Deck Review, Reviews

Oracle Deck Review: The Vintage Wisdom Oracle

Deck: The Vintage Wisdom Oracle
Publisher: US Games Systems, Inc
Writer & Artist: Victoria Mosely
Overall Rating: 8/10

image (c) US Games Systems. Cards shown are Release and Ancestors

Cardstock: They’re maybe a little thicker than I would like, considering the size of the cards. They measure 5.5″ tall and 3.75″ wide (or 14cm x 9.5 cm). My hands can’t riffle shuffle them very easily, but I manage with a combination of shuffling methods. The deck box is a two part hard case, which holds up well.

Artwork: The artwork is mixed media, using old photographs and paintings as the base, onto which the artist has added embellishments, both physical and digital. I really enjoy the dreamlike quality of it, and some of the base images are recognizable to me. (At least one of the cards is a Waterhouse painting.) If the art doesn’t speak to you, though, that would probably knock a whole point off my review.

Book: The booklet pretty large, 75+ pages, with 5-8 paragraphs describing each card and its meaning. The cards are all in alphabetical order which is a really nice feature, and makes it easier to look up a card. It also includes five example spreads at the end, and instructions for laying the cards.

Likes: I really like the artwork. It matches the card titles pretty well, and also most of card titles are pretty straightforward: Abundance, Adventure, Ancestors, Awakening, etc. This deck lends itself well to intuitive reading.

Dislikes: I would have liked the cards a touch smaller for easier shuffling. Also, some of the cards have more Christian symbolism than I prefer, despite the deck in general being very new age neutral.

Overall Recommendation

This is my go-to deck for messages from Ancestors, partly because it’s so easy to read intuitively. But as with some of the others I’ve reviewed, one’s enjoyment of the art will make or break this deck. If you don’t like the art style, if it doesn’t speak to you, it will lose most of its magic.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: The Mini Tarot of Pagan Cats

Deck: The Mini Tarot of Pagan Cats
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Writer: Magdelina Messina
Artist: Lola Airaghi
Overall Rating: 8/10

image (c) Lo Scarabeo

Cardstock: It appears to be Lo Scarabeo’s regular cardstock, so these are pretty sturdy despite being only 3 inches tall. They’re semi glossy and not too hard to riffle shuffle once you get used to the small size. The box is a little beat up, however, because this is the deck I usually take with in my purse.

Artwork: The artwork is pretty Rider-Waite-Smith inspired, except with cats. The art style is pretty realistic, and reminds me of some children’s books, with pretty detailed foregrounds and backgrounds that are either more sketched or just a solid color on a lot of the cards. Most of the cats are realistically proportioned and in natural poses, even when they’re depicted engaging in more human or fantastical activities.

Book: The booklet is in English, Italian, Spanish, and German, so each card has barely more than a phrase or a few keywords. I definitely would not recommend anyone using it as a main interpretation aid, unless they’ve already studied the tarot in depth and are using it as more of mnemonic aid. The booklet also contains one suggested 5-card spread.

Likes: I like the artwork; I think it’s cute. There are certainly a lot of pagans who like cats, and it’s somewhat easier not to project unconscious biases of race or gender accidentally when intuitive reading, because there aren’t human figures (although some of the titles are still gendered: The Empress, The King of Pentacles, etc). The small size is a plus, since I can carry it around with me, though Lo Scarabeo has quite a few decks in their catalog that are this mini size.

Dislikes: I think the booklet is basically useless, and could have been written much better than it was, even including the space constraints, but that’s really my only dislike.

Overall Recommendation

Obviously you’re not going to love this deck if you don’t like cats, but otherwise I think it’s a pretty good travel deck for anyone who’s a seasoned reader and familiar with the RWS system. The artwork lends itself well to intuitive interpretation, but has recognizable RWS imagery. There’s also a regular size edition of this deck, though I haven’t looked at that one in person, which may work better for those who want cards in the standard size, instead of the mini ones, which measure 3 inches x 1.75 inches.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: The Numinous Tarot

Deck: The Numinous Tarot
Publisher: self-published, Numinous Spirit Press
Writer & Artist: Cedar McCloud
Overall Rating: 10/10

image (c) Numinous Spirit Press

Cardstock: It’s pretty thick without being too stiff, and has lovely gilded edges. So far it’s holding up very well to moderate usage for the past year or so. It feels pretty good to riffle shuffle, and the cards don’t stick much but they are pretty glossy.

