Intuitive Reading and the Traditional Tarot

By James Douglas, illustrator, intuitive reader and teacher

Paul Klee, “Destroyed Place,” 1920

Before exploring some of the ideas relating to intuitive tarot reading, I would like to send my thoughts and best wishes to those individuals and communities who have been affected by the current health crisis.

It may seem odd to some, but I have already begun to imagine a life after shielding, and my new-normal; perhaps such thoughts will lead to some positive outcomes. Taking a break from my daily routine, I decided to clear my studio, in particular my archive of notes and tarot designs from 2008. This reference material contains texts, relating to how tarot readers might use images and traditional tarot themes to develop our practice.

As an intuitive tarot reader, I have been drawn to ideas relating to the development and meaning of images and their composition. In the early seventies, as an art student, I became interested in the ideas of Carl Jung: in particular, the idea that we possess a reservoir of experiences, which we were born with, and which are separate from our conscious mind.

Looking toward one possible visual interpretation of Jung’s ideas, the artist Paul Klee, in his notebook, The thinking eye, wrote “…the ambiguous images are formed by ourselves. It is almost as if we evoke them from the darkness of a lost dimension, and reanimate them by the rhythm of our actions, giving them meaning and form.” In my pamphlet, Language of the Tarot, I talk about a body of universal wisdom, quoting Rudolf Steiner in his reference to the Akashic records as a place where “…every word and thought may leave its trace.” For me, the themes of the tarot are omnipresent in our lives, and fully recognisable to the unconscious mind.

If for one moment, we could imagine that the ideas of Klee, Jung and Steiner could be applied to the intentions and actions of intuitive tarot reading, then we might conclude that the intrinsic meaning(s) of the traditional tarot can be accessed through our deep rooted and shared human experience, within our root memory. If this statement is in some way true, do the images and themes of the traditional deck act as signals, which transport the unconscious mind of a reader, to where they need to be?

As an artist, my interest in the language of images is an integral part of my life. In my tarot practice, I explore traditional tarot decks by observing and questioning their themes, symbols and images [archetypes]. The randomly placed themes within a spread enables the meaning of each card to become more nuanced, depending on the narrative of adjacent cards. I believe, that by adopting this method of reading, a reader is able to ‘open’ and develop each two-dimensional story contained within any card, and identify a pathway relevant to their client’s needs. In addition, I believe that this method of reading provides the client with a unique insight, with the potential of guiding them toward their short-term personal development, or identifying the potential of a life pathway.

Certainly the practice of intuitive reading using the observation and questioning of tarot themes, its images, signs and symbols, is challenging. Although I have been working with this method of tarot reading since 1997, I struggled, in those early years, to consistently find the right questions; often presenting my clients with a technical, rather than an insightful reading. On reflection, it would appear that I was unable to calm my imagination before a reading; enabling a unique moment of peace to manifest. I would liken this moment of peace to seeing a perfect and complex vista for the first time; an experience not unlike the ‘0’ card (?).

I believe the spiritual clarity of traditional tarot images help identify a vast range of human experiences, taken directly from the physical world; with their content defined by occult wisdom, realised over the past six hundred years. The traditional decks identify the opportunities and challenges facing us all on our journey along our chosen life pathway.

James Douglas is the creator of the Darkwater Tarot, which has been reviewed by TABI members here and here.

His work can be found online at


James Douglas · October 6, 2020 at 3:01 pm

Dear TABI’s

This interesting image, by Paul Klee, is new to me. The painting, “Destroyed Place,” 1920, must be from Klee’s time at the Bauhaus. I’ve ‘searched’ both artist, title and year, but couldn’t find any background information on this image.
Can anyone help?
Many thanks, James

Alana · October 8, 2020 at 10:10 pm

Hi James! I’m afraid I don’t know any more about the painting other than the artist and the date. I realized rather last second that I didn’t have an image to go with your article and I didn’t want to leave it “naked,” so I did a quick search for copyright-free images of works by Paul Klee, and this one really jumped out at me. I chose it quite intuitively, which I thought would be apropos, but perhaps you would have preferred that I check it with you first. If so, my apologies, and please just let me know if you’d like me to replace it with a different image. It would be no trouble at all!

James Douglas · October 8, 2020 at 11:05 pm

Dear Alana
Thanks for your reply. I see where you are coming from with your choice of image.You clearly wanted to get ‘it’ right and find an image that worked intuitively for you.
Lets keep the image.
My purpose for writing this text was to get feedback, from TABI members on intuitive reading in general, and perhaps how others use traditional tarot images an themes to progess their readings. I also welcome criticism.
Many thanks for including my text in this blog.
Warmest regards – J

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