Monday, December 28, 2015


Welcome to The Divination Nation blog!

 We are Pleasant Gehman and Crystal Ravenwolf, a duo of divination divas, “spiritual sisters from another mister”. We’re life-long Tarotistas, obsessed with all things esoteric and paranormal. Look for our forthcoming book, “Walking The Tarot Path” in April 2016.

 We’ve created this blog to share our knowledge and to connect with the vibrant worldwide metaphysical  and paranormal community. We hope it’s as fun for you to read as it is for us to write…Enjoy!



In 1999, during the days leading up to The New Millennium, like many people, I began reflecting on life: historical events I had witnessed, personal goals that I had achieved, the things I still wanted to accomplish and all the people in my life, living and dead. 

But what seemed to really dominate my thoughts were the many significant relationships I had with family and friends. I was blessed with so much love, nurture and support. I thought of the many special people who were there for me not matter what… friends and relatives who shared their lives with me, gave me affection, support and influenced my creative and artistic endeavors. One of these special individuals was my friend and belly dance mentor, the late Zein Abdul Al Malik.
Zein was a dancer of prodigious talent. Well over six feet tall and lanky, he had piercing green eyes and performed draped in billowing genie pants and luxurious folkloric garb. He  looked imposing and exotic when he danced balancing a huge brass tray with a full tea set and candles upon his regal head. He  began his career in San Francisco in the 1970's, and went on to live in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, where he resided in one of the royal palaces, thanks to his Saudi prince lover.  Zein lived and breathed  dance, performing, teaching and doing research.

After we met in 1990, he took me under his wing- me, a beginning baby belly dancer with barely any skills- but somehow he saw my potential and nurtured me. He'd have me over to his apartment- a wonderful, mysterious enclave of inlaid North African furniture, luxurious plants and relics from the Middle East. He’d make me fresh mint tea in a silver Moroccan teapot and we’d spend hours   discussing belly dance traditions. 

Music for Middle Eastern dance was hard to find in America  in those days, and Zein made me many Arabic mix tapes- remember, there were no CD’s back then.  Every cassette Zein made me also had a special cover that he thoughtfully put together by hand. Some featured Middle Eastern clip art others photocopy of vintage Turkish cigarette boxes and pictures of famous belly dancers.

Tragically, Zein died about five years after I met him. By that time, we were close friends and because of his encouragement, we were also gigging together regularly. I was absolutely devastated. I remember speaking-or rather blubbering through a speech- at his memorial, my face wet with flowing tears, but I don’t remember a thing I said.

I thought of him often, so many things reminded me of him. At gigs when I felt pre-show jitters, I would think of the way he used to calm my nerves through his twisted humor right before we both went on. Warming up with an ever-present Marlboro in his mouth, Zein would sense my anxiety, catch my eye, make an exaggerated coquettish gesture then and whisper in a feminine falsetto, “How’s my hair?” Somehow, our private joke never got old, and always made me laugh. Whenever he did that, I had a great show, entering the stage with a huge grin on my face. Even though Zein has been departed for years, I always think of him just before I go on.

Fast forward to New Year’s Eve 1999, at five minutes of midnight. Of course I was at a belly dance gig, in a dressing room, wearing a brand new costume- my first costume for the New Millennium. The dancer I was working with that evening asked what music I was planning to perform to for my first dance set of the century.

“I don’t know, “ I said, pawing through my CD binder, “I’m so sick of all my music!”
My gig bag was full of the usual belly dance accouterments: stray finger cymbals, perfume,  mis-matched sequin armbands, safety pins. Suddenly, something fell into my hands, a small plastic case. Though my suitcase was always chaotic, there was a method to my madness, and it was always re-packed before every show. The little plastic box was decidedly an unfamiliar object that I didn’t remember packing. Recognizing what it was in the dim dressing room lighting by the feel of it alone, I wondered how it got there.

“Hey,  there’s a cassette in my dance bag!” I cried, kind of amazed.

You still use cassettes?” the other dancer asked incredulously.

“Well, no, not for years”, I answered, dumbfounded, “I have no idea what it’s doing in here!”

“Well, maybe we can dance to it,” she said, “What is it?”

I glanced at the clock- it was now one minute before midnight. 

Thinking we’d better figure our music out, I turned the mystery cassette case over in my hands. The cover featured a black and white drawing of a 1920’s flapper lounging in a champagne glass.
In hand-lettered Art Deco font, it read:


As the clock struck midnight, I got the chills.


