When I set out to create The Sweeney Tarot, I was not entirely sure what I wanted from it. I had tried many times to make my own deck, but I found myself getting stuck trying to incorporate my own images with the symbolism so closely related to Tarot. After the third attempt, I decided that it was time to go back to the books and read up on what the symbols mean.
And I have books upon books about the symbols, I spent most of my time in the Hesburgh Library trying to find sources that have reached a consensus and I found that the more I learned, the less I really knew for certain.
And that you can spend your whole life learning the symbols and sticking to the systems set for you, or you can make your own. I was, after all, making this for myself.
It wasn’t until I started sharing my works in progress that I realized that other people were interested in my interpretations.
When setting out to illustrate a card, I would look at other artist’s depictions of each. But I would also do a reading with the deck that I had, purposely choosing the card in question and placing it between two random cards to see how they interact with each other. I wanted the cards to interact with each other in this way. I wanted them to be lively and dynamic.
I would then try to find a single word or phrase that I could pare it down to. As someone with a pretty awful memory, it seemed only logical for me to want to make sure I got the message across without interfering with my own intuition.
And from there I would think of an image that exemplifies it.
The reason that I have decided to call this a Tarot deck instead of an Oracle deck is that while the images are non-standard for certain, I was still working within the framework of the Rider-Waite Tarot (as illustrated by Smith.) It has 22 cards in the Major Arcana and four minor suits ranging from Ace to Kings, and the cards themselves are based on interpretations of Tarot. That is where the association ends, however. A handful of people are more comfortable with calling it an Oracle deck, and that is fine. I intended for it to be a meeting point between the two.
There are many things that set this deck apart from others, but one that is most notable is the recurring characters. There are a handful of figures that make several appearances throughout the deck and add another layer of meaning. Throughout the course of this book, I will go over these layers and give a few tips as to how to interpret them.
There are just as many ways to read tarot as there are readers, and hence there is no wrong way to read them. It is okay to use this deck with spreads and it is okay to use this deck with uprights only if you wish. However, I will detail my own personal reading style- which is ‘nebulous at best.’
When I do a reading, especially one with more than three cards in the spread, I don’t look at the position of the cards (in that they are not ‘past, present, future’ readings.) Instead, I look for relationships and similarities in the cards. Cards that are similar become mentally grouped together and that creates their relationships. Here are some factors that I look for in a large spread:
These factors can indicate hundreds of relationships, but we must look at what these things mean individually as well. So let us start there.
Many people prefer not to read reversals because if each card has an opposite then the reversals are not necessary. There is nothing wrong with this method, but there are other ways to interpret a reversed card. A reversal can indicate a blockage or an obstacle, and it is my personal experience that there is a reason for pulling the card reversed instead of its opposite. For me, a reversed card often indicates that there is potential to turn that card around.
Let us use the Abundance card as an example:
The message of the Abundance card is pretty straightforward in its upright position. Good things coming your way. To reverse it, there are several different interpretations.
- The Querent may experience a loss of wealth.
- The Querent may have the potential for Abundance, but it cannot happen yet.
- There are obstacles in the way of the Querent gaining the success exemplified in the card.
There are other interpretations to be made, but those are some simple examples. It is up to the reader to discern how to read the reversal, and this comes from context clues. Remember that logic and storytelling are just as powerful tools as intuition.