Friday, 31 October 2014

Across The Veils

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Please use the links at the top or bottom of this post to hop around the other sites taking part in this round of the Tarot Blog Hop.

Our wrangler this Samhain, Louise of Priestess Tarot, asked us to use the opportunity provided by this time of year to commune with someone from across the veils.  My first thought was to take the chance to talk with my grandmother who died eighteen years ago, just two days before Samhain.  She was an amazing, feisty woman, who trained as a doctor and taught sex ed classes after she retired.  She never let her husband see her without her dentures, and she was a wonderful cook and biscuit maker.  I loved her dearly.

What, I thought, could I ask her?  What might a spread look like to speak with someone on the other side?  Here's what I came up with:

1) What are you most proud of?
2) What do you most regret?
3) What couldn't you see from this side of the veils?
4) What are you most proud of in me?
5) What do you most regret about the choices I have made?
6) What can you see from that side that you want to share with me?


Once again, I decided to use the Tarot de St. Croix (Lisa De St Croix, 2014) to explore these questions.

1) What are you most proud of?  Six of Cups

"The family I created, the warmth, the happy memories."

It's funny, see that flame-haired funny doll at the top centre of the dollies tea party?  In German, there's a figure called Pumuckl, a red-haired Kobold.  You can see the credits for the TV show here.  My grandma used to record these to VHS videos and send them to me.  Mostly because I loved this show, and also to help me improve my German.  Her lessons, then, were always fun and loving - that was how she dealt with family and friends alike!

2) What do you most regret?  Page of Swords

"I regret not having had the opportunity to exercise my mind as much as I would have liked, not having explored and studied all that I might have."

My grandmother trained as a doctor, and always had an inquisitive mind.  Yet, she never had the opportunity to complete a Ph.D, nor to study many other things she might have enjoyed.  Family (four kids by two different husbands - she was a forerunner in the divorce stakes), home and the responsibilities those bring stopped her studying more.  I don't think she would have changed her choices, but everyone is allowed to have a "what-if" thought every now and again.

3) What couldn't you see from this side of the veils?  Eight of Swords


"The thoughts that trapped me, my own assumptions about how life had to be."

German society was (and to an extent still is) quite narrow-minded.  At one point, my grandma ran a clothes shop.  Not because she was especially interested in fashion, but because that was seen as an appropriate career for a married woman, rather than messing around with sick people and working strange shifts.  I wonder what her life would have been like had she not felt that need to conform...

4) What are you most proud of in me? Three of Wands

"I'm so glad you've let yourself go out and explore the world.  Trying things, taking up projects and ideas, taking a chance with things that enthuse you."

Certainly, most of my family have little knowledge or comprehension of the choices I have made in my life.  Reading tarot, designing a Lenormand deck, practising yoga, training as a psychotherapist: none of these fit with my family's ideas about life.  Yet, I believe my grandma might approve.  She would see the aspect of service in these things, the focus on health of body, mind and spirit.

5) What do you most regret about the choices I have made?  Seven of Swords

"I regret you didn't gather all the ideas you could, didn't take the opportunities you had to do research."

My grandma regretted not doing a Ph.D, and it's true I won a research grant including tuition and living expenses to do a Ph.D back in 1996, following on from my Masters in Social Anthroplogy.  Instead, I moved to Spain with the man I was living with then. 

And just last month, I was awarded my Postgraduate Diploma in Psychotherapy. However, this acknowledges my decision not to do my Masters dissertation given my current circumstances (a severely disabled child of nearly seven, a baby of seven months, and various esoteric projects in the works).  I am exploring, learning and creating, but I am not following traditional patterns in the process.

6) What can you see from that side that you want to share with me?  Eight of Cups

"Follow you bliss!"

Despite my not getting a Ph.D., the final message from my grandma is one of loving acceptance.  She tells me she can see that the path I'm following brings me joy, and that I seek emotional and spiritual understandings.  The source of life is love, ever flowing, constantly renewed.  Divine love, romantic love, mundane love, love of tarot cards.  Be it connecting to higher truths or to our nearest and dearest, bliss comes through opening to the flow of life as it is, letting regrets wash away, and reaching for that source.

