Prayer Ritual Basics

Since posting about my upcoming Prayer Ritual I’ve gotten several requests for a how-to guide. I figured the best place to start would be an explanation from the one who inspired me to do this, Stevie Miller over at Feathers in Amber. She graciously provided the below explanation and photos of her techniques. One of the things I most like about her practice is that she’s not afraid to experiment with different approaches, so you’ve quite a few examples to start with! I’ll be following with my approach in the next few days.

Starting an Open Prayer Ceremony
Stevie Miller

If you have spent any amount of time on social media–and really, who hasn’t?–you’ve probably seen a surprising amount of people asking for prayers. It might not occur to you, as it didn’t for me, until you start looking for it, but these requests are everywhere: sick and injured friends and family, job searches, hurting relationships, house fires, cars breaking down. In a circle of just a couple hundred people, things like this can be going wrong every day.

As a spirit worker, I seem to have something of an “on duty” sign that lights up when people specifically ask for prayer. Even if the people making the request are from different traditions than mine, or outside of polytheism altogether, I often feel moved to help. But since I didn’t want to impose my beliefs on others, I wanted to come up with a way to figure out who wanted that kind of help from me, and how I could offer it on a regular basis without it taking over my life.

A simple prayer ritual to Odin with an offering of mead and incense.

A simple altar layout for a prayer ritual, featuring an offering of mead and incense.

Enter the weekly open prayer ceremony. I let people know that I will be lighting candles and reading out petitions once a week and that I’m open to requests. Suddenly, those requests came flooding in from every direction–more than I even had candles for! People loved the idea, and I even got asked if others could pray for me in return, and if I wanted donations to be offered to any charities in return for this sacred work. I was also asked to write the article you’re reading now.

I also found that this practice has benefitted me. The routine is fantastic for ensuring that I’m offering to and talking to my Powers regularly. Social accountability–that is, other people expecting that you’re going to do something, and your posting evidence of it–is great for establishing and maintaining a good habit. It has also made me feel much more connected to others. Spirit work, especially when you serve a really niche tribe–and in my case, a discarnate, non-human tribe–can be an extremely lonely path. But with this, I’m using my skills to do good for others, and hearing back about how it has helped them. It has been starting to make me feel like I really do have a community, and they need me.

This picture shows the Odin candle, an offering of mead on top of a prayer list, and a piece of knot magick representing all the prayers made.

This picture shows the Odin candle, an offering of mead on top of a prayer list, and a piece of knot magick representing all the prayers made. She kept the cord on the altar for a week so that the Gods could watch over everyone’s intentions.

The Gods, Ancestors, and Spirits seem to enjoy being needed too. I’ve consistently gotten messages over the years, both intended for myself and intended for others, along the lines of “Ask Us! Come to Us when you are in need! We want to be a part of your lives and your works. You don’t need to do this all alone.” Calling on the Powers regularly for the people has strengthened my bond with Them too.

I wholeheartedly believe the world will be a better place when more of us are praying for each other and offering to the Powers. So if you’d like to start an open prayer ceremony of your own–which I would strongly encourage!–I’d like to offer some tips.

Define your community: Maybe you just want to open your ceremony to people close to you, or maybe you want to make it public. I post publicly on social media about it, and, odd exceptions aside, accept every prayer petition I receive. You may want to do it differently. Whatever you choose, figure out who you’re offering this service to and how you will let them know about it. An alternative is to simply gather up the prayer requests you see and hear in day to day life. You’ll be surprised how many you encounter once you start looking for them.

Set your boundaries: What Powers do you want to work with? Will you let people request prayers to a specific deity or spirit? What kinds of prayer requests will you accept? When will you accept prayer requests? What is your maximum capacity? These are all things you will need to define for yourself and your audience if you’re going to do open prayer ceremonies.

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A beautiful altar layout utilizing nine candles to represent the collective prayers said. Note the rune stones in front of the candles – she drew a general omen for everyone she prayed for and shared the results.

Create your ritual: I’ve found that it’s easiest for me to deal with open requests if I keep my ritual format simple. I do a simple invocation, I make offerings to the Powers I have invoked, I read the petitions of the people while lighting candles, and I thank the Powers for Their blessings. Sometimes I will add a component where I take an omen, such as a three rune pull or a card draw, or a component where I meditate and listen to see if the Powers have any messages for just me personally or for all the people being prayed for. That’s it.

Distance offerings: Since I’m praying for people who are scattered all over the country, I took up a practice that seems to be gaining popularity in polytheist circles: I promote offerings to charity in the name of the deity being honored that week. For example, the last couple times that I have worked with Odin, He has made it clear that He would like offerings in His name to be made to Alzheimer’s research. This allows people who are not present at your ceremony to take part if they feel so moved by giving something in exchange. Reciprocity is important in many traditions. It also helps you work on causes your Powers find important, which can only improve your devotional relationships, right?

Simplify: I keep the whole process simple because it’s easier for me to focus on the petitions, and to keep this process going without getting burnt out. For example, you don’t have to light an individual candle for every single petition. I sometimes use 9 which is a symbolically important number in my tradition; for many 3 is also a sacred number.

An image of nine tealights arranged in a pattern centered on an Odin jar candle.

Miller’s use of nine candles during a prayer ritual.

