In this post I will examine some pros and cons for choosing either tarot or runes for a few different purposes. You can of course choose to learn both, but as they are quite different from each other it would also mean it would take twice as much effort. For the purpose of this post I just assume that a standard tarot deck based on RWS is being used.
Both tarot and runes can be used for both magic and divination. I should probably also mention that there have been some attempts to combine the two by making various Viking or Rune tarot decks. I am not a big fan of such attempts for several reasons, but mainly I find that it complicates things if you try to force one system into another system. Let’s just leave it at that and keep them separate. Having that said, I don’t mind as much to bring some tarot knowledge into a runic system and the reason for that is that there are quite a few gaps to fill with the runes. I touch a little upon that subject in this post. Assuming that you have no prior experience with either tarot or runes, learning the runes will therefore take much more effort, but there are some good books to get you started. For example this one I reviewed here.
I have done tarot much longer than runes and personally I prefer tarot as it is a much more developed system. Runes are a lot less visual and they don’t give you many clues to their meaning just by looking at them. I also find that with runes you need to develop your own system and meanings a lot more. There is an abundance of information written on the tarot, but when it comes to the runes there is so little that we know that we have to close the gaps ourselves. It works too, but it requires a lot more effort.
In a standard tarot deck you have 78 cards in contrast to when you are working with the Elder Futhark runes you have 24 runes. My experience so far with experimenting with runes is that it feels less more like they function better on the bigger picture, while the tarot can be used on both the bigger picture and go a bit more into the details. If you only read tarot with the Major Arcana you would probably get a similar result.
I also don’t think it makes a whole lot of sense to do big spreads with runes. When you do the big spreads in tarot, you generally include the Minor Arcana, which make a lot of difference.
So when doing a rune spread, I would probably do something similar to a three card spread in tarot. For example: 1) What influences to let go of 2) What can I expect the situation to look like if I successfully let go of these influences and 3) What new opportunities should I be looking out for. Note that when I use this spread I tend to switch around the positions depending on what phase the moon is in with the first rune or card representing the current moon phase (in the example waning, new moon and waxing moon).
If you are only planning on doing these smaller, more general “big picture” spreads, I find that the runes can be a good tool. If you are looking to do divination professionally, and give readings to customers, I also think that adding rune reading to your repertoire would make you stand out a little bit more in the vast competition. There is definitely something exotic and intriguing about the runes that a lot of people are attracted to.
I cannot really say that tarot or runes work better than the other for magic. There are nearly infinite possibilties of how you could use them in your magical practice, and probably, it is more important how they are being used rather than what is being used.
If you are interested in tarot magic I can recommend Donald Tyson’s “Portable Magic”. It also goes under the title Tarot Magic – Ceremonial Magic: Using Golden Dawn Correspondances. There are a lot of interesting ideas in there.
Personally I find tarot a bit inconvenient if you are going to create talismans etc. As it may mean you need to remove cards from the deck and purchase new decks everytime you want to create a new talisman. It can be quite costly.
If you know the runes you can just carve them into something or paint them. I find that to be a great advantage. In my opinion it’s a lot more flexible and a fun, creative way to work. You can create powerful rune sigils that just look awesome, inspiring and feel magical in themselves. So for me, this isn’t even a close race. Maybe it is just me, but it makes me feel much more involved in what I am doing and everything that brings a little bit of extra enthusiasm into the magical work is usually a good thing.
Ultimately it comes down to personal preference. If you have the time and patience for it learn both. If you are willing to put in the extra effort the runes can really be worth it, especially if feel drawn to norse mythology, vikings and paganism. If I had to pick one of the two, it would be the runes because I consider them to be more flexible, but I do find tarot better for divination.
Edit: This has been in my drafts for a while, but I just never published it.
Sometimes I write posts for others, and sometimes I am mostly writing for myself. This post is mainly something I am writing for myself to sort out my own thoughts. Happiness is probably one of the most discussed topics for mankind through all times. It’s also a concept which many have tried to explain. One of my favorite quotes related to happiness is from the philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau:
Happiness requires three things, a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.
What I like about this quote is that it says nothing explicitly about what happiness is, only three things which are required for it without really being too specific. Still it is simple and easy to understand.
In modern times, the ideology of individualism has gotten an increased importance. My argument is that it began after the 2nd World War when the shock from the two world wars was over and the economy was growing again in Europe. Groups which used to be marginalized got increased individual rights and the possibility to take place in and be heard in a society which traditionally had been ruled by white men. Welfare increased, I am not saying without any issues, but the argument here is that with better economy, social and technological advances it became easier for everyone to break out of the homogenous society and eventually a diverse society of individuals evolved. So before any group that feels marginalized cries out, I realize that many groups think they are quite far from reaching their end goal, but at least we have come quite a long way since the starting point for many of them.
