XVI: Sweet Sixteen

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.

See you later!



Elemental Dignities in Tarot

Elemental dignities are not a new thing.  Back when I first began to read cards for clients too many solar returns ago my Hermetic study partner told me, “it’s not good to tell everything you see”. I laughed but he was certainly on point.  E.D. can show you things a client will swear up and down just ain’t true!


Fire and Air – Wands and Swords

Water and Earth- Cups and Disks


Fire and Earth – Wands and Disks

Water and Air – Cups and Swords

Akasha-  All the Major Arcana


Fire and Water – Wands and Cups

Earth and Air – Disks and Swords

As mentioned in prior posts on the TdM the Major Arcana are universal impersonal processes encountered by every man during an incarnation. The Royal or Court cards are personal. They are the psychological matrix of the Querent and/or the personality traits reflected back to awareness by the actions of those around him. The pips are powers external to the Querent over which he or she has no influence which can interfere in plans made for good or ill.

I do not assign elemental dignities to the Major Arcana only to Minors which are suited cards. The Major Arcana in the system I use are assigned to Spirit aka the Akasha. This is how I learned elemental dignities back in the day.

The use of the 5 card Pentagram Spread’s placements for divination allows one to read combinations based on what card falls where. Two contrary elements in proximity is a “flagged position” because the free harmonious flow of energies is stopped by their meeting. The Solar Cross (equal armed cross) also works well with E.D.

Needless to say the ED system works extremely well in playing card divination. More on that come Fall.


A Quick Lennie Look


The English language changes. Each generation has its own slang or brings new portmanteau or combinations into the mix. This is what keeps a language vibrant. Some of the new speech changes resemble texting in that they are more akin to shorthand or abbreviations than actual new words.

For example and the reason for this post, Gen Y’s are using the word ship to refer to a relationship! This immediately brought to my mind the lenormand Ship card.

Using the same techniques which keep a verbal language alive, one could use the Ship card in a pairing or visual read such as with the 25-03, Ring-Ship to mean a long-term enduring relationship or with the 18-03, Dog-Ship pair to indicate a life long devotion or following.

In my generation folk used to say any involved or complicated situation was a trip. Social media once had an “it’s complicated” option to describe a relationship. Ha! As they say: “There is nothing new under the sun” and “Everything is connected”.

Just my gloss on Lenormand evolution with a small dash of quantum entanglement.


40 Pips

We have seen the Four Aces and attributed them to the elements and the Hermetic Virtues. They are also the beginning of the numerical cards  or the pips. The Minor Arcana includes the Royals and pips.

The Tree of Life with its 10 sephiroth  in the 4 different Kabalistic worlds gives a graph of the 40 numeric cards. The 16  Court Cards would be representative of the 4 vertical levels on each Tree, i.e.  Atziluth (King) Briah (Queen)  Yetzirah (Knight) to Assiah (Page).

Elements to Suits

Atziluth relates to the Fire world, Briah the Water world, Yetzirah, the Air world and Assiah the Earth world in terms of elemental energies, density and principles. One can relate suits and their emblems in Tarot and in the standard deck of playing cards as follows:

Atziluth- Wands  and Clubs

Briah- Cups  and Hearts

Yetzirah- Swords and Spades

Assiah- Disks and Diamonds


Suits to Dimensions

So the Pips can be visualized as four Trees of Life, each complete and facing in a different direction. When making a  3D model the  four sides of the Tree of Life are joined at the central pillar, i.e. the Ace, 6,  9 and 10. The figure below illustrates a model of this Tree.

Daath or Zero Point Energy

The Daath point or the empty circle shown in the first series of figures in this post  can in theory be said to represent a metaphysical or invisible singularity or nexus point occupied by a single Major Arcana card in Tarot, i.e. the numberless card known as The Fool  or the Joker in the standard playing card deck.

The Fool as the Daath point can be considered as an invisible portal which connects all four faces or levels of the 3D tree model in our local space to non-local dimensions, quantum spaces or enfolded realities outside of space time.

The Aces to the fives in any suit are a pentad of invisible energies. The six to nine are a rhombus or diamond of visible effects. The tens are in a sense set apart as places where transition occurs from one state into another.

The pips in Tarot divination are a quantitative representation of external powers, energetic forces or spirits interacting or interfering with the Querent.



