There are many variants of the tarot with different numbers of cards – from the Visconti tarot which seems to be integral, to the Venetian or Bolognese, to the Marseilles, to the Mantegna tarot, or Thoth, Wirth, or the used Rider-Withe, or even Osho’s Zen tarot – and there are even sets with specific destinations such as the tarot of dreams, or angels What are the differences between them and why are there so many variants? Which do you recommend as the most complete?
At present there are indeed many variants and tarot decks but to appreciate their destination or the degree of completeness I think it is an extremely subjective approach. Besides, nothing about the tarot is necessarily clear, starting from the history of this mysterious deck of cards. . If we refer to the most used tarot decks, most of them have 78 cards, 22 Major Arcana and 58 Minor Arcana (the forerunners of today’s card game, the suit of sticks, cups, swords and coins became the suit of clubs, hearts, spades and diamonds). From this point of view, all the decks we have access to are complete. There are, less often, decks with a different number of arcana, such as the Minchiate Tarot which has 97 cards.
Perhaps in this context it is worth mentioning that there are two approaches to the origin of the tarot. A scientific or historical approach based on which the Tarot appears somewhere in the late fourteenth century, and a mystical approach that places the first Tarot decks in connection with the extinct civilization of Atlantis.
According to the first approach, one of the oldest tarot decks is the one that belonged to Charles VI, also known as the “mad king”. Gringonneur is the one who made it for the fun of the king who seems to have gone mad after an inexplicable event that took place in the forest of Le Mans on August 4, 1392.
Charles VI was very interested in alchemy and spent a lot of time deepening this royal art. He also wrote a very beautiful poem considering that all this work of purification and transmutation that the king could do on him will serve to transmute and transform the environment in which he exists. This idea is then taken up in the legends of the search for the Holy Grail – if the King is sick (Arthur) the Earth is sick, if the King is healed, the Earth is healed. We assume that the King represents the consciousness of the Earth, the matter. If I have a sick conscience, if I am not centered inside me, my physical body gets sick. But if I rely again on the life force of the Universe, the body reactivates. The connection between body and spirit is contained in the oldest writings on this planet.
Another legend is attributed to the tarot, according to which the last heirs of the wisdom of the Atlanteans managed to escape and transmitted to certain people, during their migration, part of their knowledge. Among these peoples we can mention the Hyperboreans and, especially, the Egyptian civilization.
In general, we can talk about French-inspired Tarot decks based on the Marseille Tarot (16th century) and Anglo-Saxon-inspired Tarot decks represented by the Rider-Waite Deck (19th century). You will notice a main difference in the position of Justice and the Strength that have been reversed in the latter case. Justice occupies the 8th position in the Marseille deck and the Strength the 11th, while in the case of the Rider-Waite deck they have been reversed.
The reason we have so many variants today is the fascination that the tarot had on those who came in contact with this mysterious deck. Artists such as Salvador Dali and his Tarot, members of secret organizations, Arthur Edward Waite member of Golden Dawn, fashion designers, you can watch the latest Dior 2021 collection, writers such as Georges Colleuil and the Tarot of Marrakech, have given their own symbolic interpretation of this mysterious deck.
If we look at the Tarot from a non-divinatory perspective, our goal is not to decode the Tarot but to learn how the study of these arcana allows us to better understand ourselves – a subjective study, not an objective one. Every arcane is a mirror of us – when we look at the Force or Justice we look at the Force and Justice within ourselves. The goal is not to analyze the arcana but to observe them to allow us to analyze ourselves.
For these reasons I cannot recommend a tarot deck but I can tell you that my choice when working with the Tarot in coaching or personal development sessions is the Tarot of Marseille. Why? Because it is perhaps the oldest widely used Tarot deck that has suffered the least subjective interpretations.
Does the tarot seem serious to you? It just seems like a fortune-telling game. Or maybe it helps us understand the present through the answers he gives to questions often just thought out and unspoken?
The first keywords returned to the simple search for tarot cards are the prediction of the future, fortune-telling, symbol, tarot decks or tarot readings. But from my point of view, and others too, it’s just an impression that it’s a game to predict the future. In one of his lectures, the writer, philosopher, psychotherapist George Colleuil said – The Tarot does not serve to read but to build the future.
