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.

My muse has forgiven me

My Muse has returned to me!

My Muse has returned to me!

I am sure my loyal followers must believe that I fell off the earth or that I had given up on writing completely.  Neither idea is completely true or completely false.  There has been a lot of changes to my life including another burned down house (I really have to stop doing that), several job changes and children who keep growing up and keep needing to be fed.  Can you believe those rugrats want to be fed EVERY DAY!?  All of that sturm and drang led to me neglecting my muse and she in her sorrow turned her face from me.

However, I have come to realize that I cannot live without my true love – writing.  So my glorious muse has forgiven me for neglecting her and she has once again inspired me.  I hope she will continue to give me her flashes of insight and wisdom.  If she does I will continue to pass them on to you, my gentle readers.

I will be posting a longer article soon.  Please read it and the rest that will follow.

All my love,
Grace Mary Kathryn.

I Coulda Been a Lexicographer

When I was growing up nearly everything that interested me was ruled out as a possible life path with the words, “You’ll can’t make a living

I think I would have been a wonderful Mud Pie Baker.

I think I would have been a wonderful Mud Pie Baker.

doing that.”  I couldn’t be a ballerina. I couldn’t be a gardener.  I couldn’t be Wonder Woman.  I couldn’t be a mud pie baker.

Like every high school student in America, my last two years were filled with the question, “What are you going to major in when you get to college?”  Once again everything that I found interesting enough to spend time studying was dismissed with slightly more sophisticated versions of the same statement.  “What can you do with that degree?” or “You won’t make enough money doing that.”  So writing was out.  Acting was out.  History and Literature were out.  When I discovered philosophy that was out, too.  Because I am rebellious and stubborn, I got my BA in Theatre.  I love theatre and was sure that I could ‘make’ it.  Whatever that meant.  A combination of a fear of sexism and a fear of economics kept me from making a serious stab at an acting career.  That will be the subject of another blog.

Time has past and I have seen a lot of the world.  I have met a vast array of interesting people.  In that time I discovered a secret that is so secret even the NSA doesn’t know it.  Here it is – If you are passionate about something you can find a way to make a living doing it.  You may not become rich and famous, but you can support yourself and a family.  The thing is, there are millions of careers out there that require obscure knowledge, unusual proclivities and bizarre skills.  There are people who get paid to tell you how old a rock is.  They are Geochronologists.  There are people who get paid to make food look pretty.  They’re Food Stylists.  There are people who get paid to travel around and watch high school and college sports.  They’re Athletic Scouts.  There are people who collect the venom from snakes.  They’re Snake Milkers.  Ant Catchers dig up the ants for ant farms.  Odor Judgers smell armpits to see if a new deodorant works.  An Ethical Hacker is paid to hack by companies who want their systems to be hack proof.  This last one is my favorite – a professional Cat Catcher is paid to come to your house and get your cat into the cat carrier for you.

Furthermore, just because the chances are slim that you will get the top job in your chosen field doesn’t mean that you can’t earn a living in that field.  Not everyone who studies archaeology gets to become Harrison Ford.  Ooops, I mean gets to become an archaeologist.  However, an archaeologist needs an amazingly big support staff.  They need people to help dig, to clean the items they find, to analyze what was found, to catalog it.  There are a lot of people who work in archaeology who are not archaeologists.  I know a man who got a degree in zoology.  He doesn’t work in a zoo.  He works for a college in the biology department.  He takes care of all the animals that the biologists are studying.  I know a woman who used to get paid to measure the cracks in the bodies of airplanes.  I know a person who has made an entire career of traveling around to beautiful nature places all over the US and Canada.  He takes pictures of place, animals and things that he thinks look cool.  He prints them as posters and sells them all over the world.  How’s that for a cool job?

Erin Mckean's TED talk explores how much fun an evolving language can be.

Erin Mckean’s TED talk explores how much fun an evolving language can be.

Today, thanks to a wonderful woman named Erin McKean, her TED talk is Erin McKean: The Joy of Lexicography, I learned that there is such a thing as a lexicographer.  That is some whose job it is to study words.  They study spelling, pronunciation, meanings, etymology and everything else you can possibly imagine relating to words.  Usually they take all that knowledge and compile a dictionary or edit one.  For someone who loves word play as much as I do, this would be a really cool job.  When I was in college I never even knew it was an option.

During this back-to-school time of year when many people I know are starting high school and college, I have heard a lot of people dismiss a subject they love because they do not believe they can make a living with the degree.  They reject archaeology for accounting; creative writing for education; geology for healthcare services.  They are being practical and have an eye on their future.  Practicality in important.  Earning enough money to survive is the first job of an adult.  However, it breaks my heart to see bright talented young people turn away from what they love in the name of being ‘practical.’  It is important to feed the spirit as well as the body.  I believe that we need to remember that doing something we love and doing something practical are not mutually exclusive.  There are people all over the world doing work they love and getting paid for it.  Typically, they are happier and more fulfilled than people who do a job because it pays the bills.

So if you are a young person trying to decide “What to do with your life’ or if you are an adult trying to decide what to do with the rest of your life, follow your heart.  When some grey unimaginative person asks you, “What can you do with THAT degree?”  Tell them, “I don’t know.  That’s the point.  I’ll find out when I get there.”

What is Success?

The World from the Morgan-Greer deck

The World from the Morgan-Greer deck

What is the value of your life, Grace Mary?  You don’t have any money and you live just on the edge of poverty.  Without the help of your friends and family, you never would have survived.  So how can you say that you are successful?

The fact is that material possessions and social status and salary have never been my chosen measuring sticks for determining success.  I developed a different measuring stick at Rosary and Loyola.  I mention the names of my schools because I believe that those two institutions had a profound influence on the measuring stick I developed for my life.  My journey is not about acquiring stuff.   It is about self-actualization and trying to find Truth and understanding it and trying to serve the Good as best I can and trying to enjoy myself in a deep and meaningful way.

