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Not the Happy Squirrel!
August 27, 2012 10:08 AM   Subscribe

Tarot decks used for occult purposes usually have 78 cards: the Major Arcana of twenty-two plus the Minor Arcana, four suits of fourteen cards each. In the last few years, though, some otherwise traditional decks have been printed with 79 cards. The new inclusion is to the Major Arcana: number XXIII, the Happy Squirrel.

The Happy Squirrel was first included in the International Icon Tarot (review), published in 2004, but its origins were almost a decade earlier, in the Simpsons episode 2F15, 'Lisa's Wedding'.
Woman: Now we'll see what the future holds.
[turns over a card from what looks like a Tarot deck]
Lisa: [gulps] The "Death" card?
Woman: No, that's good: it means transition, change.
Lisa: [relieved] Oh.
[the woman turns over another card]
Lisa: Oh, that's cute.
Woman: [gasps] "The Happy Squirrel"!
Lisa: [timid] That's bad?
Woman: Possibly. The cards are vague and mysterious.
Since then, the Squirrel has popped up in at least eight other decks. Despite the fortune teller's dismissal, Tarot enthusiasts have come up with many possible interpretations for it and deck creators have found many ways to depict it, both humourous and artistic. Novelty, annoyance or aid, the Squirrel may turn out to be a lasting curiosity in Tarot design.
posted by daisyk (80 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite

 
What's the big deal? It's a perfectly cromulent Tarot card.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:11 AM on August 27, 2012 [44 favorites]


It's S06E19, not S06E17. Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder.
posted by griphus at 10:13 AM on August 27, 2012 [18 favorites]


Also, hey, that episode sure did take place two years ago.
posted by griphus at 10:14 AM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


My future readings will be embiggened by the addition of this card.
posted by pointystick at 10:15 AM on August 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


The fifth element is surprise
posted by edgeways at 10:16 AM on August 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Genuinely curious here: what is the deal with Tarot? I understand that some people are actually into the woo/cult aspects of it, but I also see a lot of skeptic type people geeking out on Tarot. Is it like an irony thing or something? Like Flying Spaghetti Monster? More broadly I have similar questions about "Magick" in general.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:16 AM on August 27, 2012


It's possible to see the tarot or I-Ching as a tool for self discovery without believing that it's MAGIC.
posted by Lorin at 10:18 AM on August 27, 2012 [38 favorites]


I like the Thoth rarity for the pretty cards.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:20 AM on August 27, 2012


Genuinely curious here: what is the deal with Tarot?

I'm curious, too. Someone put up the hermitosis signal!
posted by phunniemee at 10:20 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Doleful Creature: It's like an the popular metaphor of the inkblot test. You lay them out, and see how your brain interprets them. Lets you think about things in unplanned and unexpected ways. Can be really fun and useful, even (especially?) when they contradict how you think you think.
posted by cthuljew at 10:20 AM on August 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


I understand that some people are actually into the woo/cult aspects of it, but I also see a lot of skeptic type people geeking out on Tarot. Is it like an irony thing or something?

Most of the skeptics I know that like the tarot either like it for the art and stuff that goes into it. Some also are into it as a way of categorizing "subjective" information, if that makes sense. You can enjoy it as a sort of theory of emotional/psychological states without ascribing any supernatural meaning to it.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:20 AM on August 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


griphus: "Also, hey, that episode sure did take place two years ago."

There was a bit of a hubbub about in on the Internet on August 1st, 2010, the actual date of the episode.

Doleful Creature: " I also see a lot of skeptic type people geeking out on Tarot. Is it like an irony thing or something?"

I used to dabble in a little Tarot reading, and my take on it was always strictly non-woo. It's a way to reframe and think differently about difficulties or struggles you may be having. For me, at least, there was no predictive element to it, other than perhaps encouraging you (or the querent) to use their own knowledge and intuition to predict the likely outcomes of certain choices.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:21 AM on August 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


*throws smokebomb, cackles*
posted by The Whelk at 10:21 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Doleful, I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't believe in tarot or woo or magic(k) but I love tarot cards and have a small collection (I also collect cool playing cards). I love the art and the iconography of them and all the different styles.

