The Conjure Woman

The Conjure Woman
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Saturday, May 28, 2011

20 Questions - Psychic Q & A



This questionnaire is from the new Seance Workshop series and we'd love to hear about your experiences! Classes are Sundays and Wednesdays, e-mail me here or at elizabeth.bissette@gmail.com for more info.

1. Have you ever known something was going to happen before it did?

2. How often does this occur and in what way, (dreams, gut feeling, etc)?

3. How empathetic, (sensitive, sometimes to the point of actually sensing what others are feeling), are you?

4.  How frequently do you remember your dreams?

5. Have you ever had a lucid dream, (awareness that you are dreaming)?

6. Have you ever woken up from a dream only to go back to sleep and start dreaming the same thing again?

7. Have you ever told yourself that you were going to wake up at a certain time then woken at that time?

8. Have you ever intentionally woken yourself up from a nightmare?

9. Have you ever experienced what you thought was a ghost?

10. In what way? (Seen, heard, sensed, photographed, etc)?

11. How often?

12. Describe the experience(s).

13. Have you ever felt or known the place you were living was haunted?

14. Describe your experience(s).

15. Have you ever had foreknowledge of someone's death or had an experience of someone who had died within a short time of their death?

16. What form did this experience take, (dream, smell, sight, sound)?

17. Have you ever had an out of body experience?

18. If so, please describe the experience.

19. Do you feel you already posses psychic abilities? Please describe them.

20. Which abilities would you most like to develop?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

This Week's Top Ten Dream Images

This week I dreamed about...


1. Day-glo daffodills.


2. A talking map with a lovely face.


3. A talking peacock at my window.

Art by Sophia Sundin

4. Trolls that sang songs from 'Annie' on merry-go-rounds.


5. A line of school buses.


6. A ballroom dancing class.


7. Stairs going nowhere.


8. The ocean.



9. A sliding board.


10. A lovely garden.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Civil War Ghosts, Cold Harbor Battlefield


My other experience at a battlefield was at Cold Harbor. My father was within about six months of death and his apartment was literally on the battle site. He wasn't taking medication that should have affected his perception at the time, nor did his health. His stance on ghosts was that they existed, but what was the big deal of that? Not very imaginative, he wasn't prone to making things up.

One afternoon, while watching a basketball game, he started talking out loud, as though speaking to someone right beside him. 'Don't worry,' he said, 'your horse will always find it's way home.'  I asked who he was talking to and he said, 'That guy lying right there,' as he gestured beside him, 'I'm telling him not to worry, that his horse will find it's way back without him.'

I chose to just not react and went back to what I was doing at the time. A little while later, he again started talking to someone I couldn't see but he seemed to, this time telling them repeatedly to sit down. Again I asked who he was talking to and he said, 'That man standing right there, he won't sit down.'

At this point I said, Dad, there's no one there, focus on the basketball game. He looked a little confused, gave me a sort of 'how on earth are you not seeing them' look and went back to the game.

A few minutes later he kept looking just behind my shoulder, squinting some as though trying to see more clearly and leaning in as though trying to hear. I asked what on earth he was doing now and he said, 'I'm trying to hear what they're saying, they're talking and I can't quite hear them, it's like they'er mumbling.'

'They're probably talking about Abe Lincoln', I joked, 'you are on Cold Harbor Battlefield and keep seeing men standing around.'

'No', he said with certainty, 'they're talking about you.'

Civil War Ghosts, Beaver Dam Creek Battlefield

From Virginia, I've been to a lot of Civil War battlefields; just about the whole state is a battlefield when you get right down to it. I've only had strange experiences at two of them. The first was Beaver Dam Creek, the site in Richmond I grew up hearing the most stories about. Beaver Dam was the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. More died in other battles, but not in as short of a period of time.

A friend and I were standing beside the car at twilight. The space is completely open, there are trees tu over to the side from where we were. A fog came and hovered just at one spot, inexplicably. It wasn't dramatic enough for us to be truly surprised, but it did reflect stories of people seeing a ghost army advancing, it did hover on what had been the Southern side.

Like I said, the spot we were standing in was completely open. It would be impossible for something or someone to make a noise without the source being seen. Suddenly, we heard a loud 'clunk, clunk' as though metal were thudding against metal. But there was nothing and no one in sight.

