This should have been my intro to you on how to read with the SKT, so it’s coming a bit late. Most folks get the vibe that the SKT is for “serious” readings only, and doesn’t work for everyday uses. Is that true? I believe every tarot deck is multipurpose and there are never any limitations to what you can do with any tarot deck. But are some decks better suited for specific purposes? Sure.
Every aspect of crafting the SKT was toward the aspiration of designing a perfected language for talking with Spirit. As a deck creator, to me, that meant I need to do a great deal of research into a great many subject areas to first understand, for myself, a prisca theologia, and then craft the language from there.
I think some people have gotten the wrong impression that you need to know the full history, depth, and every facet of implication for every single symbol in every single card to even operate this deck, and that as a result, to read competently with the SKT, you need to master an entirely new system of the tarot and do advanced mental acrobatics with the deck.
A good analogy to use here might be to think of the deck as an app (an app for contacting The Beyond…) and the symbology of the deck and every thread of history or mystical tradition I’ve woven into the deck’s imagery is the coding I, a programmer, used to create that app.
So to use the deck for contacting The Beyond, no, you do not need to have read The Book of Maps before working with the cards. You don’t need to know Zoroastrianism or have studied Manichaeism, Egyptian mythology, or Hermeticism. You don’t need to understand the astrological correspondences, the I Ching, or why this is put there or that symbol repeats itself across certain cards in the deck.
The symbols pictured on the deck and every aspect of its design, along with all the rituals the original pen and ink drawings were steeped in are part of the programming I, the deck creator, had to do to produce this kind of deck. It’s the coding. That’s it.
If you’re a programmer yourself and you want to understand the coding, then that’s when you might be interested in The Book of Maps. If you want to take a peek under the hood, then that’s when you deep-dive into an intensive study of the cards and the system I’ve devised.
If you’re interested in a long-term, committed, and self-dedicated spiritual experience that can endow you with a new, additional set of lenses through which to see the world, then that’s what I believe the ritual coloring is for.
Otherwise, no, what you see there, all that busy detailing, the self-regulated commandment I imposed on myself that every design decision required meaning and reference to a longstanding history and tradition of mysticism, all of that is the coding to create the kind of deck I wanted to create.
It has nothing at all to do with how you read with the deck.
Once the finished deck is in your hands, you can read it straight out of the box. Sure, your level of mastery over the tarot and over other metaphysical traditions or cultural symbology will certainly give you greater latitude and depth for communicating with Spirit through the cards, but anyone– anyone at all– can take these cards out of this sigil- and incantation- empowered box to contact Spirit.
At least that was my ambition. Whether I fell short is a discussion to be had by reviewers, but please consider the instructions offered in this write-up and try them out with your copy of SKT before you decide that the deck falls short of my statements of purpose.
Let’s start with the three versions of Key 0 you get. If it makes sense for you to read with all three shuffled into your deck and working with 80 cards, then go for it. I would interpret that as not limiting the scope of your readings.
My intention, however, for the three versions of Key 0 is for each version to give you access to a different level of operation with the cards.
So if you’re just starting something new, or you’re asking about possible future undertakings, what path to take, and no action or progress in any one direction has yet been taken, then read with The Initiate as Key 0. This unlocks potential and helps you choose which path to take.
If you want to ask a question to receive a divinatory answer, then that would be the standard Seeker card. If you want to use the deck for mediumship, or for petitions of spirit entities, then use The Keeper card.
Any of the three versions of Key 0 will connect you to the Akashic Records, though perhaps different facets of the Records.
When you want a question answered by The Beyond, start by personifying what’s there in the Beyond listening to you, the facet of Spirit that will be replying.
That Spirit knows you really well. The spirit understands what you know and don’t know, how your mind works, and therefore can use the SKT deck as a common language you and that spirit share to communicate the spirit’s message to you.
Assuming the spirit knows everything about you, the spirit will be able to pull up the right symbolism and imagery from the deck to present to you to convey the message.
In other words, because what you know and how your mind works is different from what I know and how my mind works, the precise way the language of the SKT deck will be used by the spirit world to communicate with you vs. communicating with me will necessarily be different.