Now it depends on who answers the question because guessing can also be serious if we refer to the lectures of Marie von Franz, one of the most appreciated disciples of Carl Jung. Gathered under the title Psychology of Divination, these lectures approach divination from the perspective of synchronicity. The real question is not “why did this happen?” but rather “what is most likely to happen significantly at the same time?”According to von Franz, the mental cause-effect pattern dissociates physical events from mental ones. Following this pattern we tend to see only the effects of physical events but are there no psychological causes for physical events and vice versa?
Although spontaneously associated with divination, the Tarot began to be used in psychotherapy offices and in personal development or coaching sessions starting with the second half of the twentieth century. Today many therapists, regardless of their training, use the tarot as a tool through which they can observe the interactions between conscious and unconscious. The well-known psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, approves the use of tarot cards through which, he believes, we can access the unconscious. For him, tarot cards are an easily accessible way to represent the archetypes of humanity, “active predispositions (…) that preform and instinctively influence our thinking, feeling and action”, fundamental human motives that remain in the collective subconscious of all people.
One of the most used ways of tarot cards in therapy is the projective method. During the session the client is asked to choose from the deck the card that best represents the problem or situation at hand. Then the metaphorical exploration of the represented image follows, which can often generate valuable insights for the person in question.
Uome Tarotists consider the tarot to be a symbolic summary of the Kabbalah. What do you think?
There are many tarot writers and tarot researchers who associate the symbolism of the latter with Kabbalah, I Ching, astrology or Yoga poses. I am not a specialist in Kabbalah, but from my point of view, this approach mirrors our symbolic life, as Jung calls it. The symbol, from the Greek symbalein – to put together, can be part of a therapeutic labor insofar as it promotes creativity and association with the personal life of the laborer.
Georges Colleuil says that the tarot represents the book of Western transformations in the same way that the I Ching is the book of transformations for the Orientals. Kabbalah, Tarot, Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of Life and Death), Alchemy, each represent a path of awareness. Which path we choose depends on the social and cultural context, on the signs that surround us and become or have the potential to become healing symbols.
“Why use tarot?” is the question immediately asked by the uninitiated. What is the main quality of its divinations? That it does not lie and offers objective and, very often, concrete solutions?
I couldn’t tell you why to use tarot from the point of view of divination because I don’t work with the tarot like that. What I can tell you is that from a therapeutic or self-knowledge perspective the tarot does not offer answers or solutions but rather asks us questions. I said above that each arcana is a mirror of the applicant’s personal, subjective experience. If we are open to the prospect that we have all the answers inscribed in us then, insofar as we are still looking for them, we may not have asked the right question. From this point of view, the Tarot, this catalog of symbols, offers us a framework in which to project what we already know.
How long are the tarot spreads valid?
As a practitioner and trainer in the Referential Birth Chart method that uses the Tarot of Marseilles and taking into account everything I have told so far, the spreads in the spirit of the method are valid, if I may say so, as long as they make sense to the person laboring. When they turn to divination, people look for answers, when they turn to tarot from the perspective of the frame of Referential Birth Chart, they will not receive answers but questions, somewhat similar to coaching.
There is talk of a certain energy that surrounds the arcana of the tarot. Is there such energy and how can we use it?
I do not know what specific energy you are referring to, but, as I said, the tarot is a symbolic tool. If we connect to this energy and inscribe the symbol in our lives then we are on a therapeutic path. Everything that favors the symbolic experience in an individual’s life can lead him to a better self-understanding – dreams, astrology, numerology, tarot, etc.
Of all the hypotheses regarding the etymology of the name tarot, the most accepted seems to be the one from ancient Egypt, “tar gor” which means the Royal Way. Is the tarot a “royal way”, open to ordinary mortals, or just a “way of kings”, of the great initiates?
TAR GOR is a possible etymology of the word tarot which designates the idea of royal way but I believe that, symbolically and metaphorically, each of us is on this path. We are or should be the kings of our own inner life. It is a path open to all if they want to walk on it. We can explore with tarot the history of humanity but also our personal history, on a social, psychological and spiritual level. Here’s a good question for reflection: What path are you on today?
The great Tarotists consider that the world of images on a deck is the common point between tarot and dreams and certain protocols even allow us to interrogate our dreams, although in general we do not remember them or when we remember them we do not understand them. Can the Tarot help us to exploit the content of dreams?
