Some Magicians:

HPIM0609 The Magician from the Sun and Moon Tarot is one of my all-time favorites, because the whimsical artwork portrays a musician at the beach without forsaking any of the traditional symbols of the card. He is in the presence of all four of the elements: the vast night sky above him, the ocean behind him, the sand beneath him, and the bonfire before him. The corresponding suit symbols are pictured in the air over his head. They are the centerpiece of an ethereal sigil, conjured from the smoke by the beat of his djembe. I like to imagine the star shape on the drumhead is this very same emblem. The four extremities created by the Wand and the Sword constitute four corners of a hexagram. The remaining two corners are occupied by the infinity symbol and the yin-yang symbol. The twelve zodiac signs form a perimeter around the star, and the entire thing is encircled by a serpent Ouroboros. Thus the entire cosmos with all its disparate pieces is symbolically tied up into a single, self-sustaining parcel, moved and affected by the rhythms of the Magician. A monkey observes from the foreground.

One of the reasons why I like the SaM Tarot so much is because I can so easily get lost in the soft imagery. On many cards, I can often imagine myself as part of the scene. This is especially true of the Magician. I can hear the crashing of the rolling waves and the crackling of the roaring flame. I don’t even notice the sounds of the drum at first, but it’s there, and I can’t remember it starting. It dances with and around the natural rhythm of the ocean and the sparks from the fire are moving to its beats. The Magician hums and sings along, and I am entranced.

~~~

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If the artwork from the SaM is soothing, the art of the Shadowscapes Tarot is stunning. The trees and rocks are as alive in these cards as the figures among them. This Magician is lithe and full of youth, with a golden sun tattooed on his shoulder. He balances effortlessly upon his toes, perched atop a stone pillar. He is certainly not human; his ears have an elvish point and, oh yeah, huge feathered wings extend from his bare back. His wings are poised motionless behind him, and a pair of birds have settled on them. From red ribbons are suspended the four elements, this time in the forms of a lantern, a seashell, a feather, and a leaf. Are these gifts from the friendly birds, or has the Magician been carrying them all along? He pays them no attention, at any rate, and all of his concentration is fixed on the green orb floating between his hands. On the surface, this Magician strikes me as especially Mercurial, a tricky traveller above all else; but here in his moment of tranquility, he also reminds me of the demiurge. The globe with which he plays could be an entire world, could it not?

That this Magician might not be exactly what he appears to be is suggested by the horned headpiece he wears, and his face paint is eerily clownish. There are three symbols of infinity on this card: a faint lemniscate over his head, and two tail-biting snakes, one around his waist, and one around a second green orb that is embedded in the rock near his feet.

~~~

HPIM0611Here is a particularly non-traditional rendition of the Magician from the Mary-El Tarot. This cloaked and faceless figure looks more like the Hermit than any Magician I’ve ever seen. Perhaps this is part of the reason why I’m so drawn to him. Coming towards us from an impressionist backdrop, he walks on the surface of the water. In fact, there is no land in sight. There is almost no sense of perspective, and he may or may not be as tall as the pair of bare trees he stands between, also growing out of the waters. These trees are peculiar because they are more characteristic of duality and the High Priestess than they are of him. Clearly this Magician is less of a trickster and more of a god of wisdom. Well, maybe he is still very tricky. I certainly wouldn’t put it past him.

He presents us with the “Metatron’s Cube” or “Phoenix Egg”. In fact, this Magician is the Metatron himself, the archangel of the highest status, formerly a man named Enoch, who attained the immortal position as the Scribe of God. He is unique, because he is the only angel not bound to God’s Will. The “Egg” is a geometric pattern of overlapping circles, a very popular decorative motif in spiritual and religious traditions around the world. In the Magician’s hands it appears simultaneously to be a bunch of circles, a hexagram, and a cube. It seems to be made of light, and is supposed to represent a person’s infinite soul. The Magician hands it to you.

