The House

from Pharos Tarot, in progress:

The Magus is called The House in Pharos Tarot, just as the Hebrew letter Beth means House. Where the Fool was the Light, the Magus is the House, mirroring the path of the Fool on the Tree of Life. It’s the shell of the Lighthouse itself, the house of the spirit. The Magus is a Promethean figure, bringing down the holy fire through his own body, transmitting the light through himself as if a hollow tube, as the personified Wand of the Will, and the Logos. The blueprint of the lighthouse shows it to be a Tree of Life.

This is the second time I painted the Magus for this deck. The first one was the oldest of the paintings, since I’ve already redone a second and third Fool. The old Magus was the second real watercolor I’d ever painted, so it was a little rough. This one is better. My skills improved enough from the beginning of the process that I had to paint it again and indeed, this one came out much more definitively painted. I also took the liberty of changing the design of the lighthouse in this one to reflect the Pharos lighthouse, and changed up some other elements and colors in the design.

Pharos Tarot FAQ

Here are answers to a few commonly asked questions about my work in progress, Pharos Tarot.

See the Pharos Tarot main page for all about Pharos Tarot in general and links to pictures of all the cards posted to date.

Are there plans to do the minors of this deck?

For now Pharos Tarot is remaining a Majors only project. While it’s possible that someday I’ll go back and make Pharos into a 78 card deck, it isn’t currently known if that will ever happen, as for now I’m focusing some on some new artistic directions. But you never know. I won’t rule it out but it isn’t likely to be soon, and it may be destined to be a majors only art deck. As of now I see it as a special esoterically oriented art project offered as majors only.

Will the Major Arcana be published?

Self published, or at least I hope so, for after all the time that has gone into painting these I hope to be able to share them by offering a very small edition of very large borderless cards small enough for readings, but large enough for framing, or altar display. There isn’t much demand for Majors only editions, so it is likely to be a very small edition of high quality.

Why is it called Pharos Tarot?

I thought of naming it after the Pharos lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Alexander the Great dreamed of a Hermit like figure who told him the name of the island where his city Alexandria would be founded and the lighthouse would be built: Pharos. It’s also a watercolor deck – water and light – and a guidance system: tarot.

See the Pharos Tarot main page for more about this and all about Pharos Tarot and and the island of Pharos.

Can you explain the reasoning behind the alternate names and the surreal images?

Each card posted in the blog gives the bare bones of which part of a lighthouse system is being referred to. When and if the Majors are published they will come with a booklet explaining all of the deeper esoteric influences. The basic premise is that Pharos Tarot is set in a dream world. The deck shows how in this surreal and suggestive state the Hebrew letters that correspond to each Major Arcana, also could in this world correspond to individual parts of a lighthouse system, that in turn correspond to aspects of the Great Work.

How did you get this idea?

The designs for the cards have a dream-like quality, for they are liminal creations of dream-space. The idea for mapping the tarot corresponding Hebrew letters to a lighthouse system came to me in a dream state after having a conversation with a group about what a lighthouse themed tarot might look like, but without a lighthouse on every card so it wasn’t a “themed” deck.

A couple of years ago some psychic friends had approached me about doing a themed deck. I had to explain that I don’t work on commission normally and don’t see myself doing a “themed” deck of that nature as it wasn’t my thing, but that if I were to do so it would be something quite different, and I suggested a deconstructed lighthouse, rather than a lighthouse theme, as an example of an idea I could do something with.

A day or two later I had a dream or maybe a hypnagogic sequence while almost-sleeping, where the idea unfolded almost fully fledged: that the Hebrew letters and tarot trumps corresponded to parts of a lighthouse. The thought came complete with card names for a good portion of the deck, and the part of the lighthouse it corresponded to. It was a weird and wonderful example of how systems can interact and correlate, if the mind makes it so.

My friends ended up deciding to look for multiple artists to do their own idea for a deck instead, once they realized what a long process it would be for me (or any one person) to do a deck. They were really looking for an artist or artists to work on commission, and I’d rather not do that for a process as long as an entire deck.

But the muse wouldn’t let me rest, because now it grabbed on to this idea for a painting series and insisted that I give it a whirl on the wheel at least for the majors. So here I am almost two years later. Had to get it out of my system.

At the time I had just been at the point where I wanted to teach myself watercolors, as I was bored with the same medias I’ve been using for years. Watercolor is a medium I formerly had very little exposure to so it was a challenge. It’s a challenging medium. And the water and light theme seemed like a perfect fit for the concept.

Is this a Thoth based deck?

