Another focus card you can work with over the course of the year is your Personal Year Card. This card covers you from your most recent birthday to the next one. Calculate this the same way we did the Tarot Birth Card but use the year of your most recent birthday (2019 or 2020) instead of your birth year. I’m a Sagittarius, so my birthday December 2019 to December 2020 works out to be my Temperance year. I’m trying to embrace and relax into the idea that I will be learning how to achieve more balance within my life on both a large and small scale. I know Temperance seems like it should be a relatively “chill” card to have as a focus, but Personal Year Cards have a way of letting us see where we need to shift our attention and do some work. So being open to using Temperance as a part of my personal practice means being attentive to not only the areas of my life that are currently in-balance and clicking-along smoothly but ALSO noticing the areas of my life that are hovering around the extremes. I have to hold my achievements and my perceived failures in equal weight in order to really embrace and benefit from all that this archetype has to offer. This means accepting some current clumsiness for the sake of the longterm goal. Temperance is active; balance is not passive. I work with Temperance now so that I can integrate it into my “normal” for the next year. New year, new lessons. If you choose to work with a Personal Year Card in your practice I suggest thinking of it a bit like a coach or personal trainer… they are there to encourage you, for sure, but the real reason you’ve enlisted them is because they will push you in areas you wouldn’t easily push yourself. (Example of how to calculate a Personal Year Card: June 9th Birthday = 06 + 09 + 2019 = 2034. Then 2 + 0 + 3 + 4 = 9 The Hermit)
My “card of choice” for 2020 is The Fool. This card I picked intentionally (not through synchronicity or numerology). I want to bring a sense of optimistic adventure back to my life as well as cultivate open-hearted acceptance of the vast unknown. Incorporating The Fool card into my contemplative practice will help remind me to ride the waves and “enjoy the journey” in the face of personal, communal, and global uncertainty. It’s also handy to have my constant companion, my own little white dog Sadie, as a visual reminder by my side urging me to relax and explore. I’ll share more of how I incorporate The Fool into my practice as the year progresses. I encourage you to pick a “card of choice” for your year as well. Something that inspires you, something you’d like to cultivate, or maybe just something you’d like to get a better handle on. It’s totally up to you. Pick your card, any card!
2020 is the year of The Emperor in Tarot. (2+0+2+0=4) In your contemplative practice you can use The Emperor like a filter to view events through or a seasoning that adds a flavor of this archetype to your intentions this year. Explore and consider what you like AND what you don’t like about The Emperor as a symbol. What do you admire about The Emperor? What frustrates you about him? Over the course of the year I’ll share some of what I unpack about this particular card, but I encourage you to add him into your own practice here and there too. The Emperor archetype can feel complicated during unstable political times. There will be days you might just feel angry looking at his stoic chill face sitting there on his throne, let it motivate you to bring positive change. Other days you’ll feel his burden of responsibility as your own, let it evolve into compassion rather than weigh you down. And there will be times we will be empowered with that experiential wisdom The Emperor brings to the table, run with it! It’s ok to have shifting and conflicting feelings about the idea of The Emperor. It’s complicated.
Each year I check in with my birth card and consider how it played out in my previous year. Then I spend some time considering how that archetype may effect my upcoming year. My birth card is 8 Strength. The last half of 2019 taught me valuable (albeit scary and challenging) lessons about fortitude. Learning to not expend more emotional energy than necessary. To leap the hurdles as I get to them and not waste my energy either in nervous anticipation or after-the-fact anxiety. Strength (or the depletion of it, rather) taught me to be more present. For 2020 I’m approaching my birth card in a much more literal way that I’ve never considered much in my contemplative practice before: exploring Strength as it physically manifests in the world. Two days before my birthday in December I was in a car accident. Although minor, it physically effected me quite a bit. My chiropractor describes me as hyper-mobile. I’m flexible, my bones float in and out of place easily; a combination of some natural hyper-extension and 22 years of “finding my edge and letting go” in yoga. My chiropractor urged me to shift my focus in my exercise to building strength. Not to go “as far as I can go” into a pose but to exercise restraint, pull back just a bit so that my focus shifts to developing muscular endurance and strength rather than length and surrender. “You’ve got that part down. You have got to build strength to keep from being totally knocked out of place.” I laughed. Psychologically as well as physically, flexibility without developed strength just leaves you vulnerable to any bump in the road. I’m interested in finding where the two overlap as well. So for the first time my Tarot practice is going to focus a bit on my physical wellbeing and experience of life. (Tarot deck: Rider-Smith-Waite / page in photo from Magic of I, 2020 planner / domesticated cat skull from Oracle, Kansas City)
