How to Read with Your SKT

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.

First Edition, 2018

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.

Vitruvian Edition, 2019

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.

The four Shining Ones (tarot Knights) from the First Edition SKT

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.

The four Shining Ones (tarot Knights) from the Vitruvian Edition SKT

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?

12 thoughts on “How to Read with Your SKT

  1. I’m so new to reading cards but that’s my basic understanding of how to read any cards. If every card had one set meaning based on every single possible symbol on the card, wouldn’t the readings be pretty similar for every person who pulled the card? I know I can’t see everything that an experienced reader would see, but I assume that when I’m drawn to pick a card, I’m drawn to it because my guides know what I see in it. For instance, I use the CBD TdM and I’m aware of the typical meaning of The Tower. However, I have often said to people that I see a feather duster cleaning a house from top to bottom (amongst other things). When I read for my husband just before we embarked on a major clear out of the house, this was the card I pulled. I doubt anyone else would have seen that meaning but that’s what I saw and it was perfect. I assume my angels know what I’ll see in a card when they draw me to pick one and I feel like that’s what you’re saying here. I haven’t been drawn to any RWS style decks before but what you’ve written here makes me feel like I could approach it very similarly to how I approach TdM. Next time I have money, I might just have to buy a set. Thanks!

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  2. hermitsmirror

    I’ve had spiritually deep and mysterious moments with the deck, and then sometimes a weekly forecast reading reveals the most literal and prosaic message. It’s definitely good for all kinds of readings! I’m still working through the initiation and coloring, which I think will add to the experience, but it’s definitely ready “as is” for standard-issue tarot readings. Thanks for making a great deck!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. kagan

    Yes Benebell! This should have been communicated in the very beginning; should have been even embedded in The Book of Maps’ first pages.

    After I first received my deck (first edition) I decided not to unbox it until I felt ready. It already looked intimidating from the video posts, blog posts email updates etc. I heave read them all and I didn’t unbox it. Didn’t want to… I have watched lots of reviews on YouTube and those reviews didn’t make sense at all either. Looked to me that these dudes didn’t know what they were talking about either…That’s just how I felt and still do about those readers and their reviews.

    I took the deck out of its package and and its own box months later in a short ritual and welcomed it to my space and put it back and had not touched it until the Vitruvian edition arrived.
    By then I had already acquired considerable theoretical technical and cosmetic knowledge about the deck. (symoblogy, artwork, creator’s thought process and many other personal and impersonal details that made the deck a deck)

    I am not a professional reader. I was just pulled towards tarot by ”coincidence” and learned rws tarot system from one single book in a ridiculously short time (as if I already knew how read cards. It was so easy and effortless to me) and I always felt that I needed a friend, a connection with a spiritual being who can talk back through an earthly tool that I can understand. I realized that this is what tarot is to me at this point of my life.

    SKT since I have pulled my first card from SKT, the deck has been doing just that and has taken place in my space to serve what I have been looking for. I don’t care about spreads, don’t really take them seriously either. I don’t pay much attention to the heavy symbology embedded in the cards ( However I do dig really a lot after reading my cards out of curiosity- I mean : ad nauseam) I haven’t spent years to deal with tarot in my life and yet cards (or beings) just talk to me. They don’t always answer questions or always provide guidance. They sometimes go along with me i.e: if i feel down they would sometimes just say: ” Yes we know that you are tired. We feel you. Hang in there. This too shall pass” and that’s it!

    This deck – I believe – is for personal use, even for the simplest mundane issues of your daily life. This deck is for communication tool with your god who or whatever your god may be, or whichever religion you choose to follow. Images are incredibly easy to understand and no reversals needed at all.

    I would like to share another interesting experience that i am having with the deck: The cards operate well and accurately if you are pure in your intentions, if you are a good man having no ill intentions or feelings for anything or anybody. Was that coded in the process before the release ? Who knows but that’s my experience.

    The cards were said to be the blend of T(h)oth and RWS but After using this deck I feel like I am slowly moving away from classical RWS and approaching more to TdM for some reason that I can’t fully explain As for the T(h)oth, I have never really taken it seriously anyway through out my limited experience.

    To me SKT deck is more like between Dowson’s Hermetic Tarot and TdM. I won’t be able to operate well with Hermetic Tarot deck as that deck is precisely what majority of the people is falsely thinking about SKT. It requires lots of indepth study of the Hermetic order.

