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Author Topic: Tarot and Memorization  (Read 2814 times)

SunflowerP

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Tarot and Memorization
« on: February 19, 2016, 02:43:41 am »
So this bit of conversation happened in the most-recently-active Lenormand thread:

Quote from: Aster Breo;186890
I've always been intimidated by tarot. I have a very bad memory, so the idea of learning 76 cards plus the same number of reversals plus the variations of different decks is very daunting.


Quote from: SunflowerP;186898
78, but who's counting? :D:

I wish you'd said something about this around me years ago! I have advice for that! Basically, the idea that what one does is memorize all the meanings is, at best, misleading. I've lots more to say on that, but this is a Lenormand thread; I'll (try to remember to) start this topic its own thread. Probably tomorrow; I don't have enough brain left for threadstarting tonight.


Whether the advice I have on this topic will be helpful to Aster specifically, I don't know - but I've been running into the notion that one has to memorize the meanings repeatedly over the many years (well, decades) I've been studying, reading, and occasionally teaching tarot, so it's likely something that will be helpful to people generally, and worth having a thread about.

Contrary to the widespread misconception, most tarot readers don't know the card meanings 'by heart', or at least not the card meanings as expressed in words in this or that book. (I could come at this from the angle that 'by heart', as distinct from 'memorized word for word', is exactly how an experienced reader knows the cards, but I fear that ship has already long since sailed; 'by heart' is effectively synonymous with word-for-word memorization.)

So what do they know? That depends on the individual tarot reader.

Some don't rely on 'book meanings' at all, but instead work from the visuals on the cards, either intuitively/improvisationally ('what does this picture seem like it might indicate in this case?') or by familiarity with the iconography/symbolism (either of their preferred deck, or the iconography traditional to the Rider-Waite-Smith family of decks - or others, but this is a largely RWS approach), or both. While it's rare for an iconographic reader to have not studied book meanings at all, since there's considerable correlation between book meanings and iconography, some visual/intuitive readers have never looked at book meanings, even when they were first learning.

Many develop familiarity with cards and their meanings through studying and/or meditating on each card individually (one common way to approach this is by drawing one card per day to study/meditate), gradually developing and internalizing a sense of what the cards mean, in a way that derives from but isn't necessarily specifically of the book meaning.

Some place more focus on layouts, positions of cards, and the relationships between the cards/positions - this is a skill any reader should develop, to go beyond just basic-level reading, but some readers make more of a specialization of it. Tarot is a system, a cohesive art, not just a set of meanings bundled together; focusing on the systemic level is a perfectly viable approach.

Some - of whom I'm one - are 'word association' readers. I get my sense of how to interpret a card in a particular reading by springboarding from the words related to that card; while I can (because I started studying tarot in '73; some of it's bound to have stuck to my brain by now:)) supply at least some words for most or all cards out of my brain, I will always give better, more precise, and more useful readings by consulting the book, preferably one that provides a wealth of single-word or short-phrase associations.

The latter are the readers most disfavored by misconceptions about memorization; if memorization is necessary, we really would have to do word-for-word rote memorization rather than committing the general sense of a card's meaning to memory. When I was first considering going professional, this was one of the things I had to consider, the conception that a 'real' reader is one who 'doesn't need' a book, and how that would affect my ability to draw clients. I decided my best move was to be completely candid about my reading style, explicitly kick that misconception to the curb - not only was it a more honorable business practice (why should people be paying me good money for readings that are less good than I'm able to do?), it would help dismantle that false standard for all word-association readers.

And the notion that 'no longer need to use the book' is some sort of gold standard of tarot acheivement disfavors everyone (except maybe those who are better at rote memorization than at actual doing readings). Use the books! Use as many books as you need! Choose books that are useful to you, and use them as much as you need, for as long as you need, and never be afraid to pick one up to help you suss out a difficult interpretation, or just for more study!

I've probably missed any number of other reading styles, and a slough of other angles to this, and likely (hopefully!) have given rise to new questions. So put them in replies, please!

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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2016, 07:28:00 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;186982

Some don't rely on 'book meanings' at all, but instead work from the visuals on the cards, either intuitively/improvisationally ('what does this picture seem like it might indicate in this case?') or by familiarity with the iconography/symbolism (either of their preferred deck, or the iconography traditional to the Rider-Waite-Smith family of decks - or others, but this is a largely RWS approach), or both. While it's rare for an iconographic reader to have not studied book meanings at all, since there's considerable correlation between book meanings and iconography, some visual/intuitive readers have never looked at book meanings, even when they were first learning.

