The Wheel of Wisdom

The Wheel of Wisdom

Author: Orna Ben-Shoshan
Artist: Orna Ben-Shoshan
Kabbalah Insights

“There is something that you need to know  in order to understand your present
situation, something that you need to hear before making a decision or taking the
next step, and the outcome you are curious about.”
from the Interpretation Book

“The Wheel of Wisdom” is an oracle wheel (literally) that combines two wisdom systems – the front side of the wheel is inspired by ancient karma scripts, while the reverse side of the wheel contains 36 different Angels’ Advice. The front side of the wheel is comprised of 96 answers that give clear forecasts in how things are going to evolve in the Seeker’s life. The back side of the wheel is meant to provide an additional viewpoint on the question being asked, and additional guidance.

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Ben-Shoshan places an emphasis on two things: that we all already have all the answers that we will ever need within us, and that as Seekers we need to approach any oracle with the utmost respect. The Wheel of Wisdom is meant to help the Seeker to connect with the Seeker’s source of inner wisdom, and to bring them the answers that they need at any particular time. Basically, we seek wisdom when we are at a crossroads and need answers on how to proceed. Ben-Shoshan tells us that if the answer we receive is in any way positive, that what we are asking about will come true/succeed. She also note that sometimes we will be advised to abandon an issue whose time has not yet come, or that may simply be too problematic.

She advises the Seeker to quiet the chatter in their mind through the use of relaxation techniques before they approach the oracle, so that the question/issue being addressed can be concentrated on. In cases where a vague or seemingly irrelevant is received, two things are advised: to take the essence of the answer and apply it to the area of your life that your question referred to, or to accept that sometimes we are not meant to know the answers to some questions.  There is also a caveat that the “Wheel of Wisdom” was designed primarily for self-reading. If you are reading for someone else, rephrase the question to a third-person format (he/she instead of you), and visualize them as strongly as you can when asking the question.

This oracle can be used in two ways – to address your question to the Sun Mandala (front side), interpret this answer, and then turn the wheel over to see the angelic response, or to address your question directly to the angelic side. Either way works very well. I found the readings that I did to be very insightful, and very “to the point”. I also came upon a situation that is not addressed in the Interpretation book – What do you do when you land between numbers? My solution was to read the advice for both numbers – that seemed to be the right thing to do. Both responses did apply directly to my situation. What I found is that when this happens on one side of the card, it also happens on the other side. As my sister would say “Deal with it!”.

The Interpretation Book gives interpretations for both sides of the wheel, text only (no imagery). From the book:

“Interpretations – front – the Sun Mandala

9 – What is blocking your way is an important vow from the past that you haven’t fulfilled yet, either for yourself or for someone else. You must take care of unfinished business, and when you arrive to a conclusion point, nre horions will open, and a new and joyful cycle in your life will begin.

23 – Rumors about you circulating and causing you to grief. The person who started them seeks to blemish you and does not seek your favor. Beware of him or her and do not volunteer any information. Alternately – If you’ve heard dreadful predictions about something – it’s better to examine the matter thoroughly and not to be drawn into despair.

93 – The time has come! Get out of your impassivity and wake up! You have been given a chance to start something new that will advance you to a better phase. Do not overlook the hints and proposals offered to you – go for it and see great success.

Angels’ Advice

1 – Follow your heart. Your gut feelings are correct / Be open to a loved one’s good advice.

20 – Importand decisions will be made solely through discussion with another person / enter negatiations with an open mind, understand the other side, their motivation and their wishes / don’t show all of your cards to your opponent – keep some information to yourself.

36 – In this situation you aren’t able to progress on your own – turn to an outside source for help / asking and praying / embrace the support that arrives.”

The box that the wheel arrived in was a bit flimsy. However, it was packed so well (including the wheel inside being place between two pieces of strong cardboard, that all was well. I like the little tuck piece on the top flap – it allows the flap to close more securely. The front wheel (9″ diameter) is slightly smaller than the back wheel (9 3/8″ diameter), which makes for easy movement. The back wheel consists of concentric circles of color – fromt he outside in, we see a pale green border, followed by circles of lavender, beige, light brown, blue and peach. Each of the circles, aside from the border, contains imagery. There is a small window cut out to see the number in.

The  front of the wheel, the Sun Mandala, has deeper colors. There is a light blue border, followed by a medium blue circle with gold imagery, then a wider circle with scenes, followed by a light green circle with imagery, then a  dark blue circle with stars and planets on it, followed by a gold circle with Hebrew letters, followed by a dark blue circle with no imagery, then a light blue circle with imagery of the sun. There is a cutout to see the numbers through.

Although the Seeker would need to refer to the text interpretations for the advice, I found this to be worthwhile. The advice given was on target, and worth the effort. As you can see from the interpretations that I shared above, this is an oracle that will make the Seeker think. If you are interested in reading more about the oracle, go to This is Orna Ben-Shoshan’s site, where several different kabbalistic oracle tools are offered, and where they can be purchased.

(c) April 2011 Bonnie Cehovet

Explaining the Tarot

Explaining The Tarot –

Two Italian Renaissance Essays

On the Meaning of the Tarot Pack



Edited, translated and commented by: Ross Sinclair Caldwell, Thierry Depaulis, Marco Ponzi

Maproom Publications


ISBN #978-0-9562370-1-9

I am often amazed at the material that comes my way. In the case of ”Explaining the Tarot”, I am simply in awe. This book reflects an incredible work ethic, and a true coming together of some very big names in the Tarot community. The authors express gratitude to a series of people, and I am going to include that list here: Giordano Berti, Claire Lesage, Franco Pratesi, Giorlamo zorli, and the team of the Tarot History Forum.

As the title indicates, two Italian Renaissance essays are translated in this book. One is by a known author (Francesco Piscina, “Discorso”), while the other is by an unknown author (Anonymous Discorso). The texts are deemed nearly contemporary by the authors (Caldwell, Depaulis, and Ponzi), yet they could not have influenced each other. Piscina’s bookwas published in southern Piedmont, while the anonymous book never seems to have been printed at all. It is indicated in the introduction that the anonymous essay follows the “B” type Tarot trump order, indicating that it must have been written in a Ferrarese context. Both texts address the meanings of the trumps and the suit cards from the perspective of  philosophy, religion, poetry, contemporary science and the rules of the game of Tarot itself.

