Review of Tarot of the Bones Deck & Companion Book by Lupa

February 1st, 2018

Review of Tarot of the Bones Deck & Companion Book by Lupa

The Tarot of the Bones is a “natural history-themed” divination set created and published by Lupa. I was looking forward to receiving this deck because of its author and creator, who I first discovered years ago when researching therianthropy. Because of her long history of working in an honorable way with the hides and bones and fur of animals, I could not think of a better person than Lupa to create a bone-themed Tarot deck. I’m pleased to say that Lupa did not disappoint me. The Tarot of Bones deck has 79 cards with beautiful images of bones and other natural items assembled by Lupa and photographed by Sandra Swan of Wild Hunt Photography.

The theme of the deck is nature and history. The images in most Tarot decks are connected to humans and their belongings and desires, but the Tarot of Bones focuses on other parts of nature, parts that don’t need humans to exist. To make things more interesting, we are not dealing with photographs or drawing of animals, but rather photographs of their bones. The idea for the deck is sourced to both Lupa’s focus on hides, fur, bones and leather and other natural and reclaimed objects founds in her artwork, and on the ancient divination art of cleromancy, also known as bone divination. Bone divination, the ritual tossing of bones on a surface and the interpreting of the patterns to be found, is an ancient divinatory practice that is part of the culture of many areas in the world, including Asia, Africa and North America. Tarot of the Bones brings this ancient divinatory art into the modern age.

The cards are 2¾ inches by 4¾ inches, easy to shuffle even if you have small hands, the card stock is sturdy enough to encourage regular use of the deck, and the finish is smooth but not too shiny. The card images, pictures of bones and other assembled articles, are sized to allow a colored border. The image on the back of the cards, in keeping with the natural history theme of the entire deck, shows an assemblage of shells, bones, a horned skull, fur, stones, and mosses and grasses.

The soft cover companion book, sold separately from the deck, is 6 inches by 9 inches, and is sturdy and easy to use. The cover is in color, and shows the image from The Magician of the Majors; the back cover has a brief description of the deck and a short bio of the author and creator; the interior is black print on white paper. The book has 155 pages, and besides a brief introduction describing Lupa’s process for creating the deck, an explanation of why she chose to work with the Tarot and with bones, and a quick description of how to use the book in the beginning, and some suggested spreads in the back, it’s all about the cards.

The card descriptions are broken down to several parts: an image of the card, a description of the items in the assemblage pictured on the card, a description of Lupa’s inspiration for the items used in the photograph, and an offering of potential meanings for the card. These are all presented in story fashion rather than just as lists of keywords or phrases, which helps us to peek into Lupa’s mind and understand why she chose the assemblage to represent the card. Indeed, to me it is the “My Inspiration” section and its descriptions of the creator’s process for choosing the items for each card that has offered new and very unique ways to see and perceive the messages of the cards of the Tarot!

As stated above, this deck has 79 cards. The Tarot of Bones includes a bonus card, named “The Happy Squirrel.” Those of you who are loyal watchers of The Simpsons might remember this card; if you don’t, I will leave it up to you to do the research. The Tarot of Bones is not the only Tarot deck that includes this 79th card; I was able to find a list of 9 other decks that include The Happy Squirrel in the Major Arcana. Lupa included The Happy Squirrel in the Tarot of the Bones as an homage to all those who helped her through her IndieGoGo campaigns to fund the creation and publication of the deck and companion book.

This might not be an ideal deck for those just beginning the process of learning about the Tarot. There are no traditional images that would help the novice to tell the story of the cards. Each card is identified with its number (or rank, for Court Cards) at the top of the image, and the card name (for Major Arcana cards) or suit (for Minor Arcana cards) at the bottom. There are no Major Arcana card images associated with The Fool and his journey, and the Minor Arcana cards show bones and other natural items, without the images that can help the novice. The color palate of the deck is very earthy, with greens, blues, reds, yellows, tans and browns; some cards have solid backgrounds while others have textured or patterned backgrounds, but those colors and textures are not separated into suits or elemental correspondences, but rather are mixed throughout the entire deck. To a novice reader, this also could be a challenge. But if you already have a handle on the traditional symbolism of the Tarot, this deck will be a pleasure to work with.

