Women in Tarot: Christine Payne-Towler

by Bonnie Cehovet

This is a continuation in my series of articles on women in the Tarot world. I wanted to peek into the minds of those women who are making outstanding contributions to the field of Tarot, to honor their body of work, and to take a look at what they see for the future of Tarot.

Christine first came across my radar several years ago on the Internet group TarotL. Her input showed incredible depth, and it was clear that this was someone who would have a great influence on the world around her.

Christine’s body of work includes the Christine Payne-Towler Tarot Library on Tarot.com, which offers the following excerpts from her book The Underground Stream (and yes, there is the ability to print the articles out!):

• History of Tarot
• Esoteric Origins of Tarot
• Criteria For Esoteric Tarot
• The Gnostic Tarot
• Kabbalah
• Confluence
• Continental Tarots
• Spanish School
• The English School
• Major Arcana (General Discussion)
• Minor Arcana (In depth Discussion of Minor Arcana and its origins)
• Major Arcana (a card by card look at the Major Arcana)
• Coins (a card by card look at the suit of Coins)
• Cups (a card by card look at the suit of Cups)
• Swords (a card by card look at the suit of Swords)
• Wands (a card by card look at the suit of Wands)

Her body of work also includes the interpretive text and layouts for the interactive readings on Tarot.com, publication of her outstanding book “The Underground Streams: Esoteric Tarot Revealed” (Noreah Press, 1999), multiple appearances on Paul O’Brien’s “Pathways” radio program, the CD-ROM “Tarot Magic” (presented in conjunction with Tarot.com), and founding of the Tarot University, an online site established to promote the understanding and study of the Tarot.

In conjunction with the Tarot University, Christing puts out a monthly newsletter, called the New Moon Tarot ArkLetters, which includes a World Servers Spread and reflections on the New Moon.

The focus of Christine’s work is on the more esoteric side of Tarot, and is interdisciplinary. I am amazed that she shares so much of it so freely, and deeply thank her for agreeing to this interview.

Now is Christine’s time to talk!

BC: Christine, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. How did you become involved with the world of Tarot?

CPT: The truth is, Tarot came and got me. It was November 1970. I was shopping for Christmas presents at a used book store in Salem, Oregon, and as the checker was totaling up my purchases, my eye strayed to a box on a shelf behind him. It had the letters T-A-R-O-T on the side of a box, and the letters just jumped out at me, forcing me to ask what that was. He explained that the pack was used and had been returned, therefore was on sale cheap. On a whim, I got it -- the 20th Century Tarot, marketed by Skor-Mor Corp. I have to laugh when I see the imagery now -- they were so cheesy! (Encyclopedia of Tarot Vol. 1, p. 283)

The box contained instructions for shuffling, envisioning the Celtic spread, and laying the cards into the positions, but the only information offered about the process of reading the spread was to “make up a reason why this card has fallen in this place”. Looking over the spectrum of meanings on offer, it became clear that the Tarot could be used as a kind of psychological machine, even if this pack was a dud. That sent me back to the store to ask for whatever else they had about the Tarot. That’s when I got the Mouni Sadhu book for the first time, and also Volume VI, The Sacred Tarot, from the Brotherhood of Light encyclopedia course. Soon I sent for my copy of the Brotherhood of Light pack (one of the last ones they sold in the original crisp black-and-white format, before they shifted to the pale-grey print run.) From then on, I was off and running!

And you know, to this day, these are the instructions I follow. There must be a reason why this card fell in this position, so let’s read it as if it’s meaningful!

BC: What led you to the depth of study that you have followed, through not only the tradition of Tarot, but Tarot as an initiatory tool?

CPT: Well, just look at the Tarot books I started with. Of the two books I got, the Sacred Tarot was the more accessible! And they are both quoting, chapter and verse, from what I have since learned is the Fratres Lucis initiatory material, the deep well of Tarot scripture for the world. Within a year or two I had found an old copy of Papus’ Tarot of the Bohemians, and also Corrinne Heline’s The Bible and Tarot. Those were also keyed to the European decks, so it all felt quite coherent to me -- that is until I picked up copies of Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot, and Case’s The Tarot.

