Decisive Action

I find it interesting how often, when I do a two-card tarot reading, that the keyword in the meaning of first card is repeated in the second card. For example, the first card of today’s reading was the Seven of Sceptres. (In this deck, the Ibis Tarot, the sceptres replace the wands.) The meaning of this card as set out by Josef Machynka (the Austrian artist who designed the Ibis Tarot) is “a victory” brought about by a person with “the necessary discernment and intelligence. Obstacles, arguments, and resistance are overcome by decisive action.”

The meaning of the second card I drew today, The Magician, is “a mature, spiritually developed person with sharp intelligence and great insight” who is “capable of acting decisively and correctly.”

So I acted decisively, and made plans to take a walk. I also took decisive action by calling a friend to see if she wanted to go with me. Later, I took decisive action and determined the route. It was no big deal — we had just naturally continued along the street where we met, and using my sharp intelligence, I noticed that there was a lot of traffic on the road, so I suggested we walk along an adjacent street.

When I returned home, I took more decisive action by fixing myself a meal, and then decisively reading on the couch while I ate. And then I took a nap. There was no decisiveness involved in that particular action, nor was there any intelligence involved. I simply drifted off. I suppose you could say it was the correct thing to do since apparently, I was tired after my time in the sun and wind.

And now here I am, poking around on the keyboard, being neither decisive nor particularly intelligent, though I am managing to do the correct thing and get today’s blog written.

Facetiousness aside, the Ibis Tarot is an interesting deck. It is about the width of a deck of playing cards, but a little longer, which makes an attractive deck, though the size feels awkward. It’s also the remaking of a much older deck, one that has been around since the nineteenth century. The original Ibis Tarot was the creation (or perhaps recreation of an even earlier deck) of Edgar de Valcourt-Vermont. The poor design of those cards kept them from being widely appreciated. Josef Machynka spent years researching ancient Egyptian culture and tarot-related topics so this Tarot is a combination of old Egyptian and modern forms as well as the commonly accepted elements of traditional Tarot.

The Ibis Tarot is certainly visually appealing, and the tiny handbook that comes with the deck is as detailed as the bigger companion books that are often sold with other Tarots. (That sort of book irritates me. They seem as if they should be chock full of interesting information or mystical insights, but mostly they include long descriptions of the cards that anyone can see at a glance, with only a brief guide as to the card’s meaning.)

I still haven’t found “my tarot,” the one that will talk to me and tell me things not included in the handbooks, but this one seems closer than most.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Today’s Tarot Cards

I’m still doing my daily two-card tarot reading, and will continue until July when I begin a three-card reading. I still don’t know what I hope to gain from the study of the tarot. It isn’t a great prognosticator; from what I’ve read, although the tarot is used for cartomancy (fortunetelling using cards), it isn’t supposed to be a fortunetelling tool. Which is good for me because I really don’t want to know the future. Obviously, I will know the future when I get there (though we can never really arrive at the future because “the future” is always ahead of us), but I don’t see any benefit to knowing either the good or the bad before it happens. All I can do is the best I can do each day, and hope those myriad small decisions lead me to where I need to be.

A lot of people use the tarot to help them make decisions, but again, that’s not something I need help with. At least not now. So many of the important decisions in my recent life have been made, such as where to move to, what to do once I get there, if I should buy a house, if I should get a job. The little decisions take care of themselves.

The real purpose of the tarot, or so they say, is to offer insights into our lives, to help us see our thoughts and behaviors (both past and present) more objectively, and to give us a better understanding of ourselves to help create a better future. It’s like an in-depth discussion with yourself, or if you’re doing a reading for someone else, the discussion is between you and that person. Although the tarot makes sense to me in this regard, it’s as little help to me as using the cards to tell the future or make decisions.

So far, in the almost two years I’ve been doing a daily reading (first, a one-card reading and now a two-card reading), I don’t think I’ve learned anything about myself that I didn’t already know. I’m sure there’s much that I don’t know — to be honest, I think there is much we can’t know — but so far, the cards haven’t been helping me reach any deeper understanding. Part of the problem, I suppose, could be in the question I ask. Since I don’t have any questions (I’ve pretty much given up on asking the unanswerable questions, and the answerable questions are easy enough to find answers to), I stick with “What do I need to know today?” And the answer often seems to be, “not much of anything.”

I do find it interesting that at times the cards seem to reflect what I am thinking (though that can be more a matter of my reading into the cards whatever it is that I am thinking). More often, they repeat themselves. For example, in today’s reading, the Six of Cups is about wish fulfillment. It’s also a reminder to see the beauty around us, to find pleasure in simple things, and to become more appreciative of the world. The Empress is about abundance and creativity. She calls us to connect with beauty to bring happiness to our lives.

