Kitchen Witch, Eclectic Spiritualist, Psychic-Medium, Reiki Master, Conscientious Omnivore, Tarot Card Slinger, Singer of Songs, Player of Things with Four Strings.

How to Choose your First Tarot Deck

Choosing your first tarot deck can be a daunting task.  There are SO MANY out there and it seems like every day, someone is making a new one.   When I got my first deck, it was 1987-ish and the internet wasn’t born yet.  I lived in a rural area and my access to anything other than Waldenbooks was very limited.  Now, anyone can easily design a deck, have it printed, and market it.  AMAZING.

I didn’t even choose my first deck.  It was a Christmas gift when I was a teenager and I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t remember if it came from my mom or my grandmother.  One of the two, anyway.

My first deck was the Mythic Tarot which is loosely based on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck (RWS).  The Mythic Tarot takes it’s inspiration from Mythology which is pretty cool, but also very specific to those stories.  Many of the cards are similar in imagery to the RWS, but not in meaning.   The book was very detailed into things like “this bird symbolizes Zeus… and this Devil is actually Pan… oh and this lady here?  this is Persephone.”  Cool, but difficult to read if you try to shoehorn the images and symbolism into modern day life. It can be done, for sure, but it requires a LOT of memorization.

The Mythic Tarot: the Devil, The Heirophant and the Chariot.

 

The Mythic Tarot: Ace of Pentacles, Six of Swords, Five of Wands and Eight of Cups

As you can see from these images, they are pretty specific to individual personas.  There is Persephone there in the Eight of Cups.  Yes, her leaving the physical word behind and moving into the darkness does sort of mirror the idea of the Eight of Cups so that’s good.   Poseidon is the Ace of Pentacles, which I personally find confusing because Pentacles is traditionally the Earth Element and Poseidon lives in the water.. but sure.. bursting forth with new energy.. ok.  The Six of Swords here is Orestes who I know nothing about.. and the Five of Wands is Jason’s battle with the Dragon over the Golden Fleece so, yeah, it’s a fight.

But, basically, there is too much here for a beginner, in my opinion.

Seriously Consider the Rider Waite Smith in the Yellow Box

The RWS (unless you read Thoth) is what a lot of decks are based off and the beauty of the RWS deck is that it lends itself to an intuitive interpretation.  The cards evoke an emotion and a feeling and provide a lot of detail to explore so you don’t have to learn something by rote.

Rider Waite Smith

Rider Waite Smith

See how the Five of Wands is evoking an emotion of conflict among people?  And the Six of Swords feels like a family leaving the choppy waters headed towards smoother sailing?  (Yes, the Ace is hard to get an emotion from.. I know.. but you have keywords to fall back on to kick your intuition into gear ~ it’s a good idea to know the “traditional meanings” but don’t be limited by them.  Think of it like the drugs that were prescribed for depression also work for smoking cessation.  They were intended for one thing but also work for another..  follow me?)

A word on intuition:  if you want to be a tarot reader  it really benefits you to work with your intuition. It gets your left brain out of the way and opens you up to the message from the Universe. The Tarot is a TOOL to facilitate your connection to the Information Highway. (and it’s not as old as people claim.. at least not as a divination tool)

The RWS is a great place to start.  The other thing is that a LOT of books, teachers and websites reference it.  If you will be looking for support from others, it’s good to have a working knowledge of this artwork. Also, I can’t help it.  The wands look like giant penises to me.  They just do.  Take a look at the Ace of Wands and then tell me I’m wrong.

Look at a lot of decks to find artwork that appeals to you

I don’t enjoy the RWS artwork and I really don’t like the overt Christian overtones.  I think it’s super important to find artwork that appeals to you.  It’s difficult to find the message in the card when you don’t like looking at it.  I actually got rid of my first RWS deck because I just couldn’t read with it.  (I have since purchased a new one to work with for study only.  But I have no intention on reading with it)

The deck I worked with for YEARS was the Morgan Greer.  It’s a close up image of the RWS artwork and it’s borderless, which I enjoy.

Morgan Greer

Morgan Greer

But still, lots of Christian overtones.  Since the explosion of Tarot interest, I’ve had some great opportunities to get decks that are still RWS based but with a twist.

