Connecting With Your Ancestors Through Tarot

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Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about death, dying, and honoring ancestors. I even wrote my November newsletter on the topic. Much of this was sparked by reflection on the recent All Souls’ Day on November 2. I realized that not only did I have no active practice to honor my ancestors; I didn’t even have the vaguest idea about who had come before me.

My parents didn’t teach me about my ancestors, so I realized that anything I wanted to know, I’d have to research on my own. I embarked on a free trial membership at Ancestry.com, without much in the way of expectations. However, I was able to trace my ancestry back to my fifth great-grandparents on my father’s side. It was exciting and satisfying to learn the names of the family members who came before my generation. It was also eye-opening to look at some of the public records and piece together little bits of history that relate directly to my flesh and blood relatives from decades and centuries ago. I even found a few photos of some of my relatives from the 1800s that other members had posted on their own family trees.

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Example of an ancestor altar from Parting the Mists

Ancestor Altars and Rituals

Recently Diotima Mantinea of Urania’s Well Astrology wrote a post called How To Talk With Your Ancestors At Samhain, and I used her instructions about how to make an ancestor altar and hold a ritual to honor them.

Here’s the thing, however: if you, like me, aren’t clairvoyant, then how, exactly, do you go about “communicating” with your ancestors? How do you know you’re making a connection, if you don’t “see” or “hear” anything when you attempt to commune with them?

I get around this by using my cards. Because I am such a rational and logical thinker, it’s always been hard for me to trust any sort of impressions that may come to me during a meditation or prayer reflection. Perhaps the reason I work so well with the cards is because they provide me a concrete visual confirmation of a message, rather than requiring me to trust something more nebulous like an intuition or impression.

In my recent attempt to make a first connection with my newly discovered ancestral line, I conducted the ritual as suggested in the above-mentioned post, but, I also added one step: in the phase of the ritual where you are encouraged to reflect and “listen” for your ancestors’ messages, I felt compelled to pull out my Thoth tarot deck and ask my ancestors for a message through the cards. I explained to them that this is the way I feel most comfortable communicating, and invited them to share with me through the cards.

I was feeling particularly frustrated that I can’t seem to easily receive messages or visions like I hear so many of my magical friends talk about. It’s hard not to compare yourself to others and feel like you may lack some crucial skill or component. What I was forgetting, however, is that there isn’t one way that’s better or worse. What’s important is that you find your way that works.

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A Simple Three-Card Ancestor Reading

I drew three cards as follows:

  1. My ancestors’ message for me
  2. My ancestors’ advice for me
  3. How I can best connect with my ancestors

The messages, unsurprisingly, were filled with love and encouragement and a gentle push for me to lighten up a bit and not be so hard on myself for the fact that I can’t “directly” communicate with them through clairvoyance, because the cards are just as valid a vehicle. Rather than comparing ourselves to what others can do, we must remember to focus on what we can do and work within that.

Developing and cultivating a relationship with blood relatives who have come before you can be a beneficial practice that helps link you to the life/death/rebirth cycle. When we actively think about death and dying, and we actively ask for guidance from those who have come before us and wish to help guide us on our earthly journeys, we can grow in our faith and diminish our fear of death.

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Starting The Relationship

Even if you don’t know the names of your ancestors, call on them and ask them for support. Even if your family never taught you about where you come from, and even if you don’t have access to records that trace your ancestry, trust that your ancestor tribe is there for you and wants to help support you.

Here are some more resources to help you get started:

How To Communicate With Your Ancestors
by Michael Shankara at Gaia

Ancestral communication has been an ancient practice in every wisdom tradition throughout time. Your ability to connect with your ancestors is always available.

Accessing the Wisdom of Our Ancestors
An interview with Sobonfu Somè, a teacher of African spirituality from the Dagara tribe of Burkina Faso

It is important to create a relationship with the ancestors first, but it cannot be a one-way kind of relationship. Your relationship with your ancestors is a relationship that must be nurtured like any other relationship.

Five Ways To Honor Your Ancestors
by Dr. Daniel Foor, Ph.D. of Ancestral Medicine

Direct contact with the spirits of the ancestors can be cultivated through ritual practices; however, communication may also happen spontaneously in forms such as dream contact, waking encounters, and synchronicity. When we have a framework to receive their outreach, their work is made easier and we are open to the enjoyment of conscious, ongoing relationship.

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[Review] The Marseille Tarot Revealed by Yoav Ben-Dov

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Yoav Ben-Dov was an asset to the tarot community who passed away nearly a year ago, in December 2016, at age 59. He studied physics and the philosophy of science in Tel Aviv, was a student of Chilean-French cartomancer (and film director and polymath) Alejandro Jodorowsky, and held a doctorate in the philosophy of quantum mechanics.

He worked on a restored version of the Marseille based on the deck published by Nicholas Conver in 1760 and titled his restored deck the CBT (Conver/Ben-Doav Tarot) Marseille.

He developed his own method of reading the Marseille, which he called the “Open Reading” and which he detailed in a book of the same name.

In 2017, Llewellyn published his comprehensive book on the Marseille tarot, titled The Marseille Tarot Revealed: A Complete Guide to Symbolism, Meanings & Methods.