Artwork: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a deck with artwork this representative. Age, race, ability, gender, size – the artwork is truly diverse. Some of the cards don’t have people on them at all, and those are all gorgeous as well. The attention to detail here, and the patterns on everything from the floors to the clothing, are very impressive. It’s a riot of color!

Book: This deck comes with a full paperback guidebook, not a LWB, with each card in black and white. The Major Arcana have about two pages each, and the Minors just one, but there’s a lot of material here, from descriptions of the scene itself, to keywords and thought-prompting discussions of both upright and reversed meanings. The language is pretty gender-neutral throughout, and the meanings are immersed in themes of social justice and healthy boundaries. The writing style is very accessible.

Likes: I love the diversity of the artwork and how queer it is, from depictions of gender-non-conforming folks, to the subversion of traditionally gendered tarot cards. Instead of Page, Knight, Queen, King, we have Dreamers, Explorers, Creators, and Mystics. The High Priestess becomes The Diviner, The Empress is The Nurturer, The Emperor is The Founder, The Hierophant is The Visionary. They are all still numbered for easy recall. Also, The Devil has been aptly renamed The Shadow, Judgement is now The Awakening, and McCloud added a 23rd Major, called The Numinous (whence the deck title). Suits have been renamed as well, but follow the traditional elements: Candles for Fire, Bells for Air, Vials for Water, and Tomes for Earth. The deck is at once tarot radically reimagined, and also familiar to students of the Rider-Waite-Smith system.

Dislikes: I think my only complaint is that some of the artwork is a little inconsistent, with some cards feeling more polished and some more sketchy, but there might be an intentional pattern to that seeming inconsistency.

Overall Recommendation

If you want a radically accepting queer-friendly deck that has truly diverse representation, you need this deck. I’ve been bringing it to pagan events just to show people! And for an indie deck, it’s really not very expensive. The artwork is very evocative, and is perfect for either a collector or an intuitive reader. It may take a little longer for students of the RWS system to get used to than the sort of decks that simply copying RWS imagery with cats or the like, but it isn’t an entirely new system and I found the transition fairly easy.

This is also my deck of the month for my Patreon for June, in honor of Pride Month!

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Tarot of the Hidden Realm

Deck: Tarot of the Hidden Realm
Publisher: Llewellyn Books
Writer: Barbara Moore
Artist: Julia Jeffries
Overall Rating: 10/10

image (c) Llewellyn Books

Cardstock: It’s supple and very shuffly, but doesn’t feel like I could tear it quite as easily as some of the other decks I’ve reviewed.

Artwork: I LOVE the artwork! The facial expressions are clear and the backgrounds are detailed. There’s plenty of symbolism for intuitive reading. I also really like that these are borderless!

Book: This deck comes with a full paperback guidebook, not a LWB. I like the book – there’s plenty of detail in it to jive off of without it feeling heavy handed. The writer describes the activities of the people in the art, too, to clarify some of the artwork and symbolism. There’s a whole chapter in the front if you’re new to divination, and a chapter in the back with a few spreads.

Likes: Um, Everything? I especially like that this deck is Fairy Themed without being really twee. (Spoilers: most Fae aren’t twee.) I also like some of the renamed Major Arcana (like Life Renewed, depicted above, to replace the very Christian “Judgement”). By far my favorite part is really just the amazing artwork, though!

Dislikes: Ummmmmmm a couple of the cards have artwork reminds me of a celebrity who may have been used as a reference and it’s a tiny bit distracting? That’s a bit of a reach, though. Otherwise… There’s no tuck box, just a large box that fits the book, so I had to find a bag for the cards to keep them in, because the original cardboard bit wasn’t going to keep the cards undamaged, long-term. I really can’t think of anything major.

Overall Recommendation

Now that I own this deck I am astonished that I let it linger on a wishlist for so long! This is quickly becoming one of my favorite decks, and probably my new go-to when dealing with any random personal spiritual nonsense in my life. If you like the artwork you might need this.

