The Hawaiian Oracle: Animal Spirit Guides from the Land of Light
Rima A. Morrell; art by Steve Rawlings
New World Library (April 13, 2006)
144 pages plus 36 cards
It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a totem deck/book set. I’ve had this one sitting in my personal collection for a while, and figured it was about time to take a break from my review stacks. I also wanted to give myself a fresh look at it, because someone I respect as a totemist gave it a pretty scathing review last year, and I didn’t want that biasing my approach.
There’s good and bad in the set, so I’ll give you some details in list form:
- The author emphasizes interconnection and responsibility to nature in the book. There are some valuable lessons for postindustrial cultures that often take the environment and its denizens (includes humans!) for granted. It’s obvious that she’s passionate about being a caretaker, and while she doesn’t include it quite to the extent that, say, Susie Green does in the Animal Messages deck, it was a nice touch. (In addition, she walks the talk, having set up a charity and refuge for rescued animals of various sorts, for which I give her major kudos.)
- Morrell has a Ph.D. in Huna, a New Age mix of Hawaiian mythology and other elements. She’s pretty familiar with Hawaiian mythos, and includes mythological information on each of the animals along with her interpretations, to flesh out the meanings and give people more to ponder when working with each animal.
- The cards themselves feature some of the most beautiful artwork by Steve Rawlings (who sadly only gets mentioned on the copyright page and the acknowledgment in the back of the book, instead of on the cover of the book or box). A lovely blend of realistic depictions of animals and brightly colored environments, the pictures make working with this deck extra delightful!
- One of the first things that stuck out was the author’s dogmatic adherence to vegetarianism even in the face of historical facts. I’ve no problem with vegetarianism in and of itself; however, Polynesian cultures are not and never have been vegetarian, and they did not simply begin eating meat because of contact with the Europeans. Yet she asserts this very idea on the first two pages (6-7) of the introduction.
- Lemuria and Atlantis: Arrrrrrgh. This is New Age stuff, pure and simple. Yet, like so many New Age authors, she tries to connect these fictional, completely unproven, conveniently lost continents to Hawaiian indigenous culture.
- Related to my last point, her book is based on the aforementioned Huna — which is not traditional Hawaiian religion. It’s a creation from the latter half of the 19th century when spiritualism and other such things were all the rage, and while it (and this book) dabble in Hawaiian religious and cultural elements, they are not synonymous. The author (who as I mentioned has a Ph.D. in Huna gained from University College in London, U.K.) claims to have spoken to indigenous Hawaiian practitioners of this, but she doesn’t give any indication of what status they have in their indigenous culture(s) or where they learned their material. Given that even indigenous cultures can have their frauds (being indigenous in genetics does not automatically confer full understanding of indigenous culture if you are primarily white in culture), I have to question how verifiably indigenous her information really is. This looks more like cultural appropriation than indigenous Hawaiian religion and culture.
- ”Land of Light”? This idealization of Hawaiian culture (and it’s definitely not limited to the subtitle) smacks of the Noble Savage stereotype.
Honestly, I’m leaning towards setting aside the book and keeping the cards. Unless you’re brand new to animal card divination and don’t yet feel you can interpret the cards based on your own observations (and the study of a species’ natural history, from whence its lore ultimately springs), it’s really not necessary. The information that is provided on cultural and other contexts is spotted with questionable content. Read through the book to get an idea of the author’s perspective and intent for creating the deck, but take it with a huge lick of salt.
Two pawprints out of five (though I give the art a five!)
Review ©2009 Lupa
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.
Donald Tyson’s Necronomicon Series, including
- Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred
Llewellyn Publications (December 1, 2004)
- Alhazred: Author of the Necronomicon
Llewellyn Publications (July 1, 2006)
- Necronomicon Tarot
Illustrated by Anne Stokes
Llewellyn Publications (September 1, 2007)
240 pages plus 78 cards
- Grimoire of the Necronomicon
Llewellyn Publications (August 1, 2008)
Reviewer: Lon Sarver
Stars rating pending.
H.P. Lovecraft, a writer of weird fiction for the pulp magazines of the first quarter of the twentieth century, created for his fiction a pantheon of demonic deities and their debased cults. This collection of beings and lore are known today as the Cthulhu Mythos, and have been expanded, first by Lovecraft’s friends and fellow pulp authors, and also by later generations of fantasists. Lovecraft and the others did the job so well that even now there are still people who believe that Lovecraft was writing fact disguised as fiction.
Even those who do not believe that Lovecraft’s writings are on some level literally true feel the dread pull of the Cthulhu Mythos, finding therein powerful symbols of strangeness, fear, and alien mystery. As with anything that grabs the attention and provokes the emotions, the Mythos has found its way into several serious works of magick.
Don Tyson’s Grimoire of the Necronomicon (Llewellyn 2008) is an attempt at one of these. Along with its companion volumes, Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred (2004), Alhazred: Author of the Necronomicon (2006), and the Necronomicon Tarot (2007), the Grimoire presents a new look at the Cthulhu Mythos as workable magickal system.
As such, the texts can be evaluated three ways: as contributions to the overall literature of the Cthulhu Mythos, as contributions to occult scholarship, and as a functioning magickal system.
Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred, the first to be published, presents itself as a version of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, detailing the Mythos as discovered by Abdul Alhazred, a medieval Arab sorcerer. Alhazred: Author of the Necronomicon is a much longer work, describing the life and journeys of Alhazred in the form of a novel of adventure and occult mystery.
From his surviving letters and non-fiction writing, we know that Lovecraft believed in using fragments and hints to fire the reader’s imagination. Dread and horror would thus be created in the reader’s mind far more effectively than they could be in complete descriptions on a page.
Unfortunately, Tyson’s writing does much to remove that kind of mystery without replacing it with anything worthwhile. While Necronomicon could easily be excused as an occultist fan’s labor of love, perhaps, Alhazred could not. The novel would read and feel exactly the same if one were to change the names of the protagonist and the monsters so as to remove all allusions to Lovecraft.
Also, the attributes Tyson ascribes to the Mythos and its entities are so changed from Lovecraft’s work that it seems, at times, as if the author is writing about entirely different things, and only borrowing the more famous names. This would give the books a hollow feeling to any reader familiar with the other stories that make up the Mythos.
This is important to the magickal value of the Grimoire and the tarot deck. Insofar that the point of writing a work of Cthulhu Mythos magick is to tap the current of energy created by generations of readers of this kind of fiction, departures from that fiction weaken the link, and the power that can be drawn through it.
The Necronomicon Tarot suffers heavily from this. The descriptions of the various Mythos entities used in the deck frequently do not match their presentation in works of Mythos fiction, and often do not match the meanings of the cards upon which they appear. For example, Azathoth is described by Lovecraft as a blind, idiot god dancing at the physical center of the universe. The deity is generally understood by Lovecraft scholars as a metaphor for Lovecraft’s existential dread of a blind, uncaring universe far too large for humans to comprehend.
In the Necronomicon Tarot, this deity is used as the image for Trump 0, The Fool. While the traditional divinatory meanings of innocence, child-like wonder, and gullibility are kept for the card, the deity is described as a filthy, insane being squatting in its own excrement. Use of the deck for divination, or really for any purpose other than rounding out a collection of Mythos paraphernalia, would be impaired by such internal dissonance. It certainly was for me.
The Grimoire of the Necronomicon itself suffers on many levels. Stripped of all of Tyson’s Lovecraftian pretentions, it is a simplified system of planetary/astrological magick. In brief, particular beings from the Mythos are ascribed to the seven “planets” of classical astrology, whose energies are held to rule various aspects of life. Communing with these beings through ritual brings these energies under the magician’s control and perfects the magician’s soul. Additionally, Tyson created twelve beings to represent the signs of the zodiac, for similar use.
Stripped to its bones, the system isn’t bad, just incomplete. Much of the material is borrowed from other, better works of planetary magick, without the context or depth that the original systems provided. In place of this is a narrative which attempts to explain how the various deities of the Cthulhu Mythos are related to the planets, why they would work with the magician, and why such an alliance is a good idea in the first place.
The narrative begins with the creation of the physical world as the aftermath of a cosmic rape. Nyarlathotep, a malign trickster god, attempts to usurp Azathoth’s throne and rapes his daughter. Azathoth is blinded and driven insane, and his daughter flees the divine court and wraps matter around herself, becoming the Earth. Nyarlathotep and the other deities then vow to extinguish all life on Earth and destroy the planet, to “free” the goddess in order for Nyarlathotep to force himself on her again and complete his usurpation.
It should be noted that this is original with Tyson. Except for the characterization of Nyarlathotep as a malign trickster, none of this appears in any Mythos fiction of which I am aware. Thematically, the story is entirely counter to original stories. What made the entities of the Mythos horrible in the original stories was that they were undeniable proof that the Earth is not special and that the powers that be do not care if humanity lives or dies. It is, so far as I can tell, a rather loose adaptation of certain Gnostic ideas about the corruption of the material world and the human spirit’s fall from grace.
The text of the Grimoire is ambivalent about the myth at its center. Sometimes, it seems to hint that the tale is about the redemption of a fallen world, and that the “good” magicians work to restore Azathoth to health and power. Most of the time, the text suggests that there is nothing one can do but go along with a bad system, repeating that those who will not serve Nyarlathotep will be destroyed with everyone else.
Perhaps the only saving grace of the Grimoire is that it does not pretend to be a revelation of the “real” magick behind Lovecraft’s fiction. The introduction is candid about the text being a fusion of fiction and bits and pieces of magickal systems. Despite this, however, it never quite makes a case for why a magician would want to choose this particular modern synthesis over all the other more complete, and less offensive, systems of planetary magick available.
So these four texts contribute nothing original or useful to the literature of either the occult or the Cthulhu Mythos. The question remains, though: Does it work?
Yes and no.
In order to test the system, I performed an evocation of Yig. In the original fiction, Yig was a snake-god in the American west who took horrible vengeance on anyone who harmed a snake. In the Grimiore, Yig is the god associated with Saturn, the keeper of forgotten and occult secrets. This seemed to be the appropriate entity of which to ask questions about a magickal system.
The ritual for contacting the Great Old Ones detailed in the Grimiore is not complex. One goes to a lonely place, preferably one at altitude and with a view of the night sky. A circle of seven stones is made, with four rods painted the colors of four of the Great Old Ones marking elemental directions. On a central altar, three more colored rods representing Azathoth, Nyarlathotep, and Yog-Sothoth form a triangle. Candles are placed at the points of this triangle.
The magician then sits or stands to the south of the altar, facing north, and recites the Long Chant. The Long Chant is a fairly standard invocation, customized to the narrative of the Grimiore. The chant is presented in both English and Enochian, for the convenience of the magician.
Once the chant is completed, one calls upon the chosen entity to appear in the triangle. Any offerings or sacrifices are placed on the altar inside the rods. The text does not provide invocations for the deities, though many of them have personal requirements of location or timing the magician must observe.
What is supposed to happen next is left vague. The magician is to meditate, and will, if all goes well, receive some kind of communication from the entity called. The gate is closed, the candles extinguished, and the rite is over.
For me, a circle of stones on a hilltop was not practical. I substituted a room on the second floor of my home, with a large, open window through which I could see the night sky. In the place of a stone circle, I created banners for the cardinal points according to the instructions in the Grimiore, and hung them in the appropriate directions. As the Grimoire stresses that the “true” circle exists on the astral, I felt comfortable in simply visualizing the standing stones.
I read out the Long Chant four times, first in English and three more times in Enochian. After, I improvised an invitation to Yig, praising his wisdom and asking for contact. In my mind’s eye, I saw a snake curled up in the triangle. Meditating on the altar, I did receive a vision of Yig and his realm, and heard the god’s answers to my questions about the system of the Grimiore.
To summarize the wisdom of Yig, the beings contacted by the magick of the Grimiore are not, in fact, the beings written of by Lovecraft and his peers — but they could be, given time and the effort of magicians using this system. In any case, the specific names and images of the system are only tools for achieving contact with whatever it is magicians are contacting, so it doesn’t matter whether or not the deities are fictional or historical.
I thanked the old snake and closed the rite.
So, did the magick work? Yes, in the sense that the ritual induced a vision. However, the ritual did not evoke any of the sense of dread or cosmic vastness associated with the Cthulhu Mythos. This is for the best, really. The folks who seek experiences with real-world magick based on the Mythos are most likely not imagining what it would feel like to be living out one of Lovecraft’s stories. Instead, they’re probably recalling what it felt like to read those stories, and seeking to tap into that emotional current.
While the system seems to produce results, it doesn’t actually do anything better or differently than any other system of magick I have ever worked. The Lovecraft pastiche doesn’t seem to interfere, but it also adds nothing.
One might wonder how useful it is to make contact with a fake snake god. To quote Alan Moore, author, magician, and worshiper of the late Roman snake god Glycon; “If I’m gonna have a god I prefer it to be a complete hoax and a glove puppet because I’m not likely to start believing that glove puppet created the universe or anything dangerous like that.1”
Approached this way, the Grimiore of the Necronomicon might be useful in maintaining a healthy skepticism about one’s magickal work. Those seriously interested in planetary magick with an old-school feel would be better served to study the systems of the Golden Dawn or the The Key of Solomon The King: (Clavicula Salomonis). Those seeking to evoke the mood of the cosmic and alien in their spiritual lives would do very well to track down a copy of The Pseudonomicon, by Phil Hine2 .
- Quoted from an interview, “Magic is Afoot,” published in Arthur magazine in May 2003
- New Falcon publishing, 2004
Review ©2009 Lon Sarver
Edited by Sheta Kaey
A plethora of works exist on the subject of the Tarot; some well informed, some less so. At the outset of the formulation of this essay, permit me to state that there are two key maxims derived from the teachings of the Golden Dawn and of Aleister Crowley to which I adhere as well as I am able:
- As above, so below
- The goals of religion, the methods of science
This philosophical framework compels and requires that observations and analysis concerning the Tarot should be harbored within the contexts of broader occult and scientific philosophy, without which its symbols would have little or no meaning. For the Tarot is most assuredly not in any sense an entity with absolute properties and values as its dominant trait, but rather comprises a complex set of mirrors and microscopes through which an attuned mind may view the universe that lies beyond the confines of four-dimensional space and time. Thus, if we wish to examine the properties of complex molecules with a view to discovering more of their intrinsic physical properties, we may use an electron microscope as our tool, whereas exploration of the universe’s more subjective and spiritual phenomena and properties is aided by the instrument of the Tarot.
But before we can use any instrument, we must first understand and become intimately familiar with that instrument. In the case of the electron microscope, this requires a fairly deep understanding of physics, of the the dual wave/particle nature of electrons and their interaction with other particles of various classes. To achieve this understanding we rely on a prerequisite understanding of mathematics, and of course of engineering which is the discipline through which our scientific mastery is both expressed and expanded.
Although the Tarot is predicated on an understanding of metaphysics rather than the physics of Einstein and Penrose, et al. And yet, there are overlaps that provide tantalizing glimpses of how we might yet arrive at a “Theory of Everything,” or TOE, by eventually combining the teachings of both schools. Such an achievement lies many decades into the future though, as the criteria of measurement adopted by each of these schools are divided by differing views on the nature of consciousness and its role in perception. Let us proceed then to the framework within which the Tarot exists, and the natural world which it both reflects and focuses within the mind of the practitioner. We will not be discussing the history of the Tarot here, as we are concerned with its properties rather than its provenance, much as a physicist is generally concerned with the nature of matter rather than the history of science. The suits are those of Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck: Wands, Swords, Cups and Disks.
Whilst the introduction to this essay may be regarded as generally true for all students and practitioners of the occult sciences in general, this section is focused on three specific areas of practice and study of particular importance to this author:
The Tarot deck we shall be considering is the Thoth deck designed by Aleister Crowley and painted by Lady Frieda Harris. You may then deduce that our essay has a somewhat Thelemic bias. However, given the universal scope of the Qabalah, I venture to say that its chief metaphysical construct, the Tree of Life, encompasses all belief systems whatsoever and that by using its remarkable properties we are able to continue the Great Work of synthesis to which so many adepts from all schools have contributed for millennia. In other words, if you are a Pagan, a Witch, a Christian, A Buddhist, a Thelemite, or any other type of spiritual or occult practitioner, there’s room for you and your beliefs on the Tree. However, some may find the context in which their belief systems are set somewhat difficult to accept. Let us then make our first definitive statements on The Tarot:
- The Tarot is an active Mirror of the Universe comprised of agents and forces through which an adept may view the trajectory of events and forces that underpin events in the real world, and thereby achieve knowledge of “real world” events.
- The Tarot reflects four levels of existence, as do the Qabalah and Alchemy.
- The Tarot incorporates the forces of astrology.
We will illustrate the validity of these statements as we examine each of the four suits in turn. We begin with the Suit of Wands.
The Suit of Wands
Image ©2009 by Hettie Rowley
As is well known, alchemy claims four elements as the foundation of the universe: Fire, Air, Earth and Water. We will not here attempt a separate exegesis on this matter, but rather weave the essential nature of each element to its attributed suit.
The Suit of Wands represents the alchemical element Fire, which we consider to be a limitless force of passion that finds expression in great outbursts of energy. As much as we find the passion of Fire concealed within the nature of combustible materials, so do we also in the hearts of men. Not for nothing are the Celts known as a fiery, warlike people.
We see then that the Suit of Wands is associated with Archetypal Ideas, a concept that we will shortly reinforce. We should consider Alchemical Fire as a metaphor for its mundane namesake, and thus readily intuit the passionate yet short-lived nature of the phenomenon by which its nature is expressed: the fury of the raging bull, the battle lust of the inflamed warrior. But equally, we see the inspiration of the thinker and prophet, the sudden thought underlying the inspirational speech of the orator, and the potential for combustion lying within the atomic structure of potassium and the molecular structure of petroleum.
Moving on to Qabalistic schema, we find that this suit represents the most ethereal of the four levels of creation, Atziluth, which is the domain of archetypes, of the potential of all things in the most tenuous sense. Although we may regard the world of Atziluth as eternal, it is important to be aware that in its realization in our material existence, it takes the form of fleeting inspiration, of sudden realization and compulsion to action. We need also to understand that the element of Fire is but the vehicle that conveys the one aspect of the impulse of a higher source and state of being. So when we find a card from this suit in our spread, we immediately note these elementary aspects.
But of course, Fire is modified by its environment. For instance, in the Two of Wands we find the astrological attribution of Mars in Aries, wherein the fury of the rage of war is ascendant and a great release of energy must ensue. In a Thelemic sense, this may represent “Pure Will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result… (Liber Al I:44).” And so we see the neat interlocking of the astrological and alchemical schema with those of the Qabalah and Thelema, thus affirming our conviction that the Tarot is indeed a map of the universe.
The Suit of Swords
Image ©2009 by Hettie Rowley
The Suit of Swords is assigned to Air. Alchemical Air is considered to be the issue of Fire and Water. As such, it is a more complex idea than those underpinning other elements. The first and foremost power we attribute to Air is that of intellect, of cold, dispassionate analysis. The act of analysis, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is to break something into its constituent parts. And so it seems that nature itself has an inbuilt capacity for introspection.
In humans, this capacity, this expression of Air, is usually tempered with the illusions of Water, the reality of Earth and the passion of Fire. When this is not the case, we observe a sad and sorry creature, a human mind denuded of an appreciation for beauty, incapable of feeling; a calculating machine that knows logic alone.
In the Qabalistic scheme, Air corresponds to the domain of Beriah, the realm wherein the inspiration and passion of Atziluth is reduced to working schema and plans. This is the realm of the engineer as much as it is of the artist. So when viewing cards of this suit we should always be aware of the detachment implicit in the agency of Air. I have written elsewhere that we should always consider Air as the seed of the potential for division. This links most appositely with Thelemic scripture, wherein it is stated that, “For I am divided for Love’s sake, for the chance of union. . . (Liber Al 1:29).”
For as the redoubtable Mr. Crowley once told us, there are only two operations in all of nature: division and synthesis. To illustrate the astrological influences on this suit, we will use the example of the Two of Swords, which is assigned to the Moon in Libra. The Moon we regard as indicative of illusion, of distortion through the lens of Water and Libra, an Air sign as balanced force. Combining these things, we deduce that this card indicates a strongly driven intellectual force that is balanced and yet potentially misleading and illusory.
