The Reluctant Traveler Goes off-Message

Do you have a tarot deck? I have three, but this in no way compares to friends of mine who own dozens—collectors, maybe, but definitely users of the fortune-telling cards.

I am a pure amateur, but my favorite is the Aquarian Tarot by David Palladini. I don’t know if users agree, even those with many beautiful and imaginative decks, but the Aquarian always seems to give me an understandable story, and feels good in my hands. Perhaps it’s because I have been acquainted with this deck for many, many years; it’s an old, reliable friend.

On a whim some years ago, I bought the Tarot de los Muertos deck by Monica Knighton based on the figures related to the Dia de los Muertos festival. The Minor Arcana are whimsically renamed: Wands become Plumas—Pens. Swords are Pistolas—Pistols. Cups have been transformed to Ataúdes, or Coffins, and Coins or Pentacles are Rollos—Reels, as in film reels.

I also inherited my sister’s Stuart R. Kaplan deck, the Royal Fez Moroccan Tarot, American version, printed by U.S. Games Systems. The tiny informational booklet tucked into the box with the cards nicely explains the correlation between the Minor Arcana suits and a regular card deck:

Swords – Spades
Wands – Clubs
Cups – Hearts
Pentacles – Diamonds


The Tarot de los Muertos deck gives even more information about the Four Signs with which each suit is associated.

Swords – Air
Wands – Fire
Cups – Water, and finally
Pentacles – Earth

I learned the Celtic Cross method of reading the cards. This, for an amateur, requires a guidebook. For years I used a battered paperback called The Tarot Revealed, by Eden Gray. When that disappeared into the Time Library—that is, books I’ve carted about with me for decades that seem to slip away into an altogether different Time-stream—I bought a used hard-back edition since it had long ago gone out of print.

Pamela Colman Smith

It’s simple, easy to follow, and demonstrates both the popular Tree-of-Life and Celtic-Cross methods. It gives quick meanings to the cards, both upright and reversed in the layout. I used it to give readings for friends and families. It means adding your own particular interpretation of a card and its meaning, in discussion with the one whose question has been posed to the cards. The card deck the book is meant for is the famous (to tarot card experts, I believe) Waite-Smith deck by mystic E.A. Waite, illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith. [link], but it can be used for any deck, in my opinion.

If you have a tarot deck, which is your favorite, if you have more than one, that is. And what do you ask about; what do you want to know or understand? Is it about love, or prosperity? Do you ask how to make a difficult decision? I would love to know.




About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


The Reluctant Traveler Goes off-Message — 5 Comments

  1. My tarot deck is so old I have no idea who made it, but the art is beautiful, a cross between a stained glass window color saturation and style, and art nouveau. It loves in a silk embroidered pouch that dates back to earlier in the 20th century, I think originally designed for makeup or cigarettes, neither of which I use. I first began reading tarot in the early seventies, using the Feminist tarot guide, but I no longer use a guide.

    I stopped doing readings for myself maybe forty years ago, when I realized I was just getting a feedback loop. I do them for other people, but never for money. My daughter is the most frequent requestor of readings. I’ve done a few over the phone, too, an odd experience.

  2. I have played at reading the Tarot, never adept, too impatient to study the multiple symbols on each card.

    More as collectors items I have a dragon deck and a King Arthur deck. This has made me think about trying a reading to delve into the source of my ongoing depression that preys on my health and energy.

    Thanks for starting this discussion.

  3. I have quite a collection of reproduction decks, including the alleged “Egyptian” version, a Swedish deck with hawkbells and acorns as two of the suits, the Paul Foster Case deck that you color yourself, two early 18th century decks, and the Visconti Italian version, the oldest complete deck known. The first one I bought was back in the early 1960s, before tarot became faddish, a modern copy of the Grimaud “Marseilles” tarot. Everything I have are reproductions, of course, not being rich. 🙂 I used that first deck to read for years until my dear husband managed to lose one of the cards. I switched to the Waite deck, but just recently got the freshly colored version of it; it’s called the “universal” tarot or some such. Waite chose the colors for the Coleman-Smith drawings from the stodgy palette available for 4 color printing in their day. Waite was great on stodge in general. The new one is a real improvement.

  4. I’ve got two dozen or so, but only 3 that I actually use – The Dreampower Deck by R. J. Stewart (out of print indefinitely), the Arcus Arcanum Deck by Hansrudi Wascher (also out of print), and the Merlin Tarot by R. J. Stewart/Miranda Grey. Dreampower doesn’t follow the standard pattern of 4 suites and a set of trumps that most of the decks mentioned here use. I like it for kicking open insights into my own really deep life patterns.

    The Arcus Arcanum is good for more surface stuff. It mostly follows the Rider-Waite symbolism, but with a Nordic theme. I’ve used it with some success to do readings for characters I’m writing. It’s a great tool for when I have a character whose head I’m just not getting into successfully.

  5. It’s gratifying to hear about so many interesting decks that you all have. Makes me want to explore this more!