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Reading Tarot and General Divination

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick,alt.pagan.magick
From: nagasiva 
Subject: Reading Tarot and General Divination
Date: Sun, 02 Mar 2003 23:47:01 GMT

50030302 VII

>>>> one reads cards over the years,

>> if I read a Stop sign and interpret it differently than
>> the creators of the sign intended, is this really reading?
>> or is it fantabulizing? are the cards being read or are
>> they merely serving as a focus of discussion/reflection?

Joseph :
> is the above a trick question?  

not intended as such, no. it is intended to illustrate a
particular problem with the phrase "reading cards" when
speaking of tarot -- one that others (e.g. JK) could 
easily make here, and one I'm keen to continue making.
I'm trying to expand heavily on it here, as well as on
other trajectories of significance for 'reading' in order
to flesh out some kind of agreement on terminology.

> if one "reads" the sign and "interprets" it differently 
> than the maker of the sign intended it is reading 
> however the interpretation may be called into question.

right, it could be called 'a poor reading' if someone 
came to the conclusion that the Stop sign meant "go".

> Im reminded of the incident in the on going saga
> of the fabulous furry freak brothers when where in
> phenias is puzzled over the Mexican stop sign that
> says "alto" and he cant decide whether to merely
> stop or is the sign telling him to stop and get high?

a wonderful consideration. it might be considered poor 
reading (and therefore be the substance of a jest) to 
infer that it meant "stop and get high", since the
"alto" (should it be "halto"?) sign was intended to
signify stopping, not ingestion/smoking of substances
(inferred from language-confusion?).
> as for the cards "merely" serving as a focus of
> discussion/reflection they are then well used if
> such is the case. 

that was never an argument I sought to oppose. I'd
suggest that the quality of their use is completely
beside the point of my inquiry, which was whether
reading was happening, and, if so, what was being
read in the case of misreading intended symbols 
in some quite possibly beneficial ways.

> ...the cards reveal things they should have no 
> way of doing, 

unless you want to ascribe intelligence to the cards
(which I have occasionally have done, or to some kind
of being *beyond* the cards), then I'd suggest that
what you're describing is an alternative use of the
cards as tools to effect that revelation. I have no
quarrel with that usage and my initial activities
with tarot involved some bit of exploration glancing
off of the intended meanings of the cards onto some
personal revelation. I would not characterize this
as 'reading the cards' in the sense I'm trying to
underscore here, however, and I have in mind some
even more vast concept in mind when we get to the
idea of creating-and-reading tarot.

we seem to be coming up with a kind of taxonomy of
"card reading" which we might formalize for the use
of those discussing the subject. I may take the
rudiments of it into tarot-l and see what they say,
then perhaps reflect that back here if possible.

for my part I'll try to specify its differences as
we go, because your arguments are very good ones
-- ones I see few others sustain with rational and
consistent discussion:

	'Reading Cards' Taxonomy
	1) 'read' means interpreting the intended
	   meanings of the cards as rendered by 
	   the fashioners of the deck;

this is the traditional Western Esoteric explanation,
solidifying a motivation to accept their doctrines and
to study, in trance and initiation, the particulars of
the cards for the purposes of spiritual edification.
it somewhat informs my 'crazy theory' you mention below. :>

	2) 'read' means interpreting the symbols
	   on the cards without regard for what was
	   intended by the deck's designer(s), and
	   may draw on the personal experience of
	   the reader, the circumstance of the
	   reading, and communication of any type
	   between the querent-client and reader;

this is the traditional Psychic Reader explanation,
requiring absolutely no connection to an understanding
of the deck's designer's intended significances for
the cards or their symbols. in fact, the breadth of
understanding of the reader merely makes possible a
greater symbol-language-set that might be used to
facilitate the reading proper. such a reader could
use any deck, though one with which she was very
familiar or which featured symbolism with which she
had associations would probably serve hir better.

whether the symbols on the cards induce a trance-
state in the reader or not, they are not necessarily
communicating some meaning provided by those who
placed them on the cards as part of the design.

more below, and some reserved for later.

> it is even possible that a random combination of cards 
> could be accidentally accurate every now and then, 

sure, this begins to touch on configuration and array
interpretation, as when throwing bones on the ground,
or casting lots, or discerning the meaning of birds
in flocks, or tea or coffee leavings in cups (see below
for a beginning categorizaton of divinatory types).