Long ago at a party I hosted, some guy asked me to do a reading when he saw my cards. I snuck off to the loo to read the instructions, came back, and gave him a reading he pronounced "amazing and so true!" which I thought was pretty funny but really the "reading" was just doing the job of talking things out with a friend.
posted by pointystick at 10:22 AM on August 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


I thought of it as kind of like Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies deck, but for personal problems.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:25 AM on August 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I haven't used Tarot cards but I imagine that they could be a great innovation/ideation tool like Creative Whack Pack or Oblique Strategies.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:25 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I stayed up all night playing poker with tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died - Stephen Wright
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:26 AM on August 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


That exchange also makes me think of "The Frogurt is also cursed." "That's bad."
posted by MoonOrb at 10:26 AM on August 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


...also I'm shooting something based on the Tarot on Saturday and I've managed to put in a happy squirrel so clearly I am the bellwether of the zeitgeist.

The Happy Squirrel represents Squirrel Girl, which portents a completely crazy, completely indestructible force entering your life.
posted by The Whelk at 10:26 AM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, aside from its usefulness for unsticking your creativity (at which its roughly equivalent to free writing and other exercises), the history, symbolism, and beauty of the cards are a powerful draw to this skeptic. Throw that in with a tendency toward collecting, and, baby, you've got a stew goin'!

Even learning how to interpret them is a lot of fun for a skeptic; the only difference is you get to be impressed with your own creativity and insight, rather than that of magick. (Although, in many modern views of "magick" there is little difference between it and your own creativity and insight, so it's sort of six to one.)
posted by gilrain at 10:27 AM on August 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


What bugs me is that Happy Squirrel is totally overpowered, such that pretty much every tarot deck needs to run it if it's going to be competitive. I mean, at least with Emperor/Empress or Sun/Moon/Star, you'd have a bit of luck of the draw so as not to autolose when one of them comes up. But now, you go to a reading, and sure enough everyone is like Squirrel-Squirrel-Squirrel and it's over and you're out 20 bucks as prices have had to go up so everyone can afford the damn card anyways.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:27 AM on August 27, 2012 [31 favorites]


That exchange also makes me think of "The Frogurt is also cursed." "That's bad."

I just watched Billy Wilder's Sabrina (w/ Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart) and I am now like 75% convinced that routine was an allusion to a very similar "X!" "That's good!" "Y!" "That's bad!" "Z!" "That's good!" routine in the film.
posted by griphus at 10:29 AM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, a beautiful and particularly Mefitian tarot is the Tarot of the Silicon Dawn, canceived and illustrated by our own egypturnash.
posted by gilrain at 10:30 AM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Nthing everyone else who says they use them as a sort of self-reflective tool; a way to nudge you into looking at a problem from a different perspective than you already have been, to see if you can get a new idea for how to solve it that way. (Also, that way if you get an outcome you don't like it's easy to just shrug and say "well, fuck it, that didn't work" and ignore it.)

As discussed on my profile - I have always kind of dug the Empress card, which I got once when I was playing around with some dippy online "Which Tarot Card Are You" quiz. The quiz described the kind of person the Empress represented, and the more I read it the more I thought that huh, you know, that actually is the kind of person I want to be (sort of a hippie earth-mother type - nurturing friends and family and embracing some of the world's sensory pleasures rather than shunning them - the kind of person who'd go for a burger for lunch because you're going to that really good burger place, rather than the kind of person who'd hem and haw and then just get an austere salad).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:31 AM on August 27, 2012


Squirrels at My Window: Life With a Remarkable Gang of Urban Squirrels appears to have fallen out of print. I was going to post this in the squirrel stew thread the other day but forgot.
posted by bukvich at 10:32 AM on August 27, 2012


So this is a direct result of Bob Ross, right?
posted by inturnaround at 10:41 AM on August 27, 2012


I understand that some people are actually into the woo/cult aspects of it, but I also see a lot of skeptic type people geeking out on Tarot. Is it like an irony thing or something?

Tarot cards have roots in a lot of different cultures and belief systems, and they have been reshaped and redefined by some of the greatest thinkers from the Renaissance period onward.