The point here though is about happiness. And my argument is that with the increased diversity and individualism, the idea of what happiness is about, is also more diverse than before. And the focus on the individual has just continued to increase together with advances in technology and economy in particular. What I find interesting though, is that suddenly happiness, for many, doesn’t seem to be that simple anymore that it could fit with that simple quote by Rousseau.
The Modern Idea of Happiness?
The world has most definitely changed with social media. Those of us who have chosen (is it really a choice for many of us though?) to be on social media are constantly bombarded with impressions and statements from every possible direction. At the same time most people try to make a portrait of themselves as successful as possible. The right selfie at the right time is important to us now. Some people are even risking their lives for the likes they get on social media, just so that they can get recognition by others, because that is what brings happiness nowadays, right?
Apparently the worst insult you can say to someone nowadays is: “there is nothing unique about you.”
Today perhaps this version of Rousseau’s happiness would be more fitting:
Happiness requires three things, a good bank account (as long as you can show off your prosperity to others), a good cook (remember to document what, when and where you ate), and a good digestion (be sure to express how healthy and well you feel now with a smile).
I guess most looked over to their neighbour in the past, but I don’t think we have compared ourselves to others as much as we are doing today than anytime before.
So am I going to be that one guy who tries to tell you to get your act together and live a simpler life? Most certainly not. That might work for some people, but for us knowledge seekers who would like to understand the world, it is not a satisfying answer. It must be broken down further so we can understand it.
I don’t think it is possible to find happiness as long as the main focus in on happiness itself. In search for their own happiness many seek to have ambitions. As long as they reach their ambitions, they think that will be satisfied and live a happy life. Then when they fulfill their ambition and realize it does not hold up to their expectations, they realize that they are still not content. Don’t misunderstand me and think that being unambitious can remedy it. Ambition has its uses, but they are not for the pursuit of happiness itself. What I mean is that we are building up our Ego, which is a false self. The Ego can never be satisfied or be content over time. It will always desire more or desire what is lost and cannot be retrieved again. Therefore the Ego is an enemy of happiness.
To free oneself from that and “live a simpler life” is not a simple thing to do. It may mean accepting one’s fate, in the sense that there are circumstances outside of our own control, and that we may have to accept some rather uncomfortable truths in our lives. With social media we seem to have raised the expectations of what we can achieve beyond what’s reasonable.
Having a decent economy so that they can eat healthy and enjoy good health are things that most people in the western world can achieve. It’s fairly basic, but it only relates to things that you to some extent have control over. It does not involve other people with different agendas, which will happen when the desires gets more complicated.
What can the tarot teach us about happiness?
Tarot is of course not a tool that will guide you to a simple path on your way to happiness, but if used correctly, as the tool that it is, it can challenge you to question some parts of your self that might be counterproductive.
This is why I find it so repulsive when people try to lighten up the tarot or even remove the darker aspects of it. I just don’t subscribe to this endless well of positivity that seems to be quite popular in big parts of the New Age or Alternative Movement.
On the other hand it can be equally annoying with people claiming that difficult situations are just a part of a growth process.
I don’t think the tarot is about any of that. It attempts to tell the whole story as it is. What is, simply is. It’s purely descriptive and it is our job to interpret it. If you go through the Major Arcana, you can put together quite a dramatic story. It has been done before and popularized through the “Fool’s Journey”. Some people put a lot of emphasis on it and like to teach beginners, because it makes it a little easier to remember what’s going on in the Major Arcana. I am not sure about its origins, but I think it is a fairly modern invention. Some people like it, some people don’t. The point is that it tells the story of the spiritual development of a character with all its ups and downs.
I am personally quite fond of Søren Kierkegaard’s three stages of existance: the aesthetic stage, the ethical stage and the religious stage of life. You can be content in any of these stages, but Kierkegaard’s argument is that it is not something stable that will be lasting in the first two stages. According to him you need to take a leap of faith and enter the religious stage before you can become truly happy. Kierkegaard was a Christian, so for him it was an attempt to explain why Christianity was important. I don’t think that following Christianity or any other religion is the correct way to happiness, but I do think that they offer some kind of spirituality that will allow people to deal with the hardships of life.
The Major Arcana can be split up into 3 equal parts 1-7, 8-14 and 15-21. The Fool is left out, as it is both the beginning and the end. I think it is quite plausible to add Kierkegaard’s three stages to them. The religious stage would be the last of the three categories as this is the part that deals with existensial crisis and spiritual questions. It is here that some of the darkest cards of the tarot appear such as The Devil and the Tower. On the other hand, it is also here that some of the most positive cards appear such as the Star and the Sun, and at the end The World (I prefer the Universe).
