Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg Review

This is my review of the Russian Tarot of St. Petersburg, which as I'm writing this I still consider my home deck.  You'll notice in the photos and video that my deck is quite worn and that is because I purchased this deck back in 1999 or 2000 and for over a decade it was the sole deck that I read with.  The author of this deck is typically credited as Cynthia Giles and the illustrator is Yury Shakov, though there are sources that credit him as the author as well but I do believe that Giles wrote the little white book that came with the deck. (I've lost mine so I can't check.)  I've also seen different sources cite the deck as being published in different years over a decade apart.  My deck has the date 1992 on the cards and it was published by U.S. Game Systems Inc.

There's actually a little bit of mystery surrounding this deck's creation. The deck features Russian themes done as miniature paintings surrounded by a frame in a Faberge style.  The cards feature Russian people and fairy tales.  They were done as a series of miniature paintings.  Sharkov sketched all 78 cards but he only finished one painting before his death.  The rest of the deck was painted by an unknown Russian artist, which I find a bit odd for a deck that came out in the '90's.  Despite the fact that this is a Russian deck done by Russian artists the deck is completely in English.

The deck is done in the Rider Waite Smith system with 22 cards in the major arcana and 56 in the minor arcana which is broken into four suits (clubs, coins, swords, cups).  While the art is definitely distinctly Russian it does follow the themes and symbols of the RWS very closely and is a good deck for beginners or for those who like the RWS system but want something a little different.  Those who read a little more intuitively from the artwork on their cards will find this rich artwork full of things to trigger their intuition.

There are a couple of trump cards that I like to show in my reviews partly because I just think they are some of the more iconic cards.  The Lovers and The Devil are pretty stunning in this deck and are very similar to the RWS.  Death does not resemble the horseback figure in the RWS deck but it is a powerful image that does convey a definitive ending of something.

This deck is not reversible, the art on the backs is painted to go in one direction.  My one criticism of this deck is that the edges became worn very quickly but the deck has held up over all and the card stock is pretty sturdy to hold up after all these years.

If you'd like to see all 78 of the cards you can check out my flip through video here.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Modern Spellcaster's Tarot Review

I was going to wait to review this deck until I had worked with it some more, but then I decided that I wanted to do the review while the deck was new because I didn't want how I will come to interpret the cards to influence my readers.  This is a deck that you will have to make your own interpretations of, as that seems to be what the creator intends.

The deck comes with a companion book which gives some info for beginners on the author's suggestions of how to read tarot.  The book also talks about her ideas on deck care, cleansing/charging your deck, and some spreads you can try.  Based on what Marquis says about using your intuition to read, the book gives the impression that it is intended that readers find their own meanings for much of the imagery in the cards. There's nothing really wrong with having the intention of readers interpreting the cards in their own way, some of the imagery though is so different from the traditional that I personally would have really liked some explanations as to why certain images were chosen and I'll point some of that out as we go forward in this review.

Modern Spellcaster's Tarot is, in some respects, very close to the Rider Waite Smith system but at the same time there are places where it is very different.  You have a 78 card deck with the usual suspects in the major arcana and in the minors you have the typical four suits (wands, swords, cups, and pentacles).

Many will be happy to see that this deck is progressive in a couple of regards.  First the deck is very multi-racial and two of the cards feature homosexual couples.  There are also a couple of cards in the deck that, in my opinion, could hint at polyamory.

Above you find two ways in which this deck differs from the RWS.  Where the elemental associations are concerned, the creator of this deck switched wands to corresponding with air and the swords with fire.  There are many readers who don't like when a deck switches these and to be honest I'm not thrilled with it but I'll work around it.  While the aces of each suit clearly show the variation in elemental correspondences the rest of the cards in those two suits don't beat me over the head with it.  Also deviating from the norm is which suit has been assigned to which season in this deck.  Yet another thing I wish the author would have discussed, the book doesn't even go into the fact that each suit is set in a different season and that they associated different seasons with different suits than you traditionally see.  I really would have liked if the book would have pointed this out and explained why they choose to do this.

There are several reoccurring symbols in the deck and there is a list with their meanings in the beginning of the book.  You can see some of them in the pictures above.  Some of the symbols are the dot within the circle, the triangle within a square, the square, the eight pointed star, the pentagram, the yin yang, the triquetra, and the six pointed star.

