Ancestral Path Tarot by Julie Cuccia-Watts

The Ancestral Path Tarot by Julie Cuccia-Watts first came out in 1996, published by U.S. Games. At the time it was a bordered deck and had a different card back design. This year the deck has been re-released, now borderless and with a beautiful new card back.

There is both a 90s throwback vibe to this deck and a timeless quality. Ancestral Path reminds me of the way multiculturalism was celebrated in the 90s. You’ve got original works of art done by hand, with minimal digital retouching, not like the majority of decks we get today, which involve heavy-handed amounts of digital work. One isn’t better or worse than the other; it’s just iconic of different times.

Note here that Key 8 is Justice (and Key 11 is Strength). Ancestral Path is a fusion of different deck systems, which will become a bit more apparent when we get to the Minors. Here, though, I love the emphasis on priestess energy in the Hierophant card. Yes, it’s still a true Hierophant card, but I love how Cuccia-Watts has reinterpreted it with more feminine energy.

I love the simple elegance of the card backs, with that beautiful pastel blue and what’s reminiscent of a pearl. Technically these are not reversible card backs, but I mean, unless you’re looking, they’re more or less reversible. I love the meta quality to The Fool, which is a self-portrait of the artist holding up The Fool card in this deck, which is a self-portrait of the artist. Clever.

What’s interesting to me is how modern The Fool card feels in this deck, compared to the rest of the deck art. Thus, it almost conveys the narrative that this deck is about traveling back in time. At the point of The Fool, we are in the present day, and the nod to the deck itself in Key 0 is about the type of journey we’ll take with Ancestral Path. This is about ancestors and it is about past lives. At least that’s what I got out of this juxtaposition.

Some of these artistic interpretations of the Majors really made me think. Take, for instance, The Hanged One (Key 12), which is a baby turned upside down, meaning ready to be birthed. I really love the transition from the Star to the Moon to the Sun here. I’ve been using Ancestral Path for past life readings and find it to be quite clear for such purposes.

The Wheel of Fortune card in this deck is incredible. There’s some homage to medieval Cellarius star atlases. Here we see traditional astrology juxtaposed with modern astronomy. A master astrologer herself, Cuccia-Watts integrates much of her spiritual beliefs into this deck.

The Tower is a powerful card. Near the bottom you’ve got what looks like Stonehenge, then the Sphinx, then the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, and then a cathedral or basilica, and above that, what looks like a modern skyscraper.

The four suits depict four different cultures of antiquity. You’ve got feudal Japan in the Swords, and as we go through these photographs of the cards, you’ll see that the suit of Staves depicts the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ramses II in Egypt, the suit of Cups depicts Arthurian Britain, and the suit of Sacred Circles is indigenous First Nations Americas. Here in the suit of Swords, the progression of paintings tell an epic story about the Ainu, or indigenous people of Hokkaido.

The court cards are titled King, Queen, Prince (for the Knight), and Princess (for the Page). In Ancestral Path, court cards are deified ancestral figures. In the suit of Swords, for instance, you’ll find Izanagi and Izanami, Shinto kami, along with Tsukiyomi and Amaterasu, moon god and sun goddess respectively. In the suit of Staves (Wands), you’ll find Osiris and Isis for King and Queen, then Nephthys and Horus for the Prince and Princess (Knight and Page) cards.

The narrative illustrated across the Staves suit is that of the Osirian myth, the cycle of death and resurrection, with the deck creator taking cues here from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Here, as noted in the little white book, the 7 of Staves is about solving the riddle of the sphinx. The 6 of Staves expresses the pitfalls of patriotism and hero worship

The 5 of Staves, which in the RWS shows the five individuals with staves fighting each other, and in the Thoth is titled Strife, here in Ancestral Path shows a much more serene and peaceful scene. Here, the 5 of Staves is about negotiation, cooperative efforts within a diverse group of people, and pooling talents to create something great. Many of the cards in this deck have been reworked, and so when reading with Ancestral Path, trust what you see depicted on the card more than you do memorized textbook card meanings.

