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Thursday, May 31, 2012

REVIEW: Tarot Spreads by Barbara Moore

Tarot Spreads: 
Layouts & Techniques to Empower Your Readings
Paperback: 264 pages
Llewellyn Publications (April 8, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0738727849
ISBN-13: 978-0738727844
Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches



“Bring power, precision, and depth to your tarot readings with this helpful and easy-to-use tarot book. It presents techniques usually found only in workshops, plus nearly seventy different themed spreads so you can choose or create the perfect spread for any question or purpose.
Tarot expert Barbara Moore explains what makes a great tarot spread and why, including how the principles of design and psychological response play a part. In addition to simple techniques that will make your readings more fun and more accurate, you will discover new ways to help you create a reading style that is all your own.”


Author of Tarot for Beginners and several guidebooks for tarot kits, Barbara Moore has studied and taught tarot methodology for more than two decades. Barbara lives in Minnesota, teaches and speaks at tarot conferences around the world, and writes for Llewellyn.com’s popular tarot blog. Visit her online at www.PracticalTarotReadings.com.


This 264-page paperback measures 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches. The cover features cards from the Lo Scarabeo Tarot by Lo Scarabeo, with artwork by Anna Lazzarini. Paper is white; text is black. Graphics are gray, black, and white.
Following the Table of Contents is a list of the spreads included in the book – a very welcome sight.  The alternative – putting the list as an “index” at the back – would have been slightly annoying. Next comes an Introduction, followed by seven chapters:
  1. Tarot Spread Basics
  2. Design Principles and Layouts
  3. A Collection of Spreads
  4. Techniques to Add to Any Spread
  5. How to Modify Spreads
  6. Do-It-Yourself Spread Design
  7. How to Do a 78-Card Reading
The last 30 pages contain:
  • Conclusion
  • Spread Cross-References (an especially helpful section that organizes the spreads by purpose, such as “Achieving a Goal,” “Advice,” and “Decision Making”)
  • Annotated Reading List
  • Appendix A: Curious Old Spreads
  • Appendix B: Elemental Dignities
  • Appendix C: Significators
As you can see, this book goes way beyond providing a collection of spreads – although it does do that. Barbara Moore takes us on a journey that begins with “examining the role of spreads in a reading” and continues with “how layout design influences a reading” and “how design affects the eye and the brain.” We also learn how to analyze and modify a classic spread.


In the first Chapter – “Tarot Spread Basics” – Moore mentions the importance of determining what beliefs, style, and techniques will influence and infuse our readings. We are encouraged to ask ourselves questions about our beliefs such as:
  • Is the future predetermined?
  • Is it possible to read for someone who isn’t present?
  • Where do the messages in a tarot reading come from?
When it comes to style, Moore advises us to “understand why you do everything you do with tarot.” Techniques are “practices that can be incorporated in any spread” and “any technique can be a matter of belief or of style.”

I found the chapter on Design Principles and Layouts to be a refreshingly logical, practical approach to readings. Moore discusses topics such as Emphasis or Balance, Symmetry, Spacing, and Repetition. The Celtic Cross spread is a good example of how crossed cards draw the eye first, while the four cards surrounding them add balance. The vertical line of cards to the right feels separate and not as important. Design principles can be seen “in action” in single card spreads, pairs, line, bridge, grid, triangle, cross, and circle layouts. As the icing on the cake, Moore demonstrates how these principles would be used in reading specific cards in a Celtic Cross spread.

Within the Collection of Spreads chapter are subsections titled “Traditional Spreads,” “General Spreads,” “Yes/No Spreads,” “Love and Romance Spreads,” “Readings About Money,” “Health Spread,” and “Special Spreads.”

Modifications to spreads might include changing the focus, positional meanings, layout, number of cards, and/or technique(s).

I especially enjoyed the section on using quotations as a technique or inspiration for creating your own spreads. Moore notes that others have written about and used this technique, including James Ricklef and Rachel Pollack. The first step is to break up the quotation into positions. Next, create a layout that makes sense with both the quote and positions. As an example, Moore quotes Winston Churchill, who said:

“The positive thinker sees the invisible,
Feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”

Moore then details how she created a spread based on this quotation with the following positional definitions: (1) Project, (2) Thinking, (3) The Invisible, (4) The Intangible, and (5) The Impossible.


I recommend this book for people with all levels of Tarot experience and expertise. Even if you have been reading the cards for a long time, I can almost guarantee that you’ll find something you had not thought of before or something you will be eager to try. I plan to devote a blog entry to the quotations technique in which I will follow the steps Moore outlines.


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.

Monday, May 28, 2012

REVIEW: Playing Card Oracles Divination Deck


Playing Card Oracles Divination Deck
Author: Ana Cortez, C.J. Freeman
Artist: C.J. Freeman
U.S. Games Systems, Inc., 2012 
ISBN 978-1-57281-525-4

To read my review of The Playing Card Oracles: A Source Book for Divination
 by Ana Cortez and C.J. Freeman (U.S. Games Systems), click HERE.

