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The Tarot of the Holy Light is a new deck illustrated by Michael Dowers with assistance of his partner, Christine Payne-Towler. I was very excited to hear this deck was coming out as I have been a fan of Christine’s tarot work for a very long time. Christine is one of the few people who has deeply explored the pre-de Gébelin esoteric underpinnings of the Continental Tarot decks. Christine feels she has discovered these underpinnings in the works of Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, Jacob Boehme, William Postel, Abraham von Franckenberg, Joachim Fiore, Louis Claude de Saint-Martin and other alchemists, Rosicrucians, magicians and Kabbalists, with connections back to Pythagoras and Alexandrian Egypt (and even earlier).
Christine espouses the theory that there is a fairly consistent set of Astro-Alpha-Numeric (AAN) correspondences that exist among all of the aforementioned people as part of an unbroken lineage of Western occult philosophy. That is, a correspondence exists among Astrology, the Hebrew (and possibly Greek) Alphabets, and Numbers that at some point in the 18th century came to be related to Tarot cards by French Martinists and Freemasons. To this can be added swaths of angels and archangels. All this was known to Etteilla and Eliphas Lévi but, by the time we get to the late 19th century, it was beginning to get confused. It went totally off track when the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn knowingly led their initiates astray with a set of competing correspondences that was meant to hide the true lineage.
I have to admit that I am a follower of the Golden Dawn system and, although I have tried to understand the works mentioned above and Christine’s system, I find the material too abstract for my tastes. Christine’s earlier book: The Underground Stream: Esoteric Tarot Revealed is an excellent source for an overview of her theory, and those who are interested also need to read the articles in her Arkletters at Tarot University in order to see how her ideas have continued to develop.
It should be mentioned that, while it appears likely that Tarot was known to some French Freemasons before Antoine Court de Gébelin’s public revelation, tarot doesn’t seem to have been known by any of the earlier philosophers (mentioned above) despite such claims by the magician Eliphas Lévi and Papus. Secret societies have a history of making claims to great antiquity and illustrious predecessors, little of which can be substantiated by historical facts. However, most secret societies are based on an admiration and incorporation of earlier works, often with an accompanying belief in a golden age in which intelligent men and women were guided and lived by these lofty principles. This may be expressed as a founding myth-described-as-history.
This deck is structured according to Christine’s theories, using art derived from 17th century alchemists, collaged and colored by comic book artist, Michael Dowers. Despite some of my comments below, several of the Minor Arcana feature an almost humorous nod to illustrations in the Waite and Thoth deck that many will find comfortingly familiar. [The box features art by Patrick Dowers, which is in such a different, though delightful, style to that of the deck such that there is a disconnect every time the box is opened.] The LWB (little white book) contains only brief, Etteilla-based interpretations and spread suggestions that elucidate each number from one to twelve.
I’ve tried approaching this deck from several viewpoints. First, I tried to simply work with the images, but the cards are so filled with illusive alchemical references that I felt like I needed an alchemical symbol dictionary to understand them. My usual method of “describing the card” fell apart in the face of these—
“The card depicts a crowned and winged lion and eagle facing each other (an alchemical marriage?). Above is an eye-in-a-triangle with another one in the lower half of the card and a sun and a moon in triangles facing opposite the eyes. There are eleven colored balls in the background and two red flowers whose stems frame the picture. Around each eye and and in front of the colored balls are circles (one above and one below) with numbers like a clock (1-12) and the letters of the alphabet. The sky above is lighter than the sky below so perhaps the circles are the hours of the day and the hours of the night.”
The only phrases I came up with were – “a meeting of contraries” and “keeping the balls in the air.” Neither of which made much sense.
