Sunday, July 29, 2012

Adventures In Tarot

Haven't talked about Tarot in a little while, and I thought it might be nice to do so in an actually in-depth way. I just recently came into possession of two new decks: Marie White's Mary-El Tarot and Barbara Moore's Steampunk Tarot. The latter is exactly as goofy and awesome as it sounds, and I actually like it a great deal. It's very indebted to the classic RWS Tarot, making it the most straight-forward deck I've ever owned, so it's nice to do simple readings for a change. Mary-El, meanwhile, is the most breathtaking visual experience I've had yet in Tarot; the cards are gorgeous, each one originally done as an oil painting by Marie White. But it's very very difficult to read, largely because Marie White goes into intense and often flowery descriptions of the veritable clusterfuck of mythological context she put into each and every card - which is FASCINATING, but also makes for an unusually inaccessible deck. It's hard to know what the heck she's talking about sometimes, and what her cards are supposed to mean. She's basically worked out a whole new hierarchy of meanings, blending RWS with the Thoth deck and pulling from just about every spiritual system known to man. I was beginning to get a little frustrated with how hard it was to make heads or tails of her cards, so I decided there was only one way to deal with it, and that was to design my own spread.

I've designed a Tarot spread before, though I've never put anything about it online - it's huge and complex, and I only use it when I need to bring out the big guns. Today I made a much simpler spread, and I like it pretty well, and I decided to share it. I'm calling it, somewhat unimaginatively, the Spiral Spread.

Here is a numbered picture of a trial-run I did with Mary-El, so you can see the layout. Position meanings below.

The positions, which, considering this is a brand new spread, as subject to future adjustments:

1. The Querent's Chief Desire or Problem
2. Other Factors (details needed to understand the situation)
3. Hopes and Fears
4. A Lesson Learned
5. An Obstacle
6. Advice
7. Action
8. The Bridge (what to bear in mind)
9. Outcome

The thing about spreads is, anyone can make them! You just have to know what it is you want to learn from a spread, without getting too specific or crazy. Tarot works best as a nudge in the right direction or just a way to get yourself thinking outside the box, it's not a step-by-step guide to life. I make my own spreads sometimes because I get tired of the traditional layouts, but I've still drawn from position meanings I've seen in various spreads. I just combined them in a different way, which I like better. Let me take you through the positions briefly:

1. Desire/Problem - Pretty straight-forward - this card represents the main question being asked, or the issues at play. It's was the querent most wants, or is having the biggest trouble with.

2. Other Factors - A supplement to position 1, meant to offer further information about the situation, maybe something infuencing the querent or the circumstances.

3. Hopes/Fears - This is a basic traditional position which you'll find in many spreads. The querent's hopes or fears for the future with regard to the situation. Pretty simple, pretty important.

4. A Lesson Learned - This is a thing I've never yet encountered in an existing spread, but I like it. It is meant to represent either something the querent has learned or experienced in the course of their problem, or which they need to learn to get through it. Or I'm sure there's another way to look at it - it's open to interpretation.

5. An Obstacle - Another basic position, it's something keeping the querent from achieving goals or solving problems. 4 and 5 might work in conjunction just like 1 and 2 do - 4 might be the tools needed to overcome the obstacle.

6. Advice - Exactly like it sounds! One of the tricks with this kind of position, I have found, is that you don't always get a good, positive, advice-sounding card. What if you get a really negative card in this position? WELL, don't worry: I usually look at that kind of thing as a reminder to stay vigilant, and not let those negative influences overpower me.

7. Action - A lot of spreads are missing this position, which I think is a pretty important position! I don't want my spreads to be 100% passive observation. I like getting a good shove, too. The action you take, or shouldn't take, of course.

8. The Bridge - This is my favorite position of the spread. I was having trouble getting the design to look suitably like a spiral, when I experimented with turning this card on its side, and it just immediately made sense. This is a bridge connecting 7 and 9, the Action and the Outcome. It isn't always so easy as just doing a thing and then getting a result. You have to remember what you've learned, for example the information from positions 4 and 6. That's what this card is for. This spread has a lot of emphasis on learning lessons and being knowledgeable about what's going on inside your head, and I think that's the most important thing when you're asking for guidance. My hope is that the spread serves to help the reader collect his/her/zir/etc thoughts about the reigning issue, and helps give a little courage if the times are tough. A firm pat on the back or a swift kick in the rear, whichever is appropriate.

9. Outcome - The basic final card of any spread, where you'll be if you continue on the path or alter things as directed. Again: if you get a negative card in this position, I would think of it as a challenge to change that outcome.

So, now let's look at what I got. I wasn't asking a particular question, and it wasn't about me personally - because Mary-El is so heavily steeped in mythology, I decided to look for something I could use to develop the future plot of my novel, Berlin Confidential.

