A Cock & Bull Tarot: The Minchiate Etruria

I love Italy a lot. At least I love a lot of Italian things: the food (divine), the art (frighteningly brilliant), antiquities (just such a lot of it), opera (because FEELINGS), the men (well they ARE very well-groomed & know how to drive a Vespa), faux-antique tea trays (yes, they’re a Thing & JUST LEAVE ME ALONE), and above all, Italian cards. Come to think of it, I hardly use any other decks anymore: the Soprafino tarot, the Vera Sibilla oracle (about which I will tell you more in the future), and pretty much my first big tarot love: the Minchiate Etruria (say Ming-kee-AH-tay. Which looks surprisingly like Chinese but it isn’t. Honest!). Although it never really went away from my practice I’m getting reacquainted with it at present, and so I reckoned you might feel like joining me for a light Italian summer snack.

I found my beloved Etruria about nine years ago in a cheap bookstore amid a batch of Lo Scarabeo leftovers, a print from 1996. The original deck itself saw the light in 1725 in Florence, Italy. It was my first non-RWS deck, and it was quite a departure. But I loved everything about it: the baroque art, the bewildering amount of strange majors (or trionfi), the sporadically illustrated pips. Even the LWB that gave meanings so unlike the high-flown esoteric reading style I was used to. Although at first I struggled to make sense of it, when I found The Minchiate Tarot by the late Brian Williams I fell in love even more. This brilliant book (which I will use as the main source for the discussion below) not only explores in great detail the iconographic context & history of these cards, but it also emphasizes its earthy, self-assured, even cocky nature. The book also comes with a modern Minchiate deck illustrated by the author. Recommended!
 
The name Minchiate seems to have been derived from a (lost) gaming term, as originally it was played as a game, a variant of tarocchi . But it also sounds the same as an obscene expletive, or disparaging term for trifles or nonsense. In Dutch we would probably say gelul, talking out of your dick. In English ‘cock & bull’ would be the nearest expression. Not inappropriate for a worldly, chatty, confident & proudly Florentine deck! So let’s take a closer look.
 
The Minchiate Fiorentina is but one of many tarot variants strewn along the path of what we now know as the traditional tarot deck, of which Marseille-type decks are probably the best-known (I will go with the term traditional deck or tarot for clarity’s sake when comparing the Minchiate). The Minchiate deck did not evolve slowly over time like other regional patterns, but it was invented all at once somewhere early in the 16th century. It continued to flourish throughout the 17th & 18th centuries (hence the Etruria edition), and remained a living game until the 1900s. As there is a lot of excellent information about the Minchiate to be found for the enthusiastic student such as this excellent article by Benebell Wen whom we should all adore), I will limit myself here to the trumps & their most glaring divergences from the mainstream tradition.
 
Firstly, the sheer number of trionfi: there are 41 instead of the usual 22. Because of this it is more or less traditional to read trumps & pips separately. I myself hardly bother with the pips when reading this deck. So what are the extras? Well, in addition to the three ecclesiastical Virtues present in the traditional decks (Temperance, Strength, Justice), we also have the four cardinal Virtues as first described by Aristotle: Hope, Prudence, Faith, Charity. This alone firmly makes the Minchiate a product of the Renaissance with its renewed interest in the Classics. Another series of added cards are the twelve signs of the Zodiac, although no one knows how to explain the random order in which they appear. Furthermore we have the Four Elements. 
 
Cards that iconographically diverge from the Marseille-type, but not from Italian pre-Marseille cards, are Wheel of Fortune, Chariot, Time, Hanged Man, Death, Devil, Tower. Time replaces the Hermit, and depicts an elderly male figure on crutches, surrounded by Saturnine symbolism such as the hourglass & kneeling stag. The Tower is traditionally called the House of the Devil (or God, whichever you prefer), and depicts a nude woman running out of a burning building.
 
Curiously the first five trumps (after the Fool) are called I Papi (the Popes), even though there is no Pope to be found! Instead we have two Emperors: the Western & Eastern Emperor. The Popess seems to have been replaced by the Grand Duke, of which both the name & nature are uncertain. It seems that he started out as a Popess or Empress-like figure, but morphed into an androgynous-looking young male. I therefore read him as an ambiguous, mutable figure, capable of change & growth, but also deception. 
 
There is no Empress either, but before anyone complains about the gender balance in this deck: the Chariot depicts a nude Victory instead of the usual Martian male, the angel in Fame (Judgement, about which more in a minute) is distinctly female, and the four cardinal Virtues are of course all ladies as well. Moreover, the pip suits of Coins & Cups have Fantine (maidens) instead of Pages. So there.
 
