In 1935 the British magazine and book publisher Tomson-Leng produced a set of “Tarot Fortune Cards” that were given away to the readers of “My Weekly”—a women’s magazine. This unusual set of 79 cards (including this verse) is partly based on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck but with some significant differences, especially in the suit of Rods [Wands], which owe some of their symbolism to designs published by Eudes Picard in Manuel Synthétique & Pratique du Tarot (1909). The suits are Rods, Cups, Swords and Pence, which, according to Picard, correspond to Fire, Air, Water and Earth‚ respectively, which is why so many Swords cards have water and Cups cards have a butterfly as an air symbol. The Fool is numbered 21 and comes before The World.
This deck is also notable for being chaste and family-friendly with no nudity. The The LWB [little white booklet] is one of the most interesting and original works from this period, having spreads that I’ve never seen elsewhere. None of the spreads list individual position meanings. There are card interpretations for both upright and reversed orientations and often special meanings when the card appears near one or two other cards.
Here is a “reclaimed spread” from the 1935 booklet: The Eastern Cross Method
First, we should be relieved to learn that the tarot guided the destinies of an Egyptian king who used the Eastern Cross as his favorite spread. So, I think we can have full confidence in it ;) .
To do it for yourself follow the instructions below (neither in this nor the other spreads does it mention asking a question, although the person for whom the reading is done is called The Questioner).
- Select a Significator for yourself from among the sixteen Court Cards. Put it on the table face up.
- Shuffle the remaining cards and cut the deck into six stacks. They don’t need to be even.
- Take the top and bottom card of each stack and shuffle these twelve cards thoroughly.
- Lay them out, face downwards in the order shown in the diagram.
- Turn up only the four corner cards, numbered 9, 10, 11, 12.
- Read these cards in the order given.
- The other eight cards must remain hidden, otherwise all the favorable indications will be reversed!
Here are the book interpretations (click picture on right to make larger):
THREE RODS.—Below a dog’s head the rods form a triangle containing a mystical design. Below we see a woman seated reading a book. It foretells that you will make money in an unexpected way through the help of friends. If upside down, beware of making a mistake. If lying near The Fool you are warned against a scheming person.
WHEEL OF FORTUNE.—The lesson to be drawn from this card is that life goes on and on, just as the wheel goes round and round. The figures on the wheel represent steadfastness, mischief, and cunning. The four Tarot suits are shown in the corners. Special meaning to the Questioner—Life will have its ups and downs, but good fortune will come in due course. If next a Pence card this is one of the luckiest cards in the pack. Upside down—Good fortune, but very long delayed. [Note that the Wheel has the four suit signs in the corners rather than the symbols for the four fixed signs of the zodiac.]
THE FOOL.—A young man, richly dressed goes merrily on his way, blinded by the sun and unaware of the dangers that beset him. The dog is trying to attract his attention ere he steps to his ruin. This card must be taken as a special warning for the Questioner. There are temptations and dangers to be faced, but safety may be found by heeding the advice of someone with love in her heart. Upside down—Special danger from vanity.
KNIGHT OF SWORDS.—An armored Knight swimming with his horse in midstream. He has an upraised sword in his left hand and his helmet is on the river bank. This card signifies that you will have adventures. If near another Sword card it carries a warning to be wary of a dark, flattering man. You are advised to be careful in money matters.
I take the answer to be that this project has good financial prospects if I am wary of someone (a dark, flattering man) who may try to take advantage of me, and if I don’t mind some delays. I’m warned not to be too gullible, but to watch my step and accept the good advice of a friend. The woman in the Three Rods has a book, and it is a book project. A dog appears in three of the four cards (it looks like a dog ascending the Wheel) and he/she seems helpful in all cases, emphasizing that I can count on the wise instincts and faithfulness of a friend. The Knight’s helmet is on the river bank, which suggests again that I am vulnerable and should look carefully where I am going. The three upright swords (including the Significator’s) tell me to be boldly upright, honest, clear and rational in my dealings. I like the idea that this will be an adventure. Although there may be a few pitfalls, I can expect it to work out well, in the long run, if I am careful. Is there anything else I should take into account?
The question is—can you stand to not look at those eight hidden cards? It reminds me a little of the Bluebeard story. Let me know how your readings go and tell us if you really managed to not peek – or if you did, what happened?