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File under: aargh.

When putting together a new LJ? Do not type journal customize settings while tired. If you violate this rule, your exhausted brain -- having been overworked and under-caffeinated -- will mistype the line "I have these seventy-eight cards here" as seventy-two cards, half in tarot-mode, and half sleepily thinking "oh yeah, deck of cards zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.............."

::headdesk::

I apologize to anyone who has been by and thought I was a moron. Type-o fixed.

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When I first started reading, I was a bit of a card whore. If it had interesting graphics, I wanted the deck. I read almost exclusively with the Thoth, but collected others just to dip my toes into those waters too. I have had all sorts -- Tarot of the Witches, Millenium, Tarot of the Cat People, the Norse Tarot, many many others, just all sorts of mass-produced decks. These were all fine decks in the right hands I suppose, but all were lacking something for me. None tempted me away from the Thoth for long.

I have gifted almost all of these decks over the past eighteen years. I have very few left, I currently own three decks only. The Thoth, which I read, a black-and-white tarot designed to be colored (I worked on this for fun with my mom, many years ago, she is now deceased and I keep it for sentimental reasons), and a small tarot that is lovely and quirky but I don't read with it.

I may eventually have to own a fourth. Good gods, the Tarocchi del Respiro is something. I could do some mad reading with this deck.

If you are reading me here, I have a question for you. What decks fascinate you? Do you own them yet? Do you read with them? Do you find that the decks that fascinate you read 'better' for you than those that are tried-and-true but not 'sexy'?

Why I love the Death card

Read tarot, and it doesn't take long to figure out that some cards are 'happy' cards that folks are pleased to see, and other cards....not so much.

Often when the Death card shows up, folks get squirrely. Part of this may be because of a misinterpretation that the Death card indicates actual physical death of the questioner or someone close to them. This isn't the case. Bad TV movies aside, where the gypsy-styled fortune teller delivers the news that "you....are going to DIE before the next full moon!" in a dire tone, readers (at least those who are responsible) do not pop off with a literal interpretation of the death card.*

The death card, for all its scary imagery, is NOT an inherently bad or disastrous card. It indicates the death or falling away of something, yes, but this is a metaphorical death. Death of a way of doing things, a change in the status quo. A dead end, really, forcing a new direction.

This is why I love this card. There is a balance to things in life. Taking a new direction often requires letting go of former paths. Death may be the only way to clear the way for new life to grow. For instance, suppose you have been in less than ideal physical shape. You know you need to do something, diet, excercise, etc., but you feel a bit daunted and want another take on how to proceed. You go to a reader, ask for some guidance. The death card comes up.

A misinterpretation by the questioner -- or, much worse, a misreading by the reader -- might lead the questioner to think that if they don't change their habits they are in immediate danger of death. Or that their physical condition is sufficiently fragile that exercise could be very dangerous. The real-life result? Might be to damage the questioner through fear of exercise, or through encouraging a too-quick and too-radical lifestyle change.

Some of you who read are laughing now. Don't. I have seen such irresponsibility and misreadings in the past, although this scenario is fictitious to protect the foolish.

A proper reading of this card, however, would likely be most affirming to the questioner. If this card came up in a read on fitness**, I would be almost certain to explain it as the falling away of old habits so that healthy new ones could be established. For a questioner who is uncertain whether they can give up the McDonalds Drive Thru habit, or the pack-a-day addiction, the image of Death taking its scythe to the offending habit is most comforting.

If you see the Death card in a reading, get ready for life to change. In this aspect it is akin to the tower, but whereas the Tower can indicate a metaphorical grenade going off in the middle of one's life and bringing chaos, often the Death card indicates potential surgical precision through which aspects of life are cut away as no longer needed by a growing and developing questioner.

The process of shedding outmoded ways of thinking and acting can be both frightening and painful, however. We cling to habits. They are familiar, comfortable, and keep the world from seeming as big and scary as it is. This is, I think, also why many people seem instinctively afraid of the Death card. The Death card is all about change. People often fear change, simply because of the unknown aspect of what is to come. Think of how many people you know who have avoided what would probably be a great step forward for them, because it meant leaving behind something bad for them but familiar.....

*Now, a combination of cards indicating serious illness, dissipation of the physical, great and final changes, need to put affairs in order, great sadness, etc. might suggest that the questioner is in serious need of a checkup, and of taking proactive measures toward health. Even then, I would not pronounce death as a certainty. If a questioner came to me and announced they had cancer, and these cards showed up, I would STILL not make a death-certain prediction. Even if I thought it overwhelmingly likely. Some would argue that this is wrong and dishonest. However, in this instance I believe that to instill the belief that one is going to die would be doing a grave disservice to the client and could have an immune response that might even be self-fulfilling. I strongly believe that under NO circumstances should a reader ever tell a person that they are facing certain death. Period.

