This is an ongoing US and global project to help enthusiasts, scholars, practitioners, and curious parties learn more about shamanic living in a contemporary culture. The space here is devoted to sharing info, experiences and opinions about all forms of shamanic expression covering shamanism's multiple permutations. Among subjects explored are traditions, techniques, insights, definitions, events, artists, authors, and creativity. You are invited to draw from your own experiences and contribute.

What is a SHAMAN?

MAYAN: "a technichian of the Holy, a lover of the Sacred." CELTIC: "Empower the people...by changing the way we think." MEXICAN APACHE: "Someone who has simply learned to give freely of themselves..." AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL: "...a teacher or healer, a wisdom keeper of knowledge... (who) takes people to a door and encourages them to enter." W. AFRICAN DIAGRA: "views every event in life within a spiritual context." HAWAIIAN: "...human bridges to the spiritual world and its laws and the material world and its trials..." QUECHUA INDIAN: "embodies all experience." AMAZON: "...willing to engage the forces of the Universe...in a beneficial end for self, people, and for life in general."

-- from Travelers, Magicians and Shamans (Danny Paradise)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Is it in the cards for you?

I’ve recently begun to re-examine my relationship with one of my divination tools, the Tarot. When we began our shamanic apprenticeship earlier this year, one of our tasks was to learn a card deck or some form of divination. I had looked into runes, I Ching, astrology and numerology among other things. Ultimately, I decided to stick with a card deck, the Universal Waite Tarot, in particular. There were many “flavors” of the Tarot to work with, some based on various cultures, mythologies, shamanic traditions, and nature. I decided that I would stick with the most well-known and widely accepted. I wanted to work with a deck that most people could relate to or least had heard of. My decision came a time in my apprenticeship where I felt like I had to somehow prove to everyone in my sphere of influence (as well as myself) that shamanism and my divination skills were “real.” I felt that if I gave accurate readings from cards that people were familiar with, it would be a win for Team Spirit/Magic/Shaman vs. Team Rational Muggle. I quickly learned that Spirit spoke loudly through the cards, although not always clearly.

Tarot’s rich history and scope across many cultures lent to many interpretations of each card. While the major arcana cards – i.e. Death, The Fool, The Lovers, The Devil – remain unchanged, the lesser arcana containing the suits of cups, pentacles, swords and wands which our modern playing cards are based on often had different artistic and divinatory interpretations. Though it gained popularity in medieval Europe, earliest records of Tarot divination date back to Alexandrian Egypt and Hermes specifically. As we learned from The Emerald Tablet, the Tarot grew out of alchemy. The suits, as well as major arcana, reflect the stages of transfiguration. The major arcana represent archetypal elements and the minor arcana represent their expression in reality. By shuffling the cards, divine elements were dispersed into the physical world, according to William Hauk’s The Emerald Tablet.

It is through alchemy that our cards get their “magic.” I could definitely feel Spirit working through my cards. The cards quickly became an ally for me because whenever I would call on Spirit for guidance, an answer was always delivered in the shuffle of the deck and the flip of a card. Every time I would pull a card for someone, it often reflected their personality or situation they were inquiring about. Though often what felt like an accurate interpretation, it was not always a positive reading. Though proof that the Universe has a sense of humor and is always brutally honest, I was getting frustrated in being Mr. Gloom and Doom. If the person I was reading for was someone who put all of their faith in divination and did not believe they can change their future outcomes, I often found myself discounting my abilities to read the cards, even though we both knew deep down that the cards were right.

Not only were my frustrations in giving negative divinations, but I had a hard time crafting “the Big Picture” I would put together from either the three or four cards that I would pull. I found myself going back to the book that gave divinatory interpretations of each card quite often. The Universal Waite Tarot that I used had several meanings for most cards, and sometimes they were contradictory. Also, when reading the Tarot, if the card is reversed when you pull it, it takes on a different interpretation, sometimes the opposite meaning and sometimes to just a lesser degree. It was quite confusing! I would lose the immediacy of giving my “gut feeling” interpretation of the cards.

Arthur Edward Waite was a respected Hermetic researcher. In 1910 he revised the Tarot and removed outside influences to reinstate their esoteric meanings which established the tarot as the “unbound book” of Hermes. “Waite believed that the original intent of the images was to guide the initiate through alchemical transformation as well as provide a roadmap for the perfected Astral Body,” says Hauk in The Emerald Tablet.

I decided to check out other decks. If the images on the cards are catalysts to the alchemical process, I wanted to look for other decks with richer, more layered images. I also want to find a deck where I have more liberty to give my own interpretations, rather than deciphering which of the multiple divinations in the Waite Tarot best applied to the person I was doing a reading for. I’ve ordered an Egyptian Toth Tarot deck, the Voyager Tarot, and a Shapeshifter Tarot deck. Hopefully they will arrive this week.


Christine said...

I started out reading tarot with a very unconventional dragon-deck (can't remember the artist), but they were pretty, so they just "called" to me.

I realized they were too hard for me (as a beginner) to interpret, so I switched to the Universal Waite deck for the reasons you mentioned, and ran into the same problems you had.

Before ditching the deck, you might want to try looking for small little details in the pictures that "pop" out at you in order to assemble a big picture (same for interpreting reversals). This is how I was taught to deal with my problems in tarot reading, and my readings have become startlingly accurate!

Good luck!

hearsthetrees said...

I like this. I have used the “animal” cards for years and do find that for me, they are accurate and meaningful. I also like Runes. But what hit me in reading this, is that it is the connection we feel to Spirit while doing the reading. I suppose that we could use a seed catalog just as well, as long as we felt the connection and had agreement from Spirit for what we were using.

walksinsacredspace said...