I have gotten lost many times.  The times when I have been most deeply lost have been when I have misplaced my measuring stick.  Often I have accidentally picked up the measuring sticks of salary, material possessions and status.  I used to move from house to house (and I moved a lot – sometimes twice a year) carrying truckloads of boxes of stuff.  So many things I thought I would die without.  Souvenirs of my life.  Things that belonged to my mother.  I clung to her things as if they still held her scent and I would somehow keep her if I just kept her stuff close.  That, of course, was an illusion.  Mom’s presence in my life was not and is not contingent upon holding on to that green bowl with a pear on it that she bought when she and my step-father went to Texas that one time.  She is with me and I am with her.  She is alive inside me and her voice comes out of my mouth all the time.  With my voice she passes on her wisdom to my younger brothers and sisters and to my children.  This is good because we all still need her wisdom.

I carried boxes of souvenirs from my childhood.  Records I rarely listened to, books I enjoyed, but probably wouldn’t read again, knickknacks whose meaning I barely remembered.  Jewelry, make-up and elegant dresses which no longer fit me.  It was not just my body they didn’t fit anymore.  They didn’t fit me anymore.  They belonged to the teenaged Grace and the college girl Grace Mary.  They were not the dresses of Mom.  Nor were they dresses of Grace Mary Kathryn.  But I couldn’t let them go.  So I dragged them from place to place.  Until Oshun reminded me to not make promises and forget them.  She stripped me of most of my stuff and in doing so she showed me that I still had my mother, my family and my younger selves even without the tangible objects to which I had tried to anchor them.  I have collected another houseful of stuff, but I hold it more loosely now.  If all of it was taken from me tomorrow, I would not lose anything that matters.

I spent years ashamed of my failures.  Ashamed of my poverty especially since so many of my peers made more money, had more stability and had more of the souvenirs of status than I had.  I have yet to go to one of my class reunions even though I loved the women with whom I went to high school.  I have been afraid of the looks in their eyes when they see my old clothes and my beater car.  There are two problems with that.  First, my high school sisters would see the true me immediately because they always did see her even if they didn’t understand her very well.  I am, in fact, insulting my Rosary sisters, by believing them to be so shallow.  The second problem with those fears is that I am only a failure when I measured my life by those foreign measuring sticks.  In reality, I am as successful as any of them by my own standards.

Miserliness is always about fear.

Miserliness is always about fear.

The false measuring stick I pick up most frequently is the measuring stick of salary.  I carried this one for years after I had children.  I felt I had to focus on making X amount of money because I had kids to support.  So I focused on finding jobs that would pay me X amount of money, which gave paychecks every two weeks because kids need stability, which were reliable and practical.  The big joke, the cosmic joke, is that because I was pursuing the wrong kind of success those jobs never fit me and I never kept them.  So we never had the income or security that I was trying to provide.  I was so lost.  I say that with a rueful chuckle.  I was.  That time wasn’t completely wasted.  I learned a lot and tasted an array of flavors of life.  My children never starved and we usually had a roof over our heads.  Thanks in large part to the generosity of my friends and family and the tax payers of the state of Illinois.  However, I was lost and miserable and stressed and angry and my children felt those things and it hurt them.  They all bare the scars of those lost years.

It took me a long time to put down that false measuring stick.  A large reason it took so long to put it down was fear.  I was afraid that if I followed my own desires, that if I lived as I believed I should, that if I used my own measuring stick, my children would starve.  That I would fail and I would face the judgment of all the people disapprove of or don’t even see my measuring stick.  Some of these people where real people.  Many of them were just in my head.  The judge, jury and executioner named ‘What other people think.’  All my life I have denounced paying them any heed, but they are hard to exorcise from one’s own mind.  Finally, in the end, I realized I was too unhappy for words in my latest ‘sensible’ job.  I was angry, stressed and hateful both at work and at home.  It was making my family miserable and it was a terrible example for my children.

I woke up and realized how wrong I had been.  I realized that my failures were all coming from using these wrong measuring sticks and I realized that there would NEVER be any happiness for me working in the white collar sweatshop.  I quit my job with nothing else lined up.  I quit my job with only a vague promise of writing work from a friend.  I told my family and they were thrilled.  They knew we would be a lot poorer than we already were.  They knew we might get evicted and terrible hardships might come, but they wanted me to be happy and they wanted to be happy.  So all together we took this great leap out of this airplane of faux security hoping our parachutes would open.

Happily they have.  We are still crazy poor.   I make a hodge podge of a living as a freelance writer and massage therapist.  I have needed a lot of help from friends and family.  We are back in a communal living arrangement.  None of that matters.  We are all happy.  We are all

When a person finds balance, she really does have a chance to achieve the World.

When a person finds balance, she really does have a chance to achieve the World.

focusing on becoming our finest selves.  My work feeds my soul and my happiness makes my family happy.  Plus, I am a better mother.  I am no longer angry all the time.  I have the energy to help with lemonade stands and home work.  I can spend an hour discussing which character in The Lord of The Ring each of us would be.  I can watch Total Drama Action and care about whether Cody will win.  (He didn’t and I was seriously bummed.)

So to answer the question from the top, a question which no one but the ghosts in my head has ever asked me, ‘What value is my life?’  It is of tremendous value.  I live according to my principals the best I can.  I search for Truth and try to understand it.  I try to find Joy in life and drink deep from its cup.  I am working on becoming the truest Self I can be and I try to serve the Good and teach my children to do the same.  If, when I die, it can be said that I gave the world a little more Wisdom and I made the world a little Better, then I will count my Self successful.