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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Reading by Zanna Starr

designed by Helen Howell
(see Helen's reading with this spread HERE)

I love this spread! I don't have a "Halloweeny-Vampire" type deck, so I thought I'd go with the next best thing: Tarot of the Cat People by Karen Kuykendall (published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.)

And here we go!

1: The Skeleton in the cupboard - something you need to face or acknowledge right now
In a nutshell (from the LWB): "A woman is surrounded by swords that are arranged to symbolize her imprisonment by her inner turmoil." Notice that the cat who perches nearby is calm, composed, and free. I need to face and acknowledge (right now!) that my own thoughts, perceptions, and attitudes are all that stand between me and freedom. It might even be helpful for me to list eight of these thoughts, perceptions, or attitudes and perform some sort of ritual (like tearing up and burning the piece of paper) to banish them from my mind. I have five cats in my house who can act as role models for a new me.

2: Bats in the Belfry - what you need to do to clear away any negative thoughts
My initial response to this card here is that I can clear away any negative thoughts by giving them away, perhaps even giving them (symbolically) to my cats to dispose of. This card is also a reminder to me of how fortunate and happy the last ten years of my life have been on so many levels. It was the Six of Pentacles that I drew in a reading for myself ten years ago that prompted me to take the steps that led to my current highly preferable situation.

3: Ghost or Ghoul? - what needs to be changed
My initial reaction to this card is "Stop trying to mother everybody" or perhaps "Stop trying to create so many different things at one time."  If I stop and think about the card for a bit, I get a sense that perhaps I need to change my perception of what I have accomplished or attained in life so far. The Empress is a strong, no-nonsense sort of person. She sees value in her actions and her approach to her world. She wastes not and wants not. The book that accompanies this deck states: "Her leopard companion appears docile, but in reality is on the alert for any opportunity that presents itself." Once again, the cat seems to demonstrate an attitude that I might be wise to adopt.

4: Witches spell - what will help you succeed
Here we see a man relaxing with his companion cats, away from the hustle and bustle of life. His loose clothing signifies a carefree mood. The cats are obviously not stressing about anything whatsoever. The number Four (stability, security) combined with the element Fire suggests high energy but controlled energy that is used calmly and steadily rather than in a flurry of activity. Again there is an emphasis on appreciating the fruits of my labors to date and allowing myself to relax and experience tranquility.

5: Monsters under the bed - one more thing that may be hidden
This particular Hanged Man has an enlightened outlook on his suffering, as evidenced by the glow about his head. The cat above him is completely unconcerned as it bats at the gallows rope in a leisurely fashion. I normally view this card as representing the need to readjust or renounce the perspective from which I have been viewing something and to allow a new perspective to emerge. The message of sacrifice is also part of this card. What may be hidden is perhaps this new perspective that I need and/or an understanding of what I need to sacrifice. The earlier positions seem to focus on getting rid of negative thoughts, and I think this ties in with that goal. In order to *see* that which is hidden, I need to look at things a different way and perhaps give up something I *think* I want or need.

6: Jack O' Lantern - This will light the way forward.
Like the Four of Wands, this card is about rest, respite, and repose. The Swords form a pattern that reflects the message of stability and strength conveyed by the number Four. The woman in this card forgets her problems and anxieties for a while as she enjoys the antics of her companion cats. She allows herself, for a time, to "not try so hard" to accomplish something. In this restful state, allowing her mind to relax, she is more likely to see her way forward. She can return to her goals refreshed, with new ideas and renewed enthusiasm.

To me, most of these cards seem to convey a message of "slow down, calm down, gear down," encouraging me to proceed steadily rather than racing ahead. In the elemental association system I use, three of these cards are active and three are passive, suggesting a balance or "even keel" approach that blends activity with retrospection and relaxation. The two Trump cards are passive (Earth and Water), emphasizing a calculated, calm approach.

