Tag Archives: deviant moon

Looking back on five months of “decks of the week”

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For my 100th public post on this blog I’m going to look back on the “deck of the week” project that was the reason I started blogging here again pretty much exactly five months ago. So far, I have used 21 decks in 22 weeks (17 of them have been tarots, the remaining four were oracles, one of which was a non-card oracle). I think this is totally worth a toast!

Those have been 22 very different weeks in terms of my tarot-related activities.

Sometimes, I did a lot of readings in one week, like with the Navigators Tarot of the Mystic SEA, Waking the Wild Spirit, or Deviant Moon (unfortunately, I can’t show you most of the readings here so you just have to believe me). The one thing I’ve stopped pretty soon is doing daily draws/readings. I just don’t have that many questions. As a result I currently don’t participate in exchanges all that much, and I also don’t read much for myself. I’m also doubting that readings are as interesting to the readers of this blog as they are for me (and hopefully my sitters). I may eventually go on to borrow the idea of Tarot Bonkers to read in second person or the one of Sharyn’s daily draws with more or less “impersonal” associations (and an interesting quote). Or I may try and read for fictional/historic characters that are somewhat well-known like Satu did a while ago (I especially liked the ones for Eve and Voldemort).

In other weeks I felt more like contemplating a certain aspect of the deck as a whole (e.g. gender in the Deviant Moon, flora and fauna in Waking the Wild Spirit, Hubble space telescope photos that have been used in the Quantum, the Classic suits, or relationships between men during the Renaissance inspired by the Da Vinci Enigma). That has always been fun, especially since all of these studies happened because I suddenly got curious about something…

In yet other weeks I’ve done experiments or exercises with the respective deck (e.g. rearrange furniture and write a Halloween story with the Margarete Petersen, read about Star Trek episodes with the Balbi, do a reverse tarot reading with the Songs for the Journey Home, try out unusual reading methods with the Da Vinci Enigma, chat away with the Silicon Dawn). I’ve also enjoyed those a lot, mainly because I like trying new things. I’ve come across several other great ideas for future experiments on other people’s tarot blogs, so I may use a few of them eventually.

Sometimes I read a lot of background material (like with the Discordian Deck and a little with the Da Vinci Enigma), and sometimes I read nothing but the cards. Often, I just explored individual cards and decks on the side while I was doing a reading (usually for myself). I’m aware that combined readings/card reflections aren’t the best way to present insights, so this is another aspect of this blog that may benefit from some changes.

And sometimes I just blinged the hell out of a card or two (Deviant Moon, Thoth [not a “deck of the week” yet], International Icon Tarot). I’m sure there will be other candidates for that approach.

I was surprised to discover that I wasn’t as happy as I thought when I had the chance to reconnect with old favorites (e.g. Housewives, Ironwing). This led me to the decision to focus mostly on my (nearly) unused decks in my selections for this project. I was also surprised – once again – how well I could read with non-scenic pips (Balbi, Classic, Oswald Wirth, and also the Discordian Deck), and how much I enjoyed that. Finally, I was surprised by how much I liked decks that I felt hesitant about at first (Balbi, Discordian), and how right I was about thinking I’d enjoy others (Key to the Kingdom cards, Silicon Dawn).

I once used two decks in one week (Discordian, Fantastic Menagerie) because I feared one of them (the Discordian) wouldn’t read well enough for me, but quickly noticed that not only had I erred in my assessment of this deck, I also didn’t have the time to look at two decks in just one little week. I also used one deck for three weeks (Silicon Dawn) because I had been looking forward to exploring it during my holidays and then extended the exploration for the entire duration of my time off work. I don’t plan to repeat this with another deck, but the Silicon Dawn was definitely worth it.

The main “trick” for me with this project was not to allow myself to use a different deck just because I don’t like the one I’ve picked for the week (exceptions were my short interlude with the Story Cubes, going back to the tarot deck of the previous week to fulfill an exchange agreement that I couldn’t do with an oracle, or one reading with an erotic deck for an exchange where only those decks were allowed). I found that I can get along with nearly every deck for a week (the Celtic Wisdom Sticks  were the disastrous exception, closely followed by the mess of the Northern Shadows – but I still stuck with each them until the week was over).

