Tag Archives: Tarot

Do you believe in tarot card readings? Have you ever had one? How do you believe that would work? Did you gain insight from the reading? Did you do it more than once? With different readers? – Quora


(a2a) I rarely go to other people for Tarot readings (I’ve had about two in my entire lifetime) – usually it is me giving readings for them. So if I wanted a Tarot reading, the first person I would think of going to is myself. The cards make me think of things which I would not normally consider, and hence because I am forced out of my habitual thought-patterns, this helps to spark my intuition. The Tarot cards really work as Keys to Unlock my own insight, and stimulate my psychic awareness.

I also find that if I have a question bothering me, and I do a tarot reading on it once, that provides closure on the issue, whatever the particular outcome of the reading happens to be. I strongly advise against the temptation to attempt to have more than reading or consult more than one reader attempt to answer the exact same question – you would be losing objectivity by hearing only what you want to hear.

Source: Alex Sumner’s answer to Do you believe in tarot card readings? Have you ever had one? How do you believe that would work? Did you gain insight from the reading? Did you do it more than once? With different readers? – Quora

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I can’t afford to buy a proper Tarot deck. Can I make my own?

This too used to be on Quora.com but got taken down because they didn’t like me linking to an external website. 😩

I can’t afford to buy a proper Tarot deck. Can I make my own?

Alex answers:

It is theoretically possible to make your own tarot deck: I myself have done so. However, get this: the cost of finding an online company and getting them to turn my designs into a finished deck was approximately $45 – but that didn’t include any value placed on all the hours I had spent painting the designs, scanning them and editing them with Photoshop, etc. (I suppose could have cheated and just used pre-existing designs which are floating around the internet as pirated copies, but it would still cost me money to print them out).

Bear in mind however, that, Amazon is currently selling copies of the Rider Waite Deck for less than $20, so you must be really poor if you can’t afford that!

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Quora Compendium: Tarot

Picture of Alex Sumner's version of the Ten of Cups

The Ten of Cups – “Perfected Success.” © Alex Sumner 2015

A compilation of various answers I have given on Quora.com relating to the Tarot.

How does the Tarot relate to the Tree of Life?

From the late 18th century onwards, occultists retconned the story of the Tarot to make it appear to have an ancient Egyptian origin, or to be associated with the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, or both. The way this has been done, e.g. by the Golden Dawn, does make for an appealing set of correspondences from the point of view of a modern occultist, but a very traditional Kabbalist might equally say “They’re not related at all. The Tarot is foreign to the Kabbalah.”

That being said, however, the basic scheme is as follows:

  • The four worlds of the Kabbalah – Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah – correspond to the suits Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles;
  • The pip cards correspond to the ten sephiroth, i.e. Ace = Kether, 10 = Malkuth, etc;
  • In addition the court cards are assigned King to Chokmah, Queen to Binah, Prince (Knight) to Tiphereth, and Princess (Page) to Malkuth;
  • The twenty two trumps correspond to the twenty two paths linking the sephiroth.

The Golden Dawn system uses the Athanasius Kircher Tree of Life, and gives “The Fool” as Trump 0, Strength as trump 8, and Justice as 11 (in older versions of the Tarot, Strength was 11 and Justice was 8, whilst the Fool didn’t have a number but was poked between the last two trumps).

Are Tarot cards and Ouija boards dangerous? Why?

An Ouija Board is not dangerous as long as you give it as much respect as a Medium would give her own gift of Mediumship. Now the thing about Mediums is that a real Medium spends years training up, typically through a development circle at their local Spiritualist Church, which is a nurturing environment in which they learn how to communicate with spirits safely, appropriately, respectfully, and with due consideration to the spirit itself and to the person on whose behalf they are contacting it.

