September News and Reviews
Hard to believe we are so close to Libra already! The seasons have been pretty mixed up this year, at least at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. Spring came on so early and so dry that we entered summer long before the calendar would admit it. Then we peaked with unseasonable and unreasonable August temperatures across the whole of July, burning up our lawn so badly that the yard returned to river sand, flowing underfoot just like it does at the ocean dunes. For the very first time in our town’s history, we’ve had voluntary water rationing all of July and August. Following the heat we had such a set of pelting storms that summer’s back was broken, leaving us with October feelings and weeks of darkened skies. We may finally have arrived at September, now that it's almost gone, but it seems like we took the long way around.
My own progress has been correspondingly meandering. In my mind I see myself as walking a straight line, pointed unswervingly at my long-term goal. But my daily life is a series of peregrinations around and about my various tasks and challenges, which seem to take up more time than I actually have in the day. With this exotic and subtle syndrome of mine, a lot of time is lost to being unable to focus my eyes to face the computer. Lately I’ve been dealing with a very wicked upwelling of an old and unloved companion known as trigeminal neuralgia, which is really quite painful and distracting. Those of you who are following me over at Facebook are hearing the stages of this process, so I won’t bore you here. I am amazingly stubborn, so I won’t fail to complete this coming volume, but there are obstacles that have to be accommodated.
Volume 2; Foundations of the Esoteric Tradition is going through sausage-making process — well at least that’s the sensation of proofreading to me! I fantasized that this was going to be done faster than it ultimately can, but the goal is more important than my resistance to the process, so I just try to soldier through this avalanche of tiny details. I truly understand why people surrender their manuscripts to publishers at this stage: It’s the only way to get the production accomplished without running all this fine detail through the author’s nervous system. Michael told me that during his years working at Fantagraphics, the work flow was structured so that there were several layers of people between the author and the editor. This is specifically intended to reduce the editor’s exposure to the “personality olympics” that this stage puts the creator through. The person responsible for turning the manuscript into a book doesn’t need the author’s big fat opinions underfoot, we authors and all our big ideas are a pain in the tookus at this stage! But for various reasons (probably karmic), I’ve never felt safe to turn my work over to others, so I’m doomed to the do-it-yourself process.
I SO appreciate the help I’m getting and the kind support the universe has extended to carry this project along! It couldn’t happen without my angels, near and far. You know who you are!
So as I continue “combing the dead bodies out of the hair of the Goddess”, (a typical shamanic task), let’s get on with the News and Reviews.
I am preparing a 3-month webinar over October, November and December. Everything we will talk about is in my recent book, so participants will need to acquire their own copy. The focus will answer the question, ”What are the layers of meaning in the Tarot of the Holy Light?" We'll be looking at the Icon, the illustrations, and the appendixes, which detail the system of signs/planets/elements inhabiting the cards. In the course of teaching to the deck, I'm simultaneously teaching to the magical traditions and assumptions of Europe in the early 1600’s. Therefore this class represents a way of encountering the older esoteric worldview that's built into the Tarot outline. Participants will learn the practical applications for all the features that a Renaissance magus would project onto the cards. Topics will include using the deck as a magical calendar, using the Horoscope Spread as a diagnostic tool, deriving personal remedies from the Doctrine of Essential Dignities, approaching the Shem Angels, and more. This will be a friendly chat about magical orientation within the architectonic Temple of Tarot.
The 8th of October makes a great day to start, because if we can meet every other Thursday we’ll manage to escape the holidays. I am proposing that we meet at 4:00 Pacific Time, which will mean the class crosses the dinner hour for some people. There is no need for immediate participation at every live class, since it will be recorded for your convenience. The cost is $150 for the three-month class, consisting of two meetings (or recordings) per month. I'd like to give it an hour and a half each sitting, if participants don't consider that overkill.
Feel free to get in touch if you want to participate. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can find me on Facebook. Tell your friends -- this ArkLetter announcement and the FaceBook remarks are the only places I'm advertising.
