Ever since their emergence as a tool for divination, sometime around 1450, Tarot cards have been associated with modes of self-perception, alternative world-views that derail our sense of what we call reality, and shamanistic practices. Through the visual imagery of Tarot cards, one travels between states of consciousness in order to find answers to some problem. All according to what the aim is, the way in which a querent’s consciousness alters depends on the quest. If the quest is one of self-discovery, then a useful definition of the function of Tarot is to suggest that it uncovers blind spots. However, unlike in shamanism, where the quest is undergone in a state of trance induced by drumming or some other ecstatic manifestation, it is possible to ‘enter’ the Tarot cards with a fully conscious mind, yet experience the often very direct message from the cards as magical. In this sense Tarot can be said to perform what others have called a form of psychomagic. In this paper I’m interested in looking at how transformative change is all the more powerful when it is associated with the cards in Tarot that depict an eschatological validation of the self and the world. In other words, the more one dies and the more the world dies – here often represented as a world of cultural beliefs – the more what emerges instead is a magical realm where poetry happens. My claim is that a tarot pack of cards, due to its several takes on endings, is participatory in anyone’s creative potential to make visible an invisible world in a process that is not merely cognitive, nor merely psychological, but poetic and therefore, par excellence, out of this world. The essay is also an original close-reading of Robert Browning's poem 'Porphyria's Lover,' in which the mapping of Tarot cards unto the events in the poem bring out themes and aspects unthought of before.
Terminus: the End in Literature, Media and Culture, 2013, p. 67-81