Ethereal Visions: Explorations in Tarot and Art Nouveau with Matt Hughes

by Marianne in ,


If there's one thing I like as much as discovering new and interesting tarot decks, it's having tarot artists come and visit me on the blog and talk about their work, so today, I'm pretty stoked!

Artist Matt Hughes is undertaking to create the lush, Art Nouveau inspired Ethereal Visions Tarot, which looks - if I do say so myself - delicious

This deck is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, and with just a week of the campaign to go, Matt is stopping by to share a little about his art practice, Art Nouveau, and how the tarot deck came about.

Hi Matt! Before we talk tarot, could you tell us a little bit about your artistic background and your work?

I hold a BFA but am a self-taught fine artist. For the past few decades I have been exploring various mediums and techniques focusing mainly on the work of artists from the late 1800s to early 1900s. Their methods for conveying the human form and emotion are fascinating and I feel this time period has showcased some of the most provocative exploration of the subject to date. I first began researching this time period using mixed mediums such as watercolor with colored pencil. My first art book from 2001 showcased this technique of mixed media. Then I began to explore traditional Oil painting techniques and focused on the works of artists such as John Singer Sargent, Herbert Draper and John William Waterhouse. This period of my research culminated into my second art book that came out in 2014. For the past few years I have been focused on refining my technique and have returned to mixed mediums in an effort to practice the methods used during the Art Nouveau movement of Europe. I feel every step that I have taken in the past has led me to this style and I am enjoying the pursuit!

Tell us about Art Nouveau - what is it about this unique style and philosophy that has captured your imagination?

The Art Nouveau movement was spawned from a need to express beauty to all walks of life in a way that moved art from the gallery into the home. Their approach of “art is beauty and beauty is art” is an important message for today’s world. From a personal artistic endeavor, I see their work ethic, craftsmanship, and approach to the limitations of the printing medium of that area to be an inspiration. In today’s digital world it has become far too easy for an artist to take the quick approach to art (especially those practicing Art Nouveau). The majority of Art Nouveau work that I see today is approached as novelty or a “disposable” form of art. Some artists do produce their work by hand but then bring the line work into the computer to colorize it.

If one were to look at the original works of the Art Nouveau artists of the past one would see mistakes, mistakes that make that piece of art personal and real. We have lost that to a degree. The approach to Art Nouveau today has become a sort of puzzle game in which commonly recognized elements of that movement (circles, arch ways, flowers, macaroni hair) are incorporated into standard poses in an effort to create Art Nouveau. I feel it is important for artists to recognize, much like the Symbolism movement or the Pre-Raphaelite movement, that these elements were used with purpose for the piece. For example – the archway behind most of Alphonse Mucha’s figures represents the Female or the Divine. The wings or feathers so common in Mucha’s work represented enlightenment or spiritual connection. Then add to this the basic elements of design used in Art Nouveau (mainly the 3 to 5 ratio and the desire to convey nature’s balanced perfection in all aspects) and you can quickly see that Art Nouveau is far more than a simple seated figure covered in cloth sitting in front of an archway. It can be that if done correctly but it also has so much more potential that I am still in the process of learning. This is why I am so devoted to studying Art Nouveau.

How did you happen upon the notion to bring together tarot and Art Nouveau, and how have these two art forms informed and fed off each other during this creative process?

The catalyst for this project was my wife, Hope. For years she has been asking me to produce a tarot deck for her that was more artistic and original than what she was finding currently available. I listened but felt I was not ready to approach such a task as a full 78 card deck until I was more comfortable with a chosen technique. Then last year I began working more with inks and found a technique that I wanted to explore further. I tried a few tarot cards in this style and received a great response so I decided to explore it further with this Kickstarter campaign. The symbolism in the tarot cards lends itself perfectly to Art Nouveau. This is a journey for myself as well since I was unfamiliar with tarot cards prior to this campaign. Every card that I approach has to be researched and developed so that I stay as true as possible to the cards as the community understands them. The meanings of each are very helpful when developing the concepts. Thankfully my wife is helping with this exploration and is teaching me the meanings as we go.

Looking at the deck itself, what can we expect to see from the Ethereal Visions Tarot?

The ETHEREAL VISIONS TAROT DECK will be a full 78 card deck based off of the Rider-Waite deck and style. With my experience in the publishing industry I knew I wanted to do something more unique than a “print on demand” approach with the deck. Therefore, the cards will be high quality in every way – upgraded card stock with premium “snap” when shuffling, easy size for handling, larger text for readability, and finally gold foil stamping as opposed to gold ink or prism-paper. To be honest, finding a printer capable of handling this deck was a challenge in itself. Many printers wouldn’t even quote the job! But it was essential to me to produce a deck that I can be proud of years from now – not just in regards to the art but also the quality of the product.

The process for producing each card was originally a challenge but has now become second nature. Each card begins with a concept sketch that I then send to a small private group I have put together – an advisory board if you will. This group of tarot card enthusiasts give me pointers and catch any elements that are off or missing. Then I enlarge the sketch and begin work on the refined line drawing. Next I transfer the line drawing to the illustration board via carbon paper. Next comes the application of color with soft pastels and ink. Once that stage is complete I apply the 18 karat gold leafing to the design. Finally, I scan in the original, color correct it, clean up any issues and hand select out the gold leafing areas (this will be needed by the printer). Then I share with the community with my figures crossed!

I have been asked if this project will continue regardless of the success of the Kickstarter. Unfortunately, if the Kickstarter is unsuccessful I will have to move on to other projects. The time involved in such a project would not be possible if unfunded.

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On that note, if Art Nouveau is up your alley, please do consider backing this project before Monday, 1st August, and helping to bring this beautiful deck into the world!

You can also find out more about Matt and his work at his website.


A Visit from the Moon Angels: Getting to Know the Malakh Halevanah Cards

by Marianne in


Every now and then, as I’m racing around this giant web of deliciousness that we call the internet, I stumble upon someone makes my brain go all, “WOAH. Hold up!” Interesting voices, interesting projects, diverse creators, badass babes… these are all things that grab my attention, and it’s safe to say that Rebekah Erev and her work are all of the above!

I came across Rebekah via a seriously awesome interview in Beth’s column over at Autostraddle (seriously, go read it!). Not only is Rebekah forging a path for inclusive spirituality as a Hebrew priestess and working her ass off as an artist and business owner, she has also created a beautiful and original tool for spiritual work, the Moon Angels/Malakh Halevanah card deck. Be still, my beating heart!

I’m so happy to say that Rebekah’s Moon Angels deck is now available in the Two Sides Tarot shop. As a thoughtful, beautiful, original, and practical tool for reflection and divination, it’s just the kind of thing I most love to champion and to share with my people – i.e., you!

Today on the blog, Rebekah is stopping by to tell us a little about her work and to share some ideas for working with the Moon Angels/Malakh Halevanah cards.

Before we start, Rebekah, tell us a little about yourself!

I’m a queer, Jewish, Hebrew Priestess and feminist artist. I work in a variety of materials and world including: object-making, ritual, performance and the written word. After giving a stab at teaching in the public schools I turned my life around and decided to pursue my calling as an artist and priestess. I currently make my home in the San Francisco Bay Area and I’m enrolled in a DIY MFA program that meets in libraries. (Tag line: I applied and I accepted myself.) I feel really lucky to live such a creative life.

In January 2015 I self-published the Moon Angel / Malakh Halevanah deck and book, a modern day spiritual tool, born of my interest in providing creative resources to shift cultural healing towards the expression of liberation in all its complexities. In 2013, I was ordained through the Kohenet Institute as a Hebrew Priestess. Under this title I officiate life cycle events including marrying people, doing ceremony for new born babies and mikvah (Jewish ritual immersion in water). I offer spiritual counselling including readings with my deck and public ritual.

What was your motivation for creating the Moon Angel / Malakh Halevanah cards?

My purpose in creating this deck was to make an accessible tool for creative inspiration and spiritual access. I think a lot of us in the modern world have looked to art as a divine inspiration where religion has failed us. For me, I need an easy, simple access into spirituality but it also needs to be substantial and speak genuinely to me. That’s what I hope this deck will be for people. I’ve drawn on the wisdom of my cultural background as a Jew and Hebrew priestess. Growing up my family was very assimilated. Art and writing have always been my personal, private access into the mysterious creative energies in the world. As an adult, integrating all of this has been an essential part of my life’s work. The deck was my first attempt at sharing that integration.

How do you suggest readers might work with the Moon Angels cards?

I always suggest people use the deck intuitively in ways that feel right for them. I’ve had people buy the deck and frame it and hang it on the wall. That’s lovely! I’ve also heard some gorgeous interpretations of the numbers and images that I could have never imagined. That’s how the deck becomes really personalized and takes on a life of its own.

One of my favourite ways to use the deck is to ask it a question if I’m undecided. So I’ll ask: What will be the outcome if I choose option #1? And then, What will be the outcome if I choose option #2? I’ll pick a card for each of the options and then reflect. Sometimes the answers can be quite revealing. Sometimes I get the message that either option is great. Like Oprah says, “There are no mistakes.” Phew!

Another great way to use the deck is to pull one in the morning to reference throughout your day. I always start off my day picking a card, meditating on it and placing it on my altar. I love seeing how it shows up or gives me lessons throughout the day. On my website I also give suggestions for how to use the cards with the moon’s turning. I find in general, the cards have been a reminder to look at the moon more frequently. With a greater awareness of the moon’s cycle, I get more aligned with my own emotional states.

It’s been this life-changing lesson of embracing all of my feelings. The cards are inspired by a teaching in Judaism that when you have a feeling, it’s an angel visiting. I’m forever coming back to this non-patriarchal embrace of feelings. I see the recognition and embrace of feelings as vulnerable. I truly believe this vulnerability is a source of strength and something we can lean back in. That’s the feminist agenda I want to get behind.

Rebekah also offers suggestions for working with the cards in sync with the cycles of the moon -

"On the new moon: Reflect on the past moon cycle. What are things you would like to let go of? Pick a card to elucidate what needs release. Sit with that. Take a moment to reflect on what you would like to bring in and focus on in the coming moon cycle, as the moon becomes bigger. What do you want to grow bigger in your life? What do you want to get started on? Pick a card for that intention. On the full moon: What big dreams do you have? What would you like to manifest? What needs to be closed in order for something else to begin? Pick a card to guide that intention. Make a wish! Put the card under your pillow. This is a turning point, a chance to move things in a new direction. However you use the cards, they were made to open up the sweetness of the moon’s turning. Their sometimes-audacious learning isn’t meant to obscure the mystery of life but instead enliven its complexity in your heart, and move you closer to its most authentic desires.