And of course, speaking of infinity, the lemniscate oscillates ever above his head, which is level with the sun.

~~~

 

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The Hobbit Tarot.

I’ve always been hesitant to buy a themed Tarot deck. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a cool idea – on the contrary, I rather enjoy making connections between the cards and my favorite books and movies. The thing is though, I tend to think my own ideas are better than everything I’ve seen actually published,* and anyway, a themed Tarot just seems too narrow in scope to actually be effective as anything but an art collection.

On the other hand, though, there are so many themed decks out there, it’s almost as if they constitute a Tarot sub-genre all their own. Shouldn’t a well-rounded Tarot collection include one of them? Well, I thought so, but of all the options out there, which one should I choose?

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An example of the Major Arcana, a court card, and a small card from the Hobbit Tarot. I do not fully understand the significance of the pattern on the back.

I actually bought the Hobbit Tarot on a whim upon seeing it (priced ludicrously cheap) at the local metaphysical shop, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think I couldn’t have made a better choice. For one, it is its own entity, not just a Hobbit-themed RWS ripoff. For another, J.R.R Tolkien is one of my favorite authors of all time, and among all his works, The Hobbit is probably the most timeless.** If I had to pick a single story to be represented in my Tarot collection, I can’t think of one better than The Hobbit.

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Rather than cards and companion book, in this instance, I think it’s more appropriate to say book and companion cards.

What remains to be seen, however, is how well the actual deck stacks up to its potential.

I think there are two criteria against which I will judge these cards: How well do they work as a Tarot deck in general? How well do they tell the story of The Hobbit?

This post will answer the former; as far as the latter goes, I have to admit it’s been a few years since I last read the book, and so I intend to reserve the greater part of my judgement in that regard until I have a moment to read it again. There are, however, a couple points I would like to make about its alignment with the story that caught my attention even without having recently read it, and I will address those shortly. First, the cards as Tarot.

I’ve already mentioned that this is not a RWS copy. This is a partial truth. It does place Strength at 8 and Justice at 11. It also maintains all the traditional Tarot titles rather than substitute them with Hobbit-based ones. Pentacles is Coins; the courts consist of Pages, Knights, Queens, and Kings. Leafing through the instructions booklet, it seems as though the divinitory meanings of all the cards are more or less consistent with the RWS. So I suppose it’s safe to say that, if you are familiar with the standard RWS definitions, you can use these cards. The difference lies in the artwork. These are all scenes from the Hobbit, and virtually no attempt is made by the artist to make them look anything like P.C. Smith’s iconic drawings. If you are the type to read intuitively based on imagery – and not based on Waite’s book definitions – no amount of familiarity with the RWS will aid you with these cards.

It seems to me that the little booklet is required reading for this one. Each entry consists of a description of the scene depicted in relation to what’s going on at the corresponding place in the book, followed by suggested divinitory meanings. Just reading the descriptive first part, some of the scene-to-card transitions seem a bit of a stretch; reading the second part about the divinitory meanings usually clears it up quite nicely. Often my confusion (or skepticism) with the first part is replaced with an “Aha, that’s pretty clever” upon reading the second. The booklet itself is among the nicer ones I’ve got – it’s nice and fat (95 pages), with plenty of info. In the introduction, the author also heads off some of my doubts going into these cards, saying that “In bringing together the Tarot and The Hobbit, a kind of marriage has been achieved between these two very distinct mythical realms, and like all unions, this one also has its own contradictions and unities, its own ‘personae’.” That’s fair, I think, and I’m glad the author said something to that extent, because otherwise I’d probably have held onto some impossible expectations which ultimately would have led to disappointment.

The artwork is pretty good. I think the artist did a fine job of recreating the Middle Earth aesthetic without relying on the Peter Jackson movies to do the imaginative work for him. It looks like a pseudo-Northern European wilderness, which is what Tolkien was shooting for with the book. So well done, there. The problem is that some of these scenes look pretty generic, and without Hobbit-based titles to draw from, the LWB is absolutely necessary to understand what exactly they’re supposed to be showing us. The small cards almost never show their suit symbols, either, so without the suit names on the cards, you would never know what they were.*** I don’t really have any issue with this, but I think it merits pointing out all the same.

The court cards are somewhat odd in that they have no discernible pattern. Bilbo is represented in a few of them all by himself, and some of the other ones use totally generic characters (two of the Queens are nameless women of Laketown, for example). I should point out that there is an occasional card in the pack that depicts scenes or characters that actually exist outside of the storyline told in the book. The most notable examples of this are the four Queens, two of which, I already mentioned, are generic Laketown women, one of which is a mournful Warg bemoaning the fate of her kin after the Battle of Five Armies, and the final one is Goldberry bathing in a pond (with a man watching her in a way that would totally be creepy if I didn’t already know him to be Tom Bombadil). Goldberry and Tom are only mentioned in the Lord of the Rings, although they certainly existed during the time of the events told in the Hobbit. Luckily, I was actually elated to find Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, regardless of the fact that they don’t really belong among these cards (if you know anything about Tom Bombadil, though, you’d understand that he can do what he pleases).****

Another example is the Hierophant, which appears to be Gandalf the White (and he does look distinct from the other times Gandalf appears in these cards in his grey guise), complete with an apparition of Shadowfax, another bit that does not appear in the Hobbit. Temperance is even stranger, showing a high-ranking goblin rousing his fellows to fight the Battle of Five Armies after the events under the Misty Mountains. While that does happen in the timeline of the book, it’s not part of the narrative itself that I can remember; but what actually bothers me about this card is the very use of such a malevolent character for such a typically benevolent card. I think the point is that he is tempered by battle, but even among the other stretches I mentioned before, this one’s a bit much.

One thing I wondered about was how these cards would show the “feminine archetypes” of the Major Arcana when the book is lacking in strong feminine characters (one of the few shortcomings of Tolkien as an author*****). I was not disappointed – the High Priestess and the Empress show situations rather than characters, and I think, given the source material, that was a good decision.

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Three cards which would normally picture female archetypes.

All in all, as a Tarot, this is not the best, and as a recreation of the story, it’s not the best (further judgement on that matter to come), but as a Tarot depicting the story, it’s as good as I think could be reasonably expected. I like it, anyway, and I was surprised when I took it out to read with to find that, with the LWB close by for reference, it gave me pretty insightful results. So, I say, take the shortcomings with a grain of salt, because the Hobbit Tarot does ultimately succeed in what it sets out to do, namely give good readings using the fanciful imagery of Tolkien’s most accessible work.

