Illumination Tarot - Exploring the tarot for insight and enlightenment.

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Common Questions: Your Questions, My Answers - Page 2


Where can I find the cards used in the movie, The Gift?
I am Christian ... is it okay for me to use tarot?
Do all tarot decks need to be received as a gift?
How do I properly dispose of a tarot deck?
How do I know the meanings of the cards when I buy a new deck?
Is tarot just for 'Gothic' individuals?
Is seeing the future in the cards, or in the individual reader?
What are the differences between the Major and Minor Arcana?
What is the history of tarot? Why don't you have any articles about it?
What does it mean to meditate on a card?
When I am done with a tarot reading, should I put the cards back in order?
How can I get practice reading for others?

Q: I saw your review of the movie, The Gift, and was wondering about the cards used. Are there actual cards like the ones in the movie, and are they available?
A: It is actually pretty interesting ... the cards in the movie are known as the Rhine Zener cards, and were used by a researcher / scientist to test for ESP. I'm not sure why they were chosen for the movie, perhaps because viewers wouldn't be able to respond to the symbols of the tarot, or perhaps simply because the director liked these cards better ... ?

You can read info on the cards or their background here:
http://www.rhine.org/ - the Rhine Research Center; http://www.howstuffworks.com/esp2.htm - How Stuff Works - How ESP works; http://www.psiexplorer.com/jbrhine.htm - Psi Explorer

And, if you'd like to try them out ... there is a printable version with instructions here: http://www.paganpath.com/zener.html - Pagan Path

If you are really interested, do a search on Google, and a lot of results come up. These are from the top twenty or so sites. Also, I could not find them at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but there are a number of online pagan shops that seem to offer them, or at least, cards based on the idea.

Q: I was raised Catholic, but have recently become involved with tarot. Is it possible to use tarot and remain Catholic? My friends challenge me that I cannot do both - be Catholic, and use tarot.
A: [This is one of those questions I get all the time, and never feel like I have an adequate answer to.] There is never an easy answer to this, because in my opinion, tarot is sort of what one makes it (and so is religion ...). I was raised as a Catholic - although that could get into a seriously long discussion because there were members of my family who were nonpracticing and had left the church, while there were others that kept pictures of the pope in their kitchen. My very immediate family was basically nonpracticing and exposed me to a variety of other traditions, and allowed me to make my own religious choices. When I had my own child, I began looking into my Catholic background - and became quite interested in the more mystical but still religious aspects of the church's history, and back into ancient Christianity. My study of Christianity gave me a new perspective on (and respect for) the faith, and this perspective is one that allows individual interpretation and experience. It is a somewhat liberal view I guess, one that doesn't take the Bible literally, and it takes into account many historical writings that the church had dismissed ages ago. So, my own experience of Christianity is likely unacceptable to many practicing Christians today - or at least, the outspoken, self-righteous ones. For me, any religion can be a path to the divine - a path of spiritual growth, awareness, expansion, and ultimately some sort of oneness with the divine - enlightenment - moksha - nirvana - liberation - salvation - etc. I guess the point I am trying to make, is that religion is personal. Before anything else, in order for it to have any real meaning, it needs to arise from an individual quest for God (I say "God," but include any idea of the divine, or enlightenment). This quest may work perfectly fine in a solitary sense, or it may require community, a hierarchy of clergy, holidays, etc. It needs a religious language that resonates, and it needs to be spiritually fulfilling.

Now tarot. For me, using tarot is largely about looking within, and finding further understanding. Rather than seeing the tarot as a mysterious, magical device of the occult, I generally see it as a set of symbols that speak to me on a subconscious level. Anything can speak in this way - a bird flying overhead, the words of a friend, a television show - anything can speak to me and trigger reflection. The tarot is a unique arrangement of many symbols that seem to be universally understandable. Tarot, to me, is mainly a tool for introspection, self-reflection and discovery, understanding my own spiritual path, focusing on the divine and growing in awareness. It works quite well with my spiritual outlook. So, it does not conflict with my personal understanding of the core teachings of Christianity.

The Christian arguments against using tarot tend to be something along the lines of, "well, the Bible forbids it!" - referring to divination. I generally can't stand when people make arguments "based on" what the Bible says, for a number of reasons. Usually, they are simply using specific passages from the Bible, taken out of context, to strengthen their own personal biases, and to pad their religious ego. The Bible has been used too often to justify hatred, violence, and simple intolerance - and although the argument against tarot doesn't really fall into these categories, I find it equally mistaken and irrelevant. I mainly think that people who fear the use of tarot simply do not understand it. They seem to believe we tarot readers attribute all sorts of supernatural powers to tarot, and when reading we consult with evil spirits - or something. It all seems pretty archaic to me. Then there is the judgment that people who use tarot are addle-brained, new age flakes. My friends who disapprove of tarot generally have this impression.

