Building My Collection.

It’s been probably about half a year since I’ve obtained a new Tarot deck. That’s insane, considering how many decks I’d racked up in the two years prior (it averaged out at about two decks per month, which is insane in itself considering how much trepidation I experienced when I first started massing a proper collection).

There are a couple reasons for this. First and foremost is the simple fact that my expendable income has become much less expendable, and I’ve had to exercise prudence when making fiscal decisions. I love Tarot cards, but there are more pressing matters, and, well, what can you do. Such is life.

But, to be honest, my collection has filled out nicely, and it really doesn’t need any more. With the most recent addition of the Sola-Busca, I felt like I had reached a new level, if you will, and my desire for expansion sort of plateaued. I have not since had the thought that I needed a deck to fill a spot in my collection. Every now and then I come across a deck that I think would round things out nicely, and I do have a casual wishlist in the back of my mind* – and some days, I think about buying a new deck just because I kind of miss the excitement of cracking open a fresh pack of cards – but overall I feel satisfied with my Tarot library.

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As it turns out, collecting is as much an aspect of my Tarot hobby as reading and writing about the cards.** I do not collect randomly. I had a general scheme from the moment my first Tarot deck became three (because my second and third were purchased simultaneously) – Rider (1), Marseilles (2), and Thoth (3). These three are considered the “classics” in the greater Tarot community, and they formed the pillars that hold up the structure of my collection. With the addition of my next deck, the Wildwood, I completed the four-sided foundation upon which my entire collection would be constructed.

My four pillars remain the same, but I’ve taken to considering them in broader terms than the specific decks which started them. There is plenty of overlap, and many of my Tarot decks span multiple categories. I like this, and the result is that my collection takes on the shape of a spiderweb in my mind, spun across the four pillars. There are many sub-categories (like fantasy-themed or art decks, for example) that tie the original pillars together in interesting ways.

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I wrote a post a while back on the (very) broad categorizations I’d come up with for methods of divination with Tarot cards. These methods actually mirror the pillars of my collection.

  1. What started with the Rider has pretty much remained the Rider. Because this deck is so prevalent today, it is basically its own category. Rider clones and Rider-inspired decks all go here. Most prominent are the Radiant and Universal Waite decks, and of course the Mini Rider. Least is the Hobbit Tarot, which is only a Rider in structure (With Strength as 8 and Justice as 11) and in divinatory definitions. The spectrum in between includes the Mystical Tarot, the Aquarian, and the Shadowscapes. I generally will also include any packs with illustrated small cards in this category, as well, and decks that are best divined with “intuitively,” as I defined it in the above-linked post (I generally link “intuitive” reading with illustrated small cards). In this case, decks like the Sun and Moon, the Deviant Moon, the Medieval Scapini, Dame Fortune’s Wheel, the Mary-El, the Wildwood, and the Sola Busca all fit the bill, although for many of these, this isn’t the primary category.
  2. The broadened version of the Marseille category includes Pip cards and historical decks, used mainly for what I like to call “cartomantic” divinatory approaches.*** The Universal Burdel and the Conver Ben-Dov, as well as the miniature pack of Conver Majors, are the standards for this category. Other decks which fit easily here are the Book of Thoth Etteilla and the Visconti-Sforza. Though the pips are illustrated and it was created in modern times, Dame Fortune’s Wheel fits best in this section, as does the Medieval Scapini. Structure-wise, the Deviant Moon fits here more than in the previous category, too, although its imagery defies categorization (I struggle with placing the Deviant Moon more than any other Tarot). Oswald Wirth‘s deck did not include a Minor Arcana, but it is so clearly based on the Marseille that I would also place both versions of his cards here in a pinch. Finally, as a historical deck, the Sola-Busca can go here, too.
  3. The Thoth category has expanded to include all occult decks, most especially those based in the tradition of the Golden Dawn. The Thoth (and the pocket version thereof) is of course the basis of this category. The Hermetic Tarot and the Sun and Moon fit nicely here, as well. Technically, I would consider placing the strictest renditions of the Rider-Waite (that is, the Universal and the Mini) decks here, because Waite and Smith were one-time members of the Golden Dawn, and their Tarot incorporates some of the GD’s teachings, but because those have their own category, I hesitate to do so. Oswald Wirth and Etteilla decks are occult, too, so they also can be considered in this section (I’m more inclined to place Wirth here and leave Etteilla in the previous section, personally). And lastly, because of the myriad occult details so deftly executed by the artist (including, but not limited to, symbols from the GD, Wirth, and Etteilla), the Medieval Scapini fits here, as well.
  4. What began with the Wildwood has become “Un-categorizable” or “Non-traditional.” I’m pretty sure everything in this section has been mentioned in the previous sections, but if it shows up here, this is where I truly consider it to belong (excepting Etteilla, who I believe might go better in category #2). This category includes the Mary-El, the Sola Busca, the Deviant Moon, the Etteilla, and the Hobbit Tarot. I would almost place the Medieval Scapini here, but don’t because rather than defy categorization, it actually spans all three of the others more or less equally (the artist behind the Mary-El, on the other hand, claims to have been influenced by the Thoth, Marseilles, and Rider, but her cards are so incredibly original that they absolutely belong here). The decks here do not fit a mainstream tradition, and many of them are modern enough to have not yet stood the test of time like the Thoth or the Rider have. But I like having all of them in my collection, and I like having a “catch-all” category to round things out. Though I am a traditionalist at heart, if my collection focused only on the Big Three many beautiful and important cards would be left out.

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I acknowledge that all this is quite a lot of reading without much in the way of substantial Tarot content, and for that I apologize. I’m trying my damnedest to keep this blog active, though, and while it largely consists of the fluff of a collector showing off, this post does serve the purpose of illustrating just how I actually think about the collecting aspect of my hobby. I don’t know if anyone cares, but I figured I’d share, anyway.

In case you do care to know what exactly is in my collection, and the above list is as confusing to you as it looks to me (like I said, it’s a spiderweb), as of this writing I have 24 Tarot decks (technically, I have 21 complete packs, and three Majors-only packs). You can find a more straightforward list of them here, and each is linked to my initial thoughts upon obtaining (many of those thoughts are a bit outdated for me now, but I haven’t yet mustered the motivation to revise my reviews).

To wrap this post up, I want to say this: I collect the Tarot with intent. I do indeed focus on the Big Three as the foundation, but it would perhaps be more accurate to sum my aims in collecting thus: I want my collection to be useful from a scholarly perspective, and so have collected primarily renditions of Tarots that are historically significant or influential (as an amateur with limited funds, these are all reproductions from mainstream brand names, of course). At the same time, however, my collection is personalized to suit my tastes, and the cards I select appeal to my aesthetics and my philosophies. Therefore, I think it is safe to say that my collection is a well-rounded blend of established Tarot tradition,**** with a bit of my own peculiar interests as a student of this tradition. It is a collection designed around both the theory and practice of Tarot, spanning past and present, with an eye for the future.

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*Right now, I’ve got the Liber T: Tarot of Stars Eternal on my mind, as well as an Egyptian Tarot and a Marseilles that isn’t based on Conver or Burdel’s cards (Probably a Jean Noblet). I don’t doubt that eventually some of these cards will end up being reviewed on this blog.

**I’m hesitant to call divination and other spiritual work a “hobby”, but I certainly do that stuff, too. A hobby to me is confined to a more mundane realm of consciousness than divination, and so collecting, reading books, and writing this blog are all aspects of that. Of course, casual parlor-trick “fortune-telling” treads the divination line, but remains more or less in the realm of hobby to me, because it’s more of an entertainment than spiritual exercise. But now I’m just getting nit-picky.

***Though they are not Tarots, I consider my decks of regular playing cards (of which I have four or five) as a part of this category, as well. I might talk a bit about them if I ever get bored enough. Consider yourself warned.

****A healthy dose of Tarot tradition should be a part any serious collection (IMHO).

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The Turning Wheel of Terror-Joy.