~~~

* I am aware of how snooty that sounds, but I’m just being frank. I mean, those Norse mythology Tarots out there? Please. It’s unfair of me to call them bad, but I think there’s certainly room for improvement.

**Alright, timeless is such a cop-out term to use here, especially when dealing with the mythos of Middle Earth. It’s all timeless, but even I, a self-professed Tolkien nerd, must admit that these books are not for everyone’s tastes. The Lord of the Rings is long as shit, requiring a commitment of at least a couple of months to read in its entirety, and The Silmarillion begins to cross over into super-nerd territory (although I was surprised to find that it actually wasn’t quite as dense as I’d expected). Mention anything beyond that, and you’ll get a blank stare from anyone less than a hard-core Tolkien-head. The Hobbit, by contrast, is meant to be a children’s book, operating just as well within its own little nucleus as it does within the greater context of Tolkien’s body of work. It is a rare example of a perfect standalone fantasy story. I had to pick a word other than favorite or best for this post, though, because it is not my favorite Tolkien book, so for lack of anything better, timeless it shall be.

***There are some exceptions, especially in the suit of Swords. Overall, however, the suit symbols are absent.

****Tom Bombadil is the Hermit in the Lord of the Rings Tarot (by the same artist), which is awesome (I don’t have that Tarot, nor do I particularly desire it, but I’ve seen pictures online). The Hermit in this Tarot is Beorn, which is also a pretty great choice, although the traditionalist in me really wishes he’d had a lantern. There’s no reason to assume Beorn wouldn’t have a lantern lying around somewhere in that great abode of his, and a Hermit without a lantern just doesn’t seem whole to me. I couldn’t help but notice that Tom Bombadil has a lantern in the LOTR version, so there’s no excuse for the omission. Out of all the non-traditional details of these cards, that one probably bugs me the most (with the possible exception of Temperance). But anyone who knows me knows how much I like the Hermit, so I’ll admit to some bias there.

