To express interest in future readings / events, please contact James on: email@example.com
Below: Texts reviewing aspects of the tarot and tarot practice, by James Douglas, March 2023.
1. Reading the traditional Darkwater Tarot. Information
All ideas and terms identified in this text and table are the intellectual property of James Douglas, with copyright on the Darkwater deck dating back to 2016. The use of the name Darkwater in this form, is design protected, and is the Gaelic interpretation of the name Douglas.
A pamphlet containing advice for reading the Dartkwater Tarot is in production, and will be available later this year. JD
2. NEW text on Facebook: From 2008 to 2016 I devised and produced a tarot deck based on traditional tarot ideas. My deck is the Darkwater Tarot,
Completed in 2016, the Darkwater Tarot adds a new dimension to traditional tarot reading. The Darkwater deck uses selected and re-imagined images, allowing your tarot reader to identify a range of alternative life events and their potential pathways. The name Darkwater derives from (Scottish) Gaelic words/phrases: dark water or stream, deep pool, etc.
The Darkwater is a traditional 78-card black and white deck with a unique feature. You see, the main deck has two main images on each card, not one. The lower four suits have a similar system. Why? The short answer is I wanted to offer you a tarot deck (a reading) using a second, alternative layer of relevant tarot images and associated themes to help develop an understanding of your life pathway.
TABI review: 24 August 2018
As a therapist who uses the tarot a lot in my work, I feel this deck will be an important addition to my collection, particularly with face-to-face clients. Already I have experienced seekers finding even the smallest detail standing out in significance.
When you select your tarot cards from a Darkwater deck, you self-identify specific events from your life pathway. Your tarot reader will use the images, signs, and symbols from the cards you selected to identify aspects of your story over a given period that you will recognise.
The tarot cards you select will draw your attention to the things that matter in your life. The tarot reading aims to identify opportunities and challenges within your life pathway. The cards do not tell you what to do. Using your free will to achieve the most rewarding outcomes is essential moving forward. The tarot journey will bring comfort for some and be a revelation for others.
Some of the cards in the Darkwater tarot may look strange, with images that don't relate to our modern lives; however, a practiced tarot reader will explain the meaning of any card and convey that meaning concerning your life. All tarot readings are intensely personal; you should consider challenging the 'reader' if any statements they make seem out-of-place in your life.
TABI review 30 January 2020
You (the reader) need to let go of your expectations and some of your previous knowledge of the tarot...the pictures evoke [and} take over the lead. But once I got used to them, things started to go from average to extraordinary!
For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit jdarkwater.com.
In 2019, I Completed work on The Deck of the Hebrew Letters, devised by Mick Frankel. This divination deck consists of 22 cards, each with a subtle border surrounding a calligraphic Hebrew letter.
Mick Frankel, in his own words:
The form of the letter is in the centre of the card. James and I worked on finding colours and styles of finish on each letter that we found to be appropriate. There’s lots for you to discover in the way that we’ve used colour and finish in the card designs.
According to the Sefer Yetzirah, a book whose origins are so obscure that some people say it was written by Abraham, three of the Hebrew letters correspond to elements, seven of them correspond to planets and the remaining 12 correspond to the signs of the Zodiac.
Inside the circle at the top of each card is an astrological symbol. This is either an elemental, planetary or zodiacal glyph.
(Example) Aleph corresponds to the element of Air. The symbol for Air is an upward pointing triangle with a horizontal line through it. You can see this symbol in yellow inside the circle above the Aleph. Notice how the symbol is contained within the six-pointed Star of David.
Inside the circle at the bottom of each card is the numerical value of the letter. Aleph has the numerical value of 1.
You can contact Mick Frankel on: Frankelmick@hotmail.com
For more reviews please see:
The Deck of Hebrew Letters (motherserpentine.wixsite.com)
If you would like a face-to-face reading with me, here is some helpful information:
If you book a Darkwater reading, you are welcome to bring an adult family member or friend to your tarot reading.
In your in-person (only) reading, I will tell you what you need rather than what you want (to avoid disappointment). The cards you select and the sequence you choose will tell me about your journey of discovery, with its opportunities and challenges.
You (or I) may stop our reading at any time.
At some point in your tarot reading, I will ask,"...do you recognize the different aspects of this reading?"
With this in mind, please don't tell me 'things' about your life. After your reading, your feedback is welcome.
Sometimes we become unwell, and look for help. There are psychologists, counsellors, and therapists who use the tarot in their practice and can help and support you.
For one-to-one in-person only readings, group readings, or tarot presentations, or to have more information about the Darkwater deck, please contact: email@example.com
Item 1 (above) does not apply to group readings or tarot presentations.
