How old is the Tarot, the desk of painted cards that enumerate every experience in life?
Even that is in doubt, and up for discussion. Are they originally from Ancient Egypt, or simply a product of the Italian Renaissance? I honestly don’t know, and neither does anyone else, not in any certain way.
In this respect, the Tarot is like religion…is there really a God? When was the bible written, and by whom? Is Goddess-Worship the most ancient religion in the world, or a modern construct that builds on a group of fragile artifacts from around the globe.
The Tarot, like religious belief, exists and just is.
There are thousands of designs, and once again, nobody knows what the original paintings might have been. The first desk, the ‘learning’ deck, is generally the ‘Waite’ deck, due to the simplicity of the design and ease of interpretation. Also, I believe the ‘Waite’ deck actually as the most universal emanation; it is thus the easiest way for novices to tap into the energy of the Tarot.
Many people who follow patriarchal religious systems believe Tarot cards, like most occult symbols other than their own, are symbols of their ‘devil’. The rest of us believe they are many things besides divining tools; the images contained in the cards represent every possible experience in life, and are often used as meditation tools.
Tarot decks are as individual as the users; most move on from the Waite deck to something that speaks personally to them. When I was in my mid-20’s and had been reading cards for about seven years, I was still using the Waite deck and my photographer gave me a Crowley deck. Designed at the turn of the 20th century by infamous Golden Dawn leader and alleged Satanist Alastair Crowley, the deck is oversized and based on beautiful oil paintings.
It was presented to me in a teakwood box with a bronze rising sun. I tried using that deck for about ten years before I finally abandoned it; I hated it, and never resonated with it well.
I later learned that very few people do feel comfortable with that deck – I only ever knew two who were able to read well using those cards.
Over the next few years I investigated other decks, and I own five – it took me awhile to find what has become my favorite deck, The Shapeshifter. This deck has a view of life and the way we evolve that is very close to my feelings and beliefs; each card is of a woman or man or group of people, in the process of shape-shifting into an animal.
Readers frequently choose cards that represent themselves and the people they read for. I have always been represented by The Queen of Cups; this card drew me when I was still in my early 20’s, and I believe over the past twenty years I have been growing into myself and the qualities of this card.
In The Complete Guide to the Tarot, Eden Gray says about The Queen of Cups, “A woman who is able to put into practice what her visions decree.”
In addition, the general description of what the card means: “Success, happiness, pleasure are indicated.” But when a card is chosen to represent someone, that person must also face the negative aspects. In this case: “A perverse character. Intelligent but not to be relied on.” So when I chose The Queen of Cups as my indicator, I had to combat these qualities in myself. Strange just how accurate they were, during my early adult years.
In The Shapeshifter deck, The Queen of Cups is The God of Water: Manannan mac Llyr. In the picture on the card, he is shapeshifting into a sea serpent. Part of the explanation of this card in Shapeshifter Tarot, by D.J. Conway and Sirona Knight that when it is drawn, the subject must be open to emotional rewards and opportunities presented to you by influential older men.
There is much more than I have tried to implement in my life, but this particular passage has become of great importance to me over the course of the past seven months. I am working on incorporating all the values of this card into my life – kindness and liberality, giving and receiving emotional comfort and love; generosity, personal commitment, loyalty, unconditional love and divine rapport.
My business partner and long-time friend Sandra (who writes this column every other month) chose The Queen of Swords as her indicator when we were in our 20’s as everyone chooses, without knowing the meaning of the card itself, simply on the images it presents.
She chose it because the Queen looks strong, and in control, as if she will repel invaders to her turf, and protect those she loves with her sword.
This has always been Sandra’s stance on life. We were surprised at some of the other characteristics of the card, as described in A Complete Guide to the Tarot: “A subtle, keen and quick-witted woman who may represent a widow or one who is unable to bear children”. Wow, heavy stuff for a very young woman.
It wasn’t until we were in our mid-30’s that Sandra really understood that meaning; fortunately her husband Tom is still with her after twenty years, but she was unable to bear children.
That was a shock; when she chose the card, she didn’t know she had a congenital heart defect that meant one of the valves didn’t pump correctly, and by the time it was diagnosed she’d suffered too many painful miscarriages.
So, are we instinctively drawn to the one card that will point the way for us? How does the unconscious know this?
In the Shapeshifter deck, the Queen of Sword is the God of Fire: Lugh. The traditional positions of the Queen and King are reversed in this deck. And the prophecy of choosing this card also applies to Sandra’s last year.
Since I started using the shapeshifter deck, the explanations of the cards within this deck started to come true for our indicators. For Sandra it says, “The seeker will come before our consult a person of authority who, if approached in the proper manner, can give wise advice on troubling issues.
This person can be a spiritual advisor, judge, attorney, government official, or anyone in a position of authority and power.” Just as for me, this concerns two men who are helping us rebuild our business after a devastating three-year association with a company in Ireland that bankrupted us.
It goes on to say, “The seeker may discover reservoirs of power within that can aid in situations calling for an outward appearance of fearlessness and strength”. That certainly describes our situation in July of 2006, when we finally ended that disastrous collaboration and were forced to go forward in a difficult business with almost no capital or reserves left.
While it is traditionally a court card that is chosen for a life indicator, any of the cards in the deck can be chosen. A major arcana card is sometimes selected, although the subject needs to know that even though major arcana cards carry a lot of power and assistance, they are unrelenting in their descriptions and unyielding in their needs.
I personally wouldn’t want one for an indicator, even though I am thrilled to have some of them in a reading, since they signal major steps in life.