Tarot Classic

The tarot deck I am using this month is called “Tarot Classic,” and is based on medieval woodcuts. As with most decks, the given meanings of the cards are brief because tarot readers are supposed to assign their own interpretation to the cards based upon their impulses, subconscious, and conscious association of ideas with the symbols. I suppose some people can do that, but I am stuck with traditional interpretations because I look at the cards and feel . . . nothing, really. Luckily, I have a notebook full of various interpretations, so I can get a general idea of what each card is supposed to signify.

Today starts my second year of doing a daily tarot reading. Up until now, I’ve just picked one card per day, but it’s time to expand my studies, so today I picked two cards. Wow! So daring! I’m being silly, but I suppose in a way it is daring. It was hard enough to relate one card to my daily life, I can’t image what I will do with two. Still, it’s a way of using the dozens of tarot decks that were handed down to me from my now deceased brother.

Most layouts seem to be done with five or more cards, but even with two cards, there are myriad ways of reading. For example, the first card can demonstrate a strength, the second a weakness. Or perhaps the first can represent an emotion, the second a thought. Other possible readings:

Valid fear/invalid fear
Fear/reality
Perception/reality
Mistake made/lesson learned
Pros/cons
What empowers/what disempowers
Situation/main challenge
If this, then what
What to act on/what to leave alone.

A two-card layout can be about almost anything. So can a one-card, really, but I stuck with “What do I need to know today?” I decided to stick with the same question as well as adding an addendum for the second card, “What do I need to let go today?”

The first card was the Empress, the second the four of swords. (I got a kick out of the four ones for the Roman numeral four rather than the usual IV.)

The Empress is about beauty, creativity, entering a period of growth, feeling rather than thinking, being grateful for the bounty that surrounds you. The four of swords is about rest, replenishment, letting go of anxiety, taking time out to restore your energy.

I suppose those two cards fit — if what I need to know today is that I’m going to be entering a time of growth, then for sure I need to let go of any anxieties that might be keeping me back.

Even if that’s not what the cards mean, apparently the tarot means whatever anyone wants it to mean, so that’s what those cards mean to me today.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Belief in the Tarot

Yesterday a friend told me she didn’t believe in the tarot. To be honest, I’m not sure I believe either, though I don’t exactly know what I mean by that. Obviously, I believe the cards exist because I have a few dozen decks. I believe they’ve been around for centuries. I believe that the cards have meanings, though I don’t know if those meanings are intrinsic or if they are simply assigned, especially since the cards themselves as well as their meanings have changed over the centuries. And I believe that they help people focus and perhaps help them delve deeper into their problems.

Beyond that, I’m not sure what there is to believe. Although people think the tarot is for for telling the future, those who study the cards say that’s not their purpose. Although the cards are said to help develop one’s psychic abilities, I have yet to see any evidence of that. I also don’t know if readings truly reflect anything in the past, present, or future, or if people simply read into the cards what they want to see. Nor do I find any deeper understanding of myself because of my card use. It’s possible, I suppose, that I have no hidden depths or even hidden shallows, that what I know is all there is.

This talk of belief and non-belief has made me wonder if it is necessary to believe in the tarot for it to work. If belief is all it takes, then one can use any sort of cards, such as a regular deck of playing cards (which some people do) or even seed packets, for that matter. Though perhaps “seed packets” are not a good example because in a lot of respects, seed packets can tell the future, at least for most people. Those people plant the seeds, and someday the picture on the packet will come true. In my case, I’m lucky to get a few scraggly seedlings.

If one’s own belief doesn’t matter, then it should be possible to learn something from the cards, if only to understand what they symbolize and what they mean to others.

After all (to continue the gardening metaphor) I have no belief in my ability to grow anything, though sometimes seeds do come up, and sometimes bushes I’ve transplanted do bloom, like this native rose.