About your reading, how does it work?
With the Darkwater deck face down on the table, you select your cards at random(?).
You may change cards at any time before the reading begins.
In the order of your card selection, I turn over each card from right to left, and the reading begins.
Most 3-card readings are short, about 20 minutes. Longer readings may last up to 60 minutes. Group readings are about 10 minutes for each client within the group.
My preferences: If I come to you, I like unsweetened herbal teas, hot, no sugar - and absolutely no snacks.
Seriously: Your (reading) room must be warmish and well-ventilated. In addition, I must have all travel expenses (and any overnight stay expenses) paid in full in advance of your reading or presentation.
3. Intuitive Reading and the Traditional Tarot. Update: 05.10.2020
Before exploring some of the ideas relating to intuitive tarot reading, I would like to send my thoughts and best wishes to those individuals and communities who have been affected by the current health crisis.
As an intuitive tarot reader, I have been drawn to ideas relating to the development and meaning of images and their composition. In the early seventies, as an art student, I became interested in the ideas of Carl Jung: in particular, the idea that we possess a reservoir of experiences, which we were born with, and which are separate from our conscious mind.
Looking toward one possible visual interpretation of Jung's ideas, the artist Paul Klee, in his notebook, The thinking eye, wrote, "...the ambiguous images are formed by ourselves. It is almost as if we evoke them from the darkness of a lost dimension and reanimate them by the rhythm of our actions, giving them meaning and form." In my pamphlet, Language of the Tarot, I talk about a body of universal wisdom, quoting Rudolf Steiner in his reference to the Akashic records as a place where "...every word and thought may leave its trace." For me, the themes of the tarot are omnipresent in our lives and fully recognisable to the unconscious mind.
If, for one moment, we can imagine that the ideas of Klee, Jung, and Steiner could be applied to the intentions and actions of intuitive tarot reading, then we might conclude that the intrinsic meaning(s) of the traditional tarot can be accessed through our deep-rooted and shared human experience, within our root memory. If this statement is in some way true, do the images and themes of the traditional deck act as signals which transport the unconscious mind of a reader to where they need to be?
As an artist, my interest in the language of images is an integral part of my life. In my tarot practice, I explore the themes and images of traditional decks by observing and questioning the themes, symbols, and pictures [archetypes]. The randomly placed themes within a spread enable the meaning of each card to become more nuanced, depending on the narrative of adjacent cards. I believe that by adopting this method of reading, a reader can 'open' and develop each two-dimensional story contained within any card and identify a pathway relevant to their client's needs. In addition, I believe that this method of reading provides the client with a unique insight, with the potential of guiding them toward their short-term personal development or identifying the potential of a life pathway.
Indeed, the practice of intuitive reading using the observation and questioning of tarot themes, its images, signs, and symbols is challenging. Although I have been working with this method of tarot reading since 1997, I struggled, in those early years, to consistently find the right questions, often presenting my clients with a technical rather than an insightful reading. On reflection, it would appear that I was unable to calm my imagination before a reading, enabling a unique moment of peace to manifest. I would liken this moment of peace to seeing a perfect and complex vista for the first time, an experience not unlike the '0' card (?)
I believe the spiritual clarity of traditional tarot images help identify a vast range of human experiences, taken directly from the physical world, with their content defined by occult wisdom, realised over the past six hundred years. The traditional decks identify the opportunities and challenges facing us all on our journey along our chosen life pathway.
4. The Language of the tarot: Workshop and Lecture (in this form) is an educational, not-for-profit presentation.
First presentation at the Tarot Association of the British Isles Conference, In Birmingham, England, July 27, 2019
The ideas proposed in this essay are based on the research and practice of a working tarot reader. The search for an understanding of the tarot's meaning and purpose is ongoing. Therefore, the ideas proposed here in this essay are a collection of thoughts from a student, not an Adept.
Many differing opinions regarding the tarot and the work of the intuitive reader exist in the public domain; this essay intends to widen the debate on the tarot experience. The term intuitive, as used by the author in this essay, refers to any tarot reader whose primary method of reading is through the themes and images of the traditional tarot. Such a reader may work without reference from a secondary source of knowledge. Psychic, empathic, and holistic readers, who offer life coaching or counselling, might share aspects of what is here referred to as intuitive reading.
The second part of this essay revisits the ideas which led to the creation and development of the Darkwater Tarot, a new and unique deck based on the themes of the traditional tarot. The Darkwater deck is the only double-headed tarot in use today and has been created especially for the intuitive tarot reader. End
The intuitive tarot reader
The traditional tarot deck is an object of extraordinary beauty and considerable mystery. The images and themes of the seventy-eight-card deck are based on thought and belief systems developed in Europe over the past six hundred years, with some tarot historians referencing influences of early non-European cultures. Originally a deck of playing cards, the tarot's incarnation over the past two hundred years provides the engaged tarot reader with a pictorial record of complex themes, which identify and express elements of human nature, culture, and society.