Next, I tried working with the correspondences on each card. This is the 6 of Wands. It is is 1-10° Leo ruled by the Sun—the first decan (ten degrees) of Leo. So I turned to my Agrippa who declares that the first decan of Leo shows a man riding on a Lion; it signifies boldness, violence, cruelty, wickedness, lust and labors to be sustained. Okay, I can go along with ‘Boldness with a touch of cruelty.’ But, why is the first decan of Leo the 6 while the 2nd decan of Leo is the 4 of Wands and the 3rd decan the 5 of Wands (card order = 2nd, 3rd, 1st decans)? This is especially confusing because in the 1, 2 and 3 cards of each suit the decans are in order. I’m told Christine’s forthcoming book will answer this question.
Then, I followed the recommendation in the little white book to lay out the cards to illustrate my birth chart. I love doing this with decks! The following illustration shows my chart (laid out on a rug that had a convenient circle of just the right size). The circle itself consists of the 36 Minor Arcana cards that depict the decans (10° segments) of the 360° of the circle. Along the outside I’ve laid the Major Arcana cards that show the signs of the Zodiac (touching the three decans to which they correspond). Inside I’ve laid the cards for the seven classical planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were unknown in this older system). At the center I’ve woven together the four Pages to mark the angles of my chart as they represent the four seasons: Spring/Ascendant, Summer/IC, Fall/Descendent, Winter/MC. My Scorpio Ascendant is on the left with three planets in it (Venus, Mercury, Jupiter). My Sun and Moon are in Libra (12th House), and Mars and Saturn are in Leo in the 9th House at the top.
This can be pretty confusing, so let’s examine one planet placement: Mars in the 1st decan of Leo –
The first card is Mars, which corresponds to the Trump card of Strength. It’s great that it has a Lion on it (but if my Mars were in Pisces I’d find this confusing). The woman is lactating (which I don’t get—feeding the passions?), but the volcano in the background is appropriately Mars-like and fiery. We’ve already examined the second card, which is the 1st decan of Leo; it describes my Mars-drive as ‘bold with a touch of cruelty.’ The third card, the Hermit, corresponds to Leo. The Hermit is holding a large sun in his right hand (Sun rules Leo), and the eye-in-the-sky matches the eyes on the Leo decan card, and I suppose the dragon around his feet could stand in for Leo’s lion. But, really, the introspective Hermit does not seem at all like the proud, socially-oriented Leo, despite his red robe. Furthermore, a great number of cards in the deck have the alchemical Sun, Moon and Eyes on them—so they aren’t particular to these cards, at all.
So, all in all, I’d say this deck is colorfully beautiful and incredibly complex. Clues to the card’s meaning are not obvious, in many cases, from the illustrations. To truly understand what the cards are supposed to mean, you’ll have to wait for Christine’s explanatory book. That book is bound to take you on a journey into the 16th and 17th century metaphysical mind of the giants of occult philosophy, and introduce you to a system of correspondences that might take a bit of study if you wish to incorporate it into your practice. It will definitely expand your horizons.
Update: Ordering information here for the 250 copy limited edition.
The following announcement by Tali Goodwin and Marcus Katz has stirred quite a controversy. At the end of this announcement you’ll find a link to an article by Tabatha Cicero that adds much to an understanding of issues involved in the publication of these images.
Tali Goodwin of Tarot Professionals and the blog Tarot Speakeasy, through extensive research, has discovered the ORIGINAL Waite-Trinick images that comprised a tarot deck conceptualized by A.E. Waite for the private use of members of his Fellowship of the Rosy Cross. Tali tracked the family of stained glass artist, J. B. Trinick, who had lived in Kendal, England, and found the original color paintings!
Late last year Marcus Katz stumbled across an ebay sale for a set of worn and damaged images that he immediately recognized as part of a mysterious second Waite deck. It had been brought to the attention of tarotists in Ronald Decker and Michael Dummett’s book A History of the Occult Tarot. The illustrations here are from that book. The new discovery was part of a series of several major synchronicities in the story of this rare deck that have taken place over the last two years.
Tali and Marcus were able to view and photograph the beautiful and enigmatic original paintings and have agreed with the owners to bring out a book (in color and b&w) of the major twenty-two images with full commentary prior to Christmas 2011.