The Suit of Cups
Image ©2009 by Hettie Rowley
This suit is allocated to Alchemical Water. Immediately, a range of relationships and attributions spring to mind here: the Moon, Scorpio, illusion, the Sephira Binah, Cancer, Pisces and much else. An analogy with the mundane element is instructive when we consider the long term erosive effect of water; its power to confuse through reflection and distortion of reality exists together with the correlative power to most perfectly reflect an image of reality without ever being reality in itself.
Water is the fluidity of all things, nature’s capacity to dissolve the universe. Equally, Water is the element of rebirth after death, the incubator of time and life, the source of love. Which aspect is represented on any card depends as always on its position on the Tree, whether as a court card or a numbered card from one through to ten, each number representing a specific aspect of reality as existence unfolds from the nothingness of eternity into the fourfold realm of the Qabalah. Let us examine the Three of Cups as an example whereby we may illustrate the synthesis of meanings.
The Three of Cups is assigned to Mercury in Cancer. This means that the torrent of Water, or unrestrained love, symbolized by Cancer is quickened by the Word of the Logos, which provides us with the archetype of fertility, of an act of impregnation giving rise to the birth of the realization of an idea, of a concept. One of the children of water is of course Air, as described for the Suit of Swords, above. The problem for the reader and the querent is that Water is always the dominant influence in this suit, and so discerning reality from illusion may be difficult.
Further reinforcing this viewpoint is the attribution of the Suit of Cups to the Qabalistic domain Yetzirah, which is the realm of formation, of the fluidity of merged and swirling concepts that are about to differentiate and solidify in the “lowest” of the worlds, Assiyah. We readily observe that the properties of Yetzirah are fully consonant with the alchemical and astrological symbols we have so far attributed to this suit.
Further insight to The Suit of Cups is provided by the above image of Our Lady, the Holy Whore, Babalon. Here we see the Cup of the Blood of the Saints contained in Babalon’s Grail. On her forehead is the alchemical symbol of water, complemented by the Hebrew letter Mem lower down, symbol of the Great Sea of Binah, the Great Mother from whom all life and consciousness arise. Babalon accepts all, but first, every drop of blood must be surrendered to her Cup. Notice also the Moon representing the reflective powers of Water, its mystery and periodic brilliance.
To summarize then, in The Suit of Cups, we have the expression of alchemical Water, representing the womb of those things that will rise from death. And yet, Water also represents the decay of death, the final phases of corruption. We end this brief and inadequate section by repeating our assertion that Water is both truth and illusion, and remains so even under the influence of Mars or Jupiter, but most assuredly when refracting the light of Venus or the Moon.
The Suit of Disks
Image ©2009 by Hettie Rowley
We arrive now at the Suit of Disks, corresponding to the Qabalistic domain of Assiyah, the material world (in some respects, at least). Here we expect outcomes in measurable and identifiable morphology and dimension. Disks are assigned to the alchemical element Earth and, as such, represent the properties of the universe as we commonly perceive it. Whilst the origin of time for instance is with Binah, third of the emanations (Sephiroth) on the Tree of Life, in the domain of Earth, we are familiar with the fruits of time as aging, decay, sorrow and renewal.
There is solidity to this suit that dampens the lighter expressions of the planetary influences. There is an implied sluggishness, a lack of fluidity and fire. All of these things are well known, commonplace truths. But! The alchemists who devised these attributions were creatures of their own time, and worked to the boundaries of the knowledge available in their age. We now live in a radically different time, a transformed age within which our knowledge of the universe has grown immeasurably. Consider the following concerning the known composition of our physical universe:
- Stars and Galaxies: 0.4%
- Intergalactic Gas: 3.6%
- Dark Matter: 22.0%
- Dark Energy: 74.0%
The dark matter and energy are postulated by scientists as necessary factors to explain the expansion rate of the universe. However, they are termed dark because science as yet has no clue as to the true nature of either of these things. That last statement is most assuredly not a criticism of science, but given the gulf that still exists between the scientific and occult understanding of the universe, it seems possible that here lies at least a portion of the answer to the hiatus in our understanding.
Always we look to the gaps in our understanding for enlightenment, for the potential of synthesizing disparate facts into a greater and more cohesive whole. For this reason, I have dubbed Earth The Treasure-House of Limitless Secrets. For far from being the most understood of the elements, Earth may actually be the least, and our current understanding informs us that we must always look deeper than the surface in all earthly affairs if we are to have any chance of reaching the truth.
When we examine the Three of Disks as an example of this suit, we find the assignment of Mars in Capricorn, which denotes the fiery energy of Mars elevated in the domain of earthy Capricorn. This reminds us of the tale of Prometheus, bringer of Fire to humankind, exalted in the eyes of humanity yet brought low indeed in the eyes of the other gods.
The Qabalistic attribution of this card, assigned to Binah on the Tree of life, further damps the energy of fire with the dullness of time, and yet promises the birth of a new entity from the womb of the great mother. And so do we see the element of Earth, modified by its condition on each branch of the Tree of Life, as the dominant trait of the Suit of Disks.
The artwork of the figure just above illustrates the Sun and Moon forming the phallus of To Mega Therion, which is the counterpart of Babalon in her aspect as the fertile Earth and represented here by her seven pointed star. Their act of creation animates creation, penetrating and permeating the universe. Through the exchange of energies between these entities is the power of the Aeon of Horus unleashed. But this is no empty, unconscious outpouring of power, for the power of Horus permeates all even as he gazes over time’s latest landscape, ordering all in accordance with the precepts of Liber Al.
As Crowley states in The Book of Thoth, the newborn emerald green of Isis permeates the world, indicating the rebirth of Osiris as Horus. Again taking our cue from Crowley, the whirling spheres of nature indicate the vitality and power of Earth, of the final creation of Assiyah, and six wings support the composite globe of creation. Scattered in the darkness are the symbols of time and Earth: Saturn, the bringer of sorrow; the Earth signs of Taurus, Capricorn, and Virgo. And yet around the peripheries lies darkness, reflecting the current state of humanity’s ignorance. Surmounting the image is the Hebrew attribution to Malkhut, lowest of the Sephiroth, emphasizing the material level of the Suit of Disks. Finally, the number of the Master Therion, Aleister Crowley, Prophet of Aiwass and deliverer of The Book of the Law, is placed at the heart of the scheme.
We believe that this brief essay illustrates that the Tarot is a map of the universe synthesized from the knowledge of many mystical schools, but chiefly from Qabalah, Astrology and Alchemy. We have not attempted a complete exegesis here, but merely a brief distillation of a broader work in progress at this time.
Sincere thanks to Sheta Kaey, Editor in chief of Rending the Veil, for the opportunity to submit this article to such a wonderful, high quality publication. Hettie and I are deeply honored and grateful.
The artwork embedded in this piece is by Hettie Rowley of the Thelema Trust. The written work is by Keith Rowley, who co-owns the Thelema Trust with Hettie. This piece is derived from an ongoing analysis of the Thoth Tarot that is being developed on the Thelema web site. A blog with RSS feeds and subscription capabilities is available for contributions and comments.
Origins of the Tarot
The Tarot has been a central part of the Western esoteric tradition since 1781, when Antoine Court de Gébelin (1728-1784) made it a topic of interest by including two analytical essays on the subject in Volume 8 of his nine volume encyclopedia, Monde primitif, the separate volumes of which were published between the years 1773 and 1782. One of the essays was written by de Gébelin himself, and the other by Louis-Raphaël-Lucréce de Fayolle, comte de Mellet (1727-1804). My English translation of both essays was published in an earlier edition of Rending the Veil.
Court de Gébelin believed that the Tarot was Egyptian in its origins, that its 22 picture cards, known as the trumps, were based on the 22 letters of an Egyptian alphabet related to the Hebrew alphabet, and that it had been spread throughout the world by gypsies, who were thought by many scholars at the time to have come from Egypt. In all of these particulars he was quite wrong. Even so, his essay exerted a profound influence over the esoteric interpretation of the Tarot in France during the following century, through the writings of such occultists as Alphonse Louis Constant (1810-1875), who wrote under the pen name Éliphas Lévi, and Gérard Encausse (1865-1916), who was known as Papus. From France this bias made its way into the beliefs and practices of various esoteric schools, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in England, and the Builders of the Adytum in America.
The true origins of the Tarot are, on the surface at least, quite mundane. They are known in a general way, although no one can say exactly when the Tarot was invented, or by whom. It first appeared in northern Italy around 1425 as a card game for bored and wealthy Italian aristocrats. The game was called the game of Tarot, and was a trick-taking game somewhat similar to bridge. It is still played today, and it is why the picture cards of the Tarot are known as trumps. The inspiration of its inventor was to add the 22 trumps to a set of 56 cards that was very similar to the common decks of playing cards in use in Europe at the time the game of Tarot was invented. More than one kind of Tarot deck came into being in the early decades of the 15th century, and the number of cards varied, but the Tarot quickly settled into its present pattern of 22 trumps and 56 minor cards in four suits.
Court de Gébelin may have been mistaken in his belief that the Tarot had an ancient and lofty origin among the priest class of Egypt, but he was not wrong to assign it a profound esoteric significance. Even today, the Tarot speaks to those who study it, using the language of symbolism. It became the central device for the system of occultism of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret Rosicrucian society established in London in 1888. The leaders of the Golden Dawn based much of their interpretations of the cards on the work of the French occultists of the 19th century. Through the teachings of the Golden Dawn, the Tarot correspondences used in that occult order were spread throughout the world, and are still the prevalent Tarot correspondences today.
Tarot correspondences are the sets of esoteric symbols associated with the Tarot. Each card is linked with symbols of occult forces, or names of spiritual beings, drawn from various sources such as alchemy, astrology, numerology, the Kabbalah, and geomancy. The links are more numerous in the case of the Tarot trumps, which bear images rich in meaning. For example, the trump the Magician is linked in the Golden Dawn system of magic with the Hebrew letter Beth, the number one, the astrological planet Mercury, the twelfth path on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and with the ox, a beast associated esoterically with the Hebrew letter of this trump. Correspondences provide bridges to other correspondences. Because the trump, the Magician, is associated with the planet Mercury, it is also linked with the angel of Mercury, Raphael, the Intelligence of Mercury, Tiriel, and the Spirit of Mercury, Taphthartharath.
Since the occult correspondences for each Tarot trump are connected by various associative bridges, to manipulate any of them is to gain a measure of control over all of them. This works on the basis of the same general magical principle that governs the well known magical law of contagion, which states that a thing that was once in physical contact with someone is still in touch with that person on some deep level, and therefore manipulating the object causes influence to be exerted on the person it formerly touched. The associations connecting the forces and beings that form the occult correspondences for a Tarot card are like links in a chain. Move one link, and they all rattle.
The Golden Dawn Tarot correspondences are rooted in Court de Gébelin’s casual observation that there are 22 trumps, and 22 Hebrew letters. The French occultists such as Éliphas Lévi had already placed the trumps on the Hebrew alphabet by the time the leader of the Golden Dawn, S. L. MacGregor Mathers (1854-1918), came to create its system of esoteric Tarot correspondences. Mathers did not adopt exactly the same relationship as that used by Lévi, and that difference and others like it are what this essay is all about, but he followed the same general principle. Each Hebrew letter has various esoteric associations. By linking the Hebrew letter to a Tarot trump, those associations can be transferred to the trump.
Since, in modern Western magic, the Tarot trumps derive their correspondences through the Hebrew letters, it is obviously a matter of great significance which Hebrew letter is linked to which trump. The ordering of the Hebrew letters is not open to reinterpretation, but has been established and accepted for thousands of years. However, the ordering of the Tarot trumps does not have such an ancient or well-established history. Indeed, the earliest Tarot decks were unnumbered. The sequence of the Tarot trumps was a matter of oral tradition. It was passed on between those who played the game of Tarot, and it appears that in the decades following the invention of the Tarot, there was more than one accepted ordering for the trumps.
But, when the pack was first standardised, the subjects of the trump cards were standardised, too; they were at first everywhere the same.
Somewhat surprisingly, however, they were not everywhere arranged in the same order. The variations in order were not a later development, but must have occurred from the earliest moment when Tarot cards were known in the principal original centres of their use — Milan, Ferrara, Bologna and Florence.1
Trump Sequence of the Marseilles Tarot
We need not go into the earliest sequences of the trumps, some of which are uncertain, but may begin with Court de Gébelin, since it is with his Tarot essay of 1781 that the esoteric history of the Tarot really begins, at least in a documented manner — for there was an esoteric tradition of the Tarot in use in France in the late 18th century, when de Gébelin published his essay, but exactly what it taught, we cannot be sure, other than that some of those teachings must be reflected in de Gébelin’s essay.
Court de Gébelin accepted the traditional ordering of the trumps of his day, as it was codified in the numbering of the French pack of Tarot cards known as the Tarot of Marseilles. As I mentioned, the earliest Italian Tarot decks were unnumbered, but as early as 1490 card makers in Ferrara, Italy, probably began to place Roman numerals on the trumps, fixing them into a specific sequence. This practice was carried on by the early French card makers. It is uncertain which of the Italian trump sequences was adopted in what came to be known as the Tarot of Marseilles, but it is speculated that it may have been the ordering used by the Tarot card makers of Milan.2 The Marseilles sequence of trumps, with its original French spellings as they appear on the 1761 pack designed by Nicolas Conver, is as follows:
I. Le Bateleur (The Juggler)
II. La Papesse (The Female Pope)
III. L´ Imperatrice (The Empress)
IIII. L´ Empereur (The Emperor)
V. Le Pape (The Pope)
VI. L´ Amovrevx (The Lover)
VII. Le Chariot (The Chariot)
VIII. La Justice (Justice)
VIIII. L´ Hermite (The Hermit)
X. La Rove De Fortvne (The Wheel of Fortune)
XI. La Force (Strength)
XII. Le Pendu (The Hanged Man)
XIII. — (Death)
XIIII. Temperance (Temperance)
XV. Le Diable (The Devil)
XVI. La Maison Diev (The House of God)
XVII. L´ Etoille (The Star)
XVIII. La Lune (The Moon)
XVIIII. Le Soleil (The Sun)
XX. Le Jugement (Judgement)
XXI. Le Monde (The World)
Le Mat (The Fool)
A few points are to be noticed. The method of writing Roman numerals is slightly different from the accepted manner of today. Instead of using IV to represent the number four, IIII was used. Sometimes the letter “v” was employed where we would put the letter “u” today. The trump L´ Amovrevx is usually called the Lovers, but the singular form, the Lover, may be more accurate. It is translated in this way on the trump in the well-known Grimaud Tarot. The trump Death did not have its name written on the face of the card at all, although the title of this card was known to everyone using the Tarot. This was in keeping with the popular superstition that to speak the name of Death was to invoke this dreaded dark angel. The trump the Fool did not bear a number of any kind.
Trump Sequence of Court de Gébelin
Court de Gébelin renamed some of the trumps to give them a more Egyptian flavor, but he retained their Marseilles sequence. It was the usual custom to place the only trump that remained unnumbered, the Fool, at the end of the sequence, following XXI the World. Court de Gébelin declared that it should be numbered zero, because like the zero of mathematics, it has no value of its own, but only acquires value when added to other cards. This statement exerted profound influence over later occultists who wrote about the Tarot.
Court de Gébelin believed that the trumps should be arranged from highest number to lowest number, in the belief that the Egyptians &”began counting from the highest number, going down to the lowest4.” To interpret the cards correctly, he asserted, they must be examined in this manner. It was on this basis that he felt free to rename the Marseilles trump Judgement, which from its name might be expected to come at the end of the sequence, as Creation, which might be expected to come at or near the beginning. Here are the changed titles that de Gébelin applied to the trumps in their reversed order, followed by their usual Marseilles titles in English.
XXI. Time (The World)
XX. Creation (Judgement)
XIX. The Sun (The Sun)
XVIII. The Nile (The Moon)
XVII. The Dog-Star (The Star)
XVI. Castle of Plutus (The House of God)
XV. Typhon (The Devil)
XIV. Temperance (Temperance)
XIII. Death (Death)
XII. Prudence (The Hanged Man)
XI. Fortitude (Strength)
X. Wheel of Fortune (Wheel of Fortune)
IX. The Sage (The Hermit)
VIII. Justice (Justice)
VII. Osiris Triumphant (The Chariot)
VI. Marriage (The Lovers)
V. Chief Hierophant (The Pope)
IV. The Emperor (The Emperor)
III. The Empress (The Empress)
II. The High Priestess (The Female Pope)
I. Lord of Chance (The Juggler)
0. The Fool (The Fool)
Trump Sequence of the comte de Mellet
What de Gébelin did not do was make a direct relationship between the trumps and the Hebrew letters. However, it is obvious what arrangement he intended, and indeed, his contributor the comte de Mellet supplied the explicit arrangement that must also have been in de Gébelin’s thoughts, and applied the inverted sequence of the trumps to the Hebrew alphabet, with the final numbered trump, XXI the World, on the first letter, Aleph, and the unnumbered trump the Fool, to which de Gébelin gave the zero, on the final letter, Tau.
De Mellet seems to have been the first person to explicitly define a relationship between the trumps and Hebrew letters. He called the Fool by the title Madness, and changed some of the other names of the trumps, although his interpretations are not always exactly like those of de Gébelin. It is evident from his descriptions of the Pope and Popess (Female Pope) that he used the Tarot of Besancon, rather than the standard Marseilles pack, where the Pope is replaced by Jupiter and the Popess by Juno.5
Here is his sequence of the trumps on the Hebrew letters, along with the interpretations he gave them, translated into English. The more conventional names for the trumps are placed in parentheses.
XXI. The Universe (The World) — Aleph
XX. Creation of Man (Judgement) — Beth
XIX. Creation of the Sun (The Sun) — Gimel
XVIII. Creation of the Moon (The Moon) — Daleth
XVII. Creation of the Stars (The Star) — He
XVI. House of God (House of God) — Vau
XV. Typhon (The Devil) — Zayin
XIV. Angel of Temperance (Temperance) — Cheth
XIII. Death (Death) — Teth
XII. Prudence (The Hanged Man) — Yod
XI. Strength (Strength) — Kaph
X. Goddess Fortune (Wheel of Fortune) — Lamed
IX. The Sage (The Hermit) — Mem
VIII. Justice (Justice) — Nun
VII. Chariot of War (The Chariot) — Samekh
VI. Choice Between Vice or Virtue (The Lovers) — Ayin
V. The God Jupiter (The Pope) — Pe
IV. The King (The Emperor) — Tzaddi
III. The Queen (The Empress) — Qoph
II. The Goddess Juno (The Female Pope) — Resh
I. The Juggler (The Juggler) — Shin
0. Madness (The Fool) — Tau
Trump Sequence of Éliphas Lévi
When Éliphas Lévi brought forth the second volume of his two-part Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, published in French in 1855-6), he applied the sequence of the Marseilles trumps to the Hebrew alphabet in its traditional order, but he placed the Fool just before the final numbered trump, on the second-last Hebrew letter. Either he did not understand Court de Gébelin’s intention to invert the sequence of trumps, or as seems more likely, he chose to ignore it. He was convinced that the posture of the upper body of the Juggler defined the shape of the first Hebrew letter, Aleph, writing “His body and arms constitute the letter Aleph6.” This cannot be denied, but since few, if any, of the other figures on the cards resemble Hebrew letters, its significance is questionable. Below are his titles for the picture cards of the Tarot, and his placement of the trumps on the Hebrew letters.
I. The Juggler — Aleph
II. The Female Pope — Beth
III. The Empress — Gimel
IV. The Emperor — Daleth
V. The Pope — He
VI. Vice and Virtue — Vau
VII. Cubic Chariot — Zayin
VIII. Justice — Cheth
IX. Prudence — Teth
X. Wheel of Fortune — Yod
XI. Strength — Kaph XII
The Hanged Man — Lamed
XIII. Death — Mem
XIV. Temperance — Nun
XV. The Devil — Samekh
XVI. Tower Struck By Lightning — Ayin
XVII. The Blazing Star — Pe
XVIII. The Moon — Tzaddi
XIX. The Sun — Qoph
XX. The Judgement — Resh
0. The Fool — Shin
XXI. Kether — Tau
The placement of the Fool second from the end of the trump sequence had considerable influence on later writers on the Tarot. It is difficult to know how to justify this location for the Fool, which appears to have been put at the end of the trumps in the earliest arrangements of the cards, and was placed at the end of the inverted trump sequence by Court de Gébelin. The French occultist Jean-Baptiste Pitois (1811-1877), known by his pen name Paul Christian, imitated Lévi in this quixotic location of the Fool second from the end of the trumps, when he published his monumental (in size if not in content) work, Histoire de la Magie in 1870.7 Papus also followed Lévi’s lead in his Tarot of the Bohemians, first published in 1889, by placing the Fool on the second-last Hebrew letter, Shin, just before the final trump, the World.8 Neither bothered to justify this location for the Fool.
