A month ago, snowstorms hit the US hard. What happened in Texas was a tragic failing of infrastructure due to greed and short-sightedness. Here in the Puget Sound, we simply shut down for a day or two as is the norm for snow/ice in the Seattle metro area. We don’t get it very often and its safer and saner to just wait it out when possible. This time that was easy.
But the cold and snow brought with it some serious fibromyalgia and arthritis/joint issues for me. I’ve never really been the same since. However, I just successfully completed the end of 2 WEEKS of going to the gym/swimming pool. I’ve been losing weight, I’ve been active outside the house, I’ve lost my fear/anxiety over using public transportation and I’ve been seeing the Law Of Attraction successfully at work in my life which fits with having recently completed listened to Mitch Horowitz’s The Miracle Club: How Thoughts Become Reality.
I have mixed opinions about the Law of Attraction and “New Thought” in general and have skimmed enough of conversations to see where the controversy lies for me. I’m so anti-Guru Grifting, people making exploitive profits as life coaches/authors/seminar leaders. I don’t consider Mitch Horowitz one at all. He’s just a talented magician and author who I eagerly read on Medium and I found his take on magic and magical thinking to fit very well with mine.
But running across that picture I posted above hit hard today. I know several people who are in fact keeping themselves sick/depressed through toxic though. I know several others who are actively seeking transformative change like me. Most people I know are in between.
I do believe there is something to the Law of Attraction, quite a bit actually. Its something I will write more about in the future. I am discovering in my own life that I’m calling to me all kinds of amazing but overwhelming things and I’m having to slow myself down as a content creator because I’ve got opportunities that didn’t exist a month ago to get myself swimming and medical treatment for some conditions I’ve been struggling with for decades. Spending 3-4 hours out of the house 5 days a week is exhausting in mostly good ways. Everything I’m doing while I’m out there? I ~asked~ the universe to provide for me and to make affordable and it did. But it sure means less time at my computer, reading and writing.
… that might not be such a terrible thing though, in terms of the alchemy of my personal Great Work. So long as I don’t lose focus and momentum and things continue to unfold on this website and with the podcast and such. That is the biggest risk right now. One of my worst flaws is following a single passion obsessively to the detriment of the other aspects/interests in my life.
Words cast spells. I need to keep my words sincere and directed towards positive change in me and mine.
Welcome to Lesson Eight. You will notice that I am fond of using italics and boldface to highlight specific words. Anything highlighted can be considered a vocabulary word or concept that I want to bring special attention to. Boldface is a topic that I recommend doing further personal research about.
I use the following spellings to differentiate between three very different esoteric systems: Kabbalah as a type of Jewish mysticism that began in the Middle Ages, Cabala as a form of Christian mysticism that began during the Renaissance, and Qabalah as a form of Western occult philosophy that began with Éliphas Lévi and the Golden Dawn-era magicians. Qabalah is the only one of the three that includes tarot. When I’m talking about all three traditions at the same time or something general enough to be part of all three, I use QBL. Other writers use their own conventions.
In Lesson 4, I stated that the classical Western elements are one of the most ancient and fundamental principles to esoteric tarot. I traced this principle back to 5th century BCE and Empedocles of Acragas. The oldest known inscription of the Tetragrammaton dates to 840 BCE and the Mesha Stele (Moabite Stone). The inclusion of the Tetragrammaton in Jewish magic, especially the inscribing of magical amulets was popular during the Second Temple Period (516 BCE and 70 CE) when there was generally a lot of syncretism going on with Hellenistic culture. Jewish Talmudic & Merkabah mysticism originated during this period; Jewish Kabbalah appeared centuries later and with even more syncretism.
The Sefer Yetzirah, the foundational proto-Kabbalistic mystical text, was written somewhere between 400-900 AD. I am pretty certain that its author was influenced by esoteric philosophies outside of the Merkabah tradition, especially those originally spawned in Hellenistic culture. Non-Jewish cabalism surfaced during the Renaissance thanks to Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Mirandola is attributed with being the founder of Christian Cabalistic philosophy.
Until the 1850s, Christian cabalists worked with astrology, alchemy, gnostic literature, and many other occult practices but not the tarot. Tarot- tarocchi cards, in Italian- happened to use a lot of iconographic themes also favored by the Renaissance aristocracy and those they patronized. The first known occult scholar to believe (incorrectly) that tarot could be traced back to Egyptian mysticism was Antoine Court de Gébelin (1725 – 1784). He made a direct link between the 22 Major Arcana and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet based on his experiences with Freemasonry and cabalism.
After 1780, several prominent occultists created their own tarot decks where they intentionally included cabalistic and/or Egyptian iconography and began to use tarot as part of ceremonial magic or other occult practices. The most famous of them was Éliphas Lévi, who published his system as Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie in 1854-1856. It was translated into English and published under the title Transcendental Magic its Doctrine and Ritualby A.E. Waite in 1896.
The Tetragrammaton appears in the RWS and BOTA decks upon the Wheel of Fortune card. The Wheel featured in these cards resembles the type of magical glyph favored by ceremonial magicians. In Greek, Tetra means four and a Tetragram is a word with four letters. The Tetragrammaton is a specific Hebrew name of God. Hebrew is read from right to left, backward of English. The Tetragrammaton has four Hebrew letters, Yod Heh Vau Heh.
The tetra mytheme expresses itself in modern esoteric tarot over and over again. For example, we see it as the four elements, the four suits, the four court cards in each suit. Specifically on the Wheel of Fortune, we we see it as the Tetragrammaton and other symbols that all correspond to the four elements.
Here is how all the tetrads displayed on the RWS/BOTA style Wheel of Fortune associate with one another.
This will be concluding my first set of Esoteric Tarot lessons. The next set will be dedicated specifically to the works of Éliphas Lévi and everything he established that is the foundation of Qabalistic tarot.
End of Lesson Exercises
Watch Ellen Goldberg’s Howcast video (~7 minutes) on the RWS-style Wheel of Fortune card then write your thoughts about the Wheel of Fortune card and all of this related esoteric lore in your tarot journal.
Look at the Tetragrammaton Spread featured on the Tarot Club website. Experiment with doing it for yourself and write down any thoughts about the reading as well as the spread itself in your tarot journal.
Using the big table of elemental associations from Lesson 4 as well as the table above, pick an elemental system or names for the elements that you really like and do a little bit more research on your own. Imagine how you would work them into a set of Aces for the Minor Arcana. Get creative and play with sketching or image editing your own set of Aces that use them.
I have great antipathy for The Kabbalah Centre and its commercial exploitation of Jewish mysticism. I have great antipathy for the New Age/Wellness Industry as a whole. But the founder of the Kabbalah Centre, Philip S. Berg, was a Jewish scholar and rabbi albeit now a very controversial one. At least one of his books, Kabbalah For The Layman Volume I used to be in my collection and I’m sure I read others. I would say that the Kabbalah Centre, while not culturally appropriative (since the Bergs are Jewish), it isn’t very respectful towards conventional Jewish mysticism.
Jack Chanek (@jack_of_wands) tweeted the other day that he is taking a lot of community backlash over the title and premise of his debut book with the working title of Qabalah For Wiccans. I immediately watched in YouTube video on Qabalah, Wicca, and Appropriation. My empathy for him immediately switched on. I’m not going to cover the same ground as he does but I do not put his book in the same category as merchandise from the Kabbalah Centre. Not at all. Watch that 16 minute video and then read my thoughts about the topics it raises below. In no way do I view Jack’s future book as belonging in the same category as the Kabbalah Centre. It is something that definitely should be published and read by those interested in Qabalah, Wicca, or both.
