Sigmund Freud once remarked that “the dream is the Royal Road to the unconscious.” Tarot has been called the Royal Road to mastery, and traveling the twists and turns of the Fool’s Journey is not for the faint of heart. Tarot reveals the path of initiation, the internal struggle of our own spiritual growth, and the conflicts with others who become teachers and mirrors along this quest. A powerful synergy seems to be at work when Tarot and dreams work together. After decades of exploring this combined way of working with the symbols, I wrote a book on the subject. (Tarot & Dream Interpretation, Llewellyn, 2003).
I believe that using the archetypes of Tarot to interpret dreams engages dream consciousness in the waking state. In a sense we step through a portal or gateway, which is generally veiled between these two “worlds,” and stand in both simultaneously. The cards begin to move and dance and interact with one another in amazing ways. Using Tarot images and dream symbols together seems to open a dialog between the conscious mind and subconscious mind that is normally closed. This may be akin to what Australian Aborigine shamans do in the Dreamtime. There is an enhanced ability to move outside of time. Subsequent scientific research may reveal a relationship in brain wave patterns that explains this.
Clients have reported breakthroughs in the release of lifetime limiting patterns working with the symbols in this combined manner that seem magical and alchemical. Tarot seems to act as a linking mechanism, showing relationships between dreams and personality level issues, enabling us to see patterns of self-defeating behavior which were previously unclear.
Tarot decks tend to use universal symbols, although each deck also bears the imprint of the author’s cultural orientation as well as the artist’s unique and individual style. Through the combined use of color, shape, numbers and symbolic imagery, Tarot automatically communicates certain truths to the conscious mind. Like any language, repeated use and reflection on the symbolic language of Tarot helps us become fluent.
To heighten the effect, use more than one deck of Tarot cards to work with your dreams. One set of cards should be clear in conveying the archetypal symbols and images. Additional decks, including whimsical, artistic or unusual interpretations of the Tarot, can be used for dream spreads. Create your own “deck of dreams” by collecting images that strike you from photographs, greeting cards, magazines, and catalogs. Cut and paste them onto colored construction paper or poster paper. By bridging the dream images into the waking dimension you strengthen you intuition. These provide your own personal Tarot deck, tailored to your individual symbolism to be used for interpretation. (These cannot be reproduced for other than your personal individual use). You can also draw the dream, or make a collage or a dream mosaic, using your collection of images.
Generally, dream symbols are not meant to be taken literally, and this is mostly true with Tarot as well. Symbols stand for something else. For example, dreaming of an old man rather than a newborn may indicate the stage of an enterprise, just like the Hermit or Fool in Tarot. Within dreams symbols are the nouns; the persons, places and things, and may be universal, cultural or personal. The nature or quality of the “nouns” in our dreams reveals how and what the symbols are trying to tell us. For example, water is generally said to represent emotions in dreams. How the water appears in a dream provides clues to the dream’s message. Do we dream of an ocean, and is it calm or stormy? Is the body of water in our dream a clear lake, or a stagnant pool? Usually the most significant symbols in dreams include the people, animals, houses, buildings, or vehicles. This is all true in Tarot work too.
Central to spiritual work is formulating ideals in our life to which we can aspire. These ideals become the central focus of our dream work. Dreams are like a school we attend each night. Since most traditions agree that our sleeping self is more attuned to our soul and spirit, our job is to learn to understand the language of dreams, becoming receptive to guidance from Spirit. Adding Tarot to your dream work can enrich the results, expanding and deepening your understanding of symbols. People who incorporate Tarot into their dream work usually find that Tarot images begin to appear in their dreams. This is an exciting and enriching experience than can lead to deeper wisdom.
About The Author: Julie Loar is the multiple award-winning author of six books and dozens of articles. She has a BS in Psychology, has done postgraduate work, and has been certified in numerous professional training and development programs. Julie was a Human Resources executive in two major corporations, and an independent training consultant, working with large companies. Her latest book, Goddesses For Every Day: Exploring the Wisdom & Power of the Divine Feminine Around the World, (available at Satiama) has won three national awards. Her popular astrology feature appears in ATLANTIS RISING magazine, and she is a featured contributor on John Edward’s web site, InfiniteQuest.com where she has her own internet TV show.