Updated: May 24, 2020
1. David asked: “What is the difference between Tarot and Oracle Working?”
Steve replied: “It’s something really, that for me, a Tarot Deck is something quite specific, not necessarily the number of cards, but in the structure of it. The standard format with Tarot is that it has 78 cards, but it’s not the number of cards that’s important, it’s more the way that the Tarot deck is constructed.
Although historically very different, nowadays, the Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, going from The Fool, who has either no number, or numbered zero, and then The Magician as One, and High Priestess as Two, and so on, through to The World card as Twenty-one. Then you have the four ‘suits’, which go under different names, but Pentacles, Cups, Swords and Wands are the most common, which are really based on the four elements.
For me, one of the big things that sets Tarot apart from Oracle decks is that that structure aligns itself with the structure of the human being! We are each made up of those four elements, every human being is part of those four elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water, which is what the four suits are based on. Pentacles relates to earth, so our physical bodies. Cups relates to Water, so our feelings and emotional level. Swords, I relate to the element of Air, which relates of our mental level, our thought processes, what’s going on in our heads. Wands or Fire, is our spiritual, our inspirational, creative, motivational level, the fire inside of us. When we add those together, we get the complete human being, and that’s what the Major Arcana represents.
So when we are working with Tarot in that light, what we are working with, is basically a human being. We are working with our selves or our client, if we are reading for someone else. So it’s that structure that sets it apart from an Oracle Deck. An Oracle Deck works with whatever its theme may be. One of the things that can work really well, is combining the two types of decks. For me, the Tarot will always be central to the way that I work, but an Oracle deck, depending on what it might be (and there are thousands of different decks out there, as there is Tarot these days), one of the things that can work well, is the combination.
So there may be, say, a particular card that stands out as a key card in a Tarot reading, or whatever it is that you are carrying out at the time, and so you might like to select a card, or more than one from whatever Oracle deck, to give a greater dimension if you like, a greater depth, or to look further into issues, the energies that that particular Tarot Card is expressing for you, so they can work in combination.
I did read something very interesting a while ago. It was from another Tarot creator actually, she said that for her, she had always preferred Oracle decks, because they are feminine, whereas with the Tarot, it’s more masculine. That is an interesting view point, in some ways I agree, in some ways I don’t, because obviously one of the main creators of the most popular Tarot deck in the world, properly known as the Rider Waite, but better known as the Rider Waite Smith Deck, was Pamela Coleman Smith, who was the Artist for it, and had a lot more to do with it, than a lot of people realize. But that’s an interesting perspective anyway.”
2. Bob asked: “What are your thoughts on using second hand decks?”
Steve replied: “There is an old gypsy tradition with Tarot, which says you should never buy your own deck. Personally, I’ve bought loads of them! I do have lots of second hand decks, alongside with lots of new ones too, in fact, over 200 Tarot Decks, so I personally have no problem in using second hand decks.
That said, I’m very much into this idea that, when we are working with the Tarot, we are working with something quite sacred, because as I’ve always said, the Tarot reflects us, it reflects the human being, so my feeling is that we could, or should, have that regard for the Tarot when working with it, and treat it as a Sacred object, much as I hope you all treat yourselves.
In the light of that, if you do gain a second hand deck, it can be good to cleanse it, and there are lots of different ways to do that prior starting to use it. You can smudge it, in some incense, perhaps for Druids, it can be purified by fire in that way, you could sprinkle a little tiny bit of water on it, by just flicking with your hands, in the same way cleanse it by water as well, and air, by breathing on it, perhaps just wafting the deck through some Sage. You can leave it out inside, overnight during the period of a Full Moon, 5 nights of that in all (2 days and nights before the Full Moon, and 2 days after).
You can ‘wash’ your decks as well! Not by popping them into the washing machine, or with soap and water, but merely by taking and spreading the deck over a surface and running your hands over the cards, moving them randomly about. This is a good practice to do every now and then, simply to shift any stale energies.
These are a few purification ideas to carry out if you do happen to get a second hand deck, and you can hold it in your hands and simply ask for it to be cleansed, and blessed to whatever gods, goddesses you may work with or deities, and you may well see a shift or a difference there. So second hand decks? Yes, bring them on!”
