Tarot workshop

Learning Tarot No Comments »

Following their successful Foundations of Tarot last year, Hilde Liesens and Cilla Conway are running A Journey through the Major Arcana on the 21st August 2010. They will look at the origins, myths, history and lore of the tarot, while guided visualisations allow you to vividly experience the myths and archetypes of the Major Arcana as an initiatory journey through life. Practical demonstrations, exercises, and experiential practice will demonstrate how you can start to read the Tarot for wise guidance and insight into life’s challenges. People are always astonished at how accurate their tarot reading can be, using these methods.

The second workshop, on the Minor Arcana, will be held in September, allowing you to practice and get to know the cards. Then, using elemental correspondences, numerology, and the traditional meanings, Hilde and Cilla will offer practical methods to familiarise yourself with readings, spreads, reversals etc. Exercises and story-telling, drama and role play will enable you to read well without having to learn the meanings by rote.

Venue: Atlantis Bookshop, 49a Museum St., London WC1 (nearest tube Holborn or Totterham Court Road)

Date: 21st August 2010

Time: 10.30 for 11 a.m. – 5.30 a.m. with breaks for lunch and tea (biscuits, coffee and tea provided)

Cost: £50 for each workshop, £90 for both if paid in advance

To book: Atlantis Bookshop – 020 7405 2120

Exploring Tarot Seminar 2010

Learning Tarot 1 Comment »

Mark your diaries – July 31st, 10am-5.30pm – if you’re anywhere near London, the first Exploring Tarot 2010 seminar will be held at the College of Psychic Studies (South Kensington). Emily Carding will talk about her new Transparent Oracle and how Tarot & Oracles combine; Martin Jeffrey will look at archetypes, and Avril Price will discuss Spirit & Spiritualism. My angle will be the creative process of making your own tarot deck – I found that the process led me into a world which was deeper and richer than our own. Now it’s often called the OtherWorld; back then (1973) I had no words to describe it, but the gifts it gave me were immeasurable.

Ticket price is £40 – call 020 7589 3292

Tarot and Astrology

Tarot and Astrology No Comments »

For the last six months I’ve been producing illuminated manuscripts of the different astrological signs and have been fascinated by the links between tarot and astrology. The connections between the two systems are more tenuous than I originally thought, although there are some direct correlations between the symbols of the tarot and the ruling planets of the different signs – the most obvious being Saturn and The Hermit, and the Magician and Mercury (I’ll go into this in more detail in the future).

Astrological study stretches back thousands of years – to ancient Egypt and Babylonia at least, while early mankind would almost certainly have created their own star-lore. At that stage in our evolution, we probably used the right brain to a far greater extent than we do today, and those early people would have automatically assigned images to the patterns of stars. [In fact, the mythology of some indigenous populations shows an extraordinary, intuitive knowledge of the heavens – for example, the Dogon, who knew about the invisible companion to Sirius (for details, see http://www.unmuseum.org/siriusb.htm).]

The ancient astrologers identified the planets, attempted to explain heavenly events such as eclipses and comets, and assigned images and psychological characteristics to constellations which they identified by name based on local myths, and to the different planets.

This use of figurative imagery – together with an underlying animistic concept of the universe – continued for thousands of years, through the collapse of the Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilisations. In medieval times symbology was employed for religious and philosophical ends – the alchemists, for example, used figurative symbolism to describe the alchemic process. The tarot, appearing around 1415, used the same language. Like astrology and alchemy, the tarot referred to images that all understood – which Carl Jung called archetypes: the fool or jester, Emperors, Popes, Justice, Death, The Star, The Sun. (The Minchiate deck incorporated all the astrological signs, plus the elements and virtues – and was one of the first medieval packs to change the pages to ‘maid’ cards.)

Many recent decks place astrological symbols on each card, assuming a correlation which may or may not be useful. Crowley’s Thoth deck was one of the first to attempt a synthesis of all the magical systems – kabbalah, astrology, tarot and a few more besides. You can, of course, read tarot quite adequately without knowing any other system, but in future posts I will detail some of the parallels which can enrich your readings.

