The Secret of the Tarot

Though I am a Russian Tarot reader and not a fan of the Marseilles tradition, I am very interested in history and often read books in English about the various historical periods. I have a small library of my own, and I enjoy picking up the books I did not read yet. One of my recent discoveries is the book by Robert Swiryn “The Secret of the Tarot. How the story of the Cathar Wars was concealed in the Tarot of Marseilles“.

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The history of the Tarot contains a lot of “empty spaces” and mysteries. Robert Swyrin made another attempt to fill the void trying to take the meanings of the Marseilles Tarot from the Albigensian crusade and the Cathar spiritual tradition. This attempt deserves attention since we cannot be sure if some traces of the Cathar legacy mixed with the culture and this version sounds more convincing than the Egyptian or Gypsy one, anyway. The book contains a lot of interesting quotes regarding the medieval politics, history and the Tarot as well, and the author’s interpretations are refreshing. I would recommend the book to any avid explorer who likes to find the concealed meanings in the Tarot, the person who uses the Marseilles Tarot for readings, and to the Tarot teachers. The cards seem more lively after I read this book, and I know more about the Cathar wars and their spiritual tradition now. Their dualistic approach seems rather appealing to me and it is in some way close to some New Age beliefs. The book’s language is easy; it does not require extensive preparation to understand the contents of the book. The originality of the book will surely help to know the Tarot better and enhance the knowledge of its history. The cards like the Fool and the Moon will be looked upon in a different way. This is the book which is not translated into Russian yet, but it will enrich the Russian Tarot tradition as well!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying my mantic tools

This post is a bit unusual cause it is not going to be about Tarot in Russia at all. It will be about my own recent experience with Tarot cards and oracle decks which I have gone through.

About a month ago, I read a great book by Marie Condo “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever” which changed a lot in my life. This book does not contain magic in its popular way (like rituals and the like), but putting away the books, clothes and things one does not need, the person learns to put a stop to the plans which do not work any more, and discover what is really valuable for him or her. Like many people before me who read this book, I threw away 5 ot 6 packets of rubbish, gave away 2 bags of cosmetic items and books to my friend, and shared the books I do not need with the local “library” organized in the park. Then the time came to reconsider my deck collection.

As I wrote before, my collection consisted of around 40 decks which I cherished, but I did not use even the half of it. For querents, I mostly used Rider-Waite-Smith deck with the addition of the small deck “from India”, and sometimes thematic decks like Manara Tarot, Mermaid Tarot or Waite clones like Pictorial Key Tarot or the White Cats Tarot. I used to ask the question before if I will ever work with this or that deck, and told myself “I will some day. But I do not know when.” However, in reality I worked with some decks shortly or never touched them for years.

The time of tidying is the time of sincerity, first with yourself. When checking my deck collection again and thinking of my reading style, I came to the following conclusions. May be, they will be useful to other people as well:

  1. There is no harm in using just one Tarot school instead of mixing them in your head. I can go well without the Marseilles deck and Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot though I deeply respect the principles of those decks and the readers working with them successfully. But I am not ready to give much time and thought to them anyway.
  2. I may be not a briliiant fortune-teller; I am not willing to know even for myself how the events will turn, but I am eager to assist people who have relationship or choice problems and want to consult the cards. I am rather the consultant than the oracle. This made me enroll into the psychology courses; and possibly I will get the official education in this field in the future.
  3. For me, Tarot and oracle reading is more an intuitive than a logical task, but without the querent’s request and his situation advice is useless. I need to trust my own intuition, but it will work better if I use the familiar decks. I will not waste time seeking for the unknown elements on them, but will have a chance to give more attention to the querent and his or her questions.
  4. I am not into Lenormand either because even when I was a child and used Opera (Theatrical) playing cards with my Grandmother, they were more like Tarot than the playing cards, and I used the meanings loosely relying on the mood which images conveyed. Thus I put all my Lenormand cards away as well (heaven knows when I feel like going deep into that), but purchased the Egyptian oracle cards which gives more freedom in guessing the meanings.
  5. Finally, I sold three of my decks (78 doors, Sharman-Caselli and the Inspiration Tarot, another Russian deck I will try to describe here) and divided my collection into 2 parts – “the workhorses” and “just for collection”. The working decks are not all active yet, but they will not require as much attention as those I never had contact with and which would take much of my time which I possibly do not have. There is no chance to plan all our lives.

Perhaps, other Tarot readers have less obstacles or they are just more patient and positive towards themselves. But for me, every fail is painful, and I want the smooth road and have fun when doing the readings! Therefore I hope these thoughts and actions will do me good, after all!

