The Moon Tarot Card
I've been interpreting tarot cards, reading about them, and collecting them since about 1975 or '76, I haven't discovered any new decks in the dark recesses of any museums nor have I created or restored any historic tarot decks. I haven't even written any tarot books. My primary research is done by reading as much as I can on the subject by those who have shared their research, and by looking at the historic cards that I have access to, and making my own observations. One thing that I have been obsessing about lately, is the origin of the Moon Tarot Card. There are some who believe it is a French convention which began with the Tarot de Marseille tradition, and others who believe that maybe there is a missing link tarot deck from Italy. I think it's been right under our noses the whole time and all we have to do is look at a few cards to see how images might have transitioned as they migrated from country to country and culture to culture. It's entirely possible that these observations have already been made and that I'm just behind the power curve, but there's no learning like learning from your own observations, and I'm not going to apologize for that. (Click on any photo to see it in its entirety.)
Let's take a look at the Earth card from the Florentine Minchiate 1800s deck and compare it to the Jean Noblet Moon card ca 1650. (First photo). Admittedly, the Minchiate deck I am showing was created in Italy in the 1800s and is not as old as the Noblet, but it does follow an established Minchiate tradition begun in Florentine in the 1600s.
Minchiate decks include the addition of elements, virtues, and astrological cards resulting in a 97 card deck. As the name implies, the game of Minchiate is a Florentine convention, which varied from the original game of Tarocchi which is even older.
Do you see any similarities between the Michiate Earth card and the Noblet Moon? I do! And they're so obvious to me that I can't un-see them. Several common elements are shared between them: two towers; a large circular object occupying the sky; a type of bank or bridge over water, and something on the side of the bridge. In the Minchiate it's a pair of tunnels channeling water into the body of water below it. In the Noblet it's a crayfish. Look closely and you'll see two creatures in the Minchiate, one of which strongly resembles a dog, and in the Noblet we also have a pair of creatures which resemble dogs. There is no crayfish in the Minchiate, but can the crayfish be a type of image typo, in much the same way that the round full bloom of the Minchiate tree became the moon in the Noblet?
Furthermore, can the transference of images be as human as a traveler having been in Italy and sharing either random cards from a deck of Tarocchi or even Minchiate with French deck maker who thought that creating a similar deck in France would be a great idea? Is it possible that the Earth card of Italy kind of morphed into the Moon card in France?
The Minchiate Earth card compared with the Pierre Madenie deck of 1709, (2nd photo) shows that the TdM Moon design was pretty much cast in French stone fifty years later in 1709.
And further furthermore, take a look at the 3rd photo of the Mitelli Star card and compare it to the Noblet Hermit. Both are elderly men with lanterns. The Mitelli deck is an italian Tarocchino deck from 1600s Bologna. The Mitelli Star card features a wanderer under a night sky. The Noblet has ditched the night sky for the wanderer who seems to have become their version of The Hermit. Which leads me to ask, where did they get their design for the TdM Star card...? I'm guessing it's probably based on an astrological Aquarius card from an earlier Italian deck.
For the record, the 4th photograph shows the Minchiate Moon card and the 5th photo compares the Minchiate and Mitelli Hermit cards.
Like many of the details on historic tarot decks, it is not always evident which details were deliberate or which resulted from inaccurate printing techniques or the slip of the artist's hand; and it remains unclear whether the Fool and Death cards of a tarot deck were ever intended to have the opportunity to face one another either as they appeared in a hand for play, or in a spread for interpretation.
However, I argue that it doesn't really matter and the fact that some decks do allow for a face off, even if it is a happy accident, is the ideal. It's not a deal breaker for me if the Fool and Death cards of a particular deck don't share this configuration, but I do appreciate a deck that does.
In historic decks which have not been labeled for modern readers, both of these characters are essentially outsiders. The Fool is a card with a name and no number, and Death is a card with a number(#13) and no name.
Although The Fool is among the living, he is decidedly unfit for polite society. (I'm strictly speaking TdM here, not the carefree youth of privilege created by the Hermetic order of the Golden Dawn and the Waite Smith Traditions). And while Death is not among the living, he likewise, is probably not preferred dinner talk in gentile settings. They each share a type of disconnect from the other cast of characters in the deck and in a sense, from we who peer into their world for clarity.
The Fool is a risk taker, and there is no one as dangerous or as free as a person who has nothing to lose, except perhaps the Grim Reaper himself. Death represents and presents the ultimate freedom that many of us dread paying the price for and reminds us that choices and behaviors have consequences, and in the end, no matter how carefully or carelessly we live our lives, eternity will claim us.
Who knows if it was intended, and that is part of the mystery and intrigue that is tarot. I know of no other rabbit hole that has led me to such profound thinking. Except maybe the universe and the stars themselves, and there's a card for that!
When people learn that I have amassed over two hundred tarot decks in my sixty years on this planet, their first inclination is to want to see my collection. Someone said my tarot parlor was like a tarot museum, and that's how I've come to view my passion for collecting the cards. I'm not a deck hoarder, I'm a serious art collector and my collection spans nearly 600 years of tarot art.
In my very first tarot blog, I wrote that as an artist, I had been drawn to the cards for their beauty and mystery. They represent history and human experience. Of course, once I began to learn about the cards, I began reading them and for want of a better description, I became a tarot reader. I've been reading and collecting tarot for forty-three or forty-four years. I'm not exactly sure if it all began in 1975 or '76.
The first deck I ever owned was the first deck that ever appeared on US television in 1968, and that was the 1JJ Swiss Tarot deck as it was featured on an episode of the Gothic, after-school soap opera, Dark Shadows. I was only ten years old when it might be said that I was seduced by their mystery and beauty. (You can read more about that Dark Shadows episode here, and here, but I digress...)
It wasn't until 1975 or '76 however, that I was able to track down a deck for purchase at a Spain's novelty gift shop at our local mall. I remember picking it up and holding it in my hands for the first time. Omg, it was thrilling! Of course in those days, there was no online library to peruse the cards before purchase, but based on my memory of the cards I had seen on Dark Shadows, and the box art, I was all in. I also purchased the accompanying book that came with it and I knew it would be a lifelong interest. Even all these years later, whenever I use my first deck, I am always drawn back into those original feelings of awe.
One of my high school girl friends had either been been given or bought a deck of tarot cards too, but hers were different than mine. Her deck was a Rider Waite Smith deck. Perusing her deck, I soon came to realize that not all tarot cards were the same. In fact, our two decks were strikingly dissimilar in several ways. For one, all the cards in her deck were illustrated and not just decorative, and in the trump cards, a few cards were renamed, most notably the Juno and Jupiter cards from my deck were replaced by the High Priestess and Hierophant in her deck. (I later learned that Juno and Jupiter were themselves replacements for the Pappess and Pope, and you can read about the history of that here. When I finally found a copy of the Waite Smith collaboration, it was actually a print of Albano Waite Smith, not a Rider Waite Smith, and so I further realized that there were many variations on the tarot theme.
These discoveries might seem obvious looking through today's lens, but back in the 70s, at least in the states, tarot decks were anything but main stream. In fact, I had kept it from my own family that I had even bought a tarot deck. But slowly, after Dark Shadows aired its appearance in 1968, they aired another episode in 1971 this time with with the RWS deck, and then in 1973 a tarot deck appeared in a James Bond Film, Live and Let Die. That deck was altogether different, created exclusively for the film by artist Fergus Hall.
When I entered art school in 1976, I took art history courses every semester for four years, hoping that a deck of tarot cards would surface in the curriculum, but they never had. From my earliest experience, tarot and art history went hand in hand. My fantasy job would be to teach an art history course through the art pictured on a tarot deck, but alas, I only have a BFA degree and not enough scholastic credentials to be a college professor. Still, my studio art and art history backgrounds have prompted me to be a passionate and lifelong learner of the subject despite my lack of interest in accruing further college tuition debt. My interest in art history branched off in an unusual direction, keenly fine-tuned to experience history, human nature, and psychology through the lens of the art on a tarot deck.
One glorious day in NY, in the early 1980s after graduating from art school, I spotted a few ancient cards from a deck called Visconti Sforza, and I was determined to own a copy. It wasn't until 1995 I think, that Lo Scarabeo finally published it, and it was a pretty wonderful day when I found it in a book store. OMG! It was embellished with gold, and was the prettiest deck I had ever seen. I was in absolute awe of it, for giving me a glimpse into the oldest tarot deck known to exist, and a glimpse into the world of Medieval and Renaissance Italian and European politics. Understanding tarot history has made me a much better reader. When I read, I see hundreds of years of human experience appear before my eyes.
Most of the few decks I had accumulated up to 1995 were pip styled decks, without illustrated scenes on the numbered suit cards, but slowly and surely more and more tarot decks were available every time I went to the book store, and I went all the time, mainly to see what new decks were available. It wasn't that I was looking for my perfect deck, it's that I loved to see how each deck interpreted the tarot entourage.
As we approached the year 2000, tarot decks were becoming commonplace in bookstores, and then the year 2000, like a magic number, was a lottery year for millennium decks. In the early 1990s I told myself that I would create a tarot deck by the year 2000, and although that never happened, I did create three children instead.
I don't think the tarot world misses my contribution though, the tarot market is if anything, over saturated with people like me who had the same idea to create a tarot deck and I'm glad I hadn't created one because I believe my tarot contribution has yet to come.
I have narrowed my scope of interest as any art collector would, to focus on the art that appeals to me most. I currently limit my purchase of modern decks, though I have dozens, and dozens, and dozens of them. In recent years, an appreciation for historic decks has lead to more of them being printed, and my tastes and interests have been fine-tuned to focus on the historic recreations.
The historic decks, in my opinion, are the best decks to hit the tarot market, because aside from their genuinity, (is that a word?) and astounding beauty, they allow us to witness just how widespread the game of Tarocchi was and how each region interpreted, reinterpreted, and adjusted their understanding of the prototypes established by the Italians. These early decks fascinate me the most, especially the Italian decks, but the Flemish and 16th and 17th century Tarot de Marseille tarot decks also bear witness to a fascinating history and lead one down yet another rabbit hole. Heck, even the twist and turns that Etteilla and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn took us down, show fascinating aspects of the human experience and need for understanding the secrets of the universe.
Since the 1995 Lo Scarabeo publication, the Visconti decks have been incarnated a number of times, the most recent and I believe best, being the Visconti Modrone deck by Lo Scarabeo in 2019, which is a magnificent effort, bringing to life what those earliest cards may have looked like. The way I gazed upon the 1JJ Swiss deck in awe back in 1968 and then in '75 or '76 when I finally tracked it down, most certainly pales in comparison to the awe that the hand-painted Visconti decks must have struck in their owners.
In addition to the Visconti decks, there are so many gorgeous Italian decks, like the pictured Estensi, the Sola Busca (which had its own agenda and departed greatly from the established tarot milieu of its day), the Vergnano Tarot, the Perrin Tarot, The Tarocchi Dalla Torre, and Giacomo Zoni, all the Minchiate decks, the Vacchetta, Soprafino, and others. There are other gorgeous historic decks outside of Italy, like the Vandenborre and Besancon decks, all of which lead us down another historic path.
When people on tarot forums poo-poo people like me, as just another hoarder who collect out of an illness, or don't see the point of owning more than one deck to read tarot, they miss the point entirely. I collect art and the history of at least the western world, and the secrets of humanity.
Ostara has brought the best out in me this fine opening day of Spring. I feel motivated enough to jump right into the next article on this popular topic.
The lovely cards that I'll be using for this article are from the Ancient Tarots of Bologna created by Giacomo Zoni in 1780. My copy was published by Lo Scarabeo in 1995.
Let's take a look at our first pair, The Lover card and Judgment.
Most often, the order of two cards matters, but in this case, it seems like it might be splitting hairs. In either case the message seems to be very similar.
Again, the most important point in interpreting the message in the cards is to interpret them in relation to the question. If the question was to give insight to how a love match is going, based on just these two cards, it will be tempting to suggest that a wedding announcement will be forthcoming; but do take note of the next card(s) in the sequence. Might a secret be revealed instead? Ask yourself which card(s) might reveal a secret. If one is only using the suit of Trumps, then look for the Moon or Popess cards, either of these cards following Judgment might be an indicator that a secret is about to be revealed.
Speaking of the Moon, lets pair it with the Bateleur. Modern tarots have elevated the Bateleur to Magus status, but in understanding his origins, he is the lowest ranked of the trump cards. He is a common street performer, a con man. Think of the fellows who set up on a street corner and entice you to guess which cup the ball is under. News flash, you aren't likely to win because odds are excellent there's a slight of hand at play. As he appears side-by-side with the moon, we have reinforced the suggestion of a of covert activity taking place. If the question is about whether or not someone, such as a partner might be trusted, this combination might verify that there is an underhandedness about the partner.
Naturally, the Moon as a time of day might be taken literally. Someone might present themselves one way by day, and yet another by night. This might make sense for an entertainer who hasn't quit his or her day job yet. By day they might have an altogether different identity, but by night, they perform at some capacity. This shifts the meaning of the Bateleur from con man to entertainer, and the shift in meaning makes sense if the querent wants to take a chance on working an evening shift especially if they are some type of performer. Working at night clubs or evening hours might be what this combination would be suggesting for a would-be entertainer or night club performer. Heck, it could really suggest any work activity happening at night.
Now let's take a look at The Moon as meaning repression. When I was learning about The Moon's keywords, there were a few which suggested being thwarted and this never made sense to me until one day, on a whim, I decided to look up the nocturnal habits of crayfish and that's when it hit me and made sense in this context. Crayfish come out at night to feed. They are easy targets for predators and with the dogs present above ground, the crayfish are not safe to surface. They are being thwarted in their attempts to fulfill their need. Keeping this in mind, when The Moon appears with the Bateleur, the combination might suggest the querent's efforts to get ahead are being thwarted by an underhanded individual. I hope it's beginning to make sense why it is important to understand the meanings of what the cards represent. Research goes well beyond just clinging onto keywords from a book. Doing our own research gives us real understanding, and makes it easier to know which application of meaning is at play. I can't stress enough, always interpret the cards in relation to the question being asked. You have to find the connection between the message of the card and the question being asked. There's always a connection.
Let's look at the Hanged Man in its Medieval and Renaissance context. My research leads me to believe that the most likely reference to the Hanged Man would have been to Judas Iscariot and not to Jesus Christ as many modern tarotists adhere. I do not identify the Hanged man as someone who has sacrified himself for the greater good as Christ had. Their deaths are not the same. The hanged Man bears the number 12. Judas was referenced as Christ's 12th apostle in multiple biblical sources. There is no ignoring that connection. The sacrificial references do not gel in my mind. In many early decks including the Visconti-Modrone deck, the Hanged man is weighted down by bags presumably filled with coins. This is another clue of his Judas identity. Judas presumably betrayed Christ for coinage. He then hanged himself. And so the image to me, clearly communicates betrayal or treason. Coupled with The Chariot, who communicates victory or advancement, we have a few possible interpretations. It may communicate that someone is able to overcome less than desirable crimes of his past, or it may communicate that he or she is still at large, has left the scene of the crime and has moved on to escape consequence. This interpretation makes sense if we consider that during this time in Italian history, placards depicting hanged individuals were hung in much the same way that a police station might hang 'Wanted' posters. Since the individual was alive it meant he was still at large. He was a 'wanted' man.
And yet again, never overlook the literal possibilities. In example, if someone asks about a love relationship that is taking forever to gel or go to the next level, it might literally be a suggestion that the querent will be left hanging, suspended, and it's time to move on from that relationship.
With time and experience, connecting the cards to the questions becomes easier, and the relevant meaning of the card becomes evident. Because every card has multiple possible meanings, I cannot stress enough the importance of interpreting the cards to the question being asked. The question is key to understanding which meaning is relevant.
OK, I will do more of these entries, but not in quick succession. I have a few videos to tend to on my YouTube playlist, and that will consume my energies for the next few weeks. For those of you interested, here is the link to my Youtube Channel.
Tarot Card Pairs and Combinations
Understanding tarot card pairings and card combinations is a powerful asset while making sense of an array of cards on a table. Any two cards in a pair is a combination, really, but certain pairings do jump out when they occur.
To understand the meanings of the cards is to understand the people who created them. Six hundred years has elapsed since the earliest known tarot decks we have on record, and happily, we have a font of information about the people whose world they occupied, the environment where these folks lived in, and the things they believed and were punished for. Through legal documents and decrees, plus the writings of notable works of literature and art, we are able to capture a glimpse of everyday life in medieval and Renaissance Italy. The Tarot deck is also one of the windows into that long ago world.
