Monday, September 15, 2014

New Tarot Deck In Search of a Publisher!

Today on Tarot Notes, it is my pleasure to introduce and interview Kerri Shawn McIntire, creator of the currently-under-construction CemeTarot© (_Witch Hazel Press_).

This deck is a magical blend of graveyard imagery (featuring photographs taken by Kerri) and plant symbolism featuring pressed botanic material. Colors, graveyard images, and plants are carefully chosen to correspond to the Major Arcana, Minor Arcana, and Court Cards of the Tarot.

Kerri is currently finishing up the CemeTarot© cards and writing a guidebook to accompany the deck. At this time, she is actively seeking a publisher.

The name of this deck is pronounced like “cemetery” (only it’s “CemeTarot”) – a clever way to refer to the central images on the cards, which are photographs of graveyard monuments and imagery.

Kerri writes on the _Witch Hazel Press_ web site: “My interest in cemeteries began when I was a young child. I grew up in rural southern Indiana and my mother, who was a bit of a local historian herself, would take me to graveyards to find the headstones of the people she was researching.”

I love the concept and execution of this deck, and I can readily identify with Kerri’s interest in graveyard monuments. While doing research on Chicago history for two books I wrote (_It Happened in Chicago and Chicago Curiosities_ by Scotti Cohn), I encountered many fascinating monuments. One of my favorites images is “Eternal Silence,” a sculpture by Lorado Taft that stands in _Graceland Cemetery_ on North Clark Street.

But enough about me! Let’s find out more about Kerri S. McIntire and The CemeTarot©!

Tarot Notes (TN): Welcome to Tarot Notes, Kerri! Can you tell us a little about your experience with the deck of 78 cards we call Tarot?

Kerri S. McIntire (KSM): I have been working with Tarot cards for more than 25 years now, and am most familiar with the imagery/meanings of the Rider-Waite-Smith and Crowley-Harris decks. I based most of my CemeTarot compositions on these classic Golden Dawn / Thoth Tarots.

TN: What made you decide to incorporate both plant symbolism and graveyard imagery in your deck?

KSM: The choice to surround the graveyard pictures with pressed botanics - insect wings, flowers, and leaves - was made both to enhance the meaning and the design of the cards.

TN: Can you give an example of how the plant symbolism and graveyard images work together to express the energy of a specific Tarot card or cards?

KSM: One of my favorite integrations of plant meaning with the cemetery image is from the LOVERS. Here, the pressed orchids and roses that wreath the image of two clasped hands not only mean "love", but the blend of white and red roses says "unity" in the language of flowers. I also used astrology to choose the right plants for the cards. The EMPEROR is bordered by holly and thistle, plants that are, like the Emperor himself, ruled by Mars and Fire.

TN: As you worked on the deck, did you find any particular card to be especially challenging or especially rewarding?

KSM: The thing I actually did find most challenging was attaining the materials I wanted. I had to knock on the doors of total strangers to ask if I could take flowers from their gardens. To get the hawthorn leaves for the STAR card, I had to ask a very nice lady I met on the internet to mail them to me. I also got moth wings through the mail from my mother. Although the photographs on the cards are all my own, the surrounding borders truly took a village!

The cards that I found most rewarding to create featured gravestone shots that echoed the traditional pictures in a unique way. A good example of this is the Eight of Wands. The RWS image depicts eight staves flying through the air. My corresponding card has the Jewish symbol of the Cohanim Hands, in which the eight fingers are extended straight out.

Another RWS example is the Nine of Swords, where a distraught figure sits up, head in hands. The statue in my card is an almost perfect reflection of that despair. You would think the challenge would be to find upbeat imagery in a cemetery, but I found rainbows, suns, flowers, and epitaphs that all conveyed very positive messages.

TN: When do you anticipate that the deck will be available for purchase? 

KSM: I'm not sure when the deck will be available for sale. I'm hoping interviews in such wonderful blogs as Tarot Notes will help me find a publisher : ) If any readers like what they see on my website, I hope they will pass along the link - you never know who might end up seeing it!

To see more pictures of these wonderful cards, 
visit the _Witch Hazel Press_ web site!

