Consulting the Tarot Cards for Guidance to Spiritual Enlightenment & Soul Health
readers have been consulted for spiritual guidance and life
direction by many health practitioners, spiritualists, feminist
historians, novelists, artists, film producers and aristocracy
for centuries. It is the great philosophical machine, a "map
to the psyche", and an ancient sacred text in the form
of cards. Many are skeptical until they experience the power
of a reading, and discover its profound spiritual teachings.
The Tarot is a set of seventy-eight images, which taken together,
depict all the forces that affect human life, along with all
the characters, events, emotions, and ideas that provide the
material of which human life is composed. This workshop will
introduce you to how these "archetypal Tinker toys",
function as self-awareness, transformational, and healing tools
that provide an interface between the realm of imagination,
and the material level of existence.
Kathleen has been reading Tarot professionally for 30 years
and teaching and lecturing on it in universities, colleges,
community centres, libraries, non-profit organizations and conferences
for almost that long.
What is the Tarot?
A Tarot deck consists of 78 cards- each one uniquely designed. These cards are usually divided up into 2 unequal parts, two sets of mysteries or secrets called Arcana. The Tarot is a historical artifact that amplifies natural powers of intuition to assist in uncovering and understanding aspects of past, present and future life. It is a set of archetypal images…
(Archetypes: “a fundamental and generative structure that eludes exact or exhaustive definition” Carl Jung; “things, an image, an idea, a pattern, which provoke a strong emotional response, yet can never be fully analyzed” Cynthia Giles) Examples of archetypes: Crone, Divine Child, Trickster, Magus.
…that can be used for meditation, creative thinking, personal development and spiritual growth. The Tarot is a collection of structures and ideas that summarize many fundamental principles of esoteric philosophy.
The Major Arcana represents opportunities for growth and expanded awareness, learnings for this world and reality, themes, messages, or basic universal issues. The great concepts stand alone; each one is a learning that we encounter in our lives. Many Taroists believe the Major Arcana depicts the myth of how humanity evolved from the primordial soup to the ordered, material realm we now inhabit.
Myths grow not, in soil of any particular place, but in the humus of humanity itself – it is the story of the breakthrough of the sacred into the world.
The Major Arcana depicts the human myth about how consciousness emerged/es from the sea of unconsciousness. Goddesses and Gods depict how we arrived from the unseen world to this seen world - unconsciousness being another word for the unseen world, and consciousness the seen world, suggesting that the birth of consciousness collectively also applies to each of us individually on the journey to enlightenment.
Minor Arcana is comprised of 4 suits of Ace to Ten and People cards – sometimes referred to as “court cards”. The people cards correspond with modern, clinical personality designations.
The Minors teach us a host of lessons, such as,
How to express our passion without being oppressive to others (Wands),
How to stand up for ourselves without violence (Swords),
How to be mindfully trusting and loving (Cups),
How to revel in our material abundance with an eye to assisting those less fortunate (Disks).
The essence of esoteric teachings, which have been taught to initiates since the dawn of time,
How the transformation of spirit to material took place collectively, and continues to unfold within each individual choosing to take the journey to enlightenment;
How the awareness and integration of the opposites within us – male/female, light/dark, ambition/sacrifice, attachment/letting go, moon/sun leads to wholeness, personal power and higher consciousness.
How the navigation, negotiation and acceptance of the polarities and magnetism, of destiny with character, and of individual with collective needs, carries us inevitably to the sacred experience of bliss,
How ultimately there is no “getting there” – enlightenment is NOT a Shangri-La at the end of a linear path – enlightenment is a spiraling path that leads to a centre, back out to the edge again, and back into the centre at a higher octave and so on.
