Tuesday, December 27, 2011

on summer days

I drew the Sun card from the gorgeous Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights this morning.  It was a fitting card because today where I am was an uncomfortably hot day.  The humidity was so high it was like I was swimming through the air.  All that could be done was to sit and wait and hope for a storm to cool things down.

We never did get the storm, but as it now approaches dusk, the air begins to cool.  When I look at this card I get a sense of peace, calm and tranquility.  But, like the image above, it is the setting sun that provides some respite from the heat of the day.  During the peak of the sun one can simply be still and do nothing, it's just too hot to exert any effort at all.  Ironic that the sun can slow us down and the darkness can get things moving.  Life on this side of the world can indeed feel very upside down.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

on the Rosetta Tarot

I have recently had the opportunity to work with and review the wonderful Rosetta Tarot, created and self published by M.M. Meleen.  Also available is a companion book titled 'Book of Seshet - Guide to the Rosetta Tarot'.  I've included in this post some cards from the deck, a few excerpts of my review (which can be read in full here), and some additional comments.

Below are four of my favourite cards from the Major Arcana.

One of my favourite things about this deck is the vibrant colours of the artwork which really draw you in.  The creator has used a range of different artistic mediums to represent the essence of each of the suits.

While the Rosetta Tarot is certainly a Thoth inspired deck the creator has based the designs on meanings in the Golden Dawn’s ‘Book T’ and so in some cases there is variation in the imagery from the Thoth deck.  This is not simply a re-drawn Thoth.  The creator has interpreted the symbolism in her own way, without obscuring the meanings.  While some cards have a very similar look to the Thoth deck, others are quite unique in the interpretation.   

The Nine of Cups from the Rosetta Tarot on the left and the Thoth on the Right
The 8 of Disks from the Rosetta on the left and the Thoth on the right.

I love how in the Eight of Disks above the image looks very similar to the Thoth deck, but the owl has been added and the roots of the plant are formed in the shape of the glyph for Virgo.

In my opinion, the Thoth deck is a unique masterpiece.  The Thoth is based on a system with depth and substance to which you can devote a lifetime of study. It is a system which in the RWS has been somewhat obscured, and with the proliferation of prettied-up RWS clone or inspired decks has become all but lost in many cases.  The Thoth gives us the opportunity to actually work with the Golden Dawn system and understand what lies at the core of most modern tarots.  Over the years many people have expressed to me that, for some reason or another, the Thoth feels impenetrable and aloof.  I know for some it even strikes feelings of fear and for that reason some curious souls stay away.  I believe the Rosetta Tarot is a perfect way to access this system with a deck that perhaps feels a little more approachable.  The colouring is vibrant, and yet the imagery is softer than the Thoth.  The deck has a ‘home made’ feel without seeming amateur.  There is warmth that may be lacking in the Thoth.   I don’t believe the Thoth can be improved on or bettered at all, and I don’t believe that the creator of the Rosetta has tried to do this.  What the Rosetta offers is another path into this world, another way to begin the journey that all serious students of the tarot must surely take at some point.

I always believe that when a deck is created by someone who passionately believes in what they are doing, and who pours their knowledge out through their artwork, the results are very special indeed.  This deck should not really be compared to the Thoth, it stands on its own merits and for those willing to spend the time, I’m confident it will deliver.

For further information you can visit the creators web-site here.
The creator is also involved in an on-line discussion, and possibly study group, at the Aeclectic tarot forum here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

on getting to know the native fauna

For some time now I’ve been on the cusp of purchasing the Druid Animal Oracle.  My desire for a similar oracle using animals native to Australia has stopped me so far.  Unfortunately no such thing exists.   There is a long out of print set called the Wisdom of the Australian Animals Deck which was later re-worked into the Australian Animal Tarot Deck, also out of print.  Both were created by Ann Williams-Fitzgerald.  I have been fortunate enough to get a copy of the latter and have recently dug it out for another look.

It is quite a beautiful deck, although I can’t imagine using it as a tarot deck, for me it has more potential as an oracle.  I have discovered that the companion book is impossible to find but was lucky enough to be able to purchase an e-book through the creator’s web-site.  I’m looking forward to spending some time with this deck and the accompanying e-book.  I love what has been done in the Druid Animal Oracle and would like to work with this set in the same way. 

