Hello everyone, I hope you are doing okay in these strange times.
I thought it was about time I gave you an update on how things are progressing with the deck release. I have done quite a bit of work adapting the deck to a new size…Tarot size, and so I want to release three sizes, Poker, Tarot and Large, but I might end up releasing them one at a time.
I have also recently started to learn how to make boxes and packaging and that is again delaying the release. I am sorry to those of you waiting but I can only say that when it finally arrives it will be as good as I can make it. There are so many graphic skills that I have to learn as I am primarily a visual artist. On the good side it seems my brain is feeling very receptive to these new programs now so I am really enjoying the process.
I can’t give a date at this point but let’s hope it’s before summer is out.
In September 2005 I started painting Tarot cards to amuse myself. My first card was the Hanged Man, which was inspired by the sad tale of a brilliant musician called Koh Morota who drowned himself in a river. More cards followed and the project quickly snowballed into an epic of creation that lasted thirteen years. I worked on it full time for all that time, but it never felt like work, even though it was often exhausting. I was excited to start in the mornings, lost in the flow all day, and reluctant to finish at night. It was a wonderful adventure right from the start and I wish I could do it all again. Creating my deck was an all consuming obsession, and a passion I happily sacrificed a great deal to achieve. I turned forty in 2006 and this crisis of mid life no doubt was part of my inspiration to do something really epic while I still had the energy and opportunity. I made several life style changes for the sake of my health and these transformations helped me to find the clarity and determination to really do some intense work. One thing fed into another, and the work itself healed me and transformed my life further. It was an amazingly therapeutic feedback loop. The process of making a Tarot suited my talents perfectly because I love reading and writing as well as painting, and I have always had an interest in occult matters, so the research was just as enjoyable as the artwork. I started reading the Tarot in my early twenties when I was given a copy of the Thoth deck, and I have always greatly admired the artwork of Frieda Harris.
Over time I developed a system of creation, a cycle of production timed with the phases of the moon. I would brain storm, research and make sketches from the new moon onwards and usually come up with a drawn design by the full moon. Then I would paint the card and do all the detail work in the waning moon. There was a lot of sketching, and a lot of dreaming. I have recently included a gallery of sketches on my Tarot Gallery page. Ideas come to when you plant the seeds. Often I would go to sleep thinking about the ideas and wake up with a solution. It always felt like I was receiving the material rather than conceiving it. I would play around with shapes and symbols and then suddenly a design would pop out that I knew would be a great painting. I also found that life would reflect the art, and synchronistically generate ideas with appropriate events and emotional crises. Certain cards had very powerful effects on my psychic energy and even my physical health. These effects were sometimes temporarily distressing but in the end always beneficial and empowering. I had always used art as a psychoanalytic tool, and the Tarot seemed to magnify this application immensely. It was a truly fascinating experience and I came to realise that the cards regarded as the most difficult psychologically were actually the most rewarding.
Once I had my design I would cut a 50 by 35cm piece of rag paper (300 gsm Arches medium rough), stick it to my drafting board and draw it up, with all the lettering and symbols included. It seemed very important to me to do the lettering by hand as a part of the painting rather than in post production. In retrospect I would have made my life much easier if I had kept the text separate, but it did make the deck design unique. I mostly used acrylic inks for the base colours. They are great for doing waterproof transparent areas, which you can then easily overpaint with watercolour or gouache for detail. The texture of the rag paper really shines through and its still possible to see the drawn design underneath. If you want to make beautiful pictures you need good quality materials. Some cards came quickly and easily. The Minors were a joy to create and took only a year to produce. I developed a system of geometric and numerological designs that really took off. There was a lot of compass work, and a lot of sacred geometry, and absolutely no digital work needed on any of them. What a gift! Unfortunately producing such a surprisingly satisfying run of Minors made me dissatisfied with the full set of Majors I had produced before that, and ended up inspiring me to paint them all again. I’d probably advise creators to start with the Minors, because then you are at the top of your game when you get to the more difficult cards. Another surprising thing about the Minors was how much I loved painting the cards I had always thought of as difficult, like the Nine of Swords and the Five of Discs. I really learned to appreciate that every card is a glorious paradox. I think perhaps if the Thoth deck has a flaw it is that its hard cards are a little too gloomy and one sided.
For many of the Majors and all the Courts, the main problem was coming up with a good figure pose. This was done with the assistance of my photographer partner. Almost all of the figures I posed for and he photographed, and some the other way around. I then drew from the photographs, adapting and morphing the figures in various ways. In some cases I even changed the sex. Getting a good pose meant finding a pleasing shape that reflected the meaning of the card and fitted nicely into the shape of the design. In some cases we took literally hundreds of photos before finding the right one. It was the first example of how essential digital technology would be for this deck. The Courts were particularly gruelling for me and a few of them I painted three or four times! The Majors also had at least two versions and in some cases three or four. Each one took ages to paint, in some cases months of work. I thought I’d wasted a lot of time on redundant versions (although I really enjoyed painting all of them and did not regret any of it). However when I reached the final stage of creation, digitising and manipulating images, I realised I could use all the versions and in fact every single painting would be invaluable as collage material. It was quite an exciting (if rather tiring) stage of development. At least a year was spent on shuffling bits of painting about on the computer. It would be quite a different deck without the digital collaging I did on many of the Majors and Courts. A much less satisfying one for me at any rate. My one rule was to only use hand painted elements. Some of the cards ended up with literally hundreds of fragments and dozens of layers, with files of more than a gigabyte. There are many versions of each card, leading up to the final version. Some of the most complex collages are the Magus, the Empress, the Priestess, and the Emperor, though there are plenty of others as well. Some of the Majors are completely without digital alteration, such as Death and the Devil. Generally speaking, the mandalas in the deck are pretty much as painted. I loved painting the mandalas and it’s something I’ve continued to do after finishing the deck.
