The Tarot Nova was my first deck. It came in a Fortune Telling Kit with a small book on Palmistry (which I read, but never used).
I got it as a birthday present for my mother when I was sixteen. I thought it was awesome, the bee’s knees, the boss-a nova (emphasis on “boss” & “nova”!). There was no way she wouldn’t like it. I was sure about that.
Yeah, not being a tarot reader before that point, my certainty in my mother liking the gift was misplaced. I was wrong. She didn’t like it.
“Didn’t Like It” is probably the wrong thing to say about it. I think she feared it, and I think she feared she was either going to be really accurate (thereby scaring herself) or just would make too many mistakes. She never outright said she didn’t like it. She just said, “You can hang onto it so you can read for me.”
Thus, a tarot reader was born.
I relied on the “little white book” for a long time. The little white book for the deck was a large brochure-type-thing, about 8 1/2 x 11 (see above). I just simply couldn’t read the cards without it.
The first spread I learned was a four-card spread, which may be surprising to people considering the three-card “Past, Present, Future” spread is my tarot bread and butter.
It says: “This basic tarot layout was designed for use with the ‘Tarot Nova.’ If you’re familiar with other layouts, you can use them with this deck too or you can design your own. Be creative!” [not bloody likely, thought my newbie self]
The positions: A: What’s at hand B: Past influences C: Ponder this D: What to do
How I would go about a reading: I would shuffle the cards. They were small cards, so I was able to shuffle them as I would playing cards (a rarity, I have come to find, since most tarot decks I have owned since I have to shuffle in a different way because of my freak-like tiny hands). As I shuffled, I thought of a problem I was having, and then I would stop when ready, and then lay out the cards A through D, with the deck resting in my right hand and my left hand doing the pulling of the cards. This is not how the “little white book” said I should do things, suggesting to shuffle and separate the deck into four piles, pulling cards A through D from the top of each pile. I don’t know when I realized it was “okay” to do it a different way. One day I was following the instructions to the letter, and at some point I just didn’t anymore. I also don’t remember who my first “client” was, when I transitioned from reading for myself to reading for others. I would guess it was my mother, and as it is now so it was then… I don’t remember any details of that reading.
So, long story short, why I think the Tarot Nova deck made me a better reader: the deceptively simple Minor Arcana. I remember for a long time thinking, “I will never remember any of this stuff; I will never be a true tarot reader.” I would cry because I would quiz myself on memorizing the meanings in the “little white book” in a flashcard kind of fashion. Tarot card came up: 4 of Wands. What did the “little white book” say? And I would struggle to remember without opening up the book. For new readers, I don’t recommend this kind of torturous learning… ’tis far better to build a rapport with your deck in other ways, making connections between the imagery on the card with memories/associations from your own life (see my past post Advice for New Readers and you’ll get some more of “Do As I Say; Not As I Did” type of advice).
The problem with deceptively simple Minor Arcana cards is they’re very bare bones. Only one or two images on the card as “clues” with which to interpret with. I find the Minor Arcana to be the most daunting of all things new readers learn… and perhaps a reason why I nearly didn’t become a tarot reader. Simple imagery is a double-edged sword: it gives us very little to go on, and when we latch onto those few meanings we glean, we don’t let go of them and could become short-sighted because of it.
Examples from Tarot Nova:
4 of Pentacles: I will always think of this card as a greed card, keeping and hoarding money for the sake of being a miser and not to put it to use. Why? Because my first association is linked to this deck’s depiction of this card: A greedy little piggy with his arms wrapped possessively around four golden coins. BUT… Some of the other cards in the Pentacles Suit only have one symbol that catches the eyes, such 3 of Pentacles (vine wrapping around a ladder with coins growing off of it), 5 of Pentacles (a lizard with a coin for an eye and four coins surrounding him), and 6 of Pentacles (bread baking, three coins in its center with three additional coins scattered). I couldn’t wrap my head around these cards, making reading them difficult and me to the point of tears.
9 of Swords: The Nightmare card. Will always say it, will always see it for this card. When someone is sitting in a bed made of swords, cowering as swords are flying above them threatening to decapitate them if they dare to look up to the sky for reprieve… well, let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? (or in this case, let’s call a sword a sword) BUT… The 3 of Swords is depicted as a turnip getting his leaves chopped off. Something in the imagery here is definitely lacking for what I now know to be a very complicated card. A lot more than chopping veggies here is needed to get the point of the 3 of Swords across.
I don’t know when I stopped using the “little white book” as my personal tarot bible. Probably a few decks after Tarot Nova. I wish I could pinpoint the time I went from “I’ll never learn this” to “I know this”, but perhaps it’s best that that portion is left to the nice hazy fog of memory. The bigger point: if I can do it, so can you. As long as you’re willing to do the work. There really is no shortcut to learning tarot; just many paths. And this was my start along that path.
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The other day before I did a reading for someone on shindigtarot.com, the client said, “Not the Tower, not the Tower!” It is almost the tarot version of “No Whammies! No Whammies!” Poor Tower Card. I think that might be the only time you will ever hear anyone, anywhere, say that. It made me think about those misunderstood “big baddy” cards that no one wants to get. You know the usual suspects. I’ll put them in the order of what I think are the biggest and baddiest (your list may include the same cards, more of them, and/or less):
Death (“Does this mean I’m going to DIE?!”)
The Devil (“I’m possessed?!”)
The Tower (“Oh my, that doesn’t look good at all…”)
10 of Swords (the resolution of a very volatile situation… maybe)
9 of Swords (what I like to call the nightmares card)
Of course we all have had some experiences in readings of cards that we, personally, don’t want to see. Perhaps a certain card that is the significator of an ex popping up in a reading, giving us a warning that sometime soon he would come a’knocking back at our door. Perhaps you had a reading that stuck with you in a bad way, and seeing one of the cards from that reading takes you back to that time and that bad memory. Whatever the reason, what is it about these cards that make them into the boogiemen of the tarot?
I would say, a) misconceptions, and b) no one likes to hear difficult news. Simple answers, yes, but let’s keep in mind the title of this post. I’m not talking about me being “shot” as the messenger, just by being a tarot reader. The messengers in question are those self-same big baddy cards.
Donnaleigh (http://donnaleigh.net/) tweeted a quotation that really hit this idea home with me. The quotation was, roughly, “Nothing is good nor bad. It just is.” Again, a simple idea. But I have found lately that “keeping it simple, stupid” is increasingly harder to do in an ever-more-complicated world, but so necessary.
So the next time the Tower comes up in a reading, I’m not saying to welcome it with open arms. But don’t blame the Tower for the destruction it’s telling you is happening (which will consequently lead to the building of a strong foundation after the dust has settled). Accept the message the Tower carries with it, but do not let the Tower become that message forever.