Monday, February 27, 2012

2/28/12—Contemplating Tradition

Today's Draw: Tradition (Hierophant) from the Ironwing Tarot. What value do you place on tradition? How do you see its role in modern society? And where do you fall on the spectrum between traditional ways and non-traditional ways?

The Ironwing is one of my most coveted decks. For one thing, it's not easy to come by. But for another, it's a pretty deep deck. But more often than not you have to read the book to even know what card you have in your hands, much less what suit. The Major Arcana cards have browns and rusts on them. All others are black and white. Beyond that, you're on your own. 

Turns out this is Major Arcana V, and corresponds to the traditional tarot meaning for the Hierophant. Not all the cards in this deck work that way. And it's funny I got the Tradition card today when a bunch of tarotists have been having a debate about traditional meanings and systems of tarot vs. non-traditional systems and intuitive interpretations. 

So here is a very non-traditional deck—it doesn't follow traditional suits, symbology or, entirely, meaning. All meanings and symbols are aligned with their relevance to iron works and forging, rather than normal esoteric symbology. Heck, it's hard to even know what card you have in your hand at any given time! In that way, it makes traditional interpretation less accessible. And, if you look at some of the other cards in the deck, you'll see it doesn't lend itself heavily to intuitive interpretation, either. At least not for me. I rely very heavily upon the book to help me with my interpretation and it's those nuances within the book that are often very profound for me.

So I happened to be guided to choose this odd animal on a day when folks are debating traditional vs. non-traditional systems and interpretations. And I, the eternal iconoclast, happen to choose the Tradition card! Go figure. But it's the perfect card!

The girl in the card is positioned at the door of the smithy, ready to enter or turn away. She has that choice. If she enters, she will learn a lot...information passed down through the ages. But the book cautions that the smithy can be a place of either guidance or oppression. Its traditions and resistance to change are both its strength and its weakness. So you'd better know who you are before you enter. Tradition can nurture efficient habits and teach arcane lore, but there is no place for original thought or interpretation. The book entry ends with saying the choice she makes (to either enter or turn away) is not important. What is important is that she makes the choice that is right for her. 

Outside of Death, how many of these cards can you positively identify?
I love the Ironwing. In a paragraph, this card encapsulated a debate that has been going on all day between a highly eclectic group of readers. But this isn't just about tarot. It's about many of the choices we make in our lives. At Thanksgiving, do we carry forth the traditions we had as a child or do we make new ones of our own? Do we color inside the lines, or add whole new worlds outside the lines the coloring book publishers didn't count on? Do we follow our church's interpretation of The Bible or do we have our own interpretation? We probably don't even realize how many choices we make between "the stated path" and off-roading each day.

Most people will probably say "I can do both". And they can. But if everyone said that, what would happen to tradition? And if no one said that, how would new ideas ever enter the consciousness? How would we ever evolve as a society? It's an interesting consideration when some are saying "tradition has everything I need" and others are saying "tradition is boring and stale". 

I think the traditional way holds some value, but not a whole lot. Just because it's been done a certain way for ages and works doesn't mean it's time to stop thinking. There may be better ways. Or more ergonomic ways for the individual. So I think everything should be tested by the individual before it's accepted. That said, I'm really into rigor and following "the way" when it comes to ceremony. So I'm going to say I'm maybe 20-25% traditional. How about you?


  1. I like following "the way" as well, especially when it is a serendipitous one. Like, The High Priestess sits at or outside the portal with windbreak-quieting veil looking IN at us AS the center of The Temple of Self, inducing Initiation. And, The Hierophant sits inside, and from a perimeter edge (though a circle has no sides) directs us outside FROM our Temple of Self?

    I respect your 20-25% traditional. Personally, as soon as I put a number on "traditional", it goes up a little to about 98%. As soon as I began using that new number, traditional drops back to around 95% for me. 95% for me is a dance floor. Living on it is 5%.

    My perspective pretty much stems from my resonance with architectural design consisting of an ounce of inspiration, and many tons of logical argument. Drawing pretty pictures is the smallest part of my job, and often the only part most anyone else sees.

    I feel it works like that with Tarot and tradition and most anything. Each reading takes my whole life up to that point. Today I would say I live in that "5%." Though, ask me again tomorrow so to speak, I may be learning something new whether from myself or another.

    Thanks for the last question, Tierney. Really begs some sandbox work to chew on it.

  2. Yeah, I was a little higher and came down some, too. I think there's a lot to be said for the correlation between what a person does for a living and the amount of tradition. You being an architect and that other dude being an engineer, makes sense. You have standards you have to adhere to. Everything is precise. Whereas I get paid to color outside the lines. It's not fair to say "the creative mind" vs "the analytical mind", because we both are strong in both. But perhaps it's which mind the heart lies in? My whole job is about finding new ways to see things. That's part of your job, but structure and adherence is a bigger part.

  3. Slightly off topic, but can I say what a crime and a half it is that this deck isn't in print, let alone widely available? It's so beautiful, and its symbolism is so rich!

  4. The visuals don't do a lot for me, though they can be evocative of emotion. Some people really connect with them. But what I find a lot of depth in is the guidebook that comes with it and the reasoning behind the images.