Tarot for Teens: Picking a Deck

Grace over Tarot (2)Tarot for Teens is a book I am working creating.  After more than 30 years studying the Tarot, I have realized that even the best Tarot books are incredibly dry and boring to today’s teens and young adults who are comfortable with a more interactive way of learning.  Tarot for Teens is my answer to this.  Its final form might not even be a book.  It might be a series of Youtube videos or maybe a chip that can be directly uploaded to special receptors that everyone will have installed in their cerebral cortexes in a few years.  Whatever its final form, Tarot for Teens is my way of bring the Tarot to a new generation of occult students.

The first thing that I want to talk about is deck selection.  If you are reading this, there is a good chance that you already have a deck.  Maybe it was given to you or maybe you bought it.  However, if you get into the Tarot on any level, you will probably buy at least one more deck eventually.  So you should know what to look for.

All the Tarot everywhere fall into two umbrella-like groups.  They 4 of pentacles comparisonwere either designed to be divination tools or they were designed to be 78 cool pieces of art.  Both are perfectly valid reasons to design a Tarot deck.  Both are perfectly good reasons to buy decks.  However, while Tarot decks that were designed mainly to be cool works of art, can be used for divination, they really aren’t the best choice.  Beginning readers need a deck that has clear symbols and traditional images.  So while you may just LOVE the Vampire Tarot that you picked up, you might want to think about getting a more ordinary deck until you have some experience under your belt.

 

Within Ace of Swords Morgan Greereach umbrella group, decks can be divided into two more broad categories.  Are they ‘Rider’ based decks or ‘Thoth’ based decks?  Back during one of Western Europe’s many occult revivals, specifically the one during the turn of the 19th century into the 20th century, two very prominent occultists designed Tarot decks.  The Rider pack was designed by A. E. White and illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith.  The Thoth deck was the brain child of Aleister Crowley and FrAceOfSwordsThothTarotieda Harris was his illustrator.  There are many similarities between the decks and many differences.  Some schools of occult thought adopted the Rider pack and others adopted the Thoth deck.  There are readers who will passionately defend one style as being superior to the other.  I have found it to be purely a matter of personal taste and how a deck ‘feels’ in the
hand.  If you have an allegiance to either style feel free to pick a deck from that tradition.Magician compared

When you are picking up what will be, for all intents and purposes, your training deck, there are some specific things you need to look for besides style.  These are clarity, color, background, symbolism, artistry and empathy.

Art Tarot Card 2It is important for the picture on each card to be clear.  Many ‘artwork’ decks fill the card with a jumble of images.  The card is busy.  There’s a lot going on.  Sometimes the artist adopts an abstract or impressionistic style.  These are often some of the coolest looking Tarot cards ever, but they are difficult to read.  So look at the pictures and see if they’re clear.

“How do I know if the picture is clear when I don’t know what the card is supposed to look like?”  This is reasonable question.  An artist who is creating a picture with the sole purpose of communicating two or three intimately connected ideas better be able to get that idea across in general terms even to a complete novice.  Take, for
example, the five of cups. It does not take an art degree to know that these cards are about regret.  So look for a deck with clear pictures whose meanings come through to
you even without knowing the ‘book cups05bdefinitions’.  Most of the Tarot practitioners I know have three or four cards that they use as measures when picking a new deck.  I use the 2 of
Cups, Death and the 9 of Swords.  You will eventually find your ‘measuring’ cards as you grow as a reader.

Let’s talk about color next.  This part is completely a matter of personal taste.  The pallet an artist chooses says a great deal about the emotions they want to inspire and the themes they are focused on.  How you react to that pallet will affect how you interpret the cards.  I once owned a deck whose colors were circus-poster bright.  The colors nearly gave a headache every time I used the deck.  Needless to say, I didn’t use it that often.  So pick a deck with colors you like and that speaks to you.

