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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Shortened Celtic Cross with Marseille Trumps

Marseille Deck – Trumps Only
Shortened Celtic Cross Spread 
from Tarot Triumphs 
by Cherry Gilchrist (Weiser Books)

Cherry Gilchrist recommends a clear, succinct question and/or specific inquiry for this spread, as it is useful for “pinning things down.” Gilchrist has no use for “hypothetical” readings, where the reader invents a situation and querent. She also recommends against reading “for self-analysis or prediction for oneself” because a Tarot reader “needs a degree of initial detachment, which is almost impossible to have.”

However, she does realize that there are times when we are learning or “practicing” our Tarot reading skills, and at such times reading for ourselves may be the most appropriate choice. In that case, she recommends asking a simple question about something that is not very important.

Another option she offers is inquiring about an outside situation or even about another person who is not present. I have been somewhat conditioned NOT to do this (for various reasons), but it is good to know that an experienced reader sees it as a viable option.

For this reading, I am using only the Major Arcana (Triumphs/Trumps) of my adorable mini-Marseille Tarot (Lo Scarabeo)

All of that is simply to explain what I’m doing in this reading, and why. I have decided to ask about another person and a relationship she is in.

My question is simply, “What is the energy surrounding this relationship?”

Significator: THE MAGICIAN

(Just so you’ll know, this card flew out of the pack while I was mixing the cards. When that happens, I often just replace the card into the pack. However, this time, I decided it was the Significator, representing the person whose relationship I am reading about.)

Yes, this person does have strong will power and spirit, an ability and willingness to make use of any and all tools she has at her disposal to solve problems or create what she desires. She has a lot of control in this relationship, whether she realizes it or not.

(1) Predominant feature of the situation: THE HIEROPHANT

From an astrological sense, The Hierophant is linked with the zodiac sign Taurus, an Earth sign known for being practical, dependable, stable, and secure. This card also often carries the idea of established ways of looking at things, whether religious, political, or other. There is a sense of “The Establishment.” The relationship has this energy as a predominant feature, suggesting the couple is taking a traditional, well established approach.

(2) challenge or obstacle facing the person: JUDGEMENT

This card seems to suggest that our Magician needs to examine or question her judgment in this relationship, but finds it difficult to do so. She may not trust her judgment, or may not be willing to *see* everything about the relationship, a “total picture” that would help her make the best decisions or choices in this situation. Her judgement may be “clouded” or based on incomplete information. She may need to “wake up” to something she has not be willing or able to acknowledge.

(3) goal or high point of the situation: THE DEVIL

Well, that’s a fun card to see here! This card can represent sexual attraction, enchantment, or charm. But there is an undercurrent of possible deception, especially in the sense of deceiving oneself about something. Since this is supposed to be the “goal or high point” perhaps we are being told that the relationship is actually avoiding (or the two people are determined to avoid) traps and deceptions represented by The Devil.

(4) basis of the situation: THE WORLD

At its base, this relationship is surrounded by the energy of success, completion, and fulfillment. Trump 21 is certainly a positive sign to see as the “basis” of anything. It not only indicates the successful completion of a cycle or stage in life, but also a turning point, the start of a new cycle or stage, a firm foundation moving forward.

(5) recent past: THE EMPRESS

In the recent past, the relationship was surrounded by the energy of nurturing, understanding, receptiveness, and beneficial influence. The two people seem to want to take care of each other, to be supportive and to help each other and the relationship grow and flourish. This card’s association with the planet Venus gives a strong sense of mutual affection and appreciation.

(6) near future: THE LOVERS

Well! As we know, The Lovers can indicate that a choice has to be made. On the Marseille card, a man stands between two women, and it is often thought that he is trying to decide between them. It may be necessary for one or both of the people in this relationship to make a choice in the near future that impacts the relationship. However, we can also look at this as simply representing Love with a capital “L”, fostered by Cupid himself.

From what I know of this relationship (not much), these cards make quite a lot of sense. It will be interesting to see how things develop…

Friday, September 23, 2016

Death and Grief Reading for Helen and Mr. White

Today I am sharing a spread I adapted from one that was posted by Barbaras Ahajusts on Aeclectic Tarot Forum back in 2006. I am doing the reading for my dear friend Helen, whose cat Mr. White recently crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. White when I traveled to Helen’s home in Australia a couple of years ago.

Mr. White
Here is the layout, with positional definitions.


1. Mr. White
2. Helen
3. What united them?
4. Under which sign did their union stand?
5. What is now gone?
6. What remains for Helen as the gift of their union?
7. Which force is protecting and accompanying her during this period?
8. Which force accompanies Mr. White?
9. Which force helps Helen to let go and to keep going, gives her new courage, and benefits her?

