(Not So) New Deck Interview: Shadowscapes Tarot

(Not So) New Deck Interview: Shadowscapes Tarot

I’ve had this deck for quite a while now, and I’ve been meaning to do the new deck interview with it since I heard of the spread, and just keep not getting around to it. With the arrival of my newest deck, the Tarot of Delphi, I figured I’d finally stop procrastinating and do the interviews for Shadowscapes today, and my Fantod deck tomorrow.

I don’t recall whether the deck always comes with the companion book or not; mine was a large boxed set. I also have the art book for the Majors, showing the cards in more detail, and one of these days I’ll pick up the Minors book as well. Some people who received the Shadowscapes deck were not impressed with the card quality, but mine are fantastic; the cardstock is a little on the thin side but not flimsy, the images are clear, the printing/cutting was properly aligned, etc. As a fan of Pui-Mun Law’s work for a long time, some detail is lost when you shrink her work down this small- but she packs a lot of detail and color work into such a small space that I don’t have any trouble.

The Shadowscapes deck has been my standard “go-to” deck since I acquired it, and I find it very intuitive and approachable.

1. Most important characteristic: the Sun.
A man on bird-back, surrounded by many other birds, looks up at the bright, golden sun. This deck screams optimism, enlightenment, and confidence.

2. Strengths: Knight of Wands.
A mounted solider holds a spear, with foxes running underfoot. There’s progression and confidence here, though the presence of the knight sometimes instigates conflict unintentionally. This is a really interesting card in this place, and is making me think about the fact that I typically only read when I feel a strong need to or when I’m asked; I’ve never been comfortable with the card-a-day draws since I’ve had this deck, and I wonder if this is why.

3. Limits: Three of Cups.
Three mermaids bearing chalices swim together. This card is all about celebration, community, and friendship. I can’t say I’m all that surprised; I’ve never really used these cards to figure out how to reach out and deal with my socialization problems. It has from time to time indicated that it’s something I need to work on, but has always been a little less specific on the how.

4. Lessons: the Emperor.
A horned emperor stands before a stone wall, surrounded by growing branches but not rooted. This card is about authority, leadership, and human creation. I am honestly not sure what to make of this.

5. How to learn & collaborate: Nine of Pentacles.
A woman plays a piano, through which a tree is growing; a stained glass pentacle lives in its branches. This card is about the balance of the material and spiritual, and the recognition of the skills and power one already possesses.

6. Potential outcome of working relationship: Knight of Cups.
(Interestingly, my “significator” in this deck is usually the Page of Cups.) A man mounted on a unicorn rides across the waves towards a golden chalice. This card is about purity of heart, following intuition, idealism, and perfection. I think this is primarily about my pessimistic/depressive tendencies, really.

My additions:

7. Any entities: Ace of Cups.
Golden fish and fairies swim around a chalice. This card embodies emotional potential and the spirits of the sea; given my longstanding personal… poetry, I suppose, about the forest and the sea in my heart, I think that this deck is not a channel to any particular entity outside my own subconscious.

Bottom of the deck: Four of Wands.
Kierun and fairies leap through a sunny field of roses. Two sentences from the description jump out at me: “Take a moment to breathe and enjoy, but be prepared to continue with the work that has achieved this point,” and “Let go of limitations, and embrace the freedom being offered.” A continual reminder from this deck, in one way or another!

New Deck Interview: Tarot of Delphi

New Deck Interview: Tarot of Delphi

I backed the Tarot of Delphi on Kickstarter a while back and it arrived today! I’ll be using the new deck interview spread again (with my own minor additions).

The box is sturdy, though I’ll probably store the cards in something more decorative once I find a box I like. It comes with a LWB that gives the painting’s details, a paragraph description of the card meaning, and a few brief keywords. The cards are really nice quality, a little larger than I was anticipating. The image quality isn’t quite uniform, given that the images are drawn from Victorian and Edwardian art. They are rectangular images except for one, the Garden (the World card) which is rounded, and I admit it makes me twitch somewhat.

