Wooden Tarot

Working with The Wooden Tarot: The Suit of Plumes Court

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! 

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

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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Working with The Wooden Tarot: The Suit of Plumes Ace to Five

This post is part of a series in which I am exploring The Wooden Tarot. You can find other posts in this series here. For me, the joy of this deck is how much it challenges you to connect to your intuition, to make personal and meaningful connections with the card images according to your own instincts. That's the benefit and the challenge of going without a little white book! So, consider this to be, not an exhaustive or definitive almanac of card meanings, but rather, a catalogue of my impressions of these cards. I hope that they act as points of inspiration for you to make your own connections with the cards of The Wooden Tarot! 

Let's begin at the beginning of the suit of Plumes, with the God, or Ace of Plumes. (The Gods are one of my most favourite things about this deck, and I've spent a little time on them specifically in this post). The God of Plumes gives us clues about its suit - a feather, the alchemical symbol for air, and puffs of cloud for the background. We are entering the realm of Air, the realm of communication, information, perspective, reasoning, and intellect. Just a note on the artwork - until this very moment, I hadn't noticed that the God's hands and feather are shadowed onto its cloak. Isn't that such a beautiful touch, a little addition of depth and drama to the painting! 

From the Two of Plumes, it becomes clear that the God's feather is not the only plume in this suit, and the elemental connection with Air (and thus, the traditional suit of Swords) is reinforced by card by card, as we encounter more feathered and flying creatures. These wings, and the lemniscate that hovers above them, symbolise the sacred balance that underpins all the twos in the tarot.

What makes this card interesting for me is the waxing moon in the centre. It could almost be mistaken for a yin yang symbol, until you realise that the light is, like a waxing moon, coming to dominate the sphere. This suggests that the divine balance of the Two of Plumes is dynamic, in motion. When faced with this card in a reading, it calls us to ask whether we tip the balance towards the light or away from it. Are we waxing or waning in our energy, or the situation? Twos demand decisive action, and the Two of Plumes asks unequivocally which path we intend to choose - light, or dark?

The Three of Plumes is one of the most traditional, Rider-Waite inspired cards in the deck. The visual parallel between this card and the Three of Swords is obvious. Of course, the Wooden Tarot errs on the side of naturalistic (even when it is fantastical), and so we have an anatomical heart, rather than the symbolic heart we find in the Rider-Waite. This pierced organ reminds of the traditional meaning of this card - heartbreak, pain, emotional wounding, betrayal. 

It's in the Three of Plumes that we first encounter the second type of symbol in the suit of Plumes. Here, feathers have become flights for arrows, which reminds us of the double nature of the airy suit of Swords. I think I'm not the only reader to feel that this suit has always walked a fragile line between extreme clarity and cleverness, and the wielding of weapons. Just as feathers carry beautiful birds aloft in the cool, clear air, so too do they make arrows fly towards their targets. Arrows, too, are objects of both beauty and danger. They represent clarity, direction, momentum, and also injury, intention to harm, even death. In this way, the Wooden Tarot manages to stick to its own aesthetic guns (or arrows, as the case may be!), while still retaining the traditional tensions and double-edged nature of this suit. 

Put aside your arrows for a moment, and let's return to birds. The Four of Plumes shows a sweet little pigeon - or is it a dove? - in repose. She's lost some plumage (perhaps from those three arrows in the previous card!), and needs to take some time to recover. Again, we find quite a traditional message, if not a traditional image. The Four of Plumes invites us to recognise our limitations, to see where we're tired and worn out and over it, and to see the value of taking time out to rest and recover. Being a prolific taker of afternoon naps, I'm quite a fan of the Four of Swords, and this version of it seems extra comforting (perhaps I just identify more with pigeons than paladins?). 

The Five of Plumes sees a return to an image that was recurrent in the suit of Blooms, the visible third eye. This suggests to me that, when we find ourselves in a Five of Plumes situation, it's time to draw on our inner wisdom and intuition to navigate it. Here, a blue jay has returned to her nest to find three of her eggs broken (can I take this moment to admit that almost all I know about North American birds comes from being a baseball fan on the other side of the world?!). An attack has taken place, something irreplaceable has been lost. What can we do? The Five of Swords always challenges us to answer that question - do we need to surrender, do we fight back, do we try to make peace and mitigate our losses? The Five of Plumes shows a real moment of sorrow, the cost of conflict. We're asked, like this grieving Blue Jay, to open our third eyes to ease our suffering and find a solution.