The Fool’s Journey to Wholeness
Many Taroists subscribe to the notion that the Fool (number
0) is the protagonist of the journey to wholeness which is
mapped out in the Major Arcana. The Fool’s Journey to Wholeness
represents a psycho-spiritual map that initiates of the Tarot
follow to attain enlightenment. Enlightenment being a psychic
awareness of oneness, the cycles of birth, death and rebirth,
egoless-ness, love, and the balancing of energies – masculine/feminine,
black/white, chaos/order, nurturance/self care, love/fear,
movement/stillness, doing/being, sacred masculine/sacred feminine.
as all spiritual paths have prescribed tests that must be
successfully navigated for expanded consciousness, in preparation
for the ultimate state of wholeness, so does the Tarot. These
expanded states prepare the initiate’s consciousness to manage,
and contain the energy surges rising from the personal and
collective unconscious. As experienced Tarotists will testify,
this movement to expanded consciousness ever spirals around
and upward. You continue to expand beyond your first arrival
to wholeness – wholeness is a process, not a fait accompli!
In the beginning stages of learning the Tarot back in 1975,
I was initially struck by the “synchronicity” of how appropriate
the card would relate to events taking place in my life. At
some point, perhaps two or three months into my study, I was
confounded by the realization that this was more than synchronicity
– this was magic. In awe, I noted a resonance between my Majors
work, and my life events.
As I moved into teaching the Tarot it wasn’t long before I
noticed that my students were going through the same transformational
process in their lives; transforming life events dancing in
step with their journey to magical readership. Magical readership
is the kind of readership that gracefully and brilliantly
combines intuition with Tarot academia, empathy with self-awareness,
practicality with frivolity, and Yin with Yang.
Ffiona Morgan, author of the Daughters of the Moon states,
“There were times when I feared our intense transformational
process would prevent the tarot’s publication. Events in my
life and the environment threw boulders in my path at every
Morgan describes this same process happening to all the wimmin
involved in the Daughter’s of the Moon creation almost 30
years ago and many others have discovered this same phenomenon.
Additionally, readership is a profoundly relational activity.
Cynthia Giles, author of two excellent books on the Tarot,
points out in her work that women have traditionally been
the “fortune-tellers” while predominantly, males have Kinged
the presumably loftier positions as the academic esoterics.
The Journey to Magical Readership is
womyn’s journey to wholeness, magic, and enlightenment. 99%
of Tarot readers are wimmin and 99% of people who go to readers
are wimmin. I hear this everyday in my practice, “Why do you
think it is that only wimmin go to see a Tarot reader?” There
is no scientific evidence that women are more intuitive than
men – Ruth Crocker’s doctoral thesis – women’s ways of knowing
– creativity, non-linear thinking
The Emperor, the Hierophant, the Hermit, the Hanged Man, and
The Devil represent the masculine path but they tell a very
different tale to womyn. This is why I maintain that it is
crucial that Tarotists wishing to achieve magical readership
read only decks that are non-racist, non-sexist, non-classist,
and non-hierarchal; in effect that we favour only decks that
are inclusive. Magical Readership can only be attained with
the right tool! Another example is the work Alexandra Genetti
has done with the Wheel of Change Tarot. She has “feminized”
her interpretations of the Tarot (as have several before her
and since) which is exemplified in her interpretation of the
Chariot. Alexandra adds the importance of relationship at
this stage; an innovative and woman-centred adjustment to
the traditional Chariot divinatory meaning.
Chariot card impels us to discover the power within ourselves,
not by steamrolling those around us but by using our vital
energy toward solutions that are inclusive, productive, and
sustainable. These solutions drive the chariot of time to
a more beautiful world where respect, love and the natural
rhythms of life help us find equitable resolutions of human
problems.” Compared to the traditional interpretations which
stress individual, “Triumph over nature. Providence, war,
presumption, vengeance, riot, quarrel, defeat. Accomplishment,
readiness to move ahead, overcoming obstacles.”
How does the Tarot Work?