Both essays address the cards as being more than a game. They view the cards as reflecting the structure of society and the meaning of life. In this respect the Tarot is then placed alongside chess, regular playing cards and dice as avenues of reflection on the human condition.

Piscini’s “Discorso” is a lighthearted look at the ordering of the trumps. It is also postulated by the authors that it may well be the first attempt to “moralize” the Tarot. It is interesting to note that Piscini was prompted to write this essay upon seeing an honored gentle Lady of the city playing the game. The “good order”  of the trumps was supposedly an indication that the inventor of the game was a”good and loyal follower of the Catholic and Christian faith”.

In their introduction to the “Anonymous Discorso”, the authors indicate several unsolved problems. The text is only in manuscript, is unsigned and undated. It is appearing translated in this book for the first time. It is of a more formal nature than Piscini’s work, and was composed to deliberately fill a void in the moralizing literature on games. The suits are related to the four “goals ”of human life – riches, arms, literature and pleasure.

The trumps are divided into two classic ethical divisions – the active life (from the Fool   to the Devil),and the contemplative life (from the Heavens to the World). The meat of the essay describes how and why the trumps follow each other in succession.

The essays are presented with the original text on the left hand page, and the translation on the right hand page. They are well footnoted and commented on, with a bibliography and index at the end of the book.

For anyone interested in the history of the Tarot, orin simply studying the sequence of the cards, this is a must read book. The scholarship is excellent, and the material is quite easy to follow. This is a stunning addition to any Tarot library.

Note: The book can be purchased directly from the publishers –

© January 2011 Bonnie Cehovet




The Secret of the Tarot

The Secret of the Tarot –

How the Story of the Cathars Was Concealed in the Tarot of Marseilles

Author: Robert Swiryn

Pau Hana Publishing


ISBN #978-061530438-0

The history of the Tarot is quite an interesting one, and one that is often traced by the imagery in the cards. In “The Secret of the Tarot”, Swiryn attempts to show that somewhere along the line the Marseilles Tarot (a specific style of Tarot that has its roots in early Italian decks) may have come to carry the story of the Cathars, a thirteenth century sect of religious heretics.

In his preface, Swiryn notes that in his opinion, the Marseilles Tarot carries what he terms a classical look, as opposed to more modern decks, which he feels have drifted away from historical authenticity. In his personal studies on medieval history, Swiryn began to recognize connections between historical characters and events of this time period and the images in the Tarot cards. He goes on to say that he feels that both the story of the Cathars, and their spiritual message, seemed to have found a place in the cards. The thesis he formed was that a person, or group of people, found a way to use the Tarot of Marseilles as an instructional vehicle to preserve the story of the Cathar persecution by the Roman Catholic Church and the King of France.

What Swiryn presents here is the story of the Cathars (a look at the Albigensian Crusade, the subsequent Inquisition and the fate of the Cathars), and the supposition that this story is concealed within the Marseilles Tarot imagery. The book is in two parts: the first part covers the history of the Cathars through the lens of the Roman Catholic church, the medieval Languedoc and the Counts of Toulouse, the Cathars themselves, the Albigensian Crusade and the development of the Tarot. The second part covers the twenty-two Major Arcana of the Tarot, and attempts to look at what the creators of the Marseilles Tarot had in mind when they designed their cards. Through the lens of historical context, Swiryn attempts to show the connection between the spiritual beliefs of the Cathars and  the imagery in the deck.

A great deal of research has gone into this book. People familiar with the Tarot world will recognize names like Robert O’Neill, Stuart Kaplan, Michael Dummett, Paul Huson, and Alfred Douglas. The specific Marseilles Tarot that is used throughout this book is the Nicholas Conver deck. Other illustrations are used to show the symbols and imagery used during this time period, such as a stained glass of the Virgin Mary in Majesty from Notre Dame de Chartres, the bell tower at St. Sernin, and the martyrdom of St. Sernin. These are all reflective of the times that the Cathars lived in.

Would it have been possible for the story of the Cathars to be imbedded in the Marseilles Tarot? On the surface, yes. Cathars could have worked amongst the artisans that cut the wood blocks for the Tarot cards. Probable – no. And if the story of the Cathars was embedded in the cards, it may have been done after their time, by someone else, to simply keep their story alive.

In Part 2, where the cards are presented, the connections that Swiryn makes between the Cathars and the Marseilles Tarot images are, in my opinion, tenuous at best. Tenuous, but worth considering. In the Lovers he attempts to make the case that the imagery was significantly altered from older decks to give it new meaning.

For example, Swiryn surmises that just as the two figures Lovers card in the Visconti-Sforza Tarot are generally accepted to represent the two families, the three figures in  the Lovers card of the Marseilles Tarot may point to historical  figures within the Albigensian story. He posits that the third figure may represent  the French Regent (Blanche of Castille), intervening between Raymond VII (the middle figure) and Beatrice (the younger woman on the right). Another theory presented here is that the Marseilles version of the Lovers was sometimes referred to as the Two Paths, with the figure on the left representing the institutional church, and the figure on the right representing Love.

There are many other instances of information that is offered from a slightly different viewpoint than is generally considered. At the least it is interesting, including the thought that if Cathar history has been encoded in the Marseilles Tarot, that it was done hundreds of years after the demise of the Cathars, perhaps by Cathar sympathizers that were involved in the printing of the decks.

“The Secret of the Tarot” is written on a level that makes it readily understood by all levels of Tarot student. Between the footnotes and the bibliography, it is easy to see where Swiryn is referencing his material, so that anyone interested in following up with studies of their own may do so. There is one minor glitch, in that Robert O’Neil’s e-book “Catharisn and the Tarot” was inadvertently left out of the bibliography, but it is acknowledged in Swiryn’s footnotes.

For anyone interested in the history of the Cathars, in the Marseilles Tarot, or in Tarot history, this is a book that I would recommend. The ideas presented here may not be universally accepted, but they do offer food for thought.