A number of trumps have quite distinct iconographies as compared to traditional decks. However, I’m picking my two favourites here: the World & Fame, which replaces Judgement. The World does not depict a simpering world soul enshrined in a floating bower, but a fully nude Amor triumphantly standing on the Globe, bearing his arrow & a crown. This harks back to the Love card, in which a kneeling lover receives a crown from either the object of his adoration or the Goddess of Love herself (and who is to say those two are different beings?), while being shot at by Amor. Love makes the World go round is what these cards are saying, and what a glorious, perilous affair it is. 
 
However, to the Florentine mind this is not even the highest ideal yet: the final trump is Fama, Fame, also called the Angel or the Trumpets. In the Etruria deck this angel is a woman blowing on two trumpets, floating above a recognizable Florence, and sporting the De’Medici family crest. So still better than Love is Fame, when the whole city (which is the whole world you need anyway, at least when you live in Florence) talks about you. Even if it’s only cock & bull. No such thing as bad publicity, right?
 
My love for the worldly message of this deck has NO BOUNDS, people: no Pope or Popess, Amor ruling the world, and what your neighbours say about you completely negates the Judgement at the End of Days. 
And that’s before even trying to read them! 
 
So let’s look at an example. This is a reading I recently did for a client. As you can see I added charms to this reading, which are very well received by the baroque images of the Etruria. This is the ‘traditional’ spread from the LWB: three trumps for the main story, more or less past-present-future, but to be read loosely as a story. Four pips around it, past, present, future developments or challenges, and outcome.
 
The client felt at a loss about where her life should be going: to leave her situation including her relationship, or not? To me, World at the centre with Amor on top of a crossroads of sorts, reflects this conundrum. The figure is holding the Cross & the Heart charms, meaning a choice between shouldering the burden & following your heart. Amor being at the heart of this reading is significant in itself of course. The Mask covering his face indicates that the querent does not feel the love anymore, and she feels fake & insincere. 
 
Taurus to the left, looking wistfully at the Chariot that I pulled as a sight card, shows that the querent has found stability that they now find stifling (Elephant, Cloud), and would rather move along (Star charm). Also, the Chariot explains why the querent is reluctant to move from a secure spot, after some abrupt movement earlier on. However, from the cards to the right it is clear that she will eventually make the dreaded move: House of the Devil shows a woman running from a dire situation, with the Man charm covering the figure pulling her back in.
 
The woman figure got the Oyster & Pearl charm, showing that deep down she already knows that she needs to leave. The Water card shows the Ship, meaning a new adventure, and also a literal journey. So she will definitely move away. The Ship also got the Compass, meaning a new direction. With the Roman numeral X at the heart of the Chariot, the World crossroads, and the Compass, this means three Crossroads in a row. Obviously there is a lot of emphasis on choosing a new path.
 
Looking at the pips, we see the painful situation that the querent has left behind, before she found her present stability that has now turned stagnant: Three of Swords, with Dragon covering the wolf that suckles the children. This situation was toxic, not nurturing, and she did well to leave it behind (Skull, Dagger). In the present we find the Seven of Cups, with four accompanying charms. The Cups show an illusory relationship, and the Lion staring at the Moon & Ring but ignoring the Apple that would actually nurture him tells us that the querent is using her Strength to keep herself in an unhealthy situation. 
 
We already saw that she will likely move away, and if she does so she will receive a gift, as illustrated by the Three of Coins. She will be dealt a lucky Hand, and find a nurturing & prosperous situation (Peacock/Empress). Moreover, with the Seer’s Eye & the Hand of Cards, the Three indicates that she will be able to expand her card reading business some more. 
 
The outcome looks very good indeed: the Eight of Coins shows her happy & secure amid a warm community. With Butterfly & Raven it is clear that her ancestral spirits are fully on board with this transformation. Locket & Witch Plant show gifts & growth yet to be revealed, and confirm that loss & stagnation are diminishing factors, even though the querent will need to continue her internal work.
 
So that is a clear, concise reading that you can make as detailed as you want, with just this simple spread! However, I mainly use the trumps in freestyle storytelling readings, or sometimes in a Grand Tableau, using all the charms as well. Endless possibilities! If you take the trouble to get to know these intriguing cards, you will be well rewarded.
Buon’appetito!
 
Want your own Minchiate reading? You can choose between several in my shop!
 
 
 
 

The Ultimate Lesson of the Cards

Today I wanted to talk about a great experience I recently had in my life. It happened about a month ago, when I had the opportunity to meet two amazing people that welcomed me in such a wonderful way that we can say that yes, it is possible to have several families in the heart. In this case, I’m talking about this particular family which is the Maelstrom gang that happened to get together, even though we remain scattered throughout Europe. Talk about social networking…

I’ve already knew Miguel, with whom I studied, but I still had to personally meet the two ladies that are part of this family, Shelley and Isabel. Shelley knew only Miguel, and I think Isabel didn’t knew anyone personally. Thus, a weekend was arranged and set so that we could all meet up and hang out. I and Miguel were meeting Shelley at the Amsterdam train station on Saturday morning. We were supposed to travel south to Den Haag, where Isabel was waiting for us all. But meeting Shelley was the real ice-breaker. She had such a beautiful and truthful smile, that combined with her warm and powerful hug, I immediately lost all anxiety that this meeting was causing me.

