Head Covering and Mental Health

A bright and happy hijab.

I started covering my hair way back in 2013, and posted about my reasons when I started. Since then I’ve gone from covering full-time to covering sporadically to going right back to covering full-time again.

Through those changes and over that time my initial covering reasons (piety, modesty, and feminism) haven’t substantially changed. Something I didn’t know when I started, though, is how beneficial covering would turn out to be for my mental health*. It’s been quite the experience!

I’ve seen improvement in these three key areas:

  1. Self-Esteem and Self-Care
  2. Emotional Vulnerability and Boundaries
  3. Social Anxiety and Depression Management

So let’s talk about those.

Self-Esteem and Self-Care

Saying that I had low self-esteem in the past would be misleading. I know what I’m good at, where I shine, and playing to my strengths is second nature. I’ve never had a problem accepting that I’m an awesome person with a lot to offer the world.

However, my appearance has never factored into that. Almost all of the attention I’ve ever received for it, positive and negative, in some way circles back to ideas of sexual objectification. I’m either someone bangable or someone not bangable, and being assessed like that before someone even knows my name is profoundly uncomfortable and unsettling. Even worse, those judgments are based on an aspect of self I don’t enjoy, don’t value, and have minimal control over. I’m just not down with that.

Thing is, though, rejecting that whole concept resulted in me rejecting my body. I dealt with it when necessary and categorically ignored it when not. For most of my life I’ve felt more like a brain in an ambulatory jar than anything else, and who devotes a lot of time or attention to caring for a jar? I’ve done the bare minimum required to keep my body mostly functional and never really gone beyond that.

Until I started covering. Covering my head has helped me reconnect to my body.

My head coverings are beautiful. They’re also perhaps the only part of my appearance that has zilch to do with sex. In fact, covering my head often seems to remove me from objectification-based assessments entirely. Every day is a new chance to be artistic with scarves I’ve chosen and techniques I’ve practiced, and when people see me in the streets it’s the results of my creativity that elicit commentary.

A beautiful double braid tichel-style wrap from Wrapunzel.

A beautiful double braid tichel-style wrap from Wrapunzel.

I’m more inclined to properly care for my body when it’s not attracting unwanted attention. Maybe it’s a bit backwards, but covering makes me feel more like my body is mine as opposed to some kind of public commodity I’m obligated to keep in top form for someone else’s enjoyment. Since I started covering I’ve found myself naturally focusing more on what makes my body feel good. As a result I’m drinking more water and eating better. I’ve actually developed a skin care regimen and work on getting enough sleep. I’m even slowly but surely working towards physical fitness goals.

I don’t know that any of that would ever have become a thing for me without covering.

Emotional Vulnerability and Boundaries

Being vulnerable around others is something with which I’ve struggled. All too often in my own head “vulnerability” equated to “weakness”, and being weak led to being hurt. Not exactly encouragement to do it, you know?

Covering seems to provide a psychological layer of protection, a kind of buffering. I think it’s maybe even spiritual, since I focus on my Lady and Her goals for me when I wrap. Regardless of the reason, covering my head helps me open my heart.

It’s easier to talk about my hopes and dreams when I cover. My fears and inadequacies are easier to share too. It’s like I’m wearing a hug, like I’m supported and loved no matter what, and I can be more open because I’m less defensive.

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A bright and happy hijab.

For me, being less defensive also results in my being more assertive. I know it’s not that way for most people, but in my life safety and security have been assured more by meekly going along than by bucking the system. Whatever that system might happen to be.

Covering is like a physical boundary I maintain every day, and it weirdly serves as a reminder for me to maintain my other boundaries too.

Anxiety and Depression Management

I covered full-time from the tail end of 2013 until about mid-2015. By that time my year of covering had ended and I started tapering off a bit. I left the house uncovered more and more often, until eventually I rarely covered at all.

The tapering off of the covering coincided with a deepening depression. I can’t say if the depression contributed to not covering or if not covering contributed to the depression, but they do seem to have been related.

Depression has always been something I’ve had to manage. For the most part I’ve succeeded remarkably well. However, it has always marched hand-in-hand with social anxiety. By mid-2016 my depression was deeper than I can ever recall it being, and my anxiety started spiking so badly that I essentially became agoraphobic. I started having health issues and migraines around this time too, which did not help. I was about as low as I could get.

A white wimple and veil.

A wimple and veil. In many ways they kind of look like flowy hijabs. They’re just made differently. While traditionally they’re white linen, I’ve been experimenting with other colors and fabrics.

