Tarot for Ghosts

16-Oct-2009 10

Original artwork copyright (c) 2009 by Melanie Marquis and used with permission.

By Melanie Marquis

Did you know the Tarot can be used to engage in detailed and complex conversations with the dead? The Tarot is a great tool for spirit communication because some things cannot be put into words, and the images on Tarot cards visually convey these abstract ideas and emotions. 

Keep in mind that the messages you receive from the spirit realm might be difficult to translate if you’re looking for succinct, clear-cut information.

Open your heart to the cards and let the feelings and thoughts wash over you. Ghosts tend to talk in emotions, so get the general feel of the cards before you try to interpret more precisely. On the other hand, spirits sometimes communicate in very literal ways. For example, if you ask the spirit what led to their earthly death and you draw The Chariot, it could show quite simply that the person met their end in a car crash. Look for the abstract, but don’t close your eyes to the obvious.

There are many effective ways the Tarot can help you connect with the deceased. Whatever method you’re using, the first thing to do is cast protections and call up a spirit in whatever way works best for you. Stop immediately if you get a bad, scary feeling anytime during the process. 

Now, suppose you wish to get some detailed information from the spirit. State to the spirit your intent; let the spirit know that you are about to shuffle the cards to do a reading to find out the information you seek. For example, you might say, “I wish to know what your life was like. Guide me in mixing these cards.” Have in mind the layout you will use.

Often, if you seek the answer to a simple question (a question to which you suspect the answer will not be epic), it works best to lay out cards in a horizontal row and interpret them with no implied order or chronology. However, if you’re looking to gain the full story about a matter, the Celtic Cross spread is a better choice. When the spread is interpreted, card positions are considered, but are very flexible. (For instance, the last card of the layout, the “what will be” card, does not necessarily show “what will be” when you use the spread for spirit communication.)

I lay out this spread a little differently than is traditional, and I’ve adapted its use for spirit communication in a way that works for me. Feel free to make your own adjustments to the method.

Shuffle the cards, guided by the spirit. Don’t cut the deck. When the cards feel ready, begin. Lay out the top card in the center position of the spread. This card shows the overlying message, the general feeling or answer being conveyed. For instance, if you’ve asked the spirit what their life was like, in this center card lies the jest of your answer: it could show a happy life, a miserable life, or a life of toil; it could show a primary focus of the spirit’s life, or it could be very literal, the significator or “face” card that symbolizes the spirit being contacted.

In another example, if you’ve asked the spirit to tell you the true nature of the relationship you shared when the spirit was alive on the earth, this center card will show that general nature, whether it was a relationship of love, hate, fear, domination, friendship, admiration, guilt, or trust.

The interpretation will naturally depend on the intent of the Tarot reading, but whatever your intent, this center card reveals the most important part of the answer or message. 

Next, place the second card horizontally, laying it lengthwise across the center card. In the traditional Celtic Cross layout, this card represents “what crosses you,” an obstacle or challenge, or something that is about to cross your path. When using this spread for spirit communication, however, this card usually shows something that troubles the spirit – a doubt, a worry, what went wrong. If it’s a “positive” card, interpret it as a general message to you, a friendly way for the spirit to say hello and acknowledge your presence.

Now, this is where I differ from convention. I lay out the next four cards as follows: moving clockwise, I place one card below the center card, one card to the left of the center card, one card above the center card, and one card to the right of the center card. (Traditionally, these cards are laid out in a different order.) These four cards should not be interpreted with their usual significance (beneath you, behind you, above you, before you). Rather, they should be taken to convey more details regarding the central message as shown in the center card. They may build in importance, the card to the right of the center card showing a more relevant detail than the cards placed above, below, and to the left of the center card. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, a chronology of events is shown, but this chronology should be interpreted very loosely.

The next four cards are placed to the right of the spread, in a vertical row beginning from the bottom up. When using the spread for spirit communication, the bottom card in this row tends to show the current state of the spirit, whether they are at peace, in conflict, or anywhere in between. The next card up often reveals a factor that led to the spirit’s death, but this isn’t always so. Trust your intuition. If it doesn’t feel like this card is conveying information about the spirit’s death, interpret it along with the next two cards. The remaining two cards in the row communicate a direct message to you, something the spirit wants to tell you, something the spirit feels you need to be aware of.

Now, these are of course just general guidelines, based on my own personal experiences with spirit communication. You’ll just have to try it out and adapt your method to suit you. If something in the interpretation doesn’t seem to fit based on the guidelines I’ve given, it means the spirit is communicating to you in a different way than I’ve described. Search your spirit and ask yourself what you think the card is indicating. Personal intuition beats another’s suggestions any day.

There is another Tarot spread that is quite handy for spirit communication, particularly when you wish to make a comparison of some sort. For example, you may wish to ask the spirit how death differs from life. Or, you may want to get some advice from the spirit on a decision you’re struggling to make. When asking a spirit for advice, however, keep in mind that just because a spirit is in the spirit realm doesn’t mean that sprit is all knowing. While deceased friends and relatives who knew you well and had good judgment might be able to offer you quality guidance, other spirits might not know enough about you or your situation to be able to assist you in your decision-making process, or they might just be terrible at giving advice. On the other hand, you might get some great advice from a spirit that is a perfect stranger. Dear Abby’s spirit is somewhere, after all! 

So, in matters where you wish to make a comparison, to compare the outcomes of two possible decisions, to compare life with death, to compare a spirit’s accomplishments with their unfinished business, etc., the 2-row spread is preferred. You simply mix the cards and lay them out in two rows of seven or so cards each. Each row represents the aspects or outcomes of each of the two things you are comparing. For example, if you have asked the spirit how death differs from life, you would lay out one row of cards while thinking, “This is what life is like.” You would lay out the second row of cards while thinking, “This is what death is like.”

If you’re using this spread to compare the outcomes of two potential decisions, the cards sometimes show a chronology of events that might transpire with each choice. As with any Tarot reading, outcomes are always changeable, predictions never set in stone. 

Now, suppose you wish to take this in the opposite direction, and convey a message to the spirit. Tarot cards are quite useful for this, as well, and you can get very detailed in the messages you convey. Your message might be simple: the Ace of Cups to convey love. Or, your message could be quite complex, an entire layout describing a circumstance or an order of events. Use a layout that you are familiar and comfortable with, and then look through your deck and choose the cards that best convey your message. Lay out the cards that show your message, and leave them in place until you sense the spirit has received the communication.

One advantage this method has over other methods such as just stating your message out loud, thinking it, or writing it down, is that the Tarot invites us to express more than we can bring ourselves to say. Tarot images convey many subtleties that are impossible to state in plain sentences. Telling a story with images sometimes allows us to express our feelings more freely and completely, especially those feelings that we think of as negative, those emotions of guilt, shame, anger, fear, sadness, or regret that we are often trained to suppress. 

As you gain more experience with spirit communication, you might want to experiment with other Tarot layouts. You might also want to try incorporating other methods of spirit communication into your ghostly Tarot rituals. For example, you can light a candle, and if you are unsure about the meaning of a card, you can ask the spirit a yes or no question to verify. The flame will grow to indicate a “yes,” and it will get smaller to answer “no.” You could also incorporate automatic writing, scrying, a spirit board, runes, or any other spirit communication tool or method you like. 

Practice these methods. Try to use your Tarot to take your spirit communication a little deeper, and if you’d like to talk about your experience (I’d love to hear it!), email me at injoyart@yahoo.com or connect with me at http://www.unitedwitches.org

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Tarot Reflections is published by the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2009

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