World Tarot Day II

This is a follow up post to my original blog World Tarot Day, which was first proclaimed in 2003 and is celebrated on May 25th each year. Since I first wrote that blog post, more Tarot decks have come into my possession, so I thought I would write a completely new blog post reviewing them as well.

The Babylonian Tarot

The Babylonian Tarot

This deck was created by Sandra Tabatha Cicero of the Golden Dawn-fame. I once attended a public talk in London where she explained the complete background of this deck. It turns out that Tabby is a bit of a nut for Babylonian mythology! Each minor represents an aspect of ancient Babylonian folklore or mythology in general, whilst each Major is an actual Babylonian deity or pair of deities, apart from the “Wheel of Fortune” and “Temperance.” The former is “The Tablet of Destiny,” an artefact first mentioned in the Enuma Elish, whilst the latter is the “Tree of Life” – the point being that the Babylonian version is more primordial than that mentioned in the Book of Genesis, upon which the Qabalistic Tree of Life is based.

Unusually, this is an 83 card deck. There is an extra Major called “Genesis” which is without number or attribution. Tabby explained that she had created this card because in her view the Babylonian concept of the creation of the Universe was not well represented in the conventional Major Arcana.

The four other extra cards are additional Court Cards named “Kerubs,” thus allowing the five elements (i.e. Spirit in addition to the other four) to be represented.

IMHO, Tabby is to be congratulated for having created a truly original deck. It is completely unlike the Golden Dawn deck, a version of which she also created. Also, it has the distinction of being a completely illustrated deck which is not just another Rider-Waite clone or variant. Meanwhile, going through the meanings of the cards is a lesson in Babylonian mythology in itself.

The Tarot of Marseilles

The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards

The Tarot of Marseilles is a classic deck, the original design dating from 1760, although cognate decks can be found dating from 1650. Nowadays there are many reproductions of the original version available – some good (e.g. the Jodorowsky / Camoin version), and some which are quite frankly cheap knock-offs.

Incidentally, in his book The Way of  Tarot, Alejandro Jodorowksy appears to have been labouring all his life under the misapprehension that the Tarot of Marseilles is the oldest known version of the Tarot, this due to the fact that Max Ernst once told him so whilst warning him against the Rider-Waite deck. Unfortunately, Max Ernst told Jodo a crock of shit! The oldest two decks are in fact the Visconti and Sola-Buschi, both mid 15th century… the latter of which inspired the artwork in the Rider-Waite.

The Sensual Goddess Tarot Deck

The Sensual Goddess Tarot Deck

This deck is essentially a variation of the Rider Waite, but with the key difference that that artwork consists of digital photography of the eponymous “Sensual Goddess” acting out the scenes depicted on the cards. As it happens, this Sensual Goddess is a buxom glamour-model (actually the photographer’s wife), often (but not always) in a state of undress.

Fortunately, however, the deck stays on the right-side of artistic nudity. Indeed, the creators make a point of the fact that they have tried to keep it glamorous without being smutty.

Nevertheless, this deck will not please those of a prudish disposition. This makes me wonder: this deck may be great for doing readings for oneself, but one would have to exercise a great deal of discretion if one wanted to give readings for other people. Even if the nudity did not bother them, it might still distract them from the seriousness of the Tarot reading!

That aside, it’s clear from the LWB that the creators know their Tarot, and have done their research into the subject. In this regard, I would like to relate a story: on receiving the deck, went through each card with the LWB. As I did so, I picked up a psychic vibe from the cards: that the whole project to create the deck had been a *magical operation* undertaken by the photographer and his wife (i.e. the Sensual Goddess), and that here I was, effectively participating in it down the line, as it were. So one could say that I am writing this review because I am caught up in the spell. :-)

Other

Universal Tarot

Maxwell Miller’s Universal Tarot

Maxwell Miller, the creator of this deck, has not done himself any favours by giving it the exact same name as a number of completely dissimilar decks, (so says the author of The Magus – :::shudder:::). That being said, however, I must say how much I really enjoy the artwork in this particular deck, which contains Astrological, Alchemical, Qabalistic, Sufi, Hindu symbolism and more. In other words, it is “Universal” because it draws on traditions from across the globe.

This is a 74 card deck instead of the traditional 78: instead of having King, Queen, Prince (Knight) and Princess (Page), the court cards are simply King, Queen and Knave. But the quality of the artwork is almost enough to tempt me to overlook this detail.

