Card example: 3 of Wands from the Waite-Smith (“Rider”) deck
(image from here)
Client A: “I had just moved from Chile to Finland. I hated being here. I hated these people. And I hated myself. I was looking back at my home country which I had to leave, I had no choice. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, yet I couldn’t start my life again. But you can’t keep on looking back forever, can you? Now.. (takes up the card and places it in the ‘present moment’ position) -Now I’m looking over my shoulder at you and me sitting here. I’m going to turn around. In a few weeks I will open a Café here.”
Client B: “Ships.. that is uncanny. You see the real problem here is exactly that: I didn’t board the ship. I didn’t. I stayed on the pier, waving at others who did have the courage I didn’t have. I wanted to go but I listened to the wrong people, those who needed me for the wrong reasons. Now I’m going there, 20 years too late. But I’m going.”
Client C: “I don’t know.. it doesn’t say anything to me. I can’t really relate myself to the image. Well, maybe that headband, what I’ve achieved. (I explain to her the traditional meanings). Success, right? Yeah, I want more success. Do you think is that wrong? I want to show them what I can get if I really want to. Does this card say that will happen?”
Client D: “Best year ever, hands down! It’s been.. “amazing” doesn’t even begin to describe it. I’m so, so, lucky.. and who would’ve believed a year or two ago things would go this way? Seriously? I’m healthy again, free as a bird.”
Next, the Readers.
Reader E: “According to Waite’s Pictorial Key, this card means established strength, enterprise, effort, trade, commerce and discovery, among other things.”
Reader F: “Astrological correspondence of this card is Sun in Aries. This would imply getting things done, behaving in direct and straightforward manner, being a pioneer, also being impatient, being brave or using bravery.”
Reader G: “This card means that you should cast aside doubts and fears; turn your face to the future, trusting in your own power, making no compromises.”
Reader H: “This card indicates our powerful nature, it suggests we allow our desires to tumble into our laps like ripe fruit; no action is needed here.”
Reader I: “Well the meaning of this card is that our dreams turn into reality through circumstance and being in the right place at the right time.. there’s success here, it’s a very promising card.”
And now for the unpopular question: Can any card – tarot, oracle, playing card or other that you use to read, divine, etc. – mean anything and everything?
How ‘fixed’ are your card meanings? If the card in question is the 3 of Wands and you connect it with the Fire element, can it still refer to thoughts and/or emotions? If you emphasize astrological factors, do you stay with those meanings you’ve learned from book/s or do you play with them, see how they combine with other cards? If you do, how far are you willing to go? Can one card replace another, take up its position in a spread? Where does the interpretation come from? Who does the interpretation?
I’m not looking for naming or blaming by asking these questions. What I find interesting is why the above-mentioned “unpopular question” remains unpopular. It’s not uncommon for a Tarot book to contradict another in giving card meanings. This was especially true in the past, not so much so anymore. And if you take into account the card meanings given by e.g. Etteilla, Waite and Crowley, you’ll see very quickly the differing opinions.
So, can any card mean anything and everything?
“It depends on how you read with them”, is the easy answer.