Most people would say that Tarot reading is foretelling of what will come to pass. A Tarot card reader is someone with mysterious supernatural powers that enable her to see what lies ahead in someone's life, often this foretelling involves the ideas of fate and soul mates. For many, Tarot is synonymous with the understanding that things are fated to be and there is an order to how each life unfolds.
Our basic idea for how Tarot may work has evolved out of a medieval understanding of how time works. I posit that Tarot does not tell the future in the way we traditionally understand it because what we understand about time is fundamentally wrong. In order for us to truly be able to use the gift of Tarot, we need to update what we understand about cause and effect.
Rather than ask, "does tarot see the future?" how about, what do we know about time?
The traditional western perception of time (not universal, culturally) is a line always moving forward:
past---> present -->future
Like a rollercoaster we are strapped in for the continual ride forward. Physics calls this the Arrow of Time. But, mathematically, we cannot prove that the Arrow of Time exists.
So if the Arrow of Time does not exist, then what does?
Instead of a line moving forward on a rollercoaster, (time is not linear or even directional) it is more like a boiling pot (it is helpful to see the picture above as if you are looking down into a pot of water) in 4 dimensional space with complex interrealities constantly shifting, moving, colliding and being affected by other things.
So if there is no arrow of time… how can we use Tarot to see the future?
We can’t. At least, not in a concrete 100% right on the money kind of way. I believe that when we use Tarot as a predictive method we are not seeing the future; we are plotting a probability. A probability (one of many that exist) based on current causality and as soon as those causes change the many effects, the future changes right along with them and not always in a one directional-linear kind of way.
The power of Tarot lies not in the understanding of what will be, but rather to understand a most likely probability based on many different factors. A probability that may change as soon as you have become aware of it. Or, a probability that is actually happening at the same time as your present-time. (See Eternalism, see Wave-Particle theory, see Chaos theory for more info on these concepts). We are alive in a multidimensional causal reality that is astoundingly complex, inter-dynamic and beautiful.
Understanding that Tarot is plotting a probability is immensely helpful when looking for clarity on any given situation. Changing the Arrow of Time question like, “Will I get fired from my job?” evolves into the causal, “How can I either keep my job because I feel insecure about it” or “How can I best weather the instability I am feeling in my position right now?” The latter questions are more useful in terms of creating an empowered life while keeping in mind that the future as we understand it is fluid and complex.
So, can Tarot tell the future as we have traditionally understood it? No.
Can Tarot help us create rational decisions and give us important information to create the lives we want to live? Oh yes, very much so.
"The Wheel of Fortune": E. Burne-Jones
The Wheel of Fortune, or more correctly, Fortuna's Wheel, is a very old concept with many literary mentions in classic Greek literature. The idea of the capricious nature of luck and fate is an old and enduring concept still captured in Tarot's very own Wheel of Fortune. The Wheel of Fortune often represents a change in luck, or a very lucky streak which is about to run out mostly this has nothing to do with you but greater events largely out of your control.
In our modern lives we purchase insurance, wear our seat belts, and take our vitamins. We are obsessed with mitigating any negative effects Chance would like to play on our lives. Alternatively, Las Vegas is the city that reveres Fortuna by never sleeping and about the country lottery tickets purchased to win ever increasing pots of gold we also curry Her favor. Rabbit's foots, lucky pennies, and four leafed clovers are carried to an attempt to sway the direction of the wheel in our lives.
The modern Western world is preoccupied with completely controlling every aspect of life but sometimes Chance rolls the dice and it is your turn: to get cancer, to lose a child, to experience tragedy and loss that often makes no sense and we keep running in our heads over and over,
"How can this be? This is not fair! What did I do to deserve this?" This is the experience of the Fortuna's Wheel spinning against your favor. But when She decides to smile upon you, you find $50 on the ground, you get that job or that house, you give birth to a beautiful, perfect baby. Usually we congratulate ourselves when it goes right and blame God when it does not. But often, it just makes no sense, it is just Fortuna spinning her wheel over and over again.