Tarot of the New Vision

Tarot of the New Vision

This is an amusing take on the Rider-Waite Deck. It attempts to imagine what Pamela Colman-Smith’s artwork would have looked like if the scenes had been observed from the reverse-angle, i.e. behind the characters depicted in the cards. This allows for a scope of creativity… which is only realised in some of the cards.

So for example, in “The Magician” we find out that there is a cheeky monkey hiding behind the eponymous main character, thus pointing out the tricksterish associations of the card. In the 4 of Chalices (i.e. Cups), we find out that the thoughtful looking man is actually Bellerophon, awaiting Pegasus to come to him, whilst the King of Chalices is revealed as Noah – i.e. because he was master of the deluge.

Unfortunately, though, a number of the cards are no more than depictions of original Colman-Smith version, from a different angle but adding nothing new in the way of symbolism. Also, because many of them are facing away from the viewer, one cannot see the character’s facial expressions. Taken to the extreme, in the 4 of Pentacles the main character, by having his back to the viewer, conceals all of the traditional symbolism associated with that card!

The Archeon Tarot

The Archeon Tarot

I mention this because of the striking art-work (much use of Photoshop, methinks). Whilst visually this is an appealing deck (always an important consideration if you are doing Tarot readings for clients), in some cards it lacks some of the traditional symbolism.


Taromancer, the tarot-themed novel by Alex Sumner, is out now in both print and Kindle editions.

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Dark Dungeons

News this week that some guy has made a movie about kids playing Dungeons & Dragons, and being led into the occult. And you know what’s most appalling about it? The bloke has totally plagiarized my life-story without paying me a single cent for it!

Yes, some thirty years ago now, when I was a young lad at school, I went along to a lunch-time meeting of the Christian Union, in which a guest speaker, some priest or other, made the extraordinary claim that Dungeons & Dragons leads to devil worship. His argument was that D&D leads on to Ouija boards, then Ouija boards onto the occult in general, and thence onto Faustian pacts with the Prince of Darkness himself.

After leaving that meeting, I resolved to start playing Dungeons & Dragons as soon as possible.

A couple of years later, on my own initiative, I got into “Call of Cthulhu,” so I could be the gamesmaster (actually the “Keeper”) for a change. As it happens, this was how I really got into the occult, because it was through two Cthulhu supplements – Cthulhu By Gaslight and Green and Pleasant Land – that I first found detailed information about the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley.

I find it incredibly ironic that Kenneth Grant so admirably fitted the role of a mad cultist from Call of Cthulhu RPG. One only has to attempt to read “Nightside of Eden” to realise that Grant must have seriously failed his SAN roll on several occasions. Mind you, I seem to remember that The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage – which I have read – was rated as a -1D3 SAN / +3% Mythos tome, so presumably even I haven’t escaped unscathed. (Grant’s books themselves are probably more potent).

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What the Stars Have In Store for the Golden Dawn: “I Told You So” edition

Back at the beginning of the year I posted my predictions for the Golden Dawn based on transits made with a rectified birth chart I had made for it.

I noted:

Jupiter meanwhile, being square to the GD’s natal Uranus (exact on 25th December 2013 and 13th May 2014), indicates people feeling irritable and wanting to break free of past restrictions, and even causing rebellion.

(Emphasis added)

Now in retrospect we have the following scandals occurring on or around 13th May 2014:

Just remember kids! I also predicted fun and games for June 2014 (Jupiter square natal Mars); August 2014 (Jupiter square Midheaven); and November 2014 (Saturn opposite natal Neptune). You have been warned!

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LGBTQ Tolerance in the Golden Dawn

Eddie Izzard

Got Wand, will do Magick! :-)

Say what you like about MacGregor Mathers, but on one point he was resolute: he would not brook gossip about Fratres’ and Sorores’ lives – this being a matter purely between themselves and their God.

Mathers may well have had an ulterior motive: i.e. the members who had “questionable” private lives were also the ones who were supporting him during the various schisms. However, Mathers’ firm stand has led to a progressive consequence: the Golden Dawn was the first magical order to adopt a modern approach to tolerance.

However, the Western Mystery Tradition was almost derailed by the efforts of Dion Fortune. Her insistence that magick was based on strict male/female or god/goddess polarity has led in some quarters to a rather dogmatic insistence on heterosexuality which borders on the homophobic. I have read some neo-pagans saying that gays were allowed to join covens, on the grounds that embodying the God did not obligate them to have physical sex with the Goddess. IMHO, this is unsatisfactory, as it means that they would have no option but to channel an aspect of the Divine which is at variance with their natural sexuality.