We pretended not to hear the sound and continued talking. A few minutes later, we heard a loud gasp, nearly echoing right by our ears. So startled we dashed to the car, we both agreed that we had definitely heard the sound and saw nothing that could possibly have made it.

I was in a play at the time and the director also participated in Civil War re-enactments. I thought he'd appreciate the story so I told him about what had happened the next night at rehearsal. His eyes grew wide when I described the clunking. He said he heard that all the time, that it sounded like a cup hitting a canteen. His suggestion was that I'd heard a soldier fall, then give his death gasp. It certainly sounded like it.

Two Other Old Louisville Hauntings

The next apartment I lived in, this one on First Street, was haunted as well. This time I experienced unusual things all over the house.The first night I stayed there I was in what had been the front parlor. I knew nothing of the history of the place.  I awoke feeling like I'd had the same dream all night. In it I was in the same room but it was full of people. They were talking, all night long talking and keeping me awake. I had the sense that they were there because someone had died.

Friends lived in the apartment next door to the one I was in and I went in to see them in the morning, joking that they'd had a cute idea putting the tarot reader in the haunted room. Their eyes widened in alarm and they asked what had happened. When I told them they looked even more alarmed. "What on earth is it?" I asked and they told me that the original owner had died there and was, in fact buried in the back yard. The room I was in had been where the wake was held.

When I moved into the house I took an apartment on an upper floor. Nothing as dramatic as the first night in the house happened, but I constantly seemed to see something moving in my peripheral vision. What was so strange about it was that it seemed that  I was seeing all sorts of people - of all shapes and sizes and moving at different speeds. When I asked what that part of the house had initially been, I was told the ballroom. Which made such perfect sense I would have thought I'd imposed the images, but I hadn't known what it had been used for beforehand.

Only one other incident occurred while I was there - a row of cups were hanging in the kitchen and, when I came in one morning, though none had fallen two were horribly cracked, as though someone had banged them together.

I never learned more about the original owner of the house, who he had been or how he had died. It seemed his friends haunted the place more than he did, still mourning, still dancing, and all still socializing together. It must have been a place where people were very happy.

Another haunting I didn't see firsthand but heard of and found it creepier than any I encountered. The owner of a house on 3rd Street said he was awakened one night by a lot of noise downstairs, he said it sounded like someone having a party. When he went down to investigate, he said that's exactly what it looked like. The room was full of people, most carrying drinks. What most astonished him was that he was only seeing the people from the waist up. He investigated the history of the place and discovered that the first floor was built over an existing one. It was, in  fact, built right about level to an average height person's waist.

The Haunted Apartment, Old Louisville

The ghost on the 3rd floor of the house on third street greeted us upon arrival, as butler's do. The first night his footsteps echoed up and down the hall, moving to and from the servant's stairs. I would have blamed this on the acoustics of an old house and a restless house-mate downstairs, if it had ever been heard again. Pacing tends to be a habit, not an isolated behavior.

The next day, as I was unpacking, a statue, concrete, mind you and far too heavy to fall un-provoked, certainly too heavy to fly across the room. Yet it did both, seemingly hurling itself off the mantle and onto my foot, though I was at least ten feet away. An angry ghost, it seemed.

That night I saw him. It was the only time I actually saw the ghost. At first I thought someone was looking in the window. It was late at night and I was unpacking. Terrified, I froze and gazed straight at him, a man in white, balding and in his late 40s. In a few seconds I realized that I was on the third floor, so no one could possibly be standing in the window. He stared straight ahead, unseeing and I realized that the figure did not so much look like someone standing outside looking in as someone standing inside looking out.

Activity in the apartment continued the entire time I lived there. It was sporadic. There would be frequent incidents for months then for months nothing at all. Things happened by day an night, without any identifiable rhyme or reason. Faucets and the television turned on and off, I would have attributed this to pipes and wiring if, as with the pacing, they had occurred consistently. Instead, they would go on for months then stop, etc.

A strange sound like the shuffling of cards or someone running their finger up a venitian blind would start and stop in what had been the butler's bedroom, always sounding like it was right beside your ear. The butler's cabinet in the kitchen, (an impressive installation that filled an entire wall, had numerous doors, drawers and boards that pulled out), was also a frequent site of activity. One night a necklace came off of a nail without it or the nail breaking or bending respectively. The only way it could have fallen was if it had been lifted. Another time, in the butler's room, an object flew off of a windowsill and struck someone in the leg hard enough to leave a huge bruise. No windows were open, nor could wind have blown an object that far or thrown it with that much force to start with.