There are several animals that are seen again and again in the deck.  They are the wolf, the dog, the turtle, winged insects, birds, bulls, fish, and squirrels.  Their meanings are listed in the beginning of the book along with the reoccurring symbols.

Next, I'm going to discuss a few cards that I have some questions about or issues with and cards that other readers or clients might have an issue with.

So, she's growing some herb in this card. While I find this more humorous than anything, you may want to keep this little tidbit in mind when deciding if you want to use this deck to read for clients in general or just be mindful of whether or not your client is anti-ganja.

The traditional meaning of movement is very evident in this Chariot, but there is only one horse.  Since one of the meanings I use for the chariot is mastery over conflicting energies I like the image of the charioteer showing control over the black and white horses.  This certainly doesn't break the deck, it just means I will read this card a little differently when I use this deck and you'll find that true of several cards in this deck.

What is up with this Devil card?  We have a deck that really doesn't use any of the Christian symbolism that you find in the RWS and then you have a Devil card that is more literal than its counterpart in the RWS.  What's the deal with the pig person and the fish face?  I can see the logic with the pig, given that we're going with concepts of an evil entity that loves to see people engage in swine-like behavior, but I'm not seeing the connection between fish and a devil.  Maybe she's a Shakespeare buff and is making an allusion to the Shakespearean insult of a fish monger.  Again, the book explaining the choices made in the cards would be very helpful here.  Also, there is no explanation of the symbol above his head.  What description she does give of this card is very much more akin to Satan mythos than how I myself and many other readers interpret this card typically.  While a deck creator doing something different from the traditional is/can be a great thing in this case it really seems to go in a different direction than the rest of the deck.  While I've never thrown a card out of a deck, I am considering removing this card because of how she describes it and what it is intended to invoke in the reader.

In case you ever wondered what a hierophant is here ya go...a person, especially a priest in ancient Greece, who interprets sacred mysteries or esoteric principles.  I really have to throw out my traditional meanings for this card when using this deck.  While, again, the book doesn't do much deciphering of the card Marquis does say that this card represents large religious organizations and governments dominating the masses.  Not meanings I've ever seen for this card before.  Given that, the faceless figure with the scourge makes sense.  What does the B B stand for though?  Brightest Blessings?  Blessed Be?  Bouncing Bunnies? She couldn't have thrown the readers a bone here?  Again, for a deck that's supposed to be moving away from the Christian symbology why is the man depicted as a devil?  Why is the woman green?  Is this supposed to depict these organizations trying to control our carnal urges and fertility?

Overall I like this depiction of the Empress.  She is intended to be pregnant in this card but she doesn't really look it to me. Once I read that she's supposed to be pregnant then I could kind of see a baby bump there. The use of Inguz (fertility) seems apt, though I'm not one to work with runes.  My question with this card is, why is she green?  I get that green represents fertility but couldn't we have used some green plant life instead of making her look like a martian?

Why is this card called "Judgement?"  They really should have completely renamed this card in my opinion.  The card represents death and rebirth according to the book and I have to agree the imagery goes along with that.  What does death and rebirth have to do with judgement though?  If you believe in a judgement day then I guess that would make sense but chances are the people this deck is geared towards do not subscribe to a judgement day theory.  Instead of reading this card as I would in other decks I'll be reading it as rebirth, reinvention of self, endings that transform us into something new, transformation, etc.  Like I say elsewhere in this review, it's okay that the creator of the deck is deviating from the RWS meanings but I personally think this card should have been renamed something that makes more sense, like Rebirth perhaps.

I actually do not have an issue with this Hanged Man, but I know that others do.  The biggest issue seems to be that he isn't upside down.  Why does that matter?  Well the book doesn't say that the figure inside there is supposed to be Odin but many people feel that it is.  I showed this card to my husband, who doesn't read tarot but knows a lot about Norse mythos, and his response was, "Is that supposed to be Odin?"  So, definitely an Odin vibe and he too was upset that Odin wasn't upside down as that is how he hung in the story where he discovers the runes.  I've also heard some grumblings about the figure, whether you believe he is Odin or not, being restrained.  I personally like that part of the image and it will slightly alter how I interpret this card when I read with this deck.

