Why my decks aren’t wrapped in silk

If you’ve done much reading about tarot practices you’ll have undoubtedly read that tarot decks must  be wrapped in silk or else!

The more you learn about Tarot the more rules you’ll read about what you must or must not do.  Some rules I agree with and others don’t work for me.  As an intuitive Tarot reader I encourage you to experiment with how you work with Tarot.  Don’t just discount the rules right off the bat, give them a try and find out what methods work and what don’t.

That said, one rule that I take umbrage with is the “you must wrap in silk” rule.  I keep my decks in all kinds of wrapping and bags.

IMG_0888Here’s one of my decks, and as you can see, it’s in a simple cotton drawstring bag.  I think I bought it at Target for a dollar.   Aside from a ziplock bag, that’s about as far from silk wrapping as you can get.  Incidentally, don’t use a ziplock bag as a long term storage solution since things kept inside plastic can sweat from condensation and that can physically damage your deck, and that would be bad.

So here’s my issue with the “silk wrap only” rule.  Silk is expensive and can be hard to obtain if income is tight.  Silky is a luxury item and I don’t think working with Tarot should be only for well to do people.  I think anyone can and should feel free to work with Tarot and a lack of expensive wrapping materials shouldn’t keep you from reading the cards.

Now, before you start wrapping your decks up in old newspaper here’s something else to consider.  Just because I said you don’t need silk doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t protect your decks.  When you’re working with your tarot decks (or oracle decks) you’re working with the tools of your craft, and you should treat them with respect and care.  For me, it’s much more about the intention you put into your tools and the level of respect that you give them.  If the best you can afford is to wrap them in a cotton bandana, that’s perfectly okay.  Just make sure the bandana is clean and that you’re not just wadding it up and stuffing it somewhere.

I enjoy sewing and I’ve got a lot of awesome little patterns for bags that are the perfect IMG_0889size for a deck of tarot cards.  So I’ve sewn a bunch and most of the time I store my working decks in them.

The one shown here, holding my Prisma Visions deck, is one of my favorites.  The witch cameo fabric is perfect for a witch like me.  It’s lightly lined so it gives the deck a little bit of padding which protects it when I need to toss it in my bag and take it with me.

Someday I might eventually have a bag that I make out of silk, who knows.  Some Tarot rules make a lot of sense, like clearing your decks of old or carried over energies before you use them and doing your readings in a centered and grounded place.  I’ve done readings without taking time to ground and center and those readings were… okay; but when I take the time to ground and center my readings are 150% better.  But as for the silk thing, as long as you’re treating your decks with care and respect they’ll be powerful tools, it won’t matter if you’ve wrapped them in silk, cotton, wool, or paper.

But trust me on the ziplock bag thing.  😉

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Deck Review: Prisma Visions Tarot

  wooly witch reviews (1)

Today’s deck review is for the Prisma Visions Tarot by James R. Eads

This deck was another one that just grabbed my attention immediately.  It’s beautiful.  If you lay all the minor arcana out in order, each suit flows together into one long beautiful narrative.   This is actually the first deck that I’ve owned where the Minor Arcana captivate me more than the majors!

In the wands suit you watch a meandering stream flow through the cards taking the reader on a journey.  It begins with an explosion of stars in a supernova around a standing wand.  It then moves through a dark night lit only by the stars.  This scene bleeds into a fiery sunrise that in turn leads into a forest and culminates in a fearsome explosion of energy that envelops the figures in the court cards.

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At first the energy of the wands seems to completely overwhelm the page, lifting them off their feet and high into the air as they reach through the energy.  The knight can be seen directing the energy with their hands, but still caught up by it.  The Queen figure draws the energy around her body and coaxes a flower to bloom.  A vibrant shock of hair moves around her with the energy mixed in.  Finally the king floats mid air, controlling the wands energy, relaxed and in control despite the whirling maelstrom of fire all around him.  The wand energy has coalesced into a crown over his head.  I love the story that those court cards tell, a progression over time from being the overwhelmed page to the mastery of the king.  I find it echoed in the other courts as well.  I especially liked the Cups court where they all interact with the same water as it flows from the King down to the Page.

IMG_0699The major arcana are set apart from the minors with a decorative borders around them.

