Tarot, Oracle or Fortune Telling Deck?

In a time where one may casually hear any means of divination referred to as Tarot, which type of deck a full size 78 card  true Tarot or an oracle deck of various sizes from less than 36 to more than 52 cards is the best to select for your client’s reading situation?

Having started out with a full sized Tarot deck of the Marseilles style where the minor arcana or pip cards are numbered this deck is the one which is most familiar to me.

An oracle deck for me is a deck which is visual having pictures and geometric symbols  not numbered or in suits like playing cards. This style of deck works for me to trigger  messages from the shared  subconscious levels between myself and the client.  Most oracle decks were not numbered individually and the number of cards in the deck varied.  A personal favorite was the 1997 Vertical Oracle by Antero Alli using 52 images created by Sylvie Pickering.

 

In the last 10 years learning the European style of fortune telling decks of 36 cards was a major change and challenge. Having started with Lenormand from a French perspective study proved in was indeed a German concept. Moving into the Kipperkarten the benefits of using the 36 cards began to show themselves in ways that Tarot did not.

Tarot I have found reads the internal aspects of the person in their environment  or inside to outside.  Oracle decks read all the energies  in an environment or situation using symbol language.   Fortune telling decks of 36 cards seem to deal with the energies in the outer world and how the  person is handling them or from the outer to the inner.

 

Clients in general want to deal with the latter how to handle the outer environment wanting to know what is coming down the pike. The 36  card decks excel at this. So it would be good when you don’t know the client at all such as an outdoor fair or doing online services.

Initiates and people working in aspects of magick or  the occult want to check their energies and balance so the 78 card Tarot is able to show them an internal blueprint. The Major Arcana dealing with outer phenomena,  the Minor Arcana with the 4 element balance in their own system and the Court Cards with their psychological interface.  One would have to know the client’s interests to select this method.

Artists, creative people and those of a mystical mindset fare well when read with  a symbol-visual dominant oracle. Again this works for people whose interests you know or repeat clients.

Just my take on the various tools. Try them out!

After the Unboxing

What happens after you open the box on a new deck of cards be they Tarot, 36 card fortune telling decks or any oracle on cardstock?

Most folks like to do an unboxing or write a review for their blogs and then the new deck gets to join the others on a shelf if they are a collector or to wait until a mood strikes if they are  a dilettante . If the person is a regular card reader then the deck gets placed in the rotation to be used if the energy is good. If the energy is good means in most cases if the buyer/reader “feels” a connection to the images of the deck. This is why theme and concept decks are often relegated to a certain time of year and the user never gets familiar with their cards.

How does on get to know a deck of cards? My first act is to open the deck. This requires a thorough  shuffle to break up the pre-formatted order of the cards. The goal of opening a deck is to get a message from the deck about what it brings to you -as a tool of divination. This ritual first act allows the deck to make the first move and speak to you. No question is needed other than your intention.

The opening card is recorded.

After opening the deck if it is a 78 card Tarot the layout is always  the Pentagram Spread  as it tells me if the energy distribution of the deck. This spread is also recorded. The first spread  used varies with 36 card decks and other oracles but it is basic in all cases which means not more than 5 cards.

Then what? If the deck is a good energy fit, it is time to move beyond the LWB or the guidebook which came with it. A reader  has to discover what the symbology and the scenery on the cardface mean by direct experience. Reading is personal. It uses the treasure house of the Reader i.e. the contents of their subconscious (aka personal unconscious) to interpret the situation of the client.

What the symbol means to a client means absolutely nothing.  The layout is  arranged in front of the Reader and INVERSE to the client across the table. It is the reader who functions as  interpreter. A spread is a mirror. The client is the face in the mirror which momentarily looks back at us which is not our own.

This is why a professional Reader  immediately takes up the cards and puts the deck back together to  end the session before a client rises from the chair.  They may use some additional ritual techniques to  “clear” each face to face reading session which  ensures  all the client’s energies  go out the door with them.

 

 

Santa Muerte Tarot

 

The Santa Muerte Tarot finally arrived from Book Depository in the UK who as always has the best prices! This 2017 Lo Scarabeo deck was drawn by Fabio Listrani.

It came in the standard box which is quite sturdy. The cards are glossy  and the stock makes it easy to shuffle them. The colors are vibrant and the scenes are not quite RWS in format.

There is not a one on one correspondence to basic Tarot meanings. As a “concept” deck the subject matter “flavors” the brew so to speak. Therefore the action on the cardface is important not a rote response. The LWB gives a short blurb called Advice of the Dead for each card. It would help to look at each card as you read the notation  when working with the deck. It is not for those new to Tarot, no concept deck is.

