Some say that Tarot cards, I Ching hexagrams, thrown bones, and other methods of uncovering the future only tell us what we already know, showing us that we do not trust what we know or that it’s buried deep in our minds and needs to be remembered. So we have these crutches, then.
In general, I think many of us know what we should be doing, but put it off by leaning on various other crutches while we decide whether or not to do it. It’s as though the thing we know we should do seems risky and we need to make sure one way or another that it’s not as dangerous as it appears.
So we do research–books, websites, experts, college courses, etc.–all of which are good to a point but then, as we delay moving ahead, become more crutches. Spouses can become crutches, so too, siblings and parents and our next-door neighbors and colleagues and best friends. They don’t want us to change, leave town, become involved in a cause they’re less sure of, or even miss bowling night.
Most people who employ the usual crutches to “see” the future agree that the future is not fixed, but that it represents what will probably happen if nothing is done to alter it. I think that’s probably true, but add that I also think we’re creating that future knowingly or unknowingly. It’s better I think to realize we’re doing that rather than blundering ahead and then being “surprised” at what happens. Pretending that we don’t know we did it–created that future–is another crutch or, perhaps, a civilized form of plausible deniability.
Sometimes people who have been drunk wake up and can’t believe they did the things sober people claim they did while they were drunk. Since they don’t remember it, they can claim in the middle of their hangovers that they’re not responsible for whatever happened. Do you suppose we might do this even when we’re not drunk?
I suspect so. Being drunk is a crutch, I think, as is going through life acting like we’re drunk even when we’re sober. I wonder: are we afraid to make commitments, to take this job rather than that job, adopt viewpoint ABC rather than viewpoint XZY? As long as we don’t commit, we probably feel free to make another choice later. Some people like keeping their options open, often until “outside forces” start eliminating those options.
A belief in fate is, perhaps, a large crutch. We say the cruel hand of fate caused whatever it caused or that life got in the way, believing that’s absolution. A comforting thought, but I don’t buy it. Who caused this “fate,” I want to ask?
We don’t need Tarot cards or coins/yarrow stalks and an I Ching book to tell us the answer because we already know.
“Fate’s Arrows,” the latest novel in the Folk Magic Series, is on sale on Kindle today for only 99₵.
“You can feel it in the air too. I know you can. There is an almost electric buzz that takes a seat in the back of the head, like an uninvited guest at a family reunion. It takes up space and makes you carry around maladaptive behaviors like a child’s blanket. It’s uncomfortable, it’s ill-fitting, and like that uninvited guest, it infringes on your plans and keeps you from being the person you truly are. And you just can not get it to leave. For those of us who are empaths, it buzzes harder, burns brighter, and every Tweet and every headline sting like daggers. That uninvited guest has taken a place on your couch after the reunion, slide their shoes off, and said they need a place for a while, do you mind if they stay?”
I enjoy reading Conjure and Coffee even though the writer and I are in vastly different age groups and approach magic in somewhat different ways. I’ve highlighted this post about The Tower because whether you’re intuitive in any way, it’s likely that the upheaval in our country has an impact on you and even brings ominous thoughts about the future.
Using the Thoth Tarot, I see the Tower Card as less apocalyptic than this image in the Rider-Waite deck suggests. Perhaps we face the destruction of outdated modes of thinking rather than the violent upheaval of mobs and armies. Nonetheless, many of us, empathic and otherwise, intuitively and logically and emotionally sense dangers all over the current times.
My worry is that the debate seems to be getting more polarized rather than one aimed at unity and consensus building. Sometimes I think the two major political parties are trying to outdo each other in pure craziness. If you dare to get in a discussion online about anything from a moderate perspective, you’ll be attacked by extremists on both sides of the issue. The scary thing is, all the people in each group sound the same, like they’ve been brainwashed and all they can do is repeat the programming from the mother ship or whoever they respect.
Okay, I’ve strayed off from the focus and intent of the “Time of the Tower” post because I see similar kinds of messages in the cards about more discord rather than less. How do we diffuse the rhetoric and the hatred and the “my side right or wrong”?
The phrase “blessed are the peacemakers” comes to mind, and I guess that’s better than arguing and trying to win.
In yesterday’s post, I wrote about authors’ research that gets out of hand, often because the author really likes the subject and gets happily lost in it. In researching my next book, I dusted off two older Tarot books, in addition to the venerable Book of Thoth: Robert Wang’s 1987 Qabalistic Tarot (revised in 2004) and Lon Milo Duquette’s 2003 Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot.
Tarot card readers will, I think, be debating the differences (and efficacy of) the Rider-Waite Tarot deck vs. the Thoth Tarot deck (among others) forever. I started out with the Rider-Waite deck. Most people do. Waite, it is said, held back on the deck’s symbolism because he considered that revealing more would be to open up Golden Dawn secrets to everyone. I stepped away from the Rider-Waite deck for that reason–no offense to those who love it and rely upon it.
