While there has been an explosion in adult colouring books recently, the activity of colouring in a tarot deck is an already established one. The only problem was you had to be a member of a mystical, magical and altogether secret society to be instructed in this fine art. For art, as we understand it, it was not. This was presented as art with a higher purpose: the art being the understanding and application of knowledge of colour, divination systems, religion, magic et al. These secrets are no more and whether you are aware of it or not, you work with a tarot deck that has been skillfully crafted in both types of art. Thankfully, those of you who use tarot for divination, or your own purposes outside of secret society rules, colouring in a tarot deck is an excellent method to help you connect with your cards on a deeper level.
Don’t we talk in spiritual terms in this community? We talk of death as if it is a beautiful experience. Some also play down the Tower while it’s been nothing short of devastating in my life.
We tend to do this with the Death card too – “Death doesn’t mean death, it means transition, or the end of something.” And so it goes on. But sometimes Death does mean death and more importantly, it is a part of life we cannot escape from. Like the Tower, when it comes crashing down around your ears. If you’re not already on your Chariot ready to drive through the devastation like a phoenix rising from the ashes, you will find yourself in the rubble, scratching your head and wondering what on earth just happened and where do I go from here?
When I first saw the title for this book, I thought it was really clever, from an internet search point of view. It’s very close to Arthur Edward Waite’s The Key to the Tarot, later to become the Pictorial Key to the Tarot. The similarity ends there though. While Waite’s book is written in his famously meandering and spiritually elitist style, Sarah Bartlett’s book is clear, concise and above all, readable. It’s easy to understand and will be accessible to all levels of readers, though this book really is aimed at the beginner. Bartlett has written a number of books but her most famous is surely the ubiquitous, Tarot Bible. While small in size, that book has just over 400 pages and covers secondary subjects to tarot, numerology, astrology, kabbalah, esotericism, to name but a few. Looking through both of her books reveals much repeated material, albeit redressed for this latest edition. The tarot card meanings are mostly identical, though often reworded and there are a number of tarot spreads that have made it to both books. The difference between these two books is that The Key to Tarot is purely tarot focused and besides a nod to ‘astrological affinities and numbers’, there are no secondary subjects. To quote Anthony Louis, this is tarot pure and simple…
Tarot cards are more than just a collection images, a game, or a fortune telling device. They are, together and individually, doorways into the human experience. We find themes such as balance, opposing forces, and enlightenment repeating through the cards. Tarot is powerful because it is not just a collection of images but a complete system. The system affects meanings as much as the images. The cards within the deck are in dialogue with each other. We can gain even more wisdom when we eavesdrop on those conversations. There are many ways to do this. One is to study pairings or groupings based on visual similarities.
Whether known as Fathers, Kings or Knights* in your own Tarot deck, this final group of the Tarot Court will almost always be a senior male to yourself, in rank and/or age. They will represent your father, your uncle, your bank manager – the mature males, and generally the ones we look up to in life. Being a King instantly reminds us of hierarchies, be that at home, at school or university, or in the workplace, and as such he will always be seen as ‘patriarchal’.
Do you think about the number of Minors, Majors, and Court Cards and thank the tarot goddesses and gods that there are only sixteen Court Cards? I know I did. Even today, after almost two decades of studying and reading tarot, I still cringed when Court Cards turned up in readings. Court Cards are usually considered among the most difficult cards to interpret. I can think of several reasons why this is true.
All four queens of the Tarot Court Cards are instantly recognisable – we know them up close and personal as invariably they are our mothers. Generally associated with mature women, this age range I feel is becoming wider as more and more younger women become mothers too. It’s safe to say though that we accept the Tarot Court Card queens as emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and generally more mature through life experience.
As inner processes, and events they represent creativity, the creative process and ideas, and seeing the fruits of the efforts of those ideas. They bring a warm, nurturing element to a reading and can also be seen as a right of passage for a woman – embodying and accepting womanhood, femininity and sexuality.
For many years I was troubled by the Tarot Court Cards. I had trouble remembering them, their personalities and attributes. The bigger picture was missing for me, not to mention the finer details! I tried many methods in an effort to assist in my learning and remembering of them, but I had one fairly large hurdle to overcome – my memory! It’s just not up to speed, it doesn’t matter which way I look at it – I have a flaw!
All joking aside though, it has hindered me somewhat; though learning and memorising the rest of my tarot decks was easier for a couple of reasons: