‘Tarot Comes Out Of The Shadows…’

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From The Independent (UK), 9 October 2004:

In the mysterious world of tarot, all is not as it seems – the Death card is about transformation and the infamous Hanged Man simply represents a need for re-evaluation. But, whatever people learn from their tarot, one thing is clear: at a time of global uncertainty, growing numbers are turning to it for enlightenment.

Tarot comes out of the shadows and into the suburbs to bring comfort in an uncertain age

By Terry Kirby
Chief Reporter

09 October 2004

In the mysterious world of tarot, all is not as it seems – the Death card is about transformation and the infamous Hanged Man simply represents a need for re-evaluation. But, whatever people learn from their tarot, one thing is clear: at a time of global uncertainty, growing numbers are turning to it for enlightenment.

Twenty years ago, tarot cards could only be bought from specialist shops, where they were surrounded with a certain ritual and mystique.

Today, cards can be bought in the high street from Waterstone’s, WH Smith’s and online from Amazon, while New Age and spiritual centres around the country offer tarot readings. tarot parties, like Tupperware but without the plastic, are now common in the suburbs.

This weekend, the first British conference of tarot experts opens in London, designed to exchange ideas and explore different aspects of tarot, such as its links with astrology and kabbala, the Jewish mystical system, and the role of women in its symbolism.

The organiser, Kim Arnold, a professional reader, said: “Although it is very difficult to quantify, tarot is becoming more and more popular. It’s coming out of the shadows and we want to take some of the hocus-pocus out of it.”

For many, a certain frisson adheres to tarot, stemming from the turn of the century when it first became popular in Britain because of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a society devoted to the study of mysticism. Its members included W B Yeats and the occultist Aleister Crowley. In 1910, one of its members, Arthur Edward Waite, published The Key to the Tarot, the first modern book on the subject. From this Edwardian fascination came the later use of some of its cards, like the Hanged Man, to represent the occult in countless books and horror films.

These symbols are among the 22 picture cards of the tarot, called the major arcana. They also include such traditional images as the Fool, a court jester figure also found in morris dancing, and Justice, a universal image seen from the Egyptian pyramids to the top of the Old Bailey in London.

Although playing cards date from ninth-century China, the earliest known tarot packs were made in northern Italy in the 14th century when the major arcana were added to the minor arcana. The four suits of the minor arcana – cups, swords, pentacles and wands – correspond to a conventional deck of cards and to elements of astrology.

According to Jewish tradition, the kabbala is the wisdom spoken directly by God to Moses; its celebrity followers include Madonna. The link to tarot was made in the mid-19th century when a Jewish writer related the 22 major arcana to the 22 paths of power given to Moses, which are said to form the branches of the tree of life in the kabbala.

Adam Fronteras, author of two books on the tarot and a former president of the British Astrological and Psychic Society, who will speak at the conference on the links between astrology and tarot, said: “I think in these days people are increasingly turning to tarot because it is easy to learn and the images are accessible. But you can’t read them yourself because we all lack that objectivity about ourselves – they have to be interpreted.”

Ms Arnold stresses that the conference is not a “psychic fair” of the type where the public can wander in off the street to have their fortune told. “Although the public are very welcome, this is a conference for people with a serious interest,” she said.

One effect of the expansion of tarot, she added, was that tarot reading is unregulated and, unlike astrology, there are no recognised professional bodies for its practitioners. She said: “Among the reasons why we are having this conference is to get a code of conduct to ensure that readers are of a certain standard. There are an awful lot of people out there who should not be practising, doing what I call parlour readings.”

READING THE CARDS: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE

The Fool

This card represents a rejection of people and restrictions from the past, and setting out for new pastures; the beginning of a life cycle; innocence, spontaneity and optimism.

Reversed: You are acting foolishly and are seen by others to be doing so.

The Hierophant

Sometimes pictured as a Pope, this image of a teacher or holy man shows one is finding spiritual aid. Implies faith in one’s own abilities and the hope that brings.

Reversed: Suggests stubbornness and standing still, immobility.

The Chariot

Suggests the subject has a new project and has difficult choices ahead on a physical and emotional level, which may force them to change course.

Reversed: Energies are scattered because the reins have come off.

The Wheel of Fortune

This card indicates a change in fortune – generally good luck. Also means the person has to take advantage of a changed situation. Reversed: Beware of gambling or investments.

The Hanged Man

Shows the need to re-evaluate and for a time of thought and review. Often denotes self-sacrifice.

Reverse: Suggests selfishness; putting your needs before others.

Death

Not about death in a physical sense but change, “death” of the old self and birth of a new person. It indicates drastic changes.

Reversed: You are not taking advantage of change; you have escaped death.

9 October 2004 02:37

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