Card of the Day: Two of Swords

S W I M I N T H E S E A

Today’s card is the Two of Swords from the Happy Tarot.

This is one of the least ‘happy’ cards in the Happy Tarot at first glance.  The card depicts a IMG_0454blindfolded woman in a chair, carrying two crossed swords.  It’s the middle of the night and only a crescent moon casts a dim and hazy light over the scene.  She sits with her back to a rushing river.

Her entire posture seems to be one of a stubborn refusal to acknowledge or accept something.  It could be that she’s trying to keep out of a deeply emotional situation that she’s feeling overwhelmed by (which could be what the river represents).

She holds those swords closely over her chest, almost like she’s struggling to balance them or brandishing them at unseen enemies.  Cats look on with curiosity and perhaps a little wariness.

Looking more closely at the card you can see that she isn’t tied to her spot, she could at any point, set down the swords and remove her own blindfold.  This card isn’t one about being held down by external forces.  It’s talking about being in a situation and choosing not to deal with what’s going on.

The other thing to consider is the way she’s got the swords crossed over her heart.  Literally protecting it with weapons.  I think it’s important to recognize that this card isn’t saying that the woman has made a bad or unreasonable choice here.  Sometimes situations force you to cut yourself off from things or people that are harmful to you, and it’s always okay to take steps to take care of yourself.  The message here is to be careful of closing yourself off completely to everything.  The more we close off from everyone and everything around us, the further away we get from those things that can help us.  It’s kind of (pardon the semi-pun) a double-edged sword (get it, two of swords? Okay, I’m done, I promise).

Ignoring a problem isn’t going to solve it in most cases.  It’s okay to take a break and gather yourself before you try to face down a giant beast, but try not to let it get the best of you so you don’t end up blindfolded on a chair.

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How to Choose a Tarot Deck

Before I launch into a post about choosing a tarot deck I have to make a small confession. I’m not super choosy about buying tarot decks.  I have a small collection of them and I love to get new ones if one catches my eye.   That said, despite owning a bundle of them, I always circle back to a small handful that I love working with.

But that’s absolutely okay.  I don’t see anything wrong with collecting tarot decks; they’re beautiful art pieces, powerful tools, and great meditation aids.  Like any kind of collection, as long as your bills are paid and it’s not causing you harm, you should feel free to indulge yourself.  I used to feel guilty when I bought a deck that I didn’t use, but I realized that was a waste of energy.  Your favorite deck may change over time and one that you used to use all the time might take a backseat as your life changes, your reading style changes, or your reading audience changes.  I used to rely heavily on a Robin Wood Tarot deck, but as I’ve grown and changed I find that it’s too white and heteronormative to resonate with me anymore.  I’m not saying it’s not a good deck, just that my needs in a tarot deck are different now.

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Some of my collection, sadly unorganized at the moment because my studio is a mess.

So, how do you choose the tarot deck that’s right for you?  In my experience it’s a bit of a trial and error process until you find a deck that really resonates with you.  I want to tackle one stubbornly popular myth first.

Myth: You have to be given your first tarot deck.

This little story really annoys me.  Firstly, it takes your agency away from you.  You’re just

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Universal Fantasy Tarot

supposed to wait patiently for someone to magically guess that you need a tarot deck and then give it to you?  So many people would never get a deck!  This isn’t even considering people who might be living in situations where tarot is misunderstood and feared.  Also, I think that choosing and buying your very own tarot deck gives you a leg up in working with your chosen deck.  For me, tarot is about empowerment, and what could be more empowering than taking your own initiative and choosing your spiritual tools yourself?  Of course, this isn’t a slight against people who did have someone else give them a deck.  If someone gave you your first deck and you loved it and it’s perfect, that’s fantastic.  I guess what I’m saying here is that there is no wrong way to get a deck.  Except maybe stealing one.  The energy of theft is probably not the best energy you want to introduce into your tarot.

Okay, so you’ve decided that you want to get a deck, awesome!  But where do you even start?  There are hundreds and hundreds of possibilities out there.  You can find themed tarot decks on almost any subject you can imagine: CatsDragonsAliens, or even Baseball.  That almost makes it harder because there are so many options!

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Universal Goddess Tarot

So here’s my advice: you need to find a deck that you’re charmed by.  If you can, start by looking into Rider Waite Smith styled decks.  A lot of the intro to tarot websites and books are focused around that style of tarot.  That makes it easier to learn the meanings of the cards and you’ll have plenty of bloggers who use a deck similar to yours and lots of decks to learn from.  I also echo the suggestion of lots of others who suggested that you get a deck of “dudes doing shit”.  To be clear here, I don’t mean that you need a deck of men, but a deck with humanoid figures interacting with each other and the environment often makes it easier if you’re just getting started.

