Tarot with SewMagical on New Normal

Tonight (the night before Thanksgiving) on the New Normal I’ll be talking about Tarot, with Sewmagical, a talented professional Tarot reader, who I know as Elena, the Mistress of the East Kingdom Soothsayer’s Guild in the SCA. If you are interested in the Tarot, please listen on your computer on Liveparanormal.com between 8 and 9. If you listen live, you can use the chat room or call in with questions at 619 639 4606, if you listen to the podcast (available on itunes) you’ll have to ask me questions here.

As Tarot is a very visual tool, I’m posting some images here for reference for the show. I’m going to start with the 4 of Swords from the Jotun Tarot, produced by Raven Kaldera. It’s a display deck, one where different artists do each card, and I was asked to do the 4 of Swords, represented by the Volva in Raven’s deck. If you don’t know the story, Odin wanted to know the origins of the world, so he summoned up the spirit of a dead soothsayer and compelled her to tell him the story. I’ve always thought that unless the dead are trying to get a message to you, it’s rather rude to interrupt their activities in the afterlife, which may have been why she was so terse with Odin in the Havamal.

That bit of self aggrandizement accomplished, here is an illustration of a Tarot Spread. The way one reads Tarot is to combine the symbolism of the card with the symbolism of the position in the spread. By varying which spread you choose, you can tailor readings to answer the questions the client (or you) want illuminated. The Celtic Cross is a very common spread, as it is good for covering most questions/issues.  We’ll be talking about these on the show, and I’ll can go into more detail after the show if anyone wants me to.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Tarot, that I hope we get to, is that it has always been an evolving technique. When it had just been imported to Europe (right after the development of the paper industry), it was first used as cards are today to play games. Sailors and tradesmen would use printed versions, but in court circles they’d have the court artists make beautiful card decs for them to play with. They often used images of the members of the court for the “court cards”, and it doesn’t take much of a soothsayer to notice that certain pairs kept showing up in the same hands when they played the game Tarrocci, or wonder if people who’d show up in the same hands a lot may actually be having liaisons in real life. It doesn’t take much for any soothsayer worth her salt to develop a divination system out of any randomized symbols. Cards are perfect for this.

Another aspect of the variable nature of the Tarot is the way that
different cards have been used at different times. The cards like Strength, Justice and Temperance are leftover from depictions of the Cardinal Virtues (Prudence, Fortitude) which were popular themes for “Triumphs” which were like modern games of charades, and from which the name “Trumps” for the “Major Arcana” or more purely symbolic images were drawn. Others included Signs of the Zodiac or pretty much an image that the designer thinks will be useful for the game or the divination.

These images are from the Grand Ettiella Deck, and also illustrate a sub-category of decks where they include the meanings written on the decks as well as the images themselves.

There’s a huge variation in size, shape, and images as well as which cards are included in Tarot decks. There are also “Oracle Decks”- decks used similarly to Tarot cards, but not using their traditional set of symbols.

There’s a certain amount of “theater” involved in doing a good reading for someone (which, aside from outright charlatans, probably contributes to the idea of card readers as performers and fakes. One of my favorite bits is from the Swedish layout in which you weave together a mat of the cards (this only works with longer thinner decks) and then turning the mat over dramatically.

The tradition of the Tarot as an evolving system continues today with the addition of the Happy Squirrel card to many modern decks. (This one is from the Touchstone Deck.) The inspiration came from an episode of the Simpsons in which Lisa was frightened by the Death and Devil cards, which the gypsy assured her were not really dangerous, but reassured by the “Happy Squirrel” (invented for the joke), and which has been adopted by many readers. I read it as something that seems safe, but really can cause great unforeseen difficulties for the person.

The number of Tarot decks available is large and ever growing as each reader and artists comes up with new twists on the old images to express the underlying meanings of the cards. To illustrate this, I’ve shown the Devil and the World cards from a few of my decks The Round Motherpeace deck (no reversals), the herbal and the crystal decks (if you know what the properties of herbs or crystals are, you can associate them with the meanings of the cards, the Touchstone (beautifully altered images of Renaissance paintings), the Robin Wood and Hanson Roberts decks (named for the artists), the mini Rider/Waite/Smith deck (developed at the beginning of the 20th century and often seen as a “standard” from which others are derived), and the Jotun, and Norse Tarot,

There are tons of resources available for Tarot. You can get computer generated readings at Facade  and I like the Eclectic site for looking at different decks.

The “featured image” is an expanded yes no spread which we may or may not discuss on the show tonight.


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