Modern SpellCasters Tarot

Modern SpellCasters

Check out the Chariot!  Talk about moving forward without really knowing where you are going… but doing it anyway.  And there are more Alchemical symbols here and the deck has more of a magickal feel to it. Which is intentional since it’s meant to also work Magick.  And the Eight of Cups has a slightly different vibe to it. I also love this deck because many of the images show people of different colors, sizes, races and sexual identities.

Modern images for modern times can sometimes read easier.

This is my newest deck for my collection and it totally updates the images.  This is the Everyday Witch Tarot and I’m really digging how easy this is to read.   You may not feel that all of these images are modern (cloaks, cauldrons etc) but they are a lovely mix of Modern images and NeoPagan Traditions.  This deck just sings to me because of this mash up.  I suspect there is a modern deck out there for you that fits your path.  (Some of us do have actual magick brooms and wands and cauldrons in our homes.)

Everyday Witch Tarot

Everyday Witch Tarot

New Readers should probably avoid decks with pips

Tarot was a game, originally.  If you go back to before the RWS deck, you will find the Visconti Deck  named after the family that had the cards.  See, paper was expensive so only rich people had decks and only rich people had time for actual games.   I picked up this mini deck at the J.P. Morgan Library gift shop, where you can view three of the original Tarot cards from this deck.

I don’t read with it.

Visconti Deck

Pips Only.. you can’t even really tell the swords from the wands

These decks don’t give you anything to work with other than numbers.  That’s more than half your deck that you would need to memorize meanings for.  Not an easy task and not really an intuitive task either.

Probably steer away from Novelty Cards/Promotional Material for your first deck.

Have you seen Penny Dreadful? Vanessa has a beautiful deck that was made just for the show.

I own it.  I don’t read from it.

Penny Dreadful Tarot

Penny Dreadful Tarot

It’s amazing but limited in it’s ability to spark intuition. Also, all the minor cards 2-10 are pip cards. Nope. Just really neat to have it and look at it. (And I will admit that I’m currently waiting for my Twin Peaks Tarot deck to ship and I probably won’t read from that one either).

Which brings me to..

Probably best to avoid highly stylized/non-human decks to start.

There are some great non-human decks out that that probably read just fine.  But they can be hard to read for beginners and can feel a bit off putting to friends you may want to read for as practice.  Let’s face it. Some people still think the Tarot is Evil with the Capital E.  I adore my Deviant Moon deck but I’ve only used it once in a reading for a client because.. well… look at it.

Deviant Moon Tarot

Deviant Moon Tarot

The only time I used it for a client was when they made a point of telling me they identify as non-binary and most decks are well.. Binary.   And actually a lot of decks are very…. white.. and straight.  Many of the images in the Deviant Moon deck are not gender specific.  (I admit, I didn’t pick the best cards to demonstrate this but I was rolling with a theme)

Where do you go from here?

I think the best thing you can do is to get your eyes on some decks before you decide.  Some great places to look at decks before you buy are:

  • Your local metaphysical shop: Sometimes the owners will have decks open for you to look at. This is fantastic!  But buy your deck there, ok?  Don’t fondle the merch and then get a deal online.  Spend the extra bucks to support your local seller.
  • Aeclectic Tarot :  An astonishing number of decks with a good sampling of each card in each deck.  Plus reviews from actual readers.
  • YouTube:  A google search for YouTube Tarot Reviews will get you a ton of hits and a lot of folks will show you every single card.  You will also get a lot of info about things that might be important to you like, card stock or boxes or the book that comes with it.
  • Amazon reviews:  lots of readers will put pictures of the cards in their reviews and are not shy about sharing their thoughts. (which reminds me.. I have a few reviews to do)
  • Other readers:  Opinions are like assholes.  We all have one.  What I think about a particular deck may be very different than what your friend and favorite reader thinks. Ask us. We LOVE to talk about our decks.

It is impossible to buy the “wrong” deck.

Truly.  Every deck will tell you something about yourself.  It will help you find what you are comfortable with and what you aren’t comfortable with.  Discomfort is educating in and of itself.  If you outgrow your deck or decide you don’t want to read from the one you bought, there is a healthy market out there for second hand decks.   Many of us pooh pooh the idea that you shouldn’t read a used deck.  If you really want to unload a deck you don’t like, someone will buy it.

What it really comes down to is this…

Buy the deck that speaks to you .. and if it doesn’t speak to you in six months, that’s ok too..  See, people evolve.  What you like today, you may not like tomorrow.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Your time with the Tarot will change your perspective on things..  on people.. and on yourself.

