How to Create Original Imagery for Your Tarot Deck

Creating a tarot deck is a lot of fun and a lot of work. The rewards far outweigh the pain and effort, though; being able to use your own deck for readings or just for fun is one of the more fulfilling experiences. Plus, you’ll most definitely know each card inside and out after creating a deck.

If you know me from Inappropriate Tarot Readings on Facebook, you’ll no doubt have seen me make fun of decks that simply redo the Rider Waite imagery. It’s all in good fun; if you really like the “traditional” imagery and symbolism, by all means. Make your own Rider Waite style deck. There are several good reasons for it: the deck will be easily understood by a wider audience, half of the work is already done for you, I’m sure there are more. The most important thing is that you stay true to yourself.

This post, however, is going to be about the opposite: what to do if you want to depart from the traditional. This is what I wanted when I created my deck, the Darkana Tarot. I imagined tarot decks being like movies. How many times can you remake the same movie before it gets old? I wanted to challenge myself. The hardest part was trying to figure out new ways to demonstrate a concept visually.

With each card, I broke the process down into three steps:

  1. Suspend everything I know about tarot.
  2. What is the concept?
  3. What modern ideas can represent the concept?

The reason I wanted to use modern imagery is because a lot of the imagery from older tarot decks is lost on the current generations. The purpose of having imagery at all is to convey what the card symbolizes without having to memorize the meaning. What impression do you get from this card? You could stare at a two-hundred year old card and the only impression you come away with is, “I have no idea what this is trying to tell me.” As an artist, it is your job to convey a specific idea, concept, emotion. Thus, you must know what concept you want to convey. I did this by creating two keywords for each card. Once I had the two keywords in mind, my next goal was to think about ways I could possibly translate those keywords into the visual medium.

Here is an example:

Let’s say we have a card we want to create called “Dutifulness.” Imagine that every deck has a Dutifulness card and that most of them featured a turtle (for whatever reason). The first step, if you want to create a totally original card, is to completely dispel this turtle image from your mind to start fresh. What are some things that come to mind when you think of duty? An image of a soldier might jump to mind. Or a priest. Or a boy scout. These could all be considered modern symbols. That’s one way to convey the concept. The other way is to use action in the imagery to convey the idea. Maybe you show a fierce dog barking at an approaching stranger while a toddler plays behind him nearby. It is the dog’s duty to protect his loved one, after all. There are many ways to convey an idea through imagery. The key is to let your mind be free to make new associations.

Here are some examples from my deck, along with an explanation of how I came up with the idea.

2 of Swords
Concept: Avoidance, Stalemate
Ideas: I had always wanted to use scissors for this card, but I wanted to convey the meaning also. Many times when this card comes up (for me) it has represented a decision, usually between two opposing choices. So I made a child holding a bomb with two wires.

Two of Swords from the Darkana Tarot

Two of Swords from the Darkana Tarot

Wheel of Fortune
Concept: Luck, Destiny
Ideas: I didn’t want to use the same old giant Ferris Wheel of fate. I wanted a different kind of wheel that goes around and around that had the power to make someone very happy or very miserable. The symbolism of Russian Roulette seemed apt for me here, so I used a revolved with two four-leaf clover bullets.

Wheel of Fortune from the Darkana Tarot

Wheel of Fortune from the Darkana Tarot

Knight of Wands
Concept: Cocky, Hot-Tempered
Ideas: I like using a variety each suit’s nominal object (various kinds of swords, cups, etc.). For me the idea for this card was simple. I view each of the Knights as being young, inexperienced, ruled more by emotions, etc. I chose the hockey player because he not only embodied the two keyword concepts perfectly, but he also holds a wand.

Knight of Wands from the Darkana Tarot

Knight of Wands from the Darkana Tarot

4 of Swords
Concept: Rest, Recovery
Ideas: I used the standard concept of rest and recovery for this card, but I also wanted to use a different kind of blade. So scalpels was an obvious choice.

Four of Swords from the Darkana Tarot

Four of Swords from the Darkana Tarot

2 of Pentacles
Concepts: Juggling, Stagnation
Ideas: I typically view this card as being all about the rat race. The same thing day in and day out, over and over. Waiting for some big break. Typical cards portray a juggler. I wanted something new, so I went with the idea of a hamster running in its wheel. Since that didn’t do much for me in the way of pentacles, I just added them in like so:

Two of Pentacles from the Darkana Tarot

Two of Pentacles from the Darkana Tarot

I almost had more fun trying to come up with the ideas than I did doing the actual art. At the end of the day, it’s up to you what style and imagery you choose to employ in your own deck. Don’t be discouraged or afraid to stray far from the standard. Color outside the lines. Even if people don’t get it (not everyone will), your last line of defense is the little white booklet. Clarify your meaning in there.


Daniel Donche will represent the Darkana Tarot on the Deck Creators Panel at TarotCon Denver 2015. Visit our Speakers page for the full line-up of presentations and workshops.


About the Author

Daniel is a creation junkie. His creations span a number of domains: art, music, film, literature, even fashion. Just two years after his foray into the tarot world began, his interest and creativity yielded one of his most successful endeavors to date: the Darkana tarot deck, a post-modern grunge concept that deviated heavily from traditional motifs. While the deck was rejected by every major tarot publisher (a black and white deck will never sell), he self-published the deck, which went on to win a number of awards.

He currently lives in Colorado Springs, and divides his time between writing, film, art, programming, and hopefully ninjutsu in the near future. Find the Darkana deck at Gamecrafter or follow his Facebook Page, Inappropriate Tarot Readings.

© 2015 by Daniel Donche. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
rssby feather

The Expanding Prism


“Modern morality and manners suppress all natural instincts, keep people ignorant of the facts of nature and make them fighting drunk on bogey tales.”     — Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)

Tarot has a long, beautiful, mysterious, and sometimes misunderstood legacy, but since the dawn of its use as a divinatory tool, it (through readers) has attempted to clarify, expand, uncover, reveal, suggest, warn about, and herald millions of possibilities for people around the world. It has asked humans to be truthful, to connect with their instincts, to entertain the impossible, to return to their source, and to craft their own path. It has asked us to look with new eyes, to see beyond our limits, and to walk into the unknown.