Several of the Majors have been renamed: the Wheel of Fortune becomes the Thread of Fate, the Hanged Man becomes the One Torn Asunder, the Devil becomes the Siren, and the Tower becomes the Shipwreck. The face cards are also changed: Devotee, Artisan, Hero, and Enchantress. Finally, there are two versions of the Empress- one the early interpretation as the sovereign counterpart of the Emperor, and the other the later “earth mother” conception. I’m not sure which I’ll use, though I’m going to leave both in for the interview spread.


1. Most important characteristic: The Empress (sovereign).
Queen Zenobia stands at the top of stairs, leaning against a half wall. There’s a strong sense of power, determination, and leadership.

2. Strengths: Five of Cups.
Andromache stands in a courtyard, shrouded in black. There’s mourning and pain, but the strength to move through it and survive.

3. Limits: Seven of Swords.
A nymph hurries away from a river, unseen by her companions. This card is about impulsivity, stealth, and trickery.

4. Lessons: Eight of Swords.
Andromeda, shackled to a boulder, awaits her death. The card description seems to lean heavily on her helplessness, but the myth says to me it’s more about coming to terms with one’s circumstances, and and that nothing is inescapable.

5. How to learn & collaborate: Nine of Swords.
A guard stands watch as fiery ash rains down on Pompeii. Knowing the history… well, it’s a confusing card, to say the least. (And I briefly wondered if I’d shuffled well enough, except that the cards weren’t in order to begin with.) I think it’s more about the guard, though- he keeps his post, even when the people behind him are fleeing; he remains steadfast in his duty despite his fear and uncertainty.

6. Potential outcome of working relationship: Ten of Swords.
(I swear these were not in order and I shuffled.) Icarus dies, having flown too close to the sun. Obviously the myth is not a great omen here, but the card description focuses on trial and error, and experimentation; the last keyword is “phoenix” which, of course, means burning oneself down to the ashes to be reborn. Painful and powerful.

My additions:

7. Any entities: the Devotee of Swords.
A Spartan soldier performs a martial exercise (per the booklet). The high number of sword cards combined with the Classical Greek focus on the deck had me leaning towards Athene, and I feel like this cinches it- Athene was held in high regard among the Spartans. Some of the keywords for the card include discipline and organization, both of which are traits she prizes and ones I need to work on.

Bottom of the deck: the Magician.
Medea casts a spell. This says to me that though I am neither a soldier nor a strategist, I can get and be what I want- but the process to get there involves a lot more than learning a list of herbs and how to write spells. I can get where I want to be but the journey won’t be for the weak hearted.

I really love this deck- it’s beautiful and layered, and though it’s going to take some time to really get to know it, it’ll be worth the work!

Cultural Values

Cultural Values

A thread on TC about the effect of one’s culture of origin on one’s path got me thinking about what it really means to be a cultural polytheist. It’s not just about honoring ancient gods, nor even doing it in a “historical context” with traditional offerings and prayers and such. I think at least part of it has to be about making the values of that culture important in your own life and practices.

One might digress a little and remember that just because a culture talks about the value of a thing doesn’t mean they practice valuing the thing, and that sometimes what seems like a good or honorable thing to value can in practice be harmful or oppressive. To use my own culture as an example, the US talks a big talk about equality, but only straight, cis white people with decent bank accounts would look at our country and genuinely see equality. We hold up the idea of “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps”, that anyone can achieve anything if they just work hard enough, as the American Dream; but not only is it wildly untrue, it creates this false dichotomy that anyone who hasn’t achieved simply isn’t working hard enough and that anyone who has something has worked for it- which hurts everyone, because the people at the bottom never get the opportunities they need to succeed, and the people in a position to give those opportunities see no one “deserving” of them. All of this to say, just because a culture holds something dear is not reason enough to adopt it wholesale into one’s practice; we can certainly learn something from the people who came before us, but some if it will always be a good example of a bad example.