Nevertheless: it is not possible to become overly attached to gender when it comes to one’s god-forms. I have assumed the forms of both Gods and Goddesses in my time: such is the nature of Golden Dawn magick. I have also come to suspect that one or more of my past-lives were as a different gender to the one I am now. This does not bother me one iota, as I am perfectly comfortable in the gender and sexuality I have at the moment.

By the twin strategies of (a) not interfering with a member’s private life; and (b) not actually practising sexual magick – whether right hand or left hand path, the Golden Dawn is able to accommodate everyone. It is within my knowledge that there have been and probably still are homosexual and transsexual fratres and sorores in the GD. Indeed, at least one individual joined as a “frater” and became a “soror” during her progression and is now a successful adept.

Therefore, let everyone take note: if you know of a man who insists on turning up to temple in women’s clothes and insists on being referred to as “Soror” ceremonies, don’t laugh or mock! Such a person is welcome within the GD, and more – assuming they apply themselves diligently to the Great Work, they would even be eligible for promotion – even to being head of the order!

 

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Tarot card reader pushes to repeal town code – Local News

Nice news story about how a Tarot reader has been instrumental in getting an antiquated town ordinance reviewed. Today, Front Royal, Virginia. Tomorrow, “The Universe” ! (See what I did there?  ;)  )

Full story:

Tarot card reader pushes to repeal town code – Local News.

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Thought for the day: Golden Dawn

The Golden Dawn

The Golden Dawn

Golden Dawn.

Golden.

Dawn.

Gold the metal of the sun, associated with Tiphereth. Dawn the place where the sun rises.

The very name suggests that everything about it is to do with Tiphereth, that place of balance and equilibrium within your soul. Hence, anything which does not aim at finding Tiphereth, whether this be expressed in terms of Christ, Krishna, Osiris, or “the dying and resurrected god,” cannot really be said to be authentic Golden Dawn.

I say all this because recently I’ve encountered a lot of GD types engaging in a lot of behaviour which does not seem to lead themselves towards Tiphereth – nor the others with whom they come into contact.

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The Facebook Page Like Scandal: You Have Been Lied To!

A non-occult related post – addressed to other members of the Indie Author Community who use Facebook Pages.


I am the manager of a Facebook Page – a page to promote myself as an author (see here). I come into contact with other indie authors who are in the same position as me – who also have their own Facebook pages. Recently, I have seen a lot of concern within the community that the average reach of each post on our FB pages – as a % of the total number of Page Likes – has noticeably decreased since this time last year, or before.

This has led to a lot of people in the community wanting to complain to Facebook itself, as if it is FB’s fault. Whilst technically FB could do something about it if they tried to, we are in fact missing the point. What I believe is the true situation is that we find ourselves in this position due to our own past actions.

FACT: in about August 2012, a movement began on Facebook of creating “Like Pages for Like” groups – i.e. post a link to any page which you managed in the group, expecting its members to Like it, on the understanding that you would return the favour. What a good idea, we all thought at the time. I hold my hands up myself to this – I did not realise what the implications would be, so I participated in it myself at the time. I saw the Like counter on my own page rocket up, and I thought “whoo!” – and so did many others.


However, when I was watching the above video, (what I now believe to be) the truth dawned on me, viz:

When you add 1000 Likes (or any number for that matter) who have no intention of engaging with your Page, you are actually Decreasing your Page’s popularity rather than Increasing it.

It works like this. When you post anything to your page, Facebook with all its evil machinations will only bother to make sure it’s seen by a ridiculously small number of people, determined arbitrarily. However, if that small number of people actively engage with the post by liking it, commenting on it, and / or sharing it, the post’s reach grows. If on the other hand that small number of people immediately ignore it, that post’s reach atrophies and dies.

Hence, if the vast majority of people who supposedly “Like” your page don’t actually read your posts, you will inevitably see your reach shrivel and die. This has led me to propose the following radical solution to the Facebook Page Like Scandal. It may seem counter-intuitive at first, but stay with me for the moment. It is this:

INSTEAD OF ATTEMPTING TO MAXIMISE YOUR NUMBER OF PAGE LIKES, YOU SHOULD IN FACT DO THE OPPOSITE: DECREASE THEM – TO THE MINIMUM WHERE YOUR PAGE BECOMES AN EFFECTIVE MARKETING TOOL.

