The Science Behind Tarot

The Tarot of The Old Path Deck, by Sylvia Gainsford,
a member of The Fellowship of Isis, with the assistance of a coven of 8 witches
[Image Description: The Sun card from The Tarot of The Old Path deck laid face-up on the grass next to a citrine crystal]

All things occult are trending, and tarot has continuously been taking flight, with fresh gusts of wind propelling its utilization from all corners of the earth. Regardless of one’s religion, spiritual practices, or cultural background, tarot is a psychical tool gaining more and more utilization with every passing year. Industry trends in the US report an annual increase of 2.6% growth in the year 2021 alone, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Tarot is used for guidance, like an extra set of eyes giving insight into a situation, connection, conflict, exchange, relationship–any and every setting in our inner and outer worlds can be reflected upon. Within a single deck there is the totality and complexity of the human experience, and our specific place in the cosmos. As more people are benefitting from and taking delight in the addition of tarot to their spiritual practices and routines, let us take a moment to peak into its emergence, and first, its birth.

The Scattered-Seedling Start of Tarot

Tarot has its origins in what we know as the standard sold-at-the-corner-store deck of 52 four-suited playing cards. With time it became a divination tool, much like the way figurines, birds, stones, words on pages, dreams and sounds have been used for prophetic insight and spiritual symbolism across cultures and religions throughout the span of human history. Card games evolved into fate and destiny games, similar to MASH, the who-will-you-marry game played at recess, (where you end up divorced with a Cadillac, a tree-house for shelter, and 23 children).

Despite it’s start as a playful pastime, tarot gradually became fused with more characters, ancient symbols, and religious ideograms specific to the time and place of each deck’s creation. Tarot took shape and was added to by way of whatever existing beliefs, materials and symbols were swimming in the air.

Multiple Independent Discovery is the phenomenon of multiple individuals on earth, completely independent of one another, discovering and/or inventing the same thing, at the same time. This concept is parallel to and much like the origins of tarot. Robert M. Place, in his book, The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination, eloquently unravels the path of its genesis, and seamlessly reveals that its dawning is not from one particular time or place, but rather an entity in and of itself, being birthed in waves across continents.

Wealthy noblemen, and high members of societies across Italy and France, commissioned artists to create elaborate decks made just for them, based on specific roles and people they live under, amongst, and above. All classes in society used 52 cards of 4 suits and a 5th suit created by their own means, or created for them, but in decades to follow the Renaissance there were tides of lent and periods of scrutiny by the ruling class where many decks were destroyed. The particular deck that was produced and dispersed the most was the Tarot of Marseilles, by French manufacturer Grimaud, which is still the number one, as well as original producer of this deck today.

Today there is an endless array of choice and preference available for us, catering to our precise interests, aesthetic likings, beliefs and cultures. From Gummy Bear Tarot, to Cat Tarot, then all the way to Neoconservative Tarot, really nobody is being left out of the practice of tarot.

Tarot as Therapy–Why It Works

As human beings we have been applying meaning to the world around us, creating stories and symbols to make sense of and connect ourselves to existence, for a very long time. Navigating matters of the heart and spirit–what is right, what is harmful, whether to stay, go, say yes, sit still–has always been on the human experience agenda, and there are endless schools of thought to help steer us into places of emotional, mental and spiritual fulfillment. Tarot is just one of an infinite amount of instruments we have at our fingertips.

Sharing and listening to stories is the way we create meaning in the world, and differentiate between what feels right, and what we are doubtful of. Stories in the world tell us about ourselves, mirroring to us what we are more of, and showing us where we possess all that what we think we do not. Every character we have ever read or heard of, whether fiction or non-fiction, comes with clues as to who we are. In this way, the archetypes and images reflected back to us in tarot reveal where that particular energy lies in ourselves, allowing us to participate, or step away from that force. The same way our favorite childhood stories tell of heroes, and racing rabbits, and generous fairies–all in the name of planting morals in our hearts, oftentimes tarot calls us to rise to our truths, and step up in ways we have been downplaying our abilities. Then other times we draw cards telling us to be humble, to remember a higher purpose, to call upon help.