Regardless of what I believe, I plan to continue learning the tarot. It’s certainly a multi-faceted study if nothing else.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

When the Clouds Stopped Bursting

It rained most of the night, and when the clouds stopped bursting, they left behind a dark and damp day. The tarot card I picked this morning wasn’t any cheerier — it spoke of strife and quarrels, illness and inner conflicts. Luckily, none of those things seem to have anything to do with me, but today was a good day for huddling under the covers and reading, and the books I got from the library are full of all those things.

When the story I was reading became as dreary as the day, I went online and basked in the light of the computer screen to do more research on the tarot. My latest plan of action is to finish out my tarot year (begun on July 1, 2020) with one-card readings, then go to two-cards for a month, then three-cards for the next month, then four cards . . . well, you get the point. Apparently, a person can use any number of cards for a reading, even using the whole deck, though I can’t imagine trying to make sense of that bit of chaos.

I’d planned to use a specific deck for that second phase, the deck that so far seems the only one to speak to me — if a vague affinity can be called “speaking” — but I haven’t yet finished sampling all the decks. If I continued the way I’ve been going, learning each deck by doing a one-card reading for a month, it would take me another year or two to try out all the traditional 78-card decks I have, and then another year for the specialty decks. Most decks, of course, combine the Major Arcana (the twenty-two cards depicting the human archetypes that show a person’s spiritual evolution into enlightenment) with the Minor Arcana (the court cards and the numbered cards), but I have a few decks that are simply the twenty-two Major Arcana cards, while a palmistry deck seems to be just the Minor Arcana. The Persian tarot has fifty-five cards. The Oracle of the Triad has fifty-seven cards. The Chinese Horoscope has forty-seven. The Book of Destiny deck has thirty-three cards. A cartomancy deck has thirty-two. If that isn’t confusion enough, I also have a Deva Tarot deck that has an additional suit called the Triax, for a total of ninety-three cards.

So many options and possibilities!

That, I think is what keeps me interested in the Tarot — the possibilities. I’m sticking with the traditional decks for now because that’s where I find most of the focus for study, both online and in the books I own, but even there, I find a plethora of possibility. There seems to be a vast array of spreads and layouts, and an even greater number of ways to read each spread.

There are also secret codes and arcane symbols on the cards adding further complexity to readings if one chooses to consider them in order to find deeper meaning. According to one interpreter, he keeps his interpretations of the cards brief because if he gave all the various meanings of the cards, he could fill an encyclopedia. Still, it amuses me that so many of the books accompanying the decks will spend pages describing each of the cards, defining the symbols, explaining the codes, and then, at the end of those pages will give the card’s meaning in a single sentence. I really don’t see the purpose of all those symbols and images and codes if it all just comes down to a few keywords.

But then, I am a neophyte. Maybe ten years from now, when I’ve learned much about the cards, I’ll be able to understand, but for now, not so much. Mostly, this research is a way to play with the cards I inherited from my deceased brother, rather than simply treating them like a curiosity.

And it gives me something to think about on this dreary day.

Besides, you never know — I might actually learn something important from all this research and study and practice.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Two-Card Tarot Spread

I’ve been doing a daily one-card tarot reading for the past ten-and-a-half months. I plan to finish out my “tarot” year with the one-card reading, then graduate to a daily two-card reading. To that end, I’ve been researching how to do a two-card reading, but even something as simple as that is as confusing as the rest of the tarot information.

For example, there is no such thing as simply choosing the two cards and laying them out since there are several ways of doing it. A reader can shuffle the cards, deal two cards off the top and lay them side by side. Or a reader can shuffle the deck, cut it, lay the two piles side by side, then turn over the two top cards. Or a reader can shuffle the cards, fan them out, and pick two cards and lay them side by side. The side-by-side layout supposedly gives the two cards more or less an equal strength.

Another possibility is to do one of the above ways of laying out the cards, but instead of side by side, one is dealt beneath the other, which gives the lower card a supporting role.