The cards are published by AGMuller and are a fairly standard size, albeit slightly wider than usual, and the cardstock is fabulous.  The artwork takes up a disappointingly small percentage of the card face and around the border are the title, keywords and a corresponding crystal.  The borders are two different shades of purple, or lavender, one for the majors and the other for the minors and courts.  The back is a gorgeous Southern Cross design which I absolutely love.

The artwork is by artist Tracy Hinschen and is quite stunning.  I have included some cards as examples.  While the usual ‘favourites’ are included there are also many less well known natives that I’m looking forward to learning more about.  There are quite a few non-natives as well such as the cat, camel and cattle dog.  

For those wanting to use the set as a tarot, the suit/element correspondences are rather unusual.  Wands are earth, Swords are fire, Pentacles are air and Cups are water.  In the e-book the explanation given for this is to allow for Southern Hemisphere influences but no further information is given to explain how that is so.  I can’t even begin to imagine how it could make sense and it is one of the reasons that I plan to use this set as an oracle and focus on the animals and their meanings, rather than any traditional tarot meanings.  In saying that, despite the changing of elements, the suit meanings appear to be quite standard to traditionally accepted meanings and I don’t think the new element is factored in much at all.

The e-book also provides a brief summary of the authors Auz Astrology system which allocates an Australian native animal to each month of the year, a little like the Chinese Zodiac system.  I’ve been working on something similar myself for the past year or so and was very interested to see many of my choices were the same as Ann’s.  In some of the cards you can see the Western Astrological Glyph that is associated with the particular animal as well.


I think this set is a useful starting point for developing a good relationship with my native fauna.  It’s very easy living in the Southern Hemisphere to default to Northern Hemisphere systems and it certainly takes a lot more effort to break new ground on this side of the globe.  Between this and my Australian ‘Ogham’ project I should be kept quite busy in the year ahead.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

on not looking back

I can't believe it's almost a week since my last post, how quickly time seems to be flying by.  There is a lot going on for me at the moment and I thought I'd choose a card to see if it could give me any inspiration.  The card I chose was from Crowley's Thoth deck and it was the Prince of Cups.

I have always really loved this card.   For some reason it makes me think of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.  I see this prince as Orpheus, about to journey to the underworld in search of his lost bride.  He is determined and sorrowful at once.  The link with this card to the Astrological sign of Scorpio also links to the concepts of passion, and death. 

Crowley describes how this card represents the airy part of water and says; "On the one hand, elasticity, volatility, hydrostatic equilibrium; on the other hand, the catalytic faculty and the energy of steam."  To me, when I consider this I see the figure on the card as demonstrating such composure and strength and yet, beneath the surface is an increasing fire, ready to blow off the lid of this calm veneer and explode like the steam that erupts from a boiling kettle.  And steam burns! 

In the myth of Orpheus he is able to recover his lost bride, but despite promising not to look back on his return trip he is unable to help himself and then loses Eurydice for a second time.  His resolve vanishes, he has now lost everything.  The once sweet song become mournful, the light disappears.

So what does this all mean?  My disappointments of the past week have left me feeling rather subdued.  I have remained calm on the surface but perhaps this Prince is here to remind me that there may be other emotions bubbling away under the surface.  Perhaps the best thing I can do is to accept the inevitable, and not look back.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

on temperance

I have been rather drawn lately to the image of temperance and it's no wonder at this busy time of year. As a virtue, temperance is something that I strive to attain. Generally I fail miserably as I swing wildly from one interest to the next, diving passionately into things and then abandoning them when something more exciting comes along. But I do try, and it's an image I contemplate when I need to be more moderate with my actions and my choices.

For something different the other day I decided to flip through my Dotti deck, i tarocchi by Laura Tuan. It’s a curious deck that follows the same pattern as the Della Rocca/Ancient Italian decks, which is why I came to have a copy. Much of the figure drawing is lacking the same skill as the other decks and the perspective isn't quite right in many. But I have discovered what is most certainly my favourite Temperance card of all time.

She truly does look like an angel. I love everything about this card, the colouring, her expression and the simplicity of the image.

I have included below some more of my favourite images of Temperance for those, like me, who need to bring a little moderation to their lives.

