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The Jolanda Witch Tarot, by Rosie Bjorkman

The Jolanda Witch Tarot: The Healing Art of Magic, by Rosie Bjorkman and illustrated by Hans Arnold
Findhorn Press, 979888500668, 78 cards, 400 pages, July 2024

I really enjoyed getting to know and working with The Jolanda Witch Tarot by Rosie Bjorkman and Hans Arnold. The symbolism is like the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, although the illustrations are charged with whimsy and fantasy. The guidebook is full of great wisdom, spiritual healing tips, and information on reversals, as well. 

Rosie Bjorkman is a Swedish woman who originally published this deck in Swedish  in 1997. Later, she began to translate the cards and text into English and worked with two different editors to perfect the language. Bjorkman is very well known in Sweden as “Jolanda the Witch” and loves to give tarot readings, workshops, and lectures. She has studied with several Native American tribes in America and a shaman in Siberia. She has also written a book on Shamanism, which is currently only available in Swedish. As a leading expert in “occultism and spirituality,” Bjorkman has also been a kundalini yoga practitioner for over 30 years. She currently lives in Solna, Sweden. You can learn more about Bjorkman on her website.

Hans Arnold (1925-2010) was a gifted artist and illustrator who is well known for his art that blends horror with fantasy and bright colors. Arnold was born in Sursee, Switzerland and moved to Sweden in the 1940’s. He illustrated fairy tales and articles, becoming a favorite in the science fiction community. I was interested to learn the source of this fantastical art that often depicts monsters and found this explanation on a website about Arnold:

“The horror illustrations are said to come from his way of conjuring his own fears. For God, the confinement and childhood in Sursee. It all started when Hans Arnold was a little schoolboy. He then met his first monsters in the form of his teachers at a very strict school. These memories were therefore carried with them later in life.”1

You may be interested to learn that Arnold also illustrated the Greatest Hits album for the Swedish Group ABBA.  For more information and to see examples of his art, visit his website.

The Jolanda Witch Tarot is a standard tarot deck of 78 cards with Major Arcana and Minor Arcana cards. However, there is nothing standard about this deck. By working with Bjorkman, Arnold has created quirky, colorful illustrations of archetypal characters, animal guides, and other symbols from witchcraft and shamanic traditions.

Animal guides is a very general term that encompasses sea creatures, insects, dragons, reptiles, birds, and some mythical creatures from Arnold’s own imagination! For example, the 8 of Swords features eight hornets bearing down on a small family and it is a truly frightening image! The rest of the Swords illustrations feature real swords on each card.

The Wands appear as tree branches, carved totem poles, candles, columns, and other images.  The cups are the same across all cards, while the coins feature many different images or symbols on the coin faces. Minor Arcana cards feature the standard card line-up, except that Page is replaced by Princess and Knight is replaced by Prince.

Within the guidebook, Bjorkman includes astrological signs and/or planets that correspond to each Major Arcana card, as well as a Goddess for most of these cards. Key words are shown for every card in the deck. She includes what she calls “four subsections with the following titles: Herstory, The Art of Magic, Medicine for the Soul and Imagination … In Magic Nation.”2 Bjorkman also weaves in a personal story for some of the Major Arcana cards. For the Minor Arcana, the wisdom is similar, although the sections are shorter. Most of the pip cards include a focal word printed on the card.

I took the deck to my Friday Coffee & Cards group and the ladies loved it!  Several remarked about how the fun and whimsical illustrations softened the blow of the often hard-hitting guidance. One friend wrote to me during the next week and shared how the Sun and Moon Meditation for the 9 of Wands really helped her to “lie low for a while”3 and await a solution to a current situation in her life.  Another friend loved the detailed guidebook and took photos of several card entries.

I utilized the deck for a three-card reading for myself and drew these cards:

  • 9 Wands – Reversed
  • 8 Swords
  • Princess Coins – Reversed

Using Bjorkman’s beautiful guidance as a framework, I created the following journal prompts and affirmations for my personal reading:

How am I NOT using my strengths nor acting on ideas for my business? How am I distracting myself? 

I am relaxing into my success by changing distracting thoughts and focusing on my strengths. I am in the perfect position for this next chapter of my life!

This deck is an average size and is just a little larger than I like for shuffling with my small hands.  The cards are printed on nice cardstock that will stand up to repeated use. The cards and guidebook come inside a heavy-duty box with a fold over, magnetic flap. Bjorkman includes a table of contents with page numbers for each card, an introduction to the cards, a note about her own magical practices and information on how the book is structured. She also includes a Bibliography of books and online references.

My favorite card in the deck is the 9 of Wands. It features a female archer on the back of a horse who is jumping over nine animal totems. She is poised ready to shoot one arrow, while her quiver holds an arrow of the sun and one of the moon. I love her confidence and the keyword: Strength. 

Anyone with a basic knowledge of tarot and Rider-Waite-Smith symbolism will enjoy The Jolanda Witch Tarot.  The guidebook is so large and comprehensive that a novice reader may be put off by the sheer amount of information. On the other hand, a new reader could easily use this as a type of “tarot bible” for studying the myth and lore of the symbols, as well as the stories of the goddesses Bjorkman includes. Anyone interested in Shamanism will also enjoy this deck.  The “medicine,” tips and tools that the creator shares are so helpful to anyone wanting to establish a daily spiritual practice.  Bjorkman leaves us with this affirmation at the end of the guidebook:

“I love and respect myself in all my aspects. Others love me just the way I am, and those who do not love me do not know me!”4

The Herbcrafter’s Tarot, by Latisha Guthrie

The Herbcrafter’s Tarot, by Latisha Guthrie with artwork by Joanna Powell Colbert
U.S. Games System Inc., 1572819723, 124 pages, 78 cards, May 2019

The traditional tarot images often grow stale for me. In delving into why this happens, I reached the conclusion it was because they aren’t always relatable. Symbolic? Sure. But sometimes I just want to see images from daily life; I want to see scenes of my day to day. It was my quest for this domestic, homey feeling I was seeking in my readings that led me to The Herbcrafter’s Tarot by Latisha Guthrie.

The Herbcrafter’s Tarot by Latisha Guthrie is a beautifully crafted deck that intertwines the wisdom of the natural world with the mystical art of tarot reading. This 78-card deck, created in collaboration with illustrator Joanna Powell Colbert, is a celebration of the healing power of herbs and plants. Each card is thoughtfully designed to depict a specific plant, along with its symbolic meanings and practical applications, making it a unique blend of botanical knowledge and spiritual insight. And the imagery was spot-on for what I was seeking!

