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Dreams, Inner Journeys, and the Cards

Written by: Ginger Red Hawk
Published on: July 7, 2011
Category: Dreams

dream interpretation

When we think of the tarot or other oracles, we usually think of them as providing insight and information about what is going on in our external world-the world of action and reaction. But these same symbols can act as communication between many realms-inner, outer, spirit, faery, angelic, and "dreamtime" (the realm of myth and potential where the unmanifest is real).

We can use the cards to help us to interpret an inner journey or a dream-and we can use a dream or an inner journey to help us interpret a card reading. Both ways work and both ways enrich our insight into our personal symbolism. Let's consider some of the ways we can cross-fertilize our understanding of these symbols as they appear in the cards, in the world, and in our inner worlds.

Dream Interpretation
If you don't already keep a dream journal, take time for a few days to record your dreams when you first wake up in the morning. If you don't remember much at first, you will find that the unconscious cooperates with you by making your dreams more vivid as you show interest in remembering and working with them.

Exercise: Giving Voices to Dreams
When you have an interesting dream, choose the symbol or activity in the dream that most mystifies you. Draw a card from your favorite deck to clarify what that particular symbol relates to in your life. For example, if you dream of the sea with the water cold and rough and the card you draw is the Ace of Cups reversed. This may indicate to you that the water in the dream symbolizes some new emotional beginning that you are experiencing as difficult-cold and rough.

Next, do a simple three-card reading of past, present, and future on that subject (in this example, the new emotional feeling and the situation it arises from) as it is in your everyday life. From this beginning, other questions may arise that can be looked at with the cards. The only important thing to remember is that in doing this we are looking at dream truth, which is not always the same as literal external truth. In fact, the two may be very different, but dream truth does represent something that is true in our inner world and it is therefore valuable to understand.

Exercise: Using Inner Imagery to Interpret the Cards
Choose a card you want to learn more about. Look at the card carefully and see what image on the cards most draws your attention at the moment. This might be a central figure, or it might be some "insignificant" image in the background. (In reality, there are no insignificant images in the cards.)

Now, close your eyes, relax for a bit, and then imagine yourself in a setting where that particular symbolic object or person is in front of you. Without trying to analyze any thing you see here yet, ask yourself what else is around you: what is that object or person sitting or standing on? What is under your own feet? What colors or sounds do you especially notice in this space? Are there any other people here? If so, what are they doing? What is in the more distant background here? What is close around you? Are there other objects here that seem interesting? What else do you especially notice in this space? Invite your Master Symbolist to point anything out to you that she or he wants you to notice.

When you have looked around this inner space, bring yourself back to awareness of your own body. Be aware of how you feel physically. Do you notice feeling any differently than you did before entering that symbolic space?

Now, make a note of the information you have just gathered, writing it in your tarot journal. Then begin to look at the pattern you see there. For example, if you saw a lot of things colored red, what does your feeling about that color tell you about the particular object on the card? If there were volcanoes in the background, what does that suggest to you? Of course, they would suggest different things if they were active-smoking or erupting-than they would if they were dormant. But in either case, they might suggest something powerful and possibly potentially dangerous.

From this exercise, you can see that even the tiniest image on the cards can contain a wealth of meaning. Sometimes this meaning is worth searching deeply for and sometimes it is much more superficial and obvious. That is something we can only judge based on our intuition. We'll come back to this again in later chapters, but here we have found a source of information about the cards that is the most important one we can use-our own intuition.

These images we find within ourselves for particular symbols may change with our moods and the situations in which we find ourselves. However, we will find with practice that certain images have particular consistent symbolic values for us, a mental flavor to that thing, which helps to guide us in reading the cards and in interpreting our dreams and inner journeys.

Another of the interesting things about using the tarot or another oracle is that the symbols of the deck begin to creep into our dreams and our inner journeys. The unconscious mind is always increasing its symbol "vocabulary" in both depth and range. Working with the cards enriches the symbolism of our dreams, and using the cards to enhance our understanding of our inner imagery adds greatly to the depth of meaning we perceive.

Both ways may work at the same time. Seeing the Magician in a dream tells you something about the dream, and at the same time, it also tells you something more about the Magician himself-his powers and his meaning in your dream world as well as in your everyday world.

Exercise: Reversing the Process
Select a time during your daily life when you can take a "card break." This shouldn't be first thing in the morning because then you will probably tend to be more involved with what is ahead than with what is happening now. A good time for this exercise is often either your morning or afternoon break. Whatever time you choose, consider three things you are experiencing at that moment: how you feel emotionally, your environment, and the events you are currently involved with.

Then, choose a card from your deck that you feel best reflects each of these things-feelings, environment, events. You are consciously choosing the card to fit the situation and this is helping you to enhance your knowledge about the practical and predictive messages of the cards.

In terms of interpretations, the cards cannot be restricted to a singular feeling, situation, or event. They describe a process. For example, the Tower might mean your office catching fire, it might mean an important contract (another kind of structure) being cancelled, it might mean your car breaking down, it might mean your marriage breaking down. As a process, it is always a seemingly secure structure breaking down, casting those "sheltered" by the structure adrift in the wide, wild world. Another aspect of this process is that it usually occurs to things we are attached to-and therefore, in a sense, trapped by. Often, Tower processes liberate us from things we don't think we wish to be liberated from.

This is where we can use the cards in both directions at once. For example, if we choose the Tower as describing something that is going on in our lives at a particular moment, then we can also ask ourselves if we can see this as a liberation as well as a loss. If so, we get the lesson of the situation faster and go through whatever pain is involved more quickly.