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From the Mary-El Tarot

I’ve been thinking a lot about this card lately. I feel quietly detached from my problems (and my joys, for that matter) when I consider my life in its terms.

The Wheel rules all things (in this world). We are bound to it, tethered to its ups and downs as time rolls along.

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Fortune can seem a fickle lady

I would say the motto of Dame Fortuna is “What goes up, must come down,” and of course, vice-versa. Perhaps even better would be “Everything comes full-circle.”

To some extent, I see this as a card of reaping what is sown, especially in a cosmic, karmic sense, but that is a bit misleading. Karma implies a degree of personal responsibility. The Wheel turns for everyone, though, whether they work to fulfill their karmic duty (dharma, if I’m not mistaken) or not.*

 

It’s the unfortunate truth: to live is to suffer, and sometimes, no matter how good you are, you have to endure the crushing weight of the bottom of the Wheel. It happens. But you are also guaranteed some time at the top, too, and the message of the Wheel is that, though times seem tough, bad luck can’t last forever.

Joseph Campbell called the mythic cyclical concept the “turning wheel of terror-joy”, to which we are all bound.** It’s life, plain and simple. We all have spells of good and poor fortune. We all have our ups and downs. It never stops turning.

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Riddles in the Dark
– the Hobbit Tarot

~~~

As the 10th card in the Major Arcana, the Wheel of Fortune is located very near the middle. It’s almost as if it’s the axis about which everything else in the pack revolves. If you subscribe to the Fool’s Journey interpretation of the cards, this is roughly the point when the Fool leaves the light of day behind and begins his great tribulation. In this sense, the Wheel suggests a critical turning point in one’s life.

When the Wheel of Fortune turns up in my readings, I generally take it as a positive omen. Most folks agree that this card usually portends good fortune. Given the ups and downs of its actual implications, though, it is wise to check what the cards around it have to say before you assume Lady Fortune is about to smile upon you.

This card tends to put things in perspective for me, and that’s the ultimate lesson I take from it, regardless of whether it brings good or bad news. It admonishes me not to take my good luck for granted, and to take my bad luck with faith and humility.

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The Wheel is an apt metaphor for Time. It’s a fairly popular cosmological motif the world over. Our universe appears to be ruled by cycles. The seasons revolve, the heavens rotate, and history repeats itself. In the RWS, the Wheel of Fortune foreshadows the World with its distinctive imagery. The World represents enlightened consciousness attained at the end of the journey. The Wheel of Fortune offers a glimpse from the halfway point. To see the whole thing, you need to take a step or two back.*** It is a grand perspective, and it’s a good perspective to keep in mind if you’re playing the long game. Ultimately, all it takes to get from the bottom to the top is time.****

The Wheel can also be considered a metaphor for the whole Tarot deck, and not just the single card within. It’s a symbol that requires you to consider ideas like fortune and fate, which are questions all diviners must face eventually.

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~~~

*I think the actual “reap-what-you-sow” card is probably Judgement, or possibly Justice. I haven’t written much about either of those cards yet, though, so we’ll see what I come up with when the time comes to really dig into them. The Wheel of Fortune is karmic more in the sense that, until your soul attains unity with Brahman, you are stuck on the ever-turning wheel of birth, death, and reincarnation.

**See Joseph Campbell’s The Masks of God series, particularly Creative Mythology, page 405. Interestingly, the chapter in which it appears focuses more on motifs associated with the Hanged Man than the Wheel of Fortune.

***I do not think it is mere coincidence that the Wheel of Fortune follows the Hermit in the Major Arcana.

****The main difference between the Wheel and the World is that the individual is on the outside looking in (or the rim) in the former and in the center (or the hub) in the latter, where the spinning has ceased to have effect, and unity with all is achieved. Seen in this light, the goal should actually not be to climb to the top (from which you are doomed to fall back down again, like Sisyphus’ boulder), but to remove yourself from the oscillation altogether. Again, these ideas are examined in great detail in Campbell’s Creative Mythology in the sub-chapter about the turning Wheel of Terror-Joy (and it is the morbidly entertaining juxtaposition of “terror” and “joy” that won the spot as the title of this post).

Etteilla v. Waite, Concluded.

