Choosing A Tarot Deck

If you’ve ever wanted to learn tarot, this is where you are start, since you can’t learn to read with out a deck.  A hundred years ago, you were generally given your deck, as they were used as teaching tools in magical lodges and societies, so they had to make sure you got the right one.  There was also only about four decks.  Now there are over 1000 commercially available decks and unless you are taking a course that requires a specific deck (in which case you are probably buying it yourself anyhow) there is no need to worry about getting the “right” deck or that it needs to be a “gift”.

Feeling overwhelmed?  I don’t blame you, but we’ll work on that.

Now you absolutely CAN buy whatever deck you want and–as long as you feel it “speaks” to you–start with that one.  But that can be a very difficult thing, depending on what deck is chosen.

The reality is that most of those lovely books out there about how to read tarot cards are written for the Rider-Waite deck.


If this deck works for you, you’re set. Personally I HATE this deck.  I find that the colours and lines very distracting and that they through me right out of the reading.  If you are like me, don’t despair.  There are plenty of other options out there that have the same card meanings and similar (or identical) imagery.

You can stick to the Rider-Waite clones such as the Radiant Waite pictured, which has


better lines and colours but is the identical deck.  Or you can go for something that is based on the Rider-Waite but is it’s own interpretation, like the Fenestra Tarot.


Have a look at these links to see the various Rider-Waite Clone decks and the Rider-Waite Based decks.  As you will find, there are many options.

Now, all that said, you can also pick a deck from the other direction.  By that, I mean choose a tarot book that makes sense to you and go with the deck the book is based on.  There are a LOT of books out there, so maybe talk to other readers about what they recommend.  My recommendation is 78 Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollock.  It’s written for the Rider-Waite but the subject matter is how to identify and read the symbols found in the cards, which can be applied to most decks out there.


-You can and should pick your own deck, it doesn’t have to be a gift
-You aren’t limited to one type of deck
-You can get a deck first and then a book or the other way around



I don’t mean about speeding or the law of gravity.  I mean metaphysical “laws” that have nothing to prove them as such. At the end of the day, they are nothing more then someone’s belief.
There’s nothing wrong with having beliefs.  But when you couch them as “laws” that smacks of trying to force your version of things onto others.
Principles is a better word as it at least can be of limited scope where laws aren’t.  Laws, by their nature, apply to everyone despite whatever beliefs someone has.  But there is no way to show that a given metaphysical law exists, let along applies to everyone.  People talk about the “law” of Karma as if it’s NOT an intricate Hindu concept tied to the caste system.  Or the “law” of returns.  This one is downright funny because not only does is not universally apply, if people actually paid attention to what it meant it would be a very different thing then it’s presented as. I highly recommend looking in the origins of the “law of returns”.
In the occult world there are many “laws”.  When you encounter them, take a deep breath, read through then decide if they work for you and your path.  If they don’t, move on and never mind whatever thumping others try to do with them.

