How I Use Tarot, Part 1: At the Movies

First off, a shout-out to the people who’ve already viewed my first post. You guys rock.

I’m going to start this blog rolling with a few posts about my personal approach to Tarot–what it is, how (and if) it “works”, and how I use it personally. I have a few different analogies that I like to use to explain my Tarot practice to people–usually when I leave a deck lying around and a non-Tarot friend sees it and reacts in horror. So my “what Tarot is to me” spiel is generally pretty tame, because the circumstances in which I end up giving it are not the most Tarot-friendly.

There are three main ways I like to express my relationship to the Tarot, so I figure it makes the most sense to break this post up into three parts. (Clever of me, isn’t it?) Today’s gem is part 1: Tarot at the movies.

The way that people relate to cinema–and, I suppose, to art in general–is fascinating to me. It’s something that we make, that we create out of our own minds, but at the same time, it shapes us just as much as we shape it. Movies provide us with the images, characters, and themes that we use to understand the world around us. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve had far too many instances where I ran up against someone who seemed to me like a character from a movie come to life, to the point that I couldn’t help mockingly wailing, “Josie, I’ve got the gold. I got the gold right here, Josie.”

(That particular example is plucked from real life. Alas, this man was–surprisingly–not a Clint Eastwood fan, and the joke was lost on him.)

Art occupies this paradoxical place in human life, where it simultaneously changes our world and is changed by it. Apocalypse Now changed the way that we thought about war (or at least, I think it did; I suppose there are some people who would disagree with me), but the movie itself wouldn’t have been possible without the context of the Vietnam War and the popular opinion that had swelled up against it. It simultaneously affected the world and was affected by it. Round and round the circle we go.

But these parallel effects have different natures. One takes place on the large scale, and the other on the small scale. Too many times in my life, I’ve walked out of a theater feeling that the movie I just saw directly pertained to my life. Whether it was an important theme from the film or a character that reminded me of someone I knew, I always found a way to take the movie I had seen and relate it back to my own little bubble of experience.

But, of course, in an objective sense, no movie ever made has related directly to my life. No director has ever said, “You know, I hear this guy Jack has been thinking about X a lot lately. I’m going to make a movie that relates to X.” (If I knew any big-ticket directors, it might be possible, but alackaday, I do not.) Rather, the movie is created to capture universal or near-universal themes of human existence–themes to which a large (and fat-walleted) American audience will be able to relate, and not just this one guy named Jack. The effect that the movie has on me is direct and personal, but the effect I have on it is indirect and impersonal. I only affect the creation of the movie by belonging to a larger target group with identifiable characteristics for the moviemakers to exploit.

So, where does Tarot fit into all of this? Well, in a way, I see the process of Tarot reading as very similar to going to the movies. Tarot cards were created to represent universal themes, to which almost anyone would be able to relate. That’s the indirect, impersonal part–the way that society as a whole shaped the images that factor into a 78-card deck. And when you pull a Tarot card, there should always be a way for you as an individual to relate to that card, because the cards represent things like family, competition, and self-doubt. If you can show me a single person on this earth who has no family (in the broader emotional sense, and including a network of friends), has never competed with anyone else, and has never once doubted him-or-herself, then I’ll retract my claim, but for now, I feel pretty confident in my assertion that if you pair up any single person with any single Tarot card, there’s some way they’ll be able to relate to it.

And that relation–of an individual person to an individual card–is the same sort of direct, personal effect that I feel when I go to the movies. Sure, it’s true that the cards were made for everyone to be able to relate to them, but when I as an individual am staring down the Six of Cups, I’m not thinking about how it relates to everyone. I’m thinking about how it relates to me. And thinking about that can have a profound effect on the way I perceive my life, the same way that a well-made movie can. It’s about taking something that could objectively relate to anybody and translating that to a subjective relation to myself.

This is why I don’t use the Tarot predictively. For me, it’s not about trying to see what’s coming for me three months down the line; it’s about using an artistic medium to change the way I understand the world around me as it exists right now.

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8 thoughts on “How I Use Tarot, Part 1: At the Movies

  1. Oh my! Nicely put! Being part of the film industry myself, I love that you compare it to your relationship to movies! It reminds me of something that I love about movies and Tarot: we have a character, objectives, obstacles, climax and resolution! And it’s how we relate to it that makes the experience so unique! No one will ever see a movie the exact same way as someone else, just like tarot! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked it! I definitely agree that a Tarot reading has a basic narrative structure, and that each person will relate differently to that narrative. Stay tuned for Part 2, where I get pretentious and philosophical.

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      1. took the liberty of tweeting the links to ur blog (you can see it on the widget on mine)… never knew of another who could so organically marry tarot to philosophy (Know thyself) & willy shake! (my fb post from last month re: The Star: “Back, foolish tears, back to your native spring; your tributary drops belong to woe, which you, mistaking, offer up to joy.” — Juliet — W. Shakespeare, “Romeo and Juliet” – just sayin’ 🙂

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      2. You are so sweet! Thank you so much. And I must confess, I love the connection of Juliet to the Star. Not quite enough to temper Romeo, alas, but she really did try. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for tweeting me to the world.

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