*****Although to be fair, there are a couple great female characters in the Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion. Although, to be fair again, they are far outnumbered by the men.

The Visconti-Sforza Tarot.

I’d considered buying these cards a while back, but ultimately decided upon the Medieval Scapini, instead. While the aesthetic of the Scapini Tarot is certainly derived from the Visconti cards, the more familiar with it I became, the more I wanted an actual Visconti deck for comparison. The Scapini pack is nothing short of amazing, one of my favorites that I never expected to be a favorite, but it is not a historic replica by any means.

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An example of the Major Arcana, court card, and small card – VST

Of course, this Lo Scarabeo deck isn’t an actual Visconti deck, either, but a reproduction. I did consider a facsimile pack, which would have been the closest I could possibly get to the original short of traveling around the world and robbing a few high-profile art museums, but decided against it. The original cards, to be honest, just look like crap. Not the art, but the condition, which of course is to be expected of cards dating from the 1450s (I mean, there aren’t even buildings that old on this part of the globe); but why on earth would I want to pay more money for cards that just don’t look all that nice? I compared pictures online of the facsimile editions alongside pictures of the Lo Scarabeo edition, and went for the latter. I think it was a good choice.

These cards are classy. The most noticeable thing about them is the gold foil overlays on the Major Arcana and court cards. The metallic sheen of the Medieval Scapini literally pales in comparison.

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Visconti and Scapini

The colors are bright and Alexander Atanassov, the artist commissioned to paint these reproductions, did a really good job. I have no problem believing that this is supposed to be a renaissance Tarot. Some of the people do look kind of ugly, but if anything that’s just a testament to the artist’s skill in mimicking the renaissance style (what is it about renaissance artists that compelled them to paint effeminate men and masculine women? Surely people didn’t really look that way back then. Apparently all these Italians were baby-faced blondes, too).

At its core, the Visconti is just a glorified Marseille-pattern Tarot (which is probably an incredibly historically inaccurate statement to make, but in the Tarot world, the TdM is generally the stylistic point of reference). The Minors are fancy embellished pips, the Magician is a street juggler, and the Hierophant and High Priestess are dressed in ecclesiastical garb. There are some fascinating differences in some of the Major Arcana, however, particularly in the Moon, World and Strength cards.

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Strength (I think that’s supposed to be Heracles, but if so, that is one pitiful Nemean Lion), the Moon, and the World from the VST.

I’m going to wrap this post up with the obligatory history lesson about these cards. For those who don’t know, the Visconti-Sforza Tarrocchi are the oldest datable Tarot cards,* and it is for this reason more than any other that makes these cards so popular to collectors today. It was commissioned around 1450 by a lord of Milan named Francesco Sforza, to commemorate the marriage of his family to the politically influential Visconti family – in fact, the Lovers card supposedly depicts the wedding. All of the court cards are [supposed to be – again, I find it hard to believe they really looked like this] members of either the Visconti or Sforza families (well, aside from the Knight of Coins, as we shall see). The paintings on the cards are traditionally attributed to artist Bonifacio Bembo, although it’s impossible to be sure.

The Visconti deck is not complete; the Devil, the Tower, the Knight of Coins, and the Three of Swords are all missing, and so any Visconti deck sold today needs to replace these four cards to be usable.** Being a simple pip card, the Three of Swords surely posed no problem to the artist, and the Knight of Coins appears to be right at home among the Coins court. The Devil and the Tower are pretty generic (though not at all poorly executed), looking much like they do in any TdM or other traditional Tarot, although a Tarot history blog I read a while back has led me to believe that these versions of the cards use motifs that may be anachronistic.*** That’s impossible to really know, though, and I think the more interesting point I took away from that blog was the possibility that these two cards were purposely excluded from the pack because of their connotations. Of course, this doesn’t explain why the Three or the Knight are missing; and why would the Milanese lord wish for the Tower and the Devil to be removed, but leave the sinister card Thirteen in the progression? I think the more likely explanation is that 550-odd years is a long time for a deck of cards to survive, and we’re lucky to have as much of it as we do. Still, food for thought. It’s not unheard of, after all, for Tarot cards in the middle ages to have been edited for tastefulness (or banned completely, if you weren’t lucky enough to be born into nobility).