Unfortunately, most manufacturers of Ouija boards don’t have those kind of scruples. They actively market their Ouija boards on the basis that scaring yourself witless is all part of the “fun” of using one. So ironically, although an Ouija board would not be dangerous to someone who knows how to contact spirits properly, it would be to everyone to whom the Ouija board maker wants to buy one.

Tarot cards are different: they are not actually intended to contact spirits per se in the first place. Instead they are keys to unlock the tarot reader’s intuition. Their meanings don’t create predictions which are set in stone, but indicate trends which one can buck with the benefit of Free Will if one is resolute. The only danger with Tarot cards is with people of a very superstitious nature – the kind of people who don’t realise that “bad” cards are actually warning cards – and hence are actually good.

What are Tarot cards used for other than Tarot readings, if anything?

  • Artistic inspiration
  • Meditation
  • Clairvoyance
  • Spell-casting
  • As symbols of spiritual progression in your initiatic course in life.

I can’t afford to buy a proper Tarot deck. Can I make my own?

It is theoretically possible to make your own tarot deck: I myself have done so. However, get this: the cost of finding an online company and getting them to turn my designs into a finished deck was approximately $45 – but that didn’t include any value placed on all the hours I had spent painting the designs, scanning them and editing them with Photoshop, etc. (I suppose could have cheated and just used pre-existing designs which are floating around the internet as pirated copies, but it would still cost me money to print them out).

Bear in mind however, that, Amazon is currently selling copies of the Rider Waite Deck for only $12.30, so you must be really poor if you can’t afford even that!

Is the Thoth Tarot in the public domain?

Can I use the imagery without an explicit license? My understanding was that the age of the work matters – Wikipedia says it was all painted by 1943, and first published in 1969.

No. In the United States, copyright for a work published after 1923 but before 1978 will remain in the images until 95 years after the date of first publication, or 2064. See: Copyright Basics FAQ

In the United Kingdom and other countries, copyright lasts until 70 years after the creator’s death. The text for the Book of Thoth will therefore be in the public domain in Britain in 2017 (Crowley died in 1947); but the images will remain in copyright until 2032 (Lady Frieda Harris died in 1962). See: Page on dacs.org.uk

Does any one believe in Tarot card reading? How does it work?

The Tarot reader’s intuition does the reading: the cards themselves are keys which unlock that intuition. The Tarot spread challenges the reader to confront symbols that he or she would not normally consider – thus forcing the reader to think outside the box, and leading to insights of a psychic and even spiritual nature.

How do you become a paid astrologer or tarot reader?

Certification, and more importantly professional indemnity insurance, from the British Astrological & Psychic Society (or a similar body if overseas) is always a good start.

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World Tarot Day 2015

It’s that time of year again when we celebrate World Tarot Day! And by “we” I mean Tarot readers as I wasn’t aware that anyone outside Tarotdom actually knows about this international holiday. Anywho, I look on my shelf to see how many decks I have and I realise that I have acquired five new ones since this time last year.

One of those was the deck I created for myself, which I have described in previous blog-posts, and which I now use as my default deck when I am at home.

The other four, however, are commercially available decks, so I shall review them here. Incidentally, by coincidence these all came from Watkins Bookshop, which is the best place for buying tarot decks in London, and which I have previously argued is the model for Flourish & Blotts in the Harry Potter books.

The Hermetic Tarot

The Hermetic Tarot – created by Godfrey Dowson, published by US Games Systems Inc

This is a Golden Dawn tarot, or rather “Stella Matutina” – a true Golden Dawn tarot, which is authentic in its depiction of the trumps, is yet to be published. The artwork is black & white line drawings. Given that the Golden Dawn was renowned for its sophisticated use of shades and hues, this might at first appear ironic, although I wonder if the whole point is that it is meant to be like the BOTA deck – to colour-in as one learns the King-, Queen-, Prince- and Princess- scales?

