Have fun with tarot this summer at the Omega Institute “Masters of Tarot Conference” in Rhinebeck, New York, July 19-21.

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Then deepen your experience by staying on for Rachel and Mary’s 5-day “Wisdom of the Tarot” workshop July 21-26. Discount available if you register for both.

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Emily Dickinson as HP

I recently stumbled across a web article on Pixie Smith that makes me want to stop the presses of Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story and add it as an appendix. Then I was delighted to discover that the author, Thea Wirsching, is creating a new deck, The American Renaissance Tarot, with artist Celeste Pille, based on esoterically-inclined religious influences in early 19th c. American literature (bios). PCS fits into this obliquely as an American artist (living in England) whose Colman-side grandparents were publishers and prominent Swedenborgians and who created an esoteric tarot that became America’s most iconic deck. In addition to fleshing out some of Pixie’s notable ancestors and making the point of just how thoroughly she emerged out of a lineage of early American ‘royalty,’ Wirsching examines the difficult issue of Smith’s racial appropriation of Jamaican folklore and patois

In addition to Emily Dickinson, the Major Arcana of this deck includes figures such as Thoreau, Emerson, Walt Whitman, the Fox sisters and Margaret Fuller. An entire suit is dedicated to Poe and another to Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter). Wirsching’s blog includes examples of the kind of depth of analysis you’ll find for each card. This deck belongs among other great decks that not only serve as divinatory devices but also contain teachings of cultures and cultural artifacts, that bring us insight into the human condition, such as the Matthews’ Arthurian Tarot and Celtic Wisdom Tarot or Diane Wilkes’ Tarot of Jane Austen and Ed Buryn’s The William Blake Tarot of the Creative Imagination. These decks introduce us to and, indeed, educate us in areas to which we might not have otherwise paid that much attention.

Wirsching and Pille are planning on completing the deck and book this year and are currently looking for a publisher or alternative publishing option. At this point, you can help subsidize the artist’s expenses by buying a print.

In the blog article on Pamela Colman Smith, Wirsching, an astrologer and a professor of American literature, praises the recent biography of Smith (which I co-wrote) recounting her SQUEEE reaction. She goes on to explore “the complicated history of colonial privilege and racial appropriation,” claiming these speak to “the fundamental Americanness of Pamela Colman Smith.” This is a discussion that deals with the very issues that are confronting us (forever anew) in the world today, especially as Smith is being claimed as a woman of color on so many websites and in social media. A part of me wishes it were so, however the facts of her life make it near impossible.

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Smith’s grandfather, mayor of Brooklyn and a NY state senator.

With humor and extensive knowledge of early American history, Wirsching explains how Smith’s ancestors on both sides were among the earliest and most prominent in America:  “the first Smith on that side of her family arrived in the colonies in the 1630s, and another direct relative in the Smith line was purportedly felled by witchcraft – that crazy fad that spread through New England in the late 17th century,” and “Pixie Smith’s Colman ancestors . . . were actively engaged in establishing the character of American art and letters in the nation’s early period.” I learned so much about her ancestors than I hadn’t known before, in what rivals a captivating episode of PBS’s “Finding Your Roots.”

Wirsching then gets to her real concern. While “culture has always been and always will be syncretic, formed by the “mixing together” of discrete traditions,” she also claims, “we can view Smith’s West Indian performances as a type of minstrelsy . . . if someone wanted to dismiss her as a culturally appropriating black impersonator, they could.” Ah, there’s the rub! Unable to give a settled opinion on this, Wirsching manages to present us with one of the most thoughtful explorations of this conundrum that is so in our faces today. I highly recommend reading this article in its entirety.

I want to briefly explore Pixie’s cultural appropriation of Anancy (Anasi), the spider-trickster originating in Ghana who became a central figure of Jamaican folklore: He was associated with skill and wisdom in speech (wikipedia) and with the kind of selfish cunning and deception that oppressed slaves needed to outwit the white man, just as spider required trickery to outwit tiger. The Jamaica.com site includes this interview with a Jamaica youth:

“But the way I learnt Anancy, I knew Anancy as a child, and it was a joy-y-y! We loved to listen to the stories, we loved to hear about this little trickify man, and you know, and one thing we knew, that this man was magic, and we could never be like him. You know he is a magic man. He could spin a web and become a spider whenever he wanted to [laughter]. You cant do that, so you better not try the Anancy’s tricks, you know, but it was fun!”

