Saturday, November 13, 2010

A personalization process for the Tarot

Imagine for a moment that you were creating a card based oracle from scratch because you wanted to deepen the guidance you receive from within. You might start with two cards; one says “yes” and the other says “no”. Each time you asked your Spirit a question and used these two cards, obviously you’d only be able to ask very rudimentary questions and you’d receive very simple answers. Eventually you’d want to expand your vocabulary so perhaps you’d add a card for “maybe” and one for “unsure”. Over time as you began to seek more and more specific answers you might have a deck of hundreds of cards that you’d select from and there would be overlap between cards so you’d start trying to find ways to deepen the response on each card to reduce the number of cards. Potentially after years and years of perfecting your deck, you’d end up with a simplified version of the Tarot deck. Fortunately this process has already been done for you over centuries and all you have to do is learn the language.

The process that I will share with you is a way for you to learn the meaning of the cards according to the interpretation book and eventually create a reference that is specific to you. This is a process that may take you a year or so to create but not doing it doesn’t speed the process along nor help you learn to work with the Tarot any faster. Hopefully you’ll be using your deck for years to come so why not start personalizing it right away so that you’ll see a personal connection faster than you might otherwise. For this process you’ll need a couple of notebooks, your Tarot deck and interpretation guide. I like using a notebook with ruled, loose leaf sheets in it because when you fill one page up, you’ll be replacing it with another one as you’ll see. Create a single page in your notebook for every card in the deck. Write the name of each card, in sequence, at the top of the page and leave the page blank. You’ll be using the front and back of the sheet, so one card per sheet of paper.


I recommend doing your reading in the morning before you start your day. The very first step is to get your “Basics” in place. When you connect with the Tarot, you are connecting with an energy field of the Tarot and with your Higher Self. Your Basics help keep you grounded during this process and that allows you to connect more fully with the process. Take your Tarot deck and hold it next to your heart. Take a moment and feel that connection between your physical body, the cards and your Higher Self or spirit. When you feel the connection feel like you drop a question from you head down into your heart and into the deck. An easy, generic daily question that I pose is “What is this day about for me?” A question similar to this is the best way to start learning the Tarot rather than jumping to big questions with complicated spreads. It’s like learning to crawl before you run. Remember though this is your egoic self asking the question of your Higher Self, your direct connect to Source. You aren’t asking the cards or some outside entity. It’s you all the way through.

Next shuffle the cards while contemplating the question. Think about the events of the day that you already know you have planned while you do this. Continue shuffling the cards until you feel that you’re ready for the response. There is no set number of shuffles or time but more just a feeling of “that’s enough” that will arise. Next lay the cards down and cut the deck with your left hand and put the bottom half on top. Using your left hand is said to engage the intuitive side of your energy. Trust that you will be cutting the deck at exactly the right spot because you will. Your conscious mind may not be aware of what is going on but during the shuffling process your spirit is getting the cards arranged in the way that you need for the response. Trust is key to this process as well as enough shuffles for your spirit to get you the best answer to your question. That is where the “that’s enough” response comes from…from YOU!

Take the top card and turn it over so that it faces up and lay it down. If the card is upside down, leave it that way. The cards have additional meaning if they are upside down (reversed) as opposed to right side (direct) up. Now you can either take the next card and flip it over or cut the deck again. Listen to what your intuition tells you or go with what “feels right” because it will be right. Place this second card to the right of the first card face up. In the beginning these two cards are all the cards that we’ll use in a single reading. Keeping the number of cards used to a minimum will allow you to direct your focus onto a single card so that you can learn about each card more fully.

Now take what I’ll call your scratch pad (any little notebook will do for this but allocating a notebook specifically for this purpose is a good idea) and write the date and both cards that you drew on the line with it. You’ll be using this scratch pad during the entire process so keep it with your cards and books. That’s it for the first day. To start with, don’t read the interpretations in the book for today (hopefully you will already have taken the time to read the first portion of the book up through the interpretations). When you’re done, stack the cards you drew (still face up) on the deck so that they will be on top for you to see tomorrow.


On the second day the process will be a little bit different. Take the cards you drew yesterday and spread them back out side by side so that you can look at the pictures more closely. The first card you drew is what the focus of your day was about. The second card is what energy is crossing (or mixing with) that focus. As we all know, an entire day is never about one single thing. Life is too complicated for that. In the beginning don’t worry too much about what this second card means but for now just record it for historical reference. It will make more sense later.

