An Atheopagan Tarot Spread

I have written before about “divination” and particularly the use of complex symbol systems such as runes or Tarot cards in Atheopaganism. We can use these symbol sets to access our intuitive and subconscious understandings of our situations, despite the fact that the arrangement of the cards (runes, bones, tea leaves, etc.) is random.

When reading Tarot, what I am always looking for is that sense of deep recognition: when a particular card in a particular position just feels wise and right and true.

I have long since divested myself of the commonplace “Celtic Cross” layout which is the most commonly taught layout for the cards, and thought today I would share a layout I have devised which is consistent with my Atheopagan practice.

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The reading begins with a reader declaration: The aspect of my life this reading applies to is…

And then the eight cards are laid out, as above.

  1. Where I have been.
  2. Where am I headed now (if I keep doing what I am doing).
  3. What is known.
  4. What is hidden to me.
  5. My challenge is…
  6. How I can help myself to evolve?
  7. This evolution will help me to…
  8. Theme/summation/archetype

 

In the reading above, my declaration was, “The aspect of my life this reading applies to is career and finances.”

  1. I have been worried and fearful, perhaps not noticing some of the good in my life for fear of survival.
  2. Where I am headed now is to confront and overcome this fear. I am on a good track.
  3. What is known is that it is an economically hostile world. Opportunities can be hard to come by, and previous encounters haven’t necessarily worked out.
  4. What is hidden, however, is the opportunity presented by an expansive vision and a willingness to take risks.
  5. My challenge is a feeling of imprisonment, of being trapped. Of not having options.
  6. I can help myself to evolve by transitioning out of “refugee” status: no longer thinking of myself as powerless, but rather having new opportunities.
  7. This evolution will help me to master my economic fate, and thrive.
  8. The summation of this is that I have prioritized other areas like love and relationships over money-making. It is not a “failing” to be in this circumstance now.

If the Tarot spreads you have been using don’t feel quite right, give this one a try!

Ritual Practice of an Hellenic Atheopagan

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Pagan path of Atheopaganism as it is generally described on this site is free both of credulity in literal gods and of “soft theism”, or the usage of god-images, names and meanings as metaphorical in religious practice.

But for some, this soft theism adds a valued layer of meaning to their practice. Here, guest writer Richard C. Sansing describes how he has cross-referenced figures in the traditional Tarot deck with Classical Greek mythological figures.


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Richard’s Focus

My ritual practice combines the intellectual foundations of Atheopaganism with the symbolism of Greek mythology. My Focus is simple, featuring a figurine of Prometheus bringing fire to mankind and my childhood copy of Aesop’s Fables.

In one of his recent posts, Mark mentioned that he sometimes engages in Tarot card readings. I was surprised, as I had thought of Tarot as being of form of fortune telling. But after reading how he uses it here, I started thinking about whether I could incorporate Tarot into my Hellenic Atheopagan practice. Mark asked me to share the results of my efforts on his blog, and I am happy to do so. Let me emphasize that this is a work in progress. Suggestions are welcome!

Knowing nothing about Tarot, I started by trying to learn the basics, and discovered the Major Arcana, court cards, and pip cards. It turns out that others have tried to combine Tarot with symbols from Greek mythology. I discovered several efforts to associate the 22 cards of the Major Arcana with Greek gods and goddesses, and one effort to do so with the 16 court cards. None seemed entirely satisfying, and so I tried to combine these efforts.

First, I started with the general approach used by John Opsopaus in the system he calls Pythagorean Tarot, shown here.

I deviated from some of his choices, and relabeled “Knight” and “Page” as “Prince” and “Princess” to emphasize the symmetry between masculine and feminine deities. The resulting correspondence between court cards and deities is in the table below.

Tarot symbol

Mythological figure

Meaning

Suit of Cups (water)

King

Poseidon

Power of nature

Queen

Aphrodite

Desire

Prince

Ares

War

Princess

Hera

Marriage

Suit of Pentacles (earth)

King

Hades

The deceased

Queen

Demeter

Agriculture

Prince

Hermes

Messages

Princess

Artemis

Wild nature

Suit of Swords (air)

King

Zeus

Leadership

Queen

Gaia

Cosmos

Prince

Apollo

Arts and music

Princess

Athena

Strategy

Suit of Wands (fire)

King

Prometheus

Teacher

Queen

Hestia

Home

Prince

Hephaestus

Craftsmanship

Princess

Hekate

Guide

Many of these associations are straightforward (Poseidon with water, Zeus with air) but others are not. Hekate could easily fit in the Suit of Pentacles, but she is often depicted carrying two torches, helping Demeter search for Persephone, and so I put her in the Suit of Wands.

