Leo 2: second decan of Leo, Six of Wands

The tarot Six of Wands is the Lord of Victory, the succedent or middle decan of the fixed Fire sign Leo. 777 describes the decan image as “A man crowned with a white myrtle wreath, holding a bow“.

The Picatrix decan description is similar, with the additional detail that this is a man who will mount and ride [a horse].

36 Airs of the Zodiac give the related deity as Isis, the goddess who wears a crown that has what looks like the pictogram of a figure seated on a throne. It is shown here in the card on the hill in the distance that the figure rides towards.

Six of Wands, Lord of Victory ©2021 M.M. Meleen

Leo I: first decan of Leo, Five of Wands

Per 777: A man in sordid raiment, with him a nobleman on horseback. accompanied by bears and dogs

Deity per 36 Airs of the Zodiac: Hephaestus

A complicated image for the Five of Wands, the Lord of Strife (and striving). An image that suggests the hunt.

The 777 description is likely loosely based on the Picatrix description: A man dressed in filthy garments; and there ascends with him the figure of a lord of the horse looking toward the north; and his figure is like the figure of a bear and the figure of a dog. And this is a face of strength, liberality, and victory.

Sort of bleeds into the 6 of Wands, Victory. if you ask me. Working on that one now!

Both Agrippa and Bruno have a figure riding a lion. I did incorporate the lion (Lion-Serpent) for Leo into the design, but enclosed in a pentagram, and netted – as Saturn, the planet of restriction and pressure, rules the decan.

Five of Wands. Copyright M.M. Meleen© 2021

Per 777: A man in sordid raiment, with him a nobleman on horseback. accompanied by bears and dogs

Cancer 3: third decan of Cancer, Four of Cups

Per 777, the decan for the Four of Cups (Luxury, or Blended Pleasure): A swift-footed person, with a viper in his hand, leading dogs. Except for the male pronoun, it sounds a lot like the huntress lunar goddess Artemis, who was swift and often accompanied by dogs. Her lunar connotations make a lot of sense for Cancer, ruled by the Moon, and the decan itself ruled by the Moon. So this figure had an Artemis inspiration, and is shown running along the seashore with two dogs that will probably be colored black as a nod to Hecate and Anubis, also associated with the decan.

Some of the other decan source image descriptions also mention hunting, dogs, and running. The 36 Airs fragmentary text gives the decan to Hecate, triple faced lunar goddess who also is associated with dogs, Ibn Ezra mentions Anubis, and the Egyptian god of the decan is serpentine Typhon or the somewhat canine Set. In this image the faces in the Moon represent Hecate.

The figure carries a lunar horn-shaped drinking cup, while the dogs each bear a cup as well however precariously. The fourth cup is spilling out – no one has the need for it or an additional hand to carry it! After all, a fourth cup would be both a luxury and a restrictive burden. Two figures look behind, one ahead. The pleasure is blended with the knowledge that stasis is impossible!

Four of Cups, ©2021 M.M. Meleen

Cancer 2: second decan of Cancer, Three of Cups

This was a fun image to work with. Crowley’s 777 lists the decan image as: A beautiful woman wreathed with myrtle. She holds a lyre and sings of love and gladness.

The tarot Three of Cups, Lord of Abundance, is the middle decan of Cancer, Cancer ruled by the Moon, with the decan itself ruled by Mercury (though the Vedic tradition has it as Mars – which is perhaps a hint as to why 36 Airs of the Zodiac attributes it to Hercules, who doesn’t fit well with the cards meaning unless you ponder Hercules/Herakles’ connection to Hera.)

The woman here was inspired by the goddess Saraswati, who has many Mercury-like attributes. Saraswati normally holds an instrument called a veena which is in the same family as the lyre. Here she holds a lyre as she sings “of love and gladness” and toasts with three different ornate chalices. The peacock is a bird sacred to both Saraswati and Hera.

