At the bottom of an old carton, I recently found a file folder stuffed with divinatory meanings (DMs) for the Tarot de Marseille (TdM) pip cards. When I began reading with historic decks about 20 years ago, I bought European TdM books, snapped up English language books when they became available, and downloaded lists of card meanings online. Then I took copious notes and made charts comparing various authors’ meanings.
I pulled the 4 of Swords out of a deck at random and listed the DMs for that card given by the eleven authors in my folder: Read more
I just did my first reading with my new Rosenwald deck. This deck reads like a dream. The fluid lines bring the images to life, and the pips are enough like the TdM so little adjustment is required.
Since my question was “should I or shouldn’t I” do something, I used the Cross Spread. (There’s a link below to a blog post I did a few years ago on the details of this spread). Read more
Things have certainly changed since I began reading with the TdM around the turn of the millennium. Back then there were no books in English on the subject; so I spent a fortune on shipping for a small collection of books in French. Since then there have been almost no other basic TdM books in English. I recently found three books that show the tide is turning. Read more
Lately I’ve been doing readings with just two cards. I don’t read the cards one-two, past-present, cause-effect. I read the space between them: the field of energy, the tension, the interaction. I ask what must happen for one card to turn into the other, or for one card to reach out to the other and transform it?
A few weeks ago I asked Lo Scarabeo’s Ancient Italian deck what I can do to kick off a summer of creative and artistic experimentation. I got the Star and Nine of Cups: waters of heavenly inspiration cascading through the levels of cups. But the Nine of Cups has a sterile, conformist feel, like rows of soldiers or synchronized dancers. Something stale and dry is being watered. The cards resemble the fountain in my living room where water cascades down several vertical levels of copper flowers. Read more
A comment on facebook inspired me to search for “playing card holders for the disabled”. The results gave me numerous alternatives to laying a spread flat on the table.
In the top photo, the Ancient Italian spread on the left sits on a flat board set at an angle with four grooves to hold cards. The Pierre Madenié cross spread is set up using two card holders with three grooves each.
Since the Ace announces the energy of its suit, let’s look at some Aces of Cups to see if they conjure up romantic associations.
In the image above, the 1830 Vergnano ace is a big bowl of flowers. The Avondo Brothers 1880 knock-off of the soprafino pattern (published by Lo Scarabeo as the Ancient Italian Tarot) has a cherub popping out of the window in a fancy urn. Green dolphins, sacred to Aphrodite, play around the base. Claude Burdel’s 1751 ace (from the Universal Tarot de Marseille by Lo Scarabeo) is energetic and cheerful, with a phoenix rising from a fire under a bright sun. To my mind, all three cards conjure up love, romance and friendship. Read more
The Pierre Madenié deck (1709) and The Tales of Mother Goose (1696) emerged from the same cultural milieu at nearly the same time. A small archive of letters has recently come to light showing that Cinderella, Bluebeard and their friends frequented a fortuneteller who read cards with the Madenié deck. Here’s the transcript of a reading that was delivered by post to a rather cautious prince.
The Question: While on a hunting trip, I discovered an ancient, crumbling castle in a forest at the edge of my father’s kingdom. It was so overgrown with brambles and brush I couldn’t get near it. Some villagers said the castle is haunted by ghosts. Others told me that witches hold coven meetings in the grand ballroom on the full moon. Then there were stories about ogres who drag children into the castle to eat them. Read more
Something very exciting hit my mailbox today: A gorgeously illustrated, 60-page magazine devoted to Tarot, Lenormand, and oracle cards. The magazine is such a pleasure to look at and hold. I couldn’t stop flipping through it; and simply didn’t want to put it down.
The Cartomancer is packed with color illustrations (often eight or ten cards on a two-page spread) printed on sturdy, glossy paper. The colors are very crisp, and a pleasure to view. Seeing so much gorgeous art all in one place was an intense experience, and a celebration of the immense creativity bubbling through the tarot community. Read more
Cards or entrails — which do you prefer for divination? From what I’ve read in this book, it seems we modern tarot readers have a lot in common with Mesopotamian entrail diviners.
The book is a compendium of scholarly but readable articles on divination techniques in various ancient cultures. I went straight to the chapter on Babylon, as I’m fascinated with ancient Mesopotamia, the oldest literate culture on earth, and the bedrock of Western civilization.
Divination in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamians believed the gods spoke to them through natural omens like bird song, or omens conjured up artificially, such as casting lots. It seemed perfectly logical to them that if you sacrifice an animal in honor of a god, the god will speak through the configuration of the internal organs. If you don’t like the fate decreed by the god (or the guts), you can always remedy it with incantations and ritual. This is just like prescribing spells and affirmations when you get a negative outcome card in a reading.
Reading sheep entrails was by far the most popular form of divination for 3,000 years until astrology took over about 600 BC. The Mesopotamian term for a professional diviner was literally “one who stretches his hand into the sacrificial animal.” Yuck!! Ordinary people who couldn’t spare a sheep used a popular folk divination technique that’s a lot like tea leaf reading. They sprinkled flour in a bowl of water and read the patterns. Read more
Here’s a technique for getting a quick answer to a question. It’s especially useful if you want to know whether the universe, or Dame Fortune, supports your plans.
Designate a significator for the question. Keep it in mind, but don’t pull it out of the deck. Shuffle the deck while focusing on your question. Look through the deck for the significator and take it out along with the cards on either side of it. Line the cards up and look at how well the flanking cards support the significator. Read more