In each era, new Tarot decks have spoken to particular groups, expressing the beliefs, hopes, contexts, and visions of that time, and yet the essence of the cards has stayed remarkably constant. In the same way, readers have embodied the age in which they live, and over time the light of Tarot has continued to produce a spectrum of new creations and readers — ALL contributing and expressing the great diversity of the human experience. Far from diluting the voice of Tarot, they have amplified the prism expressing every hue, tint, shade and tone.

TheFountainAs we enter an increasingly conscious time on the planet, (aided by technology, science, and communication), there is a growing sense that we, as a species, will either cause our own destruction or re-member our oneness. Yet again, Tarot has a unique opportunity to express this experience, relating our contemporary views, connection, relationships, and spirit. Modern decks have the opportunity, privilege (and sometimes responsibility) of standing on those “shoulders of giants”1 in the past to see further and newly into that which does not change — the constants so richly symbolized in Tarot.

Regardless of the decade or the design, Tarot has always illuminated the paradoxical relationship between the individual and the universal, humanity wrapped in divinity. Let us celebrate this time we live in, and the traditions both old and new that link Tarot from one generation to the next: our connection as humans, our unique manifestation on this planet and the expanding prism of possibility.

Activity (15-20 minutes)

  1. Think of your favorite Tarot deck and list three qualities that make it your favorite.
  2. Think of a deck that you consider classic or foundational. What three qualities contribute to its status as such for you?
  3. Think of a modern deck, something published within the past three years. What three qualities does your choice contribute to the canon of Tarot?
  4. Think of a deck you would never in a million years purchase for yourself. Identify three element that could appeal to other people. If you could only use this deck for the rest of your life, what three elements could you appreciate?
  5. Bonus: Compare the attributes from each of the activities above. How do they relate to each other? How do our opinions of decks compare to our opinions of cards? Discuss… 

1 “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” —Isaac Newton


The Fountain Tarot will be represented on the Deck Creators Panel at TarotCon Denver 2015. Visit our Speakers page for the full line-up of presentations and workshops.


About the Authors


Jonathan Saiz, Creator and Artist of The Fountain Tarot

Through his art, Jonathan attempts to capture and reflect all of the beauty, complexity, and chaos that life has to offer. His love of crystals, contemporary art, and sacred geometry creates a lens through which seemingly contradictory objects, emotions, and experiences are juxtaposed, resulting in multi-faceted paintings and sculptures. An exploration of visual and energetic potential, his works are in private and commercial collections worldwide. As the Creator and Artist of The Fountain Tarot, Jonathan asked a simple question, “What does each card have to say to us NOW?” Through collaboration with the writer (Jason Gruhl) and the designer (Andi Todaro) of the deck, the cards continued to evolve and become a contemporary vision for the Tarot. For more information, please visit

Jason Gruhl, Writer of The Fountain Tarot

Jason’s interest is to uncover and highlight the greatness in each person. With a MA in counseling psychology, and a vast background in education, he creates tools that explore the uniqueness of human being. From founding and directing a school for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to writing children’s books, he uses innovation to excite, inspire, and shift the cultures in which we live. As the Writer of The Fountain Tarot, he attempted to honor the historical essence of each card, writing in a language that was personal and accessible. For more info, please visit The Fountain Tarot website.

Andi Todaro, Designer of The Fountain Tarot

Andi’s graphic design projects have taken her across the USA and into Europe: From her recent work with MSNBC in NYC for their coverage of “The Feast”, to her designs for the “Belle Epoque” and “Bollywood” Galas of the American School of Paris. Her sense of style and design, utilized throughout The Fountain is not only influenced by her personal interest in the Tarot as an intuitive reader and seeker, but is also greatly informed by her own personal experience with modeling, makeup and styling for runway and many fashion presentations. For more information, please visit The Fountain Tarot.

For information, please visit

© 2015 by The Fountain Tarot. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
rssby feather

A Tarot Deck with 1,232 Cards?

The Pentagonal Gyrobicupola has 20 vertices, 22 faces and 40 edges. The Pentagonal Gyrobicupola contains 10 triangles, 10 quadrilaterals and 2 pentagons.The Pentagonal Gyrobicupola is the 31th Johnson Solid. is copyright © 2006 by Honeylocust Media Systems; you are free to copy content under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

The Pentagonal Gyrobicupola has 20 vertices, 22 faces and 40 edges. The Pentagonal Gyrobicupola contains 10 triangles, 10 quadrilaterals and 2 pentagons.The Pentagonal Gyrobicupola is the 31th Johnson Solid. is copyright © 2006 by Honeylocust Media Systems; you are free to copy content under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Image, if you will, that the Supreme Consciousness of the cosmos – the ultimate spiritual and cosmological reality – could take the form of a precious stone prism whose surface was cut with twenty-two uniquely-shaped facets. Because each facet is different it bends the infinite light in an entirely distinctive manner; and when we gaze into the stone we behold a complete, yet completely unique, image of the whole … twenty-two totally unique interpretations of the single, Supreme Consciousness.

Such is the profound nature of the Tarot Trumps; each a self-contained world all its own – one 1/22nd facet of the totality of the mind of God. Armed with this understanding we could make the compelling argument each that Trump can be assigned an entire set of Minor Arcana of its own – fifty-six elemental variations for each of twenty-two major themes –elegantly complex and intimately connected, drama/comedies written, directed, and acted out by each of the twenty-two trumps.

