The meaning of the word Tarot has been ascribed to many things. Its French translation apparently refers to the power to deduce. Earlier near Eastern references have inferred the need for an answer or regard the practice of counseling. Other inferences include instruction as to natural law, or as symbols of the gates or keys to the wisdom of the ages. Others suggest it is the path of the “Royal Road,” or that Tarot is related to the Latin word, “rota,” with a reference to a “medicine wheel of fortune,” of sorts.
For the purposes of this deck and book, I will suggest the association offered with the Taro River in Italy, and to take from that the life force that courses through the river of life, and all things, not unlike the mana or life force that creates swell and causes waves to form. The way of the surfer is the path of the Ali’i. As the chi flows through the open sea, it flows through me. Become one with the wave of life. Be the wave. Find “at one ment” with that life force, or mana, that gives life to all things, including us.
The story of the origin of Tarot meaders in similar fashion. The most common reference is to that of the Kabbalah (Qabala, Cabala), and the 22 letter Hebrew alphabet. Other explanations offer up the Egyptian mystery schools as the headwaters for Tarot, with the “gypsies” responsible for disseminating the cards throughout Europe, perhaps via the overland tea trade and spice routes? Others reference Hermes and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and the Book of Thoth. What is of some certainty is that there is little unanimity regarding the origin of the 22 “trump” cards of the Major Arcana. What is a safer bet is as to the origin of the other 56 “pip” cards, or Minor Arcana, as most would ascribe the origin of the traditional 52 card deck to the Chinese, or at least to the Far East. With the four suits representing the four seasons, the 13 cards per suit, calling to mind the 13 weeks in a season, and the use of red and black symbolic of yin and yang, it is thought that playing cards are based on the solar calendar, and with a footnote that the common deck of 52 playing cards employs but one Jack, and whereas the court cards in Tarot traditionally are made up of a knight and knave as opposed to the aforementioned, giving us a total of 56 cards. For the more ardent students of Tarot, there is a consideration for the 56 Aubrey holes at Stonehenge and their predictive relationship with eclipses and the corresponding relationship between sun and moon, and the notion that two die will yield 21 permutations, similar to the number of Major Arcana, and that three die yield yet the same total of 56 permutations, ascribed to the Minor Arcana. It may also behoove those more scholarly inclined to examine the roots of Sufism, Tantra and the Sutras.
And then there is the question of utility as in, is the Tarot for me? For myself, the Tarot has served as a mentor and objective ombudsman as I learn to integrate things into wholeness, and the oneness of it all. It is an integral tool in translating, or transmuting, the unfolding fractals of life unto my imagination and creativity. Much like riding waves, reading the Tarot, provides a vehicle for extrasensory perception in relation to unconscious emanations vying for my engagement. As a surfer I know balance and harmony, synchronicity and rhythm. It is in my bones. And not unlike disseminating this wisdom I have gleaned from riding waves, the Tarot shares of the wisdom and the way, as to how one may best stay in harmony and in the flow of things, based on the time tested wisdom of antiquity. Tarot is a doorway unto cross cultural mythologies and ancient wisdom traditions, and an invitation to study hermetic symbolism.
Whether you are a “rollin’ stone on the open road,” or a Bedouin beachnik adrift upon our “oceans of emotions,” we all ride upon the “medicine wheel of life.” The makeup of a deck of cards often mirrors the makeup of our lives, and at times is able to give numerical significance to significant aspects and events in our chronology. Find a fellow “surfer,” and read about or share the ride with them. Give the deck as a gift or discover things for yourself. Ride this life, as “only a surfer knows the feeling.”
The surfer sits at equilibrium between father sky and our mother ocean, and at mind’s eye between our air mind and water body of emotion. In every wave we ride there is an emanation from the deep unconscious of the sea. With her ancient wisdoms encoded upon our very souls, the surfer is a “return to balance,” and a healing unto this century as her unsuspecting envoy. This deck of cards in turn, is an “in kind” offering in hopes that we may edify our relationship with the Divine and bring that divinity into our everyday lives.
