It is not my intention to delve at great length into the history of the Tarot, nor offer my own theories regarding its origin. This has been done by other authors and teachers, who have produced many excellent works for the student interested in these areas. My purpose in writing this Handbook is to help you understand the ancient symbology of the Tarot and to appreciate the esoteric beauty and wisdom of this ancient art.
We will begin with the pictures portrayed on the cards. In your search for the proper deck of Tarot cards, you will notice that there are many variation«» in design. All of them represent the same thing— the esoteric symbology that has come down to us from antiquity. It is not the picture itself that should interest you so much as the symbolic philosophy behi nd the picture and how the picture affects you personally.
Each of the Tarot decks has come from different avenues of thought embracing other metaphysical sciences. Each has been influenced by the source and principles of the particular knowledge from which it is derived. Yet all of their roots coalesce to offer personal guidance and direction from the higher levels of consciousness. Each of the artists has portrayed his or her own interpretation of the spiritual force.
The form and nature of the Tarot symbols are still secrets known fully only to highly developed souls. As an initiate of the higher orders, you must be strict with yourself in moral, ethical and spiritual codes. You shoud study and understand the sciences of the Cabala, Astrology and Numerology. When you reach the dawn of understanding, you will be able to use your own personal tools to create your own spiritual masterpiece. Until that time arrives, be patient and learn the fundamentals that will enable you to develop the skills of a Tarot Master. Once you are conversant with the Tarot and its symbols and are able to relate its occult wisdom to your own life, you may find that the history of the Tarot is of more interest to vou.
Hermetic tradition believes the earliest records of Tarot to be about 35,000 years old. It has been said that the Tarot decks which evolved in successive centuries were not completely true representations of the Universal Law. This is very likely, considering how the early Christian fathers established their dogma, hiding the esoteric knowledge to make way for man-made teachings which helped make life more comfortable for those in power. Unfortunately, ordinary men had not evolved far enough spiritually to fully understand the laws emanating from the Atn Soph (Supreme Being) without interpretation by teachers. So the Sacred Truths, forbidden to the many/ were preserved by the few, handed down through the centuries in secret societies and brotherhoods, under the direction of initiated Keepers of the Flame. The Ancient Wisdom has thus been propagated through these limited channels to those who undergo vigorous mental, physical and spiritual training before the Truths are revealed to them. Each member must serve an apprenticeship, during which he or she learns discipline in all things, including the absolute riddance of the false ego. The apprentice lives a life of truth and purity, obeying the Higher Spiritual Consciousness, rather than being influenced by the dictates and expectations of other men. With this discipline comes the loneliness of often not being understood by others, even loved ones, but this is balanced by the jov of knowing that it does not matter when one is understood by God.
Perhaps the time is not far off when the entire body of Ancient Wisdom will be revealed at last to all men. Hermetic tradition tells of two major secrets yet to be discovered beneath the Great Pyramid of Gizeh. It is said that a hidden temple contains magnificent tablets on which are inscribed the totality of the Universal Law concerning the soul's journey through the cycle of rebirth. Seventy-eight of these tablets are known as die "exoteric" Tarot and 30 are the "esoteric" Tarot—a total of 108 tablets revealing at last the mystery and purpose of the soul.
Now, from our brief look at the past and future, let's come back to the present, where you are ready to take the first step on your own journey down the Royal Road of Tarot.
Buying your first pack of Tarot cards is like buying a packet of seeds. You cannot expect flowers to grow overnight; you must plant and nourish the seeds and wait patiently for the blooms to appear. Adopt this same attitude with your Tarot cards and you will be pleasandy surprised at how quickly your esoteric seeds will bloom. Remember that the more you study and the more you handle the cards, the quicker you will begin to make spiritual progress.
There are probably several book stores in your area that stock a variety of Tarot decks; most larger cities now have at least one book store that specializes in spiritual and occult bookfc. A look through your local Yellow Tages should reveal its location. If not, you may order your deck through the mail: I would suggest that you write to U.S. Games Systems, Inc., 468 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016. They stock the largest and most complete line of 1'arot decks and books in the country, and at your request, will send you a lovely color catalog of these items.
Although you may choose any of the various decks that appeal to you, I recommend the use of the ''Rider Waite Tarot Deck," named after the world-famous occult scholar and author. Dr. Arthur Fdward Waite, who produced the deck in 1910. The designs were drawn and colored under his supervision by Pamela Coleman Smith, an American girl who was a fellow member of the occult society, the Order of the Golden Dawn.
Through teaching many classes and seminars in Tarot, I have found the Waite Deck to be the most suitable for beginners. Its beauty and simplicity stimulate students and allow them to learn at a faster pace. This is the deck you will see illustrated later on in this Handbook.
