Whom do you serve?

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Borderless Deviant Moon.

I used to have the previous version of this deck and I loved it so much that I wanted to share its beauty and I gave it away. But I had to buy another one. Because one can never have enough decks; I also bought it directly from the artist so I was promoting art, even if it was in a selfish way.

Anyway, in my recent tarot course, I saw some of the students ask a question to their new decks to start building rapport with them and also to know them more, to find out what the deck is good for: spiritual, mundane, love questions… What is your purpose? What are you good for? Whom do you serve?

It may seem a bit of overkill having several decks for different purposes and most people would be perfectly fine with a single deck that can be used for all sorts. Most traditional decks (Marseille, WS…) are like this, a blank canvas of pure symbols that can adapt to whichever question is put before them because they speak directly to our conscience, but I’ve found that more modern or novelty decks that, albeit interesting, solid and trustworthy), are lacking in potency and sharpness and are, therefore, more useful if used for one thing only.

So I was shuffling the cards, thinking about the random patterns that connect us all and about what my boss wanted to talk about next week and whether I should do a divination before cursing someone and that I wished I was under that thick blanket of rain that was falling there and then, basically doing it all wrong and not focusing in a particular question. Those two cards, The Hermit and The Moon, kept popping out the deck (at least twice each) breaking my daydreaming.

This is their message: Pay attention and I will show you people’s secret driving forces.

If you can read Spanish, you can read my take on these cards in my other blog. I use the same cards but I don’t usually talk about the same things. It’s a bit of an experiment, to find out whether I think of different things in different languages and also to practice writing. Spanish is my mother tongue, however I am a bit rusty on the writing department after so many years in the UK.

 

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New deck!

Alexander Daniloff
Alexander Daniloff

I have just received in the post the full set of cards by Alexander Daniloff and boy, are they beautiful! I had been longing for them for a few months and as I found with a bit of extra money at the end of last month, I decided to treat myself.

Apologies for the poor quality of the image, but I’ve taken the photo with the only camera I’ve got: the one in my mobile phone and it’s not ideal; I should invest in a proper camera! Anyway, if you want to have a better look, go to his page: www.daniloff-art.it and have a look. You can purchase the whole deck or just the Major Arcana.

I’ve made a selection of the ones I liked more at first glance: Herakles in the 7 of wands; the amazing Chariot; the ever-so-sweet Wheel of Fortune…

I particularly love his take on the 8 of wands: all those weapons, each with a different point, make me think of how we have to use different approaches to crack a particularly difficult goal.

As you can see, it follows the classical Rider-Waite design in some of the Minor Arcana, but I don’t see that as something negative. The artist’s graphic language is so personal that he succeeds in making them new and different; plus it makes them quickly understandable. My favourite suit in this deck are the Swords.

My only issue is that they are so beautiful that I don’t want to shuffle them; I feel like my hands are paws and I’m going to damage them, as if they are flowers or a new-born baby.

Once I’m over being lovesick, I’m going to ask them something, I don’t know what yet. Although, now that I see the cards I picked up again, they may be telling me something already! What do you reckon?

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
4*6*5

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.

 

The Fool says: Why so serious?

Hey ho, let's go!
Hey ho, let’s go! Balbi, Gran Tarot Esotérico, Marseille by Camoin, Barbara Walker, Crowley

Goodbye to the Life I used to live –
And the World I used to know –
And kiss the Hills, for me, just once –
Then – I am ready to go!

Emily Dickinson, poem 279

I wish the Fool had been playing up tricks in my mind lately, he always brings a sense of cheerfulness that I was sadly lacking. As the winter seemed to stretch forever, I was feeling sluggish and withdrawn, nothing to do with the spring in the step that our friend The Fool has.

What a jolly bunch of fellows we’ve got today, all going resolutely towards the East (except the one from Crowley, who bizarrely looks at the spectator in a static position, but Mr Crowley always liked to do things his own way, didn’t he?) I seem to remember that the one in Rider Waite looks to the left, I suppose that it’s up to the artist to depict the symbolism of this card but I personally prefer it going to the right.