Because of the easy confusion in topics, I specifically use Kabbalah to mean the closed Jewish mystical tradition, Cabala to mean the pre-Lévi closed Christian mystical tradition, and Qabalah to mean what started in the Lévi/Golden Dawn era and evolved from there into the open esoteric philosophical system it is now. I’m going to toss in a lot of links so anyone unfamiliar with certain names can get some quick reference.
Should non-Jewish occultists use the Hebrew alphabet in their occultism?
I have put a lot of thought into this since returning from my last hiatus. I recently, synchronistically, made the decision that in my personal magickal practice I would no longer use Hebrew alphabetic script (any of them) while drawing glyphs, sigils, or anything ceremonial and evocative. If I make my own tarot deck, Hebrew letters won’t be included there. I don’t chant in Hebrew and I refrain from uttering the Tetragrammaton by its actual Hebrew pronunciation out of respect to the belief it is too sacred to be uttered except under very specific religious situations.
Can I continue to be a Qabalist with these changes where respectfully retreat from Hebrew as a tool from my non-Judaic magickal/spiritual practices? Absolutely and easily. Qabalism is an underlying philosophy and cosmological/psychological paradigm, it isn’t the practice of ceremonial magick itself. You don’t have to be a ceremonial magician to be a Qabalist; you don’t have to have a Qabalistic worldview to be a ceremonial magician.
Should Gentiles Read Books of Jewish Mysticism?
I don’t consider it disrespectful to simply read and contemplate published works. My feeling is that once a sacred text has been published for public consumption, the reading of it doesn’t interlope on a closed practice. I think all non-hate-based sacred texts should be respected and appreciated for what they provide people of faith, even when it’s not your faith. Reading books written by mystics won’t by themselves provide you with your own mystical experience, however. At best, they might give you some insight into how to dedicate your life to having one. Reading comes from a place of Air/Swords/Intellect; Faith comes from a place of Fire/Wands/Belief.
What I can tell you from my long personal experience in reading sacred texts, including Kabbalistic ones? Reading the Zohar, the Bahir, the Sefer Yetzirah, or any text of Jewish mysticism without coming at it from decades of cultural and academic study within Judaism isn’t going to give you the right context to appreciate their nuances. Also? They’re really hard to read and understand. Books of Christian mysticism like those of John Scotus Eriugena and Hildegard of Bingen are just as hard. So is Aggripa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy. To read texts these old and truly appreciate them, you need to know a lot of things about the authors and their life and times.
Do you need to read these sorts of texts to learn Qabalism or Qabalistic tarot? No. Absolutely not. As a beginner, you will want the kind of book that Jack has written. I’m out of the loop of what is currently in print and an ideal place to start.
Is Qabalah An Example Of Cultural Appropriation?
So, after doing a lot of research on what this term means to different people who are using it, I have decided to personally use the definition for cultural appropriation covered at VeryWellMind. I have a lot of respect for VeryWellMind as a website.
Therefore, in my current lexicon? “Cultural appropriation refers to the use of objects or elements of a non-dominant culture in a way that doesn’t respect their original meaning, give credit to their source, or reinforces stereotypes or contributes to oppression.”
Therefore no, the philosophy of Qabalism in Western Occultism is not cultural appropriation. It is really important as a modern person to realize that while Qabalism is about 150 years if we date it beginning as a philosophy with Éliphas Lévi and the publication of Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie in 1864 and 1856, what he based his system off of wasn’t directly the works of, for example, Saadia Gaon, Elijah ben Solomon Zalman and Isaac Luria. In my opinion, what Levi began to publish and bring into public view was Christian Cabala. He didn’t create Christian cabala, he just created his own magickal system and philosophy that introduced tarot as a definitive magickal tool. Then he published his work and it went viral. Tarot was transformed into something new as part of that.
Cabala originated hundreds of years before during the Renaissance. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola is attributed with being the founder of Christian Cabalistic philosophy. Mirandola appears to have respected the Kabbalists whose work he studied- among the copious other things he studied-, gave credit to his sources and did not reinforce Jewish stereotypes or encourage/contribute to their oppression to the best of my knowledge.
I am very sure that a better historian than myself can articulate the multiple ways that the Jewish and Islamic peoples of Europe were victims of systemic racism in the late 1400s and 1500s by the White Christians of Europe. But my personal research spanning from the life of Mirandola to Antoine Court de Gébelin (1725-1784) suggests that cabalists were typically more inclusive, open-minded, and devoted to hate-free spiritualism than less esoteric Christians in the same era.
What About The Tree of Life glyph?
So. The Tree of Life as a concept was borrowed by early Judaism from Assyrian mythology; a lot of things were. Judaic law, philosophy, tradition, ritual, myth, and literature evolved and included a lot of cultural assimilation and also a lot of diversity of religious practices between sects. Very few people of the Jewish faith traditions were ever exposed to esoteric Judaism until recently. Kabbalah is actually only one flavor of Jewish mysticism but it is the best recognized by name just as the Tree of Life is so widely presented now its almost mainstream.
Esoteric Judaism played around with all kinds of Tree of Life diagrams and how to apply the concepts of the Sefer Yetrizah and other Kabbalistic writings to them. Different Kabbalists presented it all in different formats. They played with it as a conceptual framework.
The specific Tree of Life glyph that is now the convention for all forms of QBL? That is not Kabbalistic in origin. It is Cabalistic in origin. It is now generally attributed to German-born Catholic humanist Johann Reuchlin for the Latin translation of the Sha’are Orah (The Gates of Light) in 1516 and then borrowed and expanded upon much later by the German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher as an engraving in Oedipus Aegyptiacus in 1652.
So you are not stealing directly from Kabbalah to use it. If using Hebrew letters for pathworking feels appropriative? Don’t use them. Substitute something like the Major Arcana or the astrological planets, signs, and modalities instead and don’t do it in a way that links to the Hebrew alphabet at all.
How Could Qabalah Be Useful To Wiccans?
Qabalah is a philosophical framework that can be integrated into any spiritual or magickal practice. The modern authors of the Qabalah (most of the books on that table are from modern Qabalistic authors) have made that extremely clear. It is inclusive, it has no inherent racism, bigotry, sexism (even if there were/are plenty of racist, bigoted, sexist occultists). There are plenty of authors and books on the Qabalah that I disagree with; I’ve shaped my own Qabalistic paradigm but I had to spend a lot of time in contemplation about other people’s personal truths in order to develop my own.
I self-initiated into Wicca at age 14 (back in 1983, three years before Wicca was recognized as a religion in the United States) and was a voracious reader of Wicca, historical witchcraft, and folklore from 1983 to 1990. Trying to read tarot books during those years by folks like A.E Waite and Aleister Crowley failed miserably because I didn’t have the context for what they were talking about. That came in 1990-2000, post-Wicca.
Wicca taught me to love myself, humanity, the living planet and deities plural. It taught me how to be a magickal girl and then a magickal woman, unashamed of her sexuality and beliefs in spirits great and small. It didn’t provide me the appreciation for the psychology of spirituality and magic that I picked up from the places that Golden Dawn-style occultism took me next. It didn’t introduce me to the metaphors of alchemy, the power of the laws written into the Kybalion or the powerful message of tikkun olam as a metaphorical mandate for all human beings to take personal responsibility for making the world better by being better.
If you like what Isaac Bonewits had to say in Real Magic? You will like Qabalah as a philosophical system. And if you haven’t ever read Real Magic? Go do that. Isaac Bonewits was not only brilliant but he had the same eclectic background like mine in all flavors of occultism and neo-paganism and brought the wisdom of the many paths into one in a very understandable way.