I have decided to let go of four of the decks I’ve used (Waking the Wild Spirit, Quantum, Celtic Wisdom Sticks, Tarot of Northern Shadows). I most regret not clicking at all with the Northern Shadows, but pretty pictures really don’t make up for incredibly sloppy research and egomania. I’m actually really glad that I managed to pick some decks for the trade/sale list since I don’t consider myself a collector for collecting’s sake. My idea still is to have a library of working decks, and I’d rather have a small one of tried and tested ones than an ever-extending one of decks I barely get out in a year. I have also acquired seven new tarots/oracles (most of them from fellow Aeclectic members) since I started the project, three of which I’ve already used.

The most-clicked post (excluding the Pagan Blog Project ones) was Bling the Deviant Moon! and the least-clicked one was Why “Deck of the Week”?. The Deviant Moon is one of the most searched-for decks, closely followed by the Margarete Petersen. Most people come here by way of a Google image search, but I hope that some of them also stay around for some of the text.

So far, the project has been totally worthwhile. It kept me using my decks and it made me explore new ones that I hadn’t used before. A week seems a good time to get at least a basic idea of a deck and its compatibility with me, so I’ll stick to that schedule. Anything less would be stressful, and anything more would make me procrastinate because there’d always be next week… Since I’m easily bored, a good deal of variety is key to sticking with something for an extended period of time. I’ve found a lot of interesting things to do with a tarot (or oracle) deck, and I’m sure I won’t run out of ideas anytime soon.

I also have a question or two for you readers (feel free to answer any or all of them):

  • What kinds of tarot/oracle posts on this blog do you like best? Why? (Excluding the ones for the Pagan Blog Project, because those are a completely different category of writing for me.)
  • How do you feel about the posts from the “reading” category, especially the ones that aren’t also “experiments”? Do you like them? Why (not)?
  • Would you like to see some other kind of tarot or oracle-related posts that I haven’t written so far? (I’m not saying I’ll fulfill any wishes but you may just inspire me!)

Please feel free to add any other comments you’d like to make about this project and my way of blogging about it. I’m very curious! I’d also like to get a better idea of your interests and preferences so I can better judge what of my writing is of public interest and what is better kept behind the scenes. After all, I don’t want to bore you!

And now all I have to say for today is: Good night!

Of men, women, and other freaks: Gender in the Deviant Moon Tarot

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The Deviant Moon has an interesting way of portraying gender, so I decided to take a closer look on that on my last day with this deck.

First I’ve tried to identify the symbols that are used in the Deviant Moon to mark gender in the first place.

As far as bodies are concerned, there are several naked breasts on female figures (e.g. the Star, Five of Pentacles, Temperance, Queen of Wands, Empress, Three of Wands, Lovers, Three of Cups, Eight of Swords the World – who is also the only one with naked breasts that aren’t pointy), and many male ones have beard-like growths from their chins (e.g. Four of Pentacles, Emperor, all four Kings, Devil, Eight of Pentacles, Six of Pentacles, Hierophant, Justice, Ten of Pentacles). Interestingly, flat male chests don’t work as a gender marker for me very well, nor does the absence of beards on female characters (which is probably in tune with the general Western perception of gender: the presence of breasts works as a stronger marker than the absence of them; works the same way with beards). Pronounced muscles are also used to emphasize masculinity (e.g. Two of Swords, Strength), but this remains an exception. Many other body shapes are concealed by clothing enough to be readable as male, female, or androgynous with only a little effort (e.g. Seven of Pentacles, Six of Wands, Nine of Wands, Four of Cups, Four of Swords, High Priestess, Justice – despite the beard). Other bodies are altogether non-human (e.g. Chariot, Knight of Pentacles, Ten of Wands, Ace of Pentacles, Knight of Cups, Knight of Wands, Page of Pentacles) or so abstract that gender seems to be beside the point (e.g. Nine of Pentacles, Nine of Swords).

In terms of clothing, there are more female than male characters with floor-length dresses, cloaks, and gowns, and no figure that is explicitly marked as female wears pants. Then again, many male figures wear bright red lipstick and/or nail polish, and decorative elements of clothing are seen all over the gender spectrum.