I have never painted anything digitally and I probably never will. Painting to me is all about the translucence and tactile qualities of paper and paint. I’m not naturally a digital artist of any kind, but for this project it seemed to be necessary, and in the end I did really enjoy the collaging and its endless possibilities. I did all my own formatting for print as well, including a very laborious late addition of bleed areas. In fact, I have done absolutely everything myself, learning on the job, which is partly why it all took so long. I am far too much of a perfectionist control freak to do it any other way. For much the same reason I will go on publishing the deck independently. It’s the only Tarot deck I will probably ever create, though it may change a bit from time to time, and so I want to keep total control of every aspect of its emergence, just as I did its creation. I am currently considering my options as to the third edition. A lot depends on whether the Virus shuts Chinese production down again because that is certainly where it will be printed, one way or another. We are in very uncertain times, but all this isolation is a good opportunity for some meditation and self reflection. It’s a good time to be a Hermit like me.
Take care and look after each other,
I have recently uploaded a Tarot Gallery to the site with a selection of my favourite cards, and I’ve decided to post my thoughts inspired by the cards in that gallery, one at a time. It could prove rather tangential, but then my Tarot has always been about the bigger picture. I like to look for messages and hidden meanings in my work because paintings always mean so much more than you think they do when you paint them, and Tarot art is if anything even more fertile in this respect. At the end I will add the interpretation of the card from my guidebook, to try and bring it back to the Tarot.
Mercury is in Pisces and going retrograde soon so it seems like a good time for emotive and nostalgic communications. Venus has just gone into Aries (my own placement) making me feel all confident about getting out there, and it’s a super full moon in Leo with happy aspects to Mars. So let’s get started!
It has been raining all winter here in soggy Scotland, and I am missing my sunburnt home land and grieving the terrible and catastrophic bush fires. Having lived in Australia for forty years, its unique wilderness is very much a part of my soul, and the spiritual power behind the Asherah Tarot. All art is inspired by nature and this Tarot is no exception. Not only are we dependant on ecosystems and wildernesses for material sustenance, but also for spiritual and artistic inspiration. My great love affairs have been with wild places, and with the creatures that inhabit them. I love Scotland very much too, and I live now on a magical island which I will talk about in later posts, but compared to Australia its ravaged ecosystem is an empty wasteland. People who have not experienced the rich and unique biodiversity of Australia do not understand just how much has been lost in these terrible fires.
Looking through the cards in the gallery I felt drawn towards the Seven of Wands, one of my all time favourite cards, and it occurred to me that it looked a little bit like a Koala on Fire.
People cry for the koalas, because they are so very cute, and because they are too slow and gentle to survive this cruel and disastrous world. They are a symbol of the spiritual way, climbing the Tree, dozing in meditation, chewing on their vegetarian diet, and finally being sacrificed in the flames of our materialist hell. Their kind eyes stare out from our TV screens, suffering terrible wounds without complaint. They died in their hundreds of thousands in these fires, but they are just one species in the long list of incinerated wildlife. As you might know my personal favourites are the flying foxes. In a land full of highly intelligent creatures, they are the supreme sentient beings. Sun baking and socialising noisily during the day in huge colonies, soaring and sipping nectar at night, they are a mammal like no other. Sadly they are widely demonised and persecuted, and they suffer more than any other creature, dying of heat stress in their thousands, starving in droughts, crucified on barb wire fences and in fruit tree netting. They die and they die, and one day in the not too distant future they will be gone forever, and we will have lost the chief pollinator of the forests, and the pollinator of our imaginations as well.
I love the intoxicating smell of the Australian bush, the shimmering eucalyptus haze, and the sonic chorus of all that teeming life. I love the lizards of all shapes and sizes, from massive goannas to tiny skinks, and swimming Water Dragons. I love the snakes, fantastically beautiful in their shimmering silkiness and so psychic you are unlikely to see one before it senses you and disappears. I love the spiders too, especially the huge and harmless huntsmen who come and quietly live in the corners of your house, eating mosquitos. I love the ants and the fireflies and the beetles.
I love the pretty faced wallabies, the big red kangaroos and the cuddly tree climbing kangaroos of the northern tropical forests; I love the wombats making burrows, the shy platypus in the creeks and echidnas, so unique and amazing, like little spiky tractors digging up ants nests. Possums and singing frogs rule the night, while the day belongs to the birds, and they are unrivalled anywhere in the world in their variety and numbers. It would take far too long to describe the wonderful bird life. Their fearlessness makes them the most well loved of all creatures. Most Australians know some birds personally, and bond with magpies or cockatoos or often a whole horde of various characters. The sounds of their songs are the music of my soul.
There is no end to the sheer abundance of wild life in just a few acres of bush, or even in the cities, which are increasingly a refuge of last resort. Anyone who knows the bush is aware that far more than a billion lives have been lost in this recent apocalyptic fire season. And those that didn’t burn are now starving, because more than twelve million acres have been reduced to lifeless ash. The thought of so much life being lost in such a huge area is soul destroying. Species that were already threatened, are now pushed to the very brink of extinction and beyond. It is wound to the heart of the wilderness that will never heal. The sheer scale of this tragedy puts the petty craziness of human existence into perspective. The loss of the unique and ancient Australian ecosystem is one the group soul of our species is unlikely to recover from. Climate change is a direct result of human activity, so not only are we are in mourning for all those precious animals, birds, reptiles, insects and plants, and the inspiration they gave us, but we are writhing with guilt and horror. The destructive power of the human race far outweighs our creativity. In the end we create only one thing it seems, and that is hell on earth. This seems a dark way to start my revived blog, but I have promised myself to be authentic and speak from the heart, however painful that might be, and to try and talk about what matters most to me.
