(Go to the website of this amazing artist: http://www.gentrysmith.net/tarot.html)
(Go to the website of this amazing artist: http://www.gentrysmith.net/tarot.html)
My readings are worth it for 3 reasons: (1) I do long 19+ card layouts; (2) I produce long highly-detailed PDFs of customized interpretations unique to the client; and (3) I’m really, really good and can achieve a high degree of accuracy / specificity. I’m also humble—just not necessarily with something I’ve been doing for over 3 decades and know a lot about.
Still, you don’t need to pay very much to get a decent basic reading. I’ve seen people on tumblr doing what look like competent readings for as little as $1 USD. I’ve also seen a lot of foolishness, as you might expect.
I suppose the cheapest and quickest way to get a reading is to download a free tarot app for your phone. Those work, too. The problem there is that you still have to interpret the answers and the stock interpretations that come with such programs have no way of customizing to your question / issue. So your reading will always be of limited use unless you actually learn how to read. There’s no getting around needing to have the knowledge.
The genius of a good divination is that it speaks directly to what you need to know. The catch is that you have to be able to understand the oracle’s particular language. When you’re doing cartomancy with a tarot deck, you have a set number of expressions, usually around 78, comprising the greater arcana (usually picture cards from 0-The Fool through 21-The World) and the lesser arcana (usually four elemental suits of 14 cards each).
Some decks have more cards, some fewer. For example, when I do playing card readings, which I really enjoy, I’m only using the standard 52. But I can do things with playing cards that are impossible with the tarot. It’s the same with Lenormand decks that have about 36 cards. Oracle decks vary.
Here, I’m only going to talk about the so-called “Standard” Rider-Waite-Smith style deck and how to read it. Practice both of these quick methods for yourself before you decide to go pro. Even though these are easy, they still take a little bit of work.
The first method is the simplest. Get a RW-style deck, one that has graphic pictures on every card (as opposed to the older European decks that only have pictures on the major arcana and / or the court cards). Determine a question to be answered and draw seven cards in a row. Look at them from left to right. Then ask yourself, “If this were the answer to the question, what story would these images be telling?” In other words, look at the 7 cards as a story in pictures and try to say what that story is.
Now I hear you asking, “What about the right interpretations? What if I get something wrong?” Honeypie, I’m here to tell you that after you read a book on the history of cartomancy, your eyes will be opened. There are so many different meanings attributed to the same images that worrying about getting it wrong is A TOTAL WASTE OF TIME. The cards are there to focus your intuition. Your intuition is what interprets them.
So why are there little books of card meanings that come with each deck? Over time, certain styles of interpretation and meanings were written down and became considered authoritative. Arthur Edward Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot, for instance, is one of the first books people read. Paul Foster Case wrote a good one on the major arcana, entitled The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, mostly as a way to teach people how to use his BOTA deck for spiritual advancement. Aleister Crowely wrote about his Thoth deck, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris and modern tarot writers like Stuart Kaplan, Rachel Pollack, and Marcus Katz have done much to advance public knowledge and insight about tarot. But none of this matters for giving a good reading. What matters is your ability to feel out the right story—the story that needs to come through the pictures.
So try my first totally intuitive method until you feel very fluent with giving 7-card answers that just come to you when you look at them. Then move on to the more structural shortcut, which is my second suggestion.
This approach is still relatively easy, but it requires a little memorization, which makes it harder than the 100% intuitive method. Here you memorize a one-word meaning for each of the 22 major arcana—i.e. The Fool is innocence, The Magician is creativity, The High Priestess is wisdom, etc. Make a list of these one-word meanings and go over it until you’ve got it down without having to look. Then remember that the lesser arcana are elemental suits. Wands are fire. Swords are air. Cups are water. Pentacles are earth. That’s all you need to know. Let’s say you decided that 9-The Hermit means “isolation.” And you draw the 9 of Swords. You know, when you look at the figure sitting up distraught in bed that she thinks she is abandoned and isolated. You have “thinking” (air) and “isolation” (9, Hermit). Get the idea? Every one of the lesser arcana can be read elementally this way through its corresponding major arcana number.
When it comes to the court cards, these are elemental as well. Pages are air. Knights are fire. Queens are water. And Kings are earth. You’ll find varying elemental attributions for these as well, but I think this set is the most logical, given the way most people read each member of the court. Incidentally, this takes all the guesswork out of interpreting them—usually the most difficult cards for beginners to learn. Test yourself: using this method, how do you interpret the Knight of Cups? If you start out by thinking “fire of water,” you’re on the right track.
Using these two methods, you will eventually know so much about each of the cards in a standard deck that you’ll become very confident. Then you can do what I did (and what I hope you haven’t already done) when I was just starting out and memorize all the supposed “traditional” meanings from something like The Pictorial Key. At least, when you start feeling like your readings are getting strong and accurate, compare your meanings to the existing ones and see where you agree and where your interpretations are unique. You will learn new things about the cards that way.
Studying tarot is a lifelong practice. My methods make giving beginning readings easy. Getting confident with them will put you in a place where you can really begin to study more complex symbol and color systems insinuated into many decks. As with anything complicated in the aggregate, the tarot is made up of many simple little things. Learn the basics first and you will be an amazing reader before you know it.
This is brilliant. I love it.
