Review – Heart of Tarot An intuitive approach

This one is for my sister, whom I love very much.

Today I’m not going to talk about a particular card. With my exam quickly approaching and all the assignments that are still coming up thick and fast like rapid fire, I haven’t had the time to go deeper in the symbolism of a specific card. So, in the meantime, I’m just going to do a quick review.

heartoftarotThe book in question is Heart of Tarot An intuitive approach, written by Amber K & Azrael Arynn K. It talks about a different way of reading the Tarot: The “Gestalt Tarot“. It caught my attention because my sister, who is a trained Gestalt psychologist and an art-therapist, had told me the powerful impact these techniques have.

Gestalt psychology is a school of thought that deals with psychological problems using imagination and creative visualisation. Its focus is in how we organise our outlook in life, how we cope with difficult situations and it helps us in changing our perspective. In a sense, it has an animist point of view: everything around us has a meaning and a voice provided that we listen to them; gestalt practitioners work with metaphors and try to bring us back to a sense of wholeness. A couple of years ago I had therapy with a Gestalt psychologist, who also used hypnosis, for some ongoing issues and I have to say that the results I got were amazing and long-lasting. Sorry, sister, I should’ve listened to you earlier!

For example, one of their most powerful techniques is called The Empty Chair. There are always 3 chairs in the room even though it’s just you and the therapist. So you’ve gone there because you have some unfinished business with someone or something: they are no longer around or you can’t get an agreement because no one wants to lose face or you feel unable to express your anger or it can also be a part of yourself that you dislike…

So you speak your truth to the empty chair, warts and all, without holding anything back. Then, you sit in the empty chair and that’s when the magic happens. Once you are in the other chair, you are the other party and you also speak up. The insights and revelations that come up from that are truly eye-openers.

Gestalt Tarot, a technique developed by John McClimans, works better if the querent doesn’t know the meanings of the card because it may interfere with the free flow of ideas. It is also recommended to use a deck where the minor arcana have drawings such as Rider-Waite, the Morgan-Greer (that’s the one used in the book) or even the Crowley Thoth Tarot. There are plenty, but it’s better to choose one rich in symbolism.

Then you use a spread of your liking, as any will work. Along the book they use many different examples, including a full Gestalt spread and a condensed Gestalt spread. I won’t describe them, they are loosely similar to an astrological spread. But the core of the technique are the questions that the reader asks the querent:

  • What so you see in the picture?
  • What are they doing?
  • How do you think they feel?
  • What are they thinking?
  • How do they interact with each other?
  • How would it feel to be like that?

And so on. Then the cards are read as if they were telling a story. After that, the reader asks the querent to notice any patterns: colours, numbers… It is very important that the reader lets the querent to speak freely and doesn’t guide his/her interpretation of the cards by using open questions. To finish, the reader summarises the key points of the reading. It should hopefully have brought light to the issues the querent had.

It is a very niche kind of reading: it requires a reader trained in Tarot and Gestalt psychology to really deliver insightful results. Plus also I am not sure that anyone expects to do all the work when going to a Tarot reader! Nonetheless, I think that it may be a good tool for self-reading, provided that you can detach yourself from what you know about Tarot. Easier said than done!

It also includes some chapters on type of clients, creating your own deck, how to teach tarot and tarot magic and herbs and stones, which I thought they were odd because they didn’t really have much in common with the rest of the book. Not really sure what the point of including them was.

IMHO, not for everyone but I did find the extensive chapter about how to ask good questions in Tarot very interesting. Often overlooked, it is a really really useful skill in life, I may write about that in future.

Fortress of solitude, made of selenite.
Fortress of solitude, made of selenite.

I bought my copy in a bookshop in Avebury, when I went to see and touch*! the stones. I am gutted that I haven’t found any copies of the pictures I took there to show you how lovely it is; I’m lucky enough that I live at 1 hour of distance from it so it’s a frequent picnic place. If you are in the UK and haven’t visited it, please do so. If you are not, keep it in your mind if you ever decide to visit this country.

So I bought the book and the husband fell in love with the selenite on the left. He even made a base with perspex to illuminate it from behind with green LEDs.

If someone is interested, it’s published by Llewellyn Worldwide and the ISBN numbers are.

  • ISBN-10: 1567180086
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567180084

* You can’t do that in Stonehenge.


