Tag Archives: New Age

Demystifying the Deck: An Introduction to Tarot

by Princess Draupadi

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Tarot cards are among the most misunderstood things on this planet. Often, people don’t know how to perceive or react to the practice of tarot reading.

Common misconceptions about the use of tarot is that it’s Satanic, irreligious, occult, evil, a black magic thing, witchcraft, requires the help of supernatural beings and so forth. I blame the media for this ridiculous sensationalization of a fairly innocent practice, the whole gypsy-crystal-ball-creepy-readings-by-candlelight nonsense.

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What Are Tarot Cards?

They’re just cards. Regular cards.

In modern times, tarot readers generally use these cards for divination purposes. For example, if a tarot reader has a client that requests a reading to know what the year 2018 has in store for her, the tarot reader will lay out a number of cards, usually in the arrangement of one of the many commonly-used tarot spreads, such as the Celtic Cross. Then, the tarot reader will interpret the meanings of the cards as advice and guidance to the client regarding the year in question. At the risk of over-simplification, this is the basic idea on how tarot cartomancy works.

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The pronunciation of ‘tarot’ rhymes with ‘sparrow’ – the last ‘t’ is silent. There are endless variations of tarot decks available today. In general, each deck is divided into the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana, and is made up of 78 individual cards. Oracle cards are similar to tarot cards, but they’re not quite the same thing as a tarot deck is more structured.

In medieval Europe, tarot decks were initially used as playing cards. Later, people began using these cards for divinatory purposes. Read more on the origins of tarot here.

How Tarot Cards are Used

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Tarot cards can be read in various ways. No two tarot readers will interpret cards the same way, not even if they’re using the exact same deck, but it doesn’t mean one person is right and the other is wrong. There’s no ‘wrong’ way to use a tarot deck for readings. The way these cards are interpreted depends solely on how the tarot reader receives signals from the universe and interprets the messages to the recipient.

One way to use tarot decks is to memorize the traditionally-accepted meanings of each card, then decipher them according to the way they show up in a reading (in relation to the question asked, the type of tarot spread used, whether the card is upside down, etc.). The cards can also be used in combination with crystals, astrological guidance and more.

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As a tarot reader, my interpretation of the cards is largely based on intuition and instinct.

Are Tarot Cards Evil?

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As with every practice in this world, what makes something ‘good’ or ‘bad’ boils down very simply to intention. A doctor is ‘good’ if he (or she) treats patients with the genuine intention to help, and is ‘bad’ if he purposely misdiagnoses someone to make more money from consultation fees or treatment.

A pack of cards is essentially just that: a pack of cards. Pieces of cut and laminated cardboard, nothing more. If one’s intention is to use the cards for a negative purpose, then the deck will take on the energy of that practitioner and work accordingly. Ditto for the opposite; when a tarot reader’s intentions are positive, the cards will channel that energy and reveal answers based on those good vibrations.

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Hence why the initial consecration ritual (also known as energizing, clearing, cleansing or blessing rite) of a new tarot deck is important – it removes unwanted energy or vibrations, as well as bonds the tarot reader’s energies directly to the deck.

There are many ways to consecrate a new tarot deck. Usual methods involve smudging with sage, using incense, moonlight baths, sprinkling with sea salt and so on, depending on what the tarot reader’s spiritual values are.

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Once consecrated, a tarot deck becomes highly sensitized to universal energies as well as the energies of the tarot reader. Think of tarot cards as a tool of communication and interpretation of universal energies to us, the human beings.

The cards decipher intangible energies into messages that can be interpreted by human reasoning. When you go for a tarot reading and ask questions (or request general guidance), the cards will reveal answers to you based on the energy of your ‘seeking’ at the time of the reading.

Tarot = New Age Bullshit?

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I can almost imagine the cynical smirks of die-hard science advocates at this point. Yes, I’ve heard it all. Utter nonsense. Unscientific pagan garbage. Baseless New Age fluff. You guys are probably on the wrong website.

I suppose it’s easy to dismiss something one doesn’t fully understand. To these people, I have this to say, respectfully:

Science is a wide-eyed baby in comparison to the timeless, ageless energies of the universe. It clumsily attempts to make sense of concepts too vast for the limited human mind to fully comprehend. I love science and I’m grateful for the knowledge it has brought me, but sometimes the egoism of humanity, the chest-thumping of the labcoat-clad at having ‘discovered’ something which was always there to begin with really gets to me. Just because science cannot explain something, it doesn’t make that thing ‘invalid’. It just means science has failed to understand that particular facet of creation and decrypt that wisdom down to the layman.

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I’m in no way dismissing the importance of science nor its contribution and role in current times. However, I refuse to disregard the ancient wisdom that speaks to my innermost self and millions of other kindred spirits on this planet, simply because science has failed to explain the many mysteries of the universe. And I say this as a person with a fairly strong tertiary educational background rooted in science.

