Announcements

Welcome! My name is Professor Swithun, and I am your new professor of Divination here at Hogwarts is Here. Professor Cattercorn formerly led this course; therefore, you will find references to her in Years Two through Five. You may notice some minor edits here and there, but rest assured that you will not be held responsible for any of these small changes on your assignments and exams. I will strive to keep this transition as cohesive as possible. I have exciting plans for Years Six and Seven! I’m working hard to have Year Six prepared and published as soon as possible.

 

My lovely group of PAs and I are happy to answer any questions or concerns about the course. If you have a question about grading, please send an owl that includes the grade ID for that assignment and why you are appealing. Please be respectful (and remember that we are all volunteers!)

 

If you have any areas of interest related to Divination that you’d like to learn more about in the upcoming curriculum, now is your chance to voice your ideas! I love to hear from students, and questions, constructive comments, and suggestions are all welcome. My office door is always open to accept owls.

 

See you in class!

 

 

(updated 01/18/2022)

Lesson 3) The Tarot Deck: First Steps

Walking into the classroom, Professor Cattercorn carried the ornate golden box for a third week in a row.  Turning to smile at the assembled students, she tapped her wand against the lock and the box sprang open. Dipping her fingertips into the box, she withdrew a stack of cards.  Banishing the box to a shelf behind the desk, she placed the stack on her desk and turned to the class.

Welcome back class, I’m sure you’re getting a bit tired of the basics, but any good seer knows you can’t start out predicting perfectly right away. As we mentioned in the first lesson, study is absolutely crucial and skills need to be honed. But rather than sit here reflecting all day, let’s dive right in!

What is a Tarot Deck?
For the last few lessons, some of you may have been asking yourselves the question, “What is a tarot deck?” While we will be looking at the details in coming weeks, at its most basic, a deck is the heart of tarot reading. You cannot do a reading without a deck of cards. It is the medium through which the magic allows us to tap into our divining powers, and the medium we will be using to learn to read and decipher.

As you have been told, a tarot deck is comprised of 78 cards. These are divided into two groups - the Major Arcana and the minor arcana. The Major Arcana is made up of 22 cards numbered 0 to 21, also called trump cards. These cards all have a specific name, such as the Fool or Death. These cards can represent people in your life, specific archetypes, or things that will be relevant later in your life. Additionally, some of these names can be different in different decks. For instance, one deck calls the Chariot “The Faery Stallion.” The minor arcana is further divided into four suits: wands (also called batons, clubs, or staves), pentacles (also called coins, discs, or rings), cups (also called chalices or grails), and swords. Some decks have even more interesting names, such as a vampire-centric deck that refers to pentacles as “skulls” instead. To make things simple, though, I will always refer to them as wands, pentacles, cups, and swords, though do keep in mind your deck may use an alternate word depending on the theme.

The four suits each represent their own things. Each suit is associated with an element, a cardinal direction, a realm, and a season.

A Myriad of Decks
As briefly hinted at, there are many different tarot decks out there. I personally recommend Barbara Moore tarot decks to beginning readers. She writes very informative guidebooks and works with people who design beautiful artwork for her cards. It is a very good place to start if you’ve never studied tarot before. For reference, a guidebook is a book that explains what each card means and are normally included with tarot decks. Or, if you prefer, the Rider-Waite deck is extremely popular. Either is a great start for beginners. However, despite my recommendation, I actually use a deck called  the Tarot of the Elves, with artwork by Davide Corsi and guidebook by Mark McElroy. The guidebook is rather odd (though very rewarding for those who have attained a level of familiarity with the basic meanings) so I wouldn’t recommend the deck to a beginner.

Picking a deck is a very important decision. Each deck is different. It will have its own particular strengths and weaknesses, its own specialty and, most likely, its own spread. Picking your deck is a very personal experience and there are people that may look for years before buying a deck. Others feel a deck must be gifted to you and thus won’t ever buy one of their own. If you decide to purchase your own, it is important you don’t purchase just any deck. There are many things to consider.

First, it is important you find a deck whose artwork you appreciate. If you don’t like the way your deck looks, you won’t be inspired to use and connect to it. You can’t solely take looks into account, though. You also need to consider the way the cards feel in your hands. Do they feel right? Are they too big or too small? Do they fit well in your hand? Most importantly, do you connect spiritually with the deck? It is important that your magical signature and your deck are compatible. It’s almost like the deck will innately call for you. You might be able to look at the deck and instantly know it is meant to be yours. You might find yourself repeatedly drawn to a single deck. Being drawn to your deck, feeling in your core that it is in fact the deck that is meant to be yours, is probably the most important factor in the art of tarot. In the meantime, though, if you don’t find a deck that moves you in any way, but you want to go ahead and purchase a simple deck for learning purposes, I recommend buying the Barbara Moore deck or the Rider-Waite deck.

Cleansing
The first thing you should do with a new tarot deck is cleanse it. Most tarot decks are mass produced and thus were handled with machinery. This will inherently deter any magic you attempt to perform with the deck and will cause muddled readings, as we know magic and technology unfortunately do not mix well.

