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Choosing A Deck, II

August 21, 2016

by Tony Willis             

The Second Consideration

Think carefully, too, about whether you need your spot cards to have pictures on them. If you decide to go for the picture option, be alive to the fact that pictures will necessarily guide your attention in a specific direction. Initially, that may strike you as a welcome prospect, but as you progress with your tarot studies you may discover that continually being pointed at a card’s most obvious significance interferes with the process of accessing subtler, more nuanced meanings.

The more elaborate the designs on the minor arcana cards, the more directive the pictures are likely to be. The suits will be aligned with specific Elements, so that Rods, or Wands as the suit is also called, may be associated with Air in the deck you have chosen, in which case the figures on the court cards will be depicted surrounded by clouds, birds or butterflies. All well and good as long as you subscribe to the belief that Rods correspond to Air. The personalities of the courts, as outlined in whatever book of instruction goes with the deck, will also be affected by the suit’s Elemental attribution. An Airy King of Rods will be described a serious thinker, a mathematician or one concerned with concepts, nerdy or philosophical in disposition. Should you subscribe to the belief that Rods correspond to the Element of Fire, wands knighthowever, the symbolism on this cards may throw you seriously off track as you attempt to divine.

In my experience, the tyro in predictive tarot reading makes better progress working with a standard deck – the Waite-Smith for those who favor pictures on spot cards, or a Marseilles tarot-type deck for those wishing to rely on the card’s number and suit-sign to prompt them in the direction of an appropriate keyword. There are Elemental indications on the Waite-Smith court cards but these are more muted than in some decks. I know taroists who have used the Waite-Smith deck for many years without ever noticing that behind the Knight of Wands are some pyramids set in a desert landscape. They thought they were mountains, wrongly colored.

For Waite, Wands are the Fire suit. Yet, looking at the Ace of Wands in the Waite-Smith pack, and at many of its other Wand spot cards, you would not know it. The Waite-Smith Wands tend to be in leaf, as if, though severed from the parent tree, they yet retained life. As a result, Waite’s Wands could equally well be assigned to Earth – or to Air, as the analogous Biblical wand is that of Aaron, the brother of Moses.

wands ace   wands 3   wands 10

Aaron’s wand was planted in the ground and in an instant put forth leaves and blossoms. This wand had been cut from an almond tree, and it became the model, in Europe, of the magician’s wand, and was thus associated with Air, as magick works on that invisible, almost imperceptible level known as the Astral Plane, whose natural correlative is Elemental Air.

Because the Waite-Smith attributions are not aggressively ‘in your face’, the deck can be successfully used by beginners who assign Elements to suits by some method other than the one Waite was using, or who haven’t yet made up their minds which Elements correspond to which suits.

But, in my opinion, a Tarot de Marseilles deck is a better starting place for the beginner. There are no Elemental indications on the minor arcana cards, either on the courts or the spots. This leaves the diviner free to think in terms other than the Elemental. Such considerations can be added later, if the student wishes to do so, but they are by no means essential to the divinatory process.

tarot-de-marseille-jodorowsky-camoin-_1a_enl   as_de_deniers   batons10

to be continued

From → tarot divination

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