Let’s look at a few cards more closely now. (I have linked each card to its scan over at AlbiDeuter, so you can see the cards in more detail.)

First, I’ve chosen a few cards that depict both male and female characters: Lovers, Four of Wands, Three of Cups, and Ten of Cups.

Of those, the Lovers shows the most difference between the characters and relies a lot of traditional gender stereotypes. The woman is leaning most of her weight on the man, and she seems to give herself over to him completely and rather passively. The man bears all the weight and seems physically much stronger. Her eyes are closed in passionate abandon, his are wide open. He also seems more active. This is one of the most boring and disappointing Lovers cards I’ve seen because of the stereotyping. Contrast that card with the Four of Wands, which I find a much more suitable depiction of the Lovers (maybe because the Greenwood Lovers are a bit similar?). A gender difference is still recognizable in this card by way of a pointier chin, harsher and more shadows, and the lack of a hair-like hood on the masculine  face. But the emphasis of the image is on the figures’ hands, which are exactly alike and hand-fasted with ivy. My preference for one card over the other probably tells you what kind of relationship I prefer (not that I’m against swooning in my lover’s arms every now and then, or having him swoon in mine, but as an everyday mode of love, an image of looking eye to eye and having committed to being together works much better for me).

The next card is the Three of Cups, which depicts a mixed-gender scene of celebrating people. That in itself in unusual enough, since most other decks I recall have a one-gender scene for this card. I suppose, one could read the Deviant Moon version as two guys having (subtly sexist) fun with a naked woman because the most obvious marker of gender is once again a pair of naked breasts on one of the figures. To me, however, the scene reads more equal, possibly because the figure with the naked breasts is also the tallest one, and none of the other two actually touch her. In fact, in my mind, this is a wonderful queer family scene of a butch woman (the one in green), a slightly feminine man (the one in red), and a femme woman (the naked one with the bald head). It’s also one of the few cards that depict light and dark-skinned people together (the others are the Lovers, the Tower, Six of Cups, Two of Cups, and Two of Swords) – but that would be another post. Compare that scene with the Ten of Cups, the traditional “happy family” card. I usually cringe at most versions of this card because of the way it idealizes heterosexual partnerships with children as the universal symbol of a happy family. I feel differently about this card, however. We still have a scene of two adults, one male, one female, and two kids, one of them male, and the other ambiguous. Nothing new so far. But wait, there’s more! The man is not the ideal embodiment of perfect masculinity with his wooden leg that ends in a wheel, and a chunk missing from his head. His sword and wounds make me read him as a soldier who has returned home to his family. And that brings me to a much more nuanced reading of “family” in this card. The soldier has come home wounded physically and mentally, and his family (especially his partner) reacts with a gesture of caretaking. To me, that says that most of the weight of dealing with war trauma and other traumatic experiences is relegated to the private realm. I see my own caretaking of my partner and ex-partners in this card (minus the children). I was the one they came home to after being raped, hit, harrassed, riduculed, and discriminated against. They considered me a safe place to let down their guards, usually the only safe place in their lives. I was often asked to keep their pain private and not to talk about it with others, which meant that my own means of getting support for dealing with such second-hand trauma and hurt were severely limited. So this card reminds me both of the strength of a family (biologically related or not) when it comes to dealing with difficult experiences, and of the burden that declaring certain issues people’s “private matter” can place on a family. Altogether, this makes for a very interesting and multi-faceted Ten of Cups. It also serves to let gender fade into the background of the issues dealt with in this card.

I’ve also selected bunch of cards with male-only images: Two of Swords, Emperor, King of Wands, Strength, and King of Pentacles. They show a diverse range of masculinities.

