A Piece of My Mind: What's Not to Love?

By Jeanne Fiorini

During the past eighteen years, I’ve learned a lot about Tarot, a statement which immediately brings me to the first thing I love about Tarot: You can never know all there is to know about Tarot. 

A yearning to learn, a willingness to follow the thread of an idea … these things can lead a person down a multitude of paths, and to places that one never intended to visit. Astrology, numerology, transpersonal psychology, cabala, the chakra system, Jungian analytical thought, world religions; the list is truly endless. A serious student of the Tarot can run but cannot hide from the web of connections that Tarot weaves. I do know a lot about Tarot, but I only know enough about the rest of it to be dangerous. Not “do bodily harm” dangerous, but dangerous enough to sound like I know what I’m talking about when, in fact, I’m only displaying my one little corner of knowledge around the subject. 

And so there is the second thing I love about Tarot: the web that it weaves with other systems that reflect the Perennial Philosophy, that ancient concept in which the physical and spiritual worlds reflect the truth and reality of one another. 

This doesn’t mean simply that the physical world is permeated by spiritual energy, but implies that the degree to which we humans seek to understand the spiritual is equal to the manner in which the spiritual seeks to understand itself as human. Isn’t that a fascinating perspective about what we’re all doing here on this planet? What a radical idea, that human experience enables the Divine to perceive itself more fully! 

Oh, but let’s not stumble down that path too far.

Back to the web of connections. The first workbook I happened upon when learning Tarot was The Mythic Tarot Workbook by Juliet Sharman-Burke (Simon and Schuster Inc., NY, 1988). Even though I was using another deck (Aquarian Tarot) at the time, this workbook provided great clarity about card meanings and the symbolism contained within, particularly the Court Cards. I loved (and still greatly appreciate) Mythic Tarot’s associations between the astrological signs and those ever-so-tricky personality cards. (You may have noticed that not all Tarot authors concur regarding astrological associations with the Court Cards.)

I love Mythic’s interpretations because it all makes perfect sense to me: Knights correlate with the mutual signs of the zodiac, Queens with the fixed signs, and Kings with the cardinal. Cups connect with all of the water signs, Swords with the air signs, Pentacles with the earth signs, and Wands with fire signs. In a system where so much depends upon the unseen and the intuitive, it’s nice when things line up to make logical sense.

And then there are those fabulous connections between the Major Arcana cards and the letters of the Hebrew alphabet! I realize that not all Tarotists buy into the overlap between Tarot and the Cabalistic Tree of Life, but some of the relationships here are just priceless.

For instance, take a look at the High Priestess, whose path on the Tree of Life is the longest of the bunch. The Hebrew letter corresponding to her path is Gimel, a word that means “camel.” The High Priestess’ position on the Tree’s middle pillar not only identifies her as the mediator between the forces of Severity and Mercy (the black and the white pillars respectively), but her lengthy path stretches across the abyss of Daath, the vast expanse between the Supreme intelligence and human compassion. She’s a water-bearer through the desert, a camel indeed.

Crossword puzzle aficionados in the crowd might know the word Qoph, a Hebrew letter with associations to The Moon card. The letter correlating to The Moon’s partner, The Sun, is Resh. As we all know, we have the opposite forces of existence expressed with The Moon and The Sun cards: the unconscious and the conscious, the unknown and the known, the obscure and the obvious. Would it surprise you to hear that Qoph means “back of the head” and Resh means “face”, or “front of the head”? You gotta love it!

And then, let’s admit it, Tarot has an element of magic. Who doesn’t love magic? The following quote is from my book Invitation to Wonder, written in 2002 (page 7):

“Fred Rogers, icon to children and adults alike, has remarked that some of us value information over wonder.  This certainly is a valid observation of our culture and the values it reinforces.  Exploration of the Tarot can revive the wounded sense of wonder that we all still hold inside our hearts.  I have come to thoroughly enjoy the fact that, although I’ve seen Tarot “work” in innumerable cases, I do not understand how it works.  I savor this mystery.”  

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Do we love Tarot because it’s both intellectually stimulating and emotionally relevant? 

Does it go without saying that a person’s spiritual as well as physical life is enhanced by having a working relationship with the cards? 

Is it redundant to say that we love Tarot because it is a pathway to the unconscious, and therefore is a means to expanded consciousness? 

Is it obvious that, no matter how much we learn about quantum physics or the nature of the psyche, we’ll never fully and rationally understand what makes Tarot “work?” 

Maybe, but I’m not taking any chances.

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Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2009

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