Deck Review, Reviews

Tarot Deck Review: Radiant Rider-Waite-Smith

Deck: Radiant Rider-Waite
Publisher: Currently published by US Games Systems, Inc; original deck was published by William Rider & Son in London in 1909
Writer: originally the companion books, The Key to the Tarot, and the revised The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, were written by A.E. Waite.
Artist: original artwork was by Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith; has been digitized and saturated for this deck.
Overall Rating: 6/10

Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot, published by US Games Systems Inc

Cardstock: A little thin, maybe, but pretty standard for US Games. Nothing to write home about. Nice and wiffly but I would bet they’d show wear if I used them more often. Especially those stark white borders!

Artwork: The symbolism is super heavy – everything from the color of the robes to how many stars is pretty much on purpose. So if that’s your thing, more power to you. Besides the Pictorial Key there are dozens of other books about RWS symbolism. I’m really not super fond of Smith’s human figures, though. They all seem a little doll-like to me, but that seems to be her style so it’s more a matter of my personal dislike than her lack of talent.

LWB: It has decent descriptions of the majors but only a few keywords for upright and reversed for other cards, and those seem a little sparse or overly simplistic. I haven’t read the Pictorial Key so I’m not sure how well it compares, but I did buy one of the aforementioned several other books, so I use that instead. (Because, no, I do not have all the zodiac stuff memorized and some of the color symbolism is different from my own understandings.)

Likes: If you want to read tarot books, it helps to have this deck because a lot of them are about this one in particular. Also, a lot of other decks use this same imagery, turned into dragons or elves or cats or whatever. It’s useful if you want to understand the history of tarot divination, too.

Dislikes: I really dislike the Kabbalistic symbolism because I have Feelings about goyim using it. But I think if you’re unfamiliar with that it is easy enough to just ignore and gloss over. I also don’t like how the human figures’ faces have very little expression – I have a few other decks with very expressive artwork and that vibes a lot better with my intuitive reading style.

Overall Recommendation

I really got this deck so that I could start to go “deeper” into the tarot and then I found out that the zodiac stuff and the alchemical symbolism just really don’t jive as well with my reading style. I’m an intuitive reader, not an intellectual reader, and that’s too much conscious analysis. So this is sort of a fall-back deck, more of a collector’s piece than something I use often. Some of my clients like it, though, because it’s recognizable. Ultimately, it doesn’t jive well with me but I would recommend it to newbies or anyone who likes the depth of symbolism.

Divination, Tarot Spread

9 Card Relationship Spread

Here’s the next installment of my tarot spreads: Relationship 9-card Spread.

relationship 9 top

  1. You and your feelings about the relationship
  2. Your partner and their feelings about the relationship
  3. The thing that draws you both together
  4. Your relationship weaknesses
  5. Your relationship strengths
  6. Influences of the past on your relationship
  7. Negative external influences
  8. Positive external influences
  9. Advice for committing to a future together

This one is also pretty straightforward, but it goes a little deeper than the 5-card spread.  And again, though I do mainly get requests for this spread to take a look at romantic relationships, it’s also pretty applicable to any other relationship between two people.  And if someone buys the listing for this spread on Etsy but wants me to look at a relationship between three people, I have an alternate spread I use, but it’s closer to the depth of the 5 card spread because of the additional person.  To do this level of depth for three people I’d need at least 12 cards!

 

Divination, Other Updates, Tarot Spread

Relationship 5-card Spread

I started a series a while back of the tarot spreads I use in my Etsy Shop, but never finished it (whoops).  So here’s another installment: the 5-card version of my Relationship Tarot Spread.

Relationship 5 top
Yeah the “spread by” is my tumblr and not this blog, but I’m trying to head off reposts over there.

  1. This card is you.  Your wants, your needs, your concerns.  It encompasses your view of the relationship, and your influence on it.
  2. This card is the other person. Their wants, needs, concerns.  It represents their view, and their influence.
  3. This card is what uplifts you: what is going right, what is keeping you together. This represents the strengths of the relationship.
  4. This card is what pulls you down: what is going wrong, and what is pulling you apart. This represents the issues and weaknesses in the relationship.
  5. This is the general overview of the relationship: how are you doing on the whole?  It may also contain advice for the future.  If the querent had a specific concern or issue they wished to focus on, this card will focus on that aspect.