The innocence and wonder that fills our hearts when we start a journey! The Fool is our soul before the Fall, when everything is new and good and bright and we still don’t know the many lessons that lay further ahead in the way. His fair hair is yellow, the colour of spring and new beginnings. He still carries the baggage of his previous life in a bundle and the dog is trying to stop him in his journey. That’s my favourite part of the card, as that’s no longer a symbol of bigger-than-life things but a small sample of everyday life.

It’s remarkable how he is the only one of the Major Arcana that has survived in common playing decks, as a Joker. Barbara Walker in The Secrets of the Tarot says:

“So the Fool was permitted to stay with, if not exactly in, the deck of cards, because he had no heresies to teach.”

Didn’t he fooled them? He wasn’t so innocent after all 😀

When I started reading the Tarot, I really didn’t like the Fool; his nimbleness and innocence made me suspicious and I thought that behaving that way was wrong. Ah, that stubborn teenage belief in all things black and white!

It can be used as a charm, although not on its own as it needs some counterweight to secure us to the ground, for the following situations:

For artists or just anyone who is about to embark in a creative pursuit: it will act as an antenna to open up our senses to new ideas and be non judgmental of our efforts. Combine it with the Ace more suitable to your purpose.

– With the 9 of Pentacles and the 2 of Swords: Very favourable for online-based businesses. Maybe because of its connection to Uranus, I think the Fool is very technology oriented. The 2 of Swords represents communication and the 9 of Pentacles gives fruition to our endeavours.

Many faces.
Many faces.

In the Secret Dakini Oracle, there is a card related to the Fool, but with an interesting twist: it’s the Fool but after he’s finished his journey through the 21 Major Arcana; he has attained enlightenment and knows that everything, the good and the bad, are parts of the journey, are just jokes of Brahma. He is many things, as shown by his numerous faces, but he doesn’t get caught up in self-definitions. I like that, as sometimes we focus in just one part of us, in sorrow, in anger, in self-pity… and forget that we may as well choose lightness and humour as our persona.

So that’s my intention for today: be merry and forget about inevitability, things don’t have to be just because, we are free to choose. I’ll go watch something amusing 😀 Suggestions welcome!!

The Hanged Man and the miracle of spring

Nine nights I hung in the windy tree, wounded with the spear, sacrificed to Odin,

I myself to myself.

Major Oak, whose branches are as big as trees.
Major Oak, whose branches are as big as trees.

This weekend I went for a walk to Sherwood Forest, to decompress from a very long and tiring week. To fill my soul with the wonder of nature, by watching  the wild life and the ancient oak trees, still sprouting acorns after those many centuries in their belts. We were blessed with the delightful sight of many great tits, blue tits, blackbirds, squirrels, wrens and robins, whose fun-spirited demeanour filled my heart with a joy that it’s difficult to translate into words. Even though we’ve changed seasons, at least by name (the spring equinox is old news already), it felt like the winter was still among us. There was quite a bit of snow on the ground and the wind was still bitterly cold, leaving the noses red and dripping with silent tears.

Barbara Walker, Gran Tarot Esotérico
Barbara Walker, Gran Tarot Esotérico

When I saw those magnificent oak trees with their branches still bare, oblivious to the arrival of spring, I couldn’t help but think of the Hanged Man, one of the cards of the Tarot that cannot conceal its pagan origin. For example, the Great Priestess is related to Hathor and Isis, but as their cult was disguised as Virgin Mary’s, they could get away with it. Unlike the Hanged Man, that shows a man hung upside down, with an unusual expression of bliss or contentment for someone in such predicament, this kind of worship (men hanging themselves as a sacrifice to Odin) wasn’t considered appropriate to keep when Christianity took over.

