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One of my favorite Tarot/metaphysical bloggers is Benebell Wen. (I think my Christmas present to myself this year will be a copy of her Holistic Tarot.) I very much appreciate how she weaves Western metaphysical concepts and occult traditions with Buddhist and Taoist ones—from a deep understanding of all three traditions. As a lapsed and/or lazy Buddhist who has also been very intrigued by Taoism, you can see how this is very much My Thing. Anyway, my point is that Wen has this to contribute when it comes to the magical resistance:

For those who want to be the sideline cheerleaders supporting our witchy friends on their magical social justice endeavors, if this feels better, you can follow in the footsteps of Buddhist monks on their forms of peaceful resistance and protest against totalitarian regimes. This was done in Burma and Tibet.

Send strengthening metta energies to give a boost to those working the binding and those working actively in the mundane world to counteract POTUS #45. Do so by reciting as a mantra passages from the Metta Sutta, specifically as follows (in Pali):

Sukhino vā khemino hontu
Sabbe sattā bhavantu sukhi-tattā

English translation:
May all beings be well and safe;
may their hearts rejoice.

I know, the English translation makes the mantra sound not perfectly relevant, but it’s craft and it’s used in esoteric Buddhism (and Taoism), and in the context of that craft, is relevant energy-wise. You’re connecting your personal energies and strength with the Divine or higher consciousness and then directing it outward to amplify the power of those who are in a tangible position to make a difference.

You can find a recording of the entire Metta Sutta here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRIaO-XCy-k

I've also been taken by Hecate Demeter's "Magical Battle for America" workings. In the comments there is a recording of the working, guided meditation style. I'm working on cleaning it up and also adding some sound/musical cues; I'll share that here when I finish it.
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I've complained about the Celtic Cross spread before. And I still hate it! In addition to a "general reading" spread of my own creation (details at the link), I like using the standard astrological houses spread for all-purpose readings, including ones for myself at the solstices and equinoxes. I'm fairly familiar with astrology, and much as I'm not really super into the brand of occultism favored by the Golden Dawn or Crowley et al. (it's a little Christo-pagan for my liking), I recognize that Tarot as the divination tool it is today owes a lot to them, so there are concessions I'm willing to make, and the astrological associations are one of them. I find it to be the best paradigm for the Thoth deck in particular, since it makes no secret of putting the astrology right there in the image for you. Not only that, but astrologically themed readings are by nature complex and systematic, and I can't think of two better words to describe the Thoth deck than "complex" and "systematic."

I should note that within its full context, an astrological spread like this would actually constitute the "third operation," and would only be performed if the first two were successful. But more on that in another post. I have become quite taken with the first two operations myself, but frankly I don't think you need them if you have your own method going, so I'll touch on them later.

Sometimes my understanding of the houses in the context of astrology doesn't always translate to a good intuitive feel for what they would be in a divinatory context, though, so this entry is as much an attempt to share knowledge as it is to nail it down, hah.

Before I dive in, here is some background information on the houses (in the context of natal charts).

Anyway, a finalized version of how I use the houses in a Tarot reading.

The First House

First and foremost, I see this as a summary of the upcoming period in question, or as a significator for the querent (depending on if you're reading about the future or "right now"). If it's a card associated with a particular sign, whether Major Arcana, Minor Arcana, or court card, it sets the the ascendant for the rest of the reading. This is actually really important, because this will determine which cards are well-dignified and which ones are ill-dignified.

For example, let's say that the card that turns up in the first house is The Chariot. This card is associated with Cancer, and thus puts Cancer on the ascendant. The next house will be ruled by Leo, and then Virgo, and so on.

If the card isn't associated with a specific zodiac sign as per the Golden Dawn (so: the Princesses, the Aces, and the elemental/planetary Major Arcana), the natural rulers of the houses are used throughout the spread. In a nutshell, this is how you figure out which cards are reversed (more or less) in the Thoth deck. How I do it, anyway. ;)

It occurs to me after writing all of this up that an alternative method of house distribution in a spread might be continuing until you hit the first zodiacal card in the spread. So if you have The High Priestess, the Ace of Swords, and then the 3 of Wands, you would start with Aries in the third house (3 of Wands being associated with Sun in Aries), which translates to Aquarius in the first house. Or maybe you would check the the angular houses first, than the succeedent, then the cadent. (Angular succeedent cadent whaaat?)

But more on this in another post!

On a less esoteric level, the first house in a Tarot spread represents:

your personality
your approach to the world
the persona you want to project
your body (materially, e.g. injuries or accidents; health overall comes later)

Paul Foster Case's method also includes "[your] own initiative and action" in this category. The natural ruler of the first house is Aries.