Three of Cups. ©2021 M.M. Meleen

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Cancer 1: first decan of Cancer, Two of Cups

The Two of Cups is also called the Lord of Love. At first, I found the decan image listed in 777 (which appears to be loosely based on the Picatrix images) a bit perplexing for a card of Love. 777 lists it as “A man with distorted face and hands, a horse’s body, white feet, and a girdle of leaves“. Picatrix lists it as “A man having twisted and crooked fingers and head, and his body is like the body of a horse, and having white feet and upon his body fig leaves. And this is a face of teaching, knowledge, of love, subtlety, and of skills.” Thinking about this made me see him as a Chiron-like figure. Chiron the Centaur was very learned, and a loving teacher and father-figure to many great heroes whose rearing was entrusted to him in their childhood. You can see the illustrious list of his students in the link, and he formed many loving relationships as he reared and cared for them.

Agrippa’s decan description is different, and fits with the idea of Venus as the decan ruler: “In the first face of Cancer ascendeth the form of a young Virgin, adorned with fine cloathes [clothes], and having a Crown on her head; it giveth acuteness of senses, subtilty of wit, and the love of men.” Likewise Bruno’s description is very Venusian: “In the first face of Cancer is a crowned woman who is luxuriously dressed. She is holding an olive branch in her right hand and a drinking cup in her left hand.

36 Airs of the Zodiac gives an association with Nike, the goddess of Victory who was Zeus’ charioteer. At least the charioteer reference fits for the introduction of the sign of Cancer, whose trump card is the Chariot. Nike however had no consort, and no children. While she could indeed be a crowned virgin, it’s a curious association for the Lord of Love except that she was often paired with Eros, the god of love and child of Aphrodite/Venus, who flew along behind her chariot in the celebrations that followed Victory.

I’ve also included the dolphins “argent and or” (silver and gold in heraldic terms) that are in the traditional Golden Dawn description of the card, and as seen in the Thoth deck, in my Rosetta, and as the lower half of the hippocampi (horse-dolphin hybrids which in consideration of the horse references of the decan image is interesting) of Tabula Mundi. Dolphins are associated with the womb and with the womb’s alchemy. The idea of them as silver and gold are likely a lunar-solar thing, a fertile combination of female and male. Makes some sense with the idea of Cancer and Venus (both feminine and lunar) in the sephira for Twos, Chokmah considered masculine and associated with the Zodiac itself, composed of stars that are after all suns, so solar.

One thing you will notice if you look at the Two of Cups in almost any classic tarot deck is that every one contains some curving twisting sinuous shapes. You can see it in the card from Rider Waite Smith, Thoth, Golden Dawn decks, my own Rosetta and Tabula Mundi, and even many Marseilles deck. Looking at them all together one thing pops out at me – in every one these entwining shapes form a vesica piscis by their intersection. This is very symbolic and intentional, for it not only references the “bladder of a fish” – an indirect reference to the dolphins and the womb – but also form a quite feminine shape, that of a portal through which things are born. Quite appropriate for the maternal sign of Cancer paired with decan ruler Venus, the Empress and mother figure.

So I’ve put both the male centaur-like figure in, as well as the young female figure. Perhaps the bundle she so lovingly holds will someday be entrusted to the wise centaur for rearing. Perhaps she is the vision of love that arises from the alchemical mixing of the fluid in silver and gold cups he holds. I’ve seen this card predict a future pregnancy, before it even happened and was just as they say, a “twinkle in the eye” (which sounds very zodiacal and vesical!) In any event, this card can signify the start of love – and that love can take many forms. It can be romantic love, or the love of a mother for a child, or a mentor for a student, or that higher love where 0 = 2. One becomes Two, or two become one and none.

Two of Cups Lord of Love ©2021 M.M. Meleen

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Gemini 3: third decan of Gemini, Ten of Swords

The third and final (in more ways than one) decan of Gemini corresponds to the tarot Ten of Swords, the Lord of Ruin, ruled by the Sun. As Gemini, again we have twinned beings, but this time, just like in the Gemini mythos of Castor and Pollux, one twin must die.

777 lists the decan image as “A man in mail, armored with bow, arrows, and quiver“. 36 Airs of the Zodiac associates the decan with Praxidike, the executor, the dispenser of justice, and mother of the Erinyes (Furies). Praxidike was also an epithet of Persephone, who dispensed final justice in her role as Queen of the Underworld and the dead.

This decan also has the flavor of finality for another reason, as it was the last decan of the Egyptian year, and ends just as the Summer Solstice in the Northern hemisphere begins. The Oak King, or the Sun King, or the Green Knight – whatever you want to name him, must die here, sacrificed for the fertility of the land. At the Solstice, the days reach their longest, the Sun reaches it’s full strength only to begin the inevitable period of its waning.