Science, art, religion, and magic are not as interchangeable as some people would have you believe, but their backgrounds are incredibly entangled, and they strive to answer many overlapping questions.

Humans' brains are excellent at finding patterns in things. The history of divination is of searching for meaning in (apparently) random sets of (apparently) meaningless information. Tarot scholar Robert M. Place wrote the most amazing history of the cards -- great for novice, expert, or curious bystander -- and here is a (self-link) interview with him about the roots of divination, and the danger of cutting ourselves off from myth.

I don't think there's anything wrong with believing in magic. I don't think there's anything wrong with skeptics getting personal mileage out of the cards, even on just an aesthetic level. I think that the Tarot is a potent, cracked reflection of the real mess we've made of things -- it's a beautiful mess, and it is maybe more accurate and humbling than most other reflections available to us.
posted by hermitosis at 10:42 AM on August 27, 2012 [31 favorites]


To expand on the iconography point, I really like Tarot in a Jungian way - the cards are informed by some pretty powerful mythology/archetypal imagery, and I love seeing how different artists interpret that mythology, choosing different aspects to bring to the fore.
posted by lunasol at 10:42 AM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Number 23 of the Major Arcana, you say? 2+3 = 5---- HAIL ERIS! . . .
posted by KingEdRa at 10:44 AM on August 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Cards? Really? If you're not using the entrails of a dead animal, folks, you're not divining.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 10:50 AM on August 27, 2012


Genuinely curious here: what is the deal with Tarot?

Attempting to find a pattern in something that is deliberately patternless allows your own unconscious patterns to bubble to the surface. Kind of like some things you can only see out of the corner of your eye, or how you need to turn down the radio in order to find the address you're looking for while driving.

When I'm doing Tarot readings, the analogy I usually draw is to say "OK, imagine you have a bas-relief map of a mountain range, sculpted out of matte white plastic and uniformly lit from above. It's very difficult to make out details under those circumstances, no matter how carefully you look. But if I throw black sand on the map, suddenly the pattern is incredibly obvious, even though the sand grains know nothing about it. The map is your own thinking, the cards are the sand."

Huh, thinking about it, maybe I should start using a metaphor of iron filings showing lines of magnetic force. That's even more clear.
posted by KathrynT at 10:52 AM on August 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


As a (sometimes) card-reader, I get equally unsettled by people who are determined to find a magical solution to their problem and people who are determined to have everything couched in the most secular, material terms possible. You sort of want to shake the magical people and tell them to deal with reality as it really is, and you want to shake the hardbitten skeptics for being arrogant enough to think that their limitations are really the world's limitations. But I am compassionate to both types, because I think that those extreme worldviews are often the product of a lot of suffering and disappointment.

The best readings are with people who move fluidly from one realm of thought to another, who are curious and open, who can perform a ritual without feeling embarrassed or silly, but who aren't afraid to engage with the "real" world with the rest of us. If someone is able to question their own beliefs, or genuinely and imaginatively explore others', then they will get a lot out of playing around with Tarot cards.
posted by hermitosis at 10:54 AM on August 27, 2012 [34 favorites]


Wow hermitosis, thanks for the explanation*. You're kind of blowin' my mind over here.

*Everybody else's comments were good too! You all get gold stars today!
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:57 AM on August 27, 2012


The Happy Squirrel represents Squirrel Girl, which portents a completely crazy, completely indestructible force entering your life.

Does she put your nuts in a tree?
posted by zippy at 11:02 AM on August 27, 2012


Hey now, let's not forget the Parachutist with the Cake.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:07 AM on August 27, 2012


I'm yet another sceptical tarot fan. I mainly use it as a winding-down exercise to reflect on the day and get ready for sleep. I find it easier to sleep after some sort of imaginative exercise, and, with the help of this tarot app, I can even do a reading in bed.
posted by howfar at 11:14 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is awesome and hilarious. While there may well be more in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies, I suspect this sort of whimsical ...chicanery... makes the deck a little more in tune with the nature of human existence.
posted by smirkette at 11:35 AM on August 27, 2012


I love that The Happy Squirrel exists in decks now. That's great. Though in the episode it makes a great point in spoofing how the Death card shouldn't be regarded as bad-and yet it looks bad... To be fair, most of the tarot cards that look like a bad thing are, in fact, representing a bad thing. But I do have the temptation to tell the skeptics that "I won't Happy Squirrel you," i.e. I won't give you bullshit that has nothing to do with the card you drew in front of you. Most folks can actually figure out cards for themselves with no study if they wanted to--just look at the pictures* and see what you think it means. It's pretty easy to do.