3. Bob also asked: “What are your thoughts on reverse cards?”
Steve’s replied: “Personally, I don’t do reverse cards. A reverse card is which way up the card is facing when you draw it out in a reading. The general idea with reverse cards is that if it’s reversed, i.e. upside down, then it is supposed to bring out the more negative side of the card, if it’s the right way round, it’s the positive side. But for me, the Tarot itself is neutral, as much as a human being is neutral, much like magic, if you are working with the ‘power’ or the ‘force’, it’s what we do with it that matters, in other words, the focus is then on our ‘response’ to that card!
So for me, which way it’s facing doesn’t matter so much as what it’s representing, and in my experience, life is never wholly good or bad, positive or negative, there’s usually a bit of each, it can always be found if you look hard enough. So I just have the cards facing up the same way, and often when I’m interacting with a client, (because it’s not about me talking at a client, ever), it’s that interaction that we can have, that can show how they are responding, what aspect of the card is speaking to them most strongly and so on. And so we can work with different techniques the card might suggest to show how better they can respond to it and help themselves, to improve their outcome. For me I don’t work with reverse cards, because the Tarot itself is neutral, and it’s about our response to it.”
4. Heliette asked: “What inspired you to create your own Tarot Deck?”
Steve replied: “Love of Tarot is what inspired me to create my own deck. I’ve worked with Tarot since my teens, for almost 40 years now. The longer I worked with Tarot, the more I wanted to create my own deck, feeling like I maybe had something to offer.
I got to a point with Tarot where everybody can, we can get so deeply into it, and learn more about it, that eventually, it becomes so personal, that we almost need to create our own deck in Tarot, or at least put our own spin on it. So I’ve created 2 decks. The first one was a long time in the making, and that’s my Tarot Therapy deck, and you can see a few sample cards on our website https://www.tarottherapy.co.uk.
The longer I was into Tarot, the more I got into this idea that, the Tarot cards don’t mean anything, and I don’t like this idea of ‘they mean this’, ‘they mean that’. They just are. They are expressions of energy, and it’s about how we interpret and respond to that energy, not in a limited and defined way. So what I was trying to do was to get at the idea of ‘well, how can I show that idea of just the pure energy of a deck, or the cards?’ And that eventually became the Tarot Therapy Deck. This deck is very different, it’s very much a ‘marmite deck’ - you either love it or you hate it! It is simply, images taken from nature. There is no symbolism, no people, just the image, because that, for me, is the pure energy of Tarot, and we are very much a part of the natural world, again, through those 4 elements I previously spoke about, and that went through years of inner preparation, thinking and ideas, back when I was going through the Ovate grade of studying Druidry, back in the 1990’s.
Whilst making notes about the ideas formulating for my first Tarot deck, my rather brilliant Ovate mentor, a lady in Australia, encouraged me to go for it, even when I had expressed my worry that a deck this controversial may lead to mixed responses, she told me to ‘dare to be different!’ That really encouraged me to do it, so however weird and wacky and wild your Tarot deck, or your inspiration might be, go for it!”
5. Heliette also asked: “How did you articulate the archetypal meanings within your own vision and illustrators’ Art?”
Steve replied: “To answer this question I will refer to my ‘Gamble-Hounsome’ Deck – ‘The Tarot of Gnosis’. The art work for this deck was done by a rather brilliant artist, Patrick Gamble. Patrick does amazing picture of peoples’ Spirit Guides, and loved ones in Spirit. He used to come to us for a weekend and work from our premises, receiving clients for readings and portraits of their Spirit Guides and loved ones.
It was during one of these weekends when he was with us, I happened to be leafing through his own Oracle deck he created and uses, when it occurred to me that, actually, there is the basic structure and workings of a Tarot deck here! I said to Patrick, half of these pictures here are really Tarot Card images already, have you not thought of doing a Tarot deck on these, because they practically are! He said, yeah, funny enough, people have mentioned that, but I don’t really know Tarot. So I said, Well, I do! We could work with these images, and I could make some suggestions to you and I’ll write the book, and you do the Cards, which is what we did!
It was an absolute joy to do, for me, just pleasure, all along! Patrick was so receptive to what I was saying, he sent me images that just, blended together! So the idea of the archetypal meanings in the Tarot of my own vision, Patrick, somehow, had already done it, but without knowing, that’s magic I guess! I adapted where appropriate, for example, Patrick has quite a lot of Native American images within his artwork, so I adapted to ‘Arrows’ rather than ‘Swords’ for that suit”.