Xs9SVLHnQi6bFSh4lIP9lQ_thumb_4d66Anancy stories were night-time tales, often recounted by elderly women to children in their care, which is how Pixie learned hers. Known as an exceptional mimic, Pixie easily assumed the role of Jamaican story-teller. She became a trickster-storyteller, the very traits for which Anancy was known, and reflecting her constant joking and willingness to make fun of herself. She playfully sketched self-portraits in ways that emphasized the racial confusion that her short, round, dark appearance and love of bright, strange clothing engendered in others, several of whom claimed she was Oriental-looking.

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She may have taken lessons from Anancy when trying to deal with her own forms of cultural oppression and the hardships of a woman trying to make her own way in the world and in the male dominated professions of art, publishing, theatrical design, and also suffrage. It is notable that there is a distinctive feminist cast to her Anancy tales that doesn’t exist in the originals. Is this an excuse for appropriation of any kind? Not an excuse but, perhaps, something to consider. “Anancy is an art that woos the loser even as it acclaims the victor.

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Carl Jung developed several techniques for establishing a productive relationship with the unconscious mind. Foremost among them, according to Jung himself, was Active Imagination. It involves conscious participation in the inner world of imagination or fantasy, and it becomes a means of communication and negotiation between the ego and the unconscious. Active Imagination lets our unconscious perspectives and desires be known – to be seen, heard and experienced. It has marked differences from similar practices such as guided imagery, creative visualization, hypnosis, some spiritual meditation, and magical scrying and pathworking.

What makes it different than Jung’s other psychotherapeutic techniques is that Jung felt active imagination had to be done by oneself. Being able to discuss one’s experiences with another was helpful but not essential unless one experiences panic over what is found in the inner world, has difficulty differentiating between the inner and outer, or lets beings in the inner world take over one’s life.

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Both Tarot and Jungian psychology take as their central maxim the words of the Oracle at Delphi, “Know Thyself.” The deepest purpose of Tarot, as with Jungian psychology, is to know one’s true self that lies beneath the veneer of family upbringing and social conditioning. To do this, both focus on an interpretation and understanding of the projections that both humanity in general and individuals make via images. 

In the years since Jung served as a pioneering explorer of the psyche through what he first called fantasy and later came to call active imagination, various human development and magic(k) groups evolved a variety of forms of inner work. None are precisely the same although each can benefit, to some extent, by learning from the others. Still, there are unique characteristics to each.

In my latest webinar on a Jungian approach to Tarot, which you can still join, I’m focusing on Jung’s Active Imagination. This blog post is an excerpt from that course. Get a broader perspective on Jung and Tarot at my workshop at the Northwest Tarot Symposium in Portland OR on March 1, 2019.

  1. Active Imagination (AI) is goal-less! But not purpose-less. Generally the other techniques have a specific goal or result for each inner “journey.” AI seeks a transcendent, integrative function of bringing the conscious and unconscious into relationship.
  2. AI minimizes “guiding” to allow whatever comes and to receive it as real and without judging or editing it during the experience. Other forms often seek to replace distressing images with preferred ones, especially with images or suggestions that will facilitate a desired change or objective.
  3. AI does not focus on interpretation, as with Jung’s other techniques, but rather on understanding and insight.g%8WerahQhioQ+SVSq%pVQ_thumb_5516
  4. In AI one remains alert and keeps the focus on the first image that appears spontaneously rather than letting the scene morph and change as it will.
  5. In AI the individual is always present in the scene and active, coming into relationship with the beings that appear, to converse and interact with them, rather than viewing the scene passively as with a film or from a distance.
  6. In AI the images and interaction with them are prevented from sinking back into unconsciousness through some form of creative expression: usually drawing, painting or writing what has occurred.
  7. While images from the unconscious may evince a numinous or spiritual quality, they are to be taken as aspects of the person’s psyche rather than as divinities, spirits, ancestors or living beings. 
  8. AI requires that subsequent to the direct experience, human moral and ethical evaluations are made and that some action be taken to make one’s learning and ethical obligations concrete in the physical world.

The key to Jung’s view is that one’s imagination or fantasy can become a personally active encounter resulting in self-awareness along with moral and ethical obligations on which to act in the world. Take my webinar course and learn to use Active Imagination in conjunction with Tarot. Or come to NWTS 2019 for “A Jungian Approach to Tarot.


First and third photographs were taken by me at Nikki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden in Italy and modified by me. The middle photo of me was taken by Marcus Katz at the Castlerigg Stone Circle in Keswick, Cumbria and modified by me.

