Choose to believe in your own myth
your own glamour
your own spell.
—Francesca Lia Block
Choose to believe in your own myth
your own glamour
your own spell.
—Francesca Lia Block
The New York tarot deck is gorgeous, unique, and although I’ve only seen a few cards I feel confident in saying it is incredibly intuitive and expressive. They are just over $700 away from their funding goal of $5,500 to print the deck.
I’m going to New York next year, and I would love to take one of these gorgeous decks with me. With only 6 days to go, I am on the edge of my seat—I want this to succeed.
How about clicking the link and checking the deck out for yourself? For as little as $5, you will be entered in a draw to win a deck! City Mystic ᐧ New York Tarot Deck by Virginia Jester — Kickstarter
A good man died Thursday, and I cannot memorialize him the way I would wish to. What I can do is promise to continue lighting candles to banish the darkness.
“I’m staying away from the books until August 31, I think,” I said nervously to M last night across the table at a Greek resto. I meant August 1.
A few days prior I’d deleted most of my massive collection of tarot books from my Kindle. Only three remained:
The three books I kept are light on book meanings. Instead the emphasis is on developing your beliefs, your style, and learning to listen to and trust your intuition and voice. That’s right, yours, not that awesome tarot blog you’ve been reading–mine, maybe? Or even the #tarot tag on Tumblr, however great it may be.
I love A Magical Course in Tarot so much I would recommend it to anyone who has forgotten (or never discovered) the magic of tarot. Michele Morgan has a truly unique take that has revolutionized the way I think about, talk about, view, and use tarot.
The thing about the rest of the books, the ones I deleted from my Kindle on the bus ride to work, especially Rachel Pollack’s The New Tarot Handbook, is that I Wasn’t just falling back on them when I was stumped. In falling back on them when I was stumped on one card, I was also checking all the cards and then doubting the meanings I intuited. I was using them as a crutch in place of trusting my own ability.
“Cats or humans?” I asked M Thursday. “Humans,” she said. I sat on my bed shuffling out the majors and court cards from the Cat’s Eye Tarot and the Gaian, the way my most recent acquisition, the Chrysalis Tarot arrived.
“Okay,” I said. But the rest of the week I debated: bring the cats, or leave them at home. My hasty decision to do a one card reading with something like ten minutes to go before M arrived made my decision for me. I shuffled the majors from the Cat’s Eye asking “What should I know about tonight?”
“I don’t know what it is, I said to M,”but lately I’m nothing but questions about tarot cards.” I was thinking, of course, about Seven Devils. So I was not surprised in the least when my first thought on drawing The Sun from the Cat’s Eye was “What waits on the horizon?” I shook my head impatiently. “That is more or less what I asked you,” I said to the card. Okay, a cat looking out at the horizon… what if a new day isn’t all Hollywood? Of course there is hope and anticipation, but what if there is also trepidation? Trying to talk it out the way one of the above-mentioned books recommends, I said “the tangle of emotions I’m feeling right now is okay, it’s okay to be hopeful and anticipate this reading but also have a bit of nervousness. That’s okay. I just need to remember that a) M is M, whether she is sitting across from me as a seeker or whatever, these are all parts of the same person (people contain multitudes), and this person is my friend, who loves me for who I am at this exact moment: there is nothing to be nervous about and b) The cards are just pretty card stock, the magic lies in me and if I don’t get it right the first time, I can try again, tomorrow is another new day.
Our conversation—over tzatziki and pita, kalamari, French onion soup (her), souvla (me), cheesecake (her) and chocolate poura (me)—kept looping back to tarot:
Again, the more we talked about it, the more confident I became in my ability to talk about it.
Finally, while she was away from the table, I ordered a hot chocolate and slid the flower purse M gave me from my birthday last year, the impromptu “tarot bag” for my Gaian deck, out of my India bag from the Black Market Boutique.
“Shuffle,” I said, handing her the majors.
“Start small,” many of the “Tarot 101″ books advise, three card spreads are ideal. I started big—10 cards.
The minute I mention three cards people instantly think: past, present, future. As spreads go, PPF’s are great, some of my favourite readings are PPF’s, but you are selling three card spreads short by not at least knowing a few more three card spreads—there are well over 100! Some of my favourites include:
But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what Michele Morgan writes in A Magical Course in Tarot:
Spreads can be fun and “easy” in that they limit the psychic horizon to fit within their boundaries. Fewer options, shorter trip.
Even Barbara Moore, who wrote an entire book on Tarot Spreads, admits in that book that tarot spreads have limitations, writing that:
When you consider using any spread, be mindful of what it assumes about the question and any possible answers.
