Category Archives: cartomancy

VAMP: the Theda Bara Tarot from Jook Art

Sample of the Majors and the card backs. The sepia tone on some of the card faces is from a lamp, and is not actually present on the cards themselves.

Haven’t we all been intrigued by Theda Bara since we were kids? I remember the first time I stumbled across a photo from Cleopatra – I think it was in Encyclopedia Britannica – the intense, heavily made-up eyes, the snake bra…this was not the wholesome, cute, boring little thing that we were expected to like and try to emulate, no Gidget or That Girl. THIS Cleopatra made Liz Taylor’s look boring! Theda was a different kind of icon, the likes of which my eight year old self had never encountered before.

In real life, she was different: a hardworking girl who never actually drained a man of his resources and vitality, or lured him to his doom. But she had people believing in the persona:

“…her popularity was unstoppable. In 1915 alone, she starred in eleven pictures. Labeled “Hell’s Handmaiden,” she received two hundred letters a day, including over a thousand marriage proposals. Adoring fans named their babies after her. Her movies ran continuously, sometimes playing six times a day.

“Some fans failed to distinguish Bara from her fictionalized roles. One bitter moviegoer wrote, “It is such women as you who break up happy homes.” Bara replied, “I am working for my living, dear friend, and if I were the kind of woman you seem to think I am, I wouldn’t have to.” Another, a criminal defendant, claimed that he killed his mother-in-law after viewing one of Bara’s films.

Bara defended her role: “The vampire that I play is the vengeance of my sex upon its exploiters. You see, I have the face of a vampire, but the heart of a feministe.” But she also worried about the image she perpetuated: “I try to show the world how attractive sin may be, how very beautiful, so that one must be always on the lookout and know evil even in disguise.” Besides, she added, “Whenever I try to be a nice, good little thing, you all stay away from my pictures.”
– Source: https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/bara-theda

And another article, with some outstanding photos: Cinema’s First Sex Symbol was also America’s First Goth

I have only seen her early film, A Fool There Was, and her comeback attempt, The Unchastened Woman. In the former, she’s predatory, rapacious, and unencumbered by ethics. In the latter, she’s a wronged wife and her vamping is justified. Both films could use some TLC and restoration. Almost nothing survives. I’m not sure that there is anyone left in this world who remembers seeing the others. We have little but her first starring role, tiny fragments of film, and the still photos. We don’t get to see her develop as an actress. We don’t have her Cleopatra. We will never get to see her read the cards in Carmen:

But somehow, she is still having an impact. The Vamp type is alive and well, still luring men to their doom in contemporary media. People still emulate her look, or emulate someone while unaware that the person whose look they copied was emulating Theda.

So when it was announced that there would be an entire Tarot with Theda on every card, I had to check it out. Warily, at first, since so many theme Tarots go horribly wrong.

I need not have worried. This description at the website drew me in – I HAD to have this deck.

“For the major arcana, the text is taken from ‘The Symbolism of the Tarot’ by PD Ouspensky published in 1913. This book consists of pen pictures describing a journey through the 22 cards of the majors.

“For the VAMP majors, snippets of this text can be seen intertwined with the image so that only certain words can be seen, and I have found that depending on the question, different words make themselves apparent to me.

“For the minor arcana, the text is taken from the 15th century tarot poetry of Count Matteo Boiardo. He proposed a 78 card tarot deck with the minors being split into suits based on the Four Passions of Fear, Jealousy, Hope and Love. The VAMP tarot deck uses these minors which are well suited to the themes of Theda’s films dealing with such passions and emotions.

“Boiardo wrote a three-line poem for each card, and these are shown in their entirety on each minor card in the deck.”

– from http://jooktarot.com/theda-bara-tarot

I’m normally not a fan of renamed suits, but these are so flawlessly done. I ABSOLUTELY make an exception for this deck! And the text – these are not bland little affirmations and useless new age promises of getting things just by thinking happy thoughts. This is a roadmap for life. Some examples:

The Four of Fear:
“Fear keeps four horses at the service of a chariot
Under a cane, tied to a yoke
It also keeps many in servitude, whom I do not excuse.”

The Three of Love:
“Love, the end and final goal of your earnings
Is a continuous sighing until you die;
And he who laughs one day, cries thereafter for a year.”

The Four of Jealousy:
“Jealousy, when it comes,
it is better not to think that you can fight it,
Because it wins everyone:
But it is good to be able to tolerate it.”