A. E. Waite also followed Lévi’s example and put his Fool second from the end of the trump sequence in his Pictorial Key to the Tarot, published in 1910, even though he held it to be incorrect. As a member of the Golden Dawn, Waite was bound by oath not to reveal the occult secrets of that Hermetic order, so he could not present the Golden Dawn sequence for the Tarot trumps, which he believed to be esoterically accurate. He deliberately presented what he knew to be a false arrangement of the trumps.
On the placement of the Fool, Waite wrote:
Court de Gébelin places it at the head of the whole series as the zero or negative which is presupposed by numeration, and as this is a simpler so also it is a better arrangement. It has been abandoned because in later times the cards have been attributed to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and there has been apparently some difficulty about allocating the zero symbol satisfactorily in a sequence of letters all of which signify numbers. In the present reference of the card to the letter Shin, which corresponds to 200, the difficulty or the unreason remains. The truth is that the real arrangement of the cards has never transpired.9
This quotation from Waite’s Pictorial Key is worth examining on several points. He was wrong to state that Court de Gébelin placed the Fool “at the head” of the trumps, since de Gé inverted the sequence, making trump XXI the head, and the zero card the Fool the tail. It is true that de Gébelin shifted the Fool from the end to the beginning of the sequence, but then he inverted the sequence, which put the Fool back on the end.
It is curious that Waite did not locate the Fool at the beginning of the trumps. This was the esoteric teaching of the Golden Dawn, so perhaps he felt honor-bound not to do so, lest it be construed as a betrayal of a secret. He felt that he knew the “real arrangement” of the trumps, but also felt that it must remain hidden from profane eyes. So he imitated Lévi, fully aware that Lévi’s placement of the Fool made no sense, and stating as much to his readers in his book.
In view of his reluctance to put the Fool at the head of the trumps, it is curious that Waite felt free to invert the places of VIII Justice and XI Strength. This inversion was based on the esoteric teaching of the Golden Dawn, and should have been just as taboo for Waite as the true location of the Fool. In his Pictorial Key he made this switch, but did not explain it or justify it to his readers.
Trump Sequence of the Golden Dawn
The location of the Fool at the head of the trumps, and the inversion in the places and numbers of Justice and Strength, are innovations of S. L. MacGregor Mathers, chief of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Around the time the Golden Dawn was establishing its first London temple, in 1888, Mathers and his wife were working on an esoteric Tarot deck. His wife Moïna, formerly Mina Bergson, sister of famous French philosopher, Henri Bergson, was an artist, and it was she who actually painted the designs for the new Tarot. Since she was a psychic who often helped her husband in receiving esoteric teachings from the spiritual leaders of the Golden Dawn, known as the Secret Chiefs, it is safe to assume that she was deeply involved not merely in the design, but also in the esoteric interpretation of the new Golden Dawn Tarot. Indeed, it is quite possible that the composition of the Golden Dawn Tarot owes more to Moïna Mathers than to Samuel Mathers.
The major innovation of the Golden Dawn was the absolute determination that the Fool be placed at the front of the Tarot trumps, before the Juggler, which in the Golden Dawn Tarot was called the Magician. This bumped all the trumps up one Hebrew letter. It created the awkward condition of having a card numbered zero falling on a Hebrew letter with a numerical value of one, and so for the rest of the trumps, each out by one number from its Hebrew letter — or at least, the first ten Hebrew letters, since after the letter Yod the number values of the Hebrew letters become non-consecutive, increasing by a factor of tens, and then hundreds.
This awkwardness becomes less distasteful, from an aesthetic point of view, when we realize that the numbers on the trumps are not in any way a part of the trumps. For example, the VII on the trump the Chariot is not attached in any way to this card — it merely indicates the location of this card in the trump sequence. How do we know this? Because originally no Tarot trump was numbered. The trumps are picture cards — their identities are in their pictures. The Roman numerals were applied to the trumps merely as an aid to memory, to insure that errors were not made in their sequence. The seven on the Seven of Wands is very much a part of that Tarot card — indeed, the greater portion of its identity — but the VII on the trump the Chariot is not a part of that trump, and may be removed without in any way diminishing the meaning of the trump.
The second innovation of the Golden Dawn, the inversion of the locations of Justice and Strength, was dictated by the way Mathers and his wife applied the trumps to the Hebrew letters. They used as their guide the most ancient of Kabbalistic texts, Sepher Yetzirah. In this texts, the 22 Hebrew letters are divided into three groups:
3 Mother letters: Aleph, Mem, Shin
7 Double letters: Beth, Gimel, Daleth, Kaph, Pe, Resh, Tau
12 Simple letters: He, Vau, Zayin, Cheth, Teth, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Tzaddi, Qoph.
The Mother letters are associated with three of the four philosophical elements, the Double letters with the seven planets of traditional astrology, and the Simple letters with the twelve signs of the zodiac. In the version of Sepher Yetzirah translated by W. Wynn Westcott, a leading member of the Golden Dawn, the placements of the elements and zodiac signs on the letters are explicit, but the placement of the planets is somewhat obscure, and open to various interpretations.
If the Tarot trumps were simply applied in order to the Hebrew letters, with the Fool on the first letter, then the trump VIII Justice would fall on the Simple letter Teth, and XI Strength would fall on the Simple letter Lamed. In the correspondence between the Simple letters and the zodiac signs that is given in Sepher Yetzirah, this would put the sign Leo on the trump Justice, and the sign Libra on the trump Strength.
But there is an obvious problem. Leo is the sign of the lion, a beast symbolic of virility and strength, and Libra is the sign of the scales, the primary symbol of justice. The trump Strength shows in its picture a lion, and the trump Justice shows in its picture a set of scales. It was obvious to Mathers, and indeed would be obvious to almost anyone, that it would be more appropriate to link the trump Justice with Libra, and the trump Strength with Leo. How could he do this? The Hebrew letters could not be inverted. The associations of the zodiac signs with the Simple letters could not be changed, since they are quite explicit in Sepher Yetzirah. The only thing to do was to invert the locations of trumps Justice and Strength, and this Mathers did. He renumbered Justice as XI and placed it after the Wheel of Fortune, and renumbered Strength as VIII and placed it after the Chariot. This corrected the obvious error in symbolism on these two trumps.
Here is the sequence of trumps used by the Golden Dawn, along with their Kabbalistic associations from Sepher Yetzirah. The names of some of the trumps were updated by Mathers, based primarily on suggestions in the writings of Court de Gébelin and Éliphas Lévi.
0. Fool — Aleph (Air)
I. Magician — Beth (Mercury)
II. High Priestess — Gimel (Moon)
III. Empress — Daleth (Venus)
IV. Emperor — He (Aries)
V. Hierophant — Vau (Taurus)
VI. Lovers — Zayin (Gemini)
VII. Chariot — Cheth (Cancer)
VIII. Fortitude — Teth (Leo)
IX. Hermit — Yod (Virgo)
X. Wheel of Fortune — Kaph (Jupiter)
XI. Justice — Lamed (Libra)
XII. Hanged Man — Mem (Water)
XIII. Death — Nun (Scorpio)
XIV. Temperance — Samekh (Sagittarius)
XV. Devil — Ayin (Capricorn)
XVI. Blasted Tower — Pe (Mars)
XVII. The Star — Tzaddi (Aquarius)
XVIII. The Moon — Qoph (Pisces)
XIX. The Sun — Resh (Sun)
XX. Judgement — Shin (Fire)
XXI. Universe — Tau (Saturn)
Mathers chose to call the Juggler the Magician. He changed the Female Pope to the High Priestess, and the Pope to the Hierophant. Strength was called by its common alternative, Fortitude. The World became the Universe.
As you can see by examining the Golden Dawn arrangement of the trumps, the zodiac signs that fall on the twelve Simple letters of the Hebrew alphabet are in their natural order beginning with Aries. This is in keeping with the information presented in Sepher Yetzirah. The three elements on the Mother letters cannot really be said to have any fixed order, but they also are placed according to Sepher Yetzirah. The planets, however, are a different matter. They do have a natural order, and it is not preserved in Sepher Yetzirah — indeed, in the Westcott edition of that Kabbalistic book, which was used as a source by Mathers, the way in which they are intended to be placed on the seven Double letters is not explicit, but is open to interpretation.
Order of the Planets in Sepher Yetzirah
The text in Sepher Yetzirah reads: “So now, behold the Stars of our World, the Planets which are Seven: the Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars10.” It is obvious that the planets cannot be applied to the Double letters in this order, since that would result in incompatible matches. It would place Mercury on the Empress, for example, and the Moon on the Wheel of Fortune, which would be symbolically incorrect.
Mathers chose to disregard both the order of the planets presented in the text of Sepher Yetzirah, and their natural order. The natural order of the planets is based on their apparent rapidity of motion, as view from the surface of the Earth. From slowest to fastest, their order is: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon. But from fastest to slowest, their reverse order is: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. Mathers adopted neither ordering, but created his own for the Double letters and their associated Tarot trumps.
There are hints in Sepher Yetzirah as to how the author of that ancient text intended the planets to be applied to the Double letters. He gives sets of opposites for each of the letters, and it is possible to apply these sets to the seven planets, thus generating a list of the planets on the Double letters. Which planet matches which pair of opposite qualities is a matter of conjecture. Here is the relevant text, from the fourth chapter of Sepher Yetzirah.
The Seven double letters, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, Kaph, Peh, Resh, and Tau have each two sounds associated with them. They are referred to Life, Peace, Wisdom, Riches, Grace, Fertility and Power. The two sounds of each letter are the hard and the soft — the aspirated and the softened. They are called Double, because each letter presents a contrast or permutation; thus Life and Death; Peace and War; Wisdom and Folly; Riches and Poverty; Grace and Indignation; Fertility and Solitude; Power and Servitude.11
Matching up the qualities of the planets with these pairs of opposites, we might get the following list, which may be how the author of Sepher Yetzirah intended the planets to be assigned to the letters.
Beth — Life and Death — Sun
Gimel — Peace and War — Mars
Daleth — Wisdom and Folly — Saturn
Kaph — Riches and Poverty — Mercury
Pe — Grace and Indignation — Venus
Resh — Fertility and Solitude — Moon
Tau — Power and Servitude — Jupiter
This arrangement is only conjecture on my part. In any case, it does not match very well the nature of the Tarot trumps that fall on the seven Double letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It would place the planet Mars on the trump the High Priestess, which seems obviously wrong. Even had Mathers derived this list, he would not have used it. The key innovations of Mathers and the Golden Dawn with regard to the order of the trumps and their esoteric correspondences are thus the explicit numbering of the Fool as zero, and the placement of the Fool at the head of the trumps; the inversion of the locations and Roman numerals of Justice and Fortitude; and the unique assignment of the planets to the seven Double letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Trump Sequence of Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), who was a member of the Golden Dawn, and perhaps possessed the greatest esoteric knowledge of the Tarot of any man who has ever lived, made surprisingly few innovations in the order of the trumps. He regarded the Golden Dawn arrangement, which Mathers had received from the Secret Chiefs — they conveyed to him psychically the correct locations of the planets on the Double letters — as received sacred wisdom, and did not attempt on his own initiative to meddle with it. He may have had a low regard for Mathers after departing the Golden Dawn under a black cloud, but he always held the Secret Chiefs in the deepest respect.
It was only when Crowley’s guardian angel, Aiwass, came to him while Crowley was visiting Cairo, Egypt, in the year 1904, and dictated to Crowley a holy book titled Liber AL vel Legis, or the Book of the Law, that Crowley felt bold enough to modify the sequence of the Tarot trumps. In the received text of this book is written the statement, “All these old letters of my Book are aright; but [Tzaddi] is not the Star12.” The word “Tzaddi” was not written out, but was in the form of the Hebrew letter Tzaddi. The “old letters” obviously refer to the ancient Hebrew alphabet. The reference to “my book” is to the Book of Thoth, another name among occultists for the Tarot. The “Star” which is capitalized in Crowley’s received text, must refer to the Tarot trump the Star. In the Golden Dawn arrangement, XVII the Star is linked with the Hebrew letter Tzaddi, and the zodiac sign Aquarius.
For years Crowley puzzled about this cryptic message. If Tzaddi was not the Tarot trump the Star, to which trump should it be assigned? The solution reached by Crowley in his Book of Thoth is based on the inversion of the trumps Justice and Strength made by Mathers in the Golden Dawn Tarot. Crowley wrote the twelve signs of the zodiac in their natural order around the rim of a reclining oval, with Pisces on its left side and Virgo on its right side. When this is done, the inversion made by Mathers may be represented graphically by pinching the right end of the oval and giving it a twist to form a little loop, so that the signs of Leo and Libra exchange places around the pivot of Virgo. To balance this change, Crowley took the other end of the oval of the zodiac and gave it a similar twist around the pivot of Pisces to form a second loop, so that the signs Aquarius and Aries changes places. In this way, the model of the zodiac was balanced.13
By this trick, Crowley determined to his own satisfaction that Tzaddi was “not the Star” but was instead, the Emperor. The trump the Star receives Aquarius and the Hebrew letter Tzaddi in the Golden Dawn arrangement, and the trump the Emperor receives Aries and the Hebrew letter He. Crowley inverted this assignment. He did not make this change with the same degree of elegance as Mathers, however. Instead of giving the Emperor the Roman numeral XVII and the Star the Roman numeral IV, Crowley left them where they were in the sequence of the trumps, and broke the continuity of the Hebrew alphabet, inverting the two Hebrew letters, along with their linked esoteric correspondences.
This seems inconsistent on Crowley’s part. To exactly balance the change made by Mathers in the loop at the other end of the zodiac, Crowley should have exchanged the Roman numerals and the placements of the trumps the Emperor and the Star, but kept the integrity of the sequence of the Hebrew alphabet, which has been established for thousands of years. Mathers moved the trumps — he did not move the Hebrew letters. Crowley should have done the same, had he wished to mirror the change made by Mathers.
Instead, Crowley chose to return the Roman numeral VIII to Justice, and XI to Strength, which places them back in their original locations in the Marseilles sequence of the trumps, but he retained the Hebrew letters and zodiac signs given to these trumps by Mathers, thereby violating the sequence of the Hebrew alphabet a second time.
In the Tarot trumps of Crowley’s Thoth deck, the card of the Emperor bears the Hebrew letter Tzaddi, but still retains the zodiac sign Aries. Similarly, the card of the Star bears the Hebrew letter He, but retains the zodiac sign Aquarius. This appears to be an error, since it would be assumed that the zodiac signs should have been changed along with the Hebrew letters — indeed, this was done in the table of the trumps that appears near the end of Crowley’s Book of Thoth.14 Below is Crowley’s arrangement of the Tarot trumps, as it appears in that table. He has changed many of the names of the trumps, but not so radically that they cannot be recognized. Justice was called Adjustment, Strength became Lust, and Temperance was called by Crowley Art.
Trump Sequence of Donald Tyson
The Tarot has been central to my esoteric studies and practices for over thirty years. I have spent considerable time considering the arrangement of the trumps, and have come to some conclusions that I wish to offer here, for those who may be interested in my own sequence and occult correspondences for the trumps. This material previously appeared in the appendix to my book Portable Magic (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2006), which deals with the use of the Tarot for works of ritual magic. Since I believe it is important, I wish to make it as widely available as possible.
My own sense is that Crowley’s change is not valid. It does apply a kind of balance to the loop of the zodiac, and Crowley was obsessed with balance in magic — he believed that all true magicians have an innate sense of harmony and balance, and that they naturally abhor anything in their art that is lacking in symmetry. Well, maybe so, but I see no necessity to balance the inversion of Justice and Strength made by Mathers. The change has its own inherent balance, in that each trump replaces the other. I believe that the change made by Mathers is valid, and indeed inevitable, given the symbolism on the two cards and the zodiac signs involved. Leo must go with Strength, and Virgo must go with Justice.
My primary problem with the Golden Dawn sequence of the trumps lies in the Double letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which are linked with the seven planets. In astrology and in magic, the planets have a very definite ordering, as I explained above. Since the zodiac signs are arranged on the twelve Simple letters in their natural order, it seems to me that it would make good sense to arrange the planets on the seven Double letters in their natural order as well. The reason Mathers did not do this is because it creates some problems. However, in my opinion these issues are not beyond solution, even though some of the changes I propose may seem fairly radical.
The placements of Mercury on the trump of the Magician by Mathers, through the mediation of the Double letter Beth, and the Moon on the High Priestess through the mediation of the Double letter Gimel, have a rightness that would be difficult to challenge. This suggests that if the planets are placed on the trumps in their natural astrological order, it will be an ascending order from quickest and nearest, to slowest and furthest removed. But there is a serious problem. The first planet in this ascending order is the Moon, not Mercury, which is the second planet. To simply apply the planets to the trumps of the Double letters would result in the Magician receiving the Moon, and the High Priestess receiving Mercury. This does not seem symbolically correct.
The solution is obvious, but daring — to invert the location and Roman numerals of trumps the Magician and the High Priestess, so that the High Priestess receives the Roman numeral I and is placed directly after the Fool, and the Magician receives the Roman numeral II and comes after the High Priestess. It is safe to say that this change is the most likely to arouse controversy, among those I have advocated. There is a natural prejudice that the male Magician should come before the female Priestess. However, when we consider why this should be so, it is not easy to come up with a reason. There is something to be said for the Priestess opening the sequence of the trumps — for the Fool, although he is nominally placed at the beginning, really has no place of his own, as his zero designation indicates, but moves where he wills, and relates to all the other trumps equally. The pillars of the Priestess are like an open doorway into the mysteries of the Tarot.
There is another change necessary to apply the planets in their natural ascending order on the seven Double letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and their corresponding trumps. In the Golden Dawn arrangement, Jupiter is placed on trump X the Wheel, and the planet the Sun is placed on trump XIX the Sun. I asked myself, if the planet the Moon is not located on trump XVIII the Moon in the Golden Dawn arrangement, who should it be necessary to locate the planet the Sun on the trump of the same name? It is not necessary, and indeed, not even desirable to do so. When the planets are applied to the trumps of the Double letters in their natural order, it is the Sun that falls on the Wheel, and Jupiter that falls on the trump the Sun.
This change works very well. The Sun is a great fiery wheel rolling across the heavens, and has been characterized in this way in stone age petroglyphs of shamans, and in numerous systems of mythology around the world. It is symbolically apt to link the astrological planet the Sun with the trump the Wheel of Fortune. As for the trump of the Sun — what could be more appropriate to represent it than the beaming countenance of the god Jupiter, as represented by his planet? Jupiter is the dispenser of benevolent laws, the patriarch of the heavens. The planets Jupiter and the Sun have always had harmonious natures in astrology.
It can be seen that by inverting the locations of the trumps the Magician and the High Priestess, all seven of the planets fall on highly appropriate trumps when applied to the sequence of the Double letters in their natural ascending order. The placement of the planet the Sun on the Wheel of Fortune is so right, it is difficult to imagine how Mathers could have avoided making it. Perhaps the designation of Jupiter as the “greater fortune” in astrology swayed his judgment. Even so, I cannot agree with his choice, and believe that the Sun should be on the Wheel, and Jupiter on the trump the Sun.
There are actually three fortunes in astrology, as Cornelius Agrippa pointed out in his Occult Philosophy: “There are three Fortunes amongst the planets15.” These are the Sun, Jupiter, and Venus. However, Jupiter is usually called the Greater Fortune and Venus the Lesser Fortune. I mention this merely to point out that the Sun has at least as much connection with the Wheel of Fortune, thematically, as Jupiter. Both Sun and Jupiter are astrological fortunes. It also shows the close tie between the planet Jupiter and the trump the Sun.
There is one more essential change in the sequence of the trumps that must be made before they can be considered perfected. It involves the inversion of trumps XIV Temperance and VII the Chariot. It has long been my conviction that the zodiac sign Cancer does not belong with the Chariot. In spite of the valiant attempts by Mathers and other occultists to justify its location on the Chariot, there is nothing warlike about the sign of Cancer. The characterization of the fierce Crab with her savage pincers raised for battle strikes me with amusement every time I encounter it. The sign of the Crab is not fierce — it is watery and feminine.