So in closing, I hope this was a helpful and interesting read. I truly think adopting at least some Qabalistic principles into a Wicca-based practice could bring a lot of insight and some new tools for self-empowerment and emotional resilience. I would say the same about Qabalah and any faith tradition.
Welcome to Lesson Seven. You will notice that I am fond of using italics and boldface to highlight specific words. Anything highlighted can be considered a vocabulary word or concept that I want to bring special attention to. Boldface is a topic that I recommend doing further personal research about.
The Major Arcana as 3+7+12
Each of the twelve zodiacal signs combines one of the three modalities (cardinal, fixed, mutable) with one of the four elements (fire, eath, air, water). Twelve of the Major Arcana trumps are linked to the zodiacal signs; traits conventionally associated with each sign in Astrology are likewise associated with its paired tarot card. The other Major Arcana cards are paired to the seven classical planets and the three modalities.
The Jewish Kabbalists associated the three modalities, seven classical planets, and twelve zodiacal signs to the Hebrew alphabet in the same way centuries before tarot cards existed. We will delve more into that and the Kircher Qabalistic Tree of Life in Lessons 9 and 10.
Different Kabbalistic scholars associated specific planets, zodiac signs, and modalities to specific Hebrew letters according to their own opinions and personal truths. Likewise, I think tarot deck creators should assign the seven planets, twelve zodiacal signs, and three modalities to their Arcana cards according to their own insights and personal truths. Whatever a tarot author/artist creates as 22 Major Arcana cards to represent these 22 occult symbols makes for a valid esoteric deck.
What I’m presenting in this lesson is the way the 7-12-3 astrological trait system associates with the original RWS Major Arcana deck by Pamela Coleman and A.E Waite. This convention is prevalent throughout Major Arcana for many other tarot decks as well.
Each of the zodiacal signs has a planetary ruler. This basically means that in esoteric tarot, five of the classical planets (Mars, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mercury) each have a stronger influence or affinity for two of the zodiacal signs and two of the classical planets (Sun and Moon) have a stronger influence or affinity for just one of the zodiacal signs.
It’s a lot easier to create your own tarot deck and make these astrological associations to the Major Arcana as you please after you’ve mastered the way it’s all done by convention. I do think to that to create your own functional ~personal~ system of astrological, alchemical, and Qabalistic associations for the 78 tarot cards, you need to create your own deck from scratch.
Astrological Associations Of The RWS Major Arcana
O The Fool
Mutable Air (Modality)
Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius
I The Magician
II The High Priestess
III The Empress
IV The Emperor
Aries (Cardinal Fire)
V The Hierophant
Taurus (Fixed Earth)
VI The Lovers
Gemini (Mutable Air)
VII The Chariot
Cancer (Cardinal Water)
Leo (Fixed Fire)
IX The Hermit
Virgo (Mutable Earth)
X Wheel of Fortune
Libra (Cardinal Air)
XII The Hanged Man
Fixed Water (Modality)
Taurus, Leo, Scorpio
Scorpio (Fixed Water)
Sagittarius (Mutable Fire)
XV The Devil
Capricorn (Cardinal Earth)
XVI The Tower
XVII The Star
Aquarius (Fixed Air)
XVIII The Moon
Pisces (Mutable Water)
XIX The Sun
Cardinal Fire (Modality)
Aries, Cancer, Capricorn
XXI The World
Saturn (& Earth)
I am going to simply introduce the zodiac signs as they relate to the RWS Major Arcana and leave it to your personal studies to become more familiar with each of them as part of the “end of lesson” exercises.
The Zodiacal Symbols
These original 1909 RWS images are by Pamela Coleman Smith, found at Wikipedia and were scanned by Holly Voley for the (US-PD) public domain.
The symbol for Aries represents a face and horns of a ram. It presents itself in the original RWS as part of Emperor’s throne.
The symbol for Leo is a script form of the Greek letter lambda Λλ the first letter of the Greek word for lion (“leon”). It is depicted on the card via the orange lion.
The word Sagittarius means archer and its symbol is an arrow. The constellation depicts the centaur Chiron. This card doesn’t directly portray Sagittarius but rather draws on some shared themes about mutable fire and the sacred healer.
The symbol for Taurus represents a face and horns of a bull. Taurus isn’t explicitly portrayed in the Hierophant but has esoteric themes shared by the card.
The stylized M for Virgo has no explanation that I find satisfying but when I look at it and Scorpio’s symbol, I see yinyang polarity in those tails.
Capricorn’s symbol, like Aries and Taurus, is meant to depict the sea goat it is based on. The Baphomet-style devil with the horned and tailed prisoners in the card is touches on some of the same themes.
Gemini has a stylized Roman numeral two for a symbol to represent the twins Castor and Pollus. In the RWS card, the two figures and the trees behind them have a shape that echoes Gemini’s symbol.
The symbol for Libra represents scales held by the Roman goddess Iustia. The image of Lady Justice captured in the Justice card can be traced back to Iustia. Libra is symbolized by the scales in her left hand.
Aquarius‘ symbol of two bars of rippling water plays itself out in the way the Star is pouring water from two matching vessels.
Two crab claws with yinyang harmony compose the symbol for Cancer. The same yinyang harmony shows up in the charioteer’s shoulders and the two sphinx. There is water in the background, a trait shared with very specific planets and signs.
Pisces‘ symbol is composed of two fish swimming in opposite directions. I’ve read that the crayfish upon this card is very symbolic of Pisces.
Last but not least, the symbol for Scorpio is a stylized M with a “stinger” tail. Death’s white horse and pose mimics that of the Page of Cups.
End of Lesson Exercises
Exercise #1 Using the astrology website of your choice, look up each of the 12 zodiacal signs and find 3-4 keywords that you feel fit the tarot are very well suited for each tarot card upright and another 3-4 that you feel are very well suited for each tarot card reversed. Add this to your tarot journal.
Exercise #2 Using the previous lessons on the classical planets or another resource, review what kind of qualities each of the seven planets represents and write out a couple of sentences in your tarot journal that link the planets to the a) cards they are associated with on their own and b) the cards they are associated with by rulership of astrological signs.
Exercise #3 Watch this short (~4 min) by gswarner called Recognizing Zodiac Correlations in Tarot Cards and write down the Court Cards that associated with different zodical signs and think about any similarities presented in the Major Arcana – Court Card pairs. You might want to pause for each set or watch it a couple of times.
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So today’s Medium article is “The Psychology of The Magus” by Jennifer Moore which I discovered when I was looking for a picture of Magus #3 for my collection. That is the one I happened to draw for today, synchronicitly. I wasn’t able to read as carefully as I would have liked, my brain was too racing to get my own thoughts out about The Inner Magus and True Will and Weight Loss.
I have given myself the resolution to not eat grain-based food, candy, or soda for 2021. I started by giving them all up on December 26th. Today is Day 2 of 2021. I am not throwing myself at eating X number of calories, trying to balance my Protein-Carbs-Fats or any other food alchemy at this time. The ~only~ things I’ve established for myself are:
1. No grain-based foods, no candy, no soda 2. Potatoes and Legumes are my primary starches 3. I eat as much fresh produce as I can; condiments are okay.
I don’t know how much weight I will or won’t lose. I would LOVE to drop an entire 100 lbs. by my 53rd birthday (tomorrow is my 52nd birthday) but you know what? I have not, in all the years I’ve told myself “I will lose a hundred lbs. this year” come even close. I’ve lost 20, 30, even 40 lbs. over a 12 month period but always gained at least half of it back. Most years, keeping myself between 320-340 lbs. has been my biggest accomplishment.