The Four of Hope:
“Hope, when it comes together with reason
Is the sweetest food for the heart that wears it;
If it comes another way, it brings more suffering.”

A sample of the Minors from each suit.

One would expect a theme deck about an actress to be shallow and kind of dumb. That is emphatically NOT the case here. This deck is deep. There are references to mythology – it would be fascinating to read alongside the Grand Jeu AstroMythological Lenormand (it’s one of those rare decks that could definitely hold its own with that one.) Or just by itself.

The calligraphy and photos are exquisite. You get a unique hand crafted box and accordion-style booklet. The card backs are in the style of the early 20th century Art Deco Egyptian Revival that was so popular in Theda’s time.

I can’t find a single thing to criticize about this deck. I can’t put it away. I may have to get a backup copy.

And I am on tenterhooks waiting for their wet plate collodion process deck! http://jooktarot.com/wet-plate-process

Jook Art is a father – daughter collaboration, Steve and Katherine, and they are superbly good. You can get a copy of the Vamp Tarot here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/694810115/vamp-the-theda-bara-tarot-self-published?ref=shop_home_active_1&crt=1

Box, deck, and extras – all the loot.

You can watch or download A Fool There Was here https://archive.org/details/A_Fool_There_Was

Or just watch right here. 😉

And The Unchastened Woman

Advertisements

Finding a Lost Object with Lenormand

I misplaced a pocket knife the other day.

It’s just a little toothpick-style Buck, it’s inexpensive, and I have others. But it’s the kind of thing I use for a lot of little jobs, and I miss it again and again when I don’t have it.

It had to be in the house somewhere. I searched the room where I last used it (the kitchen, where I’d opened something with it), and the little box in my bedroom where I keep it handy, along with a couple of heavy-use decks and a bit of jewelry. Nothing.

So I pulled the three cards shown above, asking “Where is my Buck toothpick knife?” I didn’t preselect any cards (though I suppose you could do a Lost Man using the Scythe for a pocket knife), I just wanted something small and clear. The key to using the cards to find a location in your house is simplifying everything: keep the spread small and uncomplicated, and remember that the interpretation is often literal, or almost literal. It’s so simple, it can be tricky. I’ve seen that time and time again.

The simplicity of this type of reading is my reason for posting it. People post these lost object readings all the time, but I really wanted to underline how they need to be pared down to a very basic interpretation. It’s not like reading on most other subjects. It’s more like the cards are trying to show you a little snapshot of the location.

My first thought was the kitchen. Clover could be the little african violets on the windowsill, and Bear sometimes relates to food – but it tends to be absorption rather than cooking, and besides, I’d already searched the kitchen. So I turned my full attention to the center card, the Bear.

The only literal bear thing here is a teddy bear that my grandson left. It’s on a high shelf where my dog can’t reach it, awaiting his return. The shelf is in a room I use for storage. I installed a closet pole under it, and I have some dresses hanging there.

Then I remembered: I wore a flannel dress for a short trip to the store the other day. I changed into an older dress when I got home, since I had housework to do. The flannel was still clean – I only had it on for about 30 minutes – so I hung it back up.

The flannel dress was hanging almost directly below the teddy (Bear). It was in between a red dress (Heart) and a green dress (Clover). And the knife was in the pocket.

A flowing narrative about a brief romantic encounter with a burly man (or minor luck for your beloved mother, if you read the Bear as female), or a love of high finance and a little luck playing the market, or whatever, is appropriate in certain contexts. But forget all that when you can’t find something. Sometimes a heart is just red, clover is just green, and a bear is just a bear.

Get. This. Book.

I’m about to advise you to get this book. , Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots But the deck in the image above isn’t an ancient Tarot. It’s a Lasenic Tarot, first published “between the Wars”, and full of Wirthy occult goodness. (From what I gather, Lasenic studied with Wirth.)

For you shoppers (and I hope you are here for something besides that!) the deck can be purchased at Pyroskin, the pouch is from Baba Studios,

Now, an occult deck by a strange and wonderful man is by all means worth study and contemplation. Lasenic certainly has my attention! (Karen Mahony once shared this gem at AT: “certainly many occultists hid everything (Madame de Thebes was killed by the Nazis, Lasenic was questioned about occultism by the gestapo and escaped – in what we now recognise as true Lasenic style – by EATING the charge papers when his interrogator left the room for a minute. The super-efficient Nazis could not cope with this and let him go – wonderful story and apparently true).”