The Second House

The second house is about wealth. Specifically: how you earn it. What talents do you have? It's also a house about values: what do you value in yourself? in others?

The natural ruler of the second house is Taurus.

The Third House

The third house is about cognition. It's about knowledge -- the ability to grasp facts, and remember and understand them -- and it's about the world immediately around you. It's about short trips, writing, communication, and siblings. Neighbors also fall into this category, as does basic schooling.

The natural ruler of the third house is Gemini.

The Fourth House

The fourth house is all about family. From siblings in the third house, we're now moving back into ancestors. This is the house that rules the cozy, home-y parent (or the cozy, home-y side of both parents). Traditional gender roles ascribe this to mothers, but it's a new world and gender roles are bullshit. This is the house of the "good cop" in the "good cop/bad cop" parenting dynamic.

Beyond that, it's also the house of real estate, land and property, and everything else about roots.

The natural ruler of the fourth house is Cancer.

The Fifth House

The fifth house is fun. Love affairs, gambling, the arts, children, all that good stuff. This is all about creativity and expressing yourself.

The natural ruler of the fifth house is Leo.

The Sixth House

The sixth house is about work and maintenance and duty. What do you do to keep things going? What does your everyday life look like? This is also the house of health issues (not surprise accidents or injuries, but whatever ongoing problems that you need to take care of).

Case also notes "relations with superior and inferiors."

The natural ruler of the sixth house is Virgo.

The Seventh House

This is about partnerships, unofficial and official (but especially official). It's the house of marriage, contracts, open enemies, negotiations, and court cases.

The natural ruler of the seventh house is Libra.

The Eighth House

One of the two ~scary~ houses in astrology (the other being the twelfth house) because of its historical association with death and matters connected to it (inheritances, spirits, etc.). Good times! The other Big Two in the eighth house (besides death) are taxes and sex. The occult is also part of this house.

In Case's tradition (specifically within his sequence of operations), this house is some bad ju-ju (unless you're inquiring about a spiritual or occult matter). Its reputation is a bit softer today, and we generally refer to it euphemistically as a house of transformations. Its natural ruler is Scorpio.

The Ninth House

The keyword for this house is "broadening horizons." It's related to higher learning (university as opposed to primary school), philosophy, religion, long journeys, and the law. To frame it within the context of the old joke, the third house is about knowing that the tomato is a fruit; the tenth house is about not putting it in fruit salad.

Its natural ruler is Sagittarius.

The Tenth House

This is the house of persona and career. What's your role in society at large? How does the public perceive you? It's also associated with the "bad cop" parent (traditionally the father, but again: gender roles are for chumps) and authority in general: governments, bosses, etc.

Its natural ruler is Capricorn.

The Eleventh House

This is the house of friendship and ideals. Government is the purview of the tenth house; the eleventh is about aspirational political groups. Case also notes "hopes and fears; finances of the employer."

Its natural ruler is Aquarius.

The Twelfth House

The other ~scary~ house of the zodiac, the twelfth house rules the subconscious and the unconscious. It's the house of hidden enemies and blind spots, and it's also the house of anything that takes us out of waking, ordinary life: prisons, hospitals, substance abuse. Case also notes secret societies associated with this house.

Its natural ruler is Pisces.

For example: )

I'll leave out an interpretation there, because this is already getting long for what I wanted. But you can see at least how elemental dignities would provide important context for each card. You can also see why I think a spread like this gives a better snapshot of a person's overall life situation than the standard Celtic Cross.
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This is a Prayer to Ama-no-Uzeme, Baubo, and Silly Old Aunts. This is a Prayer for Resistance.


This is a prayer to Ama-no-Uzeme. This is a prayer for Resistance.

This is a prayer to her sister, Baubo. This is a prayer for Resistance.

This is a prayer for the old women who dance naked to make us laugh. This is a prayer for Resistance.

This is a prayer for jokes about drinking, jokes about chin hair, jokes about gas. Old women make up the Resistance.

This is a prayer for laughing at yourself, taking no one too seriously, being self-aware. Old women make up the Resistance.

This is a prayer for the tricksters, a prayer to old broads, a chant about tennis shoes and walkers. Old women make up the Resistance.

When the Moon is full, I call to them.

I bring wine to make them bawdy. I bring mirrors to hang upon trees. I bring a long history of getting over yourself.

I bring breasts that droop, Shelia Na Gig t-shirts, and gin (old women always drink gin).

“Come, Ancient Tricksters,” I say. “Come dance and make our laughter turn into freedom.”