The cabinet was the site of what I think was truly the most incredible occurrence in the apartment. Awakened late one night by a loud racket in the kitchen, I was at first convinced someone had broken in. Armed with a lamp, I went down the hallway. I found no one in the kitchen, (and had, in fact realized how unlikely it was that someone had broken in at all, there were three flights of Victorian stairs to get up and down and apartments on the first and second floors). The cabinet doors, however were flung open, the boards were pulled out, food had been flung everywhere, flour spilled, cereal, it was a disaster. The whole thing was far, far more than animals could have concievably done and furthermore there was no other incident at any time that suggested racoons or anything of the sort.

The house had been built by a steel magnet in  the 1890s as a memorial to his wife, who had died in the Miami huricaine. At first I thought it must be he who haunted the place, but with time I came to think it was the butler. The third floor had been where the servants lived, (the room that I saw him in was the billiard room but the others would have been 'his') and no one reported any other activity anywhere in the house. Also so many things happened in his room or the cabinet he used. I suppose he didn't want to stop taking care of the place, even after he was gone.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Review of the Haitian Vodou Handbook by Kenaz Filan


Hatian Vodou


The Hatian Vodou Handbook by Kenaz Filan

I've never read a book that starts with a warning before. Well, maybe a Victorian cautionary tale or two did but it seems to me the warnings usually come at the end of those books, like the morals in fables. Kenaz Filan, author of, "The Haitian Vodou Handbook", doesn't want to take the chance of letting you wait till the end of the book to find the reason for caution. The consequences might be rather dire if he did.Texts On-Line


What is the warning? And what would the consequences be? Am I joking? Am I just perpetuating the idea that some believe, that Vodou works mostly because people are afraid of it to begin with?

The answers, in reverse order, are: no I don't think that's why Vodou works, though I've no idea what would feed into the concept; no, I'm in no way joking; I'm not joking because weird things started happening, as Filan says they well may, when I started paying close attention to the book; I'm not sure what to say about consesquences but they seem to be relative and last, but by no means least, the authors warning is as follows:

(From Page 1 of Chapter 1 - Chapter heading, "Some Words of Caution: The Dangers of Haitian Vodou")

"Some will caution you at great length about the dangers of Vodou. They will tell you that the Lwa, (guardian spirits of Vodou), are jealous, thin-skinned, and hot-tempered. Only those with years of training can serve them properly, they claim - and if you miss one minute detail, you run the risk of being ruined body and soul. Others will tell you there is no danger at all...the truth, as is often the case, lies somewhere in the middle..."

Filan, (Houngan Coquille du Mer), was initiated into New York's Societe la Belle Venus in 2003, following ten years of serving the Lwa as a solitary practitioner. I had no idea there was such a thing as a solitary Vodou practitioner until I encountered this book, let alone one who could then go on to be a leader in a religious community. But, after reading his book, I've begun to suspect that Vodou is rather full of surprises.

Rooted in the West African religious tradition of Vodun, Vodou is quite possibly the oldest living religion in the world. (See other features here about Vodoo, Vodun and the Loa to understand more about the original belief system and those that sprung from it.) In Vodou, both an all-powerful God, for the most part distant from human beings and interactive, demi-God/Goddess-like powers called Lwa (or Loa) are revered. It is not dissimilar from Catholicism with it's tradition of revering both God and Saints. Filan's book examines these dieties closely, along with the protocols for interacting with them.

And in Vodou one is definitely interacting as much as one can be said to worship or serve the members of the pantheon. These include not only God/Saint-like personalities but the spirits of the dead, ancestors in particular, as well. And they are not only believed to be actively involved in the lives of human beings, but change/evolve as people do to some extent as well. They wear contemporary clothes, like to drink, smoke, eat and/or have sex (depending on the Lwa), and are not only offerred incense and other things traditionaly left as tokens of prayer or thanks to Gods/Saints, (like candles), but rum, cigarettes, Vogue magazine. Seriously, what appeases or displease seems to depend to some rather active extent on the Lwa and the individual invoking him/her rather than upon etched in stone tradition.