Then there is the mystical aspect, the mysteriousness of why it is, that in the entire deck of 78 cards, we draw the same 1-3 cards in rotation, sometimes those particular cards even falling out into your lap face-up. While many are understandable skeptical of the validity of tarot, we can liken its positive effects to many researched-based theories. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung explains that archetypes that come up in our dreams and waking world as a collective, circulate and pop up in our culture, from art to politics to world-wide movements, likes and dislikes. Projective tests, used in both the clinical and forensic world today, use images to bring out the unconscious emotions, desires and fears of individuals. Since they are not able to spend time thinking of what to say with their conscious mind, this is the most effective way for the assessor to extract truth from the querent. In this way, tarot reveals to us that which is hard to look at, often times opening the floor for us to confront that which we bury.

I believe that whether we have a tarot deck, a book of poems we received as a gift in the 8th grade, a collection of rocks, a playlist on shuffle, or we get out in a canoe and paddle into the horizon every morning, the world is teeming with tools available for us to listen to, observe and connect to our inner worlds. We are able to navigate by way of spirit, or you can call it intuition, or your inner compass, or whatever you want really, because no matter what the tool, language, activity, the truths that sweep over our lives will continuously reveal themselves to us, no matter how hard we try to shove them into a corner. That being said, as the truth-seekers we are, we might as well enjoy ourselves as we bloom and unfurl from these shadows! I recently received my first deck, as shown above, from my sister and have been using it for 2 months as means of reflection and guidance, and it has been extremely enriching as I embark on new ventures of every kind imaginable. I cannot think of a better time than now for me to have received one of the most delightful tools to draw inspiration and insight from, and I hope you enjoyed reading about some of the wonder I am diving into!

Thank you for reading if you made it this far, and remember to subscribe if you feel it!

Educating with Mindfulness in Hawai’i

I no longer say “Micronesian” when referring to any group in anyway; I list Chuukese, Marshallese, Kosraean, Yapese, Pohnpeian, Palauan, Woleaian, and there are probably more I’m missing. These are different languages, customs, traditions, and even dialects within the languages that sometimes don’t understand one another. As educators in Hawai’i we need to be more mindful and aware of the way we talk to, refer to, and handle decisions which affect students from these islands. We have to be careful we are not putting them al into the same “box”. We have to be careful about how we are making them feel about themselves. These kids are hurting for various reasons, from being separated from family members, being homesick and feeling suddenly deprived of all familiarity, then being mistaken for an identity they don’t understand. Some say they’d rather be referred to and thought of as “Polynesian” than openly share they are anything “Micronesian”. We have to take the time to learn about their thoughts. There are students who were raised here and speak English perfectly fine, yet they’re assumed to speak no English and are not called upon in class, or even challenged to rise to the occasion. I have had students tell me that upon arriving to their schools, their counselors immediately placed them into ESL classes without talking to them to find out if that was even needed. Students have shared that counselors question whether they passed classes in previous schools, and gave lower levels of math and science based on assumptions. Most students just let these kinds of things slide, eager to get by and not bring any attention to themselves. We have to take time to connect and get to know people we are handling and working amongst, despite the deadlines and procedures that surround us. The connection is what we are here for. When some first arrive, they are the kind of pure spirit that smiles and dances upon impulse, without shame or hesitation. They often love fishing, dancing and singing, and if you tell them to sit and work on something, it won’t be long before they’re looking out the window into the beautiful trees and at the birds. When they learn how to study for something, or understand a math concept for the first time, you’d be surprised at how they take that new understanding and run with it, excelling farther than you imagined. The structure of school does not allow them to show you everything they’ve got. Let’s change the way we lift them up and help them in a world they’re unfamiliar, (yet sometimes very familiar) with. Let’s let them be themselves and let them be proud of where they’re from. Let’s say their names right and over-applaud every small and big thing they accomplish. Let’s let them teach us. Let’s be real with them. Let’s simply love them and allow their innate desire to learn, express and excel simply be, without testing them with empty standards within a system which have no sincere meaning.

The above text was written after a particularly challenging week, and with a heavy heart about the way my students viewed themselves, and how many are being treated in and out of school. The following are links to articles with more information and depth into the issues they are facing in Hawaii.

This first link is from an article written in 2014 on Marshallese activist and poet, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, expressing views of being from these many islands of Micronesia, and growing up in Hawaii. 

