Day 12 is barely more than a tweet in its own right, so another combined post:
Day 12: Have you ever dealt with Impostor Syndrome in your Tarot practice? – Maria Alviz Hernando
No, as most of the time I read for myself. When I read for others, 99% of the time it’s for a friend, often one who reads tarot cards themselves and knows what’s involved.
Day 13: From the Major Arcana Cards, what card correlates to your sun, moon and rising sign? How has that resonated or played out in your life?? – Nya Thryce
Astrology is my first love: I began studying it years before I acquired a tarot deck. When I learned of the Golden Dawn astrological associations, I was thrilled for a while, because it looked like a way to combine two things I really liked. The problem was, I couldn’t get the two systems to mesh. To me, it feels as if the Golden Dawn forced astrology and tarot together because they were philosophically convinced that there had to be a near-perfect correlation, instead of respecting each system’s individual variations.
It’s the Devil twice over for my Capricorn Sun and Ascendant, and the Chariot for my Cancer Moon. I identify with many characteristics of Cancer and Capricorn. And I’ve gotten the Chariot and the Devil in a lot of readings over the years, usually pointing out issues in accordance with their standard meanings. I just haven’t seen those cards reflect the qualities of those astrological signs to any great degree, or vice versa.
Between saying yesterday that I wanted to work with four tarot decks, plus the deck I usually use, plus these three oracle decks, plus at least one Lenormand deck…when will I have time to do anything else? Like go to work. Or sleep. Or knit. (Priorities!)
Day 11: Oracle decks that you want to work with more in 2019
Hedgewitch Botanical Oracle. I’ve had good experiences working with this deck—what little I’ve done so far—and I want to learn more about it. Which is going to be the best way to learn about it. (I’m taking notes!)
Supra Oracle. This deck is too lovely to not find any use for it.
Fin de Siècle Kipper. Like the Hedgewitch Botanical Oracle, I’ve had some spot-on readings with this deck. It can feel like using a Lenormand deck, but it’s not a Lenormand, and I want more experience with it.
Day 10: Tarot decks that you want to work with more in 2019
Seventh Sphere Tarot de Marseille. I’m currently absorbed in reading Minor Arcana (“pips,” usually, when speaking of a pre-RWS deck) where you don’t get a mood for the card from the illustration on it. Four cups, ten swords, nine coins, eight wands—they’re just patterns on Marseille-style cards. And it’s important which direction a person (on the Major Arcana—do I have to call them “trumps”?—or the court cards) is facing. Fascinating.
The Orbifold Tarot. As above, for only having number and suit to read with. Not even people, with this deck. But the deck creator used the colors and patterns he did with intention, and I want to learn more about that.
The Pagan Otherworlds Tarot. Because I really like it.
The New Era Elements Tarot. I bought it for some reason, even though it’s not the kind of deck I’m often attracted to. I’d like to find out why.
Having glanced back at 2018, a turn towards the year to come.
Day 9: Tarot goals 2019
I probably wouldn’t have thought of having tarot goals if I hadn’t seen this prompt, but I did, and here we are.
Write “The Moon through the Minor Arcana.” In 2016 and 2017, I wrote a series of posts examining the Minor Arcana in light of the Golden Dawn astrological associations. Each post looked at the cards that had a planet in common. I started with Saturn, the slowest of the classical planets, and worked my way through the solar system: Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, and Mercury. The last post in the series was to be “The Moon through the Minor Arcana.” I got a draft written but never posted. I got distracted? Life got in the way? Whatever. Anyway, I want to get that last post out in 2019.
A workable tarot journal. Why yes, I have a tarot journal. It’s at least my second, maybe third attempt at one. I have the most pleasant visions of the ideal tarot journal will work: it holds all my insights on various cards, it makes studying the cards so delightful that I’ll look forward to writing about each and every one of them, and it’s an easy-to-access repository of all the best spreads I’ve found or created. In reality, I need to weed the thing down to a manageable size, reorganize what’s left, and decide what to add in the future.