The commentary will be based on Waite’s unpublished and extensive commentary on the images, which has led to a complete mapping of Waite’s “secret” correspondences to the Tree of Life. Marcus says that this set of correspondences is so blindingly obvious and “makes sense,” such that he believes we will be astounded. It will be interesting to see if the mapping corresponds with the revised Tree of Life described in Decker and Dummett’s book. Also, this clears up a long-running controversy about whether the Rider-Waite-Smith deck was designed with Golden Dawn Tree of Life Associations in mind. My feeling is that it was, as Waite clearly uses these associations in some of his Order papers, but it’s also clear that he wasn’t really satisfied with them.
Tarot Professionals are hosting a funding drive—live on Indigogo (now available) to ask for assistance towards publication. As they want to make these remarkable images—and the biggest discovery in Tarot this century—available to everyone. I’ll post the information as soon as I get it.
For additional information and another perspective, read Tabatha Cicero on “The Great Symbols of the Paths” at The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn blog.
About John Trinick
Several years ago, Cerulean, on Aeclectic’s tarot forum, posted this information about Trinick:
John Trinick was born in Melbourne, Australia, on 17 August 1890, sailing to England with his parents in 1893 before returning to Australia in 1907. He studied in the art school of the National Gallery of Victoria between 1910 and 1915 and then returned to England in 1919 to continue his studies at the Byam Shaw and Vicat Cole school of Art.
Trinick began to specialise in glass in 1921 when he joined the studios of William Morris Merton and ten years later he opened his own studio in Upper Norwood, London. He rapidly became famous for the quality of his work, exhibiting widely at The Royal Academy, the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and in Vitoria, Spain, in addition to providing stained glass windows for several churches, including a complete set of chapel windows for St. Michael’s in 1951. Among his other work was a panel, Opus Sectile, depicting Our Lady of Walsingham in Westminster Cathedral; 11 windows for St. Pius X, London and the entire chapel scheme for Salmerston Grange, Margate.
He was also an accomplished illustrator in watercolour, pencil, pastel and crayon, a collection of Trinick’s watercolour copies of European stained glass windows ws purchased by the Victoria and Albert Museum, where it forms part of the V and A archives.
Although the majority of Trinick’s work involved ecclesiastical commissions, he did not limit his exploration of spirituality to Christianity. He actively explored many modes of thinking throughout his life, including Rosicruianism and Freemasonry. He had a strong interest in alchemy and other forms of ancient spirituality. In 1922 he published a book of poetry entitled Dead Sanctuary and, in 1967, at the age of 84, he published a philosophical volume, The Fire Tried Stone, an appraisal of the work of Carl Jung.
John Trinick died in 1974, many of his designs returning to Australia.
Jeanne Fiorini asks a great question on her video “TarotWorks Tarot Tip #10”:
Do you use your tarot as you would the Emergency Room, or do you use your tarot the way you would the Health Food Store?
Think about this for a moment before you watch her video:
Jeanne is a tarot maven, with creations ranging from tarot wrapping paper to bags to books to instructional videos—all found at TarotWorks. In addition to her youtube videos you’ll find lots of helpful advice in her book Tarot Spreads and Layouts, especially as it relates to tarot for personal insight. In some ways, the title is a misnomer in that this short but pithy book contains far more in terms of sensible advice and good reading skills than you get in most other books. How often, as I read her text, I found myself thinking, “I wish I had said that!” To give myself credit, occasionally I have, as Jeanne is not reinventing the wheel but succinctly describing methods that take years to discover otherwise—in a no nonsense and elegantly easy-to-understand way. In a recent article in the American Tarot Association newsletter, Tarot Reflections, you can learn how Jeanne has integrated her studies of Psychosynthesis with her approach to Tarot.
The spreads and layouts comprise almost two-thirds of the book, and what is truly unique here isn’t just the layouts or the different number of cards or the range of issues (which we also get), but that we are given:
- questions that will help us understand what a card means in a particular spread position,
- things to consider about how the cards might relate to each other,
- guidelines for expanding the layout,
- helpful hints and reminders about intention, focus and attitude.