After purchasing your deck, handle the cards as often as you can. When they are new they feel much different from a deck that has been "seasoned/' that is, fully saturated with your own personal vibrations. For example, a Tarot Master usually has a minimum of two seasoned packs and would never attempt to perform a divination with a new deck.
Furthermore, once you begin to season your own deck, you must never allow another person to handle it, as this wall disturb your own vibratory bond to the deck by mixing up his or her vibrations with yours.
I once knew a student who, upon arriving home from a journey of over a hundred miles, immediately turned her car around when she discovered she had forgotten her Tarot cards. Having used the cards during her stay at a friend's house, she knew that her hosts had been intrigued with the deck and would no doubt look through them. Rather than risk the vibratory disturbance this would cause, the student made the long return journey and thankfully arrived back at her hosts' home before they realized the cards had been left behind.
I always advise my students to carry their packs with them in a pocket or purse, wrapped in a protective silk cloth. I also recommend that you sleep with them under your pillow, which further aids in their impregnation with your vibrations. When you are home watching television, take the opportunity to handle the cards, move them around, shuffle them any way you wish. You need not concentrate on what you're doing—your Higher Self will be subconsciously preparing the cards for your work with the Tarot- Don't be concerned if you notice the cards falling in reverse positions—let them fall naturally into any position. This is necessary in order to season the deck correctly. Never go through the pack putting any particular card in any particular order or changing it to an upright position.
Handling the cards must continue until you become aware that your vibrations have thoroughly permeated the deck. How long this will take depends on how often you handle the cards and how serious you are about learning the Tarot. The more you manipulate the deck, the sooner you will begin to receive your first esoteric impressions, which will be a signal that you are ready to proceed.
Nothing is more frustrating than to be ready to start a spread (laying out the cards for divination) and to find that you haven't prepared everything you need. Check the list of requirements below—it includes everything you need initially to begin work with the cards. For best results, make sure that you have all these items on hand before you proceed:
1. Your Tarot deck
2. Silk scarf
3. Wooden box
4. Tarot cover
5. Wooden table
6. Daily Record Book
We've covered the selecting and preparing of your cards in the previous section. If you already own a pack of Tarot cards but have not used them correctly, or have left them lying around unprotected, I strongly suggest that vou invest in a new deck and season them as I have mentioned earlier.
The natural fibres of a silk scarf or cloth protect your cards from outside vibrations when they are not in use. As soon as you purchase a new deck, you should discard the box they come in and transfer the cards to the protection of a silk cloth. Keeping them wrapped this way enhances the vibratory tone of your cards and makes them more conducive to accurate divination. Sound is tone, tone is color, color is vibration. Therefore, the color of the silk is very important. Gold, purple, or royal blue are excellent colors for attracting and retaining the level of energy around your Tarot deck. If you know your Soul Color, this is an obvious choice for the scarf. If possible, have the cloth ready to use before opening your new deck. Since the piece needed is not large, you can often buy beautiful remnants quite inexpensively from a fabric shop and finish them off nicely with pinking shears.
After the cards are wrapped in the silk, they should he placed in a wooden box. The vibrations from natural wood are ideal for your Tarot deck, further protecting it from negative influences, so choose a box that appeals to you. Is it attractive to look at? Does it feel good to the touch? These things are important—your box will contain something very special in your life, so choose it well and be sure you are completely satisfied with your choice. Years ago, wooden boxes were hard to obtain, but nowadays they may be purchased inexpensively in large department stores and small gift shops.
The Tarot cover is another piece of doth, also preferably silk, upon which to lay out your cards. It should be large enough to cover your Tarot table, or at least two feet square. Whenever you spread the cards, either for divination or study, always use the cover. If you are going to use the cards away from home, take your cloth cover with you—it may be used without the Tarot table. This will prevent you from picking up distracting influences in unfamiliar surroundings, a factor that will become more important to you as your sensitivity increases. As with the silk scarf, the Tarot cover should be either your Soul Color, gold, purple or royal blue.
A wooden tableismost desirable for laying out the cards, although wood is not absolutely essential unless the table is to be used only for the Tarot. I suggest that you do use a wooden table, and use it only for your card study and divination. The natural vibrations of the wood will increase your awareness and help you tune in to the higher energies. The table should be large enough to accommodate the different types of spreads we will discuss later—at least two feet square. When not in use, keep the table in your bedroom or in any fairly secluded corner of the house. Keep it covered with the Tarot cover, with a meditation candle and the wooden box containing your cards on top. Fresh flowers also add considerably to the vibratory tone; I like to have them near when working with the Tarot. Some of my students have made a Tarot table simply by purchasing a wooden top and attaching screw-on-type legs. If you have a choice of woods, choose pine, as this wood has been traditionally preferred by Tarot Masters down through the centuries.
