Tarot Deck Shenanigans

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Tarot readers are obliged, at some point, to pick a deck. If you don’t, it will obviously be kind of difficult to actually get very Tarot-y. You do your research, you assess a bunch of factors, and ultimately you choose a deck.

Except sometimes a deck chooses you.

I’ve posted repeatedly here about how when I was learning Tarot, I was aware of the Thoth deck, but it was the RWS system that I learned first, and it’s the RWS that’s been etched into the floor of my brainpan ever since as “The Essential Tarot Template.” But I like the Thoth. And I think the Thoth likes me. Or at least, it likes to mess with me.

After I first bought my Thoth deck, I did a run of ten single-card draws, all aimed at answering different questions, spaced out across a few days. Seven of those ten draws yielded the Devil card. I kept looking around for the laughing ghost of Aleister Crowley…

Today, I was inserting some cards back into the deck, when I found that my two favorite cards were nestled side by side in the mix, almost waving at me.

A little bit later, I went looking for The Hermit. I sorted through the cards, one by one…not finding him…still not finding him…starting to wonder if I’d somehow missed him in my search…and then finding him at the very end of the line…number 78 in a run of 78 cards. Again: I could almost hear Crowley snickering.

I take all this to mean that I need to stop clinging so hard to the RWS. It may be that I need to enter a Thoth phase. Because not all of my decks do things like this. In fact, most of them don’t. So I suggest watching how your decks interact with you – because they do interact with you, and they can have very distinct personalities – and maybe work with the ones that seem to really want to work with you.

Meanwhile, I’ll be over here, Thoth-ing.

And stay alert for an announcement here about the Tarot Toolkit Online Course that i co-taught this year with Vickie Wilson of Eternal Athena Tarot.

Tarot Nomenclature

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Yesterday, I did readings for a few hours at this local public event. I only brought one deck along, and it’s a deck that’s very Thoth-based. As many of you know, the Thoth is the #2 
most popular deck in use out there, and it made quite a few changes to the big decks that preceded it…most notably in the area of nomenclature. That is, Aleister Crowley renamed a Suit, most of the Court Card ranks, and a heap of Major Arcana cards.

But as much as I do like the Thoth deck, and those that use it as their starting point, I learned the Rider-Waite-Smith deck first, and its specifics seem to be the ones that have lodged in my brain as my own inner default settings. I’ve been leaning on RWS decks a lot lately, too, which probably explains why, when I drew The Universe card for a few different querents yesterday, I kept referring to it as The World, even though the card clearly has the words “The Universe” emblazoned across the bottom of it. I earned myself a few weird looks along the way…

So all in all, I personally love the fact that decks are diverse, and that creators rework the templates. I think it’s possible to get too crazy with that concept, to the point that the resulting deck doesn’t even really feel like Tarot anymore (or it just seems like a vanity plate in deck form or something), but despite my occasional blunder with the designations, I’m all for the differences. How about you, though? Do you have a favorite system that feels “right?” Do all the differences in terminology just annoy you? Or do you like the variety, too…?

Astrology/Tarot Mapping: The Lovers

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The astrological symbol that you’ll most often find associated with the Lovers card in Tarot is the Sign of Gemini.

In a very superficial way, this association makes some sense. That is, The Lovers can conjure thoughts of two people (i.e., the number it takes to tango)…and Gemini also has to do with a pair of people. At a quick glance, then, these two symbols might seem to have a lot in common.

The similarities don’t really run all that deep, though. For one thing, when The Lovers refers to a pair of people, it’s often a pair of…well…Lovers. Meanwhile, Gemini refers to a pair of Twins. Siblings. Pretty much not lovers. The Lovers card doesn’t only refer to romantic/sexual bonds, but it certainly can. Gemini, meanwhile, is more about exploring information, communication, and interpersonal dynamics of a more detached nature. This isn’t usually the first Sign an astrologer will come up with if asked about romantic archetypes.

Of course, The Lovers is also about concepts such as choice and integration, and a case could be made for these notions to be good correlates for what Gemini is about.

Then again, cases could also be made in favor of entirely different astrological symbols being linked to The Lovers. Maybe something with a more Venusian feel. If not the Planet Venus itself, then maybe the Venus-ruled Sign of Libra would address the romantic possibilities of The Lovers, while also remaining relevant with respect to the “choices” meaning of the card…?