Here, I want to confess that meeting up with tarot people usually leaves me anxious. I never did have that many contact with other tarot readers, apart from a few persons here in Oporto and once, when I was at a tarot conference in England. That experience helped me open up a bit (if you want, you can read about it here), but I still get all jittery inside just thinking of it.

I guess that happens because we almost never speak the same language when talking about cards: most people have this thing about keywords and how each card means this or that and I just keep staring at them trying to figure out what the hell do they mean. Or, if I start to talk about how I see cards and how the images seem to dance in front of my eyes, building up a story right there, there’s usually someone looking at me and wondering where can he or she find that liqueur I just had. I mean, I do understand their point: there are no references in how I read, just images. But then, that’s part of the magic of reading cards. How the same card can indicate so many different things instead of the same old same old. Ok, so maybe I’m simplifying things, but you get what I mean, right?

Well, meeting up with my colleagues here at Maelstrom was quite a treat. First with Shelley on the train station, and later on the train towards Den Haag. It all seemed like we knew each other for quite a long time, that not even the old hag complaining about the noise inside the train — hey! we’re latins, know what I’m saying? — was able to spoil anything. In fact, quite the opposite occurred, since right after we were shushed and that learned that “silence usually means not talking”, this wonderful child — which no doubt also has some great latin genes — started making all kinds of loud noises for the remaining of the journey. This is magic of the highest level, when the Universe itself deems to tell you that you’re right on the spot!

Then it was arriving at Den Haag, a city where I lived in about 16 years ago, during that short time of my life that I was living in the Netherlands. And a place that really I had such a great time, it really grew close to heart. This return to Den Haag was stirring all kinds of emotions and memories inside me. But the that wonderfully pesky child in the train told me, if this was to happen, if we were all supposed to meet, maybe things would be easier here, as in a way it was like coming back home.

Returning to Den Haag after all this time was lovely. Isabel was there with a greeting in everything the same as Shelley’s. And we had some time to walk around the city, although I couldn’t really relate to anything from the time I was living in there. Guess that too much time has passed. But I got to know this wonderful cafe, run by one of Isabel’s friends…And quite a fierce card reader as well.

You know the old saying… whenever there’s cards and readers, there will be readings. It’s as sure a thing as death and taxes. And we did! We did! We did read cards. Isabel read to Shelley, Miguel read to me and Shelley, I read to Isabel and so on and so forth. But we didn’t really read the cards. We would lay the cards on the table and everyone would talk about what they saw. Whatever was on the table, the Tarot of the Bones, The Sibilla Oracle, the Waite-Smith, the Carolus Zoya, the reading came out not from an individual mouth, but from the whole collective. More than a reading, we got into a sharing process where everyone was building on top of everyone else, until a conclusion was reached that was beyond the individual.

For me, it was an eye opener: I was used to people arguing about the meaning of a card. Curiously much more about the meaning of a particular card than the importance of that particular card in the spread. Usually, but not always, it’s those that have a fixed set of meanings for each card and immediately start running infinite mental combinations in search of that special sentence that provides the answer to what they’re seeing. The whole thing feels like it’s some sort of safe-cracking gig, but to each it’s own. Then, there’s the ones that see different things in the same cards, but arrive at the same conclusions: their readings reinforce your own, but add little value to what you’ve put to the table. And finally, there’s the ones that go synergistic, everyone combining their eyes to build a better eye that comes closer to an all-seeing eye.

Because, let’s be frank, the secret to card reading is not so much what we know, but what we allow ourselves to see. What I strive for, as a card reader, is the ability to see everything that is in front of me. But, that means that I must not care about anything: I must not care about my feelings or about anyone else’s feelings for that matter (empathy, is such a big no-no that it should be cut down the instant it approaches). This also means that I must not care about the results of the reading or any consequence that it may entail. There is only the reading and nothing more than the reading.

Reading like this would be perfect! But I’m still so far away from that that to actually have people around me that can make me overcome my blind spots to go that extra mile is great. And when I can also do this to them, then there is equal sharing. There is symbiosis. And what comes out of it is no longer a simple group of people, but something much larger than that. Something that takes you to a whole new level of reading and perception.

In all, it was a truly magical day, where people from different parts of the world got to meet in a special city and understand how they functioned better together than apart.

It was no surprise than that when all things were over and I was alone in my room, I got this for the question “Did we really need to be together for this journey?”

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We did. Justice on the side (in the position that reflects what’s behind the question) is arbitrating the whole thing. And justice stands for truth, so there it is.