The cards are from the point of view of the reader. The Major Arcana cards depict a natural altar to the herb and its corresponding energy. They represent the gratitude the herbcrafter feels “for the gifts and insights the plants give her.”1 Some of the altars looked planned out, such as the ones in the shape of the mandala, while others are simply the altars that arise during herbcrafting as one is actively engaged in their process.

The Court Cards, which in this deck are called People Cards, all feature hands of the herbcrafter. They show hands doing all sorts of mundane tasks: picking plants, drawing a bath, pouring a tea kettle. She writes:

“Our intention is to highlight the plant as well as to celebrate the slow intentional ritual of handcrafting. With every berry gathered and tincture mixed we enflesh the sacred, making prayer visible.”2

In this deck, the Court Cards are Hijas (Daughters, traditionally Pages), Adelitas (Warriors, Traditionally Knights), Madres (Mothers, traditionally Queens), and Curanderas (Healers, traditionally Kings). Characterizing the Court Cards in this way made me feel extra connected to this deck too because these are the types of people that show up in my life; it’s easier for me to identify a motherly figure than it is a queen.

Other cards in the deck depict momentary scenes of what it looks like in the midst of gardening, having a cup of tea in bed with the moon shining above, or simply gazing at nature scenes of gardens, rivers, and trees exuding their beauty. As I browse the cards, I instantly feel at peace, grounded, and connected to the natural world. Yet the imagery takes on a whole additional layer of meaning after reading the guidebook.

Guthrie explains how instead of traditional tarot suits (swords, wands, cups, and pentacles), their corresponding elements are used for the Minor Arcana (air, fire, water, and earth). And the cards for each element have a theme: air shows the observation of nature, fire the transformation of the herbs, water focuses on baths and teas, and earth showcases “baskets and fiber arts”, which are considered “legacy tools.”3

Furthermore, the herbs were chosen for each number within the elemental Minor Arcana based on “how they contribute to an ecosystem”.4 Guthrie provides a list for numbers 1-10 to explain the roles of one. The guidebook also groups the cards by number, so rather than looking through a section on a specific element, one looks to section on that number and then finds their element within.

One of my favorite cards in the deck visually is Strength, which is the Garlic card. This is a Major Arcana card, so I knew it was depicting an altar of sorts, but it is certainly one of those altars that arises naturally from being in the moment. While I could describe it for you myself, a real bonus of the guidebook for this deck is that each entry features a description of the card. This is what the guidebook says about this card:

“A braided cluster of purple garlic rests on a cloth made of natural fibers. Roses from a nearby vase begin to dry, and petals have fallen on the table. Golden liquid seeps from a heart-shaped honeycomb onto a wooden board. Green scrapes fold into their lemniscate shape surrounding a pot of garlic cloves submerged in honey.”5

Guthrie perfectly captures the scene in each card with her vivid descriptions of the imagery. Even though I’m gazing at the card, her words bring the setting to life; I can feel it with my senses, further opening my intuitive understanding of the card.

The guidebook also features the Latin name, three imperative sentences for insight, a paragraph of wise words that speak to the spiritual meaning of the card, and three ways to craft with the energy of the card using the plant. For instance, the Strength card offers wearing a garlic amulet over the heart as a reminder to be bold, cook with garlic to fortify the body, and make “immune-boosting garlic honey”6 to soften intensity or conflict.

One of the standout features of this deck is its ability to connect the reader with the herbs, forming relationships “for medicine, creativity, ritual, and spiritual guidance.”7 The cards are not just tools for divination; they serve as a bridge to deepen one’s understanding and relationship with plants too. Guthrie’s guidebook provides detailed descriptions of each herb, including its traditional uses, folklore, and ways to integrate it into daily life. This makes the deck an educational resource as well as a spiritual tool, ideal for those who have an interest in herbalism or wish to incorporate nature into their spiritual practice.

In terms of usability, this deck is accessible for both beginners and experienced tarot readers. The imagery is rich and cozy, allowing for intuitive readings based on the set scene, while the guidebook is comprehensive yet easy to follow. The deck encourages a hands-on approach, inviting users to engage with the herbs mentioned, whether through gardening, cooking, or crafting.

Overall, The Herbcrafter’s Tarot is a harmonious blend of art, nature, and spirituality, offering a unique and enriching experience for anyone interested in tarot and herbal wisdom. It has become my go-to tarot deck recently. I absolutely love getting to learn more about the plants themselves, from the practical uses to the spiritual messages they have to share. Guthrie and Colbert have done a wonderful job distilling the essence of each plant into the cards both in the imagery and guidebook for readers to truly connect with their natural powers.

Wild Lands Tarot, by Leah Shoman

Wild Lands Tarot, by Leah Shoman
Sacred Scribe Publishing, 9798987986608, 78 cards and 96 page guidebook, 2024

Wild Lands Tarot initially caught my attention because of the design. I’ve been fascinated by pictorial decks lately and the polaroid aesthetic of this deck especially appealed to me as a lover of all things vintage, so I knew I would have to give Leah Shoman’s creation a try.

Honestly, I wasn’t disappointed.

The pictorial base of the deck was beautiful, and the silver-foil embellishments were an unexpected addition that served to enhance the connections between the photographs and the specific card that they represented. However, the images selected for the deck seemed to be a little eclectic rather than revolving around a specific theme; the majority were either Japanese or Egyptian in nature, though occasionally there were some based on landscape photography as well.

I would have appreciated a section of the guidebook dedicated to the selection of the images. Why did Leah choose a particular image for one card over another? Why did she blend the images together or choose to overlay them like she did? Some explanation around those topics would have given the deck even more depth that I personally would have enjoyed.

The guidebook that came with this deck contained a dedicated page for each card, as well as two different spreads, and some information for a one-card draw. The interpretations follow what has become standard for Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) based decks.

However, the Wild Lands Tarot did rename two of the suits. The deck has the traditional Wands and Cups, but has replaced Swords with Ankhs and has renamed Pentacles to Coins. As you can imagine, most of the Egyptian themed images belonged to the suit of Ankhs, while Coins and Cups were primarily landscape and nature-based photography, and the suit of Wands contained primarily Japanese imagery.

The Major Arcana is where all three of these themes collided; some were Egyptian coded, others Japanese, and still others landscapes. The thing that most seemed to anchor the images to the cards they represented was the silver-foil overlays, which really helped to bridge the gap between the image and the traditional RWS majors. Without the foil images, I don’t necessarily think that I would have connected a lot of the photographs to their corresponding archetype.

The cards of the Wild Lands Tarot, in keeping with the vintage polaroid aesthetic, were shaped like the film that you would have to shake until they developed. (Yes, I know you remember those!) While that shape is not at all common in the world of tarot, I feel like it added to the appeal of the deck and the sense of nostalgia and hiraeth that permeates it. It is, however, an odd shape to shuffle and the cards weren’t the most comfortable to handle. They also have pointed corners, which isn’t something particularly prevalent in tarot, which tends to favor the rounded corners for comfortability and/or ease of use.

