An imaginative approach to the study of Tarot

Learning to read the Tarot can be a difficult challenge. Walking into a bookstore we find thousands of books, each with different ideas and concepts that sometimes contradict each other. The images of the cards are cryptic and at first glance may not suggest anything to us, especially if we use a deck whose Minor Arcana do not have illustrations that are visually easy to interpret, such as the Tarot of Marseille. The first step is to try to overcome this overwhelming feeling of not knowing where to start in our approach to the cards.

My relationship with the Tarot has relaxed considerably when I realized that I did not need to be obsessed with the literal interpretation of each card. For me, the Tarot is a support for the imagination: a faculty that everyone possesses, and that thanks to these symbols can be amplified. Let us begin by thinking of the Tarot as a series of images similar to those that appear to our dreams. Stephen Aizenstat, a clinical psychologist specializing in Jungian analysis, author of the book Dream Tending: Awakening to the Healing Power of Dreams, explains how the best work we can do with dreams is not to interpret them, but to animate them. Images have their own identity, they are endowed with intelligence and feelings, and our intuition can communicate directly with them. A non-verbal communication, not based on concepts and words, but on the transmission of emotions, sensations, images, intuitions.

Let's suppose that last night I dreamed of a wolf. I can certainly study the traditional meaning of the wolf in dreams. Knowing: the wolf is a symbol of fighting and conquest. To conquer my goals I will have to fight more. Interesting! The dream is interpreted. However, applying the techniques of Aizenstat, I could take another approach. Deciding to work on the dream of the wolf, I would put myself in a meditative attitude and evoke the image of the wolf in my dream. The animal appears in the room with me. I hold its gaze, I stroke its fur, I entertain myself with it. I can ask him questions: Who are you? Why are you here? The wolf may answer me, if he has a voice, or he may simply convey an emotion to me through his eyes, his touch, his physical presence. And me, how do I feel in front of the wolf, what feelings are awakened in me? This is a way of working with images without attributing to each of them a static meaning, a dead correspondence. The symbols, both in dreams and in the Tarot, have a life of their own and can interact with me, awakening an energy that I may need at this moment for my existential path.

Applying this philosophy to Tarot reading, we suddenly lose our fear of incomprehensible images. It is a relief to realize that it is not an exam and it is not mandatory to memorize anything in order to relate to the cards. Some interesting readings at this point might be the books of Gareth Knight. In his texts The Magical World of the Tarot: Fourfold Mirror of the Universe and Tarot & Magic, the author proposes a series of incredibly interesting and fun exercises to approach the Tarot solely through imaginative contact with the figures. As in the wolf's dream, we can study the Trumps by encountering, in relaxation and visualization sessions, each of the Major Arcana figures. We can engage in conversations with them, observe what emotions they arouse in us and what ideas come to our mind at each moment of the exchange. It can also be useful to keep a journal throughout the learning process, to compose our own range of interpretations as the cards themselves communicate with us.

Of all the methods that exist for reading the Tarot, I believe that Gareth Knight's proposal is the most valuable for neophytes. His is an agile and entertaining approach, which does not rely on any external system of correspondences (such as astrology, Kabbalah, numerology), but rather takes advantage of the cards themselves through direct interaction with them. Using the Tarot thus becomes a multidimensional experience, rich in meaning, in which we do something much more important than "reading the future": we come into contact with extremely deep layers of our psyche, where our memories reside, the talents that we can develop in this life, the treasures of our individuation, as Carl Gustav Jung would say. The Tarot becomes the via regia to the discovery of the true reality that lies in the abysses of our imagination, and a powerful ally for self-knowledge if we know how to use it well.

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