I’m called for jury duty, which is our civic duty. Can I use Tarot cards to determine the verdict? I think so. Let me explain why.
About a decade ago I was picked to be a juror on a murder trial. It was a gangbanger drive by shooting. The only evidence was the testimony of the witnesses’…rival gangbangers. They picked the leader of their rival gang as the shooter.
The bullet killed somebody in the household, thru the window. I don’t recall exactly who got killed. What I do remember is that the witnesses were from a rival gang…and I couldn’t understand a word they were speaking. They were talking jive…street slang. The prosecutor had to interpret what they said as if they were speaking Russian.
If an old grandma testified, I might have given some thought to her testimony. As it was, it was one gangbanger’s word against another’s. In the jury deliberations people played amateur CSI, based on what we saw on TV. They drew sketches on a chalkboard trying to figure out the trajectory of the bullet. OMG. This is really how jury’s work. TV CSI.
I have a better idea. Consult the spirit world.
Was the guy guilty? We had no idea. Some said he must be guilty of something, so let’s convict him. I wish I had my tarot cards with me. I would have consulted the spirits for an answer. Was this guy guilty? Only the spirits know. So in a future jury, I will consult the tarot cards for an answer. The cards have a wisdom that mere CSI may not.
Trial by Tarot. I like that idea! I want to experiment with this concept.
There was an old man who lived in Bulgaria. I was told the following story by a relative of this individual. This old man was over a hundred years old. He lived in a small village in the mountains and was favored with a very long life. I was told he enjoyed making walnut oil from walnut trees grown on his property. He lived by himself as his wife had died a while ago and he outlived all his friends. Only his younger sister was still alive. That family was blessed with a long life.
Yet long life may not be such the treasure it seems. All his friends from his past were gone. He had other relatives, but they were off elsewhere living their own lives. He made his walnut oil but even that lost its appeal.
One day he visited his sister, and told her he was tired of life. He had gone on too long and everyone he knew was gone. He told his sister he decided to die. He had enough of life. It was his time to go. He departed for his home.
The next day he died peacefully in his bed.
When I was told his story I thought it was terribly sad. Could someone really become so weary of life he would choose to pass away? But then we haven’t lived in is shoes. Imagine everybody you knew was gone and you were all alone. At his age what is the point of life if not to be with friends and relatives?
How did this hundred-year-old man will himself to die? I have no idea except maybe he just gave up. His will to live was gone. He may have gone to sleep and chose not to awaken. This suggests we have the will to live or die and it is as much mental as physical. I wish this old man well with his wife and friends in the afterlife.
I thought of the tarot card called the Hermit. It shows an old man with a lantern looking into the past. The face of the hermit is facing left, which represents the past. Looking to the right symbolizes the future (just as we read text from left to right). If we only look into the past, then life is pretty much over. I know old people whose glory days were in the past, and ignore the present let alone the future. We all know old people similar to this who reminisce about the old days and never a thing about the future.
Just because we are old doesn’t mean we don’t have a future, even if it will be brief. I also know old people who don’t live in the past. They are engaged in the present. I rarely hear these oldsters reminisce but instead chat about current events and what is happening now. These older people are fun to talk with and offer a lot of wisdom from a lifetime of experience. As we grow old, we need to retain our curiosity and be engaged with the world. Old is a state of mind. That is my interpertation of the Hermit tarot card.
I admit to being something of a tarot card fundamentalist. There are tarot card fundamentals that define what the tarot is. Today there is any number of fun tarot decks, many quite whimsical. There are fairy decks, witch decks, angel decks, and cat decks, even a zombie deck. What next? A superhero tarot? Modern interpretations may be fun and attractive, but don’t think they are the real deal. They are NOT proper tarot cards. That is my fundamentalism rising.