 

TTe7X7DhSdSTy4MOU3M%tA_thumb_566aRachel’s classic, Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Tarot Journey to Self-Awareness, is out this week in a 3rd edition, from Weiser Books. Having stood the test of time and delving deeply into the stories found in the images of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, it continues to be one of the best books for aspiring and experienced tarot readers. You can apply its wisdom to almost any deck that has pictures on all the cards because you will learn how to “see” what is in them. The photo shows Rachel having just flown in to Shanghai using her Tarot super-power. 

Interview with Rachel Pollack

Mary: Rachel, I met you in Amsterdam in the mid-1980s, not long after my first tarot book came out. You had already made a big splash with your first two books (now combined in one). We both have a 3rd edition of our early works published this year. How do you feel the tarot world has changed since your book first came out? What’s different about today’s students of tarot?

Rachel: Probably the biggest difference in the field is the vast number of decks on such a wide range of themes, using and molding the Tarot in ways that the old occult designers and artists, such as Waite and Smith, or Crowley and Harris, would never even have conceived.  First came the Pagan/Wiccan and feminist Tarots, then the wide range of cultural decks, and while all that continues–along with revivals of the older Marseille and Italian traditions–the cards have become a medium of artistic expression, and a way to embrace powerful themes and cultures.  None of this is new, of course.  We can look all the way back to the 15th century Sola-Busca, and later, the Vieville Tarot to see early artistic expressions, but it’s happening now in a way that’s unprecedented.  Diversity has become not just a theme but a way to open the Tarot up in images and meaning.  Today’s  students have access to all this, and start with such a banquet of Tarot’s possibilities.

Mary: For me, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom is astonishingly fresh even after all these years. I feel I get to know the true heart of a card, its inner life, its stories and not just basic meanings. What do you feel this book gives its readers that no other book seems to do?

Rachel:  First of all, thank you.  I’m honored that you say that.  When I began Seventy-Eight Degrees, I had a strong sense of who my audience might be.  I wanted to write for people who may or may not know anything of esoteric traditions, or mythology, or occult history, but had an openness and sensitivity to these ways of looking at life and symbolic images.  I was also aware that almost all previous works on Tarot (with some wonderful exceptions) fell into two categories.  First were the simple manuals for fortune-telling, with fixed but limited meanings.  Beyond that were the very detailed books of occult theory that were written for a very small and already advanced community–and pretty much opaque to everyone else.  I wanted to do a book that opened the Tarot up in a way that people could find their own lives in it, and at the same time learn about worlds beyond their experience.  Something else I did that I don’t think anyone had ever done before was to treat the Minor Arcana with same seriousness and consideration as the Major.  I did these things by delving into the pictures, making the images primary and looking beyond the symbols into their stories.

Mary: What advice would give newbies who are seeking to read the cards?

Rachel: I would say to try out various approaches and see what works best for you.  One person might find the strict interpretations and meanings inspires them to  reveal truths about people’s lives.  Someone else might ignore all the instructions and simply play with the pictures and what they seem to say in a given moment.  Above all, I would suggest that people treat the Tarot  not just as printed cards and a set of instructions, but rather as a living being.  The one thing I can for sure about the Tarot is that we will never come to the end of it.

Check out Rachel’s website and blog.

While everyone who regularly uses the Celtic Cross Spread adapts it to their own understanding, I am going to reveal the underlying richness of the traditional “Hopes and Fears” or 9th position* of this classic spread.
*I’m not counting the Significator.

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“An Ancient Celtic Method” in Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Both/And

Early in my tarot reading career, I interpreted whatever card landed in this next-to-last position from both the perspective of what querents hoped and what they feared. For instance, with the 10 of Cups querents might hope for a happy home or family life. Yet they simultaneously fear: either that this is an illusion (the rainbow in some decks) or that they will be constrained in some way by family needs and concerns. This points to how our anticipations affect outcome (position 10). Thus, this card can provide an extremely valuable look into the quandary experienced by querents regarding their issue. Note that it doesn’t say whether the hopes and fears are right or not. They aren’t predictions. Therefore, what are they?

After extensive work on the emotions expressed by the cards in the RWS deck, including a research project I did involving almost 100 people, I came to look at this position more broadly as simply one’s emotions in the situation being described. Hope and fear or attraction and repulsion form the core polarity found in emotion: physiologically experienced as pleasure or pain/distress.

