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Have you ever noticed that after seeing some films you are snappish or silent, yearning or ponderous, giggly or jumpy, and that the affects can last for minutes, hours or even days, abducting us from our normal means of perception?

I was reading one of my all-time favorite books Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by David Abram and came to the part where he describes his own growing awareness that certain movies and books would “surreptitiously enter into my bloodstream, like a contagion . . . a curious spell that my organism was under.” He further characterizes these effects as a “capacity for being drawn, physiologically, into the terrain of certain stories—abducted into another landscape that would only belatedly release me back into the palpable present.” His description is reminiscent of being stolen away into the land of fairy.

I recently experienced such a state after going to see “Beasts of the Southern Wild”: my friends noticed that I couldn’t speak after the movie and that I refused their ride so I could walk home alone. I realized that Abram’s insights provided a second part to my established practice of active reading and movie-viewing, in which I draw cards before partaking of the work so as to sharpen my perception and enrich my understanding and appreciation of the work. Based on Abram’s commentary I’ve designed a spread that assists us in seeing how a work ensorcells us, temporarily coloring our perceptions and feelings and even influencing our actions.

Place the first six cards in a clockwise circle, beginning at the top, with the seventh card in the center.

1. What feeling tone colors my general outlook after seeing the film (or reading the book)?

2. How does this influence my immediate approach or response to things?

3. What fears does it stir?

4. What longings awaken?

5. What shifts do I perceive in my immediate surroundings? How do I see things differently?

6. What do I need from those around me? And, once I’ve answered that: How can I give this to myself?

7. What is the major lesson that this work offers me?

I went to see this movie because some friends had invited me, based on the recommendation of another friend. Before going I knew nothing about it and couldn’t even remember the title. So, I thought I’d try out the Petit Lenormand cards as a prediction of plot. I got Lilies-Clouds-Snake-Scythe-Whipall of them Court Cards. Turns out it was pretty darn accurate for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” It’s a coming-of-age mythic fable about a little girl, Hushpuppy, and her father who live on a fragile island, the Bathtub, south of the Louisiana dikes in the Gulf. It also features other people who exist in these unbelievably harsh conditions (all the Court Cards). There’s the dying father, a huge storm, a wise female teacher (as well as a dream-like encounter with a mother-figure), the poisoning of the creatures on the island, breaking through the dike, lots of arguments, and the inhabitants battle with the authorities. It’s an emotionally wrenching film with incredible acting – especially by the young girl and her father. 

I drew five cards: 

  • Lilies -Family (also innocence and Father)
  • Clouds – the Storm 
  • Snake – Poison/Wise Woman (at the center)
  • Scythe – Decision to stay on the island; Death and Destruction 
  • Whip – Arguments, violent activity

An even better way to read Lenormand is in pairs:

  • Lilies+Clouds – disfunctional family or problems with the father.
  • Clouds+Snake – bad mojo, lack of clarity regarding a woman.
  • Snake+Scythe - cut off from a woman; a treacherous decision; a poisonous death.
  • Scythe+Whip – violent cutting, a decisive battle. 

I was prepared for what could be a very dark, tragic film. It almost was, but something else broke through. My strongest thought during the intermission (they have to change the reels at our local art theatre) was, I couldn’t live like that! Several people left.

I later did a reading with the Mary-El Tarot to help me explore my conscious and unconscious reactions, responding directly to her images. I’ll only mention a few brief highlights of what I saw.

1. What colors my general outlook? 5 of Wands. First thought on looking at the growling red lion: “red-in-tooth-and-claw”. I had a very visceral reaction that touched on my most primitive fight-flight-freeze physiology.

2. How does this influence my immediate approach or response to things? 10 of Wands. This shows a warrior with bow and arrows on a horse. Flight. But I also wanted to be a defender of the movie to those who were repelled by it.

3. What fears does it stir? Page of Disks. This image of a sleeping baby with marks like nails surrounding it arouses my protectiveness. I fear that something primally innocent – the exquisite nature of the sentiment in the film – might be harmed. I also fear that I might slumber when I should awaken.

4. What longings awaken? Knight of Disks. The next stage of maturity: Knight as protector of the Page/Baby of Disks. This immediately reminded me of the scene shown in the lead photo above. I long to stand up for and to what might otherwise overwhelm us.

5. What shifts do I perceive in my immediate surroundings? How do I see things differently? 7 of Disks. I see a split, like two separate meteors. I am aware of the lack of words when I feel drawn out of myself.

6. What do I need from those around me? How can I give this to myself? The Tower. Strong words and opinions. Instead, both I and my friends retreated into silence. I can give myself the words, the surpressed fury, the burning to act on this film in some way.

7. What is the major lesson that this work offers me? Ace of Wands. That some creative spark can be birthed out of this fiery angelic torment. The reading is all Fire and Earth.

Words still fail me. Please let me know what you thought of the film and/or your experience in reading cards for enhancing your experience of films and books.