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Monday, 27 October 2014

Geomancy Spread

Last Friday, I wrote a bit about the Geomancy talk at the UK Tarot Conference, given by Les Cross.  As well as explaining about geomancy, his intuitive system for reading with geomes, and offering some very handy cards for the purpose,  Les suggested a really interesting way of using a tarot reading itself to also create a geome reading. 

In each 'position' you draw four cards, one for each level of the geome.  For instance, you can draw four cards for now and four for where things are headed.  Then, if the card number is odd, it counts as one tap (constriction), and even is two taps (expansion).  Courts are treated as being numbered eleven through fourteen, so Pages and Queens are one tap, and Knights and Kings are two taps. 

Here is a reading I did using this system, with two geomes for now and where things are headed.  So we see that currently, others are being offered their due for their ideas and suggestions (6 of Pents, two taps in the external mental zone), but there's a need to narrow your focus: to use the ideas from others that you already have to hand (Magician, one tap).  Time to stop researching and put that knowledge into practice.

On the internal mental level, there's a feeling that all these ideas belong to others, not to you (7 of Swords, one tap).  Now, putting those ideas into practice with the Magician means you'll have to wait and see how things go (3 of Wands) before planning your next step.

In terms of internal physical resources, these are currently being studied (Page of Pents, one tap).  However, this is an area where action needs to be taken, to get things moving and actively progressing (8 of Wands, two taps).

Finally, it seems there's nothing currently being done to reach out to others physically, due to painful experiences from doing so (3 of Swords).  While reaching out may not be on the cards for a while, that pain can be healed through Faith (the Hierophant) that others will help when needed.  This might be fostered by finding some institution that is willing to help, even if they are not yet called for.

It's true I've been doing some research over the past week or two, so I guess this reading tells me to stop listening to others and get down to some of the work this research has been for.  As for my physical and material resources, now I should make use of them for more than just studying.  It's time to use some software I've had for a while to move things forward.  As for the last part, I have a few ideas about people/firms to reach out to who have the material resources to move this project forward as and when it's ready to go...

P.S. Friday's post will go live a bit later than usual, 4pm to be precise.  It's part of the Samhain Tarot Blog Hop :)

Friday, 24 October 2014

Les Cross and Geomancy & Giveaway Result

Four Levels model for Astrogem Geomancy
Another of the workshops from the UK Tarot Conference that I wanted to share about in a bit more detail was Dr. Les Cross' approach to Geomancy. 

He explained that this is based on a 3000 year old practice of divining from natural elements.  A bit like the I-Ching, you create a shape through four yes/no or odd/even throws.  So, it's possible to create geomes (the equivalent to the I-Ching hexagram) using anything that has two sides or ends: a business card, a coin, a smooth stone, a twig, whatever!

Les Cross has also developed his own system, which associates gems and astrological notions to each geome.  And he has published some lovely cards which can be used for this system, with images on one side and explanations on the other.  Being a sucker for cards, I got a set :)

The geomes, courtesy of Astrogem Geomancy
As for actually reading the geomes, while Les encourages people to study the traditional names and meanings, he has also come up with a more intuitive system.  Each geome has four parts, which can contain one tap or two taps (dots).  One tap indicates reduction or constriction, two taps indicate expansion or increase.  Of course, neither of these is inherently good or bad: a reduction in your workload might be good if you're feeling overwhelmed, or bad if you need to increase your income.

In terms of the four different levels of the geome, his intuitive method equates the top two with mental/spiritual elements and the bottom two with physical/material elements.  The outer levels are associated to the external, while the middle two are internal.  So, the second level from the top is about internal mental aspects: our own thoughts and beliefs.

As for how to read with this system, the basic idea is to see the flow that is currently taking place. A base reading would draw two geomes to see where you are and where you are headed. 

For example, I did a reading around a work question, using his cards, and got Via and Laetitia.  Currently, then, this project is full of potential, but with nothing actually happening (a fairly accurate description).  Moving it forward, I need to activate my own thought processes, planning and strategy (level two), to bring to bear my own resources at a material level (level three), and to also expand my outreach to others at a practical level (fourth layer).  What I don't need is to be worrying about what others think of this project (top level), I just need to trust and get on with it.  Makes sense to me!