During this days of this decan, the Sun appears above and behind the head of the constellation Orion – though you can’t see it, he appears to wear the Sun like a hat – or a head. As Solstice passes and the Sun proceeds into the next decan of Cancer, it descends from his shoulders as if stricken off by a sword. So while pondering this I realized that the “man in mail, armored with bow, arrows, and quiver” could indeed be an Orion figure. Depictions of the constellation sometimes show him with a sword in one hand held overhead and a bow in the other in front of him. Some illustrations have the bow replaced with either a lion’s pelt or a shield, but to me when I look at the constellation I see a belted warrior armed with a curving bow.

The constellation Orion is right next to that of the constellation Gemini, whose stars distinctly show two twins. Most often we think of these as Castor and Pollux – one mortal and one immortal. Yet history has many stories of twins or brothers, one of whom is slain, sometimes by the other. There is the story of Horus and Set, battling over the right for kingship, and a symbolic battle of light and darkness, that we see hinted at in the hilts of the two swords closest to the foreground.

Ten of Swords Lord of Ruin ©2021 M.M. Meleen

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Gemini 2: second decan of Gemini, Nine of Swords

The tarot card for the second decan of Gemini is known as the Lord of Cruelty, or by the full title of Lord of Despair and Cruelty which is often more fitting. Crowley’s 777 gives the decan image description as “An eagle headed man, with a bow and arrow. Wears crowned steel helmet.”

The god form listed in the fragment 36 Airs of the Zodiac is the goddess Cybele, who is often shown accompanied by lions. Some of the mythology about her says that she was originally a hermaphrodite, both male and female in one body, but the other gods were jealous of the power this gave her and so they split her into two parts by striking off her male half, which died and was reborn as the god Attis, who as her twin flame of course eventually became her consort. Yet more cruelty and despair fills the tale as it is told that Attis castrated himself at his despair over having to marry another – or that Cybele does so herself at his apparent betrayal.

So for this image, I have them as twinned beings – one the eagle-headed man hunting with a bow described in 777 (and Picatrix), and the other as a lion-headed woman stabbing herself with a sword – both the suit of the card and the letter Zayin associated with Gemini. They stand back to back on a raised peak yet still cannot see their way out of the dark forest – a forest of pines referring to Attis, who in Ovid’s Metamorphoses transformed himself into a pine tree, and who represents the death of things in winter reborn in spring.

The decan ruler is bloodthirsty Mars. Here in Gemini these are the twin faces of Cruelty and Despair, the tarot Nine of Swords. They can be directed outward (Cruelty) or directed inward as self-cruelty, which often stems from Despair.

Nine of Swords Lord of Despair and Cruelty ©2021 M.M. Meleen

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Gemini 1: first decan of Gemini, Eight of Swords

I suppose I should say what this is for newcomers to the site. These posts are a series of line art drawings of the minors, the 36 astrological decans, of my new tarot, name not yet revealed, based on decan descriptions from 777.

Well, this is an interesting one! The Eight of Swords, Lord of Interference. Crowley’s 777, roughly based on the Picatrix description, gives us a great image to work with: A beautiful woman with her two horses.

Some inspiration was also drawn from Ibn Ezra, who says that the beautiful woman is “standing in the air“.

So here she is, standing beautifully poised upon her two steeds, seemingly almost floating.

36 Airs of the Zodiac has the deity as Tethys/Tethus. Now at first glance I thought that was different. Tethys is a Titan goddess, (usually as daughter of Gaia and Ouranos) associated with Water, but this as a Swords suit card is an Air card. There isn’t a lot of information out there about Tethys; most just consider her the consort of Oceanus/Okeanos the primordial sea. As Titans, some think they are so far off from mankind’s ken that they in turn also don’t pay much attention to us, so many magicians don’t work with them. But I actually once did a working focused on Tethys. (Out of desperation!) What I learned about her is that she isn’t only just associated with the Sea as the Ocean(s). I think of that as her husband’s domain. Tethys draws from the source, the great world sea, to fill the rivers, for she rules over fresh water. Fresh water is part of a whole cycle which in a simplified way is how water is drawn up from the oceans into the air and then comes down as fresh rain that rivers return to the oceans.