For the purposes of explanation, I’m going to assume that you are using “Tarot of the Spirit” as your interpretation book. Look up the meaning of the first card you drew. When you find the page where it begins you’ll see a “Divinatory Meaning” followed by a “Meditation” and then the “Interpretation”. Read through the “Interpretation” completely while you lightly hold on to the thoughts of your previous day. When you finish the reading, take the card and hold it so that you can get a good look at it. Let your eyes wander around the card while you continue to mull over all that happened to you yesterday. Take your time with this but hold your focus on the card rather than looking around the room. If need be after a minute or so, close your eyes, think about the image, the interpretation you read and your previous day.

When you feel you are ready, turn in your notebook to the page you have created for this card. Write the date on a line and then summarize your previous day onto one or two lines at the most. We aren’t looking to create a journal here but rather record events or learnings from the day. If the card is direct (right side up) then document it on the front of the page and if it is reversed (upside down) then record it on the back side of the sheet. The events that you want to record are those which “feel” relevant to you based upon the interpretation of the reading you just did. There is no right and wrong here but rather a trusting of your intuition to give you the information that you need. If you think that the event is in any way related to the reading, make a quick note of it. You want to be concise but detailed enough that when you read over this in a few months from now you’ll be able to recall the experience from your words or get a feel for how the day was from your words. At the end of the line, make a note of the second card that you drew. You only need to note what card it was for now. Don’t read the interpretation for this card because it will take your focus off of the primary card’s interpretation and slow the process of the image/interpretation connection. Eventually you’ll have read and re-read each cards interpretation so many times that you’ll almost immediately know the meaning just by seeing the card. That’s the experience that we’re after.


You’ll repeat the above process each day that you do a reading. If you can incorporate this spiritual practice into your daily routine you will of course start seeing results faster. Once you have filled up a page (or mostly filled depending upon your personal process), you should begin to see a pattern emerge. That pattern is what we are seeking with this process. Remember the more days that you incorporate into your readings the more accurate your results will be which is why I recommend waiting until you have filled the page. Once you have identified the pattern, take a fresh sheet of paper and document what you see. You may not come out with a verbose summary like in the interpretation book but that’s okay. This info is specific to you so that you know when you see a certain card come up you’ll begin to have an idea of what is ahead in the day or where you are in your personal cycle

The most important thing that you will gain from this is a greater ability to respond to a situation rather than simply reacting to it. For example, if you know ahead of time that your plans will most likely fall apart because of outside influences, then you can begin to consider alternatives or at the very least not become triggered by the experience and start spouting off at others involved. Having an understand of what’s going on for you as part of the experience allows you to see the lesson there more easily rather than immediately seeking to blame others.


By the time you’ve reached the point where you are building your own summaries (and you can keep adding to this over time as you see other patterns emerge) you will be familiar with all of the cards. This is where looking back over your history with each card really becomes important. With the built up knowledge of the cards and knowing what they mean you can now come to understand how the second card in the draw is flavoring the first one.

Let’s say for example that you are working with the “Death” card and creating your personal summary for it. Death does not have to mean a bad thing because death to an old habit, a destructive emotional response pattern or unhealthy relationships can be a good thing. This is where that second card comes in because it helps to clarify what aspect of death you’ll be dealing with. Yes, sometimes it can mean that someone is going to die but that is rare. So as you look back at your history for each card you can see a bit more info on it now by noticing how the second card related to it. This should help you begin to understand the primary cards message along with what happened to you on that day a bit more fully. Hindsight is always rich with insight if you take the time to examine it. This information can help you see how a single card can have so many nuances.


The end result is that your summary will certainly be informed by the interpretation from the book but it will also have your personal experiences in it as well. This won’t come from you trying to guess what the card will mean, it will come from your experience and documenting that result. Once you have your summary created you’ll be mentally blending your summary, the books interpretation, modifying it with the secondary card and then letting your intuition speak to you to give you the insight that you can use as you go through your day ahead. If you understand what scenario may arise during the day you’ll begin to recognize it when it emerges and you can respond with wisdom rather than reacting out of a patterned response.

The other nice thing that you will see emerge from this will be gained by looking at the daily readings history. In doing this myself I’ve seen where my own cycles are emerging. For example, if I draw the Magician today, I can look back over my history to find the last time I drew the Magician. I can then see what was going on in my life the last time I drew that card and I will see shades of those experiences in my current experiences. This lets me consciously draw on what I learned from the last cycle and then I can choose to respond differently this time around if I want a more desirable outcome. Hindsight now becomes foresight and that is the guidance we all seek so that we are making more informed decisions in our day to day existence.


I know this seems like something that is going to take a while to create and it is but the important thing to remember is that you are learning from your own experiences along the way. If you choose to use an oracle such as the Tarot, you’ll be doing it for years to come once you see its value so why not get a jump start on something like this now rather than a year down the line. It’s a relatively simple process that will yield some powerful information for you down the line...but then simply doing a daily reading and using the interpretation guide is a powerful and useful process as well. Of course there is no requirement to do the process I’m sharing with you. I’m simply offering you something from my experiences that might be of assistance to you.

