A cute take on a timeless tradition
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Chibi Nation! It’s been a bit on the quiet side for awhile (tho I am posting updates on the Kickstarter site), but I come with good news: The Decks have arrived!

It’s been a thrilling ride and one I will never forget. You’ve all been so patient with me and I hope your patience is rewarded with this wonderful deck. Here are the pix of the boxes and the decks.

Tonight I’ll be doing a ritual with the decks to infuse them with awesome energy before I start shipping these out this weekend.

You can also still buy the decks in the shop.

chibiTarot-01   chibiTarot02

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Photograph of chess pieces on a chess boardI’ve played chess as long as I can remember. Not well, mind you. I thought I played well until my friend Ethan beat me in roughly 7 moves when we started playing in Mrs. Hoffman’s 4th grade class. My father taught me the rules early, over a variety of chess boards, though the one I most strongly remember was a heavy stone chess board with dark and light marbled squares and heavy, crudely carved pieces. The knight in particular stand out in my mind, a certain rough primitiveness that was echoed in the weight of the pieces and the board, that even then appealed to me. Tarot, for all its beauty, lacks a certain visceral quality that a nicely weighted chess piece can convey, especially in the act of capturing a queen.

This week I took chess up again and was once again struck by some of the similarities between the ancient game and tarot. Both, for instance, are very old. Chess dates back to roughly the 6th century, beginning in India, spreading to Persia and the Arab world and then into southern Europe. Tarot began roughly 800 years later in Italy and spread throughout Europe and there’s no doubt in my mind that chess influenced the tarot, given its popularity in Europe at the time of the development of the tarot. According to Wikipedia, “The popularity of chess in the Western courtly society peaked between the 12th and the 15th centuries,” the exact moment that the tarot is being created and disseminated on the continent. Both tarot and chess share a fascination with the structures of worldly power. While the tarot transcends that to go beyond temporal power, chess hints at it too, as we’ll see later.

Personally, chess gave me one of my earliest insights into the tarot, and that’s a realignment of the High Priestess. Most if not all of the tarot literature that I’ve read regarding tarot always compares and contrasts the Magician and the High Priestess. It’s an understandable comparison, and a valid one, but not the only one. The female High Priestess forms the primary triumverate with the male Magician and the asexual or hermaphroditic Fool. Numerically they symbolize the fundamental process of creation: existence, creation, reflection.

Squares are less sexy…unless you’re a chess player in which case they’re the foundation of the world; a whole little universe packed into the nearly infinite possibilities of 64 squares. The High Priestess doesn’t just belong to the triangle club, she also belongs to the square club, a grouping that I didn’t see until I starte comparing the Major Arcana to the chess board. The correlations that jumped out at me immediately were the Empress and the Emperor who clearly represent the king and queen. After that I saw that the High Priestess and Hierophant are both religious figures, as are the bishops on the chess board. Thus you can see the four temporal rulers in the tarot as a the fundamental unit of the back row of a chess game.

Contented with that insight I never took the idea further, expanding the chess metaphor into the first 16 cards of the Major Arcana. This morning I did, and we’ll explore that more in Part II. For now, do you buy my chess/tarot comparison? What are some surprising tarot correlations you’ve developed in your own practice?

The Chibi Tarot Major Arcana is coming to a close, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve finished the Chariot and started work on the World Card. The last two remaining cards, the Star and the Sun, should be very straightforward, as I’ve already completed the major pieces for each of those cards. I’ve been doing more in-depth sketches of the characters from the World card, which I’ve shared with you below. The Angel is not included simply because I used a harder lead on his sketch that did not scan well. I’m very happy with the way these sketches came out. I view them as the evolved forms of the elements we saw in The Wheel of Fortune. As Wikipedia tells us, these four symbols originally intimated the four evangelists, but work just as well for the four fixed signs of astrology, and thereby the four elements.