Above - Lo Scarabeo's Tarot of the Master (Vacchetta) and Ancient Italian decks

Above - The Original Mythic Tarot depicting Iris and the Cosmic Tarot illustrated by Norbert Losche

Above - The Nigel Jackson Tarot and The Roots of Asia Tarot

Saturday, November 19, 2011

on Celtic Mythology and the Druidcraft Tarot

Mythology is what originally sucked me into the world of tarot. My first deck was the original Mythic Tarot and ever since working with this deck I’m inclined to bring mythology into all my decks. For me, myth and symbolism go hand in hand and I love the way connecting cards to mythic characters adds additional layers to readings.

During a period when I was really trying to get my head around the world of Celtic myth I hunted around for a tarot deck reflecting this theme. While there are many Celtic themed decks none of them really worked for me in the way I‘d hoped for. The Celtic Wisdom deck was a great help in providing me with a structure to learn and explore the myths, but it didn’t work as well for me as reading deck.  You can see my review of the Celtic Wisdom deck here: http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/cards/celtic-wisdom/review.shtml. (It's the second one).

I had always loved the artwork of the Druidcraft deck and yet as an actual tarot I felt it fell short of the mark for me. In my desperation, one day I pondered the idea of linking the gods and goddesses of the Celtic pantheon to this deck and promptly set to work. What follows are my own correspondences after much reflection and time working with the deck. I don’t suggest that anyone else should take on board what I’ve done. I am writing this purely because it may have been helpful for me to see what someone else had done when I was developing my own system.

I used the Celtic Wisdom set and the Druidcraft companion book as a starting point and then read up on the myths and made the connections that felt right to me. My aim was to match the mythic characters to the card archetypes and I have used a broad range of myths such as Welsh, Irish and Arthurian to draw from. I have also made links to the four aces.

For what it’s worth, here is what I came up with:

The Fool – Gwion Bach
The Magician – Merlin / Math
The Priestess – Rhiannon
The Empress – Anu
The Emperor – Arthur
The Hierophant – Taliesin
The Lovers – Tristan and Isolde
The Chariot – Maeve / Epona
Justice – Brigh
The Hermit – Merlin
The Wheel of Fortune – Arianrhod
Strength – Brigid
The Hanged Man – Green Man
Death – Cerridwen / Morrigan
Temperance – Brigid
Cernunnos – Cernunnos
The Tower – Taranis
The Star – Sulis
The Moon – Mannanan
The Sun – Mabon / Belenus / Epona
Rebirth – Taliesin
The World – Guinevere

King of Wands – Lugh / Llew
Queen of Wands – Scathach
Knight of Wands – Fionn mac Cumhaill
Princess of Wands – Aine

King of Swords – Nuada
Queen of Swords – Macha
Knight of Swords – Gwydion
Princess of Swords – Blodeuwedd

King of Cups – Ogma
Queen of Cups – Nimue / Morgan le Fay
Knight of Cups – Aengus mac Og
Princess of Cups – Coventina

King of Pentacles – Daghdha
Queen of Pentacles – Rosmerta
Knight of Pentacles – Goibniu
Princess of Pentacles – Damara

Ace of Wands – Airmed
Ace of Swords – Lady of the Lake
Ace of Cups – Boan
Ace of Pentacles – Nematona

I have found that the whole process of making these connections between the card archetypes and the myths really helped to personalise this deck for me.  It's another way to add layers of meaning to your deck and a great way to learn more about mythology too.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

on bibliomancy

Being somewhat of a bookworm I’ve always love the idea of bibliomancy, which is the act of divination using books. The seeker opens a book at a random page or passage to gain insight about their spiritual development or a specific issue in their life. Generally spiritual texts were used, such as the Bible or the I-Ching, and the Ancient Greeks used Homer’s Iliad.

I had a particularly stressful event occur yesterday where I felt very threatened. During the incident I had someone I had never met before really screaming abuse at me and as I’m a reasonably calm person I didn’t retaliate and just left the situation. But afterwards it began to get to me and oddly, I have encountered the same individual again today. Curious as to what was behind this strange sequence of events I decided to give bibliomancy a try.

The book I chose, although not a spiritual text, is a personal favourite and one I’ve been discussing on-line the past few days, ‘Mystical Origins of the Tarot’ by Paul Huson. I held the book and fanned the pages back and forward a few times while considering the current issue before opening the book to a random page. Page 220 fell open and I noticed it was the page describing the Queen of Swords card.

Initially I thought that I’d have been as well just drawing a card from a deck, but after reading the page the following passage stood out clearly to me.

"The poet Homer in his Iliad describes both deities battling it out together on the plain in front of Troy, Pallas triumphing over Ares illustrating the power of intellect over brute force."