They come as they have always come. Laughing among themselves at some old secret. Carrying casseroles, wearing shawls, with purses that hold Cherries in the Snow lipsticks, worn down, half-full, years old.

They come as they have always come. Singing old songs only they remember. Tickling babies and pinching cheeks, exclaiming in awe over the miracle of children growing taller.

They come as they have always come. In sweaters, even in June. A box of rugelach, divinity in a metal tin, a cardboard box that looks like the car in a circus train, filled with animal crackers. Soup.

“Grandma!” I cry. “Aunt Ester!” “Great Goddesses of mirth! We can’t laugh when our democracy is failing. We can’t be happy when injustice has won. We want to hide.”

“Old Ones,” I cry. “You who drool and wheeze! Forget Vaudeville, forget stand-up, forget old knock-knock jokes! All is in ruins and we are bereft. No jokes can save us; we want to retreat from this fight!”

They poke us in the ribs, Ama-no-Uzeme, Baubo, and Shelia Na Gig. They pinch our cheeks and tickle us under our chins. They tell us to eat, get some rest, go for a walk.

They whip off their jogging suits. Drop their house dresses. Stomp on their own dignity.

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid to look silly?” they challenge us. “The only way I can teach you how to fight is to slip this lesson in between your pride and your fear,” they tell us. “How would you do this if it were the last thing you would do?” they insist upon asking. “Strip away all your pretense. Do the one thing that needs to be done. Never be afraid again.”


This is a prayer to foolish old women. Old women make up the Resistance. This is a prayer to Ama-no-Uzeme, Baubo, and Silly Old Aunts. This is a prayer for Resistance.
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[personal profile] jenny_evergreen's first monthly card draw for me was in regards to prior thoughts on the nature of deity. So I put a question to the birds: "What do I need to know about my relationship to deity?" Since I brought up both her Patreon and Hekate here, I guess it's fitting I should follow up with a post that combines both of those topics.

The card that came up for me was blue jay:


Relevant bit of a slightly longer description: This bird is the cheerful, flexible opportunist...[and]...[h]e is a shameless thief (doesn't recognize the ownership concept, except for territory).

This is the part I keep coming back to. Maybe [personal profile] jenny_evergreen too, I can't know what her thought process is. She pointed out some options:

1. Trickery afoot (in which case either myself or Arwen or both are being hoodwinked)
2. A kind of deity being recommended (in this case, trickster)
3. I "should be emulating Bluejay, especially the 'cheerful, flexible opportunist' approach. So maybe this is not so much about making a lifelong bond with a deity, but letting them come and go..."

I list these in order of likelihood.

1. My instinct when it comes to both this particular deck and to [personal profile] jenny_evergreen's singular instincts is that a warning against trickery would be much stronger, and be much less oblique. And since I'm not paying anyone money, time, or energy for the privilege of having a relationship with a deity, I don't need someone to tell me not to get tricked. :P (Related to deception and manipulation, though, this dude is getting major side-eye in a Facebook group I'm in.)

2. More or less equally unlikely is a trickster deity. Sometimes we're repulsed by things because we secretly admire them, or wish we could be them; sometimes we don't click with something because that's just not our bag. And that's how I feel about trickster deities, by and large. A mode of being I can roll with out of necessity (think an actor putting on a "show" to help Jews escape an increasingly dangerous Germany, a la Mel Brooks' To Be Or Not To Be) but not for the lulz (think 4chan).

3. Now we're in the realm of the very likely, and [personal profile] jenny_evergreen admits as much herself, saying her instinct tilts towards this one as well. There are three aspects of this idea for me and they're all kind of related to this point. The first is the one that she speaks about directly: allow energies to come and go as they will. This is about not taking things super seriously—relationship with deity can and should fluctuate as necessary—but the second point is also being allowed to take something seriously if I want to.

The third, if I can build on this card and bring my own past to bear, is that it's okay to pick and choose. Not universally, necessarily. Definitely not, actually. But for me personally—I err on the side of the very careful and very fastidious (when it comes to the spiritual, anyway) and feeling like everything always needs to be the roots, the original, the purest form of whatever... so it's okay to relax, and it's okay to mix and remix and take what works for me and disregard the rest.
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Long-time LJ/DW friend [personal profile] jenny_evergreen/[personal profile] wrenstarling has started an oracle Patreon, and I would absolutely recommend giving it a look!

What makes this stand out from other divination Patreons is that she uses a deck of her own creation, featuring birds. I know birds are special to a few people I follow here, and I can tell you right now that this is an immaculately and thoroughly researched deck. (That's just the kind of person [personal profile] jenny_evergreen is.)