Offerings can be low key, like a nice beverage or some incense. I use Wednesday as my day of the week because that day is named after my Patron Odin (“Woden’s Day”). Keeping it on the same day each week makes it easier for me to remember (I’m lucky if I know what day it is!) and also makes it easy for people to know when their prayer requests need to get to me by.

After my prayer ceremony is over, I usually share a quick snapshot of the lit up altar just to let people know that their petitions have been spoken. I’ll share any commentary that I have from the rite itself, especially if I took an omen and want to share my reading of it.

In the future, I plan to work with different Powers and offer prayer ceremonies focused on particular intents, such as healing and abundance. I’m hoping to foster connections between people and deities or spirits they may not be as familiar with too.

I hope that this has been helpful and that you are inspired to start your own open prayer ceremony! Blessings to you and your communities.

Rethinking Daily Tarot Draws

The Centennial Two of Cups next to the same card from the Thoth Tarot and the Marseille Cat Tarot.

The Daily Tarot Draw is a ubiquitous practice in the Tarot community. It’s commonly recommended as a learning tool for those new to Tarot, and even more advanced folks often pull a card for direction or inspiration every morning. It’s an easy way to bring Tarot into our daily lives.

The technique is simple: we draw a card in the morning and ponder it throughout our day. Then, before sleep, we jot down the results of our pondering. In this way we focus on the cards one by one, allowing us to dig deeper into their meanings.

My Instagram post for the Two of Cups from Das Delphische Tarot, the German version of the Mythic Tarot.

My Instagram post for the Two of Cups from Das Delphische Tarot, the German version of the Mythic Tarot.

I’ve long been a fan of the Daily Draw, but over time I started getting less and less out of it.  Daily draws moved from “ooh, what could this mean today?” to “ah, better prep for that then!”. Questions became statements, and I grew bored.

I think that’s perfectly normal. The better we know the cards the less likely we are to question their meaning, right? Unfortunately, it’s the questioning aspect that makes this such a useful learning technique in the first place!

Thankfully, all it takes is a little twist to make the Daily Draw once again useful for even the most advanced Tarot students. Here are a few of my suggestions.

Change the Question

Most of us, when we do our daily reads, ask general questions about ourselves. “What do I need to know today?” “What situations do I need to prepare for?” “How will my event go?”

As an alternative, ask more specific questions about topics outside of ourselves. “What news story should I pay particular attention to today?” “What weather should I prepare for?” “What’s today’s office vibe?” Treat the one card draw as a mini-spread related to something specific and then record your results afterward. Stretch your limits and see how it goes!

Change the Deck (and Consult the Book!)

It’s easy for us to get so comfortable with an established deck that we stop really thinking about it. The fastest and easiest way to shake it up is to simply start working with a new deck. Those following my Instagram see this regularly – I never use the same deck twice in a row for my daily draws.

A comparison of the Two of Cups from the Centennial Waite-Smith and the Gilded Tarot.

A comparison of the Two of Cups from the Centennial Waite-Smith and the Gilded Tarot. Both are RWS decks, but they have completely different visual representations for the core ideas. We can use that.

Another thing? Every time I pull a card from a deck for daily draws I consult the book. Even if I’m already super familiar with the deck. Sometimes a word or phrase jumps out of the description, encouraging me to focus on that particular aspect for interpretation. It also sometimes helps me see new facets of the card I hadn’t before considered. I highly recommend it.

Change Up the Deck Style

Using a different RWS deck every day, while helpful, will only take us so far. Up the difficulty and increase results by changing deck styles as well. Use an RWS deck one day and follow it up with a New Approaches deck the next. Toss some Thoth or TdM up in there, or even some Visconti, to keep it fresh and stretch your skills. I’ve personally found TdM and Visconti decks to be transformative to the way I read Tarot, and using them for occasional daily draws is a great way to ease into these new systems.

The Centennial Two of Cups next to the same card from the Thoth Tarot and the Marseille Cat Tarot.

The Centennial Two of Cups next to the same card from the Thoth Tarot and the Marseille Cat Tarot. Each one has such a different take on the core meaning that becoming familiar with them increases our connection to ALL of them.

Use Quotations

This technique ties phrases to card meanings, making it particularly useful for more auditory learners. Draw a card, think about what it means, and find a famous quote that fits the meaning. Pondering a quote instead of a card image or string of keywords engages our minds in a whole new way.

Finding the perfect quotation can sometimes take more time than we have, though. Don’t despair – there’s a deck for that! The Art of Life Tarot is based on general RWS meanings, but it matches up a piece of fine art and a well-known quotation for a truly unique approach to Tarot. Consider the below pic a teaser for my forthcoming review!

The Two of Cups from the Art of Life Tarot.

The Two of Cups from the Art of Life Tarot.

Write a Haiku

This adds a creative twist to the daily draw. It works on the same principles as using quotations, but instead of finding a suitable quote we write a haiku. In my opinion, this technique encourages a much more personal relationship with each card.

Haikus are a Japanese form of poetry with a rigidly set structure of three lines. The first is 5 syllables, the second is 7, and the third is 5. Capitalization and punctuation are left up to the author. They also generally don’t rhyme.

My haiku for the Two of Cups.

