“This means this and that means – WHA?”

"...and you will fall madly in love, on a boat, at night, in a ball, and you will smell each other's shampoo..."

Hemingway had his cats.

BB King’s got Lucille.

Sweeney Todd had his razors.

I have Tarot.

So, of course, whatever we love, we want to know as much as we can about it – where does it come from? What does it do? How do I meld this majick into my everyday life?  We respect what we love. We accept what we love for what it is, because to us, it has its own special perfection. Acceptance and understanding are principle elements of real love.  This goes for other people, all people, all things.

In other words, I don’t think BB would look at his guitar and complain that she doesn’t look like a cello.

And yet, I have witnessed this very strange phenomenon with a few — not many mind you, but a few — divinationists, specifically Tarot readers. Now, again, I reiterate that I don’t know everything, no one does.  But, I’m pretty sure The Emperor doesn’t specifically mean “the establishment designed to cut down trees” or that the Queen of Cups is “an angel that appears to you in a dream.”

With this kind of specificity, you can just as well say that the 10 of Swords means you’re gonna buy a new pincushion.


Now, I’m not saying these are out and out wrong.  The Queen of Cups could be an angel presented in a dream and The Emperor usually personifies a prestigious leader or ruling entity, such as the military or a corporation who might cut down trees…unless it’s the president of Greenpeace. But, these definitions are so limited, so specific, so personally biased, it would be like naming The High Priestess “Cher” because she’s got a fancy headdress.

Granted, if you’re reading for fun and this is a light-parlor-trick-hobby-thing you like to perform at sleepovers, then hey, rock on with your bad self!  No harm, no foul, really.  But, if you’re taking someone’s money and you have a client that is looking for genuine guidance through a challenging situation, then I lovingly remind you that you’re only as good as your tool.

(Oh my goddess, that sounded SO wrong…)

Lemme rephrase: if the system you’re using is corrupt, your information will be, too.  I don’t use the word “corrupt” lightly, either.

Keep in mind the Tarot is almost as old as the Quabbalah, designed way before the Vatican, before tights, before pictures printed on cloth for clothing.  The system was formulated around the most basic and universal aspects of existence.

Take the Major Arcana, for example: Every single human being, regardless of sex, race, creed, stature, whatever, even if you live in a third world country, you are going to experience Death, The Chariot, The World, The Tower, the Fool, etc. Those cards represent the inevitabilities in life, itself.

I don’t think those who live more simply will experience getting their financial portfolio hacked into.  So, why would anyone assign that meaning to the 3 of Pentacles, of all cards?  Not everyone will look at The Hierophant and know immediately that it means patriarchal and sexual oppression against women, especially if the system was formulated before Christianity.  (Granted, Christianity got their hands on the system later in the 1400’s, but that’s a different blog.)

Now, I’m not saying these are absolutely impossible interpretations.  I’m just saying, I don’t think that’s the general idea of what the founders had in mind…

Though it is true that the meanings of the cards sway a bit with our individual perspectives as well as other influences such as the placement, card it relates to, etc.  Nevertheless, each card was purposefully crafted to have its own boundary of significance. If these boundaries are stretched too far or downright broken by individual prejudices, the beautiful balance of the system gets off-kilter. This does an injustice to the system, to the querant, and to you.

There are literally hundreds of different decks on the market today, each of them having their own personalities and auras, just like the cards, themselves. At some point, there was/is an artist who determined there’s too much sexism or not enough color or not enough religion, not enough fairies, whatever and created a deck with you in mind. Whatever your personal alignment may be in your ethics, ethnicity, spirituality, interests, or even humor (they even have pirates!) there is a deck that you can agree with which would work best for you.  But, if your personal alignment in life is straightforward and conservative, then maybe the Deviant Moon or the Motherpeace Round may not be for you, you know what I mean?

And hey, in all seriousness, you can always design your own! Why not? Who knows, maybe your interpretations may speak to someone else.

