Why the Suit of Swords is My Favorite

English Magic Tarot by Ryn, Doodley, and Letcher

In a social justice law course I took back in my law school days, the professor went around the room on the first day of class and asked each one of us to offer what we think brings about social change in this world. A classroom populated by, um, well, white folks, offered thought bubbles like grassroots mobilization, advocacy, charismatic leadership, lobbying, equal access to justice, public policy, etc. Funny, I was thinking about it from a different perspective.

When it was my turn, I said, “Pain.”

Pain is not only the impetus for social change, but it is the impetus to greatness. Profound feelings of marginalization lead to zealous advocacy on behalf of others. Even when your pain looks different from my pain, the common emotional denominator between our pains is the same, and through that common emotional denominator, you and I can connect, create an incredible, powerful fusion, and together, through collectivism, become the impetus for social change and for mutual greatness.

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Beginner Learning and Teaching of Tarot: A Socratic Method

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I often get asked how I would teach tarot to a beginner, what Lesson 1 would be, and also how to learn tarot if you are a beginner with no past exposure to tarot.

Recently I had an encounter where I gave my version of Lesson 1 of beginner tarot and I’ve been granted permission to share a transcript of it. Of course, this is paraphrased, but my memory for details is pretty good. I dare say this is a pretty accurate representation of the conversation and discourse that took place. I taught by the Socratic Method, though I wonder if she realized that.

The cards drawn and as identified are the actual cards from the Lesson 1 reading experience. For those who are more familiar with tarot techniques, basically what I did was first have her select her significator card, perform the Opening of the Four Worlds from the First Operation of the Opening of the Key, and then from the card pile she found her significator, draw three cards at random and perform a three-card past, present, and future reading.

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If you’re at all curious how I might teach Lesson 1 of Beginner Tarot, here it is, as a downloadable PDF.

Download “Beginner Learning and Teaching of Tarot: A Socratic Method” (PDF)

Waite-Smith Tarot Keywords Study Deck

10/06/2016 Update: I have exciting news to announce soon enough! For the time being, I’ve de-activated the zip file download link in anticipation of the cool news to come! All my love.

10/08/2016 Update: Read about the exciting announcement of a new deck to be released here.

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I don’t know how you feel, but I really like how this deck looks.

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And the card backs. I love the card backs. Oh, wait you probably can’t see it that well in the above pic. Here you go.

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Two versions. Two different card back designs. Two different sizes. I like the big one better. That’s the black one above on the left, at 3.5″ x 5.75″.

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This is the second version. Can you spot the difference? One has astrological/elemental correspondences in the top corners and this one above does not. There is a third version, too, but we’ll get to that.

September 20. That morning I pulled the Ace of Wands from the Tarot of the Holy Light and thought it pertained to this book I’m working on at the moment. So to heed the divinatory message, I was outlining and note-taking for the manuscript. For some reason (won’t talk about it now) I needed to look up card images from the Grand Etteilla. Then a bunch of loose ends connected with each other in my head. Now I wonder if maybe the Ace of Wands had nothing to do with that book I was/am working on and instead has to do with this, what this post is going to be all about.

Card I pulled that morning, as posted on my Instagram. From the Tarot of the Holy Light.
Card I pulled that morning. From the Tarot of the Holy Light.

A few days prior I had a conversation with a friend who was lamenting about how she wanted to learn to read tarot with reversals but she found the upside down images visually distracting, so much to the point that she couldn’t get over it. I then thought about how the card layout of the Grand Etteilla would work quite well for someone like her, if the larger box featured the card image upright and the smaller box had it going in the opposite direction.

Let me explain.

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The Chariot Card: Guest Post at BiddyTarot

Banner from BiddyTarot
Banner from BiddyTarot

Brigit’s BiddyTarot is one of the most popular (I even dare say the most popular) tarot spot on the web. And it’s for good reason, too. She sustains the site with incredible content. Brigit is compiling a free e-book, Real Life Lessons from the Major Arcana, a collection of 22 essays by 22 tarot authors, each writer covering one Major Arcanum.

