The right tool for the job, part 1: introduction

My knife block holds a variety of kitchen knives. I rely on a 6″ chef’s knife, suitable for chopping vegetables, although I also have an 8″ chef’s knife for when I tackle butternut squash. I have a couple of paring knives, a bread knife, and a rarely-used knife for slicing meat. If I needed to reduce the number, I’d hang onto the smaller chef’s knife, one of the paring knives, and the bread knife. If I absolutely had to, I could make do with just the chef’s knife. That said, I’m a happier and more efficient cook when I can match the knife to the task at hand. Similarly, while any form of divination can be used to look at any question, I think that each form has its strengths and weaknesses, and is better suited to some kinds of questions than to others.

I haven’t seen much about this during my studies. It’s not that authors aren’t trying to compare and contrast systems of divination. Many of my tarot books talk about the Golden Dawn’s astrological correspondences for the cards. Most of the books I’ve read on runic divination have compared it to a tarot reading. Every now and then, someone discusses correspondences between the 64 I Ching hexagrams and the 78 cards of the tarot. But most of the time, these comparisons have been limited to the structures of the systems themselves; they rarely include a comparison of the uses you might put them to. When they do, it’s usually between astrology and tarot. In a tarot class years ago, the teacher told us that tarot was great for telling you what was going on, but iffy for telling you when it was going to happen, and vice versa for astrology. (Not that this stops tarot authors from passing along timing systems.) She advocated learning both systems and using them together. Well, yes, I can do both, but I almost never want to work with them together. It takes energy and concentration to do a reading of any sort, and for me, combining astrology and tarot isn’t doing half one and half the other to make one full reading, but doing two different readings back to back and being doubly exhausted as a result. Bleah.

An alternative? Try to figure out what the strengths of the various divination methods are so that I can choose the one best suited to the question. I haven’t gotten very deeply into this yet, although I find the whole idea fascinating. It takes time and effort to learn a system well enough to use it at all, and you have be using it a while before you can step back a bit and see if it works better with some questions than with others. Then you have to repeat all that for any other system you tackle. So, admitting that these are “preliminary findings,” I’ll talk what works well and not so well in my next post.

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