The two most stereotypically masculine cards are the Two of Swords and Strength. Both show men with bald heads and big muscles who are physically fighting each other or a dangerous creature. The King of Pentacles is another big-bodied figure. With the way he spreads off his little finger, however, he comes across a bit more feminine than the other Kings (the red lipstick and nail polish as well as his heeled shoes may contribute to that effect). Then again, fat men are indeed often portrayed as somewhat less manly than slimmer/more muscular men, so this may not be such a great example of a positive portrayal of a different kind of manhood after all. Compared to the Emperor, however, the King of Pentacles looks manly enough indeed. The Deviant Moon’s Emperor sits on his throne in a very unusual pose for a man, let alone for the archetypal father and ruler. He also wears a downright flamboyant outfit (which is only surpassed by the one worn by the King of Cups). To me, he looks like a vain and self-obsessed monarch, not like a symbol for structure, order, and solidity (characteristics I usually associate with the Emperor). But even if I don’t particularly like him (and I usually feel fine about the Emperor), I still count him as an interesting take on maleness. Finally, there’s the King of Wands, one of the few fathers in this deck. Whereas other fathers act as teacher/competitor (Ten of Pentacles) or don’t relate much to their kids at all (Ten of Cups), the King of Wands seems to take on an almost “motherly” role. His kids climb all over him, demanding his attention, while he wanders along his path. He doesn’t seem annoyed by them and seems to have taken on his responsibility for them with almost a shrug. I can’t even say why, but I do like this card. Maybe because it’s a far cry from many other Kings of Wands, who are often shown as warriors or leaders of warriors. It’s a nice change to see a different kind of “leadership” depicted here.

Finally, there are a few interesting all-female cards: Empress, Ace of Wands, Three of Wands, Death, Eight of Wands, Queen of Swords, Wheel of Fortune, Queen of Wands, and Two of Pentacles.

Let’s start with the latter two. They are the most conventionally beautiful women in the entire deck (if we can speak of conventional beauty in the Deviant Moon at all). The Two of Pentacles is a Tribal Style bellydancer holding pentacles instead of finger cymbals. Except for her rather pointy elbows and breasts, there’s nothing particularly “freaky” about her, compared to most other cards in the deck. As a bellydancer myself, I’m rather fond of this image, especially because this woman has “real” hips, and her torso actually has equally realistic folds from the movement. As a positive image of femininity, it works well for me. The Queen of Wands is another card I immediately liked when I first saw it. She is a lot more of a freak than the previous card, and she wears her difference proudly. She reminds me of amazons and the goddess Artemis, and I see her as a great illustration of queer femmeness due to her combination of femininity and freakishness.

Next, there are some stocky, strong women. The Eight of Wands shows a farmer about to take her scythe to a patch of young trees. It’s nice to see a woman working physically for a change. The Queen of Swords is also an impressive woman. She looks much more matronly, but not particularly motherly. The blood on her sword makes her another rather ambiguous figure. Whom did she stab (and maybe kill) with it? Why is she crying? At any rate, this is a woman you don’t want to mess with. Then again, as a Queen of Swords, she’s not particularly interesting, since this card often shows a less-than-desirable and not especially happy woman. The Wheel of Fortune shows a similarly threatening person, who is in charge of said wheel. While I applaud the appearance of some women who aren’t thin and/or young and/or traditionally beautiful/sexy, I also regret that a lack of conventional attractiveness and also some degree of de-feminization is once again used to portray women in power (yawn!).

Finally, there are some “mother” cards to explore in more depth: Empress, Three of Wands, Ace of Wands, and Death.

