From a psychological standpoint, in divination we are trying to arrange for a synchronistic event, a breakthrough of the archetypal world into the everyday world of time and place. Such a breakthrough will be more likely if several psychological preconditions are satisfied. First, the matter of the divination should be important, for a synchronistic event is more likely if there is a high charge of psychic energy, that is, more likely in an emotion-laden, tension-charged situation. Second, one or more archetypes of the collective unconscious should be activated, since in this way a constellated archetype becomes luminous and shines through, glowing with meaning. Thus the archetypal realm may break through into consciousness and physical reality simultaneously. As Albertus Magnus (1193-1290) explained, an Excessus Affectus (Excess of Feeling) is a prerequisite to any kind of magic. This intensification can be accomplished by a number of means, including repetition (hence the use of the question as a mantra) and the manipulation of physical objects coordinated with the archetypal realm (hence, the contemplation of the spread as a mandala); a mandala creates an intersection between the eternal and temporal realms. Third, the light of ego consciousness must be turned down, since it subtracts from the luminosity of the archetypes; the discursive ego must be silent, to give the archetypes (as autonomous spirits) an opportunity to speak. Once the breakthrough occurs, synchronistic events of all sort may take place, in the physical environment as well as in the cards. However, the "window to eternity" stays open for only a brief time, after which the ordinary temporal order resumes. (von Franz 157, 185-6, 200, 223, 225-7, 246, 262)
From a religious standpoint, we are in effect requesting an audience with the Gods. We are asking that They give us advice on a problem, reveal Their Will, or give us a glimpse into the future. It should be apparent that we should not present the Gods with trivial or frivolous questions. Further, we should not resort to divination before we have availed ourselves of more mundane means of problem solving. "Hermes will help you to get your wagon unstuck, but only if you push on it," as an old proverb says. So we should have a serious concern to present to the Gods and we should show Them we are sincere in our petition. One way to do this is to conduct the divination as a sacred ritual including prayers, vows and offerings to the Gods. Finally, the supplicant should submit himself to the Will and advice of the Gods.
Accepting the Will of the Gods is not the same, however, as a passive fatalism. A divination reveals Their Will as it is at a given moment of time. The future is not fixed, for Gods may change Their minds, and sometimes a supplicant can convince Them to do so. Also, a supplicant may enlist a God to work in his favor and intercede on his behalf with other Gods. Further, oracles are often conditional: "if you do this, such and such will happen," so the choice remains with us. Even when the Gods' minds are made up and they cannot be swayed, we are free to choose how we will raft the river of fate.
If we doubt the God and test the oracle, we deserve what we will likely get: the results predicted by chance. For to ask the very same question of the Gods a second time, merely for the sake of repetition, and not for greater insight or some other genuine need, is to try the Gods' patience. To perform a divination under "controlled conditions," without proper ritual and mental attitude, is sacrilegious. Is it any wonder that under such circumstances the Gods give misleading answers or no answers at all?
From a psychological standpoint, there is no such thing as repeating a divination, since each reading is unique. At very least the "psychic charge" decreases with repetition, which decreases the likelihood of a synchronistic event. Divination accesses "psychological probability," the expected evolution ("rolling out") of archetypal processes, which is completely different from the statistical probability of the sciences. Divination requires an unconscious "cut," isolating the qualitative character of a moment in its physical and psychic wholeness, whereas science requires a conscious "cut," which isolates a phenomenon from the rest of existence. (von Franz 44, 198-9, 223-4)
Within the sacred area is the Focus (Latin, altar hearth), the table upon which the divination is performed. Place on the Focus the following: the Deck in its cover or container, the spread cloth (if used), censer, candles and any other ritual instruments (e.g. wand or athame).
It is traditional to keep a Tarot deck wrapped in black silk, since black is a neutral color and keeps out extraneous influences. Or you may choose to keep it wrapped in some other clean cloth or to house it in a clean, attractive container that is not used for anything else. The point is to treat the deck with respect.
