Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What Are You Reading?

Of course, I’m reading Tarot! I get asked what deck I am reading with or what books I would recommend and I thought, although my blog is not book-and-deck review themed, I’d share a few things that have come across my desk.

Derek who cleans my house says that things that come across my desk must have Velcro on them somewhere. He teases me about burning my decks and books, selling it all and starting over and other things that seem unconscionable to me. Sometimes Derek wins our little debates, but not this one. That doesn’t stop him from trying.

When I’m on Twitter (@MarciaMcCord), I do a daily tarot card draw I call Card du Jour. Usually, I use my little Pocket Universal Waite Tarot deck for that draw. I like it for clarity but I also like it for size. If you saw my desk you’d know that size matters and generally the smaller the better. There’s a lot to compete with. The Pocket UW is as “RWS clone” as they get with Pamela Colman Smith’s line images recolored in soft shades by Mary Hanson-Roberts published by U.S. Games and easily available.

When I do a reading for a client, I use a variety of decks. I don’t like to use the same one all the time because I don’t want to become so accustomed to the images that I fall into the same patterns. I like my own decks to read with and have been reading with my Art Postcard Tarot lately. I also love some other decks to read with, especially Kat Black’s Touchstone Tarot. This collage deck is taken from portraits of real Renaissance people like Mary Tudor, Jane Seymour, Christina of Denmark, Erasmus, the vivacious Marchesa Brigida Spinola-Doria, playwright and spy Kit Marlowe, and the dashing Jude Law look-alike William of Orange. These are real people whose real expressions blaze through paper and ink. I think this deck is excellent for relationship readings. Beyond that, the booklet describing each card and where the images originate is a riveting read in itself.

With all the denying that I’m a birder that I’ve done here, it’s no surprise that I recently picked up a Tarot deck called The Secret Language of Birds. It’s a large deck with a large box and a Druid theme (Order of Bards, Orates and Druids). Birds and their behaviors either individually or in flocks were considered omens in ancient times and even into the modern day. Consider the children’s rhyme Counting Crows:

Counting Rhyme (from The Folklore of Birds, by Laura C. Martin, 1993)

One for sorrow, two for mirth,

Three for a wedding, four for a birth,

Five for silver, six for gold,

Seven for a secret not to be told.

Eight for heaven, nine for hell,

And ten for the devil's own sel'.

As with the Touchstone, the booklet for Birds has a wealth of lore and reference, such as the introduction’s quote from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:

“How do you know

but every bird

that cuts the airy way

is an immense world of delight

closed to your senses five?”

Speaking of William Blake, I picked up a heavily discounted copy of The Portable Blake at one of my favorite haunts, Pegasus Books on Solano Avenue in Berkeley. I like Blake, always have. He was one “out there”guy. I like so many of the images he wrote and painted, like “I was in a Printing house in Hell…” and “’we impose on one another, & it is but lost time to converse with you whose works are only Analytics’” and “I see Past, Present & Future existing all at once / Before me….” Ah, Bill, what big eyes you had.

I’ve just started to dive into Marcus Katz' Tarosophy: Tarot to Engage Life, Not Escape It. One of my Tarot buddies said this was, at last, the tarot book they had been looking for. Marcus covers the practical (Difficult Clients and Querents) and the esoteric. A note for Ugly Americans: Do try to get past the fact that Marcus is after all from England and uses the word “whilst” and other noises foreign to our U.S. nano-adapted ears. If you want to read Twitter-ese, go to Twitter and LOL to your hearts’ content.

And whilst I’m in England, I’m having a delicious dive into The Book of English Magic. Arguably the best wizardry has its roots in England, even if transplanted from Norse, Saxons and Romans. Merlin, runes, holy wells, dowsing, henges and barrows, cups and spears, herbal recipes for the cure of elf afflictions, The Golden Dawn, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, T. H. White’s “remastering” of the Arthurian tales, plus short essays from experts in special topics fill this thick grey book that feels like a fairytale collection, especially if you can’t quite trust the fairies to do what you think is the nice thing. And I’ve only just started this book! This treat is on my bedside table like a box of chocolate mint candies.  It's worth a read and a re-read.

My friend Beth Seilonen’s Tarot Leaves are starting to show up in the mailboxes of the ardent pre-orderers. That includes me! I have two copies of the deck now, one to use and one to keep. I have many but not all of Beth’s hand-crafted decks also including one original art set of majors she made just for me with owls. I use them in readings for clients only occasionally, only because these babies are little works of art. It’s not enough to say that Beth self-publishes. They really are hand-crafted. Tarot Leaves is her first commercially published deck and I love what Schiffer has done with it. The box and presentation enhance the deck without overpowering the images of leaves and images within leaves and images within images that Beth is known for. Using simple lines and “comfort” colors, this little walk in the woods has an eerie music track playing in the background. There is the surface of things; then there is deeper. This deck is a treat for tarot collectors and those who want something both tangible and mystical, that tenuous thread between this world and The Other. I’m looking forward to reading with this deck.

Just in case I didn't have enough to read, I went into San Francisco an hour early to browse the tall, tall shelves of Fields Bookstore. I nosed through section after section, drooled at the locked case of rare and antiquarian books and finally settled on a couple of books on the kabbalah, something I could learn more about.  Heidi and I had a laugh at the checkout when she "tried" to charge me too little for my two books.  Good to know I can still read upside down and that I can also tell that 44 and 22 do not add up to 46!  When I told her I was on my way to Thalassa's class, she sent her good wishes.  That class ended up being a real tarot experience.  I'll save that for another time!

However, I will put in a plug for the Jay'n Bee Club in the Mission in San Francisco. What a terrific spot for a post-class debriefing with thin, thin crust pizza (sausage and mushroom, yum), perhaps the best in the City, and tall, tall margaritas. Plural.  This is a place to solve the problems of the world. And get a designated driver.

Don't bring your books there.  Besides reading the crawl lines on Facebook (“They Changed It Again”) and Twitter, I’m also reading Tarot in Benicia, California at Benicia Main Street’s Sorcerer’s Saturday: “Saturday, October 15th, 12 - 5 p.m. Join in this family-friendly celebration of Sorcerers, Witches and Warlocks! The day will welcome the magic and mystery of October with vendors, activities and special brews for adults!” I’ll be down at the end of First Street in the parking lot of the Old Depot Building. There is usually plenty of parking. Same low rates: $20 for 30 minutes.

So, what are YOU reading?  Let me know in the comments below.  Be sure to check out these books, decks, Fields Bookstore, Thalassa's Special Topics and the Sorcerer’s Saturday. Best wishes!


  1. I've got Meditations on the Tarot by my bedside table and have been slowly (and meditatively) making my way through it. Book of English Magic: love it!