Category Archives: Tarot

Thomson Leng, where have you been all my life?

The question is rhetorical, of course. The Thomson Leng Tarot has been around since 1935. The art is very 1930’s. And while the RWS is theatrical (some of the scenes are actually taking place on a stage), the Thomson Leng is cinematic.The extra card shown above reminds me of those prologues you see in movies from that era. Here’s one from 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (starring Errol Flynn and the marvelous Olivia deHavilland, who recently left us at the age of 104):

The Thomson Leng was originally published in 1935 as a promotional giveaway for a womens’ magazine in the UK. You can see the RWS influence – some things are almost identical – but some cards are quite different and there are other influences at play. Compare the arrangement of the Rods suit symbols to the corresponding cards in the Knapp Hall, published 6 years earlier:

I think using this deck could really open up the Knapp Hall. For all of Manly P. Hall’s wisdom and erudition, he wasn’t helpful in this regard at all:

and so I’ve been falling back on TdM/playing card meanings. It will be good to have a better understanding of the suit symbol configurations.

As it turns out, both the Thomson Leng and the Knapp Hall are influenced by Eudes Picard:


(Photo/scan credit to Philippe at http://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?p=4352748 )
(And wouldn’t I love to get my hands on a copy of THAT deck!)

The elements are switched around – Swords are water, Cups are air. Additionally, the Fool is numbered 21. So if you’re heavily invested in doing it differently, this might irk you. But I just view it as vacationing at a place where the rules are a little different. “When in Rome…” 😉

There may be some Vera Sibilla influence, as well. I wish I knew who drew the TL, I think they must have been pretty knowledgeable! This was in the 30’s, long before the internet, which makes it all utterly amazing.

All of this geeking out is fun, but it’s important to remember that this is a reading deck, designed for housewives and single working women, most of whom were surely hoping to become housewives. There’s no nudity other than one exposed boob on the World card, lol. And these women had questions about what will happen and cared not one whit for occult correspondences, the historical sources for the ideas behind the deck, or how/if the Fool should be numbered. They just wanted to tell fortunes, and the Thomson Leng delivers beautifully.

The reproduction includes spreads from the original instructions. Here’s one that Mary Greer blogged that looks fun: it has cards you can’t look at or “all the favorable indications will be reversed!” https://marykgreer.com/2009/07/16/the-eastern-cross-spread-thomson-leng-deck/#more-1755

They’re interesting, as spreads go, but when the rubber hits the road I don’t care much about spreads, and I wish they’d included the meanings, which are available free in PDF form where the deck is being sold. just scroll down: https://www.tarotcollectibles.com/store/p148/Thomson-Leng-Tarot.html

Those are the REAL treasure, purely cartomantic, stripped-down fortunetelling meanings with no filler, self-help pop psychology or new age platitudes. No tough esoteric nuts to crack, either. Here’s an excerpt:

When I was researching the deck online, I saw that someone said these were “wonky meanings”. Has Tarot fallen that far? Are practical meanings concerning things that people actually ask about considered “wonky”? Ghaaa.

That’s one thing I would have done differently, I’d have certainly included those meanings with the deck! The other thing is that this deck would be sumptuous in linen. The original was linen – in 1935! And going by photos I’ve seen, it was that old style cambric/linen finish that actually looked like woven cloth, not the tiny raised squares that pass for linen nowadays. But the stock is still excellent and the cards fan and shuffle beautifully. And they do make the PDF available on the website, so I really can’t complain too much. I hope they take these things into consideration for future editions, though. It would be enough to convince me to buy a second copy!

Here are more images. The Majors:

And a few notable Minors:

I suppose we have time for a quick test drive! Let’s do a fun one: Will Trump go to prison?

I like the Torah that the Great Priestess is holding, it suggests a reckoning. And she’s a card of secrets – what new information will come to light? The 5 of Swords is a card of loss…ours? We’ve collectively lost a lot because of him. But it could also be his loss. He’s done so much damage, virtually nobody wants him to get away unscathed. And the final card – hahaha, I love that the way that bound bundle of yellow wheat looks like his hair, and it’s hemmed in on four sides and guarded by a lion. But I’ll check the LWB since this Tarot is so new to me. “Power and plenty, with a fine chance of health and happiness, will be yours.” It’s obviously a harvest card. We will harvest what we have cultivated, and in his case that’s lies, hate, and greed.