I suppose I’ve committed to doing these things now. Well, not until February at the earliest. After all, I still have this challenge to finish!
My answers to the next few prompts are so brief that it seems best to combine them into a single post.
Day 5: The card that stalked you in 2018
The Four of Swords. I name it because it showed up in several of my readings, but so did other cards, like the Seven of Pentacles. But one day, a friend was telling some of us about a reading she’d done for herself, and I knew, a moment before she said it, that the Four of Swords was one of the cards in that reading.
Day 6: The deck you finally crossed off your wish list in 2018
Two of them, actually. First, the Arcanum Tarot, because I acquired it. Second, the Kawaii Tarot, because I saw more pictures of it and decided not to get it after all.
Day 7: Most worked with Tarot deck in 2018 and why
The Sun and Moon Tarot, because it’s my current go-to deck. Sure, I spent serious time this year with the Orbifold Tarot and the Seventh Sphere Tarot de Marseille, and I had a major reading with the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot…but if I’m rushing out the door and need to grab a tarot deck on the way out, it’ll be the Sun and Moon Tarot.
Day 4: Top 5 Tarot Books of 2018 (ones you purchased and/or released in 2018)
Merely buying a book doesn’t give me much to say about it, and several of the tarot books I bought in 2018 I haven’t read yet. Meanwhile, one of the books I did read was bought in 2017. So I’m changing this to the tarot books I read in 2018.
Tarot Compendium. The concluding volume in a three-book set from Lo Scarabeo, this one covering more advanced topics. It was big (656 pages, a bit over 4 pounds (1.8 kg)), it was beautiful (fully illustrated), but it tried to cover a lot of territory and it couldn’t do justice to it all. It was like a sampler platter of advanced tarot techniques, and I value the introduction, but I will only pursue a few of the things I read about in it.
Your Tarot Your Way by Barbara Moore. I got this as a door prize at the North Star Tarot Conference last February. It was a perfectly decent beginners’ book on the tarot and I enjoyed it.
Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots by Caitlín Matthews. There’s this saying: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Well, this was more like When the reader is ready, the book will appear. The year I began working with the Orbifold Tarot and the Seventh Sphere Tarot de Marseille was the year this came out: a book about reading Marseille-style decks. I devoured it.
Tarot on Earth: A Practical Approach to the Cards by Tom Benjamin. Oh look, another book on tarot cards without illustrations on the pip cards! Benjamin alternates chapters on how to read the tarot with interludes on ethics, being wrong (and being right), spirituality and magic, intuition, and doubt.
Day 3: Top 5 Oracle Decks of 2018 (ones you purchased and/or released in 2018)
I only bought four oracle decks in 2018. (Five tarot decks, four oracle decks…okay, let’s stop there and not discuss how many books and how much yarn I bought last year!) Again, in order of acquisition:
Seventh Sphere Lenormand. Yep, by the same person who did the Seventh Sphere Tarot de Marseille. I was seduced by the color palette. Like the tarot deck, it’s plastic, although the smaller cards feel less flimsy. I realize that I’m going to end up saying the least about it of all these decks, and that may make it look like I care the least about it. Actually, I’ve used it more than any of these others. But with the exception of its names for the Man and Woman cards (Animus and Anima), it’s a standard Lenormand deck, and I just don’t have much to explain about it. Unless you want me to go on about how much I like the colors?
Supra Oracle. A few years ago, I got the Pagan Otherworlds Tarot. That put me on the creators’ mailing list, so when they did a Kickstarter for a new oracle deck, I heard about it. (Note to self: STAY OFF KICKSTARTER.) I admire this deck. But I’m having trouble using it because I haven’t figured out what kinds of questions it would be good at answering. It doesn’t feel like a predictive deck, nor does it seem inclined to give advice. Insight, perhaps, or deeper spiritual meanings. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the guidebook to be of much help.