Modern SpellCaster’s Tarot

I recently stumbled upon the term “TOADie”. That’s someone who “suffers” from Tarot Over-Acquisition Disorder. I’ve not reached the heights of my friend George, but every once in a while, I find a deck that speaks to me and I must buy it.

Right now, my “had to have” is the Modern SpellCaster’s Tarot by Melanie Marquis and illustrated by Scott Murphy.

For a long time, I had struggled with the religious and masculine overtones of the Waite-Smith deck.  It’s actually even more well know as the Rider-Waite for the publisher and the guy who commissioned the art.  Pamela Smith, who created imagery, is usual left out.  You get my point, yes?

I had been looking for a Pagan themed deck for years now.  Most of them, I found sort of stiff.  That’s the best word I can come up with for the imagery.  And I read images.  I don’t memorize cards.

The Modern SpellCaster's Tarot

The Modern SpellCaster’s Tarot – The Box

 

One of the things I love about this deck is that it is designed to actually be used for spell work.  Yes, I’m “one of those people”.  It should be noted that although “traditional” decks have the Wands representing the Element of Fire and Swords representing the Element of Air, this deck is the opposite, which really resonates for me. (I had to actually type that sentence out three times because I kept typing it wrong.. or right depending on your perspective).  If you are a stickler for wands = fire and swords = air, then this deck is not for you

However, if Pagan symbols, beautiful artwork and diversity are your jam, then this deck is for you.

I mean, look at this handfasting

The Four of Wands

The Four of Wands

and these two fellas sharing a drink

Two of Cups

Two of Cups

The mounts chosen for the Knights are also pretty spectacular

The Knights of the Modern SpellCaster's Tarot

The Knights of the Modern SpellCaster’s Tarot

Oh and look at these amazing women, eh?

The Queens of the Modern SpellCaster's Tarot

The Queens of the Modern SpellCaster’s Tarot

I’m also super fond of the back design. If you read reversals, you might have a bit of difficulty as there is a top and a bottom. I don’t read reversals. I find them too chaotic. Also, some folks find the cardstock to be very thin.  And it is.  It may not hold up to a billion readings, to be honest.  But I am the one who handles my cards as most of my readings are internet or email based, so for me it’s not a big deal.

The Back of the Modern SpellCaster's Tarot

The Back of the Modern SpellCaster’s Tarot

The book that comes with is SUPER thick and really detailed.

The Handbook for the Modern SpellCaster's Tarot

The Handbook for the Modern SpellCaster’s Tarot

Some of the complaints that I’ve read on the internet is that the book doesn’t give enough information on the imagery, however there is a page in the front that details why certain animals were chosen and what many of the symbols mean. You get to actually take this information and formulate your own meanings. I actually prefer that and I appreciate the list of symbols in the book as I was unfamiliar with a few.

The Aces of the Modern SpellCaster's Tarot

The Aces of the Modern SpellCaster’s Tarot

I am so completely, totally in love with this deck that I’m struggling to actually use them for readings. I feel like I need to get to KNOW them better. So! My plan is to look at each card and spend some time with it. I’ll be posting here as sort of my Tarot Journal. I hope you enjoy me on this journey and share your insights with the imagery.

In the meantime, I’ve posted pictures of all of the cards, so please enjoy this amazing imagery.

 

A Day with a Tarot Card: Three of Swords

I enjoyed my day with the Hermit so much that I decided to go ahead and pull another card.

Three of Swords

Three of Swords

That’s a humdinger, eh?

Considering my mood from yesterday and the fact that I wasn’t really looking forward to going into work today, I was like.. Great. That’s icky.
I mean really, what positive thing can you see in this card? It’s a bleeding heart, run through with three swords, under a gloomy cloudy sky.

Ugh. Did I really want to spend my day with this card?  I mean..wow.  I posted it over in George‘s private Tarot Facebook Group for students and he says to me “Well, there is nowhere to go but up!”

Although the original impression I got was “ouch”, after looking at it again, I noticed the glowing halo behind the heart and the lighter blue sky below.  So, yeah, I can see that.

I went into work this morning with the intention of minding my own beeswax and not engaging in any negativity.

On my drive in, my mind wandered back to the Three of Swords and it occurred to me that the images also conjured up “hidden pain” and it was a reminder to me to view others with compassion.  As I’m typing this now, I’m realizing that also applies to treating oneself with compassion.