So how can tarot really help us towards happiness? It reminds us that there are no shortcuts to the ultimate goal. Once we accept who we are and focus on our own journey or development all these other factors or disturbances don’t really matter anymore. It forces you to accept that there will be some hardships, but also better times. Accepting both are equally important. It is impossible to be happy if everything needs to be perfect all the time, but it is also impossible to find happiness without hope or the celebrations of some achievements. Tarot is of course not necessary, but it is a tool that can be used as a reminder for or as a guide to self development. It is easy to get distracted towards something else without a focus point. As stated in the article I linked to above: “Kierkegaard believed one should look to oneself and in that relationship look to Christ as the example instead of looking at others because the more you look at others the less you see of yourself.”
It’s also important to keep in mind that it is just a tool. As the Chinese proverb says: “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.”
I don’t think my thoughts here are either new or revolutionary. Yet we seem to live an age where people look more to others than ever before rather than concentrating on themselves. This kind of ego-driven individualism where it is more important to look good in the eyes of everyone else is counterproductive and in some cases even dangerous. There are so many bad things coming with it such as virtue signaling and political correctness, which can be a very dangerous unless the values that are being promoted are sometimes questioned. I think we need diversity. Accepting something, does not mean that it has to be something you agree with or something that you like.
If everyone looks to others for their own happiness and need their acknowledgement for it, then I don’t think it is possible to ever become truly happy. We also end up being very similar to one another and most likely trying to put on our brave masks in public, while in reality we probably (at some point at least) feel quite empty inside.
Rousseau was right, you don’t really need much more than a good bank account, a good cook and a good digestion.
-Thus Spake the Night Spirit
Have you ever been out in nature all by yourself and felt like the wind, the trees and the animals are trying to tell you the same story, but all in their own unique way?
It’s here! The last deck in the Thelema trilogy with artwork by Renata Lechner and published by Lo Scarabeo. About a year ago I wrote my review of the Arcanum Tarot deck and now it is time for a review of the last deck in the series.
As with the other decks in the trilogy it comes with a nice box and a small booklet. The box is sturdy, and will protect your deck, so it isn’t necessary to get a tarot pouch for it. I find that to be a big plus. Besides the box itself is nice looking with images taken from the deck. I wonder if they are randomly chosen or if they are among the artist’s personal favourites. In my previous review I mentioned that I did not find the booklet that interesting. I don’t know if its writer Jaymi Elford read my review (probably not), but this time around the booklet is a whole lot more interesting.
This time it left me feeling quite impressed. I will not go into details of it, as I think you should get the deck if you find it interesting, however I will say as much that they present an elemental alignment spread. Instead of shuffling the whole deck together you shuffle each suit and the Major Arcana separately and position the cards in the formation of a pentagram. It’s a very interesting idea and I am looking forward trying it out for myself. It definitely felt like the booklet gave me something extra. Very nice!
Unlike the two previous decks in the trilogy, the Millennium Thoth Tarot is based upon Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot. The booklet provided points out the differences made by Aleister Crowley and the traditional RWS deck, which is great for those not already familiar with the Thoth deck. A bit sloppy though that his name is misprinted in the booklet. It’s a minor thing and not really something I care about, but it should have been possible to get it right.
Artwork and Symbolism:
The artwork continues with the same style as the previous decks in the trilogy with borderless cards and the title situated at the bottom of the card.
The artwork is of course based on the Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley, and those who are familiar with it, can recognize the artwork and symbolism from there. I cannot claim that I understand all of the symbolism in the Thoth Tarot, as it is very complex, and Aleister Crowley struggled to write simply. It seems to me though that Renata Lechner has done a good job with it. They are quite rich in symbolism, but there are a couple of cards where some elements from the original Thoth seem to be missing, For example the Lovers and the Aeon cards (The Aeon card looks absolutely stunning though!).
In my opinion these are also some of the most difficult cards to understand in the Thoth deck. Even Crowley himself states in the Book of Thoth that the Lovers and Art are two of the most obscure and difficult trumps. I also think a lot of people find the Aeon card hard to break into.
In any case, I don’t think you would get the Millennium Thoth Tarot unless you already have an interest in Crowley’s tarot, so it could make for some interesting comparison and contemplating sessions where you examine both decks at the same time. And I don’t think that there are differences will be any major issue. I find the deck to be quite true to the original symbolism of the Thoth Tarot.
As with the two previous decks in the trilogy I really like the visual style. Again, because of the art style some of them might come across with a bit of a feminine vibe (although maybe slightly less so than the previous two in the trilogy?). It’s not much of an issue though. The only card I personally don’t like so much is the Magus. He shows a lot of skin in Crowley’s version too, but as it is not as photo realistic it becomes less prominent. Here he reminds me a bit too much of the Knights of Flowers from the Game of Thrones TV-series.