I began this series about two years ago. It’s almost as old as the blog itself, and I have to say, it’s kind of odd to be wrapping it up after all this time. It is also a relief, because to be honest, this series presented more than its fair share of problems, and was incredibly tough to work through at times. The time has finally come to set it to rest.

At the start, my goal was to compare and contrast my pack of Etteilla cards (the Book of Thoth Etteilla Tarot from Lo Scarabeo) with the vastly more popular Rider-Waite-Smith pack. The reason was simple: I didn’t know a thing about Etteilla or his cards, which was a problem because the cards are very different from anything else I had used. This problem was compounded by the fact that I could not (and still can’t) find any written material that elaborated on the intended meanings or patterns of these cards. On the other hand, I knew much more about Waite’s cards, and I figured that I could perhaps suss out some underlying structural cohesion through comparison.

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As I progressed, I realized that this method also had its problems. First of all, anything I came up with would not necessarily be true. Everything was based on my interpretations of the art, and nothing more. Now, I knew this going in, but it seemed that the further I went, the more I had to stretch, and at the end I have to admit that I still know almost nothing objectively about these cards, despite having come up with a neat story to tell with them.

That story is the mythic structure of Creation, Preservation, and Destruction (or the “Creation Myth” for brevity), which is a nice counterpoint to the Hero’s Journey myth of the RWS. I like this very much, but I have nothing in the way of written evidence supporting this theory.

The other problem didn’t become apparent to me until I learned a bit more about the deck itself. As I mentioned, this pack is called the Book of Thoth, and it is in fact quite far removed from Etteilla’s original cards. It is based on (how closely, I don’t know) what is known as the Grande Etteilla III, which was not created by Etteilla but by one of his students in 1800s, a few years after Etteilla’s death. The Grande Etteilla II remains an absolute enigma, while Etteilla’s own Tarot cards, the Grande Etteilla I, are available to purchase only by those with a larger purse than I currently possess. Pictures of this deck are hard to come by, so I can’t say one way or the other how faithful my cards are to Etteilla’s original plan (the Major Arcana especially; the Minors are different at least in that Etteilla’s had astrological symbolism on them, which these lack). So for all intents and purposes, my series did little, if anything, towards deciphering Etteilla’s mysteries; it was rather an exercise in familiarizing myself with an odd pack of cards that may or may not be much like his. I just don’t know.

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During the course of composing this series, I did learn quite a bit about Waite’s cards and their historical context, but overall my personal interpretations (that is, the Hero’s Journey) remain more or less the same.* Waite’s ideas in this regard were never recorded, so insofar as the pictures of either deck depict mythic themes, I suppose my interpretations of Etteilla are as valid as Waite. In this sense, it doesn’t really matter what Etteilla intended for his cards.

I have learned a bit about Etteilla’s role in the history of the Tarot’s development, as well, but I think that may have to wait for its own post, because it ultimately has no bearing on this series.

~~~

Because it did take me so long to compose, this series probably seems disjointed in some places or redundant in others to a passing reader. I did my best to read through previous posts as I wrote new ones, but my thinking changed over time as I learned more, and sometimes it was difficult to keep things straight. When I started, I was only writing what I wished I could read when learning about these cards.** It evolved from basic comparison to a rather more in-depth look at what the pictures on these cards were telling me. I never lost sight of my goal for comparison, though, and every single card I examined came with a counterpart from another deck (usually the RWS, but not always). The counterparts were not always easy to select. In doing so, however, I made some interesting discoveries about many of the cards from traditional decks that I probably would not have encountered had I not tried to match them with Etteilla’s cards.

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It is the unexpected revelations about traditional cards and the interesting story that I think the Etteilla cards tell that I found to be the most valuable things I took away from this series. The Book of Thoth Etteilla deck itself did not end up making much more sense to me in terms of divination, like I’d hoped. I do continue to find these cards fascinating, but they are more of a curiosity for my collection than anything I would regularly use.

