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Has tarot been made to me more complex than it needs to be?

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Zephyros's Avatar
Zephyros  Zephyros is offline
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I don't think it is either ever a question of isn't broke don't fix it, or too complicated. The essence of Tarot is what it has always been, it has simply been added to. There are more Marseilles decks coming out all the time, more than at any point in History, and lovers of simplicity have more than enough to choose from.

Now, as to esoteric study, it is a dual edged sword. On the one hand, I don't think everyone should learn it or even strive to. That would be silly, and there is no use in forcing anyone. On the other hand, people who often say they learned the base meanings and then used their intuition.... well, those base meanings obviously have a source, and their source is exactly the esoteric mumbo jumbo people seem to be so allergic to (it does not have to look or talk like a duck to be a duck). In this sense I always recommend going to the source and the formulating one's own ideas.

Now, it is important to remember that at its base, the occult is merely a series of topics meant and formulated to store ideas. The study of these ideas takes the form of mythologies, symbols, primitive cultures, sound, smell, etc. Anything that brings to mind a certain set of ideas that can be meditated upon. Now, these ideas are neither abstract nor removed from reality. On the contrary, study of the occult is the study of people and the human condition, and how to improve both.

Now, a common misconception about this sort of divination is that it is cerebral, and unintuitive. Nothing could be further from the truth. At the end of the day, the process is the same: one receives stimuli from the eyes, and the brain interprets them according to set patterns that have the potential to be more than the sum of their parts. But the more knowledge one assimilates about any particular symbol, the larger your symbolic vocabulary is, and the more connections can be made. Certain cards are connected to others, some appear in others. Some cards have in one symbol several different very conflicting meanings, but the inner dialogue is established in any case.

And yes, may I say that my job's pretty easy. (:

It isn't for everyone and not everyone is interested, but like I said, the process is the same. The fact that there are dozens of interpretations for that crocodile on the Fool merely adds to the cards three dimensional scope, it doesn't detract. The Querent won't hear those interpretations, since that would be silly, and so is the suggestion that that is the way it is done. It isn't. The study is for me, as pondering ideas just for the hell of it does enlarge your horizons, while when I am "performing," as in reading, the Querent receives the sum experience.

What surprises me, honestly, is the vehemence. I see so many posts that say, in essence "you don't need that for Tarot so I won't do it and I'm against it and.... and..." threads like these. It is true, you don't need it. That doesn't mean it isn't useful. Besides, that isn't necessarily for reading; I use divination for myself, but try to avoid reading for others.
Top   #11
Richard's Avatar
Richard  Richard is offline
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Originally Posted by shadowdancer View Post
I.....My take? I think we have perhaps gone just a little too far......
Who is "we?"

I suppose Tarot provides a handy niche for deck creators and book writers. They must be a really dedicated bunch, because there can't be a lot of financial profit in it. Personally, I'm not interested in most of the new decks and systems that appear so frequently, but I'm not one to say that they don't serve a larger purpose of which I'm not aware. People get excited over every new gimmick that comes along. Maybe they need the stimulation or something.

I see three main trends in Tarot design: 1) The traditional decks, of which the most common representative is the Tarot de Marseille. This category established the basic structure of Tarot, which later decks must conform to in some significant way in order to be considered Tarot. 2) The fin de siecle Golden Dawn conception of Tarot, which resulted from the astonishing discovery of an undeniable (and highly improbable) parallel between Tarot and Qabalah. Among the fruits of this discovery were the Rider-Waite and the revolutionary Crowley Thoth decks. 3) The so-called clones and derivatives of the aforementioned, which are now glutting the Tarot market. Among these are some worthy designs, but a lot are trash by anyone's standards.

I suppose my main interest is in the Tarot which emerged at around the time when the calendar changed from the 19th to the 20th century. It was effectively a merger of the older traditions of Tarot and Qabalah, which, from the Qabalah component, accounts for all the "nonsense" about the Tree of Life, Astrology, Alchemy, and such. I personally enjoy occult stuff, but ŗ chacun son goŻt. However, it might be considerate to try to resist belittling the interests of a few of us oddballs. Just a suggestion.
Top   #12
shadowdancer's Avatar
shadowdancer  shadowdancer is offline
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LRichard, I do not want to belittle anyone or anyone's interests. If my original post came across as judgemental in that way, I will most definitely apologise.