I lit a candle and begged my Lady to help me. I didn’t know what else to do. About two weeks later I found myself reaching for my coverings again. I found that when I covered things got… easier. I wasn’t as overwhelmed in social spaces. My migraines became less frequent. I anchored some shields on my volumizer (the poofy thing worn under scarves to give them shape) and that helped too. The more I covered the better I felt, the fewer my symptoms, the higher my energy level. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I’m not going to sit here and say that covering cured my depression. That would be an incredibly simplistic statement for a complicated issue, and it’s not like covering was the only approach I took. Besides, it’s not like I’m cured anyway – I still have good days and bad days, the same as anyone struggling through. But I will say that I personally find covering to be an incredibly useful way to help manage my depression and anxiety symptoms. I checked with other ladies who cover and a few of them reported the same type of thing, so it’s not isolated to just me, either.

Moving Forward

As of now I’m back to covering full-time. I usually find hijab styles more comforting than tichel styles because they cover my neck, and I switch between them depending on exactly how much comforting I need on a given day. I’ve lately started experimenting with wimples and veils, too, and find that those styles make me feel more connected to my ancestors.

I currently live in Ohio, and at least in my area there is a sizable Muslim population. My covers don’t really stand out here, and I don’t feel alone either. That changes when I leave the area, though. Covered women are often targeted these days, and it’s something I have to consider before traveling elsewhere in the US (*cough* Texas *cough*) or interacting with a new group of people.

My covering is still an act of piety, one that brings me joy and reverence. It’s still a symbol of modesty, too, and it’s changed my entire relationship to myself and the world. It’s still very much a feminist statement for me, and since November it’s become a political statement too. Add in the mental health benefits and covering is a part of my life that is here to stay.

Covering is not a very common practice in Pagan and polytheistic circles, although I do think it’s growing. Because of that, it can be baffling for folks encountering it in our communities. I hope that my open sharing can inspire some conversations. Covering has become a fundamental part of my polytheism. Maybe it can help others, too.

 

*Note: This whole post is about MY mental health and how covering affects it. No one else’s. I am in no way saying that covering is the best/final/only method of managing mental health issues. It works for me in the way I’ve stated. If your mental health is a concern, please do whatever works best for you and seek the help of a mental health professional if needed. 

A Diviner’s Code of Ethics

Reading for ourselves, friends, and family is one thing. These people all know us. They know our values, our approaches to consent/confidentiality, etc. We don’t necessarily need to have a set of ethical standards with them because there’s a sense of mutual understanding.

Witch - fortune teller reading fortune close up

That’s the Sharman-Caselli Tarot, for those wondering. 🙂

We don’t have that commonality when we branch out into reading for people beyond that close circle. Adding money to the mix increases the complications, too. Eventually, after we answer the same questions over and over and repeatedly address the same issues, a code of ethics becomes a very useful tool.

How? 

A well-crafted diviner’s code of ethics can set the tone for the entire diviner/client relationship. It also protects both parties as they move forward with a session. The diviner shares their approach, the potential client asks whatever clarifications are needed to feel comfortable with that approach, and they agree to abide by it when they schedule an appointment. Everyone wins.

A code of ethics covers more ground than we might think. Mine covers the kinds of clients I’ll read for, the ones I won’t read for, how honoring consent can manifest in a reading, different ways I respect and empower my clients, etc. It’s incredibly handy to have all of these details in one place.

Writing Our Own

Writing a code of ethics is pretty optional for those just starting out, but once we start reading professionally it’s almost required.

Keep in mind, though, that every reader is an individual. They also read for different clients and encounter different situations. Because of that variation, a personal code of ethics is necessarily individualized.

A good way to approach writing our own is to first find readers we admire and check out what they’ve come up with. What points did they cover that seem essential? What doesn’t seem to fit us or our approach? What did they not cover that feels important to include? Look at as many as possible and commonalities – and deficiencies – will start popping out.

Once we’ve got our ideas in order we can sit down to craft our first draft. Don’t become overwhelmed and think it has to be perfect on the first go-round, either. An effective code of ethics naturally grows and develops as we encounter different situations and account for them. As such it should always be regarded as a living document.

Here’s the one I currently use.

MystikNomad’s Code of Ethics
by Caer

It can be scary to get a reading. It takes a lot of trust – in yourself, in your reader, and in the Powers – to begin embracing all the ways divination can help you navigate your life and reach your highest potential. You deserve to know that your reader will do their very best to support your journey while encouraging constructive growth and empowering you to succeed.

So here are my promises to you, my client:

I always act with integrity.

  • I am clear about what my divination services can (and cannot) do for you. Yes, they can guide you through whatever rough spot you may be experiencing. No, they cannot predict winning Powerball numbers (or I’d be in Tahiti with a mai-tai right now).
  • I respond to all questions to the best of my ability. I do not answer questions that I am not capable of answering, am not qualified to answer, or that I find to be unethical. This includes but is not limited to legal, financial, medical, and mental health questions. Should any of those come up I will refer you to a certified specialist.
  • I do not read for anyone under the age of 18 without a parent or guardian present. I also do not read about an absent third party or for anyone chemically altered.
  • I state my fee up-front and answer any logistics questions prior to beginning a reading.
  • All readings are confidential. I do not share any details of a reading without express permission. The only exceptions are life-threatening situations, which are reported to the applicable authorities as required by law.