My interview with Ana Cortez is posted HERE


“Playing Card Oracles transforms the ordinary 52-card deck into an extraordinary divinatory tool. Each card in this divination deck features exquisite original artwork that invokes the mysteries of the ancient oracles.”


In addition to the 52 cards of the oracle, this deck includes a title card, an “About the Authors and Illustrator” card, and a card containing a description of the purpose and nature of the deck.
As Ana Cortez states in the Introduction to the 27-page LWB (Little White Book) that accompanies this deck, The Playing Card Oracles deck is not a Tarot deck, or even derived from a Tarot deck.

Although similar in some ways to a standard playing card deck, these cards feature “exquisite artwork designed to help you discover the secret wisdom of the ancient oracles.”

In the Introduction we are also encouraged to consider the construction of the standard deck of playing cards, 52 in number just as there are 52 weeks in a year. Cortez points out that the playing deck is “actually a perfect replica of a Fixed Lunar Calendar.” I was most intrigued by her comment that we use calendars to chart events that have not yet occurred (like we might use an oracle), something I confess I never thought of!

The suits in the Playing Card Oracles – representing the four essential aspects of our lives --  are Diamonds (Fire), Clubs (Air), Hearts (Water), and Spades (Earth). Key Concepts are provided for each suit. As in a standard playing card deck, Spades and Clubs icons are rendered in black; Hearts and Diamonds are red.

Cortez explains that she intends the explanations of each card to be “clues” or “abbreviations.” We are encouraged to allow the images, colors, and the total picture in a layout inspire our interpretations.

At the end of the LWB we are given a 4-card spread called “The Present Spread.” This spread is intended to provide a snapshot of the time at hand as well as the four weeks to come. Next, we have another 4-card spread called The Cat Spread (deriving its name from the belief that cats are sensitive to subtle energies). We are also given a technique for interpreting the cards in a 4-card spread as representing the Head, Throat, Torso, and Feet of a human body. This can give us a picture of a person in time (the time specified by the cut of the cards).

Four blank pages are provided for Notes.


The cards are small -- 2 ½ by 3 ½ inches -- and printed on glossy card stock.

Card backs: The ¼ inch outer border is cream colored. Inside that is double black inner border, and within that, another ¼ inch cream border. Black and cream swirls, whirls, and symbols fill the center. The backs are not reversible if you look closely.

Card faces: Most of the cards have a cream-colored background; some have a black background (8 of Hearts, 3 of Hearts). Still others have a predominantly gray/white background (2 of Hearts, 6 of Spades). I am not able to discern a pattern or reason for this, although perhaps I will discover something as I continue to read with these cards.

Court cards: The suit icon, card name, and card number appear in various places on the cards, along with a portrait-style or full-body picture of the Court member. These cards are multi-colored. Court cards are numbered 11, 12, 13, and 14. The figures on cards 11 and 12 are youthful; those on 13 and 14 are older. The Courts are not titled King, Queen, and so forth. Instead they are titled with a proper name. For example, the Queen of Spades is Morgana, the King of Hearts is Good King Nichomiah.
Pips (numbered cards): Images are gray, white, and black. Suit icons are superimposed on the images. The Aces feature a large suit icon in the center, interwoven with the central image.


Ana Cortez’s father, C.J. Freeman, created the illustrations on The Playing Card Oracles. The artwork is highly symbolic and explained clearly in The Playing Card Oracles: A Source Book for Divination by Ana Cortez and C.J. Freeman (U.S. Games Systems).


I find these cards to be engaging and intriguing. Freeman’s art is distinctive and compelling. The small size makes the cards easy to shuffle as well as easy to carry in purse or pocket. I do recommend that the cards be used with the larger source book mentioned above to get the most from them, but the LWB provides a basic understanding. 

If you enjoy oracle decks and inventive systems or methods for reading them, you’ll appreciate The Playing Card Oracles.

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.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Cards and Quotes: JOY

Today's Cards and Quotes features Joy, the Fairy of Gemini, from the Dream Fairies oracle deck by Bianca Luna, with artwork by Julia Jeffrey (Lo Scarabeo). To read my review of this lovely deck, click HERE.

Dream Fairies Oracle

"Let a joy keep you. Reach out your hands and take it when it runs by."
~ Carl Sandburg, American Poet (1878-1967)

Friday, May 25, 2012

REVIEW: Tarot Dynamics Unleashed


Tarot Dynamics Unleashed
by Anna Burroughs Cook
Paperback: 282 pages
Size: 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Black and white illustrations
Kima Global Publishers
ISBN 978-1-920533-07-6


To read my review of the original Tarot Dynamics book, click HERE.


"Using the same “reader-friendly” tone Tarot Dynamics Unleashed enables your Tarot Cards to take your intuition even farther! Although your old favorites -- such as our Do’s and Don’ts; Five basic keywords accompanied by definitions that apply to today’s situations; Basic Tarot Spread information that enables you to conduct accurate Tarot readings even from decks that contain more symbols than pictures; and formatting that enables you to use the 78 card Tarot card deck of YOUR choice -- are all still here, their additional detail makes them more exciting and important than ever, and they’re traveling with a great deal of new and exciting information that includes:
• Why you should and how you can easily improve the accuracy of your readings with Numerology.
• A section that quickly, clearly and finally reveals the first true “missing-link” between Tarot and Astrology!
• An explanation for the significance of “Fallen Cards” and how to read them!
• Best of all, each Numerological and Astrological “how-to” will quickly expand your understanding of the Tarot Tarot-without creating unnecessary confusion."


