I’m following 777 mainly and strictly for the decan descriptions but occasionally incorporating some symbolism from other decan descriptions.
Crowley’s description of the decan per 777, Succedent decan of Aries: A green-clad woman, with one leg bare from the ankle to the knee.
Picatrix: A woman dressed in green clothes, lacking one leg.
Agrippa: A woman, outwardly clothed with a red garment, and under it a white, spreading abroad over her feet.
Liber Hermetis: The second decan has the face of the Sun. It’s name is Sabaoth. It has a two headed face and the lotus of kings is open upon its head. In the compass of the lotus there are stars of the splendor of gold. He has in his right hand a water jug which is called life, in his left a scepter the extremity of which is bifurcated. This decan is clothed in linen and he treads under his feet a tortoise entirely covered with a net.
The Three of Wands card is Aries II, the second or middle decan of Aries. Whereas the Two of Wands has association with Aidoneus (Hades) per the 36 Airs of the Zodiac, the Three corresponds to his Queen Persephone or Kórē, the goddess who rises in the spring to green the world yet is the powerful ruler of the Underworld realm. As such, the three wands are shown in the form of a trishula or three-pronged staff behind her, that is a composite of the Egyptian forms of the soul: the Ba (personality), shown as the human-headed bird with outstretched wings, combines with the Ka (life force and vital essence of life), shown as the upraised hands, to form the Akh which takes the form of the crowned ibis. The Akh represents the “effectiveness” of kings, and the character and intelligence that makes up a person – which has a lot to do with the meaning of the Lord of Virtue.
The middle decan of Aries is ruled by the Sun, and in the springtime the solar force awakens the seeds of the Earth, cracking them open with the force of Mars (Aries) so they emerge. The idea of a woman in green upon one leg is reminiscent of a sprout, and indeed when seeds sprout with their initial two curling leaves they look just like the glyph of the sign Aries!
The Invocation for the Lord of Virtue is in sonnet form. I don’t usually write sonnets as I prefer something more freestyle with fewer constraints on form but was inspired by Andrew Watt’s decan walk series where he ritualized the process of sonnet writing, and had one burn the first one written as an offering to Persephone’s realm.
That’s right – I’m taking another spin on the wheel, and an image and invocation style decan walk as part of the process to create another deck. Aries Decan 1, 1st, the first face of Aries, the tarot Two of Wands.
I began this process on the vernal equinox at dawn (Sunday March 21, 2021) and started work on the image Tuesday (Mars’ Day and hour) and finished the art, consecrated it with a personal decan invocation during Mars hour today, Sunday with the Sun still in the first decan of Aries.
Aries 1 – First decan of Aries
I’m mainly using the description from Crowley’s 777, but also looking at other decan description sources:
Crowley; Ascendant Decan of Aries: A tall, dark, restless man, with keen flame-coloured eyes, bearing a sword.
Picatrix: The form of a black man, restless and great in body having red eyes and holding a cutting axe in his hand, girded about with white garment; and there is great worth in this face. And this is a face of strength, high rank, and wealth without difference.
Agrippa: Therefore it is said, in the first face of Aries, ascendeth the image of a black man, standing and clothed in a white garment, girdled about, of a great body, with reddish eyes, and great strength, and like one that is angry, and this image signifieth and causeth boldness, fortitude, loftiness and shamelessness.
Bruno: In the first face of Aries is a man with a radiant black complexion, of immense stature, with burning eyes and a grave countenance, standing clothed in a dazzling white garment.
Vedic: The First Drekkana of Aries represents a dark complexioned man with a white cloth round his waist, liberal minded, ready to don the garb of the Redeemer, oriented to protect, with awesome red eyes & with a lifted axe. This is a human decanate and an armed decanate.
Aries 1 – First decan of Aries; talismanic art of the Two of Wands: The Emperor (Aries) and decan ruler Tower (Mars)
Invocation of Aries I by M.M. Meleen. For staking claims of true precedence, claiming sovereignty of self, leading the pack, and winning.
I plant my flag.
I claim dominion of the directions.
Ram regardant, I lead the beastly circle.
First son, last born: the decans my destiny.
I break ground.
Motion is mine.
Martial flint, solar spark, as year revolves.
My serpent mouth consumes all, circling round to satiety,
where my dominion is sealed.
Here first I was.
I Am, and ever shall be.
North and South, East and West, Above and Below:
Dominion is mine!
As it was, as it is, as it shall ever be.
It is known.
Son of the Morning, I marshal the hosts of the mighty.
I draw from the earth-star, the chthonic fiery core. I draw from the star-fire, lead the celestial parade.
By the Ram and the Boar, I claim the peak and the trough.
Above and below, I claim dominion.
By crown and scepter, by hook and flail, by shield and spear,
I declare I am:
Angaraka, born from the celestial sweat of the Lord of Beasts;
Assiccan, Aroueris, Zazer.
As Horus, I stand upon the pillar.
As Emperor, I look out over the rampart.
As Grand Architect, I survey my domain.
I stake my claim on sovereignty.
First I was.
and shall ever be.
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In my last blog post I *very* briefly talked about the process I’m using for creating the art for my next tarot deck, as yet not publicly named. To recap, for each card I have been:
studying the description in the *source text* (more specifics about what text that is and why in a future post)
using visualization and astral/imagination techniques to picture that description – and combining the specifics of the description with my own personal language of symbolism associated with the card correspondences
gathering inspirational materials, models, and resources to help the drawing process
doing a very rough and dirty pencil sketch to get the idea and proportions in place
using that sketch as a template for inking the bare bones line work, and perfecting the elements of the drawing
after this, at some point doing the shading and coloring of the image (of course with the GD color scales)
But these six steps leave out a critical 7th step, which is boththe first and last step in the process – and that is about having magical intention as part of the process. I thought maybe there would be interest in that as well. In a sense, magick and art can both be very simply defined as thinking of something and making it manifest, via purposeful manipulation of energy. I make no claims of being an accomplished magician, but I do practice, and sometimes succeed. It takes long term application of will and focus to make 78 cards of art, and these qualities are useful in magical applications as well.