Today I stuck to my healthy eating (although there is a Schmackary’s Cookie waiting for me on the counter right now..but I’m only gonna eat half and I’m going to enjoy every. single. bite.) and every time someone asked me a question, I put down what I was doing and fully and completely engaged them in conversation.  I paid attention to what they needed.  I stopped being wrapped up in myself for a few moments.  And when I felt someone was harshing my mellow, I made a conscious decision to ignore them.

At the end of the day, I hurried home in anticipation of my rocker being delivered.   Six thirty rolled around and they showed up.  They showed up thinking they were picking up a rocker…  not delivering one.. so.. no rocker for me.

I was so disappointed… almost heartbroken about it.  Which is a little silly since I am planning on just picking it up tomorrow (they close at 5PM but I’m going to ask them to stay open a few minutes late for me since.. you know.. they goofed)… but then I remembered my card for the day.  For as much as I don’t want to dwell on the less positive side of the Three of Swords, you can’t deny that heartbreak is a pretty obvious image for this card and I feel like this little disappointment was a reminder of that. And a reminder of this:

 “Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower grow. There cannot be a lotus flower without the mud.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Do you read the Tarot? Won’t you join me in spending a day with a Tarot card? I’d love to hear your experiences!

A Day with a Tarot Card: The Hermit

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of taking a Tarot Class with my dear friend George Koury. George is truly one of those people who is wonderful to be around. If you ever have a chance to take one of his classes, I highly recommend going.

I’ve read the Tarot for years. (In a post, in the near future, I’m going to come out of the broom closet and give you all the deets… but not today.) I have always subscribed to the belief that the Tarot is a tool, a way to shut off your left brain and let Spirit speak through you. I don’t “look up” the meanings because the meaning is different every time. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a theme or a suggestion of a meaning. The images give you a starting point. The reader, I think, should look at the image and interpret them in the context of the reading. This is how George teaches the Tarot which was part of the reason why the class was so enjoyable. It certainly wasn’t just dry memorization. It was skill building.

One of the things that George suggested we do to deepen our connection to the Tarot images and to really learn each card is to spend a day with a Tarot card. So I figured I’d give it a shot. The idea is you pull a card in the morning and at the end of the day, you look back at the card and see how it related to your day.

This morning I pulled The Hermit

Ther Hermit Tarot Card

The Hermit

This card has always resonated with me because I’ve always felt distanced from other people. When I look at this card, what I see is someone alone, looking down from above. You could take this two ways.. that he’s reached a point in his life where he has achieved a wisdom and a knowledge to become someone that other people look up to, or he could be someone he thinks he’s hot shit and above everyone else.

Today, I was reminded of both of these extremes. I have always struggled with being “the smart one” and was often picked on for it. I’ve also struggled with coming across as a know it all. To try to find the balance between helping someone and insulting someone is … tricky.

Today, I chose to listen to my inner wisdom when it came to food. Stress eating is my thing and things have been very stressful at work today. So… very.. stressful. But after yesterday’s wheatapalooza (I ate pizza with macaroni and cheese… and I mean that macaroni and cheese was ON THE PIZZA) I was feeling unwell and pretty aware that I should have maybe.. I dunno.. thought about what I was putting in my mouth instead of going all out hedonistic crazy pants.

I decided to do a sort of fasting day. Not truly fasting but to not eat every 2 hours just because of reasons.

I went with oatmeal for breakfast and by 10AM when I usually am shoving snacks in my face, I was calmly sipping tea and thinking “I got this”.

By lunchtime, I was super confident and feeling fine. Lunch was homemade chicken broth with garlic and red pepper flake. I slowly enjoyed every sip of that broth. I had this. I wasn’t starving. I was in control. I was feeling pretty confident and calm and centered. Almost a peace. I had achieved an awareness. I was the sage hermit on the hill, being kind to my body. Listening and teaching and learning at the same time.

And then..

Things happened…

See, Friday was bad.. like.. bad. Like almost in tears at my desk bad. I was short tempered and I know I was snippy. And I know I apologized to more than one person for being short with them. At one point, I remember being incredibly frustrated with things. Most of the time (I’d say 95%) I’m pretty even keel. I roll with the punches.. but Friday was not one of those days.

Someone noticed.

