On Thoughts, Air & Swords

24 June 2017

Drawing the Nine of Swords for a daily Instagram post recently, I actually laughed. This isn't a card to normally illicit such a response, but it's been a tough few weeks around here. Beyond some immediate worries for the family, it hasn't been a great time for the UK either. On several occasions prior to drawing the card, I'd caught myself imagining worst case scenarios and outcomes, and feeling sick and breathless and trapped inside my head

It's uncommon for me to experience this. In fact I can't recall the last time it happened. Subject to the normal hormonal cycles, I try my hardest to notice and be objective when reactions are triggered in me (it's not always easy, but day-to-day life offers plenty of opportunities to practice). It felt so alien and extreme to experience physical sensations of worry, as if my legs and body were weightless and I was literally floating up into my head - very bizarre. I dealt with it in the best way I know - by focussing on my breath. In The Power of Now*, Eckhart Tolle writes (on p 52): 
When you are full of problems, there is no room for anything new to enter, no room for a solution. So whenever you can, make some room, create some space, so that you find the life underneath your life situation. Use your senses fully... Observe the rhythm of your breathing; feel the air flowing in and out, feel the life energy inside your body. Allow everything to be, within and without.
So when the Nine of Swords came up, I already knew what to write on my Instagram feed: "There's no point worrying about things that happened or that might happen. There is only Now. So get out of your head and stay grounded. How? Just breathe. Breath is what connects your soul to the physical realm. In moments of panic or distress, simply ask yourself "am I still breathing?" Then focus on the expansion and contraction of your body. "

After posting, I kept thinking about the link between thoughts and breath and the Tarot Suit of Swords - which is both related to the element of Air and also representative of thoughts. There are various partially-read Tarot books on my shelf, and flicking through them I found this interesting explanation:
Swords belong to the element of Air or wind, often seen as closest to Ether, or Spirit. The word 'spirit' relates directly to the word 'breath', and in Hebrew the word for 'spirit' and the word for 'wind' are the same. Just as air constantly moved, so the mind never rests... - Rachel Pollack, p208 Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom.
Did you know that the words 'spirit' and 'breath' are directly linked? I had no idea until now, but it does make sense. We are spiritual beings having a human experience which revolves around breath - a baby takes its first breath when born, and our last breath is at the point of death. Buddhist traditions have over 2,000 years of Breath Meditation teaching, and it is strongly linked with spiritual enlightenment. Meditation and 'mindful breathing' have become so mainstream a Google search for "mindfulness apps" brings back 548,000 results.

So how does all of this link with Tarot, and more specifically the fourteen cards in the Swords suit?

The Swords from the Smith-Waite Centennial Tarot Deck, published by US Games, click to enlarge  
This is a suit with a bit of a reputation! Its keywords¹ include: stalemate (II),  heartbreak (III), defeat (V), sneakiness (VII), entrapment (VIII), nightmares (IX), and betrayal (X).  Even the court cards are often treated with suspicion - from the 'talkative' Page to the 'hasty' Knight and the 'independent' Queen. Personally, I can relate to wider aspects of all of these court cards, so I try not to think of them too harshly!

Swords deal with the conscious level of intellect, attitudes and beliefs and just like their symbolic weapons, these can all be double-edged and used for good, evil, and everything in between. Expert swordsmanship is largely about balance and correct handling. So it is with our thoughts - we must first appreciate their power and then learn to work with them effectively. In the book which accompanies The Good Tarot, Colette Baron-Reid says:
We're asked to remember that our thoughts are like powerful seeds. What seeds will we plant? What thoughts will we rehearse? What perspective do we take for the highest good of all? If we are intelligent creatures, how best can we use our minds to align with the highest good and the best outcome? How can we find value in our suffering as we shift from reactive and victimised to response-able? Can we find freedom through radical self-acceptance and the right use of reason and intellect? The answer is yes if you're willing to allow the Suit of Air [Swords] to reveal the deep truths of your mind. 
The key to doing this seems to have been there all along - I believe it lays in the link between Air, Spirit and Breath. What do you think?