In spirit, as it does incorporate some Thelemic ideas in the images. But since it has it’s own unique titles and the cards are not numbered, as well as completely different images and ideas, it can’t really be called Thoth-based though some of the images were inspired by the writings of Aleister Crowley, and the cards are colored according to the Golden Dawn color scales as he listed them in 777.

What is the artistic process and media?

Simple outline drawings were designed and then transferred to watercolor paper. They are then painted by hand (not digitally worked) in artist grade watercolor pigment on Arches 140 lb cold pressed watercolor paper, sized A3 which is 11.69 x 16.53 inches, using a variety of wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry techniques.

Multiple versions were made for many of the cards, as I’m still learning the medium. The designs are simple and not chock full of every possible symbol, to facilitate working with the watercolor painting process. Yet symbolic things are still there, for those who look for them.

Are the original paintings for sale, or will they be?

They aren’t for sale at this time, but after all the revisions are finished I may offer the originals for sale if there is interest.

Will Tabula Mundi and Rosetta Tarot originals ever be for sale?

No, those are being kept together preserved for posterity. The original Pharos art is much larger, and it seems like they should be displayed somewhere.

When will the Pharos Tarot majors be available?

To be determined. While all the Majors are done, sometimes more than once (!) I’m still in the process of making and considering some card revisions. There’s designing a card back, and writing the texts. Then I need to determine if I can afford to print, and how many.

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Will any of the cards already posted be revised?

Maybe! New designs are definitely a possibility but not a certainty.

Will any of the older alternate or draft versions of the cards be released?

There may be a few majors that have more than one version in the deck if and when it is published. And/Or a few of the “first draft” or alternate version originals could be offered if there is interest (and if I decide not to destroy them).

There are some that won’t see the light of day; watercolor is hard and not always predictable! But some of them are technically fine, I just wanted to do something different.

What are you working on next?

There is ongoing work on the Fortune’s Wheelhouse podcast continuing, and a Fortune’s Wheelhouse co-authored book is in the works.

But as far as art goes there are multiple projects brewing. Two more decks. Plus there are a few one off esoteric-but-not-tarot paintings I want to do, as well as some other artistic projects. I’m a Fool for painting tarot though. It’s what I love to do as it combines some of my favorite things: art, the occult, systems, and the weird sciences.

If there are any other questions that you would like to see here, feel free to send them for consideration to mm (at) this website.

The Azimuth

From Pharos Tarot, in progress:

For what it’s worth, here is the Emperor from my new deck in progress, Pharos Tarot. I say “for what it’s worth” because I remember when we did the poll here to see which Major Arcana cards people wanted most to see first in a deck, the Emperor came in last! I guess people don’t find the Emperor that interesting. So, probably no one will care, but here he is – and with a twist.

He’s not the last, he is the first, as in, Aries, the first and pioneering sign of the zodiac. In Pharos Tarot he is renamed The Azimuth. The word azimuth comes from an Arabic word meaning “the directions”. The azimuth is an angular measurement in a spherical coordinate system. One can use it for celestial navigation, where it points out the horizontal direction of the Sun or Star chosen. The astronomical object, Star or Sun, is the point of interest, the reference plane is a circular area around the observer, and the reference vector points to true north. Here the Sun is depicted, since the Sun is exalted in Aries. The Sun is after all also a Star, and here we will see a relationship with the Star card that delves into a mystery of the Thoth tarot system.

The azimuth is used in navigation, astronomy, engineering, mapping, and ballistics – all very appropriate for the card of the Great Architect (aka The Emperor) and the sign of Aries the pioneer, explorer, and soldier. The azimuth diagram in the card is topped by an eagle, giving the overall shape of it a resemblance to the “orb and cross” of traditional Emperor cards.

But using The Azimuth as the name for this card also highlights one of the controversies about the Thoth tarot system. It’s a puzzle to many that Crowley switched the Hebrew letter attributions for the Emperor and the Star, some time after the completion of the deck. This change stems from what he received from the words of Liber AL vel Legis, the Book of the Law. In Chapter I, Nuit is speaking. During the dictation, Crowley’s thought about the tarot attributions he had learned and wondered if they were correct. Nuit apparently chose to respond to his thought, saying in verse 57 “All these old letters of my Book are aright; but Tzaddi is not the Star. This also is secret: my prophet shall reveal it to the wise.” After years of deliberation, Crowley determined that the Tzaddi/Heh switch created a symmetry that balanced out the numbering switch between Lust and Adjustment. (See diagram Book of Thoth page 11)

In the card image, the anchor (which looks like a fish hook, a meaning of Tzaddi) marks the observer’s position in the azimuth diagram. YOU ARE HERE, seeking the Sun (which is also a Star), and your true north (metaphors for your HGA). The Emperor shows you where to set your anchor and how to get your bearings in this, the Great Work. A former version of this card was done, without the diagram, and it was called The Anchor. It had instead the more traditional shield with red eagle. But the muse rejected it so that this version could come forth. This version, the Azimuth, brings an interesting highlight to the Tzaddi/Heh or Emperor/Star relationship.