* unless you have one of those decks like the Ukioye, where all they do is have seven swords printed on the 7 of Swords. Bo-ring and unhelpful, deck artist.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:37 AM on August 27, 2012


I have always wanted to set up a little table on Duval St in Key West - and try to do Tarot card readings. Mind you, I know nothing about Tarot at all - but with a 15 minute brush up, and some fortified beer courage, I think I could BS my way through it.

Someday.
posted by Flood at 11:47 AM on August 27, 2012


Is this why it's taking Atlus so long to get Persona 5 out?
posted by Blue Meanie at 12:03 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Mind you, I know nothing about Tarot at all - but with a 15 minute brush up, and some fortified beer courage, I think I could BS my way through it.

Yeah, it's a funny idea, but please don't. There are enough bullshitters already out there doing plenty of damage to the public's idea of what the Tarot is and what constitutes a valuable reading, and enough perfectly credulous people out there who really might take you at your word.
posted by hermitosis at 12:07 PM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Rock Steady: "griphus: "Also, hey, that episode sure did take place two years ago."

There was a bit of a hubbub about in on the Internet on August 1st, 2010, the actual date of the episode.
"

Due to working at a healthcare company that is really into wellness, I always think of this episodes when I want junk food from the vending machines but can only find something made of soy. I think "Here I am in the future -- but where are my robot librarians?"

(No offense, jessamyn et al.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:18 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Omg howfar, it never even occurred to me to look for a tarot app! I just downloaded this free Android one, and I think I'll start using it. I always thought tarot was neat, but even after someone gave me a deck, I never bothered to learn because I didn't want to have to consult a book every time I drew a card. Maybe this will help me learn...
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:21 PM on August 27, 2012


i started my day by reading this post. i think that bodes well.
posted by lapolla at 12:21 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like so many other tarot cards, this one has changed and been corrupted over the ages. It was originally the Slappy Squirrel, and stood for confusion about rock bands.
posted by ubiquity at 12:32 PM on August 27, 2012


on consideration: if i ever get the happy squirrel in a reading, i will interpret it, thusly
posted by lapolla at 12:36 PM on August 27, 2012


Yeah, I agree with the general zeitgeist of the threat that there might or might not be other things going on, but simply in terms of bringing a person's attention to a topic and finding a new way to look at it can be very helpful. Or weirder things could be going on; difficult to say, difficult to falsify.

More broadly I have similar questions about "Magick" in general.

The spelling magick comes from Crowley, who didn't like the number spelt from magic using his style of numorology (I think his was based on Gnostic numerology, but Crowley gave me the heebee jeebees when I was the age where I was studying this stuff, so I avoided specifics). These days, those who know it's origins are in the minority, since even most Ceremonial Magick books (I have a shiny one somewhere; I think it's in a box in my mom's attic) bury the source of it. most people I've met seem to think it's to set magic apart from magick, with the latter being better; a coded value judgement, in short.

Ceremonial Magick is based on Kabbalah and Gnosticism, which is Jewish and Christian in origin, so a lot of the rituals involve invoking four Archangels for the four directions. I didn't run across any of the humours in it when I was studying it, but the four elements are there (and two of them are reversed from other sources, which always confused me). The basic ritual, the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, is actually the basis of easily 90% of the neo-pagan ritual that I've seen; you invoke the four directions with a single entity for each, have some central stuff (in the LBRP it's a calling for protection, in other rituals that's the "meat" of the ritual) and then you release everything in reverse order. Basic things, like the circle not being crossed, also come from this source (and variations in the rules can let you know how and from where people are drawing their knowledge).