You are about to become the center of cosmic attention. Your opening unto these surf cards is a healing act in and of itself. Your need for creative contact with the Divine and a desire for greater harmony is only natural and is demonstration of your growing connection to our ocean and earth. As you acknowledge the sacred within and about you, your path of rising consciousness becomes vested in truth and soul.
As a pathfinder, you will nurture a personal renaissance from deep within yourself. Surfer Tarot is a tool for self development. Heartbreak will be but compost for your soul. Heartache will be but colors in the rainbow of life experience along the Way. All you have to do is enjoy the ride. You will have new mana and a more heartfelt relationship with the Unseen. Become intimate with your cards. Tarot augments our interaction between heart and soul, the real and the unreal, the seen and the unseen, the tangible and the intangible. The Tarot inspires our relationship with spirit – the sacred aspect of experience.
Even so, there are many that view the Tarot not as mentor, but as menace. Signals and signposts are debunked and rejected by the charlatans due to their fear of the Unknown. They are scared by their shadow side and of their world within. The Tarot is not unlike the ocean in that sense. Captain Cook and his men, who were loathe to swim the Sandwich Isles because of the impropriety, among other things, are left to tread water in light of the lithe and nature loving surfer, who has learned to embrace our ocean as teacher and ocean lover, even though she is home per se, to both dolphins and sharks.
Tarot is still taboo for many, and for some, the “devil’s digest” with 78 renditions. The number 78 reduces to 15 which is the Hell Island card in this deck, still symbolic of those who cannot resist the Forbidden. However 15 can be distilled down further still, to six, the Surfer card in our deck. Herein lies the hidden truth to Tarot: What is our relationship with ourselves, the ocean, and all our relations?
Are we not one? “What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?” Are you not of an inquiring mind and perhaps curious about these cards, and may or may not be a surfer? Why the surfer you may ask? The answer is that the surfer has mana. The surfer is “stoked,” yes, but as “all wise peoples share a love of nature,” on a deeper level, the surfer has learned love in his relationship with the Ocean.
Resurfacing by Autumn Skye Morrison * acrylic on canvas * 2015
Treat the Tarot like the ocean. She can be good fun, but always have a deep respect for her. She is destruction and perfection in one. Never underestimate her, nor the Tarot. The Tarot is an open door which illuminates our imagination. The practice of Tarot is to interact with the world as it shapes itself. A reading takes shape like a wave. The cards are open doors unto the recondite. For many, 78 was the number of “incorruptible spirit,” attained by adding the numbers 1-12 together. “Originally a card game that hid secret principles to be read by analogy, the Tarot confided ancient wisdoms left intact, under the guise of vice, for all those who wished to inquire.” If you have clear intent and thoughtful question, you will receive something worth thinking about. A reading can alter consciousness. Any card can make for a new imperative. Spiritual emanations are accessible. Create a ritual invocation, and make it your own. Keep a Tarot journal for reference and personal edification. Ask and you may well receive.
Lava Tubes by Llewellyn Ludlow
You may ask is it divine intervention or self-fulfilling prophecy? The prevailing notion is that Tarot does not interfere with free will, and that rather the ultimate outcome rests within you. A reading never removes your freedom to choose. Free will shapes our experience. It is only when you are ready that the cards reveal our shadow side, that which we do not wish to admit about ourselves. Ask only when you are ready, as again, the prevailing notion is that the Tarot only reveals that which you are ready for.
These surf cards also express a wish for community within surfing’s international “good vibe tribe” inspired by the whole surfer: waterman body, merlin mind, shaman spirit, and native sun heart. And despite the occidental orientation of this deck, may it not be taken for granted that the cultivation of the intuitive intellect is also inclusive of the more kinesthetic or viscerally sensitive waterwoman body, priestess mind, crone spirit and goddess heart.
And as to whether or not you are now an “adept” and privy to the instruction of the mystery schools, let’s just say the Tarot is as well explained as not a little unlike the surfboard – whether or not we can determine it’s origin, the bottom line is if it works for us. Enjoy the ride.