Monday, September 8, 2014

5W's and an H: TEN OF MIRRORS

I think it’s time once again for 5W’s and an H!

To refresh your memory: For the 5W's and an H exercise, we use one Tarot card to answer the questions Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? As an additional requirement, each answer can be only one phrase or sentence. The idea is to respond intuitively, without a lot of description or explanation.

Today's edition of 5W's and an H features the Chrysalis Tarot by Toney Brooks with paintings by Holly Sierra (US Games Systems).

Chrysalis Tarot (US Games Inc.)
5W's and an H: TEN OF MIRRORS (Peace)
“The rainbow dove of peace ferries ten pretty mirrors 
that represent an emerging new cycle for you, 
as well as emotional fulfillment in the present cycle.”

Who? Someone who fulfills you emotionally

What? An emotionally satisfying situation that feels like a peak experience

When? When you have reached a pinnacle of emotional satisfaction

Where? Deep in your heart

Why? Because life is at its most fulfilling when we are emotionally engaged with it

How? By building on emotional ties and engagements to create a pinnacle of fulfillment

Monday, August 25, 2014

Convening the Ancestral Council

It is six o’clock in the morning. I am normally not up at this hour, but various things disrupted my sleep all night long, and today I have no desire to stay in bed any later. I think this is the perfect time to take the Chrysalis Tarot in hand and “convene an ancestral council.”

(To read more about this spread, click HERE. To read my review of this deck, click HERE.)

To configure the council, I pull the following cards from the deck:

1. Storyteller (The Grandmother)
2. Four of Spirals (A Luna Gathering)
3. Six of Mirrors (The Fairy Folk)
4. Eight of Spirals (Lord of the Forest and Ancestors)
5. The Mime (Hushed Memories)
6. The Muse (Queen of Heaven and Mother of Good Counsel)

With Storyteller (The Hermit) as the centerpiece, I surround her with the other five cards (face up) in a clockwise, circular pattern using the order above.

I silence and center my mind, then draw five additional cards and place them beside council cards in the order I drew them. What I hope to glean from a council ritual reading:

1. Synchronicity inspired by ancestors
2. Repressed memories in need of healing
3. Deeper understanding of myself and my kinship with the Otherworld

For the interpretation of this reading, in some cases, I am choosing to include direct quotations from the Chrysalis Tarot booklet written by Toney Brooks. These quotations are, as one might expect, placed in quotation marks.

The Storyteller (Wisdom, Contemplation) calls the Council together, her sacred healing orb glowing in her hands. “The time is favorable for quiet solitude.”

Four of Spirals (Solitude)
TEN OF SPIRALS (Crossroads)

In Solitude I contemplate a Crossroads within myself – a point, a place, a time when I need to make a life-changing choice. Will I continue to allow “bound up bundles of negative energy” to burden me, or will I “lighten my load” and “choose the high road”? The message is clear: “Don’t play the blame game; put the past behind you and don’t look back.” In Solitude, I am thinking on this. (It is no coincidence that the Ten of Spirals depicts a centaur, the symbol of my Sun Sign, Sagittarius…)

Six of Mirrors (Memories)
LOVERS (Unity, Oneness)

An Irish Sidhe, or nature spirit – perhaps an ancestor of mine -- plays a bewitching tune on the pipes as I stand among fragrant, colorful flowers, gazing at six reflecting pools. The six “mirrors” show me memories from different time periods:  childhood, teens, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties… The music becomes discordant at times, at times joyful, at times maudlin. If I am still and patient and loving toward myself, soon the creatures of the forest will gather around, encouraging me, helping me reconcile inner conflicts, celebrating the harmony and unity that can exist as my memories flow together into one large pool that is Me. And the Irish Sidhe begins a new tune to which I may dance as I move forward on my life journey. (As I understand it, many of my ancestors were, indeed, Irish, although whether they were Sidhe or not isn’t clear…)

Eight of Spirals (Answers)
THE PILGRIM / PAGE OF SCROLLS (Perseverance, Endurance)

Of the Eight of Spirals, Toney Brooks writes:

“In working with ancestral subtle energy and the Ancestral Council, we seek to cultivate a "heaven to earth" resonance that, to a degree, already exists between you and your ancestors. Whatever that degree actually is depends upon you and your receptivity. And whatever that may be, this ritual is designed to increase its resonance.

