Thursday, 30 June 2011

To Thine Own Heart Be True

The Shadowscapes Tarot, illustrated by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and with a companion book co-authored with Barbara Moore, seems to lend itself to romantic notions.  Nowhere more so than in today's card: VI The Lovers.

There is a wealth of symbolism in this card: from the sun stained-glass window above them, through the crown-carrying doves, the flowers - both lilies and roses - the embracing couple, sideways to the acorns etched into the wall, then down to the snake and apple, fairy creatures, and right at the bottom, a bright red heart tucked into the ridge on which they stand.

The choices we make, then, should come from a place of both passion and purity, and hold the potential for growth.  However, we can allow ourselves to choose poorly if we follow only passion.  Thus the title of this post - if we follow our heart, rather than our head or our genitals, we have a better chance of choosing wisely.

I am grateful for all the choices in my life which I don't regret.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Black Swans and New Ideas

Drawing still from the beautiful Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, with companion book co-authored by Barbara Moore, and published by Llewellyn, today's card is the Page of Swords.

In this deck the Page of Swords is a rather lovely, dreamy figure.  Very different to the associations with sneakiness and hackers that are found in other decks, here we have a young, winged female figure floating in a star-filled sky, accompanied by five black, a grey and three white swans, and holding a white cignet in her lap.  There's a distinctly dreamy feel to this image, suggesting spiritual purification, being entranced by ideas, and following your guiding star. 

The cignet makes me think of the story of the Ugly Duckling, suggesting that this Page may not fully trust in her abilities, that she is yet to grow into the fullness of her strengths.  As for the black swans, they reminds me of the logical argument that you can only disprove a theory, not prove one.  For example, you cannot prove that all swans are white - as witnessed by the voyagers from Europe who suddenly came across black swans in Australia (if memory serves).  So, the implication here is about the importance of thought and theories, but also a willingness to be open to new ideas.

I am grateful for opportunities to learn new things.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Fairy Tales

Today's card from the Shadowscapes Tarot, by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn, is the Ten of Pentacles.

A woman sits with a huge peach in one hand, the other wrapped around the dragon on whose tail she sits.  In the distance is a castle atop a rocky outcrop.  The sky seems to be crystallized around a stain-glass-window-type design, with a sun in a circle, and geometric patterns around it.  A pentacle dangles from the dragon's claw.

Notions of family, happiness, inheritance and wealth are all here in a subtle and implicit way.  This card offers so many potential stories: the princess exiled from her kingdom; the dragon claiming first born's; lovers divided by a cruel spell; a world shattering under alien onslaught; a brave woman on a quest for a magical fruit...

I am grateful that I can still see the wonder and magic in life.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Female Atlas?

For this third day with the Shadowscapes Tarot, by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore, published by Llewellyn, I drew the Ten of Wands.

The first thing that struck me today about this card is the fact that, unlike Atlas, she isn't just carrying a huge weight, rather it is actually a part of her.  This says something to me about the different ways that we can shoulder responsibility.  We can take it on and feel worthy, or resentful, or we can feel like the projects we espouse are an integral part of ourselves.  This doesn't mean that we can't also sometimes feel overwhelmed by them, just that we can still own and honour them, even so.

The second thing I noticed is the beauty of what she carries - it feels both created and yet organic, elegant and natural.  At the centre is what looks like a blue, stained-glass window.  This reminds me that it is important to create beauty as well as functionality.  I think this is one of the reasons why I love tarot cards.  They can be used in so many ways - for meditation, divination, brain-storming, creative inspiration - and they can also be incredibly beautiful!

I am grateful that I love most of the burdens I carry.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Harmonious Living

Today's card from the Shadowscapes Tarot, by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and published by Llewellyn, is the Nine of Pentacles.

I love this depiction of a woman playing on a piano.  It captures that notion of needing to work at a skill to become adept, as well as the sense of self-confidence and of enjoying the life you have created for yourself.  There also seems to be a message about creating harmony with your environment, as well as perhaps being at one with where you are in life.

I am grateful for my daily yoga practice, which brings me peace, strength, and a sense of connection.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Damming the Pain

This week I will be drawing from the stunningly beautiful Shadowscapes Tarot, by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, published by Llewellyn.  The companion book is written in part by the artist, and in part by the fabulous Barbara Moore.

For my first Card of the Day, I drew the Three of Swords, a card which many consider to be one of the "worst" in the deck.  However, I have long had rather a fondness for it, as discussed in seven posts in August 2010.

Certainly, this card raises the question of whether we can find beauty in the pain we go through.   There is a poignancy in the swan's pose, and a hopefulness in the blood-red heart above.  The cracked wall behind seems to be held together only by that bleeding heart - and what cost using our hearts to dam up heartache, sorrow, and betrayal?  Yet the cost is higher still if we don't let ourselves live and feel.  It is our ideas about heartache, rather than heartache itself, which cause us such pain.  So, the message I see in this card is to trust to our hearts, rather than our minds, in questions of love. 

I am grateful that past hurts have not stopped me loving.

Friday, 24 June 2011


So, last night my Dear One took me to see Derren Brown's latest show, and it was magnificent!  Right at the start he asked everyone in the audience please not to talk about what happens, and I thoroughly respect that.  No spoiler alerts here :)

What I will say, however, is that the man is a consumate showman, and extremely good at what he does.  I love the way that, as a sceptic, he shares with the audience some of how he achieves these feats.  And yet we still all sat there amazed at his insight, perspicacity, and just the sheer detail he managed to come up with in "reading" people.