Ace of Wands, go forth and multiply

Morning is due to all —
To some — the Night —
To an imperial few —
The Auroral light.

Emily Dickinson, poem I

Crowley, Marseille, Gran Tarot Esotérico, Balbi.
1. Crowley, 2. Marseille, 3.Gran Tarot Esotérico, 4.Balbi.

I  know, I know, the Ace of Wands is the herald of spring, the beginning of the Aries season… and we are in May now! But I hope you forgive me as the spring has been dawdling a bit in the UK and it hasn’t been until the last few days that I can say that it’s truly among us. I went to the Forest of Dean a couple of weeks ago to see its famous carpet of bluebells and there were none! Methinks another visit is in order.

The number one is the first of the natural numbers; it is the one who has the power to decree whether a number is prime or not; itself being above that classification, he is not one of them but the one who defines what they are: primes are those numbers than can only be divided by themselves or by 1. Both the Ancient Greek, who liked to attribute sexual characteristics to numbers, and the Chinese thought that prime numbers were macho numbers because they resisted any attempt to be broken down into a product of smaller numbers. It is not surprising given the fiercely male-gender paradigm those societies were based on. Number 1 fits the bill nicely if only for its similarity with the male organ.

Here we have four examples of Aces from my small collection of tarot decks. Being the Wands the fire suit, all of them include the flames surrounding the rod, which each artist has drawn in a different way:

  • a ray of light sending forth curly flames in (1),
  • a freshly pruned branch in (2),
  • a regal sceptre enveloped by fire in (3)
  • and what looks like the neck of a guitar in (4) (isn’t that charming?).

Looking closely, the ones in Crowley seem snakes rather than tongues of fire. I find myself attracted and intrigued by the images in this deck but it’s too hermetic for me, I’ve never been able to read anything out of them. Although, after reading what Barbara Walker has to say about the Ace of Wands, I think I get the image in this particular Crowley‘s card.

Alejandro Jodorowsky, the Chilean artist behind the resurrection of this version of the Marseille Tarot, has some interesting reflections about this Ace in his book La voie du Tarot*. He says that the creative energy embodied by this trump is androginous because, even if the Ace  has a phallic form, its tip looks like a yoni. He also explains the meaning of the cut branches along the wand, it’s all about the direction we choose when using the energy that the Ace of wands brings to the table: “one cannot create this energy, the only thing one can do with it is to wisely choose in which direction it is going to be directed

Riding the dragon not metaphorically
Snake charmer.

Barbara Walker goes back to the origins and talks about the ancient strife between the Goddess and the Patriarchal Gods; when the serpent was considered the firstborn of the Goddess, who had power over it. It is interesting to note how the victor of his battle is shown in Catholic iconography, it is common to depict the Virgin Mary, in her incarnation as the Blessed Virgin, treading over the head of the serpent. She could overcome the evil snake because she was born free of sin.

There is also a wonderful paragraph that has made me quite anxious to re-read some Arthurian legends or, at least to watch Excalibur again:

Five thousands years ago, the pole star was Alpha Draconis, the Dragon’s Eye. Precession of equinoxes since moved the north celestial pole to the constellation of Ursa Minor, the Little Bear. This subtle precession was interestingly personified in Celtic Myth. King Arthur’s name has been derived from Welsh Arth Vawr, Heavenly Bear. His predecessor was Uther Pendragon, which means “Wonderful Head of the Dragon”
Barbara G. Walker The Secrets of the Tarot. Origins, History and Symbolism p. 164

So, we have got a card that means start,  power, new foundations, Creativity with a capital C, plenty of potential. As always, when Aces turn up in a spread they are usually sign of something good coming up, a torrent of new energy that should be channeled in the right direction.

And, unlike Ms Dickinson says in the poem that opened this post, anyone can be one of those Imperial few, as long as one can harness this surge of Auroral light.

As an amulet, it is very useful when someone is feeling stagnant and needs a bit of a push to break the statu quo.

Next time, I’ll talk about a spread based on Gestalt psychology and a card from the suit of Pentacles, I haven’t decided which one yet.

*Destiny Books published an English version in 2009: The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards.