I’m not doing it that way this time. My weight is currently 330 lbs. I’m at my average. But in 2021, I would ~like to~ lose at least 31 lbs. and I would ~like to~ feel what it’s like to be 299 lobs again. I ~plan to~ to get off my ass at least 3 times a day and take three short walks to get in at least 5,000 steps even on bad days.
But what I AM going to do, not simply hope for and plan for? I’m going to abstain and from grain-based foods (which include all cereals and baked goods and pasta), all candy, all soda.
Because this is my Will. This is my Directed Intention that I’m being and going to continue to be magickal about: I am stating to myself and the universe that I will not eat these foods with the self-understanding that what I really mean is that I will willfully and by intention not eat these foods and if I fuck up? Then I will willfully and by intention smack myself in the head, laugh, and go right back to NOT eating these foods. I will walk a set path with grit teeth, determination, and accept my human fallibility but not define myself by it.
At the end of the day (or in this case, at the end of the year)? The point should not be “Laurel weighs less than 300 lbs for the first time in 30 years!”. That is just the pay-off I hope for. The point will be “Laurel honed her True Will and mind magick to stop eating grain-based food, candy, and soda… and as a result of that and moderate daily exercise? She lost weight.”
The point will be that I established a sandbox for shaping and strengthening my True Will in 2021. It’s that I’m making a resolution that regardless of circumstances, regardless of what events happen and how I feel-think afterward? I am not going to eat grain-based food, candy, or drink soda. Not when I’m happy and celebrating, not when I’m sad/bad/mad. I can drink juice, coffee, tea, water, milk, seltzer…anything else. I can nom on potatoes with ketchup, I can stick a spoonful of peanut butter in my mouth. I can let someone buy me a bunless hamburger with fries and ice tea when we go pick up fast food.
Because I have stated my intention and created a resolution and now I do the magick of creating the reality I want. I made this resolution and initiated this working with full knowledge that my Inner Demons will gleefully look at ways to sabotage my Inner Magus because that’s their job as my psyche-as-Adversary? (There’s some psychoteric writing for the future). The point is to Be The Magus who, like Solomon, masters the demons rather than being mastered by the demons. 2021 is going to be a Solomonic story, not a Faustian story, I have decided. I get to triumph. All it takes is me, via praxis, keeping to my resolution via True Will which I believe I can do.
My BELIEF that I. Can. Do. This. Thing and my embracing of “This is gonna be so hard some days but totally worth it and I will say this and believe this and make this my reality” is the Mind Magick. Using affirmations, rituals, tarot card readings, every tool I draw on to program my brain into consistent follow-through day by day (hour by hour on the rough days)? That’s the Craft. Because if I can say and mean and follow through on something as challenging as “no grains, no candy, no soda” for the next 364 days?
Everything else I want to accomplish is possible and probable too. But this is the sandbox and canvas for the microcosm of my Great Work for 2021. It is something I do have control over, and only I have control over, which is what makes it so useful as a sandbox. You, my readers, will get to watch as you please. While I’m doing this mental alchemical Magnum Opus (a year of abstinence from grain foods, candy and soda) for me? I am also sure that using my blog as one of the ways I hold myself accountable for thinking through and typing through this working will really, really help it happen.
Typing about my inner demons when they manifest and start cavorting about to try and sabotage my work will really help me snap my fingers and say “no” with confidence and prove that my Inner Magus is stronger.
There is most ~definitely~ some very deep delving into The Magus vs. The Devil coming in not too distant writing. Remember that I believe the entire Major Arcana is there in our psyche all the time. We are never just one card, one archetype when it comes to the zodiacal or tarot archetypes. We simply draw on certain archetypal forces and play them out in what we say-do-feel differently at different times. Educating ourselves about the archetypes and then developing the True Will and magickal prowess to intentionally manifest a specific archetype in a specific way as part of our communication-actions-feeling is the endgame. Perfection in it is an illusion. Doing it most of the time and accomplishing most of what we hope for, getting better with practice? That’s being a good magician.
Once again, Medium brought a Mitch Horowitz article to my attention. I was clicking it just by the title alone: “Why the Best Spiritual Practice Is the One You Invent Yourself” and only noticed afterward who the author was. I really like how he described his anarchic magick as being a cousin of the chaos magick I learned it from reading a lot of Austin Osman Spare, Peter J. Carroll and Phil Hine. There’s at least one book from each of them on my bookshelves which survived the random purges of the last seven years to drive down my paper book collection and just work with pdfs and audio books instead. I should try and re-read them in 2021.
By synchronicity, the card I drew for myself today was the Thoth deck Magus. I wasn’t planning on doing a blog post though. I spent the early afternoon writing up the script for the second episode of Tarot Esoterica after catching up in social media after a two day hiatus for Xmas Eve/Xmas Day. I figured that was enough but then Mitch Horowitz inspired me. That’s another article I really recommend to my own readers.
I’m beginning to figure out my limitations as a tarot content creator; guaranteed daily blog posts are beyond them. Daily card draws for my personal tarot journal + reading/listening to a Medium article are going to almost always happen. It might be though that only when those two things make good bed partners on the same day that I’ll be writing here in Musings & Ramblings.
One of the things that had come up as I writing the script for a 10-11 minute talk on dualism and polarity (which has a different approach than Lesson 2: The Monad And The Duality ) was the way I stumbled across The Kybalion when I was a ten year old girl. I own a different copy of that same edition .
What the hell was a copy of The Kybalion doing in the Hawley Elementary School Library in Ft. Dodge IA in 1979??? Now, I was -that- kid, that year. The introvert who did spend as much time as possible in the library rather than the playground, peering at every shelf and pulling out things that were interesting. I have only a handful of childhood memories that go back that far but I do remember book nerdy little me getting this book off a shelf and feeling amazed by the look of the cover and having no clue what it would be about? I took it to a table and started to read.
Age 10 was also when I got my first AD&D books. They made a lot more sense but I pushed really really hard to understand the Kybalion and kept it as one of my “little secrets” I didn’t talk about. I had this sense that book wasn’t supposed to be THERE and hid it on a dusty back shelf nobody else would notice it. For reasons I wouldn’t be able to explain to this day, I didn’t ever try to check it out, I never mentioned it to school mates, teachers, the librarian or my parents. I’d just read it some of it during lunch period in my corner of the library whenever I could and then put it back on the shelf when it was time to go.
The Kybalion was fascinating and arcane for a school year. Then when we moved to a different neighborhood and I transferred schools, I completely forgot all about it for a really long time. Even when I discovered Wicca a couple years later, I didn’t remember anything about the Kybalion. I saw it or heard about it again after I was in college and went browsing all the used book stores in downtown Olympia WA looking for everything about tarot and the occult and ceremonial magick that I could find.
The second I saw another copy of the Kybalion though? I recognized it immediately. I immediately had a flashback of being that remembered being awe-struck and mystified (as in completely lost and bewildered) little kid trying to process its the lofty and obtuse language. That second copy has been with me for 27 years and I’ve grappled with it a dozen times.
I’d like to say that the Seven Laws of Hermetic Magic were the most influential thing I’d ever read but that’s not true. The greatest personal truth I learned about magick and being an occultist only indirectly relates. This personal truth is this:
Not all the rituals and grimoires and spellcraft in the world is going to be helpful in changing your life if your emotional intelligence and stress resilience are train wrecks. As above so below also means as below so above. Garbage in, Garbage out also means Garbage out, Garbage in. The most effective acts of magick and most effective magickal practices work from the inside outwards; magicians who de-junk and de-gunk the stuff inside their own brains to reduce their general shitheadism make the most successful practitioners. I’m not there yet, but I have the best of intentions.