There was also a section of what was basically hypnosis, and my Dear One decided to try it to see if he was suggestible.  I think I could have told him it wouldn't work - his wandsy sense of values melds with pentacley stubbornness and practicality, not the right mix at all for going along with others and allowing his unconscious to take over his mind and body!  Still, he delighted in Derren's turns of phrase, and wasn't disappointed at not having to go up on stage to take part in the show.

As for Derren Brown himself, he seems so down-to-earth and real. Using "mistakes" to make himself seem fallible, and pretending to be flustered and swear, it turns out to all be part of the plan.  Despite the fact that it must be rehearsed, it does make him seem approachable and human, and goes very well with his cheeky charm.  As well as being a Magician, he has a bit of the Devil in him: bamboozling, drawing out your deepest, darkest secrets, mocking you, but all in a way that makes you want him to do it some more!

As the show drew to a close, we couldn't believe that it was over already - not that it was short, just mesmerising :D  If anyone has the chance to see this show, either live or on DVD, I'd highly recommend it.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, here is a clip of him at a charity event:

Illustrations: The Magician from the Gay Tarot by Lee Bursten and Antonella Platano, and The Devil from Ciro Marchetti's forthcoming Gilded Tarot Royale.

Hard Times

The last card I've drawn from the Arcus Arcanum Tarot by Hansrudi Wascher, published by AG Müller, is the Five of Pentacles.

Five people grace this card.  In the front there are two men who look happy or even smug, one holding a single pentacle clutched to his chest, the other with two, one in each hand.  A little behind them is third man, this one wearing what looks like some kind of livery and holding a scroll with a wax seal.  AT the back, sitting on a bench and leaning into each other, are a man and woman, each holding a pentacle and looking sad and tired. 

These last two seem to echo traditional Five of Pentacles associations - they are going through hard times, as represented by the bailiff-type figure who stands before them, wagging a finger at them.  The two men at the front would then represent the opposite point of view - if one person or couple looses, then where do the resources they held go.  In other words, this card seems to suggest that if there are losers, there may also be winners.  Even in our current "austerity" climate, this does seem to hold true - there are still some who are incredibly wealthy and receiving huge bonuses, while others march and some live on the street.

I am grateful to have a warm home and enough food to eat.

I am thankful to have a loving partner with whom to share both good times and hardships. 

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Blood Red Sky

Today, the Arcus Arcanum Tarot by Hansrudi Wascher, published by AG Müller, offers us a scene of desolation, tinged in crimson.

The Death card in this deck has a red-eyed skeleton riding atop a white horse, holding a scythe in one hand, an axe in the other, and with a knife in a scabard at his waist.  Dead figures, both male and female,  lie all around.  In the background we see a single stone gateway over a narrow stream whose waters run dark, flowing off towards the sunset.  The sky is red with the light of what appears to me to be the setting sun.  Normally, we see a new dawn in this card, and perhaps this is also a dawn, but something about the colours doesn't make me think of hope and new beginnings.  A conference of crows fly across the red sky, silhouetted, while stars shine palely in the black of the approaching night. 

I find the sky strangely captivating: the contrast of the red and black; and especially the way there is a stripe of black between the main section of red sky and another part - almost as though Death's scythe has sliced through the very space-time continuum to come to this place at this moment.  It reminds me of the tale where someone encounters Death in one city, and so runs away to another, only to have Death muse of his surprise of meeting them in the first place as he had an appointment with them that night in the other.  The moral being that we can never escape Death. 

This card feels less hopeful to me than many other versions.  A true letting go, and plenty of mourning to be done.  Perhaps only after that will we be able to start thinking about new beginnings.

I am grateful for the chance to grieve things that I must leave behind.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


The Arcus Arcanum Tarot, by Hansrudi Wascher (published by AG Müller), today offers us the Five of Swords.

Once again, this image is very different from the traditional battlefield scene, with a victor claiming all the swords.  Nevertheless, I see a connection.  This seems to me to be almost the opposite point of view.  Although still guarded by his chain-mailed soldiers, and flanked by his knights, this King is walking away from the battlements, with his sword held in a ceremonial rather than a battle ready way.  He wears no armour, and his expression shows no happiness.  Has he agreed to a truce or surrender?  Is he walking down to negotiate the take-over of his castle?

This card reminds me that sometimes we have to know when to call it a day and give in.

I am grateful to be able to stop fighting daily battles, if only temporarily.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


The Arcus Arcanum Tarot (by Hansrudi Wascher, published by AG Muller) offers quite a different take on most of the pips, with a lot more people foregrounded than in many other decks.  

In today's card, the Four of Swords, this is more implied than actual.  Four suits of armour, complete with shiny swords, stand over a man sitting pensively on a step, while a woman stands behind him, eyes closed as though in meditation.  The man's purple robes suggest a King and leader, while on a more esoteric level they represent a connection with the spiritual.  The woman's golden dress speaks of an ability to process emotions, while on a spiritual level it indicates enlightenment.  In front of the man are some white and yellow flowers.  At a guess, I'll say dog roses, as the Little White Book gives very little information (all in German) and no flower names despite all the pips being decorated with them.

