Playing With Symbols
Playing With Symbols:The Essential Companion Book to The Sakki-Sakki Tarot & to Your Creative Journey is the whimsical reference book and essential companion book to the independent and non-traditional Sakki-Sakki Tarot.
By Carol Anne Buckley & Monicka Clio Sakki
Book - Published by MPress
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
The Sakki-Sakki Tarot has played a very interesting part in my life. It serves as an "outside the box" tool of empowerment for me, as I prefer more traditional decks for reading purposes. However, depending on my client, I have found that I can also use it to good effect when reading for others. The biggest part this deck plays in my life is that it is a tool that I can use when I am "stuck" creatively. It opens things up, and in a very humorous, whimsical manner.
The companion book, "Playing With Symbols", is a tool of empowerment in its own right. It reflects the integrity and spontaneity of the deck, along with a strong traditional foundation (Astrology and the Kabbalah play a strong role). It also reflects a strong tie of friendship between the artist/author, Monicka Clio Sakki, and her co-author, Carol Anne Buckley. Monicka's first language is Greek, and she also speaks fluent conversational English and Hebrew. Carol saw her job as one of fine tuning Monicka's words for a native English speaker. But it went beyond that. Carol knew Monicka well enough that she knew when to change something, or add something, so that Monicka's thoughts were clearly presented. Together, they have gifted the Tarot world with a book that is closer to a Tarot reference book than to the expanded "LWB" (Little White Book) that some companion books can be.
"Playing With Symbols" starts out with a dedication to "My Family, & Family of Friends". Certainly those who work with this deck and book become "family" to Monicka, and to each other, through their work. This book takes a very special journey that includes the usual descriptions and interpretations for each card, spreads, and instructions on reading the Tarot. However, Monicka and Carol have gone beyond that to include an overview of the traditions the deck is based on, a uniquely detailed exploration of the creative process behind it, and an original "Playing With Symbols" game that is designed to "spark your creative fire". (To Monicka and Carol - the author in me deeply appreciates this tool of infinite empowerment!)
The book begins with the Artist's journey, told in story form through the Major Arcana. (Note that there is an extra card in this deck, entitled "Artist". This represents the Seeker, and their journey. I was deeply impressed when I noted that for the Seeker, one of the keywords that was presented (in fact, the first keyword) was "wounded healer". How very many of us will identify with that archetype!) So, while the story in the book reflects Monicka's personal journey, it could very well reflect the journey of any one of us.) This segues quite smoothly into background on the systems that are included in this deck. As Monicka calls them, a "melting pot" of systems that include archetypes as symbols, and myths as systems of symbols (certainly the Fairy Tale Tarot by Karen Mahony and Alex Sukolov (Magic Realist Press), and the Inner Child Cards, by Mark and Isha Lerner (Bear & Co.), would be to decks in point here). Myths and archetypes both are reflected in what Jung termed the "collective unconscious".
Systems of occult thought that are included in the foundation of the Sakki-Sakki deck are also covered, beginning with numerology. I was impressed that not only were definitions for the single digit numbers included, but also for the compound (double digit) numbers of the Major Arcana. (The single digit numbers are also presented in the format of a lemnescate, which in and of itself helps create a new mindset.) From the book:
9 - IX Spiritual Creativity * being * Triple trinity * truth * Innate talents * Integration of the physical, intellectual and spiritual * Rewards for previous actions * Preparing for a new manifestation * Divine Love
18 - XVIII Exploration of Secret Realms * warning that actions based on hidden wisdom should be attempted only by those who are already advanced in the path
Nine Sephira Yesod (Foundation) Reflection * Restoration * Strengthening * Compromises * Struggle * Solitude * Deep understanding
Page (11) Sephira Malkuth (Kingdom) Adolescent energy * Enthusiasm * Exploration * Ambivalence * Naivety * Risk-taking * Limited responsibility * News and messages
Under Elements, we find: the four directions; the four seasons; the four psychological types; the four fixed signs of the Zodiac; the Parts of Man's Constitution (Spirit, Soul, Mind and Body); the four ages of man; the four stages of existence; the four letters of the divine name in Hebrew; the four planes of existence according to Kabbalah.
In presenting Astrological attributes, Monicka has used the sequential structure of the Rider-Waite Tarot for the Major Arcana, and the astrological symbols as seen in the Thoth Tarot for the Minor Arcana (with the meanings and themes of the cards following the Rider-Waite tradition). For the Court Cards, Kings represent Cardinal signs; Queens represent Fixed signs; Pages represent Mutable signs; Knights represent the element of the suit itself, and the passage from one phase to another.