As you can see from the cards shown, the art style of the deck is very Impressionistic, it brings to mind Starry Night in a lot of places.  Each suit represents a season as well.  The Swords suit is winter, Wands are Spring, Pentacles are summer, and Cups are Fall.

The art work is beautiful, but so are the cards.  They’re a little bit thicker than most tarot cards, if you’ve ever used the Wild Unknown deck, they’re similar in weight.  They have silver on their edges which is such a treat, it’s super reflective and shiny.  I find them a little bit challenging to shuffle just because of their thickness and stiffness.  A wash is easier than the shuffling in my hands.  Although I’m sure the more I work with the cards the more flexible they’ll become.

Readings with this deck are just as wonderful as the cards themselves.  There is so much to see in these cards, so many symbols and so much depth.  I can absolutely recommend this deck, I’m looking forward to a lot of lovely readings with these cards.

Card of the Day: Six of Swords

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

Today’s card is the Six of Swords from the Prisma Visions Tarot

This is a beautiful depiction of the Six of Swords.  It shows a bridge of swords, spanning an endless dark IMG_0706chasm.  The bridge is crafted from the blades of swords.  It’s midwinter and everything is covered in snow, the wind is blowing hard, and it’s deep in the middle of a moonless and cloudy night.  The only light comes from the stars.  Crossing a bridge of swords under these conditions would be extremely dangerous.

This card represents a difficult journey, a transition from something bad enough to make you prepared to flee even when the travelling is through such bad conditions.

This card traditionally represents a listless and depressed person or period of life.  In the RWS card a man struggles to propel a boatful of swords along.  Here we’re missing the boat, but a long difficult trek can be imagined through the snow.

The butterflies give us hope though.  Not only are they completely out of place in the dead of winter, indicating that the warmth of summer (and thereby a relief from the depressing winter) must be somewhere near, they also symbolize transformation.

There are few more potent and powerful examples of transformation that that of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.  They wrap themselves up, dissolve into goo, and then become an entirely new creature!

Another interesting note for this card, the bending tree on the right side of the card almost looks like it has the face of an old man.  He looks tired and grumpy as he looks back into the past.  The butterflies are looking to the future, towards summer, and towards a way out of this slump.

When you see the Six of Swords take hold of hope.  It’s showing you that the end is in sight.  You can find a way out, but you do have some hard travelling to get there.

Tarot and Gender

As you may have noticed, I do my best to avoid unnecessarily assigning gender where it doesn’t need to be.  I like to remind people that just because the card the Emperor is a depicted as a man, that doesn’t mean the energy in the reading is coming from a man.  Men can assume the role of the nurturing empress just as women can assume the firm leadership role of the emperor.

However, I was working on a review of the Prisma Visions tarot deck (stay tuned for that at a future date) and I was writing about the court cards of the Wands suit.  They’re beautiful and the figures depicted in the court cards are androgynous humanoid figures without any obvious physically gendered characteristics.  As I was ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the progress of the wands energy in the Page and the Knight I simply referred to them as ‘they’ which is a gender-neutral pronoun that I’ve heard many gender nonconforming people use.  And that felt very correct for those cards.  But when I got to the Queen and started using ‘they’, it no longer felt correct to me.  Not because a queen figure has to be a woman, but because if I didn’t use she and her, it felt like I was stripping something away.  It felt like I was trying to erase women and that made me stop immediately.

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I wasn’t sure how I could balance those two desires.  I have no problem queering the figures in the tarot cards.  I do my best, and I know I don’t always succeed, to question the gendered assumptions I am making about my readings.  My approach, as an able bodied white cisgender woman, has a lot of limitations.  I’m trying my best to broaden my understanding and to make my tarot as inclusive and empowering as I can.

So, although I’m sure there’s plenty of room to grow in this interpretation, I think where that leaves me is that the Page and the Knight will be ‘they’ but I’ll talk about my Queens and Kings as “she” or “he”.  This doesn’t at all mean that women can’t be Kings and men can’t be Queens.  Because they sure as heck can be.  All I mean when I talk about these cards are the depictions on the cards and what I get from them.  The Queen of Wands in the Prisma Visions deck told me that she is a woman.  She didn’t flash her breasts in my face or talk about what was between her legs, because that isn’t what makes her a woman.  Especially when we’re talking about a representation of an embodiment of energies, her physical body doesn’t define her.