Tarot Spreads – the Spiral Life Spread

Tarot Spreads 3 Comments »

This is a big spread – both in terms of numbers of cards and its subject-matter, which is a pretty comprehensive life path spread. The layout is given together with the positions, which are fairly self-explanatory.

1 – Who am I?

2 – Soul purpose, soul contract

3 – What energies do I need?

4 – What is my highest dream?

5 – What stops me getting it?

6 – How do I see myself in the future?

7 – What’s my greatest gift?

8 – Strengths, hidden resources

9 – What I need to release

10 – Ancestral or past life issues

11 – Blind spots

12 – Male-female energy

13 – Money, the material world

14 – Anything I need to do now

15 – Long term love/partnership issues

16 – What’s still missing?

17 – Benevolent energies

18 – Fate, apparent problems (may be your greatest gifts)

19 – New paradigm choices

20 – The unexpected

21 – A last core issue to be processed

22 – What I will pass on to the world

Tarot Spreads

Tarot Spreads No Comments »

Learner readers set great store by different spreads, but in fact the more you read, the more you’ll find that one or two spreads will do. You can also create your own spreads – as long as you identify the positions clearly (and remember them), the cards will fit those positions. As with so much of the tarot, it is all about conscious intention.

As a professional reader, I mainly use two spreads – the Celtic spread (both full and truncated), and a three card spread, the positions of which are identified beforehand (usually covering relationship, career, family or health). I’ll then add to those three cards by drawing a card for ‘anything you need to do here'; and a third layer to look at ‘what will help you’.

I use the Celtic spread for invaluable background information on the main issue or issues the client brings to the reading. I use the short version for 1/2 hour readings, and the full version for hour readings, followed by the 3-card spread shown above so the client can have a look at current questions in more detail. (The full version of the Celtic spread was shown in an earlier blog – below). Herewith the truncated version:

There are of course thousands of other spreads. I’ll be giving a few different ideas in later posts, but meanwhile a good one for relationship issues is shown below (adapted from one at www.aeclectic.net/tarot/spreads/relationships.shtml). I’ve added two cards at the end as a suggestion for possible actions, as in my view there’s not much point in knowing that your relationship is in trouble (well, hey, you probably know that already if you’re asking the question); you need to know what, if anything, you can do about it.

This spread will work best if the two people involved are drawing cards together. However, that’s the ideal. Person A can draw all cards, trying to avoid too much projection or wish fulfilment; or the reader could draw B’s cards.

Working with the Tarot for Self-awareness (continued)

Self Development No Comments »

The Wheel - traditionally The Wheel of Fortune. An ancient symbol, the Wheel represents the cosmos, time, fate and karma. The medieval concept of the Wheel of Fortune show man helplessly bound to the wheel of destiny, his fate either predestined, or, alternatively, subject to blind chance. In today’s Tarot, however, we can read it with a lighter touch: as the Tao, the ever-changing yet ever unified circle of existence.

The Wheel signals some new cycle of life: an opportunity to alter our perceptions, when we realize that the currents in the river of life are drawing us inexorably along whether we will or no. We can neither control nor fight the flow; all we can do is to allow ourselves to flow with it, in full awareness of what is involved.

The next stage on the path is XI, Strength. Some of the oldest decks show Samson killing a lion. The archetypal hero often has to battle with a primitive or wild man in order to come to his full power, while the lion itself is the archetype of strength, power, and majesty.

In self-development terms, Strength is the first test on the journey of the soul. Our choice to follow the Hermit’s path brings us into direct contact with the unconscious, that level of the psyche we usually encounter only through dreams. The first level we encounter is our animal side, the Id in Freudian terms – the child which rages to get its own way. The woman in the image, who can be thought of as the ego, does not kill the animal, but controls it with firmness and compassion. If we can manage this, the lion becomes our Ally.

XII – The Hanged Man. This is where we see that everything we’ve been taught, all our previous moral certainties – indeed all our previous ideas about who we are, what we want in life – must be re-examined.

The archetype of the Hanged Man is an old one. In ancient Greece, images of the god were often hung in trees to ensure fertility and a good harvest. Many of the gods linked to fertility were sacrificed in different ways – Tammuz (Ishtar’s consort), Osiris, Christ, and Odin, who hung himself upside down for nine days and nights in order to gain wisdom. Less well known is the story of Shemyaza, one of the so-called Fallen Angels, who fell in love with a mortal woman, Ishtahar. After Shemyaza revealed the true name of God to her, God imprisoned him in Orion, hanging upside down, for eternity.

