As many of you may know I love studying religions. I have recently decided I wanted my Bachelors Degree to on Religion. I am currently taking a intro to World Religions class online and so far so good. Tarot is an amazing system of symbols, philosophical insights, mythologies and archetypes all spun together. Many see tarot as a spiritual endeavor or is a spiritual practice. But can Tarot be religious?
According to the textbook I am reading there are Seven Dimensions of Religion. Funny how it so happens to be seven, seven is a deeply spiritual number. But any way so there are seven dimensions .
1) Ritual (Private and or Public)
2) Narrative and Mythic (Stories, accounts of the universe)
3) Experiential and emotional (feelings of guilt, dread, devotion, peace, love)
4) Social and institutional (group dimensions involving shared beliefs, identity and membership)
5) Ethical and legal (Rules concerning human behavior)
6) Doctrinal and Philosophical (systematic belief structure and intellectual framework)
7) Material (things and places representing or manifesting the sacred)
I feel that Tarot fits into almost all of these classifications.
The ritual aspect is easy, there are many types of rituals associated with tarot. Cleaning rituals, pre-reading rituals, post reading rituals, shuffling and cutting rituals and so forth. However these rituals are not directed towards a deity directly some view tarot as a means to commun with a deity which is a component of worship.
Narrative and Mythic, the tarot has the Fool’s Journey a tale of the Fool’s journey through the major arcana, like that of the Hero’s journey. The journey unravels new experiences, adventures and lessons to the Fool. This type of story is mythic and accounts Truths.
Experiential and emotional, the cards themselves embodied a spectrum of emotions and experiences. The cards also cause a reaction inside ourselves that stir emotions. Tarot is purely an experience you engage in.
Social and institutional, we do not have any central authority or authoritative body (thank god) however we do unite together and call ourselves a “tarot community” or “tribe”. Some organizations do emerge to prominence and act as authority or as a guide (Heirophant or Hermit?). We often see our tarot practice as a huge part of our identity as some see their religion as a factor of their identity (for me at least). ” I am a Tarotist” = “I am a Pagan” or “I am a Jew” to me.
Ethical and legal, does the tarot teach ethics? Hard question, tarot does teach you how to become a better person through transformation, I feel is more akin to Buddhism than the ethics of Christianity or the legality of Judaism’s The Law. The tarot does represent human behaviors but does not say which are right or which are wrong.
Doctrinal and Philosophical, most definite the tarot fits this. I can see a creation myth in the first pairings of the Major Arcana with the Fool representing the abyss or state before creation proceeding with the Magician as manifestation and creation paired with High Priestess as God and Goddess. The whole Major Arcana teachings a system of philosophical framework on the nature of the cosmos and human development and spiritual Truth. Spiritual beliefs vary across readers however a common thread can be connected to most which leads us to a common shared belief in deity(s). Most readers lean towards universalism, where they believe all faiths sare speaking about the same thing in essence and are trying to achieve the same goals.
Material, though we do not have temples, churches or any sort of buildings or any place we call Mecca or the holy land we do have our decks which to some is sacred. The deck represents the sacred and can manifest the sacred. The reading space is a personal place of where the sacred is met. Many reader go out of their way to create a special room just for tarot readings. This is a clear attempt to sperate the Profane from the Sacred (mundane from divine).
Even if tarot is not “religious” based on these classifications a religion could be created based on the tarot. What are your thoughts on this?
Behold the Tarot Illuminati! This deck is amazing and a must have for any tarot reader and collecter. Please watch my card by card exploration of this deck.
The Tarot Illuminati by Erik Dunne, his first published tarot deck had taken the tarot community by storm and surprise. Those who followed Erik and the deck’s birth on Facebook got to see a masterpiece be born online. Finally the deck has been “birthed” into the world and what a deck it is!
This is a deck, which in views has skyrocketed to the top and has almost unanimous embrace as a masterpiece and is a deck, which can be placed on the level of Ciro Marchetti’s decks. I will mention that the art style is not the same of C.M as the two styles are different the reason the tarot illuminati can be placed on such a high pedestal is due to the quality, attention to detail and eye popping color.
Tarot Illuminati has nothing to do with the Secrete Society that bears the same name. Tarot Illuminati is about the process of illumination and enlightenment of the Self. The central theme is of Light and the use of Light in the deck and the descriptions in the accompanying book refer back to Light concepts and references.