Numerically, the two Trumps are odd (3 and 3), while all the other cards are even (8, 6, 4, 4). This also suggests a balance to me of stability with change or evolution.

There is a lot to think about here, and I can definitely recommend this spread if you're looking for some insight into your current situation or state!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Journey through My Tarot Decks: Three of Wands

In this series of posts, I plan to discuss all of the Tarot cards in order, using a different deck for each card. Today I'm exploring the Three of Wands from The Faery Wicca Tarot by Kisma K. Stepanich (illustrated by Renée Christine Yates, published by Llewellyn Worldwide).

"The power of courage
is only the first step in the dance –
The second step
is dancing ego to Spirit –
This is a very hard step indeed,
for it takes action of the heart
to achieve success."
~ Kisma K. Stepanich ~

I am neither a Faery nor a Wiccan, so I hope you'll pardon any misstep I might make in discussing this deck.

Each suit in the Faery Wicca Tarot is associated with an OtherWorld city as well as an Element.  Tine means Fire, and the suit is linked with Findias: City of the South, Lugh's Spear.

Stepanich writes, "Working with the spear or wand talisman teaches the wisdom of solar power – strength, passion, will." At a mundane level, Fire cards represent "basic understanding of power and willpower, ego politics, aspects of commerce, conflicts. . .successes and failures, winning or losing. . . our pretenses."

In Stepanich's system, keywords for the number Three are "dimensional, conception, expression." The Three of Tine is titled "The Dance of Partnership." DMs provided by Stepanich are: "Destiny unfolding. Powers of creation, invention, commercial enterprises, and grand fortune."

On the card we see three wands positioned on a path leading into a stand of tall trees. I cannot be sure, but there appear to be flames burning inside that stand of trees. Orange and red – commonly associated with Fire – frame the image. An upright red triangle, represent the element Fire, sits in the lower right corner. The other dominant color is green – color of growth and fertility.

The symbols carved on the middle Wand appear to be runes. I think I can make out Ur (dramatic change and challenge, followed by a symbol that resembles a capital E and for which I can't find a meaning, followed by Ing (fertility), followed by Peorth (meaning not completely understood), followed by Nied (necessity). The "capital E" could be Eoh (Horse), which resembles a capital M but when turned on its side, could resemble an E. Not being an expert on runes, I will not elaborate at this point. The meanings I provided above are from Horik Svensson's book The Runes (Carlton Books Ltd.)

Rather than provide meanings for reversed cards, Stepanich offers four possible implications for any reversed card: (1) insight into the energy state of the querent, (2) the possibility of an event, (3) where an energy blockage is occurring, and (4) a warning of a challenge.

About the deck: The Faery Wicca Tarot consists of 83 cards – five of which are specific to this deck (one is The Power card and four are Gift of Faery cards). Kisma K. Stepanich writes that the deck "is based on the ancient Bardic system of understanding the universe and blends traditional tarot images with the mystical symbology of Modern Faery magick." In addition to drawing on traditional Irish myth, the cards contain ancient Gaelic or Irish alphabets and sacred symbols. Stepanich does not transcribe the alphabets, but leaves this to the reader "if that level of intimacy is desired."

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Reading with My Earth Magic Oracle Cards

I decided to take my new Earth Magic Oracle cards* for a test run using a 3-card spread I just created. This spread (which is based on the standard Past-Present-Future spread) could also be used in a broader sense, not just for "one day." The positions are:

(1) A Blast from the Past (something from the past that may influence this day)
(2) A Pressie for the Present (a gift this day will bring me)
(3) The Long View (the nature of obstacles or opportunities that may arise later in the day)

I'm not an early riser, so it works better for me to do Daily Card readings the night before the day in question. So this reading refers to Tuesday, October 26.

(1) A Blast from the Past (something from the past that may influence this day)
CAVE (Sanctuary)

This is an especially interesting card to draw, given that I randomly chose this card to mention in my review of the Earth Magic Oracle!