The larger size of the deck is something you will either love or find cumbersome, and will be a matter of personal preference. I found it a bit cumbersome, but that’s just because I find any deck larger than 2.75″ x 4.75″ cumbersome. The muscle memory in my hands are so used to that standard tarot size that anything not conforming to that can feel awkward.

The coloring is magnificent. It goes without saying that Cuccia-Watts is an extraordinarily talented artist. You can see a clear foreground, middle ground, and background, and every image feels spacious. There’s actually an excruciating amount of detail in every card, but it never overpowers you because Cuccia-Watts understands balance. She knows how to paint a landscape that lets your eyes temper the detailing with the bigger picture, and it’s truly remarkable.

Here in the Cups courts, the King is Arthur and the Queen is Gwenhwyfar; Lancelot and Morgana are the Prince and Princess. The Cups tell the story of Morgana’s Reverie, as King Arthur’s sister prepares herself for the role of the psychopomp on the path of the King’s initiation into the knowledge of his genetic inheritance and his spiritual responsibilities.

I like the recasting of the tarot 7 of Cups here. In Ancestral Path, this card is about visions and intuition. It’s about reality being the illusion and having to trust that which lies behind the obvious. When the 7 of Cups shows up, it’s a moment to reflect on the meaning and purpose of your existence.

Cuccia-Watts and the author of the guidebook, Tracey Hoover, have brought out original expressions of the classic tarot architecture. In the 6 of Cups, while they stay true to textbook essential meanings, we also learn that this card can denote avoidance of negative childhood issues.

The suit of Pentacles (Coins/Disks) has been renamed to Sacred Circles. In the Sacred Circles, the King and Queen are Grandfather Thunder and Grandmother Moon, and for the Prince and Princess, Father Sun and Mother Earth. This suit tells a Menominee legend of bear and thunder spirit ancestors, narrating a vision quest.

The Aces in this deck symbolize raw mythical power. The Ace of Sacred Circles depicts a drum, which per Native American lore, measures the heartbeat of the earth and carries in its rhythms divine messages between the worlds of the living and the dead.

The little white book by Tracey Hoover is quite meaty. The tone and point of view for the card meanings is more spiritual in nature, however, and not quite as practical. When using Ancestral Path for readings of a spiritual nature, the little white book’s guidance will come in handy, though if you’re looking for more practical meanings, the tarot beginner will want an additional companion text.

Still, at 30 pages in length, it’s a great primer, and great at offering an orientation and introduction to the Ancestral Path tarot deck. I love how some of the keys have been interpreted here. For instance, the Nine of Swords can indicate a prophetic dream. The Queen of Swords expresses joy in the creative process. It’s about making something from nothing, and can also denote children, grandchildren, and family pride. The old school depiction of the Queen of Swords is usually a severe woman who is widowed and childless, so I really like this re-branding for her.

The Princess of Cups, depicting Morgana, can reveal a magical being, a healer, and someone knowledgeable in herbs and the mysteries of the earth. The guidebook ends with a classic nod to the Celtic Cross spread, which again, to me feels very 90s. I think every LWB from the 90s featured either the Celtic Cross or the Horseshoe.

The Ancestral Path Tarot by Julie Cuccia-Watts is a must-have in any deck collection, especially if you’re looking for iconic representations of where we were at as a tarot collective in the 90s. That it can be reprinted today in 2019 and feel wholly relevant is a testament to how remarkable this deck is.

I would recommend this as a beginner’s tarot deck. It reads with ease and the little white book is enough to get anyone started. The artwork captivates, opening up the beginner reader’s intuition in ways that will further deepen one’s curiosity for the tarot. And yet there is so much to unpack here, and from what I know of Cuccia-Watts’s astrological work, the symbolism on each card plunges far below the surface of what you see pictured. Thus, the advanced reader has much to work with here.

The Fours: Tarot Card Meanings

New to this video lecture series?

Start Here

The above-linked Introduction page will give you an overview of what this series is about and provide a course contents listing.

The Fours is the sixth of seventeen videos in this series, “Tarot Card Meanings with Benebell.”