Anna Burroughs Cook began to develop her psychic ability by reading the Tarot (and tea leaves) part-time in 1979 at Cays Tea-Room on 4th and Prospect in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A. She studied Numerology and learned to erect Astrology charts “by hand” under the tutelage of two top astrologers in the Midwest Region way back in the “BC” (Before Computers) days. For more than 30 years now she has been reading and interpreting the Tarot as well as teaching and lecturing on the Tarot and psychic development. She has a wide base of clients across the United States, Canada and Great Britain as well as throughout her home state of Ohio. Cook has been teaching her "Tarot Dynamics" system since 2003. In 2009, her first book, Tarot Dynamics, was published.


A paperback measuring 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches, Tarot Dynamics Unleashed contains 282 pages of information. A black-and-white illustration from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck accompanies the description of each card. The paper is good quality, in a soft ivory color that is easy on the eyes.

The material is well organized and presented using subheads, boldface type, and bullet points to break up the text. The type is set in an easy-to-read size and style.

The Introduction contains a wealth of material, including the following subsections:
  • Do's and Don'ts
  • About Tarot Decks
  • The Rider-Waite Smith (RWS) Tarot Format
  • Selecting the Tarot Decks That Are Best for You
  • "Working" Tarot Decks and Personal Tarot Decks
  • After Purchasing Your Tarot Cards
  • Intuition Versus Imagination
  • Reading the Tarot
  • Reading the Tarot for Other People
  • Reading the Tarot for People at a Distance
  • Reading Your Own Tarot Cards
  • Your Tarot-Dynamic Definitions
  • A Hint of Romance
  • Differentiating between a Challenge and an Inconvenience
  • Keeping Matters in Perspective
  • For New Students
  • Getting Ready to Read
  • FAQ

In "Getting Ready to Read," Cook discusses the Tarot Dynamics method, with its five easy keywords and simple definitions that describe the functions for all five suits of the Tarot. She notes that after reading Numerology and The Divine Triangle by Faith Javane and Dusty Bunker in 1980, she adopted their numbering sequence (1-78) for the Tarot.

The book is further organized into ten chapters:
Chapter 1: About the Major Arcana
Chapter 2: About the Minor Arcana
Chapter 3: About Wands
Chapter 4: About Cups
Chapter 5: About Swords
Chapter 6: About Pentacles
Chapter 7: Timing, Numerology and Dropped Cards
Chapter 8: Tarot Dynamics in Action
Chapter 9: Majorities
Chapter 10: Tarot Dynamics & The Moon In Astrology


Every card receives two pages of discussion and interpretation, beginning with a statement in italic type that sums up the main purpose of the card. Elaboration on the statement follows, along with a paragraph addressing how you might interpret the card in an "encouraging" situation, a "challenging" situation, at your best, and under pressure (or reversed). On the facing page we have the number of the card, the card title, Keywords, a word representing Personal Strength, a word representing Personal Weakness, and a few words For New Students.

In Chapter 2, "About the Minor Arcana," Cook provides detailed instructions on how to read "Subject Cards" (2 through 10 from any suit).

In the chapters related to each suit, we are given a Keyword, Element, Corresponding Astrological Signs, Corresponding Playing Card, and Function.

Chapter 7 provides information about Signature Cards, Timing Events, Timing and the Minor Arcana, Timing and the Major Arcana, Timing with the Tarot and Numerology, Putting Numerology to Work with Your Tarot Cards, Working with the Tarot's "Trigger" Numbers, and Fallen Cards ("What Falls to the Floor Comes to the Door"). Cook demonstrates how to combine numerology and the Tarot using a 3-card spread and Celtic Cross spread.

In Chapter 8 -- "Tarot Dynamics in Action" -- we are treated to a discussion of a one-card spread for personal guidance, a 3-card spread for personal enlightenment, and a detailed discussion of "Tarot Dynamics and the Celtic Cross." For the Celtic Cross, Cook provides insight into how each type of card (Major Arcana, Suits, Courts, Subject Cards) can be interpreted in each position of the spread.

Chapter 9 -- Majorities -- covers how we can interpret a predominance of one type of card, whether it be a Major, Court, or Subject Card (Pip).

In Chapter 10 -- Tarot Dynamics and the Moon in Astrology -- Cook provides a Horoscope Spread in which a card is drawn for each month of the year. After we take a moment to study the cards (to allow our own feelings and intuition to speak to us), we can use the "clues" Cook gives for interpreting Major Arcana, Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles.

Also in Chapter 10 we are treated to "Tarot Dynamics and The Moon in Astrology." Cook shares this method for exploring conditions during various moon phases in her newsletters (click HERE to access them). I started working with this method in February, sharing the results on this blog: http://tarotnotes-majorandminor.blogspot.com/search/label/Tarot%20Dynamics . This information-packed chapter also includes Quick & Easy Lunar Factoids, Your Lunar Tarot Guide, and Your Lunar Tarot Tables.


