5 Ways to Bond With Your New Tarot Deck

by Marianne in ,


One of the most common question I get asked is, “How do I connect with my new tarot deck?”

I’m so familiar that feeling - you’re holding in your hands a brand new deck of cards, still pristine in its wrapping, and you can feel how full of promise and potential it is. You want to pour your heart out to it, uncover its secrets, fall in love with it.

You also know that tarot cards have a mythic status, and that there are a lot of stories and rumours around the right way to receive them and the right way to work with them. They have to be given to you. They have to be charged under a full moon.

Cards from the Sasuraibito Tarot

Personally, I don’t go in for a lot of those old tales. Or rather, I think old tales only serve a good purpose if they feel useful to you, here and now. The best way to bond with your tarot deck is the way that feels right to you. This is your tarot story, and you get to decide how it goes!

If you’re looking for some ideas to get you started, here’s a few ways that I’ve bonded with decks of cards over the years. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way, so take what feels good, and leave the rest. Happy reading!

1. LOOK THROUGH THE CARDS

More often than not, the first thing I do when I pick up a new deck of cards is set aside a little quiet time to take a good look at them. Give yourself a moment or five when you won’t be interrupted. Switch off your phone, maybe pick up a notebook and pen if you feel the need to make a note or two. Peel off that wrapper, open the box, and see what you find inside.

You may decide to look through the cards in order, one at a time. You might prefer to first locate your favourite card, or your birth card (check out #2 in this post for how to calculate your birth card). You might decide to dive straight into your favourite suit, or lay out all the Majors side by side.

Take a moment just to be curious about your deck. Which cards grab your attention? Which artwork do you immediately love? Which images do you find confusing, or confronting? Which images are immediately familiar, and which challenge your ideas about what a card might mean?

At this point, you might decide it’s a good time to read your deck’s book, if it comes with one. I love to take a look at a deck creator’s description of their work. Each tarot creator brings a unique sensibility to their creation, and when you’re first meeting a deck, exploring the creator’s writing on their work, if they’ve provided it, is such a great way to get a sense of how the deck might feel and work.

(With that said, don’t forget that you’re going to develop your own relationship with these cards you’ve chosen. The creator can state their intention and offer their ideas about the meanings of the cards, but as you get to know your deck, you’ll make your own associations and develop your own sense of the cards’ meanings. So, don’t feel like you need to take anything as gospel!)

2. Bless, Consecrate, or Charge Your Deck

There are a million and one ways to ritually prepare your deck for use, but here are just a few that I like. All of these methods will be enhanced by bringing a little intention to the process, so I recommend taking quiet time when you won’t be disturbed to cleanse and charge your deck. You may wish to meditate for a few minutes (or longer) before you start so that your mindset is clear and fresh.

Also, throughout the process, talk to your deck! What are you achieving by doing this ritual? What kind of relationship are you hoping to build with your cards? Where do you want your tarot journey to lead you? While you cleanse and charge up your new tarot deck, it’s a great idea to infuse it with these hopes and intentions by speaking them aloud, or simply focusing on them in your mind.

Full Moon Charge

Full moons are potent times of the lunar cycle for taking advantage of peak energy, and many readers also find the moon’s bright light during this phase to have cleansing and clearing vibes. So, you get two for the price of one - your deck is wiped clean of any lingering dull energy, and powered up by the moon’s most intense light.

Check the date and time of the full moon in your location (I use timeanddate.com or the app Full Moon). Before I put my deck out for a moon bath, I like to make sure all of the cards are in order - Majors 0-21, and Minors Ace-King in the order of Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles (if your deck is brand new, it might already be in order). Once you’re happy your deck is arranged as you’d like, place it somewhere, like a windowsill, where it will get to bask in the moon’s bright and powerful light.

Bonus tip: You can also use the sun to clear and charge up your deck! On a bright afternoon, let your deck catch some rays with the intention of freshening it up. Be careful, though, not to leave it out for too long - your deck’s print may fade if it is exposed to the sun for long periods.

Dani Costello Unsplash

Image Credit

Clear and Charge with Crystals

Many folks like to use crystals to clear and absorb energy, and also to charge up their tarot cards with a particular intention. Crystals like clear quartz, selenite, and obsidian are great for soaking up old vibes and wiping the energetic slate clean, while some readers like to enhance the intuitive power of their new decks by charging them with intuitive stones like amethyst or labradorite.

Once you’ve selected the stones you’d like to use, arrange them on or around your deck, and let them sit a while. I like to place them on my altar, or to add crystals into a full moon charging ritual. Some readers like to keep a clear quartz or other cleansing stone with their deck when it is stored, too.