Instead of a Tarot deck of 78 cards (22 Trumps of the Major Arcana, and 56 cards of the Minor Arcana). We are working with a deck of 1,232 cards (22 x 56)! This idea is hardly new. Indeed, Aleister Crowley provided an obvious illustration in his tarot classic The Book of Thoth:

For example the Three of Disks belonging to the High Priestess or the Lovers might represent the establishment of an oracle like that of Delphi. The Three of Disks belonging to the Justice Trump might be the first formula of a Code such as Manu gave to Hindustan. The Hierophant’s Three of Disks might point to the construction of a cathedral. The Tower’s Three of Disks perhaps indicating the massing of a standing army. The great point is that all the Elemental Forces, however sublime, powerful or intelligent, are Blind Forces and no more.

The ideas that such pairings evoke can be an infinite source of meditation, and an invaluable exercise for anyone wishing to use the cards for divination.[1]

How (or if) this all could apply to you and your Tarot reading practice is entirely up to you. For example; in a simple three-card spread the presence of one or more Trumps could more clearly define the true focus of you client’s motives or concerns. A Trump paired with certain Court Cards could make a dramatically significant difference in how they are to judge the actions or behavior of other people involved in the issue or issues of concern.

If you are really adventurous you might even consider experimenting with a new, two part procedure such as something like this:

  • Divide your deck into two decks; Trumps, and Minor Aracana.
  • Shuffle each separately, and
  • first choose one card from the Trump deck to establish the major theme of the issue;
  • then choose the following cards from the Minor Arcana deck to learn the details and specifics.

Anyway …. It’s something to think about, and if you aren’t completely intimidated by the idea of reading with a 1,232 card Tarot deck, you might actually find it more natural and easy than it sounds. It might even become one the handiest tools you have in your Tarot-reading toolbox.


[1] The Book of Thoth by The Master Therion (Aleister Crowley). A Short Essay on the Tarot of the Egyptians. (London: O.T.O., 1944. The Equinox III (5). Reprinted York Beach, ME, Samuel Weiser, 1992), p. 189.


Lon will be speaking on “The Lesser Arcana – Keys to Specific Dates and Geographic Locations” at TarotCon Denver 2015. Visit our Speakers page for the full line-up of presentations and workshops.


About the Author

Lon Milo DuQuette is the creator of the “Tarot of Ceremonial Magick” and author of Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot.

Singer-songwriter and recording artist, Lon Milo DuQuette is also the author of 16 critically acclaimed books (translated in 12 languages) on Magick and the Occult. Critics have called him one of the most respected and entertaining writers and lecturers in the field of the Western Mystery Traditions.

Since 1975 DuQuette been a national and international governing officer of Ordo Templi Orientis, one of the most influential magical societies of the 20th Century. He is currently the Order’s United States Deputy Grand Master. He is an internationally recognized authority on tarot and western ceremonial magick. Although he takes these subjects very seriously, he tries not to take himself too seriously. This rare combination of scholarship and humor has earned him in the last 20 years a unique and respected position in American spiritual and esoteric literature.

DuQuette appears occasionally on television and radio as a guest expert on subjects involving the occult. He is a contributor to the Magical Egypt DVD series’ and a host on the new series, The Great Work.

He is a faculty member of the Omega Institute in Reinbeck New York, and Robert Anton Wilson’s Maybe Logic Academy.

He lives in Costa Mesa, California with his wife of 45 years, Constance.

For more information, visit

© 2015 by Lon Milo DuQuette. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
rssby feather

Sitting Between Light and Dark

Welcome to the Tarot Blog Hop! Our wrangler Morgan Drake Eckstein of Gleamings from the Golden Dawn asked us how we deal with the distasteful cards. Denver Tarot Convention speaker Richard Hartnett stepped up to discuss this issue.


Sitting Between Light and Dark

“The High Priestess” from the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot by Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, 1909 Pamela-A from Sacred Texts.

“The High Priestess” from the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot by Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Colman Smith, 1909 Pamela-A from Sacred Texts.

As a student of the Tarot and especially as a Tarot professional, it is important that we work with all the tools that the Tarot presents us. To leave a card out or to refuse to deal with reversed cards will not transform our reality. If we could change our lives by simply ignoring difficulties our lives would be much happier because most of us avoid difficulties all the time. But the truth is life is both light and dark and each has its place in a reading. Let us remember that the High Priestess sits between a light and dark pillar for a reason. If the dark side was something that wasn’t important then Arthur Waite, Paul Foster Case and the other giants in the development of the Tarot would have left it out.

We may have a strong emotional reaction to certain cards such as the Death card or the Devil, but we should remember that having that strong emotional reaction might be the first step towards freeing ourselves from negative forces that are interfering with our happiness. If something stinks it is best to figure out what it is and then to clean it up. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Neither will all the happy, smiley affirmations.

When we do a reading we are looking for guidance. Often, (but not always) a reading will indicate what is working in our lives. Just as often a good reading will tell us what obstacles are before us that we must master to fulfill our desire. The best way to deal with any of the negative cards is to accept the card’s meaning as the first step towards making a change. If everything was already working how likely is it that you would want a reading in the first place? When we identify the problem the solution is often only a half-step away.

Most of the time my clients tell me that the reading is confirmation for what they were thinking already. The supposedly negative cards just force the client to accept what they already have intuited as the truth.

As part of my personal spirituality, I have come to believe there is only one cosmic influence in the universe. We call that force many different names but each name and each belief system represents a limited understanding of that force. The belief system will hold many truths but it does not represent the final understanding. This is true for both science and religion. Most belief systems leave out something. Most of the time what is left out is what we would call negative. When you regard the universe as being influenced by a single force then, you begin to understand that even the supposedly negative influences in life are in an indirect way leading us out of ignorance and darkness. The Dark Angel insists that we deal with what we fear the most. The Tower reminds us that we cannot avoid our responsibilities by hiding. The three of swords advocates that we pay attention in order to gain wisdom from our painful experiences. That is preferable to ignoring our difficulties which only assures that we will repeat our errors. When we know that one force is behind everything then we can begin to see the negative cards as positive guidance rather than as curses or retributions.

The best action we can take when a “negative” card shows up in a reading is to be open to receiving its guidance.