As far as handling goes, though, I absolutely loved the thickness and feeling of the cardstock. It’s definitely on the thicker side, which is my personal preference (I feel like it will last longer); coupled with the smooth yet still tactile matte finish, I was almost in cardstock heaven. Shoman got that aspect of her deck, in my opinion, just right.

When I pulled the deck out to give some friends readings, they all agreed that they loved the back of the cards. The light blue color gives a hint of the whimsy of the deck while keeping true to a more natural color palette. The silver foil is also present on the back, where it outlines a triple moon surrounded by the signs of the zodiac.

When it came down to it, though, I had a bit of difficulty actually reading with the Wild Lands Tarot. Shoman’s photography, as I’ve mentioned throughout this review, was stunning; however, I really struggled to visually connect the cards, possibly due to the lack of cohesion among images.

Overall, I feel that Wild Lands Tarot is best suited for people who prefer to use cards with surreal and whimsical imagery in their readings. Despite its lack of a single, cohesive theme, this deck brings a sense of beauty and nostalgia for all that once was, and all that could be. I, for one, am glad to have it in my collection to fulfill my longing for far-off places that I may never truly come to know.

Upside Down Tarot, by Joan Bunning

Upside Down Tarot: How Reversals Add Depth to Your Reading, by Joan Bunning
Red Wheel Weiser, 9781578638420, 176 pages, July 2024

When I saw the book Upside Down Tarot: How Reversals Add Depth to Your Reading by Joan Bunning, I knew I just had to have it. I’ve been reading tarot for about twenty years and was taught to “ignore” reversals by my first two teachers. What could this book teach me?  How could these principles strengthen my own understanding of tarot and bring a new light to my readings? I brought these questions to my review of this book. 

Bunning graduated from Cornell with a degree in social psychology and worked as a computer programmer and bookstore manager before becoming an author and editor. She has written five other books on tarot, including The Big Book of Tarot, which I also have in my library. In 1995, Bunning created a website to teach tarot basics:  www.learntarot.com.  Through the website, she supports thousands of people as they learn tarot. Bunning currently lives in Virginia with her husband.

This book is divided into two parts: “Part One: The Hidden Meaning of Reversals” and “Part Two: Reverse Card Descriptions”.

In her Introduction, Bunning carefully explains a little about the 78 cards in tarot, some of her experiences reading tarot, and her approach to reversed cards. She discusses the “energies” in reverse cards. She explains that these energies can be “absent, early phase or late phase.”1 She goes on to explain:

“Upright cards stand for energies that are strong and well developed. They have a clear, active presence…. Reverse cards stand for energies that are absent, weak or undeveloped…. They are not clear and obvious…. An energy does not become its opposite when reversed. A card’s essential nature stays the same no matter what its orientation.”2

This makes so much sense to me!  For years, any teacher I encountered who taught reversals said that a reverse card meant the opposite of the upright card, and I knew on a deep level that this was just not true! Bunning says that when we understand the “energy phase,”3 we can better interpret or intuit the meaning of a reversed card within a spread.

The best clue to identifying the energy phase will come from an awareness of timing. A reversed card is in the early phase if you haven’t really experienced its energy  yet. It may be new or tied to some upcoming event; a reverse card is late if you’ve already experienced its energy. It has been active in the situation in a way you can easily recognize but is now past. In the next section, she shares examples of both of these phases. 

Bunning also discusses “absent” energy.  “Its level is so low that, to all intents and purposes, it doesn’t exist. . . . The energy may be so new that you can’t perceive it yet.”4 She goes on to share that she is also including information on this “absent” energy for each reversed card, as well. 

Next, Bunning goes into more detail regarding early phase and late phase, including questions to ask to figure out in which phase your reversed card may be found.

“Knowing that energy tends to repeat helps you appreciate the subtle shifts that occur at the reversed card stages.”5

Finally, the author provides seven concrete steps to take to evaluate a reversed card. She follows the description of the steps with an example of a question about a problem at work. Bunning ends this discussion with stating, “These steps offer one way to discover the meaning of a card’s energy. The benefit of a strategy is that it helps you avoid floundering during interpretation.”6  I appreciate that she also adds a note about how this system may seem “analytical.”  However, she adds a reminder that the steps will become routine as you allow your intuition to guide you.

The next section includes two pages on each card in the Major Arcana. There are also black and white drawings of each card for reference. The deck featured is a standard Rider-Waite-Smith deck.  However, the book will complement readings for any deck that uses similar symbology or archetypes. Next, Bunning features commentary on each card in the Minor Arcana.  Some cards include two pages and others include only one page of notes.

Note that each write-up also includes the Upright meanings for each card. From this description, Bunning pulls one to four key words or key phrases, listing them along with the Absent, Early, and Late meanings for each card.  

To give the book a test drive, I devised a spread for learning more about a job offer that a friend of mine was awaiting (She texted me earlier in the day to inquire about this situation). I drew 3 cards for a spread I use often called “Mind, Body, Spirit”.  I drew all 3 cards in reversed placement!  (As my husband always says, “You can’t make up this stuff!”) The cards landed in this order for my spread:

  • Mind:  The Magician – Reversed
  • Body: 4 of Cups – Reversed
  • Spirit: 10 of Wands Reversed

Following along with Bunning’s notes for each card, I created the following reading for my friend:

Your mind wants to “do” something, but you can’t take action right now.  It’s time to withdraw and focus on your inner life. No need to struggle, because at this point, the struggle is with yourself.  Allow your Spirit to guide you and take this time to rest and recharge.

I did a FaceTime with my friend, and she was smiling as I shared the message.  She thanked me for confirming what she was feeling about being patient and waiting on the job offer.

It was interesting to me how the right key words seemed to leap off the page and I knew how to combine the notes for one cohesive reading. 

Bunning’s writing is very easy to read and the book is easy to navigate. After reviewing the introduction and section on the concepts of the three phases of the energy of the cards, I was equipped to use the data for informing my readings. While I initially felt that there was a lot to cover for each card, my real-life experience showed me that when I used my intuition with the notes, the answers came easily.

The book is printed in black and white, including the card graphics. I feel that by using the black and white drawings, the card images take a secondary role and help the reader to remember the cards, rather than overshadow them. I like the fact that Bunning used visuals of Rider-Waite-Smith, which is one of the more widely used tarot decks. 

I recommend Upside Down Tarot for tarot readers of all experience levels.  A new reader will really benefit from the information to support any of their readings that contain reversals. Bunning explains reversals in an easy-to-understand style that takes a lot of the drama out of the equation. And for the more seasoned reader, the notes will add another layer to the guidance that they share. I highly recommend this book for tarot lovers and look forward to using it for my client readings.

