[Tarot games & exercices] Family portrait

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reading the whole Preston & Child series of books with Agent Pendergast. I had picked one up one day to read during lunch break and, since then, I got completely hooked up !

aIf you don’t know the books and you like detective stories with a pinch of mystery, go for it !
Well, having finished the last book this morning (since I’m sick and stuck home, my book consumption has skyrocketed ^^), I realised that some characters made me think of the Major Arcana and I decided to play a little with the Pendergast’s Universe. This little game is a bit of a family portrait/who’s who and here is what I ended up with :

0. The Fool -> Tristram
1. The Magician -> Aloysius Pendergast
2. The High Priestess -> Kyoko Ishimura
3. The Empress -> Laura Hayward
4. The Emperor -> Vincent d’Agosta
5. The Hierophant -> Wren
6. The Lover (French interpretation centered around the concept of choice)-> Viola Maskalene.
6. The Lovers (RWS) -> Bill Smithback & Nora Kelly
7. The Chariot -> The Silver Wraith Rolls Royce
8. Justice -> Pendergast’s Les Baer
9. The Hermit -> Constance Greene
10. Wheel of Fortune -> The Museum of Natural History
11. Strength -> Proctor
12. The Hanged Man -> Pendergast’s Palace of memory
13. Death -> Alban
14. Temperance -> Margo Green
15. The Devil -> Diogenes
16. The Tower -> La Rochenoire
17. The Star -> Helen
18. The Moon -> Mime
19. The Sun -> Corrie Swanson
20. Judgment -> Penumbra Plantation’s cemetary
21. The World -> Manhattan

bI love playing around with tarot archetypes and you can find them in most books. This little exercice of associating a character (or place or event…etc) to a card is very interesting and I find it helps a lot with understanding the card itself. It also gives a “tridimensional identity” to the archetype making it more tangible. You can, of course, do this little exercice with people you know, songs, TV series characters or famous people.

Have a lovely night !

Meet my new friend : the Etteilla tarot

Look at what I found last week end ! On a garage sale, again ! Like the Thoth Tarot. Tarot decks have a fun way to find me it seems.

My little "old things" haul from last week-end. The Etteilla tarot I'm going to introduce you to, a candle holder and a new scarf :)

My little “old things” haul from last week-end. The Etteilla tarot I’m going to introduce you to, a candle holder and a new scarf 🙂

So, once again, the deck is an old one, a very French and very classic deck : the Etteilla tarot (or Le Grand Etteilla). This deck is a classic but does not follow the traditional tarot form. It has the four suits, with their pip and court cards, the 56 of them. There are also 22 cards in the Major Arcana. Here is the trick, they do not follow the setting of the Marseille or Rider-Waite tarot decks. Some cards are similar, for some the numbering changed and finally, others are quite different.

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Some cards from the Major Arcana.

Or not so much.
Anyway, here is my new friend. I love its mystical, vintage energy. Second hand decks have that magnetic effect on me, I love them, maybe more than brand new copies for they already are. They have a past, a history, they lived, they live.
Of course, not all second hand decks have good vibes, some cards have been abused, ignored. But in the end, they are a bit like humans. If you give them attention and care, they will heal and the relationship built will last longer than any other.

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This deck had not apparently been mistreated, just misunderstood and forsaken. The box is battered and the LWB was falling appart. Most cards had been written on with a pencil. The first thing I did was erasing the pencil notes. First step of the cleansing problem. Then I reordered them, step two. Finally, I redid the little white book’s binding as well with my dad’s old binding machine so know it’s readable. The pages were in a good state anyway, they were just not holding together anymore.

booklet

New binding

I haven’t yet cleaned the deck fully as I’d like to work a bit with its old energies, to learn its energical history better before starting over.
Then, I will do my usual cleansing with sage and hyssop, card after card. The deck will lay a bit, charging with crystals. And we will start our new life together by an interview spread. I have high hope for our relationship 🙂

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I guess this is all for today, you’ve met my new friend and I think you shall hear more about him (or her, I’m not sure yet) in the future !
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Journey to the perfect tarot deck : what makes a good deck ?

Long time no see !

