Deck Interview: Spirit Keeper's Tarot, Part 1
As happens to happen, I received two new tarot decks on the same day, even though I bought them a bit apart, but I am so happy to have them. I’m spending time with Benebell Wen’s Spirit Keeper’s Tarot before diving into the next tarot deck. When I first saw the deck, I was intrigued because I like most things that Benebell Wen does, but I was not sold on the renaming of the cards or some of the esoteric imagery in the cards, and I didn’t really understand how the deck connects to one’s personal spirituality. I have since gotten over that initial hesitation. Supporting other readers and creators is important, and I haven’t always done my part in the ways that I’m able to.
But that’s enough about that. It’s time to see what the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot has to say about itself and our relationship. This particular deck was “birthed” with the randomly chosen name of Marlon. Obviously, I thought of Marlon Brando, an excellent gay actor who was plenty hunky in his younger days. I can get on board with that, especially given the quality of his craft. But the image of him as Stanley Kowalski in a tight white shirt was quickly replaced with a scene from the 80s sitcom Mama’s Family. (The scene itself isn’t really important, but the episode (in case you’re curious) is called “The Really Loud Family.”) So Marlon, to me, is partly serious craft and partly humorous sideshow, so that seems a good fit for me.
This will be Part 1 of my interview with the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot. I plan to re-interview the deck after completing the 22 weeks’ activities to connect with the deck that the deck’s creator, Benebell Wen, has provided for connecting with the ”spirit network” behind the cards. You can connect to this network psychologically rather than religiously, but—as the name suggests—it’s designed to be spiritual, whatever that means for you.
The cards are not, in traditional tarot meanings, great. We’ve got some old favorites, such as the 3 of Swords (the Bereaved) and the 10 of Swords (the Destroyer), as well as the 7 of Cups, which can be hit or miss, but with a name like ”The Corrupter” it sounds like a big ol’ sad trombone waa-waaaaa. There’s only one major and one court card, a Holy Guardian, but I drew an additional card to give me a sense of overall energy, and I got the Archangel Commander, the King of Swords in Rider-Waite-Smith tradition. It’s an intellectually powerful card, but it’s a card assisting in battle . . . when you need assistance in battle. Good lord.
On the plus side, Wen writes in the Book of Maps (the not-so-little guidebook) that ”a psychic barrier has been crafted into place so that only that which seeks to do good, cause good to be done upon you, and to confer benefits can come through.” Well, thank the heavens for that with these cards. It’s clear that this card is preparing me for psychic warfare of some kind. Is it that I’ll be fighting this deck and Wen’s teachings with my usual resistance to paradigm shifts that I know will be useful for me but which cause this Bull to dig his hooves and horns in? Or is it an external battle for which I’ll need to be prepared. With the Destroyer and the Corrupter book-ending these cards, it certainly feels like a warning, but against what? Surely it’s not against the deck itself; that’s like a time-travel paradox. I’d much rather that this be a deck for breaking down parts of myself that need dismantling, such as the aptly named Corrupter that feels very in line with some shadow-work I did with an incredibly powerful (and free) shadow-work exercise from Wen.
INTERVIEWING THE SPIRIT KEEPER’S TAROT
Tell me about yourself. The Destroyer | 10 of Swords.
What are your strengths? The Warrior | The Sun.
And your limitations? The Shining Flame | Knight of Sceptres.
What am I here to learn from you and what are you here to teach me? The Bereaved | 3 of Swords.
How can I work with you most effectively? The Memory Keeper | 6 of Chalices.
What is expected outcome of our relationship? The Corrupter | 7 of Chalices.
Looking at the questions one by one, we have the Destroyer in the prime position, suggesting that it’s a deck with a dual purpose: it can heal and it can kill, as the Destroyer can be seen as either removing swords or inserting them. It’s card of catharsis, for clearing out the old, and for exacting revenge on those who have harmed us. Given that the Archangel Commander watches over these cards, I’m guessing that there’s a fair bit of the battle angel to this deck, rather than the healer, but it has both light and dark in it, just as the card does. It reminds me of a post by the deck’s creator on the ethics of hexes or curses. (I don’t offer those services, so please don’t ask. I don’t know why people assume I do—I get asked about it periodically after a reading.)