It’s hard for me to see the forest for the trees sometimes, when it comes to being from the US, so I’ll start with the ancient cultures I draw from, and see if they help me see my own original lens better.

Alexei Kondratiev compiled a list of “Celtic Values” that I think are very accurate, which I will summarize:

  • Enech, or honor; a communal saving or losing “face” moreso than a personal code of conduct
  • Oígidecht, or hospitality; limited by law to keep hosts from the poorhouse
  • Meisnech or self-control; keeping one’s temper/controlling one’s mood (Kondratiev translates it as courage)
  • Tairisiu or loyalty; trust and consistency in beneficial support
  • Indracus or honesty; integrity, wholeness, right-doing
  • Coair or justice; in accordance with a cosmic/grand sense of rightness

I might argue that the second through sixth values are all facets of enech; not only would violating any of these cultural norms be wrong in and of themselves, but the satire and mockery that would come of the community being made aware of those transgressions would only further damage one’s enech. I do think, though, that the cultural use of satire to shame, and the fact that laws had to be passed to keep hosts from needing the hospitality of others, both might indicate that these two values were of the utmost importance.

That said, I’m not sure that enech is really a value I want to hold above others. Perhaps if my culture utilized satire in the way that the ancient Celts did, it would be a different story; but as it is, we reward awful people with more fame and attention all the time, and when those awful people are a little closer to home, we tend to talk around the issue and make excuses instead of exposing them as we ought. The esteem of my community-at-large (my culture) means very little, and while I’d certainly prefer to be well regarded in my actual communities, basing my behavior on what would earn their esteem creates very little in the way of moral guidelines. I would rather earn their disdain by breaking down harmful cultural standards like binary gender normativity, the rampant sexism and shaming of rape culture, etc., than toe traditional lines for the sake of “saving face.” (I admit I don’t do much in the way of traditional gender role breaking personally, as I am comfortable/enjoy much of what’s assigned to me as a woman, but the fact that it’s assigned is bullshit.) The rest, however, I think are all worthwhile, and don’t raise any particular red flags to me.

I also find it interesting to see some of the Celtic values repeated in the few compiled by Andrew Campbell in his Hellenismos FAQ (reprinted on TC with permission). (Not shocking- very little in the ancient world is utterly unique to one particular culture, I find- but still interesting.) He lists four in particular:

  • Eusebeia or piety; performance of customary acts of respect
  • Xenia or hospitality; laid out expectations for both host and guest
  • Sophrosune or self-control; less about avoidance of temptations as being aware and in control of oneself (historically difficult to translate)
  • Metriotes or moderation; see the Delphic maxim ‘nothing to excess’

Like the Celts, the Greeks valued hospitality (not very surprising, in a world without Hiltons or Motel 6s). In xenia, though, there is equal emphasis on the right actions for a guest as there are for a host, something I think our modern culture tends to vastly overlook or oversimplify. Sophrosune has apparently been difficult to define since ancient times, but it is closely tied into metriotes, and the Delphic maxim “know thyself”; being in control of oneself means being aware of oneself, and makes one more capable of temperance and inner balance.

I think the only value here that I might quibble on is that of eusebeia- which might seem odd coming from someone who has explicitly expressed a desire to be more pious, in the Greek conception of it. I think, though, that eusebeia is the go-to for many modern pagans; indeed, one of the most common queries on TC from newbies is how they can “find/choose their gods”. “Picking” deities is generally the first thing crossing a new pagan’s mind, and while I absolutely understand the impulse- the gods were an early consideration of my own- I think that being properly observant of the gods very frequently takes precedent over all else, excepting perhaps magic, in the general pagan community. And as Kiya has said- the gods don’t need us the way people do. The living breathing community that surrounds us, pagan or not- their needs are surely more pressing than that of the gods. Who will benefit more from a cup of cool, clean water, or a plate of warm food? I can’t discount the importance of eusebeia, but I cannot give it the overwhelming precedence it enjoyed in the ancient world with good conscience.

