Rediscovering Tarot

I miss Tarot. That’s a bit of a weird thing to say, considering that I’m a Tarot reader and a regular Tarot blogger. I have more Tarot decks than any reasonable person should (yet still, I covet more). It’s not like I have a dearth of Tarot in my life.

  • But this summer, my Tarot practice has slumped. I’m not really reading for other people these days. I rarely read for myself, except when I’m so desperate to handle a deck that I’ll draw cards without any real purpose. I blog here once a week, but even so, that’s only once a week.

    In the not-so-distant past, my Tarot practice was robust. Not only did I regularly read for myself and others, I had a Tarot altar set up where I did daily draws and meditative work. I had a ritual calendar that molded the Major Arcana to the Neopagan Wheel of the Year. And I had a weird quasi-religious practice where I worked with the figures from Tarot–invoked them, prayed to them, made offerings to them–the same way that devotional polytheists do with their deities.

    This summer, that practice has disappeared. I’m subletting an apartment for the summer before I move to grad school in the fall, so all of my bulkier occult paraphernalia remain packed away un various suitcases. My representations of the four suits and my hand-drawn Tree of Life have not seen the light of day this summer. That is to say, my Tarot altar has not been re-erected.

    To hold things together and pay the rent, I’m working a low-paying hourly job with no benefits (the type of job commonly referred to as “shitty”). There are certain aspects of that job that are a ton of fun, but from the time I leave home in the morning to the time I return at night is a 12-hour run, and with my unholy sleep schedule* that only leaves me 2 hours of free time each day. I have found, of late, that I lack the motivation to dedicate that time to the sort of intense, intimate devotional work with Tarot that I used to do.

    Not to mention the other hoobedy-hoobedy commitments going on in my life. I have certain commitments now as a Wiccan, to my coven, to myself, and to my tradition and its gods. Witchcraft is a lot of work, and anyone who tells you otherwise is definitely not practicing the same kind of Wicca I am. 

    On top of that, for the past nine months or so I’ve been developing an increasing interest in Slavic mythology and a desire to work religiously with Slavic Pagan deities. This project has proved more maddening than looking for a black cat in a dockyard at midnight. Pre-Christian Slavs had no writing system, so there are no primary sources about Slavic mythology or religion. The secondary sources are heavily filtered Christian scholarship, so their accuracy is often questionable, and even they are fragmentary at best. Of some gods, we have no record other than a name. Many sources that people rely on are apocryphal, and many of the myths and deities with which Slavic Pagans work have no historical basis whatsoever. Add in the fact that most available sources are in Russian (which, tragically, I do not speak) and that the Slavic Pagan community is chock full of white supremacists, and you can see why I’ve been rather busy of late.

    My current devotional space for the Slavic pantheon. The photo is in black and white because I’m edgy and cool. Also to disguise the poor lighting and amateurish photography.

    Don’t get me wrong. This has all been incredibly rewarding. The work I’m doing in Wicca is forcing me to grow in ways I had never anticipated, and what little information I can find about the Slavic pantheon fills me with light and joy. But in the midst of trying to learn everything I can about one established religious tradition, and trying to stitch together a solitary practice from the tattered historical remnants of another, my work with Tarot has seen some neglect.

    That is, until today.

    I was at work today, doing my job and earning my $12 per hour, when three figures from the Major Arcana showed up unbidden. They were the Emperor, Strength, and Temperance, the three cards associated with the Fire signs of the Zodiac (and the cards that I link to Lammas in my personal Tarot Wheel of the Year). Their message was simple:

    “We are here. We will wait no longer. It is time for you to return to us.”

    Back when I first started my devotional practice with Tarot, I was looking for mythos. I was desperately searching for some way to express that part of myself that wanted to dance naked in the woods and howl at the stars. When I first started my foray into Wicca, I agonized over how that might affect my work with Tarot. If I started a religious practice with “real” gods (as opposed to the Major Arcana, with whom–to the best of my knowledge–no one else in the world has the kind of devotional relationship I do), would that mean I would no longer need Tarot? Was what I did just a substitute for real religion, to be abandoned once I found the genuine article?

    Time has shown that the answer to these questions is a resounding “no”. My religious practices elsewhere are wonderful as fulfilling, and frankly I can’t imagine going back to life without them. But I still need Tarot. Not just to read Tarot, not just to blog about it. This weird pseudo-religion I constructed for myself before I ever considered joining a Gardnerian coven, this Tarot polytheism (for lack of any more descriptive term), has become an integral part of who I am. When I fiddled around with making up a religious practice to suit my own needs, I unwittingly built something real. Something substanrial. And any time I go too long without honoring my relationship with the Tarot, one or more figures from the Major Arcana show up to remind me that I am theirs. I may belong to the gods of Wicca now, too, and to the sketchy outlines of the once-mighty Slavic pantheon. But I belonged to the Tarot before I ever set foot in a Wiccan circle, and I am never allowed to forget that I belong to the Tarot still.

    I still don’t entirely understand the nature of my devotional relationship with Tarot. I don’t know how it fits in with my other religious practices, and that bothers me. It bothers me that the Wiccan Goddess feels, in a certain way, more real and more powerful than the Major Arcana (because holy crap, she’s a freaking goddess). When I’m in Wiccan rituals, I feel like I’m connecting to something real, somesomething outside of myself to which other people are connecting as well. What I do with Tarot is not like that. It’s not external to myself. The Major Arcana are incredibly powerful figures, and the symbolic complexes they represent certainly exist independently of my own mind, but I can’t call them gods. I can’t think of them as literal, autonomous psychic beings. I interact with them in the sane way I interact with “real” deities, but there is a sense in which they are lesser. Their existence is more subjective, more bound up in my own perception of the world. I think the Wiccan Goddess is real; I think the “spirits” of the Major Arcana are real to me. I’m still trying to untangle exactly what that distinction means for myself and my respective practices. 