Central to this essay are ideas relating to the development of individual spirituality, ideas that connect directly to specific archetypal images and themes associated with the traditional tarot and its histories. In addition, this essay explores certain ideas relating to the work of intuitive tarot readers. There are clear limitations when reviewing the tarot experience from a single viewpoint. However, this essay goes on to identify the work of others who have also focused on the significance of 'theme and image' and the potential of these elements in the process of identifying and understanding aspects of a life pathway.
Two fundamental questions need to be answered to move our understanding forward in the quest for spiritual insight by way of the tarot. First, what evidence do 'we' have that spirituality exists in the practice of tarot divination, and second, what role does esoteric iconography play in the spiritual tarot experience?
Before exploring questions relating to spiritual insight and tarot iconography, it is important to acknowledge that not all intuitive readers work in the same way. Despite differences between readers and the methods they use to read the tarot, one might presume that the images are the common factors linking all tarot readers. The unique images and themes of the traditional tarot direct the engaged reader toward the search for a profound understanding of human nature. Over the past six hundred years, scholars, artists, and tarot readers have developed the themes and images of the traditional tarot. Primarily based on historical and religious research, tarot practitioners have employed archetypal signs, symbols, and image patterns, to create seventy-eight interconnected stories reflecting our human cultural and spiritual evolution. In his book, Philosophy of occultism in pictures and numbers, 1913, P. D. Ospensky wrote ...for the interpretation of symbols a special cast of mind is necessary; in addition to knowledge, special faculties, the power of creative thought, and a developed imagination are required. When we begin to explore the question of spiritual insight concerning the tarot experience, we see that many themes and images from the earliest decks relate to Christian and Hebrew beliefs of the late medieval period in Europe. A straightforward example of the Christian influence would be the Francesco Sforza deck which contains the themes of Faith, Hope, and Charity and includes the Devil. A Hebrew influence on the tarot relates to the number of cards in the Major Arcana and letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Later developments of the tarot modify some of the overtly religious themes, looking instead toward esoteric ideas and the occult. Regardless of their design, many tarot decks explore the essential elements of human nature, reflecting changes to public education within some European societies. Despite changes to the tarot's illustrations and designs, the Fool's journey remains intact.
From the beginning, it is important to establish that the tarot deck is simply a variation on a pack of playing cards and, as such, is not a sacred object. The act of reading sets the cascade of unique ideas in motion. An informed and conscientious approach to tarot reading transforms the process of laying cards and identifying complex elements of human nature into something akin to ritual magic. The transformation from card game to insightful practice is conferred to the tarot experience by the tarot reader. It would appear that the practice of intuitive divination enables the reader to translate a visual language into a verbal explanation of any given card or spread of cards. With their attention drawn to prime images, both familiar and obscure, the intuitive reader might engage with the themes of individual cards as if they view these complex tarot scenes for the first time. That is, without particular regard for any prescribed meaning.
When the traditional tarot themes and the focused energy of the engaged reader come together within a reading, then it could be argued that the unveiling of unconscious thought might contribute to the seeding of spiritual insight.
If intuitive tarot readers use images to develop original narrative pathways, how do they assimilate the information from a selection of obscure tarot themes? One might speculate that these readers are able to access or 'draw down' information from a body of universal wisdom. Should the intuitive reader choose, for a brief moment, to ask the question, "what do I see within this card? What do I understand from looking at the images before me? Some intuitive readers report that, at this moment, they become open to a unique stream of thought. Other readers go further, describing a moment where they 'slip' between conscious and unconscious thought, recalling impressions or ideas connected to the traditional tarot images. This process of cognitive meditation enables the intuitive reader to focus on and identify specific images, signs, and symbols to develop a narrative pathway. In the interests of clarity, the previous statement proposes that the themes and images of the traditional tarot are based on a spectrum of human experiences and associated esoteric knowledge.
Through the exploration and discovery process linked to reading traditional tarot themes and images, the intuitive reader is able to use the juxtaposition of obscure and familiar images within the themes of each card to develop narrative pathways. When recalling and explaining outcomes relating to any given tarot reading, the intuitive reader is able to present an 'objective interpretation' of events, situations, and relationships to direct an individual toward possible life opportunities and to identify potential challenges. Over time, the reader learns to recognise subtle changes to their understanding of the traditional tarot cards and their sequences, including the meaning(s) of repeat images occurring within different contexts, a development that allows the reader to gain a higher knowledge of the tarot's intricate pictorial language.