Shemyaza © C Conway 2010

In self-development terms, The Hanged Man is shown as an initiate, like Odin, hanging herself as a sacrifice to growth in the new world she now inhabits. She must have the strength of mind to fly in the face of convention, or she can progress no further. As an initiate, it is also necessary to be able to surrender to chaos and the unknown.

XIII – Death. The ability of the initiate to surrender to the unknown is tested to its ultimate in the Death card. It is not physical death, but the mystery initiate quite often has to live through soliltude in utter darkness for a number of days. At the end of that time they would emerge as from the tomb, profoundly changed.  Every major change in our lives means a death of sorts; each time we end a relationship, change jobs, move house – even the end of the day or year – entails a little death. But without those deaths, we stagnate.

In archetypal terms, Death occupies an pre-eminent position: an inescapable destiny. In many traditions we find a river over which souls pass to the next life. In Greek myth the ferryman, Charon, rows the dead over the river Styx, while in Egypt the boat was guided by Anubis, the jackal-headed god of embalming. In Roman and Celtic myth, the goddess Isis and Ceridwen were in charge of this strangely ubiquitous boat.


XIV – Temperance. The last of the virtues depicted overtly in the Major Arcana. The figure can be identified with Aquarius, the water carrier, or with Ganymede who became cup-bearer to the gods, replenishing the nectar of immortality when it ran low. Temperance is today depicted as angelic, its abilities alchemic: pouring one vessel into another, one quality with another to make a third, a synthesis of the two: water into wine, lead into gold, dark into light.

In self-development terms, Temperance is the deep inner balance of inner to outer, the first inkling of the integration which culminates in The World. It is the ability to temper unconscious emotions with conscious reason; to balance irrational, childish reaction with adult processing. This ability will be tested fully in the next stage along the path.

XV – The Devil. We see the archetype of The Devil in numerous old gods. Indeed, as Paul Huson points out in The Devil’s Picture Book, the gods of a dead religion often become the demons of the succeeding one. Pan, Baphomet, Cernunnos, Satan, all combine to give us the image we see in the Tarot. It is significant that many of these were fertility gods, as The Devil is about our darkest desires: greed, sexual perversion, envy, obsession – and the fear attached to these feelings. This is what C.G. Jung called the Shadow – all that we find unacceptable in ourselves and so repress from our consciousness. The Initiate has to acknowledge and integrate this shadow stuff.

The card reminds us that The Devil does exist – though not as an external agent; not as a dark angel who tempts us, binds us, forces us to do things we would never dream of (‘the devil made me do it’). But the Devil is within us. By projecting our unwanted shadow on others, and then acting out based on that distorted perception, we ourselves create evil. The Devil reminds us that each of us is capable of the worst excesses, of arrogance and greed, envy and murder. If we think we are exempt, we are deluding ourselves.

However, the Devil also holds out a promise of redemption. As the initiate, if we acknowledge our shadow side, and work with it when we encounter it, it becomes our teacher. That requires courage and honesty, the ability to see the dark and not deny or project it onto the outside world. Instead, draw it, write to it, dialogue with it, express it through your body or through a story. Then ask what it wants from you. Usually it wants acknowledgement, acceptance, and then the will to change and grow.

XVI – The Tower. Certain events, both personal and external, are so cataclysmic we can only stand, shuddering, and wait for the fall-out to clear. Hiroshima was such an event; 9/11 another. Both can be seen as diabolic or divine, depending on our viewpoint, but the magnitude of each makes it impossible to continue life as before. We may retrace the steps that led there, but there is no going back. However, the destruction is not wholly negative. As the lightning strikes, for a second we see Divinity in all its magnitude. Even as the old world crumbles, a new world is born.

As an archetype, the Tower is about hubris. It may remind us of the Tower of Babel, Atlantis or even Sodom and Gomorrah. By now, the initiate’s foundations should be firm enough to withstand the storms and destruction of the external world, no matter how apocalyptic. Even though our world can be shattered in a moment, we can rebuild. A new world can emerge from the old.