    To conclude, I would suggest to beginners ( not tarot beginners but SKT beginners) unlike what the deck creator Benebell advises that you don’t need to go with her definition of cards, I strongly advise the opposite. If your intention is to work with this deck the way I do, then do go through the basics and her thought process in at least Medium White book and start trying to see the cards from that perspective first. ‘Spirits’ communication style will take form from there and adjust to your understanding after that point and will become more customized overtime. I disagree that creator’s intentions should be skipped altogether. That would be like living in a land that has a thousands of years of history and claim that it is now yours skipping the considerable portion that made that land what it is today. If you operate with this deck, and are successfully connecting with spirit, an entity in another realm, you are inevitably connected to the deck creator as well.

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  4. Ian Radford

    I love reading all the details and information you are providing and I find it opens up many thoughts. I am doing the 22 week course with the SKT and about three weeks ago I did a Shamanic Trance Dance and interesting experiences happened including seeing the holy grail and wondered what everything meant anyway the next day when I went back to my course I noticed that I had written down about the holy grail as part of my work. I felt connected to this deck and love working with it although I have so much to learn. Thank you for putting this deck together xxx

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  5. Julia

    I feel like you’ve been reading my mind… or my posts in the skt facebook group haha
    Thank you so much for this. Sometimes striving for perfection makes me miss the whole point.

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  6. dandeliondivination

    Thank you!! Also, you inadvertently helped me with something else. A random stranger said a phrase to me that means a lot to me spiritually. A human has never said it to me. It wasn’t out of place to say, but it’s just not commonly chosen in the situation. I immediately wondered if that was from spirit and thought that would be too good to be true. I am rethinking that now.

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  7. Yeah, your deck has been incredibly amazing and resonant with me. I remember doing your 4 pillars tarot academy course. You recommended that the world card be the peak of the inner temple, yet said any card could be put there. So I chose the archangel of mysteries as from the beginning of your deck creation (1st edition) I’ve felt that as the card/entity that was my own inner guide, the kind of spirit that I embodied in me (or sort of, the archangel of healing comes up a lot too. Like a point of origin vs destination dichotomous relationship). So naturally when the vitruvian version came out I kind of *freaked out* a bit on the inside. Another one of those *WTF synchronicity?!* pings that makes my heart race, my eyes anxiously dart and my mind flip out, as I just feel so much doubt that this is my ego trying to be “more” than it’s destined to be.

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  8. Emme

    As the years go by, I am less and less interested in dissecting the card(s) during a reading. My analytical mind has taken a back seat (in the very back lol) and my emotional body has stepped forward in a way that it’s like I don’t even read the cards anymore. Instead, when looking at a card now, I “feel” the image as if it was alive, as if it had its own aura. Weird, I know, but such profound messages… not only for me, but for clients as well. When I first received the SKT Vitruvian, I connected with it instantly just by its name, but for some odd reason, I decided that I “should” learn the code before working with it. Nonsense if it the deck already speaks to me. Thank you for reminding me of this! Now, of course, I want to look under the hood! But that’s only to feed my nerdy side, because it’s all fascinating and it’s my idea of a good time 😉

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  9. Dear Benebell, I want to offer gratitude for this blog post and all of your work.
    What you wrote has deeply unlocked something.
    This morning I was able to communicate with my beloved Hemera (SKT) fully trusting my intuition and the messages from my spirit guides. This amount of clarity is freeing…and new!
    Lots of love to you, Aline

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  10. M3

    SKTVitruvian has made me cry from the jump! I started with the Conversing with a Spirit
    Meditation and they’ve been talking ever since. I’m glad that I deep dived into the BoM before really working with Koda because I did approach my readings very differently than I do with my other decks.

    On that note: I do use different decks for different purposes. I have a travel deck that gets knocked around in my purse and gets pulled out if I find a crying girl in a bathroom. I have my very 1st deck that I use for only myself and never leaves my bedroom. I have a 3rd deck that I use with my friends when they come over and want me to read for them. & guess what? I read them all differently because they’re all different and I don’t ask them the same questions.

    Even virtuosos need practice and discipline and why should studying the SKT instrument be any different?

    Side Note: anyone else get the cold sweats recounting what your Angels have witnessed over the years and wonder if they’ll bring it up? Just me?

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  11. Anonymous

    This is so helpful! I’m about halfway through the Book of Maps and agree with other posters that this explanation may be helpful in future drafts, should you eventually choose to release another edition. I do think that you touched on some of this in the Book but I appreciate you laying everything out here. Thank you!

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