I always respect my clients.

  • I celebrate my clients for the unique and diverse people they are. I welcome clients of all spiritual/religious paths, gender identifications, sexual and romantic orientations, relationship dynamics, lifestyle choices, races, ethnic or cultural backgrounds, socio-economic backgrounds, political affiliations, physical or mental health statuses, etc etc etc. I invite my clients to share these details, or not, as suits their personal comfort level.
  • I do not push my faith on another and am happy to refer to spiritual matters using any terminology preferred by the client.
  • My clients have my full attention for the duration of the reading and during any and all communications. I am on time for appointments and provide a safe and welcoming environment, accommodating any special needs to the best of my ability.
  • I work from a basis of Consent Culture. Part of that is recognizing that a client can say “no” at any time during a reading, for any reason, without pressure or kickback. That includes terminating the reading before completion, making certain topics off-limits during a reading, and refusing to elaborate on issues or topics that may come up. I reserve the same rights for myself. If a client terminates a reading their fee is non-refundable. If I terminate a reading a full refund will be immediately made.
  • My goal is the highest good of my clients. I refuse to act in any way that could cause harm or overt distress.

I always honor my client’s personal power.

  • I actively encourage clients to ask questions during the reading and to take notes in whatever way is most convenient for them. This is their reading and they are entitled to every bit of information I can possibly provide.
  • Many people turn to Tarot when emotionally vulnerable. In acknowledgement of that I am careful to encourage responsibility and nurture empowerment in my clients. I tread gently in potentially triggering areas and respect all stated limits.
  • I strive to give my clients practical ways to engage with their lives and fulfill their potential. To that end I often suggest follow-up actions, positive affirmations, images for meditation and contemplation, and topics for further research. Any recommendations involving a purchase (such as stones or candles) have no bearing on the reading, are always at the client’s discretion, and can be acquired from any vendor.
  • A reading is designed to be an enlightening and supportive experience. I share any intuition, insight, experience, etc I may have towards that purpose, but decisions made or actions taken after a reading are solely the responsibility of the client.
  • I do not allow my clients to become overly dependent upon my services. Should that become a concern I will refuse further readings for that client.

    Still have questions? Please ask!

I hope that this inspires you to write your own Code of Ethics! Check out what I provided above and compare it to your ideal Code. Did I cover points you hadn’t considered? Did I miss anything you think is important? Where does/would your Code differ from mine? I’d love to see your answers in the comments!

Seeing the Wheels

A close-up of the armillary sphere on my altar. It is on top of a black wooden box, and flanking it on either side at the bottom are two burning jar candles.

I recently felt a deep, overwhelming need to change up my altar. Specifically, I needed a statue to represent my Lady, Arianrhod.

Thing is, I couldn’t find anything that fit Her. The most common statue of Her simply doesn’t work for me. Nothing wrong with it – it’s beautiful work – but I can’t get over my quibbles with it enough to put it on my altar.

Maxine Miller's Arianrhod statue, in bronze, on a black background.

Maxine Miller’s Arianrhod statue.

Then I had a completely different kind of thought. One of the first concepts my Lady shared with me is that of the Center. It’s been fundamental to my worldview since I figured out what it is, and I always associate it with Her. She is the Lady of the Silver Wheel, after all!

Which is why an armillary sphere to represent Her on my altar is perfect.

A close-up of the armillary sphere on my altar. It is on top of a black wooden box, and flanking it on either side at the bottom are two burning jar candles.

The armillary sphere on my altar. Isn’t it awesome?

Once I got everything on my altar sorted and rearranged I lit some candles and settled in to spend some time with Her.

And then I had a vision. I Saw the Wheels, my Lady’s Wheels, and touched a Mystery.

After recovering a bit, I realized that this vision can be shared. You can have it too!

So here it is. I invite you to See the Wheels with me. If you don’t have an armillary sphere of your very own Google some images (or simply use the picture above as a reference) to see a manmade model of what I’m talking about. It’s worth the time.

The Vision

I open my eyes and gasp. I’m floating in space, surrounded on all sides by velvety black skies spangled with gleaming stars. They’re silver, yes, but also icy blue and blazing red and warming gold. Celestial fires burning, beacons in the dark.

A picture of a field of stars taken by the Hubble Telescope. These are from the Sagittarius sector.

Like this, all around me.

I wonder if I can reach out and cup one of those fires in the palm of my hand. They look so close I think maybe it’s possible. As I reach out I hear a voice like bells say “Not today!”, and lower my hands back to my sides. Maybe tomorrow?

