“A Conversation with Katrina Wynne” was conducted by enrique enriquez via email between September 2010 and March 2011 and posted on his Tarology site April 1, 2011.
I appreciate the fresh perspective that enrique brings to the world of Tarot and feel honored to be included in this growing dialogue on the depth and breadth of Tarot wisdom and perspectives.
This is the interview as posted on Tarology with links added here for greater access to information.
ENRIQUE ENRIQUEZ: I am interested in understanding how the tarot, a tool that is commonly defined by superstitions, can be ‘sanitized’ and used in a therapeutic way, but I would also be interested on discussing if it doesn’t needs sanitizing.
KATRINA WYNNE: To examine this question, I would need to break it down into some of its parts: superstition, therapeutic and sanitized.
“Superstition” tends to be a belief, often emotionally based, not backed by facts. Tarot readings also lack fact-based evidence, are mostly subjective, and relying greatly upon belief, either in the cards, the reader, and/or the client. Then there are the overriding beliefs, such as where the “information or guidance” is coming from…God, Goddess, Angels, the unconscious, etc. What might differentiate it from superstition? I would say it is the deeper, intuitive knowing and sensory-grounded confirmation that the client and the reader experience in the reading. This is the beginning of what I distinguish as Transformative Tarot Counseling™.
“Therapeutic” work implies there is a treatment for illness. I have two points to make about this concept. The first is on ethics, while the other is philosophical. Ethically, Tarot reading or interpretation is not meant as a treatment and certainly is not a substitute for professional help, especially when it comes to medical, psychological or financial matters, among others. For me this would constitute a “scope of practice” issue, and I encourage Tarot readers to have a referral list for supporting their clients to seek such assistance. Second, I come from a different, more holistic, point of view in working with folks. I do not view people as sick, ill, lacking, suffering, evil, or negative. In fact, judgment is not a useful tool in my Tarot work, or in my life. In addition to my background in Taoist philosophy, Tarot has taught me a great deal about unitive values, seeing the wholeness of each person and people in general, as well as all of life and the universe.
“Sanitized” is a curious choice of words and I’d like to hear more about what you mean when you use this word.
ENRIQUE ENRIQUEZ: Let me see if I can explain what I mean by ‘sanitizing’:
There is a long tradition that links the tarot to divination, and more precisely, to fortunetelling. The first thing that comes to most people’s minds when they hear the word ‘tarot’ is “telling the future”. ‘Therapy’ (or the elicitation of some sort of transformative process in the client), seems to be -in the view of many readers I have spoken to- what is left if we take forecasting out if the tarot’s equation. I am not saying that I am convinced that is true, nor that I believe the tarot is a form of therapy. In fact I agree with you in that readers should stay away from any therapeutic claim they cannot back up with the appropriate credentials.
Now, independently of where the reader stands (hardcore divination, counseling, projective tests, visual koans, etc), this common link the tarot has with fortunetelling has given the word ‘tarot’ a stench. To say that you work with the tarot implies that you subscribe to a whole realm of beliefs, or superstitions, that many times have nothing to do with the tarot in itself: people would extend their hands assuming you also do palmistry, they would assume you believe in angels or UFOs, they would think you have a good aromatherapy recipe for growing a mustache or that you can cleanse their auras. That is why, those who don’t share these beliefs would flinch when they hear the word ‘tarot’ just as we flinch at the stench of rotten fish. I would submit that, although there’s a market for these ideas, our society at large doesn’t feel represented by them. In addition to that we have the fact that the tarot’s public image ha been defined by conmen and madmen. One understands that is not all the tarot is, or what the tarot could be, but one a has to take that stench into account. To me, ‘sanitizing’ the tarot has to do with taking the stench off. (This of course assumes one has to feel the stench in the first place!). I am very interested in talking to you because I have spoken with countless therapist who like the tarot and keep it private, out of fear. Some of those people have told me they can even get disbarred if they dare using the tarot within a therapeutic context. Then I have spoken with a few people, like you, who are proof of these fears not being totally founded. Maybe it takes courage, or conviction, or a certain personality to pull it off.
In any case, this all interest me because I wonder: what is the role of the tarot in the 21st century? Superstitions come in all shapes and forms. I suspect that feeling inadequate because you are 30 years old and single is based on superstitious thinking, just as believing that all you say in a tarot reading will be reversed if you hear a dog barking far away, or like assuming you are better ‘suited’ to get a job if you are wearing an Armani suit than if you are wearing a cheaper brand. But while we may not be able to overcome superstitious thinking -we may not even want, nor need to do that- our culture keeps updating its superstitions. Aren’t the superstitions surrounding the tarot dated? If so, what do we do? Should we update these superstitions? Can we get away without these superstitions being associated to the tarot?