* Amazon affiliate links are included for the books listed in this post. 
¹ Keywords quoted are from The Ultimate Guide to Tarot Card Meanings by Brigit Esselmont.

Summer Solstice Tarot Spread

20 June 2017

Here in the Northern Hemisphere*, tomorrow is the longest 'day' of the year. Midsummer, Summer Solstice, or the Litha Sabbat, if you follow the Wheel of the Year. The details vary, but most agricultural societies traditionally celebrated the occasion in some way - there's a thorough post on ThoughtCo.com, if you'd like to read about the rituals and folklore. 

Since the kids were small, I've been marking the occasion in three ways. We quite literally look at how much the children have grown by placing a new mark on the 'measuring' wall. We collect things (from nature) and make a centre-piece for the kitchen table. Finally, I read a passage from chapter 10 of Circle Round by Starhawk, Diane Baker & Anne Hill: 
The Summer Solstice is the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The sun has grown to its full strength, and summer begins. Even as we enjoy swimming and picnicking, we know that the days will begin to get shorter as soon as Solstice passes. The Summer Solstice reminds us that nothing lasts forever. We do not live in the unchanging realm of the Faery, but in the living, dying, fading and growing realm of earth. Whenever something is completed, we must let it go. Because things we love don't last forever, we love them all the more while they are here. But letting go of things is never easy. The Summer Solstice is a time to practice giving things away, letting go of what is completed and done.  
This year, I'm adding a new tradition - I'll be using this Tarot spread which I've written to mark the Solstice and to help identify the parts of myself that are shining and growing, as well as the parts I need to uncover and release.

If you'd like to try it out too, please feel free. Let me know what you think in the comments or on Instagram - I'd love to know what comes up for you. 

*If you're in the Southern Hemisphere and are heading into the Winter Solstice, you can find lots of alternative spreads online

A Procrastination Conversation / Spread

17 June 2017

How fitting that I should log into Beth Maiden's Alternative Tarot Course tonight and see the 'Procrastination Converstion' Spread. I've had loads of creative energy this week, but none of it has found it's way here, so I decided to have this conversation with The Wild Unknown, to get to the bottom of it. 

Deck: The Wild Unknown. Click to enlarge image.

1. Dude, how's it going? Three of Cups: Great thanks. I've had a good week - I managed to get lots of things done and to spend time with friends. Today I saw my mother, hung out with husband and kids and relaxed. Oh and I had three small glasses of wine tonight too!!!

2. Awww... I can't get my blogging done because - Eight of Swords: Well, you see, I've put all these obstacles in my own way - there are lots of things on my 'to do' list and I don't feel that I can get down to blogging here until I have cleared those. 

3. Rubbish! Just do a little of this - The Emperor: You made a commitment to yourself when you started this blog and you can't flake out at the first sign of being too 'busy' especially when you've had time for other things. Stand up for your commitment and be strong - get the job done. 

4. Nah, I can't get my blogging done because I'm doing this - 10 of Swords: I'm being self-destructive - all these thoughts! I have so much other stuff I could be doing. No one reads this blog anyway. What's the point? I don't have anything worth saying. What do I know about Tarot? Why should anyone want to read this? *insert other melodramatic and completely unnecessary thoughts here*.  

5. Dude, seriously. Just focus a little on this - Daughter (Page) of Swords: You have lots of ideas, and you are gaining insight and wisdom through your ongoing studies. Log your progress, write the posts. There is so much potential - you just need to plan your time wisely to ensure you're blogging each week. 

6. And whatever you do, do not do this - 4 of Wands: Don't go pouring another glass of wine / drinking the other half of the bottle - it might be Saturday night but it's not time to party right now!

7. One Final thought - The High Priestess: Trust your intuition - you know what you need to do. Get on with it. 

And so I did. I made a cup of tea and wrote this post. 