"This resonance is best symbolized by the energy of the Eight of Spirals, Lord of the Ancestors. (The magnificent sika red stag originated in the dense forests of central Asia. He is the ancestor of all deer, including the elk.) As his image (top) suggests, the product of this resonance isn't sound, it's fleeting synchronicity. Like deer in dense forests, most synchronicity zooms by unnoticed. When observed, it is magical inspiration is channeled through your Third Eye. This is symbolized by eight shooting stars. Remember, the Otherworld's silent language is spoken with signs, symbols and memories so one has to be alert.”

The Pilgrim (Page of Scrolls) is a Troupe card. Brooks tells us: “Troupe members among the five drawn cards likely represent real people, perhaps even ancestors. When interpreting your reading, don't forget to give consideration to Troupe Spirit Animals.”

A Hunter’s Moon looms large against the night sky as I stand at the edge of a magical forest, watching a red stag leap through the dense thicket. “The Hunter’s Moon, also known as the Blood Moon, marks a time when ancestral energy from the Otherworld reaches its highest peak.” Random thoughts… peculiar dreams… instinct… intuition… shooting stars. The Pilgrim approaches, accompanied by a llama who “symbolizes inner peace that comes from waving goodbye to creature comforts and the security of home, at least for a while.” The Pilgrim’s expression is wary, uncertain. Just above and ahead of her flitters an exotic butterfly, a symbol of new life. The Pilgrim has left the castle behind to pursue this creature.

In The Pilgrim I see many of my ancestors who literally left their homes in Europe to come to the New World. They came from Ireland, England, Germany, Bohemia… at different times, in different ways, for different reasons. They certainly demonstrated The Pilgrim’s attributes – perseverance and endurance.

The Pilgrim is clothed in my favorite color, purple, a color of power, royalty, imagination, and mystery. As a messenger, she challenges me to do as my ancestors did – to travel beyond my current state, experience, and mindset – beyond what is known and comfortable and secure. This journey of “interior self-discovery” will be well worth the time, effort, and courage it requires.

Page of Spirals / The Mime (Incisive, Magical)
THE ARTISTE / Queen of Stones (Spiritual, Magnetic)

Two Troupe cards come together as The Mime meets The Artiste. Yet, placed side by side, the figures on these two cards do not really “come together,” do they? The Mime gazes outward at me, her ram by her side. The Artiste focuses on the painting she is creating as a butterfly watches. Butterflies appear in the upper right corners of both cards, reminding me of the message I received from The Pilgrim.

“Like a ram, [The Mime] batters loose the memories of past experiences and returns them to mindfulness. The Mime then provides support to reconcile these memories through compassionate listening and sound advice.” The Artiste “imparts prophetic wisdom” as she charts my progress “with brush strokes of wise and sensible advice.” 

I recognize The Mime as a spirit that has always been strong within me – carefree, droll, impish. Like The Pilgrim, she is a Messenger, sent by the Otherworld to soothe and support my psyche.

I also recognize The Artiste, who is “painting my path through a tranquil grove of ash trees.” Like The Artiste, I am multi-talented, although I create with words, music, and gemstones instead of paint. Known in traditional Tarot decks as the Queen of Pentacles, this card is one that I often choose as my Significator, with her connection to the sign Sagittarius and the element Earth, both of which are prominent in my birth chart.

Queen of Spirals / The Muse (Nurturing, Inspiring)

The Queen of Spirals is described in this deck as “a maternal presence or your inner voice – the stream of consciousness that knows you better than you know yourself.” Accompanied by a gentle fawn, she is said to appear “in times of difficulty or indecision.” As the Queen of the element Fire, she is also linked with my Sun Sign, Sagittarius, a Fire sign. In the upper left corner of her card, I see the face of a cat, a face that is enlarged and emboldened on the Three of Mirrors as a lion. The gentle fawn on the Queen of Spirals is echoed by the lamb in the Three of Mirrors.

