Any Convenient Excuse

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I can’t seem to escape gathering a fresh crop of intriguing notions every time I open Alejandro Jodorowsly’s The Way of Tarot (at least on this, my second time through; the first adventure into his thinking felt more like an overwhelming tsunami of oddities). Somewhat like Aleister Crowley (although both would likely deny it), he comes across as a “mystical maverick” who walks his own path, but I can recommend his work to anyone who wants to think deeply about the less-traveled byways in tarot contemplation (admittedly, his Christian persuasions do tarnish it a little for me).

In one place during his analysis of the tarot trumps in pairs, Jodorowsky observes that the second card in the normal left-to-right interpretive sequence can provide an “excuse” or justification for the first card to act out its agenda. I did two things with this premise. Most importantly, I assumed that the second card filters, screens or even seduces or subverts the active expression of the first one, functioning as a kind of “object” for the “verb” of the initial impulse and perhaps taking its usual significance in an unexpected direction. Secondarily, I believe that this idea can be applied to any two paired cards, not just the Major Arcana. I’ve always felt that the tarot neophyte is best served by studying the cards in random pairs rather than taking them on singly in an intellectual vacuum, so any technique that offers constructive nuance to this exercise is worth considering.

In practice, if we treat the situation as a whole as the “subject” of the inquiry, any two cards in series within a spread can be viewed as a “snapshot” of incremental change, with the first card as the “driver” (verb) and the second one as the next “waypoint” in the journey (object or short-range destination). Whether we can segue one pair into the next depends upon the “active” or “passive” nature of the second card. If it is active, it becomes the first card of the next set, creating a “cascading” effect in the interpretation. If, on the other hand, it is passive, the current of influence fades and the next pair sets out on a new trajectory. This “active-or-passive” determination can be made according to the element of the second card (Fire and Air are active; Water and Earth are passive) or by its odd (active) or even (passive) polarity. This can create “peaks and valleys” in the narrative, or a mini-series of symbolic “starts-and-stops” in the otherwise seamless flow of circumstances or events. I see it as another way to step back and take in the “big picture” while also providing increased awareness of and sensitivity to less-apparent subtleties in the developing situation. If the spread as a whole represents the bounding framework or “matrix” of the matter, the internal pairs might be seen as its interactive “nodes.” This model yields all kinds of imaginative and creative ways to “slice-and-dice” a reading, perhaps introducing discrete “scenes” or “vignettes” into the overarching story-line in much the same way as three-card Elemental Dignities.

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