Archive for the Cartomancy Category

Favorite Tarot

Posted in Cartomancy, divination, Good Books with tags , , on November 1, 2014 by Patrick

I’m jumping on the bandwagon. I have a new favorite tarot. Well, not new — really quite old, but given a coat of polish. It’s the Yoav Ben-Dov version of the Conver tarot, a very famous, very popular Marseilles deck. Ben-Dov has cleaned up the lines, brightened the colors, but left the mystery and wood-cut style intact. This is a deck that practically reads itself.


I particularly recommend, to go along with it, his book Tarot – the Open Reading

Even if you’re not interested particularly in the Marseilles style decks, this book has a lot of clear, good insight.

There are still things to love about the Rider Waite, but if you’re looking for a fresh, less Golden Dawn-y take on the cards, you can’t do better than the Marseilles decks, and Yoav Ben-Dov’s version is the best I’ve seen.

You can buy his deck here. When I bought it, at least, it had to ship from Israel, but was surprisingly fast.


Contest — Winner

Posted in Cartomancy, Contest, Lenormand, Techniques on February 15, 2014 by Patrick

It was very hard to select a winner, because these techniques were all so useful and interesting.  I selected this one as the most original, interesting, and versatile.  If you try it, you see it straddles divination and meditation.  It also requires nothing more than a deck of cards, tarot or Lenormand, and it works equally well with both.

It was submitted by Maighdlin, who should contact me to arrange the delivery of her prizes.  Thank you to everyone who participated.  I found this a very valuable experience — even if I was slow getting off my butt as usual — and I think I’ll be doing something like this again soon.

I don’t know if anyone else has come up with this before. This is something I created on the spot one day and have been using it as an exercise for about 6 months. Basically I shuffle my tarot deck and deal them out face down into three piles. While shuffling I don’t focus on anything in particular. I just clear my mind. This technique is closer to using flash cards than it is for getting an answer to a specific question, but is does provide a tremendous amount of insight into whatever happens to be significant at the time.
Basically I flip over one card from each pile and interpret the three-card spread. This usually is whatever comes to mind first. It could be something very mundane or something very profound. When I’m done I move the cards aside and repeat. I usually do this until I go through the whole deck.
I use this as an exercise to trust my intuition with the cards. What each card means to me and how they relate with other cards in spreads. Sometimes I note which sets provoke a notable emotional response (or stump me) and meditate on them further.
Sometimes I consider reverse cards, but not always. That’s how I am with any other reading I do. Sometimes I consider the reverse meaning as being a more internal influence vs external, something that is present, but not utilized or acknowledged, etc. It depends on the card(s) really. Other times if the card is reversed I just flip it right side up and read as usual. I don’t know if this is the proper way to go about it. I’m basing this off of my 7 years of experience with my deck, but very little research on the tarot in general. I use the Thoth deck by the way.

Learning Lenormand: Book Review

Posted in Book Review, Cartomancy, divination, Good Books, Lenormand on June 17, 2013 by Patrick

I recently read Marcus Katz & Tali Goodwin’s Learning Lenormand: Traditional Fortune Telling for Modern Life.  I highly recommend it for those who would like a clear, concise introduction to reading these cards.

The authors introduce several useful concepts and ideas, such as the concept of L-Space, which they contrast with T-Space.  All this means is that we get in a certain mental state to read the tarot, and a slightly different state to read the Lenormand.  They are not tarot cards, and that’s a useful thing to point out and reinforce.

Their discussion of meaning is also worthwhile, even though it seems to have annoyed some readers who demand not just “one card = one meaning” precision, but also that one meaning has to match the one they have decided is “traditional.”  The truth of the matter is, the Lenormand has a wide range of traditions, and the very earliest instructions that came with the Game of Hope (eventually renamed Lenormand) simply tell the reader to create  “a jocular tale”  (Katz & Tali, 253), with no precise instruction on how to do so.  Presumably, the card meanings were to be somewhat obvious (and, of course, as Katz & Tali point out, the penalties and rewards in the original game offer some clues, as they sometimes come with what we now call “flavor text,” such as with 21-Mountain:  “On these steep Alps, the player has to remain until another arrives to release him or he has to cast a double” (251)).

The authors do offer their own meanings and techniques, and are careful to mark them as such.  The reader is free to adopt to ignore those meanings.  I for one cannot make 2-Clover mean “identity” in my head no matter how hard I try, but the authors do not force me to.

The instructions for reading are designed in lesson form, to some degree, so that later work builds on earlier work in a clever way.  It’s worth doing the exercises in order because suddenly, toward the end of the book, you find that you already need all the skills necessary for the grand tableau, the traditional spread using all 36 cards.  The authors also invent some new ways to use the cards — again, no doubt annoying some hard-core traditionalists, but not me.

There are some errors in the discussion of metaphor, where they say that E-prime is a way of speaking that avoids “is,” but then give as an example a sentence containing a being-verb:  “As an example, I could have said, ‘the idea is straightforward,’ but I said ‘the idea can be considered . . . ‘” (44).  This isn’t actually E-prime, because “be” is a verb of being.  One way of stating this idea in E-prime would have been — well, probably not to say it at all, which is the point.  In E-prime, you wouldn’t even cast the judgment on the straightforwardness of the idea  . . . Anyway.  This error is minor and doesn’t undermine their point.  In addition, the distinction between metaphor and simile strikes me as important (ah, see, E-prime) but the authors leave it a bit muddy and don’t really elaborate as much as I might like.  But then, metaphor is one of my favorite areas of study.

There are a couple brief places (especially in the chapter on Houses) where the description or explanation might be a bit clearer, but those muddy bits clear up once you put a deck in your hand and play with it.  This is a book that requires actual practical practice with the cards.

