Introducing Pharos Tarot, a new deck by M. M. Meleen
2300 years ago, Alexander the Great had a dream. He dreamed of an old, bearded man, who recited these words to him: “Now there is an island, in the much dashing sea in front of Egypt. Pharos is what men call it.”
Alexander heard this as a prophecy, and chose the island of Pharos as the site for his city of Alexandria. Alexandria aspired to house all the Hermetic arts. It was a melting pot of cultures; a newly built city with a visionary outlook and an ancient lineage. With its thriving sea port, Pharos became famous for the library of Alexandria – and the Pharos lighthouse, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The Pharos was a beacon, putting out it’s light for travelers and drawing the light of knowledge to itself. Pharos Tarot is a voyage of light upon the waters, and travel through the color scales in the medium of watercolor.
Mel invites you to see the first cards of the Pharos Tarot, at the start of February. Stay tuned for a preview on the Feast of Nuit, also known as the Feast of Stars. Set your course by the stars and join her for an exploration of the new deck, commencing around February 2nd, 2019. But here is a taste, beginning with water. The first sentences of the Bible, or the story of creation, reads:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
The Hanged Man represents the deep. You will see in the other “mother letter” major cards, the light.
Pharos Tarot travels the color scales through the medium of watercolor, known for it’s luminosity as pigment is diffused in water transparently for the light of the paper to shine through.
The journey by water begins with The Sea. The Sea is the alternate name for the Hanged Man in this deck. The Hanged man is one of the elemental trumps, associated with the Mother letter Mem in the series of the Hebrew alphabet or Aleph-Bet. Mem means Water. And so the voyage starts.
(The original first post for the Hanged Man was seen here, with “It begins with the Sea“)
A little about my use of the medium of watercolor: as you can see, the images aren’t cram packed with symbols. Yet the esoteric information is there if one knows where to look for it. The card designs are meant to be simple and uncluttered, and suitable for watercolor techniques. But not too simple! I needed an artistic challenge, so didn’t want to just draw the image in ink lines and fill it in; I am rendering the image with paint over very simple sketches. You will also see as we go along that in a way it isn’t your typical watercolor deck. The watercolors aren’t really handled in a traditional way, though I’m using many watercolor techniques. While I’m only using watercolor, and not mixing media, these aren’t for watercolor purists. The colors aren’t ethereal, pale washes, nor are they multi-colored floats of rainbow color into a shape surrounded by white space. The designs aren’t naturalistic, they don’t always follow rules of perspective or go for realism, but they also aren’t abstract. They are their own weird thing, which is what happens when one is self taught I guess. I’m still learning and that will be evident to those who are skilled with this medium.
This is what the drawing looked like before it was transferred to watercolor paper. You can see that I’m not bothering to render the shading on the forms, or add in all the details like the ropes and ladders and the pulley, or the sparkling water. Just a roughing out of the biggest shapes. The drawing is very lightly put onto the watercolor paper, light enough that it can barely be seen and isn’t seen at all once the paint goes on, then all the rest of the detail and other objects are rendered with the watercolor paint and a brush. The finished design is also a taller format than the sketch. This is in case I want to do completely borderless cards. The finished painting can be cropped into a more squat rectangle if I want bordered cards.
Random Artist Notes: By the time I got to painting this card, I’d finally started to see watercolor in a new light. The sky was painted with, appropriately enough for the Hanged Man or elemental water, a “wet on wet” watercolor technique. The sparkles on the surface of the sea were masked off, painted, and then softened with water. The scene is meant to give the impression of strong sunlight (fire) and a breeze (air) over the waters, on a sunny day upon the sea, as the hang man suspends himself in a meditative pose upon the ship’s mast. Unlike Odysseus, who lashed himself to the mast and plugged his ears with wax to avoid hearing the call of the sirens, the Hanged Man remains open, gently suspended by his serpentine silks, inverting himself to listen for the wisdom inherent in other perspectives.
The inspiration for this design: incredible silk aerialist acrobats in fluid suspension, juxtaposed with the story of Odysseus binding himself to his ship’s mast to protect himself from the sirens.
The Golden Dawn Color Scales for this card areas follows:
The King Scale is Deep Blue, for elemental water, the depths of the Sea. Blue is associated with the Priestess card, arcana of the Moon, too. On the Minutum Mundum, it’s the color of the sephira Chesed, the sphere of Jupiter. Jupiter is the ancient ruler of Pisces, and the 12th house by association, just as Neptune is it’s modern ruler. There’s a connection between Jupiter and Neptune, or Zeus and Poseidon, as well. As brothers, they drew lots for their share of the kingdom. Zeus was given dominion of the sky and weather (as well as light in the form of the thunderbolt) and Poseidon was given dominion of the Sea. The Pharos lighthouse of the ancient world was said to be topped by a statue. Some sources say the statue was that of Zeus Sotor, or Zeus the Deliverer, to save men from storms. Other sources say it was topped by a statue of Poseidon. No one knows, and the contradictions could exist because perhaps it differed throughout the ages of the lighthouse. It lasted for over 1500 years, finally being demolished by an Earthquake.