Tarot as a system of analysis and influence

The books written by Russian Tarot readers and teachers, are part of the Russian Tarot tradition. Let me tell about one of the best examples, the new edition of which was published recently by Avvalon and Larets Taro.

This is a book by Irina Trizna, and it’s called “Tarot as a system of analysis and influence“.

The book is written by the Russian esoteric who is interested in metapsychology, healing, Tarot, runes, meditation and a lot of other things. The book was first published in 2006, and was extremely popular among the Russian Tarot readers. I did not read it before because it was out of print for a long time.

The new edition has been corrected and slightly updated. The first part of the book is devoted to the Tarot as the analytical tool – how it works, ethical and ceremonial rules, card meanings, Tarot studies and spreads. The second, magical part is unique because it contains the clear and concise description how we can “enter” the card and how the card images and energies can be used to change the situations. Each card also has the “magical” meaning. I read a lot of books both in Russian and in English, but never came across similar information.

The book differs from the foreign ones because it contains a lot of hints, and though it does not TEACH how to do evil things, it still gives examples how it can be done with the negative cards. But overall, it gives a good overview as Tarot as a system covering ALL the aspects of its use, not only the analytical one, and does that on a pratical level without going into too much theory.

Tarot in Russia. General features (part 1)

Though I may not be free from any preconceptions or illusions, I would try to describe in which ways Tarot activity in Russia is different from the foreign one (judging by forums and books).

Here are things which are typical for Tarot in Russia:

1. Practice. From my web and forum experience, I have the impression that there are less “scholars”  and collectors in Russia. Tarot decks are often bought to be used. This may be my personal opinion though because it is difficult to obtain the statistics. But to see a person using a deck he/she does not know at all is quite a common thing in Russia.

2. Wider ethic field. Many questions by querents and Tarot readers are about third parties, but nobody seems to be sorry about it. This is the worst part of the Russian mentality – to be interested in other people’s lives more than in their own, and to interfere in them actively. People who do not possess it (like me and my friends) do not feel comfortable among other people being constantly bombarded by questions about their private lives. They do not find it difficult to be ethical as well as those with a deep interest in psychology. But nevertheless, 90% querents are asking about the third parties or other people, and the Russian tarot readers have to address these questions.

3. Black magic. As weird as it may seem, but many people in Russia are interested in magic they can apply to their everyday life. And very often this magic is not of a “kind” type. Cemetery rituals, spells, enchantment of “low” and “village” types are common for the Russian esoteric crowd. “Black” decks are also extremely popular, and Tarot readers often check if their magic went right or wrong, using the cards. The same as with ethics, Russian people do not feel obliged to anybody except themselves, they feel free to do right and wrong. Not everyone shares this view though. A lot of people got disappoined in magic, nevertheless “magic lovers” are a large crowd in the Russian esoteric society.

4. Not official status. Most Tarot lovers in Russia do not tend to obtain official papers confirming their skills, or have their craft officially turned into business. Still they may exchange spreads, or give readings for small donations or material things. Schools are more often official because they need wide advertisement.

5. Clairvoyance. If the Tarot reader has this ability and can predict simple things like when the querent gets married or how many children he/she has, this is more valuable than positive advice and symbolic predictions. Querents value precision, but they tend to believe some pseudo-esoterics who predict all the querent wishes, without any remorse. They are not responsible because they just mean to rip off and get away.

6. Trust in TV shows. This is a common feature for all not very educated people. But in Russia, the TV is corrupted as well as the authorities. People who get known as “psychics” and “clairvoyants” earn huge amounts for just one reading therefore they try to get into shows. Some of them do not say anything particular, useful or true to their querents. But the querents are under the illusion that after the visit to the famous psychic, their life would improve. It would not of course, they need to create everything themselves.

7. “Pirate” decks. This kind of thing is quite popular in Russia, because laws are not strictly observed. In general, small portions of decks are printed this way. Part of people do that for themselves, the other part earns money this way. Official sellers and shops protest, some people do not care, others use such decks if the original is rare, too expensive or difficult to buy.

As for me, I am a mix of European, or rather “world” mentality due to my non-Russian roots and extreme introversion, with the Russian background, because it is not possible to live somewhere and not get used to the rules and surroundings. Therefore, according to my observations, such things are quite common for Tarot in Russia. Not all of them are things to be proud about; but less limitations sometimes open larger chances. 

I could not cover everything in this post therefore I called it “Part 1” to be able to continue whenever I feel like it.

p.s. Sorry for waiting 3 months before I could post it; i was a very busy time!

Tarot in Russia. Introduction.

Though my blog is called “Tarot in Russia”, up to now I was writing about myself exclusively. Now I feel it’s time to switch to the so-called “main topic”.

