Sunday, May 1, 2011

"But you Already HAVE a Tarot Deck!"

Some time ago, a friend of my teenager stayed with us for a week, and during that week her mother, a friend of mine, took me out and bought me a carload of groceries - her way of saying thank you, I suppose.

While we were at the shopping centre I went to the post office there, because I was expecting a parcel crammed full of Tarot delights from these people. Actually, I wasn't - most of the delivery had already happened, but one deck had been omitted and sent on later, and that was what I was waiting for.

So my friend M. and I went to the post office, she waited outside and the smiling guy there handed over my parcel to me. As I walked out of the post office to met up with her again, I was jumping up and down, saying "My parcel's arrived! My parcel's arrived!" And before I was even two or three metres (yards) from the door of the post office, I was chewing through the tape at the corner of the package - it was very, very well taped up indeed - trying to get into it.

My friend laughed at me. "Calm down," she said, "you'll soon know what's in it."

"Oh, I already know what's in it," I told her, "it's a Tarot deck."

She looked at me, completely confused. "But you already have a Tarot deck, don't you?" she asked. She simply couldn't wrap her mind around my wanting another one.

I was floored. Didn't she understand? As a Portuguese Tarot collector and friend of mine said, and I quote: "Ive already got a book in my house, but - oddly - keep buying more too. Insane isn't it? Ive also already got a CD and keep buying more of those too. Just can't control myself."

M. is a literate, educated woman, and has plenty of books. She also has more than one outfit that she wears - I've seen her in several, over the years, and I'm willing to wager she owns more shoes than I do: I have one pair of sandals, one pair of runners and one pair of black shoes "for good". She probably has several pairs of earrings, too, or necklaces, although I've never really noticed jewellery on her - I know I have a lot more jewellery than I ever actually wear. She probably even has more than one saucepan, or more than one knife, fork and spoon.

So why should one Tarot deck be enough?

Another person I know in the same discussion, said that her husband used to ask her why she needed more than one Tarot deck - right up until she asked him why he needed more than one camera. Apparently he shut up completely, and hasn't bothered her since.

Different Tarot decks have different artistic styles, and let's face it, the more diverse the collection of art you feast your eyes on, the more content and developed your inner self is. They also have vastly different feels, and put both you and the client in different moods.

A Tarot deck is like a book: every time you pick it up, it tells you a story, a story of greater or lesser complexity. A collection of Tarot decks is like a library: a book for every mood or stage in your life, each one another step on the path of your enjoyment in life and your quest for self-education. And they are things of beauty: a Tarot collector can be both a serious reader and a butterfly, flitting from one glorious flower to another of a different colour, size and shape, and with a different perfume.

But it's not just people who are not involved in Tarot themselves, M's attitude can also be found in people who are involved in Tarot. I have a local friend whom I occasionally swap readings with, not because I really need her to give me readings, but because she needs the practice adn doesn't get as much opportunity as I do, and I'm very happy to give her the chance as well as giving her a reading. She reads with quite a well-known deck, the Mythic deck, which was the deck that was used in the Tarot course she took many years ago.

The teacher of that course taught her a number of things that are hard to un-teach: that Tarot is dangerous and you need "protection" from it in the form of Christian prayers (Tarot is just cardboard and ink - any "danger" is from your own mind and in your own mind), and that no other decks work, the Mythic is the only one that works, and if you use other decks your bond with it will weaken and you won't be able to read with it any more.

This is completely untrue, and almost as laughable as the "dangerous" thingie. Like everyone, I bought one deck first, and learnt on it, But I found that every time I bought a new deck and familiarised myself with the new images and the new ways of thinking and feeling that those images triggered, my knowledge of general Tarot got deeper and more complex. I have around a hundred decks now, and I know and love all of them - and can tell you at a glance what deck any randomly card came from - and each of them have added to me, to my knowledge and abilities.

The last couple of times this friend and I did a swap, she commented on how deep and incisive my readings for her are, while she seems only to skate on the surface of my life when she reads for me. And how do I manage it, seeing as I (deliberately) use a different deck for her every time? It's because a wide range of decks has given me a greater opportunithy to develop and grow as a reader.

And aside from all of this, there's another strong reason in favour of collecting decks. Imagine you were vsiual, and you liked to look at lovely and/or interesting art, art that engages. How many pictures could you fit on the walls of your house? Five? Ten? Thirty-five? Maybe fifty if you're in a biggish place and they're smallish pictures?

A single Tarot deck contains (usually) seventy-eight images, and in many decks they are high art, complex art, satisfying art. I routinely carry two decks in my handbag, and often a third or even a fourth. I keep another half-doxen or so in my Tarot Readers Kit Bag. Which means that at least eighty sit in a large wicker basket on a small shelf. I go through the basket regularly, pulling out decks and revisiting their images with pleasure and delight.

If every deck had exactly seventy-eight images (they don't - some have one or more extras) and I had exactly a hundred decks (I don't - I have either ninety-eight or ninety-nine), then that is seven thousand, eight hundred individual works of art that I manage to fit into a very small house. Many significant public collections of art don't contain as many works of art, and most don't display all of their possessions, keeping much of their collections in storage and rotating it pretty well as I do.

So for those of us who are not billionaires and don't have houses as long as shopping centres to hang paintings in, Tarot collecting is an economical and space-efficient way of collecting art, collecting satisfying visual treats that will give you joy for the rest of your life.

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