Filan's book explains how to do this, along with some of the history of Vodou, some of his own personal experience and he also provides the reader with further resources should they choose to continue to pursue the study of Vodou. He warns, however, that studying and doing tend to become the same thing, with the time this takes to occur being something that happens quickly or slowly on a case by case basis. It does not seem, as with most religions, that one can simply decide to practice it and have it work or not work at will, regardless of dedication or even disinclination. In Vodou, the Lwa choose you more than you choose the Lwa.

A number of strange things began to happen and continued to happen as I read this book. Which is just what Filan says may occur. I don't know which, if any, were real and which, if any, were coincidence and/or conjecture. My suspicion inclines far more heavily towards the reality of what I experienced. As to my pursual of the resources section at the end of the book, well, I'm not quite sure. I have a feeling that if the Gods/Lwa invoked by the focus on them the book draws you into the habit of want me to pursue them, I will one way or another even if I tried to avoid it.

All this from a book? yep. All this from a book. I think Filan has written not only a significant but truly powerful one. The type of book that, like the Lwa themselves, takes on something of a life of it's own for the reader.
I think you'll find "The Haitian Vodou Handbook" to be informative, rather compelling and comprehensive without being over-complicated. I think you'll find yourself re-reading it and gaining new insight into the tradition each time you do, whether you believe what I'm saying about his warnings being true or not, have experienced the Lwa yourself already, are simply curious or are already well informed.

It's hard to write a book that pulls all that off. To tell the truth, it's hard to write a book that I not only have a hard time putting down but read repeatedly. Filan has accomplished all of these things.

Reviews of The Voice of Knowledge by Don Miguel Ruiz


The Voice of Knowledge, Don Miguel Ruiz

A Review of the Voice of Knowledge
Originally published at Suite101 Astrology

"The Four Agreements" is written in such a way that we seem, almost instantly, to remember what we are being told; to immediately understand. "The Voice of Knowledge" is a bit trickier than that but also, I think better for it.

It, too, is a revelation. A book that one picks up and immediately feels the clicking of light-bulbs over the head. But they are not neccessarily shades of light we are comfortable sitting in. It is a book of questions. Some people are not comfortable with questions, particularly when they are questions they seem to somehow remember, just as the Agreements are answers we somehow remember.

Don Miguel speaks in his first book of the voice in our head, how sometimes it is telling the truth, sometimes lies and that one of the most important things we must do is learn to tell the difference. There, it is almost an aside, something touched upon but not explored in but so much depth.

"Voices in our head! Does he mean crazy people? Who hears voices?" You may ask. Well, in a sense, yes. It is not insanity per-se but illusion to listen to the voice that lies. The voice that, as he describes in this book, tells us a story that is not true. "What voice" you doubtless still insist. Well, our own, but it comes from somewhere deep within us, a part of us that transcends our daily awareness, so it is seperate too.

It is hard to explain, something that really only Don Miguel can explain I think. I am not a master of dispelling illusion so cannot dispel it here. Just trust that there is a voice, (you hear it when you are thinking), that it is more than you yet you and that you can choose to allow it to guide you, or to confuse you.

One of many striking things Don Miguel explains in this book, is that life is a story we are telling ourselves. You are the star, the voice of knowledge is the narrator. Voice of knowledge, that sounds great right? Not so much. Think about what you know, how you learned it, what you have built your story upon. The perceptions of others. Knowledge is not truth, basically. How we know we know the truth isn't important, that is not the right question. Knowing is nothing. Not knowing is everything.

Bringing it down to earth here, (which is what he does a far better job of doing in his book than I am doing in this review), Ruiz explains in his clear, direct style, how to stop telling yourself a story with an unhappy ending. How to make your life what you want it to be instead of what you have learned it should be.

Within this tiny volume you will find great wisdom. And by applying this wisdom, which is very simple actually, you can stop sabatoging yourself, stop beating yourself up, dispel whatever negativity you have accumulated. It's true. And, as he says, "We are born in truth, but we grow up believing in lies...one of the biggest lies in the story of humanity is the lie of our imperfection."

"The Four Agreements" opens a door for us. "The Voice of Knowledge" opens our ears and our eyes. Which, another very wise man once said, was a very important point we overlook we too often, "have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear". (Don Miguels' books, by the way, are inclusive of and wonderful companions to wisdom books of all faiths).

