I’m excited to start off the new year by joining another blogging community. I have joined the newly formed Tarot Professionals Blog Hop and this is their inaugural Hop! Their intention is to host a monthly blog hop that is an exclusive forum for their members to share their tarot and cartomantic blogs and build community through writing on a common theme or prompt. The hop organizer, Fiona Benjamin of Modern Fortune Teller, has given us a great January topic: New Deck. Did you get a new deck for the holidays (or just because, because who needs a holiday to buy a deck?)? If so, you might recognize yourself in the posts on this hop!
Every June I volunteer to coordinate readers for the Lighthouse Writers Workskhop LitFest Kickoff Party. It’s usually a fun, busy night where dozens of writers gather to meet each other, have dinner and drinks, shop for books by Lighthouse authors, and get tarot readings all in preparation for a two-week writing intensive that includes workshops, craft seminars, salons, meetings with agents, and more parties. I often open this reading opportunity up to my new tarot students to give them a chance to work a busy event. Although we get a few of the usual romance, health and “should I move to/from Denver” questions, participants mostly ask about their creative projects and writing careers, so the tarot readers get an energizing evening of working with interesting and artistic people.
This past June I scheduled about four or five of us to do readings, as usual. A few days before the event I sent all the readers my Checklist for Reading at Fairs so they would be prepared. I went to the event myself following a day of reading at Isis Books where I work, and packed up all my stuff for the evening event during a break I had. I got to Lighthouse plenty early, so I was sitting on the porch waiting for the other readers to arrive. At which time I realized I had forgotten to bring my deck.
OK, it’s not nearly as bad as you might be thinking. First, I had two decks with me—I just didn’t have any of my usual client decks (they were sitting on my table back at the office, of course). Please don’t roll your eyes and hit “Next Blog”! You know exactly what I mean!
Second, there was a metaphysical store not half a block from Lighthouse. I had been very seriously considering replacing one of my client decks that was getting fairly worn out. So I sat there trying to decide if I should head over to Herbs and Arts and get an extra copy of a familiar deck. The alternative was to use my recently obtained Quest Tarot stashed in my purse or peel the cellophane off my Fountain Tarot and use that.
Herbs and Arts was so close—just through that small parking lot. But I was curious to try The Fountain Tarot.
I couldn’t make up my mind.
Then one of my students showed up. We had a good laugh about me forgetting my deck. It would be rude, I thought, to leave her alone while I go to buy a deck.
The Fountain Tarot, then.
The other students arrived, then we took our positions as the lines for readings started to form.
A new deck out of the box? The very first worry is whether I’ll be able to shuffle it comfortably. Luckily, The Fountain Tarot people were local, and they had specifically asked me what I looked for in a deck, and I had a chance to tell them this very thing—they had been deciding between a couple different card thicknesses and went with the slightly lighter (still very sturdy) card stock. I was also worried that my man-handling of this pretty deck would immediately ruin the lovely silver edges, but the deck is a trooper and using it did not harm it.
The other worry with a new deck out of the box is that nothing will come to me when I look at the imagery—or that my readings will be slowed down too much as I have to contemplate each image to find its meaning. This is one of the joys of reading with personal decks, but a harsh frustration when reading for clients. It’s hard to define exactly what will make a deck work and what won’t. I’m not a traditionalist who needs my decks to be in a particular lineage, like Rider-Waite-Smith or Thoth. In fact, a deck too closely derived from the RWS is more likely to bore me and also have the added frustration of feeling that they missed whatever symbol or tiny detail I feel is most important—then again some of my favorite decks, like the Morgan-Greer, pull very heavily from that lineage. Generally, I’d rather have a deck that either goes its own way, or is inspired by the lineage without being a slave to it. On the other hand, I don’t want something that is too far afield. This new deck requirement is unquantifiable and deeply personal. It’s one of the mysteries of buying a new deck—finding one that will speak with your voice.
Clients, questions, cards. One after another. These images spoke. They didn’t force me to rattle off meanings from other versions of the card (the default when staring blankly at a mute image). The Four of Wands came up for someone—this image was nothing like the usual Four of Wands, four corners firmly planted, a room, a house, a wedding canopy. Instead, four boys were playing on the beach and the four enormous wands pointed down at them, like the inverted framework of a giant teepee. The card seemed somewhat confused with the Five of Wands. But as I gazed at the image, these organized, pointed, directed, unwieldy spears showed a heightened power and focus that is not found in the Five—I thought of the Cone of Power described by StarHawk in her 1979 groundbreaking book on Neo-Pagan mythology and ritual work, Spiral Dance. I described to the client the process of building focused energy, then releasing it for the purpose of manifestation.
Court cards are frequently difficult. There are many different ways to read them. Picking just one technique can help you focus, but can also eliminate the depth and shades of meaning. I laid down the Queen of Swords for someone. A woman hidden. Jagged points like quartz crystals. An unexpectedly crude sketch of a sword in front. I told the querent that she hid behind her education and vocabulary and encouraged her to lose the academic voice and connect more with the reader—they wanted to see her simple truth.
Another concern for new decks is how they treat the difficult cards. It’s nice when they are gentle with the more challenging imagery and artistic and not overly graphic with the nudity. My main problem with these issues is that they are not a problem for me at all, and I sometimes forget to consider how the client might feel if they pull a card that seems extreme to them. It can affect their ability to hear what I have to say about it, so if the cards are open and inviting and not off-putting it keeps everyone in a conversational mood.
At the party Death came up—a horse with glowing eyes between perfectly symmetrical winter trees—the branches formed a tall triangle, at the peak of which was a skull, posed as if looking down at the horse. An area of darkness, another triangle, gave the shape of a cloaked body to the skull—a mummer on stilts with those too long puppet arms, controlled by shorter wooden sticks. Lose the costumes, the spectacle, the sturm und drang. Simple animal instinct will drive this forward.
Yes, I’ve made up my mind. I can work with this deck.
Have a new deck? Want to do something special with it to get to know it better and connect to it? Try out my Reading and Ceremony for Charging a Tarot Deck.
Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into the most active and one of the largest tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a psychic and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.
© 2016 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.