As in all the suits, the Six offers some consolation and healing from the challenges of the Five. We'll look at the suit of Plumes, Six to Ten, in the next instalment of this series. 

What do you make of these cards? I'd love to hear your impressions and input in the comments!

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Working with the Wooden Tarot: The Suit of Blooms Court

Happy new year, everyone! I hope 2016 is treating you well so far. I was planning on kicking off the new year with a round up post of favourite books, decks, blogs, and other stuff, but I must confess I haven't made it to that yet! It seems fitting though, since Mercury just went retrograde, to return to an old project that needs reviving.

It's been a little while since my last post about The Wooden Tarot, so we're well overdue! At this rate, I'll be writing up the 78th card in 2020. Before we kick off, in case you missed it, I wrote a review of The Wooden Tarot for Little Red Tarot back in December. If you're looking for a general overview of this deck, that article might satisfy your curiosity!

Now, where were we? The court cards of the watery suit of Blooms.

As ever, elemental cues are strong in these cards. We now know that Blooms are the suit of Water in The Wooden Tarot, so it makes perfect sense that the courts of this suit are represented by a selection of aquatic-dwelling wildlife. 

The Page of Blooms is a slightly gruesome but compelling fellow - a glaucus antlanticus. Credit goes to the Wooden Tarot Facebook Study Group for identifying that one! To humans venturing into the ocean, this creepy creature signals nought but painful stings, but in the context of the Page of Cups, it's worth spending a little more time in this sea slug's company. Among its abilities is the miraculous capacity to eat other venomous sea creatures and store their venomous cells within its own cells, to use for its own defence. That is pretty flippin' cool!

This process of transmuting brings to mind the Page's resourcefulness and creativity, and signals a capacity to use one's environment to advance one's own goals and dreams. Like the Rider Waite Smith Page with the fish in her cup, this Page asks you to look in unlikely places for inspiration, and to work with what you have available to you. There is an element of danger and toxicity attached to it which perhaps isn't traditionally the purview of the Page of Cups, but doesn't that just keep it interesting? Pages are traditionally childlike, and there's certainly a lot of youthful bravado required if you're to get in the pool with one of these creatures! 

The Knight of Blooms is all about direction, and what better way to signal momentum, movement, and intention than the very-directional swordfish - or is it a marlin? In any case, I think the visual metaphor is clear! Indeed, both marlins and swordfish are known for their ability to swim at great speeds. I can't claim to be an expert in the field, but one result of a cursory google suggests marlins can move faster than cheetahs! Certainly a very Knight-like quality. As well as the urge to move, this guy possesses other Knight of Cups qualities. The third eye signifies connection with intuition, and bursting out of a rose suggests that this Knight is driven from the heart, motivated by emotions.

Queen of Blooms is represented by some kind of deliciously squidgy octopus! I hardly know what to say about her, but I just love this image! This octopus radiates the kind of damp, expansive, feminine energy I associate with the Queen of Cups. She can a be a little cool and remote, down there on the ocean floor, but the Queen of Cups is also ready to reach out those vast and soft tentacles and offer a supportive, smothering octopus hug! 

First impressions and psychic associations aside, the octopus is a great choice for this card. Octopuses are known for their intelligence, and ability to use tools and creatively problem-solve. The Queen of Cups isn't just a pretty cephalopod face! Using her octopus qualities and her intuitive third eye, this Queen is able to use her instincts and wisdom to practical effect, and set an example for those who need her guidance and support. 

Depicting the King of Cups as a betta fish adds an interesting layer of interpretation to this card. This King has always seemed to me to be the protective mother hen of the suit of Cups, the one always ready to take on other people's problems and to go in to bat for his tribe. The Siamese Fighting Fish isn't exactly known for being a team player, but there's no doubt this species is ready to meet challenges head on! This King of Cups will fight for his fishy family in order to create stability and safety for those who are part of his club.