© December 2010 Bonnie Cehovet

Fool’s Journey – The History, Art & Symbolism of the Tarot

The Fool’s Journey –

The History, Art & Symbolism of the Tarot

The Fool's Journey

Author: Robert M. Place

Talarius Publications


ISBN #978-0-557-53350-3

Illustration Credits: Illustrations from the Aquarian Tarot, c. 1970, Deviant Moon Tarot, c. 2008, Fenestra Tarot, c. 2008, Paulina Tarot, c. 2008, and Visconti-Sforza Tarocchi Deck, c. 1975, reproduced  with permission by U.S. Games Systems, IN., Stamford, CT. Copyright by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. Further reproduction prohibited.

Illustrations from the Jean Noblet Tarot, c. 2007 and the Jean Dodal Tarot, c. 2009 reproduced with permission by Jean Claude Flornoy, Cartier-Enliumineur, Au Lion d’Or, 53700m Saint Mars du Desert, France. Copyright by Jean Claude Flornoy. Further reproduction prohibited.

Illustrations from the Facsimile Tarocchi of Ferrara, c. 2009, The Alchemical Tarot, c. 1995, and The Annotated Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery, c. 2008 copyright Robert M. Place. Further reproduction prohibited.

Illustrations from The Alphabet Tarot, c. 1997 Thalia Took, reproduced with permission. Further reproduction prohibited.

Illustrations from The Legacy of the Divine Tarot, c. 2008 by Ciro Marchetti reproduced with permission. Further reproduction prohibited.

Photos on pp 4 and 127 by, 2010, provided courtesy of CAFAM.

I am truly experiencing a “Slap myself on the forehead!” moment here! Why, one might ask. From January 24th to May 10th Robert M. Place curated an extraordinary exhibition of Tarot art, originated at The Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles ( For heavens sake – it was there for months, on “my” coast, curated by someone that I highly respect, and I didn’t take the time to go? Lesson learned – this will not happen again!

We are very graced that Robert Place put together an absolutely amazing book that shares, through text and photo’s, the story that was (and is) this extraordinary exhibition. The book is available in digital format and in print. I am reviewing the digital version, but have the print book on my “short, short” list! Early (very early!) Christmas present to self, perhaps. J

I would like to start out talking about something that everyone basically ignores – and that is the name of the publishing company. Place is independently publishing this work through his publishing company, Talarius Publications. Being curious (much better than being nosey!), I asked him where that name came from. The logo that he uses is that of Hermes winged sandal. (Hermes being the psychopomp who leads the soul to the otherworld, and also acts as the guide for poets and mystics.)  Talarius is the name given to this sandal.

There is no one better than Robert Place, in my opinion, to curate this exhibition. He has an artists eye, combined with a scholar’s wisdom, and brings to the Tarot world the best of the best. In his forward Place notes that this exhibition was designed to focus on modern occult and divinatory Tarot as it is popularly known in American culture. He then goes on to discuss Tarot’s background, and its beginnings as a trick-taking game.

He paints a picture of the 21 Trumps as expressing the mystical allegory of the Tarot – the “Fool’s Journey”, as it were. The Fool’s Journey of the Tarot is a spiritual progression. The story of this exhibition is that of the “Fool’s Journey” of bringing appreciation of the Tarot and its mystical tradition to a wide audience. It also carries the purpose of replacing false notions about Tarot with real history and insight.

The list of thanks to people involved with this book read like a who’s who of the Tarot world. Some of these people I have been graced to have either met or worked with – or both. The world of Tarot is an amazing world, filled with incredible people who are willing to share their wisdom unconditionally with others. Kudos to all of you!

There is a well written section on the history of the Tarot, and some of the misconceptions that have come down through time. One point comes out right in the beginning – Tarot is connected to ancient mystical, Neoplatonic and Hermitic beliefs about the nature of the soul. Place discusses early Tarot decks, who they were created for (in general, moneyed, or royal families), the area they originated from and the artist/illustrator. He also talks about existing examples of these decks, and where they are currently being housed.

Imagery in the Tarot is very important. Throughout this text Place has included full color graphic charts, beginning with a chart showing the traditional suit symbols for four-suit decks in Western European countries. I have a personal interest in the different ordering of the Trumps, so I appreciated the chart comparing the Bologna/Order A, Ferrara/Order B and Milan/Order C series.

In discussing Tarot imagery, Place notes that it is important to understand the ancient view of the cosmos, and its mystical significance for the individual. The seven planets were thought to be the soul centers of the cosmos, with corresponding centers (chakras) located along the human spine. Place notes that this is the probable source for the seven virtues and the seven vices. (There is an eye-catching graphic of the Seven Ancient Planets as the Seven Soul Centers – food for though all on its own!)Plato’s three-fold concept of the soul – the Soul of Appetite/Desire, the soul of Will/Spirit and the Soul of Reason is also presented.

The decks included in this exhibition are printed decks that were in popular use from the 15th century to the 21st century, focusing on the Fool and the 21 trumps. The decks included were chosen because they represent pivotal points in the history of the Tarot, and because they allow us to view the evolution of Tarot symbolism throughout the centuries. These decks are:  the Monde Primitif, the Etteilla a Jeu de la Princesse, the Waite-Smith Tarot, the Aquarian Tarot, the Alchemical Tarot, the Alphabet Tarot, the Twilight Tarot, the Fenestra Tarot, the Paulina Tarot, the Deviant Moon Tarot , the Legacy of the Divine Tarot, the Annotated Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery,   the Tarot of Ferrara and the Tarot of Marseilles. (Note: the Tarot of Marseilles refers to a style of Tarot, rather than to a specific Tarot deck.)

Place presents each of the Major Arcana Trumps (The Fool and the 21 Trumps), through text and imagery. He has included images from modern decks, as well as reproductions from older decks, such as the Monde Primitif and the Etteilla a Jeu de la Princesse. This is an absolutely incredible opportunity to not only see a discussion of each of the Major Arcana Trumps, but to see an in-depth range of comparisons between decks. This is a quality of work normally only seen between historians or researchers, presented in a manner in which all levels of Tarot students will be able to enjoy it, and learn from it.