I recently received a package from Devera Publishing that included both their Tarot Learning Cards and Pamela Steele’s Wizard’s Pets Tarot. They are each first class productions, handsomely crafted and packaged. If anybody wants help getting a pack of cards created, marketed and distributed, the professionals at Devera, Jay and Jadzia DeForest, are certainly the people to talk to! (www.DeveraPublishing.com) They have placed themselves at the crossroads where Tarot art, production, distribution, and entertainment coincide. I’m thrilled to see that the Tarot marketplace has expanded into such a diversity that it can support a service like Devera to keep a finger in every pie, so to speak. Meet them at your local Tarot conference, or attend the Northwest Tarot Symposium next March 6th - 8th in Portland Oregon. Subscribe to their quarterly magazine, The Cartomancer, or submit a deck review. Jay and Jadzia have also produced a collection of learning card packs, surveying the fundamentals of Astrology, Palmistry, Tarot, Runes, and the Tree of Life. Devera Publishing is uniquely positioned to embody the most thriving aspects of the “growth and insight” market. We’ll have to keep our eyes on these rising stars.
The Wizard’s Pets Tarot, meanwhile, is a delightful reworking of the Waite/Smith pack specifically made for children by visionary artist Pamela Steele, of Steele Wizard Tarot fame. My pack wasn’t here more than 24 hours before it got a full workout by my Tarot-loving grandsons, who came out with their mom for a sleepover two weeks ago. The older one spotted the pack on the coffee table and made a beeline for it immediately. He proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes poring over it alone, sorting out the suits and the Trumps, comparing all the details back and forth. The small cards fit his hands perfectly, and the linen texture makes them easy to handle. We remarked about how perfect the weight of the paper was, strong but flexible.
Both grand-boys are adept at “seeing into” the cards, projecting their attention past the flat surface and occupying the landscape behind the image. (How not? Their first pack was Tarot of the Holy Light after all!) There was too much going on around me at that moment, I couldn’t sit over his shoulder and ask questions the whole time. But the belly laughs and exclamations kept spontaneously erupting as he worked through every card. When he was done, he called his little brother over to view the ordered stacks he had made of the suits and trumps. Then they went through it together, card by card again. From what I could overhear without being nosy, they LOVE the characters, the vividness, the humor, the innocent wisdom, and of course, the adorable dragons. (The Knights are a hoot, and Temperance is sublime!) It really puts the Trumps in a new light to see the majority of them as dragons, especially as one encounters the higher-number Trumps, where the dragons are clothed in gold and silver, fire and light. The children could see the developmental progression very easily without reading the book. They also really enjoyed the very evident personalities of the Royals. All the cards telegraph very clear and accessible messages, which my grand boys ages 6 and 10 could instantly identify with. The pack comes in a sturdy and handsome magnetic box with a well-conceived “ABC’s of Tarot” full-color booklet explaining every card. There is also a coloring book containing the line art for all 78 cards. All in all, this is a truly generous and fulfilling package, offering a “real” Tarot interactive experience for the magical child in all of us. (http://www.wizardspets.com/tarot.html)
My grandsons might not be a totally representative sample just between the two of them, but I know already what they will ask for next time they visit. We’ll shuffle the Wizard’s Pets Tarot in with my well-used Secret Dakini Oracle and Tarot of the Holy Light, and proceed to play a ripping game of Tarot Rummy. Then we’ll find their favorite cards in the Wizard’s Pets coloring book and copy them out on my scanner, so they can each make a personalized talisman to take home with them. It will be a perfect rainy-day project.
Moving along to more intellectual developments, I have begun a correspondence with a linguist who also lives up here in Washington state, and we are talking about the intelligence within the alphabet, interestingly enough. I had coincidentally just found and ordered a copy of Mark Filipas’ excellent but very scarce exposition entitled An Alphabetic Masquerade; The Letter Symbolism of the Tarot. I consider this to be a masterwork of medieval linguistic archeology, but it has never received the attention it deserves. This is mostly because the people who panned it in 2001 lacked the intellectual profundity to recognize the truth of what Filipas was saying. Those individuals couldn't put down their defense/offense paradigm to break from the pack and study the Christian Hebraists of the 17- and 1800’s on their own (instead of making up false comparisons using random selections). Because they cut their teeth on a false understanding of the number-letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and refuse to calculate in the fact that their modern Tarot heroes did violence to the occult transmission, the international Tarot history movement has been set back at least a decade.
