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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Musings on the Death Card

Quite a lot has been written about the Death card in Tarot. If you put "Death" in the search field here at Tarot Notes, you will see several posts that relate to that topic.

Today I am writing about Death because of a 1-card reading I recently did for a client. The reading was requested through the _Free Tarot Network_ sponsored by the American Tarot Association. The client knew in advance that just one card would be drawn to answer her question.

The client's question was about what the future might hold for her concerning personal relationships. Rather than try to talk her into changing the question to something more realistic, I simply reminded her that the Tarot cannot predict the future with any certainty and that no one should rely on a reading to make important decisions. I noted that readings through the Free Tarot Network should be for entertainment purposes only.

Spirit led me to use the Joie de Vivre Tarot by Paulina Cassidy (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.) You can read my review of this deck HERE and an interview with this deck HERE.

Those of you who are familiar with this deck know that it is "designed to access the child-like energy in each one of us to help stimulate, enhance, and inspire joy in our own lives" (from the LWB). In other words, it's an upbeat deck, for sure.

While shuffling the cards, I meditated on the question, asking that only enlightened insight come through for the client from the Highest Source, to help her better understand her Self and her Life experiences.

And who should appear in response to my query but DEATH:

Joie de Vivre Tarot (U.S. Games)

Now, I will grant you that this is one of the most adorable renditions of Death you are likely to see in the Tarot. It is whimsical, lovely, and sweet. A character named Metamorphosis rides through the air on a bat named Destiny. But guess what? It's DEATH. We're looking at a skeleton here. I stared at the card, wondering how on earth I was going to interpret it for the client without sending her into a depression or panic.

At the beginning of the reading, I took great care to explain my view of the Death card, as follows:
The Death card is probably the most feared and misunderstood of all the cards in the tarot deck. It is extremely important to remember that the Death card is first and foremost a card of transformation and transition, the experience of passing from a lower state into a higher state. It suggests that some phase or aspect of your life is ending – or needs to end – in order to bring about something more valuable and important. It commonly indicates the death of one aspect of our identity – and a move from one life to another. It is likely to point to a phase that may be difficult to pass through, but that may also result in a real change for the better.
I then proceeded to tell her that I felt she would have an opportunity at some point in the future to leave behind a stage or phase of her life and enter a new stage where personal relationships are concerned. I added that the transformation and change represented by the Death card would be brought about by her own actions, decisions, thoughts, and attitude -- but I felt that the card suggested energy -- perhaps at a very high level -- supporting a significant change or transition with respect to personal relationships.

Even after going to all this effort, I could still imagine the client replying to the reading with something like, "Oh my god, how horrible. How could you do this to me? I'm terrified about what this means! I cannot stop weeping!"

But I felt I had done my best to share my sincere, honest, thoughtful interpretation -- to encourage as well as inform, to stress that nothing is written in stone and that she was not at the mercy of "fate." I don't believe in "sugar coating" my interpretations, but at the same time, I do not want a client's negative reaction to a card to obscure the positive potential that may reside in that card. I do think it is important to "cushion" what may appear to be bad news when doing a reading -- especially an email reading, where facial expressions and tone of voice cannot offer reassurance. I think it is important that we show the client that we care, that we are not simply shoving information at them in an impersonal, detached manner.

Many times, people who request free readings through the ATA do not provide feedback for my readings, even though I ask that they do so. I knew that I might never hear from this client again, and would always wonder how the reading "hit" her. To my relief, I received a reply a couple of days after I sent the reading.

The client revealed that she has been giving serious thought to ending an important relationship. She told me that the Death card did not scare her, but instead confirmed that a significant ending could come if she had the courage to follow her heart. She described my reading as "very accurate" and "appropriate."

I share this story on Tarot Notes in hopes that some of my blog readers will benefit from hearing how a card managed to touch and resonate with a client in a positive way, in spite of the reader's uncertainty and misgivings. Early in my Tarot studies, I remember reading somewhere that many times what the cards tell us, we already intuitively know but the symbolism and the wisdom of the cards bring the insight home to us. That is exactly what happened in this case.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Journey through My Decks: Ace of Stones

For this entry in my Journey through My Decks series I chose to use The Haindl Tarot, created by Hermann Haindl (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.) I was saddened to hear of Haindl's recent death, and decided that this post would serve as my humble homage to his life.