The Court Cards also follow the Thoth Tarot with Princesses, Princes, Queens and Knights rather than the standard Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings from the RWS.
The Minor Arcana cards are also looking great, but I disagree a little with the design of these. The reason for that is that in Crowley’s Thoth the Minor Arcana cards had titles, but they have been omitted from the Millennium Thoth Tarot. The Minor Arcana cards in the Thoth deck is quite abstract compared to regular RWS tarot, so it makes it a lot more difficult to remember the cards. I find that the card title helps a little bit with it, but as they are omitted here it there will be quite a bit more to memorize. Abstract images are also more difficult to connect to intuitively.
The Magus, The Lovers and the Aeon from the Millennium Thoth Tarot
The Millennium Thoth tarot is a great addition to my tarot collection, and it is probably a deck that I will be using quite a bit. Some decks I enjoy just because they look nice and never use them, but this one has plenty of interesting symbolism and great artwork. It is much prettier than the original Thoth, which is why I find it appealing to me.
I would not get it however, unless you already have the original Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley. It is somewhat necessary to remember the Minor Arcana titles from that deck, so it would be good to have both decks so that you can compare and see the similarities or else it is going to take a lot of difficult memorizing work to remember everything. The thing is that as they are so abstract, that I don’t find it that simple to connect to them intuitively.
In my previous review of the Arcanum Tarot, I suggested that you could mix the different cards you like the most of the trilogy. When I wrote that, I did not realize that the Millennium Thoth Tarot would be based this closely on the Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, so I would advice against that now. I suppose it is still possible, but it would feel a bit more messy now with different titles and the order of the Major Arcana not being the same.
The booklet also suggests that you need a little bit of patience with tarot, and I agree with that in particular for this deck. If you do give it some time and patience, I think that its deep symbolism and nice artwork will feel very rewarding. Just don’t choose it as your first tarot deck, as it may be a little bit on the complex side and might discourage you. If you are really interested in the Crowley Thoth Tarot, get that one first if you don’t have it already, then get the Millennium Thoth Tarot next.
All in all I am positively surprised by this deck. Unexpectedly it will probably stand out as my favorite deck in the trilogy, as I am using Crowley’s Thoth quite a bit. I had also not expected such a new (to me at least) idea in the booklet. So It was definitely worth getting for me.
Millennium Thoth Tarot (2019) by Renata Lechner. Published by Lo Scarabeo.
I never really liked the term tarot master, because it gives you the idea that there is some kind of ladder involved that you can climb to improve your skills. It is true that you can improve your skills and knowledge of the tarot, but it is nearly impossible to measure it. I suppose it is quite measureable to analyze your hit/miss right for divinations, but is that all that counts?
It is my belief, that the more skilled you become with the tarot, the more you realize that divination is only a small part of what you can do with it. Reading about it and continuing working with it will in itself be rewarding.
When I picked up my first tarot deck it was of course the divination that I found the most exciting. Let’s be honest, it is probably the most exciting work you can do in the short term. You get an instant answer to your question and you may get feedback from clients. In this day and age where we live with social media and are used to get constant confirmation of our ego by others, it feels very good to feel that rush from a successful divination and positive feedback from an inspired patron.
I don’t deny that is fun and a great feeling, but if someone would ask me what my most valuable experiences with the tarot would be, it would not be those divination sessions. It would probably be the knowledge that I know I can acquire if I am willing to commit to keep studying and using the tarot. For example, if I take the fool card and ask myself how can I apply the ideas from this card into my life?
My answer to that is that it reminds me that I can allow myself to approach situations in life with a childlike curiosity and allow myself to make some mistakes while learning something new. It does not mean that I should be careless and irresponsible, but most of the time making some mistakes doesn’t really matter that much. And in many cases you will also learn from them and improve your skill.
When I first started out with tarot, I did not realize that you can get valuable lessons or advice from the tarot just by contemplating. It can be done with any card in the deck and it gets even more interesting when you put together cards that belong together. The lessons you gain from that can take a long time to comprehend though. When I did that for “The other part of Venus” post I wrote, I had no idea that it would take me a year to even get a grasp on how to approach the next part of the post. And I am not even sure if I have understood enough yet to write out the second part quite yet.
For me at least that is one of the deeper and more profound experiences that I have had with tarot.
I have also attempted to use tarot in spirit communication and felt that it has been a good tool for me to have there. Particularly, because I am not a person who tend to have a lot of visions or hear voices. I suppose this is not quite an unexpected way, but I included it anyway.
I also believe that you don’t really need to be particularly spiritual to benefit from tarot. It’s basically a deck full of ideas and can help to map out a difficult situation and challenge you to try and see something from different angles. I can understand though that it will be difficult for someone who isn’t all that spiritual to use a tool that is heavily connected to spirituality. But it can be done.
