Thursday, 31 December 2015

Using a Pendulum with Affirmations

By the way, don't forget that my written blog is still posting twice weekly over at Inner Whispers :)

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Sibyl of the Heart Unboxing

Just a reminder that if you want to read more detailed reviews and see new spreads and full card readings, those are now over on Inner Whispers :)

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Mythical Creatures Unboxing

Here's my first attempt at an unboxing video, hope you enjoy it :)

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Tarot Spell For Comfort Eating

My next workshop is on Saturday 22nd August, at 7.30pm BST (8.30pm for most of Europe and early afternoon if you're in North America) :)

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

My Magical Journey

My blog is moving!  I've updated my website to a mobile friendly version, and will now host the blog on my site. 

Please now bookmark for my regular blog posts.

And to read this post on my magical journey, click here.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Mucha Tarot Reading

This week, my reading is with a fairly new deck, the Mucha Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2015).  I'll be using it again next week, and reviewing it on Friday of that week, as this Friday there's a Tarot Blog Hop for Beltane.  There will also be an extra post this Wednesday, looking at the journey that brought me to magic.  For now, though, let's take a look at the cards.

Now: Justice

I'm not sure about this depiction of Justice.  She seems a bit too sensual and worldly.  Add to that the fact her sword is held at an angle, which symbolically speaks of biases rather than a pure connection to higher truth. 

Still, I take the message that it's a week for being fair, for looking at situations in an unbiased way and acting for the good of all.

Don't: Five of Wands

There's little playfulness in this image.  These men wear helmets, and look to be in a full-on battle!  I guess they could be training, but it's pretty hard core if so.

Looks like a week when battles are best avoided.  As Justice said, time to pull together for the good of all, rather than getting into backstabbing or infighting.

Do: The Lovers

This last card reinforces the message from the previous two.  A man and woman cuddle close, presided over by an angel with arms outstretched above them, as though blessing them.  The woman's breasts are naked, making her seem more open and willing to expose herself.

Allowing some vulnerability and being willing to find ways to get closer to others, rather than competing, seems to be the overall recommendation from this reading.  I'll try to keep that in mind this week!

To see journal prompts based on these cards, click here.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Ancestral Path Overview

As mentioned on Monday, the Ancestral Path Tarot (US Games, 1996 and 2014) was the second deck I ever bought.  I was entranced by the artwork and enticed by the multi-cultural theme. 

Within the Majors, there is a broad mix of cultures represented.  A beautiful African woman tames a lion in Strength.  A modern blonde (based on Tracey Hoover, who wrote the companion book) reads tarot cards at a table in the Fool card. A Roman warrior rides his Chariot, while a shaman in a Paleolithic cave wears ancient Egyptian robes as the Magician.

This cultural variety continues in a more structured way in the Minors.  The suits are named Staves (Wands), Cups, Swords and Sacred Circles (Pentacles).  Each set of pips from Ten down to Ace explores a different cultural myth. 

So, Staves look at the Egyptian Book of the Dead through the dynasty of Ramses II, while Cups explore the story of King Arthur through the eyes of Morgana Le Fay.  Swords take us to the samurai culture of Japan, and the tale of Repunnot-un-Kur, who dreamed of the breakdown of traditional feudal society and tried to do something about it.  Finally, the Sacred Circles lead us through the Native American Winnebago Medicine Song.

Due to this structure, the cards aren't always totally traditional in meaning.  Still, they largely follow the RWS meanings. 

Taking a closer look at some of the cards, Death features an almost surprisingly beautiful image, which retains a feeling of discomfort.  While the setting sun creates a beautiful colour palette in the sky, an owl flies past, symbol of wisdom and also harbinger of death in many cultures. 

The dark, cloaked boatman with his black-sailed vessel harks back to the ancient stories of the River Styx, as well as many more cultures.  In Arthurian Britain, a corpse would be set adrift in a burning boat, and in Native American culture, too, there is a boatman who transports souls to the Afterworld.  All these tales speak of death as a transition, rather than an ending.

In the foreground, a child explores the eye socket of a skull, a first introduction to mortality.  Yet the reminder that death and life are intertwined is not only represented through youth and bare bones, but also in the fungi growing from a rotting tree's remains, and the roses that bloom in a graveyard, fed by the bodies of those buried there.

Moving on to the Court cards, these echo the cultures of their suit.  The titles are Princess, Prince, Queen and King.  In all but the suit of Cups, they are images of deities.  The Staves court, for example, is made up of Nepthys, Horus, Isis and Osiris.  The Cups, on the other hand, represent Morgana, Lancelot, Gwenhyfar, and Arthur. 

And here in the King of Swords we have Izanagi, a Japanese creator deity.  He towers above the sea of chaos, which he churns with his lance to create form: the islands of Japan.  Included in his meanings are: 'the ability to envision and then manifest those visions... action following thinking and planning.'

The Aces are traditional in their depiction of each suit's 'object' in the foreground.  However, they also offer a culturally appropriate background: a pyramid, for instance, in the Ace of Wands.  And this Ace of Sacred Circles shows a medicine drum in red, blue and yellow, with black around the outside, the traditional colours of the quarters in Native American thought.  There is also a bison and a medicine drum in the snowy landscape, all nods to the culture around which this suit's story arc is based.  I love the Sacred Circle as a representation of Pentacle energy, highlighting both the physical and the spiritual in this suit which speaks to the healing of body and soul!

Finally, we have the Seven of Staves, where a figure enters a temple, loomed over by statuary of the Gods.  Here, then, it is not other people attacking us, but what we can do about it - seeking strength from spirit, or to bolster our own spirit, and also seeking insight to see what part of the problem may be of our own making.

Altogther, I continue to love this deck, all these years on.  It is beautiful, vibrant, and multi-cultural, and speaks to me on so many levels.  It is absolutely practical, and also deeply spiritual.  And as it has been re-released, it is now once again easy to find.  So, what are you waiting for? ;)

Monday, 20 April 2015

Ancestral Path Tarot Reading

This week, it's back to tarot, and the second deck I ever bought!  The Ancestral Path Tarot (1996) was Julie Cuccia-Watts' first deck, and has recently been reissued by US Games (2014).  It is a stunningly beautiful deck, with a multi-cultural approach.  More details in the overview on Friday...