Tarot Meditations, by Heliodor Press

Tarot Meditations: Draw a Card and Take the Next Step on Your Spiritual Journey, by Heliodor Press
Heliodor Press, 979-8990089808, 178 pages, March 2024

The past few months, I had lost my tarot spark. The cards felt repetitive, or perhaps it was my reading style that had grown stale. I could intuitively grasp the reading and I knew the meanings of each card, but I wasn’t feeling any deeper immersion. It wasn’t until I read Tarot Meditations: Draw a Card and Take the Next Step on Your Spiritual Journey by Heliodor Press that my tarot practice was revived. This book makes me excited to do tarot readings again, and I’ve been enjoying the meditative perspective it frames each card in.

Tarot Meditations offers a unique and enriching approach to understanding and connecting with the tarot. Rather than focusing solely on traditional interpretations and fortune-telling, this book takes readers on a journey through meditative practices that deepen their relationship with the cards. This method encourages readers to move beyond rote memorization of card meanings and instead cultivate a more intuitive and experiential approach to the tarot.

The book is thoughtfully structured with each chapter dedicated to a different card from the deck, starting with the major arcana and moving through each suit in the order of cups, wands, swords, then pentacles. There’s a short description of the card, a table with information about the color, crystal, and astrological symbol associated with the card, and then a guided meditation designed to help readers internalize and personalize their understanding.

This meditative method of getting to know the card you’ve pulled encourages readers to move beyond rote memorization of card meanings and instead cultivate a more intuitive and experiential approach to the tarot. Additionally, within each meditation there are affirmations readers are encouraged to announce aloud to the universe, further integrating the card’s energy with one’s spiritual journey.

For instance, part of the guided meditation for the King of Cups reads:

“With each breath, feel the soothing energy of the aquamarine crystal washing over you, bringing a sense of calmness, clarity, and communication to your emotional state… As you continue to breathe deeply, imagine the King of Cups guiding you through the turbulent waters of your emotions with grace and poise.”1

The readers are then encouraged to repeat affirmations, including:

“I lead with empathy, nurturing understanding, and healing in myself and others.”2

“My presence is a sanctuary of peace, where love and compassion reign supreme.”3

What I love about this approach is that it instantly taps you into the energy of the card, revealing insights from within the card’s perspective that awaken inner knowledge in yourself too. The meaning of each card isn’t just “out there” or in my mind; rather, the card and I become one, and its energy infuses my spirit with the affirmations needed in that moment. The introspection helps to reveal what’s going on inside of me, guiding me forward with more understanding and awareness.

Another thing I appreciate about the meditations is how they often include the contents of the table within the meditation. The table states rose quartz is the crystal associated with the Four of Wands, the astrology symbol is Venus, and the color is gold. The meditation includes all these symbolic aspects, asking one to envision a golden hue and bask in it, then later the meditation moves to imagining a rose quartz crystal’s energy radiating outward and the Venus symbol above one’s head, “infusing every cell of your being, reminding you of the support system that surrounds you and the bonds that sustain you.”4

The inclusion of the table contents in the meditation helps me to understand these symbolic associations of the card, yielding insight that goes beyond just the traditional meaning of each card. Not only am I reading the table and learning, the meditation is then opening my mind’s eye to these energies too, further connecting me to their energies and blending them with my aura.

Now, I will acknowledge that it might be hard for some to simultaneously get into the meditative state and also read the guided meditation at the same time. As an avid reader, I have no problem reading the words and letting my mind drift into that deeper state to be fully immersed at the same time. But for those who want a more concentrated meditative experience, I would suggest either recording yourself reading it before and playing it back or having someone read the guided meditation to you.

Overall, Tarot Meditations is a wonderful resource for those looking to connect with the cards from within. The emphasis on using the tarot as a tool for self-reflection and spiritual growth makes it accessible to both beginners and seasoned practitioners. The affirmations and incorporation of symbolic associations are sure to deepen readers’ understanding of the cards’ meanings and foster a new relationship with their deck. I’m so grateful for this book bringing back the introspective aspect that my readings had been lacking, infusing my spirit with fresh energy as I connect with the cards in a new way.

The Sirens’ Song, by Carrie Paris and Toni Savory

The Sirens’ Song: Divining the Depths with Lenormand & Kipper Cards, by Carrie Paris and Toni Savory
Weiser Books, 9781578638062, 144 pages, 78 cards, August 2023

Being somewhat of a newbie with Lenormand cards, I jumped at the chance to work with The Sirens’ Song: Diving the Depths with Lenomand & Kipper Cards by Carrie Paris and Toni Savory with contribution from Tina Hardt. The Sirens’ Song is a combination divination kit that contains 40 Lenormand cards and 38 Kipper cards. (What I know about Kipper cards would fit in an earbud!)

Paris is one of my favorite diviners and deck creators and I had an opportunity to meet with her for coffee at a tarot event several years ago. She is a generous, incredibly creative and gifted teacher and mentor. I’ve also “met” Savory on Zoom via her World Divination events, and her knowledge and enthusiasm for various types of card divination is contagious! When I heard that the two of them collaborated on this kit, I was very excited to learn more.

Paris has created four other tarot and Lenormand decks, as well as numerous charm casting kits. Her The Relative Tarot and The Beloved Dead kits are two of my favorites for communicating with the ancestors for messages and guidance to live my life. Paris is a very talented artist, who blends art and graphic elements from across many eras to create her decks and frequent Facebook posts. She has a master’s degree in the Cultural Study of Cosmology and Divination from the University of Kent, UK. Learn more about Paris at her website.

Savory (aka The Card Geek) founded the World Divination Association and hosts virtual teaching events several times a year with a collection of teachers and mentors. She is also well-known for hosting free events with classes on tarot, Lenormand, Kipper and other types of cards. She has created five other decks and written five books on card divination. Savory has researched Kipper decks for more than ten years, including spending time with the families of readers going back several generations. See more at her website.

Contributor Hardt is an author, who has worked with Paris to create the guidebooks for The Relative Tarot, The Beloved Dead, and The Sirens’ Song. She considers herself a diviner and enjoys sitting in circles and communicating with departed souls.