For me, this card says that it is necessary to take time in peace to prepare for the next step in whatever you are doing.  This preparation can be simply strategic, but it could also include a more spiritual side - preparing ourselves through improving our mindset, and through feeling more connected and calm.

I am grateful to find time to meditate.

I am thankful that I pack my bags the day before when I travel.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Bullish Creativity

For this third draw from the Arcus Arcanum Tarot by Hansrudi Wascher, published by AG Muller, the Ace of Pentacles appeared.

When I first got this deck, one of the things I noticed and really liked was the way the Aces, instead of being offered by a hand from a cloud, or simply floating in the air, are held by a hand formed of the element which the suit represents. Here, in the Ace of Pentacles, an earthy hand shedding small lumps rises from the ground bearing a golden pentacle.  This says something about the seeds of a new enterprise growing out of groundwork already laid, or that it is not from heaven that we receive new material possibilities, but from looking to areas that are connected to the practical and financial.

A bull, horns lowered, charges towards us, while a rabbit sits calmly in the foreground.  The bull could be seen as representing Taurus, one of the earthy zodiac signs.  However, given that neither of the other two earth signs are alluded to, I feel it is more to do with the dynamic, practical energy of the suit of Pentacles, where you take the bull by the horns and focus on the material and financial.  The rabbit suggests creativity, and money or resources multiplying.  

I am grateful for feeling energised to take on new physical challenges.

I am thankful for material opportunities that present themselves, whether I accept them or not.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

A Heron and Two Jugs

For this second day with the Arcus Arcanum Tarot, by Hansrudi Wascher, published by AGMüller, I drew the Star.

Although wearing no clothes, this is a very modest version of the Star.  So, perhaps less about vulnerability and emotional openness than traditional images... Likewise, the heron at the front of the card is seen in Celtic mythology as a creature that stands at the gateway between life and death, mediating between our reality and the Otherworld.  As a bird that is also at home in the water, the heron spans elements - the rational and the emotional.  Thus here there is less a sense of absolute openness, and more a sense of a logical, guarded willingness to connect with others, and share emotions.

I notice, too, that the woman pours out the water from one jug into a pool of water lillies, symbols of enlightenment growing out of the base reality of human existence (mud).  Thus she shares not only emotionally, but in situations where we seek self-understanding and connection with the divine.  The second jug spills its contents onto a verdant bank, suggesting giving even when there is abundance - not only giving when you see the need, but just for the joy of sharing.

I am grateful for the generosity of the Universe.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Twin Wedding?

This week I will be drawing from the Arcus Arcanum Tarot, by Hansrudi Wascher, published by AG Müller in Switzerland.  The first card of the day is the Eight of Wands.

Straight away we are faced with something quite different to traditional iconography, which is the case in most of the pip cards in this deck.  Two women who look like they could be twins stand facing us, holding two cabers each (no wands, these, but poles of wood taller than a person).  Facing the women, with their backs to us, are four men.  Two likewise could be twins, from their clothes, hair and postures, while the other two, further from the women, look clearly different.  Each man holds a caber, too.  All six stand in the middle of a broad path that runs between avenues of trees, making this an extremely woody card.  In the foreground are what I think are poppies - my flower lore is not what it could be, so if I'm wrong I'm happy to be enlightened...  Poppies symbolise sleep, death, and resurrection after death, but are also used in Puerto Rican weddings.  The image here does strike me as a bit like a wedding of twins - or maybe part of a barn-raising after the fact.  Certainly a meeting of soulmates - connecting with traditional associations of the Eight of Wands with arrows of love.

Another thing this brings to mind is Jung's ideas about the animus and anima - these women seem to draw me forward, encouraging me to get moving and do something.  They carry two cabers each, suggesting providing the resources to create something.  In this sense, there is another connection with more traditional Eight of Wands ideas of projects moving quickly.  Overall, though, this card makes me think that if you want to build something quickly, you sometimes feel like you need to double yourself up to get more done.

I am grateful for times when I get a lot done.

Friday, 17 June 2011


For this last draw with the Vision Quest Tarot by Gayan Sylvie Winter & Jo Dose another Major appeared (so much for showing off this Thoth-alike's semi-illustrated pips!  Only two have come up all week.)

In this deck, Temperance has been renamed Integration.  It shows a spider on her web, and an old woman weaving a beautiful blanket on a loom.  From the blanket, the woven birds break free and fly away.

I find it curious how often a loom is used in tarot Majors.  An old woman weaving appears on the Moon card in the Ancestral Path Tarot, and several different decks, including the Mythic Tarot, show the Fates or Norns weaving on the Wheel of Fortune Card.  The Wildwood, too, shows a loom on the Wheel card, but there we see no weavers, just time and the seasons, and the decisions we ourselves make.

It's interesting that weaving still resonates with us, in this age of mass-produced materials, where many people have never seen a real loom, never mind used one.  Still, it was such an important symbol for so many people at so many times that it's meaning still chimes with us, and still echoes in many myths and images.  As well as showing the phases of life - from the thread being spooled, to being woven and then finally cut - it also represents creativity - in the patterns that can be designed - and protection - blankets to keep warm at night and in winter, clothes to wear during the day in all life's situations.  On top of that, more implicitly, the Fates weaving also speak of social status.  After all, not everyone could afford soft fabrics or expensive dyes, so clothes were (and of course still are, though in different ways) symbols of wealth and social position - of where the Fates had placed us.

