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
You may have heard people say the 22 trumps were grafted onto a pack of playing cards for gaming purposes. Actually, the 22 trump cards and the four suits were always a set. You need 78 cards to play the game of Trionfi/Tarocchi/Tarot. The 22 trump cards were never sold separately until occultists put them on a spiritual pedestal while scorning the suit cards (minor arcana) as a vulgar fortune-telling tool.
Many contemporary French and Italian tarot books discuss only the trump cards. If they deal with the minor arcana at all, it’s with a few lines for each card in the back of the book, as if the author were embarrassed to be caught talking about them. Read more
This exciting book by Camelia Elias is a new addition to our small supply of Tarot de Marseille books in English.
We hit the ground running on the first page with an actual reading done in a café. This sets the tone for the book, where every card, and every teaching, is accompanied by a three-card spread illustrated in color.
The essence of Elias’s technique is to tell a concise story with three cards, staying close to the reality of the images. When she amplifies her card meanings with another system, she goes to folk traditions in cartomancy, which she calls the “cunning folk” method. Read more
This series of live webinars is one of the most exciting things to happen in my tarot life since I first learned to read with the TdM over a decade ago. Instead of registering for a conference and paying for transportation and hotel, I sat in my California living room with teachers from Chile, Denmark, Toronto, NYC and Tel Aviv, learning about their cutting-edge techniques for reading with the TdM.
Here are highlights from the five videos, which can be purchased from The Hermit’s Lamp (Link at bottom). Read more
Before 2014 ends, I want to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The New Tarot Deck, as well as the “projective” reading technique, and two men who were at the center of the late 20th-century tarot scene in the San Francisco Bay area.
The counter-culture shock waves that rippled up and down the California coast in the 1960s swept Jack Hurley and John Horler into a three-year residency at Esalen in Big Sur. After falling under Joseph Campbell’s spell, they designed a radically new tarot deck and created a new way of reading the cards. Read more
One of the biggest hurdles for students of the Tarot de Marseilles is learning to read the suit cards fluently without memorizing a bunch of keywords. I’ve come up with some techniques that ensure you get lots of suit cards to practice with. In fact, I enjoy these techniques so much, they’ve become my favorite spreads.
In my reading style, the suits are the meat and potatoes of the reading. They tell you what’s going to happen, how it’s going to feel, and who’s involved. The trump card derived from the sum of the suit cards is the background situation, the underlying tone of the spread, the lesson, or the archetypal energy working behind the scenes. Read more