Posts in tarot
Decorating Your Home With the 4 Elements

I think a lot about the 4 classical elements of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. Perhaps that’s rather strange, though it’s not the oddest topic I’ve covered and if you’re reading this odds are you’re a bit odd as well. My unique interest in the 4 elements began back in my teenage years when I first got interested in tarot. Fellow tarot readers know that the minor arcana is broken down into 4 suits and each of these suits correspond with an element.

Each of these elements in turn also correspond with a specific aspect of self. While interpretations vary my belief is:

  • Air represents the intellectual & communicative self

  • Fire represents the energetic & passionate self

  • Water represents the compassionate & intuitive self

  • Earth represents the physical & practical self

In my view, one of the overarching purposes of the minor arcana is to bring a balance of these 4 aspects of self into your everyday life. There are even tarot spreads dedicated to seeing how balanced or unbalanced you are in these areas. I have an earlier video about one of these tarot spreads that you can try if you’re interested in seeing how you balanced you are among the elements.

 
 

To me bringing balance among these 4 elements expands beyond the tarot deck and into my home. As someone who works from home as a full time tarot reader & instructor, I need my space to be intuitively inspiring, energetically motiving, and peaceful. This need is why I developed the idea of furthering the concept elemental balance by decorating the spaces in my home based on each element. This idea began as I was learning about Feng Shui. While I don’t resonate with all the ideas within Feng Shui, the underlying principle of decorating your space to create better energetic flow seemed like something I could benefit from. In my own elementally focused system I correspond each room of my home with an element and then use design details to further the expression of the element within that space.

While your system may vary, I choose to connect the kitchen with the Fire element. To further the influence of that element, I have several items in my kitchen in various orange and red hues. I associate my bathroom with the Water element and choose a blue tone for the towels and the color of the walls. I also brought in some seashell items to further the representation of water in the space.

As my office is a space where I need to be intellectually charged I often burn incense at my desk to connect with the Air element. I connect my bedroom with the Earth element as it is a space where the body comes to rest and rejuvenate. Correspondingly I like to incorporate plants and crystals into that space. My living room was a bit trickier as it performs many functions within my home. So, for that space I bring in all for elements - candles for fire, seashells for water, incense for air and plants for Earth.

Once I began thinking about my home within this context and decorating accordingly I definitely felt a significant positive change in the energetic flow of my home. Of course, this may be due to the placebo effect. Even if it is, the result is what matters and I can honestly say that this practice has made my home feel much more inviting and invigorating.

 
 

Have you ever considered decorating your home based on the 4 elements? Which rooms of your home would you connect to each element and why? Share your thoughts below in the comments. You can also view the video above for more of my thoughts on this topic.

*Note - This images for this blog post were sourced from Pinterest.

tarotSarah JohnsonComment
Experiencing the Magic of the Supra Oracle
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As a professional tarot reader I have a tenuous relationship with oracle decks. Oracle decks by their very nature defy convention. They are their own little world inside of itself, immune to the rules and structures that make up traditional tarot decks - and in that way they are both intimidating and intriguing.

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Doing tarot readings and lessons each day I’ve become accustomed to the rules that define tarot. I’ve become comfortably familiar with the meanings and symbols of those 22 archetypes and the traditional 4 suites. So, when faced with something new, like the Supra Oracle deck, I think to myself ‘Do I really want to learn a whole new system just to read this deck?’ Usually with oracle decks the answer is no, but with The Supra Oracle, my answer is entirely different.

The Supra Oracle deck is by far the best oracle deck I’ve come across to date. As with all decks created by Uusi the design details are immaculate. The corresponding book is wonderfully well written, and the box and cards are of great quality. I imagine anyone who owns a deck by Uusi takes a sigh of relief when opening their deck for the first time, thinking ‘Ah, yes, this is deck worthy of my time.’

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The designs themselves are aesthetically minimalist with references to sacred geometry, alchemy, Jungian psychology, and Medieval gnosticism. It’s clear that a lot of research went into the development of these designs and that each card was carefully thought out. The Supra Oracle deck weaves these symbols to create a cohesive magical world; a world that gives space for you and your own subconscious to fill in the blanks with your own interpretation.