Honestly, as a pagan, it always made me giggle when people who would go on and on about how they hated Christianity and monotheism would turn around and do rituals based on the LBRP, especially if they left the four Archangels in there.

Wicca/Wica the traditional form created by Gardner and carried on in various lines of authority was much closer to the Secret Societies style of the late 1800s and early 1900s than the open and free neopaganism and New Age movements which picked up in the late 1900s after Hinduism was brought into the US consciousness (speaking only for the US; my understanding is that the UK has a very different perspective, and I know some of the religious folk of Asatru/Forn Sed in Europe look askance and don't much like their US cousins worshiping the same gods, as I've had people outright tell me I can't worship my gods accurately).

The New Age movement remains heavily Christian influenced, especially with Angels who are huge, but have a tendency to draw from a lot of sources, some of them to hysterically funny effect if you know the history and mythology (Temple of Solomon, where Ishtar will cleanse your genes). There's also a whole "Indian" movement which is largely Lakota imagery, like the cross circle and the peace pipe, without the bother of having any actual Lakota involved. I've run into people who were scrupulous in their authenticity, though - far more scrupulous than I am, as I tend to be a bit of a shiny-object gatherer; in one case I met a lovely man who was an Incan Shaman who had studied with them Peru, and it was fascinating to see the ritualistic differences (the Inca, like many American Natives, have six directions and invoke animal spirits as well as Pace Mama and the sky god).

The use of magic of some sort shows up a lot of places and usually involves a lot of ceremony. From a "magic doesn't exist" point of view, the ritual could be seen as a way of controlling, combining, and directing the focus and concentration of a person in a specific directions they want. From a "magic does exist but coexists with science" point of view, magic tends to work in the areas where chance is involved - that is, where something could go one way or another but you're tipping the scales in the direction you want. From a "magic is it's own thing" point of view... it's magic!

There is some evidence that elaborate ritual can invoke a person's placebo effect, thus causing them to be healed without the intervention of an actual causal element like a drug; in my anthro classes I had heard about cultures where their placebo effect was much broader than ours, but I've never been able to find the reference. Expectations and the placebo effect are both very powerful, though, as demonstrated through research (both in terms of having to control for the placebo effect, and in the study of the psychological effects of expectations on our behavior and performance).

Even if all of the causes do end up being shown to be physiological, that doesn't mean that ritual and magic(k) can't serve as a useful shorthand of sorts to get multiple parts of our brains to co-operate even when those parts are incapable of languaged communication.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:37 PM on August 27, 2012 [15 favorites]


Hmmmm...shouldn't the little fella be numbered "XXII?" The Major Arcana are traditionally numbered 0-XXI.
posted by malocchio at 1:38 PM on August 27, 2012


When I made the Silicon Dawn (thanks for mentioning it, gilrain!), I contemplated including the Happy Squirrel. Ultimately I decided not to, as I'm really not very big on the Simpsons any more.

A few of the meanings people have ascribed to it showed up in the extra cards I did add - hell, there's at least four cards in my deck that can be read as "don't take this too seriously", which I think is one of the major meanings of the Happy Squirrel.

As to why the Squirrel is numbered 23… well. Fnord.
posted by egypturnash at 1:50 PM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Piggy-backing on Deoridhe's very well-written comment, I'd like to add that there are definitely modern forms of magic and ritual that aren't based on mutilated Christian, New Age, or orientalist elements. It's a very rich and diverse pool once you wade out past the muck and tall weeds.
posted by hermitosis at 2:13 PM on August 27, 2012


doing plenty of damage to the public's idea of what the Tarot is and what constitutes a valuable reading

Wait, are you suggesting that there is such a thing as "a valuable reading" of Tarot cards. Seriously? Isn't it all just bullshit.
posted by Flood at 2:32 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


> a very rich and diverse pool

Watermelon sacrifice at the New Orleans Jazz Festival 4-26-09.
posted by bukvich at 2:35 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmmmm...shouldn't the little fella be numbered "XXII?" The Major Arcana are traditionally numbered 0-XXI.