I cannot promise you that it will get easier to face your life but I can say, If we hold onto our desire to find a new promised land then, like the Knight of Wands, we will find our way across the desert. It takes faith, but then with faith that the truth is there, we will all find our way.



Richard will be speaking on “Numerology and Tarot” at TarotCon Denver 2015. Visit our Speakers page for the full line-up of presentations and workshops.


About the Author

Richard Hartnett, H.W.,M. has over 30 years’ experience as a Spiritual counselor and teacher. He reads professionally at conferences all over the United States. He has clients all over the world that contact him for consultations. He is a Nationally certified Psychic and Master Tarot Instructor with The American Tarot Association. He specializes in the study of spirituality, myth and science. His background includes studies in Native American spirituality, Sufism, Jungian Psychology, Grudjieff’s “fourth way” and World mythology.

Richard has developed a series of classes which he presents under the banner of Quantum Spirituality seminars. He is a writer and has two books published through One Spirit Press out of Oregon. His books The New Old Gods and The Call of the Soul are available on Amazon and Kindle. He is currently working on a new book about the Tarot. He is friends with several published Tarot authors, such as Mary Greer and Amber Jamanti.

For more info, visit his website Quantum Spirituality.

© 2015 by Richard Hartnett. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
rssby feather

Tarot Meditations

"BodhidharmaYoshitoshi1887" by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi - en.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

“BodhidharmaYoshitoshi1887” by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi – en.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Do you suffer from talk overload in your tarot practice? After a day of reading for others sometimes it’s hard to turn it all off and hear the silence. It’s important for our health and our development as readers to let ourselves become quiet and contemplative with our cards for a period of time each day.

Meditation is an important part of my daily practice. Over the years I have learned many tarot meditations that I use for myself and with my students. I have compiled some of my favorites here for you to try or revisit.

Because meditation is designed to take us out of our analytical mind and allow us to enter a more expansive awareness, using tarot card meditations can create opportunities for insight that you cannot experience from doing non-meditative tarot readings or academic work with the cards.

Ultimately, regular meditation practice opens up insight, intuition and psychic abilities. Then our work with readings can pull from both knowledge-based and insight-based practices, integrating both sides of the brain. The practical result is very powerful, inspired, clear, and detailed readings.

1. Fixed Gaze Meditation

I learned this technique from a friend more than twenty years ago; we weren’t using it with tarot images at the time, but with some simple geometric shapes printed large on regular copy paper. I more recently looked the technique up online and discovered that it is a yoga meditation called Trāṭaka and can be used to open up psychic powers.

The meditation consists of fixing your gaze on a symbol or object while allowing natural thoughts to arise, and then letting them go. The goal is to become completely absorbed in the symbol, which in turn stills the mind, releasing the brain from the limitations of time and space and opening up spiritual consciousness.

In my Esoteric Tarot class, we use this exercise to focus on either a single astrological symbol or an astrological decan ruler and sign (such as are associated with the non-Ace pips, and which DTC presenter Austin Coppock will address in detail). Some other tarot-related focuses could include a single symbolic element within a tarot card (like the crossed keys at the feet of the Hierophant or wreath on the wand that is held aloft in the Six of Wands or the snail at the bottom of the Nine of Pentacles). This exercise might also work well for simpler cards, such as Waite-Smith style Aces or any unillustrated pip card (such as those of the Tarot de Marseilles). It’s certainly possible to focus on the entire image of a more complex scenic card or Major Arcanum. Ultimately, though, this technique is most effective with a very simple focus. You may like to try the scanning technique, number three in this list, for full cards. But as always, do what produces the best results for you.

  1. Sit or stand in proper meditation posture and remain still throughout the meditation. Situate yourself so that your gaze naturally falls on the image or object that you wish to meditate on.
  2. Using a soft focus, gaze at your chosen symbol or card element.
  3. The gazing is done without blinking or straining; when your eyes start to water, you may shut them and hold the image in your mind’s eye.
  4. Pay attention to the thoughts that come up (without holding on to them) as they may provide insight into the meaning of the symbols. Don’t try to understand the symbol, only gaze at it, but also be aware if your consciousness changes and you begin to receive insight.
  5. The meditation can last from a few seconds up to 10 or 15 minutes.

2. The Four-Fold Breath with Tarot Ace Meditation

I learned this technique from The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot by Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, pp. 188-189. It also appears in their Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn.

  1. Place the four Aces where you can see them clearly. Put them in this order: Ace of Wands, Ace of Cups, Ace of Swords, and Ace of Pentacles. Examine the cards carefully, memorizing every detail of their images.
  2. Bring your awareness to your body. Make small, slow adjustments to move your body into a comfortable meditation posture. Sit forward on the edge of your chair, feet flat on the floor, spine erect. Feel relaxed but alert.
  3. Next bring your awareness to your breath. Simply breathe, and be aware of your breath. Be aware of the breath entering the body; be aware of the breath flowing through the body. Follow the in and out, expansion and release of the breath cycle.
  4. Holding the breath. Breathe in, then hold the breath for a moment at the point of fullest inhalation. Breathe out, and then hold the breath for a moment at the point of complete exhalation. Continue this cycle. Focus on the sensation of the flow of the breath and the hold in between breaths.
  5. Counting the breath. Each stage of the breathing cycle is given four counts. The count of the breath is “in-two-three-four, hold-two-three-four, out-two-three-four, hold-two-three-four,” repeating this at a pace that is comfortable for you. Continue to maintain your awareness of your body and how the breath is flowing through you as you count your breath.
  6. Adding a visualization. Our next step is to visualize one of the tarot aces at each of the four parts of the breathing. On the in-breath, clearly see in your mind’s eye the Ace of Wands, the Ace of Cups on the full hold, the Ace of Swords on the out breath, and the Ace of Pentacles on the empty hold. If you don’t know the cards well, you can keep your eyes open and gaze at each one as you perform this step.
  7. Experience the energy of the visualization. Once you can see each card clearly in your mind as you progress through the breath cycle, allow that card to become alive with energy. Feel yourself fill with the energy of the Ace of Wands on the in-breath, feel the abundance of the Ace of Cups pouring over you on the full hold, feel the release of the Ace of Swords free you from anything that is holding you back on the out-breath, feel the groundedness and security of the Ace of Pentacles on the empty hold. Discover your own personal understanding of the cards, the images and the energetic component. Allow each card to become a living scene.
  8. If you are not familiar with tarot, try imagining a fruit tree, such as a cherry tree, through the seasons. At the in-breath, visualize the tree in blossom. At the full hold, see the tree laden with fruit. On the out breath, see the tree’s leaves blowing away in the wind in the fall. At the empty hold, see the tree stark in winter with bare branches.

