Friday, 23 May 2014

Celtic Fairies Overview

I'm a fan of Mark McElroy's tarot work.  His Putting the Tarot to Work (Llewellyn, 2004) is both amusing and insightful.  Another book he wrote, What's In The Cards For You? (Llewellyn, 2005) is designed to "Test the Tarot", by seeing how you can most effectively use it.  Although I don't usually do predictive readings, it encourages you to scientifically test how good your predictive readings are, as well as trying out brainstorming and "wisdom" readings.

Anyhow, the Tarot of the Celtic Fairies (Lo Scarabeo, 2010) is probably the most esoteric of his decks, yet still with a very solid foundation in celtic mythology, and a large dose of insight.  I love that he provides questions for each card to deepen understanding.

Turning to the cards themselves, all provide sometimes unusual images, yet still based on traditional RWS notions.  For example, we have a clurichaun on a sheep for Temperance.  This lesser-known cousin of the leprechaun is a slight cheat, as Mark admits, being rather the reverse of Temperance.  These little fellows love strong drink and bawdy behaviour, and act as a dire warning, rather than a role model :D  Some of the interesting questions Mark comes up with include: "What are the extreme positions?  What is the middle position?  Where do I fall on this spectrum?" and "To what extent does your morality depend on guidance, rules, and punishments meted out by others?"

I find Mark's choices for the Court cards also very good - they certainly give plenty of material to work with, both in terms of the images and in terms of the "character".  This Knight of Stones (Pentacles) is working as a smith, a great depiction of the hardworking, dependable Knight.  Yet, he has wings, being a member of the fae, which also fits nicely with Knights being the Air aspect of their court.  As for his character, he is Gofannon, a smith of the Tylwyth Teg, who forges mighty weapons that bear his distinctive mark.  Mark's keywords are adequacy vs. craftsmanship, with the Knight of Pentacles encouraging us towards the latter.

The Ace of Cauldrons (Cups) is also a lovely card - a magical mix of light and water, with a cauldron that looks like a triple-headed gnome with his long noses as cauldron legs.  He looks totally at peace, and if we look to the bigger picture, there are sparkles in the water as though it's infused with magic, and the sun seems to rise from the mouth of the cauldron.  As for the pips, they once again bring a different feel to the cards, with a lot of charm.  In the Seven of Swords, we have a butter spirit sucking away the milk's goodness, so it can't turn to butter when churned.  This is the thief who steals our ideas, something intangible, but which makes all the difference.  So, does this mean no positive twists on this card?  One could also see it as someone who tastes from many different pots, learning from each :)

This deck is a lovely mix of unusual imagery and celtic fairy lore, with a good dose of insight and imagination.  It is certainly worth getting the book that accompanies the deck, and while not traditional, I'd say it is very easy to read with.

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