For its strengths, we have the Warrior, a sun goddess bringing energy and divination, as well as battle, once again very in line with the Archangel Commander. But the sword that the goddess wields is the Sword of Spirit, relic of the Swords card, and it pairs water and fire together in alchemy. As a result, almost everything is in this one card. We have the zodiac and planets and Hebrew mother letters, bringing in astrology and ritual magic and (per the book) bone oracles. But the Warrior’s battle is within one’s own mind, to expand consciousness, to clear out the dark places and free oneself of false bonds. Once again, an internal battle seems likely as I work through these cards. It could be a rough 22 weeks, but success and glory could await (emphasis on could, as we’ll discuss with the last card). Beyond the scope of this reading is that the Destroyer and the Memory Keeper are both minor arcana of decans ruled by the Sun.
Contrary to this is the weakness of the Shining Flame, which has a lot of overlap with the sun in terms of awakenings and fiery energy, the beginning of solar light and divine expansion. But this card signals the development of a ”divine seed” already planted but not yet growing, and that seems the only logical point that would fit as a counter to the Sun. To me this suggests that the deck will not be as useful to developing old ideas that need more nurturing. More likely it will create new ways of thinking and connecting spiritually with the deck, leaving expectations and past practices to lay fallow. It could also be a sign that the potency of the Warrior will come through air and water energy as seen in that card, rather than fire, which is also present but perhaps less transformative for me than the other two. I already am doing plenty of fire energy work with another deck and other practices.
As for what I am to learn from this deck and what it is here to teach me, we have the 3 of Swords. The 3 of Swords is the only minor arcanum that actually matches a planet–zodiacal sign pairing that I have in my natal chart, Saturn in Libra. It’s a position of "instant karma,” and that’s an aspect of my own experience that I know quite well. Thankfully it keeps me on the up-and-up most of the time. But it’s a savage aspect. Of the many associations listed in the guide and Medium White Book for this deck, this card is tied to aeromancy and divination through clouds. I’ve always loved clouds, and I used to think about becoming a meteorologist. It’s possible that there’s a nod here to exploring a different aspect of clouds. More likely, though, this card ties into the lessons of conflict and suffering that accompany the sort of battles that the Archangel Commander will oversee. Still, having a helping hand in healing and righting wrongs will be handy.
The last two cards come from the suit of Chalices. In these six cards, there are arguably 2 air cards (Swords), two fire cards (Sun and Sceptre) and two water cards (Chalices). Everything is there except earth, just as in the Warrior card. In the fifth position, the Memory Keeper suggests working with this deck through memory work, whether that is childhood memories or past life memories. I don’t know if we can actually access past lives, but I do think it’s worth exploring because whatever you find there is coming from within you, once lived or imagined, Working with time—finding more time and finding the right timer—is something I already try to incorporate, but working with memory will be a beneficial step for me in general and, apparently, for this deck and me. I’m not sure how the Archangel Commander might alter this card: perhaps there are teachings from other lives that will help my battles, or perhaps there are memories that will help me understand the causes and effects of certain struggles coming my way.
The last card is a doozy: the Corrupter. As someone who is logical and very in touch with his Swords, it’s hard to hear that this deck will show me that my thinking is flawed and my logic is faulty. It’s a card of changing direction before things are too late, of rethinking plans and expectations. Perhaps it’s the necessary but difficult paradigm shift to challenge my way of thinking. Here the Archangel Commander could be identifying falsehoods surrounding me, but given the other cards, it seems like falsehoods lurking within. Either that or the spirit weaponized. It could be a potent way for bringing sins down on others, but remember that whole ”instant karma” thing? As with the first card, there’s a lot of shadow to work through with this card, and it will be interesting to see what, if any, light I glean from it. If it only shows me the errors of my ways, however, then it’s still doing quite a lot of good.
As I said, it will be an interesting 22 weeks.
The cards pictured here are from the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot (Vitruvian Edition), which is an independently created deck by Benebell Wen. It was available through her website when I conducted this interview, but it is now sold out. According to Wen, it’s not likely to come back into print any time soon, if ever.