Clean and clean with smoke

One of my favourite methods of clearing a tarot deck is to immerse it in sacred smoke. Personally, I like to use incense (I like this one for clearing, and this one for charging with intuitive intention), but some readers prefer sage, palo santo, or other herb or wood bundles (as it turns out, many of these products are over-harvested, to the detriment of their habitats, so do your research and source ethical herb bundles where possible - or even better, grow and dry your own!).

Light your incense (or your chosen smokeable thing), and let its aroma seep into your space. When you’re ready, hold your cards in the smoke as it rises, and envisage it carrying away any stuck or stale energy. Visualise the smoke resetting your cards, and ripening them for receiving your intuitions.

3. DO AN INTERVIEW SPREAD

Getting a new tarot deck is a bit like making a new friend. They all have their own qualities and quirks, and part of bonding with your deck is starting to get to know its unique personality. One of the ways I like to say, “Nice to meet you!” to a new tarot deck is an interview spread. I have to thank Beth of Little Red Tarot for bringing this particular interview spread into my life - it’s a good one!

The card positions for this spread are:

  1. Tell me about yourself. What is your most important characteristic?

  2. What are your strengths as a deck?

  3. What are your limits as a deck?

  4. What are you here to teach me?

  5. How can I best learn from and collaborate with you?

  6. What is the potential outcome of our working relationship?

4. DO A DAILY DRAW

An interview spread is a great way to break the ice, but one of the best ways to build on that first meeting with your new tarot deck is to do a daily draw. Learning tarot - whether that’s from scratch, or just getting to know a new deck - can be really overwhelming, and a daily draw lets us do just a little each day to slowly build our competence and familiarity.

Personally, I like to pull a card each morning with a view to seeing what I might focus on or be aware of for the day. You might prefer to pull a card over lunch, or before you go to bed - whenever suits you is good! You might like to ask, “What do I need to know about today?” or “What approach or qualities might I try to cultivate today?” or even “What tarot card do you want me to study today?”

You might like to record your daily draws in your tarot journal, your calendar, or on social (you can find my daily tarot Weather Reports on Instagram), and you may like to revisit your notes form time to time to see how your connection with and understanding of your new deck has evolved over time.

5. TAKE A COURSE TOGETHER

So, you’ve looked through your deck, cleansed it, interviewed it, and done a few daily draws. Now what?

Working closely with a deck over months (or even years) can yield such deep relationship and understanding between reader and cards. It’s a beautiful thing! When we’re just starting out, though, that work can seem a little amorphous - like, what are we even meant to do with this tarot deck, now that we have it?

If, like me, you need a little structure for your studies, you might like to knuckle down and do a course of study with your deck. This might be an actual course, delivered online or in person, or it could be a tarot book that you work through by yourself or a with some tarot pals over a period of time.

Here’s my mega list of tarot reading and study suggestions. Happy learning!

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Whether you’re into cleansing with crystals, or committing to a class, I hope these suggestions have given you some inspiration for bonding with your new tarot deck. Pretty soon you’ll be the best of friends!

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Awesome Tarot Books & Resources for Beginners & Beyond

by Marianne in , , ,


I’m often asked what resources I’d recommend to people keen to learn more about tarot. We’re so blessed at this point in tarot history to have such an abundance of books, blogs, podcasts, courses, and conversations, both online and off, to nurture our understanding of this rich and complex art form.

When you’re starting out, though, that abundance can be pretty overwhelming. Who’s got the time or the cash to try courses that don’t resonate, or read books that barely skim the surface? Sometimes, we need a little help sorting the signal from the noise.

Best Tarot Learning Resources Books.JPG

To that end, here is a list of books and other resources that have boosted my tarot game and enriched my understanding of the cards. Of course, I can’t claim to have tried everything that’s out there, but I do have a stable of recommendations I can wholeheartedly hand over to tarot beginners, and also some juicy gems for more advanced readers to sink their teeth into.

I intend for this list to be a rolling resource, so I’ll update it from time to time as new and worthy things cross my path.

Books

My Ultimate Go-Tos

This is a pair of books I always recommend in tandem, because I read them both when I was first learning, and together they helped me to deepen my understanding of both the philosophy and the practical applications of the Rider-Waite-Smith system.

Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack is hands down, my go-to for learning the Rider-Waite-Smith system. It gives some history, and looks at individual card meanings with a lot of focus and depth, particularly for the Major Arcana. The real gold in this book is the way it describes the underlying philosophical structure of the deck, with attention to its historical origins in the Western esoteric tradition. I’d say this is essential reading for anyone hoping to understand what this branch of tarot is, in the deepest sense.

If that all sounds quite theoretical, fear not! Rachel Pollack’s masterpiece is well paired with a more accessible and practical tarot handbook, Tarot: Plain and Simple by Anthony Louis. Louis’ book is also based on the Rider-Waite-Smith system, and it goes through card by card with key words and phrases, as well as situations and types of advice that might be represented by each card.

