Happy, hoppy, greening of everything spring! T’is the Equinox, and all is balanced (however briefly) in the cosmos. In my old garden in Houston, it starts to look like this (left) pretty quickly after the equinox, and the trees bud out in February. We have a nice long spring before the oppression of summer sets in.
Down in Corpus Christi, where I’m staying now with hubby and caring for mother-in-law, the spring break partiers are on Padre Island and we are quickly warming up, but with rain storms and/or fog almost every day. The bite in the bays (of fish on fishing lines, that is) is just beginning to ramp up. The birds, however, have already gone north, so for those in the northern USA, here they come!
And now for the theme at hand. Our blog hop wrangler for this Spring Fling, Ania, has set us a very large challenge, I think: How would you change, if at all, any or all of the tarot cards to deal with modern (or postmodern) life and sensibilities?
Wow. That’s a tough question, largely because so many great tarotists and artists have already re-imagined the deck’s symbolism in a number of different contexts, from going back in time to pre-Christian pagan Europe to going forward in time to postmodern New Age psycho-spiritual interpretations.
I’ve found from doing actual readings for people’s mundane (as opposed to spiritual—doesn’t mean they’re not important) questions that the Tarot still serves that purpose really well. Human nature and curiosity about what’s next in life haven’t changed. We always seem to want to skip along our timeline and see what’s around the next bend. 🙂
I actually want to go backward to go forward, so to speak.
Major Arcana—Our Fate-ful Journey
So, I was trying to see what human archetypal experiences in life’s journey the Tarot might have neglected, and I was stumped. I thought and I thought, and I thought…and then I realized I’d just bought Ciro Marchetti’s Oracle of Visions deck (great oracle deck, BTW). I thought I’d check this non-Tarot oracle for any themes that the Tarot might have neglected, since this deck was, according to Ciro, his declaration of independence from the Tarot itself.
Ciro grouped multiple keywords for a number of his cards, but I wanted to see if there were any ideas that weren’t really reflected in the Majors. My general conclusion was that most psycho-spiritual concepts, feelings, stages in the journey of life, etc. are still covered by the post-Golden Dawn/RWS meanings associated with the Major Arcana.
But after looking through Ciro’s oracle deck and thinking about how Rider-Waite-Smith and Crowley’s Thoth decks “modernized” the archetypes from their Renaissance-era meanings, I’ve decided that we’ve actually lost some important insights into the human condition by abandoning in many cases, some of the historical meanings of the cards.
I’m a proud New Age woo-woo person, mind you (we create our own realities, karma and all that), but I also know that we live in a world of shifting opposites and contexts that we don’t have total control over at any given time (that “fate thing”), and the move toward seeing the querent as completely responsible for everything in the world around them seems to be stretching the create-your-own-reality thing a bit too far.
Also, the tendency in some decks and reading styles of looking only on the bright side of everything can end up ignoring the very real-in-our-biological-experience “opportunities for growth” that occur from knowing that, yes, you will likely face a loss on this issue, or, no, it really doesn’t look that good for love and romance right now. I’m not saying we have to be literally predictive all the time, but I’ve seen some specific historical card meanings being brushed aside when they could be really important messages for a specific querent’s situation. I’d advocate bringing some of those old fate-based meanings back into play to provide more powerful insights.
Here are two card examples where I think this way of looking at the cards would be useful:
The Hanged Man: Normally these days, he’s about taking a break, waiting but being OK with that, taking a different perspective, letting to. But originally it was about sacrifice (I don’t think our Marseille deck guy looks that serene here, and he has no halo), probably because you screwed up somewhere along the line. There’s more of the original sense of being hung upside down against one’s will as punishment for treason (maybe our life pilgrim used his Strength unwisely in the card before this…who knows?). I’d like to be able to use this sacrificial angle on the card to advise against being a martyr, for one thing, or to warn in a situation where the querent’s unethical actions or intentions may lead them into nasty consequences.
Death: Amazing how these two potentially difficult cards are right next to each other. So, in some modern decks, the Hanged Man is told to “let go,” and then told do so again for this card, perhaps in a more major way? But it often seems as if this card is re-interpreted to minimize the magnitude of potential loss, to put that loss into the querent’s hands rather than acknowledging that losses often just happen to us in the course of the life path (that “fate thing” again). I think it’s a bit of a whitewash in particular to leave the idea of loss out of this card altogether and just consider it an opportunity for transformation. It is that also, of course, because Life follows Death inevitably (even if it’s just new growth from the remains of the dead in the soil—see dismembered body parts in this card (!)). But why are we using both of these cards just to tell the querent to let go of something? I think it’s much richer in interpretation to consider the older meanings of sacrifice (in the Hanged Man’s case) and significant loss that’s out of our control in the case of Death.
I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s take on the issue; lots of different angles to explore. Let me know what you think in the comments!
And don’t forget to check out my neighbors and their neighbors, starting on the left with Chloe and the Celtic Lenormand (a rather different take on that system from a visual standpoint), and to the right with the collaborative interpretation at the Denver Tarot Convention. If you get lost in the hop, just check the master list in the middle for the big picture. Thanks!