And no, I didn't forget the giveaway.  The Numerology Cards will wing their way across to:
***Harpa Luthersdottir***
Congratulations, and I'll contact you for your address :)

Monday, 20 October 2014

Richard Abbot's Tattva Spread

Tattva symbols
As I said last week, I really enjoyed Richard Abbot's workshop at the UK Tarot Conference.  He explained a bit about the Sanskrit approach to the basic elements of life, the 'that-ness' that underlies existence (that's the translation of tattva).  This system recognises Akasha/Spirit, Tejas/Fire, Vayu/Air, Apas/Water and Prithvi/Earth as the fundamental elements of existence.

From this, Richard derived a spread with positions/associations which are somewhat different to the way I generally approach the elements.  He also had the interesting idea to use only the cards of the associated suit in drawing a card for each element's position in the spread.

For Spirit, the question is 'What is the lesson here?', and a card is drawn from amongst the Majors.  Fire is seen as hot, burning, forging, expanding, so the question is 'What is growing?' and is answered by a card from the Wands suit.  Air is invisible, colourless (though represented by a blue circle!), and odourless, so Richard's question is 'What is hanging in the air?'  Water is wet, cleansing, purging, and as something being washed away the question is 'What is receding?'  And Earth is solid, fixed, heavy, dense, and his question is 'What is fixed/stable?'

Finally, Richard suggested that we draw another Spirit card to answer 'And if I learn this lesson, what next?'  He also said we could draw another for if we don't learn the lesson.  However, my belief, which he also expressed, is that we will keep being presented with opportunities to learn a given lesson until we do get it, so I decided to skip that card.

As you can see, the questions end up being quite different from those we might expect with more Western, tarot-based associations.  For example, following those ideas the question for Water might be 'What emotions are being felt?' and for Earth might be 'What is involved at a practical level?'  It's also interesting to only answer each element's question with a card from that element, rather than from the full deck.  While the latter approach can be insightful in noting whether or not a card from the associated suit falls in 'its place', Richard's idea brings a different set of possibilities to the table.

To explore this, I asked the cards about the lesson offered to me by the Conference itself.  Here is my answer, from the Mosaic Dream Tarot (Bridgett Trejo, 2014):




1) Spirit - The Tower

My lesson was to cope with having my fixed ideas challenged and shattered.  Mary Greer did some challenging, with her recommendation to seek cognitive dissonance - to try to challenge our own assumptions.  And she helped this along by showing how much we jump to conclusions, and by getting us to look at tough ethical questions like "Is it acceptable to tell a querent what they SHOULD or SHOULDN'T do?"  Richard's workshop challenged my normal elemental associations and preference for pulling from a full deck, but the results were really interesting.  Les Cross' talk challenged my assertion that I don't want to learn any more systems of divination.  Yep, plenty of shake-ups :)

2) Fire - Nine of Wands

What is growing is my ability to push on in the face of these kind of challenges, to not let them put me off.  As one book title famously put it, to Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway!

3)  Air - Five of Swords

What is hanging in the air, there but not spoken, is the question of whether I will let these challenges leave me feeling defeated.  Whether I will take them as destroying my understanding of things, or pick up and dust myself off, richer for the changes.

4) Water - Seven of Cups

What is receding is my sense that I have to choose one thing or another, to make a firm choice.  As Mary had us say in one exercise: "Yes, and... Yes, and..."

5)  Earth - Ace of Pentacles

What is fixed is the potential that is there, the seed that is always available to be planted and to grow in the rich soil left after the Tower has been razed.

6) Spirit - Justice

What next?  Well, I hope I can be fairer, jump to less rushed judgements, and give credit where it's due.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Pagan Lenormand Overview

Box, deck and booklet
Gina Pace created the Pagan Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2005), so authoring the Pagan Lenormand (Lo Scarabeo, 2014) was a clear step along the same path.  Though in terms of artwork it is closer to the Silver Witchcraft Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2014) by the same artist.