I consider the Tarot of Marseilles to be the basis for authentic, traditional tarot cards based in the past. They have symbolism filled with alchemical and astrological influence. Unfortunately, the tarot of Marseilles is also an ugly, awkward appearing deck. It is no surprise some have wanted to pretty it up along with trying to make the symbolism more literal. That is what the Rider-Waite deck did, and lost something of the original meaning in the process.
Another older deck preceding the Rider-Waite deck is the Book of Thoth Etteilla Tarot (not the Crowley version). Here is another example of an altered version of the tarot, but from the pre-Waite past. Let us compare these different versions.
At the top of this page is a comparison of the first card of the tarot, the Magician, or also known as the Juggler. The Tarot of Marseilles shows a juggler doing common magic tricks. The Rider-Waite version reinterprets the simple juggler as a true magician, basing it on the genuine but obscure symbolism of the Marseilles card..
The Book of Thoth magician/juggler combines both aspects. The character is a stage magician, but on his table (instead of objects) is a doll facing backwards toward the audience. This doll is the magician himself (or you observing this card) in the material world (the square table representing materialism). It is a wonderful example of the concept of “as above, so below”. The mage is the doll’s higher self, or so that is how I interpret the card.
Here we have the different versions of the Lightning Struck Tower. The Marseilles card is stiff and awkward. The Rider-Waite card is a more dramatic interpretation of the Marseilles card. The Book of Thoth card shows an earthquake inspired by the sun collapsing a city in flames. I was once told that the tower actually represents the human body, and that if the crown (mind/spirit) is severed from the body, bad things follow. Notice the tower is flesh colored? That is lost in other interpretations. This card is not about earthquakes.
Looking at the Judgment card above, they all look similar. Not really. The card appears to be the biblical judgment day and the resurrection of the dead. It could also be interpreted as the angels (or our higher-self) calling for us to transcend the mundane world and attain spiritual enlightenment. In the Marseilles card, of interest is the man in the center with his back facing us. That suggests it represents the person looking at the card…you. The Rider-Waite turns the individuals into mother/father/child. You are no longer part of this picture.
The Book of Thoth card is interesting. It shows an individual noticing the angel with joy. The other individuals in the card are busy gossiping and are otherwise preoccupied. Only few attain spiritual enlightenment, the rest of us are too busy to notice.
Finally we will look at the Book of Thoth’s Death card. I liked this card. I thought it was striking, better then the other deck’s death cards. Something about it spoke to me, like I’ve seen it somewhere else before. Ah yes. This card was lifted from a famous wood cut, The Nuremberg Chronicle’s Dance of Death (1493). I suppose the cat tarot or the zombie tarot is not alone in borrowing ideas from other sources.
I was wandering around a local Dollar Tree store (if you are not familiar with these stores they sell everything for one dollar). Something caught my eye…a deck of tarot cards for one dollar! Wow! Usually tarot decks are fairly pricey. I was intrigued. What type of tarot deck would I get for a single dollar? Would it be a true tarot deck? Would it have original work, or be a knockoff, crapola or something aimed strictly for children? These cards were found in the toy isle.
I decided to check it out and bought a deck. I was pleasantly surprised. They had original, nicely done artwork. The deck is based on actual tarot cards. They appear inspired by the classic Rider-Waite tarot deck. It contains both the Major and Minor Arcana. The pip cards do not contain individual imagery as the Rider-Waite deck did, but all the face cards and aces do.
The Major Arcana contains a written meaning for the past, present or future on its face. This makes it easy for children to use them without having to look up the meanings in an instruction booklet, but is pointless for a mature card reader. There is a layout chart included with the deck describing how to lay out the cards with areas for past/present/future.
Dollar Tree/Rider-Waite tarot magician comparison
The cards are smaller then a typical full sized deck. The style essentially illustrates the head portion of the Rider-Waite cards. If you look at the comparison of the Magician card, it appears to be a close-up of the head and shoulders. Even the headband is there! However there is an original interpretation involved. Notice how the Magician appears to be in an action pose, as if about to cast a spell.