Yes, it can. I will give you an example from the creator of the referential method himself, Georges Colleuil. A protocol for working with them is called reverential (reve = dream in French). Having as a starting point the date of the dream, 13 houses can be calculated, positions that offer next to the decoding grid the possibility to give a symbolic meaning to the dream.
The common point between dreams and tarot is related to the production of the image; probably the creators of the tarot had access to the archetypal images inside them. The Tarot is a way to add a subtitle, to bring complementary information. He invites us to answer the question: What does the dream expect from the dreamer?
How can the symbolic world of the Tarot help us find a meaning to our existence?
It depends on how we work with it. In the Referential Birth Chart method we work the meaning with the arcana calculated for the position of the life mission but also with what is called the filiation triangle in which we can analyze the parental project (what parents, consciously or not, wanted for us) versus our personal project (what we want to accomplish).
For example, we can work with the Hanged Man, Arcana XII in the Tarot of Marseilles, the way we relearn to ask for forgiveness which can lead us to a personal work of self-forgiveness.
What does this mean? Sometimes we are left speechless, bound hand and foot, suspended in time sometimes due to resentment, other times due to guilt. What if we removed our hands from behind, metamorphosed into skilled acrobats (maybe the Acrobat from the Tarot of Marrakesh, created by Georges Colleuil) and tried to look at the situation from another angle?
Both resentment and guilt keep us stuck, keep us connected. Or in order to truly forgive, we must first of all forgive ourselves. We need to detach ourselves from the attachments of the EGO and carry that inner work with ourselves necessary to restore self-confidence. And this confidence comes with the assumption that apologizing does not necessarily mean obtaining forgiveness. It is a normal need to wait for forgiveness, but if we press too hard to get it, we will reduce the value of a sincere apology, said with the best of intentions.
In the spirit of the invitation to detach ourselves from the attachments of the EGO, the Hanged Man sends us another invitation – A good excuse is not about you, says Dr. Harriet Lerner.
The tarot is said to be a fountain of symbols. Can it quench our thirst to know, to find out? How?
Can it? Perhaps the right question is what we are looking for to know or find out. Are we not seeking to know ourselves or to find ourselves? The tarot becomes a symbol if it allows us to reflect on the meaning that offers the possibility of healing labor. The tarot gives us a direction but let’s be careful not to see signs everywhere.
What forces are contained in the arcana of the tarot? How can these seemingly magical and difficult-to-understand forces be used?
I believe that the forces we think are contained in the tarot question us about our own forces, inscribed in ourselves, forces that are difficult for us to access or use. Maybe because of some limiting beliefs we have formed, maybe because of a process of devaluation or self-devaluation, maybe because of the conscious (or not) interdictions that we have imposed on ourselves, these forces are difficult to use. If unlocking our potential by consciously working with ourselves means magic then there is magic in tarot.
What are the secrets considered to be of passage, the ones that hide the moments of our choices, when we are at the crossroads or at the borders of destiny?
A great arcana of passage is the Lover, the sixth arcane in the Tarot of Marseilles. We see here a character at a crossroads, and after many, we are in an arcana of choices. The Lover is about choices, about learning that the only way to advance, to move forward on the road, is to choose not to choose. It tells us about the choice between a known and an unknown path, but as arcana of passage it reminds us that there is no choice of the woman or man to live with, there is only the choice of the being we want to be. Choosing to be is much more important than choosing to have; here is one of the great lessons of this transition.
A great arcana of the family, the Lover speaks to us about the idea of symbolically leaving our family in order to establish ours, of getting rid of programs and beliefs that do not belong to us in order to advance. Last but not least, the Lover tells us about the Myth of Oedipus and about the issue of recognition.
The Chariot, the arcana number VII in the tarot of Marseilles, brings the authorization we give ourselves to be ourselves. The Hermit, as arcana of passage, reminds us of Tiresias, who is blind but sees. This true speleologist of tarot invites us to make the transition inward, to descend into the depths of our being and to discover our inner sun, which we can then wisely share with others.
And if with the Chariot we find the passage when we give ourselves permission, with the Wheel of Fortune we can only pass if we know who we are. The great arcana of self-knowledge, the Wheel of Fortune invites us to make the transition from repetitive family patterns to our personal projects, to free ourselves from the conditionings of the past in order to be able to take the winch, to symbolically take our lives in our own hands.