Here we have another card that leaves me with more questions.  Why is she faceless?  I can come up with a couple of suggestions and as I work with the deck I'm sure I'll settle on one or two reasons of my own.  I can draw my own conclusions as to why the number three is represented on the pillars, but why is it sideways on the white pillar?  Why is there a black pillar and a white pillar?  We don't have the Hebrew associations with the pillars in this deck so why were all of those associations thrown out and the black and white pillars left?  Why on earth is there a baby?  Even the meanings listed in the book don't give any clue as to why there is a baby.  One thing I do really like is Perth (initiation) being on the pillars.

More black and white pillars, but that's not what really gives me pause about this card.  I mean I can always just use traditional color meanings to explain the pillars.  When I first looked at this card I was in love.  Then I noticed that she was holding a pomegranate and I thought it was odd that justice would be holding the pomegranate instead of the High Priestess but I could see where you could get a justice theme out of Persephone eating the pomegranate seeds.  Then I noticed the hand or lack there of holding the pomegranate.  Why is the flesh of her hand violently severed from her arm and just bones left to hold the pomegranate?  This is really something I would have liked her to explain in the book.

Since the Sun card is associated with joy and positive things it seems a little odd to have a sun-like symbol on this card.  I realize that the sun is producing the fire which in this case is meant to symbolize destruction and pain, but the sun just doesn't jive for me.  The triquetra also doesn't fit to me, even using the author's associations for it.  I think she's going for manifestation but, and I can only speak for myself, I interpret this card as very much being in the midst of the pain and of the event causing it having just happened or even if it happened some time ago the client is not in a place where they are ready to start to rebuild.

Death is a very dark card.  This works for me but others may find things like the flayed face off-putting.  Consider your client when deciding if you want to use this deck to read for someone.


I don't have an issue with the Fool but I wanted to show it because there is a leap of faith element, in my opinion, to the Fool in this deck that I quite enjoy.

The cards are not reversible, as you can see from their backs.  These cards have a sort of texture to them that is kind of hard to describe.  Best I can do is to say that the fronts are smooth but the backs are almost like a soft grit.  The texture of the cards felt a little odd at first but the more I handle them the more I like it.  Card stock is on the flimsy side but the deck does shuffle well for me.

If you'd like to see the whole deck you can check out my flip through video.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Does Tarot Summon Demons Etc.?

Tarot is a powerful spiritual tool, but there are some that are hesitant to give tarot a try because of some misconceptions that are out there.  The organizations that oversee the Abrahamic faiths have spoken out against the use of tools like tarot for a long time, but their claims aren’t necessarily based in fact.  They have made claims that the tarot is evil, black magic, connected to the devil, and some have claimed that the cards summon demons.  Where do these claims come from?  We have to get into a little bit of history in order to answer this and what I’m about to say in the next few sentences is in no way meant to put down the Abrahamic faiths it’s just what happened.  There are some passages in their religious texts that say their adherents are not to engage in any kind of prophecy.  While tarot cards aren’t an ancient practice, they are part of a category of practices that preceded the Abrahamic faiths that the governing organizations of these faiths felt they needed to discourage in their adherents and part of the way they discouraged the practices was through fear.  Let’s face it, fear is a pretty good way to get someone or a group of someones to be compliant.  The Christian church in particular (probably starting with the Catholic Church) started telling their followers that tarot was a gateway to the Devil and demons and that it was a form of black magic.  They also cited the Bible passages that speak against prophecy as proof of this.

What is tarot really and where did it come from?  Again we have to get into a little bit of history to explain this.  First we must acknowledge that the tarot’s history has a bit of mystery to it and we don’t know exactly who or when it was very first created but there are some things we do know.  Romani gypsies have used cards for divination for centuries, but they most likely have nothing really to do with what we know as tarot today.  There have been claims that the tarot originated in Egypt but scholars consider these claims to be baseless and from my reading I have to agree.  Where we find the first historical evidence of something that resembles tarot is in 15th century Italy with the Tarocchi card game.  It is believed that this game and deck was created by adherents of the Christian faith.  There came a point where Tarocchi ruffled the feathers of the church and the organization started to condemn it.

Tarot took a leap forward in the 18th century when it was given a boost by French psychics.  Unfortunately, while they were propelling tarot forward it appears that the myth that the deck was of Egyptian origin came from them.  The ceremonial magicians (Masons, The Grand Order of the Rose, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) of the 19th century brought the deck even closer to what we know today.  Which is a 78 card deck, consisting of 22 cards in the major arcana and 56 cards in the minor arcana. 