Now: The Chariot

Doesn't this guy look like he's in charge of his own destiny?  His red cape billows out around him, full of passion and power, as he rides through the starry night, pulled by a dark and a light lion.  No chasing after toddlers in dirty nappies for him! :D

Okay, with the Easter holidays over, it's time to get back to choosing my own path, rather than focusing on the kids

Don't: Five of Swords

According to the companion book by Tracey Hoover, this young samurai is performing a fishing ceremony.  However, the same paragraph describes him as sitting with two swords balanced behind him, so we can perhaps ignore that.  Still, I quite like her suggestion that this can indicate youthful idealism... 

Overall, in the image, I still see someone holding swords while others lie discarded on the floor.  A samurai would never willingly be parted from his sword.  And so, without any other figures here, we still have the traditional suggestion of defeat and humiliation.

Yet, losing a sword, or an ideal, isn't really the end of the world.  So long as we carry on, things can be regained and we can create new ideals.  The message I get is "Don't let small setbacks knock you off your Chariot!"

Do: Seven of Cups

Once again, this card has a slightly different emphasis.  We see Morgana Le Fey and her brother King Arthur.  She is using these cups for scrying, seeing all that will befall Arthur.  Yet, how can he tell if these visions are real, if there is any way around them?

As someone who believes that we have some ability to affect reality, to me this joins up with the traditional meaning to assess your choices wisely.  Things are not always as they seem.  It's necessary to look more deeply to see if something is as good as it seems.  Contemplating a couple of important business decisions, this makes a lot of sense to me!

To see journal prompts based on these cards, click here.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Wings of Change Courts

Everyone who reads Lenormand has their own take on whether or not they want playing card inserts on their cards.  While I recognise the usefulness of having another layer of symbolism to add to interpretations, I prefer cards that are pretty and where the artwork is the focus.

Still, in the decks I've created I always include the playing card associations on the cards in some way.  And with the Wings of Change Lenormand (self-published, 2015), I planned in another level of symbolism for the Court cards. 

One of the design concepts for these cards, because of the faery theme, was that each card included a faery creature on it, while still making the 'subject' of the card clear.  So, for the Court cards there is always a person on the card who can be taken as the playing card Court.  Seeing which way they are facing can add extra depth to a reading.  For instance, if the Queen of Hearts is facing away from the rest of the spread, perhaps there is a level of disinterest or emotional blindness there...

In this example, with three Courts, we might say that progress away from a negative situation , addiction or an argumentative relationship, comes through moving towards greater harmony.  The advice from the directionality of the Courts links closely with the interpretation - the Queen of Hearts (Stork) faces the King of Spades (Lily) and away from the Jack of Clubs (Birch Rods).   You could also note that the King of Spades on the Lily card does not look to either side, he focuses inward, on the present moment.  That is good advice if you are trying to find a more harmonious way of responding to something!

Another example, with just one Court card, shows Book, Fish and Anchor.  Getting into the flow of research might be feeling like hard work.  Perhaps we could look to the playing card association for some suggestions.  The King of Diamonds (Fish) is facing towards the Book and away from the Anchor.  A need to focus on the joy of what can be learned, or perhaps its financial benefits, rather than on how much time and effort it will take :)

Another aspect of the fae on the Court cards is that I therefore made the Kings and Jacks male fae.  In a spread, they can be spotted quickly, acting as a reminder of the 'person' interpretations, as well as giving the additional playing card and directional symbolism.  For instance, the House is associated with the King of Hearts, and can represent a father-figure, a househusband, or a man who's handy to have around the house :)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Artist's Perspective

Elisabeth Arena, the artist who created the illustrations for the Wings of Change Lenormand (self-published, 2015), recently blogged about the experience from her perspective.  For anyone interested in the technical details behind these images (type of paint and sketch pad used), or just a different viewpoint on the creative process, it's an interesting read :)

Elisabeth has also started posted some videos on how to create specific projects, such as an art tag.  So, this is definitely a blog to follow if you're interested in making your own art!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Wings of Change Lenormand Reading

This week, I'll be using the Wings of Change Lenormand (self-published, 2015), which is now open for pre-orders and will start shipping at the end of this week.  In this deck there are two versions of the Man and Woman to choose between.  There are also four elemental cards: Air, Fire, Water and Earth, one of which came up in this throw.

If you're interested in seeing more of these cards, I've posted a slideshow with all the images here.

For this week, I see the suggestion that energetic action (Man/Sun) will bring the gift of flow (Bouquet/Water).  Talking about hidden uncertainty (Clouds/Book/Birds) will help move things forward at an emotional level (Heart/Stork).

So, once again it's a week for action, and especially for enjoying that feeling of flow when you get so immersed in an activity that you lose track of time.  Still, there needs to be communication - no holing up in front of my computer, otherwise any problems will only get worse.  I need to stay emotionally open, and make sure I communicate with my partner about why I'm doing things (Man/Birds/Sun).  And communication may be part of what feels like a gift, opening things up emotionally (Bouquet/Birds/Water).  It's no good just learning about things, if I don't share that learning in a heartfelt way (Book/Birds/Heart).

This makes me think about the Learn Lenormand training course I'm working on.  For me, teaching people how to read the cards is about offering another tool for emotional understanding of what is going on in our lives.  So, I'll definitely try to make some time for that this week :)

To see journal prompts based on these cards, click here.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Romantic Tarot Overview

The Romantic Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2015) is another in the line of 'artistic' decks.  The artwork is quite lovely, and the deck is fairly readable, so long as you either use your own set meanings or are willing to take a non-traditional, intuitive approach to the cards.  It doesn't obviously follow traditional RWS concepts, and even where these can be read into the cards, it's sometimes a stretch.  Not great as a beginner's deck, therefore.

The card stock is a little thicker than older Lo Scarabeo decks: seems to be something new they are doing this year, as the same is true of the Mucha Tarot (Lo Scarabeo, 2015).  Still, it shuffles easily and well, and feels durable.

As for the cards, I went through the deck looking for cards I was especially taken with, or particularly surprised by (not always pleasantly).  There were a lot more in the latter category.  

