Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Journey through My Tarot Decks: The Tower

In this series of posts, I plan to discuss all of the Tarot cards in order, using a different deck for each card. Today I'm exploring Trump 16 -- The Tower -- from The Mandala Astrological Tarot by A.T. Mann (published by Thorsons, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers).


In this deck, The Tower (Trump 16) is associated with the war-like planet Mars (planet of action, passion, anger, and assertiveness), and the astrological signs Scorpio (a Water sign), Aries (a Fire sign), and Capricorn (an Earth sign). In traditional astrology, Mars rules Scorpio (Death, Trump 13) and Aries (The Emperor, Trump 4), and is exalted in Capricorn (The Devil, Trump 14).

The glyphs for Mars and Venus (male and female) come flying out in the explosion (these take the place of the male and female humans often depicted on this card). The dominant color (from the King Scale of Color) is red for Mars. The glyph for Scorpio (thunderbolt) is blue-green. The glyph for Venus is green.

The Hebrew letter Peh appears in the upper right corner of the card, representing riches (according to A.T. Mann). Other sources state that Peh means "the mouth," and symbolizes power of utterance" (The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages by Paul Foster Case) or "the power of communication as an expression of either unity or discord." (The Aquarian Qabalah by Naomi Ozaniec).

Symbols described by Mann:
* Thunderbolt: fate and, in a Buddhist sense, high spiritual direction
* Falling male/female symbols: show that the desire to keep issues of duality within leads to separation and breakdown
* Streaming yods (eyes): the archetypal world of the divine as 22 ways of seeing the next stage of the quest

The message: "Keeping tension inside leads to forced changes in one's condition as the urge to change the world starts with oneself. . . Dependency on the outer world often prevents true spiritual development, until radical changes ensue once these values are questioned." (Mann)

Divinatory Meanings given by Mann: "Total change and loss of security leading to a new beginning. Unexpected disruptions caused by being overprotective. Unwillingness to look at unrest inside. Loss of stability leading to a breakthrough. Reversals of fortune."  Reversed Meanings: "Continuing repression. Self-induced difficulties. Financial or property losses. Rebirth at the cost of extreme difficulty."

Please note that Mann's astrological associations are unique to his deck and often do not correspond to Order of the Golden Dawn associations.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Journey through My Tarot Decks: The Devil


In this series of posts, I plan to discuss all of the Tarot cards in order, using a different deck for each card. Today I'm exploring Trump 15 -- The Devil -- from The Buckland Romani Tarot by Raymond Buckland.

As with his other Trumps, Buckland does not use names on the cards, only numbers (Desh-ta-Panch means 15 in the Romani language). This is because he feels that the names can be misleading. One example he gives is that "The Devil" does not necessarily portend "a meeting with the Christian Antichrist."

The impish fellow on Buckland’s Trump 15 is more akin to Loki, the mischievous Norse god or the “trickster” character in many Native American myths. Buckland tells us that the Gypsy word for “devil” is beng, and that the beng on this card has taken the form of a satyr, with goat horns and hind legs. The association of The Devil with Capricorn, zodiac sign of the goat, is a fairly common one.

The beng has pulled a kavvi-saster (kettle iron) off the fire and tipped it over. He finds this prank hilarious, yet it could have serious consequences if the contents of the kettle represent a family’s main meal or the last one they will have for a long time. Buckland asks: "Is leaving a cooking pot (or a family matter) unattended an invitation to disaster?" On the other hand, the havoc created by this beng may simply be an inconvenience, making extra work for someone.

Traditional Meaning provided by Buckland:

Upright: Downfall, malevolence, domination of matter over spirit, black magic, punishment, self-destruction, bondage, revolution, unexpected failure, inability to realize goals.

Reversed: Overcoming handicaps, beginning of understanding, release from bondage, divorce, respite.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Journey through My Tarot Decks: Temperance

In this series of posts, I plan to discuss all of the Tarot cards in order, using a different deck for each card. Today I'm exploring Trump 14 -- Temperance -- from The Gill Tarot by Elizabeth Josephine Gill.


For this absolutely gorgeous card, Josephine Gill has chosen the title Temperare.  Explaining this decision, she writes: This card is usually known as Temperance, but as that is understood today, it does not help to convey the meaning of the picture. I have therefore used the Latin root word Temperare, “to combine properly,” which forms the words tempering (as in steel), temperature (relative heat and cold) and temperament (the combination of the four elements within the self).

