Please excuse me while I gush about my most recent main squeeze. The Practical Magic starter pack has put some kind of spell on me because I have not let it out of my site since I’ve received it. It lives on my desk and is one of the three decks I reach for when I am asked to do a reading or when I do my daily tarot readings. Every time I pick up this deck my face involuntarily breaks into a huge smile and a sense of nostalgia overwhelms me. Something about this deck lets my inner child bubble up to the surface to say hello and divine some sage advice, who knew she was such a clever girl. The Practical Magic Starter Pack was created by Chinggay Labrador as a personal project to help connect better with their tarot reading practice. Eventually, Chinggay made a few copies available to close friends and as they say, “The rest is history.”
Now, I’ve been known to say that I am not a fan of collage decks, or keywords but Practical Magic has confirmed that I do indeed LOVE collage decks and I LOVE keywords on a deck as well because Chinggay has combined these elements in such a sublime and subtle way that together it makes practical sense. In fact, if Practical Magic were missing either the collage art or the keywords, it wouldn’t feel as fun or relatable. The keywords chosen to highlight the minors and court cards make this deck accessible to beginning tarot readers. Actually, I HIGHLY recommend this deck as an excellent starter deck…hence the name (wink wink). The imagery strays heavily from the Waite-Smith, Thoth, or even Marseille traditions. The pop culture references stand out to create a unique system of symbology of its own and one you can customize with your own interpretations without having to reedit former version of the tarot.
One of my favorite examples of this phenomenon is the 10 of Pentacles. The very first time I saw this card with a mirrored, disco ball in the center and the phrase of, “You’ve got it all”, my brain flashed back to 1985 when my little, four-year-old self would listen to the Jets in the back of my parent’s car. The one song that I was reminded of is, “You Got It All Over Him.” This song is about someone telling a guy who likes them, not to worry about the other guys because he has all that they want. Ultimately, the take away message when applied to the 10 of Pentacles is, you have all that you need right here. There is no need to search high and low or compare what you have to what others have. Now even though this message came from a pop song of yesteryear, the message it evoked is quite a powerful one. I don’t know how else to explain that experience other than magical.
If I had to compare Practical Magic to another deck in my collection the first deck that comes to mind is the Guided Hand tarot. Where the Guided Hand Tarot is harsher, high contrast, and a cooler overall feel, The Practical Magic Deck is warmer, bubbly, and softer. I would say this deck is a spring feeling deck and the Guided Hand would be a wintery deck. While both decks feature vintage inspired imagery the Practical Magic Starter deck focuses on more recent images. If there is a difference between retro and vintage Guided Hand is vintage whereas Practical Magic is retro. I described the aesthetic to a friend as neo-retro. By the way this deck hits all the check marks for my personal deck collection that I’ve curated to feature diversity. It has been created by a woman of color, features individuals of color, multiple cultural references, and feels inclusive without feeling like the diversity was a forced afterthought.
The cardstock is basic, medium thickness, bendy with a nice spring. It makes riffle shuffling a breeze and holds up well to repeated use. There is no fancy edging with this deck or tactile additions and I’ll tell you that I don’t miss any of these enhancements. The imagery is interesting enough on its own. The deck does come with a fold-out pamphlet that gives a brief yet thorough explanation on how the 78 cards of the tarot are broken down. There is a blurb about tarot numerology and examples for how to read card combinations. If you want a more in-depth description of the cards there is a new guidebook/journal available from Chinggay’s website www.practicalmagic.co.
As I previously mentioned I had a strong visceral reaction to the 10 of Pentacles in the form of nostalgic memories triggered by the images and memories from the past. As a challenge to myself I thought it would be fun to pick out a few cards from the Practical Magic Starter Pack and see what songs I can tie them to, and how the message of those songs would correlate to the message from the cards. To be fair most of these cards share names with the songs I picked however I’m more interested to see how the themes of those songs play into the theme of the card.
First up, 9 of Wands with the key words “Almost There”. The first song that came to mind is “Almost There” from Disney’s “Princess and the Frog”. This card features a woman under the hood of a hair dryer which made a lot of sense to me. I’ve spent many, many, many, hours waiting for my hair to dry at a hair salon asking, “Is it done yet?” When I think about Disney’s “Almost There”, a song discussing Tianna’s drive and focus and how she keeps her eyes on the prize, it gives 9 of Wands a new facet and deeper meaning.
The next card is The Magician and the song is “Magic Man” by Heart. This song is the tale of a young woman’s encounter with a mysterious man who knows a bit more than she and how she grew into a woman by exploring her love for him. This is very fitting for how I see The Magician. To me The Magician is about leaving home and exploring yourself, recognizing your potential. It may be a little scary and out of control but by exploring what you have within you’ll learn how to control and manifest your power.
The world is a wonderful card heralding the simultaneous ending of one cycle and the beginning of a new one. It could reference something as simple as waking up to a new day or a life event such as graduating from college and for this reason the song that comes to mind when I see The World from the Practical Magic Deck is Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good”. This song expresses in such a soulful way the exuberance and excitement that comes with the feeling of renewal.
The final card for this game of musical Tarot is the 3 of Wands. A swallow in the foreground seems to be flying East but it is flying away from the tropical scenery in the background of this image. The song that comes to mind for this card is “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver. The haunting lyrics foretell the story of someone who is leaving to a new destination. It is unclear if they’ll return but they are choosing their fate by leaving their current situation. “I’m leaving on a jet plane, I don’t know when I’ll be back again.” It makes the traditional meaning of expansion and exploration of creativity, drive, and passion a lot more relevant.
The loose free flowing form of The Practical Magic Starter Pack feels a lot more like an oracle deck which is probably why I feel so comfortable using it. I actually prefer oracle decks because there is no pressure when I use them. I can easily overlay my own feelings, emotions, experiences, and understanding onto each card for a unique and one of a kind reading. This kind of flexibility allows me to develop a deeper connection with this deck and a deeper connection with my tarot practice which in turn will make me a better, more fluid, more comfortable tarot reader.