But even the Buddha didn’t sit under the Bo Tree all his life. Sometimes we have to roll up our sleeves, put on our high boots, and wade into the poomp: the dirty dishes, the bills, the crazy lady across the street who hates your kids, the middle management guy who thinks he can grope the help, etc., etc. ad nauseam.

And that is where Untold Tarot comes in. This is the best book for reading TdM-type decks that I have come across. It’s an actual, pragmatic card reading manual. There’s a disturbing tendency in Tarot literature -old as well as new – to talk and talk but not give any useful information. You don’t see that in this book at all. There is no such mumbo jumbo going on here. It’s all useful and clear:

“The Fool shows you what you are not taking seriously, which will be the card he faces.”

There’s history, too, and it’s always interesting and relevant to reading the cards, never dry or tedious.

She separates this from GD/Crowley type reading. This has about as much in common with RWS or Thoth as Kipperkarten does.

If you feel the need to (at least temporarily) jettison elemental dignities, hermetic Qaballah, etc. and just want your Tarot to talk to you like your Lenormand does, this is the book you need.

I also want to add that even though it’s a paperback, the pages are stitched in. Better quality than I see with a lot of hardcovers! This book will stand up to years of constant referencing.

Caitlin has truly outdone herself this time, this is the pip-Tarot book I’ve been waiting for. Color me impressed! 😀

Lenormand Has Served Me Well (& two new decks)

Hello all – I’m here to discuss cartomantic simplicity. It may be seeing a minor renaissance.
Caitlin Matthews has a new book , Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots, and Toni Puhle’s review of it really drives the point home.

Some of us are “system readers”, meaning we have meanings for each card and rules for when the cards fall in certain positions. This has always been called “traditional” reading, which has spawned many, many internet fights with people who try to say that tradition is frozen in time and outdated (it isn’t). But in any case, “system reader” is a good descriptor and I give props to Toni for it.

Even the Crowley Thoth can be read in that manner. After all, you have to remember the paths, elemental dignities, etc. (Which I am no wiz at, as my memory appears to be stuffed already. But I can see the beauty and incisiveness of the Thoth – as a system reader.

There is much discussion, nit picking, and hair splitting on internet forums, facebook, etc. over details in the Tarot – is the man walking away on the RWS Six of Cups leaving the past behind? Etc. It all seems irrelevant to me. Waite’s PKT gives a nostalgic interpretation. Crowley (who spilled the s00per seKrit Golden Dawn meanings, lol) simply calls it “Pleasure”. Who actually gives a f*** about that guy walking away?

That brings us to – well, everything else.

,

What is happening here? Do we need all manner of esoteric noise?

No. There is a brunette woman (me) who is catching flack from coworkers, but she’s staying on top of it.

Cards are actually very simple. Don’t overthink them. 😉

Petit Oracle des Dames bridge sized edition available here The Cartomancer

Another deck I want to mention is Patrick Valenza’s Oracle of Black Enchantment, the latest installment in the Mildred Payne cycle.

Like all of Valenza’s decks, it reads flawlessly right out of the box – eloquent, is this not?

(Look at that mess. I do need to mind my P’s and Q’s, lol)

The crazy thing is that Valenza has stated that he doesn’t read. But all of his decks have that precision, like they were designed by a constant reader.

The OBE is available here Deviant Moon Inc.

Anyway, my card reading philosophy is rooted in Lenormand and Kipper. (A man is a man, unless context absolutely doesn’t allow. He’s not “qualities you should take on”, or “advice”, he’s a person. Yes, I started with Tarot, but it took Lenormand and Kippers to show me what cartomantic precision actually is! I don’t fault Tarot itself, I fault modern reading styles.) Approach things that way, and the answers are right in front of you. *wink*

Cards are the human condition and should not be “updated”

We were having an interesting discussion over at the Cartomancy Forum and I thought I’d post it here. Longish, meandering version: Donna Maritata

Short version: somebody wrote a bogus book (that will sell nonetheless, because there’s next to nothing in english) that “updated” the Sibilla’s Donna Maritata (Married Woman) to “Independent Career Women”.

And THAT, friends, totally loses the card essence.