There is also lots of useful information about the cards to be found on the Tarot of the Bones website, Lupa has graciously posted images and brief descriptions of the meanings of the cards there, so you don’t need to buy the companion book. However, I highly recommend that you DO purchase the companion book, because it is worth whatever you spend for it. If you go to the website, take a moment to read the Production Schedule. Lupa not only created the deck and the book, designed the images on each of the cards and wrote the descriptions of the images and their symbolism as well as the meanings of the cards, she also self-published! No small task, that.

I love this deck and companion book. It combines spirituality, nature, and the powerful archetypes of the Tarot in a creative way that asks readers to see the cards anew. The deck itself is beautiful, and the companion book is well researched and well written. If you are interested in nature, animals, bones, shamanism, or nature-based witchcraft, or if you love art decks or Tarot decks that are a bit unusual and bring to a reading a non-R/W feel, this deck is for you!

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About the Author:

Raushanna is a lifetime resident of New Jersey. As well as a professional Tarot reader and teacher, she is a practicing Wiccan (Third Degree, Sacred Mists Coven), a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, a certified Vedic Thai-Yoga Massage Bodyworker, a 500-hr RYT Yoga Teacher specializing in chair assisted Yoga for movement disorders, and a Middle Eastern dance performer, choreographer and teacher.  Raushanna bought her first Tarot deck in 2005, and was instantly captivated by the images on the cards and the vast, deep and textured messages to be gleaned from their symbols. She loves reading about, writing about, and talking about the Tarot, and anything occult, mystical, or spiritual, as well as anything connected to the human subtle body. She has published a book, “The Emerald Tablet: My 24-Day Journey To Understanding,” and is currently working on a book about the Tarot, pathworking and the Tree of Life. Raushanna documents her experiences and her daily card throws in her blog,, which has been in existence since 2009. She and her husband, her son and step son, and her numerous friends and large extended family can often be found on the beaches, bike paths and hiking trails of the Cape May, NJ area.


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Thoughts While Reading The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook




One of the books on my summer reading list is The Complete Lenormand Oracle Handbook: Reading the Language and Symbols of the Cards, by Caitlín Matthews. I don’t have a set of Lenormand Cards – but I’m not letting that stop me from learning as much as I can about them. As with all divinatory cards, I am fascinated by the variety and beauty of the many sets of Lenormand cards available in occult shops, online or from private seller.

I think what appeals to me about the Lenormand is the combination of pictures, numbers and playing card symbolism. In divinatory terms, there’s a lot to work with. Since I don’t have a set of cards yet and have therefore never used a set of Lenormand cards, I can’t say anything about them but I have gazed on their images online and they are incredibly intriguing! I have seen enough sets to know which one – or ones – I would buy if I were in the position to do so. But being the witch that I am, I have learned that these kind of divination tools tend to come to you, rather than you seek them out. When I see the set I want, I’ll know it.

But while I am enjoying Caitlín Matthew’s informative and well-written book, this article is not about Lenormand cards per se. It about her assertion about reading Tarot cards versus Lenormand Cards. Having never read Lenormand Cards, I can’t say anything about that. I have no reason to doubt what she says. However, about reading the Tarot, she writes,

In tarot, cards are laid out in predecided or named positions. Take a spread like the ten-card Celtic Cross. Every position has a different meaning, as introduced by diviners as they lay cards down … Each position is an essential part of the reading and helps define or frame how the card laid upon each place is to be read.” (10)

She goes on to say, “Lenormand cards work by proximity to each other, creating meaning through juxtaposition. This is a more linguistic method. Just as we use different combinations of the alphabet to create words, so, too, do Lenormand cards work together to create different meanings, as we will see …” (10)

Of course, I don’t yet have a set of Lenormand cards, so I can’t say if using them is a “more linguistic” method or not. But I have been reading Tarot cards and studying the Tarot for over thirty years now and while some spreads are just as she describes – putting a card on a certain position and reading it against what that position is supposed to mean – other spreads do require the cards to be read together, as card combinations. So in that sense, the Tarot can be also be a linguistic method – quite honestly, I never thought of it as anything else.

On the subject of card combinations, I did learn quite a bit from her explanation of how to read the placement of cards – the first card as the subject and the second card as modifier. When there are more cards, the way the modifiers are worked out – left or right of a middle subject card – changes, but this is basically it. Now – maybe I’m just being cantankerous but I don’t see why this method can’t be used with a set of Tarot cards. Or a deck of playing cards, for that matter. When you’re a skilled reader, I would think you would be able to read most anything. I do not even pretend to play the part of a skilled reader – I am merely an interested amateur – a kitchen witch who has an interest in all the arts.