The approach is immensely practical, so I often recommend this guide as an on the go reference, when you need some clues about how a card might relate practically to a particular query. It also arranges the Minors by number rather than by suit, so you see all the Aces side by side, and so on. This gives the reader excellent grounding in how the numerology of the tarot functions, and how readers use the structure of the deck, rather than just individual cards, to make meaning.

New Favourites

My go-tos, dating back to my beginner days, might be some of the most well-thumbed books in my collection, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t found other new favourites over the years. Here are some other tarot books I’d recommend:

The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin is one of only two tarot books I’ve sat down and read cover to cover, like a novel. That’s how juicy and compelling it is! The Creative Tarot is exactly what it sounds like - a method of reading tarot for creative questioning, especially as it relates to art practice and other creative work. There are many things to love about this book, but one of my favourites is that Jessa gives recommended media - books, poems, songs, films - for each card, so you can dive deep into the archetypes. You can find tons more detail about this book in my full review here.

Tarot for Life by Paul Quinn isn’t a new book, but is a new favourite here at Two Sides Tarot. I love the anecdotes that Quinn includes to demonstrate how each card might play out in real life, but what really captured my attention is the table he lays out for each card, which includes Keywords, then suggestions for each card as Being, Doing, Shadow, Reversed, and Possible Advice. I like thinking of card meanings as different parts of grammar - like, what is the Nine of Swords as a verb? A noun? Thinking about cards in this way gives them flexible applications, and Quinn’s handy dandy tables have plenty of accessible inspiration for that way of thinking.

I picked up Michelle Tea’s Modern Tarot mostly because I love Michelle Tea. I wouldn’t say that Modern Tarot is a perfect resource for the beginner, because it doesn’t include what I would consider essential learning tools, like a history of tarot, and chapters on how tarot spreads work, how to shuffle, how to read for others, and so on. What does make it great, though, is that it includes extensive anecdotes from the author’s own experience to illustrate how each card might appear in the world, and it includes a spell or ritual for working with every single card of the deck. LOVE!

Finally, an honourable mention goes to a funny little book called The Tarot Masters, edited by Kim Arnold. This isn’t really a reference book, but when I was getting more seriously immersed in my tarot studies, it proved to be a rich treasure trove of stories that inspired me to go deeper with the cards. Editor Kim Arnold has assembled a true dream team of tarot masters, and each one writes about a card from the Major Arcana, as well as a memory or story from their own tarot history. It’s like eavesdropping on the ultimate tarot celebrity dinner party. There is tea!

Advanced Books

Some of the books mentioned in this post (especially the ones in the next category) do deal with more advanced level tarot practices, so in terms of books that stand alone for more advanced readers, I’ve just got one that I love.

Tarot Interactions by Deborah Lipp doesn’t include card meanings, instead, it gets straight into how cards interact in a reading, and how readers can use the structure of the deck - the suits, the numbers, the elements - to inform the way they read multiple cards at a time. My favourite part of this book is the table where Lipp uses some basic maths to help readers determine what is statistically significant in a reading (what counts, mathematically, as “a lot” of Pentacles, or a lot of Majors, in a reading with six cards, or ten cards, for example). I’ve never come across that in a tarot book before, but it seems like pretty important knowledge to have! This is particularly useful intel if you read with reversals.

Books That Are Kinda Like Courses

Rather than sitting down and reading a book cover to cover, many of us would prefer something that feels a little bit more like a course or a workshop, with a bit of reading, a few worksheets, and maybe some homework if we’re feeling super motivated (and who isn’t feeling super motivated to learn tarot? Come on!).

Tarot for Yourself by Mary K. Greer is stuffed full of exercises you can undertake to really go deep with the cards. Its focus is on using tarot for self-inquiry, and it contains a ton of practical ideas from figuring out your soul card, to doing meditative pathworking with the cards, and so much more. You’ll learn plenty about the cards, of course, but this book is really focused on putting the deck to work so you can learn about you.

Tarot 101 by Kim Huggens is not numbered like a college course for nothing! This book is best treated like a term of study, and worked through in order. Huggens weaves her lessons in interesting ways, arranging archetypes thematically, and interspersing the study of individual cards with exercises on designing spreads, doing readings, and using the cards for self-reflection.

If you’ve not seen Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen in the flesh, you’ll have to trust me when I say it is A Tome. This brick of a book from one of the most knowledgeable and prolific esoteric scholars working today will see anyone go from stumbling beginner to sage expert, because there is just SO much in here to learn. This book is technical, academic in its approach, so if you’re an absolute beginner I’d say you could start here (and certainly, the earlier part of the book is aimed at beginners), but if you’re easily intimidated by vast swathes of occult knowledge and you’ve never read so much as a blog post about tarot before, well, maybe proceed with caution! When you’re ready to dive in, you may want to supplement your reading with the Holist Tarot resources on Benebell’s website.