Ace of Stones

"Hermann Haindl has created a sacred Tarot, one which reaches back to ancient spiritual traditions of many cultures. The Haindl Tarot ... opens our minds. It leads us to see the world in a new way (or perhaps a very old way), as a vessel filled with spiritual power and truth." ~ Rachel Pollack ~

My study of this complex deck is ongoing, aided by Rachel Pollack's two volumes of commentary. My goal here is simply to provide what insights I have been able to gather on this card to date.

The suit of Stones in this deck is associated with North America (west); Wands are associated with India (east); Cups are associated with the Celtic countries (north); and Swords are associated with Egypt (south).

Stones in general deal with work and nature. Indeed, the Stone is the only suit symbol in the deck that comes from nature (Wands, Cups, and Swords are made by human beings). Associated with the element Earth, the suit of Stones is considered "feminine" yet Pollack tells us that Stones (along with Swords) have a "dark" or "yang" quality (as opposed to Cups and Wands, which are seen as "light" or "yin.")

In her Introduction to her book on the Minor Arcana of The Haindl Tarot (Newcastle Publishing, Inc.), Rachel Pollack notes that in many Tarot decks, the Minors refer to aspects of everyday life. The Haindl deck follows this pattern, but the Minor Arcana cards are also considered "communal." We are looking at the realm of daily life, work, money, and the physical world on a large scale. The suit of Stones teaches us how to create a new foundation for progress in our lives and encourages us to *work* not just for our own personal reasons but for the restoration of the world.

Let's look at some of the details on Haindl's Ace of Stones (interpretations are by Pollack):
* Eagle: represents God because it dwells in the air and light because it flies up into the Sun; an aspect of Wakan-Tanka, usually translated "Great Spirit"
* Rock: the rock of reality
* Eagle landing on rock: fundamental realms of Earth and Sky joined together
* Bare rock, lack of flowers and trees: intended to emphasize simplicity, show what really matters
* Rainbow: universal symbol of beauty and gifts
* Colored lights flickering: Spirit beings who fill the world

Pollack tells us that the Ace of Stones represents "the good things in life -- health, prosperity, beauty, even good weather." What is important is how the recipient of these "good things" uses them. Reversed, "the gift remains but the person tends not to appreciate it." It can suggest materialism or conflicts about money or prosperity.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

DotD: 10 of Wands and the Hawk

Wow, it's been over a year since I played Day of the Druids (DotD) here at Tarot Notes! Time sure flies!

Day of the Druids involves asking the cards what I need to be aware of today using The DruidCraft Tarot and the Druid Animal Oracle.

The positional definitions are:

(1) Not only...
(2) But also...

Here we go!

(1) Not only...TEN OF WANDS (DruidCraft)
Key Words: Demands, Burdens, Overwork
Numerology: Ten = Culmination, Beginning
Element: Fire (Intuition; Spirit)

(2) But also... HAWK, reversed (Druid Animal Oracle)
Key Words: Nobility, Recollection, Cleansing
Element: Air (Intellectual, Mental Issues)

Today, I need to be aware of how I am handling responsibilities and obligations in my life. Have I taken on so many responsibilities that they are weighing me down? With my Sagittarius sun (Fire), I do have a tendency to enthusiastically and eagerly agree to new projects, only to suffer from boredom or burnout down the road.

In addition, my attention is called to the energy of the Hawk. Drawn reversed, this card can suggest over-attentiveness to detail or a narrow mental focus that will not serve me well today.

Taken as a pair, I see in these two cards the need to be aware of any situation in which I find myself trying to micro-manage a project or projects, burdening myself with a million details when I need to see the bigger picture. Maybe I need to delegate some details to others. The number Ten tells me that this could be a turning point in my life -- the end of one stage or phase and the beginning of a new stage or phase.