If you want to give this spread a try, you can find it on the Little Red Tarot blog and also as part of the Alternative Tarot Course

Thought for the Day

14 June 2017

In Progress: Unfinished mixed-media spread from my art journal
Women are not taught, they awaken. Every woman has a mysterious force within her. An ancient wisdom that is always whispering. A rhythmic flow that is not only connected to the life force of the planet but to the entire universe. A cyclic nature, that if all women surrendered to, the whole planet would come back into balance.… It’s easy to look at the state of the planet right now and get overwhelmed. To feel there is nothing we could possibly do to turn it around… The only way to heal the world is by healing ourselves first…. when one woman heals, she doesn’t just heal herself, rather she heals the large whole…. she sends out ripples. To those who came before her and those who will come after her. She can never truly know the impact, but she can be sure that her personal healing will not just be felt by her. As she is brought into harmony, the whole planet is too.  - Rebecca Campbell, Rise Sister Rise, pp 53-54

Calling... Me?

3 June 2017

Back in March, I wrote about my dog Archie, who continuously 'reads' the direction of my feet and bases his decisions on where they are pointing. I likened it to way that we create our own lives and experiences. From our current actions and intentions, we can divine where we are headed. Here is my summary from that post, and the accompanying quote from one of my favourite books:

We can learn a lot from Archie. It strikes me that his skill with foot-divination is very much applicable to the way that we create our lives. Based on the direction our metaphorical toes are pointing - as indicated by our intentions and actions - the clues about our direction are already there, if we care to notice them. (Some of them are subtle, so it may take practice.) A wonderful thing about being human is that we can change our course at any time, and unlike Archie we do not have to be watching to see what someone else is doing before we can move in any direction of our choosing - as many teachers have reminded us, we are not trees!

After conversations with various friends, and reading lots of different materials about creating our life experiences, I am becoming increasingly certain that there is a part of each one of us that knows which direction we should be going in order to feel authentic and in alignment with our highest selves, even if the destination isn't yet clear. Perhaps the very idea of the destination is so scary for us we doubt we have the ability or courage to get there - from our current point of vantage, we can't imagine stepping into our power to make it happen. I've been considering all these things, and feel that changes are coming - I'm not at all sure what they are or what I'll be creating when they do, but I don't think the details matter right now...
You are here to create what is yours to create. There is no rush. There is no competition.... [W]ater your garden, fan your flames and keep your focus inward. Let your creations be your medicine then share that medicine with the world..... What is truly yours to create? - Rebecca Campbell, Light is the New Black
In the three months since writing that post I have felt increasingly drawn towards more spiritual pursuits, including daily Tarot study and intuitive painting. I also started this blog and the related Instagram account, and joined various Tarot groups on Facebook. When the 'True Calling' spread was posted on one of them by Kimberley of Fables Den, inspired by the same book I'd quoted in my post, I couldn't resist trying it out.

(C) fablesden.com
For this spread I used the Radiant Rider Waite deck, published by US Games. The cards are pictured below. Interestingly there are two cards from the suit of Pentacles and four from the Cups. Pentacles is the suit that deals with what we make of our surroundings - the physical manifestation - while the suit of Cups relates to emotional matters including relationships and connection, expression of feelings, and creativity. Perfectly apt for this spread, don't you think?

Card 1. What is my soul's true calling? Page of Cups: The Page is about art, inspiration and intuition, as well as psychic abilities. These are all things that I am increasingly feeling drawn to and indeed, the list of goals I made at the start of the year included developing my intuition and spending more time on art. The message of this card seems to be creative endeavour, rooted in the intuitive/spiritual realm.

Card 2. How am I responding to my soul's call right now? Queen of Pentacles: The Queen is a nurturer, she is patient and deliberate and slowly brings things to fruition in her own practical way. I can certainly relate to this right now. In the past I've probably been hasty and in a rush to manifest things - like the Knights of Swords and Wands - but at the moment I'm definitely more tortoise than hare, ambling along and seeing how things transpire while also balancing my family life and commitments. There is no rush.

Card 3. What is stopping me from answering this call? Seven of Pentacles: Far from feeling 'stopped' or blocked, this is a time for taking the long term view. Any gardener knows that after planting the seeds, you have to water them, keep the weeds and slugs at bay, and then be patient until Harvest time. Like the Seven of Pentacles, I'm giving things space to grow, and the fruit is almost ready to enjoy.