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The universal energies have always been present in trillions of different forms such as insects, animals, thunder, lightning, trees, nature or the physical vessels of human beings. Changing forms, indestructible, completing karmic cycles, from Samsara to Arianrhod’s Silver Wheel. All people of significant ancient cultures, from Celts to Native Americans, had in their possession various versions of this knowledge, which is what I consider the highest form of truth.

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These energies existed long before science barged onto the stage, slapping labels on everything in sight and dismissing anything it couldn’t explain as baseless. Long story made short, you keep your science, and I’ll keep my universal connections. To each his own.

Now, onward.

My Experience with Tarot Cards

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I first learned how to use these cards about 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve tried my hand at various types, including the infamous Thoth deck. My early years of experimentation gave me a feel of the whole practice of tarot, including what decks and spreads worked best with my energy and what didn’t.

I found that I have a strong inclination towards pagan and pre-Celtic styled decks (which are not always based on the standard tarot deck design template), as well as fantasy-themed and earth-energy oracle cards.

Getting Started with Tarot

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Getting a Tarot Reading Done for Yourself

If you’d like to experience a tarot reading, all you have to do is contact a tarot reader and make an appointment. Be sure to ask questions on what the style of reading is like, and anything you may have doubts about before you go for your first session.

Also, remember to go to a reading with an open mind. This will ensure that your ‘questions’ are energetically focused so the cards can reflect the right answers back to you. If the tarot reader mentions something that sounds negative to you during the reading, you may always ask for suggestions on how to improve or rectify the issue. Your tarot reader may do another spread to help you with this.

Becoming a Tarot Reader

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If you’d like to become a tarot reader, there are plenty of resources online for you to do some self-study to get started. It will also help tremendously if you purchase a tarot deck (such as Rider-Waite-Smith) while you’re still in the learning stages. That way, you can familiarize yourself with the cards as you go along, as well as try out the various types of tarot spreads. Once you’re more confident and have developed a good level of comfort using the cards, you can have your deck consecrated (blessed, cleansed or energized).

After that, it’s just a matter of starting. Do readings for yourself, friends or family members. Feel free to use incense, candles, lanterns, fancy tablecloths or natural crystals for your readings if you wish – these aids can help you relax and focus better.

Last but not least, remember not to stress yourself out. Don’t worry about whether you’re making mistakes or doing something wrong. Trust your intuition. Don’t rush. In time, you’ll find that readings become easier and the energies flow effortlessly.

It’s a good idea to maintain a logbook of your readings as personal records. This will enable you to see how accurate your tarot interpretations were, and if you could learn or improve something based on feedback from your clients.

See Also:

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Part 1: Everything You Need To Know About Rudraksha

by Jana Thevar

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Most people of Indian ethnicity are familiar with Rudraksha beads (or seeds), especially those with a strong inclination towards spirituality. However, there is much confusion about how or when to use Rudraksha, what type to buy and so forth. What color Rudraksha beads are best? Where does one obtain genuine Rudraksha beads? What are the benefits of wearing Rudraksha? Are there negative consequences if Rudraksha beads are used wrongly? Is information about Rudraksha mentioned in any particular Upanishad?

My Personal Experience

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Gardening at Madurai Meenakshi Ashram, India (January 2017). These are Rudraksha beads I purchased at the Chinmaya Mission, Rishikesh.

I’d always wanted to use Rudraksha, but like most others I didn’t have enough information on the benefits or how to use them. I didn’t know if I could wear them ‘wrongly’ and incur the wrath of Shiva or some other deity. I didn’t know if women could wear them through menstrual cycles. I didn’t know if they could be worn to funerals, auspicious ceremonies or during sex. In short, I didn’t know anything about Rudraksha.

So me being me, what did I do? I embarked on a very serious, self-inflicted spiritual search to learn everything I could about Rudraksha. To make a long story short, I dug into Vedic scriptures, spoke to my gurus and went in search of a real-life Rudraksha tree.

Courtesy of my sister, we found a fully-grown Rudraksha tree, right here in Malaysia (I’ve been since told that there are more, though hidden in rural areas). I’ll never forget the sight; it was majestic and exuded a wonderful, calming energy, not dissimilar to that of a stone Shivalinga. I was ecstatic and moved at the same time, as I considered it a special blessing from Shiva for me to have had such a profound experience smack in the midst of Kali Yuga. I harvested my own Rudraksha beads from the bright blue fruits, peeled and scrubbed away the pulp, then dried them. Among the last few steps were soaking the seeds in milk and oiling them for preservation. I gave five to Agastya, my best yoga student, and kept the remaining ones for myself.

Here, I’ll share what I’ve learned about the spiritual vibrations and uses of Rudraksha, based on the Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad. May you gain the full spiritual benefits of wearing these sacred beads, and the blessing of Lord Kalagni Rudra himself. Har har Mahadev!

Note: For the second part of this article, please see Part 2: The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad.