I  JUST started posting these on Instagram. Feel free to join me using the #haikuthetarot hashtag! You can also follow my IG – I’m @mystiknomad.

Writing a haiku for each card of the Tarot forces us to play with different ways of expressing the core meaning of each card. We can’t rely on keywords to do it, either, which is a fantastic way of breaking out of book bound interpretations.

A huge bonus of this technique is that it stays fresh regardless of how many times we cycle through the deck. Trust me – the haikus will be entirely different with each go round!

This technique is equally effective when we use one deck the whole way through or change the deck by the day.

Participate in Tarot Challenges

Both Instagram users and Facebook groups set up Tarot challenges to be done in groups. Usually lasting for a calendar month and often based around a specific theme, the idea is to meet a daily challenge for as long as challenge lasts.

The Tarot Nerds Challenge for March 2017.

My first official challenge was in March with the Tarot Nerds Facebook group. I had so much fun sharing my answers with other people doing the same thing!

This can be an excellent way of focusing on cards in new and exciting ways, because the challenges change each month. Some folks even do more than one at a time! Posting our results on Instagram or Facebook also lets us share our draws with others responding to the same question. That can introduce us to different interpretations of the cards, new decks we’ve never seen before, and the wider Tarot community as a whole. Participation provides its own kind of accountability, too, by reminding us to do them every day.

Use Two Cards

Want to get into something more spread-like? Pull two cards for your Daily Draw instead of one. It seems like such an obvious thing, but it can really push us to see the cards as interconnected energies instead of discrete ideas.

The picture below shows some possible layout options using the same two cards. Doesn’t that second card add so many options for interpretation?

Two card layout possibilities using the stunning Prisma Visions Tarot.

Two card layout possibilities using the stunning Prisma Visions Tarot. The first lays them out in a linear fashion. The second uses the second card as a clarification of the first, a way to focus the first’s meaning on a particular area or in a particular direction. The third layout is the core of the Celtic Cross, letting us see the day’s theme and something that might be challenging that.

As a bonus, adding a second card doesn’t require much more time/energy investment than a single card would!

If even that’s not enough we could stretch it to a three-card reading, but to my mind that feels like a little much for a daily draw.

And there we have it – a range of ways to make daily draws more interesting and relevant to our daily lives!

Have you tried any of these? Does anything look interesting? Will you be joining me as I #haikuthetarot? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wanderer’s Spread

The name of this blog and my business aren’t accidents. I am a mystik nomad. I travel as often as possible, to as many places as possible, reveling in the unique song my soul sings in each new location and learning something new everywhere I roam.

It sometimes feels like I’m spoiled for choice, though. There are so many places to go, so much to see, so much to do! How can I ever pick?

So I made a spread for that.

The Wanderer's Spread, designed to help you choose your next adventure!

The Wanderer’s Spread, designed to help you choose your next adventure!

The Wanderer’s Spread helps us see what types of experiences we might have at a given place at a given time. When choosing where to go, simply lay out cards for each possibility and then compare. Then make the arrangements and head out!

The cards can go down in any order, but I start at the 3 o’clock/East position and work my way around clockwise. Start wherever makes the most sense for you.

1) What might this destination do to or for my mind?

Every new place we go stimulates our minds in different ways. Some are mentally exciting, causing our attention to ping-pong from bright light to bright light like a squirrel on speed. Think Disneyland, or the Vegas Strip. Others still our minds, turn us inwards, encourage us to reflect and consider. An example for this would be quietly drinking coffee at dawn from a cabin porch. Which is this trip likely to offer?

2) What might this destination do to or for my body?

Is this trip likely to be relaxing and restorative? Adrenalin-filled and active? Sore and uncomfortable? All have their place – what are you in the mood for?

3) What might this destination do to or for my heart?

Every trip is a journey of the heart as much as anything else. Is this particular journey full of joy? Unexpected love? Anger and rage? Despair? Cleansing and renewal? This is your chance to tailor your destination to meet the needs of your emotional self.

4) What might this destination do to or for my spirit? 

Every place has its own spirit, its own frequency, its own voice. Each one of them resonates with our souls in unique ways, and between them they create a song unlike any other that can be heard by anyone anywhere. What kind of song does this place sing to your spirit? Is it the kind of song you want to hear?

Lay out as many different spreads as you have options. Nothing’s likely to be perfect, of course, but which options best suit you and which tradeoffs are you most willing to make?

This spread can add a whole new dimension to your trip planning! Do it ahead of time, record your results, and compare them to how you feel when you get home. It could help you examine things in a whole new way!

Fourth Branch Spread: Approaching Dilemmas and Analyzing Situations

I’ve been working long and hard on a series of posts exploring the women of the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi: Goewin, Arianrhod, and Blodeuwedd. Me being me, together They inspired a Tarot spread! Consider it a teaser for what’s ahead.

The Fourth Branch Spread uses only four cards to offer us a ton of insight. It’s designed to help us sort out situations that may be too complex for us to easily navigate. Each card represents the perspective of one of the ladies in the Mabinogi’s Fourth Branch, giving us a series of viewpoints we can then use to figure out the best approach moving forward.

The Fourth Branch Spread.

The Fourth Branch Spread.

