Tarot’s Modern Make-over (revisit)


After 600 to 800 years, anybody would be entitled to a make-over, don’t you think?

There is no precise start-date for Tarot cards. I’ve read several histories, and they estimate the cards evolved as early as the 1200s or as late as the 1400s. Either way, they have been around for a while. The consensus seems to be that the cards started as a game, a bit like bridge or gin…in fact the Major Arcana are still called the “trump” cards sometimes. It really isn’t clear when, how, or why they went from being a simple game (that included wagers, so I imagine a sort of bridge /poker hybrid). to being a fortune telling device. Tarot has become part of pop culture, certainly. If you are a fan of Carl Jung, you could even argue they have become part of the collective unconscious. Looking at it that way would explain why they are still such an effective means of personal and spiritual guidance, even after all these years.

Jung also spoke of archetypes. Archetypes are, arguably, the stock in trade of the entire Major Arcana. Yet, over time and with the influence of movies and TV, Tarot has slipped from archetype to stereotype. What are some of the stereotypes that you associate with Tarot? Gypsies, fringed shawls and large earrings, paisley prints and cluttered small rooms, dire warnings, predictions of romance, dark shadows and candlelight, witches, demons, devils and more easily spring to mind. It seems like every Renaissance fair has at least one Tarot reader.

Now let’s switch gears about 6 centuries worth. What stereotypes do you associate with “modern” or “ultra-modern”? Clean lines, no clutter, plenty of chrome, and a certain Zen, minimalist sensibility, a culture fluent in science,  springs to mind for me. You?

At first the two ideas seem hopelessly separate. Tarot and Zen? Tarot and modernism? Believe it or not, yes. They are connected, and more important – they are complimentary.

This is especially seen in the Two of Wands. One of my favorite Tarot books is “Magical Tarot, Mystical Tao” by Diane Morgan. She also sees the resonance between Tarot’s lessons and Eastern philosophical ideas.

Her interpretation of the two of wands is “actionless action”. Unless you are familiar with Taoist thought, it might seem like paradoxical nonsense. But think of it terms of that hint of Zen minimalism that we see in modern and post-modern architecture and design. This is a very modern card.

With the two of cards there is no fuss or bother. The Zen master never fights the natural flow of life. A Zen master is always serene, and only makes small, early, necessary corrections or actions. Here we see Zen masters and Taoist Sages at work…when they are doing little, and let thing flow to their own destiny. They let things flow to their natural perfection, and then simply appreciate things as they are. They are content with what IS instead of stressing over what COULD be or COULD HAVE BEEN. By seemingly DO-ing nothing, they have everything.

If this card speaks to you today, you might want to think about where in your life you feel like you are swimming upstream – where do you feel like you are working, and running but making no progress? That is the trouble spot.

Often we are taught to think that if something is easy, it isn’t as valuable as something that is hard. That isn’t necessarily true. Not always. If something comes easily, and unfolds naturally and effortlessly, that is an indication that it is the RIGHT thing at the right time. If we are fighting the current, we are going the wrong way. It is a hint or a message to reconsider our direction. When things “just seem right” then that is a powerful validation that we are headed in the right direction. When it is right, things seem to go especially easy. What could be easier than floating with the natural flow of life? It is effortless success, it is “actionless action” in action!

Simplicity is a sign of mastery. Minimal, well-placed intervention is a sign of wisdom. Ease is a sign of right-direction.

May you have an easy day.