The Lore of Life, Leaf & Stone:
part 4, by Leaf and Stone
We now turn to the practical application of the taratir archetypes in divination. As the words 'Leaf & Stone' imply it is possible to perform divinatory readings using either a deck of cards ('leaves') or a set of casting 'stones'.
Although the cards and stones were probably used in a variety of ways, the Tresco manuscript describes only two: the 'Star of the West' and 'Sickle' spreads. Both are here described in full. Taratir cards and stones can also be used with most tarot spreads.
Throughout the following discussions the person performing the reading is referred to as 'she'; the querent (the person for whom the reading is performed) as 'he'. This is merely for convenience and to distinguish the two roles. In practice, a person can perform readings for him or herself and in such a situation assumes the roles of both reader and querent.
The Taratir deck
Not currently commercially available
This unique deck comprises thirty-six cards, one for each of the Vision archetypes. In addition to the Vision title and number each card bears the corresponding Tengwa letter, its letter-name in both Quenya and modern English and a quotation from the Red Book (as published in The Lord of the Rings). The titles are taken from those assigned by Hundred in the ninth century. On the reverse, the cards show a version of the MS cover design, which is thought to represent the Star of the West spread.
These details, originally published in Reunion 23, can be found here.
The cards have no intrinsic 'magical' properties. Nevertheless, if they are to should be used for divination, common sense (and a deeper uncommon sensitivity) dictates that they should be treated with respect. Tarot card readers recommend that a deck should be wrapped in silk and kept in either a wooden box or a drawstring purse, and these suggestions are also appropriate to the taratir deck.
The cards should be handled and examined frequently; at first to foster and later to reinforce a sense of identity with the images and archetypes they embody. After use, the cards should be shuffled thoroughly and then sorted into order before being put away. This symbolically ensures that each reading commences anew, with no 'carry over' from the previous session.
Making a set of serni stones
Some readers, including those previously familiar with using the Futhark runes, may wish to make themselves a set of serni, or casting stones. These can then be used for performing readings in much the same way as the deck of taratir cards. The 'stones' themselves should be made from some natural material.
Sea-pebbles, wood or clay are probably the most suitable although tumble-polished gemstones such as crystal or amethyst may be preferred. If wood is chosen, it should be cut from a fallen branch, or recycled from a suitable source. Birch and yew have traditionally been used for making Futhark runestones, and are also appropriate here.
Each stone should be closely similar in shape and size, roughly 2 cm by 2.5 cm. Larger stones can be used but it should be possible to hold all thirty-six easily in the hands at one time. The stones must be marked permanently, each with one of the thirty-six Tengwa letters.
Sea-pebbles are readily marked with Indian ink. The lettering (not the whole stone) may be given a coat of clear matt varnish to seal the ink, if this is thought necessary.
Wooden 'stones' can also be inked, although in this case the surface will require sealing before the lettering is applied. An alternative is to burn the letters into the surface using a hot wire or poker.
Clay stones may be inked, or the letters can be cut or pressed into the surface before firing.
Semi-precious stones offer the greatest challenge, as the surface takes ink poorly and paint soon chips away. An electric engraver is ideal, if such a tool is available.
Whatever method is chosen to apply the lettering, it is necessary to distinguish those pairs of letters which are inverted forms of one another, such as silmë (18, STAR) and silmë nuquerna (14, EVENSTAR). If the Vision numbers are included on each stone, no uncertainty should arise. Otherwise, a small dot can be placed below the letters.
The stones should be kept in a drawstring bag, which doubles as a container in which they can be mixed thoroughly before performing a reading.
Aspects of divination
The process of divination itself is most closely represented within the Book of Visions by Vision 10, MIRROR. The basin of clear water into which the Lady Galadriel invites her guests to gaze is the archetypal 'magic mirror', the scrying glass or crystal ball.
If the time is not right, nothing is seen except a reflection of the sky above: it is important to realise that one valid response to any question is that no answer should be sought at the present time. At the right moment the Mirror may reveal visions of the past, present or future, but not everything is necessarily as it first appears: it is the responsibility of the reader to make sense of what is revealed.
A reading is something like a photograph of the querent's life at a single point in time. Generally this will be the moment at which the reading is performed, although it is possible to construct a reading for any time; past, present or future.
This moment has arisen as the natural consequence of innumerable past choices, influences and events, many of which the querent will not be aware. Some will be more relevant to the querent's questions than others, and are highlighted in the process of spreading the cards. Extending the photographic analogy, this is like adjusting a camera's focus and aperture settings to determine which elements will be seen most sharply.