The sheer amount of cards presented in comparison in this book is overwhelming, to say the least. The quality of the reproductions is clear, full color, and just … amazing! I do so wish that I would have taken the time to see this incredible exhibit! I would have wanted the book anyway – it is research quality, and beyond “nice to have” as a Tarot reference.

One thing that I neglected to mention – each card section opens with a full page, full color representation of the card (from the Annotated Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery). There are notes right on the card naming the symbols within the card. For example, for the Magician the notes are: lemniscate, wand, crystal ball, dagger, secret fire, magic circle, coins, 3 X 7 = 21, and the annotation that the sum of opposite sides of a die is always seven. Around the edge of the card we see written: (left hand side) There are twenty one possible combinations of two dice and twenty one trumps. (top) The Magicians wand, held above, is creative and active. (right hand side) The Magician’s crystal ball held below is passive and divinatory. (bottom) The Magician gestures “As above do below”.

I just finished reading “The Fool’s Journey”, and am sitting here absolutely transfixed. This is an incredibly powerful work, and will touch its readers on many different levels. This was a project (the exhibition and the book) whose time had come, and which was executed with the greatest of poise, grace and mastery of subject. Many thanks to Robert Place, and to all of the artists involved in this project. What you were willing to share has made a difference, and will continue to do so.

For further information, and to purchase the book, go to http:// I do want to mention that the book is available in digital format, as well as hard copy. Secret – once you see the digital copy, you will lust after the hard copy!

 © September 2010 Bonnie Cehovet

The Tarot of Vampyres

The Tarot of the Vampyres

 Author: Ian Daniels

Illustrator: Ian Daniels

Llewellyn Worldwide


ISBN #978-0-7387-1191-1

I don’t have a clue why, but things that have come to me lately in differing areas of my life all seem to be connected, in some way, to the UK. So it is with the “Tarot of the Vampyres” – author/illustrator Ian Daniels hails from the UK. Happy to say that all of the UK connections in my life seem to be working out extremely well, and this deck set is no exception!

Daniels set out to create a deck based on the Vampyre mythos, emphasizing the possession, exchange, and drawing in of different kinds of energy. He works within the traditional structure of the Rider-Waite Tarot, framing it against a Gothic background. His companion book, “Phantasmagoria”, is absolutely outstanding! I rate this deck set right up there with Robert M. Place’s “Vampire Tarot”, in quality of illustration, as well as research and presentation.

In his introduction, Daniels talks about the derivation of the title “Phantasmgoria”, coming from stage magician Etienne-Gaspard Robert’s “phantasmagoria”. Robert’s work had to do with a type of magic lantern show with silhouetted puppets acting out macabre drama. (Sends chills up your spine before you even get to the deck!) Shadows and apparitions would appear out of nowhere to scare the audience “literally out of their seats”!

Daniels goes on to talk about fear, and the Jungian concept of shadow. He feels that acknowledging our fears, and facing them, helps us to understand and overcome them.  Often these fears reside in the shadow, or dark side of human psychological nature. Daniels notes that shadow issues are not always negative in nature, that positive traits can also be repressed if they are unacceptable within a family or social milieu.

While the Vampyre myth is a tale of gothic horror and romance, Daniels feels that it also illustrates “an encounter with the higher self on a personal level, with the eternal promise of self-realization and the eventual curse turned joy”. He goes on to talk about the need for times of hibernation and stillness, so that we can regenerate and realign ourselves with the essence of Spirit that pervades all nature.

The Major Arcana follows traditional titles, with Justice at VIII and Strength at XI. The four suits are Scepters. Grails, Knives and Skulls. The Court Cards are Lords, Queens, Princes and Daughters.

Daniels relates the Major Arcana to the Tree of Life, and the pathways between the ten Sephiroth. In this manner, the cards act as the secret laws of creation, forces and cycles that express the natural development of life. They are the “binding and reflective laws of the energies they connect.”

He further divides the Major Arcana into three main types:

  1. Elemental Trumps – The Fool, The Hanged Man, Judgment These three cards are associated with the three mother letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
  2. Planetary Trumps – The Magician, The Priestess, The Empress, Fortune, The Tower, The Sun, The World These seven cards represent the double letters in the Hebrew alphabet.
  3. Zodiacal Trumps – The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Justice, The Hermit, Strength, Death, Temperance, The Devil, The Star, The Moon These twelve cards are connected to the simple letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

The four suits are set up to represent a four-stage process:

The Seed – Fire – Scepters – Lords

The Womb – Water – Grails – Queens

Conception – Air – Knives – Princes

Birth – Earth – Skulls – Daughters

 The cards are presented as text only, the Major Arcana and Pips (numbered cards)  listing Alchemy, Kindred Spirits, Essence, Message, Analysis and Symbolism, and Shadow, with the Court Cards listing Alchemy, Kindred Spirits, Essence, Message and Quality, and Shadow.

In his section on card spreads and exercises, Daniels discusses the Shadow and Light aspects of the cards, along with the following spreads: Soothsayer, Dark Mirror, Blood Trail, Book of Shadows, Elemental Cross, Trespass, Forbidden Fruit, The Prophecy, and The Labyrinth. Exercises include The Manuscript (journaling), The Dreaming (taking the Tarot into dreamtime for inspiration), The Vision (working with the key card in a spread), The Shroud (working with a single card in meditation), and Darkspell (creating verses or poems for each card in a reading).

The cards themselves are 2 ¾” by 4 5/8”, of good quality, glossy card stock. The card back (reversible) shows a blood red rose, set against a black background and briar stems. Daniels associates the red rose with fertility, regeneration, energy and passion. The thorns represent suffering and sacrifice. In esoteric circles, the rose is also a sign of silence and secrecy. The red rose on a cross is a symbol connected with various Rosicrucian groups.

The card face is outlined with a ¼” black border. At the bottom of the card is listed the card title (for the Major Arcana), the number and suit (for the Pips), and the title and suit (for the Court Cards). The illustrations are dark and Gothic in nature, with recurring images of candles, skulls, crosses, red roses, snakes and the moon.

Note: My one issue with the imagery is that the figures in the deck all seem to be thirty-somethings. (The Hierophant and the Hermit are seen in shadow, and the Lords are seen on horseback, so one cannot tell their age.)

