May 3, 2017
A brief introduction to me, Susannah, and a ramble about what tarot cards are and are not. Don't forget to email me suggestions of what you'd like to hear in this podcast! Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and ideas.
Hey there! This is the Antifragile Tarot Podcast and I am your resident cardslinger, Susannah. This going to be a pretty short episode because I want to introduce myself to you and explain why I decided to do a podcast on top of the other things I do with my little tarot card reading business, Antifragile Tarot. Mostly I make appearances at local markets, such as the JC Oddities market and the Pacific Flea and pretty much whatever I can manage around my day job, which is really a night job.
This podcast is supposed to be a good resource for beginners, intermediate and advanced practitioners alike. I personally have been reading tarot cards since I was 13; my mom got me my first deck. Although something I will go into soon—is it is completely not necessary for someone else to get you your first deck. But my mother was a tarot card reader herself, semi-professionally, and she got me a vampire deck when I was 13. So, I've been reading on and off, I took a pause in my late teens because you know how some people find the occult when they become a teenager to rebel against their parents? For me, rebellion was not paying attention to it, so I dropped it. I had a bunch friends who were super, you know, atheists who looked down on anything remotely like tarot or horoscopes or whatever, and I kind of gave it up, but I never fully ignored it, and a few years ago I decided that I was much happier reading tarot than not, so I went back to it. And it’s just kinda grown from here. So I now read semi-professionally, it's not my full-time job but I work at markets, I have an Esty-- https://www.etsy.com/shop/AntifragileTarot --and now I'm offering a podcast.
Why a podcast? Well I can’t always be there in person to hang out with you, and Instagram only offers so much in the way of letting me write to you, so I figured this might be a fun way for me to interact with you and I don't have to set up my messy apartment for a video. I think it's a win-win all around.
This episode is going to be more geared towards a beginner, for now, I’dlike to discuss what tarot is and what tarot is not. Tarot is not tarrot, it is not--well I think there are different pronunciations, but tarot cards are a 78-card system. There are two major systems, there is the Smith-Waite, normally referred to as Rider-Waite but I call it Smith-Waite for feminist reasons and the Thoth system. Everyone has a different way of pronouncing Thoth. There’s Th-oth, there’s Tut, I say Tah-th, it’s easier for me, that's what we’re going to go with. The Rider-Waite system is one that I primarily use and it’s the one that you're most likely to be familiar with. If you’ve watched TV shows like Carnivàle or I know it has popped up on Supernatural, although it was totally not realistic but still kind of cool and even on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Tarot cards like Death and Lovers and maybe you even seen Judgement or some of the cup cards or sword cards, those cards are from the Rider-Waite system. The Thoth system also has those cards but there are some key differences.
So in a 78-card tarot deck, you've got 22 cards called the major arcana. It starts off with the Fool and ends with the World, and all of those cards in between are major archetypes a la Jung, and different important milestones. The 22 major arcana is often called the Fool's journey because it starts off with this figure, the Fool, who either becomes or meets different people on the way depending on what interpretation you're going with and ends at the completion of the cycle which is the World.
And then the rest of the cards after the 22 are divided into four suits. Now those suits are analogous to a regular playing card deck which some people also use for cartomancy, or the art of telling the future with cards. Those suits, which the names vary in different decks, but those suits are Pentacles, Swords, Cups and Wands. Those 4 suits correspond to different elements, so Pentacles are Earth, Cups are Water, Swords are Air and Wands are Fire. They also have different stories being told within them. The suit of Pentacles is kinda about setting foundations and growing things. The Pentacle suit tends to deal with the material world, sometimes your job, your home, your physical appearance. But a pentacle card can just as easily be about your relationships. Tarot card reading is extremely contextual. Cups are an emotional journey, a lot of water imagery to suggest the flow of emotions. Swords are a really tricky one, they’re often called the suit of sorrows because there are a lot of really difficult cards and sad cards. In fact, one card which is way more distressing than the Death card, in my opinion, is the Ten of Swords, which in a typical tarot deck is a person being stabbed in the back with ten swords, really unpleasant. But the suit of Swords primarily deals with communication and intellect, so a lot of swords might come up if you're doing a reading about your school or even your spiritual studies. I've certainly gotten Swords when I’ve done readings about my business because it’s such an intellectual endeavor, I’m always researching and learning more about tarot. Finally, Wands are kind of the suit of go-getting and fiery feelings. There’s a lot real conflict and all systems go. There’s a lot of chameleons or geckos in it, which I think is a really--maybe salamanders-- it’s strange way to indicate fire, but hey it works for a reason, right?