Temperare can convey the idea of “moderation,” but also includes gaining strength and equilibrium within the self through the proper combination of opposites.

We reach Trump 14 having just passed through “Death” (Trump 13), where something dies and something new is born or reborn. Temperance follows this theme, suggesting “the reformation of a new consciousness through the tempering effect of the fires and waters of experience.” (Gill)

In Gill’s system (and others) Temperare is the path between Tiphareth (Beauty, superconscious self) and Yesod (Foundation, subconscious) on the Tree of Life.

As outlined by Naomi Ozaniec in her book The Aquarian Qabalah, Tiphreth’s virtue is Devotion to the Great Work and its vices are Bigotry, Zealotry, and Spiritual Pride. Yesod’s virtue is Independence and its vice, Idleness. Tiphareth is at the heart-center of the Tree. Yesod is the final sephiroth on the path of descent toward Malkuth (The Kingdom, physical matter, form). Ozaniec writes: “Where Malkuth can be likened to the visible area of the iceberg, Yesod can be likened to its hidden bulk beneath the surface.”

Among the symbols that appear on Temperare are:
  • two mountains : polarities
  • Temperance standing between the mountains : harmony between opposites
  • crown above the head of the angelic figure : Crown of Completion
  • rainbow : promise; Iris, messenger of the gods
  • angel within a vortex : raising or lowering of spiritual life-force
  • burning water : an impossibility, representing the difficulty the lower level has holding two opposing concepts in one “center of harmonic balance”
  • water : subconscious
Gill discusses the idea that the “death of the lower appetites and passions is...a way toward the birth of the spiritual self.” This belief has led to extreme and bizarre forms of behavior. When the self is “split” between what it perceives as “spirit good” and “nature evil,” the resulting imbalance can be destructive. Yet it is equally destructive to neglect spiritual aspirations in favor of lower desires.

Temperare calls us to implement “reason-based self-control” (Gill) — not self-torture or repression, but self-control. The subconscious aids in this self-regulation by connecting the higher and lower self.

Gill and others attribute the Hebrew letter Samekh to this card. The word means “tent-peg” or “prop.” In his book The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, Paul Foster Case comments: “It is what makes a tent secure, and thus corresponds to what would now be suggested to us by the foundation of a house. It is therefore the letter-symbol of that which is the basis or support of our house of life.”

Gill offers a somewhat different slant: “We stay here only a little while. A tent is a temporary dwelling, and likewise the personality is only a temporary dwelling for the spirit. The process of Temperare, the changes we may only make in the environment of the earth, is what holds us here and ‘pegs our tents down.’”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Journey through My Tarot Decks: Death



"To my amazement I have heard that there are people
who have never seen a gnome. I can‛t help pitying these people. 
I am certain there must be something wrong with their eyesight."
~ Axel Munthe ~

In this series of posts, I plan to discuss all of the Tarot cards in order, using a different deck for each card. Today I'm exploring Trump 13 -- Death -- from Tarot of the Gnomes by Antonio Lupatelli.


I never thought I'd say this about the Death card, but this one is kind of cute. The central figure looks like a child dressed up for Halloween – or possibly a Jawa from Star Wars.

From the LWB: "the keeper of the Kingdom of Death where souls abandon bodies and everything they possessed: transformation."

As with many Lo Scarabeo decks, the LWB for this one contains just a few words on each card. So far there is no larger book available. Divinatory Meanings are idiosyncratic to this deck. The Major Arcana reflects the story of Sichen, a gnome who "crossed the entire World of the Gnomes." Each Trump is given the name of the gnome represented thereon.

According to the LWB, "these names come from the Hebrew tradition." The name on Death (Trump 13) is "Michem." I did an online search but I had trouble applying the meanings I discovered to this card. I think it is possible that this is a form of "Michael" (MiKH-A-EL; MICHAYAH) a name which means "who is like God." I have heard the phrase "playing God" for someone who seems to think it is his role to decide whether someone will live or die. Certain religions and cultures believe that God decides when and how people will die.

