This unassuming deck of cards, adorned with archetypal images that span the ages, has been the subject of much controversy, mystery, and intrigue over the centuries. They are rumored to have originated in Egypt over 5000 years ago, used in the mid 15th century to play card games, and finally adapted as a divinatory tool in the 17th century, there is still an aura of mystery surrounding the tarot that intrigues us yet today. This book will give detailed insight and information about the tarot, reading the cards, spreads, magical workings, astrology, numerology, and even the use of the tarot to solve criminal cases. This book is compilation of theory and practice together with real experiences I have encountered throughout my many years as a professional psychic and reader.
When I was first contacted by Amythyst Raine to review her book, I had no idea I would enjoy reading it so much. I have played with learning the tarot (and still am, frankly) for many years. Reading her book felt like getting to know a friend. Her humor, knowledge of the cards and spontaneity are making the learning process a whole lot less daunting and a whole lot more fun.
I am still reading the book and learning my cards. It is not something you can learn over night and that, to some people, can be off putting. With my busy schedule (a full time management job, 7 blogs, a music reviewing job, two books in the works, knitting, crocheting, family and household-ok, not even mentioning the holidays which can drive anyone insane...) the temptation to snort in frustration and "oh my gawd-learn it already" is very real, but, so is the old adage about anything worth doing is worth doing right. And so, if you are thinking of undertaking a relationship with your cards, I recommend checking out Ms. Raine's wonderful book. Her sense of humor and honest feedback about her experiences will delight you.
In reading the book, I found myself asking questions. I wanted to know more about this interesting woman who made me laugh when I was trying so hard to concentrate on learning. Point taken. I take myself too seriously sometimes-that perfectionist streak at work again. She had me relaxed and foraging outward to glean information without stressing about it. As I read, the natural way she talks about the cards is refreshing.
Wanting to know more about her, I asked Amythyst for a short interview. I hope you will enjoy her answers as much as I did.
1. How did you first discover your interest in witchery and the tarot?
My first conscious interaction with the practice of witchcraft took place when I was seventeen years old. This is when I cast my first spell. I wanted someone to go away, a boy who was making my life miserable. Back then, in the early 1970s, there were no books available on the topic of witchcraft; not in Mitchell, South Dakota, anyway. I was totally flying by the seat of my pants, doing what seemed to come naturally, practicing the Craft purely by instinct.
I decided to cast a spell in the basement of my grandmother’s house.
I gathered together those items I thought I needed. In this case it was a photo of my target. I decided on a red candle, not because the color red is associated with love and passion-- I didn’t know that at the time, but because I associated the color red with blood. Likewise, I chose a pen with red ink to mark the photograph with a dagger-like straight line running vertically down the abdomen of the boy in the photo-- and as I did this, I wished him away with all the vim and vigor a seventeen year old can muster, and this included shouting and cursing him, demanding that he go away, screeching this command like a banshee.
I lit the red spell candle then, all the while continuing to chant my wishes, my commands, my demands. And then I lit the photograph of this boy on fire and dropped it into a basin, allowing it to burn itself out.
I don’t remember what I did with the ashes or the candle wax. I don’t even remember if I allowed the candle to burn itself out.
Two or three days later, this boy’s mother called my grandmother to tell her that this boy was rushed to the local hospital, bleeding uncontrollably. He lost a great deal of blood and almost died from a stomach ulcer they didn’t know he had.
I was shocked. I had just wanted him to go away and leave me alone. This experience left me so shaken that it would be several years before I would re-discover witchcraft and begin the earnest practice of it, though this time as a more mature individual, and one who was better informed. One thing this experience left me with was absolute 100% certainty that magic is very real, and powerful, and can be dangerous if practiced carelessly or in ignorance.
I was walking through a bookstore one day, and as I walked past an aisle, a beautiful box seemed to jump out from all the rest lined up on a shelf. I was in a hurry and had been walking very fast, so I overshot this aisle; but the box was so beautiful and enchanting that I turned on my heel and went back to see what it was.
It was The Goddess Tarot.
The journey between purchasing my first deck, working past the traditional meanings of each card, and developing a personal relationship with the tarot, was a very long and arduous process. It was actually so frustrating in the beginning- peering intently at a card and then at those crazy little booklets with miniscule print, and trying to identify and connect this with my own situation- I almost tossed in the towel.
It was only when I began to listen to that faint whisper that was my sub-conscious mind that the light started to dawn. It was only when I forced myself to step outside the box and allow the cards to speak to me that the whole thing became remarkably clear.
