The Anieth Tarot and Its Relation to the Players
I have been fascinated by Tarot cards every since I first stole a peek at my mother's deck when I was a child. My father had this mysterious book called Dune and my mother had Tarot decks. I vividly recall desiring to be old enough to enter these worlds and understand them. I started my analysis of the Tarot some time later and pretty much decided that much of what was out there was confused and muddled. The whole deck seemed to me to be a record of certain development paths. When I came upon the Four-Fold way of Magic, the Tarot confirmed that the paths of the lower arcana were to be mapped onto the psychologial/spiritual paths noticed by Campbell and others doing research into pre-Christian Europe.
When I looked at story motifs and read Campbell's book on the hero's journey, I realized that the deck also represented the four stories. I will go into them briefly here, but I've written three books about these story myths. The hero's journey explained by Campbell, is not a complete motif but a truncated motif. The short tale is extremely popular in movie writing, and follows a plot similar to the first Star Wars with Luke Skywalker leaving his home. The complete cycle is very much like the life story of Anakin Skywalker. In the West, we hear a great deal about the hero's journey, not realizing that the hero always turns into the oppressor after the hero wins the princess, inherits the kingdom and becomes king. He then starts to accumulate bad mana, enemies, and become more and more tabu until he is wholely evil, and oppresses his own people whom he should be protecting. He is redemed by his own death and is reborn as the son. This is the form of religion among Christians and is an ancient, ancient motif that survived into the Classical Age. It is a familiar tale, popular and considered by some to be the only story from which all others are derived.
The match to the hero's journey is the bride's journey. Her story is popular also in a truncated version as in the Cinderella tale. She makes her path out of the ordinary world and into the magical world where she meets her prince. The other half of the tale is also very popular, but in the form of a horror tale, usually about vampires. The entire story shows the bride going to her holy wedding after being helped to win her prince with animal helpers and a fairy godmother, and after she marries, becoming obsessed with power and eternal youth to the point where she may devour her own young in order to keep herself at the point of becoming queen. After she is finally killed or horribly punished she becomes the holy mother who has compassion for all because she has been all.
And finally, the mirror story or the partner story to the trickster story of the witch or talent's journey. This story shows up in bits and pieces mixed in with bride stories, but is not a bride story. The talent goes into service to a mentor to learn to dominate the "god-given" power within, sometimes in the priesthood, but more often as an artist, craftsman, or student of some skill. In the story, the witch leaves the magical world, usually on a time constraint. She must do something to save the world or give it some of her talent before she "burns" up. This story is mostly illustrated in fiction as a cautionary tale of some extraordinarily talented person who is "magical" but an alcoholic or drug addict or suicidal in another form. In the longer version, the witch is imprisoned in the dark kingdom and succeeds in destroying it through her power, and maybe the world as well. She ends up as a star, shining in the darkness out of the end of destruction.
In this illustration, you can see the complete spiral and figure eight of the four stories rising up or falling down and the points where the story lines meet. For a fuller description of all of this, I directed you to the articles on plot and writing and story motifs. I use these four stories in my own work. How do these stories end up matching up with the Tarot?
I began by trying to untangle Graves's work in his book on the ogham and the secret names of god entitled, The White Goddess. Rather than try to do too much fretting over the tree alphabet and which trees matched, in this exercise, I merely tried to match up the letters with the classical alphabet. Crowley also sensed this and tried to match up the major arcana with the Hebrew alphabet for a kabbala connection. Here is my result:
It is not entirely in order but I tried to make it close enough that you can see what Crowley and I discovered and my match to the Gaelic tree alphabet on the right of the Greek. I then tried to put it in alphabetical order.
You may notice my phonetic notes to try to untangle some of the letters. This was the only way I could "match" up the alphabets. In the sounds of Gaelic, many of the consonants change when next to other letters. A "t" might sound more like a "ch" or a "d" like a "j" sound. The letter "r" can sound like a "d" or a "t". Alphabets are not precise! They represent grammar more often that the accurate sound. English doesn't make much attempt to represent sounds accruately with spelling, but pretends that the sound changes don't exist at all. The vowels often take on a glide or a doubling to compensate for a consonant change. "glide" is pronounced "gly-eed" because of the slender "d" sound at the end of the word, for instance. So all of this is approximiate, but good enough for our needs as you shall see.