It is very hard to choose which cards to talk about with this deck – they are all intriguing! The Fool is shown emerging from a tomb, with arms thrown wide open. He holds a white rose in his right hand, the Holy Grail in his left hand. The Priestess is seated, wearing an all white dress. The full moon is behind her, an open book suspended in mid air over her lap. This is the Book of Tarot, upon which is to be written the Will of the Magician. A serpent bracelet encircles her upper right arm.

The Lovers shows a male and a female figure against a background of white roses (indicating pure devotion). The female wears a red heart necklace, representing the interchanging that the Emperor and Empress exchange. The male figure wears an inverted green heart necklace, representing the Empress. The red rose over the shoulder of the female figure represents passion, and the unification of fire and water.

Fortune shows a wheel with five roses over it, and five roses under it, their colors corresponding to the four elements, Spirit and Earth. Daniels reminds us to take note that the center of the wheel is static, while the three Vampyre creatures on the outside of the wheel are what keeps it in motion.

The Hanged Man is bound to a cross by the roots of the tree that have grown up around him, representing old beliefs and emotions. Another cross is visible in the background. Temperance shows a female figure in a dark dress, dancing as she works a ritual. She merges fire with water, creating a vapor that becomes a new power.

I found this to be a compelling deck, drawing you in by image and story. The companion book covers the esoteric side of the deck without frightening people away, and has a great deal to offer in the way of spreads and exercises. Being someone who appreciates charts, I tip my hat to Daniels for his concise presentation.

This deck would appeal to anyone with an interest in Vampyre mythos, Gothic art, or the esoteric side of the Tarot. With the use of the companion book, any level of Tarot student would be able to read with this deck. One word of caution – there is (albeit limited) nudity in this deck, which might limit its appeal, depending on the client’s acceptance of such.

© August 2010 Bonnie Cehovet

Interview With Craig Conley

Interview With Craig Conley

Work that Tarotist/lexicographer Craig Conley is currently doing recently crossed my path. I am impressed – as I always am with Craig – and wanted to share this work with you – even though it is not exactly “public property” yet! Craig was very gracious, and did agree to share his thoughts. Enjoy!


BC: I love the unique outlook of your latest work! How did you come up with the idea for the “Punctuated Tarot”?

CC: It all started with a semicolon hieroglyphically flashing in my mind as a reversed Hanged Man, the period symbolizing the head and the comma symbolizing the crooked leg. I immediately worked up a graphic representation of the vision, and my first question was, “Is there an entire Major Arcana of punctuation?” The prospect brought much excitement, as for years I’ve studied the smallest units of our language. I’ve published my surprising findings in such books as One-Letter Words: A Dictionary (HarperCollins, 2005), Ampersand (a history and pictography of our most common coordinating conjunction), Annotated Ellipses, and my popular web series entitled “A Semicolon’s Dream Journal.”

BC: How do you associate the semicolon and the Hanged Man?

CC: I was immediately struck that the reversed Hanged Man is typically associated with an inability to let go. The semicolon of course holds together two closely-related sentences. There’s tremendous tension in that act of fusing two units that can stand alone. The semicolon could be seen as a unifier and a peacemaker, but more and more writers consider the mark to be an unnecessary middleman. The fact that the semicolon is on the verge of becoming extinct in our language makes its Hanged Man appearance all the more poignant.

BC: I love the diversity of punctuation marks that you are working with here! How did they make the grade? In other words, how on earth did the “prime” symbol of mathematics make it in, while the ever popular comma did not?

CC: Esoteric symbols seemed a natural fit for the Tarot. But old standards are there, too. For example, the ampersand simply demanded a place on The Emperor card, as folklore traces the sign’s name to mean “Emperor’s hand.” And since the word “asterisk” means “little star,” it demanded its rightful place in the Tarot heavens. Some of my esoteric choices may well challenge the common definition of “punctuation,” but all are punctuation in the crucial sense of being emblems of disambiguation. And that’s key to the purpose of this project. Tarot cards are like rebus puzzles in that the spread of their pictures forms coded sentences. Punctuation helps to bring clarity to the meaning of sentences. Just as traditional Tarot imagery distills the archetypes of our quest for wholeness, the standard marks and signs of punctuation elucidate meaning as our story unfolds.

BC: Not to be obtuse, but how do punctuation marks offer keys to unlocking cryptic Tarot messages? Have you been visioning with Uncle Al, perhaps?

CC: The Latin root of “punctuation” means to “point out” and to “bring to a point.” Punctuation marks help us to pinpoint the precise structure of the sentences that constitute our life story. Punctuation helps to organize and emphasize the themes at play. It assists us to comprehend the relationships that exist between nouns (the people, places, and things in our lives) and verbs (actions and occurrences). Punctuation offers cues on how to understand the course of our experiences.

BC: Aside from keeping our words flowing, exactly what does punctuation do for us?

CC: Ultimately, it’s about breathing. Punctuation is emphatic about pauses, whether brief or prolonged. Pauses invite us to linger on meaning, to reflect, to reevaluate. A pause gifts us with time to think twice. A pause offers a place to stand and to withstand.

BC: Why did you choose a question mark to represent The High Priestess? The first thing that pops into my head is that “there is no uncertainty with this lady”!

CC: My choice there was informed by my Mystery School background—a question mark representing uncertainty in the sense of mystique. It is a riddle as opposed to a quandary. The haziness of the veil doesn’t imply unclarity.

BC: How did the Fool come to be represented by a paragraph mark (pilcrow)?

CC: That was an irresistible choice, as the pilcrow denotes a new train of thought. Quite interestingly, the traditional Chinese paragraph sign is a thin circle—the same symbol as the character for “zero.” And so there’s actually an historical precedent for linking The Fool, the numeral zero, and the paragraph sign.

BC: What are your favorite cards of the Punctuated Tarot?

CC: I’m beguiled by The Hermit’s lantern, which is comprised of square brackets. Rather poetically, the square brackets form a nest for missing material. They have another use: it sometimes happens in writing that a parenthetical phrase occurs within another parenthetical phrase, and in such cases square brackets appear within the outer parentheses. Therefore, in a Tarot spread, square brackets can symbolize “deeper nesting.” Most commonly, square brackets enclose words added by someone besides the original author. And so they offer a sheltered realm for adding your own two cents when someone else is dictating.

