I like this curve. I know that “learning curve” often indicates one that makes the learning more challenging, but in Tarot’s case, I just find it fun and mind expanding.
Welcome to the Tarot Blog Hop for May Day/Beltane of 2019. Our blog hop wrangler, Joy Vernon, has challenged us to write about our continuing education with Tarot. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of new perspectives to gain from history and new deck creators and writers.
I love using my learning of Tarot to do two things: add to my symbol knowledge in general, and see what symbolic elements and sources deck creators use to theme their decks. So many fascinating perspectives!
The original Rider-Waite-Smith deck gives us a great start based more on Pamela Colman-Smith’s illustrations than the pat meanings that Arthur Waite uses in the LWB. Pamela used her own imagination, some traditional meaning elements and images from the Renaissance decks to create a wealth of symbols for us to explore. I’ve just finished reading Pamela Colman-Smith: The Untold Story, which has great insights into Pamela herself, her artistry in general and the development of the deck. I originally thought of her as “just” an illustrator, but I found out she was so much more, and especially a free spirit and great storyteller. Now I can see the important narrative elements in her illustrations for the Tarot deck.
I find myself using her deck more often now that I’ve read her story.
I find the some decks more than others provide me with all-encompassing worlds and mythologies (or philosophies) to bring new insight to the Tarot. My current favorites include the Mary-el, Lee Burstyn’s Universal Marseille, and the new Dreams of Gaia Tarot. All different Tarot worlds with great depth and breadth appropriate to each set of images.
The Mary-el Tarot
Marie White has a great mind and great soul. When I first saw some of the images for her Tarot deck, I was totally intimidated. The richness of imagery in her paintings, my visceral responses to the “grotesquery,” sensuality and downright complexity of her images was overwhelming. So, I procrastinated on getting this deck. I ams so glad I did not give up, though, on getting it. Marie’s companion book is wonderful! Through her eyes, I began to see the beauty of her mixing of mythological traditions. Her breadth and depth of knowledge of deep psychology and human archetypal symbolism from many different cultural sources opened my mind to very deep interpretations of the Tarot symbolism.
This deck is great for inner work, and I have learned so much about myself from working with it and Marie’s perspective.
The Universal Marseille Tarot
And now for something completely different. There are many Marseille decks out there, but Lee Burstyn’s interpretation of Claude Burel’s 18th-century cards is still my favorite. He introduced me to the idea of using Plato’s concept of the soul in three parts (Desire, Will, and Reason) to organize the Fool’s Journey through the Major Arcana (with Robert Place’s The Tarot: History, Symbolism and Divination as his source material). I learned so much from this three-phase process for the inner journey that I apply it whenever I use these cards, but also in general when thinking about the Fool’s Journey.
For the Minor Arcana, which are all non-scenic pip cards in the Marseille, Lee keeps it nice and simple with interpretations based on numerology and suit and court card personality combinations that feel very natural and yet refreshingly different form the RWS. I love taking these cards out and getting away from my RWS images, especially for daily readings.
Dreams of Gaia Tarot
My latest out-of-the-RWS-norm deck is the Dreams of Gaia Tarot by Ravynne Phelan. Normally, I get a little apprehensive when deck creators put in extra cards and go well off of the traditional structure. In this case, though, it is worth the mental shift effort.
Ravynne wanted to include some basic psycho-spiritual concepts that don’t occur on their own in the Tarot. The result is a great inner-work type of deck, but you’ll have to work to release your preconceived notions of what the Major Arcana cards are about. She begins with the Fool as Choice and the Magician as Child, has both masculine (Youth) and feminine (Maiden) card counterparts in the High Priestess position (yes, there are more than 22 cards in the Majors), along with a homage to Crone and Sage energy (our elders), and then gets more abstract with Knowledge, Wisdom, and Love cards among others.
At first I wanted to rebel against this expansion of the Majors, but after studying the symbolic threads (dragons, third eye) that ran through the images and writing up a little diagram of Ravynne’s extra facets of the original archetypal symbols, I learned to love the new perspectives I could add to my readings.
The Learning Curve Continues
I remain in awe of these deck creators, from Pamela to Marie, Lee to Ravynne, who continue to plumb past and present human interpretations of experience to instruct me in the infinite universe of the Tarot. They will continue to be my teachers.
Don’t forget to take this opportunity to plumb the depths of our bloggers’ perspectives on Tarot learning using the links below.