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Using Divination Cards to Amplify

the Unconscious

Thomas Rochford


In the late 1970s my Analyst suggested that I start painting to get more in touch with my inferior functions. This was because, as she said, I needed to do something which I wasn't good at. Painting was always a problem for me. My inability to see the form rather than the function made it extremely difficult. If I was to paint a tree then every branch and every leaf needed to be shown! In this way I moved to a quasi-medieval method of depicting trees and other objects where there was no attempt to make an accurate image of a real object. At the same time she asked me to review a book called Jung and Tarot for the journal, Harvest, which she edited at the time. As I read the book the idea came to me that I could make my own set of Tarot cards based on my dreams and fantasies. I made a start on this by using images and ideas from Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival.

Only a few of these have survived, partly because I had to hand over the originals to my Analyst because she didn't want me to think of them as 'Art'. But one of the very first ones was 'The Moon' which I called 'Sigune' (Parzival's cousin who awakens in him an awareness of his mistakes and is merged by Wagner with Kundry, who has been described as "the driving force of Parsifal. In combining the 'good' Grail messenger with the 'bad' and manipulative seductress"). I could see affinities here with my Moon rising in Scorpio and squared by Saturn in Leo, which I felt was either emblematic or the actual cause of my difficulty in expressing feelings. This also seemed to fit in well with the imagery of the Tarot Card for the Moon where there is some sort of crustacean in the water. My anima was wild and dangerous. She was also being projected at that time onto a woman whose Sun was in Scorpio. So I've taken this as the starting point for my own journey through this article.

When I retired and found that Jane Earle was running a seminar on Dream Amplification using Cards, I felt I had to join CJC and attend. I was already, of course, hooked but coupled with the techniques of SoulCollage® - - I found a freedom from the problems associated with drawing and painting and also a more flexible structure into which my cards could be integrated.

Soul Collage

Soul Collage in its pure form uses images cut out of magazines and journals which are then stuck onto backing cards to make a fresh picture upon which you can reflect and use to help you find a voice for your unconscious. They can be viewed as a waking dream or an aid to active imagination. The technique was brought to life by the late Seena Frost who gives a six minute introduction at .

When you have made twenty or so such cards you can use them to help you find a way through any issues you may be experiencing in very much the same way that Tarot Cards or the I Ching might be used. You can also share cards with friends if you wish.

You are recommended to organise your cards into 'Suits'. There are four standard 'Suits' but you may also add ones of your own if you wish. These are described below:

The Committee Suit

These are your inner voices. Sometimes angry, sometimes sad, sometimes critical and sometimes encouraging but always enlightening. Examples might be your inner critic or your inner child; your animus or your anima.

The Council Suit

These are your spiritual guides and the archetypes of which you have become aware: Death, Guilt, Pride, Wisdom, Strength, Imagination. This is likely to become your largest suit and has much in common with Tarot.

The Community Suit

These are the beings in your life. They may be real or fictional, historical or contemporary. They will have inspired or otherwise shaped your development so far. Examples might be parents, leaders or even pets.

The Chakras or Companions Suit

These are the animals which you associate with each of your chakras. Meditate upon each chakra as you feel inclined until you home in on an animal which embodies its qualities and can become your companion.

The Alchemical Suit

I have found the path through life is not always straight or forward. More often it is circular and can change direction. For me the Alchemical cards signify the 'Process' of life so I can see all of the above in perspective.

The 3 Transpersonal Cards

Seena Frost calls these “the oneness beyond dimension." They represent the energies of The Source, The Soul-Essence, and The Witness. You will probably want to leave these until you have made quite a few other cards. You can find out more at.

Making a Personal Divination Card

I find there are at least two broad ways of making a card. You either see an image which seems to draw you strongly to it in some way and then amplify it by adding additional components as you meditate upon it or as they come to you, or you can start with a concept either deliberately or because it is on your mind and then, after meditating and reflecting on what you feel or know of this concept, you can find the additional images you need or allow to come to you. There is no hurry. Seena Frost tells us not to intellectualise this which is why you need to meditate and reflect and let the associations come to you.

If you have a good collection of images you may find something appropriate. Use your camera or phone to capture images that appeal to you if they are not in magazines. Search Google for images associated with a particular concept or feeling, it can generate other ideas which you may also wish to consider or store for future use. You can either print the images and cut them out, or use a 'Paintshop' type program to do it all digitally (although this may actually take longer!). If you need to resize the images or flip them horizontally or vertically you can do this with most basic photo editors after taking a photo of them. The important thing is to liberate your imagination.​

Voicing your card: I am the one who ...