Lo Scarabeo are really breaking the mould this year.  Once again, this is a borderless deck, with no international titles.  And the box, too, is a nice, solid contraption with a lift-off lid and a ribbon to help get the cards and booklet out. 

As for the booklet, it is most definitely not a LWB.  Rather, it is nice, has greyscale images to show spread layouts, as well as some decorative images.  There is a page devoted to each card, with keywords and an explanation of the Pagan Lenormand image, as well as the Lenormand interpretation.

Gypsy Heart Spread
The spreads offered are interesting and thematically appropriate, though some may complain of their single card positional meanings.  They are a ten card Gypsy's Heart Love Spread, an Elemental Square of Nine Spread (a nine square with alternate positional meanings based on the four elements), a six card "U" for Universe Spread, a six card Fork in the Road Spread, and a Pentagram of Five Spread.  However, traditional reading methods are left out for the most part - there is no explanation of how to combine card meanings, and no explanation of the Grand Tableau, either.

Multi-cultural People Cards
The only thing that came as a slight disappointment here is that the booklet is only half the length it seems, as it comes in English, Italian, Spanish, French and German (though the foreign language sections are condensed and don't give the spreads or some additional information).  Overall, though, Gina has made thoughtful choices to represent Lenormand ideas in a modern, pagan context.  From a labyrinth walking meditation to candlelit spirit guide quests, via a trip to the mountains and pagans in a regular suburban house, she achieves her aim well.

Another aspect I like about the deck is the people cards.  As has become frequent practice, there are two man and two woman cards, facing in different directions.  These allow same sex readings if desired, but also have two other uses.  Firstly, they offer a good cultural balance, with a Native American, an African American, a Caucasian and an Asian figure.  Secondly, each wears different colour robes and holds a different object (smudging sage, an incense burner etc), so together they represent the four quarters of a sacred circle, and could be used as such on an altar.

House, Dog, Garden, Mountain
In terms of the cards, the artwork is accomplished, though not everyone may feel comfortable with the robed figures (an issue also raised with the Silver Witchcraft Tarot).  Although there are vignettes of modern pagan life on many cards, the Lenormand object or person is still mostly very clear.  One slight exception to this is the Dog, which is represented by a spirit Wolf (wild ancestor to the dog).  In fact, the Fox, Bear, Stork and Dog are all "spirit guides", which means they rise up ethereally from meditating people.  I guess there aren't many real wild animals in most modern, urban pagans' lives, so there is certainly a logic to this.

Pagan Lenormand (large) and French Cartomancy
Each card also has a playing card insert.  These are taken directly from the Dondorf Lenormand, which Lo Scarabeo issued as the French Cartomancy deck (Lo Scarabeo, 2005).  At first, I found this a little jarring - having an old-fashioned, hand-drawn card insert on these modern, CGI images.  However, as it is basically a card from a separate deck, the lack of consistency between the two styles isn't as strange as having Majors and Minors by different artists in a tarot deck.  And it makes a good deal of sense to have something which readers will already be quite familiar with, given how different the images are generally.

Pagan Lenormand (centre) and Silver Witchcraft Tarot
Overall, my only complaint about this deck, and unfortunately this is a big one, is its size.  The cards are huge, bigger than many tarot decks (well, they are tarot deck height, but more square).  They are nearly twice the size of a regular Lenormand deck!  So, it comes as no surprise that the companion book doesn't talk about any spread larger than ten cards: you'd need a huge table or a bed to lay a Grand Tableau.  Even a line of five won't fit on my scanner, and for a line of three I had to turn them sideways and then rotate the image.  These are unwieldy, and though I enjoy the theme and the imagery, I sadly won't be using them very often.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

11th UK Tarot Conference + Giveaway

Mary K. Greer
On Friday and Saturday, I attended the 11th Annual UK Tarot Conference.  Once again, there was a fabulous line-up of speakers, overflowing goodie bag, and lots of wonderful fellow tarotists to meet and get to know, as well as old friends to spend time with.