If you're unfamiliar with the Patreon model, the idea is that you can make a recurring monthly payment to, well, just about anyone: artists, writers, even some small businesses, in return for small (to large) goods or services. With [personal profile] jenny_evergreen, that means at least one monthly reading from an experienced reader using her own personal deck rich in meaning.

A quick snapshot of a spread in action:

Even though I'm comfortable with Tarot and often read for myself, sometimes you need someone outside of your own head to provide input and guidance; in the readings I've had from [personal profile] jenny_evergreen, she's been dead-on. She reads with intuition paired with healthy skepticism and rationalism, which is something I very much appreciate in occultism and the esoteric.

The minimum pledge ($1 / month) grants you access to the monthly single-card draws for the entire group; increasing pledges correspond to spreads of increasing personalization and complexity. Or you can be a rockstar just by sharing this Patreon with people you know who would be interested in it.

Thanks much!
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I've come across a couple of Tarot apps that I think are worth having. They're both the work of Tina Gong, in terms of code as well as art. Multifaceted!

I had been looking for a Tarot deck app for a while before I stumbled across her apps. I just wanted something quick and clean that could generate cards on the fly, which turned out to be a more challenging task than you might think. I had another one before, but it was gummed up with ads and was just a mess. (I don't remember which one it was, but even if I did, I don't think it's generous to badmouth a free app that was only mediocre.) For a while, I was using a random number generator. Golden Thread and Luminous Spirit Tarot are both what I wanted, plus more. (In a good way, not in an OPTIONS OVERLOAD way.)

Golden Thread is targeted at beginners. You can draw a daily card, and there are also spreads: one-card, three-card, and Celtic Cross. The single-card reading was perfect for my "I just need to draw a random card on the go" needs, and I'll be using it for that for the foreseeable future. It also helps you track a lot of neat Tarot data about yourself: how positive/negative your readings have been over time, the most common card keyword that's come up, etc.

The Luminous Spirit app is more intermediate focused and assumes you already have a solid working knowledge of the Tarot (though keywords are always available for each card, plus its reversal). Instead, it connects your readings to lunar cycles. You set an intention for each cycle, and then at each new phase of the moon, there's a different reading.

Each app uses a Tarot deck that has a physical, printed equivalent (hence my use of the "deck lust" tag here). The apps are free, and are free of ads. It's the sale of the physical items that helps support the apps. (And Gong's enthusiasm, natch.) I don't know how much I like the aesthetic of the Golden Thread deck, but I might very well pick up the physical Luminous Spirit deck:

This is a really well designed app, and I appreciate that they use original decks instead of just using the Waite–Smith deck. I admit that it wasn't until I did some research into Pamela Colman-Smith that I really appreciated the Waite–Smith deck, but now I'm totally onboard with it. My beef with Tarot apps using the Waite–Smith deck is more how it usually indicates a sort of lack of effort—just grab a public domain Tarot deck with easy-to-read images and go! No original decks, no recent decks that would mean paying licensing fees to artists or estates. (Of course, not every app or software with a more unique, modern deck is necessarily paying its artists. I recall a sketchy app ripping off a deck from the Magical Realist press.) But it's that extra attention to detail that makes an app really stand out, and that's why I think I'll continue to use it for a long time to come.
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Fellow Tarot nerd and high school classmate [personal profile] starfrosting Kickstarted his own deck last year, and I was amped to get in on the ground floor. How often do you get to work with a deck whose creator you actually know? (Okay, maybe some of you get to do this all the time, but I don't.) Before I get to pictures and my own thoughts, I'll let [personal profile] starfrosting introduce the deck in his own words:

The HIDDEN LIGHT Tarot is an elemental, fey, Jewitchy, & subtly spellbinding Tarot deck.

The HIDDEN LIGHT embodies my approach to Tarot honed over 15 years: elemental, imaginative, and viscerally magical. Created through collage and my multi-media pen, ink, and paint work, the cards themselves enact the divinatory process of Tarot— taking what's there to assemble and discern rich meaning. My half-a-lifetime experience as both zinester and Tarot reader yields a deck whose zine-witch aesthetic hums with raw, lively, fey power. The cards resonate with rich, subtle magic.

The HIDDEN LIGHT Tarot draws from traditional decks in its structure but sheds their hierarchical and patriarchal inheritances in favor of queer and immanent perspectives. In keeping with my own magical and Jewish practice, the spiritual themes of the cards are articulated in earthy, cosmic imagery that conjures wider tides of contraction, expansion, concealment, and revelation.

