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Tarot for Healing

by Stephen Houssome(more info)

listed in healing, originally published in issue 48 - January 2000

Mention of the Tarot commonly brings to mind the image of the mystic fortune-teller, in their dimly lit booth on the seafront, advertisements proclaiming their gypsy heritage and with photographs of 'consultations with the stars' outside, the photos usually as faded as the stars. A more modern setting may be the function rooms of hotels with an array of 'the country's top psychics' giving half hour readings to eager customers each awaiting knowledge of the outcome of their current relationship or wanting to know when they should move house or job.

The Fool, the embodiment of the divine and its spark or counterpart in the human spirit, making their way in the material world.
The Fool, the embodiment of the divine and its spark or counterpart in the human spirit, making their way in the material world. Before the Fool lies a series of twenty one challenges or initiations, each an important, fundamental and shaping time, circumstance or event that must be experienced at the soul level if we are to progress and evolve healthily through our life and subsequent evolution.

The author conducting a Tarot therapy consultation
The author conducting a Tarot therapy consultation

The somewhat disparaging tone of this paragraph allows you to deduce that I am not particularly in favour of this image of the Tarot. You may be wondering why a publication that concerns itself with health carries an article on the Tarot. You would be well justified in this, since the accepted notion and view of the Tarot is that it is a set of cards that certain gifted individuals or psychics can read to predict the future. The more accurate the predictions, the better the reader. Alongside this image is the opinion that the Tarot has connections with 'the occult' and should not be tampered with.

Fortune-telling may be one use of the cards but it is certainly not the only one and the view of the Tarot as occult temptation is now outdated and misplaced.

The Tarot is a set of 78 pictorial cards, their basic designs dating from mediaeval society and belief. During the Renaissance humanity concerned itself deeply with the Universe it realised it was a part of. This gave rise to a resurgence of interest in systems of mystical thought, including the Tarot.

Such systems give power to individuals and, the Church, largely being the Government of the time, saw fit to ban not just the Tarot, but cards in all forms. It is now that the Tarot gains its darker associations. As with many banned things, the Tarot went underground and was used for divination by people across Europe and the 'civilised world'. This practice has persisted until modern times, the basic structure and understanding of what the cards 'mean' remaining fundamentally unchanged.

As we evolve into the new millennium and embrace many new concepts and theories pertaining to who and what we are, we are also discovering new systems of ensuring and aiding health and well-being. The idea that the human being is a multi-dimensional one is now taking a firm foothold in many practitioners of health, both traditional and complementary. It follows that we must discover ways to explore these new dimensions of our awareness and being. The Tarot is one such system.

To realise this we must take a quantum leap away from the fixed view of the cards, as outlined above. Indeed, the field of quantum or particle physics is one that is teaching us much about ourselves and the Universe. It was Stephen Hawking who said that when we come to understand this area fully, we will come to understand the mind of God. In splitting the atom, humanity entered a world of energy. Since that catalytic moment, we have realised that we inhabit and are ourselves, energy. We need therefore to realise that we can affect and create our own reality at this energy level.

We need a means of understanding and applying this energy to our everyday lives and selves. The Tarot was constructed to do just this.

The word 'Tarot' is derived from constituent parts of Egyptian roots meaning 'royal path'. Royal in this sense, is taken as pertaining to the spiritual. In this way, the Tarot demonstrates for us what the path to wholeness or completion is, at both an individual and collective level. I am outlining here only the individual, as it applies to healing and therapeutic work.

There are two formative parts of a Tarot deck, the Major Arcana (from the Latin 'arcanus', meaning secret) with its 22 sequenced cards and the Minor Arcana, being the remaining 56, sub-divided into four 'suits' of 14 cards each, giving us the origin of our modern playing cards. It is in the suits that the structure of our own world and the natural world of which we are a part is depicted. Given sometimes misleading names such as Rods, Cups, Swords and Pentacles the mystery of the occult is retained. When we apply the basis of the cards directly however, their significance becomes clear. The suits are the four Elements, from which all substance is formed and without which we cannot live. Fire, Water, Air and Earth are not only essential to life, they are life.

