Monthly Archives: September 2011

A new tarot deck brings thoughts about the practice so far

This weekend I added a 4th tarot deck to my collection, The Celestial Tarot by Kay Steventon. I’d been wanting a new deck for a couple of weeks, so on a weekend pass by Union Square, I stopped by my favorite metaphysical bookshop Namaste to have a browse. I was actually looking for the Chakra Tarot, but upon further research I found out it is only available from the artist herself, and at $59, isn’t quite as splurgy as some of the more affordable decks out there.

I currently own the traditional Rider-Waite Tarot, as well as Osho’s Zen Tarot, and a strange deck I came across randomly and needed to explore, The Tantric Dakini Oracle (of course the name piqued my interest).

I am a beginning reader, but have enough experience to know that not all decks are the same. On the contrary, they are all very different, and each reader will resonate to a particular deck based on that deck’s imagery and where it largely draws its symbolism from.

The Rider-Waite deck is so beloved and certain because its imagery and symbology is intuitive and accessible to many. The Fool card, for example. How could anyone miss the carefree oblivion in the Fool’s face? Eyes to the clouds as he nearly steps off a cliff, a dog barks in warning. Yet he hasn’t fallen off the cliff. He’s about to. Or maybe he’s not. He’s at the edge of the unknown. But find card zero in another deck and the story may not be so clear.

I was drawn to The Celestial Tarot because it blends astrology and mythology with tarot. I remember some basics of Greek mythology, which figures heavily into The Celestial Tarot. But even without being able to tell Artemis from Athena, The Celestial Tarot provides a lot of grist for the divinatory mill.

Each card has glyphs for planet and zodiac symbol incorporated into the dreamy art, so there are various levels at which you can interpret each card. There’s the story the card tells from the Rider-Waite path, the mythological story, and the astrological story. In addition, when the glyph for Venus, or say Taurus, shows up on a card, that’s another way to interpret what this card means in a particular reading. Is there a Taurean energy in your life at the moment? Perhaps there needs to be. Perhaps the Taurean energy is actually a person. Or perhaps what is being pointed to is a need to become more connected to your resources (a Taurean theme). The addition of astrology to the cards gives still another way to interpret them.

The mythological component is fascinating, but I’m not studied enough in the Greek myths, or the stories behind why the constellations have their names, to utilize this feature yet. In one card I’ve drawn twice in two days, the seven of pentacles, the card is named Coma, for a goddess who, in an act of devotion, cut off all her hair to please her God. To honor her sacrifice, a constellation was named after her. Seven of Pentacles is about assessing, a change in direction, or finally seeing the results of your actions. It is a card where energy is latent or just beginning to bloom. With Virgo on this card, and Mercury as well, symbolizing the planet that rules over the decan of the sign of Virgo this card is associated with, one could bring the qualities of Mercury or Virgo into the interpretation. Mercury represents thinking, communication, mental nature. Virgo is a sign about service, as well as structure, analysis, and measured consideration. The sign and planet in combination very closely match the tradition definition of the 7 of Pentacles via the Rider-Waite deck. How Coma and her decision to cut off her hair, then be rewarded with having a constellation named after her does? I’ll have to brush up on my mythology to utilize the deck at that level.

The only downfall to the deck is that the minor arcana cards don’t do much to illustrate the principles of the actual card by image alone. The glyphs of course add layers of meaning, as do the astrological aspects each number represents (for example, all fours are to be read as squares; all Aces as conjunctions). And if you know the myth the minor arcana card is named after, you have still another layer of meaning to use in interpretation.

The major arcana are much more richly illustrated, and also contain the traditional images of the Rider-Waite in the background, like ghostly reminders should our interpretation skills be lacking. The major cards also contain the astrological glyphs. Likewise, there is a Hebrew letter associated to each card, which is a piece of information I do not yet know how to interpret. But to readers who know the symbology of Hebrew, good for you!, you’re in luck with this deck.

So yes, a new deck, and further understanding of how much MORE there is to go. Like all things symbolic, interpretation is a function of intuition, so use yours.


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