I do take issue with the numerous decks of fortune telling cards with other symbols on them that purport to be tarot cards. They are not. The Tarot is closely linked with the Qabalah, the Tree of Life, alchemy, and astrology, and any deck that doesn’t rely on this symbolism is not truly a Tarot deck even though if may work well for those who who are attuned with its symbolism
This book is considered a classic, and rightly so. It shows the relationship between the cards and the hermetic Qabalah and includes several popular decks. Read this one before you read the Duquette book.
From the publisher: “Hailed by reviewers as “a masterpiece,” and as “the single most profound reference of its kind,” The Qabalistic Tarot has become the standard in its field, a book essential to all students of Tarot symbolism. It is both a textbook and a sourcebook for the symbols of the Western Hermetic Qabalah, a corpus of mystical ideas which have, for centuries, exerted a powerful influence on the development of Western thought. Dr. Wang explains the Tarot as an externalization of a mystical system which has evolved from approximately the third century C.E. to our own time. He traces the development of Qabalistic ideas from the Neoplatonic through the Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern periods, systematically discussing each Sephira and Path on the Tree of Life. He uses the Tarot images as a point of visual reference, and provides a thorough explanation of the symbolic intricacies of the Paths. The Qabalistic Tarot is recommended as a comprehensive textbook for individual study or for the classroom. The first and only work based on the four major decks in use today, it is the ideal companion book for the Golden Dawn Tarot, the Thoth Tarot, the Rider-Waite Tarot, or the traditional Marseilles deck.”
Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot
This book focuses on the Thoth deck. It discusses, in addition to the correspondences of the cards to the Tree of Life, the rationale behind the differences between this deck and the Rider-Waite deck. The philosophy behind this deck is much larger than the differences between the names and numbers of some of the cards. The author has written a good many books about esoteric subjects, so he brings a lot of research into this work even though it is–on occasion–a bit flippant.
From the publisher: “Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot was his final opus, the culmination of a lifetime of occult study and practice. With artist Lady Frieda Harris, he condensed the core of his teaching into the 78 cards of the tarot. Although Crowley’s own Book of Thoth provides insight into the cards, it is a complicated, dated book. Now, in clear language, Lon Milo DuQuette provides everything you need to know to get the most out of using the Thoth deck.”
These books are valuable especially for those who are interested in the relationship between the Tarot and the Tree of Life.
You may also like:
Book of Thoth -Crowley’s famous book describing the Thoth Deck is available in various editions from multiple booksellers including Amazon.
Book T – Referenced by both of the books in this post, Book T was a Golden Dawn manual listing information about the cards. It can now be found online as a PDF at the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) site among other places.
Book of Formation: Referenced in both books here is the ancient Jewish Kabbalah text, the Book of Formation (Sepher Yetzirah), which you can find online here.
I’ve been tinkering with the I Ching and the Tarot since I was in high school. I don’t do readings for other people. In fact, most people don’t know that I know anything about these divination systems because once they know, they walk on the other side of the street whenever they see you.
I was happy that C. LaVielle contributed a Tarot and storytelling guest post on January 11th because she focused one of the reasons I like both the I Ching and the Tarot: understanding the characters in my stories.
Like Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, both the I Ching and the Tarot present ways of looking at the world. The Tarot, of course, is closely linked to the Tree of Life of the Kabbalists. The future isn’t fixed. At least I don’t think it is. So I don’t use any of these ways of looking at the world for predicting the future. In fact, they tell me what I know that I don’t know that I know. That is to say, they tell me what the unconscious part of me knows to be true even though the conscious part of me hasn’t figured it out yet.
My sun sign is Leo and the card representing me in the Tarot is the Knight of Swords (called King of Swords in most decks). This is why the URL for this site includes “knight of swords.” When I do Tarot readings for myself, the knight is me. When I do readings about novels I’m writing, the knight is always the logic of the story, cruel at times, to be sure, but nonetheless the fiery part of air as the card is described.
As a character in one of my novels said, he doesn’t want to see the future because that would spoil the surprise. It would also impact what he (or any of us) choose to do right now. Our power is always in the now. I see that, but the characters in my stories don’t always notice it. Plus, seeing the future would give us the false idea the whole shebang out there is engraved in stone when, actually, nothing except epitaphs are engraved in stone.
As a knight of swords, I’m a trickster (among other things), so that means I’m always stirring things up. That’s one reason I write fiction–to stir things up. That’s also why I like my Tarot deck: it shows me that even when I don’t consciously know I’m doing it, I’m stirring things up–and creating ideas that I let other people carry out to completion after I’ve wandered off to something new.
I see this as the author’s first duty–sowing seeds, suggesting things that bother people while making them think, suggesting that things aren’t what they appear to be, telling people that whatever goes bump in the night is real, finding the story inside everything that happens.
