Say It With Tarot

Everything you want to know about Tarot--especially for contemplation, self-empowerment, personal growth and creativity--from Tarot expert, author and deck co-creator Janet Boyer.

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Watch Your Mouth

Symbols are motifs, letters, numbers, figures and characters that represent something else.

Ultimately, symbols are short-cuts. Like the tip of the funnel, they lead to something wider and deeper. But the entrance to that "biggerness" lies at the point of symbol.

Interestingly, the Greek origin for the word symbol is sýmbolon which means "to throw a sign". 

Because symbols are usually concrete emblems representing something decidedly non-concrete--a heart signifying love, a dove signifying peace, scales signifying justice, a crown signifying authority and so on--these little "packages" can deliver a big wallop.

To this day, most people bristle when they see the swastika because of what was done under that symbol. Doesn't matter that the Nazis hijacked this symbol from Hinduism (ironically, according to Wikipedia, the word "swastika" comes from the Sanskrit svastika - "su" meaning "good," "asti" meaning "to be," and "ka" as a suffix. Thus, the term swastika literally means "to be good"): what matters is that this symbol is burned into our modern consciousness as a sign of human evil (if you believe in evil), prejudice, xenophobia and genocide.

Back to the "throw a sign" idea. While symbols make for great short-cuts, it behooves us to "watch our mouths". Arguably the most powerful of symbols is the word. One word can pack a punch that can inflame--or heal. 

All because of what has come to be associated with "that word". 

When you know better, you do better (assuming that awareness and increased consciousness is a part of your life's path). The ignorant toss around words to incite or insult. Some fundamentalist Christians spit out the word "pagan" as an insult, but those who embrace the term (and know that the word basically means "rural dweller") won't be offended.

It depends on the meanings you associate with a symbol, or word. You know, the stories you tell yourself about it.

In a world that appears to be roiling with violence, intolerance and hate, let us remember that our words are symbols--and that one well-placed, well-considered word might make the difference between hope or despair, encouragement or discouragement, peace or anxiety within another.

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Janet Boyer is the author of Back in Time Tarot (Hampton Roads), Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer Publishing) and Naked Tarot: Sassy, Stripped-Down Advice (Dodona Books). She's the co-creator (with her husband, artist Ron Boyer) of the Snowland Deck and Coffee Tarot, and authored both companion books to those decks. A Renaissance Soul, she is also an award-winning cook, mixed media artist, jewelry artisan and journal maker. Next to creating, her favorite thing to do is spend time with her beloved husband, son and 5 cats at her rural home in Pennsylvania. Visit her at


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