Once you have made the card, look at what you have done and then let it speak to you. Find a quiet place and get a voice recorder (e.g. your smartphone) or a pencil and paper. Relax yourself and place the card in front of you. Then hold a conversation with the card as follows:​

You: "Who are you?"

The Card: "I am the one who ....... " (Let the Card Speak and tell you who it is - do not try to speak for it)​

You: "What do you have to give to me?"

The Card: "I can give/bring you ....." (Let the Card Speak and tell you how it can help - do not try to speak for it)​

You: "What do you want or need from me?"

The Card: "I want .... " (Let the Card Speak and tell you what it wants - do not try to speak for it)​

You: "Is there anything else you want to say to me today?"

The Card: "No/Yes. .... (Let the Card Speak and tell you whatever it is - do not try to speak for it)​

Poimandres' Speech - Thomas Rochford
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Click the Play icon on to hear how my Sacral Companion answered these questions. If you have a QR Code reader on your smart phone  you can use the black and white QR Code on the card to hear a more extended version.

The Finishing Touches


However you make your card, if you plan to use them for guidance, you will need to paste the images onto some reasonably robust card. It is also important that the cards are all the same size, so A5, or Octavo (8" by 5")  is the recommended size as it is easily available and, as a standard, they can be easily mixed with your friends' cards.

You need to be able to distinguish the suits. When using cards for guidance you will normally spread the cards out with the face downwards and you will then need to choose one from each suit. It's a good idea therefore to be able to distinguish the suits without looking at the front and this can be done by allocating a colour for cards of a particular suit or to use a pattern which you can stick on the back. You could also use a simple icon in the centre on the back.

You will also need a box or folder in which to store them. I use an A5 Ring Binder with transparent pockets, you can also buy special boxes. I scan the cards and save them into a Word Document so I can easily re-print any that get lost or damaged. If you are doing this you may also want to consider making a reduced size version, more like conventional Tarot or Playing cards, which are more suitable for use when travelling or at work. The Images in Word can easily be resized.

It's also debatable whether you want to give them a title, particularly if you plan to share them, as your association with the card may be different from that of others. Having them in Word or other digital format makes it easy to change the Title or delete it before printing.

Miranda's Speech - Clara Nunes / Thomas Rochford
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To What Purpose Divination?


This can be a sensitive issue, so I find it helpful to use the Arabic concept of 'Maktub' (lit. "it is written") or Fate. You cannot change Fate but you can seek guidance on how best to cope with a future event. This is similar to the I Ching, where the 64 Hexagrams do not tell 'What' will happen but provide guidance on the way you should act. Very often this requires you to change or let go of deeply entrenched attitudes or dependencies; to adapt in order to survive.

I have tried to put some of this into this card  entitled 'Illusion'. A Fox Shaman sits in the foreground with an hourglass which uses DNA instead of sand. You can't see how much is left, only how much has passed. She sits on a stone which is outside a shopping centre in Cambridge. The Sculptor has called it 'Between the Lines'. Uranus the Magician floats in the sky above a Mirage and an African Fox Diviner is trying to decipher the Rongo Rongo inscription in the sand. (Rongo Rongo is the undecipherable Script and language of the ancient Easter Islanders).

The Female Shaman is called Miranda, the Mistress of Marvels and the daughter of Propsero, who was brought up in a world of Illusion by her father. Click the sound player or scan the QR Code to hear her voice and Clara Nunes singing Tudo é Ilusão (Nothing last forever, everything in life is an Illusion).

(In case you wonder about the audio voice, I generally use  voice distortion software so as to remind me that this is MY inner voice)

My Council (or Counsellors?)


This is a Suit that I have had difficulty in filling. From the start, Goethe (who was given to me as a Psychopomp in the first dream of my analysis), Frederick I ('Barbarossa') and Hildegard von Bingen, whose adversarial views on Power and Spirituality both influenced me, Wolfram von Eschenbach (who wrote Parzival), and the late Marie Denise (Molly) Tuby, my analyst, who took the role of Maria Prophetissa, filled this illustrious cabal. In 2017 they were joined by one of the Living; Ieshia Evans.

The Voice of Courage - Verdi, Mariza, Ieshia Evans.
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The original photograph, taken by Jonathan Bachman for Reuters, shows a woman, Ieshia L Evans, standing in a long summer dress confronted by a line of Louisiana state troopers in full riot gear outside their headquarters in Baton Rouge. She is a nurse and a mother and had gone to Baton Rouge to protest the earlier shooting by the Police of Alton Stirling, a black man.