In self-development terms, this card refers to purification through loss, and the ability to withstand the worst storms. When we reach this level of awareness, we may wish to simplify, challenging any rigid, outdated structures or thought processes. The cosmic bolt from the blue is never something for which we can be prepared, but on the path this winnowing is essential.

XVII – The Star. The Star gives us real recognition of how far we’ve come. We emerge from the depth of the unconscious into the light of the stars. Now we experience a vision of wholeness, a deep gnostic understanding of eternity and renewal. This is the profound inner certainty that comes when we at last find ourselves connected to the mystic Centre. We become a channel for divine energy made manifest on earth.

Medieval Cosmology

The Star is about hope: the light that appears to call us to remember who we were born to be. Archetypally, the stars point the way to illumination. They are seen as luminous celestial beings with the ability to bring home and illumination. The story of the star of Bethlehem, and the Magi from the east, is well known. Other stories tell of how the stars were formed: the Greeks, for instance, saw the constellations as conscious, self-aware entitles who lodged in the dome of heaven. The Titan Atlas balanced this enormous dome on his shoulders, shifting it when the weight became too great, which caused the stars to rise and set.

In self-development terms, the Initiate now has a sustained connection to the Higher Self, that part of us which is aware of being divine. We need to ensure that our minds stay open, reflecting that inner light which allows problems to be resolved with ease and grace. Think about your highest dream – are there things you need to do in life? Miracles happen daily, though we often fail to notice them.

XVIII – The Moon. Like The Star, the Moon has been the subject of awe, ritual and story since humans first became sentient. From neolithic times the Moon was usually seen as the multi-faceted Great Mother – New Moon (Maiden – Persephone, Diana the Huntress, Artemis), Full Moon (Mother – Demeter, Isis, Astarte) and finally the Dark Moon (the Hag – Hecate, dark Ereshkigal, Juno). Even today we bow to the moon’s influence: we mark its passage from dark to full while the sea moves in its wake, while those of unsound mind are known to become even more disturbed at full moon.

Thus the Moon of the Tarot carries both dark and light aspects of the Goddess. The crab or crayfish crawling out of the pool refers to the dark of the moon. In this guise we encounter Hecate, a psychopomp who guides the Soul through the underworld. As the initiate, we have encountered Death already, but this is the crossing between sanity and insanity – a living journey through the underworld. Shamans, artists, and other seekers may cross that borderline, but there is always a risk that they will not return intact. The hospitals are full of people who have lost their way in that ambivalent, delusory realm.


The Moon is about a failure of nerve, delusion or deception. Often we may be taken in by feelings of grandiosity, paranoia, or megalomania as we look at the dizzy level we’ve attained. The challenge of this archetype is not to forget ourselves totally, in the waters of Lethe; but, somehow, remember our way back.

XIX – The Sun. And now the night ends and the sun rises, as it has since the dawn of time. The archetype of the sun is about light, warmth, life. Dawn is about birth, new beginnings; midday is warmth, growth, harvest; evening is the growing shadow, wilting, the coming of the night, death. The tarot image shows the solar twins dancing under the light of the midday sun, protected from its burning rays within a circular garden. The solar twins are found in a number of myths and are potential saviours.

By now the initiate is in a state of grace. The light floods in; we – the steadfast seekers on the Way – are transfigured and renewed. From now on that warmth, that heightened awareness, will not leave us for long – although being human, we may have times when we lose the certainty, the connection. But our vision is so clear now that nothing will get caught between us and the light.

XX – Judgment. The imagery here is mainly Christian – the Last Judgment, when the dead souls are gathered and their ultimate destination decided. The man and woman in the image are the twin souls in the Sun, grown to adulthood, with their divine child. The trumpet is the call to new life; the veils between the worlds lifts and we are redeemed. All the old polarities have been resolved, the child representing our new unified consciousness. Archetypally, the divine child is understood as the birth of new consciousness. Myths from around the world talk of a shining infant, its lambent gaze full of wisdom and compassion, who comes to bring salvation.