I feel gentle winds caressing my skin and fluttering my hair. I’m confused for a second – since when did space have wind? – but I’m soon distracted by a glow at my feet. First I see a dot of light, growing ever larger, until it forms an arc. It suddenly clicks that I’m seeing part of a ring spinning around me. It contains all the colors I think I’ve ever seen, and it rotates clockwise as it rises to meet me. 

This is the first circle of the armillary sphere, the Wheel of the Day. In this Wheel is contained every moment of a day in my life. I even see a section of the Wheel that looks like my current vision! Sunrise and sunset, work and home and worship and sleep and play, all the seconds that make up my day, spin around me in a dance of light and shadow. 

Beyond the borders of the Wheel of the Day I see another glowing ring of light. It too rotates clockwise, although much slower, and it’s angled differently. This Wheel encompasses both the Wheel of the Day and me, still floating in the Center. It’s the Wheel of the Year! I see, in glorious procession, the flowers of Spring melting into the verdant fields of Summer, which meld into the golden fields of Autumn and then the barren snows of Winter. Along the ring are eight shining gems of light, and in them I see the colors of the surrounding seasons magnified and clarified. And I understand sabbat celebrations in a way I didn’t before. 

In a different part of the star-strewn velvet in which I float I see another arc rising, another Wheel spinning. It’s further out, and that ring encompasses me and the other two Wheels too. It too spins clockwise, but it’s offset from the others and rises on its own plane. Peering at it more closely I see it’s the Wheel of my Life. All the years I live, all together, with my memories in gleaming color and my future in shadows that are broken with seemingly random flashes of intense light. I realize that even here I can’t see my future clearly, because it’s not set. Those flares in the shadows show me that events are coming that cannot be changed, only managed, even if I can’t figure out what they are yet. My Lady’s presence surrounds me and I relax, knowing She is preparing me for them even now and will be with me when their time comes.

In yet another part of the sky I see another Wheel rising, on yet another plane. It too spins clockwise, but more slowly still. It gleams red like blood and flows like water, with an infinite number of glittering flecks swirling through it. This is the Wheel of the Ancestors. Every person who has ever lived is represented here, and the glittering flecks that glow most brightly are the people who have directly contributed to my line. They’re family! I see some flecks growing equally brightly, but in different hues, and know that these are family members of the heart instead of blood. It’s humbling to see all the people who have died so that I might live, and I promise to lift them high by living with honor and purpose. 

Beyond that Wheel I see another, also spinning and rising. This one is green and gold, copper and bronze, the dark brown of rich soil and the glowing red of molten lava. It glimmers with hidden gems and shines with metallics as it spins with aching slowness. This is the Wheel of the Land, and since Land moves in a timescale that’s hard to comprehend it’s only here that I can see it moving at all. It makes sense that this Wheel surrounds the Ancestors too, because without the Land the Ancestors would have no place to stand. I see the colors getting paler and dustier as this Wheel spins, like they’re losing saturation as it turns, and realize with a sinking sensation that I’m seeing the effects of humanity on the Earth. I see shrinking habitats and strip mines, pollution and disease and death, and acknowledge my contributions to the fading while vowing to do my very best to ease them.

At the very edges of everything I see another arc rising, another Wheel encompassing the whole. This one is crystalline and iridescent, and so bright that the only reason I can bear to gaze upon it is because I’m being allowed to See. This is the Wheel of the Gods, where all the divinities who have ever been dwell. I see Olympus, and Valhalla, and the Otherworld. I see nations rise and fall as the Gods play chess on a board, except I know both chess and boards and this is too incomprehensible to be either. The more I try to understand the brighter the light, until I have to blink to get the spots out of my eyes. 

Far beyond the edges of the crystalline Wheel of the Gods I see the shadows of other Wheels spinning, other cycles of which I am vaguely aware but are too distant for me to grasp. I feel blessed to have seen them at all.

I turn my attention back to myself, at the Center of all the spinning Wheels. With a bit of a jolt I realize that I too am a Wheel! I spread out my legs and arms like a starfish, like DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man, like a pentacle, and feel myself spinning within the Center of all the other Wheels. I peer into myself and see an endless number of Wheels spinning inside me too, each smaller than the last, and feel myself falling. Or am I flying? It’s hard to tell, and I start to get dizzy, so I pull my attention elsewhere.

I look at all of the Wheels together, for the smallest to the largest, and suddenly know that each and every Wheel’s spin is necessary to the spin of all of them. They’re interconnected and interdependent. Epiphany strikes. They’re not distinct Wheels at all! They’re all part of one big spiral! I hear my Lady’s laugh as Her hands continue smoothing and spinning the spiral, feel Her determination that it continues to spin, and know that I have a part to play in all of this too. But what?