 
I think I may be one of these, since I read the book that comes with the cards at least once. After that, I just start practicing and rely only in what I see in the card: images, symbols, whatever catches my eye at the moment. If there's a card I can't understand or doesn't speak to me, then I go to the book again.

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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2016, 08:55:57 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;186982

Some don't rely on 'book meanings' at all, but instead work from the visuals on the cards, either intuitively/improvisationally ('what does this picture seem like it might indicate in this case?') or by familiarity with the iconography/symbolism (either of their preferred deck, or the iconography traditional to the Rider-Waite-Smith family of decks - or others, but this is a largely RWS approach), or both. While it's rare for an iconographic reader to have not studied book meanings at all, since there's considerable correlation between book meanings and iconography, some visual/intuitive readers have never looked at book meanings, even when they were first learning.

Many develop familiarity with cards and their meanings through studying and/or meditating on each card individually (one common way to approach this is by drawing one card per day to study/meditate), gradually developing and internalizing a sense of what the cards mean, in a way that derives from but isn't necessarily specifically of the book meaning.


This is absolutely me.  I pick my decks for art that I feel speaks to me and then I just go with what the images tell me when I read them.  Definitely different parts of the cards will speak to me during different readings.  The same card on different days can mean very different things to me.  If my decks come with books (either the little tiny books in with the cards or some kind of companion book) I always read them, but I just sort of let that information percolate inside me, I rarely go look something up (sometimes I will for the more oracular decks...in particular I have a Fairy oracle deck with very specific cards that I will look up, and the animal totem deck I have I like to read the descriptions after I have come up with my own associations).

I also really enjoy meditating on cards.  When I got my first deck, I spent several hours, going through the deck card by card and just sitting with them and seeing what I saw.  I wasn't looking for deep meaning per say, just really letting the image soak in and trying to see what all was there on the card.


Quote

Some - of whom I'm one - are 'word association' readers. I get my sense of how to interpret a card in a particular reading by springboarding from the words related to that card; while I can (because I started studying tarot in '73; some of it's bound to have stuck to my brain by now:)) supply at least some words for most or all cards out of my brain, I will always give better, more precise, and more useful readings by consulting the book, preferably one that provides a wealth of single-word or short-phrase associations.

 
I am so glad you brought this up!  I honestly never thought about this, as for me, those banks of words or short phrases are the least helpful to me.  And yet, after reading your explanation, I can definitely see how it would work for other people.

I think that tarot is one of those things that so many people have an idea of what it 'should' be, and the more I talk to different people who work with tarot in very different ways, the more I understand how versatile a tool it is!  I love hearing all the ways that people interact with their cards.  Sometimes it gives me new insight into my own readings, and other times it gives me confidence because they read in a way that absolutely doesn't work for me.  I don't have the traditional meanings memorized.  I can't give you an off the cuff meaning for the 7 of swords (which I know some readers who have general meanings for all the cards that they can tell you at the drop of a hat).  I am still getting used to the idea that my way of working with the cards is as valid as the more traditional interpretations.
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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2016, 01:03:35 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;186982
I've probably missed any number of other reading styles, and a slough of other angles to this, and likely (hopefully!) have given rise to new questions. So put them in replies, please!

 
One of the things that I think has helped me with the most about Learning How To Tarot was actually doing the work to design my own deck, going in depth on meanings and smbologies.  This was something that meant that I had to dive deep into what the traditional meanings of the cards are, how they fit together, and how I wanted to transmute those into cards that would have meaning for me.

It was a project I set myself partly because I wanted to cohere my eclectic symbologies into a single system, and I thought that the Tarot was rich enough to have space for me to do so, but it turned into an exploration of the Tarot itself.  Including my total rework of Swords.  (One of my issues with the traditional Tarot is the way the deck is set up for Swords to be the suit of intellect and bad shit.  That seems poor.  But I realised, in the underlying symbology I was using, that the traditional Swords readings for certain cards were inversions of the progression I wanted to use....  WHich is an insight I woudln't have gotten without going into the depths of how the bones of the system go together.  Both my system and the Tarot itself.)
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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2016, 03:51:40 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;186982


 
I read playing cards, which is a bit different and lacks the visual guidance of tarot, but something that made it a lot easier for me was getting a general idea of what each suit did, then one of each number/face, which only means memorizing 17 things. As well as that being easy to cross-reference in my head, it sets up thought associations with the less obvious meanings ('suit+number? That makes [meaning]- oh, that's the same card that also means [less clear meaning]'), because it's easier to remember which definitions slot together than which number has x, y, and z meanings.