Odin’s is a male-centric myth, as he had to hung himself in the Yggdrassil for 9 nights in order to gain the knowledge of the runes, magic, the secrets of Fate and poetry. All these lores had traditionally been preserved and taught by women, hence his choice of staying 9 nights, as a symbol of the 9 months of gestation. According to some versions of the legend, he had to endure all this ordeal to earn all this knowledge by drinking from the sacred blood of the womb of the Goddess. However, as it can be seen in Barbara Walker’s 5 of swords, despite having become a wise man thanks to all this knowledge, he wasn’t above the control of the Fates, who still remained the ones who called the shots 😀

The other card shown is from the Gran Tarot Esotérico, a deck designed by a Basque witch, with many references to Basque mythology  that has omitted the hanged man but kept the bare trees. The name of the card La Picota means “The Gallows” which I think that keeps the theme of the card in a simple but effective way. We may not see the hanged man as the trees have become the focal point of the card.

The main theme of this card is sacrifice, we have to sacrifice something precious to us (the ego, our time, our friends…) in order to gain something better in the future.

Today this card resonates deeply within me because it’s my birthday and I’m away from my family. I wasn’t born in this island of Faery, she’s treated me well and given me many things, I grew up as a woman here, I found my voice, but I had to leave many things behind. I don’t regret that decision  but a price had to be paid; I wasn’t there when my dad died, I was even late for his funeral; now, I’m missing watching my sister’s belly grow with my nephew and I grieve for my native language that I seldom get to speak anymore.

To end with a more positive note, this card is really good to use as an amulet, combined with the World as they are mirror images of each other, as their legs point one to the sky and the other to the ground, for the following situations:

  • For students revising for exams: all that work may seem overwhelming at times, but this period of intense concentration will pay off when the results come up. Make a colour photocopy of the cards and keep it in your wallet, o somewhere in your desk.
  • When trying to beat an addiction: meditate on these cards when you are fighting the cravings, as they will help you remember why you are quitting.

And remember that spring is coming, whether we like it or not. I want to be like the daffodils that are blooming and filling the roads with the happiness of yellow just because they must.

daffodils

The Secret Dakini Oracle – review and musings on how to create your own oracle

Dancing Durga
Dancing Durga

I recently purchased The Secret Dakini Oracle, the book and the cards. Being honest, I didn’t know a lot about dakinis or Durga, whose fierce image appears on the cover, but I felt somehow intrigued by it, so I went ahead, made a bid and crossed my fingers hoping I’d be lucky enough to win it. You know how this ended up, don’t you? 😉 After all, I chose the name of this blog because No 28 “Cosmic Carrot” made me laugh the first time I heard about it.

This copy was originally released in 1977. The cards were printed by AGMueller. I wasn’t familiar with this card maker as my all decks have been from other makers so far, I must say that they are of outstanding quality more than 30 years on. This copy hadn’t been used much by their previous owner, fact that explains their mint condition. They have really vivid  colours and a lovely satin feel. I’m afraid I’m going to give them a worse life that they had before; I plan to use them for meditation and self-guidance quite often!

I was expecting that they were going to portray fierce goddesses or even abstract symbols of the many sides of femininity, but what I got was completely different. I was a bit disappointed to be honest at the beginning.

The artwork consist on collages of different things: the head of a snake between two mirror apples, a dark unicorn resting on a tree, Lord Ganesh on a throne made of jeweled spider webs… This technique seems to have been the flavour du jour during the 70’s, but somehow it doesn’t make the deck feel dated in the slightest. I found these whimsical and sometimes random mixture of pictures quite inspiring.

In fact, making collages has been used by artists in order to nurture their creativity or as a release of their inner demons. A very dear friend of mine, who was following The Artist’s Way method and got a bit bored with the Morning Pages, decided to create one of them a day during several months and she reported that revisiting her earlier work did wonders to kick-start her creativity when it was flagging. Let’s not forget that tarot readers and artists are closer that it’s usually assumed, we both think in images.

Example using the Celtic Cross
Example using the Celtic Cross

I did a reading for the husband, who had never had a reading done and surprisingly volunteered as guinea pig for the experiment**, and I wasn’t following the descriptions on the book to deliver the reading but they were surprisingly spot on. In fact, he said that I was just making things up as I went along, so I ended up handing over the book to him so he could read how the author had described each card. You can see what was going on in his life on the picture! I won’t go into depths apart from the fact that they provided a pretty accurate description of the question while also delivering a profound spiritual message.

