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When Tarot Cards are Just Being Cards!

Updated on June 18, 2015

First Tarot Reading Party

Pondering a Set of Images on Cardboard

I began reading the tarot almost 40 years ago. Like many initiates, I didn't start out truly reading the cards but rather pondering a set of images on cardboard and intuiting/surmising what they mean. A small accompanying book with the deck indicated in succinct short form the classic meaning of each card. Initially I would look each card up in the book as I turned it up on the table but that soon became very tiresome. Too much to do and so stop/go stop/go I couldn't abide it. I fairly quickly resorted to simply laying a bunch of cards out on the table and determining their meaning by the symbolism I recognized along with the actions and attitudes of the characters depicted.

Last Tarot Reading for Another 10 Years

One of my earliest memories in doing readings for others was one evening having a couple of girlfriends over for a wine/tarot fest. We sat around my kitchen table with the lights low, candles lit, and a glass of wine. The first woman asked about a relationship she was in (what else could possibly interest us at 20?) The first card was the Death card, the next was the Devil and on it went. Finally I turned over the Tower and we all leaped to our feet in a collective gasp. I dashed around turning on lights and putting the cards away. That reading marked the last reading I was to do for another person for ten years!

We nervously struggled to figure out what this meant. Was this an indication that the Tarot was truly evil and not to be trifled with? Was there something very wrong with this woman's relationship? (Interestingly this relationship which had been strong for years by this time did collapse when she met another at university a month after the reading!) Was there another negative energy that one of us had dragged into the party from another source? (One of the women had bumped into a friend who was into "death". In those days there was no known identity such as "Goth". This girl was apparently a decade or two ahead of her time!)

Every time we would get together as a group we would ponder the meaning of this experience to no avail. I think it stimulated and excited us enough however to encourage me to keep the cards around regardless of whether I was using them or not. I kept this Waite deck around for several years occasionally bringing it to play with and ask questions that were plaguing me. I can't say it provided me with much guidance to be honest.

Motherpeace Tarot

Motherpeace Tarot
Motherpeace Tarot | Source

Feminist Tarot

In 1985 I wandered into the Toronto Women's Bookstore to browse their latest offerings. This was a regular stop whenever I was in the University of Toronto area. While paying for a couple of books at the cash, I happened to glance behind the clerk and noticed a deck of cards called, "Motherpeace Tarot". Asking what they were all about, she said, "Oh this is a feminist Tarot deck." Immediately intrigued I asked to see them and promptly bought the deck and book. I couldn't wait to get home! I was so excited to open this deck and start reading the book. A feminist Tarot!! I just couldn't believe what a treasure I'd discovered.

I read Vicki's book three times and worked with the cards daily. I played and read, laughed and cried my way through her work which to this day holds a special place in my heart. I had found a spiritual path that fit me like a glove. I have described myself a feminist since grade twelve (1972) and although I had put the Tarot aside, I had always believed it held magic. Scary magic maybe, but magic nonetheless.

Once people at my work discovered I was studying the Tarot, they all wanted readings. There was no shortage of people to practice on. I liked this deck much better than the original I had worked with years earlier. It was positive, round and Vicki Noble's profound research was delicious to read.

A sad endnote is that the Toronto Women's Bookstore closed November 30, 2012. As they say, it marks the "end of an era".

Teaching Tarot

Teaching the Motherpeace Tarot

San Francisco

Only a year into my foray of doing readings professionally in Toronto I decided to move to San Francisco to pursue my studies into Jungian analysis and therapy. I studied East/West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies and my Tarot readings fell once again into the occasional read for a friend.

Victoria, BC

A couple of trips across the Continent landed me in Victoria, BC in 1990 and I was invited to teach the Tarot at the local community college, Camosun. Naturally I gravitated to the Motherpeace Tarot and had a glorious time teaching and sharing my passion with 20 other people who were as excited as I about learning the feminist Tarot.

This marked the beginning of truly learning the Tarot myself. Up until this time I knew the meaning of each card (from a feminist perspective) and could do readings smoothly without having to look up each card as it appeared in a reading. But to understand it fully one must teach! Questions, ideas, thoughts and experiences with the other students expanded my knowledge exponentially.

This is also when I noticed that sometimes the cards just acted like cards. Sometimes they were way off base in predictions, or even for an accurate glimpse into what was happening in the present. They just weren't doing anything other than being odd images on small bits of cardboard! These are the times when I would wonder if what I was doing was making any sense at all. Was there any point to pursuing the path? I would put them all back in order and put them away for a few days.

Once pulling them out and throwing them all over the floor to shuffle them well, they would return to their relevance again. What was that all about?

Tarot Workshops

Lecturing on Tarot at KPL

Tarotists approach this conundrum from a number of different perspectives. Some employ rather complex and involved cleaning modalities. Cleaning or clearing your deck may involve leaving it overnight on a windowsill during a full moon, or keeping it in a silk bag with crystals or chanting a prayer. The thought being that the deck can become stale, or plagued with negative energies gathered from the pain and suffering of all the people it was used to read for.

I beg to differ. I think the Tarot stops working when we are imbuing it with too much power. When we become reliant on it's guidance too much and are risking a loss of our own intuitive, psychic power. The Tarot becomes irrelevant to teach us to reach deep within to find that well of knowledge and wisdom that lives in our own soul.

This is when the Tarot is just being cards.

Graduating Students of the Tarot

The Stages of Discovery

Tarot students all go through this sometimes alarming, always disconcerting discovery. The Tarot can sometimes just act like an ordinary deck of cards. There is no magic, no wisdom particularly and it's not going to tell you what you so desperately need to know.

You must go within at this time. Sometimes I say to clients, "The Tarot is saying this but to be honest I don't agree. This is what I feel will happen and that is often exactly what does happen. The Tarot was testing me! It was seeing if I would trust my own intuitions above it's messages and I better or things are going to get a heck of a lot worse! If I were to continue to trust the Tarot more than my own feelings and psychic impressions it would undoubtedly become so irrelevant I would wonder why on earth I bother with it at all!

A Tarot Reading in Progress

Kathleen on Rogers TV Talking Tarot

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