I have been a big fan of Anna Cook's Tarot Dynamics System ever since I first learned of it. Currently, I use her method in most of the readings I do. Although I am far too Sagittarian to be tied to "one-and-only-one" method, this one has proved its worth to me on many occasions.

Anna Cook excels at clear explanations and descriptions, including examples and "for instances" throughout the book. I love the way she incorporates the Tarot-Numerology techniques of Faith Javane and Dusty Bunker (as presented in their book Numerology and the Divine Triangle).

Beginning Tarot students may struggle a bit as they try to assimilate all of the insights and information in this book. The more you know about Tarot, Astrology, and Numerology -- the quicker you will understand and be able to use the Tarot Dynamics system.

If you have no interest in weaving Tarot, Astrology, and Numerology together, this is probably not the book for you. If you are open to expanding your understanding of how these three disciplines work together, I encourage you to give Tarot Dynamics a try!

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.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cards and Quotes: Two of Disks

Today's Cards and Quotes features the Two of Disks from The Gill Tarot by Elizabeth Josephine Gill (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.)

The Gill Tarot by Elizabeth Josephine Gill
 (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.)

“Unity can only be manifested by the Binary. 
Unity itself and the idea of Unity are already two.”
~ Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta
Founder of Buddhism

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

REVIEW: The Tarot Playbook


The Tarot Playbook:
78 Novel Ways to Connect with Your Cards
by Lynda Cowles
Paperback: 176 pages / Size:  6 x 9
78 color images
Schiffer Publishing (April 28, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0764339885
ISBN-13: 978-0764339882


"Do you wish you understood your Tarot cards better? The Tarot Playbook can help. Effortlessly bond with your cards by playing your way through its combination of games, activities, and what-if readings. Practice the ancient art of Taroga. Predict the weather. Try your hand at genetic engineering! With The Tarot Playbook you can explore your deck’s distinctive personality, broaden your reading skills, and mine your imagination and intuition – all without the pressure of “serious” study. Connect with each and every Tarot deck you own – yes, even those buried at the back of the drawer. Never again struggle with a new deck that doesn’t speak your language. With its humorous style and pick ‘n’ mix structure, this is one companion book you’ll want to use with every deck you acquire."


Lynda Cowles is:
(a) the clever and entertaining proprietor of Archer Tarot
(b) manager of an online Tarot store
(c) internationally acclaimed writer of Tarot books
(d) a million laughs
(e) all of the above

If you chose (e), congratulations! Now hie thee over to Archer Tarot and take a look at such wonders as The Typeface Tarot (free download for home printing!) and Tarot Stripped Bare (featuring the International Icon Tarot by Robin Ator).

Of herself, Lynda writes: "I’ve been hanging out with tarot cards since 2003 when, for my first reading, I attempted a 12-card horoscope spread with reversals. It didn’t go well." A self-professed Sagittarian, Lynda enjoys partaking in serious debates with her tarot peers on deep subjects such as which deck to buy next. . . and eating Doritos.


This 176-page paperback book measures 6 by 9 inches. Pages are printed on very nice glossy white stock. Chapter titles and subtitles are printed in a delightful, whimsical type called Fontdinerdotcom. Body text is printed in clear, clean Book Antiqua.

The Introduction includes subsections with such compelling titles as "Why Your Deck Wants You to Read This Book" and "Playing With Difficult Decks." We then move on to:
  • Part One - First Contact: 24 Ways to Get Acquainted With Your Cards
  • Part Two - Stepping Out: 14 Ways to Mingle With the Minors
  • Part Three - Friends in High Places: 16 Ways to Click With the Courts
  • Part Four - Just My Archetype: 22 Ways to Make It With the Majors
  • Part Five - Forever Friends: 2 Small Ways to Show You Care

A section called "Playlists" directs us to specific pages of the book that can help us connect with non-scenic pips. In a section titled "Card Index," we are told to draw a card at random, then consult the index to "discover what you and your cards will be doing next."

Stunning color photographs serve as illustrations for this book. They appear on the title pages for Parts One through Five as well as on each two-page spread devoted to each card. 


Somehow I wasn't a bit surprised when I found out that Lynda Cowles is a Sagittarius. It takes one to know one. Not that I'm anywhere near as clever and funny as she is, but her writing immediately struck a chord with me. After I read two pages, I exclaimed, "This is fantastic!"

For example, I love the author's remarks under the subtitle "Keeping a Journal" in the Introduction. She lists the reasons why we might want to keep a journal about our interactions with a deck, then advises: "Well, don't. Nothing sucks the fun out quicker than paperwork. Resist the temptation to buy a beautiful, hand-stitched hardback journal filled with creamy white pages. . . After all, would you take notes when you were spending time with your human friends?"