Background is related to clarity.  Unlike other forms of divination, the Tarot does not rely on isolated symbols, patterns or runes.  In the Tarot the entire picture tells the story.  It embodies the idiom “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  DB Pentacles 10The ten of Pentacles illustrates this perfectly.  The traditional 10 of Pentacles shows an old man with a young child in the foreground.  Behind them is a castle surrounded by lush fields and an adult couple.  The ten pentacles are often on banners hanging off the castle walls or on pennants flying above it.  The card is about wealth and family and the stability that comes from having both.  Without all three background images, the full meaning might not be clear.

Symbolism.  What can we say about symbolism?  Symbolism is the backbone of the Tarot.  Everything else hangs on the central symbols of a given card.  While different decks sometimes use different symbols, the symbols themselves should be easy to see and their messages clear.  Common Tarot symbols include food, flowers, animals, lightning, pillars, plowed fields/wildlands, tools and the lemniscate (a.k.a dict_lemniscate smallthe infinity symbol {a.k.a. sideways figure 8}).

The second to last thing to consider is artistry.  Do you like the artist’s work?  Period.  If you don’t like the artist’s work, it will be almost impossible to read with the deck regularly.  The Tarot is a divination system completely centered on aesthetics, the psychological responses to beauty and artistic experiences.  If the artistic experience you get whenever you layout a reading is negative, you won’t get much out of the reading.  Pick a deck you enjoy looking at because you’re going to be looking at it a lot.

The last item to consider when picking a deck is closely related to artistry.  It is a nebulous.  One that is completely subjective.  I call it ‘Empathy’.  Do yoaceofcups Robin Woodu feel a connection to the deck?  Does it feel good in your hands?  Do you find the pictures evocative?  Does it speak to you?  Do you get an ‘I-must-have-this!’ feeling when you see it?  You will not have empathy for every deck you buy.  Some you will buy because you like the pictures. Almost every Dali deck ever sold was bought by someone who just wanted 78 Salvador Dali prints.  Some decks you will buy because they’re ‘good enough’ and you just need a deck.  However, if you study the Tarot in depth, you will find a deck that speaks to you and that will be the one you use most frequently.

There is no precise formula to find out which deck is right for you.  The process of picking a deck makes me think of Harry Potter’s first trip to Olivander’s Wand Shop.  For those who have neither read the book nor seen the movie, Olivander announces that “The wand chooses the wizard” after Harry has tried dozens of wands without finding the right one.  Another way to look at it is “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.”  You have to try a lot of different decks before you find the one that works best for you.  After you have worked with your deck for a while, you will know if it is right for you or not.  Meanwhile, shop around.  Look online, at bookstores and specialty stores. You will eventually find ‘your’ deck.Occult bookstore

One last thing about choosing decks. If you work with the Tarot over many years, it is possible that you will change decks.  The deck that fit your hand like a glove will slowly stop feeling so right.  Another deck will feel like a better fit.  When that happens, change.  People change over time.  What was a favorite in your twenties, will be on a shelf gathering dust in your thirties.  It is the way of things. When you feel it is time to move on to a new deck, move on.  It’s all good.

 

 

 

Visualization: Not as Easy as It Looks

There's more to it than just contemplating your navel.

There’s more to it than just contemplating your navel.

A Facebook friend of mind recently posted about the trouble she was having visualizing things and making them manifest.  Her post went something like “I’ve been visualizing like crazy, but all I have to show for it is a big pile of … dirt.”  The comments offered very nebulous advice.  “Keep trying the Goddess will provide.”  “The universe will always give you what you ask for.”  “You need to visualize your desires more clearly.”  None of the advice seemed very helpful to me and I’ve been successfully visualizing things and having them manifest for years.  Many new practioners have similar problems so I decided to write out my tips for successful visualization.  I hope they are helpful.

We make it sound so easy. ‘Just visualize what you want and the universe will give it to you.’ What a bunch of bullshit! It ranks up there with the love advice “As soon as you stop looking for a boyfriend, you’ll get a boyfriend.” and the psych 101 game of “Stand in the corner and don’t think of a white elephant.” AHHHHH!!!!

I will tell you what helped me crack the ‘visualize it.” riddle.