If there is an upside to all this grief, it is proof that we have loved a great deal. I loved painting the fire cards and I love seeing them in a reading. Their passionate warmth and promise of excitement banishes my cold wet pessimism. Passion for art and music and the wilderness are what make life worth living. When we are filled with enthusiasm, we are truly alive.
Seven of Wands
Esoteric Title : Valour
Mars in Leo
Opposition to our true will inevitably arises from the accolades of the last card (the Six of Wands), both within ourselves and from the outside world. It is time to stand our ground and live our dreams, a struggle without a guaranteed outcome. Sevens indicate a blockage of some kind, and its important not to let road rage surface during these inevitable traffic jams. The Seven of Wands is a lion shaped candelabra (a Menorah, associated with Asherah) holding seven incandescent Flame Hearts. The lion is gripping the seven pointed star of Venus in its teeth and has a look of excitement and intensity. It suggests the joy of a battle fought for an honourable cause.
The sphere of Netzach is ruled by Fire and is a dynamic and energising influence in the fiery suit of Wands. The attribution of Mars in Leo makes this card a truly explosive dose of passionate Fire energy. Mars the warrior is vitalised and stabilised by one of the most commanding and dominating of signs. The potential for the use of this abundant energy for higher purposes is increased by the creative Venusian influence of Netzach, the selfishness and egotistical lower nature of Leo being modified by an active polarity with the collective mind. Once Leo’s tendency to forceful histrionics and desire gratification has been curbed, the higher spiritual Love nature that is the gift of Venus can emerge in all its glory.
The gift of a vivid creative imagination and dramatic flair that this card depicts needs to be balanced by self discipline and routine to become a truly productive force. The intensity and excitability of this combination of influences can indicate impetuous and ill considered activity and its important to tame these unruly tendencies and develop the ability to focus and to finish what has been started. Versatility is the nature of the Sevens and it requires careful management not to turn into dilettantism.
This card suggests we have the energy to overcome any obstacle, if we are motivated by noble intentions and willing to do the work required. The good fight is often a losing battle, at least in material terms, but luckily in the spiritual, archetypal world of the suit of Wands, losing is in fact winning. This is the secret of Love in its highest Venusian manifestation. Adversity and loss are spiritually beneficial and so the Seven of Wands is the most positive of the Sevens. It is a victory of Love.
Greetings to you all!
I have decided it is time to rework the cards and reassess the means of production so I plan to withdraw them from sale and rerelease them a few months later in a third edition. There will be changes to a few of the cards that I have decided are not completely satisfactory and also a rethink of the container issue. A tin or a pouch of some kind and hopefully a hard copy of the revised guide book. I’m looking at releasing the third edition at the beginning of the Year of the Rat (next year), which will mark new 60 year cycle. I also want to try and improve the site situation as well so there is a lot to do. I am hesitant to name a release date yet because these things always take longer than you expect.
Please note that on Septembers full moon I will withdraw the second and first editions from sale in case you want to get a copy of any of them before they go.
I still do see the deck and the book as a work in progress, and so I intend to continue being an independent creator, and keeping total control of my creative content. Of course I won’t mess with the core images. I’m too lazy to go through all that again! But there are one or two cards that really need to change.
The last year has been rest and recovery time for me, essential down time after more than ten years intense work on the cards, followed by moving to the opposite side of the world, but now finally I am starting to regain my strength and inspiration for the task at hand. Leaving the city to live on a beautiful island has done wonders for my health and happiness and I now feel I can get to work again. I am so very grateful to all of you for your support and love over the years. The response to the release of the Asherah Tarot totally exceeded my expectations and it’s thanks to you all that I am now inspired to get back to work and make this deck the best that it can be.
I am very happy to announce the imminent release of the Asherah Tarot!
I am planning to commence sales on the 24th of June. I will be offering a Jumbo size (3.5 X 5.5 inches or approximately 9cm X 14cm) deck through Game Crafter, with linen finish and UV coating, a 20 page full colour booklet and box, plus a pdf download of the guide book. Exact prices are yet to be decided but will be in the region of 60 – 70 US dollars plus shipping.
I will also release a Poker size deck (2.5 X 3.5 cm) by the end of the year, and it will be somewhat cheaper, but I do recommend the larger size to fully appreciate the richly detailed artwork. I have been very pleasantly surprised by the quality of printing from Game Crafter.
The great struggle has finally reached the point of manifestation! Eleven years of truly obsessive hard work has finally crystalized into a deck of cards. I am releasing the First Edition in as high a quality as I can find, because it has to do the art work justice, and because I want to generate maximum enjoyment. Production costs are high, especially as they are in US dollars, but the results are satisfying. I will work on finding more convenient distribution for other parts of the world, but that could take six months to a year, as my life is demanding urgent attention now. The shipping is quite fast to Australia, and I hope it will be so for other parts of the world.
I will email this announcement to everyone on my mailing list, and update it with details and links as they come to hand. If you wish to be added to the list please email me.
Thank you so much for all your enthusiasm and encouragement over the years…I doubt I could have made it to the end of the road without them.
