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Calling the Tarot by New Names with Carolyn Cushing

By September 17, 2014 July 16th, 2019


This week we have a real treat with a guest post from Carolyn Cushing of Art of Change Tarot. In early 2014, I had the pleasure of spending a weekend with Carolyn in her home at Western Massachusetts and teaching with her when we held two Tarot workshops with her MassTarot community. Carolyn has such a dynamic, creative and soulful way of working with the Tarot and I am so pleased to be able to share her unique (yet also very practical) perspectives in this following post. Over to you, Carolyn…

When we think of Tarot, we, of course, think of reading the cards. We dream of becoming readers. But reading is just the tip of the Tarot iceburg and below the surface is an array of Tarot abilities and roles it could play in our lives. If we engage these expanded roles, the Tarot’s gifts and wisdom will flow into more areas of our lives. (And, yes, this deeper relationship with the Tarot will make us better readers.)

Here are new names and abilities for the Tarot for you to try out.

Action Coach

We often come to the Tarot at a crossroads in our lives, needing to make a significant decision or shift behaviors and attitudes that no longer serve us. A big-picture reading to give an overview of opportunities and obstacles, possible directions, and supports for creating a positive future is an excellent start to the process. But then the real work begins. As we implement a plan or new vision, we still need feedback and support. Check-ins with the cards for course corrections, and even pep talks, are helpful. A coach of a sports team doesn’t stop talking to her players once the game has begun so why should the Tarot.

Try this

When you feel stuck implementing a plan or following the advice of a larger reading, use this simple two card pull I learned from Rachel Pollack and Zoe Matoff. One is What to Do. The other is What Not To Do. Take the first thoughts that jump out at you from looking at the images on each card. Take your action. Repeat as needed.

Intuition Inspirer

There is no need to be especially intuitive, let alone psychic to use the Tarot. There is, after all, a tradition of ascribed meanings for the cards that can be learned and plenty of readers work in this manner. But the symbols and images of the Tarot have a way of working on us. They don’t speak a linear language and as we spend time with them we pick up their style of communicating. Our intuitive abilities are awakened not only for use with the Tarot but in all areas of our life. It’s like gaining another sense to aid you in making every day a little more magical.

Try this

Every morning for a week or a month, pull a card. Let one aspect of the image, a symbol, or a word capture your attention. Don’t worry about what the card is supposed to mean. As you go through your day, keep your eyes, your ears, your heart open for your image, symbol, or word to appear. Try not to be too literal. At the end of the day, journal and map your findings. See what connection might be made each day, and then over the week or month.

Spiritual Mentor

You may have heard the 22 cards of the Major Arcana referred to as a map of the spiritual journey. I have come to know in a deep way how the wisdom figures in these cards can mentor us on how to dance between the spiritual peaks and valleys of our lives. The Wheel, for example, lets you know that you exist in a wider context and not everything is in your control while The Hanged One teaches you how to surrender your ego and connect to what is most important. Once you have surrendered, you can meet Death as an opportunity for transformation rather than something to run away from.

Try This

Commit a whole month to study and communion with each card of the Major Arcana. You don’t have to go in order, but do spend a month with each of the 22. Read one Tarot classic for the whole 22 months, focusing on finding inspiration in sentences rather than digesting paragraphs. Do a simple meditation process such as Visio Divina, or either – or both! – of the series of guided meditations that Brigit and I have developed with each card.

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Creativity Consultant

With Kings and Queens, people dancing and fighting, and mysterious forces like the Moon and the Stars, the Tarot has all the elements necessary to ignite the muses of storytellers who work with words and pictures. The Tarot also stimulates creativity for any kind of task. Creating a work plan, organizing an event, or finding something interesting for kids to do, all require creative brain activity.

Try this

Feeling stuck? Pull a card and let your eye be drawn to a specific detail. Let something pop into your mind. Even if it is odd – better if it is odd! – it can spark the idea of the next step to keep moving you forward. (I got stuck writing this article and pulled The Wheel and The Empress. The Wheel said, “The energy that surrounds you is not optimal for productivity right now,” but The Empress said, “Keep creating anyway. I’m always creating no matter what!” So I kept writing through the block.)

Stress Reducer

I worry. I bet you do, too. And a lot of my worry isn’t that useful or even grounded in what is truly happening. Pulling cards can be a reality check. Taking the example of The Wheel, again, I was starting to beat myself up for being a bad, unproductive writer, but The Wheel reminded me that not everything is in my control. The stress went down and the writing started to flow. There are some cards in the deck that just bring a smile to the face and lower the blood pressure.

Try this

Go through the deck looking for those cards that just make you relax and smile. The next time that you are feeling stressed or worried, pull out one of those cards to gaze at for a moment.

Guide to Wisdom Traditions

The structure of the Tarot lends itself to being a conveyor of wisdom traditions. There are Celtic, Buddhist, Golden Dawn, Native American, Pagan, Ancient Egyptian, and Christian decks, just to name a few examples. Tarot decks created out of these traditions can become flash cards for learning new spiritual and religious systems.

Try this

Is there a tradition you would like to learn more about? Almost certainly there is a Tarot deck that convoys it. Treat yourself to such a deck. Read it like a sacred text. Use it for rituals inspired by that tradition.

Doorway into Mystery

We come to the Tarot with questions and we want them answered … now! But not every question or situation has a ready answer. Sometimes we keep getting a particular card over and over again and don’t understand why. It just may not be the time for the meaning to become consciously clear. The Tarot invites us to befriend that mystery and uncertainty. Keep coming back to the cards and in time a meaning may emerge …or not. There might be something for you to learn in the non-answer as much as in the answer. Just ask the Hanged Man, he’s been in the same limbo for centuries!

Try this

Pull a card and let it suggest a question rather than an answer. Don’t try to answer the question. Just sit with it. If you want prompts for creating questions, you can listen in on the tele-seminar James Wells and I did on The Practice of Questions.

The quintessential American poet Walt Whitman said, “I contain multitudes.” The Tarot, too, contains multitudes, and this, for me, makes it a perfect companion for the work of tending our souls. What exactly the soul is defies easy definition, but it serves as a cauldron for the holding of body, mind, and spirit. The soul may be our fullest self-seeking expression. And the soul grows larger each time it travels the circuit of Life, Death, Rebirth. We may forget the promise of that transformation when we are held close by Death, but the map of the Tarot reminds us of its possibility even when we can’t feel it within. If we wish to live from the prompting of our souls – and to read from this place – then cultivating a relationship with the multifaceted wisdom and wit of the Tarot will serve us well.


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