Once I did visit a skilled reader. It was many years ago in Topanga Canyon, California. She used an ordinary deck of Rider-Waite cards but she laid them out three in a row, read those three as a combination, then laid out three more, read those three, and so on. She laid the cards out very fast and read them very fast. She used maybe half the deck. One of the things I remember her telling me was that I was not with “the man I was supposed to be with” – I was with the father of my son – and my “soulmate” would be coming to me soon. Whoever that soulmate was, he has come and gone, because, as I said – that was many years ago. But my point is, the way she read the cards was more like setting out a Grand Tableau –she probably used around than 36 cards. Of course, at that time I had neither heard of the Lenormand Oracle or the Grand Tableau. But now – reading about it and thinking back – I wonder if she was blending the two systems for a better reading. Who knows?

In my Tarot notebook, I have notes about card combinations, some from books I have read and some printed off the internet. I have quite a lot from a now-defunct website called – I searched for it the other day and it was gone – but websites come and websites go. It seems that most of the information I have saved refers to the court cards – I suppose that would make sense, since it’s easier to modify concepts concerning people. And most questions people ask concern other people! For instance, a queen with the seven of swords – it could be a light-handed woman or a woman who is a victim of theft, depending on the placement of the cards.

Someday I will have a set of Lenormand cards and I will continue my education with this divinatory system. Until then, I will practice my skills using Tarot cards, playing cards, and whatever else I have. As I was told as a child, “Practice makes perfect.” I don’t know if I’ll ever be perfect, but I know I will never stop practicing.

You can find out more about The Complete Lenormand Oracle by clicking HERE.

To read more on the author of the book, Caitlin Matthews, click HERE.

Brightest Blessings!


A Review of Sasha Fenton’s Fortune Teller’s Handbook

I have been a fan of Sasha Fenton for thirty years. I remember when The Fortune-Teller’s Workbook: A Practical Introduction to the World of divination first appeared at my favorite library and I borrowed it again and again. I was so happy when I found it in on – I snapped it up immediately. It’s the kind of basic text that any student of the divining arts ought to have, and it is perfect for beginners. Not only is it written in a clear and concise manner, it has some fun divination techniques – and who says that divination can’t be fun? – such as The Oracle of Napoleon (see and Flower Reading. According to, Sasha Fenton has written 125 books on divination, spiritualism and the occult. I know, as someone who hangs around libraries and book stores, her books are always on display.

(Sasha Fenton. Photo from

Apparently, The Fortune-Teller’s Workbook is out of print and hardcover copies are going for $59.99 and up on Ebay. They are increasingly hard to find, so if you happen to come across one, I suggest picking it up, if only because it’s going to be a rare and therefore increasingly hard to find – and perhaps a good investment, as well.

(My dog-earred copy)

A few months ago, I reviewed Sasha Fenton’s new edition of Fortune Telling by Tarot Cards: A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding the Tarot (see An obvious companion to this wonderful guide to reading and using the Tarot to its fullest potential, is Fortune Teller’s Handbook: 20 Fun and Easy Techniques for Predicting the Future. Published by the publisher as Fortune Telling by Tarot Cards, Hampton Woods Publishing Company, Incorporated, out of Charlottesville, Virginia, and distributed by Red Wheel/Weiser. The two books came out the same year which tells me that they were meant to be companion pieces. Both books have glossy finishes on the covers and they are the same convenient size.

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I started reading the Introduction. Immediately, I thought: this sounds familiar. I opened up to the Introduction in The Fortune-Teller’s Workbook, and there were almost the exact words. I examined the chapters on Numerology, Runes, Flower Reading and the twelve other chapters that are in both The Fortune-Teller’s Workbook and Fortune Teller’s Handbook, and in every instance, the prose was almost the same. A word or two here or there was changed and the overall syntax was tightened up. A good editor could do that.

You can’t say they’re the same book, since they both have chapters that the other one doesn’t have. But fifteen out of the twenty chapters in Fortune Teller’s Handbook were originally in The Fortune-Teller’s Workbook, which is more than half of the book. I am not making any kind of accusations here – they are both wonderful books – but really! Over half the book!

I have to say that I was very disappointed in Sasha Fenton. I guess if an author wants to plagiarize their own work, that’s their prerogative, but it seems unethical to me. At least reference your earlier work! I searched all over Fortune Teller’s Handbook to find any reference to her earlier book. There was none whatsoever.