While conducting a divination for yourself, you may receive information that you do not immediately understand. For this reason, I suggest that you keep a Daily Record Book to record systematically what you receive. I am often amazed to check back in my book and realize that true and accurate guidance has been given to me, although 1 didn't understand or appreciate it at the time. You may copy the example given as Chart 1 or type one of your own, following the example, and duplicate it as often as necessary. Keep the sheets in a loose-leaf notebook for easy reference. (We will discuss the different types of spreads and the use of the Major/Minor Pack later on, so don't be puzzled by these entries on the form.) This Daily Record Book is for those students who wish to record personal spreads only.
Remember that the Tarot should not be consulted too often—not more than once every 24 hours. A daily divination cannot be expected to have the same depth or significance as a weekly or monthly spread, but if you choose to work on a daily basis, create a rhythm with your readings. Conduct them at the same time every day and do the same with your meditation studies. Likewise, if you read weekly or monthly, do so at the same time each week or month.
Beginning Your Apprenticeship 13 DAILY RECORD BOOK
TYPE OF SPREAD: _ QUESTION:
MAJOR/MINOR PACK:_ _
List cards in order of spread. SKETCH SPREAD OR NOTES: 1__
INTERPRETATION OF SPREAD:
One of the greatest temptations you will face is wanting to attempt divination, either for yourself or others, before you are really ready to do so. You must become familiar not only with the Tarot cards themselves, but with the skills needed to connect the symbols together and interpret what appears. The ability to extract and relate the full wisdom of the Tarot can only be achieved through study, concentration and development of sensitivity.
Just as a carpenter must learn to use his tools before he can make a cabinet or table, so you must become familiar with your tools—the 78 cards in the pack, plus the 78 Reverse Keys. This knowledge will enable you to interpret any message from the 156 Basic Keys, which in turn will provide access to the information in what we might call the Esoteric Computer. Individual Key interpretations must be pieced together before you can understand the whole picture, just as words are put together to form a sentence.
Mastering the symbols of the Major and Minor Arcana is the first step toward learning the Tarot. Learning the definitions for each card in both positive and reverse positions is important, but don't be discouraged if the desired sensitivity doesn't come at once. IT IS NOT WHAT YOU LEARN INITIALLY, BUT WHAT YOU ARE ABLE TO TUNE INTO EVENTUALLY that is most important in becoming a Tarot Master. Once your conscious mind stops struggling each time a different card is put down, you will be able to reach a level of relaxation which will allow the superconscious vibrations to flow smoothlv into your conscious mind.
In order to comprehend the meaning of each symbol, both positive and negative, you must use the SUIT KEYS, which will be explained in the next chapter. Once you can bring to mind immediately the Key for each Tarot symbol, your conscious mind will relax and you will be in command of the esoteric alphabet. The cosmic energies will flow freely and you will be blessed with solutions to your problems drawn from your Higher Self.
Each of the 78 cards has a different meaning when it is reversed. This does not mean that a reversed card is negative in connotation or in opposition to the client's welfare. It simply means that there is ¿different interpretation to a card when it is reversed than when it falls right side up. I have had beginning students who thought that all they had to learn were interpretations for the 78 cards in upright positions, so that when they fell upside down, the interpretations were exactly the opposite. This is not correct. You arc dealing in essence with 1.% separate symbols, each with a distinct purpose which relates esoterically with both the card preceding it and the one following. A reverse card has an identity of its own and must be learned in the same manner as the upright or positive card.
The early masters of the Tarot did not have the modern addition of the 56 Minor Arcana; only the 22 Major Arcana were used for divination. The Major Arcana deal only with the spiritual aspect and eternal soul of man. But as man became more and more involved in his mundane existence, the Minor Arcana were added to the Tarot pack to help deal with matters pertaining to the physical plane. Thus, the Minor Arcana have become a useful addition for modern man in his everyday situations.
In the next chapter we will begin our study of the Minor Arcana and their meanings. At this point, let me emphasize that it is very important for you to follow the progression of this Handbook and not skip over the exercises that follow. Do them all in order and you will receive the greatest benefits. You may read through the entire Handbook at this point, if you wish, which will give you an overview that may prove helpful. Then come back to Chapter 2 and proceed toward EXERCISE 1.
If you are not die type of person who likes to do things alone, you may find it stimulating to form a group and study together. Each week, have a different person read the lesson aloud. Later, the group can pair off to practice divination. However you choose to proceed, keep in mind at all times the serious nature of your study. The Tarot is not a frivolous toy to show off with; it is a way of life and a means of gaining spiritual wisdom for the benefit of your own soul arid for the well-being of others.
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The pathology of the poet says that the undevout astronomer is mad the pathology of the very plain man says that the genius is mad and between these extremes, which stand for ten thousand analogous excesses, the sovereign reason takes the part of a moderator and does what it can. I do not think that there is a pathology of the occult dedications, but about their extravagances no one can question, and it is not less difficult than thankless to act as a moderator regarding them.