The total period covered by the reading depends upon the forces then at work, and the questions asked. If the querent's life is generally stable and the questions of a long-term nature then the reading may describe processes at work over a period of months.
However, if the querent is in a state of flux and uncertainty (and it is at such times that people most frequently turn to divination for guidance) then care should be taken not to extrapolate the reading too far into the future.
In photographic terms, this is similar to adjusting a camera's shutter speed. A fast shutter speed records an instant of time in great detail. A slower speed records events over a longer period, but the image may be blurred as a result.
The analogy can be stretched further. Photographic film detects radioactivity as well as visible light. Infra-red cameras detect heat. Television and radio allow us to perceive patterns to which our unaided senses are blind. A reading can similarly be thought of as 'tuning in' to influences beyond those we can normally experience.
Just as it is not necessary to understand the details of how a camera or television works in order to use it, it is not necessary to understand how a divination reveals what it does. All that is required is the willingness to 'suspend disbelief' and try.
The Star of the West spread
The Star of the West spread is used to examine in detail what is going on in the querent's life at the present time. The forces and influences which have led to this moment are also considered. These are then projected forward to reveal how his future may most naturally unfold. Here, 'naturally' is used to imply that the querent takes no conscious action to alter the direction in which his life is progressing.
This need not mean that the querent simply 'sits back and does nothing'. Indeed, it is likely that some conscious action is required, so that the querent may align himself with the forces and decisions which have brought him to his present situation.
The case where the querent is considering action which may fundamentally alter his present Path is covered by the Sickle spread, described later in this chapter.
In so far as the cards must be laid out on some flat surface - a table top or the floor - the Star of the West spread is necessarily two-dimensional. However, it can and should be thought of in three-dimensions, with cards three through ten lying in one plane, card one above and card two below:
Viewed in this way, the cards form three lines or axes:
The east-west Axis of Becoming represents the passage of time, or the passage of the querent through time, from the recent past (card eight, That Which is Behind) through the present moment (four, The Key) into the near future (nine, The Means to the End) and beyond.
The south-north Axis of Fellowship shows the querent in relation to others (card four, The World of Men) and to his own place in the world (six, the Mirror of Dreams). These meet in the present with card seven, The Conscious Self, which shows the querent in the 'here and now': the person presenting himself before the reader for guidance.
The vertical earth-sky Axis of Transformation represents the potential for development in the current situation, from those aspects which underlie the moment (card two, Foundation of All) through the present (three, the Focus) towards its highest goal (card one, The Crown of the King).
Each of the ten cards in the spread will now be considered in detail.
Card One, Sky, The Crown of the King
This card opens the spread and lies on the vertical Axis of Transformation. It gives an overview of the reading as a whole, and represents the highest to which the querent might aspire at the present time. This is often subconsciously 'known', but may not previously have been openly acknowledged.
The Crown of the King can indicate concrete goals and ambitions, or it may represent a state of mind or attitude of being that can lead the querent onwards. A king's crown is the outward symbol of his worldly and spiritual authority and of itself commands respect. In a similar way, awareness of a 'higher calling' can give a sense of purpose and worth to the most mundane aspects of everyday existence.
Card Two, Earth, Foundation of All
Lying on the vertical Axis of Transformation, this card is the counterpoint to The Crown of the King. It represents the foundation or basis of the reading, and also of those aspects of the querent's present for which the reading has been constructed.
The present arises, not at the whim of some external 'Fate', but out of the interweaving of an infinity of decisions, actions and inactions: conscious and unconscious, free and constrained.
The 'Now' for which the reading has been raised is one exquisite fragment of the fabric of the universe, which is at all moments creating itself anew. Foundation can give important insights into what has led to the present moment.
These may be traceable back into the querent's near or distant past, but here it is their relation to the present that is important. As with The Crown of the King, the meanings of card two may come as a surprise to the querent: they are often things that have been forgotten, suppressed or simply not considered relevant to the current situation.
Card Three, Centre, The Focus
This is the first of the three cards at the centre of the reading, and lies on the vertical Axis of Transformation. It indicates how and where the forces revealed as the Foundation are working at the present time.
This will generally be some area of which the querent is aware, and should correspond to the questions asked. Where this is not the case, it may indicate that the querent has not identified the area of greatest need or potential. The querent's assumptions should be examined carefully, as well as the precise nature of the questions asked.
As will be described, it is recommended that the querent records his questions before the reading is begun. These serve as an objective reference against which the shifting possibilities of the reading can be measured.
