I first discovered Tarot in the Marlo Book Store in Philadelphia when I was a little kid. Each week, my mom or my dad would take me to the bookstore to browse. I was allowed to pick out one book to take home to my growing library which, at the time, mostly consisted of Nancy Drew books. My dad wanted me to read stuff like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn but the classics just didn’t interest me. I wanted to solve mysteries just like Nancy. I wanted to use my intuition and my hunches just like she did.
Ever since I can remember, I knew things. My family always thought I eavesdropped on their conversations but that wasn’t the case. My grandparents would speak in Yiddish so I couldn’t understand. But, I did understand. I could feel and understand the vibration of their thoughts. When I was young I would blurt stuff out so they knew I was on to them. The nerve of them trying to keep secrets from me! I was learning that I was an intuitive. Who knew from psychic or intuitive in those days? No one in my family for sure. According to my grandmother, I was “disturbed”. A ritch in kop. A real meshugah. I think she was just pissed at me because I didn’t like her kugel.
Each time I saw the tarot cards sitting in their display on the cash register counter at the bookstore, I had the strongest urge to pick them up and hold them. I was mesmerized by the red and yellow image of the Magician on the front of the Rider-Waite tarot deck. It was a like a magnet for me. I wanted to open the package and unlock the mysteries that I intuitively knew were hidden there. The Magician beckoned to me each and every time I went to that store. Some day, I would know what this mysterious card deck was.
I bought my first tarot deck with my babysitting money when I was about 12. I was very excited but I knew that my parents would disapprove. (My intuition was pretty sharp by then. I always knew when my mother was going to be angry with me hours before she actually got angry. Raw talent, right?) I hid the cards in my room and only took them out when no one was home.
The deck came with a little booklet that explained the meaning of each card and how to do a “spread.” (a spread is a pattern of cards laid out for the reading) I learned that the “Diviner” is the person reading the cards and the “Querent” is the person who is seeking answers. Obviously giving myself a reading was going to be challenging so I improvised. I learned the meaning of the cards by role-playing. (yep, basically talking to myself) I set up two seats at my desk. One was for the diviner (me) and the other would be for the querent (also me). I had some of the mostly lively conversations with myself moving back and forth between the seats!
I went to the library every week to study and learn. The Tarot was my secret and I didn’t want to bring the books home. I could just hear my grandmother babbling, “call the Jewish Family Service. That child needs counseling!” Huddled between the massive shelves, to avoid the disapproving looks of the librarians, (I’m sure they were church ladies) I poured over every book I could find on the subject of tarot and divination. I was fascinated. I wanted to better understand the mystery of these things as well as my own intuition.
Thought to originally be known as Trionfi as well as Tarocchi, Tarot is a deck with 78 cards. Tarocchi was a game which originated in Europe some time in the 14th century, although researchers have not been able to put an accurate date on the true origin of the cards. There is still a lot of friction between historians and readers not only as to the origin but also as to the purpose of these cards. Many believe and, there is evidence to suggest, that Tarot was a game like modern-day Bridge and not used for divination.
There are a large variety of tarot card decks. I use the Rider-Waite deck, which originated in the late 19th century and was commissioned by A.E. White. It’s the most widely used deck in the world. I find that I resonate the most with this deck. It’s the one I was drawn to as a child.
Contrary to what some believe, Tarot is not evil. This is just another story that the church boogeymen invented to control their flock. The cards themselves do not hold any mysterious powers. They can’t inflict harm or call forth evil spirits. The cards are rich in symbolism that reflect thoughts and actions in our subconscious mind. One object in the card could have a multitude of meanings depending on the questions you are asking. Tarot and your intuition work hand in hand. Without your intuition you might as well just read the meanings from a book. Your intuition opens you up to all the possibilities, wonder and lessons that the cards hold. This is where the true power of the Tarot comes in. It teaches us to be open to signs that the Universe sends us. The Tarot is an opportunity to connect to your spirit guides and is also a wonderful tool for self learning. The Tarot can help you deal with life’s struggles and lessons. The cards can give you insight to situations so that you can make positive choices as certain events crop up in your life. Sometimes, just knowing what is coming can be enough to change your path.
