Monday, 16 October 2017

Extra Large, cheap, Tarot de Marseille tarot cards by Bounty Books



I have been studying RWS type decks for several years and had started to become less and less attracted to the rather negative pictures in cards like the 5 of Swords, 5 of Pentacles, 3 of Swords, 5 of Cups, 9 of Swords, 10 of Swords etc etc. I like the daily card tarot draw, but used to dread it when I saw these particular images and their negative connotations. I had also, more interestingly, started to wonder if 3's and 5's were inherently negative after all. I have a little knowledge of numerology and what I had didn't tie in with the tarot 3's and 5's. In short, I had begun to question the validity of RWS type decks. And then I came across a book by Carl Sargeant about the tarot and personality in which he argued the case for going back to older style Tarot de Marseille styled decks.

My first TdM deck was an expensive one from Yves Renauld - a Madenie from 1709. The engravings are beautiful, really very artistic. But the deck is small and far too nice to take away on holidays. And so I began to look for a travel deck. It had to be cheap in case it got stolen or lost or damaged. But I wanted it to still look like the old woodblock and stencil images from the 18th century. And I wanted a sturdy box if it was to get bashed around in my luggage.

I settled for The Tarot Deck, published by Bounty Books in 2015 (a division of Octopus Publishing). I bought it new, online, for under £7.00 including postage. And it has been the best tarot purchase I have ever made.

Let me start by telling you about what Tarot de Marseille it is. The two of coins follows:



It shows that it is a Nicholas Conver tarot from 1760. Unlike the Conver published by Heron in France, it isn't the original 1760 version. It is a reproduction & recolouring of either the 1880 version, (which itself was made with the original woodblocks from 1760 when they were 120 years old) or the bicentennial 1960 version.




This is the Bounty Books version of The Hermit. I am guessing that the software has changed the skin tones in places, as The Hermit has a large, rather ungainly red patch of sunburn! Too many solitary hours spent up on those mountain-tops I guess! One or two other figures have darker areas of flesh in places, but these are mostly quite natural-looking, nothing too much to worry about. The Hermit is the most extreme example of this colour variation.
When I compare them to the bicentennial version I think the Bounty Books cards are much more attractive, much easier on the eye, and feel much older and more authentic.

I love this deck and am using it in preference to my Madenie version as I like the large card size so much more and feel it adds to the tarot experience. Up until now I hadn't been a fan of large cards. I thought they were showey and pretentious and having small hands I preferred smaller cards. But having now had these larger cards for several weeks I am a convert. By the way, the Bounty Books cards measure 146mm x 81mm.

My only issue with them was that they would not shuffle well. Which leads me to the cardstock: the cardstock is quite thin, but I personally prefer it to the cardboard feel of the Madenie facsimile that has always felt a bit unnatural to me. But it isn't the cardstock that makes them hard to shuffle. It is the waxey characteristic of the cardstock. I believe the Thunder Bay Press version, which is considerably more expensive, is laminated, and videos at Tarot Zam on YouTube give the impression they will shuffle quite smoothly as a result. But I didn't want to spend that much, didn't like the Thunder Bay Press box, and didn't particularly want laminated cards as I felt they were less authentic (would cards in 1760 have been laminated!). But I came across a tip on the internet that card magicians use to enable their decks to fan and shuffle beautifully and they now shuffle like a dream. In fact, they shuffle better than any other cards I have ever owned. The tip is to write a large letter "X" on the back of each card with Dove soap, and to shuffle them like crazy. I also found I had to rub each card quite hard against the one behind it to get the soap nicely across as much of the card surface as possible.

I understand it has to be Dove soap and that other varieties will make things worse!

Shuffling larger cards took me a bit of getting used to. I can't shuffle them lengthways like most other tarot decks. I've tried riffle shuffling but it's early days & I'm not getting too far. I have settled mostly on a widthways shuffle, either in my lap (awkward) or more successfully by holding 2/3 of the deck in my left hand, the other 1/3 in my right hand, and then slowly shuffling them into the left hand, a few at a time, in a similar way as you would if you were lengthways shuffling. The potential "problem" of shuffling larger cards has prevented me from buying larger decks for years. But the experience of a larger card is so much more enjoyable for me, and you can see so much more detail in a larger image, that I feel sure any difficulties you may encounter in learning new shuffling techniques will be far outweighed by the pleasure of the bigger, clearer images.

