Written by the popular author of the Green Witchcraft series, the techniques presented in this book offer a unique way of working with the Tarot that incorporates the tools and tenets of the Witch's Craft. Develop a personal method of reading the cards while learning to use any Tarot deck for divination, pathworking, meditation, and spiritual reflection.
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Ann Moura has been a practitioner of Green Witchcraft for over forty years. She holds both a B.A. and an M.A. in History. Moura lives in Florida where she runs her own metaphysical store, presents public rituals, and teaches classes on the Craft. Visit her online at www.annmourasgarden.com or at www.lunasolesoterica.com.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
A Brief History of Tarot
Interpreting the casting of a spread of tarot cards, called reading, has been associated with Witchcraft and magical practice for many decades, and with Gypsy fortunetellers for centuries. In Witchcraft, the tarot is used today as a tool for divination, psychic readings, meditations, personal growth pathworking, and spiritual insight, but what is the origin of the tarot and how did this intriguing set of cards evolve? This mysterious deck of cards began its career as the game of tarocchi in fifteenth-century Italy, recognizable today as the game of Trumps or Whist. Subsequently, the tarot cards have been embraced by people, denounced by Christian clergy, banned by kings, revived by kings, and regulated by laws. Over the centuries, the tarot evolved into today's recognized system of divination, beginning with the writings of an eighteenth-century Mason named Antoine Court de Gebelin and a host of French clairvoyants operating on the premise that the cards were of Egyptian origin. The designs, numbering, interpretations, and reverse interpretations began to take the familiar present-day shape through the efforts of nineteenth-century Ceremonial Magicians. These people were Masons who operated in the secret societies and occult orders popular in the Victorian Age, in particular those of the Grand Order of the Rose Cross and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Many people contributed their special insights on the cards from the eighteenth through nineteenth centuries, and by the early twentieth century the tarot form most familiar in America was that of Arthur Waite, painted by Pamela Coleman Smith, and known as the Rider-Waite deck.
Today, the typical deck has seventy-eight cards divided into two parts, with the Major Arcana representing archetypal powers, universal imagery, and cosmic fates, while the Minor Arcana represents the interactions of daily life. The Major Arcana contains twenty-two cards, of which twenty-one are numbered, plus the unnumbered Fool, which is usually assigned the 0. This 0 card may begin or end the deck, depending on your point of view. The ordinary pack of playing cards descends from those of the Minor Arcana, although with only three of the possible five court cards for each suit. The four suits of the Minor Arcana are variously labeled Pentacles, Coins, Disks, and Bells; Swords, Knives, Daggers, and Leaves; Wands, Batons, Rods, and Acorns; or Cups, Cauldrons, Bowls, and Hearts. Depending on the tarot deck, the terms for the suits may vary, but these became in modern playing cards, respectively, the suits of Diamonds, Spades, Clubs, and Hearts.
There are a number of opinions on how the tarot came to Europe, but I feel the most plausible is that the Romany Gypsies, migrating from India through eastern Europe and into northern Italy during the Middle Ages, brought the cards with them. Any suggestion that ancient Egyptians used tarot cards results in the uncontrolled raising of an eyebrow since there is no evidence to support this theory. The earliest tarot deck of Europe still in existence with nearly all the original cards (five have been reconstructed) was made in 1450 in Milan for Viscount Sforza, although playing cards are mentioned in writings from 1397 and 1441. This tarocchi deck had no titles or numbers for the distinctive cards that are now identified as the Major Arcana. The Minor Arcana consisted of the four suits containing Kings, Queens, Knights, and Pages as Court Cards; the Aces; and the cards numbered 2 through 10 as pips like modern playing decks, making reverse readings out of the question. In fact, the idea of reverse meanings is a relatively recent invention. The Ace of any suit may be read as a 1, or as a trump card of greater power than a King card, so it may be at home on either end of the four suits of the Minor Arcana, somewhat as the Fool card may be placed on either end of the Major Arcana.