I often get asked how to keep a tarot journal. Of course, you can do it any way you want, and there are dozens of things you can include and mediums you can use: notebook and pen, computer files, blogs, etc. A blog is nice in that it is set up for a sequence of dated entries, and you can choose whether to keep it private, make it public or only allow a few friends in.

I just happened on a “Tarot Book of Days” called Quirkeries by Sharyn Mallow Woerz. It’s practically perfect in its elegant simplicity.

Often there are no more than a half dozen sentences. Entries begin with a title, the deck and the card. These are followed with three brief paragraphs: 1) first thoughts on card image, 2) personal associations regarding card meaning, 3) an inspirational quote on a related topic. The card is pictured in a space to the right. Sharyn switches to a new deck every Sunday and usually adds a brief deck overview at that time.

I’m so glad I found this blog. I wrote Sharyn asking her some questions about the blog, which she kindly answered in the comments. I recommend reading what she has to say. I find her whole process inspiring. She’s given me permission to post this sample clip from her blog (click here to get a readable size). Imagine doing one of these every day!

Feel free to add your own experiences with keeping a daily tarot journal, and tell us what medium you use.

I asked a group of tarot readers on Facebook to give their top advice for how to combine and integrate card meanings in a spread. It’s one of the things that beginners find most bewildering, but we can all learn more about. Forty-nine people responded (see list of contributors at the end). I combined, edited and grouped the advice to form sets of approaches, moving roughly from the most intuitive to the most analytical. Share this material freely but please include the list of contributors and a link back to this post.

There are no rules to interpretation.

Intuit!

  • Be intuitive.
  • Look at the cards from an internal perspective.
  • TRUST in your intuitive awareness and reactions to the cards.
  • Go with the flow!

Combine right brain/left brain work: analysis and imagination/story.

  • Be guided by the HOLY Spirit (The Whole (holy) Picture). Both the universal and the personal or the Whole must be understood. Use both the Intellect and Intuition.
  • Use analysis to “check” the intuition which can sometimes get clogged or confused.

Look at the big picture.

  • Step back and look at the spread from a larger perspective, not simply focusing on individual cards and their individual meanings.
  • Become unfocused and blurry eyed (take off your glasses) and feel the energy flows as an energy picture: wands are direct and immediate, swords reflexive, turning, twisting, cups are energy accuminlations and coins ground or build up energy, etc.
  • Look at the whole picture of the layout and then tune into a “knowing” of the entire spread before anything else. See it as a snapshot of the unconscious mind made manifest. After the initial “feeling the meaning,” look at the individual cards and symbols.
  • Sense the *vibration* of the *whole* spread.
  • Pay attention to any movement you can actually feel or see.
  • Quickly glance over all of the cards at once and jot down the immediate thoughts that come to mind – words, images, feelings, messages, etc. that jump out. How do the cards feel together? What kind of feeling do they invoke in you?

Notice overlaps among the cards’ meanings.

  • For instance, several cards can mean “new” or “let go.” Such ‘blended’ meanings are very potent, sort of like the overlapping gray area between black and white.

Look at how the images and figures interrelate with each other.

  • Determine the direction the figures on the cards are looking or moving; their body-language.
  • Is the Knight of Wands galloping towards the Queen of Swords or galloping away? Is he riding towards a tomb entrance? Or a family gathering? Is the Emperor turning his back on the World, or facing it?
  • Are they back to back, or facing each other?
  • Look at the direction symbols are pointing.
  • Does each card point to another card in a sequence?
  • Are they actively engaging in something or inert?
  • Does a card at the bottom seems to carry all the others? Or a card at the top, lead the way?

Find the story within the cards. “Every Picture tells a story.” –Rod Stewart

  • The cards always tell a story.
  • Let a story flow from your interpretation of the cards.
  • Let that story flow from picture to picture. The cards will show you the weavings and patterns. The numbers, the titles are road maps or signs along the road.
  • Read the cards in the order you laid them out in the spread and create the tale of what they are all doing, interacting with one another, and how that relates to you.
  • Let the story, the narrative of the reading, jump out at you. “Make up” the story as you go along. If you can’t “see” it, check a few cards with the querent for verification.
  • Sometimes the message is clear and will form a ‘seamless sentence’, but, at other times, only one card may stand out.
  • Build off of what is obvious first.
  • Start by talking through the stuff you do understand and it’ll come to you or not; usually it’ll come to you.
  • Read the cards/positions that stand out to you; the rest of the cards in the spread are filler. If you can understand the noun and the verb of a sentence you can deduct the rest.
  • Look for a card that you intuitively feel is driving the reading, i.e., the one that seems to be directing events a little more than others. Ask what the character in that card is saying to the characters in the others.
  • Link cards by finding correlations among them (more later).
  • Look for combinations. Find the patterns and connections among cards and positions, then mush it all into a composite idea (position + card is too limiting).
  • Turn each card one at a time and watch how each builds on the last in terms of a pattern.
  • Build the relationship between cards and positions as you move through the spread, one card at a time, until all is revealed.
  • Turn the cards over one at a time, gaining a tiny ‘clue’ from each, so the story builds and changes, letting the cards talk to each other as the “new kid on the block” gets turned over.
  • Reversed means one might not be perfectly comfortable with the combination, something needs to be adjusted.
  • The story is the intuitive weaving of the nature of the cards. Alfred Woolard once said in his poem, “My life is but a weaving … when I reach the other side can I truly see the whole design” (paraphrased).