Numerical Value : 3
Esoteric Title : Daughter of the Mighty Ones
Path 14 : Daleth (Door)
Chokmah – Binah
Planet : Venus
Double Letter : Peace – War
Sepher Yetzirah : Illuminating Intelligence
The Empress is the goddess of creation, giving life and taking it away. She is the Solar feminine, consciousness creating union. As the creative and destructive aspect of feminine energy, she is continuously conceiving new life in infinite variety and consuming it again it in death. As the motive power of love, she inspires creativity and passion of all kinds. When we love what we do our work shines. When we feel love for ourselves and for all created life forms, we become happy and productive. Love is the great creative energy of life, and so the Empress rules over all creation effortlessly. Who else but the great goddess can make things make themselves? She doesn’t bother forming men from clay, but simply delegates the endless perpetuation of material existence to the powers of attraction and reproduction.
The Empress is ruled by the planet Venus, or Aphrodite, who is a goddess of Love, in the broadest and highest sense. She rules not only sexual attraction, but the love between friends and colleagues, and even the love of an artist for their work. As passion in all its manifestations, her gift is the power to create new forms in any realm. She is the carrier of the dream who fertilises our aspirations. The mysterious phenomena of magnetic attraction goes much deeper than physical sexuality, and is an urge that is both psychological and spiritual. It is a desire to know and be known, the need of the soul for energetic interchange on higher levels. In the words of Dion Fortune, the cult of Aphrodite was “concerned with the subtle interaction of the life force between two factors; the curious flow and return, the stimulus and reaction, which plays so important a part of relations between the sexes, but extends far beyond the sphere of sex.”
The Empress is the Illuminating Intelligence, who fills us with enlightenment and inspiration. This title is a suggestion of her Solar Goddess origins, which are very clearly symbolised in this card, by her head dress and by the sun rising behind her. The Solar feminine is the life giving energy of the suns rays, which makes all things grow and heals our wounds and sorrows. The sun gives to all without favour, and under its blissful warmth we all come together joyously to create society and family. Its brilliant light gifts us with the power to see reality for what it is, and work with it constructively for the greater good. It can also bring death and drought, and so it has much in common with the great goddess. It’s very easy to understand why Sun Goddesses were so common throughout the ancient world and also why they have been so ruthlessly suppressed by the patriarchy.
The pink bat wings of this Empress are reminiscent of a birth canal, and they reach out to embrace the whole world. Her fingers elongating into wing bones represent our universal connection in spirit, and also reference the mega bat totem of the artist. She presides over the union of the waters of emotion with the fecund earth of material existence, the result of which is unlimited fertility, which is why a waterfall framed by lush vegetation forms her back drop. In the mythology of the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna, an earlier and more powerful version of Aphrodite, the rite of her sacred marriage to the vegetation god Dumuzi ensured the seasons harvest would be fruitful. Inanna was a goddess of both Love and War, reflecting the full spectrum of feminine divinity. Originally the deity was both dark and light, and only later became divided. The passions can lead to conflict as well as union, and in fact the two often come together, hence the meaning of the double letter of this card, Peace and War. If we are honest the desire to make love and the desire to fight are not so very different, either in intent or in result. The feminine archetype needs to be rebalanced by remembering its warrior aspect. Its all very well to hope for peace and kindness and love, but we also must be ready to fight when we have to. All nature must struggle to survive, and we are no exception.
Both the dove and the serpent are connected with the Tree of Life, the dove being the representative of the higher worlds and the serpent that of the lower chthonic realm. They are also often characterised as two types of love energy, one passive and the other aggressive, Agape and Eros. The dove represents the ability to give life and it appears in Christianity as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, which is fertilising the womb of the Grail in the Ace of Cups. The “Holy Spirit” has usurped the throne of Asherah, the original feminine divinity in the Hebrew triad. Father, Son and Holy Ghost are represented in the Qabalah by Chokmah, Tiphareth and Binah respectively, and Binah is very much the sephirah of the goddess. In this card the dove is perching on an alchemical symbol for Salt, which is the attribution of the Empress and the function of feeling. Salt represents Love and Tears and its properties are bitterness and wisdom. It also refers to the great primordial sea of Binah from which all life emerged. Tears and sorrow are bitter but they teach wisdom. Binah is ruled by Saturn and this is reflected in its emphasis on material restrictions. The gift of life is also a responsibility, and often a very demanding and limiting one.
The Hebrew letter that rules this card is Daleth, the Door or the Womb. The Empress is the womb of nature in all its abundant fruitful glory. She is all mothering and sublimely beautiful but also quite ruthless and brutal. Being born is the beginning of dying because what lives must inevitably die. So the door of Daleth goes both ways, being the Gate of Heaven from which all life emerges and through which it returns to dust. The path of Daleth on the Tree goes from Binah to Chokmah, linking the All Mother with the All Father, and forming a cross with the path of the High Priestess. Metaphorically she is the outpouring of life energy that results from the equilibration of the feminine and masculine polarities, natural creation in all its glory. Her crown is a flaming solar symbol of her ancient origins as a Sun Goddess, and it is surrounded by the twelve stars of the zodiac. Her gown is the green of the sphere of Netzach, which is the sphere of Venus. The number three refers to the product of the union between the one and the two, and is traditionally the number of the goddess.
If we want to have a future, we must learn the art of the gardener and the healer and become the faithful stewards of all creation. Our mechanistic, money driven society is toxic to anyone with a heart and soul, male or female, and at the core of its dysfunction is a lack of respect for our own feminine side, for the feminine divinity or archetype, and for Mother Earth herself. In order for us to evolve as individuals and as a species we must all learn to respect and value our creativity, and our emotional connection to the planet and all its inhabitants. Acknowledging the intrinsic spiritual unity and material interdependence of all life on Earth is the only hope we have to ensure our survival and the preservation of this beautiful planet. This profound realisation is the gift of consciousness, the illumination of the Solar feminine.
