The Science and Art of Divination

As a professional visionary tarot card reader, I believe in the power of divination. I don’t believe in deadpan versions of my clients’ futures. I find myself telling them that the card reading is a conversation between their innermost feelings and drives with the entire universe. In other words, there are a lot of possibilities.

“Our choices are the options that lead us to our destinies,” I tell them. This is reflected in the tarot deck itself, ironically. The trump card of Fortune, the great wheel of Fortuna, shows us the intervention of both chance and destiny in its endless turning. I like to probe into the realm of visions and dreams for information and then intertwine the symbols therein with probable realities. But I always tip my hat to the dice roll of chance and to the free will of the individual in relation to their lives. The ancient Arabs say, “Maktub, it is written.” I say refer to the script and use your hand to roll your own dice.

There are such comical opinions about divination. They are fitting because the tarot cards were likely derived from entertaining 14th century Morality Play character rosters—the Fool (jester), the Emperor, the Pope, Fortune, and so on. At Machu Pichu, my shaman friend told me that in Q’ero culture, there is only today; tomorrow doesn’t exist; we don’t think of it. Hours later, he offered to read my coca leaves.

The same paradoxes can be found in other cultures. For example, I sought a fortune reader in Bali. When I got to his house of elaborate ancient temples, he was doing energetic healing on clients. There was a long line. My Balinese friend had directed me to him, saying, “He is the best in Bali!” I waited for over an hour until the healer asked me my purpose. I told him I’d like to have my fortune read. He reacted violently, “Only God gets to know the future! You have no business learning of your fortune. I only do healings now!”

Something similar happened in Peru when I asked a shopkeeper for direction to the local, traditional coca and card readers. She replied, “Card reading is just for money. If you want to be healed, you must go to a shaman.” I laughed and nodded because, in a way, I agree. However, not everyone wants a complete shamanic awakening concerning simple matters which can be clarified with a bit of visionary insight. I find myself saying the same things about coaching and counseling. If you want to really get it, get out of the intellectual realm of talking, go to a visionary who works with divination, and then go to a shaman. After the shaman, go back to the counselor! I have come to recognize the value of each role.

Tarot cards act as elemental intermediaries between the querist and the reader. When a longterm relationship has been formed between a reader and a deck, reading tarot is like conversing with old friends. The cards are a key to the unconscious, in their archetypal nature. I studied my tarot deck for years, cross-referencing the symbols, drawing the cards, and meditating on them. In fact, I began working with the cards because I was having repeating dreams of hanging upside down by one foot over water. One night I was hanging from the mast of a sailboat in choppy waves. Another, I was hanging from the center of a pyramid, with water on the floor. The dreams kept coming until I asked my friend, an occultist, about them. He immediately responded, “Oh, that’s the Hanged Man, of course! He hangs by one foot and is the trump card associated with the water element.” And, so, I began studying tarot and drawing my own cards.

The cards are known to be this way. They can sneak into your dreams quite easily because of the amount of symbolic information portrayed in each image. Once in the desert of New Mexico, while I was in the midst of intensely studying my deck, I drank a bit too much peyote. Suddenly, I began to have horrifying visions of the Sword court cards coming to life. So many of the swords are difficult cards, wrought with mental anguish, indecision, and strife. I had an entire journey centered around making something of my life rather than merely getting stuck in the formative world of the intellect. The Queen of Swords herself arose from a pile of rubble and construction materials and demanded I listen to her scold me for failing to manifest my ideas. The cards can come to life like this, especially if you work closely with them over time. It is an aspect of magical resonance that longterm objects of our magical attention can become animated within our consciousness. I have found that this is also true within other cultures and their particular divination tools. When we made kintu, coca leaf offerings for sacred sites during huachuma ceremonies in Peru, the shaman saw an unusual leaf with two lobes on one side and said, “This is a good sign! We will have prosperity and luck today. Mama Coca has spoken.”

This anthropomorphism is common with all divination methods. Humans have read coca, corn, and cards in Peru for many years. In Europe, tarot cards originated by the 1400s, if not earlier. In the Middle East, diviners read coffee and tea grounds, an art technically known as tasseomancy. In Southern Mexico, curanderos roll eggs over the bodies of the afflicted, break them, and read the contents as a method of seeing the inner state of their clients. Other common divining tools are runes, the I Ching, pendulums, entrails, and palm reading. Palm reading and the format of Chinese medicine in general, function through the practitioners’ knowledge of patterns between the microcosm and the macrocosm.

Aleister Crowley, of the famed Thoth tarot deck, referred to the tarot cards as alive, stating, “Each card is, in a sense, a living being; its relations with its neighbors are what one might call diplomatic. It is for the student to build these living stones into his living Temple. Each card, this is especially true of the Trumps, is a Talisman.” Although Mama Coca and sacred indigenous corn are alive and display varying identifying markers, it could be argued that tarot is a far more specific science, with obvious layers of symbolism and correlation.

For this reason, in reference to the Thoth deck, Crowley said: “It seems important that you should understand my motive. To me this Work on the Tarot is an Encyclopedia of all serious occult philosophy. It is a standard Book of Reference, which will determine the entire course of mystical and magical thought for the next 2000 years.”

Why did this mysterious magician claim that his tarot deck could “determine the entire course of mystical and magical thought for the next 2000 years?” What does tarot have that corn and coca do not? Images. The tarot deck has clear images that anyone can access, meditate upon, recreate, and alter to their liking. While other divination methods are capable of representing the complicated lives of men, tarot is unique in its presentation of fixed images, characters, and astrological and other correlations. In a sense, the tarot is a guidebook to the life of humans, outlining the journey of life from the cradle to the grave. Ordinary people with no visionary or scrying skill can read them in a simple fashion.

I rediscovered tarot many years after studying the deck intellectually. Losing interest and frustrated with the images, I stowed them away. After a mind-expanding ayahuasca initiation in Peru, I had a psychic opening that did not cease. I began reading tarot as a way to focus my visions and serve others. At this stage, I learned that reading tarot is a lifelong study. It is the blend of studied intellect on autopilot, like a skilled surgeon with a knife, and the gift of visionary intuition that bring the cards to life. Like all forms of magic, divination is both an art and a science.

Even then, as with any type of divination, there is the risk of ego involvement. For this reason, it can be particularly difficult to read one’s own cards. It can become necessary to invoke a third party in this case. With a reader, client, and the cards, there are three parties at play to hold the conversation of the reading. I always invoke the spirits of the cards themselves. However, when reading for oneself, we must be more careful to separate from our own opinions, perceptions, judgments, and desires. This requires a more trained state of awareness.

I have found that card reading is truly a lifelong study that organically develops over the course of time. Not only do the personalities of the cards become revealed, but also the methods of reading become refined. These methods are best refined one way: with practice and familiarity. My readings, I believe, like those of many diviners across time, occasionally involve work in the astral, remote viewing, past life information, banishing, and healing techniques. Working within a specific divinatory format over time allows the practitioner to deepen their intuitive skill.

Maktub (It is written). And, the dice is in your hand to roll.