Pretty straightforward, right?  And applicable to any number of relationships, not just romantic ones.  I could just as easily use it to look at a friendship, or a parent-child relationship – anything between two people! I do have spreads that work for more than two people, but that tends to require more cards.  The smallest spread to look at a three-way relationship adds just one more card along the lines of card #2.

Stay tuned for the 9-card relationship spread, which is the next spread in my queue!

Divination

Quick Rune Guide

This is the quick version of what I have come to think of as my personal associations and understandings of each rune, based on the rune poems and other secondary sources.  I’m writing it up here and now for two reasons: 1) hopefully it will be of use to some of you, and 2) the Old Man seems to want me to and I’m currently inclined to humor him.

Each of these key concepts is a category, a container of meanings.  For example, one of Uruz’s key concepts is “physicality”, which contains within it all of the following, and more: strength, speed, high energy, good health, action, nourishment, endurance, vitality.  So if you would use these for yourself, first use each concept as a free-writing prompt, and see what associations you have.  Build your personal meanings from those.

 

ᚠ  Fehu: Wealth as a physical object. Wealth as a process of prosperity.

ᚢ  Uruz: Physicality. Potency. Manifestation.

ᚦ  Thurisaz: Natural forces. Conflict. Masculine energy.

ᚨ  Ansuz: Trancework. Wisdom. Universal order.

ᚱ  Raidho: Travel. Communication.

ᚲ  Kenaz: Spark. Hearthfire.

ᚷ  Gebo: Hospitality. Reciprocity.

ᚹ  Wunjo: Happiness. Good fortune.

 

ᚺ  Hagalaz: Catastrophe. Melting ice.

ᚾ  Naudhiz: Willpower. Fate. Friction.

ᛁ  Isa: Frozen. Glacial.

ᛃ  Jera: Harvest. Continuing cycles.

ᛇ  Eiwaz: Evergreen. Axis Mundi.

ᛈ  Perthro: Mystery. Cauldron.

ᛉ  Elhaz: Shield. Blade.

ᛋ  Sowilo: Sunlight. Victory.

 

ᛏ  Tiwaz: Justice. Virtue.

ᛒ  Berkano: Spring. Healing.

ᛖ  Ehwaz: Movement. Teamwork.

ᛗ  Mannaz: The community. The Self.

ᛚ  Laguz: Water. Depths.

ᛜ  Ingwaz: Sacred King. Seed energy.

ᛞ  Dagaz: Dawning. Illumination.

ᛟ  Othala: Home. Kin.

Divination, Etsy Shop Update, Social Media Update

2018: Looking Forward

Having finally gotten past the holidays and life and colds that erupted at Casa Serendipities over the past month or so, it’s finally time to look forward.  I did a number of personal divinations for the New Year’s Day this year (that full moon!) and out of those I’m synthesizing personal themes for each month.  This month, my theme is “An Inspired Beginning”.  There was a lot I tried to accomplish last year, but I set my goals too lofty, having no idea how hard pregnancy, childbirth, and raising an infant was going to hit me.  Now the Acorn Sproutling is 8 months old, and we’re really settling into a rhythm that I think is going to leave me a good amount of time to focus on Serendipities in a sustainable way.

To that end, I’m going to try and keep on top of posts here – hopefully at least one a month – and also posts on the FB page and the (new&improved) tumblr blog.  So if you’re active in either of those places, give us a follow, yeah?  You may also have noticed the brand new Buy Me a Coffee button in the navigation bars – that takes you to a donation website, and it’s how I take tips when I do free divination on tumblr (which I’m planning to do every Dark Moon).  So if you want to support us financially, but don’t have need of any of our services right now, use that!

In the Etsy shop I’ll be working on those divination listings that still need photographs and write ups, both new decks and new spreads.  And check out the yearly divination spreads if you haven’t done one of those yet.  My 12 month overview helps keep me on track and focused and mindful all year long, and the shorter 7 card spread gives you something to focus on for various arenas in your life (work, family, etc).  Or focus on what you need to let into and out of your life (which is also good for any time you’re at a crossroads) with my New Leaf spread!