Card 4: How can I overcome this block? 5 of Cups: The Five of Cups is a reminder to see the whole picture. As we grow and develop on our own path, there is usually an element of letting go of the things that no longer fulfil us, so we can move on. It's sometimes hard to do this, but important not to let it block the way forward.

Card 5: How can I honour my soul's true calling right now? Queen of Cups: This will  fuel my intuitive ability too. The Queen of Cups is related to work such as healing, counselling, teaching and art. She has integrity and keeps a lid on her emotions - she is calm and nurturing. Calling on my inner knowing (intuition), I can create meaningful work which is expressive, thoughtful and will help and inspire others.

Card 6: What is a loving message from the Universe? 8 of cups: It's time to leave behind the things that no longer inspire and fulfil me - including those that are incomplete - and to move on. This strikes a chord as I have SO MANY unfinished projects hanging around. It has felt like I should be working on those instead of something new, even though I am not inspired to work on them any longer. It might just be time to put them away and to set myself free!

For me, this was a great spread - it really feels like it hit the spot. Have you tried it yet? 

Deck-Trimming Tips for Beginners

2 June 2017

A few months ago I ordered the Tarot of the Hidden Realm, a beautiful deck written by Barbara Moore with artwork from Julia Jeffrey. I couldn't wait for it to arrive and when it did I read the accompanying book immediately (excellent), and loved the imagery which shows exquisite close-up images of each character ... but then I just didn't use it. Earlier this week I was thinking about the deck and went to use it, but after shuffling I found myself putting it back in the box. I wasn't sure why. What was stopping me from using this stunning deck? 
Tarot of the Hidden Realm by Barbara Moore and Julia Jeffrey, published by Llewellyn Books

A while later, it struck me. The borderless cards come with a dark brown stripe at the bottom, upon which the names are printed. Not only is this colour quite jarring to me, especially against the beautiful tones of the cards, but I realised I was looking at the words instead of the image every time I picked them up. I wasn't reading the cards intuitively at all. Instead I'd think something like 'Five of Pentacles - what do I know about that card meaning?' and this is not how I like to read Tarot. 

After a bit of consideration, it seemed like the answer may lie with scissors but I hadn't trimmed a deck before and wasn't sure how easy it would be to do a good job. Also, from the imagery it's not immediately obvious which card is which without the label - it takes a bit of looking. But that's exactly what I wanted to do, so it seemed worth the risk. 

In my 'other life' as a crafter and designer I rely on swatching and measuring before getting started on any project involving scissors, so that's exactly what I did - I made a few "swatches" to play around with.

After making a copy of the front of a few cards on plain paper, the stripe was carefully trimmed and the images looked great. Then I tried two different sizes of corner punch - 5mm and 10 mm - to determine which worked the best (neither is 100% perfect, but the 5mm size is best as the 10mm would have required all four corners to be trimmed to match). I didn't have to think about the backs of the cards as the pattern isn't symmetrical, and in fact it almost looks as though it was laid out with potential trimming in mind. With the decisions made, it was time to trim the real deck. 

Despite having my heart in my mouth for the first few cuts, it was plain sailing - within half an hour the deck was totally transformed. If you're thinking of trimming a deck of your own, and haven't done it before, I've compiled a few tips. As you'll see, it's mostly about preparation. 

  • Tarot deck
  • Sharp scissors which is suitable for paper/card
  • Corner punch (check size, see notes below) with a sharp blade
Remember that blunt blades could tear the cards instead of cutting through them. If you're not sure how sharp your tools are, test them on some similar card stock whenever possible - the extra/info cards that come with some decks could be useful for this purpose.

