Why I Stopped Reading Tarot

Death and The Fool

Why I Gave Up ‘Reading the Cards’

I got involved with the study of metaphysics when I was just a kid. My world view had never been in sync with the religion that surrounded me. When I got to school (Catholic) and the premise of the religion was read to me, word by word, concept by concept, I understood why it had never resonated. I didn’t just balk at the idea of having been committed by baptism to something as patently false as the so-called information I was forced to read, I spontaneously rebelled. A voice inside me screamed out, “This isn’t true! What are they trying to do to me now???”

I knew better than to speak up. Children were not supposed to speak up. Children were supposed to shut up and take it, whatever it was apparently. I was used to submitting quietly to sexual abuse but I knew instinctively that no one had access to my mind… and they didn’t get it. By the time I was about 12, and walking home from school on my own, I began exploring the magazine racks at local stores and ended up discovering, in the classified ads in the backs of some of the edgier cartoon mags, little adverts for something called The Rosicrucians. I sent away for the materials and while that information also did not resonate with me at a soul level, I saw in their classifieds that there were other interesting things I’d never heard of. I quickly became a consumer of esoteric information.

By the time I was 14, I cut school whenever I could and either went to the public library to do research for myself or took a 2 hour train ride to Greenwich Village in New York and spent a few hours in bookstores there, hunting for something that felt like me. Where exactly I came across Tarot cards I can’t now recall but it was somewhere in the Village and I took to them like a duck takes to water. By the time I was 18, I was doing readings for adults; my name got around. By the time I was in my 40s, I was giving lessons on how to read the cards. And when I was in my 50s, one day on the beach, naked and dead asleep in the sun, with my old haunt, New York City, visible in the distance, in the hypnopompic state that occurs just before waking, I heard a voice and it kept saying the same thing over and over again: “what about the other elements?”

I knew it was about Tarot. By that time I had become a feng shui practitioner and I’d learned that there were more elements than just the four of the Tarot. The dream led me to study information from around the world about which elements were sacred where and to whom and by the time I got done, I realized something: the Tarot wasn’t inclusive enough. Thus began a years-long attempt, with the help of a remarkable and intelligent woman who knows technology and photography better than I do, to create a deck based on seven elements, not just the four in the tarot.

Not long after the deck, Sacred Earth Seven Elements, was completed — probably only a couple of years later — I began to realize that the tarot itself was outdated, that the whole division into Kings and Queens and sons and daughters was something that was relevant only from a psychological standpoint, as archetypes of behavior. And, yes, one could do a reading and explain that to people: this is the male aspect of yourself or this is the female aspect of yourself and so on and so forth, but that was distracting and took away from the reading. It wasn’t what people were expecting.

I was experiencing a strong, underlying sense of dissatisfaction with a relationship that had lasted almost 50 years. The next thing that struck me as outdated was the whole concept of “telling the future.” I, like most tarot readers of integrity, hadn’t “told the future” in decades, but, not unlike the male-female aspect of the cards, this too had to be explained to a lot of people, that what we were reading was not the future, but the energy around something at that moment that might be creating the future but wasn’t yet set in stone. The idea that every tarot reading was going to turn into a lesson in metaphysics was annoying to me. Around that time I decided to drop reading the cards.

The way the cards were structured was no longer relevant to the world as it is; their traditional ‘job’ — fortune-telling — was also no longer relevant; and there was suddenly a lot of teaching to do… and the people who were receiving the teaching hadn’t shown up for teaching, they’d shown up to have their fortunes told.

I was done. The tarot had been a huge part of a huge part of my life. I often dreamed in tarot symbolism. Some of the most important dreams I’ve had occurred when I was dying from scleroderma and involved the tarot presenting simple but powerful images. In the most memorable of the dreams, The Fool appeared, his arm slung loosely over the shoulder of Death. He was leading Death away, into a far sunset, looking back at me over his shoulder and winking. I knew when I woke up from that dram that the physician’s pronouncement of “having six months to live” was wrong.

But even a good relationship may come to an end at some point and my way of being in the world has always been one of “getting out while the getting is good.” I know when to hide; I know when to stand still; and I know when to run. I also honor both my path and that of humanity and I still keep three of my favorite cards from a very old, very traditional deck, pinned up by my work desk, major arcana cards that still resonate with who I am.

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