One last thing: the reverse sides of the cards:

I think they are very attractive. The example I have shown has a small triangle which shows you the correct way up the card should go. This arrow/triangle only appears on minor, numbered cards and only where there is some confusion which way is up! I do not read reversals and find this really useful. But I think if you read reversals it might hinder your readings. It only adds to my enjoyment of the cards, but I mention it here in case it might be an issue for you.

I hope you have enjoyed this little review and feel free to leave any comments. I always enjoy reading them. Adam

Friday, 8 September 2017

Tarot de Marseille Keywords

I have been reading and learning the tarot for about five or six years and during that time have been using the rider Waite Smith style of cards.
But I am not a fan of the 20th century occultists and additionally since watching Poldark on television and seeing aunt Agatha using her tarot cards at the end of the 18th century I decided I wanted to learn a much older tarot system and after doing a bit of research decided to buy a Tarot de Marseille deck.
So I sold my Osho Zen, Voyager and Morgan Greer tarot decks and with the money I raised I treated myself to a tarot heritage deck from Yves Renaud, The Pierre Madenie version from 1709.

I knew the biggest challenge would be reading the minor Arcana. But my father has just passed away and I wanted something to completely occupy my mind so I was up for a challenge!
After hours and hours of Internet searching where I was only finding RWS style keywords, I decided to do a Google search in French and once I entered "mots clefs tarot de marseille" a whole new world of websites was offered.
Les Secrets du Tarot site has a superb entry about Pythagoras numerology and as the key to reading the pips seems to be a good numerology system I found this the most helpful.
I apologise for the poor quality of the image, but if you expand it you should be able to make out enough of my hand writing to start understanding the keywords.

The court card keywords are from Lee Bursten, and whilst very simple, they work for me.

I have had a basic understanding of numerology for years and I always knew THREE was a positive vibration, the first level of perfection. And I knew NINE was also positive. So seeing such negative images and interpretations on RWS style decks for these cards has always felt intuitively wrong to me. You must read the Secrets Du Tarot post of the 3 methods of reading the Tarot de Marseille Minors as it will give you lots of indepth information about how these keywords are obtained and why some of them may not be what you are used to reading in more modern intpretations.

Anyway, I came across all of this useful information just as I was about to give up and revert to my Pamela Colman Smith Centennial cards, and I really wanted to share it on the internet as there is a humungous void in the area of good quality, English language information on the TdM minors.

Hope it helps. Good luck. Best wishes. Adam

update: I have since bought Thomas Saunders' book "The Authentic Tarot" which is all about the Marseille Deck and how to interpret it. Learning numerology and suit meanings is the best way, in my opinion, to set about learning this lovely, ancient tarot. In his book Thomas Saunders suggests three different numerology systems: the Plato one which he uses and gives the most information about, a renaissance one by Cornelius Agrippa that I found resonated well with me and was really interesting, and another one (Hermetic) which I found less helpful and too "Crowley-like" and was poorly detailed. Later in the book he suggests possible keywords for the number/suit combinations which gives you a great starting point and which I have personally found extremely valuable.

He does a similar thing with the court cards.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Algiers 8894 HF

You may remember me saying how suddenly a year or so ago I stopped hearing strong signals from Algiers on 8894 and had presumed traffic over the Sahara in Algeria was now using extended range VHF in addition to CPDLC.

Well yesterday morning I did hear a Lufthansa flight from Rio de Janeiro checking in with Algiers on their southern boundary at MOKAT with an estimate for In Salah (NSL) and for destination. So it would seem that whilst the traffic to and from the oil fields no longer regularly use HF, some longhaul flights which are in the most remote areas do.

I still regularly hear Niamey in the evenings on 8903, so there is still a little bit of activity in this part of the world.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

VHF Airband Company Operations

In the 1980's my parents gave me my first professional airband radio, a CR600 made by Swinburne Electronics at Birmingham airport. It gave me years of immense pleasure, watching the 6 L.E.Ds scanning the six crystal controlled channels, and when pocket money would permit I would buy new crystals to expand the available channels I could listen to.
My father is now seriously ill and I have spent the last few weeks trying to get it into working condition to show it to him again.