For anyone wanting to learn what is referred to as TdM style of cards, (and I use that term to describe both Tarot de Marseille and Milan) you need to understand the iconography that the tarot from these decks reveals. There are numerous books that go into this, and if I might be allowed to self-promote, I've done a YouTube video series on the subject of the numbers the cards as they relate to the Trump cards with the same corresponding number, and that might be very helpful and interesting to you. I go into great depth about the origins of each card I've completed thus far. Here is the link to that playlist. (In case the link is acting stupid, my YouTube ID is Marilyn from Tarot Clarity)
OK, lets get to it with our first pair of cards, Temperance and Fortitude. (Sometimes referred to by modern folks as Strength) Temperance is not so much a struggle as a reminder that something needs to be watered down, or neutralized. Since ancient times wine was made weaker by water, either to dilute it to serve more people, or curtail its effects, or both. Fortitude represents an internal struggle, an issue of self-control that the querent might be struggling with. The combination of these two cards is an urgent call to reach a happy medium. Since both the characters of these particular cards glance in the same direction, it might be helpful to take note of the card that falls to the left of Temperance, to see if it yields any clues in to what the challenges might reference. If we consider the reference that Temperance has to wine, the combination might also indicate a struggle related to alcohol.
Let's take it a step further now, and let's pair the Fortitude card with The Devil.
In combination with the Devil, particularly in the direction that the figure is looking, escalates the message to an admonishment that an addiction to something needs to get under control. The addiction might be one of the flesh, substance abuse, or greed for material wealth, etc. Surrounding cards will further shed light on the topic. The Devil is a kind of kill-joy card. When it pops up, you know there's something that one is indulging in that hinges on risky behavior. When it's combined with Fortitude, it's a strong warning.
Let's move on to a bit more cheery combination. Let's consider The Chariot and Justice appearing together, especially if the charioteer seems to be facing in Lady Justice's direction. In this pairing, we have movement towards truth. Getting very near the truth of a situation, or nearing a fair resolution of an issue, or reaching a reliable conclusion.
Now let's make it super wonderful and add The World card in the direction the charioteer is facing.
With this combination we have advancement towards great success, maybe even fame, but it at least expresses movement in the best possible direction for a favorable conclusion. Now consider replacing The World card with any other card, even a pip card, and you will get an idea of what the charioteer is headed for.
Let's stick with the world card and add The Empress. If we consider that the World represents ultimate manifestation and combine it with the Empress who is a strong protective, motherly, and fertile representation, we have a combination of cards that strongly hints at pregnancy. If we consider the visual clues from the mandala surrounding the center figure, it might further enhance the idea of a birth canal and the process of being born. If The Popess were to appear with The World, the interpretation would be similar, except that it might indicate a secret pregnancy. Any of the four queens might also be interpreted similarly, but the Empress and the Popess really make a strong case for it. It might also make reference to the birth of something of national or international importance, as the cards can have literal as well as metaphorical meaning.
Since this topic seems to be popular with some of my followers, I will continue writing a few more blogs on the topic of card combinations and pairings. It's fun for me too. I will do my best to do a few more this month, so stay tuned. Please follow this blog so you will be alerted whenever I write a new article.
Juno, Jupiter, and Besancon Tarot
It may seem odd, that a modern day, decidedly non-Catholic, witchy kind of woman might use as her primary tool, a device based on medieval symbolism and let's face it, Catholic imagery. While it's true that most of the trump cards transcend time with universal understanding, there is one card that in light of scandals of sexual abuse in the Church, rubs some people the wrong way; and that's the Pope.
I've been revisiting my Bescancon Tarot decks which replaced the Papess and Pope with Juno and Jupiter (in the late 18th or early 19th centuries). This is ironic, because I've come full circle. The very first deck I ever laid eyes on or owned was the 1JJ Swiss Tarot deck, which is in the Besancon tradition.
The Papess never bugged me, mostly because I have always identified her as Mary Magdalene, or maybe even the legend of Pope Joan. Women who may have gotten one over on the established good old boys club that is the Catholic church. Women whose voices were suppressed, and legacies maligned. They were bad-ass women who knew stuff. They had secrets and were smarter than the average man.
But the Pope, is supposed to be the moral compass, the undisputed authority in areas of spirituality and morality, a refuge. As all the cards do, the Pope has a flip side, which is suppression, unyielding close-mindedness, and perhaps even cruelty. He's also been an uncomfortable or offensive image when he's popped up in readings of some of my clients. Uncomfortable is OK, but not when it's offensive.
And there-in lies the reason for the switch all those years ago. Once tarot hit the Protestant European scene somewhere around 1800, the city of Besancon substituted Juno for the Papess and Jupitor for the Pope. It makes sense after-all, why would Protestants want to see and be reminded of the Catholic Church every time they played a game of cards? In much the same way that the name, Tarot of Marseille, stuck to tarot decks made in the fashion of the decks coming out of Marseille, Besancon became the name used to identify the decks which employed Juno and Jupiter.
Now, I have to admit, that in order to write intelligently about Juno, I had to brush up on my Roman Mythology, and to my delight, discovered that tomorrow, March 1, is the Festival Day for honoring Juno. Ahh, I love how the universe works and makes something as banal as a blog entry, relevant. In any event, Juno was the Goddess of love and marriage, and protector of pregnant women, and really, she presided over every aspect of being a woman. Like Mary Magdalene and Pope Joan, think of the secrets she knows, and in a way that even one-ups the Magdalene and Joan, Juno took no prisoners. No one suppressed Juno and got away with it.
Like Juno, Jupiter is also a Roman God. He was the deity of the Roman state religion before Christianity took hold. He was the God of the sky, an aerial omnipresence who primarily concerned himself with justice and at least mortal morality. His symbols being the thunderbolt and eagle, a formidable authority.
Can we transpose the meanings of the Papess and Pope to Juno and Jupiter? Maybe they are not a seamless switch, but they are decent substitutes who ironically, have become relevant once again.
In recent weeks I've been toying with the idea of reading tarot for one or more of the psychic hotlines. Before you get judgy on me, please hear me out.
Despite my affordable rates, I'm just not bringing in a livable wage. I'm too old to hustle as I used to in earlier years, and now, like the old crone hermit that I am, I need clients that will come to me.
The psychic hotlines are making a fortune. And I have to ask myself, why would a person be willing to spend ridiculous rates for the likelihood of encountering phony psychics, when I could provide them with a legitimate, quality reading for a fraction of the cost? I mean seriously, why?
We are a culture that expects it. On these hotlines, someone is always available to offer hope 24/7.
Do the clients really believe they are tapping into genuine psychics on these hotlines? I think they do, based on the reviews they leave. I think some of the psychics might be genuine, turning to the hotlines for the same reasons that I am; a need to make money at our craft, and there's no shortage of money being thrown at the psychic hotlines, so why shouldn't legitimate psychics and tarot readers be able to share a slice of that pie?
Now, full disclosure and truth be told, I worked for a psychic network years ago, in the late 1990s into 2000. I was one of this particular company's first tarot readers. By then, I had already been reading tarot for about 25 years and had a full time job and three little kids under the age of three. I needed a supplemental income for a few hours a week that I didn't have to leave my house for and the hotline offered me that opportunity.
I remembered why I stopped working for the hotline. The income was good, but it was draining, and I felt like it preyed on people's weaknesses. The same people called me everyday about the same problems. People with desperate stories of financial crisis, (still willing to plunk money down every night for a tarot reading on a situation that wouldn't change until they were willing to manage their money better), another, a woman who had a love affair with a movie star only he didn't know about it. My husband said that if it weren't me talking to them at the other end of the phone, who really tried to help them by keeping the calls brief and giving them a legitimate reading, it might be someone else who really didn't care and would keep the meter running by telling the client what they want to hear in order to exploit the situation. In any case, I quit.
Fast forward nearly twenty years later, and here I am again, giving a go at working on hotlines. Why? Because again I am in a situation where I need supplemental income. I am unable to commit to a regular schedule and finding an outside job willing to hire me for only a few hours a day whenever I can fit it in, isn't a realistic expectation. So once again, I look to a hotline to come to my rescue.
True, I still prefer doing readings through my own private tarot practice because I offer a quality service at an affordably set-price with readings that last as long as it takes. I never look at the clock. But I'm choosy about whom I allow in my home, and I'm too old to hustle like I used to in the old days. I need people to find me and come to me.
I decided on a service which is a phone app, and it offers a few services such as Live Chat, and three minute videos sent within the hour.
I've been doing it a few weeks now, clocking in a few hours every day and snagging a few requests daily. I prefer doing the three minute videos rather than the live chat. My reason for this is that a customer prepays for the three minutes and it will not exceed $15.00. There is no potential for taking advantage of a client by keeping them engaged any longer than that. And even though that's not something that I would do, I like knowing that this three minute platform reduces the chances of charlatans preying on desperate people. Having said that, the live chat option can get pretty pricey, and increases the likelihood of encountering a fraud and being taken advantage of, but the client is still being offered the more affordable option of a three minute video.
By nature, tarot requires digesting the information given with the question and interpreting the cards to answer the question. Before I create the video, I handle and mix the cards, lay the cards and process the information connecting the cards to the querent's question. It takes me a few minutes to fully process what I'm looking at; why should a customer pay for that during a live chat? Once I lay the cards and look them over, I do the video and send it off to the customer within just a few minutes. I'm good at being concise and filling the reading with information. The customer has only spent $15.00, (I only get $6.00) and I have a clear conscience that I've provided a really great service at a really affordable cost. Frankly, the only one who's being exploited here is me, but I'm ok with that if it gets people to try tarot and puts a few bucks a pop in my wallet.
Like all things, buyer beware. I believe psychic hotlines are breeding grounds for charlatans. There, I've said it. And the hotlines bottom line, by virtue of reminding customers that their service clearly states that it's being offered for 'Entertainment Purposes Only' clearly admits that the service is not 100% reliable. But, there are advisers who are authentic in their abilities and come with a strong skill set. I know I'm one of them. I'm genuine and I don't feel comfortable exploiting anyone, and I can guarantee as quality a reading as a three minute platform can offer, and a legitimate reading when you choose me.
It might be like looking for a needle in a haystack to find an authentic psychic or tarot reader, so read profiles carefully and use common sense before choosing.
How does a three minute hotline reading from this hotline app differ from one of my readings that you can order directly through my website? Well, for one, it's only three minutes long so it's usually only based on about three cards. True, I can cram a lot of information in a three minute video, and it's short and sweet, to the point and satisfies a querent's need for almost instant gratification, but it only scratches the surface.
Obviously, readings directly through my own website offer a superior tarot experience.
In honor of my 60th trip around the sun last month, I organized a free local tarot class for women who want to learn to read Tarot de Marseille style of cards. This gesture was a gift of gratitude for my life. I try to give back to the universe in some way, every time I make another trip around the sun.
We have been meeting on Tuesdays, and our Class is called, Ladies of the Landing, referencing our location in Mays Landing, NJ. I deliberately chose to make it a women's only group because the social dynamics change when men are in the mix. But certainly if you found this blog and you happen to be a man, you are invited to read on.
The class is designed to be only six intense lessons, and while six classes won't make anyone a tarot expert, these classes will get you off onto a good footing. I've been reading, studying, and collecting tarot for forty-three years, and I'm still learning. It kind of becomes an insatiable pursuit.
The classes have been in session for a few months now, and this particular blog entry will contain the content covered in the classes. The decks I reference throughout the discussion are decks that I have shown the class. Until I get around to loading photos of these cards to this blog, it will be necessary for you to do the leg-work to find online references to them. I will update this blog entry until the content of all six classes have been posted, so this blog will be a long one!
I've structured this first class to include a healthy dose of tarot history and I give homework. If you are not willing to put in the work, you are not terribly interested in learning tarot beyond a superficial level. This is true about anything.
Why the history? Well, it's my firm belief that if you don't understand where something is coming from, you'll never understand what it is or how it works.
This class is structured quite differently than a typical tarot class and the following content, particularly the way this class is structured, is my intellectual and copyrighted property. No cutting and pasting and no reprinting of the following material without my own written consent. Please have integrity on this point.
There are three primary tarot traditions, TdM, (Tarot de Marseille) RWS, (Rider Waite Smith) and Thoth. My vision is a class of women helping women and my ulterior motive is to acquaint more women with TdM decks. Most people shy away from TdM because they are intimidated by it and I’d like to remove that barrier for you.
This class is ideally suited for people who want to learn the TdM style of card interpretation.
The one thing all genuine tarot decks have in common, no matter the tradition, is that they consist of 78 cards made up of essentially two categories or five suits. For now we’ll refer to these categories as the major and minor arcanas. If you have a deck with any other amount of cards, you do not have a deck of tarot cards. You may have an oracle deck masquerading as a tarot deck, but it’s not a tarot deck and this class won’t teach you how to read them.
Why listen to me?
I’ve been reading, researching, and collecting tarot decks for forty-three years, I’ve done a lot of research, and I’ve probably forgotten more than most people know, and I can save you years of study. As a matter of fact the information you’ll receive from this first class represents years of research, maybe a decade.
I’ll give you good advice.
I sincerely want to keep the art and practice of dignified card readings alive and I want more people to be quality readers, people who take it seriously. Too many people give tarot a bad name.
I’m not one of those people who give tarot a bad name. I’m not exploiting anyone and I’m not asking for anything in return for these free classes. I’m not making any money from this little enterprise and as a matter of fact, it’s costing me money.
Some of you may already have a tarot deck. Ask yourselves these questions:
Which of the primary systems has your deck been inspired by? Is it a pips style deck, (TdM inspired) or is each card fully illustrated as in the tradition of RWS or Thoth?
How did the deck you own come to be in your possession? Sometimes the story is very insightful.
For those of you interested, you may read about my first tarot experiences here.
Class discussion on tarot myths or rules have you picked up on along the way, such as:
Cards in general have an evil reputation. How did that get that reputation? (Abundant with Christian iconography they’re almost a road-map for virtuous living. So how on earth did cards in general get such a bad reputation by the church? My guess has always been that if you’re gambling, you’re less likely to have money to put in the coffers. I've never read this assertion anywhere else. But come on folks, always follow the money.)
What do you know about tarot storage? Are you supposed to wrap it in in silk or velvet, etc (This is entirely a personal preference, but 43 years later as a collector, I can say that I wish I never would have taken my first decks out of their original boxes and tossed them.)
Sleeping with it under your pillow (Another personal preference)
First deck must be gifted (Why surrender the thrill of choosing for yourself with a deck randomly chosen for you by another person? )
Charging and energizing decks, cleansing, etc (Personal preference)
Code of Ethics (Responsible tarot readers have a code of ethics and that will be one of your homework assignments. Here is my code of ethics)
What can tarot do? Is it about fortune telling? Is it a prediction of 'What Will Be', or is it 'Giving your Client a Sense of Empowerment?'
Sometimes a client will ask a question so obvious that you don’t even need to crack open the deck. I mean, it takes no psychic or intuitive talents to know that if a person puts their hand on a lighted stove they’re going to get burned. But sometimes a client can’t see the forest for the trees.
An example of this is a client who states that the guy she’s been dating for ten years and broken up with thirty times, cheats on her, and lives with his mother, but she continues to ask, ‘Is he my soul mate?’
She may already know the answer, but for whatever reasons, she doesn’t trust her own instincts or intuition. Maybe she doesn’t want to take responsibility for ending it. She wants permission and validation to leave, or maybe she wants validation that she’s doing the right thing in staying. Either way, she wants a course of action.
In this way, tarot is less about divination and more about psychological aspects of helping people think things through for themselves.
Tarot provides insight into who they are which is always seductive. People like hearing about themselves.
Here’s an unfair ethical question, unfair because you haven’t had enough experience to consider a proper response:
1) Would you tell the above mentioned client that you don’t need to pop out the tarot cards to answer her question, give her your sage advice to dump his sorry ass, and send her on her merry way?
Or, 2) would you agree to do a paid reading? (It sounds like a cruel thing to do, no? I mean, it’s kind of like taking candy from a baby, right?) BUT...
...She’s probably heard the same sage advice from her mother, best friend, sisters, and aunt Tootsie, and they’ve all dismissed her and told her to drop him. She’s been dismissed a dozen times already before coming to you. This question isn’t going to go away.
3) I would read the cards for her question, but that’s a risky proposition because what if the cards end up suggesting that he’s her perfect match? Then what, do you lie and give her a common sense answer? Is that cool? I mean, our job is to give honest readings, not to make stuff up.