We’d LOVE to connect with you!
Visit our website to book  metaphysical  and occult workshops,  Tarot readings, or have us come out for a paranormal investigation:
Like us on Facebook:
Connect with us on Twitter:
To find out more about Pleasant  or request a reading or healing session, click here:
For more on Crystal’s background, or request a reading or healing session, click here:

 To purchase  a signed copy of Pleasant’s book  Showgirl Confidential , click here:

Monday, December 21, 2015


Our Lady Of Divination: Barbara Moore

Welcome to The Divination Nation blog!

 We are Pleasant Gehman and Crystal Ravenwolf, a duo of divination divas, “spiritual sisters from another mister”. We’re life-long Tarotistas, obsessed with all things esoteric and paranormal.

Look for our forthcoming book, “Walking The Tarot Path” in April 2016.

We’ve created this blog to share our knowledge and to connect with the vibrant worldwide metaphysical and paranormal community. We hope it’s as fun for you to read as it is for us to write…Enjoy!

Barbara Moore is a divination rock star.  She’s a Tarot expert, a shaman, and an extremely magickal woman…but that’s just the very tip of her personal iceberg. She teaches workshops and lectures all over the globe, she is a consultant for metaphysical publishing houses Llewellyn and Lo Scarabeo, and she’s an extremely prolific writer.  Just some of her books include Tarot Spreads, Tarot For Beginners, What Tarot Can Do for You, Tarot Spreads: Layouts and Techniques to Empower Your Readings, and many more. Barbara has also had a hand in so many decks that in the worldwide divination community, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t practically worship her on a David Bowie or Mick Jagger level. On the off-chance that you think you aren’t familiar with her work, just go through your card collection; here’s just a few decks she’s had a hand in, by writing the companion books: The Gilded Tarot, Llewellyn’s Classic Tarot, The Pagan Cats Tarot, The Mystic Faerie Tarot, The Steampunk Tarot, Cats Inspirational Oracle Cards, and several others.  She’s also had some kits published, such as Witch Crystals: Casting Stones For Divination And Magic an all-inclusive package for divination, and the forthcoming kit for beginners, Tarot Made Easy: Your Tarot, Your Way.
Barbara and her body of work at  the North Star Tarot Conference
As Barbara’s story famously goes,  in the early 1990’s, somebody at a party handed her a Tarot deck…and the rest is history! Her marvelous life has been a crazy quilt of wildly divergent –and quite amazing- experiences. Barbara and her wife Lisa reside in St. Paul, Minnesota with their two dogs, Whiskey and Norman. When she’s not reading for clients, teaching or slaving over a hot computer keyboard, Barbara loves travel, theater,  making and viewing art, and a couple of her current obsessions are the Harry Dresden fiction books by Jim Butcher and the television series Orange Is The New Black.

 We are literally over the moon to bring you this interview with Barbara!

 Divination Nation: Your first Tarot experience was at a party:  tell us how you began your journey, and how you learned. What or who were your influences, mentors or teachers?

Barbara Moore: The first deck I ever handled – at a party when I was in college-only had a little booklet with it. Nevertheless, I knew that I was holding something special, something more than a novelty to tell fortune at a party. At the time, interdisciplinary studies were all the rage, so I was steeped in mythology, literature, history, art history, psychology, astronomy, chaos theory and fractals, Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. It seemed to me that the cards I held contained the sum of human knowledge, everything I was studying…it was all there in 78 pieces of cardstock.

After that, my first deck was the Haindl Tarot and the book I used with it was not its companion book(s) by Rachel Pollack but Jung and Tarot by Sallie Nichols, which formed my general understanding of the cards and how to use and understand them. After I moved on from that deck, I read Pollack’s 78 Degrees of Wisdom and that laid the foundation for the more general RWS card interpretations.

The Internet wasn’t what it is today, so I relied on books. That is my preferred method of learning anyhow, so it worked well for me. I read everything I could get my hand on which honestly wasn’t that much back then.

Later, I joined the ATA (American Tarot Association) which was giving certifications at the time. I went through the program and it really helped me to unify all that I had learned, to weed out what didn’t fit my belief system and expand and deepen what did.

Divination Nation: Did you know divination was going to take over your life right away?  Did you know this was your “calling”, or did it take a while for you to realize? What were you doing previously?

 Barbara Moore: I did not know that it would become my life’s work/career but I did know that it was important and full of wisdom that I would study all my life. I was in college and on track for becoming a history professor. I completed my MA and had a lovely full ride-funding package to participate in a joint doctoral program with Central Michigan University and the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. During my MA, I became friends with some professors and learned the realities of life as a history professor…if you could even get work in that field, so I declined the doctorate offer and went into academic publishing, working for the Michigan Historical Review. Then I moved and worked for Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village…not academic but still history-focused. I came to Minnesota and began work for Llewellyn, neither academic nor history, but it was the place where I was able to craft a career that focused solely on Tarot. I began as a production assistant and worked my way up to Acquisitions Editor and had the honor of helping the company reinvent its acquiring process, creating my own specialized position.