The Queen Scale is Sea Green. It’s the color of sunlight upon the waters, the color of the shallows as light bounces off of the white sand and up through the waves. The greens of the Queen and the Prince scales call to mind the color of Venus, or Aphrodite born from the foam of the sea.
The Prince Scale color is derived from a combination of the parental colors. Mix deep blue and sea green and get the Prince Scale color, Deep Olive Green. This is a color of grounding, and tranquility. It’s a cooler version of the olive color of the Prince Scale for the Hierophant/Taurus, ruled by Venus. Greens and blues are the colors most associated with the beauty of our planet. In color theory cool greens suggest safety, and a place to rest and hang out. The Hanged Man is doing just that.
The Princess Scale is often an enigma. In some cases it’s a combination of the three colors that precede it, but not always and not in this case. The Princess Scale color for the Hanged Man is White, flecked Purple. It takes the White of the divine nature of Keter, or godhood, and flecks or fertilizes it with the purple of the lunar sephira Yesod. While in the state of suspended animation, the Hanged Man is communing with divinity, but in a subconscious, non-linear, or lunar way. Interestingly we see a similar color in the Star card, who has in this scale “White, faintly tinged Purple”. The highest aspiration or connection to the divine through the astral, is only hinted at, or flecked and fertilized, in the Hanged Man. In the Star card, the bits of purple are fully integrated into the white, creating the color of starlight as the daughter of the firmament “dwells between the waters”. The Hanged Man is the element of water itself, while the Star gives it’s light to set one’s course on.
The journey begins with the Sea. It continues on the Thelemic holiday, the Feast of Nuit or Feast of Stars. Coming soon, around February 2.
But before then, a sneak preview. In honor of today’s auspicious astronomical event, on January 29th, the Mercury-Sun cazimi, I wanted to send out a communication (Mercury) and give you a preview of one of my favorite Pharos Tarot cards, The Sun.
I call this one The Lamp. It’s a glyph of illumination and liberty: Light, Love, Liberty, and Life. The lamp shows the four stations of Liber Resh vel Helios, Crowley’s solar adoration ritual performed four times daily, at each of the stations of the Sun’s journey: sunrise to Ra in his strength (shown by the sun symbol and serpent), noontime to Hathor in her beauty (shown by her horned crown at the apex), sunset to Tum or Atum in his joy, (shown by his white crown), and midnight to Khephra, in his hiding (shown by the winged scarab beetle at bottom).
Twin children dance on the solar barque at the bottom, representing the solar twins as dual forms of Horus or Heru. The active form holds what looks like a one – the pillar. The passive form holds what looks like a zero – the void. Yet they are also the letters I and O, and along with the A between them spell the magical formula IAO.
IAO is also another name for the Tetragrammaton, known as the Bringer of Light, and as a godform as a sun god and a gnostic god of the mysteries. The two V’s on the barque transform IAO into VIAOV. Crowley, adapted IAO for the new Aeon, adding the Hebrew letter Vau to both ends, which he then called the “proper hieroglyph of the Ritual of Self-Initiation in this Aeon of Horus” VIAOV enumerates to 93, like Thelema and Agape. Crowley calls this person who travels through this new process, “Man made God, exalted, eager; he has come consciously to his full stature, and so is ready to set out on his journey to redeem the world.”
The colors are Orange, Gold Yellow, Rich Amber, and Amber, rayed red. All fiery and of course solar colors, for The Lord of the Fire of the World.
next up…the Star or The Way…
For the cross quarter holiday and Thelemic holy day, the Feast of Stars, also known as the Feast of Nuit, and Imbolc, I bring you the Dweller Between the Waters, the Daughter of the Firmament. Here is The Star card from Pharos Tarot. I call this one The Way.
The Star shows the Way, a beacon of celestial navigation. In the Milky Way she dwells, washing herself in a river of dew, using her solar cross window to make thunderbolts…
” Then there was another passage which was really too secret for anything; all I shall tell you is, there was the most beautiful Goddess that ever was, and she was washing herself in a river of dew. If you ask what she is doing, she says: “I’m making thunderbolts.” It was only starlight, and yet one could see quite clearly, so don’t think I’m making a mistake. ” ~ Liber XCV, The Wake World, by Aleister Crowley
The colors are Violet, Sky Blue, Bluish Mauve, and White Faintly Tinged Purple. I took a bit of artistic liberty in that “Sky Blue” here ranges through all shades of blue one might see in the sky, as I wanted it to be a night sky. The violets and bluish mauve form the nebulae. The stars are “white faintly tinged purple”.
And now, we have The Ship, and we can move towards that we seek. The colors of the Priestess are Blue, Silver, Cold Pale Blue, Silver-rayed-Sky Blue.