I then tried various groupings according to the ogham "flights" of trees, four groups of five, and came up with this final arrangement, dumping the flights of ogham for the sake of grouping the cards on the points that you see in the above spirals.
I took a look at the minor arcana. It was already four paths. They were already assigned a number of attributes by many different people. This was my own interpretation.
I first assigned the categories that I knew from my reading and study. I then added in other categories that seemed to fit. Again, I am playing around with the categories and assigning other "four-fold" maps to fit into those categories. I am sure that we can force fit some of these categories differently. Play with it yourself, for part of the fun of the cards is growing your own intuition about them. After some time, this was what I came up with for interpretation:
I tried to neutralize the words and make them more abstract. With a bit of play and some slight modification, I came up with some interpretations which you can see in the following two screen shots.
As you can imagine, this was a bit easier than doing all the images! Here are a few for you to enjoy.
This is my character Valerie Stanford who plays Queen Briau in a couple of the later books. She is Holly Queen of the White Nation of the Setting Moon, but is a bit psychotic, as any good moon card representative should be. She has her three colored moon wolves in the background and stands in front of a lake surrounded by a moon tree: the willow. Willow is represented by another card, but I wanted to tie in Briau to that tree rather than the rowan tree in my original assortment. This is what I mean by play. This word for moon in Gaelic even sounds like our English word for willow, pronounced "yalla."
Here is one of my other characters, Morga Riaffacca, who better represents the moon card because she is of the Rowan/Lynx Nation, the Black Nation of the Starry Night. Yet, again, her tree is the willow and not the rowan. Sometimes you have to let your intuition go on images. This card could also be the Strength card, although the character of Morga is not a priestess card, but a lover/bride card. She should represent Temperance. I will figure it out; in the meantime, I'm having fun trying to just get some cards done. Here the the original painting.
This is Raol Aveldonacc as teh Hanged Man, bound in a thorn tree with the serpent beside him. He was elected Briar King of the Green Nation of Singing Summer and his wife was the Serpent Queen. Again, my original tree in my map was the oak, which is mythologically as accruate as the thorn. This is an image of the dead and living king or the holy sacrifice represented by the card. This image is usually depicted as a thief or some other man who is punished rather than the holy sacrifice of the king because of the religion connotations in Christianity with Jesus on the Cross. My own opinion is that the Jesus story is several layers. Part of that story was to meld the old holy story with the new image so that the religious form rings True. The form is not the object, just as the map is not the territory. The form of the sacrifice of the vegetative king of the sun is very ancient and has its own wisdom. That it is similar to the story of Jesus elevates them both, not makes them contradict each other.
Here is a tricky devil! Another very difficult image for Westerners in that this whole story was defamed for good reason by the early Church. The shaman in old Europe was a competing religious figure against the holy king. Most of the trickster gods were very popular (like Odin) and did not "die" well when the tree gods tried to replace them (Thor, Zeus, Osiris). They had lived in the god family for some time, but the early Church was cleaning house and wanted to consolidate the political power of the religious caste under one roof. So all the old gods got demonized, espeically the trickster gods. This dark image is of the Raven Dance, done here by Bleid Abrannan, played by Mishka Greshenko. The story of the Dance was that at midsummer, the Raven people would gather and dance all night for the Alder Clan, their patrons. If any of them did not last the night, one of them was eaten. According to legend, Bleid's skull was kept by the Alder Queen, and his wife and son fought years to win it back only to find out that it was gone. Tricks! Appropriate that Bleid should be either the Devil or the Magus. Because my tree for this card is fearn, the alder, he is the Magus. The Alder was holy tree that was later replaced by the oak, another coup to try to oust the old shamans and worship the god of the skies and thunder.
And here is my Alder Queen with her mugwort smudge stick. Another dark witch woman from deep in our past. Here, she plays the five of cups, disappointment when upright, deprivation when reversed, both cards difficult.
This is the last of the cards I'm going to show here, the Three of Cups. This is a picture of an old woman of the Hazel Clan, most of them shamans. Here she is weaving out of reeds, an image typical of old Europe. More cards to come!