Most of us have a particular association with tarot cards that goes something like this...It was a dark, foggy night on my walk home through the village when I happened upon a traveling carnival. The spinning of a ferris wheel and giant tea cups created a hypnotic frenzy as slightly deranged looking men and women barked to play their games — shoot a water pistol in the mouth of a clown, or knock down some heavy milk bottles with a brown leather ball. Squeals and cries of small children amped up on sugar and adrenalin peppered the drone of generators. And then suddenly right in front of me materialized a tent, simultaneously disheveled and bedazzled, the sign in front read, “Madame Zorah”. Before I knew it, I had entered the tent. It was as if some mysterious force had pulled me in. And there she was, sitting behind a table draped with a red cloth. She was as worn as the deck of cards she held in her hand. Her long black hair looked dusty, as if she must have been sitting there in that very tent for decades. She looked like she might drink me in with her large, black, knowing eyes.
Okay, you get the picture. The truth about Tarot is that it can serve as a useful tool in decision making. Hear me out. Yes, the esoteric hippie in me wants to believe that the cards are a vehicle for my spirit guides to send me messages from the ethers and tell me what to do. And certainly, Tarot has a long history as a means of divination. But even my very intellectual New Yorker self uses the cards regularly. When pondering a current issue, I will often take out my cards, shuffle and randomly pull one. Whatever the topic and whatever card comes up, I am presented with a potential perspective from which to see this issue —a different energy or way of being with my life and the people in it. It's a tool to get out of my head, to break my usual pattern of thoughts and feelings. I will sometimes pull a card and just move through my day with that particular archetype in my consciousness, asking questions like, “What would the Hanged Man say to the dentist who tells me I need $1500 worth of work on my mouth?” or “How would the Empress respond to the barista who can't seem to get my half caf non-fat foamy latte right”?
Most evidence points to the first Tarot cards popping up in the early 15th century as a game. It wasn’t adopted by mystics, occultists and secret societies as a means of divination and covert communication until the 17th century. The deck is divided into numbered and face cards in four different suits. Our modern playing cards’ source is in the Tarot deck with Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades derivative of the Tarot's Cups, Pentacles, Wands and Swords or roughly, the Emotional, Physical, Mental and Spiritual selves. These are called the Minor Arcana. In addition, 22 cards make up the Major Arcana. The word “arcana” means: a profound secret or mystery known only to initiates. And truly, there is much symbology and coded visual language in these cards, too much to go into at length when I am already pushing the limits of acceptable blog entry length. Suffice to say that the 22 cards of the Major Arcana are each a depiction of an archetype of the human condition. With names like, The Magician, The Hermit, Temperance, Strength, each card represents a specific point in the protagonist's story.
This week, I have been pondering the first card of the Major Arcana, "The Fool". As I start a few new ventures, stepping into new territory, this card resonates with me.The Fool has no pretense, no judgement. He is simple and willing. He stands at edge of a precipice, ready to leap into the unknown. The sun, a symbol of universal illumination, or “crazy wisdom” is behind him lighting his way, and grounded by his base, survival instincts in the form of the small dog at his heels. He carries his belongings, items from his physical world on his shoulder with ease. His arms are open wide in an accepting embrace of what the universe holds for him. Holding this card and taking it in is validation of so many things I am experiencing right now on my personal journey —the curiosity to explore, the willingness to risk, the trust that I'll be safe. And when I become conscious that the next step will find my foot leaving terra firma for the unknown, I can look at this card and be reminded that I am not the first to take a leap of faith. There have been many fools before me who have done what I am doing and felt what I am feeling. I am not the first to — as our favorite sneaker maker says — “Just do it.”