1. Do you consider yourself a lucky or unlucky person, why or why not?
2. Right now, are you in a period of good fortune, or running through a time of bad luck?
3. Are you a cautious person, or do you let the 'chips fall where they may'?
4. Do you believe that luck is largely an uncontrollable aspect within our lives, or do you believe you make your own luck?
Not too long ago, I was at a large event waiting for the doors to open and my line to fill with eager clients. I had two gentlemen pass through my way and toss off a quick,
“Oh I bet the ladies are going to LOVE you!” while not breaking stride past my table. Ever the feminist I rejoined, “Well you know… Tarot is for men, too!!” they laughed and in fact did not take me up on my offer to read for them.
I would say 90% of my clientele are in fact women but is this truly a “women’s thing”?
"the power of the changing moon ruled over women"
The Delphic Orcle. c. 440-430 BCE.
A review of history places women in the unique position of being spiritual seers, ranging from cultural beliefs that the power of the changing moon ruled over women to the idea that women were thought to be the dark (yin) the mysterious dark power. A power that was so disturbing, in fact, that witch hunts were thought necessary to curtail this mostly feminine power. The great witch hunt during the inquisition mostly brought the elderly, the unmarried, the local herbalists, healers and fortune tellers all women believed to be in danger of losing their souls as a result.
"foothold over the mysterious, the nonlinear, the inner knowing..."
However, our earliest literature describes in detail the power female oracles have had over heads of state, army generals and philosophers alike.
Today, even in places where women are disenfranchised the most, do we see them retaining the foothold over the mysterious, the nonlinear, the inner knowing. So normative it is that it is known as “women’s intuition”.
Modern society often scoffs at intuition; fortune telling, probability casting, with some men disempowering the act, “oh well, you know how silly women are… rational men like us have no need for ‘fortune telling’.”
Women with significant intuition have had an interesting journey; from having immense power and influence over society, to eventually being feared and hunted to today’s mixture of bemused patronization. As women have gained in so many areas in the last 100 years in the western world, truly a revolution for equality, there has also been a loss of seeing women with intuitive insight as something deserving of respect.
"women as holders of intuitive knowledge..."
King of Wands renormed: Gaian Tarot
The tarot journey taken by Rider Waite Smith (Rider Waite deck) and later by Crowley (Thoth) continues the themes of women as holders of intuitive knowledge but also under patriarchic control.
Cards such as the Empress and even the Queens continue to express women as mothers and wives, considering only care-taking as the primary role for women. Except for the Queen of Swords perhaps, but even then she is the unmarried sister.
Later on, the Tarot underwent some revolutionary norming with the birth of the 70s feminist Tarot deck by Vogel and Noble, Motherpeace and the Feminist Tarot by Gearheart and Renny. There was significant revision of these roles that continues in many decks today. One of my favorite examples of this is the Gaian Tarot which has turned King, Queen, Knight, Page into Elder, Guardian, Explorer and Child thereby releasing the gender/power dynamics from the Tarot.
"women have come so far"
The Housewives Tarot
Post post modernism loves all things anachronistic, and we see evidence of this in the cult following that is supporting the Housewives Tarot, using images of the quintessential 1950s housewife.
In many ways, women have come so far that this stylized domestic bliss is seen with endearment which is a far cry from the 60s and 70s earnest and revolutionary efforts to break from the domestic woman role. Post post post feminism, perhaps?
Regardless, it seems easy for today’s man to dismiss what he considers to be a “woman thing”. This is a person who is not considering that throughout time wars were waged, land was conquered and ships launched all by the voice of a woman who could see just a little further on up the road.
Some men might do well to pay attention and listen to inherent intuitive observations by the women around them rather than dismissing it as folly.
But whatever our male gender decides to do or not do, women around the world and in every culture keep the torch burning ever believing in their own intuition and curiosity for information outside of time; a legacy that extends back to the very dawn of humanity.
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