The World Card - Guardian Spirit - Bull The World Card - Guardian Spirit - Eagle The World Card - Guardian Spirit - Lion

A few months ago my 4-year-old son took to the page and drew three of the tarot’s major arcana: the Sun, the Emperor and the Hanged Man. The results are below. Here’s what he had to say about the cards:
Those are beautiful cards. Them mean the truth and prosperity.
(You can see the originals here: The Hanged Man and the Emperor).
The Hanged Man as drawn by my son

The Hanged Man as drawn by my son

Tarot Major Arcana - The Sun as drawn by my son

The Sun as drawn by my son

Tarot Major Arcana - The Sun as drawn by my son

The Emperor as drawn by my son

13.01.09-Tarocchi-players-borromeo

Artist unknown. (Scanned from Michael Dummett’s The Game of Tarot.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s just get this out of the way: You shouldn’t need a book to read the tarot. All the information that we need to read the tarot is already inside of us. All the stories, lessons and wisdom we’ll ever need are already at our fingertips. The key to learning to read the tarot is not mastering the arcane and mystical symbols that are so often embedded in the strange illustrations that populate the cards, but in learning to trust ourselves and our own understanding of what we see there and what that evokes in us. But that’s not what most people are going to tell you about the tarot, and it’s not what most decks want you to believe.

The tarot has a reputation as a difficult and complicated symbol system, a well earned reputation for confusing characters and secret symbols. In reality it is a simple system about asking questions and telling stories about the answers we receive. But since the 19th century the deck has been subverted to serve the ends of a particular group of people. Granted, that group of people, the Victorian occultists, brought a level of sophistication to an otherwise simple deck of cards and for that I’m grateful. But the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of secrecy and mysticism, culminating perhaps in the Thoth Tarot, so laden with symbols and mystical apocrypha that its images, though intensely powerful, are all but indecipherable to anyone but the hardiest of students (despite the best attempts of Lon Milo DuQuette), and Crowley’s book of the same name is an exercise in self-aggrandizing incomprehensibility.

The tarot is a product of medieval pop culture, featuring the stars of the day. Kings, queens, popes, and mythic heroes and heroines that were immediately recognizable to everyone who played the game. It was not an arcane system of cryptic symbols but a series of illustrations that immediately spoke to the players on a number of levels. Nor was the tarot a finalized set of glyphs that everyone agreed upon, but a fluctuating series of illustrations that captured different ways of playing the game as well as different versions and stories behind the cards themselves.

The illustrations in the major arcana were designed to be transparent, not opaque, to communicate clearly and efficiently their values and meanings. That polarity has been completely reversed in the 700 years since the tarot’s inception, both because of the unnecessary layer mystical mumbo jumbo that it’s acquired along the way, and because of the way that the glyphs have petrified, becoming ancient symbols of a bygone era requiring a level of translation that makes immediate reactions nearly impossible. The tarot’s developed into a highly arcane art, to be attempted only by the most learned of sages, who have spent years working with the cards to unravel their most ancient and sacred mysteries, and I think that’s a bunch of baloney.

The cards should be immediately recognizable. Whether you subscribe the theory of Jungian archetypes or not, the cards should be accessible and readable to almost anyone in the culture creating the deck, and that’s not the case today. Needing a book in order to sort through the various symbols and signs reneges on the promise of art: that we can immediately enjoy it and take something away from it. Traditional decks have become so laden with a stiff layers of alchemical significance that reading the cards is no longer a joy; the juice has been sucked out by the Serious Work that the artists and writers have embedded into their images. There is a need for fun and the Chibi Tarot is a direct response to that need for fun and joy that the tarot, it seems, has lacked for so long.

I don’t want the tarot to become a kind of esperanto, a broken language so simple that no one would ever want to use it, but I don’t want it to be Klingon either: Incomprehensible and threatening. The tarot should be approachable and infused with the spirit of the culture, a reflection of the people reading the cards. If the deck is an antique whose desiccated symbols require a history lesson to understand and absorb them then the power of the tool has waned. I’m not saying that mystical study isn’t valuable for the initiate who is looking to unlock those secrets and deepen their metaphysical understanding, but to insist on creating purposely opaque veil to obscure the mighty secrets of the tarot from the people in order to protect them from the harm they may do themselves, to play the wizard of Oz and shout in a mighty voice that “We Know Best!” is silly. The tarot is for everyone, it should be approachable and immediately accessible to almost anyone who picks up a deck, the way it was when it began.

I’m certainly not the first to say this. I think Mary Greer has been working tirelessly to encourage and support readers wherever they’re at, to give them the tools to recognize that they already have the information they need, they just need to look long at the cards and trust what they see there, whatever it is. Enrique Enriquez is basically saying the same thing. His naive approach to the cards, to simply lay them down and tell the story he sees there implies that no learning is necessary. Throughout ‘Tarology’ the documentary that follows Enriquez throught New York city as he expounds on the simplicty of the tarot, he consistently implies that we in the tarot world are all making much ado about nothing, that the cards have a simple message for those of us who want to take the time to hear it, and reading a bunch of books on the esoteric history of the tarot might teach you a lot of things, but it won’t help you read the cards better. Only reading the cards will do that.

