Tarot books: Kitchen Table Tarot

One of the first tarot books I read was Kitchen Table Tarot by Melissa Cynova. I had had very little exposure to tarot, and knew practically nothing about the cards, their meaning, or how to read, and found it an excellent introduction to reading tarot. Cynova has a breezy, chatty and accessible style that was particularly helpful when I was brand new to trying to wrap my head around and not be overwhelmed by what can be a complex and intimidating system of meanings. It truly does feel like Cynova is sitting across the table from you, chatting about what she’s learned through years of reading tarot for others. She has a very modern sensibility, and strips away most of the esoteric mysticism I was expecting from a tarot book.

The majority of the book is composed of card interpretations, including an interpretation for reversals as well. Her descriptions and examples are rooted in the modern world. She describes, for example, the Knight of Cups: “He sits in the quad. Jeans, a white T-shirt, and a worn copy of Vonnegut dangling limply from his hand as he stares out into the distance. He smokes, of course, and his dark hair is tousled and curly. […] He looks sad, and his sadness is on your mind for the rest of your life. Dear heavens, does this one make an impact. He is so romantic, I can’t even stand it.” The flip side of this, though, is probably my only concern or complaint about the book: the interpretations were great for a quick understanding of the character of each card, but I found I needed other resources to develop a deeper and more comprehensive ability to interpret the cards myself

Despite the casual tone, there’s a lot of information packed into this book. In addition to Cynova’s personal anecdotes and insight, she weaves in some basic numerology and astrology and suggestions for reading and building spreads. She offers advice on the ethics of reading for others and considerations for going pro, but I found this book would be more appropriate for those looking to understand tarot for fun and personal study.

If you’re looking for a fun read that serves as a great introduction to tarot reading, I’d recommend this book. I got it from the local public library!

Why pull a tarot card every day?

When I started researching the best ways to learn tarot, I saw two recommendations that resonated with me. The first was to keep a tarot journal, and the second was to draw a card every day and think about that card on and off throughout the day to see how / if the card’s energy manifests in your day. I was originally tracking them on a Google docs spreadsheet, but then it occurred to me to start sharing them on Instagram instead. I liked the synergy of that, because many years ago I taught myself photography through a photo-every-day project I called “Project 365.” I have often said it’s hard NOT build technical skills when you take 10 minutes or more to practice every single day.

Sharing the photos to Instagram has a couple of extra benefits. First, it gives me somewhere to talk about tarot, because I always want to talk about tarot. Second, it pushes me to be a little bit thoughtful about the card I’ve pulled and the context it brings to my day. And third, I just like the challenge of finding a little theme to make the photo more than just a tarot card lying on the counter. And finally, I’m starting to find a bit of community of people who also like to talk about tarot. (See point one above.)

Drawing a card each day has been an amazing way to be mindful and present in my day, though. How often do we look back at an ordinary day and say, “What did today mean? What was the dominant theme of my day? What energies were at play?” Sometimes if I don’t get around to pulling the card until later in the day, I’ll ask “What did I overlook today?” instead. Most days, I can see clear linkages between the cards and the overarching mood of the day. In the days when I am bursting with enthusiasm and creative sparks of ideas, I’ve pulled a lot of wands. Wands are about the fiery, passionate energy of intuition and inspiration. When work is heavy on my mind, swords come up. Swords deal with intellect, mental clarity and communication. And to be honest, some days I just scratch my head and shrug when I try to link the card to whatever happened that day, but even then, occasionally with hindsight the link becomes more clear.

I do find that pulling a single card every day doesn’t give me the same shiver of insight and connection that more complex or intentional spreads have done. I think one card on its own is sort of like an appetizer; it’s almost like the insight is a little diluted and non-specific, and you need a few cards interacting with each other to make a satisfying meal of it. It truly is a great way to not only learn the basic interpretations of the cards, but to see what they might mean playing out in real life.

Do you pull a daily card? How to you use it in your life?

My (current, and probably evolving) approach to tarot

It wasn’t that long ago that I held my first tarot deck in my hands, and it was the first real exposure I’ve had to tarot. Looking back, it’s actually a bit of a surprise that I waited so long, because I know for a fact I read every single book about the occult in our neighbourhood public library when I was a kid, and I’ve always considered myself intuitive and open to things we can’t know through current senses or science. I can always tell you two minutes before the phone rings that it’s my mother who is on the line. Is that intuition? Psychic? I don’t know, but it has happened reliably my whole life.

Balancing that, though, I’ve also always considered myself a bit of a skeptic of things mystic and metaphysical. I know my zodiac sign and embrace my Leo-ness, but have been less open to other facets of astrology and the occult. To be honest, I’d never given tarot cards more than a passing consideration; I knew that they existed, but they’d never come into my space enough for me to form an opinion one way or the other. But something drew me toward them in the last year or so, and the minute I had my first deck in my hands and started to scratch the surface with my research, I was hooked. Obsessively, passionately hooked.

After reflecting on it for a while, I’ve come to understand that I have a fairly secular approach to tarot. I don’t subscribe to the theory that tarot can predict the future. I do, however, believe the tarot can be a hugely helpful tool to help you tap into your own inner wisdom, and maybe even the collective unconscious, to borrow a term from Carl Jung. I think you can use the cards to fine tune your own insight, in much the same way the corrective lenses of your glasses enhance your eyesight. I think tarot can give you a new perspective on your personal circumstances, help you make decisions or see unconsidered alternatives, and generally improve your own understanding of yourself. I don’t (currently) believe that tarot can tell you that a dark haired man will arrive next Tuesday bringing a message from the great beyond, or that tarot can predict anything that you yourself don’t already know.

I remember back a decade or so ago when I took my first Myers-Briggs test and learned what it meant to be an ENFP personality type. That self-knowledge rocked my world. I understood so much better my own motivations and interactions with the world, like how as an extrovert I process information outside of my head, by talking about it with others. Becoming consciously aware of my own strengths and weaknesses equipped me to play to my strengths and be aware of or maybe work on developing my weaknesses. I see tarot as very similar to this sort of tool, allowing you to tap into a set of archetypes for sorting the world and your relationships within it. I also see it as a way to step outside of your own circumstances to gain a better perspective of them. The tarot are like a trusted friend who tells you what you already know but maybe haven’t yet consciously realized.

We live in troubling, chaotic times. I think people are searching for meaning, trying to wrest connections from the chaos, and that the tarot card can help with that. I was very surprised when, starting out on my tarot journey and hungry for knowledge, I went to our public library and found most of the books on tarot had long waiting lists. Intrigued, I started looking for local courses and sources of information and found them quite lacking. That’s part of the impetus I felt for documenting all my learning with the tarot – I want to learn, but I want to share and teach others, too.

So here we are! I feel like I’m making progress on my learning journey and, extrovert that I am, I need to get that information outside of my head and interact with others in order to truly process it. Plus, I’m really excited about this new world I’ve discovered, and I like to share things I’m passionate about.

Shall we go?