First was advice from my friend Bob. Do something concrete to aid in your visualization. Bob had me write out a sentence in the present tense of what I wanted. {Here is what it is “I live in a three bedroom house with a basement, backyard and garage which I can comfortably afford). Then he told me to write that sentence once a day and to move 1% toward that goal every day. Another thing I did was build my “New House” playlist filled with songs that captured what I wanted in a house and home. I listened to that constantly. Finally, I made up a game with my sons. When we were bored or unhappy with the house we were living in, we would discuss decorating, organizing and furnishing our dream house. (Note – you can only do this with kids old enough to know that the dream house isn’t going to be the house you get. For example, even if everything works out perfectly we are never going to have a zoo in our backyard.)

No matter how big my dream house is, it will never have a zoo in the backyard.

No matter how big my dream house is, it will never have a zoo in the backyard.

Another good way to visualize something is to make sure you see it frequently every day.  This can be a picture that you put up where you will see it often – on your cubicle wall, by your bathroom mirror, or taped to your front door.  It can be a picture you draw, print off the computer or cut from a magazine.  If it is an abstract idea – love, abundance, balance – try using a Tarot card or other symbolic image.  So lesson one – do something physical to help keep yourself focused on your visualization.

A lot of times when we try to visualize bringing something into our lives we accidentally focus on the lack thereby reinforcing the absence and calling more of the same into our lives. This is a particularly huge landmine in money spells/visualizations. When trying to call money, we focus on what we need the money for and we summon more of the need to us instead of the money to fill the need. It took me forever to get past this hump.  What finally did the trick was the Cherokee parable about the two wolves. The grandfather is teaching the children and tells them a story. ‘Inside each person are two wolves locked in a constant battle. One is filled with joy, peace, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, goodness, joy, courage, strength and love.  The other is filled with anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false-pride evil, grief, bitterness, and hate.’ His grandson pipes up, ‘Which one wins?’ and the grandfather answers, ‘The one you feed.’

I love that story and the first time I heard it, it made me think about all the things I feed with negative talk, hyper-critical self-talk and just everyday run of the mill griping. So I learned to monitor my thoughts and my speech and even my Facebook posts. When I’d catch myself feeding something negative, I would stop myself and switch to feeding the opposite.  I’ll give you an example. When I would drive, particularly in the rain, I’d constantly fuss ‘Will I get pulled over?’ ‘What if I get in an accident?’ ‘What if something bad happens?’ You would not believe how many bad things I drew to myself with that self-talk. So when I catch myself beginning that mantra of evil, I say out loud. “No, I’m not going to feed that.” Then I’d say a quick prayer to the Goddess. “Mary, please bring me safely there and safely back.” The incidents of bad things happening while I drive has gone down dramatically.  Lesson two – be careful what you feed with your energy.

Finally, write a mantra.  This is similar to the sentence described above.  However, this is something you say out loud to yourself several times a day.  Mantras need to be positive, strong and in the present tense.  They can be direct and concrete like “I enjoy eating healthy foods” or abstract and intricate like “As I see the deeper meaning, of what happens in my life, I let go of blame for all the pain, as my growth is worth the price”. (from the Pele Report by

Kaypacha's Mantra for March 27th of this year.

Kaypacha’s Mantra for March 27th of this year.

Kaypacha.)  Rhyming can help if you have that gift.  I don’t so my mantra’s are more like the first example.  Whether you go for basic or flowery, a strong mantra can give your visualization the power boost it needs.

There are many ways to improve your visualization skills.  You can find books, videos and blogs galore to help you improve.  These few tips should give you a good foundation to start.  The main thing to remember is that just like a lot of seemingly simple things in life, visualization is a lot harder that it appears.  So give yourself a break.  Be patient and keep working at it.  You’ll get better at it and then life really will bring you what you need.

Blessed be.

