Learning Tarot

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve owned my Lord of the Rings tarot cards for well over a decade, and most of the cards I’ve never learned the meanings of.  There are a handful that have come up multiple times for me, such as Death, the Queen of Swords, the Star, and maybe the Nine of Swords (not too sure on that one); the ones I’ve had to look up multiple times are the ones I’ve learned.

Admittedly, I haven’t put much effort into studying them.  I just finished year 7 or 8 of undergraduate study, and that started right out of high school.  I blame not having the time or brain capacity to do extracurricular studying.

BUT!  Now that I’m taking a break from school and have more time (and sanity), I’d like to actually learn the tarot cards.  There’s just one problem… Most of the images on my LotR deck don’t resonate or make sense with the meanings for me.

According to this article from the Llewellyn Journal, there could be a couple reasons that people don’t pick up the card meanings.  After a couple readings, these are the reasons I’ve picked out:

  • Handling cards doesn’t cut it for you.  (In which case, try a different divination system or technique.)
  • The imagery on your cards doesn’t speak to you.  (Look for a different deck.)
  • Intuition vs. Memorized meanings (The author of the article spends awhile discussing this, so go read it, because a one-sentence summary isn’t happening.)

My problems are a mixture of points 2 & 3, wherein not all of the imagery on the cards makes sense to me, and I haven’t put any effort into studying the meanings.

SO!  Because my brain is weird, I’ve decided to combine the solutions to my tarot reading challenges, and design my own deck.

This.  Is a Long. Term. Project.  (For those who don’t know, tarot decks have 78 cards.  And each one gets a different image.)

Finding the images: The first part of making each card is to learn some of the meanings of that card.  To do this, I read through the section on that card in my tarot book and make notes of the important meanings on a sheet of lined filler paper.  (These will get added to my 3-ring Book of Shadows.)  I do this for both upright and reversed meanings.

Actually deciding what image to use to describe the card takes some introspection and searching.  I try to keep in mind all the meanings that I’ve just learned (associated with that card), and try to think of something that will remind me of those meanings.  Personally, my deck is going to be images from my fandoms (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings / Hobbit, Avatar the Last Airbender, Star Wars, etc.); for example, The Fool card is about childlike wonder, unexpected circumstances, and the start of a journey, so my card shows the moment when Hagrid gives Harry his Hogwarts letter and tells him he’s a wizard.

This is not easy.  Sometimes, I get one specific impression from the meanings, and I know that that’s the image I should use.  Other times, I have to consider multiple images, because none of them fit quite right and I have to poke at them from different angles to see if I can come up with a better one.

Also, the image that speaks most clearly to you might have nothing to do with the name of the card.  Example: for The Magician, I’m using the mechanist from AtLA, who’s not magical at all but uses logic to engineer all sorts of things to better the lives of those in his community.

Making the cards:  Actually crafting the cards is a different set of worries.  I’m using a pack of unlined 3″x5″ index cards, and trimming 1/4″ off in both directions; This is because 2.75″x4.75″ is the “traditional” size of tarot cards, and more importantly, the card sleeves my bestie bought me for this project are that size.

I lightly pencil in a border around the card, and dimension where I want the card’s name to go.  At this point, I already have some idea of what I want the image to be, so I find some visual research online and start sketching.

WARNING!  Before you do any sort of inking or coloring on your cardstock, do a test-squiggle to make sure what you’re using won’t bleed through the card.  It’s important that the backs of the cards be as identical as possible.

I’m using a black felt-tip pen for my inking, and a 16-count pack of crayons for occasional coloring.  Between inking and coloring, be sure to erase your pencil marks.

So that’s it.  I’ve got the first two of the Major Arcana (The Fool & The Magician) made and sleeved, with designs planned for the next two (The High Priestess & The Empress), and am working on ideas for the next one (The Emperor).  I might post images of them when they’re done, I’m not sure yet.


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