A CONTRACT WITH THE TAROT
(On Dec. 8, 2012, a small group, 12, met to try a kind of experiment. We would make a personal contract with the Tarot, letting the Tarot offer benefits but also what it expected from us, accepting or rejecting different parts, and offering our own terms as well. The results were very exciting. Below, slightly edited, is the description I wrote up ahead of time.)
What if we could make an actual contract with the Tarot, laying out what we expect from it? We might include spiritual guidance,, or clarity, or the ability to let us help people, or maybe make a living as a professional card reader. At the same time we also would have to include what we will commit to from our side. This might be daily readings for a period of time, or promising never to use the cards for manipulation. How would we create such a contract?
The idea to do this comes from a story a friend told me of a medium she knew. As I recall the story, when the woman’s medium powers began to emerge she found it exciting but also frightening. She knew the stories of mediums whose lives became overwhelmed and she didn’t want that to happen. So she offered a contract with her guides. She would be fully available to them at specified times, as long as they backed off otherwise. And it worked, my friend said. The woman’s mediumship was doing really well, and so was her life.
So I thought, what if we could do something similar with the cards? The idea may seem strange but in fact it invokes an old magical tradition. In the West, such ideas are usually demonized, and so we get the many stories of deals with the Devil signed in blood.
But maybe such stories are meant to scare people from an underlying truth. We can make a contract, not with some evil being, but with spiritual energy, including the life-giving power in the cards. In some African traditions priests and priestesses make specific commitments with their ancestral spirits. Shamans form partnerships with their guides and powers.
“Magic always has a price,” people say. Maybe we can make a contract instead of just blindly paying whatever price is demanded of us!
(Following are the instructions given to the class)
HOW TO MAKE A CONTRACT WITH THE TAROT
Choose a card to represent the Tarot in the contract “discussion.” You can do this by consciously choosing a card. (The Devil? Justice? King of Swords?) or shuffling and picking three cards at random, then seeing which is best.
Shuffle. Choose three cards to represent what the Tarot is offering you. Discuss with group. Make notes of your impressions, then discuss further. Select between one and three for what you will be willing to accept of what the Tarot is offering. Since you are negotiating a contract you are not required to blindly accept whatever the Tarot is offering you.
If you reject all three, take two more, then choose one or both (you don’t get to go back to the first three but now have to work with the two on offer, just as in any contract negotiation). If you reject both of those, take one more for Tarot’s final offer (again, the two are now off the table).
After you have chosen, set aside whatever cards or cards you decide you would like from what the Tarot is offering you. Return the other cards to the deck.
Shuffle. Choose three cards for what the Tarot is asking of you. Follow same process as above, including discussion and taking notes to develop your ideas. Again, you can reject the first group of three, and ask for two more, then one more. Once again, set aside the cards you chose.
You now have the Tarot’s position—what it’s offering, and what it’s asking of you.
Now you need to develop your own position.
Look through the deck face up and choose one to three cards to represent what you would like to get from this contract. The High Priestess might say you want the Tarot to give you wisdom and insight, the Hermit that you want to hold out a light of guidance to others. On the other hand, the 10 of Pentacles, or the World, might say you hope to make money and become a famous Tarot reader. Take notes and set aside as before.
Look through the deck again and choose one to three cards to represent what you are offering the Tarot. For instance, Justice might say you will promise to be honest and fair in your readings, or the Queen of Cups might say you will be compassionate and dedicated, the 8 of Pentacles in the Rider deck that you will be hard-working and dedicated.
Add, if you wish, a card or cards that might represent limitations. For example, the 10 of Cups in the Rider (a happy family celebrating the rainbow) might say you don’t want the cards to interfere with your family life. The 4 of Swords might say “I don’t want to be woken up by dreams of Tarot or people wanting emergency readings.”
Now you should have a group of cards representing what the Tarot is offering you and what it is asking of you, and another group representing what you are offering the Tarot and hope to get from it. Based on these cards and your understanding of them, write up your contract.
You don’t have to include everything the cards are asking of you, or everything you would like to get. Try to make it a contract that the card you chose at the beginning to represent the deck—Justice, or the Devil, or the King of Swords—would be willing to sign, as well as something meaningful to you.
(Those were the instructions. I then gave them elegant parchment-like paper to write their contracts, had them sign and date it, with the person they’d worked with signing as a witness, then they each gave the contract to me for me to sign as the teacher and include a stamp that showed a house with mysterious writing filling the structure. Thus the contract was official.)