Over the last few years I have often reflected on, and being asked, as to how tarot may be included in the context of education. Perhaps it’s because I also teach in a Waldorf Steiner School, in which, to be sure, artistic and historical considerations are certainly given their place! With regards tarot, however, they have actively found but little place… though perhaps more than may be apparent.
Only a few months ago I saw in a classroom in the Australian State of Queensland a large panel in which were a set of Keith Courtenay’s Australian Dreamtime Tarot. Now in the context – a local and traditional native artist being given some pride of place – seems reasonable enough. Similarly, mention has previously been made within these Newsletters (Cf Working with Children) of a couple of artistic endeavours in France with regards tarot.
I also know of an ex-student who, having completed her schooling within a Steiner School, entered university and undertaking art completed a folio of photographic pieces based on the trumps of the tarot. But what of more formally having tarot in the context of schooling? are there avenues in which such remains a viable – and desirable – option?
Let me address this in various ways. Firstly, if any instrument (whether it be a book, slide rule, iPad or deck of cards) is placed as part and parcel of the educational setting, then, I would suggest, effective usage needs to be able to take place. On this alone I personally do not consider that a tarot deck, at least in its traditional imprint, is appropriate in the very young years: therein is not the ‘finished picture’ that is best presented, but rather implements that have multiple possible imaginative uses. For example, a block of wood can be used imaginatively as cell-phone or racing car or stove or cake or soap. By contrast, a deck of tarot is already too embedded with ‘completed’ meaning.
Going to the other extreme age range within school education, I can legitimately see a number of possible functions a deck of tarot may have. For example, in numerous schools and pedagogical methods, individually (or group) negotiated projects may be undertaken. I see a time when I will very likely face the prospect of not only having to approve such, but also be involved in its supervision: this is an undertaking that the 17 y.o. may certainly undertake with the full impetus of artistic, philosophical and historical might.
Between these extremes, there may be room for specific uses of not so much the deck as a whole, but rather imagery that itself reflects the deck’s appearance and inherent parts. A few examples may be apparent: when working through mediæval European history, one of its inevitable aspects is its political makeup. Therein the positions of Pope, Empress, Emperor, all in the context of imagery related to open-eyed Justice, religious beliefs of the Last Judgement and resurrection, and the place of the Devil and some of the Virtues are each and all wonderful avenues for images arising directly out of the tarot. This is certainly something that can be used in appropriate studies whether in Class 7 or 11.
In the context of creative writing, Classes 8, 9 or 10 may be introduced to the brilliance of the human capacity for meaning-making by weaving stories from the concatenation of two or more images. Whether these be taken from magazines or the tarot is, in a sense, immaterial to the creative act. What results from the sources, however, will in part depend on the possibilities of inherent depth of the visual stimulus provided, and in that sense imagery that reflects tarot seems quite an apt option.
In the context of the visual arts, of course, there is even wider scope! From photography to electronic image manipulation, from painting to sculpture, from miniatures to installation works, the scope is rather fantastic. If Niki de Saint Phalle can create her fantastic garden, if mosaics can adorn the walls of a modern Chateau-turned 4-star hotel in France, and Jean-Claude Flornoy was able to provide large tarot shop-signage in his township, then surely other creative and publically available tarot ideas are to be created!
As a matter of interest, images of Niki de Saint Phalle’s tarot garden have been used in Class 10 art classes (amongst many other non-tarot ones) prior to students undertaking individual 3-D mosaic projects. Similarly, cards have also been used in Class 11 literature in reference to what it was that various poets were referring. And tarot mentioned on various occasions in various classes when appropriate.
Even in Mathematics, I recall a particular Class 9 group with whom discussions centred on various shaped numbers, realising that the base-4 line, triangle, square and pentagons (ie, the numbers, respectively, 4, 10, 16, and 22) were all in some way related to tarot – admittedly, this was from a young man whose family used tarot regularly and for whom many of its intricacies was already quite familiar… and also realised that I was interested in the subject.
But – I hear some say – imagine if this was all to take place in classes in most schools… the uproar!
I am neither advocating that tarot be introduced as part and parcel of a syllabus nor even that it be necessarily used in the ways I have mentioned above. Rather, what seems to me to be of greater import is that the very possibility of its various uses, in contexts where it may indeed be more acceptable, that the offerings tarot has be not prevented from making its gifts.