Tarot and other oracles, or, your mileage may vary

What do you do when you are really interested in something, really engaged by it, at least briefly, and you realize that… it just doesn’t work for you?

A while back I wrote about taking up the study of Tarot again. You didn’t hear anything more about that because my commitment to the activity withered away fairly quickly. Over the last twenty-odd years, I have repeatedly turned my attention (and my money) toward the study of Tarot. Any sort of magical training that’s even distantly related to the Golden Dawn tradition, any kind of ceremonial magic, will recommend that one do daily exercises and then divinations with the Tarot. I’ve done that, and I have to admit, finally, that I’ve always had the same reaction to the practice: I never quite grasp the Tarot, and I short-circuit my own intuition when I try to use it.

Tarot confuses me. I have a fascination for the cards, for their world of imagery, for the art of different decks. I have a basic intellectual understanding of their meanings. But I never quite grok the system well enough to make it apply to my life. I lay out the cards, look at six different books, write everything up, blink and frown, and put the cards away feeling just as uncertain as before I took them out, if not more so.

When I was practicing as a druid, I used the Ogham for divination. I think I related better to the Ogham, which are, like the Runes, essentially letters. Perhaps my mind just doesn’t work in pictures in the way that Tarot requires? I meditated a good deal on the associations of the Ogham, each of which has not only a tree but a bird, a color, a tool, a profession, and other qualities attached to it in the system developed by John Michael Greer, and it felt like a good working system. I still was often confused, though.

When I became involved with polytheism, I started approaching divination as asking divinities for advice or direction rather than as asking an oracle, whether that be Tarot or Ogham or Runes. Does Antinous like this offering? Is Venus pleased with this poem I wrote for her feast? Do I have permission to start a new blog about my Antinoan practice? At first I just used a pendulum, yes/no, and I found I was getting responses that made sense. It often helped if I prefaced my questions with a general, “Will you answer some questions about X for me at this time?” I found myself learning to refine my questions and put myself in a right frame of mind before asking in a way I hadn’t with Tarot.

After a while, I started experimenting with the Ephesia Grammata. Everything I know about the Ephesia Grammata, the Ephesian letters, I learned from PSVL, who has written extensively about them on eir blog and concisely in a small book. As a divination system, they are six or seven Greek words that represent shades of yes or no from “Fuck yeah!” to “Nope. Just nope”. They are also linked to the Tetrad++ and can be considered powerful spirits in their own right. Not being the craftiest person who ever became a pagan, I wrote the words carefully in Greek letters and in English on six half-index cards and used that to start with. The E.G. work very well for me as a medium between myself and my primary deities.

The funny thing, though, the really odd thing, is that the less I use Tarot and maybe specific forms of divination in general, the more my intuition kicks in. Several times over the past week, something happened that my intuition pinged ahead of time, nothing major, just minor setbacks of daily life, and I realized I’d *known* this was coming but hadn’t identified the signal as an intuitive one worth paying attention to. The trick, for me, seems to be this: Keep up regular spiritual practice, make up your own mind, have the courage of your convictions, and only bother the gods for specific stuff you can’t figure out on your own.

All that said, I salute people who can divine with Tarot, or any other system, who can read well for other people, and I gratefully consult them when stuff seems really unclear. I’m happy to leave most divination to the professionals and admit that I’ll probably never be one of them. A guy I once worked with said of his New-Agey boyfriend, “He can’t decide what socks to put on in the morning without consulting his spirit guides.” Don’t be that guy. Divine responsibly. Peace out.


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Writer, musician, polytheist, and friend of birds. I like science fiction, fantasy, and superheroes a lot.

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