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Therapeutic Use of Tarot

by Veet Pramad

Nowadays, Tarot is used according to two radically different and often exclusive points of view: the divinatory or futurological and the therapeutical.

While the divinatory Tarot deems to foretell the future, Therapeutical Tarot presumes human transformation. To this purpose it works towards revealing and explaining psycho-emotional blocks, fears, and behaviour patterns which impede the individuals full realization, and by offering precise guidance in resolving these factors.

The discrepancies of the view are three-fold:

  1. Concerning the question of destiny To the futurological Tarot reader, Tarot is an intermediary between almighty destiny and mortals hence reduced to mere spectators of their lives. To the therapeutical tarot reader, one is the "menu planner" of his destiny that he is continually creating though choice, that can be changed at any given moment. Future and destiny are the response of the universe to our deeds, omissions and thoughts much like the physical force of action and reaction known in the Orient as the law of karma. It should be pointed out that the capacity to transform ones life or create the future according to our desires is proportional to our level of consciousness. Tarot, well implemented, is a tool to change one's destiny, for it helps us become conscious of what is really blocking our realizations and shows what attitudes are necessary to become liberated.

  2. The Question of responsibility. In divinatory Tarot, the human being is a slave. What freedom can anyone's life have if it's bound by destiny, going as far as to be able to know one's future? Freedom and responsibility stride side by side. If we insist in showing our clients that their lives are the result of strange, alien and unpredictable forces such as luck, bad luck or divine will when not the works of magic where non-material entities intervene, we are simply degrading human beings to puppets of fate who will never be able to free themselves by themselves. According to the therapeutic vision of Tarot one is totally responsible for the life he leads. The first step towards change begins when one stops blaming others and destiny for our current situation. Fortune and happiness are a question of choice and not of luck.

  3. The question of good and bad. Good and bad are not absolute truths. What is good for one person today not be so tomorrow what is good for me, may not be good for you. Whomsoever intends to help heal the soul, cannot work with absolute truths or doctrines, for there are no illnesses but rather those that are ill at ease. It stands to be considered (however) that some particular aspect of our intimate self untouched by the manipulations of our family programming wherein lies the essence of the human being, can be aided by a superior being or a supra-consciousness in its labours towards realization. These considerations are alien to the divinatory Tarot approach, which in general borrows its concepts of good and bad from official religions, indoctrinating even more its users thus making it even more difficult for them to be themselves.

In the Tarot deck there are three groups of cards: the major arcana are archetypes or universal ideas present in the collective unconscious, which change according to humanity's evolution. They also represent states of consciousness and their practical manifestation ranging from the absolute potential of the madman to the full realization of the universe.

The court cards of royalty cease to be persons, men and women with determined psychic or physical characteristics which will appear and disappear bringing happiness or disgrace, to become sixteen types of personalities which depending on the position in which they appear indicate masks or attitudes to be assumed.

The forty Minor or Lesser Arcana are expressions of routine life in four aspects:

  • The suit of clubs or element fire show how the consulted expresses his or her energy, ranging basically from their professional but also evaluating their instinctive manifestations.
  • The cups or water suit shows the emotional state.
  • The swords or air indicate our state of mind and which are its more habitual mechanisms.
  • Finally, the discs (pentacles or coins) or earth element reveal our relationship with our physical body and the material World in general.

It should be observed how there is a precise parallel between the structure of Tarot and that of the human model facilitating the entrance into the deep recesses of the psyche.

The old systems of Tarot reading such as: present, past and future will no longer do if we want to put up and center the question of self transformation of one's being: dealing with behaviour pattens, belief systems, fears and blocks which need to be dissolved along with attitudes that must be taken.

Thus in 1987, I developed the therapeutic reading based on the traditional Celtic Cross, a system used according to the disposition (arrangement) of ten (10) cards whereby the inscribed number in each card indicates the order in which the card was extracted from the deck.

