Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cards On The Table

Growing up in a Mennonite milieu, so to speak, tarot was definitely of the devil. No two ways about it. They were over there on the unmistakable far extreme of badness, exceeding even the sinfulness of drink and Star Wars movies. I, goody-two-shoes first-born by my own lights, subscribed to this entirely. I wouldn't touch 'em, wouldn't look at 'em, and prayed for my hell-bound friends who played with these things without due regard for their flammable nature.

And then there was this night, pretty tame by most people's standards I'm sure, when I went out driving about town with a bunch of theatre-people and found myself seated at a table in front of a deck of tarot cards. Right there in front of me! I was having a good time being rebellious and tossed caution to the winds. The dealer dealt. I really have no idea what the cards said, but I do know that no one at the table spontaneously combusted. Not even me. I figured if God was going to smite anyone it would be me, since I was well aware of the sinfulness I was indulging in, unlike the heathens I'd surrounded myself with. But I didn't even smoke at the ears. Apparently there was a little less "fraught" required concerning tarot than I'd imagined.

Still, I didn't want to take any unnecessary chances, so for the next couple decades I gave the tarot a pretty wide berth.

Last year while I was researching some artistic works, I tripped over a very artsy tarot deck. Honestly, at this point I couldn't tell you which one it was, but I was very impressed at the time. I started looking up other decks to compare. Several of them were extremely beautiful. Some were superfluously strange. Many were "mystic" of the purple flowing robes and glowing green eyes variety. I was surprised at how many decks there are, and how much work goes into the design.

I don't know the deck well at all. I'd recognize a few of the cards, I guess, but most of them are too far removed from my everyday stories to lodge in my head. I know nothing of their significance or how they're dealt. I'm very curious though. I wonder how people use these, and why, and if they find it helpful. I'm not particularly drawn to them myself as an aid to getting through life, but I've had several clients mention that they use them, or go for readings with someone else.

What really surprised me was to find out that in Europe they were also used as game cards! Huh! The prohibition against card-games in evangelical circles made a lot more sense when I read that.

It's a strange old world. There are many things I know not of.

There you go. I just blogged about tarot cards. If I go up in flames in the night, don't expect a post tomorrow.


clairesgarden said...

keep a fire-blanket close by just in case.
the cards can be very beautiful, I have a friend who will give you a reading with them but she waits till she is asked.

CG said...

the hillbilly seers I grew up knowing used a plain deck of playing cards most often. Jo, my favorite (wonder if she is still alive, from KY and used to come to the local beauty salon to read for people) insisted that you bring a deck that only you had ever touched.

I'm not much into newfangled decks, preferring the Ryder/Waite because they get the symbolism correct. Not that each person cannot create his own divination system also. Anyway, there is a free tarot reading program on the web that produces surprisingly insightful readings. I get there by googling "free tarot".

Shadowmoss said...

I enjoy the cards for the trends or stages in life they represent. The Major cards delineate in (I think, it's been a few years...) 21 cards the steps that a life (project, relationship) go through. Interesting study, and thought provoking to attempt to tell where one is in the process. The 4 suites break life (project, relationship) into 4 distinct parts, and the stages of each. So, a reading can give a multifaceted look at where one is. For me, it's not so much that the 'cards' KNOW. It's the thought process I have from looking at things from the angles presented in the reading. If you only read the Major cards to see what the 21 stages are it can be worthwhile to see the philosiphy involved.

Madcap said...

Huh. I'm glad I asked, and I'm glad to have heard from you all about it. I've always wondered if the randomness of the cards is a lot like the randomness of dreams. I pay a lot of attention to those.


I grew up with tarot cards, palm reading, crystal balls, etc., being something of a common site and/or reference. My mom frequented "fortune tellers" in a nearby city and, on occasion, I was brought along for whatever reason--too young to stay home alone, etc. Who knows why, but the whole psychic affair was part and parcel of my vernacular growing up. I received some "readings" along the way, too. My mom also practiced doing tarot readings for others on occasion. She said it was “encouraged” by a fortune teller, who became a good friend, who would say that she didn’t know why my mom came to see her because she had the same psychic “powers.” My mom professes to have ESP and, candidly, I'm inclined to believe her given my experiences with her along these lines. As for me, I have no sixth sense as such and I'm glad for it. It seems to be something of a burden. She claims that she was born with some sort of veil of skin over her face, which had to be peeled off and supposedly denotes a psychic ability. The whole ESP arena from my experience engages, whether knowingly or not, in syncretism. For the most part I suspect it’s harmless, but it’s rather superfluous to me now. Now, the one thing I won’t touch with a ten-foot pole is a Ouija board. I think messing with one of those things is potentially inviting serious trouble.

Madcap said...

It does become a strange world. I never know what to think of it. On one hand, I don't like to discount anything, because the world is wide and there's so much we don't understand. And on the other hand, things can get pretty flaky and self-absorbed.

Had to look up "syncretism", btw. You've added to my vocabulary tonight.