The Hanged Man, XII, symbolizes the repaired abandonment, the one that leaves the passage through the capacity to look at things and oneself in a different way, from another perspective. It proposes that we get rid of the attachments of the EGO and surrender to the universe with confidence in ourselves and others.
The Fool is the one who traces the passage, the only one who could tell the King the truth without fear that he would be left without a head. He exists beyond space and time, the only countless arcane in the tarot, and he feels everywhere at home because, in his wisdom, he made his way to be his goal.
Some reflections on the arcana of passage in the vision of Georges Colleuil and the Reference of Personal Archetypes that I conclude with the invitation to reflect on the idea that the outside will never offer us any solution. Only our intuition, intelligence and heart know the answers we seek with so much zeal outside of our own being.
What do you think of the tarot, is it just a simple card game, with some divinatory virtues? Or a set of archetypal, deep symbols, created perhaps – as some specialists believe – even before the appearance of the alphabet?
I believe I answered above.
Where do you think the deep fascination of the tarot comes from? From the power of the symbols contained or from the fact that it can answer questions?
Because it hides a secret – arcanum = secret.
I would add here a story collected by Isabelle Nadolny, historian and tarot researcher. A story that captures the fascination for mystery and what is hidden.
Long ago, the sages, keepers of the occult tradition in Egypt, met to discuss a serious issue. Because of their prophetic qualities, they were sure that the world would end (their civilization) and with it the temples of the gods and the initiatory schools where the Truth was passed from master to disciple. A way was needed to preserve the most important aspects of this truth so that when the time came it could be revealed again. “Let’s engrave it on the walls of the temples,” said one. Someone objected that they would not withstand time and weather. “Let’s engrave them in a strong metal,” said another. „But if the metal is too expensive it will be desirable and if it is not, it will oxidize,” said another. “Let us entrust it to a virtuous man who will pass it on to another virtuous man and so on until the Truth is again known and understood.” “But even the purest soul can be tempted,” replied a sage.
The youngest of the followers said: “Let us use the vices, sins, the lowest passions of man to store our secret teaching. Let us express it through seemingly innocent figures which, multiplying endlessly, will serve to satisfy the most vivid passion of to man, the passion for the game. Let us entrust to the energies of evil the germ of Truth which includes the condition of salvation and happiness of mankind “. This proposal was accepted. (Gerard van Rijinberk Tomber, Estonia’s vice-consul, heard it at a secret society meeting before the Bolshevik Revolution)
There is more and more talk lately, related to tarot, about the Referential Birth Chart. Is it a method of tarot psychotherapy? What does the method do and what does it entail?
Georges Colleuil, psychotherapist, philosopher and founder of the therapeutic method RBD (Referential Birth Chart), created a projective method, symbolic and profound, a method of exploring the human soul.
Starting from the anniversary date, RBD offers us a fascinating mirror of self-knowledge through the arcana of the Tarot. Starting from the anniversary date are calculated 14 houses and 14 corresponding arcana (tarot cards) that offer the possibility to deepen the unknown in us that wants to be brought to light: personality, potential, resources, shadows, blockages, hesitations, calls, personal projects and unconscious parenting projects, blessings, guidance, hope.
What is the Referential Birth Chart? A method of self-knowledge and a useful tool in working with people that combines symbol therapy, the archetypes present in the 22 major arcana, and the personal intuition of both the client and the practitioner of the method.
In order to compose the Referential Birth Chart it is necessary to match the fourteen arcana (thirteen major and one minor) obtained by a numerological calculation with the fourteen houses, each house corresponding to a different aspect of existence.
We find illustrated in the arcana of the tarot the great concepts of modern psychoanalysis and psychology. This supports the psychological dimension of the tarot and the therapeutic force of the symbols. The Referential Birth Chart provides the framework in which the secrets (the word arcana comes from the Latin arcanum which means secret) are revealed symbolically and by projection to the one who walks on this path. However, it is not about secrets external to our being but about what the specialized literature calls the unconscious. Inscribing the symbol in personal life is a therapeutic way.
We can think of TAROT as the place where our personal history is staged and we can ask ourselves:
What is happening in these images and is happening in my life as well?
Interview with Monica Măgureanu published in Avantaje magazine – September 2021