A third possibility is to shuffle the cards, deal one card upright, then deal a second card sideways over that card to cross it. Or deal one card sideways and deal the crossing card upright. Whichever way, it’s still basically the same thing — the bottom card is your situation or question, and the crossing card shows what is crossing you or challenging you.

As if that weren’t enough, there are all sorts of possibilities for the reading of the cards.

For example, in the side-by-side layout, the cards can show two different possibilities, such as yes and no; if this then that; a valid fear and an invalid fear; perception vs. reality; what you need vs. what you want; what you need to act on and what to leave alone; what you know vs what you need to know; what to banish and what to attract; your strength and your weakness; a mistake you made and what you can learn from it; what you are feeling and what you are thinking.

The top card in an up and down layout can show things like what your situation is or what you need to know and the bottom card can give any extra information that might further explain the top card. (Though it seems as if these would work just as well in a side-by-side layout.)

The crossing cards can show things like what your goal is and what is blocking you; what is blocking you and what the solution is; what your ideal is and what you are settling for; what your situation is and what your obstacle, challenge, or adversary might be; a possible opportunity and what might prevent you from following up on the opportunity; what is happening today and what you need to resolve; your state of mind and what problem you face because of it; how you perceive a situation and what the situation really is.

My first quandary, of course, would be how to lay out the cards. Up until now, I have been shuffling the cards, fanning them and then picking one rather than dealing the card from the top of the deck. I could continue to do that, but since I think I’d like to do a reading choosing one major arcana card with a supplementary minor card, I could also shuffle each stack, lay them side by side, then turn up the top card.

Generally, when a person does a reading, they need to ask the cards a question. Since I have no real desire to know anything in the future (since obviously, I will find out what the future is going to be once I get there), and since I think I’m fairly self-aware (the cards have not told me anything about myself that I didn’t already know), mostly I ask “What do I need to know today?”

So my second quandary is: if I continue asking that same question, how would I know what the second card means? Is it an explanation? Is it a challenge of some sort? Is it showing my fears or something else that could be stopping me from knowing what I need to know? Do I have to figure out ahead of time what the second card could represent, or would I try to figure it out from the card itself?

My third quandary would be how long to do a two-card spread before I continue to a three-card layout. Do I do it for a year as with the one-card or just wait to see how I feel?

I don’t suppose any of this really matters. All I know for sure is that it’s a good thing I have several weeks before I have to make any sort of decision.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Tarot — My Next Step

It seems strange to me that although a tarot deck is comprised of 78 cards, almost all the deep studies focus on the Major Arcana (the twenty-two cards depicting the human archetypes that show a person’s spiritual evolution into enlightenment).

The other 58 cards in a tarot deck are classified as the minor arcana. The minor arcana is sometimes divided into two also, with forty cards being called “spot” or “pip” cards, and sixteen being the court cards (what are known as face cards in a normal card deck).

Most books about the tarot speak only of the Major Arcana, giving detailed descriptions of the cards, information about the symbolism on each card, as well as an extensive interpretation. Very little is said of the minor arcana. Even the books that are geared specifically to certain decks, give barely more information than is in the small leaflet included with most decks. Most of those books seem to be fill, devoting much space to a description of each card, which seems redundant. After all, I can see what the card looks like. What I don’t know is what it means.

Because of this, I have compiled my own book of interpretations of the minor arcana gleaned from a variety of sources. Still, the biggest emphasis is on the Major Arcana which leads me to believe that those twenty-two cards are the real power and the rest of the cards are more like helper cards to further develop a theme created by a layout of the Major Arcana.

In fact, there are tarot decks (some of which I have) that only include the Major Arcana, and there are divinatory spreads that only use the Major Arcana.

I am about to graduate from a daily single-card tarot pick to a two-card spread so I can begin learn how to read the cards and to figure out how they influence one another. Oddly, it’s hard to find such information. Most sites or books that talk about the various spreads will say what each card stands for in the spread, but not how to read them. Mostly, they say to rely on your intuition.