But here’s the real reason I’d like to recommend this deck to you and it’s a reason that’s difficult to explain in words. That’s because it’s really a feeling I’m trying to explain. It’s a feeling I had when opening the box and thumbing through the cards one at a time. As an intuitive I do occasionally get profound feelings or sensations from time to time and as I felt these cards in my hand I experienced an unusual feeling of weight, as if each card weighed as much as a dinner plate. The cards seemed to ground me immediately and shift the worries of the day far away from my mind. As I tried out my first few spreads my subconscious immediately entered a state of flow and I was able to relate to each card in such a meaningful way that is hard to describe.

The idea of learning a whole new set of card meanings no longer felt intimidating. That’s because deep down I already knew how to interpret the cards. It was like I knew all along and these images merely brought forth the knowledge from within. So, I encourage you to pick up this deck and experience it for yourself, you might be surprised by the magic that appears within.

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tarotSarah JohnsonComment
The Empress & Lammas
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The Empress... She’s been on my mind a lot recently.  Especially as this past weekend I celebrated Lammas, which is a Pagan harvest festival.  One of the key symbols of Lammas is grain and the bread that is made with it.  The Rider-Waite Smith Empress card is full of abundant nature and fertility symbols.  Right at The Empress’s feet is a field of wheat that promises continued abundance and the happiness that comes when you know that all your body needs is provided for.

This weekend I went to a Unitarian Church service.  I had never been to a Unitarian Church before but I saw that they were in fact doing a special pagan service on Lammas so I decided to attend.  This particular service was run in tandem with a local Chicago coven and the service was indeed Pagan themed.  We called in the directions and invoked the God and the Goddess.  Though what was really inspiring was the ‘sermon,’ which spoke of the value of grain and bread - for both us but especially our ancestors.  For us bread is a common commodity, easily found at our local grocery stores and bakery.  For our ancestors, however, bread and grain was truly a matter of life and death.  I can only imagine what it must have been like to worry anxiously over a carefully tended field and then to finally reach the height of Summer were upon that Lammas day the first of the grain was carefully harvested - such a powerful moment that represented both a successful farming season and the reassurance that one would not starve during winter.  

While most see The Empress card as tied to the Goddess Aphrodite, I think of her more like a combination of Ceres, Demeter, Persephone, and Aphrodite.  All represent love and abundance in their own way.  And with Lammas, they all remind us to be thankful of what we have in our lives.

Aphrodite reminds us to love - to love ourselves, each other, and mother Earth.  

Demeter reminds us of fertility and the love one has for their children.  

Persephone gives us hope when we are in the darkest of winters.  

And Ceres— Ceres gives us the grain, a comforting reminder for us all to be thankful for the bounty we share each day.  

What does the Empress card and the harvest festival of Lammas symbolize to you?  Share in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you think. I also have another post about Lammas that I wrote last year.  You can read it here if you're interested. 

Blessings! 
- Scarlet

How to Choose A Tarot Deck Right For You
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We live in the golden age of tarot my friends.  It seems that every week there’s a new tarot deck being published from the multitude of amazing artists out there.  This means endless possibilities for your own tarot practice, which is exciting but can also get overwhelming at times.  My own personal deck collection has expanded a lot recently and honestly I’m starting to run out of shelf space for them.  I’ve come to the realization that I need to be more intentional about which decks I choose to purchase. I want each deck I own to best reflect my own personal reading style and artistic preferences.  So, I put a list together of things to consider when trying to find a deck that best fits you.

1) WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT LEVEL OF TAROT KNOWLEDGE?

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Some decks are of course easier to read with than others.  When I teach tarot to my students I almost always recommend they start with the Rider-Waite Smith deck.  This is because the images on the Rider-Waite Smith deck are clear, fairly simplistic, and contain easily distinguishable symbols.  I find that the narrative style of the Rider-Waite Smith deck is great for beginners who are still working on memorizing the card meanings and symbolism.  

For advanced readers certain decks might seem too simplistic and maybe you prefer a deck that challenges and adds to your understanding of tarot. The good news is that there are tons of decks out there jam packed with elaborate symbols and cryptic imagery.  

2) DO YOU PREFER HISTORIC OR CONTEMPORARY?  

Some tarot readers love researching and understanding historic decks, such as the Visconti Sforza and the Tarot de Marseille.  Though decks from the 15, 16, and 17 century might not be for everyone. Often the minors in historic decks are in pip form (meaning they only have symbols similar to a playing card deck) as opposed to the narrative imagery you might find in later decks.  It can definitely be a challenge to read the Minor arcana in more historic decks so you should consider your preference when making a choice.