Q: Can understanding the now help us to make the correct future choices?

Ruiz: I'd say rather that fully living the now, without the burden of thinking about the past or the future, makes the whole problem of "choice" disappear.


A Review of the Buddha Tarot




Whether you love Tarot as much as Astrology, know nothing at all about it, are a lover of Buddhism or are simply a philosopher at heart, this book will fascinate you. In it, I expected to find a summary of Buddhism and perhaps a unique persepective on how that relates to Tarot. Instead, I found much more.

Mr. Place covers a lot of ground. He gives us a timeline of Eastern and Western thought and outlines in detail both Eastern and Western traditions, from Pythagoras to the Neo-Platonists, to the Middle Ages, the Optomists, Buddha and Christianity in all of it's complexity.

As I read through this, I soon discovered I was reading not just an interesting Tarot book, but the history of Philosophy book I'd longed for in College, one that combines Eastern and Western teachings and emphasizes their similarities rather than differences.

You can learn so much from this book! In it you find a history of philosophy, tarot, mysticism and much more. It describes the central teachings of Buddhism then applies them quite ingeniously to tarot.

He then illustrates how the life of Buddha is easily and clearly reflected in the standard tarot, and shows us how he has taken these two traditions and combined them to make a system of divination and self exploration that is entirely original. The cards and their companion book show us a new way of looking at ourselves and at many schools of thought that have helped shape and form our spiritual traditions.

The cards that accompany this book are stunning works of art. That so much talent rests in one person, (Mr. Place), is a rare delight. As with the text, he combines East and West in his illustrations. As most decks show the journey of the archetypal hero (the Fool) to consciousness, here we have the journey of Buddha to enlightenment. They draw from not only Buddhism but Christianity and traditional tarot as well.

Lovers of art, philosophy, Buddhism, tarot, Eastern traditions, all of the above .... just about anyone would treasure and enjoy this book and cards. It makes me want to call my former philosophy professor and tell him I've at last found the book I always wanted to study then and have him recommend it to his students!

A Review of the Voodoo Tarot of New Orleans


A Review of the Voodoo Tarot of New Orleans

Les Barons, Voodoo Tarot of New Orleans

By some definitions, Tarot cards are a gateway. This function has several different interpretations. To some, they are a gateway between the conscious and the un-conscious self. To others, they are a gateway between the reader and spirit guides. Still others believe they are a gateway between the reader and stronger invisible forces. Fundamentalist Christians are generally the only people who truly believe these invisible forces are Satanic or even demonic. Many, however, do believe that semi-divine entities, the good, the bad and the in-between, can communicate through cards.


Voodoo is not the only religion that embraces this concept. Divination has long been thought of as a bridge between the human and the divine, (note the very similarity in names), with cards or other physical objects acting as a bridge or gate between the two. All sorts of icons serve similar functions, (though not in the divining sense, in the bridging the gap between human and divine sense), in many contemporary religions. In fact, the early Catholic Church used tarot cards as a teaching tool at one point.

Divination has always been a part of the Vodun and Voodoo religions. In America, Tarot has become one of the primary, if not the primary method for practitioners. "The New Orleans Voodoo Tarot" was designed by, and to some extent for, these. The images on the cards and the meanings behind them, represent the Loa or sacred spirits of Voodoo. By reading them, you see which of these are active in your life, among other, more usual divinitory insights.

Dance, Voodoo Tarot of New Orleans
You don't have to practice Voodoo to use the Tarot. You will find yourself, however, feeling like you must be by the time you're done with your first reading. The deck so comprehensively illustrates the principals of the tradition it celebrates that one wonders if by reading about the Loa, one isn't actually inviting them in. If the cards are, in fact, as Voodooists believe, a way to communicate with these spirits, I suppose you are.

Each card not only represents a Loa or an aspect of one, but has on it a veve, or design whose purpose is to draw the Loa specific to it in. In Voodoo rituals, these intricate, often strikingly beautiful designs are drawn on the floor with cornmeal. Most feature a crossroads, the sacred place where Voodooists believe this world and the spirit world intersect.