Here, though, the birds woven into the fabric fly off, leaving the loom behind.  They have taken in the colour and pattern given to them in their creation, but having integrated these now they seek out their own path in life.  So, combining what is innate with our life choices, a sense of structure with freedom.

I am grateful for the gift of my life, and the ability to choose what I do with that gift.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Inner Strength

For this sixth draw with the Vision Quest Tarot, I received the Nine of Fire (Wands).

Above a meseta landscape floats a brown wand, with lively green leaves sprouting from it's top.  A bolt of lightning pierces the clouds and separates into nine distinct strands.  Below, the stony ground suggests a time of drought and hardship, yet also an ability to withstand these difficulties.  The lightning bolt seems to energise the entire scene, the clouds, the wand and the earth all being illuminated by its flash.

It's funny, this is the second card from this deck which has brought up childhood memories for me.  This time, it is a holiday in France which is brought to mind.  A friend and I were camping in a field when an incredible storm struck, with sheet lightning and torrential rain.  Our tent collapsed, and we were grateful to be taken in by the closest household for the night.

In this card, however, there is no nearby house to retreat to.  The Inner Strength of the title would come, I suppose, from facing the lightning and rain, rather than running away from them as we did.  This seems very pertinent to me today - I have been thinking about giving up on something, because it feels too hard and I doubt my ability to do it.

I am grateful for this reminder that it is through facing hardships that we grow and learn.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Carrying Water

Another Major form the Vision Quest Tarot today, and another that has been renamed.  Major VIII in this deck is the equivalent to the Justice card.

Still, this vision of it is very different.  No sword here, and no scales.  Instead, a woman carrying a water jug upon her head, with three dragonflies framing her, and a pool of water at her feet.  Wrapped in a blanket or shawl, with a turquoise necklace, she seems poised and calm, and her closed eyes are reminiscent of the blindfolded versions of Justice.  I feel like it is because she is at peace with her past actions, her current place in the world, and perhaps her decisions for the future, that she is able to stand so calmly, balancing the waters of life upon her head.  There is also the notion of measuring your gait, and your actions generally, to stay in balance, not going to extremes - being that stable middle point represented by the sword in the Thoth version of this card.

I am grateful for times when I feel centred and clear about what is important in my life - few and far between though they may be.

I am thankful that I can look back on my life so far without regret.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Today, the Vision Quest Tarot by Gaian S. Winter and Jo Dose (published by AGMüller) offers us a variant on the Death card, here renamed.  The image has also transformed into something far more naturalistic than a robed skeleton on a horse.

I have heard some people complain about decks where Death is softened, made more bearable, less existentially challenging.  However, I feel there is an extent to which such arguments actually show our overweaning pride.  Death is just a transformation - what was once living is transformed into food for some other creature.  We humans feed the worms, and many people don't like to admit that our lives may not be more important than that fact.  So, why should our deaths be a big deal, and mean anything more than a simple transformation?

I like the image here, a funeral bier with a skull resting atop the corpse, and a full animal skeleton beneath.  An owl stares out at me, part spirit, part bird, flying under and through the bier, while a waning moon sets in the distance.  In some ways, this is a darker image than the traditional one: no sunrise to herald a new day; no Death figure to lead us into the afterlife.  The owl's stare seems reach out to me, asking if I will be next. 

The owl's association with wisdom, with seeing in the darkness and with being able to turn its head in all directions, giving it perspective on past, present and future, suggests that this transformation can bring us greater understanding, if we are willing to face the darkness, the letting go suggested by the moon.  And so there is a positive aspect, but not that things will be sunny again, rather that we can learn from the darkness.  Perhaps, too, a reminder that such transformations are something we must go through alone, suggested by the isolated bier.  And that these transformations don't mean much in the grand scheme of things, only to us personally - the sky is vast, and death is omnipresent in the skeletons, and the owl as predator and bringer of death.

I am grateful to acknowledge that my life is but a drop in the vastness of the universe.

I am thankful that life offers the possibility of change and transformation.

Monday, 13 June 2011


Finally, having mentioned this deck in the first place for its semi-illustrated pips, the Vision Quest Tarot (by Gayan Sylvie Winter & Jo Dose) has graced me with a pip card: the Four of Air.

There is a real sense of peace to this card, with the moon just above a mountain-locked lake, and four feathers floating in the air above.  Once again, the colours of the sky are breath-taking, though this time it is a night sky I see (this is more apparent in the actual card than in the scan).

I am reminded by this card of summers as a child and teen, swimming in a mountain lake in Germany.  The water was icy cold but it mattered less at night, swimming naked, than in the day when the contrast with the sun-warmed summer day brought squeals of shock and goosegumps.  Swimming in the silky water, floating on the surface to catch the warmer currents and look up at the night sky, were some of the most tranquil and awe inspiring times of my life. 

I am grateful for memories of tranquility and joy.

I am thankful for the beauty of the universe.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Mother of Air

Today's card from the Vision Quest Tarot (by Gayan Sylvie Winter & Jo Dose) is equivalent to the Queen of Swords.  In this deck, as well as the suits having been renamed for the elements, the Court Cards have been renamed Daughter, Son, Mother and Father.  I suspect this was inspired by the Haindl Tarot, published eight years prior to the Vision Quest, but have no other evidence for this.  Still, both are Thoth-inspired, both come from people in Germany, and both use this somewhat unusual structure for the Courts...