How the cards in a spread relate to one another is like the relationships that we have with others or how the characters relate in a story.

  • Think of the reading as a conversation. Let the cards “talk” to you, and talk back to and through them. Imagining that the cards are “talking” to you opens your mind to “hear” the message. PAY ATTENTION to it.
  • View the cards as a council circle: lay them in a circle and let them interact with each other and advise you in a sacred space-circle kind of way!
  • Think of two cards interrelating from their respective positions, much like having a conversation or discussion, until there is greater understanding.
  • Ask what each card (or figure in a card) thinks about the other(s)—what’s the attitude of each to the other and to what they’re thinking and doing?
  • A reversed card can mean it is not ‘playing well’ with others.

Look at what’s there and what isn’t.

  • Look indeed for what is not there as much as what is.
  • Notice what’s NOT in the spread.
  • Which cards didn’t come up can tell you as much as the cards that did. For instance, if The Lovers, 2 of Cups, King/Queen of Cups are absent from a love reading, that’s telling you there is no love relationship over the time period specified by the reading.

Look for prevalent themes, groupings, colors, or shapes.

  • Notice things like Gate cards, or which suit is prevailing or dominant.
  • Check for a progression among the numbers as a sequence of development.

Look for repetitions of numbers, images, suits/elements, colours, etc. (Correspondences).

  • Use the correspondences as a base and go from there.
  • Start with the foundations: suits, numbers, Majors, Minors, Courts.
  • Look at the suits/elements to know what world you are dealing with: work, money, practical stuff, or something emotional or mental?
  • With the elements, if there are two fire and one water, for instance, the fire cancels out that watery influence. [referred to as Elemental Dignities.]
  • Look for a predominance of Major or Minor cards to get a feeling if the reading is depicting a key event/change/issue for the querent (majors) or a more minor everyday event (minors).
  • Trumps [Major Arcana] can be an over arching theme or a life passage and the rest are everyday life stuff.
  • See if Minor Arcana cards repeat a Major Arcana card in the spread by number or other similarity.

Compare and contrast, looking for both how cards are alike and how they are different.

  • Are there similar scenes in two or more cards? What are the interactions among these factors.
  • Place cards next to each other (not necessarily in a straight line) to see how they relate.
  • For instance, see how, in the example to the right, the churning waters of the Moon become a cloak that is almost too heavy to wear. [Trimmed decks work best.] The deck is the Revelations Tarot by Zach Wong.

Find two to three keywords for each card and put them into a sentence. First reactions are best; you don’t have to go to the core of the cards existence.

  • Read them as a sentence. For example: First card—Hermit and the flicker of his lamp catches my attention, so I think, “ah, a new idea.” Next card—Chariot, and the black horse going the other way catches my attention. Linking the two cards to form a sentence, it becomes “ah, a new direction going against the norm.”
  • The position is the “noun” and the card is the “verb”. Tense (past present future) is supplied by the positions relative to the Querent (now).
  • View the positions in a spread as the framework of a sentence. Insert keywords or phrases for each card into the basic sentence format and then embellish it based on symbols and correspondences. “While I am conscious of ____, I unconsciously need ____, in order to achieve ____ and meet the challenges of ____.”

Figure out where cards are on the tree of life and what paths or sephiroth are involved.

  • For instance, the Ace, 6, and 9 of Cups are on the middle pillar and not yet grounded in Malkuth, but they are an indication that energy is flowing.

Look for astrological relationships.

  • For instance, the Empress and Hierophant are Venus and Taurus and Venus rules Taurus. Or, the 5 of Swords and The Fool are both Air.
  • If you are doing a horoscope spread you can combine the meanings of the cards that fall in the opposite houses.

Miscellaneous:

  • Determine the speed of the cards to determine how much light they shed on your reading of the images. This way, even a shadowy situation can emerge as crystal clear.
  • Switch decks periodically as a conduit to “open” your attention.
  • A few cards in key positions can determine how you read the rest of the spread. If they don’t tell the story right away, then use all the other techniques.
CONTRIBUTORS:  Hildegerd Haugen, Sophie Nusslé Falco, Maureen Aisling Duffy-Boose, Jon Kaneko-James, Fiona Dilston, Stephen Russell, Jean Foster, Jeanne Fiorini, Lisa Bruno, Kevin Quigley, Nadia K. Potter, Mary Mueller, Paul Nagy, Tero Hynynen, Virginia L Beach, Gwydion LosAngeles, Paula Gaubert, Gloria Scotti, Berthe van Soest, Lynda England Bustilloz, Bertrand Saint-Guillain, Greg LeFever, Carola Meijers, Steph Myriel Es-Tragon, Kustiana Murtjono, Terri Bivona, Jera-Babylon Rootweaver, Diane Brandt Wilkes, Rosie Grace, Nancy Antenucci, Sue Clynes, Sandra M. Russel, Camelia Elias, Christine Payne-Towler, Lorrie Kazan, Stacy LaRosa, Toni Gilbert, Vyvien Starbuck, Sherri Glebus, Flash Silvermoon, Judy Nathan, Helene Martz, Stephanie Arwen Lynch,  Monika Sanders, Katrina Wynne, Rana Fakhouri George, Robert Moyer, Dancing Bear, Mary K. Greer.

