Thursday, 28 August 2014

Penny Dreadful Overview + Giveaway

Ah, the joys of buying a deck pretty much sight unseen!  I had high hopes for the Penny Dreadful Tarot (Showtime), and the first few cards (the Majors) didn't disappoint.  Simple line drawings on a purple background, a creepy take on tradition.  Like the skeleton roaming free under a spiky Sun, the images are clear, spooky, and work very well both intuitively and archetypally.

The Courts, too, are surprisingly good.  For instance, in this King of Pentacles we have a mature man in a crown and draping cape.  He holds an antlered skull on a wand, with an inverted pentacle etched into its forehead.  Grounded, perhaps too materialistic, as well as domineering, he is a strong figure.

Even the Aces are interesting, if not totally traditional.  In this Ace of Wands we have a panther licking a big wand.  Very phallic, with all the pent-up energy of a great cat to boot!  Something appealing, that energises and inspires us, that we can't stay away from, even if it isn't always good for us :D

However, then we come to the bulk of the Minors, all the cards 2-10.  These generally have a central "theme" or image.  So, the Seven of Wands builds up from the two of wands, which had the foregrounded wand with a skull and one other wand on it, to what you see in the image.  At least they show the correct number of suit objects.  Other than that, though, I find them very disappointing.

It's strange, for me these cards are worse than non-illustrated pips.  For instance, if we look at the Six and the Nine of Cups, the central image is the same, and catches the eye.  The difference between the number of cups and their placement seems minimal.  The situation gets worse the higher up each suit we go.  As you can imagine, the Ten of Cups has nothing of family or joy to it, just even more cups and the still-hooded figure. 

Imagine if you got a number of cards from the same suit in a spread.  There is no colour variation, and little image variation.  These are the worst of both illustrated and non-illustrated pips: a central image which attracts attention, yet has nothing to say; and then suit objects that you cannot easily count or distinguish.  The image distracts me from straight-up numerological and other traditional readings, while not adding anything useful to an intuitive interpretation.

All that being said, I am sure there is someone somewhere who would get on with these cards.  With that hope, I offer an unopened deck as a giveaway - postage paid to anywhere in the world.  I bought two decks, as I have a friend who loves purple, and loves the Bohemian Gothic Tarot, so I thought this might please her.  Looking through my own copy, though, I realised it wouldn't (partly as there are spiders on a lot of the Majors, of which she is terrified, and partly because of the pip problem).  So, if anyone is interested, just leave a comment.  I will announce the winner (if there's more than one person interested) next Friday, 5th September :)

Monday, 25 August 2014

Penny Dreadful Tarot Reading

This week's deck comes from the Showtime store, and is a deck created for the TV series of the same name: Penny Dreadful.  I had never seen the show, but when I heard there was a deck to match, I decided to check it out.  The series seems to be a horror show of sorts set in Victorian London.  As for the deck, it is in a brash purple, with quite minimalist artwork.  For more details, check back on Friday!

Situation - The Hanged Man

An androgynous figure dangles upside down from the tentacles of a giant squid (or is it an octopus?)  Is the squid rescuing them from the depths, or dangling them there until they are ready (to be eaten, perhaps)?  Either way, there seems little the person can do.

Don't - Two of Cups

A hooded, cloaked figure stands with water pouring to either side of them from two cups.  In this deck, the pips have the same main element, with just added suit objects.  So, all the cups pips show this cloaked figure, with more and more cups pouring around them.  This really doesn't speak to me of partnership, or seeing eye-to-eye.  Far more, it might indicate a situation where we have emotion coming from two different directions.  That could indicate a relationship, I suppose, and one where both people involved are willing to express their emotions...  As what not to do, it suggests not getting into messy emotional territory.

Do - Knight of Cups

The Courts in this deck are quite well drawn, with simple lines and clear symbolism.  This Knight's steed steps forward elegantly, his cup raised high, yet the man's head is somewhat bowed.  While he is clear about his feelings, he knows his may not always be the easiest path to follow.
The weekend certainly felt pretty Hanged Man - waiting and more waiting in hospital with my elder son, unable to help him other than to be there for him.  Everything went smoothly, though, and he's home now, albeit still in need of some recuperation.  Perhaps, then, it speaks more to the fact that I've been somewhat powerless to do things that need doing, and that I want to do. 

For one thing, U.S. Games have sent through the final proofs for the box, card backs and companion book for the Celtic Lenormand (yes, I did a little happy dance!)  That's definitely high on my list of priorities, but may take a little while.  Then, there are other less exciting tasks: some legal documents to work on, accounts and other paperwork.  Yet, making sure my son heals well takes higher priority, and with school still out, on top of a Bank Holiday, well, I'll get to things when I can.