The suit of Pentacles, in particular, seems very far from traditional interpretations.  Perhaps because the practical, hard-working Pentacles weren't seen as particularly romantic?  Still, it makes these cards more challenging/interesting to read.  For instance, there are two children on a hay wagon in the Two of Pentacles, in a card that seems more reminiscent of the feel of the Six of Cups.

However, it isn't only the Pentacles that are discombobulating.  The Two of Swords shows a stone heart with two swords piercing it and a red sash!  The Three of Swords, meanwhile, shows a man lying bleeding on the floor, with a woman leaning over him, upset, and another man just behind them. 

Not all the cards are odd in this way.  I rather like this Hierophant, for instance, with a priest speaking from an ornately decorated pulpit, and holding a flower in his hand.  Not sure if it's a lily...

The Knight of Cups is a good representation of the Courts.  They are easily distinguishable, and mostly quite close to traditiona notions, though with less pomp and more Venetian masked-ball to them.  The only exception is the Pages.  Although they are clear and have appropriate symbolism, they all seem rather old to be pages, sporting moustaches and beards in most cases!

Another thing I quite like about this deck is the way it has very consciously gone for an architectural, Venetian feel.  There is far less of nature than in many decks, the RWS included.  While I love nature decks, this makes an interesting change.  So, for instance, the Ace of Cups is a fountain within an enclosure.  There is still the symbolism of overflowing water, and even the dove descending from above.  And the gates in front are open, after all, love cannot flow freely unless our heart is open!

The Three of Pentacles fits more with the idea of work (or at least effort) than with teamwork.  Three women look on as a man tries to prove his strength, or perform a feat of magic.  I'm left unsure whether his hat and shirt are thrown aside because of the heat of his exertions, or to create a better spectacle.  It adds some interesting nuances to the concept of why we work and whether we work with others or to show off our own skills...

Some interesting cards, then, and a deck that opens to intuitive reading.  It won't be a deck for everyone, and those who generally don't get on with Lo Scarabeo decks are unlikely to find anything of appeal, yet if you like the artwork...

Monday, 6 April 2015

Romantic Tarot Reading

Lo Scarabeo are renowned, or perhaps infamous, for their "art" decks.  This deck, the Romantic Tarot (2015) falls in that category.  Let's see how it reads...

Now: Strength

A man uses a combination of (some) logic and (mostly) strength to try to move a statue of the traditional lady and lion.  On the wall behind, there is also a picture of a Marseille-style Strength.

This seems to suggest I may not be achieving an adequate balance between animal drive and a gentler approach.  One thing I see here are concerns I have over discipline.  With my Little One, if he does something I don't like, I tend to pick him up to move him away from the source of contention.  While this may work like a time out, perhaps I could find a way that doesn't require me to heft his ever-increasing weight quite so often...

Don't: Nine of Cups

All the Cups cards in this deck show people with masks.  It's an interesting idea, as I would normally attribute masks to Swords.  Cups, after all, are often happy to express their emotions rather than hide them.  And yet, this acts as a reminder that even emotional outbursts can be used to disguise other issues or feelings.

A man grins under his mask as he embraces a woman from behind.  She looks somewhat less than impressed.  Before them on the balustrade of a balcony, pigeons flit down to drink from an array of cups.

The message I get here is not to take things or people for granted.  While I may wish for people to act a certain way, that doesn't mean I'll get my wish.  My Little One won't suddenly know and do the things I'm trying to socialise him into.  And my Dear One won't always be around to help.  He's going away for three days to visit with friends.  So, I'll appreciate the time he is here, and recognise that sometimes you have to put up with less-than-ideal situations.

Do: The Fool

Updated with thanks to Steve at Tiferet Tarot for pointing out that I misread the card title *doh*

A romantic dandy stands with hat in hand, came over his arm, looking smart but for the bouquet of flowers stalks up on his head.  He stands on a small table, with a teapot and cup.  Yet, this seems to be held aloft by a flock of doves.  He even has one foot resting in mid-air, on the back of a dove.  Quite a feat!

This card tells me I will have to be spontaneous and open to what comes.  Hopefully, if I'm not too rigid in my thinking, I'll be able to find a good way to discipline the kids without relying on the strength of my back to carry them, or the strength of my Dear One.

Wish me luck this week!

For journal prompts based on these cards, click here.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Jösten's Lenormand Fortune Telling Cards Review

Unpacking the Box, and German/English versions of the book
As this week's reading was with the rune-like Tarot Disks (self-published, 2015), which only cover Majors, I decided to review something different.  This is a recently released kit: Lenormand Fortune-Telling Cards (Sterling, 2014), which includes a traditional Lenormand deck with verses, and a book by Harald Jösten, a well-known German author.  Both the verses and the book are in English.

The kit comes in a reasonably sturdy box, with an insert to hold the cards, and the book on top.  I was slightly disappointed to discover that this is a translation of Jösten's book Lenormand: Liebe, Glück, Erfolg (Königsfurt-Urania, 2006).  As such, the information is a little dated, mentioning the Game of Hope as the precursor to the Petit Lenormand system, without the more recent information about the Coffee Grounds cards.  Also, the book is quite brief, compared to his Die Symbol-Welt der Lenormand Karten (Königsfurt-Urania, 2008). 

Old-fashioned verses
Nevertheless, this would be a good starter kit for someone wanting to learn the Lenormand system.  The cards are clear, the verses give some insight into traditional, and near and far, interpretations, and the book gives good, basic information.  For each card, there is a section on the Traditional Meaning, and another on Modern Symbolism.  The latter includes more modern readings of each card, as well as suggestions for dream interpretation of the Lenormand symbols.

There is then a catchphrase for each card alongside a scan that shows the image and verse.  A few questions are posed as thinking points, and then there are brief suggestions titled Tip (general advice), and Love, Luck and Success, with more specific advice for interpreting the card in relationship, money and work contexts.

Although the Grand Tableau is mentioned, the book simply shows the layout and says to read the cards around the Man or Woman, depending on the querent's gender.  There are also brief descriptions of how to use the cards drawing a daily card, a line of three, a simple cross and a line of seven, with short, sample readings.

Altogether, it's a solid starter kit, and an interesting insight for English readers into both traditional and modern ways the cards are read following a version of the German approach.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Tarot Discs Reading

This week, I am using something a little different.  These are wooden discs painted with simplified images to represent the 22 Major Arcana: tarot discs (2015), created by Caroline Black. 

