How to survive a holiday without your deck: 7 tips

11 August 2017

First aid in tarot deck emergencies

7 key tips on preventing divination distress 

Most readers are the same: we go on a holiday or business trip and plan the best decks to pack. That go-to tarot, that trust-y Lenormand, this new, cute oracle we bought last week, and perhaps we also had some Thoth or TdM studying to do. We soon end up with a bag full of decks and a big smile on our face: we are ready to rumble in whatever spot we land! But what if you end up on your destination sans oracle. NO trusted tarot deck to work with?! That’s what happened to your editor here, resulting in this article. Your guide to surviving a holiday* without a tarot** deck.


How to survive your holiday without a tarot deck, pack a mini or deck in a tin

The obvious choice would be to buy one. Ask the locals for a new age store (if you dare, beware in strict religious areas) and add a cool foreign language deck to your collection. Or go to Amazon and check if they can send an affordable deck to your current destination: a mini deck in a tin is ideal. This however won’t work if you’re only there for a short amount of time (</= two weeks, ugh shipping) or the reason you have no deck to begin with is the fact you had space/weight limitations and will again on the way back (my reason).

Cause saying goodbye to your emergency tarot/oracle is not gonna fly anyway, of course. That leaves us with the *actual* creative options:


Divination with playing cards is very old skool. You can read w/ the whole pack (Minors) or just take out 22 cards.

Divination with playing cards is very old skool. If you can find a themed set, try reading with the whole set.

Find a tourist shop and search for a pack of playing cards. They have them in most tourist places. Now, you can either go for some hedgewidgery and read that deck in full (if you’ve ever read with just your minors and know your pips this won’t be much of an issue for you). Or you take out 22 cards and write the numbers and/or names of the Majors on them. In your head you have your favorite deck, so you can use pure knowledge to get by with your brand new DYI Majors Only deck…

OR: look if you can find a themed playing card deck and use coloring and images – like an oracle – to enter your divining.


Sugarpacks as Major ArcanaIf you are in a diner, bar or restaurant look like an angel but behave like the XV…Stealing isn’t allowed of course, but we have ourselves here a tarot deck emergency, right? So, with one eye on the waitress, open your bag/backpack/pocket and slide in a decent amount of fine sugar packets, ketchup packets or basically everything that has some weight (for throwing and/or shuffling) and an exterior that allows for writing. Basically repeat the action @2: write down 0-22 and throw down or shuffle the packets as if they were cards.

(NB. The sugar packets-idea comes from the brilliant mind of Tarot Garden-owner Dan Pelletier).


This is the Court Games Tarot, earlier reviewed on The Queen’s Sword for Theme:Tdm 2016. It is downloadable for free, together with another deck The Archetypes Dark Tarot.

If you stay somewhere a bit longer you can get crafty. Go to a bookstore or arts&craftsstore and buy 300mgr stock paper and glue. Then download any number of free decks that are available online. If you do a Google search you can find anything from free Lenormand decks, oracles to your trusted Waite-Smith and many traditional decks from the 16th till 19th century. Next step: print, cut and go all out with the glue: voila, you have a ‘real’ deck on your hands and during all that cutting and pasting I bet you really bonded with this emergency divination tool.

If you can draw a decent High Priestess & Co yourself, you can make this a zen moment instead of stressing about being without your favorite paper third eye. Completely create your own deck (or simply copy your favorite tarot or Lenormand), but this is only worth it if you aren’t already in severe withdrawal, stay for quite some time and can draw like a bat out of hell…


Free downloadable tarot and oracle decks

FIVE tips on free tarot, oracle and Lenormand decks to get you going:
(1) The Court Games Tarot and Archetypes Dark Tarot for TdM & Tarocchi lovers (see picture link), as well as a very (2) colorful Marseille that I loved to print myself one day using MPC. Then a (3) black & white for Waite-Smith adepts and here’s a (4) set for Lenormand fans by none other than Carrie Paris. It is even called a Free holiday learning deck! And here’s a little gift. What do I say, I mean: an even bigger gift. In case you like different or you want something closer to Thoth. In the early 2000’s a German artist named Gunnar Kossatz, inspired by Crowley’s work and the earlier Elemental Tarot, created his Experimental Tarot. I see hints of Golden Dawn, sacred geometry, a little bit of Osho and some oracle-wording in a tarot-structure. The original deck is OOP and Kossatz has offered (5) the Eperimental Tarot up for download now.

Trust me, once you dive into the world of free tarot decks or oracles to download, you will find enough interesting, quirky, beautiful or simply original traditional work to ‘forget’ your own decks at home for the upcoming 23 holidays! Just try to smuggle that card stock and glue unseen over the border and you’re golden ;-).


Nature can be your wonderful divination shop: twigs, acorns, shells…and much more.