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I think that’s all I have to say in conclusion for the Etteilla v. Waite series. Before I sign off, though, I’ll put an index here for convenient navigation for anyone who’s interested in going back through. Despite the issues I’ve run into along the way, I hope this series was interesting and informative to anyone who, like me, is confounded by these strange cards.

Part I: Introduction
Part II: The First Eight Cards
Part III: Cards Nine through Fifteen
Part IV: Sixteen through Twenty-One and the Fool
Part V: Chaos, Light, and Plants
Part VI: Sky, Man & Beast, and Stars
Part VII: Birds & Fish, and Rest
Part VIII: Justice, Temperance, Force, and Prudence
Part IX: High Priest, Devil, and Magician
Part X: Last Judgement, Death, Monk, and Struck Temple
Part XI: Wheel of Fortune, African Despot, and the Fool

And finally, for a real throwback, my initial thoughts upon first using these cards can be found here.

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*These are largely based on Tarot and the Journey of the Hero, an excellent book by Hajo Banzhaf, and one I can’t recommend heartily enough to those whose interest in the Tarot stems from an interest in mythology or Jungian psychology.

**This is actually the motivation behind much of what I write on this blog.

The Juggler Index.

 

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From the Mary-El Tarot

My favorite Tarot card has always been the Hermit, even before I knew what the Tarot was. The picture of the cloaked man holding a lantern atop a mountain has had a strong hold on my imagination since I first saw it in the liner notes of Led Zeppelin IV.

I must admit, it may be only because of the combination of the fantasy mystic/magic element with the allure of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll that places the Hermit above others in my eyes, although my endless contemplation of the card and its secrets has certainly helped cement it in its place of high esteem for me.

But upon opening my first deck of Tarot cards, I was also immediately drawn to the Magician. Again, this has wizard fantasy written all over it, and after I spent some time thinking about it, I realized that he is almost like the Hermit in a different guise. Much musing on this matter led me to write this post: The Wise Man and the Trickster.

Eventually, I got around to really exploring the Hermit in-depth, and once I was finished, I felt compelled to give the Magician a similar treatment. The resulting series was much more difficult for me than that of the Hermit, and I found myself focusing on some strange and possibly confusing or abstract things. Nonetheless, I think the series is an adequate representation of my interpretation of this card.

I – From Juggler to Magician
II – The Juggler
III – The Magician
IV – The Magician, continued
V – The Magus
VI – The Magus, continued
VII – The Lemniscate

I wrapped the series up with a look at some of my favorite versions of the Magician in my collection, which can be found here.

Finally, for the sake of completeness, I’ve compiled a list of other posts which share some fascinating and important connections to the Magician.