A selection of different examples and images of cards were shown during the Live Broadcast of the 1st Tarot Q&A and you can watch this in the Video section of our website. The Gamble Hounsome ‘Tarot of Gnosis’ can be purchased from the Shop section on the website.
“As a closing note to this question, remember, that when articulating archetypal meanings, dare to be different. With Tarot you are breaking no rules, there is no one rule book! Even the origins of Tarot are still a mystery. It was a game to begin with, nothing more, which didn’t have any associations with fortune telling or the occult, until various writers in the 18th century in France. So there is no rule book to say you are breaking any rules, if anyone wants to create a Tarot deck, I would encourage them to go for it, and dare to be different!”
6. Angie asked: “How would you advise someone who hasn’t picked up their Tarot Cards in ages, how to get re-connected to them and get back the mind-set for reading?”
Steve replied: “Sometimes life gets in the way, whereby various other things take over in our lives and we cannot touch our cards at times, and maybe it’s good to have a break from them now and then. So how do we get back that connection?
Firstly I think, with much like anything I guess, practice makes perfect. Handle your cards often. We can get a real sense of imprinting our energy onto a deck of cards, and they almost become part of us. I always encourage my Students to shuffle their cards, as often as they can. You can get to the stage where you can be shuffling cards, but not having to watch what you are doing. You can be sat there watching T.V or listening to the radio, or whatever you are doing, and you can use this chance to sit there and simply shuffle your cards. Get them really broken in, and flowing smoothly and easily!
Shuffle and read with them. Use anything to do a reading on. For example is someone is on T.V, do a reading for them! Just literally, at random, fan your cards out and pick from the deck, say three, and talk to them, as if the character on T.V is there, in front of you, as if they were a client, that has paid for a reading. You may have some downtime, try picking out a favorite character from a drama you may be watching, and do a reading for them. Period dramas are excellent for juicy characters! Obviously you won’t get the feedback, because the client is not really there, but it gets you into that flow, and flow is very much the key to working this way with Tarot. My next question will explain more about flow.
So, read for anything and everything! If it moves, read for it, if it doesn’t, read for it before it does, and just let it flow, make it up as you go along! Literally, you are not making rubbish up, but you are getting into your intuitive flow. For me, that’s a recommendation of getting back into the mind set of reconnecting with your cards.”
7. Angie also asked: “Is there a daily or regular Tarot practice/meditation you would recommend for someone whose thoughts are a bit scattered?”
Steve Replied: “Along with a period of Isolation, 2020 has brought changes for many of us. Whether it’s a new ‘working from home routine’ which saves on the money and time of commuting to and from the work place, or just the recognition of how important making time for ourselves is, many of us are now finding that we have perhaps a different perspective on life, and a shift of what is really important to us, whereby allowing ‘time’ for ourselves becomes one of our new priorities.
A time where we connect to something for ourselves, and for some of you, that may be the Tarot! A daily Tarot practice could be to pick a card each day. This can be a great way of getting to know a new deck, getting in-depth and stuck into the tarot, and yourself, and you can learn an enormous amount about both the Tarot, and yourself.
When you get up in the morning, and you’re waiting for the kettle to boil for your morning cuppa, give your cards a quick shuffle, fan them out, and pick one, and just pause for a moment. Close your eyes, take a breath, and ask for your card for your energy for that day, not what’s going to happen to you for that day (remembering that what happens is what you make happen, so the latter is not necessary).
Just ask for a card to show you what’s going on, for the guidance you need for that day, or what you need to know, where you energy is going, or whatever is right for you to know. Don’t think about what the card means, it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just an energy, so what energy is that with you, showing you that you need to respond to, use, focus on or make more of?
Then jot down some notes about that card, about what it’s showing you, and then keep that card out, maybe even take it to work with you, or keep it with you for the day if you are working at home. Put it up somewhere, where you can see it perhaps, so that you can occasionally look at it. You could maybe take a quick photo, so that it’s on your mobile. Keep the image close at hand and throughout the day, see what feelings arise from you, what images are staying with you through the day, what pops into your head? Then towards the close of the day, go back and have another look at it, look at your notes, and see what happened. Were you right? Did you get the right things or not? Maybe make some other notes, and keep those, as a journal.
