Do You Have To Believe in Tarot For It To Work?

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I have often heard people tell me, “Oh, but I don’t believe in the tarot.” I’ve heard that almost as much as I’ve had people ask me: “But how does tarot work?”

The idea that one has to believe in the tarot in order for it to work puts it on the same level as either 1) religion or 2) chicanery.

The idea that tarot either does or does not work implies that it sometimes can go right and sometimes can go wrong, much like a car or a computer, running smooth on some days and broken down on others.

In my opinion, there’s nothing inherent in the deck in which to necessarily believe. I think the declaration from people that they “don’t believe” in the cards comes from not understanding what the cards are about and how they can be used, and perhaps fearing them for that same reason. It’s a way to dismiss the cards as insignificant, unimportant, unworthy of faith, silly; and as such, reassuringly impotent, unintimidating, docile, unthreatening. We know that ignorance breeds fear. And doesn’t organized religion often require a firm belief in its tenets so as to keep the faithful in line (controlled, manageable, unempowered)?

Tarot doesn’t ask anyone to believe anything. It simply exists and is available as a tool, as a mirror, to those who wish to consult it.

There’s no need to associate belief with tarot. There’s nothing to believe in.

As far as how it “works,” that’s another story. When I asked that very question to my tarot teacher Enrique Enriquez, his immediate response was: “Who said it works?”

This one is a bit tongue-in-cheek, because obviously those of us who have a tarot practice wouldn’t spend time with the cards like we do if we weren’t getting some benefit. So I’m not dismissing the cards here as saying they have no use or no purpose. But the idea of them either “working” or not working is a loaded question.

I appealed to some of my friends and colleagues for an answer; if you haven’t read “Five Tarot Experts Explain How Tarot Works,” I encourage you to have a look.

It’s important to take the multiple layers of mysterious, imposed potency off of the cards. It’s important for readers to stop insisting that other people agree with them that the cards are useful, special, magical. Tarot is not a religion, it’s a practice. Tarot cards are not imbued with super powers. They don’t either work or not work.

What makes them so special, then? Why are people afraid of them? Why do people sometimes dismiss them, fear them, belittle them, or impose otherworldly powers upon them? Why do those of us who use them keep coming back to them, despite all the misunderstanding?

Well, let’s ask the cards themselves.

  1. What’s the most misunderstood aspect of tarot?
  2. What’s at the core of a tarot reading?
  3. What’s the best way to sum up the cards?

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In the 8 of Cups we see someone actively walking away from a set-up that seemed nearly perfect, but something was missing. No matter how hard this person tried to make things work, to fit the square peg into the round hole, it simply wasn’t going to ever be the way the seeker, the person walking away in the image, wanted it or needed it to be. As such, he or she is walking away from something that he or she invested heart and soul in, but is now letting go of. This person understands, even if it’s hard to acknowledge, that it makes no sense to keep devoting energy, time, heart, and soul to something that is clearly never going to change.

In my interpretation the most misunderstood aspect of tarot, then, according to this card, is that it isn’t about having all the answers tied up with a pretty bow and presented to you in a perfect gift box. It’s about seeking the answers and being honest about what you receive, and knowing when to take action, even if it hurts to do so, because it furthers your personal growth. It’s about knowing when to walk away, knowing when to give up, knowing when to let go. (In fact, I’d say this flies right in the face of the pop-culture notion of tarot as providing neat and accurate “hits” or predictions that give querents the answers and outcomes they desire, or, on the other extreme, cards that foretell of terrifying and unavoidable doom. Both of these concepts remove agency from the seeker. Tarot doesn’t show you what you want, it shows you what you need.)

At the core of a tarot reading is speed, and news. The 8 of Wands is about getting a message fast, about events moving at lightning speed, and about not having enough time to fully digest and comprehend everything that’s swirling around you. At its core, tarot goes straight to the heart of the matter before you even realize what’s happening. You either learn how to dance with this, or you resist it, or you try to rationalize your way out of it, or you try to control it. But at its core, it’s like a speeding bullet. You either consciously ride the fast current of the river, or you get swept up in it and carried away.