The opening card for me using this deck is the  Knight of Pentacles which is not shown here. The Knights are mounted on dead steeds. The Knight of Pentacles is shown in a lime green  hue and has a full sack of burlap slung across his back which indicates he brings lots of information.

The first layout done with the deck was a Pentagram Spread to inquire about the deck itself. This is shown in the first photo.  The first card was the 10 of Wands which is a red butterfly.

Butterflies

The butterfly is the form taken by women warriors in the Toltec-Aztec culture. They are of course women who die in childbirth and in battle who transform in Spirit and do not enter into Mictlan or the Underworld.  The artist has drawn the butterfly wings of the 10’s in this deck as stylized sternums or breastbones,i.e.  the bones which protect the heart.  Male warriors return as hummingbirds. The concept of to “die in battle”  or “warfare” can be extended in modern times to those who die a violent death.

Colors

The colors and the directions are key factors in the  Aztec codes used to map the world. There is some variation from Olmec to Mayan to Toltec to Aztec to Mexica  but in this deck it appears that Red is the color of the West/Wands;  Yellow the color of the East/Sword;  Blue the color of the South/Cups. The traditional color of the North or Mictlan is white but since the Land of the Dead  is where the scenes take place Green/Pentacles becomes the Earth above, the land of the living which is engaged in a reciprocal relationship with the dead.

Bones

Bones are seeds in the Aztec Underworld. After the creation of the Fifth Sun the cosmovision of Mesoamerica says bones were required to repopulate the Earth with human beings. The bones taken from Mictlan were then fed the blood of the Gods in order to bring them and mankind back to fleshy life.

In light of this one can see why the phrase “Memento Vivere” or  remember to live appears over the Sugar Skull on the deck box.  Just as  trees, vegetation and  flowers  come from seeds so does mankind come from seeds of bone.

Candles

The High Priestess card connects to one’s dream life. As the scenario shows she  has a key to their understanding. In fact she may have a hand in creating them. Her open book has drawings in it like the Codices of the Aztecs not words. A codex is shown again closed  in the 6 of Wands also in my Pentagram Spread.

The High Priestess  is one of the few cards  in the deck with lit candles. The Magician, Hierophant have candles as does The Queen of Wands. The Hermit of course took his lit lamp with him into the grave.  The Five of Wands shows a lit match with an empty candle holder. All of these candle/light cards are part of a larger story of the absence or presence of light as awareness in the dream and death worlds.

So we see a slice of “activity” in the Land of the Dead, a land both North and below our feet. Do not place  westernized limits on when to use  this deck. It is not just for Halloween or the Days of the Dead. Everyday the two worlds of the Living and the Dead intersect  with each death and birth; with every sunrise and sunset.

Working with your Ancestors is not a requirement for this deck. The Dead are the dead. They are simply people who have passed on- not just your kin but every dead man and dead woman. They are not Spirits as the Spirit of a dead man having wings  flies away and cannot be confined in the Land of the Dead .

 

Waiting on the Mailman

Waiting for the arrival of a new deck is a practice which develops one’s patience. Ha! I am in the process of doing some looking into a Tarot deck based on an indigenous American folkloric tradition, albeit a modern one. I ordered the 2017 Santa Muerte Tarot deck standard edition by Fabio Listrani. It will be my next blog review.

The card that first caught my attention is the one pictured at the left, Temperance. Just one look and  I was off searching for the other images of the deck. The minors have some scenes which adhere to the Rider-Waite format, while others show  images based on the theme of the deck.

Not being involved in the cult of Santa Muerte, the upcoming review will focus on how indigenous American cultural symbology  works in divination.

 

22, 56 & 36

The Major Arcana have been used in the Western system of Hermetics along with the Tree of Life to hold the contents and illustrate the structure of the Worlds.  The roots of Tarot like the roots of all games have an enduring and far reaching quality which allows them to survive in the eye of the public and thus by availability to also be used as aids to memory.

The reading of events to come in Tarot relies heavily on the 40 Minor Arcana as the 16 Court Cards interact with them. These 56 cards relate  to energies which are coalescing and forming into manifestation. The 22 cards can be seen as archetypes, causes or knots being tied and untied which impact upon coming events.

The 52 standard playing card deck is a modification of the 56 cards of Tarot’s  Minor Arcana which can be used for fortune telling.  The requirement to do so is a firm understanding of the 4 emblems or suits as symbols of the elements and/or the ability to read elemental pairings in a numerical field.