For me, making art is certainly about making beautiful images. I love hearing people say they find my tarot art beautiful. The smart readers recognize that it is more as well. I always hope people also see the level of thought as well as care that went into the works. It’s about making intelligent images. “Intelligent images” in this case means more than one thing. On the mundane level, it means that the images are well thought out, that I as the creator of them am doing a lot of thinking, and intuitively drawing on decades of accumulated knowledge and lore about all sorts of things that go into the cards, like Symbolism, Astrology, Mythology, Numerology, and Qabalah. The art intelligently incorporates the appropriate symbolism according to esoteric tarot teachings and doesn’t just insert a lot of new age visual jargon in there, popping in magical symbols so that it looks cool. Everything is considered and there for an actual reason, that begins to describe the intersection of Art and Magick.
For they are intelligent images in a different sense. The reason for incorporating these elements, chosen from traditional esoteric correspondence sources, is to make the artwork a suitable container for the indwelling of the appropriate energy, or you could say, spirit. These “spirits”, that are said to be the beings we communicate with (whether we acknowledge it or not) when we read the cards, are intelligences. To some extent they have sentience, in that we can communicate with them, and they can have something to say back to us in turn. We can have an actual conversation with a card, and get information not generally available to our normal consciousness. There is something beyond the ink and paper that can be “contacted” or tapped into and does have a unique “personality” and even is capable of intelligent response. Whether that is within or without us is up for debate.
To offer a popular misquote, “if you build it, they will come”. I believe that in order to make a tarot card a suitable vessel, the correspondences illustrated have to be appropriately resonant with the spirit or archetype I’m trying to attract. BUT there is more to magick than choosing correspondences! That type of thing is very Mercurial, very 8th sephira Hod, very reasonable but rather intellectual and lifeless in and of itself. Crowley defined Magick as “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will” and that is a perfect definition. Though “science” is needed, it needs more than just the logic of Mercury. It needs the “art” as well as the science. In order to magically make a work a container for spirit: we need Venus in addition to Mercury. We need the Venusian, the 7th sephira Netzach, the fire and feelings, the love of beauty, the enlivening factor of the heart that loves beauty and knows how to use the powers of attraction. The image must also be beautiful, loved by the senses. For the ancients in Greece and Egypt knew, that in order for the animating force to come into a work of art – particularly when it was a statue of a god or goddess – the proportions had to be beautiful, the face and features idealized as well as representative of the archetype. For this reason, I prefer ideal and beautiful images to realism, and incorporate principles of sacred geometry and design into the work. Not everything has to be beautiful to be art, but it has to have beauty in some form, if that makes sense.
The magical artist needs both the hand and the eye: the mind and hand skills of Mercury and the eye for beauty represented by Venus.
We need both the intellect and dexterity of Mercury (Hod) and the attraction capabilities and inspiration of Venus (Netzach) for inspired and ensouled artistic creations to occur – and we need to merge and reconcile them along the Middle Pillar. Yesod, the sephira of the Moon, between that of Mercury and Venus, is appropriately sometimes called “The Treasure House of Images” (note that Treasure=Venus and House=Mercury) and for me, I think it is here that the reconciliation happens that allows for the intellectually sortedcorrespondences and the emotionally chosen inspirations to combine via intuition and the astral to create “Images” or reflections. The sephira of the Moon is associated with the astral light – which is reflected, having been generated by the Sun in Tiphareth. The Sun is our own inner genius, the heart (that ultimately receives its inspiration from deity above in Kether). The light of our inner genius is reflected in the astral via the light of the Moon.
Magick can be defined as making something happen through force of will (fixed Fire) + desire (fixed Water) + knowledge (fixed Air) + grounding (Fixed Earth). You could also say “Creation on earth = will + love + reason + action”. These could, in a way, somewhat correspond to the four sephiroth shown above.
I believe that the artist, like the magical practitioner, stands within the diamond of these four sephiroth: Hod/Mercury and Netzach/Venus on the horizontal plane and Yesod/Moon and Tiphareth/Sun on the vertical plane. (Instead of the “triangle of manifestation”, we could call it the “diamond of art”!) We reconcile and combine these energies on the crossroads where the path of Art (the Temperance card, as referring to tempering) intersects with the hot flash of inspiration and energy that is the Tower, and we manifest it down here on Earth (Malkuth) where actual shit gets done – err, I mean, matter gets created. Yes, the Tower is associated with destruction as well as the lightning of inspiration. But the artistic creative process is one of destruction, as once the image is actually created, an infinite number of potential images the artist held in the astral that could have occurred instead are effectively destroyed.
Besides the “crossroads” path of Art/Temperance and Tower, it’s also interesting to look at the other paths that form the outer part of the “diamond”: Death and the Devil, and the Sun and Emperor. Death and the Devil clearly show the artistic process as the creation of matter and the astral forms subsequently destroyed, while the Sun/Emperor pair illustrates art as something seen that illuminates (the Sun) and the structure of good design and proportions (Emperor, Aries where Sun is exalted). Even if you don’t accept Crowley’s Emperor/Star path switch, the Star works as well, as it is also a Sun, and a card of idealism and beauty.
So how are the energies we want to indwell the image evoked here on Earth, besides through creating an image of idealistic beauty, that is well-thought-out with appropriate correspondences, inspired on the astral, well proportioned, and drawn down from above? I try whenever possible to use appropriate timing, for example starting an image for the Empress, card corresponding to Venus, on a Friday, preferably also during the hour of Venus, or beginning the Lust/Strength card on a Sunday/Sun hour since the card corresponds to Leo, ruled by the Sun.
For the Fool in my newest deck, I started the ritual of formally inking it with a ceremony during the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn we had in the sky at the beginning of this year, that ushered in a whole new 200 year cycle, a series of Air sign conjunctions beginning with Aquarius. This once-in-a-lifetime occurrence (PORTAL), involving these father, sky, and creator gods of chaos, was perfect for embodying the energy of the tarot Fool, who is the chaotic creator god of Tarot and whose correspondence is Air. And yes, divination also agreed that it was the right time to create this new Fool card, under the portal of these energies.