The Empress is the least motherly of them. She is dressed much simpler than the Emperor, but her pose is similar to his, although she feels a lot less “out there” than he does. She hides a dragon-like back under her cloak, and the tail that grows from there winds up as a flower in her hand. As I said, I don’t see anything motherly about her (since I don’t perceive breasts – of which she has three – as a symbol of motherhood), and she’s also lacking associations with creativity and abundance that many other Empresses embody for me. Instead, this image reads like she has to hide who she really is, as if she has to transform her power into something delicate and non-threatening. Which is an interesting statement about women in positions of power indeed! The Three of Wands seems to feed her three flowers from an umbilical cord entering her pregnant belly (or do they feed her?) She wears a monstrous face on the back of her head, and stands in pensive mood in front of the plants. I see this card as an illustration of having to be patient until something has come into fruition, no matter how loudly the “monster” of impatience (and anger about having to wait and remain inactive) in the back of our heads roars. The physicalness of the scene works well for me, even if I’m quite sure the experience as such isn’t limited to women. The Ace of Wands holds her pea-pod baby in two of her three arms. The other one grasps a thick, burning wand. There are trees and fruit on her head, and butterfly wings stick out from her back. Now this is indeed a “mother” whose creativity is not limited to procreation. I think I would have chosen this image as the Empress. I like it how she isn’t limited to being a mother, but that she also has other passions to follow. And then there’s Death. A pregnant woman with a horse(?) skull for a head tramples on a childlike version of herself who is kneeling on the ground in a begging pose. The Kali-like quality of being both destroyer and creator/mother appeal to me (without the Kali association, I’d probably find the image a racist depiction because there are so few figures with dark skin in the deck that each of them stands out). Despite the grinning skull, she doesn’t seem intentionally cruel to me. Destroying is just part of what she does, no more, no less (the same goes for giving birth). While killing her own child may seem pretty brutal, I see a valuable lesson here – not all our creations are worth staying alive, and we have to have the courage to follow through on that.

With that I end my examination, and my time with the Deviant Moon. I’ve found the multiplicity of genders in it very interesting to examine, and have found some true gems in doing so (and some disappointing, old clichés, too).

As a final “word” on our time together, I drew one last card from the deck:  the Five of Wands.

I’m drawn most to the flower that stands upright on the other hill, not by the fighting scene going on in the foreground. I take that to mean that I need (and learned) to look beyond my first impressions of this deck. It seemed overly negative but I’ve come to discover many of its strengths and much of its beauty.

Revisiting the Deviant Moon’s New Deck Interview

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Since this is my last day with the Deviant Moon Tarot, I thought I’d revisit the New Deck Interview that I did with it initially. I want to see if I understand it better now that I’ve used the Deviant Moon for a couple of days (initially, I couldn’t apply the reading to the deck very well and took it mostly as a reflection of my job situation).

The spread positions and the cards I drew were these.

What do I need to learn from you during this week? – Knight of Swords

Looking back onto the week, I’d say I needed to learn not to stick with my initial averse reaction to the Deviant Moon. I needed to learn not to judge it too quickly and dismiss it as too confining in its tone (I now see the Knight as within the city, not outside of it).

How will you teach me?Knight of Wands

Obviously, I needed to get up close and personal with the deck. See how we fit together, where we could connect. Looking at the card this time, the violet wings stick out and remind me of all the fairy-glitter options I had when I blinged the Hermit card. Strangely enough, that exercise made me understand the Hermit card and the Deviant Moon in general much better. I can now relate much better to its weirdness, and see some of my own experience of feeling like a freak mirrored in its images.

Our future relationship? King of Swords

I think I will keep the Deviant Moon for a bit longer, just like the King here keeps his pet demon, and the pet demon keeps his world. I don’t see it evolving into one of my favorite decks, but I can see myself encountering it again in another “deck of the week” week (assuming I’ll continue with this project for long enough). I mean, how can I not at least like a deck where so many male/masculine figures wear bright red nail polish and lipstick? (Yes, I will use any excuse to indulge in my over-two-decades-old Rocky Horror obsession.)

In fact, the way gender is portrayed in the Deviant Moon would be worth a closer look. Not being immediately annoyed by stereotypical depictions of gender does count for something in my world. I think I shall write another post on that topic now…

Nocturnomath or Airhead?

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Today I drew the Six of Swords again in an exchange reading. Remember? It’s the one with the balloon growing from the person’s head, enabling them to float away in their little aircraft.

As in my previous reading, I had to think of the character of Professor Abdullah Nightingale (in German: Abdullah Nachtigaller) from the novel “The 13.5 Lives of Captain Bluebear” by Walter Moers. He is a seven-brained Nocturnomath (Eydeet) and thus the most intelligent life form of the entire fictional world of Zamonia (Zamonien). He looks like this:

Nocturnomaths are so intelligent they have grown extra brains on the outsides of their skulls. Their thought processes make a clicking sound, and many of them have telepathic and telekinetic abilities (Nightingale, for example, can open a can of sardines just by thinking about it).