KATRINA WYNNE: What you call “stench” I would call a stereotype. Stereotypes tend to be promoted by mass media and gossip by putting huge concepts into comfortable little packages, yet are illusion, and mostly prejudice (pre-judgment) based on fear of the unknown. For me this goes back to what I was saying about my holistic view in contrast to a more one-sided view of life. If I’m interested in the whole person, I move away from pre-judgment and have no need for stereotypes. The stereotype might be a starting place for some people to open the door to experiencing what could be a totally new and unexpected awareness. This is at the heart of transformative work, to be able to step into and hopefully embrace some aspect of the unknown in such a fashion that we no longer experience our life in the same way.
You bring up the other end of the spectrum as well, when the reader or counselor is treated with prejudice due to the assumptions folks make about the nature of our work with Tarot. Certainly it exists. I have experienced people turning away from me due to their preferences, prejudices, and the like, but should that change who I am and what is meaningful to me…”No.” This is where the spiritual practice of integrating the transformative message of the Tarot is most helpful, for it is not only a tool for divination, but a profound book of divine wisdom. It is a guide for living one’s life in beauty and balance, even if other people prefer a more one-sided existence.
When people live in fear, they suppress themselves or overwhelm others with their power for they actually feel weak. I have found that if I am congruent with my energy, power, and purpose, other people are not triggered by my presence and thus feel no need to manipulate me, for I have no need to manipulate them. I learn from my mistakes and continue to work on myself, my spiritual journey, the XIV Art/Temperance of life.
Although I still feel shy to pronounce this, it is a vision of mine to help people move past all fears, be it toward Tarot cards, divination, the unknown, or other-ness. Even among Tarot readers, I’ve encountered fear of new ways of relating to the cards that expose them to the unknown. As humans, we often cling to the known, the familiar, routine. For readers, this appears as comfort in our typical reading style or knowledge of the cards. Sometimes I need to speak up and shake things up a bit. Isn’t it XV The Devil who, like Lucifer, represents an obstruction on the road of life, whose intention is to wake us up to the message of God’s light and love? Waking up to our attachments so we have more awareness of choices is my style in Tarot reading, counseling, and living. As a trained psychotherapist, I have many tools in my magic bag for stirring the alchemical pot of life.
In the 21st Century, we humans have evolved as a species to the point where many are ready to transcend dependence on fear, attachment, or the known. In the spectrum of existence all of us are in various stages of development and maturity. I deeply believe in, have observed the evidence of, and have experienced the ultimate message in the Tarot, that we have the potential to transcend duality to reunite with source, the Light, God/Goddess, the universe, XXI The World. Not everyone chooses this path, but the pathway is illustrated by the Tarot for us all to pursue whatever degree we wish to journey. There is something for everyone in the Tarot to support each experience and stage of life. That is the beauty of this medium for offering support, guidance and reflection.
As readers, our preferred styles can be seen as signposts for where we are, our developmental stage on this journey of the Tarot. There are as many styles of Tarot or reading cards as there are people. I find that the way a person approaches or uses Tarot is very close to how they approach life. It is a reflection of who they are, their unique perspective, and perhaps their limitations as well. Here is where we might encounter “dated” or tried and true styles of working with the cards from some folks. We naturally attract clients and experiences that help us learn the lesson and essence of our chosen stage. As I always say, there is something for everyone when it comes to approaches with the cards as our tool. I value diversity for it represents the rainbow within Tarot.
OK…what about “fortune-telling”…? My response is to paraphrase my friend and fellow Tarot enthusiast, Diane Toland, from her book, Inner Pathways to the Divine.
“To limit Tarot reading to fortune-telling is like using a classic samurai sword for cutting bread.” (p. 10) Cutting bread is a useful activity and feeds our basic need for sustenance, but there is so much more we can tap into and experience with the Tarot.
ENRIQUE ENRIQUEZ: I have been thinking that one of the most important things I have learned through the tarot is to appreciate, or understand, the true importance of Art. Most people find that unexpected or difficult to comprehend. The tarot has allowed me to experience, first hand, the power of images, words, and narrative, in a way that painting, or writing couldn’t. At some point I understood how uncanny, how marvelous and even surreal is the fact that we, human beings, are these little two-footed mammals who can make images -visual, verbal, sound images- and these images can have us laughing, crying, feeling inspired or depleted. All arts are illusory and delusive at once, and man is that animal who can create a delusion and being changed by it, for real. I understood then that we carry within the power to change ourselves. We imagine the bridges that will have us crossing all the abysses we may find along our way, even when, sometimes, these bridges are, or must be, imaginary. But here I am talking about image-making as a craft that have us manipulating shapes, colors, forms, notes, to affect us both intellectually and emotionally. I am talking about art as a human event. I said some people don’t get it, or they are puzzled by this, because they would think that, yes, art is all that, but the tarot is different (which is a way of saying the tarot is not Art). It seems that a big part of these stereotypes you suggested have to do with assuming a link between the tarot and a certain set of paranormal beliefs. Do you think that a belief in the paranormal -or even the supernatural- is necessary to experience the tarot?