3. Card Scanning

I first came across this exercise in Donald Michael Kraig’s Modern Magic, p. 99. It’s a wonderful exercise to help you truly see the card.

  1. Choose a card to work with.
  2. Mentally divide the card into narrow strips, perhaps ¼-½ inch wide. Scan the top strip of the card by slowly moving your gaze across the card noticing every part of the image in that narrow area down to the smallest detail.
  3. Repeat on the second strip from the top, and continue scanning the card strip by strip.
  4. You are using your eyes rather like a computer scanner that picks up every pixel of an image by moving across the image then down then across then down.
  5. Once you have mentally scanned the whole card, hold it in your mind with your eyes closed for a period of time. Continue to see every detail of it.
  6. If you like you can continue on to the next meditation, Entering a Card, or you can end your meditation here. Kraig also suggests a further component in which you “de-scan” the card, erasing it strip by strip from bottom to top, and then sitting in the resulting experience.

4. Entering a Card

The Fool from the Servants of Light Tarot, by Jo Gill. Cover art from Inner Landscapes by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, published by The Aquarian Press, 1989.

I’m not sure where I first learned this exercise—it’s a very common one and taught by a lot of tarot authors as well as ritual magic authors. I do remember doing this exercise with the Sun card from the Dowson Hermetic deck with lovely results.

This exercise is principally taught as a way to enter into qabalistic pathworking, but it can be done for any meditative purpose or to learn more about the card. I often teach this exercise for people to use with their Soul Card (as taught by Angeles Arrien and DTC presenter Mary K. Greer).

The basic idea is to see the card become a door that you open and enter. Instead of seeing a door, you can alternately see the frame of the card as an arch or opening that you walk through to enter the landscape of the card illustration.

I have on occasion used this exercise placing two cards next to each other and entering both at the same time, with startling results. If you’re not already familiar with this technique, though, I’d start with just one card.

The following is adapted from Mary K. Greer’s Tarot for Your Self, pp. 46-47.

  1. Chose a card to work with. Memorize the details of the card using the card scanning technique. Take a minute or two for this, or as long as you need.
  2. Begin the four-fold breath. (Steps 2-5 of the exercise, just the breathing part, not including the visualization.) Follow the breathing meditation for several minutes until you are in a deep meditative state.
  3. With your eyes closed, see your chosen card in front of you. It starts to expand, larger and larger. It grows until it is the size of a door, a door that matches in every detail the image on your card. You see it perfectly clearly.
  4. You see a handle on the door. Open it. When you open the door, you see that behind it is the exact scene of your card, life-size and in three dimensions, perfect in every detail.
  5. Step through the door and enter your card. The landscape now extends in all directions. Look around you. Where are you? What do you see? Do you hear any noises? What can you smell? What is the temperature? What time of day is it?
  6. Explore this landscape as much or little as you like. Can you touch or utilize any objects here? Do you see anyone? If you like, interact with any tarot natives you meet here.
  7. When you are ready to leave, turn around and see the open door. Step through the door back into your waking reality.
  8. Shut the door carefully. You see the door shrinking down, smaller and smaller until it is just a tarot card again.
  9. You are back to normal now. Open your eyes. Record your experiences in your journal.

What are your favorite tarot meditations? I’d love to learn some new ones! Please share your meditative tarot practices in the comments!

Further Reading 

Here’s my short list of books that contain tarot meditations:

Ashcroft-Nowicki, Dolores. Inner Landscapes. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England: Aquarian, 1989.

Cicero, Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1991.

Greer, John Michael. Paths of Wisdom: Principles and Practice of the Magical Cabala in the Western Tradition. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1996.

Greer, Mary K. Tarot for Your Self. 2nd ed. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page, 2002.

Knight, Gareth. Tarot and Magic. Rochester, VT: Destiny, 1991.

Kraig, Donald Michael. Modern Magick: Eleven Lessons in the High Magickal Arts. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1991.

Regardie, Israel. A Garden of Pomegranates: Skrying on the Tree of Life. Ed. Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 1932, 1999.


Joy will be speaking on “Lock in Your Transformation with the Empyrean Key” at TarotCon Denver 2015. Visit our Speakers page for the full line-up of presentations and workshops.


About the Author

Joy Vernon has been studying and teaching energetic and esoteric modalities for more than twenty years. She is the organizer of the Denver Tarot Geeks, Denver Tarot Meetup and Denver Traditional Reiki Meetup, and she served on the faculty of Avalon Center for Druidic Studies. She is one of the psychics at Isis Books and is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and a member of the American Tarot Association and Tarosophy Tarot Association. Joy also teaches Traditional Japanese Reiki. For information on upcoming classes or to schedule an appointment, please

© 2015 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
rssby feather

The Art of Seeing Symbols

Client’s cup with a prominent skull.

Client’s cup with a prominent skull.

I consider myself a gypsy soul. My daily intention is to take life in, to be curious and filled with wonder. This willingness to be open has lead me down so many beautiful paths, from meeting people, to experiencing things… I have truly seen magic in the most unexpected places. All I have to do is open myself up, say hello to the Universe… and the mystery unfolds.

So look around you… there is beauty, color, texture and life waiting to be experienced. There is a rhythm pulsing through the world, through your very body… this is the infrastructure of everything… it is the breath of the Universe, the core of spirit, the voice of your inner wisdom.