The truth is that all of us are storytellers; it is our birthright as human beings. Our life is the narrative that we are always weaving together, for good and for ill, for truth and for illusion. Beyond the tale of our own life, we create stories without even thinking, offhandedly deciding things about people we don’t even know based only on the way they look, act and move through the world. Our desire for narrative, for backstory and conclusion is both what makes us great as a people and what can make us petty as people. Harnessing the power of story in conjunction with a series of images loosely tied to mythological archetypes can be a powerful tool for insight into the nature of ourselves and the world around us, one that more people could use in their day to day existence, and one that has been largely obstructed due to the incidental secrecy that wedded itself to the tarot 150 or so years ago.

The tarot is a flexible and multifaceted oracle that was originally built on a premise of instantaneous understanding of symbols involved, and it no longer seems to speak to that. Returning to a simplicity of image and symbol, and bringing the tarot out of the shadows in which it has been comfortable encased is why the Chibi Tarot is here; to return the tarot to the people, the way it started, the way it was meant to be.

Vieville1650-TheStarI struggle a lot with the use of the tarot. I am not naturally a tarot reader, at least, if I am I haven’t discovered the way that works best for me. I struggle with the phrasing of the question and the structure of the answer that the tarot provides. I struggle with structuring the cards into the shape of a narrative that’s meaningful to the querent, whether that’s me or someone else. The Celtic Cross, that sham of a structure that’s so often foisted on beginners, is clumsy and awkward, a poor way to read, and an even worse way to begin. And yet, I have not found something to take its place. Even the simplicity of 3 card readings escapes me. There is something missing for me still in regards to reading the tarot for others, and despite my limited knowledge of minors and court cards (which makes me uneasy, I’ll admit) there is something else to it.

This morning that I had an insight into the importance of the tarot for our lives, whether it’s something as simple as a card a day or something more complex like an in-depth reading (or creating your own tarot deck and companion book!). The tarot, like so many of the humanity’s storytelling tools, is a lens that allows us to refocus on and reenergize the mythic and heroic aspects of our lives. Reading, drawing or meditating on the tarot allows us access to the millennia-old stories that we have created and collected as cultures, and gives us access to the energy and wisdom that they contain through an instantly accessible visual medium. Reframing our struggle in a mythical/magical context can shift our perspective immeasurably and provide us with answers that we never realized were applicable.

It is so easy to be overcome by the mundane aspects of day to day living that we forget the spiritual, heroic parts of ourselves. The tarot allows us to tell our own story, populating it with legendary characters from all of mythology, and can allow us access, if we allow it to, the powerful magical matrix that surrounds us everyday. It helps remind us that we are heirs to a long and powerful mythic history, full of beauty, tragedy and power that can inspire and guide us as we walk through our seemingly mundane lives, can remind us of the power that we have to shape and influence the lives we lead and the way that we lead them.

That reminder is deeply valuable, and we can find it in many places. The resurgence of fantasy in pop culture, from Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings to the Twilight Saga is, to my mind, a culture struggling to regain its connection the powerful magical traditions that have for so long informed it, but lived outside the walls of acceptable Christian myth. The tarot is a piece of this resurgence and is uniquely placed, because it doesn’t tell a single story, it tells every story. And for those that embrace the tarot’s power and heed its lessons can always return to it for all the wisdom and reassurance that our shared mythic history can provide.

Little_Red_Riding_Hood_-_J._W._Smith

By Jessie Willcox Smith (1863 – 1935) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As I wrote about in my last post, I’ve been immersing myself in Joseph Campbell’s seminal text, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Being plunged so purely into the essence of mythology is revivifying. Being bathed in the the totems and talismans of cultures from across the world and watching as they’re woven into a living trellis pulsating with the power of humanity in all its various forms, macabre to magnificent. It is inspiring and invigorating to feel, again, so close to the source of things, so close to the careful understanding of the symbols and rites of human culture, the tools we have developed to usher ourselves more safely, more sanely along this long strange road we walk together.