I do think, though, that this card offers up a darker take on the King of Cups - here is a creature that is certainly happy to defend its home and hearth, but it isn't in its nature to cultivate closeness and intimacy. The masculine, Kingly energy, which in some circumstances can represent safety and loyalty, threatens to spill over into aggression and domination. The shadow qualities of the King of Cups - remoteness, moodiness, isolation - are in full effect here. While I don't often see that aspect come up in readings, I know that when working with this deck, it's impossible not to be aware of this King's shades of grey. 

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And that's a wrap for the suit of Blooms. You can find the other posts on this suit here and here

Before I sign off, a couple of notices! I am still offering 12-card New Year Readings in my shop. There's still time to do some plotting and scheming for the year ahead! At around 4000 words, this beast of a reading is great value for the price, and will give you a ton of stuff to think about as you launch yourself into 2016!

It's been a little while since we've had an Agony Augury column here on the blog! In case you missed the previous posts in this series, The Agony Augury is your chance to ask your questions and air your grievances, and I'll respond here on the blog with a tarot reading! Think of it like an oracular advice column! I'd love to get this series up and running again, so please do send me your questions

Finally, if you'd like to receive these posts by email, you can subscribe right here!

That's all from me this week! Thanks for stopping, and happy new year from Two Sides Tarot <3

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

Here begins the next instalment in my series on the Wooden Tarot, part two on the Suit of Blooms. I must admit, it's in cards Six to Ten that this suit starts to slip away from me. All those eyeball flowers! What do they mean? As with all the posts in this series, I'm just going to sit with these beautiful images and see what comes up! This blog series is intended to offer impressions and intuitions, rather than exhaustive or definitive card meanings, so don't feel like you have to take my word for it! I'd love to know your thoughts on these cards, especially if you've figured out any working definitions that are really meaningful and useful to you!

There's an undeniable blossoming to the Six of Blooms, a sharp contrast to the barren and pillaged vibe of the Five (read more about the Five of Blooms here). It's a perfect progression, because numerologically, Fives are all about setbacks, pain, and struggle, while Sixes offer the promise of healing and renewal. I like to think that these blossoming eyeballs represent not only healing and new growth, but also new perspective. It's through our most challenging experiences that we gain the most wisdom, and here we have a flower growing actual organs of sight out of the ashes. It's only by enduring the difficulties of the Five of Blooms that we may learn to see the world anew in the Six. I think I'm getting the hang of these eyeball flowers!

The Seven of Blooms offers a cornucopia, a whole array of shiny objects, with a hopeful eye gazing out. In the tarot, Sevens are often a moment of pause, a call to evaluate before more progress can be made. Although this is an unusual image, in some ways it's quite traditional. Just as the Waite-Smith Seven of Cups invites us to consider our options with a critical eye, the Wooden Tarot Seven of Blooms serves us up a smorgasbord of jewels and invites us to really look, both at what is on offer and into our own hearts. 

As in all suits of the tarot, after doing some evaluating with the Seven, we're then called to make a decision in the Eight. For me, the key to the Eight of Blooms is that waning crescent moon. It invites us to ask, "What energies are waning in this situation? What cycle needs to be brought to an end?" The shapes floating around the orb in the centre look like they could be petals plucked from a flower. There is a sense that something that has come to full bloom is now on the wane, and a shift away from this dying, waning energy must be made.

If we can make the right decision and say farewell to what needs to be let go, then we might be lucky enough to find ourselves in the Nine of Blooms. I love the energy of this card! This image perfectly captures that feeling of eager yearning, of looking to the future with excitement and optimism, of accomplishments reached and expansion achieved. Traditionally, the Nine of Cups is the wish fulfilment card, the card in which we feel open and positive enough to place our hopes, with confidence that things will go well and the outcome will be joyful. The Wooden Tarot's take on this card captures that supportive, abundant vibe. 