The ancient Egyptians are the least wordy, when it comes to cultural values: everything, it seems, circles back around to just one word.

  • Ma’at or truth, justice, right-doing, balance, law and morality

A singular, tidy concept that like sophrosune can be difficult to define, but certainly of vast importance; the upholding of ma’at is not only the most important duty of the people, but of the gods themselves. Like the Celtic coair, ma’at is the right action and right speech that brings reality and the community into balance and harmony; as Chabas has said, if an action for one community goes against ma’at for another community, you draw the circle bigger. It’s a tall order to live up to, but at the same time, even the smallest actions can contribute to it, like putting the shopping carts away. It encompasses the good of the community- the macrocosmic community down to the individual- in a way that many pagan platitudes about community touch on but fail to truly comprehend.

This somewhat rambling piece brings me back around to my own culture. What does modern, secular New England America value, that is worth upholding? Nationally, there are a few:

  • Equality; though our country has wildly failed to achieve it thus far, it is a worthwhile effort, and certainly a value that can be brought into everyday life
  • Liberty; though we knowingly or not concede our privacy and liberties bit by bit each day, our personal liberties are valuable and should be fought for; furthermore, the Prison Industrial Complex is a travesty that should be dismantled like a maenaed rends flesh, and the world at large should enjoy the freedom from US soldiers on their soil
  • Charity; while Lady Liberty asks for the poor and hungry, we have plenty of them here at home who are too often neglected and overlooked

The regional level is perhaps slightly harder to pin down, unless one looks at the states’ history:

  • Civic action; the Revolutionary War found its start in New England, both in protest and in battle, and was the center of the strongest abolitionist and anti-slavery movements in the US, and the widely common town-meeting model is a great example of direct democracy
  • Scholarship; some of the oldest schools and universities are located in New England, and are cultural touchstones
  • Creativity; a bulk of classic “American literature” comes from the region, a source of pride

It’s interesting; I’ve never actually sat down before and examined all of these cultural values, and weighed them against my own thoughts. I think something that would be of further, erm, value, would be to go through this list and muse on what exactly living these values in today’s world might look like, but as this post is already rather long, it’s a thought experiment for another day! I do think, though, on brief review, that these values are fairly well rounded, and even without further exploration can be a good set of guidelines for everyday action.

Library List Updated!

Library List Updated!

I’ve finished unpacking my boxes upstairs and searching through my shelves, and I’ve added a whole bunch more books to the list! It’s now just a few shy of 100, actually, which took me by surprise. I don’t even recognize some of them. I’d also like to note that I’ve not read the majority of these books yet, so I can’t vouch for their information. If you’d like more info on any, though, let me know- I’d be happy to tell you the publishing year, page length, etc., if you can’t find that information online.

Now I just have to find the shelf space for all the books I unpacked today, which is going to be an adventure!

Little Lending Library Experiment

Little Lending Library Experiment

I’m embarking on a little experiment! In order to make my collection of books more useful, I’ve started a Little Lending Library, linked in my sidebar, where people can borrow books I own! I mail it, you read it, you mail it back. Very simple.

I’m sure my collection of religious and woo related books doesn’t hold a candle to those of others; and at the moment, the list on my little library page is super short, because I need to go through my books and see what I actually have. But! It’s a start and I’m very excited about it.

If you like the idea and would like to start your own Little Library, let me know and I will happily link it! The more books, the better, right?

(On the technical/nitty-gritty details side, I’m personally happy to mail anywhere, as long as you’re willing to mail it back; I will always use the cheapest shipping option available (which in the USA is Media Mail) so it may take some time in transit. I also ask that books stay out no longer than six months at a time to any particular person.)