That said – and I’m sorry but I had to say it – I still find Fortune Teller’s Handbook: 20 Fun and Easy Techniques for Predicting the Future a worthy book. Don’t let the silly cover put you off. There’s a lot of good information in here – especially for the beginner. Information that is in this book that isn’t in The Fortune-Teller’s Workbook includes Phrenology (reading the bumps on a person’s head), Face Reading, Graphology, Moles, and Itches. I thought the chapter on face reading very interesting. I had no idea there were different ways of reading a face – The Chinese Way or the English way. It makes me wonder – are there any other techniques for reading faces? Perhaps a Gypsy or Romany way? This would be a subject to research.

And I had to laugh at the chapter on Graphology. Is anyone taught how to write in longhand anymore? I know I had to teach my son how to sign his name because he only knew how to print. In an increasingly electronic world, perhaps some high-tech version of Graphology is needed? It’s an interesting idea – I’m not even sure how it would work! But I am no techie!

One thing a book like this is really great for is Bibliomancy. Yes, I know that Bibliomancy is opening a book at random and reading whatever is there – I wrote about it three years ago here – but sometimes when you are stuck with a problem, you don’t even know which form of divination to use – where to start looking for answers. A book like this opens the doors to finding the solutions. Even if all you do is open to a random page – let’s say, page 77, which is a reference page for the suit of Hearts for playing cards – I’d say, the book is telling you to pick up your playing cards – the ones you use only for divination – and do a quick 3-card spread. The first card represents your body, the second card your mind, and the third card your spirit. What are the cards saying in these positions? What are they saying to each other?

My body card was the 5 of Spades – happy home but bad-tempered people surround me. My mind card was the Queen of Spades – my witchy self. My spirit card was the Ace of Hearts – the start of a happy time in my life. I don’t see these cards talking to each other so much as merely tolerating each others presence. What is the Queen of Spades going to do with the Ace of Hearts? Shoot an arrow through it? She’s really on her eye on it, doesn’t she? At the same time, she’s watching out for those contentious 5’s behind her, threatening to cause a ruckus in her happy home. Who are these people? These 5’s? As usual, there are more questions than answers but that’s all good – it gives me something to work with. At the very least, I use those images in a poem or a collage.

Anyway – there is a lot in this book. If you are looking for a good all-around book about the various arts of divination, either for yourself or as a present for a beginning, I could not recommend this book any higher. And whether or not Sasha Fenton copied and pasted the information from an earlier book – honestly, it’s all good. When you are given a key to knowledge, don’t ask where it came from! Just take it and turn the lock and open the door!

Find Fortune Teller’s Handbook either at your local library, bookstore or on

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Fenton, Sasha. Fortune Teller’s Handbook: 20 Fun and Easy Techniques for Predicting the Future. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing Company Inc., 2017.

Fenton, Sasha. Fortune Telling by Tarot Cards: A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding the Tarot. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing Company Inc., 2017.

Fenton, Sasha. The Fortune-Teller’s Workbook: A Practical Introduction to the World of divination. Wellingborough: The Aquarian Press, 1988


About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

This month, we will talk about the Major Arcana card called Judgement. If you haven’t read last month’s essay on Justice, please do so now. At the beginning of that essay, you will find a brief description of the Major Arcana, as well as a review of some terms, such as archetype, stereotype and epitome.

Each Major Arcana card contains many ingredients to aid in interpretation; besides the symbolism found in the traditional images associated with each card, a Major Arcana card corresponds to a number, an archetype, an element, an astrological sign or planet, a Hebrew letter, and a Path on the Tree of Life joining two Sephiroth. Because Judgement and Justice are so similar, it will be fun to compare the two as we learn about the Judgement card. Let’s start breaking down and comparing; we’ve got a lot of work to do!

Most decks represent Judgement with an image of an angel blowing a horn above a group of people. The heralding of an act of divine judgment through a trumpet call is certainly an event familiar to us all, and it is an effective image for this card. The Waite deck shows people standing in coffin-like boxes, symbolizing an after-death judgment, and yes, there is a Death card in the Tarot Major Arcana. The Witches Tarot card shows people leaping out of water; the element of Water can represent renewal or regeneration, the next step after Judgment is completed. If you remember, the traditional image on the Justice card is that of an armed woman holding scales and a sword; the symbolism attached to Justice is self-imposed discipline, restriction used as a tool of focus and awareness, justice applied with equality to all and with a balance of mercy and authority. Looking at these two cards is like looking at a verb and a noun; one (Judgement) shows an action, and the other (Justice) shows a thing or concept.