“Chaos magicians sometimes see their work from a psychological perspective; my path is spiritual,” wrote Mitch Horowitz on February 13th 2019. I really love his writing. Of course, since I do see my work from a psychological perspective rather than a spiritual one, his definition makes me (possibly) a chaos magician. Except I think I’m too eclectic for even that? I’m definitely a lazy ritualist and need to improve that at least a little even if I never go back to starting my day off with the LBRP and a self-made Invocation of the Sun ritual like I did during my peak years as a tarot reader and life coach.
… on the other hand, maybe if I -did- start my day off with the LBRP and a new Invocation of the Sun ritual that fit my 2020+ sensibilities? Maybe I’d have less fibromyalgia woes. (Then again, since I think possibly I got fibromyalgia from being touched by an angel, maybe not. Wow. Now -there- is a story for this blog some day soon.)
Maybe I’d find it easier to channel my desire to drop my weight by a hundred pounds into consistent acts of True Will if I did more rituals and put all my theorycraft into more active practice. Did some praxis and kept it up, every day.
I don’t feel an urge to go looking for a god of weight loss to pray to and invoke. I’d never become that much of a ritualist or spiritualist against. There is a whole lot of psychoteric stuff in the tool box to get me from being a morbidly obese theoretical magician to being a a healthier and happier one though. Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually better than average in the happy department. There’s just a lot of complacency and I get the feeling I’m supposed to Do Better. Be Better. Make Better. I am pretty sure dropping 100 pounds will add years, maybe even a decade to my lifespan.
Losing a hundred pounds in 2021 would make it a whole lot easier to survive the Bad Things Ahead if we humans don’t really and truly fix the things we broke or at least get close enough that the #Galactic Federation decides we’re “good enough” to save. I am hopeful and I’d really like to be around to see what happens for at least three more decades. Losing a hundred pounds would sure help make that possible.
I’ve actually put a lot of research into diet, exercise, nutrition. Theorycraft, just theorycraft. I can’t blame everything that 2020 took away (like access to swimming pools) excuse me not losing the weight in 2016-2019. I had total access to swimming pools, exercise machines, a dietician and everything else during those three years. I knew everything back then that I know now about why a person like me should be eating a flour-free plant-centric whole food diet as much as possible. I half-assed it in 2018-2019 and used Covid-19 as an excuse eat the Standard American Diet crap food for most of 2020.
The best weight loss practice might very well be the one that I invent for myself too. So lets see just what I can accomplish between now and Christmas 2021. Let’s be a helluva good modern magician for the next 365 consistent days and use that magick to transform me into a 235 pound woman by the time I turn 53 on January 3rd, 2022.
The first condition of success in magick is purity of purpose. -Aleister Crowley
Tarot Esoterica is my weekly podcast. I provide short introductory lessons about the occult philosophy and symbolism found in the same kind of tarot decks that I write about here on the website.
The tone of Tarot Esoterica is intended to be low-key, informative and interesting. I babble about my own life experiences as a tarot reader and theoretical magician from time to time.
My goal is to strip out a lot of the lofty and outdated language in occult philosophy and esoteric tarot to present information from a very modern and psychological based perspective. Some of the same content shows up in text format here on my website via Esoteric Tarot Lessons. The podcasts are scripted separately from the lessons, however. Both discuss the same topics but with different approaches.
In this two-part lesson, I will be introducing the seven classic planets of Western astrology and the seven chakra of Westernized Ayurvedic energy work.
I am not an astrologer and only work with the classic seven planets (and all other elements of astrology) as a tarot reader and theoretical magician. I have read a smattering of books on astropsychology and spiritual astrology and feel comfortable chattering about astrological archetypes even if I could never fully interpret my own natal chart.
I am not an Ayurveda practitioner and learned what I know about the chakras comes via mostly from the Theosophy Wiki and reading Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System by Anodea Judith. I don’t know if I recommend the latter to someone interested in studying Ayurveda; it taught me enough to recognize the concepts and symbols of that esoteric system when they came up in books and conversations about tarot. The authors and I don’t always agree on the planetary or Qabalistic associations for the chakras; what I present are my own.
A Very Brief History of Astrology
Both Tropical astrology and Vedic astrology share roots in Babylon about 4000 ago. Hellenisticastrology originated during the Ptolemaic dynasty era in Egypt. A citizen of Alexandria, Claudius Ptolemy (c. AD 100 – c. 170) wrote a mathematical and astronomical treatise eventually called the Almagest.
The Almagest contained the Ptolemaic geocentric model which became the prevalent cosmological paradigm. It was as accepted then as the Big Bang theory is now. This Ptolemaic system served as the cosmological paradigm in European thought until Copernicus’ heliocentric model replaced it in the early 1500s.
It is from the works of Claudius Ptolemy (and other prolific Alexandrian scientist-philosophers) that horoscopic astrology began. With horoscopic astrology came the practice of attributing elemental, planetary, and zodiacal qualities in related fields, including Western philosophy and early Western medicine.
Spiritual astrology isn’t new. Many esoteric groups (including the Theosophists, Anthroposophists and Rosicrucians) considered the planets as metaphors for the evolution of the soul through cosmic cycles but those groups are topics for future lessons. AstroPsychology is what I have a lot more personal passion for and a topic I clump into psychoterica.
Why Talk About The Chakras?
Our seven Chakras are all situated in the head, and it is these Master Chakras which govern and rule the seven (for there are seven) principal plexuses in the body, and the forty-two minor ones to which Physiology refuses that name. – Helena Petrovna Blavatsky,
It is through Theosophy that Ayurvedic ideas and practices first entered western occultism in the early 1900s, overlapping with the Hermetic Order of Golden Dawn. Then in the 1980s the New Age movement hit and made pieces of Ayurveda (yoga, the chakras, etc.,) suddenly really trendy and mass market. Tarot decks began to appear that incorporated the chakras much more obviously as part of their imagery or companion books. A working knowledge of the chakra as they associate with the classic planets is really helpful.
Cultural appropriation (and misappropriation) is a hot topic in occult circles these days. My personal point of view is that massive amounts of appropriation (and misappropriation) was done by those late 1800s-early 1900s occultists who created the Western occult tradition as we know it. The Western occult tradition has included yoga, Aryuvedic medicine, appropriations from the Kabbalah, and tarot cards for over a hundred years now. I study, practice, and teach this tradition but acknowledge (and have great respect for) older spiritual paths and philosophies that much of it was crafted from. I try to trace back to original sources and cite them when possible.
The Symbolic Power of 7
I have read that of all the base numerals, seven (7) seems to fascinate humans the most because of a combination of cultural, historical, esoteric, and psychological factors. While I don’t have evidence of that either way, I can say that when it comes to the occult? Seven has a lot of very important associations for the classical planets. Here are those that I think are most useful for esoteric tarot.
Hebrew Letter (KBL)
Hebrew Letter (QBL)
Manipura (Solar Plexus)
(see next lesson)
Vishuddha (Throat )
Ajna (Third Eye)
Color by Chakra
RWS Major Arcana
Wheel of Fortune
The way the chakras are associated with the planets in this chart is based on my personal opinion and does not match either the way it’s done by Whitcomb in The Magician’s Companion or by Judith in Wheels of Life. Work with whatever associations make the most sense to you.