The cards don’t promise prison. But there will be consequences. Seized assets and imposed limitations at the very least.

All in all, I love the deck. The 30’s are my favorite decade and I adore things from that era: movies, Art Deco, fashions…well, everything except the appalling racism, grinding poverty and the rise of fascism in Germany. But (with the exception of racism, we still have a lot of work to do to eradicate that) I think that for the most part, people dealt with those things effectively. Of course history repeats and these things are rearing their ugly heads again, but I like having a historical template of what worked. It’s a very relatable time. And the deck seems relatable, too!

You can purchase the Thomson Leng (and download the LWB) at this link: https://www.tarotcollectibles.com/store/p148/Thomson-Leng-Tarot.html

The Impact of Pirated Decks

I’m featuring a little of Ciro Marchetti’s work* in the photo above because there won’t be any more new decks. Ciro has announced publicly that he won’t be doing any more. Shoddy pirated copies of his decks have been turning up for a long time now. It’s everywhere, and he’s tired of the constant effort of fighting it. I think he means it. He’s out. This is what he had to say:

“As I have already indicated, I will probably not design any more decks, and certainly not license the remaining ones I’ve self published. Because I simply can’t deal or compete with the pirates. Who are pretty much just sitting there waiting for whatever my next deck might be so they can get to work and steal it. I’m not even going to discuss anymore the absurd justifications that people have for buying them, for example that it’s the only way they can afford a new deck…and quite frankly I’m becoming increasingly cynical that anyone can be that gullible as to think that a new deck going for about $7 is anything but a rip off. So it is what it is. All I ask now, is please at least don’t add insult to injury by contacting me directly and asking if I can provide the companion book or meanings of the cards, because that “bargain” copy you bought didn’t come with a book…I’m simply not that nice a person…”

I’m sure there will be much more piracy to follow. Virtually everyone who’s been creating popular, well-received decks for awhile has had their work ripped off this way, and it keeps getting worse.

The biggest offenders seem to be the printers in China, Russia, and the Ukraine. This is what Mr. Marchetti has to say on the difference between Russia/Ukraine and Chinese piracy:

“Russia and the Ukraine as a source of piracy was, based on my experience, more one of opportunistic individuals. From what I could tell they were small scale and basically producing their rip offs by scanning a legit deck. Not nice, still theft but the scale wasn’t a great threat. China was also of course dabbling. But I sensed a ramping up of the quantity and sophistication of the operation in China over the last year. It seemed to me that this had gone from individuals such as those in Russia and the Ukraine who I had had some success in shutting down to a more ominous operation. More titles and more savvy. The number of decks being offered on platforms such as Amazon, Etsy, Wish etc, were too many and it was obvious they were connected. Despite the variety of price range and product description, they often used the same product photos. This approach serves a very practical purpose, by scattering their presence via supposedly appearing to be different sellers, they are in fact one and the same, as such they are somewhat invulnerable to any cease and desist letters that might cause one of their many tentacles to be taken down, the others remain actively wriggling away. This to me suggests a more organized infrastructure that knows what its doing, along with access to duplicates of the original files…not simple crude scans. This is far more ominous, and despite my sharing my fears, the publishers seemed to be reluctant to even consider this possibility. They were sure their suppliers were legit. And so they might be, but doesn’t mean that everyone in the art department who has access to those files isn’t a potential source of the duplication…it would be naive to dismiss that possibility. Based on more recent communications with them, I sense the publisher now seem to be acknowledging the seriousness of the threat and are beginning to take more active steps in their attempts to combat it.”

This site is currently offering more than 200 different counterfeited decks and many examples of stolen art on spreadcloths, bags etc.:

A closer look:

If people were free to speak openly about this, the offenders would be known and noted. One deck creator who was badly burned by a printing company in China, and advised by their legal counsel not to send files there, was recently accused of racism simply for quoting that advice.