The Royal Arcana: Cards of the Court

The royal arcana are 16 in number. They are shown under the Four Aces of the Minor Arcana in the photo above because of the heavy influence the elements have on the Royal Arcana.

 It is from the royals that a Tarot Significator  is chosen.  Divination operations like the ” Opening of the Key” require a significator to represent the Querent. The archaic “complexion” method of selection used both in Tarot and in playing card reading as well is based on an element to suit transferal. As an example, the Queen of Wands as the Queen of Fire is also the Queen of the South and hence should equate to the darkest skin tone but… not so in the traditional selection methods where the fire is equated to light and she is a pale red head.

The elements can be used in selection of a Significator as Wands = Fire; Cups= Water; Swords= Air and Disks= Earth. Each card in the Royal Arcana however is a combination of two elemental forces:

King of Wands -Fire of Fire
Queen of Wands – Water of Fire
Knight of Wands – Air of Fire
Page of Wands – Earth of Fire

The royals or court cards besides having an elemental allocation have a zodiac correspondence. Since there are 16 Court cards and 12 zodiac signs the reader has to decide upon a system of correspondence. Once done they simply apply the method.

The Knights remind one of how the elemental energy functions. The Knight of Wands is a radiating  electrical energy which pushes; Knight of Cups- an attractive energy which pulls ; Knight of Swords-  an electromagnetic energy which is dispersed in all directions and the Knight of Disks an energy of stasis or a standing wave of stored energies.

As an aside, in my work with Tarot I do not use reversed cards but elemental dignities to see how energy in a reading  either flows or is blocked.

Removing the four Knights from consideration leaves twelve court cards*. These are then classified as being cardinal, fixed or mutable signs in the zodiac. So in my approach the King of Wands would be the cardinal sign Aries, the Queen of Wands the fixed sign Leo and the Page of Wands a mutable sign Sagittarius. This is how the sun sign can be used to select a Significator.

The Royals or court cards represent psychological influences on the personality matrix in  Tarot divination.

* I chose to take the Knights out when assigning zodiac signs because they are absent from the standard deck of playing cards.

The Minor Arcana

Just as the Magician introduces one to the Major Arcana or the Trumps of Tarot, the Aces of the deck introduce one to the Minor Arcana or the Pips.

The Four Aces are the pillars which support the house of the Minor Arcana. Each one is a Book in and of itself.

The Aces seen from the Hermetic  perspective are the Virtues: To Will, To Dare, To Know and to Keep Silent. In practice they represent the four poles of the tetrapolar magnet.

To students of the Kabbalistic system the Aces symbolize the “so-called” name of God i.e. the law of cyclic manifestation or the Tetragrammton.

For most Tarot readers however the four Aces represent the four “magical” elements and/or the seasons of the solar year.

Geometric Layouts

As mentioned previously Tarot divination traditionally used geometric layouts rather than linear ones. A simple linear reading moves either left or right of the cards drawn. Geometric forms like pyramids, stars and crosses add dimension by giving height and depth i.e. a below and above and in some layouts provide a diagonal path which gives a fuller view of the situation or the person being divined for.

The simple 3 card pyramid layout is great for relationship and comparison reads, as is the hexagram. The 5 card pentagram is a very basic layout and shows the elements as energies in a situation.

When the cards are considered as energy holders then the energies activated  by the shuffle flow into the geometric design and reveal a message. Readers from a Hermetic background often use the Tree of Life as a layout. ToL is a composite diagram which contains the forms of pyramid, cross and diagonal lines. A card is placed in each position of the sephirah.

In using the Marseilles Tarot all 78 cards Trumps, Courts and Pips are put into play when using the layouts shown and mentioned here. Each position in a layout has a fixed meaning in the forms we have covered above. However, more cards do not a better reading make. A masterful reader can answer a query with just one Tarot card.

Each Deck A World

Of course you already know Le Tarot de Marseille (Fr.) is different in structure from a Rider-Waite-Smith deck. It is a different system of Tarot. However like the Rider-Smith-Deck the TdM has variations within its ranks. I use the Jodorowsky & Camoin deck shown below.