Marie White talks a lot about the collective unconscious with this card, and how her impressions of the Cups suit has shifted from being strictly about relationships to being more about humanity as a whole, which I think is PRETTY INTERESTING, if difficult to apply to one's personal life. You see what I mean? She is very concerned with big sweeping statements and not so much about relating each card to the reader on a personal level. But that's why I'm approaching this from a big mythy perspective. If we look at this spread as having to do with my novel, then yes, a definite Big Issue of the story is the nature of humanity and the way cultural attitudes shift and change. So: an appropriate card for position one.

For the Knight of Disks, we get a story about Siddhartha, growing up sheltered, then being horrified to learn the dirty truth of the world. In this deck more than in any other I've seen, "Disks" are incredibly earthy, concerned with the physical aspects of the world and the universe. As I see it, it can only be about Herr Inspektor, the protagonist of the novel, an ordinary man who is very sheltered in that he believes life and the world to be orderly and simple, until he is confronted by the horrors of this other world, the world of demons and monsters and murderous beasts. It's especially appropriate given the Buddhist background for this card, since Herr Inspektor is very much a middle-of-the-road character, trying to find a solution without going too hard to one extreme or the other.

It's funny - when I saw this card online before buying this deck, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I thought it was super weird, having a big ol' baboon for the 9 of Cups. But I'm starting to love it. Marie White talks about the baboon as being an aspect of Thoth, who is apparently often represented by a baboon, so-! (someone needs to bone up on her Egyptian mythology). Without going into too much crazy mythology detail, Thoth was basically one of the gods balancing the universe, the other being his wife Ma'at (WHO, interestingly, we also see in this spread) - he seems to have been largely concerned with science, magic, arts, judgment of the dead and being an arbiter between good and evil. She also talks about being in awe of the universe, being able to accept your place within it. That sounds again very Herr Inspektory, and something he struggles with maybe more than anything. So yeah. Onward!

One of faaaaavorite cards, and one of the reasons I decided to get this deck, because LOOK AT IT. The Sun is about exaltation, total self-realization, and unfettered joy. Marie White talks about its place at the conclusion of the Fool's journey (and Herr Inspektor is, of course, our Fool), that he goes through all the experiences of the Major Arcana and comes out with fully realized potential. Difficult to determine what it means here, in this position. It's such a big, final thing for being a lesson that has been learned or needs to be learned - and of course our hero is not very Sunlike! Curious. I shall ruminate.

Here's Ma'at, Thoth's wife. Ma'at is all about the LAW and yes, justice, which is funny because that is exactly what Herr Inspektor is all about. We could see that as an obstacle in that his stubbornness about doing things the "right" way, obeying the sense of order that he knows, is not working out for him, and sort of blinding him to the reality of the situation. This actually could interact with The Sun in an interesting way, like by being so bound to his principles he is not embracing the fullness of his potential. The Sun could also reflect the impact of certain other characters on him. To say more would be to go into too much detail for people who have not been reading, though.

There is an EGREGIOUS grammatical error in the description for this one, and what's worse is it's NOT THE ONLY ONE. I have found several already, and they are all egregious, middle-school-level errors. Here she uses "you're" instead of "your." I am forced to conclude she didn't have an editor for this book, and if she did, SOMEONE DROPPED THE BALL BIG TIME. That along with the general inaccessibility of her interpretations makes it very hard for me to get into this deck, which is a real shame because it's gorgeous and I want it to be my deck forever. BUT ANYWAY.

For this card she talks about Muninn of Odin's two ravens, the one representing Memory. She goes on a big ramble that I can't make heads or tails of, stuff about realizing your potential (a lot of these are about similar huge themes and concepts, which is a problem when you're actually trying to divine distinct meanings from them!), which isn't important because MUNINN, GUYS. For the BC-initiated, Muninn, coupled with the "advice" positioning of this card, is really all you need to know.

This one is interesting. She talks a lot about different Archangels, which is a bit of a yawnfest for me, but the overarching message is one about spiritual guidance and building bridges/connections. Which is .... super weird considering this is the card that leads to the Bridge. Traditionally, Six of Swords is a travel card. Both these meanings - physical and metaphysical travel - are incredibly apt in terms of "action" for basically every character in BC.

Here we have a lamb caught between two lions. Marie White talks about judgment, the path to immortality, balance, self-sacrifice and martyrdom. This is basically perfect in every way.

Marie White is obsessed with relating Wands to sex. I've read so many of them and she just talks about lust and libido and sexual energy. To which I say, all right, but I need more, you need to be more specific, or what is to distinguish between 3 and 4 and all the other Wands? Hmm? Fortunately, I have something to add: for me, the Four of Wands has always represented freedom/escape/transformation, which isn't exactly traditional, but it's the meaning I got from Archeon and it's a meaning I've liked and kept. And I'm keeping it here.

And there you have it. If any curiosity has been aroused, Berlin Confidential is currently on hiatus, which means now would be a grand time to start getting caught up. It's long, but I'd like to think it's worth it.

No comments:

Post a Comment