Pretzel Logic

I see so many tarot spreads invoking the “What do I need to know/What should I do/What should I avoid doing?” dynamic that I’m beginning to think that, in the eyes of the typical reader, no other paths are worthy of exploration. Certainly such an approach is effective in a utilitarian way, since it’s undeniable that many of our clients are seeking straightforward guidance for navigating troubled waters. But by the same token it isn’t especially thought-provoking or conducive to alternate interpretation. The majority of my spreads follow a more circuitous route, demonstrating what Steely Dan once called “pretzel logic.”

The road we travel is seldom entirely linear; situations diverge and converge again in numerous interesting patterns, sometimes doubling back on themselves, and my goal is to chronicle their coming-and-going in compelling and instructive ways. This is why I’m willing to use any tool in my diviner’s toolbox, including auxiliary methods like reversal, the quintessence and (occasionally) the “shadow” card that many readers shun as unnecessarily convoluted. After all, life can be messy and a finely-tuned technical precision can be invaluable in sorting out the gold from the dross. I’m also a fan of multi-deck and multiple-output spreads that offer choices. I draw the line only at pulling “clarifiers,” which I see as dodging responsibility for grappling with the cards on the table by nibbling around the edges.

So much human experience is of the “deja-vu all over again” variety that having a means to expose the blind spots in our mental/emotional outlook can be crucial to unraveling the mystery of our circular, self-defeating behavior. My style is to poke around beneath the surface of the psychological barriers we throw up to protect ourselves from inconvenient self-knowledge, looking for clues that point the way toward enlightenment. Donald Fagan and Walter Becker may have been utterly cynical about whether we are really capable of learning anything from the past, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying no matter how roundabout the journey might become. Equipped with a suitably refined subtlety of expression, a tarot spread can provide a reliable roadmap for traveling that tortuous inner path.

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