Speaking of the Fool card…imagine that you were Pamela Coleman Smith, and A.E. Waite of the Golden Dawn is “spoon-feeding” you the elements of the card. “Pixie, ” he says, “the figure should be an effeminate youth. He should wear a feathered cap and carry a vagabond’s bag-and-stick in one hand, and a rose in the other. Under a white sun he walks without a care in the world, nose in the air, seemingly unconcerned as he is about to walk off of a cliff. Mountain peaks in the distance, oh and a little white dog should accompany him.” You, as PCS, say, “OK, no problem; I can do that.” And with beautiful simple lines, the iconic image we all know was born. We might imagine that’s easy, and maybe it was for her. Art doesn’t just flow from one’s fingertips, but it was surely an act of magic. It now exists in thousands and hundreds of thousands of decks, and in even more minds. You just imagined it now, called it to you on an astral level.
Now let’s try a harder one. Imagine you are Freida, Lady Harris. Aleister Crowley has agreed to teach you magick as he directs the art of his own tarot deck, also in the Golden Dawn tradition but under his auspices. Freida first paints curly haired Harpo Marx as the Fool – and Crowley roundly berates it – for after all he doesn’t want to be laughed out of town by his Golden Dawn bros. “Freida,” he says, “while Harpocrates certainly applies, ditch the Harpo idea. The figure should be a Dionysian horned god, green and gold, showing all the madness and frenzy of spring. He should be bursting through the three negative veils of existence, in mid air, while carrying a crystal water chalice, and a flaming pine-cone, and mixing the elements. A crocodile and tiger should harry him, and make sure you include a vulture, a caduceus, two infants embracing, the sun and moon, the rose, the diamond, a butterfly, ivy, grapes, a dove, the benediction of three-flowers in one and…are you getting all this? Oh and he also must be carrying a bag that contains the entire Universe.” I can imagine Freida thinking…”Ookaaaaaaaaayyyyyy…what have I gotten myself into!?” You have to admit, she pulled it off. Very inspiring.
So this is a bit of what I put myself through for my own Fools, as I have to split myself in two in order fill the creative roles of both Waite/Crowley and Smith/Harris. For Rosetta, the assignment was quite Thoth based. “Make a Dionysus figure, horned and stepping through an Ouroboros portal in space. Keep that fire cone/water chalice admixing thing, and the harrying tiger and croc and all those other symbols too if you can.” That wasn’t so bad, it was a lot easier than Freida’s assignment. For the next deck, Tabula Mundi, the muse had to assign something more challenging. “This time make the green dude more virile, do better with anatomy while you are at it, and keep the creatures and the elements and the three-negative-veils of existence, but have him about to step into a wormhole in space-time.” (It’s a miracle that one happened.) The next Fool I did (which has not made it into a deck, yet, but some of you have seen here) broke away from the stepping off a cliff, or through a portal or wormhole or what-have-you, and instead made him the “babe in the egg of blue, breaking out of the egg upon the lotus carried by/harried by twin crocodiles of Harpocrates.” After that one came more Fools. The official one that ended up in Pharos Tarot had the Fool as Phanes Lightbringer, just emerged from the cracking of the world egg, riding the light through the three veils and from Kether headed towards Malkuth. The hardest part of that assignment was that I had to convincingly portray someone riding Light itself.
The reason I’m telling this story of the (past present and future) Fools, was that the deck I’m working on now came about because of inspiration related to the Fool card and difficulties with artistic assignments like this. That text I’m working with as the “assignment” for this deck, has one of the most challenging descriptions of the Fool card I’ve ever seen – I mean, read. It’s perfectly relevant, elegant even, but I can see why there isn’t a deck out there that I’m aware of with a Fool that looks exactly like it, as it crams so many hard to draw elements into it. For years I’d read it and walk away, saying “Too hard!!” But finally I had an epiphany: if I can find a way to paint a portal, the negative veils, a wormhole in space-time, a hatching child, and a dude riding light, well I may as well give this one a try too. (I’m laughing here.) I won’t describe him here, as I haven’t shown him to you yet, but when I tell you the description you will get why it was a difficult thing to consider the composition of. Like a lot of things in life, as it turns out it wasn’t as hard as it seemed, once the force of will was behind it.
The point is, that you can create something that does not yet exist, you can make something happen here on earth through force of will by purposely directing energy. That’s magick!
So back to magickal methods. I do use astrological timing for these works. HOWEVER – creating 78 works of art, especially magically correct art, takes A LONG TIME. At least for me. If I only worked on a piece during perfectly timed astrology electionals or even only during the appropriate planetary day and hour it would never get done! So while I do strive to at least begin a piece during the right astrological time – the right time to do any magical work is in that elusive Venusian Venn diagram Vesica Piscis window where your time and energy or inspiration intersect and align. If I’m inspired and have time NOW I’m going to work on it, because time and energy are precious commodities not to be squandered.
Thus I also incorporate other methods of infusing the work with the appropriate archetypal resonances, when astro-timing isn’t perfect. The work area can be surrounded by ritual tools, elemental items, and sacred statues of appropriate gods or goddesses. Sound can be used via music or the ringing of bells or tuning forks in the appropriate key. The correct scents can be burned, or applied via plant hydrosol or essential oil to the artist; the correct colors, or gems, or metals, or talismans or planetary malas can be worn, the appropriate planetary Sanskrit mantras chanted or played; the Orphic hymns, or personal poems or prayers can be recited, or the right offerings made. Sigils can be added to or hidden in the artwork. Sacred geometry grids of appropriate numerology can underlie a work invisibly or visibly. I have used all of these methods either individually or in some combination. If it works out, you could use them all at once, but it is rare that it is practical to do so. Working on the art in stages, where sometimes it can be at propitious times and at other times with different resonances used, helps; but never let time perfection or ritual perfection get in the way – perfect is the enemy of good. The image can always be consecrated at the appropriate time after it is complete.
Those methods above are all correspondences and thus mind oriented (Mercury). But I’m also looking for a feeling of falling in love with the image and the process of creation (Venus) – that can only be experienced. That’s an indication that the magic is working.
You actually don’t need any of the ritualized aspects, making a work of art is in and of itself a magical act. The artist dreams up something that does not exist, and makes it exist, via focus and sheer force of will. But the ritual helps invoke the feeling within you, so that you can evoke it in the art.