The numbering serves as a further reminder that The Happy Squirrel is unencumbered by things such as tradition and logic.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:49 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I stayed up all night playing poker with tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died - Stephen Wright

Tim Powers perhaps heard this joke before writing the excellent book Last Call.

I used to read tarot for other people, with only a little bit of woo (it seemed called for). Once, in a small Italian town, I read them for a bunch of undergraduates, and really made an impact. It may have been all the wine, though. I think I will avoid the Happy Squirrel if I ever start reading them again. It's a cute joke, but not one I want to bring into my own decks.
posted by PussKillian at 2:52 PM on August 27, 2012


Wait, are you suggesting that there is such a thing as "a valuable reading" of Tarot cards. Seriously? Isn't it all just bullshit.

I've been rebutting comments like these for years. (If you admit you don't know what you're talking about, there are nicer ways to ask for information.)
posted by hermitosis at 3:01 PM on August 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


The Major Arcana for Dingbats.
posted by Zed at 3:18 PM on August 27, 2012


I mean, at least with Emperor/Empress or Sun/Moon/Star, you'd have a bit of luck of the draw so as not to autolose when one of them comes up.

Yeah. My Sun and Stars tactic was good but it always got wasted by Death with that Mirri Maz Duur expansion.
posted by ersatz at 3:34 PM on August 27, 2012


Look, no one explains why that squirrel is happy. Maybe it is Ratatosk, the Squirrel of Strife, who according to the Prose Edda, tells scandalous/slanderous things. Maybe that squirrel's happiness is not your happiness. This is why the cards are "vague and mysterious."
posted by jadepearl at 5:34 PM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Look, no one explains why that squirrel is happy. Maybe it is Ratatosk, the Squirrel of Strife, who according to the Prose Edda, tells scandalous/slanderous things

ALL HAIL DISCORDIA! (23, squirrel of strife, yup, it's her all right. )
posted by KingEdRa at 5:53 PM on August 27, 2012


Numerically sound.
posted by 23 at 6:00 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


You sort of want to shake the magical people and tell them to deal with reality as it really is, and you want to shake the hardbitten skeptics for being arrogant enough to think that their limitations are really the world's limitations.

These are stereotypes of both ends of the spectrum. I've met magicalist people who consider "magic" to include all kinds of things I have no rational objection to, such as artistic impulses and mathematical intuition. I've met hardline skeptics who are quietist with respect to anything non-empirical who like religious stories (and tarot readings) just fine, so long as they are placed in the correct category.

You might indeed have a lot of experience with the types of people you describe, but I wonder how you'd tell. People can talk nonsense while behaving rationally, and often do; people can state opinions arrogantly without thinking they apply universally, and I personally do this more often than I'd like. There are ways to distinguish these attitudes from the stereotypes you describe, but they don't involve shaking anything.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:23 PM on August 27, 2012


Wait, are you suggesting that there is such a thing as "a valuable reading" of Tarot cards. Seriously? Isn't it all just bullshit.

I take a very Jungian view of Tarot, and have selected the deck I use specifically because it focuses on positivity and personal development. (There are no inverted card readings, for example.)

The way I view tarot is that it is a set of symbols which contain enough deliberate meaning but lack context. A reading places these symbols into context, which the person receiving the reading cannot help but project their own life situation on. I never ask for a question or anything when giving a reading, so the person receiving it can allow their own life situation to find its resonances with the reading.

The skill of giving a good reading (in my method) is being able to tie the cards together during the presentation in a way where they all lead toward a unified concept, but without attempting to place any specific personalized thrust on the cards, as this is most often projection or some other thing within the reader which can keep the person from getting the reading from having it be personally valuable.

As you live basically diagonally across the country from me, the possibility of me giving you a reading with my deck and in my style is slim to none. But I think you'd find you'd get a lot more out of it than you expect. I don't have much woo attached to the tarot at all, and never approach any reading with any mystical anything. But I'm pretty skilled with giving readings which have provided insights and clarity for a lot of people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Ultimately, it's all about your own projection into the symbols, and the reader's ability to help make those symbols make sense to you. Human consciousness always seeks to find meaning in patterns, and with tarot, more frequently than not, that meaning can not only easily be found but can be quite powerful.
posted by hippybear at 7:16 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes yes, very interesting, but how do you initiate the social link??
posted by WhitenoisE at 8:23 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


You have to interact a certain number of times then make the right choices, WhitenoisE. Check the walk-through if you have any questions or don't want to have to try again.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:54 PM on August 27, 2012


I've been rebutting comments like these for years.

