsider world.

Researchers in the 1960-1980s found a distinct different in the way the two halves of the brain functioned. The left brain was found to work well in step-by-step arguments, logic, calculations, rational thinking, ‘objectivity’. The right brain sees things holistically, taking the problem as a whole. It tends to jump to conclusions – correctly, but often with little obvious evidence. In recent years more research has found people to be predominantly left- or right-brained. Most of us use both, often unconsciously. In problem solving, for example, we may think we are using our left brain to pull together various different facts. We weigh, and um and ah, and sleep on it. In the morning we wake up, knowing what we need to do. That’s intuition – obviously a right-brain function.

But still we know absolutely nothing about how this marvellous bunch of cells and grey matter works. Synapses, electric currents, hormones, chemicals, and somehow it metamorphoses into intuition and creativity, logic and amazing mental prowess. No wonder physicists think it’s a quantum function: in normal physical law consciousness probably can’t be explained at all. Let alone intuition!

So where does that leave us? Well, rather like walking, we just do it – i.e., use both sides of the brain. Intuition, when we come down to it, is just a matter of listening to a different voice – the one that says ‘move!’ when someone steps too close, or ‘no’, when we think about an unsuitable projected action; the one that wakes us up when we’ve forgotten to put the alarm on, or the one that warns us through a wordless ‘feeling’ that someone we meet is up to no good. Most of us hear the voice and ignore it. Our left brain discounts it for a number of reasons, all ostensibly good; but later, we may well regret ignoring what our intuition has been whispering. It is a very small voice, and easy to talk ourselves out of it.

What then when you get an intuitive tool, say a tarot pack, which can be used purely as a way to open the intuition? Well, our mind is the key. We see in images, dream in images, understand images. We may not understand the message consciously but we certainly get it unconsciously. Think of the dreams you’ve had which made no sense at the time. Often, in a few weeks’ time, we suddenly realise what the dream was about. Dreams are a symbolic language – something that I believe our earliest ancestors understood very well, but the key to which we have mislaid. The more we insist that existence is 3-dimensional, the less we understand. The tarot even has a card that tells us that we need to rethink everything we’ve been taught. If we ignore this wake-up call there’s an even more powerful punch to the psyche that the universe often delivers in the shape of the Tower – the lightning strike of divinity, which destroys our current reality. Intuitively, we can understand these images completely. The archetypes of the tarot speak to us in many different ways: through our eyes, our hearing, our bodies, and our senses.

In the next article I’ll explain a little more about the different sorts of intuition.

Kat Black’s Golden Tarot – More like a Blog!

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I have acquired a new tarot deck. Up to now I have only used The Intuitive Tarot, basically because I know it so well and it reads so easily for me, but having recently become fascinated by all things medieval (re-enactment, demonstrating medieval painting techniques, etc), I had a look at some medieval tarot – for example:

The Giotto Tarot - a stylised deck based on Giotto’s work.
The Medieval Scapini deck
The Golden Tarot of the Renaissance. A very attractive deck with gold leaf background.
The Mantegna tarot. Ostensibly based on the Sola Busca tarot, which contains the earliest illustrated minors (and utilised by Pamela Coleman Smith in the Rider-Waite tarot), this is an interesting pack but not strictly a tarot deck as it only has 50 cards.
The Old English Tarot
The Renaissance Tarot
The Golden Tarot, by Kat Black

and so on…. It was Kat Black’s Golden Tarot that finally captured me. This deck was obviously a labour of love, digitally collaged from medieval paintings and using the Rider Waite system. It’s been beautifully produced by US Games Inc. with gilt edges and a well-crafted booklet. Some people don’t like the fact that they recognise bits of paintings, separated from their original artwork. However, for me this is one of the attractions as I can use the booklet to source the different paintings. Most importantly, though, I can read with it. As soon as I started reading from it, the cards began to tell a coherent story.