This card really captures the sense of wisdom, clarity and far-sightedness that I associate with the Queen of Swords.  The colours in the sky are absolutely amazing, and I am charmed by the eagle flying against the backdrop of an eagle-head shaped cloud.  The Mother of Air looks calm, gazing into the far distance, while her hair is blown by the wind.  The teepees behind her suggest her close connection with community, yet she stands at a slight distance, able to empathise with those around her without being bogged down in their everyday concerns.

I am grateful for the wise women in my life, who see clearly and share their vision in a healing way.  

I am thankful for the Crones I have met through TABI.

Saturday, 11 June 2011


Having mentioned the Vision Quest Tarot last week as a semi-illustrated pip deck I love, I was inspired to dig it out again and use it for this week's daily draws.  This deck was created by Gayan Sylvie Winter & Jo Dose, and is published by AGM Müller.  The first card out was XV - Torment.  All the Majors in this deck have been renamed, and the suits have been changed to Fire (Wands), Water (Cups), Air (Swords), and Earth (Pentacles).  For a full review of the deck, see here.

This simple image allows for a lot of scope.  I notice that not only are the man's hands bound, but he is also tied to a post.  We just see his back, and the beautiful view in front of him - a multi-hued sky.  Where, then, is the torment?  Is it simply the fact of not being free?  Or especially not being free when faced by such beauty?  Or is the beauty part of what enslaves and holds him there?

I am grateful for the addictions I have managed to control - no chocolate or sweets for five months!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Grape Crushing

The last day with the Lo Scarabeo Tarot by Mark McElroy and Anna Lazzarini, I drew the Three of Cups. 

As with most of the cards in this deck, the Rider Waite Smith influence is very apparent.  Three women dance together.  Instead of raising cups, they hold flowers and grapes, and underfoot they crush grapes as they move, the juices staining their feet and dress hems.  The front of the huge bowl they stand in is decorated with three cups - a simplified version of the Marseille card.  The link to the Thoth is in the grapes themselves, which in that deck form the body of the cups.

What I notice about this card is the fact that a card that normally signifies friendship, joy and celebration, here is depicting people working.

I am grateful for the times when I can work with friends so that it feels more like play.

I am thankful for the wonderful friends I have made through teaching yoga.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Thank You

For this penultimate draw with the Lo Scarabeo Tarot by Mark McElroy and Anna Lazzarini, the card is the Six of Pentacles.

This is another card where the Thoth influence is very apparent, while the Rider-Waite-Smith is still present, but the Marseille is notably absent.  The background is very close to the Thoth depiction of the Six of Pentacles, whilst the hands - one with coins in a gesture of holding or offering, the other empty in a gesture of readiness to receive - take the place of the three figures in the RWS - a merchant with a scales and two people receiving alms from him.  I like the added detail of planetary symbols on the pentacles.   Of the seven major astronomical bodies in ancient systems of astrology, only the sun is missing, yet it may be suggested by the bright circle at the centre of the card between the two hands.  When I think of traditional interpretations of giving what you can and getting what you need, the astrological symbolism adds a higher perspective.  We may not get what we want in the moment, but then, that may not be what we need when seen from a broader or more long term perspective.

I am grateful for what I can share with others.

I am thankful for the support I receive, both emotional, spiritual and material.

I am grateful for the lessons learned about what I really need.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

What Holds You Back?

For today's draw with the Lo Scarabeo Tarot by Mark McElroy and Anna Lazzarini, the Eight of Swords raised its pretty head.

The blindfolded woman who seems unable to move forward is the major element in the RWS, here depicted kneeling and wringing her hair, rather than hemmed in by swords.  Instead, the swords are depicted in a ladder-like shape, taken from the Thoth.  The only nod to the Marseille might be seen in the flowers on the ground - there are a few extraneous flowers on the Marseille Eight of Swords, too, though not yellow ones in the version I have.

The woman is not bound, and yet she seems to be holding herself back, by the hair, unable to connect with the world, locked into her own worries.  The swords here, though, make me think that if she removed her blindfold, she might find that she could use some of those ideas as stepping stones to a more productive frame of mind - it is her unwillingness to face the truth that holds her back.

Writing the posts about this deck, I dug out my copy of the Thoth, and of the Comparative Tarot (one of the four comparison decks is a Marseille, and the only version of that tradition that I own).  When I looked at this card, the question in the title sprang to my mind.  And, with the Thoth staring me in the face at the same time, barely ever read with, I asked myself: "What holds me back from reading with the Thoth?"  It's not that I can't, I have even used the deck for a couple of phone readings, but I don't much like to - I did so to prove to myself that I could.  The largest part of it is that I just don't feel very intuitively inspired by semi-illustrated pips.

That being said, I have a few decks of this kind which speak to me more than the Thoth.  For example, I really enjoy the Vision Quest Tarot.  And in the Wildwood, there are several semi-illustrated pips, though others are fully illustrated.  The Eight and Ten of Vessels and the Six and Seven of Bows all spring to mind.   I won't count the Six of Vessels, as there are animals in it.