I'd urge anyone to think about the reasons for wanting to trim your deck, and the repercussions if you don't like it. Here are a few things to consider:
  • How much would you like to trim off? What size will that leave the cards and are you happy with this? 
  • Will it result in the removal of any imagery or symbolism? 
  • Will the back of the deck be affected?  How might this affect reversals? 
  • Can the deck be easily replaced if you make a mistake? Is this important to you? 
  • If you're not sure about trimming your particular deck, look online - there are lots of videos on YouTube which feature trimmed decks, and you will also find plenty of images on Instagram, although they are not all tagged. I used the tag #trimmedtarot which has over 130 images at the time of writing.
  • If you haven't seen (and can't find) any trimmed versions of your deck, try making a swatch of some kind - check you will like it before you make a cut. 
  • You might want to try covering any labels you're removing, to make sure you'll still be able to read the cards without them.
  • Check the size of the corner punch ON SCRAP paper or card. If you will not be re-cutting all four corners, check against the original size - unless you have a choice of punch you may have to cut all of the corners to make them match. 

  • Take it slowly!
  • Depending on the thickness of the card stock, you may find it a bit taxing to use the punch on each of the 78 cards in one sitting - especially if you don't have very strong hands - if that's the case, be sure to take regular breaks to avoid causing injury. 
  • If you don't get a perfectly neat corner on the first attempt, try turning the card over and cutting it again - this should even it out. 

Here is my finished deck in a three-card spread - I'm delighted with how it turned out and so pleased I did it! You can find my interpretation on Instagram, if you'd like to know the message I got about reading with these cards after trimming them. 

5 of Air: Conflict (and Integrity)

28 May 2017

Part of my morning ritual is to select a tarot card for the day and today I pulled the 'Five of Air' (Swords) from The Good Tarot (TGT). TGT is not a traditional deck - the symbols, imagery, and even the names differ from the 'traditional' norm that is the Rider Waite Smith (RWS). 

The image depicted in the 5 of Air (below right) is a winged woman perfectly balanced en pointe on a delicate white wire. A dove - the symbol of peace - is perched ahead of her on the intersection with another wire. It appears relaxed and is facing another direction. Four further doves are in flight around them.  The woman has one leg stretched out behind her, with her arms out in front acting as a counter-balance. In one hand she holds a delicate white circle on a chain. To me, it looks like there are other circles within it, as on a target, and this is positioned directly behind the bird perched on the wire. 

In the top half of the image, the woman is surrounded by clear blue sky, and in the bottom half, where all birds are positioned, the sky is pink, blue and cloudy - it looks stormy and unsettled. The woman is literally rising above the storm - on her toes - with grace, and perfect balance. This is good news - her decorative wings definitely wouldn't work if she tried to fly with them! The dove and the woman are both calm and balanced while the other birds are fluttering around one another. 

After contemplating the artwork, I did what I'm sure many other (new) tarot readers do, and thought about the equivalent RWS card, in order to check my understanding and intuitive reaction to the image I'd been looking at.
Left to right: Different interpretations from the Original Rider Waite and The Good Tarot - click to enlarge
The RWS Five of Swords is illustrated very differently. In the foreground a smiling (smug / contemptuous-looking) man is holding three swords and looking over his shoulder. Behind him, two further swords are on the ground, and two figures face in the opposite direction with their backs to us. One of them appears to have his head in his hands - indicating sadness, loss or despair. The sky is filled with angry and threatening clouds. It can be assumed that there has been a battle or conflict, and it's not over yet. Fives - in any suit - are typically about challenge, struggle or unrest. 

