Learning the Portland Tarot with Rev. Erik L. Arneson

So pleased to introduce another great guest post! Thank you Erik for sharing and check out his site Arnemancy

Learning the Portland Tarot

A guest post for Ethony by Rev. Erik L. Arneson from Arnemancy

Last year I received the gorgeous Portland Tarot for my birthday. This deck was created by Portland artist Theresa Pridemore, with the assistance of writer Jamie Morris. The current edition contains just the Greater Arcana, though they are working on releasing a full deck sometime in 2017. The artwork is an amazing combination of collage, photography, and painting that highlights the weirdness and uniqueness of Portland’s people and landmarks. Embarrassingly, I have barely looked at the deck since I got it.

Today I will be opening this deck up for my first real reading with it. I’ll pull three cards and interpret what I see, and through the process we will explore how a Tarot reader learns a new deck. I’ve written before about how difficult it can be to read effectively with a new deck. Now let’s see that in practice.

Portland Tarot -Bridge cardsThe deck is tough to shuffle because the cards are large, measuring 4”x6”. The deck comes with bonus cards: three of Portland’s bridges are featured with some additional instructions. They aren’t meant to be shuffled into the rest of the deck. I haven’t looked at the accompanying book yet because I’m just going to dive right into the symbolism.

Portland Tarot -High PriestessThe High Priestess

The first card I draw is the High Priestess. It depicts the St. John’s Bridge behind eight women in a flower-strewn forest clearing. The women look to be all different ages and nationalities. The lunar symbolism is strong, too. The Moon hangs big and heavy in the sky. This is going to be a difficult card to interpret. The High Priestess can be confusing, and now it’s just more so.

I can see that death and life are represented in this card. In the foreground, a woman offers an animal’s skull. In the background, a woman in white stands outlined by the glowing arch of the bridge. Why are there eight of them? Is the number important? I don’t know.

The House of the SeekerPortland Tarot -House of the Seeker

The second card is the House of the Seeker, which corresponds to the Hierophant in traditional decks. This card’s name makes me think of the Church of Scientology, which just moved into a prominent new space in downtown Portland last year. However, I know that’s not what this card is about, so I look more closely and see some familiar symbols.

The central figure stands in front of a massive swirling eye, overflowing with cosmic knowledge. Before him is a globe. On the face of his lectern are the crossed keys, and his flock consists of one man and one woman. He is a guardian of knowledge, separating the terrestrial from the celestial. The man and woman represent the balance of opposites, not yet unified.

Portland Tarot -DeathDeath

The third card is every reader’s favorite: Death. This depiction of Death is not as threatening as others. She rides an angry-looking unicorn and a pink rose banner flies above her. In the background is Vista Bridge. How fitting for the Death card! Also known as Suicide Bridge, it’s been the host of over a dozen suicides. Even the recent erection of suicide barriers hasn’t stopped the determined.

Death bears a halo that seems to be a clock face. A rainbow appears behind her, mirroring the bridge in the distance. The clock is a reminder that everything must succumb to the passage of time, but the rainbow is a message of hope. Perhaps the rainbow is the hint that mitigates the grim message of Death.

Bringing It Home

A three-card reading is like a story. Similarities in symbolism and imagery pull a reading together. The first thing that I see in this card is a theme of giving and taking. In the High Priestess, the eight women seem to be offering gifts. The House of the Seeker is about getting something that must be earned, and Death is the ultimate taker-away.

With that in mind, here’s my instinctual reading: the High Priestess gives insight, but to properly make use of it, you must enter the House of the Seeker and prove yourself worthy. Death, however, awaits, and it could be that this new knowledge leads you ultimately toward a great transformation.

This quick reading is just the first step in learning a new Tarot deck. Next, I would open the accompanying booklet and study the meanings that the creator of the deck intended. For some of the cards, I’ll adopt her meanings. For others I’ll use my own. Each deck takes a different amount of effort and usually a unique approach.

I like the Portland Tarot. The pictures talk to me. Though I struggled with the High Priestess card, it eventually made sense. I like the macabre message in the Death card and the mixture of old and new symbolism in the House of the Seeker. This deck and I are going to be spending a lot of time together.

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