Card Four, Centre, The Key
This is the second central card, and lies on the east-west Axis of Becoming. Card four may indicate an aspect of the present, in which case it will either reinforce or antagonise the Focus card.
Where the reading has been constructed to illuminate an area of difficulty of confusion, the interplay between cards three and four can reveal the fundamental conflicts involved. Alternatively, The Key can represent the most appropriate immediate response to current circumstances, or the responses the querent is actually making.
The Key should be interpreted with particular reference to cards eight, That Which is Behind, and nine, The Means to the End. The progression of cards eight > four > nine represents the querent's personal development in time, from the immediate past (card eight) through the present (four) and into the near future (nine). This might be revealed as a smooth process of change and growth. Alternatively, card four might indicate the response necessary to instigate a new cycle of growth.
Card Five, South, The World of Men
On the north-south Axis of Fellowship, card five indicates how the querent presently relates to others. It may refer to the querent's family, friends, colleagues, or 'people' in general.
Our position and status with respect to those around us cannot be disregarded as a force within our lives. No matter how free from such influences we like to feel we are, none of us exists within a vacuum. Card five can also stand for advice proffered by others, or for what the querent feels other people's opinions would be concerning his present situation.
Card Six, North, The Mirror of Dreams
The title recalls Vision 10, MIRROR. This card is the mirror in which the querent's hopes and fears are shown most clearly. Here can be seen aspects of how the querent sees, or would like to see, his present situation evolving.
The Mirror of Dreams can indicate a role the querent has assumed, or would like to assume. This should be examined in relation to card one, The Crown of the King. If these two cards appear in conflict it indicates that the features revealed in the Mirror do not represent the best that might be aspired to, given the prevailing circumstances.
Where card six reveals doubts or fears concerning the future, the interpretation may be that the fears are unfounded or can be transformed.
Card Seven, Centre, The Conscious Self
This is the third central card and frames the 'Now' of the reading upon the south-north Axis of Fellowship. It represents the querent himself, as a person capable of decision and action, within the complex interplay of forces revealed by the rest of the spread.
Card Eight, East, That Which is Behind
Lying on the Axis of Becoming, this card indicates influences or behaviour beyond which the querent has already moved, or aspects of the present which should now be left behind. These meanings are related to those of Vision 24, EAST. There can also be an implication of voluntary sacrifice, as with Vision 12, BRIDGE. The process of transformation offered by the reading as a whole will be easier and more fruitful if the querent can relinquish what is no longer necessary to him.
Card Nine, West, The Means to the End
The 'end' to which this refers is a natural resolution of the forces at work in the present. In temporal terms, the card in position nine represents the future in the immediate to short term.
As previously described, the timescale of a reading depends upon a variety of factors. Some indication may be gained by considering card nine in relation to card eight, That Which is Behind.
If the latter is identified as showing things that have already passed out of the querent's immediate sphere, then card nine relates aspects or actions beginning in or continuing into the near future.
Conversely, where card eight was understood as showing redundant aspects of the present, The Means to the End will describe the querent's potential circumstances and options in the immediate future.
Card nine should also be interpreted with reference to cards six, The Mirror of Dreams, and one, The Crown of the King. As already described, these cards indicate the hopes and fears brought to the reading by the querent (card six) and the highest potential offered by the present moment (card one). The relationship between The Means to the End and the final card is discussed in the next section.
Card Ten, Beyond the West, Beyond Understanding
This card, the last of the spread to be placed, lies upon the Axis of Becoming, and can be interpreted as lying beyond card nine in the (more) distant future. However, the card should not be seen as representing a 'final outcome', except in the limited sense that it indicates the furthest that can be revealed by the reading at this time.
The fundamental wisdom of the Book of Visions is that life is a cycle: indeed, that life comprises a multitude of interlacing cycles. To see any moment - past, present or future - as fixed, as anything but part of an ever-evolving web of becoming, is to miss the point.
Most straightforwardly, card ten portrays the natural consequences of the choices portrayed in position nine. However, the potential of card ten extends further, as is suggested by the title Beyond Understanding.
In contrast to the other cards, that in position ten is not constrained to relate directly to the current circumstances of the querent, and can show the future impact of forces beyond his present situation or control.
It should be stressed that these things are by no means fixed or inevitable: it is simply not necessarily possible from this point in time to determine what actions (or inaction) on the part of the querent will cause (or avoid), what is shown.