Admittedly, that’s a nice reading, but does it tell me anything or bring to the fore any new insights? Nope. I already try to see the beauty around me, to find pleasure in little things, to appreciate the world with its beauty and bounty, though I suppose a reminder to continue trying to do so doesn’t hurt.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Strife, Strife, and More Strife

This is one of those perfect days: clear blue skies, bright sun, light-jacket temperatures, still air. Admittedly, there are a lot of such days throughout the year, but there’s something even more perfect about such a day appearing between two glacial fronts. You delight in the warmth when coming out of a cold spell, and you make a special effort to enjoy the day when more cold weather is on the way. (Tomorrow will another warm day, but desperate winds will be blowing in a new storm that will drop the temperature more than 60 degrees tomorrow night.)

In memory of the cold weather we just had and in preparation for the cold to come, I am making chili, which also adds to the perfection of the day. I like to cook but I don’t often feel like making big batches of anything, so there will be enough to last a while. Also, this is Jeff’s chili recipe. It took me almost a year after he died before I could make it (even the thought of the meals we shared made me sick to my stomach). It’s been two years since the last I made his chili, though I don’t really know why except that I haven’t been cooking much of anything that takes an effort.

I have also the windows open to air out the place. It never smells musty, which is interesting for such an old house, but the air coming in makes the house smell sweet and clean.

Considering the perfection of the day, it’s odd that my two-card tarot today was all about strife. The first card, the five of wands is about violent strife and contest, boldness, and rashness. The second card, which is supposed to temper the first card, is The Emperor, which in this deck is about war, strife, war, conquest, and ambition.

Admittedly, my question “what do I need to know today” is so vague the response is not necessarily about me, so although I am planning on taking care of myself and keeping calm so there’s no strife in my life today, I can’t do anything about what is going on in the rest of the world — strife, strife, and more strife. I’m not sure why I need to know this, but I do know it anyway. Even if I didn’t want to know (which I don’t) it’s hard not to learn of such things.

I suppose it’s possible the tarot is telling me to enjoy my strifeless time as I do the interval between two winter storms, because like it or not, there will always be strife.


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.

Being Right . . . and Wrong

I was right about being awakened at midnight last night by fireworks. At first, still groggy from being half asleep, I worried something was happening to my house. Being responsible for a house is still so new to me (even though it has almost been three years since I moved here) that I panic at every strange noise. Admittedly, there aren’t as many strange noises as there used to be since I have come to recognize most of them. Still, banging noises do give me pause. But then I fully woke, realized people were celebrating the new year, blew a few wishes for all of you into the wind, and eventually went back to sleep. But not before I noticed there was a bit of snow coming down.

It’s still snowing, and has been all day, so I was wrong about my guess that we’d get a negligible amount of moisture. It turns out I was right to make the effort to plant my wildflower seeds yesterday. Those that didn’t get blown away will be firmly bedded for the rest of the winter, especially since it won’t get above freezing for a couple of days, and then only for two or three hours before the temperature plummets again.

I was also right that despite having a feeling of finality for the end of the year, I don’t have a similar sense of beginning for this new year. I do have a new calendar, though, with empty squares to fill with plans for fun and adventure, so that’s a beginning of sorts.

I also started with a new deck of tarot cards, one I haven’t used before. I never liked these particular cards, which is why I haven’t used them. They seem too bizarre to me and unmagical despite their name “The Magickal Tarot.” [Apparently, I’m wrong about not having used this deck before. While adding tags to this post, I happened to discover a previous discussion of the deck on my blog here: The Magickal Tarot]

This change of decks isn’t a new year sort of thing but a new month thing — every month I change the deck of cards I use, trying to find one that speaks to me. The Magickal Tarot is not such a deck. In fact, it dislikes me as much as I dislike it. The cards it fed me today are the seven of pentacles (Lord of Failure) reversed and the five of swords (Lord of Defeat).

Yikes! Talk about a bad omen for the new year! The first card of my two-card reading denotes the situation, the second card is the challenge I will face. My question was “What do I need to know this year?” and apparently, the cards think I need to know that my hopes will come to naught, and my challenge will be to deal with sorrow and loss and treachery. Oh, my!

The interesting thing to me about this reading was the reversed card. I make sure to keep the cards always in an upright position; I’ve even learned to deal the cards so they always face the same way. And yet, somehow, this one card, for the first time in the 18 months I have been doing a daily one- or two-card reading, was upside down. You’d think that a reversed card of failure would be the opposite of the upright card, but that is not true. If the card were upright, it would mean only delay and success unfulfilled, but reversed, it’s even worse.

I’m not worried about the prognostication. Most of my readings don’t seem to have anything to do with me, so I’m sure this reading is the same.