This deck is a tool for intimate conversation with the seen and unseen dimensions of life: for divination, meditation, and magic.
First, the physicality of the deck itself: It's a self-published indie deck, but the quality overall is stunning. The colors absolutely pop and the lines are clear and sharp. The borders are only a couple of millimeters, so the vast majority of card real estate is taken up with imagery. I have no preference when it comes to matte versus glossy finishes, but if you do, this is a matte deck. I found that traditional riffle shuffling was a little tough going at first (maybe the cards were too stiff?) but after a few rounds it's much smoother. Otherwise this deck is a candidate for my Klondike shuffling method, to avoid bunching near the top of the deck. The backs, while not perfectly reversible, are an abstract image of what I assume are stars against a night sky, so reversed cards are not immediately apparent face-down.

The images themselves have a raw and modern feel to them, particularly the Major Arcana. A couple have been renamed ("The Devil" becoming "Bondage" and "Judgment" becoming "Redemption," with the resulting changes in imagery), and the vast majority have what most people would term "non-standard" imagery. (Much of this depends on your own definition of "standard," of course.) For me, the Major Arcana is where this deck really shines. I would like to specifically point to [personal profile] starfrosting's interpretation of The Hierophant and The Emperor, cards I generally viscerally dislike. I vibe much more with this imagery than the traditional Waite-Smith or Thoth symbolism.

Finally, there is a definitely nautical theme to the Major Arcana of this deck, which makes me kind of want an entire nautical Tarot???

The Minor Arcana is very pip-heavy; funny enough, the use of the pips and color remind me a lot of the Thoth deck, though I know from previous conversations with [personal profile] starfrosting that the Thoth is not one of his favorites. It could be the shared background in Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism that gives this deck a Thoth-y vibe, I'm not sure. That said, much of the Waite-Smith imagery is retained (3 of Swords, 10 of Cups, and 6 of Swords spring to mind). And, like the Major Arcana, much of the imagery and symbolism in this deck are new and wholly separate from either Thoth or Waite-Smith. (I'm not familiar enough with Marseiles to know if [personal profile] starfrosting drew from there as well.)

One aspect of this newness is the representation of Swords. While not renamed, they're represented by switchblade knives rather than traditional swords. [personal profile] starfrosting has also aligned the deck with the wands/air, swords/fire tradition (making it the first deck I've owned in that particular paradigm).

The courts likewise depart from traditional symbols and imagery, mostly featuring figures against a cosmic space background. This deck probably has my favorite Queen of Cups image: cheerful, mid-laugh, sparkling. This is how Drunk Me perceives myself. ;)

The card is much less sickly yellow in real life. Crappy lighting.

The KS is over now, but you can purchase The Hidden Light Tarot on Etsy if you like. I would recommend springing for the zine as well, as it functions as the deck's LWB (and is probably one of the cooler LWBs you'll come across).

I immediately sat down and did a "getting to know you" spread, but I've already gone on enough so I'll have to save that post for later. :)

Settling In

Apr. 4th, 2017 08:43 am
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This journal is usually awfully quiet publicly, but privately it has lots of data I would rather not lose. You can find me on dreamwidth under the same user name. From now on I'll be updating on dreamwidth and crossposting to LJ automatically. You can follow me in both places, but I would recommend migrating to dreamwidth. At the very least, I would recommend crossposting between dreamwidth and LJ by default. That way you have a constantly updated backup of your LJ, should anything bad happen to it.

8 of Swords

Mar. 6th, 2017 09:41 am
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)
This is a card that has come up a lot for me in readings on unrelated subjects. Now, I'm fairly confident that I shuffled well enough to assure that the deck (Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg) was well and truly randomized between readings, so I want to take a moment to pay attention to this card and see if I'm missing anything.

The 8 of Swords typically features a captive figure (usually a woman) who is bound, blindfolded, and surrounded by swords, often some distance outside of a village, town, or other indication of civilization. Here is the Waite-Smith image that serves as the basis for many decks today:

In the Thoth deck, this card is titled "Interference"; in the OGD it was also known as "The Lord of Shortened Force." I think this is one of my favorite of Harris's cards; something about the colors and the background geometry and the placement of the swords all works together to invoke a sense of static-y disruption. For whatever reason, it's a card that I have no problem responding to an on instinctual level -- maybe even easier than I do with the Waite-Smith version.

One thing that comes up often with the 8 of Swords is that it represents a self-imposed bondage: one that is a result of overthinking, or in refusing to accept some obvious reality, rather than outside forces conspiring to keep you in your place.