I feel my Lady’s regard as She patiently waits for me to work through what I’m being shown. I gently spin for what feels like hours while I search for what She wants me to know, until suddenly it becomes obvious. By Centering myself, by opening myself to change while smoothing the spirals over which I have influence, I make Her job easier. In my own small way I contribute to the spinning of ALL the Wheels, even those I can’t clearly see, because I am one. I’m part of the whole. 

I hear her voice, full of pride, whisper “well done” as the Wheels flicker and vanish.

I open my eyes and gaze once more at the armillary sphere on my altar, serene and still as it represents this great Mystery.

 

Revelations Tarot – Tarot Review

The Revelations Tarot is essentially an RWS-inspired deck with a new approach to the art. It’s got the standard Tarot cards in the standard RWS order, but the cards show both upright and reversed interpretations on their face. Regardless of the card’s orientation during a spread, the reader can see both the aspect of the card in play and the potential lurking underneath. How cool is that?

I had to check it out.

The Deck

The Revelations Tarot comes as a set. There’s a sturdy box with a magnetic closure, a single well holding the cards with a ribbon to help lift them out (thank you thank you), and a companion book.

The Revelations Tarot set. The box is open sideways here, showing both the companion book and the cards. The ribbon is a lovely touch AND there are little gaps for your fingers. Huzzah!

The Revelations Tarot set. The box is open sideways here, showing both the companion book and the cards. The ribbon is a lovely touch AND there are little gaps for your fingers. Huzzah!

The cards are a touch smaller than standard. That makes them nice for small hands, I suppose, but I feel they’re too small to effectively convey the art. There is a lot going on here, and in my opinion a larger size would showcase that better. There’s also something about the finish my fingers don’t like – the cards “catch”, and feel a bit bumpy – but I don’t know if anyone else would even notice. They certainly shuffle well enough!

The reversible back of the card, flanked by two spread guide cards.

The reversible back of the card, flanked by two spread guide cards. Really, Llewellyn? You had two extra cards and this is what you chose to do with them? Ok then.

Let’s hit the book first. This is not at all written for beginners. There’s no “intro to Tarot” section, no Tarot history, nada. We get like a page and a half from the author about why he created the deck and then jump right into the card meanings.

Each of the Major cards gets about three pages worth of write-up while the Minors get two. I found this part to be particularly nice. An equal amount of space is used to explain upright and reversed meanings (not surprising, considering the deck!), and while the upright images have fairly standard associations the reversal explanations shine. These are creative, well-written, and entertaining to read. I quite enjoyed them!

The Fool and the Aces. The Aces are the only ones not getting much of a reverse difference, which makes a certain amount of sense considering.

The Fool and the Aces. The Aces are the only ones not getting much of a reversal difference art-wise.

The spread section was a huge disappointment, though. The whole rest of the book was apparently written for people who’ve been around Tarot for a bit, but the four spreads included were basic and frankly uninspired. The name of the deck is “Revelations Tarot” and there wasn’t a spread that played off of the title? What a wasted opportunity!

The art is unique. It’s done in a fantasy style with a kind of swirly stained-glass vibe. It’s really pretty, with lots of deep saturated colors. The images seem to carry the written card meanings quite well if you pay attention, too. I’ve put what are perhaps my favorite contrasting Majors below. They really do come across as two different cards depending on orientation!

A lineup of five cards from the Major Arcana: The Emperor, The Lovers, Strength, Death, and the Moon. The first row shows all the cards in an upright position while the bottom shows them all reversed.

Uprights are on the top, with reversals shown on the bottom. There is a clear difference between the two sides, giving us clear visual cues for both card orientations.

Using the Deck

Personally, I find it interesting just how quickly I adjusted to keeping my attention on only the top half of the card while reading. I was also kind of fascinated by how visually playing with the comparisons between the top and bottom gave new interpretation avenues to explore. 

All that being said, though, I don’t see myself keeping this deck for personal use. Quite a bit of the traditional symbolism in the cards has been lost to visually accommodate both card orientations, and I found myself ignoring the art entirely to give more complete interpretations. To be fair that might be because I’ve been shifting over to TdM-style decks for awhile now. These felt very “surface” and confining by comparison. Additionally, more of these cards fell flat for me artistically than I can handle in a deck I use regularly.

All in all my feelings about this deck are mixed. It’s not for me, but I can see where other people would really enjoy it. There’s not enough here to go on for beginners, and it’s a bit too basic for the advanced, but intermediate readers will likely find it a comfortable fit. It’s an excellent learning tool for those wanting to incorporate reversals into their readings but are unsure of where to start, too.

Want to see what the Revelations Tarot might reveal for you? Available here for about $30.

The Hanson-Roberts Tarot – Tarot Review

Back in the dawn of time, when I was but a wee lass, I watched my aunt read Tarot with the Hanson-Roberts deck. I loved to watch the cards flip and I never forgot the Queen of Rods – it was the card I most associated with her. Years later, when I went back to find this deck, it was the image of the Queen that let me know I’d found the right box.