Things kicked off with a talk from Mary K. Greer, the keynote speaker, on Intuition and Neuroscience.  Mary drew on lots of scientific resources, as well as personal experiences, and brought in plenty of interactive elements, too, to make this a fascinating presentation.  She had us all fill out a form at the start to say how experienced a tarot reader we felt we were, what our "accuracy" was, and how we believed that we read.  She then did some exercises to show just how much we are influenced by what is happening around us, and what we see and hear, in how we respond to questions.  We also did a larger group exercise to look at how we are influenced by initial knowledge and how we deal with tricky ethical questions (a querent asking about abortion).

Our "querent"
Personally, I found it very hard to rate my "accuracy", given that I do not even aspire to do predictive readings.  In the group exercise, four people read for a querent, played by a fifth person.  Our querent said at the end that she had felt listened to, helped to consider different options, and supported to make the best choice possible for herself.  Coming from a counselling background, that is what I aspire to in my readings, rather than "accuracy".

I liked that Mary did still leave a space open for "mystery".  She said that in her experience there are a very few people (even from the pre-selected tarot community), who do better than the average 50-50 in their predictions.  While I don't count myself among them, I hope I do bring "educated intuition", that balance of experience and openness to the various messages from the cards and the querent, to provide helpful readings.

Krysten and I, so glad we got some time together!
There was an hour-long break, in which Baby and I took a walk with my dear friend Krysten, of Queen of Stars Tarot, who has been in the UK over the summer.  It was great to get to spend some time with her, which is always one of the great joys of the Conference for me.  Unfortunately, this year I got rather less of that, as Baby wasn't very impressed with the Conference room :(

Next thing up was Kim Arnold, the Conference organiser, leading us through some fun tarot activities.  She took these from The Tarot Activity Book by Andy Matzner, and it was a great way to break the ice and get into a more playful mindset.

Israel Ajose
After another break, Israel Ajose gave a talk titled Tarot + Astrology = Magick.  He gave a simple, practical approach to applying astrological houses to creating tarot spells.  It was definitely something anyone can do, all explained with great humour as well as knowledge.  At the end, people got to try it out, with Israel helping guide and explain: an excellent workshop.

Finally, Geraldine Beskin of The Atlantis Bookshop gave a talk on Lady Frieda Harris, who painted the Thoth Tarot.  This was a talk I was very much looking forward to, but unfortunately didn't get to attend, as the baby was thoroughly bored of sitting in the Conference by that point, as well as tired and teething.  So, an early night for me instead of drinks and nibbles with my co-attendees - the trials of motherhood...

Mary K. Greer
Saturday got off to a great start with another talk by Mary K. Greer.  This time, she explored the history of the High Priestess card, and her expression and symbolism in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.  As well as lots of fascinating historical and symbolic insights, she also had us work through a spread based on this card, which was definitely deep.  A wonderful mix of information and experience, again.

After a short break, which I once again spent breast-feeding rather than socialising, Richard Abbot was up with a talk about Tarot and the Tattvas.  Basically, this is the sanskrit take on the elements - earth, air, fire, water and spirit.  Despite disagreeing with Richard's comment that most people these days pooh-pooh elemental understandings (personally, I use them either implicitly or explicitly in all my readings), I loved this workshop.

Richard Abbot
Richard presented a subtly different take on the elements than is typical in pagan circles, had us do some powerful visualisation exercises (which I will certainly try again), and offered up a fascinating spread.  All this was put across with great humour, and an excellent balance of information and practice to keep it interactive.  I liked this presentation so much I will  write a post specifically on it for next week, so others can try the spread for themselves!

Dr. Maria Antoniou
During the lunch break, there were another two workshops.  First, Dr. Maria Antoniou presented on Soulful Enterprise.  Although I missed the first half of her workshop (baby and lunch called), I caught the second half, and saw the spread she presented.  From what I saw, there was an excellent mix of business savvy, focus on being true to yourself, and drawing on the cards to support both of these.

Dr. Les Cross
Second was Dr. Les Cross, talking about an updated version of geomancy, Astrogem Geomancy.  Although I was interested to hear about this, I thought "I don't have time to learn a whole new system of divination right now".  Once again, I'm glad to say my prejudices were wrong.  I found the workshop fascinating, bought his cards, and found the first reading I tried for myself very useful.  I'll write in more detail about this one, too, next Friday (24th October).