She’s a person card, and she’s married or in a committed relationship (with a human, not a business), Giovine Fanciulla is young, Nemica is malicious, and so forth. Very simple. Cards that depict various livelihoods might describe her, but they could just as easily describe any of the other people cards.

Anyway, if you made her “independent”, you’d need another card for a stay at home mom, one for a woman drawing unemployment, one for a woman collecting disability, etc. And you’d have to do that with all the other people cards. Giovine Fanciulla as a working girl, a trust fund kid, a young kept mistress, etc. The damn deck would be a couple of feet thick. Just learn to read combinations. FFS.

Anyway, people go to jobs to get money. If a better job comes along, they leave and go to that one. We don’t give a shit about The Company – why should we? They don’t give a shit about us. Fuck them. We work because we don’t have a choice, other than homelessness.

And when we get home, we still have as much housework staring us in the face as a postwar housewife. We just don’t have the time or energy to do it as well as Mom did. (My generation’s moms used to iron sheets. SHEETS. I barely get to iron anything.)

I would certainly hope that everyone cares about their family much more than they care about some sociopathic corporation with no ethics, that just wants to work them down to a crippled up pile of nothing and throw them away like garbage.

Trust old Stella – it’s better to be nice to your kids than your supervisor. And never, ever assume that the Important Things have evaporated just because we’ve been forced into the workplace!

Tea & Cards With Mildred Payne

I’m still getting used to this deck, but so far it’s living up to its promise. Having Mildred around is like having your own private intelligence agency. If you didn’t see something coming, it’s because you didn’t ask her. This is a little draw I did last week.

Let me explain my situation a bit first: I have a regular job because it’s a dependable way to keep the bills paid. I do readings as well. A reader’s income fluctuates wildly – sometimes I make more than enough, other times there are dry spells. You never know if the month is going to bring imported cheeses or ramen. The landlord and the utility company like to get paid every month and are capable of making life quite hellish if I don’t comply in a reasonable amount of time. So I do both. You need more than one stream of income these days anyway.

There is a guy at my job – in my area, no less – who does not bathe. He stinks. I mean STENCH, since he hasn’t bathed or showered since last summer. Every shift is 12 hours of pure revulsion.

He is also lazy, has a rotten personality, and he’s a pathological liar. He sat there and kept eating when a lady nearby him was choking in the cafeteria. He’s dumb as rocks. He likes Trump. In other words, somebody I don’t want anywhere around me. I’ve complained about him all the way up the chain of command. Others have complained. I wrote an email to HR.

The draw was asking if he would be out of my work area that week.

The Key hints that he’ll be gone, but the other cards hint that it won’t be in that time period, and that’s exactly how it happened. Foot in this deck is about “footing” – stability and balance – not movement (that would be Boot – people are generally shod if they actually go anywhere.) Here, I think it’s literal, as well as his footing there being threatened. It’s tormented by the Devil and his Pitchfork. Factory could be the actual job. It also hints at “more and more” foot pain. He says he has plantar fasciitis. Maybe he does. Maybe that’s a lie, too – he’s morbidly, MORBIDLY obese, and that will do a number on a person’s feet, but I don’t feel sorry for him on that account. He eats three lunches at once and drinks three sodas with them. All he would have to do is cut out the sodas and he’d probably drop 100 pounds without doing anything else. There are other people working there who are almost as big. I’m sure their feet hurt, but they don’t use it as an excuse to remove their shoes and socks in the cafeteria, pick their feet, and then make a grab for other peoples’ chips, nor are their hands filthy. (He knows better than to try that with me. I make no secret of my loathing. I’d stick his hand with a fork if he did that. But he does it to others. People are keeping their chips in their laps now.)

But anyway, he’s there for that week, but the situation is extremely unstable and he won’t last much longer.

A lot of changes happen when we’re away for the holidays. So it might be as soon as January.

There is also the fact that I took time off between our days off, there’s a block of almost three weeks when everything will be up to him. He will have to do the scrap reports, clean, do the paperwork, keep up the board with the hourly numbers, etc. And he won’t.

Oh, and my email to HR. And complaints from a lot of other people.

And as clear and simple as these cards are, they’re also multifaceted. I posted this spread on facebook when I did it, and my good friend (and top tier reader!) Madame Nadia remarked that it looked like Hotfoot work. But I’m not saying I did that. If I had, I wouldn’t say too much about it.