Blessings to you and yours as we enter 2018!

Divination, Other Updates

Divination for Beginners

As per usual, this is all just my opinion, based on my experiences, and your mileage may vary. I don’t claim to know everything about divination (how could I?) but I thought making a post discussing various methods might be helpful for beginners, so here you are!  I’ve also tried to include options for discreet or low-budget alternatives in every section below, and I’ve made comments about the suitability for various kinds of disabilities where they came to mind, but this is not meant to be exhaustive, and I welcome input from others!

1. If you are a beginner in everything, I recommend starting with Cartomancy or a Symbol Draw System.

Cartomancy is divination with the use of cards, such as Tarot, Lenormand, or Oracle cards.  The general idea is that you take the deck of cards, shuffle them, and pull a few (often a set number) and lay them on a flat surface like a desk (often in a pre-determined layout).  Most decks come with a booklet of interpretations and meanings, and for Tarot and Lenormand there are also many more books on various methods of interpretation, or layouts.  Playing cards are a good tool if you’re not open about your practice, but unfortunately you need to find interpretations for them online or elsewhere, unlike most decks made specifically for Cartomancy.  There are a lot of cards, usually, which means there are a lot of meanings to remember, but you can get good readings using the booklet and a little bit of intuition – memorization isn’t really necessary. Another good discreet method if you have a smartphone is by using a tarot app, like the ones by The Fool’s Dog. I’ve used their free one and gotten good results, but I can’t swear to the efficacy of any other online system or app. (This is also a great option for technowitches!)

Symbol Draw Systems consist of symbols written on small objects, that are then pulled without looking at them, like out of a pouch.  The most popular form of symbol draw is probably Runes – there are plenty of books and websites with images of the Runes and their meanings.  Ogham is also fairly popular, but there are fewer primary sources on Ogham, so you’ll find that meanings vary from book to book.  Symbol Draw systems are easy to make yourself, which makes them very budget friendly.  Simply look up the symbols, and draw or scratch them into whatever you have lying around – bottle caps work well, or small pebbles, or pennies.  It’s somewhat important to make sure they’re all about the same size and shape, however, so that you can’t tell them apart by touch.  It’s a little harder to do these discreetly, as the symbols have to be written on the objects, but you might try writing in pencil or something eraseable, so you can remove the markings once you’re done. This may result in you having to “calibrate” your set each time, however, if you aren’t writing the symbols on the same pieces every time.  Otherwise the objects might accidentally “remember” their old symbol instead of the correct one.  Symbol draw systems are pretty good for people with fine motor skill issues, because you can make the objects however big or light that you need to, and mixing them up will be easier than shuffling cards.  As a note, however, I don’t recommend using Ogham symbols for people with really severe dyslexia (because the symbols are frequently mirrors of each other) but you could get around it by writing the names of trees, instead, or using pictures of trees!  Symbol Draw systems can be a good option for the visually impaired, as well, because the symbols are usually very simple drawings.  If you have some sight you can make the symbols very large and bold, or the blind can have them etched into something, to read by touch.

2. If you want answers to a Yes or No question, I recommend using a Pendulum, or Cartomancy.

Pendulums are basically made of a weight at the end of a string or chain.  As such, they can be made out of jewelry or almost anything you have lying around – there are plenty of tutorials on what makes a good pendulum on the internet.  Prettier ones can be found online or in most metaphysical shops, but that’s not usually your best bet if you’re on a budget or you’re not open about your practice.  Learning to use a pendulum is fairly easy – but mastering it can be hard.  The basic idea is that one direction of an X or + is “yes”, while the other is “no”, and spirals in either direction mean some kind of uncertainty. It can be difficult, however, to make sure that a pendulum is working properly (you can try to calibrate it by checking the motion against questions you already know the answers to), and it can also be difficult to prevent yourself from influencing the answer.  If you ask a question and you really, really, want the answer to be yes, the “yes” in your head might be louder than the question, which can cause the pendulum to swing yes not in response to the question, but in parallel with your thought.  Also, pendulums can be tricky for people with shaky hands or fine motor issues.