This delightful irreverent tone raises the fun factor for every page in the book. Each double-page spread has its own title printed above the name of the card. For example, for the 2 of Wands, the title is "A Rose By Any Other." Our activity is to come up with a new name for the deck. Cowles explains: "The Tarot of the Inflated Ego might be fine for black tie functions and the taxman, but your new pal deserves something far more warm and fuzzy..." She goes on to suggest that you refer to your deck by its new name whenever you are with other Tarotists -- "to see how many of them pretend to know what you're talking about."

For another activity, Cowles tells us to "Shuffle the court cards together until they complain about the lack of personal space."

For the King of Wands, Cowles encourages us to give adverbs their due: "We all know it's not what you do, it's the way that you do it, which is to say, there's a world of difference between a warrior resting wearily and a warrior resting permanently."

For this activity, we are to draw three cards to represent the subject, verb, and adverb of a sentence. Detailed instructions include:
1. Shuffle the Minor Arcana cards languorously.
2. Decisively cut the cards. . .
3. Turn over the top card of each pile mysteriously. . .
4. Observe the first card maniacally. . .
5. Behold the second card ponderously. . .
6. Heroically study the third card. . .
7. Read your sentence melodically. . .


I love the inventive, unexpected activities provided by Lynda Cowles in this book. Her descriptions and instructions are laugh-out-loud funny.

This book does not tell you how to interpret the cards. There are no spreads or sample readings. Well, that's not entirely true. For The Emperor we are given a 5-card spread we can use to explore our relationship with the deck.

Although a beginner might get some of the humor, I personally recommend this for more experienced Tarotists, who will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek comments. (Example: "Based on appearances alone, pick the card you find least attractive and place it to the very left of the cards. Don't worry, it's just a bit of cardboard, it can't take it personally. Probably.")

Reading this book is like spending time with a zany, whip-smart friend who keeps coming up with priceless Tarot-related jokes, jabs, and gems.

After reading this review, you may be wondering if this book could have any value for THE SERIOUS TAROTIST. In response, I offer what I think is a very appropriate comment by Lynda Cowles:  
"Silliness is close to godliness, as they say, and the idea behind all these missions implausible is for you to step outside your comfort zone to see your cards in a different light."

Makes sense to me!


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.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cards and Quotes: Vine

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms in the U.S. and Canada!

Today's Cards and Quotes features Vine from The Celtic Tree Oracle by Liz and Colin Murray (illustrated by Vanessa Card; published by St. Martin's Press).

The Celtic Tree Oracle (St. Martin's Press)

“Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood, 
planted by the waters: 
she was fruitful and full of branches 
by reason of many waters.”
Ezekiel 19:10
King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

REVIEW: The Hobbit Tarot


The Hobbit Tarot
Peter Pracownik (Artist)
Terry Donaldson (Author)
78 cards
95-page instruction booklet
U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-57281-677-0


In the Introduction in the booklet accompanying this deck, Terry Donaldson writes, "The beauty -- and genius -- of the Tarot is that as a set of simple pictures it holds universal appeal. . . In bringing together the Tarot and The Hobbit, a kind of marriage has been achieved between these two very distinct mythical realms, and like all unions, this one also has its own contradictions and unities, its own 'personae.'"


Artist Peter Pracownik held his first exhibition in Los Angeles in 1989. His New Age/Fantasy art has been seen all over the world. In addition to The Hobbit Tarot Deck, Pracownik illustrated the Wyvern card game (U.S. Games Systems), one of the most popular fantasy role playing games in the U.S. and Europe. He also created the artwork for The Lord of the Rings Tarot, the Imperial Dragon Oracle Deck, Ogham: The Celtic Oracle, and the Woodland Wisdom Oracle Cards  (all published by U.S. Games Systems).

Author Terry Donaldson is a professional tarot reader, guide and healer with more than 35 years of experience. In addition to The Hobbit Tarot, Donaldson worked with Pracownik to create The Dragon Tarot and The Lord of the Rings Tarot. He is also the author of several other books on the tarot, magic spells, and folklore.

The Hobbit Tarot is, as you would guess from the name, a theme deck based on J. R. R. Tolkien's book The Hobbit. The cards follow the traditional Rider-Waite organization, with 22 Major Arcana cards and four suits (Wands, Cups, Swords, Coins), with each suit containing four Court Cards (Page, Knight, Queen, King) and ten numbered cards. Strength is Trump VIII, and Justice is Trump XI.

The characters featured on the Majors include Bilbo Baggins on The Fool, Gandalf on The Magician and The Hierophant, The Elf King on The Emperor, Gollum on The Hanged Man and The Moon, and Smaug on The Devil, The Tower, and The World.

The booklet, which is text-only (no illustrations), includes a description of each card and divinatory meanings for upright and reversed cards. Three unique spreads are provided at the end: The Ring of Gollum Spread (12 cards), The Sword of Aragorn Spread (9 cards), and The Arkenstone Spread (14 cards).


The cards are of good quality, glossy stock, measuring 2 ¾” by 4 ¾”.

The card fronts have a ¼” white border and within that, a smaller gold border. The Major Arcana have the card number in Roman numerals and the card title across the bottom of the card. The Minor Arcana Pips have the card number in text and the suit name across the bottom of the card. The Court Cards have the card title and suit across the bottom of the card.

