In the suit of Diamonds we enter into the world of privilege originally restricted to nobility and title. Protection of the peasants and patronage of the scholar and artisan allowed a nation to thrive and over generations to create an infrastructure of culture. Wealth once a direct result of land ownership and tithes from vassals was extended by war and conquest to political treaties and international trade agreements. In the modern age “privilege” remains as rank, fame or celebrity and having the right “connections”.
The Ace of Diamonds represents PRIVILEGE.
The King of Diamonds can be seen as: Rich Uncle Pennybags aka Mr. Monopoly : WEALTH
The Queen of Diamonds as the cold hearted Cruella Deville: PEDIGREE
and the Jack of Diamonds as the fair haired boy or Richie Rich: LEGACY
The 10 of Diamonds represents the bankers who control “The Machine”, i.e. the military-industrial complex. The logo of the World Bank is an apt symbol : FINANCIAL MARKETS
Autumn is about falling leaves. It is the season when one begins to contemplate the suit of Spades. This is instinctive for the spade as emblem reminds one of a tree leaf. Leaves hit the ground as the Earth prepares to enter the Northern quarter in my neck of the woods. The black gate of the North is imagined in my mind’s eye as embellished with spade scrollwork.
The cards of the Spade suit for me are a story which begins at the Black Gate itself or The Ace of Spades which is symbolically the power of the Dark Arts. Close behind the Ace is the Jack of Spades, the Great Hellhound who guards the Dark Castle (10 of Spades) and those who live in it, the King and Queen of Spades.
The Spade pips tell of those in or around the Dark Kingdom from 2- 5 show the ranks of the Dead. The 6 of Spades is The Corpse Road or the Roads in Hell, while the 7-9 of Spades speak of those entities in limbo- neither here nor there, those who are “undone” their bodies lost or in pieces and those self-exiled aka The Wanderers.
So as we approach All Hallows, the Invisibles have freedom to visit or interact with the physical realm as long as the leaves change and fall from the trees. This permission is rescinded at midnight Nov. 1st or Judgement Day when the Dead are rounded up to return to the Underworld and the gates are locked leaving the stragglers i.e. the 7, 8 and 9 of pips outside to find shelter in the long shadows of winter. Once all is secured the Underworld Royals throw a great party which lasts for 30 nights, at least so it seems from this side.
The most basic form of divination used by most people born in the Western world prior to the importation of the Tarot deck from Europe was a standard deck of playing cards. They were used in Hoodoo in the US and by Vodouisant on the island of Ayiti as well.
I am a Tarotist who started reading in 1964 when only the Swiss style Marseilles deck was available in NYC, so I tend to think of the standard deck as a strange version of the Minor Arcana missing the Knights.
Old style Hoodoo used the basic cutting style for questions. Client thought of a yes or no question, the reader shuffles and the client cuts. Black card is a no. Red card a yes. Easy peasy!
In Hoodoo the coloring of the face cards and their gender stood for people and the Aces were The Big Spirits. Each reader had their own lexicon of place/suit and situations /number which they worked out with the aid of an experienced Hoodoo or their own “divining Spirit”. Spirit work was on the job training. There were no hard and fast meanings for individual playing cards.
Early on most Hoodoo folk didn’t read and thus pamphlets and books were not a boon to them or their practices. Workers were more dependant on their own psychic gifts and hearing their spirits so the deck was essentially a prop. This was actually a good thing as it ruled out charlatans and the dilettantes reading a tract in the Dixie Drug store and then next day deciding to hang out a shingle proclaiming themselves a card reader.
I have always loved reading with Oracle decks. On Friday my copy of Mildred Payne’s Secret Pocket Oracle arrived from the Deviant Moon catalogue. The maker gave his oracle cards a backstory involving an asylum, a young woman sent away for speaking to imaginary friends who would be called “The Red Witch” by her asylum mates. These events are said to have occurred in the late 1920’s.
The oracle deck has 52 symbols and two extra cards not used whose back design forms a huge puzzle. The puzzle being a sort of introduction to the inner world of Mildred Payne.
I did the puzzle on Friday night listening to music and relaxing. It is not easy but it is fun. The dark back pattern with its strange images and phrases had the feel of a Ouija Board. There is something intangible and a tad creepy about the small 2.5 x 1.75 inch deck.
The cards are numbered and the symbols look as if they were drawn in ink and accented by water colors on a sepia background. Some of the symbols are not unique such as The Hag, The Devil, The Cauldron and The Poppet which are evidence along with the deck itself it seems, of young Mildred’s witchy ways. Other symbols are common to the oracle card genre, such as the rat, snake, coin, moon, and key.
Mildred is all the rage right now, but will she stand the tests of time? I have yet to ask the deck an opening question but will do a review when I do so.
The Cross is one of the lenormand cards which can in a short line or in the larger Grand Tableau be used as a timing marker. Some consider the lenormand method to require pairs to “speak,” but this is not always so as one develops in reading the symbol language of the deck.