Here are some general guidelines. Avoid either-or questions or questions about a future event at a specific time; the answer to such a question may be accurate but irrelevant. Better questions are "What will be the result of doing ...?" or "How may ... be accomplished?" Often the most useful request is "Comment upon ...," since it invites the God to offer the most relevant advice and doesn't force the response into a particular form. In any case, although formulating the question is important for your own clarification, you must expect the Gods to respond to what you need to know, even if it is not what you asked. Be open to Their gifts.
The question should be brief, so that it can be held in the mind easily; further, it is helpful, though by no means necessary, if it can be expressed metrically (so that it can serve as a sort of mantra). Write the question down so that it can be kept in sight.
We call You, Lord Apollo, Pythian,If a libation of Holy Water is poured, both reader and querent may also drink some of it, from a silver vessel, for inner purification. Continue to hold the question in your mind.
the Ruler of the Delphic Oracle,
or by whatever name You would prefer.
Attend us and accept these offerings.
(pour libation, burn incense, etc.)
Be kind to us and send us lucid signs;
reveal the Will of Heaven so we may comply.
The problem that we bring to You is this:
(state the question as formulated)
Be kind to us, Apollo, Lord of Light.
In wisdom may we live by Your advice.
Apollo, Lord of Prophecy, I call!You should pay careful attention to everything that happens from now on during the reading, not only with the cards but also in the surroundings. You are arranging for a synchronistic event to take place, which may manifest, both physically and psychically, in many ways. In addition to physical phenomena, you should note ideas, images, emotions, etc. that may enter your mind. This is especially true after the Cut, which is intended to trigger the synchronistic event.
The Art of Secret Wisdom is Your realm,
and therefore I request You place Your hand
upon these consecrated Cards of Art,
so I may better know the Hidden Truth,
and praise the vision of Your Shining Light.
Since medieval times it has been considered very significant if a card falls out of the deck during shuffling. "What falls, comes" (Quod cadit, venit). Such a card must be interpreted as defining the atmosphere of the entire divination. It should be shuffled back into the deck, and if it appears in the spread it should be considered especially significant. (Hamaker-Zondag, Tarot as a Way of Life, p. 105)
When the moment feels right, cut the deck. The cut should be made with the left hand if you are right-handed and with the right if you are left-handed. The cut should be clean and decisive.
If you make a "false cut" (drop one or more cards), then replace them in the deck and reshuffle before cutting again. Another false cut indicates that this is an inauspicious time for divination. (The Golden Dawn manuscripts suggest that an important divination be delayed for at least twelve hours if a false cut occurs.)
Place the cards face down in the spread in the prescribed order. (They are placed face down to prevent the reader's or querent's mental reaction to earlier cards from influencing the choice of later ones.) Then turn them all face up, again in the prescribed order, before beginning the interpretation. In this way you will able to see all the relationships among the cards without undue bias from the earlier cards.
If some aspects of the reading are unclear, it is possible to do a secondary reading. For example, if the problem is at a particular location in the spread, one to three additional cards may be dealt to that location in an attempt to clarify the corresponding aspect. Place them above the spread if the ambiguity is more pervasive. If the entire reading suggests another question or problem, then a complete additional reading can be performed, by addressing the new problem to the God, reshuffling the deck and respreading the cards.
The original spread, its interpretation, and any secondary spreads and their interpretations should all be recorded in writing to facilitate follow-up interpretation or reinterpretation. Some aspects of the reading may become clearer as events unfold.
Apollo, gracious Lord of Oracles,Then rewrap the cards, extinguish the candles, etc., and retire from sacred space.
receive these offerings for all Your gifts,
and for the guidance You have granted me.
I gladly give You many heartfelt thanks,
for I am grateful for Your watchful care.
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Last updated: Tue Jun 22 20:04:34 EDT 1999