    What I do know is that, whatever my Tarot practice boils down to, it is important. It is important to me. And I have been away from it for too long. So tonight, although I don’t have the space to set up my Tarot altar, I will sit with my cards. I’ll perform a full Opening of the Key** reading, as used to be my custom eight times per year. I will light a candle, say the appropriate invocations, and make an offering. I will probably do a full-on active imagination and go converse with these three cards as well.

    I don’t exactly understand what it is that I do, but I know that I need it. And I am finding my way back to it.

    My laptop charging cable (literally) caught fire this week, so I am currently without a computer. I typed this entire post out on the WordPress app on my phone. I apologize for any typos or formatting errors; typing on this infernal devices is exhausting, and I’m sure I’ve made some glaring errors, but I am too tired to proofread as closely as I should. If you have any comments on this post, as always, I would love to hear them. It’s nice to know I’m not screaming into a void, and that (hopefully) the things I say make sense sometimes.

    I have another post coming out this week, and I’m very excited about it. It’s already written and scheduled, because every now and then I actually succeed at managing my life. Until then, my friends. Have a good night.

    *I sleep more than a pot-smoking koala.

    **Scroll all the way down to the section titled “A METHOD OF DIVINATION BY THE TAROT”. 

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Rediscovering Tarot

  1. Thank you for sharing your journey, this was very comforting to read. I often feel myself grappling with time so that I can at least shuffle the cards some. Sometimes, all the pieces don’t have to immediately or instanly cohere, the passing of time and growth and change takes care of that.

    Like

    1. Absolutely! Sometimes it’s important to sit in a period of growth, acknowledge that growth is happening, and then just wait it out and trust that everything will fall into place eventually. Thanks for reading!

      Like

  2. Holy crap, this is an insane amount of text to type on a phone.

    Long enough ago that it feels like another lifetime, I went to college for Russian and shortly after that spent about a year trying to read and learn more about the Slavic deities. I don’t remember the scene being dominated by white nationalists, but I don’t think I dug far enough to see that.

    What I do remember is that Slavic paganism is almost entirely a contemporary invention based on what myths and folk-stories remain in the oral tradition. What I read was that the Christian church in what would have been everywhere from the Ukraine to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and all points east did a very thorough job of throwing Slavic idols into the rivers and demolishing pagan temples.

    I dug into a few online communities for Russian-language paganism, and what I found is that it was almost entirely lifted from the neo/Pagan books in North America with a thin veneer of Russian folklore pasted over it.

    Because what’s known about the Slavic deities is so tightly connected to Russian culture, and the practice of Slavic paganism so closely resembles much of what’s being written by English-speaking neo/Pagans, I moved on. Maybe the material available has gained some depth over the past 15 years, but I’ve moved so far in other directions that I don’t think I’ll ever find my way back in that direction again, lol

    All the same, good luck with your investigation – I’d offer to help, but my Russian language skills have withered owing to lack of use over the past 10 years 😛

    Like

    1. I think Slavic Neopaganism (they call it “Rodnovery”, which I’m given to understand translates roughly as “ancestral faith”) has found its own footing in the past decade or so. A racist footing, but a footing nonetheless.

      The claim, historiographically flawed though it may be, is that early converts to the Orthodox Church practiced a “dual faith” where they renamed all their gods after Christian saints and then basically kept on doing what they did. So various folk festivals are taken to be fragmented holdovers from Pagan religious celebrations. (This sounds an awful lot like the now-debunked claims made by English scholars in the 19th and 20th centuries, but there you have it.)

      This means that half the time, people will just take a folk festival and wrongly assume it was named after a deity. Kupala, for example, is the summer solstice celebration, so some Rodnovers worship a god named Kupala on that day. The problem is that the word “Kupala” is (from what I understand) derived from a Russian root meaning “to bathe”, and the festival gets its name from the ritual baths that people take in preparation for it.

      There are other difficulties, as well. There’s an apocryphal text called “The Book of Veles” that many Rodnovers rely on. So much of what passes for Slavic mythology in the broader community was made up in the 20th century. And while there can certainly be value in working with 20th-century myths, that’s not what I’m looking for in this pantheon.

      Regardless, it’s an adventure. There are actual groups that have a robust reconstructionist practice, but they’re all in Eastern Europe and most of them are tied up in far-right nationalist politics. Rodnovery these days does a good job of distinguishing itself from American generipaganism, and I really do think there’s something valuable and unique there. If I could only get to it.

      Thanks for reading! I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Like

  3. Thank you for sharing this! I’ve been feeling the same way about my own practice and I’m trying to get back on track in a better way. The signs, sometimes small and could be missed if I’m not paying attention, are there! I just need to buckle down and get to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, you are doing interesting things. When I moved across the country my cards were packed away except for one deck which I used for daily draws.

    I’m an advocate for daily draws. I tend to overcomplicate sometimes and do juxtapositions of decks and books and whatever else I’m interested in. However, pairing a tarot daily draw with a passage from a book on Slavic mythology sounds pretty fascinating.

    What I do is randomly draw a card and without looking at it randomly open the book and pick a paragraph and then fit them together, correlate them while learning about what’s in the book. It keeps it fresh, and often is a great path for learning about the subject you are vitally keen on.

    Just saying 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s