The queens locking horns

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I hit a wall and wasn’t feeling inspired at all. It seems that my mojo comes and goes without any regular pattern, so I need a change of plans in order to publish more regularly. However, I’ve got an exam coming up, so I just need to be more organised. I plan to spend some time each day prepping this blog as a rest from revising.

Anyway, I’ve got a spread to discuss today, a friend from Twitter asked me to look into some new work project he’s undertaking so I asked him to draw 6 cards and send me a picture of them. To be honest, I should’ve asked him to draw 7 cards, as it’s a spread I’m more familiar with. Nice and easy, with 3 cards for the past, the one in the center as the present situation and the last three for the future. There is another spread that I like, specially useful for mundane divination, so if you are using tarot, I recommend to take the major arcana out and use just the minor arcana. I know this is a bit controversial, but for certain questions, I do believe that using the Major Arcana seems overkill.

Three rows of 7 cards, with the centre cards as the focal points:

  • the bottom one is the past
  • the middle one is the present
  • the top one is the future

It is a wonderful spread for the wealth of information it yields and also for how easy it is to link the different meanings of the cards. It certainly helped me to find my feet while I was learning the tarot. Plus one can always go into more depth with a celtic cross to clarify certain points; although it took me some time before I felt confident to move on to the celtic cross. You may have seen similar ones when reading the Lenormand* cards. Although I think the Grand Tableau uses all 36 cards and there are just 21 in this one.

So, after telling myself off for asking for 6 cards instead of 7, I started looking for a spread with 6 cards and I came across faerygodmother’s awesome blog: Faerygodmother: My top ten relationship card spreads. And there is it, the last one, the harsh truth has 6 cards! Excellent, I can use that.

The positions are as follows: 1*3*2

6 card spread, using Barbara Walker Tarot
6 card spread, using Barbara Walker Tarot

Let’s go to the reading:

1. What you want to be true: Queen of Swords

2. What you don’t want to be true: 2 of Wands

3. What it’s true: Justice

4. What you want to happen: 8 of Wands

5. What you don’t want to happen: Queen of Wands

6. What will happen: Strength

Although the question was about work, those two queens (one of them is his mum or someone older than him and the other one, his partner) are telling me something else, as this is a spread for a man, however I’m going to try to focus on the work side of things.

1. What you want to be true: (Queen of Swords) He’s a person that is capable of a long sustained effort to achieve his goals, he wants to prove himself that he can make it on his own. I’d also say that he’s forgotten his own strength as he feels attacked by everyone and his uncle.

2. What you don’t want to be true: (2 of Wands) He thought that the way to his goals was going to be easier. He has taken an important step, but there is still a lot of hard work ahead. He feels his knees weaken at that thought.

3. What it is true: (Justice) I’ve always thought of the Justice as a karmic card, so I’d say that he is now where he needs to be (as if he wasn’t before because he was living someone else’s expectations of how his life should be and he’s now broken free from that), that he is in a quest to find his inner voice, his inner strength. It is very important that he cross-examine his motivations before committing to do anything, as he has a tendency to play fair even when the rest of the players in the game aren’t.

4. What you want to happen: (8 of Wands) He wants things happening and happening now, there is a slight whiff of desperation as if his patience has run out and needs some action straight away. I’d suggest him to stop and meditate, to take this opportunity to take some time out for himself now that things are slow.

5. What you don’t want to happen: (Queen of Wands) He doesn’t want to be bossed around, I’d say that he is also worried about how much money his partner is spending (is she financially independent? I’d ask)

6. What will happen: (Strength) The test he must pass is to find the courage to speak his truth. It is crucial for him to speak up, otherwise situations from his past, where he has done as he was told to, will arise again. This is his Rubicon for the classically inclined or his Punxsutawney for the Bill Murray lovers 😉

I think that although things are a bit slow at the moment, his project is likely to pick up from where it is now and grow steadily. I wouldn’t worry about that if I were him. However, the main undertone of the reading is the tension between the two queens. Oh boy, I wouldn’t like to be in his position. There is a lot of diplomacy to be used and gallons of oil to be poured onto troubled waters.

He must be firm and listen to his heart first, instead of trying to please them.

*I bought a Mystic Lenormand oracle and I have started studying them, but it’s early days, I am not fluent in their language yet.I’m keeping a handwritten journal with the daily draws, I may post something if I find it interesting.