On Symbols, and Prediction v Fortune-telling

11 April 2017

Throughout history, humans have used symbols and prediction to some degree or other. Without written instruction, early farmers could predict the weather and seasons from signs in nature. These days, our lives are filled with signs and symbols which predict likely outcomes, depending on whether we choose to follow or ignore them.
We are surrounded with symbols in our daily life, and every small icon gets associated with a product, an act, a feeling, a person, etc. [...] Humans instinctively read pictures and symbols; we cannot look at a picture or a symbol without complex associations. Unconscious thoughts and feelings get triggered by a picture or a symbol. Symbols surround us in our daily life; opening our eyes to those signs triggers our intuition and exercises our ability to read them and use these connections and synchronicities to affect and change our daily decision making.  - Rana George, The Essential Lenormand
We rely on signs every time we drive - they tell us the safe upper speed limit, warn us of hazards ahead, and when we should give way to other drivers. You don't need to be a "fortune-teller" to know that driving at 90 mph on a narrow winding road with a speed limit of 30, close to the cliff-edge, is highly likely to end in disaster. We can predict the likely outcome of that scenario without needing special skill. It's the same with our health - eating too much cake and never exercising has a fairly predictable series of outcomes ranging from tight jeans to diabetes. We all know this. Whether or not we choose to act on it is another matter.

There are other symbols that require more specialist knowledge. I'm a knitter, and we use our own symbolic language to determine the outcome of a complicated project. Visual symbols on knitting charts are the way that one knitter (a designer) communicates with another (who is following the pattern/chart) in order to predict the outcome of that item. If you follow the chart, without deviation through choice or error, you know exactly how your finished piece will turn out. It is predictable to these knitters but someone else without knowledge of the symbols or the rules would not understand it at all. In the same way that I'm oblivious when looking at rows of computer code. 



Tarot is much like knitting (or coding). The symbols are all there, but if you don't understand them, they won't mean anything to you. Depending on the deck, you might be able to take a guess - for example The Wild Unknown imagery is quite visceral and you can get a feel for individual cards based on the art - but generally speaking, you need to have a certain level of knowledge before it starts to make sense. I seem to have reached the point of 'conscious incompetence' - the more I learn, the more I realise there is to learn.

But here's the good news, even with very little knowledge, it's possible to read the symbols in a way that is meaningful and helpful in day-to-day life. For me, tarot (and oracle) cards are not about 'fortune telling' but helping me to discern likely possible outcomes, if different choices are made. I suppose this is a kind of prediction.

When journaling about my daily draws,  I ask myself various questions which help to make sense of a particular situation in light of the card for that day. The answers help to 'predict' the likely outcomes of whichever choices I might make.
Card from the Dreaming Way Tarot, as posted on Instagram
In the above sample (card and questions taken from my Instagram account), it's clear that once we've identified the area(s) we are avoiding or would like to run away from, it's not a huge leap to think about the possible outcomes. What might be likely to happen if you continue to procrastinate or ignore the issue? If it's eating too much cake and not exercising, as in the earlier scenario, then the possible outcomes are indeed easy to predict. The same goes for ignoring problems in your relationships, being in the wrong job, overspending,  or any other area that's troubling you.

The way I see it, 'fortune-telling' presumes that things are set in stone, that you are a passive observer in your own life and you can't change things. Prediction, on the other hand, is about looking at the way things are going, seeing the choices that you have available to you, and then deciding which is going to lead you in the direction you want to go. I'm all for that!
You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of. - Jim Rohn

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