Tip for artists: When inspiration is needed, working with both Mercury (Magus, Ganesha, Hermes, Thoth) and Venus (Empress, Lakshmi, Aphrodite, Hathor) placed side by side near the blank canvas while chanting an appropriate seed mantra and making offerings of fire, scent, and water, or food and flowers, can help. On the Tree of Life, between the sephira for Mercury and that for Venus is the path of the Tower – any blockage will be removed, and then inspiration can come in. (You could even use Hadit and Nuit as stand-ins for Mercury and Venus, for their third is Horus who is also quite a Mars-type influence.)
The important thing is that the images just need to happen one way or another, and be inspiring to me as the artist. (note: the artist should go through a process of falling in love with the image, and the same is for the practitioner and the magical act.) Hopefully it is thus also inspiring to the spirits, and to those of the eventual viewers of the cards (you) who take them in through the eyes. For we do take in the essences of god forms through the eyes, and are affected by them. In Hindu philosophy there is a term called darshan, Sanskrit for “viewing”, that refers to the process of beholding the image of a deity or a sacred object, and the reciprocal nature of that viewing where the deity or sentience of the object also views and blesses you, affecting change. The image (and actually, all created things of this universe) combines both matter (prakriti, nature existing in time and space) and spirit (purusha, consciousness). These images of deity were sometimes brought out from the temple and driven through the streets in a chariot so that all could venerate them and in turn receive darshan of the sacred object. It’s interesting in terms of the Chariot card of Tarot, which is often interpreted as the vehicle of the sacred spirit or precious object, protected in an enclosure and carried forth to do one’s will.
When making an “ensouled” work of Art, I like to keep an awareness of the “elemental powers of the Sphinx”, with the sphinx as a stand-in for mankind’s evolutionary process as a utilization of the combination of all four elements, which when successful creates a unifying fifth element of spirit that allows progress forward. For any magical work we first Will it, then we Dare to do it and fall in love with it, we reason and Know it, and for maximum effectiveness we maintain a certain level of Silence around it to bank the energy. Only then do we Go forth and take action, bringing something into being.
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This is an article by M.M. Meleen originally published in Tarosophy Magazine in 2016 Vol II Issue 7. I was hunting around the blog and saw my original post about it realized I’d never published the article here. At the time, I was supposed to get a Lulu link where I, or anyone else, could purchase a hard copy of that issue of the magazine, and I would have passed that on to you as promised. But I never got it. So since I stumbled onto a mention of this in 2016 (on the “Ides of March”, exactly 5 years to the day after that original post directing people to the magazine), I decided why not publish it here, finally, for all.
Tarot Zoology: A Field Guide to the Tabula Mundi by M.M. Meleen
Methods of portraying archetypal and allegorical symbolism abound, and are as diverse as tarot decks themselves. Yet animal figuration seems to be a constant, and one would be hard pressed to find a single deck with no animal symbolism of any kind. Even in a deck that would not be considered animal based or themed, there are many ways in which animals can have a presence. This can be as prevalent as the Knights generally shown seated on horseback denoting swiftness and force, or as subtle as a decorative element on a garment or an object. Purposely focusing attention on the symbolism of the animals present in a reading can add an additional layer of meaning. This is often done on a subconscious level, as humans have lived with the animal kingdom from the dawn of humanity.
Mankind is familiar with animal symbolism in folklore, mythology, alchemy, astrology, and fairy tales. When animals appear, we often have no trouble forming an instant impression of what they bring to mind. Sometimes the depictions of animals may be so subtle that one is not aware of how they may be influencing perception. Much like the sense of smell, an animalian gift, these images trigger memories and evoke the primal unconscious. Bringing some conscious consideration to this can be illuminating. Asking oneself why certain animals find their natural habitat in certain cards can be fruitful, whether it is a study of a particular deck, or noticing how animal symbolism repeats itself in the same card over myriad decks. Become a Tarot Zoologist. Seek out and learn to identify animals “in the field” of Tarot.
This guide is only a brief synopsis of what is possible. It is illustrated with examples from the tarot deck called Tabula Mundi, as a deck called “picture of the world” must of course include some of the world’s creatures. This deck serves as one example of the many ways that animals are used symbolically in tarot, for it is not an animal deck per se, but is coded with animal images used as an occult or hidden script. These serve as an archetypal cosmology or form of language. In fact, going through the seventy-nine images of the deck (seventy-eight cards and the card backs) only eight cards contained absolutely no hint of zoological emblem.
Examining the way animal symbolism is used in different decks is one way to analyze a deck’s personality. How many types of animals appear in a deck, what are they, and how many of each do you find? Let us delve into some illustrated examples of tarot creatures in their natural habitat. When surveying the wildlife population in a deck consider your first count as potentially being understated, as it is very easy to miss some of them in the wild. Challenge yourself to find every animal in your favorite deck. You may discover that it takes careful observation to locate them all. First though, one must define the ways in which animals can show up in a deck.
Animals as seen in nature, showing up on a card as themselves, performing some action or being present as part of the scene
Animals as portrayed in heraldry, often seen as a blazon on a coat of arms, flag or shield in positions with specific meanings
Animals symbolically present as part of an object, such as a decorative element on a suit element or part of an article of clothing
Animals as human companions or familiars
General human-animal hybrids wherein a human figure combines with an animal component such as the lower body of an animal, or the horns, wings or head of an animal and general compound animal hybrids that combine multiple animals
Mythological creatures with specific names and histories
Animal-related objects or parts, embryonic or skeletal stages of animals, or animals suggested but not physically present such as depiction of honeycomb, eggs, furs, bones, chrysalises, shells, feathers or wings, which may suggest animals, birds, mollusks, bees or other insects
Animals as court crest elements and in court card traditional depictions
Following are just a few pictures illustrating each example – there are lots more to find in the cards! (The first 7 are from the color version of Tabula Mundi and the last from the black and white edition.) After that, we get to the good stuff – the symbolic meanings!
In the Tabula Mundi, seventy cards, and the card backs, portray some animal symbolism. Many types of natural animal, plus some objects and hybrids suggesting them, and several specifically named mythological creatures, can be seen in the cards. The most common animal was the Snake or Serpent which appeared on forty percent of the cards. Many snakes were only present in subtle ways, such as a decorative element on an object, or part of a hybrid animal. The preponderance of Serpent imagery is an indication that this deck is a potent tool of transformation and knowledge, some primary messages of Snake.