Nevertheless, I would say that the Hermetic Tarot is the favourite GD deck which I have in my possession – ranking ahead of the Robert Wang version. What I found helpful was that Godfrey Dowson included not only the proper titles of the cards from “Book T,” which aids enormously in card memorisation, but also the full astrological and elemental symbolism, as well as divine and angelic names where appropriate. Clearly a deck for use not just in divination, but in GD style magical-theurgical operations as well.

Morgan Greer Tarot

The Morgan Greer Tarot (English Edition), created by Lloyd Morgan and Bill F Greer, published by US Games Systems Inc

What strikes me first and most importantly about this deck is the artwork. This is clearly based on the Rider-Waite deck: however, unlike so many Rider-Waite clones the artist has gone and created new versions of all seventy-eight cards. The result therefore is bright and colourful (apparently the artist owes some inspiration to Paul Foster Case in this regard). Also, the cards dispense with a border so the illustrations go right up to the edge, making the cards seem bigger than they are.

Given its visual-appeal, this is a deck which I like to turn to when giving tarot readings for other people.

The Steampunk Tarot:
Wisdom from the Gods of the Machine

The Steampunk Tarot, created by John & Caitlin Matthews, illustrated by Wil Kinghan, published by Tuttle Publishing.

NB: This is not to be confused with the similarly named Steampunk Tarot, which is a different deck and published by Llewellyn. This one however is created by British writers and artists. Not that I am saying that this makes it inherently superior – but it is inherently superior 🙂

This is a rather ambitious project, in that not only is the deck a major accomplishment in itself, but the accompanying “little white booklet” is neither little (160 pages) nor, being fully illustrated, is it particularly white. The milieu of the deck is another universe entirely, where Steampunk is the prevailing world view: and in order to fully get to grips with this tarot deck, one almost has to mentally enter that universe as well! Fortunately, it turns out there is a direct translation to their analogues in conventional tarot.

Thus the suits are Airships (Swords); Engines (Wands); Submersibles (Cups); and Leviathans (Pentacles) – by analogy with the elements. The court cards are Captain (King); Lady (Queen); Navigator (Prince); and Messenger (Princess). The Trumps meanwhile have fantastic names such as “Technomancer,” “Cyborg” and “Regeneration Machine”: although it is clear from closely examining the corresponding descriptions that they have the same basic meaning as their regular counterparts (the cards mentioned are The Magician, The Devil and Judgement respectively). One unusual feature of the book is that the authors have created a mini-spread for each trump, as well as four general spreads (“blueprints”).

There is also an ongoing conceit that the universe is entirely mechanistic – in the sense of technology from late 19th century science fiction. Most notable however are the cards themselves. The artist has re-imagined an entire 78 card deck whose visual cues are entirely divorced from conventional decks, and has done an amazing job in doing so.

The Transparent Tarot

The Transparent Tarot, created by Emily Carding, published by Schiffer Publishing

NB: this is not to be confused with the similarly named Universal Transparent Tarot which is a different deck and published by Lo Scarabeo. The creator of this deck, Emily Carding, however is British, and not that I saying that this makes it inherently superior …

Seriously though: what both decks have in common is that the cards are printed on transparent plastic, such that superimposing two or more cards upon one another can generate new layers of meaning. What sets Ms Carding’s deck apart, however, is that her tarot features completely original artwork: whereas the Lo Scarabeo version is a ham-fisted derivative of the Rider-Waite.

Thus, although Ms Carding keeps each card in itself to a minimalist aesthetic, the act of combining the cards produces a thankfully uncluttered composite. The very nature of the cards necessarily invites the reader to delve into a more personal interpretation of the symbolism.

The deck also comes with a 280 page book (again no LWB!), as well as a handy white tarot cloth (essential really, in order to show the artwork of the cards off to maximum advantage).