The Planets and the Signs are presented in an easily understood fashion, through glyphs and text, including a full page graphic showing how they relate to one another. From the book:
Saturn Maturity * Wisdom * Rigidity * Lessons * Persistence * Personal sacrifice and struggle * Commitment Responsibility * Seriousness * Self-discipline * Limitation * Resistance * Endurance * Laws and rules
Libra Element: Air, Quality: Cardinal, Ruler: Venus Balance * Fair * Aesthetic * Harmony * Refined * Diplomatic * Tactful * Responsive * Cooperative * Artistic * Romantic * Indecisive * Flirtatious * Compromising Charming * Detached * Peace-loving
There is also a section on the Kabbalah, which includes two excellent graphics on the Tree of Life. From the book, on the Sephira:
No. 1 Kether: Crown Gate of Pure Being and Potential * Source of all yet-to-be-formed existence Corresponds with the Aces of each suit.
In her presentation on the cards, Monicka starts with the card of the Artist. Included is a black and white scan of the card; a section entitled "From the Artists Journal" (including hand written pages from her journal), her personal reflections on the card, how the card could be seen in a reading, the astrological association, and keywords. From the book, bits and pieces from the Artist card:
Everyone is an Artist * Crafting One's Life * Living One's Truth Art as a process, not a state * Believing without Knowing
In a Reading:
When you don't know which way to go, focus on working on your art, because this will show you the way. Don't be afraid to fail, and don't judge your work so brutally that you're afraid to show it to people. Don't get hung up after a successful creation out of fear that you cannot repeat the achievement. What you have created is perfect for its time, but you need to move on to explore what lies ahead - and keep doing your art no matter what.
The Artist card can be used as a significator or as an extra card in the deck. (A significator is a card that represents the querent, and is placed visibly on the table, before a reading, for the purpose of focus or inspiration.
Astrological Association: Chiron
Wounded healer * Loner * Wisdom, patience and mastery over inner darkness * Rebel * Knowledge of suffering * Key to One's Path
At the end of the book, Monicka talks about the process of doing a reading, incorporating reversed cards, and releasing the notion that there are "bad cards" in the deck. Under spreads, she presents a one card Daily Card spread, a Three Card spread, and a unique nine card Artist's Path spread (very powerful!). The fun is not over - there is also a ten card New Game spread that was created with the aim of opening up creativity for new projects. Also included are hints at successfully creating your own spreads!
Co-author Carol Anne Buckley performs a wonderful service at the very end of the book, where she interviews Monicka, asking all of the questions that inquiring minds want to know, starting with how the Sakki-Sakki Tarot was named! Included is a progress chart that had me giggling into my coffee, because it so very accurately portrays the process of any project. Truth is truth, after all. Another note that is very special, and that I have only seen presented with one other project (Ciro Marchetti's "Tarot of Dreams") is a graphic presentation of how the elements of the cards came together. This is intriguing stuff for a "non-artist" like me!
Did I say the book ended with Carol's interview? Well, it doesn't! Monicka cleverly snuck in a new tarot game! No rules, but lots of fun! The Game evolved from research done on literature involving Symbols, and the Tarot. Monicka choose to develop several different sections describing some of the highlights of the Sakki-Sakki Tarot symbolism. These sections include "Magic Powder Dust" (Two of Cups); "The Four Legged" (from Death, the Knight of Rods, Cups, Swords, and Coins, & the Five of Swords); "The Suitcase" (from the Fool); "The Shoes" (from the Magician, the Moon, the Devil, the Sun, the Hermit, 7 the Nine of Cups); "The Cockroach" (from the Seven of Cups); "The Flying Gift" (from the Angel); "No-Heads" (from the Three, Five, Seven, & Nine of Rods, the Two, Three and Four of Cups, the Five and Six of Swords, the Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Eight, Nine & Ten of Coins); "The Race Cars" (also from the Two of Cups); and Hot Pot & Cookies (from the Six of Cups). Not to be outdone, Carol included her own game: "Lights, Camera, Action!".
Monicka included a spread sheet that had me giggling into my coffee yet again! She begins by telling the reader to forget everything they have ever read and learned about the cards - including what they just finished reading in her book! She then presents the following categories for the reader to work with in creating their own understanding of the cards (with pertinent questions to ponder under each category): Theme, Characters, Elements, Sensitive Inks, Astrology, Kabbalah, Changes, and Interpretation.
I highly recommend both the Sakki-Sakki Tarot deck and its companion book, Playing With Symbols. There is a true understanding of the basic foundation of the Tarot, how symbolism can be used to jump start creativity, and the esoteric wisdom contained within the deck. This is more than a companion book, it is an excellent reference book, presented by an artist/author who gifts us with huge amounts of wisdom simply by taking a quantum leap of faith and sharing her creative journey with us. Indies rule!
© Bonnie Cehovet
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.