New adventures: My first tarot reading event

I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) on and off since I was a kid. We’re now playing in a campaign with our kids who are older when we were when we first started playing! When I found out that a company was making a D&D-inspired tarot deck I was intrigued, and when I realized that they were based right here in my home town of Ottawa, I knew I had to reach out to them. And that’s how I ended up taking a Fool’s leap to become a tarot reader for my first-ever in-person event, the launch party for the Fablemaker’s Animated Tarot Deck.

It. was. amazing.

I was a little anxious going in. I’ve done tonnes of readings, and I’m confident in my skills. However, I generally prefer to give written readings for a couple of reasons. I’m a writer at heart, and written readings give me time to reflect, review and craft a story from the readings. I get caught up in peoples’ energy doing in-person readings and tend to rush, and I find I get better insights when I take quiet time to look at how all the elements work together. Moreso, though, my aging brain likes to play hide and seek with facts, and I’ll occasionally blank on keywords the same way I blank on people’s names – I know them, I know they’re buried deep in the overstuffed file catalogue that is my brain, but they won’t always come when they’re called, so I like to have my little notebook handy. It didn’t feel “professional” to say, “hang on, there’s something about this card that’s tweaking a memory – please allow me a moment to consult my grimoire.” The kismet of a D&D-flavoured tarot deck being produced right here in Ottawa was way too much fun for me to be able to resist, though, and I am SO glad I managed to hush my inner critic long enough to reach out. I took a Fool’s leap and channelled my inner Magician – and it paid off!

The Fablemaker’s Animated Tarot deck itself is a treat – I’ll post a separate review shortly. The guidebook that comes with it has some fun and inspired ideas on how to actually use the deck as a D&D player or Game Master (GM), so I thought I’d flavour my readings with a little D&D fun. I added some D&D terrain pieces and figures from a recent adventure and my GM’s screen to my table for flavour, along with some Halloween treats and my business cards. I had the querrents cut the deck as they saw fit, then instead of having them draw a card, I had them roll a d20 for each card in the spread; if they rolled a 12, I counted to the 12th card in the deck. If someone rolled a natural 20, I said that card was the one with the dominant message. No natural ones were rolled!

I used a six-card dyadic cross for most readings, and on a hex battlemap I kept a tally of their rolls. At the end, I added the numbers from the rolls together and distilled it down to a two-digit number the same way you calculate a birth year card, and talked about the resulting link to the Major Arcana. (For example, if the number distilled down to a nine, we talked about the Hermit.) All of my querrents were also D&D players, so if I had time I asked them to describe their character and I pulled one card for their character, too.

To my delight, I loved doing live readings. I loved the interaction with the querrent as each card came up, and loved the creative push to make connections on the spot. I did not, as I feared I might, freeze under pressure and blank on the meanings of all 78 cards; in fact, my grimoire sat untouched behind my GM’s screen. The folks I read for seemed to enjoy the D&D spin, and seemed happy with the insights from their readings.

I’m genuinely delighted with this deck. The creators have paid equal respect to the art of tarot and the game of D&D, and the guidebook is full of clever ways to integrate the cards into your table-top role playing games. And the cards are mesmerizing – when I came home, my teenager spent time examining every single card in the deck. I think we have another convert to team tarot!

I’ll post a proper deck review soon, but in the interim I thought I’d get the word out. If you’re looking for a tarot reader who loves to tell stories, has a great sense of humour and has never left behind her inner 14-year-old geek, I’d love to hear from you!

And if you love tarot OR dungeons and dragons, be sure to check out the Fablemaker’s Animated Tarot! How have you used tarot cards in your TTRPGs – or how would you adapt tarot readings for TTRPGs? I predict a divination wizard who uses a tarot deck as their arcane focus in a future campaign for me!

Doctor Who and the Major Arcana: The Wheel of Fortune

We’ve arrived at our eleventh stop on our tour of #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes, so let’s use a quote from the Eleventh Doctor to take a closer look at the meaning of The Wheel of Fortune, the tenth major arcana tarot card.

