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. But many others are posted, so browse previous postings.]

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 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 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
Six of Swords, Science ©2022 M.M. Meleen

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.

Five of Swords, Defeat ©2022 M.M. Meleen

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.

Three of Disks, © 2022 M.M. Meleen

Capricorn 1, first decan of Capricorn, Two of Disks

The Two of Disks/Two of Pentacles corresponds to the first decan of Capricorn. The last decan/card (Ten of Wands) was a Saturn ruled decan of a Jupiter ruled sign, and here we have the inverse, as Saturn rules the sign of Capricorn and Jupiter rules this specific decan. The card is known as “Change” in the Thoth deck, or by it’s full title of Lord of Harmonious Change in the Golden Dawn tradition.

Capricorn is a sign associated with old age, for it’s ruler Saturn is associated with time and has the longest orbit of the classical planets. While Jupiter isn’t well placed in Capricorn, up here in the lofty realm of the Twos in Chokmah, it doesn’t seem to hinder him much. It just makes him work a little harder, his drive for expansion continually challenged by Saturn’s contraction. It is this cycle of expansion and contraction that creates motion and change in the material world. The course of the average 80 years of a human lifespan has many ups and downs. This is a card of progression over time. Austin Coppock’s 36 Faces gives name to the decan as “the headless body”. I personally also associate this decan with embodied incarnation.

The decan spans the winter solstice (in the Northern hemisphere) – the point of maximum darkness. In the horoscope this can be represented by both the zenith (Capricorn) and the nadir (midnight). From here in, the light can only increase, over time, as the Oak King and Holly King exchange places. We approach the New Year, and look both forward and ahead (January, Janus). It’s a time and a card of changes and polarities, yet ever a life moving on.

777 lists the decan image as “A man holding in his right hand a javelin and in his left a lapwing.” Why a javelin, and why a lapwing? Javelins are designed to be thrown and to achieve great distance, perhaps reflecting the striving nature of Capricorn and the distance of a life? Lapwing comes from Middle English lapwink, hoopoe, lapwing, from Old English hlēapewince : hlēapan, to leap + *wincan, to waver. To leap, and to waver – an echo of to expand (Jupiter) and to contract (Saturn)?

Two of Disks © 2022 M.M. Meleen

Sagittarius 3, third decan of Sagittarius, Ten of Wands

Tough times in Sagittarius land for this one, known as the Lord of Oppression. The fiery and Jovial Sagittarius here is oppressed and smothered by serious Saturn, ruler of the decan and also of the earthy Tens through the association with Malkuth on the Tree of Life.

The magical image from 777 is quite challenging and grim, fit for Saturn the reaper: “A man leading another by his hair and slaying him“.

The wands are bound as a Fasces a bundle of rods around a central one with an axe blade, symbolic of authoritarian force. It is a symbol seen in governmental regalia and was oft adopted by dictators and fascists. The comes from Latin Fascis, which has meanings of:

1 A bundle of sticks
2 A burden, a load.
3 (plural) A bundle carried by lictors before the highest magistrates, consisting of rods and an axe, with which criminals were scourged and beheaded.
4 A high office, like the consulship.

So here we have both the oppressor with his Fasces and the oppressed peasant with his bundle of firewood. So it goes.

10 of Wands © 2021-2022 M.M. Meleen

Sagittarius 2, second decan of Sagittarius, Nine of Wands

I’ve been late in posting, but not late in the doing. Things are humming along and getting done in their appropriate decan. The posting bit tends to drag behind.

The middle decan of Sagittarius is known in the Thoth tarot as “Strength”, or more formally in the Golden Dawn tradition as the Lord of Great Strength. Sagittarius is Jupiter ruled, but the decan itself and the Nines are ruled by the ever fluctuating Moon, and thus the strength here is that of strength amongst change and strength with flexibility, such as the archer drawing his bow.

777 lists the magical image as “A man leading cows, and before him an ape and a bear“. All of these are quite large creatures. Large animals in general are ruled by Jupiter our largest planet, and Sagittarius also has some connection with the larger animals. Interestingly, all of these animals also have some lunar connotations as well: cows with their crescent horns bring to mind a line from the Orphic hymn to the Moon that says “bull horned moon, in a race with night”. The ape is a creature associated with Thoth, who is thought of as a Mercury figure but also has lunar mythologies. The bear is a companion of wild Artemis, lunar goddess of the hunt.

Of course the man leading cows who suddenly sees before him an ape and a bear is going to need to be strong and flexible, and have his arrows at the ready.

9 of Wands ©2021-2022 M.M. Meleen

Sagittarius 1: first decan of Sagittarius, Eight of Wands

The first decan of Sagittarius corresponds to the tarot Eight of Wands known as the Lord of Swiftness. Sagittarius is Jupiter ruled, and there is a doubled Mercury influence as both the decan and the Eights are ruled by Mercury.

The magical image description of the decan is a strange one. Per 777: “A man with 3 bodies – 1 black, 1 red, 1 white“. This is similar to the description in Picatrix: “Three bodies of men of which one is yellow, another white, but the third red.” The switch is curious – but so are a few other changes Crowley made to these magical images. For the most part the descriptions in 777 seem to be mostly based on Picatrix. Sometimes they diverge in small ways, like this one, but other times they don’t seem to align with Picatrix at all. Was it merely that 777 was indeed compiled by Crowley over a long weekend, directly from memory, and he was trying to recall Picatrix? Or was he tuning in to his own thing, or purposely making changes? I’ll probably never know! But for the purposes of this deck, I’m using 777 as the starting point.

This “3 bodies” thing, combined with the doubly Mercurial influence along with philosophical Sagittarius, makes me think of Hermes Trismegistus, or “Thrice Great Hermes”.

Due to piracy events I’m still debating how many of these tarot images to show and how much of the thoughts on these to post, so for now, this is just a placeholder. For now, anyone who stumbles upon these posts can still look back and see all the decan card drawings that were posted to date, from Aries 1 to Scorpio 1. Just leaving a little gap here for now.

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Scorpio 3: third decan of Scorpio, Seven of Cups

The Seven of Cups is called “Debauch” in the Thoth deck, or titled by the Golden Dawn, the Lord of Illusionary Success. In 777, the magical image for this decan of Scorpio, corresponding to the Seven of Cups, is described simply as “A horse and a wolf“. Two creatures of appetite; one wild but perhaps tamable; the other much less so. The sign Scorpio is ruled by Mars, yet Venus rules the decan. The 7 of Cups combines Death (Scorpio) and the Empress (Venus): Death and the Maid, Thanatos and Eros, Death and Birth. It is most certainly an alchemical combination, full of inspirations if one can harness them.

While at first glance one might think that this “horse and wolf” description isn’t a lot to go on for portraying the essence of this card as traditionally experienced in tarot, I’m really happy with how this one came out – and regretting that I’m committed to holding a few back for now as it turned out to be a favorite.

I’m still debating how many of these to show, so for now, this is just a placeholder. For now, anyone who stumbles upon these posts can still look back and see all the decan cards that were posted, from Aries 1 to Scorpio 1. Just leaving a little gap here for now.