** Card position plays into this, as does dignification if a layout calls for reversals. I am treating the basic meaning of the card here, however, and for the purposes of explanation I am keeping things relatively simple.

Freshman year of college, back in the mid-80s, was less than easy for me.  I used to wander the small downtown of my college town to escape the pressure of school life.  Like many college towns, there were two areas that might qualify as a 'downtown' -- one area of strip malls and walmart, and the grocery store and the fast food chain restaurants.  The other had only a littlle greek diner with a counter and three tables, small one-of-a-kind stores too seedy to be called boutiques, and a coffee house that opened years before Starbucks was a dream and where you could buy a ceramic pot of the coffee of the day for three bucks.

I lived in the coffee house, and brought what pitiful bit of money I had while crawling the shops and buying things like unworn vintage men's flannel pjs and bits of tatted lace.  I wandered into art galleries, framing shops, whatever struck me.

Once I walked into a store that had one rack of brightly colored clothing, a few books on a low table covered with a cloth, a ficus plant that was large but had seen better days, and on the floor a purple mat with a pile of what looked like the most fascinating art postcards ever.  In typical college student fashion, I thought even I can afford postcards! and crouched down for a better look.  

The shop keeper came over and stood patiently while I thumbed through.  The cards had images I didn't understand, and a multicolored cross on the backs.  I asked her how much.  She said: Eighteen.

Cents?  Per card?

Nope.  Dollars.  For the whole box.

She can't be serious!  I felt like I was stealing from her.  For all of these?  I figured I could frame them, use them in collages, whatever.  I wanted them, and I had a twenty in my pocket that day.  Lucky day to be unusually rich, plus I would maybe still have enough cash left over to get a mug of coffee if not a pot.

I bought them.  Put them in my purse.  Went and had coffee, brought the box of cards home.  Figured to put my favorites up on my wall in a poster frame.

I had read the box briefly at the shop, didn't know what Thoth meant, and figured in typical seventeen-year-old fashion "Whatever!"  But now, when I went to flip through the cards to choose favorites, a little paperback pamphlet fell out.  Instructions on how to read, and basic meanings for each card.

One of my two roommates walked in.  She wanted to know what in the world was up, why I was sitting on my bed surrounded by postcard-sized pictures of wild and colorful things and what was the little book?  I explained, and we decided that I should try out the cards, just for kicks.  Today, it would have been just for the LULZ.  But I had no idea what to read on.

"Read on Tina,"* she said.  Tina was a mutual friend, and she had been acting strangely.  Relationship issues, school problems.

I read.  I shuffled, cut, concentrated.  Dealt the cards in the prescribed order and read the various meanings from the booklet.  It didn't seem to make sense out of the gate.  But, the further I read, the more the cards seemed to say things in relation to one another, like seeing an entire painting as a whole rather than one color value or another as a component.  It started coming together, and I didn't know what to say because what I wanted to 'read' wasn't what the book told me to say!  I did another reading, and another.  The same themes came up when the cards were taken together.  Some of the same cards kept coming up in each reading.  Other new ones came up but seemed just to deepen the meaning that I had already seen.  I wanted to play it off, but I had been getting quieter and quieter with each reading.  My roommate noticed and asked what I saw. 

I figured I was full of it, but said it anyway.  "Um, I think Tina's .... pregnant?  And she's going to be done with school."

This was not the thing to say.  This was 1987, not 1957, but still girls in our circle did not get pregnant.  A few who did disappeared immediately and came back married if they came back at all.  These girls universally got pregnant by their long-term, planning-on-marrying-him-anyhow boyfriends.  In contrast, Tina had only recently started dating a young man in the service, she only saw him every few weeks, and to be delicate it was likely she was not the only girl he had waiting when he was in port.  

My roommate looked at me like I had slapped her, and I felt my face get hot.  I swiped the cards out of formation and stuffed them back in the box, suggested we have a beer by way of distraction.  It worked.  And yes, we were underage, and yes, we drank like fish back in the day.

That was the end of my first reading and I forgot about it.  Until maybe two weeks later when Tina came in crying.  It was Sunday evening, and she had spent the weekend at home.  She had gone to the doctor.

You are probably guessing the rest.  She was pregnant.  No marriage, no long-term relationship with the young man.  I won't divulge more specifics, but suffice to say that by the end of her telling, my roommate was staring at me with her mouth hanging open and I was trying to look surprised despite the feeling that I had seen that particular episode before.  Later, my roommate would tell me that it was "spooky" and I would agree with her.  I packed up the cards for a bit over two years.  I figured that maybe I would still put them on the wall, which was ridiculous since I was so afraid of them I wouldn't take them out of the box. 

Years later, I came back to reading.  I learned to trust my intuitions and the messages "between" the cards.  I don't know why I didn't get rid of the cards when I was afraid of them, but I am glad that I didn't.  I still prefer the Thoth deck out of all the cards that I have owned, although sadly I no longer have my original cards. 


*not her real name