I must admit that immediately after the mental comparison my inner critic (my automated monkey brain) went something like this: 'If you're trying to read more intuitively, rather than learning 'book meanings' by rote, why on earth are you going back to the 'norm' to check yourself?'  Then I shut that voice up and considered that this technique of differentiating the known from the unknown is natural when your study materials are mostly based on the traditional deck. It's also effective - I posted my initial comparison on Instagram: 
[W]hile the RWS suggests cheating, or taking advantage of / being taken advantage of, and humiliation, TGT offers a reflection on the nature of conflict and tension. It's not only a useful opportunity to recognise your motives and whether you have integrity, but tension is also a necessary stepping stone in your development. In the case of the wire-walker in the image, it is literally the tension of the string which enables her to find her balance and stay upright. 
For me, this represents a revolutionary way of looking at this card. It is certainly a lot more empowering than 'struggle', 'conflict' or any of the usual words associated with it. Although the controversial "good" tarot has it's critics, I love the empowering interpretations that TGT author Colette Baron-Reid and artist Jena DellaGrotaglia have made accessible. In the accompanying guidebook, Colette does give the traditional keywords, but then continues with the following 5 of Air affirmation:
Conflict is a good way to see my motives and intentions. I can use this experience to grow into a more authentic version of myself. It's not important to win. It's important to have integrity. Other people have different ways of thinking and may not always be in agreement with me. I am open to this opportunity to live and let live. 
Two cards - the same intrinsic meaning, but one is played out with humiliation and suffering, while the other is an opportunity to rise above and find balance. It's not about bending to anyone's will or manipulating them, it's not about either side being hurt, simply a way of maintaining personal integrity. This interpretation might well present a challenge to some people - there is some criticism that life isn't all 'good' and Tarot shouldn't be either - but I find this new approach to be constructive and insightful. I'll choose balance and equilibrium over conflict and drama (for as long as I can quieten the voice of my monkey brain), thank you very much. 

As a result of drawing this card, I've been thinking about the conflicts in my life and how they have impacted the way I show up for myself and other people. The resident history-buff (my husband) often talks about the technological leaps that were made as a result of wars on a global scale, and when I considered it, the biggest leaps in my own personal development have all happened as a result of conflict or struggle too. Every single one. So the next time I recognise the voice inside compelling me to 'win at all costs', I need to remember to choose to be the winged ballerina of the 5 of Air and not the smug guy from the 5 of Swords! Maybe you will too. 

Book Review: Bringing the Tarot to Life

27 May 2017

A few months ago I received a preview copy of a new book by retired-theatre director and Tarot enthusiast Scott Martin called 'Bringing the Tarot to Life'. It's just been published by Llewellyn, so this is the perfect time to tell you about it!  

Bringing the Tarot to Life by Scott Martin 

The book is aimed at everyone from beginner to more experienced cartomancers. At the time of reading, I was literally a complete Tarot novice, and feeling quite overwhelmed by the symbolism and detail of the traditional decks. The book's blurb made me think this would be a great way to get to understand the cards and to work with them more intuitively. 
Remembering that the Tarot began its life as a game liberates us to explore it, to experiment, to play with it.
Split into three sections, it covers journaling exercises, theatre games and finally, standard meanings of the individual cards. It seeks to bring the right- and left-brain together to understand the Tarot, which it describes as being 'about us and everyone else who ever lived'. The reference cards are the Llewellyn Classic Tarot and anyone familiar with the Rider-Waite deck will recognise the imagery and symbolism. 

The Journaling section has some really great (and fun!) ideas and could be useful to anyone studying Tarot. As a beginner and a solo learner, I found that many of the games in section two were too complicated for my level of knowledge and, frankly, I wouldn't bother to do all of them on my own, however, they would be perfect for group study practice (especially if you have an extrovert group who will really get into it!). The exercises are fun and imaginative and indeed quite theatrical. 

The reference section is good and clearly written, as well as being up to date in terms of social context. I'm not sure there would be enough detail within this section to  get the most out of the exercises without some further knowledge or reference materials, but provided some of the participants have knowledge of Tarot, it's a great refresher.  

I would consider this a perfect book for a Tarot study group where there is already a knowledge of the card meanings and archetypes. If you're a total beginner,* studying alone you might want to do some research and rope some friends in to play along. If you want to use Tarot to help with creative writing, poetry and acting projects, then I'd say it's worth reading.

'Bringing the Tarot to Life' is available in paperback or Kindle edition from Amazon UK (affiliate), where you can also download a sample, you should also find it widely available in good book shops. 
*If this is you, I'd recommend reading this book before moving onto Bringing the Tarot to Life. 