That should apply to the tarot suits, so I imagine along with the visuals it could help? The major arcana doesn't have that, but on the other hand title+picture is a pretty good help.

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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2016, 09:47:33 pm »
Quote from: Scales;187003
That should apply to the tarot suits, so I imagine along with the visuals it could help? The major arcana doesn't have that, but on the other hand title+picture is a pretty good help.

 
Yes, it does! I'd originally planned to touch on that more explicitly, as one instance of/approach to tarot being a cohesive system, but it got subsumed in the generalities - in part because I was running out of brain again, and in part because I've never known what to call it that would be quickly comprehensible to other tarotists. I think of it in my own mind as 'the grid'.

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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2016, 01:54:00 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;186982
So this bit of conversation happened in the most-recently-active Lenormand thread:

I've probably missed any number of other reading styles, and a slough of other angles to this, and likely (hopefully!) have given rise to new questions. So put them in replies, please!

Sunflower

 
I have long been fascinated by Tarot. I bought my first (and only) deck when I was 13 or 14 years old. It went missing shortly thereafter (probably taken by my uber Catholic mother). Years later, I still haven't purchased another one, although I do have an app on my phone, its really not the same. Does anyone have a deck that they recommend?

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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2016, 03:21:26 pm »
Quote from: Siannan;187061
Does anyone have a deck that they recommend?

 
To start learning about tarot, I recommend the Rider-Waite or the Universal Waite decks. The images are very easy to understand to most people. But you should really look at different decks and see which one appeals to you the most. I started with an Egiptian tarot deck, so...

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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2016, 03:34:44 pm »
Quote from: IceAngie;187067
To start learning about tarot, I recommend the Rider-Waite or the Universal Waite decks. The images are very easy to understand to most people. But you should really look at different decks and see which one appeals to you the most. I started with an Egiptian tarot deck, so...

 
I'd heard about Rider-Waite before and I might go that route at first. Thanks!

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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2016, 10:21:31 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;186982
Some don't rely on 'book meanings' at all, but instead work from the visuals on the cards, either intuitively/improvisationally ('what does this picture seem like it might indicate in this case?')


That is exactly how both my mother and sister read.

I myself seem to use both word association (the way I learned to read my first deck - which was not a RWS based deck but rather a hideous Tarot of Marseilles knockoff - was to memorize keywords for all of the cards) and iconography/symbolism. I have read a lot of books on tarot, and continue to look for new ones to offer further insights.

Quote
Some place more focus on layouts, positions of cards, and the relationships between the cards/positions - this is a skill any reader should develop, to go beyond just basic-level reading, but some readers make more of a specialization of it. Tarot is a system, a cohesive art, not just a set of meanings bundled together; focusing on the systemic level is a perfectly viable approach.


Hell yes. This is something I am actively trying to get better at, rather than rely on a few comfortable layouts and 'free form' readings.

Quote
When I was first considering going professional, this was one of the things I had to consider, the conception that a 'real' reader is one who 'doesn't need' a book, and how that would affect my ability to draw clients. I decided my best move was to be completely candid about my reading style, explicitly kick that misconception to the curb - not only was it a more honorable business practice (why should people be paying me good money for readings that are less good than I'm able to do?), it would help dismantle that false standard for all word-association readers.


Do you find it helps cut down on people assuming that you're psychic and can read their minds or see their dead relatives?

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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2016, 10:40:50 am »
Quote from: Scales;187003
I read playing cards, which is a bit different and lacks the visual guidance of tarot, but something that made it a lot easier for me was getting a general idea of what each suit did, then one of each number/face, which only means memorizing 17 things. As well as that being easy to cross-reference in my head, it sets up thought associations with the less obvious meanings ('suit+number? That makes [meaning]- oh, that's the same card that also means [less clear meaning]'), because it's easier to remember which definitions slot together than which number has x, y, and z meanings.