Courses

I’ve taken an online course in tarot here and there over the years, most of which don’t seem to exist anymore, but I’m thrilled to find that one of my favourites, Little Red Tarot’s Alternative Tarot Course, is still very much alive and kicking. This self-paced, delivered-by-email course is a really great way to dive into the cards. I especially love that it reflects Little Red Tarot’s ethical, inclusive approach to, well, everything! So many tarot decks and resources fail to grapple with problematic and exclusionary power structures and gender roles that exist in traditional tarot, but you can be sure that this course isn’t afraid to challenge that status quo and make tarot available to all of us.

If you’d rather take things card by card, Little Red Tarot also offers a Card A Day course. I haven’t tried this one myself but I think I’d happily vouch for the quality of anything that Beth makes.

For those of us with a passion for the Tarot de Marseille, or perhaps just for a different approach to the heavily metaphorical way many of us read in the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition, Camelia Elias’s courses are fantastic. Who wouldn’t want to read like the devil?

Other Resources

This part of the list is a grab bag of things I’ve found helpful and interesting, across different media. No doubt there’ll be updates to come!

First, if you’re looking to deepen your relationship with the archetypes of the Major Arcana, you might enjoy a free resource I created for journaling with each of the tarot trumps. This guide will encourage you to dig into your own experiences and make connections with the cards.

If you enjoy doing some tarot study on the go, try Lindsay Mack’s podcast, Tarot for the Wild Soul. Lindsay shares deep dives into individual cards and themes, as well as some really amazing interviews with luminaries in the worlds of tarot and other spiritual crafts.

I mentioned above that Little Red Tarot has some great courses, but if you’re not ready to commit to a course (and even if you are), don’t miss the incredible blog. It’s an overflowing wellspring of tarot knowledge and exploration, and captures so many marginal, magical, and necessary voices.

And of course, you can find lots of deck reviews, tarot spreads, and card analysis right here on the Two Sides Tarot blog. Perhaps start with this one, or this one. Enjoy!

What are your favourite tarot resources? Give your beloved books, blogs, and podcasts a shoutout in the comments!

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3 Ways To Make Your Tarot Readings Super Empowering

by Marianne in ,


If popular culture witches were to be believed, the only thing tarot is good for is telling you that a tall, dark, and handsome stranger is going to sweep you off your feet (yay!), or that a terrible, unavoidable demise awaits (boo!). Tarot has a reputation for being all about fate, and that fate usually feels pretty set in stone.

I love pop culture witches as much as the next person (The Craft, anyone?), but this limited, simplistic understanding of tarot is really not my jam!

Tarot is, in fact, an incredibly flexible tool, one that can be used not simply to predict a future that’s fixed and unchanging, but to give you insight and strategies so that you can mould that future into the shape you want.

I’m talking about using tarot readings for major personal empowerment. Isn’t that way more exciting?

1 Tarot Reading Victoria Pickering.jpg

Image Source

Whether you’re the reader, the client, or both (reading for yourself is great!), I believe you get the most value and use out of your reading when you approach it with a desire for greater personal empowerment and agency.

And where does that start? Why, with an empowering question, of course!

This is a question that puts you in the driver’s seat, a question that focuses on what information you need and what action you can take, rather than on just predicting what’s going to happen, regardless of what you do.

So, how can you ask an empowering question? Here are my tips.

1. Avoid the yes/no trap

In my time as a reader, I have often been asked, "Will I get that job?", "Will my ex come back?", "Will I have another child?". It's human nature to want to mitigate uncertainty, to crave predictability and to reduce risk and doubt.

Wouldn't it be nice to know for sure what was coming down the pipe? Then, we could sit back, relax, and wait for the promised outcome to fall in our laps! 

Sadly, reality doesn't really work that way. Sometimes things follow a predictable course, and sometimes they don’t. I don’t set a lot of store by making hard and fast predictions with the cards, simply because the future is so fluid.

Also, we can't lose sight of the fact that the future is fluid because we have a role to play in it. Sure, our world and our lives are comprised of many, many factors that are outside of our influence, but I personally believe the future is a product of our agency. It’s a story we haven’t written yet, not just a book we’re just passively reading.

So, your tarot reading is a chance to get the tools and information you need to write your story. Don't worry so much about asking will it/won't it, yes or no, and start thinking about yourself as the author of this story! What do you need to know and do in order to guide your narrative in the direction you want it to go? 

2. Take a pro-active approach

Ok, so there is one addendum to this fabulous you-as-author metaphor, and that’s the fact that when it comes to our lives, there are a lot of factors that are out of our control.

Writing your life is not so much like holing up in an isolated cabin with a pen and a blank notebook as it is like having a multi-layered conversation across a loud dinner table in a restaurant that serves food which occasionally takes you by surprise – sometimes your palate is dancing, and other times, you get a fly in your soup.