David Wells
After the lunch break, David Wells spoke about the Tree of Life, and led us on a guided meditation to travel the Sun card's path between the Sephiroth Yesod and Hod.  It wasn't as technical as it might sound, starting in a forest, going into a temple, and being guided by Archangels.

The reading circle run by Mary Greer after this was a fascinating experience.  Everyone got to have some mini-readings, and we also experimented as readers with ideas like just describing cards literally, describing the "feeling/ambience" of the card, creating a fairy tale from it, and relating all of these back to the querent and their cards.

To close, Kim led another beautiful meditation (though I had to skip out on that as Baby was no longer feeling patient).  Altogether, it was another amazing Conference, full of deep learnings, humour, history, insight and a lot of experimentation.

As I mentioned, the goodie bag we received was once again very generously endowed.  So, I'd like to share a little of the Tarot Conference love by giving away the Numerology Guidance Cards (Hay House, 2013) from my bag.  To enter, just comment on this post, and I'll annouce the winner next Friday, 24th October, in the post on Astrogem Geomancy.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Pagan Lenormand Reading

Another new Lenormand deck this week, the Pagan Lenormand (Lo Scarabeo, 2014).  The creator is Gina Pace, who also created the Pagan Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2005), and both decks share a modern pagan theme.  More on that on Friday, for now let's dive into the reading...

Man, Snake, Anchor
Well, a traditional way to read this would see your partner getting together with another woman from work.  However, I don't see much point to that kind of reading.  I know my partner isn't involved with anyone else, and reading this way would provide me with nothing helpful or empowering.

Instead, this week I want to explore the first way of reading small spreads with House positions which I mentioned last week.  Using this method, you simply apply the position number as the House.  So, in a three card draw you use Rider, Clover and Ship as your Houses.  Here, then, we have Man in Rider, Snake in Clover, Anchor in Ship.  This gives us a few possibilities:

☛ Actively seek information about short-term twists and turns involving an international work project.
☛ Dynamically apply logic to find the opportunities in the boundaries around a stable venture.  (Examine the boundaries, for example contractual obligations, or the limits of those people assigned to it, in a project that seems secure or perhaps overly rigid, in order to figure out a better, more fluid way of dealing with it).
☛ Use your ability to communicate effectively in order to tempt someone into an opportunity related to a past connection.  (What is someone you are dealing with feeling nostalgic about, that perhaps brought them a sense of security?  How can you use this information to tempt them to do something which is a good opportunity for you both?)

For myself, it is a combination of the first and second which feels most helpful.  I'm involved with a couple of international work projects, and could definitely do with getting more information on each, as well as assessing where they are in terms of boundaries and opportunities.

I haven't been focusing on these projects much lately, with responsibilities at home in the foreground, and then the UK Tarot Conference to attend (P.S. there's an extra post and a giveaway on Wednesday about this).  However, a couple of emails and the delivery of a huge wodge of paperwork that I need to read highlight that this is something I should spend some time on sooner rather than later.  While I may be tempted to do something that feels more exciting, sometimes I just need to get down to the work that needs doing.  And the faster I get to it, the sooner I can turn to other, more interesting things...

Friday, 10 October 2014

Burning Serpent Oracle Review

Book and cards
First published in the TABI Autumn Ezine 2014:

The Burning Serpent Oracle (self-published, 2014) is the latest deck from tarot greats Rachel Pollack and Robert M. Place.  This deck truly deserves its subtitle: A Lenormand of the Soul.  Firstly because, despite four extra cards (an extra Man and Woman, and Isis and Osiris) and the renaming of nearly half the deck (15 cards), it reads very well as a Lenormand.  And secondly because it achieves brilliantly its creators' intent to offer more, for those that want it - a means of soulful communication.


In terms of the cards, they are a nice quality card stock.  Lightly laminated front and back, they are flexible enough to riffle easily, while still feeling robust enough to last well.  The size is a little larger than standard Lenormand cards, at 7 by 11 centimetres (2 3/4 by 4 3/8 inches),  but still noticeably smaller than most tarots.  Still, the difference is enough to make Grand Tableaux a bit unwieldy.