The card backs are reversible with a ¼” white border surrounding a gray/blue inner background. They depict the Ring of Power with the message ”One Ring to rule them all.”

The LWB  (Little White Book) has an attractive color cover.


There are plenty of places online to see Peter Pracownik's fantasy art. The Hobbit Tarot showcases his style nicely, whether he is depicting dwarves, trolls, elves, dragons, humans, or wizards. The coloring is dark and strong, not overly bright or bold. Smaug is a quintessential Pracownik dragon, with his regal bearing and magnificent wings. Gollum is both hideous and pitiful. The wargs are suitably fearsome, and Gandolph is exactly the way I want him to be.


If you are looking for a beginner's tarot deck or if you dislike theme decks in general, this deck isn't for you (unless you are also a huge fan of The Hobbit and would enjoy seeing how the author and artist have blended the characters and scenes from the book with traditional Tarot card meanings). There is certainly are similarities between the journey undertaken by Bilbo Baggins and The Fool's Journey depicted in the Tarot.

I'm always willing to do readings with theme decks, and often I am very pleased with the results. However, if you prefer decks that the follow strict Rider-Waite symbolism and imagery, you probably won't like this one.

I feel that the booklet does a good job of incorporating the story of The Hobbit into the card interpretations. Naturally, the deck is going to have more meaning for you if you are already familiar with The Hobbit, but even if you aren't, I think the quality and quantity of the information provided by Donaldson will help you enjoy these cards. And you might end up reading The Hobbit to learn more, which isn't a bad thing. I am having fun "reliving" some of my favorite moments from the book as I go through these cards.

At the writing of this review, The Hobbit Tarot is not yet available for purchase, but I understand it will be released very soon!

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.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Journey through My Decks: Six of Swords

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 SIX OF SWORDS from the Sharman-Caselli Tarot by Juliet Sharman-Burke with illustrations by Giovanni Caselli (Eddison Sadd Editions).

Sharman-Caselli Tarot (Eddison Sadd)

In her book, The New Complete Book of Tarot (illustrated with the Sharman-Caselli deck and published by St. Martin's Griffin), Juliet Sharman-Burke tells us that "Six is the number of equilibrium and harmony. The six-pointed star is made of two triangles: one points up towards the spirit or heavens; the other points down towards the body or earth. This symbolizes balance between them."

The suit of Swords, on the other hand, is not known for harmony or equilibrium. Often it represents difficulties or changes that can be hard to experience or understand. On the Six of Swords we see a ferryman taking two people across the water to a distant shore. The water on the right-hand side of the boat is choppy and rough, whereas the water on the other side is calm. The people appear to be moving away from difficulties toward more peaceful times.

Book T* calls this card The Lord of Earned Success and associates it with the planet Mercury (the mind) in Aquarius (a masculine, fixed Air sign whose motto is sometimes said to be "I Know"). Meanings are: "Success after anxiety and trouble; self-esteem, beauty, conceit, but sometimes modesty therewith; dominance, patience, labour, etc."

Thus we see the disruption of the Swords blending with the harmony of the Six. Tension and anxiety are released after a period of stress and strain. Harmony is a distinct possibility instead of a dream that is beyond our grasp.

About the Deck: The Sharman-Caselli deck draws from both the 1910 Waite deck and the Visconti-Sforza Tarot, which dates back to the mid-fifteenth century. Juliet Sharman-Burke describes her deck as "psychological in orientation," using the Fool's journey through the stages of life as a backdrop, "drawing on the notion that as humans we share collective experiences that are archetypal and are all reflected in the Tarot."

* Book T   The Tarot (an initiatory manual for the OGD) 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.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cards and Quotes: 4 of Swords

Today's Cards and Quotes features the Four of Swords from the Mystic Dreamer Tarot by Heidi Darras and Barbara Moore (Llewellyn Publications).

Mystic Dreamer Tarot (Llewellyn Publications)

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: 
First, by reflection, which is noblest; 
Second, by imitation, which is easiest; 
and third by experience, which is the bitterest."
~ Confucius

Thursday, May 3, 2012

REVIEW: So You Want to Be a Psychic Intuitive?


So You Want to Be a Psychic Intuitive?
A Down-to-Earth Guide

by Alexandra Chauran
Trade Paperback | ISBN 9780738730653
264 pages | 5 x 8 x 1 IN
Pub Date: April 2012


"Dependable guidance, communication with departed loved ones, helping friends and family—the lifelong rewards of a strong psychic connection are endless. Whether you’re a beginner or already in touch with your intuition, this encouraging, conversational, and hands-on guide can help you improve psychic abilities."