Going strictly by my own personal impression of the card, it reminds me of all the time I spent alone in days gone by, studying or writing or creating things. I am still basically a solitary person, not anti-social but not very social either. I enjoy interacting with other people on a limited basis. Perhaps something I discovered or developed during solitary moments in my past may influence a decision I make or action I take tomorrow.

(2) A Pressie for the Present (a gift the day will bring me)
WIND (Activation)

This card reminds me of the expression "to take the wind out of one's sails" only in this case, the opposite is true. My gift for tomorrow is that the wind will be in my sails, helping me move forward and make progress toward my destination or goal.

(3) The Long View (the nature of obstacles or opportunities that may arise later in the day)
MEADOW (Vulnerability)

I think vulnerability is pretty much a constant condition (for me anyway) -- emotionally, mentally, physically, or spiritually (or any combination of the four). It's as if I stand in the middle of a huge meadow, open on all sides. I think that in some cases, it's good to allow ourselves to be vulnerable or open. After all, the meadow on this card looks beautiful and pleasant. However, I also think this card may be telling me to be careful that someone doesn't take advantage of or capitalize on my vulnerability in some area.

Notice that the Cave (Sanctuary) and the Meadow (Vulnerability) are opposites. The Cave offers protection and shelter. The Meadow does not. I may need (or want) to emerge from the self-imposed isolation I was so comfortable with in the past and open the door to interaction and contact with others. Perhaps the Wind will fill my sails and carry me out of my safe harbor into open waters?

I am now going to read the information on each of these cards in the guidebook to see what other possibilities there might be.

* Earth Magic Oracle Cards by Steven D. Farmer, Ph.D. Hay House, Inc. Copyright 2010 by Steven D. Farmer. ISBN 978-1-4019-2535-2

Illustrator for CAVE : Garret Moore
Illustrator for WIND : Bill Briggs
Illustrator for MEADOW : Mike Dawson

REVIEW: Earth Magic Oracle Cards


Earth Magic Oracle Cards by Steven D. Farmer, Ph.D.
48 cards; 170-page guidebook
Hay House, Inc.
Copyright 2010 by Steven D. Farmer
ISBN 978-1-4019-2535-2

Product Description from the publisher:
"The Earth speaks to us in many ways through the spirits of her various elements. In this deck of 48 oracle cards created by Steven D. Farmer, you’ll find descriptions and images of several of these Earth elements along with clear and concise messages from the spirits of each.

Through the use of these cards, you’ll uncover sensible advice that will provide guidance for questions you may have about any aspect of your life. The enclosed guidebook includes easy-to-follow instructions as well as expanded descriptions and messages for each card, allowing you to give yourself and others accurate, meaningful readings."
I might as well confess up front that I'm a huge fan of Steven D. Farmer's oracle decks, specifically his Power Animal Oracle Cards and Messages from Your Animal Spirit Guides Oracle Cards. Those two decks attracted me because of their focus on animals. Earth Magic attracted me because I was pretty sure I couldn't go wrong with a Steven D. Farmer deck.

Now that I have revealed my bias, let me do my best to offer an objective, useful review to those of you who might not already be Farmer Fans.

The Earth Magic Oracle deck comes with a 3-1/2" by 5" soft-cover guidebook. The cover illustration -- a beautiful rendition of Mother Earth -- is by Helena Nelson-Reed. To see more of Nelson-Reed's incredible, gorgeous art, visit her web site: www.helenanelsonreed.com/.  

For the images on the cards, I am told that Dr. Farmer spent months searching for just the right artwork . He incorporated the work of approximately 35-40 different artists, all of whom are listed in the back of the guidebook.

On the backs of the cards is a circle with its sides cut off by the edges of the card. Within the circle is a tree in a field, reflected in a pool of water. The tree's branches are filled with jewels such as diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds.

Trees typically symbolize life and growth. They reach down into the ground and up to the sky at the same time. Trees are also a common symbol for Earth. I think perhaps the jewels in the branches of the tree in this illustration are there to remind us that trees -- and the Earth -- are treasures, as valuable as the most precious gems.