I would really discourage leaving your religion because of this one interest in tarot. If it helps, the woman who gave me my first tarot deck was a friend of my father's, and someone I babysat for. She is Methodist, and sings in her church chorus (has for many many years). She is now married to a man who had been a priest. My grandmother, who is Italian-Catholic, has asked me for tarot readings. These two women, though quite different, would be considered religious people, more involved with their church than average. I think there is no conflict between religion and tarot for them, because their religious faith is secure, and their understanding of tarot (of what tarot is) is relatively accurate.

I've written a long answer here, and feel like I have said nothing that will truly help! I find no conflict between my religious beliefs and the use of tarot, because my use of tarot has the potential to aid my spiritual understanding and strengthen my religious beliefs. But the matter seems like an entirely individual one, and relies much upon what one thinks religion is and what one thinks tarot is.

Q: Do all tarot decks need to be received as a gift, or is it a myth?
A: Although I did receive my first tarot deck as a gift, and think tarot makes a great gift, I don't for even a minute believe that decks have to be gifts in order for them to be useful, effective, inspiring, etc. I've never heard that they *all* have to be gifts! One could wait quite a while to receive the decks they truly want, if they have to be gifts.

Q: How do I properly dispose of a tarot deck?
A: I don't know anything about there being a "proper" way of disposing of tarot cards. As far as I know there is no superstition surrounding the disposal of tarot cards, as there is with Ouija boards - and even if there were, I wouldn't pay it any mind.

But here are a few ideas ... You could recycle the tarot cards or throw them away, give them away to a friend, donate them, sell them at a used bookstore, or try selling or trading them online. You could even burn them if they signify something negative to you and you really want to be rid of them. If you feel there is some negativity attached to them and are worried that disposing of them simply would not work to dispel the negative energy, you could make your disposal of them more meaningful - recycling them would guarantee their disposal while being environmentally responsible. You could burn them in a ritual - while throwing them one by one into the fire you could symbolically throw in whatever negativity you feel surrounds them as well. You don't have to regularly do such rituals to feel a genuine cleansing effect. If you want to sort of exchange your tarot practice with something you feel is more positive or beneficial, you could sell them at a used bookstore for store credit and use the credit toward a new pursuit or study.

Q: How do I know the meanings of the cards when I buy a new deck?
A: Ah, here's a question I never considered, but must be important for some beginners. Every deck generally comes with a "little white booklet" at least, which gives the most basic meanings, which are usually enough to get by on. Some decks come with full sized books, especially if the deck is a theme deck - like Celtic dragons, for example. If your first deck is a traditional tarot that only comes with this little booklet, it's a great idea to buy yourself an accompanying guide to learning as well, if you can afford it. There are many books available that will teach a beginner, and will continue to be a good resource over time.

Q: Is tarot just for 'Gothic' individuals?
A: Ha ha, no way. But I do receive this question quite frequently in some form or other. Tarot isn't limited to use by Goth types, or to people into "occult" or New Age practices, magick, witchcraft, or any other alternative spiritual path. And if you take a look at the photos of the best known tarot authors, you'll see some very ordinary looking people :-)

Q: Is the power of seeing the future in the cards, or in the individual reader?
A: Well, this is certainly an interesting question to answer. I believe almost all of the "power" in using tarot is within the person reading the cards. When I read tarot, it seems I am opening up to information that is simply a little less available, or not so obvious. There really doesn't seem to be anything terribly surprising or mysterious in this fact. The tarot's unique, complete symbolism awakens knowledge, information, or simple insight. As far as the future goes, consider not that everything is "written in stone," but that events seem to follow a certain natural flow (and I don't mean only when things are going smoothly). The patterns of future events can sometimes be intuited easily or guessed at outright, but at other times can be given more light with this external tool. All that said, each deck may seem more or less powerful to each person. For example, the Goddess Tarot may speak very strongly to you through its artwork or symbolism, while the Rider-Waite-Smith may leave you feeling uninspired, and therefore may not "give" you as detailed readings. This connection (or lack of connection) is part of our personal "relationship" with each deck. Over time and with practice, every deck should be able to speak to us through the meanings of the cards, so that we can eventually read comprehensively with any tarot deck.

