The Reluctant Traveler Goes off-Message

Do you have a tarot deck? I have three, but this in no way compares to friends of mine who own dozens—collectors, maybe, but definitely users of the fortune-telling cards.

I am a pure amateur, but my favorite is the Aquarian Tarot by David Palladini. I don’t know if users agree, even those with many beautiful and imaginative decks, but the Aquarian always seems to give me an understandable story, and feels good in my hands. Perhaps it’s because I have been acquainted with this deck for many, many years; it’s an old, reliable friend.

On a whim some years ago, I bought the Tarot de los Muertos deck by Monica Knighton based on the figures related to the Dia de los Muertos festival. The Minor Arcana are whimsically renamed: Wands become Plumas—Pens. Swords are Pistolas—Pistols. Cups have been transformed to Ataúdes, or Coffins, and Coins or Pentacles are Rollos—Reels, as in film reels.

I also inherited my sister’s Stuart R. Kaplan deck, the Royal Fez Moroccan Tarot, American version, printed by U.S. Games Systems. The tiny informational booklet tucked into the box with the cards nicely explains the correlation between the Minor Arcana suits and a regular card deck:

Swords – Spades
Wands – Clubs
Cups – Hearts
Pentacles – Diamonds


The Tarot de los Muertos deck gives even more information about the Four Signs with which each suit is associated.

Swords – Air
Wands – Fire
Cups – Water, and finally
Pentacles – Earth

I learned the Celtic Cross method of reading the cards. This, for an amateur, requires a guidebook. For years I used a battered paperback called The Tarot Revealed, by Eden Gray. When that disappeared into the Time Library—that is, books I’ve carted about with me for decades that seem to slip away into an altogether different Time-stream—I bought a used hard-back edition since it had long ago gone out of print.

Pamela Colman Smith

It’s simple, easy to follow, and demonstrates both the popular Tree-of-Life and Celtic-Cross methods. It gives quick meanings to the cards, both upright and reversed in the layout. I used it to give readings for friends and families. It means adding your own particular interpretation of a card and its meaning, in discussion with the one whose question has been posed to the cards. The card deck the book is meant for is the famous (to tarot card experts, I believe) Waite-Smith deck by mystic E.A. Waite, illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith. [link], but it can be used for any deck, in my opinion.

If you have a tarot deck, which is your favorite, if you have more than one, that is. And what do you ask about; what do you want to know or understand? Is it about love, or prosperity? Do you ask how to make a difficult decision? I would love to know.



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