Care should be taken to protect your psychic energy when using Tarot. Any time a connection is made with the spirit world, there is a possibility for low-level energies to come through. This can happen with Tarot or any other “tool” that is used for divination. These things shouldn’t be “played” with. Tarot is not a game. It is a doorway to spirit through your own intuition and an opportunity for insight, knowledge and growth. Using the cards properly can be an amazing experience.
The cards do not “predict” events but rather, can provide insight into likely scenarios. FREE WILL is the TRUMP CARD of Tarot. Once we learn the possibilities that the Tarot can help us recognize, we can use the wonderful gift of free will that God gave us in order to make the best decision for ourselves. Nothing is ever set in stone with this wonderful gift. We always have a choice. A card reading should never be thought of as a “seal of fate.”
The deck consists of both the Major and Minor Arcana. The Major Arcana are 21 numbered cards and one unnumbered card (The Fool). These cards are the keys to our initial understanding of the Tarot mysteries. They can hold deep and meaningful lessons. They deal with the human condition and represent all the joys and sorrows a person can ever experience in their lifetime. The cards are a reflection of our lives although it takes much more than just looking into the mirror of the Tarot to understand the guidance it can provide to us. The imagery of the Major Arcana is filled with wisdom from a variety of archetypes, cultures and traditions. These include Egyptian, Hebrew as well as Christian. The Major Arcana speaks to us of life changing events. It speaks of karma and the laws of the Universe. When Major Arcana cards turn up in your reading, pay attention! You are being offered a gift of universal guidance at it’s finest.
The Minor Arcana consists of 4 suits – cups, wands, swords and pentacles. Each suit relates to a different element.
The suit of cups represent water which translates to emotions and feelings.
The suit of wands represent fire which is inspiration, energy flow and spirituality.
The suit of swords represents air – power, intellect, thoughts.
The suit of pentacles represents earth, money/finances, material goods and possessions in the physical world.
The Minor Arcana represent and reflect daily living and not necessarily issues that would impact our lives as a whole. They represent circumstances that pass quickly. They provide us with opportunities to learn to deal with every day issues so they don’t have long-term effects on our lives. Each suit contains fourteen numbered cards – ace through ten and four court cards; page, knight, queen and king.
BY the time I was 16, I had a pretty good grasp of the cards and felt very comfortable with them. I learned how to do self readings without appearing like a paranoid schizophrenic. I simply choose a card to be the significator (me) and asked the tarot those things I needed to know about myself and my surroundings.
Years later, when I was going through a divorce, I became the neighborhood pariah. There was no such thing as privacy in row house living, especially in a Jewish neighborhood. I was sitting in my living room doing a Tarot spread for myself. The cards were laid out on the table in front of me and I was completely engaged in my own reading. I had a white candle burning which is something I still do today as part of my protection ritual. (Now don’t go getting freaked out on me because I used the word “ritual, [Ritual is a perfectly safe word that Webster defines as “always done in a particular situation and the same way each time] although, I do realize the macabre images that can come to a person’s head when they hear that word in occult circles.
So there I was at my table, asking the Tarot over and over if my ex was going to die anytime soon, (JUST KIDDING! The Tarot DOES NOT predict death nor does it want to be asked questions ad nauseam) when my nosy neighbor walked in. Of course she was the biggest yenta on the block and, she happened to know my grandmother very well. She looked at me and then looked at the table. She looked at me again, stammered something I couldn’t understand and actually backed out of my house. If she wasn’t Jewish I’m sure she would have whipped out her Rosary and blessed herself. I couldn’t imagine the Bubbe Maiseh she was going to tell today. It wasn’t long before I got the expected call from my grandmother.
Grand-mom: Dana, what have you got yourself mixed up in now?
Me: (sighing heavily) What are you talking about?
Grand-mom: A little birdie told me you were doing black magic.
Me: Little birdie?
Grand-mom: Never mind. Is nisht. She said you had an altar in your house with candles burning and you were chanting.