Finally, after allowing ourselves to fall in love with our hopes in the Nine of Blooms, we reach the Ten. Big sigh! There's that lotus again, that symbol of higher consciousness, opening up to show us the precious jewel of the self at its centre, with the full spectrum of our experience represented in colour. It's a lovely image, and I feel, very successfully conveys the feeling of growth, completion and wholeness that we'd expect to see in the Ten of Blooms. This suit really takes us on a journey, from seeds planted to flowers opening. It's funny how my first response was, "I don't know what the heck to make of all of these eyeballs!" but when I actually sit down and let these cards tell me their story, it's obvious how cohesive and simple they really are. 

What do you make of the suit of Blooms? Thoughts to add, differing interpretations to offer? Let me know in the comments! As always, if you'd like to keep up with the Two Sides Tarot blog, you can subscribe by email here

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Working with The Wooden Tarot: The Suit of Blooms Ace - Five

I've mentioned in a couple of posts in this series that I find the suit of Blooms in The Wooden Tarot particularly hard to get my head around. Something about those strange, eyeball flowers was making it difficult for me to pick up the story! Not that I have a problem with eyeball flowers, of course (if you do, this probably isn't the deck for you!). With a view to making friends, I'm going to explore this elusive suit in three parts. Today, let's look at the first five cards and see what we can learn.

Before we begin, I must warn you that I'm writing this on the eve of the Pisces Full Moon (which is now a whole full moon ago - this post has been ripening for quite a while!), and watery Pisces looms strongly in my chart. This is not intended to be an exhaustive almanac of card meanings, so much as me capturing my responses on the page as I spend time with each card. Prepare yourself for a meandering, unstructured, and (hopefully) intuitive ramble! 

Every time I see the Aces, or Gods, in this deck, it strikes me anew how fabulous they are! Look at that wonderful God of Blooms! I've written about the Gods at some length previously, so I won't spend too much time on this fellow here. It is worth emphasising, though, that this card cues us in to the suit's concerns. The element of water, represented by the waves curling around the figure on the card, and the reversed triangle of the head, the alchemical symbol for water. We can also see the lotus blossom, floating above the God's hands, which signifies spirituality, intuition, the third eye. The God of Blooms clues us in to the fact that Blooms are analogous with Cups in more traditional decks. The Gods in this deck are so carefully and cleverly done, and they provide such a useful framework from which to interpret the rest of the minor cards in the deck. 

That lotus flower also gives us a nudge about the visual symbolism we can expect to find in this suit. Plant imagery is central to the suit of Blooms (obviously!), which is interesting as plants are often associated with the element of Earth in the tarot (the Japaridze Tarot represents the suit of Earth as Gardens, for example). But, Earth isn't the only essential element in the garden, and I think it's quite original and interesting that this deck associates these images with water. Lotuses do grow in ponds, after all! 

From here on out, I plead for you to bear with my poor botanical identification skills, and invite you to step in and correct me in the comments if I'm blundering!

The Two of Blooms looks, to my eyes, like the Australian native waratah, but I'm happy to take corrections on that from any flora experts out there. Maybe it's unlikely that an artist native of the American south would choose to paint a flower from the other side of planet, but you never know!  In any case, whatever its official name, this flower depicts that quintessentially "Two" idea of balance, of mirroring, union, connection... all those notions that are central to the Two of Cups. The idea of partnership is strong here, because it seems that each flower grows out of the other. In that sense, this card is quite traditional. The lemniscate is an interesting addition, given that the Two it usually partners with is the Two of Pentacles, but it's nice to shake things up! The idea of divine balance and wholeness doesn't go astray in the context of the suit of Blooms, and I like it that this card applies that principle to emotional, intuitive, and creative life. 

I really love the sweet peach blossom of the Three of Blooms! What a beautiful image. Those flowers do look like three fabulous babes, hanging out and gossiping on the branch. As in our Two of Blooms I can see the gesture towards traditional RWS meanings in these three companions. I love the addition of the ripening fruit, because I think that image takes this card a step further, suggesting that collaboration bears fruit that is greater than the sum of its parts. It's an invitation to join forces and give birth to something new!