Continue reading “The Fours: Tarot Card Meanings”

Tarot Fortune-Telling, Divination, and Life Coaching (Part I)

Whether fortune-telling with the tarot is okay or not okay is this weird hill that people are hell-bent on dying on. At the end of the day, whether a tarot reading is fortune-telling, divination, psychology-based, or some form of life coaching is just a difference in style, I think. We’re all doing the same thing. We just prefer different terminology because we’re trying to craft a particular image of ourselves.

Recently in online tarot social media, the topic of fortune-telling and whether this is something we want to encourage or discourage came up in discussion. It reminded me of a recent personal event.

Back in July I was visiting my parents in upstate New York. Mom, Dad, me, and the Hubby walked into a Chinese restaurant where my parents are friends with the owner. The owner came over to chat and asked us how we’ve been, and in particular, what I’ve been up to. They’re all speaking Mandarin Chinese.

Mom said to the owner, “My daughter is a fortune-teller.” (For those who speak Mandarin, she said, Ta hui bang ni suan ming. And yeah, I get it, my pin yin is probably all wrong there.)

I’m sure my face scrunched up into a grimace. “Ma, no, that is not what I do,” I replied in English.

“All right. Fine. Then you tell Auntie what it is that you do,” said Mom.

Continue reading “Tarot Fortune-Telling, Divination, and Life Coaching (Part I)”

SKT Tarot Readings Diary (Free Download)

This is the tarot readings diary keyed specifically to the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot deck that I promised back when I shared the downloads for the tarot journal collab with Scarlet, linked here.

SKT Tarot Readings Diary

This is a Tarot Readings Diary keyed specifically to the SKT. That means the “Classes & Workshops Log of Notes” is a note-taking section for all video courses outlined in the Free Esoteric Tarot Online Course for the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, linked here.

The short form card meanings compiled from both the First Edition LWB and the Vitruvian Edition LWB are provided in the back of the Tarot Readings Diary for your convenience of reference.

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Tarot Card Meanings with Benebell (Study Journal Free Download)

This is the tarot study journal keyed with the SKT that I promised back when I shared the downloads for the tarot journal collab with Scarlet, linked here.

Tarot Study Journal

The Tarot Study Journal is for you to record all your card meanings and correspondences reference material. The structure of this journal is the same as the one previously shared for the tarot journal collab, except this one includes the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot deck. In other words, it’s a study journal for the Tarot de Marseilles, Rider-Waite-Smith, Thoth, and the SKT.

For those who have been following along the Tarot Card Meanings with Benebell video lecture series, this Tarot Study Journal is basically keyed to that video lecture series. So you can print out a copy of this journal and take all your notes from the lecture series in these pages.

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SKT 3″ x 5″ Tarot Stickers (Template Download)

These are free downloads of SKT tarot sticker templates. Each sheet consists of a three-card reading that’s a form of energetic intention setting. You can print these out in color (sepia tones) or grayscale (if your printer only has black ink).

The following templates are formatted to print on the 3″ x 5″ blank rectangle labels by Avery, Label No. 94213. You can order the blank rectangle label stickers directly from Avery here. Direct from Avery, 10 sheets (that’s 30 tarot stickers in total) go for $8.00 plus $3 flat rate shipping, so $11 for 30 tarot stickers. That’s not too bad. It’s not great price-wise, but not too bad. Also, the more sheets you order, the more economical the price.

After you print out one of the selected sheets of tarot stickers (each sheet consists of three cards), start with the left-most card. Place the fingertips from your dominant hand on the tarot image. Close your eyes, relax your breathing, and focus your thoughts on the specific goal you want to achieve or what it is you want to manifest. Visualize that goal coming to fruition.

Then transform that visualization into light. Intuit what color light such a goal, outcome, achievement, or manifestation would be if it was in the form of light energy. Send that beam of colored light from your head, down through your arm, out the fingers of your dominant hand and send it into the tarot image, feeling yourself press that energy into the card.

Repeat for the center card. Repeat again for the third to the right. Take your time. Do not rush the process. Remain calm, confident, and self-assured from beginning to end.