On the full moon: What big dreams do you have? What would you like to manifest? What needs to be closed in order for something else to begin? Pick a card to guide that intention. Make a wish! Put the card under your pillow. This is a turning point, a chance to move things in a new direction.

However you use the cards, they were made to open up the sweetness of the moon’s turning. Their sometimes-audacious learning isn’t meant to obscure the mystery of life but instead enliven its complexity in your heart, and move you closer to its most authentic desires."

Thanks so much for stopping by, Rebekah, and sharing a little about the Moon Angel / Malakh Halevanah deck!

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You can find more of Rebekah's work at her website, where readers in the US can also pick up a copy of the Moon Angel / Malakh Halevanah deck, and on Instagram and TwitterThe deck is also, happily, available from yours truly, here. I ship everywhere, and shipping within Australia is free! 

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Working with The Wooden Tarot: The Suit of Plumes Court

by Marianne in


In this instalment of my series on The Wooden Tarot, I'm getting acquainted with the Suit of Plumes court. So far, we've seen that this suit signifies its element, Air, and its key themes, momentum, communication, the intellect, and just a little danger, with feathered things - birds and arrows. Let's see how these play out in the court cards.

I must say, I find the court cards in this deck particularly challenging, because my identification skills are not great! Although I have some ideas, I don't immediately recognise the birds in this court and so I had to do a little digging before their significance could fall into place. As well as being an exercise for the intuition, this deck is also very educational! 

I will posit that the fellow on the Page of Plumes is a sparrow. This light little bird is a great choice for the light touch of the Page of Plumes. This card is traditionally associated with nascent ideas, whispers of inspiration that sneak in on the breeze, looking for a mind that will grab hold and run with them. It's so clever that the artist has included the birds in flight in the background, as they give the sense of air in motion, which is quite strongly linked to the windy Page of Swords in the Rider-Waite deck. The breeze brings breakthroughs, new perspectives, and the youthful and eager Page encourages us to be inspired by them. Pages are, of course, usually associated with youthfulness, play, the idea of beginnings, and the philosophy of "beginner's mind". Here we have a caterpillar, a creature in its juvenile stage, learning what it can about the world before it takes that knowledge, and shapes itself into a mature form. 

The image of the caterpillar leads us naturally into the Knight of Plumes, where our humble green friend has transformed into a butterfly. Clearly, the line between these two cards is one of growth and maturity. The ideas that whispered on the wind in the Page of Plumes have been grounded and transformed by conscious action into real, measurable things. The Knight of Plumes is depicted as a great egret, a fish-stalking, solo hunting, water bird. The great egret, like many herons, catches its prey with a rapid swipe of the bill, a quick-fire manoeuvre  very apt for a speed- and movement-loving Knight. Where the Page of Plumes rests atop two arrows, the Knight grasps an arrow in its beak, which suggests to me that this card demands a proactive approach, that we take our situation in hand, and shape it according to our vision and intention. And quickly! 

PlumesKingQueen

The Queen of Plumes is depicted as a Victoria crowned pigeon. A cursory read of available online resources about the attributes and behaviour of this beautiful and unusual bird didn't immediately put me in mind of this Queen, but knowing how meticulously this deck has been constructed, there's bound to be a connection (and if you can discern it, do let me know in the comments below!). I suppose the most obvious link is the fact that this bird is rather rare and elegant, a good aesthetic fit for the Queen of Plumes. This species is also known for its strange and resonant call - perhaps a fitting feature of the Queen of the suit of communication and transmission? Whatever the connection, I do think she very accurately conjures the vibe of the cool and remote Queen of Swords. This Queen certainly seems ready to give zero fucks and look great while she's doing it, which is definitely an approach I associate with the Queen of Swords!

The Queen of Plumes' correspondences can be further found in those outward-facing crescent moons. Their placement puts me in mind of the symbol for the triple goddess, signifying this Queen's multifaceted feminine power. Outward facing moons, as well as the full moon in the background, may also suggest the idea of receptivity and intuition, qualities traditionally associated with the feminine (if you want to get all binary, which I know not everyone does!). The notion of power is reinforced by the arrowhead, suspended between the crescent moons - a tool that the Queen presumably has no qualms wielding when the situation calls for it! 

Heading in the opposite direction, the King of Plumes is the yin to the Queen's yang. The sun in the background is the day to the Queen's night. These cards actually put me in mind of The High Priestess/Magician opposition that we find in the Major Arcana - on the one hand, we have the watery light of the moon, the intuition and subconscious, and on the other, the fiery, outward-looking power of the sun. I'm not entirely sure if the inwardly facing moons are an established masculine symbol, but when placed side by side with the Queen's open and receptive lunar feelers, I have to wonder if the moons on the King's card are intended to signify the other side of the binary, whether that is masculine/feminine, receptive/active, yin/yang, and so on. Certainly, the King's upright arrow does seem obviously *ahem* manly! 

The King himself appears as some variety of vulture, a bird with interesting associations. Being a consumer of carrion, vultures are associated with death, decay, inevitable demise. This King isn't the most uplifting fellow! He is resourceful though, and not one to let a good lunch go to waste! This King is always ready to make the most reasonable and practical decision, never one to be swayed by emotions or sentimentality. That can be threatening for some of us, but there will always been times when a King of Plumes approach is needed. 

A final note - all the cards of this court have a visible third eye, reminding us of the importance of insight and clear-mindedness. This suit may not be as strongly associated with intuition as, say, the suit of Blooms, but the airy suit of Plumes does put us in mind of vision and clarity, so a piercing, triple-eyed gaze is appropriate!

And that's all she wrote for the suit of Plumes. As I've said in the past, these musings aren't intended to be exhaustive or definitive card meanings but rather, a collection of my own impressions on this strange and marvellous deck. I'd love to know what your thoughts are on these cards! If the spirit moves you, please do share your impressions in the comments!

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Further Reading, June 2016

by Marianne in


Do I begin every monthly reading post by loudly exclaiming about how quickly the time is going? Probably. I'll spare you today, except to say, umm, it's the second of July. How did that happen? Ok, now I've exorcised that little tic, onwards with some good stuff to feed curious and contemplative minds!

This month's reading-related things: fiery tarot decks, Moon Angels, and a candle that allegedly smells like John Steinbeck (then, I assume, not now. Ick.).

Around Here

I kicked off the month on the blog with a little love letter to one of my favourite cards, The Wheel of Fortune. Thrills! Spills! Mud in yo' grill! What more could you want from a tarot card?

We're a couple of weeks out from the Solstice now, but you may still feel like indulging in a little mid-year inspired tarot. Here are my ruminations on the Solstice, with tarot spreads for Winter and Summer

And in case you were curious, my (current) top five tarot decks to take when stuck on a desert island.

Also - EXCITING! - Rebekah Erev's Moon Angels/Malakh Halevanah cards have landed in the shop! I'm so happy to be stocking this beautiful deck, and you can bet your boots that there'll be more of it on the blog very soon. As usual, I ship worldwide and shipping within Australia is free!

On the Bookshelf

To be honest, I still have a pretty heady Raven King hangover from last month, so although I read a bunch of books in June, there isn't anything I really want to shout from the rooftops about. You know when a book just gets into your blood, and nothing else can hope to move your cold, dead heart in its wake? Yeah, that. Thanks, Maggie Stiefvater!

In book related news, some dark witch on Twitter (you know who you are!) convinced me to rejoin Goodreads after several years' absence. If you're so inclined, come over and show me your books! Look at my books! Be my friend! 

In card reading news, I picked up a copy of the Tarot del Fuego for my personal collection, and it is SO. GREAT. It just pushes so many of my freaky weird buttons. If you have freaky weird buttons, too, you might like it!

The Best of Elsewhere

Foolishly, I failed to save up any of the great blog posts I read this month, so instead of a link roundup, I'm going to tell you all about the radical genius magicians who light up my inbox. I don't even need to go chasing blog posts, because these wonderful people come to me! These are some of my current favourite email lists to be on - if you're looking for inspiration, look no further!

Austin Kleon's Weekly Newsletter always delivers the goods, whether on creativity, art, music, education, or just generally interesting internet tidbits. It's like a jumper cable for your brain!

I swear by Rob Brezsny's wacky weekly horoscopes. They're always filled with good advice, couched in a wink, a nudge, and delicious references to art, mythology, and popular culture. He's like a kindly zen master, delivering essential wisdom under the guise of riddles and quips, and I invariably revisit his words throughout the week.

For interesting reflections on making stuff and selling it on the internet, Paul Jarvis' Sunday Dispatches are not to be beat. I find a lot of writing about entrepreneurship pretty cringy, but Paul Jarvis is so obviously just a real dude doing real things that your bullshit metre won't be tickled!

Speaking of no bullshit, good advice for spiritual entrepreneurs, I love Girlboss Woo's newsletter. What makes Jeanna's missives so great is that they always make me pause and ask questions - about my goals, my business, my customers, my mystical mojo, all of the above. Expect to be rendered challenged and curious! Just read this awesome list of business lessons from Queen Bey and head to the bottom to sign up! 

I sincerely hope everyone reading this is already subscribed to Briana Saussy's Lunar Letters, and if you aren't, why the heck not?! Always exquisitely written, and definitely channelled from beyond the hedgerow, Bri's emails are a treat. Bonus, you can find past editions on her website - I recommend the recent 10 Teachings I Learned from Fairy Tales.

There's a special place in my heart for the deeply amazing work to be found over at Siobhan's Mirror. Seriously, is #faceuptarot not the future of this art form?! Siobhan's radical tarot emails are rich with ideas and reflections and breathtakingly innovative ways to work with the cards. Also, monthly tarotscopes. What's not to like?

I always relish receiving an email from Carolyn Elliott of WITCH, because to be perfectly honest, they're always a little bit wicked. Carolyn writes about the craft and spiritual living with just a glimmer of something-something in her eye, and her fresh perspective piques my interest every time. 

It wouldn't be a reading roundup without mention of one of my favourite corners of the tarot web, Little Red Tarot. Beth's newsletter is always packed with amazing content, because her site is packed with amazing content. I've found this to be the best way to keep up with all the wonderful writers contributing to Little Red Tarot, plus, I love hearing about life and adventures from the boss lady herself! If you've been thinking about joining the wonderful Alternative Tarot Network, email subscribers are notified when registrations periodically open up.