So, what is it about the Thoth that doesn't chime for me when reading?  Some of the cards are very beautiful, and even the dark and difficult cards have movement and charm.  Somehow, though, they feel too distant, too separate from real life in a way that the Vision Quest and the Wildwood are not.  They show objects which, for the most part, I wouldn't use, on backgrounds of geometrical shapes or colours.  The other two decks I mention, on the other hand, show objects I might use or have used (I even used to have a pretend bow and arrow) in natural settings, and for me that makes all the difference.

In July (the 23rd and 24th to be precise) I am attending the TABI Conference, where Emma Sunerton-Burl will be doing a workshop on reading the Thoth.  Perhaps she'll change my mind about this iconic deck but, no disrespect to her teaching skills and passion, I doubt it.  There are so many beautiful decks in the world, why would I stick with one that just doesn't speak to me?

I am grateful that I can take a clear look at things that don't work for me, and choose where to go from there.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Tales of King Solomon

The Lo Scarabeo Tarot, by Mark McElroy and Anna Lazzarini, today offers us Justice.

This lady seems to have little of the Thoth deck to her, even her numbering is that of the RWS - XI rather than VIII.  Her clothing, crown, throne and pillars are all reminiscent of the RWS, and to a lesser extent the Marseilles.  The fact that there is a light shining from one cup of the balance, and a feather resting in the other, is different to any of the three traditions, as is the baby in a basket in front of her.  I imagine the baby is a nod towards the Old Testament tale of King Solomon who offered two disputing women that, in the interests of fairness, he could chop the baby they were arguing about in two, at which the real mother offered to relinquish her rights, and thereby proved herself.  So, does this suggest that Justice should be a trickster and manipulator, or simply have clear insight into human psychology, and is there a difference?  Rather dark questions for such a bright, balanced and sunny card.

I am grateful that when I look back on my life I am accepting of most of the decisions I have made.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Page, Princess or Knave?

The third day drawing from the Lo Scarabeo Tarot by Mark McElroy and Anna Lazzarini gives us the Knave of Pentacles.  I guess calling the "youngest" of the Courts by this title avoided the Page/Princess debate, but a Knave, for me, not only is male (which these aren't), but also has negative connotations.  I'd have gone with Princess, but what do you think?

Her gold circlet, the yin-yang symbol she carries, her location amongst woods, her plaits, and of course her gender, all link this card to the Thoth deck.  Here we do have an element that links to the Marseilles - in that card, too, the Page has two round golden objects, though his are both identical pentacles.  And what of the RWS?  Her child-like appearance and her position on the card (not seen from below as in the Thoth) connect us with the RWS.  However, the colour and style of her clothing is original to this deck.

She seems grounded and balanced, a little serious, and very much nature-based.  I'm not quite sure what to make of the fact that her yin-yang symbol seems to be in motion - perhaps the dance of opposites?

I am grateful for the learning, both practical and spiritual, that can come from studying nature and the physical.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Greek Masks

Today's card from the Lo Scarabeo Tarot by Mark McElroy and Anna Lazzarini, is the Hierophant.

Once again, both Thoth and RWS iconography are clear here, while the Marseilles is incorporated in as much as it is very similar to the RWS in any case.  This Hierophant looks like he is wearing a mask, as does the Thoth Hierophant to a lesser degree - perhaps pointing to how much this is about the role, rather than the actual person.  Instead of acolytes, there are two different kinds of flowers at his feet - a departure from all three traditions.  His Greek-style beard is also reminiscent of the Thoth Hierophant, while the keys on his chest, his crown, his scepter and the blessing sign of his right hand are all RWS elements (and all but the keys are also found on the Marseilles Hierophant).  His throne points to the RWS, while the stained glass flower directly behind him echoes the Thoth.  So, a real combination of elements here.

I don't like the mask-like aspect of this Hierophant: at a visceral level it makes him seem even more institutional and rigid than I am used to.  It's strange, though, as I like the symbolism of it - that the Hierophant is a role, not just a man who may be good or bad, but an idea and an archetype, something beyond a single person.

I am grateful for my ability to embrace paradoxes.

I am thankful that I am not a member of any religious institution.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Pimp My Rider Part 2

Well, I have done it: pimped the Universal Waite; blinged it, if not to death, certainly to sparkledom.  It was a fascinating experience, and one I am glad to have done.  However, the results don't scan well and, to be honest, aren't all that great.  I can see that using irridescent colours, as well as sparkles, would give a greater effect.  Still, the difficulties and complications of such a task put it well beyond my artistic abilities.  I had enough trouble, and didn't always succeed, in getting sparkles in the right places, never mind adding something where it matters rather more that you stay within the lines you're colouring!

And yet, despite the fact that the deck itself is no great work of art, I learned a lot from doing it.  For one thing, it reminded me of some of the reasons Mary K. Greer gives in her seminal "21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card" for drawing your own version of the cards.  Focusing on the cards in this practical way, I noticed details and elements I had never seen before!  Other details which I know are there, somehow didn't spring out at me, which made me wonder why that should be.  So, it was also a great way to review the traditional iconography from a different perspective to when I first learned about the card images.

