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Playing with a (New) Full Deck

A few weeks ago, after a lot of handling, a little humming and hawing, I purchased my first new Tarot deck in YEARS!  The beneficiary of my decision (other than our local Orangeville shop ‘Healing Moon’)?  The Wildwood Tarot.

It is this earth-based, wheel-of-the-year focused deck that eventually pushed me and my bank card to the point of no return. Since then, I’ve set aside time almost every day to go through the cards one at a time. I’ve grouped them by minors, majors and courts.  I’ve laid the deck out in ‘wheel’ fashion, (as suggested by ‘The Little White Book’ that accompanies this deck and pictured below) with the help of Merlin, our cat! 🙂

IMG_0580
The art in the Wild Wood Tarot deck pictured above was created and copyrighted by http://www.willworthingtonart.co.uk – Merlin and the rug? Not so much.

I look to experience learning a new deck in different ways: visually, physically, intellectually and emotionally.  I shuffle the cards, ask a question, see what comes up. Sometimes, I go to the book, see what it says.  Other times, I want to connect them to previous knowledge of the other decks I use. I want to compare and contrast meanings and images. I want to feel the cards and look at them. I want to connect the deck’s  energy to my own. I want to ‘hear’ the cards as they speak to me.  By the end of the process, I want to know my deck. And I want to like it.

Eventually, I’ll do all of my ‘pagan-y’ deck prep. For me, that means I’ll cleanse the deck with a smudge. I’ll put it outside under a full moon.

But before I do any of that, I’ll play. A lot.

Which leads me to this question… How do you connect with a new deck?

The Fool's Journey

The New Year and The Fool’s Journey

The beginning of the calendar is a time when we often start on a new path. It could be one of self-improvement, self-discovery or enlightenment. It may last a day, a week or a life-time but it is very common for people to pledge major change on January 1. It is also usually preceded by a planned night of unrestrained behaviour and planned excess. This beginning of the calendar makes me think of the Fool’s Journey.

The Fool

I found it somewhat coincidental that, just a few short days ago, while reading Alain de Botton’s “Religion for Atheists” that I came across a passage describing the festum fatuorum, or the ‘Feast of Fools’.  De Botton describes this as a medieval Church custom in which clergy acted in ways that were in opposition to their regular behaviour. Some of the behaviour he describes involved farting to hymns, speaking nonsensical sermons, attaching phallic symbols to cloaks and gambling on the altar. It allowed a letting go or cleaning of the slate. It acknowledged the playful, chaotic side of human behaviour. It made chaos and debauchery sacrosanct. (I think I’ve had a New Years’ party or two like that!) 🙂

The Fool is about beginnings but it is also about cleaning the slate. It is about jumping off the cliff and letting the journey take us where it may. When we jump, we take very little, if anything, with us. When teaching tarot classes, I often use the term tabula rasa to describe the essence of The Fool. She is associated with Uranus, and is thus the card of liberation, awakening and independence, characteristics often necessary for a successful new beginning.

And, as my Tarot focus shifts and I move into year four of ‘A Magician’s Musings’, so begins a new year and a new Tarot adventure. On a time frame that suits my schedule (very Fool-like), I am going to spend my blog posts this year exploring the Fool’s Journey. I will highlight some common knowledge around this often explored theme of the Tarot but also (hopefully) some new learning as well. I hope you choose to join me on this journey.

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Tarot and the MRI

Tarot and MRIs not related? I beg to differ.

On Friday, I had one. It was to further explore the recurrence of old shoulder injury. The doctor’s office and the hospital had given me a little overview of the process. When I arrived, I waited 90 minutes – they didn’t explain that part – and, upon registration, they informed that I would need to be injected with an X-Ray dye prior to the MRI. The fluid would be inserted directly into my shoulder joint, guided by an X-Ray and a 2 1/2 inch needle. They didn’t explain that part, either.  Understand that, although I am not claustrophobic, my greatest fear is being buried alive so I was already less-than-comfortable with the upcoming MRI experience. The X-Ray preparation did not help the situation.

I knew I’d need to remain still. That was explained ahead of time. No one mentioned just how still. My doctor knows that ‘idle’ is not a speed at which my engine typically runs. When the technician informed me that I’d need to remain perfectly still for 25 minutes, I smiled.  This could be a long afternoon. After the first few minutes, I could sense my muscles twitching. My need to take deep breaths increased. My shoulder began to throb. I became aware of my restricted mobility and wanted to do something about it.  “Stop moving, please!” is barely audible through the sound-blocking headphones she had placed on my head. Although I couldn’t feel myself move, I knew I was struggling and was strongly considering pressing the ‘panic button’ resting in my closed fist. Then I started to picture the four of Swords in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck. The image came to me out of nowhere. It has been an image I’d conjure up if I was having a hard time relaxing but, as the length of time since my last post will attest, I haven’t made much time for the Tarot lately. I immediately entered the card in the same way I’d enter the home of a close but long-ignored friend. I looked around and took in my surroundings. I’ve been here before. My movement ceased almost instantly. A sense of calm came over me. Even the technician noticed and I heard a muffled “Thank you”. The rest of the procedure took place without difficulty.