For me it’s really important that the deck be in an art style that I can connect with.  The more you look at decks, the more you’ll get to realize things you like and things you don’t like.  Personally, I’ve found that I don’t care for photo manipulated decks; I like drawings better on my cards.  I also like decks that have some traditional RWS symbolism but aren’t re-drawings of the exact same images.

You should also consider what you’re going to be using your deck for.  Do you want something to read spreads?  Then you might want something that is clear and easy to

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Witchlings Oracle Deck

understand, something like the Happy Tarot, the Robin Wood, or something like it.  Do you want something to help you connect with spirit?  Something like the Universal Goddess Tarot might be perfect.  I use my Universal Goddess deck both in divination and in goddess meditations.

Another thought I wanted to mention was that you can also consider oracle decks if they suit your wants.  I know this post is about how to choose a tarot deck, but most of it can also apply to oracle decks.  Obviously, with an oracle deck, the RWS advice about finding one with people doesn’t apply, but aside from that, look for something that you feel a pull towards and that you really like.  Oracle decks are not the same as Tarot decks, but don’t let anyone tell you that they’re inferior.  They’re just a different way of card reading.  In case you’re not familiar with the difference between oracle and tarot decks, it’s that tarot decks contain 22 cards in the Major Arcana and 14 Minor Arcana (also known as pip cards) in four suits that make up the 78 cards in a deck.  Oracle cards come in every flavor of the rainbow, and come in any number of cards, sometimes with a booklet for reading them and sometimes without so that you must rely on your intuition to decipher a spread of them.  I enjoy both types of decks and I own an assortment of both.  I do a lot more work with my tarot cards, but sometimes the simplicity of an oracle deck is too appealing to pass up.

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Happy Tarot

I also want to point out that sometimes the really great decks will surprise you.  I bought the Happy Tarot (see the Hermit card there?) because if was adorably sugar sweet and filled with cupcakes.  I didn’t really expect it to be a deck I did serious work with, but I’ve been so wrong about that.  The deck is great and I have found it to be wonderful to work with.  Don’t discount a ‘cute’ or themed deck as a novelty item right away.  Some of them are, but some will work just as well as a super traditional Rider Waite Smith.

The last piece of advice I have is that it’s okay to buy a deck and realize that it’s not the right deck for you.  If you hold out for The One True Deck you could get paralyzed and end up never trying any at all.  And here’s my second confession: part of the reason that I have so many decks is that it took me a long time to understand that I didn’t have to find the Perfect Deck.  You might use one deck for a while and then ‘outgrow’ it and start working with another.  And that’s okay.

So there you go?  Shop around, find something you love, and know that it’s okay to change

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Wild Unknown Tarot

your mind or pick more than one.  I’ve found that Aeclectic Tarot is a great place to find information about different decks.  They have reviews and purchase links for most decks.  Also check out the Tarot blogs, I post reviews here on The Wooly Witch from time to time and so do lots of other Tarot bloggers.

It’s also totally fine to throw all my suggestions out the window and do things your own different way.  That’s a big theme for me as I walk my spiritual path.  Learn all you can, take what makes sense, discard what doesn’t resonate with you.

Happy reading!  If you’re new I’d love to hear what your first deck was/is/will be.  If you’ve been reading for a while, I’d love to hear how you picked your first deck.  As you can tell, I love decks!

Card of the Day: The Empress

S W I M I N T H E S E A

Today’s card comes from the Happy Tarot by Serena Ficca

IMG_0455This card has a lot going on and there are a bunch of details that I adore about it.  It’s almost hard to know where to start!  I enjoy all the elements the artist has included from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, like the crown of stars and the pomegranates. But what I love most is that she kept the elements but still were able to give this card her own spin.

This card has an almost Disney-like feel to it, with all the happy animals gathering around the figure in the middle.  The Empress is a nurturing, supportive figure: she’s meant to balance the strong leadership of the Emperor.  As I do when talking about gendered cards, I like to avoid characterizing them as necessarily male or female.  Just as you can have a woman in your life represented by the Emperor, the Empress could indicate a man.  It’s important when reading the cards to try to think of these figures as energies not tied down by traditional gendered norms.

This card shows fertility everywhere!  So much is growing and existing in harmony in this sun-soaked setting.  The card flows smoothly from the burst of new life of the spring bunnies to the late summer abundance of that wheat field.  The sweet Empress is overseeing everything here with a sense of excitement.  She encourages you to nurture your own creative urges, whether that’s writing a novel or mapping a new bike trail.