There are no tarot journal exercises this time. Instead, I suggest watching these videos.
This is just an introduction to the the concepts and symbols of the classic planets and the chakras. It is intended to give some basic information to prepare the reader for learning Qabalistic tarot and launching their own independent study. I have applied archetype titles to each of the planets. Most of are my own invention.
Saturn (The Chthonic) …
Saturn is considered the most materially aspected and “severe” (Yin) of the seven planets. It often is put into polar opposition with Jupiter. It is the planet of tradition, dogma, boundaries, and stasis. Saturn is conventionally associated with a lot of darker and more fixed behaviors and attitudes. Saturn is esoterically earthy but primal. In tarot, it is most conventionally associated with the XXI World/Universe card.
… and Muladhara (The Root)
In energy work, Muladhara is located at the base of the spine and serves as the foundation for the channel for energy (kundalini) that flows up and down through the seven prime chakra. It is associated to qualities of earth (like Saturn): matter and our physical bodies, health, money and structure. It is visualized as red. Color is a property of light; light is a form of energy. Red has the lowest frequency of visible light and therefore produces the least energy.
The Moon (The Deep) …
As the Yang sun rules the heavens by day, Yin moon rules them by night. It has almost universal associations with the sea, darkness, mystery, childbirth, sex, love, strong emotions, prophecy, death, magic and folk medicine. Biased character traits such as being promiscuous, deceptive, dangerous and/or mentally ill are often applied to someone who supposedly has excessive “moon energy”.
The moon has no light of its own. Sunlight striking and reflecting off the lunar surface as it orbits around the earth creates the 29.5 day lunar day cycle. What I didn’t know for the longest time is that the duller reflection, that ashen glow? That is indirect sunlight reflected from the earth.
The Moon is directly depicted as the 18th card in the Major Arcana. Night, magic, mystery, death, time, secrets, insight, tranquility, reception, fate, deception, restoration, illusion are among the many qualities that are associated with the moon in both world mythology and tarot interpretation. The High Priestess is the Major Arcana that conventional esoteric tarot most often attributes to the astrological moon, however; zodiacal Cancer is attributed to the Moon Card. The RWS and Thoth decks, for example, are drawn specifically to represent this.
In astrology, the moon is associated with how we express our feelings, desires and needs. Its placement in a chart also reflects how we respond to the feelings, desires and needs that others express to us. The moon changes signs every 2.5 days, meaning it doesn’t remain in a single decan for even 24 hours. It transitions through all twelve zodiacal signs/houses in 27.5 days.
… and Svadhisthana (The Sweetness)
Svadhisthana is located in the lower abdomen centered between the navel and the genitals. Yin-natured, it is elementally associated with water (like the Moon). It shares all the same attributed qualities as the moon, including sexuality, sensation, pleasure, creativity and anything relating to the emotions and fear. It is visualized as orange, the hybrid of red and yellow.
In some esoteric systems (including my own), orange is associated with sexuality, freedom, artistic expression, emotional energy and the imagination. The moon can appear very orange when it first rises at night based (mostly) on the angle of view and what is going on in the atmosphere that night.
The Sun (The Luminary) …
In modern astrology, the sun is heavily associated with self and identity. Your “sun sign” represents where in the zodiacal wheel your the sun was located at the time of your birth. This is just one piece of information provided in a natal chart, which is worth having copy of as you explore esoteric tarot. The sun spends exactly thirty days in each of the zodiac signs/houses. Since in the Julian calendar we’ve got an average of 365.25 days ( 365 days in a normal year, 366 days in a leap year) , the twelve months and the twelve signs/houses don’t correspond either chronologically or in metaphysical attributions.
Esoterically speaking, the sun is a nearly universal symbol of power, glory and divinity. It is directly depicted in the Major Arcana as the nineteenth of the Major Arcana. This card does have the planetary sun as a conventional direct attribute rather. It’s placement in numerical order next to the Moon helps emphasize their polar duality.
In alchemy, the sun represents the goal of achieving perfection in one world (physical, psychological, spiritual, etc.,.) or all of them. There is a not widely known concept in Western esotericism called apotheosis. If you are familiar with the story of Isis and Ra though you have at least encountered the idea. As a human magician, Isis tricked the old sun god Ra into revealing his True Name which she then used in a ritual of apotheosis to become a goddess herself.
… and Manipura (The Lustrous Gem)
Manipura is associated with very solar qualities like energy, fire, metabolism, empowerment, transformation, True Will and True Self. It is located in the region between the navel and the solar plexus (which gained its name from its radiating nerve fibers). When we are grounded, Manipura energy can be vitalizing and exhalating but unchecked it can explode and cause us to react and act in ways we will very much regret later.
Yellow is the most luminous of all of the colors on the visible spectrum. It is a primary color and its associations with the physical and archetypal sun are nearly universal. People generally associate it with happiness, optimism, and very value positive words.
Venus (The Lover) …
In Hellenistic mythology and astrology, Venus is the ruler of romantic love, beauty and pleasure. This can be sexual pleasure, our sense of aesthetics, what kinds of foods we most enjoy or despise, our reactions to just about anything really. Venus is placed in opposition to Mars.
Relationships, especially romantic/sexual relationship are by far what querents ask tarot readers about. There’s a lot to learned from astrology and psychoteric books like Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus to help a tarot reader tackle relationship questions in both personal and other readings.
… and Anahata (The Unstuck)
It is appropriate that Anahata is located in the heart location. There are three chakra above, three chakra below, making it a symbolic mediator and the place to do the Great Work of synthesizing ourselves whole. Anahata is associated with joy, love, and compassion. Bringing this chakra (metaphorically or otherwise) into harmony with itself and the rest of our nature is no easy feat. Anahata is also where we store grief, regret, fear and other kinds of emotion based pain. Books, therapies and other tools specifically for healing the heart has become its own commercial industry.
Green has a number of associations with healing, nature, growth, harmony, wealth and fertility. I have read that it is considered the most restful and relaxing color for the human eye because it takes up the space in the visible spectrum and is the dominant color in that vanishing “natural world” our souls crave to return to.
Mars (The Mighty) …
Yang aspected Mars is the astrological planet of directed energy, action, aggression, competition, courage and confrontation. It represents the survival instinct, athleticism and all forms of physical prowess. When untempered, Mars becomes the Savage Beast archetype, the monster that destroys friend and foe alike. Stripping our unconscious association of both Venus and Mars of direct association with gender is incredibly hard. It doesn’t help that their planetary symbols were adopted as general symbols for female/male. Our brains take us there every time we see the two symbol.
… and the Amygdala (Fight/Flight Reflex)
Mars doesn’t really have a good associative match to a chakra in my opinion. Mars best represents what goes on in the amygdala, an almond-shaped cluster of nuclei located deep and within the temporal lobe of the human brain. The amygdala has a lot of control over memory, decision-making and emotional responses such as fear, anxiety, and aggression. It is part of the limbic system.
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ coined the term Amygdala Highjacking in reference to an emotional response that is immediate, overwhelming and out of measure with actual stimulus. This perfectly articulates unrestrained Mars energy to me.
So what about a color for Mars then? My personal favorite color association for Mars is sharp red with Saturn as more of a neutral brown. The chakra system notwithstanding, red has both physical and esoteric connection to Mars. We are taught to associated red with action, things demanding immediate attention, blood, sacrifice, danger, courage, fire, passion and rage. Brown by comparison is earthy like Saturn itself. It is most often symbolically associated with strength, wood, structure, resilience, security and dependability.