The traditional image associated with the Judgment card is connected to more than just Death mentioned above, and The Tower and its destruction that prepares for regeneration. If you look at the image on a traditional Judgement card, you will see in the background the mountains first seen or hinted at on The Fool, the ocean is the end of the river first seen or hinted at on The Empress, and Gabriel’s banner usually is the same color as The Magician’s robe.

Judgement is the number 20 of the Major Arcana, and 20 breaks down as 2 + 0 = 2. The Justice card in its traditional position is the number 11 of the Majors, and 11 breaks down as 1 + 1 = 2. Another connection between these two cards! The number 2 in the Tarot represents polarity and balance, as well as the concept of “distance between,” which is connected to dynamic balance.

The number 2 card of the Major Arcana is The High Priestess. The High Priestess represents knowledge of the cause that is behind action and reaction. The female authority figure of the Justice card weighs both cause and effect in her judgments; she takes the knowledge of The High Priestess to the next level, and manifests it. And the Judgement card represents that manifestation, with its valuing of what has come before and, after payment is presented (usually through achieving knowledge of the cause that is behind the action and reaction), liberation from those past events in order to begin again. More connections that help us to understand these two cards.

Not all archetypes symbolize people; the Judgement card is the archetype for three experiences that are common to all times and all cultures: Evaluation, Reward, and Completion. Thus the Judgement card can be seen to represent rites of passage that occur when we are held accountable for our past choices, decisions, and actions. It is only through being evaluated, and then receiving the fitting reward (whether pleasant or uncomfortable) that the events can finally be completed, the accounting books can be closed and put away, and a new cycle can begin. If you remember, the archetype of the Justice card is the Judge. The Judge is the authoritative figure who performs the Evaluation, distributes the Reward, and deems the cycle as Complete. The Judgement card also represents the archetypal concept of spiritual rebirth at the end of the world. It is a card of powerful transition, but that transition does no happen through the violence of The Tower or the fear associated with Death.

Judgement corresponds with Fire, which is spontaneous and impulsive, and connected to energetic change. Fire is an active element that represents ideas, ambition, passion, and action aligned with Divine will. Fire is hot and it separates, it is dry and it shapes; it can offer a spiritual Aha! Moment, or it can feed the ego to obesity, and the Judgement card asks us to account for both. Fire is also about purification; Fire destroys and Fire creates, and a trial by Fire may not be fun, but it is beneficial in the end because it enables us to resolve issues, and release them. Justice corresponds with the element of Air, and Air is one of the things Fire needs in order to exist. Thus, Judgement cannot exist without Justice.

The Judgement card corresponds with the planet Pluto in astrology, and with power, metamorphosis, and cycles of dying and becoming. In Roman mythology, Pluto is the god of the underworld and of wealth. Pluto’s “icon” is the alchemy symbol, representing spirit over mind, transcending matter. Pluto represents the part of a person that destroys in order to renew, through bringing buried or repressed needs and drives to the surface and expressing them, even at the expense of the existing order. A commonly used keyword for Pluto is “transformation.” It is associated with personal mastery, and the need to cooperate and share with another, in order that no one is destroyed. Pluto governs big business and wealth, mining, surgery and detective work, and any enterprise that involves digging under the surface to bring the truth to light.

In the Hebrew alphabet, each letter is connected in some way to the creative forces in the universe. They express themselves on three levels: one level is archetypical and runs from the first to the ninth letter; the second level is one of manifestation and runs from the tenth to the eighteenth letter, and the third is a cosmic level and runs from the nineteenth to the twenty-second letter.

The Judgement card corresponds with Shin, the fang or tooth, the twenty-first letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The letter Shin connects directly with the element of Fire, and is also active and expansive. Its shape reflects three raised flames in the shape of three Vaus (the Hebrew letter Vau, the nail, joins or holds in place), representing the three qualities of Shin: the Od or the active force of life, the Ob or the passive force of life, and the Aur or the balancing force of life. The fang or tooth represents taking in or receiving, and chewing in order to digest, and of course, this can be on a more mundane level; however since Shin is a letter that expresses itself on a cosmic level, this taking in, digesting and absorbing is most likely on a more broad-reaching level.