Melissa Weiss Steele’s Oracle of Initiation is a 66 card oracle deck, which, as Steele says, “speaks directly to the instinctual and archetypal impulses within the psyche.” Following the sudden death of her husband and a descent into despair, Steele began a journey of initiation and renewal by exploring alone the ancient desert landscape around Santa Fe, New Mexico. Merging with the land, she stripped off the trappings of civilization, painted herself with mud and took thousands of photographic self-portraits holding her camera at arm’s length, which she calls The Painted Body series. Slowly, she discovered the camera’s ability to capture movement and light emanations that echoed her own experience of the spirits and Ancestors of these places. None of these photographs have been altered or retouched in any way.
While the tarot is often described as the soul’s journey, the Oracle of Initiation, on the other hand, offers a journey of the Spirit. The images are haunting, spellbinding, intoxicating, instinctual. When working with them, you enter the immediacy of a timeless Now. Although solitary musings, they resonate with all our relations. Although seemingly personal, they touch both the ancient and universal in each of us. They are an eloquent reminder that the earth is Spirit-embodied and we are one with it. You can see a video deck review and sample reading at Donnaleigh’s blog.
Melissa asked a number of people to write their own impressions of selected cards for inclusion in the text to accompany the decks. This is what I wrote about the two cards I chose:
She stands at a threshold outside the cave entrance—womb of the mother. She sniffs dry dirt. Worshipful of opposites, she sees herself reflected in stone—blue darkness to golden light. She places her hand upon the rock, asking permission of the stone people before entering. She waits patiently for an answer. She wills the thrumming heartbeat of the ages to greet her with a pulse. She lets go of everything that came before. Touching stone, she waits for secret signs, a touchstone. She becomes rock, to enter rock.
It is important in the early stages to listen and feel if the way is clear, if the timing is right, if the self is properly attuned. When rocks, caves and minerals are the initiators—the doorkeepers—then one must prepare by slowing down, becoming solid as rock. True happiness is found in preparing well. Freedom is here for the asking. There is no turning aside, no time for impatience. Make ready, for Mystery lurks around the corner.
Eyes blindfolded, she goes deep within. Blue, new-moon throat chakra oversees a jeweled doorway, entrance to the inner light. Oh, to receive the message of the midnight sun! Vibration takes over. Sightless knowing that surrenders to not-knowing.
When one resonates deeply in sympathy with another or, even more, with the state of the world, an underlying meaning emerges in voiceless sound so intense it is beyond hearing. It bursts forth in radiant light: lash-light gleaming tears, electric brain-waves, an oscillating ruff leaving a luminous wake.
This is the sensation of wordless empathy—of feeling with others—before you even recognize what it is. Don’t look at the distracting particulars. Turn away. Reflect on it in humility. The cries of millions are a jewel. Hold it close. Become it. This is a compassion, a dark beauty, that makes waves.
UPDATE with corrected links: The deck is now available for immediate shipping. Contact Ed Buryn at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the new order form at http://www.blaketarot.com/ The book and additional information is available on-line here.
Announcing … the 2010 Revised Edition of
Created by Ed Buryn
The WILLIAM BLAKE TAROT, first published in 1995 by HarperCollins and long out of print, is again available in a revised edition that offers better color rendition, improved details, and numerous stylistic changes – while retaining all the qualities that made this deck a breakthrough in Tarot for creative endeavors and personal divination.
This revised deck is exactly the same size (80 x 120 mm = 3.15 x 4.75 inches), but all the card images are larger due to smaller borders. The back design is now green instead of blue to differentiate the editions, and fine details are noticeably sharper and cleaner on all the cards. The basic designs are the same, but close inspection will reveal hundreds of small changes that enhance its overall appearance and utility. In effect, this unique and beautiful Tarot deck is better than ever.
Owners and users of the original deck will appreciate being able to replace their old or worn decks at a reasonable price, without having to buy another expensive book-and-deck set. For new owners, the deck comes with a booklet of card spreads and meanings. In any case, the entire original book will soon be available online for free download.