In a single line the Cross can be used to tell what has already occurred and what will occur in the future. Position being determined by where one enters or begins to read the cards, i.e the left or right side.
For example if one begins reading a five card line on the left and the fourth card is the Cross then one will see:
A + B+ C + 36 + E
the situation from pair AB has already occurred and BC is ongoing. The future is coded in the 36 pair or DE. Since the pair starts with the Cross card, it forecasts a difficulty and the modifier, here card E will describe in what area it surfaces.
In a Grand Tableau the extension of the vertical line of the Cross can show current problematic issues. The card beneath the base of the Cross can be issues that the Querent is working on and has a handle on while the card above the Cross can be an issue the Querent is currently thinking about but has not begun to deal with.
In the GT example of course the pairs are formed by the combination of the house (dominate theme) and the card seated in it( the modifier).
To continue the past and future on the arms of the Cross card are determined in a GT by noting the direction in which the Querent card faces, i.e. card 28 or 29.
The center image of Baphomet by Eliphas Levi from his Transcendental Magic book may be the source of the modern Hermetic versions of the Devil Card.
Let us read the symbols.
Crowley turns the goat’s head into a whole goat in his Book of Thoth. The term “scapegoat” is associative as the goat was the preferred substitute for a human offering in pagan rites. The goat was used to purge sin and pacify the Gods. Human blood and goat’s blood were interchangeable substitutes. Levi shows Baphomet with female breasts. Why? In the desert human milk and goat’s milk could both be used in the feeding of newborns.
Crowley shows twisted horns on his goat and the minions are actually testicles or balls. This of course is a protest against Crowley’s own Victorian upbringing and religious teachings. He brandishes sex much like a rebellious teen in the card imagery. The Crowley devil is “old horny”. The direction of its energy is that of sperm release and or reproductive sex. Crowley’s goat has no breasts, no wings, only balls which by the way are removed in a sacrificial rite.
John Starr Cooke was an admirer of Crowley and corresponded with him. His channeled text and subsequent images created from the entities descriptions are for the current Aquarian Age and break away from traditional Western teachings. No numbers are on his cards. Cooke’s Devil is renamed Thinker and his energy is in his head. He seems paralyzed sitting up in the top of a Tree. He is not interested enough in sex ( the minions are here a male and a female) to come down nor does the promise of the juicy red apple of immortality offered by the Serpent seem to tempt him.
The Thinker is in a dazed trance like state. Cooke says the meaning of the card is error. Thus, the Thinker makes an intellectual error in his logical or philosophic understanding which keeps him chained and bound, trapped up in that tree unable to act. This image can also be connected to the existence of A.I. and the possibility of machine or computational errors.
The midsection of Levi’s Baphomet is covered. This is the same section where the old Marseilles decks show a smiling face on the stomach of the Devil, an inside energy which seems to be aware and sentient on its own! A chilling thought which may imply some sort of semi-permanent or perpetual possession.
The symbol of fire is the energy of life-force as fuel being expended or consumed as we occupy physical vehicles in time and space. Levi’s Baphomet has energy spouting out plume like from the top of his head. Cooke’s Thinker is encased in a ball of flames in his tree. Oddly, Crowley’s Devil shows no trace of fire.
In the traditional TdM decks the Devil has two torches one for each “claw” A torch raised above (mental realms) and another pointed below ( earthly elements) showing how the life-force is divided by one’s thinking and acting.
So the Devil of the Tarot is not the same as what is spoken of as the Devil in religious books but is more a MAGICAL amalgam, an image made up of symbolic parts to convey a message about an extant energy or current. Each lodge or school would construct their Devil with the symbols they wanted to transmit to the next generation of initiates and add to the collective human subconscious.
Remember, there is more to Tarot than divination. At another level Tarot is itself a mnemonic, a prompt and each major arcana or trump a chapter in a living grimoire.
The Devil is perhaps the most popular Marseille Tarot card of the entire deck and the most readily recognized. My favorite Devil is found in the Tarot de Jacques Vieville as redrawn by Roxanne Flornoy.
Seen on the left it is the most engaging Devil I have ever seen in a Tarot deck period! The Flornoy cards are not easy to come by so I will show the image here to aid in comparisons.
The J&C TdM deck shown below has a bit more symbology than most decks but less agency than the Vieville. The Devil is standing on a globe. The minions are tied to the same globe and also stand. Standing in Tarot symbology indicates an active energy or force.
This devil has antlers not horns is winged, blue, naked and dual sexed. It has the breasts of a female and the bottom parts of a male. It has a face smiling out from the solar plexus region, eyes at the knees and clawed hands and feet.
The blue skin indicates the sky, symbol speak for mental levels. This is also why the devil stands on the globe. The wings symbology affirms the power moves in the thoughts as a function of the mind.
Of course there is much more. I will be showing two alternate Devil cards in the next post to conclude this discussion. One will be from T: The Aquarian Tarot by the late John Starr Cooke, the original hippie deck, the other from Crowley’s Book of Thoth. So review the symbols on the TdM cards shown above and stay tuned for part two.
