Deck Unveiling: Dark Days Tarot

Favorite month = favorite deck! Dark Days Tarot, a small-run independent deck, came rather recently. The deck is square, and instead of being read in just upright or reversed positions, the cards are meant to be read 4 ways (don’t worry, the guidebook covers each directional reading). It’s a really great concept that lets you dive in much deeper than many other decks.

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The deck, inspired by the dark moon, lets us delve into our shadow selves, exploring our dreams, desires, and the unexplored crevices of our subconscious. And it’s is queer as hell, and full of mermaids.

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Plus, Wren has one of the most extensive websites I’ve seen devoted to a single deck, and sends out a tarot newsletter with every dark moon. Go get lost in the magic at DarkDaysTarot.com

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A General All-Purpose spread

I’ve been busy laboring in my (non-witchy) vocation, but I finally have a few days off to catch up on life stuff before running out into the woods to camp for a few days (and leading a candle making workshop! Yippie!). But I did come up with a tarot spread to share.

I generally steer away from general spreads if I can, preferring to engage in a bit of conversation and coming up with a (usually) 3-card spread specifically designed for the person I am reading for. But sometimes that approach isn’t viable. Sometimes folks don’t want to just start chatting away about their personal life. Or sometimes their personal life is all sorts of chaos and trying to pinpoint a specific thing to talk about is damn near impossible. That’s when it’s a good to have a general spread arsenal in your pocket.

General-011: The issue

2: What is behind you

3: What is beside you

4: What is before you

5: What is within you

6: The question behind the question

Card 1 clarifies the overall issue to focus on, but is informed by 2, 3 + 4. The last time I did this spread it i drew swords for 1 + 2 and cups for the rest of the spread. The intellectual issues in the swords were of course influenced by the cups (mostly family centered cards). Cards 2-5 focus on your roles and how you navigate the issue. And card 6… well, that’s the heavy hitter. That’s the question behind the question. It can change the reading all together by changing the heart of the issue. It can enhance the reading up to that point. Give it a try and see what you think!

 

 

 

 

Slow Holler Tarot

The Slow Holler deck is a queer, collaborative deck based out of North Carolina. According to the Slow Holler collective, “One of the goals of this project is to amplify southern voices, voices with southern ties, queer voices, and voices that speak from the intersections of those identities.” And Babe, does it ever!

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The Slow Holler Tarot is really one of my favorite decks to come out in the last few years. It’s one of the few collaborative decks I’ve found that is seamless, despite having work contributed from 30 different artists. Although you can certainly tell the pieces are made by various artists, it almost seems the same divine inspiration flowed through each artist when they were creating their cards. Also, there is something about the bone deep ripples of resignation and resilience that I found when I lived in the deep south (that also perhaps become amplified when also existing in queer or other communities) that comes through in this deck. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t touched those feelings, and in part, I think this is one reason why I connect so strongly to the Slow Holler deck.

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It’s also queer, queer, queer, and destroys binaries and the hierarchies on which more traditional decks are built. Slow Holler is artistic and poetic resistance. This also comes through in my readings. I find each deck I use has their own distinct personality, and Slow Holler is no different. The cards smash any illusions we are holding on to with an iron fist, calling us out completely and brutally. But only, I think, so we can fully commit to bettering ourselves.  I find I often read using this deck for people when they are incredibly vulnerable under calm exteriors and inevitably all sorts of shit gets stirred up and brought to the surface. In short, it’s not a deck to use if you aren’t willing to be cracked open a little and willing to do the work to move forward from whatever muck you find yourself stuck in. And it’ll help guide you where you need to go if you commit to listening.

 

Full Moon Feels – Harvest Moon in Pisces

Mercury has finally station direct. I don’t know how y’all have been holding up but it’s been a doozy around here… stress, injury, and mayhem seemed to run rampant on a micro level, and the world, well…. does anything really need to be said?

