08.06.12 – A strange little unnamed deck

I’m always envious of the thrift-store finds of others – when trawling Aeclectic Tarot Forum I’ve read so many stories of people who’ve walked into second-hand bookstores and found rare, out of print decks, or obscure little treasures at flea markets. Even though I live on a street with three second-hand stores that I scour hopefully every week or so for decks, I’ve never seen any… until the other day. I was walking past and had a feeling there might be something worth checking out, and on a table out the front there was a Chinese astrology board game, what looked like a oujia board-based game, a copy of the Mythic Tarot handbook (cards sadly not included), and this strange little deck, unnamed, with a sticker on the front saying $3. How could I refuse?

I couldn’t wait to get home to see what treasure I had found. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it still had all 78 cards, and only a couple had tiny creases. It is a strange little deck indeed. It feels like a deck that doesn’t quite know what it is. The symbolism in the majors is fairly limited, but for the most part consistently RWS. But where it is lacking symbolism there are also some quirky little details I quite like, like the monkey perched on the Magician’s table, reminiscent of the Ape of Thoth on the Thoth Tarot’s magician. While most of the minors are plain pips, for some reason the suit of wands is scenic – and the Six of Wands looks a bit like a certain Four of Wands. Some of the Pentacles minors are a little Thothy as well – the speckled vine coiled around the Two of Pentacles is almost the serpent from the Thoth, the Rose Cross features in the centre of both sixes and the same tree blooms on the Eights of Pentacles.

But for all its inconsistencies, its absent details, I find myself quite liking this deck. There’s a certain naivety to its bright colours, is simple, rough artwork. And I love the mystery of an unknown deck – It came with no title card, no name on the box, no publishing details. I can’t help but wonder what it is, where it came from, who owned it.

Edited to add: Some wonderful people on AT helped me ID this deck – it’s the Jonathan Dee :)

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La Petite Mort – Roots of Asia Tarot

It’s been a month since I’ve last posted, after promising myself that I wouldn’t neglect my blog again. But, once again, work and uni have pushed Tarot to the side. I thought I’d take some time out this afternoon to spend with a beautiful deck that really deserves a lot more of my attention – the Roots of Asia, which I bought from a lovely AT member.

XIII. Death

Roots of Asia – XIII. Death

I asked for a card to describe my life at the moment, and out popped Death. I think this would have to be my favourite Death card from any deck – it’s so peaceful, restful, the woman becoming a part of the earth again as she gives new life to the golden tree. When I showed this card to my mother, a breast cancer survivor, her first comment was, “She’s had a mastectomy.” I thought this was such a powerful dimension to add to my understanding of this card: the sense of courage and personal strength that she gained (in the form of the golden tree rooted in her heart) from profound loss.

And this card really does apply to where my life is at the moment. Things are coming to an end: some good, some bad. This semester of uni is rapidly drawing to a close (though with the amount of assessment I still have to do it feels like it’s never going to end!), and I am reluctantly accepting the realisation that I really have to leave my job. This card reminds me that in the midst of the turmoil around me, of being afraid to make the decisions I need to for fear that the world will come crashing around me, I need to take the time to pause, rest, reflect, accept the way things are and let myself be washed away with the currents. Things might be coming to an end, but an end means a new beginning.

 

I’ve just finished reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 for uni, and I thought I’d finish with this excerpt that seemed to fit so aptly with today’s card:

“The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.

When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘so it goes.’”

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New Deck – The Light and Shadow Tarot

The Tower

I think I’ve stumbled upon a real treasure with the Light and Shadows Tarot. After reading Cassandra’s posts about the deck over on her blog, Tarot Bonkers, I found a copy in my local esoteric bookstore. The images are sensational. While the black and white lino block prints appear simple at first, a second glance reveals an overwhelming depth of symbolism. The cards are meticulously detailed, and their symbols flow seamlessly into one another to form the greater picture. For example, the bound figures’ bodies meld into the bared teeth of a menacing beast in The Devil, who emerges from the open mouths of two fish; atop the Tower the Eye of Heaven rests between the wings of a dove bearing an olive branch; the Princess of Wands leaps from between the eyes of a snarling tiger. From the shadow backgrounds you glimpse faces, birds, fish and strange animals.

The cards have a definite Thoth feel to them, although many of the cards are also recognisably Rider-Waite and many still have been redefined in their own, unique way. I particularly like the deck’s take on the 5 of Cups: a man stands with his back to the three spilt cups and two still standing, his eyes closed to the new growth and butterfly that await him as he leaves troubles behind. Or the men struggling to defend themselves in vain against the onslaught of locusts in the Five of Swords, indicating that sometimes we are unequipped to deal with the problems we might face. Or the Endless Dance of Death (one of my favourite re-namings for a card), where Death and a mortal are entwined in the Danse Macabre around the Tree of Life, whose roots reach down into the wormy soil. I have too many favourites, it’s hard to choose! I can see myself spending many hours lost in the intricacies of this deck. I feel like it’s a deck I’d be less inclined to use for reading at this stage, but rather for daily draws so that I can examine each card one at a time and give them the depth of study they deserve.