This is much more about the role that the card is playing.  The reading of these cards is also heavily steeped in gendered expectations of being too. Call into question the assumption that the empress is nurturing because she’s a woman.  The empress is nurturing because that’s the energy that the card represents.  Being nurturing and caring isn’t a gendered attribute, but that’s what our culture teaches us.  Our culture says women are caring and nurturing and it’s their job to raise children and manage the emotional soft side of things.  My job as a tarot reader, is to try to pull apart those gendered assumptions when I find myself making them.

The cards are representatives of energies.  These energies are not essentially male or female energies, they just are.  Assigning gender to them has helped us to conceptualize these energies and fit them into our framework of understanding.  The goal we should be striving for is that we create a more just and fair culture that serves the needs of all participants in it.

Working towards that goal, it’s very important to acknowledge that gender, like sexual orientation, is not binary, it exists on a spectrum and people can move around on that spectrum.  I want to make sure that the spaces that I’m in are inclusive and welcoming to everyone.  That means that I’m going to question the assumed gender of the figures in my cards and respect that traditionally assigned gender roles are hopelessly outdated and need not apply.  But, I need to make sure that I’m not erasing women at the same time.

Sound complicated?  It is, but that’s the reality if you want to be inclusive.  And that’s okay.

Want to read more about tarot and gender?  Check out this post by The Tarot Lady: Gender Bending the Tarot.  Also I completely recommend you spend some quality time with Beth at Little Red Tarot.  Her Alternative Tarot Course is an AWESOME resource for Queer tarot stuff.  And wander over to the Queer Tarot Project.

I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!  Feel free to leave a comment or share an article or post you found useful on this topic.

 

Card of the Day: The Star

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

Today’s card is The Star from the Prisma Visions Tarot.

This deck!  Oh, how much I love this deck.  It’s just so beautiful.  I’ve only worked with it a little bit so far because every time I pick it up I get mesmerized by the guh so pretty vibe that it has going.

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I love love love this interpretation of The Star.  At first glance I was kind of confused because I didn’t really even see any stars, just a fire plant.  But I couldn’t tear my eyes away.  Look at those blossoms, so vibrant against that dark backdrop.  Of stars!  It’s a night filled  with stars.  And then I saw the galaxies in the night sky.

And finally I saw the girl.  She’s falling through the night.  Or maybe she’s flying.  I wasn’t sure.  If she were falling she’d be looking downwards, but look at her face.  She’s gazing up into the thousands of stars all around her.  And her body is made of the stars in the night sky.  I recently watched the remaking of the series Cosmos (originally narrated by Carl Sagan, and this time narrated by Neil Degrasse Tyson) where he explained that all of the matter that makes up ourselves (all of the matter that makes up anything actually) originated in the heart of a star, everything swirling in the heart of what would become the Big Bang that started our universe.

“We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff,” Sagan famously stated.

And that’s her, made of star stuff soaring through the night sky.  The plants that seek to tether her to the ground below represent our physical bodies, the part of us that is earthbound and cannot sail through the cosmos.  But she represents that part of us that has always been ethereal and longs to return again to the stars.  She dove down into her human body for a time, but that upwards gaze is a foretelling of that eventual return.  And that is the energy of The Star.  Hope, that non-rational knowing we have that we are more than our physical bodies.  That we are made of the same stuff as the stars.

As I was writing this post I noticed another thing about this card that I’d missed in my other wanderings.  The tangled darkness right around her body–it’s in the shape of a head in profile.  The darkness is tufts of hair, dark against the brilliant starlit sky.  I immediately got the impression of a Victorian lady with upswept hair, a perfectly pressed skirt and a corset.  Such a proper ladylike woman, doing as she is told, running her household and obeying the authority figures in her life by day.  And then, by the light of the stars at night she flies in her dreams and becomes the woman soaring out of reach of the restricting tendrils of the light and into the milky way.  If you look closer you can see that’s she’s breathing out the light of the galaxy in the card.

We may travel through a lot of darkness in our lives, The Star card exists to give us hope, to literally be a light in the darkness that helps us stumble through until we can find our way again.  Humans have always looked upwards to the sky for direction, both spiritually and in the more mundane navigational sense, reading entire stories into the constellations.  When you see the Star its a reminder to hang in there, hold onto the knowledge that things will be okay and trust the stars to guide you.