Work has taken most of my time lately. Well, I guess this is how life works. Anyway, here I am again, blogging tarot once again.

Today’s blog post is not about the Thoth Tarot but on tarot on a more general level. As I was writing a post for my main (French) blog on the Tarot of the Witches by Fergus Hall, I thought I’d talk a little about the perfect deck on here.

I often write (or film) tarot and oracle deck reviews and I often complain about how this deck’s cardboard is shitty or that deck’s cards are too sticky and won’t shuffle well. So what makes a “perfect” (or at least a good) deck ?

The deck it-self : system, illustrations, theme, symbols… etc

Tarot collectors, myself included, tend to overlook these characteristics when we review a deck. Mostly, I guess, because we assume that everybody understand the deck is a good one (that’s why we bought it in the first place): the system (Thoth, Marseille, RWS, or something completely unique to the author) is working, the artwork pleases us, the theme is in our interest range and so on.

However, this might be the most important part when deciding if a deck is a good one for you because this IS by essence the deck, not the cardboard or the presence or not of borders. For instance, I don’t like the crappy cardboard of the Wildwood Tarot, nor do I liked (I cropped them on mine) the wide, useless, white borders BUT I think this deck is great. Awesome ! The symbolism and the theme are my style. The illustrator is one of my favourite pagan artist and I appreciate deeply the work of the authors. In a nutshell, the deck is, in my humble opinion a very good one even if the item is crap.

WyldwoodIf I had to pick a “perfect tarot” according to the system, theme or illustrations (useless to say that it is the hardest thing ever) I guess I’d go for either the Thoth, the Arthurian or the Druidcraft tarot (with the Wyldwood in the 4th place). But honestly, most of the decks I own I love (I just thought of the Mary-El and the Cheimonette, Merlin’s pants I love those too !). That is why I bought them in the first place.

P1100913Another deck I could consider being a “perfect” deck in a way, is the RWS. Mostly because it is a basic, a must-have. Easy to use and neutral enough, I always recommend it to beginners.

The item : cardboard quality, sharp printing, card size, borders…etc

This is what we (tarot reviewers) mostly complain talk about when we review a deck : how it is made. Logically, if you researched a deck before buy it, you most likely like the system/pics/theme so you, I, focus on the things that disappoint us : cardboard quality, sharpness of the print, borders (presence or absence)… etc

To me there is not one perfect deck when it comes to that. For instance, I love big cards like the Druidcraft tarot or the Tarot Noir. Love, love them ! But if they’re great at home, they’re not handy on the go, nor to poker shuffle. In terms of cardboard quality, my favourite has to be the Arthurian Tarot (I own a French edition, slightly different from the original version). Sturdy, well laminated and with nice rounded corners. A dream even if it is not the most shuffleable (does this word even exist ?) deck.
The Tarot of the Witches (Fergus Hall, 1973) is, to my hands, the most comfortable to work with. The cards glide and shuffle well, especially when I do it the poker way. I could handle them 24/7.

P1140726Some cards’ quality however is nightmarish. I’ve already talked about the Wyldwood but I own a couple others whose cardboard is as crappy as this one. The Mystic Faery Tarot is one of them. I don’t know if it is unique to the French edition but the cards are way too thin and way too glossy !

The literature : companion, LWB …etc

Last but not least, I consider the literature available to be quite important. Is the little white book (LWB) well written ? Are they other companion books available ?

Many people grumble about how useless the LWB are, how they are empty shells … etc. I personally don’t really care that much. Yes, I do bitch about it and yes, when I come across a good LWB I feel like Christmas is coming up early but I don’t mind that much.

P1140711On the other hand, when the companion book in a set does not live up to what I expected, I really get upset. LWB have the excuse to be small objects, to be tucked in a box. Companions on the other hand are supposed to be more complete and not filled with a mix of general informations, Celtic Cross spreads and stuff for the author’s previous books. To me a good tarot set means a good tarot deck AND a good companion book.

Druidcraft TarotMy favourite are : the Druidcraft tarot companion (holy smoke I love this book !) and the Mary-El one. I also find the books regarding the Thoth Tarot most interesting and the book by Kaplan about the Tarot of the Witches too. It’s not marvellous and more of a booklet but for the size, I found it quite informative.

