The Cartomancer Magazine Summer 2016
The August 2016 edition of The Cartomancer contains two weighty, serialized articles, as well as the usual gorgeous artwork and an intriguing range of topics. The article that anchors this edition for me is Marseille Tarot: A Phylosophical Enquiry by three Brazilian tarotists. In this article, the first of two, the authors describe various philosophical approaches to tarot study. Quite frankly, I had a hard time sorting it out; but here’s how I disentangled the threads into four main approaches to tarot:
- Jungian (Carl Jung and Sallie Nichols). Images on the cards are a distillation of archetypes from the collective unconscious.
- Realist (Michael Dummett). The cards were designed for game playing. One should stick to verifiable facts about the social context and use of the decks.
- Spiritualist (French and English occultists). There is a spiritual reality independent of our minds which manifests in the world through mediums and enlightened masters who see through the illusion of material reality. We can share that vision by purifying our minds, using Tarot is a map of initiation. The deck is designed to convey spiritual truths.
- Sensuous Intuition (Henri Bergson). Focusing on the object itself (card image) opens circuits in the brain that unfold layers of reality. The viewer’s memory and pre-conceptions influence the nature of what is seen. We don’t “rise above” material reality to transcendent realms.
Part 2 in the upcoming issue of The Cartomancer will elaborate on Bergson’s theories. I’m looking forward to this as it seems to agree with my view that the cards are magic carpets to other levels of reality which are implicit in the imagery and our minds; not out there in a separate spiritual realm.
Part 2 of a 3-part article by Eric K. Lerner on the Justice-Strength switch is important for anyone reading with Waite Smith decks. Since they began putting numbers on trump cards in the 16th century, Strength has been trump 11 and Justice has been trump 8. I knew the switch was made by the Golden Dawn in the late 1800s and enshrined in the Waite Smith deck of 1909. I also knew the switch had something to do with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet assigned to the cards. But, truthfully, I was never interested enough to inquire further about the implications.
The first two articles give a concise background on French occultism of the 18th and 19th centuries; how tarot got mixed in with Qabala, the Hebrew Alphabet and the Tree of Life; and what Waite was thinking when he made the switch. There’s a discussion of why Oswald Wirth and Aleister Crowley disagreed with the switch. The next issue will go into the implications of all this for tarot readers.
In my not so humble opinion, if you want to delve into the wisdom behind your deck, rather than just flipping cards for fortune telling, you need to go beyond uncritically accepting the card meanings in your latest how-to-read book. This series of articles is a good start in educating yourself about the deep structure of the tarot deck and the meaning it conveys.
In the Tarot Art section, along with decks based on Maori themes, goddess magic and nineteenth century cabinet cards, we find Tarocchi di Marcelo Inciso. This redrawn TdM is designed to look like woodcuts and stone rubbings, while staying close to traditional imagery. I’m excited to announce that its creator has re-discovered the Happy Squirrel card, which was evidently lost from every known historic TdM.
Force, Tarot de Marsella Robledo, Iskander, 2016
Strength, The Rider Tarot Deck, US Games Systems, Inc., 1971
Scoiattolo della Felicità (Happy Squirrel), Tarocchi di Marcelo Incisco, Lynyrd-Jym Narciso, 2015