For note that in Pharos Tarot, the Star maiden is holding a Window (Heh) whose quartered cross shape also looks much like the Azimuth diagram, and the azimuth uses stars as objects of focus for navigation. The Star card is called the Way, for the Milky Way. But one could easily reverse the names of these two cards, and call the Emperor “The Way”, for surely that is what he is pointing out, and instead call the Star card the Azimuth, for the celestial point that is the focus. The celestial point can be a star – or the Sun, which is exalted in Aries, and is after all just another Star, albeit our own personal one.

So there you have it. I hope this makes the Emperor of Pharos Tarot more interesting than usual to contemplate. Whether you think Tzaddi is the Star or not, these two cards have a relationship that is food for thought.

Perhaps I’ll offer alternate versions of each with the titles switched, for those who follow the old attributions.

The Light

From Pharos Tarot, in progress:

At last, a new Fool for Pharos Tarot (just one of my new decks in progress – more to be revealed soon).

I’ve done so many versions of the Pharos Fool I’ve lost count. Up til now, all of them were revisions of the same design. I kept two of them as paintings but threw away the rest. But the image just wasn’t cutting it, I was never happy with it so that design was retired and a whole new image envisioned. I finally found Pharos’ Fool.

The Fool as light itself, or as Phanes Lightbringer, bringing the light of Kether down the lightning path to the entire tree, lighting up and enlivening the four worlds.

Golden Dawn color scale colors: Bright Pale Yellow; Sky Blue; Blue Emerald Green; and Emerald flecked Gold.

It was a challenge to paint it as bright as the white light of Kether, and primarily in the King Scale color of Bright Pale Yellow. It took a few tries to get this version right too, but I’m happy with the way it came out.

The Hebrew letter is Ox – and this is one of only two cards that do not somehow display the Hebrew letter pictorially. The Fool corresponds to Kether,  but the Ox is of Malkuth and therefore hidden as Malkuth is on suggested by the faint shores he descends upon.

 Some Pharos cards are subject to change! A new beginning with a new Fool.

Recent Interviews and News

Hey friends….it’s Gemini season so thought I’d send a quick message.

I let May totally get me away from posting. In Taurus season I was too busy gardening. That perfectly Gemini statue you see above? Well, you can’t tell yet but hopefully in the next two months to two years, it will be surrounded by a field of wildflowers. A few pounds of all sorts of seed went in. Some will bloom this year, some not until next year or the year after. But putting those in was the easy part. Mostly what I grow is food! While the Sun was in Taurus and Mars was in Cancer, it has been all about the veggie gardens. Funny enough, Ceres has been transiting my natal Sun so makes sense I guess! I’ve been transplanting and starting seeds and inside sprouting all sorts of stuff and growing micro-greens indoors too. Here are a couple of pics of only some of my garden – it is HUGE this year and there are even three more new garden beds. I planted 113 tomato plants so far, and have more waiting to see if I can fit them. Plus like every vegetable you can think of.

Oh and the raised leg of that statue points due North, like a compass – which funnily enough is the name of the Gemini card, The Lovers, in Pharos Tarot. I’ll post it soon!

This bed has 78 tomato plants, in early morning light so the sun has not cleared the trees yet.
Another section of the garden. It gets more sun, this is early morning.

The gardens are all planted now, except for the peppers since it is still cool here and they like it hot.

So, painting hasn’t been happening. Between the garden and some paid work I had to take on it’s been busy.

But there is some Tarot Related News. Fortune’s Wheelhouse, the podcast, has been on a break after we did the 78 cards. But a new episode will be released this Thursday June 6! Hey – that is my half-birthday too, or unbirthday – whatever you like to call the halfway point til your next birthday.  We are now doing a series on each of the 7 classical planets, and the tarot cards that relate to them, and we just finished recording the first new episode, on the classical “planet” the Moon and all tarot related Moon topics. The new series will be every other week, and we will be doing the planets in ascending Chaldean order. If you haven’t already, consider joining the Fortune’s Wheelhouse Patreon site, for stuff like extra content and tarot related prize give aways!

Fortune’s Wheelhouse was also recently interviewed by Joan Marie of the Cult of Tarot Forum. Check it out!