In the end, there is no such thing as a perfect tarot. First because every reader is different, with different expectations and also because as we grow, our focus on what makes a good deck may change, evolve, mutate. I haven’t found the perfect deck yet, I have collected many amazing pieces though !

Hope you liked this post and found it, at least a tiny bit informative.

Have a great week and keep shuffling !

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Working with the Thoth

Yes, I know, the Thoth Tarot ! Again ! I promise the next posts won’t all be about that deck, but for now, let’s talk Thoth !

When I met the Thoth Tarot, it wasn’t a planned purchase so after the enthusiasm of discovering that I could read it intuitively, I realised that to work with its full potential, some study shall be done. The thing is, as it wasn’t planned, I hadn’t planned the study part either.

If I had researched Aleister Crowley a bit, I had no book on his tarot to read. I then, roamed the interwebs, looking for material to help me get inside the Thoth Tarot and understand Crowley’s work.

As it is THE book written for this deck, I got the Book of Thoth. I chose the English version first because I read in English for the most part anyway but mainly because I wanted the original version, not a translation. Indeed, I believe translations have their flaws, you cannot translate a book perfectly that is just not possible.
I might be wrong but from what I knew (and from what I have discovered since then) of Crowley, the man is not that straightforward. I suspected he concealed quite a lot within his writings, beneath the surface and I didn’t wanted to miss that.

I also got Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot by Lon Milo Duquette and Tarot: Mirror of the Soul : Handbook for the Aleister Crowley Tarot by Gerd Ziegler. I just started the first one and so far, it prove interesting and enlightening. The second book I haven’t started yet. My priority was (and still is) working in the Book of Thoth.

Aside from books, I devoted a whole new journal to my Thoth experimentations. I glued Thoth related images on it and such and I fill it with notes, spreads, research… etc I also printed the Book of Thoth from my kindle version and put it in a binder so I can take notes directly on it. There are a couple other sections in that binder : one for Crowley himself, one for Thelema and Crowley’s other works… etc

thoth binderSo far, working with the Thoth Tarot has proven to be like going on an adventure. It goes beyond the bookish aspect, way beyond and I’m just starting.

For those of you who work with this deck : what are your favourite books ? and have you set up a specific methodology ?

How I met the Thoth tarot…

… it was a glorious summer day and I was on my way to the beach.

For a very long time, I’ve kept away from the Thoth Tarot deck. It was on my wishlist but, for numerous reasons I never caved in.

First, it was a bit out of my comfort zone of celtic/druidic/pagan decks (I have other kinds of decks, but these are the ones I connect the most easily with) but more, in my mind, working with the Thoth meant a lot of academic-type reading ahead. Kabbalah, Golden Dawn and that kind of stuff are not really my niche. I find these subjects very interesting but I am no expert. I guess that is what put me off with the Thoth deck in the first place.

thoth fresque

What was the point of buying a deck only for it to end up gathering dust on a lonely shelf ? How sad it would be for it never to be read with !
See, I consider that, even if the whole divinatory power does not lie exclusively in a deck, using and loving your cards is key to a good reading. I’d rather read an old battered deck full of love than a pristine set of cards that spent their life ignored.
I’m weird like that.

Anyway, last summer as we were going to the beach, we came across a garage sale and stopped to have a look (Oh god ! I love garage sales ! They are the best places to look for a treasure). Among the stalls, one lovely lady was selling a few divination decks. Mostly tarot decks with some oracle cards, and some of them were quite old and rare editions. Among them was a copy of the Thoth Tarot in perfect condition. As I was looking at the cards, the lady told me that she never could read that deck. She was pretty sad about it. She spent a couple years trying to connect with it but it never spoke to her so it ended up, cosily wrapped in a cloth, on one of her shelves. Eventually, she decided to declutter her house and sell the few decks she was not reading with. The Thoth Tarot was among them.

thoth1

As I was listening to her story, I couldn’t look away from the cards’ beautiful artwork. The colours, the symbols, everything was just right. Of course, I bought the deck and I would have bought a couple others if I weren’t that broke at the time. The cards were, as I said earlier, in perfect condition. The box was missing though but at the moment I had it in my hands, I knew a box would be useless. Boxes are for storage and this deck wouldn’t need much.