All subsequent tarot decks show the influence of the Sforza deck, and examining this deck reveals the evolution away from the earlier Pagan images. There were several aspects of the Goddess Diana and examples of tools from the Etruscan and Roman period, and more contemporary tools, such as a war wagon carrying an enthroned woman and being pulled by golden-winged white horses without reins, and the accouterments of the Medieval street magician. The Diana images were replaced in later renderings by generic females, and the battle wagon became a chariot with unruly teams of horses or sphinxes held in check by the sheer will of a dominant man. The mages controlled the Elementals through intellectual power, and the original's floppy hat evolved into the cosmic lumniscate, while the hourglass of the gentlemanly Old Father Time became the lantern of the monkish Hermit. The Popess, a reminder that a woman was once elected to rule the Church based upon her ability when no one knew her sex, only to be deposed upon discovery, became a less intimidating High Priestess. The Wildman awakening the Earth, a custom still followed in German, Romanian, Austrian, and British villages with variations of the British Morris Dancer tradition, and possibly derived from rites of Dionysus and Bacchus, was changed to the Fool, heedlessly stepping off into danger. The Sun of Apollo, spreading joy and erasing fear, became the Sun of twins or a child on horseback. It is in the many aspects of Diana that most changes took place. Diana releasing the Star of Hope from her open, outstretched hand (the rays of which fall in front of her hand) became a generic woman pouring out waters on land and sea beneath the stars. Diana of Temperance, pouring from one pitcher to another the dark wine that symbolized the blood of the resurrecting God, giving it thus the breath of life, became an angel pouring water between pitchers. Diana of the Moon, standing with her bow in one hand, broken in remorse for accidentally killing Orion with an arrow, holds the waning crescent Moon in her other hand, showing that life passes into death and hence into immortality, for Orion was reborn as a constellation—the same one that the Egyptians named after their God of the Underworld, Osiris. This image vanished to become a Moon between towers, bayed at by a wild wolf and a domestic dog. The Tower in the deck is actually erupting, releasing the Star and the Eclipsed Sun in a demonstration of the power of internal enlightenment and passage, but this image evolved into the Lightning-struck Tower, showing outside influence rather than internal inspiration.
While a variation of cards was also being used in China, with the contact between China and India it is difficult to determine who influenced whom. Those of India, however, have suits that may be matched to the accouterments of either the image of Shiva as Ardhanari (Shiva as Half Male and Half Female), or that of the Goddess Durga, the Great Goddess. Since the Gypsies came from India and used the cards first in Europe, it seems reasonable to link these two indicators as the predecessors for the European tarot.
Very quickly, the cards were adapted to provide the user with a Christian interpretation of the archetypes, and by the eighteenth century the depictions showed the influence of the divination structures reflecting Christian culture and the Jewish Kabbalah that were favored by Ceremonial Magicians. Differences of opinion as to the exact lineage of the tarot continue, with about the only consensus being that the tarot is not of European origin. As instruments of divination, it seems likely that since these cards were in the hands of the Gypsies first, and they have a strong tradition of reading cards, that the origins of divination with the cards may be misplaced in the salons of gentility in Paris. This is supported by the use of the cards for visions or oracles in the sixteenth century, long before being associated with fortunetelling. The difference as I see it between the two terms is that the first uses mediumship and spiritual connection for counseling, while the other relies on fixed meanings for the cards in a manner that does not allow much room for working with the energies indicated. Overall, I do not see the quibbling as vital to the use of the cards today as a tool of mediumship and spiritual guidance, for, in Witchcraft, this is what divination is actually about.
Modern Tarot Decks
In the latter part of the twentieth century, depictions on the cards in many new tarot decks returned to Pagan themes, and others related to fantasy worlds and international ethnic archetypes or mythologies. Indeed the proliferation of new decks shows that nearly any taste can be accommodated to the tarot. Most of these decks come with little pamphlets or booklets tucked inside with the interpretations for each card provided. When you go looking for a tarot deck, keep in mind the point of view of the creator of the deck. You may be thrilled with a vampire version of the tarot, or quite frustrated with the images when trying to match the pamphlet descriptions to the scene, or blending both with your usual values for the cards and your own psychic reception. You may be drawn to fairies, unicorns, dragons, or fantasy, but have difficulty relating these images to real-life matters. I have found over the years that I like to have a variety of tarot decks, not only for the beauty of the artwork, but for the sensations they evoke, and that by handling the cards and examining them for their esoteric insights, any deck can become a useful companion. Some of my decks feel best during holidays, others are more attuned to one of the four seasons, and a few are distinctly aligned with the energies of specific people for whom the cards are most often read.