I chose Key VII: The Chariot for personal and sentimental reasons. Click on the above banner to go straight to my article over at Biddy. Also, be sure to download the entire e-book for FREE (how cool is that!) by clicking on the below banner or going here.

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Review of the Gaian Tarot

Gaian Tarot 01 Box Set

A deck that taps into earth consciousness like no other deck, the Gaian Tarot is the much talked about, beloved, and exceptional deck borne from the genius of artist and writer Joanna Powell Colbert.

The Gaian Tarot was initially self-published by Colbert in 2010, and then it’s popularity convinced Llewellyn to publish it in 2011, and then somehow mysteriously, it went out of print. Copies of the deck were going for outrageous prices all over the interwebs as folks clamored to get themselves a copy of this beloved deck. Now, be happy all my friends, because the Gaian Tarot is back in a new published version by Schiffer Publishing and I’ve got to say, Schiffer has done a remarkable job with Colbert’s work.

Gaian Tarot 02 Box and Cards

Here’s an interesting point about this deck. At least four professional writers I am connected with use the Gaian Tarot for creative writing. One writes women’s fiction, one writes metaphysical books, one writes literary fiction (with a collection of short stories that has won prestigious book awards), and one is a bestselling author. Only one of them– that I know of– subscribes to a pagan-based spiritual path, and the only reason I mention that is to showcase the diversity and versatility of this deck. I don’t know if it was ever intentionally meant to become a “writer’s tarot deck,” but that it certainly has!

Be sure to read about Colbert’s creative process for the deck here. From what I could gather, Colbert works with mixed media. The inspiration for each Gaian Tarot card image begins with photographs– with one single photograph as the main focal point. Then a photographic collage is used for the background. Layered, the deck image is created. Then Colbert transitions into working by hand. The photographic collage becomes a line drawing and colored pencil sketch, and the final colored pencil sketch is cleaned up digitally.

Gaian Tarot 23 Reading

Let’s try a reading for you. Left to right above, the cards represent Mind, Body, and Spirit respectively. However, you’re to choose only one of those three cards. Which would you like to divine upon today? About your Mind, your Body, or your Spirit? Left, center, or right-most card? Remember your selection.

Gaian Tarot 24 Guidebook Three Card Reading

Here I’m lifting the idea of the “Mind, Body, Spirit” spread from the accompanying guidebook comes with instructions for three-card readings.

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Keeping a Tarot Journal: You Have to Do It

Deck Image: Smith-Waite Centennial (U.S. Games)
Deck Image: Smith-Waite Centennial (U.S. Games)

Okay. ::pulls out lectern:: I’m about to get patronizing and preachy about tarot. Uh oh, you’re thinking. This won’t end well.

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Deck Image: Smith-Waite Centennial (U.S. Games)

If you are serious about mastering tarot, then you have to keep a tarot journal.

No “maybe consider” or “well this is how I do it” or “whatever floats your boat.” No.

You need to keep a journal.

You need to log your trials and errors. You need to record your ruminations and then go back to update those ruminations as your understanding of tarot evolves. You need to keep your own write-up of card meanings, which yes, in the beginning as a newbie will just be copy-paste general text from other sources but by the intermediate level, almost all of that copy-paste plagiarized (well, no biggie, this is private, personal journaling stuff) text will be transformed into your personalized, original understanding of each card.

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What Business Lessons the Tarot Can Teach an Entrepreneur

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The Rider Tarot Deck, Miniature Edition (U.S. Games).

The archetypal imagery of tarot teaches us many lessons, and lately I’ve been thinking about what business lessons the Major Arcana might teach us. The following is by no means an exhaustive list and it would have gotten excessive for me to address every single Major Arcanum. For sure, each of the twenty-two cards has a lesson to be learned, but here are the key cards I found most pertinent.

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Key 1 The Magician

The Magician: Creating Change with Available Resources

The Magician card is about using the limited material resources and assets availed to us to create progressive change. One of the first business lessons an entrepreneur learns is how to create product and run a business with only what is on hand. The Magician is the master of manifestation, and inspires the entrepreneur to model an attitude after the magus.