Russia is the unique country not only in terms of the politics (this is the thing I never discuss in the web), but most of all, its mentality. Russian people are known (I would not mention silly myths like bears in the street which is rather a fairy-tale than the truth) to be emotional, open-minded, very traditional in some aspects (family values, etc), not very obedient to laws, and curious (as well as people all over the world). This certainly influences the role mantics plays in the life of the Russians. Most likely that the Russian female would want to have a Tarot reading about the different questions than her American contemporary. Or, rather, if the same topic is covered, different things may be emphasized or highlighted.

Mantics, or Tarot in Russia is a very wide topic so I have decided I would cover it part by part, aspect by aspect, and will try to describe our native authors which created books or decks, too (though I am not fond of Russian decks, frankly speaking!)

Stay tuned!

My Grandma’s playing cards

First, I wanted to tell about my overall experience with mantics, but then I thought that the topic would be too wide to cover. So I decided to concentrate on a smaller thing instead, and the first thing which came to my mind were my Grandmother’s playing cards.

They were Opera playing cards which depicted scenes from 4 operas: Iolanta (diamonds), Othello (hearts), Rigoletto (clubs) and Faust (spades). I liked to look at them very much. Diamonds were so positive and pure, hearts seemed full of passion, clubs were deceptive while spades were most attractive of all having their own grim charm. I did not know the plots of all operas when I was a child, but had to guess by pictures what happened in them.

My Granda always told that if I am supposed to read the cards, I should not play them (at least not to use deck fit for readings, for playing purposes). She used only part of the deck – 36 cards: Aces, 6 through 10, Knaves, Queens and Kings. Other cards just stayed untouched. No wonder they have preserved through the time while the other part of the deck looks rather worn-out now, with cut corners, a bit dirty, etc. Some cards were forever associated with people – for example, I saw my Mom as a Queen of Hearts.

Opera playing cards – Grandma’s deck

What I liked about the readings was that my Grandma did not have very “fixed” meanings though in general 6 meant a road, 7 a meeting, 8 a talk, 9 a love affair, 10 completion or result of some business, and Ace a place. She read the cards according to her intuition and depending on their location in the spread. She always taught me not to submit to my own desires or the desires of the querent to tell what he/she wants – I should guess what will REALLY happen and what I see in the cards. We often argued about card meanings, but my Grandma always seemed right.

These days are just a memory now, but I am still cherishing my Grandma’s deck, and even bought the reprint of it which may be useful to me if I decide to use playing cards again for my readings.

The most important lesson my Grandma gave to me was to listen to my heart and follow my intuition. This helped me with other mantic tools about which I will possibly tell later.

My current collection of oracle decks

I do not have many oracle decks nowadays as I never planned to have plenty of them, and I am not into runes or other oracle systems as much as I am into Tarot. I am interested in Lenormand, but did not get to work much with them in the past so was not purchasing much of such decks, too.

1. Hindu cards (or Cards from India) by the famour Russian fortune-teller Naina Vladimirova.

They work like “solitaire” – you need to spread them info 5 rows each containing 5 cards.

If the picture matches, its image would work in your life. I have been working with them long since they are very easy to handle and read. My two sets of these cards were cut from the book and hardened with cardboard.

2. Opera reprinted playing cards by Sveshnikov (also called “Theatrical“).

My Grandma used these cards for fortune-telling, and she taught me how to read with them.

However, I practice playing cards rarely now, but in the future I would like to work with the complete deck (worked with 36 cards before).

These deck is very special because it has clear and beautiful images on each card as well as suit symbols (unlike traditional playing cards). Each suit represents an opera (hearts-Othello, diamonds – Iolanta, clubs – Rigoletto, and spades – Faust).

3. Gems Oracle Cards by Lo Scarabeo.

Contains a wrong image now; I have a previous, older version of this deck.

I am using them on the occasional basis, but managed to find out the meanings of all gems in various books, Internet and have my own ideas about the meaning of each card.

4. Oracle of the Goddess by Gayan Sylvie Winter, Jo Dose.

I have translated the book for this deck into Russian, and am quite interested in goddesses though I am not a pagan.

5. Egyptian Oracle Cards by Lo Scarabeo.

A gorgeous deck with scenes of the life of the ancient Egypt! I love to look at it and could not resist it though I use the oracle decks very little in the readings for querents.

Lenormand Oracles:

6. Mlle Lenormand Blue Owl deck.

7. White Owl Lenormand Fortune-Telling Cards.

8. The Burning Serpent Oracle by Rachel Pollack, Robert M. Place.

A very interesting Lenormand version with the extensive book!