See also:

“What Every Newbie Tarot Reader Should Know

“What Every Newbie Tarot Reader Should Know about the History and Myths of Tarot”

Announcing the official launch of my new book Who Are You in the Tarot? at BATS and with a web seminar (webinar), “Working with Your Tarot Birth and Year Cards,” on September 6, 2011, 6pm – 6.45pm USA Pacific time through Global Spiritual Studies.

So, you’ve calculated your Birth and Year Cards (I’ll show you how if you don’t know), but what are you going to do with them next? In this session, Mary K. Greer shows you how to take these archetypal forms further, to see how you can work with them in your own life and with a querent. Discover the wisdom of your Year Cards and what Destiny calls to you from your Soul Card. Make these cards come alive in your own life! Learn how to learn from them in ways unique to you. Explore the nine Constellations and the three Soul Groups that are at the heart of this system and are key to your relationship dynamics.

Information on this live webinar is available here. Join us live so you can ask questions and take part in the discussion. For the time in other zones, check the website.

Click on the link to visit the book’s Facebook page and “like” us, then let us know what your Birth Cards are.

Get a signed first edition hot off the press and unavailable yet in bookstores, at the San Francisco Bay Area Tarot Symposium (BATS) on August 27-28 (see EVENTS).

Over 60 experienced tarot readers offer their best advice for what every Newbie Tarot Reader should know. Not everyone will agree with everything. Add ideas you think belong, in the Comments. Feel free to post this anywhere, so long as you include the source and contributors (listed at the end).

 The Rules

• There are no rules. All rules are made to be broken.

• You may hear and read a LOT about tarot, much of it contradictory. Listen, read, discuss, try, and decide for yourself. No one knows how you will read or work with the cards except you.

 Learning Tarot

• The more you know, the more options you have.

• Read books, Lots of books.

• PUT THE BOOKS DOWN!

• There is nothing wrong with books. Knowledge gained from them  gives you a fantastic starting point and framework and can lead to more assured reading.

• Try to read a card first, before you look it up. You will be surprised by how much of the gist of it you get.

• Get to know your deck – pull a card a day and/or go through your deck and take notes on each card.  Write your thoughts and feelings about each card in a journal.

Read the rest of this entry »

I frequently hear questions on forums such as, “When the Magician (or Star or Emperor) comes up in the position of what someone wants, what does it mean?” Or, “What does the Three of Wands advise?” Or, as a response to “What does my boyfriend feel about me?,” students want to know “What does Justice (or the Knight of Pentacles or the Seven of Cups) feel?” I find these questions curious. For one thing, what the Magician wants in one life situation will be very different than what he or she wants in another. For another, the deck used will often change the attitude and feeling of the card.

Here’s my favorite way to get the most helpful responses to such questions: Simply ask the figure on the card!

Usually it’s the querent, not the reader, who can give voice to the most meaningful response. Sure, as a reader, I can easily come up with a bunch of possibilities, but if you want to hear a loud, resounding ring of truth, ask the querent what the figure on the card says.

It’s amazing how easily querents will come up with something consequential when I ask them for the first thing that comes to mind. I’ve asked thousands of querents, and I’ve rarely had anyone who couldn’t do it.

The answers are never random. In the majority of cases, you’ll be surprised at how significant the response will be—both in relation to the card and to the situation. If a querent doesn’t get how this relates to him, I have him repeat the statement once or twice until he does. Or, I ask the querent directly how this response relates to her situation.

Using this technique for yourself, you’ll find the cards in a spread form a committee, each with their own attitudes, agendas, feelings and advice. One may speak with the voice of your mother, another with your inner wild-child, and a third as your demanding boss. It’s not unusual for them to disagree with each other. The position in the spread will help you determine if theirs is a voice from the past, the urgings of a possible future, an obstructing adversary, or a helpful guide.

A technique that can make this even more powerful is for the querent (whether yourself or another) to assume the body posture of the figure on the card. Try to imitate it as exactly as possible and try moving as that figure would move, and taking on its tone. Then, speak as the figure, saying what that figure wants or feels or advises, or how it uses the various implements and symbols on the cards, and even what it thinks of the advice of other cards!

I invite you to come play with me. In the Comments section, speak with the voice of one or all three of the following Magicians and/or the one at top, and tell us what that Magician wants. Is it the same for all of them or different? From left to right you can call them: Wildwood Magician, Wizards Magician, Otherworld Magician (click for a larger image; sources below).