First thing to remember is that tarot is wasted on yes or no questions. It can deliver much better responses, so explain to this client that a tarot reading can offer so much more than a yes or no response, and redirect the question with her permission, A better way to ask her question would be to something like, 'What characteristics does her ideal partner possess and where is she likely to meet him?' etc, then read the cards accurately for her, delivering the message they suggest.
This gives your client hope that there is someone better, It gives her an idea of where she might find a person better suited to her. It will give her a little extra pep in her step. It gives her validation for exiting the relationship or being responsive to the possibility that a better match is possible for her.
When she does keep her eyes open and ends up meeting someone wonderful, it will go down in her mind that the tarot reader's message came through. But was it really a psychic prediction, or was it more a case of giving sound advice that led to a best possible outcome for her? See my drift?
Do you need to be psychic?
It helps to be intuitive and to have psychological awareness as the above situation illustrates, and regular practice most definitely strengthens these qualities in a reader. There’s no doubt that some people are more adept than others. Some readers who aren’t especially intuitive prefer decks with an abundance of symbolism as a prompt to help them make connections between things. Maybe their interest lies in astrology and a deck with astrological symbolism will help them remember the meaning of a card. But those embellishments really aren't necessary once you have a firm grip on what the cards mean. And this course of six lessons with homework, will help you get there.
One thing for certain is that the more you practice, the better you get and the less you need to rely on symbols and memorization. In fact, this is one of the reasons why I love the TdM so much, because once you grasp the concepts, which are uncomplicated, there is nothing to memorize. It’s also very liberating for reasons I’ll demonstrate later in these classes.
The more you make tarot a regular part of your life, the more intuitive and connected you become. In a way, what people label as psychic is really a heightened sense of awareness, making connections, and keen observations that most people don’t make. Tarot is definitely a discipline that heightens your intuitive awareness.
So What is a Tarot Deck?
Tarot is essentially an additional 22 cards added to a regular deck of playing cards.
The evidence reveals that the earliest tarot decks came out of Milan in Northern Italy as early as 1410. Hence, TdM might be said to refer to, 'Tarot de Milan.'
We’ll get back to the history of tarot in a few minutes, but let’s look at the history of a regular pack of cards which comprises more than half of a tarot deck and has a pretty interesting history of its own.
Like today, a regular deck of playing cards from back in the earliest day, was a deck of 52 (or in some cases 56) cards which most certainly had arrived from points east. All the decks had 4 suits, which varied depending on the country it was played in, and 12 court cards. (In the case of a 56 base deck, there was an additional deputy court card which depending on the culture, may or may not have included a queen.)
Playing cards are a small, portable gaming device that can easily be carried around, and in times without television, video games and smart phones, it was a highly entertaining pursuit.
Card playing was probably spread throughout Europe from points east by soldiers. The most up-to-date research suggests playing cards originated out of Persia and spread east to China and west to Europe anytime between 1100s-1200s-1300s
No one knows the identity of the person who invented the concept of playing cards or for sure what they are based upon. That is lost to history for now.
Evidence suggests that the current fifty-two cards could represent fifty-two weeks in a year, the four suits could represent the four seasons of a year, and the twelve regal cards might have represented the twelve months of the year.
It’s uncanny that all these numbers do seem to relate to a yearly cycle, which makes sense when we consider how dependent humans are to understanding the cycles of the earth for our survival.
It’s been further speculated that the four suits might have also represented the primary class distinctions of whatever society it was part of.
One thing we know for sure, the deck relies heavily on numbers and numerology and they are symbolically enriched objects.
If these numbers were legitimately connected to reflect cycles of time on earth, and other features of the human experience, then the number of cards themselves would have been significant.
52, when reduced to 5 + 2 = seven. Did that mean anything?
We know that the #7 has had a sacred significance for eons across world cultures. (Check out my previous blog on this topic.)
The additional number of 21 cards of a tarot deck which essentially make up the 5th suit, is divisible by both 3 and 7, both numbers retaining spiritual significance across many world cultures and belief systems. (Yes, I know I left out the Fool, but he is most accurately a free agent, separate from both the major and minor arcanas.)
The 5th suit of tarot comprising of 21 cards results in 3 tiers of 7.
This is fascinating stuff when you consider that prior to games with cards, there were games with dice. Both card games and dice games are essentially, games of strategy, chance, and luck. (Just like a tarot reading, no?)
The sum of opposite sides of a di is 7 (1+6, 2+5, 3+4) and the total when you add 1+2+3+4+5+6=21.
Speculation could go on forever. It’s the ultimate mystery. But there’s no denying that both the regular deck of cards plus the additional 21 cards of a tarot deck all have numerical significance and similarities. Yes, the fool is an additional card but it is a card that is not part of either the major or minor arcana. He’s a free agent, he’s a wild card outside of any of the five suits. The tarot deck retains the 3-7-21 relationship
So back to tarot
What we do know, based on documented records, was that in 1410, the then Duke Visconti of Milan Italy, commissioned an allegorical trick-taking card game based on the Virtues, Vices, Temptations, and human archetypes of being, the stuff of human consciousness.
It was documented because it was a big sale. This deck was a hand-painted commission between a very wealthy patron and a skilled artist.
Visconti requested a deck that in addition to the then 56 cards of a regular playing deck, an additional 21 cards depicting classical allegorical images from antiquity be included. A wild card was also added. This appears to have been the commission of the first 78 card deck intended to play a card game that we now call tarot.
The four suits of this deck consisted of Chalices or Cups, Swords, batons, and Coins.
The 5th suit of 21 cards consisted of allegorical images from antiquity, such as the virtues, vices, and other states of the human condition. The Fool, was a wild card and most certainly has become the modern day Joker card.
These cards contained no words, just the images of the allegorical representations in the case of the major arcana suit, and for the pips, a quantity of images to represent that suit. In example, 4 cups om a card represented the four of cups, etc.
The word ‘tarot’ is of French origin. However, more accurately the deck originated in Italy was called Tarocchi or Trionfi or some variation of those words.
The French word ‘tarot’ is the word that captured the world’s imagination.
In modern times, tarot is still used as a deck for card playing, as well as for interpretation, and divination, but in Renaissance Italy there is no documented proof that the cards were ever read for divinatory purposes. This makes sense since fortune telling was considered a sin and punishable by certain jail time or execution. It doesn't mean that the cards didn't seduce some individuals to interpret them, only that no one was willing to advertise that they did.
Today, there are tarot game tournaments all around the world in much the same way that there are poker tournaments.
Class shown samples of the Visconti decks.
So Visconti either invented the game of tarocchi or modeled his game after a game he was already made aware of. No one knows for sure. All we know is that the first recorded evidence of the game of tarot is from Milan, in Northern Italy in 1410.
Over the years the Visconti family commissioned several decks that were passed down to each new generation . None of the Visconti decks have survived completely intact, but between all the decks, historians have been able to piece together a general idea of what a completed deck might have looked like. The oldest Visconti deck that has survived is from around 1440-1450ish.
The Visconti family had missing or damaged cards replaced by commissioning the best artists of the day, so the decks weren’t all painted by the same artist. It is also known that the people depicted in their cards were representations of their family members and ancestors. Curiously, none of the Visconti decks included The Devil nor The Tower, although other decks of the era did include those cards. For whatever reasons, the Visconti clan did not include them in their decks. The recreation/restoration decks we currently have of the Visconti decks all include modern day interpretations of how those two cards might have looked. The best ones are based on other Italian decks of that era and not based on the decks that came out of the last century, namely the influence of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
I mentioned earlier that there are two categories in a deck of tarot, the major arcana and the minor arcana. In the game of tarot, the major arcana cards trumped the pip cards, and for this reason they are sometimes referred to as trump cards.
Other Italian decks sometimes referred to as tarot are:
The Minchiatti Tarot, which was played with a 97 card deck and may have been a different card game altogether, or a variation on the game.
Tarot de Mantegna was a deck that wasn’t created by Mantegna and may have not have been a card game at all but may have been a deck used in the capacity of flash cards for youngsters to learn the classics.
Italy from 1440 to 1475, seems to have been a very prolific period for the game of tarot.
Other wealthy patrons commissioned one-of-a-kind decks expressing their personal interests, exalting their family history, or whatever agendas they had, which might explain the variation in number of cards in decks and the cast of characters that appeared on them in Italy of the 1400s.
By 1491, we know that the deck of tarot had become standardized in Italy and consisted of two categories (the major and minor arcanas), and a wild-card for a total of 78 cards. We know this because this is when the Sola Busca Tarot Deck was created.
Essentially, what makes a tarot deck different from a regular deck of playing cards, is a 5th suit and one additional court card.
The earliest Italian trump cards were not numbered or titled, but the Renaissance audience knew their playing order, what the cards represented, and their scoring value.
It is presumed that the four suits might have referenced the four class distinctions of Italian society: The clergy, the military, laborers, and merchants.
In addition to these parameters, a modern reader might have expanded meanings for what these suits represent. The following are general guidelines only and vary according to the reader and or the deck they use:
Cups: Emotional, social, or spiritual issues and sometimes romance, matters of the heart, art, and poetry.
Swords: Military, officers of the law, or positions of legal authority, aggression, quick thinking and communication.
Batons: Blue collar line of work, hands on craftsman, creative energy, hobbies and interests, sports.
Coins: Wealth, educated, cultured, home-life, material aspects of life, of the earth, nature, the better things that money can buy.
All of the above descriptions depend on how they relate to the client's question.
Some readers attribute seasons and times of year to each of the four suits and also times of the year and even cardinal directions. These are usually personal choices by the reader or designated by a deck creator and you’ll make your own designations later in this series. It is unclear if these aspects were ever intended when the deck was originally created, and was probably first considered by the occultists who used the deck for divinatory purposes.
When the game spread to other European countries, the deck became standardized in their cast of characters, (probably by French card makers), the sequential order of the major arcana was established, and titles appeared on the cards, in order to make the game of tarot easier to play.
But during the Renaissance, as I've mentioned, Italian decks didn’t always have the same cast of characters, nor did they have a standard order, which allowed them the flexibility to have game variations.
Only one card remained un-numbered and that was the Fool, and only one card remained untitled and that was Death.
The Fool was a wild card, and seems to be the ancestor of our modern day joker
The first numbered card of the major arcana is the Bateleur, or Magician, which is the least valuable trump card. The World is the highest valued trump card and is #21.
The imagery was the product of an unmistakably Catholic influence and they do have fascinating symbols that capture imagination. The symbols, at the time were deliberate, even if we can no longer immediately identify who they specifically reference or what they meant, but for sure, they were based on a God-fearing Catholic culture. Not everyone could read, but they all knew the stories and moral concepts that these cards represented.
In these original cards out of Italy in the 1400s, there is no reference to Egypt and only the most superficial references to signs of the zodiac, alchemy, or hermeticism as they applied to myth, and no kabalistic references whatsoever.
Primarily, the references were to Christian virtues and general moral concepts.
Aside from the possibility that individuals may have been interpretating the cards as a form of entertainment, there is no written evidence of them being used for divination, but, that doesn’t mean they weren’t used for those purposes, just that there’s no record of it. Certainly, it does not require a huge stretch of the imagination to imagine individuals sitting in posh Italian parlors and trying to make sense of the cards in an interpretative way.
It is easy to understand that these occasions went undocumented, because anything that remotely appeared to be heretical or blasphemous resulted in certain prison time or even execution.
Deck Shown: Cary-Yale Visconti Tarot Deck; The Golden Tarot Visconti Sforza Deck. Art created by Bonifacio Bembo and other artists.
Now for something a little different:
Shown: The Sola Busca Tarot Deck is the oldest, intact deck of tarot and was created in 1491, Italy. I referenced it earlier in my discussion. It is the first known printed deck, (carved in copper, intaglio printing in black and white) and the color applied by hand, either by the same artist responsible for the drawing or by a different artist.
It was a private deck commissioned by the wealthy Sola Busca family and was unknown to exist until 1907 when the Sola Busca family donated the cards to the British Museum.
Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith most definitely saw them. You will be reminded of this tidbit of information a little bit later.
More than one copy was made but it was not made for the general public. The Sola Busca was a wealthy family who could afford to have cards reprinted as they were lost or damaged.
It is constructed like a trick taking card game with the 22 cards and 56 suit cards.
The suits appear to be similar to a regular deck of tarot with swords, chalices, batons, and shields or discs in place of coinage.
But, it differs from other contemporary decks in that there are no religious references in it at all, in fact, the deck seems to reference the rise and fall Holy Roman Empire and is illustrated with military general, Roman heroes and other historical figures. (Alexander the Great and the Roman Emperor Nero. Even the court cards are historic figures.)
Another striking characteristic of this deck is that each pip card, the 1 through 10 of each suit, is fully illustrated and not just decorative.
In 2008, Nadya Chisty-Mujahid (Introduction to Western Esotericism) proposed the idea that the Sola Busca seemed to have characteristics of an initiation into a secret society. She observed that when the 22 cards are arranged in a circle, they seem to suggest a kind of movement from night to day further suggesting a type of illumination. Chisty-Mujahid put out the idea that it was an early form of the European group we now know as the Illuminati.
In Peter Mark Adam’s book, The Game of Saturn, 2017, he asserts that it’s actually a type of magical text book, containing instructions for creating magic spells for a secret sect, intended to bring material gain and worldly power through the use of black magic, human sacrifice, and paganism.
The French Tarot
Once the game of tarot emigrated to France in the 1500s, the game became instantly popular among French circles, and with the development of wood-block printing, card makers in Marseille began a highly lucrative business mass-producing the cards in woodblock prints. This is probably when they were labeled, numbered, and standardized for game play.
Due to the nature of the beast of block printing, artisans hurriedly copied images or completely misunderstood what they were looking at and fudged the artwork.
These inconsistencies sparked the imaginations of occultists who created ‘explanations’ for what these inconsistencies meant. Examples of this for a later class.
Tarot of Nicholas Conver 1760. Not the first TdM out of France and is actually a bit late out of the gate, but it’s particularly beautiful and is very popular due to its gorgeous pale blue color, and quality images.
It is not the oldest Tarot out of Marseille, and truth be told has some anomalies but it has good TdM bones and has a strong fan base.
You can see evidence of the Golden Rule which had been employed by artists in visual arts, sculpture and architecture of the time. For example, the length of most TdM cards is twice as long as its width.
Class shown the Tarot of Marseille Millennium Edition by Wilfred Houdouin.
This is a modern deck created by Wilified Houdouin, who believes he has returned the proportions of this deck back to its intended sacred geometry based on Metaron’s Cube. (Class is shown a diagram of Metaron's Cube.)
It seems highly unlikely that a mass produced deck of cards created in the 1600s exclusively intended for card playing would have aspired to implement the detailed symmetry of Metatron’s Cube.
But having said that, this recreation deck is gorgeous in its perfect symmetry and has many admirers. If any of you have an interest in the old scholl style of Marseille, you might consider this one.
Houdouin believes that it is the perfectly designed deck of Marseille, that was the intended ideal even if none of the historic decks ever achieved it.
One very interesting coincidence of his assertion is that the number of lines in a Metraton’s Cube is 78, the same number in a deck of tarot. And it illustrates how even today, researchers are determined to find an ancient divine connection to the cards.
Metatron is an angel in Judaism yet he’s not listed in either the Old or New Testaments, only the Talmud.
Metatron’s Cube is kind of like a DNA map of the big bang or creation of the cosmos and how everything is connected to everything else. Metatron’s Cube is thought to be a way for the supreme being to pass knowledge on to human beings.
It should be noted that this theory may or may not be true, the evidence for it is thin, but it is the vision of this particular deck creator.
Class shown the Ancient Italian Tarot aka Soprafino. 1830s. This deck is shown out of chronological sequence but intended to illustrate an example of other cards based on TdM style.
1JJ Swiss Tarot Deck, 1860 is also shown out of chronological sequence and based on, but not genuinely a TdM style deck.
Notice the appearance of Jupiter and Junon in place of the Pope and Popess, this is known as the Besancon style.
The 1JJ Swiss is the official deck used in Troccas tournaments (a Swiss variant of the Italian game of tarocchi.) The substitution of Junon and Jupiter was a politically correct adjustment intended not to offend either over-zealous Catholics or over-zealous protestants.
Deck shown: Out of sequence but roughly based on the same pip style of TdM cards, The Tarot of the Witches by Fergus Hall, US Games Systems Inc, 1976.
