Specific deck vs universal Tarot-symbolism



Here's one that I'm not sure how I feel about myself: How much do you think the deck itself has to do with the interpretation you do of the spread? I mean, all (or at least most of them) decks have variations in symbolism and imagery, do you alter your reading-principles according to which deck your reading with at the moment?

Right now I'm studying the Tarot Basics that was posted here at Aeclectic by Thirteen some time ago, and I find it extremely helpful, it builds up an understanding for the Tarot as a system - which means I "get it", and don't feel I have to memorize anything.

We all choose our decks with very much care - it has to feel right, it has to "speak" to us, it has to feel like a really good friend. So the deck itself is an individual we choose for it's specific characteristics, it has something special that appeals to us.

But there's two separate schools of thought right there, aren't there? The tarot system, the universal ideas behind the Tarot and all the different Tarot decks we have to choose from out there, all with their own theories, interpretations and individual character. So my question is: How do you all work with this? Is it one or the other, or do you combine both these ways of thinking Tarot? If so - how do you make the ends meet...?

I'm not sure my thoghts are being completely clear here, I know there's not much _wrong_ with my English, but it's just not as fine-tuned as I'd like it to be, and it doesn't always allow me to describe exactly what I'm thinking... If I'm not making sense, please ask and I'll try to be more specific!

/Jenny - not as confused as I may sound...! *laugh*


Quote:Originally posted by Jenny-Li
How much do you think the deck itself has to do with the interpretation you do of the spread? I mean, all (or at least most of them) decks have variations in symbolism and imagery, do you alter your reading-principles according to which deck your reading with at the moment?
A lot, but in the end all Tarot decks share the same aspects and the cards usually also have the same meaning. So in the end it would indeed result in the reader and his/her ease of use with the deck he/she uses. When I take a look at my situation; I'm very familiar with my Mage deck; in most cases I don't have to check the meaning of a card simply because the picture itself tells me the story I need to know. If that approach works for you then you're using the right deck IMO. And like always; different people, different tastes and therefor different interpretations which logically leads up to different Tarot decks as well ;)


I have study at least 20 + decks over the years, but I have found two that draw me to them. Universal Waite and the Morgan Greer. I selected the Universal because of its symbolism, and the Morgan Greer because of the color and depth of the pictures. I use the Morgan Greer for my personal use and the Universal to read for others. I use a book to give me insights , but I choose my words from what I feel and what I see in the cards.


Quote:Originally posted by Lion-O

If that approach works for you then you're using the right deck IMO.

hm...don't I have to be the stupid one just after two days... What does IMO mean...?

Part from that, I think we may be talking about different things here, what I meant to say before was that do the card meanings really differ all that much from deck to deck?

I've realized that I tend to use what I have learned about a card as an influence - even if I happen to be reading from a different deck. To me it all melts together, and I'm not quite I believe the whole interpretation of the cards are made instantaneously, the moment I lay out the spread, because so much of the knowledge has come from working daily with the cards for a year. If it was all in the pictures I would have been just as good a reader 10 months ago as I am now, right? (Maybe I was, but I sure feel a lot more secure now...! *laugh*)

To sum up my messy thoughts about this, I meant to ask you guys if you too make the cards do the talking, or if the reading mostly takes place in your heads - as you put together what you know about the Tarot, what you've experienced about the Tarot and how you feel in the specific reading situation you're in at the moment. Is it really the deck that "does it" or is the deck just a tool that falls nicely into your hands?

Hm - as I said, I'm not completely sure what I think myself, but I am rather curious to know if anyone else has done this kind of meta-thinking about the Tarot...!

Thanks for your thoughts, Peter, by the way!
Jenny :)


You're right: There must be over 800 decks out there right now, with more being published too... And each one is the creator's individual view of what the cards represent! Whilst one creator may see the Devil card as represnting addiction and bondage, another creator may see it as signifying the need to listen to your desires.... And then these creators will incorporate their personal view into the card they draw.... Thus, we end up with about 800 different ways of drawing one single concept!

But the key behind all this is that in the end, the Tarot still sticks pretty much to similar meanings. It is very rare that a deck will really let go of the usual meanings and give a card like the 10 of Swords :T10S a happy meaning, or the Two of Cups :T2C a sad meaning, but I have seen it done! (Daughters of the Moon Tarot) When this happens, peope start debating whether or not it still counts as a Tarot deck, but in my personal opinion I think it does: You can't just say its not a Tarot deck jut cuz the creator puts their personal view of the cards into the deck...

I think it is up to the Tarot reader to find a deck that they can identify with, and this usually means a deck whose creator thinks of the cards in the same way the chooser of the deck does. For instance, you won't find many Pagans wanting to read with the Connoly deck, and you won't find some readers who are used to the Rider Waite style wanting to read with the Thoth deck.

