My Earliest Foray in Cartomancy

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In Chapter 33, the final chapter of my forthcoming book Holistic Tarot (coming out January, 2015; you can pre-order now!), I talk about how I got started in tarot.

In elementary school I acquired a standard 54-card playing deck from Taiwan that depicted the characters of one of my favorite classical Chinese novels, Journey to the West (西遊記). While writing that chapter, I thought back fondly of those early memories, that large deck in my hands, shuffling carefully so that none of the cards would fall out (as the deck was large for my hands), fanning the cards out and selecting a couple to study, like maybe the characters on each card that had been drawn out into the spread held some meaning to my life. You could say it was my earliest foray in cartomancy.

As I wrote, I worked from my memory of that Journey to the West deck, figuring it was still back on the east coast in my childhood home, if not lost for good. Recently, the Hubby and I cleaned out all our old storage boxes and I stumbled across that Journey to the West deck I talked about in my tarot book. I couldn’t believe it! I had managed to save it all those years and not only save it, but for reasons now lost to me, I bothered to bring it with me when I moved out here to the west coast!

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In my memory, the cards were huge and required careful maneuvering. However, now that I have the actual deck in hand, they’re quite small. Gasp. The cards shrunk! That or I grew up.

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A Simple Technique for Marathon Tarot Readings

01 Marathon Reading Technique

Let’s say you’re going to be planted somewhere for an extended period of time to do quick tarot readings. You could be at a corporate event or party– you and your tarot deck being the entertainment for the night; or you’re at a café doing readings for complete strangers for tips and practice; or you’re at a fundraiser doing readings for donations to your favorite non-profit. Whatever the case may be, you don’t have the time to do a full-length Celtic Cross for every jane and joe who walks by but a 1-card or a 3-card spread on the table isn’t going to look quite as impressive. Also, the range of questions you’re going to get in a very short time frame will run the whole gamut, so you still need something versatile.

Well I’ve got a technique you could try out.

02 Miniature RWS with Stones

To demonstrate I’ll be using my miniature Rider Waite, which I carry with me in my purse at all times, but I’m guessing you’ll be using a normal size deck for your reading event. In the baggy with my mini tarot deck are four gemstones.

03 Four Stones

At the top-north point above is a piece of polished and tumbled petrified wood; bottom-south is rose quartz; east is amethyst; and west is green moss agate: Wands-Fire; Cups-Water; Swords-Air; Pentacles-Earth, respectively. These four stones will anchor every reading. I’ll set them out right to left corresponding with IHVH and utilizing a technique derived from the First Operation of the Opening of the Key method.

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Myth of the Divination-Fulfilling Prophecy

There is a view, a fear of so-called divinatory practices that many hold, which I don’t think had a name before. I’m hereby referencing it as the Divination-Fulfilling Prophecy.

“I’m afraid to get a tarot reading. If the cards predict something terrible, then I’m scared that it will happen for sure, because the cards predicted it. Tarot reading is a form of tempting fate. As long as I never get a tarot reading or partake in divinatation practices, then my future remains uncertain, and that’s better.”

As a tarot practitioner I often hear that sentiment from would-be seekers. A commonly held belief of the tarot, or any form of divination for that matter, is that it possesses the power to fulfill its own prophecy. If the tarot predicts an unfortunate outcome, then even if a person’s future was unfixed before, the power of that prediction will now make the unfortunate outcome fixed for sure. Thereafter, nothing a person does can prevent the outcome because the act of the divination has caused the future to become fixed. Had a person not sought divination, then that future would have remained unfixed. I refer to this belief as the myth of the divination-fulfilling prophecy. The divination-fulfilling prophecy assumes that the tarot, or any divination tool, possesses the power to nullify free will, and divination simply does not have that kind of power. I find the divination-fulfilling prophecy concept to be gravely suspect. I hope this article will explain why.

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The future is never certain. Rather, there is a mathematical probability that an outcome will happen based on certain decisions made in the present. That probable outcome is rendered even more complex based on the decisions that others make. Events are one variable. A person’s attitude is another. His or her personality characteristics are more variables. Nature is a factor, so is nurture. Other people’s actions that lead them to either cross paths with the person also have an impact. There is a formula that can take these variables into consideration based on the given moment and that metaphysical formula of sorts will calculate the most probable outcome. That is the so-called future predicted by the tarot.