The cards that don’t focus on a single character’s head shot tend to mirror the look of the Rider-Waite cards but again with significant differences. My favorite interpretation was this deck’s Hanged Man. Someone put thought behind this image. They filled out the empty space behind the Rider-Waite’s Hanged Man to good effect, an improvement I think.
Dollar Tree/Rider Waite Hanged Man Comparison
Who created these cards? On the back of the package it stated: “Created by internationally know medium Docc Hilford & American Mentalist Jon Stetson.” I find it hard to believe professional mentalists are also artists. I’d like to know who REALLY designed these cards.
What to call these cards? The Dollar Tree Tarot Cards? Perhaps they should be called the Hilford-Stetson Deck? How about the Dollar Tree Docc Hilford/Jon Stetson Tarot Cards, or the DTDHJS deck for short? I’ll stick with the Dollar Tree Tarot Cards.
When I asked a friend to check out my blog post before publishing it, she was aghast I’d write about this awful photograph. She had not seen this photo before and was shocked by it, 10 years after it was originally taken. It speaks to the power of this awful picture of the Falling Man.
Photographer Richard Drew of Associated Press took this iconic photograph during 9/11 of a man falling to his death from the World Trade Center. A story about the event is below:
Mr. Drew took many photos of people falling to their death on 9/11, and there were a number of photos of this particular unknown individual tumbling down the World Trade Center. But this one specific photo, by chance, stood out from all the others. What makes this image special?
It is filled with unintentional symbolism. The photo defines existentialism. A man is plunging head first toward death, seconds away, frozen in time. He exists, only briefly, between life and death. He is positioned between the dark and light lines of the World Trade Center, suggesting this state of existence. Caught in events outside of his control, he is doomed. Yet he still has control over one aspect of his existence. He cannot avoid death, but he can choose how he will die. His diving stance suggests free will still exists even in the face of oblivion.
The photo also suggests God does not exist. The Falling Man is cast down beside the giant, impersonal face of the tower. It hints we are alone, only specks in a vast, uncaring universe. All we have is our free will and even that is meaningless. It is an image of existential despair.
The Falling Man, the Hanged Man, The Lightning Struck Tower
When I saw this photo I was reminded of cards from the tarot. Compare the Falling Man with the tarot’s Hanged Man. The Falling Man with his crossed legs and arms to his side suggests the Hanged Man. Even the names are similar. The Hanged Man is suspended between twin pillars (towers?). The tarot image is framed by the pillars, inside a square, like in the image of the Falling Man. The two are so similar it feels like synchronicity.
There is also a tarot card called the Lightning Struck Tower. In this card a force from the heavens hits a tower, like jets striking the Twin Towers. Circles in the air are debris flung into the sky as people fall from the tower. This card has its own Falling Men.
Coincidence? Synchronicity? Or the power of symbolism. With so many photos, why did this one Falling Man photograph strike a chord and become an icon of 9/11? It possesses an innate symbolism. The Jungian collective unconscious works in mysterious ways. And it repeats itself.
Or whoever created the tarot hundreds of years ago planned 9/11. That would be mother-of-all conspiracy theories.
On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, let us have hope for the future.
Below is an interesting documentary concerning the tragic Falling Man.
Does the Rider-Waite tarot deck contain references to UFOs? The deck was the creation of Arthur Edward Waite and artist Pamela Colman Smith. Waite was a mystic and occultist, and as such he dealt with the many concept of spirit: angels, demons and elementals. But UFO aliens? Not likely as the deck was published in 1909.
