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.

4 thoughts on “The Azimuth

  1. I’m always impressed by your art, but having just started watercolors myself, I’m now extra impressed. The way you got that beam of light on The Emperor and all the detailing has me floored. This deck will be well worth however long it takes to complete! Best of luck!

    1. Watercolor is tricky! You don’t know how many paintings I have had to throw away. That was hard for me to get used to. I have had to develop more patience. But it can do some wonderful things nothing else can do. It is fun but so frustrating too. Thanks so much for commenting and good luck on your watercolor journey!

  2. Bravo! I love this depiction and renaming. Brilliant! Just as an aside I received the Anchor card as my evening card in my daily Lenormand reading this morning…and here it is, evening, and, why, there it is!! The Anchor! Oh, how the Universe loves to laugh! 🙂

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