3) ARE YOU MORE SYMBOLOGY FOCUSED OR INTUITIVE?

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I view learning tarot as the development of two skill sets.  The first skill I teach is how to interpret and understand the vast array of symbols that appear in the tarot images.  Once the symbology is learned the card’s traditional meaning becomes clear and easy to remember. Then I focus on teaching people how to grow their own intuitive skills in order to enhance and bring additional meaning and significance to their readings.  With an understanding of symbolism plus an advanced intuitive ability you gain the ability to read tarot with accuracy and intention. However, like most things in life you will most likely be more drawn to one of these aspects than the other. Maybe you prefer a deck full of symbols that can read like a novel, or perhaps you prefer more etherial decks that allow your intuition to fill in the gaps.

4) WHAT ARTISTIC STYLE APPEALS TO YOU THE MOST?

I view tarot as a form of art and we all have our own aesthetic preferences when it comes the type of art we prefer.  Maybe you like minimalism, computer generated, watercolor style, woodblock prints, black and white, etc. No matter what your artistic preference there is sure to be a deck out there for you; it’s just up to you to find it.

5) HOW DOES THE DECK DEPICT YOUR FAVORITE CARD?

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Do you have a favorite tarot card?  For me, I really resonate with the Hermit so I don't purchase a deck until I’ve looked at how the artist interpreted that card.  If I don’t vibe with the deck’s depiction of my favorite card I usually don’t purchase it. You want to make sure that the decks you own are ones that you’ll want to use again and again and this is a good way to make sure all your deck purchases will be tailored to your preferences.

6) DON’T FORGET TO READ REVIEWS

Before choosing a deck it’s best to first check out what other people have said about it.  There are hundreds of tarot bloggers out there like myself that enjoy writing deck reviews so you should be able to find many well balanced reviews that can help make your decision a little easier.


I hope these six strategies help you when pondering your next (or first!) deck purchase.  Remember that it’s a journey and it may take a while to find a deck that you really resonate with, but when you do you’ll form a connection with it that will last a lifetime.  Happy deck hunting my friends and good luck!

Do you struggle with deck overload or being overwhelmed by all the options out there?  Share your thoughts and any additional strategies in the comments below. For more tips and tricks to finding a deck you’ll love you can watch my corresponding Youtube video:


If you're ready to take the leap and start learning more about tarot, I have a special offer where you can try out my Tarot Certification Course with a one-on-one lesson with me through Skype.  Sign up below to begin your own tarot journey!  

 
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The Marseille Deck
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The Marseille deck is one of the classics when it comes to tarot. Its bright cheerful colors and bold lines are striking and playful at the same time. Its characteristic style comes from the method of block printing that was used to create this deck. It took no fewer than four master craftsmen to complete these designs: a paper maker, a designer, a form cutter, and a printer.

The designer would first draw the images on a block of wood. For Tarot cards, the blocks were quite large, with many rows of cards carved into a single piece of wood. Next, the form cutter whittled away the background, leaving raised images that were then covered with ink. Afterward, paper was laid on top of those raised images and rubbed with a wooden implement to transfer the ink. When the ink was dry, the images were colored in by hand or with stencils. Once dry, the cards were cut apart and glued onto heavy paper.

This elaborate procedure is why the deck features only a few colors. It’s minimalism when it comes to color and design make this deck a bright stand out worthy of any tarot readers attention. The more that I learn about tarot history the more honored I am to be part of this ancient tradition. I feel that when you use a classic deck, like The Marseille, you’re able to tap into it’s amazing history which only adds to it’s powerful divinatory capabilities.

What are your thoughts on the Marseille deck? Share below in the comments.

Popularity & Tarot
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Often I think many of us dream of discovery when it comes to finding our next deck. A deck of tarot cards can be like a book of magic - shouted in secret until discovered dusty and forgotten in a corner of some antique shop. As if it was waiting, waiting for you, to come pick it up and learn it’s secrets.

Yet, most of the time we come across our decks in a much more ordinary way, perhaps purchased on amazon or at your local metaphysical shop. The Wild Unknown deck is certainly not an elusive find; you can purchase it just about anywhere. Does its popularity make it any less meaningful or inspiring? I personally don’t think so. Perhaps its very popularity makes its symbols even more profound. All across the world expert readers and novices alike have picked up this deck and been inspired by it’s striking minimalism and nature-based symbols. Of all the decks out there, this is the one that I attribute to beginning the resurgence of tarot in contemporary culture. Where that leads us - who knows. But I for one am excited when I think of how many people, like yourself perhaps, that has begun their journey with tarot.