The values and qualities of the Empress are integral to our well being. She is compassionate, loving, and sensitive to the needs of all, with her arms open to embrace the world. There is a great power in her vulnerability, and in her uninhibited gift of love, especially when she remembers to include herself in her loving and caring, and establish healthy boundaries. An unbalanced manifestation of the Empress can result in an excess of self sacrifice, and a tendency to smother and over protect. It’s important not to try and compensate for the lack of Empress ability in others by doing everything for them. The power to nurture and create is available to all of us regardless of gender, and we don’t do anyone any favours when we allow them to avoid developing it. Our souls are bisexual, and we all have a feminine side and a masculine side. A balanced, sane individual has integrated both equally and actualised all four modes of self expression; intuition, feeling, thinking and sensation.
The Empress is a very powerful and demanding influence, requiring us to get real with our dreams and plant them into fertile earth. She judges by results and is not impressed by big talk and empty promises. She can also be a destructive and limiting force, because she binds souls into form and in doing so dooms us to experience death. This might be why our society has pushed her to the edges of consciousness, and denied the Goddess in our religion. We fear the Mother archetype, because she consumes us and controls us and we spend our formative years trying to escape her. Life is a journey in which we run from her grasp and then are unwillingly returned into her arms, and there is no escaping that fate, so we might as well relax and allow life to unfold as it wishes. The first lesson of creativity is the humble acceptance of what is given to us. We cannot consciously control or will our creations, but simply prepare to receive them. We prepare our tools, hone our skills and wait for the inspiration to arrive.
The great goddess is an inexorable force of nature who makes a mockery of our pretensions of mastery and control. We are free to act on our desires, but we do not choose our desires. Due to our cultural conditioning, when we envision the divine feminine we see only her light aspect, loving and maternal, but the truth is there is a much more elemental and sexual side to her. A limitless sexual energy and a limitless creative potential, which truly scare those not able to freely express their own elemental nature. Love is not just nurturing, it is all consuming, and often quite destructive. When people fear the feminine within, they fear loss of control and the forces of chaos. And yet it is from that chaos that all creativity and life energy emerges. Without surrender we become barren and lifeless. The divine feminine is the forces of nature, our animal passion, and the deep underlying connection to all life and to the Earth itself. It is the root chakra, the source of all our power and material existence.
Numerical Value : 2
Esoteric Title : Lady of the Silver Star
Path 13 : Gimel (Camel)
Kether – Tiphareth
Planet : Moon
Double Letter : Wisdom – Folly
Sepher Yetzirah : Uniting Intelligence
The High Priestess is a huntress of the ineffable guarding access to the Inner Realms. Her powers are attractive and hypnotic, and her gifts are profound intuitive wisdom and enlightenment. The High Priestess is as deep as the still waters of the ocean of the unconscious that lie behind her. She is the Anima or Soul Image protecting the hidden treasures of the collective unconscious, that fecund, intuitive, imaginative world which all artists and poets inhabit. Largely passive in the material world, she is a silent and secretive soul, who meditates and studies the mysteries. Her meditative stillness is indicative of an intense and active inner life. The two lotus crowned pillars on either side of the card represent the Pillars of Severity and Mercy, while the High Priestess herself is the unifying central pillar, resolving and equilibrating all pairs of opposites. Life is continual process of rhythmic balancing between two poles of activity, and the High Priestess represents this eternal fluid motion, the ebb and flow of life.
The double letter Wisdom – Folly is an appropriate paradox to describe the way of the High Priestess. True spirituality can seem foolish, but its rewards are peace of mind, serenity and a clarity of purpose, without which it is impossible to make the most of our material existance. Modern society demands continuous activity and material success at any cost, and this fixation is highly detrimental of both to our psychological well being and our practical effectiveness. Stillness, receptivity and intuitive wisdom are essential qualities for sanity and happiness, as well as being the basis for truly useful productivity.
The High Priestess sits before a veil decorated with pomegranates, symbolic of the Veil of Illusion that separates us from the mysteries and from our own unconscious minds. Pomegranates (literally apple with many seeds) were one of the first fruits ever cultivated, originating in Mesopotamia and travelling to all corners of the ancient world. As the true fruit of the Tree of Knowledge it is associated with the study of the Qabalah, which is known as entering the Garden of the Pomegranates. The pomegranate was regarded by the Greeks as the fruit of the dead, and features in the story of Persephone. The journey to the Underworld is a central myth in all mythologies and a metaphor for descending into the abyss to gain spiritual wisdom. This is an experience of great sacrifice and suffering, but also the essential source of all creative inspiration and self knowledge. The title Uniting Intelligence refers to the merging of the individual into the great sea of our collective unconscious, from which the wisdom of the ages emerges.
The central, integral position of the path of the High Priestess, from Tiphareth to Kether, says everything about her awesome spiritual power. Her path crosses the Abyss and passes though Daath, the hidden sphere of Gnosis, or spiritual knowledge. Gnosis provides the inner strength we need to bridge the void, and cross the great desert that divides divinity and mankind. The Hebrew letter is Gimel, the Camel which carries its water supply in its hump, a metaphor for spiritual self sufficiency. This path forms the upper reaches of the middle pillar of the Tree, that of balance and harmony. The middle pillar is known as the Path of the Arrow by which a mystic ascends the Qabalah and so the High Priestess holds a bow, while she herself represents the arrow. It is a truly heroic path, a quest of the soul to glimpse the crown of divinity through the sphere of Gnosis. Significantly, it forms a cross at this point with the path of Daleth, the Empress. This cross represents the union of spirit and matter at the highest level possible, the true purpose of incarnation. The High Priestess is the resolution of vertical spiritual polarity, while the Empress is the resolution of horizontal material polarity.