So those cards comprise tarot. There are some other systems like I said, some people read with playing cards, some people read with, like, the Cardcaptor Sakura clow cards. I actually have a friend who does that and her readings are pretty good. And there’s Lenormand which is usually considered a little more straight up fortune telling. But tarot is popular for a bunch of reasons, number one, it's just the most highly publicized. There are a lot of resources on it. Number two, it really lends itself to a variety of situations. You can divine with it although a lot of tarot card readers like myself don’t really consider us to be people who read the future like that.
It’s also really, really good for introspection and using the framework of the Smith-Waite or Rider-Waite can really provide for a lot of cool interpretations which is why if you go to a website like Aeclectic (aec) you may find a lot of different decks. You may find a baseball themed deck or a cat themed deck--I have one of those, it’s super cute. And then you’ll even find decks where they rename the suits. Sometimes they're just named after the elements and sometimes they’re named something completely different. I have a Halloween deck where the suits are like, bats and ghosts, but the images correspond so directly to the Rider-Waite cards that you can read with it.
So, I really like tarot and I primarily read with the Rider-Waite system because it's what I'm comfortable with and I find that it's really useful for going into almost any issue. In the time that I’ve been doing readings for other people, I have read on so many different things. Whether or not someone is going to get their house, a lot of relationship or job readings, you know, just general “What’s going on in my life?” readings.
Are tarot card readings always accurate? Absolutely not, at the of the day they are pieces of paper with ink on them. There is nothing inherently mystical in the way that I read tarot cards. You will get tarot card readers who think that their tarot cards connected them to the divine, that they are psychics, or empaths or mediums. I urge you to trust your instincts and use your discretion with any reader who is claiming to be any of these things.
Personally, I don't claim to be any of these things. I like to use tarot as a psychological tool. I like to use tarot as a fun conversation point and I'm not gonna lie, sometimes the cards kind of freak me out a little when I draw a very appropriate card. But you know, I leave room--my skepticism is including being skeptical of my skepticism. I would definitely make sure that if someone is claiming to be directly psychic, I would exercise your critical thinking skills and if you trust them and you want to get readings from them, then by all means. I definitely think that there are some people who have abilities that I personally don’t have experience with and that's fine, it doesn't necessarily make them any less valid than me. I don’t claim to be the be-all, end-all expert, I just been doing this for a while and a lot of people like my readings, so I go with it.
And if you want to start reading tarot cards yourself instead of relying on someone else to do it, there is nothing wrong with you going out and buying your own deck. It is not something that has to be passed down through the generations. Although it does help--it helps me having grown up around tarot cards. My mom read, and apparently, my grandmother read, which isn't something that I found out until after my father died and I was going through his things and I found tarot card decks that belonged to my grandmother on his side. She and I didn't really have a relationship so I would have never had known, but it kinda makes sense; she was an artist in the 70s and tarot cards were definitely all the rage.
But you can go out and buy yourself your own deck. I do recommend that you get either a traditional Rider-Waite deck or my personal favorite, the Centennial Smith-Waite, which has the exact same artwork, but I like the color a lot better and I also like that give the actual artist Pamela Smith-Waite her do, instead of naming the deck after the publisher Rider and the guy who commissioned the deck, Arthur E Waite.
