The Venetian Tarot by Eugene Vinitski

The Venetian Tarot by Eugene Vinitski is a self-published tarot deck that is magnificent for a variety of reasons. Art may be subjective, but I would be hard-pressed to find one person who does not acknowledge the exemplary skill level demonstrated here by Vinitski. Furthermore, there’s both an intuitive and psychological understanding of the human condition that truly gives the deck a transformative, transcendent quality. Vinitski has produced a tarot deck that’s at once beautiful and collection-worthy, yet also a great professional reading deck.

Let’s begin with the packaging and card back design. I love the sturdy box style that Vinitski has chosen, its matte finish, and the complementary companion guidebook. The blues and rose golds complement the tone for the card by card Carnevale di Venezia inspired narratives. Also, yes, the cards are gilded and stunning with reversible card back designs.

Vinitski is an artist and illustrator from Moscow who now lives and works in Switzerland. You’ve got to check out his portfolio of art, which you can find here. Before we talk about the deck, let’s talk about the artist. How people take photographs, I think, reveals a lot about them. There’s a sharpness to Vinitski’s photography that suggests a fine-tuned understanding of human psychology, which you see underscored in his paintings as well. Vinitski’s paintings (from his portfolio; we’ll talk about the artist’s point of view for the Venetian Tarot a little later) bear a strong interest in the human figure, depicting human emotion and interactions with a Post-Impressionist aesthetic.

That keen understanding of people and human predilections sets a fascinating stage for the creation of the Venetian Tarot, where the focal point is on Venetian masks, or the masks we wear as devices to conceal our identity, our social status, and to maintain our anonymity when we act in defiance to our normal characters.

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Spiritsong Tarot by Paulina Cassidy

The Spiritsong Tarot by Paulina Cassidy is, at its essence, a spirit animal divination deck. The energies of each card in the standard 78 tarot deck is expressed by a selected animal spirit. I love the play on that term, too–spiritus animalis, the concept of weightless entities within us that operate our mind, that explain the currents of thought; the Keynesian economic theory of emotional and instinctual proclivities driving our decision-making behavior; and of course, that of animal spirit guides and the shamanic medicines each have to offer us if we invoke their powers.

In crafting the deck, each card is intended to be a portal to a higher world, one connected to a particular animal spirit or animal mentor that is then called upon through the divination to offer you divine guidance. In other words, each tarot card represents a particular Shamanic medicine.

Spiritsong Tarot is a great novice deck, as it has keywords at the bottom and I found the renaming of the suits easy and intuitive to follow. By the way, bonus points for the panda bear on the Ace of Crystals. How can I say anything negative about this deck after that? Now my only critique is there wasn’t a red panda (one of my favorite animals, evar).

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List of 2018 Bell Chimes In Episodes

In the Fall of 2017, I started a fun little series on my YouTube channel, called “Bell Chimes In.” Here’s a refresher of the 18 episodes that came out last year:

List of 2017 Bell Chimes in Episodes

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“Bell Chimes In” is a video series on my YouTube channel where I pick a topic that is oft talked about and chime in with my perspective. In doing so, I hope you’ll chime back. After the video, please join in conversation with me through a video response, blog post of your own, or by adding your thoughts in the comments section of the video.

I hope this series won’t be about me. I hope that it will be about us, about discourse, and the collective ideas of a community. There will be a new “Bell Chimes In” video every Sunday for the first quarter of the year.

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Mysterious Lady of the Ninth Heaven (Jiu Tian Xuan Nü, 九天玄女)

I love watching videos of people sharing their deeply personal experiences with deities of different pantheons and what those experiences have meant to them, so now I’m sharing one of my own. =)

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We’ve arrived at our final installment of the “Bell Chimes In” series for 2017. For those of you who’ve watched all 18 episodes, thank you so much for coming along on this journey with me. As I close out the year of venturing into the terrain of YouTube (I know I am no pioneer on this front, but it was for sure an unfamiliar and new adventure for me), I should probably share with you why I ventured out in the first place: the Lady of the Ninth Heaven.

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Your Year Ahead Twelve-Month Tarot Forecast Reading

Selecting a significator card. Deck pictured: Golden Universal by Lo Scarabeo.

