Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Book Review: "The Fortune Teller" by Gwendolyn Womack

Merry meet one and all and welcome to another book review!

This book really piqued my interest because the plot centres around a tarot deck and manages to weave through different timelines without feeling confusing and overwhelming.

Our main character is Semele Cavnow, an antiquities appraiser for a very high-end New York auction house who is sent to appraise an extensive library of rare documents and manuscripts and comes across a manuscript written in ancient Greek which, as she translates it, turns out to be a prophecy arcing through history from the time of Cleopatra to Semele's own life.

This is classed as a romantic thriller, but I would say this is a love letter to libraries lost throughout time.  In the memoirs we learn a very plausible origin story for tarot, one which feels like it could be close to the truth, and this book is written in such a way that I want to believe this to be a genuine prophecy.  As we progress through the book we get to see the timelines interweave through the novel, each chapter of Ionna's memoir carefully translated for us by Semele as this book progresses.  The prophecy is tied to a mysterious deck of cards, and we track their path through history until we get to a wonderful scene in Milan where we see the magickal 22 cards of antiquity being reinterpreted by an artist and given, along with a 56 card playing deck, to the mistress of Duke Filippo Maria Visconti, and the Visconti tarot deck is born.  Did it happen this way?  We will never know but it is completely plausible; the Visconti deck is an intricate work of art made from the finest materials and now housed in just a small handful of museums and private collections, but they must have come from somewhere, been created by someone.

This is what I loved about this book, its plausibility.  Yes it's a work of fiction, but one with a lot of research behind it.  There is a romance element, not just in the lives of the holders of the cards throughout time, but in the present and Semele's life, but at no point does it feel like it dominates the narrative at the expense of the plot.  It is also worth pointing out that you do not need an understanding of the tarot to be able to enjoy this book, as the card meanings aren't relevant although they do make good chapter headings as the characters travel from ignorance of what is ahead to better understanding of the big picture and things coming to a conclusion, which is exactly the journey taken over the 22 cards of the major arcana.

"The Fortune Teller" by Gwendoline Womack is published by Picador and is out now in America and available for pre-order in the UK in paperback or Kindle formats.

Until next time everyone,

Blessed be )0(

P.S. If you missed our interview with Gwen for our show Tarot Insider you can check it out on our YouTube channel - don't forget to like us and subscribe for more videos!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Book Review: "The Spiritual Runes" by Harmonia Saille

Merry meet again everyone.  Today I have a new book for you to consider adding to your library, "The Spiritual Runes: A Guide to the Ancestral Wisdom" by Harmonia Saille.

I've been fascinated by the runes since I was a kid, and I blame my Dad for reading us Tolkien for bedtime stories.  However my aunt had a set of runes which came as a set with an instruction book, and which (as far as I know) sat on her shelf and never got used.  Once or twice I got brave and asked if I could look at them, and though I recognised their magick they intimidated me in a way that tarot didn't.  I went so far as to make my own set a few years back, but no matter how many times I tried to learn the meanings and add them to my repertoire, it just never stuck.  Which brings me to this book.

The first thing is it is beautifully written.  Harmonia Saille clearly knows her subject and is able to explain everything in such a way that it is easy to understand yet left me feeling a sense of the power and potential of runes to help us understand our path.

As someone who has always been drawn more to Romano-British mythology than Norse, I found her information on the different runic systems and the mythological understanding upon which the runes are built valuable as it grounded the runes into a reality I could understand.

In terms of content, her book focuses on the Elder Futhark and covers the history and mythology of the runes, offers really good visualisation exercises to help you connect with your intuition and the runes, and also looks at the cosmology and psychology, explaining how Jungian theory such as archetypes, synchronicity and The Self relate to using runes.

Chapter 4 is all about the meanings.  She breaks the runes down into their aett and goes through them individually.  Each rune is pictured, then its name, translated meaning and element are listed.  Next she gives us the appropriate stanza from the Old English Rune Poem and what this means for that rune.  She then details the meaning for a reading, and gives keywords, counsel and suggests an appropriate colour association.  Again everything is taught in an easy way that makes total sense and allowed me to understand the social and spiritual meaning in a way that I've never been able to before.  I think this is the most important aspect: learning each rune cold only teaches you what each symbol means, but Harmonia's technique takes that theoretical knowledge and grounds it in reality, giving it a heart and a warmth that demonstrates how the runes aren't separate entities but are a part of our social and practical life.

I really like this book as a fantastic lesson on runes.  It is very well written and doesn't drown you in mythology but gives you exactly what you need to understand how to really appreciate and use runes as a tool.  The exercises are very powerful without being overly complicated, and I'm really looking forward to finally connecting with my runes until I am confident enough to try some of the rune magick at the end of the book.

"The Spiritual Runes: A Guide to the Ancestral Wisdom" by Harmonia Saille is published by O Books and is available now.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Deck Review - The Wildwood Tarot

The Wildwood Tarot is a beautiful deck that is quite different to any other tarot deck I've come across.  Though there are parallels with a traditional tarot deck, it is based on the ancient archetypes of the English wildwood in pre-Celtic mythology; however there are many cultural commonalities with other indigenous systems.  If folklore is your thing, this may well be the deck you've been looking for.

Structurally there are still 78 cards with 22 major arcana cards, but their names, and therefore their meanings, have changed to reflect the theme. As an example card three, instead of being the Empress, is the Green Woman.  She is still depicted as being pregnant, but she represents the fertility of nature and the connection the querent has with the spirits of the land upon which they live as much as she represents potentiality.  Looking at card 15, which would normally be the Devil, we have the Guardian, challenging us to face our fears and really look at ourselves honestly as we journey through the dark to self discovery.

The minor arcana are in the equivalent suits of arrows, bows, stones and vessels.  Each court card is represented by an animal, for example the king of bows is the adder, the queen of bows is the hare, while the rest of the minors have key words on them that are reflected in the artwork

Looking at the physical deck, the cards are 3" x 4.75" so a bit wider than many traditional decks, and as such may prove a little harder to shuffle for some people.  The cardstock is actually a little thicker than many decks, which gives them great durability but again may add to the trickiness of shuffling them.  They are not heavily laminated.  The artwork is beautiful, and they have a plain white border, so maybe you could trim the width if you wanted to, though the card number and character is written in the bottom border.  The card backs are plain in a deep forest green with narrow white border and so do not reveal if the card is upright or reversed.

In place of a LWB it comes with a lovely 160-page paperback guide book explaining all the cards in depth, including the character's cultural and spiritual significance, and a section on how best to work with these intriguing cards and a selection of spreads designed specifically for this deck.  The introduction is really informative and gives you a great framework upon which to build your knowledge and understanding of the cards.  Mark Ryan looks at such subjects as archetypes and gender, and how science is helping us to understand our place in the world from an evolutionary perspective, and explains how the Wheel of the Year influences not just the deck but also ourselves as living creatures.

This is a great tarot deck to have in your collection as it really focuses on your psyche and your spiritual journey; I find it is wasted on readings of a more mundane nature because they ask you to look inwards rather than outwards.  Yes, that is where tarot really excels, but not all clients realise this and sometimes we just need to ask the everyday questions without wanting a deep psychological analysis.  While this may not be a deck you use all the time, it is certainly a beautiful and incredibly powerful tool to have both in your collection and in your arsenal as you work on your self and shadow-self.

The Wildwood Tarot is by Mark Ryan and John Matthews, with artwork by Will Worthington, and is published by Connections Book Publishing Ltd.