No one truly knows what happens to make Tarot readings relevant
and accurate predicters of fate. My theory is that, by deciding
to use the tarot cards, we contract with the universe (call
it divine inspiration, inner self, higher power, or whatever)
on a means of communication and a specific language - the
language of Tarot. Once you’ve chosen the tarot as your link
to the sacred, you then enter into a process that allows you
to get feedback and information from the universe through
the cards. In some way, the force of the universe, or of your
deepest, most knowing self, activates your autonomic nervous
system to shuffle, cut, and choose the cards that will clarify
or answer your questions.
What I do know is that the cards have worked consistently
for me, my clients, and my students over the course of 30
years. As long as they’re useful, I keep employing them.
How a Non-Initiate Can Make Use of the Tarot Cards
most of the life of humanity, the telling of stories was among
the most vital activities in society. Storytelling preserved
and passed along the wisdom and experience of the community
long before there were alphabets or books. Stories served,
too, in the initiation of imagination; children were awakened
to the truths of the heart and alerted to the traps of the
trickster soul hearing the deeply psychological stories we
today call myths, legends, fairy tales, or folk tales. Stories
were told and retold, embellished and adapted, by specialists
who combined prodigious memory with a creative sensitivity
to the fundamental elements of story.
In the second half of this workshop we’ll explore how the
Tarot functions powerfully as a springboard to generating
stories about you and your life.
Free-Writing and Journaling
You may use the Tarot as a springboard to journaling or free-writing
your lives as myths. Myths are about characters in the process
of transformation which pretty much describes all of us all
The Elements of a Myth
rdinary world from which you are beginning,
the call to adventure,
refusal of the call,
your allies, your obstacles,
finally, your return to the place from which you began -- but changed.
When we touch the mythic and archetypal level of the unconscious,
it releases immense energy into our lives – it can express
itself as a call – hook us up to a more inclusive frame of
reference – something bigger than ourselves
are the universal language and the language of the psyche
– they work beautifully for meditation. Pick a card that particularly
attracts you. Let your consciousness move inside the card
– see yourself in a 3 dimensional way inside the card. Look
around at the scenery around you, the other characters and
if you’re confident about performing active imagination, allow
a conversation to develop between you and the other characters.
Move within the card and note your feelings and sensations
and when return to your present reality, journal your experience.
I guarantee you will experience insights you will remember
for a lifetime!
Pick a card that irks you because of the way in which the
author has interpreted it. Use paint, collage, clay, material,
or any other medium to recreate the card the way you think
it should look. If you enjoy the process create a whole new
deck that you would feel comfortable working with!
Tarot images contain/create specific vibratory patterns that
can be applied directly to bodywork. Certainly the energy
resonance between Tarot reader and questioner has a very significant
effect on both parties.
One bodywork therapist and Tarotist, Mary Katherine Rose,
author of the Children’s Tarot, engages clients to draw a
Tarot card to create a “theme” for a therapeutic massage session.
The unconscious awareness of the specific needs of the body
are translated into conscious information through the process
of selecting a card. In turn, conscious awareness of the image
may be translated into synergistic amplification of the energy
manipulations achieved through the massage.
Deciding on Your Tarot Deck
500 decks on the market today – the classics, to specialized
I recommend that you be mindful in this area when choosing
your own deck – the symbols on your cards will affirm, validate,
and reinforce your unconscious/conscious assumptions, beliefs,
and attitudes about yourself, humanity, and transformation.
I always recommend to my initiates that they avoid decks depicting
uniquely white people in positions of light and power.
images of people represent the values and attitudes of the
people who have drawn them. The human image is likely the
most powerful of all the symbols used in the Tarot because
they act as mirrors of us and people in our lives.
You want to be mindful that your deck isn’t sexist depicting
only male images exemplifying a quality of control, command,
aggression, or leadership, and female images demonstrating
qualities of passivity, nurturing, submission, or receptivity.
