As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve taken up the cards again, both to bring some sense of the mystical back into my life and to help me make sense of where my life and brain are at these days.
I thought I’d share a bit on the decks I’m working with at the moment as well as how I’m studying them; in a future post I’ll talk more about what the cards actually are to me, and how the whole idea of “fortune telling” is basically a load of crap but divination most certainly is not.
I’ve been an oracle reader for my entire adult life, but a dedicated interest in the Tarot itself is fairly new for me. I’ve worked with Runes, of course, and with oracle decks (the Tarot is a specific system of 78 cards, but there are also a wide variety of oracle decks, like the Froud Oracle I used for years, that have their own symbolism and their own methods), but I decided this year to devote time and effort to a more formalized study of the Tarot.
I’ve been working my way through the Major Arcana using three decks for comparison and reading the amazing explorations in Rachel Pollack’s classic book 78 Degrees of Wisdom. Pollack has written extensively on the Tarot, and I highly recommend her work. I read her essay on a card, make notes about the differences in each deck’s interpretation, and come up with a set of keywords and my own notes, in the hope of creating my own “Little White Book” of card meanings.
As I mentioned, I’m working with three decks at the moment: A traditional Rider-Waite-Smith (The Universal Waite), a reasonably traditional deck, and one that is, for me, what some readers call a Soul Deck. As Pollack’s book is based on the RWS, I wanted a straight-up version of the deck to use as a baseline; since it’s purely a study deck I won’t talk about it in any depth here. You can get a look at it on Aeclectic.net, which is an awesome resource – it has hundreds of decks complete with card images, reviews, and features both mass-market decks and independently-published.
Here are the other two I’m studying with and plan to make part of my long-term practice.
The Shadowscapes Tarot
The Shadowscapes deck is a longtime love of mine, as Law is one of my very favorite artists. Her watercolors are so unbelievably intricate, I can look at one of her paintings a dozen times and see different details every time.
That does mean that her Tarot deck suffers a bit for being so small – if you compare the actual card to the image of that card’s original on her website you can see just how much you’re missing (example: check out the Two of Swords on Stephanie’s website). But the cards are still incredibly beautiful, and the deck adheres pretty closely to the traditional RWS meanings with, of course, Law’s own lyrical spin on things.
Those of you who read my novels may, upon looking at the image of the deck above, recognize the imagery in the Eight of Pentacles and the Two of Swords from Stella’s readings. (Not all of Stella’s cards were inspired by the Shadowscapes deck, but those two in particular definitely were.)
As much as I love the art, I don’t feel a real emotional connection to the deck when I read with it for myself – I think it’s probably one I’ll use when reading for others. People tend to respond to it strongly since it’s so gorgeous.
Tarot of the Hidden Realm
What’s funny about The Tarot of the Hidden Realm is, I actually had a copy years ago but didn’t like it and gave it away; it wasn’t until I decided to get back into reading that I rediscovered it, and the minute I saw the images, I knew it had to be mine again. The second I got the cards in my hands they started talking, and haven’t stopped since.
The deck is a looser interpretation of the RWS, and focuses very strongly on emotions – most of the cards depict humanesque Faery creatures and express a feeling instead of simply showing, say, a bunch of cups or swords. It’s a deeply personal deck, and when I interviewed** it the cards confirmed they were with me to help me find real, useful solutions and get me where I need to be to grow into who I know, deep down, I am. I may very rarely break the deck out for other people but it will primarily be my partner.
In addition to going through the cards one by one, I’ve been doing regular small readings and gathering up new spreads to try; I want to be able to just pull out the cards whenever I need insight, the way I used to with the Froud deck.
But Wait, Sylvan…What’s Wrong with the Froud Deck? I Thought it was Your Divinatory Lifemate! And What of the Runes?
Times, they change…and sometimes people do, though more often they don’t. And after using the Faery Oracle for years, I realized something rather disheartening: It wasn’t helping me change.
I drew the same cards over and over for years, but at no point did I ever feel like I was learning anything from them. It’s all well and good to have a card say “trust your intuition,” but if that’s all it says to you, what good does it do to draw it a dozen times? I felt that the deck was wise, and beautiful, and some of the imagery was very important to my spiritual life, but when it came to actually evolving and growing as a person, it was just maddeningly vague.
I think it’s a great deck for meditation and for exploring spiritual archetypes and universal energies, but it wasn’t what I needed out of an oracle anymore, and it was time to try something new.
As for the Runes…well, I’m not sure what happened there. I think my long Dark Night of the Soul might have broken my connection with them; I tried re-dedicating them a while back and still got nothing. It may be that we reconnect when the time is right. As I saw with the Hidden Realm deck sometimes oracles come in and out of your life when they need to be there. Also, since I haven’t been involved with a lot of spiritual events or practicing with a group, I haven’t needed to cast them for anyone, and they were always more of an oracle for other people than for me.
Since I think it’s pretty safe to predict I’ll end up with quite a collection of decks, I plan to do some reviewing here on the blog; I already have one in mind to talk about. Look for that, as well as the second part of this discussion, very soon.
Are you into Tarot or other divinatory methods? Tell me all about ’em.
** An idea I found via Tarot enthusiasts on YouTube – when you first get a deck you can do an “interview” spread to see how you’ll work with it and what it wants to tell you. Here’s the video that inspired mine.Become my patron for exclusive online content and read new stories before anyone else!