Honestly, though, it wasn’t all that hard to find. As far as I can tell it’s been in continuous print since 1985. It’s definitely an RWS-inspired deck, and that combined with the non-threatening size and artwork makes it suitable for beginners and advanced readers alike.

The Deck

One of the first things I noticed about this deck as an adult is that the cards feel tiny. They’re regular playing card size! Those with small hands will find this deck a better fit for them, and it makes larger spreads much more doable in tight quarters. It’s also helpful if you like to have clients shuffle your deck, as it’s more easily managed by people unused to Tarot-sized cards.

A card from the Hanson-Roberts deck on top of a card from the Gilded Tarot. The size difference is obvious.

A card from the Hanson-Roberts deck on top of a card from the Gilded Tarot. The size difference is obvious. And isn’t that reversible back design pretty?

The deck comes in a tuck box with a LWB. The smaller size of this deck makes it wonderful for travel. The tuck box fits nicely in a purse, for instance, and the box can take a decent amount of wear before it needs to be replaced.

The Hanson-Roberts Tarot. The tuck box is in the center, flanked by the 2 title cards that come with the deck. The LWB is below the tuck box and the deck is fanned out below.

The Hanson-Roberts Tarot. The tuck box is in the center, flanked by the 2 title cards that come with the deck. The LWB is below the tuck box and the deck is fanned out below.

The card stock is standard and these cards shuffle well. The art has an almost fairy-tale feel and is done with pencils, making the images both vivid and soft. The portrayed figures are also more dynamic than seen in decks like the original Waite-Smith, with a full range of human emotion and a sense of movement.

A selection of cards from the Hanson-Roberts. Here we see the energy of the Knight of Swords, the wonder of the Star, the utter desolation of the Five of Pentacles, the dreamy quality of the Seven of Cups, and the triumph embodied in the Six of Rods.

A selection of cards from the Hanson-Roberts. Here we see the energy of the Knight of Swords, the wonder of the Star, the utter desolation of the Five of Pentacles, the dreamy quality of the Seven of Cups, and the triumph embodied in the Six of Rods.

Suits are also standard RWS, except that here the Wands are called Rods (a common substitution). There’s also an emphasis in this deck on blooming, on florals and greenery. It all contributes to the lush feeling of the art, helping the deck feel more friendly and approachable.

The Fool and the four Aces from the Hanson-Roberts Tarot.

The Fool and the four Aces from the Hanson-Roberts Tarot. Note the greenery on every card.

One thing I especially appreciate about this deck is that it’s obvious the Minors got as much time and attention as the Majors. That can be hard to find sometimes, but all the cards are visually consistent and equally well-thought out across the deck.

It should be noted that esoteric symbology is less prevalent in this deck than found in, say, the original RWS. I personally don’t miss it, but as always YMMV.

And now I’m going to include another gratuitous pic of the artwork because I’m writing this and I can. 🙂

Cards from the Hanson-Roberts Tarot. The top row is the Page of Cups, the Seven of Cups, and the Eight of Swords. The bottom row is the Eight of Rods, the Moon, and the Four of Swords.

Yes, here’s that dreamy Seven of Cups again (oops). We’ve also got the Page of Cups looking surprised at the fish in his chalice (as we all would be!), one of the most stunning Eight of Swords cards in any deck anywhere, an Eight of Rods that really appeals to me, a lovely Moon, and a rather quietly reflective Four of Swords. I’ve never pictured myself as the guy in the tomb when this card appears – I’m visiting the tomb, with all the quiet contemplation one should have in holy places.

The deck comes with a LWB, but as we’d expect of a deck with this kind of longevity and popularity there are companion books on the market. Two, in fact, and which one you get depends on what exactly you’re looking for.

Tarot Unveiled is a Tarot 101 book using the Hanson-Roberts images. It’s been around for awhile, and you can find used copies on Amazon for under $2 plus shipping. If you’re relatively new to Tarot this is the book to get.

The Hanson-Roberts Tarot Companion Book is written specifically for the Hanson-Roberts deck. It’s more like the book you’d find in a Tarot set than a Tarot 101 book and is around $13 used plus shipping on Amazon. If you’re looking for something specific to this deck and are beyond 101 stuff this would be the book for you.

Using the Deck

The somewhat cutesy art might make you think this is a fluffy deck, but it is surprisingly well-rounded. The Hanson-Roberts is one of my favorite RWS-inspired decks because it’s so universal. It’s a deck that will grow with a reader, from beginner to advanced, and everyone will appreciate how easy to manage it is.

Even better, this deck nicely works with all three purposes I have for a deck. They read beautifully, they can be great tools for Tarot spellwork, and the life in these cards makes them useful for meditation despite the smaller size. It’s like a trifecta of awesome!