Cartomancy isn’t the best option for Yes or No questions, but if it’s what you have on hand you can use a pretty simple spread to get a binary answer.  First, shuffle the cards well, allowing for reversals: you will need to flip some of the cards upside-down as you shuffle if you don’t usually use reversals when you read.  Then, lay out four cards.  All four upright is a “Yes”.  All four reversed is a “No”.  Three upright is “Yes, but”.  Three reversed is “No, but”.  Two upright and two reversed is “Uncertain” or “Maybe”.  For a deck with symmetrical art such as a regular deck of playing cards, assign “yes” to red and “no” to black (or vice versa, if that sounds better to you), and pull four cards, interpreting the same way as above.  I don’t recommend doing a single card pull for a yes or no question from any Cartomancy deck. But after you’ve done the four card draw, you can look at the meanings of the cards to get a little more information on your question.

 

3. If you are already fairly knowledgeable about magical correspondences and want to expand that knowledge, I recommend augury or lithomancy.

Augury is frequently described as divination by the movement of birds, but it can also involve observing other animals and natural phenomena.  The main drawback to this method of divination is that everyone basically has their own list of meanings and correspondences.  If you’ve already figured out some of your personal correspondences for spellwork or dream interpretation you’re well on your way, however.  As this doesn’t require much of anything but a willingness to observe nature (even out you window in a city – you don’t have to be in the wilderness), and your own notes, it’s incredibly budget friendly, and easy to do discreetly.  It does, however, take a lot more work to learn, and taking notes along the way is imperative!  It’s also best to start by focusing on one kind of natural phenomenon, like movements of animals, or the shape of clouds.

Lithomancy is divination using stones, and like aurgury, every practitioner seems to have their own system.  If you already use a lot of crystals for healing or spellwork, you can begin with that knowledge as you build your own system.  Easier systems pretty much depend on the color of the stone for meaning, and those are probably the most budget-friendly, because you can pick up a few pretty dyed agates at a gift shop somewhere for $5 or so.  Also, if you’re using color correspondences, there’s really nothing that says they *have* to be stones, either – you can adapt the system to work for casting small plastic beads or anything else small and colorful, as long as you have a full set of colors.  More complicated systems usually require specific stones and more of them, and that can get pretty expensive pretty quickly if you don’t already have an appropriate collection.  As stones in lithomancy are typically cast onto a cloth or mat, it’s best to use small tumbled stones, stone chips, or beads, so that you can hold them comfortably in your hands to toss them.  Some people like to use mats with symbols on them to help with interpretation, but it’s not necessary, and if you’re not open about your practice it might be best to have a small “rock collection” and simply cast them onto a flat surface covered in a cloth (like a scarf) to prevent chipping and to dull the clattering sound.  The basics of lithomancy are the same as the basics for osteomancy (bone throwing), too, if bones are your thing, instead.  You could also use any collection of small objects that has meaning to you, like DnD minifigures, or monopoly pieces, or sea shells.  The important thing is that the pieces have to have meanings that make sense to you, and you need to be able to interpret them in relation to each other and how they fall on the mat.

 

4. If you are already good at meditation and trancework, I recommend scrying.

Scrying is a term for a bunch of divination methods that all pretty much amount to sinking into trance and gazing at something until you either see symbols (which you can then interpret) or you suddenly have an answer by other means.  Common scrying methods include gazing into crystals, black mirrors, water, flame, or smoke.  Obviously some methods are cheaper and more discreet than others, but in my experience the results don’t depend on the tool.  They do somewhat depend on your ability to use the tool well – for instance, I do better with fire and water scrying than I do with crystal or black mirror scrying – so I recommend trying a few different tools before giving up on the method entirely.  While most of what’s written on scrying talks about interpreting symbols, I sometimes find that while scrying I end up so deep in my trance that I end up seeing through to the astral or godphoning directly, so that’s a possibility if your talents lie in that direction.  That comes with a HUGE ymmv disclaimer, though.

 

There are a lot of other methods of divination (tea leaf reading, automatic writing, bibliomancy, coin flip, divination by musical shuffle…) but these ones above are methods I’ve had success with, and would recommend to various kinds of divination beginners.  Hopefully you found this helpful!

 

[[The original version of this post is from my personal tumblr.]]