Goewin’s Take: We spend our childhoods learning a series of ethical guidelines, often based on social standards or philosophical principals. We put these concepts into practice as adults, and they’re usually the first gauges we use to examine a difficult situation. Goewin helps us explore what facets of duty or honor are at play in a given set of circumstances. Pronounced “GOH-win”.

Arianrhod’s Take: It can be comforting or even validating to follow the standards set for us by other people, but we’re not helpless pawns in our lives. We have our own sources of power, and our own ability to affect change in a given situation. Arianrhod helps us figure out what leverage we might have to shift our circumstances, or what resources we might be able to use to sway things in our favor. Pronounced “ahr-ee-AHN-hrod”.

Blodeuwedd’s Take: It’s easy to lose sight of ourselves and our needs when caught up in complicated situations, or to put ourselves last when making decisions. That might work in the short term, but if we do that too often or for too long it leads to nothing but resentment and regret. Bodeuwedd encourages us to look for that which supports and nurtures our most authentic selves. Pronounced ” bluh-DIE-weth”.

The Fourth Branch: When we put all the above perspectives together with our own instincts and preferences, which path offers us the best potential for success moving forward? What’s our takeaway from the reading as a whole?

I’m eager to hear how this spread works out for you. Feel free to let me know in the comments!

For those intrigued by my inspiration and wanting to learn more, stay tuned – Goewin’s Tale will be posted in the next few days!

The Elephant in the Room: Racism in Tarot Communities

This post from Tarotprose came across my feed recently and I immediately felt the need to share it. Written by a queer person of color in the Tarot community, it mirrors similar experiences I’ve heard from POC in the general Pagan/polytheist community too.

“I believe we should all feel safe and welcome [in the Tarot community] and to be completely honest, I haven’t always felt that way… I do not think anyone should feel threatened by the shared space they are part of. I do not think anyone should feel uncomfortable. I do not think racist acts should be ignored, silenced or tolerated. Tarot readers of color should not be forced to choose between silence and safety.”

This post outlines specific instances of racism this reader has experienced in what should have been a safe space. Do they ring any bells for you? For your community? For any POC you may know? We have to do better, folks. This is unacceptable.

AA Tarot

Three Major Arcana cards from the African American Tarot – the “black deck” mentioned in the original post, which was referred to as being inferior to a “normal” deck at a public event and then used to humiliate the reader. Which is a pity – that Empress is particularly gorgeous.

Sharing and brainstorming for solutions are welcome in the comments!

The original post can be read at Tarotprose.

Making a Deck Your Own: Tarot Mods

Here we can compare a card before the borderectomy and after.

Conventional wisdom tells us to make our spiritual and magickal tools our own. If we can’t make them outright, they’ll work best if we customize them somehow.

However, Tarot is a strange tool when it comes to making something our own. Due to the logistics of deck creation we almost always stick to mass produced decks, and since the cards are already “finished” out of the box customizing them doesn’t readily spring to mind.

That’s disappointingly unimaginative. There are so many possibilities! After all, at the end of the day a Tarot deck is simply a pile of cardstock with pretty pictures on it. And we’ve all been playing with papercrafts since kindergarten. We’ve got the skills. We just need to apply them.

But… but WHY? 

I tend to modify decks as a way of charging and bonding with them. Not necessarily into that? That’s ok. There are practical reasons to consider it, too.

Cards too big to comfortably shuffle or easily carry around? Trimming makes them smaller.

Do the borders distract from the art and make it harder to read the cards? That’s a frequent complaint when there are bright white borders around a deck done in darker hues, but it comes up with overly complicated and/or thick borders too. Trimming takes care of that.

Are there aspects of the card art that need to be altered/corrected, or details not on the card that need to be? That’s doable too.

Are the front and back of each card richly colored while the edges are bright white, making the deck as a whole look unfinished? That too can be corrected.

Has a beloved deck been used so much that the edges are ragged and hindering use of the deck? Trimming it down can give it a new lease on life.

Additionally, every single one of these techniques, used singly or together, will make our decks utterly unique in all the world. That alone might be reason enough to mod our decks!

Cool. So how do I do it?

Some of the most common options include altering the card face, trimming and corner rounding, and edging. I’m going to walk us through the creation of my beautiful pocket Mythic Tarot and show some of the techniques I used, and I’ve included some awesome Youtube videos throughout if you want to see the techniques first hand!

Altering the Card Face

The two most popular decks in the US (the RWS and the Thoth) were both created by ceremonial magicians. It’s not surprising to learn that magickal correspondences are buried in every card! Over time, even readers who aren’t particularly ceremonial themselves have come to rely on and even enjoy those correspondences.

Other decks have since come out that take different and sometimes radical departures from those two sources. As a result, the original correspondences may be lost or deliberately discarded along the way. Some readers are fine with that. They either didn’t use those correspondences anyway or have them memorized. Others, though, really want that symbolism on their cards.

Even beyond esoteric symbolism, there are some decks that don’t even have labels on the cards. Counting the number of pentacles on a pip card before we can even read it gets tiresome! Once deck trimming enters the picture (no pun intended!), those labels we found so handy might wind up on the floor in a pile of scraps.

That’s ok, though. It’s dead easy for readers to simply add what’s missing to the cards. The most common things I’ve seen added are labels, numbers, and astrological correspondences, but anything useful can be added too.