On the Tree of Life, Judgement represents the 31st Path (one of the Paths that is considered a step of initiation) between Malkuth (the physical world of action and physical, outer reality) and Hod (which provides analysis and communication). The 31st Path is the Path of Perpetual Intelligence, of psychic development, and of former incarnations which have offered us evolution and brought us to where we are in this life, and it teaches us how to use the knowledge of how we got here to this “now” in order to move forward. And here is a piece of interesting and unrelated trivia for you Trekkies out there: the Vulcan salute (the “live long and prosper” mudra) is directly related to the Hebrew letter Shin!

The rebirth promised in the Judgement card doesn’t happen through destroying or discarding things, but rather through integrating things. Judgement allows us to move forward, but this card also reminds us to not forget the past; instead, we should learn from it. Judgement is about making amends, and it is about forgiving; it tells of reaching conclusions, getting off the fence, ad seeing everything in a new light. It reminds us of the importance of hindsight, it encourages us to reap what has been sown, and it underscores the benefits focusing on what is gained instead of what is lost.

When reversed, the Judgement card is reminding us that while someone else is doing the tallying of our score card, we are the ones who have the final choice so we should not allow circumstances to blind us to the consequences of our actions. A reversed Judgement card can also be about feeling guilty or blaming others, it can be about death or endings without a chance for a new beginning. It can tell of failing to be merciful or forgiving with yourself or with others, or staying stuck in hate or regret, and it warns of the danger of focusing on what is lost instead of what is gained.

Judgement to me is like getting the bill at the end of a dinner at a fine restaurant. You have been given the meal you ordered, and now you have to pay for it. Judgement also has a liberating effect, because once we pay the bill, we are free of debt. Judgement brings resolution, and Judgement brings Justice.

These two cards really are connected, aren’t they? Next month we will enter the world of Court Cards and talk about one of my favorites, the Queen of Pentacles.

Since we are in an “Eight” frame of mind after talking about the Eight of Cups last month, let’s talk about another Eight, the Eight of Wands. The Eight of Wands is an interesting card, especially if you tend to favor Tarot decks with images on the Minor Arcana Pip cards rather than symbols of the suit, because its traditional image is one of the few Minors without people on it. Let’s investigate the Eight of Wands.

As stated above, the Eight of Wands is a Minor Arcana card, so we know right away that the message offered by this card will most likely be more immediate in nature, or will most likely be connected to more day-to-day issues. Notice right away that I am qualifying many of my statements with “most likely” or “usually”; as readers and interpreters and students of the Tarot we do need to remember that every message, no matter how insignificant or mundane on the surface, can also possibly be a symptom of a deeper or wider issue. Nothing in the Minor Arcana is in any way minor in nature.

The easiest way to get a decent understanding of a Minor Arcana card is to examine its number, or in the case of Court Cards, its rank, and to examine its suit. In this case, we are dealing with the number 8, and the suit of Wands. These two ingredients could actually give us enough information about this one card to offer a useful interpretation.

Let’s look at the number 8 first. I see the number 8 as telling me that I need to consciously act or choose the next step, and that I need to believe the next step I choose will bring something good. It is easier to understand the number 8, which is about deliberately reacting, if we understand the number 7, which is causing this deliberate reaction. The number 7 represents the pause that occurs as growth slows and the beginning of degeneration approaches. This pause usually requires a choice of some kind, usually either stick with what we have, or try for more. The number 8 offers the concept of a remedy or a reaction to the pause and approaching degeneration of the 7. The number 8 is kind of a kick in the pants, telling us we already have what we need to move forward, so move already. So, just by looking at the number of our card, we already know that the Eight of Wands is going to be a card of action or manifestation.

The suit of Wands corresponds with the playing card suit of Clubs, the cardinal direction of South, and the element of Fire. In its natural state, the element of Fire is hot and dry. It tends to bring spontaneous change or impulsive, energetic effects. Fire is passionate in nature, and transforms everything in our world. Fire can sanitize or cleanse, and it can destroy everything in its path; Fire can warm us and keep us safe, or it can kill us.

The cards of the suit of Wands teach us about Fiery attributes: creativity, ambition, growth, passion and actions, and how their presence or absence can affect our lives. The suit of Wands represents our ability to experience joy and passion (including sexual passion), and the Wands cards can represent our creativity, our ability to be artistic or to be drawn to beautiful things. Fire often represents Spirit or the Divine Will, and Wands cards also can present the possibility of some interaction with Spirit or the Divine.