DN: Just for fun, tell us about your first “official” Tarot gig… and also, what deck or decks are your favorite, aside from the ones you’ve helped create?

BM:I actually am not one hundred percent sure on this, but I believe it was at the reception for my first wedding. It was a medieval theme; everyone came in costume. I had a table set up where I did readings with the Old English Tarot for a dollar, instead of doing the Dollar Dance, which may be a Michigan wedding tradition. It was pretty amazing, both in how inexperienced I was and how powerful those readings were. I remember reading for a man who denied everything I said but whose wife sat next to him nodding and gesturing.

DN: Aside from your own, what decks do you like to use?

I like lots of decks and am kind of a serial monogamist when it comes to them. Particularly favorites at the moment include: Tarot Mucha, The Wild Unknown, The Raven’s Prophecy, The Tarot of the Sidhe, and Emily Carding’s Transparent Tarot.

DN:  You are crazy prolific writer, with several books, eBooks and decks published…plus many articles, a casting kit, and more… How do you prepare for your work?

BM: How I prepare depends on whether the project is a job. In other words, whether a publisher asks me to do something specific or whether it’s a creation of my own.  For a job, I get all the requirements from the publisher in my head; sometimes they are very, very specific. I start thinking about the parts, how they fit together, how they can be combined to achieve the stated goal. Then I start brainstorming on paper or a white boards, sometimes making sketches or prototypes and just playing with them until they start making magic. All of that, for me, is the hard part. Once the vision is complete, writing it all up is more of a joy, much easier for me.  If something is my own project, the idea kind of surfaces (or is given to me somehow, like in an offhand comment from a friend) and says, “I want to exist; do you want to manifest me?” If I do, I let it make itself comfortable in my head, invite it to stay, start feeding it and discovering what is pleasing to it. After it feels good and fat …kind of like Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, which is a very sick kind of metaphor… the paper and whiteboard come out and planning begins.

For both, part of the preliminary work (before paper and whiteboard) includes meditation and journeying as well as bouncing around ideas with a few trusted friends.

DN: What metaphysical disciplines do you practice aside from Tarot, Oracle and casting divination?

BM: Meditation. Shamanism, if you call that a metaphysical discipline. I think it is. I sometimes incorporate chakras in my meditation work.

I don’t really study a ton of different systems, although there are many and they are all so fascinating. I’m more apt to use Tarot (the structure of the deck) as a template for organizing ideas and practices I learn from other, completely non-metaphysical stuff, like art, business, fiction, etc. So instead of doing different things, I am always seeing Tarot differently.

DN: Do you consider yourself more an academic reader, or an intuitive reader?

BM: I was more of a symbolic reader (which is probably the same as your “academic”) but I’ve worked very, very hard over the past three years or so to become more of a balanced reader, incorporating both sides of my brain. I find that when I do that, these powerful oracular moments occur and are much more powerful than any purely academic or purely intuitive reading of mine could ever be.

DN: What keeps you inspired? 

BM: Everything! Podcasts play a big role in providing inspiration and new ideas. I listen to them when I walk Whiskey each morning, if I take walks later in the day, when I drive, when I do housework. And I listen to lots of different ones covering a wide range of subjects. Almost everything I listen to (or read) seems to have some piece, large or small, that it contributes to this ever-changing kaleidoscope of experience that is my life.

My friends, family, and colleagues inspire me. Through the wonderfulness of Facebook, it is easy for me to stay connected and see all the wonderful things that they are doing!

My students inspire me.

Travel…by travel I pretty much mean going to any place new or rarely visited. This includes things like trips to England or trips to the local ethnic grocery store; we have lots of different kinds of grocery stores in the Twin Cities…it is so fascinating to go and see strange food and have nothing be in English; it’s like a very cheap trip to a foreign land.

Learning new things seems to keep everything in my life feeling fresh and exciting. Currently, I’m obsessed with reconnecting with my creative self in form of art: drawing, watercolor, oil pastels, charcoal. I just finished a drawing class and begin a watercolor class in February. The drawing class was based on the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. That was really fascinating and paralleled the way I teach tarot reading (blending the academic/symbolic with the intuitive).

Taking classes, both in areas that apply directly to my work and in broader areas of interest, is essential for my overall happiness and are always inspiring. Going to art galleries and museums. A lot. Luckily Minneapolis and St. Paul have tons of galleries and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is one of the best in the world.

Attending conferences, both as a presenter and an attendee. Preparing a presentation forces me to get very clear on what I’m teaching.