*This means that there are possibly earlier examples of Tarot cards, but that we cannot date them with any degree of certainty. It’s safe to assume, however, that the oldest are not older than the mid-to-late-1300s. Ronald Decker’s Art and Arcana, page 8.

**There are actually three extant versions of the Visconti-Sforza Tarot, all attributed to Bembo, and it’s between all of them that we are only missing four cards.

***I can’t find the blog anymore, otherwise I’d link it. Sorry.

The Hermetic Tarot.

I’ve been aware of the existence of this Tarot for a long time now, and it’s been on and off my want list since I first stumbled upon it. I finally pulled the trigger on it, and am pleased that I did.

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An example of the Major Arcana, court card, and small card – HT

The Hermetic Tarot (HT) is an occult pack to its core, based on the tenets of the Golden Dawn. The art consists of black and white line and stippling drawings by Godfrey Dowson, and it looks really cool, although I have to admit that some of the people do look kind of strange (not any more so than the woodblock figures of the TdM, but still).

Each card is overflowing with esoteric symbolism that I’m sure will take me years to master. Luckily, my familiarity with the Crowley Thoth means I’m not going into this one totally cold. There are differences between the two, of course, because Crowley didn’t strictly adhere to the Golden Dawn’s ideas in his own cards, but overall I think knowing one certainly helps to know the other.

My one complaint about this Tarot is the naming of the court cards.* Traditionally, they are called King, Queen, Knight, and Page, with elemental attributions of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth, respectively. Keeping the same elemental order, Mr. Crowley sought to confuse everyone by renaming the cards Knight, Queen, Prince, and Princess. This is a slight revision of the Golden Dawn’s court, which, again keeping the same elemental order from Fire to Earth, goes King, Queen, Prince, and Princess. I think the Hermetic Tarot should have used the last one, but instead it uses an odd mixture of tradition and Crowley: Knight (Fire), Queen (Water), King (Air), and Princess (Earth). This adds unnecessary confusion to an already confusing part of the Tarot, and should have just been left alone. All in all, though, it’s not that big of a deal once you get it straight in your head.

The occult fascinates me, even if I am far from an expert in it. I wanted a new occult pack mainly for academic purposes, and this one certainly fits the bill. It’s a fine addition to my collection.

*There’s something else, actually, although I wouldn’t call it a complaint so much as a difference of opinion. In his astrological correspondences, Dowson includes Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto along with the seven traditional “planets”. He attributes Pluto to the Fool and Uranus to Judgement, which is the opposite of how I’d like to see them (how did the Golden Dawn do it?). Considering that I hardly so much as dabble in astrology, and when I do, I tend to stick to the traditional seven, it’s not a big deal at all, but I thought I’d mention it, because some people might find that a nit to pick.

Mary-El.

Over the last two months, I went on a bit of a spree and obtained for my collection three new decks. Having spent a little bit of time getting to know each of them, I think I’ll post some of my thoughts, starting with the Mary-El Tarot (MET).

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An example of the Major Arcana, Court card, and small card – MET

These are some neat cards. Big, too.

They’re wildly nontraditional, but for me that’s part of their allure. There are so many RWS clones and copies; so many historical reproductions; so many Golden Dawn-brand esoteric decks out there; and while I love all of these things (and indeed, I am a traditionalist at heart), I also like to remember that the Tarot is not supposed to be confined to a single system or tradition (if it was, we’d never have evolved past the Marseille pips). I figured it was time to expand my horizons.

Structurally, of course, this is still a Tarot, with a Fool, 21 numbered trumps, and four suits of 14 cards each, totaling 78. The titles of all the cards are fairly traditional, too, unless something is escaping my memory. Coins are called Disks. Justice is 8 and Strength 11. Marie White, the artist and author, claims in the companion book that she drew inspiration for her cards from the Big Three (that is, the TdM, RWS, and CHT), and while I can occasionally glimpse various nods to these traditions throughout, the Mary-El is something altogether different from any of them.