Funny enough, if it hadn’t been for that garage sale, I think I would never have bought the Thoth Tarot. Universe has a way of setting you on the right path that will always amaze me.

That very day on the beach, I pulled out my new deck and started to shuffle the cards. It felt perfect, as if I was reunited with an old friend. I spent the most part of the afternoon doing freestyle readings and the results were AMAZING !
Never would I have dreamt of connecting that fast, that easily with a deck. Let alone the Thoth.

thoth that day on the beach 3

Well, I’m not gonna tell you that, since then, I haven’t been studying. I reckon that to grasp the full potential of these cards, you need a little more than just an intuitive connection. I don’t say it is not key, just that it’s only a part of the equation.

Reading The Book of Thoth is great (reading it several times is even better lol). It gives you an overview of Crowley‘s perspectives on tarot (and on this one especially) which is always useful. I also read a couple other books on this deck and researched its creator a bit as well. In the end, the research part I was so fearful of has proven quite enjoyable. Late 19th/early 20th century occultism is fascinating even if I know I barely touched on the tip of the iceberg.

Eventually, meeting (there is no better word, really) this deck made me realise that there is no interest in trying to master a deck quickly. I’d rather the study of the Thoth Tarot be the work of a lifetime, a companion to discover along the way.

By the way, the deck cost me 8€ (=$9 or £6). It’s the large version which is perfect as I love big cards.

thoth that day on the beach 2

Well, I guess that’s my first post…

Hello !

For quite some time, I’ve been wanting a place where I could share my tarot (and divination) journey in English as the French and English-speaking communities are pretty different when it comes to cards in general and tarot more specifically.
I’m terrible when it comes to introductions, “about” pages and so on so I thought I’d just write a little bit about my relationship to tarot, how it all started.

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My history with tarot started early on as my mum used to read the cards herself. I can’t remember the first time I had cards in my hands but I always loved them, their energies, their symbols, the way they felt in my little hands. It was the beginning of what is becoming a life-long love affair.

The very first tarot deck I read with was a very French Epinal Tarot my mum owned and I thought it was magic. Not magic as in Harry-Potterish magic. Mystical, like a book full of hidden wisdom hidden by a some code. At the time, learning to understand tarot felt like I was Indiana Jones going on a marvellous adventure.
I grew up of course but the feeling never quite got away. It comes back full-strength every time I get my deck out and hope never to loose that sensation of entering a different, magical realm where everything seems possible.

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Anyway, my mum then gave me that very first deck when I was in Junior High School as she was only using her Belline Oracle at the time. I was as much interested in the occult than in science and I read books as if my life depended on it. (That didn’t change much ) I started seeing patterns, tarot-related patterns almost everywhere I looked. At that point, tarot was a very private thing for me, only a handful of friends would know of this little passion of mine. When I think about it today, I remember wanting to keep it all for myself. I even wrote that very presumptuous line in one of my old diaries :

Tarot is a knowledge that must be earned the hard way, not given to anyone to use or it will loose its very essence.

(Yup, I was a little bit full of myself at the time, and it sounds even more pompous in French. Too much history books and clearly not enough TV series here).

Since then, I have worked with quite a lot of different decks, tarot and oracles alike. My understanding of divination has grown, and my views on the availability of resources have (thanks god) evolved a bit (I often wonder what 12 yo me would think of it. Lucky she’s stuck in 2002 that one ^^).

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Today I read cards for others as well as for myself and tarot has become an essential tool in my daily life. The more I read the cards (and about the cards), the more they have to teach me and to me, each and every deck is full of its own kind of magic that arise as you shuffle the cards.

As I told you, I’m not great with intros, I shall then leave it here and wish you a beautiful evening with, if you’re lucky as I am, a good cup of tea and tarot deck to “play” with.

Welcome on Tarot & Candles !

PS: I didn’t say but I suppose it’s quite obvious. I love candles too, hence the name of this blog 😉