Nothing kills the creative imagination quicker than dogma. And nowhere is dogma more deadening than when applied to fluid, subjective, deeply personal metaphorical arts like that of the Tarot, as when someone says: This card means this, and only this—if you don’t believe me, you’re wrong. Its symbols mean x and y, it corresponds to this particular path on the Tree of Life, and don’t trust anyone who tells you otherwise.
Many of my students have expressed their frustrations with learning how to read the cards because of the endlessly differing meanings and systems found in books, websites, and videos. What does the Star card really mean? And should I follow the Golden Dawn attributions, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s, Eliphas Levi’s, or Crowley’s? Or just give up this nonsense altogether because how can I tell correct from incorrect when everyone disagrees?
Here’s a great bit of insight in that topic from one of my favorite writers, Gareth Knight:
It is high time we abandoned the idea of a one and only true rigid system of correspondences . . . We live in a universe based on relative realities. That is, within the limitations of basic building blocks, we structure our own cognitive worlds.
The Tarot is quite capable of being dressed in a variety of clothes. Just as long as one does not regard any one particular version too seriously. It is one thing to have a favorite, another thing to claim that it is the one and only true version for everybody.
—Tarot and Magic: The Treasure House of Images (Second Edition)
Skylight Press, 2012
I’m saddened by how few Tarot enthusiasts I have met have read Knight’s books. His work is deep and insightful in ways many other popular writers can’t come close to equaling, especially when it comes to using the cards for spiritual development and magical practice. If you haven’t read his work, I highly recommend the above book and The Magical World of the Tarot: Fourfold Mirror of the Universe, both published by Skylight Press.