2. What are some of your favorite witches in books and movies?
The two movie characters that are my ultimate favorite movie witches are the aunts in “Practical Magick”- Frannie and Jet. They appear to be the epitome of the modern cottage witch, well- not totally modern perhaps. I was never quite sure if they were immortal or stuck in an early 20th century fashion warp. But I thought they were absolutely delightful, and the life they were living in their big old house, with their cats, their herbs and gardens, and their magic, seemed ideal for any witch.
I loved Kim Novak in “Bell, Book, & Candle”. Her character is beautiful, mysterious, aloof, witchy and wise. That is until Jimmy Stewart and the movie script called for her to lose her independence, her power, and her strength by falling in love and transforming into a clique 1950s housewife.
I think the actress Assumpta Serno was enchanting as the shop-owner, Lirio, in “The Craft”. The witch she portrayed was soft and gentle, wise and spiritual; and it was fascinating to watch her dressing and blessing spell candles.
Elphaba, in the book “Wicked: The Life & Times of the Wicked Witch of the West”, is a testament to all gray witches out there. I love her character. This book reminds us not to judge other people, and especially not to judge them without hearing their story. I think Elphaba is a hero for those of us caught in conventional society, those of us who don’t feel like we quite fit in to any of the pre-cut niches. More power to us, says Elphaba.
3. What is the most important thing about learning the tarot?
The most important thing about learning the tarot is to develop a personal relationship with it, and this includes your own unique connection to each card. During readings, the cards will often tell a story, and unless you have a complete and deep understanding for each card, you won’t be able to hear it.
You also have to learn to connect to your own intuition. This is the key- the tarot cards are the door.
4. What is your favorite kind of reading?
My favorite kind of reading is a cold reading, with no specific question in mind. So often there’s something that’s going to come through the cards that a querent needs to hear; and so often what actually comes through is not going to have anything to do with the querent’s long list of questions and specific concerns. Don’t be surprised if it’s something that’s on their mind, but something they didn’t want to discuss with anyone, maybe even something they didn’t realize anyone could possibly be aware of. You can’t hide anything from the tarot.
5. In chapter one, you talk about three cards in the Major Arcana that you don't like very much. Can you explain?
Yes- The Wheel of Fortune, Judgment, and The World. I’m going to address these cards with excerpts from an essay that I’m working on, which I may very well develop into a book. This is the first time I’ve posted this material publicly, and it captures my feelings for these three cards perfectly…
The Wheel of Fortune: “A change of luck, blah, blah, blah…This is so redundant, and it can mean many things, or it can mean nothing, but mostly it wants to give you a shot of artificial hope. The Wheel of Fortune and The World both have one thing in common-- the circle; and this card would just love to get you running in circles, all whipped up in a white heat, searching for the elusive idea of instant good fortune and “Lady Luck”. In the meantime, if you listen really hard, you can almost hear the characters on this card snickering in devilish delight. Its appearance at a reading almost always inspires a surprised hopeful look from the querent, and so often I’ve wanted to say, “Don’t get your hopes up so fast.”…”
Judgment: “This card, no matter what deck it’s from, always feels ‘holier than thou’. It should be called the smug smart ass I-told-you-so card. If anyone has done anything in their life that wasn’t the brightest thing to do, I hate to tell you, but this card will come screaming through the deck to tattle on you-- just like that kid in grade school that no one could stand. You know the one-- the snitch…”
The World: “This card gives the impression of running in circles-- the card, not the querent. The World, which is often a beautiful card in most decks, leaves an odd taste in my mouth. It’s sneaky; and once in a while it feels as though it’s trying to slip something tricky into the reading, deliberately trying to throw a wrench in what I see, what I feel, what I know is there. This is one of my least favorite cards, and quite frankly, I’ve never gotten a good message or omen from it…”
There’s a lesson here encompassing the idea of developing your own relationship with tarot cards. These three cards are most often viewed as positive cards by the general tarot reading population; however, that’s not the energy that I receive from them, and that is not what my own intuition tells me when I see these cards in a reading. You have to learn to leave by the wayside everyone else’s interpretation and listen to your own gut feelings. It’s the only way you’ll discover the truth.
6. In giving readings for friends or family, what advice would you give?
I think it’s much more difficult giving a reading for a friend or family member than it is for a total stranger. I have one lady who I’ve considered a dear friend for years, and I tried once to give her a reading. I couldn’t do it. I had another friend whose reading resulted in a terrific omen of sudden and unexpected death for a family member, which came to pass five months later. Sometimes it just feels too close to home.