In her companion book to the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg, Giles highlights the differences in representations between the Russian Tarot and the Waite-Smith and other Waite-Smith inspired decks available at the time. Here, the captive figure's eyes are closed, instead of blindfolded, which highlights the self-imposed nature of the interference. Giles also points out the ambiguity of the floating sword: is it coming to cut through the binding ropes? will it simply settle into the ground with the other 7 swords? Is it, like the floating fourth cup in the 4 of Cups, potentially something unreal or imagined in nature? Overall, Giles concludes that the Russian Tarot's 8 of Swords is a little more hopeful than the Waite-Smith version.

My favorite name for this card is the OGD's "Lord of Shortened Force." I don't have ADHD myself, but I get that kind of vibe from the card: constant distractions, unable to focus, getting nothing done as a result. (Or having to do a lot of extra work just to tread water.) I admit to feeling like that a lot, recently. Seeing this in the outcome feels a lot more like "results unclear, try again later" than "no bueno." I'll have to lay out another reading later, when I'm less harried, and see if anything changes.
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)
I don't think I've talked about any books at all on this blog, except maybe only in passing. Well!

I've owned a copy of the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg deck for years now—possibly since 2008? The art is certainly striking, especially against the black background.

But it always felt like much of the art and symbolism that was beyond me. I didn't realize until a couple of years ago that there was a companion book; I didn't get around to acquiring a copy until this year.

The reason for my hesitance was partially my generally uninspiring previous experience with "companion books." They felt more like diet versions of a generic Tarot book then an in-depth exploration of a particular deck's art or history (the obvious exclusion being Crowley's Book of Thoth). Moreover, it seemed for a long time that the standalone book was unavailable; it only occurred in a package deals with the deck, which made it unnecessarily expensive and wasteful. Finally, as a Christmas gift to myself, when I found a used standalone copy available, I cashed in some Visa reward points and got Cynthia Giles's Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg for eventually free. It arrived a few days ago and I've just finished reading it now.

This is probably the best Tarot deck companion book I've encountered yet. Giles goes beyond telling you about the deck; she also delves into Russian history, culture, and folklore, much of which turn up in the actual cards. The casual user will no doubt recognize Josef Stalin as the figure in The Devil; if they page through the accompanying LWB, they'll also learn that Princess Olga of Kiev is pictured as the High Priestess, or that the Hierophant resembles Saint Vladimir. But without the background knowledge Giles collects in this volume, they would be much harder pressed to recognize other personages, like Ivan the Great, Grand Princess Sofia, or Ivan the Terrible. (Unless they were hardcore Russian history buffs, I suppose!) She also provides more details and context for the figures only briefly alluded to in the LWB. There is less detail when it comes to the specific court cards and pips, but that is largely due to the fact that there is an abundance of background information elsewhere. The amount of research and work that Giles put into this volume is staggering; she also makes numerous suggestions for further reading and includes her complete bibliography at the end.

I love this deck, and while I've read (relatively) successfully without Giles's companion book, after finally getting my hands on it I can conclude that the information and context provided in the book is, if not 100% essential for working with the deck, it's 100% important. If you've seen me mention this deck and have been thinking about getting one yourself, I would recommend saving up to get the deck and companion book package deal. Absolutely worth it.
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This is a spread I first used for TG, and then later for a [livejournal.com profile] holiday_wishes reading.

Generally speaking, I don't like the Celtic Cross spread. I can't really make it click with the way I read cards and what I want to know from a reading (or what I think others want from a reading). The one thing I do like is the visual poetry of the first two cards: "This covers you, and this crosses you." An upright card and a card rotated 90*. It has a mystical, mysterious look to it. Moreover, those two cards contain immensely useful and pertinent information: here's the crux of the issue, here's your relationship to it and maybe what you need to know to fix things.

I knew I wanted to implement that cross imagery when I did a general reading for TG way back. In that top row you can see four crosses, one for each of the relevant parties of said reading: TG, their spouse, and their two oldest children.

When I originally came up with the spread—which was all a very organic "if I wanted general life advice, what questions would I ask? Which ones would I want answered?"—I came up with three questions:

What should I keep doing?
What should I stop doing?
What new thing should I try?

At the time I mentioned possibly adding a fourth question—What new thing should I not try?—but ultimately let it be.

A couple years later in my [livejournal.com profile] holiday_wishes reading, I (mostly unknowingly, I admit) mimicked this structure: a cross for the querent, and then four...proclamations, for lack of a better term:

1. What you're doing to your benefit.
2. What you're avoiding to your benefit.
3. What you're doing to your detriment
4. What you're avoiding to your detriment.

You can stick the four cards anywhere you like. I like to put them under the cross, with cards 1 and 2 on one side and 3 and 4 on the other (I like symmetry) but that's just me.