Top: Bateleur from the Tarot de Jean Dodal by Pablo Robledo. Left: Shaman from The Wildwood Tarot by Mark Ryan, John Matthews and Will Worthington. Middle: Magician from The Wizards Tarot by Corrine Kenner and John Blumen. Right: Magician from the Otherworld Tarot by Alison Williams and Sarah Nowell.

Paul Nagy interviews Enrique Enriquez about how and why he reads the tarot the way he does, beginning with some direct examples of how Enrique approaches reading the Marseille tarot. 

Enrique resides in Manhattan and is well known for his appreciation of historic tarot decks. His fresh and disciplined approach to the interpretation of this antique imagery bears only a superficial resemblance to the more synthetic ways tarot is usually read. Because of this distinctive approach to tarot reading, Paul thought an investigative interview designed to explain Enrique’s suppositions would make clear to the tarot reading community what he is does when he reads.

Read the interview at TAROLOYEAST (BETA).

Check out Paul Nagy’s on-going and free teleconference class “The Way to Tarot Wisdom” based on the works of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Marianne Costa and Rachel Pollack.

One of the geniuses of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is the story-telling qualities of the Minor Arcana. Each card can tell a story, but a sometimes overlooked factor is that the suits tell stories as you move from card to card. In classes I encourage students to write a tale based on each suit so that they can get a personalized feel for how one image changes into the next. Pamela Colman Smith was a trained book illustrator and story-teller, so she may have told her own stories, although I believe Waite gave her specific tales to illustrate (see here and here).

Whatever the original stories, this “tarot flow” perspective can be used in your own readings. Rather than looking at the Minor Arcana cards as static scenes, try seeing them as a moment that is only one step in a progression. Something happened just before this moment and it’s about to change into something else. It’s like individual tai chi gestures that should really only be part of a living, flowing, connected movement.

Many modern spreads, rather than focusing on a sequential development, favor single cards interpreted according to an individualized position: What helps you? What blocks you? How does your partner feel about you? I can guarantee that your partner doesn’t have only one feeling regarding you! If you see the cards in terms of a sequence, then you get more of the sense that on the way from one feeling to the next one, your partner, in regards to your question, is only temporarily dominated by the feeling shown by the card.

Let’s say you got the 5 of Pentacles. Your partner may be feeling emotionally cold and thinking that sticking with you, right now, is a hardship to be endured. That can be pretty depressing. But if you consider both the 4 and 6 of Pentacles, then you could consider whether your partner might have made a firm commitment to holding on to the relationship (4 of Pentacles) and is aware of a possible pay-off later (6 of Pentacles). It’s just that right now he or she is feeling hurt or going through a cold spell that might be only temporary. Do you see other possibilities for this sequence?

This kind of approach works very well with one of the reversed card techniques. This optional way to read a reversal says that an upside down card is an energy that is attempting to manifest, but there is still something to deal with in regards to the preceding card. That is, you need to revisit the prior card in the suit before you can fully take on or manifest the present one. In this example, if the 5 of Pentacles was reversed, then you might want to consider what needs to be held on to in times of scarcity, by reminding yourself what you both found so valuable (4 of Pentacles). Consider what your partner has always clung to. Is there some way you can be supportive of or honor that in order to be a true companion in difficult times?

In The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals, I opened most Minor Arcana card interpretations with a possible scenario of how the figures depicted on one card might have arrived there from the preceding one, seeking to link all the cards in a chain of actions and consequences. It’s worth taking a second to consider this perspective when doing a reading.

If you would like, in the Comments, also tell us your “tarot flow” story for the cards pictured below. How does the 8 of Cups card follow from the 7 and lead to the 9 of Cups? If the 8 of Cups is reversed, then how might you be better able to handle it by first revisiting the 7 of Cups?

These cards are from what’s been called the “Edith Waite” deck, that illustrates and accompanies El Tarot Universal de Waite.

Updated 7/18/11: See Mic update at the end and helpful recommendations in the Comments.

Imagine that a client comes to you for a premium reading. They spend an hour and a lot of money, but when they get home they can hardly remember a word of the deep wisdom and insights they just received. I like to trust that their subconscious is making use of it, but I know from experience the value that comes from reviewing a reading in depth. What to do?—No one uses audio cassettes anymore.

I got myself an iPad 2 and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve been waiting a year for the next generation and I’m thrilled to have it. One of my main intentions was to use it as a fancy digital recorder for tarot consultations. And by fancy, I mean FaNcY! Nothing else offers the bells and whistles this does [except the iPhone, which can do most of these things, too].

In one, relatively small package, you can record a reading, take notes on it, create an annotated sketch of a personalized layout, and include photos of the completed tarot spread and even of the grinning querent and reader. And, at the end of the session, you can instantly email the reading to clients so it’s waiting for them on their computer when they get home (or on their iPhone or iPad for their immediate viewing and listening pleasure). Talk about moving into the 21st century! Now, there can be a few glitches in this otherwise perfect scenario. Occasionally an app crashes. Audio files can get really big and cause problems with mail. And one app even caused my whole iPad to crash (boy, is that app going to get a thumbs down!). Additionally, you can’t email unless there’s a WiFi connection or you have G3, but even if you have to send the file later that’s hardly a deal breaker. Here’s a couple of apps that make the whole process irresistable.