If you haven’t tried to use tarot for something else than divination, just give it a chance. Maybe the results will surprise you.
No, this is not meant to be a tribute to the Bon Jovi song. I quite like that song by the way, but it has also been the question for this blog for some time. I have not produced any new content in quite a while and that is what I wish to write about today.
Writing a blog has in my opinion several good side effects. It helps out to structure thoughts, experience ideas and in some ways it can also function as some sort of therapy. Usually I get the spirit over me and write when I feel passionate about something.
I am passionate about spirituality and philosophy, but when it comes to these things one has to understand that is something for the long term. I don’t think of or deal with these subjects all the time. In fact, sometimes it is better to do other stuff and then come back and revisit the ideas. After I started out with my post called “The Other Side of Venus – part 1” I realized that it was a very difficult exercise. Usually a spiritual realization on complex subjects don’t happen over night or during the course of a week. In fact, it took me several months with occasionally revisiting the subject before I could even begin to think of what part 2 will look like. Maybe I will feel more ready to write it soon.
Spiritual growth is for the long term and cannot be rushed, but to me it doesn’t mean that the blog is dead. I do think however, that I will make some changes, and expand my subjects a little bit beyond the tarot. For me the tarot is just a tool and if I was going to write about it all the time I would feel limited by it. It is a tool that I can use to teach me lessons in spirituality and obtain new spiritual insights, but it is not about the cards themselves. It is a representation of ideas, and a tool to help show the way, but they are, in my opinion, not the way itself.
There are so many people who are fixated on the tarot itself and put limitation on themselves to think that it is only a tool for divination. Sure, it can be definitely used that way, but I would argue that it is mainly a distraction from the true potential of the tarot. Let go of the divinatory meanings. It is not what tarot is about. Rather try and see each card as a story and when you put them together you are creating a story. In practice you are putting different symbolic ideas together. If you look at tarot in that way, it doesn’t really even mean much what kind of background you come from. You could call yourself religious or spiritual, and I think that even with an atheist background it is possible to gain insights from the tarot. Ironically, I think it would also lead to better divinatory results to see the tarot in this way.
So I have decided that I will write some posts that don’t deal with the tarot at all, but of philosophy and spirituality in general. After all the tarot, in my opinion, is mainly a tool to advance within these areas. It doesn’t mean that I will not also continue to write about tarot though.
-Thus spake the Night Spirit
Super full moon. There are either some lighting disturbances here or I just did not bother to clean my lens properly. It was hard to get a “clean” picture.
In these posts I will have a look at the three cards from the Major Arcana connected to the sphere of Venus and examine them together. Those three cards are III – The Empress, V – The Hierophant and XI – Justice (alternatively VIII – Adjustment). Please note that these posts will be rather experimental.
What I want to achieve with this exercise is to show that there are other sides to Venus than what a lot of people realize. A lot of people only think of the Empress card and what is traditionally connected to that card when they think of Venus. That is obviously not wrong, but my opinion is there is a whole lot more to Venus than that.
In the Orphic Hymns there is one hymn dedicated to Justice, which I think describes the relationship between some parts of Venus quite well. The tarot card Justice is linked to Venus through Libra. These are the last few lines of that hymn:
Hear, O goddess.
rightly shatter wicked men,
so that mortals who eat
of the fruits of the earth
and also all living creatures
nursed in the bosom
of Earth, the divine mother,
nursed in the bosom of sea-dwelling Zeus,
may follow a path
both balanced and noble.
First it speaks of the shattering of wicked men. This shattering does not happen for the sake of shattering wickedness alone. It has a very concrete function. It works this way to make way for that all living creatures can enjoy the fruits of the earth in peace. And that brings to me to one important aspect of the Justice card.
Aleister Crowley decided to rename the Justice card for his Thoth deck and in the Book of Thoth he makes some reasonable arguments for it. Justice as such, is a very human concept, and to be fair we humans don’t really do the best job of agreeing exactly what justice is. Therefore he renamed the card to “Adjustment” and argued that “nature isn’t just, but it adjust.” What is meant by that is quite simply that everything has a cause and an effect. Essentially this is a way to understand what karma is. You make a small push on something and it can set a chain of effects in motion. When you pour a bowl of water over a stone, the water adjusts and moves around the stone, because such are the laws of nature. And it is this mechanism of cause and effect that the Justice card really describes. Maybe it is putting a little bit too much into the Justice card to have it as a personified idea. At least, I think so. But it does fit in quite well with the hymn and the other qualities of Venus.
If you picture yourself a kingdom, your own if you like, the traditional role of Venus is associated with the production of all kinds (fertility, fruitfullness etc.) within the kingdom. The role of Justice in this case would be to ensure that any kind of production at all can take place. Mars would be protecting the kingdom towards any external threats, but Justice is also helping keeping the kingdom together internally. Not necessarily through formal laws, but through norms and even natural selection.
