Sunday, October 13, 2013

So Good, So Dark: Halloween Tarot

For the next eight days, Magaly Guerrero of Pagan Culture is hosting an All Hallows Grim Blog Party with the theme of So Good, So Dark, with the aim "to use our artistic power, intellect and heart to create posts that show the delicious goodness that blooms in the dark."  Participants will be sharing all sorts of creative spins on the darkness - artwork, stories, etc, along with a few giveaways.  Check back to Magaly's website - she'll be offering giveaways throughout the week, and you can find participants' entries in the sidebar.

For me, I'm going to share some of my Tarot treasures - a few of my darker decks (or at least seasonally themed) and books that lend themselves especially to creative exploration or working with darkness and shadow.  What I have is absolutely not the limit of what is available (I find I am not a particularly dark-oriented person these days!), but perhaps it will inspire an interest in working with a new deck or two, or to use Tarot in a different way than simple divination.  For each deck, I'm going to share the Death, Devil or Tower card (the ones most likely to be considered dark and scary) and the back.  And I will also share an exercise from each book I am highlighting using the chosen deck.

The Halloween Tarot
Karin Lee & Kipling West
US Games Systems, Inc.

Our first experience with October darkness tends to not be too frightening - most of us, at least those of us in the U.S. have memories of Halloween, and the (mostly) safe thrill of costumed figures in the darkness of our own streets, our neighborhoods transformed into spooky haunted houses where we are lured in with the promise of sweets, and almost, if not quite, sure that the cackling crone and Frankenstein handing out the goodies are really our best friend's mom and dad.

The first deck I want to share takes us back to those intriguing days of sweet spookiness - The Halloween Tarot. 

This deck is an utterly charming Rider-Waite Smith clone.  The four suits are Pumpkins (Pentacles), Ghosts (Cups), Bats (Swords), and Imps (Wands).  I have found this deck not only to be great fun to read, but also a wonderful introduction to Tarot for children, and those who are a little afraid of Tarot - that little thrill of Halloween fright is there, but in a familiar and non-threatening package.  As a person gets comfortable with these images, they can then compare them to the standard RWS deck, and will find they have developed a good grounding in the symbolism of the system.

But besides all that - it is simply a fun, slightly spooky deck to play with at this time of year.

Death in Tarot usually does not indicate physical death (although it can).  Instead it has to do with transformation - specifically the transformation that rises out of things that have ended.  It's not a comfortable card but it needn't be seen as a 'bad' one, either.

The Death card in the Halloween Tarot is rich with symbol - in the night sky, we can see Saturn (Cronus in Greek - a deity related to Time and a reminder that everything has a timespan).  The vulture and the rat are each scavengers, feeding off the remains of that which has died - and a good thing they do, too, if you think about it.  In the bottom left of the card is a Death's Head Moth and tacked onto the fence is an ankh, an Egyptian symbol thought to mean Eternal Life.  In Death, matter is transformed, not lost.  Death itself - here a skeleton - is shown here as a gardener.  As anyone who has ever grown anything, what dies becomes compost and fertilizer - dirt, which becomes the soil in which new life can grow.  Without death, there could be no life.   The pumpkins and flowers in this garden seem to be quite happy to be there, even if they know it cannot be forever in this form.  Finally, for those familiar with the RWS Death card, the watering can has the five-petaled rose so familiar on Death's banner.

Oh and the black cat?  He's on every single card - try this deck with children.  Even very young kids will enjoy looking for the cat on each image.

Tarot Games
Cait Johnson & Maura Shaw

Tarot Games: 45 Playful Ways to Explore Tarot Cards Together is a delightful book by Cait Johnson & Maura Shaw.   Rather than the 'usual' look at each card, this is, truly, a book of games that can be played with Tarot.  Some alone, some in a group setting, and some specifically designed to be played with children.  Most of these do not require any previous experience with Tarot, but can also be used as a way to shake things up for those who have long experience with reading.  I highly recommend it!

Today, I decided to try a simple game from the children's section, called Autumn Leaves:

"The player mixes the cards, then stands on a chair and drops ten cards, one by one, from this height. Only the cards that land face up are read.  These may indicate attitudes or beliefs that the player is beginning to outgrow or needs to let go.  Let the child tell you what he or she sees in the "autumn leaves."

Out of 10 cards, I had 8 show up upright.  These could be read separately, considered as various things that it might be time to put away as the season turns toward Winter.  Or they could be arranged as a narrative.

My inclination was to pay a little extra attention to the 10 of Pumpkins overlaying the 9 of Pumpkins - it is burying the qualities of the 9.   

The 10 shows a party where a pumpkin is being used as a pinata - the tree is full of jack o'lanterns and there is a crowd of people in costume waiting their turn to take a whack.  It's a social setting and looks fun.... but on the other hand, little is as it seems.  Who are these people under their masks?  What do the jack o'lanterns waiting to be hit represent?  It's a lot of activity, but it could be pretty stressful and noisy.  This 10 generally has to do with family legacies, and it makes me worry about things being broken open 'for fun', and not so nice games being labeled as good times and social obligations where no one is really open at all.

It's burying the 9 of Pumpkins, which shows very nearly the opposite scene - a pleasant, well dressed woman stands alone in her thriving pumpkin patch, keeping company with an owl, a symbol of wisdom.  Her pumpkins are still growing, not cut into jack-o-lanterns, and she wears no mask.  She's found a place of serenity and quiet - a haven from the noise and gameplaying.  With the 10 hiding this, I see here a suggestion that it what may be needing to be put away is social experiences and family dynamics  that disrupt peace.  It can be a wonderful thing to enjoy the company of others, but make sure it's the people you want to spent time with.


A couple of giveaways to point you to, today:

Samhain's Sirens has a tutorial for making seasonal masks and is giving away two of them, one for Fall and one for Spring.

Meanwhile, Pagan Culture has a gorgeous chest by Eliora called "Reach Through the Darkness to Those You Love", full of things to help honor our Ancestors.  Lovely!

See you tomorrow!
~ Lynda H.


  1. What a fun and beautiful deck of tarot cards! I don't do tarot myself, but each one of these would stand alone as a little piece of art.

  2. That's my 'elevator speech' about Tarot - if nothing else, how else could you tuck an entire art gallery into your purse? With 'choose your own adventure' storytelling powers, no less, so it's a whole library, too!

  3. I love Tarot cards and all their interesting forms... most of all I love the art and how they "speak" so individually. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope you stop by my post to enter my giveaway:

  4. This is also one of my favorite tarot decks. Thanks for your insights and ideas. Lovely post. Oma Linda

  5. I don't use the tarot but have a few decks just for the beauty of the artwork. The Halloween pack I've not seen before it looks wonderfully colourful.

  6. What a lovely way to do a reading, to let the cards fall where they will. Less structured and complicated than other readings. I like the sensitivity of your interpretation. You have a very clear vision.

  7. I think that my favorite thing about the Halloween Tarot deck is how happy and bright everything looks, especially the skeleton. I wonder if it is thinking that it will transform and become something wonderful ;-)

  8. Ohh gorgeous tarot artwork, and lots of cool info too, Halloween is a more recent celebration in Australia, it has been growing over the last 15/20 years, until then there was hardly a carved pumpkin to be seen!

  9. I am not familiar with the tarot games. this is a gentle and fun way to introduce them as not being only dark and evil.