I had forgotten the impact of those 78 little images I know so well. They have a place in even the most insignificant or unexpected situations; even after what seems like a significant amount of time away. On my way through Erin I stopped by Treehaven and bought the Llewellyn edition of the Gaian Tarot deck to complement my limited edition.

Welcome back, old friend. I’ve missed you.

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Falling Asleep with the Tarot

Hockley Hike

Do you ever have trouble sleeping at night? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with your mind racing and the inability to fall back to sleep?  I use a unique combination of advice I found somewhere on the internet and a Tarot strategy referred to as ‘Entering the Card’ to help me drift back into Slumberland.

I have been contemplating writing this blog entry for quite some time now.  I have always had difficulty falling asleep. I’ve tried various homeopathic, traditional and not-so-traditional remedies (although have never ventured into the realm of the ‘sleeping pill’), meditation, change in routine but all, at some point, seem to fail. Not this latest one, though.

Mary Greer, in her book ‘Tarot for the Self’, describes an activity she calls ‘Entering the Card’. This exercise involves selecting a card, picturing it in one’s imagination, and then entering the card, taking detailed notes from the experience. I have used it many times when working with a new deck, struggling with a particular card or when teaching students.

And, while poking around online a little while ago, I came across a brief article on suggestions to deal with difficulty sleeping. One of the suggestions that resonated with me was a visualization exercise. I was to imagine a peaceful place and then enter it in my mind. It then suggested that I increase the amount of detail that I imagine. For example, if I was near running water, I could see the river and then the small waves on the surface, the small plants breaking the surface of the water, the fallen leaf that floats by. The only thing that did was make me have to go to the bathroom. 🙂
I’m not one for detail in everyday life. Those who know me would probably refer to me as a ‘big picture’ kind of person. It isn’t until I fully understand something that I’ll bother with the detail. So when I tried to visualize some of my favorite relaxing destinations (fall hikes, Hawaii, Corfu Island, the ‘Muskokas’, the ‘Kawarthas’), I had difficulty picturing detail. But I know the Tarot well. And I have worked with a few decks for awhile so I can easily visualize several cards in detail. I began picturing cards that I thought had a peaceful theme (Empress, 4 of Swords, 4 of Cups, The Hermit, The Star, and many of the cards from my Gaian Tarot deck, etc…). I would enter the cards and then stop, look around and let me five senses take over. I would pick up things, note smells, talk to people and, sure enough, sleep came.

Pick a card that you think will work for you. Try it and let me know.  And… sweet dreams!

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Free Teleconference

On Tuesday, July 12th, several of my favourite Tarot people are hosting a  teleconference.  See below for more details. Hope to ‘see’ you there!

“Join James Wells, Joanna Powell Colbert, Bev Haskins, Andrea Mathieson and Jeannette McCullough on this fr*ee teleseminar for an experiential look at the elements of Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Spirit, especially as they appear in decks like the Gaian Tarot.
 
How might the tarot be a means of listening to Gaia’s whispers, cries, and laughter?
 
What is the deeper, larger reason for us to listen to these elements of Nature?
 
We invite you to join us for this call — part meditation, part teaching, part conversation — held in the sacred circle we create in the ethers between our telephone and computer lines.
 
Have any tarot deck with you when you call in — the Gaian, if you have one. If you don’t have a deck, no worries. Just have a symbol of each of the four elements plus Spirit with you during the call.
 
This teleseminar will give you just a hint of what you’ll experience during the Gaian Tarot Retreat this coming October in southern Ontario (www.gaiantarot.com/retreat).  Whether or not you plan to join us then, we look forward to having you on this call. 
 
Tuesday, July 12th, 5PM Pacific / 8PM Eastern
 
To join us on the call, call this number:
(206) 701-8388
Conference ID: 528955#
 
(Check for local dial-in numbers here, including Canada:
http://www.instantteleseminar.com/local/)
 
To Skype in (audio only), dial ”joinconference” from your Skype dial pad and enter the conference ID. Click here to watch video instructions on how to Skype in to a live call.
 
Or, to listen in online, click this link:
http://InstantTeleseminar.com/?eventID=20815986
 
Pass it on! Please invite your friends to join in!”