When it comes to our lives and the subject of our tarot readings, randomness and luck and the influence of powerful external forces do have a bit of a role to play. But that doesn’t mean we have to just sit back and let them walk all over us!

In order to make your tarot question empowering, it’s time to hone in on the places where you do have agency. What can you control? You guessed it! Yourself. Your mindset, your attitude, your preparedness, your decisions.

Think about it this way: we can use a tarot reading to guess at whether you'll get that job, but if you don't actually submit an application, your chances aren't good. You might have a new love in your future, but if you aren’t prepared to say yes to a single date, how can it begin to blossom?

This is your moment to think about what information you need, and how you might take action and put that to good use.

If you're searching for that new job, think about asking your tarot reader, "How can I put my best foot forward in my job search?" Or, you could ask, "What aspects of my professional self should I most emphasise to my prospective employer?" Or, "What mindset should I cultivate going into this job search?"

If you’re focused on romance, you could ask, "What action can I take to reconnect with my old lover?" or perhaps, "How can I begin to heal my broken heart?”I love it when my clients ask me, “What steps can I take to make room for new love in my life?” instead of asking me to predict when a lover will show up while they sit passively by.

All of these questions invite a response that is action-focused and practical. We've already acknowledged the fact that you can't control every aspect of your future, but you can take charge of your own attitudes and behaviours. With the right attitude and course of action, you increase your chances of creating the future you really want. And what is tarot for, after all?

3. Decide how specific you want to be

Ok, so this one’s a little flexible. When it comes to deciding how much information to give to your reader or put into your question, I tend to think you get out what you put in. A general question gives a general answer.

Sometimes a general answer is what you want, but sometimes, what you’re really looking for is detailed, specific information about how to approach your situation. If that’s the case, you want to make your question detailed and specific, too.

For example, a question like, "What should I do next?” will naturally lend itself to a pretty vague answer!

On the other hand, asking "What do I do next in order to end this difficult business partnership?" or, "What do I do next in order to get that promotion I want?" will mean the advice that comes back to you will be specifically tailored for the situation you have described.

You don't need to give your tarot reader an essay, but a little detail goes a long way to making sure your reading is specific, personal, and empowering for your situation. The more detail you put in, the more juice your reader's intuition has to work with, and the more rich and personal your reading will be!

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Whether you're booking a reading with a tarot pro you trust, or getting ready to throw some cards for yourself, a client, or a friend, I hope these tips help you to make your reading as empowering as it can be! 

Feeling the need for an empowering reading of your own? You can book a reading with me here


5 Tarot Myths That Need Busting Like, Yesterday

by Marianne in , ,


I know many of my readers are keen tarot enthusiasts, and experienced and even professional readers. We have a whole lot to say to each other! Today's post, though, is for those of you lurking in the wings.

Maybe you stumbled upon my blog by accident, or while doing a little research into a subject you don't know too much about (yet!). Perhaps tarot has just appeared on your radar and you want to learn more, or you've been curious for a long time but haven't yet taken the first step on your tarot journey. 

Image via The Lioness Oracle Tarot

For the newly tarot-curious, the very word “tarot” is evocative, summoning up images of psychic priestesses in their temples, fortune tellers glimpsed through clouds of incense smoke, and secret ceremonies conducted by moonlight.

All of that is seductive and magical, but I know when you're just starting out, it can feel a little unapproachable. The arcane, occult trappings of tarot can be part of its appeal, but from the outside, all those rumours and rules can also feel like impenetrable obstacles!

Over the years, I’ve encountered so many people interested in the art of tarot, who felt that it wasn’t accessible to them because they weren’t psychic enough, or because they hadn’t been initiated into the Secret Psychic Tarot Readers’ Club (we have a secret handshake and everything!).

Sure, I’m the first to admit that one of the most alluring things about tarot is that it has its own mythology and mysticism. But popular culture and occult tradition alike tell a lot of stories about what it means to be a tarot reader, and way too many of those stories suggest that tarot is only available to a certain kind of person, for a particular kind of use.

I’m all for embracing arcane traditions if they make things a little more magical, but all that stuff that holds us back? Let's take a hard pass on that! The gates are open. Tarot is for everyone who chooses to make it their own.

Let's break down some barriers, shall we?

1. Your tarot deck must be a gift

We’ve all heard it said that in order to be a real tarot reader, you must be given your tarot deck as a gift. Over the years, so many aspiring tarot readers have said to me that they’d love to start reading tarot, if only someone would give them a tarot deck.

The origins of this myth are hard to pin down. Many of the occult aspects of tarot as we know it originated with the esoteric society, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, so it may be that this myth was cooked up to reinforce the idea that becoming a tarot reader required initiation and secrecy (the Golden Dawn were definitely big on ceremony!). It's possible, too, that secret initiations were necessary to keep occult practitioners safe at times in history that were less tolerant of alternative spiritual practices.