Getting to know the Tarot of the Spirit

19 May 2017

Before my birthday, I shortlisted several decks I liked the look of and gave the list to my husband. I didn't know which of them I'd get but was delighted when I opened this new addition to my small collection. Tarot of the Spirit¹ (TotS), by mother and daughter team Pamela and Joyce Eakins, is really quite different to my other tarot decks. Not only in the unique artwork, but also in the way that the cards are labelled and interpreted (by Pamela), and the fact that each ties in with the Tree of Life (Kabbalah)
The deck  includes a transparent Tree of Life overlay

So far I only have the LWB - little white book(let) - that accompanies the deck and which begins with the following text: 
Welcome to tarot, the game of life! Welcome to this incredible game in which the object is to understand all that has been, is and ever shall be! Welcome, dear one, to the Tarot of the SpiritTo play this intriguing game is to learn about life, to learn about all existence origins and structures past, present and future. This is done through the contemplation of images, pictures that when attended to with the mindfulness given to great art, contain the power to propel the player on a profound path of spiritual realization. 
The booklet (which you can find online) goes on to explain that the deck can be used for meditation, as a vehicle for the "transformational journey of the soul", or as an oracle, and I am especially interested in using tarot for the first two reasons. Without time to meditate this week, the most I've done is to pull a few single cards. Each time, I've been stunned by the accuracy of the short interpretations in the booklet. Without wanting to sound too 'woo' (which, of course, I will) it's as if the words have been speaking directly to my soul. As a result, I'm waiting for the accompanying 448 page book to arrive - I'd like to learn more about the deck before fully diving in, particularly as I know nothing about the Kabbalah on which the deck is based .

In the meantime, I saw a link to a post on Mary K Greer's blog, called Getting to know your deck, which sounded like a good place to start - you can find all of the details in Mary's post if you want to try it. I pulled the following cards, tried to make sense of the art (not as easy as I'd hoped) and then looked up the meanings in the LWB (quoted below), to familiarise myself with the deck. This is how I got on.

Card 1 - An area of general focus, atmosphere or overall energy at play = One of Wind / Dawn: The artwork on this card is quite abstract. There is a dark mass to the bottom left of the card, with light and colour emanating up and away from it. The shapes rising from the mass appear to be diamonds - the most precious jewels, formed under immense pressure - and butterflies, the ultimate symbol of transformation because they lose all form before rising from their cocoons on beautiful wings, ready to soar.

'Dawn' suggests new beginnings and hope - the start of a new day and a return to daylight after the darkest hours of night.
The dark clouds of your mind are scattered as if blown away by a strong wind at daybreak. An important new idea is taking hold in your mind. It is as if a light is turning on in your life. Pay attention to new thought. This is an exciting time. As you think about your new ideas, you will not be able to follow every nuance to its logical completion point in the future, but there will be time for that later. Attend to the present and accept the great potential of your new ideas! 
Yes! Those clouds were circling overhead for some time, building up atmospheric pressure. As long ago as December I wrote (elsewhere) about listening to the 'whispers' - the dreams and intuition that had been telling me certain things in my life had to change. It took a 'Tower' moment this week - something big, unexpected and quick - for me to make the decision which - to follow the Tower  / lightening strike symbolism - has cleared the air and left me able to breathe again.

Card 2 - The part of myself which is mostly active and of which I am most aware = Fire Mother: The image on this card is of a woman, resting or meditating within a brightly coloured cocoon of her own. Light appears to rise up from her hood / head and her face is peaceful. At her feet lays a lion - he appears to be keeping her safe and protected - although laying down, he is awake and alert. Automatically, a woman with a tame lion calls to mind the traditional Rider-Waite Smith imagery for Strength  (in TotS that card has snakes but no lion) which is about courage, control and passion. Around the Fire Mother's cocoon there is a multi-coloured arch with lots of calming blues and some fiery red. This is an interesting image and the antithesis of what one might expect for the Mother of Fire. Like the woman in the traditional Strength card, her power is of the internal, calm, and controlled variety.