So proceed with caution. Voodoo is, after all, the oldest living religion in the world. There are reasons things survive for that long and those reasons generally have something to do with the surviving thing producing rather striking results. You may well find that this deck gives the most accurate readings you've ever had, (it does), but I suggest at least buying another book about Voodoo to go with it, (I suggest the "Haitian Voodoo Handbook" by Kenaz Filan).

I don't warn because Voodoo is bad, it's a religion and as al religions do, it addresses both good and bad. However, bad things can happen when you approach powerful things naievely. The cards, in this instance, might just be truly powerful things. Read the book that accompanies them all the way through before reading, at least, so that you have some understanding of them.

This is the only Tarot book I've ever read, and I've read a lot of them, that truly engaged and engrossed me. Reading it is a wonderful way to learn about Voodoo and the many colorful Gods and Goddesses,(though they're not quite that, more like Saints), that are revered in the tradition. The artwork is remarkable and often striking, communicating complex and ancient concepts with bold, simple designs with images from modern day New Orleans.

Learn Tarot, Helpful Hints

previously published at Suite101 Tarot
illustrations from Katelan Foisy's deck in progress.

Knight of Coins

Peter James

Hints for More Accurate Readings

Want more accuracy from your tarot readings? With Tarot we become the Magician, people expected to pull rabbits out of our hats. Here are a few shortcuts.

1. Use Court Cards to represent people. Since they don't always come up in spreads, separate them from the rest of the deck. Shuffle them and place them on top of cards you'd like to know more about/those that best represent situations. The cards that come up are the people the situation.

2. When you do a Tarot reading separate the Major from the Minor. Do a spread with each. Take the Major to represent the way things really are, the Minor to represent the way they appear.

3. Lay additional cards on those who's meaning you're unclear on.

4. Do a reading using only the Major , then take the Minor and use them to clarify/elaborate on the cards/situations at hand. You'll get very specific details about each influence/situation in the Major.

5. Here are a few combinations/meanings that without fail seem to apply in my tarot readings (sorry but they're almost all Major since that's what I primarily use:

Hermit, Fool beside one another indicate pregnancy/birth. The Hermit almost always represents a period of nine days, weeks or months, depending on how soon the takes action.

Wheel of Fortune is a period of 11 days, weeks or months filled with unexpected extremes/events.

Magician, Sun beside one another - job situation

Justice, Judgment beside one another - when the two are together there are definitely legal issues

Death, Hermit beside one another - someone has recently died, without question if Judgment is there too

4 Swords, Strength - you REALLY need to rest

Chariot, Tower - a car wreck, with Temperance almost certainly danger of drunk driving/drugs & driving

Devil - something or someone has unfair control over you. Also indicates S&M, abuse (of drugs or people), homosexuality. Beside Death it can indicate a VERY bad person.

6. If pairs come up (King and Queen of the same suit, Emperor and Empress, High Priestess and Priest ) they usually represent actual couples.

How to Read Tarot Cards Quickly and Easily


previously published at Suite101 Tarot
illustrations from Katelan Foisy's deck in progress.

4 of Wands

You've bought a tarot deck and are eager to use it. You shuffle. You lay out a Celtic Cross. You're at a loss. The book that came with your deck lists dozens of meanings for each card. Which to choose? What to do? How to read them? Throw out the book! Separate the Major from the Minor and try this method instead of getting lost in the madness.

Divination can be easy. Shuffle the Major . Focus on the backs to clear your mind. Deal them in rows of three across. Place the odd card to the side. It represents the outcome.

Look at the cards. Their symbols activate the intuitive part of your brain. What do you think they mean? I strongly recommend considering this only with your mind and the guide below. However, if you must have a supplement try Tarot Symbols

Identify patterns that strike you. Do you see shapes that seem to repeat? Are there similarities/opposites in the pictures that seem to jump out? Try to find a group that tells you a story. What is it? Use the guide below to help identify interconnections.

Patterns may occur left to right or more haphazardly. The first one you see identifies the major issue. For example: If Sun (money) is beside Magician (job) beside the Tower (chaos), this person's main issue is financial because of job chaos. Read the pattern like a sentence . Subsequent patterns illustrate other issues you or the person you're reading for have.

That's right - you.

There are taboos about reading your own cards. This is because it's difficult to be objective about yourself. Pretend they're someone else's cards for better results.

