Books and other sources for symbol studies

Discussions of the arcane symbols of Tarot and other decks
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Symbols appear on each and every tarot card - visual signs that convey meaning. Some of them are highly individual and personal, others time-honored and traditional. Some are easy to understand, others difficult and multivalent. In this forum, we want to study symbols from different decks, traditions and cultures together using books, websites, lwbs and our own intuition.
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CharlotteK
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Re: Books and other sources for symbol studies

Post by CharlotteK » 28 Sep 2017, 15:06

I don't know what the approach I take or want to take is exactly, but when I look at a Tarot card and it has, for example, a white lily on it I assume this must be symbolic of something and a visual clue that adds some level of meaning to the interpretation of the card. I might look up (i.e. Google) symbolic meanings for lily, white lily, white flower in general terms and all of these in relation to Tarot specifically and also possibly historical significance and then I will try and put together some common themes from all of this that I can apply to the card. Or there could be one angle that seems to best fit with other symbols and overall tone and feel for the card. That might be the wrong approach or self- indulgent (to be euphemistic), I don't know, but it's the only method I have.

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Nemia
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Re: Books and other sources for symbol studies

Post by Nemia » 28 Sep 2017, 17:01

For me, reading symbols in the tarot work like reading the cards themselves. You've read twenty books, websites and wrote journal entries and met the Hermit dozens of times in readings. All this knowledge hovers in your mind somehow, and when you have the Hermit in a reading, some of this hovering knowledge attaches to the Hermit and you interpret him without opening an inner catalogue and checking. You just go ahead, you know that guy and have a hint what he wants to tell you today.

It's the same with a symbol. When I see a white lily, of course I think of the Annunciation and the Holy Virgin and the symbolism of the white colour and Simone Martini and Rossetti and David Hockney ... but still, it's a new white lily and I interpret it as the reading, question, querent, cards, spread demand.

I think it's useful to have many little molecules of knowledge hovering around in our heads, whether we need them today or not. When I work with art, I have to be much more systematic, and that's okay too, but it's nice that in tarot, I don't have to do it systematically.

The one thing that disturbs me when people read symbols and cards is the reduction to what I call the shopping list approach.

Image

Many people outside art history think that my job is to look at that painting and say: okay, the apple is the fruit of knowledge, the bread is the holy Mass, the river is the stream of life, the red and white flowers are the flowers of paradise, of innocence and suffering etc. In the end, you have a whole shopping list of symbols and their meanings, and indeed, the early modern artists knew and used all these symbols. But to identify these symbols is only a first step - we still don't know whether the artist really picked them for their symbolic value.

It's nice to know the rich history of the apple (as I mentioned above), but in this painting, it's more than just a sign of the sin of Adam and Eve and that's it. That still doesn't tell us anything about the painting, about the choices the artist made, about his beliefs and his creative mind and his need to satisfy the art market...

And in tarot, too, symbols are just one part of the formula. Symbols are fascinating and interesting, and they can help us make sense of a reading, but of course they're only one element of the reading.

It's possible to read with a deck without any symbols in the traditional sense like the Orbifold or a scientific set of cards about the solar system :-)

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Barleywine
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Re: Books and other sources for symbol studies

Post by Barleywine » 02 Oct 2017, 07:01

Nemia wrote:
28 Sep 2017, 17:01
For me, reading symbols in the tarot work like reading the cards themselves. You've read twenty books, websites and wrote journal entries and met the Hermit dozens of times in readings. All this knowledge hovers in your mind somehow, and when you have the Hermit in a reading, some of this hovering knowledge attaches to the Hermit and you interpret him without opening an inner catalogue and checking. You just go ahead, you know that guy and have a hint what he wants to tell you today.
Now I have a new metaphor. We "hoover up" all that knowledge, and then it "hovers." I like it!

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_R_
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Re: Books and other sources for symbol studies

Post by _R_ » 09 May 2018, 03:12

As Cirlot's dictionary has been mentioned already, let me add Chevalier and Gheerbrant's one to this list (published by Penguin).

Many of Robert O’Neill’s essays are also available here: https://www.tarot.com/tarot/robert-onei ... symbolism
Read the first part of the collection as a PDF here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/313676110/Dr ... y-of-Tarot

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