My mother and I had those topics we returned to again and again. One was the role of ritual in our daily lives.
Questions we tried to answer:
Was ritual (or spiritual practice or tradition) necessary?
What was ritual for?
Did ritual make a person happier? Healthier?
Was the lack of ritual a contributor to some of society’s ills?
How could you have ritual in your life if you didn’t believe in one god or many gods or higher powers of whatever kind? If you rejected current rituals, should you, could you, replace them? How?
How could you keep a ritual meaningful over time?
Where did good rituals come from? Could you just make one up without worrying about history or established symbolism?
Can you have ritual practice that doesn’t become a division? Us vs. them. Insiders vs. outsiders.
I’m paraphrasing a bit and leaving out plenty, but that gives you the gist. Because we both grew up in fractured families, with few or no traditions passed down from one generation to the next, we’d talk about the possibility of creating our own traditions and rituals. What could they be? How could we have something meaningful?
We didn’t come up with anything. When my mom died, I couldn’t welcome any holiday with something I’d always done. There is no, “My mom and I always did —- on such-and-such holiday or at whatever significant event.”
The only thing I have that comes close is something to remember my grandmother by. When I slice up an apple, I always cut the core across to reveal the “star” inside. I saw her do that, and now it is my tiny, thin connection to the time we had together.
But my mom did give me a deck of Rider-Waite Tarot cards when I was 14. It started me on a journey of investigating symbolism and collecting other cards. Art has always been my way into magic and the Tarot cards are another door.
Art that matters, art that you love, art that can stop you or make you think is magic. The artist used the power of image and color to speak to you. But whatever the artist meant, you the viewer decide what it means to you.
This is how I see Tarot cards–not that they will tell what to do next Monday or whether you should marry, but they give you a language to talk about the things on your mind and going on in your life. Pull a card of cups? Let’s talk about your happiness. Swords? Let’s talk about your quarrels.
My mom used to tell me that I could talk to her about anything. She also said that sometimes the easiest person to talk to was a stranger, and she’d understand if I preferred to talk about some things with someone else. When I read cards for people, I found this to be true. People want to talk about their lives, and there cards are one way to do so.
I haven’t read the cards in years, but I always liked the ritual of a reading. The agreement to sit together and to take the time to talk in a quiet, atmospheric space. The act of shuffling the cards and dividing the deck. The rhythm of placing the cards (I always used the Celtic method).
And while I loved explaining the cards’ imagery, I never wanted to tell people what to do. “This is just for insight into whatever is on your mind,” I’d say. “It’s not a solution to any problem. I’m not telling you what to do.”
Sometimes I think about making my own deck. I’ve wanted to for about forever. But it’s hard to know where to begin.
That’s so true about a great many things.
Thanks for reading!