Fortunately for today's readers, though, this myth is just not true. Just think, if it were, how few tarot readers there would be in the world!

If you want to start reading tarot, I have good news. You don’t need permission. You don’t need initiation. You don’t need to be given your deck as a gift. And don’t let anyone tell you that your deck should be stolen, either – theft really sucks for bookshops, new age stores, and your bestie's carefully cultivated tarot collection, so please don’t do it!

All you need to get started on your tarot journey is an interest in tarot and willingness to get going. Treat yourself to the tarot deck of your choice, and get reading!

2. You can't start reading tarot until you've memorised all the cards

A standard tarot deck contains seventy-eight cards, which is a lot to take in, especially when you’re starting out. So many tarot-curious folks have expressed anxiety to me about how much there is to learn before you can get started, and I know there are plenty of people out there too daunted to even begin. What a pity!

Tarot is a rich, many-layered esoteric tradition, which pulls symbols, ideas, and beliefs from all corners of the Western occult and philosophical canon. From Hermetic philosophy to Kabbalah to numerology to astrology, there’s certainly plenty you can investigate to enrich your understanding of this beautiful discipline.

To begin with, though, all you need to do is shuffle, and pull a card.

Seriously, I mean it! Take out your tarot deck, and draw a card. Look at the image. What feelings does it provoke? What does it remind you of? Are there any colours or symbols that are significant to you? What would it be like to be in the situation on the card? What could you learn from this situation?

If you answered these questions, congratulations! You just read a tarot card. Well done!

When learning tarot, it is important to bury yourself in the books and drink up all you can about the symbolism in the cards. Theory is nothing without practice, though, and so it’s just as important that you give yourself time and space to play with your cards, to respond to them intuitively, through the lens of your own experience and subjectivity. In time, you’ll learn to draw your book learning and your intuitive reading together, thus transforming yourself into a tarot reader extraordinaire.

And as for memorisation, well, it’s a little overrated. Even the most seasoned tarot reader consults the books from time to time, because there’s always more to learn. Let memorising the cards be a natural side effect of your intuitive play with tarot, and not an overwhelming goal that stops you from ever getting started!

Image via the Spirit Speak Tarot Reversed

3. Tarot is only used for telling the future

This myth probably doesn’t need too much busting among the seasoned tarot readers, but if you’re new to tarot, this might be an assumption you’ve inherited. In the popular imagination, tarot readers are psychics, predicting when and where that tall, dark, and handsome stranger is going to come along and sweep you off your feet.

In practice, the turban-wearing, crystal ball-toting tarot fortune tellers are few and far between (although Two Sides Tarot has nothing against a good turban, don’t get me wrong!). There are great readers out there who offer predictive services, but this is certainly not the only way to use a deck of tarot cards.

Many readers – myself included – are more interested in the present than the future. When it comes to the questions and conundrums we all face, we want to know what’s going on under the surface. What extra information can we glean? What perspective should we take? What approach will help us make a good decision? What skills or tools should we use for this or that situation? How can we challenge our perceptions and ignite our creativity and move towards our goals, starting right now?

Sure, a good tarot reading equips us with tools for what’s to come, but I believe that the cards are most useful when we focus our attention on what’s happening now, in the present moment. Chances are, it’s more than you might think!

So, don’t be fooled. A tarot reading doesn’t have to be all about sitting back and waiting for a pre-destined future to come to you. A good tarot reading explores your inner and outer worlds as they are now, so that you can use that information to shape your own future. Knowledge is power, after all!

4. You have to be psychic to read tarot cards

This one is definitely intimidating for beginning tarot readers! Of course, in pop culture, tarot readers have long been associated with mediumship and psychic revelations and, well… a certain kind of spooky knowing. You could be forgiven for thinking you need to have prophetic dreams or communicate with the dead in order to read tarot cards.

Sure, there definitely are some folks out there who feel blessed with The Sight and who have no qualms identifying as psychic. Many of them make great tarot readers.

For a lot of us, though, “psychic” isn’t really a word we throw around. Personally, I don’t believe I’m psychic, but that’s ok, because I’ve found that there are other, even more valuable skills that make a great tarot reader.

For one, a willingness to practice. Tarot is a skill anyone can learn, and like any skill, it takes a little time to learn and a lot of time to master. Any person who picks up a deck of cards, psychic or not, will get the best from this art form if they’re dedicated to honing their craft. Practice, practice, practice!

The next thing that will help you on your tarot journey is intuition. Believe it or not, we’re all intuitive. Maybe some of us have spent more time honing that part of ourselves than others, but everyone has the ability to take information and experience and instinct and use it to make cognitive leaps in understanding about our situations or environments. And like any skill, practice only makes our intuition sharper!

