Tuesday, September 23, 2014

All on the table


There has been several quantum leaps in my ability of working with the Tarot. I have talked about some of them on this blog (such as hand coloring a Tarot deck); others I have not (such as initiation rituals involving specific Tarot cards).

One of the skill leaps I have not talked about yet (at least, I do not think that I have written about it yet on this blog) is the study of a card using examples from multiple decks.

About eighteen years ago, I took a Tarot class at Herbs and Arts (a Denver occult shop); the class was taught by Timothy (I have no clue what his last name is).

Part of the instructions for the Tarot class was to bring our favorite Tarot deck. Out of eight students, there were no duplicate decks. As we moved from card to card, Timothy would have us pull that card out of our decks, placing them in the center of the study circle where everyone could see them.

At some point during the class, I came to the realization that most differences in opinion about the possible meanings of a Tarot card were based on the differences between the pictures used to illustrate the cards and the parts that readers chose to focus on. (Years later, another teacher, Pat Zalewski, would point out that the pictures used in the Tarot were the most important part--otherwise we could get away with using a deck with just the astrological and kabbalist correspondences on them.)

As a result of the insights I gained during the class, I used the same teaching method ("put all the different versions on the table and study them as a set") when I took on students on my own.

I also developed the habit of not neccessarily seeing the card from the deck that I am using. Occasionally when reading the Tarot, in my mind's eye, I will see a version of the card from a different deck. It makes for an interesting time as a Tarot reader.

A small bunch of magician cards--just a small sample of my Tarot collection. 
For instance, let's say that we were studying the Magician card. In this photo, we have Magician cards from several different decks (representing about half to a third of my personal collection of Tarot decks). They vary from the historical stage performer (sleight of hand artist) to the ceremonial magician practicing real magic (magick if you are a Thelemic). One can pull the standard meanings of skill and deception and self-mastery from the cards as one will.

But there is a version that is slightly different (the censored one), where the magician is working on an erotic monster. (The monster has private parts...something that I decided to conceal...because polite people never talk about sex.) And it is from this version (and not the three versions from the Crowley deck) that I am reminded that magicians are sometimes guilty of creating their own sexual nightmares (haven't we all had that sexual partner that turned into a stalker?!) and warped realities.

Is that last possible reading true for the archetype of the magician? I will leave it to your judgment on whether or not, it fits in with the other possible meanings of the magician card. All I know is that if I am reading the Tarot and that version of the card appears in my mind's eye, I am leaning towards a nightmarish reading of the card.

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14 comments:

Olivia Destrades said...

Yes! This is why I love working with a variety of decks, even if in the end I tend to prefer a few over the rest. Each version of a card offers something special that seems to help fill out the entity of each archetype. I enjoyed this topic for the Hop as well, so thanks for that - it's wonderful reading what everyone has to say!

Bridgett Blessings said...

A brilliant way to teach the cards really. I also teach this way. Blessed Mabon.

pureblessedtarot said...

I'd not considered that take on the Magician before... but it's certainly interesting and something I'll keep in the back of my mind... I wonder when he'll appear next...mmmm....

Ania said...

"Haven't we all had that sexual partner that turned into a stalker?!!!
ummm, no! LOL :)

Vivianne said...

Using different decks adds layers :)

Alison said...

I use this multi-card approach in my blog - nice to see it talked about in such an erudite fashion here!

Alison Cross said...

Great idea! The first time I used a variety of decks was when I ran into the Comparative Tarot deck Back In The Day - it's a really useful technique in squeezing out every last possible interpretation and helping get to grips with a tricky new deck!

Ali x

thecrazyangmoandhisangrywife said...

Fascinating! Both the post and the magician and sex...hahaha!

XxJo Ash

Joy Vernon said...

This was an awesome topic, Morgan! Thank you! Also, I totally do that too--read whatever version of the card pops up in my head regardless of which deck is on the table. :-)

Carla Tate said...

I do the same thing! I often picture the same card from a different deck when I'm reading. :)

Tarot By Arwen said...

I tend to use the RWS as my starting point then layer in other decks. Very excellent blog!

Deirdre Doran said...

I love the idea of studying the Major Arcana archetypes by comparing different decks. This also gives me a great excuse, erm, I mean REASON, to buy some more decks :). I almost always see the RWS image in my head, not matter what deck I'm using. I'm still pondering whether this is beneficial or limiting.

Inner Whispers said...

Ha ha, I mentioned something very similar, with the old Comparative Tarot list :) For myself, I had five decks before I even finished my first beginner's course. Well, I am a double gemini ;) And yes, again, to the seeing different versions in my head sometimes during a reading :D

Joanne Sprott said...

Hi, Morgan. Getting around to the last of the blog hop posts finally. Excellent insights on the use of multiple decks to find different layers of meaning (including sexual ones!). I tend to stick to the interpretation called by the deck I use, but this idea of allowing other decks' cards to join the interpretation party in my head is a great one. :)