Mythological creatures with distinct names known in folklore were counted separately, and were the second most commonly occurring element. More general human-animal hybrids were third most common, as they include the winged or horned archetypal humans present in many of the Majors and Courts. The prevalence of mythological creatures and hybrids gives the deck an aura of mystery and magick and brings in legends and fables from the collective consciousness. Mythological creatures have their own stories that can provide layers of meaning and trails to follow. For other unnamed hybrids, one can simply study their component animals.
Back in the natural world, the second most common real animal in the Tabula Mundi is the Eagle, virtually tied with the Lion. Given the fact that they are both kerubic beasts, and a very symbolic pair alchemically, it isn’t surprising. They show up singularly and also together on several cards. These two are rulers. The Lion is the majestic king of the beasts and the Eagle is the far-seeing sovereign of the air, symbolic of mastery of Heaven and Earth, the realms of Tabula Mundi. The Lion is the Kerub of Fire, and is symbolic of great heart, dignity, strength, and honor. The Eagle is most generally the Kerub of Water (though sometimes switched with Air in Crowley’s Nox formula) and stands for perceptive vision and clarity, higher purpose, and nobility of spirit.
The following is a concise description of meanings that may be suggested when each animal appears in the cards, depending on context. When analyzing a reading specifically for animal symbolism as a practice, considering the animals’ habits and folklore can be an interesting exercise.
Zoomancy, or Theriomancy, is a method of divination that derives auspices from the appearance and behavior of beasts. A Zoomantian spread one can do with any deck is to separate out every card with animal symbolism, and from these draw four cards, one for each of the four elements and directions, and read them totemically for any animals that appear in order to receive a unique message from the animal kingdom.
Bat Mysteries of the night. Sonar, echo location, and the ability to navigate darkness. Mesmerism. Madness. Seeing through illusion. Facing fear.
Bee Venus, Binah, the yoni. Sweetness of life. Diligence and industriousness. Solar and lunar forces. Pollination and fertilization. Wild nature, the swarm and the sting. Royalty.
Beetle The Scarab and the solar barge, passages of change. The midnight sun. Resurrection and purification.
Boar Ferocity and confrontation. Fearlessness in the face of danger. War and chaos. The Calydonian hunt. The destructive rampage. Masculine urges. The earthquake.
Bull Taurus.Kerub of Earth.Fecundity of earth; the sowing.Virility and strength. Productivity. Beast of burden; physical labor and endurance. The Minotaur.
Butterfly The chrysalis.Transformative journey of the soul. Element of Air. Transmutation. Moment of conception in the womb.
Camel The letter Gimel.The ship of the desert. Transporting valued cargo; knowledge. Crossing the Abyss. Stamina on an arduous journey. The destination.
Crab/Crayfish Forces of the Moon. Cancer and Pisces. Armor and defense. Maternal protection. The subconscious. The indirect path.
Crocodile Primal nature of water. Silence. Initiation. The mysteries of birth and incarnation. Sobek. Guardians of hidden knowledge. Fertility. Clairvoyance. Letter He final. Feminine form of Dragon.
Dog (See Cerberus)The most loyal companion. Willingness. Protection on the journey and at the home. Master the senses and follow the trail of things not ordinarily seen.
Dolphin The womb. Protector of the waters. Friendship of deities. Sonar powers, navigation, and memory. Unexpected help.
Dove Venus,Aphrodite, female sexuality. Creativity. Maternity. Peace and pacifism. Beauty and gentleness. Messages. After the deluge.
Dragonfly Magic. Air over the waters. Swiftness and lightness. Shifting colors. New perspective. Summer. Visionary brilliance and the fleeting nature of thought.
Egg Incarnation. Orphic egg that contains the universe. Result of the hermetic marriage. Fertilization. The ideal, and all potential. Incubation. New knowledge. Promise of flight at maturity.
Eagle/Hawk Clear vision. Exaltation above matter. Higher purpose. Leadership. Divine truth. Spiritual ecstasy and nobility of spirit. In some cards, the white eagle of alchemy; the purified salt.
Elephant Royal and majestic power. Strength and authority. Earth. Money and material concerns. Memory for injustice. Solidity and endurance.
Feather Communication with spirit. Writing and treaties. Virtue. Lightness. Maat and weighing the heart. Truth and order. Flight. Rising above.
Fish The sign of Pisces. Christ. Sacrifice and crucifixion. Prophecy and inspiration. The letter Nun. Beneath the waters. The flow of life. The Salmon of Wisdom. Prosperity, surplus. Initiation and baptism.
Goat The sign of Capricorn. The Zenith. Climbing and ambition. Baphomet. Pan the Satyr, god of Nature. Libido and craving. Surefootedness. Business opportunity. Power.
Honeycomb/Beehive (See Bee) Honeycomb as container of the elixir, the hexagon and harmonic structure. Beehive as the sweet reward that comes from perfect structure, organized labor, and well-governed industry. The perfect union of opposites. Harmony. Tiphareth. Solve et coagula, nectars transmuted to honey.
Horse Swiftness, strength, and vitality. First force and the Will. Exploration and travel; a journey. Freedom of sexuality. The Centaur. Sagittarius.
Ibis A bird of the waters. Thoth. The lunar forces and cycles of time. The maternal instinct. In alchemy, the successful transmutation.
Jackal Anubis, protector of the dead, of tombs. Guide of the soul. Guardian of the scales. Wepwawet, the Opener of the Ways, stands at the prow of the solar barge.
Leopard/Panther Inner power. Ecstatic meditation. Shakti essence. Silence and speed. Controlled transformation. Sexual awakening.
Lemur Higher knowledge. Hermanubis. Mercurial function. Intelligence. Communication and answers. Messages. Happiness and playful fun. Enjoying life.
Lion Leo.The Sun.Solar fire kerub. Courage and kingship. Protector of the good. Strength. The red tincture of alchemy. Passion. Gold. Pride. The brave heart and the strong spine.
Mollusk/Shell The Yoni. The feminine principle.The pearl. Beauty, luxury. Perfection of form. Soothing irritation. Protection of form. The lunar forces and phases. Love. Aphrodite, Venus, Lakshmi, Binah. Emotional high.
Moth Cycles of soul change. The cocoon. Nocturnal otherworldliness. Influenced by lunar force. Dreams. Illusions. Shadows. Seeking the light even unto destruction.