She says she felt moved to walk out alone in front of the crowd to look into the faces of the Police. The photograph went viral on the Internet and like millions of others, I was hooked by it. She looks so calm and poised and almost seems to repel the two officers who are charging towards her.

I put together a card with symbols of some of my fears in an attempt to try to capture the essence of what her serenity and inner strength and courage mean to me and how, as she said in her interview, "Sometimes silence speaks volumes. I'm Here"

I felt it inappropriate to use my voice when hers was so loud and clear in a couple of interviews. But I did want to bring in the Hell and Damnation conjured up by Verdi in his Requiem and also the soulful questioning of her soul by Mariza, the contemporary Portuguese Fado singer, which resonated with Ieshia's own words.

When I leave my being, I am the sea...

From other lands, from other people that I never saw

My singing is my dream, it never died

My love

My love, I am the people

I extend far beyond my body

The Process (Where am I, What am I going to do, Where will I go?)


I normally use a traditional five card spread; one from each of my suits. If you have made Transpersonal cards you should place them where you feel they can reach out to the others, maybe at the top, maybe at the side. Place all the cards face downwards in groups for each suit. Ask your question, typically it will be of the form: "What can I do to help myself in this developing situation". The question needs to be a clear one with an open-ended answer. Draw a card from each suit and lay them face down in front of you. If you only have four suits draw two from the suit that has the most cards. If you haven't divided your cards into suits, then just choose five.

Turn over each card in turn. The first should help you reflect on the situation in which you find yourself. The second should help to clarify the challenge(s) or blockage(s) you face. The third should provide some guidance for dealing with these. The fourth will alert you to any areas needing special attention and the final card will help you to envisage a potential way through and how you might be able to change  in order to adapt. It may also be helpful to think of sub-question, or area of uncertainty,  which is posed by each card as you turn it over and reflect on it, and which can be answered by the next.

It is important to record the outcomes - taking a picture of the spread with your mobile phone and adding some text which you can send to yourself or save is one way of doing this.

Maichael Maier, Atalanta Fugiens, Emblem X - Ensemble Plus Ultra, Thomas Rochford
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The Alchemy of Personal Divination Cards

'Rectification' for me has the connotation of setting things to rights. It's part of the process that as we seek our way into the interior of the earth in search of the hidden stone, our plans and paths will need to change to meet unexpected events. This may involve retracing our steps, but it is part of the process and for me that's the Alchemy.

'Rectification' for me has the connotation of setting things to rights. It's part of the process that as we seek our way into the interior of the earth in search of the hidden stone, our plans and paths will need to be rectified from time to time. We will need to balance or aims and our resources, our ideals and the reality.

I have tried to balance the traditional approach to collage with my ideals of a more universal one which can include non tactile media. Where I am less restricted by what I can find in the magazines of others to illustrate the dreams and visions within myself. As it says in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib:

The body is the furnace, and the mind is the iron within it; 
The fires of the five passions are heating it.

Sin is the charcoal placed upon it, which burns the mind, 
and anxiety the tongs.

The Mind is turned to slag and then transmuted into gold, 
when the philosopher’s stone, the guru,  is found. (SGGS 990)

Le Tombeau d'Edgar Poe - Stephan Mallarmé, İlhan Mimaroğlu, Erdem Buri
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One of the hardest tasks is to confront the areas of difficulty and anxiety in the psyche, but I believe it has to be done. I made a list based on the traditional Tarot Deck, balancing the upright interpretations with the inverted ones. Transformation/Death is probably a good place to start or end. Seena Frost wrote: "It is well to make a SoulCollage card for Death, because your deck cannot be complete without it."

My card was made over a long period,  I feel it's not something you can rush. It contains many images that I associate with this Archetype, The White Crane that accompanies the soul on its journey to Heaven in Asian Cultures and is for me a balance to the "Black Flights of Blasphemy" mentioned in the inscription on the square face of the stone.

The Tomb is The Tomb of Arques which some say was used by Poussin in his "Les bergers d'Arcadie". For me it resonates with the the lines from "Le Tombeau d'Edgar Poe" by Stéphane Mallarmé (1887). I did not feel it proper to try to voice my Death Card but have used a setting of the poem by İlhan Mimaroğlu, and spoken by Erdem Buri which enormously influenced me when I first heard it in 1964.

Here is Mallarmé's own translation of the two stanzas I have used.

Such as into himself eternity at last changes him
The Poet arouses with a naked sword
His century frightened at not having recognized
That Death triumphed in that strange voice

Calm block fallen down here from a mysterious disaster
Let this granite at least show forever its limit [impose a limit]
To the black flights of Blasphemy scattered in the future

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