Jessa Crispin's Reading the Tarot mailings are always opened with eagerness, mostly because I love her writing. There's zero fluff here, just cool and thoughtful reflection on the cards through the lens of the reader's experiences. Superb! Also, subscribers get 15% off readings in her shop.

It's news to nobody that Theresa Reed's website is jam packed with awesome, useful stuff, so it should come as no surprise that her emails are overflowing with bounty. Everyone's favourite Tarot Lady seems to pack more hours into the day than Beyonce (she obviously read Jeanna's post!), so her email list is indispensable if you want to keep up with all the blog posts, e-guides, workshops, books, astrology forecasts, interviews, affirmations, and tarot exercises that this wonder woman creates!

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There you have it folks, the shining stars of my inbox! Now, lay it on me - who you do love receiving email from? Leave me a recommendation below or come share your picks on Twitter!

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Turning Inward - Approaching the Winter Solstice (and a Tarot Spread!)

by Marianne in


It's almost that time again, the mid-point of the Wheel, that long, dark night of Winter Solstice. I've written a bit over the past six months about my flailing relationship with the Wheel of the Year (including my last post, where I basically threw my hands up and decided to forget cross-quarter days altogether, and probably equinoxes, too, in favour of other, more personal, celebrations), so if you've been following along, you'll know that this hasn't always been a joyful or meaningful process for me.

Solstices, though, I get. I feel them in my waters and bones and brain. Perhaps I'm just a creature of extremes, struggling with the subtleties of the cross-quarters but able to jump right in to the big, blunt fact of the longest day or night of the year. Whatever the reason, I'm ready to throw myself into this Solstice season - and a season is what I'm making of it.

For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, the dark is tugging at our edges, and what passes for cold in Australia is driving us indoors, under blankets real and imagined. 

Not everyone is a fan of the lack of light, the chill, the pull towards solitude and quiet, but whatever your feelings about such things, if you decide to engage with them, they can be useful. This is the perfect time to explore shadows, to dive into deep and strange dreams, to spend uninterrupted hours in reflection, to examine the rich varieties of darknesses within and without, and what they might mean. In addition, astrologically, with both Neptune and Saturn currently retrograde, we're in a good place to examine our dreams and beliefs and the structures we rely on, the truths that sit on the surface of our lives. 

For my own part, I'm ready to turn my attention inward. After a few weeks of abandoning any structured spiritual practice in favour of less intentional (but often equally fun) pursuits, I'm feeling the need to rebalance my scales with some inner work. In a stroke of good timing, the schedules of some my loved ones have necessitated an open stretch of solitary time for me in the coming weeks, which I intend to use for secret and interior activities. 

After the Solstice passes, we'll be turning back toward the sun, and summer will be here before we know it. Until then, though, let's use this dark, quiet time to dive deep, to get weird, to explore and heal and question and excavate! If you need a little support with getting started, here is a short tarot spread to help you figure out how to productively work with this Solstice's inwardly-directed energy. 

My Winter Solstice reading, using the Tarot del Fuego by Ricardo Cavolo. Seems apropos to use a fiery tarot at this dark time, since we're at the pivot point before we turn back towards the sun!

Turning Within: A Winter Solstice Tarot Spread

Card 1: CONTEXT: What part of my life or self would benefit from receiving the inwardly directed energy of this season?

Card 2: ACTION: What steps can I take to put this inwardly directed energy to use in this part of my life or my self?

CARD 3: REFLECTION: During this time of introspection, where are my opportunities for learning and integration?

CARD 4: SELF CARE: How can I nourish and care for myself as I undertake the inwardly-focused work of this season?

You may have noticed that this spread is sort of a dark-night analogue of the spread I shared for Summer Solstice - and you would be right! Fundamentally, what we're asking stays the same, but the focus shifts to reflect the inner, instead of the outer, and rest and integration instead of growth and expansion.

If you're in the Northern Hemisphere, partying in the sunshine, you might enjoy taking a moment to try out my Summer Solstice spread.

How are you celebrating your season, whatever it might be? If you try out one of these Solstice readings, I'd love to know about it! Drop me a line in the comments, or pop over to Twitter and let me know how you got on!

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My Five Desert Island Tarot Decks

by Marianne in


If you spend a little time in the tarot community on youtube, you may already be familiar with the gauntlet that Kelly Bear recently threw down before those of us with healthy (i.e., large and ever-growing) tarot collections. Kelly challenged her viewers to name the five decks they would use if they could only work with five decks for one year.

Although I don't have youtube channel, I just couldn't resist answering the question. You may notice, though, that although I said "recently" above, the date on that video is actually March 24th. This lil' post has been languishing in my drafts for that long because this question is TOUGH, y'all! The struggle is real. 

I'm no stranger to tarot deck overwhelm. I have a big collection, and even though my working decks only form a small proportion of that collection, I often feel like my attention is spread too thinly. This is particularly true now that I have decks in my shop, as I try to give a little airtime to all the tarot and oracle decks I carry in the store. Of course, having the means to build a large collection of tarot decks is hardly something to complain about, and I am gratefully that I'm able to pursue my passion in this way. Sometimes, though, all these deck options can feel like a double-edged sword.

Periodically, I think about using a single deck for all my work for one month... and then I break out in a cold sweat and try to pretend I never had the thought. Different decks serve different purposes, and each deck brings its own unique sensibility to a reading. Not to mention, at different phases of one's life - even different seasons - some decks feel more resonant than others. Decks that I thought essential to my tarot practice two years ago now don't speak to me at all. Decks that I thought would never ring my bell (like the Sakki Sakki Tarot) are now at the top of my reading rotation. 

Having said all of that,  it's a hypothetical question, so calm the heck down! But it does seem valuable to ask the question - what is essential to me in a tarot deck? Even if it's just at this moment that the answer resonates. What do I need out of a deck? And out of a group of decks, what sensibilities and styles would I want to capture? 

Ok, quit stalling. If I were going into tropical exile for a while, which decks would I choose to take with me?

Five_Desert_Island_Tarot_Decks

1. The Spirit Speak by Mary Elizabeth Evans

Regular readers won't be surprised to see the Spirit Speak tarot at the top of my list. It's one of my favourites - deeply intuitive, deceptively simple, supportive, clever, clear to read with, and its images have a kind of bendable quality that really encourages personal interpretations. Something about the stark, symbolic style of the deck allows me, as a reader, to be more receptive. I like having those blanks to intuitively fill in!

(By the by, the pictured second edition of the Spirit Speak Tarot is on the way out, but Beth over at Little Red Tarot still has some copies in stock!)

2. Dame Darcy's Mermaid Tarot

It wouldn't be a desert island exile without the mermaids! Once again, if you're a regular around these parts, you'll know how I feel about Dame Darcy's Mermaid Tarot. It sticks quite closely to the symbolism of the Rider-Waite-Smith, but with sailors and mermaids and hot, seaside babes of indeterminate genders. It reminds me of the riot grrrl zines I loved as a teenager, so fresh and raw and beautiful. If any of that makes it sound like it's not a practical deck to work with, don't be fooled - these mermaids read well! And hey, if anyone is going to help me get back to civilisation (and the rest of my tarot collection), it'll be these seasoned sailors.

3. The Sakki Sakki Tarot by Monica Clio Sakki

I mentioned above that the Sakki Sakki Tarot was a slow grower for me. When I first became aware of it a few years back I was immediately certain it wasn't for me, but when our paths crossed more recently, something about it just clicked. Perhaps it's the emphasis on creative practice (this deck includes an additional trump, The Artist), which is increasingly what I use tarot for in my own life, or perhaps my taste has just lightened up, but I love this playful, colourful, and sometimes-abstract tarot deck. It has a kind and slightly silly vibe, and always gives supportive and practical readings. Definitely essential for lightening the mood when one's desert island exile is getting one down!

4. The Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans

At this point, The Wild Unknown Tarot doesn't require much of an introduction. It's one of my workhorse decks, ready to take on any and all types of queries, treading a perfect balance between the practical and the esoteric. I use it for clients and for myself, and thus far haven't read for anyone who didn't respond to its nature-inspired images. Somehow, The Wild Unknown never seems to run out of juice! Handy if we're spending a year together, trapped on an island.

5. The Dreaming Way Tarot by Rome Choi and Kwon Shina

The Dreaming Way Tarot is an old favourite of mine. In fact, it was one of the first decks I bought back when I started getting serious about tarot, and unlike some of the decks I've worked with over the years, the shine has never worn off. Like The Wild Unknown, it's a workhorse deck that reads well under practically all circumstances. Perhaps there won't be wifi on my desert island so I may not be doing many client readings, but this is one of the decks I use most frequently when reading professionally because it's very accessible, even to the casual user. And don't get me started on the outfits! With this as my inspiration, I'll be carving out a fine silhouette in my Ariel-style sail canvas island attire.

I ummed and ahhed over this list for weeks, knowing that whatever five decks I decided upon would be subject to change at a moment's notice! Who knows what five decks I'd deem essential in a week, a month, year?

For now, though, these are my picks. What are your five desert island tarot decks? I'd love to know! As ever, leave me a comment below or come and give me the lowdown on Twitter.

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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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Further Reading, May 2016

by Marianne in


What a busy month May has been! I've been pouring love and energy and care into life here at Two Sides Tarot this month. With the release of the much-anticipated new Wild Unknown Animal Spirit deck, and the arrival of the Sacred Symbols deck in the shop, I've had many new toys to play with and so much great stuff to share with you folks!

All of that, coupled with a busy time at my other job and what was, to be honest, a bit of a tough Mercury retrograde, has meant I didn't read as much as I ordinarily would. These are this month's diamonds in the rough!

Raven_King_Sacred_Symbols_Food_Fortunes

First, Around Here

This month, I released my first free ebook! Oh, happy day! Journaling the Major Arcana is a guide to personal exploration through the cards of the Major Arcana. All you need to explore these journal prompts is a human psyche and a little curiosity, so they are suited to both tarot beginners and advanced readers. Download your copy here!

May saw two esteemed visitors to the blog - I just love having guests! Ashley of Story by Tarot came by to talk shop, and I interviewed Marcella Kroll about her creation (and my current favourite oracle), the Sacred Symbols Deck.

I also threw my hands up in frustration about traditional Sabbats, and decided to go off-grid with my own Wheel of the Year. Why not!