Yes! This is why I say in the title to this blog post “You Have Been Lied To,” because there are self-appointed marketing Gurus who try to sell people the idea that maximising Page Likes is the be-all-and-end-all. Wrong. You should only try to maximise the number of genuine fans for your page – people who are willing to engage with it. All the rest are worse than useless, they are negative influences in your pages popularity.

Take two Facebook pages, one with 100 likes, and the other with 1000 likes. Unfortunately, however, 900 of the second page’s fans are not particularly interested, whilst all of the former have a past-record of engaging with the page’s posts. Each page has effectively the same number of real fans, but in the former case there is a 100% chance that the page’s post will have a higher than usual reach, whilst in the latter there is a 90% chance that it will have a lower than usual reach. A page which limits itself only to genuine fans is a more effective marketing tool than a page with a larger number of redundant Likes.

Hence, here are my Dos and Don’ts:

DO:

  • As an author, encourage actual customers to like your Page – by including the Page address within the book. If they have already paid to read you, they are more likely to invest their time and effort into your fan page.
  • Encourage people who have engaged with you in the past to Like your page.
  • Limit invites to like your page to those in the field of interest relevant to your book.
  • Controversial one here – go into your page’s settings and  block it from being seen in known Link-Farm countries. See the Video above. You ought to know which countries your books actually sell in – authors with KDP will find that Amazon actually tells you. If, therefore, you have a suspiciously large number of “Likes” in places like Papua New Guinea or the Philippines, but don’t recall ever having sold a book there, you know what to do. FYI, the countries named and shamed in the video above are Egypt, India, Nepal. Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. There may be others, so be vigilant.
  • Get rid of suppose Fans whom you acquired through artificial Liking-schemes in the past. This is tricky because it may mean having to go into the Likes list of your page – several times – to de-select them one by one. The alternative is to
  • Be prepared to bite the bullet and start again with a new Page – but done properly this time.
  • Only post content that people are likely to engage with – i.e. in the form of sharing, commenting and liking. My current best reach, purely organic, for a post is 25% of the Page’s total likes, mainly because it was shared a lot and got a lot of people talking. One can’t really complain about a low organic reach if an given update is not actually that interesting.

DO NOT:

  • Use “Link Farm” sites (see the video featured above), which “illegitimately” increase your Page Likes in return for money.
  • Pay Facebook to advertise for more likes – because, as the video above implies, Facebook are effectively using Link Farms as well!
  • Participate in “Like Page For Like” groups or events.
  • Like a page unless you actively intend to engage with the posts on it.

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QOTD for Easter

Sov: Excellent and Perfect Prelate, what is the hour?

Prel, with 3rd sign: It is the first hour of the third day, being the first day of the week; the hour of a Perfect Mason.

Sov: What is the hour of a Perfect Mason?

Prel, with 3rd sign: It is the hour when the Word is found and the Cubic Stone is changed into the Mystic Rose. The Blazing Star has reappeared in all its splendour; our altars are renewed; the true Light restored to our eyes, the clouds of darkness dispersed; and the New Commandment is given to love one another.

Sov: Let us then observe this New Commandment to love one another, the result and perfection of all preceding Masonry, which will enable us to erect an edifice in our hearts to the glory of the Lamb; to whom belongeth might, majesty, dominion and power, Who liveth and reigneth world without end.

All: Amen.

via OPENING.

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April 20, 2014 · 4:55 am

Transcendence: Review

What better way to spend Good Friday, than to watch a film about a man who allows himself to be murdered, twice, indeed, just so as to prove that he was a good man trying to save the world!

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp, star of Transcendence

I should start out with a warning: Transcendence, the new film starring Johnny Depp, is not an action thriller. I say this because it was produced by Christopher “Inception” Nolan, so having previously liked Nolan’s films I was drawn to it by his name alone. Rather, it gets off to a slow start, and only speeds up towards the end of the movie. I found it more interesting, though, for the actual nature of the issues it discusses.