Fiction, movies, good TV. Humans are built for story. I love stories in all forms.

DN: You teach workshops internationally and also read regularly for clients all over the globe.   Have you noticed any cultural differences in the way people approach divination in various countries?

BM: Very interesting question. I seem to have this gift for being able to “translate” information so that people can understand it. This applies to cultural or language differences or just understanding in general. As long as the person speaks English, I seem to be able to understand (intuitively?) what they are trying to say even if they don’t have the vocabulary and I seem to be able to select just the right English words within their vocabulary to help communicate my ideas to them.

Recently, one of my students, who is Turkish, was having trouble with the traditional concept that Swords equal Air. She said that to her Swords meant truth, clarity, and communication, so it was impossible for her to connect that suit with Air. I explained how in Western culture, Air works for those things. She realized her trouble was in Turkey, where Air is associated with a person who is never to be trusted and since she sees Swords as “truth”, it didn’t make sense.

DN: Our readers include everyone from divination professionals to absolute newbies, as well as aspiring writers and deck creators. What are some of your favorite tips?

 BM: For Tarot people: Tarot is a tool. It can only be used in service to your own beliefs, so before you even begin, get clear on what your beliefs are. You can’t ask, “Can Tarot predict the future” because it depends on whether or not you believe the future can be predicted. “Where do the answers in tarot come from?” That depends what you believe…are you a channel? Is it synchronicity? Is it random chance and self-fulfilling prophecies? Figure out what you believe first, then reading and understanding the cards will come a lot easier.

For aspiring writers and deck creators: If you are interested in traditional publishing, learn about the industry. Understand your market, the audiences of the various publishers you are thinking of submitting to, and follow the publisher’s submission guidelines. Know that you will likely give up a good amount of creative control.

Traditional publishing is a gamble. No matter how well a publisher knows their stuff and their audience, there is no equation to guarantee success. Things that should, by all accounts, be wildly successful sometimes fail. Things that seem pretty standard can take off in crazy ways. Publishing is risky. You could put in a lot of work for little results.

Independent publishing is now easier than ever and it allows you to retain creative control. And, for those who are good at marketing, it offers great opportunities for success.

For everyone: stay as active as possible, stay as involved as possible. Always grow, always learn. This world is filled with so much that there is little reason to ever be bored.

Barbara at The Readers Studio, New York

 Visit Barbara’s website and her Facebook page:

Barbara has several events coming up for 2016; here are a few you’ll enjoy:

North Star Tarot Conference January 29 – 31, 2016

One-Year Novice Tarot Program With Barbara starts February 1, 2016

 Barbara presenting at The Readers Studio, April 29 – May 1, 2016

Barbara’s Through The Looking Glass Retreat, September 2016

Crystal And Pleasant by Maharet Hughes/ Graphic Vibe

We’d LOVE to connect with you!

Visit our website to book metaphysical and occult workshops, Tarot readings and healings, or to have us come out for a paranormal investigation:
Like us on Facebook:
Connect with us on Twitter:
To find out more about Pleasant or request a reading or healing session, click here:
For more on Crystal’s background, or request a reading or healing session, click here:

Monday, December 14, 2015


The 10 Of Cups from the Morgan Greer Tarot deck

Welcome to The Divination Nation blog!

 We are Pleasant Gehman and Crystal Ravenwolf, a duo of divination divas, “spiritual sisters from another mister”. We’re life-long Tarotistas, obsessed with all things esoteric and paranormal. We’ve created this blog to share our knowledge and to connect with the vibrant worldwide metaphysical  and paranormal community.

We hope this blog is as fun for you to read as it is for us to write…Enjoy!

The Significance Of Colors In Tarot Imagery

 The colors used within Tarot are every bit as significant as the symbolic imagery depicted on the cards themselves. In every day life, colors have a profound effect on our thoughts and emotions. Though different cultures assign various meanings to the same colors, in the context of divination, there is an almost universal set of qualities assigned to each color.

Decks creators have always been hyper-aware of the colors they use in their work, and it isn’t only  because they’re artists who create images that are visually appealing. Symbolically, each color has  a specific set of meanings and connotations. The High Priestess or La Papesse is usually depicted as wearing blue robes because  that color is associated with-among other things- spirituality and knowledge. 
 The beautiful High Priestess card from Erik. C. Dunne's Tarot Illuminati, published by Lo Scarabeo

The suits in the Minor Arcana each have   predominant colors, too.  For instance, the suit of Swords is infused with shades of grey- and not just because that color is used to depict metal. Grey is connected to wisdom and sadness; all of the cards in this suit deal with the intellect, and many of them address  mental anguish or depression.