Beautiful and insightful book
I will admit, I'm not a big fan of Robert Place's artwork, which always feels a little flat to me.  The colour palette, too, is somewhat muted, without a great deal of texture.  Yet, it works quite well here, given the simplicity inherent in Lenormand imagery. 

 As for Rachel Pollack's accompanying book, it is a masterpiece!  The introduction gives a good overview of the current understanding of Lenormand history, via Mademoiselle Lenormand, Hechtel and the original Game of Hope, and back to the Coffee Cards discovered in the British Museum.  She also explains that she based her interpretations on the study of the original meaning sheets included with Lenormand decks for decades, as well as the verses both on the original Coffee Cards, as well as on several traditional Lenormands.


Coffin, Child, Fish, Cross
For each card, Rachel gives four levels of interpretation: keywords; an expanded look at the basic meaning, including where it came from traditionally; a broader context to the subject matter including myth and popular culture; and finally an examination of the image specific to this Burning Serpent Oracle.  So, for the Scythe, there are keywords including danger and a shock.  The expanded basic meaning describes what a Scythe is and does, and how this relates to it being used in the Lenormand system for weapons and tools generally, as well as for surgery.  Rachel discusses near and far interpretations in a Grand Tableau, before moving on to the Scythe's iconographic connection to Death through Saturn and Chronos.  Finally, she discusses the image chosen for this deck, which includes Demeter as grain mother, the Eleusian mysteries and the shock of life changes. 

 There is also a section on readings, including thoughts on the differences between tarot and Lenormand.  All the basics are covered: reading lines; the nine square; and the Grand Tableau.  There are brief yet thorough explanations of diagonals, knighting and houses. And there is also an interesting spread that Rachel has designed, a ten card triangle, which is very fluid in how it can be read.


Book, Owl, Path, Ring
A word must be said about the renaming of many of the cards, fifteen in total.  Some of these are simple expansions which are obvious and easy to understand, such as the ‘Red Clover’ for the Clover, the ‘Book of Life’ for the Book, and the ‘House on the Hill’ for the House.  Others are a little more complex, substituting the ‘Voyage’ for the Ship, and the ‘Girl and Boy’ for the Child.  Still others are more challenging yet, altering the Coffin to become the ‘Dead Tree’, the Birds to become the ‘Owl and the Mouse’, and the Rider to become ‘Hermes the Messenger’.  

While the book makes clear how these connect to traditional titles, they are certainly a little surprising at first glance.  The cards remain readable according to traditional Lenormand keywords and systems, though they may take a little mental adjustment on the part of the reader.  Yet, it is precisely this which is one of the strengths of the deck, making us stop and think about our understanding of the cards.  In this way, the deck can both strengthen our understanding of traditional meanings, as well as opening us up to different ways of reading, should we so choose.


Altogether, this set offers everything necessary for a beginner, as well as a lot of extra insights and interest for those already familiar with this system.  While taste in artwork is very personal, the book is undeniably erudite, encompassing the Lenormand tradition as well as a broad range of cultural understandings.  And while the renamed cards may take a little getting used to, the Lenormand numbering and playing card associations are clear.  In this way, the cards remain fairly easy to read straight out of the box.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Burning Serpent Oracle Reading

This week, I'll be drawing from and reviewing the Burning Serpent Oracle by Rachel Pollack and Robert M. Place (self-published, 2014).  The deck is subtitled 'A Lenormand for the soul' and that's an accurate description.  It can be used as a straight-up Lenormand, which is how I will read it today.  However, it offers more, which I'll discuss in Friday's review.

Lillies, Heart, Tower
At a basic level, I read this as saying emotional harmony comes through learning.  Of course, other interpretations are possible, such as a caring elder in a position of authority, or finding peace through emotional isolation, but that's what comes up for me this week.  Today, rather than giving multiple possible interpretations, I thought I'd show a way of expanding this interpretation, adding in Houses. 