Another favorite is the space symbol on The Chariot. The space symbol is a blank area. Figuratively, it signifies the dimensions within which things move. One might say that the chariot is inseparable from the road it traverses.

I’m also especially fond of Temperance’s tilde, which literally indicates a change in pronunciation and figuratively signifies a pronounced change. And Death’s ellipsis foreshadows an intentional omission or a trailing off.

BC: What guided your artistic choices?

CC: Much of the Punctuated Tarot artwork recalls the Tarot of Marseilles. But I wanted the imagery to be eclectic, in keeping with the diversity of punctuation symbols. The Death card, for instance, features Mors, the Roman personification of death. The Lovers card is based upon Psyche and Cupid on Mount Olympus. The Sun depicts a sundial from a formal garden in Bedfordhsire, England. Other cards, such as The Moon, The Star, The Fool, and The High Priestess are wholly original art.

BC: Are you going to do the Minor Arcana? If so, what approach are you going to take?

CC: The Minor Arcana is proving to be a challenge, but the double dagger symbol was an obvious choice for the Two of Swords. It indicates a transition state in Chemistry. I’d certainly love to develop a full Tarot deck of punctuation marks. It’s a work in progress.

BC: How do you recommend using the “Punctuated Tarot”? I can see it being used as a comparative deck, and as a primary reading deck for specific issues, insight or personal growth.

CC: Yes, I see the deck being used for specific issues, especially when one finds one’s life story to be seemingly stalled in a punctuated pause. Is the pause a marker between chapters, or a footnoted digression, or some sort of connecting line to a new idea? Is it the calm before the storm or a gentle trailing off? During those uncomfortable delays and silences, the iconic language of punctuation can give us a sense of the durations and the connections.

BC: You have a site that you are developing to present the Punctuated Tarot ( What are your plans here?

CC: The page offers a growing introduction to the project, brief explanations of each card, and an online three-card reading. I’m open to visitor suggestions on how the page can grow.

I want to thank Craig for taking the time to discuss his latest project. In playing around with it myself, I have found that new layers if information open up as my perspective on the cards open up. I hope that each of you finds something in Craig’s work that opens things up for you too!

An eccentric lexicographer and scholar, Craig Conley is author of the Tarot of Portmeirion, Magic Words: A Dictionary (Weiser Books) and One-Letter Words: A Dictionary (HarperCollins). His website is

Note: Craig has a wonderful post on Tarotist Catherine Chapman’s site – Enjoy!

© June 2010 Bonnie Cehovet

Guest Blog By Craig Conley

I recently came across Tarotist Craig Conley’s latest project – the “Punctuation Tarot”. It is stunning and quite unique! I asked Craig if he would like to do a guest blog, and he kindly agreed! Enjoy!

On May 31, Bonnie presented a short spread from the “Shadowscapes Tarot” (Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, Barbara Moore). From the companion book she used a spread called Message From the Universe. It’s a four card spread with the positions defined as: (1) Body, (2) Heart, (3) Mind, and (4) Spirit.

The cards Bonnie drew were:

1. Body – The Empress
2. Heart – The High Priestess
3. Mind – Death
4. Spirit – The Sun

Let’s have some fun and see if Bonnie’s reading might have been different had she used the Punctuated Tarot <>.

The Empress’ punctuation is the prime symbol of mathematics, representing the “derivative function.” In the context of the Body, what is derived or obtained could be likened to the fruits of one’s physical labors. This symbol also speaks of the rate of change of a function (perhaps the aging process, given this context). The Empress card proclaims that issues of the body are of prime or first importance and are worthy of honor.

The High Priestess appears in the position of the Heart. Her punctuation is the question mark—a riddle. Given her place in the Heart position, the High Priestess guides the Seeker to protect her loving emotions with a veil of mystique. The High Priestess suggests that some puzzles, such as the meaning of love, are best left unsolved.

Death appears in the position of the Mind. This position relates to how the Seeker thinks about and sees the world, and the way that she approaches problems. Death’s punctuation is the ellipsis, indicating a suspension point or a trailing off. The Seeker is cautioned to let go of antiquated mental constructs, to allow them to dissolve, to trail off into silence.

Note that when an ellipsis occurs at the end of a sentence, it can suggest a feeling of melancholic longing. That melancholia is tied to the next card: the black Sun’s dark night of the soul.

The Sun appears in the position of Spirit. The Sun’s punctuation is the bullet, introducing items in a list. This position points to how the Seeker can allow spirit to fill her daily life, and the Sun’s bullet suggests that an enumeration is in order. The word “bullet” comes from the French for “small ball.” The small ball on this card suggests the Sol Niger, the paradoxical black sun that emits both light and darkness (for without light there can be no shadow). In alchemical terms, it is the blackening synonymous with melancholia. In Jungian terms, it is an archetype of the unconscious.

If we read these cards as a sort of rebus puzzle of punctuation marks, we can construct a hidden message. The puzzle pieces are: prime, question, ellipsis, bullet. We might decode these symbols as follows: The prime enigma dissolves the lead bullet hiding the alchemical golden light.

Note: Craig is also guest blogging on the “Punctuation Tarot” with Tarotist Catherine Chapman –

An eccentric lexicographer and scholar, Craig Conley is author of the Tarot of Portmeirion, Magic Words: A Dictionary (Weiser Books) and One-Letter Words: A Dictionary (HarperCollins). His website is

Tarot 101

Tarot 101 –
Mastering the Art of Reading the Cards

Author: Kim Huggens
Llewellyn Worldwide
ISBN #978-0-7387-1904-7

The back cover of “Tarot 101” touts this book as having “An all new approach to Tarot”. Guess what – it does! A little background on the author – Kim Huggens has been studying the Tarot since the age of nine. She is the co-creator of two Tarot decks, and her writing has appeared in “Offerings” and “Pentacle” magazines and the American Tarot Association Quarterly. She has also edited several anthologies of a non-fiction nature on mythology, magic, and occultism, and gives talks and workshops on the Tarot throughout the United Kingdom.

