“Entering A Card”

Today, I thought I might describe this great exercise that actually helped to launch me into my unceasing-since-then love affair with Tarot.  It’s called “Entering A Card.”

I first read about this exercise on the internet somewhere, and then found it written up again in Tarot for Your Self, a workbook by Mary K. Greer that I found very helpful when I was first starting out as an eager newcomer to the world of Tarot.  It’s essentially a meditative exercise that would probably fall under the sub-heading of “Visualization.”  In brief (and then in not-so-brief below…), the exercise involves the experience of vividly imagining yourself in the world of the Tarot, or more specifically, in that portion of the Tarot World that’s been captured in the image found on a single card.

The Major Arcana from the classic Rider-Waite-Smith deck -- would you be interested in visiting one of these scenes?  Does the thought of interacting with one or more of these characters intrigue you...?
The Major Arcana from the classic Rider-Waite-Smith deck — would you be interested in visiting one of these scenes? Does the thought of interacting with one or more of these characters intrigue you…?

Now, ideally, you’ll have access to a deck whose artwork speaks to you for this.  Most of us shy away from situations where we don’t feel comfortable, and if that’s how we operate in the physical and social worlds, why deviate from that in the “astral” world…?  You really want to find a deck whose imagery kind of entrances you — it should depict a world you’d like to visit, whether because it looks serene, or like it might be able to teach you things, or just because it’s fascinating in ways you can’t even articulate.  You definitely shouldn’t feel pressured to use one of the most well-known decks simply because they’re well-known — the only “correct” way to go about this procedure is the way that’s correct for you.  As long as a deck appeals to you, then I believe chances of a successful experience with this exercise will rise…

So after you’ve selected a deck that you really like, and that showcases a world you wouldn’t mind visiting, you need to set aside a free, undistracted window of time in which to try this, and a space that will feel safe, conducive to a meditative kind of state, and isn’t likely to be disturbed while you work.  It needn’t be anything super-fancy, and you don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of Occult-looking trappings — just a quiet room where you can trance out a bit will be terrific.

Once you’re ensconced in your room with that cool deck, you can either pick a card intentionally, or you can just shuffle the deck, and then pick a card at random — let one suggest itself to you.  The former option is great if a certain card seems to hold extra importance and meaning for you, while the latter is excellent if you’re not sure which card to try (and you can start to drive yourself nuts if you ponder this for too long, so it’s often a good idea to let the deck decide for you).

Also, whenever I’ve seen this exercise described elsewhere, it seems like an accepted thing to lean toward using the Major Arcana cards for this, but I don’t see why that should be strictly necessary.  Many decks do have Minor Arcana cards that don’t really have scenic illustrations — they just have, say, five cups, or nine swords, or what have you, on a plain background, with no characters doing engaging things, and no colorful environments you might wander about in — so they might prove difficult candidates for this exercise.  But then again, many other decks do offer Minor cards just as illustrated with characters and scenes as their Majors.  Ultimately, the rule should be that whatever works for you…works.

The 6 of Cups from the Thoth Tarot: a tough choice for this exercise, as there's no one there to talk to, and not much room to accommodate a visit by you even if there was...
The 6 of Cups from the Thoth Tarot: a tough choice for this exercise, as there’s no one there to talk to, and not much room to accommodate a visit by you even if there was…but you can try this with any card you like…

So you have your space all staked out, you’ve chosen a deck, you’ve picked a card to “enter”…next, you’ll get into the heart of the exercise itself: entering that card!  Personally, I like to do this in the evening or full-on nighttime hours, but you don’t have to stick to that, either.  I also find that it helps me to light one or more candles and some incense so as to put my subconscious mind on notice that we’re shifting into a non-standard, not-everyday, not-mundane kind of mode here.  You can try this, you can use some essential oils for scent if that’s of aid to you, you can put on some trance-y music…or you can just sit in the quiet space with no added scents or sounds at all.  But the idea is to sit still, and then focus on the card you’ve chosen.  You can hold it in one hand, or if it’s easy to do so, you can prop it up on something facing you from close by, so you can fully relax while gazing at it.  Then just kind of stare at it — let the elements of the image sink completely through your eyes and into your brain.  It’s fine to blink, to scratch any itches, to shift position if you need to, whatever — you don’t need to become an instant yogi here — but try to just focus…meditate…on that card and that image.  Stare at it until you believe that if you were to close your eyes, you’d see the image hovering there in the black non-space behind your lids…  And then stare a little bit more…

And once you really feel like you have a good grip on that image…close your eyes.  You should by now have a fairly good mental replica of the scene on that card: any characters depicted there, some of the details of the background beyond the character(s)…  Now this is important: don’t require of yourself that what you experience will be as vivid and detailed as what you’d see in some CGI-heavy film production in which a character attempts something like this, and is so wildly successful that their world is utterly displaced by some fabulous, almost luridly realized new realm!  I mean, hey, if you’re so awesomely skilled at visualization that you can manage this, then, yes, by all means, go down that rabbit-hole, and please send me a postcard from Wonderland, I’d love to hear about it!  But if your visualization skills are more modest — like mine — then don’t worry that you’re not experiencing something as all-encompassing as a DMT vision.  Just do what you can, and sense what you sense.