It’s one hell of a thing to do, but somebody’s got to do it. Fortunately, my Tarot deck “advises me” when it’s time to step back before the mob shows up on my door step.
When the Sun and the Moon are viewed within the arena of Western esoteric traditions, including alchemy and the Tarot, they represent opposites that approach and retreat from each other even though they are destined to be merged into one. In these traditions, the Sun represents fire, masculine, positive (polarity), rational, visible world, and the consciousness mind. The Moon represents water, feminine, negative (polarity), intuition, hidden world, and the unconscious mind.
It is said that the enlightened being, often called The Wonder Child or viewed as the Philosopher’s Stone, is born from the merging of these apparent father/mother, king/queen opposites as depicted in the old art work shown here.
One of the many ways of illustrating the steps on the path to enlightenment, the goal of the hero’s and heroine’s journeys, is through the sequence of Major Arcana (trumps) cards in a Tarot deck. The Major Arcana cards begin with “0 The Fool,” who is considered the innocent initiate at the beginning of the journey/quest and end with “21 The Universe,” which represents ascension. En route, the seeker finds “18 The Moon” and “19 The Sun.”
I like the description of the Moon and Sun cards in the ancient quests of knights for the Holy Grail. The Moon, then, is the Grail in the lake (beautiful water symbolism here) and the Sun represents the Grail lifted up into the pure light prior to completing the quest. Afterwards, the initiate/seeker reaches “20 Aeon” which is viewed as the rising of the Phoenix from the ashes prior to ascension.
Many Paths = One Destination
There are multiple layers of symbols here when we overlay the hero’s/heroine’s journey paths with all their traditional associations, including the Lesser Mysteries and Greater Mysteries, the cycles of the seasons around “the wheel of the year,” the Tree of Life, Tarot, alchemy and astrology. One need not study all of this, or even any of this, to understand seeker’s journey. The journey is who we are and what we are about. All of the paths to enlightenment are pointed toward the same end: transformation. Each of us focuses on the symbols we’re most comfortable with and attuned to.
Some experts say that we’re impacted by these symbols even if we are not consciously aware of them or understand the little we may have heard about them. I am a novice in using Tarot and understanding the cards’ many connections to the Tree of Life, spiritual alchemy and the cycles of the seasons. Generally, though, I like the symbolism of the Thoth Deck of Cards. The Moon and Sun cards shown here are from that deck and have a fair amount of symbolism.
Moon: The overall tone here is night. In the Book of Thoth, the Moon is called the “Gateway of Resurrection.” During night and Winter, the waiting Sun is diminished or absent. The landscape here is severe and the stream is mixed with blood. The sacred scarab holds the sun in its darkness while the moon occupies the mind and cosmos.
Sun: The overall tone here is light, with the twelve major rays standing for the signs of the zodiac. The light emanates from a rose-like sun, standing for the flowering of the solar influence. The children above the green and fertile earth are forever young and innocent. They represent the seeker’s and/or humankind’s next stage.
The Writer’s Raw Materials
As a writer, I love the relationship of symbols and story ideas. They can strongly impact plots, themes and characters. There are many ways to characterize a journey. For example, readers of my hero’s journey novel The Sun Singer will find numerous references to light and the other aspects of the so-called solar journey. For more information, see the Journey Page on my website and explore the information on the Joseph Campbell Foundation site. The book’s Glacier Park setting reminds park visitors and fans of “Going to the Sun Road” and the expanse of light one sees from high mountain trails.
Likewise, readers of my heroine’s journey novel Sarabande will find numerous references to water and the other aspects of the so-called lunar journey. The Heroine’s Page and the Sarabande Page on my website have more details. While the book’s story begins in the mountain high country, the plot (which is oriented around the moon’s phases) becomes more focused on rivers, dreams and the so-called “Underworld.”
For more information about Tarot cards in general, you might enjoy exploring one of my favorite sites: Raven’s Tarot Site. Here you’ll learn more about the Major Arcana (trumps), Minor Arcana (suits), and their correspondences with the Tree of Life, the classic elements, and astrology.
My first intention in both of these books is telling an exciting story. Both stories have many associations with myths and symbols. Those who know the myths and symbols will, perhaps, smile when they see the references. Those who do not consciously know the myths and symbols will still be subject to their spells.
As Rumi said, “What you seek, seeks you.” So, perhaps when you’ve finished reading the stories, you’ll be drawn into the “inner stories” behind the actions of Robert Adams (The Sun Singer) and Sarabande (Sarabande). When that happens, you’ll find that what you are looking for will begin to appear more often in your life in the form of books, websites and links, things you see on the way to work or on a hike, people who are interested in these subjects, and your dreams.
Meanwhile, as you read the novels, I hope you’ll enjoy the action while you are dancing with the Sun and the Moon—as they dance with each other.