DESIGNING A TAROT DECK

Intuitive Tarot, Oracles and Tarot, Tarot Card Decks No Comments »

I am designing a new deck which – though still under wraps – has occupied me for 18 months The Majors are now complete and look really good, though I say it myself; now I’ve started on the Minors.

A friend recently asked whether, when designing a deck, do I work with a particular type of person in mind? Or turning the question round: when designing, say, my latest deck, do I bear in mind what sort of people would buy it/ not buy it / love it/ not want to work with it?

The answer is that when I start designing a new deck I do it because it calls to me, and then somehow uses me to design it. I began my first deck, The Intuitive Tarot, one evening when the Fool drew himself onto my pad (don’t ask me how that happened, I just know it did: I was doodling; I looked down at the drawing pad and found the Fool there … I’m sure I’ve told the full story in another part of the blog, so won’t repeat it). In the new deck it was the Hermit who called me in. I work in an esoteric bookshop in the centre of London and one day I noticed a post card with an image that stopped me in my tracks. It was actually an icon of Elijah:

Elijah Sinai

but to me it was clearly The Hermit. I borrowed the postcard and placed it in a ‘would like to do’ folder in my mind, and there it would have stayed, except that one night I was invited by an American friend to the launch of a new tarot – the Nostradamus Tarot by John Matthews and Wil Kinghan. I wouldn’t have gone to the launch normally, but I hadn’t seen the friend for a long while, so I went. Chatting to John Matthews after the presentation, I mentioned my interest in this icon, only to find that he had wanted to do a deck based on these sorts of images for a long time. ‘But if you’re going to do it, I guess I had better give up the idea’, he said slightly wistfully. But John is a writer and I’m an artist – it wasn’t a problem in my book. We could work together on it. He wrote a proposal and I started researching the imagery, and found that it all fell into place, like magic. Those synchronicities – those meaningful coincidences that keep on coming until you take notice! – are usually a green light from the universe, so I began to paint.

So … back to the questions. Do I paint a deck with any particular type of person in mind? Yes, someone who’ll appreciate the work. Someone who wants a bog-standard empty deck to play with isn’t going to like my tarot – I don’t use Rider Waite imagery, I often change the elemental correspondences, and it has a few extra (historical /cultural) dimensions I discovered while painting it. Those will of course be included in the book when it’s published (2015).

When I design, do I bear in mind who will buy it? Yes, obviously, when it’s published we want lots of people to buy it – they will probably be collectors, people who have been working with tarot for a while, professional readers (I hope), and anyone interested in an iconic style of art and culture, as stated above. But in actuality, I paint the deck I want to use.

Do I bear in mind who will not like it? Yes, I bear it in mind – though I don’t worry about it. As an artist, I know that some folks really get my work and love it, and others probably think it’s a load of baloney. The Intuitive Tarot has passionate fans, but there are a lot of people who don’t like it at all. It doesn’t bother me – I still love reading with it, and still get fan mail. And the people who love it are impressive – they look deeply into life, are knowledgeable and insightful, and have usually done quite a bit of self-awareness work. What else can I say?

And the latest deck – I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, bar none, and a few detractors or critical words are hardly going to worry me. The only criticisms have come from people who know little about tarot or the culture that birthed this particular deck, and they have been interested enough to research what I told them about it. So the deck is already doing its job, and I am really looking forward to being able to post images of it! (Watch this space…)

A question about prediction

Predictions, Tarot Spreads No Comments »

A friend whose cards I read recently was querying why her reading hadn’t warned her about the problems with her relationship, which appeared a few weeks after her reading. She had asked ‘was there anything she needed to do with this relationship’ and had been told that all seemed fine. A few weeks later it became apparent that her man was unbearably insecure and was capable of complete meltdown when things didn’t go his way. She wondered if the limitation had been her own thoughts – that is, that the reading gave her a reflection of her hopes, not about what was about to happen.

Well, it’s a good question. Could a client influence their reading to that extent? I think it’s possible, if they are particularly focused on getting what they want (and don’t want to hear any negatives), but they themselves would have to have fairly powerful psychic gifts. And many tarot readers refute the idea that tarot is a predictive tool. I have seen it predict accurately on many occasions, though I usually warn against taking a reading as a certainty (given the complexity of the future, all we can do is predict possibilities), but in the reading I did for my friend, the man’s insecurities would have been there, albeit hidden. How is it I didn’t pick up the looming difficulties?