Now: The Fool

This image certainly encourages the interpretation of diving into something, being willing to take the plunge!  This can be risky, or just a bit scary even if you know there's no danger involved.  As so often, I simply hope I have the time to plunge into something, Little One willing...

Don't: The Star

The Star is normally such a positive card.  In this position, though, it makes me think of a song lyric from Rocky Horror: don't dream it, be it.  I know I can sometimes get lost in a daydream, wishful thinking.  Something to be aware of, this week.

Do: The Sun

Look at this sun filling the disk, with its rays swirling about.  It's full of energy and movement.  Combined with the Fool and the Star, it says to me to pour my energy into something new, taking action rather than just dreaming about it.

To see journal prompts inspired by these cards, click here.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Beautiful Creatures Tarot Overview

The Beautiful Creatures Tarot (Schiffer, 2015) is Jasmine Beckett-Griffith's first foray into tarot after four oracle decks.  Must say, I would love to know how this deck came about... 

Based on the images and the companion book, I suspect that the images were taken largely from pre-existing artwork, with one area of exception: the Courts.  Perhaps a few other images were created specifically, to plug perceived gaps.  Mostly, though, it feels like art was taken that could be made to fit the archetypes, rather than vice versa.

One result of this, one reason I suspect this, is that if you removed the card titles you would often be very hard pressed to know which card was which.  They don't have standard imagery, and they don't have recognisable suit elements of any kind, never mind in the requisite number. 

Still, for me this isn't a deal-breaker, as I love the artwork enough, and don't mind the titles.  It does mean I'm unlikely to use this deck for professional readings, though, as I prefer those decks to be clearer at first glance.

Another reason this deck disappoints a little is because it is published by Schiffer.  I have heard some people like Schiffer card stock, but for me it is always a sticking point with their decks.  For my tastes, the card stock is too thick, making the deck clunky and difficult to shuffle. 

My second issue with the deck concerns the editor at Schiffer.  The book, while visually stunning, would have benefited from a closer eye to grammar, spelling and needless repetition.  J.R. Rivera's writing is clear and knowledgeable, but is brought down by silly typos and poor proof reading.

On the upside, though, there is the packaging.  The deck comes in a lovely, sturdy box, with a ribbon to help open the magnetic catch.  The companion book, too, is beautifully laid out, with gorgeous monotone versions of the cards, as well as plenty of additional artwork to liven up the pages.  The layout is clear and pleasing, with a little speech from each card at the top of its page, a short, illustrative story, and then upright and reversed card meanings. 

The only gripe I have with the design element is that the spreads (of which there are ten), are all illustrated with just a straight line of cards.  To my mind, one should be a cross (it's called a cross spread), one should be an inverted pyramid (family inheritance), and one could have been a V (vice versa spread).  This would have made for more interesting pages, as well as easier to read spreads.

While the stories are sometimes a little simplistic, this fits with what Americans always seem to see as Jasmine Beckett-Griffith's target audience: young goths.  And there is a certain charm and playfulness to both the images and the stories.  Still, I could wish for something a little less twee in places, and more true to the images' symbolism.

For instance, in the Lovers card we see a woman and a man (the only 'regular' guy in the deck, actually).  The story talks of a princess having to choose between a foreign, handsome prince and the love of her own people.  Now, first off, the guy isn't particularly handsome in my eyes.  More importantly, though, this seems quite clearly to be an image of the dragon slayer St. George.  We have the halo around his head, denoting sainthood, the flag of St. George waving behind his head, and the dragon at his feet.  Surely a story of a choice involving a dragon slayer could have been written?

In a similar vein, the Five of Airs shows what seems to me to be Alice involved in painting roses red to pacify the Queen, from Alice in Wonderland.  I base this on the look of the girl compared to a named Alice card in one of Beckett-Griffith's previous decks, as well as the presence of the grinning Cheshire Cat, the maze, and the red paint brush and roses (click the link to see a clip from the Disney movie - she's even wearing a similar blue dress with white pinafore).  Yet, the companion book talks of a girl losing a painting competition to a cat who bribed the judges!?

Still, these are two slip-ups, as most of the cards and stories connect well.  And though simple, they have a warm playfulness while remaining true to the tarot archetypes.

One section which is very innovative and well thought out is the Courts.  There is a Nymph for each of the renamed suits: Fires, Waters, Airs and Earths (the last two plurals, in particular, really don't work well for me).  Then, the other twelve Courts are represented by the twelve astrological signs, named to suggest the zodiac sign and its elemental association. So, we have the Lion of Fires for Leo, and the Crab of Waters, for Cancer. 

These astrological cards seem to be ones created as a whole, either specifically for this project or for another astrological project.  The artwork is simpler and more cartoon-like than the other imagery, while still beautiful and still clearly showing Beckett-Griffith's 'signature'.  As for the use of these for the Courts, I think it works very well.  The book gives meanings for each sign/card, both in terms of personality types, and describing situations they could express.  It's a very different and yet useable approach to the Court cards.

The Aces, like the other cards in the deck, are not necessarily obvious at first glance.  Each does show a female character holding a single item, but that could be said of many other cards, too.  And the item they hold is not then repeated on other cards as a suit symbol.  So, while they work as Aces, that is only because of the titles, once again.

Still, despite being artwork chosen, rather than created, to fit, mostly the cards do work.  Some take a little getting used to, and some open up wonderful new perspectives.  I love the Japanes high-tech angel as the Eight of Waters, realising the meaninglessness of all that tech and glitz, and going out into the world to discover what truly matters to her.  Or the Eight of Earths with a sad maid trying to learn to understand the working of the universe through her practical experiments.

The bottom line for me is that it's a tarot with Jasmine Beckett-Griffith's artwork, and that alone would make it worth getting for me!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Beautiful Creatures Tarot Reading

As a huge fan of Jasmine Beckett-Griffith, I've been waiting on tenterhooks for this week's deck, the Beautiful Creatures Tarot (Schiffer, 2015).  The artwork lives up to my expectations, but as for the deck as a whole, well, you'll have to come back on Friday to find out...

Now: the Star

Who can complain when the Star comes to represent the current situation?  Hope and guidance are always welcome!  And I smiled at this version, with her funky socks and the bright stars around her. 