Once I figured out that these were two different systems, it was time to make a choice between them, since they were obviously incompatible at their foundations. I settled on the European model because from what I could see at the time, it was older and had more ‘gravitas’. Also, as I was pulling cards and reading up on the results, the documentation I had with Papus, Sadhu, Zain, and Heline just seemed so familiar, so recognizable, that I couldn’t believe that it was entirely new to me, even though it was truly my first exposure in ~this~ lifetime. Meanwhile, the synchronicities that were being set off by using the cards every day were just flabbergasting, both for myself and for my friends of the time. There was simply no room to imagine that any of this was an accident.

I was all of 18 at the time, so I bonded to this paradigm unquestioningly. For one thing, the structure of the deck gave me a framework to organize my very watery, trance-y, hypersensitive energy-body around. Literally, I embraced the memory-map in its entirety because I could see how much I needed guidance and a framework within which to interpret my already irregular experiences. Later, when I got to JFKU, I got some perspective on people like myself from studying the global phenomenon of shamanism. But I would not have had the courage of my convictions, to go ahead and cultivate myself as a professional metaphysician, had it not been for the daily support of the Tarot, and also the fact that Tarot made me learn all the other things it’s connected to – astrology, kabala, numerology and the rest.

Over time, it became obvious that the American Tarot market was skipping over this very material I had internalized so assiduously. There were central threads in the tapestry that I thought were obvious, but turned out to be blocked or invisible for others. The persistent thought kept appearing, that if the present evidence was of a certain type, then there must be prior conditions supporting that appearance. The quest was originally about getting historically anterior to the English tarots. Then it became about the structuring power of the alphabet behind the Trumps. Now I think it’s about following the interdisciplinary ramifications that can help us get a proper perspective on the mentality of the magus who is using the tool of Tarot.

BC: How is your work as a Bishop with the Gnostic Church of St. Mary Magdalene interwoven with your work in the world of Tarot? How do they influence each other … or do they?

CPT: No one who researches in the Western Esoteric paradigm can fail to notice that issues of spirituality, miracles, magic, communication with ‘the other side’, transcendent consciousness and visionary experience are integral to the vocabulary, no matter what topic they is under discussion. Human communication is saturated with references to invisible things, whether they are conceptualized as ancestors, spirits of the rocks and trees, vampires, enemy shamans, God, atoms, gravity, angels, ‘natural laws’ or the geometric solids. We can’t get away from this spectrum of ideas because our inner and outer senses are always registering activity there, whether we ‘believe in those things’ or not!

Studying literature on shamanism and the manner in which tribal practitioners were selected and cultivated gave me perspective on it all. The shaman’s role demonstrates the central importance of a culture’s beliefs about invisible forces. Every civilization has feelings of individual and collective vulnerability in the face of whatever can’t be named, measured and controlled through external means. There’s always a bogeyman, an indistinct figure of paradoxical nature, moving in the fringes of consciousness. Most people don’t take the time/energy to come to an understanding about this aspect of the psyche, so the issues remain vague and shadowy, unclear and scary, subject to negative hallucinations just like the Moon card. Every culture farms out the management of that realm to the shaman of the tribe, and burdens him or her with the task of wrangling the demons and making treaties with the angels in our stead.

Modern technological society is no less superstitious; we just rest our superstitions on doctors, therapists and scientists nowadays. This is at least as irrational as direct belief in spirits and demons, since science can only pronounce upon what can be weighed and measured – it can make no headway on topics its instruments cannot discern. For a person like myself, a creature of the psychological, spiritual, and magical world, my doorway into the Mysteries will perforce be through the ‘soft’ sciences. It’s only sensible that if we have to live in an environment that throws a lot of shadows into the unexplored corners of consciousness, somebody has to study methods for bringing in the Light. To paraphrase Stevie Wonder, when we believe in things we don’t understand, we suffer!