After thinking about this, I wondered if perhaps we should have asked a few more searching questions – one of them being the likely outcome of the next few months. Querying what she needed to do with the relationship, and getting the answer that it seemed really good, must indicate a limitation in my reading (relationship readings are not my speciality), but we were perhaps playing it safe by avoiding a card for the likely outcome. I’m surprised we didn’t, as I usually make a point of taking an outcome card to close the reading.

Alternatively, I could have used the spread below which should cover all eventualities! (Click on the image to see a readable version.)

relationship spread lg

Hermann Haindl

History of Tarot, Tarot Card Decks No Comments »

I’ve just seen on Rachel Pollack’s Facebook page that Hermann Haindl, the creator of the Haindl tarot, has died. He gave a talk at a UK Tarot Conference a few years ago, and made an unforgettable impression to all lucky enough to be there. Safe journey, Hermann.

haindl-tarot-deck1

The Passing of a Giant.
Our beloved Hermann Haindl has returned to the Earth. I am writing this in an Australian hotel room at 5 in the morning so will make it short. Of all the original tarot decks created in the second half of the 20th century, only one in my opinion reaches the stature on Waite-Smith or Crowley-Harris. That, of course, is the Haindl Tarot. Hermann’s deck came out of his spirituality and his life, for the two were inseparable. He was also one of the finest painters ever to create a tarot deck.
I will say more when I return.

 

 

New Spread

Tarot Spreads 2 Comments »

This is a spread I created a couple of days ago. It doesn’t pull any punches, or didn’t with me. I’d welcome feedback, so please have a go and let me know what you think.

I – Physical
1 – Body issues
2 – Anything you need to do
3 – Story (past)
4 – Story (present)

II – Emotional
5 – What are you feeling?
6 – Anything that needs to be expressed?
7 – What do you need emotionally?

III – Intellectual
8 – Career / intellectual challenges
9 – Anything you need to do intellectually?

IV – Spiritual
10 – Your spiritual path
11 – Next steps on spiritual path

V – Integration
12 – Challenges to integration
13 – The gift within integration
14 – Your essence (and what to do to regain it)

 

Update on this spread – trying it out on a couple of willing guinea-pigs, it has continued to be very powerful. Unfortunately it is not available as an online spread, though. You’ll have to do it with a real tarot deck!

THE AMERICAN ELECTION

Tarot Card Meanings, Tarot On Line No Comments »

I have drawn some cards to look at the outcome of the US election in two days’ time, though unfortunately it doesn’t look too hopeful – every card I’ve drawn is reversed.

The card for Mitt Romney is the Star (reversed); Obama gets the Ten of Cups (ditto), and when in desperation I asked well, who will be the president in the end, I got the King of Discs reversed.

I can’t say this makes me optimistic for the outcome: it certainly looks like America’s love affair with Obama is over, though I don’t need a crystal ball (or whatever) to tell me that.
TenCups reversed

Romney’s card is a Major Arcana, and is usually read as hope renewed after the trials and tribulations of life. But reversed it’s more about fading hope, the need for a new perspective and (I like this bit) unresolved pain disguised as arrogance or pessimism.

And what to make of the last card, the Presidential outcome – The King of Discs reversed?

King Discs Reversed

I’d say it looks like a hung vote which will need to go to a final recount – as happened with George W Bush and Al Gore and, given that the outcome is the King of Discs as opposed to, say, the King of Wands or Swords, it looks like Romney will get it. The reversal then indicates that it’s not a particularly great outcome. The King of Discs upside down is a businessman (i.e. Republican), obstinate, arrogant, insensitive, who considers his tactlessness ‘plain speaking’. He can be dull, greedy and inconsiderate, manipulative and controlling.

So unfortunately it looks like we’re going to return to an America with a dodo for president. The only consolation is that there are so many checks and balances on a bad president that he doesn’t get too many options to show his true colours. But our experience with Bush and, probably now with Romney, indicates that the Americans still tend to believe in pie-in-the-sky: Obama has done a huge amount quietly, taking risks when necessary but being cautious when he needed to be. Unfortunately he isn’t someone who enjoys talking himself up, and the GOP is very good at talking him down. All in all, if my interpretation of the cards is right, it’s a win for style over substance.