To amplify the idea of an 'open approach' to understanding the images and symbols of the tarot, we might consider the quotation from Austin Osman Spare, who wrote, "The Ego is ignorant towards both sigils and symbols, but they both give the Ego a flow of knowledge from themselves. All knowledge of ideas, gained by means of sigils, should be re-clothed in pure Symbolism to designate and stimulate its own wisdom." As a footnote to this section of the essay, it is important to revisit the idea of 'a body of universal wisdom', existing outside the physical body of the reader, accessible through the interaction with specific traditional tarot images and themes. There are intuitive tarot readers who propose that they are able to access the Akashic records, a repository, archive, or library existing on the etheric plane. The Austrian philosopher, spiritual scientist, and founder of the spiritual movement Anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), identified the Akashic records as a place where 'every action word and thought may leave its trace.' The physicist Ervin Lazlo uses theoretical science to explain that the Akasha contains templates for human ideals, such as harmony and serenity, relating to the human evolutionary process. Based on the proposals outlined in this essay, there might be a case for suggesting that the knowledge contained within traditional tarot has been derived from an external spiritual source and that the ethical use of the traditional tarot draws on a universal source of spiritual understanding. Without wishing to exaggerate its purpose and function, the tarot experience could be described as a form of spiritual alchemy, the act of transmutation which forms (themed) images into streams of unconscious thought.
We must look no further than the words of A.E. Waite in order to gain some understanding of the importance of tarot iconography. He writes, in the opening paragraphs of his book, The Pictorial Key of the Tarot, 'The Tarot embodies symbolic presentations of universal ideas, behind which lie all the 'implicits' of the human mind, and it is this sense that they contain secret doctrine, which is the realization by the few of truths embedded in the consciousness of all.' A brief review of the tarot's long history identifies several significant developments to the themes and images of the seventy-eight-card deck. Perhaps consideration should be made in relation to Renaissance art and the early tarot decks. Although there is no direct evidence of artistic influence between the religious paintings, and the design of tarot decks from the fifteenth century, it is important to note that a number of tarot decks were commissioned by wealthy patrons, who were also collectors of 'religious' art.
While the Visconti-Sforza deck, created in the workshop of Bonifacio Bembo (c.1440), contains some of the named cards within a traditional, contemporary deck, many of the Visconti-Sforza images do not conform to the traditional images of today's decks. For example, Strength depicts a man in the act of striking a Lion, whereas the Waite-Smith tarot identifies a woman holding open the jaws of a lion. If we develop the comparison even further, we see that the chained 'couple,' depicted in the contemporary Devil card, were originally two small devils within the Visconti-Sforza deck.
In order to explore further the historical influences within the tarot images, it is essential to review the life and artwork of Pamela Colman-Smith, Lady Frieda Harris, and Osman Austin Spare.
Pamela Colman-Smith (1878 –1951) exhibited a drawing style that clearly shows traces of Symbolism and the Romanticism of the Arts and Crafts movement. European Symbolism was influenced by poets and writers such as Baudelaire and the American writer Edgar Allan Poe. W.B. Yeats introduced Smith to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (1901), where she met Arthur Waite – their creative union creating the Waite-Smith tarot. The British artist Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956), whose work was based on the aesthetics of Art Nouveau and the Symbolist movement. In addition, he was heavily influenced by the occult and the ideas of Aleister Crowley in the early 1900s. He believed that 'Art is the instinctive application of the knowledge latent in the subconscious," which can be seen in his allegorical landscapes. In 1906, Spare created a hand-painted tarot deck, a clear homage to the Tarot de Marseille deck. In addition to the books of Aleister Crowley, Frieda Harris (1877-1962) studied the work of Rudolf Steiner, developing an understanding of Anthroposophy which played a significant role in the creation of the Thoth deck. In 1937, Lady Harris began working with projective synthetic geometry, based on ideas from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a drawing system reflected in the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. One such teaching reads, "The strength people need to proceed along the path of human development can come only from the spiritual world.
The tarot and other divination tools are often an outward sign of an individual's search for personal development. The tarot, when used intuitively, provides a challenge for the 'seeker' in their pursuit of spiritual direction. Some believe that the process of 'intuitive recognition' and the exploration of what is seen and understood refines the tarot practitioner's ability to reflect on universal ideas of human nature. Alone with their images, the intuitive reader absorbs the torrent of visual information (subconscious). Through the conscious mind's natural editing process, a story takes on its own form, independent of the reader. The words spoken in recognition of these impressions form a record of what has been seen, and the spiritual magic is complete.