Me: Altar? Chanting? Not even close. Grand-mom, that isn’t true. I was…….
Grand-mom: (rudely interrupting as usual) If only your father listened to me and took you for counseling when you were a kid but, that’s neither here nor there now. I’m coming over with the rabbi this afternoon. He wants to talk to you. We’re staying for dinner. Go get some paper plates because I’m bringing kosher food. Eating from your unclean kitchen he shouldn’t have to do!
Me: Well, I suppose I’m not going to stop you. Just give me an hour or so. I have to clean up the dead chickens on the altar.
Life happens and things change. I met Al and we eventually married. My spiritual journey took a new turn. I decided to walk on a path filled more with biblical study rather than spiritualism. My well-meaning husband helped me to twist my thinking to the point that I felt I should put the tarot cards away for a while and concentrate on dogma. Okay, I’ll give it a whirl. Always the extremist, I decided to burn the cards rather than just putting them in a drawer.
The odor of the burning cards in the house was completely overpowering. We had to go outside. Of course it had to be a breezy day in May. People living in rows and rows of houses in my neighborhood had their windows open. I watched the smoke turn black and billow all around. It was so thick I could barely see Al although I could hear him choking and sputtering. The air smelled like an explosion at a chemical plant. Neither of us had thought about the plastic coating on the cards. I was having regrets. Why was I doing this? I felt so sad watching my cards go up in smoke. Tarot was something I loved. Tarot was something that helped me grow. Why was I going to stifle that? Was the Universe sending me a clear message here? A minute later, the fire department showed up. Crap. It was going to be fun explaining this one.
Once the fire was extinguished and all of the nosy neighbors went to call their nosy friends to gossip about my strange and twisted life, I asked myself why I couldn’t have both the tarot cards and God in my life at the same time? Why did there have to be one without the other? (It was piss poor planning that I didn’t think of this before setting fire to my driveway) I really tuned into my own inner GPS system for the answer. I realized that there was absolutely and unequivocally room for ALL things in the Universe. When I read Tarot, I ask for the highest good and the messages always come to me from my inner guidance system. Who is at the head of that system? God. God within all of us. It wasn’t necessary to take God out of the equation in order to study a different belief system. (“A belief is just a thought you just keep thinking” by the way) It was just the opposite. The cards were just another way to connect with the Divine and receive guidance on my path. Three days later, I was back at the bookstore buying a new deck. 🙂
Of course like anything else, tarot cards are often misused. However, if your reader is ethical he or she will not do you a dis-service by making things up or telling you things you want to hear just to get your money. There are readers like that out there, yes, but the tarot community is basically a group of wonderfully wise, ethical and loving people who truly want to help others find the “fault lines” in their life and work through their issues. One such community are the wonderful people involved with Biddy Tarot. I took a course with them a couple of years ago and learned so much. I met great people from all over the world. I highly recommend them for tarot readings as well as for learning.
I think one of the biggest things that people fear with Tarot is the Death card. The image can be frightening – a skeleton riding a white horse over a dead body. This card is actually one of my favorites. The Death Card does not literally mean the physical death of a person. This card is more about transformation and changes. It’s about endings that bring about positive new beginnings. Perhaps a “letting go” of something that no longer serves you or eliminating an excess that is hurting you. Because it’s a Major Arcana card it’s a “biggie” if it comes up in a reading. Something regarding the situation you are asking about needs some serious introspection.
An ethical reader will NEVER predict death. An ethical reader will never tell you there’s a “curse” on you and you have to pay money in order to have it removed. If a reader tells you these things or if you are given a “dark and scary” reading, please run in the other direction. The Tarot is meant to teach and enlighten – not to frighten. These are tarot cards not “terror cards.” Unfortunately, Tarot has often been given a bad name. There will always be false readers with their own negative energy and low vibrating agendas who will take advantage of people at the most vulnerable moments of their lives. Don’t be fooled. Knowledge is power.
I’ve been off of the “dogmatic” path for many years now although I am very grateful for the things I’ve learned.
A wise person once said, “you can’t know what you do want, if you don’t know what you don’t want. “ <3 <3 <3