The High Priestess
The Devil (the Trickster)
The Three Magi
The Fool’s Journey
The Suits and their Elements

~~~

 

Etteilla v. Waite, Part XI.

Last time on Etteilla v. Waite, we witnessed the final destruction of the world. What began with Chaos has ended in chaos; thus the mythic cycle of creation, preservation, and destruction comes full circle.

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The Wheel of Fortune: The next card in the GE Major Arcana is the Wheel of Fortune. It is a fitting card to end the cycle, showing that it is a cycle, and that the final destruction isn’t so final, after all. Life leads to death, which leads to life. The Ouroboros is never ending.

There are two cards from the RWS and more traditional Tarots, I think, that fit this one. First, and more obviously, is the Wheel of Fortune. I chose to picture the Wheel from Huson’s DFW Tarot simply because it shows Dame Fortune herself, while the RWS and many others omit her. Whether the Lady is present or not, though, the basic meaning of the card is the same. It represents the endless ups and downs of fate, and that what goes around will inevitably come around.

Second is the World. This fits the more cosmic implications of the GE Wheel – the Ouroboros, or the Great Round, and the never-ending cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

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The African Despot: This card confuses me. The title suggests the Emperor. The imagery suggests the Chariot. It’s location in the progression – the last card before the Minor Arcana – is odd. And why is he African?

I have formulated some theories, but like everything else in this series (or on this entire blog, really), they’re just ideas, and I have no way of backing them up.

First of all, I believe this character is the Magician we met in part IX. Like the Priest, this fellow faces the Devil; unlike the Priest, he stayed true to his faith. Now, the Magician’s “faith” is the occult – and it’s important to remember that this is a rendition of an early attempt at an occult deck. With his occult-based knowledge of the truth – of which traditional religion provides only an incomplete picture – he is able to obtain enlightenment through the Devil, rather than succumbing to the Devil’s temptations and corruption. Maybe this is why the Magician seemed comparatively sinister when we met him. He embraces his inner demons. Now, after the Judgement, he is crowned King, victoriously riding his Chariot.

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The High Priest degraded, the Magician exalted.

I also think this is why the African Despot is placed after the Wheel, rather than before it. He has attained enlightenment, and is freed from the ever-spinning wheel of terror-joy. He has reached nirvana. He is no longer chained to the cycle.

As far as his African heritage is concerned, all I can come up with is the fact that, in Etteilla’s day, the Tarot was believed to have been derived from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, and so an occult master such as that pictured on the card would be heir to an “African” tradition. It is a stretch, but at least in the RWS Chariot, the eponymous vehicle is drawn by a pair of sphinxes, so it’s not entirely unfounded.

Of course, his divinatory meanings (and his designation as a “despot”) are not positive ones, which hurts my theory, but unfortunately this is the best I can come up with. It makes a cool story this way, at least.

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The Fool or Alchemist: The final card is the Fool. This card is separate from the rest of the Major Arcana, although unlike its counterpart in the RWS, it does have a number. 78 places it as the final card in the entire pack, behind even the Minor Arcana. It is nonetheless virtually the same as any other Fool. The fact that he is also called the Alchemist just means that he has wisdom which is not shared by the everyman, making him appear a fool to those less learned than he. Such is the enlightened Fool’s burden, but he does not let it weigh him down.

~~~

That’s it for the Major Arcana of the Book of Thoth Etteilla Tarot. For the final installment of this series, I will share some concluding thoughts, hopefully wrapping this very long, often disjointed, sometimes repetitive, totally subjective, and probably confusing series up with a pretty bow. My views of this pack of cards has evolved quite a bit since I began writing about it, and I should probably spend some time clearing up the mucky-muck.

It’s been a long time coming.

Etteilla v. Waite, Part X.

Creation – Preservation – Destruction. As I’ve said a few times already, this is the general mythic pattern which appears to me to fit the distinct Major Arcana of the Type III Etteilla deck (as opposed to the Hero’s Journey pattern of the Rider-Waite-Smith deck). Last time, I wrapped up the section of the progression which dealt with Preservation – culminating with the dubious Magician. Now, things are about to take a darker turn. The equilibrium which defines Preservation is upset, and the world is about to end. The following cards are the cards of Shiva; of Revelation; of Ragnarok; of the Apocalypse.

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Last Judgement: The day of Judgement is a fitting start to this portion, and I believe it coincides naturally enough with Judgement from the RWS. These cards are not exactly the same, however; in the GE, the angel is seen descending from heaven wielding a sword against the living (seven people for the seven deadly sins, perhaps?), while in the RWS the angel awakens the dead with a blast from his trumpet. In the RWS, Judgement is the final step before apotheosis. Here, it is not the end, but merely the beginning of the end. For all the differences, though, I can’t think of a better RWS equivalent than Judgement.

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From the MST – Both are dancing.

Death: Another fairly straightforward match. Another symbol of the End Of Days.

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The Monk: Based on the imagery, this card should match with the Hermit. This monk is shown leaving his monastery, and the divinatory meanings warn of treason and betrayal. This monk is not really a monk anymore; he is an apostate. He also happens to look very much like the High Priest from the previous post. This former symbol of morality and harmony betrayed his purpose when faced with the Devil, Judgement, and Death, whether from fear or corruption it matters not, thus making a mockery of all that he once stood for. This is yet another sign that civilization is on the decline.