The story is about a scientist named Will (Depp), who creates an Artificial Intelligence network. When he is fatally wounded by anti-technology terrorists, he (mainly at his wife’s bidding) uploads the contents of his mind into a new network – so that there will be something of him that lives on after the death of his body. The new AI network starts behaving as if it were Depp’s character. However – with access to processing power far in excess of what a mere human brain can afford, AI-Will starts acquiring god-like intelligence. This completely freaks out his former friends and colleagues, the terrorists (who are still after him) and the government, and eventually his wife as well. Meanwhile, however, AI-Will has escaped from the confines of the computer that once housed him into cyberspace at large, and proceeds to build a massive underground lair in the middle of the desert, where he hopes to carry out his plans undisturbed. Needless to say it all goes horribly wrong.

Now it so happens that there are people in real life – Transhumanists – who are carrying out research exactly like that in which Will is engaged in the film. So before one dismisses the premise of the film, one has to remember that there is a real possibility that someone will actually attempt to do this. Moreover, one should remember that Adepti of the Golden Dawn are in effect Spiritual Transhumanists – because they have vowed to use their occult powers to become “more than human.” This film therefore asks, what are the ethical implications of doing so? And: what are the dangers of doing so?

The film’s answers are bleak, to say the least. (AI-)Will is a Christ-like figure, and takes great pains to demonstrate to the other characters that he is using his new-found powers – mainly involving nanotechnology – to do good – e.g. to heal miraculously, to re-grow the rain forests, to end air / water pollution, and so-forth. However Cillian Murphy’s “Pontius Pilate” character, and Morgan Freeman’s “Caiaphas” character, are having none of it. They are aided by Paul Bettany who plays one of Will’s friends who eventually betrays him not with a kiss, but with a computer virus.

There is some massive irony: Morgan Freeman’s motivation for wanting to destroy AI-Will is that no human personality can handle that much power responsibly, and hence play God. However, his principal method of attacking AI-Will is by doing just that – playing “God” with another man’s life - by conducting an experiment of which Josef Mengele would have been proud. He later rationalises this by the way that such hypocrites have done in the past – by denying that his test subject (a man who had been miraculously healed by AI-Will) was somehow a real human. Ultimately, their animus against AI-Will himself is based on the idea that they cannot bring themselves to believe he is a sentient being.

AI-Will is not perfect, however. By demonstrating that he can communicate through his followers, and give them miraculous powers themselves, he demonstrates that he can potentially rob people of their apparent free-will. This in particular proves a sore-point with his wife, who has probably had nightmares of the Borg from watching too much Star Trek TNG. The fact that AI-Will never uses the Borg-like potentiality of his powers is not the issue, as far as she is concerned – it’s the principle that counts.

In essence, then, the film shows an unholy alliance of Government, conventional Science, and luddite Terrorist giving a massive fuck you to Plato’s Philosopher-King ideal, by saying that it doesn’t matter if an omnipotent AI character has the morals and conscience of a Christ-like being – the fact that it is omnipotent is bad enough. Now, one can argue that it’s only a film, it’s just fiction – except that these are all issues which haunt the Transhumanist debate. When does a technologically-enhanced human cease to be a human – and hence deserving of “human rights”? For that matter, when does an AI-system get any rights of its own, as a sentient being?

Moreover, the issues can be applied to the path of the Adept by analogy. I.e. what if you, as an Adept, actually succeeded in becoming “more than human”? This is made more relevant by the fact that within the Western Mystery Tradition there are spiritual paths which actually say that it is mankind’s ultimate destiny – after much reincarnation and spiritual purification – to become One with God – and hence becoming a collective is a thing to be desired. Whether one agrees with that or not, as far as Transhumanism, and by analogy Spiritual Transhumanism, goes, the film would seem to suggest: don’t tell anyone, don’t draw attention to yourself, and don’t expect anyone – friend, colleague, spouse and least of all the Government – to have the remotest sympathy for your predicament.

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What if this life is just one big lucid dream?

Inception meme

The difference between Lucid Dreaming and real life explained.

This sort of remark comes up on Twitter regularly – so I thought I’d enlist the cast of Inception to help explain it.

There is a quick way to discover whether this life really is a lucid dream or not. If it is, you can change it to what you want, using the power of your mind. In order to do this with ease one would normally need to do a lot of practice training one’s mind (e.g. through self-hypnosis) whilst awake. Thus the successful lucid dreamer can give him or herself unlimited super-powers, through an act of Will.

It gets complicated however when one considers that it is possible to use the power of the mind to alter ones waking circumstances as well. Most obviously through plain old hard work, but also through the law of attraction, and through the practice of Magick.

Hence real life is in fact a type of Lucid Dream after all – just not as immediate!

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April 17, 2014 · 7:48 pm