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Blues, Jazz and the Tarot

I’ve finally done it. After humming and hawing, the Ontario government made the decision for me. The last installment of my HST rebate cheque gave me the push I needed to sign up for the Gaian Tarot Retreat in Ancaster this coming October.  I’m excited about meeting new Gaian Tarot fans as well as ‘workshoping’ with some of my favorite Tarot leaders: Joanna Powell Colbert, James Wells and Bev Haskins.  

For more information, check out the following link: http://www.gaiantarot.com/retreat/index.html

This weekend, Orangeville hosts the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival. Although I didn’t grow up as a fan of either genre, I have developed a soft spot for this festival. I always make it a point to check out several of the dozens of acts that find their way to my neck of the woods at this time of the year and am always impressed by the talent. This morning, before I head out to catch local Blues artist Heather Katz (with my son’s piano/organ/improve teacher playing the keys), and kindly ask the weather gods to bless us with sunshine, I thought about how the Tarot might represent blues and jazz.

I was drawn to two cards from my Gaian Tarot deck: the Elder of Air and the Six of Fire. This card combination seemed to stir passion for those who bend the rules and dance the beat of their own drummer (Six of Fire) but also highlight the level of mastery required to share one’s message with the rest of the world (Elder of Air). The combination of the these two genres links the passionate element of fire with the cerebral element of air. It is a musical genre that touches both the brain and the belly.  I would think musicians who can play both of these genres would have to be exceptionally skilled but also be able to play with abandon.  I compare this to the more reserved energy of a classical musician. (A genre I might represent using the Hierophant from the RWS: doctrine, discipline, rigorous learning).

As I head out a little later this morning, and as 10,000+ people descend on our little town and as I enjoy the musical menu of the day, I just might also look to see if I can find these characters 🙂 . Just food for thought this morning.

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Storytelling with the Tarot

Thoth EmpressOn Wednesday, May 25th, to celebrate World Tarot Day, I led a workshop entitled ‘Demystifying the Tarot’ at a natural food store in Erin called Treehaven.  The small turnout caused a ‘rethink’ of the structure of this workshop. So, three Tarot peeps… me, a woman who had been part of our bi-monthly Tarot study group and another who I had met through the Guelph Occult Meetup group proceeded to spend 2 hours just talking Tarot. I must say, despite my initial disappointment at the turn out, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

We began by simply talking, about our favourite decks, cards we see often in our Tarot work, our past experience with the Tarot and how we work with it. The three of us asked each other questions. We moved to an unstructured comparative look at cards from different decks, looking at the differing symbols and meanings in front of us.

We then moved to a storytelling activity. I can’t give direct credit as to where I got the idea from but I won’t claim it as my own. I know Rachel Pollack does a significant amount of story-based work in the Tarot. Maybe I read it in one of her works. I was also inspired by the teacher-librarian at my school who had shared a storytelling deck with me that she was using in one of our classrooms.  Regardless, I’m sure it’s an adaptation of someone else’s idea.

To prepare for this workshop, I had previously divided the decks I brought into 3 sections: the pips, the courts and the majors.  I suggested we use these 3 piles to tell a story. We selected the Thoth deck and randomly drew our cast of characters from the courts, our theme from the majors and began developing a plot with the pips. It was a great process. At first, we laughed a little at a suggestion that the story might become risqué. We then began the process. The deck shared our sense of humour and offered up the Empress, home of abundance, fertility, and sensuality,  as our theme.

Thoth Queen of CupsWe continued the exercise by drawing the Queen of Cups as our protagonist (a supportive, but at times overemotional and menopausal mother), the Queen of Swords as a secondary character (her sharp-tongued adult daughter – although, upon reflection, maybe her equally sharp-tongued neighbour would have better suited the Queen but, for our purposes, the daughter worked fine) and then began constructing our story. Our starting plot points were the 6 of disks (success) and the 2 of swords (peace).  I believe, had our time not expired, we would have created quite the story; we appeared to be in fine form 🙂

Try the activity. Divide your deck into three sections (pips, courts, majors). Shuffle them well. Begin by drawing a card from each. Remember that your major card will remain the overarching theme of your story. Draw just one. You drew ‘The Fool’? Your story could develop into an adventure story. ‘The Chariot’? A fast-paced story a la ‘Fast and the Furious’.  ‘The Moon’? Could be a little twisted and scary, don’t you think?

You might find that, once you’ve drawn your characters, beginning your story with ‘Once upon a time, there was a …’ and then proceed to describe the character using your knowledge of the Tarot or the image presented on the card. Then make them go somewhere or do something by drawing cards from the pips.  The 6 of swords might take them on a journey over water, the ace of wands might be the sign of a new song idea or the 5 of pentacles might indicate a struggle to make ends meet.

The three of us decided that at some point, we would take this concept further. If you decide to as well, please feel free to post about here.