Similarly, I found nothing appropriate in linking the rather warlike zodiac sign of the Archer, Sagittarius, with the feminine and watery trump Temperance. Indeed, there seems no obvious symbolic harmony between the two. The bow and arrow is a weapon of war, and a weapon of the hunt. It is designed to deal death. But the waters poured between the two vessels on the trump Temperance are the waters of life.
I have no hesitation in advocating that these trumps be inverted, and their Roman numerals exchanged, so that Temperance is placed just after the Lovers, and receives the number VII, and the Chariot is placed just after Death, and receives the number XIV. Indeed, this change strikes me as the most obvious and inevitable of all the changes that I have made, and I am amazed that Mathers did not make it himself.
You will notice that this results in an series of violent or warlike cards: the Hanged Man, Death, the Chariot, the Devil, and the Tower. In the common sequence of the trumps, and the Golden Dawn sequence as well, the card Temperance breaks up this set. Equally, the older placement of the Chariot seems completely wrong — it comes in the midst of a peaceful series of trumps, after the Hierophant and the Lovers, and before Strength and the Hermit. Strength is not violent, but is the strength of self control and restraint. The overtly violent and warlike Chariot is completely wrong for this series.
Here, then, is my rectified sequence of the Tarot trumps, according to my best judgement. It is my experience that it lends itself very well to the paths on the Tree of Life — better than the Golden Dawn sequence. Of course those accustomed to using the Golden Dawn arrangement on the Tree will find it an effort to change mental gears, and try something new, but those who make the change will not want to go back.
0. Fool — Aleph (Air)
I. High Priestess — Beth (Moon)
II. Magician — Gimel (Mercury)
III. Empress — Daleth (Venus)
IV. Emperor — He (Aries)
V. Hierophant — Vau (Taurus)
VI. Lovers — Zayin (Gemini)
VII. Temperance — Cheth (Cancer)
VIII. Strength — Teth (Leo)
IX. Hermit — Yod (Virgo)
X. Wheel — Kaph (Sun)
XI. Justice — Lamed (Libra)
XII. Hanged Man — Mem (Water)
XIII. Death — Nun (Scorpio)
XIV. Chariot — Samekh (Sagittarius)
XV. Devil — Ayin (Capricorn)
XVI. Tower — Pe (Mars)
XVII. The Star — Tzaddi (Aquarius)
XVIII. The Moon — Qoph (Pisces)
XIX. The Sun — Resh (Jupiter)
XX. Judgement — Shin (Fire)
XXI. World — Tau (Saturn)
- Decker, Ronald; Thierry Depaulis; Michael Dummett. A Wicked Pack of Cards. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996, page 25.
- Ibid., page 41.
- Ibid., page 43.
- Ibid., page 62.
- Ibid., page 70.
- Lévi, Éliphas. Transcendental Magic. New York: Weiser, 1979, page 386.
- Christian, Paul. The History and Practice of Magic. New York: Citadel Press, 1963, page 110.
- Papus. Tarot of the Bohemians. New York: US Games, 1978, page 184.
- Waite. A. E. The Pictorial Key to the Tarot. New York: Weiser, 1980, page 29.
- Westcott, W. Wynn. Sepher Yetzirah. New York: Weiser, 1980, page 23.
- Ibid., page 22.
- Crowley, Aleister. Book of the Law. Quebec: 93 Publishing, page 26.
- Crowley, Aleister. Book of Thoth. New York: Weiser, 1974, pages 9-11.
- Ibid., page 278.
- Agrippa, Cornelius. Three Books of Occult Philosophy. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1993, page 250.
© 2008 by Donald Tyson.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Donald Tyson is the author of Sexual Alchemy: Magical Intercourse with Spirits, Familiar Spirits: A Practical Guide for Witches & Magicians, and Soul Flight: Astral Projection and the Magical Universe, among other works. You can visit his website here.
This is an excerpt from Taylor’s upcoming book, Space/Time Magick II.
In Space/Time Magic, in my chapter on divination, I argued against using divination in magical practice every time a magician decided to do a ritual, because divination only reveals a few possibilities, while potentially limiting awareness of other possibilities. The other potential danger is that the very act of reading the future will change that actual future through the perception of it. In other words, divination can sometimes bring a very specific possibility into reality through the act of reading and that possibility may not be what the magician wants. The reason this happens is that the divination reading is imprinted into the subconscious of the magician1. So s/he acts on the reading and manifests it into reality, even if its not a favorable outcome. This is admittedly a pessimistic perception of divination. I do think that conscious awareness of the magician’s emotions and thoughts at the time of the reading can help hir avoid such problems in divination. Nonetheless, I often wonder if divination is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For that reason, my use of tarot and other divinatory tools has gone in several different directions. When I have used Tarot for divination readings, instead of using standard spreads, I use free-form spreads in my readings. One of the reasons I suspect divination readings can be problematic has to do with the actual spread. Different spreads have meanings associated with them. These meanings bias the reader with regard to the overall reading, because they set certain standards into the reading. My way of getting around this issue, both for myself and other people I do readings for, is to do free form spreads, which means the spread can and will change and isn’t regulated to a set number of cards. The placement of the cards in the spread is done intuitively with this approach, as opposed to using a rote formula for the spread. The benefit of the intuitive placement of the cards is that any meaning associated with the placement of the cards is solely derived from the reader. This filters out biases that traditional spreads would otherwise introduce into the reading.
The reason the cards aren’t limited to a specific number is to allow the intuitive possibilities that are present in the reading to gain better exposure than might occur with a limited number of cards. While this approach can be occasionally problematic (such as when I did a reading for someone, and due to the number of cards she pulled, the reading last for over an hour) I find that this approach tends to be more accurate both for myself and the people I do readings for. More detail is allowed into the reading, which opens up the perception of more possibilities. At the same time, the level of detail is also raised because the cards will modify each other and the meanings that are presented to the reader.
My other approach to divination involves using it for ritual and/or pathworking capabilities. To really learn the meaning of the cards, for instance, Knight has suggested that the reader treat each card like a door way and go into the card to interact with the archetypal force that the card represents2. So if a person wants to know the meaning of The Fool, the best way to find out is to actually do a meditative journey into the card to meet The Fool. I’ve found this technique to be useful to get to know the cards, but inspired as well by anime and the idea of summoning the spirit of card, I’ve also taken to using tarot for evocation purposes3. By evoking The Fool or another tarot card, I can interact with that force on this plane of reality. The evocation approach has been useful for opening up a number of possibilities for me. I’ve evoked The Chariot to help me travel more and get into events, while I’ve evoked The Wheel of Fortune to steer me toward better financial opportunities. As long as you have a well developed understanding of the cards, you can do fairly successful evocations of the archetypal spirits in the cards.
Yet another practical approach for tarot cards has been derived from Greer’s work. What I like about her approach is that it’s focused more on enchantment then divination. Instead of shuffling the cards and then pulling the top cards off, the practitioner pulls out cards that specifically represent the situation that needs to be addressed. Then cards are pulled that represent potential solutions. The goal is to put together a spread that creates a different conceptual approach to how the practitioner perceives the situation4. I’ve used this technique in several manners. I’ve used it as a mind mapping technique, where I map out a particular problem and the associated meanings that go with it. I then map out solutions and associated meanings with those and determine if there is any meshing of associations, which could create vectors of approach to solving a particular problem.
The other method I use with this technique is where I apply evocation magic to the problem. I’ll put the problem card in the center and then put the solution cards in a circle around it. I’ll cast a circle with the solution cards, basically evoking the archetypal entity of each card as a guardian. I’ll then evoke the archetypal spirit of the problem card. When that spirit comes forth I’ll explain that I need it to turn into the solution for me. Instead of binding the spirit of the card, I’ll ask it to confer with the spirits of the solution cards and then provide me a solution to what it represents. I usually get an intuitive explanation and may find myself following courses of action on instinct. Every time I’ve used this approach, it’s worked. The problem situation has turned into a solution. A person might think that the spirit of the problem card would be tempted to mislead me, but that’s why the spirits of the solution cards work with it. They not only confer with it, but also make sure that the intuitions I receive are carefully filtered. In other words the entity of the problem card doesn’t mislead me. And in time it becomes a solution for me. This kind of method involves the concept of taking energy directed toward you and turning that energy into your own advantage.
Most recently, however, I’ve come across a technique that allows me to expand the ritual magic components of tarot and at the same time allows me to further refine the divinatory and enchantment aspects I’ve worked with before. In Portable Magic, Tyson provides a ritual magic technique based off Golden Dawn ceremonial magic, but intended to drastically simplify the ceremonial magic aspects, and overall he succeeds. I’ve taken his approach and modified it further for my own uses. For instance, I simplified the system, taking out the astrological and planetary correspondences, because while they can be useful, I found it overly complicated for what I wanted to do. As is, none of my workings using Tyson’s system suffered because of the alterations. If anything, it proved to me that a personalized system of magic is more effective than adopting someone else’s approach to magic.
I mainly used Tyson’s concept of the ritual of union. In my own writing I’ve discussed the technique of invoking yourself into other people, and his technique seemed like a useful variation of my own technique.5 In his case, he used the example of contacting the consciousness of a magician such as Mathers, explaining that, “It is possible to form links with those who have died, or at least with spiritual intelligences who have assumed their identities and personalities and assert themselves to be the souls of those who were once alive6.” To my mind, this explanation didn’t work. It was too linear. And this is where the space/time aspects comes in, because if we contact people across distances, we can also interact with them across time. Working with Mathers, for instance, wouldn’t involve working with his ghost, as his consciousness very well could be dispersed at this moment in time. Instead it would involve working with his consciousness when it was alive, even if the magician doing the working didn’t live in the same temporal frame of reference as Mathers did. As long as Mathers existed at some point in time, then he could be connected with across time. I decided to apply some experiments testing my idea. The experiments involved people in the present, a dead relative, and a some attempts to interact with people in the future.
Readers should refer to Tyson’s work to get the basic technique, though I’ll summarize it here. I used the Voyager Tarot deck in my workings, so some of the titles of the cards are different from the ones he uses in his book. I created an altar out of each ace card in the four suits of the minor arcana. I also picked out a card that represented me, from the child, man, woman, or sage cards of the minor arcana. In my case, I used the Woman of Crystals card, because of my work with the Earth for most of 2007 and because I felt that the imagery really resonated with me. In the case of each person I chose to contact, I let my intuition guide me toward the correct card, using what I sensed about each person as a guidance. In most cases, this was helped by knowing the people at least somewhat well in real life, but in two cases, I didn’t really know either person and was still able to pick cards that I felt resonated with them.
To set up the triangle of summoning I used The Fool, The Hanged Man, and The Time-Space trump cards. To set up the ritual circle, I used the cards that Tyson has recommended, with some changes, using the Art trump for Temperance and the Balance trump for Justice. Again I refer readers to his book, not only for the suggested layout, but also a full explanation of the technique and what the magician is supposed to do to make the ritual work. I mostly followed his instructions, though again I personalized what I did to some degree.
My first experiment was focused on just making a connection with each person and determining if the person felt my presence when I did the connection. I asked each person before I did this working, and so I had their permission, but they didn’t know when I’d try to connect with them. In each case, around the time of the ritual, the people I contacted did feel my presence. An intriguing side effect of this experiment was that most of them experienced some form of bleed over, when it came to some current situations occurring in my life and natural abilities I have. In one instance, the person felt moved to write about desire and attachment, something I’d been reading about a lot at the time. In the second case, the person became very empathic while the ritual occurred and for a short time after, before it faded away. My description of his shields were also accurate. In the third case, the person only felt my presence.
My next experiment was to actually connect with each person, do a tarot reading of their present circumstances, and determine if the reading of the problem facing the person was accurate, while at the same time aligning that person with possibilities that were favorable for solving the situation. I used the Voyager deck for the summoning, and then used the Buckland Cards of Alchemy deck for the readings. In each case, they felt my presence once again. Also in each case, the readings I did were accurate and related to activities the person was engaged in at the time. In one case, the person was looking through her art portfolio and dealing with feelings of empowerment over it, but also feelings of conflict and fear, as a result of her school experiences. In another case, the reading for the person reflected the fact that he was in a business meeting and had to take charge to solve the situation. In both cases, they also noted that they felt charged up around the time of the reading, which I thought of as imparting those favorable possibilities into their reality. As a final challenge, one of my friends suggested I contact someone I didn’t know at all to see if the experiences and readings were accurate. I was only given the first name of the person. I told him I would do it two days later, but decided to do a double blinder and do the working the day before I told him I would do it. The reading for the person I didn’t know was also accurate. I not only was able to provide a general description of her experience, but I also was able to provide a very accurate of her personality. I knew once I tried these experiments that the connection with other consciousnesses worked in the present. The question that remained was if they would work in the past or future.
For the past, I decided to contact the consciousness of one of my ancestors, my grandfather who had died many years before I was born. I didn’t know a lot about him, so I figured it was a perfect test, because I could then confirm details received with people in my family who did know him. My goal wasn’t to contact his spirit, but to contact him when he was alive. I used a picture of him as part of my focus. The connection I received was more in terms of emotions than actual information, but the emotions were accurate to the time the picture was taken. I confirmed details via my relatives.
For the future, I did a similar reading like I had in the present. The difference was that I would connect with the person, but that the connection would be directed to the future of that person. My first connection was directed to one day later, in that person’s life. On that day she did feel my presence and the reading for her circumstances turned out to be very accurate, dealing with her ongoing attempts to communicate with people and with herself. In the second case, the connection was focused four days later. I wanted to determine if there was a difference in the connection or accuracy of the reading by length of time. The connection didn’t feel as strong, but the reading was still accurate for the person and what he was dealing with at the time.
I have further experiments planned, which will be used in a fuller version of this chapter. However, I did feel that, for all intents and purposes, the technique I adapted to my own standards has worked rather well. Each connection has been made successfully and in each case has been accurate. However, there is easily room for expansion in several different directions, including connecting with past and future versions of the self. The important aspect to note however is that tarot has more uses for it than just divination and that divination can combined with enchantment, as was the case where I not only read the circumstance, but then used the cards to introduce favorable possibilities to solve the problems. Tyson’s core technique has lots of adaptability to it and will certainly be a tool I continue to use for a long time to come.
- Renee, Janina. (1990). Tarot Spells. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications.
- Ellwood, Taylor. (2005). Space/Time Magic. Stafford: Immanion Press.
- Knight, Gareth. (1996). The Magical World of the Tarot: Fourfold Mirror of the Universe. York Beach: Samuel Weiser, Inc.
- Ellwood, Taylor. (2004). Pop Culture Magick. Stafford: Immanion Press.
- Greer, Mary K. (1988). Tarot Mirrors: Reflections of Personal Meaning. North Hollywood: New Castle Publishing Co., Inc.
- Tyson, Donald (2006). Portable Magic: Tarot Is the Only Tool You Need. Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications. p. 158
©2007 Taylor Ellwood. Edited by Sheta Kaey
Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.com/.
Antoine Court de Gébelin
translated from the French by Donald Tyson
Antoine Court de Gébelin: 1728-84
The following two essays appear in Volume 8, Book 1, pages 365-410 of the work Monde Primitif, analysé et comparé avec le monde moderne (The Primitive World, analyzed and compared with the modern world). The nine volumes of this unfinished work were published in Paris over the period 1773-82. The eighth volume appeared in 1781.
The first essay, titled Du Jeu des Tarots, was written by Court de Gébelin himself; the author of the second, titled Recherches sur les Tarots, et sur la Divination par les Cartes des Tarots, par M. Le C. de M. (Study on the Tarots, and on Divination with Tarot cards, by M. the C. of M.), has been identified as Louis Raphaël Lucrèce de Fayolle, the Comte de Mellet (1727-1804).
It appears that Court de Gébelin had the essay by the Comte de Mellet in his possession when he wrote his own work on the Tarot, and was influenced by its contents. De Mellet probably composed his work independently, prior to reading Court de Gébelin’s essay, although he was aware of some of Court de Gébelin’s ideas about the Tarot.
Court de Gébelin’s essay is noteworthy for establishing the Tarot as a repository of esoteric wisdom, for placing its origins in ancient Egypt, for linking the dissemination of the Tarot throughout Europe with the Gypsies, for alluding to the connection between the 22 trumps and 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and for placing the Fool firmly at the head of the trumps, rather than at their end, its previous traditional location. His views exerted a profound influence on later writers on the Tarot, even though most of his assertions are incorrect. The Tarot was probably not deliberately designed as a book of esoteric wisdom; it did not originate in Egypt; it has no ancient connection with the Gypsies; the similarity in number between the trumps and the Hebrew letters may be accidental; there is no hard evidence supporting the location of the Fool at the head of the trumps.
The Comte de Mellet’s essay is significant for his inverted ordering of the trumps that begins with the World and ends with the Fool, for his explicit linking of the individual trumps with individual Hebrew letters, for his exposition of the method of Tarot divination in use in his day, and for his presentation of the esoteric names and meanings associated with many of the cards.
The present English translation of these seminal treatises in the history of the Tarot arose from my current work on the esoteric evolution of these cards. I needed a full knowledge of the material contained in Court de Gébelin’s book, and discovered to my surprise that these essays were not available for free in English on the Internet. Considering the importance of these works, their age, and their relative brevity, this was quite astonishing. As a consequence, I decided to translate them and put them on this Web site so that anyone else who might want to read what Court de Gébelin and the Comte de Mellet had to write about the Tarot would not be similarly disappointed.
These translations are quite rough — I would even go so far as to call them crude. They should not be relied upon where accurate quotations from the essays are needed. My skill in French is limited, and I am sure its limitations are evident in the translations. However, bearing this in mind, most of what these two pioneers of the esoteric Tarot had to communicate on the subject may be gathered from the English version that appears here.
All of the remarks in square brackets, with one possible exception, were apparently made by Court de Gébelin. I have not inserted any editorial comments. Originally in Court de Gébelin’s essay the trump Temperance was incorrectly numbered XIII, but a note repairs this mistake — it is not clear from the French HTML copy of the work that I used as my source whether this correction was made in the original book. In the future I may find time to provide a set of notes explaining some of the errors and obscurities in the text.
The drawings of the trumps that accompany the text were executed at Court de Gébelin’s instruction by the artist Mademoiselle Linote. Many of them were inverted left to right in the process of printing — I have presented them as they appear in Monde primitif, without correcting these inversions. In Court de Gébelin’s book the drawings were gathered together in several plates, but here they are inserted individually next to the passages describing them.
— Donald Tyson
The Game of Tarots
Where one deals with the origin, where one explains the allegories, and where one shows that it is the source of our modern playing cards, etc etc.
The surprise caused by the discovery of an Egyptian book.
If one proceeded to announce that there is still nowadays a work of the former Egyptians, one of their books that escaped the flames that devoured their superb libraries, and which contains their purest doctrines on interesting subjects, everyone who heard, undoubtedly, would hasten to study such an invaluable book, such a marvel. If one also said that this book is very widespread in most of Europe, that for a number of centuries it has been in the hands of everyone, the surprise would be certain to increase. Would it not reach its height, if one gave assurances that no one ever suspected that it was Egyptian; that those who possessed it did not value it, that nobody ever sought to decipher a sheet of it; that the fruit of an exquisite wisdom is regarded as a cluster of extravagant figures which do not mean anything by themselves? Would it not be thought that the speaker wanted to amuse himself, and played on the credulity of his listeners?
This Egyptian book exists.
This fact is certainly very true: this Egyptian book, the only survivor of their superb libraries, exists in our day: it is even so common, that no sage condescends to occupy himself with it; nobody before us has ever suspected its famous origin. This book is composed of 77 layers or tables, even of 78, divided into five classes, each of which offer subjects as varied as they are amusing and instructive. This book is in a word the game of Tarots, the playing of which is admittedly unknown in Paris, but very well known in Italy, in Germany, even in Provence, and also by the bizarre figures which each one of its cards offers, as well as by their multitude.
Event though the regions where it is in use are so extensive, none is more advanced than the others in understanding the value of the strange figures than it presents: and such is the antiquity of its origins, buried in the darkness of time, that no one knows either where or when it was invented, nor the reason why it is made up of so many extraordinary figures, of which so little is known that they offer collectively a single enigma that nobody has ever sought to solve.
