Do you remember the books we read as children? There was a certain type of book for early readers; I am not sure if these sorts of books still exist. There would be a simple narrative. Some words were missing, and instead there would be a picture. Maybe the words were present under the picture. I remember things such as: “John played with a [picture of a ball]. Judy lives in a [picture of a house].”
This concept invites an interesting tarot exercise. What if we took a poem, or set of lyrics, and found tarot cards to represent the concepts therein?
Obviously, there would be no right or wrong way to do this. It would be a great way of teaching how tarot cards can communicate concepts, and be read as sentences and paragraphs.
So, today I decided to try this with my favorite poem. Perhaps other tarot enthusiasts will find different cards, or more cards.
The poem is Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann. This was also my Grandmother’s favorite. She had many copies of it that she gave freely to people. It has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
In the interests of simplicity, I will not try to insert the actual tarot graphic; I will simply insert the name of the card that I think belongs. I will insert it in brackets directly after the phrase I feel the card describes.
We’ll see how well this works!
By Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, [The Hermit] and remember what peace there may be in silence [Two of Swords].
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons [Six of Pentacles].
Speak your truth quietly and clearly [Page of Swords]; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story [Five of Pentacles].
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit [Seven of Wands].
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter [Four of Cups]; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself [Five of Swords].
Enjoy your achievements [Six of Wands] as well as your plans [Two of Wands]. Keep interested in your own career, however humble [Three of Pentacles]; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time [Wheel of Fortune].
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery [Seven of Swords]. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals [Knight of Swords]; and everywhere life is full of heroism [The Chariot].
Be yourself [The Lovers]. Especially, do not feign affection [Ace of Swords]. Neither be cynical about love [Ace of Cups]; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass [The Empress].
Take kindly the counsel of the years [Queen of Swords], gracefully surrendering the things of youth [Eight of Cups]. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune [Temperance]. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings [Nine of Swords]. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness [Eight of Swords].
Beyond a wholesome discipline [Justice], be gentle with yourself [Strength]. You are a child of the universe [Page of Cups], no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here [The Sun].
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should [The Moon]. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be [The Hierophant], and whatever your labors and aspirations [Seven of Pentacles], in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul [The High Priestess]. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world [The World]. Be cheerful [The Fool].
Strive to be happy [Knight of Cups].
There are so many ways to combine tarot with poetry. For me, this is just one more.
The image used is available as a print. Please visit the artist’s website!