It was a friend over on Facebook that reminded me of a
memory that I had long suppressed. I recall taking Geometry in the 10th grade at a small parochial school. Sadly, there was no teacher with sufficient skill in the illustrious art of Mathematics to guide me through the material. Geometry is meant to teach logic and critical thinking skills.
In order to pass Geometry, I had to pass my tests with 80% accuracy. I applaud high standards… usually… The non-credentialed teacher correcting my tests had never taken this level of math. She had no idea what she was doing. So… if my logic deviated IN ANY WAY from what was scripted out in the answer book, she marked it as incorrect. It didn’t matter that my answer was logical. It didn’t matter that I ended up in the same exact place. No thoughts outside of the scripted ones would be accepted. And so began the torture of my high school existence… Do not think… Do not deviate… Give us the ‘one right’ answer or go back and do it again.
I could see the writing on the wall. Memorization was to be my savior. There would be no logic used… and no critical thinking. I tried talking to other teachers (with actual teaching credentials) and was told that memorizing the theorems was probably what I needed to do, so that’s what I did… diligently… painstakingly… laboriously… Believe it or not, I actually passed Geometry, but I had missed the point, and clearly, so had my teachers. When I picked up my first deck of Tarot cards, can you guess what I did? Oh yes… I started looking for the rules and the traditional card meanings… and every so often I would run across some widely bandied about directive…
1. You must be given your first deck
2. You must wrap your deck in white silk
3. You must cleanse your decks frequently
4. Tarot questions must not be yes/no or should I/shouldn’t I?
Over time, rules regarding the Tarot just grated on my nerves. Given my school experience, perhaps you can understand why. Whenever someone tells me there’s a ‘right way’ to do something when it comes to Tarot… I have learned to question it. In fact, it generally gets my hackles up.
I don’t know all there is to know (who does?)… and maybe in some disciplines, doing things ‘the right way’ is important. Maybe nuclear physicists must do things ‘the right way’ or medical professionals… since I have no expertise in those areas, I’ll have to defer to people much smarter than I. But I do have some expertise in statistical theory, analysis techniques, and computer programming and I can honestly say that there is always more than one way to approach a problem. I’m not advocating throwing out all your books and ignoring all the good advice you ever received. I just think you need to know why you’re doing something and do it intentionally and with complete understanding, not just because someone says so.
Once in a while, the rules extend to card meanings. I’ve met Tarot readers that seem to believe their card definitions should be YOUR card definitions. I had a reader roll her eyes at me once and state emphatically that Pages were ALWAYS messengers… phone calls, emails, letters… nothing else. Or more subtle approaches… “Hey, maybe you should read this book…” What frustrates me the most is when the message is one of conform, conform, conform! Well, I don’t want to… are you with me? Can I get a “Hell, yeah!”
I like to think about why I use the Tarot in the first place… Why do I? I read the Tarot because it helps me develop my intuitive self… a part of myself I had subjugated in an effort to CONFORM (there’s that word again) to others expectations. In order to do this, I have to ignore all the MUSTS I’ve been given over the years and it’s almost with pride that I do it my own way. Do you read the Tarot for your own edification? For others? Do you read for friends and family? Do you read to prepare for the future? To deal with the past? To explore your feelings? Explore past lives? Examine what is true for you… it doesn’t have to align with anything you’ve heard before.
Here’s an excellent reason for throwing out the rules and the shoulds and shouldn’ts… In order for the Tarot to grow and change over time, there has to have been people that ignored the existent knowledge and the expectations of others and became innovators. To go where no one has gone before…
There are a lot of great Tarot books available… books I adore because I enjoy learning, but at the end of the day, it’s what’s inside me that counts.
This above all: To thine own self be true…
I do not mean this in the way Polonius (from Shakespeare’s Hamlet) probably did… I suspect he meant for Laertes to abide by the rules of the day and protect his reputation. I tend to be rules oriented by nature (I’m a statistician/analyst/programmer, remember?), but the way I use the Tarot gives me permission to explore, experiment, and think outside the box. To break the rules. We owe it to our querants. We owe it to those in history that have entrusted this tool to us to carry forward… and we owe it to ourselves.