Some of the decks in the first production run had damage, missing cards or other problems. Luckily my deck was not one of those so I will not be addressing any complaints by others. Buy the deck and if you get a defected one get a replacement it is simple as that. The quality of the deck is top notch for a mass produced deck published by Lo Scarabeo. The cards are borderless with gilt edges. The cards are wider than normal Lo Scarabeo decks. The card stock is firm, not flimsily. The color reproduction is great, it stays true to what I think Erik was trying to express in his cards. Images on a computer will always look better than a printed image, that is a fact because a computer screen projects the image with light while a printed image reflects light to our eyes, thus a difference in appears. Don’t forget the reproduction on papers uses ink, not computer pixels which have a wider range. With that said the images are still stunning and eye popping, true tarot eye candy!
The artwork is lush and luxurious, flowing with textures, elaborate customs and over the top realness this deck stands apart from the rest. However as wonderful as this is, in some cards this can make images look a little too busy with too much for the eyes to take in. This may be due to the shrinking of the images to card size from the original larger images. The Hierophant for example has a small head and hands compared to the rest of his body. Maybe the clothing is meant to be larger and puffed out? I am not sure of the creator’s intent however this is something I noticed. Despite this, which is a minor comment and the only “flaw” I can see.
Some of my favorite cards are Temperance, Judgment, The Fool, 2 of Swords, all the aces, 10 of Cups, 8 of Swords and 9 of Pentacles.
Overall I cannot stress enough how much I love this deck, it is a masterpiece!
As many tarot readers may notice, the images of the tarot have within them religious themes and symbols. Some cards are obvious; The Devil is prime example of this or the Hierophant modeling the image of the Roman Catholic Pope. The Hanged man can represent Jesus’ crucifixion. We also have Judgment, which resonates to us the finale judgment and the resurrection of the dead.
Next to tarot I have a very strong interest in studying religion and mythology. I am not a religious person per say, but I find that studying religion is a great way to connect and understand people as well as history. No other factor in human history has played such a powerful role in our development as religion. It has shaped our world and its influence is far reaching, for the good and for the worst.
Tarot is somewhat of a religious text or system of philosophical thought. I plan on to write more about this in future essays however it is the purpose of this essay I want to focus on one topic, the topic of Apocalypse. Apocalypse (ἀποκάλυψις) comes from the Greek word that means to un-cover or to reveal. There is also a genre of literature, which speaks about the coming Kingdom of God and God’s intervention into the world to over through the wicked and established his kingdom for all eternity. From examining the cards there is a hidden apocalyptic message inside the tarot.
To understand what the apocalyptic literature we need to understand the context of the time Jesus lived in. Jesus lived in Palestine, which was under the rule of the Roman Empire. As much freedom as the Jews were given by the Romans such as exemption from military service in Roman legions and the general ability for the Jews to run their own affairs through their local aristocracy, there was still tension between the common Jew which their foreign occupiers. On top of the taxes paid to the Temple, taxes were paid to the Empire in the form of crops or money. This was seen as blasphemous to pay taxes to support the Roman administration for the land, which they believed God had given them. Basically the common people wanted freedom from the Romans, which they saw as an enemy of God. This lead to the popularity apocalyptic writings (even though the form has been around for years), prophesies that God would intervene in history and save the Jews from the Romans as he did with their ancestors with the Egyptians.
Jewish apocalypticists believed in four major tenets.
- They held a view of cosmic dualism, in which there are two forces at work in the world, Good and Evil. All things and everyone sided with one of these forces. The current age was ruled by Evil and the age to come would be ruled by Good.
- They were pessimistic about the possibilities of life in the present evil age.
- God would come and over through the Evil that was in rule and establish his good kingdom and bring judgment on their entire world for both the living and dead.
- This intervention of God was imminent, it was close at hand.
The historical Jesus was an Apocalyptic Prophet, examining the New Testament you will see a clear apocalyptic message. Out of these messages I want to examine the sayings, which deal with the reversal of fortunes. Jesus says that the coming Judgment would involve a serious reversal for those who are in power and who possess wealth. The people who were oppressed would be first to enter the Kingdom. Read some of the following sayings of Jesus.