The best way to sum up the cards is the 4 of Swords – total silence and stillness. I’ve often had people tell me, after their first-ever reading, that they think “everyone” should have a reading, because it “puts you in touch with your inner self.” Let’s get quiet, and still, and listen, and stop. That’s what the cards can do for us. They can give us respite, a place to be silent and reflect, a place to recuperate and to regenerate, a place to completely stop and focus.

Your thoughts?

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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!
 
 
 
 

Much At Stake: Vamps on Fire

After my fellow Stirrers have talked about the first three suits of the Minor Arcana, it falls to me to set forth about the Wands, Staves, Batons, Staffs, or… Stakes? Yes! Some of you may be aware of my work with the Vampire Tarot by Robert M. Place. Far from being a gimmicky deck, it has proven to be very profound. Quite apart from the darkly stunning artwork, it is extremely good at Shadow work & spotting negative patterns. Moreover, the Vampyrs usually speak to me in a poetic & evocative voice, the better to get Their message across. I have blogged here & here about my work with this deck.

Place relates the literary Vampire theme to the tarot in a very interesting way (again see my review about it). The four suits consist of the means of combating the Vampires, symbols of the Shadow Self. The suits reflect the Jungian division of the four functions of consciousness, with Knives for Thinking (Air), Garlic Flowers for Sensation (Earth), Holy Water for Intuition (Water), and our subject today, Stakes for Feeling (Fire). In Jungian thinking, feelings are not emotions. Quoting from the Vampire Tarot Guidebook: “Feeling is a decision making function that determines if something is good or bad and motivates one to action, symbolised by Fire. The basic feelings are love and hate”.

Of course the Vampyrs immediately wanted in on any discussion of Their own cards, and so I’m letting Them tell the story of the Stakes. I used my charm set for further illustration of what each card wants to say, just as i do in my Vampire Tarot Readings. So let the sinning singing commence…

The Heart wants what it wants
And it will Bleed if it does not get it
A Stake through the Heart will produce
An immediate reaction:
For some, Pleasure
For others, Pain
A Cross, a Burden
Or a sign of Hope
Which one is it
And what will you do about it
Little Mortal:
Rip it out
Have done with it?
Or let it take root
So it can either make you grow
Or have you fester?

Ah yes, once you are bitten
Little Morsel Mortal
You toss & turn in Torment
No sleep
Only Dream
No rest for the Wicked
Trouble in Paradise
It will bring its own reward
A juicy prize
Worth flapping Our wings to pieces for
Against the cold, hard Glass
Until it shatters
And Two will dream one Dream

Three Stakes will summon
Three hungry Wolves
Either Friend or Foe
Who will they devour:
Your Enemy
Or You?
To Us it is the same
If they but leave a bite for Us
Only a nibble
Just a Taste
But We digress

The Four shows you Mina
Both Sacrifice & Priestess
Who came so close
To being one of Us
She drank the Blood
Consumed Immortality
Bound herself to the Master
And He to her

If that is not Commitment
We do not know what is
Not all Love is Eternal
But Ours certainly is
Ah, sweet Mina
How did Eternity Taste
Will you ever forget
Or yearn Forever?
And more importantly
Will We?

Five of Stakes to form a Hand
To express what one Desires
To guide
Or to manipulate
Perform a Trick
Or true Sorcery
An open Hand can bring a Gift
Bring forth Creation
Or Illusion
Look carefully, dear Mortal
To See which is which
And to Know when to Give
When to Receive
And when to hit back

A Crown fit for a Master
Admiration & Respect
Is what the Six of Stakes will bring you
A Circle of admirers
Well-earned & well-deserved
Well done, little Mortal
Enjoy your time
On your little pedestal
You have your pick
Of all Three Brides
Just leave some for Us
(Just a drop
Only a lick
Ah yes)

No good can come
From any Seven
When will you Mortals learn
That Seven is Deceit
Or Tears
Or even Death
Seven Stakes will bring a Quarrel
Ugly, deadly
Throat torn out
So you are devoid of Voice
Devoid of Power

No good can come
Of this kind of Conflict
When you see this card
Do not even try
Arguments will not win this
Only Force & Violence
So flee the scene
(We like a Scene
Ah yes
It makes Us hungry
Leave this sort of thing to Us
While you live another day)