Owl The true reality.Vigilance. Cycles of reincarnation. Wisdom and intelligence. Minerva and Athena. High Magick. Lunar power. Omens, prophecy. Psychic awareness. Astral projection.
Peacock Cauda Pavonis, the alchemical stage of truth or deceit. Transcendence. Integrity and incorruptibility. Beauty and the influence of Venus.
Ram/Sheep Aries. The start of a cycle. Spiral life force. The head, mental power. Dominion and dueling. Opportunity, strength, and challenge. Renewal of Spring.
Raven/Crow Magick and the night.Alchemical death. A trickster. Shape-shifting, theft, and deception. High intelligence. The power of language.
Scorpion Sign of Scorpio. Venom and stinging. The will to change. First stage of putrefaction. Desire nature. Potency. Passion and pathos.
Snake/Serpent (see Ouroboros)The knowledge of good and evil. The temptation of Eve. Wisdom, initiation. Kundalini. Transformation and healing. Immortality. Sometimes Hadit. Cycles of death and rebirth; cycles of Time.
Stag Wild nature. Masculinity and virility. The hunt. Renewal of life. The generative force of the land.
Swan Grace, beauty, and purity. The embodied soul. Love and partnership. Aphrodite. The Muses and inspiration, poetry and music.
Tiger.Fiery passion and sensuality. Power and sleekness. Solitary magnificence. Durga. Ferocity. Beauty of motion. Willpower and courage.
Arch Fey (see Butterfly, Dragonfly, Moth) “Arch” meaning cunning, crafty, mischievous, sly and also in combination with other words, meaning chief, leader, ruler. “Fey” meaning fairies, seen usually as slight beings with butterfly, moth, or insect wings.
Cerberus (See Dog) Hound of Hades. Guardian of the adamantine gates. Psychopomp companion. Three heads for mastery of speech, action and thought.
Chimera (see Goat, Lion, Serpent) Fire breathing multi-part creature infused with all the strength and agility of its parts. One of many monstrous offspring of Typhon, the last son of Gaia and Tartarus (the Abyss). Omen of disaster.
Double Headed Eagle (See Eagle) Rulership in all directions. Authority in both secular and religious matters.
Dragon (See Crocodile, Ouroboros, Serpent) Guardian of wisdom. The treasure of the Great Work and the Philosopher’s Stone. Chi and life force; power. Control of the beast within; the inner quest. Rule of the elements. Balance of male and female. If winged, the volatile; if not, the fixed.
Griffin (See Eagle, Lion) As combination of the king of beasts and the sovereign of the air, the Griffin is said to be a ruler combining the strength of both. Guardian of that which is precious.
Hippocampus (see Dolphin, Horse) Horses above and Dolphins below. The Chariot of Poseidon. Mounts of the Nereids. Seahorse shaped parts of the brain; the limbic system. Skills of navigation. Savior of sailors. Loyal, graceful and agile. Good omen.
Medusa (see Snake)A Gorgon, female with snakes for hair whose gaze turns one to stone. Aegis of Athena. Divine protection. Medusa from Greek meaning guardian, protectress. Gorgon, from the word meaning dreadful. Ward against evil.
Oneroi (see Bat, Crayfish, and either Serpent or Fish) Black winged demons who live by the Gates of Horn and Ivory. Personification of dreams. Descended from Nyx, the Night, and Hypnos, God of Sleep. The Siren. Two worlds; the Otherworld. Passing through the veils.
Ouroboros (see Snake) Tail-devouring serpent, symbol of infinity and cycles of time. Regeneration. The Azoth. The alchemical maxim “One is All” and the concept of self-sufficiency.
Sobek/Sebek (see Crocodile) Egyptian crocodile deity, both Creator and Devourer, name derived from a verb meaning “to impregnate”. The Hé final process in the formula of the Tetragrammaton.
Sphinx (see Lion, Bull, Eagle as applicable by type) The Mysteries. Sun worship. Enigma; secrets and riddles revealed. Tiamat, slain by Marduk to create Heaven and Earth. Symbol of Malkuth, connection to Kether. Man’s highest potential. The cross within the circle. The soul thru space and time. The rose cross, the expanded Tau cross. The four Kerubs combined. Light, Love, Liberty and Life. The Great Work. The four powers of the Sphinx are To Will, To Dare, To Know, and To Keep Silent and together, they create the fifth power To Go. Also, when as human headed lion, symbolizing a lion’s strength and a ruler’s intelligence.
Zurvan (see Lion, Bull, Eagle, Snake) Mesopotamian demonic deity of Limitless Time, and Time of Long Dominion. Maturity, growth, and decay. Associated with the Axis Mundi, or center of the world.
This article is freely offered for your personal use, but please don’t copy it for commercial use. If you would like a copy formatted to fit inside your Book M, you can download it here. You can also copy and format it yourself, to print one copy for personal use with your Tabula Mundi Tarot deck.
Here we are, in the “Happiness” decan, or the middle decan of Pisces. We happy?
Personally, I’m looking forward to Aries season – when Spring (here in the Northern hemisphere) officially begins. It’s been a long cold lonely winter.
And it has also been a very long time since I posted anything. Today, March 8, 2021, there is news: Tarot Deciphered, a book that I’ve co-written along with T. Susan Chang (who is also my co-host on our Fortune’s Wheelhouse podcast) is officially published today! It’s big!
You can get it direct from the publisher Llewellyn Worldwide, that is a great option which benefits us as the authors.
Speaking of Llewellyn, you might be interested in an article I wrote for them, about the role of the “transpersonal” or outer planets in tarot:
Of course it is also on Amazon. I hope you took the opportunity to pre-order! As of today though it looks like Amazon has sold out and/or is awaiting stock to arrive, but the e-book version is available and it should be back there soon. You can also support your local booksellers, if that is an option in your area.
I also have a few author’s copies that I can sign and sell, but there would be a shipping cost. Since these weigh 3 lbs (!) they would cost around $8 to ship in the US. You can order a copy, signed by me, here at www.tarotcart.com or here at www.rosettatarot.com.
In other news, I’m still working on various artistic projects, including the HRU pop ups mentioned in the last post, the new deck art, and another esoteric art project and book, yet to be revealed but more to say soon.
