Pisces 3: third decan of Pisces, Ten of Cups

Well this is it a whole year later, the decan walk is complete (for now) and last of the decanic minors and the final card of the natural Zodiac in the good old dustbin of Pisces. is done The tarot card is called “Perfected Success”, but because everything is cyclic and nothing is ever perfected, Crowley called it simply “Satiety”, for with Mars ruling the decan, it does have the flavor of yet more craving to come, in the Buddhist sense of the word. (Kind of like when you eat a huge meal and think you are done eating forever – then find yourself going back for a snack an hour later! Humans just can’t help being creatures of desire (Mars, ruler of the decan) for more (Jupiter, ruler of Pisces). But we do run into limits here on Earth (Malkuth, the Tens).

The magical description of the image from 777 might just have been the most difficult of all the 36 decans – both in terms of composition with all the various figures and also to reconcile to the meaning of the card the the description. I think it came together though – in the end (pun intended).

For it is here at the end of all things, that we just begin again due to the double-shot of Mars, for when the March Equinox comes we find ourselves back in the most Mars-ish card of all, the Two of Wands, whose sign and decan are both Mars ruled. And the conquest of life starts anew.

Speaking of the end of all things, this card always makes me think of the novel by William Morris called “The Well at the World’s End” which has the distinction of being the world’s first true fantasy novel in the sense that it was the first to be set in a completely made up fictional world. It predates Lord of the Rings and even inspired Tolkein, for it has a Gandalf! and a Silverfax! among other things. The idea of fantasy (Pisces), the ending point or limits of the world (or in this case, Zodiac), and of course, a Well (maximum Cups!) makes it really perfect. Though um, nothing is ever really perfect as previously stated.

The decan description from 777 reads “A man of grave and thoughtful face, with a bird in his hand, before him a woman and an ass.” (Donkey! But I can see why your mind is in the gutter, because the Picatrix description has the woman being mounted by a donkey, which um, just no and thank god it wasn’t like that in 777 or I’d never have been able to draw this deck! This also inspired one of the funniest NSFW blurts on the Fortune’s Wheelhouse podcast in the Ten of Cups episode: “A bird in the hand beats a donkey in the bush.”)

The card image has all these figures, and they actually are interacting in a way that makes sense of the card’s meaning – and brings in the sense of the Aries/Mars fire energy to come. So you probably want to see it?

Yes this is a teaser as I’m keeping this one under wraps for now. Perfected Success but there is no such thing in Malkuth! Though I’ve made it through all the way to the end of the decans, Satiety is as fleeting as the rainbow, so I’m keeping this for you as a meal for later.

I’m working on finishing up the Majors for now, and then will be starting to post some of those for you to chew on.

Liber OZ and Aeon art – project to support Boleskine House restoration

As mentioned in my last newsletter, I’ve given permission for the Tabula Mundi Aeon card to be used in a limited edition run of prints of a poster with Liber OZ written in professional calligraphy and the Aeon card art alongside it. There will be an edition of 220 and a deluxe edition of 93. I’ve donated the use of the art for this purpose, proceeds to benefit the restoration of Boleskine House. I’m not involved in the production other than giving the occasional opinion on the aesthetics, so I don’t know exactly when it will be released or what the final costs of each version will be. But if you are interested in learning more and getting one of these you can see the calligraphy and the art here and below is a video created to launch the project.

Here’s to the restoration of the Kiblah!

“In the East, that is, in the direction of Boleskine, which is situated on the South-Eastern shore of Loch Ness in Scotland, two miles east of Foyers, is a shrine or High Altar.” – Liber XV

“Set up my image in the East; thou shalt buy thee an image which I will show thee, especial, not unlike the one thou knowest.” – Liber AL, III:21

Beer Label Art for Stone Cow Brewery – Tranquil and Alert

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is design a beer label. It’s finally happened, and I got to do two of them, for the Stone Cow Brewery in Barre, MA. I drew the artworks last fall, and the beer for the first one just came out!

The first one, a black IPA, came out just in time for Massachusetts “Beer Week” which is March 5th through 12th 2022 – though the beer will be probably be around for longer. At least I hope so, because it is very good! The beer is called “Tranquil and Alert“, which is the town motto of the town of Barre, Massachusetts. So for the art I did a parody of the “town seal”. This is the Barre town seal, which features a central diamond with a general store and horse and buggy, and side panels around the circle with cows on the left, pine trees on the right, and a mountain view on the top.

the Town of Barre Massachusetts official town seal

Of course I changed it up, and made the general store into Stone Cow Brewery’s barn, and the horse and buggy into their ultralight flying machine. True story, I got a ride on that once and it was awesome! Here is a short video clip of the takeoff of my flight, also known as”Air Meleen”! And the view picture is one I snapped from the ride! Below that is a picture of the machine, with pilot “Phil the Farmer” taking my Dad for a flight.

