Q. How long have you been reading the Tarot?
I was given my first ‘fortune telling deck’ (the Lenormand) when I was 14 and then purchased my first deck of tarot cards when I was 17. So, taking it from 14 years old that makes it 31 years – eeek! Yes, I’m 45 years old. Wow, how did that happen?
I remember reading some research that had been done on what makes someone an ‘expert’. The general proposal is that it takes around 10,000 hours to reach ‘expert level’. I think my cards and I have probably spent more hours than that together! BUT, the musician in me says that when learning to use any system, practice time must have specific goal. Noodling around on my guitar strings is not practice. Practice is learning to play a piece perfectly or scales at a certain speed. When practising a piece there is no point playing the same song over and over again if I always mess up the chord change when I get to the chorus. The hour would be better spent playing that chord change over and over again until I get it right – ten or twenty times in a row until my muscle memory is working fluently.
This can be applied to the tarot in some ways. Sometimes we can use the cards on a daily basis but not really see them. There are tiny details that are easily missed, meanings that are skated over. There is a fluidity to the cards themselves and a well designed deck has a song of its own. The cards challenge us to go deeper into ourselves as much as learn a divinatory system. Its an inner and outer journey.
The equivalent of ‘noodling’ with my tarot cards is when I throw a quick spread for myself for a little bit of advice. I think for the first year or so, even when I was working on the tarot line, I only saw the card image as a whole. There’s the Emperor, he means this. There’s the two of cups, this means that. I was reading very intuitively back then, heavily leaning on the little voice in my ear that would whisper what I needed to say. Sometimes I got horribly stuck when that little voice didn’t come. It took a long time for it to fall into place that I didn’t really know the details of the cards and that the more I knew and understood those details, the better my readings would become. It probably took even longer to understand that the more I worked on myself, the better my readings would become…
The equivalent of guitar practice with tarot for me is; typing notes or quotes in my journal from books I have read, meditating with single cards, closing my eyes and seeing how much of a card I can describe accurately, learning spreads, exploring the connections between the cards in the deck, pretending to read for others, actually reading for others, reading my own readings out loud, 3 card story-telling, learning a new spread, developing a new spread and any other of the myriad ways to learn the cards. There are times I find myself mistaking one card for another; for example, recently every time I saw the Five of Swords, I would momentarily see it as the Seven of Swords before correctly myself. Little things like this are a cue that something needs to be worked on, practice is necessary. Perhaps the only difference is that instead of looking for ‘perfection’ as in playing a music piece, it’s about constant development. Reading the tarot is like space exploration, there’s always more to discover.