We have other sources of information besides the number and suit of our card. The traditional image of the Eight of Wands, as I stated in the first paragraph, usually does not have people in it. Usually, the card will show eight Wands or Spears flying through the air. The Llewellyn Welsh card shows those eight Wands flying through the air, along with five bucks, four of whom are watching carefully, prepared to give the alarm and flee. The Shadowscapes Eight of Wands, one of the few exceptions to the “no people” rule, shows a woman blowing what looks like dandelion seeds into the wind. The Wild Unknown Tarot Eight of Wands shows those eight Wands in a circle, points facing in, with a lightning bolt zapping down to hit them all. The next step here is obvious: those Wands are going to explode outward, probably in a shocking manner. The Thoth Tarot grabs the concept of electricity even more; its image shows eight electrical bolts shooting outward from a central point. Electricity makes a great metaphor for the effects of the Eight of Wands!

Like every other Tarot card, the Eight of Wands has an astrological connection as well, which can help us to add even more depth and texture to our readings. The Eight of Wands represents the planet Mercury when it is in the constellation of Sagittarius.

In Roman mythology, Mercury is known as the messenger of the gods known for his ability to move fast. The planet Mercury echoes this manifestation of speed, circling the Sun quickly, taking only 88 days to orbit the Sun, spending about 7.33 days in each sign of the zodiac. Astrologically, Mercury represents the principles of communication, mentality, thinking patterns, a focus on details, rationality and reasoning, and adaptability. Mercury is connected to schooling and education as well as communication, and thus to email, telephone and snail mail, newspapers, journalism and writing. In medicine, Mercury is associated with the nervous system, the brain, the respiratory system, the thyroid and the sense organs. It is also linked to the animal spirits.

Sagittarius, the 9th sign of the zodiac, is often seen as the wanderer, but remember, not all those who wander are lost. Sag the truth-seeker is about knowledge achieved by traveling the world and talking to everyone. They can be seen as enthusiastic consumers of information; the life quest of the Archer is to understand the meaning of life, and thus they are enthusiastic consumers of information who enjoy using spiritual and philosophical disciplines to digest what they learn. Sagittarius corresponds with Jupiter, and the element of Fire; it is a Mutable Fire sign. Those born under this sign enjoy physical activity as much as they enjoy learning about the world around them. Sag is an effective healer, and can be a bridge between humans and animals. Sagittaritus has a philosophical, wide open nature, and an optimistic and generous spirit.

The combination of Mercury in Sagittarius tells of big ideas or visions, a restless intellect that searches for knowledge but won’t be troubled about mere facts, and a mind that defends justice and freedom vigorously. These energies like having room to grow; clutter is uncomfortable but procrastination will prevent a cleanup until things become unbearable. Then, everything will need to go, now. This combination of detail-oriented communication and expansive, philosophic ideas will often dominate the environment, even if that is not the original intention.

Each of the 78 cards in a Tarot deck also has a home on the Tree of Life of the Qabalah; all of the Eights correspond to the sephira (or sphere) of Hod. Hod (or Glory) is the eighth sephira on the Tree, the third on the Pillar of Form/Restriction, and represents science, teaching and the intellect. Hod corresponds with Mercury, the planet that receives the most light from our Sun, and working with Hod can stimulate the workings of the mind and provide illumination, but this kind of work presents dangers, too, especially if the process of shining light in the dark corners exposes any shadow issues. If you think about it, the Eights represent some kind of conscious use of the intellect rather than feelings or emotions, often in order to maintain control or harmony.

Let’s sum up what we have found. The number 8 tells of deliberate action or remediation or response to a slowdown that could be bringing some kind of discomfort. The suit of Wands tells of growth, passions, actions aligned with divine will, and with recklessness. The image on the card tells of action, possibly explosive or shocking or electric in nature, that might not be sourced from people. Mercury tells of speed and communication of all kinds, learning and rational thinking, and Sagittarius tells of philosophy and a connection to spirit, an open mind and an ability to view the big picture. The sephira of Hod tells of the intellect and of knowing why something works.

So, the Eight of Wands is presenting lots of sudden expansion. We have transformative Fire, speedy Mercury, expansive Sagittarius, deliberate action of the number 8, and the working of the intellect of the sephira of Hod. This card to me is about taking action, about knowing that now is the time to set things in motion. It is about obtaining the last piece of the puzzle that will bring a grand finale, or about receiving a piece of news that will tie all the loose ends together. It is about striking while the iron is hot and putting plans into action.