I see Tarot as a divination tool best suited to the Initiate in a system.   A divination tool reads the Querent’s energies as the central  catalyst of all phenomena in the environment.  For the everyday mundane “other” and outer centered queries of love and money, the 36 card decks give a far more direct response.

The German 36 card games are great parlor oracles. They work well to answer all the questions a client may ask. Lenormand is quite popular in the US today. My preference however  is the  original Kipperkarten deck with its variety of layouts and sharp directness.  As to the Gypsy cards I do not particularly care for the images on the cards and thus there is no sympathetic bond.  A reader should definitely have an affinity for the cards they read!

It is not necessary to read a variety of decks. One may of course sample many decks over time in search of what works best but when it comes to advancing in Cartomancy  one will find they have to limit their toolkit. The master deck is a single type of deck in a specific form which rises up out of the multitude of cards. As the saying goes “there can be only one”  which the Reader truly knows inside and out.

 

 

The Roots of Tarot and the Great Arcanum

My readers know by now that I separate divination from fortune telling.  As a divination tool the Majors speak of phenomena, the Royals  of psychological concepts and the Minors of energies. The Tarot is used for divination as it contains  3 parts which are analogous to those of the Great Arcanum of the Hermetic mystery system.  In fact the words TARO and ROTA form part of the formula of the Great Arcanum according to Eliphas Levi in Transcendental Magic.

Tarot in an esoteric sense functions as a language of the Great Work. Language of course is symbolic and when combined with the  imagery becomes a treasure map. The words cartomancy and cartography share the root cart  from Greek χάρτης chartēs, “papyrus, sheet of paper, map;” which  becomes in our modern English card.

The Tarot was introduced  and produced in the time of the Moors in the cities of  Cordoba and Toledo during Spain’s Golden Age.  Cabala with a C refers to  Horsemen,  Knights or Crusaders those who traveled.  In those times one traveled to learn any Occult Art.

The Tarot  as used by  the Travelers, i.e.  chivalric orders of Adepts were landmarks on the territory of both exterior and interior maps,  well before the influence of philosophy and religion which colors Hebrew Kabbalah became the more dominant theme. The language of the earlier Cabala is extant in the Coats of Arms used by the Royal Families of Europe who in Tarot parlance are the Court Cards.

Hence, Spanish Cabala is functionally a geometric or graphic approach much akin to a chess game while Jewish Kabbalah is more the mathematical perspective as evidenced by its Gematria. The African influence on Tarot according to Mouni Sadhu by way of  Professor G.O.B. Mebes of Russia  resides in its color coding.

Hence the three parts of the Great Arcanum are present in the very construction of the Marseilles deck in  the graphic scenarios of the Majors;  the bright coloring of the Honors or Royal Court and the numbering of the Pips or Minor Arcana.

Occult and esoteric correspondences or links are connected to Tarot cards as mnemonic devices  which allow them to pass on pieces of occult knowledge according to the school or group one is associated with from one generation to another.

 

The Court of the Royal Arcana

 

The Royal Arcana

On the Hermetic Path of Tarot one has to learn of the elements. The elements are the components of the physical and the psychological aspects of the human being. How do we go about doing this? We have to enter the Court of the Tarot Deck and salute the Royal Arcana.

Each suit represents an element ( fire, water, air, earth) and each has a ruling hierarchy symbolized by the King, Queen, Knight and Page. In this ranking each element is represented, i.e. all Kings are Fire, each Queen is Water, Knights are air and the Pages Earth.   For example the King of Wands is Fire of Fire while his Queen is Water of Fire. In the Suit of Disks The Knight is Air of Earth, while  The Page of Swords is Earth of Air.

Each court card is a combination of  suit element filtered through  the rank  of the Royal who presents it!

The so called personal attributes of the Royal Arcana are in truth coded  energy patterns. We know the energies themselves have “natures”.  Fire expands, Water contracts, Air moves and Earth supports. By their  natures Fire and Water,  Air and Earth  are in opposition; while Earth and Water,  Air and Fire are complementary. This helps us to read the energies of each Royal Arcana or Court Card and hence the effect it has in any grouping of cards.

The new reader of Tarot is often perplexed as to why the Court cards appear so frequently in readings.  The answer is they  do so to  show the patterns of  energy the Querent is working with.  However, one has to step beyond the lore of coloring and the assignment of human personalities and their traits  as persons around  the client  in fortune telling and move into the realm of divination in the Hermetic system, which views the Royal Arcana  as being both internal and integral  to the client.

The Royal Arcana  is seen as a means to weigh  psychological components. This is the hinge on which the entire process hangs- the alignment and balancing of the candidate’s internal energies.