For quite a while I offered a Year Ahead twelve-month forecast reading, but I received so many requests in 2017 that the reading type burned me out. So I won’t be offering it in 2018, but it’s an incredible tarot reading methodology and one you can absolutely do for yourself. So in this post I’ll show you how you can do my Year Ahead forecast reading all on your own.

The Year Ahead forecast reading consists of the following steps:

  1. Solar Return Astrology Analysis
  2. Preliminary Four Worlds Reading
  3. Elemental Key for the Year
  4. Twelve-Month Four-Quarter Projections
  5. Six Points Revelation Spread
  6. Power Word for the Year

Now let’s address each in turn.

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The Irony (or Maybe Paradox) of the Empath

Imagine yourself at Point A and you need to get to Point B, which is several winding hallways away. You are focused with this one objective, to get to Point B. However, as you start your way through the halls, flanking both sides of the hall are television and radio sets, every one of them on full blast, images of compelling narratives blinking at you from the glaring bright screens, and you catch snippets of phrases from the radio that sound important, that you wish very much you could stop and listen to acknowledge, but you’ve got to get to Point B and none of what’s bombarding your senses in these hallways relate to your destination.

The practical maybe even all too obvious advice is to ignore the distractions, stay focused, and get yourself to Point B, stat.

Now what if all those television and radio sets buzzing at you also happen to represent sincere cries for help. What if those weren’t television and radio sets but telephones, each one ringing at you and every ring is someone calling for you, hoping you’ll answer and give just one minute of your time, just one little moment, so that you can use your know-how and skill sets to help them solve their life problems.

What do you do? Do you still ignore the “distractions,” stay focused, and get yourself to Point B, stat? Or do you stop and answer those calls? If you stop to answer every call, you’ll never arrive at Point B, which is a destination you really, really want to arrive at. Do you stop to answer only some of the calls but not others? How do you discern which to answer and which to ignore? Speaking of calls, what’s your calling? In the midst of this chaos, you start to wonder: what exactly is your calling anyway? Is it to stop and answer as many of these calls as you can and that in and of itself is your life purpose? Or is your life purpose still to try to arrive at that destination Point B?

That’s the irony, or maybe paradox, I don’t know which, of the empath (which, by the way, my digital device keeps telling me is not a word and keeps wanting me to change to “empathy”).

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To the New Seeker: Advice for Beginners

I opted to address this topic with a “Bell Chimes In” episode rather than a “Tinkering Bell” because it’s not going to be a practicum and there’s no substantive knowledge to be gained here. It’s more about my perspective and my thoughts as a practitioner of craft. So it’s just me chiming in.

If I could impart a few words to the new would-be seeker on an esoteric, occult, or mystery path, what would I say? This episode is of me giving my thoughts on where the new seeker might begin the journey…not the journey to attainment, but rather, the journey to finding your own path to attainment. (Then there’s the tough part to follow, where you have to walk it!)

Also, regrettably, after finishing and uploading the video, I realized there were points I should have clarified on (such as the “copy from the masters first” comment), so here’s the accompanying blog post to the video. line

THE MONAD: DEITY

In Episode #1 of “Bell Chimes In,” I talked about my perspective on deity. That’s one place to start in your starting thoughts on deity. If you haven’t seen it, I’m linking it here.

I find that there is a lot of immediate power to be gained simply through knowledge, so for the new seeker, strive for a comprehensive education in world religions, in particular ancient religions. Go as broad as you can, exploring the most unfamiliar of cultures and terrain to you. Also learn about the esoteric and magical practices of different civilizations. Learn as many perspectives as you can on deity and this concept of a monad, or Unity. Perhaps you gravitate more toward the sciences and applying scientific principles to better understand the metaphor of the monad. Perhaps you’re interested in origins mythology of indigenous cultures and extracting core truths from those myths. Five hundred years ago, what would your ancestors have believed?

When you start to think about occultism and the mysteries of life, Western or Eastern in faith, you’re likely to start seeing something expressive of spirit in everything, whether it is a person, an animal, a tree, or even a rock. You start to intuit how everything might all be connected in some way and dialed into a oneness.

Begin turning your attention to considerations of that oneness. Before you read any spells or pick up tarot cards or try to read someone’s palm, parse through your feelings and thoughts about oneness and that concept of monad, compare it to how people from a variety of cultures and histories express that same concept, and start looking for patterns that light your way toward truth and knowledge.

