Category Archives: Blog

Choosing a tarot deck

I’ve had tarot cards in my life for more than 20 years. In that time I’ve worked with a number of different decks, some which stuck with me, some which did not. Recently I was asked for my recommendation of a tarot deck and I realized that the answer was not so simple. I decided that there were probably more people out there considering the same question. Rather than just tell one person, I should tell you all.

It should go without saying that these are my own practices and opinions. If you have a different perspective this is not intended as an argument, just a starting place for people trying to learn. In matters of metaphysics I think it’s generally good to follow your instincts and intuition. If you feel guided differently, go with what works for you. If nothing else, this made you consider what you think.

Historic vs modern?

People have different reasons for wanting tarot cards. Some are just curious. Some like them because they are different and mysterious. Others want them for spiritual guidance. They can even be used for magickal workings.

By Havang(nl) (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Havang(nl) (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Many don’t realize that tarot cards are connected with various games since the 15th century. (If you’ve never played any of these you might give them a try.) If your interest in tarot is more historical there are some excellent reproduction decks. Many of these do not have pictures for the numbered cards and are easier for playing games. Alternatively, they make it more difficult for divination as the five of cups will just have a pattern of five cups rather than a symbolic scene. If you are beginning divination you may not prefer an historic deck.

Most people asking about tarot want cards for divination. In that case, a deck with picture scenes for all the cards can be very helpful for to engage your intuition as you can feel the scene in the picture rather than trying to memorize keywords. The most popular tarot deck of this type is the Rider-Waite-Smith deck.

Different themes and styles

Major Arcana of Rider-Waite-Smith tarot
Published on December 1909 by William Rider. A collaboration between the artist Pamela Colman Smith and Dr Arthur Edward Waite.

Most beginners will end up with a variation of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. These are certainly the most common, and many decks with other themes will use scenes from this deck as their foundation. These are also the images that are most familiar to the public. This is an excellent deck for general purpose and even as you move on to other decks you will probably want to keep one of these in your collection.

Most books that teach tarot use this deck and speak to its scenes and symbols. Starting with this deck will connect you with many decades of tarot wisdom and traditions. I still make use of these cards from time to time.

Of course, there are thousands of variations on the tarot. An enormous sampling of cards currently available and out of print can be found at the Aeclectic tarot site. A quick look will show you the diversity of the tarot universe! Each deck listed shows a selection of cards with information about the status and where to by the deck. I have a few cards in the major arcana, such as Death, The Devil, and Judgment, that often have interesting variations in a deck. This site lets me browse through these perspectives and track down cards that use scenes that speak to me.

Browsing on a web site, however, is no substitute for getting cards in your hands. If you have a metaphysical bookstore in your area that provides sample decks this is the best way to see how a deck feels to you.

How do I know the right one?

When you are just beginning to work with the tarot you are learning the basics of how the cards work and what you can do with them. For this, it’s probably a good idea to start with a basic Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Any forum or guide that you seek will likely be using this deck as their foundation, so it will be easy to find information as you learn to work with the cards and begin to develop your own intuitive sense of them.

Once you’ve gotten past your training wheels, you may find that there are certain cards that don’t speak to you directly. You find that your connection with the card is not really reflected in the picture. You may also find that you are more inspired by a particular idea like dragons or high Gothic art. When this feeling hits you its definitely time to go shopping for a new deck.

Ideally, you should not have to look up the meanings of cards. Even experienced readers have moments where a card’s meaning seems a little obscure and a review helps reveal lesser-known aspects. A deck that is a good match should speak to you, like a graphic novel. It should reveal its story through its characters, symbols and actions. This will let you make the most use of your intuition.

To find such a deck, look through a sampling, either in person or on-line. Select a few cards that you especially connect with and a few that you find difficult to interpret. Look specifically for these cards and see how they feel to you. If you find yourself repeatedly saying “Yes! That exactly right!” then you have probably found a good deck for you.

picture of Robin Wood tarot box and three sample cards: Strength, King of Cups, and Queen of Cups
Robin Wood Tarot, available at Llewellyn and other metaphysical outlets

My own favorite has become the Robin Wood deck. (Wood was an illustrator for several of Scott Cunningham’s books on magick.) I discovered this deck at a store that used to be in Austin, Texas called Whole Life Books. (It’s now a parking garage. 🙁 ) I wasn’t actually shopping for a new deck that day, but I was looking through the sample decks that they had. The first card that caught my eye was The Magician. It was such a joyful, virile version of the magician that it made me laugh out loud. As I continued to look through the deck I found that The Devil, Judgment, and a number of the other cards filled me with that same joy and clarity. I shortly realized that I needed to take this deck home. It’s now the deck I use most often.