Empedocles’ Love & Strife

The 5th century BC Greek philosopher, Empedocles, first defined this core polarity as “Love and Strife” or attraction and separation, which combine in different ways to form all matter in the universe as well as in our psyches. Emotions can be placed along a grid with two axises: pleasure—pain and mild | intense. For instance, annoyanceanger-rage express a range, from mild to intense, of an emotion we tend to avoid as being painful.

The fact is, as Empedocles recognized, we always experience some combination of emotions—which is where we get all those feeling experiences and the emotion words we use to describe them. This is why interpreting the 9th card from different perspectives can, in itself, describe the stressful push-pull which is pictured in the central conflict revealed by the first two cards of the Celtic Cross Spread.

Motivation

As I researched emotion I came to understand that they are our primary motivating factors. What Motivates Getting Things Done by Mary Lamia has recently added to my level of understanding how this relates to the 9th card. Lamia is a clinical psychologist and researcher specializing in emotional awareness. (This book is about procrastination, which happens to be a particular issue of mine.)

In Chapter 3, Lamia points out how situations stimulate emotions that, in turn, direct our attention. We care about the situation because we feel something. So, whether we feel distress or interest, the feeling motivates us to take action. “The emotional importance we give to a stimulus influences how we will attend to it.” These emotions (along with associated thoughts and memories) script our present behavior.* One person may notice unwashed dishes and feel compelled to immediately do something about them, while another person may not even notice them.

*As tarot readers, it is vital that we become aware of such differences in people’s responses. For, if we assume our own bias to be the only response, it can skew the reading.*

Scripts

For Lamia, “Scripts are based on the repetitive activation of a given emotion or emotions consistently activated by a particular stimulus.” They form an implicit set of rules that help us make sense of our lives: “Depending on how well we learn, scripted responses can either help or hinder us as we interpret, evaluate, and make predictions in our experiences.”

Photo by Stephen Leonardi on unsplash.com.

The Role of the 9th Card

While our own scripts speak to our interpretative abilities as readers, scripts also point to the role of the 9th position card in a querent’s reading (either for oneself or another). “In consciousness, feeling and thinking always arise together,” with thoughts (that are actually conjectures) being “the best information your mind has available.” It is the underlying emotion (at root, the physiological affect or gut response) that most motivates human behavior. Furthermore, “emotions can be impervious to thought,” which is why a reader‘s informing someone of an outcome or best action—no matter how ‘right’ the reader is—is not as effective as when a querent emotionally “gets it.”

The Interactive Tarot Reading

The value of an interactive approach to tarot reading lies in the querent describing a card or speaking of what most draws their attention. At that point the attendant memories and the emotions associated with those images arise. By dialoguing with the querent about what arises the reader can help the querent evaluate how relevant these responses are to the actual situation and therefore which options and goals, indicated by the other cards, generate the most interest in the querent and/or promise the most relief from distress.

Summary

Emotional responses motivate us. Positive emotions give us energy and drive. Negative emotions result in a desire for relief. Both positive and negative emotions may be described by the card in position 9, although sometimes one clearly predominates over the other(s). Recognizing that this card describes one’s motivating factor(s) can help querents become aware how their history (i.e., their scripts) are affecting the outcome.

The Benefits

As with the other cards in the spread, emotional responses depicted in position 9 are not totally fixed. A consciously aware reader can help a client align themselves with their highest goals and recognize their options. Furthermore, energizes are vibrational and thus, by aligning oneself with the higher vibrations and lessons offered in the situation, and bringing consciousness to the emotional roots of the situation, a client can experience an emotional shift within the sacred space of the reading and thus change the way they meet the perceived outcome.


Please, try these ideas and let me know if this makes a difference in your own experience of the spread. Or, leave a comment on how you interpret and work with the 9th or “Hopes and Fears” position in the Celtic Cross Spread.

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I’ve collected quite a few Tarot music albums over the years so I thought I’d share what I have. I ask you to contribute to this list in the comments section. I link mainly to amazon but you’ll find many of these on iTunes and probably other places on the web. Forgive the dearth of commentary but, lacking a musical background, I feel unqualified to speak of the characteristics of each album.

I begin with my personal favorite (otherwise the list is in no particular order). It might not even be a tarot album except that the CD cover features the Star and the Fool. Still, listen to the story-telling folk-style lyrics and tell me this is not about the Fool’s journey through the cards: Pilgrims by Eliza Gilkyson.

Tarot by Réjean Paquin. Serious musical compositions for the 22 Major Arcana (with voice/sounds reflecting social commentary). There is plenty of variety that accords well with each Arcana.

