WHAT IS TAROT THERAPY
I was prompted recently to consider the place of Tarot as Therapy now, when Mary Greer, one of its chief exponents and arguably best living practitioner and writer on the subject, remarked to me that I was one of the first to write about the Tarot in this context.
Over twenty years ago now I published the first of what became a three volume set of books entitled ‘Tarot Therapy’. It was subtitled ‘Tarot for the New Millennium’ at the time, which has since been replaced with ‘Theory and Practice’.
That somewhat grandiose first subtitle was used deliberately because in 1999 when the book was released the focus of everything was on the 21st Century and all it could bring. It was also suggesting something of what then was a new approach to the Tarot, outlining the idea that the cards could be used for something other than fortune-telling, or future predictions.
Since then the idea of the Tarot as a personal development device, and using the cards in various ingenious ways ranging from psychological healing techniques, through meditation aids to spiritual advancement, has become widely spread and now, an accepted use of the cards.
Historically, the Tarot was originally only a game, created by wealthy Italian families in hand-painted decks for their amusement and to show off their social position. Towards the end of the 18th Century it became intrinsically connected to esoteric systems, theories and beliefs through the works of French and then in the early 20th Century, English occultists.
From there the Tarot settled into the fortune-telling parlors and seafront booths across the world, perhaps reaching a peak with the advent of ubiquitous ‘premium-rate’ telephone services purporting to ‘reveal what fate has in store’ for anyone who cared to call.
Personally, I could never see the value of making predictions about what was going to happen to someone, and how this could help them if such things were fixed. Having studied many esoteric and spiritual systems and practices I always found that it was the Tarot that explained everything best for me – by which I mean Life, the Universe and Everything – on an exoteric as well as esoteric level (outer and inner). For me, the cards seem to enable me to make sense of what was happening across the world as well as in my own self and life.
That led me to think that if they can do this, then they must be able to help and guide others in this same way if I use them like this in ‘readings’. This is simply using the cards as an energetic reflection of the client and their self and life, again, inwardly and outwardly.
Over the years of studying, reading about, journeying into and being obsessed with it, I came to see the Tarot as an energetic explanation of everything. From the four suits of the Minor Arcana that related to the four levels of the human being – Physical Emotional, Mental and Spiritual, - plus the Major Arcana as the holistic combination of those levels resulting in the ‘greater than the sum of the parts’ whole that I call the Soul level, the Tarot deck for me encapsulated the sum total of all human knowledge, on every level.
I saw, and see it, as the energy that pervades all things and that without which nothing can exist. It is the underlying reality of everything, from which everything on our Earth plane of existence comes, and to which everything must at some stage return.
One of the most revelatory things I learned in my spiritual questing is the truth that ‘everything is energy and energy is all there is’. Added to this that this energy, whether we call it Chi, Prana or whatever, is causal to our reality and that Tarot is a structured explanation of the workings of that energy, within and without the human being, we can see that the cards can be used to explore what is happening at that energetic level through reading with them in this way.
The cards that are chosen in a Tarot Therapy reading are an ‘energy map’ of the client and their life at that time. By working with the cards and their content – symbolism, colour, numerical influence and much more, we can determine how we may best respond to those energies to shape and create the future that we want. I term my role in this as ‘helping you to help yourself’.
It may be helpful to summarise Tarot Therapy with the following points, which all form part of its working -
it does not ascribe ‘meanings’ to the cards
the cards are energies and these are causal to our reality
use of a ‘spread’ is not necessary for a reading
cards can be used as a tool for meditation
Tarot acts as a platform for personal and spiritual development work
readings are about the process between the reader, the Tarot and the client
So Tarot Therapy is a method of working with the cards to empower the client to respond to their situation and circumstances in the best way for them. I have come to see it as the best friend we could possibly have – one that always tells you the truth, has your best interests at heart and knows you better than you know yourself.
Steve Hounsome © 2021