Have you ever called upon a Tarot witness? Our idea here shouldn't be confused with eye-witness testifiers in a law court, or with Christianity's idea of openly professing one's faith through words and actions. There's a more metaphoric concept of witnessing, since even eye-witness accounts tend to be of questionable factual accuracy. As Berel Lang notes in Philosophical Witnessing (2009), it is "less the specific details in [witness'] accounts that give them their special force, but the fact of their speakers' presence in the event witnessed, and the persistence of that fact in the continuing (in this sense, perpetual) present. The metaphoric aspect of witnessing thus adds itself to the historical reference, even for those who were physically present" (p. 14). And so when we call upon archetypal witnesses via Tarot cards, we summon a cultural or collective validation from visible, trusted presences who articulate after the facts so as to separate important events from the mundane, thereby facilitating understanding and meaningful change.
Imagine our delight to encounter in an old book four witnesses who can serve as a Tarot spread template. Underground, or Life Below the Surface by Thomas Wallace Knox (1873) introduces us to "the interesting witness, the knowing witness, the deaf witness, and the irrelevant witness."
A Tarot card placed upon the "interesting" witness would testify to something in particular that should catch and hold the querent's attention. This is something you should want to know or learn more about, and it's something positive, perhaps even exciting, but certainly worthy of curiosity.
The "knowing" witness points to something that you have knowledge or awareness of that others do not, or to something that you can now discover through observation or inquiry. We say informally that to know is to be "clued in," and the "knowing" witness is your clue.
The "deaf" witness is oblivious or otherwise indifferent to what his Tarot card communicates. This is a message that is within earshot but which hasn't yet penetrated and may need to reach shouting proportions before it does.
The "irrelevant" witness points to something that has been exhibited as evidence but which is immaterial or otherwise beside the point. This is an issue that is actually unrelated to the matters at hand and can now be let go of.
— Craig Conley is author of The Young Wizard's Hexopedia, the Tarot of Portmeirion, HarperCollins' One-Letter Words: A Dictionary, Pomegranate's One Letter Words Knowledge Cards Deck, and Weiser Books' Magic Words: A Dictionary. He is co-author of New Star Books' Franzlations: A Guide to the Imaginary Parables. He has published dozens of articles in such magazines as Verbatim, Pentacle, Mothering, and Magic. His work has been profiled in the New York Times, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News, Publishers Weekly, The Associated Press, and dozens of others.