I usually use this as a yes or no spread. But here, it’s one of those special cases where there is no “yes” path and there is no “no” path. There only is. And you can find a single story through out all of these cards.

What the cards are indicating was that this was the right moment for us to meet each other and start profiting from each other’s strengths. We will push each other’s boundaries so that all of us can get out of their comfort zone and see things in a different fashion that will ultimately lead us to a higher level. And even if we took the bottom line as a “no”, the first two cards are very explicit: you will go out and search for what is missing, but in the end, you would not leave your own backyard, becoming content with playing with your toys. The question that pops up to this reading would then be “what is it that is missing?”, but this would just send us back to the original question: “Did we really need to meet…?”

When things need to happen, they need to happen. When they are special, they are indeed special. You will know, because there are pointers everywhere. Even if it’s just a little child on a train making sure you know that you should not shut up. It does make me wonder why do we need card readings at all, if all it takes is to be aware of all that’s happening to us and with whom things are happening. I guess that’s the ultimate lesson the cards can give us: be aware… now and for ever. But, while you’re working on it, do read some cards.

When Things Go South

When browsing through the tarot-sphere one stumbles upon quite a diverse range of subjects. Whether it be tarot decks, explanatory tips on how to read cards, spreads, the history of the cards, philosophy, pataphysics, there is practically nothing you can’t find on the web. But when you want to learn about why a reading fails, well… things get a little more complicated. For sure, there are a few posts out there, always reachable within a click or two, but that’s it. I guess that people don’t really want to talk about it online (outside of forums and courses, where there’s always someone asking about this or maybe some advice about how a certain reading can go wrong).

Why people won’t openly talk about that would be an excellent question. Indeed, a question for the cards. But the reasons for that might be so varied that we would probably get lost. It’s usual to see readings presented as successful readings, for obvious matters. As tarot readers, we want to engage people, to bring them in. To show them that cards do work. This is why talking about the failures that we, as a person, might commit isn’t exactly the best of strategies. On the other side, boosting a high percentage of confirmed / successful / on point readings might do exactly that. Statistics are reassuring. A high percentage of good readings will lead people to believe that the reading they’re going to have will also be a good one. Which is one of the best publicities that a tarot reader might have.

It really isn’t about the statistics

And yet, no matter who good our statistics are, every single reading we do still places us face-to-face to someone. Do it wrong and you will still loose face before your client, and what good will those statistics be then? If that reading really goes south, it might make you second-guess yourself, which is something most people aren’t used to do. But something that is truly humbling.

I’m writing all of this because a few days ago I had one of those experiences. I was doing an online reading with no background whatsoever. Just three questions that were put on the table for answer. I drew some cards for them and started describing what I saw and, somehow it all went down the hill without me noticing it. By the end of the reading, the whole thing looked like one of those second-rate drama soaps. The kind you don’t really want to watch, because it’s just “oh! so bad!!”. But again, the reading made sense with the cards, and that was all that mattered. When the feedback came, I was faced with this spectacular shit-hits-the-fan-blow-in-your-face failure, and all of a sudden, a nice deep hole in the ground seemed like a very good idea.

Well, maybe it wasn’t really that bad. But it sure looked like it, probably all the more as I’m not used to these types of situations (ah… the power of statistics… how feeble its assurance really is…). And yet, here it was, as it was want to happen sooner of later.

The cards were wrong!

Because they are the ones that are telling us things, right? After all, our job here is just to interpret them and talk about them. So, if they are wrong, how can we say anything right? But if they are right, the merit is entirely ours, for we were the ones that actually decoded them successfully.

Yes, exactly! Blame it on the cards!

Admitting that the cards can be wrong only opens another shitload of problems, because then not only do we need to make sense of what they are trying to show us, we actually have to figure out when they are right and when they are not. And how do you propose to do that? Ask them in a parallel drawing? Invoking whatever help you deem necessary to assure that they are right? And why are you reading cards anyway, if you can’t even figure out that the cards are wrong in the first place? Better stick to some infallible divination system. God knows how many are out there!

On the other hand, if we admit that the cards are always right, then the problem lies entirely with how the reader choose to interpret what s/he saw. This means that not only you are not dependent on the whims of a few pieces of paper, it also allows you to identify and correct your mistakes, thereby becoming a better reader. Even if, in the process, you do have to admit to being wrong. And really, what is that going to hurt except our own sense of worth? The ego might be a useful thing, but we really shouldn’t have it keeping us from seeing what is right in front of us. That is, after all, what we proposed to do by becoming tarot readers.

So what went wrong?

