Establishing rapport with your deck is an essential process. When you are familiar with the deck you are working with, your intuition channels better through the imagery and symbolism. Getting to know your deck allows you to better contextualize and communicate with the images and symbologies on each card.
Each tarot deck is a unique world, a singular world rich in symbols and meaning. Here are a few ways for you to explore that world and tap into its specific themes and symbology.
1. The Story World Method: Grouping cards together by theme and recurring images.
- This helps you become aware of the visual patterns and symbolic images within the particular deck you are working with. More often than not, you will find several main symbolic strands that underlie the 78 cards.
- This also helps you with the tarot reading process. One is that it gives you a symbolic grounding for your interpretations. Second, it helps you recognize what kind of “world” this deck seeks to portray.
What are the images or symbols that are common in the deck you are working with? It could be anything: a specific animal, a type of building or structure, astrological symbols or mythological representations. For example, in Universal Fantasy Tarot, there is the recurring motif of the epic journey and the epic quest. Since journey and quests usually involve travelling to different places with distinct characteristics, you can observe that the common spaces portrayed in this deck are human cities, vast and dream-like skyscapes, as well as the mystical forests. You can then conclude that these are few of the many typical tropes used in the genre of fantasy. You can then apply your knowledge of the common tropes in the fantasy genre to your interpretive process while tapping into these symbols and tropes.
For instance, journeying into a forest where faeries and magical creatures abound may implicate the undertaking of a psychological journey inwards in search of the unknowable Self. The faeries can be interpreted as excitement, unexpected aid, or even temptations. In short, getting to know the major and recurring symbols really help you “put the story together”, and this in turn helps you tell your own story.
2. The Speed Date: Arrange a speed-date between the cards from your go-to deck and the deck you are exploring.
- This is a fun way to get to know a new deck. Put two identical cards side by side and compare them–for example, High Priestess from Dreaming Way Tarot vs High Priestess from Rider Waite Tarot.
- By putting the archetypal forces and personalities on the spot with each other, you will facilitate an interesting dialogue between the deck you are already familiar with and the “new kid on the block”.
- You can use this to measure how a universal archetype carry similar themes and symbolism and how they differ.
- You can really find out if your established or general understanding of one deck can vibe with the new deck.
For example, one of my go-to decks is the Dreaming Way Tarot. If I were to put Dreaming Way’s High Priestess with Steampunk Tarot’s High Priestess, they will probably hit it off quite nicely because they are both kind of hipster. If I put Dreaming Way’s High Priestess with Rider-Waite’s more reserved and serious High Priestess, for example, the conversation will be very different.
“What is that atrocious attire you are wearing? ” says RWS High Priestess. “Get off of the moon right this instant! You are an embarrassment to the divine feminine!”
Dreaming Way: “These are stockings, and I wear them because they are stylish. Get with the times, RWS. Who says the divine feminine can’t be youthful and carefree?”
3. The Fool’s Journey: Journey through the major arcana with The Fool card and tell a story. This is one of my favourite ways to explore the major arcana (well, all of my favourite ways are included in this post!)
- This method requires you to be familiar with The Fool from a tarot deck first. Take some time to really get to know who The Fool is. He or she is often the “opening act”, or the archetype that greets you when you first look at a deck. What is The Fool wearing? How is it different from the traditional portrayals of The Fool? Once you have gotten to know The Fool, you go on The Fool’s journey and you journey through the major arcana.
- Afterwards, you embody The Fool and imagine what his or her story is and how s/he will react to the archetypes down the road. The Fool sets out to meet The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, and The Emperor…
For example, The Fool in Wild Unknown Tarot is a baby bird perched on a branch. There is a bright newborn energy to it. When it meets the Magician, which is the next card, what would it say and what will take place? The Fool may shrink from the fierceness and the certainty that The Magician radiates–it must be tough for a baby bird to stand in front of a powerful leopard! But perhaps it is The Fool’s lesson to learn that every creature, though different in size and ferocity, is connected by the life force they share–for they are all children of the Mother Nature, and they are all blessed with the same opportunities and potential.
All in all, this method allows you create a somewhat linear narrative that links all the major arcana archetypes together and helps you explore the portrayal of the archetypes in this particular deck.
More blog posts coming up with more detailed and comprehensive descriptions of each method! More elaborate examples, too. 🙂 Stay tuned for more tarot goodness!
Tarot never gets old, as I like to say. 😉
If you are interested in reading more about viewing tarot cards through the lens of storytelling as well as cultivating an intuitive tarot practice, check out my e-book: Tarot Beginnings: An Introduction to the Story and Study of Tarot.