Poverty is NOT a Crime

Police carI am tired of being penalized for being poor. Being poor sucks. Your clothes are always old and worn and often don’t fit because they’re hand-me-downs. The place you live is a dump and even when it is sparkling clean, it’s still a dump. Your children suffer because you’re so tired from trying to make ends meet that you hardly have energy to help them with their homework, let alone play with them or take them places. You spend most of your life stressed and just two steps away from panic because, at the best of times, you’re three steps away from having the electricity turned off or being evicted.

However, that isn’t hard enough for modern American Society which has decided that being poor is some sort of moral failing. For reasons beyond understanding The Land of The Free has decided that poor people must be legally and financially penalized for the crime of being poor. “That’s not true.” I hear you think, gentle reader. Ah, but it is. The penalties are hidden. I am going to pull back the curtain and show the realities of these laws and their fines.

Remember as I tell my story that poor people usually have NO spare money. My aunt told me once “Always have $100 in your checking account that you don’t put in your register. Just forget it’s there. That way you will never be overdrawn.” Well, that advice is great assuming that you HAVE $100 you can leave idle.

Consider the following facts. Public transportation barely exists in Illinois outside of Chicago. I live in Kane County, IL. Communities that have bus systems have limited hours and cover a limited area. Chicago has an excellent public transportation system, but the cost of living in the city is prohibitive. So if you want to live in a safe, clean community with decent schools you must live in the suburbs or small towns. Therefore driving a car is a necessity.

It is interesting that a driver’s license which most people MUST have to live a productive, socially contributing life is considered a privilege while owning a gun, which at best can protect a person from a criminal or at worst allows a person to become a murderer, is a right. That, however, is a debate for another day.

So to have a job, to go grocery shopping, to go to the doctor a poor person must have a car. That is a large expense and most poor people buy used cars and drive them until they fall to pieces like the car in the Blues Brothers movie. Upkeep for the car is also a burden. Poor people rely on their own skills and often a friend’s help to maintain their car. Often you just ignore maintenance as long as you can. Not because you’re lazy or irresponsible, but because you really don’t have the $30 for an oil change. Yes, really, poor people’s shoe string budgets are so tight that they don’t have enough to change their oil every 6 weeks.

In addition to the cost of buying, fueling and maintaining a car, there are all these fees attached to car ownership. When you buy a car it costs $200 in Illinois to title and tag it. So after begging, borrowing or stealing the money to buy the new car, a poor person has to scrape together $200 to title it. That fee becomes $90 each year to re-tag it. Add to that the mandatory insurance of, at least, $150 a year if your driving record is completely clean. If you have a ticket, are male or under 30 years old that cost goes up dramatically.

“But we need mandatory insurance laws.” I hear you think again, gentle reader. “Otherwise people who get hit buy uninsured drivers would have to pay for their medical bills and repair bills themselves.” That sounds like a reasonable argument until you actually look at it. Most insurance policies beyond liability include protection against uninsured and under-insured drivers. So really mandatory insurance laws mostly just shift the burden of payment from one insurance company to the other. Even allowing for the argument in favor of mandatory insurance, there is some room to help poor people. I know a woman, she has had the same job for more than ten years. She has NEVER been in an accident. She has never had more than 3 tickets in her life and she is almost fifty years old. She still has to pay for car insurance. She is part of what is euphemistically called ‘the working poor’ which means that she works forty plus hours a week and still can’t make ends meet. There is no logical reason on this earth that she should have to have car insurance. If, God forbid, she is ever in an accident you can be sure that it is going to be the other driver’s fault. The law could be amended to allow for a ‘safe driver’ exemption. If a person goes, say five years, without a moving violation, they do not have to have car insurance. A law like that would give low income people something to shoot for and it would reward hard working, upstanding ‘working poor’ people who rarely get any help. Other possible solutions could include subsidies, single payer options or cooperatives. Whatever ultimate solution is found, criminalizing poor people is NOT a good solution.

If you get caught without insurance, the law says you have to pay a $500 fine. Most of the time the judge cuts that down to $250. If, however, you get found guilty of driving without insurance, the state mandates that you have to purchase what is called SR-22 insurance for 1 – 3 years. SR-22 insurance is the same as regular liability insurance except for two things. It costs a great deal more and if it lapses the insurance company reports you to the state.

