To celebrate the launch of Tattoo Tarot, author and Tarot expert Diana McMahon Collis shares a few insider secrets about the mysterious set of cards…
Tatto Tarot is a Tarot deck with a difference – it features the beautiful illustrations of Oliver 'Megamunden' Munden – illustrator and author of hugely popular LKP titles such as The Tattoo Colouring Book and The Tattoo Flash Colouring Book.
The deck is accompanied by a very useful booklet explaining how to interpret the cards and conduct your own readings — perfect for beginners and enthusiasts alike. We caught up with author Diana McMahon Collis to find out more about this mysterious artform.
Can you tell us something about the myths surrounding Tarot?
Tarot is an unusual art form because it has a root in card playing for amusement, as well as being used for spiritual insight. Somewhere in between those two roots it has come to be associated with fortune telling – which has a whole set of associations around it. Such as, people tend to imagine a gypsy woman with a scarf around her head and hoop earrings. In reality, tarot readers may be male or female and most people wear fairly normal clothes.
What do you mean by spiritual insight?
The idea that there is some invisible force for the good, which has your best interests at heart. If you align your actions with this force then the likelihood is that outcomes will be favourable. It is all relative of course – what proves to be a favourable outcome for you might be less so for someone else. But time is an important factor in spiritual development. Many people want things on their own timescale. The invisible force for good will only deliver that if it’s for the best! There is also an idea that the tarot cards can tell us something that is hidden in a situation – or can speak of matters that nobody else is able to do – rather like an oracle.
What other myths are there?
In the early twentieth century the idea developed that tarot had significant roots in ancient Egypt. We now know that it didn’t – that it was a case that writers had entertained that idea. There was a general obsession with all things Egyptian by the Victorians, for example.
Then there is the idea that tarot is the work of the devil! I was quite shocked when I first came across that idea, as I am a child of the 70s, which was open-minded in all directions. And so it went on through the 1980s, when the Mind Body Spirit exhibitions began to thrive in London and lots of people who had heard about the Age of Aquarius were hungry for a new spiritual way of living – which neither orthodox religion (predominantly Christianity, in the UK, at that time) nor merely secular and scientific approaches were offering. There was also a big focus developing on psychology with the start of a new angle on mental positivity, healthier living and healing the past.
In this new, spiritually-oriented and psychologically-focussed society, many of us had started hearing about Freud, Jung, personality types, dream analysis and mental health issues (even my impressive grandmother, whose diminutive frame struggled to reach 5 feet tall, spoke in terms of having an ‘inferiority complex’ about her height!) In this all-encompassing, positively focussed atmosphere, no one form of spirituality was regarded as superior over another and new spiritual systems were very welcome. There was a longer history about the church being uncomfortable with tarot, though. Perhaps that is where this fixation with the devil comes from.
The tarot does include a major card called The Devil, though doesn’t it?
Yes, it does! However, it is not the case that the devil card is a self portrait of the artist of the original, first tarot deck – or anything like that. The Devil represents certain concepts or sets of situations. For example, concepts such as obsession, and captivity – being a slave to something or someone. It often refers to when a habit or addiction has the better of you. Or when we stick with something that is uncomfortable, out of fear of things being even worse if we pull away. Fear is such a powerful emotion – this card is clever at showing the enormity of the power we can let it have over us. The devil is like the demon that comes into a dream or night terror – as soon as you stare it in the face, instead of being terrorised by its hyped up, scary image, it stops having such power and shrinks away. I think that the orthodox religious objection relates to a prohibition on worshipping false idols. But we are not about worshipping the devil, or any other ‘idol’ with the tarot. Most people consult it in moments of uncertainty. They may not be in the grip of fear then; they may simply be curious to know what might be a sensible course of action – or one that seems to be blessed by fortune’s finger! After all there are so many choices possible in life today. As the world becomes increasingly complex, tarot has an even more popular place.
When do you use tarot cards?
Personally, I reach for my cards for myself when I am very unsure about the path to take – those classic, ‘fork-in-the-road’ moments. My actions may impact other people. so I often want to look at the best outcome for all, wherever possible. I think it is something to do with the need to be humble, because it is easy to imagine that my idea is the best idea. But then I might only be seeing a situation from my own, narrow perspective (I’m only human, after all!) The cards will often show the overall truth of the situation and may offer a very different perspective. Obviously, in my tarot-reading work for others, people may have all sorts of questions. Frequently, people want to know about work and business ventures. Other clients have queries about their love life. Sometimes areas overlap – people may have health or money problems that relate to their work questions. There is only so far we can go with addressing specific medical issues or giving financial advice – there are experts who can guide people in much more detail, so we will often refer on to specialists in those areas. But tarot readers can divine general, spiritual insight and it is surprising how often we can point someone in the right direction. I think our job is about aligning the person, who has the question, along the best path – or helping them to work out which choice has the edge
How should you use the cards?