In truth, by the time the offer for ordination came to me, it seemed a great completion to the long path already walked. Having served a shamanic role in my community for over 20 years already, I’d long since made my investigations, created my relationships, organized my interior life and prioritized my studies along these very lines, so the context was set in advance. The fact that the offer came via Gnostic, Templar, Masonic, Illuminist and Martinist channels seemed poetically just. The choice emerged pre-made; my job was simply to bow to the inevitable.

More recently, I have been grateful for the book Gnostic Philosophy; From Ancient Persia to Modern Times, by Thomas Churton. Matter of fact, all three of his books are quite good, but this is the one that’s relevant to Tarot people. The Gnostics of every era are the ones who have questioned the received wisdom, wanting to know the mechanisms by which reality can be taken hold of and adjusted, possibly even regenerated and restored to the ‘paradise’ state again. These are the type, born in every religion, region and generation, who refuse to just take it all on faith like sheep. The stream of individuals and movements that Churton delineates for us runs right through the lives of the Renaissance magi and then dumps into the esoteric and ecclesiastical lineage I am affiliated with (see his Part Three: Enlightenment). So I feel I should really defer to Churton to more fully answer the question, as he has no political position and can highlight the issues in an ecumenical way. (Dan Merkur’s Gnosis: An Esoteric Tradition of Mystical Visions and Unions runs a close second.)

But here’s another answer entirely, just for the record: I am a practitioner of the traditionally ‘feminine arts’ – trance, intuition, contemplation, visualization, empathy, psychology, divination, and interpretation. It is my natural mode of consciousness to flip back and forth between particle and field quite easily, or to occupy both states simultaneously. Historically, from their shared origins, all of the Abrahamic religions visualized the feminine component of Deity under the name Sophia, the Wisdom of God. Nevertheless, the path of human cultural development has made a long detour away from the Sacred Feminine, marginalizing this stream and branding it ‘heretical’. But the gnosis-seekers of every path find Her again, and resurrect themselves in Her image anew for each era.

Representing the Magdalenic Gnosis, taking refuge in Sophia as the Soul of the World, comes natural to me. By constitution, preference, and application this is what I’m meant to do. That makes me a good representative, among many others in this role, for the feminine Mysteries. And it’s also part of the internal alignment that would make me ‘recognize’ the Tarot upon first sighting. I could see from the feminine Trumps that this was talking about my reality!

BC: I was (and am!) very impressed with your work in “The Underground Stream”. What led to the publication of this book?

CPT: Mary Greer started me thinking about doing that. My neighbor during the early 1980’s (Tina Rosa, who ultimately helped me shape the chapters) talked about us to each other for a few years, and then finally found a way to introduce Mary and I later in the decade. I still have the notes Mary scribbled down as she quizzed me in her intense way, about what I would say if I was going to write a book. She basically handed them over after our chat and challenged me to write it up and share it with the world. It only took me 15 years to follow through and get it done. Endless thanks, Mary!

Ultimately, I got tired of saying the same thing over and over, year after year. My students kept giving me copies of their class tapes for my archives, so it seemed like the logical thing to do was get it all transcribed and down into print. My husband of the time was a publisher in his own right, so making a book out of it seemed as natural as falling off a log. Of course, I didn’t have any objectivity about it, had no idea what was going on at the discussion groups and Tarot conventions of the day, and had no clue how it would be received.

I also had very low computer skills, which became an issue when we endured a terrible loss during the last six weeks of production as well. My content editor Tina Rosa’s husband, Steve Rogers, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died as the book was going to the press. He had been the one who transcribed most of the tapes into computer files for me, and Tina was one of my long-time students. Of course this changed all our plans, including our division of labor in the final polishing-up stages. In the final few weeks, Steve and Tina had to leave the state to seek treatment, while my then-husband (the book’s designer, Solala Towler) had a teaching trip scheduled that he couldn’t cancel, so I was left with the manuscript needing things I didn’t know how to do. The thought of Steve’s intrepid transcribing even during his final weeks spurred me on to keep the deadline with the printer, in case Steve might live to see it completed. Tragically, he did not. But the book, such as it is, reminds me how a few dedicated folks, even against great odds, can make something together that transcends time and circumstances.