The Four of Blooms immediately suggests a feeling of withdrawal, closeness, tightness, retreat. This rose certainly isn't going to open into bloom today! This illustration so perfectly captures the feeling of pulling inward, it almost seems as though this flower is holding itself closed. Again, there is a nod to traditional meanings of the Four of Cups - solitude, reflection, withdrawal - however I feel like this image conveys a sense of patience that the traditional card lacks. The RWS Four of Cups is often equated with obstinacy, a kind of brattiness in refusing to engage with the world, and while that could be at play here depending on the context, I think this reluctant rose's message is more about blooming in your own time. It's a little more nurturing, a reminder that flowers can't be forced to blossom. Sometimes we need a little quiet time before we're ready to show ourselves to the world!

After the flowers and fruits of the Two, Three, and Four, the Five of Blooms shows us a stricken landscape, stripped of life. There is certainly a sense of loss pregnant in this card - who knows what those five decapitated stumps might have been had they not been cut short? Like the spilled cups of the RWS Five of Cups, this card suggests an act of violence or a catastrophic mishap that is deeply felt. Given that we are working with nature images here though, it's impossible to forget that Fives are stages of challenge that can be overcome. Mother Nature is voracious, and a barren stump doesn't stay that way for long! With the right approach - perhaps a period of mourning to honour the loss, and some intentional maintenance - this field will bloom again. After the Five comes the Six, a card of healing and transformation. We'll see what form that takes in the next instalment of this series! 

What are your thoughts on these cards? I'd love to hear your interpretations of these cards, any corrections or disagreements, and any other thoughts you might have! Please do share in the comments. 

If you like the look of this deck and are thinking of adding it to your collection, you can order a copy from the artist here

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Working with The Wooden Tarot: Nine of Stones

Just a quick one today, to document what came up when I used the Wooden Tarot for the Weather Report one day. I was a little apprehensive about pulling a card for my daily reading from this deck, since I still feel very much in student mode with it, but I decided it was better to be challenged than not! Here's what I posted on instagram:

WEATHER REPORT - NINE OF STONES. The Nine of Stones reminds us that it is often when our spiritual work feels most frustrating and limited that we're closest to a breakthrough. All that learning and ritual and meditation and yearning and inner work can be painful and draining, and often its reward is so intangible. It can be tempting to give it all up, but if you're feeling that way today, this card says, hang on. You're on the path and you're getting closer. Growing and expanding in this way can be painful and challenging, but it will be worth it. Stick with it today, no matter how much you might not want to. Trust the path!

The most striking thing about this image is the red crystals, seeming to burst out of the antlers like growths, so when I first looked at this card I became very preoccupied with the idea of organic growth, expansion, and growing pains. Traditionally, the Nine of Wands is about shouldering a heavy burden in the late stages of a journey, so in this context, I see the Nine of Stones as being about the pain and frustration and struggle of continually expanding the self on one's spiritual path.

I've often described my discovery of tarot as being like growing an extra limb, the sudden discovery of a new kind of mobility and dexterity that I didn't previously have, so seeing these crystals growing felt personally resonant to me. My discovery and growth as a tarot reader has been more of an easeful and joyful than riddled with frustration, but as in any spiritual practice, there are times when it is hard to see the road ahead. This card acknowledges how startling it can be to have that extra limb burst through the skin, and how challenging it can be to learn how to use it. It also encourages us all, no matter where we are on the road, to keep on travelling. 

What do you make of this Nine of Stones? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 

Before I sign off, I wanted to let you know that The Agony Augury is taking questions! If you have a tricky problem or juicy dilemma that you'd like some insight into, please do write to me, and your question may be chosen for The Agony Augury column!

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Working with The Wooden Tarot: The Sixes

So far in my little project to get to know The Wooden Tarot, letting the deck decide upon my course of study seems to be working out just fine. Again, I pulled a card to see where I should be looking today, and who should appear but VI The Lovers.

Aww. Conjoined twin hummingbird! Does it get any sweeter? I love the image on this card: aforementioned hummingbird, in the bosom of a flower, sitting atop a green anatomical heart, which sprouts the odd leaf and a string of fern fronds. Like all of us, this heart bleeds red. This card, for me anyway, reads quite traditionally straight out of the gate. It's a sweet and strange image, but the bleeding heart gives it the gravitas that The Lovers requires. For me, this card is always about choice - what do we choose to bring into our lives, what people and pastimes and causes do we give our hearts to? Do these things reflect our true values, or are we misdirecting our energies? This heart has the potential for growth, provided it is given the right conditions to flourish. How can we use our free will to cultivate those conditions?

