Friday, June 6, 2008

The Knitting Tarot

Knitting and tarot will always be bound together in my mind, my heart, and my life. The one and only time I had the good fortune to attend one of Mary K. Greer’s and Rachel Pollack’s Omega Institute class changed my life in so many ways. There is, of course, the experience of the Omega Institute itself. And studying under Mary and Rachel. And then there was Barbara Jean. I don’t remember Barbara Jean’s last name. But I remember her.

She was a math teacher and an artist. She was new to tarot and used The Baseball Tarot because she loved the art and because the archetypes found in the game of baseball were deeply meaningful to her and had tender nostalgic connections. And she took a lot of flack for using that deck because some people didn’t think it was serious or respectful.

I thought Barbara Jean was one of the most interesting, complex, amazing, and kind people I’d ever met.

After the week-long class, we both went our separate ways, but did continue to correspond. She was a knitter and knew I wanted to learn. She agreed to teach me, long distance, if I was willing to let her experiment on me with a teaching method. I agreed and through her I learned to knit and have been for almost ten years. Barbara Jean helped me through my divorce and then we lost touch. I miss her and think of her often.

Over the past five years, I’ve watched as The Knitting Tarot came to life. The black and white line art is charming and quirky. The cards, while clearly all knitting related, are also based firmly in the Rider-Waite tradition. It is a fun and imaginative project; it is also a serious tarot deck. Amber writes in the introduction:

“In knitting, like in everything else, it is nice to have a second self standing next to us, decisively saying the things that our first self knows, but can’t quite admit, act upon, or express. That second self is Tarot.”

The suits are Needles (Wands), Gauge (Swords), Skeins (Cups), and Spindles (Pentacles). Each card in the Minors has a knitting appropriate keyword, such as Pride (Six of Needles), Stash Enhancement (that’s buying more yarn, for you non-knitters, for Ten of Skeins), and Giving and Mentoring (Six of Spindles).

Some of the Major Arcana have different names, such as Ripping Out (The Tower) or Binding Off (Death). Ripping out is something knitters sometimes have to do if there is a mistake of some sort that cannot be corrected in any other way. Binding off is the way a knitter ends a project.

The cards come with a hard cover book that features the art for each card on one page and page of description and meaning.

Both the cards and the book were hard printed on a letterpress (read more about it here). They are works of art and I love the set. I don’t think, though, that it is a deck for everyone and will resonate almost exclusively with knitters.

There are, I think, plenty of tarotists who knit. I’ve met them at conferences. And even Mary Greer knits. She recently posted a knitting pattern for a tarot case on her blog here. Since these cards are over-sized, I think I will modify her pattern slightly and make a case for these cards.

Excerpt from the book:

XIII. Binding Off (Death)

Author Dawn Powell wrote that death “is a fertilizer. It suddenly seems the only clear clean use of life—all of the muffled meanings and intention suddenly are focused into this great flowering and the pattern of the dead person becomes clear to everyone…the whole figure emerges rich and brilliant and so it becomes true that death is the triumph of life.”

In the Knitting Tarot, Binding Off is a corollary to Death in that it marks the end of a “life” as a work-in-progress, but is the beginning of a “life” which may be studied as a whole; or, in the case of knitting, an article or garment that can be put to use as it was intended its conception in our minds.

Death occurs in Binding Off, as one phase comes to an end and another begins. In this Death, something new exists which had not existed independently before this moment.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

This weekend: Readers Studio Roundup

On Sunday our local Twin Cities Tarot Meetup group, founded by Corrine Kenner, is meeting. Corrine, myself, Lisa Finander, Nancy Antenucci, and Dan Horon all attended this year's Reader Studio and will present some of the things we learned and share our experiences with the rest of the group. 

Some of the highlights that I'll talk about include the Birth Cards class, James Wells' techniques of using questions during a reading, and Elizabeth Genco's Marketing Your Metaphysical Business workshop. 

If you're in the area, join our Meetup. It's always fun. And with all the great tarot enthusiasts in the Twin Cities, we're always learning something new. Find out more here.

Tomorrow: a peek at The Knitting Tarot. I was lucky enough to score this deck in a trade with Gina from The Yoga Garden

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Are you a hip witch?

I’m not sure if I am, but I just finished writing the book. No, really. I just finished a manuscript called The Hip Witch Tarot, the companion book for Lo Scarabeo’s Witchy Tarot (by Laura Tuan and Antonella Platano). It turned out to be a surprising and delightful project. 

From my introduction (remember, this is written for young people…or the young at heart):

“Just because something is cute and fun, doesn’t mean it’s not powerful and serious. In many ways, you’re probably at your most powerful when you’re feeling good, looking good, and having a good time. The Witchy Tarot deck is like that, too. It looks good and it is certainly having a good time. As you work with it, you’ll find that you can have fun with it and also find lots of help, guidance, and answers, too, delivered with a sense of style and a sense of humor.


“Throughout the ages, witchcraft has been practiced in some form or another. That is, if you think of witchcraft as the art, craft, and science of working with nature and the natural energies of the universe. The Witchy Tarot celebrates these ancient practices and includes some stereotypical images (they are, after all, a part of witchcraft’s history). More importantly, it shows what these ideas might look like in our world. Does witchcraft today looks very different than it did centuries ago? Yes and no. It and its practitioners may be dressed differently, but it all still works the same.

“Back in the fourteenth century, tarot cards looked a certain way and were used in a certain way. They looked a bit like a deck of playing cards with some extra cards with weird names added in. People used them to play games. Even while they played games, though, the oddly named cards (the names didn’t sound odd to them, but they might sound odd to us) reminded them of lessons and morals they learned about life. Over the centuries tarot has changed in looks and in how we use it. While we can still play games with it, in the United States hardly anybody does (in Europe people still do). These days we focus on using the pictures, stories, and lessons that we find on the cards.

“Witchcraft, witches, and tarot have changed a lot over the years, evolving to reflect the world in which they exist. No matter how much they change, though, their wisdom, strength, and symbols remain constant.”

Next week, a closer look at the Witchy Tarot. For now, I leave you with this card. What do you see? I think it is pretty funny.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What would you like to see?

All Things Tarot. Pretty broad, and purposely so. I plan on sharing lots of tarot decks and books, a handful of oracles, and even some accessories. Sample readings might be fun. And spreads...who doesn't like new spreads? And reading techniques.

These are all things I like to see on blogs. How about you? What would make you come back for a visit? Participate in the poll in the sidebar and/or leave your ideas in the comments.