When reversed, the Eight of Wands could be telling of a blockage or stagnation or lethargy of some kind, probably along with a warning to look out if that blockage ever lets go. The reversed card could be telling us that we need to think before we act, or slow down a bit. Perhaps it could be telling of some conflict or cross-purpose; imagine all those Wands moving in random, unplanned directions.

The Eight of Wands is a card of action, of quick developments, and of pulling it all together so things can be completed. The energies of this card are fast and strong and sudden, and while the dust will surely fly, the end result should be balance. This one is kind of a Minor Arcana version of The Wheel, which represents cycles of manifestation that are not under our control. The difference here is that the sudden eruption of the Eight of Wands usually occurs at least in part because of our efforts to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The eruption of energy is happening, now, and we need to hang on and ride the wave. Kowabunga!

To Know: A Guide to Women’s Magic and Spirituality, by Jade


I know this is a column about divination but sometimes I feel the need to write about books. Like many of us, I learned about paganism, wicca, witchcraft and many other occult subjects through books. Most of the books I read were from the public library and I took copious notes, which became my Book of Shadows. But when I had the money, I bought the books I longed to own or ones that were recommended to me. One that was recommended to me by the owner of the shop in which I bought it, was To Know: A Guide to Women’s Magic and Spirituality, by Jade.

My copy is signed but I have never met Jade. Her full name is Samantha Jade River (not to be confused with the singer known as Samantha Jade). She was born in Ohio in 1950 and grew up in Kentucky. She found the women’s movement and women’s religion in 1975. To Know seems to be the only book she has ever written, but she is very active in both the women’s liberation and spirituality movements. At this point, my only criticism of To Know is that it is out of print and it needs to be updated for the digital age; other than that, the information she provides is spot on, especially for those of us who are feminists.

Of particular interest to this column is chapter 5, “divination”. Unlike similar chapters in other women spirituality books which generally talk about “reclaiming” practices such as the Tarot, the I-Ching or Astrology in a woman-only language, Jade is incredibly thorough in both her assessment of various divination practices, their uses and possible abuses – something nobody else ever speaks of – and discusses psychic- versus scientific-bases divination systems. For anyone interested in divination, this chapter alone is worth seeking out.

She lists no less than sixteen forms of divinatory tools, including some of which we have discussed in previous columns. But many we have not. And she admits that it’s an incomplete list. Number 4 on the list intrigues me: “Alomancy – divination by the throwing of salt and reading the patterns it creates.” (102) When I was cleaning out my kitchen cupboards recently, I found a small container of salt from a bag of salt potatoes, so maybe I’ll try this method – having an excess of salt. Stay tuned!

She says there are three kinds of divination: psychokinetic, psychic, and scientific. The Tarot, the I-Ching, using a Pendulum, and Runes are all psychokinetic divination. That is, “unconscious kinetic energy communicates information through a divinatory tool.” (108) Psychic-based divination is the use of dreams, auras, crystals, scrying, channeling, and spirit guides. Scientific-based divination is everything else – including astrology and numerology – and all the divination systems based on the weather and movement of animals. I personally believe that you need to skilled in all three of these areas to be an accurate reader of any system of divination.

As for psychics, she lists thirty-six different kinds of psychic abilities, from Animal Reader to Xenoglossia. She has a warning for dealing with psychics – mainly that they may put their own interpretation and meaning onto symbols and tell you a bunch of stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with your life. But of course, this is true every time you pick up the paper and look at your “Horoscope”.

Her warnings about the “common hazards” in divination are equally quaint (103). Like a newly-recovered alcoholic warning her family about the dangers of drink at the holiday meal, she warns us about becoming “divination junkies” if we have “compulsive personalities” or we are “personally insecure.” (103) When I got my first tarot deck, I did Tarot spreads at least once a day. Sometimes several times a day – if I had gotten a new book about the Tarot out from the library and there were new spreads to try out – I used my cards all the time. And that’s true with every new deck I’ve ever gotten. How are you supposed to get good at a practice if you don’t practice?

But I know what she means. She means the person who can’t leave the house without consulting the cards or the runes or getting out her pendulum to see “should I stay or should I go.” She means the person who takes their daily horoscope so seriously that they literally plan their life around what some astrologist’s interpretation of the star’s patterns may be. I never saw divination more than a suggestion of what may happen – forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes – a way of seeing the patterns that were already there.

Anyway, the chapter on divination is not to be missed, nor is the rest of the book. If you are interested in To Know: A Guide to Women’s Magic and Spirituality, although it is out of print, there are copies available on Amazon. The link is here:

And I wish a Happy Yule to all!

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