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Decision-Making with Tarot

b2ap3_thumbnail_291426_10151338876178345_1267244149_o.jpgBy Joan DeArtemis, M.Div.

When any group of people goes out to a restaurant together, one can observe a great deal of variety in human decision-making. There is, of course, always that one person that barely glances at the menu then puts it down again with a look of satisfaction that indicates that they have made their decision, and they are ready to order. Then, there is, of course, the other end of the spectrum, the one that holds onto that menu until everyone else has put theirs down, hanging on to it until the anxious waiter comes over to check. Then, of course, s/he has to say, “What is good? What would you suggest? What is everyone else having? Is anyone getting the wings? There is so much! How can I decide?”

The truth is that most people are somewhere in the middle of those extremes, but what it shows is that humans have a great variety of decision making styles, and can use a vast array of criteria in order to arrive at any given decision. However, there comes a time in the life of everyone when they need to make some very important choice, and the choosing creates a level of anxiety or uncertainty that is out of that person’s comfort zone. It is at that moment that many people, regardless of faith, will contact a trusted clergy-person for guidance and advice. For Pagans, that often means either a person well versed in a divination tool (such as tarot), or (because we are probably the most DIY religion in existence) we consult the oracle ourselves.

b2ap3_thumbnail_menu.jpgIn that hypothetical group at the restaurant, as it turns out, I’m the one that is always the first to decide. That is just a facet of my personality. I know that I have a very low threshold for “decision fatigue”, so I actually have a great deal of decisions that I have already pre-made. I know, for example, if I go to one restaurant, I get either the Senior Bacon and Egg Breakfast or the Senior Cheeseburger Combo. Then all I have to know is whether or not I have already had breakfast. I know that I have been to that restaurant before, and these are meals that I like. If I wanted something else, I would have gone somewhere else. There are way too many other important decisions that I have to make in the course of my daily life that I just do not feel inclined to put any more effort into deciding on what to eat than I have to.

Nevertheless, the rest of my life does not always run that smoothly. It is for this reason (as well as many others) that I have developed personal ritual of doing tarot readings for myself every quarter moon.

As it turns out, because it takes about 28 days for the Moon to go through Her phases, there is a “quarter moon event” about once per week (not exactly once per week, though, because the Moon does not care about our totally made-up calendar). So, every single month on the night of the New Moon, the First Quarter Moon, the Full Moon, and the Third Quarter Moon, I am at my altar doing a tarot reading for myself. When I do it, I also record it in my Tarot Journal. I have volumes of Tarot Journalsnow because I have been doing this practice since 1982.

In a sense, this is like my pre-made food decisions, but not exactly, because I still have to think about things. The reason is the cards do not really tell me what to do. They only provide for me “decision support”.

Here is a real-life example: This week, I find myself faced with the fact that my Unemployment Insurance ran out, and I have still not found full time work. As you can imagine, this is a fairly stressful situation! What do I do now? Do I just continue with what I have been doing and hope that, somehow, something different is going to happen? Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Do I, somehow, change my strategy, and, if so, in what way?

This situation can create enormous amounts of apprehension--even fear. Furthermore, since the human responses to fear are often fight, flight or freeze (none of which are particularly useful in this case), I need to make a decision--now.

What to do… what to do…? Fortunately, I did my Quarter Lunar Tarot reading on the First Quarter! In my Self position, I had Death. In my Situation, I had The Devil, and in for Challenges and Opportunities, I had the Knight of Pentacles. Death means: “Release the historical and change onward to an innovative stage of existence.”

“Wow… nothing to this tarot stuff!” This was my first emotional reaction to seeing the Death card in that position, and, it is that reaction where the rubber hits the road with any divination. “Divination” means, literally, to “make divine”. My seeing that card in that position validated what I already knew--it is time to change. I already feel more comfortable and more in control.

b2ap3_thumbnail_tarot-hand.jpgThe second card, The Devil, means “Intensify your consciousness of the struggling contest in the middle of what is dark and what is bright. Emphasize the kinship of things rather than the dissimilarities.” The Devil card is a complicated card, and can have a lot of different meanings, but this is the one that leaped, immediately, into my brain. I started thinking about what obvious (bright) and what is not obvious (dark). I have a BA in Religion & Society and a Masters in Divinity. There are some very obvious career choices out there: minister, chaplain, religious educator, writer.

As one might expect, there is actually an exceedingly small job pool with those job descriptions. As it has turned out, I have applied for pretty much every single opening that is appropriate for a person with my particular faith tradition in this area and, even though I have interviewed several times (and have “interviewed very well”), I have not yet landed a job. So, maybe I need to dig a little deeper and look at some of the not so obvious (or, dark) choices.

Finally, the King of Pentacles: “It's imperative to understand in what way accomplishment can carry with it responsibilities.” I know it seems like a no-brainer, but this is a valuable reminder for me. Once Iget a job, I have to actually do the job. I already have a list of things that I do on a regular basis: I’m involved with Cherry Hill Seminary, I speak at Unitarian Universalist churches, I do tarot readings for people, and I help elderly people with their computers. Whatever full time job that I get is obviously going to impact all of my other activities. This brings me to my final decision on the matter: Sending in a resume is only the opening of a conversation. It is not a final decision.”

Just because one sends in a resume, it doesn’t mean that one will be called for an interview. Further, even if one is called for an interview, it doesn’t mean that one will be hired. And, finally, even if one is offered a position, it doesn’t mean that one has to take it. There are a lot of opportunities for both parties to stop the process along the way. Therefore, if one thinks of a job advertisement as an invitation, then one can think of a resume as a “definite maybe”. It is, by no means, a commitment.

b2ap3_thumbnail_259657_10151338854223345_1691761112_o.jpgSo, the advice that I got from my last Quarter Moon Tarot Reading is this: “It’s time for me to change how I am looking at things. Be more open to opportunities that may be less obvious. Remember that, even if I apply, it doesn’t mean I have to take the job, even if it is offered to me.”

This is just an example of using the tarot for spiritual self-care. If you are in a position to offer divination as spiritual care to others, the process is exactly the same. The goal is help your care seeker find the solution for themselves, and then to feel confident and validated in their own decision making process. May the gods be with you, always. Blessed Be!

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As the leading provider of education and practical training in leadership, ministry, and personal growth in Pagan and nature-based spiritualities, Cherry Hill Seminary supports Pagans and their communities by providing an extensive education in diverse aspects of Pagan philosophy, practice, and skilled ministry; supplementing existing ritual and magical skills with training for professional ministry and pastoral counseling; serving as an ongoing resource for individual continuing education; and providing a forum for scholarship and community  


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