Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tarot Tuesday: Looking at the Halloween Tarot

Now that October is here, I've pulled out a couple of my favorite creepy, spooky, and altogether spooky Tarot decks -I keep a small basket near my chair with a couple decks on hand, and like to switch them up.
Today, I thought I'd show a few cards from the Halloween Tarot (Kipling West, US Games).  This is a really fun Halloween themed version of the Rider Waite Smith Tarot - one of the major systems of Tarot developed in the early 20th Century.  A whole lot of decks base their symbolism off the RWS and its my preferred method because the minors are pictoral rather than abstact.

In the Halloween Tarot, there is some switch up in the elements... Pentacles (Earth) become Pumpkins.  Airy Swords turn into Bats.  Watery Cups become Ghosts.  And Wands (Fire) are mischievous Imps.

This deck works for me on many levels - first, it reads really well - it's not just a cute deck.. the RWS connects are there with some fun original twists that make it a good reading deck and not just a novelty.

But the fun factor is really there, making this a great deck to take to a Halloween party or other settings where people might be seasonally curious about Tarot readings, but nervous about the more serious decks.

This makes it also a good version if the deck is going to be used with children* who have expressed interest - Tarot can be a fun way to engage in storytelling, or to help a child express themselves about what's happening in their lives. For younger children, there is a black cat that appears somewhere on each card, mainly observing each scene, but sometimes an important part of it.   Overall, this deck is child-friendly while still remaining meaningful.

*(Due to the need to be sensitive to parental wishes, I think it's never a good idea to present Tarot to kids unless they're your own or parents who have given permission to do so - sadly, Hollywood and other representations by people who don't understand Tarot have lead some to fear this little pack of cards or to implant connections to the adversary deity of their own religion - there's no need to debate it - when it comes to other people's kids, respect the parents, period.)

So... here's a look a few of the cards - I'm going to show them side by side with the Universal RWS cards, to give an idea of the similarities and differences.

First let's look at a card from the Major Arcana - these are the cards that show the Big Stuff... life lessons to be learned, universal themes being experienced. When you brush against an event or period of time represented by a Major Arcana card, your life is altered.

At random, the I drew VIII Strength:

Each of these cards depict a young woman and a lion - the woman is opening up the lion's mouth, which the lion calmly allows.  I like this depiction of Strength as something other than brute force... she is not overpowering the lion... she is coaxing him - facing the lion with confidence and, as I see it, compassion.
In the RWS, this is a very pastoral setting, and seems to be gentling and controlling the lion (animal nature, wildness, natural instinct) and possibly using her hands to close its mouth - one of those things that are up to interpretation depending on the specific reading.  Over here head is an eternity symbol... we see that sideways figure eight on the Magician card as well - this type of strength is linked to divinity and something sacred.

In the Halloween Tarot, the setting for this connection between woman and lion is a circus - the lion sits on a pedestal holding his mouth open, while the woman looks inside with a tongue depressor.  Here's she is not just controlling the lion .. she is looking at the state of his health.  The eternity symbol is on the tent material behind her so that one appears over her head.  I like very much what this card does to the concept of Strength... it speaks of not simply controlling one's animal nature, but of keeping it healthy - not squashing out our instincts and urges, but making sure they are expressed in a healthy and stable way.

On the other hand,  I am not thrilled with this lion being in a circus setting... tamed, and expected to perform on cue.   But, that's how it is with Tarot - sometimes creator's interpretations work for you, sometimes they don't.

Next, let's look at the Minor Arcana - this section of a Tarot deck is broken up into two sections, the 'pips' or numbered cards, and the Court cards which depict various types of people.

In RWS style decks, the pips are not only markers showing the number of items (think about a standard playing card deck) but also shows an image describing what that card means (to AE Waite, that is) - because of the popularity of the RWS deck and its clones, these meanings have become standard, but it is helpful to remember that readers may not be reading with a RWS deck - and that intuition and personal experience comes into play, which is why they're reading Tarot and not a book about Tarot.

Pips describe situations and events that cross our path - they may not be the Life Lesson stuff of the Major Arcana, but they are felt strongly on a daily basis.. this is where we live.  That flooded basement may not change your life the way the economy does, but of the two, the flooded basement is the one most likely to cause a sudden outburst of cursing - minor arcana cards are like that... possibly less important, but generally a lot more urgent.

Anyway, back to the Halloween Tarot - at random, I drew the Two of Bats:

Here we see a woman in white seated on a stone bench at night, in front of a body of water - in both cases, there are small bits of land nearby and a mountainous landmass in the distance.  A waxing crescent moon hangs in the sky - this has to do with something new that is just starting to develop.  In each case, the woman is blindfolded, arms crossed in front of her chest.

In the Halloween Tarot, the woman is not holding swords in her arms... rather, there are a pair of bats hovering at each shoulder.  She has wings, like an angel or - it seems to me - like an angel statue. In any event, the wings speak to the qualities of air, the element of this suit.  Air involves all things mental - communication, ideas, debates, thoughts and beliefs.

The Two of Swords - or Bats - for me generally has to do with a decision being weighed objectively.  The woman has turned herself away from the emotional waters behind her, she's crossed her arms over her heart - both to protect it and perhaps to 'cross her heart' and be true in her decisionmaking.  She is blindfolded, perhaps to shut out irrelevent information....perhaps because she's missing information she needs to move beyond this point and decide, already.   Sometimes, this card represents an impasse, where no decision can be made as the options are two evenly weighted - something needs to change to tip the decision one way or another.

The last card I'm going to draw will be a Court Card. In Tarot, these are cards that have to do with people, types of people, personalities and traits.

The card I've drawn is the Page of Ghosts (Cups):

There are again a lot of similaries here - in both cases, the page is a young man holding up a cup that has a fish inside that appears to be having a conversation with the boy.  The biggest differences I see are the dress - although they each are 'dressed up'... the Page of Ghosts is dressed AS a Ghost, getting right inside his element.. the Page of Cups is in a foppish outfit all pink and blue and very pretty rather than practical.   They are each standing in front of a rolling body of water, althrough the time of day is different - daylight for the Page of Cups, night at the full moon for the Page of Ghosts.

One additions (other than the cat and ghost) I see in the Page of Ghosts is the sealed envelope on the ground.  It highlights, I think, one of the qualities of the Page of Cups - he is all about romance and romantic messages.
That's what pages do - they are the carriers of messages regarding their element.  The watery element can be very fanciful, imaginative and yes, romantic.   This Page lives comfortably in the world of fantasy - talking to a fish, for goodness sake!

I tend to always see Pages as younger in spirit if not by age, immature and still learning about their element - this page is not a 'player' but an innocent... he isn't always all that tuned into the reality of a situation, so he can get his (or her) heart broken, and break a few hearts too, though never intentionally.

That person you know that falls in love - really, truly, madly, deeply - to a new person every few weeks?  Who has planned out their wedding to the smallest detail (which definitely includes doves doing aerial ballet on demand, and swans wandering the grounds decoratively) but hasn't yet chosen a partner or given a moment's thought to what happens after... that's a Page of Cups.

The Page of Ghosts shows the 'let's play dress up' quality of this type of person.  I have a soft spot for the Page's simple innocence and ability to dive into their own imagination.  Sure, there are some things still needing to be learned, but that sense of fun and possiblity is something these type of people should always strive to hold onto.

So... that's my look at the Halloween Tarot.  Do you use this deck? How do you like it?

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