The full harvest moon in Pisces yesterday coming off the heels of Mercury in retrograde AND the heels of the solar eclipse AND the new moon in Leo has been giving me major feels (perhaps heightened by the fact my sun sign is Pisces and my moon sign is Leo). I am carrying around ametrine (a cool combo crystal of amethyst and citrine), adventurine, and my favorite piece of raw rose quartz, trying to keep the pit of anxiety in my stomach at bay. I have been doing little death breaths at random intervals throughout the day, taking 5 minutes wherever I can to stop, ground myself and dispel negative energy from my body and bring up grounded shields around me. All of this so I can simply do the bare minimum to continue to exist and not lose my shit. Which, on a good day, I am successful at maybe 50% of the time.

But yesterday, under the full moon, I felt the energy shift a little. I made a commitment to show up to the Night Flowers Tarot Collective in the evening and I’m so glad I honored that commitment. I read tarot, and had tarot read for me. The pentacles that have been popping up for months are subsiding, and cups, which I haven’t seen in a long time, are popping up in full force. Wands are starting to show up a bit as well. And it makes sense… as the fall chill starts to drift in the air I always start to turn inward, and fall becomes a time for reflection and emotion, as well as action and crafting. A few more weeks and I have a feeling I may be able to breathe, at least a little, again.

A Slow Holler deck reading for the full moon in Pisces

A Slow Holler deck reading for the full moon in Pisces

Mostly though, I am grateful I was able to be in the company of rad witches I adore last night as life continues to transition. It’s important, being in the company of good people who hold good energy, who hold quietness, who hold stories, and who hold magic. And it was a good reminder to show up for the people and things that calm us, push us, and have the potential to show us how to heal.

What are your goals for the new month? What intentions did you set under the moon last night?

Book review: Modern Tarot by Michelle Tea

y648I just finished the last page of Modern Tarot: Connecting with Your Higher Self through the Wisdom of the Cards, by Michelle Tea. Tea effectively demonstrates using tarot for personal guidance, and looks at the tarot through a queer, politicized lens. She’s not the first to do this, of course (Cassandra Snow, Andi Grace, Maranda Elizabeth + more all have posts and ongoing series over at Little Red Tarot–and throughout the web–that focus on looking at tarot through various lenses), but it’s refreshing having a complete guide that can be used across decks in book format. And the Modern Tarot boasts 1-3 spells accompanying each card meaning. Also the artwork by Amanda Verwey is an updated and fresh take on the classic RWS deck–fingers crossed it gets printed someday!

It’s a fast and enjoyable read, peppered with stories of how Tea derived certain meaning for the cards from her personal life. But I found the card meanings far from original and innovative. A good beginner book, especially for the social-media politically active minded, but fair warning that if you’re familiar with the tarot already you may not find a bunch of creative meanings between these covers. I mean, honestly, I’ve read more than a few fresh takes on the 7 of cups lately that call it the FOMO card. And now I can add Tea’s interpretation to that list. That said, there were a few nuggets in there, mainly focused on small symbolism in the RWS cards that are not usually focused on in intro books—I’m not calling Modern Tarot a waste of time by any means, but I am saying I didn’t find it as groundbreaking as the bulk of Goodreads reviewers.

Halfway through the Major Arcana I decided to focus on the spells corresponding with the cards. Crystal correspondences and herbal infusion/ tea drinking reflections abound, but there’s also candle spells, herb mixes, and a variety of other spellwork. I always enjoy hearing others opinions on meanings and ritual, and learning how others follow their craft. For the most part I quite enjoyed the spell sections. The spells are calls to act directly with the energy of the cards and the influences happening right. Fucking. Now. In YOUR life. I love that.

But I’ll also say that the tenants of “Be Smart. Be Sensible. Be safe.” Seemed to sometimes fly out the window completely. Dressing a candle with chili oil or including a whole chili in a handcrafted candle, even with the warning to burn outside is careless. I mean, I could also go spritz some pepper spray in my own face, but I think I’ll pass. Thanks. And to be honest, I find some of Tea’s writing socially careless as well. We live in an age where social support and programs are being stripped away by politicians in record speed. The careless remark of “people on government assistance are afraid to get a job because they’ll lose their paltry paycheck,” seems not only dismissive, but downright dangerous at this juncture in US society.

In the end, if you want to read Modern Tarot, you should go for it. There ultimately is enough between the covers to make it a worthwhile read. Just read it with an ounce of skepticism.