Once you have an understanding of the basic characteristics associated with each color, the hues themselves will speak to you as loudly as the symbolic images or any key words you’ve memorized. Here’s a quick ‘n’ dirty guide to colors and the traits or properties they represent.

Black - Death, alchemical prime matter, night or midnight, the unconscious

Blue – Spirituality, clarity, knowledge, tranquility, emotion, intuition

Brown – Earth, grounding, security, home, stability

Gold – The Sun, majesty, abundance, success, triumph

Green – Fertility, prosperity, growth, youth, renewal

Grey – Indifference, neutrality, depression, sadness; also, (especially when used to color clouds) dignity, intelligence, wisdom

Orange – Fire, flamboyance, energy, passion, courage, vitality

Pink – Love, tenderness, acceptance, femininity, emotion, forgiveness

Purple- Wisdom, enlightenment, royalty, honor, leadership

Red – Blood, life force, passion, the feminine, anger, ambition, aggression

Silver – The Moon, lunar energy, the feminine, intuition

Turquoise- compassion, healing, understanding, life lessons, self-acceptance

Violet – Spirituality, power, peace, devotion, healing

White- purity, innocence, peace, divine knowledge and understanding

Yellow- happiness, joy, hope, optimism, positivity, spirituality


 This post is an excerpt from our book Walking The Tarot Path, scheduled for publication in April, 2016

  Happy Holidays!  We're having a Yuletide Tarot reading us at to book your email, Skype or in-person reading through January 1, 2016

 We'd love to connect with you!

 Visit our website to book  metaphysical  and occult workshops,  Tarot readings and healings,  or  to have us come out for a paranormal investigation: 

Like us on Facebook:
Connect with us on Twitter:
To find out more about Pleasant  or request a reading or healing session, click here:
For more on Crystal’s background, or request a reading or healing session, click here:

Monday, December 7, 2015


Intuition...we've all got it, but few of us use it to it's fullest potential!

Welcome to The Divination Nation blog!

 We are Pleasant Gehman and Crystal Ravenwolf, a duo of divination divas, “spiritual sisters from another mister”. We’re life-long Tarotistas, obsessed with all things esoteric and paranormal. We’ve created this blog to share our knowledge and to connect with the vibrant worldwide metaphysical  and paranormal community.

We hope this blog is as fun for you to read as it is for us to write…Enjoy!

 Intuition is the innate ability to comprehend and assess a situation immediately, without the intervention of conscious reasoning.  Everyone has intuition whether they think they do or not;  but many have learned since a very young age to discount or ignore theirs.  Intuition is an inborn trait  that every human has from birth. It’s an inner  “knowing”  designed to alert, illuminate and protect you. The simple reason many people believe that they don’t have intuitive  abilities is simply because  modern society has conditioned  it out of us!  But any time you have a “hunch” or “trust your gut”, that’s your intuition rearing it’s head. Intuition works from the right side of the brain by  using feelings, pictures and symbols to communicate. Always trust your instinct, it has no ego and no reason to lie!

There is some general confusion about intuition and extrasensory perception.  Psychics- at least in the legitimate sense of the word- are those who are gifted with senses that  bypass “normal” awareness by leaps and bounds.  For example, a person who is clairvoyant receives messages from spirit through  visions, enabling them to  see into  a situation  ( in present or future time)  as though they were  watching a film. Clairaudience works in much the same way, but in  auditory- as opposed to visual- messages, in other words, the psychic  hears  the message.
 The intuition that we all share  is the faint whisper of our own inner voices. For example, it’s that nagging feeling you get when something isn’t a hundred percent on the level or   getting  goose bumps when you’re scared, because intuition  is often an interior  warning  that you’re in danger. It  also can manifest  in positive ways,  manifesting as sound business decisions,  and  smart decision-making , or innately anticipating the wants or needs of another person. 

 Here are some tips to help you get your natural intuition up to speed:

1) Listen to your body and how it responds to people and situation. Don’t discount your physical reactions, whether negative or positive. 

2) Hearing your higher voice is easiest when it’s quiet. Spend some time in meditation every day to enhance your connection.

3) Keep a dream journal. The conscious mind is very active, making it hard to hear the messages your intuition is sending. While sleeping, your subconscious mind takes over allowing your inner voice a chance to speak.

4) Identify and listen to your feelings. We are always over-thinking, constantly analyzing. Intuition works off  feelings. Learning to trust our feelings on the spot without extensive evaluation is key to trusting your  intuition.

5)  Probably preachin’ to the choir here… but if you haven’t already learned a form of divination, do it now! Practice it often. Trust whatever your gut is saying- and never second guess yourself.


We’d LOVE to connect with you!

