Tarot as a Way of Initiation in a Spiritually Confused World
By Karen Hollis
In this fast paced world where there is instant access to everything, people are searching for something more, something that will show them the way. Many seem never quite sure exactly what it is, but are certain it is ‘out there’— this deeper, more symbolic ‘something’ that will guide them. From the youngest of the Millenial generation to the oldest of the Boomers, there appears to be a yearning to be "initiated" into something greater than conventional religious or church communities*. A growing number of people consider themselves spiritual-but-not-religious, and they want to know more about a higher consciousness or a supreme being**. People want to "touch the divine" and they yearn for initiation into meaningful spiritual connection.
Tarot as a Way of Initiation
The higher use, the sacred purpose, of the symbolic system embodied in the Tarot is initiation. The word "tarot" is made up to two Egyptian words, tar meaning 'royal' and ot, meaning 'road' – the Royal Road (or Spiritual Pathway). According to Mary K. Greer, Master Tarot reader and scholar, an occult tradition underlies modern Tarot decks, arising from 18th century lore about the Egyptian mysteries. Mystery Schools often use Tarot to define the levels of their initiations and feature Egyptian god-forms and symbolism that are meant to be experienced, not taught. The schools guide an individual through a series of rites that "initiate" a transformation of consciousness. If one learns the symbolic language that is the Tarot, you begin on your path and become an initiate into the "world of Spirit."
Many cards within the Tarot deck depict access to divine guidance and initiation. Three of my favorites are The Fool, The Magician and The High Priestess. Let’s see what these cards reveal about how we can begin on our own path of initiation.
The Fool Looks to the Heavens
If first we look at The Fool, which is numbered 0 in the Major Arcana of the Tarot, we see a youthful figure ready to step off a cliff. In one hand, the figure holds a white rose, which symbolizes purity and innocence. On his back, s/he carries a pack filled with all the tools necessary to make his way on the journey called life. This young person has blind faith that s/he will not be harmed and has no fear about failing. You can liken this figure to Tolkien's Frodo, or the heroine, Merida in the Pixar film Brave.) These iconic figures begin at nothing, "the zero," and are initiates in every sense of the word. The Fool looks up to the heavens, in a gesture that says, "speak to me" of how I am to interact as a Spirit on this earthly existence. The Fool reminds us that we are not separate from God or source because we emanated from the Divine. Each one of us knows in the depths of our soul that the mission here on earth is to radiate that divine presence, and model it to others. By having faith in being led here on earth, we end the fear of not having enough money, or love, or courage. There will always be enough because we are all individually “enough.”
The Magician Channels Universal Energy
The Magician is the bridge between the world of the spirit and the world of humanity. In his right hand he holds a staff, raised toward the sky. His left hand points to the earth. He takes the power of the Universe and channels it through his own body and directs it to the physical plane. Above the Magician's head is the symbol of eternity and around his waist is a snake biting its own tail, another symbol of eternity. On his table, he has unpacked the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The number of the Magician is one, the number of beginnings; it is the number of the initiate in action.
The Magician reminds us that God or Source gave us use of the elements as a way to harness their power and make our way in the world. These are symbolized by Water, (the Cup), Love; Fire, (The Wand), Industriousness; Air, (The Sword), Strength/Communication; and Earth, (The Pentacle), Money. The spiritual lesson is to keep a balance between love, work, opportunities and money.
Wise Counsel of The High Priestess
The High Priestess sits with her scroll of secrets in her lap. We know what is written is sacred because she herself is an initiate. She sits in a temple that is said to represent the mystical Temple of Solomon. In her hands, she holds a scroll of the Sefer Torah. To her left is the black pillar of Severity, which is marked with a B for Boaz, meaning strength. The white pillar is the pillar of Mercy. It is marked with a J for Jachim, meaning to make steadfast. The cross on her chest is the equal armed cross of equanimity. She keeps her own counsel and she herself is the portal or door through which Spirit speaks. The pomegranate is thought to represent abundance. (It is also claimed to be the fruit that was on The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden). The High Priestess card teaches us to “be still” and keep our own counsel when we need to find God, Spirit, or Source. Again, the message is that God is not someone or something outside of ourselves, but that we are one with Spirit, Source, God.
In the above cards, we see a simple symbolic representation of initiation as revealed in the wisdom of the Tarot. The way of the initiate need not be arduous; it can be as light hearted as The Fool, as directive as The Magician, or as contemplative as The High Priestess.
To experience the Tarot for personal growth and spiritual connection try drawing a card from the deck on a daily basis. Meditate with the symbolism of this card. It need not be a long meditation, but enough time to allow the symbolism to resonate personal meaning for you.
Close your eyes. Breathe deeply and exhale fully several times until you feel yourself riding the waves of your own breathing. In the stillness, focus attention on your life in this moment. Perhaps you have a question to ask or a dilemma to resolve. When you feel centered on this issue, open your eyes. Shuffle the cards. Fan the cards in front of you. Select one card. Journal on the following prompts but also follow the tug of your own intuition as you record thoughts, feelings and images that come to you.
• What do you immediately feel drawn to in the card you pulled?
• How does this imagery relate to your question?
• What do you feel Spirit is communicating to you through the chosen card?
For more than 30 years, Psychic/Medium Karen Hollis has helped people acquire wisdom from Spirit and understand how karmic patterns manifest in their life choices. Karen has been featured on Discovery Channel: A Haunting, and the TV show Paranormal Survivor. As the lead psychic/medium investigator with Ghosts of New England Research Society, Karen is the bridge between evidence and explanation. ReadingsbyKaren.com
*Religious Landscape Study, Pew Research Center (June 4 – September 30, 2014)
**Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them by Ed Stetzer, Richie Stanley, and Jason HayesTarot%20as%20a%20Tool%20for%20Initiation_OmTimes_Sum2015-Revised.docx