Sharpie and paint pens are both go-tos for this. Sharpie gives a more subtle result, but metallic paint pens can add a dash of glam. Choice depends in large part on the design of the card itself, and considering the many options out there can be loads of fun!

While I haven’t found myself personally adding many correspondences to cards, I do have a deck I had to artistically alter to effectively use. The Bright Idea Deck is one of my favorites, but I couldn’t get past the blond guys in suits who reminded me way too much of a current politician. So I took a fine point Sharpie to them. All the blonds are now brunets!

Capability - the Magician - from the Bright Idea Deck. The one of the left is pre-alteration, and the one on the right is after I changed his hair color.

Capability – the Magician – from the Bright Idea Deck. The one of the left is pre-alteration, and the one on the right is after I changed his hair color.

It might be a small and insignificant change to some folks, but it allowed me to keep using this deck without weird associations I didn’t want to taint my readings. This deck is also now 100% unique, because even if other people do the same thing the results won’t be perfectly identical to mine. And it took a whopping 10 minutes to do.

These same techniques can add keywords, change color correspondences, add flowers or herbs, whatever. Get creative!

Trimming and Corner Rounding

This kind of card alteration is a bit more drastic and involves actually cutting the cards.

It’s usually – but not always – done to cards with heavy borders that distract from the art. Simply trimming off the borders and then rounding the edges can make a HUGE difference in a card’s appearance. It also makes the card smaller, which is fantastic for those who have problems handling larger cards and those who want to have a deck stashed in their car or purse.

In the case of my Mythic it fixed a problem. I’m only interested in the art on the old, out of print version, and that runs around $100 used on eBay. However, the original art can still be found on the $9 German version. Dealing with German labels saves me $90? SOLD!

Once I got it, though, I found that the German labels bothered me more than I’d anticipated they would. The cards are also proportioned differently from the US version, so the borders that had been tolerable were now a bit much. Together they were ridiculously distracting. So I fixed it.

This High Priestess from the Das Delphische Tarot.

This High Priestess from the Das Delphische Tarot. Isn’t she just crying out for a borderectomy? 🙂

When trimming cards there’s no “right” way to do it. It’s a series of totally personal decisions, from exactly where to place the cuts to what tools to use to do it. For instance, here are the possibilities when it comes to trimming the HPS card.

The Mythic's HPS card cut in various ways.

Here is the Mythic’s HPS card cut in various ways. Watch the card get smaller as we cut more and more away from it!

The first image is the original HPS card. The second removed three borders completely and just a little off the top. That definitely lightens the whole thing up! The third basically created a narrower frame around the card. (I think that’s the worst option of the bunch, but it’s a definite choice that could be made.) The fourth cuts off everything except the bottom border, and then the label is written there instead. Since that’s a more typical label location some readers might prefer it. The fifth and final image shows the card with all borders removed completely.

Since I know the images backwards and forwards, and found myself intrigued by the idea of making a tin-sized deck, I decided to go with option #5.

Then it was time to select the tools. It is absolutely possible to do this with scissors alone, especially since these cards have distinct borders around the images. However, a little investment makes the process much easier!

I’m a fan of this thing. It doesn’t cost much more than a good pair of scissors. I’ve done several decks with it and haven’t yet had to change the blade. It also cuts in both directions, and the wire guide makes sure the cuts go where they’re supposed to. It’s even got built-in measurements! I found I could trim a card in less than a minute even being super careful. That’s not bad! Because of the stop the cuts are straight, too. There’s a fixed blade version available, but I haven’t tried that.

Fiskars 9 Inch SureCut Paper Trimmer.

Fiskars 9 Inch SureCut Paper Trimmer. The blade is mounted to the little orange square on the left side of the track.

The process is really simple. Slide the blade to one end, lift the piece with the blade on it, push the card flat against the stop opposite the blade, and lower the lifted piece. Line up the guide wire with the exact place you want the cut to go, use one hand to steady the card, and with firm pressure slide the blade across the cutline. Done! Repeat for every cut.

The Two of Swords in the cutter.

Like this. The guide wire is the vertical line we can see running up the side of the image all the way across the top of the card.

Once I trimmed it I wound up with this kind of result. Isn’t the difference amazing? I fell in love the second it was done. It looks like a little painting now! The image pops more, the colors look more vivid, and the figure looks significantly more dynamic.

Here we can compare a card before the borderectomy and after.

Here we can compare a card before the borderectomy and after. If you look really closely you can see where I added labels before trimming. Once I rounded the corners they disappeared, and luckily I didn’t see any need to replace them. So keep that in mind when doing yours!

That’s really all there is to basic trimming. Lather, rinse, repeat. Once I did all the cards it was time to move on to corner rounding!

Corners are rounded for two key reasons. One, cards with rounded corners are less likely to catch on things when handled or shuffled. Two, rounding the corner protects it from excess wear and tear. As you can see in the Ace of Swords pic I posted above, trimming leaves sharp corners. Those need to be rounded off.

Luckily that’s even easier than trimming. Again, scissors can be used, but no two corners will match if they’re all done by hand. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am absolutely not ok with that. I use a corner rounder.

There are billion of these on the market, in all different sizes, but I use the clear fan favorite.

The Sunstar Kadomaru Pro Corner Cutter.