The first year of using the decks my brother collected was set aside for single-card readings. The year will be up in less than two months, so I need to figure out the next step in my tarot education. This second year (or at least the first month or two) will be for two-cards so I can begin to get an idea of how they influence one another.

My idea is that since the Major Arcana is . . . well, major, I should choose one card from the Major Arcana to answer my question (which is usually “What do I need to know today?) and then choose a card from the Minor Arcana to further develop the thought in some way.

Another possibility, of course, would be just to use the Major Arcana, but I wonder if that would limit my education too much.

A third possibility would be to forget the easy two- and three-card layouts and go directly to a complicated spread, then spend a week deciphering it. (All the tarot folk say not to do a major spread every day, but how else does one learn?)

I still have a couple of months to decide what to do.

Wait! I just thought of something — I could ask the Tarot what my next step should be!

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Tarot Update

It seems as if this month just started, as if only a couple of days ago I started using a new tarot deck, but in another couple of days, I need to pick a new deck to use during April. Well, I don’t have to use a new deck, but that’s one of the reasons for my picking a card every day and for learning the tarot — to use my deceased brother’s tarot collection.

Although I am getting familiar with the tarot, I still don’t quite see how it fits in my life. It’s supposed to be a way to get to know oneself, and unless I am extremely obtuse, I’m not learning anything I don’t already know. Most people think of the tarot as a way of learning the future, or at least how to decide to go forward into the future, but that also doesn’t seem to fit with my life. Partly, of course, I don’t want to know. And partly, I already know the future, if not in specifics, then in general. If the past is anything to go by, the future will bring good things to my life, and it will bring a lot of not so good things. Either way, the knowing isn’t important — it’s being able to deal with what comes that’s important, and the lessons I’ve learned from grief lessons tell me I’ll find a way to accept whatever happens.

Besides, even if the purpose of the tarot was to learn the future, it’s nothing special. We can all learn what the future holds just by living. I mean, tomorrow is today’s future, and when I wake up tomorrow, I will know what the future holds. To a certain extent, anyway. Sometimes things change drastically from morning until night, witness all the people who woke up fine and ended up with The Bob by the evening.

Still, although a deep psychic connection with the tarot eludes me (perhaps because any psychic powers I might have are rather weak), I am continuing with my studies.

To date, the deck I like the most is this month’s deck, The Tarot of the Stars. It’s larger than most, which was a problem until I figured out how to shuffle them, and they aren’t slick enough to easily fan out, but other than that, they seem to be a quintessential tarot deck, with plenty of symbolism if I ever get into that aspect, as well as a key word to help figure out the meaning.

Today’s card was the magician, which is about knowledge, willpower, ability, eloquence, beginnings. It’s about harnessing the magician’s power to create the world you want. It’s about a lot of other things too, depending on whose interpretation you go by, but this brief interpretation seems to fit this particular card.

I still have a couple of dozen decks to try out to see if they speak to me, but so far, this is the closest. Oddly, it’s also the one I gravitated toward at the beginning when I first unpacked the decks, but since the instruction booklet that came with the deck is in an obscure dialect of Italian, I couldn’t use the cards until I developed my own guidebook. Once I’ve gone through all the decks, once I’ve gone through all the cards (some cards still haven’t shown up in my daily reading, though I’ve been doing this since July), and once I’ve started doing multi-card readings and need something to do on the off days (you’re not supposed to do a daily spread for oneself, though I know why) and need something to do the off days, I might try to translate the book via Word and Google.

Meantime, there are still two more days of enjoying this deck before I have the onerous task of picking a new one.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Tooting My Own Horn

Today is my 500th day in a row of blogging. I can’t say that I’m proud of everything I’ve written, but I am pleased that I have managed to keep to the discipline of a post a day for so long.