Another possible match is based not so much on imagery as on meaning: the Hanged Man is sometimes interpreted as a traitor being punished for his heinous crime. But we can also consider the Monk’s departure from traditional religion in a different light: the Hanged Man sometimes represents initiation into the occult, or an inversion of perspective to gain spiritual insight. Such might be the case with the Monk, who is perhaps only moving on to bigger and better things. The world is falling apart around him; his old faith is no longer serving him, so why should he continue to serve it?

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From the CHT

The Struck Temple: This card shows a walled city or temple complex burning to the ground. It is quite possible the flames came from the sun in the upper corner – divine intervention. Everything in this post so far has been a sign of the impending apocalypse. Now it is actually happening. This card is the violent Destruction of the world by fire. This card is the End.

Except it isn’t the End, not really. There are still three more cards to examine, which I shall do next time on Etteilla v. Waite.

~~~

Golden Wirth Tarot.

I’ve gushed about Oswald Wirth before. The truth is, I find his brand of the occult positively fascinating. His book is one of my absolute favorites on esoteric Tarot, and his cards have a certain aesthetic appeal to me – they appear traditional, almost like Marseille cards, yet they are intentionally imbued with occult symbolism. I love the juxtaposition (this is a huge draw for the Medieval Scapini Tarot, as well, which incidentally uses Wirth’s as a basis for some of the underlying symbolism).

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1889 Hermit

My introduction to Wirth came in the form of his book Tarot of the Magicians (which is an English translation – the book was originally published in French in 1927). The book came complete with a set of his cards printed on heavy cardstock pages in the back. These cards were the early version – from 1889 – but when Wirth published his book, he updated the cards, too, and the latter version is what was actually used to illustrate the book.

Well, after a long time, I decided to get myself an edition of Wirth’s updated cards. They are a huge improvement over the cut-out cards from the back of the book.

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Was it entirely necessary for me to get these cards? Probably not, to be honest, but I have no regrets. This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten a slightly different version of cards I already own (I’ve got 3 separate Rider packs, not to mention the several RWS-inspired decks, and a couple TdM and Thoth decks, as well). These cards are so much nicer than the cut-outs, and considering how much I admire Wirth’s work, I thought a proper edition of his deck belonged in my collection.

These cards are large, which I like, and are overlaid with a glittery-golden foil that changes in the light when you look at them from various angles. Way cool. These cards are worthy companions with which to work through the exercises set forth in the book. Of course, this is a Majors-only deck, which means I’m hesitant to actually call it a “Tarot”, but it is fantastic for what it is. Wirth’s method only calls for the Major Arcana, after all, and sometimes that’s all a reading calls for, as well. It’s much more convenient to have a Majors-only deck lying around for such occasions than having to sort through a complete pack.

All in all, these cards are ideal for studying and contemplation of the occult, and they work as well as any traditional Major Arcana for divination. They’re beautiful and good-quality cards, and they occupy an important place in Tarot lore.

~~~

While I’m here, I’d like to revise a couple things I’ve said in previous posts about Wirth and his cards. First of all, I’ve made it seem like Wirth is solely responsible for all this. While he did draw the cards, and he did write the book, he worked very closely with his mentor Stanislaus de Guaita prior to its publication, who was a huge influence on everything produced by Wirth. Wirth did not plagiarize by any stretch – a great deal of the introduction to his book is spent giving credit to de Guaita, who he held in very high esteem. It was my own misrepresentation in earlier posts, rather, that may have made Wirth seem like he was acting alone.

Furthermore, Wirth and de Guaita were not exactly creating an original Tarot. Their work is largely inspired by descriptions from French occultist Eliphas Levi, whose treatises on the occult were among the most influential works in the history of occult Tarot, particularly in terms of Kabbalah. There would be no Wirth Tarot if there had not first been Levi.

That’s all I’ll say about that for now; at some point I’ll review Tarot of the Magicians, in which I’ll go more in depth about Wirth’s occult background.

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