In online fora and in conversations with prospective students, I’m often asked, “James, what’s a good beginner’s tarot deck?”  My answer is that I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as a beginner’s deck or an advanced person’s deck. There’s a world of images out there and all tarot packs are fair game.  I never impose any particular set of cards on my students. Some things to bear in mind about selecting a tarot deck include:

* Aesthetics. Is it visually appealing? Would you enjoy being in a room if its walls had these tarot images on it?

* Symbolism. Do the cards contain symbols that intrigue you, that you understand or want to know more about?

* Philosophy. In what worldview is the deck rooted? What is the deck creator’s way of experiencing and understanding existence? Is it a philosophy that you espouse or would at least like to try on for a while?

* Size. Would the cards feel comfortable in your hands? Too small? Too large? Just right?

* Cost. Is it a deck you can afford? If not, is it worth saving up for?

* Reputation. Does the deck garner respect from at least a few people in the tarot community? Why so? Do their reasons for endorsing the deck resonate with you?

* The Unknown Factor. Do you dream about a certain deck? Are you magnetically drawn to it for some other-than-rational reason? Do you really want it without even fully understanding why?

Keep these in mind, put your answers together, and you’ll find a set(s) of cards that’s just right for you!



Image: The World from The Tarot Lovers’ Tarot by Karyn Easton.

Greenwood Tarot Hermit 001
When we add the digits of the year 2016 together, we get the sum of 9 which is the number of the Hermit in the tarot.  Some questions we can carry with us through the next year include:
  • From what do I need to withdraw in order to gain perspective?
  • How do I gain perspective on myself and on the world?
  • What luminous piece of knowledge do I carry?
  • What are the wisest words I’ve ever heard or spoken?
  • Who is the wisest person I’ve ever encountered?  What does this encounter teach me?
  • What do I need to let go of or complete in order to embrace sagacity?
  • When do I feel like an ancient soul?
  • What, to me, does it mean to become a conscious elder?
  • When I shine the light of wisdom on our world, what do I truly see?
May 2016 connect you with the Sage that you are.  Happy new year!
* Image: The Hermit from the Greenwood Tarot (by Chesca Potter & Mark Ryan)

I’ve joined several of my beloved tarot colleagues in a fundraiser to support Syrian people who need a new, safe home, a sanctuary from horrific experiences. You can do your part by clicking on the link below and purchasing raffle tickets. This is a win-win endeavour that I hope feels right for you to support. My own contribution is a four-session “A Reason for Being” tarot consultation series. Here’s the link:  http://darkgoddesslodge.com/dgl-raffle-for-refugees/





Last night, I dreamt of a black stone square divided into quadrants by an equal-armed cross.  In the dream, I understood that this was to be some sort of template or map upon which to lay tarot cards in order to assess and integrate the four Jungian functions of intuition, feeling, thinking, and sensation.

The idea of relating the four functions to the suits of the tarot is not a new one, nor is using the tarot as a tool for discovering one’s strongest and weakest functions in the service of moving toward wholeness.  I’m happily intrigued by the dream though.  For what reason might my soul give me this image/dream at this time?  What does the dream ask of me?

In her book, Signs of Life, the late cultural anthropologist (and tarot consultant!) Angeles Arrien says that the square is a symbol of stability, solidity, and security, a readiness to build something and manifest ideas.  She tells us that the equal-armed cross is a symbol of relatedness, synthesis, integration, of a need for connection.

This invites questions such as:

  • What connection am I ready to manifest?
  • What do I need to synthesise in order to create stability?
  • What relatedness process is solidly in place (or wants to be in place)?
  • How can I best integrate security in and around me?

The tarot was part of the dream, so I feel an obligation to draw a card from the Thoth Tarot to respond to the question, “What core message does the symbol of the square with the equal-armed cross in it have for me at this time?”  In response, I got Trump XII, the Hanged Man.


Trump XII suggests that the dream’s core message for me is that the process of integrating stability and solidifying certain connections requires patience, a willingness to wait and surrender to process, and an ability to gain new perspectives in order to break out of old patterns.  Ah!  This elicits more questions for me to contemplate beyond this blog piece.

What have I done here?  I have recorded the dream, explored its key symbols on their own terms, and used the tarot to open it further.  What do YOU glean from this process?  What do YOU find useful in this blog piece?  Please share your thoughts and feelings with us in the Comments.

Sleeping with Swords

I was awake at 2:30 a.m. with several ideas careening through my mind.  Needless to say, I wanted to get back to sleep.  Tarot to the rescue in two steps!

In order to fend off extraneous thoughts, I called upon the Princess of Swords from the Thoth Tarot — often known as the mood-fighter, the one who can fend off storms of thought — to surround my bed and protect my mind from what it didn’t need.


My second step was to envision the 2 of Swords, subtitled peace, and to slowly repeat the words “mental peace” over and over again, keeping my attention on the lotus in the centre.


Within minutes, I drifted off and entered a deep, deep sleep filled with rich dreams.  Don’t you love how practical the tarot can be?!


Equinox Musings

The Autumnal Equinox (in the northern hemisphere) will take place at 4:20 a.m. Eastern Time on September 23.  We honour equal night and day, balance, the harvest.  We prepare to enter the cooler, darker time of year, wade into its depths step by step.  As I sit here at the table looking at the basket of squash, beets, and tomatoes, I light a beeswax candle and reflect on these themes. Questions arise, and I pull cards at random from the Gaian Tarot to respond to them:

  1. What is true balance?  XII, The Tree (Hanged One).  True balance is letting go, surrendering to process, a willingness to adopt an alternative perspective.
  2. For what bounteous gifts are we to be grateful this year?  XIII, DeathEndings that led us to renewal, our capacity to transform, the gift of the truth of impermanence.
  3. To what deep place are we journeying this autumn?  Child of EarthWe’re journeying to a place of tactile connection, the realm of awe of the body, Earth, nature, food, basic sustenance.
  4. How can we prepare for this deep, connective journey in a good way?  X, The WheelCreate and employ a centring practice as we observe and experience organic seasonal changes.  Remember that as beings who are part of nature, our own cycles and seasons of sadness and joy, having less and having enough, sleeping and waking, intimacy and autonomy, etc. are perfectly OK, so move with them.


I give thanks and extinguish the candle as I wish all of you a blessed Equinox.

Here’s something for all of you to do at home. It’s in four parts.

1. Go through the tarot trumps, one per day, for 22 consecutive days. Jot down three to six qualities about each card that you like and appreciate. For each quality, answer the question, “How can I show myself that I am more ____ today?”

2. Go through the tarot trumps, one per day, for 22 consecutive days. Jot down three to six qualities about each card that you feel could be problematic or painful in some way. For each quality, answer the question, “How can I show myself that I am less ____ today?”

3. Go through the tarot trumps, one per day, for 22 consecutive days. Jot down three to six qualities about each card that are inspiring and visionary. For each quality, answer the question, “How can I show myself that I carry a vision of ____ today?”

4. Go through the tarot trumps, one per day, for 22 consecutive days. Jot down three to six qualities about each card that you feel are calls to action on behalf of your community and/or on behalf of our world. For each quality, answer the question, “How can I take action on behalf of life based on the call to ____ today?”

At the end of the 88 days, what do you notice about yourself?


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