The attribution of this card to the Moon is something I struggled with because I object to the widespread exclusive association of feminine divinity with the Moon. There are Solar Goddesses all over the world, and in ancient times they were common throughout the Middle East and Northern Europe. Both Isis and Artemis were Sun Goddesses forced to adapt to the rise of the Solar masculine principle. Osiris is easily identifiable as Moon type god, and as Egyptians never had Moon goddesses at all, it’s quite likely that the disc that appears on the head of Isis is in fact a solar disc. Artemis was originally Diana, the Solar Goddess of the Scythians, and the presiding goddess of the Amazons. It was only when the Greeks adopted her that they made her into a Moon goddess to complement Apollo. In the end I decided not to make any alterations to the attributions, because there really is something very Lunar and nocturnal about the High Priestess. You could say she is the Lunar manifestation of femininity, while the Empress is the Solar manifestation. Similarly the Emperor is the Solar masculine, and the Hierophant the Lunar masculine. In this analogy Lunar and Solar refer to unconscious and conscious, and spiritual and material. The spiritual and the material are both equally sacred, and outward expression relies on inward attributes for its authenticity and effectiveness. The unconscious is the source of all creativity and collective wisdom, while the conscious is our ability to use and interpret those gifts. In esoteric terms masculine and feminine have nothing to do with physical gender or its superficial attributes. They are rather modes of being which naturally alternate and complement each other and are ideally perfectly balanced within the individual. The masculine urge to separate establishes our individuality and personal power, while the feminine urge to union connects us with the source of all life and energy, our fellow life forms, and the planet which nurtures us. The Lunar feminine, therefore is unconsciousness leading to union, an ineffable spiritual connection to the great sea of the collective mind.
The snake is a potent and ancient symbol of transformation and wisdom transmitting divine will between worlds. The seer who whispered the secrets of life and death into the ear of the Sybil at Delphi was a serpent, and is just one example of the a long tradition of sacred serpents and Snake deities. The High Priestess has snake bracelets on her arms after the fashion of the Cretan snake goddess (yet another Solar goddess) and in front of her two serpents form an undulating S. The serpent is a potent symbol of the Kundalini energy, the life force that flows through all life and is coiled at the base of our spines, traveling upwards during meditation, and inspiring enlightenment. When our chakras are opened this vitalising energy, which is also universal love, flows strongly through us and effects healing and transformation. In the symbolism of the Qabalah, the spine is the central pillar and the Kundalini which undulates up and down is the two side pillars.
We are living in a society where disconnection to the spiritual realm and its healing powers is endemic both in men and women. Organised religion has lost its relevance in the developed world, but the spiritual needs of human beings remain. In the midst of our material affluence we are facing an epidemic of neurosis and psychopathology, largely because of our failure to address these intrinsic needs. We enjoy unprecedented material comforts and wealth, but without the guidance and balance of spiritual wisdom, we become destructive both in our individual lives and in the collective. One of the keys to healing our deeply dysfunctional civilisation is honouring our Inner Life and reclaiming the intuitive healing powers of The High Priestess archetype. This card represents the vital importance of quiet retreat and contemplation, something accorded very little time in our modern world. The most profound understanding can never be communicated in words, but must be experienced personally.
Numerical Value : 1
Esoteric Title : Magus of Power
Path 12 : Beth (House)
Kether – Binah
Planet : Mercury
Double Letter : Life – Death
Sepher Yetzirah : Intelligence of Transparency
The Magus inspires the transmission and exchange of new ideas and information, and potentiates our powers of communication. He has the ability to charm and persuade with words, resolving dualities and bridging separation. The Intelligence of Transparency suggests a revelation of inner truth that only honest communication can provide. It is a great unifying power teaching us that we are all One. Everyone we communicate with has some contribution to make to our (mutual) liberation. Staying open to new ideas and information is what keeps us vital and alive.
The staff of the Magus is planted firmly in the earth, underlining the vital importance of grounding ourselves in reality and cultivating our earth contacts before attempting to rise on the spiritual plane. When our channels are open the energy flows through us coming from above and below in a continuous life giving loop. This is the circuit of kundalini symbolised by the two snakes on the staff of the spine. “As above, so below”, the great mantra of Esotericism indicates that earthly forces are just as sacred as those of the spirit and that the godhood resides within each incarnated soul. Communicating directly with the godhood within is a prerequisite to any kind of creative work and establishing this contact through meditation and receptivity gifts us with wisdom and purpose.
The magic of communication creates connections between individuals, and interaction causes sparks of transformation to fly and catch fire, leading to a collective shift in consciousness and the evolution of the species. This is why the internet is such a powerful and revolutionary medium, allowing an unprecedented dissemination of esoteric knowledge as well as unlimited interpersonal connections. It seems to have accelerated the pace of change and transformation, both for better and for worse. The web is the natural element of the Magus archetype but its wise to remember to earth ourselves regularly by returning to nature and to the pleasures and demands of material reality. Without a solid connection to the earth the Magus cannot function as an effective channel for higher forces.
