Halloween Tarot Deck Review

temperance-copy

This is a rather unusual review, in that I am not personally a fan of the grossly bastardised mainstream version of the pagan Samhain celebration, and all the kitsch, consumerist junk that gets peddled out every year to compliment its faux sense of tradition. I’d happily go on a soapbox rant about the adopted Australian version and all the annoying door knockers, but hey, I’ve moved away from town and that’s no longer an irritation I have to endure 🙂

And yet, despite all the above, I am happily in love with the Halloween Tarot. I simply adore this deck, and the cartoon style artwork is beautifully done, in my humble non-artist opinion. I guess it reminds me of childhood books which were a great source of comfort to me, and brings in that youthful, playful and innocent energy of childhood.

the-sun-copy

The deck is the creation on artist Kipling West and is published by US Games. It was released in 1996 and 2012, so it’s been around for a while.

This deck is strongly fashioned in the Rider Waite Smith (RWS) tradition, and most of the cards are very similar to their RWS precedents, with a few notable exceptions. A main difference is the re-naming of the minor suits, so that Wands become Imps, Cups become Ghosts, Swords become Bats, and Pentacles are represented by Pumpkins.

 

Some of the Major Arcana cards feature scenes from popular gothic or horror movies  – see for example The Lovers (Dracula), or The Empress (bride of Frankenstein), below.

lovers-empress-copy

The colours are well chosen to invoke the Halloween atmosphere, with a predominance of orange and black throughout. A black cat makes her appearance in every card, and it’s fun to see how the artist has blended her in every scene.

EPSON MFP image
The suit of Bats (Swords)

Those familiar with the RWS tradition will instantly recognise the setting, expressions and postures of the characters in the cards – see the 9 of Bats above and the King of Cups below, and compare their likeness to the corresponding RWS cards; however, I must say that despite this, the deck holds its own individual and rather quirky energy.

EPSON MFP image
The suit of Ghosts (Cups)

Personally, my experience with this deck is similar to that of RWS – it works brilliantly and can be used to ask all sorts of questions; I find it especially good with the day-to-day, often mundane issues pertaining to work, money, and the like. I do not mind the “cartoonish” feel of the deck, as noted above this is something I find enjoyable and it gives the deck a more relaxed feel (which says something for a Halloween deck!). Far from being a dark or macabre oracle, this is one that usually cheers me up and lifts my mood (well, I am rather fond of black cats and orange pumpkins).

queen-knight-pumpkins-copy

2-pumpkins-copyFor these reasons, this is a deck I would recommend to beginners, unless they strongly dislike the artwork or have a negative feeling towards Halloween. I’d think younger Tarot enthusiasts might also enjoy this deck, since it does not feature gruesome images or overly explicit imagery.

You can purchase this deck as part of a deck and book set, the book being written by Karin Lee. The book is well written and includes a history of Halloween, an explanation of the symbols and traditions of the celebration, and clear, succinct explanations of the cards that are fairly straight forward.

The cards feature a reversible back (orange and black) showing our main protagonist (the black cat) surrounded by Halloween symbols.

I’ll be shuffling this deck over the coming couple of months and trialling some new spreads for the pure fun of it.

Wishing everyone a blessed weekend ahead.

Monica

6-pumpkins-copy

Advertisements

Dancing with the Devil : Part 1

 

New Mythic Tarot
New Mythic Tarot

Ouch. The Devil has started to make an appearance, and I am not ready. I am not prepared for this, but he’s here, for the Devil is my birthday year card* for approximately the next 12 months.

*The birthday year card is obtained by adding up your birth day, month and the current year of your birthday, and reducing this down to a number between 0 and 21, corresponding to the Major Arcana. So if your birthday is say, 17 November 1950, your current birthday year card would be 1+7+1+1+2+0+1+5 = 18 = The Moon. This would apply from 17 November 2015 through to 16 November 2016, however I have read, and also found from personal experience, that the energy of this card can be felt a couple of months beforehand.

Along with Death, this is (unfortunately) one misunderstood and feared card – and I have to admit, despite all that I know about the Devil, I am yet to fully explore and be comfortable with this energy. So I decided to do a series of posts on this card, partly to share my experiences, partly for fun (which the Devil certainly likes), and partly to expand my own knowledge on this card.

To start with, I have done Rachel Pollack’s Devil Reading from her wonderful and substantial book, Tarot Wisdom.

Devil spread
Excerpt from Tarot Wisdom by Rachel Pollack

Using the MAAT tarot, I shuffled, cut, and proceeded:


1
. What have I lost? Queen of Cups

Queen of Cups from the MAAT Tarot by Julie Cuccia-Watts
Queen of Cups from the MAAT Tarot by Julie Cuccia-Watts

This Queen has a softer, gentler energy to her. She is actually a favourite of mine in this deck, largely due to the warm background and the overall calm energy I get from this card. This is the first time that I have noticed she appears to be holding onto her stomach the way pregnant women often do – and I regret not getting the book that accompanies this deck to check whether this is the case.