I am optimistic that this sentence alludes to the fact that perhaps my calm intellect will triumph over the stranger’s senseless rage. The Queen of Swords Below is from Paul Huson's Dame Fortune's Wheel Tarot, and depicts the Goddess Pallas. Hopefully in this instance Pallas-Athene is on my side.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

on the truth about tarot

This little gem of a book is one that doesn’t often get much mention. If you are interested in working with the Golden Dawn Tarot system, and particularly with the Thoth deck, you may find that it is worth hunting down.

It was Published in 1990 by Skoob Books and is no longer in print. The Author is Gerald Suster who was a British writer and historian. He published biographies of Aleister Crowley (The Legacy of the Beast) and Israel Regardie (Crowley’s Apprentice) and in this book takes a no nonsense approach to tarot. In the forward he writes:

“Many books – far too many – have been written on the Tarot. Some are good but most are pointless.”

…and then later…

“Most people know that the Tarot is often employed for the purpose of vulgar fortune telling. Here you might be told that you will meet a tall, dark stranger of unique aspect who is devoted to music and desires much of great import from one who is worthy – and a few hours later you encounter a one-eyed, banjo-strumming busker with a bad case of sunburn who demands your money with foul-mouthed menaces.”

He is not one to suffer the ‘new age’ treatment of tarot and writes with refreshing simplicity despite the complex subject matter. Having only 107 pages, it’s not an incredibly deep book, but it makes a deep subject accessible and is a good introduction for those wanting to read and explore more about the Golden Dawn and/or Thoth systems.

Below I’ve copied the contents page. I particularly liked the brief chapter on mythology and this book is certainly in my top ten tarot books list.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

on having the world at your feet

Today I got out the wonderful Tarot of the Thousand and One Nights.  The artwork in this deck is stunning and I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite cards.  I have included it with and without the borders because every time I look at this deck I wish the images were larger.  The scenes are fantastical and magical and I just want to dive right in.

The Two of Wands is simply incredible.  If there was ever a better card representing the excitement of what lies ahead I‘d like to see it.  Here the world is literally at my feet and the view is breathtaking.  There is a sense of mystery and possibility and it hangs in the air tempting me to continue my journey onwards.  I almost believe I have wings and could just soar out into the void and follow the rivers as they wind into the distance.  The card gives a sense of the real joy of being alive and inspires me to reach out for whatever dreams I choose to follow.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

on why I love the Ancient Italian Tarot

I absolutely adore this deck of tarot cards.  Let me count the ways.

My relationship with it has been like a passionate love affair.  I don’t use these cards all the time, but when I do I fall in love anew each time.  This was the deck that got me excited about the historical reproductions.  It was this deck that inspired me to delve down to the historic roots of tarot and as a result it changed my tarot world view.  I feel as if each time I shuffle or look through the cards I am sucked into another world, a world I love and one that makes me feel truly alive.  I wanted to share some of the things about this deck that makes me so attached to these particular images.

These cards were published by Lo Scarabeo in 2001 as part of the ‘Ancient’ series of decks.  It is a reproduction of an Italian deck from 1880’s which was based on the 1835 Soprafino deck by Carlo Della Rocca.  While the symbolism is based on the Marseille pattern, there are some distinct variations.  Incidentally, it would seem that the original Della Rocca deck was based on a deck which has also been reproduced by Lo Scarabeo as ‘The Ancient Tarot of Bologna’.  Should you be fortunate enough to get a copy of both they are interesting to compare.

These wonderful Italian decks are a joy to work with as they offer a distinctly different atmosphere to the Marseille style woodblock decks.  While the earlier Della Rocca deck has finer details than the Ancient Italian, I do prefer this later version as to me the figures are much more approachable. They are full of expression; they meet your eyes and draw you in to the cards and into their world.  Below you can see some of the Courts from the Cups suit where I compare the two decks. the Della Rocco on the left and Ancient Italian on the right.  This isn’t the Il Meneghello Della Rocca, which I don’t have, but the Lo Scarabeo Classical, which is another reproduction of the same deck.

While the Della Rocco images are so very fine, and the details so clear, the expressions of most figures in the deck tend towards grumpiness for me.  There is a general sense from them that life is hard and there isn't much to feel good about in their world.  In the Ancient Italian on the other hand, I feel like life is good and I want to hear what they have to tell me about the places they are from.