I am using the Cat’s Eye Tarot by Debra M. Givin, DVM (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.)

1. Mr. White

NINE OF SWORDS (Worry, Guilt, Anguish)

This card does seem to relate to Mr. White’s life for some time before he crossed the Rainbow Bridge, as he was in poor health and it had been decided that there was nothing else that could be done for him. We can’t know what he experienced for certain, but it is not hard to imagine a state of worry or anxiety might have accompanied his illness and approaching death. An animal knows when things are not right in his physical body. Cats are quite stoic. Their instinct is to maintain a strong appearance to keep a possible predator from seeing any weakness. We would not necessarily see any obvious indication of worry or anguish.

2. Helen

(Enlightenment, Greatness, Vitality, Assurance)

Even though she mourns the loss of Mr. White, Helen embraces and expresses the Sun’s positive qualities. She feels sorrow and loss, but is not devastated beyond repair. The core of her bright personality and warm nature are still strong. She knows that the sun will shine again even after the darkest, stormiest night.

3. What united them?

EIGHT OF WANDS (Quick Action, Conclusion, News)

What we see in this card is not simply “quick action” but a mother cat saving her kittens from a fire. It is Helen’s nurturing, “mothering” quality towards Mr. White that united them, along with her desire and willingness to help him with his health issues as much as she could, for as long as she could.

4. Under which sign did their union stand?

TEN OF SWORDS (Bottoming Out, Victim Mentality, Martyrdom)

I wonder if perhaps this points to a situation or circumstances that Mr. White was in before coming to live with Helen? Perhaps he was a stray or neglected in some way. Another possibility is that the card refers to ways in which Helen lifted Mr. White out of a bad state or what would have been a hard life had she not been involved.

5. What is now gone?

THE STAR (Hope, Inspiration, Generosity, Serenity)

It is true that with Mr. White’s passing, we do see an end to hopes and wishes for his recovery. This would have been especially keen as his passing drew nearer and became unavoidable. It is also true that whatever inspiration or serenity that Mr. White brought to Helen while he was alive is now gone or, at the very least, changed to a different form.

6. What remains for Helen as the gift of their union?

TEN OF CUPS (Joy, Peace, Family)

This is where we see that the loss of “The Star” is temporary, as Helen retains a beautiful gift of her union with Mr. White – fond memories of experiences and perhaps even an otherwordly connection that transcends physical existence.

7. Which force is protecting and accompanying her during this period?

SEVEN OF PENTACLES (Affluence, Permanence, Convention)

This card conveys a sense of security, stability, and well-being, the fact that Helen continues to live her life much as she did before Mr. White departed. She still has much in her life that brings her joy and contentment.

8. Which force accompanies Mr. White?

FIVE OF CUPS (Loss, Bereavement, Regret)

I think this is about the separation of Mr. White from Helen, a loss that they both felt (and still feel) keenly. We cannot know what Mr. White feels or experiences on the other side, but I don’t find it impossible to believe that there is a remnant of sorrow or regret that remains with the spirit of one who passes on. I have no trouble believing that Mr. White misses Helen, just as she misses him.

9. Which force helps Helen to let go and to keep going, gives her new courage, and benefits her?

QUEEN OF SWORDS (Honest, Astute, Forthright, Witty, Experienced)

Well, it is very interesting to me that the Queen of Swords is often interpreted as a woman who has experienced loss and grief but remains strong, allowing her experience to further strengthen her. If we pair this with The Sun (position 2, above), we get a picture of someone who can weather loss and disappointment and emerge with dignity and grace intact, and wisdom gained.


Thank you for this reading Zanna, all the cards express my relationship with my lovely boy. The Ten of Swords is spot on, Mr. White was abandoned and not in a very good state when I took him in. Of his 16 years he has spent 10 of those with me. The pain of losing him is great as he spent a lot of time by my side, but I know that as your cards express, in time the pain will dull and the memories will make me smile again. 
~ Helen

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

REVIEW: Tarot Triumphs by Cherry Gilchrist


Tarot Triumphs:
Using the Marseilles Tarot Trumps for Divination and Inspiration
Weiser Books

TOP LINE (formerly Bottom Line)

In case we had any doubts about the value of Tarot Triumphs, we are given two pages of praise in the front of the book from such Tarot notables as Caitlin Matthews, Robert M. Place, and Thalassa, among others. Their observations are spot on. I completely agree with Place’s assessment that Tarot Triumphs is an excellent choice for beginners wishing to use the Tarot of Marseilles and for experienced readers as well. I fall into both of those categories in a way, being an experienced reader in general but having almost no experience with Marseille-style decks.

