Tarot Imagery can also be used in visualization exercises. Visualization practices can be similar to certain types of meditation in selecting images to hold in your mind. However, rather than trying to gain extra impressions about these images, you are trying to influence your unconscious mind by showing it the changes that you want to make, altering your reality to mirror the images you desire. Visualization is based on the theory (supported by clinical research) that the unconscious mind responds to vividly imagined mental pictures as if they were the real thing. It is best known for its role in alternative healing. For example, some cancer patients practice visualizations portraying their white blood cells as hungry birds or cats, gobbling up the cancer cells, which are imagined as bird seed or cat food.¹ As more doctors and patients invent some particularly good healing visualizations, they pass them around, thus building up a collection of usable images (a "cultural repertoire"). Visualization exercises are also being used to help people concentrate on studies, break bad habits, summon creative inspiration, and improve athletic performance.
Because the Tarot has such a rich supply of images, it is ideal for use in many types of visualizations. For example, suppose that you are someone who is preparing to take your driver's test, or perhaps someone who already has a license, but would like to improve your driving performance. You could get out the Chariot card, think about its different meanings, and carefully look over the image itself. Think about how the charioteer embodies the archetype of calm, superior performance. Concentrate on the image of the charioteer, and hold it in your mind. Now, imagine yourself as the charioteer. Envision yourself controlling the two horses (or sphinxes) as you race across some ancient desert (or drive along in some other fantasy scenario). Imagine what it feels like to have his knowledge, his experience, his discipline, his presence of mind. Now, change your mental image, merging into the present. Picture yourself getting into your car and driving confidently and skillfully. If you are going to take a test, picture yourself with the instructor, perfectly carrying out all of her directions. Since the Chariot is also associated with the "triumphs," the ancient victory processions, picture your own sense of triumph as you pass the test. If you need to build your confidence, you can regularly repeat this visualization. Whenever you go for a drive, or if you encounter a difficult situation in traffic or whatever, you can identify with the charioteer and call these images back into your mind. If you like, you can keep a copy of the Chariot in your car as a charm to help you reconnect with this image.
Now that you understand the idea behind Tarot visualization, you can probably come up with hundreds of useful images, tailored to your own interests and challenges. There's plenty of room for new people to invent new visualizations, because different individuals prefer different ones, and some like to use a variety of visualizations to tackle a particular problem. In fact, there is a big advantage in trying out a number of visualizations to deal with a particular problem or goal, because this activates different areas of the brain. As Jeanne Achterberg has said in relation to imagery and healing, it's a good idea "to recruit as many neural patterns of health as possible."² No doubt, this philosophy can be applied to many of the other things that you'd like to achieve. Because coming up with creative visualizations depends more on imagination that experience, this is an area where young people can contribute to our cultural repertory.
¹ See Bernie Seigel, Love, Medicine, and Miracles (New York: Harper & Row, 1986), 155-56.
² See Jeanne Achterberg, Imagery and Healing: Shamanism and Modern Medicine (Boulder, Colo.: Shambhala, 1985), 134.
Excerpted from Tarot for a New Generation, by Janina Renée
Janina Renée is a scholar of folklore, psychology, medical anthropology, the material culture of magic, ritual studies, history, and literature. Her books include Tarot Spells, Tarot Your Everyday Guide (winner ...