(Please Note: I am aware that the DruidCraft deck is not strictly a "Druid" deck. The word "Craft" in the title alerts us to the fact that this deck incorporates both Wicca and Druidry.)


The DruidCraft Tarot (deck and book set). Text copyright Philip and Stephanie Carr Gomm 2004. Illustrations copyright Will Worthington 2004. This edition copyright Eddison Sadd Editions 2004. ISBN 0 312 31502 3.

The Druid Animal Oracle by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm. Card Illustrations by Bill Worthington. Fireside: Simon & Schuster, Inc. Text copyright Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm 1994. Card illustrations copyright Bill Worthington 1994. This edition copyright Eddison Sadd Editions 1994. ISBN not known.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Week at a Glance: The High Priestess

The purpose of drawing a "Week at a Glance" card is to get a sense of the sort of energy, circumstances, or personal qualities I might need to be aware of during the upcoming week. I also use this opportunity to become more familiar with decks I don't work with a lot, so you will often see me quoting the creator of the deck or someone who has a closer relationship with the deck than I do at this time.

For the week of August 18, 2013 I am using the Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore (Llewellyn Publications).


Barbara Moore offers these keywords for this card: "Wisdom, knowledge, learning, intuition, purity, virtue."

I feel I am being called or encouraged to rise above the divisive, stressful, nit-picky aspects of daily life to reside in a calmer, wiser place this week. I have an opportunity to be more in tune with my inner or higher Self, enjoying life at a level that allows me to breathe freely and love generously, to be "in" the world but not "of" the world.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Emperor and The Empress - A Ramble by Helen

I am delighted, once again, to offer one of Helen's Rambles. This time, she is analyzing the relationship between The Emperor and The Empress.

The Emperor and The Empress - A Perfect Match?
~ a Ramble by Helen ~

The DruidCraft Tarot*

Today I wanted to take a look at both these cards and not just see them as individuals but how they actually complement each other and indeed work together. So what do you see when you look at the Empress? A mother, fertility, creativity, nurturing? Is she the symbol of pregnant with expectation? I think for me, she is the beginning of something new. She represents the birth of a new idea, relationship or even a new cycle in life. That is when she’s not being over protective of her new baby as it were. Now her opposite the Emperor often is seen as the ‘father figure,’ combining the energy of knowledge and support with being in charge, but he too can be overbearing, harsh and even a bit of a tyrant at times.

An unlikely pair they seem to make. Their personalities would appear to be the opposite of each other, but it seems to me, what he does with his authority and protection is provide a solid foundation from which her creativity can embark.

 While she is the mother of creation, whether that be a new project, giving birth to new beginning or literally a baby, her energy is focused on nurturing and seeing those creations grow. He is the father who provides the stability for those creations. It is his sense of order and his ability to acknowledge that there are rules and regulations, and that whether we like it or not, we need to work within those boundaries that life sets, that governs if the Empress’s creations actually bear fruit. At his best he can provide order to the problems that may exist, but beware he is strong, authoritarian, and ambitious and can be controlling. However, without his guiding hand, I think the Empress may exhibit a weakness, not in relationship to creating, but in allowing those creations to go out and into the world. The Emperor makes sure they become a material success. He is the part of this partnership that faces up to one’s responsibility in order to turn the Empress's creation into a reality. In short, she is the idea and he is the influence that brings it into existence.

Let's look at them numerically. The Empress is a number 3 card; this often represents in tarot, growth and expansion. It shows where the Ace and the 2 have come together to create a third. In relation to the Empress it’s an expression of the creative energy at work in combining different elements, a major step in turning something into a reality. This is where the Emperor steps in. He is a number 4 card and this can be thought to signify security, structure, stability and most importantly, material completion.

Is this a marriage made in heaven? Not sure about that, but it’s certainly a good match.