Early on, Cherry Gilchrist tells us that the book “is mainly about Tarot divination: that is to say, using the Tarot Trumps as a means to gain access to knowledge that is normally beyond our conscious grasp.” She succeeds in delivering exactly that, page after page, while focusing very specifically on the Marseilles Tarot, in her case, the Grimaud deck (republished by J.-M. Simon France-Cartes in 1969).

Not only did I learn things about the Marseilles deck from this book (which one might expect, since I had never studied them), I also learned new approaches and information about the Tarot and Tarot reading in general.

I particularly liked Gilchrist’s section on the simplified version of the Celtic Cross Tarot layout. She reduced the number of cards from 11 to 7 because it made less of a “leap” for the reader of this book to go from 3 cards to 7 cards, and because she feels the shorter version works better when using only the Tarot Trumps, which is Gilchrist’s preference.

As someone who is intimidated by the 11-card Celtic Cross, I confess I come close to being mind-boggled by the 22-card Fool’s Mirror spread. Gilchrist does a great job of explaining and giving examples of how to use the spread, and I may yet attempt it.

Although I disagree with some of Gilchrist’s views (for example, that Tarot is not suitable for self-analysis or prediction for oneself), I appreciate her sharing those views and challenging my perceptions.

To those of us who shy away from prediction with Tarot, she simply says, “If you are drawn to Tarot, or indeed any form of divination practice, you already accept the idea of looking ahead.” Good point.

Her advice to readers is sound (for example, “Try not to worry about the reading later, and wonder whether you said ‘the right thing.’”)

I do think that an Index would have been a great idea for this book, making it even more useful as a reference book. Also, I had the feeling while going through the book that quite a few things were repeated, but I realize that repetition is a useful tool that can help people retain a message.


Focusing on the major arcana, or trumps, of the Marseilles Tarot, the aim of this book is to encourage the reader to experience the tarot in a direct, fresh, and uncluttered way.

This exploration of the major arcana includes “The Fool’s Mirror,” a new method for laying the cards out, as well as hints for using the tarot to gain deeper levels of awareness. Cherry Gilchrist offers ways to approach each card, absorb it, and understand its essence. Readers are encouraged to relate this essence to personal experience as the most enduring and rewarding way to prepare for reading the cards.


Cherry Gilchrist wanted to be a writer from the age of four. While still at school, her work was published in a variety of places, ranging from teen magazines to the prestigious 'Poetry Review'. After graduating from the University of Cambridge, diversity continued: she worked in publishing and at running a vintage clothes shop, while practising as an astrologer and bringing up two small children. She then settled down to authorship in the field of creative non-fiction, and has published steadily ever since. Her themes cover alchemy, inner traditions, family history, mythology, life stories, social history and Russian culture. Over the years, she has also become established as a lecturer and tutor, and currently teaches creative writing for the Universities of Oxford and Exeter. Cherry loves travel, especially countries with rich cultural traditions; she has visited Russia many times, plus Easter Island, Burma and Uzbekistan. Every journey is an excuse for a book: see 'Stories from the Silk Road' and 'The Soul of Russia'. Cherry is married to artist Robert Lee-Wade, and they live in Exeter, Devon UK.

“A Tarot master is, I suggest, someone who acts either as your first true point of contact with Tarot or as a teacher of Tarot at any given moment along the way. Maybe the person is an expert, maybe not.”
“… divination is not necessarily the perception of a fixed future. The diviner should give the person somewhere further to go; the aim is that by seeing the situation more clearly, choices also become more apparent…”
“Divination is linked to time. We ask a question at a particular moment in time, and the answer that comes emerges from that moment.” 
“The way we perceive the Tarot is…a mix of personal response and an understanding of its cultural and mythical content. So overall, Tarot reading offers a chance to practice a balance of intuition and learned information.”
“A woolly approach to divination is likely to produce a vague answer.”


This 295-page quality paperback book features a sturdy multi-color cover designed by Jim Warner, with interior black-and-white illustrations by Robert Lee-Wade. The text is easy to read and separated frequently by heads and subheads to further ease in reading and digesting the information (kudos to Maureen Forys of Happenstance Type-O-Rama for the interior layout). The book measures 9 by 6 inches and is 1 inch thick.