To be honest, when I saw this, my first gut reaction was that this is a part of myself that I have lost – in particular, before I became a mother. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, and while I am still, essentially me, at the same time, I am no longer who I was a year ago, or even 5 months ago.

2. What blocks me from returning? Ace of Swords

Ace of Swords MAAT Tarot
Ace of Swords
MAAT Tarot

The Ace of Swords: a new state of mind, a new beginning. There is something so finite and decisive about this Ace – the immovable, inflexible steel; the sharp edges. In any case, the blockage appears mental ( swords) rather than physical or emotional.

Even if I tried, I could not go back to the person I was before – mind-wise, body-wise, emotionally-wise.

 

 

 

3. What illusory chains hold me? The Sun

This is one of the most striking and alternative depictions of the Sun card that I have seen – the

The Sun  MAAT Tarot
The Sun
MAAT Tarot

moment of creation, both on a purely biological level, and yet simultaneously, on a magical level. Sure, science can explain it all ad infinitum, but really, trying to grasp the magnificence of the miracle taking place is at times beyond my human brain.

When I saw this card, I thought of both unity and separation. Now this, as I will write about later, is one of the core aspects of the Devil meaning, and this card reminds me that I can get caught up in such illusions as much as anyone else, and it takes sustained effort (via meditation, yoga, gardening, nature walks and anything that connects me to the greater whole) to not allow such illusions to permeate my life fully.

There is still another answer in this card – that of competition. The idea that we are all against each other and life is nothing but struggle is something that was imprinted on me from childhood. It is a false idea stemming from deeply rooted fears, unfortunately far too prevalent these days. Thankfully, I have learned this is not the case, but having this card come up reminds me of the insidious nature of such fears, and the possibility that they are still present within me. As the question states though, they are illusory, and there is no need to give them any weight or time. Competition surely has its place in this world, in a way that is healthy, rather than destructive and manipulative.

4. What reality holds me? Strength

Nice. In this deck, I see this card not just about personal strength, but also

Strength
Strength MAAT Tarot

about the ability to weave magic into my life. For magic – creating, playing, drawing down this energy – is as real to me as the sky, the stars, the earth.

I see that the creator has assigned this card the Full Moon Cycle of Gemini – interestingly, I was born on a Full Moon in Gemini, so there you go.

 

 

 

5. How can I free myself? The Fool

I love how Tarot can be so literal sometimes. For the Fool, first and

The Fool
The Fool – MAAT Tarot

foremost, is about freedom – the freedom to pursue one’s goals, instincts, intuitions and visions. It is also about not taking oneself too seriously, of course.
There is something else going on with this card, too: the man here looks to be involved in some form of shamanic work or ritual. Naturally, this is a path that I am drawn to and there is no denying it.

…also, can I say, love those horns on his head he he 😉

6. What will happen? Princess of Coins

Princess of Pentacles
MAAT Tarot

Oh my, how I love her. I love her bare feet. I love that wise smile. I love her white hair, the rich, fertile gardens surrounding her, the fruits of her labour, the simple, earthy energy of it all.

What’s that she’s holding in her hand? An apple half, showing the 5 point formation that apple seeds form inside – the shape of the pentagram. Now as I’ll explore in further posts, the pentagram was attributed to the Devil…

How interesting. This woman here has some secrets to tell, I think. I also think that those secrets are not really secrets at all – they are the timeless wisdom of being connected to the earth and nature, and the health and well-being that comes from doing so.

What I also find fascinating is that the Queen of Cups, which is a mature energy in a Tarot deck, is portrayed by a younger looking woman (and recall from above, this is what I have lost), while the Princess of Coins above, which is a younger energy in the traditional Tarot, is painted as an older and wiser woman in this deck. Fascinating.

I feel like this spread has so many answers and riddles in equal parts, and will be digesting this one for a while.

Until next time,
Monica

 

 

Teacher’s Tarot Spread

As I mentioned previously, I am now teaching an introductory course in Tarot. I am running this over 8 weeks, with 2 hours per week. There are 5 students and myself, which makes for a close, intimate experience, and lots of practice time as well.

I wrote this spread up to help myself understand my new role as “teacher” and get some general guidance with this new path. Overall, I am pretty comfortable with teaching Tarot and speaking in front of others – but this is only in this context, i.e. that of Tarot. I guess this is mainly because I revere and love the subject (this is most important!), I understand it fairly well (but there’s nothing like trying to teach it to make me learn even more!), I’ve had excellent, surreal and atrocious experiences and a whole range in-between with reading cards, and I also know most of my students as we are friends outside of class.