On the Bookshelf

I've already ranted and raved about this on my social media, but this month marked the release of the last book in one of my favourite fantasy series, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. My bookshop boss kindly brought me a signed copy of The Raven King back from BEA, and I gobbled it up like the rich and delicious soul food it is, and now I'm reeling! I have a Raven hangover, and it feels so good. 

Anyone feel like a snack? May also marked the release of Chronicle Books' delightfully silly Food Fortunes deck. This deck comes with minimal explanatory notes, so you've got all the scope in the world to divine with your favourite foods. Yes, it turns out you can use quinoa as a metaphor for productivity!

Ok, it's not technically reading, but this month I've been compulsively revisiting Jason Isbell's 2013 album, Southeastern. It's an enduring favourite of mine, having been the backing track for many a kitchen sink singalong. Highly recommended if you're of the folk/bluegrass/touch of Southern rock persuasion!

The Best of Elsewhere

I LOVED this article by Kate Kiefer Lee about opening up the narrative of entrepreneurship and the myths we attach to about "following your bliss" and finding a calling. A validating read for multipotentialites and those of us who have a day job and aren't ashamed of it!

Actually, speaking of multipotentialites, I have Beth to thank for introducing me to Puttylike.com, an incredible resource for people who have a zillion and one passions and interests, and want to make space in their life for all of them. I definitely relate!

Indimoonrose.com shared a great interview with Mary Elizabeth Evans, creator of the Spirit Speak Tarot. I could read about Mary's art and process for days! (You can find my interview with Mary here).

That's it for me this month. What have you been reading and loving? Leave me a recommendation in the comments, or come and share your love on Twitter!

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Readers in Profile: Ashley of Story By Tarot

by Marianne in ,


Welcome to the latest instalment of my series, Readers in Profile! In this series, I talk shop with some of my favourite tarot readers about their origin stories, approaches to the cards, and their pro tips for fellow readers and professionals.

Today, my visitor is Ashley McElyea, from Story by Tarot. Welcome, Ashley!

First,  tell us a little bit about yourself as a tarot reader and a human person.

Thank you so much for having me! My name is Ashley and I am a tarot reader + tarot writer over on Story By Tarot.

As a human person, I am a queer witch, wild introvert, coffee drinker, and book addict. And if I am being completely honest, a Netflix binger, currently binging Leverage and Ghost Whisperer. As a magically inclined person who dabbles in astrology, I also claim being a Scorpio Sun, Libra Moon, and Aries Rising. I love being a home-body, unless I need to take a road trip. I love doing nothing but reading or writing, unless I need to do yoga or an intense work out. I literally feel like a walking contradiction most of the time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As a tarot reader, I am honestly of two minds. I love the traditional, “here are what the cards say about potential circumstances” and “here is what you can do” approach. Just super straight forward (but with my own flair) and use it as a preparation of what is to come. But I also love using the cards in a non-traditional way for myself, using the cards for writing prompts, journal prompts, or as a storyboard. Nothing serious, but more creative. 

What is your tarot origin story?

Ooh, yes! I love origin stories! Here’s the quick and dirty version:

I picked up my first deck in January 2015. So a little over a year ago. I have not been reading long, but it feels like I have read forever. I picked up my Rider Waite deck at Earth Bound Trading Company and the day after was referred to Beth Maiden’s Alternative Tarot Course. And I have been reading ever since.

On a personal note:

I grew up in a super religious household and all my natural inclinations to the occult, the witchy, and the woo were basically squashed so I wouldn’t go to hell. So cards like The Devil and Judgement come with a very religious overtone that I have spent a lot of time deconstructing in order to become the reader I want to be. It’s a process, but I’m getting there.

How does tarot fit into your life day-to-day – what are the regular practices you use to connect with and learn from the cards?

In my day to day activities, I pull a card (or five) every day. I like to get a sense of where my energies are and how the day can be best spent.

In terms of learning, I find that each new deck brings its own learning style. For example, the Hidden Realm tarot was my second deck and I connected with it immediately. So much so, that I rarely need to read the guidebook. Each person comes alive as I lay them out in a spread and they craft their own story, all I have to do is write it. On the flip side of that, my recent tarot deck The Hermetic Tarot, is like learning all over again. It’s filled with symbols, mythology, astrology, and occult goodness. I really am taking my time with this one and feel like I’m starting over. I absolutely love it. When it comes to tarot, I never want to stop learning.

Do you integrate tarot into any other aspects of your spiritual or creative practice?

I use it in almost every spiritual practice that I use. I have a chakra deck for when I’m tapping into my energies to see what is happening. I have a few decks for shadow work (I typically don’t use these for other people’s readings). I also have an astrology deck for when I am studying current star and planet patterns. And I have several decks that I use for creative writing.

If you read professionally, are there any pro tips or insights you’ve picked up along the way that you’d like to share? If you’re not offering professional readings (or even if you are!) we’d love to know, what killer piece of wisdom have you picked up along the way that has transformed your tarot journey?

Oh, I do not consider myself a professional reader just yet, but I have done several readings. And side note: I am working on opening a shop, but I do $5 and $10 flash sale readings on my social media sites whenever I am inspired to do so until I open the shop.

But this one piece of wisdom, I can absolutely share!

Don’t sling the cards when you aren’t feeling well. I think this is so essential and readers can forget to take this into account. If you’re sick, if you’re upset, if you’re tired, you need to be resting. Don’t take on more clients, tell current clients you will follow up when you are feeling better. You need to take care of yourself first, otherwise you will be no help to anyone else.

I just have to ask – what would be your five desert island tarot (or oracle) decks? Which ones couldn’t you live without?

Oh goodness, I would have to have my Rider Waite Coleman Smith deck. It was my first deck and when I can’t figure anything out, that is the deck I turn to. I would also take my Tarot of the Hidden realm so I could continue to craft stories. That deck is just filled with so much magical energy for storytelling. Hmmm, definitely the Arcana of Astrology so I could stay connected to the sky. The stars really teach us so much and I would be so sad if I couldn’t find a way to connect. And my last two would be the Deviant Moon and Green Witch tarot, both of them to represent my two “sides” : shadow magic and nature magic.

Finally, where can we find you?

You can find me on my website Story By Tarot. There I post spreads for tarot writing, personal magic posts, fellow readers stories about their favorite cards (Stories By Tarot – I’m always looking for submissions!), and currently I am running a series called A Retelling – my take on “difficult” cards that I craft into new stories. As far as social media, you can find me on Instagram and Twitter.

Thank you so much for having me on, Marianne! I look forward to finding more readers via this series! Thank you for creating it. ☺

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I hope you enjoyed hearing from Ashley as much as I did. And I have to second her piece of extremely sage advice - if you're not feeling up to it, put those cards away and take a break!

What's your number one piece of life-saving tarot advice? Let me know in the comments, or share it on Twitter!


Personalising the Wheel of the Year

by Marianne in


The title of this post should probably have been, "Whoops, what happened to Samhain?", as weeks have gone by and I've failed to write about it. I know what happened to Samhain - it fell on the 30th of April for us in the Southern Hemisphere. Despite knowing it was coming, I couldn't really get in the mood. On the day, I lit a black candle for my dead, said their names, read some poems aloud and meditated, and that was that. It didn't feel like a dark and intuitive time, the veil didn't appear to lift, and most people I mentioned "Australian Halloween" to looked at me with great bewilderment.

Sydney_Tarot

My lunchtime view on day of writing, under an unseasonably warm Autumn sun.

Last year, just before the Summer Solstice, I set about a blog project in which I intended to catalogue my experiences of working with the Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year. We're not quite halfway through, but I think the results have been a little lacklustre. To put it bluntly, I am struggling to make any meaningful connections, particularly to the cross-quarter days. I've griped about all of this before, so I won't bore you today, but I will say that I've discovered that imposing a European, nature-based system of Sabbats upon my life - even when corrected for Hemisphere - is just not working. I'm uninspired by this project!

So, what to do? In short, I'm going rogue.

I'm devising my own calendar of celebrations and sabbats, subject to constant change, evolution, and experimentation. I'll keep the Solstices, and maybe the Equinoxes, and to that, I propose adding a few days of my own, days on which I can celebrate the luminaries who inspire me, or remind myself of energies that I seek to cultivate. I'm beginning to suspect that I'm a chaote at heart!

Pamela Colman-Smith's Birthday, 16th February.

A day to celebrate the craft and community that Pixie was so instrumental in creating.

David Hockney's Birthday, July 9th.

A celebration of colour and creativity, a reminder that art transforms the way we see.

Mary Oliver's Birthday, September 10th.

A reminder to be in awe of the natural world and the written word.

The World Series, Late October.

Because baseball is holy. May the goddess have mercy upon the Giants this year!

Our Lady of Guadalupe's Feast Day, December 12th.

A celebration of the goddess, with a tip of the hat to my Catholic roots, and both of my wicked Catholic grandmothers.

No doubt, as I play with this, there will be days added and removed, and rituals invented, cemented, and discarded. I suspect the main problem I will encounter with this system will be lack of community, but let's face it, I couldn't get anyone to celebrate Australian Halloween with me so this won't be much different! At heart, anyway, I am a solitary practitioner. 

Want to play?

If you, too, have been struggling to connect with traditional pagan celebrations, I encourage you to join me! Perhaps you'd like to add Talk Like a Pirate Day to your spiritual calendar, or to bake a cake for Martha Stewart's birthday? Consider who or what makes the turning of your world a little more joyful, and celebrate it with a ritual, a festival, a feast of your own devising.

A final note, before I go off to make my new calendar. It is not my intention to trivialise the traditional Wheel of the Year or disrespect those who follow it. Just as those who observe the Sabbats find deep meaning in doing so, I seek to find my own, personal meaning in the passing of the year. Let's respectfully do our own thing, side by side!

On that note, do let me know - what do you celebrate throughout the year? Are there any unorthodox or invented festivals or observances in your calendar? Any suggestions for dynamite spiritual holidays or rituals?

Leave me a comment below or come say hi on Twitter!

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Exploring Sacred Symbols: An Interview with Marcella Kroll

by Marianne in


Today, I'm SUPER JAZZED (that's right, ALL CAPS SUPER JAZZED) to have a fabulous new guest on the blog and a fabulous new deck in the shop!