Beginning with the Ace, each suit depicts the unfolding and inner working of its Element, showing the stages by which energy emerges into matter. These Elements have been studied and accepted in traditions the world over for thousands of years and are regarded as relating to the human being at the Spiritual, Emotional, mental; and Physical levels. It is thus that the cards encompass the whole of life, showing how it is formed from within and how it can be applied to outer circumstances for our best advantage.

When we realise that ill health and disease are often the result of the incorrect application of an inner energy and that the physical symptoms we suffer from are the result of an imbalance or ignorance of this aspect of our selves and lives, we can see the value of a system such as the Tarot that reveals and explains this level of life to us. For true health to occur, we must continually address our needs at these levels, forming them into a workable and coherent whole that allows us to be and express who and what we are, appropriately in society.

This outworking and expression is the realm of the Major Arcana. Here we have the Fool, the embodiment of the divine and its spark or counterpart in the human spirit, making their way in the material world. Before the Fool lies a series of twenty one challenges or initiations, each an important, fundamental and shaping time, circumstance or event that must be experienced at the soul level if we are to progress and evolve healthily through our life and subsequent evolution. The soul level is regarded as the result and outworking of the combination of the four elemental worlds we have explored above. It is for this reason that the Major cards are regarded as having more power and deeper significance than the Minor. It is important to realise that they are interdependent and in this sense, equal.

Rather than the fortune-telling consultation in the crowded, smoky back room of a hotel, the correct place for such working is the private consultation room, where the cards are interpreted in the hands of a 'Tarot Therapist', if you will, It is stressed that this is a two-way process that has some relation to counselling, but is more than this, since it gives us access to the formative world of energy. By a process of exchange, the relevance of a selection of cards, drawn intuitively by the client, is revealed and understood. Rather than taking the form of future prediction, the cards are explored in the present tense, being seen as alive at the time of the consultation. The emphasis is then to empower the client and restore a state of balance and so health, by examination of their inner needs that have often resulted in an outer 'dis-ease', in whatever form it manifests.

The Tarot therefore also combines very well with many complementary procedures, being ideal for diagnosis as well as aiding understanding for the client. This level of work requires some study of not only the cards but also the self. A favourite maxim I have come to appreciate over the years is life teaches you about the Tarot and the Tarot teaches you about life'. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is because they are one and the same.

All this requires the emergence of a new breed of Tarot consultant (as opposed to the sycophantic 'reader'). The vision I have is of the Tarot Therapist working alongside other health professionals, in acknowledgement of the understanding that to be healthy, the individual must account for their needs at the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. Such a vision can easily sound idealistic, especially when I am refused room hire and mention of the Tarot on TV because of its occult associations, but is perhaps not so when you recall how marginalised now accepted practices such as aromatherapy and reflexology were only ten or twenty years ago.

I recognise that there is a long way to go and it is only possible to outline in the broadest terms here just how vital a role in understanding ourselves and contributing to our well being that Tarot can play. Chief among the needs of the Tarot is the existence of a recognised professional and regulatory body (a 'Professional Association of Tarot Therapists'?) with the ability to demonstrate the achievement of a standard of competence and the implementation of a Code of Conduct, Ethics and Practice. It is only then that the Tarot can reclaim its honoured place as a system of sacred knowledge, able to assist in maintaining and restoring our health and well-being and applying this health to the development of our selves and lives.

Despite its unfortunate image, there is a massive interest in the Tarot and more importantly, an acceptance that it works. It is precisely because it works that the time is ripe for the Tarot to once again be used for healing and therapy. The Tarot is perfectly placed and poised to address the needs of those that come to it, in the hands of suitably qualified professionals, in the new millennium.


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About Stephen Houssome

Steve Hounsome has written four books, including the recently published first of three volumes of Tarot Therapy (Pub: Capall Bann ISBN 1 861630 74 3, price £14.95)) which explores the ideas given here. He has recorded a series of highly acclaimed spoken word meditation and development tapes and is a member of the Isle of Avalon Foundation Faculty of Healing. You can contact him at: or website: or by post at PO Box 250, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 0ZQ, England. Enclose sae for catalogue of tapes and books.

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