Yet there are some intriguing parallels between the spirits of occultism and the concept of UFOs and aliens visiting earth. If we examine the Rider-Waite card Temperance, we notice there is a light in the background rising above some hills at the end of a path. The card’s light in the distance looks like a UFO, a glowing flying saucer. The image struck me as being similar to the iconic image from the movie poster of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In Waite’s book, the Pictorial Key to the Tarot, he describes the Temperance card, and mentions the light in the background:
“A winged angel, with the sign of the sun upon his forehead and on his breast the square and triangle of the septenary. I speak of him in the masculine sense, but the figure is neither male nor female. It is held to be pouring the essences of life from chalice to chalice. It has one foot upon the earth and one upon waters, thus illustrating the nature of the essences. A direct path goes up to certain heights on the verge of the horizon, and above there is a great light, through which a crown is seen vaguely.”
He is describing the angel as a solar being (the sun upon his forehead)…a Star Man. It has the power of flight (wings) yet touches the earth with its feet. It is a visitor to earth. The light in the distance is described as a crown seen vaguely seen in a great light. A crown or disk seen in a light? Could this be the vessel used by the “angel” visiting earth? The angel looks oddly like the Nordic Alien with a strange geometric image on its breast.
I am not suggesting Waite was actually referring to literal alien star men, visitors from space. Yet, the concept seems part of our collective unconscious. The image of the light in the distance, down an empty road, with strange visitors awaiting us, does connect the tarot card to the movie poster. UFO aliens are archetypes. Angels appear like alien visitors. Or do aliens appear like angels?
We have another full moon earthquake. This is starting to become a regular event. Nobody seems to notice these full and new moon quakes, but I do. There was a full moon on June 26, 2010 at 11:31 GMT. In addition there was a partial lunar eclipse beginning from 1017 GMT and lasting for 3 hours. 54% of the moon was covered by the earth’s shadow at its peak at 1138 GMT. And on June 26 at 05:30 GMT there was an earthquake which struck off the Solomon Islands. It was a powerful 6.7 magnitude quake. Strong earthquake strikes off the Solomon Islands, no tsunami threat
The idea the moon has an influence over the earth is an old one. One example is in a tarot card, The Moon. The moon card shows the moon hovering above, and below are baying hounds and a crayfish crawling out of a pool of water. In the background is a pair of towers. The tarot’s moon card shows the moon having an esoteric impact on the world below.
Outside the spiritual symbolism is also a curious symbolism suggesting the moon’s ability to cause earthquakes. The towers in the background seem very similar to the destroyed tower in the tarot card titled the Tower, or the Lightning Struck Tower.
The Lightning Struck Tower appears to be struck down by lightning, but it is actually impacted by a force from the heavens. Notice the only partly cloudy sky. This mysterious force may be construed as the influence of the moon over its towers. Observe the flame-like energies in both cards. Did the tarot recognize a connection between the moon and the power of the moon to destroy towers? Lightning would never topple a stone tower. But an earthquake could, prodded by a power from the heavens…the moon!
There is an interesting article in the May 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine, titled “Mexico’s Shocking New Saints”. The article deals with the cult of Santa Muerte, the saint named Holy Death. La Santa Muerte takes the form of Death, the grim reaper, a skeleton draped in a shroud holding a scythe or a globe of the earth. Here is the story: Mexico’s Shocking New Saints
La Santa Muerte is a saint for outsiders, the poorest, the disenfranchised, and the criminal world of prostitutes, drug dealers, thieves and worse. For those who face death in a hostile world, like taxi drivers or security guards. I know nothing about this cult, but I do know something about people who live on the edge of existence. I’ve had acquaintances that were lost souls, people in trouble, those who fell into trouble with the law. These people are not necessarily evil, but mostly get into trouble because of poverty, stupidity, or substance abuse and addiction issues.
Regular Christians would consider the veneration of La Santa Muerte as devil worship. Yet, I can sort of understand why the spiritually lost would be attracted to La Santa Muerte. Ideally one could turn to any of the great spiritual traditions for salvation, so why embrace the grim reaper? If the dominant culture does not accept you, what to do? Invent your own spirituality.
Dance Of Death
Followers of la Santa Muerte claim they had prayers answered in her name. They actually believe in La Santa Muerte, it is not just a funky tattoo. In my previous post I mentioned how there may be spiritual powers available, which we all have access to, if we follow the process. These powers are neutral, available to any belief system. And they can be used for both constructive and destructive means.