Visit our website to book Tarot readings, healings, metaphysical  and occult workshops,  or have us come out for a paranormal investigation:
Like us on Facebook:
Connect with us on Twitter:
To find out more about Pleasant  or to request a reading or healing session, click here:
For more on Crystal’s background, or to request a reading or healing session, click here:

Monday, November 23, 2015


The master himself: Robert M. Place

Welcome to The Divination Nation blog!

We are Pleasant Gehman and Crystal Ravenwolf, a duo of divination divas, “spiritual sisters from another mister”. We’re life-long Tarotistas, obsessed with all things esoteric and paranormal. 

We’ve created this blog to share our knowledge and to connect with the vibrant worldwide metaphysical and paranormal community.

We hope this blog is as fun for you to read as it is for us to write!

 Robert M. Place is a living legend in the divination community. A triple threat, his body of work is nothing short of staggering. He’s a world-renowned and extremely prolific lifelong visual artist, and creator of many popular  Tarot and oracle decks, including The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery, The Facsimile Italian Renaissance Woodcut Tarocchi, The Tarot of the Saints, The Buddha Tarot, The Vampire Tarot, and The Angels Tarot. His Facsimile Tarocchi is included in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in 2007, he was the guest of honor at the opening of the Tarot Museum in Riola, Italy. In  2010, he was curator and catalog designer for the LA Craft and Folk Art Museum’s Tarot exhibit, The Fools’ Journey.

Robert’s decades of scholarly research and  his  extensive writing on Tarot, divination and magick have brought him all over the world to teach and lecture on these subjects.  Along with writing many of the books that accompany the decks he’s created, he’s also authored The Tarot: History, Symbolism, And Divination; Astrology and Divination; Magic and Alchemy; Shamanism (written for the Mysteries, Legends, and Unexplained Phenomena series) Alchemy Of The Tarot and he regularly posts on his information packed blog. He’s been featured on several television shows including the BBC series The Book of Thoth and the Discovery Channel series Strictly Supernatural, and appears regularly as a guest on numerous radio programs.

 Increasingly, he’s turned his passions toward Lenormand   and oracle decks, publishing the acclaimed Burning Serpent Oracle (a collaboration with highly respected Tarot diva Rachel Pollack) and The New York Lenormand, a facsimile of an 1882 oracle deck. In February 2016, he’s releasing the highly anticipated Hermes Playing Card Oracle, scroll down to the bottom of this post for a link to pre-order your copy.
The Hermes Playing Card Oracle  deck by Robert M. Place: forthcoming in February, 2016

 Somehow, in the midst of all of this, Robert finds the time to be a doting Dog Dad to the two greyhounds he and his wife own, and is - who knew- an avid weight lifter, currently in training preparing for a bench-press completion in January!

We are absolutely ecstatic to present the following interview with this incredible talented highly creative force of nature. In fact, we’re two middle-aged broads who swooned like teenage fan-girls when he agreed to do it...Enjoy!

Divination Nation: You’ve had a long and wonderful artistic career, which started well before you began creating Tarot decks. You’ve also published many acclaimed books… What came first: your writing, your art or your divination practice?

 Robert M. Place: I have been an artist since I first learned to say the word. By the time I was six I could draw realistically. In grammar school, I was continually working on bulletin boards and class displays. As I graduated each year, my teacher would introduce me to my teacher for the next year as the “class artist.” In high school, I worked on stage sets and designed a school mural; I won every art award in the school and even a national scholastic art award, and I was voted “most artistic.”
I had always been an artist and I had no desire to be a writer. It wasn’t until I was attending college in Montclair, New Jersey, where I was majoring in art, that my friends started to encourage me to be a writer. I seemed to be a natural scholar and spent a lot of my spare time in the library studying art history or taking trips into New York to wander the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My friends noticed that I had a talent for explaining art works and expounding on history and philosophy. They said I should write down some of my words, but other than writing the usual term papers I didn’t listen. I also became the art director of the school literary magazine. So I tried to write poetry for the magazine, but that did not go so well. It was only after I became fascinated with the Tarot that my need to write became strong enough to force me to do it. To answer your question, art came first, then divination, and then writing. 

DN: How did you first become interested in Tarot?

RMP: Actually, I did not come to the Tarot. I feel that the Tarot came to me. I think this will be clear when I explain how it came about. 

On a summer night in 1982, I had a dream in which I was walking through a brick building. It was an ordinary dream. Analyzing it later, I realized that it was about a new opportunity that was opening up for my career as a jeweler. It was not about the Tarot. In the middle of this dream, I was walking through the living room of the building when a phone rang. The dream phone was sitting on a phone table by the wall, and when it rang, it startled and interrupted me the same way that a phone can when one is awake. I realized instantly that the phone was a link to something outside of my normal consciousness, and I was thinking, “I didn’t know that someone could call you in a dream.”