In short: We’re talking about extreme intelligence and its consequences. (And about a book you should check out if you like wildly imaginative, humorous fantasy and are ready to read stuff not written by Terry Pratchett.) But let’s get back to the card.

As I was contemplating the card image, playing with words and images in my mind, I also arrived at another concept: that of the airhead, as in “no brain, just air.” Which brings us to the other end of the spectrum, that of a glaring lack of intelligence.

And this is where I leave the playful associations and arrive in a more serious mood. I’m thinking about situations where very high intelligence suddenly (or gradually) turns into something very “stupid”…

There comes a point where a very high IQ actually keeps you from being particularly functional in an average, everyday world. Where communication breaks down or doesn’t even take off in the first place. Where you can’t help feeling like a total freak and alien amongst all these perfectly nice and perfectly normal people.

I mean, think about it.

  • The average IQ is 100.
  • 95% of the population have IQs between 70 and 130.
  • A person with an IQ of below 70 is usually considered intellectually disabled (mentally retarded), whereas someone with an IQ above 130 is considered intellectually gifted (you need an IQ above 132 to be admitted into the high-IQ society Mensa).
  • 2.2% of the population have an IQ above 130 or below 70.
  • Of those, only 0.13% have an IQ above 145 or below 55 (depending on the IQ scale you use – see illustration).

Now imagine living in a world where the vast majority of the people you interact with on a daily basis are intellectually as “far away” from you as someone with an IQ of 100 is from someone with an IQ of 50-60.Then you have an idea how my life often feels to me. (Yes, I’m one of the 0.13%. But please don’t tell my boss. And maybe not even some of my friends.)

Sure, this comparison is hugely oversimplified, and the whole IQ issue is hotly debated anyway. I’m aware of that, and I actually agree with much of the criticism of IQ testing and of the narrowing down of “intelligence” to its intellectual subset. But let’s leave that debate aside for once, okay?

Because every now and again I find it oddly comforting to look at this bell curve, find “my” spot and realize once again that there really is a world of difference between me and, say, my coworkers or my boss. That I’m not just imagining that. That at least some of my problems aren’t due to a flawed character or lacking social skills but due to simply being part of a rather small minority. And that makes it easier to go back to work the next day and deal with the fact that I spend most of my time with that mental “Ferrari” stuck in a traffic jam…

What a chain of associations, huh? But hey, I can totally tie the “mental Ferrari” back to the card image of the Deviant Moon’s Six of Swords! Well, consider this my card meditation for the day…

Bling the Deviant Moon!

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It’s all Laura Borealis’ fault. Look what she’s done to the Thoth.

When I saw that, I couldn’t resist. I don’t think I’ve quite achieved her genius, but I still bring you:

The Hermit. With Bling!

Of course I can also explain the meaning of this card, post-blingification.

See, sometimes there’s just too much love, too much glitter, and one too many dancing kitten. That’s when you want to hide away in a dark, smelly corner, scream a little to yourself, and get out one of your dark tarot decks to do some deep, dark, depressed divination.

And then you realize there’s no escape. The rainbow mirror ball shines into your darkest hiding spot, love creeps up in the most uninviting places where dead fish burp pink hearts at you, and even your own skin betrays you. In short: The dancing kitten always finds you.

Is it any surprise you’re mad?

———

You will understand now why I call this the “light” side of this card. It’s also called the “upright” meaning. Not all readers use light/upright meanings and prefer to stick with the traditional dark interpretations and read all of their cards reversed. But I’m convinced that all cards carry a range of meanings from dark to light, and that we as readers should embrace all of them, from smelly, dead fish to purring kittens, to give our readings more flesh (yes, I know, some of you prefer to stick with the bare bones, but even you need some sinew to hold everything together).

In fact, there are a number of so-called “fluffy bunny” decks out there that are made just for that purpose: to increase awareness of the “light” sides of the cards. I recommend you give one of them a try! (Note: You can always wear sunglasses if all the light becomes too much for you, or run a soundtrack of gothic metal to balance things out a bit.)

Or even better: Blingify your own deck! Vampires and other melancholy creatures can gain so much from a little bit of glitter!