Your Tarot Birth Card is the card (or in some cases two cards) from the Major Arcana that correspond numerologically to your birth date. There are different ways to calculate your birth card. The simplest and one of the most common is to add the month, day, and year you were born together and then reduce the number down by adding the digits of your result. Example for January 3rd, 1976 you would add 01 + 03 + 1976 = 1980. Then add 1 + 9 + 8 + 0 = 18. Because this number is under 21 it will correspond to a card in the Major Arcana, but it can be reduced further still. 1 + 8 = 9. Therefor this birth date has two corresponding Tarot cards: 18 The Moon and 9 The Hermit. Why go through the process of figuring out a birth card and what do you do with it? The birth card gives you an archetype to examine and explore over the course of your lifetime. By noticing how the archetype shows up and plays out in your life you are given the gift of a longterm touchstone for your contemplative practice. Use it as a theme for a meditation, let it prompt you in journaling, explore the ideal aspects of the archetype, consider the shadow or perceived negative side of the archetype, let it be a starting point for your annual goal setting. Do not be disappointed if you have only one Tarot birth card or if you perceive your corresponding card to be “negative.” Every card in the Major Arcana contains knowledge and the wisdom we can gain from contemplating these archetypes with an open mind and willingness for growth is a precious gift. Precious and simple.
Happy New Year! October 31st through December 31st of each year is always a sort of intense time of closure mixed with looking forward for me. My birthday falls in this window too. The season itself also tends to really interrupt routines, so there’s an extra sense of groundlessness underlying this cycle of transitions. I tend to do my largest overview card spreads for myself during this time because I’m already in a state of self-examination. When looking to make big moves or major shifts it’s good to work with tools that encourage big picture mindsets. Cartomancy and other sorts of sortilege and divination helps break up our routine thought patterns which makes us more open to new perspectives and opportunities. It asks us to consider the possibilities. This year, in my own journaling practice I’m working with the Tarot cards for my birth date, my year birthday 2019 to birthday 2020, the current year 2020, and a card of my choice. For spreads, I’ve focused on a Lenormand Grand Tableau and a Tarot “Wheel of the Year” spread. Over the next few days I’ll post more about how each of those works and you can use what you like to supplement your own intention setting process.
New clients tend to panic when they see “The Devil” card show up in their reading. But really it’s just referring to patterns and habits we’ve developed that are no longer serving us: everything from that daily Frappuccino all the way to toxic relationships. This past weekend a very calm and poised woman sat at my table. When we got to “The Devil” in her reading she stopped me, looked me in the eye and said, “I know this well. I quit heroin after a decade of abuse 11 months ago.” I looked at her, “Whoa. That is not small. Good for you!!!” We high-fived, celebrated her strength and accomplishment, and talked about learning to have tea with our personal demons. I love my job. It’s odd, I agree. But not many other jobs have opportunities for such intense and pure moments of connection with strangers on a daily basis. I will always be grateful to this art form.
This Halloween season I got to read for a wide variety of people at various events. At one party, a four year-old girl sat at my table and wanted a reading. Many professional readers I know refuse to read for children. Very often children are struggling with very real and somewhat heavy issues too. And many readers are uncomfortable having a conversation with a young querent* about these topics if they show up in the cards. And that’s fair, it is much better to set boundaries and refer a querent to another reader who would be more suitable for their needs.
(*querent: one who is receiving the reading)
I, personally, enjoy reading for children. The most important part of reading for a minor is that you treat them like every other querent… you have a conversation with them as a person. The card interpretations and the suggestions should be specific to their life situation and needs. Just as you would for anyone who would sit at your table. Being aware of their sensitivities and taking care with their emotions.
Also… not every deck is appropriate for minors. I suggest carrying a family-friendly deck with you if you read for minors and your regular working deck is too mature, startling, esoteric, etc. I happened to be using my Halloween Tarot deck by Kipling West for most of this Halloween season’s events and it is a perfect deck for family and youth readings.
While I have read for many children over the years, I think that four years-old is the youngest querent I’ve ever had (with the exception of my son who was also four when he asked for his first reading).
9 of Swords –
Me: “Do you ever get bad dreams?”
8 of Wands –
Me: “Sometimes, if you have one bad dream, does it seem like they just keep happening when you try to sleep again?”