- “Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
- “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
- “Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing what is right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
- “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”
- “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
At this point I want to bring in the tarot and examine how these sayings of Jesus are portrayed in the tarot. To begin, the coming Kingdom of God and theresurrection of the dead for the last Judgment is represented by our Judgment card. The Judgment in tarot however is not interpreted with such religious eyes in terms of salvation or damnation, as the Last Judgment would represent. The only connection the Judgment card has with the Judgment in the coming kingdom is the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection of the dead was not the belief that people who have their physical bodies restored but instead the dead would be embodied in new spiritual bodies that would be eternal. The Judgment in tarot often shows corpse risin
g out of graves or tombs by the blaring of a horn by an Angel. This signifies that our true self is discovered and or that we have been transformed in some way that we no longer the same as before.
What about the reversals of fortune Jesus spoke about? We will see how this is connected to Judgment in tarot through the help of numerological assistance. Judgment is card twenty. Half of twenty is ten, which is the Wheel of Fortune. An older tradition of the Wheel of Fortune (which some new decks are using) depicts the Wheel of Fortuna (the goddess of fortune) who spins her wheel changing fortune. This is depicted in the Visconti Tarot and shows that people’s fortunes change, the rich can become poor and the poor can become rich. This echoes the apocalyptic message that the rich and powerful will be last and the poor and weak will become first in the kingdom.
The apocalyptic message can be spotted in a few of the minor arcana cards as well. A prime example is the four of pentacles, which depicts a man holding on to pentacles and with two pentacles at his feet and one of his head. Behind him is a city. Could this be an illusion to the sayings of Jesus, which said that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven? The next card the five of Pentacles, which shows a couple who is poor, sick and weak seeking safety and help from a church. Is this a reference to Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied? I find the flow from four of pentacles to the five of pentacles in their symbology fits these teachings nicely. The pentacles while often dealing with such earthly matters such as money do hide inside them spiritual meanings, this is just example of a hidden apocalyptic message.
In conclusion the tarot is richly embodied with many religious ideas, mythology’s, symbols and systems the apocalyptic message is just one small piece of a larger spiritual story the teaches. I encourage each and everyone of you to examine the tarot and connect it to all religious and philosophical teachings you can find. These teachings will reveal to you more about the tarot and give you new insights into yourself and the world.
During a morning mass Pope Francis commented on the topic of Tarot readers and Psychics. You can read the post here.
The title is “Tarot readers and fortune tellers cannot save you. says Pope Francis“. Here is an excerpt,
Salvation can only come through Jesus Christ, not through tarot readers and fortune tellers, Pope Francis has said. In order to solve their problems many people resort to fortune tellers and tarot cards. But only Jesus saves, and we must bear witness to this! He is the only one.
This has been circulating the tarot community on Facebook and people have been commenting on it. I felt I should make a blog post and discuss this since it relates to two topcis I love, tarot and religion.
Why did the Pope make this comment? Psychics and tarot readers are popular, if you think we have a lot of them here in the United States go outside and you will see even more. In other countries they are on Tv stations, where people call up and get advice. I know in Greece they have them, I see them on tv all the time. We do not have them any more in US, ever since Miss. Cleo. Pope Francis is from Argentina and I am sure they have the same thing going on there with the psychics and tarot readers on tv.
The Pope is making a statement about Salvation and being saved, tarot readers cannot save you only Jesus can. Being saved from what exactly? Well from Sin. Jesus saves you from sin, not tarot readers or psychics. We need to bare in mind that we are dealing with the Pope, this is Catholic theology, western perspective. I have spoken on the topic of Sin but from a Eastern Orthodox view in my post The Sin Spread. The real meaning of Sin are the actions we do that put us out of alignment from God. Correcting the mistake (the actual meaning in Greek for Sin “missing the mark”) puts us back into alignment.
The early christians associated their faith with healing. Healing is a spiritual gift of the holy spirit and is a manifestation of Divine Power (this is also the case in Jewish and Greco-Roman traditions). It is believed that healing leads to salvation. The Christian faith is true because true healing takes place, if no healing takes place then the gospel is invalid.
Any time we talk about Christianity (or any faith) and theology we need to always examine history and the development of the tradition. The New Testament is written in Greek. You always need to read the text in the orignal language. The Greek word for healing and salvation are identical. So being healed = being saved. Salvation is physical health and mental comfort/peace. The idea of Jesus leading to Salvation comes as a later development when Jesus was equated with God, ideas developed in the Gospel of John.
So what about tarot readers? Do we “save” people? I think a tarot reading or a psychic who is good and wants to help people is healing people, if the person wants healing. We are not curing physical sickness, we focus on the psyche of the person. Their soul and mind, which can become sick and through the process of a reading we can help point things out and show the folly and suggest a better root. This can lead to a transformation in the person, a healing of some kind.
