Friday evening, when i am at home – and that’s most Fridays when in Montenegro – i pull randomly five cards from one of Tarot de Marseilles decks and i lurk at the cards while listening to weekly Kabbalah classes.
I was going to title this essay Scattered thoughts on TdM and 3 Negative weeks when it dawned on me that apart from most zealous Tarot enthusiasts - hardly anyone would know what is it about.
My beloved Tarot tribe has developed its own lingo which would take an expert in military ciphers to decode - unless one is socializing with other Tarotists on a daily basis and hanging out on Tarot forums and facebook groups.
When you say Tarot – most non-connoisseurs vaguely recall the artwork of Rider-Waite tarot deck, the best known deck in English speaking countries.
I was for a decade or so in “monogamous” relationship with it, that was the only deck i read – and even now, after having learned other traditions and acquired over hundred of exquisite decks, it would still be the deck i’d take with me to the desert island.
Arthur Edward Waite was a member of the Golden Dawn – a magical order which probably had strongest impact on Western occultism – a Freemason and scholarly mystic whose work was well received in academic circles; yet he is most known as co-creator of Rider-Waite-Smith deck. Genius artist and fellow Golden Dawn member Pamela Colman Smith illustrated the cards for Waite, and the deck of deceptively simple artwork, one of the first with 78 cards fully illustrated, was published in 1909.
If you look at attached scan of 7 of Wands, you see a man who seems to be defending himself. Look closer, pay attention to his different shoes. From there, Dan Pelletier – one of the most interesting and original contemporary philosophers of Tarot – makes connection with what’s known as Levirate marriage and The Book of Ruth and there your mind starts to boggle.
For we know Ruth, traditionally, is the first convert in history – albeit she is Moabite and it is said (Deuteronomy 23:4) An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation shall none of them enter into the assembly of the LORD for ever.
Not only she becomes an Israelite, but she’s also great-grandmother of King David!
How did that happen? Is there some mistake in the scripture?! Not really, because when read indepth, The Book of Ruth is not merely a story of the first convert, also described as first gold-digger in history – but a manual on how to transform the darkness in each and every one of us – into the light.
Stuff like that.
But, back to different Tarot traditions, which i like to compare to what’s known in linguistics as proto-languages… For Tarot is a language, albeit constructed one, a code if you like, not a natural one – but still a language in its own right.
In the same way the known languages which are believed to have descended by slow modification of the proto-language into languages that form a language family – most of the thousands of contemporary Tarot decks ascend to the three proto-traditions: Raider Waite, Thoth and Tarot de Marseilles.
Aleister Crowley, Waite’s fellow initiate of the Golden Dawn and his fervent opponent, in partnership with Lady Frieda Harris created Thoth Tarot.
Crowley – a ceremonial magician, prolific author, mountaineer and the founder of religious philosophy of Thelema, together with Harris seem to have crammed into this pack of cards all occult knowledge in existence; thus 7 of Wands here stands for Netzach (Victory) in the suit of Fire and is also attributed to Mars in Leo.
I know very few readers who can make sense of the card as it is (without recalling Pam’s depiction of “Defendant”) – and albeit Thoth can give amazing readings, it is basically a part of initiatory system of magical fraternity Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), or better to say – of its several competing fractions who claimed to be legitimate heirs to Aleister Crowley.
Basically you need to un-learn the RWS system in order to learn Thoth, and – albeit some respectable Tarot thinkers and practicioners have quite different opinion on the matter – in my view, Thoth deck, taken out of Thelemic context, makes very little sense.
But, let us go to the grand-daddy of both decks – Tarot de Marseilles and its depiction of Seven of Wands ie. Le sept de Bâton :
No Kabbalah here, no astro glyphs, levirate marriages or whatsoever – simply seven wands crossed in a particular way and some vegetation growing from it.
Yet this too will send you tripping if you focus on it.
Yes, of course it can be read traditionally – all sevens are related to the Chariot and Wands are work, so the card would on the most basic level denote something to do with hard work which results in success, but…
Apply to it Enrique Enriquez famous “Eye Rhyme” method, try reading card’s rhyme, rhythm and resonance - for this genius artist experiences tarot reading as an act of visual poetry – try hearing what song this card sings to you personally, all magical orders, ceremonial magicians and traditional meanings aside…
That’s what i tried to do this night and here is my reading with Jean Noblet deck:
On Fridays i read from right to left. Nine of Swords – first card from the right – to me is quite an ugly one; the eight swords (Suit of Air/ Thoughts/ Ideas) locked in a circle are cutting off and propelling out four identically shaped buds; to me – it can be about some kind of vicious circle, cliche thinking, speech patterns and so on.
The shortsword in the middle seems to be a Gladius – the primary sword of Ancient Roman foot soldiers.
As a side note – other words derived from Latin noun glădĭus are gladiator (“swordsman”) and gladiolus, the sword lily.
So, let’s presume the shortsword here represent some idea – could be”pure”, lily-like one – that has pierced some repetitive negative thought pattern; that idea is then excruciated on the Weel of Fortune, tempered in the fire of the Tower, and finally buried… Before it becomes a weapon in the Queens right hand – her left, significantly smaller hand being laid on what seems to be baby bump – that idea needs to ‘raise from the dead ‘ in the Judgement card, then to be internalized in the guarded Queen’s stomach - before it becomes the weapon of protection in her right hand.
It’s a long way to go - but probably the only one by which repetitive negative thoughts which lead to self-sabotaging behavior patterns – can be transformed into one’s advantages.
The so called Three Negative Weeks - the interval of “Bein HaMeitsarim” (between the straits) in which we are now according to kabbalistic calendar – seem to be the ideal timing to do so – we are propelled to go within and prevent situations that might bring self-destruction.
In words of one of the leading Kabbalists of our times, Shaul Youdkevitch: “We often forget that we are the master of our body and soul, and have the right not to let in emotions which don’t serve us or our purpose. We must hold on to the belief and knowledge that we have the power to redirect our fate, as the alternative is to be “bnei beliya’al” (evil-doers, lacking conscience), useless in the ability to rise above emotion, thought and misery that overwhelms us… it is this time, during the three weeks, that we fight these negative forces with tolerance, open-heartedness and unconditional love.”
Absolutely amazing interview of Dan Pelletier by Enrique Enriquez http://tarology.wordpress.com/2010/08/28/a-conversation-wit-dan-pelletier/
Jean Noblet Tarot http://www.tarotpedia.com/wiki/Jean_Noblet_Tarot
The 9th of Av According to Kabbalah http://www.livekabbalah.org/index.php/home/gates-in-time/holidays/the-9th-of-av-tisha-beav/
Weekly Zohar Study (Matot) http://www.livekabbalah.org/index.php/home/weekly-zohar/numbers-bamidbar/matot/
Weekly audio Zohar Study (Matot-Masei) with Shaul Youdkevitch http://www.livekabbalah.org/index.php/home/download-studies/