I was just trying to raise points to ponder. Points I have mused over for myself a few times, knowing there is no answer, no right or wrong etc. I accept there are going to many viewpoints - all of which are valid. Those posted here have been interesting and well articulated.

With regards the 'we' please don't take that as a literal referring to us here at AT. It was the word I chose to use as I typed to reference the direction tarot has been taken in general.

I think tarotbear and Le Fanu have come out with points that resonate with my current thoughts. I remember reading job descriptions/personal specs when applying for roles. HR really did go out on a limb to make the role sound more than it really was That the successful applicant would be able to demonstrate 101 skills and attributes for a role that was as simple as making a cup of tea. And I know they were looking for a similar reply, using the appropriate buzzwords etc. I just feel at times reading tarot can be like this, and I am not sure it needs to always be? Yet if you do have a system or systems etc - fine. I have absolutely no issue with that and do not see anyone as being a lesser or better reader for it - just different. And different is good
Top   #13
Richard's Avatar
Richard  Richard is offline
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Originally Posted by shadowdancer View Post
LRichard, I do not want to belittle anyone or anyone's interests. If my original post came across as judgemental in that way, I will most definitely apologise.....
My final remark was not directed at you personally. Your post was not offensive in the least.
Top   #14
LuzBlanca's Avatar
LuzBlanca  LuzBlanca is offline
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Thank you for your elaborate and important post. Unlike you my experience with Tarot goes back only to almost 2 years yet I also felt the overwhelming presence that you mentioned while still experiencing directness from the Tarot.

- I don't think there is a Right and a Wrong way of reading or using Tarot.
I think both styles can be accurate as long as the Tarot reader can be a great spokes-person when it comes to communicating the answer to the questioner. Like a Doctor... they read many books and studied for years... but will not sit and explain every detail, they just offer what is needed.
People can use all the books around to elaborate on their knowledge (in general although there are many books I find that most of them do stick to the main meaning of the card (universally).
- Have we complicated things and why? Yes ..but so has the world grown complicated and rules are not like they were years ago. The world has also changed dramatically from 17 years ago and its norms have changed, love "RELATIONSHIPS", Marriage, Ways of living and many other things have changed.There are not many "rules" as before which can make things quite cut and dry. The world has also become more "liberal" both in relationships and in many other areas...
If we look back during the period of Madame Lenormand, relationships (which is a big topic in Tarot) were pretty much all the same (rules and society expectations, therefore how people behaved made things clearer from the beginning). The answers would also be much more dry and cut in my opinion.

In todays' world people feel the need to "understand" their surroundings, other peoples minds since rules have evaded action and rules to take over this.
Tarot can be philosophical and artistic and people will naturally enjoy growing and analyzing.
It is true and specially with the online world exploding (people don't need a publisher to write an online book!)..
There is enormous information in regards to Tarot.
I don't think with all these information floating around that there is Plenty of "meanings" being created... I think universally its the same "meaning" for each card but explained with different words. What has increased is the volume of techniques and ways of interpreting the meaning of the card to the many situations we face in today's world.

So this is my take on why Tarot reading and studying has changed over the years...
Top   #15
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Alpha-Omega  Alpha-Omega is offline
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would have to respond to this statement and say that the complexity of tarot is not a new phenomena. The origination of tarot and itís many associations such as numerology or astrology are old and can be traced back to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The earliest and first association between Tarot and the occult was proposed by Court de Gebelin (1773-1784). This idea influenced Etteilla, who viewed Tarot as the Book of Thoth. Levi later on associated Tarot with Kabbalah (specifically the Tree of Life).

Now in the modern age with the creation of Psychology resulting from Freud and Jung, Tarot is finding connections with that to now.

Why do we make all these connections with tarot? Why make all these layers and systems to learn? On one level we may be trying to solve a problem, trying solve the mystery of the tarot images. Analyzing itís symbols, extracting every once of meaning, very speck of spiritual wisdom we can from it. Why not? The tarot is a highly rich and complex deck of cards with so much symbolism and teaching to learn from we ought to utilize any system we can on tarot. When we are able to combine all these systems together we create a unified tarot philosophy.

However I do not agree and we should be careful not to think the tarot originally had these systems built into it as an intention of the creator. This is a false notion, all systems were later applied to the tarot, as a way to connect the tarot to a far distant past, incorporating it to ancient mystery schools and the like.