Having spent the last five months working on myself - becoming more aligned with intuition, and practicing being present and calm, I can relate to the image, however the interpretation in the book isn't as clear for me:
Long after the energy of others has burned out, your own energy burns like a constant pilot light. You have the sense of being a sought-out leader, especially in matters of the spirit. You seek quiet, but consistent leadership. As long as you move in accordance with nature’s laws, nature obeys your every command. 
While I certainly wouldn't consider myself a leader in matters of spirit, it's true to say that my advice is sought out in various areas and by various people, and that I do provide support to friends and family. I'm not immediately clear on the meaning of this card in this position, so it needs further consideration.

Card 3 - The situation that the part of myself (above) is mostly concerned with today = Four of Fire / Flame of Spirit: Another card with abstract imagery - this time including geometric shapes, and all the colours of the rainbow. It's hard for me to describe the way the shapes interplay, or what each symbolises, aside from the fact that many are four-sided, have four sections, or are in multiples of four - I've tried to go into more detail, and failed, several times. Hopefully the guidebook will have some insight.

As for the colours, I have found that rainbow colours in tarot suggest some sort of completion and positivity (e.g. 10 of cups in RWS, and various cards in The Wild Unknown).

Fours are typically about structure, foundation and stability. They are often a moment of peace and resting which come before the challenging fives of each suit. However the name - 'Flame of Spirit' - suggests something new is about to happen too. The flame comes after the spark but has yet to grow into a fire.  The book says:
A phase of development is complete. The structure you built based on revelations and good intentions is strong, but in some ways you no longer feel connected to that structure. Know that old structures must frequently be abandoned to make way for new growth. You are growing, beginning a new phase in your life. It is as if your own personal wheel of fortune is turning again. This is necessary in order for you to grow. Search your heart for the right course of action. 
Oh my goodness, this is spot on! This week, I have mentally 'let go' of a structure that has been really important in my life, but which is no longer in alignment with my path. It was a very difficult thing to do but deep down I knew that it was necessary. This also links in perfectly with the next card, which is the 'why?'.

Card 4 - Why I need to be aware of that situation = XXI The Universe: The imagery of this card is familiar - it shows the naked 'dancer' as in the RWS - a woman balancing on the toes of one foot, in a pose which is reminiscent of the traditional 'Hanged Man' card. In her hands are a circle and a crescent - the solar and lunar symbols. Three larger interlocking circles are behind her and it feels as though the top and bottom circles may represent air and water as there appear to be clouds and a shell. She is surrounded by a rainbow coloured ouroboros which represents infinity or wholeness.

I think of card XXI as 'levelling up' - it's like completing a level in a computer game. You've done the hard work, put in the necessary practice, and finally defeated all the obstacles to secure a happy victory... but you can't rest on your laurels for too long as the next level is about to begin and it is certain to present new challenges to improve your skills further.
Your whole world is in balance. You move like a dancer with every movement perfectly timed. Every undertaking has paid off. Your endeavours have been successful. You are at the end of a long journey. The world is at your feet. Celebrate the great work you have done! If you want to journey further, the time is right. 
With a 'level' of my own completed this week, including the personal growth and skills I learned along the way, this is indeed a time to celebrate and to be thankful, for what has been done so far, and for the new opportunities to come. 

So, in summary, new things are coming - one particular phase has come to an end and it marks a positive completion - it's time to celebrate and move on. Without going into personal details, all of this is absolutely true and has been the overriding theme of my week. It's interesting that out of the four suits, I've picked only two - one Wind card (swords) and two Fire cards (wands) - and they are harmonious. Fire needs air. These suits are about logic and action or movement. Again, that makes complete sense to my situation.

It's been really interesting to play with this deck so far, and to try to decipher the images. I'm really looking forward to taking delivery of the detailed guidebook. I know that I've missed a lot of the symbology and nuance of the cards so far - especially the references to the Kabbalah (on which the deck is based) and astrological symbols which are included on the cards - and can't wait to understand it more deeply. I love the use of colour and imagery, which is both strange and familiar at the same.

The way that the cards are split for this spread is a great way to get to familiarise oneself with a new deck. I will definitely be using it again.

If you use and understand this deck, please feel free to add your own thoughts or interprettions in the comments, or come and say hello on Instagram.

¹ An Amazon affiliate is provided for convenience. The deck is widely available from other stockists and is published by US Games.  

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