Finally, it’s important to remember what we call ourselves. That is, tarot readers. Tarot is a language of symbols and associations that beginners simply need to learn to read through study and practice. Your tarot skills will grow and flourish if you focus on reading what you can see with your own eyes on the cards in front of you – no Second Sight required!

5. Tarot decks don’t reflect real people’s identities, backgrounds, and lives

This last one is really important!

A look at some of the most popular decks from the last hundred-odd years might lead you to believe that tarot is only representative of certain kinds of people. I.e., slim, able-bodied, gender-conforming, straight, white people.

Like so many types of media, tarot has been historically poor at giving a voice to the truly diverse and often marginalised types of people, relationships, and lived experiences that we actually embody and see in the world around us.

Tarot readers and creators, like people from all walks of life, come from many genders, cultures, sexualities, and ethnic groups, and in all shapes and sizes, and of course, we want to see our true selves represented in the decks we read with. For a long time, though, decks like that were few and far between.

The good news is, this paradigm is slowly changing. When second-wave feminism got hold of tarot in the 1970’s, woman-centered, and queer decks – like the Motherpeace Tarot and Thea’s Tarot – began to appear. Court cards were renamed to reflect family and social relationships, rather than feudal hierarchies, and figures on the cards were liberated from at least some of their traditional and gendered roles.

There was still a ways to go, though, and fortunately, in the last few years, this shift has really picked up in pace and scope! In the midst of tarot’s current renaissance, more artists than ever are creating tarot decks that better represent diverse lives and identities. 

They may not yet comprise the majority of decks on the market, but if you go looking, you can begin to find decks that give voice to people of colour, differently-abled people, gender-diverse and queer people, and roles and relationships that don’t conform to so-called traditional norms. And thank goodness for that! It’s so, so powerful to draw a card and see our own, true stories reflected back to us, whatever they may be.

For help on your quest for truly diverse and representative tarot decks, check out Asali Earthwork’s wonderful labour of love, the Tarot of the QTPOC list. Therein lies goodness! And for broad and inclusive tarot discourse, you really can’t miss Little Red Tarot.

We’ve come a long way, but the world of tarot publishing is by no means perfect, so let’s keep this conversation going! And if you value inclusive and expansive tarot decks and resources, vote with your dollar and support the artists doing this vital work. 

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So, tarot novices, lurkers, and babes who got lost here via google search, take it from me: tarot is for you, if you want it to be! Forget about the rules and restrictions. If you want to embrace this beautiful, intuitive, dynamic, weird art form, you don't need permission. All you need is a deck of cards. Good luck out there! 


All About Love: A Meditation on The Lovers

by Marianne in , ,


If you've been here before, you probably know that when it comes to writing, I like to follow my whims. If it's been quiet on the blog front, which it has, it's because at the moment I'm mostly sharing my writing in my occasional email newsletter (that's where this piece originally appeared). If you'd like to keep up with my latest tarot musings and news, you can sign up here

The Lovers from Tarot in Space! and The Wild Unknown Tarot.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about love. In a little over a month, it'll be a year since my last relationship ended, and throughout that time, I've thought a lot about what place love ought to have in my life. I also wonder what it means to love well, not just your lover, but your family, your friends, your community, your clients and colleagues, your work.

I recently devoured bell hooks' meditation on this subject, All About Love, and it left me with a lot to ponder. hooks borrows her definition of love from the psychiatrist M. Scott Peck (who in turn follows the work of psychoanalyst Erich Fromm), who describes love as "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." I haven't yet managed to fully understand and integrate that as a definition, but suffice it to say that lightbulbs are going off in the deep recesses of my mind! I hope this idea - one that seems simultaneously obvious and world-shaking - gives you pause, too.

hooks draws on Peck further, quoting that "love is an act of will - namely both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love." Again, this seems both obvious and revolutionary. What if we didn't think of love - in any of its forms - so much as a feeling that steals over us as a course of action we willed ourselves to undertake?

As it turns out, the trusty tarot already has this idea well and truly covered. Our friends in the Major Arcana, The Lovers, are all about helping to guide our choices. We're all familiar with the Rider Waite Smith Lovers, the union of a woman and a man presided over by an angel, but unless you're Marseille Tarot savvy, you may not have noticed that earlier iterations of this card depict a man, struck by cupid's arrow, choosing between two women (see Rachel Pollack's excellent book, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, for a more extensive history of both these cards). The notion of choice, particularly in matters of love, has always been at the forefront of this card's meaning.

The Lovers from the Smith-Waite Tarot Centennial Edition and the Tarot of Jean Noblet.