Chicago has an excellent transportation system for now.  Politicians keep trying to cut its budget.

Chicago has an excellent transportation system for now. Politicians keep trying to cut its budget.

So let us get to my story:

First, I must take you back in time a year or so. I was not working and had a choice to either pay my electric bill or pay my car insurance. I paid my electric bill with the in tension of paying the insurance as soon as I had the money. Well, before I got the money, I got pulled over. I believe it was for expired tags (see above for why my tags were expired). I borrowed some money and got 1 year of prepaid liability insurance. I went to court got assigned a $250 fine. However, I did not know that I was now supposed to get SR-22 insurance. They sent out a letter, but I got the letter late.

Now we move forward to a day about six months ago. I drive a beater car for the reason I listed above. The turn signals stopped working. I am a trained massage therapist and am lucky enough to know a mechanic with a bad back. He fixes my car and I fix his back. He informed me that in order to fix the turn signal, he would have to disassemble the steering column which would be time consuming and difficult. If I were to take the car to a shop, the cost would be prohibitive. So I am driving without turn signals. I use hand signals most of the time, but sometimes I forget. I forgot one day while driving to work and was pulled over by a police officer.

I pulled off the road into a legal parking space. It was 8:15 in the morning. The officer took my license and proof of insurance and called them in. After waiting a long time, another patrol car pulled up and I was informed that I was under arrest. When I asked what for, I was told for no insurance. “I have insurance,” I protested. “You have my insurance card.” That is when I found out about SR-22 insurance. Then I was told to leave my keys in the car for the tow guy. “Why would you tow my car? It is parked legally.” The officer informed me that it was Kendall County policy to tow every car when the driver was arrested. He also informed me that I would have to pay Kendall County $500 before they would release the car. This is in addition to the tow companies fees. Well, no wonder they tow every car, this is a cash cow for the county. Furthermore, no part of that money would be refunded if I were found innocent. This is a) an assumption of guilt which is against the Constitution and b) is an unfair tax on people who have their car towed without actually being guilty.

My uncle bailed me out of jail for $150 and a good friend paid to get my car out of hock. That total bill was $750. I went to court and got fined $285 for being under-insured. My bond went towards my fine, but I still have $135 to pay. Somehow, I never found an extra $135 to pay the bill. “Well, you should have made payments. Even if you only paid $10 each month, that would have been better.” I hear your voice say, gentle reader. Well, that assumes that I had even $10 a month that I did not desperately need. While yes, I was working, I was paid around $1,600 a month depending on any overtime I worked. My monthly expenses are $1800 a month not including buying clothes and shoes and all of the small expenses that crop up like field trips, school supplies and birthdays. So, no, I never had a spare $10. I did upgrade my insurance for an additional $100, so now I have SR-22 insurance.

So now I have the following expenses looming over my head – a $135 fine, $150 owed to my uncle and $750 owed to my friend.

Fast forward through time again to Monday night. I see massage clients when I can in order to make extra money. I have one client who works late, but has a tremendously bad back and pays me more than my regular fee to come to her house at 9:00 pm each Monday to work on her. This money usually puts gas in my car every week. While driving home this past Monday, December 17, 2012, I changed lanes without signaling and happened to do it in front of a police officer. He pulled me over intending to just give me warning. However, Kendall County had issued a warrant for me since I had not paid the fine. So he had to arrest me. He did, however, allow me to call my ex-husband to get the car rather than having it towed. I should mention here, that while I do not have a high opinion of most police officers, this one was courteous, helpful, thoughtful and conscientious. So I was now taken to Kendall County from Kane County and was once again finger printed and booked for what amounts to the crime of not having enough money to keep my car in good repair and buy insurance. Both of which may be serious problems, but are NOT really criminal activities.

That same friend to whom I already owe $750 gave my ex-husband another $275 to get me out jail again. So now I owe this friend of mine $1050. Processing me and getting me released from jail took until 4am. Once I was taken back to my car, I found out that my cell phone was missing. That will be another $30 to pay out.