I also want to point out that what I think the Pope is really saying is that he does not want Faith in Jesus/God to be replaced with something else, anything else. Your faith should be the center of your being. When you rely on another medium or believe that medium is your salvation, the thing that we bring you ultimate peace your wrong. I believe in a higher power and I believe in the tarot as a tool to access this higher power. To communicate with it and to build a relationship with the higher power. Tarot for me is not a replacement for faith but as a assisting tool in keeping my faith.
Angelo: I have always found your style of art to be very unique compared to other decks. It lies someplace in-between the abstract and realistic. It has an otherworldly feeling to it. You write that your inspiration is from the Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones. Burne-Jones used art to express Neoplatonic ideas. You believe these Neoplatonic ideas were expressed in the origins of tarot. How so? In what ways is the development of tarot influenced by Neoplatonic philosophy?
All art that attempts to render reality actually lies between abstraction and realism. The best realistic art is not merely photographic. Even the best photographs have to take this into account. Everything in a picture must communicate and to do that it must depict its subject or the details in the subject in characteristic poses that can be read by the viewer. The lighting and angle must uncover the form. For example, a woman’s breast if looked at straight on and evenly lit will become flat and loose the sensuality of its form. Similarly, a face that is evenly lit from the front will not have a nose. This is what is wrong with many flash photos. As an artist, I am not just depicting a subject as it looks, but I am showing what I feel is characteristic about it and what is important to me about how it looks. I also choose to describe the drawing in black lines—like a woodcut. This ties it to historic conventions in printing and to antique Tarot decks.
The reason that I love Burne-Jones’s work is that what he depicts are aspects of his subje
ct that are realistic in a scientific way but that are also sensual and beautiful. He is helping us to see the underlying beauty and mystery of everyday subjects. He makes mythology real and the real mythological. This is exactly what the artists of the Renaissance were after and this is an important aspect of Neoplatonic philosophy. Instead of looking to another spiritual world for grace, and writing off the physical world as unspiritual, the Neoplatonists wanted to find the spiritual in this world—the physical world. That is the point of Ficino’s commentary on Plato’s Symposium, and this book was a best-seller in the Renaissance.
The Tarot was created by artists in the Renaissance, and like all artists at that time they were influenced by Ficino’s ideas on art. For example, it is because of Ficino’s influence that the nude was added to the Star and World cards as a symbol of spiritual purity, and that the figure of Time in early decks evolved into the more spiritual figure of the Hermit. Burne-Jones studied the works of Botticelli and Michelangelo, two 15th century Neoplatonic artists, and based his work on theirs. With this style he picked up the same mystical message that is in their work.
Angelo: Other than Burne-Jones, were there any other inspirations in the creation of the Sevenfold Mystery?
Yes, I was reinterpreting Burne-Jones in my style that is heavily based on early printing techniques, particularly the woodcuts of Albrecht Durer. I also looked at the work of other Pre-Raphaelite artists especially Walter Crane, who was Burne-Jones’s apprentice. Sometime I just looked at photographs of my subject and drew from those. I have to say though, that my biggest influence is really my own earlier work.
Angelo: In your Major Arcana you use alternative titles in some of the cards. For example, The Fool is called “Stulititia”, The Hanged Man is called “The Traitor” and The Sun is called “Apollo”. The Hermit has no title. I see a mix of Latin, Greek and traditional titles. What your goal with this? There is a deeper meaning here, please explain.
It started with Stulititia (Latin for foolishness) for the Fool, because this was Burne-Jones’s name for the figure in his drawing that I based the card on. I wanted to personify all of the trumps and give them names that are like an individual’s name but also exemplifies their character. So we don’t just have a magician but Hermes the Magician. Hermes, of course, is the god of magic and lends more meaning to the card. Latin and Greek gods and personified qualities work well for this and are connected to the original meaning of the cards. I feel that Fortuna is a more important part of the tenth trump than her wheel. Some of the cards are the opposite of alternative in that they are the original names for the card, like the Traitor, or Fire. The World, card is really the Soul of the World and she is the same as Prudence. This is an important aspect of my interpretation of the Tarot and helps us to understand the Tarot as its original creators understood it. So it was natural for me to call her Prudence. It exemplifies everything that I am expressing in this deck. The Hermit is a mystic and represents the silence of meditation. When I tried to name him I found he had no name, only silence. As you can see, the process was also intuitive. I had to ask each card what his or her name was.