In Galatians 6 in the Bible there is a famous quote “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
Also here there the idea of karma (in the sense of cause and effect) is linked to production. And, I really do not think it is random. Although, the Bible does of course not make any such links to Venus explicitly. Christianity made sure to remove any practices related to celebrating earth and fertility, which is one reason that many pagan traditions still lived on, but that is entirely another discussion.
Although Venus has been associated with friendship, love and so on, it also has a more raw and unforgiving side to it. Karma can at times be quite brutal. It isn’t something beautiful, but it is necessary to keep order. Without it, it would be difficult for all living creatures to enjoy the fruits of the earth as described in the hymn. It is also the mechanism behind evolution and the survival of the fittest. Mother Nature isn’t just (at least she doesn’t feel that way to humans), but she adjusts all the time. Also notice how the hymn ends with the words “balanced” and “noble”. Mother Nature always seek balance.
I will stop here for now, and I have yet to talk about the Hierophant which is linked to Venus through Taurus. Let me know your thoughts in the comments where you think this card fits into all of this. I have some ideas, which I will need to refine a little for the next post. It has been a challenging, but nice exercise this far…
-Thus spake the Night Spirit
The Empress, the Hierophant and Adjustment from the Thoth deck.
It’s been a few days since my last update. My energy hasn’t been the best (illness) and the topics I have in my drafts aren’t the easiest posts to write. So I decided to go with this topic to get started again.
I do not come from a background where I claim everything related to tarot or the occult for that matter to be a product of psychology. But, I will disagree with everyone who claims that their deck of cards has energy. There are multiple reasons for this and number one is what is meant by “energy”? Which energy is it? Who does it belong to? I just don’t find it to be very specific.
The second reason is if the tarot is supposed to be made up of all kinds of different energies in the universe then how can that be one definable energy? There are several inconsistencies here and many of them seem to be fairly popular. Of course not everyone thinks tarot works that way, but there are surprisingly many.
The third is that the tarot is made up of archetypes. None of these are complete or perfect here on the physical plane. So the cards in themselves cannot contain that energy. They are only representations of these ideas.
Those ideas you can argue can be called different types of “energies”, but they aren’t manifested in the cards and will not radiate with their energy. If that was the case you could have been doing tarot readings without even looking at the cards and then flip them over later to see if you got them right.
Having that said I still think it is important to treat the cards with care and respect. They are after all the tools we use to connect to the divine and open our channels for information, but my point here is, the cards are the tools, and you are the channel for the information they bring. It is you that make that special connection to the divine.
Some people are also afraid to let others touch their cards. I am less sure about if that has any effect , because I have not had many touch mine and then done a reading for myself or someone else straight after, but in my experience it has had no effect at all when a longer time has passed. Even if there is something to it, I would at best compare it to when you spray a little bit of perfume into a room with good ventilation.
I pulled this book out of my collection of books. Sometimes you come across some strange and interesting titles and “Tarot & Magic” by Donald Michael Kraig is one of those curious titles. Often books on tarot are very focused on methods for tarot reading. This book however attempts to look at different ways to use the tarot deck.
First a few words about the author. Donald Michael Kraig was a tarot master and practicing occultist. He was the author of the popular “Modern Magick – Twelve Lessons in the High Magickal Arts” which is a really good introduction to Golden Dawn-style classical magick. In that book he also ties together tarot practice and the kabbalah and gives some cool exercises you can do with tarot to try and gain a deeper understanding of the cards.
That is a really good book, which comes highly recommended. When I say highly recommended, it means that it is a good introduction. Not that I necessarily agree with everything that is written there, but it is a good starting point of doing your own studies and could help you to spark that interest. Plus that if you have an interest in tarot it will be adressed there. Many books on the occult choose to ignore the tarot completely.
As that book is not exclusively about the tarot, he also wrote the book “Tarot & Magic” which is an attempt to put the tarot into a magickal context. My version is the first edition, second printing from 2003. Originally I think it was released back in 2002.
What I like about this book is that it is very different from most other books about the tarot. It does not focus on card meanings or tarot reading at all. This one is purely about tarot and how it more specifically relates to magical practice. It says that it is intended for those who already have some experience with the tarot and magic, but honestly, it is not all that complicated. Maybe it would be good to have a general idea about the tarot, but it is not so complex that any in-depth knowledge is required. A basic understanding of the cards should be more than sufficient and anything more than that can be developed through studying.