You'll note there aren't any future positions in the spread. I don't like predictions. There is almost certainly some level of aversion to Popperesque falsifiability in that—it's hard to disprove a Tarot reading that doesn't make predictions—but also, at this point, I just don't think they're helpful to people. Predictions—and, it should be noted, the original Celtic Cross spread—don't give people actionable advice they can do right now. And I think that when people come to the Tarot (or their oracle of choice), many times they're looking for someone or something to tell them what to do right now rather than wanting assurance about the future.

So there you have it. My Celtic Cross alternative. Feel free to take it and make it your own!
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)

What is the lie I keep telling myself? )

Speaking of Tarot history and the origins of the card, Biddy Tarot has a really great interview with Robert Place about the history of the cards. It is academically and authentically grounded (protip: they're not Egyptian) and easy to digest, and even though it's a podcast interview, Biddy is really great with having transcripts so you can read instead.
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)
Today's prompt was: Pathfinder: What do I need to stop running away from?

5 of Cups, reversed )
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)
This is a good question, I feel: what should I attract into my life? Though, of course, "should" can be read in a dozen different ways. You should attract different things depending on your goals, right? The kind of energy and opportunities I can attract to make cash money are not necessarily the same as the ones you want to jumpstart creativity, or find love, or so on. What you need to be happy isn't always the same as what you need to be a better person (at least in the short run). But I'm going to stop overthinking this question and see it as: what should I attract into my life to help me become my best self?

What should I attract into my life? )
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)

I'm not sure what today's first question ("What do I hate about myself? Why?") has to do with purgatory, but I'll just let that sit. But what do I hate about myself? I had plenty of time to sit and stew on this question before I actually flipped over a card. I thought about my tendency to be loud and domineering in circles; my tendency to just hold forth without actually facilitating a conversation. I thought about my need to always be right; to have the last word; to be sarcastic.

Five of Swords wouldn't be too far off the mark, I thought, and then drew my card. Page of Swords. Not too far off the mark, then?

The trick is connecting the Page of Swords to the reversed 10 of Pentacles, which came up way back on Day 11. I want to like that spread. I really do, but I had such a weird non-reading with it. Maybe that means I need to try it again. And if you go waaay back to the very first spread in this monthly meme, the Page of Swords comes up as my quest. But reversed. So if the Page of Swords is what I hate about myself, is the quest about ridding myself of that energy? Hm. Hmmm.

Likewise with the 4 of Cups: we've seen this card before: what I can't accept about myself. But this is in the Victorian Romantic Tarot, not the St. Petersburg or any other Waite-Smith clone, so the image is a bit different:

Someone is not having a good time! But seriously: what do I hate in other people, and why?

This one I didn't think as much about beforehand. I hate when people are greedy, hateful, self-serving, and so on...but that isn't what the 4 of Cups is about. It's about something so much more mundane and harmless: being grumpy.That's kind of low-key thing to hate, isn't it? So...petty. But I guess it isn't just any kind of grumpy that grinds my gears. It's the self-indulgent and childish sort of "I didn't get a pony for my brithday wah" grumpy. Depression is real, and we do all have to process disappointment and despair to be healthy, but then when it becomes that masochistic and self-destructive grumpy...no thanks. There's so much worse stuff going on that you should save your grumpy dollars for.

This is one I hate in myself, too. I know I can get this way fairly easily.  And I guess you often hate in others what you don't want to admit to yourself....

tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)

Maybe another reason I've slowed down with this shadow work meme is that a lot of the prompts are sort of meaningless for me. Last one was about my Inner Child, which is frankly in the category of New Age concepts I don't buy into (maybe that's why my card was the 10 of Swords?); coming up is "inner god" and questions of divinity, which I don't really know if I hold truck with either. But I'll keep on keeping on. It's better to use my cards more often than not, right?

Today was day 17. According to the meme:

Intimacy: How I can strenghten [sic] my bond with the loved one(s)? )
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)

I started this in November. Now it's march and today marks the halfway point. Even with skipping some prompts and combining others, I'm still (obviously) lagging quite a bit! It doesn't help that even with extra time and thought, the "Shadow Work Spread" reading doesn't make any damn sense.

So what advice does my Inner Child have for me )
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)
I kind of dislike the gender binary implied by talking about masucline and feminine sides. I recognize the reference to Jung, and I have a semi-competent understanding of what he means with animus/anima; I just don't think it's appropriate to place it here stripped of context. (A Jungian spread would have been perfect for this challenge! Missed opportunity tbh.)

