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
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
Yesterday morning, before pulling my two cards for the day, I asked myself how I wanted to feel during the day. I have several writing projects stacked up, so I wanted to feel focused and productive. I asked the cards what I could do to make it a productive day, and pulled the King of Cups and the Seven of Batons from the Ancient Italian deck.
This combo isn’t very compatible. The King is planted solidly in his chair, grasping a very large open goblet that shows his enormous capacity for imbibing whatever life has to offer. Those frothy feathers and red garters don’t bode well for the kind of focus and dedication that the seven batons require. Read more
Most of the questions we put to Tarot have the same basic structure: Subject-Object-Verb; or Querant-Question-Bridge. There’s the person asking the question, what the question is about, and what’s going on between them. We can use these three components as spread positions for a made-to-order layout that works well with the Tarot de Marseille.
Will I win the lottery next week? There’s me, the lottery, and what’s possible between us. Read more
A few months ago, I endured several weeks where my life was out of control and my daily schedule at the mercy of other people’s decisions (also known as Jury Duty).
This seemed like a perfect time to test out some Yes-No spreads.
At the beginning of each day, I’d ask the cards things like: will the judge let us go home early today; will the prosecution wrap up its presentation; will the defendant go for a plea bargain and put us all out of our misery? I used four different yes/no techniques for each question employing just the forty pip cards. I recorded the responses and tallied how often each technique predicted events correctly. Read more