The crown of stars on her head represents hope in the new creation.  The Empress will support and encourage you to get out there and Make Things!  Create!  Bring new life to your world.  This is a fantastic card to see when you’re starting some new creative venture in your life.  It’s also a fantastic card to see when you’re looking to help others.  Always be sure to consider both aspects of the card: it might be an energy to support your own plans or it could be a call for you to support someone else’s.

As Neil Gaiman famously says:  “Make Good Art.”

Tarot Deck Review: The Happy Tarot

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This deck, for me, was a very impulsive purchase.  I saw pictures from it on the Aeclectic Tarot website and I went straight to Amazon and bought it immediately.  Now, for people who know me, making an impulsive purchase isn’t anything out of the ordinary.  I don’t resist little indulgent impulses very often unless I really need to.

The Happy Tarot is published by Lo Scarebo and illustrated by Serena Ficca.  Her art style is adorable, cupcakes and hearts and flowers. IMG_0452  So you might think that this deck would be entirely to fluffy and sunny and just plain sugar coated to actually work with.  But you’d be wrong.

Granted, in a deck where The Fool is literally stepping off a cupcake, this isn’t going to be the deck for everyone.  It’s over the top sunny candy filled colorful cards could put off some readers who like a more serious aesthetic in their cards.  But if you enjoy sugar stars and a whole of of adorable animals and people, this could be your deck.

Whenever I get a new deck I like to use a Deck Interview Spread to get to know my new deck and see how I might work with it.  In my interview with the Happy Tarot I learned that it would help me to unblock blocked emotions and see my way through issues that I didn’t think I was ready to deal with. Because how could you not be willing to listen to adorable sugar laden cards of cotton candy and cupcakes?

The deck is based around the Rider-Waite-Smith deck imagery which makes this a great deck for someone just starting out reading tarot.  It features, as others have said, ‘dudes doing stuff’ which makes it more accessible for interpretation.  Some of the features of the deck that I really enjoy is the attention to detail in the cards, sure the three of cups shows three people celebrating, but there are also happy bunnies running around, music notes in the air and a rainbow in the clouds.  There’s a lot to look at and lots to help you divine the meaning of the cards.

Here are some of my favorites:

StrengIMG_0457th shows a cute little girl singing to a lion after she’s removed the thorn from his paw.  She has the traditional infinity symbol over her head and the mountains in the background so she’s easily recognizable.  What I love about this rendition is how relieved and grateful the lion looks.  His pain is gone.

I also love the use of light in these cards, in Strength you can see the rays of light coming from the upper left.  When you’re working with these cards in spreads you can often see a progression of light through other cards which gives an extra way of interpreting the cards.  If the light from the Emperor’s card shines down into the Four of Swords how does that change the way you read the card?  It’s a wonderful way of getting a clearer picture of their meaning.

The next card that I want to show is The Hermit.  The Hermit is a favorite of mine.  As an IMG_0453introvert sometimes there is nothing more important to me than my alone time.  The Hermit understands me.

This card is visually beautiful, much more subdued than the Strength card here we see a night sky filled with flowing stars and a lantern casting a soft glow over the Hermit as he moves through the candy landscape.  Ficca’s beautiful use of color and shading make this card really draw you in.  Your eyes flows immediately to the glowing lantern and makes me want to lean closer to hear the Hermit’s wisdom.

In a green robe instead of the RWS grey the Hermit feels more approachable and kindly in this deck.  This fits very well with the gentle vibe this deck has.  It doesn’t shy away from giving you the messages you need to hear, but it’s also not going to slap you in the face with them.

The last card I want to share is The Empress.  She is the ideal of the soft nurturing figure of a beautiful mother in nature.  She could even be pregnant in the picture where she rests onIMG_0455 her simple throne surrounded by animals.  As a symbol of fertility and natural abundance she has a very appropriate family of bunnies at her feet.  A cat sits near and a bird has landed on her scepter.  The familiar crown of stars rests on her head.  Instead of the dark forest behind her that you see in the RWS deck, this is a verdant grassy meadow, a waterfall cascades behind her and a golden field of wheat grows to the right.  If you look closely you can see a pomegranate at the base of her throne.  This card also has those distinctive rays of light shining down on her.

Reading tarot spreads with this deck is a joy for me.  I’m really glad to have it in my collection of working decks.  It might not look like a deck for serious work at first glance, but after working with a great deal, I’ve gotten some excellent insights and advice from these cute cards.

I would recommend this deck for: anyone who likes cute or kawaii things, someone who is new to tarot, someone who is a little intimated by tarot, or younger readers (there is some cartoon nudity, but nothing I would call objectionable).  Don’t let the cuteness decieve you.  This deck is charming and effective.