Daily Draws: My Back Pages

In the 1964 “political apostasy” song My Back Pages, Bob Dylan’s refrain perfectly nailed my evolving attitude toward drawing one or more cards on a daily basis for anything other than learning purposes.

“Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

Back in “the day” (mid-1970s), only a couple of tarot books were readily available: Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth (emphatically not a beginner’s book), and Eden Gray’s three more approachable volumes, the best of which was The Tarot Revealed. All of these plunged the neophyte reader directly into using elaborate spreads, the exhausting full-deck “Opening of the Key” method in Crowley’s case, and the 10-card Celtic Cross in Gray’s. I learned the individual card meanings and effective ways to combine their interpretation into a seamless narrative through these intensive practices, and never thought about trying to read one, two or three cards every day as a way to slowly assimilate the tarot. Call it “jumping in at the deep end” or, more clinically, “accelerated maturation.”

When I joined the on-line New Age forums in 2011 after some time away from the tarot community, I found that the daily draw was considered one of the best “training-wheel” techniques for beginning students. The thinking was that one card at a time was all the uninitiated would be able to get their heads around without becoming confused and frustrated. Although I didn’t really need to at that point, I decided to try it for a while to see what the buzz was about.

This lasted for about a month, during which I carefully journaled my readings to see what I might learn that I hadn’t already encountered in my previous studies and practice. I soon found that, at least in my own case, trying to draw practical conclusions from a single card was like foraging for food in a sparsely-stocked cupboard. That card may offer a narrowly-focused status at the moment of the pull, but gives no glimpse of movement or direction that may ensue over the coming day. I eventually settled on the idea that it might well set the overall tone for the day but wouldn’t tell me much from the standpoint of divining possible situations or events. This was the low point of my “back to basics” experiment, since the effort wasn’t yielding anything useful in empirical terms.

I tried this background approach for a while with more satisfying results, although I eventually suspended my journaling. But I still wanted a convincing sense of  situational development that one card couldn’t provide, believing that, even in the course of a single day, scenarios can emerge that should be detectable at some level through the cards. So I moved on to three-card line draws, not so much as a “past/present/future” outlook as a progression from “Point A” to “Point C,” with “Point B” as a pivotal juncture in the affairs of the day. (As an aside, this also supports the use of Elemental Dignities [see my previous post on that subject] to examine the relative potency and ease of expression for the central focus card.) At around that time I began creating my own spreads at a furious rate and tried my hand at a few smaller layouts suitable for daily draws.

During this period I experienced one remarkable demonstration of the value of three-card spreads. I had the Tower come up three days in a row using three different decks, and on each day I had either a minor accident or a mechanical failure of some kind (mostly automotive) that neatly captured the small-scale trauma of a more routine “Tower” event. I began feeling encouraged about continuing my daily draws.

More recently, I designed a pair of multi-card layouts that I’ve been using more-or-less daily as a “tone-setting” exercise, which I still believe is the most reasonable expectation for the regular use of the practice. On most days, as Monty Python once aptly portrayed in their sketch “A Minute Passed” (http://www.montypython.net/scripts/minutepassed.php), from minute-to-minute, “nothing happens.” However, they aren’t simple line spreads, in one case involving astrological principles and in the other a three-way split of the deck between trump, court and minor cards. I posted them previously in this earlier and much briefer exposition on the subject:


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