To me, it doesn’t matter which deck first strikes your interest in tarot. What matters is that you’ve arrived and you’re ready to learn about all the amazing ways tarot can change your life. Your first tarot deck is like your first love - never to be forgotten. My first deck was the Rider-Waite Smith deck and it has stayed my constant companion for over 15 years now. I don’t mind at all that it's a popular deck - what matters is that it brought me to a path that I’m honored to be on.

What was your first deck? Was it a more popular or obscure deck?

Dive into Occultism with the Alchemystic Tarot
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If you’re a fan of woodblock prints, Hermetic Qabalah, and obscure occult references then you’ll definitely enjoy The Alchemystic Tarot.  This deck is jam packed with symbolism and ideas that span multiple religions and spiritual systems. The artwork is derived from woodblock images found in books from 1600 - 1900 CE.  The creator of this deck, D.W. Prudence, clearly has an in-depth understanding of ceremonial magic and various western occult traditions. It’s delightful to find a deck that really uses and incorporates vast amounts of knowledge.  I’m a complete sucker for a puzzle to solve (see my review of the English Magic Tarot) so I love the idea of sitting down with these cards and researching the origins and symbolism of the woodblock print images.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big fan of the Rider-Waite Smith deck - I’m a tarot classics girl, what can I say ;) - so I do tend to initially scoff at decks that deviate considerably from the RWS system.  While the Majors do fit in well with a classic RWS understanding of tarot, the Minors are a bit different. To begin with, instead of using Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles we have Alchemists, Mystics, Shekinah, and Magicians.  I’m pleased to see that the Minors do have full detailed images as opposed to minimalist pips and that each Minor card seems just as jam-packed with symbolic wisdom as the Majors. Rather than the Minors showcasing narrative scenes, like in RWS, the Alchemystic Minors relish in advanced inclusion of numerology, hermeticism, and Qabalah.  

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The detailed and often obscure references contained within means that this deck is definitely not for beginners.  There is a guidebook, which helps considerably with understanding the enigmas presented - though I still would recommend this deck for people who already have a base understanding of occult systems and history.  Personally I plan on using this deck to help with my own personal tarot study and knowledge of the occult.  However, I don’t think I will end up using this deck often for my client readings as it might be tricky to interpret this deck through a lens that examines our daily lives.  As my tarot clients well know, my reading style is very therapeutic and practical so this deck might not be the best fit for my professional readings.  Though someone who has a different reading style might find this deck to be right up their alley.

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My main issue with this deck is not the complexity of understanding required to read it properly - instead my biggest issue is the design of the artwork.  The concept of using woodblock prints is wonderful and the woodblock prints chosen for each card I find to be well thought out. My issue is with the execution of the overall aesthetic design. The backgrounds use various saturated colors with radiating beams of light.  While this design choice might work well for a psychedelic themed deck, I find the colors distracting from the gorgeous design of the woodblock prints. I would have personally chosen plain backgrounds and a more matte finish to create a historical feel that better encapsulates the design of the woodblock images. Though, this is just my own artistic preference and I’m sure many will enjoy the bright background colors.

Overall, this is a really fun deck for anyone obsessed (like me!) with occultism and I encourage you to try your hand at deciphering all the symbolic and numerological meanings hidden within.

What are your thoughts of this deck? Would you use it as part of your tarot practice? Share in the comments below.

The Sacred Symbolism of the Death Card
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A menacing card of skeletal figures and morbid despair, the Death card has brought worry and anxiety to countless individuals.  Though is true purpose of this memento mori to bring about fear? Or, is there something more complex going on within this image?  

In my view the Death Card is a card of transformation and by reading the symbols you can uncover a beautiful narrative of death and rebirth.  I view this card as equally about things ending and new things beginning. This is why the scene represented here occurs not at night but during the sunrise - A reminder that after the darkness comes light and that after death comes rebirth.

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This card asks you to consider what needs to be cut out of your life so that new things can flourish, whether that be a relationship, a dead-end job, or anything that’s been preventing you from manifesting joy or success in your life.  This card uses the metaphor of death and rebirth to remind us that after we make these difficult decisions we will be creating space for something new to flourish. This card tells us that we sometimes must take on the role of the horseman and commence with the difficult task of bringing things that no longer serve us or our goals to an end.