The unnerving thing about reading for family is that old Aunt Marge, who changed your diapers and wiped your snotty nose, may not be able to take you seriously.
As far as advice about reading for friends and family, it pretty much follows the tarot etiquette for all readings, including the idea of not alarming someone by being overly dramatic, mysterious, or all doom and gloom; using discretion when addressing relationship issues; and looking for positive points and emphasizing these.
7. What advice would you give someone who is learning to read the tarot?
Don’t let any preliminary frustration stop you. You’ll work through it. The cards may feel like 78 strangers to you in the beginning. You just have to make up your mind that you’re not going to learn each card and understand it completely overnight.
Keep a tarot journal of your journey. Write down notes for each card, including colors that stand out to you, intuitive insights, unusual connections, and personal feelings.
When the light bulb goes on and the cards begin to speak to you, you will be amazed.
8. Tell us a little about your website.
My website, The Witch’s Corner, began tentatively as a few pages of witchy information and inspiration. It has grown over the years to include online shops for magickal supplies, jewelry, and art; a connection for my tarot clients to purchase readings; and somewhere new pagans can find videos, as well as links to books and materials that will help them learn and grow in their new path.
I’ve included a page that explains our pagan holidays, both educating the non-pagan about the history of the traditional Christian holidays and giving them a window into the rituals involved in celebration. There is a page of pagan rituals that highlight our journey through life, from a Wiccaning, a Handfasting, to the end of the journey and a Remembrance Ritual. I have a page devoted to the Goddess and the importance of re-connecting with the Great Mother and the feminine divine within us all. Of course, there are pages of spells and magick, along with explanations and other links for help and reference.
I think the most important thing about my website is that it lets you see exactly what a witch is- and what she isn’t.
9. What other books have you written?
I’ve written a book called, “The Gray Witch’s Grimoire”, which is under production right now with Moon Books (an imprint of John Hunt Publishing). This book will be released in 2012. I’ve just approved the copyedited version, and I’ll post more info, including cover art and release dates, as this information becomes available.
This book was written to re-connect us with the old magick practiced by the ancient wise-women. In “The Gray Witch’s Grimoire”, I leave the world of the modern fluffy bunnies behind and we gird up our loins to practice magick with the big girls, often in good old foot stompin’ hoodoo tradition. I also address the issues of self-initiation and the degree system used by most covens from a totally new perspective that is bound to cause some controversy in the pagan world.
I’ve also written a book called “Natural Magick the Gray Witch Way”, which I released earlier this year as an online book only available through my website. This is a book of magickal correspondences for the gray witch that will assist her in the practice of her Craft, and will make a wonderful companion book to “The Gray Witch’s Grimoire”…maybe, at some point, I will consider publishing this book traditionally, as both a paperback and an ebook. Time will tell. Until then…
10. What does being a witch mean to you?
Being a witch means connecting with the feminine divine, rediscovering the Mother Goddess, reclaiming the power and the mystique that is every woman’s birthright. Being a witch means reconnecting with the earth in a most magickal and primitive manner…finding magick within the molecules of herbs and stones, fire and water. Being a witch means assuming responsibility in how we care for Mother Earth, how we use her resources, and how we treat her creatures. Being a witch means that you will see the world in a way that will never allow you to go back, because once you know, you can never ‘un-know’.
11. What are some of your favorite witchy musicians?
My favorite musicians are Enya, Loreena McKennitt, Faun, Deuter, Native American music, Buddhist meditation music, Kellianna, Jennifer Salima Holt, Nox Arcana, Muddy Waters, Razz Cridlin, Stevie Nicks, David Arkenstone, Chinmaya Dunster, Daniel May, Billie Holiday, to name a few…
But my favorite artist above all is Peter Phippen. I find his music incredibly beautiful and soothing. I swear you can feel any stress falling away when you play his DVDs. This is most often the music you’ll hear in the background, all over my house, when you come to visit.
What a wonderful interview! The Goddess Deck is my deck of choice as well. It called to me with its artful illustrations.
I liked this book because it adds an element of humor and a voice of a friend talking while you are focusing on reading. Learning the cards can be a scary and very large thing that can put many people off. The format of this book is one that will have you coming back time after time to keep reading and absorbing information as you can or in long reading spurts. With my crazy schedule, that is important to me. I don't always have hours on end to devote to something-but that said, I want to devote the time I can to learning the craft, so I carve little bits here and there out of my day.
To make things even more fun, I will be looking into the music Amythyst has listed as her favorites and do some posting about them in the the months to come.
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