When reading for another person, don't ask what's on their mind. You need to learn to pick up on it yourself. Additionally, their current idea of the problem is probably not the true problem at all. Usually current issues are the result of past events. Providing insights about these events is what then resolves current situations.

Guide

The Lovers
Shannon Moran, Freshly Inked Magazine

The Fool:
Meaning: Look before you leap.

The Magician
Meaning: Represents employment. Most commonly means being expected or able to pull a rabbit out of your hat in some way.

The High Priestess  
Meaning: Hidden knowledge

The Empress
Meaning: Creativity

The Emperor
Meaning: Will, Intent follows action.

The Heirophant
Meaning: College, Marriage, things moving to a higher level

The Lovers
Meaning: Love or choice

 The Chariot
Meaning A car, moving quickly, taking control.

Strength
Meaning: Physical health, tame the beast within.

The Hermit
Meaning: Introspection,lay low.

The High Priestess
Molly Crabapple

The Wheel of Fortune
Meaning: Unexpected events

Justice
Meaning Rationality, fairness.

The Hanged Man
Meaning: Plans are suspended. The sacrifice may be too great, When you're at the end of your rope, tie a knot and swing.

Death
Meaning Death of a person, situation, issue

Temperance
Meaning: Emotions, keep things flowing smoothly.

The Devil
Meaning: Abuse of people or substances, sex, you're controlled only as much as you allow yourself to be.

The Tower
Meaning: The chaos that comes before enlightenment, everything has blown up because you've let it build up. Learn something from it so it won't happen again

The Star
Meaning Hope, careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

The Moon
Meaning Secrets

The Sun
Meaning: Money, you reap what you sow.

Judgment
Meaning: Fate, you get what you deserve.

The World
Meaning: Communication

Next, make your own guide. Draw a Major card each day. Consider the figures and their environment. Write down the card & your impressions. At the end of the day, compare what you wrote down with what happened and record connections. When you've done this with each card, you'll have your own interpretation of the Major .

Knight of Cups
The Minor represent human experience:

Cups: Love; emotions
Swords: Conflict; mentality
Wands: Health; creativity
Pentacles: Money; business

To understand these, lay out each suit in order. You must use a deck with pictures in the Minor. If you love the Major of one deck but the Minor look like playing cards, get 2 decks and combine them. Write down what you think the story of each suit is. Use your interpretation of them as a guide. For concise summaries to supplement this see: http://www.vcsun.org/~ /tarot.htm

Deck books are useful for interpreting court cards. Consult the meanings listed there and keep in mind the fact that they often represent real people. Assign the characteristics of the card to people in the situation at hand for more insight.

Use the Minor to elaborate on situations you've already identified. If you want to know more about a job issue, lay some Minor cards on top of the Magician and the surrounding pattern cards. Continue to do this for any situation you want more information about.
P
Practice frequently on yourself and friends. The key to this method is to learn to trust your intuition. You'll be amazed how quickly your reading skills develop.

The Fool in Tarot and in the Middle Ages

previously published at Suite101 Tarot
illustrations from Katelan Foisy's deck in progress.


The Fool in the Middle Ages
"Who Is Not a Fool?"
-Horace (65-8 B.C.), Satires, 2.3.158

The Fool
Orien
As card 0 (usually) in an otherwise numbered deck, the fool brings both ends of the Major Arcana together. As 0, he can also be viewed as the source of the Arcana and therefore of its wisdom. He is not exactly a part of it because he is nothing (0). At the same time, he can be seen as the first card, and therefore everything can be viewed as coming from him. In tarot, this everything is knowledge of the Arcane. To understand each key of the tarot, we need to understand the preceding one. So to understand the cards of the Major Arcana, we need to understand the fool.
Tarot decks first emerged in the Middle Ages. To fully understand the fool's role in tarot, it is important to understand his role in Medieval society. As the card is outside of the structure of the Major Arcana, but a unique and important part of it, the fool was outside of the structure of society but a unique and important part of it.

The fool was an outsider by nature because he was extreme in some way. He or she, (the fool, along with the monk, nun and prostitute - one of the few equal opportunity positions in the Middle Ages), was exempt by nature from the rules of society. This exemption could be due to extreme mental or physical superiority or inferiority.

