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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Old English Tarot: 9 of Coins

In today's blog entry, Helen Howell continues her exploration of cards from the Old English Tarot by Maggie Kneen (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.)

Old English Tarot
Nine of Coins
by Helen Howell

I really like the depiction on the Old English 9 of Coins and like its more traditional brother the Rider Waite, it shows us an image of comfort and accomplishment. We all know the Rider Waite image of the lady in the garden, surrounded by the nine coins and we know that this is an image of wealth.

The Old English image shows us a couple seated together and toasting each other with a drink.  A garland decorates the wall behind them and the flooring is a rich checker-board pattern. I like that unlike the Rider Waite card, we have a couple here, a symbol of sharing their wealth and good fortune, as opposed to the lady in her garden who is enjoying it all by herself.

The Old English suggests comfort and prosperity but what I like most about this imagery is that it may symbolise for us the essence of sharing, in other words it’s not just about accumulating wealth, it’s about what you do with it that counts. The couple seem to indicate to me that abundance is not just about money. In this image we see comfort, but we also see emotional prosperity along with physical wellbeing. What they have accomplished they now share together.

LWB: Accomplishment, foresight, prudence, material well-being, love of nature.

Reversed: Stagnation, carelessness, lack of determination or direction.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Witch of Lime Street: A Reading

I am nearing the end of a fascinating book called The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher (Crown).

The book covers a period in the 1920s when Spiritualism was in its heyday and prominent figures such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini were determined to prove or disprove the existence of a true medium or psychic who could communicate with the spirit world. Also involved in this exploration was the magazine Scientific American, which offered a large cash prize to any medium who could demonstrate "telekinetic ability under scientific controls."

The focus of these investigations narrowed down to one woman – Mina Marguerite Crandon, who went by the name “Margery” in an effort to keep her identity private as her fame grew.

Margery claimed that she could channel her deceased brother, Walter, as well as perform a great number of physical demonstrations that Walter was "real." This involved bell ringing, tipping a table, whispering in the ears of the séance sitters, touching sitters, and literally destroying the cabinet-box in which Margery sat during the séances.

Margery constantly upgraded her performances, eventually producing a "teleplasmic hand," which lay still on the table before her as if it were dead and then supposedly vanished. You can read more about Mina Crandon, her supporters, and her detractors, HERE.

I decided to find out what Lisa Hunt’s Ghosts & Spirits Tarot could tell me about Mrs. Crandon and her claims. (To read my review of this deck, click HERE.)

I devised a spread to answer the following questions:

(1) What would you like me to know about Mina Crandon?
(2) What would you like me to know about her brother Walter’s ghost?
(3) What would you like me to know about Mina Crandon’s physical demonstrations, such as bell ringing and the “teleplasmic hand”?
(4) What would you like me to know about the possibility of communicating with the dead?
(5) What would you like me to know about the Summerland? (The Summerland is the name given to the afterlife by Spiritualists and others.)

It seems appropriate to place these cards in the shape of a pentagram, as below:

Ready? Here we go…

(1) What would you like me to know about Mina Crandon?


Well, this is certainly not a very flattering portrait of Mrs. Crandon. We have here a Native American ghost called Acheri, the spirit of a little girl who carried disease and death. According to legend, Acheri stood between life and death and wandered the land looking for victims. Pages are usually viewed as messengers in the Tarot, and the suit of Wands typically represents will power, passion, vitality, energy, and confidence – traits that Mina Crandon possessed in spades. Combined with the legend of Acheri, it seems we need to beware of Mrs. Crandon and not come too close.

(2) What would you like me to know about her brother Walter’s ghost?


The character chosen for this card in this deck is Rübezahl, a German forest spirit who “took pleasure in confusing travelers by leading them astray or creating storms in the mountains.” Lisa Hunt tells us that Rübezahl symbolizes “the wild, untamed spirit” and that the steps shown on the card “represent ascension and unexpected opportunities.” Based on the alleged behavior of Walter the ghost, I can see this description fitting him.

The alleged interaction of Mrs. Crandon with her brother’s ghost certainly opened up new opportunities (Ace) for her, with benefits in the physical world (Pentacles). For the Crandons (Dr. and Mrs.), it was really about fame, not money. They did not charge money for her demonstrations and, in fact, paid the way for people who came to examine her claims. What the Crandons were trying to acquire via Walter’s ghost was a place of security and prominence in the realm of psychic phenomenon.

(3) What would you like me to know about Mina Crandon’s physical demonstrations, such as bell ringing and the “teleplasmic hand”?