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Moon card, from the Tarot of Xul Solar

Maybe the querent was in denial or just out for some bad ride. Maybe I was in a bad day. Or there was one of those combinations of little things that made this happen. When stuff like this happens, we’re in Lunar territory, so the first thing to do is really to calm down and try to find our way in the middle of all of this

Which was what I did, just as soon as I dug myself out of that imaginary hole. I picked up the same deck that had so “miserably” failed me and asked it that very question

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THE PAGE OF COINS / 10 OF CUPS / THE CHARIOT

The reading was simple:

“Because you were too eager to get to the pot, you got yourself involved in your own theories so much, you didn’t step back to take a look at what you had.”

Ouch! Talk about being sharp! The good thing, though, is that “a-ha! I could still read that damned cards!” Well, it might not be much, but it sure is a positive thing. I mean, nothing like some self-validation to raise the morals, right? But there’s a whole lot to unpack from this snappy sentence. So let’s see where this leads.

“You got yourself involved in your theories so much, you didn’t step back to take a look at what you had”

This is basically what the Page of Coins is saying. There he is, coin in hand showing what he got from his work, while also pointing at another coin that just isn’t there!”

So what happened here? There I was looking at the cards searching for a point of entry to the story before me. As usually happens, the images trigger some ideas, and you go with these ideas trying to figure out how they fit the cards. In a way, I was spinning theories and then looking for evidence in the cards to prove it. There’s nothing wrong with this. But again, one needs to be aware that theories are dangerous things to have, as they can lead us down in the wrong direction and thus, distracting us from what is really going on.

The best thing, then, is to avoid the whole thing altogether. To just stick to the spread lying there on the table and take it all in. To not just look for an answer, but rather to let it come to us. This takes time, obviously. In a good day, it might be as little as 30 seconds. Or it might be significantly more in a bad day. Obviously, when we have a face-to-face reading every second counts, as there’s someone right there in front of us waiting for an answer. But that was not the case with this reading, as it was to be delivered in written form.

This leads nicely into the second part of the the reading,

“You were too eager to get to the pot”

Again, we all want to deliver that snappy sentence that will answer the one in front of us. That is, after all, what we all work for. And, with enough time to think about what is right there in front of us, most of us get there. The problem arises when we convince ourselves that we need to do this fast, for that is when shortcuts are usually taken. Shortcuts like not giving the answer enough time to get to us, as said above. Or shortcuts like not checking our facts, which is one of the most essential things we can do in a card reading.

There are many ways to check the facts. The simplest one was already given: “step back and look at things from a distance”. If, however, one is not able to do this for whatever reason, one can always draw some more cards to see how things got to the point where they are now.

This means looking at past events and trying to figure out what happened. To get the narrative behind the question. Which is all the more important when we don’t have any background or context besides what is given by the question itself. The easiest way to do this is with a past / present / future spread, but there are other ways / spreads that can bring something to the table. And no matter which spread you end up using, the more data you have, the better your conclusions are. Something I was just talking about a few days before, but actually forgot to do it this time around.

Building up the narrative has other advantages, like making the querent realize how things played out; something that s/he might not even be aware of (most of the times, they aren’t). And it has the added advantage of empowering us before the querent: if the querent can check what we say against what he already knows of the situation, well… we just made our work easier. On the downside, if we fail to do that, well… there goes our face again.

It really isn’t about saving face either.

Because, at the end of the day, even with all precautions taken, shit just happens. And we will get a reading wrong now and them. We are, after all, humans, succeeding as humans and failing as humans. And a bad reading is actually the best thing that can happen to us, since it makes us stop and really look at what we are doing. Because, let’s face it: we all have a system to read the cards. A system that was built according to what we learned about card reading from books, talks, blogs, actual readings and tips from extraneous sources. If it’s a bad system, it will regularly fail; if it’s a good system, it will fail less. A really excellent system, is worth its knowledge in gold and you can start marketing it with great success!

But the only way to test this system is to read the cards. So what a bad reading really does is to point us exactly which things need to be addressed and corrected.

In a way, a bad reading is the best thing that could happen to us as a card reader, because it allows us to grow. To grow in understanding and in depth. To address what we got wrong and find a better way to deal with the cards. The cost we have to pay is a lesson in humility. Our ego will get stabbed, for sure. But the ego… ah!!! there’s so many things to say about the ego, and we really don’t have the time. There’s work to be done on accurately reading those pesky cards!

Tarot for Troubled Times: An Online Workshop With Theresa Reed and Shaheen Miro

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Today I’m featuring two tarot professionals I’ve been following for years and have learned a lot from. Theresa Reed (The Tarot Lady) and Shaheen Miro (Insights) are smart, empathetic, ethical, intuitive, committed professionals, and they are teaming up for a two-part online workshop in August.

In honor of the very last day of their early bird sign-up special (It’s June 30! Hurry!), here is an interview with both of them. They have much to teach and share with our community. Enjoy!

