Monthly Archives: April 2014

How are tarot and oracle cards the same, and how are they different?

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Category: Tarot & Oracle
Written by Mimosa
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by Cathy Douglas (with special thanks to Mari Powers for technical input)

Many times customers ask us, “What’s the difference between tarot cards and oracle cards?” We can start out by listing some similarities: Both types of deck can be used for divination and personal growth, both may feature stunning artwork, and both usually come with some sort of explanatory booklet. You can read them for yourself or others, using anything from a simple one-card reading to a complex spread. And both often come with a theme, which may be something as ancient as the four elements or as recent as Steampunk.

But there are differences as well, starting with the way the cards are organized. The tarot is a very old system; the earliest decks we know of are in museums, and date to the 1400s. Tarot decks have four regular suits similar to a regular deck of playing cards, plus twenty-two special cards called the Major Arcana. When people think of the Tarot, images from the Major Arcana are what usually come to mind–the Fool stepping off the cliff, or the Hanged Man dangling by his ankle from a tree. But it’s the other cards, called the Minor Arcana or pips, that make up the majority of the deck. When choosing a deck, it’s a good idea to pay special attention to the pips. Sometimes in newer decks, original artwork is focused on the Major Arcana, while the pips are far less interesting, and may even look somewhat alike.

The four suits of pips–pentacles, chalices, wands and swords–correspond to the four traditional elements–earth, water, fire and air. When reading the cards, these suits have meaning. The number on the card also has meaning, which is related to numerology; for example, the number four has a connotation of stability. The court cards–king, queen, etc.–always correspond to human traits. A reader can memorize this information, but there are further levels to reading the cards as well. Each deck has a wealth of symbolic information in its images, and experienced readers can draw even more out through intuition, history, etc.

In comparison, oracle decks are much more free-form, and a much more recent innovation. The oldest example we’ve been able to find are the 1988 Jamie Sams Medicine Cards, still loved and used by many people. Each oracle deck is a system unto itself, although since quite a few of the decks are designed by the same authors, there are natural consistencies between them. The prolific Doreen Virtue has created more than enough oracle decks to fill a shelf all by herself, while others such as Toni Carmine Salerno, Sonia Choquette, and Steven Farmer (to name just a few) regularly produce new and interesting decks.

Oracle decks can be anything, but there’s always a theme that draws the deck together and makes it useful. Sometimes this theme has to do with the purpose of the deck. For example, Soul Mate Cards and the Life Purpose Oracle are valuable for people who want to find insight into a specific kind of question. The theme of other decks has to do with whatever inspired its message–for example angels, fairies or animals. Other decks may simply provide a daily thought, perhaps to get you grounded in the morning or encourage you when you’re down.

There are many titles in both tarot and oracle cards, which have stood the test of time and continue to provide guidance for many people. For example, the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot has been around for more than a century; people continue to use it happily, and many later decks are based on Pamela Colman Smith’s memorable illustrations. No oracle deck is anywhere near that old, but decks like Kathy Taylor’s Original Angel Cards have remained popular years after their publication.

New tarot and oracle decks come out regularly, so that it can be hard to pick out the most exciting new ones from everything our suppliers have to offer. If you want to know more about a specific deck, we’ll be happy to open show you the cards in the store. Aeclectic Tarot is a great resource for card reviews and descriptions.

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Safe Incense Burning

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Category: Incense & Smudging
Written by Mimosa
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by Cathy Douglas

We love the smell of incense, but we’re also aware that air quality is very important and shouldn’t be taken for granted. A few studies have showed a correlation between heavy incense burning and cancers of the upper respiratory system (throat, mouth, sinuses, tongue). But when applying research to real life, it’s important to know what researchers were looking at. incense

The studies that show the strongest correlation between incense and negative health effects compare areas with a lot of incense burning constantly in an unventilated space with outdoor air. For example, one much-quoted study compares the air quality inside and outside Asian temples. These temples have a constant stream of visitors lighting incense as offerings, which means incense is burning constantly and in large quantities. In a temple or other place of worship, the incense may fill the air to the extent the air looks smoky, and this can irritate sinuses, eyes, nose, etc. or cause headaches. It’s no surprise that air in such a temple also shows a high level of potentially harmful chemicals (benzene, hydrocarbons), especially compared to fresh, outdoor air.

But assuming you don’t live in an temple, you have control over how you use incense. The studies are helpful in showing what not to do: don’t burn too much incense at a time, and don’t cut off ventilation. If the air is smoky in appearance, that’s bad. What they don’t do is tell you much about how to enjoy incense safely. So here are a few common-sense tips:

Ventilate as best you can. Open a window in summer, or an inside door or chimney vent in winter.

Buy good quality incense. While there is no such thing as a “hypoallergenic” incense, the purer the incense is, the less it’s likely to cause trouble. The wooden stick creates smoke without enhancing the smell of the incense. Many Japanese varieties are made without sticks or perfumes, and they’re no more expensive than other brands. Incense of the West comes in stick-free blocks, scented with natural woods. A few other brands do have sticks, but are scented only with pure essential oils with very few additives. Mimosa’s sales staff will be happy to assist you in picking out the brand that’s right for you.

Use only the right amount of incense for your space. A joss stick or half a stick of Japanese incense is plenty for a single room. A whole stick or cone is enough for a couple rooms, or a room with the windows wide open. The extra-large, foot-long sticks are meant to be used outside.

This is something that has to be handled carefully, but I sometimes burn incense when I’m not in the room. A few hours later, the smoke has settled, leaving just the scent. To do this, it’s very important not to create a fire hazard. The incense should be in a proper burner away from curtains or paper, and there mustn’t be any danger of a cat or the wind starting a fire.

Unburnt incense smells good too. Many people come into Mimosa and ask what smells so good; it’s all the unburnt incense on the shelves. Leaving an open pack of incense in a closet or drawer will make it smell nice.

If you use resin incense, you should be aware that bamboo charcoal is purer than the discs, which have additives in them to help them start and continue burning (often saltpeter and sulfur). Resin incense, while very pure, is quite strong. It’s best to start with just a couple grains, adding more as you need it. Some people also place a thin piece of mica on their charcoal, to make the resin burn slower.

There are plenty of alternatives to incense, such as scented candles, oil burners, reed diffusers, room spray, aromatherapy diffusers, and nebulizing diffusers. Diffusers and room sprays don’t require fire of any kind, so you can even use them if your lease prohibits open flames.

People with allergies or asthma should be especially careful, as should pregnant women. Actual allergy to incense is rare, but sensitivity to smoke or fragrances isn’t.

For more information like this, consider signing up for Mimosa’s newsletter. It’s free, and you’ll even receive a free ebook too! You can check it out here: Free ebook & newsletter