Nonetheless, it is good to have some insight and guidance into my new teaching path, so I penned 5 questions, and shuffled a personal favourite – the Fey Tarot.

DSCF7862
Fey Tarot: Queen of Swords – 2 of Chalices – The Tower – The Wisest – 8 of Chalices

1. What do I need to know about being a teacher?
Queen of Swords: the card leans towards the rationing/ thinking/ objective and also highly discriminating – these are the predominant qualities I do and/or should use, which makes sense, though she looks rather intense – it’s those penetrating eyes, I think. This Queen is a great role model for a teacher in general, because the element of air (swords) rules all forms of communication, which is what teaching is all about.

2. What do I do well as a teacher?
2 of Chalices: I interact well on a personal level with students – the 2 of Cups is about having a personal, deep bond with someone as well. It’s about exchange and connection on a one-to-one level, which I hope I do. With 5 students, I try and give everyone the opportunity to engage and communicate.

3. What do I need to improve upon?
DSCF7867 The Tower: I need to not be afraid of stepping outside conventional boundaries, and infuse my teaching with my own personal style. I think as a new-ish teacher I tend to err on the side of safety and limit myself to conventional approaches to teaching. Note that the fay in the card, while flying (aiming) high, is still within the confines of a brick tower, although the foundations are slowly coming apart brick by brick… I like that.

4. Advice for me on being a teacher
DSCF7865The Wisest: this corresponds to the Hierophant in traditional deck, which is a fantastic card to get as advice, for the Hierophant is the teacher of mysteries, occult etc. Also, see how the fey in this card is reading/ studying – this implies that, apart from teaching being a natural path for me (well, I am a Sagittarius after all!), I should always keep on learning and studying. This is something I naturally plan on doing, since I love being the eternal student, but it’s nice to get it as a guidance anyway.

5. What does the future hold for my Tarot teaching work?
DSCF78638 of Chalices: I wasn’t too sure about this one. I think it signals a new direction possibly, though I note how the fey keeps her eyes on that splendid chalice: I will always teach, I know that much. Where, how and when, are just details to be filled in 🙂

 

 

 

If you want to try this as a spread, keep in mind there are lots of other questions you can add – for example, “What is my teaching style?” etc.

Next time, I will do a Student’s Tarot Spread, although, since we are all students in life, I’ll keep it a bit more generic.

Wishing everyone a blessed week ahead,
Monica

 

A good sign

 

 

sign copy

 

Well, I’d say it is 😉

This is the custom-made sign for my tarot and (future) astrology readings. It is an outstanding work of art and craftsmanship, created by hand by a local sign writer. I have been sworn to secrecy to not reveal his name, since he has a big backlog to catch up on (and you can see why), and he can’t take on any more requests.

The middle black section is chalk paint, so I can write on it the times, prices, quote of the day or anything else that strikes my fancy. I need to do it justice and take a better photo, really.

There are two things that make it even better. The first, is the actual material: a Council “No camping” aluminium sign, which I assure you was acquired legally. Honest! Every extra bit to help recycle counts 🙂

And the second…

WO sign post

The base! How stunning is that?!! It is a buttress root from my partner’s dad, which he had kept in a shed for a while. Well I’m pretty chuffed with the whole thing.

So there you go – thought I’d share this since I absolutely love it. After all, a tarot reader does need a good sign 😉

Wishing everyone a beautiful week ahead. Many blessings,
Monica

The art of stealing fire

The title of today’s post is taken from Liz Greene’s book on Uranus. I’ve been reading this recently and, like most of Greene’s work, it is so rich yet at time overwhelming in its content. Together with Donna Cunningham’s Healing Pluto Problems, they’ve kept me fascinated over the past week. I have an interesting relationship with astrology: for now, I have a magnetic attraction to it, yet when I read works by scholars such as Greene or Cunningham I feel it is way beyond me. Even if I spend the next three years in study – in a serious, dedicated way – I feel that unless I get that “a-ha” moment where one has an intuitive yet lucid flash of understanding of a horoscope, I will not pursue it as a vocation. Still, as my favourite homeboy Lao Tzu says, “Perseverance is favourable”. 😉

So this morning I drew three cards on Liz Greene’s book, more out of creative curiosity than anything else. A rather interesting combination from Jolanda:

I relate the Magician to Prometheus, stealing the fire from the Gods. The Knight of Swords makes me think of the courage and boldness it takes to do so, and the need to do so in a speedy manner, and also I see the Knight as Prometheus journeying across the celestial clouds on his way to reach humanity. And when I look at the 10 of Cups, it’s like an image of humankind in darkness, before receiving the gift of fire. I might be stretching it a bit here, but on this very rainy day my imagination is left to its own sweet wonderings. To be honest, the Knight of Swords card is very peculiar at best: we have sweet angels drawing the chariot, and the Knight holds not just a sword but a sickle as well (which is more fitting for Saturn in my opinion).