For the rest of the picture, I made the cows into the particular type of cows that their related farm (Carter and Stevens Farm) raises, made the pine trees into hops, and the mountain view into the actual gorgeous mountain view the brewery has of Mount Wachusett. Plus added the “eye in the triangle” and an osprey carrying barley, just for fun.

The beer is a Black IPA, and it is really good!! Here is the finished art – in pen and ink, and what it looks like on the cans:

The finished cans of Tranquil and Alert, Black IPA by Stone Cow Brewery. Can art by M.M. Meleen

The other beer I did a label for is coming out soon, a smoked lager (rauchbier) called “The Alchemy of Smoke”. You bet I had fun running with the alchemical theme for that! The art for that one was done in color, in acrylic gouache. I’ll post it when the beer gets released, which should be in a couple of weeks! If you are in the central Massachusetts area, head over to Stone Cow Brewery, for great beer, good food, plenty of scenic vistas, and both indoor and outdoor seating. Pick up some cans of Tranquil and Alert!

Pisces 2: second decan of Pisces, Nine of Cups

The penultimate card of the 36 decans! Happiness, or Lord of Material Happiness, the Nine of Cups is doubly blessed by Jupiter, classical ruler of Pisces and ruler of the middle decan. Pisces’ major is The Moon card (though the Moon itself is the Priestess) which also makes it very comfortable as a Nine (Nines being associated with the Moon/Yesod on the Tree of Life.)

Yet the magical description of the decan in 777 reads “A grave man pointing to the sky“. Why so grave? Isn’t this card called “Happiness”? His “pointing at the sky” perhaps reminds us of the source of all happiness: following the true will that comes from our connection with that which is above Yesod on the middle pillar. Yesod is home base for all the Nines but especially this one because of Pisces association with the Moon card. The pointing suggests of course a hand (Kaph, the letter of Jupiter meaning open palm and closed fist); I suppose a pointing hand is part palm and part fist. And the sky is of course home of Sky Daddy Jupiter, and home of the Moon.

(While the decan isn’t moon-ruled and neither is Pisces, Pisces association with The Moon card of tarot gives it a lunar flavor, as well as the fact that it is a Nine – Yesod is also lunar ruled. I made a mistake in the newsletter accidentally calling the decan moon ruled – it is not, that was a late night cocktail influenced “brain misfire”. The decan is Jupiter all the way! sorry about that – I started the newsletter draft while having Sazaracs for Mardi Gras last night – oops! Too happy to be almost through the minors to care!)

Speaking of the newsletter, for now, some preview stuff like preliminary sketches is given only to newsletter subscribers. If you haven’t subscribed you can at this link. I’m holding back from posting all the art on the site but will be giving some preview visibility only in the newsletter.

The Lord of Material Happiness, with “a grave man pointing at the sky” – features a great water (Pisces) wheel (Jupiter) filling nine cups from a gushing lotus (Moon/Yesod and Water influence).

Pisces 1: first decan of Pisces, Eight of Cups

The tarot Eight of Cups, Indolence or “Lord of Abandoned Success”, corresponds to Pisces’ first decan. Pisces is ruled by Jupiter, this decan is ruled by Saturn, and Eights have a Mercury influence through Hod, the eighth sephira.

The magical description per 777 is another strange one: “A man with two bodies, but joining their hand“. The image of a dual bodied man is certainly Mercurial, as Mercury is the ruler of Gemini the twins. I suppose the body itself can be considered a Saturn structure, a thing of matter, as well as having a single hand shared between them a form of Saturnine restriction. The hand itself could relate to Jupiter in the sense that the letter Kaph has the meaning of both the open palm and sometimes the closed fist.

The Eight of Cups primarily combines the influence of two majors: The Moon card for Pisces, and The Universe or World card for Saturn ruling the decan. Pisces is associated with dissolution, merging, and dissolving, while Saturn is associated with the structures and matter. These are not compatible archetypes!