Judgment marks the near completion of the journey: rebirth, the reunification of the soul. In Jungian therapy this might appear in dreams as an angelic call, the ‘pearl without price'; the treasure now recovered; in alchemic terms it is the Philosopher’s Stone, the ‘pearl without price’.

XXI – The World. The culmination of the journey: the fully realised soul – the divine child grown to adulthood. This is the Anima Mundi, where male and female, dark and light, inner and outer, are integrated in unity, a synthesis of beauty and completion. The dancer – whom T.S. Eliot called the ‘still point of the turning circle’, is androgenous; s/he is the Coniunctio, the mystic marriage of matter, mind and spirit that was the ultimate goal of the alchemists. Here we move past the limitations of form into a timeless state of grace – of active and receptive love. It is both an ending, and a beginning.

The archetype of this awesome being is alchemic: engravings of medieval alchemy show the conjoined being as the end result of the Great Work. Once the alchemist had attained this level of understanding, it would be reflected in his alchemical work by the ability to turn base metal into gold.

0 – The Fool. And even now there is one final stage on the journey. As Eliot puts it,

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

This is the wise fool: the individual – and mankind itself – ready for the next stage of its evolution into a far more evolved being. A few phenomenal souls have reached that state – Buddha, Christ resurrected, perhaps Gandhi and Mandela; a select few!

Archetypally, the Holy Fool is seen in many traditions. He has transcended physical reality – all the world’s goods mean nothing to him. His vision is humane, wise, and numinous. He is Zero: the Nothing and the All simultaneously. At last, through the unknowable void, the future soul embraces time and matter to become manifest once more, and the cycle begins again.

And, perhaps, we can think of this not as a closed circle, but as a spiral, where the end and the beginning of each cycle do not meet, but begin again on a higher level.

Working with the Tarot for Self-awareness (Part One)

Self Development 2 Comments »

We may never know for certain why the Tarot was developed, but given that the focus of medieval society was spiritual, we can be fairly sure that it had a spiritual underpinning.

Today, however, most taroists see the Majors as a concise and powerful description of the journey into self-awareness. Each one represents not only a stage in our own development but also an archetype, a mental image we all understand and which find their way into our myths, legends and fairy-tales. In personal terms the Fool reflects the innocence and carefree stance of our infancy. The archetype is of the potent outsider who questions everything, throws life away on a whim – the Fool on the Hill. Alternatively, we see in many fairy tales a slightly unfocused, naive hero, the innocent abroad who either gets by somehow – or makes a complete pig’s ear of life and has to be rescued by some external agency.

The Magician depicts our dawning awareness of the ability to shape our lives – and the need to be seen doing so. It’s about manifestation, control, and often manipulation. We all have encountered the person who demands attention, has to be the centre of the limelight, the consummate performer who always has to be on the move in case we get to know him (or her) too well. We know the archetype, too: Loki, the trickster who loves to throw everything into chaos, who can create or destroy on a whim; Mercurius the ever-changeable; Coyote and Reynard the fox. In everyday terms, he would be the second-hand car salesman who’ll say anything to get you to buy.

In personal terms the High Priestess shows us the sensations of the body-mind as we grow, and the inherent wisdom of life; while the archetype is of the virgin Moon Goddess, with deep intuitive knowledge of time and tide and seasons. She calls us to full awareness of this world (its deep realities, never just surface). Mythologically she is seen as Celene, Artemis or Diana; the cool virgin goddesses (‘virgin’ meaning belonging to no man, rather than our desexualised view of the word).

The Empress, all-giving mother, should perhaps be numbered 1, as our first awareness outside ourselves is of the mother. In our lives we may not have experienced the abundance and lush giving nature of this archetype, which shows the Triple Goddess in her mature, fecund state – the Yin of the Tao. Nor have many of us in the west encountered such potent feminine energy, although we can see it clearly when, as Gaia, she shrugs and thousands die in earthquakes or tsunamis. Most of the time we like to think that mankind is in control. The ancient neolithic figurines of old Europe and Anatolia depict her at her most fecund, while the Tarot shows her multi-faceted potency. But as the ancient goddesses’ day passed into history, and the patriarchy took over, the Greek and Roman mother goddesses became pallid, ineffectual reflections of the archetype’s full omnipotence.

