Tarot and Magical Practice
An RQ Tarot Forum
Amy MoonDragon is a Tarot reader, workshop leader, ritualist, and full-time counseling student living in North Carolina with her fluffy gray cat.
Angela Magara is a writer, teacher, and mystic living in the Green Mountains of Vermont.
Elka Eastly Vera is a practical magic-maker in San Francisco.
Marilyn R. Pukkila is a Quaker Witch priestess of Persephone in the Reclaiming tradition, who teaches, sings, gardens, loves, and dances her life in Central Maine.
Paul Eaves is an in-love Reclaiming Witch from Minnesota who works with autistic kids, labyrinths gardens, and Elvis.
How often do you do readings? How elaborate? For what purposes?
Amy: I do a daily spread for myself, three cards: the nature of the day, the action needed, and the lesson to be learned. I also do professional readings. I usually do a full Celtic cross spread. My most cherished work is an hour in-depth session with someone of Witchy or like-minded energy. I have sacred space already created, we do grounding and prayer, and sometimes incorporate therapeutic techniques and magical techniques to make the most of what the cards offer us.
Angela: For years I have pulled a card each morning for information for the day. I find coming to the Tarot each morning focuses me on opening to guidance and information outside of my linear experience. Tarot is the perfect Witch's tool.
Paul: I do several Tarot readings per week with college students. Some are open-ended, "who am I" readings. Others are about specific issues such as career and romance. I regard this as immensely rewarding service work with the younger generations.
Marilyn: I'm currently in a course which has us using the Barbara Walker deck weekly as well as for divinations before doing spellwork. I also read for others at their request in a spiritual mentoring/counseling capacity.
Elka: I use an oracle just about every day, though not always Tarot. The question I ask most often for the day's single card draw is this: " What energy wants (or would be helpful) to move through me today?"
What was your funniest/scariest/weirdest Tarot experience?
Amy: In 2003, I taught a Tarot path at BCWC with the rocking River Roberts. Her suggestion for our path was that we each draw a card that we would embody all week. Well, I took my "Death"-blow with dignity (or maybe it was just shock). But lo and behold, the entire year was a year of loss. So, the funniest and scariest moment was how the following year, 2004 at Spiral Heart, I was totally hot about the idea of drawing a card for the week. I had to get another crack at it! I was fed up with Death! What could be worse, anyway??? Of course, I drew the Tower.
Angela: I participated in a Living Tarot facilitated by WilowFire where the reading turned decidedly political. Our friend Charles was the King of Swords, and somehow morphed into being George W. Bush. Charles articulated with a straight face why he, George W. Bush, was doing what he was. We all began to see Bush as human being and felt compassion for the condition which would make one think and behave as he does.
Paul: Once I did four readings at a party with some very tipsy, mid-twenties males about love and romance. The readings were very touching, possibly due to the recipients' lessened guards. The readings could have been very useful if they could remember anything the next day.
Marilyn: One of my first questions (in high school) was, "Is it a good idea to read Tarot?" I got Death in the "family opinions" position, which felt like a warning from my recently-deceased grandmother to stop, so I didn't pick up a deck again until 14 years (and a lot of growth) later!
Elka: During an Elements class in 2001, our teaching team was experiencing some conflict. We gathered together to discuss our challenges and asked the Tarot for insight. One of the questions we asked was, "What are we not seeing?" The cards responded with The Tower. The next morning was September 11.
What do you wish you'd known when you were getting started?
Amy: At age 12, I got my first deck of cards. Santa left a groovy 70s version of the Waite deck in my stocking that year. I wish I'd known then that Tarot was going to become my life path! I was absorbed with it for many months but then put it aside for many years. I also wish I'd known how important it is to record my readings and to refer back, adding notes later as to how the situation actually played out.
Angela: Tarot is not mysterious but simple. It is the elemental teacher and sage. Anyone can read Tarot.
Marilyn: That I could trust my inner wisdom.
Elka: Hmmm.I'm glad that I approached the cards fresh, without any expectations, just a sense of reverence and respect. Mary Greer's Tarot for Yourself was my guide. Following the exercises in the book, I was encouraged to create my own deep relationships with the cards.