It also reminds me that ideals of perfection cannot blind us to the goal. Even imperfect, the book is doing its job. And I thank Steve Rogers, Tina Rosa, and their daughter Churpa Rosa-Rodgers for putting so much love and heart into it with me at such a powerful time in their lives. During circumstances like that, you find out who your friends really are!

BC: I love the work that you have done for Tarot.com! How did you become involved with this site, and how do you view inter-active readings of this type?

CPT: Paul O’Brien, owner of Visionary Networks (the company that created Tarot.com) had a dream for years that he could put together a set of tools to serve up spiritual content in a way that would make sense in the computer age. He had already created several computer programs, one a brainstorming aid called Synchronicity, and one about the I Ching called the Oracle of Changes. Paul also co-hosts a radio show in Portland, Oregon, where he reviews new-age books and their authors. He invited me onto his show when I first moved to Portland in the mid-1980’s, and also again just as my family was moving back to Eugene again in 1991. So when he started thinking about creating a program with the Tarot in 1997, he called me.

The offer raised a conflict for me, because I was hip-deep in composing my book already, and was afraid of being sidetracked. Ultimately Paul and I agreed that I could include some of my chapters on the CDRom we were envisioning, and that soothed my concerns about the two projects competing for my loyalty. I ran them both simultaneously – I’d recover from the “grind” of cleaning up the Tarot.com interpretations by waxing lyrical over in my book chapters. For those two years, I lived, breathed, and ate Tarot!

Neither of us could visualize this at the time, but the amount of writing this program required was, even then, enough to fill a small phone book. But before that stage even came up, we had to design the way the computer was going to work with the text so that it could express a different slant on the card every time it fell into a different position across the range of spreads we had defined. We dissected the very act of interpreting the cards, what goes on inside the reader as the interpretation was forming. Only then could we determine the best way a computer could replicate the process.

At that time Paul was inexperienced with the Tarot, but his engineer Eric Rogers had a grandmother who was a Tarot reader, and Eric possessed her old Tarot deck. He put a huge amount of his own time into envisioning how to create a virtual pack of cards that would act like a real pack, keeping it’s unique identity from use to use and fulfilling the true bell curve that a brand-new, bandbox-order deck goes through as it permutes through every possible arrangement. This gave me the confidence to take all 78 cards through their individual range of meaning-permutations too.

You’ve got to understand, nobody had done this before us. Now you see variations on our invention in a lot of places. People saw the genius of its design, analyzed what we did, and reverse-engineered their own versions with new text. But it was Visionary Networks – Paul, Eric and I -- who made all that real, so it could look easy and obvious to the user. We changed the face of Tarot online!

Over the two years of writing it all up, fellow readers told me over and over again “What are you thinking? This can’t work! You have to have a human interpreter there to explain it to the client”. I, too, had always held the belief that Tarot’s answers would not be comprehensible without the presence of a live reader to interpret the oracle. For years I had been turning down the chance to do telephone readings in cases where the caller didn’t have their own cards to handle. So what was I doing thinking that I could write out a generic set of meanings that would ‘automatically’ be somehow relevant to the unknown client and their situation?

Nevertheless, was stubborn, even in the face of my own fears. I kept thinking, “ I am the human interpreter in question, and we have created the program to mimic how my mind works in the act of interpretation. It stands to reason that if I keep the language open enough, people will see for themselves where it applies”. And, for the most part, this is what happens.

For me, this was a chance to assert that the cards themselves have inherent meanings, independent of which deck the reader is using, independent of whether there was a reader present to make sense of it all. In my experience, Tarot readings had been apt every time I used the cards, whether I knew what I was doing or not. Otherwise, nobody would ever get beyond their earliest beginner’s books and decks! Tarot works well as a do-it-yourself art; at least that’s how it was for all of us in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. In my youth as a reader, relatively few people knew much about Tarot, nor was there the glut of books on the market that we find now. Yet and still, we still muddled through.