Originally created for the James Bond Film, Live and Let Die 1973. Not created by a tarot reader.
Shown: Le Tarot Noir created by Matthieu Hackiere 2013.
Notice the Two of Cups taking root, and death and the fool facing one another.
Notice the Fool and The Death card and how they have the opportunity to face one another if they fell in the correct sequence. The Soprafino deck also presents them this way.
The Fool and Death facing one another is rare, and random in decks, but it is my own personal opinion that it had always been the original plan, as they share an interesting relationship. The Fool is the card with no number and Death is a card with no name. The Fool is a liberated individual, and what is more liberating than Death?
Le Tarot Noir is a modern deck, that is not super strict about the Marseille tradition, but it was created by someone who had done their research. If you like this deck and want to buy it you might curse me out a bit because it isn’t readily available in the US unless you buy it on ebay, and it’s likely to cost in excess of $100.00 USD.
Big Names in Cartomancy (Primarily French)
Antoine Court de Gébelin 1725-1784 - A French Mason, he was the first to speculate that tarot originated in Ancient Alexandria, Egypt. He proposed that the cards were a kind of book, (Book of Thoth) and contained all the secrets of the universe.
These ideas arose out of a scientific and increasingly educated and secular population that was learning about the world. He created a tarot for his own purposes but he never published it.
Etteilla 1738-1791 (real name Jean Baptiste Alliette) -Within two years of de Gebelin’s published observations, Etteilla seized a grand financial opportunity by designing the first known deck specifically for occult and divination purposes that he released commercially, AND most significantly, he seized the opportunity to establish cartomancy as a viable profession and established himself as an expert in the field.
Etteilla claimed to have learned the art of divination from a little old Italian lady which suggests that although these big wigs were claiming they knew the secrets of tarot, they inadvertently alert us to the fact that women and others in the general population were already interpreting the cards, and in Italy.
By now, it is known that the nobility were not only playing card games for a hundred and fifty years, but that they were also seeking the services of fortune-tellers.
Think of the French Revolution and how desperate the upper echelon of French society must have been to know their fates and keep their heads.
Two Decks Shown:
1) Etteilla’s deck Grand Etteilla Egyptian Gypsies Tarot Notice the decidedly different ‘feel’ to the cards, the use of key-words, and designated meanings assigned to reversals.
Etteilla spread the idea that the “gypsies” not particularly PC, were people who originated from Egypt and therefore were the carriers of this secret knowledge. We now know that the Romani people were out of India, not Egypt.
2) Etteilla inspired deck The Book of Thoth. Created by followers of Etteilla.
Alphonse Louis Constant better known as Eliphas Levi after he translated his name into Hebrew. He lived from 1810-1875. Eliphas Levi was a French occultist who made his living by giving lessons in the occult and the practice of communicating with the dead.
Levi elaborated on the principals originated by de Gebelin, and further assigned Hebrew letters and numbers to the 22 trump cards of the tarot, because this concept particularly appealed to occultists who further elaborated by adding their own two cents to his system.
Oswald Wirth Tarot Deck. Wirth lived from 1860—1943 and was a Swiss occultist who created a tarot deck consisting of only the twenty-two majors embellished with occult Kabbalistic symbolism on the cards.
His deck was not shown in class and his name is only mentioned to illustrate the wide-spread European interest in occult and tarot.
Hermetic of the Order of the Golden Dawn (English) (HOotGD)
Was an Englishman who may have been a pupil of Eliphas Levi.
MacKenzie gathered all the information compiled by all the guys I just mentioned and intended to introduce this information to the UK, and create a secret society based on all these teachings.
Unfortunately, MacKenzie died before he could accomplish this, but by then his papers were made available to Free Masons who went on to establish the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and based the group’s practice on MacKenzie’s manuscripts.
The three founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn were: William Robert Woodman; William Wynn Westcott*; and Samuel Liddell Mathers. All were Freemasons. *Westcott appears to have been the initial driving force behind the establishment of the Golden Dawn.
MacKenzie’s work on tarot provided a floor plan for relating the 22 trump cards in tarot to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, establishing pathways on the tree of Life, and astrological correspondences. He lumped the Fool, the Wild Card into the category of the Major Arcana suit to make a connection between the 22 cards and the Hebrew alphabet. Some, myself included, might consider this association to be a forced one to fit his agenda. However, it makes sense and works for some readers, and so they've adopted this approach to tarot.
Keep in mind:
By the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, scientific study became more mainstream and more secular thinking was acceptable.
Secular orders began to attract people who were looking for something to believe in, but felt limited by the confines of organized religion of the day.
Occultists asserted that tarot was the Book of Thot, and truly predated the bible, and contained the secrets of the universe, why wouldn’t it capture public imagination and be more attractive to non-Christians or people rebelling against the Church?
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was restructured a few times due to a bit of a Machiavellian power struggle which almost certainly involved Aleister Crowley.
Fashionable members from every class of Victorian society belonged including celebrities which included women.
Actresses Sara Allgood, Florence Farr, and authors Bram Stoker, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne, Irish poet William Butler Yeats, the Welsh author Arthur Machen, and the English authors Evelyn Underhill and Aleister Crowley were all members of this organization.
A deck was created for use by members for ritual work and meditation but it was never published for the general public because it was a secret society and their deck was intended for their eyes only.
Deck Shown: Hermetic Tarot by Godfrey Dowson Technically, this deck is shown out of chronological sequence, but strictly adheres to the tarot conceived by the HOotGD. I think it was conceived and created sometime between the 1970s and 1990, long after the Order was dismantled and their secrets made public..
This deck was not used by the original members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, but once their papers were released to the public, Dowson was able to create a deck which followed their teachings to the letter of their law.
A E Waite 1857-1942, was an American-born British gentleman and poet who wrote extensively on esotericism, magic, alchemy and kabbalism. His work was well received by his academic peers. He was more or less a main-streamed proponent of the 19th century Spiritualist Movement embraced by polite society.
Waite was a devout Catholic and had distanced himself from the HOofGD, stepping away from ceremonial magick and rituals to pursue a more Christian mysticism. When he separated from the HOofGD, he created his own society order called the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross.
In collaboration with Pamela Colman Smith, Waite created the Rider-Waite Tarot.
This deck was somewhat inspired by the Sola Busca Tarot deck from the 1400s. Pamela was also a devout Catholic. Waite gave Colman Smith almost free artistic reign of the creation of the deck, but he did provide her with paramenters. Colman Smith was not as highly ranked in the Order as was Waite, so information given to her by Waite was limited, which is why she had so much personal creative range to interpret his parameters.
Pamela Colman Smith created the deck commissioned by AEW, and did it in about 6 months time and for very little compensation. In fact, she had to badger him to get paid.
Her name did not originally appear on the packaging until the 1960s, under scholar Gertrude Moakely's influence, but PCS was a clever girl and left her initials on each and every card. PCS
The deck renamed the characters to better jibe with the agenda of the order, ie. The High Priestess replaced the Papess and the Hireophant replaced the Pope. The Fortitude card was renamed Strength and switched positions with Justice to make it fit in better with astrology.
Aleister Crowley 1875-1947 was born into a privileged British family and raised in an extremist Christian society called the Exclusive Brethren lead by Preacher Darby. Darby preached the “Rapture,” the belief that people will literally be teleported into heaven during the second coming.
Crowley’s childhood could be described as one of abuse and he established a new kind of anti-Christian religion which was evidently a knee-jerk reaction to his extreme Christian upbringing.
He named his religion Thelema, and assigned himself as the High Priest. Crowley’s religion preached, ‘Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law,’ and he has more or less become an icon of rebellion and sexual freedom.
In fact sex was a major feature of his practice of magic.
Crowley had a non-relenting hatred of and competition of AE Waite, seemed to go out of his way to discredit Waite, and created a tarot deck which to outside observers seemed to be intended to overshadow the RWS collaboration. Crawley didn’t seem to have much respect for women, or anyone in particular for that matter.
Together with artist Lady Frieda Harris, they created the Thoth Tarot deck. Crowley was very hands-on with the creation of the deck and insisted Harris recreate some individual cards as many as eight times. The deck took five years to create. Unlike the Ride Waite Smith collaboration, the Crowley Harris deck was never published in either Crowley or Lady Harris’ lifetimes. In fact, it wasn’t published until the 1960s. Interestingly its release coincided with the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
Decks Shown: Crowley's Thoth Deck and the Thoth Deck Liber T
Although I presented the history of tarot to you in its correct chronological order it wasn’t until 1966 that the history of tarot was more fully understood.
In 1966, librarian and scholar, Gertrude Moakley was the first researcher to figure out that there was a similarity between the tarot trump cards and the triumphs of Petrarch’s poem of medieval Italy, which in turn was based on decorated parade floats depicting triumphs familiar to a medieval audience.
Take that in for a few moments. Of all that had been written by all the scholarly occultists, Moakely was the first to figure it out. And that wasn’t even until 1966. Btw, she died in obscurity at age 94 in a retirement home and has only recently been acknowledged for her contributions to the research in the history of tarot. She’s a mere footnote in most sources largely unknown except for tarot geeks. She’s also the first person to refer to Waite’s deck as the RWS cards, thereby including Colman Smith’s name on the deck.
Class shown images of medieval floats of a triumph parade
In her 1966 book The Tarot Cards Painted by Bonifacio Bembo for the Visconti-Sforza Family: An Historical and Iconographic Study, Moakley was the first honest and objective writer to place tarot in its proper medieval Italian context and strip away all the irrelevant occult references. Her interest was in the historic TdM cards, which were the closest to the source. Despite an appreciation for the Waite Smith deck, she basically recognized it as a contaminated deck with misguided symbolism.
Class participants will need to purchase a 78-card tarot deck to continue with this course. Amazon has a huge selection of tarot decks and will deliver them promptly.
If you buy a deck with any other number of cards, you have not bought a tarot deck and this class will not teach you how to use it.
Students will mix their cards thoroughly, lay three in a row, and ask the following question depending on whether you pull your cards in the morning or at night:
“What do I need to know about today/tomorrow?”
Record what the three cards are. Please, without looking up the individual definitions of the card, create a narrative based on the images on the three cards. Notice if the imagery seems to relate to anything going on in your life. Notice the numbers, colors, patterns, suits, and the directions that the images are facing.
Record your impressions of the cards and then later, compare the events of the day with the reading to see how they jibed.
Independent Research for those interested:
*Mary K Greer has provided a simplified set of rules for the rules of play on her website: https://marykgreer.com/2008/10/14/simplified-game-of-tarot/ *
Lessons #2 Comming Soon
Nostradamus and Tarot
The Lost Tarot of Nostradamus has caught my fancy.
When the mysterious Lost Book of Nostradamus surfaced in 1994, I remember reading about its discovery. At the time, the manuscript was met with some skepticism, was it an authentic article penned by the 16th century seer; or a product of his son, or other contemporary?
When the tarot deck of the same name hit the market in 2012, I confess to having a dismissive opinion of it based on reading those earlier articles.
Last week, I spotted a few card reproductions from this deck on one of the tarot social media platforms I subscribe to and this time it piqued my interest enough to reacquaint myself with the lost book and the cards associated with it. Imagine my delight when I was able to score a kit set (book and cards) for under $10.00 USD on Amazon. At that price it was virtually no gamble and I could not resist.
I'm kind of disappointed in myself for not having jumped on this deck earlier. By all accounts, the book does seem to be a legitimate product begun by the great man himself, with accompanying illustrations apparently sketched out by his son. It seems authentic enough to indeed consider this deck worthy of consideration.
Certainly the seer and tarot are a perfect collaboration. Cartomancy was widespread in Nostradamus' time and he would have been familiar with it. The eighty accompanying illustrations seem to coincide remarkably well with the seventy-eight cards in a tarot deck and it is not a far stretch to wonder if Nostradamus himself may have designing a tarot deck for his own use. It is now apparent that he died before this project, whatever it may have been intended to be, had been executed. So there are legitimate questions whether or not this body of text and imagery was indeed the conception of a tarot deck or something else. But the evidence is pretty compelling that he was working on a tarot deck and that's pretty exciting territory.
In the fifteen hundreds there was a wide variety of tarot styles and content. Tarot hadn't yet gelled into the more-or-less standard and recognizable format which it attained in subsequent years; we have copies of decks like the Minchiate and Sola Busca to bear that out. For this reason it should not be surprising that some of the tarot imagery that Nostradamus conceived of is not readily identifiable to us. Keep in mind also, that it was becoming increasingly treacherous to be overtly associated with astrology, astronomy, or other occult practices that challenged church beliefs. Since it is known that Nostradamus' quatrains could be understood on multiple levels, so why not too, his conceptions of tarot imagery be disguised to avoid an overt reference to what it truly was. Case in point, The Hanged Man which in this deck is represented by a slithering snake. In some renditions of The Hanged Man in other decks, the rope is actually a serpent. And really, isn't a rope a stone's through away from visually resembling a snake? Another unusual card is The World, which in this deck is identified as The Completed World. If you think of it as the Holy Grail sitting on the earth, representing the end of a long journey and realizing the ultimate truth, you get the idea. If you can think along these lines, the cards of the Major Arcana readily make sense.
The four suits take greater leaps from what we regard as the standard norm in tarot; There are Stars, Spheres, Suns, and Moons which seem to correspond respectively with Swords, Coins or Pentacles, Wands, and Cups. Each of the suit borders, including the borders of the Major Arcana have their own unique color. The majors are defined by gold, stars by mercury, lead for spheres, copper for suns, and silver for moons. It is in the borders that the creators of this deck took their greatest liberties but that is forgivable since they are seamless in keeping with the time and content and because their borders assist us in more readily distinguishing the suits. I believe it goes without saying that if you have any sincere interest in tarot, you need to know your Roman Numerals since all these cards are identified by them, even the court cards which are numbered XI to XIV; which brings us to the next very interesting deviation in the cards. The court cards are not identified as page, knight, queen and king (or some variation thereof), but rather they are identified differently in each suit. Stars are religious figures, Spheres are scientists or more appropriately for the time, alchemists. Suns are religious figures and finally, the moons are philosophers and occultists. It all makes perfect sense and really, not difficult to follow its logic at all.
The only things that bother me somewhat about this deck, is that the card quality is lacking, but coming in under $10.00 I can hardly complain. 0 appears on the Fool card, and since there is no 0 in Roman Numerals, it really should have been left blank to take its natural and fickle position in the deck.
Anyway, I'm five years late in reviewing this deck, and deck reviews are not something I usually do on my blog anyway. So this entry is a bit of an anomaly. I usually limit deck reviews to a quickie video in my Instagram feed @TheTarotReader, and reserve my blog entries for other discussions. But today, I made an exception, and it was a nice way to break the ice back into writing on my blog. The recent death of my mother has had me greatly occupied with very time consuming pursuits settling her estate, and this was just the diversion that the proverbial doctor ordered.
The Lost Tarot of Nostradamus may be purchased here.
2016 The Year of The Empress
Many people have lamented how 2016 took all the best people from us. I agree. 2016 was the year that claimed my mother.
A year to the day that I learned my mother had liver cancer, she slipped away into eternity. It was a #3 day.
I can't help but notice associations between things, particularly numbers. The Empress being the number three tarot card, the 3rd of the month, and even the year 2016 totals to nine, a multiple of three. Yes, for me, 2016 was the year of The Empress.
The Empress, is traditionally often associated with a bird, perhaps a vulture or an eagle. Despite there being no credible evidence linking tarot cards to ancient Egypt, the word and creature itself, 'Vulture' is linked with motherhood in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Is it a happy coincidence or a legit reason that a vulture, or an eagle type bird traditionally appears on the oldest and most traditional Empress tarot cards? That knowledge is probably lost to antiquity.
The Egyptians associated the vulture with the cycle of life and death and life again. There was even a vulture cult devoted to the eternal cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
When mom was sick, we had many, many conversations about the afterlife, supernatural occurences and things she felt she couldn't discuss with anyone else. Growing up she and my father called me their 'spooky kid,' the one that had a few too many unexplainable but uncanny experiences that made them wonder...
I promised mom that I would talk to her every day. She was worried that I wouldn't recognize when she was present, and she told me that she'd try to come back as a bird, or maybe even a butterfly, and that it would be during an unusual encounter with one of those winged creatures that I'd know she was present. The bird connection with tarot hadn't occured to me during our conversations, but in the weeks following her death I've had nothing but time to recount and reflect on our many conversations. Once the bird connection hit me, it made perfect sense that a winged creature was the correct symbol for mom, and the perfect symbol for motherhood. And the winged association fits in so perfectly with the Empress who is the tarot's embodiment of the best of motherhood and feminine maturity and lifecycle associations. I've had a few small bird and butterfly experiences since her passing, just enough to remind me of her ongoing and forever presence and relevance in my life. My daughter had the first encounter, a profoundly unusual experience with a butterfly at face level, following my daughter up the street the day my mother died.