Summon your Strength
And all your Courage
For the Eight of Stakes brings Duty
And not always a pleasant one
To drive a Stake through someone’s Heart
Someone who is not quite a Corpse
And may still Bleed
It takes a particular sense of Duty
A peculiar kind of Discipline
To see it through
To destroy Illusion
That what is not Life
Nor Death
It will bring rewards, oh yes
And yet may leave you hollow

Only fair, then
That after Eight comes Nine
After building Strength
Will come Surrender
Sacrifice of You
Instead of the Other
Here is the Fire
The pure Power
That was promised by the Stakes
The Sun, the Pyre
True Death
Letting go

Let it burn you away
Reduce you to Ashes
And leave nothing behind
But a good deed done
A Light for the World
We Immortals fear the Fire
But We know that Light
Beyond Our Darkness
Oh yes

It is what keeps us going
Throughout Eternity
It wakes us from our Slumber
When all seems lost
Returned to Dust
It is both what burns Us up
And what rekindles Life
Makes Us crawl out of that Coffin
Break out of Our Tomb
Pull out all Ten Stakes

Our own Choice really:
Will We stay buried
Or live again?
And you, little Mortal
Are you a Bone discarded
Or a Seed planted?

And so, when reduced to Our very Essence
We meet the Court ruling the Stakes
The ones in whom the Fire burns
For better or for worse:

The Knave & the Knight
The Poet & his Creation:
Ligeia, the Fatal Woman
Whose Passion conquered Death
With a hypnotic Gorgon stare
For she has seen that Light
Inside the Dark
Inside herself
And inside you

Poor Poet Poe
How your Raven whispers
Fills your mind with Stories
And your Heart with Dreams
Such Vision, such Intensity
To dream up a Ligeia
And many ladies like her
Forever dying
But refusing to stay Dead
What does that say about you

The King & Queen
They do not need each other
Facing away from each other
And yet so alike
And aligned
Charlotte Stoker
Both inspired & inspiring
A Teacher & a Guide
A Wise woman
With the Patience to
See you through the Fire

And the King, Franz Liszt
Ah yes, a man who ruled
Wherever he went
With his Genius
His pure Charisma
A man who set the tone
Quite literally too
Be wary of his Melodies
They might sweep you away
So strong his Fire is
Ah yes
We like him a lot
What does that tell you

And now the Night beckons Us
With her soft star light
Such a Comfort
After being so close to Fire
Too close for Comfort really
We do not like the Stakes
That have Us Bleed
Or Burn
And so We leave you, little Mortal

But We are watching from the Shadows
As We have always been
How you Shine
The Warmth of you, it draws Us
Ah yes
Just a Taste
A nibble
One drop only

Is that so much to ask?

Do you think you need some proper vampsplaining? You can order your very own dark, poetic Revamp Your Life Vampire Tarot Reading here.

Now on special offer for only € 37,50! I’m sure the Immortals will welcome you with open jaws claws arms… 

 

 

Schooled by the Cards: On Unnecessary Clarification

Well, I’m probably just asking for it. When you get out the Noblet Marseille to ask about l’amour, somebody is going to get a spanking. Humiliating as this is, I thought I’d share this example with you because it illustrates beautifully the use of sight cards for clarification. Among other things.

What are sight cards? When you read a line or string of cards, or even a spread of single cards, one important aspect to observe is the interactions between the cards. Who is looking at whom, who is moving towards or away from what, etc. When you have outward facing cards not looking at anyone in particular, you can draw a sight card to see what your marginal figure is ogling. This can be very illuminating, and the fascinating thing is that it often happens (at least to me) that the original ensemble would not have been complete without them & takes on new depth & meaning. Not in this case however, as I shall now relate.

The situation is as follows. I’m in a very Delicate Phase with a Certain Someone. The cards have already told me several times to let the Someone take the lead. However, this is not my style of doing things at all. For all my nice manners I’m a bossy Aries type who likes to barge in & start giving orders. So I have this idea that I can get the Someone to get crackin’ by giving him a present. (Let’s not go into what it actually is. Best to avoid emotional scarring & the expensive lawsuits that might ensue for the nice people at Maelstrom Tarot.) In my view this is a pretty delicate way of enforcing enticing him to do the right thing. What I think is right, anyway.