"Death" artwork by me from the deck that will never happen because I don't have the dang patience

The point is, if you decide that the letter “A” in the English alphabet has a “pew” sound, what’s your story gonna sound like?

And who’s gonna understand you?


About T. Ray

Writer, visual artist, student, musician, and "armchair nutritionist." She currently resides in Vegas with her jenday conure and two beloved rescue cockatoos. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Society of Leadership and Success (Sigma Alpha Pi). While pursuing her degree in Journalism/Media Studies at UNLV, she continues to contend that all things come down to food and Star Wars. Contact: verteram@unlv.nevada.edu
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3 Responses to “This means this and that means – WHA?”

  1. Rory says:

    That was some of the best (for best read lucid, coherent and meaningful) writing on the Tarot I have read in many years. I’ve used them for 35 years and still do.

    Allow me to ‘waffle’ for a sec though please – context is everything and so you quite rightly describe boundaries, parameters beyond which individual cards were never intended to go. I completely agree. However, given the potential interpretations and the complex situations modern people find themselves in it can be bewildering trying to find ‘the one’ interpretation’ which resonates with them.

    It’s why I tell clients straight up that it’s a bit like consulting a Doctor – If you went to the Docs with a headache and told him/her you ‘didn’t feel well’ you wouldn’t leave him/her guessing as to why – you’d tell him ‘The problem is a headache’, and from there the Doc would do his/her thing.

    Too many folks think that by speaking about their issues to the cartomancier that they are giving the reader too much information. They keep quiet, and it is that speechlessness coupled with the readers desire to ‘get it right’, that all these crazy, nonsensical interpretations come out as they go searching for the context.

    Take the Nadir you posted above – if I see that come up anywhere then it aint good – and there’s no way of interpreting it as anything other than ‘not good’ – it is as it is, it’s a shit card to get. However if a client can cope with that then everything else has to be better – the only way is up from there!

    Oh, sorry – I’ve rambled on a bit there lol – my way of saying ‘I liked your blog – I like the way you think’ I guess…



  2. Ms. Ray says:

    Dear Rory – that has got to be one of the most enjoyable and incredibly flattering “rambles” I’ve had the pleasure to read, especially from a true comrade as yourself.

    Can’t thank you enough!

    You know, I had a client just the other night that pulled the “what am I thinking?” game on me, just like you described! (I dunno, maybe it’s like you’re psychic or something…) It was so obstructive, I actually had to say, “Ma’am, I’d love to help you, but please try to relax. I cannot do my job and see past the ‘can you see him? can you see him?’ wall.” The cards, of course, were a total mess.

    Okay, could be in part because she was, but I digress.

    The point is, you make a brilliant point: A successful, conducive reading takes teamwork. One of the “cursed blessings” of working over the phone is that there is no one to shuffle the cards but me, so their language is mostly dependent on my patterns. Matter of fact, it’s become so much so that even with my live in-person readings, I still shuffle them myself. I do, however, allow my client to choose the deck. Unorthodox, I know, but I have to admit that it’s been very effective.

    I like the “Doctor” thing. Think I may I borrow that, if that’s okay?

    Again, I salute you friend and thank you very much!
    Ms. Ray


  3. Rory says:

    Of course you can use it – I wish everyone would. It really is like a Doc/patient relationship – If you saw a Doc and didn’t know what was wrong with you – It could take them ten differing tests to get to the truth based on your symptoms and they are hailed as geniuses for discovering what the problem is. However if that’s what a Tarot reader does they are denounced as failures because they got it wrong nine times. It’s why it’s absolutely essential you get the ‘context’ out of the client. And that in no way is being underhanded – it provides for a better, more accurate reading!

    I deliver my readings by MP3 – I rarely do face to face readings anymore because of those very ‘walls’ you hit with someone who doesn’t even want to tell you their name. Now my clients have to give me their age, name and gender and what they want to have me look at – and I take it from there – it means I need to shuffle the pack too but it works. I quite literally have thousands of happy clients and repeat clients at that. The more open they can be – the more powerful the cards become.

    Thank you for your kind words!



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