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.





The Anthem of Teenage Crushes – “The Sweater”

I am in kind of a whimsical, silly mood so I thought I would post the lyrics to a very special song, “The Sweater” by Meryn Cadell.  While I never experienced the exact details spelled out by Meryn, I definitely came close enough.  Back in the heady, anxious days of junior high when every week there was new ABSOLUTELY gorgeous boy who pulled my eyes to them every time they were within fifty feet of me.  Each one was my new Prince Charming and if he would only notice me, I knew he would sweep me off my feet and we would ride a way together to some perfect world and live happily ever after.

But as the poets say, there is no happily ever after.  None of the boys ever noticed me.  At least they didn’t notice me enough to sweep me off my feet and carry me away to paradise.  I look back on those days and sigh.  It was all so glorious – the dreams, the hopes, the angst and even the pain.  The innocence coupled with the desire made for wonderfully intense dreams.  Looking back, I think that some of those dreams were more satisfying than my actual relationships later in life.  I don’t wish to go back to those days which were horrible in their own way, but I do look back on them and savor the memories.

So in honor of the junior high girl that I once was and that we all once were, here is “The Sweater.”


The Sweater
Girls, I know you will understand this, and feel the intrinsic, incredible emotion. You have just pulled over your head the worn, warm sweater belonging to A Boy.

Now you haven’t had a passionate kissing session or anything, but you got to go on a camping trip with him and eight other people from school, and you practically slept together, your sleeping bag right next to his, and you woke in the night to watch him as he slept, but you couldn’t see anything ’cause it was dark, so you just lay there and listened to his breathing, and wondered if your heart might burst.

The sweater has that slightly goat-like smell which all teenage boys possess, and that smell will lovingly transfer to all your other clothes. If you get to keep it for a few days, you can sleep with it, but don’t let your mom see because she’ll say, ‘What is that filthy thing, and who does it belong to besides the trashman?’ …. So you have to keep it under the covers, with you. You can kind of lie it beside you, or wrap it around your waist, or touch it on your legs or whatever, but that’s your business.

Now if the sweater has, like, reindeer on it, or is a funny color like yellow – I’m sorry you can’t get away with a sweater like that. Look for brown or grey or blue. Anything other than that and you know you’re dealing with someone who’s different. And different is not what you’re looking for.

You’re looking for those teenage, alpine ski, chiseled features, and that sort of blank look which passes for deep thought or at least the notion that someone’s home. You’re looking for the boy of your dreams who is the same boy in the dreams of all of your friends.

Now the sweater isn’t going fit you of course, so you have to kind roll up the sleeves in a jaunty way that says, ‘This is the sweater belonging to a boy, and the boy is a genuine hunka hunka burning love’, and this is not just some hand-me-down from your brother or your father.

Monday, wear the sweater to school. Be calm, look cute. Don’t tell him the dream you had about the place the two of you would share when you get older, just be yourself. The best, cutest, quietest version of yourself.
Definitely wear lip gloss.

He looks at you, and he looks away, and then he walks away, and the smell of the sweater hits you again suddenly like ape-scent gloriola. And you get a note passed to you by a girl in history that says he needs his sweater back, he forgot that you put it on in the tent on Saturday and he’s been looking for it.

And you don’t have to die of humiliation, you know. You are a strong person and this is a learning experience. You can still hold your head up high as you run from the classroom, tearing the stinking sweater from your body.
You look at that sweater, carefully, and realize that love made you temporarily blind. You’ve got a secret now, honey, and though you would never sink as low as him, you could blab it all over the school if you wanted:

The label in that sweater said 100% acrylic.


Night’s Children in Exile

Most of you aren’t going to get this, but many of you will. Those of us born to the night live from darkness to dawn. We shine brightest under starlight and street lamps. But there are those of us, many of us, who are forced to function in the cold bright light of morning, in the arid, acid smells of the city stirring to life. We walk past the garage with its rarnzz, zzzink, clang of early morning car repairs toward the bus stop bench roasted hot by the glaring morning sun. We wait under awnings behind dark $5.00 sunglasses (the good pair was lost at a club or somewhere awhile back) for disgruntled CTA bus drivers to pick us up. They have been on the job since 5am and had nothing resembling sympathy for our pain.

We go to everyday normal mundane vanilla jobs. We eat at normal mundane times although we often skip breakfast or eat it late. We’re just not that awake in the morning. We’re lucky if we can open our can of Red Bull or chug that cup of coffee or tea. Our relatives and friends see our day light habits and sniff to themselves either smugly or proudly, She had to grow up sometime. But that’s not it at all. Fate has dealt us a cruel hand. We are night’s children in exile. Forced by necessity to take daylight jobs so that we may care for ourselves or our children. Five days a week or more we wince from the glaring cheerfulness of the morning and get up. But we are still night’s children. We’re simply in exile.

We have not turned our backs on the night. We want to dance in the dark corners of her sanctuaries, to whisper or shout in coffee shops, to make love on linen sheets until the birds warn us of the coming sun. But we can’t. We have to work in the morning. We have to skip the concert, to take a pass on going for coffee, to ask you to go home around midnight. Those of you Night Children who can sleep past the sun’s glaring noon, who work at jobs under the starlight and the streetlamps, remember us and blow us a kiss as you pass. We are your sisters and brothers; Night’s Children in exile