But it’s not racism – pirating IS a major problem in China. The copyright laws have no teeth over there, and it’s very difficult to sue if shoddy $5 copies of your deck end up on Wish. With few or no consequences for deck pirating, people take advantage. If it were the same here in the US, you’d see people of all races doing the same thing. It has nothing to do with race, it just happens to be taking place in China on a large scale because of issues with the legal system. We have issues with our legal system, too, just different ones. We’re not “better”, we just have different issues.

Warning people not to send files there after being badly burned that way, having files leaked, having to shut down unauthorized sales, and seeing it happen to many others, is not equal to calling on people to “boycott China”, which was another accusation. It would be impossible to “boycott China”, since most of the things people use are made there. Those words were never used. This whole thing is being twisted. People are starting to open their eyes and acknowledge that a lot of what goes on in the world is racist. That’s a good thing. But it’s disingenuous, to put it mildly, to exploit these good intentions in order to gaslight and attempt to destroy a business rival, deflect attention from the real problem, defend one’s own connections with printers, or whatever might be at play behind the scenes.

I’ve gone to the mat with people who disparage the Chinese – and other races – both IRL and online. People who know me know that I do this. But if one is not familiar with every printing office in China, which factories are affiliated with or contracted by them, and the full history of all of these, then it’s a huge risk to send files there due to the difficulty of suing in the event that the files are leaked. NOT because Chinese people live there.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop them from obtaining a deck and scanning it. But those scans would not have the quality and resolution of files from the artist. And when you hire them to print your deck, there’s nothing to stop them from running extra copies without your permission, and selling them. That’s happened, too.

Piracy is rampant, and should not be tolerated. Every printing company that leaks files SHOULD be called out, named and shamed, even if they happen to be in China. All this gaslighting is going to accomplish is to make people hesitant to speak up. It’s toxic.

We have a choice: Call them out, or lose our artists.

*The top photo features the Mini Tarot of Dreams and spreadcloth. This deck and more are available here https://www.ciromarchetti.com/

Killing the Glad Girl

There is a scene early in the film Red Dust where Clark Gable goes to toss a drunk worker at his rubber plantation into bed, and discovers that Jean Harlow has taken up residence there. She kicks the drunk to the floor, and the exchange goes like this:

Harlow: You’re not going to leave the corpse here?
Gable: It’s his room. Didn’t you know?
Harlow: Honest I didn’t. I just took the first room the houseboy showed me. Oh, please you guys. This place is full of lizards and cockroaches as it is.
Gable: One more won’t hurt. Come on, lets have it. Who are you? Where’d you come from?
Harlow: Don’t rush me, brother. I’m Pollyanna, the Glad Girl.

She means it sarcastically – she’s a stranded hooker (yet the most ethical and compassionate character in the movie. It’s a great film.) And I was intrigued by what it was referring to – a Depression-era advertising shill? Some cartoon lady who was glad because her floors were shiny, or her dishes were super clean? So I googled.

It turned out that “Pollyanna the Glad Girl” is regular old Pollyanna, the eternal optimist. She’s pathologically optimistic.

From wikipedia:
“The title character is Pollyanna Whittier, an eleven-year-old orphan who goes to live in the fictional town of Beldingsville, Vermont, with her wealthy but stern and cold spinster Aunt Polly, who does not want to take in Pollyanna but feels it is her duty to her late sister. Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game,” an optimistic and positive attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation, no matter how bleak it may be. It originated in an incident one Christmas when Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel, found only a pair of crutches inside. Making the game up on the spot, Pollyanna’s father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because she did not need to use them.”

It’s all well and good to find some little silver lining in a bad situation. But to paint the whole thing with a broad brush and say it’s a positive – NO. If your partner punched your teeth out, I hope you wouldn’t say that they were a bit crooked or stained anyway, and now you can get some lovely caps. I hope you wouldn’t stay with him and hope to win him over and mend his ways with your “positive attitude”, the way Pollyanna did her creepy old aunt in the book. Would a qualified therapist tell you to do that? No, they’d try to get it into your head that you need to GTFO.