5 of Cups - Princess of Wands

The deck is only let down by its cardstock. The cards are, sadly, very thin and flimsy, which adding to their enormous size makes them difficult for those of us with small hands to shuffle! Still, this is a minor inconvenience which won’t stop me from enjoying this arresting and powerful black and white deck.

The Endless Dance of Death

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18.04.12 – Daily Draw with the Golden Tarot of Klimt

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The Moon

Whenever I take my Golden Tarot of Klimt from its box, I find myself wondering why I never use it more often. The first deck I bought for myself (and the second deck I owned) at age 18, I remember the tingle that spread across my skin as I unwrapped them and looked through the cards for the first time. With their surreal, dream-like images and gold embellishments they were sumptuous, magical, sensual, and as new to tarot as I was, I’d never thought a deck could move me so much. It’s a deck that I still dearly love, but sadly don’t use as often as I should.

So, feeling it calling to me once again, I drew these cards last night before I went to bed. Before I’d had a chance to think about them, the magnifying glass of the 3 of Wands and The World’s pregnant belly put a thought into my head: that I’m searching for something I’ve had inside me all along. And after some thought I can see that these cards relate to my current struggle for inspiration, ideas, creativity.

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Three of Wands - Knave of Wands - The World

The Knave of Wands represents me as a student: I share his energy and his enthusiasm, but this energy is sporadic and misdirected as I find it hard to sit still and focus on projects without being distracted. One thing I’ve noticed recently is that as soon as I have assignments due, Tarot becomes a whole lot more interesting! I know if I could focus this energy on the things that I was supposed to, I’d be a lot more productive and a lot less stressed. As the youngest of the court cards, he shares my inexperience and uncertainty about the future; I abandoned studying a more “serious” degree to follow my passion for writing, but I just don’t know where this path is going to lead me. I have doubts about what I’m going to do when I finish my degree, doubts about whether or not I’m good enough to pursue a career in writing, and I get the feeling that these uncertainties are what’s blocking my creative drive – hence the Knave of Wands holding his staff, barring my way.

The 3 of Wands and her magnifying glass echo this feeling of self-scrutiny. The magnifying glass tells me that I need to focus on the small steps I need to take along the way rather than losing myself in the big picture – what can I be doing in the here-and-now to lead myself to the future I want? She stands on the brink of what looks like a swirling, purple sea, sharing my sense of embarking on an exploration of the unknown.

The World is such a beautiful card to finish on. Here we see the woman from the 3 of Wands, her belly swollen with child. Her womb is also a vessel of her creativity; the ideas and inspiration that she has been searching for were within her all along. She gives a sense of contentment, success and a unity between my inner desires and their outcome.

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Year Card – The Hanged Man

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Le Tarot des Alchimistes

I’ve been starting to think about my year card, which for this year is the Hanged Man, and how it has applied to my year so far. And looking back on the past few months, I can definitely feel the presence of the Hanged Man in my life. For the moment, things seem like they’re standing still. Work is consuming all of my time and energy, stopping me from making progress in other areas of my life. I feel suspended, apart from reality, stuck in the same routine day-in, day-out. I’m barely studying, I’m not writing any more and not spending the time that I should with friends and family. I’m becoming aware of a growing stagnation in my life – and when I turn to my cards I quite often find myself asking, “How can I get myself out of this rut?” And quite often the Hanged Man has been coming up in readings reminding me that this stagnation is self imposed, and that I alone can free myself from its bonds. A quote from Marie White’s companion to the Mary-El Tarot rings true to me: that I’m so caught up in my own bullshit I can barely move.

Bosch Tarot

But maybe I’m thinking too negatively about the Hanged Man. What positive qualities can he bring to my life? My partner said something this afternoon that seemed apt: “Sometimes you just need to let go.” I know I hang onto a lot of stress, and the Hanged Man brings with him a sense of submission, of leaving yourself vulnerable to fate, of letting go. He reminds me that I spend too much time worrying about things that might happen, when sometimes I need to give in and let what will be, be.

The Hanged Man also represents a time for introspection. Just as he gains new perspective through his inversion, so too must I change the way that I view the world. This is a year for looking within to consider the things I’m sacrificing in my life, and learning to put the rest of the world on hold so that I can give them the attention they need – sometimes suspension isn’t a bad thing! This is not a year for big changes: rather than waiting for the world around me to change, I need to make the changes I want to see in myself.