  • Introduction
  • Enter the Triumphs
  • The Tarot as a Method of Divination
  • Taking On the Tarot
  • The Wandering Fortune-Teller
  • Becoming the Diviner – Grasping the Fool’s Mirror
  • A Search for Order and Meaning in the Fool’s Mirror
  • The Fool’s Mirror Layout
  • Managing the Reading
  • The Fool Leads Us Further
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Glossary


Cherry Gilchrist begins Tarot Triumphs by asking us to imagine “The Pageant of the Trumps,” a triumphal procession like those that were popular in 15th century Italy, around the time that many believe the Tarot was born. Gilchrist also notes: “There’s no attempt on my part to say that the Tarot set as we know it is derived from a ‘lost’ triumphal procession. . . but. . . it may be a link to how Tarot itself was first conceived.”

Gilchrist uses the terms “Triumphs” and “Trumps” interchangeably throughout the book when referring to the 22 cards of the Tarot Major Arcana, noting that the words are linked linguistically: “the Italian word trionfi translates into “triumphs” and “trumps” in English.” Although the terms have acquired different meanings over time, Gilchrist combines them, also pointing out that “triumph” is something that Tarot is and does. . . “It triumphs through its powerful images, its persistent survival through the centuries, and its capacity to instruct and illuminate those who study it.”

The nine chapters in this book provide a comprehensive account that takes us from studying the history of and symbolism in the individual Major Arcana cards (Marseilles-style) to reading the cards in small layouts, to larger layouts, with references to “Preparing for Your First Reading,” “Whom to Read For,” working space, rituals, and “Ending the Reading.” Gilchrist also addresses the idea of whether we tap into our own unconscious when we read intuitively, or whether we are actually tapping into a greater form of consciousness – a “basin of mind” or “common mind” or “the mind of mankind.”

The chapters that focus on The Fool’s Mirror contain a wealth of information that is helpful to readers no matter what type of reading or layout they choose. Gilchrist learned about The Fool’s Mirror from one of her Tarot teachers. She tells us: “The Fool’s Mirror is a symbol of divination, a means of capturing the impressions that we hope to interpret.”

The book also includes information on Gilchrist’s personal history with divination in general and the Tarot specifically, her first two decks being the Marseilles and The Rider-Waite-Smith. She shares with us her views on commonly discussed Tarot issues such as
third-party readings, storing the cards, reversals, reading for oneself, dummy readings, accepting payment for readings, and prediction.

Throughout the book, Gilchrist documents her sources and elaborates on comments using numbers that correspond to a “Notes” section at the back of the book. The Glossary following the Notes is an extremely useful aid to further understanding the history of the cards along with various terms that are frequently used.

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, I hereby disclose that this product was provided by the publisher for free. Other than the occasional review copy, I receive no monetary or in-kind compensation for my reviews.  The substance of my reviews is not influenced by whether I do or do not receive a review copy.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sherlock Holmes Card of the Day: 5 of Deduction

The Sherlock Holmes Card of the Day is:
5 of Pentacles

In The Sherlock Holmes Tarot by John Matthews and Wil Kinghan (Sterling Ethos), the suit of Deduction (represented by a question mark) is comparable to the suit of Pentacles. The quotation chosen to represent the entire suit of Deduction is from The Sign of Four: “So much is observation. The rest is deduction.”

The Holmesian Wisdom for this card is a quote from The Empty House: “Ah! …there we come into those realms of conjecture, where the most logical mind may be at fault.”

Holmes and Watson use a scenthound to
find "The Missing Three-Quarter"
1904 illustration by 
Sidney Paget
The Five of Deduction relates to The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter, in which Holmes is called in to discover the whereabouts of a star rugby player who was last seen leaving rapidly with a mysterious bearded man after sending a telegram to an unknown source. On the card we see Holmes and Pompey, a talented hound sometimes employed by the detective, as they discover the rugby player at the bedside of his deceased wife.

The association with the Five of Pentacles comes from the story’s tragic outcome, along with its connection to money and inheritance.

Keys for this card, upright, are: “adversity, insecurity, loneliness, strain, barren prospects, destitution, the need to be firmly grounded.” Reversed, the card can suggest: “re-acquiring self-worth, gaining perspective, new friendships, difficulties begin to abate, learning to give generously.”

The book that accompanies this deck also provides interpretations for each card under the headings “The Game” and “The Fog.” The former elaborates on the upright keys, while the latter expands on reversed meanings.

Examples from “The Game” for the 5 of Deduction: “things take a turn for the worse… feeling inadequate or impotent… a prevailing sense of misfortune or destitution.”

Examples from “The Fog”: “persisting through difficulties, you win out… blaming your misfortunes upon others… charitable support relieves the need for better resources.”