I hope I’m right about that!


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

A Reflection of My Thoughts

Today’s two-card tarot reading was The World followed by the Ten of Cups.

The meaning of The World in this deck (The Ancient Egyptian Tarot) is completion. The final achievement of all one’s objectives. The attainment of harmony. A sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. The end of an era.

The meaning of the ten of cups is also completion and satisfaction (complete satisfaction, actually) along with contentment. It’s about living for today, with no regrets over the past and no concerns for the future.

The first card in my two-card readings tells me the situation. The second card gives further information about the situation, so it seems to me that the cards are saying that this is the end of an era, but that I am okay with it.

However these cards are read, it’s a great fortune, but what I found most interesting is the cards seem to tie in with the feeling I’ve been having of things coming to an end, though not necessarily in a bad way. This end could be the end of the year. It could be the end of this particular “era” for me. Or it could simply be a feeling that means nothing. But whatever the feeling is, it seems to be reflected in the cards, though I don’t know whether the cards are saying that I am right about my feelings and this is the end of something or they are picking up on my thoughts and reflecting them back to me.

This reflection of my thoughts happens quite frequently, though I don’t see anything particularly mystical in it. It could be that I interpret the cards through the screen of whatever I am thinking or feeling.

After all this time — a year of one-card readings and six months of two-card readings — I still don’t have a feel for the truth of the cards. It could be that my logical mind rebels. A person who is learning the tarot is supposed to study the cards and see what she intuits, but all I can see when I look at a card is a picture that is someone else’s (the artist’s) interpretation of what the card might mean.

It’s possible that a logical yet intuitive (or do I mean intuitive yet logical) person can never really get more out of the cards than the superficial meanings I am finding. So far, I am not learning anything about myself that I don’t already know, and if I am learning anything about the future, I don’t particularly want to know what it might be. After all, I will know for sure whatever the future might bring when I arrive. (Though the fallacy here is that there is no future because when you arrive in the future, you are in the present.)

Despite my continued reservations, I am sticking with my tarot studies. After all, I have a long way to go. The first year was for a one-card reading, the second for a two-card reading, the third year will be for a three-card reading, and so on until the end of my interest.

Hmm. There’s that word again: “end.” It makes me wonder if when this year has ended and a new one begun if I will have a sense of new beginnings. I guess I’ll find out when the new year arrives.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Servants of the Light Tarot

The Servants of the Light are or were supposed to be one of the leading schools of the occult and magical science. (Isn’t that an oxymoron? Isn’t magic antithetical to science? Or perhaps it’s science that is antithetical to magic? Or perhaps they are the same in which case, wouldn’t the term be redundant?) Anyway, the Servants created their own tarot deck, which is interesting to me because not only are they teaching occult and magical science, they also seem to be making it up as they go along, creating their own suits and names of the court cards.

For example, my two-card tarot spread for today was comprised of the Maker of Crescents and the User of Crescents, traditionally known as the King of Cups and the Knight of Cups. Why the change in nomenclature? I have no idea. They say it’s to create a mini mythology where the Maker (the former king) makes the symbol or artifact of the suit, in this case a crescent, the Giver (the former queen) takes the artifact and gives it to the User (the former knight), who uses the artifact to protect the Keeper (the former page or princess), who keeps the artifact in trust for the future.

It seems a lot of rigamarole that adds nothing to the mystique of the tarot, though perhaps the problem is with me. After all this time, I still have no real conception of what the tarot is all about, but I do know I won’t be using this deck in the future — it seems to confuse the whole issue since although the pictures on the cards seem to reflect the mini mythology, none of the purported meanings of the court cards seem to have anything to do with that mythology.

For example, the first of today’s cards, the Maker of Crescents, stands for a man who is highly regarded in the business world. He is also an entrepreneur who makes the most of every chance.

The second card, the User of Crescents stands for a person who is ready to make sacrifices for what he believes in. Once committed, he will follow through.

So what do these two cards together mean for me? Perhaps that I am ready to make the most of every chance, and once committed I will follow through. Or something like that.


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.

The Star and the Queen of Light

A couple of days ago, I mentioned how the two tarot cards I deal myself each day seem to relate more to each other than to me. Todays picks seem a particularly symbiotic pair — The Star and the Queen of Light.

This current deck is the i Tarocchi di Robot, one of the most fascinating of the decks in my collection. There is true irony is trying to delve deeper into the meaning of what it is to be fully human — which is what I understand is the purpose of the tarot — by using images of robots, the opposite of human (if anything can be considered an opposite).

The Star in this deck is about the experience of beauty, joy, fulfillment, finding inner harmony, to be centered and at peace. It’s also about hope, that light inside us that keeps us going even in the darkest times.