Click for larger image

NOTABILITY – This app does it all and the new price of $2.99 is a still a steal. Since I originally wrote this post, Notability has been upgraded, and they added all the features I asked for (thank you very much!).

  1. Type notes such as the question or subject of the reading, aspects of the issue that could be the basis of a personalized spread, recommended resources. You can use a variety of fonts & colors and can indent to create outlines.
  2. Record the conversation. The audio recording will continue even while you perform other functions within the app and outside of it, and you can pause it.*
  3. Insert a photo of the actual spread. You can resize the image and move it on the page and now place images side-by-side.
  4. Create a sketch of the spread or layout (basic shapes included as well as freehand drawing and text). You can also draw on a photo to circle important symbols or lines of sight and emphasis. No other app that I know includes all these features.
  5. The Send options are excellent since you can mail as a zipped PDF + separate Audio file; or, to other Macs only as an RTFD (opens in TextEdit). It also works with Dropbox (cloud computing).

*If you are recording your own readings—talking to yourself as you look at a card or spread—this app can be fantastic. Just type a few keywords as you speak to indicate ideas you want to return to, then, when playing back the audio, if you tap on one of those keywords or phrases, the audio will jump forward or backward to that part of the recording! This would be a great way to journal the exercises in 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card!

AUDIO MEMOS 2 – Free for the basic app, which is adequate; pay for upgrades.

This is a professional level audio voice recorder. You won’t get the photos or the notes, but you will get great recordings even with only the built-in mic (either .wav or for smaller files – .aac). You can do button or voice activated recordings and you can pause and restart. You can also do some basic editing. When played back on Audio Memos it can jump to annotatable position markers that you set when recording. Unfortunately, the position markers don’t work if you playback via a different application. End the recording and email it in seconds (if you are net-connected) or save it to mail later. CONS: Photos and sketches have to be created in another app and sent separately; you can only mail up to 15mb and the best quality files are BIG. You should be able to record an hour on .aac setting. If you want .wav use the included timer and start a new recording when the file gets too big. You can export to Dropbox or Evernote.

GARAGEBAND - $4.99. I don’t use this myself as I find it overkill for simple recording, but others love it. Great editing features.

EVERNOTE – Free with limited space on its server; a monthly charge for more space.

This note-taking app saves everything on its own server, making it accessible to you from any computer or mobile. You can also give others access to some of your files. You can type, record and take a photo without leaving the app and it’s designed to easily insert webclips (like a spread from tarot.com). CONS: You can’t sketch; if you stop the recording you have to start a new one; the emailer crashed the app and froze my iPad! PROS: I discovered, after recording a Skype interview with someone in Italy, that I could transfer the giant AudioMemos .wav file to Evernote and then access it through my Evernote web account on my home computer and mail it via SendThisFile—problem solved.

Added: A MUST HAVE for Professional Tarot Readers who do face-to-face or phone readings is a Credit Card App (PayPal works well for internet consultations). A credit card app will work with both the iPhone and the iPad. It allows you to accept charges and the money is then deposited in your bank account (or a check can be mailed to you). The most handy and reasonable app, that has no hidden fees or monthly charges, is Square, which is perfect for those who only need to take credit cards occasionally. See recommendations in the Comments section by people who have used it.

There are other Notes+Audio apps that I haven’t checked out yet like AudioNote, SoundNote, Sundry Notes, ClassNotes, PaperDesk, some of which may be better if you prefer handwriting and sketching to typing. If anyone has any suggestions, please let us know in the comments. Added: My Notebook! app has all the functions I’ve recommended, including a great handwriting/sketching option—smooth & with the best arrangement for color choosing I’ve seen. But the interface is unnecessarily complicated and the free Lite version has quite a few limitations, like not being able to try out any of the many Send features.

And, of course, iPad/Phone comes with FaceTime, which, like Skype, gives you the option of face-to-face calls for readings at a distance. Read suggestions for Skype recording in the Comments.

UPDATED note on External Mics:

Under most circumstances the little mic in the iPad will do okay for face-to-face readings if you don’t mind the hollow tone and a bit of a lisp in your voice. Don’t speak directly into it.

If you want an external, portable mic, then I highly recommend the Samson Go Mic. It’s very small (though surprisingly heavy), clips onto your iPad or stands alone, and works with the iPad USB camera connector. You can also plug headphones directly into the mic. It’s good enough for podcasts-on-the-go, although a pop-filter helps for optimum sound when in uni-directional mode. This video review is very helpful for understanding the three sound settings and hearing it in action.

Some Blue USB Microphones work through the iPad USB camera connection kit. The Blue Yeti is supposed to be the best of its class (+/-$125) but requires a powered USB hub. The Snowball and Snowflake are cheaper, more portable and don’t require the powered hub, but the quality goes down. If you are doing podcasts then go with the Blue Yeti (I would). I understand Blue is working on more portable mic solutions for the iPad/Phone.


