One of the reasons working with Tarot is a powerful experience is that the images on the cards speak directly to us, and don’t require the medium of language. We get a sense of what they’re about without necessarily being able to articulate exactly what that is. Sometimes those images affect us quite directly. What would you make of the following experience?
A woman of my acquaintance has, over the last year, begun sharing bits about the Tarot with her adult daughter, occasionally showing cards to her and talking about readings she’s done for herself. This daughter, let’s call her Jane, is a college student who also worked full-time at a job she didn’t like and that didn’t pay especially well. She’d stuck with this job for years, because to leave it meant taking a big risk: there were no guarantees she’d find a better job and almost a certainty that she’d be starting over at lower pay. As well, she didn’t have the time to look for something else while working and going to school. She was caught in one of those painful predicaments where she made just enough that she could maintain her situation, not enough to get out of it.
Jane decided to do an art class project using images from a Tarot card. She tried first the Sun card, and then two others over the course of a few weeks, but none of them seemed to work the way she wanted. One day, on a visit with her mother, she saw the Tower card and decided to try it, because she thought she could make the graphics she wanted. She took it home with her, created her project, and within twenty-four hours had called her mother in tears to report that she’d just quit her job.
To anyone who requires scientific proof, there is nothing to work with here. If you are willing to leap, there’s a bit of mystery afoot. The Tower card shows a building that looks like a lighthouse being struck by lightning, with flames coming out the windows and two human figures hurtling toward the stony foundation. A crown sits askew on top of the tower, having been dislodged by the lightning bolt. Against the background of black sky, a quantity of small ‘tongues’ that may be fire can be seen. The traditional reading of this card at its bleakest is “catastrophe”. At its best, it represents the strike of sudden awareness that causes irrevocable change. In any case, it signals a time of unseating, of being shaken deeply, of a turn of fortune – all of which we may initially find disturbing. There are no guarantees about the way things will work out, but there are indications in the images of the Tower of the grace that arrives with the challenge.
The mystery of course is the way an image of itself will open possibilities, bypassing consciousness and creating a change in our story.