Executive Pagan

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A little tarot

Posted by Erik on April 1, 2008

I don’t read tarot too often – on the rare occasions I feel a need for divination, I usually use either the Homer oracle or the Limyran (Greek alphabet) oracle, although I sometimes use a tarot reading to sanity-check my results – but I do love to collect decks that I consider either particularly beautiful or striking, or that speak to me somehow. I have acquired two decks recently that are really calling out to be explored in depth.

Robert M. Place has created a handful of tarot decks in the last few years, including the Alchemical Tarot and the deck that I have, the Buddha Tarot. I first stumbled across this deck on Aeclectic.net, and thought the idea seemed a bit… well, odd, to be honest. But the very simple, stylized (but attractive!) art caught my eye, and when I actually held the deck at the store I knew I had to have it. It comes with a full sized book, and the introductory essays alone are worth the cost of the package. Mr. Place is obviously quite familiar with the Western mystery tradition and the place of both tarot and historical alchemy in that tradition, and he draws some absolutely fascinating parallels between the alchemical soul-journey he sees encoded in the Majors, and the life of the Buddha. This deck also ties in with my explorations into Shinto – the author’s comparison of alchemy and Buddhism roughly parallels the possibilities I see in a working relationship between Shinto and Druidry.

The other deck that has been haunting me lately is John Matthews’ new Grail Tarot (with glorious Renaissance-style art by Giovanni Caselli). This deck is grounded in the more speculative/esoteric side of the Western tradition, as it is primarily concerned with the Templars, the Grail and the Matter of Britain – and is heavily Christian in its symbolism, which is both reasonable and appropriate. (As Richard Barber points out in his excellent book on the Grail, tenuous connections to ancient Cauldrons and such notwithstanding, the Grail is, in the end, a Christian symbol. It arose in literature written by Christians, and the spiritual aspects of the legends were elucidated within the shelter of the Church; in fact, after their music and teachings on social justice, I consider the Matter of the Grail to be perhaps Christianity’s greatest contribution to the world.)

There is one aspect of this deck that I think will prove extremely interesting, and may even prove to be revolutionary in a couple of ways – the Majors, and each suit, are drawn in such a way that laid side by side they form a continuous frieze that depicts the overarching thematic “story” of that part of the deck. This deck fairly begs to be used with Slade Roberson’s tarot storyboarding method of reading, and in fact a variant of this method is suggested in the appendix to the book that accompanies the deck (and like the Buddha tarot, the book is both essential to full appreciation and well worth the cost by itself).

Lately I have been called back more and more to the French and British aspects of my heritage, and this deck speaks to that calling in abundance (even my Hellenic worship, which has always been as much about the Renaissance and Romantic transmission as about the ancient original, is taking at least a temporary back seat to this). I’m not sure where this calling is going to lead me – although when combined with a growing sense of urgency around bringing nature more actively into my spiritual work (see above re: Shinto), I am reappraising the OBOD course materials and wondering if it’s time to take up that work again. I think that this shift in emphasis has been the cause of my spiritual malaise – I didn’t want to see that I’m growing and changing (yet again).

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2 Responses to “A little tarot”

  1. Ali said

    I saw Matthews’ Grail Tarot in the local bookstore the other day and really had to practice some self-restraint in not pouncing on it immediately (he also has a little green book of Celtic verse–I don’t know if it’s new, but it’s new to me and my pursestrings were groaning to be untied!). For some reason, I’ve always felt guilty buying tarot decks (I only have two, the classic Rider-Waite deck, and Brian Froud’s Faery Oracle deck, which isn’t even technically a tarot deck at all). Perhaps because I just don’t do actual readings with them very often–I usually use my homemade Ogham sticks for divination, and even that tends to be rare. But some of these decks are gorgeous works of art in themselves, so I find it hard to resist wanting a deck of my own as if it would fulfill some sort of aesthetic addiction, almost. Shrug.

    I think I know what you mean about the “spiritual malaise.” I’m not experiencing quite the same thing, but since officially completing my first degree work with AODA, I find myself wanting to take a rather lengthy break before moving on to the second degree work, and instead reread and reacquaint myself with some of the material from over the past two years. Meanwhile, my OBOD Bardic Grade work is almost done, too… It’s almost like I’ve reached a plateau and I want to pause for a moment and take a good look around before starting on the next climb. Maybe wait for the dust to settle a bit and see where I am. So… actually, I suppose my experience is in some ways opposite yours! :)

  2. executivepagan said

    as if it would fulfill some sort of aesthetic addiction

    Yep, that sounds about right. :)

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