When we read the symbols in this image you begin to understand the profound complexities of this card.  When looking at the horseman you are reminded of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, after all it is said that ‘death rides a pale horse.’  While here in the Rider-Waite-Smith card he conjures images of the apocalypse, in many other interpretations, such as the Visconti-Sforza and the Pagan Otherworlds Decks, he is shown as a simple Grim Reaper wondering the land and collecting his souls.

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Perhaps this macabre figure is even tied to the Knights Templar.  When you look to the top of the image you see that this is card number 13.  In 1307 King Philip IV of France sent out a secret letter across the realm that the Templar Knights were to be captured on killed on Friday the 13th.  Even today the number 13 is considered unlucky. Perhaps our skeletal character in this image is one of these murdered knights coming back from the dead to kill King Philip.  And indeed, there is a deceased king beneath the horses hooves. There’s also the idea, though unconfirmed, that the Knights Templars were guarding the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is of course is a powerful object of transformation in of itself so it would make sense to connect the Knights Templars to this card.  

The horse that Death rides is white, a color tied to ideas of purity.  Death is therefore the ultimate purifier. All things are reborn fresh, new and pure and he passes by.  He also rides the same horse as the child seen in the Sun card, so Death and Rebirth are connected through a purifying force represented by the horse.  The skeleton in Death card and the Child in the Sun card also wear the same orange feather. Are they perhaps the same individual? Does Death go through his own transformation and become reborn as the child in the Sun card?

By looking at the other figures in the Death card you can see that Death does not discern between age, gender, or status.  All are equal before death, so death is also the great equalizer. He destroys class structures and hierarchy as he passes.

The woman and child here even get their own transformation narrative as they appear once more, in the Judgement card, as figures rising to their rebirth in a better place.

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The banner that death carries is not some morbid image, but a beautiful white rose.  The white rose indicates beauty, purification and immortality. The white rose makes an appearance in the Fool Card which is the very first card in the Major Arcana. Once again we see how endings and death is always tied to beginnings and rebirth.  
The specific rose seen on the banner ties to a real historical event known as the War of the Roses.  York and Lancaster were the 2 families involved in the War of the Roses for the English Crown in the 15th century.  The two rose symbols which represented these families were later combined to create the device for the Tudor dynasty. The marriage of Henry Tudor & Elizabeth of York brought about the end of the Wars of the Roses and started a new royal dynasty for England.  The rose featured here in the death card is the Tudor Rose. After so much death from the War of the Roses, comes the peace and unifying force of the Tudor dynasty. So here England itself has gone through a state of transformation - from war and death to the rebirth of strength and prosperity.

Looking to the background scene in the Death card we see a long river with a solitary boat.  Perhaps this is the River Styx from greek mythology where the souls travel from the realm of the living to the dead.  There is another card in tarot that shows a boat traveling along the river. The Six of Swords is often seen as a card representing journeys and significant rites of passage.  The idea of death and rebirth can definitely be seen as a journey and a rite of passage so could the woman and child in the Six of Swords be the same figures in the Death card? Is this a scene in their story line that occurs after they die in the Death card and before they reach rebirth in the Judgement card?

What happens to after you board the boat in the river styx?  Where do you go next on your journey? Perhaps you travel to card number 14 - Temperance.  Temperance represents balance, patience, and moderation. The water the angel pours between two vessels is flowing upward, defying the laws of gravity.  Perhaps we two are traveling from a physical plane to a higher place of divinity.

There is a valley behind here as if we travel along a continuous route, from top edge of the death card, down into the valley of Temperance.  You can see here that it is no longer the Winter of death, but it now Spring and one of the earliest spring flowers, daffodils, bloom by the pond.  

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The sun is also beginning to rise higher in the sky.  Enclosed in the image of the sun is a crown. The crown in the Death card was a crown of status, hierarchy and power.  Though as death travelled along the image, he brought equality to all the figures, so here the crown that rises is no longer a symbol of ego, but a symbol of higher ideals.

Once you pass through the realm of temperance, where do you travel next?  Looking back at the death card we see two watchtowers you need to pass through before reaching the Sun.  These watchtowers appear in the Moon card, a card of great mystery. The moon represents the subconscious, falsehoods, and even emotional instability.  After all the Moon, or Lune, is the base of the word of lunacy. The moon card is also tied to the idea of the shadow self, which was a concept created by the great thinker, Carl Jung.  