> but whether the cards enable psychic perception,
> whether they facilitate e.s.p. or are truly
> oracular is more a concern for the person who does
> not use the cards for divination than it is those
> of us who, through personal experience are
> convinced of the efficacy of them....

agreed. my point in arguing with the terminology here
is that there are two discernable methods of use for
tarot divination. these are outlined above in numbers
1) and 2). your response to them would be welcomed.

>>>> one learns more and more that the information received,
>>>> though definitely personalized to some extent through
>>>> the reader-filter, does not come from the reader.
>> it doesn't sound like it comes from the cards
>> either.
> that's debatable, in my experience the cards have
> informed me of things i would not have thought of
> were it not for the reading in which the messages
> appeared.

in which case we're probably talking about 

	3) 'read' means interpreting the combination
	   of the cards and their symbols with their
	   particular configuration to infer something
	   that the cards *themselves* (or some agent

	   beyond them we cannot otherwise discern) 
	   are trying to convey to reader/querent.

this is the explanation of the animist, the mystic (as
one who has, in Hermetic parlance, taken the Oath of
the Abyss), and the magician purporting some volition
in the deck itself. one can compare this with intent
ascribed to other divinatory devices such as Yijing
("I consulted Yijing and it informed me that...."),
Norse Runes ("In consultation with the Runes, I was
brought to an awareness that...."), and other 
*identified* divinatory tools (magical too).

please offer your suggested modifications on any 
of the numbers above in the Card Reading Taxonomy.

Joseph :
>>> While i am quite willing to entertain the notion of
>>> an "intelligence not my own" guiding my interpretation
>> the GD and Crowley talk about some angel "H R U". 
>> is this an abbreviation? if so, for what? lemme guess:
>>         His Royal Unit?
>>         Hoor Ra Uit?
>>         Huti Ra Umma?
>>         Hamma Ramma Ungdong?
>> what does it have to do with tarot and why is it being
>> asked to help with the divination?
> i was under the impression its a corruption of Horus 
> (i think regardie suggests this somewhere in his 
> writings) in relation to the eye of horus and
> Horus being somehow for whatever reason being a
> patron of oracular or divinatory knowledge 

sensible. I pointed this direction in 'Hoor Ra Uit',
rather jestingly. does the angel H R U somehow make
communicating with Tahuti possible? is Horus 
therefore a kind of Hermes-like messenger here?

> and yes i know the etymological difference 
> between divination and oracle.

care to elaborate on it? I'm not sure I really
understand why you mentioned it or that I have
a firm grasp of it. not having looked it up in
my Am Her Dic I am curious what you think. :>

>>> i am not wholly convinced, that it, is that, or is it,
>>> rather, just that self, that part of ones own being
>>> nature is warped around and finds its understanding in,
>>> the unique individual point of view from which emanates
>>> the awareness we are  referring to.
>> nor am I. I'm more likely to conclude that the operation
>> in question doesn't really involve the tools and is a
>> kind of inductive conclusion facilitated by attention to
>> interesting or entertaining media objects. one might use
>> a planchette and a wiji board, for example, instead.
> i agree that the tool can be any thing, divination
> by lit windows is something i have had occasion to
> use at night when in large cities but with only
> marginal results, 

then your 'reading cards' would seem closest to 2),
or a bifurcation/alternation between 2) and 3).

> however my experimentation with divinatory tools suggests 
> a difference in style as well as content with different 

> tools.

agreed. divination must vary based on the tools and
I think it may be described and examined in detail
as we have begun to do with respect to cards. good
text on the subject of divination touches on the
subject of divination method and theory, but seldom
approaches anything comprehensive or complete.

the other day I was deriving a categorization of 
divination methods for precisely this purpose, and
what follows is my best recall of my jotted ideas
now lost in the few piles of reflections on tarot
that I do not wish to sort through, proceeding from 
their most 'random' to their most constrained:

	* selection of observed phenomena interpreted 
	  in their present manifestation 

examples: bird-flocks, animal-intestines, haphazard leavings/stains
          object-space-relations (e.g. fung shway)

	* selection of observed phenomena surrounding
	  a person (e.g. at their birth) or event (during
	  or at the commencement of its occurrence)

examples: astrology, palmistry, phrenology, gematria,

	* a finite set of objects cast particularly 
	  for the divination

examples: bones/dice, shells, dominos/cards, specially-brewed 
          tea/coffee, sand divination/geomancy, coins/stalks

other categories? criticism of my selections?

