Divination works on the principle that everything is connected to everything else. Through investigating one thing we can glean information about something else. Divination takes a divination tool ­ the tarot cards, stones, sticks, patterns in tealeaves, and so on ­ and relates the information revealed through its use to the life of the querant (the person for whom the divination is done.) The idea that pictures on cards or patterns of stones, for instance, might reveal information about someone’s life is strange to the Newtonian linear world view that has so influenced Western science for centuries. That world view is changing, however, as ideas from the New Science become popularised. Many people world-wide have heard of the notion that a butterfly beating its wings in, for instance, Hanoi could cause a hurricane in, say, Ontario, even if they don’t fully understand why. That is the nature of modern Quantum theories, we do not nor cannot understand what happens with our linear thought, not even the scientists who make up the theories can do that, but the theories describe things that do happen. As Fritzjof Kapra says in his book ‘The Tao of Physics’: ‘Particles are not isolated grains of matter, but are probability patterns, interconnections in an inseparable cosmic web.’ This statement forms the basis of the theory of how divination works, it is just usually described in more esoteric language.

To be able to understand the message received through divination, the diviner has to change her or his consciousness in some way. Following a particular practice, usually shamanic in some way, the diviner receives messages from spirits from another world. Such messages are interpreted by the diviner in a way that helps the querant deal more effectively with their future life. Sometimes this information takes the form of fore-knowledge and prediction, but usually it is more ambiguous and unspecific ­ warnings, suggestions, images, portents, possibilities and so on. In divinatory systems such as the tarot, a dialogue between the diviner and the querant often adds more information, fleshing out the message from the tarot thus enabling the revelations to be more specifically applied. In other systems of divination, such as from oracles, the messages are usually more ambiguous and open to a wide variety of interpretations. Sometimes they are non verbal messages, definitely aimed at affecting the unconscious mind of the querant. Part of the individual seeker’s work is then to use this knowledge to guide them in their subsequent life events.

There are many practices undertaken by diviners to put them in the right state to receive inspiration. Most if not all aim in some way to still and empty the mind of the practitioner. Through ‘turning off the inner dialogue’ we open ourselves to other realms of being and understanding from whence we can return with the new divinatory knowledge. Whilst we all innately have this ability, some people are more skilled at achieving this stillness and openness. Everyone can undertake a divination, however, because the work is not about having psychic abilities per se, but more about being able to put one’s own concerns and interests aside for a few brief moments and concentrate on another person’s life journey. Whilst sometimes it is difficult to do this, even the most basic counselling course shows how easily people not only can but are willing to listen to others.

Once we are in this position, of being attendant to another, we do not need to develop psychic abilities. Such powers emerge as and when appropriate. The second major skill for a diviner, after being able to still the mind, is not to be attached to psychic powers but to let them come and go as needed. When individuals become attached to psychic powers it can lead to all kinds of delusion, glamour, and dishonesty. There is an old joke about a psychic who says, ‘I see nothing’ but such honesty is a refreshing aspect of a true psychic. There is nothing wrong with developing psychic abilities, or in making oneself a suitable receptacle for psychic powers if they come. The point is, however, that we become good diviners not through developing powers but through developing ourselves. We are then ready when such powers emerge, which they will do, using an effective divination tool such as the tarot.

For divination to work we need what I call the ‘three ‘p’s’ ­ provision, preparation and procedure. Provision is simply having the time and space in which to do a divination and the required tools, in this case a pack of tarot cards. Provisions might also include a candle, incense, a cloth to lay the cards on and so on, all of which can help focus the energy of the diviner. This is where preparation comes in, for to be effective the tarot reader has to:

– be centred
– be tuned in to her or his intuition
– be not attached to the results of the divination
– have no personal preference for how the cards unfold
– honour all living beings, and trust her or his inner sense of what is right or wrong
– be willing to trust in their ability to be a diviner.

Before laying the cards out, the diviner simply holds the cards, using her or his senses to ‘feel’ what might be present, to get a sense of the energies waiting to emerge. This might sound very mystical and difficult but really it is just a matter of being quiet and focussing your attention. After the diviner has held the cards, and taken a moment to centre her or himself, the cards are then handed to the querant. The querant then shuffles or in some way mixes the cards up, all the while focussing on the here and now moment, and any specific questions being asked. He or she then places the cards down in the pre-arranged pattern (if necessary with the help of the diviner.) The diviner then turns over the cards and begins the interpretation. Once the cards are laid out, the most important thing for the diviner is to simply just see what is there without expectation or judgement. Not to get caught up in trying to finds answers or meaning, just looking for what is obvious and clear, without complication. It is important to get a sense of the cards and what they depict ­ for instance, looking at the posture and gesture of any figures on the card can reveal much, as can which cards appear to be in or out of relationship with other cards.

The basic procedure of divination can be summarised in five words:

– look
– feel
– ask
– listen
– trust

When the cards are not being used they should be kept in a safe place that you treat as sacred ­ that simply means, not to use the cards for other purposes, but to treat them with respect. One way to do this is through using your will and imagination and keeping the cards in a temple of the tarot. You create this temple through a visualisation. Then whenever you pick up the cards, you imagine you are taking them up from the altar in the temple of the tarot. Similarly, whenever you finish using the cards you place them in imagination, back into their sacred space in the temple.