The Emperor is the divine masculine, but also our experience of the male, usually as reflected in our fathers. He is also about discipline, will, and structure – the patriarchy. As an archetype, the Emperor is focused masculine energy – the Yang. In myth he might be seen as Jove, Odin, Zeus, or, historically, Alexander or the Roman Emperors. Today we see a debased reflection of this masculine essence in Hollywood dick-flicks, where the male is depicted as almost superhuman. No weakness, no humanity can be shown in these simulations. Some women reflect a similar two-dimensionality in their animus projections, usually shown in dogmatic assertions that ‘this is the way it is’, while many men emulate the bad example given by their fathers.

The Hierophant represents the growth of wisdom; our teachers, spiritual mentors, inner guidance. The archetype was described the Old Wise Man by C.G. Jung, who encountered a being he named Philemon in his inner journeys. Philemon would give Jung insight into problems, imparting information that Jung himself had no way of knowing. This access to deep inner wisdom Jung later called the collective unconscious. In myth, Merlin is a good example of the Hierophant, particularly in his understanding of magic, while Savonarola and the Witchfinders show the reversed side of the archetype, its rigid and fearful mindset – and the damage that can do.

(From The Red Book, by C.G. Jung)

The first awareness of choice is seen in The Lovers. Each of us becomes aware of our own autonomy at some stage – the ability to make our own lives, choose our own friends. Some of the older tarot show a man trying to decide between two women, perhaps mother and lover (the film The Graduate is an example of that choice) and certainly this is a choice some men find difficult! In mythological terms we might consider Paris choosing between Helen and the goddess Aphrodite. A broader aspect of this card, however, is that as we grow we are constantly offered the choice to stay small or to grow; it is usually fear that stops us growing, but if we give into the fear we constrict ourselves and become scared of life itself.

In The Chariot we have now moved out into the world, and are developing our personae (masks). We may develop an aggressive, driving ambition; or stay invisible in the background; we may be a perfectionist, or get by doing as little as possible. Either way the Chariot is about ambition, will and determination. In Greek myth, Helios, the sun-god, drives the sun chariot across the sky each day; his strong hand on the whip and reins of the chariot ensured it never falters; and a famous Greek statue of Heniokhos (the rein-holder) depicts the need to ensure both horses (dark and light) are going in the same direction. If our unconscious wants to go one way, and our conscious wants to go a different way, we’ll end up going nowhere.

Justice, tarot trump VIII in most decks, shows the inner balance needed for maturity. It’s about discrimination, truth and integrity: often it entails giving our lives a cold hard look, to see where we are lying to ourselves. Mythologically she is Athena: divine Justice rather than man-made justice. Cool, objective, she cuts through untruths and the confusion we create. Archetypally, the concept of fair play, of righting wrongs, is one we seem to understand instinctively – even if the justice we create in society falls far short of the ideal.

The Hermit is the pilgrim who withdraws from the world to walk the uncertain, lonely road to self-awareness. In the East this is an accepted path for men and women, and even in our extraverted western society many seek the silence and solitude in order to gain wisdom. Archetypally the Hermit is another aspect of the Old Wise Man, but we might see him as Saturn – patient, inexorable, contained. This is the stage in life where some inner call is heard: the barest flicker of sound, half the time appearing quite impossible. But some of us do heed the call, and follow that strange inner path – ‘the road less travelled’, as F. Scott Peck puts it in the book of the same title. The remaining tarot Majors describe that journey.

(to be continued…)

Tarot readings online?

Tarot On Line 2 Comments »

There are various sites offering free tarot readings online. Some are excellent, some just passable. One of the best (at least in my view!) was produced by a friend of mine and offers different spreads from a selection of tarot and oracle decks. Have a go – www.students-of-tarot.com/it –  feedback from readings is excellent. The link will take you direct to the The Intuitive Tarot page (if you want to try a different pack, see below).

The first thing you need to decide is which spread you want: they range from the Celtic spread to a three-card spread, or even a single card. If you choose the three card spread, identify what you want each card to stand for (Past, Present, Future; or Advantages, Disadvantages, Outcome, would be useful categories.