Q: What are the differences between the Major and Minor Arcana?
A: The Major and Minor Arcana differ in a number of generally obvious ways ... The Major Arcana, which simply means "greater secrets", is understood to refer to the more universal influences at work in our lives, metaphysical concepts, higher or greater energies, and are also seen to reflect a spiritual evolution through the progression of the cards. The Major Arcana is usually twenty-two cards, numbered zero to twenty-one, and depict states of being and universal archetypes such as the Fool (innocence, naivete, openness), the Wheel of Fortune (movement, progress, destiny, karma), and Temperance (balance, gentleness, artistic integrity). Major Arcana cards in readings often indicate major phases in one's life, or big decisions, personal transformation, etc. The Minor Arcana, which means "lesser secrets", is traditionally comprised of four suits representing basic elements of physical or mundane life. For example, the suit of Wands most often refers to energy, action, forward motion - all reflective of the element Fire (some would say Air); and in a reading can easily point to new creative pursuits or fresh inspiration. These are the more mundane, yet still important, aspects of our lives. Some people prefer to use only the Major or the Minor Arcana in their readings. Some readers don't enjoy pulling too many Major Arcana cards, as they feel the cards indicate upheaval or serious stages; whereas still other people think a reading that draws only Minor Arcana cards shows a boring road ahead! I personally use all of the cards at the same time, unless I'm playing around with specific ideas, and for basic readings I don't hope for cards from one over the other. In serious meditation, or if you want to pursue the more esoteric (for example, Kabbalistic) attributes of the cards, use the Major Arcana cards, which can be potent tools in self-transformation and understanding.

Q: What is the history of tarot? Why don't you have any articles about it?
A: What can be documented is that the tarot showed up in Europe in the fifteenth century, as a form of card game, limited to play by the nobility; a number of noble families commissioned decks. Later, with the advent of the printing press, more decks were made and became accessible to the larger public. In the eighteenth century, occultists began claiming a unique, mysterious history of the tarot that went back to Egypt, based on an unfounded perception of the ancient Egyptian religious and mystical traditions, and their lack of real knowledge about tarot's origins. These early occultists did have a big effect on the development of tarot as a divining art and tool of transformation, and even today influence our use of tarot. In the nineteenth century, occultists made connections between tarot and Kabbalah, as well as assigning specific numerological correspondences to the cards. In the early 1900s, Arthur Edward Waite, a member of the Golden Dawn, designed a new way of looking at the tarot. He commissioned the talented Pamela Colman Smith for the work, and their images are known to just about every tarot enthusiast today. The Rider-Waite tarot, as it is popularly known, is the first deck of many tarot readers, and many modern decks are based on Waite's insights. ... This is just a simple summary, but the history of tarot is quite fascinating, even without the myths of Gypsies carrying it across Europe in their caravans. It is worth reading up on. ... There is no specific reason that I haven't written articles on tarot history, for my site. I started the site as a place for others to learn to use tarot, after many people I read for asked me how to read for themselves, so I have generally focused on this aspect of tarot - its usability.

Q: What does it mean to meditate on a card?
A: Meditating on a card helps an individual learn and understand the symbolism in the card, and helps as well to set within the individual's mind, a specific set of meanings for the card. Meditating on a card is quite simple, and meditation practices can be varied to suit the card, the individual, the intent, etc. Choose a card you would like to learn about. This could be from a brand-new deck, or simply a card you would like to work more deeply with. Set up a place for the meditation - make it comfortable, pleasant, and quiet. You might like to sit with your card in front of you on a table, or sit with it against your knees if you're sitting on your bed, or with it on the floor in front of you if you're in a lotus position. I find the easiest way is to simply sit at my desk and keep the card propped up in front of me. Light a candle or some incense, if you think these things will help you relax and focus. You can put on background music as well. Before starting, you might like to state your intention to yourself, silently or aloud. Breathing deeply a few times is also a good idea, as is clearing your mind of extraneous thoughts. After some deep breathing, look at your card. Relax your vision on it, and allow the image to come to you - let details stand out and change, allow your eyes to run along lines or focus on colors. At the same time, let the card speak to you - if a word, phrase, or image comes into your mind, note it and move on. You're developing a relationship with the card, so to speak, and developing an understanding of it that will work for you continually from now on. Let the meditation wind down naturally. If you start to get impatient or even annoyed with the process, simply stop it and don't worry about it. Not everyone enjoys meditating on objects like this. It's a good idea to write down your impressions, even if they sound silly or don't line up with what you've read about the card. You can repeat meditations on each card as many times as you like, and over time you might notice how much your understanding of each card has grown. You could get to know a new deck by meditating on each card, in order, one per day. Also, meditating on a tarot card can act as much as a transformative process as readings.

Q: When I am done with a tarot reading, should I put the cards back in order?
A: I think this is simply a matter of preference. Some people consider it important to put the deck back in order, to sort of clean the deck of the energy from the reading ... others simply stack the cards, and others shuffle a number of times. Generally, I shuffle a good number of times, until I feel the reading has been "forgotten" by the cards, but sometimes, especially after a day full of readings, I do put them back in order.

Q: How can I get practice reading for others?
A: I know some people like to do readings for people they meet online in message boards, where beginners (or people who simply want the practice) can swap readings with each other. This gives each person good feedback, criticism, etc. and helps people get used to reading for a variety of issues. Actually, I know some people who are now doing professional readings who started reading for others in this way. If you would only like to read for others in person, see if any of your friends or family are open to receiving readings, giving them big disclaimers as to your ability level.

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All writing and photography © N Levine - Illumination Tarot, unless otherwise noted. 1999-2019