>>>> I remember learning to read the cards and do psychic
>>>> readings, that a lot of it was leaping into the void of
>>>> trusting what seemed like "only imagination."
>> so does the particular deck matter at all, then? or is it
>> only a faculty of matching *with* the deck that allows
>> the successful readings to take place? what is being read?
>> it sounds like the client [is] being read using the tools.
> often times a highly archaic and symbolic image is
> produced that on the surface seems ridiculously
> obscure with no meaning to the person asking the
> question, however it often times occurs that a
> discussion of the problems facing the person
> elicits an interpretation of the formerly obscure
> rendering it intelligible to the person asking for
> the information.  often times with the tarot
> readings occur that literally are about love and
> romance while the persons question may have been
> about jobs and finance and then the symbols like
> the empress or emperor or the lovers or the 2 of
> cups must be taken symbolically rather than 
> literally.

understood. this still sounds like the client is
being read using or by the tool -- however well 
that the tool may reflect upon the querent's 
issue. it begins to resemble 3) above.

>>>> It felt almost as if I were making up the things I
>>>> was saying, yet there was also a sense of "rightness"
>>>> about them, a knowing.
>> sounds like guessing based on minor perceptual data, which
>> may be experienced in the game 'Induction' (a card game in
>> which a player chooses a rule by which sequentially-played
>> cards must adhere and, based on the rulings of experimental
>> plays on the deck and their success or failure to qualify,
>> the others attempt to guess the rule(s)). it was promited
>> in Scientific American at one point as exemplary of the
>> inductive quality of reason and scientific enterprise.
> it sounds like your arguing for an explanation of
> something you have not directly experienced so
> that your natural scepticism tends to downplay
> that which you have not experienced first hand for
> yourself.

no portion of the above has been intended to downplay 
or dismiss. in fact I have had the experience you have
described, usually in reading for myself but sometimes 
in reading for others.

my point in bringing up the induction process was to
provide a backdrop which makes no supernatural forces
or special cosmic principles necessary. alternatives
might of course be used to provide explanation,
inclusive of the supernatural. 

>>> on more than one occasion been compared to "making
>>> it look easy" the truly proficient at any thing,
>>> make it "look easy," and in one way it is, for the
>>> proficient, as they at some point come to a point
>>> of awareness where instinct and intuition and mere
>>> reflex take over and the conscious mind is so
>>> caught up in being it has ceased to become.  One
>>> merely is in the moment.

>> I think I know what you're pointing toward -- something
>> Eugene Herrigel wrote about in "Zen and the Art of
>> Archery", perhaps. fluidity of art. I'm not sure that
>> this constitutes the best description of the art of
>> reading tarot cards, (as the Sign example above may
>> make more clear), but it is an indicator of expertise
>> or facility with whatever *is* happening, yes.
>>> The ceremonial approaches to this state of mind
>>> are many, Tarot is one.
>> my impression that tarot so applied is not reading tarot
>> except in the most rudimentary of understandings,
> by this you seem to admit being a tyro with the
> cards, if even that, "tarot reading" or fortune
> telling is doing the best one can with the
> understanding one has of any given card to create
> a message that is hopefully helpful.  

I'd not focus so much on 'the best one can', but yes,
if this makes me a tyro, so be it. :> I would instead
suggest that one who uses the phrase "reading tarot"
to suggest this process is a tyro at language (a 
charge I have had correctly levelled at me! ;>)
and improperly subjects 'tarot' to a limited syntax,
neglecting the fact that (at least occult) tarot was 
created by specific people in a specific time period 
and intended to have particular significance.

> there are other uses of the tarot that do not belong 
> in this category but we are talking about fortune 
> telling not path working or old italian street fairs.

I was trying to integrate it all, actually, and to
use the term 'read' in its best sense (which my Am Her
Dic indicates is an apprehension of "the meaning" of
expressed language). we discussed this somewhat in the
above as regards what constitutes reading and meaning,
and may have to agree to disagree about it. :>

>> because it is not the cards themselves which are serving
>> to communicate the mysteries, but instead they are
>> merely providing a backdrop upon which reflections are
>> being projected by a sensitive medium.
> i have to disagree here, though i cant say with 
> absolute certainty that you are wrong but nevertheless 
> it seems to me the cards often produce information 
> *I* did not have, 

thus I created a category 3) above. the cards themselves
have established themselves as communicants beyond the
bounds of the designers of the deck and the reader is
not inferring some meaning merely by virtue of the
apparent chance fall of their configuration (i.e. the
actually cards produce the information). perhaps this 
has addressed what you see I am overlooking here?