This boxed set of 80 cards and 32-page booklet will not be sold in bookstores. To order your copy now, please mail cash, check, or money order to TAROT, PO Box 720, Nevada City CA 95959; or pay online with your credit card at www.paypal.com payable to email@example.com. All orders will be filled beginning October 2010. [Take advantage of the special “Advance Order” price.]
The price of this new deck will be $32 plus $5 shipping, for a total cost of $37 each. For California orders, add $2.85 sales tax, for a total cost of $39.85 each. Orders to Canada and Mexico are $32 plus $7 shipping, for a total cost of $39 each. Orders to other overseas countries are $32 plus $10 shipping, for a total cost of $42 each.
To view these cards now and to do readings with them, go online to www.myDivination.com where you can also view each of the cards. The online readings at www.facade.com currently still use the original deck but will be updated to the new deck soon. In addition, online readings and more information will be available soon at a Blake Tarot site presently under construction.
This deck, by my ex-husband, Ed Buryn, originally involved copious input and suggestions by me and now the graphic expertise of his current wife, Joanna Buryn. Nevertheless, it is primarily a joint creative collaboration between Ed and William Blake.
Creating the William Blake Tarot
One of my students at New College of California, in the early ’80s, submitted a paper with a selection of Blake images that he found similar to the tarot Major Arcana. Ed, inspired by this, urged me to create a whole deck based on Blake whom I had studied in college. Fifteen years later he was still nagging me about doing it before somebody else did—while I was in the midst of a book deadline, no less! I snapped at him, “If it’s so important, you do it!” In that instant, we both looked at each other and knew it was absolutely what he had to do!
Ed created and self-published The William Blake Triumphs and presented them at San Francisco BATS, where a representative of HarperCollins saw them. We got a call early one morning from Harper/Thorson’s in London who wanted to see examples of a Minor Arcana right away. By the end of that day we had conceptualized the suits around Blake’s four “eternal arts” based on the Zoas (or “divine energies”) and came up with the four court figures of Man, Woman, Child and Angel. It all seemed so obvious that the process was truly effortless, and accompanied by an ecstatic high.
While I had a lot of input, every final decision, all the art work, and the book (except for editing and some ideas from me for the card interpretations) was Ed’s. For instance, being somewhat of a tarot purist, I argued long and hard against a 79th card that Ed insisted was necessary to complete the vision. However, I now love the Eternity Card and can’t imagine the deck without it!
At the time, museums still claimed copyright to works they owned (since then such claims have been invalidated), so Ed worked from black and white photocopies of multiple versions of Blake’s prints and hand-colored them. He read every work by and on Blake that he could get his hands on, and I helped him with traditional card meanings and theories on the creative process. Since Ed had used tarot before I met him, advocating taking cards on the road in his book, Vagabonding in the U.S.A., and had edited all my tarot books, his own knowledge was pretty extensive anyway.
I urge you to check out this extraordinary deck, made even better in the new edition.
UPDATE 2/2/2011: I just heard that the deck is back on track – see what Nick Farrell has to say about this in the comments.
Here’s a preview of the Golden Dawn Temple Deck from Nick Farrell and Wendrich artHouse (see also Nick’s website). Arranged to the song “It All Comes Down,” from the album “Venus Awakening,” by Wendrich artHouse, featuring Steve Hackford on Keyboards. Images and music copyrighted by Wendrich artHouse 2009.
Joanna Powell Colbert’s full 78-card Gaian Tarot is now available in a limited edition in your choice of two sizes. Both the deck and accompanying book are signed. In addition to a 20% discount, there are lots of extra goodies included if you order before Nov. 3rd. This deck has taken nine years to produce and it’s an amazing accomplishment. Llewellyn will be coming out with a commercial version in September 2011 (if you can wait that long), but Joanna’s limited edition will definitely be a collector’s item and the colors will probably be more vivid. See the cards here.
