As any book on tarot will tell you, each card has associated a certain number of meanings, which are called “keywords”. These could be single words, but also expressions, sentences or whatever fancies your state of mind. Many books on tarot will also tell you that in a reading, you can get a glimpse of what is before you by putting keywords together. So, for example if you have the Wheel and The Universe, you can assign to the first the keyword “change” and to the second, the keyword “world”. The reading of such a combination would then become “changing the world” or “changing your world” or something like that.
Choose a different set of words, like “luck” for The Wheel and “fulfillment” for The Universe, and you get a completely different meaning.
And this is just one of the problems that arise by constantly thinking in terms of words and expressions, instead of thinking visually. By choosing a certain keyword, we are ignoring every other possible keyword / meaning. By going with a certain combination of words, by extension, we let go of all possible combinations. At best, we might get a superficial reading. At worst, we might get it wrong, deluded with the interpretation we got.
An alternative way is to just look at the images as images, not as coded text. To think of them as images, as a combination of shapes, colors and patterns and try to figure out how they can relate with each other, if indeed they relate. In this case, we can, and still taking the above example, notice at how the circle in the Wheel card expands in the Universe card and what looked like a sigil is in fact a girl dancing. Expansion can thus be a possible meaning for this combination. Another possibility could be “a detailed look”. Or maybe “bringing forth life”, by reasoning that the cold, metallic wheel has been transformed into a girl inside a laurel circle.
Now compare these last readings with the ones we got by combining words.
Another interesting thing about this particular process is that it communicates with our brains in a way that he is more comfortable with. It allows us to access our own personal image banks and find some other things. Let’s say for example that the Wheel, for whatever reason, reminds you of a compass, and that the girl has a look on its face, in fact her whole body language seems to suggest, that she is lost / looking for something. Then the reading would be something like “finding your north” or “whichever way the wind blows, so shall I go”.
Or maybe the yellow circle that’s on the Wheel card reminds you of a pocket watch. Not just any pocket watch, but a familiar pocket watch. Maybe you’ve seen such a device in some movie. Or maybe it was a pocket watch passed in your family for generations, the memory of some distant familiar sitting on a couch looking at the watch trying to determine if it was time to go to a football match… the girl in the Universe card would then become some cheerleader whose job was to keep everybody on their seats while waiting for the game to start.
Or maybe that circle is meant to symbolize a cake. A birthday celebration. The promise of that special gift we were asking our parents for so long. A present that when unwrapped will disclose our heart’s desire. Or perhaps the Wheel is there to just point to us a coin found by chance on the street. A coin that’s exactly what we need to buy that special something / a bus ticket.
Or maybe it has nothing to do with coins or cakes or watches or anything round. Maybe it’s about the four elements. An exam we need to study? Or the clouds: a bad time that’s finally ending?? Some moody someone???
When looking at images and trying to figure out what they are trying to tell us, the possibilities are virtually endless. And, best of all, they don’t cancel each other out, but can build upon each other and provide countless layers of meaning, depending on how far we need to go. ‘The cards tell you about a girl who wants to go to her parents’ house for Christmas. However, she doesn’t have enough money for the ride back home and is asking people for some help. In the end, she manages to get the bus fare and travel home.’
In the end, each tarot card provides us with an image. In some cases direct images; in others irrational ones. Even so, part of their charm and their endurance can be justified by how powerful these images are. How they can point us at some hidden truth, or some hidden treasure if we only take the time to look at them and try to figure out why what is it that’s there that’s being reflected to us. What is it that is making us vibrate / resonate with that particular frequency. But for this type of work we need to look inside ourselves at the same time that we look at the pictures before us. We become a passage linking everything that makes us us and the mirror that’s in front of us and listen to the communication that arises between them.
The spread before us, calling up to us and making us wonder what’s so special about that particular communication that we get pulled by it. That we need to stop and listen. And keywords, although useful (specially if you’re learning the ropes of the trade) are usually so general, that will pass this by, as they can be used by anyone, anywhere. Not just you, in that particular circumstance. Because, no matter how great they are, only you can unlock your imagination / memory / intuition / connection to that very special place where true insight arises and blossom.