Category Archives: tarot

New Decks: Pathfinder, The Animal Totem Deck & Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ Shaman Cards

I’ve always been interested in tarot, but it was my Sensual Shaman Immersion that really brought me face-to-face with animal totems. I’ve always had a passing interest in animal totems and guides, and had even downloaded some basic apps to my phone that I could look up an animal if one randomly crossed my path in a way that made me take notice. But I’d never explored it with the depth I found out this subject area has.

I’m an animal lover and have been all my life. If I could do my life over, I would totally become a zoologist or some kind of person that works directly with a wide variety of animals, not in a veterinary setting, more in a behavioral and observation setting, like a zoo keeper or other animal handler. So animals and animal symbolism have always played a role in my life. When I discovered the Pathfinder deck, I knew I had to bring it into my world and learn more about working with animals as totems and guides.

The Pathfinder deck is an 83-card deck that features a different animal portrait on each card. The Pathfinder can be used in much the same way any tarot deck is used, although there are some readings designed specifically for this deck, like the “Cat’s Paw” and “Bird Claw or Talon” spread. Each of the animal portraits was commissioned to an artist, and the cards were then sold online, mostly via word-of-mouth, by each individual artist and at a site about the cards. There’s even a blogger who dedicated a blog solely to readings done using the Pathfinder cards, but she seems to have abandoned the project since 2011. There’s still some interesting reading there.

Another deck I was recently introduced to is Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ Shaman Cards. This deck usesĀ animal symbolism but in a very different way than the Pathfinder deck does. Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ Shaman Cards have an image of an animal included amongst three other images: a plant life, a crystal, and a human. Tuning into the animal, crystal, plant, and human for “entrainment” (aligning your vibration with; coming into vibrational harmony with) to these different energies allows users of the Shaman cards to explore these energies and archetypes which are part of our collective consciousness.

The Shaman cards are used differently from typical tarot. First of all, the cards are large, about the size of a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Each card has so many opportunities for entrainment that you really don’t need more than one card, although I’m sure someone has devised readings using multiple cards. But each individual Shaman card has so much to offer that it takes time getting through just one. The first step is entraining to each of the four energies (plant, animal, crystal, and human) on the card face, then entraining to the concept in the center (in the image I used to illustrate the Shaman Cards, it is “Strength”). Then you entrain to the concept, and how the four energies on the card relate to the concept in the center. It is a fascinating process that has much to reveal. For more details on how to use the Shaman Cards, as well as how to order them, check out Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ site.

I’m definitely a fan of animal symbology on both cards and in life. As I was just writing that sentence, two pigeons swooped by my window. Pigeons are common in the Northeast urban centers, but I checked Pigeon animal totemism anyway, and it says “love of home, love of community. Security in family and numbers. Your foundation, your heritage. The promise of a loving home.” Sitting here at my desk, clacking away at my laptop while looking out the window, I am in full glow of the love of my home, the love of my foundations, feeling the community I am blessed to have that offers me strength, love, and common bonds.

If you have any interest in animal totemism, symbology, or animal guides, I encourage you to look into it because it is an area rich in information. Are there any animals that speak to you? Do you have any memories of a particular incident involving an animal? Is there an animal you feel a particular affinity towards? These might be clues that may help you discover one of your animal guides.

During Isis Pheonix’s Sensual Shaman Immersion, we used shamanic journeying to discover our animal guide. In a complete surprise, mine was Eel. I will blog about that at some other time. Not a few days after discovering my totem animal through shamanic journeying, I literally came face-to-face with another animal that had uncannily similar information to Eel to offer me. That was American Woodcock, a lovely round bird that shouldn’t be in New York City, but was probably flying through on a migratory route, hit a window, and was injured and afraid when I found him huddled in a corner on 3rd Ave. and 43rd St. I’ll blog about him soon too. Then all weekend, I have had a fly in my apartment. I even opened the door, shooed him out, and he returned (or another, bigger hairier blacker fly took his place). Fly teaches adaptation, making the best even out of displeasurable circumstances. Fly can also warm us about our ego. Perhaps we are “bugging people” with our big buzzy ego. Maybe we are annoying someone just for kicks, to instigate something for fun or to get things moving.

Animal totemism can work like tarot in that it offers us a lens into our current inner world and allows us to organize our thoughts, perhaps even revealing things to use which we might not see if we were observing our situation just in a literal sense. Allow animals to speak to you and enter the world at a level beyond conscious thought; engage with the universe archetypically.

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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.

Namaste.

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