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The Asian American Tarot & Read The Cartomancer

Are you subscribed to The Cartomancer? If you’re a tarot or oracle card reader, then you’ve got to check out this independent magazine. The quality of the print copy is just luxurious–definite collectible items.

Volume 3, Issue 3 is now out. You can order just the single copy or get a subscription for the year. Support your fellow tarot community, independent artists, deck creators (lots of stunning deck art in these pages), and further your own tarot education with The Cartomancer.

In the latest issue posted above, I wrote a deck review for The Asian American Tarot. You may be surprised and amused by my opinion. In a moment of irony, I can’t predict whether you’ll have expected as much from my review of the deck or whether it’ll be unexpected.

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Moon Block Divination | Tinkering Bell #5

Chinese moon block (Jiao Bei, 筊杯) is a form of divination that you’ll often find at Taoist or Buddhist temples. There may be a dish of moon blocks by the altar and the purpose is for you to ask your question to the deity venerated at that site, then throw the moon blocks for a yes or no answer. They’re used to communicate directly with gods and spirits. The traditional perception here is unequivocally that of divine communion.

Predecessors to the moon blocks are covered in the video, from the tortoise shells to the clam shells. I also instruct on how to clean out two clam shells from your next seafood dinner and ritualize them in preparation for divination uses.

Priests, priestesses, shamans, and witches, in particular witches from those cultures who lived by the seas, would use clam shells (or small tortoise shells) for divination.

Eventually, the concept evolved into the red moon blocks that are commonplace today. They’re one of the oldest forms of Chinese divination, alongside the I Ching, though throughout history, have taken many forms.

This video practicum teaches you how to divine with moon blocks (or clam shells, tortoise shells, etc.) and how to consecrate and empower a set to become used exclusively for divinatory purposes.

Supplemental Handouts

The following ritual instruction is for charging and empowering your divinatory tool, specifically your moon blocks, to be used for spirit communications. The instructions can be followed for either clam shells or tortoise shells.

Empowering Your Moon Blocks

(Download PDF)

Your Divination Cheat Sheet is a quick reference guide for the meaning of each divinatory result from your moon blocks. Alternatively, if you opt to use clam shells or tortoise shells instead, an interpretation guide is provided for both as well.

Divination Cheat Sheet

(Download PDF)

Buying Moon Block Sets Internationally

If you’re feeling enthusiastic about traditional moon block divination, then you might be interested in buying your own set of moon blocks. You can often find international sales of these through E-Bay or Etsy.

My general personal recommendation, if you are buying it international, is to source from Taiwan. Broadly speaking the Taiwanese tend to be more superstitious and religious about these things, and so they are going to be more attentive, more thoughtful, and craft-wise, more serious about their moon block production. Culturally, mainland China is more atheistic and capitalist-oriented, so just in terms of probability, you’re not as likely to find a seller who is actually a practitioner of craft.

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Homework: Your Practicum

Following each installment of the series will be a suggested practicum, or homework, for you to try out. Homework material presumes that you are an occult practitioner who is working on developing your craft.

Craft Your Own Moon Block Set: I say “moon block” for convenience of reference here. You can use clam shells (probably the easiest for most people to source) or empty tortoise shells (if that’s something you have access to). Even if you decide you really like the red wooden moon blocks and end up buying a set for yourself, I recommend crafting your own divination set because the process of crafting your own divination set from scratch is insightful on its own merits. You can even cut two cross-section slices of a thick branch for two disks to be used. Paint one side one color to represent yin, and the other side a contrasting color to represent yang. Or find two flat, rounded stones of about equal size and inscribe the two sides to symbolize yin and yang. Then follow the “Empowering Your Moon Blocks” reference guide provided above to consecrate and charge your divination set for divine communion.

Grimoire Reference Page: Before you memorialize this divination method in your personal grimoire, work with the method first. Take some time to try different approaches to the method first, such as crafting your own moon block set, trying different materials, from the clam shells to wood disks or stones, etc. Your creativity is your only limitation. If you really want to get your hands on the red moon blocks, then do so and work with that for a few moon cycles. Finally, once you’ve got a personalized hang of the process and how it operates for you as opposed to what I say in this tutorial, log your divination how-to in your grimoire. Be sure to take notes during the video lecture on the historical and cultural background of the divination method and include those in your grimoire as well for context.