Yet these spiritual powers do not exist in a vacuum. There are other spiritual laws too, including something similar to karma. What goes around comes around, and in the end we get what we deserve one way or another. The problem with veneration of a saint of Holy Death is that life has so much more to offer. We don’t have to accept our fate as it is. Any spiritual tradition can be positive or negative. Christianity had the crusades and the inquisition, Islam had its jihads. It seems like many people of faith throughout history worshiped Holy Death.
The image of Santa Muerte looks similar to the European version of the grim reaper. The classic image of the grim reaper is in the tarot, card number 13. Just like people would misinterpret the imagery of Santa Muerte, so would it be easy to misconstrue the meaning of tarot’s death card. The death card can mean physical death. But its real meaning is of the death of old ways, in other words…change. Most people don’t like change, fear change, resist change but for good or bad change is inevitable. And without change there cannot be renewal, rebirth and growth. We need to be flexible in the face of changing circumstances and adapt. That is the way of nature, of evolution. Species that cannot adapt perish. On a personal level, if we can’t adapt to a changing world, we falter.
An interesting component of the earlier versions of tarot’s death card is that it is shown not as a complete skeleton, but was a decaying cadaver. There is still flesh on those bones. The symbolism is clear…a state of transition is taking place. Decay leads to rebirth. The world is changing, adapt or perish.
The Catholic Church is in deep trouble with its priests’ sex scandals. It appears some church authorities tried to cover up clergy pedophilia to protect the church’s reputation, and the cover-up has reached the highest ranks of the Catholic Church. Which begs the question…why does the Church have this problem to begin with? How did this happen? Protestant churches have their share of sex scandals, but these usually involve pastors cheating on their wives, not molesting children.
Modern version of the Popess
The Tarot actually has something to say about the Catholic Church’s problem with sex. The Tarot of Marseilles is one of the oldest versions of the tarot, and it existed from at least the fifteenth century when the Catholic Church was both an overwhelming political and religious power. The imagery on the tarot clearly reflected their times, which included the Catholic world.
The Tarot of Marseilles’ viewpoint of the church is quite heretical. And it appears to have an opinion about sex and the Catholic Church. This is apparent from the infamous card number 2, the female Pope. Later versions of the tarot removed explicit Catholic imagery and transformed the Popess into the High Priestess. This is an appropriate reworking of the essence of the card’s meaning; the Popess/High Priestess represents alternative, nontraditional spirituality.
What does a tarot card about a female Pope suggest? It would be considered sacrilege, blasphemy, and heresy, anti-God. And exactly why is the idea of a female pope (or priest) so awful? That is a good question. I can’t think of a good reason. Sort of like the logic behind denying women the right to vote a century ago. What were they thinking back then?
Lining up the first six cards of the tarot in numerical order, we notice something interesting. Watch the eyes of the characters in the cards. Who is looking at whom? Compare card #1, the Juggler and card #2, the Lady Pope. The female Pope is looking intently, directly at the Juggler, who seems preoccupied at playing with his juggling. She is offering her Juggler the book she holds, the key to knowledge. Instead of learning to juggle, learn to read, and begin the journey towards enlightenment.
The next two cards are the Empress and the Emperor. The Empress gives a sly glance at the Emperor, but the Emperor’s full attention is directly focused on his Empress. This is the path of life, woman and man, wife and husband, the reason for our existence…the continuation of the human species. It is the natural order and cannot be denied.
The following two cards are card #5 the Pope, and card #6 the Lovers. Now this is an odd pair. The Pope is looking directly at the Lovers card, not at the pair of cardinals before him. What is up with that? I’d suggest that a celibate priesthood’s internal, subconscious focus would be on that which they don’t have…love, sex, and a relationship. The medieval Pope was the master of the Western world, above all kings and queens. But without love, what did it matter? The Pope gazes longingly at that which even he is denied. Or was he really denied? Hmmm.