The goal was to make the self-evident part of Tarot, the part that tutored me through my ‘tarot infancy’, come forward for the computer users. We figured that, for many people, this might be their very first exposure to the cards and how they work. If there was any chance that this writing would be useful enough to live on, the interpretations had to be lucid to the complete newbie.

To be fair to the disbelievers we encountered, it’s totally true that we were flying blind. There was no way to test out whether this was a good idea or not other than to just do it. This not the kind of thing you can do a partial job of to figure out whether it’s viable or not! But I figured, when all was said and done, what did I have to loose? It was another case of thinking, “I have been saying these things over and over for years already, let’s just get it written down!” It truly felt like a huge load was lifted off my back to finally give it a fixed form, so the text could be helpful to people whether I was there or not.

To get the bare bones of the meanings into text form, here’s how I worked: I culled my favorite packs of cards out of my collection, taking the same card out of every pack I wanted help from. I had invented a giant spread with a position for every meaning-module I needed to write. So I laid out my giant spread filled with favorite examples of that card, putting a version of it into every position. Then I dictated it all into my tape recorder as if it were a reading for a client. “When the two of coins is in the Self position, it indicates that… When the two of coins is in the Blocks position, it suggests that….”, and etc. (This was another batch of transcribing that Steve and Tina did for me, may their names resound in heaven for the ages!)

Of course there were endless edits as well, but at least after the dictation was put into files, there was something tangible to work with. I never had to confront the dreaded “blank page” problem. Also, thank God and all the angels for word processing, without which I would never have had the courage to proceed!

What I didn’t know at the time was that my vision, my balance, and my interior gyroscope were slowly coming unglued as I was working on these two projects, and the computer was a big component of the problem. My nervous system turns out not to be standard-issue (big surprise!), and the strain of the writing and editing on the box-style computer monitor I had became the straw that broke the camel’s back. Shortly after the CD and the book came out, just when I should have been running around the country marketing them, I crossed the point of no return and started into a slow collapse and reassembly, which I’m only just now finally on the other side of.

To compensate for not being able to travel and teach, I got engaged in several years of intense argumentation at the Yahoo discussion group TarotL. This was where I found out what kind of a reception my book was getting – which was hugely stressful, but also hugely exciting. Finally I was communicating with people who cared about Tarot, even if they didn’t agree with me! Despite the continued strain on my nervous system (I got a gel screen computer), this enormously stimulating conversation kept me intellectually and psychologically alive while both my senses and my family life were dissolving/resolving around me.

By 2004 I was divorced and moving away to the state of Washington. The miraculous blossoming of the Tarot Magic CDRom into the hugely popular Tarot.com website made it possible for me to survive those losses and rebuild my life on new terms. Now more than ever I am hugely grateful for the opportunity to have done that work, even though it was a major part of my downfall as well.

The fact is, we have to be willing to accept our spiritual assignments when they come to us, no matter what the task or the cost. Even professional psychics like myself cannot know the future, but if we can live in the present saying Yes to our highest vision, then whatever else happens, that Yes energy will carry forward and improve the world. Eventually, our efforts might even wrap around and take care of us too!

BC: What would you tell someone that wanted to approach the Tarot as an initiatory path?

CPT: Well, that last bit was a great lead-in to your question, eh?

Tarot is an initiatory path whether one approaches it that way or not. The images, the names, the numbers and the overall “pack of spirits” format of the Tarot, they all ensure that it is psychologically sticky. These characters and values get into us and start working on our understanding -- the next thing one knows, they are talking in to the back of our minds and showing up in our dreams! Every student I have tutored experiences this, and I encourage it. If a person doesn’t have much of an inner life when then start with the Tarot, they surely will grow one if they keep up with it and develop a regular practice.

But different people have different tolerances for the realization that we are immersed and embedded in conscious energies, literally swimming through a matrix of sentience every second of our lives. Tarot can be creepy; it’s so spot-on so much of the time! People also have differently-calibrated interior equipment, meaning that the same stimulus will hit different people entirely differently. So no two people will experience the Tarot’s operation and effects alike. Each person has to find out for himself or herself “what makes it real”, so they can accept this tool on their own terms.