Let it be said from the beginning: If you like alternative histories, then this is the book you want to read right now: The Game of Saturn, by Peter Mark Adams.
First off, you want to get this book because Scarlet Imprint produced it. I could say they’ve produced it handsomely, but that would come across as flat. ‘A handsome Devil’ would be more appropriate, but that’s still not it.
What I really want to say is that Scarlet Imprint produced this book with dedication, fearlessness, hard work, and a precise sense of elegant style that, indeed, only Saturn, the planet of ‘take your goddamn time,’ would understand. We are grateful.
Second, alternative history is fascinating.
Why ‘alternative history’?
Simply because what we’re dealing with here is not history that has its basis in documents, textual proof, and taxation of an artefact that describes the precise purpose of a…
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Sometimes, I’m moved to draw a card from my favorite oracle deck, The Halloween Oracle by Stacey Demarco. The deck has both a witchy and a hoodoo vibe (at least to me) and I think the cards are beautiful—which matters a lot if you want to do a reading. I always try to keep aesthetics in mind when considering a deck.
Anyway, I asked for today’s oracular guidance and got The Apple, which is all about taking risks. It’s about evaluating risk vs. reward in one’s life. Are you not risking enough to get what you want? Are you putting too much on the line? We engage in this sort of gambling all the time in our lives because we never have complete knowledge or comprehensive information. We usually have to do our best and make an educated guess about the outcome of a particular thing.
So I think the questions to ask are: (1) have you done your homework (your research, your investigation) in the matter? (2) are you afraid of “taking a bite”—is the potential for loss / failure too great? (3) are you unnecessarily afraid for some other reason that you need to disregard (i.e. put on your big boy pants and get busy)? Or (4) are you in a place where it would be good to shake things up (even if it’s scary)?
The best oracle doesn’t answer your questions for you or tell you, “This is how it will be.” Rather, it helps you see the existing path—with the possible branches, forks, and sidetracks—that begins in your heart and leads outward into the twists and turns of the world.
I hope you got something from this reading. I really enjoy The Halloween Oracle and recommend it to people who like that vibe. I should also mention that I do more complex readings right here at Black Snake Conjure, if you’re so inclined.
You should always do a reading before engaging in operative magical work. Always. Without exception. Sometimes, you may feel you know what the reading is going to say ahead of time, that the response is going to be positive in terms of your desired results. And you might be right. But even if you are, you want to go into the working with as much awareness as possible. Even the wise, wrote Tolkien, cannot see all ends—something that is definitely true when tinkering with cause and effect.
But how do you ask an oracle such a question and how do you understand the answer? You could ask a different kind of oracle, but when it comes to cartomancy, the first thing to keep in mind is that not all decks of cards are the same or are made for the same purposes. So-called “oracle decks,” are typically simpler than tarot, Lenormand, or playing cards and they are organized around a particular theme (like The Goddess Oracle or, my favourite, The Halloween Oracle). I do not recommend using those as they are typically oriented toward providing initiatory advice that will help the querent live a better life. That is excellent, but we need something a little more flexible and complex.
Instead, I strongly advise using a classic Rider-Waite version or some of the older European 78-card decks. Hermetic, Golden Dawn, and most Lo Scarabo decks are also very good, if you can read the imagery correctly. Also, Crowley’s Thoth deck is excellent for this, but beware that its symbolism and structure require dedicated study since Crowley’s interpretations often vary from the GD text represented in Waite’s books.
All decks of cards are oracular if we want them to be. With this in mind, I sometimes like to use a standard 52-card (54 with 2 jokers, which I also use if the deck has them) in a Neoclassical French layout. But as a general rule and when it comes to tarot, it is wise to avoid non-standard tarot decks when asking about magical work. You are doing this for a practical reason, not entertainment. So be conservative and careful in your approach.
You can get fancy with your question, but remember that the more “standardized” and repetitive your syntax is, the more your results will unfold in a reliable comprehensible way. Therefore, I often use the simple question, “What would be the outcome if I did magic to _________?” After decades of asking this same question before 99% of the magic I do for myself and others, I feel confident that the answer I get will be specific to that.
So what does a “positive” answer look like? We know that for the most part it will depend on the subject matter of the question. The tarot is a complete language of symbols that can respond to anything. Each answer will be unique, even if there are only 78 cards available. Still, certain cards are definitely favourable in this. Here are some general outcomes to keep in mind.
In the Major Arcana (the Fool through the World), the most favourable cards for magical work tend to be The Magician, the Empress, the Emperor, The Chariot, Strength, The Wheel of Fortune, The Sun, The Last Judgment, and The World.
In the Minor Arcana, aces, knights, and kings tend to be the best. The rest of the cards will depend on the context of the question.
It may seem exhausting to do this for every magical working, but you can really mess your life up doing magic capriciously and blindly. Think of a powerful magical working like a gun. You want to see where you’re pointing it and you want to understand as much about how to use it as possible.
Tonight, I felt called to draw a card from the Halloween Oracle Deck. Sometimes, decks just have something to impart without me asking a question. And I believe this was one of those times. I drew “Skull of Stars – imagine possibilities.”
This card talks about needing to dream bigger and consider that limiting beliefs—perhaps unconsciously inherited or acquired at a very early age—have caused one to think rather small. So, once again, one confronts the question: what do you truly want?
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