The Magus is adept at influencing and manipulating worldly affairs, and enjoys sprinkling the glittering dust of illusion and glamour to enchant and beguile the populace. In traditional interpretations he is often depicted as playing the conman to the dupe of the Fool. The Trickster figure in mythology represents the collective shadow, and is both a source of mayhem and chaos and of healing and enlightenment. We manifest the Trickster archetype in our own personal shadow, which is the source of our unconscious self sabotaging behaviour. Our inner Trickster often seems malicious and senselessly destructive, but when brought into conscious awareness it becomes the main source of our spiritual development and psychological healing. Its role is to stimulate the evolution of our consciousness. The bewildering and paradoxical nature of this idea reflects the innate contradictions within our own psyche. Every profound concept describes an energetic union of opposing forces.
The Magus is known as the Juggler, because he is so adept at keeping an infinite number of ideas and connections in the air at once. The ability to happily maintain contradictory ideas at the one time is the mark of a truly developed mind. At the base of the card is a five pointed star with the symbols of the four elements around it, plus the symbol for Aether at the top, the elusive fifth element. Aether is associated with the Major Arcana, while the four elements represent the suits of the Minors. The elements are the tools of the Magus, which he juggles to manifest his magic. The Hebrew letter of the card is Beth, which means house or dwelling place of spirit in the world of duality and illusion. The symbol of the house is a reminder of the earthly foundations that stabilise and centre our spiritual aspirations. The aim of existence is to make of ourselves a house fit for spirit to live in, a process of building our inner temple. The path of Beth leads from Kether to Binah and forms a roof over the Tree together with the path of the Fool (Aleph). The Word of Beth is a container for the elemental life breath of the Fool. As the path from ineffable Kether to the form building sphere of Binah it brings spirit directly into the material world, which is why the double letter is Life and Death. The house of Beth also symbolises the shelter and accommodation that mankind has found in co-operation and team efforts, for which communication is essential. Our skills with words and with writing have made us the dominant species on the planet. Recorded and transmitted knowledge has lead to the evolution of our uniquely self conscious species.
The card is attributed to Philosophic Mercury which in Alchemy is the dynamic transformational quality present in a substance. Mercury resolves the duality of Sulfur and Salt and so is associated with the equilibrating middle pillar of the Tree and with the white
sphere of Kether. It is associated with the deity Mercury or Hermes, known as the God of Communication and Exchange and the Lord of Illusion. Hermes symbolises balance and reciprocity and is a communicator between worlds, bringing the wisdom of the Gods to mankind and guiding us from this world into the next (a psychopomp). He is a later manifestation of the Egyptian god Thoth and the Mesopotamian god Ningizzhida, who was the original owner of the staff entwined with two snakes, and who was himself a Snake God. This staff is known as a Caduceus, and is a heralds staff as befitting the Messenger of the Gods. Its two intertwined snakes are traditionally dark and light, good and evil, wound into harmony around a central staff or in some legends copulating. The symbol of the twin spiralling snakes is also associated with the shape of our DNA in which the wisdom of all our ancestors is encoded. It is this intrinsic information that is revealed in altered states of consciousness.
The Caduceus also fits very well into the Tree of Life. If you consider the winged globe at the top of the staff as Kether, the shape and the intersections of the snakes and the staff correspond to the arrangement of the spheres of the Qabalah. The central pillar of the Tree is represented by the staff and the two snakes are the pillars of severity and mercy. The Caduceus is a symbol of a fully actuated individual who has realised and reconciled the divided and repressed elements of their personality, and found the Middle Way of harmony and balance. The snakes are the Yin and the Yang, the dark and the light, the angel and the animal which resides in us all. The androgynous Magus must accept and embrace all these contradictions in order to become a channel for divine power to manifest.
On a personal level meditating on the Magus teaches us to become aware of the power of our communications and to use them wisely. Our words can easily betray us, revealing our intentions in unintended ways. Words are destructive because once something has been named and defined it is diminished and contained. The most powerful and profound truths are always ineffable. It’s wise to make our communications mindful and to the point as they are magical acts with consequences. Concentration and clear focus are what gives our words and intentions the power to transform. The quality of our communication reflects the quality of thought behind it. Furthermore words must be spoken with genuine emotion in order to be effective and meaningful. It is a weakness to become disconnected from our emotions, and it diminishes the power and effectiveness of our communication, and our ability to honestly connect with others.
In my version of the card the winged globe of the Caduceus has become a flying fox with a flowering heart. The flying fox is a highly intelligent and social winged primate, the perfect symbol of the evolving human being. It is also my personal totem and magical companion and appears throughout the deck. The symbols of Yin and Yang and of Chaos and of the blossoming five petalled Rose of consciousness are lined along the length of the staff. These symbolise the diverse combination of mysteries that have informed my path of creation. The path of Beth is a receptive one, and leads to the sphere of Binah and so the hands of the Magus have eyes after the fashion of the Qat Inanna, the ancient symbol of the hand of the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna. They signify that the Magus is acting from a place of conscious awareness, as do the myriad eyes of his peacock coat. He is the manifestation of the Peacock Angel, the mythical result of the combined will of the divine twins. The divine twins represent the two outer pillars of the Tree of Life, and the uprights of the doorway of transformation. The Magus is a card of resolving opposites and bridging worlds, the great force of unification.
