I have a sort of strange tarot crush. It is on Enrique Enriquez. Besides the unbelievably alliterate name, Enrique is fascinating to me for his totally unorthodox take on traditional tarot.
Watch him pull a rabbit out of his hat:
Want to know when I was sure it was love? When I read that he said this:
I think reading Tarot is very much like singing: everyone can sing and most people are pretty awful.
I love that. I think that’s one of the main reasons why I never bothered to “come out of the closet” with tarot myself, until now. It just seemed that it wouldn’t be worth the hassle to share my way of having learned to read tarot, when I would be up against a world of, leave it again to Enriquez, a world of con-men and mad men.
Enriquez’s blog, Tarology, has mysteriously been condensed into this one post, more or less.
Enriquez is a bit of a tarot snob, or maybe you could call him a tarot traditionalist, which totally contrasts with his unorthodox approach. Enriquez is impossible to box into a tidy classification. If you didn’t sense his strong and opinionated approach by that first quote above, you’ll definitely get a whiff of his total disdain for “mainstream tarot” in this, as he talks about the advent of the occultists in the early 1900s and the creation of the Rider-Waite tarot:
The most notable of these “occultists” was Arthur E. Waite who, in the beginning of the 20th century, commissioned Pamela Colman Smith to create a new design for the Tarot. Waite is known worldwide for “illustrating” the so-called minor arcana. With this gesture, the “Tarot of the Ego” evolved into the “Tarot for Kids”. This is the Tarot of those who prefer to read Paulo Cohelo instead of Dante. The Tarot of those who will choose Prozac over Plato, any day. The Rider Waite-Smith deck was built, then, upon a mistaken tradition, one which laid the foundations for all the silliness and madness we observe today in the Tarot.
Here’s a man who knows what he thinks and isn’t afraid to stand by it. Personally I wouldn’t knock the Rider-Waite deck, as I think it has provided and continues to provide a “safe” and mass-market introduction to the tarot for many (myself included), which can then lead, for those who are so inclined, to deeper study, research, and reflection. The whole Paolo Coehlo vs. Dante and Prozac vs. Plato argument is really kind of snooty. Then again, I’m sort of that way too. I turn up my nose at books given the “Oprah” stamp of approval, as if they are pulpy fodder for the lowly masses. But then I come back and admit that I, too, have found value in them. I think in life it’s important to have ambivalence and look at different view points in order to reach personally-held conclusions.
Enriquez isn’t always easy reading, as you might have guessed. For example, try to get through this interview of his with Paul Nagy. It’s a twisty, windy, thought-provoking and often totally confounding road.
When I discovered Enriquez, I immediately thought of Alejandro Jodorowsky. I’m not trying to compare them or liken them to each other, but the first connection was their strict use of the Marseilles tarot in their practice. (Read Enriquez’s interview of deck artist and tarot historian JC Flornoy here). I read Jodorowsky’s The Way of the Tarot in Italian, not knowing about it in English (since I’ve lived in Italy for many years). I’d like to re-read it in English. His passion for the Marseilles tarot is infectious. But it does require a deep knowledge of the tarot itself, especially because (and here’s probably where a lot of Enriquez’s claim of “Tarot for Kids” in the Rider-Waite deck may come from), all the minor arcana cards are pretty much devoid of specific pictorial references to their possible interpretations.
Ok, so I’m not reading Dante or Plato. Still, I’d like to think that Enriquez wouldn’t hold against me the fact that I use the Rider-Waite deck in my practice. Frankly, can we go beyond that and into the quality of the reader themselves, and the way they use the cards? I aspire to help my clients find their own truths within the imagery in the cards, just as much as I would hope another reader would with whatever deck they choose to use. Instruments are only as good as the ones playing them. I sort of get the feeling that for him, the Rider-Waite deck is like a plastic harmonica and the Marseilles tarot is like a Stradivarius. The way I see it, however one arrives at inner knowledge that has value and meaning for them, can be a valid path.
Loving his interview of Mary K. Greer. Characteristic E.E. questions like “The ‘tarot author’ seems forced to channel Martha Stewart! People seem to want to know about methods, spreads, keys and things like that. How important is it to think about tarot philosophically?” The whole Prozac vs. Plato thing, I suppose! God bless Mary for quoting DANTE in her response. Woot!
Oh, speaking of Greer, I just watched her webinar on the Cups and Wands of the minor arcana and recent research she has done which connects them to the holy grail legends. Good stuff! (Never saw that fish necklace on the King of Cups before!)
In any case, his approach is revolutionary in its simplicity. View a different trailer for Tarology (than the one embedded in the beginning of this post) here. I couldn’t figure out how to embed this last one. More info. on the documentary in this post. Unfortunately it takes a lot of Internet trolling to figure out the story behind this short film. But it was a project born of funds raised at Indiegogo that can be ordered at the Tarology Film website, and contains interviews with many of the well-known names in tarot today.