Lunar Nomad Oracle. I didn’t intend to get this deck. I’d seen it announced, but by the time it came out, I’d gotten how many tarot and oracle decks? It was striking, but not a priority purchase for me. And then it turned up at Half Price Books on a day I had a coupon for 20% off. If you haven’t guessed from the name, it’s a Lenormand deck, or maybe it’d be more accurate to call it a Lenormand+ deck. It has 43 cards: the standard 36 from the Lenormand, a second set of Man and Woman cards, and 5 cards of Shaheen Miro’s own invention. The cards are huge for Lenormand: to do the Grand Tableau, I’d have to lay the cards out on the floor, and I note that Miro doesn’t even mention this spread in the accompanying book. (How would you do the Grand Tableau with 43 cards, anyway?)
Hedgewitch Botanical Oracle. I’d admired the art in Siolo Thompson’s Linestrider Tarot, but hadn’t been able to read with it. I’ve seen her Scrying Ink Lenormand deck, but haven’t made the commitment to buy it. And then she came out with this deck, and, well, flowers! (And other plants. And a mushroom.) I figured that either I’d be able to read with this deck or I wouldn’t, but it would be lovely to look at in any case. Plus, unlike tarot and Lenormand decks, I wouldn’t be comparing it to other decks. I’m sure there are other botanical oracles out there, but I don’t have them and I’m not going to have to unlearn a different system to use this deck. So far, I’ve gotten some spot-on readings with this deck, which is the best encouragement to keep using it. I admit, I’m a bit frustrated with the guidebook. There isn’t much information on how to use these cards for divination, and because this deck is unique, I can’t rely on other books as I could with tarot and Lenormand. On the positive side, it has the card illustrations in full color and larger than the cards, as well as additional illustrations, and it has interesting information about the plants themselves.
Day 2: Top 5 Tarot Decks of 2018 (ones you purchased and/or released in 2018)
Well, this will be easy to list as I only bought five decks last year. (“Only.” Sheesh.)
In order of acquisition:
Arcanum Tarot. I bought this at the North Star Tarot Conference last February, but I’d been planning the purchase for months. I have Renata Lechner’s Thelema Tarot as well, and I was looking forward to seeing more of her art. While I like Lechner’s art, I haven’t used either deck much for readings. I’ve admired individual cards, and I can get good readings from the decks, but I have more emotional connection to other decks in my collection. But have I mentioned the art?
Orbifold Tarot. Unlike the Arcanum Tarot, I’d never heard of the Orbifold Tarot before I saw it at the North Star Tarot Conference. Every now and then, a deck insists on coming home with me, even when I can’t come up with a single rational reason for it to do so. As you can see, the Orbifold’s illustrations are brightly colored arrangements of circles. It makes a Marseille deck look heavily illustrated by comparison. How on earth was I going to read the darn thing? And then I ended up using it for readings and writing blog posts about it.
Seventh Sphere Tarot de Marseille. For whatever reason, many artists take the symbolism of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck and create decks in completely different styles. Most don’t feel obliged to imitate Pamela Colman Smith’s art too closely. But so many Marseille tarots look nearly identical to my untrained eye, and all of them in the style of old woodcuts—a look I just don’t care for. Make a Marseille deck in a different style, and I’m willing to consider it. (I also own the Marseille Cat Tarot.) The Seventh Sphere Tarot de Marseille is definitely modern, while keeping many of the characteristics of the old decks, like an unnamed thirteenth trump and a giant cup at the top of the Ten of Cups. Unlike most tarot decks, the cards are thin plastic. The deck comes with two new trumps, the Return and the Tree of Life, but I haven’t used them.
New Era Elements Tarot. I like color. I also like not-modern imagery in my tarot decks. So I have no easy explanation of why I decided to buy this deck soon after seeing a photo that a friend posted of it. Sepia. Modern, 21st century imagery. Nice illustrations, yes, but not my kind of deck at all. Did you catch the bit back at the Orbifold Tarot where I said sometimes decks come home with me for no rational reason?