It is also my 222nd day of taroting. I know that’s not a word, but I’m not exactly studying the tarot, nor am I doing what is considered a reading. I am simply picking a card, making a note of all the various interpretations of each card so that when I use a tarot deck where the instructions are in an archaic form of Italian (as a couple of the decks are), I will be able to check my own notes for what each of those cards might mean.

If you don’t know why my interest in the tarot, it’s that I ended up with my deceased brother’s tarot collection, and I started my card-a-day practice as a sort of memorial to him. (In case you missed the posts where I talked about his decks, I have about four dozen different decks, some collectables, some common, some esoteric, and each month I pick a different deck to use to see if there is any one that will speak to me. So far, I haven’t heard a word from any of them.)

And today I’ve folded my 140th origami crane. My intent was to do one a day, thinking that by the end of three years I will have made my senzaburu (1000 origami cranes), but I find myself folding cranes whenever I have a few free minutes because the idea of all those cranes has captured my imagination. The legend is that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will have a wish come true or happiness and eternal good fortune. Since I have no particular wish (except to sell thousands of copies of Bob, The Right Hand of God), I’m aiming for eternal good fortune. Though to be honest, I tend to think I have that now, for which I am grateful.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to hedge my bet. Actually, I think the benefit comes in the folding rather than the finished senzaburu, but since it’s early days yet, I don’t know for sure.

I’ve also folded various other birds just for fun. Those I’m thinking of hanging in my garage to let me know where to stop and park.

This is all I have to toot about. These things are nothing special, really, except that I am doing them, and they all add up to a daily discipline, proving . . . I don’t know . . . perhaps that I’m alive and kicking and still going strong.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God

New Month, New Tarot Deck

Every month I’ve been using a different tarot deck in an effort to see if the deck feels the same as the rest, or if it resonates with me. Although I like a couple of the decks better than any of the others, either because of size or feel or the artistry, I haven’t felt any special affinity with any of the cards.

This month’s choice of decks is the Jungian tarot, which is based on archetypal images designed to activate the imagination. According to the designer of the deck, most of the current values assigned to the various cards were arbitrarily developed in the nineteenth century by occult groups. By contrast, he says the attributions in the Jungian Tarot were painstakingly researched in an effort to relate tarot interpretation to more ancient traditions.

Sounds good, right? Well, today’s card, the ten of wands activates my imagination not at all. The image gives me the impression of being weirdly inappropriate since it seems sinister, and the ten of wands is a rather benign card relating to careful management, functioning within a large organization, success, the loneliness that comes from success, and reacting defensively to badly organized ideas. Which is not a whole lot different from the meanings assigned by other tarot interpreters. Most say the card is about success and the perhaps oppressive responsibilities one has to take on because of that success; a need for prioritizing, delegating, and sharing your burdens. (None of which seem to have any relation to my life at all.)

It almost seems as if the major arcana (the cards most people have heard of, such as the fool, the hanged man, the sun, the moon, etc) are the cards that every tarot artist and interpreter spend most time on, and the others are “also rans.” (Which is why so many readings, such as online readings, use only those twenty-two cards rather than all seventy-eight cards.)

When I do graduate from picking just one card to doing a periodic reading (weekly or monthly), chances are I will only use those twenty-two cards until I get familiar with how the cards fit together to show . . . well, to show whatever it is they are supposed to show. I still don’t know. I do know the tarot isn’t really about foretelling the future; it’s more about communicating with our deepest being, but so far, there’s not a hint of what I might be hiding in my innermost depths. It could be I have no such depths. It could be the cards are not speaking to me, and if they are, I haven’t learned to listen. It could be that the whole thing is hokum.

So far, the only imagination it has activated in me is the possibility of using the cards as story telling cards — using each of the face cards as a character, and surrounding them random cards to see how their lives would unfold. But the idea has gone no further than that. Nor have I deepened whatever intuition I might have or learned anything I don’t already know.

But I have the cards, so it does me no harm to pick one every day just to see what I pick.