The deck art on the SKT is less about pretty pictures for you to tell a story with, and a lot more about designing a language, a divine Logos. It’s like the coding for an app you’re using on your phone. You don’t need to know the precise coding for the apps you use. You just need to know the basic operations for that app’s user interface and then off you go.
Personify a beneficent entity beyond the veil who is listening, who you are now having a conversation with. Let’s say you ask the question, “How do I heal my pain?” Conceptualize your reading as you talking to that beneficent spirit beyond the veil.
If you’d like to know who you’re speaking with, then that’s your first question. Or if you don’t need the meet-and-greet, just proceed with a spread of cards as you would normally do.
In the above example, the first card to the left is my meet-and-greet, me asking who I’m in contact with. The card that came up was Key 8: The Force.
I assume that this beneficent spirit knows me through and through, knows how I work with astrology, knows the cultural lens through which I will see the symbols on that card, and also knows my process of research– so if insight is being given here that I don’t understand or know about yet, clues are provided so I will be able to follow a path of research and arrive at the message later.
I set the intention for the center card to be my answer: how to heal. The Scarlet Shield (Queen of Swords) is the answer to how I can heal myself from my present pain. The third card to the right indicates my chance for recovery based on all known or manifested factors.
In this three-card reading I did for myself, see how the intertwined serpents appear in both the left-most card and the right-most card, and how they change between the two. There’s also a serpent pictured on the shield in the center card, the Queen of Swords. You’ve got the lion’s head in both the left and right card, and that masked head on the shield in the center.
These remarkable patterns formed in your readings are meaningful, but it’s not so much that you need to sit there and dissect some deep, profound message out of the patterns. It’s more that they “prove” the presence of Spirit. Synchronicities are the indication that you’re not alone. =)
Look at the intertwined serpents in Card 1 and Card 3
Back to that center card, how to heal. How would you read these cards? Don’t change or diverge from your normal approach to reading cards or how you characteristically process information.
Except now, add the understanding that these cards before you are formed from a language and a beneficent spirit is using this language to communicate to you, working with the symbols and patterns of symbols from the SKT to speak directly to you.
So it’s almost like you’re playing a game of Pictionary with a spirit.
And you know how in Pictionary, it’s easier to win when you are partnered with someone you know really well, because you can draw symbols that your partner will definitely be able to pick up on? So it’s the same here. But you’re the partner and Spirit is “drawing” or pulling up the symbols that you are most likely to pick up on, but it’s unique to you, not necessarily universal.
So what came up in that three-card reading was for me, and me alone, because Spirit pulled up those symbols and those patterns specifically for me to see.
When I see any Shield card, the symbol of the shield immediately tells me, “I need protection.” It’s like after putting ointment on your wound, you want to cover the wound with a bandage to protect it while it heals. Shields in my readings always start with the message, “protect yourself.” Maybe that’s warding, or taking more proactive measures to do daily shielding recitations and personal rituals, or it’s a message that my mind or my physical body needs to be better protected.
The Shields or tarot Queens in this deck are also about achievement of something. The shield is about forming a boundary, and then deepening. I’ll contrast that with the tarot Kings in a bit. The Queens/Shields are taking something to greater depths, and the element here is Air, the suit of Swords, so everything I associate with that from my tarot studies comes in to play here.
Kings, the Archangels in the deck, expand. If Queens/Shields are about drawing boundaries around something and then deepening what is already within your scope, then Kings/Archangels are about expanding, outreach, emanating beyond yourself. The Archangel of Mysteries (King of Pentacles/Coins) is telling you there is something for you to master and mastery will lead you to your own material wellbeing.
“Archangel” is just a generic title and doesn’t need to conform to Abrahamic mythos. It just suggests a high-ranking divinity.
Here’s an example of another three-card reading. You don’t necessarily need to phrase your questions as questions. Think of the reading as a conversation with a friend, a wise, loving friend you go to for advice. Here, the inquiry began with simply, “I’m lost. Please navigate me out of my darkness.”