The Simple Tarot. Because I needed more decks with modern imagery? I learned about this deck on Kickstarter, and dutifully tried to resist—after all, I’d already bought four tarot decks this year!—but in the end, I committed to it. I chose the Classic Deck, but there’s also a Beginners Deck version with keywords for the main symbols printed on the cards. Sometimes simple is good.
I first heard about Ethony’s 31 Days of Tarot challenge towards the end of last January. It was too late to do anything for it that year, but it sounded interesting, so I set myself a reminder to see if it would happen again. And it is: 31 Days of Tarot 2019 YouTube Community Challenge.
I figure, sure, I’ll play…with a few changes. The biggest one being that I like to write, but I feel no calling to make videos, so I’m responding to the prompts here on my blog. Plus, some (many?) of those prompts will be combined into single posts. But this first post can stand alone.
Day 1: 2019 – Reading – Energy – Major Lesson
Energy: Knight of Swords
Oh, there’s energy here. To me, the knights fit the description, “if all you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.” So the Knight of Swords is the conviction that if I can just analyze the problem—any problem—correctly, I’ll find a solution. But the Knight of Swords isn’t a consistent energy. I know from past experience I don’t have a lot of patience for problems. If I can work out what’s wrong quickly and come up with a solution, and it works, that’s great. But if the issue drags on, or the analytical approach isn’t the best way to deal with it, I stress out. That could turn into an awful lot of nervous energy.
Major Lesson: Ten of Coins
I suppose I can tell you about a year from now what the lesson actually was. At this point, I’m relying on intuition and guesswork. With the Ten of Coins, I’m thinking this may be a year of fulfilling material ambitions (financial, health, etc.) and then learning how to wrap up old projects and point that zingy Knight of Swords energy towards new goals.
When I was at the North Star Tarot Conference, I got the Orbifold Tarot. The pictures in this deck are abstract patterns of colored circles. The number of circles depends on the number of the card: six circles for the Lovers and the Sixes, nineteen circles for the Sun. The cards are colored depending on the elements involved. It’s a great deck if you habitually consider numbers and elements in your readings, but the patterns mask the emotional impact of a card. For instance, the Three of Cups is often seen as a positive card of friendship and celebration, while the Three of Swords depicts grief and sorrow. In the Orbifold Tarot, however, the Three of Water and the Three of Air have identical patterns of three circles, the former in blue and the latter in yellow.
Despite their reputation, I like the Swords, not because I adore misery, but because Swords are the rational, logical, intellectual suit and that describes a lot of my approach to life. I love the tarot, but I’ve never been thrilled at how the Swords have been saddled with a large number of dread-inspiring cards when that hasn’t been my experience of rationality and reason. Also, my favorite color is yellow, frequently associated with the element of air and the suit of Swords. So imagine my reaction to a deck with a beloved suit all in my favorite color,* and the higher the number, the more yellow on the card. The Orbifold Tarot’s Eight, Nine, and Ten of Air are…pretty.
It hasn’t been easy for me to leap into reading a deck without concrete illustrations. I’ve needed to think to recognize the cards. Between the lack of familiar illustrations and my unexpected reaction to commonly dreaded cards (“ooh, nice!”), I started wondering about a few things. Like, are the Eight, Nine, and Ten of Swords innately grim—that is, the combination of number and element mandates grimness—or do we think of them that way because of how they are illustrated in the most influential decks?
The pictures on both the Waite-Smith and the Thoth decks do lead one to think of unpleasant things, as do the card titles. In the Eight of Swords (“Interference”), the two vertical swords in the Thoth deck are willpower and firmness, but they’re under siege from all the problems symbolized by the other six swords. The woman in the Waite-Smith deck cannot make much progress either, being bound, blindfolded, and hemmed in by swords.