'Il Bagatto is a card that distinguishes this pattern from many others.  The first image below is from the Ancient Italian, the second is the Della Rocco and the third is from the Ancient Tarot of Bologna, on which the Della Rocco was based. 

Although in the Marseille pattern there is much variation, he is generally seen as a trickster or street performer.  In more modern Golden Dawn influenced decks we see a ritual magician, but in both the traditional and modern versions he usually holds up a wand or staff.  In the Ancient Italian and Della Rocco patterns we see a different representation, the cobbler, or artisan who holds up what appears to be a glass of wine.  I have also read of a theory that rather than wine he holds a glass of balsamic vinegar.  Considered somewhat of a cure all at the time it could be used to polish shoes, heal ills and was consequently quite valuable.  Perhaps il Bagatto is a vendor of magical elixirs as well?  Somehow I see the representation in the Della Rocca and Ancient Italian decks as the link that connects the traditional street performer to the ritual magician.  As a street performer he relies on sleight of hand and trickery to achieve his aim, which I expect would be to make money or to gain some benefit.  As a craftsman he actually has to produce something tangible in order to gain something, while as a magician he is dealing with universal forces to achieve his outcomes.  It’s an interesting development and I like the idea that our Ancient Italian ‘Bagatto’ is somehow the portrayal that links the traditional to the modern.  

I also love the gorgeous Empress, sitting serenely and looking so beautiful and poised.  She looks completely in control and yet I like the way her crown is tilted ever so slightly to one side.  Her gaze seems to be looking right into my soul and despite her calm appearance, it’s as if she could smile at any moment, or laugh even.  Her fingers hold the staff so daintily and I sense from her a compassion that I often feel is missing from some of the earlier Empresses.  To me, she is the perfect figure for this card.

‘Il Papa’ is another interesting image.  I’m always drawn to the curious man at the bottom right who is one of my favourite features of the entire deck.  He looks quite out of place and I’m intrigued as to who he is and why he’s there.  He reminds me of the Hierophant from another deck I’m so fond of, the Cosmic, and so I’ve included the image aboe as well.  When I look at the Ancient Italian card I sometimes imagine him there listing to the sermon in the 1880’s, considering what he has heard, and making a decision to one day do things his own way.  Then, 100 years later in the 1980’s there he is again is the Cosmic Tarot, this time as the Hierophant in a totally different world doing things a totally different way.  Crazy really, but it’s just a connection I’ve made and now every time I see this card it’s like a portal between worlds.  It really highlights the theme of this card as a conveyer of wisdom.  The Pope or Hierophant being the bridge that connects spirit with humanity, the one who passes on the tradition. 

The next three cards above are my favourite images in this deck and I adore the colouring in this reproduction. 

When I look at this Tower I just feel so much energy and movement.  It’s like there is an action film on the television and you’ve hit the pause button.  I can almost sense the fear of the figure at the top of the tower; I can hear the noise as the falling debris begin to hit the ground.  I can sense the loss, the change, the destruction, and the freedom that awaits.  

This Star is without doubt one of my favourite tarot images of all time.  I have chosen her for my blog background because she’s like a shining light, guiding my way.  My daughter calls her Aphrodite and I quite like that connection, to me it seems to work with her gorgeous red hair.  This is an image that makes me feel glad for all that is good in the world.

I love the humour in this rendition of the Moon.  Where we normally see a crayfish or lobster swimming in a pool, here it appears instead on a plate.  Two dogs still howl at the moon regardless of this delicious feast on offer, perhaps demonstrating that power the moon has over us all.

The court cards in this deck are a delight and I’ve included some examples below. While I have come to love the Marseille style woodcut decks I did initially find the courts quite difficult to connect with. These images however gave me no such trouble. To me they are all so full of emotion and expression; they meet your gaze and draw you in.

The suit or pip cards are not scenic but they are delightful none the less and their arrangement is in the same style as the Marseille decks.

Finally, to complement the sublime imagery of the card faces, the backs are no less than a perfect match.

Sadly, I understand this deck is no longer in print which to me seems a devastating tragedy.  Fortunately I have stocked up and have myself a couple of back-ups just in case.  The good news though is it that for now it is still relatively easy to find a copy.  If you are not yet in possession of this beauty I wouldn’t waste much time.  It is a purchase I am quite sure you would not regret.  And if you already have a copy then hopefully this will inspire you to dig it out again, and enjoy.