One could say that most people start out living primarily in one part of the deck – a particular element, rank, number or Archetype -- more then they do the rest of the map. This will color the information that person can ‘see’ across the whole deck. One interpreter will see action-prescriptions in every card, where another will counsel from the Inner Sanctum no matter what the question was. Each person brings to the Tarot the strengths and weaknesses they already have, and each person reads the cards through the lens of their own energetic constitution. It takes time and careful attention to other people’s experiences to broaden and deepen a reader to the point where they can really fathom every card.

This is Tarot’s true genius -- it helps a person see the full spectrum of human potential spread out as if on a graph or chessboard. The pack of cards is, in actuality, a cut up graph, the deck as a whole being a mirror for the soul. In the areas of life where you are strong, you can see yourself clearly in the cards that speak to those skills and sensitivities. In the areas where you are weak or inexperienced, you can see this as well because the corresponding cards seem enigmatic, veiled and unclear.

Tarot gives us a set of tools with which to evaluate the experiences one is always having anyway. Even without throwing cards into spreads to make readings, one can learn about the constitution of the world and of oneself through studying the ways Tarot is put together. Further insight comes via the implications that become visible when one relates Tarot to its sister arts Astrology, Kabala, Numerology, and Image Magic.

Everything we learn through the medium of Tarot increases our self-knowledge, and our awareness of what is possible in human potential. To me, that is the definition of “initiatory”. Tarot helps us to become shamans of our own inner lives. What could be more magical and self-transformative than that?

BC: What do you see ahead for the world of Tarot?

CPT: Frankly, I haven’t got a clue. Now more than ever, I have tunnel vision. Certain things that I am supposed to do are showing themselves to me, but I have no idea “what will happen” out there outside the tiny point of my spotlight, which is oriented towards the past rather than the future at this time. I’m still digging around the roots of Tarot, no matter what the trunk, branches, or leaves are up to these days!

Watching the Internet, its clear that Tarot is circling the world. People with their own indigenous divinatory traditions are picking up the Tarot at great speed, which is quite intriguing. I’m excited just to be present at a time like this. I hope there will be more interest in the subject, including more writers and thinkers who can operate and discourse beyond the beginning and intermediate topics. What I want for Tarot is that it will continue to mature.

BC: Christine, our world is changing very rapidly. How do you see the Tarot being put to best use by individuals attempting to find their peace with this changing world?

CPT: Our only choice is to stay true to ourselves. There is some reason why we have our own special inherent qualities, inborn desires and innate tendencies. We have to explore the mysteries of our own unique design in order to understand what Deity might have been thinking when we were created. There’s nothing more miserable than getting caught up in the feeling that life, our existence, is meaningless!

Depression and disappointment are rampant in this world. There’s somebody in your face to tell you NO every day. It is thus incumbent upon each of us to actively seek out things that increase the meaningfulness of life and dispel the feeling that we are all just pin balls, randomly crashing around in a cruel machine. Tarot is a tremendous tool for registering synchronicities, highlighting the weavings of magic and significance through our days and nights. It increases the interior texture of our reality, offering a framework within which to evaluate and organize our thoughts and feelings. Tarot can provide us with a place to go and work things out even when there is no person around to discuss things with. This can be invaluable in our increasingly depersonalized world.

BC: What lies ahead for you …where are your studies currently taking you?

CPT: I feel like my studies are circular -- always curving back around over the same basic ground, though always cutting a slightly wider swath with each arc. One thing that is thrilling and exciting as we go into 2008 is that there is a depth of research mounting up that was never available before, especially in English language translations. Because of the opening of several University programs highlighting Western Esotericism, there has been a boom in textbooks and investigations across all the subjects this genre impinges upon. I look forward to studying to my heart’s content, and following my muses into the realms that open up as a result. I’m possessed of a strong longing to indulge my melancholic, midnight-oil burning Saturnine side after the vast changes of the last few years, just let my million vectors settle while I think deeply about the Mysteries. I’m old enough now to be the Hermit, and it looks like a really great lifestyle.