It is the artwork, which is phenomenal, that breaks from tradition. The Majors are mostly reminiscent of their forbears, albeit with some great liberties taken. The Minors, though, they are something else entirely. I distinctly remember three swords in the Three of Swords card, but many of the other Minors do not explicitly depict their suit symbols. I don’t mind. In fact, I rather like it – it’s like the total opposite of pips (I like pips, too, though). The art is evocative of what the cards are supposed to mean (which, according to the book, does not always coincide with what many of us are used to in other Tarots). These are great cards for serious introspection.

Because of the divergent meanings, I would say that the book is very important reading. It’s the perfect companion to these cards. It’s written at times almost like free-form poetry, a little strange to read at some points, and yet it all makes sense in an eclectic sort of way. The blending of influences from around the world is amazing, and many of the cards actually depict specific myths or characters, although you mightn’t notice that if you don’t read the book.

The title of this deck had me scratching my head at first, thinking that the artist Marie just changed the spelling of her name to Mary for some weird reason. In the book description of the Magician, she explains that this card is supposed to depict the Metatron. Besides just being really frickin cool, this is significant because Metatron is the only archangel whose name does not end in the suffix -el, which is “what binds other angels to the will of God” (Raphael, Uriel, Michael, and Gabriel also all make appearances in this deck in the four sixes). Nothing about the name of the deck is mentioned at this point, but I figured that the reference to the -el couldn’t have been an accident.

It’s not until the Page of Wands (inspired by Joan of Arc) near the end of the book, however, that we actually learn the meaning of “Mary-El”, which is written on the Page’s banner alongside some Christian symbols for Christ, Mary, and the Holy Spirit. Mary is symbolic of divine inspiration, which means that Ms. White’s Tarot sets out from the start with a pretty tall order to fill as “divine inspiration bound to the will of God.”

I don’t claim to fully understand the will of God, but I think this Tarot does just fine.

A Perpetual Calendar.

The Book of Days is a hard-bound calendar that I picked up recently. It’s very nice, with thick pages that withstand lots of ink, and it’s decorated with full-color and captioned images from the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead. This book is different than your average one-and-done calendar in another way, too: the days of each month are numbered, but are not assigned a weekday. This means that this particular calendar is not meant for a single year, but rather to keep track of yearly events regardless of what year it actually is. It’s marketed as a perpetual calendar to keep track of all the birthdays, anniversaries, and various other momentous occasions that take place from year to year, but I don’t care about any of that. I got it because I had in mind a better use for it: the Tarot.

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I was looking for something like this to replace the crummy old datebook in which I’d previously recorded the suggested dates for each Wildwood Tarot card (if you’re unfamiliar with the Wheel of the Year and how the Wildwood relates, you can check out my post about it here). Using green ink, I went through each page of the calendar and wrote down each card from the WWT on its respective date.

It occurred to me partway through this endeavor that I have at least one other deck with cards that can correspond with dates on a calendar: the Thoth Tarot. Using the astrological attributions for the court and small cards given in DuQuette’s book Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot (which is far more user-friendly than Crowley’s own book and includes handy charts with exactly the information I needed for this project), I sat down and wrote the cards into their respective dates alongside the Wildwood (using black ink this time to more easily differentiate between the two in my calendar). I’ve yet to tackle the issue of the Major Arcana, although I plan on working through them shortly.

The result is now I have a perpetual Tarot calendar, simultaneously keeping track of the Earthly Wheel of the Year and the Heavenly Wheel of the Zodiac, and there’s still plenty of room left over should I find another Tarot that can similarly relate to a calendar.

Now it’s a simple matter for me to look up the date and find the cards of the day. It’s a fantastic way to get to know my cards on a more intimate level, or to focus my thoughts for each day. With the Wildwood, I’ve experienced great spiritual insight already by using it like a calendar, albeit sporadically, and this will only better facilitate that. I’m interested to begin to use the Thoth in this fashion, as well. And I haven’t tried this yet, but I think it would be interesting to draw a card from a third deck at random (a daily draw) and see how it relates to the WWT and the CHT cards of its day.