The two figures lean indolently against two rock structures reminiscent of The Moon card’s towers, being worn away by water into sand grains of matter (Saturn). Behind them the ocean waves look like the brain waves of sleep. The eight cups are marked with the eight lunar phases, again for the Moon card. The cups all have their eyes closed – except for one, the last phase of waning crescent. Some are turned upside down. They have been used to make the ultimate symbol of “Abandoned Success”, a sandcastle whose grains of matter are destined for dissolution. “And so castles made of sand, fall in the sea, eventually…”

[coming soon]

Aquarius 3: third decan of Aquarius, Seven of Swords

Another difficult place in the Aquarius sequence: the Seven of Swords, Futility aka the Lord of Unstable Effort. The sign is ruled by Saturn, the Sevens by Venus, and this decan by the fluctuating Moon.

The magical image of the decan per 777 is “A small-headed man dressed like a woman, and with him an old man.” Not the most fun description to work with, as who wants to draw a man in a dress with a proportionally small head? (LOL I made it work; his head is just a little small, as some peoples are, but he’s not a freak.) All that aside, upon reflection it does fit the card correspondences. It can be a card of needing to use your head to get out of a jam, and perhaps not always feeling up to the task or not making appropriate effort. He is “dressed like a woman”, for both Venus and the Moon influence the card. The old man is of course for Saturn, ruler of Aquarius.

So this small-headed man travels with an old man, under the influence of a waning moon, as six sabers threaten them. The cross-dressing man carries the seventh sword, but is hardly dressed for fighting in his long gown and wrap. The old man won’t be much help, bent and leaning on his cane.

The figures taken alone are also purposefully ambiguous. The small-headed one is behind the old man with a sword. Is he ready to stand with him against the encroaching six swords, or will he double-cross him?

The combination of a man dressed as a woman and an old man also reminds me of Achilles. In some accounts his mother Thetis dressed him as a girl in order to hide him and keep him safe from war. But wily Odysseus (perhaps the old man figure) disguised himself as a peddler of women’s clothes and tricked Achilles into revealing himself. These themes of both Achilles, by being in disguise, and Odysseus being crafty and somewhat wily or deceptive, fits with the reputation of the card for conniving. Achilles is also known for his one spot of vulnerability, where the term “Achilles’ heel” originates. Thetis had dunked him in the Styx when he was an infant, to make him invulnerable to weapons, but had to hold him by the heel so she missed a spot, which was his undoing. Thus the idea of some weakness in play: futility or unstable effort.

It’s the changeability of the moon that adds the instability here, along with the combination of Venus (7) and Saturn (Aquarius). Aloof and cool Aquarius isn’t exactly the best place for warm Venus or emotional Moon. In the sky, a seven pointed figure combines the emblems of a star (Aquarius) and a rose (Venus), picking up seven points along a ring of 56 “holes”, like the Aubrey holes at the monument of Stonehenge that mark out the lunar cycles, for the changes of the Moon that rules the decan.

[Placeholder for the 7 of Swords image, held back for now.]

Aquarius 2: second decan of Aquarius, Six of Swords

I’ve always been fond of this card, the Six of Swords. It’s one of the most pleasant of the Swords series: Science, also known as the Lord of Earned Success. What better feeling after the last card, Defeat, than success that you have earned yourself, through the strength of your will (the solar Sixes), and the power of the mind (intelligent Mercury, ruler of the decan) in brilliant Aquarius, sign of genius and innovation.

777 lists the magical image of the decan as “A man arrayed like a king, looking with pride and conceit on all around him”. The idea of a proud and arrayed king is very solar (Tiphareth and all Sixes), and I suppose with genius comes some preening. That he looks upon all around him seems fitting in the sense that Aquarius as the Star card is symbolic of the stars – throughout the entire Universe – and thus Saturn, ruler of Aquarius.

The king in this picture is arrayed like a Pharaoh, on his throne, bejeweled hands planted firmly on his knees as he surveys his domain. Don’t pharaohs always seem to be depicted in media as full of pride and conceit? I suppose that is natural when you are a living god, or at the very least a direct representative of deity. Behind him in the starry skies, the solar boat travels the skies. He is arrayed in regal robes decorated with the constellations – though it is hard to see that in the uncolored ink drawing.

He wears the Pshent crown also known as sekhemty or “Two Powerful Ones”, the double crown that combines the white hedjet crown of Upper Egypt with the red deshret crown of Lower Egypt. The above and the below, ruled by Mercury just as the pharaoh rules “all around him”.

Speaking of Mercury, I could not resist adding the ibis and ape. Both are in the Magus (Mercury) card of this deck. (I put the rough pencil sketch of the Magus below, posted so long ago in 2020, and maybe even drawn in 2019. It feels so very long ago! It’s all done in ink but I haven’t photographed it or shown the actual finished work yet.)