See the Comments for other great suggestions for recording, including internet video and audio recording via Skype and Conference Calls.

Much is made of how tarot cards can be interpreted through their images or symbols—especially modern decks that feature pictorial scenes with lots of  images on all the cards. This post is about how to combine and translate the language of imagery into statements, such that these statements can be more easily interpreted than the images by themselves.

Many of us have spent fruitful hours pouring over symbol dictionaries in order to better understand each detail in the tarot. For instance, we might research and discover that a key, in addition to simply opening or locking a contained space, is seen as the means to unlock hidden meanings in symbols or doctrine. More specifically, in the Hierophant/Pope card, keys have a special meaning regarding the priesthood: the gold key represents mercy and absolution, and the silver key stands for judgment and penance. Furthermore, these keys refer back to the gospel of Matthew (16:19) in which Jesus tells Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Going further, you will discover that Mercy and Judgment (the gold and silver keys) are the two columns on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

How many times have you mentioned any of the above references in an actual tarot reading?

Alternatively, a reader might try to discover the querent’s own, in-the-moment, personal associations with this image: “Oh, my gosh. Those are my car keys that I lost yesterday at church!” Or a reader will offer up his or her own projections and intuitions, as in, “As I’m seeing it right now, the keys are saying that your spiritual leader or tradition “holds the keys” to whether you should get a divorce.” These can certainly be rich ways to read the tarot, but they can sometimes get you sidetracked from the essential message of the card. Even the artist’s stated intention for a symbol can be so personal and idiosyncratic that it, too, misses the mark. I’m not saying that the following technique is the “best” method for interpreting images, but rather that it can be helpful and serve as a checkpoint to make sure you’ve touched on its roots.

What I offer here is a method that involves translations of the essential, objective meaning of an image—its denotative and connotative definitions and its core characteristics or functions (how the thing is used).

At the denotative level, a key is a small piece of metal shaped with parts that fit with parts in another mechanism (usually a lock) so that manipulation (turning) changes the latter mechanism’s function—usually to open or close things. The connotative meaning is that it binds or loosens, and a key often suggests gaining access to something. If we abstract it one more level, then it suggests obtaining the answer, solution or means to something crucial or important. Connotative meanings are more subjective and often convey pleasing or displeasing feelings about the word. [Note: I use ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ here, not as absolutes, but as relative points along a continuum.]

Step 1

To try out this technique, you need to start with the most “objective” meanings and functions—what I often call the “literal” level of a symbol—rather than personal projections or mythic, occult, alchemical, astrological or psychological significances. In other words, try to use as little abstraction, impressionism or subjectivity as possible.

To try another example, the denotative level of the RWS dog in the Fool card is “a domesticated, four-legged, carnivorous mammal with an acute sense of smell.” The functional aspect is that it is tamed by humans to function as a companion, protector or hunter. A further, connotative abstraction includes ideas such as loyalty, instincts or, sometimes, a scoundrel or wretch. (In this process, we won’t consider the mythic associations of dogs with death, like Cerberus at the gates of Hell, nor the Egyptian dog-headed Anubis, nor the association of dogs with the Moon and Artemis, nor the dog of Odysseus, or that in alchemy a dog represents sulfur or primitive, material gold. Nor will we consider that god is dog spelled backwards.) When in doubt, think of a dictionary rather than a book of religion, mythology or literature. In fact, a dictionary is often a good place to start when translating images.

Step 2

Step 2 involves linking together the most essential definitions, functions and connotations of three to five core images from one card into a “literal translation” of these images.

With the RWS Six of Cups as our example, let’s go through Steps 1 and 2. (We should also be aware that traditional meanings for this card often include gifts, pleasurable memories and emotions, nostalgia and old things.) Here are three dominant images from the picture created by Pamela Colman Smith:

Children – more than one pre-pubescent human being. Their key characteristics are small size, immaturity, innocence, vulnerability, playfulness, learning and development, and being a descendant or establishing a lineage.
Flowers – the reproductive organs of a plant, usually with characteristics (scent, shape and color) that attract fertilizing mechanisms.  Flowers are cultivated to function as decorations or gifts. Blooms suggest the flourishing peak of beauty, health and vigor.
Glove/mitten – a garment covering the hand. It protects or safeguards the hand to avoid discomfort, damage, disease or contamination of self, others or environment. It may also serve as a fashion ornament.

First we combine these individual images into a simple statement: “A larger child hands a flower to a smaller child wearing a mitten.”

To translate this, we substitute a key word or phrase for each image:
“A larger, innocent offers a gift of beauty and reproductive vigor to a smaller, innocent whose vulnerability has some safeguards.”

Let’s add two more images to see if this changes anything:

Courtyard – a private space surrounded by walls or buildings. It functions as a place of air, light, privacy, security and tranquility.
Guard – a person who keeps watch. He functions in a defensive manner to watch or protect what is vulnerable or to control access.