KATRINA WYNNE: I would like to respond to the last question, first, …”No.” Experiencing Tarot does not require anything beyond the choice to participate on some level. There is neither necessity for belief, nor attachment to supernatural concepts. To explain, bottom line, Tarot cards are technically just pieces of paper. As paper, they have no power other than what we imbue them with. Cards, as visual stimulus, can entertain, perplex, inform, trigger, or inspire the viewer into a variety of responses or reactions. The viewer can project beliefs, values, judgments, associations, and other cognitive-emotive connections from their personal experience upon the cards.
It can be said that individuals are also channels for the collective or the universe to connect through the relationship to the cards. But that is my belief which I bring to my relationship with Tarot. And thus we have the beginnings of diversity in working with Tarot images. Each person brings unique perceptions and experience to the mix, layering the personal, relational and universal levels of communication with one’s style and preferences for perceiving and processing data. And from this mix emerges “meaning” for those who seek this conclusion.
This leads us to the heart of your question, the “Art” and visual language of Tarot and its potential impact on us and what we find meaningful. To be touched by fine art is when we have been moved by an experience of the piece, otherwise we are neutral, with no connection, no engagement.
What is it about Tarot cards that command our attention, possibly triggering emotions or impacting us experientially? Dai Léon expresses it best in Origins of the Tarot…
“It is the goal of every Tarot deck designer to convey a remarkable appearance of beauty that reflects innate truth as much as possible.”
“Plotinus recognized that the sensory experience of seeing an image translates smoothly into the recognition of a mental image resembling the physical one. The continuum then expands to include an intuited gestalt of the mind’s image. This gestalt is based on the knowing and feeling intuition.”
— Dai Léon, Origins of the Tarot (Frog Books, Berkeley, CA, 2009)
This “gestalt” refers to the whole being greater than merely the sum of its parts. Aristotle originated this concept, which has evolved into the art of creating a Tarot card. By combining symbols, be they characters, props, numbers, words, implied movement or potential sound, a synthesis of possible meaning emerges in the form of archetypes, stories, and aspects of the mandala of life. Life as a mandala encompasses the totality of experience and expression, much like the Tarot incorporates the holographic pieces of the total representation of life, albeit three-dimensional.
As “two-leggeds” we relate to storytelling. Just look at the popularity of TV, movies, books, history, etc. We look for a beginning, a middle, and an end, in order to better follow linear time, utilizing contrast (duality) to help us compare and observe differences, especially over time. I emphasize that duality is a tool, much like our two legs or two eyes are useful for balance or depth of perception. It allows us to raise our awareness of the opposing energies at work, which, ultimately, seek resolution. Let me illustrate what I mean. In theater, the classic template for the story is: 1) introduction of characters and setting, 2) conflict is established, 3) resolution is accomplished. This is also the basic concept inspired by ancient Greek philosophers, but most apparent in the work of German philosopher Hegel as he explored the triad of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.
This is the manner in which the brain processes information, as well as the classic form of scientific inquiry with its hypothesis, test/results, and confirmed or new theory. Herein are the ingredients for a powerful Tarot reading. By entering the gestalt of the energy or essence of the Tarot card, while following the story in the Querent, cards, and layout, we open ourselves to the possibility of a meaningful experience. This is terribly simplified, just the basic skeleton of the process, but I hope it helps to illustrate what is in the background laying the foundation for the “art” of reading and relating to the Tarot.
ENRIQUE ENRIQUEZ: One of the quotes you shared brings up a question I often ask myself: what is the ‘distance’ between truth and beauty? I very much agree with that author in that images presents us with a kind of beauty that, by becoming meaningful, feels true. So I wonder, it is beauty the visible face of truth? Does beauty mirrors true? Are they one and the same thing? Are they different?
KATRINA WYNNE: I.F. Stone, a maverick investigative journalist in 20th century American, reflecting upon him self in his renown publication, I. F. Stone’s Weekly, wrote “I tried to dig the truth out of hearings, official transcripts and government documents, and to be as accurate as possible. I also sought to give the Weekly a personal flavor, to add humor, wit and good writing to the Weekly report. I felt that if one were able enough and had sufficient vision one could distill meaning, truth and even beauty from the swiftly flowing debris of the week’s news.” (The Haunted Fifties, from a collection of Stone’s writings from 1963)
When working with the Tarot, aren’t we also investigators seeking to distill meaning, truth and possibly beauty from the chaos of existence?