Tarots, composed by Tomás Marco, guitar by Juan Carlos Laguna. Booklet in Spanish and English. Classical guitar pieces for the Major Arcana.

Tarot Music for Readings by Gene Newton. New Age, synthesizer, meditative. Not much variation.

Music of the Tarot by David & Steve Gordon. Meditative space-music with 3 pieces that cover the 22 Major Arcana and separate pieces for each suit of the Minors.

The Power of a New Aeon: Musical Impressions of the Tarot by mixed artists. Two-CD set. A selection for each card of the Major Arcana. The styles vary widely but seem to emphasize heavy metal (?).

The Book of Thoth: A Musical Interpretation of the Tarot by Zehm Aloim. This album doesn’t seem to be readily available but you’ll find a review here. Music for six of the Arcana. Zehm Aloim also created music to go with several Israel Regardie Golden Dawn training audios (found on iTunes).

Tarot: a musical and spiritual album inspired by the Tarot, music by Kevin Kendle; text by Steve Hounsome. New Age, mystical, covers the Fool through Wheel of Fortune.

Tarot Keys by Ruth Ann Amberstone. Collection of piano improvisations for the Major Arcana composed in the key of the musical note assigned to that card by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Cups of the Heart: A Musical & Poetic Journey into the Minor Arcana by Emerald Joy and Paul Tye. Poetic visualizations narrated to music for the Suit of Cups.

Tarot Suite by Mike Batt and friends. I only have the vinyl and haven’t listened to it in 30+ years. Now available on amazon mixed with another Batt album.

Osho Zen Tarot: Music from the World of Osho is not actually tarot-related but is, rather, spiritual, India-influenced New Age music taken from other Osho music collections. You may enjoy reading the cards while listening to it.

Voyage of the Acolyte by Steve Hackett (thanks to P.D. Newman).

Teargarden By Kaleidyscope from Smashing Pumpkins (thanks to P.D. Newman).

Turn of the Cards from Renaissance (thanks to P.D. Newman). Described as classical/prog rock. The only direct tarot connection seems to be the cover and title. Nice.

Tarot: “Die  Welt” by Walter Wegmüller (thanks to Bertrand Saint-Guillain), Described as the “funkiest of funk”; Vol. 2 with images from Wegmüller’s deck found on Youtube here.

How could I have forgotten this one? Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles by Suzanne Vega. Several songs on this album are tarot-based by title or otherwise.

The Fool’s Journey: Solo by Liz Deyoe. Instrumental guitar. Ten pieces, each named after one of the 78 cards. Lovely.

Note: There is a heavy metal band from Finland named Tarot but I’m unaware of any tarot card-related music by them.

You’ll find plenty of individual tarot-based songs and tunes on non-tarot albums. The best of which is “The Wheel” by Rosemary Cash, while others, like “Pokerface” by Lady Gaga and “She Only Smokes When She Drinks” by Joe Nichols, feature tarot primarily through images in their music videos (as “The Wheel” also does brilliantly!). Others can be found by looking through my blog category: Tarot Music Videos.

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Joe Nichols music video with tarot reading at end.

Please mention your favorite songs in the comments along with why you like them.

Added to individual songs: Cassandra Wilson, sings “Tarot” on her album, Thunderbird (thanks to Charlie Harrington). “The Fool” from Hills and Rivers (thanks to Dovid DeHay). “Six of Swords” and “Four of Cups” from HobbyHorse (thanks to their vocalist Annie Aronson). “Tarot” by Chad Shank (thanks to Chad Shank); it’s really good!

Watch Xena: Warrior Princess Episode, “Bitter Suite,” available on youtube for only $1.99. The entire episode is sung, beautifully! It’s well-worth it. More info here including the Tarot references and sources for these.

A third category would be music that you play when you want to do deep work with the tarot, either for reading or meditation. My favorite deep trance-meditation music for tarot is El-Hadra the Mystic Dance by Klaus Wiese.

Jean-Claude Flornoy’s book Seeing the World: Tarot Signposts on the Path to Perception (translated from the French by David Vine), features what Flornoy describes as “the cadillac of readings,” and I’m inclined to agree with him. Flornoy was a French artist and tarotist who died in 2011. He was the foremost recreator of the earliest French tarot decks beginning with the Jean Noblet deck (Paris, 1650). His book features a quirky, individualistic interpretation of Marseille-style decks that is worth reading if you want to shake yourself out of many of the Anglo assumptions about Tarot that most of us labor under. Personally I found the book exciting for this very reason. However, what thrilled me most was Flornoy’s introduction to a spread concept I hadn’t seen before that he learned from Parisian Jean Assens. With David Vine’s permission I’m presenting it here. It is very briefly described in the book, focusing only on the layout procedure, so I’ll include my own developing insights into its use.