This game even appeared so unworthy of attention, that it never came under the consideration of the eyes of those of our savants who dealt with the origins of cards: they only spoke of French cards, which are in use in Paris, whose origin is not very old; and after having proven the modern invention of them, they believed they had exhausted the matter. It is in this way indeed that one constantly confuses the establishment in a country of a certain practice with its primitive invention: it is what we already showed with regard to the compass: the Greeks and the Romans themselves confused only too thoroughly these objects, which deprived us of a multitude of interesting origins.
But the form, the disposition, the arrangement of this game, and the figures which it presents, are so obviously allegorical, and these allegories are so in conformity with the civil, philosophical and religious doctrines of the ancient Egyptians, that one cannot avoid recognizing the work of these sagacious people: they only could be its inventors, who rivaled in this respect the Indians who created the game of chess.
- We will show the allegories which the various cards of this game offer.
- The numerical formulas according to which it was made up.
- How it was transmitted down to us.
- Its relationship with a Chinese monument.
- How the Spanish cards were born from it.
- And correspondences of these last with the French cards.
This exercise will be followed by an essay where it is established how this game may be applied to the art of the divination; it is the work of a General Officer, the Governor of a province, who honors us with his benevolence, and who found in this game with a very clever sagacity the Egyptian principles on the art of prognosticating by cards, principles which distinguished the earliest bands of Egyptians, incorrectly named Bohemians, who spread themselves throughout Europe; and there still remain some vestiges in our card decks, which lend themselves to divination infinitely less by their monotony and small number of their figures.
The Egyptian game, on the contrary, is suited admirably for this effect, encompassing in a way the whole universe, and all the various conditions of the life of man. Such was the wisdom of this singular people, that they imprinted on the least of their works the seal of immortality, so that others to some extent seem hardly able to walk in their footsteps.
Allegories presented by the cards of the game of Tarots.
If this game which always remained obscure to all those which knew of it, stood revealed to our eyes, it was not the effect of some deep meditation, nor of the desire to clear up its chaos: we did not spend an instant thinking about it. Invited as a guest a few years ago to meet with a lady of our acquaintance, Madam la C. d’H., who had arrived from Germany or Switzerland, we found her occupied playing this game with some other people. We played a game which you surely do not know. . . That may be; which is it?. . . the game of Tarots. . . I had occasion to see it when I was extremely young, but I did not have any knowledge of it. . . it is a rhapsody of the most bizarre figures, the most extravagant: and here is one, for example; one has care to choose a card filled with figures, bearing no relationship to its name, it is the World: I there cast my eyes, and at once I recognize the allegory: everyone leaves off their game and comes to see this marvelous card in which I apprehend what they have never perceived: each one asks me to expound another of the cards: in one quarter of an hour the cards were comprehended, explained, declared Egyptian: and since it was not the play of our imaginations, but the effect of the deliberate and significant connections of this game with all that is known of Egyptian ideas, we promised ourselves to share the knowledge some day with the public; persuaded that it would take pleasure in the discovery of a gift of this nature, an Egyptian book that had escaped barbarity, the devastations of time, fires accidental and deliberate, and the even greater disaster of ignorance.
A necessary consequence of the frivolous and light form of this book, which made it capable of triumphing over all the ages and of passing down to us with a rare fidelity: the ignorance which until now even we have been in concerning what it represented, was a happy safe conduct that allowed it to cross every century quietly without anyone thinking of doing it harm.
It is time to recover the allegories that it had been intended to preserve, and to show that to the wisest of all peoples, everything including games was founded on allegory, and that these wise savants converted into a recreation the most useful knowledge, and made of it just a game.
We said it, the game of Tarots is composed of 77 cards, even of a 78th, divided into atouts and four suits. So that our readers can follow us, we made engravings of the atouts; and the Ace of each suit, which we call after the Spaniards, Spadille, Baste, and Ponte.
The atouts number 22, and in general represent the temporal and spiritual leaders of society, the physical leaders of agriculture, the cardinal virtues, marriage, death and resurrection or creation; the various plays of fortune, the sage and the fool, time which consumes all, etc. One understands thus in advance that all these cards are as many allegorical pictures relating to the whole of life, and susceptible to an infinitude of combinations. We will examine them one by one, and will try to decipher the particular allegory or enigma that each one of them contains.
Number 0, Zero
One cannot fail to recognize the Fool in this card, with his crazed look, and his apparel furnished with shells and bells: he goes very quickly, as mad as he is, bearing behind him his small pack, and thinking to escape thereby from a tiger which bites him on the haunch: as for the pack, it is the emblem of his faults that he wishes not to see; and this tiger, those of his regrets which follow it eagerly, and which jump in to bite behind him.
This beautiful idea that Horace framed so well in golden words, would thus never have been invented by him, had it not escaped destruction with the Egyptians: it would have been a vulgar idea, a commonplace; but captured in the eternal truth of Nature, and presented with all the graces of which he was capable, this pleasant and wise poet seemed to have drawn it from his own deep judgement.
As for this atout, we number it zero, though it is placed it in the order of cards after the twenty-first, because it does not count when it is alone, and possesses only the value that it gives to the others, precisely like our zero: showing thus that nothing exists without its folly.
The Game of Cups, or the Juggler.
We start with number I and proceed to XXI, because the current practice is to start with the least number and continue on to the highest: it was however that of the Egyptians to began to count with the higher, continuing down to the lower. Thus they sang the octave while going down, and not while going up like us. In the essay which follows this one, the writer follows the practice of the Egyptians, and makes the best account of it. There are thus here two approaches: ours more convenient when one wants to consider these cards only in themselves: and that other, useful in better conceiving the whole set and their relationships.
The first of all atouts while counting up, or the last while counting down, is a player at cups; this is evident by his table covered with dice, goblets, knives, balls, etc., by his staff of Jacob or rod of the Magi, by the ball which he holds between two fingers and which he will cause to disappear.
It is called the Juggler in the titles of the cards: this is the vulgar name given to it by people of this condition: is it necessary to say that the name derives from baste, stick?
At the head of all the trumps, it indicates that all of life is only a dream that vanishes away: that it is like a perpetual game of chance or the shock of a thousand circumstances which are never dependent on us, and which inevitably exerts a great influence on any general administration.
But between the Fool and Juggler, man is not well.
Numbers II, III, IV, V
Leaders of Society.
Numbers II and III represent two women: numbers IV and V, their husbands: they are the temporal and spiritual leaders of society.
King and Queen.
Number IV represents the King, and III the Queen. They have both for symbols the eagle on a shield, and a scepter surmounted by a sphere crowned with a cross, called a Tau, the sign of excellence.
The King is seen in profile, the Queen facing. They are both seated on thrones. The Queen wears a long dress, the back of her throne is high: the King is in a chair shaped like a gondola or shell, his legs crossed. His semicircular crown is surmounted by a pearl with a cross. That of the Queen terminates in a peak. The King carries an order of knighthood.
High Priest and High Priestess.
Number V represents the leader of the hierophants or the High Priest: Number II the High Priestess or his wife: it is known that among Egyptians, the leaders of the priesthood were married. If these cards were of modern invention, one would not see one titled the High Priestess, much less still bearing the name of Papesse, as the German card makers ridiculously titled this one.
The High Priestess sits in an armchair: she wears a long dress with a type of veil behind her head which descends to cross over her breast: she has a double crown with two horns like that of Isis: she holds a book open on her knees; two scarves furnished with crosses cross on her abdomen and form an X there.
The High Priest wears a long habit with a great coat which serve as his vestments: on his head is the triple crown: one hand holds a scepter with a triple cross, and the other gives the blessing with two fingers extended toward two individuals at his knees.
Italian card makers or Germans who brought back this game to their buyers, made these two characters into what the ancients called the Father and Mother, like our names Abbot and Abbess, Oriental words meaning the same thing; they called them, I say, Pope and Popess.
As for the scepter with the triple cross, it is a symbol absolutely Egyptian: one sees it on the Table of Isis, under Letter TT; an invaluable monument which we have already caused to be engraved in all its details in order to present it some day to the public. It is related to the triple Phallus that may be observed in the famous Feast of Pamylies where one rejoices to have found Osiris, and where it represents the symbol of the regeneration of plants and all of Nature.
Osiris advances; he comes in the form of a king triumphing, his scepter in hand, his crown on his head: he is in the chariot of a warrior, drawn by two white horses. Nobody is unaware that Osiris was the primary god of the Egyptians, the same one as that of all the Sabaean people, or that he is the physical sun symbol of a supreme invisible divinity, but who appears in this masterpiece of Nature. He was lost during the winter: he reappeared in springtime with a new radiance, having triumphed over all against whom he made war.
A young man and a young woman pledge themselves their mutual faith: a priest blesses them, an expression of love on his features. Card makers call this card, the Lovers. They seem also to have added themselves the figure of Love with his bow and its arrows, to make this card more eloquent in their view.
One sees in the Antiquities of Boissard [T. III. Pl. XXXVI.], a monument of the same nature, representing the marital union; but it is made up only of three figures.
The lover and his mistress who give themselves their faith: the figure of Love between the two takes the place of the witness and the priest.
This image is entitled Fidei Simulacrum, Tableau of Marital Faith: the characters in it are designated by these beautiful names, Truth, Honor and Love. It is unnecessary to say that truth designates the woman here rather than the man, not only because this word is of female gender, but because constant fidelity is more essential in a woman. This invaluable monument was raised by one named T. Fundanius Eromenus or the Pleasant One, with his very dear wife Poppée Demetrie, and with their cherished daughter Manilia Eromenis.
Numbers VIII, XI, XII, XIV
Four Cardinal Virtues.
The Figures which we have joined together in this plate, relate to the four cardinal virtues.
This one represents Fortitude. It is a woman who is the mistress of a lion, and who opens its mouth with the same facility as she would open that of her small spaniel; she has on her head the cap of a shepherdess.
Temperance [recte: XIV]. This shows a woman who pours the water of one vase into another, to temper the liquor which it contains.
Justice. It is a queen, it is Astraea sitting on her throne, holding with one hand a dagger; with the other, a balance.
Prudence is numbered among the four cardinal virtues: could the Egyptians forget it in this painting of human life? However, one does not find it in this game. One sees in its place under number XII, between Fortitude and Temperance, a man hanging by the feet: but why is he hung like this? It is the work of a bad and presumptuous card maker who, not understanding the beauty of the allegory contained upon this card, took on himself to correct it, and thereby has entirely disfigured it.
Prudence can only be represented in a way sensible to the eyes by a man upright, who having one foot set, advances the other, and holds it suspended while looking for the place where he will be able to safely place it. The title of this card was thus the Man with A Raised Foot, or the Suspended Foot: the card maker, not knowing what this signified, made of it a man hung by the feet.
Then one asked, why a hanged man in this game? and another did not fail to say, it is a fit punishment for the inventor of the game, to have represented a female pope.
But placed between Fortitude, Temperance and the Justice, who does not see that it is Prudence that is lacking and that must have been originally represented?
The Sage, or the Seeker of Truth and Justice.
Number IX represents a worthy philosopher in a long coat, a hood on his shoulders: he goes bent on his stick, bearing a lantern in his left hand. It is the Sage who seeks justice and virtue.
One thus imagines, based on this Egyptian painting, the story of Diogenes who with lantern in hand seeks a man in full midday. The witty remarks, know-all epigrams, are of any century: and Diogenes was the man who enacted this scene.
Card makers made of this a wise hermit. It is rather well conceived: philosophers live in voluntary retirement from those who are not cleansed from the frivolity of the times. Heraclitus passed for insane in the eyes of his dear Concitoyens: in the East, moreover, to deliver oneself to speculative or hermetic sciences, is almost the only option. The Egyptian hermits cannot approach in this respect those of the Indians, and in temples of Siam: they all were or are like as many Druids.
We joined together under this plate all the cards relating to the light: thus after the cloaked lantern of the Hermit, we will review the Sun, the Moon and brilliant Sirius or glittering Dog Star, all figures in this game, with various symbols.
The Sun is represented here like the physical father of man and of Nature entire: it illuminates men in society, it regulates their cities: of its rays are distilled gold tears and pearls: thus one marks out the happy influences of this star.
The game of Tarots is perfectly in conformity here with the doctrines of the Egyptians, as we shall examine in more detail in the following article.
Thus the Moon which goes following the Sun is also accompanied by tears of gold and pearls, to also mark what it contributes in its part to the advantages of the ground.
Pausanias teaches us in his description of Phocide, that according to the Egyptians, it was the tears of Isis which flooded each year the waters of the Nile and which thus rendered fertile the fields of Egypt. The historians of that country also speak about a drop or tear, which falls from the Moon at the time when the water of the Nile must grow bigger.
At the bottom of this card, one sees a crayfish or Cancer, either to mark the retrograde functioning of the Moon, or to indicate that it is at the time when the Sun and the Moon leave the sign of Cancer at which the flood caused by their tears arrives, at the rising of the Dog Star that one sees in the following card.
It may even be that the two reasons are joined together: is it not very common to be persuaded by a crowd of consequences which form a mass one feels too embarrassed to disentangle?
The middle of the card is occupied by two towers, one on each side to indicate the two famous Pillars of Hercules, beyond which these two large luminaries never pass.
Between the two columns are two dogs which seem to bark against the Moon and to guard it: perfectly Egyptian ideas. These people, unique for their allegories, compared the Tropics with two palaces, each one guarded by a dog, which, similar to faithful gatekeepers, held back these stars in the middle region of the skies without allowing them to slip towards one or the other Pole.
These are not fantasies of commentators on customs. Clement, himself Egyptian, since he was of Alexandria, and who consequently knew what he was talking about, assures us in his Tapestries [or Stromates, Liv. V.] that the Egyptians represented the Tropics under the figure of two dogs, which, similar to gatekeepers or faithful guards, kept the Sun and the Moon from going to the Poles.
The Dog Star.
Here we have under our gaze a card not allegorical, and absolutely Egyptian; it is entitled the Star. One may see there, indeed, a brilliant star, about which are seven different smaller stars. The bottom of the card is occupied by a washer woman on a knee which holds two vases, from which run two streams. Near this woman is a butterfly on a flower.
It is purely Egyptian.
This Star, preeminently, is the Dog Star or Sirius: a star which rises when the Sun leaves the sign of Cancer, in which ends the preceding card, and which this Star immediately follows.
The seven stars that are around it, and seem like courtiers, are the planets: it is to some extent their queen, since it fixes in this moment the beginning of the year; they seem to come to receive its commands in order to regulate their courses on it.
The lady which is below, and extremely attentive at this moment to spread the water of her vases, is the Queen of Heaven, Isis, to the benevolence of whom were attributed the floods of the Nile, which start with the rising of the Dog Star; thus this rising was the signal of the inundation. The reason the Dog Star was consecrated to Isis, is that it was her perfect symbol.
And as the year began simultaneously with the rising of this star, one of its names is Soth-Is, opening of the year; and it is under this name that it was devoted to Isis.
Lastly, the flower and the butterfly which it supports, represent the symbols of regeneration and resurrection: they signify at the same time the blessing of the benefits of Isis, and the rising of the Dog Star, when the lands of Egypt, which were absolutely naked, cover themselves with new crops.
Number XIII represents Death: it mows down humans, the kings and the queens, the great ones and the small ones; nothing can resist its murderous scythe.
It is not astonishing that it is placed under this number; the number thirteen was always looked upon as unhappy. It is likely that long ago some great misfortune arrived on a similar day, and that it influenced the memories of all the ancient nations. Can it have been by a continuation of this memory that the thirteen Hebrew tribes were never counted other than as twelve?
Let us add that it is not astonishing either that the Egyptians chose to insert Death into a game, which serves to awaken that pleasant idea: this game was a game of war, the dead thus must enter there: thus it is a game of failures finished by a stalemate, or better put, by a checkmate, the death of the king. Besides, we had occasion to recall in the calendar, that in the feasts, this wise and considered people introduced there a skeleton under the name of Màneros, undoubtedly in order to urge the guests not to commit suicide by greediness. Each one has his manner of seeing, and tastes never should be disputed.
Number XV represents a famous Egyptian character, Typhon, brother of Osiris and Isis, the bad principle, the great demon of hell: he has the wings of a bat, the feet and hands of harpy; on his head, the villainous horns of a stag: he is also ugly, as devilish as one could be. At his feet are two small imps with long ears, with large tails, their lowered hands behind their backs: they themselves are bound by a cord which passes to their necks, and which is attached to the pedestal of Typhon: he never releases those that are with him; he likes those that are his own.
The House of God, or Castle of Plutus.
Here, we have a lesson against avarice. This card represents a tower, which one calls the House of God, that is, the highest house; it is a tower filled with gold, it is the castle of Plutus: it collapses in ruins, and its adorers fall crushed under its remains.
With this card, one can understand the history of this Egyptian prince about which Herodotus speaks, and which he calls Rhampsinitus, who, having made a large tower of stone to contain his treasures, and of which he only had the key, noticed however that they were diminishing under his very gaze, without anyone passing in any manner through the only door which existed in this building. To discover such skilful robbers, this prince proceeded to set traps around the vases which held his riches. The robbers were two sons of the architect who served Rhampsinitus: he had rigged a stone in such a manner, that it was possible to remove it and enter to steal at will without fear of capture. He taught its secret to his children who made use of it marvelously as one sees. They robbed the prince, and then they left the tower at the bottom: thus they are represented here. It is in truth the most beautiful part of the History; one will find in Herodotus the remainder of this clever tale: how one of the two brothers was taken in the nets: how he urged his brother to cut his head off: how their mother demanded that her son bring back the body of his brother: how he went with goatskin bottles loaded on an ass to steal the corpse from the guards at the palace: how, after they had taken his goatskin bottles in spite of his cunning tears, and had fallen asleep, he shaved off from all of them the right side of their beards, and he removed the body of his brother: how the king extremely astonished, urged his daughter to compel each of her lovers to reveal to her the cleverest trick which they had ever done: how this devious youth went near the beautiful one, told her all that he had done: how the beautiful one having wanted to detain him, had seized only one false arm: how, to complete this great adventure, and to lead it to a happy end, this king promised in marriage this same daughter to the clever young man who had played him so well, as the person worthiest of her; which was carried out to the great satisfaction of all.
I do not know if Herodotus took this tale for a real history; but people able to invent similar romances or Milesian Fables, could very easily invent any game.
This tale brings back another fact which proves what we said in the history of the calendar, that statues of giants that appear in various festivals, almost always designate the seasons. It says that Rhampsinitus, the same prince of which we came to speak, caused to be raised in the north and the south of the temple of Vulcan two statues of twenty-five cubits, one titled Summer and the other Winter: they adored the one, and sacrificed, on the contrary, to the other: it is thus like the savages who recognize the good principle and admire it, but who sacrifice only to the bad.
The Wheel of Fortune.
The last number of this plate is the Wheel of Fortune. Here human caricatures, in the form of monkeys, of dogs, of rabbits, etc. rise turn-with-turn on this wheel to which they are attached: it is said that it is a satire against fortune, and those which it elevates quickly, it lets fall down with the same speed.
Card badly named the Last Judgement.
This card represents an angel sounding a trumpet: one sees immediately rising from the ground an old man, a woman, a naked child. Card makers who forgot the significance of these cards, and more still their numbers, saw here the Last Judgement; and to make it more obvious, they put into it something resembling tombs. Removing these tombs, this card is also used to indicate the creation, arrived in time, at the beginning of time, which number XXI indicates.
Time, badly named the World.
This card, which card makers called the World, because they regarded it as the origin of all, represents Time. One cannot be mistaken with this number. In the center is the goddess of Time, with her veil which flies, and which serves her as a belt or peplum, as the ancients called it. She is in a posture to run like time, and in a circle which represents the revolutions of time; as well as the egg where all exists in time. At the four corners of the card are the symbols of the four seasons, which form the revolutions of the year, the same which make up the four heads of the Kerubim.
These emblems are, The Eagle, the Lion, the Ox, and the Young Man:
The Eagle represents spring, when the birds return.
The Lion, the summer or burning of the Sun.
The Ox, the autumn when one plows and when one sows.
The Young Man, the winter, when one meets in company.
In addition to the atouts, this game is composed of four suits distinguished by their symbols: they are called Sword, Cup, Baton and Coin. One can see the Aces of these four suits in Plate VIII.
A represents the Ace of Swords, surmounted by a crown which surrounds the palms.
