There have been many models suggested of “how” tarot readings, or any divinatory or mantic arts, actually work. One will regularly hear readers say they are “psychic” readers, or “intuitive,” or “empathic”; they may also refer to themselves as “holistic,” or “traditional,” or “modern.” They may be more “right brain” in their orientation and draw heavily on unconscious prompts or signals in their readings, or they may incline to “left brain” processing and be extremely well-versed in the intricate and in-depth meaning of each card.
In our post-modern world, we draw widely from the different systems of thought which lie behind the various magical systems, and these tend to filter into the way in which any given Tarot reader approaches their art. As Peter Carroll refers to in his “Liber Null and Psychonaut,” there are different ways we can assume magic (and divination) to work; there is the “spirit model,” the “psychological model,” the “energy model,” and the more modern “information model.” It is good for readers to have an idea of where they fit into these “models of magic” and how that influences and defines their practice, and it may also be helpful to their clients to understand “how” they think their tarot works.
The Arcana system of Tarot Shamanry, while recognising the importance of the principles of the “psychological model” of divination (refer to the page “Can The Tarot Be ‘Real’?” on this site), is primarily a “spirit model” system. It is a modern shamanic system of divination which presupposes an “otherworld” of “non-ordinary reality” which interpenetrates and sits alongside this world of “everyday reality” and is filled with beings, spirits, guides, animals, angels and demons, many of which can be enlisted in the services of the Tarot Shaman to provide information and insight.
So how does this shamanic “Spirit Model” operate in any given reading? A shamanic practitioner who seeks to obtain information from other-worldly sources first enters into that realm of “non-ordinary reality” to call upon their own spirit guide, helpers or power animal/familiar(s). He or she directs them to communicate directly with higher sources of information and wisdom, or often with the client’s own spirit guides and helpers. This is done whilst sorting, shuffling, and laying out the cards, and continues throughout the reading. The processes of synchronicity (the “psychological model”) and intuition also operate while the Tarot Shaman reads and interprets the cards, often guided and prompted by the spirits enlisted.
The divining shaman performs the function, then, of being a messenger between worlds, and between the various beings in these worlds. He or she facilitates the cooperation of various other-worldly beings to obtain information of value to the client.
It is also a profoundly “spiritual” approach to Tarot reading because it provides a channel via which a client can engage with their own spirit guides and helpers. The consultation with the reader becomes an avenue that one’s own spiritual protectors and advisors can use to pass on wisdom, share insights and express love and attention.
Artwork: Kundalini by Katia Honour