However, changes in those variables will change the probable outcome. If the tarot reveals an outcome to be unfortunate, then that is an indication that the inputted variables need to be adjusted. Isn’t that information anyone would want to know in advance? Thus, while some view the tarot as a tool for the passive, I view it as a tool for the assertive. The tarot is for the person who likes roadmaps and milestones, the go-getter who likes to chart his or her progress through life, write resolutions, make checklists, or carry a planner.

The cards tap into your limitless subconscious to mine out what you already know. Every decision we make affects the path we’re taking toward our future. A decision could keep us on the same course and lead to that most probable outcome if we stay the course, or it could take us off course on a new, different path. That is why the future can never be set in stone. The divination-fulfilling prophecy is a myth. When people say the cards can predict the future, what they really mean is the cards can reveal to you the most likely destination of your current journey based on which forks you’ve chosen to take in the road. When you make adjustments, you change your future.

I do not believe for a second that what the cards reveal will absolutely happen. I believe that the cards are a flashlight that you can use to illuminate the dark terrain we walk through in life. If there are jagged rocks up ahead, the flashlight will shine on that, and we can diverge in time to take a different route. Shining the flashlight and seeing the jagged rocks does not mean we must walk straight onto them. Likewise, using the tarot to illuminate where we’re going does not mean we must continue on that path. As mentioned earlier, the tarot is also a flashlight that helps to illuminate our subconscious. It draws out what we already know but are not consciously aware of. It presents that information in the cards so that we may confront it. When we confront it, we can make adjustments to our actions, our attitudes and outlook, and thereby change the variables for a better tomorrow.

While there may be no such thing as divination-fulfilling prophecy, there is such a thing as self-fulfilling prophecy. Even when an outcome was never meant to happen or was an entirely fabricated prediction, our unshakeable awareness and anticipation of that outcome in effect can cause the outcome to happen. The self-fulfilling prophecy is a very real phenomenon. Our outlook, our selves is what causes the prediction to come true, not the act of divination itself. There is a clear distinction. Divination-fulfilling prophecy claims that the objective act of divination causes an event to happen. Self-fulfilling prophecy contends that the act is and has always been arbitrary, and it is the subjective meaning we attach to that act, our outlook, that causes the prediction to come true. Self-fulfilling prophecies still occur because of free will, albeit poorly controlled free will.

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The tarot is a tool, much like a calculator. A person does not need a tool to calculate the square root of a number; it can be done in the head. However, human ingenuity invented the calculator. One is now at our disposal. Why not use it? We all have the capability of calculating square roots in our heads, but not all of us are skilled enough at math to do so competently. That does not change the condition that the innate capability is still there. When we use the calculator, the tool is doing the actual calculation function, but the human is still in control of the operation and input.

The tarot is also a tool that calculates a most probable future based on the decisions we are making in the present and our current mentality. These are inputted into the tarot through personal qi. Qi is the Chinese concept of life energy. Qi runs through us connecting the disparate parts of our body into one. That is referred to as personal qi. We, then, are connected to the many disparate parts of the universe, other people, other living things, the constellations, to form an infinite one. That is referred to as cosmic qi. Cosmic qi contains the full body of truths and information of the universe. Some may consider this the god principle. It’s linked to our subconscious, which as we age, grows harder to access consciously. The so-called future and every truth we wish to know are there, in the god principle and our subconscious. We are each capable on our own of extracting those truths from the deep ravines of our minds. We do not need the tarot to know the answers, just like we do not need the calculator to compute square roots. And yet it is a very effective, very efficient, and accurate tool for tapping those ravines. Having the independent capability to calculate square roots, many of us have come to acknowledge, is very different from competently doing so without that calculator. The outcome based on the variables inputted may in one sense be fixed, but it is no divination-fulfilling prophecy. All we need to do is change the variables, and that is always within our control.

The tarot doesn’t know the future. No one does because the future does not yet exist. Instead, the tarot is a calculator. We concentrate your life energies into the cards, which represent the input variables, and the cards generate a most probable outcome based on those variables. If you don’t like the most probable outcome, all you need to do is adjust the input variables. It is like any mathematical formula. A tarot reading will guide you through the variables one by one and offer insight into what you need to do to improve your future. That is the full power and the only power of the tarot.” That is what we tell would-be seekers who express concern for the divination-fulfilling prophecy. It is a myth, we must assure them. The tarot is not fortunetelling. It is empowerment.