Marcella Kroll's Sacred Symbols oracle deck only recently popped onto my radar, but as soon as I saw it, it was as though a lightning bolt had struck some deep, dark part of my brain. The cards are deceptively simple, and the symbols they depict are so resonant, it's evident from only a glance how powerful they are! Diving in to the cards is for another day, though - a full review to come. Today, we're going back to the beginning and chatting to their creator, Marcella Kroll, about her work with the deck and beyond! 

Marcella Kroll Sacred Symbols

Photo by Diana Zalucky, for the Modern Mystics Project.

Hi Marcella, thanks so much for stopping by! By now, I think we know that you’re here because I’ve fallen head over heels in love with your Sacred Symbols oracle deck, but before we talk about that, could you tell us a little about yourself, your background, and what sort of work you do?

Hey! Thank you so much, I’m so happy you dig them. My full-time profession is my Spiritual Healing Practice. I’m a professional Empathic Medium, Metaphysical teacher, host of the podcast Saved by the Spell, and Artist. 

 I’d love to know, what’s the story of the Sacred Symbols deck – where did the inspiration come from, what is your intention for it, and what was your process of bringing it into being? 

Over the years, I have kept sketch pads, and journals of random symbols that I have encountered during sessions I have had personally, and have given. Several years back I attempted to create a tarot deck. It was so much work and kept running into blocks when trying to draw or paint. It never flowed. After a series of gypsy caravan style, moving all of my belongings across Southern California, the Southwest, and Northern California I found myself back in Los Angeles. When I finally stood still long enough I just started painting these symbols in my notebooks.

The process of bringing it into being was certainly a channeled one. Once I started drawing and painting I didn’t stop. I should also mention I didn’t have a computer or tablet at the time, just my iPhone 3. So I did all my editing in apps. Yes apps. HA! From start to finish of writing the booklet, it took a total of 40 days to complete. Then with the help of a generous backer and graphic design friend the first pressing was created.

Once the cards were printed it was important to me to really give them a personal touch. So with each pressing I create a grid with crystals, sacred objects, and other tools with the cards in the center. On the coinciding New or Full Moon I charge the cards within this sacred space, reiki charge, anoint, and smudge each deck with the highest intention of their purpose. 

How does your own oracle deck fit into the broader context of the work you do? Do you integrate the deck into any of the services you offer, whether readings, or your work with ceremony, shamanism, healing circles, teaching, your podcast, and so on? 

I use this oracle deck more than I ever imagined, and not just because I created it. In combination with Tarot, in workshops, healing circles, personal ritual, and daily reflection. I feel like they continue to shift and change how I use them weekly. 

Backtracking a little, could you share with us a little about your artistic background, and how that has informed and influenced the way you envisioned and created your deck?

I am a high school drop out. I was fortunate to grow up in a city (Providence, RI) where the arts were encouraged and supported. Immediately ushering me into a professional (i.e.: getting paid) artistic career. My early twenties I was professionally represented and selling illustrations, and silkscreened posters by commission. I did some painting but my style was heavy on the illustrative side. I’ve never played by the rules of how you are supposed to create or go about having a career. I guess that’s how the cards came to being too. By just following my gut and going for it when my psychic channel opened me up to do it. 

As much as you feel comfortable sharing it, what roles do tarot and oracles have in your own spiritual practice, and how has working with your own art – both making the deck and reading with it – influenced and shaped your personal spiritual and creative journeys? 

For the first 27 years of my life, these two worlds (the psychic and the creative) were completely separate. I never imagined my spiritual work becoming ya know, my work. So marrying the two has been a feat in and of itself. They were different aspects of myself. Often the creative representing my Shadow, and the Spiritual repping my Light. To bring the two together in this way has shifted the idea of separatism on my path, and continuing to challenge my former beliefs that they couldn’t coexist. It’s often challenging but at the same time I thoroughly enjoy. I feel that it’s another aspect that I’m learning about to help others have the same kind of understanding of all their sides, to help find fulfilment in this lifetime.

Apart from your own inspired creation, are there any other decks you love to work with? Have they been an influence on your own deck creation process?

I currently love working with the Golden Dawn Tarot. Other cards I find influential and fascinating are the Medicine Cards, Thoth deck, Sacred Rebels, Tarot Nefetari, the Greenwood Tarot, and on and on and on…I could keep going really. 

 Finally, do you have any advice, guidance, or insider tips for working with the Sacred Symbols oracle? 

Treat the cards well and they will treat you well too. It’s really an energetic tool and relationship that can grow alongside of you. Also don’t be afraid to go outside the meaning of the booklet inside. The book of meanings is brief for this reason. So you can develop your own personal system. Also, allow yourself to have fun with them. 

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As well as being the mastermind behind the Sacred Symbols deck, Marcella is an artist and spiritual healer, with an impressive resume that ranges from mediumship to shamanism, reiki to curanderismo. You can find out more about Marcella at her website, or follow her on instagram

And of course, if you're after some Sacred Symbols of your own, you can find it here, in the shop. Having been lovingly passed from Marcella to yours truly, I'm now so happy and honoured to be able to pass this powerful deck on to you!

As ever, I ship anywhere and everywhere (although customers in the US may find it speedier to purchase direct from Marcella, here), and shipping within Australia is free!

Thoughts on the Sacred Symbols Deck? I'd love to hear them! Leave me a comment below, or come and chat on Twitter.


Making Friends with The Fountain Tarot

by Marianne in


Before we get down to today's business with The Fountain Tarot, just a heads up - The Spirit Speak Tarot and the Vessel Oracle Deck are available for a short time as a sweet little bundle in the Two Sides Tarot shop! When you purchase both decks together, you get 10% off the regular retail price. They really are made for each other, so if you've been thinking of getting your Spirit Speak on and you'd like to add some Vessel into your tarot readings, this bundle is for you!

Also, if you've been wondering whether the Spirit Speak deck is up your alley, Beth of Little Red Tarot is kindly hosting my review of it here. If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I really love this deck, and in this review you get a deeper look into the things about it that really float my tarot boat. If you're in the UK or Europe, you can also find the Spirit Speak Tarot in Beth's shop, here

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Ok, onward! If you follow me on social media, you'll know that over the past couple of weeks I've been kinda losing my shizz over The Fountain Tarot. Yes, I know, I'm really very late to this party. Many of you good people have been singing the praise of this beautiful deck since it came out a couple of years ago. Although I've often looked longingly at images of it online, it's only recently that I decided to pick up a copy for myself. 

Never one to do things by halves, I took that gesture to its outer limit, and instead of purchasing one copy just for me, I decided to start stocking The Fountain Tarot in my shop (you can find it for purchase here.) This is a bit of a departure, because all of the other decks I currently carry have been tried and tested for months - sometimes even years - in my own tarot practice. I had a hunch, though (not to mention, about a zillion gushing reviews from other readers), that The Fountain Tarot would be just the right fit for me, and for the Two Sides Tarot store. As soon as I got a glimpse of that deliciously shiny packaging, I knew this deck was in the right place!

Just look at it! So lush and gorgeous. Every card feels like a refreshing spring rain, inviting you to step inside and dip yourself in its secrets. From the shiny, metallic box, to the beautiful, geometric card backs, to each thoughtfully rendered painting, The Fountain Tarot has seduced me hook, line, and sinker. Seduce is the right word for it, because this deck seems to insist, "Play with me! Touch me! Ask me a question!" 

Although it might have been keen to get started, for some reason I was over-awed by its gorgeousness and, as I write this, haven't even shuffled it yet! I've thumbed through, card by card, picking out favourites and meeting new faces, but now I think it's time to get serious. It's time to shuffle and draw, as is tradition, for a deck interview. Thanks go, as ever, to Beth for putting me onto this spread. Shall we?

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

Clearly, this deck pulls no punches. Its most important characteristic is that it can bring the seeker face to face with the darkest and most challenging corners of their psyche. It isn't here for small talk! Instead, we're getting straight into the nitty-gritty, into exploring the shadow, casting off old identities, exorcising - or maybe even entertaining - demons. Alright, Fountain Tarot, you're on.

2. What are your strengths as a deck? Ace of Coins

Fortunately, although this deck talks a big, scary game, it is also strongly grounded. Its strengths lie in taking on our shadows, traumas, and repressions, and answering them with solid, practical advice and approaches. When we work with it, we're stepping out from the darkness into the sunlight, where rich and abundant life flourishes. Although these cards might push us out of our comfort zones, coming straight out of the gate with The Devil, they ultimately want to support us on our journeys, to help us lay solid foundations so we can blossom. 

3. What are your limits as a deck? VI The Lovers

I rarely interpret The Lovers as being about actual love, but I think that rings true in this instance. The Fountain Tarot - at least in my hands - has zero interest in reading about romantic relationships, except as they might relate to the intense, Devil-inspired shadow work we're apparently doing. Is your ex going to get back together with you? Don't ask the Fountain Tarot, it has bigger fish to fry! Ask instead, "Why am I fixated on getting attention from someone who doesn't want to be with me?" That's more The Fountain's pace!

4. What are you here to teach me? Seven of Cups

Oooh I love this card, and this beautiful, dreamy lady floating in space! The Fountain Tarot is here to help us throw off the veil of illusion, to get past distraction and self-deception, and see the truth. Again, The Devil feels like the pulse beneath every card in this reading! Appearances have no cache here. These cards are going deep!

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

In recent times, the Seven of Swords has become one of my favourite cards in the deck. The reason for that warrants an entire blog post of its own (which is totally in the post, by the way), but for now, I'll just say that for me, this card represents the Trickster, and in my tarot practice, there is no more important archetype. In fact, the Trickster informs so many of the ways I positively relate to my own psyche.

The abridged version: in my view, the Trickster embodies the function of the tarot reader. That is, the authority of the reader acts as a kind of foil for the seeker's uncertainty, which enables the seeker to access knowledge and awareness from within themselves that was previously not conscious or accepted, and thus, reclaim their own power. This is the play of smoke and mirrors that makes up my life as a tarot reader, and I'm so happy to see that The Fountain Tarot is on board with it! When working with this deck, we're all encouraged to get to know our inner Tricksters, to be playful with ourselves and those we read for. That lightness and tricksiness in fact brings us closer to serious revelation!

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

Another one of my favourite cards in the deck, and so beautifully depicted in this particular deck. Again, we follow dark and challenging concepts with grounding, warmth, and practicality. The Fountain Tarot says that working together might require feats of trickery and deep diving into the psyche, but ultimately, it leads to greater stability, confidence, grace, and self-sufficiency.  After all that confronting work, we can hold our heads high! 