In total there are nine chapters covering nine very different topics. Unfortunately, that is also the issue I am having with this book. It is only 175 pages long and some chapters are more interesting than others. Those chapters that are interesting could have been more in-depth and when you read it, you will only feel that you have scratched the surface. I suspect that this was also the author’s own intention as there is a chapter dedicated to “Tarot and Magic – continual evolution” which encourage people to experiment on their own and develop their own methods.
And when I say that some chapters are more interesting than others, I also find that to be one of the problems with this book. There are a whole lot of very different ideas in here and you will not like them all. Normally, I would say, that is not an issue when reading a book as it usually stays on one topic. Tarot & Magic doesn’t. If you are interested in Ceremonial Magic, you are not interested in reading about Wiccan tarot spells. And a Wiccan is probably not interested in reading about kabbalistic pathworking or ceremonial magic spells. The book would probably benefit from a little bit more focus and go a little bit more in-depth on certain topics instead of trying to appeal to practioners of every kind.
The result is that I find 3 chapters really interesting, a couple chapters are okay and the rest are largely irrelevant. Chapter 4 called “Dancing the Tarot” was my anti-climax and nearly made me put the book down, but I am glad I didn’t. The book is only 175 pages long to begin with and with so much content that will not be relevant to you, there is not all that much you will find to be of any substance.
There’s also a bibliography for further reading, which is great, but it is not sorted after the chapters, so it can be a little bit difficult to understand which books are relevant for the topics you are interested in.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad book. After having read it I sit back with a feeling of wanting more. It will spark your curiosity, it will drive you to have a go at it. And I suspect that was also the main goal of the author writing the book. In the closing comments of the book he even writes “If you are a Tarot reader now, learn to use the Tarot for magic and share your techniques with your clients. Also share them with other Tarot readers. Start websites and magazines with ideas for doing Tarot magic. If they are modifications or additions to what I have presented here, fine. If they are new and different concepts, even better.”
My closing comment is that it is an affordable book with some interesting ideas. It is nowhere near as good as his book “Modern Magick”, but if you take it for what it is, and don’t expect it to give you a full intoduction into tarot magic, and can accept that it will only will present you with some ideas, that you will need to work on and develop yourself, then this can be a good book to pick up at an affordable price. I suspect that after “Modern Magick” a lot of people would have expected something different, but Tarot & Magic isn’t a new “Modern Magick” on the subject of tarot magic. It is still a decent book on the subject though.
-Thus spake the Night Spirit
First Edition, second printing 2003 paperback edition
I am not sure how many reviews I will be doing on this blog. I guess it depends a little on whether I get any feedback from it and people seem interested in them. I suppose there are plenty of people doing reviews already. I only recently got this deck and as it was released in April 2018, I thought why not.
The first thing I want to say about this deck is that it is created by an artist called Renata Lechner and that it is the second deck in a planned trilogy of tarot decks. The first one was released in 2015 and is called the Thelema Tarot (it has nothing to do with Aleister Crowley’s religion. It’s similar in name only. It doesn’t even follow Crowley’s swaps for the Thoth deck). The Arcanum was recently released in 2018 and a third deck called the “Millennium Thot Tarot” is due to be released either in 2019 or 2020. It is therefore difficult not to compare them to each other and talk a little bit about both decks released thus far. The review is meant for the Arcanum Tarot, but most of what I say here will be applicable for the Thelema Tarot as well.
I don’t know anything about Renata Lechner or any of her ideas around the tarot, so this review will be based on how I experience the deck and my own tarot knowledge.
Arcanum Tarot, as the Thelema Tarot, comes with a neat little box that protect the cards. It is definitely a nice upgrade from most other decks which only get a simple box. This box offers some additional protection for the cards and it looks quite nice too. It also comes with a small color-printed booklet with brief meanings of the card meanings written by Jaymi Elford. You don’t get this deck for the booklet though. I don’t find it descriptive enough to be of any particular interest, but could be of use if you need to be guided to what you see on the images.
The artwork was what brought the Thelema tarot to my attention and the Arcanum tarot continues the trilogy in a similar style. Visually they look quite similar to each other. Both are borderless with the title of the card neatly situated at the bottom of the card. and have rich colorful style with almost photo realistic images. The cardback has a nice design, but I don’t think it is meant to symbolize anything in particular. I think it is just a fantasy design that looks quite cool. At least, it doesn’t tell me anything.
I think the artwork is the main strength of this deck. Most of the images are really beautiful with a nice colorful and glossy print.And I think I prefer the artwork in the Thelema deck slightly over this one. The aesthetics of both the decks give me a slight feminine vibe, which I think is the case with a lot of visually pleasing tarot decks.
For some of the cards that might even be an issue. They can perhaps be a little too beautiful when they are supposed to communicate a little bit more of their raw energy, but generally it is not too much of a problem.
Arcanum Tarot at the top and Thelema Tarot at the bottom. The three first cards hint at a future blog post and Temperance I just added, because it’s my favorite tarot card from any deck.