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The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad

There are varying pieces of information about the so-called ‘right’ way to choose and wear Rudraksha, and a string of supposed disasters than can happen by wearing the beads ‘wrongly’. The way I look at it, why get misled by the claims of mere mortals when the words of Shiva Himself are available for all to study? The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad is there for all to read and make their own decisions, based on Shiva’s clear and direct instructions.

This Upanishad was originally written in Sanskrit and is part of the Sama Veda. It makes up one of the 108 Upanishadic scriptures and is in the form of a profound conversation between Lord Shiva (referred to as Lord Kalagni Rudra in this scripture) and the revered sage Sanatkumara (sage Bhusunda).

The Upanishad begins with an invocation to Brahman, the Supreme Reality for the well-being of the physical body, the prana (life force), and speech. It concludes beautifully with a prayer of peace. The sage Sanatkumara (Bhusunda) asks Lord Kalagni Rudra various questions about Rudraksha beads, including their origins, spiritual properties, how to wear them and the benefits of wearing them.

If you have genuine interest in the spiritual benefits of wearing Rudraksha, I highly recommend that you study this Upanishad. I’m a firm believer that spiritual guidance or knowledge should always come from legitimate sources, which equates to:

  • (a) the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master, and;
  • (b) teachings contained within the vast array of Vedic scriptures, plus
  • (c) some basic common sense to assimilate the knowledge received (in other words, you are your own teacher).

I have included the full English translation of the Upanishad here. This is a version I have edited only for language clarity. For the original version in the Sanskrit Devanagari script, please refer to this Upanishad within the Sama Veda.

Summary: Benefits of Rudraksha Beads and How to Wear Them

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Once again, I strongly recommend that you read the Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad for your own spiritual benefit. It’s surprisingly concise as far as Vedic scriptures go and you should be able to complete it within 10 to 15 minutes.

However, if you’re pressed for time, here’s a summary on the important parts:

  • The five-faced Rudraksha (panchmukhi) may be worn by everyone for overall spiritual well-being. In the Upanishad, Lord Kalagni Rudra describes the benefits of the one-faced to the fourteen-faced type of beads in great detail. However, the five-faced beads have general positive vibrations which will suit all users. Lord Kalagni Rudra says, “The five-faced Rudraksha represents Panchabrahman, the five-faced form of Shiva (Sadyojata to Isana). The wearer of this bead attains the grace of Panchabrahman and relieves himself of the sin of homicide.”shiva
  • You can choose the type of benefits you want according to the number of faces on the beads. For instance, the wearer of a three-faced Rudraksha obtains the blessings of Agni for the three types of sacred fires.
  • Seeing, handling and uttering the word ‘Rudraksha’ results in amazing spiritual benefits and blessings. Read the Upanishad for full details.
  • The recommended colors for Rudraksha beads are white, yellow, red and black. I find that the red and black are the most common. Do note that fresh Rudraksha seeds will darken considerably after drying, and this is normal. For instance, red seeds will darken to a deep brown. Also, be wary of ‘painted’ or dyed seeds. The best beads are those that are not treated with chemicals, heat or paints.
  • Always choose beads that are well-shaped and undamaged. Broken, cracked, misshapen seeds or those damaged by worms cannot be used.
  • The best type (quality) of Rudraksha beads have a natural hole. According to the Upanishad, a bead which has a man-made hole is secondary in quality, so wear the best type you can realistically obtain.
  • Rudraksha beads are best strung on white silk or cotton thread. Some gurus have also said that gold and silver wire are okay to use, and generally these metals are good conductors of spiritual vibrations. However, I believe that with this particular piece of advice, Lord Kalagni Rudra is teaching us that simplicity and humility is all you need to gain even the highest spiritual benefits.thread-848501_640
  • There is no ‘incorrect’ way to use Rudraksha. There are no ill-effects of wearing any type of Rudraksha. Nowhere in the Upanishad does Lord Kalagni Rudra mention any negative consequences of wearing Rudraksha. Rather, the Upanishad focuses on the various types of positive effects exuded by the beads; it provides enough information for one to personally decide on the type he or she needs most.
  • No restrictions are mentioned for the use of Rudraksha during menstruation. A woman’s bodily energy field changes during the menstruation cycle. The effects vary from person to person, so women are recommended to make their own decisions based on their individual bodily energy during menstruation. I personally find that Rudraksha has a calming, grounding effect on me during my periods.
  • Wearers of Rudraksha are recommended to be vegetarian. There is no mention of any ill-effects of wearing Rudraksha as a non-vegetarian. However, bearing in mind the cyclical flow of Rudraksha’s energy in the form of a mala (rosary), it is best to refrain from non-vegetarian food as much as possible. Rudraksha amplifies one’s own bodily energy and vibrations, and as the consumption of meat is highly tamasic, it would be wise to reduce the consumption of non-vegetarian food and eventually cease it altogether.

Part 2: The Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad (Full Text)

Part 3: How To Know If Your Rudraksha Beads Are Genuine