Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Please keep your damn dieties out of my Tarot cards!

At my Necromancy class in New Hope this month, Eric, the owner of Mystical Tymes, gave me a copy of the Heindel tarot. I told him I always admired the art, but was always turned away by something. Now I know what. Its the use of Gods instead of Court Cards. For instance the Queen of Wands is Kali.

This turns me off big time. First because the deck flits between four mythologies for no compelling reason
. Why Hinduism, Native American, Egyptian, and Celtic? Why not Norse, Slavic, Shintoist, and Persian? I dunno.

The bigger issue though is that by using dieties to play th
e roles of the elemental court cards, you are downplaying the importance of the Major Arcana, who should be the stars of the show. The magnitude of say the Tower or Death is greatly diminished when Kali is sitting there as the Queen of Wands. Just doesnt work for me.

The shame of it is, that the Haindl isnt the only great looking deck to be ruined by this. One of my favorite decks of all time is the Barbara Walker Tarot. If you ever want to scare the bejeezus out of someone, give them a reading with the Barbara walker tarot
. Its very 70's dark-occult. Every card is people in dark robes stabbing things.

Sadly Walker also takes mythological figures and places them in court positions. Here is Kali again, this time as the queen of swords. She also does Atargatis with a vagina dentata, a really Satanic Baal and some others.
Anyway. My point is, if you are designing a tarot deck with awesome art, please please please. just dont make the court cards into random deities.


WitchDoctorJoe said...

Ok deal, as a personal favor to you, I promise.

Rufus Opus said...

The artists apparently think the Deities are anthropomorphized forces. The Court cards are, according to my understanding, the people cards, representing other people in your life. Putting gods in that level of the Tarot is insulting to the Gods and reveals a terrible misunderstanding of how the universe works, imho. And yes, as a matter of fact, I do blame the GD.

silverlocke said...

well, witchdoctorjoe, i didn't know you hung out in this shady neighborhood. you're gonna get a bad rep! [g]

as to the topic, i don't much like having the pope in the deck, but there the bugger is--bigger than life and twice as bold. and some interpretations claim he actually represents godamighty himself.

i think perhaps at a certain point in time the tarot had to be be morphed into religious conformity in order to survive and religious elements were added. begs the question of what the original elements were though, if the theory holds any water.

in any case, there's no excuse for modern decks to use such elements, imo.

/s~ (silverlocke)

Rufus Opus said...

The true and faithful secret history of the tarot is readily available. It was a card game with variations played across Europe until Eliphas Levi got a hold of it and attributed the aleph-beit to 22 of the Major Arcana. Prior to him, the number of non-pip, non-court cards varied. He standardized it pretty arbitrarily.

The history of the development of the tarot as a book of mystical knowledge is well documented. Any rumors you've heard of it having an esoteric meaning before Levi is pure and unrefined horse shit.

It started secular and became holy. It never had a mystical meaning that had to be "morphed into religious conformity." The original elements were "play" and "fun."

That doesn't detract from its meaningfulness as a method of Divine Contemplation at all, by the way. Sortilege by cartomancy is a tried and true method of divination, as is throwing the dice. Just don't expect too much more out of the Tarot than you're willing to put into it, and try not to slip into the trap of making up magical history.

Brother Christopher said...

OMG that barbara walker deck. eeeek!

I agree with you whole heartedly, although, as a runes person myself, I don't worry about it too much. But I also prefer more "traditional" decks that are more closely symbolic to the rider waite. The number of (what I call) art decks seem more for avid collectors, or non-professional readers.

Mike said...

Yes placing gods as court cards makes no sense to me.. I am interested in what Rufus Opus meant with this quote "And yes, as a matter of fact, I do blame the GD."
Are you referring to the Golden Dawn and if so what is it about the GD placement of the courts that bothers you .. Thanks Mike

Rufus Opus said...

I meant the Golden Dawn, indeed. I blame them because they were overly anxious with their tables of correspondences, and they were guilty of sloppy syncretism. They left a legacy of "Ray Charles is blind, Love is blind, God is love, so Ray Charles is God" thinking that plagues the modern occult realm. They put deities in rows and columns and equated them to one another, never emphasizing the difference between correspondence and equality.

Hence the artists of the modern Tarot are comfortable substituting Kali for a Court Card because She reminds them of some trait the court card may have had according to some interpretations. They don't spend the time getting to know the deities within the context of the culture in which they revealed themselves, so they have no clue what they're doing. They cheapen the status of the deity. When someone who knows Kali sees that card, they're going to walk away thinking that the court cards are something they aren't. Or weren't. It's just bad business.

I suppose it's art, and the gods can defend themselves well enough. Still, I don't approve.

My Gal said...

For my money the court cards have always been elemental in nature. I am not GD but have pulled a lot of my symbolism from them. They make more sense as the elements rather than a chaotic mismash of Gods. Forces yes, 4 traditional sets of Gods rolled into one? It sounds like a bad infomercial not a functioning deck.

Then again if it works for you, go for it. Though I suspect some day Kali will really show up and scare the crap out of someone. It would be great with popcorn and from a good distance :)

silverlocke said...

rufus opus seems to have mistook my meaning somewhat (and i sincerely hope he didn't refer to me as one who is '... making up magickal history' as i am doing my best to be a conscientious--yet skeptical--student of such history), but then a short comment on the tarot such as i made is fraught with peril and i accept his argument if the differences between 'original' and 'development' are factored out.

bb, /s~

Rufus Opus said...

Sil, you said "i think perhaps at a certain point in time the tarot had to be be morphed into religious conformity in order to survive and religious elements were added."

It's just not true, is all. The Pope card was used to represent an element of Renaissance society in Europe, just like the court cards and the other cards that became the Major Arcana. Your statement implies a false sense of religious persecution.

The truth is more useful, I find, than creating myths.

But don't take RO too seriously, he's got an agenda and takes every opportunity to advance it. I've learned to just sort of let him say whatever, but not to expect him to be as "total dick" in real life as he can come across on line. ;)

ChandraNova said...

Well those cards scared the crap outta me!!

I pretty much agree with everything Rufus Opus said, and personally I still prefer a standard pack of playing cards, when I do use cards that is: Tarot carries too much baggage with most clients, it's been almost a victim of its own publicity.

Bro. Christopher, I'm pretty sure I've seen some Rune cards with Deities on, didn't fancy them much either to be honest - "yet another NewAge mishmash" was my (probably needlessly judgemental) opinion...