31 Days of Tarot 2019: Days 28-31

It’s been a fun month, but it’s time to wrap this up. Generally, I’m pleasantly surprised I made it through to the end. Let’s go for the grand finale tonight!

Day 28: What is your ‘go-to’ Tarot book and why?

Which deck am I using? It’s difficult to say one book works for all decks, when the meaning of a card can change noticeably between decks. The Six of Swords in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck (moving on, leaving troubles behind) isn’t the Six of Swords from the Thoth deck (perception, insight, science) or the Marseille (harmonious communication). So, for each kind of deck, my go-to books are:

  • Tarot for Beginners: A Practical Guide to Reading the Cards by Barbara Moore (RWS). Does a good job of getting to the core meaning of the cards without a lot of extra material. Mind you, I love extra material, but not when I’m just looking for some help with a particularly confusing card in a reading.
  • Keywords for the Crowley Tarot by Hajo Banzhaf and Brigitte Theler (Thoth). Even more pared down than Tarot for Beginners, and that’s just fine. It’s also a guide to the symbolism in the Thoth deck, which is really helpful.
  • Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots by Caitlín Matthews (Marseille). Without scenes on the pips, or even the suggestions of mood and situation that are in the Thoth deck’s Minor Arcana, it helps to have a guide with a neutral flavor to its meanings.

Book covers: Tarot for Beginners, Keywords for the Crowley Tarot, Untold Tarot

Day 29: How do you feel about Tarot deck modification? Do you draw on your decks? Trim the borders or is it a no go for you and why?

I myself am not a modifier of tarot decks. Twelve years of seeing “PUPILS to whom this textbook is issued must not write on any page or mark any part of it in any way, consumable textbooks excepted” in my textbooks has permanently turned me off the idea. I have a hard time even adding marginalia (in pencil!) to books I know I will own for the rest of my life; cutting or drawing on a tarot deck would feel like sacrilege. Admittedly, this makes my tarot-reading life a smidgen harder than it has to be. I have small hands, and most tarot cards are uncomfortably large and difficult for me to shuffle. But aesthetically speaking, I usually prefer cards to have borders. Certainly performing borderectomies would make large decks easier to work with, but it wouldn’t improve their appearance for me. Also, if I did trim a deck, it would have to be machine-perfect. As I’ve discovered, I can now sense a difference of less than a millimeter between two knitting needles. Imagine how I would fixate on every imperfectly trimmed card.

That said, if you want to modify your own deck, you have my blessings, for whatever they may be worth. Make your deck truly yours!

Day 30: Do you carry out predictive Tarot readings? Yes, no, why?

A daily one-card reading is usually predictive. And there’s often a predictive spot or two in my spreads, positions like “near future” or “possible outcome.” But I rarely do a reading of more than one card only to find out what might happen. If it’s a major issue, I want to see what factors created it (positions about the past) and what is currently going on and what’s on my mind (positions about the present). A purely predictive reading usually isn’t full enough for my needs.

Day 31: What question/s do you most often ask the Tarot? (for yourself and for others)

I need perspective on X. Which is how I end up using those spreads that do more than just predict outcomes.

Prompts: Ethony’s 31 Days of Tarot YouTube Community Challenge and 31 Days of Tarot 2019 * Prompt Walkthrough

31 Days of Tarot 2019: Days 26-27

So, where were we?

Day 26: What Tarot deck do you wish you could get into or vibe with but just can’t and why?

Like there’s just one. And a lot of the time, it’s a deck I own—because I usually don’t figure out I can’t get into it until after I’ve bought it—and then I’m frustrated and I spent money on it. Grr. By the way, I can usually read with these decks. If a tarot deck uses symbolism that’s fairly close to the classics (RWS, Thoth, Marseille), I’ll come up with some sort of reading, even though I may be relying on standard definitions more than intuition.

When it falls apart is when the symbols aren’t what I’m used to, or the meaning is traditional but the picture doesn’t “say” that meaning to me. A good example of this, of a deck that I’d love to love to read with, is the Gaian Tarot. I really like the art in this deck, and I can squeeze a reading out, but it doesn’t flow. I strain to remember what Explorers and Guardians are (Knights and Queens). I look at the Eight of Air and can’t reconcile the picture with the conventional meaning of the Eight of Swords because it has a different meaning, but can’t hold on to what it means specifically in this deck either. And so on.

