Alejandro Jodorowsky Explains How Tarot Cards Can Give You Creative Inspiration

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And like many a poet before him, Jodorowsky explored the journey of the Fool in his 1973 filmThe Holy Mountain, a dazzling, rambling, often incoherent satire,writes Matt Zoller Seitz, that unfurls like a hallucinogenic daydream. Jodorowskys cinematic dream logic comes not only from his work as a shamanic psychotherapist. He also credits the tarot for hispsychomagical realism. For me, says Jodorowsky in the video at the top, the tarot was something more serious. It was a deep psychological search. The result of that search—Jodorowskys singular and totally unforgettable body of work—speaks to us of the value of such an undertaking, whatever means one uses to get there.

After studying the Major and Minor Arcana and the suits, and puzzling over the symbols on each card, Jodorowsky discovered that all 78 cards could be joined in amandala, in just one image. Learning to see the deck thus, You must not talk about the future. The future is a con. The tarot is a language that talks about the present. If you use it to see the future, you become a conman. Like other mystical poets, Jodorowskys study of the tarot did not lead him to the supernatural but to the creative act.

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The practice of cartomancy, or divination with cards,dates back several hundred yearsto at least 14th century Europe, perhaps by way of Turkey. But the specific form we know of, the tarot, likely emerged in the 17th century, and the deck were all most familiar withthe Rider-Waite Tarotdidnt appear until 1909. Popular mainly with occultists like Aleister Crowley and Madame Blavatsky in the early 20th century, the tarot exploded into popular culture in the new age 70s with books like Stuart KaplansTarot Cards for Fun and Fortune Telling, and by way of cult filmmakers like Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Nevertheless, for English speakers, the subtitled video at the top offers a surprisingly dense lesson on the Chilean mystics interpretation of the tarots supposed wisdom as a symbolic system, and a way of telling the present.

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I love Jodorowsky precisely because hes full of shit. Hes not a mystic but a jester or trickster with a fabulously artistic mind. This becomes clear by listening to any of his interviews or DVD commentaries. In The Holy Mountain, his actors were pissed off over the ending, when the camera pulls back to reveal the lights and camera crew. After having plied them with drugs (mushrooms, I think) and putting them through a beautiful and excruciating odyssey, he reveals the artifice.

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Josh Jonesis a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him

Should you wish to know more, you can find it in Jodorowskys book, and practice on your very own deck ofJodorowsky-designed tarot cards.

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Or as Jodorowsky says in one of his mystical pronouncements, If you set your spirit to something, that phenomenon will happen. If that sounds like magical thinking, thats exactly what it is. Jodorowsky shows us how to read the tarot as he does, for psychological insight and creative inspiration, in the video above, addressed to a fan named John Bishop. Spanish speakers will have no trouble understanding his presentation, as he quickly slides almost fully into his native language through lack of confidence in his facility with English. (The video belongs toa series on Jodorowskys YouTube channel, most of them fully in Spanish without subtitles.) Selecting a translation on YouTube yields rather garbled results.

Since its relatively recent popularization, fun and fortune telling have more or less defined most peoples attitude to the tarot, whether they approve or disapprove of either one. But for artists and poets like William Butler Yeats, T.S. Eliot, and surrealist director Jodorowsky—whose film narration is perhaps the most poetic in modern cinema—the tarot has always meant something much more mysterious and inspiring. The tarot, says Jodorowsky in the short film above, will teach you how to create a soul.

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