As for the other two cards, they remind me that my Dear One is going away for a few days.  I know he needs the break, and so supporting him to go becomes a loving gift, Knight of Cups style.  Still, I'll miss his presence, and our mutual flow of emotions. 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Tarot of the Angels Overview

The Tarot of the Angels (Lo Scarabeo, 2008) may be an old deck, in a market segment that is constantly seeing new additions (just like the cat- or pagan-themed decks).  Still, it's one that is worth a closer look.

This is not a sugary-sweet love-and-light deck, yet it remains uplifting.  The angels are there, it suggests, all around us and always willing to lend a hand or a wing to help.  Yet, traditional tarot ideas remain strong in this deck, and life is not always easy or perfect.

For instance, in the Hanged Man we have someone who is going through a trial, a time of hardship from which they can learn.  The message, though, is that we can also receive a little succour, some spiritual support, through this challenge.

The Knight of Swords makes me laugh.  Look at this figure careening into whatever is ahead of them.  Definitely going "where angels fear to tread".  Yet, the angels look on from above, and will help and support the daring knight, whether he suceeds or fails in his quest.

The Minors are equally interesting.  In the Ace of Swords we have the traditional sword pointing up through a crown.  Here, though, there is the addition of angel wings - this is a spiritual truth, a way of communicating that will uplift.

The Seven of Pentacles is less traditional, and works on a number of levels.  Instead of a man hoeing plants, we have someone tending a fire.  Is he trying to melt down those Pentacles, in order to do something new with them?  Is the angel at his side helping him to assess whether the work he is doing is likely to be successful, or does the angel whisper to him about doing it for the greater good?  Does the man even see those Pentacles above the fire, or is he simply focused on the task at hand, not realising the value he is storing up for the future in doing what he does?

I love that these cards can lead to so many questions about how we are supported by spirit, and how we can bring a more spiritual approach into our everyday lives.  Yet, they can also be read as straight-up tarot images giving a simple message - the choice is ours.  An angel deck that isn't too in your face, then, and one which is not overly simple or new agey.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Tarot of the Angels Reading

Last week, I was reminded of this angel tarot which I've had for a long time, the Tarot of the Angels (Lo Scarabeo, 2008).  Looking through all my angel decks, I think this is my favourite tarot, and second favourite over all.  It isn't overly sweet, and offers lots of original interpretations, while still being readable according to standard meanings.

Situation - Six of Pentacles

A seeming mix of the Five and Six of Pentacles, here. A figure in tattered clothes and with bare feet huddles in a doorway.  Above him, six coins shine out from the door, while a grey-winged angel reaches down, offering the man a helping hand.  Is this really an angel, or could this angel be any of us, offering help to someone in need?

Don't - The Hermit

A cloaked and windswept figure walks away through a barren landscape, towards a beautiful sunset.  This person holds a lamp in one hand, and a walking stick in the other.  Above them, an angel peers through dark, boiling clouds, holding a mirror.  When we walk away from the everyday, we see ourselves in a different light.

Do - Ace of Coins

A huge, golden coin floats above a heavily-laden apple tree at the front of an orchard.  On the coin is a great snake, held in the claws of a double-headed eagle with wings outstretched.  Not only material abundance here, then, but also joy in nature and strength.

This week, my elder son goes into hospital again, for a somewhat complicated operation.  That is foremost in my mind, and so I see it in this situation card.  A time of hardship for us all, stress and worry.  A time when others are lending a hand to make this situation less hard.  And also a time that gives me the chance to offer kindness and empathy to my son, who needs it the most. 

Nevertheless, when something like this comes up there is the temptation to hide away from it, to bury my head in the sand.  It never helps, as no matter where I turn, there I am with my worries.  What may help, though, is to focus on the practical: on what I can do for him.  And perhaps also on the physical: exercising always improves my mood and relieves stress...

Friday, 15 August 2014

Sacred Isle Tarot Overview

This week's deck has a real fantasy feel, I can just imagine it illustrating Marion Zimmer Bradley's Avalon series...  Yet, there is something more elegant about these cards from the Sacred Isle Tarot (self-published, 2014).  Probably connected with the fanciful, almost dainty architecture of the palaces it shows.

The Emperor is a good example of this, with his fairytale castle in the background, more whimsical by far than the German castle it is based on.  He looks appropriately solid, on his pillar-flanked throne and holding a golden ankh and a blue globe that matches the turrets behind him.  There is a majesty to what he has built, or what he holds responsibility for.  His slightly fierce expression reminds us that he takes his work seriously.

Another serious man, though with a rather less extravagant castle, greets us in the form of the King of Pentacles.  His sumptuous robes are richly decorated in golden thread, and the colours about him are autumnal.  On his table are a golden pentacle, but also the abundant fruits of his harvest.  Elementally, he combines the red of fire with the brown of earth, a strong yet grounded leader.