 

7th November 2012

Well, all I can say is thank god my interpretation was wrong!!!

 

LONDON 2012 UK TAROT CONFERENCE

Learning Tarot, Oracles and Tarot, Self Development, Tarot Card Decks, Tarot On Line No Comments »

For those of us lucky enough to be in London at the moment, it has really been our year. The Queen’s Jubilee was a pageant on the grandest scale; the Olympics have been stunning and inclusive, making us proud to be part of this great city; and, just before autumn begins to draw in, we have the icing on the cake, in the form of the UK Tarot Conference at the Thistle Barbican Hotel on the 12-13th October.

Rachel Pollack, a well-known and highly-respected visitor from the US kicks off with a talk on what tarot is, what it does, and how it does it (I wish all clients could come to this one), goes on to look at multi-diimensional readings; and finishes with all the different books she’s had published this year. Juliet Sharman-Burke investigates The Hermit (a subject dear to my heart right now, as I’ve just started painting a new tarot, the inspiration for it being The Hermit – I’ll be posting the images as I complete them, so keep checking). Tiffany Crosara speaks about ‘Bringing the Tarot Alive’ and – a real treat this – Alfred Douglas is attending to have an informal talk about the tarot and magical orders.

Also, in the afternoon on Saturday I’m talking about the Tarot and the Shadow. We all enjoy getting the ‘good’ cards, and cringe when the difficult, awkward, shadow images turn up. Why, though, do we try to avoid them? One of the great things about the Tarot is that we are actually encouraged to explore the shadow sides of ourselves through cards like The Moon, The Devil, 5 and 7 of Swords, etc. Working through these unpleasant aspects of ourselves is one way – indeed, the only way – to reach the state of integration depicted in The World. This integration is, I believe, what the Mystery religions were all about, and their many initiatory levels are reflected in the different stages of understanding depicted in the Major Arcana.

Intrigued? Come along to the Conference – we’d love to see you there.

THE LOST TAROT OF NOSTRADAMUS

History of Tarot, Oracles and Tarot, Tarot Card Decks No Comments »

I went to the launch of the Nostradamus Tarot (The Lost Tarot of Nostradamus) last night at Watkins Bookshop (Cecil Court, London). Compiled by John Matthews and Wil Kingham, it’s a very interesting deck using images that were probably drawn by Nostradamus’s son using concepts of the man himself.

The basic artwork was taken from a book found only recently in the Central National Library of Rome. In this volume were 80 watercolour images, with arcane and sometimes heretical imagery (popes and cardinals doing strange things, often to monsters). The men who discovered the volume were excited to find the name ‘Michel de Nostredame’ on the title page, and published their findings as The Nostradamus Code (Destiny Books, 1998), and in 2007 a History Channel documentary was made on The Lost Book of Nostradamus.

This is where John Matthews and Wil Kingham came in. Neither the book nor the documentary had pointed out the similarity of the imagery to tarot symbolism. John Matthews, however, an acknowledged expert on the tarot, picked it up immediately, and began to collect the eighty images. He was not permitted to photograph the original volume, still held in the National Library of Rome, so piecing the deck together took some time. Indeed, one might call it a labour of love, as John slowly collated the images to fit with the Majors, facecards and suits, and Wil Kingham began to produce the collaged backgrounds, as well as bring the original sketchy watercolours into a fit state for publication. However, the more they worked on it, the more the whole thing fell into place, and the end result is a fitting tribute to the seer, as well as an excellent addition to the tarot.

What makes the deck sing for me, though, are the quatrains produced by Nostradamus – his prophecies or ‘Centuries’ as they are called – and translated¬† by Caitlin Matthews. These add an extra dimension to the tarot meanings for each card.

BYZANTINE TAROT

Tarot Card Meanings No Comments »

I have recently found a beautiful image of Elijah, from the St Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai, and it’s fired me up about Byzantine art. There is already a Russian Orthodox tarot, the Golden Tarot of the Tsars, but it’s not painted by a tarot user so comes across more as an illustrated deck (not that this is a disadvantage for many people). It’s very beautiful, as the cards have embossed metallic backgrounds – Lo Scarabeo have really pulled the stops out for this one.

However, I’ll see how my guidance goes. Certainly, seeing this Elijah has sent me off on another journey to discover Byzantine art. And a recent holiday to Crete helped, as Crete – in addition to wondrous Minoan ruins – has a host of Byzantine images in monasteries and churches!