Angelo: What would you say was the biggest challenge while creating the Sevenfold Mystery? Was the existing system of tarot easy to mold into what you envisioned the deck to be? Do you feel something in the current system was lacking in any way?
The biggest challenge was the time it took to make the deck. I worked on this deck slowly over ten years, but that worked in my favor. As I was working on the deck letting time pass between each drawing, I was also working on writing and research that helped me develop my theories on the Tarot. It was a natural process that my insights were incorporated into the cards. I feel that this deck is a bridge between the original decks in the Renaissance, the French decks, and the occult decks. It syntheses aspects of each, showing what is compatible and enduring.
Sometimes people misunderstand what I am after. I am not interested in the history of the Tarot for history’s sake—like, just because it is old it must be better. I am interested in history because there is a real and valuable communication going on in these images. They communicate a mystical philosophy that our Renaissance ancestors inherited from the ancient world and that they wanted to pass on to us. It is like a golden thread running through Western culture. It is this philosophy in itself that I find meaningful and valuable and I have found that at times it was lost or distorted by the occultists. When the occult ideas are in harmony with this philosophy and add to it, I am all for it. But if all the occult interpretations are adding is a complex correlation that has no real meaning except to further the reputation and finances of the occultist who came up with it, then I can do without this material.
Angelo: When I look at the Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery I feel I am looking at the “real” tarot. That what I am seeing is the true meanings, the true person—the real soul of what tarot is suppose to be. In contrast, if you compare the Rider Waite Smith for Example we see the similarities, the cards match up, but on one side, the Sevenfold appears to be the soul while the Rider Waite Smith is a persona. One is “high” and one is “low.” Do you feel that what you have done is capture the “real tarot?” That the Golden Dawn was trying to reveal something through Tarot but did not fully put it out there to the public?
I find the Waite Smith Tarot very valuable. It is the first deck that I knew, the first that I used, and the most popular deck in the world. It made Tarot known around the world and I can only hope that I am contributing something as valuable.
I feel that the strength of the Waite Smith Tarot is in the intuitive art of Pamela Colman Smith. She researched historic decks and let this information work on her psyche, so that her intuition was well fed. It does not follow the teachings of the Golden Dawn closely. This was a conscious decision on Waite’s part because he did not want to publish secrets that he was sworn to protect. This, however, worked in the deck’s favor. Waite was able to let Smith do her thing on most of the cards and she was up to the task, but she did not have much time to develop the deck. She worked on it for only about six months. In his memoirs Waite mentions that he interfered with Smith on the designs of three of the trumps and this was because Smith was intuitively expressing ideas that were too close to the Golden Dawn’s teaching. I feel that the weakest aspects of the Waite Smith are the ones that are borrowed from the Golden Dawn, such as switching the places of Strength and Justice. This order breaks away from the Platonic symbolism.
By looking to the art of Burne-Jones I was actually going to the source of Smith’s style and inspiration. She worked under Burne-Jones’s direction when she was a girl working on stage sets for the Lyceum Theater, in London. Her style is firmly rooted in his. I also have the advantage of having more historic information to work with than was available a hundred years ago. And I was able to take my time and let the images come to life as my theories evolved and my intuition synthesized the information. In a way I was attempting to complete what Smith started. I am deliberately attempting to uncover the soul of the Tarot. That is why the Chariot is named Psyche and the World is named Prudence, who is the Soul of the World.
Angelo: For those who are familiar with your previous tarot deck The Alchemical Tarot. How does the Sevenfold Mystery differ from the Alchemical Tarot? Is the Sevenfold Mystery a continuation of the Alchemical or a completely different story? Is the Sevenfold Mystery built on the Alchemical in any way?
The Alchemical Tarot is based on a vision I had that showed me that the symbols on the Tarot’s trumps are interchangeable with alchemical symbols and that when that correlation is complete you can read the trumps as an alchemical text describing the Great Work of creating the Philosopher’s Stone. This is possible not because the Tarot was intended to be an alchemical text but because alchemy is one aspect of the Neoplatonic quest for enlightenment and shares common symbolism. Alchemical symbolism was popular in the Renaissance even in non-alchemical texts.