This rhythm weaves and shapes all things together, including your intuition. It organizes patterns, and messages. Patterns, signs and symbols are blooming into life constantly. It is the flower of the cosmos, the language of the Universe.

Oracles are nothing more than organized symbols. Ancient people interpreted natural occurrences, building symbols upon them. Creating layers of meaning. Watching nature, animals and the weather… these patterns evolved into symbols, which became a language… inscribed on stones, bones, in cups and on cards. Portable oracles, organized omens.

Divination is the art of seeing, and interpreting symbols. When you layout cards, or gaze into a cup of tealeaves you are searching for patterns in something abstract. You are connecting dots. As you become more “fluent” in your working, and exploration you realize there is a constant dialogue happening all around you. This is the unfolding of intuition!

Symbolic language, layered with intuition becomes story-telling. I have experienced many readings that were missing something… that little spark of life. One of two things happens:

Either the reader is too stuck in the linear… seeing what is before them, and nothing more. Or the reader is pulling things from thin air… reading the ephemeral without stringing it together with something grounded.

But you see there is a synergy that happens when you combine divination with intuition. As you notice what you notice, you allow your intuition to fill in the gaps. Now this won’t work for everyone… I can only tell you my own experience of this. But I have found when something stands out, and I greet its presence, and then follow the staircase of my inner knowing… answers come!

My journey as a Tarot reader began at around age 5 or 6. It was my mother’s way of “training” my psychic abilities. She would lay cards in front of me, and we would tell stories. Who is he? And why is he next to her?…. on and on it would go.

Really these stories were telling themselves… I was just open enough to listen. To see, and listen!

There was no right or wrong. The cards were nothing more than a wonderland of possibilities. There seemed to be themes, connections and patterns… a rhythm as I said before. Tapping into that, pulling at the thread, and the story would come!

I still read this way. I look at the cards, and something just clicks inside. The colors, the characters, the settings, they all take me somewhere, and suddenly information just flows out. All I have to do is pay attention! Just pay attention to what is before me.

My intrigue with oracles extends beyond Tarot. As I child I also experienced Turkish coffee reading… seeing patterns form in the inky sludge left behind after a cup. This lead to my fascination with tealeaf reading… which is simply looking for patterns in the bottom of a warm cup of loose leaf tea.

Tealeaf reading is magical because it connects the mundane with the mysterious. You enjoy your cup of tea, and left behind are shapes formed in dark tealeaves… ambiguous shapes rich with inspiration for the fertile imagination. All you have to do is be open, and brave enough to look at them.

When you gaze softly into a cup of tea filled with the remnants of tealeaves a whole world of possibilities unfolds. Like a cloudy sky the cup dances with a menagerie of creatures, characters and settings. What you see before you is a story that holds significance to the person being read.

I like to remind people that imagination is the pathway to intuition. When you connect with your creative inner world, you open yourself to the wisdom of the Universe. You create a link to your deeper self. This is the art of tealeaf reading! This is the art of Oracles! It is simply the act of playing with the world around you!


Shaheen will be hosting his “Gypsy Tea Party” at TarotCon Denver 2015. Visit our Speakers page for the full line-up of presentations and workshops.


About the Author

Shaheen Miro is an intuitive reader, energy worker, fashion designer, artist, writer and spiritual nomad. Shaheen coaches people to live more consciously through spiritual cleaning, protection, and intuitive development. He is also the creator of, Shaheen’s Tattered Nomad Oracle.

For information, please visit

© 2015 by Shaheen Miro. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
rssby feather

Giving Voice to the Major Arcana

Greetings from a cold and rainy night in northern California. I love evenings like this. My work is finished and I have the house to myself.  A rich cup of Russian Caravan is brewing and I’m all set to divine by the fire.

Following is a Celtic Cross spread I repurposed for giving self, or solo readings. It works in conjunction with 22 audio files that give voice to the Major arcana. The goal in creating these recordings was to place the solitary diviner in a position where she can hear, rather than read the cards. Here’s how it works:

  • Get comfortable. In other words, make space for a question to enter without distractions.
  • Ask your question out loud and up to three times. Avoid either/or questions. Instead, try to ask a question that offers clear insight into how you can fully understand your position in the situation. For example:

          How can I best understand my position with _____________?

  • Pull ten cards from a Majors only deck, oracle, or any of my charm casting kits and place them over the following spread or a spread of your own.
  • Once you’ve asked your question and have all of your cards on the table, locate and click on your card’s matching audio title (just below) and listen to what they have to say. Enjoy and my your future follow your highest wishes.


Carrie Paris version of Celtic Cross




Carrie will be speaking on “Collection Oracles and Charm Casting with Tarot for Accurate Results” at TarotCon Denver 2015. Visit our Speakers page for the full line-up of presentations and workshops.


About the Author

Carrie Paris is committed to uniting divining traditions with contemporary card culture. She was in the first class to receive a Masters in the Cultural Study of Cosmology and Divination from the University of Kent, UK., co-created the award winning Lenormand Revolution deck, and three versions of the Magpie Oracle — a way of casting shiny objects for a bright future. Look to the release of Carrie’s Nippon Lenormand and Dark Salon Lenormand in 2015, as well as her new offering,, an interactive site that uses the latest technology to align diviners with their personal mission. Carrie considers herself a global citizen and enjoys dividing her life teaching in California and Europe where she can be found reading the cards along the Mediterranean landscape of her ancestors. Find out more at

© 2015 by Carrie Paris. All rights reserved.


facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
rssby feather

Creating Meaningful Tarot Spreads

Tarot spreads are created for every purpose and every event one can imagine. But back in the 1960s and 70s this was not the case. If anything, an experienced reader might modify an existing spread to better fit their world view or emphasize things their clients wanted to know. This is what I did, adding, for some clients, a Jungian slant to the Celtic Cross Spread. In the late 1970s, in classes with Angeles Arrien, author of The Tarot Handbook, she created layouts that used a sequence of Tarot Majors as archetypal positions for life or project development spreads. In the early ’80s, Gail Fairfield’s Choice-Centered Tarot introduced the idea of creating unique spreads, on the spot with her clients, that directly addressed aspects of a client’s question or issue. To kickstart the process her book (now in a new edition) offers a long list of possible spread positions that you can mix, match and modify to suit nearly any situation. Since the 1990s, forums and groups on the internet have encouraged the design of thousands of spreads. There are even Spread Decks in which cards have position meanings written on them so the positions can be drawn randomly or carefully selected to create an instant spread.