I can show and tell some more about the new deck I’m working on though. I’m currently working on The Chariot, and just about done with the inking. Perfect as it is Monday (Moon Day).
For this deck, I’m using a dip pen and India ink to do the outlines and basic components of the design. When I did the art for Tabula Mundi, I used a fine line magic marker for the lines. While that is a lot easier to handle, I wanted to use a dip pen this time because a) I need to be challenged and more importantly b) a dip pen makes much more expressive lines, as the line width can vary depending on how much pressure you put on the nib. This leads to a much more interesting line.
While I tend to gravitate to the Thoth deck, one thing I really appreciate about Pamela Coleman Smith’s art in the RWS deck is the beautiful quality of her line work, and how much she could communicate with a drawing that was almost all line-based, with very little shading, stippling or cross-hatching. Only the bare minimum was used in the darkest places; most of what she contributed to the design was done with line, then because of the way things had to be printed back then, very simple flat planes of color.
So, while I don’t intend to go with such simple flat colors when I get to the coloring stage, I am inspired to make the line work as clean and elegant as possible. No stippling! Any shading will be done in the next phase. This stage is just about the line, and dividing the plane in a way that creates a pleasing composition.
I haven’t yet decided the medium for colors, but I *think* it will be something mixed as in multi-medium, and some new techniques! Of course I WILL be using the color scales, because that’s one of my passions and I don’t think a tarot card is perfected without them.
I’m following a very strict image guideline – more on that soon. My process is:
read the description
IMAGINE what I think that image looks like
find references and models to help the drawing process
do a rough pencil sketch
perfect the drawing in ink with a nib pen
That’s so far. Once all the basic lines are inked, then I have to decide on the manner of shading and coloring, and the related mediums for that.
Here is a sneak peak of the ink work, lines only, no shading or color yet, of the Empress:
That’s the Ishtar gate behind her, which I’ve always loved. The color scales are Emerald Green, Sky Blue, Spring Green, and Bright Rose rayed Pale Green – though for artistic license I’m going to include all the range of blue sky colors for the Sky Blue, so that I can use that beautiful lapis color in some of the brick work.
I’m finishing up the line work on Chariot today. After that only 70 to go!
Above image: The Aeon card from Pharos Tarot, copyright 2018-2020 M.M. Meleen
Crowleymas, Stardate 2020. ☉︎ in 19° ♎︎ : ☽︎ in 23° ♌︎ : ☽︎ : Ⅴⅴⅰ
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. ~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” indeed. Ah hell, who am I kidding…it’s 2020, and we all are just waiting for it to be over. For it seems that several years ago (you can guess around when, can’t you?) we passed through a terrible portal: our Earth became square and renamed “htraE” and for sure we are now in a Bizarro world, filled with anti-heroes. But there is an end in sight that might return us to a round earth…I’ll say no more.
Today however, is a day for celebration: Crowleymas, a Feast for the Beast, on this the 12th of October and the 145th anniversary of the birth of Aleister Crowley in 1875. It’s a day to re-calibrate and reflect on where and when we are, and how to align our path with our True Will.
In spite of how crazy the world is, how full of terrors and divisions, how isolating and lonesome it sometimes feels, today anyway, I feel pretty good and ready to embark in earnest on a new series of tarot artwork inspired by the something in one of the many books of the one and only To Mega Therion.
Tomorrow, October 13, trickster Mercury goes retrograde at 11°40 Scorpio, and it stations direct on November 3 (election day!) at 25°54 Libra. While we all know that Mercury retrograde periods and changes of direction can coincide with periods of chaos in Mercury-related things, retrograde periods can be good for RE-visiting things, RE-turning to projects or things that were first started in the past. I’m returning to work tomorrow on several projects that were begun in prior periods. I mentioned two of the decks I’d begun and then abandoned in a prior post. Both of those will be revisited and worked on during this period, but I feel most inspired by the one you saw in that post with the pencil sketch of the Magus card. So tomorrow I’m really looking forward to digging in and beginning to paint the Fool card from that deck.
I’m also revisiting something I didn’t expect to. Remember the “Who is HRU?” handmade esoteric pop up books that hold the extra large major arcana cards? I originally intended to make a limited edition of 22 of them, but soon realized that there WAS NO WAY IN HELL that I was going to be able to stand making that many, as with at least 26 hand cut pop up mechanisms inside each book it is just way way way too much work, and even charging hundreds of dollars for one means working for a long time for a lot less than minimum wage. So I only ended up making numbered copies I thru III, plus an artist’s reference model for myself that I labeled “zero”. So currently only 4 copies exist: numbers I thru III and including my own working model, 0.
But since someone has persisted in asking for another copy to be made, and I still have all of the diagrams and notes I made on how to make the pop up mechanisms and even had a few covers and parts started and abandoned, I finally (probably against my better judgement) decided to at least finish a couple more complete pop up books, and use the covers that were made that don’t end up as full fledged pop up books to make some cool handmade books. So the “Who is HRU?” book will probably end up as a series of only copies I thru either V or VI, plus my 0 model. I think I can probably force myself to finish two or maybe three more, but then that project will be shelved, probably for good.
Here are some pictures of the partially made covers in progress. Some of them will likely just end up being journals, while a few may make it to fully functional pop-up books. The last picture shows the secret panel with the Stele of Revealing that is hidden inside the book’s hinges.
Yesterday, we recorded new episodes for our current zodiacal series on the Fortune’s Wheelhouse podcast – including the one for my own sun sign Sagittarius which airs this Wednesday. Today was tying up loose ends, posting about our next episodes and giveaways on the FW Patreon site, and getting the art studio ready for action. For tonight, I’m going to select a few verses at random from Liber AL, the Book of the Law with a random number generator, and try to divine from them while raising a Brown Derby (the cocktail, not the hat) to Uncle Al, and maybe a feast involving some homemade egg rolls. Tomorrow, a REVIVAL and RE-turn to ART to art. Here’s to a round Earth in our future.
Finally, after our pandemic spring and summer, and all the strange and chaotic events both related and unrelated that have unfolded in 2020, I’m feeling the muse stirring. Finally wrapping up my gardening “fervorino” of the spring and summer seasons. Harvested the onions and garlic, and made more pickles, both fermented and canned, than any one human should. And tinctured some medicinal herbs for the winter. There are still garden tasks to do like process tomatoes but my interest in the whole gardening and cooking stuff is waning with the season, and I feel the urge to go within and work on art again.