For me, the link between tarot and mythology has been tenuous at best. I know this is a strange thing to say. The mythology of the tarot is just beneath the surface of cards like the Lovers, the Tower and the Last Judgement, but tarot as I’ve learned it exists in a tenuous place outside of traditional myth, in a kind of bubble of its own mythology, immersed in a cheap mystique of strip mall psychics, gothy high school art chicks. Add to that its historical association with characters like Aleister Crowley (“the wickedest man in the world” ) and its own dubious history and syncretic melding of an Italian card game with an obscure Jewish mystical sect at the hands of some loopy British spiritualists and it’s certainly difficult to speak on the tarot and be taken seriously.

It is a piece of neither the academic study of mythology and folklore nor an essential piece of any practice of craft traditions. This, combined with our cultural ambivalence towards its use as an oracle (along with our revulsion at the inclusion of such unsavory characters as the devil and the high priestess) has shunted the tarot into a strange place, being neither one thing nor another: It is a step-sister of the occult, too often thoughtlessly tossed in with its cousin the Ouija board as a parlour game not serious enough to be believed, nor artistically stringent enough to be enjoyed aesthetically. Certainly things are changing. There are more tarot decks and practitioners now than ever before, and pop tarot decks like the Super Punch Tarot, the Light Grey Tarot and dare I say the Chibi Tarot show a renewed artistic interest in the power of the tarot’s symbols and the way in which they can converse with pop culture.

But given where the the tarot’s come from, it’s clear why it exists on the fringes of serious mythological study, why Campbell and Jung  mention the cards only briefly, as asides, if at all, despite the fact that the cards fit almost perfectly into their systems and reflect clearly the symbols that they deal with in such depth in the rest of their work.

So, because of the lack of existing ties between the tarot and popular mythology, it occurred to me to start creating my own. It was inevitable, I think, writing and drawing my own tarot deck and reading The Hero With a Thousand Faces simultaneously. So I did, but not in an academic way, which would tire me out quickly, but in the form of a simple game that can be played two ways, which I did with my wife on our walk around Capitol Lake yesterday.

The first way to play is to take any number of cards and put them together, then intuit what myth they represent. I’m currently only playing with major arcana, both because my knowledge of the minors and court cards is so limited and because majors represent larger, more common themes (though playing with someone like my wife who’s much more familiar with the minors and court is a great way to learn them). My first attempt that this by myself was the Tower and Judgement, which immediately spoke to me of Joshua and the battle of Jericho.

Playing with my wife on our walk we did the Empress and the Devil (Beauty and the Beast), the Chariot and the Moon (Peter Pan), and the Hermit and the World (every Christian monk story ever). The second way to play is to reverse engineer the first way: start with the story, then divine the cards. For Goldilocks and the 3 Bears I chose the five of coins. Little Red Riding Hood was the Empress, Strength/Devil and the Emperor.

It’s an interesting and stimulating way to combine the tarot and mythology in a way that’s accessible and immediate, and doesn’t require anything beyond our own store of stories and our knowledge of the tarot.

So what combinations come up for you? What stories to you always see tarot cards in?

ChibiTarot08-Strength-Lovers-Blog02There’s nothing more irritating than starting over. Professional artists do it all the time. Dan Clowes has said that it’s better to redraw an entire page than to regret it when the piece comes out. I don’t like agreeing with him (he’s one of my least favorite visual storytellers), but in this case I’m forced to.

As I was moving into the detail stages of the tarot card 8, Strength, something kept bugging me about it. The pose and the posture irritated me. They were good, but they weren’t good enough. They were just generic. Then, going over the completed cards, I also realized that the little girl’s pose and facial expression were nearly identical to that of the angel in The Lovers.

ChibiTarot08-strengthSketches2-01It’s tempting to say that the limitation of the facile “chibi” form is that I will end up repeating myself, because the form itself is so limiting. That’s twice a lie. I’ll end up repeating myself because it’s inevitable, not because of the form I choose. And the form itself is limitless, the only limitation is myself; if I allow myself to settle for repetition rather than pushing myself into new places, stretching my muscles so that I can be a little bit better than I was last time.

So, I started over. I didn’t want to. I wanted to be halfway done with the card, but although I like the original Strength, I really disliked how similar it was to the lovers. Instead, I imagined my daughter’s “monster” pose. We have a little Bowser toy at home, and whenever she wants to play with it (or really whenever she wants to tell us about monster, be it how her big brother is acting or the dinosaurs on her shirt) she holds her hands up next to her face and does a breathy growl. It’s adorable. So I drew her, in a lion suit, doing her monster growl. And it’s adorable too.

