I’ve been having an interesting discussion with another tarot writer about the distinctions between the “esoteric” and “exoteric” branches of tarot practice. The former is commonly held to be the domain of serious study in occult symbolism and correspondences, while the latter is better suited to practical divination. Although I used the esoteric Thoth deck exclusively for both purposes over several decades and never knew any different, I found upon buying an RWS deck in 2011 that it is indeed well-favored for a reading approach like mine that leans heavily on metaphorical interpretation.
I realized yesterday that I’ve never tried to join the two deck types in a multi-deck reading, mainly because my goal has always been to avoid introducing any jarring dissimilarities in style. But in thinking about it, a single spread could encompass two paths: call one the “high road” of exalted self-discovery and the other the “low road” of more mundane pursuits. An esoteric deck that speaks eloquently to the realm of higher consciousness could be used for one path, and a more prosaic deck for the other. Challenge time!
What I came up with was a bit of fun that seeks to define one’s “tarot persona” in this light. I envision it as the “tarot gods” revealing what they really think of you. My model echoes Jung’s four cognitive functions, but with the “action” of Fire standing in for Jung’s “intuition.” The eight cards in the draw serve as adverbs that modify the alternate modes of expression for the central verbs, while the “quintessence” cards show the potential for “becoming” on each path. I call the quint the “avatar” of one’s ultimate purpose, and think it could be used as a personal Significator instead of a court card when exploring more profound questions. You will need an esoteric deck for the “high road” (Thoth, Tabula Mundi, Liber T, Hermetic or similar) and a more exoteric one (RWS or clone, Tarot de Marseille, etc) for the “low road.” Reversals aren’t used, since there is no place to hide from the pitiless gaze of the gods!