Another thing I got out of this was a renewed appreciation of my preferred RWS version, and what it is about it that I like.  The first RWS deck I chose to learn with was the Radiant Rider Waite.  The Universal Waite is actually closer to the Original Rider Waite in terms of colouring, and there are aspects of it that I just don't like.  For example, I get that when Pixie created her images, printing was at a very different level than it is today.  So, monochrome backgrounds were both the norm and necessary.  However, many of her skies are grey!  While I kind of understand it for the Three or Eight of Swords, it makes a lot less sense for me in the Seven and Eight of Pentacles, the Hanged Man, and the Hermit.

The Radiant Rider Waite went for bluer skies in most cards, which lends a far more cheerful feel to the deck.  I was going to say that it looks more realistic, but given that I, and Pixie, have lived in London I have to confess that sometimes the sky really is very grey, lol.  The Radiant Rider Waite feels more whole, the faces are often more distinct, and the colouring makes it more natural, less simply blocked in.  This is one of my major objections to Marseille-type decks - the extreme block colours.  I understand this used to be necessary, but I just find it really unappealing.  Although there are now some more nuanced Marseille decks, I also am not a fan of the haggard-looking queens and the unillustrated pips.

Returning to the blinging, being able to play around with the colouring myself to a degree was also thought-provoking.  For example, with the Hermit I chose to add some purple to his robes, which I associate with wisdom.  This brightened him up, but also added a different layer to my ideas about him, as well as making me think about why he traditionally wears dark grey robes.  Those robes seem to be about being in touch with more unconscious elements, of turning inward, part of what differentiates him from the Hierophant.  Having him in pure or block purple might suggest royalty or status, but I feel this light, sparkling dusting of purple adds a sense of wisdom - turning inward isn't just about our shadow or about silence.

Another "different" colour choice arose with the suit of wands, where I chose to add red sparkle to emphasise their connection (for me) with the element of fire.  This was partly because I couldn't find any brown sparkly polish, but also because putting gold on them, my first thought, felt wrong.  That would link them too closely with the suits of cups and pentacles, the more "feminine" suits.  So, I chose red, colour of fire, also linked to security and direct action. 

Finally, the blinging was very meditative.  I lost track of time as I focused on the cards, on the colours already there, on trying to colour within the lines, on deciding which colour to put where.  I became so focused on the cards that, one night, I stayed up over an hour past my usual bedtime.  I also ended up with an awful crick in my neck from bending down close to the cards and trying to very carefully apply the glitter.

Illustrations: The Fool and the Hermit, Universal Waite Tarot, coloured by Mary Hanson-Roberts, inexpertly blinged by me.

Alchemical Wedding

This week I will be drawing from the Lo Scarabeo Tarot, which was created to celebrate twenty years as a tarot publishing firm.  The deck is authored by Mark McElroy, and illustrated by Anna Lazzarini.  The idea behind it was to meld the three main tarot traditions: the Rider-Waite-Smith; the Thoth; and the Marseilles.  Overall, I find the deck to be closest to the RWS, but there are interesting aspects of the other two present, as will hopefully be seen over the week.

For this first draw, the card is the Lovers.  Straight away we see some of the Thoth influences in depicting this more as a royal/alchemical wedding than as the garden of Eden (though the trees and snake are still present in the background a la RWS).  The woman and man in royal dress, white and red, represent different elements that, combined, lead to greater wholeness - the alchemical melding of opposites.  However, we have to choose which elements we are going to incorporate into ourselves and our lives in this process.  I like the fact that the Angel's eyes are blindfolded (another Thoth element, though in that card it is more of a cupid than an angel) - the choices we make may be blessed by spirit, but they are ours to examine and make. 

I am grateful that I can make choices in my life, and I hope that my choices lead me towards wholeness.

Friday, 3 June 2011

A Night Out in London

Last night, my Dear One and I had a night out on the town, boring-old-fart style.  Dinner in a cozy-but-lively restaurant was followed by a night in a hotel.  The restaurant had a good atmosphere, but while I enjoyed my meal, DO was not as impressed.  A poached egg, lardon and crouton salad elicited the following dialogue:

DO: Aren’t lardons supposed to be squares of bacon?
Me: Yes.
DO: I thought croutons were meant to be crunchy?
Me: Yes... but does it taste good?
DO: Well, yes...

Unfortunately, his beer-battered fish and chips didn’t even achieve the tastes-good factor, and his side order of extra mushy peas not arriving until he’d almost finished everything else meant he no longer wanted it.

So, on to the hotel.  We checked in only to be informed we’d been up-graded to a suite because several people had prolonged their stays.  Score!  We adjourned to our suite, and after reading one article in a glossy I was ready for bed.  Yes, it was barely 10pm, but likewise, this was a chance for me to sleep uninterrupted by Big Boy - not to be sneezed at or wasted on magazines.

Given we had a suite, we both left most of our clothes in the living area, as DO was going to say goodnight and then get up and read a bit longer, and I knew I’d be up before him in the morning.  So, leave the clothes where we can get dressed without disturbing each other - makes sense, right?  It was a warm night, so I was dressed in my birthday suit, while DO kept on his grey with a maroon-stripe boxers (their original colour scheme and not a laundry accident, I hasten to add).  He closed the door between the living room and the bedroom, and we had a little cuddle, then I said I was going to sleep.  DO gets up and tries to leave, only to discover that the door handle on the inside doesn’t actually affect the locking mechanism - we’re locked into our bedroom!  There was a second door out into the hall from the bedroom - but our room keys were in the living room, and neither of us was dressed to face a bustling hotel reception!