The Sickle spread
The Sickle is used to investigate the consequences to the querent of deliberately choosing between two courses of action, one or both of which will deflect his Path away from its 'natural' course. This differs fundamentally from the Star of the West spread, which considers the natural unfolding of the querent's present situation.
The Sickle spread is indicated wherever the querent feels himself to be presented with two (usually mutually exclusive) options. The querent should be reminded, however, that in fact these are but two of the innumerable options available to him.
Where the querent's situation appears complex or the potential consequences of his decision are far-reaching it is recommended that a Star of the West reading is first performed. This will allow his present situation to be considered in detail along with the forces and choices that gave rise to it. The Star of the West will also show the 'natural' unfolding of his current situation, which may or may not relate to one of the options he has been considering.
The Sickle spread can only consider two options at a time, and the querent may wish to reconsider his questions before the reading is performed.
The layout of the Sickle spread represents the northern constellation of the Sickle or Plough (cards one through seven), together with the north pole star (card eight). The card positions are not named, but can be considered in four groups.
Cards five and six show the querent's current situation. They should be considered together but also indicate the uncertainty the querent is experiencing. This manifests as the (perceived) need to choose between two courses of action.
Cards four and seven represent the immediate or next step associated with each of the two (generally mutually exclusive) options. Card four is read as arising out of card five; card seven as arising out of card six.
First Option: the Consequences
Cards one, two and three show the consequences of pursuing the first option, as revealed by cards four and five, in the short to middle term. They should be considered together, rather than sequentially.
Second Option: the Outcome
Card eight indicates the Goal or 'outcome' of the second option, as revealed by cards six and seven. This can normally be taken as lying farther in the future than cards one, two and three.
As described above for position ten of the Star of the West spread, this 'outcome' card does not imply a fixed, permanent state of affairs. Rather, it represents the farthest unfolding of the Path initiated in card seven that can be revealed by the reading at this time.
The reading thus reveals the consequences of the two options under consideration in different ways, and to different degrees.
The first (cards one through five) is projected in fair detail, but only into the near to medium-term future. No indication is offered as to how these consequences (shown in cards one, two and three) might be resolved, nor towards what this path may be leading. Indeed, where these cards appear to conflict with one another, further decisions between conflicting options are likely in the future.
On the other hand, cards six, seven and eight reveal the natural Goal or 'conclusion' of the second option, without any clear indication of what such a choice may entail in the medium term. If the querent decides upon this course of action he must remain focused on his Goal, so that his Path is not deflected from its attainment.
Performing the reading
The following is intended as a basic framework which may be expanded or modified as deemed appropriate. Elaborate ritual 'works' for many people, especially those who attribute a magical connotation to the process of divination.
Others, this author included, feel complex preparations are unnecessary and can be inhibiting for the beginner. Nevertheless, a degree of ritual imparts to the process a structure which is helpful to both reader and querent.
The process will be described for the situation where one person is conducting and interpreting the spread for another, although it is equally suitable for performing readings for oneself.
Of signal importance to any divination are the states of mind of both the reader and querent. Where the divination is being performed for the reader herself it should still be appreciated that the responsibilities of reader and querent differ and care should be taken to distinguish the two roles before the reading begins.
Both parties should feel eager yet relaxed about what is to take place. It is not necessary that they both have the same, or indeed any, theory of 'How Divination Works', but both should approach the reading with the conviction that it is a worthwhile exercise, capable of yielding insights pertinent to the querent's circumstances.
For the querent in particular it is suggested that the reading is approached as one would a valued friend or counsellor: someone whose opinion and wisdom one respects but are at all times free to put aside.
It is self-evident that the reader should feel at ease with the process she is to perform and is familiar with the significances and meanings of the thirty-six taratiri. To begin with, inevitably, it will be necessary to refer back to the accompanying texts for guidance. In time, however, and with practice the individual characters or 'flavours' of the archetypes imprint themselves subconsciously upon the reader. From this point on, interpretation becomes a spontaneous and creative act.
In order to perform a reading, the following should be available:
It is important for both reader and querent to understand the basic intentions of the reading before it is begun. This need not involve detailed discussion of the issues involved (although such a discussion can of itself provide the insight necessary for the querent to resolve the situation, without any need for divination).
It is suggested that the querent sits quietly for a few minutes and writes down a brief description of how he feels about his current situation and defines the areas or questions upon which he is requesting guidance. This need be no more than a few dozen words and certainly less than a couple of hundred.
