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 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 what they are based upon. That is lost to history for now.
Evidence suggests that the 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 man was to understanding the cycles of the earth for their survival.
It’s been further speculated that the four suits 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, 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 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, 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 nor 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 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.
Review 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.
I mentioned earlier that there are two categories in a deck of tarot, the major arcana and the minor arcana. The major arcana cards trumped the pip cards and for this reason are sometimes referred to as trump cards.
Other Italian decks sometimes referred to as tarot are:
The Minchiatti Tarot 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 rather 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.
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.
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 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 or spiritual issues and sometimes romance, matters of the heart and poetry
Swords: military or positions of legal authority, aggression, quick thinking and communication,
Batons: blue collar line of work, hands on craftsman, creative energy, hobbies and interests,
Coins: Wealth, educated, cultured, material aspects of life, of the earth, nature, depending on the context.
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.
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 it easier to play.
But during the Renaissance, Italian decks didn’t always have the same cast of characters, nor did they have a standard order which allowed for game variations.
Only one card remained un-numbered and that is the Fool, and only one card remained unknown and that is death.
The Fool was a wild card, the ancestor of our modern day joker
The first numbered card of the major arcana is the Magician which is the least valuable trump card, and 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 are 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 and no kabalistic references whatsoever.
Primarily, the references are to Christian virtues and general moral concepts.
Aside from the possibility of individuals interpreting 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.
This is easy to understand when anything that remotely appeared to be heretical or blasphemous resulted in certain prison time or even execution.
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: Sola Busca Tarot Deck is the oldest, intact deck of tarot and was created in 1491. 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 or two different artists.
It was a private deck commissioned by a 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. It 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 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.
If time allows, elaborate on the Sola Busca:
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 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. For example, the length is twice as long as its width.
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.
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, the deck is gorgeous in its perfect symmetry and has many admirers and 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.
If there’s time, elaborate on Metatron’s Cube
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.
Ancient Italian Tarot aka Soprafino. 1830s 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 style, Tarot of the Witches by Fergus Hall, US Games Systems Inc, 1976 or 1991.
Created for the James Bond Film, Live and Let Die 1973. Not created by a tarot reader.
Le Tarot Noir created by Matthieu Hackiere 2013.
Notice the Two of Cups taking root, and death and the fool facing one another.
Notice also 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 does also.
This is rare and I think 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.
This 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.
Big Names in Cartomancy (Primarily French)
Antoine Court de Gébelin 1725-1784
A French Mason, 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 establishing himself as an expert in the field.
He 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 interpreting the cards.
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.
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.
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.
He 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 1860—1943 Swiss occultist who created a tarot deck consisting of only the twenty-two majors embellished with occult kabbalistic symbolism on the cards.
His deck is not shown 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.
He 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.
Skip The three founders, William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott* and Samuel Liddell Mathers, 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.
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 order 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.
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.
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.
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 reign of the creation of the deck.
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, (Gertrude Moakely) but she was a clever girl and left her mark 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 Force card was renamed Strength and switched positions with Justice to make it fit 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 his 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. He didn’t seem to have much respect for women, or anyone in particular.
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 and 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. It wasn’t published until the 1960s.
Decks Shown: Thoth Deck and inspired 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 fully understood.
*In 1966, librarian and scholar, Gertrude Moakley was the first researcher to figure out that the 22 additional cards share some similarities to the triumphs of Petrarch’s poem, 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 men, 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. **
Shown images of medieval 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.
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.
Consider which of the three tarot traditions you are most attracted to and then peruse the internet to see style options you like. Contact me if you need clarification or would like recommendations. Once you choose a tradition, choose a deck that you like looking at. I prefer TdM style decks. just for the record.
“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 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/ *
Class #2 Comming Soon
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.
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!
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
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!