Thank heavens for hotel phone systems.  We pick up and dial reception.  And wait, and wait, and... no-one picks up.  So, try the Concierge.  Same thing!  Now we’re getting a twilight-zone feeling - is the up-grade and the locked door part of some Candid Camera prank??  Before our paranoia can completely run away with us, we try Housekeeping (who knew there were so many separate systems inside a hotel - I guess it is pretty big).  Quickly, someone answers.  DO explains our plight, and within five minutes someone comes and rescues us, agreeing that no, the door doesn’t work from the inside and that maybe it would be best just not to close it :duh:  Still, after all that it was the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a month and a half!

Sitting in the hotel restaurant having breakfast this morning, instead of reading the paper or surfing on my phone, I people-watched.  The clientele were multi-national, with lots of tourists, and I became unable to stop glancing at one particular table.  The two somewhat older men sat there didn't draw my gaze due to their sexy physiques or interesting conversation, though.  It was more that sense of watching a train crash.

It started with a croissant.  One man speared it on his fork, and started taking bites out of it.  My first thought, "If you're not going to use your hands, wouldn't it be easier to cut it with a knife?" These were, I thought, probably Chinese men, and I've heard from people who've visited China that it's considered rude to touch food with your hands.  So much for my cultural sensitivity, I "got" not using your hands.  But biting hunks out of a whole croissant speared on the end of a fork reminded me of films from the seventies where cavemen or Vikings or some other "primitive" people (please, Thor, don’t smite me, this is just the impression I got as a child watching American movies) jabbed a fork into a whole leg of lamb and proceeded to devour it in large, messy mouthfuls between splashy swigs of mead.

Next up was a rasher of bacon, which was also eaten without the benefit of a knife: noodle-style, with the end flicking juice as it swirled up towards his mouth.  By this time, the second man had also started in on his croissant, with copious lip-smacking.  Fortunately, beans were a simple scoop-and-shovel affair, and mushrooms popped in easily.  However, every rasher of bacon was slurped in a way that made me worry for their shirts, and the renewed attacks on the croissants seemed rather aggressive.  I had to wonder what they’d make of their bananas...  They just peeled them and ate them holding on to the smallest bit of skin they could without the banana falling out of their hands - whew, not too bad.

I realised that my inability to look away was all about social mores - they breached the cultural code of eating in a restaurant by Western standards.  And although I like to think I’m culturally aware and open-minded, the differences were jarring in a way I found very hard to challenge.  Objectively, I realise that there is nothing inherently right or wrong about different ways of eating.  But at a visceral level, the “wrongness” - the difference - struck me at every bite.  I am reminded of people who have visited China saying how uncomfortable they felt because people would stand “too close” when speaking to them.  Just a different perception of social space, but we become so habituated to our culture’s norms that no amount of rationalising can change the fact that it just feels “wrong”.  

And so, finally, an explanation of the two versions of the Eight of Swords I chose to illustrate this post.  In the first instance, our thoughts kept us locked in the pleasant surroundings of our room, too embarrassed to go out in underpants.  In the second, my cultural prejudices wrapped me in a tight bundle, hard to break out of.  I could see it was prejudice, but I couldn’t change the way I felt.  Ah, the prisons we create for ourselves...

Illustrations: Eight of Swords from the Ma'at Tarot by Julia Cuccia-Watts and from the Universal Waite Tarot  coloured by Mary Hanson-Roberts, inexpertly blinged by me.

Wishing upon a Star

The last card from the Anna K Tarot is the dreamy and delightful Six of Cups.

The cups in this card are almost hidden amongst the blossom growing on the beautiful balcony we see.  A fair maid gazes up into the night sky, gently holding a flower to her face, lost in daydreams of love and life.

Such dreams are easy to believe in when we are young, but as we grow older we tend to become more skeptical, less trusting.  In some ways that's good - we protect ourselves - yet it also means we harden ourselves and don't allow for the possibility of wonder.  Gazing into the night sky, into a bonfire, or into the sea, can all be experiences of this kind of wonder, reconnecting us with the beauty that is there in the world, without politics or social expectations.  If we lose that wonder, too, then life becomes a bleak place.

I am grateful for the times when I stop to smell the flowers, or lose myself in the breeze through branches.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Gone fishin'

On this second to last day pulling from the Anna K Tarot, the card is one which also came up in the Deck Interview I did.

This Page of Pentacles is in no rush.  He is willing to take his time, and also to put effort and resources into what he chooses to do.  He knows these will often pay off, and that he will enjoy and learn from the journey in any case.

I am reminded by this card that playfulness and delight are the best teachers!

I am grateful to have the time to do things which I enjoy and learn from.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Flag Bearer

Today the Anna K Tarot offers up the Knight of Wands.

Running up a shallow staircase on a hill, towards dark clouds - this is so Knight of Wands!  He knows what he believes, and is willing to charge in and proclaim this against the odds.  Full of passion, this Knight never hesitates when action is called for.  Not only that, but he is vocal in expressing his beliefs to whomever will listen - bearing the flag of his cause in all situations.  Diplomacy and compromise are unknown territory for him. 

I am grateful for the fiery passion and belief of my Dear One - moral absolutist extraordinaire.

I am thankful that there are a few (very few) things I feel that certain about.