When I picked up the phone, a dream operator said that she had a person-to-person call from England for Robert Place, and asked if I would accept it. That was the way long distance calls were handled in 1982. I accepted it and then she connected me to a secretary from a dream law firm in England. The secretary told me that I had an inheritance coming. She said that it would come from England in a box and that it is called the key. She added that I would know it when I saw it.

Within a few days my friend Scott came over with his new Waite-Smith Tarot deck. As he walked through the door, my head turned of its own accord and my eyes focused on what he was holding. It seemed that my unconscious had temporally taken control of my head to focus my attention on this deck. Although this was not the first time I had seen a Tarot, I now saw it in a new light. I instantly recognized it as my "inheritance."

Scott left taking his deck with him that day, but after he left, I made up my mind that I would buy a Waite-Smith deck of my own. Before I accomplished that, however, another friend spontaneously gave me a Tarot deck. It was the traditional French deck, the Tarot of Marseilles. A few days later drove to New York City and bought the Waite-Smith deck.

I started using these two decks but primarily the Waite-Smith deck. At first, I did not want to read about the Tarot. I wanted to let the cards communicate with me directly without preconceptions. Because this tool was presented to me by my unconscious mind, I realized that it was a device for communicating with the unconscious and I did not want anything to interfere with the process. However, as I worked with the cards, I found that they opened an inquiry into the Western Mystical tradition. And, that inquiry led me to seek out the best information that I could find on alchemy, Neo-Platonism, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Christian Mysticism, Kabbalah, and Renaissance iconography. I wanted to know who created the Tarot and understand what these creators were communicating.

DN: Once you started creating your decks, did you realize it was your calling right away, or did it take a while? 

RMP: I think from my answer above you can see that for me the Tarot was a calling. But although I was an artist, I did not start designing a deck for several years after I started working with the Tarot.
In the summer of 1987 I was reading The Picture Museum of Sorcery, Magic, & Alchemy, by Emile Grillot de Givry, when I became fascinated by an alchemical hieroglyph representing the Philosopher’s Stone. The design depicted a heart in the center of a cross with images of the four elements assigned to each corner. In a flash, I realized that the symbolism in the design was entirely interchangeable with that of the World card in the Tarot. 

The heart surrounded by a thorny wreath, of course, was related to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but alchemists often made use of Christian icons and gave them new meanings. This heart was clearly meant to be a symbol of the soul. That it was in the center of the elements meant that it was the soul of the world, the alchemical “Anima Mundi”, the matter of the stone which is also called the “Quinta Essentia,” the essential fifth element that holds the other four elements together. I remembered that the pose of the figure on the World card is identical to the dancing figure that the Egyptians used as a hieroglyph for one aspect of the soul, and that the symbols of the four evangelists that surrounded it are equated to the elements. Certainly, the World card represented this same Anima of the world.
This realization was like a key opening a lock to a door in my mind. A series of images emerged from this portal and I sat mesmerized as it became obvious that the Tarot trumps are alchemical, and that the series of trumps outlines the alchemical opus. This insight happened in seconds, but it began a seven-year journey that led me to design The Alchemical Tarot deck and to write the accompanying book. 

DN: What's your artistic process for creating decks? How you select imagery, how long  does it usually takes to create a full deck, or to make each card…. And what is your favorite card in the deck- is each deck different in this respect? 

RMP: As you can see from the story of how I started on The Alchemical Tarot, each of my decks starts with an insight, which comes from a personal vision. Sometimes as with The Angels Tarot, the Buddha Tarot, and The Tarot of the Saints, it came as a dream. But I also find that research can become a type of meditation that can lead to a vision. 

That is what happened with The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery. It started with my fascination with the art of the 19th century, English Pre-Raphaelite painter, Burne-Jones. I saw that he was painting some of the same themes that we find in the trumps, such as Temperance, Foolishness, and the Wheel of Fortune. I love his style and I had a desire to create a deck in his style—to complete the deck he had started but did not know he was making. I started by drawing my interpretation of his painting, Temperance. But as I kept going, inventing new cards in his style, and continuing with my research into the origins of the Tarot, I realized that the Tarot was created by Renaissance artists, who were influenced by mystical Neoplatonic philosophy, and that Burne-Jones, in turn, was influenced by these same artists. It was like a visual conversation that was being carried on over the centuries, and now I was part of it. I worked on the deck for over ten years and through it I was able to express all of my theories on the mystical teaching that was captured in the Tarot from its creation in the 15th century. 