In the Legend of Falkenberg, a corpse tricks a knight named Guntram into marrying her. This gives the Five of Cups in this deck a message about falling victim to folly or getting entangled in situations that we will regret. Certainly this applies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the prominent scientists who “fell for” Mina Crandon’s paranormal displays. Mina was apparently very charming, beautiful, and seductive. She often conducted séances in the nude and threw herself into the laps of the male sitters. She had an affair with at least one of them. According to her detractors, this behavior could easily have contributed to her popularity and credibility among the scientists. Like the corpse in the Legend of Falkenberg, Mina Crandon was able to seduce her audience and deceive them as to her true nature.

(4) What would you like me to know about the possibility of communicating with the dead?


How interesting that this card depicts Gilgamesh (a Babylonian demi-god hero) summoning the Ghost of Enkidu (his friend) in order to ask him about life after death. In the story associated with this card in this deck, the underworld is revealed as a place where many are subject to miserable conditions. It seems that perhaps the cards are advising me that before I embark on any journey towards or into communication with the dead, I need to think about whether I really want to open this line of communication. Frankly, the Six of Swords in this case seems to be saying that yes, we can communicate with the dead, as Gilgamesh did. The question is: Should we? Do we really want to? Are we prepared to deal with the outcome?

(5) What would you like me to know about the Summerland? (The Summerland is the name given to the afterlife by Spiritualists and others.)


This card presents a tale of lust, betrayal, and vengeance. Traditionally, the Five of Wands indicates conflict, disagreement, hassle, etc. In the story of The Ghost of Oiwa, a man poisons his wife, Oiwa, in order to be with someone else. The wife’s vengeful spirit tricks him into beheading his new bride. In trying to get rid of a problem (the original wife), the man ended up faced with a worse problem. The card represents struggle and regret. I must say that this description of an “afterlife” is not appealing in the least. It sounds more like a Christian version of hell or some sort of “limbo” where spirits must deal with or sort through what they did when they were alive on earth.

Interestingly, as described by John Michael Greer in his book The New Encyclopedia of the Occult (Llewellyn): “In modern Pagan practice, and in those Spiritualist traditions that accept reincarnation, the Summerland is a nonphysical realm in which the souls of the dead dwell before they are reborn into another physical body.” I can see how this might make sense with the story of The Ghost of Oiwa.

Walter the ghost always concluded his appearances in Mrs. Crandon’s séances by whispering, “Good night." So I’ll just say: Good night, Walter (and Margery), wherever you are!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Review: Dreaming Way Lenormand


Dreaming Way Lenormand
Author: Lynn Araujo
Artist: Kwon Shina
ISBN 978-1-57281-758-6
36 cards, 2.5” x 3.5” 
Box, 2.875” x 3.875”

TOP LINE (formerly Bottom Line)

Who can resist the blend of Lenormand cards, Kwon Shina’s art (which I knew and loved from the Dreaming Way Tarot published by U.S. Games), and commentary by the accomplished Lynn Araujo? Yes, I was “predisposed” to like (love) this deck – but I think maybe you are, too!

Anyway, for those of you convinced that there were a limited number of ways the Lenormand cards could be presented and they’d all been done, Kwon Shina didn’t get the memo. Her Bear (card 15) is a person covering his or her face with a bear mask; her Fish (on card 34) seem to be flying rather than swimming, protected from the elements by a large umbrella; her Book (card 26) has an open door carved out of one side. The Fox (card 14) is draped over the shoulder of a woman as if it is her pet or part of her apparel. Exploring each card is a delight and a challenge.

Araujo’s Little White Book is written in a clear, concise style that imparts a lot of information without droning on and on. The Introduction brings us into the process and elements involved in the creation of the deck. I really like the idea of using quotations from famous people to represent each card and the quotations that were chosen.

Here is a “Daily Draw” I did for today: two cards for advice/insight into the day ahead.

I love the overall “green” vibe in this pair of cards. With the House we get a sense of “security, stability, comfort, structure, welcome” (LWB). The Tree offers “health, vitality, well-being, stewardship, ecology, fertility.” I work from my home, which is surrounded by trees. I was just getting ready to go outside and sit on our deck with my breakfast and a book.

These two cards together convey serenity and well-being, a sense of stability along with an opportunity to thrive and grow – and encouragement to help everything around me thrive and grow. So perhaps not an “eventful” day, as such, but one that allows for contemplation and a renewed commitment to stewardship.

I can certainly see myself using this deck on a regular basis, and I will be sure to share some of those readings on Tarot Notes!


"This charming 36-card Petit Lenormand deck offers fresh, new perspectives for this traditional system of fortune telling. Contemporary Korean artist Kwon Shina’s imaginative style of artwork provides the reader with clever visual cues that capture the mood, nuances, and inner meanings of the cards. When you look at the Dog card, you will know in an instant this card portrays loyal friendship, not a threat. If you are learning Lenormand for the first time, this is a delightful deck to learn the core meanings. If you are already familiar with the Lenormand system, Kwon’s dreamy images will inspire you to look at Lenormand in a whole new way. The 92-page booklet offers keywords, quotations and interpretations that help the reader understand the lively narrative interplay between the 36 cards. Dreaming Way Lenormand will allow you to do insightful readings that bring clarity to any situation, whether you are working with pairs of cards, the Grand Tableau or one of the starter spreads suggested in the instructions."


