When I was a child, I discovered the art of divination. My mother had books on meditation, tarot and astrology. I was fascinated by these strange tomes and books. I would play with her runes, and the first Tarot deck that I ever used was my mothers Rider- Waite smith deck. I may have grown up in a Christian household, but my mother was already tracing the lines that would lead to who I would become.
The first form of divination I practiced was Cartomancy with playing cards. The readings were always scarily accurate, and when I divined that my dog, my best friend would die, that was when I put the cards away and Tarot and Cartomancy would become Taboo for me. Tarot always held something of the wyrd for me, when I picked them up again a few years later, I would have the most awful readings- it is no secret that my childhood was fraught with trauma, pain and troubles both within the home and at school. Swords, and particularly the ones depicting trauma, death and violence ruled my readings. For so long I hated the Tarot, but I always had a sick curiosity about them.
The deck that would break me was the Crows Magick Tarot, and now, Tarot is my preferred form of divination, along with Witches Runes or Stones.
“The art of reading signs is one of our most ancient traditions and a specialty of our Guild. It is not the path to happiness, they say, but what are the choices?”-Dale Pendell The Language of Birds
Samhain is a time where superstition runs high, the unknown and the hidden become closer to us, and we often seek answers for what will come. Fortune Tellers and Witches probably have some of their most busy times during Samhain and Beltaine, where people are more likely to be open to the otherside and the wyrd.
Tarot and oracle decks can act as more than just ways in which to see the future. I often use my cards for spells and meditation, for conjuring spirits and for communicating with my familiars and plants. The deck I use most often is The Wild Unknown Tarot Deck by Kim Krans. The images are incredibly powerful and relateable for me- no people, just animals, symbols, trees and plants. As someone who works primarily with animal spirits and the animal dead, these cards speak on a soul level to me.
During Samhain I like to work with other decks as well, ones which draw on folklore, modern mythology and witchiness. Unfortunately some of the decks on my to buy list, are indie decks and are incredibly expensive or run in limited editions, the decks featured here are “mainstream” decks which are easier to come by and aren’t as pricey, but no less helpful for the diviner.
Ghost and Spirits Tarot- Lisa Hunt
I bought this deck especially for communicating with my ancestors, but I have not used it much. The artwork is incredibly intricate and detailed and focuses on various ghost stories and tales of the dead from around the world. While these cards are beautiful, and I still pull them out every year during this time, I have always found them difficult to connect to for divinatory purposes. What I love about these cards is that they draw from legends and folklore, and they are therefore excellent for inspiration for rituals and spells, in order to draw the appropriate spirits to the altar for their help. The death card is my favourite card above all this deck, and one of my favourite depictions of the grim reaper. One of my other favourite cards is the 10 of cups a depiction of the mexican The Day Of The Dead.
The Daemon Tarot- Ariana Osborne
This deck was a gift from the Hedgehog and one of my favourite decks for conjuring spirits, and working witchcraft. It is not a tarot deck, but rather a pack of 69 cards with illustrations by Louis Breton which have been taken from the Dictionnaire infernal. While I love the premise behind this deck, I do not think that it lends itself well to traditional divination- which can be seen in how small the divinatory meanings are within the book.
I also think this deck would have been better if it excluded the racist depiction of Kali. I believe as modern artists, occultists and witches we really do have to look critically at the past and authors and artists who were racist. My favourite cards in this deck are those that are based on folkloric spirits (like Lechie, Ribesal and Torngarusk, which would have been considered demons in De Plancy’s time), and the cards which depict witchcraft lore like the Sabbat, The Witch’s Round, and Bufonite.
The Zombie Tarot
I adore this Zombie themed deck which takes its inspiration from modern Zombie lore and vintage montage art. This deck is excellent for divination and always gives witty advice for whatever may be on your mind. This deck has a humourous bite and the booklet comes with instructions for deathly spreads like “The Severed Head” and “The Gravestone”. Most themed decks that I have seen are not really usable for readings, and are more akin to collectors and “fan” decks. This one bridges the gap and each card expresses accurately the traditional meanings of the Tarot. If you love horror and vintage, this deck is for you!
Good Witch Bad witch
This is an adorable little deck of whimsical cards. If you are more “Bewitched” than “Supernatural” then this little deck might hold some inspiration for you. There are 26 good witches and 26 bad witches which are influenced by fairy tale witches with warts and imps, magic potions and fairy dances. The book contains whimsical spells for each card, which may be inspiring for adding simple magic into everday life. This deck was one of my favourites to use in the past, but as I became more of a Cynical Susan I have neglected these cards. As I wish to add more sweetness and whimsy to my life I will probably be using these cards a bit more frequently again.
The Deviant Moon Tarot-Patrick Valenza
The Hedgehog bought me this gorgeous deck. The cards depict moon people in their own industrial, medieval inspired world. Valenza’s own influences from childhood dreams and visions and cemetry visits can be clearly seen in the work. This is an incredible and exquisite deck, and is excellent for both divination and ritual work.
It is the perfect deck to explore the things that are hidden in the dark recesses of the mind, and it reminds me very much of Robin Artisson’s Short Story “In The Court of the Pumpkin King”, as so many of the moon people look like gourds, particularly in the wands suite. The cards all have the same dark sepia effect and the effect is a dark, gothic deck with rich and otherworldly symbolism. Two cards in this deck stick out for me- The Devil which is a red imp-like devil, very similar to my childhood visions of the red man who laughs, and the The Death card which depicts a being with a horse skull for a head.
“…far from fleeing the subtle presence of the Fates, the cartomancer must move directly towards it.”- Robin Artisson Hands of Fate
Because the start of my of divination with cards began with playing cards, I decided that it was important for me to learn about the strange art. Robin Artisson’s book on divination with playing cards is an excellent little manual on the subject.
I love that Artisson includes information on the Divining Familiar and methods by which to access divinatory power. Most books on divination take away the wyrd and the strange, this book relishes in it – no doubt a reflection of Artisson’s own deep relationship with the hidden realm. The methods given to access divinatory power can be used for Tarot, Oracle cards, Witch Stones and many other methods of divination.
Sorcerers-people who have pacts and relationships with spiritz called “familiars”- perform divination through the agency of those familiars.”- Robin Artisson “Hands of Fate”
Artisson describes the cards in terms of faery lore and mythology, and gives story telling methods for interpretation. The use of a light Joker and a Dark joker is also quite nice as they represent the helpful or malevolent spirits which may be influencing your life.
The Fairy People Playing cards
While the keys that Artisson gives for interpretation rely on traditional decks like the Bicycle deck, I have a small fairy deck which I bought on sale last year. Each of the cards depicts fairies in different scenes taken from Antonio Lupatelli’s “Fairy Tales” of the 19th Century. The suites are hearts, leaves, acorns and bells and the deck contains two jokers- one riding a squirrel, and the other riding a fox. This deck is very cute, and I would just as likely use it during the Fox’s Feast as during Samhain. While I have the faeries oracle by Brian Froud, I tend to use the deck more during the spring and summer months when the Pink Fox is about. This Fairy People Playing Card deck reminds me of harvest time, and is therefore wonderful for the final harvest before the frost of winter.
“We talk about the past, present, and future as if the Fates operated in a straight line, but at each point in our lives we must deal with the effects of what has already happened, cope with what we are facing now, and prepare for what is to come. We are never done with the past, because it is always being created by what we are doing now, and that, in turn, becomes the future. We interact wih Urdh, Verdandi, and Skuld in a sacred spiral cycle in which the same lessons are repeated, although in different ways, again and again. “- Zsuzsanna Budapest Summoning the Fates