There are other times you find yourself wanting to cleanse your deck as well. For instance, if many people have been handling your deck and you fear it may have picked up magical resonance from them, you may wish to “re-center” the deck, almost like making sure your wand still listens to you. If you’ve bought a used or second-hand tarot deck, it is an especially good idea to do this, unless it is a gift from someone you know, in which case their magical signature may act to provide guidance. If you have left your cards unused for an extended length of time, a cleansing may rejuvenate them and get magical juices within the cards flowing once more. Additionally, if you find that your readings are unclear or your cards seem to be inaccurate, cleansing them may make all the difference. In general, “when in doubt, cleanse.” As stated last lesson, tarot cards (while good for beginner seers because they can be used as foci) are fickle foci and often become disloyal for little reason unless you keep them well-attuned to your magical signature.

There are many ways to cleanse your deck. Below you will find a chart of the different ways to cleanse your deck, how you go about it, and details on how that particular kind of cleansing works.

There are many ways to cleanse your deck. Below you will find a chart of the different ways to cleanse your deck, how you go about it, and details on how that particular kind of cleansing works.

Name/Term

Instructions

Details/Explanation

Herb Burning

To cleans your deck with burnt herbs, a bundle of herbs you have assembled (usually sage). Light the stick with the tip of your wand so the end is only smoking gently. You can then run each card through the smoke, making sure to coat both the front and the back.

Think of this as similar to choosing a potion (in a gaseous form) to heal an illness. While this process is not as complicated as a potion, the herbs used are chosen because they have a useful effect, particularly when a witch or wizard concentrates in order to aid the magic.

Breath of Fresh Air

After a rainstorm, take your cards outside and leave them to sit in the sunshine for a few hours. If you find yourself more drawn to the moon, you can also leave them outside to get moonlight.

As you will hopefully know from Astronomy, magic from the celestial bodies (the Sun particularly) is quite powerful and putting the cards out in the sunlight like this can “recharge” them similar to a battery.

Reordering Your Deck

Take your deck and divide it into the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. Further divide the Minor Arcana into the four respective suits: wands, cups, swords, pentacles, respectively. Take each group and place it in order from high to low (low should be on the top when you finish your pile). Rejoin the deck together with the Major Arcana on top, fully organized.

This ritual is actually a focusing ritual, which allows you to concentrate on the meanings and your cards in general, similar to what you do when you are casting a spell. This is one of the most common forms of cleansing, some even doing it every time before a reading.

Burial

Secure your tarot cards in a box that can be well sealed and bury it during a full moon. Leave the cards buried for at least a month, making sure to uncover them on the next full moon.

This is the most extreme type of cleansing and is to be done when nothing is working. This draws on the entire spectrum of the Moon’s magic, which is why it is so effective.

Some users also recommend “blessing” a deck, but this is up to personal preference, and these blessings vary widely from person to person. Often, what some people consider a blessing, others consider simply ritualistic and sometimes even invented. Though, it would do to remember that much of the beginnings of magic in general was highly ritualized and it is through this process that our forefathers discovered what works today! While I wouldn’t presume to say we are inventing a new form of magic when we practice cartomancy, on a smaller scale, you are finding what works for you.

Connecting With Your Deck
Once your deck is properly cleansed, connect with your deck. Spend time with it. Take a moment each day to learn your cards. Pick one card each day to study and reflect on. Draw the card, write about what you see in the image, how it first makes you feel intuitively, what the traditional meaning is, and how it could apply to your day. Also, if at any point in the future you feel you aren’t getting accurate readings, try to reconnect with your deck. It should feel like an old friend that you have known for a while.

Being connected to your cards will allow you to know which meaning is applicable in a reading which you draw a card with multiple meanings. Decks that you are connected with will also tend to work with the way you read. For instance, if you choose not to read reversals, this will not need to be factored into  your reading. If you choose to read reversals in such a way that they are not set in stone rather than the traditional reversal meaning, that is how your deck will present those cards. However, this only works for decks you are connected with. If you were to pick up the deck of someone who does not read reversals in the traditional sense when you do, you may find that your readings do not make sense. Many people choose not to allow other people to do readings with their cards, as it can weaken the connection between you and your deck.

I will end the lesson there, as this is quite a lot to take in and I would like you to have time to absorb it before we go on next week to learn more about the deck. There is so much more that you need to cover! Your assessment today is a short quiz; please take your time on it as I have noticed some students are rushing and making silly errors.

Vocabulary
Reversals: Cards that appear in a reading upside down. As imagined, this can mean a number of things, such as indicating the exact opposite of the original meaning, implying a delay before or that the card’s meaning will come into play, that the meaning is optional, or that the specific card is to be interpreted with more importance or less. Due to the complicated nature of reading reversals, some readers (especially beginners) often choose not to read them.

Original lesson written by Professor Jessica Marrow
Image credits here

 

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