Tarot Tensions

Lately we’ve been tweaking the final drafts of the tarot manuscript (and finalizing cover designs – thanks Nazik Dakkach!), and something that’s come up editorially is messaging and themes. It’s obviously too late in the game to change the themes of the book, but it’s given us a chance to think about what we’re saying with the text overall, which is really just a collection of card descriptions, and how it overlaps with and reflects and contradicts what other writers have said about the tarot, and also what this deck has done with those overarching messages and archetypes. It’s a lot to think about!

One thing in particular that has emerged is a tension between posi messaging and the necessity of structural analysis. The individualistic liberal self-improvement ideas that tarot readings sometimes veer towards are not the whole story; I think that systemic interpretation is built into the archetypal bent of the practice. This tension is especially present in the more challenging cards, like the Tower, and the fives in general, which are associated with pain, and defeat, and destruction. But still I have recently shifted some of the card descriptions so there’s minimal opportunity to read them like “work hard you’ll get there – nothing’s in your way if you put in a little effort” bullshit american dreaming and more room for “this is a hard shitty place to be in and these are the things you could do within the circumstances and this is the power you have and it’s worth remembering that, but you’re right the great heavy machine of capitalism racism sexism poverty is really not something you can push through all by yourself just by bootstrapping.” Anyway, I hope that comes across in the book.

Because the flip side of those struggles depicted is the idea of temperance, or changes and cycles and opposites, and how without some conflict we’re less likely to access the beauty or joy that emerges in its wake (in the Star card, for example).

Another instance in which we had our choices questioned was during our first long interview with Kristin Li about the origins of the project and tarot in general, which it turns out we don’t know everything about. No surprise there. More on that later.

(Image above: Tarot reading featuring Thea’s Tarot, Mythic Tarot, and the Winnipeg Tarot Co.)

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