Best check with the cards first though, no? Allright: Dear cards, is it a good idea to give the Certain Someone my present?

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Pffff… Men. Such ninnies.

Temperance – The Lovers – The Devil. Dear oh dear. Prevarication, hesitation, being in a bind. No bueno. Yes but but, what if I’m being too negative? There’s no such thing as a bad card, right? (By the same logic there’s no good cards either, but let’s roll with it). So what’s that dilly-dallying Temperance looking at while trying not to spill a drop? The Tower. Ah. So there is sense in moderation: any meddling will see the whole thing tumbling down. No wonder Lovers & Devil look eerily similar. Fear rules him more than Love.

But, but, what if we see this as a symmetrical reading, with the Lovers representing a choice between moderation & brutal PASSION? Moderation inspired by fear, Passion fueled by? The Devil is looking straight at us, but whatevs. Clarification card: the Chariot. Another duo in a bind, for one thing. And try as I might, Devil & Chariot doesn’t feel positive at all to me. The poor Someone will feel put upon, rushed & overwhelmed if I ram my gift down his throat. What a ninny.

Luckily there’s still a way out: the To Do or Advice card! Which produces the Emperor. HA I KNEW IT I AM TO TAKE ACTION AFTER ALL. Ooh goody there’s even room for a sight card to prove how right I am: Justice! See? I need to take action (Emperor) & make the decisions here (Justice). But no, even to me in my fevered state that makes no sense, quite apart from the main cards I’m already forgetting to take into account. The Emperor is obviously the Someone, I even have gotten this card for him before. And he looks at Justice because he needs to be the one to decide, for whatever reasons he has.

This Aries has trouble swallowing this. But after chewing on this most unsatisfactory answer, I draw the outcome card. Usually I don’t bother with a Do Not card as that is mostly just the opposite of the To Do, and we can figure that out for ourselves. What will happen if I go with the proposed course of action (or non-action in this case)? The Star: you will get your wish. You will be the one receiving the gift. But, looking at how the Star’s patient pouring of her vessels reflects Temperance’s perpetual flow, it may be a while. Patience is needed, or it will all be water down the drain.

But, but! The Star is looking into the distance! What does she see? Quick, draw a sight card! RESCUE BECKONS!

Nah. I have learned my lesson. The Star shines her light clear enough. She is the sight card.

So that is how I got schooled by the cards. Morale: know when to stop asking for clarification or you will get a spanking.

Also, dating is FAR MORE EXASPERATING than I remembered.

Do you use sight cards for clarification? Or what other tricks do you have? Dating tips? Share in the comments!

Need a spanking reading too? Visit my shop!

Discovering the Magical World of Ellen Lorenzi-Prince

It’s not everyday that a deck grabs you by the balls and leaves you speechless. It’s even rarer when the same artist manages to do it again and again with every deck she puts out. And yet, this is exactly what happens to me every time I get my hands on one of Ellen Lorenzi-Prince’s work. With the forthcoming release of the third edition of the Tarot of the Crone and the reprint of the Tarot of the Dark Goddess, this is exactly the time to spread the word about this wonderful artist.

My first exposition to Ellen’s work came with the Tarot of the Crone. Unlike most decks out there, this one fulfilled all my personal needs. The lines were simple and clear. The colors added to the feel of the card, without overwhelming it. The human figures had expression and body movement. In fact, you could actually feel that these scenes were happening right there in front of you. Even better, the figures were facing us, the readers, inviting us to take our place among them and participate in what they were doing or, perhaps, confronting us with issues unresolved. But the most important thing of all, the one that actually cuts the deal for me is “do these pictures tell a story?” And well… they do! They spoke of ancient mysteries, of our connection to nature and the part women played in that process. They reminded us of what we once held sacred. How the elements of earth, fire, water and air had their role to play in our lives. And how, somewhere along the line, we had severed that connection to revere gods of electrons and statistics.

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The Tarot of the Crone, by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince. 2nd edition.