You will end up with a big information file in time, if you do that, one card per day. You may just decide to pick a card every now and then, using the same process, seeing what comes to you. You can always stay with that card in days to follow, until the energies shift, before drawing another. It may show you some images or information about yourself, and you want to work through those in some way. You may wish to sit with that energy in a meditation and see what arises for you within for that. Maybe you could do it every New Moon, whereby you select a different card. Perhaps you don’t have a particular time at all, you just stick with it until the energies seem to want to shift, or have shifted, then you pick the next card and so on, it will evolve from there. It is a brilliant way for learning the Tarot.”
8. Simona asked: "How do I remember what I am learning about the Cards?"
Steve Replied: "Well the short answer is that you don't! Because for me, it's not about remembering what they mean, as I always say, they don't really mean anything! So in this respect there is nothing to remember!
For me, I come at it from a deeper and more therapeutic level, and from a Tarot Therapy perspective, rather than coming at it from a future prediction perspective. I don't think there is anything wrong with that, but I don't think it is necessarily empowering for someone receiving a reading from a reader with the future prediction approach.
For me, it's much more about a 'client centered' approach, as I call it my readings' help you to help yourself! So it's not about regurgitating what's in your mind or what you read in a book. That all helps feed, absolutely, I have bookshelves of books, I'm always reading some sort of book on the Tarot, I'm never without one, and so we can learn from everyone and everything. But, every Tarot book, including mine, is only that author's opinion. It doesn't mean they are right, it doesn't mean they are wrong. It means they have got something they may be able to offer, that you can take something from and maybe learn from. For me, the art of giving readings isn't about regurgitating stuff.
Yes, learn symbolism, and everything that you can, and make notes, because it's a good way of getting it in the grain, but then, it becomes intuitive! And that, for me, is the best way how we respond in a Tarot reading, getting the information across. As I always say to my own Students - Read it, learn it, forget about it! Because then it's about trusting your brain.
Our brains are amazingly clever things, and we often only use about 1/3 of our brain power. When we are working with something like the Tarot, its language is one of symbolism, it's one of images, it's not of words. Our job as a Tarot reader is that of a translator almost, to put the language of those symbols into words for the benefit of the client, not in the sense that 'this means this, so this is going to happen to you', but, this is a representation to whatever is being seen at the time, and very much on a intuitive level. It's about trusting that the information you need to know about the cards is filed in your brain, not the conscious brain, but again, it's the intuitive part of you. So allow it simply to flow!"
9. Jennifer asked: “How did you initially get access to Tarot?”
Steve Replied: “Having been into Tarot for over 40 years, I got my first deck when I was in my teens, and the Tarot was nothing like it is now. When I began, it was still a very ‘under the counter’ thing! Back in the days, when kids still had jobs such as paper rounds, I would go out delivering newspapers. My next Saturday job was in a book shop called Sherratt and Hughes in Brighton, which then became Waterstones. In the shop they had an Occult section, (which is usually known as ‘Body, Mind & Spirit’ nowadays). There was just a small sign saying ‘Tarot Decks, please ask at the counter’, and at the counter, literally under the counter on a shelf, there were a few Tarot Decks, and a folder whereby people could look at samples cards in.
People would sidle up surreptitiously to the counter asking on the quiet, ‘Have you got any of those Tarots’? This was my initial access to Tarot, and at the time it did have that ‘Spooky, occult image’. Thankfully that’s gone now, and you can buy them these days, all over the place, making access to Tarot easy. Do be careful though, there are lots and lots of fake Decks appearing, and they will all come from China, and the prices are cheaper, but do not be fooled. They are pirated, and the quality is rubbish, and basically, people like me, and various other Deck creators who, believe me, put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in, only to see their creations being ripped off. You don’t make a lot of money out of them anyway. But, don’t think that you are getting a bargain, you’re not.
So access to Tarot is massively available nowadays, especially with the internet, there are some amazing decks for people out there, especially on places like Etsy that are self-produced. You can look out for self-funded decks also, on Kick-Starter, and places like that, people really do put out some amazing stuff, as well there’s Amazon, and all the usual places.”
10 Jennifer also asked: “Which decks do you most work with, and why?”
Steve replied: “I have a collection of over 200 Tarot and Oracle Decks, and I’ve certainly not worked with them all by any means. The very first deck I got from the Bookshop was the ‘Morgan Greer’ Tarot, which is still in publication I believe. I still have that original deck, and I love it! It has very simple, close up images and was a great deck to start with, and I worked with it for a long time, it’s beautifully dog-eared now, which is one of those things you simply can’t get but from age.