At first glance, the Ace of Cups is very traditional: a spiritual being (here an angel rather than a dove) pours water into a cup which overflows into a beautiful sea or lake.  The swans hint at beauty and love, and the lotuses further suggest spiritual connection.  Yet, the clouds that boil around the angel are fierce, with lightning piercing the sky in the background, belying the calm of the waters.  Spiritual connection, overflowing emotion, and yet with the risk that an emotional storm could also come from these powerful feelings!

Finally, the Eight of Pentacles adds a nice touch to the apprentice working on his skills.  There is the suggestion of burning the candles at both ends, yet also the promise of what that effort can achieve: the impressive cathedral behind the young figure.

A quick word about the cards themselves.  The cardstock is a nice thickness, flexible and not too bulky, but seeming sturdy enough to last.  The cards are a little larger than most (8.5 x 13cms) and laminated only on the front, which lends them a slightly unusual feel.  Altogether, a charming deck, though not one for those who are put off by nudity.  Although not gratuitous, there are more naked, female pictures than in a traditional deck (for instance, in the Three of Wands), as well as both male and female full-frontal nudity on the Devil card.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Sacred Isle Tarot Reading

This week's deck, the Sacred Isle Tarot, is fresh off the press.  Self-published by its British creator, David Higgins, after a fair while on my Facebook radar it's nice to finally shuffle it.  While very clearly a RWS clone, the fantasy-style art is beautiful.

So, what does the Sacred Isle Tarot have to say about the week to come?

Situation - Eight of Wands

This deck is fairly female-centric, as might be expected from the name.  The traditional flying wands pierce a stormy sky, watched by a shocked-looking woman standing between enormous pillars.  Seems like the week may fly by, with lots going on, and the warning that we may just have to watch from the sidelines at some points.

Don't - Three of Cups

These women dancing together joyously invite us to drink deeply of life, celebrating in the company of others.  Sadly, this is what not to do, or at least not yet...

Do - Five of Swords

This man looks at us challengingly, as though to say: "Try it if you dare!"  The prone body of someone who tried and failed lies far below.  Yet, though it may seem hard to gather our thoughts, and to win through with our arguments, that is the gauntlet we are to run this week.  We may not always succeed, yet it is better to try than to simply stand by passively or hide in emotionally easy pursuits.

This reading feels useful to me in a couple of different ways.  For one thing, I sometimes see the 'Don't' card as a 'Not yet' message.  With my elder son going in for surgery, I get the message that it won't yet be time to celebrate, as he has a second surgery booked at the end of next week, too!  So, we'll keep going, despite the challenges, and gather any advice or positivity we can get for the next part.

At another level, I also see the advice to keep battling on, trying to make time for my own projects in the face of all that's going on around me.  Keeping busy will also help take my mind off the impending surgery, and hopefully this week I'll be able to do some fun (divination) work, as well as the regular work which took up most of last week.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Silver Witchcraft Tarot Overview

Just as there is a seemingly bottomless market for cat tarots, so too the audience for pagan/Wiccan decks appears inexhaustible.  And Barbara Moore has certainly capitalised on both these trends with her Tarot of Pagan Cats (Lo Scarabeo, 2010) and her two Book of Shadows decks (Lo Scarabeo, 2012, 2013). 

Her latest creation, the Silver Witchcraft Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2014) is in many ways like an amalgam of the two Book of Shadows decks.  It is at least as easy to read as the So Below deck, but with many of the more esoteric aspects and Wiccan timing elements found in the As Above deck.  As such, it is both innovative and traditional, easy to read straight out of the box, yet offering much extra information for those interested in the Wiccan path.

In terms of the cards themselves, they definitely break the Lo Scarabeo mould!  They are borderless, with titles just in English.  The artwork, too, mixes innovation and tradition.  All the Majors are easily recognisable, with only one (the High Priest/Hierophant) having been renamed.  Each Major features a cube as a plinth, though they vary from vine-covered to ethereal white, and many share a background, also.  For example, the Hermit features the same background as all the cards from Strength to Temperance.  This bearded old man with a lantern fits well with traditional archetypes, while adding an interesting element with his caduceus wand.

The Courts all show berobed figures, in suit/element appropriate robes: red for Wands, blue for Chalices, yellow for Swords, and green for Pentacles.  There is nice variety in what they are doing, and the elements around them.  I really like this Page of Swords, for example, with a book floating above one hand, an athame in the other, and a sylph by her side.  Being up amongst the clouds also clearly indicates her element: air.

The Aces are also very interesting and clear, representing the seed or source of their suit.  This Wands Ace shows a large flame, with various fruits around it and a ginger cat walking among them.  The book gives the key phrase: "The spark that starts the fire," and goes on to explain that: "Everything that is manifested in the physical world begins as a spark, an idea."