Theresa and Shaheen, tell us how you first “met” (in quotes because I figure it was probably online?) and what drew you to each other as professionals?

Theresa: I met Shaheen online and liked him immediately. I’m very conscious of energy, both online and off. Shaheen had an aura of kindness and compassion that I was instantly drawn to. I was lucky enough to meet him in person last year when I was on the book tour for The Tarot Coloring Book. He’s the same in person as he is online: genuine and oozing with kindness. My kinda people!

Shaheen: Theresa and I met online a few years back. And then we met in-person during her book tour last year. I instantly felt a soul connection with her and knew we were meant to work together. I really admire Theresa’s candid approach and her immense integrity with what she does. She is an inspiring teacher, mentor and friend. There is no one else like her!

In your workshop, you each bring different experiences and skills to the table. How do your different styles and talents complement each other?

Theresa: My style is practical, straightforward. I’m also hyper-organized, which helps for running a classroom! I’ve also been doing my work for over 25 years so I bring a lot of life and professional experience forward. I’ve worked with clients from every walk of life and that’s my strength. This has made me versatile as a reader but compassionate. When you’ve been around as long as I have, you develop a better understanding of how humans tick – and what they might need from tarot. As a woman, I’ve also experienced plenty of oppression in my life, which is why I’m a feminist. I know what it’s like to be held back, to be marginalized. But I am also aware of my privilege as a white cis-gendered female and have been looking for ways to be a better ally. I feel that I learn so much from Shaheen in that regard. In our time of working together, I feel like he has taught me how to show up better.

Shaheen: I grew up in a very open and diverse environment. My mother began teaching me Tarot as a child, and it has become a second language. This has allowed me to stay connected to my intuition and creative imagination. And, to cultivate my strength and move through the world more fluidly. As a gay man with a father from the Middle East I see how harsh the world can be, and yet, I have learned that our perspective and our willingness to go out into the world authentically is key to making lasting change. I wholeheartedly believe we are powerful beings meant to express ourselves and thrive. This takes extreme courage, commitment and self-compassion to express ourselves and trust our inner power.  When I work with people it is always from that awareness. Theresa has such a powerful way of holding space for people and really grasping what is happening in the world. Collaborating together on Tarot for Troubled Times felt right and necessary. Our approaches blend beautifully!

All different eras in time have their challenges and leave people feeling fearful. So what inspired you both to offer “Tarot for Troubled Times” in this particular moment?

Theresa: I’ve always had clients coming to me during election years with various fears or worries. This year, that has been elevated. Many people are fearing for big, real reasons such as health care or deportation of loved ones. I’ve been doing a lot of work helping to reassure people or to help them find solace or direction. After talking with Shaheen, I thought perhaps a class might be a way to give people tools to work with – tools that might be able to help them feel empowered. It’s a time of great uncertainty but also great promise. I hope that through this work, we can help show people the way to access the positive part and become agents of change.

Shaheen: We are in a time of great shadow work. The collective consciousness is coming unraveled and revealing all the unloved, unacknowledged parts that have pulsed under the surface for years. Troubled Times are not new, but our awareness is! People are stepping into their power more and more, and asking how they can be more authentic and on-purpose. The change and uncertainty we feel is so much bigger than just the day-to-day mundane things in our lives. The tone of my one-on-one work is less about the future, and more about the right now, and how that creates the future. Which is always how I’ve approached my work. Now people on the other side of the table are getting it too! More and more I feel people need to know how to show up for themselves, and for the world. This feels the right time to share this information. People are asking the questions… so why not have the conversation!

Would either or both of you like to tell us a little bit about your own work with the “shadow side” of yourselves, or in general, and how the process of diving into your own fears and deep “stuff” has brought about positive changes in your lives?

Theresa: My biggest fear is being trapped. It’s the Devil card! I always need to feel that I have a way out or I tend to get claustrophobic. When I was younger, this led to me being a bit of a commitment phobe. Which means I wasn’t always a reliable partner. That need to be free often came at a price tag for relationships. Learning how to stay put, choose healthy relationships, and set boundaries so that I feel safe has been a major shadow lesson and one that I’m still working on.

Shaheen: I am a very curious person. I always want to know more and discover ways to honor and express myself more fully. So shadow work has been a big part of my life. Checking in with myself to see where I’m flowing and where I’m resisting is something I do often. Showing up in the world as brave and authentic as possible is number one for me. Delving into the shadow shows me how I am holding back and giving away my power. Standing in the dark has given me the courage to shine my light… even when I feel weak, uncertain or battling the dreaded “imposter syndrome.”

How is tarot particularly well-suited to this type of work?

Theresa: Tarot is ideal for reflection. By looking at the images, we can ask ourselves questions about how we feel, what’s coming up, and what courses of action might be the best for us. Tarot helps with awareness. It’s a tool for conscious living. And during scary times, that’s powerful stuff. Because every decision you make can influence your destiny. Taking time with a tool like tarot helps you to bring awareness to how you’re operating in the world and hopefully, it can encourage you to find a path that is compassionate, non-violent, and positive.