Here our pathway goes between two monolithic towers.  With their one small window they look like guard towers which begs the question - What are they guarding?  Are they meant to prevent us from visiting or understanding the darker aspects of our own subconscious. Maybe we wouldn't like what we find.  Yet there is no gate or barrier between these guard towers, only a jagged pathway leading to yet another pond. Before we arrive at water we first must walk between the dog and the wolf.  As we do so we delicately walk the road between or civilized or tamed selves and our wild or untamed side that we often try to pretend doesn’t exist.

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The Moon card represents the unknown and that can be scary.  And so is death, death is the unknown and it can be a terrifying concept.  But here in the Moon card you have to bravely pass through this unknown and liminal space before you reach the stage of rebirth.  As we reach the pond we greet our final challenge. Our own fears, here represented by the monstrous lobster creature, comes out the waters of the subconscious.  To reach the Sun, you first need to face this monster head on and plunge into the depths of the unknown. Just like in the real world where we need to face our subconscious fears before creating any transformative change in our lives.

After you face the monster and passthrough the realm of the Moon card, you finally end up at the Sun, the place of rebirth.  The Sun is also a symbol of the divine. Some of the earliest deities were Sun Gods and Goddess, such as Horus in Egyptian Mythology and Amaterasu in Japanese Shinto.  Even today, it’s no coincidence that our olympic athletes are given a gold ‘sun disk’ to wear. There is this primal connection we humans feel to the Sun and idea of divine success.  So here we are receiving our golden reward after making it through the river passage in the death card and past the great guard towers of the moon. We end up here, at the Sun, a perfect symbol of rebirth, vitality, and success.

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When we get the Death card in a reading it forces us to face an uncomfortable truth.  When it appears it means that our life is in stagnation and there are various forces preventing us from achieving our goals.  As humans we reflexively stay in situations longer than we should because we fear transformative change. The Death card reminds us that only we are responsible for our life path and that occasionally need to become the horseman ourselves and cut what no longer serves us out of our life, weather that’s a dead end job, an abusive relationship, or a draining friendship.  This is not meant to be an easy task, this is process (like the journey through the realm of the Moon Card) means facing our fears and taking action.

What is so brilliant about the Rider-Waite-Smith Death card is that is contains a whole narrative within it’s symbols. Reading tarot is not simply memorizing some keywords connected to each card.  In my view tarot is about really looking, looking at the images, looking at the symbols, and understanding the wider idea or metaphor being presented. The role of the reader then is to comprehend these narratives and frame them so that they can bring guidance and understanding into our own daily lives.  

If you’d like to learn more about the Death card you can watch the video below.  Let me know your thoughts on these ideas and interpretations in the comments below.

The Restless Tarot - An Interview with Winslow Dumaine

The Restless Tarot is morbid, perhaps even sinister, yet I bet you won't be able to look away.  The longer you stare at the characters in these cards the more they appear grotesquely lifelike.  They seem to stare right back at you, pulling you down into their frenzied dystopian world.  

When I first saw images of this deck I knew I had discovered something truly unique.  This deck pushes the envelope in every sense of the word and these images are certainly not for the faint of heart.  Upon further research I discovered that the creator of this deck, Winslow Dumaine, happened to live in my city.  So for you my readers, I met up with him to discuss his story behind the creation of this dark and depraved deck.

Scarlet: Can you tell me what inspired you to make this deck?

Winslow: I would look at other tarot decks and think “how can we crank it to 11, how can we make it as extreme as possible?”  

At its core, this deck is based around the end of an relationship.  This deck came from a breakup with the woman I had known since childhood.  The cover of the box has an illustration of my left hand with the ring finger cut off. On the back of the box that the deck comes in, it shows the ring that I wore when I was with her. In a morbid way, I’m trying to show that the experience of this breakup prevents me from ever thinking about relationships or marriage again.

When you experience trauma, you might think ‘I’ll make something out of this; I’ll use this pain to propel me into doing something cool with my life’ or ‘I’ll simply recover.’  I think that there’s not enough attention paid to how trauma can hamstring you and cause explicit distress. In all my work, I want to examine the experience of suffering, and how trauma changes a person's life.