This is not a conventional Tarot primer. It is aimed at both the beginner and the Tarot student that has some knowledge under their belt. It is organized in twenty-two lessons, but does not follow the order of the cards, as most instruction books do. The reader is encouraged to work with the lessons in order, but the lessons are presented in such a way that they can act as stand alone studies.

The lessons on the Major Arcana are organized as sets of three (in one case four) by theme. Each lesson also includes sections on techniques, skills, symbolism, spreads, and useful tools that fit the theme. At the end of each lesson are optional homework and exercises so that the student can put the skills learned in each chapter to use in a real way. This is a course that is meant to be hands on, to help the reader develop a personal relationship with the cards and the system of Tarot.

The lessons for the Major Arcana are broken down as follows:

Lesson Three (Progress Cards) – Fool, Magician, Chariot
Lesson Four (Feminine Archetypes) – The High Priestess, The Empress, The Star
Lesson Six (Masculine Archetypes) – The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Hermit
Lesson Seven (Virtues and Vices) – Justice, Strength, Temperance
Lesson Eight(Cyclical Things) – The Wheel of Fortune, Death, The World
Lesson Ten (The Dark Side) – The Hanged Man, The Tower, The Devil
Lesson Eleven (What’s out there? In here?) – The Moon, The Sun, Judgment, The Lovers

Within each lesson is a discussion of each of the cards, common symbols found within the card, and what they mean, keywords, examples of the archetype in literature and film, and what kind of person would represent the archetype.

There are sections on the origin of Tarot through history and myth, what it is, how to choose a deck, the Hero’s Journey and Joseph Campbell’s monomyth. Huggens also discusses Tarot readings, the physical process of a reading, reading styles, and more. Under objectives are such things as honesty, accuracy, empathy, non-judgment, advice/guidance, and effective listening. This is the section where I definitely had one of those “WTF!” moments. It was the only part of the book that bothered me, but bother me it did! The objective was to get the reader to pause at various stages of the reading process and take note of what they were doing. This was achieved by inserting the word “Stop!”. I cannot tell you how very annoying this was!

Other than that, the book is very in-depth, and very well presented. Under Masculine Archetypes there is a discussion of Carl Jung and the Fourfold Divine Masculine. Under Virtues and Vices is a discussion of Medieval virtues, Thelemic Retellings, an a chart on Alchemical Roses, and the associations with different colors of roses.

Journaling, and the reasons for keeping a Tarot journal, are sprinkled throughout the book. The questions included in various chapters include: “Where does my potential lie?” (The Fool), “What does the concept of balance mean to you?” (Justice”, and “How has fear manifested in your life?” (The Moon).

Under the Court Cards is a nice presentation on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and a new to me related presentation on Keirsey Temperaments.

Also discussed are using Tarot for magic, working with affirmations, creating an alter, ritual work, and pathworking. Then we come to what to do with difficult questions, emotionally needy querents, obnoxious querents, client confidentiality and more.

At the end of the book is an appendix on the Four Elements and their associations, as well as an appendix presenting a diagram of the Tree of Life, and an excellent bibliography.

I highly recommend this book for everyone. It is a fun read, it makes the reader think, gives them tools to work with (and ways to work with the tools), contains great information that acts as a springboard for further study, and basically presents the Tarot through fresh eyes. Kudos to Kim – this book is a treasure!

© June 2010 Bonnie Cehovet

Brotherhood of Light Egyptian Tarot

Brotherhood of Light
Egyptian Tarot

Author: C. C. Zain
Artist: Gloria Beresford (1936), Vicki Brewer (2009)
The Church of Light
ISBN #978-1-57281-656-5

The “Brotherhood of Light Egyptian Tarot” acts as the companion deck to C. C. Zain’s book “The Sacred Tarot” (also published by The Church of Light. The LWB (Little White Book) that accompanies the deck is an outtake from the larger book. This is a traditional 78 card deck. Two extra cards accompany the deck – one listing the Brotherhood of Light Lessons, and one on The Mantram of the Will, or The Synthesis of Magic.

The LWB provides short descriptions and interpretations for each of the cards, as well as a short introduction to the book “The Sacred Tarot”, and a brief history of the deck. The first cards were designed by Gloria Beresford in 1936. In 2003 Vicki Brewer redesigned the original black and whie images, and in 2009 she had completed the full color Egyptian Tarot cards. Two spreads are included at the end of the LWB – a five card Yes or No spread, and a seven card Magic Seven spread. From the book:

“Arcanum XIX: The Sun

In Divination, Arcanum XIX may be read as Happiness and Joy.

Arcanum XIX expresses in the spiritual world, the supreme heaven.
In the intellectual world, true happiness.
In the physical world, sacred union.

Remember then, son of earth, that the light of the mysteries is a redoubtable fluid, put by nature at the service of the will. She lights those who know how to direct her; she strikes down with a thunderbolt those who ignore her power or who abuse it. If Arcanum XIX should appear in the prophetic signs of thy horoscope, happiness awaits thee in domestic life if thou knowest how to strengthen the conjugal circle and guard its sacredness in the sanctuary of the heart.”

This deck incorporates the arts of astrology, alchemy and magic (the Tarot). It also contains a unique correspondence between the twelve zodiacal signs and thirty-six ultra zodiacal decanate constellations and the Major and Minor Arcana. Color is used to help the unconscious mind focus on gaining the inner meaning from each card. It is expressed in the cartouche border, with the first nine Minor Arcana corresponding to the first nine Major Arcana.

Arcanum I, and the Aces, is violet.
Arcanum II, and the Two’s, is dark violet.
Arcanum III, and the Three’s, is light yellow.
Arcanum IV, and the Four’s, is dark red.
Arcanum V, and the Five’s, is purple.
Arcanum VI, and the Six’s, is yellow.
Arcanum VII, and the Seven’s, is purple.
Arcanum VIII, and the Eight’s, is deep purple.
Arcanum IX, and the Nine’s, is light blue.
Arcanum X, and the Ten’s, is white.