When choosing mom's urn I looked for either birds or butterflies, and found one with butterflies. In my collection of charms and trinkets gifted to me from mom, the most recurring little trinkets she had given me were all winged creatures. Ceramic butterflies, metal or enamled humming birds, stained glass birds, etc. Even a little pin of an winged angel. In retrospect, winged creatures was the one recurring theme in gifts exchanged between us, and neither of us ever realized it during our years together or the conversations at the end. It was just our thing.
There is so much to say about mom being an Empress, but she possessed a touch of the High Priestess too, many of her secrets remain a mystery, and until the day she died she possessed a little of her childhood innocence. I never completely got though the veil. close, but not completely.
I know how brutal 2016 was for many of us, recounting the many celebrity lives that were claimed. How many of them can be associated with a winged creature, communication, or flight? How many can be associated with an eternal message, and the cycle of life? I'm guessing all of them.
I know of two other women who lost their mothers this year, making my personal awareness of mothers lost in 2016 at a total of three.
We might be inclinded to say Goodbye and good riddance to 2016. But let's remember, that in the wake of The Empress, means new life.
Happy New Year Friends. Happy 2017!
Blog Hop With Willows East
I thought it would be fun to participate in a blog hop hosted by Gretchen at Willows East.
The first question I've already answered in detail on my own blog, but my answer is a fun answer so I don't mind repeating it.
Q1) What brought you to tarot?
A1) The 1960s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows! In fact, it was the first time tarot was portrayed on American television. The deck was the 1JJ Swiss tarot deck, which was simply called, 'Tarot Deck'. And yeah, I bought it. It was my very first tarot deck. I was (and remain) an artist and always into the metaphysical, so the art work and it's dangerous edge is probably the primary reason I was sucked in. You can read about my first exposure to tarot here.
Q2) What deck is my favorite?
A2) That is a much more difficult question to answer. I will say that I tend to prefer TdM styled tarot decks because I swoon over the art work and I love the link to history. I respond to the old school tarot decks because that is what attracted me to them in the first place. The art and the mystery.
Q3) Link to your tarot business page, shop and/or explain the purpose of your blog.
A3) The purpose of my blog is to reach other readers or people drawn to tarot. There is already so much information out there that it can be intimidating to a beginner. I was a teacher for twenty years (Elementary Ed and also Art Education) and so it's natural for me to want to share what I know. It might also be the Leo in me. ;) In either case, I love writing and talking about tarot. It feels silly to provide a link to my website since you're already here, but as it was requested, here is a link to my tarot website, TarotClarity
Q4) What makes your journey or business unique?
A4) Lol, I do. There's only one of me! I cannot speak for anyone else so I don't know what makes me so unique or special. I can only say this about myself: I'm genuine, love tarot and have devoted forty plus years of my life to learning, reading, and teaching it.
As for my tarot journey, it's been an organic one. Tarot appeared in my life naturally and fit into my life as naturally as breathing. It's been a part of my life since almost forever.
I bring a strong skill set to the table. I have a genuine and deep appreciation for what tarot can do for someone. I've been told that my approach is calming and reassuring no matter what the message.
Part of that might be because I have an actual tarot parlor within my home where all my readings are done. Whether for remote clients or in-person clients I do all my readings in my tarot parlor. It's not a partitioned section of another room, not merely a desk against the wall in a bedroom, but a real, bonafide tarot parlor. I offer a really cool, somewhat bohemian experience for my clients. When they are here they really feel they are experiencing something special because they are. It's an elevated experience. I go through the same process for all of my clients, including my remote clients. I smudge the area, sometimes play low flute music because it centers me. It's always special when I read the cards. It's never a casual event. Sure, I will occasionally read elsewhere if I am visiting or traveling, or if I am hired to do a special event or for charity. Heck, I even do tarot pulls as part of wedding ceremonies as I am a professional wedding officiant licensed to marry people! But my day-to-day readings are all done in my tarot parlor which is truly a very cool room with a very positive vibe and energy. All my favorite crystal balls and stones, plants, crystal lighting and my entire tarot collection and books all in one place. Only items related to the practice of tarot are in that room. Nothing else. Its my favorite room in my house and it keeps me focused and in tune. The process is the same when I do a remote reading as when I do an in-person reading, in fact, I no longer have strangers come into my home. Remote readings (mostly mp3 readings) are becoming the norm for me. The only in-house readings I do are for people I've known for years.
As for my life's journey, it's been a pretty good ride so far. I've reared three terrific and well-adjusted humans into adulthood and now have an empty nest with lots of personal freedom. My husband and I travel a lot and sometimes I just can't believe my wonderful reality which I never take for granted. I just do the best I can to be a solid citizen and try to give more than I take. I aspire to do the right thing in every instance. I'm an imperfect person but I try to be my best self. I definitely try to live without regrets, people ALWAYS before things.
Q5) Ask your deck a question to share with visitors to this blog. Draw one card and share your response.
A5) I posed a question to the beautiful Ancient Italian Tarot deck and asked, 'What might it surprise my blog followers to know about me?' I pulled the Six of Cups. Before I comment on the meaning, gosh, just look at this card, isn't it gorgeous? How can anybody not love TdM? Just exquisite!
In a nutshell, The Six of Cups reveals me to be a nurturer with a sentimental nature.
Thank you WillowsEast for including me in this blog hop and I encourage visitors to my page to visit the bloghop there!
When I teach tarot, I encourage my students to wait until after the first lesson before choosing a particular tarot deck to learn from. My first lesson is in helping them figure out what deck will probably work best with their own sensibilities after introducing them to several deck examples and the philosophies behind them. Despite this suggestion, most students are eager to get started and typically always arrive with a deck in hand. Interestingly, they rarely show up with a TdM (Milan or Marseille) styled deck. The decks they have chosen may have been inherited from a family member who passed on, may have been found in a thrift store bin by chance, or simply purchased on a whim. Though there are advantages to purchasing a first deck after the first lesson, the positive aspects of students arriving with a deck in tow is that it is probably is that very same deck that piqued their interest in learning tarot in the first place. This is the first lesson in demonstrating that learning tarot in an organic way is beneficial. We aren't inclined to use decks that we aren't attracted to.
After that first lesson if my students haven't already chosen a deck, I will suggest that they consider buying a TdM styled deck because it will be a deck less likely to have been inundated by occult divinatory symbolism. Of course there will be symbolism and some of it will be unfamiliar, but these are the card images that sparked the creative imaginations of the occultists in the first place. They are the earliest tarot decks after all, which inspired the use of tarot for divinatory and cartomancy purposes by later occultists, so their symbolism will launch you as it did those who have come before you. The cast of characters of these earliest decks is pretty much the same as modern day with a few variations which are easy to discern, and the suits basically remain the same. I think of them more or less, as a pure state of tarot. I'd suggest a Visconti Tarot (Lo Scarabeo publishes one commercially for very little money) or a generic Marseille style deck which they also publish at little cost. Ancient Italian Tarot is an exceptionally beautiful TdM style deck also published by Lo Scarabeo for little cost. I do not have any monetary links to Lo Scarabeo so these are purely my own aesthetic opinion and not one motivated by self-benefit. U.S. Games Systems, Inc also have excellent options. There are a great many restoration or reproduction pre occult tarot decks available for purchase by a number of publishers. I just cited a few good mass-produced decks which may be purchased at little cost. If you are a very clever and ambitious person, you may consider printing out your own TdM style tarot deck in a manner that I describe in this previous blog post for next to little or no cost.
My first deck was the 1JJ Swiss Tarot Deck, a (more or less) TdM styled deck. It was the first deck that I ever laid eyes on at ten or eleven years old along with the rest of America when it first appeared on American TV on the Dark Shadows Gothic serial in 1968 or '69. I was a kid, but I knew there was something that I now understand as occult about them, but at that time I would have been limited to thinking of them as mysterious, maybe a little bit dangerous, and certainly not of the realm of normal daily suburban life. The idea that these cards existed got stored in the back burner of my mind. (After your finish this article, you can read about that experience here and here.)
Those articles describe my learning experiences with tarot. One of the advantages of being self taught is that one is at liberty to make associations between the cards in a way that make sense to us as individuals. You can shave years off the process with a great teacher. One of the benefits of having a great teacher or mentor is that she or he will guide you to see and learn, but not tell you what to think.
Being self-taught is probably a rarity today with so many 'Learn Tarot' type classes online and tarot information being so readily available, including this very blog. There are also so many tarot decks to peruse and so many modern day Etteilla's and Levi's trying to leave their mark on the tarot industry and maybe even tarot history. Information about tarot is everywhere you look for it. In some ways I feel sorry for beginner readers who have been deprived of learning tarot the hard way, but of course, it is very nice to read about others' experiences and to have access to all those great thinkers who went before us. If it weren't for the availability of online research of tarot knowledge and keeping up with books on the topic, I readily admit that my natural understanding would only have progressed so far. But there is pressure too, in having so much information available because it deprives an aspiring reader of the 'permission' to come to her or his own conclusions.
Having said that, in learning about the big thinkers of tarot of yesteryear; the occultists who first started organizing their ideas, one will see that some of their research was really stuff they either misunderstood, or even made up to give lineage and mystique to their new found interests and agendas. This lent authority to them in promoting their new careers as card readers and fortune tellers. That may sound like sacrilege, but it's largely true. Subsequent occult organizations have adopted the tarot and manipulated it to establish their own esoteric line of thinking and often created their own decks to reflect their own beliefs and lend credibility to their own particular style of tarot reading. Since they were all human after all, just as we are, their systems and logic are no more valid than our own, but since their decks reflect their own philosophies and agendas, we are often beholden to read their decks with their philosophies in mind. It is possible to ignore some images, glyphs, or symbols in a tarot deck if it disagrees with our views, but we cannot ignore it when we say it means one thing but the card image describes something completely different.
It may sound counter-intuitive to say this, but the major trump cards are less problematic to learn because their prototypes had been established hundreds of years before people began reading the pip cards, and even though some deck creators may change the major trump names names a bit, we all know who the key players of the major arcana are in a tarot deck.
Because there are so many decks based on so many philosophies, tarot decks do not share one universal divinatory or system of interpretation. A tarot newbie might just be getting used to one deck when she/he purchases a 2nd deck that has a different foundation philosophy. It can make the newbie wonder what is going on? Which is right? I will add my own two cents here by suggesting that some deck creators have jumped on the tarot card bandwagon opportunity without really having any real tarot background. So largely, yeah, they made stuff up as they went along. Other creators who have done research and have been reading for years also ascribe their own sensibilities and meanings to the cards. So yes, although more informed they too have created a deck that reflects their own ideas. That is probably why they created a deck in the first place, to have one that matches their philosophy of tarot. See where I'm getting at? When you really like a tarot deck, it's probably because by and large, we accept that particular philosophy. Every time we use a deck our readings are influenced by that particular deck.
Once you get your TdM deck, isolate the twenty-two major trump cards from the pips numbered ace through ten. You will see that the major trumps each have an illustration depicting a mythic or classical source. I encourage you to do your research and make it your business to learn what they reference. Excellent sources will be Paul Huson, Robert M Place, Christine Payne Towler and Ronald Decker who are among my favorite. You can thank me later. These authors will help you understand the original symbolism which in turn will help you understand the basic concepts at play. You may argue with me here and say, 'Wouldn't it be more organic for me to simply meditate on each card and allow a flow of consciousness unveil their meanings?' Yes, you could do that, and you should because you may come up with some fascinating meanings of your own. But I think too, that you will cheat yourself of the fascinating subtleties of tarot that will promote a central core of understanding. Medieval and Renaissance audiences knew the story, moral, or lesson inherent in each of the major trump cards, much like we could readily call to mind the story, and lessons of Pinocchio if we see an image of a wooden puppet with an elongated wooden or tree branched nose. True, without knowing the story of Pinocchio we might be able to come up with a compelling explanation for the image, but think of all the nuances of meaning we'd be depriving ourselves of.
Learning about the major trumps will be a fascinating learning experience for you. Unlike the pips, their inherent meanings are kind of set in flexible stone. Similar to learning the multiplication tables, once you invest in learning them you can expand on them to create some truly remarkable equations. By all means, also study the majors intuitively to come to terms with the ideas or concepts they represent to you. But yeah, it is incumbent upon the serious tarot practicioner to learn the classic identities of these twenty-two cards. They are the images that started the ball rolling in the tarot world and a combination of serious study along with intuition will be a terrific elixir for learning them.
The images would have been readily recognizable to a 15th century audience, who would have known exactly what lesson or story was being portrayed. These early cards are like a font, a source of information and glimpse into the ancient myths, stories and morals that helped civilization along the way. Truths that would have been evident to the people of their day and by virtue of time, that we may have forgotten. There are only twenty-two cards to learn this way and your solid understanding of them will enhance your ability to relate them to the numbered suit cards.
Despite not having illustrations depicting scenes, the pip cards, ace through ten, might actually be easier to form a more natural learning relationship with if they do not have illustrated scenes on them. Isolate each suit. Study the ace, the two through ten cards and the courts. Do this for each suit. What do you think of when you think of coins, batons, swords, or chalices? Do they call to mind any organic associations for you? Write them down. Do the sword courts remind you of any of the cast of characters in the major trumps? What about the rest of the suits? Jot your thoughts down, you are now beginning your first tarot journal.
Think of ace to ten as a progressive sequence, and it can be in either direction. Do the coins suggest material wealth or something else? Would you rather have one coin or ten? You might not feel that way about the other suits, you might prefer fewer swords if they feel threatening to you. Ask yourself these types of questions for each suit.
I have always associated the batons (or rods, staves, wands) and the swords with masculine energy since it was easier for me to think of them as masculine since they reminded me of phallic symbols. By default then, the coins and cups became the more feminine suits for me in tarot. Identifying the suits in this way will help you establish personality types, or even careers or social strata.
Cups really made sense to me as a feminine energy if we think of the feminine gender as being the vessel for potential life and the coins as a material and earthbound suit. But that is me, do the batons with their sprouting leaves remind you of birth and new life instead? Who's to say you'd be wrong if you chose them as female energy? It may not be the popular opinion, but if it makes sense to you it will stick with you.
My associations seem to be in alignment with some readers, but not all, just as yours will. You can determine things like directions, seasons of the year, etc. Later, you may subscribe to a deck with an affinity with astrology or other philosophy, but if you don't have an affinity for those philosophies going in, you can still learn to read tarot perfectly well by virtue of understanding the symbolism of the concept of the card. Astrological notations or additional markings can help you remember their meanings, but their meanings are already embedded within the classical image.
I figured out my directional assignments based on my own experience with the earth. I associated batons with fire (wood burns being my logic) and fire is hot. In my naivete forty plus years ago, batons made sense in the south where life is hotter. Cups for me was a no brainer for east, because cups are vessels that usually contain liquid. My birth origin and where I've lived most of my life is on the east coast of the United States, completely bordered by ocean on that side, so it was natural for me to associate cups with an eastern direction. By default then, swords and coins needed a direction and since I like things to be even Steven, Coins ended up being the feminine northern direction to compliment the masculine batons I assigned to the south and Swords became the western masculine energy to counter-balance the feminine cups I associated with the east. Having coins to the north also made sense to me because if it represented the physical world, there was more land to my north than to my south. Also, most of the winds that come to my region come from the west. So from my perspective these directional assignments made sense. My perspective would be different depending on where I lived, mightn't it as they had when western Europeans, began assigning their own directions (water with the west, where the water source was in relation to their location perhaps). You see, it's all about perspectives, isn't it? your perspective might be quite different, so go for it. If it doesn't make sense to you, it probably won't stick.
Eventually, I began to see the suits in terms of seasons of the year, not for predictive purposes, but for being able to tell what stage a situation might be in. If you think of winter as an end stage and spring as a birth stage, you might associate seeing higher numbered cards of a suit as being toward the end stage of a situation and lower numbered cards of a particular suit as the beginning stages. You can see how making associations between the suits and the seasons might be helpful to this end. Look at the pip suits, what feeling do you get from them in regards to weather? Think of your own geographical location as inspiration. Do you live in summer-like tropics all year? Which of the suits remind you of your own landscape? Maybe not the swords, but maybe the blossoming batons or over-flowing cups? (And if you would pick swords, you'd be in good company. Learn about Eudes Picard who associated swords with water in his Great Esoteric Tarot.) What about things like personality traits, professions, and the arts? What about science, literature, music and painting? Who are the people who have swords, or what do swords conjure up in our minds? Justice maybe, law and order, or something else? What about cups, batons and coins? Do this kind of meditation with each of the suits until you come up with logical associations in a variety of categories for them.