I've never really had conflicting feelings over my biological sex or gender identity but I've been watching the discussion around trans identities unfold and really skyrocket the last five years and it's been really educational, enlightening, and occasionally heartbreaking. Needless to say, much as dualism can be appealing, I'm casting these question in a slightly different light: boldness and patience. Am I too bold/patient, or not enough? How can I better channel these two conflicting qualities to achieve what I want?
The readings: )

tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)
Today's prompt is what can't I accept about myself? Why?

The card I pulled was the 4 of Cups, reversed. Oh boy, reversals!!

If the Page of Clubs was straightforward, this was another think-y draw. On its surface, the 4 of Cups is generally about discontentment and dissatisfaction. The honeymoon period is over, the magic is lost.

This is a card where a Waite-Smith (of which my St. Petersburg Tarot is a clone) and Thoth comparison is interesting and potentially fruitful.

In the Thoth deck, this card is titled Luxury, and is associated with Moon in Cancer. As the Moon is Cancer's natural ruler, this would initially seem like a positive and comfortable card. I mean, "luxury"? But the colors and image, while not devastating, are hardly warm and fuzzy:

But this was not a reading with the Thoth deck. This was, as with most of the readings so far, done with my St. Petersburg deck, which is a Waite-Smith clone.

The primary differences between the two are that the figure in the Russian Tarot is blonde and dressed in noticably luxurious (hey! that word!) clothing (of course, all of the clothing in the St. Petersburg Tarot has lovely embroidered bits along hems and ediges, but here it is overmuch), and instead of sitting with legs and arms crossed, he's kneeling and has one hand raised to his chast, palm out. But there are still three cups before him, a tree branch above him, and an ambiguous sky-hand. Is the fourth sky-cup one the figure is desiring in his grumpy mood? Or is it one being held out to him that he can't see because he's grumpy?

The LWB for this deck takes the reversed meaning of this card (since I did draw it reversed) as unambiguously positive: new possibilities, new solutions, new relationships, new knowledge. More or less in line with the reversed meaning given by Waite in The Pictorial Key to the Tarot. Hardly something I would "refuse to accept about myself."

I am not somehow secretly unhappy or dissatisfied with my life, generally speaking. Perhaps this "generally speaking" is the kernel of the issue: I'm not acknowledging whatever dissatisfactions I do have. In what arena of life could I be ignoring my own unhappiness?

After two years in a foreign country, I have a solid grasp on the language, though not the fluency of my mother tongue. But I'm handling it.

I have a solid, long-term, supportive relationship.

My career is a bit slipshod at the moment. At the moment I'm gunning to be a certfied teacher, but since my credentials aren't originally in education (aside a CELTA, which isn't nothing, but it's also not a multi-year degree program), I'm realizing now I potentially will have a lot to make up. And even now, I only think I'll like it. I know that schools can be a bereaucratic, political nightmare (all this on top of managing students) and I don't know if I have the inner reserves to handles that. Otherwise: do I have the inner reserves to be a proper freelancing editor and tutor? Or do I give up on all of my English-related career goals and return to retail instead? Should I focus more on my fiction writing? On jewelry?

LIkewise my partner's career is slipshod for similar reasons, namely having a lot of education to make up. It would be lying to say that it didn't stress us both out. This goes hand-in-hand with my slipshod career: we both have fairly meager safety nets to begin with, and we both acknowledge a sense of fiscal and general responsibility for the other. I do look at my other immigrant friends who are equally slipshod in their careers but who have partners with stable and fairly well-paying jobs, and sigh wistfully. Sometimes.

It would be a hard thing to admit that the career experience I've accrued so far might not be relevant for what I would actually end up doing, or that I might need to put my career aspirations on hold for the sake of a little more money (and probably a lot more peace of mind). Is this what I can't accept?
tarot_scholar: An image of Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Rosie the Riveter (Rosie)
So here we are, nearly a week into December, and I haven't continued on with the challenge. It might as well be Shadow Work Winter, at this point. ;)

I drew this card ages ago, though. It's just finding the time to sit down and write. Ironically, I think the challenging cards prompt me to write more, because I need more space to work out my thoughts—the kind of "no shit, Sherlock" moments are, on the other hand, are so clear that it's more like, "Ah, fair point. Moving along..."

Today's, for example, is The Devil: What do I need to let go of? And I drew the Page of Clubs. (Clubs = Wands, in this deck.)

The Page of Clubs is energetic, creative, passionate—but he is also inattentive and quick-tempered. He's not as pushy or domineering as some of the other court cards, at least. But things still get under his skin and he can be quite impatient: why isn't everyone doing things his way? Can't they see that it's the best? And if he later realizes that there are better ways, he's not always comfortable owning up and apologizing.

So there you have it.
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