I Contain Multitudes: Tarot, the Self, and the World

This morning, I drew The World. Not really, of course—though the thought of that makes me smile—but through a card pulled from my Tarot deck. As a graduate student whose schedule frequently ricochets from being relatively manageable to overwhelming in a second, I’ve tried to maintain a sense of routine by starting each morning the same way: with coffee and Tarot. The World—a card that represents joyous, graceful completions and culmination—met me this Sunday as I sat at my table, warm mug in hand, waiting for my laptop to boot. Looking at the card, its image of a statuesque woman flanked by a red-haired maiden, a hawk, an ox, and a lion—all the energies of the universe, both fearful and fearless, combined—I knew that it was time to start writing this: the final installment of Cards on the Table.

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The World card, from the Aquarian Tarot by David Palladini

I always believed the cards were a unifying tool, and I am so extremely happy that writing this series has proven it true. My friend and Agape Editions’ Founding EIC, Fox Frazier-Foley welcomed Cards on the Table with immense excitement when I pitched the idea, and graciously guided me in my understanding of the tradition. Each of my spectacular interviewees—Fatima Mbodj, Jezmina Von Thiele, Gary Howell, and Kristina Dolce —honored me with their time, energy and other resources. Each of these gifted practitioners was, in their own way, the very embodiment of magick. And I was so happy to hear from people who enjoyed this series, and the spiritual community I found through writing it—the friends with whom I bonded after confiding our shared love of the Tarot.

My own connection to the Tarot comes by way of Eastern European, and more specifically Hungarian, cartomancy. The women on my father’s side of my family—lovelorn, poor, but ever fantastical and passionate—would have used a regular pack of playing cards officially called the Magyar kártyato divine their futures. I learned of this familial tradition when I found my Nagymama’s own pack of small kártya, which she kept in a royal blue plastic sleeve. I started doing some research, learning about acorns, leaves, hearts, and bells as divinatory suits, and her deck’s focus on relationships and prosperity.

The cultural/ethnic lineage associated with my connection to the Tarot and cartomancy in general makes my love of it seem almost fated, but in reality my journey with the cards hasn’t always seemed so sure. If I were asked to define my relationship with the Tarot, I would have to call it a phase. Now, in case this description insinuates that my bond with the cards is conditional or—worse—flippant, let me tell you that I am thinking about the moon; how this astronomical body occupies a constant presence, but doesn’t always present itself in its fullest form; how it doesn’t have to in order to be considered beautiful or valid; how this is the role the Tarot has held for me throughout my life.

 

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The Moon card, from the Aquarian Tarot by David Palladini

Though I say this with absolute confidence now, I wasn’t always aware of the “flow” of the Tarot. For the longest time, I thought it was something fixed and had to be learned in a specific way. Moreover, I assumed the Tarot was something that people just knew and that if I didn’t understand the cards immediately, that meant I didn’t have an innate talent for them; that, despite every attempt, I wouldn’t get them at all. This kept me isolated from the Tarot for a long time—thirteen years to be exact—until, via social media, I met and started following other Tarot readers from a myriad of backgrounds and skill sets. Being exposed to these readers’ personal journeys with the cards inspired and reassured me. While some of them did have an instantaneous connection to the cards, others like myself admitted to feeling daunted by the history of the tradition or confused by the imagery. Regardless of how long it took them to get to the point where the cards “spoke” to them, these Tarot readers of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook made me realize that the cards are anything but static. They also helped me discover something else, something that I have just recently been able to articulate: that the Tarot will only make as much sense to you as you make to yourself. I’m not saying that if you ignore a certain aspect of your life while practicing the Tarot that the cards will immediately reject you—they’re tempestuous and sometimes sassy, but not downright mean—but they may deliver a reading whose profundity is the equivalent of the Magic Eight Ball’s iconic—and oh-so-veryhelpful—response, “Reply hazy, try again.”

The Tarot’s purpose, I believe, is to help you return to and recover your innermost self—that self that has been criticized and curtailed, defined as “too much” or “not enough” by people who claim to know you, but have severely underestimated your splendor. The Tarot doesn’t criticize you; it takes you as you are and leads you into each new stage of your life, all the while hinting at the missteps and joys that await you on your path. The Fool’s journey belongs to every Tarot practitioner and it is yours, too. You have the power to direct it any way you desire. Even when you feel (we all sometimes do) that you may have “screwed up” your journey, at times—the cards are there to remind you that you (usually) haven’t screwed up in any cosmic sense, you’ve simply found yourself an opportunity for a new life lesson. Because dealing in such futile and judgmental terms is not the way the Tarot works. Tarot is about possibility and learning, about the acumen of personal knowledge that becomes wisdom.

In most religions, it is blasphemous to worship a deity outside of a specific spiritual tradition. Tarot does not require worship of, say, The High Priestess or the Hierophant; the figure who must be worshipped is You. We are so often taught that explicitly, or even secretly, regarding ourselves as icons is narcissistic or, frankly, just weird,but the Tarot emphasizes that this mindset of self-worship is paramount not only to one’s confidence but to the continuation of one’s journey. The cards want what’s best for you because you want the best for you, because you know you deserve a good, fulfilling life. And the relationship is reciprocal: the tradition(s) of Tarot, as you continue your practice of and journey with it, will now live through and because of you.

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Enikő “Eni” Vághy is currently a graduate student at Binghamton University, studying English Literature with concentrations in Creative Writing and Global Culture. She has had poetry and reviews published in journals such as Street Light Press and Paterson Literary Review, among others. A proud descendant of immigrants and factory workers, Eniko uses poetry to share her personal history and bond with people from various walks of life. She currently resides in Binghamton, New York, with her parents and dog Cuki. In her free time, Eni delights in walking around town taking pictures of the various people and sights she encounters. She conducts research on the female gaze and debates the notion that the female body in its various forms is inherently “confrontational.” She firmly believes that when women unite, anything epic is possible—to her, Agape Editions represents this power perfectly.

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