Paris and Savory have beautifully created this kit with a compact box in hushed tones of gray-blue and aqua. The teal lettering and haunting image of the siren and some of her underwater friends grace the cover of the box. Printed inside the kit, this lovely invocation greets you:

“May the Sirens’ Song guide you away from rocky shores and lure you into the dazzling depths of your own truth and mystery.”1

Next, you notice the guidebook, which provides a brief history of both Lenormand and Kipper cards, as well as how this deck came to be. Paris created the original Sirens’ Song Lenormand deck in 2017. Savory asked her to create a Kipper Deck and then the two of them combined both decks “into a single treasure chest because, at their core, these two card decks are kindred divinatory tools.”2

“Both the Kipper and Lenormand cards long to tell the reader a detailed, no-barnacle- unturned story, in which the Querent is always the main character. The potential for discovery is enormous. . . . The Petite Lenormand can serve as a gateway to the Kipper.”3

The guidebook was expertly structured to introduce you to the Lenormand style of reading and descriptions of the card meanings before flowing into the Kipper cards and their unique card descriptions. The creators made it clear that the cards can be used alone or in tandem, and they showed how each deck has its own “ability to tell a story, to sing you the song that you need to hear.”4

Unlike tarot and oracle decks, which are read intuitively, Lenormand cards are read symbolically, and Kipper cards are read quite literally. Lenormand deals with the outer world while Kipper deals with the interpersonal. Read together, the story the Sirens tell reveals the hidden meaning to be found in both people’s everyday lives and in societal issues they face.

This kit is so much fun! I enjoy the graphics, with the beautiful artwork and symbolism. Each of the images has an underwater creature theme, from an octopus to fish and so on. The cards are marked on the back with either a K for Kipper or an L for Lenormand, so you can keep the decks straight.

The spreads in the back of the guidebook were so helpful! I especially loved how they showed a three-card Lenormand reading and featured the three cards in each of the three positions. Paris and Savory also share how to do the Grand Tableau style of reading, which involves using all the cards in either deck. The deck creators also shared how to combine the cards and read a Grand Tableau of 36 cards created out of both decks. However, I think I will master the four, five or nine-card spreads before I venture into the deep waters of the Grand Tableau!

Yet the coloring on the front is the same, so it is not easy to distinguish between the decks for someone like me who was relatively new to the two styles of cards. Yes, the Lenormand deck features the miniature card symbols from playing cards in the top right-hand corner. Yes, the Kipper deck has different card images. But it may take me lots of practice to be able to distinguish between the two decks.

The cardstock was a nice weight, and the cards had a matte finish. I loved the small size, which made the cards easy for my small hands to shuffle. The guidebook was also a great size to tuck into a bag or purse and was printed in four-color with thumbnails of all cards. The paper was glossy, and the font was whimsical, to complement the underwater theme.

Armed with this background information, I decided to give the Lenormand cards a spin. I created a question regarding the launch of a new program I wanted to present to my community. I decided to use Paris’s spread called “The Tell it Like it is Spread.”

  • What it’s all about. The situation. The issue.
  • What it isn’t.
  • What it is.
  • How it turns out.

And here are the cards I drew:

  • Book – Unknown, Secrets, Reveals
  • Mountain- Challenge, Struggle, Resistance
  • Stork –Change, Alteration, Shift, Movement, Progress
  • Heart – Well-being, Love, Goodness

Creating my own sentence from the key words and the placement of the cards as shown, I saw the following:

Sharing my knowledge is NOT going to be challenging, so I may move ahead to schedule the event and know that all will be well.

Great first reading!

For the Kipper Cards, I decided to do a simple three-card spread. I placed the Siren significator card to the right as I asked my question: How may I support my daughter at this phase of her life, after her recent break-up? I drew three cards and placed them alongside the Siren card. The cards lined up as:

  • Long Road
  • Hope
  • High Honors
  • Siren

From this, I saw that recognition, maybe a promotion was forthcoming, especially since it was next to the Siren card. Hope was the next card, meaning manifestation of love, fame and/or fortune. Finally, I saw Long Road, which could be indicative of a great distance or maybe a time of two years. The fact that the Hope card was next to it said that the time may pass quickly and the road may not be rocky. From these cards, I saw that my daughter’s job will be very rewarding, and there is hope for her future in both love and fortune, although it may take some time. Wonderful reading!

The Sirens’ Song would be great for anyone who wants to learn or practice Lenormand or Kipper. I was a relative newbie to both styles of reading, and I enjoyed learning them very much. I could see myself keeping this deck by my desk to refer to when I had a quick question. For now, I’ll be off to check out one of Savory’s videos on Kipper cards on YouTube!

The Shining Tribe Tarot, by Rachel Pollack

The Shining Tribe Tarot, by Rachel Pollack
Weiser Books, 9781578638178, 83 cards, 247 pages, April 2024

As a tarot enthusiast and reader for twenty years, I was excited to learn about the publication of Rachel Pollack’s revised deck The Shining Tribe Tarot. Initially published in 1992 by Aquarian Press, the deck was called The Shining Woman Tarot. In 2001 she changed some of the art on some of the cards and the deck was published by Llewellyn. The title was also changed to The Shining Tribe, which she felt better reflected the community of people drawn to tarot for divination and personal growth:

“The name was a kind of invocation, a hope that the deck would shine for others, especially in reading, and light the way for travelers on their own sacred journeys.”1

For this 2024 edition, Pollack created five new cards: one for each of the minor arcana suits and one to represent the major arcana. Although the deck was published after Pollack’s death in 2023, she was able to complete the revisions and supervise the creation of the deck before her death. It is also important to point out that Pollack created the artwork herself for all of the cards.

Rachel Pollack (1945-2023) was a giant mentor in the field of tarot. In addition to writing the bestselling book Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, she wrote the guidebooks for several tarot decks, as well as many fiction and nonfiction books. She taught at The Omega Institute for over thirty years and was a frequent panelist at tarot workshops around the world. I was blessed to meet her at a tarot workshop in Los Angeles in 2007.  She was brilliant, generous, and very friendly. A group of us went to lunch during the workshop where I visited with her and Mary K. Greer! 

In addition to her interest in tarot, Pollack also created the first transgender superhero in several issues of the comic book Doom Patrol. She was also known as a trailblazer within the transgender community. 

“Welcome to the definitive edition of the Shining Tribe Tarot. It’s the equivalent of a director’s cut of a film. It’s the creator’s cut, Rachel Pollock’s cut. Published for the first time with all 83 color corrected cards, it also includes a full colored guidebook in which Rachel discusses the evolution of the deck, offering insights into each card and how to read them. More than merely an accompanying book, this guidebook stands as another of Rachel’s landmark Tarot guides.”2 – Judika Illes, Editor

With this Introduction, the editor opens a door into the special world of Pollack. In the next few pages, Pollack gives us a history of this deck, including the inspiration for the tribal images and artwork that she created. She talks a great deal about symbols and colors and the different cultures on which her images are based. She makes it a point to say that she wants to honor and respect the “history and living power”3 of the symbols.

The structure for this set of cards is fairly traditional, although she has adopted her own names for the suits of the minor arcana: Trees (Fire/Wands), Rivers (Water/Cups), Birds (Air/Swords), and Stones (Earth/Pentacles). She has also renamed the court cards as “Vision” cards: Place (Page), Knowers (Knight), Gifts (Queen), Speakers (King).

