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Principle 19
As we evolve, so does the Tarot evolve and grow to suit us

Older versions of the Sun card often depict two children, and this, my 19th Principle, has two aspects, depending on who you think the pronoun "we" refers to. On the one hand, it refers to the collective of Tarot readers, meaning that as we learn more about the living system of Tarot, it expands to offer even greater learning opportunities. On the other hand, "we" can also refer to humanity as a whole, meaning both the Tarot reader and the society he lives in and interacts with him. Both groups play a vital role in shaping the Tarot and allowing it to evolve.

When I say that the Tarot evolves, I mean this in the natural sense of small changes incorporated into the cards that propagate and magnify as time goes on. Let us first look at this evolution on the personal scale and from the perspective of a single Tarot reader. When she first starts learning the Tarot, she will likely choose a small number of keywords for each card based on the books she's read and the symbolism she understands. As she does more readings, she notices new meanings emerging, and adds them to the set, gradually forgetting the ones that never appear in her work. Eventually a new system is born that suits her level of knowledge.

This cycle continues indefinitely; as long as you choose to keep learning the Tarot will continue to grow, to allow you room to expand. Beginners, on average, couldn't care less about Qabalistic or astrological or other types of correspondences, and until they do care, these correspondences never appear. But when sought out, they will present themselves, giving the eager student something new to experiment with. The tiny details on the cards that I will speak about later go unnoticed by the beginner, but they are waiting to reveal a multitude of information to the student who knows where to look.

If there were only one Tarot deck in existence, this cycle would end after a while, as all of its secrets were flushed out and explored. But people create new decks, pushing the boundaries of the Tarot even further out. Every new deck is an entirely new world to explore, and exploring one deck will invariably change your ideas about others, which you can return to time and time again, discovering something new each time. And when a deck is popular enough, it influences the creation of others like it, each with their own perspective on the same common symbols. The Rider-Waite deck is the perfect example of this; it has spawned dozens of offspring, all unique and worthy of at least casual study.

But it is not only Tarot readers that influence the content of new decks and spur evolution forward. The society in which a Tarot reader lives has a great impact on his perception of the Tarot. Why is the suit of Swords so negatively represented in most modern decks? Because Western society tends to frown upon the qualities associated with the Swords suit, such as conflict and difficulty. Rather than seeing them as obstacles to overcome we perceive them as things that stand in the way of progress, and delegate them to the darkest corners. Gradually, people are realizing that this is an unfair view, and as this sentiment spreads, the suit of Swords will probably lighten up considerably.

It's possible that, in the future, emotions will become less meaningful as the pace of technology marches on. Then the Swords suit might ascend into glory while the Cups fall into impotence. If the prevailing attitude of the people is that money is the root of evil, nobody will touch Pentacles with a barge pole. If society believes that emotions hurt people, Cups can easily become the "negative" suit of the deck. Any changes in social mores spread to the Tarot within a matter of years as authors apply these changes to their personal vision. Who knows what Tarot in the 22nd century will be like? All I can say for sure is that it will reflect those who read with it, whoever they may be.

Copyright 2000 James Rioux