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!


Self Development, Tarot Card Meanings 1 Comment »

The Tarot Association of the British Isles has a tarot blog ( which I often find thought-provoking. Today’s was about epiphanies, which started me thinking about what the word implies.

According to, 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…


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

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

Types of Intuition

Intuitive Tarot No Comments »

We are all more intuitive (or psychic) than we realise. It’s a natural ability to perceive far beyond our senses and logic; a flash of inspiration or insight; a gut feeling. We all have experienced that ‘inner’ knowing or awareness, a certainty that’s outside logical thought- perhaps as déjà vu, hunches, sixth sense, gut feeling; predictive dreams; psychic messages; solutions to difficult problems. But it’s often quite subtle, and we have to learn how to recognise and act on it.

Every one will have their own unique way intuition manifests. Some will ‘just know’ things – claircognizant – information just comes to you, with the sense that it’s important. You may know who’s on the phone before it rings.

You may see things (clairvoyance) – either inside your head, or in the outside world, seeing energies and / or images. You may see a person, scene, colours, auras, past lives, and visions of the past, present or future – they may be as if you’re watching a film, or still photos. Far-seeing comes under this category.

You may be clairaudient, psychically hearing thoughts, words, songs, or other sounds. These are usually inaudible to the normal hearing range, but can also appear within your voice, sometimes as a voice very different from your own.

Your intuition may also manifest as clairsentient – perceiving information through a sensation in your physical body. It may be a gut feeling, or sense the body issues of someone either with you, or close to you. You may also sense spirit guides, deceased relatives, angels.

Clairscentrist people sense through smell – tobacco, alcohol, a scent of candles, rosewater, etc (this is often reported with thoughts of spirit presence).

Clairgustant is psychically tasting a substance, liquid or food without actually putting it in your mouth.

Oddly, although we all have a certain amount of these so-called extra-sensory abilities, many adults in our culture ignore them or even close them down, either because they are scared, or because they couldn’t depend on their abilities – having been let down a couple of times, they then assumed it wasn’t safe to trust them at all. Certainly you will not have been trained in the use of intuition at school. But ancient humans probably used intuition to live by, sensing where the animals were running and, possibly, connecting with the animals themselves to check which beast to kill. Their cave art reflects the psychic link they felt with the natural world, and it could well be similar to how we work with in the tarot.

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…)

Developing Your Own Tarot Reading Style

Learning Tarot No Comments »

When first you start working with the tarot, your ‘reading style’ is probably not going to be uppermost in your mind. You’ll no doubt be concerned about the meanings and how on earth to remember them, or, if you’re an intuitive reader, whether you can trust your intuition and how you’ll find enough to say to the people who ask you for a reading – ‘it’ll take me 5 minutes and then I’ll run out of things to say’. (Actually, that won’t happen; if you make enough of a connection to the cards the meanings will come. You put your mind into neutral and allow yourself to say what streams off your tongue. Even after 34 years I often listen to what I’m saying and think ‘what on earth am I talking about? Is this total rubbish or does it make sense?’ Often it sounds like garbage to me, so I often ask the client whether it makes any sense to them. It’s rare that they look absolutely blank and say it’s total rubbish.)

But to return to style. When I first started researching the tarot I had about 5 books I read constantly, Alfred Douglas The Tarot being the most useful. Douglas’s approach was quite Jungian and that suited me; I’d become interested in psychology at the age of 18 and so references to the unconscious, myth and archetypes rang all sorts of bells, and actually inspired me to start reading into history, mythology, and psychology – I have always said that the tarot educated me. Jung’s personality types – intuitive/creative, feeling- or sensory oriented, or intellectual – made perfect sense in correspondence with the suits (Wands, Cups, Discs/Pentacles, and Swords). My readings naturally had the same slant – they were concerned with underlying concerns, background history and all that entailed, and interpersonal issues, often at work. The readings worked fine, especially using my own deck (The Intuitive Tarot), but I wasn’t sure this was actually what most tarot readers did. So when I began reading professionally, I figured I’d be a one-off, doing psychological tarot – and in fact, I met a psychic fair reader who informed me that she didn’t know what sort of reading I was doing – it wasn’t tarot, she said. It was only when I met other tarot readers that I was reassured: most readers nowadays consider that their readings are more counselling than psychic. Some readers prefer to concentrate on character-readings and past issues, and avoid looking into the future (based on the premise that it’s all in flux and can change without warning). However, I know the cards can, and do, look into the future – often with frightening accuracy. It’s just we haven’t got there yet. Trust the cards – they will be telling the truth; it’s our own vision which is limited.

Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself psychic. In my experience ‘psychic readings’ contain a lot of the reader’s ‘stuff’, whereas by using the tarot (especially if you get the client to draw the cards), you have a good chance that they will be accurate: all you have to do then is to interpret them. We all have some sort of psychic awareness, but it can exhibit in different ways. Each ordinary sense – sound, sight, taste, touch and smell – is matched by a subtle level, or ‘psychic’ sense. So you might get words or ideas ‘coming through’ (clairaudience), some ‘see’ clairvoyantly; some ‘just know’ things, sense atmosphere or get information on places (claircognizance); some can pick up information from items such as hair or wristwatches (psychometry and psychokinesis). Some can sense energies in and through the body (clairsentience), and the subtle level sense of smell (clairgustant) may well be something we used to rely on far more (animals have far greater olfactory abilities, but we are certainly still able to pick up on sexual pheromones, for instance). Indeed, it may be that all these extrasensory abilities are atavistic – throw-backs to our animal origins, when our lives depended upon what we picked up from the environment. This ‘secondary awareness’ is just about being fully awake. In our polluted, over-stimulated, over-populated world, we have forgotten what life is really about.

Anyway, finally, the most important ‘style’ a tarot reader needs, is to develop empathy. Empathy, the ability to feel someone else’s emotions and reactions, isn’t necessarily inborn. Some have no empathy at all, and they would not be particularly good tarot readers. However, the ability certainly can be learnt: practice by putting yourself into someone else’s shoes. Ask yourself ‘how would I feel in this situation?’ And, of course, the more life experience you have the more you’ll be able to understand how others feel.

Kat Black’s Golden Tarot – More like a Blog!

Tarot Card Decks 11 Comments »

I have acquired a new tarot deck. Up to now I have only used The Intuitive Tarot, basically because I know it so well and it reads so easily for me, but having recently become fascinated by all things medieval (re-enactment, demonstrating medieval painting techniques, etc), I had a look at some medieval tarot – for example:

The Giotto Tarot - a stylised deck based on Giotto’s work.
The Medieval Scapini deck
The Golden Tarot of the Renaissance. A very attractive deck with gold leaf background.
The Mantegna tarot. Ostensibly based on the Sola Busca tarot, which contains the earliest illustrated minors (and utilised by Pamela Coleman Smith in the Rider-Waite tarot), this is an interesting pack but not strictly a tarot deck as it only has 50 cards.
The Old English Tarot
The Renaissance Tarot
The Golden Tarot, by Kat Black

and so on…. It was Kat Black’s Golden Tarot that finally captured me. This deck was obviously a labour of love, digitally collaged from medieval paintings and using the Rider Waite system. It’s been beautifully produced by US Games Inc. with gilt edges and a well-crafted booklet. Some people don’t like the fact that they recognise bits of paintings, separated from their original artwork. However, for me this is one of the attractions as I can use the booklet to source the different paintings. Most importantly, though, I can read with it. As soon as I started reading from it, the cards began to tell a coherent story.

Today, for example, I drew three cards for the presenting issue of the week, and got Queen of Swords and the High Priestess, both reversed. It was a clear warning not to start messing with someone else’s life (a temptation over the weekend!), as it would be a) unwise and b) a deviation of my own integrity as the High Priestess. So I’ll take the cards’ advice and stay upright …

Tarot Card Meanings: Origins

Tarot Card Meanings No Comments »

As an introduction to Tarot Card Meanings, let me start with what we know about the origins of the Tarot as a means of divination.

The origins of the cards themselves are shrouded in mystery, though they were first described in 1377. It is possible that at first they were merely used as a game (Tarocchi); however, we know they were first used for divination purposes in the 16th Century.

A Tarot deck consists of 78 cards, which are divided into the Major Arcana (or Trumps), and the Minor Arcana. The twenty-two Major Arcana are seen as archetypal or allegorical images representing the journey through life. The Minors (the remaining fifty-six cards) are similar to today’s playing cards, with four suits of 14 cards (the numbered or pip cards 1-10, and the face cards: page, knight, queen and king). Each suit represents a different aspect of humanity and are usually seen as Cups (the emotions), Pentacles or Discs (material issues), Swords (the mind), and the Wands (intuition and creativity). Each suit is usually linked to the four elements – water, earth, air and fire.

The full tarot pack is used to provide readings intended to help a person achieve a better understanding of issues that may be affecting them, such as relationships, problems to be overcome, opportunities etc. Each card has a range of meanings, which, taken together, can allow the skilled interpreter to help their client (usually referred to as the Querent or inquirer) to focus on the issues affecting them and thus find a way through problems or take advantage of opportunities.

The cards in the Major Arcana carry more weight than the Minor Arcana. Therefore, in a reading, the meaning and position of Major Arcana are interpreted very carefully as they are considered to be important unseen influences, indicating major changes in the inquirer’s life. In contrast, the Minor Arcana usually refers to day-to-day events, or people surrounding the inquirer.

A skilled Tarot reader also interprets the meaning of the cards according to the position they occupy in a spread (different ways in which the cards are laid out). However, where the inquirer is open to the tarot card meanings, as represented by the pictures and symbolism, their own intuition can provide a major boost to the power of the cards. Indeed, many practitioners of the art of Tarot believe that its greatest benefit is in the conduit it provides to the subconscious mind, thus allowing the process of “physician heal thyself”.