Yours truly also made a rare appearance on a new podcast by Mad Mister Mark – it’s a podcast of mystery, about all sorts of esoteric topics. I was his first guest, then he had T.Susan Chang (cohost of our Fortune’s Wheelhouse and author of Tarot Correspondences). Then Lon Milo Duquette, and most recently, Robert Place. He has a brand new Patreon launched too, so consider joining to support his new endeavor.

I was also recently interviewed for an article coming out in the June edition of the American Tarot Association’s online newsletter. Right now May is still up but June should be out sometime during this first week of June. The article is mostly all about Tabula Mundi Tarot.

And last but not least, Fortune’s Wheelhouse has a book coming out with Llewellyn next year, about of course – esoteric tarot – co-written by myself and co-host T.Susan Chang. So we are busy being Mercurial scribes  and trying to meet a tight deadline.

As you may imagine, I’ve not had time this month to work much on Pharos Tarot. The good news is, the Major Arcana are all done, except for one that I plan on redoing. I’ll post some more cards soon!

There is a thread started about the Pharos Tarot at the Tarot Tea and Me Tarot forum. Post your thoughts there if you like it!

It’s likely I won’t be doing the minors for Pharos for a long time. I may do a large and gorgeous altar set of Majors only cards. But only if there is interest! Because printing is so expensive for small editions, especially with luxury options, I can only do it if at least 100 people want one. If you would like to get a set, let me know in the comments or send me an email. If there is interest, I’ll see if I can get them printed this summer or fall.

The Walk

Death in my new tarot, Pharos, is called The Walk. No, not for “a long walk off of a short pier”. It’s called the Walk as short for the Widow’s Walk.

The Widow’s Walk is the part of a lighthouse outside of the lantern, an enclosed catwalk from which wives could look out to sea during storms.

The skeleton figure suggests Isis, the widow of Osiris, god of the afterlife and rebirth. Osiris was killed by his brother Set, and his corpse was cut into fourteen pieces and thrown into the Nile. Isis searched out all the pieces except one. Thirteen pieces of Osiris were found, but there was one unfortunate loss: the phallus had been swallowed by a fish. The all important organ for life and procreation was missing.

Isis, with her sister Nepthys and with the help of Anubis, embalmed the parts remaining. Isis fashioned a new phallus from clay, and through magic,  they breathed new life into him long enough for Isis and Osiris to conceive the child Horus, avenger of his father.

The Hebrew letter for Death is Nun, meaning fish.

The Lens

The Devil in my deck-in-progress, Pharos Tarot, is called the Lens. It’s the eye of the Lighthouse, gathering and focusing the light. The Hebrew letter corresponding to this card is Ayin, the Eye.

That beautiful glow is what I call a watercolor miracle. No other medium can capture light effects like it. Also, Phallus…of…Light! (said like “Pigs!In!Space!) Sorry but the muse likes to poke fun at me…it’s actually made hilarious derogatory names for most of my paintings lately.

The Lantern

And now for a very strange Hermit. In Pharos Tarot (my new deck in progress) he is called the Lantern. I know he is odd, an odd Yod, but so be it. Yes, it certainly is Gandalf. Yes, he is a Yod, growing out of a seed inside a glowing egg that is the light inside a lantern cage.

The lantern is also the part of the lighthouse enclosed in glass, just like an actual lantern.

The Hebrew letter is Yod, meaning hand. While you see the Hermit’s hands, instead of seeing the hand holding the lantern, you see the Hermit as the flame of the lantern in his own hand.

Colors are Yellow Green, Slate Grey, Greenish Grey, and Plum

The Rod

The Tower in my new tarot deck-in-progress (Pharos Tarot) is called The Rod. Yep, that’s what she said.

Seriously though, in this case it’s referring to the lightning rod. Every lighthouse has one. The (Lightning) Rod, by definition “attracts powerful, typically negative feelings and reactions, thereby diverting interest from other issues.” Fair enough description of the Tower, as well as having connotations of something harsh that is corrective.

This is the second version of this card I’ve done. Finished on Tuesday, Mars Day, of course. The same drawing as the first version, but I repainted it as I wasn’t happy with the colors in the first painting. They were too dark, and this is all about the lightning flash. This version is much brighter, especially in person. Still may redo it with a whole new design though.

The Golden Dawn color scales for this one were hard to work with: Scarlet, Red, Venetian Red, and Red rayed Emerald and Azure. So basically all reds slashed with brilliant emerald and azure. I added a little yellow for the flames, but pretty much stuck to the tarot color scale. Scarlet and red sky and flames, Venetian Red was perfect for crumbling bricks, and the serpent, lightning, and dove’s trail make for some red-rayed-azure-and-emerald action.