Tarot and Magical Practice
An RQ theme section
by Beth Owl's Daughter
Despite the many excellent Tarot books, decks, and other resources currently available, I have found surprisingly few that approach the cards as powerful ritual tools. Most popular books focus on setting up your altar with various objects, tools. and candles, pulling the recommended cards for this or that particular intention, reciting some chants, and then doing visualizations and affirmations. A helpful start, but in my own experience, the Tarot offers much more.
The Major Arcana
In my experience, when working with the Tarot in terms of the Elements, the Major Arcana relate to the direction of Center/Spirit. So, in spellwork for an important spiritual goal or for a shift that may require lengthy gestation and growth, working with the twenty-two trump cards over a set period will create a powerful wave of change.
For example, suppose I have decided to leave my current job, wishing to find a more satisfying and prosperous alternative. I would set my intention, and then I would perhaps decide on the length of time for this shift to take place. Since I am working with the twenty-two cards of the Majors, I might decide to work this spell over twenty-two lunar cycles, or if I wanted quicker results, perhaps I would work alternately with each New Moon and Full Moon.
Starting with the Fool, I might spend the time of New Moon to Full Moon looking for sacred Foolishness in my daily life; finding ways to lighten up; challenging the routines and expectations of my self that fears to be a Fool. I would search for places where a leap of faith might be a powerful catalyst for growth, and I would cultivate an attitude of following my bliss - like, for example, experimenting with exactly what my bliss might be in the first place. Working with the boundless potential of The Fool, I could look "outside the box" for what sort of livelihood might excite me. I might imagine myself in completely different careers, despite the fact that I have no experience or skill in those lines of work. Only a Fool would do that, but it might just open a door to something quite delightful. And besides, the Fool is only the first step.
Next comes The Magician, whose nature is (among other things) to possess skills, tools, and abilities that can manifest what he desires. During waning Moon phase, I could work with the Magician to narrow down the wild experimentation of the Fool to something a little more realistic. Or I could take that time to edit my resume, transform my appearance, and cultivate new skills that I might need for the new direction I wish to manifest. The Magician is also a shaman, so I might do a vision quest of some sort, or seek guidance from the allies and elementals I work with.
Each card of the Majors offers some powerful energy for moving your intention forward, and each can give you many lessons about your own co- creative process. Be prepared for a very transformative event if you decide to follow the Fool's Journey through the Major Arcana in your spellwork.
The Witch's Pyramid
The Witch's Pyramid, sometimes called the Hermetic Quaternary, has been called the springboard of magick. In The Spiral Dance, Starhawk references these four principles in her descriptions of the Elements, and I have found them useful in performing spellwork using the Tarot.
The first principle is "To Know." This relates to the element of Air, East, and therefore (in most Tarot systems) the Swords. To know means that it is imperative that you have a clear intention in mind. The Swords cut out the superfluous, determine boundaries, and bring the skills necessary to weave the changes you desire, yet harm none. Swords work with the power of the mind, words, poetry, and song. Magical work that would be suited to the Swords might include writing, chanting and music.
The second principle is "To Will." Knowing your intention, the challenge here is to make it happen, to engage and move the energy. This relates to South, Fire, and the Wands of the Tarot. Wands are the magical tool for channeling energy, for directing your will. They represent your desire, passion, your very life force. The Wands are where you connect to your power. I have found that working with the Wands in a physically active way is helpful. Get up! Move! Dance!
Pose your body in imitation of the figures depicted. This can be repeated and speeded up until it becomes a dance. In moving, you connect to your physical energy. The Wands can arouse your bright spirit and light the fires of creativity and power.
The third principle is "To Dare." This energy is connected to the West, to water, and the Cups of the Tarot. With daring, you face your fears, you feel your feelings and you open to Mystery. The Tarot Cups are about dreams, empathy, intuition, and healing. Like scrying in a dark chalice of water, I have found that the Cups suit is particularly easy to trance into. The images can be powerful for visualization and allow you to surrender to your intuitive sense and the great Flow that moves us. You also might use the Cups cards when doing dream work by meditating on a chosen card before bedtime.
The final principle, upon which the foundation rests, is "To Keep Silence." When raising an energetic Cone of Power, after we release its energy, we may wish to ground, letting any excess energy running through us return to the earth. Similarly, this principle relates to the Earth suit of the Tarot - the Pentacles (sometimes called Coins or Disks). The Pentacles are the silence of midnight, the knowing in your bones, the true North that points to your authenticity. They are also the silent, fertile Earth, to which you return your energy, and from which all abundance may grow. Pentacles are wonderful cards for spellwork concerned with manifesting abundance, material needs, and the things that nurture us, as well as that which we need to release and compost. Work with the Pentacles suit when you do your green Witchcraft, and herbal and gardening magic.
Within the symbolic language and imagery of the Tarot are powerful gateways to wisdom and transformation. By combining and blending these principles with the elemental energies of the Tarot suits, you can create innumerable recipes for making deep, delicious magic. May you and your beloveds be nurtured by your workings.
Beth Owl's Daughter has worked with the Tarot as a tool for ritual, healing, and self-discovery for over 33 years. She is a cocreator with the Dragon's Cauldron (www.dragonscauldron.org), central North Carolina's Reclaiming group. Contact her at www.owlsdaughter.com
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