The Hanson-Roberts has stood the test of time for good reason. If the art style appeals to you I say go for it. It’s a great buy.

Available here.

Universal Tarot of Marseille – Tarot Review

A comparison of the Star from the original Burdel TdM on the left, and the Universal Tarot of Marseille on the right.

In my last review I mentioned the Universal Tarot of Marseille as an excellent travel TdM. Let’s unpack that, shall we?

As we can tell from the name the Universal Tarot of Marseille is a TdM deck. This particular version is based on a Swiss deck published by Claude Burdel in 1751. The original linework has been retained but the cards have (thankfully) been recolored, meaning the colors are much more saturated and actually stay INSIDE the lines.

A comparison of the Star from the original Burdel TdM on the left, and the Universal Tarot of Marseille on the right.

Burdel’s original Star on the left, and the Universal’s cleaned-up and recolored version on the right. Let’s hear it for 250 years of printing improvements!

The Deck

The deck comes in a surprisingly sturdy tuck box, containing both the deck and a rather substantial LWB. It should be substantial, though. The same text is written in five different languages!

The English section is only 12 pages long but don’t dismiss it – it covers the deck surprisingly well. It guides the reader through the bare-bones version of Tarot history, dips a bit into Plato (!!!), each Trump gets a little write-up listing suggested correspondences, and the Suits are all covered with a general description and a quick trip through the numerology of the pips (a system I VASTLY prefer to the standard RWS approach). Court cards are handled the same way.

Honestly, this is one of the best – and certainly most succinct! – TdM intros I’ve found to date. If you can find the kit within your budget, first off tell me your secrets, then grab it fast. The book included in the kit is apparently 64 packed pages of the same amazingness that’s confined to the little eensy LWB. I’ve heard about it anecdotally but not read it myself, and I kind of really want to!

The tuck box, not-so-little LWB, and the deck showing the lovely reversible image on the backs of the cards.

The tuck box, not-so-little LWB, and the deck showing the lovely reversible image on the backs of the cards. Isn’t that sheen gorgeous?

The cards themselves feel sublime in the hand. Publisher Lo Scarabeo is known for good-feeling cards, but for some reason these feel particularly fine. As a tactile person I appreciate that more than I can say. They shuffle like a dream, too, with a perfect combination of slip and snap-back.

Image-wise the lines are basic, and the color saturation doesn’t change the fact that this deck uses the typically limited palette of a TdM deck. Unlike most TdMs, though, the sky/background of the cards are colored with a watercolor effect. Majors have a greenish-blue sky (with a few exceptions), Cups have a pinkish-red background, Pentacles go with a golden yellow, Wands use a rather pretty sage green, and Swords are backed by blue.

The Fool and the Aces from each suit are all presented together, showing the coloration used for the backgrounds.

The Fool and the Aces from each suit. Here we can see the backgrounds as well as more detail of the coloring used for this TdM variant.

However welcome the backgrounds are, they’re not color correspondences I typically use for those suits. Mine are Golden Dawn-based, as are those used by most of us who came up through RWS-inspired decks, and while these cards predate those associations the originals didn’t have background color at all. These background colors aren’t even correct if we use traditional TdM color correspondences! Since the colors chosen were rather arbitrary anyway, why not use what most people are familiar with? It’s probably my biggest gripe with the whole deck. Keeping the exact same shades but matching them correspondence-wise to the suits would have made so much more sense. It’s a little detail, far eclipsed by the other positives with the deck as a whole, but I do find it annoying enough to mention.

Using the Deck

As long as all the standard elements are there, as they are here, which TdM deck you use is strictly a matter of personal preference. They’re all based on the same template. The feel of these cards is so nice that I enjoy using this particular variant, and the sturdiness of the tuck box combined with the low price point make these particularly suited for travel.

I primarily use these for readings, and have used them for altar work in the past with great effect. These are not the cards to inspire meditation, however. There’s nothing particularly visually appealing about them, and I require that for Tarot-based meditation.

I don’t usually recommend TdM decks to beginners, but if you just have to start with one there are worse ones to choose. The LWB is even enough to get you minimally started, especially if you’re already used to thinking in terms of correspondences. There are a number of good full-length TdM books you could pick up later to continue building your knowledge.

A bonus with using this style is that you could theoretically buy just one TdM and use it for life. I don’t know a single person who’s managed to do that, and I personally don’t advocate it, but if that’s a goal consider this one.

Available here for less than $20.

After the Tower Falls

I staunchly maintain that there’s no such thing as a bad Tarot card. However, I have to admit some are a damn sight more uncomfortable than others. One of the best illustrations of this concept is the Tower, and that’s the card I’ve been living for the past few months. I’ve finally moved into the realm of the Star, though, and looking back I’m once more reminded that the Tower is only scary until we gain perspective from its passing.

