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One of the most important traditional uses of the Tarot is in meditation. In fact, some scholars consider this its greatest value and believe that the Tarot was designed for this purpose and only later was applied to fortunetelling. As focal points for meditation, the cards' images can help you think about paths to spiritual self-improvement, broaden your understanding of the human conditions that we all share, and highlight the workings of archetypal forces in your life.p> Among Tarot users, a common practice is to pull a card a day, then contemplate its meanings. You can actively think about it, read what different authors may have to say about it, look around you for ways that its energies are expressed as you go about your life. This is essentially the traditional Western (European) approach to meditation, which is to think about something at great length.
Another way to meditate on a card is to find a calm, quiet place, then relax and hold the image of the card or one of the symbols within the card in your mind. (Beginners might try to see if they can sustain such an image for ten minutes or so.) After concentrating on this image, other images and impressions may flow into your mind, increasing your understanding of the card or symbol. However, don't try to force any images—just relax and concentrate. Even if nothing happens, your deep mind will go to work on the image, and meaningful revelations may pop up at a later time. The meditation may also trigger some interesting dreams that reveal more about the mysteries of the Tarot.
Two other techniques that I classify as meditative are called Free Writing and Deep Description. Free Writing is a term that is current in writers' workshops, and is a stream of consciousness technique. To do a free write on a Tarot card, select a card and then write down everything that comes to your mind about the card, including any chains of thoughts that may arise, even if they seem silly or unrelated. It doesn't matter whether you already know anything about the card in question. Trust your intuition. You know more than you think you know. It's a good idea to set a kitchen timer for ten minutes, and do not permit yourself to lay down your pen (or take your fingers off the keyboard) until the timer has rung. Do not stop to read and edit what you've written until the time is up, and pay no attention to "the critic within." It doesn't matter if it seems that what you're writing makes no sense, or whether it looks like it was written by a second grader. You will be surprised at the insights that emerge. Trust the process.
Deep Description also involves writing, but the discipline is quite different. For this type of exercise, set one of the cards in front of you and then write down everything you see in the card, noticing things like the colors used, incidental objects in the background or foreground, whether or not there is a border, what kind of lettering is used if there is a label, whether any of the objects or arrangements of objects form geometrical shapes, whether any of the human figures look out at you, what sort of gestures they are making, and much more. The trick here is to avoid blending description with speculation or analysis. In other words, write down only what you want to see; do not permit yourself to write down any other thoughts about what you see until afterward. Do not make any guesses abut anything that is not actually featured in the picture, or form any opinion about the meaning of the card until you are done. This is very difficult to do because most people can't separate description from analysis—analysis always contaminates perception. But if you trust the process, revelations will arise once you have completed the exercise. By the way, if you can get a friend to try this using the same card, you may surprise each other with all of the things that one of you saw and the other did not, even when you both thought you couldn't possibly describe anything else.
Excerpted from Tarot for a New Generation by Janina Renée
Janina Renée is a scholar of folklore, psychology, medical anthropology, the material culture of magic, ritual studies, history, and literature. Her books include Tarot Spells, Tarot Your Everyday Guide (winner ...