That should apply to the tarot suits, so I imagine along with the visuals it could help? The major arcana doesn't have that, but on the other hand title+picture is a pretty good help.


That method works for me, too (but not with aces and court cards). My system looks like this:

Deuce Emotions
Three Actions
Four States of mind
Five Minor events
Six Time, Space and Communication
Seven Thoughts
Eight Social interaction
Nine Major events
Ten Surroundings

The possible meanings of the court cards seem to be inexhaustible, but in those cases when they don't signify persons, I interpret them like this:

King of Batons: Family
Queen of Batons: Defence
Chevalier of Batons: Departure (reversed: Division)
Page of Batons: Good news (reversed: Incorrect news)
Ace of Batons: Beginning (reversed: Short-lived initiative, scandalous beginning)

King of Cups: Help
Queen of Cups: Success
Chevalier of Cups: Arrival
Page of Cups: Trustfulness
Ace of Cups: Table, reply (reversed: Change, variation)

King of Swords: Quarrel
Queen of Swords: Greed
Chevalier of Swords: Competence
Page of Swords: Message (reversed: Unexpected event)
Ace of Swords: Excess (reversed: Pregnancy)

King of Coins: Decrease
Queen of Coins: Wrong choice
Chevalier of Coins: Usefulness (reversed: Inactivity)
Page of Coins: Hypocricy
Ace of Coins: Equanimity (reversed: Sum)

There are many different systems out there. This one, mainly influenced by Etteilla, works for me.

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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2016, 11:09:24 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;186982
Many develop familiarity with cards and their meanings through studying and/or meditating on each card individually (one common way to approach this is by drawing one card per day to study/meditate), gradually developing and internalizing a sense of what the cards mean, in a way that derives from but isn't necessarily specifically of the book meaning.


For those who like to read tarot in a similar manner that I do (looking for card-meanings in 18th century France), it might be useful to meditate on some court-cards as pairs:

Chevalier of Batons - Chevalier of Cups: Departure - Arrival

Chevalier of Swords - Chevalier of Coins: Competence - Usefulness/Inactivity

Page of Batons - Page of Swords: Good news/Incorrect news - Message/Unexpected news

Page of Cups - Page of Coins: Reliability - Hypocricy

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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2016, 11:15:50 am »
Quote from: Mama Fortuna;187084
Do you find it helps cut down on people assuming that you're psychic and can read their minds or see their dead relatives?

 
Hmm. It might have done, but it's hard to be sure if it was that or other things - I really didn't run into expectations of either outright mindreading (aside from the occasional mocker who assumed I 'must' be making a claim of mind-reading, but that's a whole 'nother thing) or of seeing dead relatives.

A big part of it, I imagine, was careful selection of my venues - I was mainly avoiding the two extremes, of people who can't make a move without consulting some sort of divinationist and the 'it's so much fun to get your cards done!' set; I strongly preferred a clientele who had a decent sense of how seriously to take it.

My overall style of presenting myself, as a reader, was geared that way - it comes more naturally to me anyway. So it's hard to disentangle one bit from another, to specify which bit might have cut down on difficult or annoying assumptions. Alas, while it worked a treat for ensuring I mostly had clients I enjoyed reading for, it's non-ideal for making a living as a tarot reader.

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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2016, 11:49:28 am »
Quote from: Siannan;187068
I'd heard about Rider-Waite before and I might go that route at first. Thanks!


Rider-Waite is useful for some persons, especially for those who are attracted to systems of interpretation prevalent in the English-speaking world. That system is, though, not the only one out there (nor the oldest).

If someone happens to be attracted to the 18th century French systems of interpretation (De Mellet, Etteilla and Etteilla's disciples), but do not like the Etteilla decks or the Marseilles-inspired decks, I would suggest Paul Huson's Dame Fortune's Wheel Tarot instead. I have found Huson's deck - especially the Coin suite and the Baton suite, much easier to read than the Colman-Rider-Waite deck's equivalents.

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Re: Tarot and Memorization
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2016, 02:54:04 pm »
Quote from: FraterBenedict;187105
... the Colman-Rider-Waite deck's equivalents.

 
Nitpick: 'Colman' was Pamela Colman Smith's second given name (her mother's maiden name); her surname was Smith.

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