In Europe during the Middle Ages there were two kinds of fools, (by occupation, that is). There were fools who were mentally slow or otherwise disabled and fools who were exceptionally clever and/or agile. Some of these were also deviants. For these, the position of fool often offered an escape from the consequences of crimes committed before they had received their lucky appointment. Sometimes poets, musicians and scholars became fools too.

King of Wands
Fools in all of these categories were often 'discovered' just like comedians and other entertainers are today. Some would (intentionally or unintentionally) impress a passing person of distinction with their wit, stupidity, clumsiness or agility and be offered a job on the spot. For many, this opportunity was a release from the law or from toil and drudgery. Some fools even became rich and famous. A few of their jokes were so good they survive to this day.

Some disabled fools were presented to nobles by their families for a reward. In a few deeply disturbing cases, parents deliberately disabled their children in hopes that they would rise to the position of fool. This is a sort of sick variation on the stage mother of today.

People in the Middle Ages took the idea of laughter being the best medicine very seriously. They actually felt that joking around kept bad things from happening. So the fool's presence in a home or at public gatherings was viewed as a talisman to keep bad luck at bay. Fools performed in marketplaces, at festivals, at court and in private homes.

The fool often brought 'luck' to his employer by attracting attention and deflecting anger. A fool could also break up physical or psychological tension by making a joke of it. Because of the value of this, their behavior was rarely censored.

To do this, the fool drew from his 'bag of tricks', like the bag he carries over his shoulder in many decks. These included humor, music, acrobatics, juggling, magic and contortions. Sometimes they also ate fire, swallowed swords or worked with animals.

Fools were not only unique mentally, they looked different too. In some cases this was the result of ugliness or physical deformity. Their clothing was usually pieced together from absurd pieces of cast offs. Some speculate that their dress was a reflection of how poorly they were treated by their master.

Clever fools often doubled as advisors to the king or nobleman they worked for. The fact that they were on the fringe of the court is perhaps part of the reason they were taken seriously. They had no ulterior motive for misleading the king. They were often punished if they did (sometimes by death) and rewarded if their advice was good.

Temperance/Alchemy
Feloche
Sometimes the fool and the master had a very close friendship. Many undoubtedly felt that their fool was the only person who was completely honest with them. This feeling, particularly in the instance of kings, was probably correct much of the time.

The fool also had the opportunity to be a champion of the little people. He was able, if he was clever enough, to undo the system from within. No other commoner could hope to achieve this.
 from these examples we see that the original, Medieval concept of the fool in tarot was probably paradoxical, as he was in society. He was both idiot and sage. He was free but downtrodden.

The Fool has evolved in many nations and cultures from earlier mythologies as a symbol of God & Man, a solitary man on a trek through life. His only companions, God & nature, teach him (often by cruel example) what is expected of him in this world and what may follow this life. He may find his way to God with some luck or end up lost forever. It is a risk we all and not just the Fool must take, as we set forth.

The Fool in the picture may be dressed like a country bumpkin or court jester and is often shown in the wilderness, accompanied by his dog, holding a bundle and a white rose. Though the Fool is about to step off a cliff, his plight is not an imminent fatality, but rather a surprising, if not enlightening turn of events. He will learn something about himself because he has seized the opportunity to explore, travel or move on, even though he may not know how, may not have everything he needs to get where he is going, or know why he has acted in this manner. Never-the-less, the Fool unwittingly makes his way to his goal without a plan simply by trusting his own instincts.

The Fool, of course, is us, humanity, the way of the ordinary human being. His situation suggests that he could fall dizzily into spiritual enlightenment or hell-folly and death. His human condition implies that he may not recognize the signs along the way which point in the better direction and that in a divine sense he is constantly surrounded by pertinent information, healing energy and helpful resources, but doesn't always notice it.

Other implications come from playing the fool, suffering the children, playing devil's advocate (taking the opposite side in an argument) and having the noble distinction of being able to reveal truth with impunity. The medieval position of court jester was one of prestige not shame,
shame, since he had the ear of the King as well as the commoner, and like a modern gossip columnist, was able to tell-all without suffering the usual consequences. 

Finally, it should ring a bell that everyone is a fool to somebody sometime, that we need to laugh at ourselves more often and be reminded that anything between heaven and hell is possible in life's journey. Up until 400 AD it was possible for a man to become a god, although in today's terms that might mean becoming a superstar.