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Chrysalis Tarot: Deck Review

Chrysalis Tarot 01 Box and Deck Set

Charming. Whimsical. Soft. Effeminate. Omnipresent.

These are the words that come to my mind when I think of the Chrysalis Tarot. Here is a magical, inspirational, and ethereal deck that is sure to delight. Since its release, it has become one of the most popular and most talked about 21st century tarot decks and for good reason. It introduces an entirely new genre of tarot architecture and design that, in many ways, better reflects today’s New Age spiritual sensibilities.

Chrysalis Tarot 25 Choose an Archetype

First, before I get into my review, choose a card from the above row. Left to right, we’ll number them 1 (left-most) through 5 (right-most).

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LXXXI Quareia The Magician’s Deck

LXXXI Quareia Deck 01 Book and Cards

The LXXXI is an 81-card esoteric deck by Josephine McCarthy, Stuart Littlejohn, and Cassandra Beanland. It’s not a tarot deck, though you’ll see cards captioned “Chariot,” “Wheel of Fate,” Hierophant,” “Luna” (Moon), “Sol” (Sun), and “Death.” You’ll see “Fellowship” with imagery that may remind you of the RWS Three of Cups.

On a technicality, some might categorize LXXXI as an oracle deck, but I’ll just stick to what it’s been named: The Magician’s Deck. The LXXXI Quareia: The Magician’s Deck “draws upon the mythic, mystical and magical powers that underpin the magical systems that tarot eventually developed out of.” See here. “It is based upon real inner realms, real inner contacts, beings and forces that the practitioner of magic is very likely to involve themselves with. Because of this approach, the deck works as a contacted deck, i.e. used magically the images can act as gateways to inner realms, inner beings and magical patterns.”

The premise behind the LXXXI reminds me of the inner and outer gods concept in Taoism where, in short, certain “gods” reside within us (and they have names, along with descriptions of what they do) and certain “gods” are romping out and about, around us (both on earth among us and in other various supernatural realms). Granted that was the Cliff-Notes-Taoist-Deities-for-Dummies version but you get what I mean.

According to esoteric Taoist principles, a magician or metaphysical practitioner can invoke or summon these “gods” (I put the term in quotes because if you’re looking to translate/interpret the term, 帝, it can be “gods,” “emperors,” “divine beings,” “Divinities,” take your pick) and work with those energies to influence both the natural and supernatural worlds.

LXXXI Quareia Deck 03 Divine Realm

The deck is subdivided into four realms. Red bordered cards indicate contacts (the term that the companion guidebook for the deck describes these metaphysical energies as) from the Divine Realm. There are four contacts of the Divine Realm in this deck, pictured above. Star Father I correlates with Divine Intention. Creator of Time II is the energetic movement flowing from the Star Father toward manifestation. Holder of Light III expresses the eventual return of all souls to Divine Source. Archon and Aion are archangelic and symbolize a divine binary. In readings, the card serves as a warning that the practitioner has come to a threshold that cannot and should not be crossed. The message is to turn back.

In both the above photograph and the one below, note how some of the card titles end with roman numerals. I’ll address that later in this review.

LXXXI Quareia Deck 04 Inner Realm

Contacts from the Inner Realm are noted by blue borders, case in point Madimi, described here as the “Inner Librarian.” Madimi was one of the spirits that was purportedly in contact with 16th century occultists John Dee and Edward Kelley.

In the printing of the deck copy I received, the borders look more like a deep purple than a blue, but blue or purple, I’m not terribly concerned.

According to the deck description, the art here is done in oils, acrylics, and watercolors. They appear to have been polished and fine-tuned digitally afterward. The art and imagery is very much imbued with Western esotericism and is definitely going to resonate with any practitioner of such traditions.

So far I’ve been trying to remain fair, objective, and factual, but I’m going to break for a moment here and just gush. Omigod I love this deck! The deck fills a void in the tarot/oracle/cartomancy world that I haven’t seen any other deck on the market during the time I’ve been alive and interested in cartomancy even come close to filling. I am not a Quareia practitioner or even a practitioner of Western magic. I don’t even identify as a magician. And yet there is something for me here in this deck.

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