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I first ran across this book at my local library this summer and wanted to have a look before I bought it. It had been on my radar since it was published but I hadn’t had a chance (or time) to get my hands on it. It wasn’t long before I had decided I wanted to make this volume a permanent part of my essential tarot library.

Ben-Dov said he had three principle aims in this book: a general introduction to the tarot and the reading process, a guide to his “open reading” method, and a handbook to reading the Marseille specifically.

A few things set this work apart from the many others out there on the market, especially given the resurgence in popularity and “trendiness” in recent years of the Tarot de Marseille and the French school of cartomancy.

The Open Reading Method

First of these is Ben-Dov’s method, which departs from a vast majority of readers (including myself) who insist that the question is of vital importance. (It should be noted that when he refers to a reading, he is working in person and face-to-face with the querent, which gives him a lot more to work with in terms of body language and psychological input than is possible when doing telephone or email readings.)

Regarding questions, he states:

“As I see it, even if the querent comes to the reading with a clear and precise question, we should regard it only as a starting point. People are not always self-aware enough to know what exactly it is that troubles them.”

Open reading relies much on the skill and experience of the reader to help the querent uncover what’s “really” important in terms of the reading session. He says that taking a querent’s question “at face value and giving them a definite answer is usually not productive.”

Right or wrong, an optimistic prediction may lower the motivation of the querent to make an effort, as they may believe that success is guaranteed. A pessimistic one could also lower their motivation, this time because they may think all is lost anyway.

I absolutely agree with Ben-Dov’s observations here and he succinctly states the reason why I also avoid making “predictions” for clients and prefer to view the reading session as a process of coming to clarity and insight for proactive decision making.

Ben-Dov’s way of assigning meaning to the cards in the open reading method is something I found particularly challenging. It caused me to stretch my thinking in terms of card reading. I had already worked on elements that loosely resemble the open reading in my work with Enrique Enriquez, namely the idea that cards have no fixed meaning, nor do their positions. This will challenge many readers who used “cookbook” style texts to learn the cards, especially non-Marseille decks. However, it’s a worthwhile exercise and challenge for any reader who wants to develop a more holistic approach to card reading.

We don’t start by interpreting each card separately; instead, we first try to see the whole picture that the cards form together.

Everything Is a Sign

Ben-Dov relies on another concept that may not appeal to all readers, but which plays an important role in his way of reading: “everything is a sign.”

Generally speaking I tend to agree with him on this (ex: cards jumping the deck during shuffling, spontaneous mental images or phrases I may receive prior to shuffling or during a reading session), but personally he goes a little too far for my own taste, truly including everything as a potential sign, down to the querent’s choice of clothing, accessories, and hand movements while shuffling.

I don’t disagree with him that everything can be read as a sign. However, I think each reader has to draw in for him or herself how much he or she wants to accept to read as a sign. I would be overwhelmed if I felt I had to systematically consider absolutely everything down to the last detail in the reading session and surrounding environment as a sign. But the principle here—that meaning can come from any stimulus that arises during the reading session—is absolutely valid and worthwhile.

He includes several practical examples with actual spreads in which his interpretation draws on his own intuitions and experiences. He describes how “usually” cards are interpreted as such but in a particular reading he “felt” it meant something different, based on “something in the querent’s presence.” This could be too ambiguous for a beginning reader who’s looking for hard and fast maxims to grab onto.

His method will also present a challenge for readers who insist that a question provides the necessary context for interpretation. When he provides a three-card combination without providing a question and begins offering possible interpretations (“may be” and “could represent”), it could sound to some like random speculation with no anchor point.

What’s refreshing, however, is that this method opens up new possibilities to readers who have self-taught with mass market books.

Reference for Individual Meanings and Divination

The book will prove useful as a reference manual. Each card of the major arcana is delineated with a large photo and several “functions” of the card. This gives structure with enough flexibility to leave room for individual interpretation based on the open method.

Many readers struggle with reading the pips in the Marseille because they have very little symbolic content, and here Ben-Dov has an entire chapter on how to read them, including a quick reference section of brief interpretations for each of the “number cards.” The court cards have their own chapter as well.

This is a thorough manual that does a great job of multitasking. It teaches accurate tarot history, examining the French and English schools past and present; the particulars of the Marseille deck; Ben-Dov’s own reading method; reference information for each card in the deck; as well as symbolic meanings in terms of colors, numbers, figures, and body parts.

In addition, Ben-Dov’s background in Hebrew (he wrote the first tarot book to be published in Hebrew) allows him to comment on Cabbala and possible uses for Hebrew letter correspondences. There’s also a handy reference table.

The book is printed on a lovely stock, in full color on a satisfyingly shiny and heavier-weight white paper than you normally find in paperback books. At $15 for either paperback or Kindle version, the price is also very affordable. I’m a Kindle fan, but I recommend you purchase this volume in paperback because the tactile quality is worth it.

Did you like this post? Read more of Shelley Ruelle’s writing on the tarot here at Maelstrom Tarot or at her tarot blog, Sparrow Tarot.

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?

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?

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