Pollack also shares this:

“One difference is that the Vision cards in general do not signify actual people the way the Court cards sometimes do in traditional tarot. Nor do they represent character types in quite the same way. Instead, they take us into an experience of ourselves. They give us a chance to discover and use the power of the elements.”4

The cards are a nice size, a little larger than playing cards. The card stock is a nice weight, and the matte finish is great for the ancient symbols and bright colors of the deck. Each card has a white border, and the name of the card is shown at the bottom in black type. The set comes in a beautiful box with a cut-out portion and ribbon for the cards, as well as ample room for the hefty guidebook.

These cards are easy to shuffle, and I enjoyed using them for my week of daily readings.  For the first day, I drew one card: Three of Trees, which is the Three of Wands in a traditional deck. This card is always a celebration for me and I was interested to see what Pollack shares:

“This card is a celebration, filled with the laughter of the Grandfather. He welcomes and protects us with his open arms.”5

She also includes the story of the artwork, which features “a spirit image formed from a tree by the Ojibwe people of Canada.”6 The image is based on a photograph of this type of tree, which has been carved to represent a person. 

The next day, I did a three-card spread and drew these cards: Knower of Birds, Six of Trees, and The Sun. With Pollack’s guidebook and my own intuition, I created this affirmation, based on the three cards:

“I collect signs and symbols and share my knowledge with confidence and wisdom, as I emerge into the light of divine consciousness.”

Her imagery is so beautiful, and the artwork invites deep contemplation and a connection to the heart. My favorite card in the deck is one of the five “extra” cards:  Portrait of Albert-Bright Through Nobility, which relates to the major arcana and Spirit. Pollack explains that this card is based on the name of her animal guardian, a red fox. “The name Albert means ‘bright through nobility.’ Getting this card means a sense of protection and the ability to ask for and receive help.”7

The guidebook is very easy to navigate, from the Table of Contents to the Glossary.  She includes a large section on Readings and includes lots of ideas for spreads for various situations.  She also includes an Appendix which explains the name changes for all cards, how to work with reversals and how to start your own Shining Tribe. She even has notes for groups, including ways to start conversations and create activities for developing your tarot skills. The last section is a Glossary that includes references to some of the cultures, religions, and symbology used in the deck. 

I really enjoy working with The Shining Tribe Tarot. I can feel the decades of tarot history, as well as the flavors of the various indigenous cultures in the cards. I can’t wait to introduce it at my next Coffee & Cards Zoom with my friends.

A Critical Introduction to Tarot, by Simon Kenny

A Critical Introduction to Tarot:  Examining the Nature of a Belief in Tarot, by Simon Kenny
IFF Books, 1803413921, 248 pages, January 2024

Simon Kenny wrote A Critical Introduction to Tarot: Examining the Nature of a Belief in Tarot after getting a tarot reading from a woman named Jo Lluque. He bought the Modern Witch Tarot Deck, “which sparked my interest in Tarot as a research topic.”1

“My approach here is to make the unknown known insofar as that is within my ability. It should be evident that the style I employ, while comparative, is to seek clarity of theory as informed by the available facts and compassion for those studied. My study of the Tarot has brought me on an exciting and unexpected journey through the many topics it touches.”2

Kenny’s background is in blogging about technology and political philosophy. As an author, technologist, and educator dedicated to asking probing questions to promote technical thinking, he applies his expertise to the tarot for the purpose of this book. He currently lives in Galway, Ireland and is a member of International Playing-Card Society, The Irish Writers Centre, and Writing.ie. You can learn more about him at this website.

A Critical Introduction to Tarot is very well planned and thoughtfully constructed, much like a research paper or dissertation. The reference material is always available; I found myself checking the References over and over again as I made my way through the book. He utilizes the Rider-Waite-Smith deck for all images in this book, although he mentions Aleister Crowley and his Thoth Deck in several passages.

The chapter “Randomness and Projection” discusses the practice and different forms of shuffling cards.
This discussion was interesting, as he shared viewpoints from different readers, as well as statistical data on the randomness of shuffling and drawing cards. He interviewed a number of leading tarot experts, including two of my favorites: Benebell Well and Cynthia Giles. And what book on tarot is complete without a discussion of archetypes, Jung and his influence on tarot?

“The Tarot Major Arcana are well established in the literature as representative of archetypes in the Jungian sense. For example, the above archetype of Mother is represented as the Empress . . . The Hermit often stands for solitude, wisdom and even time itself.”3

In another chapter, he talks extensively about Satanism and Freemasonry and the tie-in with tarot, including the Order of the Golden Dawn, which used tarot cards as part of their teachings:  

“A divinatory reading was one of the exams taken to achieve the sixth grade of ‘Adeptus Minor”, the highest grade for which any details are known for certain, as documented by Freemason Archivist Israel Regardie. Initiates were even required to create their own tarot deck from scratch, painting or illustrating every card.”4

Kenny references all of the parts of tarot, from the importance of pairs of opposites to magic and witchcraft to randomness. On the subject of evil in the cards, he presents information on the symbols, history, and other references to evil, but refuses to assign any evil intent or significance. However, he leaves it to each reader or practitioner to find his or her own meaning in the symbology of the cards.

My favorite chapter is “Chapter 3-Layers of Meaning”.  Here, Kenny covers numbers one to ten and the meaning and symbolism of the numbers in the major and minor arcana.  The interesting facts and insights he shares about these numbers are quite interesting. For example, did you know that 10 = 1+2+3+4?  He also talks about the magical number 7 and how it relates to the seven original planets, the sevenfold path, and “an old idea that life proceeds in phases of seven years, which likely originates in the widespread notion of the sevenfold spiritual path.”5

Kenny includes a very basic Table of Contents with chapter titles. In the back of the book, he lists all of the figures or graphics that he presents in the book, including the original source, author, and page number. Next, he shares references for each chapter, with the source, author, book and page number given. This alone is priceless for those who wish to dive deeper into any of the areas Kenny discusses. Lastly, he includes a seven-page Bibliography for even more reference material.

A Critical Introduction to Tarot is great for anyone who would like a deeper dive into tarot, particularly its origins and symbolism. It would probably best suit a seasoned tarot card reader or student of tarot. I plan to keep it on hand and weave some of the numerological information in my readings. I feel that I benefit from every book I read, especially those that challenge my beliefs. This book has helped me reframe my love of tarot and deepened my knowledge of its rich history.

Tarot for the Hard Work, by Maria Minnis

Tarot for the Hard Work: An Archetypal Journey to Confront Racism and Inspire Collective Healing, by Maria Minnis
Weiser Books, 1578638070, 280 pages, January 2024

Everyday we are confronted with choices about who we are as a collective as outdated systems are questioned and dismantled, especially those that have oppressed and disempowered Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) individuals and groups. I believe change starts within, but it’s not always easy to do the inner work, nor is there a step-by-step map about how inner work translates to external activism. Many of us turn to tarot for answers; we trust the wisdom of archetypes for our own guidance and personal growth. Can this wisdom system we know and love be used for more? Absolutely, and that’s what Maria Minnis has revealed in Tarot for the Hard Work: An Archetypal Journey to Confront Racism and Inspire Collective Healing.

In this book, Minnis teaches how the tarot can be used as a tool for inner work, activism, and community transformation through the archetypes. Using the symbolic language of the tarot, Minnis leads readers through major arcana, providing perspectives of how their attributes can be utilized to foster change, prompt self-reflection, lead to more self-awareness, and consciously begin to dismantle racism.

Tarot for the Hard Work is a tool for passionately demolishing structural oppression. It’s a tool for white people who want to use their privilege for more liberation. It is a tool for Black and Brown people living in a structurally racist society intent on selling self-hatred and shame to marginalized people and capitalizing on their pain. It is a tool for both tarot newbies and tarot experts. It is a tool for action. It is a tool for going beyond baby steps. It is a tool that can offer great satisfaction as well as great difficulty. It is a tool to expand your comfort zone. This is a tool that requires your presence for it to work.”1

Each chapter follows the same structured pattern, which provides a nice container for the content. The chapter begins with an inspirational quote at the top and then a description of the card. The description highlights the point in the journey (ex. How the Empress relates to the prior cards–Fool, Magician, High Priestess) and also bullet-pointing the services the card contributes to the cause. Next, for every card, Minnis guides readers to form “embodied keywords” from gazing at the card, becoming the archetype, studying the imagery from a liberation perspective.

The succeeding section of the chapter focuses on the card in liberation work followed by a section correspondences associated with the card. Minnis provides lists of how the card can show up both in a balanced and imbalanced way, leaving room for readers to fill in a space about ways their relationship with the card feels when balanced and imbalanced.

The section that differs the most chapter to chapter is the next as it is information personalized to the card related to a method of dismantling racism. For instance, the Wheel of Fortune chapter section is titled “Intersecting Race and Disability Justice”, while the Lovers chapter is “Choosing to Redistribute Wealth”. These sections are followed by exercises that range from downloading a related book or podcast to doing a social media audit to thinking about these issues when creating a budget. I think these sections are my favorite part of the chapter because I’m a do-er. I thoroughly enjoy all of Minnis’s tarot information, but these sections feel like the nitty-gritty I’ve been wanting to delve into, so I really appreciate her ample suggestions of how to take direct action. Her recommendations of books, movies, meditations, songs, etc. are impressive – and I’ve already gained a lot from taking the time to do the exercises.

Moving onward, the following section focuses on identifying as the card. Minnis includes about twenty qualities and suggests readers circle ones they already embody, draw hearts around ones they want to embody more deeply/frequently, and squares around qualities they want to transmute or avoid. Once again, readers get the chance to be hands-on in their reading; there’s something about putting pen to paper in the book that feels like I’m acknowledging my qualities and calling in the ones I want more than just thinking about them. The following section is affirmations, which further heighten my connection to the card, particularly in regard to a liberation work aspect.

My second favorite section is next: magical practices to conjure the card. Minnis doesn’t give specifics, but the list of ideas is once again enough to get the creative ball rolling on how you can make a difference in your personal practice. Some suggestions are specifically related to a magical practice, such as “Perform a protection spell.”2 or “Embody benevolent ancestors.”3, while others are more focused on direct actions that can be magically inspired, such as “Review and diversify your news sources.”4 or “Offer community to isolated people.”5

The final sections are focused on becoming the archetype. Minnis offers readers the opportunity to set their own objective (personal, relational, or collective) related to the energy of the card’s archetypal energy. There is space to write down the specific intention, as well as the time one plans to embody that tarot card in their liberation work, why this work is important, and an affirmation they will repeat to support their intention. After this, there’s one last section for readers to reflect and write about their experience, noting their successes, setbacks, and other reflections that came up during their experience working with the archetypal energy.

But wait! That’s not all. Minnis is guiding readers to be fully equipped for doing the hard work of dismantling racism, and so, at the end of every chapter is a page on “Building a Toolkit” that has a specific action readers can take and questions that make them identify the situation and how they can remedy it. For instance, the toolkit suggestion for the Empress is “Defend Public Spaces” with questions such as “How can you help preserve public spaces, particularly for BIPOC?”6. This toolkit prepares to have conversations about these important topics, giving them the food for thought needed to arrive at their own opinions that can be shared with a wider community to make a change.

Even though it’s only January, I feel confident in saying Tarot for the Hard Work will be one of the best tarot reads this year and the one I will be consistently recommending to other tarot enthusiasts. Not only does Minnis unlock new insights about the archetypes of each major arcana card, she has beautifully crafted a whole hero/heroine journey for readers to undertake themselves with her activities, prompts, and space for reflection. Tarot newbies and experts alike have so much to gain from reading this book, and it cannot be overstated how relevant and necessary inner work is to acknowledge racism, privilege, and barriers to change within ourselves in order to shift the detrimental structures of our society.

For those interested in Minnis’s work you can learn more about her here on her website.

Soul Journey through the Tarot, by John Sandbach

Soul Journey through the Tarot: Key to a Complete Spiritual Practice, by John Sandbach
Destiny Books, 1644117096, 384 pages, November 2023

I’ve been studying tarot for almost 27 years, but these magical cards contain so much wisdom that there is always something new to learn, and I often feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. Most tarot books on the market tend to be geared towards beginners, rehashing the same sets of keywords and interpretations, so I get excited when I find a text that delves deeper into the esoteric teachings of the cards.

In Soul Journey through the Tarot: Key to a Complete Spiritual Practice, author John Sandbach shares his own unique magical system, co-created with his spirit guides and inspired by over 50 years of studying tarot. Sandbach first channeled these oracles in 1976, and wrote this updated edition with the intention that it will be used as “a tool for vibrational healing.”1

He has named the Major Arcana cards depicted in this book the Azoth Deck, and the illustrations were created by South Korean artist Daehee Son.

“Azoth,” Sandbach says, “refers to the spirit and energy of the planet Mercury, who in Egypt was the god Thoth, who was the inventor of the alphabet—the tarot being an alphabet of spiritual forces.”2

Sandbach has changed some of the traditional names of the Major Arcana. For example, as a departure from the final reckoning of Christianity, Sandbach calls the Judgment card “The Awakening,” a title that he feels more accurately captures the core meaning of Arcanum XX. The Devil, Arcanum XV, has been renamed “The Musician,” to avoid the negative connotations of the original title and shift the focus of the card to the inner harmony or discord of the seeker.

The book’s cover claims that this text integrates “numerology, astrology, Kabbalah, and the contemplative life.”3 I wanted to read this book to get a better grasp of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life and Hebrew letters in relation to tarot, as well as deepen my understanding of the astrological tarot correspondences. However, I was surprised to find that many of Sandbach’s astrological and elemental associations are completely different from the Golden Dawn attributions I currently use, which I learned from The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic (1984) by Israel Regardie (1907-1985).

Sandbach associates The High Priestess, titled “The Guardian of the Gate (Veiled Isis)”, with Virgo instead of the Moon; The Hermit, titled “The Seeker (The Sage)”, with Aquarius instead of Virgo; The Star, “The Light”, with Gemini instead of Aquarius; and so on.4 The Suit of Coins is assigned the element of Air instead of Earth, and Swords are Earth instead of Air.5 Even though most of these associations don’t resonate with me, I decided to keep an open mind and shift my perspective to include them, at least for the duration of time it took me to read this book.

Sandbach justifies the association of Coins with Air by explaining that exchanging currency for goods is an abstract concept created by the mind, and “the air element resonates with concepts and systems formed through the mental activity of humans.”6 Swords, on the other hand, are practical instruments made of metal, which penetrate the density of matter. These elemental associations have Vedic origins, and relate to the Hindu tattwa system. He borrowed his elemental and astrological associations from The Sacred Tarot by astrologer and occultist C.C. Zain (1882-1951), a work that was a major influence on his approach to tarot.7 Sandbach acknowledges that these are less popular tarot associations, and advises the reader to use whatever correspondences make the most sense to them, because all systems are valid.

“Ultimately,” he says, “we must realize that the four physical elements are not four distinctly different things, but the same thing in different states.”8

This is an excellent point, and it made me more receptive to his alternative elemental associations. 

While I had a hard time connecting with many of these correspondences, the Virgo association with The High Priestess, titled “The Guardian of the Gate (Veiled Isis)” was compelling to me, particularly in how it influenced Sandbach’s interpretation of the card. Virgo rules the digestive system, and the message of the High Priestess is to “be watchful of what you ‘eat,’ whether it be food, thoughts, emotions, concepts, or vibrations.”9 I personally associate The High Priestess with Persephone, whose fast was broken by pomegranate seeds while she was in the Underworld, so the digestion message really spoke to me. The Moon, which is usually the planetary association for this card, is considered to be the ruler of Virgo in esoteric astrology, and knowing this reinforces the validity of Virgo as an alternative astrological association for the High Priestess.

The most unique tarot associations Sandbach gives are spirit names in the intergalactic Language of Space. “This universal constructed language, known as aUI,” Sandbach says, “was originally received from extraterrestrial beings by psychologist and linguist Dr. John Weilgart (1913-1981) in the early 1950s.”10 aUI (pronounced “ah-OO-ee”) is a sound-based language, and the aliens who transmitted it to Dr. Weilgart told him that it had been spoken by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.11

Sandbach gives a spirit name in aUI for each major arcana card and supplies the correct pronunciations for the reader. For example, the spirit name for the High Priestess (Veiled Isis) is ytlUkU (pronounced “yit-LOO-koo”).12 Sandbach says these spirit names were channeled by him and belong to entities associated with the cards.

“The letters of aUI and their sounds can be used for contemplation and to make up your own magical words,” Sandbach says.13

What a fascinating concept! Even if a reader doesn’t agree with Sandbach’s tarot associations, the chapter on the Language of Space is intriguing.

I draw a daily tarot card for myself almost every morning, and I decided to apply Sandbach’s interpretations while reading his book. One of the cards I drew was Strength from The Bones Arcana.

Sandbach calls Strength “Arcanum XI: The Maiden (The Enchantress)” and associates her with the planet Neptune. I love the title “The Enchantress,” which brings to mind the Greek witch goddess Circe, daughter of the sun god Helios, who was accompanied by lions in the Odyssey and transformed Odysseus’s crew into pigs. I tend to prefer numbering this card 8 instead of 11 because I associate it with Leo, and the eighth month of August. Sandbach’s Neptune association aligns with the belief of some modern astrologers that Neptune is exalted in Leo.

Sandbach says of “The Enchantress” that “she has gained ascendancy over one of nature’s most powerful creatures, and she has accomplished this through the actualization of her psychic power, as well as through her love.”14 Sandbach’s description of Strength as “the arcanum of psychic power,”15 reminded me again of Witch Queen Circe. In the Odyssey, she was a loner who lived on the uncharted island of Aeaea. She was a master of illusion magic, involving shapeshifting and crafting potions, and she revealed the bestial natures of those who invaded her privacy by transforming them into animals.

All of these skills have a very Neptunian quality to them. Neptune is the hypnotic and bewitching planet of dreams, fantasies, glamor, illusions, mysticism, and drugs (or potions, in Circe’s case). Circe was the daughter of the sun god Helios, and Sandbach says the Sun is the root ruler of this card, while Neptune is the “therapeutic agent.”16 After exploring the Circe connection I made to the Strength card, I appreciate Sandbach’s Neptune association much more. 

Sandbach’s system is a radical departure from what most tarot students are probably familiar with, and this reminds me of the differences between tropical (Western) astrology and sidereal (Vedic) astrology. Western astrology is more popular, but both systems are equally valid. Tarot readers influenced by occultist C.C. Zain will likely resonate with Sandbach’s system, while those who have memorized the Golden Dawn’s tarot associations may find these correspondences a bit more difficult to integrate.

Sandbach claims that the system he uses, which is modeled after Zain’s work, “is a therapeutic or healing system,” while the more common associations, which he says are based on the Kabbalistic text titled the Sepher Yetzirah (the “Book of Formation,” or  the “Book of Creation”), encompass “the root, or actual system.”17 Approaching his associations as a complementary healing system may help readers blend Sandbach’s method with the one they currently use.

Initially I was resistant to the teachings in this book because I was hoping to expand my understanding of the Golden Dawn associations, not learn a completely new system. However, being receptive to correspondences I didn’t agree with and exploring them with open-minded curiosity helped me glean new insights about the cards. I think any experienced tarot reader will benefit from questioning and reevaluating the associations they have memorized by being open to alternative ones or intuitively assigning their own. After all, when used as a tool for spiritual growth, tarot expands consciousness and opens our minds to new possibilities, so the archetypal images have infinite layers of interpretation. In this light, Soul Journey through the Tarot can help seasoned readers rediscover tarot and tap into new ways of relating to the cards.