With The Lovers as my point of departure, I turned my attention to the other sixes in the deck. Numerologically, sixes are usually about healing, peacefulness, recovery, and/or movement. With that in mind, let's see what we make of these fellows.

The Six of Plumes we've met before - this card cropped up in my Wooden Tarot deck interview as this deck's most important characteristic. It baffled me a little then, but ultimately I stand by my interpretation of it as being about healing transitions. We get to shed old feathers and swim off into new horizons!

The Six of Stones was also a feature of my deck interview, so you may already be acquainted. Again, I feel good about my earlier interpretation of this card as being about support and elevation. The encircling antler offers us the best seats in the house to witness this beautiful crystal rising up and holding its own. This card does remind me quite a bit of its Rider-Waite-Smith equivalent, its just that here we behold a symbolic resurrection, and in the RWS, it is a actual victory march.

The Six of Bones immediately makes me think of The Princess Bride. I'm a child of the 80s, I can't help it!  I'm assuming that wasn't what this deck's creator had in mind when he drew this card, so I think it's safe to say it doesn't signify cold blooded murder (or righteous vengeance). That extra finger immediately suggests to me some sort of extra capability, gaining an additional skill or resource or capacity that perhaps we didn't have before. This acquisition is an opportunity, and hey, if you apply this card's traditional meaning and use this for the benefit of others, all the better!

Finally, the Six of Blooms. I must say, so far I find the suit of Blooms utterly baffling! Grasping at my first impulse while staring at this card with a thoroughly puzzled look on my face, I want to say that it represents the opportunity for new intuitive or emotional insight. It is the suit of Water, after all! And just look at all those eyes, blossoming. This six offers the possibility of a new, more heart-centred way of seeing. Perhaps this indicates a chance to take what we have learned and let it expand out into new insight.

What do you make of the Wooden Tarot's Sixes? Agree or disagree with my interpretations? I'd love to hear your insights and impressions in the comments!

Oh, and don't forget, you can subscribe to my posts by email here.

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Working with The Wooden Tarot: The Beginning and the End

I had been ruminating for a few days about the next post I would write about The Wooden Tarot. Where to go from here? There are so many options! As usual, after trying to figure it out with my rational brain, I realised that the best answer would come from - duh - pulling a card. Even if I couldn't decide what to do, I was pretty sure the deck itself would have something to say. Lo and behold, I was not disappointed when XXI The World showed its pretty face! 

So, let's look at the bookends of the Major Arcana. From the moment of conception to the last gasp of glorious completion, 0 The Fool, and XXI The World. 

The Fool has such an interesting energy to it. This is usually a card that fills me with joy and anticipation, but in this incarnation, things are a little bit more complicated! While the cliff's edge of the traditional Rider Waite Smith Fool can present a pitfall, the next step on this little Fool's journey is a matter of life and death. Taking that next step could very well mean this intrepid field mouse becomes dinner! It's interesting that this card puts such a strong emphasis on the potential dangers of the journey. I don't often interpret The Fool as being about foolishness, but here I think that interpretation is hard to ignore! 

As with all things Wooden Tarot, there is more to it than meets the eye, though. Given that our mousey friend is already standing on the belly of a python, it seems she has no choice but to forge ahead. When this card comes up, we have to ask ourselves, what is the cost of standing still? Are we placing ourselves at risk by declining this opportunity, by refusing to walk this path? Notice that the mouse's swag is in fact a lotus flower - symbol of divinity and enlightenment. The journey may present many dangers, but with the promise of enlightenment at our backs, what choice do we have but to take it? Like the lotus blooming out of the mud, it may be those very dangers that propel us to be reborn. Our bags are packed, the sun is shining, and hey, this snake just might be asleep, so let's make a mad dash and go for it!