Most of the remaining options are fairly obvious: you can choose to enter your name or remain anonymous. You can choose to read with Major Arcana only, which is probably not a good idea for a large spread. You can choose to shuffle the cards, and finally, you can have the date displayed. Having ticked the relevant boxes, you can now move onto the next page. If you’ve chosen to shuffle the deck, place the cursor over the deck (don’t click) and the cards will shuffle about. Then choose each one, identifying the positions if necessary. Once you’ve chosen the right number of cards, click ‘Show me my reading’.

At the moment there are no facilities for printing or storage, so if you wish to make a note of the cards, you can highlight the whole reading and copy and paste it into a Word document. In a few weeks’ time we hope to give you the facility for both storage and print, so watch this space.

If you would like to try a different pack, go to the Students-of-Tarot homepage. Here you’ll see a whole raft of decks including an option for ‘Modern Packs’. If you hover your mouse over any of the deck titles, they should display mini-thumbnails). In addition, the list in the centre offers a few more decks, (see a choice of classic decks and spreads).

To get a reading from an oracle deck – for instance my other deck, the Devas of Creation – follow the same procedure as I outlined for The Intuitive Tarot. Bear in mind the Devas are higher level energies and although they often give very grounded and specific advice, asking them about financial matters or whether your relationship will work, is probably not the best use of their power.

I should stress also that tarot and oracles are not ‘fortune telling’. Most readers today see the tarot as a tool to look at general trends and underlying issues in our lives, the options facing us, and suggested actions. Although the tarot certainly does give glimpses into the future, we are the arbiters of our own destiny.


Twelve: The Sacred Gates

Numerology meaning 1 Comment »

Twelve: 4×3; 6×2; 7+5, 10+2. We should now be able to intuit why the number is so potent when we look at the combinations of these numbers. Twelve is a culmination of the first part of the journey through the Major Arcana: a gateway between the physical world and the unknown. The Hanged Man is a crucial card in the journey through the Majors. It depicts a man hanging feet uppermost from a tree, or, in The Intuitive Tarot, suspended within the web of space. A number of ancient myths describe gods hanging upside down to gain wisdom (for example Odin). In medieval times thieves and vagabonds were sometimes punished that way, so the original imagery may have depicted a thief (which may explain why the Hanged Man is shown in old packs holding money bags, or with money falling from his pockets). However, today we prefer to see the Hanged Man as surrendering to fate.

In the card we see a man, his arms outstretched, face serene. Hanging there, he realises that everything he has been taught, every idea he has had, needs to be questioned and – if necessary – jettisoned. Most people find that it is preferable to ignore the fundamental questions. The Hanged Man will always ask them.

The interpretation is in keeping with the number twelve, which has a long and august tradition of deep knowledge dating back to Babylon or before, often relating to the astrological signs of the zodiac. The ancient astrologers considered that the moon and sun both moved through twelve stations; they divided the year into 12 months; and saw twelve northern and twelve southern stars. Even in China the 12-sign zodiac and a 12-month year were used (though there were no similarity between western and eastern signs). As in Babylon,  the Chinese combined a decimal cycle with the duodecimal cycle.

The twelve signs of the zodiac have influenced civilization ever since – even our secular, over-sophisticated western culture still retains a basic belief in astrology. Until quite recently our own counting system and money utilised a duodecadic system, and the entire world still uses twelve and twenty-four as a basis for time, a throw-back to the time when many ancient cultures were duodecadic. We still talk of a dozen and 144 (12×12) is a sacred number in mathematical traditions (the twelfth Fibonacci number). Twelve was important in early Mediterranean cultures and the ancient Near East – the Old Testament of the Hebrew Bible gives numerous examples of the number (the twelve fountains of water in Elim (Num. 33:9); the measurement, in cubits, of the wall of New Jerusalem shown by the seventh angel (Revelations 21:17); there were twelve tribes of Israel, and of course Christ had twelve apostles.

Islam considers twelve important in that the descendants of Muhammad are traced to the twelfth generation (the group Twelver Shia has ruled Iran since 1501); while the Bektashi dervishes wear headdresses with twelve wedges and have a duodecagonal agate on their belts. Finally, in ancient Egypt there were twelve gates to heaven and to the underworld where Re, the Sun God, spends the night. It is a coincidence that St John’s Revelations also describes twelve gates to the heavenly Jerusalem?