They are 64 cards in total, the  first 22 follow more or less the Major Arcana and the rest are inspired by the elements of the Minor Arcana: fire, water, earth and air. And it made me think that I may create my own oracle one day: like a magpie, taking inspiration on different things.

My first card would be “Important message” and it would be from that scene in the Bible where king Belshazzar is having a banquet and a mysterious hands writes on the wall: “MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN” There you go, Rembrandt had thought of it before me. The passage in Dan 5:6, in case anyone is interested.

As always, plenty of information about dakinis in wikipedia. Although a visit to your local library to pick up a couple of books on Tibetan buddhism would be great as well. That’s my plan for tomorrow, anyway!

*A quite interesting link on collage, art, copyright and fair usage : What is fair use?

**I think the delightful Milky Way picture on the back of the cards won him over, these science-loving guys, huh?

5 of swords – beware your pride

Crowley, Balbi, Barbara Walker, Marseille
Crowley, Balbi, Barbara Walker, Marseille

My favourites of this lot are the Marseilles one, as I find the interleaving of the swords very pleasing to the eye and the Barbara Walker one, for its rich symbolism. The martyrdom of Odin, hung from the Yggdrassil, in order to get the secret knowledge previously only held by women. He descended from the tree with poetry, runes, the gift of prophecy and many more wonderful presents for humankind.

That’s the positive twist of this potentially negative card: many rewards await for those who can accept life’s setbacks with sacrifice, patience and faith. Just as the days are becoming longer and winter, coming to an end.

Ah, the infamous 5’s… they are all about strife, annoyance and adversity. I can see that there is something positive about all this upheaval, it’s something necessary to break the statu quo marked by the 4’s and their tendency to write things in stone.

But the one we are talking about today even more so. There are plenty of fights, specially of the dirty variety, when this card turns up. Scheming, double intentions, manipulation (the venerable Bene Gesserit teachings come to mind)…  Vatican City may well be a very good representation of these energies at the moment, don’t you think?

It is just as well that it’s one of those cards that is always referring to “someone else” and never us or the consultant. It is: “They will be angry because…”,  “They are waiting for me to fall..” , and so on.

And that’s the second point I wanted to make with this post, what to say when the cards are not pretty? It’s important to make the difference between reading for ourselves and reading for others.

So, if reading for ourselves:

As a firm believer that what we encounter in the physical reality is a reflection of the energies we send forth*, I think that, regardless of whether it’s true that strife, opposition and malevolence may surround us and we’d better be prepared for it (that’s the usual intention of gathering intelligence, isn’t it?), it would be an ideal time to make an internal examination of the motives behind our actions:

  • Are we doing this thinking of the greater good or just because it’s more convenient for “us”?
  • What part of ourselves is being so selfish?

When reading for others:

– The consultant is embodying the “5 of swords” energy: They may be in denial (or not necessarily), unfortunately this kind of people wins too many times. Maybe something along the lines: “Beware your pride” or “Remember to be kind when you win” I’ve been pondering on this a lot lately, on how we can skew them to a less selfish path, but I haven’t got any satisfactory answers. Maybe I’m just reading too much into this card: being the bad guy is a karmic path as valid as any other.. At the end of the day, it’s just the 5 of swords on its humble own. Maybe when in company with the Devil or the Hierophant…

– The consultant is on the receiving end of the “5 of swords”: Be extremely careful as an impresionable consultant may fall in the “self-fulfilling prophecy” trap. Tell them to protect themselves as best as they can, to watch their back and to rethink their approach to the matter in hand. It’s not time to be naive.

*In respect of this, there is a powerful and really easy meditation to do, go and check it out: Ho’oponopono. Such a beautiful name!