The tarot of the Crone because an instant hit with me. For months, I would use it for every reading I would make, its voice whispering “Break down the mold. Go back to the basics and see where the important stuff lies.” Having started my tarot path as a full-pledged Thothite, this deck delivered the first major clue that the esoteric system with its elegant, complex and clockwork mechanics might not be as formidable as it seemed. Instead, I was asked to look below to the earth and to discover the magic in the little things that Nature continuously throws at us. And for that, I was eternally thankful. Click here for a glimpse of the kind of insights that I would get from the Tarot of the Crone.

A few months later, her second deck, the Dark Goddess Tarot, arrived. The deck presented images of 78 entities – as they aren’t all goddesses  – drawn from various mythologies and legends from around the world. I remembered being excited with this deck because one of the entities portrayed was that of Tlazolteotl, one of the goddesses that had a big impact on my life at that time. The inclusion of Tlazolteotl in the deck made me wonder who else might be in it. And while some of the more popular goddesses have found their way there – like, for example, Shekmet, Isis, Hecate (as Phosphorus), Aphrodite, Kali or Santa Muerte – a number of other interesting, even if less known, entities are there.

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Cards from the Tarot of the Dark Goddess, by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince.

In all, these 78 cards bring us tales of love, vengeance, loss, pain and fury. If the Tarot of the Crone spoke about our connection about Nature and how far we’ve deviated from it, the Tarot of the Dark Goddess offers us a way back. By following these entities, learning their stories, hearing their advice and acting upon it, we can trace our way back to that communion with the natural world that was pictured in the Tarot of the Crone.

Coincidently or not, the first card of the deck, the Fool is attributed to Sheela Na Gig, figurative carvings of naked women with an exaggerated vagina, that are found throughout Great Britain and Ireland in churches, castles and other buildings. According to the LWB (Little White Book) that accompanies the deck, this card asks us to “Dare to come back to where you began”. For the last card of the deck, the Hag of Earth, Ellen gave us a painting of She Who Watches, a woman turned into stone by a trickster spirit so that she could fulfill her desire to be and stand by her people forever. Referring again to the LWB, the message Ellen gave to this card is “Remember history or more will be lost”. In-between, there’s 76 cards to leads us to this process of journeying back, once we decided to pass the Fool’s invitation.

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The Fool and the Hag of Earth, from the Dark Goddess Tarot. 

With her next deck, we journey to Ancient Creete, home of the Minoan civilization. 78 cards, painted in the style of minoan images, while still maintaining that characteristic Ellen line, propose to show us aspects of the day-to-day lives of people that are in communion with Nature, the Goddesses and themselves. In a sense, this is the next stage of Ellen’s story. After the shamanic visions of the Tarot of the Crone and the journey back home with the assistance of the  various goddesses and mythical figures that populate the Tarot of the Dark Goddess, we suddenly arrive to where we’re supposed to be. And it’s a place filled with light, where everything feels in harmony with everything else. Looking at the images, one can’t stop to wonder why did we ended up diverging from this.

 

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Cards from the Minoan Tarot. Art and conception by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince.

More or less at the same time, The Kali Tarot Prayer Cards were released. This deck, a set of 22 cards fashioned after the Major Arcana of the Tarot, gives us a glimpse of the work Ellen did with one of the Dark Goddesses present in the her second deck and how these entities can help us navigate to the places suggested by both the Tarot of the Crone and the Minoan Tarot. While this deck can also be used in readings – and to devastating results – it is a  a meditation tool that the deck shows all that its capable of. In every card there’s a painting corresponding to an aspect of Kali. An aspect that somehow can be framed as one of the Major Arcana of the tarot. All the pictures are presented as they are. With no names or numbers to indicate to each the Major Arcana they belong. In what feels like a conscious choice, we are asked to consider the images as they are. To truly read them as images, not as an assortment of keywords or any other tarot luggage that might get in the way. Behind each card, along with the indication of the Major Arcana, there’s a prayer to the goddess. A message, if you will of how we can connect to that goddess or how that particular aspect can help us with our issues.

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Cards from the Kali Tarot Prayer Cards. Art and conception by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince.

In all, Ellen’s work with the Tarot is unique and deserves your attention. So give yourself a treat and treat yourself to one of her decks. You will not be disappointed.