As for the ‘how’ with tarot cards – it is usually a matter of shuffling the deck of 78 cards (larger than a playing card deck which has just 52) and cutting and dealing, or fanning out the cards and then selecting an amount of cards for the ‘spread’. The spread is systematic way of laying out a specific number of cards, in order to address a question. It is usually more helpful to consult tarot with a specific question or situation in mind than to ask for a ‘general reading’. There is a tradition of the ‘general reading’ which comes from the sorts of tarot readings I came across when I first went to psychic fayre and to see consultants. The reader would just turn the cards, maybe put them into a spread, and just start reading ‘your future’. Although what was being said was often a story – which is exactly what tarot presents. The tarot reading might have been more like a monologue, telling you this and that about yourself and your life, interwoven with bits of advice. Some readings still follow that format, but more of the modern readers – such as ours at TABI (Tarot Association of the British Isles) tend to focus on what will help with a particular situation – or assist a client in considering their options around a particular situation.
You could say it amounts to the same thing, but intention matters there and it is really a different approach – one we hope is slightly more empowering than a pure psychic prediction. In this more equal approach, a modern reader might even ask a client what THEY think about a particular symbol in a card! (If they’re reading face to face or by Skype – or even on email). So, these days tarot is multi-faceted and we are not just able to consult tarot readers at psychic fayres or through visiting their homes or rented therapy rooms; we may be able to obtain readings by email or Skype. There have been telephone readings for a long time, too, which still thrive. But the great thing is we do not always need another person to read the cards for us – we can learn to engage with them ourselves. It was with that in mind that Laurence King wanted to include a substantial booklet with the Tattoo Tarot cards. The booklet takes the person through a number of simple card spreads that can be used for typical questions. There are also instructions on how to find meanings in the cards – some from the printed, given material in the booklet; others from an intuitive response to the card image (such as seeing a rose in the picture and thinking about romance – or noticing a bird and being reminded of wisdom – ie wise old owl - or the freedom of flight).
What should you do when you get your first set of cards?
There are ideas about the cards needing ‘cleansing’ of any energies that may have collected on them on their journey. If you wish to do this then one way is to wave an incense stick around the deck, letting the smoke of the incense to waft over them. The idea of this is a cleansing by fire, which carries the symbolism of purification. However, if you are over-sensitive to smells or smoke, you may prefer another method – such as flicking your finger on the top of the deck, producing a loud sound to ‘clear’ the energies. Or using another sound method – such as if you have a singing bowl, a gong, drum or Tibetan cymbals/bells. Some people like to wrap the deck in silk or keep it in a bag.
Personally I think this all comes down to two things: ritual and cleanliness. You are marking some sort of beginning with a new set of cards and you also need to think about how you plan to store them. I keep my cards in their original boxes, tucked away in a drawer that only contains tarot cards and books. But it is also possible to get straight down to a reading connection with the cards! After all, they do come well-wrapped and are safe inside their box. Once you have taken the cellophane wrapper off, it can be useful to notice how the deck is organised – because it comes divided into suits and sections, just like a pack of playing cards would do.
You have four suits in the Tattoo deck: Cups, Swords, Wands and Coins – plus the Major Arcana cards, which have special names the bottom, like The World, The Empress and The Hermit, with their numbers in roman numerals at the top (eg XXI, III and IX). The four suits form the Minor Arcana (which roughly translates at minor secrets) and, as well as the Aces to Tens, include four Court figures, which show their names: King, Queen, Knight and Knave. If you ever forget what kind of card you are looking at, you can easily check in the booklet, where the Courts and Major cards are also pictured. I really like that Laurence King took the trouble to consider details such as these, to help beginners get more easily acquainted with the cards!
The team put a lot of effort into ensuring they got the details right and honoured both the tarot’s needs and the tattoo art drive from the brilliant illustrator, Ollie Munden. Of course it is wonderful that the cards live up to their theme by featuring so much tattoo artistry. If you look closely, you will find that even some of the Court figures have tattoos!
As well as personal appointments, Diana also offers tarot readings by email and has kindly given us a mini email reading to give away to one lucky LKP reader. To be in with a chance of receiving it, just sign up to our gift products mailing list before 3rd September 2018.
The winner will be picked at random and notified by 10th September, please read our Terms and Conditions here.