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How To Create Your Own Tarot Deck, part two

This is a sequel to a post I wrote last year. So I finally went and did it: I put my money where my mouth is, and used one of the sites mentioned in my previous post, makeplayingcards.com, to convert a set of tarot cards I had designed into an actual deck. It will not be commercially released, for two reasons: firstly, it is far too derivative of other well-known decks, so there would be a rights issue if I tried to do so; and secondly and more importantly, I don’t claim to be a great artist.

Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Tarot trumps. Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

The Majors and the Court Cards I created from the BOTA deck, which is deliberately printed black and white for the purpose of colouring in – as one learns about the colour correspondances of the Tree of Life. I didn’t paint the actual cards, but large scans thereof, which I then re-scanned once finished. The pip-cards, on the other hand, were mostly done with Photoshop (except for the suit of Cups). Incidentally, the pip-cards on the BOTA deck are a bit of a let-down compared with the art-work of the rest of the deck. I ended up photoshopping scans of the Rider-Waite: not only re-colouring them, but also altering the background imagery to suit my own particular interpretation of the symbolism.

Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Wands. Fire. Atziluth. King Scale. The Spiritual Experiences of the Sephiroth.
Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Cups. Water. Briah. Queen Scale. Archangels. Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Cups. Water. Briah. Queen Scale. Archangels.
Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Swords. Air. Yetzirah. Prince Scale. Choirs of Angels.
Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Pentacles. Earth. Assiah. Princess Scale. The Gods as they are ensouled in the material universe (or in other words, “the Planets”).
Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Ten out of the seventy-eight cards ended up being original compositions, not based on any pre-existing tarot card. For the back, I printed the text of the invocation used in the Golden Dawn at the start of every tarot reading, for the practical reason that if I put it there, I wouldn’t forget it!

Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

Back view. Copyright Alex Sumner 2015

I have to say that the emotional satisfaction of getting this project completed – which is no small thing, subjectively speaking – is the exclusive advantage of this method of acquiring a new tarot deck. It is neither a costly nor timely method. Quite apart from the effort in trying to assemble all the images necessary, the website I went with, makeplayingcards.com , outsource their manufacturing and distribution to China. Not only did this add considerable time to the shipping, I discovered they stopped work over the Chinese New Year period, which of course is a major holiday for them.

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Question on Quora: Have Psychic Specialists Been Used to Locate Missing Malaysian Aircraft MH-370?

True Tarot Tales

ktln new pic by j

I looked at this at the time, as did many practitioners of divination. It is only human nature that out of concern, ‘psychic’ specialists will look at such events through the lens of their particular skill.

The Tarot cards I drew included The Tower (catastrophe, a fall, a collapse), Page of Wands Reversed (spark/fire?) and The King of Cups Reversed (king subject to water/pilot submerged) and Judgement (all in heaven now). The absence of Emperor  (government/anti-Government)and Devil (Rage, Evil, ) cards suggested there was no terrorism involved.  The Judgement card is also of validation of an idea or a judgement, and may serve to indicate that the reader has interpreted the surrounding cards correctly.

Judgement Gilded Tarot

Judgement, from The Gilded Tarot, by kind permission of Ciro Marchetti

Whether a ‘psychic’ has been employed officially on this investigation, it is not going to be publicised if that has been the case, and probably, it has not. 

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How To Incorporate Tarot with Past-Life Therapy



You have the power to discover the secrets of your past-lives – using the Tarot! The following method is not a Tarot spread per se, but a way of using Tarot imagery in conjunction with one’s clairvoyant and intuitive abilities. To wit:

The whole point of past-life therapy – discovering one’s previous incarnations, etc – is not to aggrandise oneself by deluding oneself that one was someone really important; nor is it to go on an astral junket; instead it is to discover one’s “Karma,” and to work out how it is relevant to one’s current incarnation.

Now in the Tarot, Karmic-forces are represented by the twenty-two tarot trumps. It therefore stands to reason that they key to discovering your own Karma, and by implication your past-lives, lies within at least one of those twenty-two cards.

