Tuesday, November 26, 2013

WHAT IS TAROT ? Part Two

What is Tarot ?

In Part 1 I tried to provide a bit of background to the cards, and how they evolved into an esoteric medium. Tarot Marseille, I argued, is the 'mother' of all esoteric Tarot, not Waite, which came along much later and was inspired by the Marseille. So when I talk Tarot, you can assume I mean Marseille, not any other. 

People who get interested in Tarot often start with a more visually descriptive deck. Of course, readers need to be comfortable with their deck, choose one that speaks to them, but the intuition can be manipulated by imagery that gets too literal. Then we get into predicting scenarios, which I think is not the true purpose of Tarot. Like the  story that begins 'Once upon a Time..., " Tarot allows the reader and querent to step outside of linear time and into circular or unconscious/dream time. But to make solidified future predictions is to be stuck in linear time, creating self-fulfilling prophesies. I had to stop doing 15 dollar tea room readings, because it was really lowering my frequency, having to explain to folks that they actually had to do the work if they wanted to expect certain outcomes - that it isn't all just fated so we can skip chapters to find out how the book will end. 
Similarly, we ought to avoid pinning concrete associations to the trump archetypes. The only things we can be certain of are that they are symbolic, their numbers are significant, and that they are 'keys'...keys to what ? That's for you to find out. 
The linear thinker will have a problem with the possibility of a card meaning many things. They want it to mean one thing, so that when it comes up in a reading, there is no question (that said, many readers have come to associate meanings to individual cards out of experience, which is different). There are many books available that provide these kind of guidelines, but it is ultimately Tarot itself, not the books, that will open you up to it's teachings. 

As I said, the images are keys. Keys to the doors of your own unconscious as well as the greater, collective unconscious. Tarot illustrates the cycles of everything in our Earthly experience, so we can use them to unlock whatever our soul or cell memory is storing, be it a memory from childhood, the future, or the dawn of creation. Sounds lofty, I know, but it's a bit like realizing everything is composed of fractals or mathematical equations. The numbers are keys to the keys. The plethora of associations gets narrowed down when you group the cards and look at their relationship to each other, in the context of a spread.

Let's take a look at an individual card and free-associate...


Older Marseille Star and 'restored' Camoin-Jodorowsky version. 
Word play is another 'hint' found in some Marseille trumps - 
The Star and The Fabric (fabric of life ? veil ?)

Possibly my favourite trump is 17, The Star. I see it as the expression of grace, or a state of grace, which all of us are born in. A naked woman kneels by a flowing body of water, mixing the waters of life, perhaps her proverbial water is breaking. Above her is a divided, eight-pointed star, surrounded by seven smaller stars. The eight-pointed star was Inanna/Ishtar to the ancient Mesopotamians, later Venus. The Pleiades, or 'Seven Sisters' is where the Australian aboriginals, likely the first humans on the planet, say they came from. Sirius, the brightest star in the sky is also the sacred star of Isis, the Mother Goddess, daughter of the Earth and the Sky. 


Fernand Le Quesne, La Toile d'Araignee 1892

One can easily find Egyptian refs in this image; Isis, Sirius, the flooding of the Nile, the Ibis, Seshat (wife of Thoth) who was essentially the record keeper -"Seshat opens the door of Heaven for you." The emblem she wears on her head looks like a seven-pointed star or leaf (or fountain ?) inside a breast. That might be her ibis husband in the tree. Osiris is cast into the river in a coffin on the 17th day of a month, Odysseus floated on a raft for 17 days, after leaving Calypso. In Greece, it is considered best to cut timber for boats on the 17th day of a month. Both Greek and Islamic philosophers noted the importance of 17, in music, the creation of the material world and number of faculties of the soul. So much reference in just this one, very simple image. (And I haven't even gotten into the colours !)


Seshat carved on the temple at Luxor

The number cycles  in Tarot can also be deciphered  a few different ways, with all roads leading to Rome; There are 3 cycles of 7, plus the Fool, or two cycles of 9, plus 3...there are pairs, groupings of 4, opposites, and so on.

Let's say 1-9 was the first cycle (i.e.  first path on the road to creation, individuation or initiation). There is then a split, with the onset of teen digits, that happens as we are becoming conscious, wherein we face the challenges of duality and relationship. As the Wheel of Fortune/Samsara turns in card 10, we can think of the 1 as the 'I' and whatever the second number means is now beside us, so we can look at it. 


   

Trumps 7, The Chariot and 8, Justice (Balance) - two types of equilibrium ?

In alchemy and mythology, there are 7 steps, veils, gates, chakras and what not, to pass through, open or cast off before entering heaven or reaching enlightenment. So we could say the 'I' or 1 in The Star is recognizing the divine in itself, for it is also the card which illustrates true self-esteem, not ego (that would be more the lower octave of 7, the Chariot). Numerologically, 17 reduces to 8, the number of Venus' eight-pointed star, cosmic order, perfection, Paradise, and, strangely enough, the material world. Heaven on Earth ? Eight is hugely important in sacred geometry and the construction of temples of both east and west. It's the most auspicious number, according to Feng Shui.


The Star, Ishtar

So the woman might be the Goddess of creation, in the beginning, or in a new beginning, after the total destruction and upheaval of card 16, The Tower. We can look at this universally (the dawn of the Age of Aquarius, the Water-Bearer, bringer of floods, only fixed sign which is a human, a scientific age and a possible age of enlightenment) or as a stage one's personal life, were it to come up in a reading, Then we'd have to view it in context, in relation to the other cards around it, as part of a whole story. 

It helps strengthen one's intuition and ability as a reader, I think, to meditate on and research the imagery and numerical significance of the cards. Once it all sinks in, you can forget it, otherwise it will be too much left-brainy intellect getting in the way. But the point is that, Tarot will connect you to all the stories and their many plots and outcomes, which are, after all, just being replayed, reread, rewritten, over and over and over again, in the present moment. Tarot is no less than a vehicle for our own journey to consciousness... either that, or it's just a deck of cards.



Theda Bara reading playing cards, the old way 


Side note: Some of  you astute people will have deduced that the cards have Roman numerals, so therefor, how can we speak of the number '17' in it's Arabic form for numerology's sake ?
It helps to know that Arabic numerals were, by they time this deck came out, widely in use, so it's not much of a leap to see it's simply  another hidden bit of information to unravel.



I'll resume doing private readings in 2014...taking a break.
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