The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery is based on my research and insights into the original symbolism of the Tarot. Some of the symbolism overlaps with the Alchemical Tarot, but it also expresses Platonic mysticism. For the pips I based most of them on the symbolism that I used in the Alchemical Tarot, which is based on the suits being related to the four alchemical elements and to Pythagorean number symbolism. Unlike the Alchemical Tarot I included stylized repetitions of the suit symbols along with the Waite Smith like scenes—like the Tarot of Marseilles pips with a scene added. Also, the aces are reinterpretations of the Tarot of Marseilles aces and the Royal cards are as well, but with some alchemical elements added, such as the elemental animals on the coat of arms on each of the kings.
Angelo: Finally, what will readers get from the Sevenfold Mystery they cannot get in other decks? What does the Sevenfold Mystery do different from other decks?
I hope that using the Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery will be a way of connecting with golden thread that is the underlying mysticism running through Western culture. I have also found that it works really well for doing readings on any subject—even better than the Alchemical Tarot. I have been hearing this from other readers as well. If you are a fan of my artwork or have appreciated my books, then you will definitely want to get this deck. It is the culmination of everything I have done in Tarot.
To order your copy of the Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery click here
Not since the days of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn has an artist been able to create a tarot deck with esoteric depth and spiritual wisdom until now. Robert M. Place the creator of six tarot decks, two of which I am highlighting in this blog post, with a focus on the newest. These two decks are The Alchemical Tarot (1995) and the latest, The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery (2013). While I am focusing on The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery, whatever can be said of this deck can be equally said about The Alchemical Tarot since both are highly esoteric and symbolic rich.
So what is The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery? The deck is based on the artwork of the 19thcentury Pre-Raphaelite paintings of Edward Burne-Jones. Burne-Jones based his tall female “stunners” and melancholy heroes on the paintings of Botticelli and Michelangelo, two artists whose works are considered primary examples of Renaissance Neo-platonic mysticism. His work expresses the Renaissance ideal that physical beauty and spiritual beauty are linked in one continuum that can lead to the mystical experience of beauty itself, as a timeless, underlying reality. Plato described this reality as a radiant light that is the true food of the soul. He said that this light is made of the true essence of Virtue, a higher quality of virtue, beyond mere codes of behavior. In the Renaissance, artists, like Botticelli, symbolized this spiritual essence as an ideal female nude and my studies have shown that it is this ideal that allowed early Tarot artists to place a nude on the World card as a symbol of the primary beauty.
The structure of the Major Arcana in The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery is based on Plato’s theory of the three parts of the soul. The Soul of Reason, the Soul of Will and the Soul of Appetite. These three represented a spiritual hierarchy and as individuals developed and balanced each soul through the practice of virtue they were able to advance spiritually and operate at a higher soul level. The keys to spiritual advancement were the Cardinal Virtues. Plato and later philosophers assigned three virtues, one to each of the soul levels, and these are the same three that are depicted in the Tarot: Temperance to the Soul of Appetite, Strength to the Soul of Will, and Justice to the Soul of Reason. If we divide the twenty-one trumps into three groups of seven we find the theme of each group corresponds sequentially to these three soul levels and the sequence also depicts the three virtues that are necessary to bring them into balance.
The number seven is also very important to the structure of the Major Arcana. The number seven was of special importance derived from the seven classical planets. The planets were each named after a god; from the bottom up, they were: Luna, Mercury, Venus, Sol, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The planets were, also, believed to from a ladder between Heaven and Earth that the soul would descend at birth and at each planet the soul was given certain qualities by the god of the planet. These qualities are the source of the lists or seven virtues and seven vices. The seven planets were thought of as the soul centers of the cosmos and corresponding soul centers could be found ascending the spine, from the sacrum to the crown of the head, in the microcosm of the human body.
Robert believes that the Tarot’s trumps depict Virtue driving an ascent through the seven soul centers depicted repeatedly on three levels, corresponding to the three Platonic soul levels. The final achievement of this ascent is illustrated on the Soul of the World card, which depicts Prudence/Sophia as the light of higher consciousness and the true food of the soul.
When I saw the Major Arcana of The Tarot of the Sevenfold Mystery I felt a resonance with it’s symbolism. The neo-platonic symbolism as it is presented here is refreshing. I feel that the original inspiration of the decks like the Thoth and Rider Waite Smith (of the Golden Dawn) were based on these neo-platonic ideas however the truth was concealed partly in these decks. However with the Tarot of the Sevenfold mystery, the true philosophy behind the tarot is exposed for all. This is the true soul of tarot and all other decks seem to just be masks that do not reveal with real truth of tarot.
Another thing I love about the artwork is the simplicity, boldness and clarity of it. It is not flashy, not cluttered with useless details. It is direct and to the point. It is timeless.
