Your Brain on Tarot: The Neuroscience of Divination

Using the tarot will not get you high (at least in the conventional sense). However, readers of a certain vintage will remember the 80s, “Just Say No” era public service announcement that featured a man, a frying pan, and an egg. That PSA cooked up an anti-drug metaphor worthy of the ages thanks to its profoundly simple and evocative imagery. This is your brain (egg). This is drugs (pan). This is your brain on drugs (egg frying in the pan). Any questions?

Yeah, what does this have to do with Tarot?

Over at our sister site SparkTarot, writer and artist Kary Hess picks up on the power of imagery to evoke potent precepts. Or, as she titles it, Your Brain on Tarot. The upshot being, there’s neuroscience at work behind, say, that Knight of Cups (and it ain’t Christian Bale in that WTF-of-a Terrance Malick movie).

The original game of Tarot became a divination tool sometime in the 1700’s. This was after the printing press initiated the Renaissance and printed words became widespread in Europe.  It was as if we wanted a way to tap back into that part of our brain that makes connections via imagery and stories.

— Karen Hess

It’s this very connection that Netflix and its ilk have learned to exploit with eminently binge-able, visually-stimulating narrative content (Malick should take note).

The imagery of the Tarot is rooted in an older part of our brain, where the universal human languages of symbols and storytelling reside. Images, poetry, and stories illuminate connections to feelings and events in our own lives, even (and especially) if they are not directly about us.

Hess is quick to remind that one’s own internal symbology should be the lens through which the images of the tarot are interpreted. It’s like, as Hess puts it, the “universe is collaborating with you…”

Read the whole article: Your Brain on Tarot | Spark Tarot

How could we resist posting this masterpiece?

Daedalus Howell

Daedalus Howell is the author, most recently, of the novel "Quantum Deadline" and the writer-director of the recently released feature film "Pill Head." He is the editor of The North Bay Bohemian and The Pacific Sun.

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