Here we have a marriage, ordained by spirit, freely entered into, of opposites, complements, chosen loves. Of course, when we look at the Rider Waite Smith's imagery, we must acknowledge that not everyone is straight, not everyone believes in marriage, not everyone sees their gender represented. As we get better at listening to each other and seeing each other's unique identities, we know that this isn't the best way to represent the choice to love and to commit. Nonetheless, the ideas here remain powerful. This is love in service of spiritual growth and inner unity, and when we draw this card, we're being invited to choose that path.

While this card is usually associated with romantic love, its lessons about choice have a much broader application. Just as The Lovers must choose the right partner if they are to reap the spiritual benefits of an angel-blessed union, so too must we choose what and whom we love, and choose again and again to love well so that our spirits - and the spirits of the people and places and projects we love - can grow and flourish.

What does this mean, practically speaking? I don't think bell hooks wants to make a prescription, and for my part, well, I'm still figuring that out. For now, though, let's chew on this idea that when we love well, we're striving to nourish each other's - and our own - spirits. And that it's through our will that we make this commitment. Every minute we get to choose to love, or not, and choose again.

What are your thoughts on The Lovers - or on love in general? Love it? Hate it? Been there, done that and bought the t-shirt? Leave a comment below or share your thoughts on Twitter. I'd love to hear your perspective!


A Love Letter to The Wheel of Fortune

by Marianne in ,


The Wheel of Fortune popped up as today's Weather Report, so it's on my mind today. In many ways, this card is always on my mind - it's my year card for 2016, so it bubbles away in the back of my consciousness at all times (by the way, if you wish you can find out how to calculate your card for 2016 here). 

The Wheel of Fortune from Dame Darcy's Mermaid Tarot, Second Edition.

I never used to like this card much. It used to feel like a dark card to me, risky, chancy, a portent of potential mess and chaos that no amount of planning or good intentions might avert. Sure, it governs good fortune as well as bad, but I've never been much of a gambler, and I feared any mechanism that might detract even as it was adding. 

I wish I could point to the moment when my relationship with the Wheel changed. Actually, I don't think it was a moment so much as a slow unravelling. Perhaps a credit to my spiritual practice, as I confront and unpick my need to know, to influence, to control, to have certainty of any kind. Perhaps it's a result of exposure, as the more I work with the cards, the more their nuances reveal themselves, their darks and lights flushed with a whole spectrum of grey. Maybe I'm just getting more chill, or a little wilder, in my old age. Whatever the cause, I'm grateful to feel less anxious, less desperate need to dictate the outcome.

These days, when I see the Wheel come up in a reading or in life, I feel a rippling thrill deep in my insides. It's a little flash of temptation, of warning. A reminder that anything can - and probably will - happen. It's a risk, a dare. That used to scare the pants off me, but these days, I'm suddenly inclined to chase that chancy, spinning feeling. 

Spinning is, after all, what the Wheel is all about. Cycles, seasons, twists and turns. Sweeps and cranks of fortune and luck. The Wheel tells us that things are motion, and we can't always know which way that momentum is going to take us. Perhaps we'll rise up, get a grand view of the landscape from the top, or perhaps we'll get a face full of dirt, squashed beneath the turning.

The Wheel is a rogue, a renegade, who gives zero fucks about pandering or pleasing. It challenges so many problematic paradigms in the current popular, Western, spiritual model. It is, frankly, a big middle finger to phrases like, "Do what you love and the money will follow", and to much of the law of attraction lite philosophy that gets thrown around in inspirational quotes on social media. You can do what you love, but you might never make a living out of it. You can try to raise your vibration, but it doesn't guarantee you'll get that job or find fairytale romance. This card is a challenge to entitlement, an honest and thus destabilising, anarchic force. 

The Wheel reminds us of the fundamental truth that no matter how well and how intentionally you live your life, you will probably face loss, confusion, existential doubt, illness, abandonment, and death. You will probably also experience love, curiosity, deep satisfaction, revelation, belonging, and untold physical, intellectual, and spiritual pleasures, whether you deserve them or not. The Wheel cares not for promises, compromises, worthiness, prayers, or pleading. It treats all outcomes as neutral, and possible. 

So, what do you do with that? What can you do, when circumstances and possibilities spin out of your sphere of influence? As I see it now, there are only two options when the Wheel appears. You can tap out, resist, petition your chosen deities, stay in bed and wait for it - whatever it is - to be over. Or, you can climb aboard the spinning carnival ride and try to laugh it up if you happen you puke your guts out (your chosen deities will probably be laughing along with you). Who knows, you might manage to keep your lunch down and have a good time. And even if you spew, it won't be too long before it makes good story. When it's over, all we can do is remind ourselves of this basic truth, and try to find the fortitude to get back on the ride. 

The Wheel says, climb aboard, take a risk, surrender control, accept the outcome. Or don't. Your call!

How do you relate to the Wheel of Fortune? I'm a little obsessed with this card, so I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment or come over and chat on Twitter!

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