So far, for class, I'm working with The Spirit of the Wheel meditation deck. The illustrations are inspiring and multi-layered. I thought I wanted this aspect in the cards so I could discern and interpret intuitively-visually first, and rely on the written word as a back up. Spirit seems to to want something else because when I look at the cards I chose, I visually feel blocked. Yet, the readings are spot-on as read from the guide book. Lately, I've been wondering if I'm to work with a personal/private deck and also develope a public useage deck. Is anyone else experiencing this with their cards?

fearless.woman said...

Just for a light note. In Caroline County whre I live, there is a law against "fortune-telling". Some County workers tried to get it repealed so that they could have a "Gypsy" at our Summerfest. The meeting in which it was considered attracted a large coterie of church goers who opposed the move because they want to keepCaroline County safe from witches.(No kidding!) I'll be keeping my deck VERY private, but I hope we have time to compare notes. As I mentioned in my piece on synchronicity, so many of us seem to be dealing with some of the same things at the same time - I know its not coincidence, and I know we all come from different places. How is it that across time and space our tribal interests and common themes are developing. As you can see my my inarticulate but heartfelt post, I find this fascinating an in a way I can't pin down, reassuring and enriching.

Rainbow Warrior said...

Since my original post from a few weeks ago regarding my relationship with Tarot cards, I’ve had time to get to experience the energy in each of my new desk. I have not done much with my Thoth Tarot deck, but I have had experience with both the Voyager Tarot as well as Shapeshifter deck. Both decks feel uniquely different in their power.

I find that the Voyager deck has been helpful when attempting to draw the Bigger Picture, for either an answer to a question or in helping the person I am doing a reading for gain clarity on energies surrounding them. The book that also accompanied the deck has several helpful exercising, in creating a magical relationship with the deck, as well as using that magic with some self-help exercises. I have not decided if I will try any of the exercises in the workbook, but I do think it could be a valuable exercise to do with a shamanic client.

The Shapeshifter deck is a real gem. It is based on Celtic mythology and you can truly feel the power in each card. The images are rich and deep, depicting shapeshifting deities and the elemental energies and animal spirits they gain their power from. The description given to each card in the book sets the tone as strongly as the prophecy behind them.

Ironically, over a two day period, while I was performing a reading for myself with each deck, I pulled several of the same cards! While the interpretations were slightly different, the message, energy, and Bigger Picture of each card were the same. Both readings felt very powerful and rang very true for me.

While traditional tarot uses wands, cups, pentacles and swords, the Voyager deck uses wands, cups, worlds and crystals. The Shapeshifter deck uses the elements air(wands), water(cups), earth(pentacles) and fire(swords). The deck also has three more cards in its major arcana in honor of its Celtic tradition to make the deck 81, a multiple of the three rings.

I decided to try one of the spreads in the Shapeshifter book. Being the Rainbow Warrior I am, The Nine Ring Spread appealed to me. Each ring was a frequency of colored Light. By working with the light of each ring, High Magick could be accessed, and higher awareness and skill could be gained. The cards I had pulled for myself in this reading were accurate as well as empowering. The first card in the Red Ring represents the beginning, the initiation of the process, and the question. I inquired about my path as a shaman and overall Path. The card I pulled was one of the newer cards in the greater arcana. #22 – The Journey. After reading this explanation, I thought of the rest of my tribe of Shamanic Apprentices and how we are all on The Journey together.

Here is the description from Conway and Knight’s book, “Shapeshifter Tarot,” for card #22, The Journey.
The initiate has come far in the learning of shapeshifting. He has taken the form of the hound, a Goddess creature whose keen senses of inner sight and smell will aid the initiate in traversing the labyrinth of life in his search for the Divine Center. Accompanying him are cats (symbols of independence, resourcefulness and wisdom) and mice (representations of stealth, caution and cunning). He walks confidently in the light, psychically aware that all around him are ethereal signs of animal powers upon which he can call at will. The vine covered trees symbolize the twists in his life-path that have led him through many experiences, all of which brought him deeper wisdom, spiritual joy, and stronger connections with spiritual realms. Faces of his past lives peer out from the tree trunks; he has delved into his past lives and learned from them so that they no longer hold any fear, shame or glory except as physical learning stations along the eternal journey. In his hand he holds a staff (a sign of the authority over himself), while his billowing cape shows a wide border of Celtic twinings (symbols of the labyrinth of life). On his back he carries a harp, a sign of the bridge he follows between worlds and his ability to manifest his will through magick. Above him hover three doves, symbolic of the deity powers who send him messages of guidance and protection. Although the path is strewn with small obstacles, the initiate walks with a confident step, knowing he is safe on his eternal journey as long as he maintains his connection with the Goddess and the God. He knows a greater gate of understanding and growth lie just ahead, and he eagerly seeks it.

The last card I had pulled for myself in the spread for the ninth Rose Ring, which symbolized culmination, the end result, was Air Element #4, Harmony. It signifies balance of light and dark energies, a bridge between the earthly realms and the Spirit realm.

I find myself in immense gratitude for having these cards as teaching tools, as the messengers from Spirit.

shewhofacesspirit said...

Rainbow Warrior thank you for that posting, it is fascinating that using both decks you came up with similar results. Which leads me to believe you could have read cards and runes and the runes would have had a similar meaning.
I will take a look at the Shapeshifter cards.

Truth on the Wind said...

Rainbow Warrior, thank you for your encouraging post! Cards have not come easily to me and I have wondered about investigating a new deck, (even though I feel connected to the those which I am using) or more honestly, maybe I should use them more!