In Vincent and the Doctor, Amy is disappointed to realize that she and the Doctor were unable to assuage the distress and mental illness of Vincent Van Gogh enough to prevent him from taking his own life. The Doctor comforts her, saying, “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

I think this is a terrific illustration of what the Wheel of Fortune tells us. The great wheel of life turns and turns; sometimes, we’re on the upswing and all is wonderful, and then but a turn later, we’re sliding down and out of control. I also considered a very similar quote (also from Matt Smith’s Doctor) from one of the Christmas episodes that says more or less the same thing: “Because every time you see them happy you remember how sad they’re going to be. And it breaks your heart. Because what’s the point in them being happy now if they’re going to be sad later. The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later.”

The Wheel of Fortune speaks to the cycles of life, and of turning points, and of giving in to the things that are largely out of your control. It reminds you that neither the good times nor the bad times last forever, so enjoy the good times while they last and if you’re being crushed under the weight of fortune’s great wheel, hang on – the upswing is coming around again.

As a Chariot sort of girl who likes to be in the drivers’ seat, I find the Wheel of Fortune oddly comforting. Handing over control and trusting in the great cycles of life can be a relief and a welcome break from always struggling for control. Which of the major arcana do you find comforting?

The next stop on our #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes adventure is Justice, and we’ll step away from the TV show and into the deep well of audio books for that quote!

Turning a request for a prediction into a reading for insight

In my personal tarot practice, I don’t use the cards for prediction. Instead, when consulting them about an issue or situation where I feel I need some insight, I use them to challenge my attitudes and beliefs, to reframe my thinking, and to find alternate ways of looking at a situation.

Here’s a good example of how to reframe a query from a prediction to a source of insight. A seeker asked me to do a reading about a situation she was facing. Let’s call her Meg. Meg’s daughter wanted to accept an opportunity that had a great potential for growth, but also had many significant risks. Meg was very worried about her daughter and though she trusted her daughter’s instincts, she could not overcome her own misgivings about the situation. She asked whether a tarot reading might alleviate her worries and fears, turning the unknown into the known.

I explained that I was not comfortable asking “What will happen to Meg’s daughter in the situation she is facing?” because I don’t subscribe to tarot having the ability to predict future events. However, I could do a reading about Meg’s thoughts and fears, and maybe offer Meg a new way of looking at the situation, and Meg agreed.

I shuffled the cards, thinking about Meg and Meg’s daughter, and asking what insight the cards might offer a mother worrying about her child. I pulled the Queen of Wands, the Nine of Swords, and the Five of Cups, and I smiled.

In this reading, the Queen of Wands is Meg’s daughter – charismatic, energetic, a whirlwind of adventure-seeking energy waiting to explode into the world. That Nine of Swords is the classic avatar of anxiety and is clearly the worry that is keeping Meg up at night. But often, I see the Nine of Swords as meaning that the fear of the thing is more of an issue than the thing itself; it is an exaggeration, a caricature. It speaks to fear that has gotten out of control and out of proportion to the threat. And the Five of Cups is interesting – my first thought was regrets, as in “don’t do something you might regret.” But then I started thinking about the deeper meaning of the card and suspected instead it might signify focusing on the negative aspects of a situation instead of the positive ones. On the card, the figure laments the loss of the spilled cups without noticing the remaining full cups – is the glass half empty or half full? Like the Nine of Swords, this is a card that asks you to consider your reactions to a situation, and whether they are making the situation worse than it has to be.

So while consulting the tarot has not given Meg a concrete answer on what will happen if her daughter accepts this exciting new opportunity, it has reminded Meg that life is full of risks, and if we let our fear of those risks stand in our way, we have much to lose. There is, of course, a sensible place for worry, but given the fiery, adventure-seeking nature of her daughter’s personality, Meg will have to learn to balance her natural maternal concern and protective instincts with her daughter’s need to experience all of life’s ups and downs on her own. Meg is reminded that while she can’t control the circumstances of her daughter’s opportunity, she can control how she reacts to the situation. She needs to evaluate whether her anxiety is reasonable or out of proportion to the true risks inherent in the situation. I don’t know the answer to that last question, but Meg admitted that she does have a penchant for overthinking things, and will use the Nine of Swords as a reminder to not let her imagination run to the worst possible outcome and stay there.