Mercury (The Messenger)…
Six of the classical planets has a conventional yinyang polarized pairing: Saturn-Jupiter, Moon-Sun, Venus-Mars. Mercury doesn’t participate in a dichotomy the same way; it is considered androgynous or gender-fluid. Mercury as a name also has the unique being possessed by a astrological planet but also the alchemical metal associated to the planet: Mercury as a planet and metal has a lot of association with the synthesizing principle and mutability modality described in Lesson 3.
Mercury is both a trickster and a magician archetype in the Hermetic tradition where it is anthropomorphized as Hermes Trismegitus. Books, science, technology, verbal and written communication, innovation, logic and rationality, reasoning, speech patterns, the intellect and anything dealing with cognition and the brain are the kinds of things that get associated with planetary and mythical Mercury. Apollo in his aspect as Hellenistic deity of music and poetry, prophecy and knowledge embodies many of the qualities associated with Mercury with other qualities more closely associated with the Sun. Likewise Athena, Hellenistic deity of reason, wisdom and crafts and be associated with Mercury for these qualities while others might be more closely associated with Jupiter.
… and Visuddha (Purification)
Located in the throat, the fifth chakra is all about sound, vibration and communication in every possible form, including the biochemical language of our cells and DNA. Visuddha is the realm of communication which relies on making connections and transferring information. Visuddha is associated with music, conversation, television, television, books, art and the Internet; these things cover almost the entire basis of how modern culture communicates.
The color blue has a lot of complex and contradictory association associated with it which is very apt. Qualities like wisdom, peace, serenity, stability and beauty are applied to blue. Scientific studies have found that being surrounded by it can lower heart rates, blood pressure, body temperature and improve sleeping patterns through the effect it has on the . pituitary gland, affecting our sleep patterns, and it can slow our breathing as well. Darker shades of blue can also associated with depression, mourning and qualities often more association to Saturn or the moon than Mercury.
Jupiter (The Benefactor)…
Jove and Juno were the patriarch and matriarch of the Roman pantheon, more recognizable these days in mythology as Zeus and Hera. Planetary Jupiter as an archetype has a lot qualities associated with them. Among the many positives for Jupiter are prosperity, abundance, good fortune, benevolence, health and healthy offspring, education, self-awareness, mercy and prudence. When untampered, too much Jupiter energy turns to laziness, gluttony, indolence, rudeness, vindictiveness, neglect of responsibility and overindulgence in just about any pleasure. As the Yang-aspected polar opposite of Saturn which is all about restraint, Jupiter’s tendency towards overindulgence is hardcoded in.
… and Ajna (the Third Eye)
Ajna is located in the head at brow level. It is associated with both clear vision and accurate perception of truth, within and without. Ideas, idealism, knowledge both learned and born from intuition are all qualities associated to Ajna. In Aryuvedic medicine, it is associated with the pineal gland. The pineal gland uses information gathered the external light-dark cycle in order to produce and secrete the hormone melatonin. Melatonin in turn regulates a healthy normal wake-sleep cycle which modern medicine is linking as essential for overall wellness. Planetary Jupiter is also commonly associated with health and wellness.
It is suggested on Wikipedia that the color we call generally indigo (especially as a dye) is more purple than what Issac Newton had in mind when he originally wrote it into his papers about the seven spectral colors. I believe this is also true in the classic esoteric tarot decks and how it appears in a lot of contemporary rainbow iconography. I’ve borrowed an image that better conveys spectral (and esoteric) blue, indigo and violet.
Sahasrara (The Thousandfold)
Back in Lesson 1, I cautioned students to use the word correspondence a lot less frequently than most occult authors do. The seven classical planets and the seven chakra share a lot of qualities so they associate but they don’t perfectly correspond. If a specific tarot card has a specific chakra depicted in the art or on the border? Then it becomes a feature of the card.
I said above that Mars does not associate with Sahasrara very well. They don’t make a good pairing the way everything else in both systems does. What Sahasrara, the Crown chakra, associates well with is Kether, the crown sephirot in the Tree of Life glyph of Kabbalah and Qabalah.
Sahasrara represents a spiritual wholeness that mystics have spoken of and sought to maintain as a state of consciousness through human history. The crown chakra has no internal duality, it isn’t Yang or Yin. From a mystical perspective, it is the conceptual gate beyond which lies only divinity, the source of all manifestation aka the Monad.
Physiologically, Sahasrara is sometimes associated with the cerebral cortex, the grey matter of our brain divided into four lobes. Here, some of our most amazing mental processes take place such as those which determine our intelligence, personality, ability to plan and organize, motor functions, touch sensations and capability to interpret images and understand language. I personally find it easier to work with Sahasrara as the chakra of Mind rather than the threshold of divinity.
Purple-Violet (we’ll call them one color) is rare in nature for most of human history. It has a long association with spirituality, extravagance, grandeur, wisdom, pride, mystery, independence, the imagination and magic. I’ve read that purple-violet is the color that people have the most dramatically polarized reactions to, either loving or hating it.
And that concludes an introduction the classical planets, the chakras and related color affinity. Whew. From here? I will head into a brief introduction of the zodiacal wheel including the twelve signs and the twelve houses. Then I will introduce the Kircher Tree of Life glyph and start assembling the Qabalistic Tarot pieces together for each of the Major Arcana and the four suits.
My weekly Tarot Esoterica podcast covers a lot of the same topics as my Esoteric Tarot lessons so please check those out as well.
End of Lesson Exercises
Separate out all of the Major Arcana from your deck; they don’t need to be put into a specific numerical order. Without looking at the chart in Lesson Five look at each one and write down which of the seven planets you would personally associate with that card and why.
Exercise #2 While the Major Arcana are still separated, go through them again and just look at how the seven spectral colors plus black, white, and grey are used in the RWS-based decks. Write down any thoughts.
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Welcome to Lesson One. You will notice that I am fond of using italics and boldface to highlight specific words. Anything highlighted can be considered a vocabulary word or concept that I want to bring special attention to. Boldface is a topic that I recommend doing further personal research about.
Attributes & Making Attributions
Everything that exists has at least one characteristic: a distinctive quality or attribute. For example, some things that are my characteristics or can be attributed to me are that I am biologically female, my first name is Laurel, I have Capricorn as my sun sign, and Loracular.com is my personal website. I share the attribute of being biologically female with about half my species, being a Capricorn with a much smaller percentage, being named Laurel with even less and then I’m pretty unique in owning that specific domain name.
Some characteristics associated with being a Capricorn include being ambitious, hardworking, persistent, stubborn and practical. It would be a mistake for me or anyone else to automatically attribute all of those characteristics to me simply based on my Sun Sign. If you expect a Capricorn to be those things? Chances are good that, after having a long coffee date with me, you would say I have those qualities. Human perception generally latches onto things we already think to be true. This phenomenon is called confirmation bias. Confirmation bias isn’t always a bad thing; it’s just an important thing to be aware of especially when it comes to reading tarot.
One of the characteristics that distinguishes a tarot deck is that they possess 78 cards. I’m biased to believe that all tarot decks should have exactly 78 cards divided into a 22 card Major Arcana and a 56 card Minor Arcana. I’m biased to believe that Minor Arcana should further be divided into four suits of 16 cards and that these suits should correspond to the four classic elements and be numbered Ace to Ten and then four court cards. It is conventual for divinatory decks with a different structure to be called Oracle cards.
So from now on, you can be assured that when I use the term tarot cards or a tarot deck I’m only referring to decks that have the structure above and you know that ~most~ tarot readers do the same which is why it gets to be called the convention.