C, the Ace of Cups: it has the appearance of a castle; it is how one made in former times large money cups.
D, the Ace of Batons; it is truly a bludgeon.
B, the Ace of Coins, surrounded by garlands.
Each one of these suits is made up of fourteen cards, that is, of ten cards numbered I to X, and of four illustrated cards, which one calls the King, the Queen, the Knight or Horseman, and his Page or Servant. These four suits relate to the four classes between which the Egyptians were divided. The Sword designates the sovereign and the military or nobility. The Cup, the clergy or priesthood. The Baton, or bludgeon of Hercules, agriculture. The Coin, trade of which money is the sign.
This game is based on the number seven.
This game is absolutely founded on the sacred number of seven. Each suit is of twice seven cards. Atouts are three time seven; the total number of the cards is seventy-seven; the Fool being like 0. However, nobody is unaware of the role that this number played among the Egyptians, and that it became in their nation a formula with which they reconciled the elements of all sciences.
The sinister idea attached in this game to the number thirteen, recollects also extremely well this same beginning.
This game can thus have been invented only by the Egyptians, that has as a base the number seven; that is related to the division of the inhabitants of Egypt into four classes; that has the majority of its atouts related absolutely to Egypt, such as the two heads of hierophants, man and woman, Isis or the Dog Star, Typhon, Osiris, the House of God, the World, the dogs which indicate the Tropics, etc; that this game, entirely allegorical, could only be the work of the Egyptians.
Invented by a man of genius, before or after the game of chess, and joining together utility with delight, it has passed down to us through all the centuries; it has endured the utter ruin of Egypt and of the wise men which distinguished that nation; and while one may have no idea of the wisdom of the lessons only they could teach, one nevertheless enjoys playing with what they have invented.
It is easy besides to trace the road which it followed to arrive in our regions. In the first centuries of the Church, the Egyptians were very widespread in Rome; they carried there their ceremonies and the worship of Isis; consequently the game in question.
This game, interesting by itself, was limited to Italy until relations between the Germans with the Italians made it known to this second nation; and until the counts from Italy living in Provence, during the stay in Avignon of all the Court from Rome, naturalized it in Provence and in Avignon.
That it did not come to Paris, should be attributed to the strangeness of its figures and the number of its cards, which were not likely to appeal to the vivacity of the ladies of France. Also one was obliged, as it will soon be seen, to excessively reduce this game in their favor.
However that same Egypt does not enjoy the fruit of its invention: reduced to the most deplorable servitude, and the most profound ignorance, deprived of all arts, its inhabitants are scarcely in a position to manufacture a card game.
If our French cards, infinitely less complicated, require the constant work of a multitude of hands and the mingling of several arts, how were these unfortunate people to preserve their own? Such are the evils which befall a subjugated nation, even to the loss of the objects of its amusements: not having been able to preserve its most invaluable advantages, of which right pretends it to what was only a pleasant recreation?
Eastern names preserved in this game.
This game preserved some names which also would declare it to be an Oriental game if one had no other evidence.
These names are those of Taro, Mat and Pagad.
The name of this game is pure Egyptian: it is composed of the word Tar, which means way, path; and of the word Ro, Ros, Rog, which means king, royal. It is, literally, the Royal Path of Life.
It indeed refers to the entire life of citizens, since it is formed of the various classes between which they are divided, and follows them from their birth to death, showing all the virtues and all physical and moral guides to which they must abide, such as the king, the queen, heads of religion, the Sun, the Moon, etc.
It teaches them at the same time by the Player at Cups and the Wheel of Fortune, that nothing is more inconstant in this world than various states of man: that his only refuge is in virtue, which never fails when needed.
The Mat, which is vulgarly named the Fool, and which remains in its Italian form, come from the Eastern word mat, struck, bruised, cracked. Fools were always represented as having a cracked brain.
The Player at Cups is called Pagad in the modern version of the game. This name which resembles nothing in our Western languages, is pure Oriental and very well chosen: pag means in the East chief, master, lord: and gad, fortune. Indeed, it is represented as showing Fate with its rod of Jacob or its rod of the Magi.
The way in which one plays Tarots.
1st. Manner of dealing the cards.
One of our friends, Mr. A. R., agreed to explain to us the way in which one plays it: it is he who will speak, if we have understood well.
This game is played by two, but one deals the cards as if there were three players: each player thus has only one third of the cards: thus during the combat there is always a third of the troops which rest; one calls this the body in reserve.
For this game is a game of war, and not a peaceful game as it has incorrectly been described: however in all armies there is a body in reserve. Moreover, this reserve makes the game more difficult, since one has much more trouble guessing the cards which his adversary may have.
One deals the cards by five, or by five and five.
Of the 78 cards, there thus remain three at the end of the deal; instead of sharing them between the players and the reserve or discarding them, the dealer keeps them; what gives him the advantage of three cards.
2nd. The manner of counting points during play.
The atouts do not have all the same value.
Those numbered 21, 20, 19, 18 and 17 are termed the five large atouts.
Those numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 are called the five small ones.
If there are three of the large or three of the small, five points are counted: ten points, if there are four of them; and fifteen, if there are five of them.
This is also an Egyptian manner of counting: the dinaire or denier of Pythagoras being equal to the quaternary, since one, two, three and four added together make ten.
If there are ten atouts in this game, they are spread out, and they are worth ten more points; if there are thirteen of them, one also spreads them out, and they are worth fifteen points, independently of the other combinations.
Seven cards bear the name of Tarots especially: they are the privileged cards; and here again, the number seven. These cards are:
- The World or atout 21.
- The Fool or Madman 0.
- The Juggler or atout 1.
- And the four Kings.
If there are two of these atouts-Tarots, one asks the other whether or not he has it. If the other cannot answer by showing the third, he who asked the question marks 5 points: the other marks 15 of them if he has all three of them. Sequences or the four court figures of the same suit are worth 5 points.
3rd. Manner of playing the Cards.
The Fool takes anything, but nothing takes it: it forms an atout, and it is of any suit also.
If one plays a King, but does not have the Queen, one plays the Fool, which is called the Excuse.
The Fool with two Kings, counts 5 points: with three, 15.
A King cut, or killed, 5 points for that which delivers the blow.
If one takes the Juggler from his adversary, one marks 5 points.
Thus the game is to take from one’s adversary the figures which count the most points, and to make all efforts to form sequences: the adversary must do all he can to save his great figures: in consequence of seeing it coming, by sacrificing petty atouts, or petty cards of his suits.
He must always be willing to sacrifice, in order to save his strong cards while cutting those of his adversary.
4th. Variation for the one who deals.
The one who deals can draw aside neither atouts nor Kings; it is too beautiful a game, since it is savage without danger. All that is permitted him in favor of his primacy, it is to draw aside a sequence: because it counts, and it forces the other to give it up, it is a double advantage.
5th. Manner of counting the hands.
The division is into a hundred, as with Piquet, with this difference, that it is not the one who arrives the first at a hundred when the counting is started who gains, but he who then makes the most points; because it is necessary that all counting started continue until the end: it offers thus more resources than Piquet.
To count the points which one has in his hands, each of the seven cards called Tarots, with a card of a suit, is worth 5 points.
A Queen with a card, 4.
A Knight with a Card, 3.
A Page with a card, 2.
Two simple number cards, 1.
The surplus of the points is counted that one of the adversaries has over the other, and he marks them down: one continues the evening of play until one arrives at hundred.
The Game of Tarots regarded as a game of political geography.
Someone showed to us in a catalogue of Italian books, the title of a work where the geography is interlaced with the Tarots: but we could not obtain this book containing it lessons of geography engraved on each card of this game: this is an application of this game to geography: the field of conjecture is without end, and perhaps by multiplying the combinations, we may steal away some of the images from this work. Without us being hindered by what may actually be written there, let us conjecture ourselves how the Egyptians would have been able to apply this game to political geography, such as it was known of in their times, three thousand years ago.
Time or the World, represents the moment when the earth left chaos, where matter took a form, being divided into lands and into seas, and where man was created to become its master, the king of this beautiful property.
The four cardinal virtues correspond to the four coasts of the world, east, west, north and south, these four points relating to man, by whom he is in the center of all; that one can call his right, his left, his front and his back, and from where his awareness extends in rays until the end of all, according to the extent of his physical eyes firstly, and then of his intellectual eyes by a different perception.
The four suits will be the four areas or parts of the world corresponding to the four cardinal points, Asia, Africa, Europe and Celto-Scythia or the frozen countries of North: a division which was increased by America since its discovery, when the polar grounds of the North and the South were substituted for the ancient region of Celto-Scythia.
The Sword represents Asia, nations of great monarchies, great conquests, great revolutions.
The Baton, Egypt, nourisher of humanity, and symbol of the South, the black peoples.
The Cup, the North, from which humanity descended, and from which came teaching and science.
The Coin, Europe or the West, rich in gold mines in the beginnings of the world that we so badly term the olden times or ancient times.
Each ten numbered cards of these four suits, will be one of the great regions of these four areas of the world.
The ten cards of Swords will represent: Arabia; Idumée, which rules over the seas of the South; Palestine populated by Egyptians; Phoenicia, mistress of the Mediterranean; Syria or Aramée; Mesopotamia or Chaldea, Média, Susiane, Persia and the Indies.
The ten numbered cards of Batons will represent the three great divisions of Egypt, Thébaide or Upper Egypt, the Delta or Lower Egypt, Heptanome or Middle Egypt divided into seven governments. Then Ethiopia, Cyrénaique, or in its place the land of Jupiter Ammon, Lybia or Carthage, the peaceful Telamones, the vagrant Numides, Maures pressed on the Atlantic Ocean; Gétules, which is placed in the south by the atlas, and spreads over those vast regions which we call today Nigeria and Guinea.
The ten cards of Coins will represent the Isle of Crete, monarchy of the famous Minos, Greece and its Isles, Italy, Sicily and its volcanoes, the Balearic Islands famous for the dress of their troops of the line, Bétique rich in herds, Celtibérie abundant in gold mines: Gadix or Cadir, Isle most closely associated with Hercules, most commercial of the universe; Lusitanie and the Fortunate Isles, or the Canaries.
The ten cards of Cups, Armenia and its Mount Ararat, Iberia, Scythes of Imaüs, Scythes of the Caucasus, Cimmerians of Palus-Méotides, Getes or Goths, the Daces, Hyperboreans so celebrated in high antiquity, the Celts wandering in their frozen forests, the Isle de Thulé at the ends of the world.
The four illustrated cards of each suit will stand for certain geographical details relative to each area.
The Kings, the state of the governments of each one, forces of the empires which compose them, and how they are more or less considerable according to whether agriculture is of use and in honor; this source of inexhaustible riches always reappearing.
The Queens, the development of their religions, their manners, their customs, especially of their opinions, opinion having always been regarded as Queen of the World. Happy he who is able to direct it; he will always be king of the universe, master of the same; he is an eloquent Hercules who leads men with a golden bridle.
The Knights, the exploits of the people, the history of their heroes or warriors; of their tournaments, of their games, their battles.
The Pages, the history of arts, their origin, their nature; all that looks at the industrious portion of each nation, that which produces machines, manufacturers, commerce which varies in one hundred ways the form of wealth without adding anything to the base, which causes to circulate in the universe these riches and the products of industry; which puts them at the use of farmers to create new riches while providing an efficient outlet for those to which they have already given birth, and how all are strangled as soon as this circulation does not play freely, since the goods are hoarded, and those who provide them discouraged.
The whole of the 21 or 22 atouts, the 22 letters of the Egyptian alphabet common to the Hebrews and to the East, and which were also used as numbers, are necessary to keep an account of so many regions.
Each one of these atouts will have had at the same time a particular use. Several will have related to the principal objects of celestial geography, if one can use such an expression. Hence:
The Sun, the Moon, Cancer, the Pillars of Hercules, the Tropics or their Dogs.
The Dog Star, this beautiful and brilliant portal of the heavens.
The Celestial Bear, on which all the stars lean by carrying out their revolutions around it, admirable constellation represented by the seven Tarots, and which seems to publish in characters of fire imprinted on our heads and in the firmament, that our solar system was founded like our sciences on the formula of seven, as was even the entire structure of the universe.
All the others can be considered relative to the political and moral geography, the true government of the states: and even with the government of each man in particular. The four atouts relating to civil and religious authority, make known the importance for a state of a united government, and of respect for the ancients.
The four cardinal virtues show that the social classes can be supported only by the kindness of government, by the excellence of instruction, by the practice of the virtues in those who control and who are controlled: Prudence to correct abuses, Fortitude to maintain peace and union, Temperance in the means, Justice towards all. How ignorance, pride, greed, stupidity in the one, generates in others a disastrous contempt: from which disorders result which shake even to their foundations the empires where justice is violated, where force is the only means, where one misuses his power, and where one lives without security. Disorders which destroyed so many families whose names had resounded so long a time across all the earth, and who ruled with such an amount of glory on the astonished nations.
These virtues are no less necessary to each individual. Temperance regulates one’s duties towards himself, especially towards his own body which he treats too often only like an unhappy slave, martyr of his disordered affections.
Justice which regulates one’s duties towards those nearest and the Divinity itself to which he owes all.
Fortitude with which he is supported in the midst of the ruins of the universe, in spite of the vain and foolish efforts of passions which unceasingly besiege him with their impetuous floods.
Lastly, Prudence with which he patiently awaits the success of his plans, equal to any event and similar to a fine player who never risks his game and can benefit from all circumstances.
The triumphing King then becomes the emblem of that man who by means of these virtues was wise towards himself, right towards others, extreme against passions, foresighted enough to pile up resources against the times of adversity.
Time who uses all with an inconceivable speed, Fortune who is played of all; the Juggler who conjures away all, the Fool who is of all, the Miser who loses all; the Devil who is inside all: Death who absorbs all, seven singular numbers who are of all countries, can give place to observations not less significant and not less varied.
Lastly, he who has very much to gain and nothing to lose, the true King triumphing, is the true Sage who lantern in hand is unceasingly careful where he steps, does not adopt any school, knows all that is good to enjoy, and recognizes all that is evil and to be avoided.
Such is sufficient concerning the geographical-political-moral explanation of this antique game: and such must be the end of all mankind, which would be happy, if all its games ended thus!
Relationship of this game with a Chinese monument.
Mr. Bertin who returned so great a benefit to literature and the sciences, by the excellent Memoirs that he wrote and published concerning China, told us about a unique monument which was sent to him from this vast region, and which we assume dates from the first ages of this empire, since the Chinese on it looks like an inscription by Yao relating to the receding waters of the Flood.
It is composed of characters which form large compartments in quarter-length, all equal, and precisely the same size as the cards of the game of Tarots. These compartments are distributed in six perpendicular columns, of which the first five contain fourteen compartments each, while the sixth which is not completely filled contains only seven of them.
This monument is thus composed in this way of seventy-seven figures like the set of Tarots: and it is formed according to the same combination of the number seven, since each column is of fourteen figures, and the one which is not is that with half, containing seven of them.
Without that, one would have been able to arrange these seventy-seven compartments in a manner so as to make unnecessary this sixth column: one would have had only to make each column of thirteen compartments; and the sixth would have had twelve.
This Monument is thus perfectly similar, numerically, with the set of Tarots, if one withholds from them only one card: the four suits filling the first four columns with fourteen cards each: and the atouts that number twenty-one, filling the fifth column, and precisely half of the sixth.
It seems quite strange that so similar a relationship was the result of simple chance: it is thus very apparent that both of these monuments were formed according to the same theory, and on the connection with the sacred number seven; they both seem thus to be only different applications of a single formula, perhaps anterior to the existence of the Chinese and the Egyptians: perhaps one will even find something similar among the Indians or the people of Tibet who are located between these two ancient nations.
We were extremely tempted to also make an engraving of this Chinese monument; but feared it would appear badly when reduced to a size smaller than the original, and also the impossibility, given the means available to us to do all that was required for the perfecting of our work, prevented us.
Let us not omit that the Chinese figures are in white on a jet black background; what makes them very prominent.
Relationship of this game with squares or tournaments.
During a great number of centuries, the nobility mounted on horseback, and divided into colors or factions, exercised between them pretended combats or tournaments perfectly similar to that carried out in the games of cards, and especially in that of the Tarots, which was a military game just as that of chess, up until the time that it came to be considered a civil game, an aspect it has taken on presently.
In the beginning, the knights of the tournaments were divided into four, even into five bands relating to the four suits of the Tarots and with the set of atouts. The last entertainment of this kind which was seen in France, was given in 1662 by Louis XIV, between Tileries and the Louvre, in that great place where is preserved the name Carousel. It was composed of five squares. The King was the leader of the Romans: his brother, head of the House of Orleans, with the leader of the Persians: the Prince of Condé commanded the Turks: the Duke of Enguien his son, the Indians: the Duke de Guise, the Americans. Three queens were seated there on a platform: the Queen Mother, the reigning Queen, the widowed Queen of England of Charles II. The Count de Sault, son of the Duke of Lesdiguieres, placed the prizes for the matches into the hands of the Queen Mother.
The squares were usually made up of 8 or 12 knights for each color: which, to 4 colors by 8 squares, gives the number 32, which forms that of the cards for the game of Piquet: and to 5 colors, the number 40 which is that of the cards for the game of Quadrille.
Spanish card decks.
When one examines the card decks in use among Spaniards, one cannot avoid noticing that they are a diminutive form of the Tarots.
Their most distinctive games are that of Hombre which is played by three: and Quadrille which is played by four and which is only a modification of the game of Hombre.
This name signifies the game of man, or human life; it thus has a name which corresponds perfectly to that name Tarot. It is divided into four suits which bear the same titles as in the Tarots, such as Spadille or Swords, Baste or Batons, which are the two black suits; Copa or Cups, and Dinero or Coins, which are both red suits.
Several of these names were carried into France with this game: thus the Ace of Spades is called Spadille or Swords; the Ace of Clubs, Baste, that is, Batons. The Ace of Hearts is named Ponte, from the Spanish punto, having a point.
Those atouts, which are the strongest, are called Matadors, or the Slaughtermen, the triumphant who destroyed their enemies.
This game is entirely formed on the tournaments; the proof is striking, since the suits collectively are called Palos or Pales, the lances, the pikes of the knights.
The cards themselves are called Naypes, from the Oriental word nap, which means to take, to hold: literally, the Keepers.
There are thus four or five squares of knights who fight in tournaments.
They are forty, called Naypes or Keepers.
Four suits called Palos or rows of pikes.
The trumps are called Matadors or Slaughtermen, those who came in the end to demolish their enemies.
Finally the names of the four suits, that even of the game, show that it was formed entirety on the game of Tarots; that the Spanish cards are only an imitation in miniature of the Egyptian game.
According to this information, no one will have difficulty perceiving that the French cards are themselves an imitation of the Spanish cards, and that they are thus the imitation of an imitation, and in consequence a well degenerated institution, far from being an original invention and first, as is incorrectly expressed in remarks our savants, who do not focus on points of comparison, but only seek to discover the causes and relationships of all.
It is usually supposed that the French cards were invented during the reign of Charles VI, in order to amuse this feeble and infirm prince: but what we believe ourselves is right to assert, is that they were not an imitation of the southernmost games.
Perhaps we may even be right to suppose that the French cards are older than Charles VI, since it is attributed in the dictionary of Ducange [With the word charta] to St. Bernard of Sienne, contemporary of Charles V, to have condemned to fire, not only masks and the game of dice, but even the triumphal cards, or of the game called Triumph.
One finds in this same Ducange the criminal statutes of a City called Saona, which defend the legality of card games.
It is necessary that these statutes are very old, since in this work one could not indicate the time of it: this city must be that of Savone.
No doubt it happens that these games are much older than St. Bernard of Sienne: why else would he confuse dice and masks with a game lately invented to amuse a great king?
Besides, our French cards present no vision, no ingenuity, no cohesion. If they were invented according to the tournament, why was the Knight removed, while his Page was retained? why allow at the time only thirteen cards instead of fourteen per suit?
The names of the suits have degenerated at this point and offer no consistency. If one can recognize the Swords in the Spades, how did the Batons become the Clubs? how do the Hearts and the Diamonds correspond with Cups and Coins; and what ideas are revealed by these suits?
Whose idea was it to introduce the names given to the four Kings? David, Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, do not correspond either to four famous monarchs of antiquity, nor with those of modern times. They are a monstrous composition.