The history section is absolutely excellent.

Overall, I recommend this book to add to your growing library of Lenormand books.  It is growing, right?  It’s an exciting time for those of us interested in this weird little deck!


Posted in Cartomancy, divination, Good Books, Lenormand on May 28, 2013 by Patrick

My next book is a bit of a departure for me, although not entirely.  As you know, I can’t stop thinking about the nature of symbols, and so divination systems are a natural area of interest for me.  One particular system, a set of thirty-six cards called the Lenormand, began interesting me several years ago.  I immediately began to learn all I could, which at the time wasn’t much, because most books were in German or French.  However, I did manage to find some resources in languages I could read and then, like a good ol’ American mutt, I rolled up my sleeves and started working with the cards.

Like most Americans, I’m more familiar with the tarot, so of course I tried to compare the cards to the tarot.  In doing so, I found a way in to the cards that I think is unique, and so — like all lunatics — when I find something unique I immediately want to write a book about it!

And I did, and it’s coming out in July.

I imagine it might raise a few hackles.  I know there are staunch traditionalists among Lenormand readers, and I know they may not like my approach — which bows to tradition but recognizes that those traditions are multiple.  I’m also a magician, so I look at this from the perspective of my magical practice, which might be a completely unique perspective on these fascinating cards.  I’m hoping those hackles don’t get too spiky, though, because I’m friendly to tradition and if anything, I think my book is about the willingness to learn and explore.

There are also several other books on the Lenormand coming out in coming months (or just come out!) and I will review them as I get my eager hands on them.  I’m very excited for the whole field of Lenormand in America now, and I hope you, like me, will snap up every darned book on the topic you can get.  Including mine.

On Tarot

Posted in Cartomancy on December 31, 2012 by Patrick

When I was a kid and decided I wanted to be a witch ’cause the world would suck if magic wasn’t real, I went to Walden Books in the mall in Dubuque and picked up a Rider-Waite tarot deck, which I took home, glanced at, and put on a shelf.  Holy cow, was that thing confusing.  Seventy-eight cards!  That was worse than algebra.  And then reversals (to this day I don’t use reversals, ’cause, seriously — really?  seriously).  And there it sat on the shelf in the kitchen near the cupboard for years.  Although I did doodle a few of the memorable images in my notes at school.  I remember drawing the ten of cups over and over, and the four of wands.

Then I picked up a book on the tarot, not a very good one but a pretty famous one, and started playing with the cards.

And I was hooked.

At first it was reading rote meanings out of the book like a new cook slavishly following a recipe.  Then I realized that I didn’t really need the book and half the time it was full of irrelevant nonsense anyway (six of swords — journey by water . . . yeah, that’ll come up in the middle of the midwest).

For years, the Rider-Waite was my go-to, and I didn’t even realize other tarot decks existed until I got a job at a metaphysical bookstore as a teenager and found that not only did other decks exist, but they were awesome!  I fell in love with the Cosmic Tarot — it had people who looked like people!  Then I discovered the Crowley Thoth deck.  At the time I was studying Cabala and ceremonial magic heavily.

That’s about the time I started giving readings for money, just to a few people by word of mouth.  I had two rules: I didn’t advertise, so it had to be word of mouth.  And it was fifty bucks an hour but I would give them their money’s worth, by doing the Golden Dawn spread laid out in Regardie’s book.  I had mastered the spread (it’s a heck of a spread) and could do it in an hour.  At the end of it, the querents would look like they’d just run a marathon.  If they weren’t satisfied, they could get their money back, no questions asked.  No one ever wanted their money back, and I had return business.

I don’t remember how many clients I had, but it wasn’t many and it certainly wasn’t a career.  I retired early because I discovered I kind of hated reading for money.  The only clients I kept were some close friends who would call me up and ask questions, and they didn’t expect much but a few cards on the table.  I’d often just throw one card and read a long string of questions from it.  Good practice, so that I didn’t begrudge.

I did, however, wear out the Crowley Thoth deck, and nearly wore out its replacement.

And then, a few years ago, I discovered the Tarot de Marseille.  I’ve totally fallen for it.  Ever since my Thoth days, I’ve loved unillustrated pips, because they’re so much more flexible.  And the TdM is traditional, charming, and composed only as late renaissance printers could do.  And all the good books on it are in French, which gives me a good excuse not to read them all.

Just kidding.  Some are in Spanish, too.

But seriously, while there are really elaborate and interesting books on the philosophy and structure and numerology of the TdM, for me it’s a hands-dirty kind of deck.  And that’s what I like about systems of divination like the TdM (and, for that matter, the Lenormand, the other object of my cartomancy-fancy).  One can build beautiful and erudite systems of intellectual spirituality out of them, and that’s awesome.  I love that sort of thing.  But ultimately, it’s about where the wheels hit the road.  It’s about use, and there’s something practical, rough, and DIY about the cards that appeals to me.  Even the Lenormand, perhaps surprisingly considering its history, feels less in the head and more in the hand.  You learn the cartomancy not by flipping through books, but by developing shuffling callouses.

For someone like me, who lives in his head most of the time, that’s a pretty useful lesson to learn from the cards.

I Want This

Posted in Cartomancy on December 20, 2012 by Patrick

This looks like a really, really cool thing, and I really want it.  The Deck of 1000 Spreads.

Evidently, it’s a deck of cards with the typical locations of spreads written on them, so you can lay them out when designing a spread and rearrange them physically on the table in order to see what a layout will look like.  I don’t know any of the details, but I think it’s a wonderful idea.  For us visual learners, it could be a great way to think through a new spread design.