 

Deck Reveal: Shadow of Oz tarot

Many folks who know me know I’m a little bit of a comic nerd and a little bit more of a Wizard of Oz nerd. Movie + book series. When I first heard about the Shadow of Oz tarot deck a few years ago I was on the fence. First of all, I am extremely picky about collaborative decks….does the deck flow? it it cohesive? does it read as one piece or many? Second of all, I am extremely picky regarding decks that embody subjects I may be a bit fanatical about…can I use them? Will I connect? Will the cards show what I love about the story? etc. etc. etc. I also know the cards were wider than many standard decks and I worried about the physicality of them. I couldn’t dispel any of my concerns from the info online.

But when I ran across the Illogical Associates booth at Emerald City ComicCon 2 years ago, saw the deck for myself +shuffled it in my hands, I connected with it more than I thought I ever would. To begin with, the deck is based on all 14 of Baum’s original Oz books. The deck is more than Dorothy’s fools journey from the movie. It’s Dorothy’s fools journey through out the series. The deck is also the story of Ozma, the Patchwork Girl, the Hungry Tiger, the Nome King, Polychrome, Tik-Tok and so many others.

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And although it the artists included in the deck all have very different styles, as comic book artists each card seems truly approached as a single cell of an ongoing story. The borders represent the different suits + the major arcana. The cards are sturdy and withstand use, though they are a bit wider than standard tarot cards and can take a while to get used to.

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While the deck can be used with little knowledge of the OZ realm, because of how heavily the full deck is based on the 14 book series, I find a base knowledge of the characters and stories across the series is incredibly helpful, and helps deepen the meaning of the cards and therefore the depth of a reading. I also suspect that, if you were given a reading to someone else, they might want to have a little familiarity with the stories.

These are reasons I don’t break out this deck often. But when I do use the Shadow of Oz it’s a really lovely and connecting experience. Because I am literally holding the wonder of OZ in my hands, and walking through a magical world with a cast of characters I hold dear. Which is not to say that it’s a deck overflowing with carefree joy (Dorothy did eventually say “fuck it” and moved everyone on the dusty, dying Kansas farm to Oz for good, after all) but it is a deck filled with whimsy.

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Solar Eclipse of the Heart

As much as I’m into the moon and her cycles and power, I’m also into the sun. In Norse mythology, the sun is divinely animated by the goddess Sunna (or Sól), who rides through the sky on a horse-drawn chariot. Fenrir’s offspring (or Fenrir himself under another name), Skoll (which translates roughly to “mockery” or “one who mocks”) chases Sunna across the sky. (Sunna’s twin brother, Mani, divinely animates the moon, and is chased by the wolf Hati, but more on that another day).

“The Wolves Pursuing Sol and Mani” by J.C. Dollman (1909)

“The Wolves Pursuing Sol and Mani” by J.C. Dollman (1909)

To honor and connect with Sunna, I went down to the beach to watch the eclipse this morning. Although we reside a few hours out of the totality band, the eclipse was still amazing to watch. I sat with my mom, and best friend, and enjoyed my family. I made solar eclipse water. I watched the shadows as the sky grew dark and the air around us got chilly. And then I felt the sun warm my skin again as she emerged from the eclipse.

As I sat there witnessing the eclipse through all my senses, I thought about Sunna racing across the sky. Some lore attributes the solar eclipse to Skoll almost catching up to Sunna and taking a bite out of the sun. But as I was out sitting on the beach watching the sun disappear with folks I love, I thought about Sunna and Mani passing each other in the sky, giving each other a high-five as they passed, and saying “way to keep outrunning your wolf!” I think it’s an image I’ll hold on to.

After the eclipse, I wanted to hold quiet space for myself. I did a three card reading for the solar eclipse and asked

  1. How can I best serve the outward aspects of my life right now?
  2. How can I best serve my inner personal needs right now?
  3. How can I best balance the duality of my outward obligations and my inner needs?
Solar Eclipse 3-card spread using The Wild Unknown L: Card 1, 8 of swords. R: Card 2, 10 of swords rx. C: Card 3, 3 of wands.

Solar Eclipse 3-card spread using The Wild Unknown L: Card 1, 8 of swords. R: Card 2, 10 of swords rx. C: Card 3, 3 of wands.