I have over fifty tarot decks now, and I use almost all of them—almost, because some things are a matter of live and learn, and I have found that despite handling, examination, and ritual dedication, a couple of my decks are so gorgeous and decorative as to be works of art rather than avenues to psychic awareness, so that instead of finding the common thread within, my eyes wander over the swirling designs. I also have heard people complain that a deck may be too overbearing in a theme for them, or so restrictive to a theme as to block psychic input, but other than being drawn to admire the beauty rather than focusing on the reading, I have not found any deck to be impossible to work with.
Some typical themes found in tarot decks include following a format of suits structured to fit a set of myths (Celtic, Greek, Norse, Arthurian, etc.); blending cultures and traditions from around the world; and generating the ambiance of Gothic, vampire, fairy, nursery rhyme, feline, wolf, gnome, unicorn, dragon, and other such motifs into a coherent spread matched to the arcanas. There are a number of choices in buying a tarot deck suited to your particular taste and interests, but be aware that there are also decks in which the normal number of cards may be expanded, or that there may be cards absent that are familiar to tarot. A deck may have additional cards for the four Elementals (Earth, Air, Fire, Water), the four Virtues (Hope, Faith, Prudence, and Charity), and even the twelve signs of the Zodiac. The deck with the Virtue cards is curiously missing the High Priestess card, so for me to read with this deck, I substitute Prudence for the Priestess and set the other Virtues aside (which somehow seems appropriate, for if you are prudent, the rest will follow). Elemental cards may seem a bit redundant since Aces are the power cards of the Minor Arcana and double as representatives of the Elementals as well, but each person is different, and you might actually find these useful as guides for timings as with seasons.
Since these decks can be quite expensive, ranging from $10.00 to $30.00 or more, you should be prepared to buy with care. Many of the larger bookstore chains, and even some of the smaller independent shops, have a tarot card reference book in which one or two sample cards of the various decks are displayed for your examination. Otherwise, check the bookshelves in the New Age or Metaphysical section of the bookstore and flip through some of the books on tarot so you see images of cards used to illustrate the text and identify the deck of those cards that catch your eye. With care, you should avoid the pitfall of buying a deck that does not work for you. In Europe there have always been many varieties, easily purchased at the shops in the railroad stations that crisscross the countries, with especially prominent displays in the shop windows lining the platforms in front of the rails of the Italian stations. It is wonderful that the different decks so readily accessible in Europe have finally reached across the ocean to America with the Lo Scarabeo collection of tarot decks distributed now by Llewellyn Publications.
The Meaning of Reading Cards
The most common reason I hear for reading cards is to "divine the future," but I do not consider this a totally accurate description of what is actually going on. There are states, and counties within states, in the United States that view tarot or other card reading the same as fortune-telling, and require that, in order for you to do public readings, you must have a license indicating that you are an entertainer affiliated with an entertainment corporation or business, or a person of moral character if reading independently, usually with a number of signatures from people who will vouch for your integrity. Again, this is not what card reading means to me. While there are instances of people being mistreated through the use of cards, generally involving turning over large sums of money to the reader to avert a disaster or remove an alleged evil influence, I feel there are sufficient laws in existence to treat such cases the same as any other scam or swindle rather than directing the laws at the process of reading the cards.
For me, reading cards—be they tarot or regular playing cards—is part of the spirituality of the Craft, so much so that even as a child, visions and perceptions used to leap out at me in card games as innocuous as gin rummy and solitaire. The very act of divination in Witchcraft requires a link with the Lunar aspect of the Divine, such as with the Goddess Hecate, Cerridwen, Bendidia (Bendis), Artemis, Diana, or Isis, each of whom is considered a Goddess of Witches. When you read the cards, you are connecting with the energies of the Divine for insight and guidance. You also connect with the Elementals through the process of grounding and centering before a reading, thus aligning your internal energies with those of Nature and the Spirit, while opening your psychic sight for a consultation for yourself or someone else. The cards do not of themselves tell the future, but they offer the reader a focal point through which to access Divine energy and gain visions or interpretations of influences surrounding a particular question or person as illustrated by the cards that are pulled.
Before you rush out and buy a tarot deck, you should examine your reasons for using cards at all. If you feel that the cards will tell you all there is to know about a situation and what the future holds, you are missing the true purpose for reading cards. The future is not some pre-ordained, immovable series of events. If it were, there would be no point in card reading, no point in spell craft, no point in learning the art of Witchcraft, and indeed, no point in any type of spiritual or religious pursuit and prayer since nothing would be changeable. As a third-generation Family Tradition Witch (described in my books on Green Wit...
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