I want to express my appreciation for the packaging used on this set. The Earth Magic Oracle deck and book are contained in a very nice, glossy, sturdy box with a separate lid. So many times, Tarot and Oracle decks are contained in flimsy boxes that don't stand up to being opened and closed multiple times.

Inside the guidebook we are told that the information on the Earth Magic cards is based on the book Earth Magic (copyright 2009 by Steven D. Farmer, published by Hay House). The dedication reads: "For the love of Mother Earth and all of her Children."

Following the Table of Contents there is a section containing Instructions for Working with the Earth Magic Oracle Cards. This section includes the expected general information about the deck as well as sections titled Preparing a New Deck of Cards, Storing Your Cards, and Oracle Card Readings. We are then given several spreads that can be used with the cards: Contemplation, Landscape, Timeline, Relationship, and The Cross. Farmer tells us:

"The Earth Magic Oracle Cards are meant to be used intuitively, so as you conduct a reading (for yourself or someone else), be aware of your thoughts, mental visions, physical sensations, and feelings as you look at the cards."

The next major section of the guidebook is called General Meanings of the Cards. This is where we find a description and interpretation of each of the 48 cards. For each card, Farmer provides a general description as well as a message for the reader.

Let's look at the cards themselves. At the top of each card we see the name of a particular Earth element and directly below that, its "theme." For example, the card titled CAVE has the subtitle Sanctuary; the card titled FULL MOON has the subtitle Completion; and the card titled SUMMER SOLSTICE has the subtitle Radiance.

Like the other Farmer decks I own, the cards in this set are made of high-quality stock with a glossy finish. The colors are vibrant and rich, and the art is simple yet evocative and inspiring.

I can see myself using these cards for a daily draw, perhaps asking for advice on where I should direct my focus for the day or asking which Earth element I should seek as my companion for the day.

I can also see using these cards as I often use other Oracle cards -- to augment or embellish Tarot readings. I have found that certain Tarot decks work extremely well with certain Oracle decks in my collection. The interchange can be truly startling and revealing. And of course there are times when an Oracle deck is the perfect thing to answer a certain question or explore a certain issue.

To see a sample reading I did with this deck, click HERE.
Illustrator for "CAVE" : Garret Moore
Illustrator for "FULL MOON" : Ted Berkey

For more information about the deck creator, Steven D. Farmer, Ph.D., visit his web site at www.DrStevenFarmer.com. His Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dr-Steven-Farmer/93018852583.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Journey through My Tarot Decks: Two of Wands

In this series of posts, I plan to discuss all of the Tarot cards in order, using a different deck for each card. Today I'm exploring the Two of Wands from The Whispering Tarot by Elizabeth Hazel (printed by Playing Cards R Us, Inc.).

Liz Hazel tells us that the suit of Wands is the suit of the Fire element, embodying "ambition, vigor, creativity, travel, high spirits, and energy." Hazel uses birch trees instead of more traditional wands because "trees are vital, living entities. . . symbiotic participants in the environment, liaisons between Earth and Sky."

The bright red cloak worn by the figure on the Two of Wands reinforces the message that we are dealing with the suit of Fire. The "handsome young man" holds a staff mounted with a crystal ball. According to Hazel, he is "considering the future." In the sky we see a bank of clouds shaped like a dragon (another reference to the element Fire). Distant mountains, a calm lake, and yellow buttercups complete the picture.

Like Book T*, Hazel associates the Two of Wands with the planet Mars and the zodiac sign Aries. In astrology, Mars is known as the planet of energy, force, sexual desire, aggression, enterprise, activity, courage, passion, impatience, anger, strife, and accident-proneness. Aries is a cardinal Fire sign known for being impulsive, energetic, and quick-tempered and for having leadership ability. People with Mars in Aries in their birth chart tend to be self-confident, courageous, honest, tactless, and combative, with a domineering will to win. Book T titles the Two of Wands "The Lord of Dominion."