How useful are all these systems when it comes down to practical readings? That is what I feel to be the underlining issue of concern and reason the question was asked. As I mentioned I believe we should explore the tarot and dig deeper as much as we can, for personal growth and spiritual development. But when it is time to read for others we should try to hold all that spiritual knowledge back at first. We cannot jump into a reading and start digging into a clientís psychological states, neurosis, phobias, compulsions and behaviors. Nor should we jump into the teachings of Kabbalah, Hermeticsism and Gnosticism. We should approach the tarot with a grounded head and focus on first the mundane. Because it is the mundane which people are concerned with, it is the mundane with people are aware of. After this step, you can dig deeper and explore the psychological or spiritual as either a possible cause or root to the mundane problem and offer advice based on the knowledge you have from your study of the tarot and itís systems.
Top   #16
Shade's Avatar
Shade  Shade is offline
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Just to weigh in from a different perspective so that we can toss ideas back and forth... in my opinion (wanted to get that out there) what you describe in your first post about forgetting systems of numerology and symbolism and JUST. READing. THE CARD. is not Tarot reading. It's a very wonderful, most likely very useful oracular practice but you could do the same thing with any set of images. Any decks created after the A List occultists of the 18th and 19th centuries got to thinking about what the Tarot cards mean have been developed so that each deck has an internally consistent symbolic story to tell.

Intuition is undeniably important. Crucial! Waite and Wirth - both familiar with all sorts of complex systems - wrote that the intuition of the reader takes precedence in divination. But taking the time to learn about some of the ideas certain groups have about those symbols connects you with the Tarot in an important way. When I say "He was being a total King of Cups about it" Tarot readers think about their experience of "Kingness" and "Cupsness" and can join in the conversation without having the exact card I am thinking of in front of them.

Jazz musicians can do amazing things with their creativity but they don't just pick up the instrument one day and say "I'm going to make the most amazing sounds come out of this right off the bat." Someone teaches them "the rules" (as those rules relate to them) and then one day the music maker can make music no one has ever dreamed of before.

Again (in my opinion): pure psychic inspiration born of looking at a card at opening your mind to its possibilities = potentially very useful; worthwhile; not Tarot reading.
Top   #17
Richard's Avatar
Richard  Richard is offline
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Originally Posted by Shade View Post
......Jazz musicians can do amazing things with their creativity but they don't just pick up the instrument one day and say "I'm going to make the most amazing sounds come out of this right off the bat." Someone teaches them "the rules" (as those rules relate to them) and then one day the music maker can make music no one has ever dreamed of before......
I love the jazz analogy. It most certainly ties in with Tarot interpretation. (I would never have thought of that.)
Top   #18
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Mellifluous  Mellifluous is offline
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Yes, I do think so. People bring their whole selves to tarot, and when you are really into it, you want to find ways to "improve" and reasons/excuses to interact with your deck(s) and legitimize what you are doing, so people cast around for whatever else might be added to it.

Tarot's become a fuse point, into which people plug a lot of their other hobbies, interests, and alternate/discarded career paths. It's a handy vehicle for living out paths not taken, and killing two (or a few) birds with one stone while the deck's in your hands.

It's become the egg/chicken of hobbies, in terms of versatility. Not much (that is factual) is known about it, and it's very premise is that it somehow incorporates all of life, so it's sort of bland enough to add anything else to and make it into what you want. Or, at least, that seems to be the current attitude towards it.

So, yes, it's vastly overcomplicated. Too much stuff gets incorporated. I don't think all of it is helpful. It might be fun, as part of engaging with a hobby (though it also causes a lot of stress), or several hobbies all at once, but I don't think it ultimately helps.

People add all these complicated things to their reading methods (or the decks they create, or the books they write, whatever) and are still wrong just as often as the next reader. So....
Top   #19
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Carla  Carla is offline
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I don't think it's overcomplicated. I think you can pick and choose what you want to learn, what you want to use when reading (which are not the same things at all, or don't have to be). The very fact that we CAN plug so many things into tarot and have it fit and make sense shows how universal in scope the tarot really is. Actually, there's probably a lot more in there than we've even uncovered so far. Because there's a lot more to reality, the human experience and our spirits that we've yet to uncover.

Personally, I've never been able to use the 'JUST. READ. THE CARD.' method. I can riff on the established meanings of the cards, but when I opened my first deck, I had no clue what any of them meant. I could say, 'Wow, he looks furtive,' or 'Oh, they're sailing to another shore,' or whatever, but that wasn't enough for me. I wanted to know more. I still want to know more. I will always want to know more.
Top   #20


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