Nature is our biggest friend. If you are on a holiday instead of a business trip you have the biggest chance of being rewarded by our big awesome earth. Have a beach nearby? Maybe a forest? Nothing *can’t* be used…as in ANYTHING can be.
Rummage through the forest for acorns or little twigs and leaves in different sizes and colors and you have your own nature-y casting set! Same for the beach: plaster on some sunscreen, put on your bikini/swimsuit and make it a moment of finding some gorgeous sea shells. Then decide upfront what each shell or twig will mean or simply follow your gut.
Reading tip: A big help is drawing a big circle on paper (without paper? Use that coffee mug stain on the table in your apartment!). Everything IN the circle is yes or positive, on the right is maybe or future, left is past or no. You can make up the rules as you go or go for something really complicated: it’s *your* emergency-tool! (NB. In Santeria working with Cowrie shells is a big part of divining).


This one is by far my favorite – because: chocolate! – and courtesy of my friend Susie Chang who came up with it. Go to the supermarket, buy hard candy like M&M’s and write 0-22 on them or little symbols that reference the Majors with ink that can be ‘eaten’, or use their colors (or the method in the final sentences of nr 5) to get going. Which made me realize: you could also carve numerals in the separate little blocks of a chocolate bar and break the pieces. Done with divining for the day? You can eat your emergency ‘cotd’s’! If you happen to be on a diet or (gasp!) don’t like chocolate, this number 6 tip – so, say tip 6B – can be done with pebbles too. Pluck them from the side of the road during an excursion or after/before your meeting, inscribe them with runes or tarot-referencing symbols, throw the lot and see what life is going to be all about. Just in case though: I would not recommend eating them ;).
(Hey, if you see some of the warnings on mechanical devices one can never be too careful apparently).


The Fool's Dog has many apps of popular decks, like this Tarot of Dreams.

The Fool’s Dog also has many (paid) apps of popular decks, like this Tarot of Dreams.

Apps! Yes, apps! Sure, several tarot/oracle/Lenormand readers would rather eat their (ehm, M&M’s?) hat than work with something digitalized, but I speak from experience when I tell you that they really work. After all: when we shuffle and pull cards at random, we basically do the same as that little algorithm working for the app. In the past I have used this feature on trips and they were just as accurate as any deck. You are glancing at the same imagery. If you are a beginner the ‘meanings’ and interpretations (not all apps have those by the way) can help you along, but my tip would be to only use the cards you pull digitally and then proceed as if you were handling your favorite deck. A lot of decent tarot apps are for free. Galaxy Tarot app with WCS (RWS) is a classic, there is also a free one with the CBD Tarot de Marseille by the late Yoav Ben-Dov. And The Fool’s Dog has several sampler apps that incorporate cards from a multitude of decks, so you can ‘test’ them. Good to create an even longer wish list, hahaha. Both are on iTunes or the Google Play Store.

Benefit with this tip: Because both Galaxy Apps and The Fool’s Dog make apps for existing populair decks, you can work with one you don’t own yet, for a small price, and later decide to buy the real deal.


And if all else fails: we have the internet, my dear reader! Yes, you are currently without your precious divination tool and perhaps throwing sea shells isn’t your thang, but what better way to learn something new if the old ways aren’t there to distract you?!
Start up that online course you were always curious about (the WLA is starting up new Lenormand classes again, the Tarot Association has many ready made tarot and oracle courses, the Magicka School just begun Ancient Egyptian Magic et cetera), buy a bag of tea and browse the digital highway for tea leaf reading tutorials, take someones hand and peer into their life lines…There is ample opportunity to be the best oracle you can be. Even without your go-to cards (and if you happen to be in Delphi you know what to do, right? Right?!). Does learning something new cause an immediate braine-freeze? Then perhaps it is time to unload some of that info and teach others on the many Facebook Lenormand & Tarot groups. A. You will still get to see cards every day, but B. I am pretty sure this will give you the satisfaction your missing Cards of the Day & perhaps shadow work couldn’t even fathom to give you!

So… and now I am off to some doodling, sugar packet stealing and M&M-throwing. Catch you guys later, for the Traditional Tarot Month!

*Or, I just realized, these are excellent tips too if you simply find yourself having ‘leftover month after the end of your money’ or if you need to be careful for whatever reason to have obvious divining tools like a tarot deck around the house (religious or judgmental neighbors family f.e.)  Without cash it is kinda hard to buy a tarot deck or oracle deck and you don’t want to tarred and feathered either. So, here are several tips to do readings. Who doesn’t want free or incognito fortunetelling and/or advice from the universe/spirit?
**Or Lenormand, or Oracle, or Kipper. Whatever floats your boat, people. [Insert cartomancy preference here]