For 100indecisions: The Making of the Tarot Queen

>> Sunday, April 5, 2009

From Photobucket100indecisions says: Got a somewhat odd question for the Tarot Queen–I’d like to know more about the deck itself rather than a reading. Basically I’d like to create a Tarot-like system of fortunetelling for a sci-fi novel I’m working on, but to do that I should probably understand some of the symbolism in existing Tarot decks, how they’re interpreted, what some of the standard cards are, that kind of thing. I can probably find out some of this myself, but I’m interested in a take on it from someone who’s actually done some readings.

As I mentioned earlier, 100indecisions, it’s ironic you should ask me that. I am not a professional tarot reader; I learned to read tarot for the same reason you are asking. I’m a writer and I was interested in using tarot as a motive for a book so I taught myself tarot.

Before I get started on this tale, there are two things you should know. First, I do believe in magic and psychic power and many other things that are hard to explain. That doesn’t mean I believe every person who claims to have magic or psychic power, but that I don’t discount the possibility that they do and do believe I’ve seen evidence to support it’s existence. I am also a scientist. Unlike the way scientists are generally perceived, I don’t think my openness to the possibility of magic is in conflict with my sciency side; I think they go hand in hand. One cannot disprove something by saying one can’t explain it. But that’s a whole other conversation.

Anyway, when I write, I generally write science fiction and fantasy stories/novels and I was intrigued by the notion of tarot as a motif. Unlike many other forms of divination, I struggled with how tarot could be effective. After all, how cards fall is based on the physics of shuffling - how could that be random or divined? Then I had this notion of a Tarot Queen who used a magic deck, one that was blank until used by only her hand where it would form the pictures on the cards to tell the future. In my mind, this involved a reading where the answer was “death” and blood actually dripped from the card to flow over the table. But, no one could see these images but the Tarot Queen.

However, I wanted my tarot readings to make sense, so I bought three books on tarot and a tarot deck (Tarot of the Cat People). And I studied them. I discovered that the meanings varied widely (though often with a core of similarity) for each card. It was pronounced enough that I took all of the meanings I had garnered and put them together in a list for each card in a word file (which I use for my readings).

And that was my first realization. Tarot reading is more than just telling you what the card means, it involves understanding what’s significant in the card’s meaning and putting it together with the other cards. I.e. more than random.

I practiced at the time and tried it on my then in-laws. I read for my mother-in-law - and answered some complex questions with answers that didn’t make much sense at the time (but in hindsight were frighteningly correct). I did a reading for my then father-in-law, a fine person, only to pull every ugly and foreboding card I had out of the deck for the reading. Within a year, he was gone.

I began to wonder if there was more to it than I had suspected and if it would work for me. In most cases, I have no idea of its accuracy and make no claims that it is. I also would urge everyone not to make their life-altering decisions based on any tarot reading and certainly not on one done remotely by admitted amateur who’s never even met you.

But I do enjoy them. I think I have a knack for it. Interestingly enough, I haven’t quite reached the part where I use that first image I learned tarot to use. I have written three of the four stories leading to it (involving her mother) but using a real tarot deck, but doing what I do, pulling cards at random from the deck rather than just shuffling and laying them down. And I laid the rules down before I got started: the cards never lie (in the stories) and the Tarot Queen can’t lie about what they say (though she can twist it to sound differently than it is and she can misinterprete them). She also must be paid for every reading. The fact that I can do all this and hopefully still deliver an unexpected twist, well, that’s writing.

If you’d like to incorporate tarot in your writing, I’d recommend doing so with knowledge. Don’t skim a book and try to use it effectively. I would not attempt to use it without buying a deck and messing with it. Feel free to buy a book (though usually one comes with a tarot deck) or more than one. You can either focus on a single deck and the relatively simple symbology of the one deck or do what I did and combine multiple meanings for your own usage; however, unless you’ve messed with it, you won’t understand how they combine for the whole. You may not see how the whole combines in my own readings (because I try to write them so each card comes clear), but it matters in how I interprete. Also, the meanings for a particular card in the reading are based on what I feel is right, so they are not definitive meanings for the card, but the subset I think is right for that reading.

If you’re uncomfortable dabbling yourself, you might find someone in your area who does this and use that individual for consulting. He or she would probably be delighted to help you (for a small fee).

4 Responses to “The Making of the Tarot Queen”

  1. fliton 22 Mar 2009 at 11:21 am edit this

    A very interesting question…and even more interesting answer

  2. Shakespeareon 23 Mar 2009 at 1:41 pm edit this

    Is there deck you would/would not recommend? Does it matter which one I choose, or should I feel an affinity for it, rather like picking out illustrations because they suit me personally?

  3. stephanieebarron 23 Mar 2009 at 4:39 pm edit this

    I would very recommend finding one that speaks to you, either tactilely or via illustrations. is a great place to check out different decks and many have links to where you can buy them.

    I don’t particularly like the Rider-Waite deck, but some of the decks are really cool. If you get one, make sure you get one that has the major arcana and the minor arcana. I would avoid oracle decks or decks that “do their own thing” unless they really call to you or you get really accomplished.

  4. 100indecisionson 24 Mar 2009 at 1:17 am edit this

    Thanks for the detailed answer–definitely provided some good info and places to do more research. Very interesting stuff.


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