Divinatory Meanings from Hazel: "Considering possibilities for the future, envisioning both short and long-term goals. The desire for a quest or purpose to follow. Vigorously considering choices. A dominant person, one who takes charge or cannot be ignored. Reaching for wisdom and clarity in making choices. Messages or news, planning a journey for business that may lead one over mountains. Choices that are within one's control. Considering a new profession, or a new project. Taking bids for a project."

Ill-dignified, the Two of Wands can represent "A bully or petty tyrant. Forced to take an unattractive option. A choice between two evils. Expecting negative outcomes, no matter what is chosen. Too weak to face the future, or endless procrastinating about selecting definitive commitments."

* Book T - The Tarot, Comprising Manuscripts N, O, P, Q, R, and an Unlettered Theoricus Adeptus Minor Instruction. A Description of the Cards of the Tarot with their Attributions; Including a Method of Divination by Their Use. A public domain manuscript.

About the deck: Elizabeth Hazel tells us that The Whispering Tarot "was first conceived in a wild pencil sketching spree in the winter of 1996." Although inspired by the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, Hazel excised overtly Christian and Masonic symbols in her deck as much as possible to avoid creating another clone. There is no LWB or printed accompanying book, but Hazel has prepared an e-book that can be ordered with the deck to download and print. In addition to providing meanings for each card, Hazel includes a brief discussion of the zodiacal Attributions, which follow Book T.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Journey through My Tarot Decks: Ace of Wands

In this series of posts, I plan to discuss all of the Tarot cards in order, using a different deck for each card. Today I'm exploring the Ace of Wands from The Shakespearian Tarot (book by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki; illustrations by Paul Hardy; published for Caxton Editions by Diamond Books, London).

"This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England..."

— William Shakespeare, King Richard II, Act 2, Scene 1 —

Sorry, but I just had to quote that whole section of John of Gaunt's speech, I have always liked it so much!

In The Shakespearian Tarot, the suit of Sceptres is comparable to the suit of Wands in traditional decks. On the Ace of Sceptres, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki gives us the Sceptre of England, leaning against a velvet-covered pedestal. The back cloth and front curtain are rich, royal purple. The Wand is gold, the color of fire and of glory. "This is a Wand, a Rod of Power," Ashcroft-Nowicki writes, "...a symbol of status as ancient as the idea of Kingship itself."

Act 2 of The Tragedy of King Richard the Second finds Richard's uncle, John of Gaunt, conversing with the Duke of York. Gaunt is dying, and waits impatiently for the appearance of Richard, whom he intends to counsel on a number of issues. "Though Richard my life's counsel would not hear," he says, "My death's sad tale may yet undeaf his ear." The words quoted above ("This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle...") are spoken shortly before Richard arrives.

Although the sceptre of kingship belongs to Richard at this point in the play, his power has declined. In two years, he will be dead.

The Ace of Sceptres refers to the promising start of Richard's reign. Born in 1377, he ascended to the throne at age ten and married Anne of Bohemia when he was fifteen. She died while still quite young. It was said that Richard never really got over her death. He himself was murdered in 1399 after being deposed.

To me, the moral of this story is that no matter how promising a new beginning is, it is only that: a beginning. The manner in which we use the energy of the fiery Wands (passion, confidence, creativity, aggression, life force, strength, enterprise) and the approach we take to our struggles, victories, and defeats are what matters at the end of the day.

Please note: My elemental keywords and color associations are based on personal experience and many different sources accessed over a period of several years.

About the Deck: Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki combined her love of Shakespeare with her love of Tarot to create The Shakespearian Tarot. Illustrated by Paul Hardy, the deck was developed by Ashcroft-Nowicki over a two-year period during which she combed her “battered leather-bound copy of the Bard. . . looking for just the right scene, just the right words to match the meaning of the cards.” She chose quotes to match the pictures and meanings as closely as possible. Her goal was to create a working tool rather than a collectors item.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Journey through My Tarot Decks: The World

In this series of posts, I plan to discuss all of the Tarot cards in order, using a different deck for each card. Today I'm exploring Trump 21 -- The World -- from the 1JJ Swiss Tarot (AG Muller, Cie, U.S. Games Systems, Inc.)

