Imagine yourself in my worn out, yet still fabulous shoes: You’re in the midst of a Tarot reading that is insightful, exciting, revelatory and the querent is eating it all up with a glittery spoon. You feel like this:
Suddenly, you’re stuck! You’ve pulled a card whose meaning you just can’t remember and you open the Little White Book tucked into the deck’s box. Not only does the published meaning not relate to the meaning, it is so off-base that the LWB pretty much points and laughs at you, jumps out of your hand and crawls back into the box. The delicious stream of consciousness is smashed like a cockroach on the bathroom floor. You feel like this:
If this happens, it’s time to move past the Little White Book.
The LWB can be helpful. Perhaps you’ve got a radical new deck portraying familiar cards in an unconventional way. The LWB can help you orientate yourself with the perspective of the deck’s artist, which can provide a better understanding and enhance your readings. The LWB is light, easy to carry, and always there for you when you get really stuck. But despite its best intentions, the LWB can inhibit more than help. In fact, when I published a Tarot deck last year, I encouraged people to ignore the LWB and develop their own meanings for the cards.
The Little White Book should be treated as a guide to the deck, but not the final authority on the cards’ meanings. Most Little White Books only provide two or three lines of interpretation for a single card, when a single card could easily have a hundred or more interpretations. When the intuitive voice of the Tarot is coming through, reaching for that LWB can stop an authentic, insightful reading.
So, how does a reader get out from under the crutch of the Little White Book? How do we become our own LWB?
The key is in the images.
Tarot reading is historically an intuitive craft. It important for Tarot folk to remember that the Tarot came into its role as a divinatory device in 1400-1500s—a time when many people were illiterate and therefore LWBs were not part of the equation. Readings were most likely either intuitive or based on systems developed by families or teacher-to-student, or some sort of combination. It is the pictures on the cards that are the keys to tap into our own subconscious and this intuitive ability. When we let the pictures do the talking, there is no limit to what the Tarot can tell us. Let yourself answer the following questions when looking at a Tarot card: If the card contains characters, what are the characters doing? Where are they going? What is the result going to be? If the card does not contain characters, what emotions or feelings do the colors inspire? Does the arrangement of the objects remind you of anything in particular? Look at the card and pretend you’re taking an inkblot test: What is the first thing that comes to your mind?
I allow for any potential inspiration based on the card’s picture to help illustrate the reading. I pay attention to song lyrics it might inspire, quote from movies, a sudden thought of a person, e.g., “For some reason, this 2 of Cups is reminding me of my sister today…are you worried about your baby sister?” One thing to do is to make a practice deck: photocopy a Tarot deck and cut the numbers and titles off each card. Start working with the images themselves, not what you are striving to remember from the LWB’s depiction. For example, take the following card from the Medieval Scapini deck:
I’ve been working with the Medieval Scapini for seven years and have long since lost its Little White Book. Therefore, I have no idea what Luigi Scapini meant the card to mean (which happens to be the 7 of Wands). But whenever I pull that card, I focus on the guy yelling at a bunch of people who have no interest in what he’s saying. Perhaps the querent is going unheard? Maybe the querent is doing right to ignore nagging influences in their life? It would depend on the question. Again, I’ve been working with this deck for seven years and am only now, as I write this blog post, seeing the little tennis racket in the guy’s hand. If getting this in a reading, I might take the card to mean that physical exercise is important to the situation. (It’s probably a message to me to turn off the laptop and get off the couch…) But the next time I pull this card in a reading, I hope to forget everything I’ve ever concocted about it and let the card reveal something new through its picture.
The energies of the moment and the person you’re reading for (or yourself, if doing a self-reading) are the prime motivators for the reading. These energies will trigger your mind to see particulars in the cards’ images. It is in these particular images that the true message will show.
Allow yourself to forget everything you previously thought you knew about the card and read the pictures in the way a child might tell a story from a picture book. When you get a new Tarot deck, read the Little White Book but ultimately, be your own Little White Book. Draw upon your interpretations. But be willing to rewrite yourself each time you draw a card.
About the author:
Courtney Weber is a Priestess, writer, Tarot Advisor, performer and activist originally from Portland, OR now residing in New York City. Since beginning the study of Tarot at the age of 15, Courtney has gained a national clientele base and is a highly popular Tarot consultant at corporate, community and underground arts events in the Northeast Region and teaches Tarot workshops on both coasts. She is the producer and designer of “Tarot of the Boroughs,” a contemporary, Urban Tarot deck set in New York City with photography by George Courtney. Follow her on Twitter @cocotarot, her blog at agirlcalledwoo.blogspot.com or see Tarot of the Boroughs at www.tarotoftheboroughs.com. She is available for readings via email, Skype and phone: Courtney@tarotoftheboroughs.com.