There are also other amazing oracle decks on the market. One I’d like to mention in particular is the “Animal Medicine Cards”. The animals have much to teach us humans if we can get past our ego’s and see them for the powerful teachers that they are. This deck and interpretation guide will teach you a great deal about what energies the animals are manifesting and you’ll see how this knowledge can help you make more informed decisions. It is one of my favorite decks. The book lists some very powerful spreads that can tell you a great deal about yourself and how you move in the world.

The best thing to do when you go to choose any deck is to look at all the cards and see what you are drawn too. Perhaps you just like the images, the color of the deck and cards, the feel of the cards or something that you can’t quite put your finger on. Your spirit will make the deck(s) that is best for you seem the most appealing. If you pick up a deck and suddenly feel a little bit happier, just noticing that shift can tell you a great deal and will always lead you to exactly the people, places and things which are in your best interest. That is how we can directly follow our intuitive guidance. It really is that simple.

I wish you all the best with working with oracles. If you begin using one and have questions, I’m happy to try and help answer them so feel free to drop me a line via email.

What lessons does the day hold for you?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Oracle usage

In the last posting I quoted a book on the Tarot and so this time I’d like to talk a little bit more about the Tarot and other oracles. When some people think of the Tarot or an oracle, they retreat in fear or label them as bad because of broad generalizations or associations with “dark forces”. I understand these fears. I had them myself initially but fortunately I’ve worked through them and have seen the benefits of oracle usage.

An oracle, in the simplest of definitions, is a communication device. The communication however is between you and your spirit, or non-physical self. As I have talked about in the past, we are spirits (energies) which are enmeshed within physical bodies. For most of us, receiving guidance from our spirit is something that we do on an unconscious level, so unconscious that most people don’t even know they’re doing it. Our spirits guide us through our intuition but we’ve had this guidance socialized out of us because others didn’t understand it and have taught that it was evil and should be feared. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our spirit or Higher Self is just another aspect of ourselves. It is our direct connection to the Divine and as such I know that my spirit has my best interest at heart because it is me! With that awareness in mind, finding a means for direct communication with that aspect of myself seems essential to me. The more clearly I am able to discern the guidance from my spirit and follow that guidance, the easier it is for me to come into alignment with the Divine. An oracle then becomes the communication bridge between these two aspects of myself.


The Tarot is a deck of cards similar to the decks that we all use for standard card games. Rather than using spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs however the Tarot uses other symbols to represent the physical (Earth), mental (Air), emotional (Water) and spiritual (Fire) aspects of ourselves. Different decks use different symbols but they all are referencing the same four energetic components of our existence.

A typical Tarot deck has the four suits mentioned above numbered one through ten. It then has four “face cards” with each suit represented as the King, Queen, Prince and Princess (father, mother, son, daughter). These four suits are collectively known as the Minor Arcana. In addition to those there are 21 other cards known as the Major Arcana. These represent the prototypical emotional response patterns that emerge as personality or “energy types” such as a traveler (the Fool), a hero (the Hermit), a creator (the Magician), or ruler (the Emperor) for example. The Major Arcana also represents the archetypal energy patterns that we experience throughout our lives such as completion (Death), love (the Lovers), energy balancing (Karma), or introspection (Hanged Man) for example.

In a typical Tarot reading one begins by posing a question. Most people believe that when they go to someone for a Tarot reading that they are asking the card reader the questions. In fact they are asking their Higher Self the questions and the reader is using the cards to interpret the answer for them. When you do the reading for yourself this becomes more obvious. The cards are shuffled and then dealt out into various spreads. The direction the card faces (up or down), it’s position in the pre-defined spread and it’s relation to the cards around it all factor into what it means for you in response to the question. The spreads can be as simple as a single card or more elaborate ones with 10 or more cards which gives a greater depth of response.

When you begin to see the Tarot, or any oracle for that matter, as what it is rather than fearing it for what it isn’t, it becomes a very useful tool in your life. With the almost non-stop chatter which goes on in our minds, sometimes being able to perceive guidance from our spirit can be near impossible. An oracle then becomes a clear communication vehicle for that connection. An oracle is simply a clearly defined tool for the communication between your conscious mind and your subconscious or super conscious mind. Depending upon how clearly you frame the question, the spread that you use, and your familiarity with the deck and the cards interpretations there is no limit to the guidance you can receive. As with life, the only limits are the ones that you put in place.