If you avoid getting eaten for lunch by that python and any other pitfalls that might ensnare you on the way, you just might be lucky enough to end up here. And what a beautiful place it is! I love this take on The World. What a gorgeous vision! The shape of this image is quite unique. Of course, we are all used to seeing a circular depiction of The World, but here, we have a kind of floating island, a self-contained universe that encompasses everything we might have experienced on the road to this point. As above, so below! Although it isn't actually a circle, I think there is still a sense of a flow of energy in this card, from the draped greenery on top, through the clouds in the middle, to the swirling seas of the subconscious below, and back again. 

Everything is here, and yet, there is still somewhere else to go. In those treetops, we see a door opening onto... what? Who knows what comes next! The World is both an ending and a beginning, a cycle that perpetually renews itself, and I love the way this card represents that idea of a journey without end. We are both arriving and leaving here all at once. Perhaps, when we step through that door, we find ourselves again perched on the belly of a snake, ready to undertake another grand and perilous adventure! 

Before I sign off, I just had to share that the fabulous creator of The Wooden Tarot has a new oracle deck available to pre-order. Squee! Naturally, I have my order in. Do you?

What's your take on these two cards? I'd love to know! Please do share any interpretations or inspirations you might have in the comments.

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Working with the Wooden Tarot: The Gods

I recently wrote about taking on a little tarot study project - namely, the Wooden Tarot. This enigmatic deck has been in my collection for a while, but it has only been recently that I've been game enough to spend some serious time with it. It's unique and strange, and deserves some close attention. When I started out, I decided not to impose a particular structure upon my study with this deck. Instead, I'm going to follow my whims. I think it's what the Wooden Tarot would want. 

My first whim has led me to look at the Aces, or Gods, as they are described. Just look at them.

Aren't they spectacular? So, so odd. I can't get enough of them! 

The more I think about it, the more I realise that this is a perfect representation of Ace energy. If Aces are the perfect representation of the energy of a suit, what better way than to depict them than as Gods? Similarly, Aces are ephemeral. They're potential, amorphous ideas waiting to be given form by our thoughts and actions. What are Gods but formless notions that we give shape to through our devotions? 

The Gods show us the descriptors of the four suits - Bones, Stones, Plumes, and Blooms - and clue us in to the symbolic cues we might find as we work through the Minor Arcana. Not only that, but they offer elemental associations for the suits, if we just peek over their shoulders. Bones are earth, Stones fire, Plumes air, and Blooms water. Their triangular heads also give us an indication of the energetic correspondences of each suit - pointed upward for the outwardly-focused, active, yang energy of Stones and Plumes, and pointed downward for the inwardly-focused, receptive, yin energy of Blooms and Bones.

Strange as they are, I find these Gods have a very nurturing energy. Those monastic robes and steady, cycloptic gazes seem to suggest that these fellows are gentle guides, ready and waiting to shepherd us into the world of their chosen suit. In a way, they remind me of a cadre of junior Hermits. They hold their elements in their hands, but lightly. They're ready to pass these batons on to the traveler who comes their way, seeking guidance. They're the gatekeepers, ready to usher us into the work of Bones, Plumes, Stones, and Blooms. Now, we just have to take hold of their creepy, delicate white hands, and let them show us the way!

What do you make of these strange fellows? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Oh, and don't forget, you can subscribe to my blog by email so you never miss a post!

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Tarot Project: The Wooden Tarot

The strange and beautiful Wooden Tarot has been sitting on my shelf for a while. Every few months, I take the cards out and peer at them, filled with longing and curiosity, before tucking them back into the box and stepping away. Why, you ask? It's tricky. I felt very drawn to the artwork of this unique deck, but until now, something about it has made me reluctant to read with it. The images are odd, many of them unorthodox in terms of traditional tarot symbolism, and the deck comes with not even a skerrick of a little white book to guide a lost traveler on the path. The deck's unifying philosophy seemed opaque to me, at a glance at least, and I long delayed sitting down with it and putting some in serious study. I couldn't walk away altogether, though, and something about it kept nagging at me.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I wanted to work more closely with deck images, and bring a deeper level of visual interpretation to my readings. What better place to work those muscles than with a deck that offers only visual information, no text or theory for my academic brain to latch onto? This little project has been nipping at my heels for a while, and finally, the time has come. The Wooden Tarot and I are going to get familiar!