6 of cups – Calm after the storm or hidden pain

Barbara Walker, Balbi, Marseille Anyone familiar with the Rider Waite deck would remember the image of the 6 of cups of a kid surrounded by cups in an amenable garden. Apologies as I no longer have one, so I can’t include it in the picture. I used the Rider Waite when I first started wandering in the mysteries of the Tarot; OK, I’ll be honest, it wasn’t that mysterious because I also bought a book by Hajo Banzhaf that was completely foolproof. It was only a spread and in each page, it explained the meaning of each card in every position. Very handy for when you don’t know what you are doing! I still think that the Rider Waite is a brilliant deck for beginners and more experienced readers but I must admit that I grew a bit tired of it.  I passed my deck on to a room-mate and moved on. I digress, this is a tale for another day 😀

Going back to the meaning, the usual explanations for this card: longing for the good old days, being stuck in the past. The 6’s normally mean the calm after the storm, represented by the strife that 5’s bring; they are numbers of balance and equilibrium. As this card belongs to the Water suit, it also can be about family, close relationships. It is a card that symbolizes the giver.

However, if you look at Barbara Walker’s card, a naked figure (a kid, an adult.. it’s left deliberately unclear) is sat on the floor and before him, a giant woman, a Goddess stands, overlooking the scene sternly. The low angle makes her look even more imposing and fearsome.

Barbara Walker, Balbi, Marseille

For me, whenever this card appears in a spread, it means someone whose heart still dwells in the past, someone who hasn’t digested yet the lessons from the old days (good or not so much). I would also add that we are reading or asking for a man, he may have self-steem problems, specially in close relationships with women, let these be love or work affairs. The pain from the past is still very much present, although he cannot be aware of it consciously. So, be careful of what you say if this card turns up in the spread; drop some hints, use metaphors… This is a painful truth, so be sensitive!

On a more positive note, I also see that this card harbours the hope that, as and when the consultant is ready to acknowledge this issue within her/himself, they will be able to raise over the chains of the past and speak their truth.

Next time: 5 of swords and how much you should tell the consultant when the cards aren’t pretty!

Notes: The book I was talking about before is:  The Tarot Handbook – Hajo Banzhaf.* I was trying to insert a link from Alibris to it, but wordpress is malevolently dismissing my plea. I’m learning the ropes of this malarkey, so please bear with me. From this low point, one can only improve! Adding links is a walk in the park, my friends!!

*You probably can find it in that humongous world-dominating bazaar named after a rainforest or in the no less famous “Bid-Buy Now” site, those places are big enough to need any more publicity. But Alibris supports independent bookshops, which are one of this life’s most underrated pleasures. I want those guys in business! That’s where I buy mine, even more so because this week my favourite bookshop (Bloom & Curl in Bristol) is on holiday.

4 of pentacles, why, oh why?

I just read the tarot for a friend, who had laid out a tarot spread about her boyfriend. The issue, in a nutshell, was that she wanted to move out of their current living accomodation into a bigger place; initially, he agreed but now he seemed a bit reluctant to commit.

In the spread, there was a 4 of pentacles, she thought that it meant that her boyfriend needed to take the plunge, grab the bull by the horns, etc.. Because in the book she is following said so. I pointed out that 4’s are numbers of equilibrium, of being static, of not willing/wanting to change.

In her discharge, she is just starting to learn how to read the tarot, fed up of me saying that I’ve lost the mojo and can’t see anything anymore. However, when she showed me the cards, the whole narrative unfolded before my eyes and I was able to give her a reading about her boyfriend’s state of mind. All this was by email as unfortunately we leave away from each other. The day after, she let him read what I said and he confirmed that I was spot on. They had a very honest conversation about their expectations about each other and their relationship and things seems to be going forward nicely.

I have to ask for her permission to publish the spread with her interpretation and my comments, as I think that it’s a very graphic example of a spread that “sings” .

Anyway, as I’ve been sending her a few emails explaining her certain things about tarot and as one of my goals for 2013 was taking up writing more seriously, I’ve decided to start a blog where anyone can use as a reference when learning to read the cards.

I plan to talk about the different meanings of the cards, what they mean when they are in pairs, numerology, spreads, different decks… I may include some comments on books I’ve read/own about this topic.

I don’t read tarot for a living, but I’ve been passionate about the cards since my early teens. My sister and me started at the same time, but it seemed that I got it right most of the times, so I kind of stuck with it.

So, to keep my mystic muscles flexed, I plan to to give a reading weekly to anyone who wants it. It will be a single card initially, as it will fit nicely with the tone of my blog that is sharing my knowledge.