The Nine of Swords? Ah, “Cruelty.” In the Thoth illustration, nine swords drip blood. Those lighter-colored drops? Poison. Meanwhile, over in the Waite-Smith illustration, in addition to the sleepless figure clutching their head in the night, notice that the scene on the bed frame is of someone running a sword through a seated victim. Good times.
And the Ten of Swords—”Ruin.” Personally, I love the color scheme of the Thoth Ten of Swords, but it’s not peaceful and calming. (Also, never trust jagged, sharp background patterns in a Thoth card.) Still, bright colors, no dripping blood or poison…things are looking better than in the Nine of Swords, right? Well, those ten swords form the Tree of Life. While you can’t really see it in this photo, nine of the swords are breaking the tenth sword, the one with a heart on its hilt. The heart is at the Tiferet position on the Tree of Life—the Tree is losing its heart. This is not good. And the Waite-Smith illustration is of someone who’s been stabbed ten times. In the back.
It’s not that life never delivers situations this serious. But there are situations not nearly as harsh as the illustrations in these cards suggest which are Swords/Air situations, yet not easily described by the more moderate cards in the suit. The Orbifold Tarot and its emotionally neutral cards led me to consider if there were less dramatic ways to interpret these cards in any deck while staying within range of the common meanings.
One theory is that the higher the number on the card, the closer it is to manifestation. Cards early on in the suit are more like ideas and inspirations, but as the numbers increase, the situation becomes more fixed and committed, harder to change. Traditionally, water and earth are said to be more comfortable in the higher numbers than fire and air, so the Nines and Tens look a lot more positive in the Cups and Pentacles than they do in the Wands and Swords. Another approach is that the Nines are the culmination of the suit, while the Tens go overboard. When you’re at the Ten, the situation has developed as much as it can—it may even have gotten a bit stuck—and it’s definitely time to end this cycle and start a new one. Keeping these two approaches in mind, here are some thoughts on what the Eight, Nine, and Ten of Swords/Air might mean if they show up in a reading when the end of the world is not nigh:
Eight of Air: Constraint. If you make a commitment, you’re constrained. If you have things to do at work, you’re constrained. Planning to keep to a schedule today? Drive at the speed limit? Cross things off your to-do list? You’re constrained. It may not be fun, but it’s necessary. Often, that schedule or to-do list or those laws are mental/intellectual creations, which is why I see this as fitting for Air/Swords. Many people have pointed out that the woman in the Waite-Smith Eight of Swords could free herself if she tried. Many times, the only force holding you to your commitments is yourself. Is it wise to do so? Only you know.
Nine of Air: Lost in thought. The Waite-Smith picture suggests that if your mind is racing in the middle of the night, it must be because of horrible thoughts. Not necessarily. Me, I’m more than capable of lying awake working out some interesting idea or thinking about something intricate and fun. But this late in the suit, at the level of the Nine, things should be manifesting, becoming real. In the Nine of Air, they’re not. This is one of the downsides of Air: keeping everything theoretical and perfect** instead of making the commitment to earthly, flawed reality. Do something.
Ten of Air: Bringing something to an end, letting it go. Which can be painful: just one more edit, okay? Let me just tweak this one thing, proofread one more time, redo this one bit here, it’s not ready… In the Ten, the idea has become reality, and now there’s no denying that it’s not as perfect as the original inspiration was back at the Ace. On the other hand, it at least exists, which is more than can be said of that first idea. You can’t really commit to new projects if you never bring the old ones to an end. Even if it feels like killing something, say “The End” and move on.
*To be accurate, the ten pip cards have yellow designs on white backgrounds and the King of Air (Air of Air) has a yellow circle on a yellow background. The other Air Court Cards have yellow backgrounds with circles of different colors for the other element in the card: a green circle for the Page of Air (Earth of Air), a red circle for the Knight of Air (Fire of Air), and a blue circle for the Queen of Air (Water of Air).
**”Perfect” could mean perfectly horrible. Nightmares of how awful something could be are no more rooted in reality than the beautiful fantasies of how wonderful it could be.