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

This is the 4th and last 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.

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.

I will have a note about how I personally deal with my deck(s) when playing these games at the end.

This is Part Four.

Rather than calling it Tarot War, it is called Tarot Spar because it is a practice, not a contest.
Let me summarize the game play. Any of the originators (Ember, Hobbit) can give perspective or correction in comments. That is welcome.
– Divide the deck evenly between all players.
– The divided decks are face down.
– Together, at the same time, all players reveal the top cards of their divided deck and place those cards face up in the common area as the hand of that round.
– A consensus is reached about which player gets that hand. Yes, this is vague. I’ll address it below.
– The hand is added to the bottom of that player’s divided deck and play continues with a new hand.
– There is no win or end condition. If a win or end condition is wanted, when the first player to have no more cards to play runs out of cards, the player with the most cards wins.

What I get from Tarot Spar

Like Fish and Crazy, Spar also has the festival friendly game play. Players can swap in and out by giving their divided deck portion to a replacement. Everyone can choose to give # (something like 5-10) cards to a new player if someone wants to join in the middle. A player leaving can have their portion of the deck split between the remaining players. An element of chaos or serendipity can be introduced by having a ‘Random’ non-player deck division. Having a Random non-person player sometimes helps people who are too attached to winning, as there is no one to compete with in that spot.

My overall impression of Fish is that it is playful and competitive, having a win condition. Fish is about small, individual details on a 1:1 and unique basis. It is not about the bigger picture while you are playing, which is why using the winning hand as a reading can be so nice as it lifts everyone’s viewpoint back out to divination. My overall impression of Crazy is that it is lyrical and narrative, but doesn’t have a reading or a divination exercise other than the trending. What they have in common that is different than Spar is Fish and Crazy only looks at some of the cards at a time. They are inward focused, on the deck and on the cards. It can be easy to play several hands of Fish or Crazy and never get through the entire deck. By being seen more often, through game play, some cards start to get a feeling of import and significance. Spar is the only one of the three games that uses the whole deck and is actively a reading exercise.

My overall impression of Spar is it is is expansive and emotional and/or intuitive. This is because of the step from the summary that is:
– A consensus is reached about which player gets that hand.

The consensus is about what kind of reading that hand would be. I am going to use a three player assumption for the rest of this post.

The consensus can be anything. It can be:
– that someone played the significant card that the other two support.
– the 3 cards are a Spar, and more cards should be dealt until the skirmish is over. We tended to do three new cards each face down for every card, and then a fourth card is played face up. The new face up cards can cascade into another Spar, but usually not. The 15 cards (2 up, 3 flipped over from being down)(or more if you Spar again) are the reading for that hand.
– which of the three players this 3 card reading is for.
– which of the three players was able to explain how the 3 cards could form a reading, while the other two players shrug and get nothing from that hand.
– that someone can be the reader, decide the reading is about one person, and they both agree that the 3 cards should go to the third person’s deck.
– no one is feeling it, and whoever had the highest (or lowest, or pick something) card get the hand
– no one is feeling it, and whoever had the odd card out (a cup when the other two are wands) get the hand, etc.

If all of that is too confusing, an default is who is this hand a reading for and that player gets the hand.

Between the repeated and constant readings, and that this game tends to go through the whole desk, Spar is good for breaking habits of attachment and import. This is not the rare and precious reading you traveled far to a difficult to see masterful reader where you are going to ask the significant question that will help define your life. No. There is this hand. There will be the next hand. There will be as many hands as we all feel like.

I can practice what it feels like to know that getting a major like The High Priestess which should logically be the most important card, but since the other two cards are the Two of Staves and the 99 of Staves and I am playing with the Silicon Dawn, I can feel that I am being pulled back from the technical importance of Major to look at the theme in the 3 cards of new beginnings, resolution of duality, and maybe we get to a consensus that the Two of Staves is the winning card this hand. That I dealt, but this reading is about Ember, so Ember gets this hand. The next time those 3 cards show up together in a spar, maybe Hobbit was doing a ton of video editing recently and this is about choices and copies and it is Hobbit’s hand this time.

Or another example hand, again with the Silicon Dawn. If we play The Devil, Prince of Pentacles, and The Hermit in that hand we have two very bored people staring at the walls, and one person walking through walls as they explore. Nothing to do with the numerology of the cards, or the commonly agreed meanings, but about what is going on with those 3 cards in that hand. I am not saying that the common agreements about card meanings, and other assigned symbols sets for the cards are not valuable. They are! But there is a point in reading when you have all the information and all the pieces and you have to decide. And decisions take emotions.

Spar is great for practicing your emotional reaction to the art of reading.

Which makes Spar the most intimate of the three games, and the one I would play if I was trying to feel out people for future ritual, or types of trust exercises. There can be a lot of discussion and working through assumptions and miscommunications as each hand is assigned to the winner of the round. I can agree to disagree and submit to the will of the other players without it being a big deal because there will be another hand. I can practice learning if the other players are aware, or generous, can open up outside their clique, and any number of interpersonal arrangements, quirks, and conflicts. I get to feel the other players out.

Which can be learning that one player is never going to agree to anything negative (or, maybe, positive). Or maybe one player is extremely hierarchical and will not hear of a Major losing a round. We have all had querants that have blind spots and stubborn favorites. Spar can be good practice in negotiating an otherwise clear reading, that the player the hand is obviously for is just not having! No Way! Not their reading! It can’t be! (And they thought readings only did nice things, like grant wishes…)

And I think that is a good place to stop, because it dovetails nicely into how I personally work with the decks I play these games with.

If you are not an animist, know your tool set. Choose the rich symbol set you want to integrate more completely into your practice. I have read with a deck of playing cards that had english flowers and herbs as the suites and Shakespeare quotes related to gardens, flowers, and nature, on each card. For me, there was a ton of information to cross reference. That would be a frustrating deck for a black thumb techno-mage who hates fiction to share a game with me. It would not be fun.

If you are an animist, know your deck. I am mentioning the Silicon Dawn a lot because she is, to some extent, a party girl. The Vulture, arms trailing dance lights, was important to her conception and realization. She is a strong deck, but she is not stodgy or fussy.

I am obviously, considering how I talk about the Silicon Dawn, at least a bit of an animist when it comes to what I do (not necessarily how I believe). My personal practice for picking a deck for play is this. I think about playing, having clear in my mind what that means. During or after, I shuffle the deck. Then I will cut the deck and look at the card on the bottom of the top cut. If it appears favorable, say 0(2): the Fool, I will play. If it is less inviting, say for example The Emperor, I will take that as something in my subconscious does not want to interact with this symbol set right now and I will go find another deck to try. If all decks wash out, maybe I should not be playing right now.

If you made it this far, thank you. I hope the series brought you ideas to try.

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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