The 36 cards in this deck follow the traditional names, numbers, and playing card associations linked with Lenormand cards. Images are printed on glossy, sturdy card stock. The cards are packaged in a beautiful, sturdy box with a lift-off lid. The “Little White Book” is particularly nice, with a colorful card-stock cover.

The cards measure 2.5” x 3.5”. The card numbers appear top and center in a circle with a white background. The name and playing card associations appear at the bottom, centered in a rectangle with a solid white background. The images extend to all corners (no borders). Card corners are rounded.

Card backs feature a row of houses and a whimsical, jester-type figure in a butterfly mask. The figure is repeated randomly in various sizes and places – in the sky, on the roof, etc. I get the impression that the figures are rising continuously from the ground into the air, pausing occasionally to pose on a rooftop. I suppose they could also be floating downward to land on the ground. Or both at the same time!

The Little White Book includes an information Introduction by author Lynn Araujo, who also provides a two-page spread on each card featuring the card number, title, and playing card association; a quotation; a description/discussion of the card meaning; and a set of keywords. This pattern is broken occasionally. There is no quotation for the Man or the Lady cards, and the Lilies card description features two quotations.

For example, the quotation chosen for 1. Rider – 9 Hearts is from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” Keywords for this card are: News, change, movement, messages, discovery, visitor, opportunity.

A section in the back of the booklet titled “Reading with Dreaming Way Lenormand” offers examples of a 2-card spread, a line of five cards, and the Spiral Spread, which can be done with any number of cards (ten cards or more seems ideal).

Lynn Araujo

Lynn Araujo is Director of Communications & Editorial at U.S. Games Systems, Inc. As she tells us in the Introduction to the Dreaming Way Lenormand, “I had worked on a number of Lenormand projects (Gilded Reverie, Under the Roses, Celtic Lenormand, Blue Bird Lenormand and Maybe Lenormand) before taking on the assignment of writing this booklet, so I was well versed in the traditional card meanings. I have also studied the methodology for reading with the Lenormand system of divination.” Araujo’s clear, direct writing style is perfect for seasoned Lenormand readers as well as beginners.


Many of us are familiar with Kwon Shina’s art from the Dreaming Way Tarot (U.S. Games Systems, Inc.) For the Dreaming Way Lenormand, Shina gives us evocative, often whimsical images and vignettes, some in pastels, others in vivid, bright colors. Each card provides a basic, recognizable Lenormand visual, along with subtle, often playful touches that are fun to seek and discover. For example, on card 17, the Stork stands proudly by the seashore. Closer inspection reveals a nest of eggs on the Stork’s head, emphasizing the idea of an imminent “birth” of a child, new season, or new arrival of some kind. On the Coffin card, we see a sardine can, the top of which has been partly rolled up to reveal the lower half of a girl’s body. As Araujo states in the LWB: “We don’t know if the can is being opened or closed. The person may have chosen to retreat into a dark place, away from people and problems.”

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.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day with The Empress

I did a reading the other day for a client using The Mary El Tarot by Marie White (Schiffer), and decided I need to work more with this deck. Since today is Mother’s Day here in the U.S., I thought I’d take a closer look at The Empress card:

Marie White describes The Empress as “warm, nurturing, and overflowing with diversity and abundance.” White’s image of The Empress offers a change from the traditional Rider-Waite imagery, in which The Empress is typically pregnant. Here, The Empress has given birth and carries the child on her back. However, she is not just a mother to a single child, but a symbol of the mother of everything, “the abundance and fertility of creation.” (White)

I love the colors White used on this card, burnt umber, mahogany, sienna, goldenrod, dark red, pine, moss, and fern green. These are the colors of earth – of Mother Earth, if you will. A single rose hangs from a cord around the neck of this Empress, and she cradles a generous number of apples in a pouch created by her skirt.

The Empress wears a band of fabric across her chest, decorated with a pattern of triangles and circles. The triangle alludes to the number Three, as in Trump 3. The triangle tips point up, representing a strong foundation or stability, as they are rooted to the ground through a solid base. The circle, of course, symbolizes the cyclical and continuous nature of life, wholeness, eternity.

Regardless of our own personal experiences with or as mothers, The Empress reminds us that “mothering” is larger and broader than any individual or species. It is a force that embraces and infuses life itself, surrounding us, filling us, and renewing our spirit.