The Assens-Flornoy Pyramid Spread

Using only the Major Arcana, ask your question, then shuffle and lay out all 22 cards, face down, in the 21-position pyramid layout (see below) beginning on the bottom left. The positions are the same as the Major Arcana laid out in numerical order, but you’ll be putting face down cards from your shuffled deck into each position, in order from 1 to 21 plus one card that lies outside the pyramid.

21
19..20
………………..16..17..18……….222/0
12..13..14..15
7….8….91011
1….2….3….4….5….6

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Jean Noblet Tarot recreated by Jean-Claude Flornoy

The final, 22nd, card goes on the right; Flornoy called it the “Outside Card.” You start by interpreting this Outside Card in relation to the question. The next card to be turned over should be the card in the pyramid layout that corresponds to the number of the Outside Card. For instance, if you get 9-Hermit as the Outside Card, then the next card you turn face up will be the card in the 9th position. If that card is 6-Lovers, first you interpret it, and then you turn up the card in the 6th position, and so on, interpreting each card as you go. I call this chaining.* Continue until you turn up The Fool. As The Fool has no number, the reading stops here. Flornoy says that if you need more information you can pull supplemental cards from a second deck (but he doesn’t explain what you do with these). You may reveal, in total, as few as two or three cards or almost the entire Major Arcana! Unrevealed cards are either in their own position or form their own group of mutually linked cards. You don’t look at or read the unrevealed cards at all.

I’ve been obsessively using this spread and have developed a few additions of my own.

Rather than pulling supplemental cards for more information, as Flornoy suggests, I prefer taking the archetypal card’s position into consideration. This is similar to reading an astrological planet in its “house” in a chart. To ascribe uniqueness to each item in the pair I think of the preceding card as asking a question of the card that lands in its position. This will become obvious in the example.

Here’s a reading I did, laid out on top of the Noblet Tarot, which is my own addition to this spread technique. (You don’t need to use a second deck beneath.)

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Pam’s Tarot dealt atop the Jean Noblet Tarot

As I was listening to a news program about Donald Trump’s potential legal problems (regarding Manafort and Michael Cohen) I decided to ask what the cards thought of Trump. With 14-Temperance Reversed as the final “Outside Card” I felt Trump was out-of-balance; his temperament or “humors” were askew and that the spread would especially address his temperament problems. Next, I turned over the card in the 14th position and found 15-Devil. I asked the question “What is creating this imbalance?” The Devil seemed to speak of obsession, enslavement, blame and guilt, plus a focus on “upmost materiality” (the latter is the Golden Dawn meaning). Based on my reaction to 15-Devil, I then asked of the next card, “Where does this negativity come from?” and turned up the card in the 15th position, 18-Moon. This card seemed to suggest that Trump is deceiving himself as well as others, arising from deep-seated unconscious instinctual behavior. Turning to the 18th position I asked, “Of what is Trump unconscious?” and got 2-High Priestess Reversed, which said to me that he lacks empathic sensitivity and can’t hear the inner voice of Wisdom (he’s out of touch with what we might call the Feminine).

To reiterate: my addition to this spread technique is to view the preceding card as asking a question of the card that lands in the numerical position (of that preceding card). Think of these two cards as a pair: the earlier card asks a question that the subsequent card responds to. You may want to examine the cards by placing them in pairs. Based on your interpretation of the first card, your intuition suggests a question that it asks of the subsequent card in the chain. For instance:

After considering the meaning of the Outside Card (14-Temperance Reversed), turn one of its meanings into an open-ended question like “What needs to be balanced?” or “Where is there imbalance?” or, in an issue regarding creativity, “What is blocking the creative flow?” The next card in the chain provides a response. Sometimes the second card makes you aware that the question wasn’t phrased quite right. That’s okay, just adjust your question.