I have therefore devised a method by which this can be put into practice, which uses a pendulum as well as the cards. Take your favourite Tarot deck, and extract the Trumps therefrom, laying them out before you with The Fool at the very top, then trumps 1 to 7 in one row, 8 to 14 in the next, and 15 to 21 in the third.

Now, prepare as you would for a divination by banishing all unwanted influences and opening up psychically. Take your pendulum, and spend some time establishing your “Yes” and “No” signals. Now ask your pendulum the following questions:

  • “I intend to find out which tarot card holds the key to knowledge of my past lives. Can I do this?”
  • May I do this?”
  • “Should I do this?”

If you get at least one “No,” then unfortunately the time is not yet right for you to be discovering your past-lives, so stop there.

If, however, you get three “Yes” signals, continue by asking:

  • “Which tarot card holds the key to my knowledge of my past lives? Is it The Fool?” (WAIT FOR SIGNAL)
  • “Is it The Magician?” (WAIT FOR SIGNAL)
  • “Is it The High Priestess?” Etc etc etc

I.e. go through the trumps one by one. Once you get your first “Yes,” do not just stop but ask “Are any other cards relevant as well?” If you get a “Yes,” continue checking the other tarot trumps, otherwise finish there.

If you do end up with more than one Tarot trump, use the pendulum to go through them sorting them into order of importance.

In all cases one should finish by expressing gratitude for the help you have received, and by closing down psychically.

Now that you have at least one Tarot trump, you can discover exactly how this relates to your Karma by clairvoyance, e.g. by treating it as an astral doorway and then going through it, as one would a tattva-card: or by using your knowledge of the card’s qabalistic / astrological / etc symbolic associations, you can devise an appropriate magical ceremony to make contact with a corresponding spirit guide who can explain what it all means in detail.

When I first tried this method on myself, I came up with one particular tarot trump which, as it turned out, happened to represent a good summary of the successes in my life. This I took as meaning that they were successful because I was making use of my Karmic strengths, which helped me make sense of a lot of things. Different people may come up with different tarot trumps by this method – YMMV.


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The Hermetic Tablet: featuring Alex Sumner

The Hermetic Tablet: Journal of Western Ritual Magic, Autumnal Equinox 2014.

The Hermetic Tablet: Journal of Western Ritual Magic, Autumnal Equinox 2014.

The Hermetic Tablet: Journal of Western Ritual Magic, Autumnal Equinox 2014” is a new journal just published, featuring contributions from the great and the good of the Western Mystery Tradition. It even includes a pair of articles by me in it!

This is being edited by Nick Farrell, and has articles by Nick, Sandra Tabatha Cicero, Aaron Leitch, Christine Zalewski, Samuel Scarborough, Harry Wendrich, and many more.

My own contribution is entitled “Non Divinatory Uses of the Tarot” and is the transcript of a public talk I gave in Salford in March earlier this year. It also features a ritual I composed entitled “Meditation On The Sun” which I also demonstrated on the same occasion.

It is currently available in paperback or limited edition hardback from lulu.com. For more information, and to order your copy, click on the link below:

The Hermetic Tablet: Journal of Western Ritual Magic, Autumnal Equinox 2014


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How To Create Your Own Tarot Deck

Recently I have been taking time to colour the BOTA Tarot deck – which is famously left black & white for students to fill in as their appreciation of the esoteric significance of colour develops. However, instead of trying to colour in the actual cards, I thought it would be far easier for me – in terms of detail and control of colour – if I scanned them, printed them out A4 size, and then painted them. I used acrylic paints, simply because that is what I had to hand.