When I was first introduced to the Tarot I thought that it not something that I was going to get very much from. I had been to readers in the past and thought that the power was with them and not the deck. When you buy Tarot decks, typically they come with a book of interpretations. I was unsure how reading these predefined interpretations was going to get me any sort of unique answer to my potentially unlimited questions. As with most things of a spiritual nature that you buy through mass production, the authors aim towards the most casual user, therefore the interpretation books are usually broad, vague and very generalized. As you learn more about the Tarot however, you realize that the books are just a jumping-off point, the deepest interpretation comes from understanding the cards and relating to the deck.

Most people when they think of going to a card reader, they think of doing it to see if they’ll meet that special person, get a raise at work or answer some general question. I believe that comes from movies and TV and the way psychics are portrayed there. Sure those types of questions can be asked but one has to keep in mind that the future is not set in stone and so asking those sorts of questions can get you responses that may or may not come to pass. Meeting that special person is just one potential outcome that your future may hold but it is all dependent upon the paths you take.

A Tarot reading is a lot like being in your car and going from your home to some location on the other side of town. Based upon your knowledge of the roads, weather conditions, traffic, time of day, and your mood you may choose a very different path than you would have on another day and time. Perhaps that special someone would only interact with you if you had chosen to go down a specific street but traffic congestion caused you to change your mind at the last second and take a back street instead. But then again, perhaps that last minute change is what causes you to meet them. As with all of life, the potential was there but the choices you made affected the ultimate outcome.

I was introduced to the Tarot about 10 years ago by my partner who had been doing readings for himself for many years before we met. Over time I’ve found that daily readings for myself have been very useful personally but I’ve also learned a great deal about the process and about myself along the way. To me, the cards are a great way to see patterns emerging in my life and a way for me to see if my egoic self is aligned with my spirit. Based upon my experience, I’d like to offer some guidance for you if you’d like to begin your own personal journey with an oracle.


The most important part of selecting a card based oracle is the images on the cards themselves. The images themselves are symbols which speak to the deepest layers of our psyche. There is a great deal of truth in the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” especially when it comes to oracles. I use the generic term oracles here because there are also oracle card decks which are not Tarot based and they can be very useful as well. The Tarot is a specific system with a set number of cards just like a set of Rummy cards or a Uno deck.

Tarot decks can be found at most larger book store chains but the best selections are at New Age shops. (If you are in the Seattle area, East West Books in the U-District has a huge selection.) They are also available online but unless you know of a specific deck that you want and can’t find it locally, it’s best to go where you can take the cards out, hold them and look at them. Take some time looking around at various shops before you make a decision. Try and find the widest range of cards before simply purchasing the lowest priced ones that you can find.

You want to choose a deck that you will enjoy working with for years and so selecting one with images which appeal to you will be very important. Once you start working with a deck, you’ll want to stay with it as long as you can because you’ll begin to imbue the deck with your energy through usage and that will deepen your experience. The images in Tarot decks are psycho-active. This means that the simple act of studying the symbols on a particular card activates your sub-conscious mind in such a way that allows explanations or interpretations to surface to the conscious level. This is where spending time looking through the deck before you purchase it will be beneficial. The deck that you should work with will hold great visual appeal for you for reasons that you may not even understand. Your intuition will guide you in that process. Our spirits have a way of making what we need be very attractive and what we do not need be very unappealing.


While most decks that you purchase will also come with an interpretation book, if it’s possible to only buy just the deck, go with that option because I would like to recommend that you purchase the book I referenced in the last post. “Tarot of the Spirit” by Pamela Eakins is a fantastic book to use. She provides some of the most directly spiritual interpretations of any book that I’ve seen as well as information on various spreads you can use and the history of the Tarot. It’s an amazing book and after 10 years of use, I’m still blown away by it. Even if your deck comes with a book, I’d still recommend also purchasing and using her book. You will be very glad that you did.

The book however should only be seen as a starting point when beginning to work with the Tarot. I’d like to give you a technique that I’ve developed in conjunction with my spirit guides to help you personalize the interpretations for yourself. When you initially begin working with the Tarot, essentially you are establishing the language that you and your Higher Self will use to communicate. Typically our Spirits give us direct guidance through our intuition. Our culture doesn’t emphasize this aspect of ourselves nor help us learn to develop it and so we don’t really learn to work with this innate ability. At various points in our lives however we realize that we are getting these “hunches” or “gut instincts” and desire to begin relying on these more and more but we don’t know how.


In the next posting I’ll share a process for personalizing your readings. In the meantime, I encourage you to begin searching for a deck which appeals to you. Many decks now have websites where you can see every card in the deck or see enough cards that you can decide whether you like the look of the deck or not. Trust that you’ll know it when you see it…even if you don’t know why. Enjoy the process.