Turn of the Tide

It’s probably obvious that I really love the tarot. It’s been a faithful companion on my life’s journey since I first discovered it around 1970; it brings out my contemplative side in the same way that philosophy does, thanks mainly to the writing of Aleister Crowley, whom I admire as a thinker and scholar if not as a human being. It may sometimes “speak in tongues,” limited in its transparency by my inability to decipher its language, but there is always a nugget of truth in its testimony (which in all honesty is simply a reflection of my own subconscious perception of reality). If the Universe talks to us in symbolic terms, it is through the channel of our subliminal understanding, and I flatter myself by thinking that I’ve been able to filter out much of the chaotic “static” that comes over the psychic airwaves (with the help of writers like Joseph Maxwell) to approach at least a semblance of wisdom. I’m fond of Yoav Ben-Dov’s observation that, in tarot interpretation, “Everything is a sign.”  However, in my own experience, there are signs and there are signs, and not all carry the same weight. I generally draw the line at those that purport to tell what someone not present is thinking or feeling, since I don’t find psychological profiling to be the tarot’s strong suit.

But beginning in 2012 I set my feet on a new path. I find that I really, really love the Lenormand system of divination. If I need any better evidence of its practical precision, I would have to go far before I find a more telling example than the reading I posted yesterday. Lenormand yields its observations in concise and highly coherent bites that demand discipline on the part of the reader to not over-inflate the simple yarns it is so good at spinning. Having jumped in at the deep end of the pool with the 36-card Grand Tableau, I’m slowly working my way backward into smaller, more sharply focused spreads, with the result that I’m being forced to muster the requisite discipline. It’s an invigorating experience, after spending so many years navigating the multi-layered and therefore sometimes murky waters of the tarot through application of imaginative (and ideally inspired) free-association from the images, to encounter a”goldmine” of  literal meaning in the cards of the Lenormand deck (please, not that clumsy New-Age Americanism, “Lennies”). If I see the Lovers in a tarot reading, I might reach the conclusion that it represents a “crossroads” in the situation (among several other equally compelling possibilities) that demands a decision of the querent, but if I pull the Crossroads card in a Lenormand spread there is almost zero waffling about its interpretation. This is about as close to a “what you see is what you get” system of cartomancy as we are likely to come, and as a diviner I’m filled with awe at its effectiveness. Only playing-card divination is more elegantly spare in its simplicity.

For those beginners who are more interested in practical divination than in self-analysis of the psychological kind, I can wholeheartedly recommend Lenormand as the best place to start. Get yourself an inexpensive traditional deck like the Konigsfurt/Urania edition of the Blue Owl and a copy of Andy Boroveshengra’s book, Lenormand Thirty-six Cards and have at it. The analytical rigor you acquire in working with its limited interpretive palette will serve you well if you eventually find your way into the tarot, where fuzzy intuitive “padding” can often complicate our clear-eyed scrutiny of the cards on the table.

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