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15-Devil now poses a question of the card in the 15th position, 18-Moon:

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If you wish you can go through the rest of the cards for yourself. I admit I was at first stumped by 19-Sun in the position of 6-Lovers (the Lovers card was reversed and in the position of 5-Hierophant = one’s morals). Upon considering the question, “How is he deceiving others?” I figured The Sun might point to his relationship with his Base (Lovers) who feel he can do no wrong. However, The Sun, featuring a child with a feather in his hair, brought to mind the image of the “Baby Trump” balloon flown in the air during Trump’s trip to the U.K., and I couldn’t help chuckling.

Version 2

This spread was the first time I turned up more than a half dozen or so cards before reaching The Fool, where I stopped. The only card not revealed turned out to be 17-Star, in its own 17th position. Technically these cards are not to be read, but with The Fool in the 9th-Hermit position and 17-Star unrevealed, it seemed to reiterate the lack of personal insight and integrity in Trump’s psyche that had previously been shown.

I want to note that I was very aware of projecting my own feelings onto the cards as I read them, so the above interpretation in no way represents an objective analysis of Trump, but rather my own perception of him. It was startlingly clear to see my opinions take precedence over any other interpretation of the cards. When reading for myself, I find it is an opportunity to become conscious of my own semi- and un-conscious perceptions of a matter. It is through the Tarot that I’ve learned to see through to many of my own biases and assumptions. But, that’s another discussion.

I believe you can also summarize the spread by reading the cards that were revealed in the order they were laid out – that is, positions 1 to 21 sequentially and by rows—especially since some of your spreads will reveal an entire row or two while leaving most of the other cards unrevealed. The centrality of positions 9, 17 and 21 seem to stand out and may be especially significant, perhaps as “Destiny” or “Wisdom” positions?

This is one way to use all those luscious Major Arcana-only decks. Reversals are optional. Let me know what you think of this spread and any insights you have as to how to interpret it.

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*”Chaining” is a technique used with the 36-card Lenormand Grand Tableau. Toward the end of a Grand Tableau reading you can chain or link cards in a similar manner, starting with the querent’s significator. You determine its position number, find the card having that number, then from its position find the next card, and so on, stopping when you circle back to a card you’ve already read. This chain of cards serves as a kind of confirmation or summary of the whole reading. With The Pyramid Spread it is the entire reading.

There are tons of ways to create new spreads. Before the mid-1970s it was almost unheard of; today you find thousands of spreads—in books, from teachers and on the internet. I first encountered a do-it-yourself-spread explanation in Gail Fairfield’s 1981 classic, Choice-Centered Tarot. This ground-breaking concept had the reader and querent co-creating unique spreads based on the question or issue, breaking it down into positions that would reveal what you most wanted or needed to know. This is still one of the top techniques you should have in your kit.

I like to create spreads based on self-help protocols, like “5-Steps to a Co-Creative Partnership”: I’ll draw a card for where I am now or what I need to do for each step. I’ll even turn my favorite quotes, proverbs or maxims into spreads as it allows me to explore what guidance they have directly for me at that moment. Try turning this quote into a spread, being as literal or creative as you want, and post it in the comments section:

“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.”
–Oprah Winfrey quoting the Roman philosopher Seneca.

Here’s a spread that evolved out of my curiosity about a world event that happened on the day I was born. The more I learned the more it seemed a worthwhile metaphor for my personal life path and as well as being applicable to others. I invite you to try out both the spread and the method used to create it.

The ‘Breaking Your Sound Barrier’ Spread

On the morning of October 14, 1947, pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. According to PBS’s Nova program it marks a major milestone in flight and space history as “the sound barrier was no longer a barrier after all.” This spread helps you break your own “sound or noise barrier” as it is a metaphor for an impediment to further acceleration that cannot be easily overcome, despite your striving to do so.

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By Realbigtaco – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15250934

The symbolism underlying this problem and the need to overcome it give us a clue to something we can examine in our own lives. To do this, I turned the technical description of what happens into a personal description:

The energy wave you yourself create gets ahead of you, blocking your ability to move forward and through to the next level. It takes the form of confused, irrelevant or meaningless “noise.” Attempts to break through create shock waves, turbulence, severe buffeting and control problems that can throw you into a dive. Part of the issue is whether you can withstand the pressures that accompany breaking through this barrier. The reward on the other side is stability and return of control.

I know, the layout looks a little like a jet (or a fish). That sort of happened serendipitously. I suggest reading cards 1, 2, 3 first as a three-card spread to get a handle on the direction everything is headed. You can specify a particular situation to examine or discover it as you go.

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  1. What is your particular sound barrier? This could be an external, physical limit or some kind of inner noise or chatter.
  2. What do you hope to discover or achieve by breaking through it?
  3. How does this barrier get in your way or limit your achieving this?