A very literal description might be: “In a private, guarded space, a child offers a gift of flowers to a another child.”

The next level of abstraction looks something like this:
“In a private, secure and guarded place, but with inattentive watchfulness, youthful innocence and vulnerability handle, with some safeguards, a gift of beauty and reproductive vigor.”

Step 3

Relate this translation back to the querent’s question or situation (via the spread position, if applicable). Now you interpret what the translated images in the cards add to the situation. Generating questions based on the translation is a good way to start.

Let’s add a keyword from the basic card meaning so that we have the following translation:
“A memory in which youthful innocence and vulnerability, in a private, secure and guarded place, but with inattentive protection, handle, with some safeguards, a gift of beauty and reproductive vigor.”

The following are example questions that emerged from the image translation:

Can you remember moments of former pleasure in which a mature, adult significance was not apparent at the time but may now be? Perhaps you were attracted to or given something that continues to reproduce emotional (Cups) reverberations in you? Have you been too guarded and naive to fully appreciate a gift given or received?

Alternatively, could a larger or more dominant self/person have offered something to a smaller self/person who covered up (gloved) her response as she wasn’t completely open to the experience?

Are some of your memories guarded? How do you protect yourself from what happened in the past? A worst case scenario suggests some kind of childhood abuse from which memory you’ve tried to protect yourself. There may be an element of seeing a difficult past through rose-colored glasses (and this card has had those difficult meanings on more than one occasion)—although, generally, it is a very good card.

In the Comments to this post you might want to try combining the image definitions into other translations, because even the most literal translations will vary. See where different translations take you. Feel free to explore this technique in your own way on your own blog or with others—just include a link back here.

Comparison with Cartomancy

It’s worth noting that readings with decks such as the Lenormand, Sybilla or Old Gypsy Fortune Telling Cards use a process similar to that above, in which each card represents a single image. The meanings of these cards have even more restricted parameters, but can be creatively combined. For instance, the card depicting a dog means loyalty and friendship. The child card can mean one or more children or anything small, young or innocent. A set of these cards are linked together in a fashion similar to what we’ve already done, although the result tends to be more mundane and may yield a single new image. For instance, Dog + Child can indicate a puppy, playmate, or childhood friend.

I’ve selected four cards from the Mlle. Lenormand deck (from Piatnik publishing) that are most similar to images in the Six of Cups just to see what happens if we use their meanings:

ChildLilyGardenCrossroads

Child: Child or children. Play. Anything small, immature. Naïve, innocent, trusting, sincere. Sometimes, gifts.
Lily: Mature, old, the elderly. Commitment. Peace, satisfaction, contentment. Wisdom, soul development. Social welfare.
Garden: Meetings, gatherings, parties, events, conferences. Social encounters and places for this. An audience. Outdoors.
Crossroads: Options, choices, alternatives. Decisions. Separation. Many of something.

The most simple statement we could make about these cards is: “Many wise children (or immature elders) gather together.” (The order of the cards in an actual reading would affect the interpretation.)

To expand on this idea, we could say:
It is about a social interaction involving young and old, innocent and wise (to play old-fashioned games?), and that a choice may be involved. Peace or wisdom could be gained from childhood choices or from an older sibling. An older person could be reconnecting with past friends or relatives (or grandchildren) or, simply, remembering them.

[Notes: Traditional playing card meanings are usually not part of the standard interpretations for these cards (although it is interesting that three Court Cards appear. Regarding modern interpretations: Garden+Crossroads is a perfect description of social networking, ala facebook and twitter.]

Some Final Thoughts

I use the “Image Translation Technique” as a checkpoint to keep me on track and to compare with other card possibilities including projections and intuitions. Studies of intuition show that intuitions are just as likely to be wrong as right, but you can often get to a right understanding faster and more accurately than through any other known means. What works best is to check your intuitions against ‘rules of thumb,’ or what I call ‘checkpoints.’  The true issue is sometimes precisely what is shown by juxtapositions among traditional meanings, literal translations and the reader’s and querent’s projections and intuitions, revealing the tension or conflict causing the unease at the core of a reading.

I want to reiterate that translations of tarot card images are only one level of working with  images (and some people prefer not to work with the pictorial images at all). But, even card keywords are images, and I believe that keeping in touch with the essential meaning of any image provides an important checkpoint for one’s intuition. I’d love to hear about how you work with these ideas and whether they are helpful to you or not.

Acknowledgements: Yoram Kaufmann’s book, The Way of the Image: The Orientational Approach to the Psyche, clarified and helped me to explain the technique I often use in readings. I’ve adopted a few, but not all, of his terms and methodology, and I’ve tried not to psychologize the above material too much (Kaufmann was writing about a Jungian approach to dreams). The concept of using “rules of thumb” with one’s intuition is discussed in Gerd Gigerenzer’s Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious. Sylvie Steinbach’s The Secrets of the the Lenormand Oracle was helpful in putting together the Lenormand interpretation. See my book 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card for lots of other interpretation techniques.

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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

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