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

The second link is one I shared with my students, because I feel she is an excellent role model and example. It is her WordPress site, which includes her reciting her poem for environmental justice at the United Nations Climate Summit.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner at UN Climate Change Summit

The third link is an article written by Civil Beat on the history, and complexity of their situations for leaving their homes and coming to Hawaii. 

Civil Beat on Civil Rights of Micronesian Immigration in Hawaii

This fourth and final link is revealing just how open the public seems to be about their disapproval and racist remarks, to where at one point it was openly shared on the radio. I still hear comments and jokes made like this today, sometimes in the fun way we joke about ourselves here in Hawaii, but sometimes with intentions of being vicious, whether conscious or subconscious… It just needs to stop. 

Racism in HI

 

Care: The Seed

“I tried, but he just doesn’t care!” Statements surrounding student achievement that revolve around the student(s) having no concern or care for their success always sting the space between my chest and pit of my stomach, where anger comes from. It is usually the kind of sting that results in frantic collections of things I could say in defense. I could say “Yes, they do care!” which needs to be followed by justification, and which in my first years of teaching I have had nothing to say. Recently, as I have been more vocal and defensive in conversations around the motivation kids do/do not have, then also because of more experiences with students, I have come up with a solid defense. This defense either sparks a fueled and solution-based discussion, or it is what stops the discussion entirely. Depending on the nature of the meeting and who is present, I have said it in different ways, but it is more or less the simple statement:

We need to show them they do care, and then what their individual reasons are for caring. 

Any business trying to sell something will do their absolute best to show you why you need their product. Television commercials are manipulated to seep into your psyche and tell you you are not complete, without this one material, that you have the opportunity to buy. Insurance companies will instill fear in your mind in order for you to feel that you need their policy. Boutiques will hand you a basket and welcome you into their store, sometimes even complimenting you, in order to make you feel like you belong there. Travel agencies will choose the best images and people to model the luxury you could experience in a place other than your own, flashing a price at the very end of the advertisement, after your desire for that experience is strongly in place. These tactics are used in attempts to stir your emotions up, and they often become driving forces in people’s lives, altering and forming decisions people make with their money, and ultimately, their time.

Alongside the stream of blaring ads, and subtle yet sneaky commercials, there is also a blatant interweaving of corporations using social media, music and television shows targeted at youth which enhance the aspirations to escape. Escape your natural image, and escape your surroundings. There is hardly a promotion of education, and oftentimes more disenchantment than enthusiasm for learning.

These are things we are up against as educators, particularly public educators. It is our responsibility to mold the intrinsic passion, which is apparent in everyone, and on an individual basis show them they do care, what their reasons are for caring, and what they can do with that care. The reasons are not the same for everyone, which is why we don’t reach every single student. Equally so, the things they do with the care are not the same for everyone. As we are entering into this new era of technology, ease of communication, and accessible information, the fusion of career pathways and skills will be employed more and more. Individuals have unique skills that they can use for distinctive positions.

The first step of any endeavor is activating that place that causes us to take action with intention of performing at 100%. A leader wanting to move people into action will prepare a speech, have people look it over, then practice. The speech is intended to stir people, and transfer the amount of care the leader has, to the audience. The root of consistently doing something well, is always care. If you are a company looking to hire a new employee, and have two candidates, you would hire the one most passionate about the field–one with the drive to carry out the lengthiest of tasks, over the candidate with more experience, yet no passion. You want your business to move, grow, and expand, with precision and attention to detail. This kind of consistent work ethic requires a high level of care.

What if educators had this business standpoint about selling education to our students? What if we had to market our classes to students in order for them to buy in? Would we then go to great lengths, and stir up the enthusiasm of our clientele? What if the first couple of weeks of class were spent showing and instilling the care levels, on individual basis’? Like a football team preparing for their last game of the season, which would mean a championship, what if we reached their hearts and filled them with the kind of momentum that would make them stop at nothing until they had their goal? What if we spent time learning what made each of our kids tick instead of immediately assuming they all did for the same reasons?

Also, what if we all revisited our drive to become educators, and examine our own desires, our own care. Education for all, and bridging the achievement gap, largely depends on this root driving force of care. We need to have gallon sizes of love and care for our professions, and with that we can pass it on to our kids. We can try all the tactics in the world, and then continuously strive to “sell” education to our kids with the overflowing amount of care we nourish within us.