Today, for example, I drew three cards for the presenting issue of the week, and got Queen of Swords and the High Priestess, both reversed. It was a clear warning not to start messing with someone else’s life (a temptation over the weekend!), as it would be a) unwise and b) a deviation of my own integrity as the High Priestess. So I’ll take the cards’ advice and stay upright …

Tarot Spreads – The Celtic Cross

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Readings are laid out in Tarot Spreads, which you can use to help focus your own intuiton. Positions such as ‘yourself at present’, past influences’, ‘hopes and fears’ all help to focus your own judgement. As you grow more confident, you can invent your own intuitive spreads, examples of which will be posted over the coming weeks.

As you work with the cards you will find you favour certain spreads. Don’t worry if you don’t wish to try formulating your own intuitive spreads, but prefer to work with tried and tested layouts. I often begin with the Celtic spread to give a general overview of the issues at hand, and follow up with an intuitive spread to focus in on a specific situation where required.

celtic-cross1

The Celtic Cross is an old and trusted spread which gives a good background to a second spread.

Card 1 – the central issue (what’s uppermost in the client’s mind at present.)

Card 2 – Crossing card (what’s blocking or unhelpful in relation to the central issue)

Card 3 – What lies below is the foundation, or background of the central issue. Can lie quite far in the past, or be quite recent.

Card 4 – What lies behind – the influences now receding into the past

Card 5 – What lies above – possibilities. This may not happen, depending on the client’s actions.

Card 6 – What lies before: influences coming into the client’s life now.

Card 7 – The client him or herself – the main qualities at the moment

Card 8 – The environment, world around the client

Card 9 – Hopes and fears, desires

Card 10 – Outcome

This spread can be followed by the Three by Three spread – which I use to offer the client a choice between specific questions, or different aspects of his or her life. I’ll post the Three by Three in my next post on Tarot Spreads.

Tarot Card Meanings – The Major Arcana

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In our consideration of Tarot Card Meanings, the journey of the Major Arcana is the path of spiritual self-awareness, each card symbolising not only the choices we meet along the way, but also – deeper and wilder – the archetypes that underpin each stage, which can be seen as degrees of initiation. The earliest mystery religions would have had similar initiatory stages; for example, the twenty-two steps in the rites from the Egyptian Book of the Dead contain fascinating parallels.

The path to self-realisation is not easy and can be fraught with danger. At each step we have to confront, and transcend, our fears. At times we may think we are functioning on a high level of awareness, and discover later that our ego has been deceiving us. Or we may become so involved with our inner life that we lose touch with reality altogether.

xxi_world-sm

The Major Arcana provides us with staging posts, which illustrate some of the possibilities and perils along the way:

0 The Fool. The path begins with the new-born babe, eyes wide in wonderment from the memory of the time before this. We understand little of what we see, but still have access to an innate wisdom.

I The Magician is the child, learning to manipulate the world and its elements. Along the way, we will lose the natural, unconscious sense of connection with the Infinite, but for a while we take that connection and its phenomenal power for granted.

II The High Priestess can be seen as the young adult, conscious of the veil between the worlds, and still able to move between the two at will. At this time we become conscious of a complementary part of ourselves, the animus or anima2; and the need to find our soul partner.

III The Empress represents the fully-functioning sexual adult, her fruitfulness and orgiastic pleasure in nature reflecting our wish for love and connection. It refers to parenthood, the wonder of our own children; and our relationship with our mothers.

IV The Emperor. We live in a patriarchal society, and part of the journey is to be in relationship to that society, with all its faults and problems. We may work within it, or rebel against it, but either way we all have first-hand knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the masculine and all its works. The Emperor reflects our place within society and our attitude to authority, as well as the relationship with our fathers.

V The Hierophant. The spiritually attuned masculine is an archetype to which we easily relate, no doubt because of the concept of a masculine god. We often wish for a wise adviser, an impartial guide who can help us in our confusion, without realising the wisdom accessible within us.

VI The Lovers. This is the time of choice, where we are asked to choose between our prospective partner and our parents – or, more generally, a choice between growth and stasis, the gateway into conscious adulthood. Every time we encounter life’s challenges we face a choice: do we engage with it – or turn away? Sometimes, turning away is the wisest course. The Lovers is therefore also about developing discernment.