But the big picture is actually worse. All this happened when I am behind on my rent and must find $875 for my land lady or she will begin the eviction process. It is Christmas and I am begging my sister to send Christmas gifts for the kids from Colorado because I can’t afford to buy them anything.

This whole saga of arrests, fines and accumulating debt stems from the fact that we financially penalize people for being poor. All of this happened to me because I could not afford to buy car insurance and keep my car in good repair. However, if I am to work at all, I MUST drive. It is morally wrong to add to the burdens of people carrying so many burdens. Poor people often feel that the “MAN” is keeping them down. Well, in a way, ‘he’ is. These laws which add fees and jail time to people who are already being crushed by debt and over-work, make it impossible to climb out of the crushing hole of poverty. I am not a bad person. None of the things I was arrested for were actual dangerous crimes. I was not involved in an accident while uninsured. These laws are unjust. They are morally wrong. And I am tired of being punished for being poor. Poverty is not a crime.

What is a Thesis and Why Does My Paper Need One?

This is an important time of year for many people and not because it is the holiday season.  It is important because it is the end of the semester!  For a lot of students this means that the cookie monsterpapers they’ve been putting off for several weeks are due.  Many people, especially if they are new to college don’t really understand about writing papers.  So today I decided to post an article I wrote for an academic e-zine ages ago.  It is one of several I had in mind about how to write A+ papers.  If you are a student and it helps you, please let me know.  If there is an aspect of paper writing you are shaky on and would like some ‘how-to’ tips, post a comment and I’ll see what I can put together.  Meanwhile, I hope everyone gets straight As this semester.

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Everything you will ever write needs a thesis. A thesis is the point you are trying to communicate. It is the reason why you are speaking/writing at all. The thesis is the difference between aimless ramblings and a clear discussion. Football, without the goal of winning, would just be a bunch of guys running around on a field. Similarly a paper without a thesis is just a bunch of loosely connected sentences. A well written thesis provides the foundation for writing a great essay, term paper or dissertation.

The jumping off point for creating a thesis is to consider the topic. In high school and college most topics for essays and term papers are assigned. It is up to the student to turn an assigned topic into a thesis which will provide the foundation for a well organized paper.

Many writing guides give contrary advice about writing a thesis. “It MUST NOT be too complex.” “It must NOT be too simple.” “Be specific, but not too specific.” This advice is accurate, but confusing. A simple way to take a ‘topic’ and make it a thesis is to make it personal.

Often a topic elicits a gut level response. For example, “Should the United States be at war with Iraq?” Most people will have an immediate response to that. Either “Yes!” or “No!” That gut reaction is your thesis.

Occasionally, the topic is a ‘no brainer’. “Sesame Street is an excellent program for children.” In this situation the writer can take one of two approaches. The easy one is to agree and provided evidence (aka examples and reasons) to support the obvious statement. The other approach is harder, but might earn the writer points for originality. That is to disagree and provide evidence to disprove the obvious. “Sesame Street is damaging to children because it develops entrenched patters of inactivity and spoon fed learning.”

Sometimes a writer is provided with a topic which is completely alien to him. “Discuss Hemingway’s theme of the futility of war in his novel A Farewell to Arms.” A writer might look at that topic and vaguely remember reading the novel in class. He may not remember much from the book, but he is a fan of heavy metal music. He knows that Metallica’s song “One” is also about the futility of war. He might create a thesis which ties an alien topic with a familiar one. “The futility of war is a common theme in all forms of art ranging from novels like A Farewell to Arms to songs like Metallica’s ‘One’.” Half the paper will be about a topic he knows extremely well and he might get points for creativity.

No matter what the topic, a good thesis is essential. A clear thesis lays the foundation for a clear paper. By taking a given topic and making it his own a good writer can create a thesis on any subject matter no matter how obscure. Once the thesis is written the next step is creating an outline for the paper. That topic will be covered in another article.