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If it is possible, I'm even more in love with the Fountain Tarot after doing my first reading with it! Could it get any better? Now that they've been shuffled up and properly introduced, you can expect to see more of this beautiful deck in my daily Weather reports, and here on the blog.

And of course, should it take your fancy, you can purchase your own copy of the Fountain Tarot here. As ever, shipping is free within Australia! If you're in the UK or Europe, you can find this deck for sale at Little Red Tarot, or from the artist in the US here.

What are your thoughts on these cards? On The Fountain Tarot in general? Do let me know in the comments, or drop me a line on Twitter!

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Working with The Wooden Tarot: The Suit of Plumes Six to Ten

by Marianne in


It's been a little while since we revisited my old pal, the Wooden Tarot. I've had a lot of other posts I really wanted to get out over the last month or so, but fear not, I haven't forgotten this card-by-card series! Before we kick off this instalment though, you should definitely take a look at the forthcoming art book from the creator of the Wooden Tarot. If you're a fan of the Wooden Tarot, there will no doubt be much to love in this new book. It's available to pre-order from the artist now!

Ok, let's get to it. In this instalment in my series on The Wooden Tarot, we're moving right along into the next set of cards from the Suit of Blooms. You can find the post on Plumes Ace to Five here.

We discovered a painful scene of defeat and loss in the Five of Plumes, and I posited that the Six might offer some consolation. The Six of Plumes depicts a mallard swimming away, towards the horizon (such as this card could be said to have one). In his wake, he sheds unneeded or unwanted feathers, lightening his load as he makes his getaway. Traditionally, the Sixes of the Minor Arcana represent an opportunity to heal and grow after challenging experiences. I think this purposeful duck speaks quite strongly to that traditional meaning. Here is an encouragement to shed unnecessary burdens - painful memories, unhelpful patterns, limiting situations - and light out for new territories. 

In the Seven of Plumes, we have a raven, adorned with shiny beads, clutching an arrow in his claws. My initial impression of this card is of something tightly held, maybe hard won, and certainly not given up without a fight. Traditionally, the Seven of Swords speaks of theft, trickery, subterfuge. Perhaps this impressive bird has been collecting shiny objects that don't belong to him! In many mythologies, raven is a trickster, so it's no surprise to see him in this card. When this card appears, we're called to ask ourselves what is going on beneath the surface. Are we being fooled, or do we need to do the fooling? Luckily, like many of the critters in this deck, this raven's third eye is wide open, so we're called to use our intuition to sort trickery from truth.

I must admit, The Eight of Plumes didn't speak strongly to me when I first encountered it. It was only when writing my previous post about this suit that it became a little clearer. As well as being weapons, arrows are also representative of direction, movement, and momentum. Here we have an arrow that has become stuck before even leaving the quiver. Instead of the energy of this card flowing, arcing through the air like an arrow, it remains fixed, stuck at its starting point with no place to go. Sound familiar? The Eight of Swords challenges us to think of obstacles as opportunities, and to identify where our mindset might be preventing us from finding solutions and making progress. Here, we're called to notice when we're unwittingly sticking ourselves with our own mental arrows, rather than letting them fly. 

The Nine of Plumes is polarising in its effects. Emily of Dharma Eyes Tarot finds it to be super creepy, but when I saw it I was like "Oh cool, owls!!" I did find it hard to imagine what could possibly be troubling about a cluster of disembodied barn owl heads with three eyes. And then I thought just a little bit harder, and it clicked. Owls are creatures of the darkness, silent predators, with watchful, penetrating gazes. That does seem resonant with the insomnia, anxieties, and night terrors usually associated with this card. Even an owl apologist like me probably wouldn't be too keen to have my nightmares haunted by this parliament! I believe, too, that in some Native American mythologies, owls are considered to be death omens, which speaks to heavy, fearful quality that is traditionally associated with the ninth card of this suit. 

Finally, the Ten of Plumes, the bloody conclusion! In this card, the two visual signifiers of this suit - birds and arrows - meet in a painful convergence. This image is very similar to that which we find in the Rider-Waite Ten of Swords. The struggle is over, the battle has been lost. Is it wrong that when I look at this card, I think, "Well, at least you got stabbed in the front this time!"? Like its traditional counterpart, this card shows the moment of rock bottom, total collapse. While this little sparrow may not be rising again, this card always prompts us to ask, how do we accept this defeat, and start again? 

The more I look closely at this deck, the more I see the obvious references to traditional, Rider-Waite meanings, always with a unique Wooden Tarot twist. This has been a very interesting exercise for me - I hope you've also been finding it useful or thought-provoking. 

To that end, what are your thoughts? On these cards, or the Wooden Tarot in general? Let me know in the comments!

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Readers in Profile: Carrie Mallon

by Marianne in ,


Welcome to my new favourite blog series, Readers in Profile!

In this series, I'm sitting down to virtual tea with some of the folks in the tarot community to talk approaches to tarot, origin stories, and more. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love our community, and it's such a pleasure to hear from the readers who inspire and challenge me to go further in my work with the cards. I really hope you find your possibilities expanded, too!

In case you missed it, here's last month's interview with Cameron Ayers of The Tarot Parlor. You can also find my interview with reader and deck creator, Mary Elizabeth Evans, here. And now, to this month's guest, Carrie Mallon. Hi Carrie!

Nice to meet you! Tell us a little bit about yourself as a tarot reader and a human person.

Hi, thank you for inviting me to the Two Sides Tarot blog, I’m very happy to be here! I use tarot as a framework for self-discovery, creative expression and spiritual growth. Tarot is one of the most useful tools I’ve found for digging into the psyche and integrating meaningful lessons. Exploring tarot has given me countless ‘aha’ moments and brought me more in touch with magic. Tarot really makes me feel more alive and mindful. That’s what I try to bring to my clients, as well. I’m here to be a sort of guide, using tarot to give people new perspectives and help them align with their most potent selves. 

As a human person I am a jumble of things, as most of us are! I studied human development in college, I am a proud cat lady, if I’m not doing something tarot related I’m likely cooking, I’m silly and ridiculous but also quite serious. I’m a Cancer and an INFP and although those can’t completely describe me, I do fit many of the personality traits they’re associated with!

Could you share your tarot origin story?

I discovered tarot when I was in the thick of a quarter life crisis. I’d done everything I thought I should do – I went to college, I graduated, I got a corporate job. Up until then there had always been a clear next step in front of me, but when I reached that point I had a kind of existential crisis. I knew I wanted to be living more creatively, I knew something felt hollow in my life – but I couldn’t figure out what to do next. There wasn’t a clear next step, and I felt confused, apathetic and disconnected.

And then, one day, I felt a sudden urge to go buy a tarot deck. I was sort of familiar with tarot – I had a good friend who had been reading for years – but I can’t tell you why I suddenly felt I NEEDED to get a deck of my own. But I followed the inclination, and as I began to work with the cards, things slowly started to click into place. I began to feel more alive, more plugged in and connected to something mysterious and awesome. Tarot helped me engage in a process of growth and creativity that I’m still continuing to this day.

How does tarot fit into your life day-to-day – what are the regular practices you use to connect with and learn from the cards?

This isn’t wildly unique, but as many readers do, I almost always do daily draws. How I frame my daily draw depends on the day. Usually I’ll just pull a card to show general energies I can be aware of as I go through the day. Sometimes I’ll do a more in-depth reading for myself around a specific situation.

Aside from that, I can’t help but see tarot in everything I encounter. This isn’t even something I try to do, it just happens! I think this is the way we get the deepest relationship with the cards: when we start to connect the ways their archetypes underpin our everyday experiences.

Do you integrate tarot into any other aspects of your spiritual or creative practice?

Yes! At this point, tarot has weaseled its way into basically every aspect of my life, ha! Occasionally I meditate with a card, especially if I can sense I need to tap into that card’s energy within myself. I blog every week, and if I need inspiration on a topic, I pull a couple of cards and use them as prompts. I also use tarot for creative writing – in fact, this was one of the first things I started doing when I first got into tarot. Last year I wrote a three part blog series on using tarot to prepare for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

As you're a professional reader, are there any pro tips or insights you’ve picked up along the way that you’d like to share? 

I do read professionally, and there’s a couple of things that come to mind that have been HUGE for me. When I’m reading for other people, I have to remember to get out of my own way. What I mean by that is to try, as much as possible, to put my ‘ego’ on the back burner. The number one way to give an unhelpful reading to a client is to be fixating on if you sound dumb, if you’re not good enough, blah blah blah. That ego stuff mucks up the real magic a tarot reader can bring. When I focus on being a conduit for messages and illumination for the client, THAT’S when I’m of the greatest service, I think.

It’s also been important for me to remember that readings are most transformative when they are actionable and empowering. What tangible steps might help the client get unstuck? Are their specific tools or exercises I can recommend for their unique situation? What messages will inspire the client to activate their own magic and walk away feeling courageous? Those are the things I really try to bring into a reading.

Where can we find you?

My cozy lil' internet home is carriemallon.com. Anyone is welcome to come hang out there! That’s where you’ll find my weekly blog post as well as the details on working with me. I give tarot readings through email and Skype, and for deeper level work I offer a six week mentorship.

I also spend a lot of time on Instagram: @carriemallon, so come hang out with me there, too.

Thank you again for the interview, it was a pleasure!

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Thanks so much for stopping by, Carrie! 

I really hope you enjoyed hearing Carrie's tarot story. Both Carrie's blog and instagram are up there on my list of favourite spots to visit around the internet, so I do recommend checking them out! 

Questions or comments for Carrie, or me? Burning questions you'd love me to ask future interviewees? Leave them in the comments, or come and chat to Carrie or yours truly on Twitter!


Creative Solutions from The High Priestess

by Marianne in ,


A couple of weeks ago, I was walking home from my job at the bookshop, thinking about, as you do, executing creative ideas. It's that time of year when that time of evening is decidedly twilight-y; summer's over but winter hasn't quite arrived, so my evening stroll puts me in a dusky dream-state. Perfect for thinking about the execution of creative ideas, no? 

Perhaps it's the season, but lately I've been in full download mode with the muse. New ideas for blog posts, ebooks, videos, paintings, tarot offerings, conversations I just absolutely must have with certain people in my life. I feel blessed to say that ideas have been pouring thick and fast across my mental windshield. The difficulty is, though, that unless one gives them the space to take shape, they remain just that. Ideas. Hypotheticals.