I know others who have a similar connection with cards themed after angels, fairies, and any number of mythologies and cultures. When the cards speak to you, they speak to you! They’ll connect with you like a new friend or lover.

Collecting decks and letting decks go

It is absolutely appropriate to work with more than one deck. Some readers offer a choice of decks, letting the client be drawn to what appeals to them. I find that some kinds of uses seem to work better with one deck than another. The decks won’t be jealous. Find what connects with you and enjoy it.

Often people who work with tarot find themselves collecting and experimenting with a number of different decks. This is fine. Feel free to incorporate as many different styles and visions as you like, though you’ll probably find that, like any tool, there is one that is most reliable that you use when doing something that really matters.

What about when a deck doesn’t feel right any more? You lay the cards and they just confuse you, or maybe you’re not so much into fairies any more.

Ideally you should give the deck to someone who appreciates it. I spoke with a reader who was phasing out a deck that she used to use regularly. She was giving it away, one card at a time, to clients. They would take a card home with them after a reading. In many cases you’ll know someone who is attracted to the cards. A personal tarot deck is a powerful gift and can inspire someone to go deeper into their tarot work.

If you don’t know anyone who would enjoy the deck, pass it through some sort of charitable venue. While the cards will likely be sold by the charity, your act of giving frees the cards to reconnect with someone new.

Should you just sell them on eBay? Technically, there is nothing wrong with this. If you happen to buy cards on eBay that doesn’t mean that they are tainted or anything. If you never connected with the cards (you find an unopened deck) then this would be fine. If you have used the cards, though, you should probably consider this carefully. Meditate on the sale and make sure that it feels right. If you get indications that the sale is OK, spend some time cleansing the cards, as you would any magickal tool.

Have fun with your cards

Whether your interest in tarot is artistic, historic or mystical you should enjoy the cards that you have. Even if someone else swears that a deck is powerful for them it may not be right for you. If you’re not sure which one to pick, start with a basic Rider-Waite-Smith deck to get you started. You’ll likely grow beyond it, but it’s a great foundation. When you’re ready for a new deck you’ll know, and you’ll know what you’re looking for. Trust your intuition to guide you to what is right for you.

Connecting with tarot I a wonderful experience. The right deck will speak to you openly and increase your confidence. When a deck is not right for you, it’s OK to let it go, but do so gently, like an old friendship. Send it on to do good work for others.

If you want to explore tarot more deeply and want some personal guidance please reach out.

 

Sun and Moon Celebration

Old line drawing of sun and moon figuresToday is an unusual day as celestial celebrations go. It marks Midsummer, the summer solstice which is the longest day of the year. It’s also a full moon. Astronomically speaking, the Sun reaches its most northern point in the sky at local noon. From here forward the days will get shorter until we reach the winter solstice and the pendulum begins to swing back the other way.

Today also marks the full moon. It is a rare occurrence for both to happen on the same day.

From a witchier perspective, Midsummer is a celebration of male energy, the god. The full moon recognizes the female energy, the goddess. The harmony of both of these energies, male and female together, is a profound moment, and very appropriate for our times. As our media is hungry for the debate about gender and focused on the differences I look to the 7th Hermetic Principal from the Kybalion, the principal of gender.

This principal acknowledges that gender permeates everything in our world. All of us have male and female aspects within us. Celebrating Midsummer with a full moon is a beautiful acknowledgement of the dual natures within everything and the importance of both.

Do something outdoors this evening. A back-yard cookout would be perfect. Spend some time running and jumping and dancing. Think about the good things that you have in your world — you have some! Think how these resources are growing and developing into a bountiful harvest later on. Gather friends and family of both sexes and appreciate how much we all really have in common with each other.