I could do with a little hope at the moment.  Having uploaded the re-edited version of the Wings of Change Lenormand, my fingers are tightly crossed that this one will look brighter and more cheerful than the last.

Don't: the Transformation

Surrounded by skulls, things can feel a little dark!  Yet, as the title says, it is through these dark times that transformation comes about. 

Still, as the card representing what not to do, this suggests not throwing out the old, not crying over spilt milk.

Do: Two of Fires

A beautiful creature sits in a garden with a hummingbird at her side.  There is great potential here, though she has not decided yet which flower she wants to drink from, metaphorically.

A time to recognise options and make a choice.  We can only act once we have a goal in sight.

This reading feels quite cohesive: a time to take some guidance and then move forward with something already started, rather than giving up and having to start from scratch.

For journal prompts based on these cards, click here.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Spring Fling Blog Hop: Out With The Old?

Radiant Rider Waite
Previous blog/ Master list/ Next blog

Our wrangler for this hop, Ania, creatrix of many, many beautiful things (if you don't believe me, go check out her site - I especially love her tarot bags!), challenged us with the following question: which tarot cards do you think need to be updated, removed or added to reflect our modern society?

I really struggled with this.  Basically, I feel like the archetypes are broad enough to allow modern  understandings, without having to go chucking any out or making new ones up.  This may just be because I am happy to have very different takes on cards.

Let's take a look at the Temperance card, as an example.  If we look at traditional images - in this case from the Radiant Rider Waite (US Games, 2005) we have an angel standing with one foot in water, the other on the ground, wings rising up behind him.  He pours liquid from one cup into another, and has the alchemical symbol for fire on his chest.  A crown shines above the path behind him, indicating this is the path to greatness.  We have here a divine balancing of different elements to try to get the exact right mix to achieve something wonderful, something healing.

Gay Tarot
Now, looking to more modern depictions, at first glance, they are completely different - a reimagining that seems equivalent to chucking the old out.  For instance, one of my all-time favourite versions of Temperance is from the Gay Tarot  (Lo Scarabeo, 2004).  This totally modern take shows a chef in his kitchen, cooking up some delicious meal.  Yet, it gets right to the heart of what I see in the Temperance card: the need to get the right balance and mix of ingredients, in a way that might seem divinely guided.  And healing through the food we eat is another good message.

Vanessa Tarot
The Vanessa Tarot (US Games, 2007) version is slyly deviant, using a barmaid with little wings in a card titled Temperance.  A stark juxtaposition between the connotations of abstemiousness implied by the word and the sexy, cheeky image.  Yet, that perfect cocktail takes a delicate balancing act.  And staying balanced, not going to excess, is certainly harder but also necessary if you are to act professionally when working in a bar.  This card could also be seen as hinting at the need for moderation in matters of sex, and how this is an aspect of life that can also feel divine...

Spirit Within The Shadows
A similar balancing act on the middle path can be seen in the Spirit Within The Shadows version (Steven Bright, as yet unpublished).  I absolutely adore this DJ mixing from two different coloured record decks, with a yin-yang-type balance to the background colours.  It is both old-school (in terms of modern mixing from mp3's) and modern.  DJ's also have to find that middle ground, in amongst all the excess of drugs and alcohol, and the high of being on stage.  On top of that, the card makes me think of the Alanis Morissette song: So Pure.  Dancing can be such a powerful force for healing, as well as self-expression!  Here, the balance is felt and heard, a physical force rather than an intellectual understanding.

Tarot de St Croix
And moving into the New Age, we have the Tarot de St Croix (self-published, 2014) which returns to the symbolism of an angel.  Here, though, there is a human woman pouring liquid into a fire.  She is naked, and behind rises up a handsome angel.  This brings the human, the everyday, and vulnerability into the card, for it can feel exposed when we try to achieve a balance in our lives, neither excess nor moderation, a fine line to toe.  Yet, the image also speaks to a sense of being diviniely supported, to a belief in spirit, if not in religion, and to that feeling of connectedness when we flow with what we are doing.

With all this, what need for a new card to express any of this, Temperance holds within itself such a variety of possibilities...

Previous blog/ Master list/ Next blog

Video of All Four Suits From the Prisma Visions Tarot
In case I haven't tempted you sufficiently, following on from last week's video of just the suit of Pentacles, here is a video showing all four suits from the Prisma Visions Tarot (James R. Eads, 2014).  Although you're unlikely to see them all fall like this in a reading, I love seeing this interconnectedness, and how well each card sits with the others, as well as being its own entity!

Monday, 16 March 2015

Prisma Visions Reading Again

This Friday, instead of a review I'll be taking part in the Spring Equinox Tarot Blog Hop.  So, I decided to draw this week's cards from the Prisma Visions Tarot (self-published, 2015) again, as I like it so much!

Now: Temperance

A dark figure seems to be lifted by a huge wave.  There's not much of an elemental balance here, except perhaps that the figure is held in the air by water. 

The message I get is that I need to walk the middle path this week.  It can be so easy to get swept up in emotion or to get stuck in my head, with thoughts whirring.  Neither of those is balanced, though.

Don't: The Hermit

This is such a gorgeous version of this card!  The lonely figure off in the distance, the moonlight gleaming on the water that flows under the bridge he stands upon.  It speaks to me of plumbing emotional depths, casting light on them to see them from a new vantage point.

As what not to do this week, though, the Hermit reminds me how easy it is to get entranced by the light on water.  It helps to have someone else there to remind us to look up and around at what's going on. 

Do: Two of Pentacles

A man sits on a low wall, juggling two Pentacles.  This is Temperance writ small.  It is the day-to-day balancing act of working and being a mum, of mediating between the needs and desires of two kids, and even just trying to get a toddler to eat a balanced diet.

This version says sometimes we have to actively juggle different elements, situations or people.  And sometimes the best we can do is 'sit on the fence', not getting involved in either side...

To see journal prompts based on these cards, click here.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Prisma Visions Tarot Overview

This week's deck, the Prisma Visions Tarot by James R. Eads, is definitely special.  That feeling comes over me as I open the lovely, sturdy box with the all-seeing eye on it, and see that the intricate imagery continues inside the lid and box.  The companion booklet is equally beautiful, and as for the cards!