Tips for Beginners

This list is things I’ve found myself saying and suggesting to beginner’s over the years as well as things that I wish someone had told ME when I was starting out.
1. Figure yourself out. This is the first thing that needs to happen before you try to walk any given path. If you are at all uncertain who you are as a person or what your motivations and wants are, this will directly impact any path you are attempting to follow. I know it’s boring, but take the time to get to know yourself and what you are all about. If you need a starting point, read THIS blog.
2. Ground, Center and Shield! Sharing is NOT caring when it comes to energy thrown around willy-nilly. G/C/S is an absolute must. Not only does it keep you from being over whelmed by the energy of others (public circle can be a NIGHTMARE) it will also prevent YOU from energetically spilling over onto others. If you don’t know how, I have a blog on Grounding, Centering and Shielding as well as other energy work. But for best results, find someone in meat life that can teach you how to at least sense energy. If you can do that, the rest is a matter of practice.
3. Don’t be afraid of labels, but also don’t rush to apply one to yourself/your path. Labels are linguistic shorthand; it’s a way to conveying complex ideas, philosophies and understandings in a word or two. If I say I’m a geneticist, you know I deal with genetics. But If I say I’m a mechanic, that’s something very different. So having a label to describe what you do/believe makes life a lot easier, but it’s okay to NOT have a label. There is nothing wrong with being a “seeker”. Or a “beginner”. Or “undecided”. There are also lots of umbrella terms, like Pagan, so by all means see if that will be useful for you or just muddy the waters more. Also, don’t settle on a label that isn’t what you are but is “close enough”. You’ll end up spending more time explaining how you are different from what the label describes, than if you did without it in the first place.
4. Books are AWESOME. Blogs are AWESOME. Podcasts are AWESOME. Learning, in general, is AWESOME. That said, you’ll have to sift through a lot of crap to find worthwhile information. So have some aspirin and a large grain of salt on hand when trying to learn and understand things. If possible, make friends with people more experienced than yourself. People you can bounce ideas off of. And don’t get offended if they laugh at you. It’s probably to do with the bullshit that is STILL out there after all these years, not you personally. Question everything.
5. Don’t live in fear. You WILL make mistakes and you WILL fall on your face. But those mistakes are part of the learning process and valuable teachers. After all, you will work hard to avoid falling on your face a second time. So suck it up, give it a try, and see what happens. Reading theory is great, but we learn by DOING.
6. A word about Mentors and Teachers. They are all human. As such, they run the gambit same as all humans do. Some are wonderful, some only have a little to add to your studies, and some are predators looking for easy prey. Keep your wits about you and make sure you look after yourself and you needs. If something seems off, question it and if needed, remove that person from your life.
7. Don’t fear change. Remember point 1? Well guess what, you’ll be figuring yourself all your life and you WILL change. This is completely normal, as its how we grow. So if you find that your ideas are different from they were a year ago, it’s okay. Enjoy the process and always keep searching.
8. Whatever your path is, don’t put yourself into the poor house to follow it; don’t feel you have to buy all the pretty shinnies, or those sweet tools in the Esty shops. Instead, accumulate things as you go and work with what you have. Some of the best lessons I’ve experienced amounted to my teacher taking me to a spot and telling me to make a spell with only what I could see/hold.
9. You CAN be an Atheist and a Witch. Or a Christian and a Witch. Or a Buddhist and a Witch. The list goes on and on. Witchcraft is a CRAFT, a skill set. Like being a carpenter or a dentist. You learn and you apply. Now if you want it to be part of your beliefs/spirituality/path that’s entirely up to you. The only one who gets a say is whatever entities you work with, not other humans. If the entities you work with (this COULD be gods, but it doesn’t have to be) are good with your practice, then carry on with your bad self and don’t stress what others think. Of course, if the entities you work with are telling you that something DOESN’T work, listen and see what can be done.
10. All these lists are bunk. They are nothing more than someone’s personal ideas based on their own experience. they are NEVER hard and fast rules for how things should be. Including this list.

Do Your Thing — whatever it is and wherever you are

Note: I use generic “you” in this post.  It’s not directed at anyone specifically.

This one isn’t in any way limit to witchcraft or paganism or anything in particular.  But since what got me thing about eh subject was a witchcraft meme, that’s the perspective I’m coming from.

The broom closet is one of those terms I LOATH.  I hate the false dichotomy of being In or Out.  There is no middle ground and absolutely no room for discretion in a given situation.

When I’ve tried to talk about discretion and its role in daily life and interactions, I’ve been accused of hiding in plain sight.  I say “accused” because to me, it sound like the person is saying I’m intentionally engaging in deception.

I don’t hide.  But I also don’t advertise.

Unless you see me at a relevant setting, or I tell you outright, you’ll probably have no idea I’m a witch.  Or that I have a tattoo.  Or that I have a horse (the cat hair on my clothes is kind of a give away about my fuzzy buggers).  You won’t know about my collection of edged weapons or that I’m martial arts trained.  You’ll have no idea that I’m evil slash fanficcer or that I roleplay D&D with friends on Saturday nights.

You will see the girl next door.  You will hear my sometimes off colour jokes.  You will see me laugh or rage about the drivers in the city.  We might get into a discussion about politics or accessibility issues, since I work in a group home and it’s what I do.  Hell, I have had LOUD discussions about bikini waxing and it proving that women are tougher than men while riding public transit, in cause you were under the impression that I’m reserved.

