Read an Excerpt
What Is the Tarot?
Welcome to the world of Tarot, where every human characteristic and personality trait is portrayed in a deck of 78 cards.
Will you find yourself there? You bet. Will you find your friend, lover, or mate? No doubt about it. A flip of the wrist, a few cards laid out in a specific pattern, and an entirely new perspective is available to you.
Will you be able to "read" the cards for others and catch a glimpse of their futures? Well, that is the traditional focus for the Tarot, and many people unfamiliar with the cards do think of them only as fortune-telling devices. However, we think that there are much better uses for the Tarot.
While we'd all like to have a peek at what's in store for us, Spiritual Tarot: Seventy-Eight Paths to Personal Development emphasizes two approaches to Tarot card reading that we believe are the most beneficial for the modern person: (1) reading to gain new insights on life issues or events, and (2) reading to stimulate and enhance selfexploration and understanding.
We like to think of the Tarot as a highly sophisticated, interactive "picture book" of life experiences, a finely tuned communication system, employing symbolism, mythology, and universal motifs unrestricted by time, culture, and semantics. It speaks a special language. To hear what it has to say, you'll need to attend to cards' visual images and listen with your heart.
What you'll learn may intrigue or delight you, reassure you or confirm your suspicions, but one thing is certain. Your experience with the Tarot will bear little resemblance to those commonly seen in novels and movies-- which is where many of us get our first impressions of Tarot cards and what they can do.
Although author Martha Smilgis (Fame's Peril) intends to have a true-to-life psychic Tarot reader in her next mystery novel,' and the royal family in science fiction novelist Roger Zelazny's popular "Amber" series employs a modified Tarot deck to communicate with absent family members, fiction writers most often use Tarot cards to deliver warnings. Dire predictions of imminent danger heighten suspense and move the story along. Unfortunately, they also completely distort the real purpose, power, and potential of the cards.
For instance, in Al Guthrie's Murder by Tarot, a fortune-teller draws the Death card and tries to bide it from the heroine.
"Uh-oh," the reader is supposed to think. "Something horrible is going to happen to her."
We, on the other hand, don't see it that way. Since the growth meaning of the Death card is transition -- the relinquishing of old ideas and attitudes to make way for new experiences or behaviors -- we think that the heroine is about to make some internal changes. The Death card says that a lot of inner work is needed or has occurred.
Similarly, before the fictional James Qwilleran leaves for Scotland, one of the characters in Lilian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who Went Into the Closet does a Tarot reading for him and draws what 'is apparently the Nine of Pentacles from the Rider-Waite deck (one of the decks we use in this book).
The Tarot reader's interpretation -- beware of fraud or treachery -- is meant to clue us in to what's coming, only we understand the Nine of Pentacles to speak of success, enjoying the fruits of your labor, perhaps egotistically, and the need to draw upon inner feminine wisdom to help you accomplish the tasks in front of you.
If we were doing the reading, we would have said to Qwilleran, "Get smart here, fella. It's time to change your style of thinking. Use a little more intuition."
Now, hearing that wouldn't have hurt him and actually might have helped, but it's just not the sort of thing you see in fiction. Fictional Tarot readers foretell events with pinpoint accuracy in mere seconds because the plots of movies and books have to move quickly to keep their audience interested. Who is going to sit through a scene in which the hero has to spend fifteen minutes or more listening to a Tarot reader explain how an upcoming battle with his archenemy will bring up certain relationship issues and the potential for improved selfworth?
When you're the subject of a reading, however, and its objective is to generate insight and personal development, you will want to take the time to understand every nuance of the reading. You may even want to keep a record of your responses to mark your progress and serve as an inspiration for further Tarot work.
The basic principles and uses of the Tarot are easy to learn, and that's what this book is all about. You don't need to be psychic or specially gifted in any way. As you venture with us into new areas, our instructions will lead you to new awareness. What's more, your Tarot reader will be the person who is most concerned about you: YOURSELF.
In the introduction to our first Tarot book, The Lovers' Tarot, Peter Balin, author of The Flight of Feathered Serpent and creator of its accompanying Xultun deck, wrote, "There is no better way to enter into the process of self-understanding than through the Tarot."' We wholeheartedly agree.
The insights you'll obtain from your very first reading will surprise you, and your confidence will grow with each additional reading you do. Through it all, you will be in the driver's seat. You will decide whether or not, and when, to act on your new Tarot insights. In fact, you will be actively involved from start to finish, The Tarot "works" by evoking responses from you. It triggers your memories, feelings, or mental associations, and as a result, you expand your awareness of what's going on in particular situations or areas of your life.