* The DruidCraft Tarot by Philip and Stehanie Carr-Gomm, Illustrated by Will Worthington (St. Martin's Press)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

REVIEW: The Animal Wisdom Tarot


_About My Reviews_

The Animal Wisdom Tarot
by Dawn Brunke
Illustrated by Ola Liola
CICO Books
ISBN 978-1-908862-58-7

Related Web Sites:

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Those of you who know me, know that I love animal decks, whether they be true Tarot decks or oracles. I could tell from sample cards I saw on a web site that this deck belonged in my collection.

From a Tarot standpoint, I appreciate the suit names Dawn Brunke chose: Branches, Shells, Fossils, and Feathers. These seem clear and logical to me, so I won't flounder when I do readings with them. Her colors and elemental associations ring true as well. The titles on the Majors (listed below) fit very well with the traditional names/meanings of the cards.

From a numerological standpoint, I appreciate the Quick Guide provided in the accompanying book, as well as the symbols Brunke used to tie the suited cards linked with each number together (even though in at least a couple of instances, the symbol is missing from a specific card).

From an animal-knowledge standpoint, I appreciate the associations, parallels, and insights Brunke provides when describing how a particular animal exhibits characteristics linked with its associated Tarot card. I love that Brunke included such a wide variety of animals. Creatures in the suit of Air (Feathers) are birds; creatures who are at home in the Water populate the suit of Shells; land-dwelling animals are shown on the Earth (Fossils) cards. Fire (Branches), always presents a bit of a challenge in animal-themed decks. Brunke includes the expected reptiles and insects, but appearances are also made -- and justified -- by the Hummingbird, Lynx, Fox, Camel, Leopard, and Tiger.

I find the illustrations delightful -- realistic with a touch of fantasy and just enough whimsy to bring a smile to my face.

I do think that a reader who is already familiar with the Rider-Waite deck will get more out of this deck than someone who has limited or no experience with the RWS.


"Using tarot cards is a time-honoured way to see the patterns of the past, explore the potential of what is to come and predict your future. The Animal Wisdom Tarot contains an inspirational book and a complete deck of 78 tarot cards. Every card in the deck has been assigned its own animal from the major arcana cards to all the cards in the four suits. In the accompanying book Dawn Brunke gives an interpretation for each card, both on its own and in combination with others. For more inspiration, there are messages and guidance on how to read and interpret the cards. The cards and the book feature specially commissioned illustrations by Ola Liola."


Dawn Brunke
About the Author (from Amazon.com): "Dawn Brunke is a writer and editor who specializes in the areas of healing, metaphysics and spirituality. She is also an animal communicator and the author of Animal Teachings (CICO), Animal Voices, Shapeshifting with our Animal Companions and Animal Voices, Animal Guides, all of which explore the deeper nature of our relationship with animals, nature, spirit, each other and ourselves. Since 2004 she has been a columnist for Timeless Spirit, a spiritually enlightening online magazine. She is listed in both Who's Who in America and Who's Who of American Women."

In the introductory material of the accompanying guidebook, Dawn Brunke provides separate pages called:

  • "What is Tarot?"
  • "The Animal Wisdom Tarot"
  • "The Major Arcana"
  • "The Minor Arcana"
  • "The Four Suits"
  • "The Court Cards"

The following topics are also covered:

  • A Quick Guide to Numbers
  • How to Read Tarot Cards (The Basics, Suggestions)
  • Tarot Spreads (Past-Present-Future, Bear Pause, Honeybee: Lovers Spread, Celtic Cross)
  • Sample Reading

The suits in this deck are as follows:

  • Branches (Wands / Fire)
  • Shells (Cups / Water)
  • Fossils (Pentacles / Earth)
  • Feathers (Swords / Air)

Brunke tells us that a common symbol featured on each card unifies each set of numbers. For example, the illustration on each number Two card incorporates a yin-yang symbol (unfortunately, although I looked closely, I could not see such a symbol on the Two of Feathers). Each Three card features a trio of animals. Fours incorporate a four-leaf clover; Fives feature a pentagram, and so forth.

The Courts consist of the Seer (Page), Seeker (Knight), Nurturer (Queen), and Guardian (King).