Epiphanies

Self Development, Tarot Card Meanings 1 Comment »

The Tarot Association of the British Isles has a tarot blog (http://tabitarot.blogspot.com/2012/03/temple-of-spirit.html) which I often find thought-provoking. Today’s was about epiphanies, which started me thinking about what the word implies.

According to http://dictionary.reference.com, the use of a capital letter Epiphany refers to the Christian festival on January 6th, when according to scripture the infant Christ encountered the Magi from the east. The Magi themselves conjure up interesting associations, but that’s a digression.

What I find particularly interesting is the next definition in the online dictionary, which is that of ‘an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity’. If we read the ancient scriptures – the Bible and the Sanskrit Vedas and Upanishads, for instance, or even myths from around the world, it’s apparent that people used to encounter deities regularly. Even today, in our rushed materialist world, there are a surprising number of encounters with other-worldly beings: angels, devas, faeries, whatever you want call them. While the communications from these beings is often through synchronicity – odd coincidences that are strangely meaningful to the recipient – it may be much more like a ‘sudden, intuitive perception or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something’.

We usually associate this sort of sudden revelation with The Tower. But if I draw a card, what epiphany does the tarot present me with today?

It’s the Temperance card – reversed.

Temperance is one of my favourite cards: an angelic being pouring liquid from one jug to another. It’s about being able to bring oneself into a deep state of equilibrium; and when it’s reversed it is probably about a lack of balance (yes, I can relate to that!). My book from The Intuitive Tarot suggests ‘Closing down on possibilities; refusal to see opportunities. Fear of being hurt; resisting life. Concentration on one aspect of life to the detriment of another; often an unwillingness to see anything but the outer form of material reality.’ I was going to say that the only thing that doesn’t apply is the very last bit – but then I began to wonder whether perhaps I am missing a trick here (something I asked to be shown this morning!) Epiphany doesn’t have to be something that knocks you off your horse and leaves you blind for three days (referring to Paul’s epiphany on the way to Damascus).
It can be as quiet and unassuming as a blog that asks what your epiphany will be today.

So it’s time to go back to the meaning of Temperance reversed, and look at where I’m closing down on possibilities and resisting life. We all do it, often without realising it. With the outside world so full of stimuli, noise and opportunities, it’s sometimes hard to stay open. And resistance in our everyday lives means we sleep badly, get ill, fight with our family and friends, project everything outwards.

Resist as much I please, though, an epiphany requires me to change. It does not allow me to return to my previous state of somnolence. So the appearance of the deity (through the synchronicities I described earlier, including of course the Temperance card – an angelic being in its own right) invites me gently to wake up, smell the new-baked bread, and revel in being alive. If I still continue to resist, I guess they’ll send the bigger guns in. Watch this space. I’m not planning to travel to Damascus anytime soon, though…

 

Doubt and trust: back-up from the universe

Oracles and Tarot No Comments »

When I have difficult readings I often question whether (as all the sceptics say) this is complete happenchance. How can 78 scrappy pieces of card give valid answers to the really vital questions of life?

Well, today I’ve just done an email reading for someone who wanted to know if he had chosen the right site for a spiritual centre. To my surprise the cards drawn were all reversed – the Seven of Rods (Wands), Page of Swords, and The Tower. If they’d been the right way up it would have been acceptable (though The Tower would still have indicated that the idea would eventually fall apart); as it was, I interpreted it that it was not the right site, probably because he was thinking too small – playing it safe, following what made sense rather than what he dreamed.

The idea of expansion reminded me of the Jupiter card in my Devas of Creation deck, so I drew a card from it. To my amazement and delight, this was exactly the card which appeared.

(Jupiter, from the Devas of Creation)

This happens again and again, but usually I don’t make a note of it. This time I decided to record it.

So, why belabour the point? Well, after 40 years reading tarot I’ve been given hundreds of instances of the synchronicities (or coincidences, if you’re a sceptic [not that you'd be reading this article if you are, of course]) that happen with the cards – but I’m still sceptical! However, the synchronicities are doubled if I use both tarot and oracle decks, and that tells me it’s not just blind chance, there is a purposefulness and a consciousness that permeates the universe. It gives me a sense of the connection and meaning behind everything.