The River Was Dry

Country singer Hank Williams once wrote a country blues song called “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” that contained the verse:

“And then I jumped in the river, but the doggone river was dry.”

Funny thing about trying to read for oneself on a daily basis, especially after doing it for years on end. Eventually it can seem more like background noise than useful insight. Even if one’s goal is spiritual or psychological self-awareness and advancement, there are only so many times you can go to the well before you start carrying  the same metaphysical water. Even if there are necessary lessons in the cards that you simply refuse to learn, it seems that you need either a new coach or a different playbook to make the most of them. Once you have acquired the offered education, there is no longer a need to approach the cards in the same relentless way.

I’m amused by people who get sanctimonious about the “higher purpose” of the tarot. I place the blame squarely on the New Age “psychologizing” of all kinds of esoteric study back in the ’70s and ’80s. If Jung hadn’t “happened” to tarot, tarot would not have “happened” to the anxious and frustrated hordes seeking meaning in their increasingly incomprehensible lives. The cards are readily accessible and at least seem to speak the seeker’s language at some level of intelligible discourse. The problem arises when the message becomes a “loop” rather than an evolving narrative and nothing new is learned from the repetition.

I feel fortunate to have discovered Aleister Crowley early on, since his Thoth deck and Book of Thoth refuse to be pigeon-holed under the modern “self-help” and “affirmation” categories of inspirational literature. I’m beginning to feel the same way about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Way of Tarot, although his arrogant bombast at the beginning nearly put me off it. I like the fact that he is using the motivationally neutral Tarot de Marseille deck and has sworn off esoteric flights of imagination (there are numerous other writers who more than fill that void). Presently I’m in the middle of the section on the trump cards; despite his tendency to blather on a bit, I’m finding some gold among the expected miscellany of ideas.

Back on topic, when I read for myself with any regularity now, I do it to explore the “tone” of a particular period of time, which might be a day, a week or a month (typically a lunar month). I’ve created special spreads for each of these intervals (most of them posted here if you have the time and patience to dig them out), and sometimes more than one to address unique aspects of situational awareness or developmental opportunity. I seldom try to puzzle out future events from these readings, since I see tarot as more useful for exploring probabilities, tendencies and potential trends in emerging circumstances that I can then position myself to capitalize on. But sometimes I’m surprised by the literalness of the cards. It’s those times that keep me doing it.

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