The Sunstar Kadomaru Pro Corner Cutter. As you can see from the picture, this one cutter does three different sizes.

It’s easy to do. Pick the desired size, slide the corner of the card in until it’s square, and then press the top of the rounder down. Once we hear a “click” we can move on to the next corner. I got as fast as 2 cards a minute while punching my Mythic (although that felt silly, so I deliberately slowed down a bit).

I recommend doing some experimenting with the rounder before going to town on actual cards, to make sure the right/most aesthetically pleasing size is chosen. I went with the medium size for my Mythic project as I felt they best matched the overall proportions of the card. See how much more finished the cards look after rounding than before?

The trimmed cards before and after corner rounding.

The trimmed cards before and after corner rounding. One thing to note is that parts of the bottom border were still visible on the trimmed deck. That could have been a problem. Rounding the corners fixed the issue, though.

There are more creative trimming options, too, though. The one in the video below I find particularly fascinating, and I might end up trying this approach with my Commemorative Waite-Smith deck. Here the reader cut her deck into perfect squares. The images of the standard RWS cards are so iconic that it’s easy to tell which card is which just from the focal image, and because of the square shape cards can be read upright, reversed, AND facing left or right! Imagine what that could mean for intuitive card interpretation!

Who knew taking a blade to your deck could open up whole new ways of engaging with Tarot?

Another technique involves trimming and then changing the card backs. And it’s super easy! Check it out!

Burnishing

This is a step that I do after trimming and rounding. I’ve never seen anyone talk about it with cards, though, so I thought I’d cover it here in a separate section.

Basically, when I finish trimming and rounding the whole deck I take a spoon and slide the curved part of the bowl along all the edges of the cards, pressing firmly inwards and kind of rocking it. Once that’s done I use the spoon to press along the edges straight down before flipping it over and repeating on the other side. I’m trying to mimic the mechanical action that happens when a deck is originally cut, and I find that it really does make a difference.

Two stacks of cards. The ones on the left are not burnished, which the ones on the right are.

I took this picture when I was exactly at the halfway point of the burnishing process. See how much smoother and more finished the burnished cards on the right are than the unburnished ones on the left? Also note that the burnished stack on the right is noticeably shorter, even though it contains the exact same number of cards.

Do every card and, unless you’re edging, you’re done! Huzzah!

A random selection of cards from my trimmed and rounded Mythic Tarot!

A random selection of cards from my trimmed and rounded Mythic Tarot! Isn’t it gorgeous??? I’m madly, madly in love with everything about it.

For those wanting some more examples of trimmed and rounded decks, check out the video below. Particularly pay attention to the Thoth section – trimming completely changes the whole feel of that deck and makes it much more approachable! The Druidcraft might be one of the most trimmed decks out there right now – it’s freaking huge, more like an oracle deck – and he covers that one too.

Edging

Cards are printed on the front and back on cardstock. The sides of the card aren’t printed, though, and that can be an aesthetic problem. It’s particularly obvious when the deck is stacked for use during a reading. The uncolored side of the card can scream out, especially on darker decks.

Edging fixes that. It colors the edges of the card so that they match (or artistically contrast with) the printed parts of the deck. Black is by far the most common color, but navy, red, and even purple are used quite a bit too. I’ve even seen white used to brighten up light decks, and browns used to make a deck look aged. The process makes a world of difference in how a deck looks.

I don’t get too fancy when I edge my decks. I use a chisel-tipped permanent marker or paint pen, carefully put the card edge on the flat part of the chisel, and hold the card steady as I move the marker around. Other people have different techniques, though, and Youtube is a great place to find some options if you’re curious.

Remember those edges in the burnishing section above? Here’s my Mythic after edging with a black Sharpie.

The trimmed Mythic Tarot after one pass of edging.

This is the deck after one pass. I usually do two or three to make sure I hit all the angles. It’s easy to miss a spot!

Doesn’t that just make the whole thing look super special?

Keep in mind, though, that cards are paper. Water-based inks and paints, including both Sharpies and acrylics, will likely bleed through the paper. How much it bleeds is largely determined by the grade of cardstock on which the deck is printed and the type of finish added after printing. (I find that burnishing helps minimize bleed too.)

A super closeup of the Mythic Tarot's World card after edging.

A super closeup of the Mythic Tarot’s World card after edging.

See that faint black line along the edge? That’s where the Sharpie bled through. I thoroughly enjoy the effect on this deck – it looks like char lines around the cards. IMO it gives each one an incredibly subtle black frame that makes each image look complete.

Instead of using water-based inks, some folks prefer going the oil-based route. The paint doesn’t get absorbed by the cardstock so bleed is avoided. Other people like using stamp pads instead of markers, but I find the technique messy and don’t use it.

While I went with black for my Mythic, don’t feel compelled to do the same with whatever deck you’re using! There are as many options out there as there are colors.

This is an example of what we get with a silver acrylic paint pen. I like the softer tone, but a more metallic finish is possible by using pens made for quick fixes of metallic scratches. Rustoleum makes one, and there are other brands too. I’ve seen silver and gold, and think there might be a copper too.

The Clair de Lune Lenormand, edged with acrylic silver paint.

The Clair de Lune Lenormand edged with acrylic silver paint.