... and after © 2014

… and after © 2014

It soon occurred to me, would I be able to convert these pictures I was making back into tarot cards? Or in other words, create my own deck based on the BOTA cards. After doing some research I found that the answer was theoretically yes – and surprisingly easier than one might think. But first a caveat. The BOTA deck, I am guessing, is still in copyright, so obviously one cannot create one’s own commercial deck this way. It would have to be a deck for private use only. If I have come up with 100% original designs, that would have been a different situation entirely. However, the fact of the matter is that there are companies – on the internet, even – that if you provide them with a full set of PNG files according to their specifications, they will print them and turn them into a Tarot deck on your behalf. Usually they do this as part of a wider scheme of creating customised playing card decks generally. Apparently quite a few professional Tarot readers do have their own personalised Tarot decks printed up to impress their clients when giving readings. Typical size for each image is 3″*5″ @ 300dpi, or 900*1500 pixels. Note that 1/8th of an inch is routinely shaved off each edge as the bleed area, leaving the printed product 2.75″ * 4.75″, which appears to be an industry standard. Clearly, a graphics program more sophisticated than MS Paint is required! I personally have an old version of Photoshop. I believe there is a freeware program called “GIMP,” although I didn’t particularly like it when I gave it a try. The typical cost for such a deck starts from about $15 for one deck – although if you want your tarot deck to come in a box, you are going to have to pay considerably more, e.g. $26. By way of comparison, the Rider Waite is currently retailing on Amazon for $11, the Crowley Thoth for $21 and Tarot of Marseille for around $16 (all boxed). The only way you would be able to compete with these big boys if you actually went and tried to come up with a proper commercial deck and market it as such. To compete with the Rider Waite, for example, you would only begin to break even by selling out a run of at least 250 decks. However this does not take into account either costs run up in the creation of the deck, or actual profit (is there such a thing???), which if you are going to be working on a professional basis will be considerable. Harry Wendrich, creator of the Golden Dawn Temple Tarot, once told me that he simply employed local people to sit for him as models for the characters he depicted in his cards, which is an excellent strategy for a professional artist, although some of them look particularly shady.

See: MakePlayingCards.com
Custom Tarot Card Decks


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“Meet My Main Character” Blog Tour

OK I’ve been tagged by fellow author Maria Savva to take part in this blog-tour, about the main-character from one of my novels.

The character I have chosen is Miranda T Warren, from Taromancer.

© 2013

© 2013

1. Tell us a little about this main character. Is she fictional or a historic person?

Miranda is a forty-something single woman who lives alone with only her cat Nixie for company. To supplement her income from her not particularly well-paid job she works as a Tarot reader – a profession with which she is becoming increasingly disenchanted. Miranda is a strictly fictional character, although I do put a lot of my own words into her mouth.

2. When and where is the story set?

Modern day England, mostly in Miranda’s home-town which I left unspecified but for the fact that it is relatively near London.

3. What should we know about her?

Miranda was raised a Christian but lost her faith roundabout the same-time her mum died, when she was a child. In her teens she turned to paganism. Now however she is at a spiritual cross-roads – seeking idealism, but not sure how or where to find it.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

Her long-time frustrations about how her life has been diverging from what it ought to be come to a crisis point one fateful evening, when she finds herself staring over the edge of a bridge into the river beneath… As it happens, a crazy old man saves her from herself, and persuades her that to solve her problems she ought to go on a Spiritual Quest, which turns out to be even more radical than she ever expected.

5. What is her personal goal?

Her quest to re-kindle her interest in the Tarot comes to represent her quest for spiritual wholeness, and closure on all the negative issues in her life.

6. What are the titles of your novels, and where can we read more about them?

My novels are:
(The Magus Trilogy)
The Magus
Opus Secunda
Licence To Depart

(The Demon Detective and other stories)
A Fairy Story By Any Other Name

and Taromancer, which is a stand-alone novel in its own right. I also have written several short-stories and a novella in the “Demon Detective” series.

Full details can be found on my website: http://solascendans.com

The books themselves are all available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/alexsumner

7. When can we expect your next book to be published?

I have several WIPs – probably later this year.

OK, Tag time!

I may be taking a liberty in catching them unprepared, but nevertheless I’d like to shout out some authors I admire:


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