I’m about to share something with you that even my family doesn’t know about me. I’m a Tarot card reader. Although, I’ll admit that I didn’t exactly come in to it in a way that you would expect. I came across the Tarot because I was trying to expand my understanding of science, of all things.
What sent me down this path is the study of alchemy. I wanted to know how our scientific ideas were conceived and how they developed over time. I found that although alchemy is considered protoscientific, and did not exactly embrace our modern concept of the scientific method, it does represent the humble beginning of the entirety of the scientific field. It contains symbols, often with hidden meanings, that were meant to be sought out and understood only by those that already had alchemical knowledge. I suppose that’s one way to safe-guard secrets, but this secrecy and element of individual interpretation does make it difficult to understand completely. I learned that the Tarot was actually considered a legitimate way for an individual to gain information, but I wasn’t ready to accept the implications of such a thing yet, so I moved on with my study.
While I was learning about alchemical symbols, I became familiar with Carl Jung, a famous psychologist and psychiatrist. He coined the term “collective unconscious”, which he believed that all humans share and is actually distinct from each person’s individual unconscious mind. In his opinion, it is a collection of memories and emotional themes from the dawn of our species that awaken feelings deep inside of us. In his work, Jung found that many of his patients could access the collective unconscious, and they reported seeing images that Jung recognized as alchemical symbols. The symbols are also present on Tarot cards, and he hypothesized that the act of seeing the symbols on the cards acts as a catalyst for our understanding of the thoughts that we’re experiencing unconsciously; it’s like a bridge to access knowledge that we don’t consciously recognize.
Now, that really got me itching. How could I reconcile a connection between established alchemical symbols and Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious? It didn’t take me long to realize that if I truly wanted to understand the roots of alchemy, I would have to take the plunge and honestly experience the Tarot for myself.
It took me a long time to find a source that I trusted to teach me about the Tarot. A lot of the sources I looked at seemed to be all mystical ramblings and no substance. After weeks of searching, I found a teacher who recognized Jung’s work in her explanations of each card’s meaning and pointed out the different alchemical symbols present. She helped me to understand that you must be open to the feel of each card, and more importantly, to be aware of the significance of the symbols, numbers, and even the colors used in each card. Even more difficult, you must be open to how all the cards relate to one another, as well as recognizing any themes or recurring elements in the card spread.
One thing that really spurred my admiration for my teacher is that she insists that a Tarot card reader does not charge the querent (the person asking the question) money for a reading. She explained that the act of asking for money can actually change the way a person feels, and in turn it can change the accuracy, or even the meaning of the card spread. This is especially true because people usually consult the Tarot because they are searching for help with a problem, and we all know that money can be a problem all by itself. Only tips, after the fact, are acceptable; it is actually meant to be a valued public service.
Tarot is an art. Just like anything else, if you want to be successful with it, you’ll need lots of practice. And I’ll be the first to admit, there really isn’t (currently) a way to scientifically explain this fully. As I’ve practiced the skill of reading Tarot cards, I’ve found a lot of fulfillment in it. It’s not always straight-forward, and sometimes you’ll need time to understand what a particular card spread actually meant. I do not view what I’m doing as magical, or a way to peer into the future. I view it as a way for me to connect with different parts of my own being, that I’ve always felt were deeper than just myself. My cards have helped me many times to be able to recognize character flaws in myself, or suggest a new way to approach a difficult situation. I often put my cards away feeling emotionally charged and ready to tackle whatever obstacle lies ahead. It somehow helps to sort out my deep feelings and ambitions, but in a way that I can consciously ponder. It is a never-ending journey, but one that I’m glad that I’ve taken.