VII The Chariot represents the forging of our will upon the world. It is about the ego and the persona – the masks we don in order to function successfully. We have learnt to repress what we consider to be our less socially acceptable aspects. These will appear in dark moments as depression, shame, irrational anger and fear.

VIII Justice: The first stirrings of inner wisdom are encountered in Justice, with her objective gaze and discerning mind. Through her clear vision, we see ourselves acting out unconscious drives, and our innate sense of justice now realises the implications of our decisions and actions on others. We see the profound personal implications of truth and untruth, integrity and expediency and understand how this impacts on ourselves and others. It is time to decide what to retain in our lives – and what to cut out.

IX With The Hermit we have made a fateful decision: we must turn away from the world, to the unknown depths within us. The material things of the world no longer answer our needs, and the soul’s call can no longer be denied. However, there is no route map for this journey; we can only follow the faint flicker of intuition, into the dark.

wheel

X The Wheel. At this stage we may feel a profound change in alignment caused by our decision to look inwards. Instead of resisting, or riding roughshod over our needs and dimly-sensed dreams, we now sense the flow of existence. We see ourselves drawn into the current, moving slowly in to the centre.

XI Strength. A real test of our new resolve is how we deal with our first encounter with the Shadow. This is what Freud called the id, the instinctive urges, child-like passions and desires of the unconscious . In Strength we learn to communicate, to negotiate, persuading our Id to work with us rather than against us. We choose integrity and maturity rather than instant gratification.

XII The Hanged Man. The self-awareness gained through Strength and its disciplined expression of self-love stands us in good stead when we realise that, in following the inner path, we need to reverse all previous certainties. Now all we can do is to hang in mid-air, waiting for illumination and wisdom. If we can stay with this encounter with the Infinite, we will emerge with a hard-won wisdom.

XIII Death. This is death of the old self, and a shamanic initiation into a new world. We stand on the threshold of a profound rebirth, though the way is guarded by the fearsome figure of Death of the old self. The alchemic fires flay off our masks and armour, stripping the soul to its core.

XIV Temperance: After surviving that dread dismemberment, angelic Temperance appears to show us how to survive – by gently, lovingly, tempering (mixing) the different aspects within us. If previously we jumped into action without thinking, we now learn to act after considered thought; if we over-intellectualise, we now modify that with feeling or intuition. The sensory urges can also be balanced with feeling and awareness.

XV The Devil. After our first encounter with the Shadow in Strength, we might consider ourselves capable of anything. But in The Devil we come face to face with the collective shadow, as well as our own unrecognised darkness, mirrored in the people around us. If we take the easy way out through justification and denial, we find ourselves imprisoned in the unconscious patterns of the past. To face these patterns, take back the projections and own our worst aspects, requires extreme courage and honesty.

XVI Often it takes the intervention of The Tower to help us see our lives clearly, and to break free. The divine lightning bolt blasts through our defences and preconceptions, destroying outdated ideas, searing us to the core. Nothing can remain the same after that profound light.

XVII The Star. When we are able to see again, we realise that one faint light remains: the inner light of the soul. We have walked through the darkest night and survived. The star, rising over the sea, shows us how we can be: washed clean, delicate, an integral part of creation.

XVIII The Moon. Still the tests are not over. In The Moon we encounter the beautiful, deceptive light of the collective psyche. We either withstand its seductive power – or lose ourselves in its perilous attraction.

XIX With The Sun, we at last feel the warmth, and see the brilliance of the divine light. The twin aspects of the Self – masculine and feminine, conscious and unconscious, body and spirit – innocent as children, can grow to adulthood free and joyful, protected from the full force of the sun within the enchanted garden of the soul.

XX In Judgement, the Sun twins have grown to adulthood, and their union has birthed a new soul, the divine Child. Now all three figures rise out of the dark, containing earth and move upwards into the ineffable light of the Divine Source.

XXI In The World, all opposites are finally united and transformed in an alchemic marriage: unconscious, conscious, higher consciousness; future, present, past. This is the treasure of great price, the place of integration, of love, acceptance and pure, transcendent self-knowledge.

O The cycle of existence is completed by the second appearance of The Fool, as cosmic consciousness and the return to innocence.