Tarot cards are typically associated with the occult. A means of black divination meant to compass our lives often shuffled by bohemian clad fortune tellers at Renaissance Fairs. However, this deck of cards has earned a bad reputation. Tarot cards are simply a communication device, similar to marketing. Daily, we see essences of Tarot Card archetypes in marketing campaigns, as well as life; so, there is no need to continue the demonization of these universal representations of simple archetypes.
Made up of four suits, like a typical Bicycle deck, Tarot cards were traditionally used in Italy as playing cards. Before that, the imagery associated with tarot had relations with ‘“the art of memory”, a system of memorization invented by the Greeks to impress images on the mind for symbolic association” (Bartlett 2006). Early on, their images were used to reflect specific archetypes. An archetype, or a universal image, is thought to be understood by image alone. Regardless of language barriers or cultural differences, there are similar symbols that transcend to represent solid identities in a global society. It is because of these universal images that certain practices, associated with Occults, began using the tarot packs as a tool for understanding individual predestination.
It is a belief I share that these cards have the potential to reflect any given life event or individual through a single or set of cards. An identity or event can be constructed or represented to us through any combination of cards. So, the cards are not meant to be a compass that solidly predetermines fate but a mirror for which we can self-reflect certain events and postulate specific outcomes and courses of actions to take. In a way, they work because they are intentionally vague. They’re wide open leaving the reader to fill in the gaps and specifics with their own predetermined baggage that they bring to any reading. Much like reader response theory, their interpretation of a certain spread is largely influenced by the events they see mirrored in their personal lives.
I believe these cards could be destigmatized when we see that we use these very same symbols in our daily lives. Marketing industries publish and produce ads, images, logos, and brands that embody certain elements of the very same archetypes present in Tarot packs. The reason is similar to the reason certain people read cards. We, as a collective society, relate to certain images or archetypes we see. If the purpose of marketing is to push and sell an image, idea or product, it only makes sense that industries would want to tap into our very primal, very real, very human need to connect and relate. By using archetypes, like Ronald McDonald, we witness the archetype of The Fool in action, as a means to market hamburgers.
So, I’ll try to explain my thought process in this connection. The Fool is a familiar archetype often associated with childlike enthusiasm. Typically he is depicted as a clown or jester. He often represents our inner child and our desire to be impulsive and unafraid about our impulsivity. The fool can be spontaneous and free and those are aspects that are desirable to youths or families concerned about their youths. McDonalds admits to wanting to reach a wide variety of target demographics but specifically includes, “families who love our Happy Meals” (“Who is Your Target/ Market Audience?”). Ronald McDonald and the promotion of the Happy Meals are aimed towards the youth of America. Ronald is the icon of McDonalds because of his aloof demeanor, his relatability to kids, his innocence and underdevelopment of concepts. Ronald keeps McDonalds simple. The Fool is similarly not developed, mischievous, and simple. We trust him as a symbol for McDonalds, because he represents innocence and a human desire to stay in touch with simpler times. We are willing to buy into the idea that The Fool, in the form of Ronald McDonald, re-presents to us.
Certain symbols are visible in our global society. They are more recognizable once we remove the veil of marketing or tarot practice. They are universal images that re-present common symbols of life to us. Tarot has many practical uses, and for some it is a means to reflect upon and explain certain instances in life. When we apply our own situations to the archetypal outline present in the cards, practicing daily spreads can prove useful for getting in touch with our inner selves.
I think it’s important in the context of this passage to emphasize the morphological breakdown of the term represent, especially considering the frequency of its usage. The term, represent, literally means to present again or anew. The concept of presenting the same image in different mode endless times is what makes the archetype so universal. It stands the test of time in different outfits, but its essential meaning is core.
- Bartlett, Sarah. The Tarot Bible: The Definitive Guide to the Cards and Spreads. New York: Sterling Pub., 2006. Print.
- “The First Ronald McDonald Commercial… Slightly Restored!” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.
- “Who Is Your Target Market / Audience?” What Makes McDonald’s. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.