Super Bowl is nearing and you know what that means? Tarot prediction time! I do this every year and have a very good track record on this. This year the Baltimore Ravens will face off the San Francisco 49ers.
Time to shuffle
Pulling to cards while asking, who has the better chance at winning I pulled one card for each team. The Ravens have the 4 of Pentacles and the 49ers have the 2 of Cups. Who is the winner?
THE BALTIMORE RAVENS - The 4 of Pentacles is a good possible indication of strong defense and also a sign of acquisitions. It is a pentacle which is a material card which in this card shows in my eyes winning because you receive a trophy as a prize.
90% of the time when the Death card comes up in a reading it normally speaks about a metaphorical death or some other ending, transition or change in your life. However there is 10% of the time when it actually means Death. Now regarding this 10% it will not tell you that you will die or someone will die, it will often be referring to how a death has impacted you.
So how will you know?
The other night I was doing readings for people, doing the celtic cross for a man the center cards of the spread were Death crossed by the Queen of Swords. My first reaction was to say ’did a woman die?”. The reason I said this was Death paired with court cards can be indicating the death of a person. There was a woman whom this man worked with that passed away. I began to use descriptive words about this woman using qualities of the Queen of Swords to verify it was her and the man validated that these qualities represented the woman who passed.
There are other ways to interpret this combination of cards however my gut reacted before my brain could say something and pin pointed the death of woman, instead of going into “spiritual mode” where you abstract the cards from more mundane events.
The lesson here? Death can mean death sometimes, often when paired with a court card (people cards) and go with your gut reaction. You will know when it represents death and when it does not.
Today’s subject is non Tarot related. While my blog is “That’s Totally Tarot”, a blog about Tarot I do want to discuss other topics regarding spirituality. I am an avid studier of religions, philosophies and all sorts of spiritual beliefs. This may be due to my early in life awareness of death as a child. An awareness and understanding that has caused episodic anxiety attacks, since the rough age of six. So it would seem logical that I would invest much of my time seeking the answers to the most important question, does consciousness continue after death?
My religious background is Greek Orthodox, however I never felt it had any real impact on me. I never felt that I identified with it much, it has been a complicated relationship, one that has changed as I was able to better understand it in comparison to western christian denominations.
Typical christians often believe that after someone dies they go to heaven or hell. This notion is incorrect according to actual original Christian teachings. The idea that our soul would rise to a higher plane is Platonic in originations. To the early Christians the goal was not for us to go to heaven, but for heaven to come to us. In the Orthodox church their is a belief in the two judgments. The first is partial and the second is the Last Judgment. In the partial judgment souls all go to the same place, we could call this the underworld, hades in the classical Greek sense. They are then separated based on righteousness. The souls that lived well are in the “Bosom of Abraham” and are comforted. While those who were not righteous are alone the in the dark. Souls stay in this state until the Final Judgment.
In the Abrahamic faiths you basically get one shot at life, fuck it up and you are damed. Do well and you get an ultimate prize. However when you move eastward we find the notion of reincarnation in Hinduism and Buddhism. Reincarnation has been imported to the west by new agers, pagans and others which has lead to a misunderstanding of the original connotations of what reincarnations is all about. In the west reincarnation is in many ways glamorized and viewed as a good thing. The idea of having past lives is appealing because we like the idea of being someone famous in the past, but actually most of time you were not. If anything you were probably the servant to the Queen of England than then Queen herself. Life in the developed world is generally good and we like the idea of coming back and living in this world again to enjoy more of the pleasures life can offer.
The western spiritual view of reincarnation often follows like this, we as souls choose the lives we want to live before we are incarnated. We as souls have lessons to learn in this world and we work at learning these lessons over many incarnations. Reincarnation is seen as an opportunity to experience more and do more in this world.
In the east reincarnation was a bad thing because the goal was not to be born again in this world, instead of being an opportunity, reincarnation is viewed as a burden. The ultimate goal was to escape the cycle of rebirth, known as moksha (liberation). Once you escape the cycle, you never incarnate again. Karma was the key to moving up. Karma is the law of cause and effect. With good actions came good, higher rebirths. Bas actions followed with lower rebirths.