Day 27: How do you pick your Tarot decks for readings?

Usually I’m reading for myself, and my choices are driven by impulse and familiarity. My most-used decks are out where it’s easy for me to get to them; much of the time, I don’t remember my less-used decks are even an option because I don’t see them. If I’m going someplace and am bringing a tarot deck with me just in case, I’ll usually choose the Sun and Moon Tarot because I know I’ll get a fairly reliable reading from it—there’s a reason it’s my go-to deck! Sometimes I choose a deck because I’ve decided to use it more. (That’s why I’ve been using the Seventh Sphere Tarot de Marseille lately.) Sometimes I uncover an old favorite and want to get reacquainted. Basically, it’s whatever calls to me.

Those few times I read for others, I consider how familiar the person is with tarot readings. Someone who’s never had a reading is probably not going to hear a thing I say if I use a deck with scary imagery, and the Devil or Death comes up. I’ve mentioned using the Happy Tarot for just this reason. A Marseille tarot might work too, although I feel like a deck with images may be more approachable. And then, of course, there’s the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, which is really versatile, even if it’s not the perfect deck for all situations.

Prompts: Ethony’s 31 Days of Tarot YouTube Community Challenge and 31 Days of Tarot 2019 * Prompt Walkthrough

31 Days of Tarot 2019: Days 24-25

A little behind. Oh well.

Day 24: What Tarot card do you feel is the most misunderstood and why?

Shh. You know which one.
Death card from Seventh Sphere Tarot de Marseille
Pretty much every Tarot 101 book tells you that Death almost never means literal death. If it comes up as your card of the day, chances are, you’ll live to see the next morning. It’s about endings, yes, but also about transition, and clearing the way for new beginnings. I rarely read for other people, and even when I do, those other people are usually familiar enough with the tarot that I don’t have to explain the 13th trump. But I suspect that if I read for someone who didn’t know much about tarot and Death came up, I’d be in for a lot of explaining and reassurance, and they might not really believe me. And I completely sympathize with the confusion. Most versions of the card have a skeleton, a skull, the Grim Reaper, or something that says DEATH—not “transition,” not “ending,” not “figuratively speaking”—on them. It’s an easy mistake to make.

Day 25: Do you have any Tarot self-care rituals that are only for your personal practice?

No. It sounds like a lovely idea, though, so I may be trying to come up with some and watching other people’s posts for inspiration.

Prompts: Ethony’s 31 Days of Tarot YouTube Community Challenge and 31 Days of Tarot 2019 * Prompt Walkthrough

31 Days of Tarot 2019 – Day 23: The personalities of tarot decks

Yes, two decks of 78 identically-named cards with similar designs can have two different personalities, and it isn’t just the art styles involved.

Day 23: What is your most sassy Tarot deck, what is your most gentle Tarot deck? Why did you pick these decks?

Almost any of my decks, be it tarot, Lenormand, or Kipper, is capable of snark. I’ve never noticed them show that quality when I read for other people, nor do they do it when I’m too upset to handle it. But more than once, for a daily reading, I’ll get what can best be described as a sardonic reading.

But I digress. The question was about individual decks. I wouldn’t call any of my decks sassy. The Pagan Otherworlds Tarot, however, is forthright almost to a fault. I am learning to be careful if I use it to read for myself around other people because it will happily spell out any hidden issues. Excellent for self-understanding, but dreadful if any of it was embarrassing. Why did I buy this deck? Because I love the art. And how was I supposed to know it had no respect for the social niceties just by looking at it online?

I was going to say that I don’t own any gentle decks, but that’s not true. I own a couple of Radleigh Valentine* decks (Angel and Fairy), which are so gentle, I basically never use them. Indeed, the box for the Angel Tarot Cards says “[Former Co-Author] and Radleigh Valentine have created the first deck of tarot cards that is 100 percent gentle, safe, and trustworthy!” Why did I buy these decks? Curiosity. Decks by these authors take up a lot of shelf space at my local bookstore, and I wanted to see what they’d be like to read with. And one day, I found them in great condition at a used book store and splurged.