Christian tradition gives to St. Michael four offices (emphasis mine):
  • To fight against Satan.
  • To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.
  • To be the champion of God's people: the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament.
  • To call away from earth and bring men's souls to judgment.
Strewn on the ground all around Death we see the trappings of earthly life – the material possessions and money that we cling to so eagerly during our time on earth. A silver plate, gold coins, a crown, treasure chests, pots and urns, jewelry – Death walks over the top of it all without regard for whatever value it might have to mere mortals. As the saying goes, "You can‛t take it with you."

It‛s no wonder that readers and querents alike often suppress a gasp when this card appears. In Tarot of the Gnomes, Death "walks softly and carries a big scythe." The Trump is number 13, which has a long-standing association with misfortune in many cultures. The card can refer to physical death (or the querent‛s concerns about or obsession with death). However, it‛s helpful to remember the keyword transformation. One very pertinent definition for the word is "a marked change, as in appearance or character, usually for the better."

Death prompts me to examine and explore areas where I may need to initiate or experience a transformation. Something needs to be left behind so that I can enter a new phase or stage in my life. The death of difficult times and destructive patterns will help me move toward brighter days.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Covering All the Angles Spread

As both an astrologer and tarot reader, I enjoy combining the two arts. I created this spread based on the four angles in an astrological chart, which represent four key areas of life. The purpose of the spread is to discover what you need to focus on right now in each area or simply to explore the current and projected conditions in each area.

The cards are placed on an imaginary zodiac wheel, with three cards placed on the First House (House of Self), three cards  on the Fourth House (House of Home and Family), three cards on the Seventh House (House of Relationships and Partnerships), and 3 cards on the Tenth House (House of Career).

Note that the 12 positional numbers in the spread do not represent the 12 houses. This spread examines only issues related to Houses 1, 4, 7, and 10 -- the houses on the angles of the zodiac wheel.


1. Self - what is working in my favor
2. Self - what is working against me
3. Self - forecast

4. Home and Family - what is working in my favor
5. Home and Family - what is working against me
6. Home and Family - forecast

7. Relationships and Partnerships - what is working in my favor
8. Relationships and Partnerships - what is working against me
9. Relationships and Partnerships - forecast

10. Career - what is working in my favor
11. Career - what is working against me
12. Career - forecast

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Journey through My Tarot Decks: The Hanged Man (Trump 12)

In this series of posts, I plan to discuss all of the Tarot cards in order, using a different deck for each card. Today I'm exploring Trump 12The Hanged Man – from Tarot of a Moon Garden by Karen Marie Sweikhardt.


"The garden of myth and magic,
Secret place of heart
Scattered under stars,
Where magic makes its flight
On a moonbeam of delight."

~ from "Moon Garden" by Karen Marie Sweikhardt

In Sweikhardt's Moon Garden deck, The Hanged Man is suspended from Yggdrasil, tree of the Norse god Odin. How do I know? She tells me so in the book that goes with the deck! Yggdrasil is an ash tree, and Sweikhardt notes that ash was commonly used for the traditional sacrifice of the Yule log – "equating the twelfth key of the tarot with the twelfth month." She adds that it is also occasionally linked with Twelfth Night.

On Sweikhardt's card, four runes fall from The Hanged Man's bound hands. They are Isa/Is, meaning suspension (Horik Svensson, in his book The Runes, calls it "time out"); Perth/Peord, meaning initiation (all things hidden, according to Svensson), Odin/Os (blank rune of total potential or the abyss), and a fourth rune that is just emerging and cannot be read.

The Hanged Man forms a fifth rune with his legs – Wunjo/Wyn (reversed due to his position). Sweikhardt likens this to the limbotic stage experienced by a butterfly before it emerges from the chrysalis. Svensson describes Wunjo/Wyn (which he writes as Wynn) as "the ultimate happy rune, symbolizing the old adage 'all's well that ends well.'"

Sweikhardt includes a "Ritual" for each of the cards in the Moon Garden deck. For The Hanged Man, she suggests researching the runic equivalents of the letters in your name and contemplating on the properties of those runes.

In the LWB for this deck, Laura Clarson provides the following divinatory meanings: "Life in suspension. Transition. Change. Reversal of the mind and in one's way of life. Apathy and dullness. Abandonment. Renunciation. The changing of life's forces. The period of respite between significant events. Sacrifice. Repentance. Readjustment. Regeneration. The approach of new life forces." Reversed: "Lack of sacrifice. Unwillingness to make the necessary effort. Failure to give of oneself. Preoccupation with the ego. False prophecy. Useless sacrifice."