In my workshop at the Denver TarotCon we will work with a spread designed around the symbolism found in the Rider-Waite-Smith Fool card to elucidate our own soul’s quest. But here I’d like to show you one of my favorite ways to create a personal spread that can be deeply meaningful to you. 

Step 1:

Find a short quote or self-help instruction that inspires and speaks strongly to you. Perhaps something from a spiritual teacher or your favorite book, film or poem. It can even be the steps of a teaching or methodology.

We’ll use this quote from the Dalai Lama as an example: 

 “When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways: either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the Buddha, I have been able to take this second way.”
Step 2:

Break down the quote into its essential phrases, turning each phrase or element into a statement or question you want to explore. Let’s say you are experiencing difficulties. The positions could be posed as:

  • “What is the real tragedy with which I am currently dealing?” 
  • “Where am I losing hope?”
  • “What self-destructive habits am I falling into?”
  • “What is the challenge in this for me?”
  • “What inner strength can I draw on?”
  • “How am I to use this inner strength?”
  • “Where can I be grateful for help in meeting the challenge?”

Notice the focus is on gratitude for the final position as I was especially struck by the Dalai Lama’s statement of gratitude in his last sentence. I wanted to both honor and explore that. You could phrase your own questions based on this quote differently as personal circumstances might have you reading the same words in a different light.

Step 3:Chariot spread

Draw a layout pattern for your positions that seems to reflect the implied interrelationships, even if it is simply a line. Number these positions so you know in what order to lay and read the cards.

There are seven questions in my example, which makes me think of the Chariot Major Arcana, especially as the Charioteer is meeting challenges and being pulled in two directions. So, I’ve decided to create a pattern based on visual cues in that card that can help me remember the layout and significance of each position.

Step 4:

Shuffle your deck, lay the cards and read them. Express gratitude for what has inspired you to find meaning. 


Mary will be speaking on “The Fool’s Progress” at TarotCon Denver 2015. Visit our Speakers page for the full line-up of presentations and workshops.


About the Author

Photo on 2011-03-04 at 11.22Mary K. Greer is an independent scholar, writer, teacher, and professional tarot consultant. With more than ten books and 47 years experience in Tarot, Mary pioneered many of the reading methods used today, including reading for yourself in Tarot for Your Self and methods that are interactive, transformational and empowering in 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card. More recently she’s been exploring the lives of cartomancers through history and discovering the pleasures of the Lenormand deck. She taught Tarot at a university and college from 1974 to 1989 and has since traveled the world teaching, learning and now reaching out through webinars and on-line classes. Visit her blog at and courses at .

© 2015 by Mary K. Greer. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
rssby feather

Spirit Guided Tarot

1JJ SwissI received my first Tarot deck (1JJ Swiss) at the age of 17 from my maternal grandmother. From the start, the evocative imagery captured me – but it was also the way that one could use Tarot in such a practical and direct way to find answers. I’ve always tended to be systematic and analytical in my approach to making decisions, so including a Tarot reading or two as part of my decision making process was a ‘natural’.

I loved being able use the Tarot to quickly access specific information about any quandary or concern. Ask a question, look at the dominating element (suit), the predominance of the numerical value on the cards, sprinkle in some insight from the Majors that were presented and…voila, I had my answer. This approach gave me very concrete information about the nature of the energies present in the situation I was concerned with along with the best way to proceed to get the result I was looking for. For years this was the way I used the Tarot for guidance.

Of course during this time, along with the Tarot, I was employing additional divination devices like the pendulum and the gazing ball as well as studying different systems such as palmistry and numerology. I noticed that I tended to be in a more relaxed, meditative state while using these other perhaps more intuitive systems than when I was reading the Tarot. During those sessions with other modalities, I found that I often received psychic ‘hits’ or impressions above and beyond the more straight forward information offered by the particular system I was employing. I tended to be more left-brain with Tarot and more right-brain when using other divinatory systems.

I decided to experiment with beginning a Tarot session in a deliberately more meditative state to see what additional information or impressions that I might receive by using the cards in a less linear, more intuitive fashion. I was subsequently happily impressed by how letting my right brain join the session added richness and insight into the reading, beyond what I had experienced before. I noticed that whenever I would get a ‘hit’ or some information that was not simply a cut and dried interpretation of the images, numbers or suit of a tarot card, the information would be accompanied by a subtle sensation just outside of my head behind my right ear. By tuning into that sensation or intentionally seeking that sensation, I found myself opening up to that quiet, inner voice of the subconscious and creating a doorway into communication with my spirit guides.


Karen will be speaking on “Expand Your Tarot Readings: Connect with your Spirit Guides!” at TarotCon Denver 2015. Visit our Speakers page for the full line-up of presentations and workshops.


About the Author

Karen Charboneau Harrison is the author of  The EveryDay Psychic: A Practical Guide to Activating Your Psychic Gifts and The Herbal Alchemist’s Handbook. Born into a family of psychics and mediums, she has used her psychic abilities all her life.  She has taught classes in Tarot, Psychic Development and Magickal Herbalism among other esoteric subjects for almost 40 years.  She and her husband are the proprietors of Isis Books, Gifts and Healing Oasis, a Denver institution for 34 years.

© 2015 by Karen Harrison. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
rssby feather

Spring Fling

Welcome to the Tarot Blog Hop! Our wrangler Ania Marczyk asked us to consider which cards need to be updated, removed or added to the deck to reflect our modern society. What a great question to ask the artists and authors of the Denver Tarot Convention Deck Creators Panel! Several of them were able to respond, and here is what they have discovered as they worked to reflect, respond to or react against the 500-year old tarot tradition.