The lion and the lamb “symbolize a harmonious sense of self-acceptance.” The message is clear: “Do No Harm.” If the Queen of Spirals is a “mothering” presence, the Three of Mirrors is the presence of a loving family and friends. The various elements of my inner Self can certainly be described as “family” to each other, but are they friends as well? The Three of Mirrors reminds me of the Strength card in that it depicts a lion in peaceful harmony with a gentle, nonaggressive creature (the lady/the lamb). The day when all of my inner “Selves” can enjoy each other’s company and offer mutual support is indeed a day worth celebrating.

And now the Storyteller nods to indicate that she has heard what I have confided in her. She and the other Council members have helped me draw my hidden fears, hopes, and desires up into my conscious awareness. The Storyteller lifts her crown of ferns and places it on my head to as a token of sincerity and friendship. In turn, I offer these two things to her – and to myself.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

REVIEW: Chrysalis Tarot


by Toney Brooks (Author) and Holly Sierra (Artist)
78 cards: 2.75” x 4.75”
60 page booklet
ISBN-10: 1572816899
ISBN-13: 978-1572816893

TOP LINE (formerly Bottom Line)

Although I do enjoy Tarot decks that focus on one theme or cultural foundation, I love decks like this that incorporate multiple traditions or myth systems. To me, this approach reminds us that similar archetypes and motifs appear across a wide range of spiritual paths. I love the idea of Merlin, Ariadne, Bella Rosa, Kali, and Papa Legba joining forces to create a Major Arcana for a Tarot deck. It’s a Sagittarian’s dream come true!

Holly Sierra’s enchanting art and Toney Brooks’ engaging writing create a world that welcomes, enriches, and entrances. Each exquisite card opens a window into a land where we can expect to find magic, truth, and our Selves.

While there are some similarities between these cards and those in the Rider-Waite deck, there are also enough differences that I would not recommend this deck for someone who wants to learn “traditional Tarot” as a first step on their Tarot journey. In many cases, it will probably be necessary to consult the Little White Book (LWB) that accompanies the deck to get the most out of a card’s setting and symbolism. The _Chrysalis Tarot web site_ also offers useful and inspiring information and discussion of the deck.  I found an Ancestral Council spread there that I am eager to try using this deck.

“Chrysalis Tarot opens up your psyche and illuminates your path toward personal destiny. Exquisitely drawn Otherworld characters and mythological archetypes guide you on your spiritual quest. Both the Major and Minor Arcana feature beautifully illustrated scenes that inspire reflection and stimulate your psychic intuition and imagination. The four suits that make up the Minor Arcana are: Stones (Pentacles); Mirrors (Cups); Spirals (Wands); and Scrolls (Swords). In the Court Cards you’ll meet a delightful troupe of medieval messengers who inspire you to fulfill your dreams. Deck includes 78 cards and 60-page booklet with instructions for a five-card Pentagram Spread.”


A chrysalis is the transformation stage between the larva of a butterfly and the adult butterfly, a sheltered stage of being or growth. The butterfly caterpillar actually hardens into a chrysalis during its pupal stage. To me, this suggests that when working with this deck, I am in a protected space, in the process of evolving to the next level of my existence as I undergo a transformation.

In the Introduction to the LWB, Toney Brooks writes: “By your side on your quest for self-fulfillment is an unseen force. It’s an energy field known by many names and recognized by many masks; a force that informs your psyche and nudges you forward. In the Chrysalis Tarot, we refer to this force as the Otherworld.”

The four suits of the Chrysalis Tarot are Stones (Pentacles), Mirrors (Cups), Spirals (Wands), and Scrolls (Swords).

The Court cards are portrayed by medieval troubadours. Both sexes are equally represented, and each court card has an animal association.