On that gorgeous, dusky walk, I started musing - with not a small amount of panic and frustration - about what I should do to help these gifts from the muse crystallise into something real. It's my knee-jerk reaction to say, "The reason these ideas aren't being executed is because I don't have time." Luckily, many years of self-exploration have afforded me enough awareness to know when my inner monologue's feedback stinks of bullshit. Sure, I'm busy. I have a job and a business, and two cats with complex and nuanced emotional needs. But since when was creative work only done by the idle?

So, I did what I usually do when I need to get out of my own way and start thinking differently. I mentally shuffled my tarot deck, and invited a card to pop into my awareness and give me some juice and perspective (an aside - does anyone else do this? Who needs a physical tarot deck when you have one in your brain at all times?!). I was surprised to find myself in that moment visited by the muse herself, The High Priestess.

From the Tarot of the Cat People.

She was like, "Psst! I know a little secret." And I was like, "Well, obviously. You're The High Priestess. Secrets are your purview." And she was like, "Bitch, don't sass me! You're going to want this one." 

I know when this witch comes calling, it's time to make a little inner space. The High Priestess's wisdom truly does live between the cracks, and unless you're willing to peer into those cracks, you're not going to see anything.  So, I walked in the door, dragged out my journal, and got to scribbling.

The High Priestess - keeper of secrets, guardian of wisdom, queen of the unconscious, the intuition. What was it that the High Priestess could show me in this situation? She is certainly a reminder to listen - or more likely, to make more quiet space in order to better hear. Perhaps I should be meditating more, or scheduling time to stare into space and think of nothing? The trouble is, what I'm looking for is not new ideas, but support for making existing ideas come to fruition. The idea of "just meditating more" didn't quite feel right.

From the Sakki Sakki Tarot.

I kept pondering and scribbling, and wondering what the passive receptivity of The High Priestess might be trying to show me about getting things done. She guards the portal from which creative ideas come, but she's not all that concerned with getting her hands dirty and making those creative ideas manifest in the real world. It's all well and good to have a visit from the muse, but the muse isn't the one who's going to do the work.

When feeling a little stumped about a card, I often turn to the structure of the deck for support. Each card has its own inherent meaning, of course, but tarot being the way that it is, every card has a place in a sequence - whether that's its place among cards that share the same number, its place in a numerical sequence, its home among the court cards, or its stage of the fool's journey of the Major Arcana. Even if they're not present in a reading, I find the surrounding cards in the sequence can often tell us everything we need to know about a card that's puzzling us. 

So, I cast my mind back to the master of manifestation, The Magician, who appears just one step prior to The High Priestess. Although it didn't appear in the imagined reading I did for myself, this card can offer some ideas for how best to prepare for working with The High Priestess. Prepare is the word I would use - The Magician is all about being ready, assembling the tools you need and summoning up your power before you embark on a journey. Interesting, then, that in the sequence of the Majors, we're asked to call up our power, lay out our materials and then... sit quietly with The High Priestess. One might want to go rushing into the "doing" part of the work, but it seems another ingredient is required first.

I pulled out my current favourite deck for personal and creative work, The Sakki Sakki Tarot, to illustrate this sequence, and I wasn't disappointed! The Sakki Sakki Magician has all the equipment necessary for a creative project there at hand. This Magician is seated at the desk, ready to get to work. Rather than being depicted with wand in hand though, before they begin their magical working, they gaze up to the heavens and says, "Ok muse, I'm showing up! What inspiration or guidance can you share with me today?" That facial expression is so whimsical, so open to inspiration. The Magician might be a master of manifestation, but they remind us not to start work until we've checked in with our intuition. 

So, I realised I had to step back for a moment. What was I hoping to do? What materials would I need? How could I ready myself for doing this work? Only then would the transmissions I received in the realm of The High Priestess be of use. Although I was flooded with ideas, I wasn't making the necessary preparations to do the work, and nor was I showing up, materials in hand, to let inspiration guide that first step. Sitting meditation wasn't what I needed, but sitting down with pen and paper in hand? Not to be underestimated! 

So, what's the takeaway?

Reflecting on The High Priestess (with a little help from The Magician) left me with a checklist, some questions to approach before I start panicking about my failure to execute my ideas. Perhaps this little checklist might be of help to you, too.

The High Priestess reminds us that if we feel stuck, we should cast our minds back to The Magician consider our preparation. Do we have our tools at hand? 

The High Priestess doesn't make house calls. It's not enough to be strolling around, waiting for good ideas to strike. We have to make the effort to go into our workspace to meet her. How are we showing up for the muse - in our physical space and in our mindset?

Finally, The High Priestess challenges us to go beyond our conscious minds. In creativity, that often means releasing fear and judgement, so that the weirdness of our subconscious can bubble up. How can we get out of our own way?

For me, this means making the time to take up my materials - be that my laptop or journal, for a writing project, or my paints for an art project. This means, setting aside sacred time and space to allow my creative self to be drawn out, uninterrupted. This means, quieting the mind, and letting the wisdom of the priestess be heard. With the right preparations (thanks, Magician!), I'll be more than ready to capture those stray inspirations as they float on by!

What can you learn from The High Priestess in your creative life? How do you use tarot to support your creative practice? I'd love to know! Drop me a line below or on Twitter.

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On the Bookshelf: The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin

by Marianne in


It's been a while since we've had a book review around these parts, but I think Jessa Crispin's The Creative Tarot deserves a mention because of its unique approach to the cards, and because, unlike many a tarot book, it kept me reading from cover to cover. Supporting creativity is a big part of the work I do with clients (you can even order a reading specifically for your creative projects!), and something I'm almost constantly thinking about in my own life. Naturally, I would be gripped by a book that promised to fuse these two fields in a new way.

Crispin's new tarot book first came to my attention when one my un-tarot-y friends (is it wrong to refer to them as my muggle friends, I wonder?) sent me a link to its write-up in the New Yorker. It might be unusual for a tarot book to be reviewed in The New Yorker, but it isn't a surprise to see an author with such literary chops as Crispin's snagging real estate in what is probably the world's most beloved literary magazine. A long-time critic, writer, and creator of the lit culture website, Bookslut, Crispin is having her moment to come out of the broom closet and say yes, smart people with many degrees and prestigious careers respect and use tarot. 

Of course, around here we knew that already, and I do admit to issuing a blinding eye-roll when I read The New Yorker's chosen headline, "Making Tarot Literary Again." Remind me, when wasn't it? After relishing my moment of snark, though, I thought, ok, I better find out what this is all about.

As you'd expect from the title, The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to the Inspired Life examines the tarot in terms of its application to creative practice. This has always been a subject of great interest to me, both as a maker of things and as a tarot reader, so once I regained my post-eye-roll vision, I got a little excited. Most readers know how powerful the cards can be to shake up stale ideas and offer support in moments of creative crisis, but this book goes above and beyond in championing that as a practice.

The book offers a moderately good introduction to the art of tarot, as Crispin tries (successfully, I think) to engage both total newcomers and more experienced readers. Crispin kicks off by sharing a little bit of tarot history and her own tarot origin story. To settle in the cautious beginners (ie, all those sceptical New Yorker readers), there's a Q&A about what deck to use, whether you can read for yourself, and what to do if you're an atheist (spoiler alert - don't panic!). The author reassures that no crystals and incense are necessary to reap the benefits of self-reflection with the cards (note that the only reason a piece of clear quartz appears in the above photograph is because that's what actual mystics have on hand to hold an uncooperative book cover closed).

Crispin then strikes out into the meatiest section of the book, her card-by-card index of meanings, associations, applications. The Rider-Waite-Smith is her chosen deck for this book, and the meanings are based on the traditional lexicon of that deck. Crispin does stress, though, that her suggested interpretations needn't be applied only to work with the RWS, and in her image descriptions, she gives some leeway for non-traditional card depictions. For each card, we get a general description of the card image (as well as a picture taken from the RWS), some ideas about the story each card tells, and then that story's application to an aspect or aspects of the creative process.

Then, the best part - that application is illustrated with an example from an artist's biography, a nugget of popular culture, or a myth or fairytale. For example, Crispin uses Nikolay Gogol's burning of half of his opus, Dead Souls, to illustrate the destructive fear and anxiety of the Nine of Swords. Temperance's blending of opposites to create a new path is exemplified by David Bowie's genre- and gender-bending period in the 70's. St. Teresa of Avila's fevered holy visions demonstrate the lightning bolt inspiration of the Ace of Wands.

For me, this was the juiciest bit of the book, and I surprised myself by reading this part of it from start to finish. These days, it's unheard of for me to read a book of card meanings from cover to cover, but I was seduced by Crispin's storytelling and eager to see how her unique vision would interpret the next card. Not to mention, I'm a total studio voyeur - I can't get enough of stories about the work practices of creative people (FYI, if that's your kind of thang, see Daily Rituals by Mason Currey). 

Having said that, I didn't agree with all of her interpretations and correspondences (e.g., she associates Cups with spirituality, which has always been a fiery Wands trait in my book), but I came to appreciate that as one of the book's strengths. The interpretations offered may not always be traditional, they may not always resonate with my approach, but they're so obviously born out of many years of direct work with the cards in the context of creative practice. Crispin has a clear and unique voice that shines through in her approach to each card and the deck as a whole. There's plenty here to spark consideration and debate for seasoned readers. 

Wait - did I say the stories of creatives was the best part? I think I was wrong. The best-best part has got to be the recommended materials that Crispin offers for each card. An inspired idea! For the Eight of Coins, we're dispatched to view Chuck Close's Self-Portrait, for the Page of Cups, to read Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil. The Queen of Swords can be found in the works of Diane Arbus, and The Hierophant in The Essential Rosa Luxemburg. Films, photographs, paintings, and books are presented as a means to deepen our understanding of each archetype. It's a tactic I've employed myself, and more than anything, I think its value lies in teaching us students of the tarot to pay attention, always. Mythologies and their attendant lessons lurk around every corner!

After working her way through the deck, Crispin offers a series of thoughtful spreads to address quandaries and questions that might arise at different points in the creative process. Each spread comes with a sample reading, so you can see her interpretations in action. She also keeps those anxious atheists on board by offering some advice for how to start doing your own readings (look for patterns, look for the story, be calm and trust yourself when you're starting out). To wrap up, there are some tips on how to choose a deck, keeping a journal of your readings, and how to read for someone else. 