As for my favorite card, I would say it is the World card in each deck. The World is a mandala depicting the Anima Mundi in the center of the world—the sacred position. And it is one of the first cards that I need to be able to design to know that I can do the rest of the deck. It is also where my inspiration for designing decks began. 

DN: Your latest deck, The Hermes Playing Card Oracle is scheduled for release in February 2016.  We love that you did the art as traditional playing cards with divination symbols!  

 RMP: Lately, I have been branching out from Tarot and creating oracle decks. Once or twice a year, I a take a class to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and act as a tour guide for the museum’s collection of historic cards. We go into the museum’s print library and pull out all of the cards in their collection. They have some of the oldest printed Tarot cards in the world, from the 15th century, and examples of Minchiate and the Tarot of Marseilles from the 17th century. But when we get to the divinatory decks from the 18th and 19th century the collection is dominated by oracle decks, which are not Tarot and that were designed just for divination. 

Images from The Burning Serpent Oracle, a collaboration between Robert and Rachel Pollack

From the beginning, when decks of cards were introduced to Europe, they were used for both games and divination. This is true of four-suit decks, of the first Tarots. In the late 18th century, artists began designing decks that were primarily for divination. These were oracle decks. Each cards in these decks depicted an iconic images designed for interpretation and each was correlated with a playing card. Often a small version of the playing card was pictured at the top or in the corner of the card. In the 20th century, the Tarot became the most popular deck for divination and we tended to forget about these older decks. 

The most popular oracle deck was a 36-card deck called the Lenormand. There has been a resurgence of interest in this deck lately. And in 2013, Rachel Pollack and I teamed up to create our own version, called The Burning Serpent Oracle. 

But for my latest deck, The Hermes Playing Card Oracle, I turned this formula on its head. I designed a deck of playing cards, with 52 cards and two jokers, like a regular Bicycle deck. But mine has divinatory symbols worked into the background on each card. It is a beautiful collectors card deck and it is an oracle deck. . It is actually at the printers right now and I'll mail our copies starting in February 2016. 

In the future I will be printing my interpretation of the oldest known Tarot deck, called The Marziano Tarot. This is based on the oldest description we have of a Tarot from the early 15th century. Tarot historian Ross Caldwell translated the letter that describes it, and he will write a book to go with it.
Also Rachel and I are starting on another project, called The Raziel Tarot: The Secret Book of Adam and Eve. You will be hearing more about this soon.

 DN: How do you prepare for your work? Any specifics, or do you just start full speed ahead? Do you need to be in a certain “zone”?

RMP: I start with an inspiration or vision, based on my research, and decide on an artistic style that will work with it. My decks are primarily works of art. But I consider the philosophical and functional aspects of the deck part of the art. Then I begin gathering visual information that I can work from. For example, when I was working on The Tarot the Sevenfold Mystery, I gathered lots of images of Burne-Jones’s paintings and drawings. 

When I first made The Alchemical Tarot, I drew each image in pen and ink and colored them with gouache. Now I primarily work on the computer. I work in Photoshop and Illustrator. In this way the files that I create are exactly what the printer needs to print the deck. I don’t need to be in a zone, because I work almost every day. I can just sit down and start. I guess that I am always in the zone. 

DN: What artistic, magical or  metaphysical disciplines do you practice aside from Tarot, your writing, and creating art?

 RMP: I meditate regularly. I have even taught meditation in my classes at the Open Center in New York. 

DN:  What do you love most about what you do?

RMP: It is what I would do even if I weren’t making a living at it. I don’t know how I could do anything else. 

DN: What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?

RMP: My favorite thing is visiting museums and historic places. I love to walk in New York and look for art deco sculptures. 

DN:  Many of our readers are either working on creating a divination deck or have dreams of doing that in the future.  Would you please share your favorite tips and advice on deck creation for our readers? 

 RMP: The thing I would like to emphasize is that a Tarot or an oracle deck is first and foremost a work of art. Many people have inspirations or ideas for decks, but the idea has to be expressed as a work of art. It has to be visual and pleasing or you will not be communicating with your audience and you will have nothing to sell. 

Once you do have an idea that can be expressed visually and symbolically, you need to get people involved in your process from the beginning. You will need feedback and you want to develop your audience as you are working on your project.

The Vampire Tarot deck by Robert M. Place

 Robert’s Website:
 Purchase a copy of Robert’s Hermes Playing Card Oracle Deck here:
 Roberts Alchemical Tarot website:
The Hermes Playing Card Oracle by Robert M. Place

  Robert is teaching an Introduction To The Tarot workshop series with Wednesday Evenings at 8pm December 2, 9, and 16, 2015 at The New York Open Center, 22 East 30th Street, New York, NY  

Pleasant and Crystal

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