As for the Minors, as I mentioned on Monday these (at least numbers 2-9) are linked to the eight wiccan sabbats.  So, this Nine of Chalices connects with Samhain/Halloween.  The image of a woman sitting as though giving thanks under the rays of a crescent moon doesn't match the traditional guy sitting looking smug in front of nine cups.  Nevertheless, as the book explains: "This is a time to not only enjoy the gifts we have received and helped create, it is a time to reconnect with the spiritual world, our ancestors, our guides and allies, and the Goddess and God."  The end of the year fits well with the idea of a cycle coming to completion, and Halloween as the last harvest of the year is truly a time to give thanks and to also start to turn inward, to take emotional stock.  A spiritual take on the Nine of Cups, but one that still fits the keywords of wishes fulfilled and contentment!

This deck is an interesting departure for Lo Scarabeo, moving away from their traditional white borders and multi-lingual titles.  It reads well, and the timing aspect of it is a fascinating addition to understanding the minors.  Altogether, Barbara Moore has achieved a deck that is well worth spending some time with, while remaining more accessible than the Book of Shadows decks were.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Silver Witchcraft Tarot Reading

Another witchy deck this week, but this one is brand-spanking new!  The Silver Witchcraft Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2014) was created by Barbara Moore, with artwork by Franco Rivolli.

Situation - Seven of Chalices

An interesting feature of this deck is that the Minors two through nine are associated with the eight pagan sabats, starting at Yule with the two.  So, this Seven of Chalices is connected with Lammas, which was last Friday, 1st August!  Barbara Moore has done an excellent job of connecting these up with traditional interpretations.  Here, we have someone harvesting the first "fruits": apples, corn, tomatoes, grapes (green and purple), honey, pears.  An abundance of riches may have us confused about what to choose...

Don't - Page of Chalices

The Page stands knee deep in water, with sylphs all around her.  Above her is a triple moon, and in her hands a chalice.  She wants to explore emotional possibilities, to connect with the flow of life.

Do - Page of Pentacles

How funny to have two Pages as the Don't and Do.  This Page stands in a field with yellow blossoms all around her and a gnome at her feet, offering her another bloom.  She holds up a bunch of grapes, as though to fully savour their scent, sight and taste.  More exploration, then, but of the simple pleasures of everyday life.

Have to admit, I'm rather a multi-tasker: I tend to have lots of different things on the go at once.  However, this reading suggests I perhaps can't do everything, and should make some choices this week.  And rather than following my heart, I need to be practical - do the things which I need to do, rather than those I want to do.  Bah, humbug!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Finding Our Inner Queen of Pentacles

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The Wheel of the Year keeps turning, and so we come to another Tarot Blog Hop.  For this round, Joanna Ash asked us to think about how we manifest abundance, how we channel our inner Queen of Pentacles.

With two fairly young kids and a house to keep running, as well as various work projects on the go at once, and a few craft projects for the odd free moment, I am feeling more Queen of Pentacles-y than I have ever done before :)  Nevertheless, learning to better channel her energies would still be a good idea - maybe I could be doing all that in a more organised, effective way...

Inspiring myself in the Radiant Rider Waite (US Games, 2005), I designed a little spread to explore this.  And as there are five aspects, I laid it out in a pentacle shape:

1) Bower of Roses - how can I better enjoy life's abundance?

2) Pentacle -  how can I better manage my finances?

3) Throne - how can I feel more secure, more grounded?

4) Greenery - what would help me eat better?

5) Rabbit - how can I be more creative?

I pulled cards to answer this from the beautiful Tarot de St. Croix (2013):
1) Bower of Roses - how can I better enjoy life's abundance? - Five of Pentacles

What I principally see here is a renewal of my gratitude practice.  I can better enjoy the abundance in my life by recognising how much I have, and giving thanks for it.  And by enjoying the feeling of spiritual abundance, as well as physical abundance.

2) Pentacle -  how can I better manage my finances? - Page of Swords

Well, no surprises there, I guess.  To better manage my finances, I need to actually do the maths: keep records, balance my accounts, and put some thought into budgeting.  Still, I like the Fibonacci diagram to his right: both small and large decisions count, and there can be a beauty to a neat set of accounts :)

3) Throne - how can I feel more secure, more grounded? - Three of Cups

Such a lovely card, and one that came up for me just last week, too.  Other people help keep me grounded, reminding me that there is more to life than my own little corner of it.

4) Greenery - what would help me eat better? - Three of Wands

Focusing outward, both on what I want to achieve and what I've accomplished so far, will help me eat better.  I also see in this the fact that keeping busy helps me snack less...

5) Rabbit - how can I be more creative? - Five of Swords

While the Queen of Pentacles can be a very responsible figure, this card suggests allowing my inner child some leeway if I want to tap into creativity.  It's all well and good being capable and efficient, but a little fun is called for, too!

So, what does your inner Queen of Pents recommend today?

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