That book is from an era when kids weren’t supposed to feel sad, or angry, or disappointed, they were supposed to SHUT UP. Fred Rogers grew up in that era, and he dedicated his life to countering the idea and telling kids that it’s OK to FEEL things. I highly recommend the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” You can rent it on amazon prime for a pittance – about $2.99. Here’s Mr. Rogers winning over a hardassed senator who was all set to refuse him funding. I think Senator Pastore was raised with similar rules, and he could relate:

A majority of people here in the US are uninsured, or underinsured, and can’t afford quality, certified counseling or therapy. So people seek out reassurance from readers, aspiring readers, bad readers, all kinds of readers, in card reading communities. Often free, from new readers trying to gain experience, from incompetent readers, from readers following the lead of others. The good, seasoned readers are outnumbered by the bad ones, and people will cherry pick what they want to hear, anyway. And this phony reading is becoming normalized. It’s not difficult to find articles like this one https://www.dailydot.com/irl/tarot-cards-facebook/

Reassurance is not therapy. Therapy is, by all accounts, HARD. People who tell you everything will be OK and you’re doing the right thing (even if you aren’t) are not therapists. We’re venturing into pathological things like co-dependence and denial here.

I’m here to tell you that you’re better off with NO treatment that with BAD treatment.

Card reading – real card reading – is predictive fortunetelling. We don’t pretend to fix people or “make everything all better.” When asked what the cards say, we interpret them – AS IS. Death or the Coffin are endings, not “transformation”.

We’re living in time-space, and that means loss sometimes. Think back to your past. Even if you made it to this point without being truly, horribly abused in any way, you’ve experienced pain. People die, pets die, bad things happen sometimes. That’s just the way life is, it HURTS, and we need to acknowledge that, not stick our heads in the sand and go “LA LA LA LA LA – NOT LISTENING!”

I can’t reassure anybody that everything will be OK without lying. “Everything” is NEVER OK. But this lowlife fortuneteller (with about as much respectability as Harlow’s hooker Vantine in Red Dust), can do everything in her power to Keep It Real. It’s helpful – I rely on reading for myself, and my clients say that they’re helped by readings – but it’s NOT therapy.

The only thing it has in common with actual therapy is that it acknowledges when something is wrong.

If you really feel called to become a counselor, here are the requirements to be licensed in your state. “Owning a Tarot deck and practicing on the internet” is not one of them. https://careersinpsychology.org/how-to-become-a-licensed-counselor/

Frankie Albano, please call home

(Disclaimer: the title of this post is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, and is not an actual plea. 😉 )

One of the most fascinating mysteries of the Tarot world is “What ever happened to Frankie Albano?” He seems to have dropped off the face of the earth after publishing his tres 60’s recoloring of the RWS.(But he appears to have colored his deck according to B.O.T.A instructions, not as an attempt to create anything “psychedelic”. Note the purple mountains on the Fool: https://www.tarotforum.net/showthread.php?t=186698 and the rainbow on Temperance http://waitesmith.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/bota_sm_trumps2-min.jpg )

The first thing one turns to when looking to see if fresh information has surfaced is google. And this page features prominently in the results: https://waitesmith.org/index.php/tarot-productions-resident-genius-frankie-albano/

From it, we can see that there was someone named Frankie Albano making records. The text, however, leaves much to be desired. It states that Frankie Albano and the Deadbeats “released a promo single for Dondee records in 1936, even though the single was originally set down in 1922” But if you’ve ever spent any time with old records, you know that 45 RPM singles with big center holes requiring an adaptor didn’t even exist in the 1930’s. From Wikipedia: “The 7-inch 45 rpm record was released 31 March 1949 by RCA Victor as a smaller, more durable and higher-fidelity replacement for the 78 rpm shellac discs.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_%28music%29#7-inch_format

As we can see here, “1936” would have been the catalog number: http://www.45cat.com/label/dondee I have no idea what the number “1922” is, but it’s certainly not a year, either.