The Towers leads into the Star. Both cards from Le Tarot Noir are shown with an rightward-facing arrow between them.

My life in Tarot card form. Images from Le Tarot Noir.

The Tower’s Fall

The first brick of my personal Tower fell when I was suddenly laid off last May from my job of three years (hence my lengthy blog hiatus around that time). Everything – and I do mean everything – kind of dominoed after that.

As might be expected my professional life profoundly changed with the layoff. My finances went into a period of freefall and necessitated an unwanted change in location too. My personal life and health both experienced dramatic flux. With all of that going on I fell face-down into a rather wicked lake of depression, which led to a period of withdrawal that was extreme even for me (I tend to be fairly naturally withdrawn to begin with).

Thing is, I stubbornly (and perhaps obliviously) thought all of these changes were isolated. It can be hard to see the whole Tower when you’re dodging individual bricks! It was only when I stopped dodging that I could see the true extent of the devastation.

Standing in the Rubble

There’s a clarity that comes in the aftermath of a disaster, a quiet shock that allows us to observe our surroundings without filter or bias. As the dust settled I stumbled into the middle of what once was a pretty cozy life and looked around.

What exactly had been destroyed? What random parts still stood, and did they need to be rebuilt or further demolished? Going deeper, what weaknesses and strengths were exposed by the Tower’s fall? What lessons had this all taught me?

And then I had to go deeper still. Previously I had thought that I was made up of all the things that had fallen down. That obviously wasn’t true, though, because I was about the only thing left standing. So who exactly was the Me standing dazedly in the rubble?

I’ve spent months diligently answering these questions. At times it’s felt like my own little archaeological excavation. There have been bits and pieces I’ve tossed over my shoulder with a shrug and a “good riddance”. Others I’ve further destroyed with a sledgehammer while laughing in maniacal glee. There have been heirlooms I’ve bitterly wept over before deciding they couldn’t be salvaged, things that inspired a sense of vindication by their very survival, and a few lost items newly exposed that I had to learn about all over again.

I’ve reassessed who I am and the foundations on which I stand. It’s been an interesting journey, this sorting and evaluation process, but after all of it was done I was left with one overwhelming question: what now?

Star-Gazing

In the Major Arcana the Tower is immediately followed by the Star. There’s a reason for that. When all of our walls have come down and we’re ready to rebuild, the Star’s gifts of hope, faith, and renewal guide us forward.

What I’ve seen by the Star’s light has been transformative.

For years I’ve known that my Lady wants me to live a life grounded in my spirituality. Even more than that, She’s pushed for a more holistic and integrated life, one where all of the pieces work together instead of against each other. After all, it’s not like I can grow into my full potential when my life is shoved into tidy but limiting boxes.

Thing is, I’ve agreed with Her. The need for a holistic life is an obvious conclusion to draw and I’ve been fine with the idea of it. It’s just that every time I actually started Doing the Work to make it happen something stopped me. Often I stopped myself. Some changes required tearing down support structures in my life that I thought I needed or relied upon. Other changes were intimidating, overwhelming, or even baffling.

All the motion without forward progress resulted in nothing truly changing at all.

Dithering over taking action is a luxury I no longer have. Despite my best efforts everything crashed down anyway. What was incredibly scary at the time has turned out to be freeing, because there’s nothing left to block me anymore. My life is open and receptive, the walls are down, and I can build whatever I want to encourage me to grow however I want. The Tower’s fall wasn’t a disaster, it was the start of a brand new opportunity.

I’m still working on what this looks like, to be honest. I don’t know where it’s going, only have the vaguest end game in mind, and I’m feeling it out as I go.

The biggest and arguably most profound change is that I am now working full-time as a diviner, spiritual consultant, and content producer. This swings from intimidating to thrilling by the day, and sometimes I wonder if it’s the right thing long-term. It’s honestly too early to tell on that yet. Things are looking good so far, though, and I do know that it’s absolutely the best thing for me right now. I need to pursue paying work that feeds my spirit, and this fits that bill admirably.

When I’m not reading for clients I’m working on my own Tarot deck, wrapping up the book I’ve been writing, prepping classes I’m teaching, taking classes as a student, and learning about alternative methods of interacting with our political process. I’m also toying with the idea of writing a devotional for my Lady, since there isn’t one for Her and I find that to be not ok. MystikNomad’s new internet home is being prepped as we speak and will hopefully go live over the next few months. I’m presenting at a conference this summer, too, and will likely be relocating sometime in the next year or so.

So many changes! So much forward momentum! So much amazingness in store! And none of it would have been possible had my personal Tower not fallen. I find that comforting, actually, because it reaffirms my faith that even utter destruction is a way to clear the path for future growth. I’m excited to see the harvest from what I’m currently planting, and I’m so glad all of you are here to appreciate the blooms too.