Then three cards were pulled. The left-most card indicates where you are right now. In a way, it identifies a spirit entity, but I also interpret that as being the personification of my current state of mind. My Two of Orbs (Pentacles/Disks) card, titled The Nocturne, is my “dark night of the soul” card.
The center card answers, “How do I get out? What’s the Way?” Here, the card pulled is the Stronghold of the Vale (Page of Pentacles). Notice the envelope in the bottom right corner. Every time a Stronghold card shows up, it’s a messenger from a higher-status spirit entity, a god or goddess of rank, and a message from such a divinity has been brought to you by this messenger. The suit of the messenger will reveal the identity of that Divinity.
Here, it’s Orbs (the suit name in the SKT), or Coins, Pentacles, Disks. This is the element Earth. This is an earthly divinity. What symbol on that card leaps out at you and tugs at your attention the most? For me, it was the bear. Is that a bear? What animal is that? What animal that looks like to you is what that animal actually is, in the moment, for your reading. So disregard my deck creator intentions. You are seeing what you are supposed to be seeing in the imagery.
Now let’s say I see a bear. Did you know Artemis is associated with the bear? If it would have been characteristic of you to see a bear and take on a path of research to discover that information, then a bear will be placed in your line of sight so that you arrive there. If that is not characteristic of you, then Spirit won’t take that route to send you the insights. So always bear that in mind (doh, no pun intended): the spirit entity you’re speaking with knows you even better than you know yourself, and will place in front of you what you most need to see to arrive at the answer that spirit wants you to arrive at.
Now once you have a sense of who sent the messenger, receive the message. Pull another card. Here, the card pulled is the Eight of Swords, the spirit titled The Captor. To me, this is a warning that someone is trying to sabotage my efforts.
Remember my question: How do I get out from this darkness I’m in? This center card is to show me the way out. Well, there’s a very strong oppositional force trying to hold me back. I need to fight and remove that oppositional force to clear my own path. That’s what’s in my way and that’s why I feel trapped in darkness.
Back to courts. Courts are always messengers from the Divine. And yes, they can be prognostications of people classically attributed to the tarot courts. I believe that even in real life, people can show up as messengers. They unwittingly channel the words of Spirit through their human mouths for just a moment, and you hear it, and it holds a much deeper significance and has a much greater impact on you than that person may have ever intended.
When a Shining One comes up– The Shining Flame, The Shining Dew, The Shining Winds, or The Shining Quarry– you’re missing a key active ingredient in your personal alchemy and to get to where you want, to achieve that goal of yours, to reach a place of fulfillment, this is the key active ingredient you need to manifest.
So if it’s The Shining Flame, the key active ingredient missing, preventing you from fulfillment is Fire, and so you’ll want to think about how that translates into your life in practical, tangible terms. This also showing you want alchemical stage you’re in right now: that of the awakening. The Shining Dew reveals the key active ingredient missing is “Waters and Waves,” and this is a stage of personal purification.
And again, you don’t even need to read the Empyrean Courts in any way remotely close to what I’ve said here. The point of this post is to try to get you out of the hang-up over having to know the coding that the programmer used and just learn the user interface, work with it in a way you like, and enjoy the uses of the app. =)
So the irony to me is while a deconstructionist analysis of each card’s symbolic anatomy would probably be fun to any nerdy occultist who wants to know how everything under the hood was arranged, if there’s any deck to read intuitively, straight out of the box, it would be the SKT.
The one difference I would say is that this deck isn’t about intuiting your own knowledge, but rather, it’s about intuiting spirit presence and trying to make sense of the messaging meant for you conveyed by that spirit presence.
The cards in the SKT deck altogether represent a language system and so reading the cards is an intuitive exercise of parsing through the linguistics of Spirit. Instead of ramming your head against the wall trying to make logical sense of it (even if you don’t realize consciously that’s what you’re doing), try to backtrack from the perspective of the spirit trying to communicate with you and see if you can follow the grammar and syntax being used. Why would a spirit entity use these particular symbols and signs to communicate to you?