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Turn up the top or first card of the pack; cover the Significator with it, and say: This covers him. This card gives the influence which is affecting the person or matter of inquiry generally, the atmosphere of it in which the other currents work.
-arthur edward waite, The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (1910)
Atmosphere and Influences
When Arthur Edward Waite first conceptualized his tarot deck, he hired a young artist named Pamela Colman Smith to illustrate each card. She was a fellow member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, a mystical group that truly believed in the importance of atmosphere: they met in a space designed to look like an ancient Egyptian pyramid, and dressed in elaborate costumes with robes and headpieces.
Pamela Colman Smith had a theater background, so she fit right in. Earlier, she had designed sets, costumes, and programs for England's Royal Lyceum Theatre when it toured the United States-and she brought her flair for the dramatic to the tarot cards she painted. In fact, when you look through the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, you might notice that many of the cards look like costumed actors posing on a stage.
Your own backdrop and surroundings can play a crucial role in your journaling practice. If you want to get the most out of each performance, you might want to think about setting the stage and ushering in a little atmosphere.
Location, Location, Location
Where should you write in your tarot journal? You might like to work in a quiet room-especially if you plan to combine a full-fledged tarot reading with your writing, and privacy is an issue. In that case, a bedroom, a den, or a quiet corner in the yard is perfect. You might prefer to work where there is a buzz or hum of activity-where you can see the archetypes of the tarot come alive in the guise of busy strangers going about their business, and you can overhear stimulating snippets of conversation. Cafés, restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, and hotel lobbies are all good places to journal.
Honestly, you can write in your tarot journal anywhere you like, as long as you can immerse yourself fully in the tarot cards and in the pages of your journal-an area many tarot readers refer to as sacred space.
Many tarot readers routinely clear a sacred space for their tarot readings. The process is simple: they clear away clutter and distractions, light candles, and visualize pure white light filling their reading area.
Some tarot readers go a step further and establish a dedicated reading area. Many tarot readers like to enhance that sacred space with symbolic representations of the four suits and their corresponding elements, such as candles for fire, chalices for water, soothing background music for air, and crystals for earth.
In a similar fashion, tarot journaling should incorporate the four realms of your experience: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical. Tarot journaling should also be a holistic experience that integrates all of your senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. The imagery and colors of the cards, of course, will please your sense of sight. Beautiful background music will uplift your spirit. Scented oils, candles, or incense will stimulate your sense of smell. A glass of water, coffee, tea, or wine will appeal to your sense of taste. And the weight of your journal in your hands or on your lap will put you in physical contact with your sense of touch.
Because the work you do in your tarot journal originates in your mind, however, you have one option that isn't open to you when you conduct a tarot reading. When you write in your tarot journal, you can work with sacred space that's based more in your inner world than in your outer reality. You might think of it as imaginary sacred space-except for the fact that it will seem more real to you every time you visit.
You might choose a scene from a tarot card as the basis for your sacred space. You might envision yourself in the Nine of Pentacles garden, for example, or the seaside balcony in the Two of Wands. You can either select a card at random or choose the card you most want to use.
Your sacred space also can be an idealized space that you picture in your mind's eye: the den, library, tea parlor, or landscape of your dreams. You might even find a photo in a magazine and use that as inspiration.
Imaginary sacred space is ideal for journaling, because it can travel with you. Imaginary sacred space is always ready for you to close your eyes and step inside-and cleanup is quick and easy. In addition, fantasy sacred space has the added benefit of preparing you to someday discover or create your ideal sacred space in the real world.
Ritual and Routine
Tarot reading rituals help smooth the way for tarot readings, by eliminating decisions about where you should sit, how you should shuffle, or how you should open a reading. Likewise, a few well-designed journaling rituals will help you get the preliminaries out of the way, calm you, and free you to start the creative process of writing.
Here are some techniques you can try as part of your journaling routine.
Light a candle. Gaze into the flame for a few minutes before you begin writing. Enjoy your favorite drink. Feel yourself relax with every sip, and imagine it filling you with energy. Try four-part breathing. Inhale, and hold your...(Continues)