We don’t have to use the same color all the way through, either! Multiple colors can work beautifully with a deck. For the below example, I divided the Bonefire Tarot into three piles – Majors in one, half the Minors in the second, and the second half of the Minors in the third. Then I edged each pile with a different color (red, orange, or yellow). Here’s a pic of the deck after shuffling.

My edged Bonefire Tarot.

My edged Bonefire Tarot.

Edging can completely change the character of your decks!

Storage After Mods

If we stick to altering the front of the card, and maybe even rounding the corners, then the box a deck came in is fine for storage. The second we trim it, though, the box it came in is too big.

For decks that are small enough (like my German Mythic), mini Tarot tins are available online. I chose that for my Mythic and enjoy the extra sturdiness of it. I’m still dithering over what to do with the lid though!

Two options for the Mythic Tarot's tin.

Two options for the Mythic Tarot’s tin.

On the left is a panel from the front of the box the deck came in. I trimmed it to fit and rounded the corners. While it includes the author and title, and the card makes it very obvious what deck this is, I find it a bit garish. The deck also came with an extra blank card, and I’ve trimmed that as a possibility too. I think it looks much classier, personally, but it doesn’t include any identifying info in case I maybe possibly one day need it.

Decisions, decisions. Have some input? Tell me in the comments.

Bags, wooden boxes, and even cloths tied furoshiki style are all handy too. Go with what you like!

And that’s it on Tarot mods! Has this post inspired you to do your own? I’d love to see your results in the comments!

Note for those looking at doing this with the Mythic Tarot! The German version is smaller than the US version. While the OOP US version COULD fit into a tin if trimmed this way, it would be tight. Besides, it’s OOP! Sacrilege! The German version fits in the tin with some room to spare.

Size variation between the German and US versions.

Size variation between the German and US versions. The trimmed German version – with borders removed but image untouched – is on top of a card from the US version. The difference is definitely noticeable!

The Minchiate – Tarot with an Expansion Pack

We tend to think of Tarot as this long, winding road of development from early game to modern divinatory powerhouse. That’s an oversimplification, though. There were several “splits” off of the Tarot line that led to other interesting decks.

Like the Minchiate (min-key-AH-tee).

The Minchi-whatie?

Originating in Florence, the Minchiate is essentially a Tarot deck with an expansion pack. It’s got the 56 Minors we’re all familiar with (although they’re non-scenic, like TdM pip cards), as well as a whopping 41 Majors!

That sounds really intimidating until we realize that 21 of those cards are damn near identical to Majors we already use (barring some name and number changes). Of the remaining cards, the majority are correspondences we pick up as we study Tarot. Really, by the time we winnow it down there’s only 4 new concept cards to learn, and they’re easier than we might think. How ’bout dem apples? 🙂

The Minchiate Majors break down like this:

  1. There’s a reordered (and in places renamed) Major Arcana that includes every card of the Tarot’s Major Arcana except the High Priestess. I thought that would be a deal-breaker for me but I found it surprisingly easy to adjust. Other cards fill in for her. This might be a challenge to those devoted to the order of the cards or relying heavily on the Fool’s Journey, though, so it’s something to keep in mind.
  2. All twelve zodiac signs have their own cards. No more trying to remember if the Chariot is Cancer or Sagittarius because there’s a separate card for that. Woohoo!
  3. The standard Tarot has cards representing three Virtues already: Strength, Justice, and Temperance. The Minchiate adds Prudence (the last cardinal Virtue) to the mix, as well as the three theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Their shadow sides would, of course, be the Seven Deadly Sins.
  4. The Minchiate also includes the Elements. Air, Water, Fire, and Earth all have their own cards. That might be my favorite addition out of all of them.

Once we’ve studied Tarot for any time at all we’ve come across most if not all of those ideas. Even the Virtues aren’t mysterious. Hell, even the spreads we’re familiar with work just fine!

All the Minchiate does is separate out some of the layers, coincidentally making all the cards less dense and more approachable.

It also gives us the flexibility to layer things in whole new ways.

Easing into the Minchiate

When I first started with the Minchiate I jumped in all at once. While I eventually sorted myself out, it’s not the approach I’d necessarily recommend. Instead, I suggest easing into it. It helps to find bearings as we go.

The first step is getting solid with Tarot. Seriously. That’s a HUGE leg up! That teaches us most if not all of what we need to read the Minchiate, and there are lots of books and study groups out there to help. Minchiate is much less popular than Tarot, to my eternal dismay, so we kind of have to forge our own path and develop our own systems within the Minchiate framework. Tarot helps us do that effectively.

Once we’ve got a solid grasp of Tarot, we can gradually add Minchiate cards into what we already know by going through the following stages.

1. Read it like Tarot.

This is kind of like first-stage Minchiate reading. Here the reader removes all the extra cards except one of the Virtues (usually Charity because of the visual similarities). She stands in as the High Priestess card. That gives us Tarot’s 22 Major Arcana cards. How handy!

The "Charity" card from the Minchiate Tarot by Brian Williams.

“Charity” from the Minchiate Tarot by Brian Williams. Easy to see her as the High Priestess holding the sacred fire!

Then we set aside the extras entirely and read our deck just like we would the Tarot. We can use the spreads we’re used to, do daily draws, journal, whatever. This is a great place to start for those needing some time to adjust to the name and numbering changes in the Majors. It also helps those new to reading pip cards.

2. Oh, look. Clarification cards!

This next step is fun and trippy. I like it a lot. It gives some fantastic and occasionally mind-bendy twists to the cards we’re familiar with.

First, pull out all the strictly Minchiate cards and set them to the side. (Yes, this includes Charity.) We wind up with two stacks of cards, a standard working deck and a smaller deck of clarification cards.

Read as usual with the larger working deck. However, if/when we run into a card that requires clarification, pull a card from the clarification deck instead of the working deck. Simple, right?

This can be loads of fun! Stuck on how to manifest the Queen of Swords and want some direction? Maybe Prudence is the key. Not sure how to progress with the Magician? Maybe working with Scorpio energy is the way to go! Ace of Pentacles makes no sense? Maybe accessing the Water of that card will clear the way.

This really showcases the flexibility of the Minchiate system and forces us to interpret the energy of the cards in whole news ways. It also lets us tackle learning one card at a time in an actual reading instead of studying the book. I’m a fan.

3. Add in the Elements

As soon as we dip our toes into Tarot we learn the four classic elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. We’re used to seeing different phases of these elements as we progress through the pips of the Minor Arcana, and that doesn’t change in the Minchiate.

However, in Minchiate decks the essence of each element gets its own Major card, too. Think of the keywords we have for Cups, for instance: spirituality, emotion, compassion, flexibility, receptiveness, interactions, relationships, etc. Those keywords are represented in their entirety by the Water card. We’ve already got this info in our heads. All the Minchiate does is give us a card for it.

The Element Cards of the Minchiate.

The Element Cards of the Minchiate Tarot by Brian Williams.

When comfy with using the elements as clarification cards, remove them from the clarification deck and add them to the working deck. They can be a bit of a challenge to get a specific answer from, but that can be said for ALL the Majors. At least they’re in good company!

3. Add in the Missing Virtues

As I mentioned earlier, the traditional Tarot already includes the three Virtues of Strength, Justice, and Temperance. Those cards are in the Minchiate, too. However, the Minchiate also adds four more.

Hope, Prudence, and Faith from the Minchiate Tarot.

The other Virtues of the Minchiate Tarot by Brian Williams – Hope, Prudence, and Faith. Charity is pictured above.

These are the cards of the Minchiate that might be the most perplexing for modern readers, so here’s a brief description of each so we can see how they break out.

Temperance – balance, moderation, restraint, equilibrium. Standard Tarot stuff.
Strength – power, dynamism, will, moral force. Also standard.
Justice – fairness, uprightness, equity, impartiality. Again, standard.
Hope – Think of this as half of the Tarot’s Star card. Hope sustains comfort in trying times, looking above and beyond present circumstances to something brighter and better in the future. In the Minchiate, the Star thus becomes a messenger of glad tidings, blessings, and the presence of grace. As it does in so many ways, this is an example of the Minchiate breaking out what Tarot layers together, giving us two distinct aspects to play with in our readings.
Prudence – seeing things as they truly are, instead of the illusions we may prefer, and having the wisdom to roll with that. This is the card I tend to most often associate with Tarot’s High Priestess card on a divinatory level.
Faith – Think of this as half of Tarot’s Hierophant card. It represents religious beliefs, doctrine, and even fervor. The Minchiate’s Emperor of the East (the renamed Hierophant card) thus becomes a card of formal and traditional authority. It retains the connotations of complexity, refinement, and even secrecy, but ditches the religious implications of the Tarot’s Hierophant. Again, this unpacks and separates those two distinct aspects.
Charity – spiritual love, generosity, and empathy for fellow man, loving others as we do ourselves.

None of these are difficult to manage, and they’re the most challenging part of the deck! I found them remarkably easy to add into my readings, actually, and find that the enhance it way more than I’d previously thought they would.

As before, use these as clarification cards until they feel super comfortable. Then add them to the working deck.

4. The Zodiac Cards

Almost done! All that’s left in the clarification deck by now are the Zodiac cards. There are twelve of them, and unfortunately they can’t really be added in batches. They need to all get added to the working deck together.

Four of the twelve Minchiate astrological cards: Libra, Aries, Cancer, and Taurus.

Four of the twelve Minchiate Tarot’s astrological cards. In the Minchiate they start with Libra and run through Gemini.

On the plus side, though, it’s almost impossible to live in the West and not have at least a vague idea that Cancers are homebodies and Taurus folks are stubborn. We get that from newspaper horoscopes. Most Tarot books talk about the astrological correspondences of Tarot cards too, so huzzah for those already having that background. It helps.

If the zodiac descriptions don’t speak to us as readers, we can always consider using the associated myth as a launching pad instead. Why not take an alternative approach? We can do that. 🙂

As usual, these can all be added to the working deck once we’re solid with them.

5. Reading the Minchiate

And BAM! That’s it! Success!!! From this point on we’re golden! That’s all it takes to move from Tarot reading to Minchiate reading. Wasn’t that painless? GO US! *high fives and cheering*

I wish you much joy in this unusual – but hopefully interesting – variation of Tarot!

Are you interested in the Minchiate but unsure where to start? Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Are you an experienced Minchiate reader? I’d love to read your take on things in the comments too!