This is the article I had published in Tarosophist International issue 12 under the title ‘The Tarot Machine’, and I’ve been wanting to repost it here for quite some time. I originally wished to make it longer, so I hope to create a second part to it soon.
The issue has many great articles from great authors, so pick up a copy if you’re wanting something to add to your Tarot library!
If there was a machine named Tarot, what would be at the heart of it? Inside its engine belts and gears would spin ceaselessly in response to our curiosity, moving through fantastic patterns and dizzying algorithms, making undreamt connections to answer all our questions. But what would give wisdom to this mechanical oracle, how would it know the deck when it can neither see the cards or know the words?
Crawling inside you might get lost looking at all the unlikely relationships between element and number, shades of meaning being generated and forgotten as quickly as the questions that inspired them. But seeing the extravagant logic of the gears and switches you might get a question that you may as well ask whenever you buy a new deck off the shelf: What makes Tarot what it is, if it isn’t just a pack of cards?
To get to the essence of anything, it is helpful to strip away all our variables. In our machine, this would be to remove the decorations, any superfluous functions. For our deck of cards, this means taking away all the names and elaborate pictures we are so fond of and familiar with, leaving us with an essential deck. Several questions arise: What do we call the Suits, if we can’t name or draw them? Also, how do we tell apart our court cards if we can’t see or read which member of the court they are meant to be? Finally, what about the Fool in decks where he isn’t given a number? Read More