Alexandra Chauran is a second generation professional fortune teller. She has been reading the crystal ball professionally since 1999. Holding a Master's Degree in Teaching from Seattle University, she enjoys building carefully upon what is already understood by the student and she offers an apprentice internship to her local practice in the greater Seattle area. Alexandra is also proficient in other forms of divination, having been certified as a Professional Tarot Reader by the Tarot Certification Board of the American Tarot Association. She writes horoscopes and other articles for periodic publications. Her other books include Crystal Ball Reading for Beginners: Easy Divination & Interpretation (Llewellyn, July 2011)


This unillustrated trade paperback measures 5 x 8 x 1 inches and contains 264 pages, including an Introduction, Glossary, and Bibliography. The seven chapters are titled:
  • Get Ready, Get Set, Go!
  • Techniques
  • Who Are You Talking To?
  • How to Listen
  • Communicating Psychically
  • How to Convey Messages
  • Where to Go From Here

Titles for various sections within the chapters include:
  • "What is a psychic, and why would you want to be one?"
  • "Techniques to help you focus and bring out your psychic abilities"
  • "Using Forms of Divination to Receive Messages"
  • "How Do I Know I'm Not Crazy?"
  • "Séances"
  • "Past Lives"
  • "How to Be a Professional"
  • "How to Deal with Ridicule and Naysayers"

Each chapter concludes with "Homework" that you can do by yourself and with a partner.


As a Tarot reader, I find that potential clients often assume that if I read the cards, I am claiming to be a psychic -- which to many people, means "able to read other people's minds, talk to the dead, and predict the future." Although I have had a few "psychic experiences," I do not claim to be psychic. I feel it raises too many expectations that I am not prepared to meet. Therefore, I was eager to see what this book said about what it means to be a psychic intuitive.

In addition to covering the different types of psychic gifts (for example, clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairtangency, clairsentience), Alexandra Chauran offers specific techniques and exercises to help us develop any of these gifts we wish to develop. Much of this material is not ground-breaking or earth-shattering. It is in keeping with information I have read in other books about developing one's psychic abilities.

What stood out to me were the particularly insightful statements here and there that clarified matters and resonated with me as important and useful truths. Here are some examples of those statements:

"In our culture, we are often encouraged to laugh away those things that are strange, or at best, encouraged to capitalize on being so strange that we are considered freakish." (p. 3)

"Even if two psychics were performing a psychic reading on the same person and the same topic, they might see the same answer in two completely different ways." (p. 9)

"If you randomly approach someone with a message from a dead relative, you'll be seen as tacky at best." (p. 164)

"Clairaudience. . . may simply just be an imaginary voice in your head in the same way that you 'hear' but don't really hear when a song is stuck in your head." (p. 22) [My immediate reaction to this was "Oh, okay! I get it!"]

As I mentioned earlier, I don't call myself a psychic. I have not experienced frequent or significant indications that I am. However, I sat straight up when I read Chauran's comments about clairaudience. She notes that the following traits could indicate strong potential for clairaudience:
  • You can repeat many of the lines in your favorite movie.
  • You tend to talk to yourself when you do tasks that require concentration.
  • You learned how to play an instrument as a child.
  • You can imitate foreign accents well.

I would have to check "All of the Above." Interesting.

Chauran's chapter on possible sources of information gained from psychic readings is thorough and objective. She delves into "God-Deity-Spirit" and "Your Subconscious--Your Higher Self." My favorite lines from this chapter:

"When you believe that deity is your source for information, it means that your psychic information is divine but not necessarily infallible. Even if you believe that your god or gods are omniscient, you are still a person and thus you can still make mistakes and be wrong at times."

I especially appreciated the author's comments concerning the tendency to judge psychics by how "accurate" they are. Chauran confesses that she finds it difficult to answer that question in a meaningful way. People seem to expect a percentage. Chauran asks, "What 'percentage' of the time does a human slip up in everyday life?" The fact that we might turn the wrong way when driving to a new location doesn't mean we are not competent to drive a car. If we mispronounce a word we have not seen before, it doesn't mean that we are too incompetent read a book.

She recounts a conversation she had with a forensic researcher about the fact that psychics can't guarantee 100% accuracy when helping to solve crimes. The researcher pointed out that police dogs are extremely fallible, yet their results are used as evidence admissible in court. In all things, critical thinking is required.

More of my favorite lines:

"Though it would be exciting to conjure flying furniture and ectoplasm to take the form of spirit people, you will have to settle for the usual séance being far less fantastical if you want to be a psychic." (p. 126)

About channeling: "I imagined the experience to be like being able to sit and have tea with the divine. It was actually more like passing by her in a hallway as she went to speak through me and I went somewhere else. . ." (p. 140)

Chauran includes tips on how to "manage expectations" before giving a reading. We can help the client dig deeper for the true reasons behind their question(s), and help them reframe the question(s) if necessary. We can point out that sometimes we simply have to learn lessons or make mistakes along the way to achieving a goal rather than zooming straight to the finish.

I read this book while sitting on my back deck above a wooded area and pond. As I read, I occasionally tried some of the techniques, briefly, just to get a feeling for them.

I had just finished reading a description of a woman who received an audible sign when her spirit guide wanted to give her a message -- for example, "a bird chirping in a funny way." Not long after reading this, as I practiced "square breathing," I heard a rustling sound in the wooded area below, as if someone were walking through the brush. I watched and waited, and in a few seconds two adult geese emerged with two goslings. I observed them from the deck and spoke softly to them. The adults looked up at me as if listening, while the babies pecked at the dirt. For quite a long time they strolled along the side of our house -- Papa Goose keeping watch and Mother Goose staying close to the babies. When I came out the front door with my camera, they were turning around to head back into the wooded area. I snapped a few pictures before they disappeared.