Girl: (lowers eyes slowly and nods)
Me: “See this card? What’s happening in the picture?”
Girl: “There’s a lion by her.”
Me: “Looks kinda scary, right? What about the lady… who is she?”
Girl: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Is she a lion tamer maybe?”
Girl: “Maybe. Yes.”
Me: “She’s looking at the lion’s teeth. Does she seem scared?”
Girl: (shakes head enthusiastically “no”)
Me: “Exactly. Next time you have a bad dream, you be the lion tamer and look that bad dream in its teeth.”
Girl: (slightly cheerier) “Ok!”
The Moon –
Me: “Have you ever looked at your back yard at night? Looks kinda spooky, right?”
Girl: (wide eyes, vigorous nodding)
Me: “But it’s still just your backyard. Nothing’s changed. Right? Just spooky lighting.”
Me: “When you wake up at night, it’s still your bedroom. It’s just dark. That’s all.”
Girl: (happy smile)
Me: “You’ve got this. Look that bad dream in its teeth and say ‘This is my room, if you want to be here… you behave.’”
(we high-fived, she giggled, hopped off the chair, and ran to hug her mom)
Now if I’d done this reading for myself it would’ve looked more like this:
9 of Swords – Stress and anxiety are starting to have an affect on your health. While there are things to cause concern… you are giving them too much power over your thoughts.
8 of Wands – It’s a busy time and there’s a lot to do. Busyness itself, is neutral. It’s how you handle the busy times that shape your experience of them.
Strength – Remember you have inner strength and stamina. Tend to it to keep yourself healthy.
The Moon – Really look at your habitual reactions to stress and triggers… are you acting based on old patterns that grew from anxiety and trauma or are you truly engaging with the present? Don’t let your subconscious keep playing the same nightmares over and over again. Are you really talking to the person in front of you or to ghosts from your past?
Conclusion – Keep your focus on maintaining your inner strength during this active time and don’t let subconscious triggers overshadow reality.
Obviously interpreting the cards like this would’ve been confusing, boring, and not relevant for my young client. So when reading for a young querent make sure you are speaking to them appropriate to the stage of life they are currently in. One of the greatest gifts you can give to a child who sits at your table is to treat them like a regular client; don’t speak down to them and don’t underestimate the depth of their experiences. Have an honest and caring conversation with them guided by the cards and they will remember that you took them seriously. Really, that’s what any seeker truly wants.
The Zillich Tarot by German artist Christine Zillich was released by U.S. Games Systems, this Spring, 2018. I purchased my copy about a month ago and have been working with it for a few weeks now.
This is the first Thoth-style* deck I have owned. In the past I have had strongly negative reactions to every single Thoth deck I’d ever picked up. Even before I knew anything about the background of Thoth decks or their designer, Crowley. The Zillich Tarot, however, I instantly loved. It is beautiful. Zillich’s watercolors are ethereal and timeless, the human figures are vague and culturally indeterminate, and none of the illustrations seem violent or overtly alarming which makes this deck a great choice for giving public readings.
It comes as a pocket-sized (2.5” x 3.75”) deck which is my FAVORITE size for a Tarot deck; small enough to carry and handle easily but large enough to clearly see the images. It is printed on glossy, firm card stock in a full-color tin box. The little booklet is black and white, 60 pages long, and was written by Johan von Kirschner (translated from German to English by Jonee Tiedemann).
Now, while the publisher says this is a Thoth-style deck, it truly seems to be a bit of a hybrid between RSW and Thoth*. For example, The Zillich does title the Strength card as Lust in the Thoth manner, but keeps it in the VIII position like the RSW rather than move it to the XI position like a standard Thoth. Some of the cards cary strong RSW-influenced imagery and, thankfully, Zillich leaves out Crowley’s esoteric Aeon.
The booklet by Kirschner is poetic but abstruse. The syntax is a little odd and I’m not sure whether it’s just an awkward translation or if the original German has the same jumbled feeling to it as well. The opening essay is confusing and references both Knights and Kings although the Zillich deck follows a Thoth structure to the court cards (Princess, Prince, Queen, Knight) and has no Kings. However, the booklet does include associated signs and ruling planets for each card, which is a plus.
As with most Thoth-style decks, it is not necessarily beginner-friendly and the booklet doesn’t help with that at all. However, this is a beautiful and gentle deck. If you love the art and are intrigued by this deck, don’t let me deter you. Love always wins and you will find a way to work with this deck if you are motivated to do so! Just don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come easily… this isn’t an easy deck.