Spring Fling

“Devil and Death” by Toney Brooks, author of the Chrysalis Tarot

"Bella Rosa: XV. The Devil" from Chrysalis Tarot by Holly Sierra and Toney Brooks, published by US Games Systems, Inc.

“Bella Rosa: XV. The Devil” from Chrysalis Tarot by Holly Sierra and Toney Brooks, published by US Games Systems, Inc.

Painting by Holly Sierra

Artwork for “Ariadne: XIII. Death” from Chrysalis Tarot by Holly Sierra and Toney Brooks, published by US Games Systems, Inc.

When Carl Jung defined the Collective Unconscious and the archetypes that populate it, genetics was believed to play a far more significant role in determining who we become than it is today. We know now that epigenetics and morphic resonance fields are preeminent. For this reason, and others, we deemed it important that Chrysalis Tarot not tether itself to dogmas that eschew new knowledge and evolved awareness. Consequently, our candidates for replacement are the Devil and Death. Both exude negative energies that engender fear, which is sufficient for the old heave-ho. Additionally, a Tarosophy survey determined these are the two most despised cards, so they’re unlikely to attract newcomers to tarot. As archetypes, neither has anything relevant to contribute to an evolved, modern and secular worldview that advocates personal responsibility and regards death as the unprejudiced transmutation of energy.

“Three of Swords” by Erik C. Dunne, artist of Tarot Illuminati and the upcoming Tarot Apokalypsis

Three of Swords from Tarot Illuminati by Erik C. Dunne, published by Lo Scarabeo.

Three of Swords from Tarot Illuminati by Erik C. Dunne, published by Lo Scarabeo.

Three of Swords from Tarot Apokalypsis by Erik C. Dunne, published by Lo Scarabeo.

Three of Swords from Tarot Apokalypsis by Erik C. Dunne, published by Lo Scarabeo.

Although the 3 of Swords has always been one of my favorite cards, visually speaking, in the Tarot, I have come to realize over the years that for most, the traditional RWS representation is too foreboding, dour with no apparent “up-side”! I have never felt a sense of hopelessness from this card, but realize many do. When creating my new deck, Tarot Apokalypsis, I wanted to portray this card as I really see it, although it confirms the reality of one’s misery, a foundation of sadness…..redemption does indeed exist, shown here in the form of the White Rose……all is not lost, Hope springs eternal even when it seems the emptiness has lingered forever!

“The World” by Jason Gruhl, author of The Fountain Tarot

"The World" from The Fountain Tarot by Jonathan Saiz, Jason Gruhl, Andi Todaro. Self-published.

“The World” from The Fountain Tarot by Jonathan Saiz, Jason Gruhl, Andi Todaro. Self-published.


“The Fountain” from The Fountain Tarot by Jonathan Saiz, Jason Gruhl, Andi Todaro. Self-published.

The Fountain Tarot is a contemporary deck, influenced by the images of the RWS, but re-envisioned to increase relatability for today’s readers and querents. Our most obvious update was adding a 79th card called The Fountain. We believe that Tarot is a living, breathing, and evolving tool, and we also see the tradition as sacred, so we didn’t make this decision lightly! The World card has often been used to express the eternal, but arguably, it is more closely associated with mastery and the completion of cycles. For us, it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Because our inter-connectedness has never been more accessible, and because of the growing consciousness of people on the planet, we really craved a card that clearly and purely represented the force outside the cycles of birth and death, beginnings and endings, time and form. We wanted something that expressed the nameless, changeless source of which everything is a part. To quote from The Fountain Tarot booklet, “It is the waking from the dream of separateness and identity, and the recognition of one’s Self as not only connected to all things, but all things…” We’re excited to see how The Fountain impacts readings…and from the feedback we’ve already gotten, it resonates with a lot of people.

“The Seven of Wands” by Beth Seilonen, author and artist of more than 90 decks including the Dream Raven Tarot and the Bleu Cat Tarot

7 of Wands from Tarot of Leaves by Beth Seilonen, published by Schiffer Books.

Seven of Wands from Tarot of Leaves by Beth Seilonen, published by Schiffer Books.

"Seven of Wands" from the Dream Raven Tarot by Beth Seilonen, published by Schiffer Books.

“Seven of Wands” from the Dream Raven Tarot by Beth Seilonen, published by Schiffer Books.

In reflecting upon which card is the most out-of-date, a number of them jump out at me. Personally speaking, I have noticed that I have twisted around the Seven of Wands most dramatically. The Seven of Wands traditionally speaks to a time to competitive situations, defiance and aggressive natures. The abusive stance in the imagery suggests attacking others or warding off physical or perceived attacks. I found that this type of energy was concerning and depreciating to the modern progressive nature of people.

The more I considered the wands and the fiery creative energy it has bound to the suit, the Seven of Wands needed to be redefined.


Now throughout my decks the Seven of Wands has consistently taken on the meaning of a redefining moment that the querent needs to process through on their journey.

“The Hierophant” by Lisa de St. Croix, author and artist of Tarot de St. Croix


“V Hierophant” from Tarot de St. Croix by Lisa de St. Croix, published by Devera Publishing.

When I pulled the Hierophant to paint while creating Tarot de St. Croix I found out that it is one of the most unpopular cards of the tarot deck. I thought deeply about the meaning and opened myself, as was my method, to let synchronicity guide me. All that week in the media were stories of the Dalai Lama traveling from University to University giving graduation speeches. He was met with standing ovations. Here was a spiritual authority that was respected and loved. His gentle teachings of compassion and love were greeted with enthusiasm. I painted the Dalai Lama and his teacher Buddha as my Hierophant giving a much needed makeover to this card.



Learn more about the Deck Creators Panel and about TarotCon Denver 2015. You can also visit our Speakers page for the full line-up of presentations and workshops.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
rssby feather