I'll be documenting my progress here on the blog, which I hope will be interesting for you, and also useful to anyone else who might be working with this deck. At this stage, I haven't developed a formal curriculum, but I imagine this work will combine tarot readings, studies of the suits, meanings of individual cards, and any other exercises I turn up along the way. 

With any new deck, it's nice to start with introductions! Thus, a deck interview spread, courtesy of the delightful workings of Little Red Tarot. Here's what I came up with.

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

The deck leaves behind what is extraneous and goes straight for the point. In a way, I feel like this mallard duck is swimming away from me, and I'm grasping at feathers, crying, "Wait! I don't know what you mean!" At the moment, "the point" feels elusive. Maybe that is the point - this deck can be elusive, and isn't going to go slow and accommodate those of us who might not be so quick on the uptake! 

Interesting that this and the following card are both sixes. I think this deck will be deeply engaged with positive transformation, it loves to bear witness to shifting situations, and work through transitions. Movement is key among its interests. I think this will be a great deck for reading on questions of change.

2. What are your strengths as a deck? Six of Stones

Its strength is providing a container for that positive transformation - the most compelling thing in this image for me is the encircling antler, which feels like a supportive, enveloping web that gathers things (people, ideas, opportunities) together and raises them up. Reading strictly from the image, my strongest connection with this card is the idea of support. This deck is able to hold a lot, and it will use its resources to encourage transition and elevation.

3. What are your limits as a deck? XIV Temperance

It is slippery, like an otter! It combines many things, plays many roles, and perhaps these disparate parts and themes don't always add up. Just when you think you're dealing with one thing, this deck becomes another, and meaning slips through your fingers.

It may be, too, that Temperance suggests that sometimes this deck sits too much on the fence, hedging its bets, unwilling to go firmly one way or the other in a reading. Could Temperance point to indecisiveness? It may be that the supportive Six of Stones means that sometimes it might pull punches, preferring to coddle rather than deliver things straight. I didn't expect to feel over-nurtured by this deck, but maybe that will be the case!

4. What are you here to teach me? King of Bones

My first thought upon looking at the image is about the age of this venerable, ancient mammoth skull, covered in leaves, lichen, and one stray mushroom. The King of Bones represents the wisdom of lifetimes, won not through study but through practical engagement with the world. There is old wisdom here, deeply rooted. This deck will teach me to dig it up!

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

By peering into the looking glass! This card seems like a mirror, but not one that shows your reflection as you expect to see it. There are chasms to be ventured into here, journeys to make into unknown realms. The best way to engage with this deck is to allow it to transport you. Peer into the mirror and be open to what you see, even if it is alarming, confusing or mysterious. This is an invitation to adventure, possibly down a strange rabbit hole!

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

Passion? Self discovery? I feel as though this image doesn't give much away, but they are the associations that roll off the tongue when I look at it. The crystals are bursting out of the skin of the doe's neck, but she seems unbothered. Working with this deck will us both to blossom - possibly in a weird way! - and grow. It feels very... embodied, bodily, physical. It may be uncomfortable at times, but this working relationship will be dynamic and flexible enough to allow for mutation and expansion.

I presume the moon is intended to signify feminine or yin energy for the Queen, which in turn makes me think of the plumbing of subconscious depths. Perhaps through working with this deck, hidden worlds will be revealed. The subconscious and subterranean seem particularly important, things bursting out of dark places. My feeling is that this card is about shining a light on what is hidden, letting it come out of you and into the open. A wonderful outcome for work with a tarot deck! 

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It was my intention when approaching this reading to stay close to the images, and to make associations without trying to justify or systematise everything that popped into my head. It doesn't feel wholly coherent now, but over time, I hope this way of working will give rise to an organic and personal system of interpretation for this deck. Let's see, anyway!

Interested in joining me on this weird and wonderful journey? Pick up your own copy of The Wooden Tarot here (this is not an ad or an affiliated link, just a nudge in the direction of an artist whose work I genuinely love!).

Working with The Wooden Tarot already? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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