© Sarah Wheatley 2017
Numerical Value : 0
Esoteric Title : Spirit of Aether
Path 11 : Aleph (Ox)
Kether – Chokmah
Element : Air (Maternal)
Sepher Yetzirah : Scintillating Intelligence
The Fool is the first and last card of the Major Arcana tying the journey together in a loop represented by zero. The circular nature of existence defies the limitations of linear time, revealing it to be an illusion. A holy wanderer in a sun decorated coat with a warm and child like spirit of play, the Fool is utterly free from inhibitions and limitations and welcomes all experience joyfully. Being a guilelessly honest and harmless soul expressing unconditional love for all other beings gives an appearance of stupidity, but also the charisma of an idiot savant. The innocence of the Idiot is a state of divine grace and holiness.
The Hebrew letter Aleph is the first letter of the alphabet, meaning Ox, suggesting an honest, earthy lack of pretension. The Ox pulls a plough, digging up impacted earth to allow new life to grow. The shape of the letter resembles a plough, and also a whirling swastika, the glyph of the birth of chaos. The path of Aleph travels between Kether (Spirit) and Chokmah (Wisdom), in one direction the ultimate union with spirit and in the other a manifestation into being, both a beginning and an ending. The Fool is also associated with the hidden sephirah Daath representing Gnosis, the intuitive spiritual knowledge which we osmose from the ineffable.
The Spirit of Aether is the quintessence, the mysterious fifth element which unites the four elements of manifestation and gives them life. The Maternal element of Air suggests emptiness, a vacuum into which the life breath of all creation flows. It is the state of no-mind valued so highly by Zen wisdom. An open mind is ready to receive inspiration and divine guidance. The Greek word Pneuma means breath and also spirit or soul. Breathing is the instigator of life and life is defined by its presence. Breathing techniques are the foundation of all esoteric spiritual disciplines. Air is the element that lifts us into higher consciousness, the elusive medium of freedom, independent thought and enlightenment. Scintillating Intelligence, the title given to the letter Aleph in the Sepher Yetzirah, suggests a sparkling, bright, dazzling and stimulating energy, a manifestation of pure light and joy. Merriment and loving laughter disarms all opposition, innocence and joy overcomes oppression effortlessly, bringing healing and creative inspiration into the world.
The Fool is sexually naive, balanced on the cliff edge of puberty, an androgynous entity on the brink of becoming in every respect. The act of dancing with a huge crocodile demonstrates a complete lack of fear. Interaction with dangerous animals is a metaphor for Initiation and the Fool is the card of the Initiate. To trust the beast is to make it your playmate. The crocodile is an animal of two realms (land and water) and so represents the transmission of the divine will. Crocodiles make a purring vibration which sends drops of water into the air dancing on their backs.
Initiation into the mysteries is an experience of death in life leading to a descent into the underworld. We are always acting out this initiation, descending into the pit of our own misery and sickness and finding healing and inspiration and rebirth. The descent into the Abyss is metaphorically associated with the dormancy of nature in winter and its inevitable resurrection in spring. The Fool is the Green Man, the vital energy of renewal, representing the moment when nature bursts into life again, vibrant and lush, after the death of Winter. Dostoevsky’s holy Idiot has been condemned to death and reprieved at the last minute. Faced with certain death he realises separation is an illusion and that we are all one. When his life is unexpectedly saved he resolves to act with loving kindness to all, and in doing so makes himself a laughing stock.
We have to be prepared to lose the respect and approval of society and family or we will never find our own authority. The ultimate goal is to truly think, feel, sense and desire for ourselves at all times, even if that means standing alone. As the captain of our own ship consciously charting our individual course we are no longer vulnerable to outside influence and manipulation. When we find our strength within, and generate our own ideas and opinions we can gain true confidence in our own path and become impossible to dominate or intimidate. Succumbing to the social pressure to conform and accumulate possessions and status results in clinging desperately to a false security. It’s a tragedy to discover too late that we have wasted our lives fulfilling the expectations of others. Permanence and certainty are a delusion and death and decay and loss are inescapable.
A fearful or cynical state of mind impedes the unconditional giving and risk taking that is necessary to achieve great things or even to enjoy life. Counting the costs of every venture virtually guarantees inertia. Our fundamental acceptance of the natural ebb and flow of life gives us strength and freedom to enjoy its abundance and endure its privations.
Manifesting a healthy Fool archetype is extremely liberating and empowering. Openness and kindness to others and to the Universe gifts us with an intuitive sense of direction and the assistance of all those we encounter. The Fool is like Hexagram 25 of the I Ching, Wu Wang or Innocence, which counsels that our egos must be disengaged before we can awaken our divine guidance. Innocence is the absence of the selfish ulterior motives which stain our actions with unworthiness. The Fool ignores all of the expectations and conventions of society and embraces freedom, liberation and individuality. Taking the first step of a great journey, an adventure into the unknown, it is essential to let go of everything. If we love our own fate, and to accept that it is all exactly as it is meant to be, we can live fully in the moment and enjoy good humoured serenity. To those who value social hierarchies, conformity and wealth a person like this seems like a Fool. Enlightenment and inspiration often do seem like madness and idiocy. If we love and honour our inner holy idiot we can be liberated from our shackles to truly enjoy life, love and creativity.
From The Asherah Tarot
by Sarah Wheatley
© Sarah Wheatley 2015
“As a culture we are in love with the idea of Death, and it feeds our creativity and desires. We intuit that Death is the true goal of life, the great release that we secretly long for. The Death drive is Thanatos, the will to die, the complement of Eros, the will to live. It can also be interpreted as the missing other, the black hole at the heart of the human psyche that we always long to fill, but never can. It is the wound of being born which we hope death will heal. Pain from this wound is the root cause of all reckless and self destructive behaviour, and paradoxically also the source of our greatest creativity and evolution. Awareness of our own mortality is the unique quality of human consciousness.”