My personal views on reincarnation is that is sucks. Why? Because ultimately reincarnation says you as an individual is impermanent. This is central to Buddhism, there is no soul like in the Western view. No fixed entity that is me or you. Instead there is a stream of consciousness from one moment to the next that always changes. So me being Angelo Nasios, reincarnation says that the life I am in now is but one of many and their is no true Self, no Angelo. Being a Leo, I shutter to think their is no Me, no Self no Angelo. I prefer the idea that my soul is fixed, Angelo is Angelo and their is a unique Self, distinct and individual. Reincarnation also sucks in my view because life on this world is not all the great. This may be pessimistic but it is true. The fundamental teaching in Buddhism is that all life is discomfort/suffering. Life is very hard, why would we want to reincarnate in a world of discomfort continuously?
I have been reading “The Mustard Seed : The Revolutionary Teachings of Jesus” by OSHO. This book is a commentary on the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas. So far everything I have read has been eye opening. In one section OSHO talks about Jesus knowing about reincarnation and that reincarnation is real but Jesus knew that reincarnation made people lazy. People postponed doing spiritual growth, they could simply do it in another life. There is no hurry, do it later. Jesus knowing this fact made it his message that there is no time left, you only get one shot so “repent” now. When you believe in reincarnation you begin to relax, Jesus does not want you to relax, there needs to be “frication” so you can become crystalized, which is the loss of ego.
I was taught/began my tarot journey in 1986. The guy who taught me was a chirpy Londoner, and he gave the basics. Nothing elaborate. No systems. No symbolic depth. His readings were straight forward. He said what he thought the card meant. No peeling back of layers, psychological analysis, no astrological or numerology associations.
JUST. READ. THE. CARD.
I am sure readers prior to this did pretty much the same? There did not seem to be a dearth of books on the subject around the time I started.
Yet in 17 years or so, the market has exploded. Thousands and thousands of decks now to choose from. Books on every aspect and subject you can think of within this wonderful world of tarot.
Systems abound. Systems within systems. Heck knows how many ways to interpret a card or selection of cards in relation to each other.
Have we over complicated things? If so, why? Does this enhance or hinder what we are trying to convey? If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, shouldn’t we just call call it a duck? Instead of giving in to the urge to elaborate as much as possible, thus losing site of the real nuts and bolts?
I would have to respond to this statement and say that the complexity of tarot is not a new phenomena. The origination of tarot and it’s many associations such as numerology or astrology are old and can be traced back to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The earliest and first association between Tarot and the occult was proposed by Court de Gebelin (1773-1784). This idea influenced Etteilla, who viewed Tarot as the Book of Thoth. Levi later on associated Tarot with Kabbalah (specifically the Tree of Life).
Now in the modern age with the creation of Psychology resulting from Freud and Jung, Tarot is finding connections with that to now.
Why do we make all these connections with tarot? Why make all these layers and systems to learn? On one level we may be trying to solve a problem, trying solve the mystery of the tarot images. Analyzing it’s symbols, extracting every once of meaning, very speck of spiritual wisdom we can from it. Why not? The tarot is a highly rich and complex deck of cards with so much symbolism and teaching to learn from we ought to utilize any system we can on tarot. When we are able to combine all these systems together we create a unified tarot philosophy.
However I do not agree and we should be careful not to think the tarot originally had these systems built into it as an intention of the creator. This is a false notion, all systems were later applied to the tarot, as a way to connect the tarot to a far distant past, incorporating it to ancient mystery schools and the like.
How useful are all these systems when it comes down to practical readings? That is what I feel to be the underlining issue of concern and reason the question was asked. As I mentioned I believe we should explore the tarot and dig deeper as much as we can, for personal growth and spiritual development. But when it is time to read for others we should try to hold all that spiritual knowledge back at first. We cannot jump into a reading and start digging into a client’s psychological states, neurosis, phobias, compulsions and behaviors. Nor should we jump into the teachings of Kabbalah, Hermeticsism and Gnosticism. We should approach the tarot with a grounded head and focus on first the mundane. Because it is the mundane which people are concerned with, it is the mundane with people are aware of. After this step, you can dig deeper and explore the psychological or spiritual as either a possible cause or root to the mundane problem and offer advice based on the knowledge you have from your study of the tarot and it’s systems.
I do feel that tarot has become somewhat complicated but only for those who let it become complicated. Tarot is only complicated if you feel unsatisfied with what you know, always seeking new systems and new knowledge to satisfy yourself. This is all wrong, the goal is not to become satisfied with what you have learned, thinking, “I learned it all”, you never learn it all. You always learn, this is what I have been saying for ever. Tarot is a life long study, don’t complicate it, just flow with it.