I asked Joanna some questions about her deck a couple of months ago. Here are her responses:
Mary: Is there a particular kind of question or issue that your deck is ideally suited to respond to?
Joanna: It’s designed for people who want to go into the depths of the issue at hand, and is not really a deck for superficial questions. It’s for people who are walking a spiritual path, especially those who find sustenance through their connection with the natural world. I’ve been told by readers who use the Majors-only deck with their clients that it cuts right to the heart of the matter at hand. Because people recognize themselves in the figures on the cards, they also find inspiration in them and can envision solutions to their problems.
It also seems to lend itself quite well to Rachel Pollack’s “Wisdom Readings,” in which we ask about the larger issues of life. Two readers that I know, James Wells and Carolyn Cushing, have developed Wisdom Questions for this deck that focus on what we can all do to heal the Earth in this time of global climate crisis.
Mary: If your deck could speak what would be its core message to the rest of us?
Joanna: To quote a familiar chant:
“The Earth is our Mother, She will take care of us.
The Earth is our Mother, we must take care of Her.”
Then it would ask us a series of questions:
– How can the wisdom of a particular card help you to heal yourself?
– How can the wisdom of a particular card help you to heal your community?
– How can the wisdom of a particular card help you to heal the Earth?
Self, Community, Planet: all are inextricably woven together. Each one of us has a gift to give, and it’s our responsibility to discover that gift then bring it forth, for the good of the community and the planet.
Mary: Why no cities or city life?
Joanna: I think it’s partly because the cards are a reflection of my own rural island life, and partly because the cards are centered in the wisdom of the natural world. As I meditated on each card before coming up with the concept for it, I asked myself: “Where is the voice of Nature in this card?” Then ideas came to me. I don’t think I consciously chose not to show cities; it was more intuitive than that.
Part of my ulterior motive in creating the deck is to encourage people who experience Nature mostly through metaphor and symbol to get outside and start experiencing Her directly. If I remember the statistic correctly, most modern Americans spend less than an hour a day outside. I’d like to encourage people to garden, to hike, to do field sketching, to spend more time with the Mother in whatever way works best for them. I do believe that spending time in Nature heals us, and in return, we have a responsibility to heal Her.
In 1935 the British magazine and book publisher Tomson-Leng produced a set of “Tarot Fortune Cards” that were given away to the readers of “My Weekly”—a women’s magazine. This unusual set of 79 cards (including this verse) is partly based on the Rider-Waite-Smith deck but with some significant differences, especially in the suit of Rods [Wands], which owe some of their symbolism to designs published by Eudes Picard in Manuel Synthétique & Pratique du Tarot (1909). The suits are Rods, Cups, Swords and Pence, which, according to Picard, correspond to Fire, Air, Water and Earth‚ respectively, which is why so many Swords cards have water and Cups cards have a butterfly as an air symbol. The Fool is numbered 21 and comes before The World.
This deck is also notable for being chaste and family-friendly with no nudity. The The LWB [little white booklet] is one of the most interesting and original works from this period, having spreads that I’ve never seen elsewhere. None of the spreads list individual position meanings. There are card interpretations for both upright and reversed orientations and often special meanings when the card appears near one or two other cards.
Here is a “reclaimed spread” from the 1935 booklet: Read the rest of this entry »
I highly recommend this interview by Arlene deWinter with Paul Huson.
Long ago (1971) Paul wrote a book on tarot called The Devil’s Picturebook: The Compleat Guide to Tarot Cards: Their Origins and their Usage. It was one of my earliest tarot books and gave me a better sense of the true tarot history then most other books of the time. Along with his Mastering Witchcraft, I got a rich sense of classical and pagan witchy lore out of a more sophisticated European sensibility than was usually found in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m so excited. My Pamela Colman Smith Commemorative Tarot Set has arrived from U.S. Games. The book of Pixie’s art is delightful—full of colorful images and showing a full range of her work, including a couple of pieces from late in her life. Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot (included) is the same-old book in a new cover but with no pictures (huh?). The postcards are great to have—a very nice bonus. Read the rest of this entry »