I would declare my undying love and devotion to this deck and never, ever put it down…:
- … if it had borders. There’s a reason cards have had borders for HUNDREDS of years. Actually several reasons. I’ve talked about this before.
- … if U.S. Games Systems removed their copyright stamp from the otherwise lovely card backs. Come on, guys, copyright and your name does not need to appear on every single card. At least not in such an artless way. Ick.
- … if it was printed on slightly nicer card stock. The card stock it’s on is decent. Not great. Pretty average feel. The images would be better served on a higher quality stock that would allow the pigments to shine.
- … if it had a better font and no typos. The card images are so beautiful, but the titles really should be hand-written by the artist. I get that the original was probably in German, but surely Zillich would be willing to write titles for multiple translations? And, oh man, that doubling of XIX on both the Sun and Universe cards is a rough mistake to overlook. Hopefully U.S. Games Systems will fix this in subsequent editions.
But even with these four quibbles… I truly adore this deck. Zillich’s art is mesmerizing and creates a unique world. If you’ve been looking for a Thoth deck to try, I highly recommend this one.
*There are two main styles of contemporary Tarot decks. Both decks were reinventions of the original Marseilles-style Tarot decks and were heavily influenced by the beliefs and practices of the British occult group The Golden Dawn which existed from 1887-1903. The Rider-Smith-Waite (RSW) deck was published in 1910 and was illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith under the direction of A. E. Waite. The Harris-Crowley-Thoth (Thoth) deck was illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris under the direction of Aleister Crowley in 1943 but was not published until 1969.
Last week I purchased a vintage deck: a 1960’s Parlour Sibyl oracle deck. It’s a charming deck… except for the casual racism and misogyny found on some of the cards and in the LWB (little white book); which really just makes it not charming at all. What I had hoped would be a fun oracle deck to work with is simply not usable for me or my clients. It is, however, a great deck to study and critique. And we should absolutely critique our decks.
If Tarot and oracle decks are a tool we use to help connect ourselves and our clients to the subconscious, we should be very careful about the messages that the decks we use for these readings are sending.
We could argue if the reader and seeker are aware of the cultural context for older decks and systems, that we can overlook the outdated and toxic ideas. But readings are a time for us to be open, be more vulnerable, and bring in new perspectives. I absolutely do not want my clients (or myself) to be taking in negative ideas about ourselves or others on even a subliminal level. It’s important that we look at our decks and really understand what their images, keyword associations, and general structure are telling us.
Given the traditional structure of card decks, there are often cards that represent both the female and male archetypes. And so… very often there is, in fact, a “woman card.”
“The woman card, also called … the gender card or the sex card, is an idiomatic phrase … used to describe accusations of women either mentioning their gender to gain an advantage in discussions or implying or accusing other people of sexism in order to garner support.” (Wikipedia, 5/4/2018)
The phrase most often shows up in workplace or political settings; generally when someone competing against a female peer is feeling frustrated and hasn’t found more appropriate responses to the conflict. Even if someone actually is inappropriately trying to use gender in a given situation, simply shouting “the woman card” is not productive and does not address anything of substance constructively. It’s pejorative.
One of the most famous instances of this phrase being used in the United States was during the 2016 presidential elections by then-Republican-nominee Donald Trump in reference to his opponent Democratic-nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump complained that Clinton was “…constantly playing the woman card. It’s the only way she may get elected.” (Turns out it may have been one of the main reasons she didn’t get elected… amongst many other things that are way outside of a Tarot blog’s domain.) The public response to his remarks was immediate, varied, and often hilarious. From the Clinton campaign’s NYC MetroPass-style “Woman Card” they issued as donor rewards to any number of role-playing style card mockups to an actual poker deck of famous women in US history.
This is the beginning of a new series for the Moth & Candle blog: The Woman Card. I’ve started looking at the cultural implications of various decks and will be reviewing the female representations in the decks in my own library.
Many of my fellow readers and I lament the lack of diversity (for want of a better term) in the decks available. Sadly, even contemporary decks have been slow to expand the representations of people in their images. There have been multiple times when I’ve optimistically opened a deck only to find one card that makes me stop and feel a little uneasy. (Even contemporary decks! Come on, fellow deck-designers, we need to do better!)
Have you come across cards in your own decks that make you pause? Have you found a deck that is really representative of contemporary clients’ needs? Please let me know what you have found in your own study. I look forward to exploring the cultural contexts of our decks more in depth!