Anyway, I just thought I’d share this on here in case anyone else found the idea of a Tarot calendar interesting. Fair warning, though: it’s meticulous work, and it can be somewhat tedious flipping through pages and writing down each card on its date. You have to pay attention to what you’re doing, because it’s very easy to screw up. Trust me, I know from experience.

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I found masking tape to be an adequate solution for my blunders. There’s enough showing through to remind the jackass writing to PAY ATTENTION to what he’s doing in the future.

 

Collecting: A Confession.

Alright. Those of you who have followed this blog since it’s early days will possibly recall that I used to have a strong aversion to having more than a small number of Tarot decks in my collection.* It’s an idiosyncrasy of mine that hasn’t entirely dissipated; as my collection steadily grows (this includes books as well as decks), so too does an unsettling thought in the back of my mind that something’s wrong with me.

I don’t know how to explain it, yet I feel compelled to try to justify both my collection and my uneasiness about it.

Collecting isn’t new for me. I’ve had the impulse as long as I can remember, collecting things like coins or sharks’ teeth when I was a child. As a high schooler, I tended to spend all of my money on rock n’ roll CDs and electric guitars, which I didn’t view as collecting at the time, but I know better now. Throughout college, it was my book collection which began to bloat (it had been in the making for a long time, but it wasn’t until college that it really took off), especially books about mythology.** In fact, it is my personal library which continues to be the primary object of my compulsive collecting, and I am half proud and half ashamed to admit that I have more books than most people I know. Lately, my shelves have been swelling with the addition of new books on the Tarot (my cards also reside on my bookshelves, but the majority of them are hidden from plain view).

Collecting isn’t just about having a lot of stuff; I get a deep satisfaction from organizing and categorizing, ordering and reordering that stuff. I get a certain thrill out of laying out all of my Tarot decks side by side, and then attempting to place them in categories, even if I do nothing else with them before I put them all away again.

I can’t deny that having multiple decks adds a depth to my understanding of the Tarot as a concept, and not just a pack of cards. My multi-part series on the Hermit is proof that I can glean much from variations between different versions of the same card. The more variations I become familiar with, the deeper my understanding of the Tarot becomes (and of course, the more I hunger for more variation and depth).

The thing is, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt an increasing pull towards spirituality, and learning to use the Tarot has only strengthened this pull. But learning to use the Tarot has also reawakened the collector in me, and collecting is an undeniably materialistic hobby. My tendencies for materialism and spiritualism are at odds with each other, and so I’ve struggled since the beginning with the urge to collect.

Anyway, the point of this post is that I’m coming (trying) to accept collecting as just another aspect of my Tarot hobby. Most of the time, I write about interpretation, or spirituality, or divination, or some other aspect of using the cards. I want to own the tendencies that would otherwise embarrass me, and so this post is just a means of acknowledging that, yes, I am a Tarot collector.

~~~

*Which, as of this writing, isn’t even a year ago yet. I don’t know if I feel like it’s flown by or crawled by, but either way, it seems strange to say that my blog has “early days” – and yet, my thinking has certainly evolved in that time in many ways, including that of the subject of this post. By the way, when I started this blog, I had five Tarot decks, and genuinely thought at the time that was all I’d ever want. HA!

**I actually prefer to call these books simply “myth” books. There are two basic types of myth books in my collection: mythography, which includes both primary and secondary accounts of the myths themselves (primary being something like Hesiod’s Theogony, and secondary being something like Bulfinch’s Mythology); and mythology, which includes methods of the study of myth (literary, historical, psychological, anthropological, etc. etc.). It’s a distinction that may be splitting hairs, but it’s important to me. Not that any of this has anything to do with the subject of this post, but I felt compelled to talk about it anyway. Despite the fact that this is a Tarot blog, a fascination with myth underlies my fascination with the cards, and sometimes I just like to ramble about it for a bit.