We see the rise of the Marseille tarot in France and other parts of Europe in the mid 1800’s.  This type of deck has full artwork for the trump (major arcana) cards and uses pips for the minors.  I do see Americans that use Marseille decks but I don’t think that they are as widely used as decks done in the next style I will talk about.

After the Marseille, in 1909 we have the first publishing of the Rider Waite Smith tarot deck and it is arguably the most well know tarot deck out there and many modern decks are clones of that deck or at the very least follow its system.  While the RWS deck does utilize a lot of occult symbolism, perhaps picked up from the work that the ceremonial magicians mentioned above did with tarot, it also uses a great deal of Christian symbolism. 

When you boil it all down, what is tarot really?  Really, tarot is a bunch of pieces of paper with symbols artistically portrayed on them that are meant to be a tool to communicate with our unconscious, our higher self, and what Jung called the collective unconscious.  Here is what Arthur Waite had to say himself on tarot, “The Tarot embodies symbolical presentations of universal ideas, behind which lie all the implicits of the human mind, and it is in this sense that they contain secret doctrine, which is the realization by the few of truths embedded in the consciousness of all.”  There are also tarot readers who believe the cards operate on the principal of synchronicity. 

You can never truly make generalizations because there’s always an exception to the rule, but overall tarot readers don’t regard their cards as magic.  Yes, tarot readers do tend to say different decks have different energies about them, but everything has an energy and that isn’t really magic per se.  While most modern tarot decks do contain a trump card called The Devil, the card is not literal just like the Death card isn’t literal.  The card actually speaks of things like the abdication of power, self-esteem issues, drug/alcohol addiction, a person’s downfall or hubris.  While the card does usually contain some Christian symbology, it’s more of a loose reference to the Abrahamic figure and more about a universal archetype that transcends any specific religion.  When tarot readers use the cards they do not summon, call upon, or appeal to the Devil or demons to aid them.  The cards do not by nature attract any negative entities.

Tarot cards are a tool and in and of themselves do not bring any negative forces to you.  Can some crack pot out there get out a deck of tarot cards and call out to the Devil?  Sure, people have the free will to make ill-advised and foolish choices but that’s the cracked nut not the vast majority of those who use tarot.  What about the Bible passages that forbid prophecy?  If you follow the Bible then you are going to have to decide for yourself the validity of those passages.  I can offer this food for thought...there are contradicting passages in the Bible where adherents do engage in prophecy.  Why is it okay for some adherents and not others?  There are also those who follow an Abrahamic faith that just find those passages to be antiquated or not applicable.  Again, if you follow the Bible, or other Abrahamic text (which all have the Old Testament in common) you will have to search within yourself to find the answer if tarot is or is not against your faith.  Just remember that whether you decide tarot is for you or not that it is not about black magic, the Devil, or demons.  There is also something else to consider here, it is possible to read tarot cards without any sort of prophecy going on.  You can keep your readings to the here and now by asking things like, “What should I know about as I make this decision about (fill in the blank)?”  You can ask for insight instead of outcomes.

Since I am a spirit medium who uses tarot cards I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss this.  The cards themselves do not attract or call out to any spirits.  I, and others, do however work with tarot in conjunction with ancestor spirits, spirit guides, and the spirits of departed loved ones.  You may say, “Rin, if the cards don’t attract spirits then how do you use the cards to work with them?”  I attract the spirits, not the cards.  When I begin the reading I let the spirits know that they are permitted to communicate with me through the cards (mostly by guiding me in my interpretations of them) or with me directly as I do the reading.  When I do this I am specific about what types of sprits may do this and that only those with messages that are for the client’s greater good my step forward and communicate with me in this way.  That is kind of a distinction fit for a lawyer but I wanted to explain how I work with tarot and spirits but yet the cards are not what are drawing the spirits in.

The point of this post is not to sway anyone into deciding if tarot is or is not against their religious/spiritual path, but it hopefully will help those with questions to understand that tarot is not evil, black magic, a tool of the Devil, or an attractant for demons.  The tarot cards are pieces of paper containing pleasing images with symbols for the reader to interpret as a spiritual tool.