Associations vs. Attributions
One of the first things that usually hits someone right in the face as they begin to read books about tarot is a deluge of titles, symbols, letters, numbers, musical notes, color scales, animals, and deities ascribed to each and every card. The reader might told that some are attributes and some are correspondences. Very convoluted explanations might be included that can be summarized as “Someone influential had an idea, wrote about down this way, we learned it this way and so now we teach it this way too.”
There is a huge difference in two things being associated together because they share some common characteristics and one thing being an attribute or characteristic of another. Unfortunately, this isn’t usually clear in the way that esoteric tarot has been conventionally written about.
Divination isn’t never the primary use of tarot cards in the Golden Dawn-style occult organizations. I believe the occultists of the early 1900s used tarot primarily as a way to:
teach/learn symbol systems and the Qabalah
for meditation (specifically pathworking which is Qabalastic)
for ritual work (ceremonial magic)
There is nothing wrong with those big lists that associate a wide range of things with each tarot cards. But for the most part those associations are pretty subjective and they definitely can’t be applied equally to all esoteric tarot decks. Don’t worry about memorizing them, especially if your immediate goal is to just read tarot for personal development or fortune-telling. I read and teach tarot for personal development. I personally use the word divination to cover both but some authors and readers associate divination more specifically with fortune-telling.
Examples Of Attributions & Associations
Imagine pouring yourself a glass of ordinary whole milk. From merely looking at it, you’d be able to describe milk as a white liquid. Milk therefore can be said to have the attributions (qualities) of being white and being a liquid. Therefore white and liquid are two qualities you can attribute to that specific glass of milk but attributing them to milk in ~all~ its forms would be a mistake. You can have milk that isn’t white (chocolate milk is brownish, strawberry milk is pinkish) and you can have milk that isn’t currently in a liquid state (like powdered milk).
Attributing the names The Loracular and Laurel to me is correct for present. I could, however, rebrand myself as something besides The Loracular in the future or legally change my name from Laurel to something else. Humans make a lot of associations of what attributes something possesses based on its name.
A mistake comes when someone starts to (consciously or more likely unconsciously) automatically apply characteristics to a person, place or thing based its name. My name tells you who I am but not what I am. There’s a diversity of things in a grocery store called milk. The attributes “contains 2% milk fat” or “comes in a plastic gallon container” is true for some milk products but not all milk products. Even associating the idea of milk with cows is limiting because we live in a culture that has expanded the concept of milk beyond that to include coconut milk, almond milk, etc. Even before that, lots of people worldwide didn’t have cows but they had goats and used goatmilk in corresponding ways.
Sometimes what we apply as a characteristic or attribution is subjective; it’s based completely on a matter of taste. For milk this could be literally how milk tastes to us either in general or at a specific time and place. If I handed you a glass of milk today and you sipped it, you might describe it as “refreshing”, “creamy”, “chalky”, “delicious”, “sweet”, or even “gross” and mean that sincerely.
Chances are though that if I gave an identical glass of milk to someone else who didn’t hear your response they would use a completely different words in their response even if they liked or disliked it equally to you. Both of you would be giving an opinion on how that milk tasted and even if those opinions contradicted each other, they would not be intrinsically right or wrong. You both expressed an opinion.
Every tarot reader is like every milk drinker. Even people using the same type of deck who lay down the same cards in the same positions in the same spread are going to make their own unique interpretation. A reader who’s invested in learning the “esoteric language” of tarot is probably going to have deeper insights, especially when it comes to readings about personal development and relationships with other people.
Keeping track of what is really an intrinsic characteristic of a tarot card, what is something conventionally associated with that tarot card, and what is someone’s personal truth or opinion about either is helpful.
I use/study/teach with RWS-style decks, the Thoth deck and the BOTA deck. Many of the things that A.E Waite, Aleister Crowley and Paul Foster Case include in their writings about their tarot decks are simply personal insights. They describe what cards and symbols represent to them based on their own subjective perspectives. Their personal truths may not resonate with you.
Likewise, take what feels right and leave the rest from authors who’ve written their own books about tarot in general or whatever specific deck they focus on. Use the attributions and associations that feel true whenever they feel true. Write down and research ideas you aren’t sure about. Put aside everything else; it might feel more relevant later. It might not.
So, a correspondence in esoteric tarot can mean one of two things, which is part of the confusion. In the first context, when I say that the suit of pentacles corresponds to the element of earth, what I mean is that is the suit name (pentacles) and suit symbol (a pentacle) is just a substitution the name and symbol for the element of earth. Suit names and suit symbols are a bit like brands and logos. You can brand your elemental suit as pentacles, disks, coins, worlds, anything that symbolizes what earth symbolizes as long as there is an equivalency, a correspondence.
Two cups of liquid corresponds to a pint of liquid, at least in the United States. I say at least in the United States because until recently? I thought eight fluid ounces corresponded to a cup of liquid anywhere. I was shocked to learn that in the UK Imperial measurement of system? A cup of liquid is nine ounces! Now, in both baking and tarot, its okay to be “close enough”. A picture of a cup or chalice is so easy to associate with the element of water that even if they are not identically the same thing, they can still be said to correspond.
Alchemy, Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese philosophy and astrology all have symbols and principles that filtered into the Western occult tradition and often get expressed either in the pictures on certain tarot cards or influenced the authors/artists of those cards. Western alchemy and astrology have a particularly long and entwined history together. Saying “the moon corresponds to silver” is just shorthand for saying “the way most astrologers metaphorically conceptualize the moon is equivalent for the way most alchemists metaphorically conceptualize silver“.
But there is a slippery slope in using the word correspondence too broadly in esoteric tarot. Sometimes the equivalency is really in the eye of the beholder. For example, there is now a conventional way to associate a specific Hebrew letter with a specific tarot card- or two conventional ways because Crowley swapped a pair in the Thoth deck.
I will delve much much more deeply into the symbolism of the Hebrew alphabet as it is applies to esoteric tarot in future lessons. For right now? Let me just say that it was when some occultists first began to conceptualize the tarot cards as representing the same concepts as the Hebrew letters represented in Kabbalah (a form of Jewish mysticism) the Qabalistic tarot tradition was born.
Everything I said about the great occultists, historical or modern having a lot of interesting personal insights that you should filter into your own paradigm as best fits you? This very much applies to what everyone says about how specific tarot cards should be associated with specific Hebrew letters and astrological planets/sign. I am happy to teach you the most conventional associations- and I call them associations not attributions or correspondences.
As for the keywords that almost every LWB offers for the tarot deck it is included with? Every experienced tarot reader can rattle off a quick list of traits and concepts they personally apply to every card in their favorite deck based on:
what they perceive by looking at the card image
what they learned by reading about tarot and catalogued in their brain as true
what they discovered through journaling, pathworking and doing lots of readings
End of Lesson Exercises
If you don’t yet keep a tarot journal? Start one now. This can be in a paper notebook, a google doc or any format you prefer. How private or public you keep it will be completely up to you. Here are a couple of exercises to do between now and when you read the next lesson in this series.
Exercise #1 Go through the lesson and write down every word or phrase that I italicized in your tarot journal. Do you feel confident you know what they all mean? If not, look them up in online dictionaries until you do feel confident.
Exercise #2 Find at least one good online article or YouTube video about the explains a)confirmation bias b)personal development and c)fortune-telling to your satisfaction and write about what comes to mind about them and reading tarot cards.
Exercise #3 If you don’t already own your own paper version of a RWS-style deck? Consider purchasing one. I personally use the Universal Waite but anything that has an art style based on the RWS will work just as well.
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