The cards themselves are 2 ½” by 4 ¼”. The design for the card backs was derived from the tradition of the “carpet page” seen in illustrated manuscripts such as the 8th century Lindisfarne Gospels. It is two mirrored images, the center of which is a diamond shape, with the emblem of he Brotherhood of Light in the center. Two inter-laced trines are at the center, with a unite sun and moon at the apex. Surrounding the trines are seven stars and the four fixed signs of the zodiac. The base of the dark, downward pointing trine represents the point where the twin souls (Divine Spark of Deity), separate to begin their involution into matter. The upward pointing light trine depicts the evolutionary journey of the separated souls, and their assent through matter into higher dimensions to achieve the reunion of soul-mates (conjoined sun and moon). The fixed-sign animals in the four corners run clockwise, forming the Masonic formula for mastership: To Know (Aquarius), To Dare (Leo), To Do (Taurus), and To Be Silent (Scorpio).

The card faces show a ¼” white border, followed by a thinner, color coded cartouche border. The Roman numeral for each Major Arcana card is centered at the top of the card, with the number in in the left hand corner, and the associated astrological glyph in the right hand corner. Three kabbalistic glyphs run are seen on the bottom left hand, center, and right hand side of the card.

The Minor Arcana Pips (numbered cards) show the number in the upper left hand side of the card, the suit icon in the lower right hand side, with the Ten’s showing the glyph for the fixed sign of their suit in the upper right hand and lower left hand side. Numbers one through nine show the number in the upper left hand corner, the suit glyph in the lower right hand corner, and astrological glyphs in the upper right hand and lower left hand sides of the card. The Court cards show the first initial for the card title in the upper left hand side of the car, the glyph for he fixed sign for the suit in the upper right hand side of the card, the suit icon on the lower right hand side of the cad, and the associated playing card symbol in the lower left hand side of the card.

The Major Arcana titles are as follows:

Arcanum I – Magus, or Magician
Arcanum II – Veiled Isis
Arcanum III – Isis Unveiled
Arcanum IV – The Sovereign
Arcanum V – The Hierophant
Arcanum VI – The Two Paths
Arcanum VII – The Conqueror
Arcanum VIII – The Balance
Arcanum IX – The Sage
Arcanum X – The Wheel
Arcanum XI – The Enchantress
Arcanum XII – The Martyr
Arcanum XIII – The Reaper
Arcanum XIV – The Alchemist
Arcanum XV – The Black Magician
Arcanum XVI – The Lightening
Arcanum XVII – The Star
Arcanum XVIII – The Moon
Arcanum XIX – The Sun
Arcanum XX – The Sarcophagus
Arcanum XXI – The Adept
Arcanum XXII – The Materialist

The suits are Scepters, Cups, Swords and Coins. The Court Cards are King, Queen, Youth and Horsemen. The Horsemen do not represent people, they represent thoughts or unseen intelligence.

I loved the coloring in this deck, which is pastels of yellow, green, blue and orange. The theme is, of course, Egyptian, with the artwork being very minimalist. The Minor Arcana are Marseilles style, showing icons only. I liked the arrangement of the icons: Aces are the icon standing alone – no hand coming out of the clouds here. For the Deuces, the Scepters and Swords are crossed, while the Cups and Coins are side by side. The treys are all in the form of a triangle, while the Four’s are in the form of a square. The Fives are all grouped together, with the Scepters and Swords crossed, and the Cups and Coins both form “X’x”. The Six’s show two triangles, while the Seven’s show an upper triangle and a lower square. The Eight’s show two squares, while the Nine’s show three triangles. The Ten’s show two triangles and a square.

The only figures facing forward in this deck are the King of Coins, the King of Cups, the Veiled Isis, and the male figure in The Two Paths, The esoteric imagery in this deck is blended in well – the Magician’s table is a cube, Isis Unveiled and the Sovereign sitting on cubes, the Charioteer has a sword in his right hand and a scepter in his left hand and so on. It is interesting to note that the Martyr has his hands tied at the wrist, instead of being free. I love that The Reaper has a beautiful rainbow over his head! The Black Magician shows a crocodile-like figure with wings, holding a flaming torch with what appears to be a snake in front of him. The Tower, of course, is depicted as a pyramid. The two mountains in The Moon have been replaced with pyramids. The Sun shows two adults, as opposed to two children. I adore The Sarcophagus, which shows a male figure, a female figure, and a child’s figure, wrapped as mummies, coming out of a sarcophagus! Instead of a dog, The Materialist gets a crocodile-like companion also.

I love this deck – the coloring and minimalist imagery brings me a sense of peace. I would advise, however, that it be used with the companion book (which I need to purchase!). This is not a beginners deck, but could be used with a minimal knowledge of the Tarot. It would be of interest as a theme deck (Egyptian), for the artwork (Egyptian minimalist), as a collector’s deck, or as a reading deck for someone with a basic knowledge of the Tarot.

© May 2010 Bonnie Cehovet

Legacy of the Divine Tarot – Interactive Site

For those of you that are as intrigued with Ciro Marchetti’s “Legacy of the Divine” Tarot as I am, a visit to his interactive site is well worth your while. It is a membership site, with a small monthly fee of $8.00 per month. This will take you through the Gateway and into the site, where you will enter the world of the “Legacy of the Divine Tarot”, a world that is based on the underlying Legacy story and background.

Here you can interact with the cards, with soothing music in the background. Stunning animation, written explanations of the cards and their symbolic meaning, reading rooms, and much, much more!

You can sign in as a guest to get a feel for the site, with the ability to navigate to various sections: the Hall of the Arcanas, the Wall of Knowledge, the Reading Room, the Library, the Graphics Room, and Daily Card Calculators.

The Wall of Knowledge contains short Tarot factoids submitted by people from the Taro community. The Library contains articles from Connie “Garnet” Schaeffer (Chakra Testing and Balancing With The Major Arcana), Robert M. Place (Pamela Coleman Smith. Her relationship with Bram Stoker, A.E. Waite, and her role in designing the Waite Smith Tarot), Janet Boyer (Eight of Cups – Abandoning Success), Christiana Gaudet (Holy Trinity of the Third Eye), Barbara Moore (In Defense of the Hierophant), and my article on Tarot and Ritual.

Take a drive by, and take a look at the incredible offering Ciro has made to the Tarot public!