Twenty-something years ago, when I found myself buying a second, third and fourth Tarot deck, I initially felt like a bit of a freak. Why – wasn’t one set of archetypal images enough for me? I found very quickly that I could read well and happily with a number of them.
And after a while, I stopped giving myself grief over it, and just bought the odd deck every so often if it appealed to me. I was reading professionally at the time in Sydney, and it pleased me to have more than one deck with me when I was reading, so that if the client really didn’t like the look of whatever deck I picked up, I could use another.
When I had about eight decks, I got a regular gig in a venue as the residential reader back then. It pleased me to have all eight decks on the table with the same Major Arcana card showing, and asking the querent to choose the card that appealed to them most. I rationalised this by saying that by doing that they would choose a deck that they were in tune with and get a better reading that way and there was a large element of truth in that.
But if I were strictly candid with myself, I would have to admit that back then there was also an element of vanity involved. It’s like cars: some are more or less powerful, easier or harder to drive, larger or smaller, easier or harder to park, or just more or less likeable. Tarot decks are pretty much the same: some are more or less likeable, easier or harder to read with and so forth: I liked the frisson of vanity that having them all on offer gave me, that I was capable of and willing to use any and all decks with any and all clients.
I was a late bloomer: it took me until the middle nineties to really get serious about collecting, and by then my brush with extraordinary prosperity was over. Nonetheless, from then on all my luxury-money was channelled into Tarot, easily done since at the time I had just started reading out of a new-age shop with Tarot decks – not all of them to my taste – on the shelf, and probably once a month I’d give back some of my earnings to the business and come home with something new. A decent collection developed.
A year or so ago, something happened that left me both amused and a bit bemused. I don’t inflict Tarot on my friends, but I don’t hide it, either. And I was friendly with one of the teachers at my teenager’s school – let’s just call her “Mary” for the sake of convenience.
Mary took me shopping because her daughter had been staying with us – the groceries she funded which were more than ample were at once a way of not feeling guilty that I was feeding her kid, and saying thank-you to me, and I was quite happy about it.
I was – well, I *wasn’t* expecting a parcel from an on-line Tarot seller, because the main parcel had already arrived. However, they had mailed a part of that consignment separately to me, the Blue Moon, a slim 22-card deck. Firstly, it was sent some time after the first parcel, then when it was reasonable to assume it might have arrived, I had a house full of teenagers and assignments for my course to do, so I didn’t get around to going to the post office.
So when Mary took me to buy groceries, I jumped at the chance to pick up my parcel. And it was there. I was delighted. I was jumping up and down, saying “My parcel’s arrived! My parcel’s arrived!” Mary was smiling indulgently at me. As soon as we walked out of the post office into the sunlight, I was ripping into the corner of the parcel. The person who wrapped it had sealed it very, very well. Mary told me to calm down, I’d know what it was soon. I said I already knew – it was a Tarot deck.
She looked completely flummoxed.
“But you’ve already got a Tarot deck, haven’t you?” she asked. She simply couldn’t wrap her mind around wanting another one. She still can’t.
I shared this encounter on an internet Tarot community, and there was laughter and hooting all round, really. Collectors with many hundreds, even more than a thousand decks more than I had, fell about at the idea that one deck was somehow sufficient. Did my friend, they asked me, have more than one CD? More than one tee-shirt? More than one pair of shoes? More than one DVD? More than one book? More than one pair of undies? More than one photo of the person or people she loved? Does she eat more than one food-item?
Having more than one Tarot deck is just the same: a different artistic style will appeal more or less on different days. One deck will work better or worse for certain kinds of inquiries, one client might like or recoil from a different deck to another client. Each deck is archetypal and will work for everything, but each deck will do so through a slightly different filter.
Some authors are best at writing murder-mysteries, others at writing science fiction, others at high literature, others at stage-plays, others at romances, for heavens sakes. Is one book identical to all other books? Does owning one book mean you’ll never want to read another?
Some time before that incident, Mary had introduced me to a friend of hers. Her friend and I swapped readings a few times, mostly because she wanted the practice and a swap is a fair thing. The deck she used was the Mythic Deck: fairly well-known, and I have a copy of it in my collection. Twenty-five or thirty years ago I used to use it quite often, and I don’t mind using it even today, although I usually do so out of nostalgia.
I had shown her a number of my decks, and she admired the artwork. I read for her using a deck she had never seen or heard of, and the reading uncovered some important things for her which we discussed fully and put to bed. Then she pulled out her Mythic deck and read for me. It became evident that she had barely scratched the surface of its symbolism: laying out cards that to my eye were redolent with importance for my spiritual life and where I was right then, she kept trying to relate every card to romance because she couldn’t conceive of someone having anything else in their life that might be more important, and either ignoring or just not seeing other fairly obvious messages that her cards were screaming about my life. She was also quite fearful of the reading that she was doing – insisting in praying and “wrapping us both in protection” beforehand. Honestly, crossing the road to get to her house was more dangerous than doing a reading, and she left me to organise my own safety across the road without help from her Angels!
Afterwards, when we were having coffee and talking generally, I asked if she’d ever wanted to go any deeper into the Tarot and learn more about it. She looked blank, and said that after ten years working with the same deck, she felt she knew everything there was to know. I asked if she’d ever wanted to use different decks, and said I’d be happy to lend her a few for a couple of weeks if she liked. She refused politely, saying that “if she used any other deck, she’d lose her ability to read with her deck”.
By the time I left I was quite saddened for her, feeling sorry that she couldn’t see the richness of meaning in the cards that were in front of her when she was reading for me, and that she couldn’t appreciate diversity as an aid to learning or just as an aesthetic pleasure at all.
One day, I’m going to have to spread *all* my decks all over the table – and floor – and have both of them visit. Mary can open her eyes to the gloriousness of art that is Tarot, and her friend can listen to me talking with such love about how this deck does thing kind of work really well, and that deck does that kind of work really well. I honestly don’t know if either of them will ever really understand, though – being Tarot-blind must be a bit like being colour-blind.
I still have some pairs of magnetic pressure-earrings suitable for acupressure, magnetic therapy and simply wearing without committing to a new piercing, with a variety of different-coloured Swarovski crystals; and I am still open to doing enhanced Tarot readings over the net. For both the studs and the readings, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org for my paypal details and for any questions or further information.