Friday, February 16, 2018

Memorization or Intuition? Knowledge is needed for either.

In a FaceBook group about Tarot someone asked if they could apply the meanings of the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) deck to the Thoth deck in order to perform readings. The two decks are very different in almost every way - imagery, card associations, meanings, etc. and most people referred the poster to books and web sites that could help them learn the Thoth deck rather than try to force the RWS system onto it.

One person claimed that any 78 card deck can be read with the same interpretations and meanings as the RWS deck.  This is not only wrong, it is a disservice to the person asking the question, the people in the group, deck creators, and that person's clients (if they have any). To say that any Tarot deck is read using predefined meanings that may or may not correspond to what the artist and author of a deck intended is to throw out any chance of actually providing the detail and nuance that is possible in a reading. I decided that instead of starting a flame war on the group page I would respond here.

The Rider Waite Smith deck is the most used deck available today, and there are countless variations on the images and meanings used in that deck. Each of these clone versions is a work of love and talent that deserves to be appreciated for what it brings to the reading. Many people use different decks for different types of readings based on the imagery and the author's interpretation of the card. Without this nuance, there is no need to ever get a deck other than the RWS in order to perform readings. all one need do is memorize 78 card meanings and set out to tell fortunes.

With the attitude that all decks are the same, there is no room for intuition or interpretation - you may as well draw a few cards, look them up in the Tarot Handbook of Choice, and regurgitate that information to a seeker. It would not be  fulfilling reading for the seeker or for the reader, but that is what some people would have us believe is appropriate. Why be bothered with nuance and details just to provide a real service? Rote memorization is just fine, according to them.

I call Bullshit on that idea.  If the person who is learning to work with the Tarot is simply going to memorize a single system of card meanings they will find it to be a daunting task. If they can learn a few basic ideas about how the cards progress from Ace through King and Magician through Fool, then they have a chance to work with their intuition and really exploit the power of the images and provide amazing readings. Either way, they need to know what the deck creators intended in order to give a worthwhile reading.

Think of it this way - would you rather have a meal prepared from fresh ingredients by a skilled chef or one prepared from packages and mixes by the new fry cook at the local burger chain? Both meals can be tasty and nourishing, but the knowledge and experience of the skilled cook will elevate the food to something more than what you get from a box.

At the same there is a growing number of people who seem to believe that ALL they need is their intuition to read the cards - they don't seem to believe that any study or deck background is necessary for them to know what the cards are saying. Intuition plays a large part in any reading, and in some cases it will change the 'standard' meaning of a card. But to simply think that opening a deck and knowing everything you need to know without any foundation is the height of conceit. Reading the cards should not be about your ego, it should be about the client.

The need to learn the basics of Tarot is understood by the majority of professional Readers. We understand the history of the Tarot, the changes that have been made to the decks over the years, and the imagery that is used within each deck that we use for readings. We are not necessarily experts in all things Tarot, but we have a solid basis from which to work. Without that basic knowledge of the Tarot history and evolution, few people are able to help seekers find the answers they are looking for.

Regardless of the style of reading a practitioner has, they need to have  some sort of connection to the realities of the Tarot - it is NOT all the same thing from deck-to-deck, and there needs to be  foundation from which to build other than ego. Without those, the reader is doing nothing more than opening a box and following the directions. Anybody can do that and achieve the same bland results.

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