There are not many portrayals of her – but the few that still exist show her as having wings sprouting from her forehead. Which seems very Mercurial (Gemini), does it not?

She was the mother of not only the Oceanids, ocean nymphs, but also the Potamoi, gods of the innumerable rivers of the world.

Which leads to the point – or rather, the rivers lead somewhere. The river system shown in the background of the card shows how rivers split, and split, and split again into infinite streams of water or infinite decision points or choices. Follow one, and at certain points as it branches off, a choice is made and other choices eliminated. First as twins – one must be eliminated – and then so many more choices to follow. The woman has a myriad of choices to make, and is seemingly blindfolded (though free to remove it) while poised upon two horses, either of which could mean a different way, or a different twin to die. And the river branches on, again and again, a Fibonacci sequence of choices, A Jupiterian (aka Jovian) multitude! For while Mercury rules Gemini and Eights, Jupiter rules the decan – probably why she has horses!

Each sword is a different type. Eight choices (8 is part of the Fibonacci sequence) – but really an infinite number of river branches to follow.

This one was really fun to do. The woman trick riding in this way popped right into mind, and I’m grateful I know Tethys the unknowable at least the tiniest bit. I spend a lot of time around rivers.

line art Eight of Swords. Lord of Interference (shortened force) Copyright 2021 M.M. Meleen

Next up, some even more challenging Gemini decan cards. I’ll be glad to get to the Cancer decans!

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Taurus 3: third decan of Taurus, Seven of Disks

Taurus III: third and last decan of Taurus, Seven of Disks, is the Lord of Failure – otherwise known as Success Unfulfilled. I like to think of it though as in, unfulfilled as of yet. Because there is always, or should be, a Plan B.

The image described in Crowley’s 777 is a challenging one: “A swarthy man with white lashes, his body elephantine with long legs; with him, a horse, a stag, and a calf.”

The image is done, and yes it was done during the decan period – there was no failure! I think it may be my favorite decan card yet, which is funny because actually getting this card usually feels like some form of bummer! Just finally getting around to posting about it.

So doing a black and white drawing and having “white lashes” show up is one thing. Ok, I think I managed but it will show better in the color version, making it obvious that this older gentleman has white lashes and brows. Next is that he has to have an “elephantine” body, with long legs. The word “elephantine” is interesting, as while of course it means “like an elephant” I figured it probably had an additional archaic meaning. And when I looked into it, it does, for it also means very large in size, and also “ponderously clumsy”. I suppose one might be clumsy if one was both enormous and long-legged as well as old enough to have white lashes. I suppose another meaning of “white lashes” could also be scars – it would fit, though is more Martial. But I chose the other meaning as I saw him as an old farmer (Saturn) working the Earth (Venus, for both Taurus and Sevens).

All this reeks of Saturn, and yes indeed Saturn is the decan ruler. One inspiration for this card was the painting “Man with a Hoe“. That guy looks long-legged, swarthy, and clumsy! But the guy in this card is instead sharpening his scythe, for he has to have a Plan B.

He also is long-legged and swarthy with white lashes, large and clumsy, and elephantine, with those large old man ears and nose, wrinkles, and that scythe blade suggests an elephant’s trunk!

Crowley’s 777 also says that with him is a horse, a stag, and a calf. Those are his Plan B. His crops have failed; does he harvest and replant? Is there still time (Saturn)? The horse in the disk representing his thought-bubble is pulling a plow, perhaps he can plant again. If that fails though, he might have to hunt this winter (the stag) and/or kill off his cattle to eat in the spring (his calf).

The fragmentary text 36 Airs of the Zodiac lists the deity for the card as “Litae“. Litae is Greek for “prayers”, and these goddesses surround the person who prays, trying to prevent the calamity or failure. These wizened daughters of Zeus follow after his other daughter Atë (Folly) goddess of ruin who brings death or downfall. The seven Litae goddesses shown praying here among the disks are not just old and lame, but skeletal, fitting the Saturnian theme. They alternately could stand in for the Pleiades and Hyades – each a group of seven sisters associated with the decan.

line art Seven of Disks. Copyright 2021 M. M. Meleen

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