I was thoroughly called out by The Wild Unknown (this deck never ever fails to call me out with hard truths) with the 8 of swords, the 10 of swords rx, and the three of wands, respectively. There are no soft, warm hugs here at all, just hard truths. But I suppose when you ask for Sunna’s guidance you should expect glaring and obvious truths, no matter how much they burn.

Happy solar eclipse, y’all!

Ostara Tarot Unboxing

It took me a bit longer than expected to get the Ostara Tarot, a collaborative deck by Vancouver, B.C. art school friends Molly Applejohn, Eden Cooke, Krista Gibbard & Julia Iredale. It was a classic comedy of errors, but the deck finally arrived. Maybe I was still a little butt-hurt from the months it took to get the deck, but I’m not quite as pleased with it as I thought I would be.

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As a fellow Vancouver, B.C. art school grad, I want to like it more than I do, perhaps out of some feeling of camaraderie. But I don’t. Which isn’t to say I don’t like the deck, or will be getting rid of it any time soon. The deck is cohesive. It flows calmly through the fool’s journey, and the overall vibe is one of calm. But a resolute calm, one that stands strong and quiet during the conflict that surrounds. Which makes sense as the deck is named after the vernal equinox which leads cold winter into spring.

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A few of my favorite cards in the deck include the two of cups, represented by birds, the ten of swords showing a pierced humpback whale (not enough to destroy them though, I think), and the 4 of pentacles, showing a rabbit wearing an eye patch in a boat with her riches.

The images I most connect to are the animal representations. The human representations in the deck, on the other hand, at time ride that fine line between appreciation and representation, and appropriative stereotypes. It’s also pretty heteronormative. I would connect more to the deck if the humans were left out all together and the Ostara Tarot had just been an animal based deck.

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A few more cards in the deck I am drawn to include the ace of swords with a mouse perched on a sword sticking out of a skeleton’s ribs, the world, breaking apart in space, the queen of pentacles, a warrior queen holding her babe close, surrounded by her shield, animals, and drying herbs and flowers.

The deck itself is standard tarot deck size. It’s beautifully printed on sturdy weight paper and gloss coated. And it has silver gilded edges. The guidebook and box are high quality as well, and I’ve found the cards physically easy handle. All in all, I’m going to give this deck a chance, and be open to where that road leads. I’m just a little bit disappointed for a deck I was really looking forward working with.

Sparks Vs. Breath

I met a good friend today for a little bite to eat (delicious carrot hummus on toast with radishes and herbs and pretty purple edible flowers). She’s amazing, and recently published an incredibly beautiful and insightful tarot deck (Dark Days Tarot). We’ve made a point to meet every few weeks, or once a month, for the last year or so, but the past few months have been rich with change and transition and we hadn’t seen each other in months. Which was much too long.

We caught up about life in general and inevitably our conversation turned to witchiness, as it always inevitably does. We were discussing tarot (another usual topic for us) and the various veins of thought regarding wands as fire + swords as air vs. wands as air + swords as fire. Swords are forged in fire, and trees (which wands are made from) literally create air, so there are obvious associations with these elements. And yet in the RWS tradition (on which I have many thoughts and feels, but that’s another post) the associations are flipped. And this is where our discussion found itself.

I started studying the Tarot in the RWS tradition twenty years ago, and my perception and perspective of the cards (and tarot in general) has changed greatly. But the RWS assignment of wands as fire and swords as air makes a great deal of sense to me. Wands (to me) represent the raw energy and intention. It is through wands which we throw out our intention when we cast spells. It is through wands which we throw out our sparks into the universe–the way in which we light the fires to guide our way to an end point. Swords, on the other hand, are sharp and calculated. Large swords take strength and skill and training to wield. I explain it like this: if you are performing a ritual in which you are cutting cords, you are perhaps cutting energetic cords that flow from you with either your hand (in a chopping motion) or an actual blade, or perhaps you are literally cutting a woven cord. Both actions are an act of cutting the energetic ties that bind you to another person. Both styles of the ritual mentioned above require a great deal of reflection and commitment. And anyway you cut it, the ritual is an intentional and intellectual act. And both require the act of slicing through the air. And thus it’s incredibly intuitive to me for wands to be connected with fire, and swords to be connected with air.

What do you think?