It is the same for the names of the Queens: they are called Rachael, Judith, Pallas and Argine: it is true that one believed that they were allegorical names relating to the four ways in which a lady attracts to herself the attentions of men: that Rachael indicates beauty, Judith strength, Pallas wisdom, and Argine, where one only sees the anagram Regina, queen, birth.
But what relationships have these names with Charles VI or with France? What are these forced allegories?
It is true that among the names of Pages one finds that of Hire, which may refer to one of the French Generals of Charles VI; but is this solitary correspondence sufficient to scramble all the periods of history?
We were here when one spoke to us about a work of the Abbot Rive, which discusses the same subject: afterwards having sought it in vain at the greater number of our booksellers, M. de S. Paterne lent it to us.
This work is entitled:
Historical and critical notes of two Manuscripts of the Library of the Duke of Valliere, of which one has for its title Le Roman d’Artus, Comte de Bretaigne, and the other, Le Romant de Pertenay or de Lusignen, by M. l’Abbe Rive, etc. at Paris, 1779, in 4o. 36 pages.
On page 7, where the author starts to discuss the origin of the French cards; we saw with pleasure that it supports, (1) that these cards are older than Charles VI; (2) that they are an imitation of Spanish cards: now let us give a brief summary of his evidence.
“Cards,” he states, “date from at least the year 1330; and it is neither in France, nor in Italy, nor in Germany that they appeared for the first time. One sees them in Spain around this year, and it is a long time before one finds the least trace in any other nation.
“They were invented there, according to the Castillan Dictionary of 1734, by one named Nicolao Pepin. . .
“One finds them in Italy towards the end of this same century, under the name of Naibi, in the Chronicle of Giovan Morelli, which is of the year 1393.”
From this learned abbot we discover at the same time that the first Spanish work which attests the existence of cards is from approximately the year 1332.
“They are the Statutes of an order of knighthood established around this period in Spain, and founded by Alphonse XI, King de Castille. Those who were admitted swore an oath not to play cards.
“One then sees them in France under the reign of Charles V. Little Jean de Saintré was not honored with the favors of Charles V because he played neither with dice nor with cards, and this king proscribed them along with several others games, in his Edict of 1369. One sees them in various provinces of France; one gave to some of the figures on the cards names made to inspire horror. In Provence, one of the Knaves is named the Tuchim. The name signifies a race of robbers who, in 1361, caused in this country and that of Venaissin, a devastation so horrible, that the popes were obliged to preach a crusade to exterminate them. Cards were not introduced into the Court of France because under the successor of Charles V one feared even by their introduction, to wound the standard of morality, and consequently a pretext was conceived: it was said to be done to calm the melancholy of Charles VI. Under Charles VII the game of Piquet was invented. This game was the reason that cards spread, from France, into several other parts of Europe.”
These details are very interesting; their consequences are still more so. These cards that were condemned in the XIVth century, and proscribed by the orders of knighthood, are necessarily very old: they have been regarded as only shameful remainders of paganism: they thus must have been the cards of the Tarot; their strange figures, their odd names, such as House of God, the Devil, Popess, etc., their high antiquity which is lost in the night of time, their use in fortune telling, etc. all serve to make them look like a diabolic recreation, a work of the blackest magic, of a sorcery condemnable.
However the agony of not gaming! Thus were invented more human games, more purified, free from figures that were only good to frighten: the result, Spanish cards and French cards which were never prohibited like these bad cards that came out of Egypt, but which however lent themselves perfectly to these clever games.
Especially the game of Piquet, where two opponents play, where one draws aside, where one has sequences, where one goes in a hundred: where one counts the cards in hand, and the pickups, and where one finds a number of other correspondences too striking.
We thus dare to flatter ourselves that our readers will receive with pleasure these various opinions on so common a subject as cards, and that they will find them to perfectly rectify the vague and poorly reconciled ideas that have been available until now on this subject:
- That no one can bring forth proof in support of these proposals.
- That the cards have existed only since Charles VI.
- That the Italians are the last people which adopted them.
- That the figures of the game of Tarots are extravagant.
- That it is ridiculous to seek the origin of the cards in the various states of civil life.
- That this game of cards is patterned on peaceful life, while that of chess is patterned on war.
- That the game of chess is older than that of cards.
Thus the absence of truth, in some manner or other, generates a crowd of errors of all kinds, which becomes more or less harmful, according to whether they unite with other truths, contrast with them or oppose them.
Application of this game to divination.
To finish this examination and these considerations on the Egyptian game, we will put under the eyes of the public the essay that we announced above, where it is proven how the Egyptians applied this game to the art of divination, and how this same use was transmitted down to our gaming cards, made in imitation of these former.
One will see there in particular what we already said in this volume, wherein is explained the relationship between the prophetic dreams in ancient times with the hieroglyphic and philosophical science of the sages, who sought to reduce by their science into a set of images the visions which the Divinity permitted them to receive; and that all this science declined over the course of time, but was wisely preserved, because it was reduced to vain and futile practices, which in the not very enlightened centuries that followed have managed to survive as the preoccupation of fools and the superstitious.
This judicious observer will provide us new evidence that the Spanish cards are an imitation of Egypt, since he teaches us that it is only with the game of Piquet that the fates are consulted, and that several names of these cards relate absolutely to Egyptian ideas.
- The Three of Coins is called the Lord, or Osiris.
- The three of Cups, the Sovereigness, or Isis.
- The two of Cups, the Cow, or Apis.
- The Nine of Coins, Mercury.
- The Ace of Batons, the Snake, symbol of agriculture among Egyptians.
- The Ace of Coins, the One-eyed, or Apollo.
This name of One-eyed, given to Apollo or the Sun as having only one eye, is an epithet taken from Nature that provides us a proof, along with several others, that the famous character of the Edda who lost one of his eyes in a famous allegorical fountain, is no other than the Sun, the One-eyed One or the preeminent single Eye.
This essay is so filled besides with matter, and so apt to give healthy ideas on the way in which the sages of Egypt consulted the book of destiny, that we do not doubt it will be well received by the public, until now deprived of similar research, because until now nobody has had the courage to deal with subjects which appeared lost forever in the deep night of time.
STUDY ON THE TAROTS,
and on the Divination by the Cards of the Tarots,
by M. Le C. de M.***
I The Book of Thoth.
The desire to teach developed in the heart of man as his spirit acquired new knowledge: the need to preserve it, and eagerness to transmit it, made him imagine characters of which Thoth or Mercury was looked upon as the inventor. These characters were not, in the beginning, conventional signs, and did not express, like our current letters, the sound of the words; they were the same true images that make up the pictures on the cards, which presented to the eyes the things about which one wanted to speak.
It is natural that the inventor of these images was the first historian: indeed, Thoth is regarded as having painted the gods [the gods, in the writing and the hieroglyphic expression, are the eternal and the virtues, represented with one body], that is to say, acts of absolute power, or creation, to which he joined precepts or morals. This book was to be named A-Rosh; from A, doctrines, science; and from Rosch [Rosh is the Egyptian name of Mercury and of its festival which is celebrated the first day of the new year], Mercury, which, joined to the article T, means pictures of the doctrines of Mercury; but as Rosh also means commencement, this word Ta-Rosh was particularly devoted to his cosmogony; just as Ethotia, the History of Time, was the title of his astronomy; and perhaps that Athothes, which one took for King, son of Thoth, is only the child of his genius, and the History of the kings of Egypt.
This ancient cosmogony, this book of Ta-Rosh, except for some minor corruptions, has come down to us in the cards which still bear this name [twenty-two pictures form a book not very bulky; but if, as is quite probable, the first traditions were preserved in poems, a simple image which fixed the attention of the people, by which one illustrated the event, served to help them to retain them, as well as the verse which described them.], that is to say, greed has preserved for an idle amusement, or superstition has preserved from the injury of time, mysterious symbols which serve them, as formerly they served the Magi, to mislead credulity.
The Arabs communicated this book [We still name Livret aus Lansquenet, or Lands-Knecht, the series of cards that one gives with the deal.] or game to the Spaniards, and the soldiers of Charles V carried it into Germany. It is composed of three higher series, representing the first three ages, of gold, silver and bronze: each series is made up of seven cards [Three times seven, a mystical, famous number for Kabbalists, Pythagoreans, etc.].
But like the Egyptian writing which reads to the left or the right, the twenty-first card, which was not numbered with an Arabic numeral, is nonetheless also the first, and must be read in the same way in order to understand the history; as it is the first in the game of Tarots, and in the species of divination that one performs with these images.
Lastly, there is a twenty-second card without number as without power, but which increases the value of that which it precedes; it is the zero of magic calculations: it is called the Fool.
Age of Gold.
The twenty-first, or first card, represents the Universe by the goddess Isis in an oval, or an egg, with the four seasons in the four corners: the Man or the Angel, the Eagle, the Ox, and the Lion.
Twentieth, this one is titled the Judgement: indeed, an angel sounding a trumpet, and the men leaving the ground, had to induce a painter, not very well versed in mythology, to see in this picture only the image of the Resurrection; but the ancients looked upon the men as children of the Earth [The teeth sown by Cadmus, etc.]; Thoth wanted to express the Creation of Man by painting Osiris, a generating god, with the speaking pipe or verb which orders matter, and by tongues of fire which escape from the cloud, the Spirit [Painted even in our sacred histories.] of God reviving this same matter; finally, by men leaving the ground in order to adore and admire the Absolute Power: the posture of these men does not announce culprits who go to appear in front of their Judge.
Nineteenth, the creation of the Sun which brightens the union of man and woman, expressed by a man and a woman who give to each other their hands: this sign became, after that of Gemini, androgynous: Duo in carne una.
Eighteenth, the creation of the Moon and the terrestrial animals, expressed by a wolf and a dog, to stand for domestic animals and wild: this emblem is well chosen, in as much as the dog and the wolf are the only beasts which howl at the appearance of this star, as though regretting the loss of the day. This card makes me believe that its picture once announced very great misfortunes to those who chose to consult the Fates, since it depicts the line of the Tropic, that is to say, of the departure and the return of the Sun, which leaves the comforting hope of a beautiful day and of a better fortune. Also, two fortresses which defend a path traced in blood, and a marsh which terminates the image, inevitably suggest difficulties without number that must be surmounted in order to banish so sinister a presage.
Seventeenth, the Creation of Stars and Fishes, represented by stars and Aquarius.
Sixteenth, the House of God overthrown, or the terrestrial Paradise from which man and woman are precipitated by the blazing tail of a comet or star, joined with a fall of hailstones.
Fifteenth, the Devil or Typhon, final card of the first series, come to disturb the innocence of man and to abolish the golden age. His tail, his horns and his long ears announce that he is a degraded being: his raised left arm and folded wing, forming N, symbol of produced beings, makes us think it signifies having been created; but the torch of Prometheus which he holds with his right hand, serves to complete the letter M, which expresses generation: indeed, the history of Typhon naturally persuades us to this explanation; because it shows that, by depriving Osiris of his virility, that Typhon desired to encroach on the rights of the producing Power; also he was the father of evils which were spread on the ground.
The two beings bound at his feet mark degraded and subjected human nature, as well as a new and perverse generation, whose hooked nails express cruelty; they miss only the wings (spiritual or angelic nature), to be very similar to the devil: one of these beings touches with its claw the thigh of Typhon; a symbol which in mythological writing was always that of carnal generation [the birth of Bacchus and of Minerva are the mythological images of two such generations.]: he touches it with his left claw to signify illegitimacy.
Typhon finally is often taken for the Winter, and this picture finishing the golden age announces the bad weather of the seasons, which will torment the man driven out of the Paradise thereafter.
Age of Silver.
Fourteenth, the Angel of Temperance comes to inform man, to make him avoid the death to which he is lately condemned: it is painted pouring water into wine [Perhaps its attitude is marked with the culture of the vine.], to show man the need for diluting this liquor, or for moderating his emotions.
Thirteenth; this number, always unhappy, is devoted to Death, who is represented mowing crowned heads and vulgar heads.
Twelfth, the accidents which afflict human life, represented by a man hanged by the foot; which wants also to say that, to avoid them, it is necessary in this world to go with prudence: Suspenso pede.
Eleventh, the Strength that is assisted by Prudence, and overcomes the lion, which was always the symbol of the ground uncultivated and wild.
Tenth, the Wheel of Fortune, at the top of which is a crowned monkey, teaches us that after the fall of man, it was no longer virtue which gave dignities: the rabbit that goes up and the man who is precipitated, express the injustices of the inconstant goddess: this wheel at the same time is an emblem of the wheel of Pythagoras, a way of drawing lots by numbers: this form of divination is called arithomancy.
Ninth, the Hermit or the Sage, lantern in hand, seeking justice on the earth.
Age of Iron.
Seventh, the Chariot of War in which is an armored king, armed with a javelin, expresses the dissensions, the murders, the combats of the age of bronze, and announces the crimes of the age of iron.
Sixth, the man depicted wavering between vice and virtue, is not led any more by reason: Love or Desire [concupiscence], with bandaged eyes, ready to release a dart, will make him lean to the right or to the left, whichever way he is guided by chance.
Fifth, Jupiter or the Eternal together with his eagle, lightning in hand, threatens the earth, and will visit it kings with his anger.
Fourth, the king armed with a bludgeon, which ignorance thereafter made an imperial globe [Osiris is often represented with a whip in his hand, with a sphere and a T: all these things united, have produced in the head of a German card maker an imperial globe]: his helmet is furnished behind with saw-like teeth, to make known that nothing serves to appease his insatiability [Or his revenge, if it has irritated Osiris.].
Third, the Queen, bludgeon in hand; her crown has the same ornaments as the helmet of the King.
Second, the pride of power, represented by the peacock, on which Junon pointing to the sky on the right side, and to the earth of the left, announces a terrestrial religion or idolatry.
First, the Juggler holding the rod of the Magi, making miracles and misleading the credulity of the people.
It is followed by a single card representing the Fool who carries his bag or his errors behind him, while a tiger or his regrets, devouring his haunch, delays his march towards crime [This card does not have a row: it completes the sacred alphabet, and answers to the Tau which expresses completion, perfection: perhaps it was intended to represent by this image the natural result of the actions of men.].
These twenty-two first cards are not only hieroglyphics, which when placed in their natural order recall the history of the earliest times, but they are also as many letters [the Hebrew alphabet is composed of 22 letters.] which when differently combined, can form as many sentences; also their name (A-tout) is only a literal translation of their general employment and property.
This game applied to divination.
When the Egyptians had forgotten the first interpretation of these images, and that they had been used as simple letters for their sacred writing, it was natural that such a superstitious people attached occult virtues to the characters, respected for their antiquity [Also the science of numbers and the value of letters was extremely renowned formerly.], and that the priests, who possessed the only knowledge of them, employed them solely for religious matters.
New characters were even invented, and we see in the holy writings that the Magi along with those who were initiated into their Mysteries, used a divination by cup [Cup of Joseph.].
That they worked wonders with their wand [The rod of Moses and of the magicians of Pharaoh.].
That they consulted talismans [The gods of Laban and the teraphim, Urim and Thummim.] or engraved stones.
That they divined future things by swords [They did more: they fixed the fate of battles; and if King Joas had struck the ground seven times, instead of three, it would have destroy Syria, II Kings, XIII, 19], by arrows, by axes, finally by weapons in general. These four signs were introduced among the religious images when the establishment of kings had brought different social classes into society.
The Sword marked royalty and power of the earth.
The priests made use of vessels for the sacrifices, and the Cup designated sacred.
The Coin, commerce.
The Baton, the Hoe, the Needle represent agriculture.
These four already mysterious characters, once joined together in the sacred pictures, gave hope of greater illuminations; and the fortuitous combination that one obtains by mixing these images forms the sentences that the Magi read or interpreted like statements of Destiny; which was to them all the easier since what is revealed by a pattern due to chance, naturally produces an obscurity sacred to the style of oracles.
Each social class thus had its symbol which characterized it; and among the different cards bearing this symbol, some were happy, others unhappy, and according to their position, the number of the symbols and their ornaments, they each served to announce happiness or misfortune.
Names of various cards, preserved by the Spaniards.
The names of several of these cards preserved by the Spaniards, we think very appropriate. These names are seven.
The Three of Coins, a mysterious number, called the Lord, the Master, devoted to supreme God, with Great Jove.
Three of Cups, called the Lady, devoted to the Queen of Heaven.
The One-eyed or the Ace of Coins, Phoebeoe lampadis instar., devoted to Apollo.
The Cow or Two of Cups, devoted to Apis or Isis.
The Grand Nine, the Nine of Cups; devoted to Destiny.
The Little Nine of Coins, devoted to Mercury.
The Serpent or the Ace of Batons (Ophion) a famous and sacred symbol among the Egyptians.
Mythological attributes of several others.
Several other pictures are accompanied by mythological attributes which were intended to impart to them a particular and secret virtue.
Such as the Two of Coins surrounded by the mystical Belt of Isis.
The Four of Coins, devoted to good Fortune, painted in the midst of the card, on the ball of her foot and her veil deployed.
The Queen of Batons devoted to Ceres; this Lady is crowned with spikes, and carries the skin of a lion in the same way as Hercules, the quintessential farmer.
The Page of Cups carrying his hat in his hand, and respectfully bearing a mysterious cup, covered with a veil; he seems by extending his arm, to push away from himself this cup, to teach us that one has to approach sacred things with fear, and not to seek to know those things which are hidden by discretion.
The Ace of Swords devoted to Mars. The sword is decorated with a crown, a palm and a branch of the olive tree with its bays, to signify victory and its fruits: it is not possible to have a happier card in this suit than this one. It is single, because there is only one way of making war well; that is to prevail in order to achieve peace. This sword is supported by a left arm extended from a cloud.
The card of Batons of the Serpent, about which we spoke above, is decorated with flowers and fruits just as is that of the victorious Sword; this mysterious wand is supported by a right arm extending from a cloud, but bright with rays. These two images seem to say that agriculture and the sword are the two arms of empire and the support of society.
The Cups in general announce happiness, and the Coins wealth.
The Batons are devoted to agriculture and prognosticate more or less abundant harvests, the things which are seen in the countryside or which pertain to it.
They stand for a mixture of good and evil: the four court figures have a green wand, similar to the wand of Fortune, but the other cards express, by compensating symbols, an indication neither good or bad: two only, whose wands are the color of blood, seems devoted to misfortune.
All the Swords predict only misfortunes, especially those marked with an odd number, that carry still a bloody sword. The only sign of victory, the crowned sword, is in this suit the one sign of a happy event.
Comparison between these attributes and the values that one assigns to the modern cards for divination.
Our fortune tellers, not knowing how to read hieroglyphics, withdrew all the trumps from them and changed the names of Cups, Batons, Coins and Swords, of which they knew neither the etymology, nor the expression; they substituted those of Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades.
But they retained certain turnings and several expressions the use of which lets us perceive the origin of their divination. According to them,
- The Hearts, (Cups), announce happiness.
- The Clubs, (Coins), fortune.
- Spades, (Swords), misfortune.
- Diamonds, (Batons), indifference and the countryside [It is to be noticed that in their symbolic writing system the Egyptians employed squares to express the countryside.].
The Nine of Spades is a disastrous card.
That of Hearts, the card of the Sun; it is easy to recognize the Greater Nine, that of the Cups: just as it is the Lesser Nine in the Nine of Clubs, which they also regard as a happy card.
The Aces announce letters, news: indeed who is more capable to bring news than the One-eyed, (Sun) which traverses, sees and lights all the universe?
The Ace of Spades and the Eight of Hearts predict victory; the Ace Crowned prognosticates in the same way, and all the more happily when it is accompanied by the Cups or the fortunate signs.
The Hearts and more particularly the Ten, reveal the news that must arrive at the city. Cup, symbol of the priesthood, seems intended to express Memphis and the stay of the Pontiffs.
The Ace of Hearts and the Queen of Diamonds announce a happy and faithful tenderness. The Ace of Cups expresses a single happiness, that one possesses alone; the Queen of Diamonds indicates a woman who lives in the countryside, or partly in the countryside: and in which places can one aspire to more truth, of innocence, than in the villages?
The Nine of Clubs and the Queen of Hearts, mark jealousy. However, the Nine of Coins is a fortunate card, a great passion, even happiness; for a lady living in the great world, does not always leave her lover without concern, etc. etc. One finds an infinity of similar things into which it is futile to search, and here already are too many.
Way in which one proceeds to consult the Fates.