One of the assumptions the example she gives, the Choices Spread, makes is that there are only two choices. I find a lot of spreads make assumptions about the choices, assuming life is black and white, which of course it isn’t. It is more nuanced than that. For example, in the question “Should I stay in a relationship?” (which I don’t read for due to my ethics), there are at least three options:
It’s not as simple as “should I stay or should I go?” Ideally a tarot spread will consider the top choices, if not all the choices, and not just the most obvious two.
But back to Michele Morgan. When I dealt three cards for Jeff, I clamped my mouth shut just as I was about to say “Past, present, future”, the cards didn’t fit a past, present, future reading.
Afterwards, M asked, looking down at the six cards on the table (I’m getting to that, be patient), “What was that? Past, present, future?” I shrugged. “Just three cards.” Current situation.
I deal the cards face down. This comes from years and years of playing card games with my grandmother. We deal face down, so in tarot, I deal face down. No mystery here—I want to walk the hair-thin line between mysticism and everyday magic, between prediction and empowerment.
When I turned them over, I looked down at them trying to remember to take my time, to not rush the experience, but after a few minutes I reached into my bag to retrieve the cats. I think it’s time I admitted and accepted that as much as I may want to be able to read the diverse, happy images of the Gaian Tarot, we’re just not “there.” I shuffled through the majors to find the same cards and laid them in a row above their Gaian counterparts.1
I looked at the first one, “Well, I think…” I started. I skipped the middle, the cats hadn’t helped any with that one. “And this one…” I tap the middle card, “but this one… I’m not sure.” I looked at them a moment longer, and then flipped them around so they were facing M. “What do you see?” I asked. She told me. I flipped the first set to face her “what do you see?” and then the last set. “Something I find interesting…” she said, pointing out something on the card that hadn’t popped out at me. “I wonder what that means.” “Maybe…” I said, offering my interpretation after a few minutes.
“Does that make sense? Does it… resonate?” I asked.
Interpreting each individual card is correct, but leaving it there is also oversimplifying. On the drive home something nagged at me. What did the cards mean together. It wasn’t until I was re-entering the house after going out again, that it came to me. “Maybe all the cards together are pointing to…” I texted. “Does that make any sense at all?”
“Makes perfect sense,” she replied.
Which brings me to this: no card is an island entire of itself.
However informal the spread in most if not all cases, each card has the potential to inform the other cards, like I asked of one of The Devil cards in my Seven Devils post, “How does our past haunt us and the other positions in a past/present/future layout?”
Here are two visual examples:
The cards have the ability to tell a cohesive story.
She pulled up in front of my house. “Thank you,” she said, I said. I forget how it came up (oh the irony!) but she said I could experiment with tarot on her anytime. I smiled. We’d been discussing my awesome (but highly selective!) memory moments before, I said, “Just so you know, I’m going to remember that!” I smiled.
I am still developing my tarot practice. It will change, evolve, some ideas will be scrapped, some built upon, I will stutter less, my hands won’t always shake.
It is important to me that my tarot practice remain connected to its roots, like my city. That M be able to recognize her influence on my practice, always. That I learn to trust my intuitive voice exclusively, however far off-book it may stray. That I always be open to the messages, said, unsaid, and in the cards. May I remember love above all.
I have more thoughts, but I think I’ve written a book here, so I’m going to post this. The next tarot post I have planned is a spread for my Mixed Emotions deck… stay tuned!
Barbara Moore mentions this as a variation to her Double Your Insight method:
Instead of shuffling the second deck and randomly drawing the cards, go through the deck and select the very same cards that are already laid from the first deck. ↩
In September, the first card was past and the remainder were present, near future, distant future in that order, it’s a useful spread. ↩
…or What I’ve Learned in the Ten Years Since High School
“Tell me what you don’t like about yourself.” Christian Troy or Sean McNamara, who own and operate a successful plastic surgery business, would inevitably say in episodes of the TV show Nip/Tuck (2003-2010). In a line, this is what the Devil card in many decks reminds me of: insecurity.
Take the Cat’s Eye tarot, for example. The card (at the right) shows a cat in a defensive pose in front of a food dish and clearly unhappy. Questions that come to mind include:
I’ve been looking at the New Zealand Naturally Tarot on The GameCrafter for a while now so when I saw the entire deck on rozamira tarot, of course I had to look. Although some of the cards may come off as cutesy (Knight of Waves?) overall, it is a well executed deck.
In this deck, the bird on The Devil card holds a mask in its beak. Immediately I was reminded of a song I learned in choir years ago about wearing masks to hide our true selves.
Here’s a fun one. Jasmine, from Hellbound Witch, loves the Housewives Tarot, so of course I had to see for myself what was so amazing about this deck. Within days of buying The Fool’s Dog app, I was ordering the deck. This deck is fun while also being incredibly intuitive.
