The arrival of the Raziel Tarot, created by Robert Place and myself, and based on 3000 years of Jewish myth, teachings and lore, has led me to think about Tarot and stories.
There are many decks, especially in the modern era, based on stories, often from different cultures. There are several fairy tale decks, decks based on the mythologies of Ireland, Russia, China, India, Arthurian decks, decks based on games and television shows, and on and on.
The famous Rider deck of A. E. Waite and P. C. Smith strikes many people as scenes from stories, especially the Minor Arcana. Maybe the man in the 2 of Wands, looking out from a castle wall, has become bored with his life–or his marriage?–and is fantasizing leaving everything behind. The weeping woman in the 9 of Swords may be grieving the loss of a child, or perhaps that her 2 of Wands husband has run off and left her in the middle of the night.
Some of the Major Arcana cards in the Rider deck have specific story links. Waite describes the High Priestess as the Shkehinah, the female aspect of God in the Kabbalah (this connection becomes much more explicit in the Raziel Tarot). Many see the Magician card as the Greek God Hermes, God of magic, wisdom, and transformation (not to mention swindlers, thieves, and businessmen).
I have linked the Star card to the Greek Goddess Persephone, who was taken by Death (card 13) into the dark Underworld, and then returned for part of every year to her mother Demeter, Goddess of Life (card 3, the Empress).
Do I do this with every client? Some just want simple answers to questions. But suppose we based a whole reading style on the stories in the cards, and how they illuminate the person’s issues? This can be especially valuable with decks where the cards very specifically show tales or myths.
With the Raziel Tarot how might it open up our readings if we know that King Solomon is the Magician, or that his lover, the Queen of Sheba, is on the Strength card?
A person facing a challenge might get extra meaning from the Hermit card (shown above), knowing that it pictures Moses at the Burning Bush, where God tells Moses he must go to Egypt and confront the most powerful king in all the world. The story in this card challenges us to ask, “What mission or task am I called to accept? What is it that I cannot refuse, or pretend doesn’t exist?”
In the story, Moses asks what is God’s name (he knows that Pharaoh will ask this), and God says–in the standard English version–“I am that I am.” If we turn this question around to ourselves, we might ask “Who am I in this moment? What in my life right now cannot be denied or explained away?”
Interestingly, modern scholars tell us that what God says to Moses is more like “I will be what I will be,” or “I am becoming what I am becoming.” Here we might ask ourselves, “What is changing or growing in me, in my job, my life, my family? What am I becoming?”
Sometimes the story in a card can powerfully affirm something important in a person’s life. About three years ago I discovered I had cancer–Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, to be precise. I was very sick by the time the disease was diagnosed and was not sure what would happen to me. But then the chemo took effect and I began to improve. After I received a report that the cacer was in remission I decided to do a Tarot reading.
I chose the Tarot of Delphi, in which each card is a 19th century painting from Greek or Roman mythology. Stores, beautifully rendered. The card that came out was the 8 of Wands. The painting shows the God Hermes–a favorite of mine, ax sell as the Magician–returning the Goddess Persephone–the Star, which is my birth card–from the dark world of the dead to the bright land of the living. There is no explanation, no fortune telling formula, no list of traditional meanings, that could have said more to me at that moment than that picture–that story–of life rescued from death.