Mildred Payne’s Secret Pocket Oracle

Gather round, people. I want to tell you about a deck that has already earned a place of honor on my kitchen table (along with the Ensslin and the Wirths. (The Thoth, Kippers, and Sibilla have their own special box on my nightstand.) But this thing – THIS THING! lives in my always-on-the-table Moscow Mule mug. It’s the deck I consult when I wake up and have coffee. No mean feat to earn that spot!

It’s not just a deck I like, it’s important. Why? Well, I can imagine Mr. Valenza being nagged to make a Lenormand, but he didn’t. He came up with something original. And he called it an oracle deck (I will be cackling maniacally posting Mildred Payne spreads at those oracle groups where everybody is into Doreen Virtue and the like! I should sign up for a few when I finish this. Bwaaa hahaha.)

It reads well. It doesn’t have a set tradition, everybody is using their own methods, but it seems to be readable right out of the box for most. I read it from a background of Lenormand, Kippers, Sibilla, etc. I watched some youtube videos and others are reading it differently. But everybody can use it.

It comes with suggested meanings, not so lengthy and detailed as to be impossible to remember, but varied enough to work. Read them, take what you need, and go from there. 😉

The main deck and the expansion pack come with a backstory, and lots of bells and whistles:

The story goes like this:
“Young Mildred is thought to have created her childlike yet fascinating oracle circa 1928 while a patient at Fenwood Asylum.
*(Her father committed her into the facility, believing her to be insane for talking with imaginary friends.)
While at Fenwood, Mildred never stopped contacting her “friends” with her handmade oracle.
*(Fellow inmates called her “Millie the Red Witch”)
Mildred kept her tiny deck hidden from authorities in a secret pocket.
*(Although her fate is unknown to this day, some think Mildred perished in the Great Asylum Fire of 1933. Others are convinced she started the blaze!)”

Source: Deviant Moon

We have photos, we have information. There may be a Mildred tulpa out there by now. Maybe she’ll come visit you.

Or me. Mildred loves me. I am not sure how I should feel about this. 😆

The backs are a puzzle that tells you a little more about Dear Mildred. The main deck does this. You have to include the title card and the Mildred photo card for it to work.
They’re not lined up perfectly, so parts may look a little off, but the positions are correct. (My coffee table is not perfectly flat, it’s “rustic”. I wanted hardwood, not veneer, and rustic was affordable.)
Some of the little captions are “The girls wanted to be like Mother”, “I died”, “Her nipples had eyes”, and “A body behind the shed”.
*throws final shovel of dirt on the grave of those Doreen type decks and walks away whistling* 😀

And here is the puzzle from the expansion pack, if you’d like to communicate with Mildred. I’d advise you to be nice to her. I’m told she likes to burn things. 😆

I can’t say enough about this deck. If you liked the Deviant Moon and/or the Trionfi Della Luna, you’ll love this. If you didn’t get on with those, you’ll still love this. And there’s the puzzle of Mildred and her haunted doll Claire (is the grave under the noose hers? Claire’s? Or a red herring?), and deciphering all that magical script.

It’s FUN. But it works – Mildred can hone in on secrets like nobody’s business.

The stock is sturdy, and though it’s not linen, it’s slippy. Jumpers are not uncommon (Mildred? Is that you?) A bit tough to riffle (it may soften up in time) but perfect for an overhand shuffle.

I like this thing so much, here’s a free line of five for all you guys (so somewhat over-generalized, but WTH) for the coming week:

Moving away from the lunacy of the last full moon, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all the general crazy, and looking forward to a peaceful holiday season. But wait – it’s threatened by the axe. Whether the axe hanging over your head is a retail job or toxic family members, hold on to the candle, be that little flame all by itself. If you can avoid retail hell and dinner with Grandpa Pennywise and Great Aunt Annie Wilkes (“Now we must rinse”), do it. To hell with ’em, let ’em get offended. If not, keep your head down and get through it (but don’t take any shit off of anybody!)

Dove reflects Moon and Candle, so if you’re “into stuff”, shake up your Peace Water and get your mojo on. Boot reflects Axe, so any upcoming problems will be the kind you walk into yourself. Watch your step.

Alternately, Boot + Axe could throw a monkey wrench in your travel plans. Just something to watch out for.

This deck will spawn many, many copycat decks with numbered single images, backstories, and puzzle backs, but there can only be one Mildred. Don’t be fooled by poor imitations, go here: Deviant Moon

Unboxing video from Kelly:

Expansion Pack: