New deck update – completion!

all images copyright 2020-2024 M.M. Meleen

Full moons are a time of completions. The last of the art for my new deck is done, and formatted into card form! The above is a graphic that was incorporated into the card back design.

I’ve now completed the 78 cards of my new deck, a project that began in February 2020. It’s a new deck based on the “magical descriptions of the decans” in Crowley’s 777 (for the 36 minors) and the “correct designs of tarot trumps” also per 777 for the Majors. With wordings followed precisely to the letter for all cards, and painted during the related astrological period, something I’ve never seen elsewhere.

Now that the art is completed I’ll be announcing the name of the new deck in a new post soon, with details about an upcoming crowd sourcing campaign to fund this new addition to tarot.

The deck was started early in 2020, but I didn’t get fully going on it until later in the year, and really got going during 2021 thru now. The first thing I did was the Fool but the first thing I posted here was this pencil sketch of The Magus.

mock-up of finished card. copyright 2020 M.M. Meleen

This has been several years of working almost daily, for hours upon hours every day with very few exceptions. The art looks simple, intentionally so as to me that translates well to the small size of a cart. But the process has been long as everything is done by hand with traditional materials: pencil sketch then dip pen and ink for the final lines, and acrylic ink, paint, and colored pencil for the colors.

The card above is the Ten of Cups, the last of the decanic Minors, Pisces III. (With this card, you will be thankful I was using the 777 magical decan descriptions and not the infamous one of the Picatrix!) The 777 description of the decan: A man of grave and thoughtful face, with a bird in his hand, before him a woman and an ass. You’ll have to imagine his grave thoughtful face as you only see him from behind. This was intentional as Pisces is associated with the Hebrew letter Qoph, meaning “back of the head”.

The card has water and more water being poured into it, as well as what I call “The Well at the World’s End” of Pisces III. All that water, and a double rainbow to boot: Satiety. But the card is ruled by Mars – the ten cups are actually traditional Japanese temple fire buckets that really are stored in an upright triangle (fire symbol) – for this is the first of the “doubled Mars” decans in the circle of the zodiac. Fire is incoming, when the zodiac begins again at the first decan of Aries, also Mars ruled. And the male figure was inspired by a sculpture of an Arabic Falconer, which also seemed rather martial.

Work on the cards was purposefully timed to astrological indications. Two separate yearly “decan walks” were used for the 36 minors – one to do the pencil and ink line drawings, and one to do the color paintings. Most briefly, a “decan walk” is a yearly process of astrological contemplation on the 10 day decan periods that each zodiac sign is divided into, mirroring the Sun’s year long journey through each decan. It can also be called a Solar Walk for that reason.

Here is an earlier post showing the Aces.

Here were some cards from Aries, Taurus and Gemini.

Here is a post showing the Hierophant.

Here you can see the Three of Swords, Queen of Swords, Hermit, and Six of Wands.

Here are some cards from Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius.

The Majors, Courts, and Aces were also worked on during appropriate astrological timings. The Courts were done during the two decans of their element (they have three in all, but I chose to only work on them during their elementally aligned decans. The zodiacal Majors were done during their sign, and the planetary Majors had work periods commencing on their day and hour. Other significant timings were incorporated as well and will be detailed in the book’s notes, such as the Hanged Man during the very last decan of the zodiac (Pisces III) and during Neptune’s annual conjunction with the Sun, and The Aeon during the Feast of the Book of the Law, April 8th – 10th, which this year coincided with an eclipse at the Sun’s exaltation degree in Aries II.

Aries II, the Three of Wands, Virtue, decan ruled by the Sun, description per 777: A green-clad woman, with one leg bare from the ankle to the knee. The card is called Virtue, and has the goddess Persephone (deity per 36 Airs of the Zodiac), as well as depictions of the three main parts of the soul according to Egyptian theology: the Ka, Ba, and Akh.

There are so many cards to show since the last update way back in early Sagittarius, that I don’t know where to begin! Here are just a few selections. I don’t have the time to explain all the symbolism fully in this post, so I’ll just share the images and 777 descriptions and a few tidbits.

The Nine of Wands, Sagittarius II, Strength, decan is ruled by the Moon: Magical description of the decan per 777: A man leading cows, and before him an ape and a bear

Ten of Wands, Oppression. Magical description of the decan per 777: A man leading another by his hair and slaying him.

The Queen of Disks, according to the description in Book T.

The Devil, Lord of the Gates of Matter and Child of the Forces of Time, per 777: The figure of Pan or Priapus

The Two of Disks, Change, Capricorn I, decan ruled by Jupiter: A man holding in his right hand a javelin and in his left a lapwing

The Five of Swords, Defeat, decan ruled by Venus: A man with bowed head, and a bag in his hand

Six of Swords, Science, decan ruled by Mercury: A man arrayed like a king, looking with pride and conceit all around him

The Princess of Swords, per the Book T description (and inspired by the orisha Ayao, goddess of Air, storms, and tornados)

Princess of Cups, per Book T description, with her dolphin.

The Eight of Cups, Indolence, Pisces I, ruled by Saturn: A man with two bodies, but joining their hands. Figure was inspired by a river god, appropriate for watery Pisces, but doubled per the description, like Pisces symbol of two joined fishes. The lunar references are for The Moon card (Pisces), not the Moon planet, as the card is Saturn ruled. The eight cups used to make the sand castle were based on a discovery of a very ancient Janus cup with two faces, one on each side (doubles again, and Saturnine). This ancient and valuable gold cup was found stored and forgotten under someone’s bed, as when they inherited it they assumed it was worthless (Indolence, sleep, and very Pisces!)

The stories of the inspirations and models/references used for each card will be in the guidebook, at least when they are relevant/interesting to share.

The Moon card, brought to you by the zodiac sign Pisces. The fish are from an ancient fountain motif, similar to this one in the courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston.

mock up of card

The Hanged Man, done during the last part of the last decan of Pisces and during the annual Sun-Neptune conjunction. Note the gallows “shaped like the letter Dalet” per the 777 description. It also ties in the female form seen in the water spray of the Ace of Cups. Each of the elemental Majors echoes something in the imagery of the respective elemental Ace and vice versa.

Per book t the Ace of Cups: “a cup, resembling that of the Stolistes.
From it rises a fountain of clear and glistening water: and sprays falling on all
sides into clear calm water below, in which grow Lotuses and Water-lilies. The
great Letter of the Supernal Mother is traced in the spray of the Fountain.

Yes, the 78 cards are all done! I just finished the card back too. It’s a pet peeve of mine when a deck with lots of effort put into the art has a boring dialed in card back, like they ran out of steam! The card back is important – it’s on every single card! But the art is done.

Unless I decide to go back and redo anything. It’s always a temptation as after being so close to a work for so long like this, all you see are things that could be better or changed or improved. Trying not to go there!

There is still work to do, even over four and a half years into this project. There is a little booklet and the full guidebook to finish. It’s started already! It will have a lot of the inspirations for each card, often drawn from interesting sources.

Nine of Swords, Cruelty and Despair, Gemini II, decan ruled by Mars. Magical description of the decan per 777: An eagle-headed man with a bow and arrow. Wears crowned steel helmet. It’s hard to see in the scan above, but I painted his helmet with paint containing shavings of actual stainless steel.

And one more for now, The Universe. Per 777 it “should contain an example of the Quadrature of the Circle. An ellipse, composed of 400 lesser circles…” (yep, 400, really! The number of letter Tau). It goes on very specifically about the “naked shining figure” and its exact posture, hand and leg placements, and concealing scarf shaped like a letter Kaph, even though the card itself corresponds to Tau. I’ll spare you the details for now!

The Universe, the last card, a card of Saturn and Earth…I have to say is it’s A Day in the Life of an esoteric artist:and though the holes were rather small, I had to count them all“. (and place and paint all 400 of them! Whew; I don’t ever want to do that again! It involved math. 32 of them are little Malkuths.)

I’ve posted cards for you to get an idea of what this deck is about but not all of them at this point, though all are complete. More posts will follow when I figure out the timeline for a crowdfunding to raise money for a great printing, probably via Kickstarter.

One of my favorite cards in this deck to work on was the Seven of Cups, Illusionary Success or Debauch, with a 777 description merely reading “a horse and a wolf“. Probably because it is the only card of the deck without a human face or figure in it, well except for the skull I guess, so it was a break of sorts. The 7 cups contain symbols combining Death (Scorpio) and the Empress (Venus/life); a potent combination for art if one can harvest it.

detail from the Death card…the end is near!

What would you like to hear about on the blog, and in the book? Let me know, and if you want to be updated for when this launches sign up for the newsletter.

New deck update: Libra through early Sagittarius

Hello, and happy Sagittarius season to all fellow Sag. Work continues! Just wanted to share a few of the latest cards on my new deck (in progress since 2020!)

Here are a few I haven’t yet shared:

Two of Swords, first decan of Libra © M.M. Meleen

The 777 description for the Two of Swords, Peace. First decan face of Libra “A dark man, in his right hand a spear and laurel branch and in his left a book“. The decan is ruled by the Moon.

You can’t really tell in the scan, but in the original I had fun painting the sandy beach – I mixed coarse iridescent stainless steel paint with a buff colored paint, and it really looks like glittering gritty sand in the original.

Adjustment © M.M. Meleen

Major Arcana for Libra. Description per 777: “A conventional figure of Justice with scales and balances“. My favorite part of this one is how the floor deign extends and is seen behind the curtain, sort of as it it is extending out into the air – echoes of the Fool, Adjustment’s esoteric partner.

Four of Swords, third decan of Libra ©M.M. Meleen

The 777 description for the Four of Swords, Truce. Third decan face of Libra “A man riding on an ass, preceded by a wolf“. The decan and the 4th sephira are both ruled by Jupiter – double Jupiter, thus the two wheels, one of which is a gyroscope for the balance of Libra. Coloring that background was time consuming, getting that gradation of purples with colored pencil.

I think I’ve already shared the other Libra cards in a previous post.

Now for a selection of Scorpio cards:

Death © M.M. Meleen

Major Arcana for Scorpio. Description per 777: “A skeleton with a scythe mowing men. The scythe handle is a Tau.” Scorpio is ruled by Mars, thus the action of cutting. The Tau is a reference to the Universe card (Saturn, who also wields a scythe) and the idea of an end point in a cycle. Mars shines in the sky above (note the reddish tint).

Five of Cups, first decan of Scorpio

Five of Cups, Disappointment. First face of Scorpio description per 777: “A man with a lance in his right hand, in his left a human head“. The decan is ruled by Mars, as is the sign – and the 5th sephira! Triple Mars! This is one of the five rivers of Hell.

all right…time to skip one Scorpio card, for the sake of not posting all of them…so moving on to the Seven.

Seven of Cups, third decan of Scorpio

Seven of Cups, Debauch. Third face of Scorpio description per 777: “A horse and a wolf” (one of the few without people!) The decan is ruled by Venus, as is the 7th sephira (double Venus): note each of the Cups contains something Venusian as well as Scorpionic.

Prince of Cups, court card for Scorpio © M.M. Meleen

The Prince of Cups is the Air of Water card. I followed the Book T/Liber Theta description – to the T.

Onward to Sagittarius! The only one done so far is the Eight of Wands:

Eight of Wands, first decan of Sagittarius

Eight of Wands, Swiftness. First face of Sagittarius description per 777: “A man with three bodies: one black, one red, and one white” The decan is ruled by Mercury, as is the 8th sephira (double Mercury), while the sign is ruled by Jupiter. A very strange description that could be interpreted many ways. Since the card combines Sagittarius (Art) with Mercury (Magus), I went with the alchemical.

Whats on my work bench now? Right now, three cards. The Nine of Wands, for this current time of the middle decan of Sagittarius. Also, the Knight of Wands, the court card for Sagittarius. And of course the Art/Temperance card, the major arcana for Sagittarius.

Still a lot of work to do on this one! One of my favorites, Art/Temperance!

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Post Crowleymas update: Three of Swords, second face of Libra. And some catching up.

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping, into the future…

I am definitely going to take a course on time management … just as soon as I can work it into my schedule. All kidding aside, I realized I’ve not posted any progress pictures on the new deck since Cancer season, and here we are in Libra season already. All right one more time joke: Time flies like an arrow…fruit flies like a banana.

Time. It seems to be all I can do to finish the painting within each roughly ten day decan period, even working daily with few exceptions. The cards have each and every one been finished in the correct decan, come hell or high water – I’ve made sure of that. But the writing bits – both in the book for this deck I’m working on, and of course the updates here and in the newsletter, keep being woefully behind. Seems to be all I can do for now is complete the art on time. But winter is coming and there will be fewer chores related to the harvest and garden, so maybe I’ll catch up then. I need to pray to Saturn – the lord of time and the management thereof. Appropriate for the most recently finished card, involving Saturn (time) and Libra (balance).

Since the last post, the remaining Cancer cards, the Leo cards, the Virgo cards, and the cards of the first two faces of Libra – and the Queen of Swords, have been completed. So here is a look at the most recently completed card for the second or middle decan of Libra. The second face of Libra corresponds to the Three of Swords, Lord of Sorrow.

The decan ended this morning. Last night on Crowleymas, Crowley’s birthday, (after a meal involving curry as a nod to the Beast), I finished the Three of Swords, Lord of Sorrow, with a bit of late night painting. This card took the entirety of the decan period to finish painting the line art that was completed in the same decan of 2021 (and I do work hours daily), probably because of the magical description of the decan in 777: A man, dark, yet delicious of countenance.

The focus on his delicious countenance led me to do a more close-up portrait-style rendering than other cards, so I took a lot of time getting the face and hands shaded in, as well as testing color combinations of the decan’s colors and a wet-in-wet paint technique for the robe. I did the testing on the back of the image before committing to it on the front, something I do often.

The main color for the card (Binah in Yetzirah) is Dark Brown, and I also had the colors of Libra as the sign and Saturn as ruler of the second face of Libra. Which gives the greens and blues of Libra, and for Saturn we have the darker colors Indigo, Black, Blue-Black, and Black, rayed blue.

Though I’m not Catholic, the artistic inspiration for the card is pretty obviously somewhat influenced by those renditions of Jesus with the flaming heart, symbolizing his sorrow and suffering due to his compassion for humanity. Except this heart is flying. Swords for me are a suit of Air – not Fire, and the flying heart theme is something I painted before years ago, so I guess some of the inspiration was from my own previous pre-tarot-creation-era art. Here’s picture of one called “Wings spread wide into the Sun”. Not the best picture and the center of the heart is incomplete, but it gives you some idea of the gestation of this theme. I did this for my solar return in 2006, about a year or two before starting the creation of my first tarot the Rosetta:

You can see how this may have been a seed for my latest Three of Cups card:

Three of Swords M.M. Meleen 2023
© 2021-2023 M.M. Meleen. Three of Swords, Lord of Sorrow. Second face of Libra: A man, dark. yet delicious of countenance

Saturn is exalted in Libra, so this card, though called Sorrow, is associated with wisdom gained through experience, however painful it may be.

In this face, relationships (Libra) may be bound (Saturn); two things joined by a third: the pierced heart. 36 Airs of the Zodiac gives the deity as Kairos, a god associated with time management and perfect timing; as in the right or critical time; as time is a function of Saturn. This god was said to have a front forelock of hair, but no hair on the back of it’s head, the implication being that the right moment had to be seized or it would be too late to grasp it. Often the knowing of this moment involves pain and knowledge (Saturn) of the heart (Venus) – as well as formal contracts or bindings (Saturn) connecting people (Venus).

Yet this card also more often involves self-knowledge earned in a possibly heavy way: the mind influenced by the heart having been cracked open. Crowley refers to the wisdom of the Buddha, who discovered that there is suffering that leads to the end of suffering: the sorrow of Buddha led to his enlightenment.

“If Will stops and cries Why, invoking Because, then Will stops & does nought.” – Aleister Crowley, Book of the Law, Ch. 2, v. 30

Happy Birthday Uncle Al.

Since it has been a long while, here are a couple more cards completed since the last post. A selection from the last quarter of a year and the months of Leo, Virgo, and Libra. A minor arcana, a major arcana, and a court card.

I’ll just post the images here and the 777 descriptions rather than a write up of the artistic influences, symbolism depicted, and meanings. Time being what it is lately, you may have to wait for the book for that!

© 2021-2023 M.M. Meleen, Six of Wands

For Leo: The second face of Leo, Six of Wands, Lord of Victory: A man crowned with a white myrtle leaf, holding a bow

© 2020-2023 M.M. Meleen, The Hermit

The Hermit, for Virgo: Wrapped in a cloak and cowl, an Ancient walketh, bearing a lamp and staff. Before him goeth upright the Royal Uraeus serpent.

Queen of Swords, M.M. Meleen 2023
©2021-2023 M.M. Meleen. Queen of Swords

The Queen of Swords, another for Libra as she holds the first two faces of Libra (and the third face of Virgo). Per Book T: A graceful woman with wavy, curling hair, like a Queen seated upon a Throne and crowned. Beneath the Throne are grey cumulus clouds. Her general attire is as that of the Queen of Wands, but she wears as a crest a winged child’s head. A drawn sword in one hand, and in the other a large, bearded, newly severed head of a man.

That’s all for the moment, but if there is a particular card you are interested in seeing, and you have the time, drop me a line and if there are requests for a certain card or cards I’ll try to work some into the next newsletter (subscribe here), as soon as it’s time comes.

More about timing: All of the decan cards as well as their zodiacal majors and courts will be done at the end of this decan walk (the March 2024 Solstice). The Aces are done, Princess of Disks is done, and The Fool is just about done except for a finishing flourish I’m waiting to add at a certain astrologically appropriate time. Then there will still be the seven planetary majors, the other two elemental cards, and the remaining three of the Princess cards to do the color versions of – unless I work some of them in during this decan walk – if I get windows of time opening up. I estimate that the cards should be completed by the June 2024 Solstice.

Next up on my work bench, and needing to be done before Scorpio season gets here are the Four of Swords, Truce, and the Libra major, Adjustment/Justice. Enough words from me, for the time being anyway.

“Having to talk destroys the symphony of silence.” – Aleister Crowley

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36 Airs of the Zodiac clarification

So, weirdly, recently two different people emailed me asking some version of the question “where can I get the “book” 36 Airs of the Zodiac, that I have referenced in posts about the new deck. So I wanted to clarify.

It’s not a book but a fragment of a Hellenistic text, only known through being mentioned or referenced by other ancient authors after the fact.

You can find the list of the gods for each decan in the Wiki article about decans though, under the column labeled as attributed to “Cosmas” and it is listed as an appendix table in the modern work 36 Faces (great book by Austin Coppock) as well. Unfortunately, though he has a bibliography he doesn’t footnote or endnote his sources so you have to guess.

The Wiki Cosmas reference (aka Kosmas, an ancient hymnographer) attribution comes from a German text on the decans and after doing my own research I found that Coppock’s reference comes from ancient text translations from Robert Schmidt’s Project Hindsight – which by the way is an amazing astrology resource.

Fortunately, the Project Hindsight texts Coppock references can be found freely on the internet. Search them out if you have a few hours to lose reading them. LOL seriously I spent many hours combing all this stuff and found it all which I will share more when I have time to drill down but I found it so you can too! I’ve already given you enough hints if you are motivated to find this stuff too. It’s not going to all pop up on an internet search of “36 Airs of the Decans”, you have to work for it.

If you can read German, the German text the Wiki article references DEKANE UND DEKANSTERNBILDER by Wilhelm Gundel is also freely available on the internet. Though it is in German it has some awesome tables in it. I wish there was an English translation but have not found it.

Update: It appears that the Project Hindsight domain was stolen, and the real site owners have moved the information. Please see for more info.

Benebell Wen’s Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, Revelation edition

Forgive the not-so-great picture here – we are having yet another thunderstorm and the lighting in my house isn’t good. But I wanted to share a tarot deck created by Benebell Wen – the Spirit Keeper’s Tarot, in it’s latest (and greatest!) edition, the second printing of the Revelation edition which I think is the third iteration of the deck.

Before now I only had the original, first edition, black and white line drawing version, that Benebell somehow miraculously created in like, a few days – don’t ask me how she could do that. That edition is impressive for that alone, but also for how well thought out the system and the names of the cards are.

But now I have this latest edition, all I can say is wow! How it has evolved is nothing short of amazing. She took those black and white hand done line drawings and went digital on them, transforming them completely . I’m totally impressed. And I like, am the most pickiest of customers when it comes to tarot. No, I’m not at all one who nitpicks card stock or dents or minor production flaws and such as if I like it, I’m going to use the hell out of it anyway – but I hate shallow tarots where someone just copies RWS and calls it a day. This is not that. At all! And the art has really gotten a huge upgrade with the digital work she has done.

Everything and I mean everything, in this deck shows Benebell’s most thorough contemplation and consideration. It has her signature and sharp mind all over it. Do I agree with every single cards interpretation? Not totally in all cases, but they do all speak eloquently from a place of profound understanding of tarot. I’m really happy to see someone elevate tarot somehow when they create a deck, by including something to it that actually adds to a system and an understanding of tarot, instead of just changing stuff in a more personal way that is too specific to the creator.

The cards shown above in the top row are the three Fool cards the deck comes with, that you choose from as a significator based on your needs for the reading. The bottom row are just three cards I drew at random: Ace of Swords, the Golden Shield (Queen of Wands), and the Two of Chalices.

I love that it has three Fools, that the courts have their own unique system, and that the cards have the numbering system in the corner for doing the Opening of the Key (even though I only rarely in times of great need resort to that particular whole deal!)

The production values are awesome too. The “little white book” is actually a perfect bound book, and has tons of great information. Very well done. The cards are pleasingly matte printed, with really nice gilded edges – the mirror-like kind that doesn’t seem to flake. I wish I could do those but my printers don’t do that – I only print in US and that seems to be an overseas thing. The box is sturdy and attractive with a great quote from the Book of the Dead on back.

Plus it smells good – she personally anoints every outer deck wrapper with hand crafted herbal oil and a magnet to hold the magical charge. Lots of love there. Gotta love it!

So I think you can still order Spirit Keeper’s Tarot here, but probably not for long. Benebell sells more decks in a year than I can sell in 5 years, LOL seriously, so don’t wait as they are numbered and I’m sure they will sell out fast!

Fields and Forest Music poster!

My friends at Stone Cow Brewery are hosting a music festival event to raise money to preserve 1000 acres of local fields and forest into conservation status. That’s something I can really get behind! And at like the 11th hour, they asked me if I could design art for a music poster. They only gave me only a week to come up with the idea and create the art – which isn’t much time! and I’m in the middle of doing this new tarot deck wherein all of the cards must be painted in their appropriate decan, so it was a stretch!

But both the reason for the festival, and the folks at the brewery, are dear to my heart, so I just had to drop everything and make it happen! Plus, hey, I’ve always wanted to do a music poster – it’s totally what I was made to do!

They said they wanted “a beer goddess, pouring out music, with the theme of fields and forests, and oh yeah can you put a baby raccoon in there?” LOL check, check, check, and check! all in 🙂

They added the words; I just did the art.

Can you believe that when the brewery posted it on social media to raise interest both Farcebook and Instagroan banned it??!! One because they said it was “sexually provocative” (LOL I guess as my friend’s Dad commented, she is “horney” as in she literally has horns) and the other because the poster had the word “beer” on it as they serve food and beer in the field where the music is. But because it’s an “illustration” they say it is “marketing beer to children”. Gah – this is one of many reasons I am not on socials. You know if they had paid them the money for advertising instead of just posting it those problems likely would have magically gone away.

But they brewery people were cool they didn’t care – they love the art! It’s going on a can of “Fields and Forests IPA” too!

If you are in Central Mass, come to the fest, eat some food, drink some beer, listen to some jams with the Midnight Riders and Town Meeting, and help put land into conservation!

Queen of Cups – Cancer new moon

Queen of Cups © 2021-2023 M.M. Meleen

The Queen of Cups was painted during her two Cancer decans, (the first two) and I did the scan on the Cancer new moon which fell on Monday/Moon Day but technically fell in the third decan (that isn’t hers) but given her lunar nature felt appropriate.

This one is a good example of something I’ve been doing with these cards in that I paint on the BACK side of the paper. It’s translucent, so the colors show through the front but lighter and less intense. So I paint the backs really intense, then move to the front and work on the front with either more paint or colored pencil. It’s like working on toned paper or toned canvas then, as there is a base color to work with. And it preserves the line work better. But it only works well for lighter colors – darks get too lightened and muted.

But in her case not a lot had to be done to the front as I really liked the way it looked as is. Because she is a mirror – literally behind her is a magic mirror with the magic seal of the moon on it, and the water is also a mirror reflecting what is above her. The Queen of Cups is reflective and dreamy, so somehow I liked the muted translucence coming through the paper – it felt very lunar. So I barely worked on the front at all. Only the dark blue background was painted on the front, and a few touches of detail here and there with colored pencil.

The Book T description, which I tried to follow to the letter, reads:

A VERY beautiful fair woman like a crowned Queen, seated upon a throne,
beneath which is flowing water wherein Lotuses are seen. Her general dress is
similar to that of the Queen of Wands, but upon her crown, cuirass and buskins is
seen an Ibis with opened wings, and beside her is the same bird, whereon her
hand rests. She holds a cup, wherefrom a crayfish issues. Her face is dreamy. She
holds a lotus in the hand upon the Ibis.

She is imaginative, poetic, kind, yet not willing to take much trouble for another.
Coquettish, good-natured and underneath a dreamy appearance. Imagination
stronger than feeling. Very much affected by other influences, and therefore more
dependent upon dignity than most symbols.
She rules from 20 Degree Gemini to 20 Degree Cancer.
Water of Water
Queen of Nymphs or Undines.

Here is one of her decans or faces, the Three of Cups, Abundance, second face of Cancer. The color of the card per the Golden Dawn color scales is Black – plus the colors of her related majors for Cancer (The Chariot) and Mercury (The Magus).

The magical description of the decan in 777 reads “A beautiful woman wreathed with myrtle. She holds a lyre and sings of love and gladness.

Here she is pictured with her lyre, singing and swaying to the music as she proffers a toast with three beautiful cups. You can see the original line art and read more about her at the original post here.

The Two of Cups, her other Cancer decan, has the line art posted but the color version is in this month’s newsletter for subscribers. Subscribe here if you wish to be updated with my tarot newsletter.

The Hierophant and a bed of spinach

First, a “bed” of spinach. Just because. This was one half of the spinach harvest, washed and laid out on a cot to dry.

According to Rex E. Bill’s The Rulership Book spinach falls under the auspices of Saturn, Venus, and yes, Taurus, which is the sign associated to the Hierophant card. Beds are also Venus, Taurus’ ruler, because of course they are. When posting the last update on the new deck with some of the cards of Aries, Taurus, and Gemini, I meant to include The Hierophant, but forgot, so here it is now, with the bonus of a side of spinach.

But first, the description of the card from 777: “Between the Pillars sits an Ancient. He is crowned, sceptred, and blessing all in a threefold manner. Four living creatures adore him, the whole suggesting a pentagram by its shape.”

Oh boy, that’s a lot to get into the image isn’t it? Pillars, an Ancient, with crown, sceptre, threefold blessing, four “adoring” creatures, arranged as a pentagram.

The crowned and sceptred Ancient “blessing all in a threefold manner” was inspired by St Patrick, who used a shamrock to teach the Christian doctrine of “three persons in one God” – except here in this more Thelemic take the three Gods are Nuit, Hadit, and Horus, and the three Aeons of Isis, Osiris, and Horus. Only Horus for this the New Aeon appears directly in the image as the dancing child, though Nuit can be inferred by the starry canopy and Hadit as the central point of focus, unseen and hidden behind the child.

The “four adoring creatures” that so lovingly accompany him are of course the Kerubic creatures of the four fixed astrological signs, elementally all accounted for. The interlocking pentagrams and hexagram suggest the uniting of macro and microcosms, divine and earthly consciousness, via the Hierophant as the connecting “nail” of Vav, the Son and the Holy Guardian Angel.

The Golden Dawn color scale colors are Red Orange, Deep Indigo, Deep Warm Olive*, and Rich Brown.


The Hierophant card © M.M. Meleen
The Hierophant card © 2020-2023 M.M. Meleen

Work continues on the new deck. I’ve just finished all the Cancer cards: the Two, Three, and Four of Cups with their decan imagery, and done in their respective decan periods. Simultaneously also worked on and completed the other Cancer cards: the Chariot and the Queen of Cups. More to follow…

The new deck – the faces of Aries, Taurus, Gemini

It’s been a long time since I was able to give an update on the new deck in progress. During the span of each sign, I’m working on the color process for at least 5 cards. These are the minor cards whose line art was inked during the “decan walk” of March 2021-March 2022, and also the related Majors and courts.

The 36 small cards are painted/colored in the approximate 10 day period that the Sun occupies their corresponding decan. As those get done, I’m also working on the Major card associated with the sign, and the court card that has two decans of that sign are completed during those two decans.

So for example, during the first face of Aries aka the first decan of Aries, I completed the Two of Wands, also known as(the Lord of) Dominion. (Throughout this, I’ll link the original post with thoughts on each card, as I don’t have time to write much again and it’s all still here.)

With all this painting, plus life going on and garden season happening, I have not had much time/energy left for posting. But here is a look at the art at least, and some links back to the post for the line art with thoughts at the time. I’m putting back some of the previously deleted line art too so you can compare to the color versions.

The newly completed Two of Wands, first face or decan of Aries
Magical description of the decan per 777: A tall, dark, restless man, with keen flame-coloured eyes, bearing a sword.

After the Two of Wands was done, I started in on the Emperor. He was worked on throughout the sign of Aries. During the next decan period for the Three of Wands, I’d also work on the Queen of Wands, who had the majority of her decans in the sign of Aries and has the Two and Three of Wands in her purview. Sometimes I’d be working on two cards at once, say the Two of Wands and the Emperor, or the Queen and the Three of Wands.

The Emperor completed card
per 777: A flame clad god bearing equivalent symbols. His attitude suggests [sulfur], and he is seated upon the cubical stone, whose sides show the green lion and white eagle.

Three of Wands original post commentary, and new art:

Second face of Aries: A green-clad woman, with one leg bare from the ankle to the knee.
The completed Four of Wands
A restless man in scarlet robes, with golden bracelets on his hands and arms.

Four of Wands or third face of Aries commentary

Queen of Wands just after completion
Queen of Wands, who has the first and second decan of Aries in her domain.
“A crowned queen with long red-golden hair, seated upon a throne,
with steady flames beneath. She wears a corselet and buskins of scale-mail, which latter her robe
discloses. Her arms are almost bare. On cuirass and buskins are winged leopard’s heads; the
same symbol surmounts her crown. At her side is a couchant leopard on which her hands rest.
She bears a long wand with a very heavy conical head. Her face is beautiful and resolute.” – Book T

The we get into the very agricultural decans of Taurus, which indeed do correspond to me doing lots of gardening work here in the Northern hemisphere. Here is the Five of Disks, first face of Taurus the first decan of Taurus, Lord of Material Trouble aka Worry – will we reap what we sow?

Five of Disks just after completion
per 777: A woman with long and beautiful hair, clad in flame-coloured robes

Some commentary on this card and its connection with sowing, plowing, and dividing the land.

completed Six of Disks
from 777: A man of like figure (to the ascendant decan, aka the female figure from the 5 of Disks) with cloven hoofs like an ox.

…and the original commentary for Six of Disks. You can see the solar (Six) and lunar (Moon as ruler of Taurus II) in the combination of Apollo/Selene

Seven of Disks
“A swarthy man with white lashes, his body elephantine with long legs; with him, a horse, a stag, and a calf.” per 777 magical images of the decan

original commentary on the third face of Taurus, the Seven of Disks or Failure, here

The Prince of Disks: A winged princely figure seated in a chariot drawn by a bull. He
bears as a crest, the symbol of a winged bull’s head. Beneath the chariot is land, with many
flowers. In one hand he bears an orb of gold held downwards, and in the other a scepter sur-
mounted by an orb and cross. – Book T

As of now, I’ve also completed all the Gemini cards, but have run out of time for posting for now. I finished the 8, 9, and 10 of Swords – all of the faces or decans of Gemini – plus the Lovers and the Knight of Swords. I will share some of those in the newsletter. Sign up here to see more!

The new Aces and a few of my favorite things

Making progress on painting the cards of my new deck. It’s funny, I recently was reading a thread on the TT&M tarot forum about AI art. Someone there who is using AI to create a deck was, well I guess defending it from detractors by saying that it also required a lot of work on their part. They mentioned something along the lines of that on a good day, they were “only able to get 2-3 cards done” due to the level of tweaking required. I had to laugh – only 2 or 3 cards A DAY!!

Between the pencil drawing, then doing the lines with a dip pen, then completing the card by painting in the colors with paint and a brush or with colored pencils, I’m lucky to get 2-3 done in a month! And that is putting in 6-8 hours every day. Not including the drawing or black line inking, just the coloring process is averaging around 35-40 hours per card. So at most I can get one card’s colors painted on in around 5 days. And there was probably around 40 additional hours in the design and black ink line process for each. 70-80 hours total per card!

Even just doing a solid color background takes hours as sometimes it takes 2-3 coats to get it not streaky. As I do this, I keep swearing that the next deck I do (if I do another) will have plain backgrounds NOT painted in!!

While laboriously filling in a background with paint or pencil I also think about how it must be to work digitally – CLICK – instant fill in of background. Want a gradient? CLICK. Repeat a texture? Click. Click. Click. Don’t like the color? CLICK and in one second it is instantly erased! Move an object? Resize it? No problem! If I don’t like something I’ve painted it is utter agony as I have to paint over it and all that time to paint it the first time was wasted! And you don’t dare make a real mistake.

Not saying that digital art isn’t work, I know it is. But man I feel like a cave dweller sometimes – I’m literally painting with sticks and animal tails LOL. Well, actually I think the brush I’m currently using is synthetic animal tail so hey, the modern age! While the pigments are traditional, acrylic paints and inks are a relatively modern material though.

But I like working with the art media. I also like having a finished piece of art when I’m done, rather than a digital file. I’m not sure why I like it; it certainly does not do me much good financially. The art materials are crazy expensive – and no one wants to buy originals for anything remotely resembling compensation. 70-80 hours of time and $$$ on materials and it’s still not easy to sell a piece of art even with a price as low as $200-300. Minus materials and you are making maybe $2-$4 per hour, if you can even sell it at all. So yeah, for now all my originals sit in storage, waiting for me to die I guess LOL then maybe my relatives can do something with them.

These are the tools I’m using – and some of my favorite things. Some of them I just couldn’t live without when it comes to art making.

  • The dorky looking headset – absolute necessity for seeing teeny tiny details with my eyes not being what they used to
  • The drafting board is great. I clip the paper in it and it has vertical and horizontal ruler guides built in
  • I love the porcelain palettes and use them for every type of paint. I have a ton of the round ones shown that are stackable which is great! And the one with 12 teeny wells I found in an antique store years ago. It’s great for using the liquid ink as you only need small amounts at a time
  • The nib pen is a Tachi nib holder and a Nikko Japanese G nib. I also use a smaller crow quill nib sometimes. Those two were what I used to do all the inked line art for the new deck
  • The black ink lines were all done in FW ink
  • I like the little TomBow eraser for erasing fine lines. If I get some colored pencil on some of the black ink lines where I don’t want it, it can carefully remove it
  • The Exacto knife is good for scratching details or carefully scratching off a stray droplet of dried ink or removing some colored pencil buildup
  • The brush is one I’ve been using for every single card. I’m weird in that I use that same tiny brush for everything – tiny details OR huge areas of flat color. I tend to pick a brush and use it til its worn to nothing. I have TONS of brushes – some of them quite expensive – but so far I’ve just been doing everything with that brush. I’m not even sure what it is as it came free with some paints I bought, and just has the companies name on it, so it’s swag. I wish I could buy more.
  • For the colors, I use a lot of acrylic ink. Mostly I use the Liquitex “Ink!” brand, but I also use FW ink, and Dr Martin’s Bombay ink.
  • For acrylic paint I use a lot of Golden products: the Fluid acrylics, the Matte acrylics, and the High Flow acrylics
  • I also use Alpha6 fluid acrylic paints and love them. The ones I’ve been using are formulated for painting on cloth and leather as they are flexible, but I also use them on the mylar (that’s what all these cards are painted on
  • I’m using colored pencils too, mostly an oil based pencil by Faber Castell called PolyChromos. Love them! But I also have the PrismaColors wax based which work really well on the mylar too
  • Once in a while I use pastel pencils by Stabilo, for some things, or a white charcoal pencil by General
  • As the cards progress who knows, I might also use gouache or acrylic gouache, panpastel, ink pencils, or even oils – whatever works I’ll use!

And now, some of the art. I guess since this is the first post showing the completed cards it is fitting that it will be of the Aces. The Majors and Minors of this deck are based on the 777 descriptions, but the Aces and Courts are based on the Golden Dawn descriptions from Book T or Liber Theta.

The Ace of Wands – that fire effect was super fun to paint, using a “wet-in-wet” technique and transparent paints.

Golden Dawn Traditional Description: “A White Radiating Angelic Hand, issuing from clouds and grasp-
ing a heavy club, which has three branches in the colors, and with the sigils, of the scales. The
right- and left-hand branches end, respectively, in three flames, and the center one in four flames;
thus yielding 10, the number of the Sephiroth. Twenty-two leaping flames, or Yods, surround it,
answering to the 22 Paths; of these, three fall below the right branch for Aleph, Mem, and Shin;
seven above the central branch for the double letters; and between it and that on the right, 12 (six
above and six below) about the left-hand branch. The whole is a great and flaming torch.”

In all the Aces, as in the Thoth deck, I’ve chosen not to depict the “White Radiating Angelic Hand” holding the elemental implement. Also, while I otherwise followed the description, I’ve never really been happy with the way this card has been depicted in other Golden Dawn based decks, finding that most depictions show the three branches with ten flames looking way too much like some strangely shaped chicken-foot bouquet with toes ringed in psychedelic colors!

Someone asked to show sketches or even failed sketches as part of the process. Here is something that is kind of both.

This is a rough sketch of the top of the Ace of Wands based on that GD description. I made the sketch to sort out all those yod-flames described and their placement, but ultimately decided to show the entire Wand rather than a close up of the top like that. You can maybe see more clearly though that the top of the wand is a big flaming letter Shin.

Each of the Aces has an element that ties it to its related elemental Major, but I guess that won’t be obvious until you see them together. In the Ace of Wands, it’s the being at the wands base making the magical gesture for fire, as seen in the Aeon/Judgement card.

Here is a little excerpt from the guidebook saying what each element of the picture is and why it was chosen. The guidebook will also have the card meanings as used in a reading, but I’m just placing the section on the symbolism here.

The Symbolism of the drawing: (excerpted from the forthcoming guidebook © M.M. Meleen)

Here the heavy club with three branches has become a torch with the branches forming the three segments of the letter Shin, associated with The Aeon, elemental Major of Fire. As in the description, the flames are colored in the Golden Dawn color scales, each appropriate for what it represents. The central branch ending in four flames is colored with the King Scale colors of the sephiroth of the Middle Pillar of the Tree of Life: the uppermost white for Kether, followed by clear pink rose for Tiphareth, indigo for Yesod, and yellow for Malkuth.

The three flames that top the left branch are crimson, orange, and violet purple for Binah, Geburah, and Hod. The flames of the right branch are pure soft blue for Chokmah, deep violet for Chesed, and amber for Netzach. All have white bases for Kether.

The description references “yod-shaped flames” as the Ace of Wands corresponds to the first letter of the name YHVH, the yod. Yod, meaning hand, is the divine hand of creation. It’s the primal male force, looking very much like a spermatozoon. The simple flame of Yod is the basis of creation for all of the other Hebrew letters. It is said that the first sephira, Kether, emerges from the tip of the Yod.

The 22 yod-shaped flames represent the paths, or Major Arcana. The three largest on the right are in the three primary colors, and stand in for the three classical elements, or the Hebrew “mother letters” Aleph (air), Mem (water), and Shin (fire). Of these, Shin is the largest, for the elemental fire of the Wands suit.

The seven flames above the wand represent the seven classical planets, or the seven “double letters”, and are appropriately colored in their seven prismatic colors. Green as the central of the seven flames is appropriate, for the glyph of Venus encompasses the Tree of Life itself. The 12 yod-flames around the left branch expand these colors, adding secondary colors, to represent the 12 zodiacal signs or “single letters”.

On the body of the torch, the white symbol is the sigil of Kether. All of the Aces correspond to Kether but none more than the Ace of Wands, the first of the first. The red glyph is the sigil of fire and archangel Michael. The green ankh is the Egyptian symbol for growth, and life. Below the symbols, the spirit emerging from the base of the wand is the figure from the Aeon card (elemental trump of Fire), making the upright triangle symbol of fire upon his brow.

The Ace of Wands, as the first of the Minor Arcana, tells the story of creation, and the emerging spark of life that creates the lightning strike. This is the lightning path of the flaming sword that traces the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life as the world was created. This lightning spontaneously erupts from out of the three veils that precede creation: Ain (Nothing), Ain Soph (Limitlessness or Infinity), and Ain Soph Aur (Endless Light). From the deep void of “Nothing” comes a fade from dark to light representing the “Infinity”, and then the white of “Endless Light” comes forth in splendor. This forms the white sun of Kether, the first sephira. The color of Kether in the King Scale is only described as “Brilliance”. In both the Queen and Prince Scales, the color is “White Brilliance”. In the Princess Scale, the color becomes “White, flecked gold”, and this is what we see in the emerging rays.

An explosion of 78 red tetrahedrons follow, for the complete 78 cards of the tarot. The tetrahedron is the platonic solid for the Fire element, and the platonic solids are the building blocks of all creation. The tetrahedron is the has the simplest structure and the smallest volume of all the platonic solids. As the simplest structure with both an “inside” and an “outside” and the only with the same number of vertices as faces, it is considered the fundamental unit of creation. The “Flower of Life” we are familiar with in its 2D depiction is comprised of 64 tetrahedrons in 3D.  The tetrahedron is also associated with the solar plexus chakra, the center from which we draw personal power with which to perform our Will, and manifest and create.

At the bottom of the lightning flash, the Tree of Life ends in Malkuth, the fourfold elements in earthly manifestation. Below them, the black face of a pyramid is rayed with yellow: the color of the Princess Scale of Malkuth, the final stage of materialization.

The Ace of Cups Golden Dawn Traditional Description: “A White Radiant Angelic Hand, issuing from clouds, and supporting on its palm a cup, resembling that of the Purifier. From it rises a fountain of clear and glistening water; and sprays falling on all sides into clear calm water below, in which grow lotuses and water-lilies. The great Letter of the Supernal Mother (heh primal) is traced in the spray of the Fountain.”

As mentioned in the traditional description, the great Letter of the Supernal Mother (heh primal of the Tetragrammaton YHVH) is traced in the spray of the Fountain, and glows slightly more illuminated by the moonlight. Heh has the meaning of “window,” which is an opening that lets in illumination. It is a female and receptive energy – the form that receives the force of the Yod that precedes it. If the Ace of Wands is a “solar-phallic force” then the Ace of Cups is a “lunar-yonic form.”

Note that the fountain also forms what appears to be the letter M, which corresponds to the Hebrew letter Mem which means “water” and is associated with the Hanged Man, trump of elemental water. It is the hum of Om, the sacred sound of meditation. The letter M and words derived from it have connections to things of the sea, things of matter, and things maternal. The spray also creates the forms of undines, naiads or water nymph spirit beings associated with elemental water. These in shape are reminiscent of the dryad or Meliae of the ash tree upon which the Hanged Man is suspended.

Ace of Swords Golden Dawn Traditional Description: “A White Radiating Angelic Hand[1], issuing from clouds, and grasping the hilt of a sword, which supports a White Radiant Celestial Crown; from which depend, on the right, the olive branch of Peace and, on the left, the palm branch of suffering. Six Vavs fall
from its point.”

[1] In all the Aces, as in the Thoth deck, I have chosen not to depict the “White Radiating Angelic Hand” holding the elemental implement.

Check out that funky impossible perspective on the white crown!

The sword issues from a bank of clouds of the air element, and as in the traditional description, “supports a White Radiant Celestial Crown; from which depend, on the right, the olive branch of Peace and, on the left, the palm branch of suffering.” Peace and suffering describe the next two cards of the suit, the Two and Three of Swords. They also represent a duality of mind states encompassing the human experience, that Buddhists know well as a teaching about suffering and the cessation of suffering.

White brilliance is the color of the Aces in the Prince Scale. The white crown is a symbol of the first sephira Kether (the Crown) – the source of divinity. The crown is here depicted flared out from a unique and impossible perspective, to show that it is comprised of 22 points. Twenty-two is recognizably the number of Major Arcana – and while the Fool, the Major Arcana elementally associated with Air is numbered as Atu zero, it is considered the 22nd trump and alternately numbered twenty-two. We see the profile of the Fool engraved on the Damascus steel blade. The hilt of the sword is winged, for the Air element.

Twenty-two is also the path of the Hebrew letter Lamed, the Justice or Adjustment card – the Sword as an instrument of upholding Justice and correcting wrongs. There is also a profound relationship between the Fool card (Air, letter Aleph, the Ox) and the Justice/Adjustment card (Libra/Lamed, the Ox Goad). Lamed/Adjustment is the teacher that shows the Fool the way. The sword is through a large Aleph in its King Scale color of bright pale yellow, and points at Lamed in its King Scale color of emerald green. Together Aleph and Lamed can spell אל (aleph-lamed, AL or El, a name of God) or can spell לא (lamed-aleph, LA, which means “Not”).

The Ace of Disks in progress, above. Man this one was a challenge to paint. All those tiny details in the mandala of the disk!

Parts of that mandala, in case you were wondering, was created with drafting gears – kind of like Spirograph for adults, if you are old enough to remember the Spirograph toy! It’s actually created by a combination of several different gear designs, and I had to get each to line up precisely with the next, so that all the inner and outer rings align, so they all had to match mathematically.

Both the inner and outer rings all have 36 petals, all based on maths of 6 and 36. 36 for the number of the zodiacal decans (and the minor arcana) as well as 36 being a solar number for the same reason (the sun’s yearly travel thru the decans) and as 6×6, the magic square of the Sun. The Sun and the Earth pentacle are intimately interconnected.

Ace of Disks Traditional Description: “A White Radiant Angelic Hand, holding a rose tree branch,
whereon is a large Disk formed of five concentric circles. The innermost circle is white, charged
with a red Greek cross. From this white center, 12 white rays issue; these terminate at the circumference, making the whole resemble an astrological figure of the heavens. It is surmounted by a small circle, above which is a large white Maltese cross, and with two white wings. Four crosses and two buds are shown. The Hand issues from the clouds as in the other three cases.”

I do wonder about that penultimate sentence: “Four crosses and two buds are shown.” I really wonder if that is a typo – shouldn’t it be four roses and two buds are shown? I checked and both Book T and Liber Theta say “crosses”. All the other GD decks show four roses and two buds on the Ace of Pentacles, and no crosses. But I found it inspiring, as if you look closely at the four open roses, each has a little Malkuth cross in the heart of the rose’s center. The flowering of the four worlds.

all images and text © 2020-2023 M.M. Meleen