The ape and ibis are both associated with Thoth (Mercury) and the ibis is also present on some Star cards (Aquarius). Between them is an “armillary sphere” or spherical astrolabe, marking out the latitudes and longitudes of celestial navigation. While the device probably wasn’t in existence in ancient Egypt, it was used in the times of Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, so it may be a vision of the future (Aquarius) as well as a guide to a future destination.

the pencil sketch of the Magus, © 2019-2022 M.M. Meleen

[6 of swords- coming soon]

Aquarius 1: first decan of Aquarius, Five of Swords

The Five of Swords is something most of us prefer not to see: Defeat! The ruler of the decan is warm and loving Venus, who likes harmony and bringing things together. But we are in the rough-and-tumble destructive world of the Fives – Mars energy – in the sign of Aquarius, ruled by the other malefic, cold Saturn. Who would have guessed that the combination of the lovely Star (Aquarius) and loving Empress (Venus) would result in something so unpleasant? Location, location, location! They just aren’t in a nice neighborhood; the Fives are a rough part of town.

777 lists the magical image of the decan as “A man with bowed head and a bag in his hand“. The bowed head can be an admission of defeat, or a head bowed in prayer. Perhaps he is a monkish fellow, pacific to a fault. The bag in hand makes me think of the Fool, trump of Air. Aquarius is an air sign after all, despite all its association with pouring waters. The bag is ridiculously unsuited to the task he has put it to, gathering up five swords, perhaps from the wreckage of a battlefield. The rose of Venus lies tattered, scarlet red upon the snow, like blood. The raven (Aquarius) pierces (Mars) the egg of the dove (Venus), while the freezing rains of late January pour down from a windswept sky.

[coming soon]

Capricorn 3, third decan of Capricorn, Four of Disks

777 lists the magical image of the decan for the Four of Disks (Power, or Lord of Material Power) as “A man holding a book, which he opens and shuts.” Probably a book of his accounts, for he is a grasping and covetous fellow who cannot help but keep checking his bank balance. The Picatrix description is similar, except it also mentions “before the book the tail of a fish”. Interesting – is it a nod to the precession of the Equinoxes – the Age of Pisces preceding the Age of Aquarius? The fish as symbol of wealth? Or perhaps the tail of the Goat-Fish, symbol of Capricorn.

In this card, all the powerful planets of the patriarchy are in play: Jupiter/Zeus, king of the Olympians, as ruler of the Fours, Saturn/Cronos, his father and previous king of the gods, as ruler of Capricorn, and the almighty regal Sun, center of the solar system, as ruler of the decan. Kingly influences all! He opens and closes his book while seated on a throne mounted with two solar disks. The largest disk with the symbol of Malkuth, the material world, rests upon his crown – he’s got coin on his mind! The fourth disk is securely pinned underfoot so it can’t get away! It’s marked with the crown of his worldly power and status. The crown is also a symbol of Kether – here matter is above and spirit below, a reversal of their positions on the Tree of Life. Don’t count on him to be generous!

[placeholder for the image of the Four of Disks – done but skipping the image posting for this one. Hanging onto my shit so the pirates don’t get all!]

Capricorn 2: second decan of Capricorn, Three of Disks

Once again I’m late to post this, and the next few cards as well, but not late to complete the actual works. I’ve been hard at work, completing each of the decanic minor cards within the ten or so day span of the actual decan, and even squeezing in time to work on a few Majors.

The second decan of Capricorn corresponds to the tarot Three of Pentacles or Disks, known as Work or Works, the Lord of Material Works. It has a double dose of Saturn, as ruler of both Capricorn and all of the Threes through the third sephira, Binah. The decan itself is ruled by Mars.

One might think that with the two malefic planets in play that it would be a difficult rather than productive card. But Threes create a portal, and Mars has its exaltation in Capricorn, so when the Universe meets the Tower, we have construction rather than destruction, and a master builder at work. Mars provides the energy, Saturn the time and material elements of creation.

777 lists the magical image of the decan as “A man with an ape running before him.” It evocative of evolution, for material things that are built over time include the body as well as inanimate edifices. The three disks thus portray Saturn’s hourglass for time, the three classical elements for the building blocks, and the tools of a master mason, and the symbol for Malkuth/Earth, for Mars in Capricorn – the drive, skils, and life force needed to perform Material Works.

[coming soon]