The cards in this deck are titled in French. Le Monde, of course, means The World.

In Tarot Cards for Fun and Fortune Telling (illustrated guide to the spreading and interpretation of the popular 78-card Tarot 1JJ deck of Muller & Cie, Switzerland) (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.), Stuart Kaplan describes The World card as follows: "A nude female figure is encircled within a wreath of colorful leaves and buds. She represents nature and the divine presence therein. In her hands she clasps a flowing veil or cloth. Above her an eagle spreads its wings symbolizing attainment. Two other eagles support the wreath. Below the female figure are a lion and a bull, guardians of the truth. All that has taken place before culminates now in ultimate completion."

This design is similar in some ways to the Rider-Waite-Smith version of The World and different in others. Both cards place a figure in the center, along with a bull and lion in the lower corners of the card. The RWS version has an eagle in the upper right corner and a human being in the upper left corner.

In his book The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination (the Penguin Group), Robert Place tells us that this arrangement (also seen in a number of other decks) is called a quincunx –"four figures representing the fourfold world placed one to each corner and a fifth sacred figure placed in the center."

The 1JJ Swiss version departs from this tradition, with its three eagles at the top of the card. Offhand, I do not have an explanation for this.

The Order of the Golden Dawn associates The World with "Earth and Saturn"  and gives the following meanings: "The matter itself. Synthesis, world, kingdom. Usually denotes actual subject of question, and therefore depends entirely on accompanying cards."

In The Only Astrology Book You‛ll Ever Need (Scarborough House), Joanna Martine Woolfolk tells us that Saturn (which rules Capricorn, an Earth sign) is the planet of "discipline, responsibility, restriction, and limitation."

In her book Tarot Life Planner (Octopus Publishing Group Ltd.), Lady Lorelei subtitles the World card "the integration of the journey." She notes that when The World appears in a spread, it brings a sense of completeness and stability in a situation or person. This card "can be used to help you bring all the pieces of your life together." However, if things seem to be coming together too fast, we may need to banish the energies of The World.

Kaplan provides a large number of Divinatory Meanings for The World in Tarot Cards for Fun and Fortune Telling. These include "attainment, ultimate change, completion, perfection, success, admiration of others, culmination, conclusion, triumph in undertakings – the final goal to which all other cards have led." Reversed, The World suggests "imperfection, quitting in the middle, failure to finish what one starts, refusal to recognize the meanings revealed in the other cards, lack of vision."

About the deck: Stuart Kaplan writes that the 1JJ deck "is believed to follow closely the original ancient packs." According to Lee A. Bursten (in a review accessed at http://www.tarotpassages.com/bursten16.htm), "it was first published in 1831 by a predecessor firm of AGMuller and has been somewhat modified over the years." Bursten also tells us that "the two J’s in the title refer to Jupiter and Junon, the Roman equivalents for the Greek Zeus and Hera, who in this deck were substituted for the Pope and Popess so as not to offend the Catholic Church."

Friday, October 1, 2010


We are thrilled to announce the creation of a special 7-card spread in honor of our own dear Tarot Notes-Major and Minor. It's called the Tarot Notes-Major and Minor Spread.

In honor of the creation of this custom spread, we are offering an October special. During the month of October, you can receive a reading from one of us for just $20, using this custom spread.

For details and sample readings, just shift your eyes up and to the left and click on the link that reads OCTOBER SPECIAL: TNMM ORIGINAL SPREAD. (It's also linked in this post for your convenience.)

We hope you'll join us in singing the praises of this unique spread, and consider treating yourself to a reading!

Zanna and Helen