The exclusion of other races besides Caucasian reinforces
the misconception that the Tarot (which reflects the pattern
of life) is only relevant to the white race. Some decks that
do include people of color, use their race to symbolize our
fears, and pains, our guilt, unknown depths, our uncontrollable
urges and our bondage or entrapment; i.e. The Devil, slaves,
or The Hanged Man. It is a spiritual and psychological imperative
that we conscientiously research the decks we are to employ,
watching carefully for the ways in which racism is being perpetuated,
either by the exclusion of people of colour or by their inclusion
in negative or violent imagery.
Since ancient times, the Tarot has been used by the ruling
class, occult initiates, and educated philosophers. The scholars
and nobles that developed the Tarot materials as we know them
today, depicted Emperors, Kings, and Popes. They drew on esoteric
philosophies, mystical teachings, classical works, and the
literature, history, and myths of many cultures. They saw
the Tarot as a tool to be used by the initiated or privileged
people who had the leisure and education to study and understand
the Tarot’s intricate maze of symbolism. Only in the twentieth
century has the Tarot become available for use by the general
Today we have an opportunity to de-mystify the Tarot. Some
authors are presenting interpretations that steer clear of
references to scholarly literature and avoid allusion to obscure
mythological or philosophical writings. They make clear that
the Tarot is a tool that is available to everyone. Many have
renamed the cards in an attempt to have the titles describe
the meanings of the cards instead of reflecting archaic social
Few people have perfectly proportioned bodies. In many Tarot
materials, people who are not “ideal” in their physical shape
or abilities are included only if they also point to poverty,
disaster, or misfortune. Many decks show us somebody’s concept
of a perfect person. To remain open and sensitive to the larger
universal energy we need to work with a divination tool that
projects imagery that is inclusive of all the peoples in the
Ageism is another issue that surfaces in some decks. Children
are the ones depicted as creative and energetically ready
to begin life with enthusiasm and faith. Young people are
seen as reckless, willing to take a few risks on the road
to adventure and experience. Middle-aged people are seen as
the sensible, mature leaders of society. Older people are
depicted as quiet but inactive sages.
Be mindful of the value judgments that the author has made.
You need to look carefully at the cards you choose to work
with and examine which of your own attitudes they represent
a Tarot deck containing symbolism that holds meaning for you
and looks good to you. Peruse several decks; then notice which
one you keep returning to. Pay special attention to the one
you think of when you wake up in the morning.
Be practical however, and look for a deck that is a size and
shape that you can easily handle. Be open to choosing more
than one deck! You may find several decks that appeal to you.
You may want to use a given deck for certain moods and questions,
and another to explore different issues. After tuning into
your own value system, your philosophy, your taste, your intuition,
and your hands, choose the decks that “fit” you.
References and Acknowledgements
Special thanks to these authors for their inspiring work on
the Tarot. I’ve quoted them often throughout this presentation
and used many of their suggested exercises in my own study,
which has lead me to make healthful and insightful choices
in my life.
Giles, Cynthia. The Tarot History, Mystery, and Lore. Simon
& Schuster: New York, NY, 1992.
Comprehensive discussion of the history of the Tarot,
Well researched dissection of the mystery of the Tarot with scientific and psychological theories, Giles, Cynthia. The Tarot Methods, Mastery, and More. Simon & Schuster: New York, NY, 1996
Challenging, and comprehensive examination of the Tarot as an oracle and profound system of divination,
Multidimensional in terms of the history of the Tarot.
Greer, Mary K. Tarot for Yourself. 2nd Edition The Career Press, Inc.: Franklin Lakes, N.J., 2002
A workbook for personal transformation
Practically endless suggestions for ways to get to know your Tarot deck,
Replete with suggestions for exercises, rituals and readings.
Greer, Mary K. Tarot Mirrors. Newcastle Publishing: N. Hollywood, CA, 1988.
Workbook style full of unique and creative methods for exploring and using the Tarot for personal growth,
Rich with good advice, guidance and enjoyment.
Comprehensive and well-written.
Also I want to thank the Canadian Tarot Network for their continuing dedication to providing the larger community with ethical and authentic Tarot readers. The CTN Conference in Calgary 2004 was inspirational, and memorable.