Neither the Thelema Tarot or Arcanum Tarot have the esoteric symbols added on to them. There is space to add them yourself if you want, but I am not a fan of adding my own ugly handwriting to my cards.
It seems to be based on the traditional Rider-Waite Smith symbolism and the cards have the same names and numberings as in that deck.
The images here are a little different from the Rider-Waite Smith deck and that makes it a little bit more difficult at times to capture the essence of the cards. Subtle differences can sometimes make a significant impact on how the cards are being perceived. Some cards are also quite far from the traditional images
If you are very familiar with the Rider-Waite Smith you will recognize them though, but it also means that you probably need that Rider-Waite Smith knowledge in place already to use this deck properly.
If you already have the Thelema tarot, and you like that one. I would consider getting this deck too. If you don’t already own the Thelema tarot, I would probably consider getting that one first. Not only is it the first deck in the trilogy, but I also think its imagery is a little bit better.
The beautiful artwork is the main reason to get any of those two decks. They’re both not great for symbolism, but it works quite ok if you already are familiar with Rider-Waite Smtih.
Big plus for the nice box that comes with it. Definitely something more publishers should be doing and it saves you from buying extra tarot pouches.
The card quality is also good and I am not afraid to use these cards (just don’t put them under your pillow while sleeping).
Another idea, that I guess some tarot purists will hate, would be to take the favorite cards from each deck of the trilogy and put them together to your own super-deck with the cards that resonate the most with you. They are all the same size, so it would work.
Overall I am glad to have both Thelema Tarot and Arcanum Tarot in my collection. As the decks are both visually pleasing I find that they are great for tarot contemplation sessions for those cards that I think capture their essence in a great way.
Tarot is in my experience a rather unforgiving tool. It will try and force you to be honest with yourself and your situation whether you like it or not. And that is probably why it by some people has received a darker reputation. Some people try to remedy that by creating decks where all the cards have had their negative meanings removed. I don’t agree with that at all. Cards like the Tower, the Devil, the 9 and 10 of Swords etc all have their uses. Rather than trying to remove the negative message that these bring I think it is more important to meet them with acceptance and an open mind.
Even if one or more of these mentioned cards reveal themselves in a tarot spread, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a looming disaster around the corner. That is probably number one to remember when these appear. The second thing is of course that they can appear very dramatic and the message they bring is often not the most positive. The Tower for example has probably the most sinister reputation of all the tarot cards. Usually it is pictured by a tower in a thunderstorm struck down by a lightning strike. Many people are frightened by thunderstorms too and it is not so difficult to understand why when you experience these powerful forces of nature. They often tend to focus on its destructive forces though. I rather see it as a tension that has been built up which finally gets its release. After the thunderstorm the air feels so fresh again. And I think it is the same when the Tower finds its way into a tarot reading. The cards are always meant to be read together to create a context (a reason why I am not very fond of one card readings).
The Tower is attributed to the planet Mars, which has resolution through conflict as one of its domains. The keyword here is resolution, not conflict. The conflict is just a method to find a resolution. Sometimes there can be other ways to find that resolution, but sometimes you find yourself in a deadlock and the solution comes through some kind of conflict. The tarot was never designed to deal with people’s everyday problems, even though it can help out with that. There is so much more to it. On a grander scale for example you can see how The Emperor relates to the Tower through the martian energies – the ruler that goes to war to settle a dispute.
My point is that I think it is more constructive to try and understand the forces in the cards and what kind of function they have in the universe. Once that is understood, it is also easier to relate to the cards on a more personal level in a tarot spread. When you realize that it has a function and although it might not be pleasant, the universe did not put it there to make your life miserable or more difficult.
I freely admit that I was not thrilled when the Death card appeared in my own yearly spread for 2018. I did not like it back in January, and I still don’t like it now that it is May. I feel somewhat resistant to any grand changes in my life right now, but maybe something happens so I don’t get to choose during the summer period. And if that happens I only have the option to accept it, transform and adapt. But I am not thrilled about it – even if it long term would benefit me. Short term it sounds like a lot of work and hassle. It’s just how things are. That’s the thing though, while it doesn’t mean that everything will go all south for me, it doesn’t mean that I need to embrace it and be all excited about any changes either. It could be something quite neutral.
And I think that is a very viable option when those difficult cards appear – to accept that it doesn’t have to be all black and white, good or bad. It’s so very human of us to feel the need to relate to something as either good or bad for us. It’s so coded into us that when we learn a new language some of the first words we learn are “Yes” and “No” and “Good” and “Bad”. As you get more proficient in a language more opportunities open up to express yourself in a more complex way and gain deeper understanding. And that is how tarot works too. In a way, it is its own symbolic language.