However, there’s gentle and then there’s gentle. And sometimes, especially when reading for someone who’s not that familiar with the tarot—or if I’m reading for myself on a topic that makes me anxious—I need a deck that will be honest but not harsh. For that, I use the Happy Tarot. It doesn’t omit the scary cards or imagery, but it manages to make them not scary. Or to put it another way, it just looks sweet and innocent. Why did I buy this deck? It insisted on coming home with me. I most certainly did not set out to buy the Candyland of tarot decks. I picked it up once to look through it. And again. And again. And realized I had to have it, and I still can’t explain exactly why.

Death and the Tower from the Pagan Otherworlds, Angel, and Happy Tarots.
Left to right: Pagan Otherworlds Tarot, Angel Tarot Cards, Happy Tarot

*Dutifully not naming Valentine’s co-author, who no longer wishes to be associated with the decks.

Prompts: Ethony’s 31 Days of Tarot YouTube Community Challenge and 31 Days of Tarot 2019 * Prompt Walkthrough

31 Days of Tarot 2019: Days 20-22

Another multi-day post. We’re past the ⅔ point!

Day 20: What is your favorite Tarot Spread at the moment?

I’m interested in tableau spreads. In Lenormand, the Grand Tableau reigns, where you lay all 36 cards out, either in a 9 x 4 grid or in an 8 x 4 + 4 spread (an 8 x 4 grid with the final 4 cards in a line under the spread). I wanted to try that kind of spread with tarot cards, but laying all 78 of them out promised to be unmanageable. But then last year I read Untold Tarot by Caitlín Matthews. She describes how to do tableau layouts with 25 cards, and I’ve been enjoying trying that. I’ve also had good results with a 3 x 3 layout that Tom Benjamin talks about in Tarot on Earth.

Day 21: Do you use the Tarot for mediumship readings? Why or why not? If no, would you like to?

I don’t because I’m not interested, so I’m not likely to in the future either.

Day 22: Where is one place in the world you would love to read the Tarot and why? It could be a sacred site, event, mystical shop, anything.

bench cascade creek environment
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Hmm. Because most of the time I read for myself, as long as I’m comfortable, I’m happy to do a reading. I suppose it would be lovely to do a reading in a clearing in a forest on a nice warm-but-not-hot day, the sun filtering down through the leaves, maybe the sound of birdsong a few trees over. Oh, and the burbling water sound from a nearby creek. (No mosquitoes, though. No ticks. And a breeze would be nice, but not one strong enough to blow my cards away. Sorry—did I just get too realistic?)

Prompts: Ethony’s 31 Days of Tarot YouTube Community Challenge and 31 Days of Tarot 2019 * Prompt Walkthrough

31 Days of Tarot 2019: Days 18-19

A couple of lists.

Day 18: What cards relate to you personally. NOT just your astrology association or court cards. – Lizzie Bolton

  • Four of Swords: The peace, the quiet, the restfulness. Whether or not I’m successful, I’m always looking for these.
  • Nine of Swords: I am well-acquainted with being unwillingly awake in the night.
  • Four of Pentacles: I view this card as being about good boundaries and conserving your resources. The Rider-Waite-Smith depiction, suggesting greed and stinginess, is certainly a possibility, but I see this card as being healthier than that.
  • Nine of Pentacles: I want this life: independent, comfortable, yet with community within reach.

Four of Swords, Nine of Swords, Four of Pentacles, Nine of Pentacles

Day 19: If you were shipwrecked on an desert island, which five tarot or oracle decks would you want to have with you and why. – Lisa Sumiyoshi

  1. Sun and Moon Tarot: My go-to tarot deck. Also, it’s more of a Thoth-genre deck rather than RWS, and variety is good.
  2. Universal Waite Tarot: My favorite version of the RWS tarot. It’d be good to have one version of the classic deck at hand.
  3. Pagan Otherworlds Tarot: This deck pulls no punches with its readings. Not that the other two do, but somehow I feel the impact more with this deck. And I love the art.
  4. BYO Lenormand: The most personally-relevant Lenormand I own.
  5. Story in Color Lenormand: Pretty! And it conveys emotions more easily than many Lenormand decks do.