2022 is a Lovers Year

In the seemingly never-ending pandemic, I haven’t heard as much talk as one usually might in January about resolutions, about goal-setting and about setting an intention for the year. I think tarot provides a great way to provide a launch-point for this sort of introspection if you link the digits of the year to the major arcana. I’ve discussed this method before: you break down the digits of the year by adding them together. 2022 = 2+0+2+2 = 6. Six in the major arcana is the Lovers.

The Lovers is an interesting card for interesting times. Aside from the obvious connotations of love and relationships, this card has a strong link to the concept of choice. In the Fool’s Journey, this is the point where the Fool leaves what they have learned from their parents (the Empress and Emperor) and from school and society (the Hierophant) and for the first time makes a meaningful choice of their own – the choice between their birth family and their chosen family. So the first thing you can ask yourself in this, the year of The Lovers is, are your relationships working for you? Are they fulfilling relationships? Are you getting what you want and what you need out of them? For some of us, we’ve just spent an unprecedented two years in close quarters with our closest family members, and I know more than a few relationships that have not survived that strain. But what about your friendships? How have they weathered the storm?

When it comes up in a reading, the Lovers card often alludes to a crossroads, to a choice to be made. Is it time for you to re-prioritize your life? Where are you choosing to invest your energy? Is it time for you to commit? Or maybe it’s time to reconsider a commitment that no longer serves you? Remember, love is not just romantic love – there is platonic love, filial love, love thy neighbour, and perhaps most important of all after two years of chronic stress: loving yourself.

Another way to interpret the Lovers is in a theme of bringing two together as one, and moving from duality to unity. I’m still optimistic that once the Omicron wave recedes, we’ll be emerging from pandemic to endemic, but to a vastly fractured world. We’re leaving behind one world, a world whose cracks and voids have been exposed. We have the opportunity to make some new choices. The Lovers card hints at unification and reconcilliation, of making two into one. Maybe this bodes well for healing the current chasms, the xenophobia, the gaps between have and have-not.

I think the Lovers is an optimistic card for a dark time, but I also know after being married for more than 20 years that relationships are not easy. They take commitment, compassion, and a conscious choice – every single day. Will this be a year where we are able to start to reconcile the things that divide us?

Next year, 2023 will be a Chariot year where we take off purposefully in a new direction and harness opposing forces. It’s also my personal birth year card. I’m pretty excited to see where it goes!

Doctor Who and the Major Arcana: The Hermit

After a brief hiatus, we’re back with our trip through the universe of Doctor Who and #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes, using quotes from the Doctor to illustrate the meanings behind each of the tarot cards in the major arcana.

Today’s quote relates to the Hermit, and it’s a long one from the Eleventh Doctor in The Rings of Akhaten: “I have lived a long life, and I have seen a few things. I walked away from the Last Great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords. I saw the birth of the universe and I watched as time ran out, moment by moment, until nothing remained; no time, no space. Just me. I walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a madman. I watched universes freeze and creations burn. I have seen things you wouldn’t believe, I have lost things you will never understand. And I know things, secrets that must never be told, knowledge that must never be spoken.”

I chose this quote because it captures the solitary nature of the Hermit and the quest for knowledge. The Doctor knows more than we can imagine about the nature of the universe, and relies on that knowledge to forge ahead. (In context, since it’s hollered as a challenge to a soul-eating godlike creature, it doesn’t exactly align well with what we understand of the solitary, seeking nature of the Hermit. Sometimes, we have to make editorial choices. It was either this or a cheeky quote from David Tennant’s Doctor about “Hermits United” and how they “meet up every 10 years, swap stories about caves. It’s good fun… for a hermit.”)

The Hermit, like the Doctor, seeks meaning. The Hermit has chosen solitude to better attune to his own inner wisdom, but the Doctor often struggles with loneliness as companions come and go. Though the Doctor usually favours action over contemplation, the Thirteenth Doctor choosing to remain in prison for 79 years meditating on her identity is well-aligned with the nature of the Hermit.

What do you think? Do you see the Doctor as a solitary seeker? Does this quote resonate with the Hermit as you understand it?

Next up on #22DoctorWhoTarotQuotes is one of my favourites, the Wheel of Fortune. Are you willing to cede control to the forces of the universe?