Share one Tarot secret of yours with our readers?
Amy: For beginning and intermediate practitioners, I'd say invest the time in study. Find an interpretation manual that really speaks to you. Build a solid foundation by memorizing a few key phrases about each card. Expect this work to take serious study. It is so worth it.
Paul: I let the person being read choose the cards in any way they want.
Marilyn: I read the bottom card to see "what's at the bottom of this situation." It's amazingly insightful, and usually ties the whole reading together very nicely.
Elka: Use the cards to ask for "divine comment" about an issue. This is extremely helpful when a question isn't fully formulated. It invites communication from the Higher Self.
How do you think Tarot "works"?
Amy: When I speak with lay people about the Tarot, I always tell them my first principle, my belief that it is their immanent Divinity that speaks through the Tarot and that, personally, I do not hold knowledge about them that they do not have. The Tarot itself holds many powers, both within the scope of divination and beyond. I believe that Tarot is a comprehensive representation of the vast array of human experience. Any story can be symbolized. Thus it is a vehicle for Divine communication that has great range and flexibility.
Angela: The Tarot allows me to more fully engage my own wisdom. It is consciousness's shorthand. The process of reading with someone else or with a group is completely different. When we do those readings we are allowing our wisest self to reach into the cosmos and draw upon a source greater than our individual selves. Immanence and transcendence get all mixed up here but the result is the same: together, we are able to discover what alone we cannot, and to see myriad facets of a situation.
Paul: First there is a relationship with the cards that is rooted in respect, wonder, and a dab of consistent structure. Listening - listening to the recipient, listening to one's instincts, listening to the voices of the cards. After that, it truly is mystery, and that is why I love it so much.
Marilyn: The images on the cards evoke meaning and wisdom from those Selves within us that are quieter, shyer, less welcome, or delightfully unexpected. The Divine may also speak more clearly through Tarot, provided we have quieted our assumptions enough to listen and hear.
Elka: Tarot is a way of communicating with the subconscious. You build meaning through study, practice, channeling. But you can also read cards without any prior information by delving into the images. The images stimulate Younger Self, who is in direct contact with the part of you that already knows everything.
Favorite deck(s) and why?
Amy: I loved Angeles Arrien's book "The Tarot Handbook" so much that I changed to the Thoth deck after 8 years with the Waite. I have never connected with Crowley's book on the deck, but Arrien weaves in cross cultural and feminist ideas, encouragement and empowerment with a solid knowledge of the imagery.
Angela: For my daily readings I am now using the Daughters of the Moon deck. It is feminist and beautiful and round, just like me. Seriously, the images are simple and beautiful and teach me much.
Paul: I received my first reading with a Motherpeace deck at a Witchcamp by the ocean in 1985 and it has been my primary deck since then. I like that they are round which reflects the multitudinous aspects of choice. I love the rich, evocative, and mult-cultural imagery as well as that they are rooted in traditional Tarot concepts.
Marilyn: Motherpeace, because I've worked with it the most; Robin Wood, because it's the best blend of traditional and contemporary that I know, excellent for beginners, with beautiful, colorful illustrations; and Barbara Walker, because of my current intensive work with it.
Elka: I use Rider Waite to read for others as I have the strongest relationship with that deck. I love the art in the Haindl deck, and its association of the elements with different cultures/continents. Lately, the Faerie Oracle (not Tarot) has been very vocal: I love the Singers!
Anything last thoughts?
Amy: When you are comfortable with your skill, Tarot reading can be wonderful part time work. It's a valuable service and there is a need for more ethical, spiritual practitioners.
Marilyn: I wonder if I will ever develop strong familiarity with all the decks I own! The artwork can seduce me into buying, as can the decks with strong personal mythic or other resonances (i.e. the Kalevala deck), regardless of their authenticity or historicity.
Elka: If you use the Tarot compulsively to make decisions, set your decks aside for three months. During your hiatus, meditate at least 15 minutes per day, and exercise enough to break a sweat at least three times a week. Practice connecting with your gut sans oracle.
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