Brunke tells us that she used her intuition and imagination to pair an animal spirit with each Tarot card, and that some these pairings surprised her. Here are her choices for the Major Arcana:

0 Coyote - The Trickster
1 Raven - Messenger of Magic
2 Cat - Knower of Secrets
3 Cow - Earth Mother
4 Ram - Earth Father
5 Bull - Keeper of Sacred Tradition
6 Honeybee - Heart Awakener
7 Horse - Spirit of Freedom
8 Lion - Ruler of the Open Heart
9 Owl - Keeper of the Light
10 Spider - Sacred Spinner
11 Elephant - Bearer of Justice
12 Bat - Master of Suspension
13 Moth - Omen of Death
14 Swan - Angel of Alchemy
15 Goat - Shadow God of Liberation
16 Serpent - The Quickener
17 Peacock - The Illuminator
18 Rabbit - Moon Dreamer
19 Rooster - Call to Awakening
20 Crocodile and Butterfly - Masters of Discernment
21 Whale - The All-Encompassing

Among the pairings that Brunke found surprising were "the friendly, inquisitive Goat" with The Devil and the "delicate Moth" with Death.

Brunke used her experience with Tarot and familiarity with animal teachings to create guidelines for artist Ola Liola to follow in her illustrations.

Printed on glossy, standard-weight stock, these cards measure 3-1/8 inches by 5-1/8 inches. Corners are rounded. There are no borders. Card backs are reversible.

The 96-page paperback guide measures 6-1/4 inches by 5-1/4 inches and contains color illustrations of cards. A descriptive page is devoted to each of the 78 cards. All of these include the name of the animal, card title, card number (and suit if applicable), title of the corresponding traditional card, and a Message. For the Majors we are also given a "Keynote" (keywords). For the Pips we are given the Element and a Theme. Court Cards are given two Elements each and a Quality (actually several qualities).

Pages have color-coded borders: purple for Majors, red for Branches, blue for Shells, green for Fossils, and yellow for Feathers.

This set is contained in an attractive, high-quality, heavy cardboard box with a removable end piece.


To describe the art style, I turn to illustrator Ola Liola herself: "Due to obsession to a tiny details and complex patterns I have developed my own unique and modern illustration style. My illustrations are hand drawn. I use water colours and ink with an occasional pencil and Rapidograph lines which give finished and precise look to my work."

Liola notes that her animals are realistic but their colors and textures are often surprising. She writes: "My goal is to create a strong experience that spark the curiosity to explore the world around us and a dream. In my work can be found a constant dialogue between two worlds: urban life and nature. My inspirations coming from fashion design, mythology, microscopic world, flora and fauna."

Not being a professional art critic, all I can tell you is that I LOVE Liola's art. I encourage you to visit her web page and blog (links above), where you can swoon or drool or any number of things that make me glad no one can see me through my computer...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Week at a Glance: Bat (The Hanged Man)

The purpose of drawing a "Week at a Glance" card is to get a sense of the sort of energy, circumstances, or personal qualities I might need to be aware of during the upcoming week. I also use this opportunity to become more familiar with decks I don't work with a lot, so you will often see me quoting the creator of the deck or someone who has a closer relationship with the deck than I do at this time.

For the week of August 11, 2013 I am using The Animal Wisdom Tarot by Dawn Brunke, illustrated by Ola Liola (CICO Books). I will be posting a review of this deck on Tarot Notes soon!

My card is BAT - Master of Suspension (Trump 12).

Traditionally known as The Hanged Man, this Major Arcana card typically represents something of great significance or at a higher spiritual level than we normally experience day-to-day. Keywords provided by Dawn Brunke for Bat are "Surrender, Release, Sacrifice, Renew." She offers this Message: "Go within, and then let go."

Easier said than done, I think! Going within may not be too difficult -- but letting go? In addition to contemplating what I might need to "let go of" in my past, this card also encourages me to explore where I might want or need to relinquish control in the present. This may require a sacrifice -- perhaps simply sacrificing (or surrendering) my belief that I need to control something and ceasing my efforts to do so.