Astrology/Tarot Mapping: The Hierophant

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The most widely used astrological correspondence for the Hierophant card is the Zodiac Sign of Taurus. And this is definitely one of the correspondences that, for me personally, just doesn’t work all that well.

On the one end of the pairing, The Hierophant is a spiritual teacher and go-between, someone who – at least in theory – dedicates their life to helping members of their community in connecting with the Divine. The Hierophant provides structure, support, tradition, and access to accumulated knowledge.

Meanwhile, the other end of the pairing is Taurus. Using an Earth Sign isn’t a bad notion to start with: The Hierophant is in some sense trying to bring the Celestial down to the earthly plane. Taurus, though, doesn’t feel like the best specific choice to me as far as Earth symbols go. Traditionally linked with Venus, the Sign of Taurus has much to do with concepts such as beauty, peace, possessions, sensual pleasures. I’ve heard the argument put forth that a Hierophant is someone you’d seek counsel from in the event that you had issues revolving around Taurus themes, such as materialism or overindulgence in pleasures of a worldly nature…but I guess I prefer my symbolic linkages to be based on affirmative correlations. That is, I’d rather use an astrological symbol that can serve as a sort of synonym for The Hierophant’s presence, not one that flags The Hierophant’s absence.

As with The Emperor’s case, I personally again feel that some reference to Saturn or Capricorn might be the better way to go for this card…

The Breathing Cycle Tarot Spread

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It’s New Spread Saturday 
again – a once-a-month photo-challenge on Instagram hosted by yours truly and @tabithadial in which participants post an all-new, original Tarot spread. Here’s my entry for April, the Breathing Cycle Spread:

1) Breathe In. Something you need to bring into your life in greater quantities at this time.
2) Hold, Lungs Full. Something you already possess in abundance, but which you may be overlooking or taking for granted. You will do well to celebrate this more actively.
3) Breathe Out. Something you need less of in your life at this juncture.
4) Hold, Lungs Empty. Something you lack that you tend to focus on – your “need” for this is an illusion. You can flourish without it.

Astrology/Tarot Mapping: The Emperor

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The astrological symbol that’s most commonly paired up with The Emperor is the Sign of Aries. But how on-point is this match-up?

Aries is the Cardinal Fire Sign – this means that Aries-energy is often seen as being passionate, brave, impulsive, adventurous, competitive, and not the type to back down from a fight.  All of which can definitely help a would-be Emperor with the building and maintenance of an empire.

But Emperors would also seem to require additional layers of personality that don’t have much to do with Aries. Emperors need to cultivate the long-view. They need strategies and grand plans, patience and perseverance, tact and diplomacy. None of those things will tumble out readily as top characteristics when astrologers discuss all the things that make Aries, Aries.

Maybe The Emperor needs to also be tied a bit to the steadiness and structure of Saturn/Capricorn, among a few other possibilities…?

Astrology/Tarot Mapping: The Empress

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It’s pretty commonplace for people to associate The Empress in Tarot with the Planet Venus from Astrology. In fact, the Rider-Waite-Smith version of the card has the Venus symbol built right into it. But is Venus truly a strong astrological association for The Empress?

Venus the Planet takes its name from the Roman Goddess of Love, and in astrological terms, the Planet does represent the kinds of associated concepts you might expect. Venus stands for love and romance, and also any other kind of relationship energy you might imagine. Venus also speaks to things like peace and beauty.

And then there’s The Empress. In Tarot, this card often stands for concepts like growth and fertility, and in many decks, The Empress is even depicted as a woman deep into the latter stages of pregnancy, which reinforces these associations.

So the big question is whether The Empress can also be said to encompass the kinds of romantic love that Venus symbolizes? This would seem to be the biggest sticking point in trying to successfully link Venus with The Empress: how can you hold up a card as the Tarot equivalent of the Planet Venus if that card doesn’t really speak to romantic love, which is a pretty primary pillar of what Venus is all about?

For my part, I feel that this association is okay, but not flawless. I do tend to see The Empress as maybe a bit more maternal than as somebody’s romantic counterpart…and I say that with full awareness that you don’t get pregnant without first engaging in probably some legitimate amount of courtship, and also that we have in the very next card (The Emperor), a character who could very arguably be nominated as a readymade mate for The Empress. But still…when I see The Empress in a reading, I do go to growth and creativity and abundance before I eventually get to any thoughts of romance. And I’m not sure that that’s ideal when trying to connect a card with Venus…