Overal, I think that different 'takes' on the cards are an important way of us learning about each card individually. It is also interesting in helping you sculpt your own views about each card! There are universal characteristics within each Tarot deck, that is inevitable... But there is also room for individual preferences! We deal with this by finding the deck that closest matches our individual preferences, whilst trying to find a balance between that and the universal keys that are part and parcel of the Tarot.



An interesting question. . .
My belief in the tarot is that while there can be slight variances in some cards from deck to deck, I don't get too concerned about those, because all in all the essence of each card is the same.
When a deck or cards in a deck vary a GREAT deal from tradition, then I question whether the deck is to be considered (by me in my own mind) a true tarot deck, or whether it is simply someones mind traveling in different circles.
Tarot cards are based on archetypes, the archetypes by definition are something that is a constant universal essence, and that is why in my mind tarot works. When a deck varies greatly from the established archetypes, then you have to use the deck in connection with it's own set of meanings.
In other words if someone comes along designs a "tarot" deck and assigns a whole different set of meanings than I don't consider that person as having designed a "tarot" deck, they simply designed a deck of cards with meanings outside of tarot.
My humble 2 cents. Blessings. moondust


There was an earlier thread which discusses some of these very issues which may be of interest (you may have already read through it, but I thought I'd link it here anyway).

With regards to 'IMO', it took me months to figure out that it just stands for 'in my opinion'...

You comment that you 'tend to use what I have learned about a card as an influence'... presumably, part of what you have learned is about the picture. I would see your deepening knowledge of the card as precisely permitting the card to reveal itself to you more fully. A friend of mine who is a biologist sees certain things when looking at a plant that I just do not... until it is pointed out. Does this mean that the plant does not have it there, or that its 'revelation' usually occurs only when a certain amount of acquired knowledge can be used in making meaning of what is flowing through the senses?

Different decks will have different imagery, which may affect a reading. When I am asked to interpret a reading which was spread using a Waite deck, certain items will 'jump out' which would not be able to if I had used my Marseilles... these idiosyncresies become important in readings. The basic card meanings, however, will also come to the fore. Whether the Sun has an adult on horseback, a couple coupling behind a small fence, or the more traditional representation will not alter its archetypal meaning... though the individual iconography will undoubtedly 'shade' it.


For me it is a combination of traditional meanings and feelings I get from the images themselves. For instance, sometimes when reading with a deck that I am less familiar with, I will visualize the same card in a deck that I have spent more time with (kind of an informal, "quickie" comparative reading) to help me interpret the card in the unfamiliar deck.

On the other hand, sometimes what I get from the image is more salient to me, so that is how I interpret the card. For example, Kiama mentioned the :T10S. The first deck I got was the Gendron, and that card often appeared in my early readings for myself and others. In fact, I thought of it as "my" card for a long time. To me Gendron's 10 of Swords, doesn't have as negative of a meaning as most other decks I've used, so I don't interpret it in the same way.


i know it all seems confusing right now. reading the cards w/ what you have learned as meanings, what your intuition says, and pulling the big picture together is like being right handed and trying to draw w/ your left hand or patting your head, rubbing your tummy and chewing gum at the same time. give yourself time and practice. tarot is a journey, not a destination. enjoy the sights along the way. pick up tid bits from other travelors along the way. over time, it'll become less and less of a struggle to read the cards but you won't notice b/c of the wonder of the world opening up to you. learn to pick up info here and there that help your tarot understanding that have no obvious correlation to tarot. for example, psychology and archeology. do it for fun! do it for love! but never make it work!!!!!!

imho=in my honest opinion
btw=by the way
somebody here probably has the link to the online abbreviations dictionary. i can't find it right this minute but it's a valuable resource and keeps you from stumbling in the dark.



Napaisti: I think we do it pretty much the same way - I guess that's what I do, pick up a familiar image to inspire me if I get stuck while reading one that is less familiar. Inspire, and in a way widen the mind from the obvious, which can sometimes get in the way, I think. (Or is that just me...?)

Truthsayer (what a beautiful nickname!): I am definitely on my Tarot-journey, and what I love most about it is that it's one journey that will never "be over" - this is a road I can travel for as long as I live...!

I think it's important though, what you say about picking up from here and there, life experience is probably the one most useful resource you can have in Tarot. And another thing, often being able to use metaphores from life makes the whole difference when it comes to explaining what you mean to the person you're reading for. All the people I read for read Tarot themselves, but my feelings and what I "get" from the cards is of course all mine, sharing diffuse feelings and intuitive ideas isn't easy, if there's no common ground to stand on.

Anyway - I'm always curious about how other people do things, how they ended up doing it, what they think about it and what their philosophy about it is, I guess people's stories _are_ the "tidbits" that I pick up along the way, and always has been - whether for Tarot or not. It's what makes me tick - and if that can make me a "better" Tarot-reader, then that's just a bonus! *laugh*

In other words - beware, there will be loads more questions from me about things like these. Not always because I see it as a problem for myself, but because I'm helplessly curious...! ;-)

Love and light,