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jmd 
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Non-illustrated pips


This thread arises from various questions which have been posted related to reading pips on decks such as the Marseilles. Lee and two others have at various times either e.mailed me or sent a private message to ask what I do. I thought that starting a thread with my answer may stimulate those of you who also use non-illustrated decks to post what you do.

In a nutshell, the problem is the following. In decks which fully illustrate their pips, one can use the image in order to interpret the reading at hand. With un-illustrated pips, such appears either impossible or certainly not obvious.
  • Elements
Whether one uses an illustrated pip deck or not, as one develops one's understanding of the element, this will inevitably play into what one sees in the cards. As an example, take any card from the suit of swords, than, assuming that the association with swords is the element of Air (this is not, of course, universal, for both the element of Fire and that of Water have also been connected with swords), then the card may be interpreted with that aspect in mind.
  • Number
Quite frankly, I do think that having unillustrated pips makes more demands on understanding the numerological significance of the numerals 1-10. When reading cards with illustrations, the numerological significance will, of course, also be used, as one develops understanding in that area.
  • Depictions
Here, what is of import is what emerges from the card itself. Even unillustrated pips have adornments and particular ways of depicting the objects. One can certainly sense into what this means in relation to a specific reading. For example, a particular flower and its orientation may emerge as of significance and with a specific meaning at a particular time. Here, whether one reads with our without illustrated pips is not relevant.

In a reading, having non-illustrated pips certainly makes the Major Arcana stand out much more. In that sense, I tend to view illustrated pips as taking away from the visual 'obviousness' of a given spread.
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A number of specific questions were also asked. and hopefully, what follows answers these directly.

In readings, any background understanding will always play. Nonetheless, what is important is to be open to what the combination of cards speak to the situation, and to allow for whatever small depiction to emerge as significant. Memorising number meanings is therefore, to me, not important. What is important is to progressively develop an understanding of, amongst other things, numbers, elements, and relations between these.

With regards to reversals, I personally do use them, but the specific meaning will depend on the reading. It may indicate a blockage with regards to the meaning of the card at hand, or that that aspect is not being focussed on... or that it shouldn't be. Again, the specific meaning will only emerge in a specific spread.

Whether, then, a six cups reversed means that the harmony related to the element of Water, of feelings or emotions, is at issue, will really depend on the other cards in the spread.

Also, when reading, a story unfolds, so that it is not the individual meanings which are important, but the discourse unfolding in the . As such, one need not try to remember each card and its position or meaning. After all, presumably one does not need to 'remember' the learned meaning of each of the words I am here using. rather, one very much penetrates beyond the veil of the individual words into the meaning of the narrative at hand.
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So, how does one learn with pips. I suggest the following:
  • develop an understanding of the numbers 1-10, especially by drawing them in representative form (one as point, two as mirror image, three as triangle, etc);
  • develop an understanding into the four elements, by mentally separating into four aspects a situation one wishes to reflect on;
  • develop reading skills by doing some readings with pips only about, for example, the underlying information behind the front page of a newspaper.
And I'm also really interested to read what others have to add... or how you do it differently.
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This thread also dealt with related aspects.
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Kaz 
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i used a regular deck of playing cards to get rid of the images, that works fine. it's what you say, you get a feeling for suit and numbers. i used one suit at a time just to answer some dumb questions, using 1 card first and then 3 card spreads, and later combined the suits.
but, as the eye likes pretty pictures, a ordered myself a tarot deck with pips, soprafino, which i hope to get very soon. though the thoth deck is also not really a pictured minors deck, but it's not pips either.

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MeeWah 
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JMD: Great topic!
When reading non-illustrated pips, I rely on 3 main criterias.
1. Number--The numerological quality refers to the state of being, the condition or the action in progress/to be taken. A basic knowledge of the attributes of numbers plays a crucial part in the understanding of the possible significance of the card.
2. Major Arcana--Following the numerological significance, the card's association with the Major Arcana is next. All pip or minor cards are aspects of the Major Arcana.
Thus, Ace/One relates to 1-The Magician; Twos relate to 2-The High Priestess; Threes to 3-The Empress & so on.
3. Element--The elemental or suit aspect of the card. Wands/Staves/Rods is to Fire; Cups/Chalices to Water; Swords/Daggers to Air; Pentacles/Coins/Disks to Earth.
(Some decks switch the correspondences between Wands & Swords. The individual would need to determine what school of thought to align the self with in this for a cohesive interpretation, or make the necessary adjustments depending on the deck used.) Combined with the numerological aspect, it refers to the *nature* of said card.
Thus, Ace/One pertains to the essence of the element; the raw energy or the potential that is to be directed or manifested. It can refer to a dawning awareness or an awakening. Twos are the beginning of manifestion; pertain to union, balance or duality, opposition; the yin-yang principle; etc.
I do not really look at the pip illustrations as I do not find them to be particularly helpful, which may be odd as I am visually oriented. In this instance, however, they can be more distracting than an aid to the focus.
Though I do not include this in the criteria, it is usually the first quality that determines how I read a pip (or any card) & that is the intuitive impression of a card. How the card strikes me at the onset or attracts the attention. The card may stand alone to make a statement &/or may also include its relationship to surrounding cards.