The last step was to associate the 22 cards in the Major Arcana with other Greek deities. Having used the Olympic gods and goddesses in the previous step, this was the most challenging task. But using various websites, especially theoi.com, I arrived at the associations in Table 2. I tried to choose deities with characteristics similar to those on the cards themselves.

 

Tarot symbol

Mythological figure

Meaning

Fool

Epimetheus

Recklessness

Magician

Asclepius

Skill

High Priestess

Metis

Wisdom

Empress

Rhea

Motherhood

Emperor

Cronus

Power

Hierophant

Coeus

Intelligence

Lovers

Eros & Psyche

Love

Chariot

Nike

Triumph

Strength

Atlas

Strength

Hermit

Chronos

Time

Wheel of Fortune

The Fates

Luck

Justice

Themis

Justice

Hanged Man

Ouranos

Betrayal

Death

Thanatos

Death

Temperance

Harmonia

Harmony

Devil

Dionysus

Excess

Tower

Eris

Strife

Star

Tyche

Hope

Moon

Selene

Imagination

Sun

Helios

Energy

Judgment

Persephone

Rebirth

The World

Chaos

Beginning & ending

Table 2

Choosing Asclepius, the god of medicine, to represent the Magician emphasizes the Magician’s characteristics of skill over trickery. Ouranos as the Hanged Man refers to his eventual demise rather than his role as the primordial god of the sky.

Going through this process helped me learn a lot about Tarot, and also enriched my knowledge of Greek mythology. I look forward to incorporating Tarot into my ritual practice!

 

 

Intuitive Understanding and “Divination”

I read Tarot cards. Not as much as I used to, but I still do it.

I don’t think of it as “fortune telling”. I think of the Tarot as a magnificently complex set of symbols from which I randomly choose, creating therefrom a narrative which draws up my intuitive understanding of a situation or question and illuminates it in complex, interesting and often surprising ways. In a way, Tarot is like a Rorschach test, only with much richer set of available symbols and a long history of interpretation and lore.

Besides, it’s really, really cool. Tarot by candlelight, with a bit of incense? You won’t feel much witchier than that, short of dancing naked around a fire.

In the Atheist community, I see a lot of hyperfocus on rationality, and discounting of intuitive thinking (and of emotion, generally). What cannot be logically explained is often dismissed entirely, to a fault. I find this to be excessive, because we have abundant empirical evidence that there is such a thing as intuition, and it often provides us with information that our cognitive minds don’t. It is a part of being human. And being fully human—fulfilled, self-aware, connected in community and relationships, feeling a place in the Cosmos and celebration in living—is what Atheopaganism is about.

The Deep Mind often grasps what the Thinking Mind does not, connecting dots to see larger patterns. The Thinking Mind goes through a laborious logical and often reductionist  process to try to figure things out. The Deep Mind, by contrast, can move through these steps in leaps, arriving at knowledge about a topic in a flash of revelation.

This is sometimes, it should be said, how scientific discoveries are made: with the “Eureka!” moment when the implications of the data become clear. The intuitive process is a real analytical process which happens below the level of consciousness. It is harder to trust than cognitive thinking because you can’t see how the conclusions were arrived at, and there is always—as with cognitive thinking—the chance that personal biases or lack of important information lead to a false conclusion. When you can’t “check your work” by retracing logical steps, it is harder to trust a conclusion. Nonetheless, intuition is often a spot-on way of understanding a situation or question. And the more thoroughly you can examine an intuitive understanding—as, when considering it through the construction of a narrative using the symbols of the Tarot, or the runes, or any other such system—the more clearly you can see where it comes from, what it means, and how it may be applied to your life.

And in my experience, this almost—almost—creeps up toward actual fortune-telling.

It does this by helping me to identify the vector of my current actions: the direction in which I—or the person for whom I am reading—am/is likely to be headed if I keep doing what I have been doing in relation to the subject at hand.

This can be profoundly helpful. I’m afraid I don’t think along those lines very much in ordinary mindspace. Rather, I just set my goals and tasks and keep taking methodical steps. Reading Tarot can help me to see that I may not be headed in the direction I thought I was going, or that there may be unforeseen consequences of continued action in the same vein.

Reading Tarot combines many of the elements that make Atheopaganism a rich practice for me: it is ritual, it is cool and fun, it is meaningful, and it can genuinely contribute to better understanding of myself and my life. There are hundreds if not thousands of different decks to choose from, though I tend to stick with the old standby, the medieval-looking Rider-Waite Tarot. If it isn’t a part of your Atheopagan practice, I encourage you to check it out and see if it works for you. It takes awhile to internalize the meanings of the cards and move beyond “book definitions” to archetypal understandings of them, and it’s well worth the effort, in my experience.

If you’re interested, there is a Facebook group for atheist Tarot readers, called Skeptarot. Check it out!

In this May Day season, I wish you the joys of The Lovers and the Ten of Cups. Enjoy!