  4. What pressure, turbulence or loss of control must you withstand?

  5. What’s the worst that can happen if, symbolically speaking, you lose control and fall into a dive?
  6. What improvements will help you break through; what new thing or attitude do you need?
  7. What will you actually find on the other side?

  8. How can this breakthrough help you in the future?

I find it interesting that one of my greatest contributions to the field of Tarot is what, back in 1981, I named The Breakthrough Process in which the client identifies, via the cards already discussed in the spread, the major problem(s), how to break through it, and a personal goal. This process is described in most of my books.

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I am thrilled to announce publication of my latest book, Pamela Colman Smith: The Untold Story. The journey to publication was an extraordinary one, first, because I was able to work with an amazing group of collaborators: Stuart Kaplan, president of USGames Systems Inc., Elizabeth Foley O’Connor and Melinda Boyd Parsons; and second, because of what was involved in researching Pixie’s accomplishments, walking in her footsteps, and working with my collaborators. Stuart has long wanted to gift the world with a beautiful art book featuring his extensive collection of the works of Pamela Colman Smith. We all wanted the world to know about this extraordinary woman, set the record straight on what is known about her, and give others the opportunity enjoy her many gifts as we have.

During our research we discovered many hundreds of articles written about Smith, appearing around the world over a mostly fifteen year period, plus there are letters giving insights into some periods of her life. All works by and about her, as well as a list of all known communications and artworks, are available in the extensive bibliographies.

In the summer of 2017 I took a tour group to Pixie’s final home in Bude, Cornwall. We dowsed for her lost grave in the local cemetery. We had dinner with Nikki Saunders whose grandparents had been good friends with Pixie and our tour group stayed at the then-King Arthur’s Castle Hotel (now Camelot Castle Hotel) in Tintagel where she stayed with her father in 1899, and where she met theatre impresario Henry Irving for the first time. (The hotel has hardly changed at all!)

castle-hotel old postcard

Rather than me telling you all about the book, I’ll direct you to four reviews and an informative interview with Elizabeth Foley O’Connor:

Interview with Elizabeth O’Connor by Lakshmi Ramgopal

Review by Benebell Wen.

Kirkus Review.

Publishers Weekly Review.

Video review by Arwen Lynch (with a look through the book itself)

I also recommend this earlier blog post where I speculate about Pixie’s design for the Tarot deck based on an article she wrote in 1910 (the year after she completed the Tarot deck) concerning what’s most important in stage decoration.

Everyone interested in Pamela Colman Smith will want to get this book in which her life and works are so well presented. Serious collectors may want the signed and luxurious Limited Edition, that’s only available here.

Linda Marson, author of the groundbreaking Ticket, Passport and Tarot Cards brings us her new multi-media package for personal guidance and insight using TarotNav: A GPS for Life.

FlashDriveTarotNav arrives in the form of a flash drive/memory stick or you can direct download the files to your computer or device. Through videos, personal stories, and text, Linda offers an excitingly innovative learning experience that will help you gain deep meaning from life experiences and get direction for future endeavors.

Imagine a world in which everything has a meaning, your adventures serve a deeper purpose and Spirit speaks directly to you through a set of picture cards. Each day becomes its own adventure. Discover what way to go when your path forks. Know that detours present challenges to strengthen resolve and reveal things you might have missed along the way. Examine your baggage to see what can be discarded. Find your destiny in your goals.

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Linda speaks from her own vast experience. She has been making travel films and leading spiritual journeys around the globe for nearly 20 years. If anyone is said to “follow their intuition” it is Linda. As former President of the Australian Tarot Guild she focused on making connections among teachers, students and professional readers nationally and internationally. More recently she has brought all her interests together through activities featured at her Global Spiritual Studies website. You’ll find courses taught by the best teachers in their fields, and tours to sacred sites that will transform your life.

TarotNav literally shows how to use tarot as a guidance system. The multi-media package contains a set of 22 short videos with example readings based on real journeys, an e-book of card meanings, a sheet for recording your readings, and an extra video on the Celtic Cross Spread. The card meanings focus on life as a journey from new beginnings to goal completions and letting go. Reversed cards show where there may be resistance and where issues haven’t been fully resolved.

I highly recommend this program as a way to learn how Tarot can be a guide on your personal journey and a key to turn your daily life into a spiritual adventure. Get information here, where you’ll find sample videos and a look at the whole package.

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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

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