Mary-El Tarot

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Sergio Toppi’s Tarot of the Origins

The Fool - Time - The Star

I don’t think I’ve had many decks that have stirred me quite as much as the Tarot of the Origins. Although I haven’t used the cards in a reading yet, I feel a certain comfort in having them close to me, or absently shuffling them. Sergio Toppi’s powerful, prehistoric illustrations radiate a certain ancestral strength, wisdom.

Ace of Jewels

It’s a very non-traditional deck and one that I think I’ll have to spend a lot of time with to truly understand. The Little White Book that came with this deck was written in German only, and I am choosing to use this as a good opportunity to truly immerse myself in this darkly beautiful deck and make it my own. Some of the Major Arcana titles have been renamed – for example, VIII. has become Abundance, XI. has become Creative Power and XIV. is The Source, which I feel gives the cards slightly different meanings. The suits have been renamed as well – Swords become Blood, Wands are Nature, Coins are Jewels and Cups are Souls.  But although they correspond to the traditional suits, the suits feel like they have been uniquely reimagined, and don’t fall as neatly into the traditional elemental associations. They beg the reader to delve inside them to discover their own interpretations.

Man of Blood

The suit of Nature is coloured green and depicts forest scenes, its people merging with trees and stony landscapes. To me they suggest growth and exploration of the dark, wooded corners of the mind, a need for affinity with our own personal “nature”. The suit of Jewels is yellow and seems somehow “strong” to me, featuring women with chins held high, a wise chrone, a proud King and brave explorers, many adorned with jewellery. I feel they speak to strength of body, strength of mind, power and material success. The suit of Blood, stained crimson, however screams in anguish, many of its members armed and warning of hardship and conflict to come. The suit of Souls invites you into the watery world of the subconscious. The cards seem peaceful and fluid, their people shadowed by spirits and nightmares and dreams.

An important theme to consider in this deck is the relationship that exists between humans and nature, and how this connects us to our raw, primal side. When I was searching for information about this deck on Aecletic Tarot, I found a quote that perfectly sums up the Tarot of the Origins: “[The humans] are not trying to be in harmony with nature, they are part of it.” This deck connects us to our primitive roots, urges us to return to our primeval, instinctual nature to find the answers we seek.

10 of Souls - Child of Jewels - Woman of Nature

At a first glance before I had time to truly consider the cards, my initial thought was that a lot of them felt a little repetitive, featuring close up images of people difficult to distinguish from the background, and thus difficult to distinguish clear symbolism. However, as I look at the cards I find myself beginning to hear their voices, growing to know their characters – they’re so expressive and I feel they will speak volumes to me, with time and patience. I’m looking forward to spending time with this deep, abstract and mysterious deck.

6 of Blood - Woman of Souls - 8 of Nature

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Daily Draw: The Arthurian Tarot

I’ve been quite negligent with my blog posts! With my final uni assignments of the semester, starting a new job and Christmas just around the corner I feel like I’ve barely had a minute to myself! I’m slowly aiming to work through some of my old decks that have been stowed away and neglected in the excitement (and short-attention span!) that follows the arrival of new decks. As summer begins to heat up and the cloudy skies that have hung around since the end of spring clear to blue, I felt drawn to my Arthurian Tarot with its rich green landscapes and bright colours.

I drew three cards this morning using the Head, Heart and Hands spread (What do I need to know? What do I need to embrace? What do I need to do?) and these are the three that came up:

Sword Ten - Sword Hallow - Grail 10

There’s a very powerful symmetry at work in this reading – the two Tens with the Ace in the middle, connecting the mental energy of the Swords to the “heart” of the Grails. With the tens we also see a culmination of a cycle, the Ace the beginning of a new one. And today does feel like an auspicious day – my partner has started taking medication for depression, and it’s our first day off together not drinking or smoking.

The Ten of Swords is quite different from the usual Rider-Waite imagery – a narrow stone bridge connects the land to a dwelling on an island in the lake. I get a sense of the bridge indicating the connection between my partner and me today, as I tentatively try to reconnect with him in a new frame of mind. The bridge is narrow and it is raining – the card cautions me to tread carefully and beware of inherent dangers, of slipping and falling. The house also gives a feeling of sanctuary, that after the struggle of crossing the bridge, I will find a warm and sheltering place

As the primal force of the suit of mental energy and communication, the Sword Hallow tells me quite simply to embrace clear thinking! I think this is quite apt for today, as I take steps to embrace my mind and spirit. It grants new energy, and encourages intellectual pursuits.

Grail Ten provides a place of peace and contentment, harmony in my home and relationship. In this position, the card suggests that peace is something I will have to actively create for myself. Today is not a day for conflict or dredging up old, tired issues, but to work on nurturing my relationship. I think this card reaffirms the intentions of the Sword Ten which requires me to make careful decisions in order to reach that place of sanctuary.

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