Most TdM style pips, especially the older ones I've mentioned, seem not to have too many associations with seasons or directions and for this reason lend themselves to allowing a reader to come to her or his own conclusions. Once a reader has their own understanding down pat, it becomes easier to switch to a different deck even if the deck's creator has different associations or embellishes the decks with symbols or glyphs that the reader doesn't recognize. That is part of the organic learning process. If you like the deck you will learn about the additional symbolism which you may adopt as your own or you may not ending up agreeing with it at all. But the point being that you have the faculties to either embrace or reject concepts based on your own genuine understanding and relationship with the cards. In some decks the addition of glyphs and other symbols might help you remember some aspect of the meaning of that card that eludes you. Perhaps the astrological references in some decks help you remember aspects of a card meaning if you already have an understanding of astrology or it may prompt you to learn. In other words, learning with a TdM deck allows you great flexibility in being able to learn a different style of tarot once you become proficient.
Starting to learn tarot from one of the illustrated decks such as a RWS style might have obvious advantages, you don't really have to think too much, the image is right there;
But (you knew there would be a but) it becomes less fluid to then try to read from a TdM style deck when your mind's eye is trying to conjure up individuals in a particular scene. See what I'm getting at? I tend to think that learning tarot with a TdM style deck allows easier transitions when learning other styled decks. If you can read TdM in other words, you can read anything and it's probably the easiest deck to learn, if you learn it in a natural way.
At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
If you have enjoyed my article, please share it, or leave a comment. I'd really appreciate that.
Decks may be found from left to right, DarkTarot LoScarabeo and UsGamesSystemsInc
Dark Tarot Deck
Yippee Skippy and Yay!
Something happened that I don't think has ever happened before! I actually won something!
OK, everyone who participated in the contest actually won a deck, which speaks of the generous nature of its hosts, the folks over at DarkTarot.com and Benebell Wen who hosted the contest.
The card size is 2 3/4" x 4 3/4" and the card-stock is flexible with a mat finish. I mention these things because although they are not available for purchase, they may be printed directly from the site onto your own card-stock.
There are two tarot decks available for free printing at the site and I'm guessing you could scan the images onto a tarot template at a self publishing card site such as makeplayingcards.com and have your own copy of the deck printed. (I'm guessing this is how my deck was made since it came boxed in a simple white tuck box with a clear cellophane window typical of self-publishing deck sites.)
It is a TdM style deck as shown in my photograph. Pip cards Ace through Tens are decorative but do not illustrate any scenes. I am currently in the process of writing a blog encouraging beginners to learn to read tarot with a TdM style deck and this, in my opinion, is a terrific TdM deck to learn with. I'll have that blog up and running within a few days. Talk about perfect timing and synchronicity! But back to this review...
The art appears to be the creator's own line-drawing and watercolor rendering of old school tarot decks. The backgrounds of all the cards are a golden yellow, a little darker in each of the four corners. Its execution has a bit of a charming naivete about it. There are no color associations for each suit and overall the deck is homogeneous in execution with shades of reds, greens, and blues.
The higher trump cards are unnumbered which is unusual but liberating and consequently doesn't commit Strength or Justice to either eight or eleven. All the major trumps are identified by name at the bottom of each card, featuring The Popess and The Pope in place of The High Priestess and The Hierophant. Interestingly the Death card has a name which is unusual since in old school decks it tends to be unnamed but numbered.
The backs of the cards appear to reversible and if they aren't, it's so subtle that I can't readily tell. A simple line drawing of a large sun with a smaller sun in each of the four corners.
All in all a lovely deck which I am delighted to have won and thrilled to add to my collection.
If you'd like to print your very own copy visit DarkTarot.com and click the 'More' tab to check them out!
Permission to use images graciously granted by respective publishers. Top card images are © Lo Scarabeo srl – Italy. All rights reserved; Lower card images by Orbifold Tarot created by Michael Bridge-Dickson Tarot Deck - 80 Cards - Self Published 2015. Links to respective decks provided in content of article.
From one of the very earliest existent tarot decks, the Visconti Tarots, to one of the most recent of the modern age, The Orbifold Tarot, tarot has been making use of symbols, colors, numbers, and elemental associations to get its point across. Whether it was to merely play a card game, divine the future, or to assist a questioner with helping her or him navigate their way through a challenging situation, tarot's essence remains remarkably intact
Although the earliest tarot decks sometimes varied in number from today's accepted 78, most of the key players remain intact and the oldest decks have more similarities than differences with modern decks.
From the three cards chosen at random in the image above, the basic ingredients have not changed and one might even see visual similarities between the respective cards of these two decks separated by about 550+- years. Even more similarities might be seen in comparing The Orbifold to any other random tarot deck.
Granted, without the names on the Orbifold, it might be difficult to impossible for a reader to initially recognize the figures of its modern design, but we have the benefit of title and number on each of the card fronts, as well as the colors identifying the energy and elements behind each card, so this is not a handicap. The latter benefit is something consistently missing from most other decks and in this way lends itself very well to a newbie tarot reader.
My tastes have always been old school tarot, and my interests in tarot have never been superficial. I've always been as much interested in learning where and how tarot came to be as I have been interested in honing my skill as a reader. In fact, my understanding of the cards could not have happened without an evolving addictive interest in learning what significance each card had during its formative years.
Which brings me to my next point, The Orbifold Tarot is an intelligent and well researched deck that cuts to the chase or a reading. It may not be everyone's aesthetic cup of tea, but there's no denying that is is a well thought out deck that nails its essence.
I've read many comments referring to The Orbifold as an advanced deck, and one not for the beginner, but I couldn't disagree more. Just look at the three random cards above, Judgement, The Chariot and The High Priestess. Just from first glance you know the name of each card, it's number, and the colors which consistently identify their respective elemental associations.
Being able to identify the elements without much effort is this deck's greatest learning feature.
I first learned tarot from a TdM style deck, so it was necessary for me to assign meaning to the numbers and their suits from the get-go. It made total sense to learn that way because the meanings make sense when you understand the motivation, the energies behind each card. When I finally purchased a RWS deck, I remember sometimes feeling a bit frustrated adjusting my meaning to a card when the images on the cards just didn't jibe with the meanings that I had assigned to them, especially to the pip cards. Neither the TdM or RWS deck readily informed a new reader of a major trump card's elemental associations unless the reader was well enough read and knew the astrological or alchemical associations that linked a major trump to its elemental influences. The pips naturally, were easier to assign because basic understanding of the cards four suits would let a reader identify the primary energies at play. But even then, picking up on predominant numeric and elemental influences only happened if the reader was astute, and wasn't too distracted by the art on deck they were using. There is no escaping these influences with The Orbifold.
I've read comments by other readers in forums that even after decades of reading tarot, they still visualize the images on the RWS when reading from a deck other than the RWS format. How much easier if they just knew what the card meant without trying to conjure up an RWS stock image? And this is what The Orbifold Tarot allows immediately, thus effectively letting a reader see the primary influences at play at first glance.
Looking at all three cards above, you immediately know that Judegement and The Chariot are driven by the same elemental principles of air and earth and that The High Priestess is driven by fire and water. We don't get that from the Visconti Tarots. (OK it would be a valued point to say the earlier deck wasn't necessarily read as a divinatory deck, but their allegorical and therefore elemental associations are present nonetheless.
If the above three cards were actually a three card reading, you would immediately see that all four suits were represented and to what degree, even though not a single pip card were present. Granted, a reader might argue that they assign the elements to the major trumps differently than The Orbifold, but if you're a newbie just learning, you're still probably going to identify with the system you learned from until you come up with your own system that seems more right to you. But your personal elemental assignments probably won't differ all that much and The Orbifold's associations are as good as any to learn from.
Despite The Orbifold elemental associations to its respective majors, the abstract images of the majors might be a bit more challenging to the new tarot learner, which is why I recommend learning The Orbifold alongside another deck, much in the same way I laid the two decks out in the photo. In fact, when I teach my next tarot class or individual student, I will probably pull out my Orbifold as a study guide for them, to help illustrate and drive home the whole elemental associations point.
As of this moment there is no book for The Orbifold, but I do not think that is an issue for a new learner. The pamphlet is as brilliantly precise as the deck, and it's numeric and elemental assignments are as good as any that I've come across. Once you grasp the associations between numeric and elemental meanings, you're pretty much on your way. This deck and the pamphlet makes quick sense of the process and probably could save years of trying to figure this stuff out, because it's all immediately visual and requires no memorization. In fact, without any predetermined images or distracting keywords, this deck allows a reader to learn on a very personal level. Which makes it more meaningful and easier to learn. I should mention that Michael Bridges-Dickson produced many youtube videos in support of his deck for learners that need extra support.
Perhaps in a few decades it will be read in forums that readers visualize The Orbifold colors in order to readily recall what elemental dignities a particular card is associated with.
More about The Orbifold Tarot may be found at the Orbifold Tarot Website. More about Lo Scarabeo products may be found at the Lo Scarabeo website.
OK, so I admit it. I can't resist a good horse race. I'm tuning into the Preakness Stakes later today and I'm making my almost compulsory tarot prediction. Yeah, I know intellectually that there are too many variables for a sane tarot reader to make a prediction on a horse race, but I simply cannot resist.
A pair of nines and a page that is kind of like an eleven.
Nyquist (the winner of the Kentucky Derby) is again the preferred and projected winner of this race and is coming out of gate #3. A pair of nines kind of pounds that exaggerated 3 home. However, a pair of nines, as I mentioned, is kind of an exaggeration isn't it, and since there is a horse named Exaggerator coming out of gate #5 I might be inclined to choose Exaggerator over Nyquist.
The last card, the page,makes me think that Stradivari will have a decent placement in this race and give them all a run for their money.
One might ask why I am not mentioning the horse coming out of #9 Gate, Abiding Star. With 30-1 odds, I am passing on this one. I have been learning from watching these races and I am now beginning to understand the process a little bit more. My last prediction for the Kentucky Derby was bet on the #8 Horse, Lani who had these same 30-1 odds and only placed 9th in the overall race. And I'm still kicking myself for ignoring the fact that the 1st card I drew was #13, the gate which was assigned to Nyquist . So you see, a bit of an educated guess enters into the process. Had I understood better how it all worked at that time, I might have made a more accurate prediction. (Not necessarily, but I'd like to think I would have.) (You can read about my lKentucky Derby faux pas here)
So as tempting as it is to say #9 will be the winner, I have to use some horse sense and eliminate Abiding Star completely from the winner's realm. Had The Star card appeared in this spread I might have been tempted to choose Abiding Star, but not today.
So who am I ultimately predicting as the winner?
The Nine of Cups and the Nine of Wheels, kind of says to me, rain will affect the legs.
So, drum roll please.....My prediction is Exaggerator for today's win, even though Nyquist is the projected winner. Exaggerator, might have a slight edge over Nyquist when it comes to wet weather. There is no question that Nyquist will undoubtedly place high and maybe I'm a fool for not going with Nyquist, but with those particular two nines which I interpret as water and legs, and with the exaggeration of repeating nines, my prediction is Exaggerator.
Of course if there's no rain, I'll probably be kicking myself in the arse tomorrow.
The edition of this featured deck is out-of-print but was published by Llewellyn Publications. Information on this edition may be found at: www.llewellyn.com and the new incarnation of this deck may be purchased through Galde Press.
For the past few years my husband as gotten me hooked on watching the Kentucky Derby Race with him. Last year, for the first time, I had decided to make a prediction for the winner using the cards. It is an exception to my usual habit of not doing predictive readings. Last year my prediction was spot on.
This year, despite in-my-face clues to the winner's identity, I predicted incorrectly.
In an ironic twist, I often tell my clients that predicting the future is a lot like predicting a horse race, there are so many variables that have nothing to do with our own free will, though certainly our own actions do contribute to how many of our own life situations play out.
But in the case of a horse race, the outcome has nothing to do with any of my own actions and frankly, guessing a horse race is well, just as unreliable as guessing on a horse race!
Of course I realized this before posting my prediction and I knew I only had a 1 in 20 chance of guessing right. In fact, I was pretty certain that my guess would not be correct. But in the spirit of fun I did it anyway and now, in retrospect, I see it was a very interesting learning process about the predictive nature of tarot.
For those of you who did not read my prediction when I posted it Saturday morning, you may read it here, but I will summarize in the account that follows.
The day prior to making my 'official' predictive Kentucky Derby reading, my daughter (also a tarot reader) and I decided to make a joint effort at predicting the outcome of the race. We pulled cards simultaneously and ironically got similar feeling cards like Death and the Tower for card 1, and we both pulled an 8 for the 2nd card. We interpreted this to mean that there would be an upset, or an unusual occurrence. We tried a 2nd time because we could not agree on which horse we thought it represented, and again we both pulled an 8, I again pulled Death (#13), and my daughter pulled the Six of Wands which in her particular deck was represented by a newspaper headline with a huge news event. This time we again felt there would be an upset because of the 2nd Death card that I pulled, that would cause breaking news because of her newspaper image, and we associated it with a horse named Suddenbreakingnews. But the eight that we both pulled both times made the situation very confusing. We thought about the card meanings into the next day, but had no real inclination for who would win. In fact, it occurred to me that this year, the outcome of the race would not be mine to know.
On the morning of the races I made my final prediction with three cards from the same deck that I had success with the year before. Those cards were: #13 Death, The #1 Ace of Coins, and again, the #8 card. In that deck the #8 card was represented by Strength, not Justice as it is represented by the cards used for this photo.
Now, Death #13 was the first card I pulled and I admit, I should have paid more attention to it since I had pulled it consistently two days in a row along with the 8. But again, I interpreted the cards to illustrate Death as a sudden upset, the Ace of Coins as the winner's circle, which all had something to do with the horse out of Gate #8. And so whatever horse was in Gate #8 was where I placed my prediction.
In a kick-in-the-teeth scenario, when we tuned into the race, we saw that in the race immediately before the Kentucky Derby race, the #8 horse won. During that race, two horses and their jockeys were felled, which was quite a bit of an unexpected upset.
I knew right then and there that two horses from Gate #8 were very unlikely to win two races in a row, and the odds of another upset were slim to none. But it seemed to be some consolation when we learned that Lani, the #8 horse in the Kentucky Derby race was a bit of a bad-ass horse, so bad that in fact, that he had to be separated from the other horses so that he would not upset them or distract them before the race. It was with this in mind that I rooted for Lani coming around the stretch, hoping beyond hope that he would be the shocking winner that would upset the projected winner's winning streak.
But alas, the #13 horse, Nyquist was the undisputed winner. There was no upset at all, Nyquist was the projected winner and the race was pretty much text book perfect.
Although the information was there all along in the cards, I did not interpret it the way it played out. The #13 horse pranced to the winner's circle #1 position while the #8 horse served no other purpose than to keep me humble.
Gotta love tarot.
I'm not one to encourage predictive tarot, in fact, I discourage it. So it may come as a surprise to some that the one predictive challenge that I will partake in regarding tarot is the Kentucky Derby Race.
I am not a gambler so there is no money in it for me, but heck, since I'm a tarot reader I am allowing myself this small annual predictive indulgence.
I only began making tarot predictions on the race beginning last year, and to my delight, my predicted horse won. (Read last year's predictive blog article here) Granted, that particular horse was the favorite to win, but lots of horse racing experts made predictions that said that American Pharoah would not win. The winner of a horse race is really anyone's guess. Despite my enjoyment in watching the race with my husband every year, I do not follow the horses all year nor do I understand statistics or the odds making process. So my prediction process is strictly visual and based on my understanding of the cards.
My daughter came for a visit this past week and we got to talking about my success in predicting last year's winner. It's a bit daunting to make an advanced public prediction especially when its associated with a professional reputation. But one thing about being a tarot reader is that we often go out on a limb to speak what we see even if it isn't always what ends up happening.
Although my 'official' draw for this race is only done in the hours before the race, yesterday we decided to try our hand at a joint predictive pre-pre-race effort.