Problem is, I have more than one tarot I could pick back up and work on. Whatever the next one is, I guess it will be my 5th in a sense (Rosetta Tarot, Tabula Mundi Tarot in black and white, Tabula Mundi Tarot in color, Pharos Tarot.) I guess you could also call it the 4th if we just count both versions of Tabula Mundi as one tarot deck – though I count it as two since the black and white one came out a year before the other and has a very different look and feel to it.
Either way, now with a different type of creative urge rising, I have to choose one to focus on. While I suppose one could work on more than one deck simultaneously, the process of creating a deck takes so very long, for me anyway, that it makes more sense to pick one and stick with it for a while. There is also another book illustration project for a friend that might happen – though I haven’t heard much from that quarter lately. I suppose 2020 has thrown us all off track.
These are a few of the tarot related possibilities…
Make Pharos Tarot into a full deck? While this is the most practical since the Majors are done, it’s the least likely as for now at least the muse thinks that one is destined to be a Majors only.
Continue progress on the as-yet-unnamed deck that I was excitedly working on before all the crappy things that happened early in 2020 broke my artistic momentum. This deck is based on a resource I think is pretty cool (but as of yet I don’t want to say what – it will be revealed during the process when work resumes on it.) I’ve completed pencil drawings for 0 Fool through V Hierophant – so six cards drawn but not refined into completed paintings. That’s pretty good considering that for me the hardest part is getting an idea, composition, and sketch I like. The media will be something new and exciting – similar to the ink on mylar of Tabula Mundi, but with additional mediums and techniques incorporated that I’m excited to try working with together on the mylar. A combination of anything goes combining inks, acrylic, oils, colored pencils, enamels.
Continue progress on a deck that is named in my mind – but the name has not been announced yet. For this deck I have completed actual finished paintings for 0 Fool through III Empress – so four cards done. Well, five actually as I did two Magus cards, as I just didn’t like one of them enough. I may even have to do a third as I’m not sure even about the one I kept. This deck is painted on 8×10 hard panels in matte acrylic. You may remember seeing a sneaky peek of the Fool card on my “Big Bonus 777” slot machine altar post for April Fools Day 2018. I was working on this deck before Pharos, way back then, but abandoned it in favor of Pharos because I wasn’t feeling the acrylic at the time and became very attracted to the idea of working with and trying to master watercolors. Now that I got that out of my system, acrylic seems appealing again!
Start over with something else, using some new medias I want to learn: gouache, casein, egg tempera, gilding. This would be both challenging and, if I succeed in the learning part, really beautiful. But also most time consuming and is probably the least practical choice seeing as all the other options at least have some progress made. Also traditional egg tempera is pretty demanding as you actually make your own paint, and gilding is unlikely to scan or photo well, though I suppose it could be added during the printing process instead.
I’m leaning towards option 2 or 3, since the muse isn’t feeling 1 and 4 seems most daunting! So here is a sneak peak at something from each. First up is a VERY ROUGH pencil drawing of the Magus from option 2. It’s not properly developed or shaded yet, and of course is subject to change. Note the hand gestures of the Magus, his familiars, and his shadow(s) – that’s my favorite part. Of course it’s going to look much better when it is painted in color!
Below is a finished painting from option 3, of the Priestess. She is looking down the middle pillar, from highest Kether down to the solar heart of Tiphareth; behind her lunar rays pour her waters and radiate the form of a great cup.
So those are the options. If I live long enough I’ll finish both option 2 and 3 eventually, and maybe the others. For now I guess I just have to trust the muse to choose – though will take opinions into consideration!
The Pharos Tarot was named after the Pharos Lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Someone has wondered why the Pharos Tarot Majors decks editions were released in such odd numbers. All are editions of less than 300, not to be repeated. But there are reasons for the numbers chosen for each edition.
Pharos Tarot borderless edition is only 247 copies. The completely borderless edition has alternate titles only and is named Ad lucem, meaning “to the Light”. In the Sepher Sephiroth at the back of this edition of Crowley’s 777, the number 247 has under its listed Hebrew letter gematria-derived meanings one that reads “A light”.
Pharos Tarot bordered edition is only 273 copies. This edition has cream colored borders like Tabula Mundi, with both traditional (Thoth based tarot) titles and Pharos alternate titles, along with attribution symbols. This edition is called Lux occultatum, “the hidden light” (because some of the light is hidden by the borders). The number 273 in the Sepher Sephiroth has a correspondence to the Hebrew letters of “The Hidden Light”.
Pharos Tarot has a third version of 231 copies with bottom borders only, with black bottom borders and alternate titles in the colors of the Golden Dawn color scales. This edition is called Fiat Lux. This means “let there be light” (and was the magical motto of Crowley’s Golden Dawn associate and friend Allan Bennett). “Let there be light” written in Hebrew letters has the gematria equivalent of 231 in the Sepher Sephiroth.
The Fortune’s Wheelhouse podcast has now recorded over 100 episodes! In the most recent series of pods we are covering astrological signs in tarot, and related cards.
We also co-authored a book, which we think of as the Fortune’s Wheelhouse “guide to esoteric tarot” but is really titled: Tarot Deciphered: Decoding Esoteric Symbolism in Modern Tarot. It is being published by Llewellyn in March of 2021 – but is already available for pre-order on Amazon.
In the podcast, we are currently covering how the zodiacal signs present in tarot, with related Major, Minor, and court cards. Episode 101 and 102 were just released for Gemini and Cancer, and up next is Leo and Virgo – perfect timing for the season. The podcast is available free at all pod places…or you can choose to support it on the FW Patreon for additional perks. The podcast gives away a lot of good stuff with every single episode so check it out! For Gemini we gave away a choice (theme of the Lovers card, for Gemini) of either a set of TWO decks or a bifold case that holds two decks. For Cancer we gave away a Fortune’s Wheelhouse logo mug for home (Cancerian theme) or a travel mug for your Chariot – card of Cancer. Tune in at Fortune’s Wheelhouse Patreon to see what is coming for Leo and Virgo in the next episodes of summer.