***

While sorting through her deceased husband’s effects, Amanda is shocked to discover a gun and the photo of an unknown girl who resembles their daughter. After dedicating her life to David and his vocation as a pastor, the evidence that her devout husband kept secrets devastates Amanda. But Amanda has secrets of her own. . .

Click here to buy: Unfinished

Thirty Days Hath . . .

Thirty days hath September, April, June and . . . you guessed it. November!

Since this is the thirtieth, tomorrow starts a new month, and that means a new tarot deck for me. I had a hard time deciding which to use of the dozens I own.

Some of the traditional decks passed down from medieval times are too odd and the images too angular and misshapen for my tastes (deriving as they do from traditional woodcuts), and so are many of the decks based on those old cards.

Some of the newer versions, though intending to seem old, using as they do, images from the Renaissance, are often too . . . natural . . . for my tastes. I don’t need to see anatomically correct pictures (or at least anatomically correct enough to know which cards depict males). It seems jarring, though I’m sure there is symbolism in the nudity, perhaps showing the necessity to put off the falsehood of clothes, and be who we are, but I can get that symbolism with clothed images, too, since the raiment people don is also symbolic. (Even in today’s culture, clothes are symbolic, though I doubt people stop to think what it is they are trying to broadcast with their apparel.)

Some of the decks are simply too symbolic, with more icons and Jewish letters and astrologic signs and qabalistic codes than I wish to study right now. I’m still trying to get comfortable with the cards themselves, as well as trying to find the deck that speaks most clearly to me.

So far, the deck I like the most is The Cosmic Tarot, created by Norbert Losche and printed in Germany in 1988. The cards have a hint of the 1920’s about them, and most seem evocative of something, even if not what was intended. The following is the Queen of Wands from that deck:

The deck I decided to use this month is the Egorov Tarot, a Russian-inspired deck that is so very elegant with shiny gold borders and highlights. (Unfortunately, the gold photographed as brown, but you can still see the vast difference between this deck and The Cosmic Tarot.)

Someday, if I get bored or ambitious, it would be interesting to photograph all the queen of wands from all the decks and see how they compare. Meantime, I’m just glad I made the decision which deck to use during the coming month.

***

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What Do I Need to Know Today?

To learn the tarot and to get familiar with the various decks I inherited from my brother, I’ve been picking a card every day, and then researching the meaning. To get the best use of such an undertaking, a person needs to ask a question, though it isn’t necessary. My question — when I remember to ask it — is always, “What do I need to know today?” I find when I don’t ask the question, the card reflects my worries more than anything else. When I do ask . . . well, sometimes I get advice and sometimes not, but it’s hard to figure out from a card what I need to know especially if I don’t know what I need to know because the cards can only tell me what I already know since I am the one interpreting them.

Still, the advice I glean is sometimes spot on, sometimes too general to be useful, and is often something I already I know about me or my life. (I haven’t yet figured out how to discover that which I don’t know about my secret inner workings, even though learning such things is supposedly the best use of the tarot.)

The one suggestion that comes up over and over again in my daily one-card reading is to trust my intuition, trust my intellect, and to stay true to myself. I can’t help but equate this advice to certain current events since my intuition — and intellect — are both at odds with what most other people think, so I tend to doubt myself.

Despite the lack of true knowledge from the tarot about what I need to know each day, it’s still an interesting exercise. Maybe it will open my mind up to this intuition I am supposed to trust. If not, at least the question helps me focus on the day and what I might glean from it.

Forgetting the cards and what they might tell me, I’m curious as to what you might tell me — me specifically, or me as a member of the human race — what I need to know today.

So, what do I need to know today?

What do you need to know?

***

My latest novel Bob, The Right Hand of God is now published!

What if God decided to re-create the world and turn it into a galactic theme park for galactic tourists? What then?

Click here to order the print version of Bob, The Right Hand of God. Or you can buy the Kindle version by clicking here: Kindle version of Bob, The Right Hand of God.