My work is based upon a selected number of cards from the 78-card Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, original drawings by Pamela Colman Smith (American Artist), under the direction of Arthur Edward Waite (English scholar of occultism), printed in 1910. Historically, the precise origin of the Tarot cards is unknown but there is early documentation from Europe in the late 1300s that they evolved from what we now know today as playing cards. There are two major groups in the deck, the Major Arcana (22 cards) containing archetypal images from what psychologists call our collective unconscious & the Minor Arcana (56 cards) are there to accent the Major. Each Minor Arcana contain 1 of 4 suits or categories that represent different aspects of the personality or distinctive characteristics; Swords = air/thought/reason, Cups = water/emotions/love, Pentacles = earth/material body/possessions and Wands = fire/passion/spirit.
I became interested in this topic after receiving a complimentary reading by my friend, Karen Rontowski at my husband, Jim’s, work Christmas party. (Karen and Jim, aka James P. Connolly, are both stand-up comedians.) Given that I was so intrigued by the uniqueness of Karen’s career choices, my first intention was to only highlight her in this series but after experiencing such strong curiosity and excitement regarding my own personal reading, I decided to incorporate myself into the photos as suggested by my mentor, Sonya Naumann. A typical reading starts after a shuffling and cut of the deck and is followed with as many questions as the person has been granted or purchased. The questions I asked were typical ones about my career and family. Each card that Karen turned over at random would reveal my fate! I found myself completely enthralled in how she interpreted the meaning and symbols found on the cards and how she applied them to these questions about my life. My faith was blind.
Why was I so willing to accept and ingratiate this experience as truth, even over my Lutheran upbringing? I am a human being desperate to make sense of the world without being judged. As stated in the book,” The Rabbi’s Tarot” by Daphna Moore, “the tarot can be used to understand the physical and non-physical universe as well as the psychology and the psychic make-up of every person in it” In my words, when comparing religion and occultism, Tarot is more about the individual map to the soul and how he/she grows in search of one’s true self and religion is more authoritarian and focused on the person as defined within a group. Both religion and Tarot, are vulnerable to misinterpretation and are theory based, but, at least, the symbolism in Tarot is consistent. Occultism is introspective and about knowing one’s self as religion is to knowing God and your place within His community.