The first thing that strikes me is their silver edges and the sturdy yet flexible feel of the cards.  The lamination is good, not excessive, and the colours swirl together in a beautiful, vibrant, ever-changing dance.

Looking more closely, at first I was surprised that the Majors have borders, while none of the other cards do.  Laying a few spreads, though, I realise how well this works.  It makes the Majors stand out more as way-markers, separate and yet connected to the rest of the images.

As for the borderless suits, well, the extra special treat is that the cards combine into a single, long image when laid out in order.  While you can see this on the website, the effect is somewhat compromised because the author couldn't fit all the images on a single row.  So, I decided to make a video of one of the suits to share with you, to give you the full effect.  You're welcome!

The final treat is an extra card, Strawberries, numbered with a question mark :D

Another question, of course, is how do these cards read?  The Majors show quite different imagery to the traditional.  For example, in the Fool we have a pelican standing on a bollard encircled with a life ring.  A waning moon sits in the sky, and a bear swims in the waters beneath the pelican.  The booklet says the bear has swum out of his depth, and is now on a journey he knows not where.  Will the pelican help him find his way?

The majority of the Majors are still readable according to traditional notions, though a few of them strike me as strange.  The Sun shows a somewhat Dali-esque melting bouquet of bright flowers: they all grow from the light of the sun, but you can't actually see the sun.  And there is a whole pack of lions in Strength, with a strange, shadow figure walking behind them...

The Devil, with its red-lit forest scene, confused me until I noticed the snake wending its way ever deeper into the trees.  And I adore the Tower: a house sits on the edge of a cliff that has been worn away by the sea beneath, so that now the house sits over the water with just an ever-thinning layer of soil keeping it from toppling into the waves below.  It's just a matter of time...

The Courts are relatively easy to work with, fitting traditional ideas.  For instance, the Queen of Pentacles sits, holding her pentacle gently between both arms, in an abundant field.  About her are magical, juicy strawberries.  The colours are lush, the ground seems fertile, and the Queen appears both peaceful and very much a part of the landscape.  The only Court card that surprised me is the King of Pentacles, which shows him doing a handstand on a bull's horns.  Hardly very grounded, though I guess it does show mastery of the physical!

The Aces are equally beautiful and energetic.  The Ace of Wands positively glows, while the Ace of Chalices overflows.  The Ace of Swords is plunged at an angle into a snowy piece of ground, while the Ace of Pentacles decorates a door into a wondrous world.

Finally, the Minors.  These cards are also full of energy, and the majority read easily and well.  Take the Nine of Chalices (Cups), which shows a figure gazing out across a lake at the sun rising or setting.  A feeling of contentment and emotional plenty pervades it.

There are a few Minors which aren't quite as easy to read, though not many.  And even those are more non-traditional than unreadable.  My only other slight quibble is that the "story arc" aspect of the cards does sometimes mean you have slightly strange, cut-off elements at the edges of a card.  Overall, though, I think the wonder of these cards outweighs this, and I find it a very readable deck.  So much so, I've decided to do next week's reading with it, too :)

Monday, 9 March 2015

Prisma Visions Tarot Reading

This week's deck is another self-published one, the Prisma Visions Tarot by James Eads.  Recently published in its first edition, I wouldn't be surprised if there were more, as it's a deck that is beautiful and readable, with a quirky extra that is fabulous.  Anyhow, more details on Friday, for now let's get to the week's reading.

Now: Seven of Pentacles

A man plants Pentacles in the ground, sowing the seeds for a better future.  In the moment, though, there is plenty of work to be done. 

I certainly hope I'll be able to get some work done this week.  Last week I ended up seeing four different doctors on three consecutive days with Little One. Nothing serious, but it put the kibosh on re-editing the Wings of Change Lenormand images after the prototype deck came out a bit grey for my taste.  Tomorrow he'll be going into hospital for a minor op, then hopefully I can get going again.

Don't: the Wheel of Fortune

Isn't this a lovely, swirling, powerful Wheel?  A peacock seems to tangle with a couple of snakes in a writhing mass. 

As the card of what not to do this week, I see a message here about not changing for changes sake, and to be careful of who/what I take on.  Coupled with the last card, there is a suggestion, too, that any gains will take hard work, rather than being bestowed by the Universe.

Do: King of Wands 

I love the sense of movement and growth to this King of Wands, almost like the lines of light you see when someone swings a flaming torch, and the light leaves patterns on your retina so you see the whole pattern.  The flowers suggest that despite the fires of enthusiasm, there is growth and rootedness here, too.

As advice, it seems there is a need for enthusiasm but with a long perspective.  A willingness to lead by example, and to bring light to the darkness.

For journal prompts based on these cards, click here.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Interview with Mike Stop Continues

Mike is the driving force behind the Locus Tarot, for which he has started a Kickstarter campaign here.  When Mike got in touch I was delighted at the prospect of learning more about him as a deck creator, about his experience using Kickstarter, and about the Locus Tarot.  He has plenty to say regarding tarot, orthodoxy, and the elemental structure of the world.  I found it fascinating to read about his journey and interpretative framework and hope you do, too!

1) Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got started with the tarot?

I guess you could say I'm what happens when the Magician meets the Eight of Rods. When it comes to making things, I'm very directed, though my interests are rather broad. I've done good work in writing, comics, music, programming, game design, photography, and I've dived deeply into areas like hypnosis, cognitive aesthetics, and most relevantly to this discussion, the tarot. Having so many different interests has driven me to do little other than focus, focus, focus on completing a project, then focus again, but being such a Jack of All Arts has also meant being slow to get very many works into the world.

I actually came to the tarot very young. I discovered my mother's first edition Aquarian Tarot in her sock drawer when I was little. She wasn't really much of a reader herself, but she told me to read the cards like a mirror, and so I did. It was one of my founding moments to think that the outside world reflected something other than the outside world—something deeper—and besides, the Aquarian Tarot is transcendental. My family believed in the importance of art, so I'd seen a lot of different styles by that point, but David Palladini's art nouveau was just mind-blowing.

Of course, I didn't learn the tarot in that first encounter, but over the years I returned often to my magical inheritance. One day it finally grabbed my focus in full, and I took the plunge. I devoured all the decks I could get lay my eyes on, I read all the books I could get my hands on, and I spoke with all the readers I could find.