Let us examine each of the ten positions:

  • 1. and 2. Present Moment
  • 3. Internal Result
  • 4. Anchor
  • 5. Method
  • 6. Path of growth
  • 7. Essential Need
  • 8. Relationships
  • 9. Infancy
  • 10. External Result

A session of therapeutic tarot isn't very different from a consultation with a health professional. In the first place we don't make the visit because we're curious or aim to know ourselves better but because we're sick, or because something is bothering us or stops us from reaching our goals or objectives. We're not satisfied with a prescription of painkiller for our headache nor with the promise that we'll feel better once we take it. What we want in the first place, is that the doctor evaluate our symptoms, or some other one that has passed us by and to identify our malady. Nothing is more frustrating than to hear, "I don't know what it is that you have".

In the same manner with Therapeutic Tarot, the cards of the present moment: which show the difficulties that we're going through are the symptoms of a disease formed by a group of programmed behaviours, which we can call our mask on script, pointed out by the cards in the anchor position.

In the second place, we wish to know the cause of our disease and what we should do to be cured of it and not be sick again. To this end, the healer who knows our eating habits, who knows whether we enjoy our work or not, if we do physical exercise, have feelings of anger at home or at work if our expectations of personal realization are materializing, if we are living a strong emotional conflict, etc. A morning headache could be the warning sign of an intoxicated liver with high levels of cholesterol and anger; maybe we're compensating our professional and relationship dissatisfaction with our pleasure at the table.

What we may need is to detox our liver, have better nutrition, and stop accumulating anger. Well, okay, but even so were still not satisfied. We need to discover the deep causes that lead us to accept given situations with which deep down, we don't agree. If we go down to the deep roots of the matter maybe we'll change our compensations and symptoms but we'll continue dissatisfied and ill.

In therapeutic Tarot there are cards in the position for infancy, which show the unconscious origins of the anchor, the deep causes that lead us to the illness or "dis-ease". Here we can become conscious of the personality traits acquired to receive certain family approval, which is fundamental to the psychic survival of a child.

I insist in affirming that our difficulties and diseases do not come from external agents, but rather are inside, well inside of us. All of these external agents - viruses, germs, bad boss, corruption, IMF, husband or wife - that make our life hell, can act at any given moment that we permit our biological defences to be lowered or by devaluing ourselves.

Divinatory Tarot generally places the causes of our problems on the external World. It tries to find out if our mate is betraying us, or if our business partner is cheating us out, or if someone is coveting our shop. The solutions are likewise external. Will there appear a man or woman in my life? Will I marry so and so? Will my company or my lover turn out fine? Will I win the lottery? To place the causes of ones problems, dis-ease and separate one self from our patterns of behaviour, belief systems and emotional conflicts coincides the futurological vision of Tarot with the Hospital consultation approach: 'Doctor I have such and such symptoms, it hurts here and there. Very well, take this analgesic for the pain, and this antibiotic for the virus or bacteria that's causing the problem and this anti-inflammatory. This way you should be well in a week and be able to carry on with your normal life. '

Once we understand this internal conflict and we have the diagnosis, our now of action has arrived as well as the moment to apply the correct remedy. It isn't enough to know, it's the doing or acting upon "the praxis" which is cannot be substituted. We need a workable method, which can change our lives.

The M.D. will be mainly concerned with cutting these roots, suggesting attitudes; initiatives and remedies that will help us recuperate our health. In Therapeutic Tarot we have the cards in position that indicate the method.

An experienced Health Professional knows all too well that the organism is a self-integrated system which is constantly maintaining it self in balance, having its own ways of returning to a state of health. It is thus more certain to speak of helping the body recuperate. Often times these ways are confused with the symptoms of the dis-ease and eliminated. One example is a certain type of infantile influenza, which in reality is process of detoxification. The child loses its appetite, rather, the body refuses to take in more toxins, the temperature rises, favouring elimination, and the nose runs with catarrh. Quite often mothers force the child to eat or at least have a glass of warm milk while antibiotics and antipyretics are administered. In Therapeutic Tarot, the tendency to recuperate ones health is expressed by the cards of the internal needs.

We also wish to know how we will evolve during our treatment, that is, what our path of recuperation will be like and what attitudes we need to take to reach our expected results. All of this is shown by the cards of the path of growth and of the internal and external results. We can also make use of various cards for each position, thus constructing a map that the individual is experiencing, giving precise orientation so that they can choose the right direction in their life.

© Veet Pramad

Veet has studied and worked with tarot since 1980. He developed a therapeutic vision of tarot in 1987, and since that time has been teaching courses and consulting in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Portugal and Spain.

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