A type of practice: Why I play with my tarot deck (3 of 4)

This is the 3rd in a 4 part series. I hope by the end of the series, you might understand some ways these games can add to your practices. Part 1 and Part 2 are here, respectively.

I want to share my personal opinions and feelings about 3 different card game adaptations using tarot cards that I have played with my friends, and then have a 4th general post about a specific mindset games can help you visit. The games are based on Go Fish (1), Crazy 8s (2), and War (3). This is my perspective, and the people I learned to play these games with and from have their own valid and true points. Only play these games with tools you are comfortable being used in play. I would not, for myself, try to play with popped cowrie shells even if I could figure out how that might work. No disrespect is intended.

This is Part Three.

My friends named the second game Crazy Tarot.
Unlike Fish and Spar, there is not a recent write up by Ember. I’ll summarize.

  • Deal a few cards to each player, which they look at and keep hidden from each other in their hand.
  • Put the rest of the deck in the middle of the players. This is the deck.
  • Take the top card off the deck and lay it face up. This is where play happens.
  • On their turn, a player may place any one card from their hand face up into play. This card becomes the active card.
    • The card must match the previous active card in some way, but it must not be a systemic symbol, such as the suit symbol or card number.
    • The card may match the previous active card in the same way as before. Repeats and runs are encouraged.
  • If the player can not match the active card from their hand they may:
    • Draw a card from the deck into their hand and pass on laying a card down, or
    • Use a wildcard to declare the new symbol. Aces make good wildcards.
  • The game is over when the players decide it is over.
    • For people who need an end, the game is over when a player has no more cards in their hand and ‘wins’.
    • To keep the game going, draw cards when a player has no cards and keep playing.

What I get from Crazy Tarot

I would encourage you to read the post about Tarot Fish. A lot of what I said there is true here and will be true for Tarot Spar.

Such as, all 3 games are very easy to interrupt. It is nice to not be limited by the social contract to play a game all the way through to resolution. Along with all the ideas about interruption that I said in Tarot Fish (adaptable to the occasion, approach-ability to the tools) , being able to interrupt the game puts the people first. Hungry, late for a panel, got a great idea about symbolism you really want to stop and hash out are all higher priority than something that doesn’t have a score. Because there is no way to build a reading, it is even more simple to stop.

Play doesn’t tend to be as mellow as Tarot Fish, which I think is left over from the game it is based on being competitive and relying on changes in fortune that can be fun to dramatize. If you want to add house rules about bonus and penalty cares, such as reversing direction of play, etc., of course you can do that.

It is a different style of zen than Tarot Fish. We never developed a mechanism for a reading in Crazy Tarot. Of the three games, it is the only one that doesn’t easily allow for, or require, the resolution of a subset of cards into the significant subset of cards. From moment to moment, symbolism flows and connection are made and I have experienced that there is explanation and conversation in Crazy Tarot, to justify why the card matches. It is thoughtful, whereas my experience of Tarot Spar is that Tarot Spar ends up being a game about what feels right, not what sounds right. And there is less advocating for a match in Tarot Fish, as the person who asked for a card gets to say what counts.

Discussion comes up much more often, I find, with Crazy Tarot. Many cards can be put down, one after another, in the same theme, and that allows for some cross correlation insights that might have taken me a lot longer. One game the match was ‘On horseback’ and we ran through the Knights, then the Sun, and when someone played Death we decided to accept it fit the theme. So now I have this mild head canon that The Sun and Death are kind of like Knights. This was the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, but those epiphanies happen with any symbol set you use.

The most true thing about Crazy Tarot, to me, is the awareness of themes across the whole deck that can be discovered more easily by playing. It is the biggest strength of this game. In Tarot Fish, repeats are forbidden, but in Crazy Tarot, repeats are the point. For example, now I know the use of posture collars in the Silicon Dawn was deliberate but I didn’t bother to look that up until we played a game where Fortitude, Justice, and Judgement were all stacked on top of each other. We couldn’t agree if Death was wearing a collar or not, but it did open up the idea if Death was a social construct in any ways like the other three cards were, and that was an interesting discussion. And what does that say about the 10 of Pentacles? I don’t know, but now I am wondering.

In a reading, sometimes the cards make no sense and there is no pattern to be had using the formal associations of the cards. But if, for example, you had gotten the Crone Fool, the 8, 9 and Chevalier of Pentacles, the King of Swords, and Culture Mother in the same reading using the Silicon Dawn, and you’d had a game where the theme had been people throwing things with/from their hands in your past, you could use that idea as a starting point to look at the reading for any patterns about direct action, self empowerment, etc.

And I think, most of all, it is this narrative flow in the deck that I love the most about Crazy Tarot. So many times I hear people asking questions in readings such as How did I end up in this situation or Why is this happening or What should I do now. Those type of reflections usually have a lot of context, and context takes explaining. Practicing weaving connections helps me be a more empathetic, approachable, relatable, and hopefully better reader.

I hope you give the game a try. If you are local, I would love to play with you.

About the Author

Perlandria has flourished where she was planted, although her family is from many places most of them far away. Her deep roots start in the San Francisco Bay Area. She's fond of visiting many gardens, and learning about their cultural context. A favorite place to visit is a kind of cross denominational seed swap that happens every year in February where she has served the greater community for over 15 years. In her spiritual garden you'll find tracts devoted to Gerth, Oxun, Chango, and Freyr. Early influences were christian mystery cults, shinto, heathenry, buddhism, and hinduism. As an adult, Perlandria chose afro-american faiths for practice. As an atheist, this has caused some confusion about her regular day to day experiences and beliefs.

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