Whenever I found myself in these intense, heated arguments with my former partner, I would find myself thinking “Well, this is it, this is what it is from here on out. The foundation is cracked; even if we make up, we’re just making cosmetic changes to something fundamentally flawed.” That sense of permanence is what helped to guide me to an eventual recovery.  The way that I’ve explained it is that - You should look at your pain.  You should look at your suffering, and ask, why am I here?

Too many people try to brush off serious pain. When I would tell people, “I’m in so much pain, my heart is so broken,” the first thing they say is “It will get better.” I want to say, “Yeah, but I’m suffering now.” When you say “it will get better”, it’s like going up to somebody who just lost their legs and saying “Well, someday you’ll be able to do some cool tricks with a wheelchair.” I don’t care, talk to me about my missing legs. When someone is suffering, talk to them about their pain, not some nebulous future when things are better.  

In a way, this deck is an act of revenge. All my work is. Revenge against the people who failed me, who betrayed me. I do believe that living well is the best revenge, but I focus on the humiliative aspects. The expectation that I will fail drives me to succeed.

As much as this is a deck about my experiences with this one relationship, it’s also very much about the culture of sex violence as a whole. I took a lot of inspiration from strong women in my life, and their experiences guided me throughout the process.

Scarlet: One of the things that really drew me to your deck is that you wrote a short story for each of the cards.  And on top of that you created your own storyline that places the characters within a wider dystopian world caused by the end of fertility.  Why did you choose this wider narrative for your deck?   

Winslow: The deck has one consistent storyline and the cards represent little vignettes of the wider story.  The feeling I was trying to go for was to convince people that they are just seeing the tip of the iceberg; where it leaves you wondering but not questioning ‘what was that about?’ You feel an appreciation for what’s going on but you’re not lost.

My goal with everything that I do is that I want it to feel heavy and ominous, like an asphyxiating wall of confusion and fear. That’s why I set it in this vast cosmological scale.

On a personal level, because I was in this relationship for so long, and we had always planned on having a family together, I developed a sort of relationship with the notion of this potentiality.  The potential for marriage and an eventual child.  As the relationship ended, it was the destruction of this future and the eventual child.

When people are suffering they try to push their pain down and pretend they’re fine.  What I want to say is take that pain and rip it open.  Make it as big and as terrifying as you can because that’s closer to your truth. So I take this sense of ‘I’ll never have a child, I’ll never be with this person I love’ and I expand it to a cosmological degree.  A future, as shown in the deck, without love and without fertility.

Scarlet: How did you get interested in tarot and decide to use tarot as your medium?

Winslow: My interest in tarot came from a few different things.  Before the collapse of the relationship we went to my Dad’s house where he did a tarot reading for us with the classic rider-waite deck.  I thought it was really interesting and artistically it caught my eye.  I just remember that relaxed evening being the last peaceable night of the relationship before it became this avalanche of transgressions and betrayals.  The tarot reading was this last little oasis before the storm.  

I was also inspired to create a deck from this computer game called Hand of Fate that is based around a deck of tarot cards.  I thought the artwork in Hand of Fate was really cool but asked myself ‘What if it was stranger, more morbid, more extreme?’

Scarlet: What is the hardest aspect to creating a tarot deck and do you have any advice for aspiring deck creators?

Winslow: You need to have an idea that is so broad and full of so many different variations that you can reliably get 78 interesting cards out of it.  You need to have an inspiration that is massive and ambitious. Don’t start on the major arcana - those you’re going to have ideas for. I started with the minor arcana because that’s the hardest part. If you can’t figure out how you’d convey your theme while incorporating nine cups in the image, you might want to reconsider your theme.

The most important thing is just sitting down and doing the work. Great ideas are worthless if you can’t just sit down and get the work done.  I would draw during every free moment at work and then I would go home and draw all night. Six to twelve hours a day, every single day. When you make a work of art as an act of revenge, you are unstoppable. If you stop, you cede to them that you are a failure.

To create a tarot deck, you have to have a great fire in you. I take my fire, and I burn their house down.

 

 

What are your thoughts on the Restless Tarot?  Is this a deck you could see yourself working with in your tarot practice.  Share your opinions in the comments below.

You can purcahse this deck and find more details about Winslow's creative projects on his website

The release party for the Tarot Restless will be at "The Chicago Museum of Contempt" at the Gallery Cabaret on Friday, March 2nd starting at 6 PM.  If you're in the Chicago area feel free to stop on by to pick up a deck and meet the artist.  

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