Your rebuttal is not convincing. You may have an enlightened view of Tarot, but you are joking if you think that is what most fortune tellers are saying to people. Right down the road from me is a store front with a neon sign saying "Fortune Teller", she advertises Tarot, astrology, and palm readings. I can just about guarantee that she is not talking about experiencing mythology and symbolism in your daily life. That woman is using Tarot as divination. As are a large number of other Tarot readers.

To suggest that I am somehow ignorant because I think Tarot is about divination is incredible arrogance. The world does not revolve around your understanding of things. The meaning and use of Tarot includes every charalatan who uses the cards to swindle people. I have never encountered an enlightened Tarot card reader like yourself, I have only see signs advertising fortune telling.
posted by Flood at 4:37 AM on August 28, 2012


I, I suspect like you, Flood, loathe all forms of purported divination and supernaturalism. But you did ask your question a long way down a thread full of materialist tarot readers, with scarcely a mystical hint anywhere. It rather suggested that either you hadn't read the thread, were discounting the experiences of other commenters or flat out thought they were lying when they described the value that they find in non-divinatory Tarot readings.
posted by howfar at 5:14 AM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


The world does not revolve around your understanding of things... I have never encountered an enlightened Tarot card reader like yourself, I have only see signs advertising fortune telling.

Except for in this thread, where you have encountered several of them. It seems to me like you are the one who is trying to make the world revolve around your own personal experiences.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:19 AM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


You may have an enlightened view of Tarot, but you are joking if you think that is what most fortune tellers are saying to people.

But your initial comment wasn't "do con-artist 'fortune tellers' use Tarot." Your initial comment was:

are you suggesting that there is such a thing as "a valuable reading" of Tarot cards. Seriously? Isn't it all just bullshit.

And we were saying that yes, there are people who use it in a non-bullshit manner.

The fact that there are con-jobs does not negate the fact that there are people who don't act like Miss Cleo about it. Just like Ben Bernake does not negate the use of currency as a means of legal tender, even thoug he used currency to work his con job.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:44 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


You may have an enlightened view of Tarot, but you are joking if you think that is what most fortune tellers are saying to people. Right down the road from me is a store front with a neon sign saying "Fortune Teller", she advertises Tarot, astrology, and palm readings. I can just about guarantee that she is not talking about experiencing mythology and symbolism in your daily life. That woman is using Tarot as divination. As are a large number of other Tarot readers.

To suggest that I am somehow ignorant because I think Tarot is about divination is incredible arrogance. The world does not revolve around your understanding of things. The meaning and use of Tarot includes every charalatan who uses the cards to swindle people. I have never encountered an enlightened Tarot card reader like yourself, I have only see signs advertising fortune telling.


Ah, I see the problem. You have a generalized view of tarot users which is false.
posted by hippybear at 5:45 AM on August 28, 2012


I guess it is one of those days when I just don't get the metafilter community. Organized religion is frequently attacked, but the community will rally to defend Tarot Cards. Odd.
posted by Flood at 6:04 AM on August 28, 2012


Flood: here's the crux of our pushback.

YOU: That's ridiculous, no one uses tarot other than using it to con people, do they?
A WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE: Yeah, I do.
YOU: Bullshit, all the people I see using it are trying to con people.
A WHOLE BUNCH OF US: ...What are we, then, chopped liver?

Also, organized religion is "frequently attacked" only by a consistent handful of people, not "the whole of Metafilter."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:13 AM on August 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh dear. Of course we'll defend Tarot cards, they're just cards. One does not have to reject every trapping associated with belief systems one disagrees with, that's cargo-cult scepticism. I am a critic of organised religion, but I will defend Gothic architecture and Handel's Messiah. In fact, defending Tarot cards while condemning cartomancy is even easier to defend than that, as Tarot cards don't even have their origins in divination, but rather in card games. As no-one is defending divination, I can't imagine why you'd want them to join you in condemning the use of some pictures on cardboard for the purpose of non-mystical personal reflection.
posted by howfar at 6:13 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


I really only see organized religion taken down on MetaFilter when it's swindling people, causing harm, or is trying to legislate their belief system into applying legally to those who aren't members of their church.