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Last edited by MeeWah; 08-05-2002 at 22:47.
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zorya 
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jmd, you've inspired me to get out one of my older decks! i learned on the 1jj swiss. it really helped me learn the pips deeply. (numerology, elements, etc). i had forgotten how much more clearly they separated the majors from the minors. they really do help keep the cards in perspective.

thanks!
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Lee 
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Many thanks to jmd and MeeWah, for providing much food for thought.

jmd, as a practical matter, how do you handle reversals in those decks in which some cards look the same upright and reversed? For example, in the Marseille deck currently sold by USGames, many of the Wands cards in particular are the same upright and reversed. Do you mark the cards, or just not read reversals with those cards which can't be distinguished?

MeeWah, I was interested in what you said about correlating the number cards to the Majors. Do you mean that you take the entire meaning from the Majors, or do you have separate numerological meanings for the numbers, and just bring in considerations of the corresponding Major for a nuance? There are some systems which take the number meanings entirely from the Majors, for example Rolla Nordic's book did this, and by extension the book Classic Tarot Spreads by her student, Konraad Sandor. Also, the Voyager deck (an illustrated-Minor deck) derives the pip card meanings from the corresponding Majors.

Regarding jmd's fascinating analogy of a layout being like a sentence, this leads me to wonder if layouts that don't have specific meanings for each position might be better suited for pip-deck readings, so that a pip card could be looked at perhaps more like a modifier of an adjacent Major or Court card, rather than have to bear the weight of a position meaning like "the root of the question."


-- Lee
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MeeWah 
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Lee: Thank *you*!
Generally, I retain the basic numerological meanings; refer to the Majors but apply according to the element/suit. The latter involves a wee adjustment for the aspect of the number.
For example:

One = A straight line (vertical or horizontal). The Idea; the First Principle; the I AM or manifested deity; creation. Existence. Man. The conscious mind.

1-The Magician = The Will. The originator; the creator. Leader; independent; masculine; aggressor/aggressive.

Ace-Wands (Clubs): Wands represents the state of the spirit; associated with the element of Fire. Fire is thus equated with that spark of awareness or divine inspiration; energy; motivation.
Thus, it represents a new beginning; a promise; creativity; enthusiasm; optimism; an opportunity; a project.
I also tend to see Aces/Ones as "the hand of God/dess".

I tend to operate on "auto-pilot" so I am not always consciously aware of a process. This is as accurate an accounting as I can relate. Does it help?
I am sorry, I am not familiar with any of your references nor do I have The Voyager Tarot. Will make a note of them & see about looking them up.
BTW: I like Sasha Fenton's Tarot because its minors are essentially non-illustrated pips. The Wands are represented by the number of wands according to the numerical cards; ditto for rest of the suits. I think the other deck I have with non-illustrated pips is the Japanese Miracle Tarot. A lovely deck, but I have not tried to read with it.



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Last edited by MeeWah; 10-05-2002 at 02:05.
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Lee 
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Hi, MeeWah, thanks, your description of your interpretive process is very helpful.

I like Sasha Fenton's deck too, but I haven't looked at it in a while... you've inspired me to dig it out and take another look.

Just a note for everybody... as MeeWah points out, the ideas being discussed here don't relate only to reading antique decks, (although the desire to do so was what prompted my original inquiries), but can be used for any non-illustrated-Minor deck, of which there are many very attractive modern ones. Some of my favorites include:

Tarot of the Witches/James Bond deck: a lot of people can't stand this deck but I think it's colorful and jaunty.

Tarot Maddonni: I'm not sure if this deck is still available, but it's a wonderfully drawn, whimsical deck. The pip cards don't even show the requisite number of suit symbols, but merely show a single suit symbol on each card, with the card's number in the corner.

Ukiyoe Tarot is a particularly lovely deck. The pip cards contain flower symbolism which can be used interpretively as well.

MeeWah, Rolla Nordic's book is out of print (I forget the title, it's buried somewhere in my bookshelf) but Konraad's book Classic Tarot Spreads is very similar and is still in print, I think.

-- Lee
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MeeWah 
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Lee: I forgot I have The Tarot of the Witches. I ordered it from Wooden Horse Books because I liked its bright colors & whimsical images. I dug it up & went through the cards earlier this evening.
Do the pip images strike you as being arranged in significant patterns?
Thanks for the heads up on the books. The Classic Tarot Spreads is one I shall look for.



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*with a sheepish grin, zorya digs out her old tarot of the witches deck too* psssssss don't tell anybody, ROFLMAO
i always liked the colors too. hee hee. of course i would like to do away with the shoulders and lengthen the legs......

meewah, you may be on to something with the pip arrangements, hmmmmm the 2's are not in balance. not unlike scales which seldom are. 3's and 4's are solid. 6,8,9 and 10 feel balanced. 7 is top heavy and uncomfortable. the 5 is throwing my theory off a little, and the patterns change some with the suits. nah, maybe not. what do you see/think meewah and lee?
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