The Minstrel: King of Pentacles, King of Stones
The Artiste: Queen of Pentacles, Queen of Stones
The Illusionist: Knight of Pentacles, Knight of Stones
The Acrobat: Page of Pentacles, Page of Stones
The Sojourner: King of Cups, King of Mirrors
The Watcher: Queen of Cups, Queen of Mirrors
The Dreamer: Knight of Cups, Knight of Mirrors
The Healer: Page of Cups, Page of Mirrors
The Companion: King of Wands, King of Spirals
The Muse: Queen of Wands, Queen of Spirals
The Corsair: Knight of Wands, Knight of Spirals
The Mime: Page of Wands, Page of Spirals
The Poet: King of Swords, King of Scrolls
The Weaver: Queen of Swords, Queen of Scrolls
The Visionary: Knight of Swords, Knight of Scrolls
The Pilgrim: Page of Swords, Page of Scrolls

The Majors are Otherworld characters and archetypes with traditional and nontraditional titles:

The Fool – Merlin
The Magician – Ravens
The High Priestess – Sorceress
The Empress – Gaia
The Emperor – Green Man
The Hierophant – Divine Child
The Lovers – The Lovers
The Chariot – Herne the Hunter
Justice – Ma-at
The Hermit – Storyteller
The Wheel of Fortune – Wheel
Strength – Papa Legba
The Hanged Man – Celtic Owl
Death – Ariadne
Temperance – Golden Flower
The Devil – Bella Rosa
The Tower – Kali
The Star – Elpi
The Moon – Moon
The Sun – Sun
Judgment – Phoenix
The World – Psyche

The unillustrated 60-page LWB provides Traditional Titles and Attributes for each Major. Each suit in the Minor Arcana is given Traditional Names and Values. For example, for the suit of Stones we have the Traditional Names “Pentacles or Coins” and the Values “Happiness” and “Prosperity.” A Keyword is provided for each pip card. Finally, the section on “The Troupe” (Court cards) offers Traditional Names, Attributes, and Role for each card. For example, The Minstrel (King of Pentacles, King of Stones) has the attributes “Assertive” and “Loyal,” and his Role is “Mentor.”

Toney Brooks writes that the pip cards “feature scenes that inspire personal reflection and stimulate your psychic intuition and imagination.” He tells us that the Court cards “represent real-life messengers inspired by the Otherworld to assist you, especially at critical moments and troubling crossroads.”

At the end of the LWB we have the Pentagram Five-Card Spread featuring positions for Spirit, Earth, Water, Fire, and Air.

Toney Brooks

About Toney Brooks
After retiring from broadcasting twenty years ago, Toney traveled the world researching spirituality. He studied, both formally and informally, a number of metaphysical subjects including comparative mythology, philosophy of history, and an obscure area of theology known as Mariology. He holds a PhD in Metaphysics and a certification in Spiritual Counseling.

Holly Sierra
About Holly Sierra
Holly Sierra has been drawn to all things mystical and magical since her childhood. Her vibrant paintings allow us a glimpse into an enchanted world filled with goddesses and mythological creatures. Holly’s infatuation with Tarot began when she was a teen and discovered an antique deck amongst her parents’ possessions. The Chrysalis Tarot deck is dedicated to both her beloved parents. After pursuing a fine arts education, Holly lived and traveled extensively in Asia. Multicultural themes influence her artwork, which has appeared in children’s books, magazines and greeting cards. Holly makes her home amidst the picturesque, green mountains of Stowe, Vermont.


The cards are 2 ¾” by 4 ¾”. The finish is what I would call “semi-gloss” – with a pleasant, light-weight shine. The stock is sturdy and invites shuffling, whatever your method.

The card faces have a patterned gold border. At the bottom is the card title in black lettering against a parchment colored background. The Majors have both the new (deck specific) title and the traditional title at the bottom in every case except Trump Zero, which is labeled “The Hero” instead of “The Fool”.

The card backs, which are reversible, have a gold and blue pattern in the corners. Centered as a backdrop is a blue spiral-covered oval. Within that is a gold circle, with a mandala as its center. Large multi-colored butterflies appear on either end of the gold circle.


The coloring on the cards is bright yet soft, vivid yet gentle, and the images are realistic yet imaginative. The scenes on the cards arise from many traditions, including Greek, Arthurian, Celtic, Pagan, Egyptian, Hindu, New Age, and Haitian Vodou. At the same time, the deck has a cohesive feel thanks to a consistent style and coloration. Each image invites exploration of the details and symbolism, evoking emotions and stimulating the imagination.

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, I hereby disclose that this product was provided by the publisher for free. Other than the occasional review copy, I receive no monetary or in-kind compensation for my reviews.  The substance of my reviews is not influenced by whether I do or do not receive a review copy.