I used the deck I used last year, the Buckland Romani Tarot, and my daughter used the Zombie Tarot. We pulled cards together from our respective decks with uncanny results. Last year's winner was no fuss, no muss. I pulled three cards and the winner was evident to me immediately. But during our little experiment yesterday we had no such luck. In fact, there was no apparent connection to any of the horse names, at all. It was very confusing and it became clear to us that the winner was not presenting itself to us by an association to its name. However, there were a few consistent elements that popped up in everyone of the four or five draws, and that was an implied upset, and the #8. Interestingly, the number eight appeared for both of us, every time.
It clearly appeared that there would be an upset, and we both got the impression that something unusual might happen. We decided that something was up with Gate #8. Lani is the name of the horse who is slated to be running from Gate #8. So we decided that based on our results, something unexpected might happen from Gate eight, or, that whatever horse running from Gate #8 when the race takes place is the likely winner. I don't know if horses can change gates after they are posted in the paper, but if they do, Gate #8 appears to be the gate to watch. We were more connected to the number eight this time than associating the winner by its name which is how I predicted the winner last year. The only possible winner that struck us by virtue of its name was Suddenbreakingnews who is slated to depart from the #2 gate. We thought that Suddenbreakingnews might be a viable placement winner because the accompanying cards that appeared with the eights all suggested an unexpected turn of events. The Tower, the Death card from my deck, and the Six of Wands from my daughter's Zombie deck (which has an image of a newspaper with sudden news) all suggest some type of upset. We concluded it either was a possible indictment for Suddenbreakingnews to win, or that the #8 horse would do something considered big news, like be an unexpected winner. Of course it might be a suggestion that the #8 horse might be injured or some unfortunate development might result from gate 8; but since our intent was to predict a winning outcome, we were inclined to focus on a more positive outcome.
This morning, I did my 'official' predictive Kentucky Derby drawing and using the same deck I used last year (if it ain't broke don't fix it), I pulled three cards. The cards shown in the photo for this article are the three I pulled; Death, the Ace of Bolers or Wheels (Pentacles), and the #8 arcana card which in this case is Strength. Interpreting these three cards, The Death card again suggests an upset, (as we picked up on yesterday), the Ace of Bolers (pentacles) suggests a winner's circle or at least a chance at prosperity and very clearly, the #8 made it's appearance again!
Therefore, I am inclined to believe that the cards are suggesting a win for Lani, or whatever horse runs from the 8th gate, and/or, that something surprising occurs out of Gate #8. (And maybe Suddenbreakingnews will come in the top few.)
It is also possible that after the race these results will make sense in a way that I had not understood, but that's what going out on a limb is all about.
Fingers and toes crossed. Good luck everyone!
The 8 Ball Made Me Do It!
Look familiar? Raise your hand if you've ever owned a Magic 8 Ball. It's something that I bet a lot of you have owned at some point in your lives. This is my 2nd one. My first one was a Christmas gift to me from my parents in the 1960's. My sister filched that one from me when I went off to college in the 70's. This is the one I replaced it with soon thereafter.
The Magic 8 Ball is not the first form of divination I used, that honor probably goes to those paper origami fortune tellers we used to make in primary school to learn which boy or girl we'd end up marrying, or whether or not we had cooties. But the Magic 8 Ball was the first slick, mass-produced device I ever owned that validated the premise that the unknown might be revealed if you only asked. The Ouija Board joined my arsenal soon thereafter, and then of course as I became more sophisticated I ultimately chose Tarot as my preferred method of tapping into the unknown. But in those early innocent days, the Magic 8 Ball ruled as a kid friendly, non-threatening device that would answer all my pressing questions.
Born in the late '50s but reared in the '60s, the world was pretty unstable during my impressionable years. My father had orders to serve in Cuba in the battle of the Bay of Pigs before it was determined that no Americans would be sent. That was pretty frightening while it lasted. President Kennedy was assassinated, followed a few years later by his brother. The Vietnam War (though it was only called a 'conflict', was on the evening news every night during dinner. My cousin was killed in Vietnam three weeks before his tour would end. The Civil Rights Movement made us all aware how bad things were for some of us, and Dr King, the man so many of us looked to for the answers, was also murdered. Sharon Tate's murder and the Manson Family freaked everyone the hell out and The Beat-les(s) music made grown-ups crazy while all that hippy drippy free love shenanigans at Woodstock gave the 'establishment' (anyone over thirty) a headache. The world was changing very quickly. The status quo of the old regime was threatened and eventually conquered by rebellious youth. Conflict and uncertainty was the order of the day.
It's no wonder then, that so many of us youngsters from that period of time played with the The Magic 8 Ball. It offered us a little respite, a fun diversion from the rapidly changing world. For a brief twenty or thirty seconds the world's problems were suspended as we anticipated affirmation or denial of our burning and admittedly trivial questions. Funny that I don't recall how often it was accurate. It didn't really matter. It was fun.
Fifty years later, I still have room for its charm in my life. Perhaps both a bit of comforting nostalgia and a nod to the beginning of my life-long tendency to search for the elusive truth in what we perceive as reality.
Though it's limited with only 20 responses that only apply to yes or no non-critical questions, the familiar device is still sometimes just what the doctor ordered to settle burning disputes like, 'It's my husband's turn to clean the toilet, right?'
Anyway, here's to you Magic 8 Ball!
Tarot in the Modern Day
Modern Day Tarot is much like Modern Day Language. It's based on antiquity, the input of our ancestors to codify communication. Through the centuries it is tweaked, made less charming perhaps, for a need for speed. No one would confuse modern day American English with the King's English. It is a language which has evolved, grabbing words and phrases from foreign parlance along the generations. It thrives and will continue to thrive for this reason.
Still, as a person who appreciates the understanding of how stuff works, it makes me cringe when I read, I should of done this or that, instead of, I should have. Our abbreviated speech patterns have abbreviated our writing skills and command of the language. It's and its are rarely used properly, and forget plural possessives. It seems that when in doubt, people will throw an apostrophe in random places just in case. And don't get me started on there, they're, and their.
Why does it bug me? After all I can still understand what is being communicated most of the time, but not all of the time. In order to communicate effectively, or even to be taken seriously in many situations, a fundamental understanding of how language works is vital to communicating effectively and having command of one's language. When learning a foreign language we learn the structure first.
I've said it numerous times in the content of my tarot blogs, that tarot is a lot like language. And like modern day language, there seems to be a lot of sloppy shortcuts taken with tarot.
Tarot's roots are largely shrouded in mystery which is part of its allure, and granted we will never know all its secrets; but for one who seriously studies tarot there is still a wealth of fascinating well-researched history available to allow a practitioner to have greater command of this wonderful practice. Now more than ever, tarot has been embraced by the world across many cultures. Lots of new people are learning the language of tarot.
And like learning to read, write, and speak a language with greater proficiency than merely being able to ask where the library is or if your friend likes the meatballs, I maintain that if one wants to make a living as a tarot professional, then one needs to make the commitment to unveil the many layers of tarot in order to learn it and practice it with proficiency beyond the basic knowledge of a language 101 class. I'm not talking about people who only want to learn the basics for self-actualization or out of curiosity. I'm talking about people who claim to be professionals making money from the practice.
Similar to a practicing 'witch' for want of a better word, at least for me, tarot is a way of life, It's a path. You either are or aren't genuine. You can't buy it in five easy lessons. It is a life-long commitment to a practice. Sure, we can exchange ideas with others, and even congregate and meet like-minded individuals for discussion and knowledge, and yes there is value to being mentored. Heck, I've mentored many students myself. But there is no magic wand or genuine entity that can say, 'You have arrived.' It takes more than what can be learned from a book or a course. It takes understanding that all things are connected. It takes intuition and being able to tap into the pool of human unconsciousness. It is a meditative and reflective practice that can't be learned in eight weeks.
And that brings me to my next point, Tarot has also become big business. Websites and webinars are everywhere, and not just tarot reader sites for getting a reading such as my own, but big business tarot sites. Sites that promise to teach the mystery of the tarot. Shortcuts to the learning process. Videos and online courses. It used to be that a reader earned her or his living through the practice of reading tarot, not selling it on the mass market. Today it seems that more professionals are making their money with the promise of selling tarot skills rather than by doing it. It's tapping into the mentality of, Why walk the walk when you can buy it for a price?
One of the reasons I am writing this particular blog, is out of frustration from a dialogue on a professional tarot forum. A forum of supposed professional readers, i.e. people earning money in the tarot field, were oohing and awing over a photo of a Medieval or early Renaissance painting of a pope and it's similarity to The Hierophant as though it were a grand revelation.
The most basic superficial research will reveal that connection. I was stunned by what seemed to be the most basic and obvious connection being a true revelation for so many 'professionals'. I was unable to bite my tongue and said so. Of course I was admonished for it with responses like, 'This It is a supportive group,' etc, I backed off and left the argument. I sometimes forget that we live in a society where everyone gets a trophy.
It pains me to take a snarky attitude because I strive to be a kind and compassionate person; but I think sometimes one must speak out on certain occasions. It bugs me that the bar isn't very high especially among those claiming to be in the higher tier of a study or practice. I'm kind of disgusted because understanding seems to be largely superficial even among professionals earning money by the practice.
Parallels made between The Hierophant and a medieval pope should not be an 'aha' moment for people proclaiming to be professionals in the field of tarot. That's all I'm saying.
Maybe this is because some modern tarot decks represent The Hierophant as an animal or some other image not related to its roots. This in and of itself is fine and evidence that tarot is evolving. But wouldn't a serious practitioner of tarot, certainly one earning a living at it, make it her/his business to know the basic concepts behind the Hierophant, The Fool, or any of the other cards?
Of course it can also suggest that some readers don't take the time to read beyond a particular deck's accompanying literature. Reading with one deck proficiently does not make one a master reader. Every deck is different, even cloned decks have significant differences from the mother deck. A master reader can read from almost any deck. But it takes years of practice and study.
I have devoted decades of my life to learning tarot. I've read nearly every book that has been brought to my attention on the subject. (Even the fluffy lightweight ones.) I'm confident in saying that I've probably forgotten more than most people have ever learned. But even after forty years of tarot practice and study, I would not proclaim myself to be a Grand Master. Yes, I do consider that I have an advanced and masterful understanding of tarot. But I have not mastered it. How can anyone claim that? Especially people barely thirty years old? I kind of want to slap sense into those who claim that title. I dropped out of the tarot certification mentality when tarot big business trends began about two decades ago. But that's a discussion for another day.
The featured deck in the photo may be purchased here: http://www.loscarabeo.com
My Tarot Deck Collection
I cannot speak for all tarot readers, but for me, the beauty of tarot cards has resulted in a fabulous tarot card collection of an uncertain but abundant number of decks. Calling it an addiction is not accurate, for these are tools of my trade just as much as the brushes I use to paint. I've bought thousands of painting and art supplies in my lifetime and no one has ever bat an eyelash over it. I consider my tarot decks with the same perspective.
My collection is modest considering the number of years I have been reading tarot, but it is deliberate and somewhat picky and genuinely reflects my tastes in tarot imagery.
That's not to say that I haven't purchased a few decks that I'm not overly fond of (particularly back in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s when one pretty much had to buy a deck before knowing its contents. In those days we really did judge a deck by its cover). But by and large my decks reflect my personal tarot tastes, which admittedly tend to be old school.
I've read online dscussions where some say that having a large collection is unnecessary or even counter to learning how to read tarot. The belief being that in order to bond with tarot one should read from one deck as a beginner until becoming proficient with tarot. But to my mind, using that logic, one only becomes proficient with that one deck.
Now it is true that when I began reading only two decks were available in the States and since I had both of them I wasn't trying to learn from too many decks at once. But they were from distinct styles of tarot and did not share a common platform. My first deck was the 1JJSwiss tarot deck (pictured above) from which I read exclusively for about a year. The other deck was the RWS deck. (Actually my first copy of the 'RWS' was the Albano Waite deck.) Pretty much out of the gate I began learning tarot from two very distinct styles of tarot, one being similar to the Marseilles format and the other obviously from the RWS camp.
It is important to remember that I am kind of old, and in those days there was no internet; so the authority on tarot was the few books I could find in the few stores that carried 'that kind of stuff.' I actually ended up learning meanings for my 1JJSwiss pip cards through studying numerology. I did learn some astrological and alchemy symbols along the way, but my primary interest in learning the pips was through numerology and applying number meanings to the suits. Numbers don't lie and that is how I learned my tarot truth especially while reconciling the meanings of two distinct tarot branches..
I flip-flopped using my two decks in those early days depending on how I felt. Obviously the meanings I assigned to individual cards sometimes varied depending on which of the decks I used. But I learned very early on that they were not so totally dissimilar and that aspects of one deck added a layer of new understanding to the other. All my tarot learning was independent and there were no groups to join to expedite my learning process. (At least none that I knew in suburban Philadelphia) In fact, I was the only 'expert' I knew. I think it was probably about three or four years of self-study and using each of these decks in readings before I was highly proficient so my formative tarot years came about through using these two distinct tarot decks.
Back then my wish-list included only one deck, the Visconti-Sforza, once it registered on my radar after a trip to NYC where I spotted it in a museum. I had seen it referenced in books, but seeing it in person blew me away. (It was a decade or two before a facsimile of that deck became available on the mass market.)
Then the 80s happened and decks were popping up all over the place in popular American culture. The Fergus Hall Witches Deck (aka 007 James Bond Deck) was probably one of the next decks I purchased, and from there it just snowballed. Every store I visit I sought out whatever new tarot deck that was available. Although some decks did not please me aesthetically I did not care. I just wanted to add a new deck to my collection and learn it. Now I am more particular, but in those days I was very hungry for all the decks I could lay my hands on.
Now of course, one could go quite mad trying to lay hands on every deck available especially due to social networking which exposes us all to what seems to me an infinite number of tarot decks. Every year I try to limit my purchases to just a few.
I do have a modest wish list and one of the decks on that list might surprise you. I know it surprises me! That deck is the Orbifold Tarot . Granted, it isn't exactly 'Old School' as I have mentioned as a personal preference. It has always appealed to me in concept, and it is a deck I have kept my eye on since its inception. The more I come across it, the more its visual and ordered consistency appeals to me. One of the reasons for that, I think, is because it is genuine and knows exactly what it is. It is pure. It's a cut to the chase tarot based on color and my beloved numerology! Well, at least that is how I am perceiving it.
But I digress.
One of the arguments for reading from multiple decks other than developing a rich tarot vocabulary, is that none of my decks are particularly worn out. Even my 40 year old 1JJSwiss and Albano decks are in remarkably excellent condition. True, I treat my decks as the sacred tools they are, I NEVER eat or drink near them, always freshly wash my hands before handling them, and keep them meticulously stored in protective housing. They never sit around casually on the coffee table or are they ever thrown on a dusty shelf. They are housed in furniture exclusively dedicated to them. But having said all that, I think one of the reasons they remain in such good condition is because I rotate their use. I use whatever deck 'feels' right for the moment or or if a client requests a particular deck. All my decks get used.
Using multiple decks, and learning simultaneously from multiple decks, helps avoid the 'one meaning fits all' mentality which I feel is very limiting to learning tarot.
So bah to the nay sayers who claim having a go-to-deck is the best way to go. Feed your tarot addiction and may you enjoy at least 40 years of tarot love!
Reading Tarot with Intent
Today's post might be helpful to those curious about whether or not a question or intent is required in order to give a meaningful tarot reading.
Interpretation of tarot cards is helpful if one has a question or concern going into the reading, but a querent doesn't necessarily need to tell the tarot reader what that question is. Granted, it makes the interpretation a bit easier for the reader and also for the querent's understanding if they can pinpoint the discussion to one topic, but it is not a requirement for a quality reading.
If one is a novice reader, then yes, I would encourage getting a base understanding of the client's primary question before attempting to read because that is one of the ways a new reader might begin to reconcile a card's meaning with a variety of circumstances. But for a seasoned reader, it is less imperative to know specifics beforehand because they already have an arsenal of understanding at their disposal and will offer a variety of applicable life circumstances that a client will be able to recognize how what is said applies to her or his life.
The thing about tarot is that no matter what cards are pulled, they will be relevant to one's life. This is a truth. Even a one card reading offers a wealth of insight into a situation. Naturally the more cards in a spread and the more talented the reader, the greater the breadth of meaningful information. One of the ideas about tarot is that each of the major arcana cards offers an archetype relate-able to human experience that is usually of greater significance than the every day details of life. The cards of the minor arcana fine tune and add nuance or support to any of the majors that are present; and if no majors are present the suggestion is that the circumstances the minor cards are addressing relate more to daily details of life.This may not be the guidelines of every reader, but it is an idea that is largely embraced. This is good information for the querent to know going into a reading because it will enable the querent to ask meaningful follow-up questions or to know if the cards are relating to a major situation in one's life or more the day to day aspects of life.