Honestly, I've thought more than a few times about hanging a shingle and doing readings for people other than friends and friends of friends or people at a party or some other gathering where I decide to bring out my cards, but I'd not want customers who are looking for divination or whatnot. My readings aren't like that. They can, at times, take on a cloak of specificity (and for the one receiving the reading, they frequently do even if I'm unaware of it), but I make it clear from the outset that all I'm doing is giving them something to think about which may give them some perspective. Nothing more.
posted by hippybear at 6:34 AM on August 28, 2012


To suggest that I am somehow ignorant because I think Tarot is about divination is incredible arrogance.

Flood, even a cursory skimming of the wikipedia page on Tarot would tell someone that there's a plenty more afoot than what your local storefront hustler is up to. Jumping derisively into a fairly thoughtful conversation on a subject that one knows nothing about is a greater arrogance, in my opinion.

Also, I never said that Tarot isn't about divination. Quite the opposite! The problem is that your average hustler isn't divining at all, they're cold reading. If you want to know the difference, the interview I linked to above goes into it at length.
posted by hermitosis at 7:13 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not too much of a derail, I hope - the idea of non-woo readings is totally new and fascinating to me. Can anyone recommend a good starter's deck and / or resources in general?
posted by ominous_paws at 7:14 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm no expert, ominous_paws, but I've found the modern standard Rider-Waite deck to be a good starting point. I would also be interested to hear from people with a broader experience, specifically about decks that might be helpful in narrative construction and visualisation exercises.
posted by howfar at 7:20 AM on August 28, 2012


Robert M. Place agrees, and I think his book (linked upthread) is really excellent guide for that deck, particularly for those who want a stripped down, historically sound idea of exactly what's on them and what to do with them.
posted by hermitosis at 7:24 AM on August 28, 2012


In additionl to what howfar and hermitosis say, there is an online guide I've used as a "cheat sheet" when doing a spread for myself - I'll link it later tonight (can't find it at work as I'm sure the net-nanny will block my search).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:51 AM on August 28, 2012


The online sites I've used are learntarot.com, tarotteachings.com, and biddytarot.com.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:20 AM on August 28, 2012


I started to read tarot cards in high school. I had a fairly non-woo view of them - when I was being honest about it, anyway, usually among friends. I was seventeen; it's fun at that age to mess with people; doubly so using Occult Things.

Like pretty much everyone here, I saw them as sort of an inkblot test: what you perceive from the cards says more about you than about the magical properties of bits of pasteboard to perceive the ever-changing future.

My favorite one was, and still is, the simple yes-no answer: if the card is upright, then the answer is yes. If inverted, no. People would be either relieved or dismayed, and I'd point out -- so, you wanted the other thing? It was great seeing the light bulb go on. Cool stuff. It's a card, it doesn't control anything, but you just learned which outcome you want. Just like flipping a coin and seeing which side you want.

Back in high school, there was one particular guy I'd had a longstanding Friendly Animosity with - we'd swap political barbs and snark at each other, but in a pretty harmless way. He swore up and down that what I was doing was bullshit and then demanded I do a reading for him. What he asked: Will I get into politics?

Now. Everyone who knew the guy knew that was his ambition at the time. So I put the cards out, read them, and declared: you have the resources, but you have to decide whether you're actually going to do it or not. He seemed a bit startled by that. I think he was expecting me to either mock him or say I saw him as a senator, not -- you know, being realistic about it.

Dude died of a heart attack at the age of twenty-seven, leaving behind four children and eight groaning pallbearers, having never got further politically than yelling at the evening news for being wrong. He decided not to pursue it, I suppose.

Cards don't know a damn thing. But what you think and say, while you play with them, can be illuminating.
posted by cmyk at 9:29 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


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