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.

The Stanchion

The Hierophant’s Hebrew letter Vav means “nail”. In Pharos Tarot, my most recent deck in progress, the Hierophant is called The Stanchion, which is a vertical pin or post that provides support. It affixes the Lighthouse to the rock. The Stanchion is conductive, bringing the Fool’s fire from heaven down the Pillar of Mercy, from Wisdom (Chokmah) to Mercy (Chesed) and ultimately pinned all the way to Malkuth.

The Golden Dawn color scale colors are the colors of mankind: Red Orange, Deep Indigo, Deep Warm Olive, Rich Brown.

The Arc

The card known as Temperance or as Art in the Thoth deck and in my Tabula Mundi Tarot, is called The Arc in my new deck Pharos Tarot. The title refers both to the Arc of the rainbow, the Ark of the covenant, and to something called “the Arc of Visibility”. That’s a nautical term that refers to the portion of the horizon over which a lighted aid to navigation (ie a lighthouse or a star) is visible from seaward.

The Hebrew letter Samekh means “prop”. The Arc is upheld by a skull shaped prop showing that the Death card is the foundational stage preceding it.

The Foghorn

A sneak peek at a card from my new deck-in-progress, Pharos Tarot. The Foghorn is also known as The Moon. It’s the full moon here, for the zero degree,  on the Pisces/Virgo axis.

 The fog glows, but you cannot see the moon.

The horn sounds silently, and something vibrates at the back of your head. Something comes up from below. Will you heed the call?

Brought to you by Pisces, and the letter Qoph. Qoph means “the back of the head”, and the path forward – assuming you get by the kraken – leads between the back of the Anubis figures’ heads.

 It’s hard to capture the look of the original watercolor painting with a scan in this case. I have an inexpensive scanner and this is the best it could do. Most things it does fine, but fog is a little too subtle for it. In the original, the fog looks more ethereal and almost real. But the test print looks good. I’ll just have to redo it at some point. But you get the idea of the card anyway.

This is what the cards might look like borderless if I used the alternate titles (but there won’t be a watermark, no copyright info will be on the cards). But the image could be cropped and borders added instead, like in Tabula Mundi. Or it could be borderless and have a regular title of The Moon.

The fog is too thick tonight to decide which way to go. Next we seek the light.