Oftentimes, when a client does not articulate a question and wants a general reading, the meaning of the reading becomes clear to her/him once the reader begins the interpretation. In fact, sometimes not posing a question is more beneficial to the reading because what needs to be addressed will jump right out during a reading and become crystal clear. For this reason, sometimes not revealing a question to the reader or not posing any question to the cards is very liberating. What needs to be said will pop out.
I've been reading a long time and only in rare cases (like maybe twice in forty years) will a querent tell me that the cards did not connect or make sense at all. My guess for this is either because the situation that the cards are describing hasn't occurred yet and is more something that the client should be made aware of rather than being a predictive trend; or, that the client is not aware of something that is currently happening around her or him and may in fact never find out about it except through the information in the cards. Sometimes the suggestions revealed by the cards for the best possible outcome is not the action that the client actually takes. If a querent ignores the advice offered the result will not be the outcome suggested by the reading. Free will is the greatest feature in how life evolves. Time is also a relevant thing in determining a reading's accuracy. In example, a reading about how a situation it will resolve itself is relevant to the lifespan of the situation, I always tell a querent that the time frame of the reading is the lifetime of the situation. If a young person is asking a question about the future of their current love interest, the time-frame for that question can span thirty years or more. I have married couples who dated in high school, broke up, and then reconnected thirty years later. See what I mean? Even someone who asks a question about how a relationship with a former spouse will pan out is looking at a similar time reference. If the former couple share children, their connection and experience in one another's lives can span decades. A bitter divorce may evolve into friendship decades later. For this reason, if the querent does pose a question about a situation, then a specific time-frame to the question should be part of the question rather than asking generally if the situation will be worked out. The answer might be yes, but it might take forty years to get there! (And can make a reading appear inaccurate in the short term because who will recall a tarot reading on that specific topic from decades earlier?)
For this reason I encourage my in-person clients to always take note of what is said during a reading so its relevance can be revisited. Take a photo of the spread. This is one of the aspects that make distance readings advantageous over in-person readings; most often with distance readings the reader will provide both a photo of the spread and a pdf script of the reading that the querent can referred to over and over.
When a client asks the reader to do a spread with a fully articulated intent, then the reader will interpret the content of the reading in relation to the question. Sometimes other issues will pop up if they are at the core of the issue or an underlying factor that must be addressed in order to accurately bring relevance to the question.
When a client has a question, but does not disclose it to the reader, than the client needs to apply what is said to the question in their minds and ask the reader for clarification for whether or not a card could mean this or that. Clarification after all, is the point of tarot.
The featured deck in the photo may be purchased here: http://www.loscarabeo.com/
A Year in Review and Anticipation
Today is the 1st year anniversary of my tarot IG feed and I'm guessing that's where most of you reading this have found me.
I haven't written a blog entry since October. Some of you may be aware that in the first few days of November I received the devastating news that my mother is very ill. It took the wind out of my sails. Due to the nature of her illness and treatments, I have been on the road a lot due to the distance between our locations, as well as physically caring for her. I have been able to keep up with my daily IG and client readings, as well as my wedding ceremonies, but my tarot blogs have taken a back seat.
Mom is between treatments and for the time being I am able to return to my tarot blog. Thank you for the many prayers, thoughtful words of encouragement, and positive vibes, wishes and intents. They are appreciated and they make a difference. They are heartfelt and meaningful.
Boy have I missed my public tarot blog!
One of the things I did not want to miss was marking the occasion of my one year IG anniversary by expressing the gratitude I feel for this past wonderful year! I also look forward to the promise that a new year holds.
This coming year, 2016, marks my 40th anniversary as a tarot reader!
It's quite a landmark year for me and I'll probably celebrate all year! I almost can't believe it's been this long because it seems like yesterday that I felt the excitement of holding and gazing upon my very first deck of tarot (the 1JJ Swiss). The deep intense feelings of awe it brought out in me are still something I feel with every new deck I experience. I am sure that my nature and personality have been improved upon by my tarot experience. It has been a channel for my intuitive perceptions, and a method of guidance that has brought deeper understanding and patience to my life as to why stuff happens and how to respond to it. I also like to think that I've made a difference to at least few lives along the way. For me, tarot has been about healing and growing and loving.
My first tarot Instagram entry was on New Year's Eve 2014. The card pulled for our daily draw that day was the Nine of Pentacles which was perfect. I had a wonderful year in 2014 and wanted to do something new and fun and challenging with the coming year. I had no idea how my IG tarot thread would be received, there are many wonderful readers out there. I have 'met' many of my followers through comment dialogue and private messages. Some of you are readers and some of you are clients, and although I haven't met any of you in person, I cannot imagine not having made your acquaintances. It blows me away that my humble tarot feed already has a few more than 1000 followers! I never would have guessed that so many people would have noticed me in a sea of so much talent. I haven't given anything away except for daily reads, I'm not flashy nor a technological wizard. My format is humble and simple but genuine, just as I believe my followers are, and I've never missed a day. Not one. I have been committed to this project.
My goal by doing one card readings with daily intents, was to show how rich a reading can be with only one card. I'm not positive but I'm reasonably certain that my IG thread is unique in being exclusively and consistently dedicated to posing a myriad of daily shared intents (not merely a card pull with a message for the day); things we all struggle with or think about from time to time, and a one card pull (sometimes more) to offer a solution, insight, or clarity. For one learning tarot, it helps demonstrate how to reconcile a card with a question or specific intent, no matter how unrelated or difficult it may seem. My hope is that the daily reading reaches the one person (or many) that were meant to see it. Tarot is usually always on point, and when it seems not to be I think it's more that we don't yet comprehend what it is telling us. Having a public platform to offer public one card readings has been a wonderful experience for me and if the interest remains, I would like to continue my IG feed into 2016 and beyond. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Thank you to all 1015 of you!
2015 was the year that I returned to an online format after many years of exclusively in-person and phone readings. I created a new (this) website. (I had one in the late 1990's through the early 2000's. At that time I was known as Mahealani and sometimes as Magdalene. Always an M name.) This past year the majority of my tarot readings have been via this website which I created in response to the many requests for readings I received through my IG feed. 2015 is also the year I began this public tarot blog which has been a lot of fun for me.
In 2015 I was interviewed by Pleasant Gehman and Crystal Ravenwolf of The Divination Nation along with interviews with other individuals of the tarot world like Robert M Place. This was a great nod for me, that I have been noticed and recognized as an interesting person in the tarot world. (Please do check out the interview after reading this one of course.) 2015 also marks the year that I submitted a tarot card design and it was accepted for publication, in a tarot deck devoted to cancer titled: The Triumph of Life Tarot Deck. (You can see my card on IG with #TriumphOfLifeTarotProject. It is the 1st card posted with that hashtag and appears 4 times.) My card is Strength, and I dedicated it to my mother who is a cancer survivor. She has just been diagnosed with the disease again, and I am praying that the deck gets published very soon so that she may be alive to see her card in print.
Even though 2016 marks my 40th anniversary as a tarot reader, 2015 was a pretty great tarot year for me, one of the most fun ever!
I will undoubtedly try to step things up a bit in 2016, perhaps offer skype readings once I figure it out, and add a few more reading options on my website. I think it might be the year for me to assemble my writings in a book about tarot. The market is already swamped with tarot books, and I'm not sure I can add much more to the discussion, but a concise ebook that one may keep handy on their android or iphone devices might be useful. Through the years I've mentored individuals on tarot, always in person, but the idea of offering an online tarot mentorship appeals to me if I can figure out a way that I am comfortable with presenting it with integrity.
I also want to know what you want me to write about in future blogs so please give me feedback. Do you like card combinations, deck reviews (which I have resisted doing since loving a deck is such a personal thing), comparing cards from different decks, history stuff? What is it that you'd like me to write about? Either leave a comment here, or on my IG feed under the photo for this article.
2016 will bring some heartbreak and challenges, but hopefully none that aren't already foreseen. I know that 2016 will bring many more wonderful things for all of us. We each have the potential to make meaningful and useful contributions that will make the world better. Let's all make a conscious effort to always take stock of our many blessings, find the strength and support to deal with our challenges, always remember to be kind and generous, and take one issue and one day at a time.
All my love to all of you. xoxox ~ Marilyn
The featured deck in the photo may be purchased here: http://www.loscarabeo.com/
(More) Tarot Card Combinations
Today I've taken a slightly different approach. Instead of showing two different card combinations I've decided to illustrate how important it is to remember that not every combination of two cards will work across the board using all decks.
To illustrate this point, I have chosen to use the Five of Rings/Disks/Pentacles and the Eight of Swords/Blades from the following two decks: The Zirkis Magi and Tarot of The Holy Light.
One is a deck loosely related to RWS and the other is one of a group of tarots classified as continental style, with meanings that predate RWS imagery. Keep in mind also, that readers who use Marseille style decks might have an altogether different interpretation between two or more cards that in turn will vary from reader to reader.
In my earlier blog articles about assigning meanings to numbers, I encouraged everyone to establish their own understanding of what each number means in relation to each suit.
Having said that, even if you have your own assignments to numbers, you will still need to go with the flow when presented with a deck whose imagery does not align with your number system. You might be able to make reference to your meaning as a possible alternate meaning, but (and I've made this point several times as well), it makes no sense during a reading to proclaim that a card means sunshine and happiness when the card portrays an altogether different feel. The same applies to vice versa scenarios.
Let's look at the first combination of cards represented by the Five of Rings and the Eight of Blades. This representation of cards more or less aligns with the RWS system. We have two cards that when presented together might suggest difficulties brought on by our own actions. The woman represented in the Eight of Blades has clearly willingly allowed herself to be put in harm's way.As she is preceeded by the Five of Rings, which has a tragic feel to it, it is reasonable to suggest that she will face some time of challenges, probably of a financial sort, as a consequence of a choice she has or will be making. Depending on the question of course, and the other cards in the spread and their positional meanings all taken into consideration, this interpretation is a reasonable jumping off point.
But what about the lower pair of cards? Here, although the Five of Disks does look like it has a powerful message, it doesn't look particularly upsetting. And when you investigate the symbolism of this card and its intent by its creator, you will learn that its meaning has more to do magnetism and charasmatic charm than it does to harships of a material nature. Likewise, this particular Eight of Swords next to it, does not communicate being trapped or being a victim of our own doing even if it does seem to represent a wall created by swords. It does have a 'Cross this threshold if you dare' type of feeling, but there is nothing about the imagery that suggests the querent has brought this condition to his or herself. As it is placed next to the Five of Disks that we just discussed, it would appear that the interpretation of these two cards together would suggest that by virtue of the querent's charisma and charm, she/he will probably succeed in whatever challenge they are facing. This interpretation differs greatly from the message of the same two cards of the previous deck. It is worth noting that in both, there is a possible challenge being presented, but the outcomes are strikingly different.
I've said it a number of times in previous blog posts, that reading from different tarot decks requires a skill set similar to learning multiple languages, or at least different dialects of the same language.
The more decks you use, the more you learn about symbolism and systems. They do not all fit the same mold, which is what makes it a fun challenge to keep learning and fuels my tarot card collection and addiction.
Tarot of the Zirkis Magi and Tarot of The Holy Light may be purchased through their respective websites.
Death Card Combos Tarot
The Death Card in Tarot is a card that can upset people when they see it. Despite assuring a querent that it doesn't necessarily mean death in a reading, the image itself as it appears on cards is rarely comforting.
A reader will often say that when 'Death' appears it means the end of something, and the positive spin on that sentiment is that it allows something new to happen in its place.
As I mentioned in my recent article pairing tarot cards (which was titled Power Couples) there are a lot of factors involved in interpreting any combinations of cards and I encourage you to read that article if you haven't already done so.
An over-all impression may be had if Death appears next to or near certain cards especially if it's a small spread. If a two or three card reading is given for someone asking about love, work, a house deal, or any number of situations it is sometimes easier to interpret when the Death card appears in the framework of fewer cards or by the cards near it in a more complex spread.
In the top photograph, we have first the image of Death and then the Four of Coins. Now bear in mind that not every tarot deck is a RWS clone and sometimes the imagery of a particular card doesn't jibe with the image we might haves in our memory banks. The four of Coins or Pentacles might be one of these cards. Go with the flow. It makes no sense to recite a meaning of a card when its description suggests an altogether different meaning. In this combination of particular cards, Death really seems to be about rebirth. Something is clearly coming to an end and being followed by something that already has taken root. Something is rising from the ashes. Perhaps the relationship can be salvaged, a company merger is likely to happen and replaced by a new company culture, and maybe the house deal will fall through but another one will present itself.
But sometimes the Death card might actually mean bad news without a new option. In the case of the bottom photo we have the Lady of Wands preceding Death. I think of the court cards in their historic context. The Pages, which is what Lady has replaced in this particular deck, ran the errands and acted as liasons between concerned parties. A Page of Wands might be making reference to work related news. Followed by the Death card, it would be reasonable to suggest to the querent that he brace him or herself for a shocking development that maybe isn't going to float his or her boat. A third card might be pulled for clarification, or if there are other cards in the spread those would have a bearing on further clarifying the issue.
In either case, cool heads must prevail and no querent should walk away feeling doom and gloom. There is always a best possible course of action and that is the responsibility of the reader to impart before the querent walks away.
Other cards in combination with Death can relay these same two possible meanings along with even other possibilities. For the sake of brevity these are the two examples I have chosen.
BTW, I agree that these cards are particularly beautiful and among the more intelligent decks out there. They deserve greater in-depth discussion, particularly as regards their symbolism and I think that is a great topic of discussion for another day.
The The Tarot of The Holy Light and The Alchemical Tarot may be purchased through their respective links.
Tarot Power Couples
I haven't been very productive keeping up with my tarot blog and I apologize for that. Part of the reason for that is because September/October is a very busy wedding schedule. As some of you know I am an ordained minister who creates and officiates custom ceremonies which during these months has consumed most of my writing efforts.
So please forgive my sporadic entries and know it is only temporary.
I seem to be on a roll, my last article was titled, 'The Odd Couple' and today's article continues on the theme of couples.
In an effort to provide interesting content to a broader audience, I realize that as much as I love tarot history, it's not eveybody's cup of tea. So I thought I'd mix it up a bit today by writing about Power Couples, pairs of cards that when they pop up in a reading, give greater weight to a concept or idea.
Today I am writing about two pairs when they pop up in a reading, the Lovers and Ace of Cups, and the Hierophant and The Tower. If this article is well received, I will write about other tarot power couples and frankly, this can keep me busy for the next few decades.
All the cards that that appear in the accompanying photo happen to be major arcana cards, as the major trumps tend to have the most 'power', and pack the greatest punch. But power pairing might also be noted between the major and minor trumps and even between the minors.
Bear in mind that other factors always come into play. For example, the other cards in the spread, the question intended for the spread, the position of the cards themselves in the spread, and their placement among other cards in the spread can all influence the meaning of any particular card. All those things considered, some cards when they appear together strongly suggest certain concepts.
I love using the beautiful Victorian Romantic Tarot especially for readings that concern matters of the heart. And truth be told, these readings tend to be the bulk of a tarot reader's bread and butter.
How very satisfying it is when doing a reading about one's love life for the Lovers card to pop up. And with the additional appearance of the Ace of Cups, a querent can leave the table feeling especially pleased, having been told that the probability of romantic love on the horizon is a distinct possibility. Yes, of course, other cards in the spread will have an influence, but just the same, these two in a romantic reading should be enough for anyone to have just a little extra pep in their step as they face the world solo. (If The Empress or High Priestess also makes an appearance one might be tempted to suggest a pregnancy. But that's a topic for another day.)
Another frequent topic for the cards are business related questions. It can be a question regarding office dynamics, company mergers, or even what the new boss will be like to work for. When the Hierophant (or Pope) and The Tower pop up for such a reading, it sends a clear message; old ways are about to crumble. It can be due to vanity, ego, lack of flexibility, unfairness (especially if an ill placed Justice also makes an appearance), or even because an authority figure has been fired and new blood is taking over. Nothing says shake up of old ways quite like the Hierophant and the Tower when they appear together.
For information on where to purchase the decks featured in the above photo please visit their respective sites: Victorian Romantic Tarot Noblet Tarot