I did find the record on the Tower label on youtube. It’s got a Jan and Dean/Beach Boys flavor, but Albano’s vocals seem to be influenced by Frankie Valli:

A bit of trivia: Besides Frankie Albano and the Deadbeats, there was a Tommy Love and the Deadbeats recording on the Dondee label. https://www.discogs.com/artist/3684242-Tommy-Love-And-The-Deadbeats
They recorded for the Orbit label as well, and you can easily find them on youtube. From listening to the vocals, it’s obvious that Tommy Love is NOT Frankie Albano. But one can speculate that they knew each other, if indeed they’re backed by the same band.

There is also a Frank Albano (born 1939, making him about the same age as our guy) who is the current reputed underboss of the Trafficante crime family in Tampa, Florida. But this is not the Tarot guy, obviously. I DO think the singer is the Albano who did the deck, though. In the early to mid 60’s, he took a shot at fame and fortune with a mashup of beach music and Frankie Valli style vocals. When that didn’t work, he left the music business, and in 1967 he did a mashup of Tarot and Ouija:

Are you starting to see a pattern here? A man who likes to combine things? Beach music and Frankie Valli. Tarot and Ouija. RWS and BOTA. 😉

Then the deck came along in 1968. And not a peep out of him after the deck.

Mysteries like this are perfect for reading cards. So why not ask HIS deck?

“What became of Frankie Albano after he disappeared?”

First, we have Death. And I suspect there’s a literal slant, he’d be very old if he was still around. But I don’t think he ended up like Jimmy Hoffa. The other cards are saying he was around for awhile. Death is also “That’s it, the end”, talking about him walking away from his old life. There’s a finality to it. Next, we have the 10 of Pentacles. It’s a card of monetary success, he made a decent living doing something else, for awhile at least. Pamela Colman Smith’s image is interesting in this reading: Odysseus has returned home, and nobody knows him but his old dogs. There’s a certain anonymity about it. Hiding in plain sight, not being recognized. The Six of Pents is also a card of Success, but we’ve dropped back down to 6 from 10. It also reflects the Death card. So it’s probable that the prosperity of the 10 didn’t last, but I still don’t see him as one of the beggars here. He just did VERY well for awhile, and then something changed and he just did OK. For those who are interested, the Qabalistic correspondences are the axis Tiphareth – Netzach, Malkuth through Earth, and Tiphareth through Earth. Almost like a round trip.;)

All of this makes me wonder if “Frankie Albano” might be a stage name. At the time he was recording, the industry was full of Italian teen heartthrobs like Dion, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, and so many others – including the aforementioned Frankie Valli. A name like “Frankie Albano” would have seemed like a pretty good strategy at the time. Maybe he retained the name during his Tarot phase, and then dropped it, dropped out of sight, and started going by his legal name again. That goes a long way towards explaining why there’s no trace of “Frankie Albano”.

This is pure speculation, but one possibility is that he went back to wherever he came from and went into the family business. I can easily imagine “Frankie” rebelling and running off to California to try to be a rock star, and later, to make a name for himself in Tarot. But when it didn’t pay off as planned, returning and taking up the yoke.

He could have repaired your washing machine, or owned the corner liquor store, or sold you a car, or installed your Aunt’s carpet…

I like to think his later career was something more creative. But he could have been anybody.

No Time Like The First Time (University Books RWS)

OK, Betty’s talking about sex. But I want you to do this for me if you will: think back…to your very… first…DECK.

Mine was a University Books RWS, a lonnnnng time ago. I had it for about 10 years, from about age 13 to 23. It finally got lost in a move.

I loved that deck! (In spite of the crazy pink ankh backs.) I used to practice while my roommates were watching boring television, endlessly riffle shuffling and laying the cards out. One guy, superstitiously, got scared I was putting curses on him. 😆 I probably should have, he was a shitbag! But the Karminator eventually got him. 😉 All hail the Karminator!

