The Tarot as poetry: or, What we need if we are to be able to read cards (525 words)


I am suggesting that we look at cards as if they are poems because poems say a lot. You can also see and understand more each time you read and re-read the same few lines. [Don't be surprised, then, when a card reveals layer on layer of information.]

These are the first two lines of Shakespeare's 29th Sonnet:

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state...

Just fifteen words, but they paint a picture. I want to say that a card or a combination of cards can just as elegantly point to the state of mind that Shakespeare's words describe.

You might know lyrics from a popular song that say a lot to you. A line or two can conjure up a whole life situation or a scenario that many have to deal with. Bob Dylan wrote, in one of his songs:

Something there is about you
That strikes a match in me.

Striking a match can point to a sudden flaring up of energy or excitement - you make me more alive; or the words could be saying that we are similar - a match - in some important way so we have a connection already, even when we don't know each other.

Similarly, a single card can tell multiple stories. We don't need to feel that we know the "right" meaning, or that there is only one and that we have to find out what it is if we are to be good readers.

In the 1960s, I used to see advertisements in print and on television for Kellogg's Corn Flakes that were described as "the sunshine breakfast". I seem to remember we would see corn flakes falling in slow motion into a bowl as the sun rose majestically in the background. What a way to start the day! It was an effective advert and slogan.

The connection with poetry is this: a poet by the name of Adrian Henry wrote:

Without you,
the Sunshine Breakfast
would just be corn flakes.

When you look at cards, see the poetry in them and let your sensitivity connect with their stories. You can quickly and easily lose a sense of the message when you switch to reading a sentence or two from a book that provides "the meaning".

At the same time, though, we can't just make it up as we go along because we end up seeing ourselves and our problems in other people. This happens a lot when people get "psychic impressions" and give in to their "intuition". Intuition is supposed to be instantaneous recognition of the underlying truth of a situation; too often, though, it's just these readers' own, unrecognized and damaged self.

However, if we can describe what is going on in the card, we will not go wrong. It is the card and its picture - and not we - that holds the key. If we stick with it, we can do a good job for other people.