When I decided to study tarot, I purchased a Rider-Waite-Smith deck and a blank journal and set to it. It made sense to learn on tarot’s arguable “gold standard” (The Wild Unknown is slowly but surely creeping into the running), especially since the esoteric symbolism of the RWS carries into more modern decks, overtly or no. And despite my pseudo-iconoclastic leanings, I’m a closet traditionalist, believing that if something’s withstood the test of time, there’s a reason why. That’s why I’m in favor of preserving the Western canon (how can we get rid of Shakespeare? Keats? Even Chaucer?), but kinda want to smash the dead white guys club with a healthy injection of folk narrative, women writers and writers of color, and translated work from writers of renowned in other cultures and other times. Like, can’t we have both? Isn’t there room for everything and everyone? But I digress, at least a little bit.
I endeavor to keep my collection modest. I want to be able to bond deeply with each deck that I have and be comfortable enough to use it with fluency and ease. But even now, as I near the ten to fifteen deck mark, I find that I naturally gravitate to some more strongly than I do to others. This has led me to consider trading or selling decks to make room for those I may jive with more strongly, but each time I attempt to make a listing, I hesitate. I think of a particular card or two that I do deeply resonate with, and it’s that small collection of cards that keep me from posting. What if I connect with the deck later? What if I design a spread that matches the deck perfectly, and can no longer use it? The “what if’s” quickly multiply until I convince myself to keep the deck on the shelf, if only for another month or two, until I’m more comfortable making a decision.
It wasn’t always so, my friends. For a period of five years or more, I moved roughly every six months to a year. I transitioned through multiple friend groups. I had a series of relationships that lasted no longer than six months. Hell, I moved overseas with $1000 in my bank account just to change things up for awhile. I was a novelty junkie, so I had no problem letting things go to make room to let others in. In fact, it was practically a lifestyle.
There came a day—I’ll tell you when–that I no longer liked my transience. Letting go of everything in one foul swoop ensured that I never created a stable enough foundation to write, to make art, to deepen my concept of intimacy, and to cultivate meaningful friendships. It’s as if, through a single clarifying experience, my lone wolf ways floated into the ether. Suddenly, I desired consistency and stability. I wanted, for the first time in my life, to build something that lasted. This want was stronger than my fear of losing what I’d built, so I set about constructing a new and different life. My witchcraft practice was born from this. My shadow work experience was born from this–it was time to stop and face what I’d spent a decade running away from, and to work with what I already possessed rather than rush to the next enticing experience. So it is with my deck collection–I want to allow my thoughts and opinions enough time to percolate. I want to move away from snap judgements that oftentimes comfortably reinforce what I already think and know. I want to open myself to a broader spectrum, to work with that which doesn’t immediately speak to me to see if it can touch something deeper, something subconscious. I want to allow the opportunity for sights, sounds, and stimuli to change me. This is highly uncomfortable, but necessary, I think, in terms of walking a responsible, compassionate path.
I begin by pairing an elusive deck with a workhorse deck. I do readings with both, noting the different ways that they play off of one another. I compare them–major arcana first, minor next–to see what they manage to coax out of one another. In my care and comparison, I notice things I didn’t before–colors, textures, tone, and symbolism, some so subtle that only this sort of scrutiny could reveal it. And then, something amazing begins to happen. A bond forms. My understanding of my home deck evolves as it’s influenced by the “foreign” deck. A certain gentleness or harshness is revealed, one that wasn’t apparent before. I blossom. Expand outside of myself. Feel the mystery of the universe coursing through me and the tug of a strange sadness I can’t quite place as it tickles the corners of my eyes. I do not cry, though–I hold strong in this. Sometimes the truth calls for tears, and other times it calls for you to hold it in your throat, feel its discomfort and spend a few moments hovering on the precipice so you remember how important it is to step outside of yourself, to look at the world with innocent eyes and make space for that which eludes your understanding.
So often we think we know best, think we’ve turned an idea over enough that we know where we stand on a given issue. There’s a core morality that we abide by, regulated by intuition, critical-thinking, and socialization. Yet, the moment we begin to see this as static–the moment we close ourselves off from that which challenges our worldview, we halt our own evolutionary process. “Si vous laissez passer cette chance, alors avec le temps, c’est votre cœur qui va devenir aussi sec et cassant que mon squelette”–“If you let this chance go by, eventually your heart will become as dry and brittle as my skeleton.” Raymond Dufayel understood all that he had missed by shutting himself in his room and painting copies of the great works–he didn’t allow himself to evolve, to blossom. He ran from confrontation, conflict, and transformative experiences. And although I kept shifting my address for five years, I did so to prevent growth, to avoid the moments that ask us to consider alternatives and compromise, and to honor different points of view. It took standing still, staying in one place, and engaging with that which made me uncomfortable, to grow.
I think I’ll keep my collection as it is, at least for today. I have a feeling that there’s still much to learn, and I wouldn’t want to pass up the experience.