Your mental snapshot of a card probably won't be as vivid and detailed as this woman and her surroundings -- you'll more likely experience the *idea* of the woman and the environs...and that's more than okay!
Your mental snapshot of a card probably won’t be as vivid and detailed as this woman and her surroundings — you’ll more likely experience the *idea* of the woman and the environs…and that’s more than okay!

So once you have that vision of the card floating before you, next imagine it growing.  The card, the scene, the image…it grows, and either it floats toward you as it does, or you float toward it, or both…until the boundaries, the outer edges of the card have moved beyond the peripheries of your vision, and the card’s scene is filling up the entirety of what you can see before you.  At this point, imagine that the face of the card, now immediately in front of you, has become a gauzy, ghostly membrane…one you can step through if you so choose…

And then step through it.  Into the Tarot World.  Into the card.

The Fool and his friend welcome you!  Like them, you're embarking here on a pretty great journey!  This card is from the Universal Fantasy Tarot, artwork by Paolo Martinello.
The Fool and his friend welcome you! Like them, you’re embarking here on a pretty great journey! This card is from the Universal Fantasy Tarot, artwork by Paolo Martinello.

And then pause, and just open up your inner senses.  What do you see?  What can you hear?  What’s the temperature like there, and do you feel a breeze?  What kinds of scents are issuing forth as you get acclimated to this new place?  Take your time — especially if you’re new at meditation/visualization — and let the impressions wash over you.  And don’t be frustrated if the card’s image has slipped away — it’s okay to open your eyes again and refresh your hold on the scene, and then try to resume where you left off (and at some point, you can call it a day if it’s just not happening, and you can then circle back to the exercise some other time).

If it’s working enough to proceed, though, the next step would be to try to move around a bit.  Let the card’s imagery morph so as to accommodate you as you do.  Things should accord to your changing perspective as you wander.  Examine whatever you like, and feel safe — the Tarot World is a very welcoming place!  Explore all you want…

And after you’ve nosed around a bit, you can try conversing with any figures inhabiting that realm.  Most write-ups I’ve seen of this exercise suggest thanking the card’s denizens for allowing you into their space, and then asking any questions you might have for them.  This is where it can get truly interesting!

When I first attempted this exercise myself, I was really intrigued by it, and I really wanted it to go well…but I also had never really gotten into meditation at that point, and I felt kind of ridiculous sitting there in my living room with a stick of incense going and a couple of candles flickering.  I felt all hokey, and artificially New Age-y, and like everyone I knew would have laughed uproariously to see me there.  And yet, despite all that, I pressed on with it, and when I got to the part about asking questions of the figure there…the figure answered me back.  Here’s the card I first “entered” some years back now:

The Wheel of Fortune card, from the Tarot of Metamorphosis (artwork by the insanely talented Luigi Di Giammarino).  In my first visit, the centauroid Woman depicted there gave me a gift I carry with me to this day...
The Wheel of Fortune card, from the Tarot of Metamorphosis (artwork by the insanely talented Luigi Di Giammarino). In my first visit, the centauroid Woman depicted there gave me a gift I carry with me to this day…

And when I say the figure answered me back, I don’t mean that I actually heard a voice with my ears, and I didn’t even really “hear” the answering words in what we could call “my mind’s ears.”  It was more like what happens when you read passages in a book: words enter your consciousness, but no voice is speaking them in your head (or…that’s how it works for me when I read, anyway — your mileage may vary!).  But I tentatively sent out some kind of polite greeting in my mind…and a welcoming reply formed in return.  It sure didn’t feel like I was consciously “making up” the words I was perceiving, either.  I began to get into it, and I ended up having a small “conversation.”  The responses also didn’t seem like they necessarily came from me — or not from my conscious mind, anyway — and most of them were phrased in ways I wouldn’t have phrased them.  Anyway, it was kind of riveting, and then after some while, I just sort of sensed that it was time to wrap things up.  I said my goodbyes, and then I imagined myself floating back out of the Tarot World, back through that ephemeral card-face barrier, and disengaging from it, until the card was just a big card hovering before me again, and shrinking as I watched, from the size of a huge door, down, down, all the way down to the size…of a card.

And then I opened my eyes again, just me again, back in my living room.  With a big, goofy grin on my face, because the exercise had worked way better than I’d ever expected it might.  Like I said, it was no CGI voyage through something as detailed as a Pixar film, but as it turned out,  it didn’t need to be.  I loved it anyway, and from that point on, I became a Tarot zealot.  I bought myself quite a few more decks, and I have to say that some I only purchased because I thought they’d be great worldscapes to explore by entering their cards in the manner I just described.  I heartily recommend giving this exercise a go…and if Tarot isn’t really your bag, I’d imagine you could try the same thing with a drawing or a painting or a photograph, with results just as illuminating and gratifying.  Hopefully this will be of use to someone out there, and like I said, if it is…please send me a postcard!

2 comments

  1. My tarot cards have never let me down! You’ve made excellent suggestions and I’m going to try them the next time I consult. Thank you for sharing! Fascinating stuff.

    • Hi, Rosewyn — nice to hear from you again! Glad you see some appeal in the “Entering A Card” exercise. Like I said in the post, I’ve found it really rewarding, and I’ve had a surprising amount of success with it (hmm, maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised…). Anyway, I’d love to hear about your experiences with it if you do decide to give it a go!

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