Whilst this is being done, or afterwards, the reader unwraps the deck, spreads the silk wrap (if used) upon the table or floor and mixes the cards thoroughly. The cards can be mixed by any means, so long as the faces are not visible to either party.
Reversed (that is, upside down) cards have no especial significance and it does not matter if some cards become reversed during the mixing process. The reader should concentrate on the cards and visualise the deck becoming less and less ordered. The reader should stop once she feels intuitively that the cards are 'thoroughly mixed up'.
The querent then takes the deck and continues to mix the cards. He should visualise the cards becoming less randomly mixed, until he feels intuitively that the deck is 'ready to be read'.
Even where the reader is reading for herself, these two stages in the shuffling should be distinguished. If in doubt, the querent should mix the cards for between two and five minutes, then stop and test if he feels ready for the cards to be dealt. If not, the deck is mixed a little longer and the testing repeated.
Throughout the process the querent should remain focused on the purpose of the spread, possibly by reading over the passage he has just written. If after three tests the querent still feels unsure the reading should be abandoned and perhaps tried again later.
When both stages of the mixing are complete the deck is cut. The querent holds the cards lightly, face down, in one hand, an inch or two above the table and allows approximately one third of the cards are allowed to fall forming a neat stack. The querent repeats the process with the remaining cards, allowing approximately half of them to fall in a second stack to the right of the first.
The remaining cards are placed in a pile at the extreme right. One pile of cards is then selected by the querent: as with the earlier mixing, this should be done intuitively. The reader reassembles the deck, still face down, with the chosen pile on top.
The reader now deals cards from the deck, in order, according to the spread previously selected. The reader may prefer to deal the cards face up, so as to gain an immediate impression of the reading as a whole. Alternatively, the cards can be dealt face down and then revealed one or two at a time, thereby building up the overall picture from the interplay of individual forces.
In either case, the reader must now relate the meanings of the cards drawn to the positions into which they have been placed, and also integrate all into a coherent whole. It is not the reader's job to massage the interpretations drawn to fit her perception of the querent's situation. This is the more necessary - and the more difficult - where the reader is interpreting for herself.
It is generally useful for some permanent record to be taken. The reading can be taped or either party may take written notes. In this author's experience the fullest benefit from a reading is gained when the reader is able to consolidate the initial interpretation by writing up such notes into a short 'report' for the querent.
This should be delivered within one or two days of the reading itself. This should not be seen by either party as an opportunity to gloss over apparent inconsistencies: the purpose is to structure what can otherwise appear - especially to the querent - rather a tangled web of possibilities and interactions.
Reading in depth
A deeper interpretation is possible by integrating the reading with the Wheel of Visions. Where this is envisaged, the querent's date of birth should be obtained, before the reading is begun. From this, the reader calculates the querent's Inner Wheel of Visions, LIFE-vision and Year-vision profile over a five-year period centred upon his current growth year. The information enables the 'snapshot' picture revealed by the divination to be related to the querent's broader background and experience.
Full details of the Wheel of Visions, LIFE-vision and Year-visions can be found here.
To ease the heartache - and the maths! - of calculating a person's LIVE-vision and Year-vision profile, use the calculator.
The Wheel of Visions
The spread as a whole can be related to the Outer and Inner Wheels. For example, any readings performed between February 10 and February 19 falls under Vision 5, LORE-GIVER on the Outer Wheel. The occurrence of this Vision within the reading, or any references to the querent's position in society or perceptions of a deeper role for himself would be highlighted, and could be further investigated. Insights into how any given Vision archetype is normally experienced (on the Inner Wheel) by the querent can be gained by considering it against the corresponding 'background' Visions on the Outer Wheel.
LIFE-vision and Year-visions
Occurrences of the querent's LIFE-vision or current Year-vision within the reading should be considered carefully. They indicate that the forces presently at work within his life are potentially important to his broader development and life-purpose.
An archetype's previous significance to the querent can be explored by considering previous years governed by that archetype as Year-vision. However, it is the archetype's relevance to the present that is shown in the reading, and this may extend, cut across or even contradict previous perceptions.
As previously described the period of time covered by a reading varies according to the querent's situation and the type of questions asked. Within this approximate period, however, some degree of precision in the timing of events may be obtained.
A 'future influences' or 'outcome' card may, for example, be timed to within a period of days or weeks if it is soon to become the querent's ruling Inner Wheel Vision.
'Past' or 'passing influences' cards can be dated with similar reference to past Inner Wheel decans. Reference to the querent's YEAR-vision sequence can also be helpful, particularly if the reading is being performed shortly before or after the querent's birthday.