ChibiTarot08-Strength-Max-WtWTALooking at the sketch I’d done, it was clear that this version also had an earlier predecessor. Anyone familiar with Maurice Sendak’s body of work will recognize the spirit of Max from ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ in this second version of Strength. And I think that’s appropriate, both for its inspiration and for its meaning.

The world is an oracle, if we know how to read the signs. I have no doubt of that fact now, after having spent nearly 2 years producing my own tarot deck and related materials. And wisdom and insight into the tarot often come from unexpected place. I’ve been struggling with deep understanding of card XX, The Last Judgement. It’s not a card I understand in the sense that we already have Death, which explicitly speaks to death and rebirth, so why do we need another card that echoes that? Is The Last Judgement the counterpart to Death? That didn’t feel true to me, but none of my core books helped shed any light or understanding toward the card. So imagine my surprise when reading Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces a passage leaped out at me regarding card XX:
The passage of the mythological hero may be over-ground, incidentally; fundamentally it is inward—into depths where obscure resistances are overcome, and long lost, forgotten powers are revivified, to be made available for the transfiguration of the world. This deed accomplished, life no longer suffers hopelessly under the terrible mutilations of ubiquitous disaster, battered by time, hideous throughout space; but with its horror visible still, its cries of anguish still tumultuous, it becomes penetrated by an all-suffusing, all-sustaining love, and a knowledge of its own unconquered power.
As I’ve continued reading, more passages have jumped out in relationship to the tarot. Here are two more pieces referencing the Hanged Man and the Moon (which I found especially powerful and insightful).

The Hanged Man

[The Buddha experiencing perfect englightenment] is the most important single moment in Oriental mythology, a counterpart of the crucifixion of the West. The Buddha beneath the Tree of Enlightenment (the Bo Tree) and Christ on Holy Rood (the Tree of Redemption) are analogous figures, incorporating an archetypal World Savior, World Tree motif, which is of immemorial antiquity. Many other variants of the theme will be found among the episodes to come. The Immovable Spot and Mount Calvary are images of the World Navel, or World Axis.

The Moon

Typical of the circumstances of the call are the dark forest, the great tree, the babbling spring, and the loathly, underestimated appearance of the carrier of the power of destiny. We recognize in the scene the symbols of the World Navel. The frog, the little dragon, is the nursery counterpart of the underworld serpent whose head supports the earth and who represents the life-progenitive, demiurgic powers of the abyss. He comes up with the golden sun ball, his dark deep waters having just taken it down: at this moment resembling the great Chinese Dragon of the Kast, delivering the rising sun in his jaws, or the frog on whose head rides the handsome young immortal, Han Hsiang, carrying in a basket the peaches of immortality

The disgusting and rejected frog or dragon of the fairy tale brings up the sun ball in its mouth; for the frog, the serpent, the rejected one, is the representative of that unconscious deep (“so deep that the bottom cannot be seen”) wherein are hoarded all of the rejected, unadmitted, unrecognized, unknown, or undeveloped factors, laws, and elements of existence. Those are the pearls of the fabled submarine palaces of the nixies, tritons, and water guardians; the jewels that give light to the demon cities of the underworld; the tire seeds in the ocean of immortality which supports the earth and surrounds it like a snake; the stars in the bosom of immortal night. Those are the nuggets in the gold hoard of the dragon; the guarded apples of the Hesperides; the filaments of the Golden Fleece. The herald or announcer of the adventure, therefore, is often dark, loathly, or terrifying, judged evil by the world; yet if one could follow, the way would be opened through the walls of day into the dark where the jewels glow. Or the herald is a beast (as in the fain’ tale), representative of the repressed instinctual fecundity within ourselves, or again a veiled mysterious figure—the unknown.

I plan to continue to annotate and collect these bits and pieces as they pop out at me and post them here. Enjoy!

I spoke briefly in my comments on Justice about it being the center of the tarot, and I’ve mentioned before about a card’s placement within the first, second or third line of the tarot and I thought that I’d address that for a moment, since I’ve never explicitly explained the meaning behind that train of thought or why I keep using it.

Rachel Pollack, a worthy guide to the tarot if ever there was one, tells us in the second chapter of 78 Degrees of Wisdom, her seminal study of the tarot, that there are two schools of thought on the interpretation of the tarot deck, one that views the cards alone as important and another that views the cards as a specific sequence. Pollack aligns herself with the second group, not only that, but that while the tarot can be neatly divided into two groups of 11, she prefers to discard the Fool, so she’s left with 21 cards easily broken down into three groups of seven. These seven levels of the tarot then form three distinct phases within the journey of the querent. The first line concerns the mundane concerns of society, the second the journey inward to deal with issues of identity and personality, and the third line “with the great forces of life itself,” as Pollack puts it. A less intimidating way of phasing it might external spiritual forces, right up to creation itself in the World card. That’s a big deal, but it’s not an impossible deal.