This might explain something of the Catholic Church’s problem. Is it a surprise an institution that requires a celibate priesthood would have priests with sexual issues? Has any institution that denied human nature done so without consequences?
If we place the Popess and the Pope side by side, what do we see? One thing is obvious; they are NOT looking at each other, but are determinedly looking away from each other. They are not on the same page. The Popess is reading a book, and being an outcast her knowledge is self-learned. She does not depend on other’s interpretation of scripture, but decides for herself. She exists outside the traditional religious power structure. The Pope in the card is telling his bishops kneeling before him what to think. Maybe what the Catholic Church needs is a woman’s touch, with women sharing leadership. We need a woman pope. Life requires balance, and the Church is unbalanced. A female Pope is the Tarot’s answer to the church’s problems.
I am reviewing an old and unusual set of divinatory cards. They are not tarot cards, nor do they belong to traditional cartomancy. They are the Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling Playing Cards. The Gypsy Witch cards have been around for a long time. They were first published in 1904 and have been around ever since, and predate many of our better known tarot decks such as the famous Rider-Waite deck which was first published in 1909.
This is a curious deck of cards. They claim to be based on ideas by the famed French cartomancer, Madam Lenormand. There are numerous Lenormand style decks that make use of mnemonic images on the cards. The images and their meanings don’t seem to correspond to the accepted meanings attributed to the suits or numerology. The Lenormand style cards are unique in themselves, and today we’d call this style of deck oracle cards.
The Gypsy Witch deck is a facsimile of the Lenormand decks that were developed after her death. This Gypsy Witch deck is a standard deck of playing cards, but each card has an illustration and the meaning written down. The illustrations are old Victorian style images. This adds charm to the deck. With the meanings of the cards written on each card, we’d think it would be easy to use. There is nothing to memorize. I bought my deck out of curiosity long ago. However, I rarely used these cards. Why?
I have issues with the Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling Deck. First, these cards have no relationship with traditional cartomancy or the tarot. Cartomancy certainly has a wide variety of interpretations towards any card’s meaning, but there are some simple “rules”. One is the meaning of the suits. The heart represents matters of the heart and emotion; the diamond represents matters of money and commerce, and so on. With this deck, the pips and numbers have NO relationship with the meanings and imagery depicted.
Comparing gypsy witch cards with tarot cards
Above is an example of their Aces compared to the same with the Rider-Waite deck. Do the meanings written on the card have any relationship with the suits? Expect for the Ace of Spades, no. Which begs the question, is any correspondence necessary? Are there really any rules when it comes to inspiring our intuition? Is any system of symbolism only in our imagination? Probably. Intuition does not follow rules. But I like to think there is some sort of system behind cartomancy. If there is a system behind the Lenormand style decks, I don’t understand it.
Another issue with these cards is their meaning is literally spelled out on each card. Reading people’s fortunes is not a game. Many people take it quite seriously. If a deck has written meanings that the participant can read along with the reader, it takes away from the reader their responsibility to “soften the blow” if something negative is seen. Who knows if a reading will ever become reality? And this deck has quite a few scary cards. I have a pair of images to the left. Imagine if someone saw these two in their layout…the 5 of Spades, with an image of a coffin, combined with the 10 of Diamonds, the Scythe, suggests an early death. Spelled out right on the card. Yikes! That is way too literal.
One thing I like about this deck is its method of reading cards, which seems intriguing. It could easily be used with tarot cards. It uses a card to represent the participant in the center, and is surrounded by an inner square of eight cards, and an outer square of eight cards. The inner square of cards shape the destiny of the participant, and the outer square of cards represent the forces surrounding him or her. Below is a chart I made to show how it works. This type of layout has a lot of possibilities, and makes for a change from the typical Celtic Cross layout.
Print out these instructions, right click and print: