Tarot Correspondences by T. Susan Chang

This book is such a must-have. Those of you who’ve been following along in my orientation video series for Spirit Keeper’s Tarot will have seen that I recommended Tarot Correspondences as the tarot book to get if you want to work with correspondence systems.

Chang’s Tarot Correspondences is tailored to all levels of tarot proficiency, whether you’ve “been reading for decades” or “you just picked up your first deck,” (as noted in the Introduction). “Correspondences,” she writes, “are patterns and connections inherited from esoteric systems. In tarot, correspondences line up with specific cards.”

Working with tarot correspondences is premised on the doctrine of sympathy, a Hermetic principle that the way one system goes with the other is part and parcel to the magic that happens. Correspondences, notes Chang, are the bridge between worlds. And I couldn’t agree with her more.

Continue reading “Tarot Correspondences by T. Susan Chang”

Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) and Thoth Comparison with Spirit Keeper’s Tarot

Keys I to VII

Over the last few months as I shared progress photos of my card illustrations, especially when we got to the Minors, RWS folks started to get confused by my pictorial interpretations, though I think that’s because Thoth influences started to show up more prominently.

On my shortlist of objectives for creating Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, one of those objectives was to harmonize the RWS and the Thoth together, which I’m going to say right up front turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. It was so hard for me that in fact at many points during the process, I was beating myself up and lamenting, damn, I’m failing so bad at this.

I figure a side by side review of the decks will help clarify some of the confusion about where I’m getting what for the symbolism I’ve opted to go with in Spirit Keeper.

To do that, I’m using The Original Design Tarot Deck published by Siren Imports for the RWS and the Thoth Tarot Deck published by U.S. Games for the Thoth. I printed a sample copy of my deck, which you see above on the very right, but this is not what’s going to be produced for sale. I printed this physical copy to scrutinize the lines, production quality, alignment, that kind of thing, and because of that, I’ve already spotted things that need to be fixed, which will get fixed before final production. So just bear in mind that what you see here for the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot is pretty damn close to what will be offered for sale later down the line, but with editorial improvements.

Speaking on the design of the Majors from my frame of mind, the voice of what I might describe as my inner genius came through more distinctly. And by genius I don’t mean hey look at me I’m objectively a genius, no. I mean that inner genius we all have that we need to go through the structured, methodical process to unlock. That inner genius is what I’m saying really came out.

I say that because I think something shifts by the time I reach the Minors. More on that later.

Keys VIII to XIV (with Thoth VIII and XI switched intentionally)

I’m picturing the cards in the exact order I drew them. You’ll see back in the First Septenary Keys I to VII, there were no human figures depicted. I had started the project with the intent on having no depictions of humans. Where human-like figures would be used, they’d be, like, you know, with an animal head or something, the way you see in The Emperor, or most of the face concealed from view, like The Empress.

Then I got to Key 8 Strength and broke that rule. Doh.

By the way, I devote a whole section in The Book of Maps, the companion guidebook that will go along with Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, to the Key 8 and Key 11 situation and my struggle with deciding how to approach the 8 and 11 switch, which funny enough, involves the Justice card and those goddamn balancing scales.

I felt like there had to be more to the reasoning for Waite’s switch than the order of the zodiac wheel. My speculation at the end of that struggle is it had to do with differing theology, so then I had to decide where my own theologies aligned.

Since I went with Key 8 for Strength and Key 11 for Justice, following Waite’s switch, for an easier comparison, in the above photo I switched 11 for 8 and vice versa in the row of Thoth cards.

Keys XV to XXI

Although there are inevitable nods to the Marseille, the reason I didn’t focus my intentions on actively integrating the Marseille is because for Spirit Keeper, my focus is on the esoteric and occult expression of the tarot. The Marseille is by original intention a deck of playing cards that later got appropriated into a form of divination or fortune-telling, whereas both RWS and the Thoth were from beginning to end intended as esoteric and occult expressions of the tarot. You could even argue that both the RWS and the Thoth tarot decks are the product of spell-crafting, born from fertile pools of knowledge and magical experience. That is why these two in particular are the chosen parents.

Continue reading “Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) and Thoth Comparison with Spirit Keeper’s Tarot”

Publishing Your Tarot Deck: Always More Work Than You Bargained For

Life… can be so hard. In theory my card image files (like what you see above, the Ace of Swords) should be perfectly centered. But it’s not. As you can see after I superimpose the template guidelines that the manufacturer sent me. Look at where the blue line ends on the left side, then look at where it ends on the right– it’s not symmetrical. Also, all content must be within the blue line. Crap. Oh.. F me.

So let me explain before you’re like, wow, you have no idea what you’re doing. I had previously formatted these image files toward Manufacturer A while I was working on some digital sampling with Manufacturer A. For some reason I assumed there was some sort of industry standard, so what works for one should work for all others.

Continue reading “Publishing Your Tarot Deck: Always More Work Than You Bargained For”

Am I Creating a Fluffy Tarot Deck?

Ongoing working draft of the cards.

Nevermind that the premise of the Major Arcana for Spirit Keeper’s Tarot is to connect you to your Holy Guardian Angel, and therefore by definition is an angel tarot deck, which we all know occultists immediately giggle at, but now as I study how some of the imagery for the cards are coming along, I can’t help but giggle to myself and confess: oh man, I’m creating a fluffy tarot deck.

Maybe I can defend such an accusation by saying it’s not fluffy, it’s just a strong statement in favor of self-empowerment and an expression of religious faith. (But isn’t that what all designers of fluffy decks say? Crap.) Take The Tower, for instance. More commonly, the focus here is on a punishing Act of God, or having to tear down what you’ve so meticulously and painstakingly built, because you’ve built it wrong. There’s typically a forceful sense of calamity when you consider The Tower.

Yet here I’ve added a talisman to The Tower: I’ve given the Seeker an axe. There’s also blood dripping from the axe, suggesting that you’ve done this before; this isn’t your first time at the rodeo, so you know what you’re doing–you can do this. Also, if you consider the bigger picture here, we see that the serpent tail of the Demon is coiled around this tower, along with chains binding this tower to the Demon, so this destruction also destroys servitude to the Demon. There’s an element of liberation here.

Is that nice-washing The Tower card?

Continue reading “Am I Creating a Fluffy Tarot Deck?”

Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Ruminations on the Court Cards

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Rumination Notes:

Aces to Threes

Drawing the cards in sets of three, actual card size. This is how I begin.

I’ve been struggling with how to depict the tarot courts since back when I was still doing the Majors. And the whole time, I’ve been reading, brainstorming, researching, thinking– though no drawing– how the heck am I going to do this, and do this with any semblance of justice.

The more texts I studied on angelic correspondences to the elements, directions, and/or astrology, the more confused I got. Do I go Golden Dawn since up to this point so much of my point of view with the deck has been GD-influenced, or do I follow the lead of religious scholars turned mystics who say some of the Golden Dawn attributions for the Kabbalah are anti-Semitic in their source origins? How do I reconcile Christian mysticism, Jewish mysticism, and Islamic mysticism when it comes to angels? How do I also do it all with resonant subtext to Chinese, Taoist, and Buddhist ideas of angelic(-like) realms?

Also, when deck creators want to incorporate multiculturalism, they typically follow– shit–what’s his face–I can’t think of the name without looking it up. I’ve got it in an end note citation in Holistic Tarot if you really care. Anyway, Eden Gray followed what’s-his-face and everybody after Eden Gray followed Eden Gray so we go with this whole notion of Wands medium-hair, fair-eyed, Cups light-hair, light-eyed (or those two swapped), Swords dark-hair, medium-eyed, and Pentacles dark-hair, dark-eyed, so we typically end up with Asian or Middle Eastern for Swords and then Middle Eastern, Native American, or African for Pentacles. I opted not to go that route.

Agrippa made note of correspondences between geography, directionality, and the four elements, though he kept it relatively vague. Crowley then gave his thoughts on geography, directionality, and the four elements. His directionality conflict with Agrippa’s, but the geography and four elements kind of lined up. Well, lined up close enough to work for me. So that’s what I went with instead of what has become the more popular and trending ethnic associations for the four courts.

And that was just the tip of the iceberg of daunting considerations for the courts.

Drawing angel wings on the knights assembly line style…

The more I thought into it, the more stressed and nervous I got. And I did not want to go the direction of “screw everything and everyone, I’m gonna follow my intuition and channel it from my own higher consciousness” or whatever it is people say when they don’t want to listen to precedent or read books. How do I honor precedent and still acknowledge my intuition?

The art style for the deck I opted for is in the spirit of Renaissance humanism, a time when Christian mysticism and paganism merged in eclectic ways and mystics of that time were far more cosmopolitan and worldly than we folks today give them credit for being. I think the louder establishment voices of that time in history for structured Catholicism and the Church came as a knee-jerk reaction of the establishment to the subversive undercurrent of diverse thoughts that were emerging at the time.

Click to enlarge for viewing.

Continue reading “Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Ruminations on the Court Cards”

Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Rumination Notes Aces to Threes

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Rumination Notes:

Fours to Aces

Annnnd…. I’m done with the pips. Phew!

Let’s recap. On June 13 of this year, I got into my head this fantastical idea of drawing my own tarot deck. It was supposed to be a ha-ha fantasy but then I couldn’t shake the ha-ha fantasy out of my head, so immediately I got to work.

Continue reading “Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Rumination Notes Aces to Threes”

Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Rumination Notes Fours to Aces

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Ritual Coloring of the

Major Arcana

I shared all my digital files for the Major Arcana from the tarot deck I’m currently drawing at the end of June, 2018 here: Spirit Keeper’s Tarot (Majors Only). Then went on to explain the purpose for ritual coloring of the Majors, among other thoughts, here in a subsequent video and blog post: Ritual Coloring of the Major Arcana, though there I share some draft images from the Minors as well. If you’re not subscribed to my Instagram, then you probably don’t know that I’ve been sharing progress photos of my work as I go along. In the event that interests you, subscribe here, IG: @bellwen.

So as I explained in the last blog post on drawing my own deck, after completing the Majors and beginning on the Minors, I started with the Fours. And the suit order I’m going in for each number set is Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles, which I’ve renamed to Scepters, Chalices, Swords, and Orbs. Lots of really specific reasons for the renaming. I definitely didn’t do it just for shits.

The above thumbnail snapshot does not show the cards in the order I completed them. Because of the digital filenames, when I take a screen shot of the file folder that the scans of these images are in, they’re in alphabetical order. Also, these screen shots don’t include the titles and captions.

Continue reading “Drawing My Own Tarot Deck: Rumination Notes Fours to Aces”

Tarot, Occultism, and Modern Witchcraft (Online Course)

Lecture + Practicum Series

$20 USD

Originally offered at the Tarot Readers Academy in 2018 for the Tarot Summer School

This course is structured after a graduate-level seminar with a series of lectures plus guided tarot readings ritualized and crafted to show rather than tell you about tarot in witchcraft. We’ll mimic an oral tradition where you listen to me talk about the who, the what, and the why, alongside my perspectives on the how. You may want to take notes throughout the course, for both the lecture and training modules, so that beyond this course, you’ll have a consolidated reference file on occult tarot.

The lecture portion covers a comparative analysis of exoteric, psychology-based tarot reading vs. an esoteric, psychic-based tarot reading, and also tarot as a witch’s tool. We’ll cover the history and legacy of tarot in Western occultism, focusing in on applying Hermetic principles to the tarot. Then we’ll consider the role of tarot and witchcraft in the modern era. Various techniques and approaches to using tarot as an occult tool will be covered. For novices who have yet to establish a personal systemized set of metaphysical correspondences, a packet of astrological, elemental, Hermetic, theosophical, Qabalistic, and Golden Dawn reference charts will be provided.

The practicum portion will be a series of guided tarot readings and training videos to demonstrate the basics and preliminary exploration of using tarot to commune with your Holy Guardian Angel, spell-craft for financial gains, extracting cards for talismans, petitioning forth spirit entities to conduct a divinatory reading, using tarot to commune with land spirits or assess the characteristic properties of a land, and tarot in pathworking, with proprietary training models shared on how to enhance your clairvoyance and clairaudience during a tarot reading.

Run time of all videos in this course is about 160 minutes, brought to you in digestible 5 to 15 minute segments, 16 videos in total.

Course Outline:

Module 1: Introduction; Differentiating Exoteric from Esoteric (14:46)

Module 2: Psychology-Based Tarot Reading vs. Tarot in Witchcraft

  • Section 2A. Exoteric (Psychology-Based) Tarot (4:00)
  • Section 2B. Esoteric (Psychic-Based) Tarot (13:05)
  • Section 2C. Mechanics of Esoteric Tarot (Further Discussion) (10:32)
  • Section 2D. Magical Modification (9:58)
  • Section 2E. Spell-Crafting with the Tarot (5:25)
  • Section 2F. The Anointing Blend and Module Conclusion (14:15)

Module 3: History and Legacy of Tarot in Western Occultism (9:34)

Module 4: Applying Occult Principles to Tarot

  • Section 4A. Hermeticism in Tarot (13:34)
  • Section 4B. Hermetic Life Path Reading (7:22)

Module 5: Occult Influences into Modernity

  • Section 5A. Tarot Defined as Witchcraft (10:26)
  • Section 5B. Guided Spirit Petition (7:18)
  • Section 5C. Witchcraft and Tarot in Modernity (11:54)
  • Section 5D. Communing with Land Spirits and Pathworking (15:38)
  • Section 5E. Guided Pathwork Through the Ace of Coins (13:47)
  • Section 5F. The Practicum Series in Review (8:58)
  • Section 5G. The Lectures in Review and Closing Remarks (6:00)

Accommodation for the Deaf/HH: Manual input of Closed Captioning provided for Modules I, 3, 4, and 5. Unfortunately, there is no closed captioning for Module 2 videos.

About Your Instructor:

The dedicated path of the witch, to me, is a calling. One is born inclined toward that path, but nevertheless, one must make that conscious and intentional choice to walk it. Fundamentally the path is a solitary and a marginalized one, forged from a singular personal gnosis that will run dangerously in contradiction to establishment. There will never be a time, past, present, or future, when the witch is not marginalized. Even when the accoutrements of witchcraft become fashionable, the true witch will still be shunned. That state is genetic to the path of a witch, and yet the margins are where a witch sources power. From the margins, a witch pushes boundaries or casts them. From the margins, a witch possesses the clearest view of the center.

I’m the author of Holistic Tarot: An Integrative Approach to Using Tarot for Personal Growth(North Atlantic Books, 2015) and The Tao of Craft: Fu Talismans and Casting Sigils in the Eastern Esoteric Tradition (North Atlantic Books, 2016). Over the years, I’ve presented on various metaphysical and occult topics at the San Francisco Bay Area Tarot Symposium, Bay Area Theosophical Society, Northwest Tarot Symposium, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, PantheaCon, and have headlined at Readers Studio in New York and the UK Tarot Conference in London.

Occultism and witchcraft are subjects of academic interest to me. I dedicate much of my life’s work to researching, personal and professional study of, and teaching esoterica. Yet ironically, it is my firm belief that the actual physical and physiological path of esoterica cannot be taught. A diligent teacher can lead you to the door, give you all the tools and train you in all the skills you’ll need once you cross that threshold, but no one can impart to you the experiential knowledge of what awaits beyond that proverbial door.

Watch a sample instructional video from the course to preview its contents:

How To Order

$20

I’m going to give step by step instructions on how to order the course and get access to download all the materials for yourself.

  1. Send the tuition cost noted above via PayPal to the e-mail address abelldelivers@gmail.com. Yes, it’s going to say “James Zhang from Castro Valley.” That’s the Hubby. Also, this is the preferred method of payment. (~or~)
  2. Pay with your credit card by following this link: https://www.paypal.me/benebell(~or~)
  3. Only if (1) and (2) are impracticable for you, pay by ordering me an Amazon Gift Card, sent to abelldelivers@gmail.com. Direct link to Amazon gift card orders here.
  4. When you send payment, please include:
    1. Your name or a name identifier for me to reference you by, (~and~)
    2. Your e-mail address, so I know where to send your ordered course materials to.

That’s it!

But if any of that sounds confusing or you just don’t know, no worries. Email me at abelldelivers@gmail.com to let me know you want to place an order. We’ll take it from there together.

Once I receive your payment as the purchase order, your course materials will be delivered to the e-mail address you specified within 2 business days.

If you don’t receive the course materials in the e-mail inbox specified within the two business days, then something went wrong. Doh! Please email me at the below address asap.

abelldelivers@gmail.com

DELIVERY NOTE: So far I’ve been good about getting the course materials to you in less than 48 hours from when I receive the PayPal payment, so if that time has gone by and you haven’t received anything from me, first check your Spam folder. Second, check to see the e-mail address associated with your PayPal account. I may have sent it to that account if no e-mail was provided in the notes section of the transfer. If still nothing, then something went wrong somewhere, so contact me at the above e-mail addy ASAP so we can get things squared away.

Tarot Summer School 2018

Click to reserve your Season Pass! $199. Installments available.

This is my third year participating as a master class instructor at Tarot Summer School and the line-up is spectacular. You’re not going to want to miss this intense semester, so get the Season Pass!

You get lifetime access to any course you purchase. If there are 7 courses you’re interested in and you buy each separately, that’s almost the cost of the Season Pass. For $199, you’ll get all 13, and get access to the courses for life. So it’s not like you have to do all 13 courses this summer. Buy it this summer and save it for later. Revisit the courses as frequently as you like. It’s a pretty incredible deal when you think about it. Click on the banner above to book your Season Pass, or check out the courses separately below.

I’ve hyperlinked the titles to their respective course description page at the Tarot Readers Academy. There are also hyperlinks for each instructor’s own website or professional landing page. That way if there are any names you’re not familiar with, you can learn more about their work.

Continue reading “Tarot Summer School 2018”

Tarot, Occultism, and Modern Witchcraft at Tarot Summer School 2018

COURSE DESCRIPTION

This course is structured after a graduate-level seminar with a series of lectures plus guided tarot readings ritualized and crafted to show rather than tell you about tarot in witchcraft. We’ll mimic an oral tradition where you listen to me talk about the who, the what, and the why, alongside my perspectives on the how. You may want to take notes throughout the course, for both the lecture and training modules, so that beyond this course, you’ll have a consolidated reference file on occult tarot.

The lecture portion covers a comparative analysis of exoteric, psychology-based tarot reading and esoteric, psychic-based tarot reading, and also tarot as a witch’s tool. We’ll cover the history and legacy of tarot in Western occultism, focusing in on applying Hermetic principles to the tarot, and consider the role of tarot and witchcraft in the modern era.

The practicum portion will be a series of guided tarot readings and training videos to demonstrate the basics and preliminary exploration of using tarot to commune with your Holy Guardian Angel, spell-craft for financial gains, extracting cards for talismans, petitioning forth spirit entities to conduct a divinatory reading, using tarot to commune with land spirits or assess the characteristic properties of a land, and tarot in pathworking, with proprietary training models shared on how to enhance your clairvoyance and clairaudience during a tarot reading.

Continue reading “Tarot, Occultism, and Modern Witchcraft at Tarot Summer School 2018”