So that’s the quick and dirty on the seven lines, but not necessarily my take on them. While I find the narrative of the three levels of the tarot intriguing and somewhat useful, the truth is that I don’t believe that each card in the system absolutely needs to be in the place it is, nor that it takes its meaning directly (or even tangentially) from its position. That doesn’t gel for me around the highly idiosyncratic nature of the tarot, nor of the nature of divination or the usefulness of other oracles, such as the Lenormand cards, The Faerie Oracle or even the incredibly odd Cards of U’ut. The tarot is a malleable system of articulation, a necessarily malleable system. Without its inherent flexibility the tarot would be far less popular and even less accessible than it already is.

Most importantly, the idea that each card must come in a certain order contradicts the very way that most folks use the tarot. It may well be that most diviners are mis-using the tarot, breaking it down from its enlightened purpose as a guide to enlightenment, but I strongly disagree with that. The way that the tarot is most often used is to shake up the cards and lay them out of order for more insight into a particular dilemma. The Emperor is suddenly shoulder to shoulder with the two of cups and the seven of swords, but he doesn’t lose any of his meaning from this positioning, in fact he gains greater meaning from it, more useful meaning than he had in his traditional position.

Sure, you might say, that’s true, using the tarot for divination is one thing, but the order IS important and we shouldn’t mess with that; it’s been specifically developed over centuries in order to accurately reflect the human condition. Well…no, not really. Historically there have been a number of versions of the tarot streaming out of Italy and then France. The version that we’ve received has had a very specific path, from Italy, to Marseilles, France to London and into the hands of AE Waite and the Golden Dawn. From those 18th century western occultists we received our tarot canon. But beside historical precedence for alternate tarots and alternate versions of this tarot, there is also the question of where the magic happens, and that, to me, is the greatest argument against the importance of traditional card position. For me, the magic is not in the cards. In fact, it’s my belief that no artifact can contain magic, only channel it. The magic is in the reader, the human holding the cards, and the cards help us focus and clearly reflect that energy back at ourselves in a coherent way.

A deep part of the magic of the tarot is learning how to tell the stories it has the potential to create, stories about ourselves and the people around us. The story that Pollack tells around the 3 levels of tarot is just one more story, just one more alignment of the cards. Learning to tell those stories is the important thing, and having a tool to construct the stories is important, but it’s not necessary: the story is going on all around us, but it’s a lot harder to simplify, condense and make sense of when we’re trying to draw it straight from life than it is when we draw it from the cards. I believe that no matter what the original, “authentic” position of the cards humans would find a way to make a story out of them, and that story would make sense. And we do, every time we divine with the cards we find a new way of telling that essential human story over and over again: what’s happening in my life? This is what Enrique Enriquez talks about in Tarology, how to let go of everything you might think you’re supposed to know about tarot and simply look at the pictures and then tell the story you see. And that, in and of itself, is the power of the tarot: learning to trust ourselves.

Learning to get out of our own way and really trust the deep intuition that we’re born with. Learning to listen to and hone that intuition that has, for most of us, been derided, demeaned and ignored for a long damn time. Connecting to and nurturing that voice is difficult, scary and challenging on every level of my life. It often makes me look crazy: moving to Wales and starting my own business so my wife could pursue a PhD in theology didn’t really look as though it had “solid life decision” written all over it, but it’s worked out a lot better than I suspect most folks thought it would, and more importantly it’s led me down a path that I would NEVER have been able to replicate if I’d just done what other folks thought made logical sense, and it’s taught me over and over again to trust myself first, no matter what the logical decision might be.

The conclusion that I’m about to draw flies in the face of everything I’ve just said, but perhaps there’s a reason why, despite being a wild card and a floating trump, the Fool has settled at the beginning of the tarot. Its lesson is by far the most important lesson that I know in reading, studying or creating the tarot: Trust yourself first and everything else will fall into place. Finding that voice is difficult, and there are consequences we cannot foresee, wounds we have ignored that will need tending, and powers we didn’t know we had that will need tempering. But there is no more satisfying feeling than knowing that voice, trusting it and seeing it through, whether its something as simple as a tarot reading or as powerful as taking control of your own life.