A few years after I lost that deck, a friend gifted me another RWS, a “normal” one with plaid backs, but I couldn’t love it. I didn’t know why, and guessed that maybe I’d moved on? The deck was special for sentimental reasons (the gifter was a good friend, the best anyone could hope for – Brandi/Judy if you’re out there, leave me a comment!) but I just couldn’t get into it the way I used to.

The years went on. I got an “Original” RWS, and I liked the green tones in the deck, but not the lines. (The lines were so borked, some of the facial expressions were changed. Case in point: the Empress.) That deck isn’t really original, I’m told it’s from a 1930’s print made when the plates were quite worn.

But – besides the “Original” phase, the font phase, the copyrights on the card faces, etc. – all of which I could overlook – something else was not right. And it took getting another copy of the University Books deck on ebay for me to figure it out. Look at these brilliant turquoise blues!

And the curious details like the extra rock on the island behind the 2 of Swords lady:

    And the half-shadow on Rosalind’s face:

    Compare the colors. The USG High Priestess has dull, greyish blues and near-invisible greens. But the University Books High Priestess – well, see for yourself!

    For me, there is no RWS that can compare with University Books. Not the Centennial, hell, not even a Pam A or B. The only beef I ever had with it was those pink ankh backs (they bugged me back then!), but now I appreciate the sheer kitschiness of them. Of all the RWS repros I’ve seen, none beat this one. ❤

    What was your first deck? 😀

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

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*

A Night Off With Mr. Ensslin and Mr. Wirth

…and Mr. Vodka and Mr. Tequila. So I will loosen up and talk about a sector of my life I don’t talk about much.

What is a Tarot but Majors and Minors? And what are Minors, but Pips? The Lenormand, arguably, is a reduced Pip deck.

The Majors speak in great depth, they resonate with Kabbalah/Qabalah, elemental dignities, Hebrew letters, gematria…but the Minors tell us about the world here below, what generally concerns us. “Will he ask me out?” “Is my job secure?” “Will my parcel arrive?”

But the most incisive, to-the-point Pip deck I have encountered is Lenormand.

I know that noobs want to shuffle everything together and read them in “intuitive” combinations. I am not suggesting that anyone do that. Oh HELL no.

But from what I understand, Continental readers lay the Majors and Minors out separately. The Majors for the deep, causative stuff, and the Minors for how it’s all effecting us here on the “meat wheel” (thank you, Mr. Kerouac*. You were a goddamn wino, but I love you for this. And On The Road. You crazy genius motherfucker. RIP.)

So, what better layout than a good old Majors-only Wirth, and a few Lenormand cards?

I asked about my (non-reading, it takes several streams of income to pay the bills these days, sadly. Oh, how I wish I was June Cleaver!) job. I can see things going wacky there. We make computer automotive parts (like those things that beep when you back up and there’s something you’re going to hit.) My line puts shock absorber pads on the metal shields that hold the little circuit boards.

It’s all crazy now because we have seven lines that build these units, but our line that supplies them is being cut down to nothing. Machines we use are being shipped out. And they give us the shittiest people – currently we have a morbidly obese mofo there who only bathes when we make a complaint. He’s lazy AF and he’s got the personality of a moat – you know the moat was where the castle sewerage went. Before him, there was a psychotic lady. I had to put in a “hostile work environment” complaint to get her the f*** away from me. And that’s the easy part, I’ll get him out, too. But there will be another after him, and another…AAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH.

We already lost a contract with Ford. I think we will lose another.

Everything is in flux there, in a really stupid kind of way. So I asked – in general – how it will come out. (I know everything up to this has been bitch-gripe-grumble-fuck. But the background is relevant to the cards.)

Again – Birds – Cat – Mice _ Fish – Ship

The Ensslin is not a regular Lenormand> When I first got it, I was inclined to substitute Cross meanings for Cat, but Jon St, Germain tells me that he uses it for nosiness and interference, and that works for me. (LOL, CATS.)

