Tarot, My Tarot: Part four of a series

my cards

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!

2 thoughts on “Tarot, My Tarot: Part four of a series

  1. The Missus introduced me to tarot; she, too, has done many readings (although — also like you — not recently). No idea what deck she has; she keeps it wrapped in black velvet in a wooden box on a bookshelf in the living room. Under certain conditions, if you squint at that corner of the room you can almost see the ripples of unresolved energy coming from it. 🙂

    Her interest in tarot induced me to pick up a book about it, maybe 20 years ago, and I included a tarot reading at a particularly important moment of the plot of a novel I was working on then. I had no pre-set notion of what I wanted the reading to say; I just “did a reading” myself — drew the cards and laid them out in the order and the positions which I then recorded in the story. And then I sort of free-associated what the reader herself was telling my character, as a result of having done that layout. It ended up slightly shifting what that character was up to in this passage through the storyline.

    As for ritual itself, I’m a big fan of it — right down to little habitual things like eating specific breakfasts on the same days of every week. It somewhat makes The Missus crazy, because she knows — and it is true — that I tend to prefer variety over sameness generally. But I think that time (I know I’m not the first and am far from the only one to say this) is a gift to us. Setting aside blocks of time throughout the day during which we do things in a structured way, despite their “irrelevance” to whatever else is going on just then, is a way of thanking time for its gift, of acknowledging, y’know, “Thank you for the hour just past, and thank you for the next hour.”

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