> this may be simple e.s.p. or it may be that since 
> every thing can symbolize anything and that anything 
> can be a symbol for everything and the reverse also,  
> it is at least theoretically possible that divinatory
> tools can alter ones ordinary awareness to the point 
> where the most trivial and mundane expression can 
> take on an importance there ordinary existence belies.

now we've moved out of the realm of literal meanings of
the term 'reading' and into a kind of trance-induction
that the cards provide for their reader. I tried to
incorporate this meaning in 2) above in part because of
your paragraph to which I'm here responding. see if you
like it. 

>> one might use a magical 
>> wand or a shewstone to achieve the same thing. whereas
>> Tarot has an intent to the deck construction and serves
>> to facilitate the communication of cosmic truth thru time.
> and i thought i had some "crazy theories"!


come on, there are lots of folks who argue it, inclusive
of some for whom you've expressed distaste. am I just
proposing it badly, or do you not see that this conforms
to 1) above? :>

I'm asking you to come out on the Plank where all of
the possible "reading" significances are examined and
compare and contrast them with me, regardless of your 
specific preferences or with what you have experience. 
I know that you are capable of it, and welcome your 
feedback and participation, hopefully inspiring 
others to do likewise with us and flesh out some 
kind of comprehensive divination theory here.

> ...i would just expand the whole symbolism of the 
> cards to represent any idle epiphany on a moment to 
> moment basis as well as any grand rebirth a person 
> might suffer in their life.  

so you understand the whole trumpeting angel / bodies
coming out of coffins thing to somehow symbolize
inspiration and epiphany? could you elaborate as to
why you understand the symbolism in this way? I'm
not really very well-versed in Christian and Jewish
symbolism (tarotic or no) and would like to come to
a better understanding of it. thanks.

> if a mythology is only mythological and serves no
> purpose beyond its own symbolism, is not applicable 
> to an interpretation of or guidance for daily living,  
> it has then lost whatever value it might have 
> possessed.  

I think I see what you're getting at here. I used to
portray mythology in a similar light, until I got wind
of something more astrological and transcultural than
Jungian or psychosocial. we occasionally explore this
in the Sacred Landscape List ( in our
discussion of the text "Hamlet's Mill" and what these
myths symbolize in archaeoastronomy. sometimes the
same point has been made in alt.magick by Josh Geller
(Sir IF!), sri catyananda, and others, much to my own
edification (ask them about it if you get a chance! ;>).
> the tarot still resonates with most people, the 
> symbols are more directly perceivable than say 
> those of the Egyptian pantheon in so far as the 
> mythological character of the major trumps may be 
> made relevant to ordinary day to day life. as well 
> as represent "cosmic truth thru time" but (in any 
> oracle or divinatory tool) if they don't do both 
> than their probly neither.

this makes sense to me inasmuch as you're describing
symbols as 'used/helpful'. this is really comparable
to terms in Old English used in Shakespeare or the
King James Bible which some Americans might have a
great difficulty parsing. one might integrate the term
inexpertly and fabricate one's own interpretation-set,
substitute one's translation (in this case deck) for
one comprised of completely-comprehensible symbols,
or simply leave it undefined and use it as a kind of
random factor in any particular reading as desired
(some religious do this to support their preferred 
understanding of scripture for proof-texting :>).

in the case of divination we might combine these ideas
and look at bibliomancy using an Old English text like
the King James Bible. say I don't really understand
all its words (which I don't, btw). perhaps I flip to
the middle of the book and read out a passage which
is supposed to apply to my condition about which I'd
focussed during the flipping. I might "read" that
passage in a way never intended by the writers or
translators of that text (a 2-step process which has
already left me at potential odds with reading, but
ignore that for now).

by your assertions, this 'reading', facilitated by my
faulty projection of meaning to something that I did
not understand, is legitimate. I would AGREE, in the 
sense that I am 'taking a reading of circumstance or 
my condition' through my own peculiar interpretation
of the text I'm consulting in biblimancy. this is a
different claim than that I am "reading the Bible"
as would category 1) above make clear is the 
objective for 'reading the (occult) tarot'.

thanks for continuing this discussion. I really do
appreciate your patience with me despite what may
seem at times strong challenges to your expressions. :>


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