Traditionally, of course, Houses are read when you throw a GT.  However, more recently they have also been applied to shorter readings.  The first way this was done was simply to read the position number as the card number, as in the GT.  So, a three card line like this would be interpreted as being the Houses of the Rider, Clover, and Ship.  Which might fit a daily draw quite well - the House of News or Information, Something Short-lived or Good Luck, and Travel or Commerce or Life's Journey.

Another technique which I rather like is to take the position number and add it to the number of the card that falls on it.  Here, for instance, the Lily (30) is in position 1.  Adding the two numbers gives 31 - the Sun.  So, the Lily is in the House of the Sun.  Similarly, Heart (24) in position 2 gives us House 26 - the Book.  And Tower (19) in position 3 is House 22 - Paths.

Bringing this together, we get: esoteric understandings of emotions bring a sense of joy and harmony through choosing learning.

For myself, this points me straight to the end of the week, when I'll be attending the UK Tarot Conference.  The esoteric learning is clear, and there are always meditations involved, and reading is, in itself, so often about emotion.  So, I hope for a sense of harmony and joy through focusing on esoteric understandings of emotion, which I will do by choosing this learning environment.  I like the added layer that the Houses bring, signalling that there is joy in peace, an esoteric aspect to the emotions concerned, and that learning is a choice.  I take this as advice, too, to focus on finding a sense of joyful peace in the hubub of the conference.  Also, if I have to choose (which I might, given I'll have a baby in tow), to pick the subjects that seem more emotionally focused, or which I am more passionate about :)

Friday, 3 October 2014

Kitty Kahane Overview

It's funny, neither the colour palette (lots of purples and pinks), nor the art style (primitive) of this deck appeals to me much.  However, I became intrigued with some of the interpretations it offered and actually bought it.  As soon as the Kitty Kahane Tarot (AGM Urania, 2006) arrived it felt right and easy to read.  I'd received a reading request that very morning: the messages I got were really clear and powerful, and that has been my experience with every reading since.

The Majors are obvious in following tradition, and yet with subtle but interesting variations.  Take the Tower: while it has the typical two figures falling from it, in this version there are a further two, who seem to be anthropomorphic elements of the Tower itself.  And this Tower is not only blowing her top, getting rid of the obviously unhealthy little voice in her head.  She is also picking up sticks and moving from the circumstances that have made a change necessary. 

The companion book, charmingly called The Magic Mirrors of the Kitty Kahane Tarot, offers a section for each card to speak for itself.  The Tower says: "I fly through the air and break through walls: My strength comes suddenly and with shocking force, leaving me astonished at my own power and not one stone left upon another.  Walls which seemed impregnable quiver in fear and would rather fall over on their own than face my fury.  Now a bolt of blazing insight strikes me and I am flung like a bride's bouquet into a new dimension of space.  Tower power!"  Tower power indeed :)

The Court cards, too, though offering some strange colour choices, speak eloquently.  The King of Pentacles may have purple skin and a fuchsia robe, and sit on an acqua throne.  Yet, he sits in a green landscape with small trees to either side, a golden Pentacle in one hand and a pink flower in the other.  The suggestion of a connection with abundant nature is clear, as is his enjoyment of his senses.  His crown is interesting, too, looking like a building and so bringing in the idea of man made prosperity.  While that kind of shape is found on many of the cards, as are the strange creatures on his throne, these add coherence to the deck rather than making interpretations monotonous.

Turning to the Aces, these also have their own quirks.  The Ace of Swords shows the traditional sword, blade piercing up through a crown.  Yet, the crown does not simply float in the air. Instead, it is on the head of a strange mountain man covered in flowers.  Perhaps this new idea or way of communicating is needed to bring movement to a way of being that has become too rigid, set in stone...  Or maybe we need a good grounding from which to put this new vision into practice!

Even the simplicity of the Three of Swords offers some different interpretations.  The heart pierced by three blades seems cracked and fragmented, with a pool of water gathering below.  Our unhelpful thoughts leave us feeling emotionally shattered and drained.

This deck is remarkably easy to read straight out of the box, while still offering nuances and variety on every single card.  The companion book, too, while small is insightful and interesting.  Altogether, a worthwhile purchase.