The Devil from this deck is all about indulgence: the most noticeable feature of the card, the one that strikes you first, is of course the chocolate cake, then the cigarette.
In the Gay Tarot, the Devil card has been renamed Self-Hatred, and we see a man staring at a picture of a heterosexual family.
The first thing that comes to mind is the political and social climate in 2004, and before while the deck was being worked on. For example, in 2003 Lawrence v. Texas1 was televised in my hotel room in New York City.
When I watched The Normal Heart a couple of weeks ago on HBO, I remembered what Tony Kushner wrote in the foreword to TNH, about how “He [Larry Kramer] is forcefully reminding us that being the object of hatred for millennia will make any subject hate her- or himself.” This seems particularly fitting for this card.
Another renamed card, this one, Chains, from the Ghosts and Spirits deck, which is really growing on me, thanks to the Fool’s Dog app.
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I found this deck while compiling a “witchy wish list” of tarot decks I wanted for Christmas, but when I look at this card I can’t not think about A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s deceased business partner Jacob Marley, and, of course, the ghosts of Christmas. …Especially the Ghost of Christmas Past. How does our past haunt us and the other positions in a past/present/future layout?
Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian Tarot also has a renamed Devil card, this one Bindweed. In this card, bindweed is used in place of chains to essentially the same ends.
Where the character in the Ghosts and Spirits deck seems to be warning us against his fate, saying it’s not too late to change our ways, do more with our one wild life, like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, the character in Gaian Tarot seems fairly resigned to his/her fate.
Finally, this Devil comes from the Deviant Moon deck, and is what many of us think of when we think of a devil, the imagery is more consistent with the Rider-Waite interpretation. This is what our nightmares are made of.
Somewhat off-topic for a moment, something I find interesting about the Deviant Moon deck is that the deck
…was created with what Patrick refers to as “photographic manipulation” – each card beginning with a complete drawing which was scanned into the computer, then layered with various photographic texture. I was astounded to read that most of the clothing worn by the citizens of the Deviant Moon was nineteenth century tombstones that were bent and twisted digitally to become capes, boots, hats and trim! I might want to mention here that the foundation for this deck came from gently tiptoeing around the graveyards of eastern Long Island, New York, with a bit of influence from mental asylums!2
Is that amazing, or what?
But getting back to the Devil, when you are drowning in insecurities what do you think that looks like? To me, this card is a perfect visual representation of that.
26 drafts and this is finally done. What do you think of when you see the Devil card?
Briefly, Lawrence v. Texas was…
a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court. In the 6–3 ruling, the Court struck down the sodomy law in Texas and, by extension, invalidated sodomy laws in thirteen other states, making same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory.
Perhaps my love of tarot and oracle cards was inevitable—for as long as I can remember my grandmother and I have sat for hours at her kitchen table playing cards—Crazy 8’s and Go Fish.
In fact, I have such a love of Crazy 8’s that in high school, finding off-class uninspired and uninspiring, my friends and I set up huge raucous games of Crazy 8’s in the cafeteria. As the group grew, we added decks—from one deck, to two decks, to three decks, to four.
Perhaps this is insight into why I am such a fan of multiple-deck spreads.
Card playing fell off last year as I morphed into a sullen, quiet version of myself, but last night at my grandparents’ when I said “Want to play cards after the dishes?”, my grandmother shuffled.
We bought one of those battery-operated card shufflers Sears sells at Christmas, for a dollar at a hall bazaar last year or the year before. “It works, right?” My grandmother asked the man. Of course, he replied.
Perhaps then, we are too zealous in our card playing—it worked the first time, but lagged the second, and did not work at all the third time.
My grandmother won the first game, laying an eight as her last card. I won the second… and thirteen more to her 3. I beat my grandmother at cards, 14 – 3.
Getting ready to go home, we hugged, and I was reminded of the poem “Playing Cards With My Sisters” by Robert Kroetsch:
We laugh together. Pay up, they tell me.
You lost. Again. We laugh together.
I’m the luckiest player. I’m paying attention.
I received my first oracle deck as a gift from my aunt years ago, probably 2001 or before. It was Doreen Virtue’s Healing With the Angels, and I remember shuffling the cards out with my cousins on their hardwood floor. We took turns shuffling, dealing, checking the Little White Book (LWB), reshuffling, assigning names to positions. We never did it intuitively, we didn’t know we could. —If we had, would we have known we were innately intuitive?
From this promising start, the cards went into the box when my cousins moved out West, not to emerge until recently when Mom and I were cleaning out the spare room.
I bought my first tarot deck last April. It sat in it’s box, wrapped in plastic next to my computer for months. In July I bought my
first second oracle deck, this one Earth Magic by Stephen Farmer. I remember waking up the next morning: unwrapping it, taking the cards out, shuffling through them face up, and the shuffling again for what seemed like hours before dealing 6, my own classic Past, Present, Future spread.