Shaheen: Tarot is about storytelling. When you hold space with the cards you begin opening doors to your inner world, and what lies beyond the threshold is so powerful and important. I always remind people that we are all telling an energetic story. This energetic story is the accumulation of your thoughts, ideas, beliefs and feelings about the world, and how it responds to you. By accessing the wisdom of the cards you begin seeing the narrative of your energetic story to shine awareness into the shadows. You will never show up in the world in all your power and grace without showing up for yourself first. Many people want to thrive in their lives, and add something to the world. By showing them what power lies within, they begin taking it into the world and doing the work that they are meant to do! Which is the whole premise of Tarot for Troubled Times.

About Shaheen Miro

ShaheenMiro

Shaheen is an Intuitive Consultant helping people to reclaim their lives through intuition, energy work, and intention. He is a writer, teacher and creator. To learn more or book your session visit: ShaheenMiroInsights.com
Website: www.ShaheenMiroInsights.com
Twitter:twitter.com/ShaheenMiro
Phone: 937.213.3426

About Theresa Reed

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Theresa Reed (aka “The Tarot Lady”) has been a full-time Tarot card reader for close to 30 years. She is the author of The Tarot Coloring Book, an illustrated tour through the world of Tarot with coloring sheets for every card in the deck. You can connect with her or book a reading at: www.thetarotlady.com
Website: http://www.thetarotlady.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/thetarotlady
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thetarotlady
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/thetarotlady

How to Talk With Gods and Spirits

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The title of this post is a bit of a teaser. The whole “how-to” phenomenon is a big part of content marketing nowadays, and people type things like “how to [insert skill here]” into Google probably millions of times a day.

So when it came to me wanting to share with you my experience regarding connecting with the invisible world of gods and spirits, it felt appropriate to be a bit tongue-in-cheek with a straightforward “how to,” as if this were something that you could go to a website for, follow a few specific instructions, and poof! Conversation complete.

Here’s the thing: it’s even simpler than that.

I won’t lie to you; I’ve taken courses on shamanic journeying and channeling angels. I’ve done lots of formalized things to get in touch with the spirit world. So I’m not coming at this from a totally novice perspective. What’s different now, however, is that I realized you don’t have to learn a bunch of techniques to do this. Much like learning tarot, or playing jazz, for that matter: first you study all the methods and all the theories and all the ritualized and codified concepts. Then, like Charlie Parker said: “Just play.”

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Recently I wrote a post on my website, Sparrow Tarot, providing a tarot spread for the self-employed and small business owners. I was inspired to write that post because I knew I needed to kick start my own tarot practice and was feeling lost about how to do that.

In that spread, I specifically included a card whose purpose was to show me the Spirit that could help me or wanted to help me in my goal. My magical colleagues here at Maelstrom helped me to better understand which direction to go with the card I received. Then Miguel said: Ok. Go talk to her.

What?!

What is that supposed to mean? You just dial up a goddess on the phone and have a chat?

That advice really baffled me and I kept asking for more details. But how? Isn’t there some ritual? Shouldn’t I go into some altered state of consciousness or chant a specific series of words? Do I have to build a shrine first?

I’m exaggerating just a bit for effect, but the point is I had always imagined people who “talked” with deities had to do all sorts of very particular rituals and then they’d actually “hear” voices or something. I guess we have pop culture and Poltergeist and stories about haunted houses and Ouija boards and seances to blame for all that.

Here’s the thing: knowing less about what you’re “supposed” to do is sometimes hugely beneficial. You know that phenomenon they call beginner’s luck? It’s because the beginner doesn’t know all the codified rules yet. Although rules and practices do have their place, so does the Fool-like beauty of taking a step into the unknown and opening yourself to what the Universe can show you.

You can devise your own method of contacting whatever spirit, guide, deity, angel, or saint you want to talk to.

People, can we step back for a moment and realize that sanctioned religions do this all the time with prayers?

Somehow it seems illicit in polite conversation to say you’re calling on Athena to help you and give you support and guidance, while praying to Saint Pio and keeping a picture of him on your wall and covering it with a rosary and a few other accoutrements that have meaning doesn’t seem illicit at all.

The fact of the matter is that as human beings, talking with the gods is obviously as old as time, and each and every one of us is innately equipped with the tools we need to do so.

Personally, you need nothing more than your heart, honest intention, and being open to listening for whatever comes through.

Let’s be clear: I’m not discounting the power of ritual or codified practices. They absolutely have their place and serve their purposes. What I am trying to get across here, however, is that you don’t have to necessarily do anything fancy or have anything special in order to communicate.