Today, I was talked to about my attitude on Friday.

How does this tie into the Hermit? I got knocked down off that hill a bit. Suddenly I was back on the ground… back to that know it all kid that no one liked. Back to the kid struggling to fit in. It was so not fun.

And guess what? All I wanted to do was shove cookies in my face after that conversation.

Do I think I deserved to be “spoken to”? I’m not sure. Does it matter? Not really. What I’m taking away from this is that I should remember that for as much as I’d like to be, I’m not alone. There are other personalities around me and I should be mindful of that.

But I’ve also decided to withdraw a bit when it comes to work. To embrace the solitude and the quiet wisdom and peace of the Hermit. I’ve been too willing to talk. Too willing to complain. Not willing enough to just roll with it, do my job and go home.. and leave my job where it belongs.

Let your kidneys hang from your earlobes

I tried a new yoga studio tonight.

Bad things happened.

I’m sitting here trying not to have a full on panic attack, eyes leaking, hands shaking…   can barely see what I’m typing but I need to get this out.

I don’t like strangers touching me.  I don’t like hugging people that I don’t know. I’m not a hugger. I’m not a toucher.  I have boundaries dammit and they should be respected.  People I’ve worked with for 10 years ASK before they hug me.

It is not ok to touch someone without asking.

IT IS NOT OK.

I don’t care if you are yoga instructor, a doctor, a dentist, a coworker, neighbor, butcher, baker or candlestick maker.

IT IS NOT OK TO TOUCH SOMEONE WITHOUT ASKING.

But let me back up a bit.

Firstly, I don’t know what anatomy class this instructor took but I sure as hell cannot figure out how to push my “outer thighs to my knees”, “rotate on my groins” (yes, GROINS)  or “let my kidneys hang from my earlobes”.

If there was a “shit yoga instructors say” drinking game, I’d have been loaded.

So, we are doing this thing where the students lay on their backs with their knees up and heels down. That is a very vulnerable position.  To open your belly up to the sky requires trust.  Just ask any dog who’s been alpha rolled.

Evidently, my ribcage wasn’t spread enough, or something…. so the instructor STRADDLED ME without any warning, bent over,  her shirt hanging open so I can see right down it to her boobs… which where hanging a foot in front of my face and she but her hands on both sides of my ribcage and slid me up the mat.

I had a melt down.

A small internal meltdown.  Tears started leaking out of the corner of my eyes.  But I tried to hold it together.

I know for a lot of people this seems like NBD but not everyone has the same boundaries.   Some people have issues.   Straddling  someone is so personal and intimate.   All I could see was her boobs, her now giant head and a bit of ceiling around her.  That’s fucking scary and I felt trapped.

We move on to this thing where you put your foot in the air and wrap the strap around your heel.  She took the tip of her finger and  drew a cross pattern on my heel where the “heel could explode into the Universe”. (I wish I was making this shit up.. oh and DRINK!)

By this point, I’m not doing well.  I’m trying to figure out how to graciously get out of there.. and failing miserably.  There is an hour left to class.

Then her assistant takes my foot that is on the floor, the one I can’t see.. and pulls on my leg.

That was it.  I flipped..  LITERALLY flipped up off the ground, shaking and saying “I don’t like being touched.. I don’t like being touched.. I have to go… I don’t like being touched”

Rainman would have been proud.

See, here is the thing.  It’s not really that I don’t like being touched.  It’s that I don’t like being touched without someone asking.

When I took my Reiki classes, the first thing.. the VERY FIRST thing I learned was to ASK to touch.  I would be putting my hands on someone.  You don’t know where that person is in their space and it show respect for that person.

I would have been ok if she asked.  Maybe not great because chances are pretty good, I wouldn’t be comfortable, but I would be able to make a decision.  Not buried in boobs without warning.

What happened to “Namaste”.. that “honoring the divine within” the other person?  Isn’t respect and asking part of honoring someone?

Fuck.

So yeah…  now I feel better.. and I feel more calm.. and I’m sure some of you think I’m overreacting.. but here is the thing.

It’s my reaction.

It’s my reaction to have and it’s valid.

My feelings are valid.

My motherfuckin BOUNDARIES are valid.

If you take away anything from this.. it’s that it is not ok to touch someone without asking.  Be it a small human, a grown up human, an elderly person, a dog, a cat, a hamster … show respect for your fellow creatures.

ASK.