Returning to the Tarot, we find the Knights on their quest at number 12 of the Minor Arcana.

The Knight of Cups is the most emotional Knight – a dreamer, sometimes a bit lost, he is Parsifal on his Grail quest. He is the Knight who relates most to the Grail (with its 144 facets), and has a quiet inner strength and harmony. He is often shy and withdrawn and, reversed, can be incapable of finding his true self, continually searching for perfection and peace of mind.

The Knight of Rods (Wands), meanwhile, is the most creative, intuitive of the Knights. Like all the Knights, he is a searcher; like the Knight of Cups he is also an idealist but unlike the former, he often finds ways to express his ideas. He is a poet, a troubadour, a healer. If reversed he can become quite cynical, angry and driven.

The Knight of Discs (Pentacles) is practical, down-to-earth, realistic and sensual. He takes life as it comes and doesn’t enjoy thinking in philosophic or psychological terms. He is pragmatic, can be extremely attractive and entertaining, and reliable. Reversed, he can also can be pig-headed in the extreme, confused and insensitive.

And lastly, we arrive at the Knight of Swords. This Knight is a bit of an enigma. He’s often seen as the archetypal warrior: young, active, impetuous. Unfortunately this often means he ends up in difficult predicaments. He keeps a brave face on things, and usually appears strong, confident, and brave. This is his persona, a mask; the real man is often wracked with guilt, fear and anger. If he can look inside, he will find real substance there, but if he stays with the persona he will often end up empty, a husk.

Tarot Archetypes

Tarot Card Meanings 2 Comments »

If you’ve heard the term, but never understood it, you aren’t alone!

Although archetypes are fundamental to the way our minds work, they’re not that easy to explain. Carl Jung, who coined the term, didn’t make it particularly clear either. He said they are preformed patterns in the psyche, based on instinct – i.e. very basic, inherited thought-forms and ideas which have no specific content at first, but which gradually gain shape and substance as we grow. In other words, they are basic thought-forms we all, as humans, understand: like mother, father, balance, justice, the moon and sun. The archetypal aspect gives them a deeper, wider resonance – so the mother is the Great Mother: symbolically she becomes the earth mother, the Great Goddess, eternally fruitful and abundant, but also terrible and awesome in her power. The Hermit and the Hierophant are both aspects of the Old Wise Man, Jung’s Philemon, who exists in each one of us (he can also be an old wise woman). He gives wise guidance, information from the collective unconscious, and can sometimes be our inner critic.

(from Jung's Red Book)

(from Jung's Red Book)

The Sun is light, warmth, life; centre of our solar system, and symbolic of enlightenment, opening up, coming together…

As Jung says, the archetypes are ‘living psychic forces that demand to be taken seriously’, the ‘bringers of protection and salvation, and their violation has as its consequence the “perils of the soul” known to us from the psychology of the primitives’. (And not just the primitives: we ignore them or mess with them at our peril!)
The archetypes in the Tarot are real, but consisting of pure energy rather than flesh. They can affect us very powerfully. Our human interactions are often coloured by archetypal ‘projections’ – in other words, our unconscious takes something from within our selves and projects it onto another person. When we fall in love, we are usually in love with the contrasexual archetype within ourselves. The resonance this projected image has for us is potent in the extreme, which is why being in love is such an overwhelming experience. It also explains why, when we fall out of love, we realise that we never really knew the human we’ve been nuts about.
Jung identified various archetypes – the trickster, the mother, the father, and the old wise man. The Trickster – the Magician, of course. The Old Wise Man – the Hierophant. But think of Death, of Justice, the Devil, the Star, even the Tower, that shock of recognition that everything we’ve believed in has been a lie!


Jung wrote extensively about the I Ching and alchemy, but in all his work there is only one sentence about the Tarot. I find that really frustrating; he must have been swayed by its dubious reputation. Still, it is worth reading Jung – his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections, is a very accessible autobiography, and enables us to see a graphic description of how he made his discovery of the archetypal energies at work in his own life. His journal – The Red Book – has recently been published. At £120, it’s not cheap, but for anyone interested in his work it’s a must-have.