The Creative Tarot strikes a good balance between being a gentle introduction for beginners and offering new ideas and substantial-enough content for readers who have been around the block a few times. While I wouldn't recommend it as the sole resource for a total tarot noob (bitch please, that's always going to be Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack - accept no substitutes!), there's more than enough here to get you started. Certainly, if you're a tarot reader looking to expand your creative practice (or that of your clients), this will be an invaluable resource. 

In the weeks since I picked up the book, I've seen it pop up all over the tarot instagram-o-sphere, and also in some unexpected places - for example, artist and creativity guru Austin Kleon has posted about it. There's no doubt that the popularity of tarot is on the rise, and if more people come to use the cards to enhance their earthly experience, all the better. The inimitable Brene Brown cautions that "unused creativity is not benign", and if that is the case, then it would behove both readers of the tarot and readers of The New Yorker to put it to good use! To that end, Jessa Crispin is a great cheerleader to have in your corner, and The Creative Tarot a great resource for your bookshelf. 

Are there any readers of The Creative Tarot in the crowd? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this book, and on supporting creativity with tarot in general! Drop me a line in the comments.

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Readers In Profile: Cameron of The Tarot Parlor

by Marianne in ,


Today, I'm super duper excited to announce that a new series has arrived on the Two Sides Tarot blog - Readers in Profile!

There are so many wonderful things about being a tarot reader at this time in history, but I must say, one of the things I hold the most dear is our incredible community. There are just so many wonderful readers out there, sharing their unique skills, styles, and perspectives on tarot, and I love nothing more than hearing other readers talk about their craft. In this new series, I'm so lucky to be hosting some of my favourite cardslingers here at Two Sides Tarot, as they share their tarot stories. I really hope you enjoy hearing from them as much I do!

First cab off the rank in this series is Cameron from The Tarot Parlor. Thanks so much for stopping by, Cameron! 

Nice to meet you, Cameron! Tell us a little bit about yourself as a tarot reader and a human person.

Nice to meet you too and thank you Marianne for inviting me to participate in the Readers in Profile series! My name is Cameron. I run The Tarot Parlor blog and website.

I have a lot of identities that I claim. I'm a tarot reader, a writer, a gender-fluid queer person, an entrepreneur, a business student, a bookkeeper, a dandy, and a hermit, just to name a few. My favorite activities are reading tarot, writing fiction, going on road trips, playing Super Mario World on SNES, hanging-out with my community, and ingesting ungodly amounts of coffee (me and the Nine of Cups are on the same page in this regard.).

As a tarot reader, whether I'm reading for myself or others, my focus is to bring clarity to the current situation and provide practical, actionable guidance to help manage it.

Could you share your tarot origin story?

I started reading cards in 2012. Before that, I spent years being curious about tarot, but I was too scared to pick up a deck. I grew up in an extremely religious household which basically taught that any form of divination or magic was a oneway ticket to fiery eternal damnation. It took a lot of work deconstructing that religious conditioning before I felt comfortable working with tarot. Fear based conditioning is no joke y'all.

My first deck was The Collective Tarot, an independently published deck created by a group of radical queer artists from the Pacific Northwest. The creators sought to deconstruct the traditional tarot structure, which tends to emphasize things like gender binary and social hierarchy, and make it accessible to people of all genders, all sexual orientations, all levels of ability, all classes and all ethnicities. This departure from the traditional structure of tarot made it a very interesting deck to learn on. The Collective Tarot is out-of-print now and it's near impossible to find used copies, so I treasure mine and feel very fortunate that I got my hands on a copy while it was still available.

How does tarot fit into your life day-to-day – what are the regular practices you use to connect with and learn from the cards?

In my own life I most often use tarot to get a “second opinion” or to do “troubleshooting.” For example, sometimes I have an understanding of a situation and I just want confirmation that I'm on the right track. Tarot can do that, or tell me when I've actually veered off course. Similarly, if I'm feeling too close to a situation, the tarot can point out things I may not have considered or give me an objective picture of what's going on.

In terms of learning the cards, I like to simply spend time with my decks. Most often I just sit on the couch flipping through them, enjoying the pictures, connecting with the imagery and the symbols. Journaling is another way I get to know my cards, also regularly using a deck for readings.

Do you integrate tarot into any other aspects of your spiritual or creative practice?

I do a lot with tarot and creative writing. I am in the process of finishing my first novel and I have a whole collection of spreads that I use for plot development, character development, brainstorming and getting over creative blocks. It's one of my favorite things to do with tarot, incorporating it into my writing practice.

I've actually started developing a workshop on the topic of using tarot for creative writing because I'm so passionate about it and because it has worked so well for me. I also have a slew of blog posts about tarot and creative writing on my website.

If you read professionally, are there any pro tips or insights you’ve picked up along the way that you’d like to share? Also, we’d love to know, what killer piece of wisdom have you picked up along the way that has transformed your personal tarot journey?

In terms of pro-tips...You don't need to offer every type of reading. I don't do relationship readings because I prefer to focus on areas like career path, creative development and personal growth. I find that by being specific like that, I end up reading for people who I connect with better and who I'm excited to work with.

On a more personal-tarot-journey note, these are the lessons that helped me the most:

Don't over-think or over-analyze the cards. When you start trying to consider every possible interpretation it leads to confusion and second-guessing. Trust your intuition and your gut impressions to guide you towards the correct interpretation for the occasion.

Take the time and space to ground yourself before starting a reading. If you are frazzled because you've been busy all day, or you're still cranky about the guy who cut you off in traffic, or you just feel anxious because you're doing a reading for someone else and it's scary (or one of any number of other things that make us feel agitated), take a couple deep breaths and try to find some inner-calm before you start.

Practice, practice, practice. The more you practice, the easier it is to interpret what you are seeing when you throw a spread. You are exercising and building the strength of your intuitive interpretive muscles.

Finally, where can we find you?

You can find me at my website, thetarotparlor.com. The site includes my card-ofthe-day readings, a collection of original tarot spreads, tarot and creative writing exercises, and a list of the tarot services I offer. If you are local (Portland, Oregon, USA) you can use the contact info on my site to get in touch, if you want to connect in-person. I also hang-out on social media @thetarotparlor, if you want to follow what I'm up to on any of those sites.

Thanks again for having me, Marianne! Hope to see you all around the internets! -Cameron

*

Thanks again for stopping by, Cameron! It was such a pleasure to have you. 

I really hope you, dear reader, enjoyed today's guest to Two Sides Tarot. Stay tuned for more posts in this series, as I've got more fabulous and interesting interviewees lined up. What would you like to know about your favourite tarot readers? Leave your pressing questions in the comments, so I can quiz future guests!


The Empress's Coffee Pot

by Marianne in


Lately, I'm seeing archetypes everywhere. Tarot has been such a big part of my life for years now, but in recent months I've felt our connection deepening and deepening. More than ever before, cards are making themselves felt in my everyday life, sometimes whispering a subtle notion in my ear, sometimes whacking me over the head with an epic solution. Maybe it's the Pisces season, making everything all soupy and psychic, mixing connections and brewing relationships?

Speaking of brewing (stay with me here), I've recently come back to reading poetry as a devotional exercise, something which I haven't done in months. Poetry can be such a gorgeous distillation of divinity, a perfect way to invoke, or awaken, or transmit an idea, a feeling, a vibration. When it feels right, just reading a poem - whether aloud or silently - is all I need to open up a sacred moment. 

When I revisited my poetry shelf, the collection I dragged out was A Book of Luminous Things, an anthology edited by Czeslaw Milosz. After opening it at random, I found myself in the garden of The Empress, with Allen Ginsberg. This impulse to marry up a tarot archetype with a beloved poem has seemingly come out of nowhere, but I must be tapping into that ol' collective unconscious, because Siobhan, of Siobhan's Mirror, has also recently written about exploring tarot and poetry side by side. Siobhan, in turn, linked to a wonderful strategy for creating poetry-inspired tarot spreads over at Alexis J. Cunning Folk's blog. There's obviously something in the water right now! 

I can't say I'm particularly familiar with Ginsberg's oeuvre, but this poem, I love. It's just heaven! When I came upon it again, that heavenly feeling conjured to mind the third trump of the Major Arcana, the mother goddess, The Empress. 

A Strange New Cottage in Berkeley

All afternoon cutting bramble blackberries off a tottering 

brown fence

under a low branch with its rotten old apricots miscellaneous

under the leaves,

fixing the drip in the intricate gut machinery of a new toilet;

found a good coffee pot in the vines by the porch, rolled a

big tire out of the scarlet bushes, hid my marijuana;

wet the flowers, playing the sunlit water each to each,

returning for godly extra drops for the stringbeans and daisies;

three times walked round the grass and sighed absently:

my reward, when the garden fed me its plums from the

form of a small tree in the corner,

an angel thoughtful of my stomach, and my dry and love-

lorn tongue.

(from Collected Poems 1947-1980, Penguin UK, via The Book of Luminous Things, Harcourt, 1996).

Something about this poem just seizes me! I don't know what. The simplicity? The gentle tension between sorrow and salve? The boon of finding a useable coffee pot in the bushes of a new home? When I first came across it I read it many times over, and again and again The Empress made her presence known in my mind. 

Wet daises and bramble blackberries are the natural territory of The Empress. She speaks to us of the bounty of nature, the fecundity of a garden left to overrun. She also reminds us that natural things must run their natural course - those apricots won't stay ripe if left on the branch.

She also gives insight into any structure - physical or otherwise, natural or man-made - that we inhabit, or call a home. Moving into a strange new place demands the ritual of enrooting. Tidying, clearing, repairing, making our mark. The Empress allows us to make our nests upon her, and in doing so, we make a sanctuary for sore hearts and love-lorn tongues. 

Not only a space for us to nest in or a bounty for us to nourish ourselves, The Empress is also a persona we can adopt when needed. The act of watering the garden, clearing the rubbish, harvesting the fruit may allow us to reap the ultimate benefits of The Empress, but it also allows us to embody her, too. We are both the nurtured and the nurturing. Offering water and attention, receiving plums and vessels for a strong morning brew.

This small verse captures so perfectly how we can experience The Empress in our lives. As a garden, rich and overgrown. As a home we make for ourselves. As the labour of maintaining and nurturing the world around us. As a place that offerings us succour - for our bodies and our spirits - when we need it most. As the hidden blessing of a good coffee pot, discovered in the vines by the front porch.

Where do you find The Empress archetype in everyday life? And, hey, in Ginsberg fans in the house? What should I read next?

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