When I told my friend, days later, I’d bought an oracle deck (and the reason), she asked the difference between tarot and oracle, but otherwise acted like this was the most natural course of events ever, while no doubt saying to herself: I knew it!
She had been dropping hints everywhere for months: “I think you know more than you let on, she’d said in March, her eyes shining like we shared a secret. I shook my head.
From there my current collection compiled quickly. But I wondered of all of these cards: what else can I do?
As if to answer my question, one day, while browsing on Amazon, I stumbled on Cait Johnson’s amazing Tarot Games.
This was around the time I was looking for something related to tarot to do for M’s birthday, and fittingly, according to the preview on Amazon, it had a Birthday Game.1 I had to have it.
I’ve been leafing through it since February for ideas for my next “tarot and chat time” with M. Below are two of my favourites that deal with improving communication, which let’s face it, we could all use help with!
Buy the book, there are 43 others games I haven’t shared, each is more amazing than the last, including the Birthday Game which I plan on using again next year.
To me, these forms of “sacred play” are ideal whenever I bring the tarot out with close friends. I want the environment to be relaxed, and the vibe to be more empowering conversation than fortune telling although done right, that is lovely and has its place, too.
Another book worth a mention here is Andy Matzner’s The Tarot Activity Book, which suggests some non-occult uses for tarot—lots of arts and crafts and sections titled: Conversation Starters, and Writing & Journaling—how cool is that?!
Some of the conversation starters I’ve glimpsed through Amazon’s book preview feature sound a bit more therapy session than casual chat-time, but I think that’s to be expected given that Matzner is a licensed clinical social worker. This does’t mean you can’t use them in the context of a casual conversation between friends, however, it would serve to remember that tarot cannot and should not replace therapy with a licensed mental health professional, like Matzner. Stick to your area of expertise—always refer people who need more than what you can provide to the appropriate resources.
Disclaimer aside, I can’t wait to explore more avenues of “sacred play”.
This was the first spread I made, named this The Optimist (or The Optimist’s New Year Spread) because it seemed… too positive, if that’s a thing.
Developed as a New Year’s spread (and later “merged” with the New Year Spread Beth (Little Red Tarot) made), this one works equally well anytime of year, or as a weekly/monthly.
Card 1: How to manifest love
Card 2: How to manifest blessings
Card 3: How to manifest gratitude
Card 4: How to pay it forward
I created this spread in response to the question of what exactly to do with my Luman and SoulCards 2 decks, both of which are lovely but underused in my collection, that would live up to the potential I felt these cards had.
In case you’re not familiar with them, Luman/Dreaming in Color is somewhat similar to the Mixed Emotions deck I’m waiting on, in that it contains names that correspond with emotions. SoulCards 2 is the companion deck to SoulCards 1.
The original intended use for these gorgeous decks was not divination. However, if you’ve spent even an hour perusing the various divination-related tags on Tumblr, you know that there is a growing camp that believes any cards are suitable for divination. Use what you’ve got.
This works well with my thinking: I excitedly wrote in my first email to Jasmine that I wanted to be able to read all the cards, playing cards, oracle decks, Lenormand, Tarot… Roscharch ink blots… blank decks.
But time passed, and I found I wasn’t turning to my unconventional decks quite as much as my conventional decks. The decks I had to think about how to use, and for what purpose, did not get used.
So the question became: how can I use these lovely decks, with so much potential, in readings?
I think SoulCards and Luman decks (and Mixed Emotions, for that matter), are more for abstract questions. At least, that’s how I like to think of/use them.
I know spreads that mix psychology and card-based divination are pretty well a dime-a-dozen, but here is my take on it using unconventional deck(s).
This spread is for gauging the state of mind of a seeker. I find these types of spreads most useful for doing before the main reading of a session to give the reader, and the seeker, insight into what the seeker is, well, seeking in the tarot reading.
Please be reminded that doing readings for people who are not present/have not consented (third party readings) are highly unethical. Readings should never be done without the express consent of your seeker.
Using one deck:
Using two (or more) decks:
The numbers on the cards are just to indicate the number of cards and are not assigned different uses based on position—the whole mess is interpreted together.
Deal four cards from each deck for a total of 8 cards, in the two-deck formation (see the second picture, above). The top-most cards (cards 1a-4a) are main issues. Cards 1b-4b are clarifiers.
Using 10+ cards, or the whole deck, shuffle well and then mix them face up (similar to what you do in a game of Go Fish) on a table top. The most visible cards are main issues.
This spread cannot and should not be used in place of therapy with a qualified mental health professional.