The project has reawoken my interest in the airband in a big way, but I have been surprised by the lack of up to date books on the current frequencies. I used to buy the Airwaves one from Photavia Press and I have seen publications from Seldec & PW Publishing in the past, but now that these are no longer available I was at a loss as to where to find especially the company frequencies that I find so interesting. One or two online forums have proved quite helpful but nothing comprehensive.

So I decided to scan the sections of bands I knew used to be allocated to company ops and publish the results on here, my blog, in the hope they would prove useful.

If you look under the blog archive, there is a link to the early beginnings of this project.

If anyone knows anywhere I can find up-to-date operations frequencies, please let me know via the blog comments. Thank you.

VHF Airband Airline Company Operations Frequencies

122.050 Flybe Operations, Exeter May/17
122.050 Swissport, Stansted May/17
122.350 Signature Operations, Cardiff Jun/17
129.700 Operations Guernsey May/17 (Netjets flight clg)
130.175 Exeter Handling Apr/17
130.175 Signature Operations, Luton May/17
130.600 Operations, Stansted May/17 (Martinair flight clg)
131.425 Virgin Operations, Gatwick May/17
131.425 Menzies, Bristol May/17
131.425 Menzies, Stansted Jun/17
131.425 Swissport, Birmingham May/17
131.440 Operations Jun/17 (flight clg in Dutch freq +/- 10khz)
131.450 Air India, Heathrow Jun/17
131.450 Harrods? Aviation, Stansted Jun/17b
131.470 Air France? Paris? Operations Jun/17 (huge signal in French frq .470 and not .475)
131.475 British Airways South, Gatwick May/17
131.550 Brest Operations Apr/17
131.550 Swissport, Southampton May/17
131.550 Swissport, Luton May/17
131.550 Schiphol Operations May/17 (TUI Netherlands flight clg in Dutch)
131.550 Paris Operations May/17 (flight clg "Paris Operations" in French)
131.570 Airline Services, Gatwick Jun/17 (Thomson & Kestrel flights clg)
131.610 Monarch Operation May/17
131.610 Signature Flight Support, Biggin Hill May/17
131.625 Beaufort? Operations, Brussels May/17 (Kalitta Air flight clg)
131.650 Menzies, Gatwick Apr/17
131.650 KLM Schiphol May/17
131.650 Operations, Paris CDG May/17 (American Airlines flight clg)
131.675 Menzies, Heathrow May/17 (TAP flight clg)
131.675 South African Airways Operations, Heathrow May/17
131.740 Thomson Maintrol Jun/17
131.750 Operations, Nantes May/17 (flight in French)
131.775 British Airway Centre May/17
131.800 DP? Operations, Newquay May/17 (Flybe flight clg w/ETA etc)
131.875 Jet2 Station Control May/17
131.875 Operations, France May/17 (flight in French)
131.925 American Airlines, Heathrow May/17
131.950 Menzies, Heathrow May/17 (Icelandair flight clg)
131.960 Paris CDG Operations May/17 (Delta Airlines & Air France clg)
131.975 Ryanair Engineering May/17

updated 06/Jun/17

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Size doesn't matter when it comes to loop aerials for SWLing

I just wanted to put a quick post up as I am in a new QTH and decided to make a larger SWL receive-only loop than my current 30cm diameter one in the hope it would catch a slightly better signal and help when things weren't booming in and I was struggling on the small loop.

I made a much larger 75cm diameter loop and after hours of tests right the way across the board from 4mhz right up to 21mhz I can honestly say it made no difference whatsoever. It performed identically to the loop that was barely 30cm in diameter.

In a way this was good news to me, as the larger loop is unsightly indoors. But it made me think that perhaps this was the reason AOR and PK Loops had settled for these smaller loops that sit neatly and comfortably by your side in the radio shack. Up until now I had assumed the smaller AOR loop was a compromise over the larger Wellbrook loops.

But my own tests have proved the extra size doesn't affect reception. Obviously I realise if you are transmitting then it's a whole different ball-game, but for anyone thinking of building a loop and wondering what size to go for, bigger isn't better.

