The eve of St. John the Baptist is here and for me the actual eve, the night, of this day is about imaginal, and not so imaginal, escapades. Wild nights under the starts, ecstatic dancing, and a communion between the living and the spirits (including the dead). Since this is about entering into more fluid territory, I want to talk a little about tarot and dreaming, or dreaming tarot.
Through my play with the cards I’ve found that dreaming with tarot is an excellent way of loosening the boundaries around the tarot and the signification of the cards. I mean here both using tarot cards to describe (de-code) dreams as well as using the cards for dreaming. What I’ve found through doing this is that the card image bends to dream logic. For example, coins can become mirrors, portals, heads, seeds, fruits, or even summoning circles. What is coin breaks down and morphs into varied shapes and things encountered in dream. The same goes for swords, batons, and cups. What is sword blurs beyond recognition so that I as the reader seeing the cards and having experienced the dream recognize the multi-valent capabilities of the thing portrayed on the card (s), the image. Meanings loose their solid state, warping into imaginal dimensions, coaxed into a realm outside objective frameworks.
To describe dreams with the tarot:
- Immediately as you wake up before speaking, shuffle the deck and lay out cards, a handful at most.
- While you’re shuffling and laying out the cards, ask about your dream, ask the cards to describe it or show you your dream.
- You want to start small and build up, as if you were having a conversation with the cards. By small I mean lay out a handful of cards first and build up from there.
- Also, it is best to keep the deck next to you while you sleep, on the night table or the floor.
- Review your dream as you read the cards.
- Think about the ways in which the cards on the table/bed describe your dream and what it says about it.
On the other hand, using the cards to dream, while still allowing for the same malleability of significations and experiences, can also open up interesting and often profound avenues of exploration.
To dream with the tarot:
- Choose a deck, preferably a deck you keep hot, that you use often.
- Have a question or purpose/focus in mind. (What do you want to find/encounter/discover in the dream? What you want answered through the dream?).
- Before sleep play with the deck, and look at the images.
- Take your time doing so, along the lines of meditative contemplation of the cards in the deck.
- While thinking on your question and/or focus, choose no more than two cards (three or more cards gives muddled dreams), that you feel are descriptive to your goal/question.
- Look at these cards just before sleep and lay them next to your head before laying down, you can also put them under your pillow if you prefer.
When you awake, recall your dream and look at the cards again, thinking on how they addressed what you wanted to uncover, and also review what you actually uncovered. I’ve found that this method needs to be done often so as to really pinpoint a couple things. One is finding the right hot deck that is conducive for your dreams, to how you dream and your dream landscape, not all decks are the same. I’ve found that the best decks for me are less than a handful from my collection. Second, it is learning the language of the cards within imaginal territory. It takes time to bend toward different ways of seeing and reading the image (s). Third and tied with the second, it takes practice to learn to find what cards best describe what you seek in dreams. This is one of the reasons that it is best to keep the card count for this approach at no more than two.
Now that I’ve shared a little about what I like to do with the cards besides reading for querents and for myself, I want to close with a small prayer to St. John the Baptist:
Sacred precursor of Christ; Sanctified in the womb; Admiration of all in the exercise of the virtues and privileges with which the creator enriched you. Angelic in chastity; Blessed apostle. Martyr, in the constancy with which in your rebuke of Herod you offered your head to the knife. Luminous prophet, of whom Christ himself declared: “Of those born of women non greater than John the Baptist.” Glorious Saint grant unto us the grace of spiritual joy, today and always. Amen.
On this St. John’s eve, seize the opportunity to glimpse beyond, divine, dream with the cards, and experience what unfolds for you.
† I specify tarot in this post but you can replace tarot with an oracle or playing card deck. What is important is that it is a deck you use frequently.