 

Dark entities in your home

dark_entity Some entities seem nice but hide something darker. If you experience negative signs, don’t ignore it!

Because I help people explore paranormal ideas I get a lot of people’s stories about weird things that have happened. Honestly, I really enjoy them. Some of them are funny. Some are spooky. Often they are things that aren’t told to just anyone. I feel privileged to hear these.

From time to time I’ll hear something that really catches my attention. I’ll hear a story that resonates pretty strongly with what I’ve studied. Every once in a while I hear something that makes me concerned.

More people than you might imagine have some sort of entity in their life. Some are bothered by it but many enjoy this connection. Those connections are good and if you have a friendly spirit I would encourage you to coexist, much as you might do with a favorite squirrel in your yard. It’s a good thing for us to have connections with the unseen world for no other reason than it helps us to appreciate that there is a world outside of our regular perception.

Not all entities are good things, though. There are things that have never been human. There are spirits of people with troubled lives that seek to continue that trouble. These are bad news and should not be tolerated any more than you would tolerate a dangerous animal living in your yard.

What are signs of a dangerous entity? Here are a few key ones:

  1. It makes you uneasy — Humans have a pretty well-developed sense of when something is not safe. Modern society has dulled this a little by causing us to focus on tools other than our own intuition, but it’s still pretty good. If the entity makes you feel uncomfortable, beyond just the little thrill of experiencing something unusual, there is a problem.
  2. It’s unresponsive to your requests — In general, the kinds of entities that you want around are positively responsive to you. If banging the cabinets at 3:00 in the morning messes with your sleep and your children you can explain that this is a problem. They don’t necessarily experience time the way that we do so it might not have even occurred that the activity was troublesome. You may need to re-explain from time to time, but it will feel generally cooperative. If your requests are met with an angry or contrary response then there is a problem.
  3. It tries to interfere — We all have things that we need to do on this plane. We work, learn, eat, create families, have friends, etc. It’s life. A positive entity will respect your life. It won’t be jealous and it won’t try to create conditions that prevent you from living your life normally. Now, it may play games with you, like hiding the keys for a bit to remind you that you don’t always need to be running around. It might push a little from time to time when there is someone that might not be good for you. Ultimately, however, it needs to respect your needs and wishes. If conditions are keeping people away and making you more isolated, there is a problem.
  4. It tries to influence you to do harmful things — An entity might try to encourage certain styles and activities, much like a live-in grandmother might try to influence your clothes and music. However, a positive entity will not do things that make you feel more depressed, more lonely. It will not manipulate you and make unreasonable demands of you. When you are targeted by an entity like this it’s usually pretty hard to tell. It’s much easier to see when someone else is being affected. If someone in your home is showing signs of darkening moods, depression and a lack of personal interest or care, especially when they point it back to the entity, there is a problem.

Now, you might experience degrees of these things that is just a matter of moodiness. An entity will respond to changes much as anyone does. It won’t always be positive. Sometimes new friends or activities will generate a little chaos. They are life forces and as prone to imperfection as any of us. Life with an entity demands a certain level of toleration for disruption.

There’s a boundary, however. The entity should accept the new boyfriend after he’s shown himself to be a decent guy. The entity should accept the changes in your schedule or your need to have certain things on your desk left alone. When the behavior becomes uncivilized you will need to take some action.

So, what do you do? A lot really depends on the actual situation. Is this a troubled spirit that needs help? Is this an inhuman entity that is attaching itself to your child?

First we must have some understanding. I think it’s important to maintain some sort of communication with an entity you allow in your home. Talk to it. Include it. Don’t ignore it. It may feel like the dialogue is all one-sided but you will likely notice that there is a sort of two-way communication that evolves as you each learn what works for you. You’ll see positive and negative signs and perhaps even more elaborate communications. If you are getting a danger sign, communicate and explain that this is a problem. A positive entity will respond in a positive way.

Let’s say that the basic communication isn’t working. Now what? Now it’s time to get someone in who has some more experience with this sort of thing. Depending on your spiritual practices you may have a medium, a shaman, or a pastor who is open to these things. Let them come and see what they get from this entity. If something is wrong they will likely be able to tell.