The reason I am describing this is because it's the type of thing Alexandra Chauran points to as a possible signal or indication of a psychic experience that we might miss if we are not paying attention or looking for that sort of thing. I don't know if the geese represented my spirit guide(s) trying to contact me or not, but I will be meditating and consulting my various animal decks to see what they have to say about geese.


The subtitle of this book -- "A Down-to-Earth Guide" -- is an accurate one. Chauran's approach is practical and matter-of-fact. One likely reason is that when she was growing up, her psychic flashes and experiences were not only encouraged but treated as "routine and mundane occurrences."  Her conversational writing style is easy to read, and the material is organized in such a way that you'll be able to refer back to areas of particular interest.

Whether you are a beginner or seasoned psychic, you'll appreciate Chauran's step-by-step instructions and suggestions for the practical application of psychic intuition.  So You Want to Be a Psychic Intuitive? provides  page after page of useful, intriguing information and advice based on the author's considerable personal gifts and experience.

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.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Beltane Tarot Blog Hop

Welcome to my contribution to the Beltane 2012 Tarot Blog Hop. If you are "hopping the Hop," you probably got here from Jaymi Elford's wonderful Tarot Inspired Life blog.

Beltane is a Celtic word which means "'fires of Bel" (Bel was a Celtic deity). It is a fire festival that celebrates of the coming of summer and the fertility of the coming year. As I understand it, festival participants are encouraged to jump over the Beltane Fire, move through it, or dance clockwise around it.

The topic for this year's Beltane Blog Hop, chosen by Andrew Kyle McGregor,  is "The Fire tends to All." Andrew's topic choice was inspired by the Guardian of Fire card from the Gaian Tarot by Joanna Powell Colbert (Llewellyn Publications). I really like what Andrew wrote about the meaning of this card: "Service to others. The minimizing of the ego. Focusing on our work and neither looking for attention nor denying the value of our work."

In the Gaian Tarot, Guardians correspond to Queens in traditional decks. Joanna gives the following Affirmation for the Guardian of Fire: "I spark creativity in others while tending my own creative flame."

Soooo -- I decided to create a spread with The Guardian of Fire at the center, and other cards placed clockwise around it, like dancers at a Beltane fire festival. The layout looks like this:

1. What will help me tend my own creative flame?
2. How can I spark creativity in others?
3. How can I minimize my ego?
4. What will help me share my passion?

I am reading with the Tarot Leaves deck by Beth Seilonen (Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.) Click HERE to read my review of this lovely deck.

Here are the cards that came forward for me:

1. What will help me tend my own creative flame?
The message I get from this card is that tending my own creative flame will be easier if I refuse to focus on "winning" or "losing" or to view someone else's gain as my loss. Although I may feel that I am in a competition at times, that is almost never the case. This seems to fit well with what Andrew Kyle McGregor said about "focusing on our work and neither looking for attention nor denying the value of our work." In the Golden Dawn system, the Five of Swords is associated with Venus (planet of love and appreciation) in Aquarius (the sign so often engaged in making the world a better place for everyone).

2. How can I spark creativity in others?
A couple of things strike me here. First of all, Temperance is traditionally associated with the sign Sagittarius, my Sun sign, a Fire sign. This card suggests that I can spark creativity in others by allowing myself to express my most desirable Sagittarian traits, such as enthusiasm, optimism, and self-confidence. Temperance is about moderation and/or blending together opposing energies (joining forces). These characteristics will also help me spark creativity in others.

3. How can I minimize my ego?
I can minimize my ego by pitching in and carrying my share (or more) of the load in situations and relationships, even if my ego tells me I deserve to be exempt or "above" that sort of thing. Interestingly, like Temperance the Ten of Wands is traditionally associated with the sign Sagittarius -- specifically Saturn (planet of lessons, limitations, and karma) in Sagittarius.  I'm sure Saturn can offer me a variety of lessons in how to minimize my ego!

4. What will help me share my passion?
The Star calls me to act on my wishes, to make my dreams come true. It takes time and energy to share my passion with others. It won't happen if I do nothing more than daydream or wish upon a star. The Star is associated with the sign Aquarius. A belief that my passion can benefit the greater good will help me share that passion with others.

From an astrological standpoint, these four cards focused on the signs Aquarius and Sagittarius -- Air and Fire. Both signs are known as visionaries, for being independent, and for looking at the "big picture." Both can sometimes seem "cold" or "aloof" because they often gaze above and beyond -- "out there somewhere". My challenge is to strike a balance that allows me to take a broad view while still noticing and nurturing the people and things right under my nose.

Many thanks to everyone who is keeping the Blog Hop going, including Arwen Lynch, Maureen Aisling Duffy-Boose, J Jordan Hoggard, Donnaleigh de LaRose, and Louise Underhill.

Next stop on the Beltane Blog Hop is Jennifer Mitchell's fabulous Tarot Dynamo blog. Hop along, now!