Thursday, July 27, 2006


The Hermit is my card. I've always like to think it was The Fool, but lately it has been The Hermit. Having always had a slight tendancy toward withdrawal, I suppose it was to be expected. Sometimes it is necessary, you know.

Withdrawal isn't always bad (unless, of course, you're relying on it as a reliable method of contraception, which I wouldn't recommend. But this is about inner upheaval and not unwanted pregnancy or even population control...though I suppose less people would make it easier to be alone. But that's not my point. My point was...I had a point? What was it? Where was I? Where am I? Oh, yes...)

Sometimes pulling back is necessary. It's good to take stock. It's good to get to know your feelings, letting them wrap around you like a heavy coat on a cold day. Then you can see how they fit; how you fit into them. Sometimes that's enough to acheive clarity. Other times it's not so simple. Either way, after a while a you tire of trying on outerwear. You find yourself ready to leave the hermitage for a bit. You force yourself back into the world, knowing that when you need to retreat into your cave again it will still be there filled with mothballs and coats.

But, for now, here I am.


Jen said...

I'm trying to think what my card would be... the Fool sounds good, but I think I need more of an Idiot card. Is there a card for being full of good intentions and plans but lacking the spark to act on them? That could be me too! hee hee.

At any rate, I'm happy to see you out of your cave! I think we should concentrate on August as a month of Maximum Fun and Happiness. (fun in a way to be determined by each of us, not by some over caffeinated corporate Fun Promoter).

Chris Date said...

When Tarot cards came into my life in 1985, the first thing I did with them was an exercise pictured on the flyleaf of the book which I found with the cards.

The Major Arcana are laid out in numerical order in the shape of the infinity symbol, which is also a figure 8 depending on which way you look at it. One loop is made up of The Fool (card 0), then The Magician (or the Magus, depending on your deck; card 1, anyway) and so on, round to The Hermit (card 9). The Wheel of Fortune (10) completes the first loop and is also the crossover point. The second loop is Fortitude through to Judgement (11 to 20), with the final card, The World (21) lying on top of The Wheel of Fortune to complete the crossover.

The bottom of each card should be pointing outwards in the first loop, but inwards in the second. It's as though you had laid them all out in a straight line, all upright, then bent the shape around to form that figure 8.

In this way, the layout represents a path, starting at the Fool, moving through all the cards in both loops before returning to the start. Of course you can keep going round and round the path repeatedly, which is why it's more appropriate to think of the infinity symbol than the figure eight.

Now ask someone who knows little or nothing about Tarot (Jen?) to spend just a few minutes looking at the cards. Explaining that this represents a path, ask them where they feel they currently are on that card path. Everyone I've ever done this with had a clear sense of their position.

The way it seems to work is this. From the imagery on the cards, we intuitively have a recognition of meanings in some of them, but not others. We feel that we have some understanding of a cluster of them, but sense nothing from the ones following. The last card that means something to us is probably the one which draws us most strongly, so that's the one we pick as our current place on the path. (The choice of deck probably affects the ease with which this can be done. For me, the most traditional imagery of the Marseilles, Rider or Rider-Waite would seem to be the most appropriate.)

When I first did this, it was the Hermit for me. It felt like I had been there for most of my life, and I remained there for several more years. (Being a hermit doesn't necessarily mean withdrawing from other people, though I've done plenty of that. Sometimes we are most alone in the biggest cities.) Later, I have felt that I was moving along as far as The Devil, but I've not looked at Tarot in recent years so I haven't considered where I am now. Even after reading and studying, I still feel no affinity for the last five cards. Not even The Star, who you'd think I'd be drawn to as she is a naked girl.

I think that the less someone knows about Tarot, the more interesting this exercise becomes. That way, it is reliant solely on intuition and the response to the imagery of the cards, which is the power of Tarot as a tool. Knowledge can cloud this response. After studying the subject in depth, an expert reader will ignore what they know, or at least turn it off when reading the cards, reverting to intuition and feeling. It's similar to learning to play a musical instrument, playing the scales and learning the fingering and the theory, then not thinking about these things when really playing music. I'm a long way from being able to do that with Tarot, though I've known other people who do it and it is just as captivating to watch as it is to hear an experienced musician. I'll explain a little more about this Tarot exercise but perhaps, Jen, you should avert your eyes now, so that your vision isn't clouded by knowing what you're looking at.

If the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana, the "Keys", represent the path of life, it is not necessarily one whole life time. It might require several incarnations to progress through one complete loop, or sometimes we might whizz round several laps at record pace. Each lap completed takes us to a higher spiritual level, so we are not really right back where we started but are following a similar path on a higher plane. However, the simplest way to look at the sequence of cards is that they start with The Fool to represent the naive new born child. (New life has lots of "spark", it is spark, so that doesn't seem to fit Jen's current state.) Remember that the cards in the first loop, from The Fool to The Hermit, have their bottoms stuck out, as it were. The bottom of the cards pointing outward shows that those cards are primarily related to the outside world, this half of the path being the way that the infant learns to form relationships with other people, leaves home, builds a career and so on. After the crossover, the bottoms of the cards are turned inward, representing a focus on the inner life, reflection, the spirit. That's simplistic but it's a good start. By the way, Martina, even though it's the last card of the loop, as The Hermit your bottom is still sticking out. That pleases me.

My memory and my Martina file show no record of us ever having talked about The Tarot of the Spirit, a book with an accompanying deck, though surely we must have done because I discovered it via high recommendations on the New Age Forum on Compuserve. Do you have it? If not, I really feel that it would hit the spot for you at the moment. It's expensive but you really must have it.

Martina said...

Interesting exercise. It seems familiar to me (maybe I saw it in another boo or tarot website?), but I know that I have never looked at "Tarot of the Spirit". I'll have to see if I can find it at the library. Even if I can't find it, I'll have to try it with my Universal Waite deck, which is my favorite when it comes to doing more than just looking at the pictures.

Chris said...

Perhaps that exercise seemed familiar because I once described it to you, though I don't remember doing so. "Just looking at the pictures" is what this one's about, at least to start with, so I wouldn't use the Tarot of the Spirit deck because that is too abstract. Imagery with Jungian archetypes is ideal, so anything Waitey would probably be perfect.

Don't bother looking for Tarot of the Spirit at the library. The book and the deck go together, so you will need both. But don't worry about it. Sometimes these things have a tendency just to turn up...

Martina said...

I still haven't had time to do the exercise, but I definitely plan to - especially now that "things have turned up". (Thank you, to the tarot fairy! Or is it Tarot Claus? Père Tarot? The Tarot Bunny? You know who you are... :-))

Martina said...

Doh, Jen! I thought I'd responded to your comment, but just realized that I didn't. The awesome thing about the fool card is that it CAN be an idiot/naivite card, but also has the more positive aspect of "anything can happen", openness to the new, willingness to take the plunge, etc.

I'm not sure what the good intentions/lacking spark card would be, but that could be mine too. Maybe we should add a 0 1/2 card called "The Dreamer". Then The Dreamer could hang out with The Mingler at parties and talk about the novel she's writing, but has not actually started yet. Tee hee.