Another goal is to bring together a number of things I have written over the years and get them in shape to share over at Tarot University. Because of my most recent move, I finally have enough space around me to open up my files and catch up with myself after years of small living spaces. Recently I opened up a dusty accordion-file containing a manuscript I put together in 1986, and it was thrilling to see how much raw material was waiting for me in there. I have boxes of files and tapes yet to investigate!

There’s one more thing I’d like to see happen as time goes on, though I know this can only emerge organically, as Spirit leads. It is a cherished, long-held dream of mine to help support the creation of some 21st century Continental-style Tarots. I love all the families in this stream – the original handmade and woodblock packs, the Marseilles family, the very alchemical Flemish branch, the Etteilla group, the ‘so-called Egyptian’ packs popular in the Orders and Lodges, the Spanish packs, and the modern esoteric packs from all over Europe. There’s a huge amount of space there for creative artists and gifted metaphysicians to contribute wonderful working tools that reflect the best of Tarot tradition. If I get the chance, I would love to attend the birth of a few of these future gems.

Unless the world suddenly shifts on it’s axis, those are my goals for the upcoming years.

BC: Are there any last words that you would like to leave with our readers?

CPT: Only that for best results, one might consider interacting with one’s cards every day, even without a reason or a particular issue to investigate. Just take some time out to shuffle them, maybe turn up one card and then go on about your business. Let the cards come into your interior conversations, and make them a normal part of your routine. You might never get a chance to witness, as I do nearly every week, the depth of synchronicity and breadth of expression that the cards are capable of. (Not everybody has a professional calling with the cards, after all.) That really doesn’t matter, though, because the Tarot is right there for you any time you can remember to give it a look. You don’t need me or any other person to stand between you and your intuition, just plunge on in and see what shows itself to you. The more you shuffle up and ‘play’ with them, the more they will show you the missing pieces of your pattern.

Also, please realize this; despite being good at the Tarot, or astrology, or any other divinatory art, nobody is omniscient or infallible. Everybody has blind spots, and there are surprises awaiting us all right around the corner of time. Approach your oracle with an open mind and heart, and you will be led, one step at a time, through your lessons. Understand that Tarot is a mirror of the Now, and once new action is taken, the probabilities change and the old reading must be left behind. No single card or spread is a promise, but by following the trends as you see them developing, you can be better positioned for what is upcoming. Also, no card is an island: for every card that appears, remember there’s a just cause behind it and a natural consequence that will follow it. Read the momentum as well as the card itself!

Thank you very much, Bonnie, for your generosity in giving me this bully pulpit to preach from. And thank you, dear reader, for spending this time with me.

I want to thank Christine for taking the time to share with us. You can find her Interactive work on Tarot.com, and her Tarot University site can be found here.


Biography: Christine Payne-Towler is the founder of Tarot University, established to promote the understanding and study of Tarot as a useful astro-alpha-numeric document with relevance in the twenty-first century. Utilizing her scholarship in historical Tarot, she designed the layouts and wrote the interpretive text for the automated online Tarot reading program at the popular Tarot.com website, offering an online tarot alternative for people who need strong wisdom-tools for personal insight near at hand. A CD ROM of the original interactive tarot computer program, “Tarot Magic”, is also available.

She has written and lectured extensively on the history of Tarot, with an emphasis on historical accuracy. Her essays, videos and lecture recordings of the past twenty eyars are currently being transcribed and published online throughout 2005 via The Tarot ArkLetters, a publication of Tarot University designed for students of Tarot.

Tarot University online tele-classes with Christing take place periodically. Students and interested folks can access study materials, practice tools, and the schedule on site. The recommended Tarot Online Forum List can be accessed through The Tarot University News weblog.

Payne-Towler currently offers esoteric counseling, personal reading and interpretation for new clients on a limited basis. If her schedule is full (often the case), she highly recommends using her text within the online Tarot-reading program at Tarot.com.

© Bonnie Cehovet

Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.

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