Over the years, I have worked with different working decks, I worked with John and Caitlin Matthews’ original ‘Arthurian Tarot’ for a long time, so I’ve done lots of readings with that, and I still love it, it’s wonderful! Then more recently, the ‘Robin Wood’ Tarot, and most of these are still available. This deck, and a lot of decks are based on the Rider Waite Smith deck, which I mentioned earlier, (that’s become that standard symbolism to, or a jumping off point for most Tarot decks).
The Rider-Waite Smith deck first came out in 1910, and a lot of decks are sort of derivatives of that. The Robin Wood Tarot is a great deck, and was her version of it I guess, and it’s more sort of Pagan oriented, and this was when I was getting more into the idea of Tarot being energy, and it showed some of that.
Then there was Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm’s brilliant Druidcraft Tarot, based on a lot of Druid symbolism and Wicca, a blend of the two, and it’s wonderful, The art work by Will Worthington is just stunning! This went on to become one of my main working decks.
What I have found, is where I gained so many decks (which all offer something), there was never one deck, where I loved every card, and different decks have different interpretations and ways of showing this, and by this stage, I got to a point where I had my own ideas of what cards should be, and how I would like them to be shown.
So last year, I created my own ‘Bespoke Tarot’! To be clear, this is not a Deck I would or can sell, because it is private and I’m using cards from lots of different Tarot creators, so by doing so, it would break every copyright law, and I wouldn’t do that to them anyway.
Following that idea, you eventually get to this point whereby Tarot becomes so personal, you end up creating your own deck for personal use really. I started by going through lots of different decks, and I picked out my favorite images from all these different decks, and scanned them in, or took them off the internet, played about with the symbolism a little bit, and then just worked with them on my computer, and I got a set printed for my own personal use only, and getting just one deck printed as a one off cost a little bit, but that was fine.
I now have what I call my personal use ‘Bespoke Tarot’, which is a combination of all of my favorite images from nearly 20 different Decks! It is an ongoing, evolving thing, because I’ve since found some images from more recent decks that I will probably replace and update one or two cards from my personal Bespoke Deck with! All in all, I would say, that when choosing a Deck, choose one with images that ‘speak to you’.”
11 Jennifer also asked: “What do I do if there are cards in a reading, (especially if it happens repeatedly), that don’t seem to fit in, and that don’t seem to work with the traditional meaning?”
Steve Replied: “Jennifer has also stated with this question that there are some cards that want to tell me their own story. Jennifer, you have answered your own question really, allow the card to tell its own story!”
"There are different things you can do here, but the one thing not to do is ignore it! If it’s standing out and it doesn’t seem to fit in with the story that may be emerging in a reading that you are doing, it may have some other aspect to share. So one of the things you can do here (and I’ve done it as an exercise with my own students, I think we called this awkward card which stands alone, a ‘Key’ card), is to keep that one out, conclude your reading with its original cards and then pick some other cards, say, three more, to say right, OK, what is it we need to know about the ‘Key’ Card, give us some more information about it, or you could perhaps select an Oracle card to add to it, but break it down more, but don’t dismiss it. If it wants to tell its own story, then let it!”
12 Selina asked: “How do I ensure that my readings are as objective as possible, given that we all interpret the cards through our own lens of life’s experiences?”
Steve replied: “Being as objective as possible when we are doing a reading, is of course, exactly what we should do! The way I feel to do that is, whilst not denying your own lens, which is obviously part of you, and how you put across your role as a Tarot reader in that way, but in terms of how we become objective, I think that’s about how we prepare ourselves for a reading.
Reading with the Tarot is a sacred thing, and we have the same regard to the Tarot, as we do ourselves, so for me, it should be about, not just casually chucking some cards down, and pick them up and that’s it, make it more of an event.
When we are consulting the Tarot, to me, we are tapping into something much more powerful, and greater, the Divine, if you like, in whatever way you conceive that, so let’s prepare ourselves first, in whatever way. Prepare a space, set it up and cleanse it or smudge it, prepare yourself, do a 5 or 10 minute centering meditation, to ground your energy to the earth, drawing that energy back up, doing the same with the Universe, bringing that energy down, and then centering yourself.
Just sit and breathe for a few minutes if you like, that will do it, but shift away from the everyday. If you are calming your breath, you are calming the brainwave patterns down, and it lets you tap into that intuitive flow a lot more. When we do this, we shift into that space where we become ‘The Tarot Reader’, as opposed to all the other roles that we might have in our life. In this way, we shift