Much has been said about meanings in card reading. For some meanings are traditional which generally means these discussions of the cards and their symbols have been passed down for hundreds of years, memorized and quoted like verses in some holy tome- without ever examining the images on the cards themselves!
Tarot, Lenormand and Kipper are graphic at their core. It is obvious the images on these decks have changed and morphed over the last 5 years.
The decks made today in general seek to break established traditions.
Yes, the path of reading cards begins with an awareness of assigned meanings. However, the old meanings do not match the scenes on the new style of cards being manufactured today!
Be so advised continuation on the road to Cartomancy as a skilled diviner is not about traditional meanings memorized but all about the reader’s ability to decode imagery, symbols and patterns between cards in proximity through the filter of a particular query.
Meanings beyond the beginning entry level are consequential, i.e. developed as the result of the reader’s direct experience with the cards.
Rote meanings are stagnant. Whenever stagnation enters into a process the outcome becomes rigid and removed from the flow of life as we live it. Quite simply meanings cannot show one anything occurring beyond the tip of their own nose!
Cartomancers who prefer traditional decks ultimately over time will interpret them divergently or in a non-traditional manner.
Why? Card readers develop personal styles. Ones style is the by product of using a single deck with a method consistently until that deck opens up and begins to “speak” or to put it another way- a feedback loop is established between the deck’s energy and the unique perceptual ability of the reader. Before the 19th century ended these energies were usually classified as spirits!
While the practices or methods used for development can be shared with others or taught, the result of their application which one may call facility or personal style cannot. It is earned, the fruit of a reciprocating relationship between a deck of cards and the unique energy matrix of their reader.
J.C. Marseille; Crowley, Book of Thoth and El Gran Tarot Esoterico
The Tower as a sixteenth ranked Arcana can be reduced to a seven vibration or seen as being connected with the sevens of the Minor Arcana. The number seven relates to visible phenomena or events.
The lightning comes from above in the J.C. deck and El Gran Tarot. Fire symbolizes intelligence, illumination or enlightenment. In some tales the lightning is associated with the Fall of Lucifer, the Bright One. In these two decks the image of fire from heaven hits the turrets of the Tower literally knocking the top of the edifice asunder.
Crowley’s Book of Thoth changes things up . There are no people images falling instead there are a dove and a serpent. He inverts and then converts placing the fire below. It issues out from the mouth of a Beast as dark red flames. This is the Kundalini or libido rising up as either the dove or serpent which flank the eye of Ayin overlooking with shattered continuity of perception the broken mirror of a fractured landscape.
In El Gran Tarot Esoterico’s version of the Trump there are several bodies falling and one person exiting below in the doorway. The Tower itself is the color of red clay and reminds one of an alchemical athanor or oven blazing. Here lightning comes down from above and ricochets striking the mid-section of the Tower to create an inferno which consumes the life-force itself.
The concepts mentioned here of daemonic descent as shown in the J.C. Marseille; the Kundalini rising in the Book of Thoth and the energetic battle of lightning’s electrical dispersion versus the magnetism of the life-force as depicted in El Gran Tarot Esoterico all share a common point of transfer – the sushumna or central channel of the subtle body. More information is available to you by the practice of image comparison and contemplation.
The sixteenth card of the Major Arcana holds an image that most people immediate recognize and associate with disaster. Is the connection real? Has the modern era somehow changed with time the meaning of the 16th Arcanum? What is the process or the archetype behind the Tarot imagery? Where is the root or the Source of the image? What does it really point to in Hermetic and metaphysical teaching?
To be fair I will look at three Marseille decks images. Left to right below are: The Jodorowsky- Camoin, (France,) The Thoth Tarot (UK) and El Gran Tarot Esoteric (Spain).
Some alternate names for the image are The Lightning Struck Tower, The Ruined Tower, The House of God, and The Hospital. A traditional reference is made to the ancient Tower of Babel. A more modern connection is with Tesla’s Long Island, New York, Wardenclyffe Tower never completed and dismantled on July 4, 1917 . The world’s first wireless transmission tower. The cultural lyrical reference is the song : “Skyfall” by Adele, the title song of the 2012 James Bond 007 movie.
Wardenclyffe, or the Tesla Tower.
All of the images share 1) a vertical structure and 2) electrical energy / lightning and 3) contact of the electrical blast with the tower. In the J.C. Marseille people are falling from the Tower. In The Book of Thoth one sees no people only a dove and serpent and flames emerging from the open mouth of a beast. The Spanish deck shows only the burning tower. In the case of Wardenclyffe photo as was mentioned the whole tower was felled.
The Hebrew letter associations for the card of course varies according to system and or lodge. In the case of Crowley and the Golden Dawn the Tower is associated with Ayin ( symbol of the eye) while Mouni Sadhu’s Hermetic system uses Phe (symbol of the mouth) for this card.
This is a two part post. Take a look at the images here and pull out your own. Jot down a few notes.