This deck is a variation on the deck of Nicolas Conver first printed in 1760. The deck was retooled and printed by Phillipe Camoin the current heir to a family owned Marseilles card printing house and filmmaker and symbologist Alejandro Jodorowsky. Hereafter the letters J-C M will be used to indicate the deck on this blog when posting.

The images of each Marseilles style deck whether by placement, color or object in the Major Arcana and the Court Cards are set according to the deck’s maker. These small changes influence the deck’s environment and thus affect the interpretation. So how do these seemingly minor variations change the way a deck is read?

The eyes of the reader see what is spread before them and in a very real sense the reader “enters” into the world of the symbols they are using. The cards as they are presented constitute the energetic environment of the subconscious level  the reader is traveling through and the symbols are landmarks of that terrain interpreted by the reader’s mind which represent the landscape of the querent be that a client or themselves.

So each deck is an environment or map of a world within a world with the symbols on the cards acting as the legend of the map. Tarot cards function somewhat like the old Dungeons and Dragons game with the playing field being the levels and rooms within the Psyche, or the interface of the subconscious and psychological terrain of the client ( or the reader) as interpreted by the cognitive mind and communicated by language.

This is the reason why Tarot is in esoteric practice called a divination system as it goes “down” into the dark and unseen places – the dungeons of the subconscious to investigate and uncover issues the client is hiding or not dealing with.

Tarot is not a fortune-telling system. Why? A fortune telling system is descriptive in regards to situations or events which have already, are currently or will soon manifest in the light of the mundane world …but believe “what thy wilt”!


Marseilles Mysteries


The Major Arcana or the Trump cards of  the Tarot deck are immediately recognized these days having a place in movies, graphic novels and popping up in art of all kinds which means they are firmly established in the collective or shared mind of Earth World cultures.

The word arcana in terms of the Trumps implies there is more to the card than meets the eye, there is a mystery involved with the meaning of the simple picture on pasteboard. The 22 Major Arcana of which 21 are numbered and 21 named represent impersonal processes or laws related to the cycle of manifestation and occultation. Now you see it. Now you don’t.

So where do we start? How about the Magician. When counting we start with the number one. This works well for me in Tarot. First we note where the central character faces which is to the left of the viewer. Next we notice the items on the table in front of the Magician. We see the tools used by one who does tricks or sleight of hand. In the hands of the Magician are a ball and a wand. The costume of the Magician is asymmetrical. His hat is in the shape of the sign of infinity, a lemniscate.

The Magician changes things, the positions of the objects on his table and minds. When reading Tarot in a linear spread, i.e. as a fortune telling device the card the Magician looks at, he is changing The card behind the Magician’s back can indicate a situation already altered.


The Guardian of the Oracle

I have been reading Tarot cards since puberty, now I am well into my sixties. One would expect that I would say I know what I am doing because I have been reading “X” number of years. I do not ever say this.

In the years of reading cards I have learned many systems in addition to the Marseilles Tarot I began with. What I have found is the secret to mastering any form of Cartomancy has nothing to do with the years one has been “at” it. The ability to read the cards comes with learning the basic techniques but understanding the essence of the cards is revealed, i.e. it comes out of one’s personal connection to their deck and the system itself.

A deck is a tool an oracular device. Oracles have guardians. These guardians are non-corporeal intelligences. When someone says they “heard” the Voice of an Oracle they are not exactly speaking in metaphors.

For those who are clairaudient the Voice of the Oracle is heard in the physical realm in their head with a distinctly different tonal expression from 1) their own inner conscience or 2) their personal ego.  These are recognized as the proverbial “higher” and “lower” selves shown more accurately in fable iconography as an Angel and  Devil who sit on the person’s shoulders whispering  in either their left or right ears.

The Voice of the Oracle in the the non-physical realms of the etheric, astral and mental is heard by the Seer as an actual voice. Think of the Fae-Rae tale of Snow White where a Mirror, the universal symbol of the astral plane speaks with an actual voice to answer the questions of the Evil Queen.

Again, readers who are not clairaudient will not hear a deck Guardian speak. However, each deck has a card to represent the Guardian. This is part of the folklore of the cards. The signature card is not a matter of choice to be assigned by the reader but comes from traditions associated with the deck. However, the caveat is one has to search out this knowledge on their own, as only then can it be revealed.

Knock, knock…..