If you don’t have a spiritual connection, you might reach out to a paranormal group. Here is a listing of groups in different areas. Here is a resource for finding groups in your area. Please be very careful in connecting with these groups. They vary in skill and experience and you will be sharing some personal things with these people. Check out their web site and learn more about them. If you can work with a group that is personally recommended to you that is always best. At least give them the same due diligence you would give someone doing home repairs.

Once you know more about the entity and, hopefully, why it is being negative you can take some action. The actions range anywhere from banishing or exorcism to simply making a few changes about how you maintain your persona space and how you interact with the entity. Ideally it will just be a temporary phase or a misunderstanding that clears up and returns everything to normal.

If you have a positive entity in your life you should feel very special. It’s an experience that relatively few people have and it can be a wonderful part of your life. If things start feeling wrong, though, don’t do nothing. Some entities that seem to be friendly are actually deceptive. Unchecked they can cause a great deal of harm. Ignorance is their greatest ally.

I’m always opened to talk with people about these kinds of experiences. If you have something to share, please reach out.

Grounding and Shielding

When participating in any activity that could put you in touch with unpleasant energies there are two important practices that I think should always be undertaken: Grounding and Clearing. What kinds of activities? Any sort of encounter with haunted items or locations, any sort of séance or attempts to connect with paranormal entities, even situations where you are going to be dealing with people who you find aggressive or draining are all situations where these techniques could make a big difference. They help you release the negativity that you are bringing into a situation and to put a protection around yourself.

These are simple techniques that can be done any time, anywhere. They are also subtle, so you can do them without drawing a lot of attention.

yggdrasilGrounding

The purpose of grounding is to stabilize your energy and put you in a more neutral state. When working with energy or going into a location that interacts with energy (like a haunted building) you want to be as much in control of your state as you can. Negative emotions and energies that have accumulated throughout your day can be amplified or, even worse, turned against you. Just as grounding your self will discharge the static electricity that has built up walking across the carpet in your socks mentally grounding your mind will help remove the emotional build-up.

In addition to helping with energy work this is an excellent exercise to perform whenever you are dealing with challenging situations at work or with other people. It doesn’t take long to do this and you will find yourself calmer and more at peace when you are done.

  1. Put yourself in a quiet place where you can sit comfortably. This is not absolutely necessary as, with practice, you will be able to perform this exercise standing on a crowded bus. To begin, however, quiet is helpful.
  2. Sit down with your feet planted flat on the floor. Your back should be straight but relaxed. If you have problems achieving this posture try rolling your shoulders and letting your spine settle into it’s naturally straight position. (I had a theatre teacher who called this “stacking your bones.) Rest your hands loosely in your lap.
    If you need to stand, stand straight with your hands resting naturally at your sides.
  3. Close your eyes and imagine yourself transforming into a tree. Imagine roots shooting gently out the bottoms of your feet and branches coming out of your torso and spreading out far above your head. Your branches reach high and your roots dig down deep. You are planted in the earth. You are one with the earth.
    You may be tempted to stretch out your arms to simulate the branches, but this can become tiring. You don’t want that distraction. Let your arms and all your limbs rest while your mind reaches out to make the roots and branches of this tree.
  4. As your roots reach deep into the ground, imagine all the negative energy, all the frustrations in your mind, all the anger and sadness and anything else that you consider toxic falling down through your roots and going deep into the earth. The earth can take it all. It will absorb these toxic thoughts and emotions and nurture them into new life. Let them go, deep down into the earth.
  5. As your branches reach up into the sky imagine a bright white light that you can feel at the top of your head. It is warm, pleasant, and nurturing. Imagine all of the toxic things flowing down into your roots making room for this warm light. Let that light fill the spaces and infuse you with a glowing feeling of good energy.
  6. Continue to go back and forth between flushing negativity deep, deep into the ground and absorbing the bright nurturing light from above. Do this for as long as you need. If you’ve never done it, or haven’t for a long time, you may have a lot to cycle. Don’t rush it. Enjoy it. With practice you’ll find the process happens pretty quickly and automatically.
  7. Once you feel like you have grounded the negativity it is time to withdraw the tree elements back into your self. See the branches shrinking back down and the roots pulling themselves back up to the bottom of your feet. When all has come back together you may feel an actual release as your feet are no longer connected to the ground. Be careful if you are standing as this can affect your balance.
  8. Shake your body out as needed and enjoy the fresh feeling of being grounded.

goldenshieldShielding

Once you’ve managed to clear out that negative energy you want to try to keep it out. Shielding creates a barrier that protects you from negative energy. Just like grounding, you don’t have to wait for a ghostly encounter to use it. Shielding works for other kinds of psychic attacks and influences. Many people that make you uncomfortable are engaged in psychic attacks, though most of them don’t even know that they are doing it. Once you learn this technique you’ll be surprised at how much more comfortable you feel in various situations by using it.