It is said, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” In this sense, it is relative and subjective. Ancient Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle and Plato, posited “Beauty is Truth, and Truth Beauty.” Whereas Aristotle introduced the concept of the golden mean as the desirable middle between two extremes, Plato argued for objective values of truth, goodness and beauty, yet based on his own belief of wrongdoing and right. To measure something is to give it value. From this point of view, value is a dualistic tool for comparing and finding balance and meaning.
When I reflect on the Tarot and where it teaches us about these values, I think of the three “virtue” cards: Balance (Justice or Adjustment), Strength (Lust) and Art (Temperance). I see all three of these as aspects of balance, respectfully, mental, emotional, and spiritual balance.
However, in Dai Léon’s masterpiece, Origins of the Tarot, he speaks of Truth and Beauty as essential non-dualistc aspects of life. I cannot completely represent his meaning, but this is what I understand from his writing and a couple of deep conversations we shared. As he states in his book, “…Chaos and the changing world essentially exist to realize the Beauty of Goodness and the Goodness of Truth.” “For against all odds of chance, the cosmos does in Truth already exit in such a Beautiful and Good Way.” I agree with Léon’s premise that the Tarot is a “spiritual set of images…a truly brilliant treasure of sacred knowledge…” influenced by perennial wisdom of how “Unity of Being is wedded to the Myriad Becoming.” They are designed to reveal and address ourselves as pure Being, radiant Consciousness, and absolute Bliss and Truth.
Léon speaks of the fundamental principles of the universe as reflected in pairs of Triumphs of the Tarot, revealed as 10 nested levels of hierarchical evolution and integration. Each level brings us closer to the realization of Being, Consciousness, and Bliss.
ENRIQUE ENRIQUEZ: Is there anything you wish to accomplish with your tarot practice that you haven’t accomplished yet?
KATRINA WYNNE: My “tarot practice” is more of a “Tarot Journey”, a spiritual odyssey. Since 1971 I have studied Tarot as a book of wisdom. It wasn’t until about 18 years ago that friends and others began to ask me to share my Tarot knowledge and guidance. My “Tarot Counseling / Consulting” style naturally evolved from 23 years of psychotherapeutic training and service. As I was called by folks to teach Tarot, I developed a program that incorporated the counseling skills and ethics of my counseling practice with the spiritual wisdom of Tarot. For more information on my unique program, see the Transformative Tarot Counseling™ /Transformative Tarot Consulting™ Certification Program(TTCCP) at TarotCounseling.org.
My tarot practice is a spiritual practice. At its heart, this is the wisdom I study, share, and hope to inspire in the world. I’d like to dispel the fear and superstition projected upon the cards. In fact, I’d like to help eliminate all fear. It may sound like a daunting task, but it is my path, my “lane” that guides my life.
This winter’s goal was to establish a new website dedicated to Tarot Spirituality (TarotSpirituality.org). It is now up and open to comments, articles and links, with the hope of developing a global awareness of the profound potential of Tarot. So far there are topics such as “Tarot Cards as Tools” and “Tarot Spirituality™ as a Legal Option?” with dynamic dialogues developing already. “Tarot Spirituality” is also a Facebook community with special discussions ready for comments.
It would be an honor to have you and your readers visit these Tarot Spirituality sites to share your wisdom on this topic. Thank you for the privilege of having my voice heard in conversation on Tarology.
New York – Yachats, Oregon, Septemer 2010/March 2011
§ 3 Responses to a conversation with katrina wynne
April 1, 2011 at 9:20 pm
My own take on the therapeutic use of tarot is not that we are pathologising anyone or that anything is necessarily ill about them, but rather “therapeutic”, in its original sense, is about attending, serving, or supporting someone’s process.
Keep up the great work, folks!
April 3, 2011 at 1:41 am
Hi James – love your original expression of “therapeutic” … supporting the process.
April 3, 2011 at 1:13 pm
I agree with what is expressed in this interview.
I am glad I can make a direct link with what I have already learned from Mister Jean-Claude Flornoy’s teachings.
Tarot’s uses equal Tarot’s users;
Tarot is a bottle at the sea, for all purposes;
Tarot depicts “The Journey of the Soul”…
I think it is difficult to have a clear and correct point of view without heeding all facts and influences the Tarot as known.
And unfortunately, it is a fact most people only see Tarot through the fortune-telling way.
I feel the contradiction between asking an answer (asking a prediction) and undervaluing self-ability (to act, to create) and the “future” questionned itself!
“Sanitizing” has already begun to well up through persons like Mister Jean-Claude Flornoy (that I unfailingly respect), Enrique Enriquez (I call the “MAGrI(C)IAN”)…and others who, at best, repeat and spread what they have decided to share.
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