I like to affix these stickers onto the glass of three white pillar candles. Set these three candles out somewhere meaningful to you. Every time the candles are burning, the powers and beneficent forces of the selected cards are activated and sending those energies into your space, enriching your environment.

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The Queens: Tarot Card Meanings

New to this video lecture series?

Start Here

The above-linked Introduction page will give you an overview of what this series is about and provide a course contents listing.

The Queens is the fifth of seventeen videos in this series, “Tarot Card Meanings with Benebell.”

Continue reading “The Queens: Tarot Card Meanings”

Seven Philosophical Readings with the Tarot


I hope you’ll try this out, join in, and share your own posting or video response to these philosophical readings with the tarot. Or if you prefer, use your favorite oracle deck.

Here’s the premise. You’re going to be using the cards to answer seven classic philosophical questions.

Before you start, you’ll set the intention that the cards will know how you’d respond to the questions deep down, on some soul level. So every card reading will reflect what you really think, how you really feel about the answer to the given inquiry.

I’ll be using my Spirit Keeper’s Tarot Vitruvian. For each question I will only be doing a single card draw, but please don’t limit yourself to that. If you’d rather do a three-card reading for each question or design a simple spread for each, go for it!

For those familiar with how I’ve designed the SKT, I’ll be using The Seeker version of Key 0 for my significator, Spirit in Search of Science. Then I’ll shuffle, meditate on the question at hand, and then turn over the cards looking for The Seeker. The card behind The Seeker will be my answer to the question.

Let’s begin with the classic trolley dilemma, shall we?

Question #1

A runaway trolley is racing down the tracks toward five people who won’t be able to move out of the way in time. There’s a side track with one single person. You can pull a lever to divert the train onto the side track, preventing the death of five, though it will kill the one.

Do you pull the lever to divert the trolley from killing five, but then it would kill one, or do you take no action, leave the trolley on its natural course, and kill five? Ask the cards what you would do.

The point of this exercise is to not answer with your conscious mind, but to make room for a more subconscious and truthful response to reveal itself through the cards.

Key 8: The Force (The Tamed Lion). This is the Strength card from the Major Arcana.

Here we see the symbol of the north lunar node and the awakened kundalini first pictured on Key 1: The Magus. (This link here takes you to a gallery of all SKT cards to check out The Magus if you’re curious.) The astrological correspondence here is Leo, featuring strong energies of one who seeks to be a hero.

And if I had to choose between whether I interpret the visuals in this card as “taking action” or “taking no action,” I would say the maiden in white is taking action, gently and with great compassion, albeit most certainly doing something.

Even the key phrase, “The Tamed Lion,” suggests action– taming the circumstances, interfering with the course of feral nature.

So I think I have to interpret this card draw as indicating that I would take the action of pulling the lever to kill one but save five, and live with the consequences of having killed that one.

Continue reading “Seven Philosophical Readings with the Tarot”

Top 5 Decks I Can’t Live Without (2019)

I believe Kelly Bear started “Top 5 Decks I Can’t Live Without” over on YouTube and you have to type in those keywords into the search bar to check out all the video responses from our community! I’ve been binge-watching them while I cook, clean, or exercise. And I’m loving it!

Instead of a VR (video response), I’m blogging it. =)

The way I’m responding to this prompt is five physical individual decks that I feel like I can’t live without, updated to present day, meaning it’s not just about that particular deck and any and all copies of that deck everywhere; it’s about this very, very specific physical copy of the deck I’ve got in hand as a result of the collective history of energies I’ve infused into it over the course of the deck’s life with me.

I hope I’m explaining that right.

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The Kings/Knights: Tarot Card Meanings

New to this video lecture series?

Start Here

The above-linked Introduction page will give you an overview of what this series is about and provide a course contents listing.

This is Video #4 in the series “Tarot Card Meanings with Benebell.” We’ll be covering the Kings in the Tarot de Marseilles and Rider-Waite-Smith, but titled the Knights in the Thoth. In my own deck, the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, I’ve titled these court cards the four Archangels.

Continue reading “The Kings/Knights: Tarot Card Meanings”