Although I should just grab the Seventh Sphere Tarot de Marseille and the Seventh Sphere Lenormand as I head for the lifeboat, as the cards are plastic and will survive a shipwreck better than paper cards.

Prompts: Ethony’s 31 Days of Tarot YouTube Community Challenge and 31 Days of Tarot 2019 * Prompt Walkthrough

31 Days of Tarot 2019 – Day 17: Favorite way to tarot journal

Honestly, this should probably be an easier question than I’m making it.

Day 17: What is your favorite way to Tarot Journal? Planners, apps, bullet journals? – Jen Sankey

What I want is a straightforward physical journal, organized by suit, where I can flip through to the page I want to consult. I like a looseleaf journal so that I can add or take out pages and rearrange them to my heart’s content. I can carry the journal with me, and it’s simple, but attractive.

A purple discbound notebook lying on a table.

(If this photo looks familiar, yes, rearranging and improving my tarot journal was one of my 2019 tarot goals from the Day 9 post.)

Despite having that nice purple journal, I currently do most of my tarot journaling in Evernote. (I’m sure other services would let you do many of the same things; I happen to already use Evernote.) I can take a photo of a reading and easily include it with my interpretation. The cards are right there, preserved for future insights. I can search my journal by keyword or tag entries for improved searching. If I find an interesting article on the Web, I can upload it instantaneously and send it to the proper folder, maintaining the original formatting or simplifying it as desired. I don’t have to worry about reading my handwriting, because everything is neatly typed up. I am unlikely to ever run out of space. Nor do I have to lug a heavy book with me—all I need is my tablet or even just my smartphone. But it lacks the charm of a print journal.

Prompts: Ethony’s 31 Days of Tarot YouTube Community Challenge and 31 Days of Tarot 2019 * Prompt Walkthrough

31 Days of Tarot 2019 – Day 16: That must-see card


Day 16: What Tarot card in the deck do you look out for the most when you get a new deck? If you don’t like that card does it ruin the deck for you?

It’s a tie between the Queen of Swords and the Nine of Pentacles. And yes, sometimes one or both are just not all that great to look at. But I like or dislike a deck based on the deck as a whole. My key factors are the art style, the theme, and the symbolism, all of which shape every card, not just those two.

Queen of Swords and Nine of Pentacles tarot cards

Prompts: Ethony’s 31 Days of Tarot YouTube Community Challenge and 31 Days of Tarot 2019 * Prompt Walkthrough

31 Days of Tarot 2019: Days 14-15

Combined posts: the secret to my having made it to the halfway point!

Day 14: Which tarot decks give you the most insight by way of the imagery and symbology of the cards rather than intuition or basic tarot knowledge – Elizabeth Harkin

I turn to the classics here: the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot and the Thoth Tarot. I don’t necessarily “like” the symbolism in these decks. The RWS deck is far more Christian in its orientation than I am, and…well, a great deal of the time, I’m not sure where the Thoth deck is even going. But for me to read using the imagery and symbology of the cards, a deck needs to have them in the first place, and both these decks exult in them. I respect these decks for that. Now, I don’t know as I get more from the imagery and the symbols than via my intuition or my grasp of the basic card meanings. They’re all mixed together for me.

Day 15: What is in your Tarot ‘to-go’ bag? Your Tarot travel bag. – Nya Thryce

Ooh, the prompt makes me think of an emergency tarot bag, packed and waiting by the front door, to be grabbed as I run out the door to a crisis. Except my life is not quite that interesting, and I don’t keep a bag ready to go. But when I do take tarot somewhere, it’s basically a tarot deck or two (lately, that would be the Sun and Moon Tarot and maybe the Happy Tarot) and a Lenormand deck (probably the Dondorf Lenormand). If I’m really prepared, I’ll throw in a notebook and pen as well, but I may just rely on getting a photo if I need a record of any reading.

Prompts: Ethony’s 31 Days of Tarot YouTube Community Challenge and 31 Days of Tarot 2019 * Prompt Walkthrough

31 Days of Tarot 2019: Days 12-13

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.

Devil and Chariot tarot cards

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.

Prompts: Ethony’s 31 Days of Tarot YouTube Community Challenge and 31 Days of Tarot 2019 * Prompt Walkthrough