Earlier this week I finally saw the film Tarology by Chris Deleo and Kimberlie Naughton, featuring Enrique Enriquez. I have had a copy of the dvd for a while but when I received it, there was a lot going on in my life and I knew that the film deserved my undivided attention. Then my holidays came along and I was putting all my effort into relaxing and only right at the end of my holidays – recharged and ready to go – did I sit down and start to watch it. I have no idea how best to describe what the film purports to do exactly, as it works on so many different levels. Much of the film features Enrique Enriquez soliloquizing on the imagery of the Marseilles tarot as well as interviews with a number of tarot luminaries discussing Enrique’s creative approach. Yet it is much more than that. In fact, it isn’t just about the symbolism of individual cards as his discourse is based around the juxtaposition of cards and the fluidity of tarot imagery. It isn’t even strictly about tarot but about how we see the world we live in. In fact, you don’t need to be well-versed in the complexities of archaic symbolism to read cards at all. After having watched it, I had a sense that I had undergone a complete mental reorientation on how I see not only the cards but the world around me.
I found Tarology so rich and stimulating that I actually watched it in three separate sittings spread over three consecutive nights – I needed time to pause - and in the interim was ruminating on the richness of tarot and the infinite ways of looking at the richness of life around us, the limitless, kaleidoscopic potential that a spread of Marseilles cards can give us. I should affirm here that this is not a film “manual”, a cinematic LWB, on how to read with Marseilles tarot cards. It is more about how we might think about retraining our eyes to look afresh at the world because how we look at cards will be influenced by how we view the world and the fact is that it is easy to become complacent. Like all great art, Tarology is ostensibly about how we look at life. Something I have long believed and which Enrique touches on is how lazy we have become when it comes to truly looking. I honestly believe that for all the visual stimuli the modern world throws at us, we are more visually “illiterate” that those who lived at the time the Marseilles decks were created. So much surrounds us that we often forget to look, or our attention is pulled by the promise of the next distraction. According to Enrique, the secret to reading with a Marseilles deck is simple; just look, just describe. He believes we can train ourselves to see similarities in the world around us, “visual poetry” as he calls it. This is the essence of the film, and what I loved so much about it. We can see it as a treatise on seeing, picking out parallels, repetition and rhythm. You cannot read tarot if you don’t know how to look. He doesn’t say anything as dogmatic as this, but it is what – for me – the film logically concludes. Scenic pips and esoteric symbolism won’t help you here.
One of my favourite scenes was Enrique talking about his “allergy” to words such as “chakra”, “archetypes” and ”universe” in the context of card-reading, and his ambivalence towards traditional fortune-telling with the cards, reader and querent face-to-face over a table. He muses on a street sweeper cleaning the streets and likens himself to someone cleaning up the tarot of esoteric baggage. His reflections are a breath of fresh air; on Kabbalah, astrology, Jung (who I didn’t know only wrote two lines on the tarot – or maybe just synchronicity – and yet is constantly cited as a major mind behind tarot.), when all you need to do is just look, just describe. It is possible to live the tarot, incorporate it into your daily life - and that doesn’t mean through your third eye or meditations - simply by looking around you. Take grafitti for example. The grafitti in New York, he says, is “like a prehistoric cave” (I loved this) with so much to decipher. There is poetry all around and the film accompanies him around the city reading some of the symbols that surround us. There’s a very strong urban vibe to the film; the message being that anybody who lives in a modern city can feed all that they see back into these antiquated cards however they are dealt.
I found Tarology a hugely inspiring film; full of the rhythms and beauty that we can see on any given day, and by looking for repetition when we read the cards (he says), we can see what to pay attention to. The cards will tell us. It sounds simple; see how the images interact and speak to each other and you can train yourself to do this by looking around and by seeing how symbols call to and echo each other out there in the street. A tarot reader, Enrique says, is like a translator. More than anything, for me, Enrique comes across as someone who can retrace his steps and recapture something of a child’s wonder when faced with the world around us. My boyfriend, whilst watching it with me commented on how much of what Enrique says seems obvious, yet ”sometimes it is so difficult to find the obvious.” I felt conscious, after seeing Tarology, that my way of seeing the world had become imperceptibly blunted over time. It was as though I had forgotten how rich life actually is if you look hard enough, and how tarot cards can reflect that richness, help you strip it down. It is the work of a true artist that rejuvenates your way of seeing the world and – most importantly in this case – makes you go back to the cards afresh and feel excited about using them again. Since watching Tarology, I have been carrying my Noblet deck around with me (the one by Flornoy to whom the film is lovingly dedicated) and looking around a lot more, a lot more closely. You can’t ask for much higher praise than that.
Tarology; The Poetics of Tarot by Chris Deleo and Kimberlie Naughton is available at www.Tarologyfilm.com