Here are three quotes from this book, one for each card I drew.

Prometheus is a magician, an artist, and a culture-bringer. He teaches human beings astrology, architecture, and navigation – everything, in fact, that involves knowledge of how the cosmic or holistic system operates. In this aspect he is different from other culture-bringers, who offer very specific arts or crafts, such as weaving (which is Athene’s gift). Prometheus’ knowledge always involves something heavenly or cosmic, translated into earthly form. Architecture requires an understanding of geometry, which, as any Platonist knows, is ultimately cosmic in nature; astrology and astronomy are obviously aspects of cosmic knowledge. One must have a broad understanding of the entire system to make these arts and sciences work. So Prometheus is a kind of inspirational daimon.

In a creative sense, yoga is a form of magic. It is a discipline which involves psychic or psychological as well as physical energy, and it aims toward balancing the human being through a synthesis of physical and spiritual. The Eastern approach to health has always been more holistic, more attuned to the cosmic system, than ours has, and could therefore be seen as more Uranian, although our high level of technology in medicine is also Uranian, in a different way. Yoga can be enormously creative and healing. Yet I have met many people who are obsessed with it as a kind of dogma. Once again, we can see Uranus operating in both ways – as a creative and constructive force, and sometimes as a rigid world-view which rejects every other perspective.

*
When one doesn’t belong, one learns to be very tolerant; the wonderer is in no position to feel superior, because he or she learns to be grateful for any sign of welcome, regardless of the social inappropriateness of the welcomer. Do you know the I Ching hexagram, “The Wonderer”? People who are used to belonging, who take social acceptance for granted, can be appallingly intolerant, because they have never experienced deep loneliness. Sometimes there is no one more smug and insufferable than the person who has always had the luxury of belonging to a certain community, and feels superior because of it.

Fantastic Menagerie Tarot Review


The Fantastic Menagerie Tarot is simply… fantastic! How can I describe this deck?!! It is so unconventional and yet so direct when reading with it. There is no hiding what is going on when using this deck, another sumptuous creation from Baba Studio. As the title hints, the pictures present a menagerie of animals, taken from original works of art by 19th century artist J J Grandville. The drawings were political caricatures, full of sharp wit and ridicule aimed at the ruling class, and thus in a reading the facial expressions and postures of the many who make up the menagerie are eerily human like.

This means one can not only relate to the scenes, but understand them too. Personally, I think this deck will continue to grow on me over the coming years. I didn’t instantly bond with it because the drawing style does not resonate with me, yet I simultaneously can tell it is one of those “wise” tarot decks. I bought mine in a pack that came with an excellent companion book which covers full card descriptions, stories for each card as well as spreads and sample readings to help you understand the deck. I should note that the cards are very, very thin, and do not appear to be laminated so I advise extreme care in handling these cards (card size 7.8cm by 12.9cm). Unfortunately, Baba Studio no longer have any copies for sale, and the few remaining out there are already reaching some astronomical prices online. Mind you, I’m sure if enough people write to Karen and Alex over at Baba Studio, they may just think about doing a deluxe version, you never know! In the meanwhile, I include a good selection of cards below to give you a taste of what to expect from this deck.

Wheel of Fortune in literature

Tarot of the Spirit


“The world would only begin to get something out of value from me the moment I stopped being a serious member of society and became – myself. The State, the nation, the united nations of the world, were nothing but one great aggregation of individuals who repeated the mistakes of their forefathers. They were caught in the wheel from birth and they kept at it till death – and this treadmill they tried to dignify by calling it ‘life’. If you asked anyone to explain or define life, what was the be-all and end-all, you got a blank look for answer. Life was something which philosophers dealt with in books that no one read. Those in the thick of life, ‘the plugs in harness’, had no time for such idle questions. ‘You’ve got to eat, haven’t you?‘ This query, which was supposed to be a stopgap, and which had already been answered, if not in the absolute negative at least in a disturbingly relative negative by those who knew, was a clue to all the other questions which followed in a veritable Euclidean suite. From the little reading I had done I had observed that the men who were most in life, who were moulding life, who were life itself, ate little, slept little, owned little or nothing. They had no illusions about duty, or the perpetuation of their kith and kin, or the preservation of the State. They were interested in truth and truth alone. They recognised only one kind of activity – creation. Nobody could command their services because they had of their own pledged themselves to give all. They gave gratuitously, because it is the only way to give. This was they way of life which appealed to me: it made sound sense. It was life – not the simulacrum which those about me worshipped.” Henry Miller – Sexus

Actually, aside from the Wheel, there’s quite a few other Major Arcana showing up in the above paragraph – Death, The Fool, The World, The Emperor, The Hanged Man… I know there must be thousands of literary examples of the Wheel, but this one really caught my eye today.