But unless you know what you are looking for, you’ll never notice me casting that parking spell as we try to make our reservation at the restaurant.  You won’t notice me putting up shields or warding when in a sketchy area.  You won’t notice that I’m blunting your raw feelings over the loss of your pet as we talk.  And you certainly won’t know when I curse your ass because you dun fucked up and tried to hurt someone I care about.

I’m not hiding.  I’m being me.  That you can’t recognize what I’m doing is on you and you alone.  I will carry on being me.

If You Have To Tell Me You Are, You Probably Aren’t

The title is a saying I got from my mother.  I don’t remember when she first said it, but it would always come out when young me was upset at someone’s claim that they were better at something then I was.

As I got older, I realized how well this saying applies to many things and how it’s tied to critical thinking (something mom prized).  It’s a means of really looking at claims and evaluating them.  More importantly, it’s about looking at the claimant and see if their conduct confirms the claim or belies it.

Now that I’ve been on discussion forums and social media for a couple of decades, I’m finding that I use this saying regularly.  And watching folks reactions is very telling.

Never just take someone’s word for something and don’t allow yourself to be browbeaten for questioning a claim.

Who Is A Witch?

If you look online, you’ll find all kinds of memes, articles and web pages telling you what witches are and if you have X, Y, Z qualities you are a witch.

I’m here to dispel these many myths.

There is only one thing that makes someone a witch, and that’s the practice of witchcraft.  What’s that you say? You don’t practice witchcraft?  Then you aren’t a witch.

It’s the same as someone reading about metal work but never working in a forge or handling a welding torch.

It doesn’t matter that you are psychic.  Or feel close to nature.  Or that you have a black cat that follows you everywhere. None of these things are witchcraft so they don’t make a you a witch.

That being the case, what IS witchcraft?  Well, at the most basic, it’s the manipulation of energy–usually via folks magic methods–to bring about change.  So that poppet to help your cousin heal that pulled muscle is witchcraft.  As is stirring health into the soup you are making.  And that spell jar to bind your asshole coworker is definitely witchcraft.

What’s not witchcraft is sitting around, thinking good thoughts as you “align yourself with the universe”. Or meditating to raise your vibrations. Or thinking yourself “enlightened”. Or asking some god or goddess to intercede in your behalf (this last one is called Begcraft).

The moral of the story: if you want to be a witch, you have to put down the books, get off the computer and DO.

Back To Basics: Altars

Question: Do I need an altar?

Answer: You tell me.  I have no idea what you’re practice is or what you are wanting to accomplish.  So I can’t tell you if it’s NEEDED.  Or just wanted.  So sit down and look at WHY you think you “need” an altar and see if you really do.  If you just WANT one, that’s fine too and you go right ahead.

Side Note: The point of an altar is generally a work space.  Doesn’t matter if it’s for spells, seasonal rituals or your ancestors.  It’s a dedicated space for something specific to happen.  That’s what an altar is.


Question: This book shows how to set up an altar but I dont’ have space for that!  What do I do?

Answer: Get creative.  And really pay attention to what you need for your altar to accomplish whatever it is you have in mind.  Books are very useful in giving examples, but they are ONLY examples.  For now, sit down and look at the basics:
What is it going to be used for? (if you are part of a tradition, talk to the group leader about what is expected and what you have to work with)
How much space do you have?
Will you need to do anything to make your space useable and how much will that cost?
What do you really need on it to do what you have in mind?
Do you have storage space you can purpose for the keeping of altar materials not in use?

Side Note: When I was a teenager, I had a full size altar set up in my room.  Not hard to do when a large bedroom only has a single bed.
But when I moved to my apartment, I had a queen sized bed and very little space.  So my altar was a little 14″ x 20″ 1970s tv stand on casters with little cupboard underneath.  It could be wheeled in an out of my closet when I needed to use it.
Then I moved into a shared accomodation with a friend as we both wanted to cut costs and save money, I only my bedroom.  Since I was older with bad knees, I couldn’t get up and down to my little altar or move it about easily.  But I had enough space for one of those tall, narrow stereo stands with a drawer at the bottom.  It fit in the corner of my room and I could do my thing standing.
Now I have my own place and the second bedroom is my altar room.  I have my working altar (spell work) my seasonal altar (religious celebrations) and my ancestor altar for my family.
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and do what works for you and your sirtuation.