I have now hacked a large piece of my loop and reduced it to a more manageable and attractive 1 foot diameter as a back for my other small loop.

73

Monday, 30 January 2017

Sony SW35 Review



I said last year that I would write a review of my new Sony SW35. Well I have been using the radio on and off for 12 months now and want to write a few comments. Not really a review but to help anyone thinking about buying one to make a decision.

At first I was disappointed with the SW35. Compared to the Tecsun PL660 it picked up lots of local noise and is less sensitive on HF. I didn't use it very much, except for a bit of morning Medium Wave DXing as it is really good on that band. But right from the word go I really liked the memory pages. They were such a pleasure to scroll through, store, and over-write. So much so that I found myself coming back to it again and again just to check for activity on my favourite frequencies.
On page one, for example, I stored BBC Radio 4, Radio 3 and a couple of other local FM stations. On page two, several of my favourite MW stations. In page three my best morning stations on HF, and page four for my favourite daytime ones. Each page stores 10 channels which suited me perfectly. Then, all you have to do to check through the morning HF stations is switch on and repeatedly press the "Page 3" button to scroll through. It is intuitive and a real pleasure to use after the Tecsun's complicated memory system. It reminds me of my old Sony SW7600GR as far as memories were concerned.

As I said, it is not the most sensitive radio on HF and a bit noisy if there are lots of local noise sources around. MW was very sensitive and less prone to noise.

Sound quality is quite pleasant and easy to listen to: a nice balance between lows and highs. It is not as punchy and bassy as the Tecsun PL660,  but that being said, the AGC circuit is better, so it can end up being a little more comfortable to listen to. The Tecsun's poor AGC results in the sound "whooshing" up and down if there are very large fluctuations in the signal level, even causing the sync detector to come out of lock. So although the sound reproduction is richer and bassier on the PL660, you need a nice steady signal to benefit from it. Otherwise it can be a bit head-doing. Personally, as a main portable, I prefer the bass and loud, rich tones of the PL660. But as a secondary radio for listening before I am properly awake, the Sony fits the bill best.

Another thing I should mention is the lack of a keypad. If this were your only radio, you may find it inconvenient. I would. But as I only do 15 to 20 mins listening on the Sony each morning, I am not jumping around the bands very much. Each season as the frequency schedules change, I put my favourites (China Radio, BBC World Service, Vatican Radio, VOA, Radio Romania, Voice of Turkey, Radio Farda, Voice of Greece, ORF Austria for the classical music..... I put the new frequencies in the memories and tend to just scroll through them. Latrely, it must be said, I have done a bit more searching around. But for this I use the search facility, where I let it tune up through the band and it stops on the first active frequency. If I want to listen to it or store it, I stop the scan. And if I don't I just let it carry on up to the next active frequency. So I can honestly say I don't miss the keypad at all, and even like the difference. It every radio were the same it might get a bit boring. I think actually that is a valid point. Part of the radio hobby itself is testing and buying new equipment. It's nice to have a variety of brands and types of radio. Then the very fact you are using a different radio can enrich the hobby.

It is NOT the radio to buy if you want a sensitive radio to pick up distant DX stations. But as a back up radio by your bedside table (this is what I wanted it for) it is perfect.

At first I really missed an external aerial socket. I wanted to connect my homemade loop to null out noise on HF and thought long and hard about making a socket by drilling into the cabinet. I am so glad I didn't  do that now! It is best kept as a portable radio and if you accept it limitations as a DX set you will enjoy it a whole lot more.

These past few days I have had it on my bedside table to tune into Voice of Greece and Voice of Turkey, BBC WS via Ascension, Vatican Radio etc in the local mornings with my cup of tea. They are not weak signals and though my Tecsun may've made a better job at receiving them, I find I enjoy using the Sony a little more. It's nice to have one or two different makes of radio about the house and to enjoy each one differently.

By the way, in closing, I used to use a Tecsun PL310 as my morning bedside table set. I went off using that little radio as I didn't like the DSP processed audio and the buttons were awkward to press firmly. The SW35 was to replace that radio and I'm glad I got it now.