The Queen of Light in this deck correlates to the queen of pentacles in most decks. The suit of luci is about the light that creates rather than destroys, about the light that gives life. And that is typical of this queen because she is an earth mother type (since this is a robot deck, perhaps I should say she is a stellar mother type) filled with feminine creative energy, compassion, love, intuitive understanding, calm and balance.

Oddly, I glean the same message from these two cards as I did from the reading a couple of days ago: that my life is going well, and that I should continue to focus on creating a calm and balanced life for myself.


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.

More Tarot

I am continuing with my tarot studies — to the extent that doing a daily two-card reading can be considered studies — and even after more than a year, I’m not sure what to make of the cards. Although most cards do seem to resemble my life in some way, it’s the same sort of vague way that a newspaper horoscope represents one’s life. I am not learning anything about my life that I didn’t already know, and in fact, it’s my knowledge of my life that brings sense to the cards rather than the cards bringing sense to my life.

Now that I have progressed to a two-card layout (the first year was a daily one-card pick), I am noticing that even though the cards don’t seem to relate all that much to my life, they do seem to relate to each other.

For example, the other day, the cards I dealt out were the Empress and the Queen of Pentacles. As always, the question I ask is “What do I need to know today?” The first card represents my situation, the second the challenge I face.

Some readers interpret the Empress as the female principle the positive female attributes of creativity, love, abundance, intuition, nurturing, finding balance in our lives, connecting to the world through our senses. An earth mother archetype who loves beauty.

And some readers interpret the Queen of Pentacles as nurturing, filled with feminine creative energy, compassionate, hard-working, loving, intuitive. An earth mother archetype who enjoys the comforts and luxuries of life.

Such a correlation between the two cards! And a correlation between the cards and me too, I suppose, though these cards might be said to represent any woman. What I gathered from the cards is that my life is going well, and that I should continue to focus on creating a calm and balanced life for myself.

Since that’s what I am doing anyway, this personal interpretation might have nothing to do with the cards and everything to do with my own inclination. Which leads to another possibility — instead of me reading the cards, perhaps the cards are reading me.


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.

Today’s Tarot

A new month means only one thing to me — a new tarot deck. Otherwise, one month is pretty much the same as another. Well, August is certainly not the same as December, but August is similar to the end of July and the beginning of September, so the months slide right on by without a lot of fanfare. Or at least they did until I started changing tarot cards at the beginning of every month.

This month, the deck I am using is one of the classic decks: the Rider Tarot. Also known as the Rider-Waite Tarot or the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot, it is one of the most widely used tarot decks in the world, with over 100 million in print. The deck was created by Arthur Edward Waite, illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith, and published in 1909 by the Rider Company. In 1971, US Games Systems purchased the publishing rights, and that is the deck that I have. The copyright on the original deck is in the public domain now, so the only rights US Games Systems owns are any changes made after 1971.

One of the decks in my collection is a color-it-yourself deck — the B.O.T.A. deck. I thought coloring the cards would be an interesting way to learn the tarot, and since I didn’t want to ruin what might be a collector’s item, and since the B.O.T.A. deck is still under copyright, I downloaded a black and white copy of the Rider deck to color. Although I printed the cards on cardstock, they are too flimsy to use, and anyway, I only got through the major arcana. Someday, maybe, I’ll finish coloring the cards. But for now, this month, I’m using an official deck.

I’m also continuing my two-card reading, though I changed the layout from “Need to know/need to let go” to “situation/major challenge.” The question I ask, as always, is “What do I need to know today?”

Although many people use the tarot to learn the future, I have a sure-fire method of discovering what the future holds — get up each day and live to the best of my ability. Because, of course, today is yesterday’s future. Learning the future by living the future is a better way of foretelling the future than the tarot, because the tarot is not meant to be a divinatory tool. It’s supposed to be a way to connect one’s inner and outer life, to find guidance and gain insights, and to help with personal growth. I haven’t noticed any difference in me or my life since I’ve been doing a daily reading. Either I already know me or I am too obtuse to see anything I don’t already know. I suppose I could ask the tarot which holds true, but I’m not sure it would help to know either of those things about myself.

In the final analysis, the tarot for me is more about the discipline of it, and the curiosity — seeing what cards show up with what frequency.

In today’s reading, the nine of pentacles tells me about my situation: a time of comfort and luxury, discernment and deep satisfaction. The hierophant tells me my challenge: to learn to embrace the conventional, at least some of the time; that it’s not necessary to always be unconventional.

Does that reading help me at all? Not particularly, though it does seem to have an element of truth. It did, however, give me a blog topic, which is a help. After 679 straight days of blogging (3,155 days total), a blog topic is not always easy to find.


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

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
Mistake made/lesson learned
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.