Here’s the method I devised. Yours may be different, of course, and just as valid. What’s important is that it’s a method that feels natural and comfortable to you and a method that you feel you can honestly engage in and trust the results of without putting in too much over-thinking or mental doubting.

Because I’m a writer both by trade and basically by birthright, it felt appropriate and natural to me to initiate contact by pulling out a notebook and writing.

I opened by writing a small invitation (sort of like a prayer, if you will) to the goddess I wanted to address, welcoming her presence and explaining to her why I was turning to her and what I hoped she would help me accomplish. This was all included in just one brief sentence.

The next sentence I wrote was a direct question, to open the line of communication. I simply asked: “How can I honor you to bring your help into my life for success with my tarot business?”

Then, I closed my eyes and waited for the answer.

I’m not kidding you when I say that I literally just sat there and waited for the answer. No burning candles, no incense, no induced trance, no drumming, no bubbling cauldron or smoking potions.

And I am telling you that the answer came.

Here’s another thing I think gets completely lost in the overwhelming confusion generated by an onslaught of New Age gobbledygook: talking to the invisible world isn’t like watching TV.

I’m not discounting the fact that there are many ways people experience the spirit world, and those ways include auditory and visual hallucinations and the like. But what I am saying is that for folk like you and me who don’t have “visions,” it simply doesn’t matter.

The voice you hear in your head, that voice you think is you, that voice that is part you and part spirit? That.

Write that stuff down.

I think what often happens is people think you have to have some sort of psychic superpower in order to open up a dialogue, but in my experience that’s just not the case.

When I was writing down the snippets of words and thoughts that flowed after I posed my written question, I was doing two things, essentially:

  1. I was “hearing” my own inner voice. It wasn’t like suddenly some spirit possessed my body and I started hearing an otherworldly voice telling me things. Nope. Just me, plain old me, regular voice-I-hear-all-the-time-in-my-brain voice.
  2. I was trusting whatever came through and writing it down without sitting there and going “Now what the HELL does THAT mean?” I think this is pretty essential. It doesn’t have to make sense. It has to be accepted for whatever it is. And welcomed. And then put into some concrete format as a way of honoring it. For me that was writing it down.
  3. Don’t force, push, exert, or demand. Allow. It’s much like shuffling the tarot deck. We shuffle, and then, when we feel it’s time to stop, we stop.

I sat for a few minutes and listened to whatever came to mind. I wrote things down. It ended up being a list of 16 brief statements, phrases, commands or nouns. It had a logical flow but wasn’t logical in the sense we would give to a regular, everyday conversation. And just like the tarot shuffle, at a certain point I knew that it was done.

Before I initiated this process I read a little bit about the goddess I was planning to “talk” to, but not much. Just the basics. To my delight, some specific suggestions that came out on my list ended up being directly related to this goddess even though I had no idea beforehand. (I went searching online afterwards, to see if they somehow related).

Spiritual connections are personal and unique. Opening to the idea that you don’t have to have special psychic powers or have anything more than what you already have is really important. Trust plays a fundamental role. This is how you build intuition.

If this is all new to you, I suggest first trying a practice developed by Carl Jung called active imagination. In this practice, you actively engage through writing with a figure you encountered in a dream (or work of art) and ask it what it has to teach you, and then you write down the response.

Here is an excerpt from the link above, written by Jungian analyst Lawrence H. Staples, Ph.D., PsyA., that illustrates the mysterious underpinnings of this process (italics mine):

Isak Dineson, a Danish novelist, had quite a reputation as a storyteller, and following dinner her guests usually asked her to tell a story. She complied, but stipulated that her guests must supply her with the opening sentence. Using this sentence as her starting point, she would then spin tales that were hours long.

She had a way of forming and telling stories that is, perhaps, a microcosmic example of the macrocosmic processes of all creation. I could see that, like a verdant and luxurious garden, all creation must first be seeded before it can produce a crop. In Dineson’s case, the opening sentence given by the guest was the impregnating seed that she took into her imagination to create the story, like an acorn taken into the earth creates a tree. She began with a word (her acorn) that unfolded from itself a string of words connected to each other by some associative bond that produced a coherent creation. It is as if the opening sentence contained all the genetic codes that knew from the beginning where they were going and how they would get there. The mother is not conscious of the code; it operates invisibly and unconsciously once the seed is fertilized.

This example, for me, highlights the importance of trust in the practice of intuition. The storyteller in the example didn’t say to the guests, “Nope, I can’t work with that word, choose a different one.” Instead, she opened herself to the spontaneous and random act of accepting whatever came her way and then using it as a springboard to continue its natural unfoldment process. This is like what we do when we read the cards.

Honor this process within yourself and trust the fact that, just like the acorn becomes a tree, the process knows how to get you where you need to go.

Please share your thoughts on your own experiences in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!