  1. Close your eyes. Imagine a golden light in front of your eyes that gets brighter and brighter. (Sometimes it is difficult to imagine this light. As you learn to visualize it you can turn your closed eyes to a bright lamp or to the sky on a sunny day. Of course, never look at the sun. Once you get a feel for what this light should look like it will be easier for you to bring it up.)
  2. Let the light grow in intensity until it obscures everything else. The light is not harsh. It does not hurt. It has a pleasant warmth to it. You enjoy the light, even when it is at its brightest.
  3. As you picture this light, know that it is not just in front of you, but completely surrounding you. It is as though you are standing in the middle of a small sun. The bright, golden light is before you and behind you, above you and below you.
  4. Now, imagine that you have a dimmer for this light. You are going to turn down the dimmer, further and further until the light is no more than a little candle flame, just out of your view. It is there and you can still feel its warmth, but it no longer obscures your view. This is how your shield will be when you are going about your business.
  5. Go ahead and turn the light back up. Let it grow brighter and brighter until it outshines everything around, until you can see nothing but the golden light. Again, it is not harsh or uncomfortable. It is calming. This is your shield turned up. Know that harmful energies cannot penetrate this shield, that this golden light, while comfortable to you, is unpleasant to negative influences. They do not want to enter into it. They are repelled by it.
  6. Turn the light back down to a candle flame again. If you wish you can imagine something that makes you uncomfortable, then turn the golden light up until it is obscured. Now turn the light down again and imagine that the negative thing is gone. The light has sent it away.
  7. When you are comfortable that the light surrounds you and obeys you, you can leave it as a candle flame and continue with what you need to do. Know that you can bring that light to bear whenever you want. Turn it up a little when you feel like you are with negative people or in negative space. You’ll find that some of those things just simply avoid you or ignore you.

Bear in mind that your shielding will not necessarily tell the difference between positive and negative energies. You can repel friends as well as enemies. Use the dimmer to turn things down when you are with people you trust. Your shield does draw upon your own psychic energy, so it may make you feel drained if you use it for long periods of time. Rest will replenish you as will positive connections.

Thoughts on being

Author, Neil Gaiman, known for his darkly comic novels and comic books, recently posted an apparent question from a reader on Tumblr:

asker30seasons asked: Dear Neil, I am a horrible person. How to be kinder, please?

Neil’s answer is wonderful. Just fake it.

“Because there isn’t actually any difference between doing something nice for someone because you are naturally saintly and perfect, and doing something nice for someone because you are secretly demonic and trying to cover it up. It’s still an act of kindness either way, and you still made their lives better.”

“Fake it ’til you make it” is an idea I’ve heard often…and it has some wisdom. Though, I think that many people never get over the idea that they are faking it, while others they see as more successful are the “real thing.” Perhaps everyone is faking it on some level.

Sometimes when I read for people I will see a quality that they don’t recognize in themselves. I will see the potential for creativity and artistry, or leadership and entrepreneurship. They’ll shake their head because even though they want that in their lives they don’t see it. They compare themselves to famous and extreme examples of that quality. They don’t see themselves as sufficiently skilled or accomplished so they reject the idea. Even worse, when someone recognizes that quality and compliments them they reject it. “I’m not really an artist, I just draw a little…and badly!”

The universe makes us something…we are that something…we do that thing…then people recognize us as that thing. Whether we gain fame or fortune through that quality we get to enjoy being it. So, take that quality that you would like to have in yourself. Imagine what someone with that quality would do. Do those things. Be forgiving and compassionate with yourself as you stumble. Pretend that you really are that. Realize that some that you admire are doing exactly the same thing.