Etteilla v. Waite: Part VI

In the previous installment of Etteilla v. Waite, I compared the first three cards of the GE (Chaos, the Sun, and the Plants) with various cards from the RWS. I shall continue the progression here.

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Sky: This card is an odd one, in that there is no obvious counterpart in the RWS. The closest I can come up with is perhaps the Empress. While she is typically associated with nature and the earth, she is pictured wearing a crown of stars representing the heavens. So in reality, she is Queen of both Heaven and Earth, like Innana of the ancient Fertile Crescent. This card is as much in her realm of operation as the Plants card before it.

The Sky could alternatively be associated with the Emperor. If we consider the Empress to be the archetype of the Earth Mother, her consort the Emperor can be viewed as the Sky Father, a figure often associated in myth with imposing the law on mankind. It’s an interesting line of thought, but ultimately both the Emperor and the Empress share only a tenuous connection with this card.

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Man and Beast: Because of its distinctive imagery, this card brings to mind the World. The central figure is enclosed in an ouroboros reminiscent of the World-dancer’s wreath, and there are four animals arranged in the corners of both cards. Aside from this, and the fact both cards may suggest a journey when used in divination, there doesn’t seem (to me) to be much else that these two cards really have in common.

The Man and Beast card seems to imply mankind’s mastery over the beasts and by extension nature. If we take this view of the card, the Emperor again seems to fit; perhaps also Strength, with the lion subdued by the maiden, can be applied here. The man is the center of the universe in this card; the world and its resources exist for him to use. It’s a very Biblical way of viewing man’s place in this world, and in that way almost reminds me of the Magician with the elements spread out on his table for him to manipulate, or the Chariot with its victorious occupant harnessing raw animal energy to get where he wants to go. Like the Sky card above, I have to stretch a little here to come up with something, but connections can be made with a little contemplation.

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Stars: This card looks very similar to the Sky, with the belt of the zodiac being the only real addition. Of course the Star from the RWS would match here, but that match is as superficial as that of the Moon with the Plants from the previous post. The Empress can go here as well, based on the logic with which I’d matched her with the Sky (there are twelve stars in her crown, just as there are twelve signs of the zodiac). I suppose any RWS card with an astrological attribution could be considered a component of this card, seeing as the zodiac seems to be the point. It’s interesting to note that the occupant of the Chariot is said to be wearing the belt of the zodiac around his waist, and he does stand under a canopy of stars. Are these elements enough to match these cards together, though?

The notion that astrology corresponds with earthly matters is a popular application of the “as above, so below” principle. It suggests that, to some degree at least, we are at the mercy of the whims of the rotating heavenly bodies, out of our control and inescapable, sort of like the relationship between mankind and the ever-turning Wheel of Fortune. The Wheel is very similar in shape to the “wheel” of the Stars, and the four animals in the corners are sometimes associated with the four fixed signs of the zodiac.

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The thing about these early cards in the GE progression is that they depict elemental concepts like Earth and Sky that are only hinted at to varying degrees in the RWS. It makes it very tough at this stage to come up with clear matches between the two decks (the somewhat superficial connections between the Stars and Moons and such notwithstanding). With that being said, however, the early cards in both traditions do follow a similar theme of exploring binary opposition, even if the cards themselves don’t illustrate the same story.

There are couple more odd ones coming up in the next few posts, but there will also be quite a few that are much more easily paired, so stay tuned for another installment of Etteilla v. Waite.

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