Now let us suppose that two men who want to consult the Fates, have, one the twenty-two letter cards, the other the four suits, and that after having shuffled the cards, and each having cut the cards of the other, they start to count together up to the number fourteen, holding the trumps and the lesser cards in their hands face down so that only their backs are visible; then if a suit card turns up in its natural place, that is, which bears the number named, it must be put aside with the number of the accompanying letter card at the same time, which will be placed above: the one who holds the trumps places this same letter there, so that the book of Destiny is always in its entirety, and there is, in no case, an incomplete sentence; then the cards are mixed again and again receive a cut. Finally the cards are run through to the end a third time with the same attentions; and when this operation is completed, it is a question of reading the numbers which express the accompanying letters. Whatever happiness or misfortune is predicted by each one of them, must be combined with what the card announces that corresponds to them, in the same way that their greater or lesser power is determined by the number of this same card, multiplied by that which characterizes the letter. And for this reason the Fool which does not produce anything, is without number; it is, as we have said, the zero of this calculation.
It made up a great portion of ancient wisdom.
But if the sages of Egypt made use of sacred pictures to predict the future, at the same time they spared no indication which could apprise them of future events, with the hope of encouraging their understanding when their search was preceded by dreams which served to help to develop the sentence produced by the images of the fates!
The priests of this ancient people formed in a good hour a learned society, charged to preserve and to extend human knowledge. The priesthood had its leaders, whose names were Jannes and Jambres, that Saint Paul preserved to us in his Second Epistle to Timothy, titles which characterize the august functions of the pontiffs. Jannes [Just as Pharaoh means the Sovereign without being the particular name of any prince who controlled Egypt.] means Explicator, and Jambres Permutater, he who makes wonders.
Jannes and Jambres wrote their interpretations, their discoveries, their miracles. The unbroken continuation of these memories [Pope Gelase I put the 491 books of Jannes and Jambres among the number of apocryphal books.] formed a body of science and doctrines, that showed their deep understanding of physics and morals: they observed, under the inspection of their leaders, the course of the stars, the floods of the Nile, the phenomena of meteorology, etc. The kings brought them together sometimes to make use of their consultings. We see that in the time of the Patriarch Joseph they were called by Pharaoh to interpret a dream; and if Joseph alone had glory to discover the sense of it, it none the less proves that one of the functions of the Magi was to explain dreams.
The Egyptians could not avoid falling into the errors of idolatry [Long still after this time the Magi recognized the finger of God in the Miracles of Moses.]; but back in those times God often moved men with an expression of his will, and if someone boldly questioned him on his eternal decrees, it was at least due to a forgivable desire to seek to penetrate them, when the Divinity seemed, not only to approve, but to even cause, by dreams, this curiosity: also their interpretation was a sublime art, a sacred science of which one made a particular study, reserved for the ministers of the altars: and when the officers of Pharaoh, prisoners with Joseph, grieved themselves not to have anybody to explain their dreams, it is not that they did not have companions in their misfortune; but it was that, locked up in prison by the leader of the militia, there remained nobody among the soldiers who could conduct the religious rituals associated with the sacred tables, let alone anyone having the knowledge to interpret them. The answer that the Patriarch spoke explains their thoughts: the interpretation, he said to them, does it not depend on the Lord? Tell me what you saw.
But to return to the functions of the priests, they began by writing in vulgar letters the dream of which they inquired, as in road divination where they make a positive request of which they proceed to seek the answer in the book of the fates, and after having mixed the sacred letters they drew the cards, with the attention of scrupulously placing under the one the words of the explanation for which they searched; the sentence formed by these cards was deciphered by Jannes.
Let us suppose, for example, that a Magus had wanted to interpret the dream of Pharaoh about which we will speak presently, as they tried to imitate the miracles of Moses, and that he had drawn the Fortunate Baton, preeminent symbol of agriculture, followed by the Knight and the King [the Page is worth 1, Knight 2, Queen 3, the King 4]; that he left at the same time from the book of destiny the cards the Sun, Fortune and the Fool, this will be the first member of the sentence which he seeks. If he draws the Two and the Five of Batons, whose symbol is marked with blood, and of the sacred trumps he draws Typhoon and Death, he has obtained a kind of interpretation of the dream of the king, which may be written thus in ordinary letters:
Seven fat cows and seven thin which devour them.
|Batons||The King||The Knight||2 of Batons||5 of Batons|
|The Sun||Fortune||The Fool||Typhon||Death|
Natural calculation which results from this arrangement.
- The Ace of Batons is worth 1. The Sun announces happiness.
- The King, 4. Fortune [Preceded by a happy card.] in the same way.
- The Knight, 2. The Fool or zero puts the Sun to the hundreds.
- Total 7.
The sign of agriculture gives seven.
One will thus read, seven years of a fortunate agriculture will give an abundance a hundred times larger than one will ever have experienced.
The second member of this sentence, closed by the Two and the Five of Batons, gives also the number of seven which, combined with Typhon and Death, announces seven years of food shortage, famine and the evils that it involves.
This explanation will prove even more natural if one pays attention to the direction and the value of the letters that these trumps represent.
The Sun answering to Gimel, signifies, in this context, remuneration, happiness.
Fortune or Lamed means rule, law, science.
The Fool does not express anything by itself, it corresponds with the Tau, it is simply a sign, a mark.
Typhon or Zain announces inconstancy, error, faith violated, crime.
Death or Teth indicates the action to reap: indeed, Death is a terrible reaper.
Teleuté, which in Greek means the end, seems to be, in this way, a derivative of Teth.
It is not difficult to find in Egyptian manners the origin of the greater part of our superstitions: for example, the practice of turning the sieve in order to discover a thief, owes its birth to the habit that these people had to mark robbers with a hot iron, of one . . . T, and of one . . . Samech [Tau, sign: Samech, adhesion], by putting these two characters, one on the other, to make a figure of it, signum adherens, which was used to announce that one should be wary of the person who bore it, by which one produces a figure which resembles a pair of scissors cutting in a circle, in a screen, which must be detached when the name of the robber is pronounced and will make it known.
Divination by the Bible, the Gospel and our Canonical Books, which is called the oracle of the saints, of which it is spoken in the 109th letter of Saint Augustine and in several Councils, among others that of Orleans; the fates of Saint Martin de Tours which were so famous, deserve to be considered an antidote to Egyptian divination by the book of destiny. It is these same presages that one drew from the Gospel, ad apperturam libri, when after the election of a bishop one sought to know which position he would control in the Episcopate.
But such is the fate of human things: of such a sublime science, which occupied powerful men, wise philosophers, the greatest saints, it remains among us only the practice of children to draw the beautiful letter.
Cards to which fortune tellers attach predictions.
It is like a game of Piquet where one shuffles and cuts for the interested person.
One draws a card which is named Ace, the second Seven, and thus while going up to the King: one puts aside all the cards which arrive in the order of calculation that one has just established: that is to say, if by naming Ace, Seven, or such, there is dealt an Ace, a Seven, or that which was named, it is that which it is necessary to put aside. One starts again, always until one has exhausted the cards; and if at the end there do not remain enough of cards to reach the King inclusively, one takes up the cards again, without mixing them nor cutting them, to complete the calculation to the King.
This operation of the whole deck is made three times in the same way. It is necessary to have the greatest care to arrange the cards which leave the deck, in the order which they arrive, and on the same line, which produces a hieroglyphic sentence; and here is the means of reading it.
All the picture or court cards represent the persons who may be concerned with the question; the first which arrives is always the one who it is all about.
The Kings represent sovereigns, parents, generals, magistrates, old men.
The Queens have the same character in their gender relative to the circumstances, that is to say in political matters, serious or merry: sometimes they are powerful, skilful, intriguing, faithful or fickle, are impassioned or indifferent, sometimes rivals, obliging, confidants, perfidious, etc. If there arrive two cards of same kind, it is the second which plays the supporting role.
The Pages are young people, warriors, those in love, dandies, those of the street, etc.
The Sevens and the Eights are young ladies of all kinds. The Nine of Hearts is named, preeminently, Card of the Sun, because it always announces brilliant things, pleasures, successes, especially if it is joined together with the Nine of Clubs, which is also a card of marvelous forecasts. The Nines of Diamonds indicates a delay in good or in evil.
The Nine of Spades is the worst card: it predicts only ruin, diseases, death.
The Ten of Hearts indicates the town; that of Diamonds, the countryside; Ten of Clubs, fortune, money; that of Spades, pains and sorrows.
The Aces announce letters, news.
If the four Queens arrive together, that means prattle, quarrels.
Several Pages together announce competition, argument and combats.
The Clubs in general, especially if they are drawn together, announce success, favors, fortune, money.
Diamonds, the countryside, indifference.
Hearts, satisfaction, happiness.
Spades, shortages, concern, sorrows, death.
It is necessary to have a care to arrange the cards in the same order that they are drawn, and on the same line, in order not to disturb the sentence, and to make interpretation easier.
The predicted events, in good or evil, can be more or less advantageous or unhappy, according to how the principal card which announces them is accompanied: Spades, for example, accompanied by Clubs, especially if they arrive between two Clubs, are less dangerous; similarly a Club between two Spades or coupled with a Spade, is less fortunate.
Sometimes the beginning announces disastrous accidents; but the end of the cards is favorable, if there are many Clubs; one regards the risks as reduced, more or less, according to the quantity: if they are followed by the Nine, by the Ace or the Ten, that proves that one ran great dangers, but that they passed, and that Fortune has had a change of face.
- 1 of Diamonds, 8 of Hearts, good news.
- 1 of Hearts, Queen of Spades, visit of a woman.
- 1 of Hearts, Knave of Hearts, a victory.
- 1, 9 and Page of Hearts, the happy lover.
- 1, 10 and 8 of Spades, misfortune.
- 1 of Spades, 8 of Hearts, a victory.
- 1 of Clubs, Page of Spades, friendship.
- 7 and 10 of Hearts, friendship of a young lady.
- 7 of Hearts, Queen of Diamonds, friendship of a woman.
- 7 of Diamonds, King of Hearts, delay.
- Three Nines or three Tens, success.
- 10 of Clubs, King of Spades, a present.
- 10 of Clubs and Page of Clubs, a lover.
- 10 of Spades, Page of Diamonds, somebody anxious.
- 10 of Hearts, King of Clubs, sincere friendship.
©2010 by Donald Tyson. Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Donald Tyson is the author of Sexual Alchemy: Magical Intercourse with Spirits, Familiar Spirits, and Soul Flight: Astral Projection and the Magical Universe, among other works. You can visit his website here.
January 27, 2007 by Lupa
Filed under altered states of consciousness, cards, elemental, experimental, magick, mysticism, other, other cards, otherkin, paganism, reviews, ritual, shamanism, theory, totemism and animism
Animal magic always has been and probably always will be my favorite form of esoteric study and practice. I’ve been fascinated by critters since I was barely old enough to toddle around on my own; I’ve had many pets, and I was always the kid out in the woods catching garter snakes.
So it was no surprise that the very first book I picked up was Ted Andrews’ Animal-Speak. While it wasn’t the first animal totem dictionary (being predated by Conway’s Animal Magick, Sams’ and Carsons’ Medicine Cards, and a few other books by several years) it was by far the most complete book on the topic at the time. It, and the later sequel Animal-Wise, covered the totemic and magical meanings and uses of numerous animals from around the world in great detail. Andrews also provided the reader with substantial material for finding and working with animal totems.
Ten years later I’ve read most of the books out there on totemism and animal magic. I’ve picked through some really horrible animal magic cookbooks of prefabricated spells, and I’ve enjoyed seeing some really innovative twists, too. However, overall I’m disappointed at where this particular field of study and practice has gone in the past decade.
The primary problem is that it seems that just about everyone is trying to be Ted Andrews. His totem animal dictionaries were so popular that other authors have since then tried to cash in on the format. These days the standard book starts off with historical information on totems, then goes into methods of divining and working with your totem(s), and after that includes a series of entries detailing specific animals and their qualities. The order and exact execution of these may change, but they’re almost universally present.
Of the twenty-five books I’ve reviewed on Amazon concerning animal magic, nineteen of them contain dictionaries. Of the six books that lacked dictionaries, only one, Yasmine Galenorn’s Totem Magic, was specifically tailored to the neopagan crowd. Of the rest, one was an early 20th century treatise on serpent worship, two were anthropological studies of animal symbolism in indigenous cultures, one was a book of meditations based on the spirituality of various First Nations, and the last was a psycho-therapeutic system combining totems and the seven primary chakras.
These are just with the books that are specifically about totem animals. This doesn’t include several books on Neoshamanism that included very abbreviated power animal dictionaries. There are also a number of animal totem divination decks out there, most of which are purportedly designed to identify your totem. The books are again dictionaries with prefabricated information, often with even less detail than the dictionaries without cards.
Admittedly, there have been some improvements. Thanks to Andrews’ inclusion of many different species, writers on totemism no longer seem to limit their study to big, impressive North American mammals and birds. I am seeing more books that avoid cultural appropriation of indigenous cultures. Where in 1988 we had the Medicine Cards, which lumped all First Nations people into one group of noble savages (apparently the progeny of Atlanteans), in 2006 I’ve managed to find at least some books that avoid trying to be more Native than the Natives, though it still happens.
In the past couple of years, a few authors have started covering new territory. Galenorn’s Totem Magic is a notable example, as is Animal Spirit by Patricia Telesco and Rowan Hall, both of which go beyond the usual “This totem means this, and this one means that, and now stick a feather on your altar and light some incense,” etc. The latter book particularly perked my ears because it had a chapter touching on the uses of animal parts in magic, breaking a bit of a Pagan taboo. For my own part, my Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone covers a number of topics in animal magic, including a unique look at totemism, practical magic with animal parts, and even a chapter on animal sacrifice.
But that’s really about it. Eight and a half years after I picked up Animal-Speak, nearly ten years after I discovered Paganism, I read Steven Farmer’s Animal Spirit Guides, published in October 2006. I was hoping for something new. Instead I found… just another totem animal dictionary.
This is my challenge to animal magicians, whether you work with totems or power animals, familiars physical or spiritual, animal parts or animal sacrifice: Stop doing the same old stuff! There’s a lot of potential in animal magic, even within a neoshamanic format. For example, try combining totemism with the eight colors of chaos magic to do some inner pathworking. Or do as I did and create new species on the astral plane to help you with your magic. Try working with pop culture-based animals, too, and utilize the mythology in our own culture.
And if you are doing something different, speak up. Share what you’ve discovered with the world. You don’t have to write a book; even an article or a website would suffice. But there has to be something available besides totem animal dictionaries. We don’t need any more. The only reason I’ve kept as many as I do is so that I have some introductory material for the people I lead on guided totem meditations, just to get them started. I’ve stopped keeping the newer ones I acquire once I’ve read them — one backpack full is enough. The rare book I do keep is the one that shows me something new and innovative.
I have 24 books or book-and-deck kits on my Amazon wish list that are related in some way to animal magic, plus one or two books on my shelves I haven’t gotten to yet. About eight of them are more along anthropological lines and another eight or so are book-and-deck kits. Of the ones that are written for a pagan audience, I’m hoping at least one will show me something new. Here’s to that hope.
©2007 Lupa. Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Lupa is the author of Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic, A Field Guide to Otherkin, and co-author of Kink Magic, among other works. You can read her blog at http://therioshamanism.com and see her website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com.
Recently, I decided to do a grieving ritual for my time in academia. I’d dropped out of my PhD in 2005 and for almost a year had not really had a chance to process the emotions over leaving under such circumstances. My wife had bought me the Voyager Tarot, and I needed to break it in, so I decided to use it to help me divine the various causes of my grief. By objectifying my grief through the reading, I could draw those elements out of my psyche and take control of my grief, bring it to a resolution.
The picture is for a frame of reference as I refer to each card.
The central card was Logic, which accurately represented academic thought processes and so was the core of the particular sorrow I wanted to evoke.
The card to the bottom left was a card that explained the mission of the Voyager Tarot. The lines that stood out to me were: “Voyager Tarot is a mirror extension of yourself. Respect it as you Respect yourself1.” The words “mirror” and “respect” especially resonated with me. I’ve always used mirrors as a gateway to myself, and I realized that I needed to find some respect that I’d lost for myself in leaving academia.
To the immediate left was the Sun card, representing glory and power. In this particular case, it represented a feeling of dis-empowerment that I’d felt as a result of my academic experiences. That dis-empowerment came in the form of a loss of self-confidence in my writing and in who I identified myself to be.
On the upper left was Compassion, which indicated a need to forgive myself as well as the others in the situation. I tend to hold grudges for a long time, both toward myself and other people. In order for me to find my peace I knew needed to forgive everyone involved.
Above the Logic card was the Seeker Card. This one represented both my desire to seek a resolution and the vulnerability I’d felt as a seeker of knowledge in academia. It was the loss of my social life (at that point in time), but also the loss of my innocence. When I’d gone to academia I’d sought a community of fellowship and had quickly found that no such community existed and that a lot of competition was involved in the learning process.
The card on the upper right hand corner was time-space and represented my feelings of bitterness over spending three and a half years in a PhD program, without getting the degree. There have been times when I’ve felt I wasted those three and a half years. Rationally I know otherwise, because all experiences are never wasted. Emotionally, I was irrational and wanted those three and a half years back.
To the immediate right was the learner card, which represented the loss of wonder and enjoyment in learning I experienced when I realized academia was a game and not quite the place of learning I’d thought it was. I wanted learning to be fun again, instead of being a tedious chore of proving who could drop more names than the other person.
The card to the lower right was confusion, which represents what I felt and still feel about my academic experience. I was confused by how I got to the point where I needed to leave the program. I was also confused by the feelings of bitterness I had over choosing to leave, and the wistful longing that occasionally brought up a desire to be back in academia.
After I did the reading, I left the cards out and pulled out my art supplies. I felt it was useful for me to grieve by evoking and expressing that grief. I allowed each tarot card to register in my mind’s eye and then asked the consciousness of that card to take over and guide my hands in painting the symbols that best expressed the meanings I’d found in the cards. I also wanted to paint how those meanings related to each other, by creating in the symbols a linkage to the other symbols.
During the actual painting, I didn’t feel any grief. The trance I was in focused more on getting the symbols on paper. But the creation and linkage of those symbols was also meant to create a gate in the painting, for the purpose of containing and evoking the energy of the emotions I felt, so that the energy could be put to better use than in a continual cycle of grief and anger.
This is a picture of the painting. Each of the symbols relates to the spread I drew.
Once the painting was completed, I vividly recalled the feelings I associated with academia. The frustration I felt at failing the exams, the politics, the three and a half years of time I’d invested into the degree, not getting the degree, the loss of confidence and the feeling of dis-empowerment I felt; all of these feelings surged with a vengeance into my consciousness. My chest felt heavy, as if a large block was on it. I then opened my mouth and “vomited” the energy into the painting. A loud keening cry of sorrow came from throat as I gave voice to the grief and regret I felt over everything that had happened. This continued for quite a while. When I could no longer give voice to my grief, I stopped. The energy had gone into the painting, where I could access it as needed, but where it would also no longer be a toxic presence in my life.
I’ve always taken the approach that any and everything has its uses. I’ve used similar evocations of emotions before to store away emotional energy. I still feel the energy, but it’s then recycled and stored away until it’s needed for magical workings. I no longer wallow in the pain. Instead, those emotions are directed toward accomplishing specific goals and tasks that will help me achieve my desires. I would note that a person shouldn’t think I’ve closed myself off from the emotions or denied their validity. The purpose of the ritual is to grieve, to vent, and give the sorrow a voice, but also to redirect that energy so it no longer cycles back to the subconscious to torment me further.
As an interesting side note, after doing this ritual, some of my insecurities reared their heads, probably because of the deep plunge into the subconscious to deal with the lingering emotional issues concerning academia. In particular, I had a vivid nightmare of being judged by a panel of people. Over the next day and a half, these insecurities were expressed in several different ways, through online posts and through just feeling the emotions. However, in each case I was able to consciously act in regards to the insecurities and come to a resolution that was beneficial for those feelings. I think these insecurities woke up because they related to the issues in the painting. In other words, it was the rest of the emotions expressing themselves before being funneled into the painting where they could be stored until evoked for magical purposes.
- Voyager Tarot Kit: Intuition Cards for the 21st Century Wanson & Knutsen 1984
©2007 Taylor Ellwood. Edited by Sheta Kaey
Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.com/ and his website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/.