Be that as it may, Filipas was simply early to the party, but he was no way wrong. Every year since his book came out, more evidence has accumulated to confirm his conclusion. Those who have convinced themselves to the contrary will turn out to be on the losing side of their pointless and small-minded argument with history.
Therefore, when I received the book Gods In The Word; Archetypes in the Consonants by Margaret Magnus, I was riveted! Magnus is a professional linguist, who has been programming computers since early days to build dictionaries for corporate clients. This has taught her to deconstruct the words of speech into their component parts; prefixes, suffixes and roots. I was first introduced to this taxonomy within the word as a result of reading Fabre d’Olivet’s amazing The Hebraic Tongue Restored, which I discovered in the mid-1990’s. D’Olivet broke down all the words in the Hebrew lexicon into their two-letter (radical) root syllables, then catalogued those root meanings and their three-letter extensions alphabetically. What he has created is a grammar and lexicon for the ancient Semitic languages. D’Olivet completed his masterwork in 1815, and he included evidence from a huge collection of related languages to bolster his conclusions, including Arabic, Chadaic, Syriac, Ethiopic, Samaritan, and of course Hebrew. With d’Olivet in one hand and Filipas in the other, I was all primed and ready to hear what Magnus has discovered for the modern manifestation of the English language.
I was not disappointed in her slim but powerful little book, because Magnus has indeed found the same phenomena that both Filipas and d’Olivet were exposing, only this time it is analyzed in modern spoken English. The letters do indeed have separate identities, both as a matter of historical convention, and as a matter of their inherent sonic connections to concrete sensory meaning. This phenomenon crosses linguistic traditions, even appearing true in languages that have no family connection, having appeared in different times and different corners of the world. In her own words, “It is empirically and statistically verifiable that we literally speak in terms of archetypes.” It knocked my socks off to hear such a striking statement coming out of somebody else’s mouth besides my own!
As a result of this triangulation of sources, each of them so different yet each of them finding their way to the same transcendent conclusion, I am of happy to declare yet again that the root meanings of the letter-numbers are, and always have been, of primal importance to the creators of of the Trumps. You’ll see more of my reasons for believing this when I address the Hebrew mysteries in my upcoming book, Foundations of the Esoteric Tradition. As I have long predicted, this topic will have to be reconsidered in the future by those who wish to call themselves historians. All the denial and deconstructionism in the world isn’t strong enough to rip away the constitutional significance of the letters in occultism, just as we find is true in linguistics. One might even say that occultism is the ultimate application of linguistics, because all words of power are built very deliberately from these numinous number-letters, in order to reach out to the archetypes through these “spells” (or spellings), thereby to influence the formative currents that shape our reality.
This leads me to the final remarks I wanted to touch on this month. My scholarly friend and occasional contributor Samten de Wet (of LuxLapis fame) sent me a very intriguing article this month that also “just happens” to dwell on the subject of Christian Kabbalist (number-letter) magic, in the personage of Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples. The article is by Katherine LaFevers Evans, M.A. I love it because she’s dealing directly with the operative interface between “Jewish Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Neopythagoreanism, and Hermetism” (her words), in short, the foundation ground for Tarot.
(At the beginning, there are repeats of the introductory summary in several languages, but then the whole article commences in English. It’s well worth the time to read! Also there are a number of excellent illustrations linked in the list at the end.)
If you enjoy the above article I would also like to refer you to an article I first shared at TarotL in 1999 and then reassembled for my own website in 2006. (http://noreah.typepad.com/tarot_arkletters/2006/09/magi_divination.html) Entitled “Divination: Highest Expression of the Magi’s Art”, it analyzes the formal categories of Magic according to Giordano Bruno in the late 1500’s. We then leverage the research of Christopher Lehrich to gain an understanding of how divination (in our case consulting the Tarot) constitutes a ritual that puts the visible world in correspondence with the invisible world. This is done, as Lehrich explains, through the ritual use of numbers, letters, symbols and ideas interpreted "according to a culturally determined canon of interpretive techniques". He is very careful to make this point. A stable and traditional canon of interpretive techniques is essential to the traditional divinitory arts. The alert reader will recognize the common ground that both Evans and I share in our expositions. There is a priceless and unifying coincidentia oppositorum available to all who take the time to contemplate the issues I have reviewed here today.