A lot of people have trouble with the imagery in the Rider-Waite deck and I don't blame them. It's very white, it's very straight, it’s very heteronormative. It’s kind of old fashioned/old school in a way that doesn't always connect with people. However, I think it's really important to get a solid foundation in a system before branching out. If you really really don't like the Rider-Waite cards I'm not saying you must start with them, I just think it's going to be really helpful because most of the resources that you'll find online are going to be geared towards Rider-Waite style decks. Even a deck I personally think it's slightly overrated but is really popular right now, the Wild Unknown tarot by Kim Krans, that deck is--it has no people in it. It’s all animals and pretty pictures and nature based stuff, even that deck is based on the Rider-Waite. It has a couple of differences but overall, it's the same system so I really think it helps to have a background in that, but if you really don’t like it, don’t go for it.
I'm all in favor of supporting indie deck creators. The Golden Thread tarot is one of my favorite indie decks, you can also look on the GameCrafter and find decks by people. The Sweeney Tarot is one deck, I don't have it yet, but it's specifically gender and race-diverse which is something that’s a problem in a lot of tarot card decks. So, if you want a deck, you know, look around on the internet for a while see if there's a deck that you like and don't be afraid to buy it for yourself. That's one of those myths about tarot that I want to bust right off the bat. If you have any other myths about tarot that you want me to answer for you, feel free to email me at AntifragileTarot@gmail.com and I'll be happy to bust those myths in another episode.
Another thing about tarot is what's said in the cards is not set in stone. You know, you can shuffle the deck and ask the same question 5 different times and you’ll get 5 different answers. I like to use it as a framework for discovering how you feel about a situation. It’s kinda like when you're talking to a counselor and they ask you how you feel about it or what if this happened, how would that go for you--that’s how I view tarot personally. However, it's important to note that if you feel like what's going to happen in a tarot reading is what's going to happen, you may be more likely to subconsciously choose things that are going to make that more likely to happen. So don't necessarily go and get a tarot reading if you're not ready to discuss everything that’s going on.
I did a tarot card course called the Alternative Tarot course on LittleRedTarot.com and there was an exercise that had us put different cards to different points in our life and I actually had a pause and come back because I've had a rough life and thinking about it that way kind of really upset me and made me want to take a step back, and that’s totally fine. You know if you are a tarot card reader and you find yourself getting stressed out by doing readings for yourself, you don't have to read for yourself--I don't read for myself very often because it stresses me out. You also don't have read for other people, if other people are bugging you to give them a tarot card reading, you can tell them no--you just want to read for yourself.
And the last bit of advice I'm going to leave you with for today is whether you're starting out or you’ve been reading for 10, 15, 20 years don't be afraid to bust out a book or go to Biddy Tarot once in a while. It's ok to blank out on a card, it's ok to not understand how a card might be interacting with the other cards in the spread. It doesn’t make you less of a tarot card reader to study more, if anything, it makes you more invested in your craft. Some readers are completely intuitive and don't want to know what the textbook definition is and if their readings are accurate that's great for them. But for a lot of us, it's really helpful to lean back on our resources.
I’ve also wanted to mention that over the course of this podcast, I've given shout-outs to a bunch of different things like Aeclectic or Biddy Tarot or the Golden Thread tarot. I’m not sponsored in any way, I'm not making any money from this. I'm just having fun, so I'm definitely going to be giving shout outs every episode to different resources, or decks or other things that I think are really cool and might be useful. I have friends who make jewelry who I’m going to be shouting out to when I go over different ways to get yourself in the mood for a tarot reading or what to do if you want to read professionally. Those are podcast topics for another week, but if I am giving a shout-out to something on here it's because I either use it myself and really like it or other people have really recommended it. If it's something I don't have experience with myself I'm definitely going to let you know, like with the Sweeney Tarot, which is on my deck wish list and I really want it. But I am a tarot card hoarder and I have 20 decks and counting, so maybe I need to slow my roll a little.
So, I hope that you have enjoyed this little intro into what tarot is and some common myths about tarot that I wanted to debunk and I hope that you will tune in next week for the next one, and again, if you have suggestions and things that you'd like to hear please don't hesitate to email me one more time that is AntifragileTarot@gmail.com. You can also find me on Instagram, my tag there is AntifragileTarot--one word--and you can find me on Facebook, Antifragile Tarot. And I hope you have a wonderful week, and a witchy one if that's what you're into.