Stress and hecticness and gossip combined with nosiness leads to financial loss. A lot of talking and movement, but the shipment (or two, or more) is not made. Decision makers are dropping the ball in a big way. A lot of intrigue and talking and yammering, but no substance. Playing at work. Birds reflecting Ship, stress over a shipment (that should just HAPPEN, in a sane world. What is so hard about building shit, packing it, and shipping it out? I mean, if you have the machines to do that. Which we did – BEFORE THEY GOT RID OF THEM.), Cat + Ship, they have their nose in it (the shipment) but it’s all wrong. Mice take Cat (“SHUT UP”) but they shit on Fish (money).

WHY?

Magician – Moon – Fool

Magician is a trickster. Sleight of hand, con games. The people at the top are losing for a reason – tax writeoff? IDK, but it’s intentional. The Moon, things are lit dimly, people get away with things in the shadows. (Goddamn weasels.) The Fool is an utter ass who thinks he knows it all – watch out for that croc, dude.

Synthesis: The ass is leading the head, like some kind of backwards snake. Failure in 3…2…

Mr. Dreidel says “do nothing”. So I will shut up and keep plugging.

*211th Chorus

The wheel of the quivering meat
conception
Turns in the void expelling human beings,
Pigs, turtles, frogs, insects, nits,
Mice, lice, lizards, rats, roan
Racinghorses, poxy bucolic pigtics,
Horrible unnameable lice of vultures,
Murderous attacking dog-armies
Of Africa, Rhinos roaming in the
jungle,
Vast boars and huge gigantic bull
Elephants, rams, eagles, condors,
Pones and Porcupines and Pills-
All the endless conception of living
beings
Gnashing everywhere in Consciousness
Throughout the ten directions of space
Occupying all the quarters in & out,
From supermicroscopic no-bug
To huge Galaxy Lightyear Bowell
Illuminating the sky of one Mind-

Poor!
I wish I was free
of that slaving meat wheel
and safe in heaven dead.
Jack Kerouac

Counterfeit deck alert

I think the world is aware of this by now, but just in case you are not on facebook or AT or any of that, the Victorian Romantic Tarot by Baba Studios has been counterfeited by Oranum.

This is the REAL Victorian Romantic:
0babareal1

And this is the fake one. All cheap plastic and loud colors too, a really bad print. Très trashy, is it not?
0oranumfakeass

They did not get permission to do this. Karen and Alex are NOT amused – that deck took ages to perfect.

Karen wrote this:

“Please help us to fight illegal bootlegging and counterfeiting! Were you offered any of these counterfeit decks?

We have discovered that Oranum has taken our Victorian Romantic cards and bootlegged them with their own brand put on the back. We believe they did this over a year ago.

By the way, although they have been informed of this, and have been asked to remove all images and references to this deck, two days later they are still showing these illegal counterfeit goods on their Facebook page and we think, in many other places.Their social media manager has been in touch with us, but has apparently made no effort to remove these images and references.
facebook.com/Oranum.Global/

This damages us not only financially, but also in terms of brand and reputation, as the cards were not done under any license from us and we would obviously never have authorised this.

Please help by letting us know if you have seen, were given or offered any of these illegal decks (you can of course PM or email us).

We are proceeding with full legal action and all evidence will be helpful to us when this reaches court. Please help small studios fight this theft of our work.”

Oranum has always struck me as somewhat sleazy. I tried working for them a few years ago. You have to hang out in an open chat room doing free mini readings and booting perverts out, waiting for someone to take you to a private video chat for a paid reading (who is hopefully not also a freak that you have to boot). As time goes on and you boot more and more guys who want you to watch them snap their carrots, your traffic goes WAY down.

Kind of makes you think the whole thing is a cover for a jack site, doesn’t it?

Anyway, enough meandering. If you have any of the information Karen is looking for, you can contact her through the Baba Studios facebook page, or use the contact email on the Baba website.

And if you somehow missed the Victorian Romantic and you MUST get a copy, the authentic ones come up on ebay all the time. Or you could just give it some time, Karen is talking about doing another edition in a year or two. In any case, save your ducats for the real thing and not this Oranum garbage.