2) What made you decide to create a tarot deck of your own?

One thing about coming to the tarot through means other than the Rider-Waite-Smith is that, and by diving so deeply into tarot culture with such immediacy, and perhaps with being such an oddball anyway, is that I never had the chance to develop the traditional aesthetic that I noticed in a lot of readers.

To me, tarot is not church. The beauty is in the diversity of the decks, just as it is in the diversity of the world. I'm always dismayed by traditional representations of the cards because our intuition needs to be excited to grow. I knew that there was something about the tarot just out of reach that I needed to discover, and no amount of books or decks or practice was giving my brain the jolt it needed.

My focus turned to the next and to the next, but a part of myself stood with the tarot, searching for that critical new understanding. And then it clicked: I didn’t need more variety in decks for the intuition I was after. I needed a deck that was less suggestive. Less misleading. Illustrative decks offer new perspectives on the forces of the tarot, but in presenting only one of the sliver-of-infinite ways you might interpret a card, they get in the way of so much other potential self-discovery. Instinctively, we know to maintain fluidity, but looking at such strong anchors reading after reading entrains your mind. It blinds you to the other possibilities.

That notion started me on the path: What about a deck that wasn't a painted sky, but a crystal sphere? What about a deck that offered new freedoms with each new reading, rather than cementing a single interpretation? I found that no current deck fit the bill, and so I made the Locus Tarot.

3) You mention on your Kickstarter page that the deck just requires a few simple theories to interpret.  Can you explain those theories and how they influence your understanding of tarot and life?

Life, for me, is a continuum of infinite possibilities, one experience of the infinite following the next through time towards distant futures, seemingly impossible from where we are now, yet inevitable in retrospect. At different points in our passage through time, different models help us to make sense of the universe. A flat earth was at one point a more useful model than a round earth. Manifest destiny was at one time a more useful philosophy than humanitarianism.

The work of the artist is to offer internally consistent and useful models to his audience, and his success is measured only in the persistence of those applications. In crafting the Locus Tarot, it was important for me to call into question each aspect of the traditional tarot, and keep only that which was useful, and codify all else. I was in this a scientist in pursuit of the universal theory of everything, and at the same time, an alchemist, seeking unity between that which is above, and that which is below.

My journey began with the Minor Arcana. I knew that they would be pip cards, and after having removed all else, I found that truly and most usefully, the Minors each represent a point of conflict along the numerological series in each element. These points of conflict are reflected in the Hero's Journey codified by Joseph Campbell's work with myth, the odd numbers typically external and the even typically internal.

The four elemental series of the Minor Arcana always happen in order. If you draw a Five of Cups in a reading, you can be sure that the Six of Cups will follow in the future, though concerning the very same situation, you might also be at the Nine of Swords or the Three of Stones, proceeding along those arcs as well. The Minors represent the great journeys of our lives, and like the waves of an ocean, peak and dip inevitably, though each wave might cycle at a different rate.

I then came to the Royalty Arcana. I was never convinced the cards always represented interaction with another person, let alone one with dark hair or fair skin. And I similarly shunned situational interpretations of the court cards. That's the work of the Minor Arcana. Experimentation lead me to discover that most usefully, the Royalty truly only represents a cluster of personality traits at the intersection of two elements, though whether these traits come in the form of another person or surface within one's self is truly dependent on the situation. The outside is always a mirror of the self, so the interpretation of another's personality as chaste or demanding is ultimately based on internal changes anyway.

Additionally, I found that it was misleading to assign gender or age to the court cards. I kept the naming convention much like I kept the naming convention of the suits, rather than using their underlying elements, but the words are just signposts. Instead, I've found it most useful to consider the house element to indicate the external methods of that archetype, and the court station to represent the internal motivation of the archetype, Pages internally air, Knights fire, Queens water, and Kings earth, the progression that of increasing stability. In this way, the Knight of Cups, with fiery motivation, but watery methods may still be interpreted as amorousness in some situations, but in others may be seen as passive-aggressiveness, as excitability, or as driven to perform.

The Majors predictably presented more of a challenge. I knew right off the bat that the numbers had to go. The Major Arcana is a set of cosmic forces capable of shifting the course of one's life independent of the people we encounter or our course on life's journeys. Any Major can follow any Major. It's possible for the Chariot to be followed by Death as easily as it is to be followed by Temperance. Heck, just one major can hold sway over a person's entire life. How in the face of all this, can any Major be said to be part of a series?

That said, though the Majors don't have series doesn't mean they don't have patterns. I found instead that liberating the Majors from the series revealed a number of fascinating truths that helped to expand the cards meaning whilst preserving the traditional meaning at the same time.

The solution, it seems, was under our fingers this whole time. I noticed in my endless permutations of the Majors that each have a distinctly elemental flavor. For instance, The Fool, The Magician, The Empress, The Emperor, and The High Priestess each deal primarily with earthly matters just as Judgment, The Tower, The Moon, The Sun, The Star, and The Universe deal with primarily airy matters.

Within these four sets, I discovered that there was always one card influenced by each of the four elements. The Empress, for instance, is earth drawn to water. Traditionally, we read this Major as the nurturing of the physical and as a wisdom of the rhythms of the earth. Seen more broadly, earth drawn to water can mean, in the case of struggling family, the seeking of basic sustenance, and in the case of a creative endeavor, a need for greater malleability of form.

I also found that each set featured one card that could be described as an element acting without impulse, acting within itself, in a moment of perfect stability. These forces embody the center from which the elements extend, and around which the world turns. The Fool (earth) offers innocence and curiosity from which one would embark on the physical world, Justice (water) offers balance and inevitability to broach the emotional world, Temperance (fire) offers experience and composure from which to act, and Judgment (air) offers experience and renewal to those engaging in the intellectual and spiritual exploration. I call these introversions.

4) You've added two cards to your deck - The Bridge and The Portal.  What do these mean to you, and what made you want to add them in?

Absolutely right! At this point in the story, I'd discovered a novel pattern to describe 20 of the 22 Major Arcana, but was terrified of the pattern suggested by the final two cards.

As readily as the Majors suggest the sets of influenced Arcana and the set of introversions, so too do they suggest a set of extroversions—Arcana that face outward, interacting with the other elements powerfully, and offering both access and passage to each of the four elemental domains. Except for one problem—only two of the four cards were in the deck.

It was clear to me as I suspect it will be to you that The Wheel embodied full access to the emotional world of wins and losses, and that The Universe embodied full access to the intellectual and spiritual worlds. Where then were the cards granting access to the physical world and the world of potency?

I first went hunting in compendiums of tarot decks for Majors others had added to fill the gaps. For all my talk of bucking tradition, I do not do so lightly, and only even consider it when tradition fails. It happens sometimes. At different points in our lives, different models resonate with what is highest within us.

Finding no solutions in the canon, it fell to me to name these forces. Early on, I stumbled upon the symbols of The Bridge and The Portal, but I resisted committing to these for a long time to ensure they were the right ones for the deck. Their most persistent competitors were Wanderlust and Creativity, but I found that given the character of The Wheel and The Universe, The Bridge and The Portal were too well suited. They just fit.

I see it like this: The Bridge crosses air and water, granting passage to the endless vistas of the world. The Wheel, the embodiment of ceaseless change, grants access to the peaks and depths of all interpersonal life has to offer. The Portal bridges this world and all others, offering unlimited creative freedom and expressive potential. The Universe, finally, is the gateway to spiritual enlightenment and the infinity of self. Each of these cards removes the barriers separating the subject from one of the four aspects of the world, and each is joined by the danger of irresponsibility or overextension in any of the four elemental directions.

5) The deck is a "minimalist" tarot, with very simple images, but I'm sure there's a lot behind them.  Could you talk us through some of that?

Sure. I put a lot of heart and soul into the designs of the deck, though I think in many ways, much of what this style has to offer differs from where readers have typically thought to look.

I liken the difference to that between hieroglyphics and modern letters. In some sense, modern letters lack the flavor of hieroglyphics, but what they lack in flavor, they gain in power. English has only 26 letters, but is capable of conveying all knowable things, whereas a hieroglyphic alphabet with its thousands of characters can convey only what's already been codified.

I mean to say that my strategy with the Locus was to point to the overarching patterns of the universe without representing them. That said, the cards yet bear a resemblance to the forces as we know them, even if they aren't strong enough to affect a reader's intuition.

The Royalty is an excellent example of this. Though the element of their station is unexposed, station is instead represented by subsequently larger white circles surrounded by one, two, three, and four dots, from Page to King. Interestingly, this pattern likens the Page to a helmet, the Knight to a shield, the Queen to a breastplate, and the King to a round table. Each offers greater stability than the last, and each is naturally larger than that which came before it in the series. Yet my conscious intention was much less symbolic. My aim was in fact for each station to contains all of the design elements of the previous stations, even as each develops the pattern. The fact that conscious and unconscious attention worked as one is a testament not to me, but rather to the magical relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm, the individual and the universal unconscious.

6) How are you finding the Kickstarter process, as someone looking for crowd-funding?

I'm a pretty big geek when it comes down to it, and in preparation for the campaign, I did some data analysis on the 79 tarot kickstarters in the history of the world. I learned some interesting things.

For instance, of the 79 campaigns, there were 44 successes. That's a 56% success rate, regardless of how well thought out the deck or well executed the campaign. Campaigns with videos did even better. 40 out of 63 campaigns with videos succeeded. That's 63%. Campaigns with more than 10 reward levels were even more successful. Of the 34 campaigns in this group, 27 were successes. This is to say that if you have a video and more than 10 reward levels, you've got a 79% chance of funding your tarot deck, regardless of merit, though there was certainly merit to every successful campaign. (The fact that my 80-card deck will be the 80th tarot kickstarter makes me think my actual chances might be closer to 80%, but who I am to say?)

One last statistic: Of these 27 campaigns with videos and more than 10 reward levels, the average outcome was $22,600 with an average of 407 backers per project. Knowing the overhead and the hours that have gone into crafting a deck I feel confident bringing to the world, I don't think these artists are making as much money as it sounds, but it's truly inspiring what a group of people can accomplish that a single person cannot.

That said, my base goals are humble in comparison. I'm minimally trying to raise $1000 dollars, which would take only 30 campaign supporters. I'd be honored if the campaign did well, but I really just want to connect with likeminded people. I guess that's probably what every artist wants.

7) What does the future hold for you?

This is the year of the stone for me. I've been a hermit long enough, and it's time to bring all my work to the world.

There's still miles to go with the Locus Tarot. Marketing the kickstarter. Setting up an online store. Printing and delivering. Distribution or licensing. I hope to find enough success to justify doing a book or a podcast or something unfathomed. But I certainly don't count my chickens...

I'm currently looking for an artist for my graphic novel Underworld. It's a Greek tragedy set at a Pennsylvania rave. I'm in touch with a lot of good people, and I hope to get it out by the end of the year. (If you know anyone qualified and interested in a challenging and well-paying gig, send them my way.)

I'm also working on reducing the printing costs of my board game labyrinth life. Two years ago, I learned a great deal about what makes commerce work from a failed kickstarter for this otherwise successful game. When people ask me when they can finally buy a copy, I want to be able to tell them, "today."

8) Is there anything else you'd care to share with us?

Thanks for chatting with me, Chloë, and thanks for reading, everyone! Please check out the Locus Tarot! Support it, share it, and say hello!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Wings of Change Lenormand: The Making of the Letter

Final image
I was asked recently what it was like working with Elisabeth Arena on the Wings of Change Lenormand.  Although the process took a lot longer than we'd originally intended, overall I was really happy with it.  It felt like a true partnership, with plenty of back and forth between us, each making suggestions to improve the final product.

For instance, you can see here the final image for the Letter. 

In my original sketch, I had the faery sat at a regular table, and very little sense of perspective:

My "sketch"

Elisabeth altered the perspective, giving the image a lot more depth, which I loved:

Elisabeth's sketch
Yet, the colours she first used felt too cold to me:

Stone table

I tinkered with the image in Photoshop, and sent her this suggestion for how to adapt it:

Photoshopped tree stump
From there, Elisabeth reworked the image to its beautiful, final form.  It was great that we could each bring something to the process, and be open to the other's suggestions and point of view.  Altogether, I'd say there was a real sense of teamwork, which felt comfortable and effective.  And I hope that through this process we've managed to create something that others will love, too.