Lorraine Saint Pierre

A friend introduced me to the Tarot one afternoon as we sat in her living room sipping herbal tea, the sun at the window streaming through coarse muslin curtains. We undoubtedly discussed lovers and career I say undoubtedly, because I can't remember and those were uppermost in our minds back then having both recently graduated from college.

Sure, I said, when she offered to give me a reading. This was in the seventies, during the Age of Aquarius in Maine. A lot of people had moved to the state in an effort to "return to the land." And many of us embraced the best of hippie culture with its emphasis on dropping out of the system, living a more authentic life without TV droning in the background. Our focus was on peace, music, art, and tuning in to inner mind.

I had been using an I Ching that someone had given me, a Chinese book of divination that I found to be patriarchal; and it found me an unworthy student as it counseled me to seek other venues for my questions. When my friend set forth the cards, I was captivated by the archetypes portrayed on them, especially the powerful figures of the Major Arcana, the atouts. One of the cards in my reading was the Hanged Man, a particularly fearful omen I thought at the time. Quite the contrary, the Hanged Man is a good symbol representing a letting go, and a placing of one's faith in a higher power. It will always provide you with what you want at the time you need it most.

Life was, and is, a mystery that I can never hope to decipher. What am I doing here? What purpose does my curiosity serve? In the mind's muddle are questions that intellect cannot answer. Greater than the human species, greater than the earth, greater even than the cosmos, is an inscrutable order governing all. I endeavor to align myself, and those who seek my counsel with that order, to flow with, rather than resist it, as it produces a state of harmony.

My friend used the Morgan-Greer deck of Tarot, but there is a veritable cornucopia of Tarot decks: Gothic, Witchcraft, Egyptian, Goddess, Kamasutra, Buddha, Shakespearean, Romantic, Celtic, Native American, whatever bent your character leans toward, rest assured a Tarot deck has been created to fill that niche.

In my research into the Tarot, I came upon an excellent book by Alice Hutton, "The Cards Can't Lie: Prophetic, Educational & Playing- cards, which incidentally is a true statement. Tarot is a tool that triggers a seeress' vision. If her vision is limited her interpretation of the cards, and the reading given will be meager, but the cards never lie. The art of divination has been part of every human culture from the cave people to the Egyptians whose god Thoth, and also the Greek god Hermes were endowed with the power to predict one's fate. Hutton relates that the Romans in their cult of Mercury erected temples whose walls were lined with frescoes depicting gods, similar if not entirely adapted from the Greek deities.

These charming and very fallible gods, like the characters in the Tarot, represent the forces that imbue life with passion, grandeur; they illustrate the human journey with its risk and folly. Sticks were cast on the temple's altar to foretell a person's fate according to which frescoes the sticks pointed to. Later these images were made into portable decks able to transform any room where a reading was given into a temple. Undoubtedly, they are a precursor of our modern Tarot.

With the advent of Christianity, a specific commandment was created to counteract the power of the cult of Mercury. The second commandment states that Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shall not make unto thee a graven image, nor any manner of likeness, of anything that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shall not bow down unto them, not serve them; for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God . . ., King James Version. Although Christians were especially forbidden from giving fealty to images of their own God and holy personages, the paintings, illustrations, statues, and even cards of them are precisely what worshippers have directed their prayers to. While vacationing abroad, I came upon the Tarot de Marseille, a traditional French deck being sold in the Cathedrale de Notre Dame in Paris. An irony that was not lost to me, especially considering some of the atouts are based on Christian figures and its doctrines.

The Primacy and power of the image, from the very beginning when shamans drew pictures, deep into the recesses of caves in an effort to gain control over the events in their community's life has held sway. Jung wrote about dream symbols that are universal through time, theorizing that these potent archetypes are hereditary. Each of us, from the bushman in Africa, to the Native American on his land, or a Manhattan city dweller, carries within the same symbolic images.

Choosing a deck of Tarot will determine how the cards speak to you. If the deck is esoteric, its characters may perhaps entrance at first, but will not allow for a deeper psychic connection. The first deck I bought to give readings for clients became so embedded in my psyche that I found whatever deck I was presented with, I could only read the cards by reverting to the images in the old deck, seeing them in my mind.

After I started using Tarot regularly, I had a dream about it. As a life-long dreamer whose pronouncements guide my behavior and actions, I took to heart its advice. The dream spoke of the cards as something not to be taken too seriously. They are merely an aid in bringing to surface partially formed thoughts on the edge of awareness, and clarifying them. I find it telling that my dreams have never used any of the rich archetypes in the deck to illustrate a point. You will find that if you become too dependent on the cards and repeatedly ask the same question, you will not get correct answers, or good advice. Are they a predictive tool? Yes, but wanting to know what the future holds is not the best way to proceed in one's life. Better to ask what hindrances stand in one's way, what power and tools one is able to marshal in dealing with present and upcoming circumstances. The Tarot is admirably suited to such queries.

Early Tarot cards contained solely figures of the Major Arcana. Only later were the four suits of wands, swords, cups and coins added. The atouts' power, unlike the suits, cannot be reduced to its few divinatory words indicating their positive or negative aspects. Rather it is myth, poetry, fairy tales, that offer a more nuanced depiction of the psychic forces at play. Once you become acquainted with their most commonly held meaning, the Tarot atouts' significance expand as you allow your own impressions and beliefs about the characters to become part of your interpretation. Guided by the images, you will also influence the images in their proper interpretation. Divination comes from within oneself and the cards are merely a prompt to awaken one's psychic knowledge and abilities.


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